Were we hooked?

 

 

2DC1C39F-F1EC-41E0-86E2-05B9DAFC79FCAs we entered the restaurant which had been selected by passing by it with our umbrellas outstretched to help keep us from getting drenched, we were seated by the ristorante staff next to a lone woman separated only by a waist high column with three lit candles.

The dark haired woman was of longish hair which she played with by pulling it back away from her face as she engaged in conversation which revealed an English accent.  And she was talking to us as soon as she realized that we shared the same language.   

The conversation straddled politics and languages known.   Queries from the Rayman began with, “what do you think of the Brexit vote.”  “Fuck, it was rubbish” came the reply.   Okay.  Well, then she went on to expound on America really being a caste system even though Americans don’t realize it.   We understood her point but, the F bomb still lingered in the air.  Hair fiddling ensued.  

Our lady in black explained that her family originated in Milan and that she felt a real kinship to the city.  Her family had moved to England when she was a babe but they spoke Italian to her and she loves the Italian language.  She told us she now lives in London.  

“What do you do there?

“IT but I just quit my job and am in Milan on vacation for the month.  At sometime, I must go back to London to look for work.”  I would put her age at mid 30s.  So looking for a new job would be prudent.  

While grabbing her hair and fashioning it into a ponytail only to let it fall around her face again, she spoke of 401ks, retirement saving while interspersing a few more F bombs which seemed out of place.

We then talked about France when she asked us about other countries in Europe we had visited.  At this juncture of the conversation we learned that her grandparents owned a country home in northern France and she spent summers there and that is how she came to learn the language of french.  When we expressed our admiration that she spoke three languages, she revealed that she actually spoke eight languages, that she had a knack of learning languages.  

We did not test this proclamation.   

She had been to San Francisco.  This too went untested.  Never even occurred to me to try.  

We had ordered dinner and when we did she asked the waiter to bring her something, don.’t know what.  Finally a small glass with a yellow liquid was delivered to her.  Our dinner arrived.  While we ate, she sat with her phone and her drink, in silence.   

We exchanged a few more pleasantries, paid the bill and bid her farewell.  

“Well, she was certainly interesting”, I said as I hoisted the umbrella upward.   

“I think she was a prostitute”, Rayman revealed. 

“Really?”, I gasped.   Rayman suspected this but hoped he was wrong.  

 Well, the more we compared notes, the more I became convinced he was right.  A combo of course language to total strangers of a certain age, sitting alone while sipping on a tiny drink for an hour, alone, no food, unmolested by wait staff caused Rayman to suspect.  8 languages was far fetched.  Honing her story?   Was the ristorante in cahoots?  Where they getting a cut?  OMG.  The questions were fascinating to consider, which we did!  After all, this was Italy.  Where contrasts were in full abundance.  While wearing crosses, it would never ever occur to any Italian we encountered to give up a seat on a train for an old person, who never once was seen to help a struggling mother with a baby buggy disembark a train.  Where they routinely play chicken on the road with other motorists and pedestrians alike.   Individual encounters reveal good behavior but short of that we felt they procured a certain enjoyment in terrorizing you at the same time ignoring you.  

Train station facade facing the freeway. My friend Margaret, cleverly guessed it was a xylophone!

Train station facade facing the freeway. My friend Margaret, cleverly guessed it was a xylophone!

Yesterday while getting lost on our way to Lake Como, a fellow in a van coming up from behind us on the autostada purposely tried the share half my lane until the last second before veering to the left.  He hadn’t need to it. No other cars were in close proximity.  I was so terrified, I laid on the horn as he sped away.  And this was not at that unusual as we saw this same maneuver plied over and over to any number of motorists.   They all think they are Parnelli Jones.   It seems to be a game.  Speed limits are posted everywhere and exactly no one follows the law.   We had a fancy car blow by us going about 120 mph.   Shortly thereafter a polizia car raced by. Oh, great, we said. Finally some one is going to get a ticket.  But, alas, no.  The polizia were rushing to the aid of a stranded motorist which was kind, but we were hugely disappointed.   

In our travels we have become adept at going round and round on their roundabouts while trying to figure out which exit to take.  Really, people, it is that confusing.  Armed with roadmap and Gina, our gps aid…we are in a constant state of confusion because the road signs are so unhelpful.   

Now we are in a village on the eastern side of Lake Como and it about to rain.  Do we want to brave the weather?  Not entirely sure. But Rayman just informed me the day we leave here, it will be sunny and near 80.  It is par for the course on this trip.  Rain has called upon us just as tears follow the untimely death of our favorite character in a movie or as they follow good news on Sunday Morning on CBS…  It won’t relent. It’s got our number.  

