Friday, September 28, 2007

Bureaucracy Revisited

Well, almost 5 months to the day of applying for the cherished Permisso di Soggiorno, I got my appointment. This is the card that everyone must get if they are staying in Italy longer than the 90 days allowed by a passport. The Visa I got basically gets me into the country and requires me to apply for the PDiS within 8 days of my arrival.

Last December, the government changed the process. Everyone used to go to their local Questura (police headquarters) to apply and receive the card. It apparently was a nightmare process (and what isnt in Italy), so they bought some half baked computer system and decided that all applications would go through the Post Office, be mailed to Rome and scanned. They estimated that all PDiS applications would be processed in no more than 17 days.

As of today, there are over 1 million people like me who applied and are walking around with a paper receipt but no card. The new process is so overwhelmed and backlogged that I am not sure how they are every going to get out from under. There are regular protests in Rome by the workers and/or the applicants but so far, not much more than pointing fingers has happened.

Keep in mind, I am here legally with this receipt but without the official card, some of my actions are limited. One of the best is travel. With just a receipt you are not legally allowed to travel within (yes, within) the EU. In fact, you are supposed to only go to your home country and not touch ground, even for a connection in any other EU country. So, as many of you know, I cancelled my mission trip to Romania which is currently happening this week. I have also put on hold a side trip to Prague because of the fear of not being legal in other places (they dont have to accept a receipt as legal paperwork). Of course, the chances of me being caught and deported or whatever is slim to none, but I am trying my best to do it the right way.

You can only imagine my surprise when my appointment date has been scheduled for July 30, 2008. That's right. Next year. Next year after I will probably not be here and will be back in Phoenix. Next year on a Wednesday at exactly 12:18 in the afternoon! Does anyone else find the irony in them scheduling me an appointment almost a year out but can be so specific as to say 12:18pm?!

So, now I have to make a trip to the Questura on my own (what a joy) to explain to them that I need an appt. before this time and throw myself on the mercy of the Italian government in hopes that they will agree. I am sure you can hear in my voice the utter excitement at all of this. Trust me, I know illegal immigration is a serious problem and something has to be done (in all countries), but I have a special place in my heart now for people who do makes perfect sense right now.


This hasnt been the best week I have had in Venice and so when someone told me the other day that I am living the perfect life, I was quick to retort that its not all its cracked up to be. I know the first response from most of you is something like, 'it was your choice to move there'. And rather than get my feathers in a ruffle from hearing this, I will skip the details of my frustration.

But I have been contemplating why I feel its not all its cracked up to be. Dont get me wrong, I still feel incredibly blessed to be able to do this and I am still enamored with Italy. Its just not a good week, thats all. I wouldnt call it homesickness except as a sweeping definition of my feelings. I miss my family and friends but those of you who know me are aware that I can easily spend days on end by myself with no problem. So what is it exactly that generated that retort?

First, my life in Phoenix was overwhelmingly structured and scheduled. There was very little down time for me and I was burnt out with obligations. Here, I have absolutely no structure and no schedule. That was what the doctor ordered for a short time but now I think the pendulum needs to swing back to the middle.

Next, my job/career was less than satisfying to my soul. It was a means to an end (i.e. provided me many vacations!) but I never felt like it was what I was 'supposed' to be doing. Now that I am away from that arena and need to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I get overwhelmed. The things that interest me are numerous, and most of them require me to recreate myself by going back to school, etc. I am not sure I am ready for that or if that is even a good idea, so I am a bit like a deer in headlights at the moment.

Third, despite my feelings about my job, I was part of something. It was a machine and I was part of the mechanism that made it run. Here, I am an island. I needed to be away from everyone and everything for a while to detox and destress. But I also know now how important it is to be a part of something or some group in order to have a sense of purpose and accomplishment. As much as I am an introvert and need my time alone, being part of a 'machine' is essential.

