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Day 11 – Italian Home Cooking (1/6/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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Slept in today. Yay!

It felt good to fight a cough and the sniffles with a but of rest. We took it pretty chill today. We decided to grab one of those open-top tour buses at the train station. Even though it was raining we still tried to stay upstairs. We already saw most of the sights the bus went by, but we hadn’t see the Roman Forum yet. We got off at the old chariot race site and wondered over to the Colosseum and the Forum. It was beautiful to see the ruins, and the rain seemed to stop just so we can enjoy it.

After walking around the forum for a bit, we hopped back on bus then got off in old Roman neighborhood, Trastevere. There we walked around for a bit before meeting up with Giuseppe. It was nice to actually hang out with him in Rome. He took us to some nice local spots for some wine and later some tea.

We had already made plans to have a home cooked meal at Alice’s place. We caught cab out to the residential area. (The cab got lost – ha!) We had great, home-cooked food! Pasta, stuffed pork roll, and desert: three course of yum. 🙂 Afterward we got a ride back from Francesca, avoiding another cab fiasco.

Tomorrow we’re headed for our last Italian city.

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Day 10 – Raining All Over The World (1/5/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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We got up early this morning. Got to the Vatican Museum at what we thought was a head start. The line was already down the block – but it was still short compared to where it was 10 mins after we showed up (and we were told even that is short compared to the lines at peak season). Once the doors opened the line moved quickly though.Once inside we picked up the audio guides, which were very helpful and interesting. The museum is huge! We walked around inside for about 4 hours and we were booking it. The layout is a series of corridors and rooms that are connected in such a way as to funnel everyone in the same direction. At the end of the path is the Sistine Chapel. To be honest, I am not much on art. I mean I appreciate it and it’s beauty, but I don’t spend too much time starting at art work in museums. The Sistine Chapel held me for about almost half of an hour. It was gorgeous and elaborate. I had no idea it was so much more than just the creation of man bit. We couldn’t take pictures or video, but I did try to capture some pics from the panels in the court yard.

When we came out of the museum it was pouring like crazy! The rain lasted pretty much all day. We walked around to check out St. Peter’s, but didn’t want to wait in the rain to go inside. Instead we hung out for a sec in the square then sought refuge back at the hotel for a bit.

After a rest, we hit the streets again. Took in a couple more sights then stumbled on a Stanley Kubrick exhibit at a modern art museum. It was quite a fortunate find as the exhibit was showing Kubrick films. We were just in time for Spartacus. It was kind of ironic and fun watching a movie about over throwing Rome while in Rome. 🙂 I hadn’t scene it before. It’s basically more love story than action movie, but very enjoyable.

After the movie we caught up with some of the people we meet in Madonna di Campiglio, Francesca and Alice, and some of their friends. We went out to Roman hotspot called Le Masion (or something like that 🙂 ) . It would have been fun on another night but I was out of gas from all the walking and ready to turn in by the time we even got there. When I go back to Rome, I definitely want to check the place out again.

When we got back home I was out like a light.

Day 9 – All Roads (1/4/08) January 18, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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We rolled out of Venice early (after endulging in an espresso and a croissant of course 😉 ). We hopped on an early express train that only made three or four stops on the way to Rome. It was a pretty smooth 4 hours. I heard that the view was wonderful, but I was asleep for a good chunk of it.

When we got to Rome we grabbed a bite at McDonald’s (so authentically Italian, I know). The train station in Rome is really nice inside – sure beats 30th Street Station 🙂 Once we figured out how to get our passes for the subway, we made our way over to the hotel, dropped our bags in the room, and hit the streets in search of old and historically important stuff.

[We hit up so much stuff in Rome that I didn’t get a chance to keep track of each thing we hit and when, but assume that we touched pretty much every major tourist sight over the time we were there.]

