Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who's reading?

So yesterday, I got another blog comment and personal email from two people who apparently have been reading my blog over the last year. I dont know these two people and it got me thinking about how many people have contacted me over the last year because they read something in my blog. I decided to give you the low down on my readership as I know it and ask that if I have missed you, please add a comment to this message so I can be sure to understand the full scope of my audience!

First, I started the blog only because I thought it was going to be the easiest way to keep in touch with friends and family and avoid writing hundreds of emails. My dad is a dedicated reader and I am glad he can get a glimpse of what is going on here since he wasnt able to come visit me this year. My mother catches up every few weeks, but to her credit, she never liked reading so I am impressed she has hung in there with me. I am pretty sure my brother in Chicago never even opened the site but his wife reads occasionally I think, so she might give him updates. My brother in Puerto Rico probably doesnt even know I am writing a blog and my brother in Germany reads it when I remind him to. My aunt doesnt have a computer but I think she would have been a dedicated reader also.

As for my closest friends, well, they have mostly petered out over the year and some never even started (which in all honestly surprised me). There are other friends who I think read regularly because every now and then they send me an email telling me such. I think there are a few old coworkers who check in once in a while and probably a handful of my fellow church goers.

But, then there is the rest of the blog community. There was the girl in California (sorry I have forgotten your name) who loves to tango and wrote me after her first visit here last year. There is Bob in London who wrote yesterday and Annette in Nebraska who sent me a great email yesterday also. There are my new friends from back east, Anglu and LouAnne, who I met here in Venice when they came to visit and gave me great tips for my Malta journey. There was the woman in North Carolina who told me she wanted to do what I was doing but she is married to a military pilot and has 3 small kids, so that dream is on hold for a few years. I met Jo in Prague and I think she keeps up with me through this site. Holly wrote me from Reno and we recently had a nice dinner when she was here visiting. Tonya is from California I think and is writing a book that has some settings in Venice. She asked me to answer a few questions about buildings here. There have been a couple friends of friends who have come (or will be coming) to Venice and want to meet. And there was the Venetian who has an American friend who reads my blog (which is how he got the address) and was nice enough to 'correct' me on some of my Venetian ideas. There is Gil who has been faithfully posting on my blog and is always positive and encouraging. And dont forget Maryann who is the author of the only blog that I read ( and has inspired me to maybe try to cook something one day. There are several other expats who I think check in on my blog occasionally and have put links to my blog on their site (which I assume is how many of my readers have found me). And I am sure there were other contacts throughout the year that escape me at the moment (please dont be offended).

So all in all, I actually think there are more strangers reading my blog that people I know. Which in itself is an interesting concept. Who knew that I would actually gather an audience! I use the computer alot and keep in touch with the world that way but I dont think I really understood how far reaching and how small the world is until I sat down to contemplate todays writing. For whats it worth, I appreciate your reading. When I go back home in May, I probably wont write much more after the first week or so because then I wont be living the charmed life in Venice anymore and the charmed life in Phoenix just really isnt quite as exciting! Until then, let me know who you are and I will do my best to keep it entertaining.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Houston, we have a problem!

I need to tell you of a major problem that has global effects. No, I am not talking about the war or even global warming. I am talking about something much more dire--the production of tainted buffalo mozzarella! Gasp! I know!

For those of you who have eaten real, fresh buffalo mozzarella, you know what an absolute crime this is. And speaking of crime--thats the reason it is tainted.

You see, buffalo mozzarella is made in Naples in southern Italy. This is the same place where you might have heard about the insane trash problem they are having. Since right before Christmas, there is an area of Naples where the trash has not been picked up. Its lining the street and alleys, causing incredible smells and dangerous toxins. Its believed that some of those toxins may have contaminated the ground water and since the trash is also being dumped on agricultural land, it is tainting the areas being used to pasture the animals. Now, of course, this theory hasnt been proven yet but its seems plausible and also begs the question as to what other tainted products are coming out of Naples and how the people are getting along in the waste.

