Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chapter Four: Arrivederci Italy, Bonjour Paris!

Lynda and I were planning to spend a day in Cinque Terre, which are a (used to be) group of five villages along the western coast of Italy. Unfortunately, torrential rains struck a few days before we were scheduled to arrive in Cinque Terre, creating mudslides and all around calamity in the area.

One village has actually been wiped off the map, so Cinque Terre is now technically Quattro Terre. Super sad. Without Polly's red alert email, Lynda and I would have shown up in La Spezia, confused about why the trains weren't running to Cinque Terre, and would have been stranded overnight.

A few highlights from Florence, my favorite town in Italy:

Santa Maria Novella church and piazza.

Bruschetta from Trattoria ZaZa

Seafood risotto from Trattoria ZaZa. This was one of my top meals in Italy.

My happy shoes from the outlet. They're one size too big, but I don't care.

Rigatoni with meat sauce and black truffles at Ristorante Boccadama in the Piazza Santa Croce. It was great. Lynda also requested that I mention her lasagna, which "melted in her mouth, it was flippin' amazing!" (It was pretty dang good.)

Sidenote: almost all of the restaurants we tried in Florence were on the DesignSponge blog, and every one we went to was great.

Santa Croce church.

Galileo's tomb

Our Statue of Liberty was based off of this sculpture

Michelangelo's tomb

This is the first painting of David (of David and Goliath fame) ever. I know this because I was eavesdropping on the guided tour that was happening next to me.

The fake David outside of the Uffizi, home of "The Birth of Venus", and the closest that Lynda and I got to the Uffizi. Once we saw the 15 euro entrance fee, we said thanks, but no thanks. (Sorry Michelle!)

Tourist mayhem in the Uffizi's piazza

The Arno River, as seen near the Ponte Vecchio

And again.

The Ponte Vecchio

Florence at night

Oh Duomo, I heart you so.

Sandwich and pasta from the Mercato Centrale market. Similar to Granville Market in Vancouver.

Flower stand at the Mercato

San Lorenzo street market, where Lynda and I both scored amazing leather bags, and I got a new lavender scarf to replace my ratty and faded 10-year old one. Lynda and I make a great shopping team. I spy the items, and she haggles the price down, while I stand there feeling really awkward and uncomfortable. And then when the haggling is done, I silently pull out my money and hand it over to the vendor.

We stumbled across some kind of Mini Cooper gathering, complete with uniformed guards with trumpets and horns.

We saw doner kabab restaurants everywhere, so we finally had one for lunch. Yum!

The doors of the Baptistry.

Perche No gelateria, near the Piazza della Republicca. It was so nice, we went twice.

Florentine steak for our last dinner in Florence. So fatty, but so good.

The aftermath.

Some of the lowlights of Florence:

These trusty flats have gone with me to Europe, Boston, LA and all around Seattle, but the past two weeks in Italy did the poor things in. Not only is there negative shock absorption in the shoes, but they have stretched out so much, I keep stepping out of them, and now I have bruises on my ankles from where I hit the cobblestones.

These are the new flats I bought, to replace the silver ones. They are lovely and are perfectly my size. However, the backs have created blisters on my heels, which have yet to heal. I was very excited to throw out the silver flats and start wearing the black ones, but I had to dig the silver flats out of the trash, and I've been wearing them for the past week. Sad face.

On our last night, we ran out of toilet paper in the flat, and didn't want to buy more, so I borrowed some from the restaurant's bathroom and brought it back home. (Thanks ZaZa!)

Clearly, my body is not a fan of Florence's mosquitos.

We had a 8 hour layover in Milan before we caught the night train to Paris (more on that adventure in a bit), so we followed Rick's advice and walked around the city center. It may have been because we didn't have a plan for Milan, but we weren't super impressed with Milan, especially after coming from Florence.

Milan's Duomo. (But where's the dome?)

The inside of a shopping gallery next to the Duomo.

Charming pedestrian only shopping street. We found multiple Pradas, Ferragamos, D&Gs and Valentinos in a two block radius.

Waiting at the train station with my fuzzy traveling socks with grips on the sole. These are the greatest socks ever, and I am forever indebted to Michelle for buying me a pair. My feet were so sore, I had to take my shoes off and put these socks on while waiting for the train.

And speaking of the train..

Lynda in her bunk on the train. We had planned to take a two-person private compartment for the 9 hour train ride to Paris, but it was sold out, so we were in a six-person carriage that was the size of Claustrophobic does not begin to describe the feeling that washed over me as I climbed into the bunk. However, it was very clean, plus the journey was cheap, and I slept really well, considering the fact that a) the carriage was maybe 6x6 and I felt like the walls were pressing in on me and b) I was concerned about the oxygen to carbon dioxide ratio, due to the number of people crammed into the small space. But we made it to Paris, albeit sore and feeling dirty from having slept in our clothes and contacts.

Yay for Paris! It's nice being in a city that feels somewhat familiar, and when I talk with people, I can understand about 50% of what they're saying, whereas in Italy, it was more like 20%.

The bedroom/living room area of the flat.

The dining room/kitchen. (I was too lazy to get up from the couch and take a better picture.) If you look closely, you can see the huge drying rack with a week's worth of dirty laundry for two people.

The flat is really cute and very clean, and I think I'll enjoy living here for the next few months, and there's plenty of space for the guests I'm expecting (Hi Robert, Joy, Joe, Anita, Michelle, Polly, Jessica!). It's a fourth floor walk-up, which is a bit of a killer, and it's a few metro stops from the center of the city, but Paris is the one city where I like walking around, and there are plenty of cafes, supermarkets and pharmacies on my street, which is fun.

Bonne nuit mes amis!

Location:Rue Saint-Maur,Paris,France

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