Finally, one of my dearest friends once told me that my brain is my biggest asset and my biggest downfall. I never stop thinking and have been known to take a nap just to get away from myself and turn it off for a while. So, with no structure, schedule or machine to distract me, I am thinking alot. Its good. Its all good. But, its exhausting--emotionally and physically. I am learning more about myself than I probably wanted to know! haha

Now that I have vomitted some of my musings to you, I should sum it up. Yes, I miss being able to go to Target or to go to just about any store on Sunday and know it will be open or to have an endless supply of peanut butter. But I also know when I return, I will miss the history and culture and the ability to walk everywhere and the best food I have ever had. So, no, I am not homesick. I am changing and developing and learning and sometimes, this isnt all that it is cracked up to be!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bill Cosby

Remember that old Bill Cosby skit about Noah and God? God tells Noah to build a big boat because its going to rain so much the earth will be flooded. Noah says 'you've got to be kidding' and God says 'Noah, how long can you tread water'?!

It started raining yesterday morning around 4am with lightening and thunder. Good heavy rainfall. When I finally decided to venture out at 11am, it was still raining. After weeks and weeks of searching for rain boots, I finally found one store that was selling them (albeit very crowded at the moment) and got my pair for the upcoming aqua alta (literally tall water; i.e. floods) season. Aren't they cool?

Since I had my boots I decided it was a good idea to give them a test run. And, of course, the rain stopped just as I was about to go out and play in the puddles. The rain stopped for a few hours but started again this morning at 5am with lightening and thunder. The forecast says it is going to rain all day again. I hope my boots are enough and I dont have to build a boat!

I did snap a few pics yesterday as the city was busy putting up the walkways for aqua alta. There are certain parts of the city (esp St. Marks Square) that flood and at times up to your knee, so they create these walkways for people to travel by. Other parts of the city get flooded less and the walkways are not so tall.

Although it rained a great deal, it wasnt enough for a true aqua alta yesterday, so you wont see much standing water in the pics but the level of the walkways will give you an idea of what to expect. I am sure I will get some pics to you when the true event starts. Hopefully my boots are tall enough to get me to the walkway!

The Massage

I thought I could go the whole year without a massage but I was wrong. After 5 months of carrying, lugging, pulling and pushing (like the rest of the Venetians and tourists), my upper back and shoulders just said 'no more'. Three days into my headache, I did a search for a place in Venice to get a massage. Venetians are not pampered people so I knew my options were limited. I had a choice of two places. The Cipriani Hotel which is a 5 star hotel where George Clooney stays when he is in town. I didnt even bother to check the rates. And a new place that opened a few months ago. They basically charge 1 euro a minute, so for 50 euros, I agreed.

I got there and realized I had no idea what to expect. They took me into a room with a very hard bed (minus the head rest part) and told me to undress and lie face down. Ok...I've done this before. But wait, there is no sheet or blanket to cover with and how much do they want me to undress? More info than you want but I left the undies on. She came in, turned off the lights, turned on some rain music and started right in. There was no conversation about what type of massage, if there was anything bothering me, etc. She was just at it. But she was least in my opinion. She was 'delicata' in her touch which is what I prefer (although I probably need some deep tissue work at this point).

It was a bit chilly lying there naked as it was only 55 degrees and raining outside. But, when in Rome..... Halfway through, I was given the command to roll over and obediently did. Now is when I was missing my sheet. It was a bit liberating because I have to remember that Europeans dont really have the body hangups we do in America, so it probably doesnt occur to them to cover up. I would like to do it merely for the warmth! By the way, I could tell she would have preferred that the undies were gone also. I imagine that the massages in the US are careful with sheet and hand placement due to our hangups as well as lawsuits. Since that is not an issue over here, the lines are much more blurred. But I still wanted the sheet for warmth (see a pattern here?). I bet it also saves on laundry for them?!

This was the first time I have ever had the front of my torso massaged. Its not sexual but its different as I have never experienced it before. The jury is still out on whether or not I like it. She also massaged my entire face...another new experience. I have had a facial and this is nothing like it. Her strokes were the same as on my body and by the time she was done, my entire body was lubed beyond lubed. She used an oil instead of a lotion and I basically slid off the table and into my clothes.