This morning we had breakfast with a couple from a Parker (?), Alaska.  He, a man of the eyes (eye doc), she from Massachusetts originally.  They are as worried as we are about Trump.  We had a lively conversation in between sneezes and coughs as they arrived here yesterday having caught cold somewhere along the line.  Would have continued the discussion but there is only so much risk we wanted to take with germs so we politely excused ourselves and scuttled back to our room like runway models heading backstage, with purpose.

 

Other observations of Italy.  Deer live here as evidenced by the signs on the roads…deer crossing signs just like home.  No skunks.  Lots of bird as evidenced by bird song and a nest in the bottom drawer of our villa in Tuscany in the dining room.  Mallards are on the lake. Pigeons and wrens are everywhere.  Horses and sheep.  Haven’t seen a squirrel yet.  No kangaroos ( just jesting).  Lots of roses, vines, trees of many varieties many of them unknown by us.  We have only seen one traffic jam going the opposite direction, thanks for that.  I think the freeways are less travelled because many are toll roads and trains are everywhere and they are full all the time.  So much easier and less expensive way to get around.  They are so smart that way.  All of Europe is smart that way.  We are so far behind.  And retreating further and further.

One of hundreds.

One of hundreds.

Inside.

Inside.

Tunnels are an art form here.  They think nothing of burrowing through a mountain.  They have the resources because their military doesn’t gobble up all the money.   All the major cities have extensive metros.  And busses, and trolleys.  Again, their societies help move people around very, very efficiently and effectively.  Drill, baby, drill takes on a whole new connotation here.  Milan is in the middle of adding a fourth major metro line and part if it was on the street in front of our Airbnb.  Luckily we were there Saturday and Sunday.  When we departed yesterday morning, it was noisy while the weekend was quiet.

An aside, of sorts.  The London lady in the ristorante thinks the U.S. engages in indentured servitude and who am I to disagree.  How proud was I to be in management putting in 60 hours weeks without overtime only to hand out checks to non- management subordinates who made more money without the responsibilities I had.  Or Rayman’s 5th level dropping off a project at 5 p.m. as he was going home for the day and asking for results in the morning, which required hours of work.   Yes, the American worker.  Not sure anything has changed.

So, traveling is eye 👁 opening as well as eye 👁 popping.  Mind expanding and mind blowing. A test of endurance and a test of strength.  A juxtaposition of old and new, ancient and modern.  Of convenience and inconvenience.  Of laughter and tears.  

And did I mention it has been raining a lot?

Almost The End of the Line Post

Having collapsed on our Airbnb bed after street walking parts of Milano, this thought comes to mind,  “We are tired of traveling without an adult chaperone”.   We have hit the wall.  It’s a combination of age, interest, madness (“This damn GPS doesn’t work!), frustration (Where the heck are we?), throwing frugality out the window (“That was a total waste of money!”), and things like renting the car on the wrong day, watching out for pickpockets, being unable to stay at a place that was totally inappropriate which meant throwing good money after bad, suffering through bad breakfasts that were included, dodging fellow autos on the autostada, ending up in uninteresting dead end cul-de-sacs, being unable to get tickets for certain events because of lack of experience and planning…

Really, folks, it just doesn’t work anymore.  

So, here we are.  Tomorrow we blaze to Lake Como for a few days of natural beauty that our sore eyes are pining for and I include George Clooney in that category.  They may be there since they were in London for the royal wedding.   Hope springs eternal.   

After Como and the Dolomites, it’s back to Florence to rid ourselves of das boot before boarding the high speed train back to Roma where our last act of tourism will be a guided tour of the coliseum.

 

Gothic cathedral.

Shopping mall of old.

 

Before concluding this come-to-our-senses epistle, we did enjoy the displays in the windows of Milan, the afternoon thunder and lightning storm, the blending of ancient and modern design (some worked, some didn’t)), and the inclusion of avocado on a menu (first time the entire trip).  

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To their credit, they tend to only include produce locally produced, they are good recyclers, and they used public transportation, which the pickpockets appreciate as well.   We were twice approached by people of shifty eyes and questionable aims trying, we think, to set us up for their opportunity to rob us.  We didn’t fall for it.  One time as we were seated in a car on the underground Metro, the police opened the doors with an assist from the train driver, and pulled a woman from the train followed by them looking at the remaining passengers in a “We suspect you” manner before stepping off the train so the doors could close.   Was this a rouse or legit?  A show or a real police action?  Who knows?  All I do know is that cross body purses are ubiquitous in Milan.   

