Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Trip in a Nutshell-Part V


Pisa. Well, there isn't much of the actual town to speak of. The Tower, the Baptistery and the Duomo are about it. There is an old Jewish cemetery but we couldn't get in to see it. Don't get me wrong, the work on the three structures is amazing but the place itself was small.

We did get to climb the leaning tower, which is something I still can't believe we did. I still remember when I was in the second grade, I had to do a report on a famous location, I got Pisa. My brother helped me make a model of the three structures so it was really kind of surreal being there and actually climbing the thing. We did get lucky though. The day was pretty hot but the temperature inside the tower is actually very cool. It was nice. The only odd part about it is the actual climb. It's a narrowish spiral staircase that really tilts. You can't really appreciate how much of an angle it's on until you're in it. It kind of feels a little scary when you get to the window about half way up and see everything outside off kilter. At the top you get a pretty great view of the surrounding town and the hills in the distance, but the very top level is better. I took our video camera and filmed over the leaning side to get a better idea of how messed up it feels. I believe Pony got his second photo with one of the Australian couples in our group.

We had yet another pizza lunch. Sadly this was not as good as all the other places. But it's all good we didn't have a lot of time there anyway. We got caught up looking at a few things at the shops and almost got left behind. We missed the tram that takes you to the parking lot. Our tour guide waited for us but knew the street it would drive on to get back, so she stopped it mid-ride. Phew!


If I could, right now, I would hop on a plane and head out to Venice. Although it's a little dirtier (really, the buildings look a little dingier here than they do in other cities) the place is just so damn charming, despite the occasional waft of funk from the canal on some of the smaller streets. Before I go on, we didn't go on a gondola ride because I never really liked the idea of taking a boat ride in their sewer system (I don't know, maybe it's just me).

So we got to the Venice area in the late afternoon. We got our hotel rooms and got on the bus for a night out in the city. The hotel again was a little bit outside of the city so we had to drive a bit to get to the dock where we'd take a boat onto San Marco. It was about 6:00 pm-ish when we started out. On the drive, I noticed a kind of odd thing. A woman was sitting in a white plastic lawn chair in the middle of an island at the highway exit/ entrance. I thought, how odd. The a little bit down further I noticed a woman dressed in very little just standing off the sidewalk in the middle of the street in front of a shop called "Sexy Shop." I thought "what?!" and now tapped Aaron's arm. Another girl appeared in the middle of the other sidewalk, not at any discernible bus stop and this one only had tall grass behind her so it wasn't like there was a shop she could have been coming out of. Aaron confirmed that yep, those were indeed hookers. Other people on the bus noticed too. Sam started laughing. I was confused because I thought the only place where it's that open was in Holland, where it's actually legal.

The boat ride to San Marco was lovely, we got some pretty evening photos of the islands. The group had dinner at a really smallish restaurant that I would never be able to find again even if you paid me. After dinner we got back to Piazza San Marco. By this time it was already dark and whole place was lit up in little lights The place looked spectacular. The best part was there were four bands scattered around the piazza playing classical music. They actually compete to draw the crowd so they don't play over each other. One of the bands got the bulk of the crowd (about 300-ish) to zip over then they began playing "Funiculì, Funiculà" they all started clapping along, singing and dancing. Loved it! But with the beautiful buildings at night, the pretty light and the music you couldn't help but get swept up in the moment and start dancing and some people did. Venice at night is by far the prettiest city I've ever seen. I swear, if the atmosphere doesn't get you, there's seriously something wrong with you. Aaron and I agreed that we could have stayed there all night just going from band stand to band stand, sipping cappuccinos and espressos and perhaps dancing. Sadly we only had about an hour.

On the bus ride back to the hotel Sam and Nicole, Jason, his wife Laura (a couple actually not from Australia. They're from Toronto) Wayne, Aaron and I decided to play a game; count the hookers. On a four-ish mile stretch of road we counted 33 hookers (ah, ah, ah. Yes, we threw in the Count's laugh now and then). A group of them actually had a Winnebago parked on the side of the road! Yeah. Kind of funny and sad. We also drove by a mechanic shop called Ass Auto. I kid you not. That was the name of the place. Somehow, I don't think I would trust the place with my car.

The next morning we hit the dock early and went back to Venice. We noticed one of the freakiest things ever. It seems like all of Australia was on vacation. The tour group that shared our boat out were all Aussies. Apparently there were around 40 people on that tour. I think all but four were from Australia and two of those were from New Zealand. I asked Shane if there was anyone left back home. He said he wasn't sure anymore.

