Friday, June 25, 2010

Blogging at 36,000 feet !! COOL!

Well, this is a first. Thanks to Delta's inflight web service, I can blog in the airplane! For a fee, of course! We made it from Malpensa and the flight was really long. We got of the ground in Cinci late, of course, always late, so we are going to have to hurry to get our flight home. Another run to the plane! We have certainly got used to the pace of hurry up and wait. Anyway, I won't type long. Dennis is wanting to check some things and the battery on this thing won't last too long. I think my battery is running low also. Had a wonderful time but it sure is good to be in the USA again!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's almost over............

We are here in Malpensa, Italy at the wonderful Holiday Inn Express near the airport! Not nearly as pretty as the other places we have stayed but it serves the purpose. We are very close to the airport which will make our trip there in the morning very easy. We took our train from Verona to Milan and then stopped at the information desk to ask how to go about getting the Malpensa Express bus to the airport. I had checked it out online this morning and it said that you could get tickets there at the station. So we asked him, thinking it would save some search time and he said we had to go to Cordona or somewhere like that!!! We walked on down the hall and found a sign that said "Malpensa Express tickets, 7.50 euro per person" I felt like ripping off that sign and taking it back to that moron! Some help he was! haha Anyway, we did the 40 mile trip on a bus sitting in front of some dudes from Zimbabwe or some place similar and they talked non stop and really loud. I was glad to get off that ride! We made it to the airport , took a taxi to the hotel for 15 euros, and called it a day. We just finished eating sandwiches in the lobby with a bunch of people watching Italy and Slovakia play soccer for the world cup. Italy lost. We met a heavy metal group named "Job For A Cowboy" playing for some European heavy metal band tour and that was cool. Tattoos and long hair. We could tell they were going for "the look". One was eating a salad which seemed odd......We are in for the evening and will catch the hotel shuttle at 9:00 am for our flight which leaves at 11:30 am . I will miss the gellato , pasta, and beautiful buildings very much! Ciao!

Venice! What an incredible city!!!!

Dennis figuring how the heck to get from point A to point B!

The beautiful Doge's Palace!

Going into the palace. Notice the 24K gold ceiling! This
was the only area we could photograph!

Me on one of the many balconies of the palace.

Waiting for lunch at the cafe'........

Yes, even restroom visits will cost ya' 80 cents to 1.50 euros!

Dennis resting as we wait on the tour to start..

Feeding the pigeons on the piazza will gain you many feathered friends!!!Fun!

Typical "street" in Venice. You could EASILY get lost!

One of the many waterways used to travel in Venice.....

Dennis was impressed by the Ferrari shop!

The famous Grand Canal is a very busy place!

Dinner was some yummy lasagna!

Yesterday was another busy day and I just couldn't stay up late enough to write! So it is about 8:00am here, Dennis is still asleep because we must have walked 10 miles yesterday! We had a tour scheduled at Doge's Palace, the center of the government in the 1500's city of Venice, at 11:00am. My train tickets only got us as far as the Venice Mestre station, not the Venice San Lucia station where all the people want to visit. These are local trains and you can't make reservations! So, after checking train schedules on the internet and figuring out which train we needed, we hurried to get the San Lucia train in the 15 minutes in between so we would get there in time for our tour! No stress there. While on the train, Dennis plotted a course through the walkways of Venice to get us clear to the other side of the city! He estimated it would take about 25 minutes. After arriving, that left us about 10 minutes margin for error (i.e. getting lost!). So we get of the train at 10:25am and discover these narrow, sometimes 4 foot wide sidewalks, winding in between these old buildings. Most of them are at about 5 stories tall so you feel like a rat in a maze. They twist and turn and have absolutely no rhyme nor reason to them. Also confusing, like most streets in Italy, they will change the name of a street from one "block" to another! So he's looking at his map and I'm reading the list of written directions I made from the map with all the left and right turns, we're walking and running through masses of people and 30 minutes later we get there. We got confused a couple of times but I'm sure we set some kind of speed record! There are no cars there, so taking a taxi wasn't an option. They do have water taxi's but they are very expensive. The Doge's Palace was incredible. It's a huge, massive marble building and we toured the section that had the prison and the courtrooms. The funny thing was, the interior burned several hundreds of years ago so they had ship builders rebuild this area and it looks like the inside of an actual ship! Dark wood, massive beams, and because it's constructed on the marshy land of Venice, it even has a subtle swaying motion of a ship! It kinda got to you after a while! Casanova was a prisoner here and we got to here the story about his escape ,which was cool.
After the tour, we ate lunch and wandered through the "streets" looking at the hundreds of shops and visiting some of the sights. Cruise ships arrive at about 10am and it gets so crowded you can barely get through the place! But at least we never had anyone trying to sell us stuff and there we only a couple of old ladies begging so much better than Milan in that respect.