 

Our laughing stock.

Our laughing stock.

Us looking at them.

Us looking at them.

 

So, all future foreign travel, if there is any will include a travel agent doing the planning, a guide doing all the talking, a muscle bound gent doing all the schlepping of bags, and a captain doing all the navigation of water trips. I purposely did not mention pilots because we have never attempt to fly an aircraft.  

Speaking of flying machines, we went to a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit.  They, someone) took his plans and built the things he designed.  Amazing.   Flying machines, bridges, harpsichord, a long trumpet that was the forebears of the flute and clarinet.  In his spare time he painted the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, designed a drawbridge, various flying machines, preformed autopsies so he could draw the body organs…the list goes on and on.  It was a very interest exhibit.  How could one person do all this?   What a mind.  I saw no mention of wife or children. Perhaps he was gay.  Or too busy to bother.  I am quite sure he would have bored easily.   Sort of like Elon Musk on steroids.  

The Meet-up and Horsing Around

Here in the lush verdant green of Tuscany in the region of Chianti, we find ourselves with our friends  the villa of Il Giardo.    Of a certain vintage, this old house has walls as thick as a 12-inches or more.  Exposed beams throughout.  Overstuffed furniture in the living finds me under blanket at 3:40 pm writing of our latest adventures while Janis cooks soup, Dorothy keeps her company by sitting at the kitchen.  Lovely to have a kitchen large enough to hold a table and chairs.  

 


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Laundry is being done.  Clothes have been hung on lines and clothes racks as they don’t use dryers in this part of the world.  Driving thru villages and even in the cities, clothes flap in the breeze like flags from the pole. 

We arrived here yesterday intact despite the effort of many presumably Italian drivers trying to ensnare us in a wreck.  These people are crazy when seated behind the wheel of the car.   And they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the U.S.   There seem to no rules of the road.   They take tailgating to a new level.  Speed is of one setting…fast.   The road signs are confusing and some roadside poles have signs from top to bottom.  

Okay.   It is time for another confession but before launching into it, I never claimed to be a good trip planner and I still am not a good trip planner.  My skill set seems to be shrinking even with all the experience of recent years.  Can’t imagine why.  

When planning our trip, it was decided we should rent a car for the last half of our trip.  Through airline points I booked a car.  Apparently using a calendar did not occur to me.  Stated differently. If I used a calendar, more attention needed to be paid to it because I managed to rent the car the day before we needed it.  This was discovered after I had booked an in- Florence hotel.  The car was located at the airport which is not all that far away from our hotel.  However, the traffic took a 15 minute ride to Hertz and expanded it to about 40 minutes.   So, we decided to take muni bus to Hertz, pick up the car, drive it to a parking near the airport because a study of parking rates in Florence revealed that they wanted your first born, the boat and your house as ransom.  And may I remind you, dear reader, that driving was terrifying as Florence shuts down many streets to cars certain hours of the day.  

The route was devised with specificity by the Rayman, who not trusting in our GPS on the phone, wrote the route down using paper and pencil.   Quaint.  However, his effort was greatly appreciated because, what the hell.  Off we went on foot to the bus station terminal which la machina indicated was a 14 minute walk.   It took About 20 minutes to get lost.  That’s when we figured out he had written down the car route, not the walking route, and with all the one way streets, we were going way out of our way.   A lively discussion ensued before we corrected the route and arrived at the terminal just in time to buy two round trip tickets and board the bus.  

 

Hertz was not crowded when we arrived and I mention this to note that sometimes things go reasonably well.  A Fiat 500 was requested.  After we got fleeced by Hertz at the counter, we went out to the lot and discovered that the car parked in space 41, was das boot, a large , long, wide Pougeot.  What the heck?  We decided not to fight it with Italian not being our strong suit and we drove it around the corner to a grassy vacant lot that offered car park service daily for 8 euro, took their shuttle back to the airport, and caught the bus back into town.  That ate up the entire morning.

 

The afternoon was spent sightseeing and culminated with a meet up for dinner.  While waiting, Rayman and I were witness to an Italian commotion involving a man, his wife and a horse.  Full throated exultations, horse whinnying, mighty gesticulating was observed.  Apparently the horse was involved in her gelato landing on the pavement.  Did the horse attempt to eat her gelato?  Did the horse charge her?  We will never know as the horse wasn’t Mr. Ed.  He wasn’t talking.  But the man with the woman sure was.   Finally, the carriage driver fled the scene with his horse but then he returned to the scene to continue the conversation and that is when the horse became frisky and headed our direction.  We scooted out of the way, the carriage driver got the horse under control and the argument continued until the police arrived.  Then the ambulance arrived.  More police arrived.   After that we have no idea what happened to the man, the woman, the carriage driver or the horse as we saw our friends and left the scene.   It was quite the kerfluffle.  And with all the crazy shinnanigans on the road, quite ironic that the only police action we have seen involved a horse.