As any good salesperson knows, get them at their weakest. When I went to pay, they offered me a buy 9 get 1 free option and I fell for it. My gift to myself (for what I dont know...will have to figure that out later!). The only problem was that I had to go out in the cold and rain afterwards to ride the waterbus back to my stop and then walk to my apt. Oh well....all good things must come to an end but I will be back.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Have a seat....or not

Sitting is a commodity in Venice. I think I already mentioned that the price of food goes up if you choose to eat at a table rather than standing at the bar area. Coffee will go from 1 euro to 2.5o euro before you can even bend a knee to sit. But finding a place to sit is really more of a problem....sometimes you just dont care about the price because you need to rest.

Benches are few and far between around the city. There are a few of the large squares that have 2-3 benches but they are usually filled with the elderly. I imagine this is pretty much their only way to get out during the day. So, people end up sitting on the sides of bridges (which only enhances the congestion) or storefront steps (which is why most of them have signs telling you not to do that!).

One of the last places left for 'free' sitting was off to the side of St Marks Square. There is an elevated area with a few statues of lions and an old well in the middle. All around is one step and therefore instant seating and congestion.

Well, apparently the city thought they would stop this luxurious sitting trend and placed several 'hostesses' in the area. These gals are volunteers and I think they come from the University as they know 5-7 different languages (or at least how to say 'no sitting' in 5-7 different languages). This new adventure lasted all but a few weeks before the tourists just protested and refused to get up! A prime example of strength in numbers.

The city has upped their committment and has now asked for more volunteers. They number about sixty now, and consist of pensioners, housewives, students, and professional men (but I hear there is also a youngster from a noble family and even the president of the gondoliers union). They each volunteer several hours of their time to help the 7 hostesses keep those pesky people from sitting.

My guess is that this too will be a short lived experiment and the masses of people will win again. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Dollar

Many of you probably arent aware to the extent I am how bad the dollar is valued now against the euro. One dollar is worth just slightly over 50 cents in europe! Needless to say, that makes things much more expensive for me before I even wake up in the morning. But then you add to that the high price of living in Venice (easily the most expensive city in Italy), and the task of staying on budget takes every bit of my math degree to attain!

I dont spend alot of time converting from euro to dollar because that would just cause me a constant headaches and fear. I figure if I would pay 5 dollars for it in Phoenix, then I can pay 5 euros for it in Venice....the value of the dollar cant enter into my calculations or I would never buy anything! But occassionally, it is 'fun' to figure out just how much I am paying for something over here. Here are two recent examples:

1. I bought an eyeliner pencil at Target before I moved. Never used the brand before but it said it was made in Italy, so I figured if I liked it, I would have a greater chance of finding it here. I paid 99 cents for it (and to my surprise, its actually a good product!). Over here, that exact same pencil costs 6.95 euro--this is about $10 US dollars!!!! (By the way, I had someone bring me a supply of the pencils from Target).

2. I am not a cook and dont claim to be one, but every year around this time, I bake my pumpkin bread. I hadnt thought of doing it here but was pleased when I saw in a store canned was even Libby's brand from the US. So, I decided to keep my tradition and bake. Today I went to the store to buy the cans. I needed 2 of them. They were priced at 4.80 euros each! So for 9.60 euros (or about $13 US dollars), I am now baking my gold lined pumpkin bread!!!

There are many other examples I can provide--some not so drastic, but in general, everything is more expensive over here. I can only think of 2 items off the top of my head that I can get for cheap here (aside from medical care which is government sponsored so therefore regulated).

1. Gelato! There really isnt a bad time to have gelato. And for 1.70 euro you can get 2 scoops! I have tried most of the flavors already and have my favorites. Hardly a day goes by when I dont indulge in my sweet treat.

2. Breakfast. A typical breakfast here in Venice is a coffee and brioche (croissant). For 2.30 euro you can get a good start to your day. Albeit, the coffee is smaller than a US cup but the flavor and potentcy is far superior, so you dont need as much. And the choices of brioche/pastries are almost endless.

So think of me the next time you grab something on sale and thank the overabundance of competition in America for creating it!

Friday, September 21, 2007

A night of culture......for FREE!

Living in a city like Venice affords one the opportunity to see so much history and culture and I certainly dont want to miss out. And while I am not particularly interested in listening to choirs and classical music, I did take the chance to sit in on a free concert at a local church last night.

First, this church is the third largest on the island, so it is HUGE even by American standards. The architecture, paintings, and sculptures inside (let alone if those walls could talk) are awe inspiring. As well, the acoustics are fantastic--even for me being generally tone deaf!