Day 8 – Got Me Going In Circles (1/3/08) January 13, 2008

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We got up pretty early today and, after grabbing some espresso and croissants, hopped on the vaparetto to Campo di San Marco. It was a nice trip down the Grand Canal – took a couple pics and saw some interesting building fronts (one of my favorite sight on the ride was the DHL delivery boat – everything is a boat! 🙂 )

It was an overcast day, but San Marco’s was still gorgeous. I ran through some pigeons (wasn’t to keen on feeding them and letting them sitting on me). The square was not as big as I though but still an impressive size. After taken a few pictures Kedar and I checked out the museums.

The museums were okay. They were mildly intereting. There were some cool maps and some interesting paintings if Madonna and Child.

After the museums we went into the Basilica. It was gorgeous and ornate. We were not aloud to take photos inside but you can tell from the outside what to expect inside.

Now is time to retreat from the beaten path. We headed down along the southern coast to the Arsonale, getting purposely lost along the way. We ended up exploring the south eastern portion of Venice. It was much more residential and noticeable not manicured. It was not meant for tourists’ eyes. We had a good lunch of Italian-style spaghetti carbonara here and headed back toward the leather store to pick up our stuff.

After looking for a bit, we arrived at the store. Our stiff wasn’t ready yet, but he owner told us about a nice place to grab a bite about a 5 min walk away. It was a great experience – the one we were looking for in Venice. It was a midsized (for Venice), candle-lit place with an old feel (but apparently the place is new). The waiter/bar tender did not speak English (but did speak Spanish, which helped). We asked for something “typical” and be brought us two different preparations if a local fish (don’t remember the name). He also paired it with a cabernet sauvignon. It was quite good! So good we asked to try something else – another anything “typical.” He gave us another wine and prepared an amazing plate of small fish dishes. (He took a while – so long that we almost paid and walked out because we though he didn’t understand that we wanted more.) I regret not taking a picture of the the dish before we enjoyed it. It had two types of small fish, stuffed hot peppers, another fish mixture, some pickled young olives, seafood salad (squid, octopus, and fish) and some other peppers. All the dishes were flavorful and stood up well to the strong Malbec he paired them with. We then capped the dinner with a grappa as he suggested. Wonderful dinner.

After dinner we grabbed our stuff from the store and headed back to the hotel. We regrouped there and went off to find that bar from last night. After walking in circles for about 40mins, trying pretty much every direction off of the square we remembered, I found the path and we found the bar again.

We hung out for a while at the bar. The owner is Israeli and lived in the states for a while (better at English than Italian). We quickly became regulars – so to speak 🙂 We had a gang of drinks one round of which was on the house. It was a cheap and really fun time, but it was cut short by our hostel/hotel’s curfew at 1am.

Tomorrow its off to Rome (pretty much any road should get us there right?)

Day 7 – Whatever Floats Your Boat (1/2/08) January 13, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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Left mountains and arrived at the floating city.

We woke up at the butt crack of dawn to hop on the 2hr coach bus down the mountain to Trento (cost €4 compared to the €120 we paid to get up in a cab!). We reached Trento in plently of time to catch the train …because the train was late. Once on the train, it was pretty smooth to Venice (although we had the wrong fare for one leg and had to pay the different on the train).

The Grand Canal greeted us as we emerged from the train station. Our hotel was nearby so we dropped our luggage off (to early to check in) and hit the bricks.

We explored the area south of the Grand Canal first. There were a host of churches and squares. The streets, as you would image, were in no way linear so we enjoyed losing ourselves and figuring out where we were and what were looking at (sometimes what we looked at already). Of course there are subtitle differences, but at first every corner, every street, every church, and every square looks exactly the same! But I quickly caught the hang of navigating.

We walked for a good bit, bopped I’m and out of some stores. Came across thus pretty cool leather store. They hand make everything. Kedar and I decided to order ourselves little leather trinkets to remember Venice. After the leather store we crossed over to the east side of the Grand Canal.