So, why not just pick up the trash like any other city in the world? Well, for that we have to look at organized crime. As I understand it (and I try my best to stay clear of organized crime!), there is the mafia that we all know in reality and through the movies and then there is the Camorra which is another organized crime group but runs parallel with the elected officials. So, while they probably dont put cement shoes on people like the mafia, they do wield some serious power and intimidation in the region. The Camorra has made a profitable business of illegally dumping trash and so far, no one has confronted them.

South Korea and Japan have already banned the import of the cheese and Italy is scrambling to fix this publicity nightmare. While the majority of buffalo mozzarella is actually consumed in Italy, its still bad press and in todays day and age, we all know how effective bad press can be. Its a sad story on many levels. The outright purposeful neglect of a community by its government because of intimidation, the tainting of a food product because of neglect and some of the worst travel press that a tourist destination can get. And for what reason?

Thursday, March 27, 2008


So, another miserable, rainy, cold day in Venice and the surrounding area...what better idea than to take a train trip, right? My first clue that this wasnt a good idea is that when I walked into the train station, almost every train was 1/2 hour or more late. Slowly, everyone got assigned to a train track but me. After an hour and just as I was about to walk out and throw in the towel, I got a train track. All was good until in the middle of nowhere and just 10 minutes from my destination, the train stops.

Who knows why we stopped since no one ever makes any announcement about anything. The interesting thing is that was stopped right in the middle of a railroad crossing, thereby stopping traffic in both directions for over 30 minutes! The horn honking was almost unbearable. But, finally, for whatever reason, we moved again and I arrived at my destination 1 1/2 hours late.

Where did I go? Well, I met one of my travel buddies in Bassano del Grappa. The idea was to visit this little town with great history and then head over to Nove to check out the ceramics. Because of the delay and having to always keep in mind siesta time (i.e. everything is closed from noon to 3), we decided to chuck Bassano and just go straight to Nove.

I have come to really, really like limoncello since I have moved here (I sure hope I can buy it in America?) and I want some ceramic limoncello glasses (they are basically shot glass size). I want ceramic because they freeze better and hold the cold longer...and limoncello just isnt good unless its really cold. My favorite restaurant here serves the limoncello in ceramic glasses (which is where I got the idea). However, they only have 3 left and have no idea where they got them from. I tried to buy those 3 from them but they too know the value of limoncello in a frozen ceramic container!

So, Nove is the ceramic capital of Northern Italy. Think of all the Lenox, Williams Sonoma and Vietri ceramics you see in the mall stores (and for that matter in TJ Maxx and Ross!). Chances are, they are made in Nove, Italy. Nove is like any other non descript European city in the middle of nowhere. Nothing to look at in particular and impossible to walk from showroom to showroom because of the distance between them.

It was interesting to see all those ceramic pieces and to see how cheap they are before they get to the US and in the Nordstrom kitchen display. I asked several of the shops about my limoncello glasses and they all said no and to check in southern Italy around Sorrento. The good news is I am going to Capri next month (which is where limoncello was originally made)! If they dont have them there (and at this point, I am willing to pay just about anything), then they just dont exist and I have a business opportunity if anyone is interested! :-)

On the upside, I did get the coolest ceramic limoncello decanter, so I am on my way. I suppose if all else fails, I will just tip the decanter back and drink it that way!

Oh, this picture has absolutely nothing to do with today except that this is quite possibly the worlds smallest car and I couldnt help but laugh out loud when I saw it by the train station in Bassano. Its smaller than the SmartCar. I dont even think a 5 year old could fit in there comfortably.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Here comes the laughter!

So, after my venting session yesterday here, I decided to get 'serious' about these two things and work in tandem with my friends to get an answer.

I went out for my morning errands and came back to make the phone call to the vet. Lo and behold, he was there and I spent a good 5 minutes talking to him in Italian about what I wanted and needed and what he wanted and needed. At the time, I thought the best part was that he understood me and I understood him and I got my appointment.