The concert started at 8pm. I was under the impression from the sign that it was to be a boys choir. Instead there were 6 different choirs from around the world gathering to each sing 4-5 hymns. Botswana was up first. I was semi-impressed, but probably because I have no idea where Botswana is and still imagine them to be living in the middle of nowhere--so for them to arrive in Venice, be dressed alike and sing in harmony is enough in itself!

The Ukraine was next. Much better than the first. Poland took the stage and I was blown away. I closed my eyes and I think I actually experienced what angels sound like in heaven. It was incredibly beautiful.

The Georgia (Russia) boys choir came next. They were all in costume which resembled a military outfit. They were young--some didnt look much more than 7 or 8. And they didnt look particularly happy or content. But then again, that may be because of my preconceived notions of Russia as an American. They sang Gregorian chants--note to self, dont listen to Gregorian chants unless you need to fall asleep!

Denmark followed but after my heavenly experience with Poland, they seemed like a let down. And finally, Slovenia. I left after 2 songs for them. I had reached the limit of my culture intake for the evening!

The interesting part was that there was another group in the audience all dressed in native garb (similary to German, possibly Switzerland--something like that). I had figured they were the Denmark group but that didnt happen so not sure why they costume clad people showed up unless they were a last minute write in to the lineup and I missed them by leaving early.

I really did enjoy it and I hope to stumble upon another adventure like this in the near future (which is easy to do in this city). Who knows, I might actually grow to appreciate the beauty of a choir and the old music.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nigerians 1, Italians 0

I have been listening and watching the O.J. Simposon fiasco over the last few days and his self-confirmed 'sting operation' reminds me of similar things that happen here. Over the last few months I have witnessed many 'sting operations' by the local police in which they try to nab the Nigerian men who are selling the fake purses along various streets around Venice.

The whole thing is a farce to begin with. They never prosecute and if they do arrest, one night in jail is the most. And dont even think about deporting them...too much work. So, the illegal activity will continue long into the future. It is one of the things that I truly dislike about Venice--I think it really takes away from the beauty of the city.

The Nigerians have lookout men on either side of the group selling who scope out when the police are coming. They have just enough time to scoop up their purses and white sheet and shove it all in the big blue trashbag and make a dash for it.

So, just how does one of these 'sting operations ' work? Well, its all very high tech. They get some police to dress in plain clothes and 'casually' start walking toward the Nigerians. At the last minute, they break into a run toward them to nab the stash and the people. The problem is they are about as subtle as a bull in a china shop, most of them cant run nearly as fast as the Nigerians (I am sure this is part of their training for the job!) and there are so many of them, it ends up looking like everyone is running around in circles chasing their tail.

Effective, no. Entertaining, immensely! Fake Prada bags flying through the air, unsuspecting tourists who just made a purchase drop their bag and take off running out of fear, and Nigerian men yelling at the top of their lungs (taunting the police probably). In the end, the police usually end up with about 10-20 bags which they confiscate (and I would imagine divy up amongst themselves to give to family and friends). On the outside chance, they do catch one of the Nigerians, they surround him like they are playing 'ring around the rosy' and call in the victory to headquarters. Within the hour, the Nigerians have returned and set up shop to start the game all over again.

I have heard that in New York, they set aside an area for the sale of these illegal purses--all of the illegal activity is confined to one instead of trying to stop the activity, they have made it into a mall area! Similar discussion has gone on here in Venice but the Nigerians were not happy with the area that was chosen for them to be located so they decided not to comply. Does anyone else find this whole discussion odd???

I am sure that this enterprise will not be eradicated anytime soon here in Venice. However, as long as I continue to enjoy the 'sport' of it, I should be able to overlook the distraction to my favorite city.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pigeons Revisited

I have already expressed my view about the vermin in Venice! Those pigeons are everywhere and I dont get the desire to let them crawl on you, but to each his own. I am by no means a germ phobe. Afterall, I used the bathroom on the train! And I have been known to eat things off the floor that have surpassed the 5 second rule. Also, my mother raised me to think/believe that you need 7 pounds of dirt a year to stay healthy! This, of course, is some old wives tale, but since her grandmother made her eat a spoonful of dirt each week and she is as healthy as a horse, there might be some truth to it. However, the pigeon thing is a bit much.