As I reported, We met up with our friends for a pre-party dinner as we were all leaving for our villa vacation the next day.   That was a fun evening…good to talk with someone other than, you know who.  And I am sure the feeling was mutual.

 

Meet up in front of The Duomo.

Shrimp for dinner.

Saturday morning we hired a taxi to take us to the grassy parking lot to fetch our beast of a car.    The cab driver must have been on speed because that is what he did, delivering to us a ride of hair raising turns, followed by close encounters with buses, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, baby carriages and segways.  All the time, he was carrying on a riveting and emotional discussion with some one on his cell phone while simultaneously punctuating words with his flailing hands and arms.  Italians are as far as we can discern oblivious to rules of the road but they very carefully follow every other rule in life.  Today in a grocery store, we noticed an aisle between two check out registers and when we decided to take that route, the checker as well as all the customers shouted, “No,  no, no.”   We have no idea why this rule exists but they do and they all follow it.  

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But I digress.

The ride took about 20 minutes and shortened our lives about two years.  We exited  the cab with more gray hair than when entered it,  Rayman left me to tend our bags while he paid the fee.  When he returned, he revealed to me that we got clipped again.  $8 euros a day wasn’t based on 24 hours.  We dropped it off one afternoon and picked it up the next day and that meant the bill was $16 euros.   While we felt violated, what could we do?  We paid and cursed.  Then drove away.  The wrong direction, of course.  The highway system is mystifying.  Gina, our gps lady, would shout out directions to exit but I kept being in the wrong lane so exiting was impossible without wiping out a few cars to my right so we continued the wrong direction until we understood that we needed to be in the right lane before we were instructed to be there.  Roundabouts are everywhere and they helped us flip a u-turn after we paid our euros to exit the toll road that we entered going the wrong way.  Once we reentered the toll road it was smooth sailing until we exited.   

What happened next was that we took backroads thru the Italian country until we reached the town of Lucolinda which consisted of not much more than a closed up restaurant and a corner-type store.  Without an address, we sat in the lot texting our friends that we were to meet in three hours.  They were involved in their own Italian operas and were no where nearby.

Hook up happened in the village of Dudda.   Being the singers that we are in our own minds, Dudda instantly became 🎼🎼Dudda, Dudda!   We enjoyed a spritz or two before heading to the villa.  

And here we are.   

Our Ups and Downs

With so many screw ups on this trip, it is my duty to self report and let the chips fall where they may.  

A Window of Florence

Florence is amazing.  Streets are used for walking.  Cars are an annoyance as streets are narrow.

and comprised of cobblestone.   So unlike anything in America. Statues here would not be allowed in Arroyo Grande reflecting back on the brouhaha the sculpture of the woman post breast surgery caused.  The statue was too too and it was relocated to the more enlightened town of San Luis Obispo where it resides today.  The church is everywhere, of course.  Museos are abundant. The Arno River runs through it.  And the window displays are at once beguiling and hilarious.

Here are some examples of what we saw to illustrate my points.  

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This is all in an effort to stall my coming confessions of travel mistakes, I suppose.  

It starts with the fact that I managed before leaving home to book and pay for two tours within a half hour of each other on the same day.  Talent knows no bounds.  So we will miss David on this leg of the trip and may miss it again when we return to Florence to return the car.  Most tours are sold out.  What a ditz.  

Over dinner last night I almost broke into tears over an even larger mess of my making.  Let me begin by saying that AirBnB has always worked before.  As the website will attest, we have enjoyed several accommodations with generous reviews for the owners. And we received positive reviews as well.   That winning streak has been broken here in Florence.  

What thoughts come to mind when the ad says there are steep stairs?  The ad mentioned that.  What the ad didn’t mention was the fact that were 48 of them.  They snaked all over the building.  It was bad enough that neither of us could drag our 28 pound suitcases up.  The clean up lady, who was younger by at least a generation plus, had to do the deed.  And upon ascent to the apartment which sat atop the building, we found a space that left everything to be desired. Mold in the shower , such as it was.  This pearl of a place had a sloping ceiling in the bath that prevented Rayman from standing up straight to address the loo.  I had to be careful not to knock myself silly when dethroning.  “What were you thinking?, cried the Rayman as he gulped for air upon our Mt Everest-like ascent.  The rest of that conversation was quite animated and this resulted in a search for another place to stay. 

