DO YOU WANT SOME OIL WITH THAT VINEGAR?

Trip Start Dec 15, 2002
1
18
Trip End ??? ??, 2003


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Saturday, June 21, 2003

DO YOU WANT SOME OIL WITH THAT VINEGAR

So many months later, the travelling all comes to an end - Andie and I are on the first plane out of sweltering Milan tomorrow. Good riddance you terrible country.

Of course I'm lying. We've had an 'amazing' time over the past couple weeks, although our cumulative legs are tired and each article of clothing that I own smells vaguely like vinegar - apparently my sweat is overly acidic.. The other day, I put my wet sandals into my backpack, and several hours of sun-roasting later, the whole bag smelt like mildew. Let me tell you, it was a vast improvement over the smell of my sweat. And Andrea actually has to spend time somewhat near to me...

Andrea says that the one thing that will stand out in her mind about this trip will be the unbearable heat. For me, the only thing I'll remember will be the vinegar. Seriously though, the past two and a half weeks have set records across the country. In Rome a couple days ago, it was 36 degrees - at 9.30 at night. Most of our sightseeing has simply been a dash from shade to shade, trying to take advantage of any rest Andie could pry from my carefully planned (and packed) itinerary.

One way to cool off, for us, was aboard rented scooters, in the Tuscan countryside just south of Siena. Of course, my idea of scooter riding was way more Steve McQueen than Andrea had planned, and as I leaned vigorously into corners, she screamed out "Slow down, dirtball", probably in reference to the fact that I haven't washed, showered, or brushed my teeth in, well, about 20 days. Other than the unbearable smell, that day was the best of the trip; we were able to get off the beaten track and enjoy sunburnt villages and quintessential Tuscan landscapes: medieval farmhouses surrounded by cypress trees, denuded hills of clay, and solitary trees looking out over yellow and green fields. We had a spectacular day, and I was able to get an admission of fun from Andie, who had been a reluctant backseat driver at the beginning of the day. Who would have thunk, she didn't have faith in my scooter riding abilities? Shame.

From Siena, we headed south to Rome, scoring what we thought was an amazing deal from the hotel reservation service at the train station - a 3 star hotel, a stone's throw from the Vatican, and right in our budget. We snapped it up almost without thinking, only wondering what the catch could be when, as we handed over our deposit, the girl at the desk told us "by the way, there won't be any air conditioning the first night - it will be fixed tomorrow". Tomorrow, unfortunately, never came, but we were nonetheless able to enjoy our room, the associated television, and the MTV Movie Awards while lying prone and unmoving on our bed - talking (nay, breathing) made us way too hot.

Rome was fantastic - St. Peter's was one of the most amazing things we've ever seen, and officially ended the church visiting part of our trip - nothing else compares. I loved the Sistene Chapel, although standing shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other tourists while security yelled at everyone (myself included) who even thought of raising a camera to the ceiling certainly took away from the serenity of the moment. We visited the Roman Forum in the aforementioned 38 degree heat, and in 38 degree heat, it looked like a pile of rocks with the odd column. We were impressed by the Colosseum, but disappointed with the 8 euros we paid to get inside - there was no Russell Crowe anywhere, no matter how hard we looked.

We had planned to stay in Sorrento, a holiday town a little further south, and make a number of daytrips around that area. In the line at the Colosseum, we met some Aussies who recommended that we go straight to Positano, on the Amalfi Coast south of Sorrento, which was apparently much more beautiful. We quickly changed our plans, found a hotel in our budget, and headed straight there. Great decision; we spent much of the next four days sitting on our terrace looking out over the Mediterranean. Our first scooter experience had gone so well, I was able to convince (bribe) Andrea into going for a second trip, this time on the slightly windier roads of the coast. It was sensational - a drive like Highway 1 in California - but one that we could only stomach from the back of a scooter; going up and down the coast in the bus brought us near our barf point on each occasion. We were also able to drag ourselves away from the terrace to visit Pompeii, which, in 38 degreee heat, predictably looked like a much bigger pile of rocks with the odd column. We wandered around, got our share of sun stroke, and headed back to our own sacred viewpoint.

Our gelato obsession has continued, although slightly petered out in favour of a newerer and betterer obsession - granite. Picture popsicle in slushie form, but like a million times better. So good.

The fat Australian in line at the Colosseum gave us another important tip - don't go to Naples. We wandered for about 400 meters between train stations in Napleson our way to Positano, and Andrea certainly agreed with her opinion. Yes, it was dirty and hectic, but maybe my Asian experience endears me to that type of city. However, because she wears the pants, we compromised, agreeing to have dinner in the city - where the Pizza was invented, no less - before taking a night train back to the north instead of spending any considerable time there. That day, although we wandered only for a kilometer or so in search of what was supposed to be Naples' best pizza, Andrea seemed obviously nervous, and I also did my best to put on my happy and reassuring face - too many people and too much chaos, she says. We had our Pizza - deliciously oily - and then headed back to the train station, Andie muttering "it's so sketchy, it's so sketchy" while I kept reminding her, "No, it's not sketchy, it's exciting". Then, in front of the train station, in broad daylight, we saw a dude shooting up. My argument fell apart, and we hustled to the sanctity of the train station, our pace slightly quickening when we turned around to see the same guy right behind us, the piece of string he used to tie his arm still dangling from his hand. We were slightly enthusiastic to get out of Naples.

Waking up - or, more accurately, not sleeping until we arrived - in the north, it was like a completely different world - partially because we weren't being followed by heroin addicts. From Genova, where we stumbled into the rising sun, we took a short train to the Cinque Terre, five picturesque villages over the sea. Cinque Terre's main attraction is a 12 km hike between the towns, and I once again convinced - begged, pleaded, and ultimately bribed - Andie into partaking. It was beautiful, albeit a little hot, and we were both happy to reward ourselves with gelati and granite when it was all done. This morning, we took the train to Milan, from where we will fly home tomorrow.

Maybe because of the heat - or maybe because of the vinegar - we didn't really care about the way we looked today. Bad decision; just about everyone here is dressed much much more stylishly, especially on a particular street which was lined with every designer from Armani to Versace. I thought briefly about bringing home presents for my Bubbie's birthday, but, realizing that I couldn't even afford an ampersand, I decided that I'll just follow her lead, and bring home an envelope with a cheque. Nevertheless, we had a good time pretending we were rich for five minutes, as Andie picked out things I was supposed to buy for her and I picked out new girlfriends from the pictures in the window.

Then, moments later, we went from being the worst dressed to the best dressed, as the street in front of the Duomo was besieged by six foot tall Amazonians in drag - today is Milan's annual Gay Pride Parade. What a wonderfully interesting way to end our trip....

...We had a great time. Trying to think of some way to sum up the trip. Andrea: "In conclusion, you smell so bad." Well put.

Looking forward to showering...

...Jordan
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