Monday, July 13, 2009

postcard from Venice.


Our tour guide informed us gondoliers can earn up to 300,000 Euro a year. WTF?! Where can I sign up? Who needs a GED when you can push a skinny boat through murky canals while singing "O Sole Mio"? Screw being a lawyer, a doctor, or a business tycoon. Mom, I wanna be a gondolier! :D

Saturday, July 11, 2009

postcard from Pisa.

[I hold the Pisa.]

Wallet lost in Pisa. 40 Euro gone. Driver's license now missing. Spent 45 minutes talking to five different English speaking accents over roaming mobile phone to get credit cards canceled. Helen impressed with my ability to stay calm.

Everyone says the same thing: Good thing it wasn't your passport.

Friday, July 10, 2009

postcard from San Gimignano.

In the first song of Disney's animated feature, "Beauty and the Beast", Belle walks through a sleepy town just waking up as she sings how "there must be more to this provincial life." While strolling through the medieval town of San Gimignano, I couldn't help but to expect wood panel windows to fling open and people breaking out in musical song and dance. It was hard to believe people actually lived here! This town was a breath of fresh air and I was able to relax a bit from the hustle and bustle of Rome and Florence. I was able to breathe.

Italian gelato is richer and creamier than ice cream. They come in skinny cones which kinda sucks because the gelato is simply piled on top with nothing left for you when you reach the cone. Sampled world champion gelato at Gelateria di Piazza. We've had enough gelato in Italy for a proper control. The consistency and flavor of the gelato in San Gimignano were no comparison. Their secret ingredient must've been crack because it was by far the best frozen treat I've ever had. I'm not much of a foodie but I'll tell you for sure, I will dream about this gelato. If I ever have a near death experience, this gelato will flash before my eyes. If I was on death row, I'd want this gelato as part of my final meal.

My only regret is not having a second... and maybe possibly a third. If only we had another hour or two in this little town tucked away in the Tuscan hills. I would've had one more for the road... and the plane ride back.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

postcard from Firenze.

"Aw crap, you gotta be kidding me," I said as I read the sign posted on the side of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Helen and I were at the head of a line worthy of any amusement park roller coaster ride to go up the duomo of the cathedral. The sign was a clear warning. Instead of "Guests who are elderly, pregnant, or with heart condition may not ride," it said, "Bitch, you best be in shape to haul your ass up these million steps to heaven."

"Okay, I can do this," I said, "Can't be any different from hiking Korean mountains."

Hiking in Korea isn't all that difficult when there are stairs neatly carved int
o the side of mountains. It's funny to see Koreans in full on hiking gear looking as if ready to climb Everest and watch them carry their backpacks and walking sticks up concrete steps. If I can take on stepping up to the summit of a mountain, a cathedral can't be that much harder.

I didn't need a walking stick. What I needed was a muscular descendant of Roman gods to carry me up those goddamn steps. How medieval monks managed to use them were beyond me. The only light emanating was from tiny circular windows that beamed through dark staircases. You were fucked if you suffered from claustrophobia as the stairs were only wide enough for people to pass through one at a time. If the space and number of steps finally cause an anxiety attack, it would take hours to locate and remove you from the spiraling stairs. Then you got that ever growing line of angry and impatient people waiting outside for you.

"Okay Helen, I gotta slow down," I said winded after step #346, "Just... gimme a sec... I'll take a picture."

We were almost there. I could feel it. The air felt fresher which gave us enough juice to power on. We climbed up a skinny ladder and finally stood at the top of the duomo. I'm not normally afraid of heights but couldn't help but to get that nervous butterfly sensation in your stomach that made you feel like you gotta crap your pants. I was quickly distracted by the red roofed view of the city spanning below. We sat and cooled our asses on the cold marble floor. It was a good feeling. If I can get a view like this after step climbing, who needs an elliptical machine at a sweaty gym?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

postcard from roma.

Helen and I were dead tired. Lack of sleep on a red eye flight caused our hands to shake. Managed to get a little shut eye at our layover in Frankfurt. The harsh German barking over airport intercoms were no match for my exhaustion. Conked out until our shuttle plane arrived to take us to Rome.

Upon arriving, we were greeted not by "Welcome to Italy" signs but by sexy half naked David and Victoria Beckham modeling in Armani ads. First immediate lesson I learned was how extremely laid back Italians are. You will hardly ever get a solid answer from anyone. We were picked up by a tour group shuttle which promptly drove us to the wrong hotel.

"You want that light building," the man at the front desk pointed from the wrong hotel, "I show you. Ehhhhh, you walk, three, four, five blocks over there."
"Great," I sighed.

Helen and I gawked at our hotel room. Two beds neatly cut out like blocks
of tofu were waiting for us in what looked like my closet. Right. Space is limited in this city. Got it. Dropped our bags, got into some fresh clothes, and headed out for our first taste of Italy.