I belong to a online newspaper about Venice written in English and this article was just in the last edition. Very interesting.....for those of you who have yet to visit, this will probably change your mind about the pigeon tradition. For those of you who have come and gone and participated, go take another shower.

NEWS. Recently, following a research report from the veterinary sector of USL, the local health authority, the most pressing problem in Venice has become the pigeons. Eight birds out of ten are carriers of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can occasionally be fatal, while others transmit salmonella, fungal diseases, or ticks. According to the monthly tests, their health is getting worse. The primary reason is related to their excessive number -- more than 70,000 -- which is greater than the human population of Venice. In the opinion of experts, the maximum should be less than 30,000 but, to obtain this result, as has been said many times before, it would be necessary to eliminate the St. Mark's street vendors who sell grain to tourists who, in turn, feed it to the birds.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Where is George Clooney?

After a whirlwind trip through Cinque Terre, it was back on the train for a 4 hour trip to Lake Como. The lake is shaped like a Y and is the third largest in Italy. It is also the deepest lake in all of Europe. Known for lakeside villas, the town of Bellagio (i.e. where Las Vegas stole its idea for another hotel) and a slower pace of life, it is also the European home of George Clooney. Apparently he has purchased 3 homes there and did it all while Lira was still being used--smart man as he immediately doubled his profit once they changed to Euros.

Lake Como is beautiful....surrounded by mountains and heavely visited by Americans and Germans. Many of the menu's etc that I saw were translated into German and not necessarily English.

The city of Como (at the base of the Y) is pretty large and very touristy. Bellagio is also high on the list of tourist places. But if you travel to one of the smaller villages (Varenna, Tremezzo, etc), you will find quaint, sleepy, little towns to wander around. You can drive the perimeter of the lake to get from one side to the other but expect to be driving for over an hour. The prettiest way to approach any city (although not necessarily faster) is by one of the different boat services. Their 'fast boat' is a hydrofoil and only makes a few stops along the lake. The regular boat, which is a larger, upgraded version of a Venetian vaparetto makes the milk run around the shoreline. Planning travel from one village to another requires a degree to understand the schedule and also patience as they are rarely on time. And one must be careful to not get stuck on the opposite side of the lake from where you are staying after 8pm because there aren't any boats that run after that time. You will be hardpressed to get back home!

Just as with Cinque Terre, Lake Como requires more time to truly visit and appreciate all it has to offer. It is a huge place and you could easily spend 4-5 days or longer there. Italy is truly one of the most beautiful countries. Being 'confined' here because of the beauracracy and lack of my paperwork really isnt an issue. I am enjoying every minute of my local sightseeing!

Where did she go?

I bet a few of you are wondering where I was all week and why I wasnt updating the blog (or maybe you dont really care!). At any rate, I was doing a 4 day tour of Cinque Terre and Lake Como, Italy. After much train travel, 120 some pictures, 2 hotels and tons of walking, I am back!

Cinque Terre is on the other side of the country from Venice--on the water. About an hour from Pisa, you can arrive at Cinque Terre via train. It is 5 small villages on the waterfront with a hiking path between all of them. So beautiful there. I can now cross off seeing the Mediterranean Sea from my list of things to see in life--wonderful, blue water!

From Venice, it took about 6 hours to get there with a few train transfers. We made a quick one hour jaunt through Pisa on our layover (literally 1 hour) and then watched the terrain change dramatically as we approached Cinque Terre. Travelling by train is really relaxing. I was surprised. You dont get much more room than on an airplane but there is an atmosphere of calm onboard.

That region of Italy is known for pesto sauce so I indulged at dinner as well as purchased a few jars to take back to Venice. I am still amazed at how good the food tastes because of its freshness.

On one of our layovers, we went to the bathroom in the train station thinking it would be a step up from the train car. Well, that is debatable as we ran into the infamous 'squat toilet' as it is officially called (and sometimes called Turkish toilet). I decided to wait until back on the train. However, they both had the same end result as I noticed that the hole in the toilet on the train didnt have a bottom to it and as I peered down, I saw my toilet paper on the traintracks! Oh well....when in Rome.....