However, I called my friend to tell her I got through to the vet and got the appointment and she informed that she, too, got through earlier in the morning and made me an appointment! Her appointment is 1/2 hour before mine on the same day. Her Italian is extremely good so we are now wondering why this man didnt say something about how strange it is that two American girls with cats are leaving on exactly the same day and have the same name...what are the odds?!

At any rate, I am keeping both appointments and will fill him in on the 'secret' once I am there. Next thing to internet connection cancellation....watchout FastWeb, I am on a mission!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I really have no other title for this segment. Over the past year, I have shared with you some of the intracacies of Italian/Venetian bureaucracy and for the most part, I have been able to laugh it off. For whatever reason, I cant seem to find any humor in this latest episode--perhaps because I need these things to be done in order to leave this country!

First, I have been trying (or should I say with the help of a friend, I have been trying) for 2 weeks to get a hold of the state vet who is the keeper of some piece of paper I need in order to take the cat back home. He is only in the office by appointment and numerous phone calls have gone unanswered (dont even think about asking if there is an answering machine!). On the few occasions that someone did answer the phone, we were told that we had to speak directly to the vet in order to get information and make an appointment to get the holy grail paperwork. Of course, this only begs the question as to what this person is doing by answering the phone if they can neither answers questions nor make appointments--sounds like a great job! I have even walked my happy butt over to the office and rang the doorbell numerous times but obviously, I havent hit upon a time when he has made an appointment with someone else. Some would call this a conundrum. All I know is that it is making me a curmudgeon!

Secondly, I started also 2 weeks ago to cancel my internet connection here in Venice. After going to the storefront where I originally signed up with no problem, I was told I had to call a number to find out what to do. So, calling the number, I am told I have to write a letter stating that I want my service cancelled (I dont get to pick the date by the way--they just need 30 days after they receive the letter in order to take of this business) and mail it via the post office with a return receipt. Additionally, they are going to charge me 49 euro to cancel AND I have to pay to send the modem back to them (no, I cant drop it off at the storefront!). Once they receive my letter, they will send me a text message on my cell phone telling me where to mail the modem and what day my service is cancelled. Well, here we are 2 weeks later and I have not gotten my return receipt back nor heard from the company. I have done as much as I can and have enlisted yet another friend to take over for me in Italian to see if there is any hope of ever cancelling my internet service in Italy.

It is beyond me and I continue to be amazed (although I am not sure why anymore) as the complete lack of customer service that exists over here. I am not even asking anyone to be curtious to me anymore (those days long past) but how about actually doing your job? What a novel concept........

Oh well, I am sure someday, I will find laughter again....

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Buona Pasqua!

Happy Easter! While I havent seen any easter bunnies or colored eggs or baskets filled with plastic grass and chocolate, it is evident that Easter has arrived in Venice. The traditional sweet to have at Easter is a panettone. Its also very popular around Christmastime. Based on a variation of the Italian braided loaf, it is sweetened with raisins, pine nuts, citron and other flavors.

You can buy them at all the local bakeries and they are packaged just so. But you can also get them at the grocery store--albeit not as fresh and tasty but they do offer other flavors this way. I happen to like the one flavored with limoncello!

There is plenty of chocolate around. Little Lindt chocolate Easter eggs are everywhere. And the finer bakeries will show off their skills by creating large chocolate eggs and the occassional chicken or bunny. As always, bakery items are sold by the gram not by the piece.

I am doing my best not to buy one of everything but I have this sense of urgency that I wont be getting any more of this once I return home...quite the quandry!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A View from the Top

We have all seen plenty of pics of Venice from the eye level or even perhaps looking up, but I thought I would share some pics of the city from a different point of view....on top of it! These have been taken over the years from different vantage points in the city. Enjoy the perspective.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Churches of Venice

For those of you who aren't aware, there are about 100 churches in Venice currently--85 or so that are Catholic and the remaining of various other denominations. There used to be many more, but either over time or through the works of Napolean, they were destroyed. Not that 100 is anything to sneeze at on an island of this size. Additionally, not all of them are in 'working' order--some are used as storage places, some as art galleries, one has been turned into a theater, etc. But there is still more than enough to go around.