 

Going up.

Going up.

 

Going down.

 

In the meantime, we roamed the city and witnessed lines so long they curled around buildings forming the longest conga lines in history sans the dancing.  No one was dancing.  It was more like a collective shuffling of feet.  A flamingo experience, as people shifted their weight from left foot to right and back again to stave off sleeping appendages as they patiently awaited their time.  Well, I had not booked advance tickets for the Duomo cathedral /basilica.  Another mistake.  Another lost opportunity.   

So we did what anyone might do.  We searched for a place to enjoy our fav new drink, the spritz.  And people watch. Walking in circles ensued.  Once we agreed on a place, we decided to cancel our Rumplestilskin tower room for more conducive quarters and appeal to the owner for a credit ( fat chance).  In that order. 

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That spritz helped and when our gumption had returned, we trudged back to the room from hell.  Time was then spent rummaging around the internets attempting to find a new room.  We had taken great pains to book a car away from the airport so we thought we might stay near the Hertz office.  Turns out Hertz is not at the airport but it is in the vicinity.  More poor planning.  All the hotels ( at this point AirBnB was like a rose…too many thorns and Rayman insisted we book a hotel) near the airport were booked.  Plan B was then explored.  We would stay in town and take public transportation on Saturday to pick up our car. Okay then…we did just that.

By the time all this was executed, we were famished.  Rayman worked at finding a place to eat since a concierge was not available.   And off we went.  

Our eating experience at the ristorante he selected was without parallel.  Here are the pictures.  The service was the best.  The atmospherics beautiful.  We were in a ristorante above our pay grade while dressed in blue jeans and essentially golf shirts.  What was he thinking?  When I posed this question, he said something that went into one ear and out the other.  After dinner I confessed that I felt like a country bumpkin.  Everyone in our area of the ristorante was dressed to the nines.  

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But I digress.

We then opened up the menu.  Purée of rooster comb?  The waiter ensured us that it was delicious.   A prix fixe dinner was $150 euros.  Each.  There was no house wine but the waiter involved the sommelier who brought bottles for us to sample.  Asking how much seemed entirely out of the question but we figured it was plenty because bottles started at 40 euro and accelerated from there.  Rather than close the menu and walk out, we decided to go with the flow.  Rayman ordered sublime pork dish that was the best pork either of had ever had. I selected the white fish with artichoke and other stuff (a cooks technical term).

He won the ordering contest but just by a hair.  Letting price get the better of us, we just ordered the main dish passing on all the sides. That proved to be a wise decision because the kept bringing tidbits to our table. A small aperitif.  Breadsticks with a small dipping delight.  A plate with pea purée forming the base upon which an array of tiny bites of carrot and onion were displayed.  Fried cheese.  After the main course the waiter regaled us with a tiny cosmo(about three sips).

Did we want any dessert or coffee?  No, grazie.  While waiting to see the damage of our bill, out from the kitchen came the most inventive presentation of tiny dessert bites ever experienced.   The pictures tell the story. They came out in a cloche.   You, dear reader, would agree. No?  Then another tiny drink arrived.  Then the bill.   We managed to leave the ristorante about 150 euro lighter.  It was worth every euro…really the evening was priceless.  We were only charged for two secondi dishes and two glasses of wine.  All the other items were built in, included.   And no tip either.  Tips are included.  

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So the miserable room was offset by the luxurious dinner that included some of the best food on the planet.  

Parte Deux

Climbing back up those stairs at 10:30 was at once terrifying and difficult but like Sir Edmond Hillary, we prevailed against long odds and without additional help of oxygen.   Bed was immediate. But I could not fall asleep.  No fire extinguisher.  No smoke alarm.  No way out except by window or stairs.  The bed was lumpy.  WHAT THE *&@#.  At 1:15 a.m. the room went dark. I turned off the light.  It was a hard day’s night.  

This morning I emailed my dear friend, Barrie, a Airbnb owner for her advice on how I might try to get some money back.  Donning our clothes, we left to visit the Uffizi Museo under our umbrella.  Our tickets were early and we slipped right in without any problem. Rembrandt was there.  De Vinci was there.  There were paintings, sculptures, sarcophagi,  busts.  Almost all of the sculptures were nude men without circumcision or fig leafs and they had spectacular bodies and were based on Greek mythology.   The women were few and far between as were the women artists of the time.  There was one room dedicated to one woman artist that I have never heard of until today.  And the art in the Museo featured work from before Christ to about the 18th century.  The Medici family owned or commissioned most of it.   It was as overwhelming as it was beautiful.  

