Saturday, 7 November 2009

Travel Edition Ricochet - Week 3

Moar learning!

26 Oct - I hadn't done my homework again Monday morning, I was beginning to get flashbacks to high school and university as I stayed one question ahead of the answers we were giving in turn.
The Cooking Class today almost killed me, just like all the others, we made penne puttanesca and penne carbonara with zucchini fololowed by a short cust pastry with baked pears and chocolate custard in it. I knew I shouldn't get seconds, or eat the entire wedge of torte Agostino gave me but I did it any way and luckily Donato decided that as we were the only people in the Art History class that afternoon he'd take us on another walk rather than sit us down in a cosy dark room where we would fall asleep.
He took us to Santa Croce and showed us the art work in situ, pointed out before and after examples of restored paintings and explained what the restorers who were working on the church whilst we were there were doing.
One of the last things we saw at the church was the Pazzi chapel, built by a family who was unwise enough to try and assassinate a member of the Medicis and were wiped comprehensively off the map. In Rennaissance Florence that is apparently what you get!

Creepy clown bags!

27 Oct - As this week the Art History and Cooking Classes were on the same days rather than alternate days we had a big free block in the afternoon which we chose to fill up with meeting up with my uncle and aunt (also on holiday) and visiting the Uffizi gallery.
I will never get sick of Caravaggio's Medusa or Artemisia Gentileschi's Judith Slaying Holofernes, Boticelli's Birth of Venus, Michelangelo's Holy Family* or basically any of the other pieces in the Uffizi. I could come back here over and over again and probably will.
After we wound our way out through the series of shops I dragged my family and two friends of my uncle and aunt to a wine bar that I'd been eyeballing for days and smugly enjoyed my marvellous glass of wine whilst they questioned why we'd stopped here particularly.
We'd stopped because our dinner reservations we're until 7:30pm and we had some time to kill before we again tried to rupture our stomachs.
The stomach rupturing attempt took place at Ristorante Aqua al Due and holy heck!
I had a porcini mushroom risotto and a fillet of steak done with blueberries and I have no idea where I found room for my part of the dessert platter or the *coff* 6 bottles of wine between 7 people.
By the end of the meal I was glad we were just walking home instead of getting a taxi back to the station to get a late train like my uncle, aunt and travelling companions were doing.
Our steps homewards may have been a bit unsteady but they were very satisfied.

28 Oct - I know I still sound like a 5 year old with a poor grasp of tenses when I speak Italian but when you're learning a different language you're so excited by remembering enough to make sense you feel like you're cracking a secret code. Badly but still!
Today was our last Cooking Class which was a wrench but Agostino came through with Neapolitan meatballs and a chocolate almond torte and then spent about 5 minutes berating us for leaving in that lovely way so many people do.
Donato took us for another walk around town today, a couple of the churches we went by were closed for the day or had set entry times for tourists and we wound up at a few of the more obscure or hidden churches, around a corner you wouldn't have turned on a whim or tucked behind another building. It's so different seeing these things with someone who is so passionate about their content and the role it played in history.
We went for another walk over the Ponte Vecchio and around Piazza Signora before dinner, it's hard to stop walking this area.
The abundance of good wine at ridiculously cheap prices is a terrible temptation and I can't say it's one I've been resisting it at all.

29 Oct - After school it was time for the torture that comes with all travel, gift shopping.
I hate gift shopping. Hate it.
I love the people that I'm buying gifts for but I'm usually so distracted by where I am and what I'm doing that I never randomly notice something that would be 'just perfect' for them by chance and have to spend a specific allocated time running about trying to find something suitable, trying not to get ripped off and trying to remember to buy something for myself. Usually what I take home with me is a diary and photographs, I would say memories but my memory is terrible so I take a diary :-)
I survived but it was a near thing!

30 Oct - It was sad saying goodbye to everyone at the school after our last classed, as a tribute I have carefully left my last round of homework completely uncompleted.
It was our last day visiting our little caf
é as well which was equally difficult, I've eaten more pastry on this trip than in many of the months beforehand but I would do it again!
For our last afternoon we took a bus up to Fiesole which overlooks Florence, unfortunately the air was a bit hazy but Fiesole itself has enough to look at, for instance we found a house with a koala lamp...

There were a couple of items of modern sculpture up at the Roman amphitheatre that reminded me of Stargate which meant I couldn't stop thinking of fighting aliens the whole time I was there, not that that's a bad thing.

31 Oct - Our last morning in the flat was the usual blend of panic, double-checking and coffee. Had we packed everything? Turned everything off? Taken everything out of the fridge? Left the keys in the right place? Taken all the bags out before locking up? Left enough time to get to the train station?
On the last point we got to the station about 15 minutes before my train, said goodbye and I spent the next 5 hours on trains to Turin to spend a couple of days with the relatives before going back home.
I would have gone at the start of the trip but I would never have gotten away, my Grandmother's cousin envelopes you in a cloud of food and love and questions and almost the only way you get permission to leave is by showing her your plane ticket.
They picked me up at the train station and immediately began to remind me exactly how much I still don't know about Italian, 70 year olds with little to no English don't stick to the simple stuff, though sometimes they speak louder and slower (but not clearer) in an effort to get you to understand. Seems this is a universal tactic.

1 Nov - Went for a walk with my Grandmother's cousin's husband after breakfast while his wife was preparing lunch... I love Turin, it's so easy to wander about and there are so many beautiful old buildings and people just live in them like they're normal buildings, it's ridiculous!
We went through a food market, past a bookshop about a hundred metres long and only three metres wide, past fountains and open-air sculptures and then back home for a five course lunch with their daughter, her husband and their two young kids.
After lunch the young family took me for a drive to Sacra di San Michele and I learned several things:
  • Italians talk with their hands from the moment they can talk
  • The Italian version of the annoying 'turn green' chant kids take up in the car is 'diventa verde!'
  • Churches on top of mountains that look like they're balanced on top of castles are epic.
I didn't understand a lot of the guided tour but the guide was so excited telling the story I enjoyed it anyway, everything below the mountain was hidden by mist so the whole experience was very Spirited Away like.
After that it was home for dinner, more dinner, extra dinner, dessert, coffee and limencello**, more tellings off on the theme of how I must visit more often and for longer and a lot of other things it is quite nice to hear.

2 Nov - I was awake for ages this 'day'. I haven't done the maths on it yet but I got up at 7:30am in Italy, had breakfast, gathered my bags, went down to the train station with everybody, said more goodbyes, got on the train, went back to Milan, stopped for a quick shop, got the bus to the airport, got the plane to Amsterdam, got another plane to Kuala Lumpur, had a 7 hour stop over there in an airport lounge, got another flight at 10:00pm-ish Kuala Lumpur time, completely failed to get any sleep on the one flight I'd promised myself I was allowed to, arrived in Melbourne, bought a coffee at the airport against my better judgement, got the airport shuttle home and collapsed into a boneless heap.

In summary:
  • Yay travel!
  • I somehow always end up reading Douglas Adams when I travel which is strange considering what happens to his characters when they travel...
  • I shouldn't be allowed to write travel blog entries because I just go on for-bloody-ever and start introducing completely irrelevant points about Douglas Adams!
Now I'm off for some extra lashings of sleep followed by a nice lie in.

*I'd just re-read Douglas Adams' Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul before we visited the gallery (and strangely enough just before my last visit too, although I'd forgotten until now) and was particularly tickled to see Michelangelo's Holy Family (or Doni Tondo) after hearing it described in Adams' wonderful way.

**Sweet mercy limencello is delicious! And now I have a recipe! Now I'm unstoppable! Mwah ha ha ha ha ha!

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