Thursday, March 25, 2010

Our run in with the Polizia

On my last travel week I was afforded the chance to go to so many amazing places! I started off the week with a three day stay in Cagliari. It is in Sardinia which is an Italian island. From the moment our plane hit the ground it was nothing short of an adventure. Once we got off the plane and got our luggage we tried to grab a taxi to take us to our "hotel” that ended up being an apartment in a gated complex. Our taxi driver didn't speak a word of English, was about seventy-five-years-old, and could quite possibly have been intoxicated. He didn't exactly know where we were going even though we gave him directions. Steph H, Steph F, Hannah and I all cautiously piled into his car and away we went. He started out driving as any Italian does: crazy and fast. While he was driving he was also reading the directions and trying to answer his walkie-talkie. About ten minutes into the drive it was obvious he had no clue where he was going. We took the liberty to call Angela who we would find out was our landlord, who also didn't speak very much English. We decided that it would be in our best interest to put Angela and our driver on the phone together so that she could give him directions. While he was on the phone with her he crawled to about five miles per hour. I'm not sure what that would be in the metric system. And then it happened. We saw red lights flashing behind us and knew we were getting pulled over. It was our first run in with the Italian Polizia. He got out of the car and handed them a variety of papers. We're still not sure if he was driving legally or not. Twenty minutes later he came back and the police pulled away, keep in mind the meter is still running, and he grumbled something about not being able to talk on the telephone while driving. Mama Mia! It was a catastrophe to say the least. We finally made it to our apartment and the adventure in Cagliari continued.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Italian Mass

This past Sunday I got to go to a real Catholic Italian mass. It was such an amazing experience. I feel a bit guilty since I have been living in Italy for the past couple months and have only gone to mass, oh, a few times. Plus it's Lent so that means double the guilt. Steph Hornsby and I went to the market Sunday morning in Crespano del Grappa. It is just a short twenty-minute walk. We attended mass at 11:30. The church doesn't look like much on the outside but on the inside it is more beautiful than any church I have been in at home. The mass seemed pretty much the same as one at home except for that it was entirely in Italian, obviously, and the way they received the Eucharist was very strange. Usually when it's time to take the Eucharist you form two straight lines and everyone takes it. This was a bit different. Italians don't exactly know what a straight line is. Everywhere you go they form blobs. It's a trademark really. Church is no different. They formed a "blob" with no order to receive the host. The weirdest part for me was that not everyone took it. In fact, most people didn't. So much so that Steph and I felt a tad confused on whether it was appropriate for us to go up. In the end we joined the Italian line. After mass was ended we both looked at each other in amazement really. It was an experience I will never forget and am so blessed to be afforded the opportunity to do. Can't wait for Palm Sunday.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Roman Holiday

Roma! I spent the past three days in Rome. It was an absolute blast. I had so much fun. While I was there I saw so many amazing monuments and ruins. I walked through the Palatine Hill, sauntered through the Roman Forum, fought my way in the Colosseum, took a tour through Vatican City, pushed my way through a political rally to get to the Pantheon, stumbled upon the Spanish Steps, and swam through a sea of rain and wrong turns to get to the Trevi Fountain. Rome got dubbed the city with the best views. They were truly amazing. Our last night there a group of us decided to splurge on a nicer dinner at a restaurant called "Bebbos". We were really getting into the whole essence of Italian eating because each night we didn't start dinner until nine and took our sweet time, finishing around ten thirty or eleven. At Bebbos a few of us started with the bruschetta. I got the eggplant bruschetta. We were trying to mind our manners and eat politely so we used a fork and knife to cut them into dainty bites. Our hostess, a rather brass woman, came over and scolded us for our etiquette. She told us that we didn't have to use forks and knives, "Italians use their hands to eat bruschetta!" We figured...when in Roma. We lost the utensils and did it caveman style. On our walk back to the hostel we met three Italian soldiers who were guarding the German Embassy. We asked for a picture with them but since Luigi was on duty and holding a gun he declined a photo. But Guseppe and Vincez were more than willing to oblige. They were hilarious. Vincez was in love with Sarah. He gave her his Italy patch and made her wear his hat. Then we told them that we would "tag" them in the picture on Facebook, and boy did they have a problem with that. Immediately they made an x with their arms and said "No Facebook!" I guess they would get in trouble if this was found by their superiors. By the end of our conversation they invited us dancing and said they would pick us up in Giuseppe’s car at the nearest metro. They tried to lour us there with the promise of patches for all. Their trickery was wasted upon us. We never did make it to that metro at 2 am.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Tourist that got Taken

I don't know if you are aware of the stereotypes that follow American tourists but there are a few. One haunts you and trails you like a shadow from place to place. Vendors, restaurants, and shops can see you coming from a mile away and will try and squeeze every euro cent out of you that they can. Americans are apparently known for being na├»ve and easy sells. While I was in Paris with my friends Sarah, Lindsay, and Anna we hadn’t run into this trickery until one dreadful evening. Our last day in Paris we went to the top of the Eifel Tower and had a picturesque French meal across from its baby of landmarks, unfortunately Lindsay’s stomach didn’t appreciate the French onion soup too much because she ended up being too sick to come to our last dinner there later that night. Sarah, Anna, and I headed to Moulin Rouge to check out the legendary strip. We saw what we came to see and got down to the business of eating. We had learned the hard way to, “Eat what you can read”, meaning if you can read the menu than it’s probably overpriced a tad, but OK to eat there. We settled for a cute restaurant directly across from Moulin Rouge. We enjoyed the view over our steak and fries. We were treated to some interesting people watching to say the least. It was time for the check. We got it and were astonished. Our bottled waters were, are you ready for this, seven euro apiece! That’s a total of 21 euro, roughly about $26.00 at home. We got taken. Naturally, we all scoured the menu looking for the small fine print that somewhere gave the price. We never did find it. This was our one lesson to ask if we aren’t sure and never just order on a whim. People will take you for tourists. I’m just glad I skipped dessert.