We checked out a glass blowing demonstration where the maestro made a vase and a little sculpture of a horse using pretty much a pair of pliers and a heavy duty set of tweezers in about three minutes. Impressive. I would pretty much burn myself and those around me horribly if I tried that. We didn't buy anything. Basically, most of the stuff, pretty as it was, was over price and too damn fragile to take home. After that we walked around the city and explored. We took the Rialto Bridge and went mask shopping on Santa Croce. I had a hell of a time finding just one. If money and space weren't an issue I would have gone completely insane. I settled on one at a shop where the woman actually paid close attention to what I was looking for. She made recommendations based on my skin tone, hair color and the shape of my eyes. She was awesome! Most workers at other shops kind of just pointed to the kind of masks I was looking for, if they paid attention at all.

Wandering and taking in the city was such a great experience. We hit the less crowded streets and found some of the prettiest sights tucked away down the smaller streets. We even found one of the prettiest churches we've seen. The place was tiny as heck but was decorated so beautifully. Most churches we had seen till this point had been these monster churches that kind of overwhelm you. This place, small as it was, had beautiful paintings a gorgeous altar, but not overwhelming at all. It felt warm and beautiful. It just felt loving and welcoming. Even Aaron felt it and he isn't very religious at all. I actually lit a candle and left a donation. I would have jotted the name down, but it didn't have it posted anywhere where I could see it. All I know is that it was on Santa Croce.

We had lunch at a little place called Cavatappi on San Marco. If you're ever there, I highly recommend finding this place. The food was delicious and the tiramisu is to die for. We ordered one to share. The waitress looked at us funny then asked if we were sure about that. She gave us one anyway. She laughed when we HAD to order another one. It all made sense.

After lunch we took a boat ride out to the small but beautiful lagoon island of Burano, the lace making island. The place is simply cute. It looks like they let a little kid go around to paint the buildings. They are all really adorably bright colored. Apparently the buildings are all painted that way because back in the day, this is where a lot of sailors lived and a lot of times they would come home at night and possibly drunk, so they had to do something to make sure they could find their way back to the right house. This is also why most women took up lace making. It was a way for them to make extra money while their husbands were away at sea.

I picked up a few items there. I got a Christmas table runner and a bread basket. I also got a handkerchief and an infant bib for the future.

At the end of the day, we didn't want to leave. There was so much more we wanted to check out but didn't have time. We didn't go into the Duomo because we were pretty much churched out and the line was enormous. But we decided when we do come back, and we are so going to go back, we HAD to explore ALL the islands thoroughly and make sure we have enough space in our luggage for more souvenirs.

That evening dinner was at the hotel. It was a much better dinner but the best part of the night was afterwards. We got a group of people together and hit the patio behind the hotel for a last night of drinking and to wish Wayne and Michelle adieu. They were heading off to Bolonia the next morning instead of heading back to Assisi and Rome with us.

We couldn't find the lights for the patio so we sat around in the quasi dark and swapped contact information. We magically made about eight bottles of wine and proseco disappear. It was great. We kind of got eaten alive by mosquito's but it's all good. The group eventually dwindled down to Sam, Nicole, Wayne, Michelle, Aaron and myself. We were up till about 1:00 am-ish, chatting about random things and trying to speak in each other's accents. Aaron can't do the Australian accent for crap, he did get Sam's Alabama accent pretty well. I got to hear Wayne speak at full speed and didn't understand a word. We said we should have practiced sooner and freaked everyone out by going around speaking with a different accent, just for fun. Sam told us about an issue he ran into on their plane ride over. When the flight attendant came around to get drink orders he asked for a Pepsi. She didn't understand so she asked him a few times to repeat his order. He kept saying it in a slower, clearer voice, "I. Would. Like. A. Pep-si." The flight attendant was from the States. She eventually brought a drink over to his wife and then asked her what he wanted to drink. He said, "You know I'm right here. I can hear you. I'd like a PEP-SI!" I think he eventually gave up and asked for a Coke. The thing is, of all Southern accents I've ever heard, his was probably one of the easiest I've come across. On the flight home, when the flight attendant came by, I almost asked for a Pepsi just to see what would happen.

Tomorrow: Assisi and back to Rome.


Dizzy Vizzy said...

Ass Auto?? Love it!
And I so would have been playing "Count the hookers" with you! You could adapt the game to "Guess the STD's" as well! :-)

BeeOhVee said...

Ahahaha... well yeah, but who can count that fast?

Chele76 said...

I was pleasantly surprised with Pisa. I remember thinking 'yea, tower' and having NO enthusiasm for it at all. Once I was there I was surprised by how pretty the 3 buildings are together. Did you take the token 'pushing over / holding up' the tower pic? I loved looking down the sidewalk and watching all the people in silly poses!

Venice is just amazing. I think it may have been my favorite as well. I also used the day to hang out in the square and just exist. I probably spent $20 euro feeding those damned pigeons all day long... but something just drew me to it. I loved the feeling of them walking up my arms... then watching a little dog run through the packs of birds and torment them.

BeeOhVee said...

I didn't take the pushing/ holding up the tower photo but Pony did. :)