I have included a few pics of Cinque Terre and once I get my 18 hours of laundry done, I will update you on Lake Como.

Friday, September 7, 2007

More Beauracracy....

Life in Italy never ceases to amaze me. The US has its red tape and its moments where you say 'what is that all about?' but if anything, the US goes overboard to protect the proverbial 'rear-end'. You dont have that attitude in Italy and therefore, many things that you dont think can happen, will happen.

Take for example, the new IMOB card. This is a credit card sized, micro-chipped, passport photo ID card that allows you to get discounted rates for the vaparettos (water buses). When I arrived in May, the application was 8 euros and I was told that I couldnt get this IMOB thingy (which is by the way the new name--used to be Carta Venenzia until about a month ago) because I dont have my PDiS....the illustrious and ever elusive permesso di soggiorno that plagues me to this day (i.e. the ultimate in Italian beauracracy). Since that time, I was told by others that I could get it. So, finally, I took me a Venetian to one of the 'offices' and applied. The application fee is now 10 euros and there was much discussion about me not being a resident. I just kept my mouth shut and in the end, they worked it out amongst themselves and I have a card.

So, for 26 euros a month, I can ride the vaparettos unlimited. Or I can buy a book of 10 for 9 euros. However, for the first month, I have to buy the 26 euro option and then I can change to the booklet option later. So, September 1, I bring my smiley American face to a ticket booth and order my one month ticket and show her my mug on the new IMOB card. She tells me no! Tells me that this card doesnt get me that, blah, blah other words, it all depends on who you go to and what day of the week it is and if your name starts with a Z or not (i.e. training and consistency is not high on list of priorities here) the end, I just went to a different booth and got my ticket for the month. I can hardly wait to see what happens when I try to get the booklet of 10 next month!

Then I am perusing my expats site for any updates on that elusive permesso di soggiorno that will magically allow me to travel outside of the EU. No such luck for me, but if you are applying for a renewal permesso and have your receipt, you are now legally allowed to travel outside the EU UNTIL Oct 30 of this year. I have three questions: 1. Why this date? 2. Why this group of people? 3. Why bother? A friend has intelligently surmised that someone who is really rich doesnt have their permesso in hand but they have enough money to make the law change for their upcoming trip. Somehow or other, this scenario wouldnt surprise me in the least.

And, finally, as I was chatting with a friend about the differences in interviewing and working between Italy and the US, I learned that you arent necessarily told how much money you will work for or for how long your 'contract' is. Contract work seems to be the big thing here..they dont have to pay your benefits and they can let you go anytime they want. I think America would lean this direction if it could. Additionally, in Italy, it is possible for a previous employer to hold your last pay from you until you help out to their satisfaction. How long do you think that sort of behavior would last in the US? Does the idea of sabotage enter your mind?

As I mentioned recently to someone, I am way beyond the like and dislike phase of living her and the comparing between two countries. I just take it as it comes and realize that I am not going to change any of this (nor do I want to). And sometimes, I get a good chuckle out of it all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Venice Film Festival

So the weather improved slightly today (and I do mean slightly--its snowing in Cortina today!), but it was enough for me to accept an invite to the Lido for one last time on the beach before they close it officially on Sept 15. OK, it was too cold for heathen sun worshipping but it was still nice to be at the beach.

On my way home, I took a slight detour to check out the digs at the Venice Film Festival. Its the oldest and largest film festival in the world. I had visions of attending a movie or two until I found out that movies after 7pm were 48 euros. You can see other movies during the day or some of the lesser known foreign films for 10 euros (according to the schedule) but who wants to do that....I didnt come to Venice to catch a matinee! And for 48 euros, George Clooney does not sit next to you in the theater....can you believe that?

George has been a big hit here in Venice (as he always is). Brad and Angelina showed up the other day but Brad isnt quite as loved as George. Richard Geer showed up last night and Kiera Knightly has been roaming around for a few days. My hope is to see George next week when I go to Lake Como. He owns a house there and I figure after the 'stress' of the film festival, he will take his 25 year old Vegas showgirl girlfriend and hang out at his home for a few days....