But such a good time can’t last all day.  Retrieval of suitcases was next on our agenda and we dreaded it like one dreads the dental appointment to save the tooth.  We devised a way of lowering the suitcases using the straps we brought to tie around our ubiquitous black bags for ease of identification.  Rayman went down backward to guide the bags from falling while I held the straps from above thereby relieving him of some of the weight.  It took us 15 minutes to make it to the bottom.  And when we shut the door behind us, relief washed orr us like a supplication ((branching out here to use a religious metaphor)…unsure if the sentence makes sense.  

Dodging potholes, cars, trucks, scooters, segways, bicycles, dogs, and people on foot, we made it to Hotel Pierre and it felt like heaven.  

So now I bid the reader a fond adieu so that I can double check the Milan Airbnb for stairs.  Just sayin.  

Put on Your Serious Hat

We are speeding toward Florence this a.m.  Before leaving our wonderful apartment in the residential section of Venezia, I checked my emails and to my shock and dismay, I saw the headline about Eric Schneiderman blast onto my screen.  Four women..a powerful man who is currently suing Harvey Weinstein are making headlines.  WHAT?   How can this be?  I find myself dumbstruck by the news.  Then I see Jane Mayer of The New Yorker magazine (which I subscribe to) has broken this devastating story.  Turning, averting ones eyes is impossible because she is such a brilliant journalist with a staggering amount of investigative reporting in her body of work.  co-authoring was Ronan Farrow, the up-and-coming journalist.

So I settle in the red chair in the apartment to read her reporting.  Now, on the train which glides across the Italian countryside carrying us to Florence (Firenze), I find myself utterly sad because of this article by Ms. Mayer and Mr. Farrow.

Four ( at least) described to the author their darkest secrets regarding their association with this man that I had held in high esteem.  What courage they had lacked when brutalized by this apparent serial abuser over months and sometimes years, is now on full display.  Where they were weak, they are now strong.  Their courage has triumphed over their fear for the benefit of all women as they hope by coming forward, others might avoid this man into the future.  The larger benefit of their shocking revelations is that all women in related ( read abusive) situations with their partners might find the courage to speak out.

Beautiful and successful women endured this abuse. It boggles the mind that this was so.  That the most powerful legal man in the state of New York could use intimidation and threats to lord power over each of his victims makes me want to understand the sexual politics of the situation.  

This #MeToo movement is so very important as illustrated by this story.  Women are so disadvantaged as a group of beings.  My life story as a grown woman is far removed from this type of experience and yet I think I can relate.  I had one relationship with a man who was emotionally abusive and it was terrible yet I tried to make it work with all manners of denial and Pollyanna-ish rationalizations.  Not only am I remorseful of this past experience, I feel a certain amount of shame and a tremendous amount of regret of time lost.  The courage now on display by these women on the pages of a magazine that is available for the whole world to read  cannot and, indeed, should not be trivialized or diminished.

And I reflect on all those tapestries hanging in the museo Vatican depicting men with daggers killing babies and wonder how it is that we are in the 21st century and brutalizing women (one way or another) is still a thing.    It’s not  only that women are raped and beaten but they are also murdered by guns in domestic violence situations daily.  

Oh, how I wish women would unite to demand equal treatment, demand legislation to regulate guns, demand reasonably priced health care, demand the right to control their own bodies.  We have the power if we would use it.  It is important that a baby of a sitting woman Senator was allowed Into the Chamber this year, 2018.  It is telling that no father ever thought of doing that.   Yet, here we are.  

And finally, Mr. Schneiderman did the right thing and immediately resigned.  But two things jump out at me.  Why does the daughter of a preacher man still stand at the podium of the President and lie for him?  She should be ashamed.  If she had an ounce of courage these women had in the The New Yorker piece, she would resign and expose the President for the liar he is.  And how is it that Kelly Ann Conway can send out a tweet saying”gotcha”, to the perpetrator of these crimes against these women?  Is she not a woman herself?  Is she so unfeeling that she is not moved by the accounts of these women?  She comes off as cruel and heartless… a political hack that does not even understand that while she tweets this vile sentiment, she is working for and enabling a morally corrupt man who lies every times he speaks.  

Where is our humanity?  Where is our empathy?  Where is our moral compass in our government today?   It boggles my mind and I write of it now to try to make sense of all this, now and then. Here and now.  