Next we did our gondola tour with two other couples. One was from Australia and they were retired and had been in Italy two months! The other was a 19 year old couple from London. It was really fun and there was actually a traffic jam of gondolas, there were so many. Those guys are really good though at what they do and never hit anything! I wish I would have had my kayak! The weather was perfect, mid 70's with a breeze. I really loved Venice because it was so different from anyplace I'd ever seen before! And to think it's all just on the water! They take large wooden posts and drive them into the ground under the water. The salt water preserves the wood and they put the foundations on them. Amazing!

Our gondola tour was over at 5:00 and we had to navigate our way back to the train station but at least we had more time to do it this time! We got on the train back to Venice Mestre station, got the next train to Verona and Dennis fell asleep on it! He was pretty tired! It was one of my favorite days in Italy! Today it's off to Milan again and hopefully we can figure out how to get from the train station to our hotel near the Malpensa airport! Always an adventure! Ciao!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What a busy, crazy two days!!

Dennis at the park inside the city of Milan... (remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge!)

Outside the gates of the Duomo (church)...they are made of
copper and are 3-D!

Insided the duomo. It was huge!

On the piazza out front of the duomo. Watch
' out for the beggars!!!

The church where you'll find the Last Supper!

Me on the train to Milan! Yay, first class
and no delays!