One of my goals this year was to visit all the churches with notebook in hand and make some notes of what I thought. I am not a trained art or architectural critic, so my notes are more personal reflections. Or should I say, my notes WERE going to be such. I never got around to taking the notebook with me and I didnt make it to all 100, but I made a pretty good dent in the number.

At last count, I had visited around 60 of them! Some I cant find because there is no address listed and wandering around the labryinth of Venice isnt always the best way to find something. Others I walked in and out of in less than 2 minutes because 'it didnt do anything for me'. And there are still a handful left that I want to see before I go.

Along the way, I starting making my top 5 favorite churches of Venice list. Unfortunately, I only have 4 on the list because I havent found that last one that ranks worthy enough to get the coveted spot. So, here is my list in the order I would rank them (i.e. my personal favorites):

1: San Zaccariah--this was the first church I entered years ago and I love the atmosphere in here. Its small, covered from floor to ceiling with paintings and has provided me many hours of solace.

2. The Gesuiti church at Fondamente Nove--this is one of the most impressive churches I think I have ever seen. Green and white marble everywhere. They have even managed to make the marble look like draped cloth. Its truly breath taking and I snapped some rogue pics for you (its not allowed to take pics in this church) so you can get an idea.

3. San Pantalon--the outside of this church was never finished so it looks very raw and unassuming. But the minute you walk inside and lift your head to the ceiling, you are awed. The entire ceiling is a painting that has 3D qualities to it. I have many times lied on the pew and stared at the ceiling. Its a rather dark church, but I have included some pics as well.

4. The Miracoli church--this is the jewel of the Venetians. It is the only church on the island where you can literally see all 4 sides of the building as it is constructed on its own little island at the crossroads of some canals. When you walk inside, its like being in a jewelry box. The pulpit area is raised so high above the seating area that you almost expect to hear/see a little ballerina twirling around at the top of it! This is another that doesnt allow pics and I have yet to snap any rogue ones, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Lets hope I get number 5 in pretty soon!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Last Supper

Not my last supper but THE Last Supper. I was able to snag one of the 10 remaining tickets for the next 3 months to get in and see the famous DaVinci painting. It was a long day for the 15 minutes I was allowed to view it. There was the boat to the train station. The train for 2 1/2 hours to Milan. The underground Metro in Milan to the Duomo. And finally, the old fashioned Milan tram from the Duomo to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie where the painting is housed next door in the refractory. Whew!

I am not impressed with Milan but since I am not impressed with New York, this is no surprise to me. Its a chaotic city crammed with people and modes of transportation that dont seem to be following any sort of rules of the road. While I am not a country girl, a city like this is just too much sensory overload for me.

The Duomo is beautiful and I cant help but make the reference to the Duomo in Cologne...the resemblance is striking (both the dark grey nature inside as well as the spires outside) except that they have obviously cleaned the Milan one and the Cologne remains black with centuries of smoot.

The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is in the middle of what looks like a residential area (albeit on a tram line). Its a smaller, red brick, unassuming church but has great beauty on the inside. I thoroughly enjoyed walking around there. And the blooming magnolia trees (I think thats what they were) gave me the long awaited sign that spring might actually be just around the corner.

The Last Supper is next door to the church in this drab yellow building which is nothing more than a reception area, small gift shop (of course) and the refractory. The refractory has no windows, rectangular in shape and the 2 longer walls are completely empty of any artwork or paint. So, that leaves you with the Last Supper on one side and a painting of the crucifixtion on the other side and 4 benches along the wall.

After entering through the security doors to maintain the oxygen/humidity levels, there it was. It was a strange feeling looking at it (all 15 feet by 29 feet of it!). I was not impressed because I have seen it so many times in my life but yet, I was highly impressed because I was looking at for the first time!