Tunnel Vision and Other Insights

I’m distressed.  My gizmo for my iPad doesn’t work.  AT&T just notified me I have exceeded my minutes and  I messed up our arrival time into Venice.  It is raining.

All this to say, I probably need to throw in the towel on this “go on your own” travel.  It seems to be getting harder and harder.  My mea culpa, perhaps.  

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Some random thoughts as we whisk thru the countywide speeding at 200 mph on the train.  When we left Rome, we were traveling forward.  Leaving Florence, we are riding backward.  And we are on the same train.  Italy has left us in the dust in the train department.  While Ca just became the 5th largest economy in the world, we are fighting the concept of high speed rail. Let me just point out how easy it is.  No TSA.  Loads of legroom.  You can watch the scenery fly by.  No seatbelts.  Great terminals.  You can set your watch by their schedule because they are on time so waiting on the tarmac is not a thing.  No turbulence!

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But I digress.  

We are thinking river cruises.  Easier.  Just sayin.

Yesterday was our last day in Roma.  We we’re out of gas.  Went to the coliseum without tickets, regarded the llnes and pooh poohed the idea.  Took the bus tour of the city, went back to our room and napped.  This is May.   I would hate to see it during the summer when school is out.  That said your best bet would be to show up early with prepaid tickets. Or take a tour.  

So impressed was I, I decided to take a video and as I was doing this, we entered a tunnel.  This was amazing because the tunnel just went on and on and on.  The more amazing thing was that there were about 20 tunnels on the trip between Rome and Venice.  Which makes it all the more incredulous that we aren’t clamoring for high speed rail.   And of course there is The Great Wall of China.  

Changing the subject is now is necessary, as I do not want to get too far afield.  

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Arriving in Venezia was impressive. Water World.  Having now been here for 24 hours I would like to share Rayman’s impression of the place.  I inquired of him what he thought of it while we  sipped on spritz drinks (we were told that was the only drink you could get here that was served with ice) and we needed a cold one—thank you bicycle friends).  His reply was that it reminded him of Disneyland…a million people packed into narrow streets and lots of selling of trinkets and food.   Gondolas standing in for rides.   Blasphemous, perhaps but not inaccurate.  This impression was tempered by our events of the last 24 hours which I will attempt to capture with humor.

Yesterday when we arrived, we were told by the AirBnb host to text our arrival to his daughter who would meet us at the water taxi and take us to the apartment.  We did.  She texted us and told us to board the water taxi 4.2 but she did not tell us where to get off(read disembark).  I texted her but got no reply. She did mention that she was a tall blonde and was wearing blue and white striped pants.  Rayman perked up.   But he was anxious about not knowing where to get off.  His temperature rose.  We kept looking for the tall blonde at each stop.   Then our phone rang and Sara told Rayman the name of the stop just as we were docking at the stop.   Close call.   We jumped ship.   Where was she?  We looked and looked.  Finally she showed up with an apology, led us to the apartment and off she went after handing  us the keys to the second door place.  There were three keys.  

Our apartment was quite, roomy, and met our expectations.   After settling in we went out exploring which meant we battled the crowds.  Narrow passageways and too many folks.  EBDFD4EF-7871-4ABD-B0E2-6515CD5A8F5B
Still though it was unique and I managed to get some nice pics.   After a bit we picked a restaurant near our place.  Rayman left me on a park bench and made a detour to a grocery store to buy water and bananas for this morning.  There I sat people watching when a incoming soccer ball hit my arm.  Kids were playing (everything is cement and hard surfaces so the children must play in the plazas) kicking the ball which would bounce and boomerang off the cobblestone surfaces or the walls of the buildings that helped form the piazza.   What a surprise but not shocking when you consider.  Another ball came at me and I managed to return it with a kick even though I was sitting.  Think that surprised not only the kids… but me too!

Rayman returned with a bag of groceries and we walked to the restaurant.  It was 6:45.  They did not open until 7:15.  So we planted ourselves on chairs outside but we were asked to moved because they wanted to set up the tables.  So we walked a bit and when we returned all the tables outside were filled but one and it was just 7. 

The ristorante art, kitch, and the Rayman

The ristorante art, kitchen pand the Rayman

We requested indoor seating since it was cool and found ourself alone in a back room as they had taken out all tables to the patio but one for a big party   Well, ok.   Things were ordered by me in my fledging Italian.  Pasta carbonara for me.  Pesto pasta for Rayman followed by insalada mista and 1/2 liter of vino Rosso.   Mine was rich and I asked for a container to take it away.   That’s when English was required because our water said our fish was coming.   OUR FISH, we exclaimed in unison as I recall.   “We didn’t order fish.”.  The waiter ran from our private room to presumably to cancel the fish.  We don’t know know what happened. Saved by the doggie bag, I would say.   