Dennis and I are now on a train waiting to go back to Verona after a day in Milan! Today's train adventures have been far superior to yesterday's disaster. Our train from Como to Milan was totally cancelled and all the people on that train ran to the window to try to book another one. Of course, that made for a long line and grumpy people! We waited with a couple from NY and another couple from California. When we finally got to the front of the line, some Italian chick was trying to cut in front of us saying " but my train leaves! Please let me in front!" We said that was the same train we wanted on, sorry chickster. Then she said "But I am pregnant"! Personally, I didn't care if she was about to give birth. I had a schedule to keep and she was just trying to snake us. So we get up to the window, and the totally humorless ticket worker put us on a train to Milan that went to a DIFFERENT station! We actually had to get a SUBWAY train to the correct one in the middle of all these train connections. (I bet he's still laughing his &^%# off at screwing over those nasty Americanos!) The couple from Fresno,CA was hanging with us because they had to go to Verona too. I think we helped them alot because they just had this bewildered look on their faces as we were grabbing people asking for directions. Then they would chase after us. We were trying to hurry because we were going to miss our last train due to the subway ride plus the run to and from it! DUH! They were really nice though and it was good to not be lost alone! We finally got our final train into Verona from Milan and it was the regional train. In other words, they stop at every station in between and probably would have stopped to pet a kitty on the side of the tracks as well! haha It took soooo long and we had all of Italians finest on it too because it's a cheap train! Boy, we sure appreciate 1st class rides a lot more now! We thought we would die........I swore I wouldn't never get into a mode of transportation with graffiti on it again. There is graffiti in EVERYTHING. There's graffiti on graffiti. And nobody seems to care! If we stood still long enough, we'd probably eave Italy with spray paint on our foreheads......especially on the train stations and trains.
Today started at 4:30am as we got the 6:45 train to Milan. What a huge, huge city! We got a cab to go see da Vinci's "Last Supper" and it was soooo awesome!!! My mouth was just hanging open the whole time. They only let groups of 20 in at a time with lots of sliding doors, cameras, and security. We actually went in with a group of Japanese tourists. No, we didn't stand out at all! haha The painting takes up this huge wall at the end of what was once a "dining room" for the monks of the church back in 1550 something! Dennis was surprised to see that it was painted directly on the wall. It's in the Santa Maria delle Grazie church which is small and unimposing. You would never guess it holds such a masterpiece! After that, we made our way to the Duomo which is incredibly ornate and HUGE! We got to go inside although some girls were turned away for showing their legs and arms. I knew in advance and therefore, left the bikini at home...hahaha We also stopped in another large church and the city castle. My only complaint with Milan is it has so many people begging. If I gave every beggar money, then I would be the one doing the begging! The beggars look like Mexicans and then you have the ones trying to sell you seriously cheap crap (and even strings to tie on your wrist! As if!!) and they are really big black men! I would say "beggar alert!" and we would start walking fast and go the other direction. One dude in front of the duomo actually grabbed my arm as I walked away trying to give me cracked corn to feed the uber-million pigeons there! I yelled no and Dennis turned around and yelled at him too! Just awful. You really had to be on your guard the whole day! We really mastered the art of ignoring people and taking evasive action.
We did spend some time in the city parks which were lovely and a great break from all the craziness. Funny thing though, we stopped along a bridge over a pretty stream and I saw something swimming in the water, little head up, heading for the opposite bank. "Look, Dennis," I said. "Isn't that cute?? Is it a little muskrat or some kind of beaver?" It turned out to be a big ol' rat. Niiiiice.......We stopped and got some pizza for dinner and I ordered the Sicilian style. We got it and we have no clue what was on it. It had cheese and something really salty. I said it was mashed olives but Dennis swore it was tuna! Like the existence of UFO"S, I guess we'll never really know..........
Some observations on Italians thus far: They all think they look the coolest and are really fashionable. However, this look is often achieved by throwing on some crazy ol' high heels, messy hair, and lots of mismatched layers.......maybe I'm just missing something here?.....
They are as obsessed with cell phones as we Americans. Only they are still in the "Tiny is good stage" whereas our's have to have a tv, stereo, keyboard, and computer in addition to just calling someone......
They all still listen to 70's and 80's music. Even on the radio. It's just wrong to be in a lovely little Italian town listening to "Ring My Bell" and "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John.
Many Italian workers don't have a very friendly attitude. I guess that would disrupt their cool factor. We have met some really friendly people though, too, who are patient with our language shortcomings. Most of the younger Italians are nicer.
They love, love, love shoes. They are everywhere. And expensive. Oddly enough though, the fad with teens is the old canvas Converse Chuck Taylor shoe! They were everywhere and cost about a hundred dollars US in the stores....CRAZY!
We stopped by McD's for lunch for some food from home and had to PAY 20 cents for a thing of ketchup! We paid for ketchup! And the McD's were running over!
Well, I am going to wrap this up for now and look at the passing scenery awhile. We walked A LOT today - probably at least 6 miles so I need to just sit and veg out awhile. Ciao!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

St. Moritz, Switzerland - How COOL!

This is where we stopped to buy some postcards for my scrapbook....

...Brrrrr.......This is Lake Silva Plana we ate beside in St. Moritz.....

Beautiful waterfall on the way there..........

Tiny, narrow streets that you have watch the edges of buildings when driving!

Groovy cows of Switzerland. Accustomed to the paparazzi,......

Today's advetures took us across Italy's northern border to St. Moritz, Switzerland and boy, was it breathtaking! Every view was a postcard picture. Our car rental let us use the Blaupunkt navigation system which is German and I have to say, it's better than Garmin! They give you better verbal commands ahead of the turns and the mapping is more accurate. The only problem was the charge cord was screwy and we had to use a twist-tie and a rubberband to maintain contact and keep the darn thing charging! We found this out after it announced "LOW BATTERY" and I thought, "not a good time there, Blaupunkt buddy! We will never find our way back!"But we did and all was well. St. Moritz actually had snow on the ground and was snowing when we arrived! The waitresses were complaining that they are usually swimming in June! We sat next to an elderly couple from Germany and he was trying so hard to talk to us. We used hand gestures and smiled alot. We think he was complaining about the low cloud cover blocking the views of the mountains. They seemed very nice. The roads are very curvy and we must have gone through 25 tunnels and several narrow streets in tiny towns along the way. So pretty! The traffic was a breeze compared to what we've been through and Dennis loved it to pieces!

Right now it's about 7:00pm and we are getting ready to go find some dinner! Ciao!