On the way home, amid the winding streets was tucked a cool little bar. The sign “Hot Sangria” drew us in from the chilly evening. The place was literally a counter and enough place for 8 people in two rows, shoulder to shoulder. It was wonderfully chill (and hit sangria is great – they warm it with the steam from the espresso machine.) We stay there for a couple drinks then headed back to our room.

A great view of Venice. Looking forward to San Marco tomorrow!

Day 6 – I Have Been Abroad All Year! (1/1/08) January 13, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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Auguri! Buon Anno!

Today I hung out with Kedar. We turned in our ski/snowboard equipment in right after breakfast and hit the town. I had explored most of it with Elisabetta Sofia yesterday. Kedar and I skipped lunch on the slopes in favor a local joint in the center. It was nice to be snow free (meaning not even lunch on the slope) and chill for a day.

In order to pack everything into one carry-on and a backpack I only brought one week’s worth of clothes. I had to do laundry in order to have some clean undies for next week. I found a laundromat in the town. It was expensive! €5 for washing, €4 for drying and €1 for detergent.

Later that day we caught up with the rest of the crew. Had a couple drinks with some of the Italians. The town set off fireworks while we were enjoying happy hour.

Then Giuseppe, Kedar and I broke off to have a “typical” dinner. It was a nice restaurant what served the traditional food of the region. The dishes were excellent. They involved a lot of deer meat.

Back at the hotel we all hung out in the lounge for our last evening together. Giuseppe helped Kedar and I book our rooms for Venice and Rome (we switched our plans in order to be in Rome over the weekend with the folks we just met). G even did a little negotiating on the rate saving us a couple euros a night in Rome.

We all say our goodbye-for-now’s and head to bed. Kedar and I plan on breaking out early tomorrow on the first bus to Trento.

Ski trip was great. Now it’s off to see more of Italy. 🙂

Day 5 – Taking It Easy (12/31/07) January 13, 2008

Posted by Q in Friends, Travel, Wharton.
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After the near death experience, I took today easy. My shoulder was still hurting quite a bit. I had some mobility last night, but stiffness set in overnight.

I hung out with Elisabetta Sofia, one of the Italians, who does not ski at all so she wasn’t missing much by taking me around to get my shoulder checked out. We went to the ambulatorio (like a mini emergency room), but it cost something like €65 just to see the doctor. My shoulder wasn’t hurting that bad. I took some ibuprofen and sucked it up.

There was some confusion as to where everyone was meeting for lunch, but two trips on the ski bus and one bubble lift later we meet everyone on one of the peaks. ES and I weren’t equipped with skis so we had to navigate a mini slope in our regular shoes. It was not my best idea to wear sneakers and ankle socks. Halfway down the hill I hit a soft spot and sunk down to my knee is snow 🙂

On the way up I noticed a lot of smoke coming from what I thought was someone’s chimney. At the top of the mountain I could still see the smoke. Someone said that a famous hotel, Des Alpes, was actually on fire. On the ride back down we could see the smoke rising from the valley. Walking by the hotel was kind of surreal. It wasn’t a raging blaze, but it was a steady fire that burned for about 12 hours. The place was old and made of wood and brick. I was kind of sad to look at the place. Apparently it was a historical place as well. A German Emperor, or someone, used to stay in the wing that caught on fire.

It was also noted that were was a big party planned there as tonight was New Year’s Eve. Des Alpes had a disco. A similar fire broke out at the only other disco in the town the night before a big celebration a couple months back. …hmmmm.

For New Year’s, we had dinner at the hotel. It was early for Italians who normally have dinner over midnight then go out. We finished up dinner around 10:30ish and spent and hour getting organized to go out. We landed at the bar on the bank of the frozen lake in the middle of the valley. It was kinda fun. It was not as wild as a US party by any means. The countdown was unofficial and the celebration was mostly champagne toast, hugs and exchanges of “auguri!” There were all kinds of unofficial fireworks and firecrackers (its a wonder no one got hurt!).

Happy (obviously belated) New Year!