The latest restorations have removed the previous restorations attempt at paint and have therefore taken it back to the colors it was originally planned in. However, to the layman, the painting actually looks worse after the restoration (as most of us in our group commented on). I am not sure how far they are planning on going in the restoration--will they make it look like it was just painted yesterday at some point, or is this the end?

Obviously no pictures are allowed because of the sensitive nature of the item. However, I couldnt help but wonder what kind of damage is being done by the woman who gets on the loud speaker every 15 minutes and yells 'Please Exit' with such force you can almost feel the walls vibrate.

I bought my dutiful souviner picture and bookmark and made my way back by the various modes of transportation to Venice. A very long day but I am truly glad I was able to see one of the greatest works of art in all the world.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Record Numbers

Those of you who came to visit me last year are part of an all time record....some 21 million tourists who stepped onto the island! Previous yearly estimates were in the 15 million range. Its unbelievable actually. And, sad. Why sad? Well, lest you think America is the only country to waste funds and talk out of both sides of their mouth, let me assure this is not the case---Venice, Italy does the same.

We have the endless decay and destruction that goes on here because of tourism (and the seeming lack of care or action on the part of government to do something about it), the inability of the garbage company to keep up (or so they say) with the increasing number of tourists, the incessant feeding of pigeons which in the end increases excrement and disease in the city (by the way, they havent gotten rid of the seed sellers like they said there were! no surprise there.), and the neverending debate on how to charge tourists a 'daily fee' for entering the island (because Venice is always in the red). All this and more. And what is the city government going to do now? Add hotel rooms, of course!

In order to keep up with the influx, they estimate they need at least an additional 2,500 hotel rooms by 2010. Now where they are going to put them on the island is beyond me...there isnt a spare meter of space to build on--unless, of course, you tear down the only park on the island or you sacrifice some of the historical buildings that house the last remaining Venetians to the tourist gods. Apparently, it just doesnt seem to cross their mind that 21 million visitors is more than enough....if you cant pay and keep up with what you have, then why get more?

Of course, this is the underlying theme in the housing and financial demise we are having in America.....most Europeans will tell you they dont approve of the way Americans spend without having and how they live on credit, but I offer first hand proof that we arent the only ones caught in the trap! And while I personally have no sympathy for someone who got into a 3 year ARM mortgage and is now in foreclosure because they made a greedy decision (and I will ultimately have to pay to bail them out), I am saddened that Venice the city and Venice the history will suffer because of these same type of decisions. And no one will be able to fix that in the end.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

Today is the beginning of Holy Week for Christians around the world. Easter Sunday is next week--as early as it can be according to the calendars. Today, I spent the morning in church at St. Georges Anglican.

We have always had palm fronds on this Sunday at my church in America, so I was a bit surprised to see olive branches today. Now, I dont really know if this is because there is easy access to palm trees in Phoenix and not so much in Venice or if there is another reason altogether, but nonetheless, we celebrated with them.

After the blessing of the olive branches (we each got one), we sang a hymn and actually left the church building and walked around outside in the campo as a symbolic processional. What a nice word picture it created for us and for all the onlookers and tourists.

On the walk home, I saw so many other people carrying olive branches around the city--some of the kids had enough that it looked like they were carrying a whole tree! It was a nice community feeling for this special day.

On Good Friday, we will have services at 1:30pm like I remember it happening when I was a kid. Its good to know that there are some places left in the world where they still honor those traditions. And, of course, next Sunday is the celebration service of Easter itself.

I wish you a blessed week and hope that however you choose to ponder the events in history, that you will be filled with peace and hope.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Favorite Pic

Its always hard to pick one favorite snapshot from a vacation but I think this one has to be it for now. There were many beautiful sites to see but this sign not only caused a great guffaw of laughter but also made us pause to wonder what in the world went on that they needed to be ever so specific!