While eating our gelato dessert excitement erupted.  Our room opened into another room where a young French family was dining.  All of a sudden their daughter, about age 10, disappeared.   The young son sat in a face plant with his phone while the parents frantically searched the restaurant before going outside to continue the search. It seemed like forever and then through the door came the girl.   Her brother told her she was in big trouble and she left the restaurant again before Rayman ran out to tell her to stay.  About that time the parents re-emerged.  The father was madder than a wet hen, the mother relieved and the brother was face planted in his device.    The chewing out was in French so we didn’t understand much of it.  The body language was unmistakable.  We were extremely happy all ended well.

Then we waited and waited for the bill.   We had a hard time getting seated and we had a hard time retreating.  Manana isn’t only in Mexico.  Once the bill was settled, we lumbered back to our apartment, put the groceries away and then I realized I did not have my purse.  With all that excitement, I forgot it.  Rayman raced back to the ristorante and called me to report that it was exactly where I had left it.  A few minutes later, he called back to report that he could not find our apartment. Well, what to do?  I opened up the window and shouted his name.  He could hear me but couldn’t find me.  So I kept shouting out “RAY” ( many times) and then started flailing my arms while leaning out the window.  He kept asking me to yell again. I did. Pretty soon, a woman across the way stuck her head out of her window and I am pretty she told me to keep quiet in Italian. Just about that time the Rayman found our street (think alley) and we were reunited.   Just as an aside, there are no porch lights, everything is made of stone and the streets are very narrow  so voices are like soccer balls..they boomerang making it  hard to pinpoint.  That’s our story and we are sticking to it.

Typical residential neighborhood.

Typical residential neighborhood.

Fast forward to this a.m. I awoke to an email inquiring about our whereabouts from a hotel in Venice that I don’t remember, that didn’t sound familiar.  Why hadn’t we shown up last night?   OMG. What had I done?   Short answer is …I don’t know.  The place doesn’t ring any bells so I emailed them back explaining that I do not remember such a reservation.  I search all my old emails. Nothing.  Rayman called and a conversation ensued which resulted in them informing us that we we no shows and would be charged.   For one night.  Now, I debated if I should disclose this to my readers because it surely evidence that 1.  I must be missing a step these days. 2.  I was hacked. 3.  My organizing and planning skills have been a mirage and it is just catching up with me, finally. 4.  All of the above.  Pick one.  Bottom line, we were out one nights charge for the room and glad it wasn’t more.   And we decided not to let it ruin our time.

After much walking, gawking, photographing, and getting lost on foot…we stopped for that previously mentioned spritz and did some reflection which included the following:  1.  We are human.  Humans make mistakes.  We are not unique.  There.  2.  Traveling like this may not happen again because it is getting harder, not easier.   3.  Venice reminds Rayman of Disneyland.  4.  I don’t entirely disagree. 5.  There are too many people creating scrums worldwide.  6.  Far from the maddening crowds is a book title that we relate to now and we are looking forward to the countryside.  7.  Seeing things ( buildings come to mind) from the outside are often times more interesting than from the inside. 8.  There are too many churches.  9.  Jet lag hurts.  We are just getting back to normal.  

God this is frightening.  I sound a lot like my Uncle Ralph.  He came back from his trip to China and mused that there were too many Chinese.  He traveled all over the world and holed up reading his books ( I’m blogging).   Having visited Paris a half dozen times, he told me he had not visited Napoleon’s tomb.  

Just sayin.

We ate leftover dinner and lunch tonight.  Rayman bought a bottle of vino rosso and it was bubbly.  After dinner we went out again to see Venice after dark. 

You have to hand it to the window designers.

You have to hand it to the window designers.

It was great except we got lost and it took us 40 minutes to walk To St. Mark square.  On the walk which was starting to feel like a march, we stopped for gelato.  I ordered fig and walnut and it was outrageously good.  Rayman did chocolate.  We were so tired by the time we reached our destination, we searched around for a water taxi. 

Basilica from the water taxi.

Basilica from the water taxi.

For 7euros a head, the boat dropped us off a few hundred feet from our joint.   We managed to find the place, unlock 3 different doors with 3 separate keys and gain access.  It was 11:00…and that was our adventure.  

Lord only knows what will happen tomorrow.