Letti inclinati e albicocche

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cinque Terre, Mike's addition

If you haven't read Tim's description of our Cinque Terre trip (immediately below this post), I recommend doing that now.

Since Tim already covered the main points of the trip, I'm going to just toss out some details as I think of them. The first thing that comes to mind is our hostel. The bathroom floor around the toilet, which is never a place that's clean, was the same floor as the shower floor, since the showerhead just stuck out of the wall. That was a little gross.

Notice the showerhead and the toilet, right next to each other. Yes, most of the bathroom gets soaked when you try to take a shower.

The good thing about the hostel, though, was that in order to get to our room we had to pass through someone else's room. On the surface this seemed a little strange, but it turned out well, because while preparing to say Evening Prayer Saturday night, the following conversation took place:

Tim: "Nisha, Mike and I are about to say some prayers that we do every night. So don't think I'm talking to you when I say 'Lord, make haste to help me' or anything like that."
Nisha: with the tone that Tim is a dork "OK"
Girl in next room: "Is that Liturgy of the Hours?"
Mike: in a surprised tone, since practically no one knows what Liturgy of the Hours is "Yes...care to join us?"
G.i.N.R.: "Sure."

So that's how we met Caitlin (aka G.i.N.R.), who goes to school in Minnesota, but is currently studying in Rome. We talked to her for a bit, and she hung out with us some on Sunday. Since we're travelling to Rome in October, Tim gave her our email addresses so we can arrange to go to dinner or something.

That conversation reminds me: no one knows who "Nisha" and "Stephanie" (mentioned in the last post) are. They are roommates who live two floors below us. Nisha is from Texas. Stephanie is from England. We hang out with them quite a bit, since they both agree that Tim and I tell the funniest jokes around, and they tolerate our shenanigans. Along with three girls and two guys from Ireland, they were our travelling companions this weekend.

Mike, Stephanie, and Nisha hiking up a mountain

Speaking of humor, while waiting for the train this weekend:

Mike: (to Tim) "Dangit! I think I forgot my piecost back in Milan!"
Tim: "Oh man. Can you get another one?"
Mike: "I don't know. Stephanie, do you have a piecost I can borrow?"
Stephanie: "What's a pie cost?"
Mike: "About ten euros."
Tim and Mike: "Hahahahahahahaha!"

I should mention that Caitlin also fell for a variation of this joke, but that Nisha messed one up when we tried to do it to her.

(Lyzii and Cheryl: Stephanie and Nisha try to play cards with us fairly often, but they always lose, just like you do.)

Tim, on top of the cliff we walked up / climbed to see what was there (Answer: a lawn chair). I got like ten little splinters trying to pick a fruit off a cactus here. It was the only fruit on this trip I attempted to get but failed. Next time I'll be prepared.

I guess the last thing that I need to mention, since Tim didn't, is that we went swimming in the extremely blue water around Cinque Terre today. The water was pretty cold at first, but was nice after awhile. Unfortunately, Stephanie got stung by some sort of jellyfish or something, so we left. On the bright side, though, that meant no was in the sun long enough to get a sunburn.

We didn't get to swim here, but I wanted to. We'll go back sometime soon.

Five towns, two yogurts, and a spoon

Glad to be back at La Darsena after a weekend in Cinque Terre, a series of five coastal towns about 200 km/4 hours south of Milan.

To start, the hike from Riomaggiore to Vernazza offered some beautiful views, probably on account of the water's perfect blue-green. We stopped on a few occasions to check out mysterious paths or stairways diverging from the main path, and although you might expect that these led nowhere, they did reinforce our natural, manly desire for adventure and resulted in finding a wild lime and an abandoned house. We also found wild, unripe yet satisfying peaches later on in the hike.

The whole hike took about four hours, including stops in both of the towns within our starting and ending points, and really wasn't too difficult. It's safe to say we might have broken a world record if we completed all five towns, but that would've resulted in false pride, and Vernazza was a good stopping point: we went to 6 p.m. mass in a little chapel by the sea while Nisha and Stephanie went to a local bar for bruschetta and drinks.