With all the drinking going on in Dublin, you would expect some issues. To be honest, I didnt see as many fights as I thought I would. I certainly saw my share of men peeing on city streets and drunken revelers vomiting their last 5 pints of Guinness on the ground. But I only witnessed two incidents that involved the police.

First, while walking along the street, there was a crowd formed around a guy on the ground. This tiny little guy who weighed less than I do had 3 policemen sitting on him (yes, sitting) and another 3-4 standing around watching the crowd. Now I have no idea what he did to cause such treatment but he must have had Herculean strength! When the paddy wagon arrived, another 5 cops came out of the back. So, in the end, we had over 10 cops needed to arrest a drunken skinny guy. Dublin's finest? Or perhaps Dublin at its finest? Who knows.

Then second incident actually startled me and I now know how I react to situations like this. It was late and we stopped into Burger King to grab a snack of french fries (more potatoes--can you believe it!). There were 3 Welsh guys there (by the end of the weekend, I was able to decipher the difference between Irish and Welsh based on features!). These guys had three of the biggest necks I have ever seen in my life. Its not that they were in great shape because the beer bellies were obvious, but the necks were HUGE. They were leaning on the counter waiting for their meals and moved ever so slightly for us to place our order. When done, we stepped back a bit and let this 20 something Irish kid stand in line behind them. Well, they weren't interested in moving for him and he apparently got too close to their personal space. One neck turned around and in record speed, threw a punch at this guys head that literally floored him. I was about 2 feet from him when he went down, let out a shrill and an 'Oh my God!". There were no words exchanged--the neck just didnt like how close this guy was to him. In the end, we got our fries and as we were leaving the injured guy was telling the manager he wanted the police called.

I certainly dont want to characterize either the Welsh or the Irish with these incidences but it isnt a great scenario for visitors. On the other hand, I saw more than this when I lived in Milwaukee so I really have to chalk up to drinking and testosterone!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wild Wicklow Tour

I have no idea why they call it the Wild Wicklow Tour...there was nothing wild about it. But it was a very nice day out in the countryside of Ireland and a nice change of pace from the rush of the city.

We were picked up in a nice motorcoach bus and since we were the first stop, we chose to trade off sitting in the front seat with the great view...never been on a bus before that had this seat.

On the way out of town, we stopped by the recording studio where U2 made their first album. The graffiti there has nothing to do with U2 but it is a designated and legal area for graffiti. Taggers and tourists alike come here to paint to their hearts content...its a constant work in progress and probably helps explain why you dont see graffiti in the city proper. Dublin is a very clean city; amazingly clean considering the activity.

Then we stopped at Sandy Cove to get a skyline view of Dublin and see the swimmers. Turns out people are swimming in this cold water every day of the year! We were also treated to a rainbow.

Finally, into the countryside, we drove through mountains and up to plateaus. We stopped at the area where Braveheart was filmed (as well as other movies) and made a visit to an ancient monastic site.

There is a tower at this monastic site and the superstition says that if you walk around the tower clockwise 3 times, you will find your husband (or wife). If you walk around 3 times counter clockwise, you will get rid of your husband (or wife)! So, always one to follow these silly things, I thought I would speed up the process by running around the tower instead of walking (you can see me counting in the pics)! I will keep you updated on that one!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Temple Bar

What can one say about the Temple Bar area of Dublin? For those who havent been there, its best to liken it to the French Quarter in New Orleans (before the destruction) without all the nudity. Its pretty much non stop beer drinking. Most of the bars open around 10am and close around 3am.

When we arrived around midnight on Thursday, we crossed the street to the beginning of Temple Bar (we had a great hotel location--Westin). Temple Bar is basically about a mile long with the majority of it being one street and the various side streets. It was more than crowded but nothing compared to Friday and Saturday nights when the folks from Wales invaded the city for the big Ireland/Wales 6 Nations Rugby game (Wales won by the way). We enjoyed ourselves on Thursday but Friday and Saturday was just a bit much.