The red carpet was much shorter than I thought it would be....of course, we are on an island, so space is limited but I was just surprised. Because I went during the day, not much action going on except for 20 somethings beginning to line up at the fence to ensure they get to see the stars later this evening.....remember the days when you would willingly stand in line for hours at time to do something????? I am past those days!

So, I can at least say that I have been to the Film Festival and now have an image of the scene when I see it in all the magazines.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Rain Rain Go Away.....

Ok...for many of you this may not be a big deal, but as I sit here writing this morning, I realize how ill prepared I am for the change in seasons.

Its seems that summer is just about over here in Europe and I suppose that is normal. Coming from Arizona (Phoenix), this doesnt happen until the end of October, so needless to say, I am a bit surprised by it all. The high temps are now in the low 70's and the lows are now in the upper 50's. Last night around 2am, the rain started...lightening, thunder, constant rain.....when I woke up at 7am, it was still thundering and raining. Now it is 930am and it is still raining!

I dont think I have ever experienced this. Back in Wisconsin, I remember days of snow which usually stopped life in its tracks for a few hours. But rain doesnt have the same effect...people still need to get out and do whatever it is that they do. Which brings me to my point....I am not prepared to get out and do what I need to do.....

I dont have a 'in between' coat to get me through fall and I am not sure my 'winter' coat is going to be enough for winter. My inventory of waterproof and/or winter shoes is sorely small. I never got those water boots I need for aqua alta here (as you cant buy water boots in the desert!).

Of course, my first question is 'what was I thinking?' and then my second question is 'what wasnt I thinking?'......and I guess the answer to both is that it doesnt matter. I am just going to have to break down and make a few purchases to help me along the way......I have a feeling I am in for quite a ride as I experience fall and winter for the first time in 16 years!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Cortina Ancora (again)

I think I have mentioned before my previous visits to Cortina. Its a quaint, alpine-village in the Dolomites in Northern Italy. Because of its proximity to Austria, there is a heavy German influence. And because it is the mountains (real big mountains!), there is definitely a temperature change. We were lucky enough to get a good day with a high of 60 and a low of 40.

On the drive up, I was certainly impressed with the autostrada that was built (we took the more scenice route). As you can see from the pic, this is quite an engineering feat.

The hotel was a nice surprise--all wood decor and some nice amenities--thats Marco pretending he is the owner standing next to 'his' bar.

During one of our walks, we stumbled upon a swing and I decided to relive childhood for a bit....and only a bit because I was soon reminded that I get seasick on swings!
There were several town mascots, one of them being a cow....Marco is holding a brochure of its cute face but we never really saw one live there.
I am hoping to go back in November when there is snow (did I say that outloud?) and ride one of the many trams to the top of any of the mountains. Cortina is a very popular ski and hiking resort area. Although I dont know the elevation of the city, I do know that one of the trams takes you to a point of about 3000 meters (10,000 feet) high...I can only imagine what the view is will also be a good way for me to engage in some immersion therapy and try to cure my fear of heights...stay tuned for that one!
Its such a great place..wish I would have stayed longer instead of coming back for the Regatta!

Regatta Storica

What a weekend....went to Cortina for most of it (will write another blog later) but today was the infamous Regatta Storica here in Venice. HUGE gondola race with various categories and a water parade to kick it off. I was really looking forward to seeing it as I have heard so much over the years and have seen many, many pictures. But I will just come out and say it.....I was really disappointed and bored. There...its off my chest now.

I got out in the crowds early in order to get a good seat for the event. I managed to get one of the last waterside pieces of property at the beginning of the race. After sitting for about 1 1/2 hours, the parade started. It was pretty cool.....and then it was over.....I couldnt believe how short it 10 decorated gondolas...what happened....did I fall asleep?

So then we wait another 45 minutes before the first race starts....there were several categories....children, women, 4 men boats, 9 men boats, etc. Each race started at least 30 minutes from the last one, so the wait inbetween was rather long. And there werent nearly as many entries into the various races as I thought there would be....maybe about 5-10 for each category that I saw.

Well, I made it about 3 hours and then just decided whatever was left probably wouldnt make up for it, so I left.....I have included a few pics for you, but in the future, if my opinion is worth anything, dont book your vacation around this event!