Re-enactment (not the real yogurt)

As for food, by the way, we're still trying to figure it out. We still don't know the culturally appropriate way of paying efficiently, but very little seems to be efficient in Italy, but more important is the question how to get two spoons with two cups of yogurt. Sunday morning Mike and I bought some coconut yogurt (mmmm) for post-breakfast dessert, but when I asked if they had any spoons I ended up only receiving one. Then, in my three-week old Italian and in the clerk's Italian-English:

Ehh... hai un altra spoon? ("Do you have an other spoon?" I didn't know the word for spoon, and my feminine-masculine article-noun agreement is incorrect.)
No no. One person.
(Pointing to my yogurt cups) Due ("Two")
No, this yogurt e for one person. (e means "is")

So apparently Italian yogurt, if bought in groups of two, is for only person, and this is nothing you can decide for yourself.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Alan, the Lizard, and the Lake

Our good friend Alan, now "studying" at Harvard, visited us after Fumiaki left. As is the case whenever Alan is around, our experience quadrupled in quality. We spent the first day eating one of his off-the-cuff but delicious dinners, eating aperitivo (happy hour buffet of pasta and finger foods) and drinking Hoegaarden with our Californian neighbors Connie and Carly, and visiting the Duomo (cathedral) for the third time already. Luckily, the Duomo is the third-largest church in the world, so I'm sure we'll discover other reasons (besides Mass) to return before the semester's over.

After a few days of class and Alan's return from his own travels, we spent a day in Como, a small city on the shore of Lake Como about 45 minutes north of Milan. Unfortunately, we forgot our guidebooks, but made the best of the situation by taking a train up the side of a mountain, inspecting a small chapel and mountain-top neighborhood, and walking about 2 hours along the curvy mountain roads back to the city. Mike caught a lizard but we decided to let it go because we weren't as stocked up on lizard food as we normally are.

The Lizard

The neighborly Californian law students (and us)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hello Milano

I don't know why these posted here and in that order, but pictures 1, 2, 3, and 5 are our apartment. Number 4 is our hotel room. That guy with Tim is Fumiaki, not Mike.

After about 9 hours in the air and a breakfast of Guinness while laid-over in Dublin, we finally arrived at Linate airport 7 km east of Milan at 11:30 on Wed., Sept. 30. The first order of business, changing our American dollars into a much smaller quantity of euros, went as well as it could have given our lack of any Italian abilities or knowledge of the airport.

The second goal, getting to Milan, was much more difficult: after nearly boarding the wrong bus without paying properly, we managed to piece together some of the half-helpful comments other passengers gave us and bought a ticket for the correct bus. The problem was that the correct bus was less correct than the most correct bus: we found out just before boarding that the Starfly bus would take us even closer to The Best Hotel (its real name), our lodging for the first two nights. Three euros and a ten-feet walk later we were on our way to Estacione Centrale.

Once we got to the train station, we wandered around for a few minutes trying to find a road we recognized from the map. Eventually a helpful passer-by pointed us in the direction of our hotel, and we began the short (but seemingly long, with luggage for 4 months in tow) walk to The Best Hotel.

(Since we've already been here a few weeks, in the interest of just getting the blog online I am going to give the short version.)

The hotel room was very small. I nearly fell asleep during Mass at the Duomo with the Archbishop. We walked around Milan a lot. We ate a good Chinese food place for our first Italian meal. We checked in at the University. We registered as official legal aliens in Italy (this involved a pre-dawn wait of several hours, followed by sitting in a DMV-like set of lines for several more hours). We did another metro ride and walk to our apartment. We checked into our apartment. The apartment is nice, although a little smaller than we expected. Tim's friend Fumiaki from Japan visited. We walked around Milan more.

That covers everything a first post should cover.