Friday, November 26, 2010

Falling in Love with Italy. Again.

Two weekends ago I traveled to Milan, Italy to see the sights and indulge in some amazing Italian food. After a weekend there I couldn’t help but question why I chose Spain over Italy. It was a great weekend. We flew into Bergamo airport, which is about an hour away from the city. We took a shuttle into the city and then attempted to find our hotel. From there we had to take the metro and then a bus or tram. We thought the tram would be more fun, so we hoped on. We couldn’t figure out how to pay for it. There weren’t any sort of machines and they didn’t except money on the tram. We figured it must be free, right? After being on the tram for at least 45 minutes we came to the conclusion that we weren’t going in the right direction. We asked the woman next to us and she confirmed we were going in the wrong direction. I thought we might as well ask her if the tram was free or not. Her reply was, “you don’t have tickets?!” We quickly realized our slip up and jumped off the tram as fast as possible. After our hour and a half free tram ride around the city we made it to the hotel!

We grabbed at quick lunch at this hole-in-the-wall café that ended up being great. Our waiter called it the international café because we were American, he was Egyptian, the other waitress was Italian, and there were two other customers from Peru and Columbia. It was a mix of English, Spanish and Italian. Combined it didn’t get us too far. Either way, it was fun and a lunch to remember. From there we headed into the center of the city to walk around. We knew it’d be cold in Milan, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as cold as it was. We all bought warmer clothing right away.

Earlier in the day I had called Anna to see if we could meet up. Anna was my cousin’s aupair years ago. She’s from a town just outside of Venice and lives in Milan. I had a chance to meet her when I was in Milan last time, so it was great to see her again. I was very impressed with myself because I was able to find Anna’s house without looking at a map, especially since my first visit to Milan was for less than 24 hours. We met Anna just outside her house and drove to another neighborhood to explore and have dinner. It was great to see Milan through her eyes for a second time.

On Saturday we took the train out to Lake Como. Sadly, there weren’t any George Clooney sightings. Nonetheless, it was very enjoyable. Since our time was limited we only went to the town of Como. It’s a really cute little town, but there wasn’t too much to do there. We took the funicular (a tram that goes up the mountain) to see the spectacular views. It was pretty cloudy, which was disappointing, but we could still see the Alps and Switzerland.

On the way up the funicular we met a little girl, Kyla, from Washington. She proudly told us she was four and that Liam, her little brother was there, too. Unfortunately, Kyla and Liam were also on the funicular going down the mountain. We had gotten on really early to ensure we could be in the first car to see the ride down. Kyla and Liam’s mom also insisted on being in the first car because she wanted to get a video on her cell phone of the ride down. Liam’s stroller barely fit, yet alone the rest of his family. Before the funicular even started moving Liam started yelling. After about five minutes later his dad thought he’d try and solve the problem by applying chapstick to Liam’s lips. Way to go, Pops. What a miracle worker. I think the appropriate question is who brings their one- and four-year-olds on a trip to Europe? You might be shocked, but the chapstick didn’t work. The screaming continued and ten minutes later the dad decided to give him an orange slice. These parents should receive the parenting award of the year. The orange slice worked a little better than the chapstick. Needless to say, we were very happy to finally get off the funicular and head back to Milan—not without a stop to a pastry stop to try an authentic Italian cannoli first.

For dinner we headed to Anna’s house. She put out an amazing spread. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live in Italy. Scratch the probably. It’s definitely a good thing I don’t live there. I’d be 400 pounds. She made tortellini with a delicious walnut sauce. Good thing we were only there for a long weekend. On Sunday we hit up the sights. It was rainy out, so that put a damper on things. We went to a castle and the duomo. We were sad to end our long weekend in Milan, but we knew we had to get to bed early. Monday morning we had to wake up at 3:15am to catch the bus to the airport for our 6:25am flight back to Sevilla. It was another successful trip to Italy and I’m already trying to figure out when I can go back.

The past two weeks have been mellow, but fun. Last night a group of us celebrated Thanksgiving. It was the best Thanksgiving away from home that I could ask for. Earlier this week Briana, Julia and I went to Corte Inglés (the largest, and only, Spanish department store) to find some good ol’ American food. We found sweet potatoes, Christmas colored and shaped marshmellows, hard cider, cranberry sauce and a few other things to help us prepare our feast. Since our apartment doesn’t have an oven, we made everything and ate at Julia’s. I was very impressed with our menu and how well everything turned out. We had a crackers, cheese and grape plate for appetizers. A pumpkin soup for a starter and then a gourmet meal consisting of bread, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted asparagus and roasted chicken, which we did buy. It seems pretty hard to find a turkey, yet alone cook it in the tiny ovens here. Oh, and we had plenty of vino (wine.) For dessert we had a chocolate cake and chocolate peanut butter clusters that I made, both of which we barely touched after our huge meal.

It was a wonderful night spent with new friends. I’m looking forward to our next dinner party.

A few weeks ago practically every Spaniard I know told me that they had to switch out the summer clothes in their closets with their winter clothes. Another silly Spanish tradition that doesn’t make sense, I thought. I just wear the same clothes all year round and I’ve always done that.

Only recently did it hit me as to why Spaniards do this.

They literally need two wardrobes because there’s no heat. Anywhere! Even when you’re inside it’s freezing, so you better have on several layers and a sweater. Looks like I have to go and buy some more warm clothes. It was pretty cold last week, so I wore the coat I brought for the winter all day during school. I’m starting to think I didn’t pack really well. I don’t remember it getting this cold last time. Oops. Well, I guess it’s a good excuse to buy some new clothes!

In a few minutes I’m headed off to the airport to go to Bilbao for the weekend. I’ve never been to northern Spain, so I’m looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it’s supposed to rain the entire weekend. I still need to find some shoes suitable for the rain. Maybe I’ll be able to do so there. Hopefully. Next weekend is a long week and I’m taking advantage of it by going to Liverpool and Edinburgh. I’m going with Briana, Julia and Jan. (Jan is the other American that teaches at my school.) I’m really looking forward to it. Especially all of the Beatles stuff in Liverpool. Lots of fun travel coming up!

(ps pictures to come)

Hasta pronto,

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