Its also the only place I have ever been where men dance together without being looked at funny and no one offers to buy you a drink (at 5 euro a beer, its not surprising). In other words, the bars in Temple Bar arent pick up joints--they are drinking joints and the Irish take their drinking seriously! So despite the fact that girls are outnumbered almost 50 to 1, its just not the boost for the ego that one would expect (or hope). They just arent that interested when there is beer around! haha

We checked it out during daylight and really didnt find much difference from the night hours....tons of people in all the bars everywhere. I stopped to have my pic taken in front of the famous namesake bar (red pic) and before you know it, a bunch of drinkers come out of the bar to have their pic taken as well--happy, friendly folk!

So, I have been to Temple Bar now and can cross that off my list of things to do in life. And I really dont need to go back to it....Dublin, yes, Temple Bar, no.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A wee bit of the Irish

I have returned from Dublin. I will share some of the highlights of the trip, but first I think it necessary to get some of the basic details out of the way. You know, that stuff you read in the back of the guide books about how to get around, what things cost, the weather, etc. Ireland is big enough that I wouldnt dare make sweeping generalizations about the whole country, but here is what I learned from Dublin.

First, most cities in the world claim to have such a fantastic variety of weather but I dont know of one who can claim to have all 4 seasons in a 24 hour period! It was amazing the weather that goes on in this city and also very difficult to prepare for. Within one day, I got bright sunny skies, near hurricane level winds, rain, sleet, hail, snow and back to warm temps and sun! I thoroughly enjoyed Dublin--its a great city with much to offer and for a fleeting moment, I thought I could actually live there, but then I realized this weather thing is for the birds. I need my sun and warmth at all times! :-)

I thought the Maltese people were friendly but they got nothing on the Irish....happy folk they are. Not sure if this has to do with the fact that they drink all the time (which often crossed my mind when I lived in Wisconsin as well!) or if they are just happy to be Irish. At any rate, it was really a great atmosphere.

Now, about the prices of things. Its true--Dublin is very expensive. I ate at TGI Fridays in Prague and Malta and was going to do the same in Dublin for the fun of it but when I saw that the basic hamburger price was 19 euro (that would be $27!), I decided better of it. A pint of beer will run you about 5 euro and a cup of coffee about 3 euro. The upside is that the food and beer are all so heavy and filling, that you really only need to eat once a day.

And while we are talking about food, lets mention the complete lack of corned beef and cabbage in this city. It was the one thing I truly wanted to eat. I searched high and low but to no avail. They serve what they call bacon (american ham) and cabbage and I did enjoy it but no corned beef anywhere! I did have some Irish stew (tried the lamb one but prefered the beef one), and more potatoes than I think I person should be allowed to eat in 4 days (mashed, baked, whole, fried, crisps, etc. you name it). Not being a huge beer fan, I was reluctant to try the 'hard stuff' but when in Rome.... I was pleasantly surprised at the taste of Guinness but really had more fun making the foam mustache than drinking it!

The city itself is all abuzz all the time. Its a hugh financial and corporate town with all the big guys having offices and European headquarters there (Chase, Microsoft, etc). The roads are very busy and the amount of city buses that transport people was amazing. Hundreds and hundreds of them everywhere. They also drive on the wrong side of the road in Ireland so once again, I was always paranoid about crossing the street. Luckily, the Dubliner's decided to help me out by giving me directions of which way to look painted on the road.

And too bad you cant hear me speak on this blog, because I managed to learn a few words with a great Irish brogue...its actually harder to imitate that I thought it would be and I imagine I will soon forget what I have learned. There is only a small portion of the community who actually know the traditional Irish language so I didnt really hear it spoken at all. I did misunderstand alot more that I thought I would as well because of the accent--some of it hilarious, like playing the game of telephone.

Finally, politics. Not a day went by when someone asked me who I was voting for in the US! In the bars, in the streets, in the sauna, in the newspapers, everywhere, people are watching the US and what is happening. If nothing else, hopefully that will remind you to keep your head up and watch what you say---people are looking!