Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Birds and the Bees

34006 feet over the Atlantic – It’s time to put in to words what took place yesterday, and finish up some of today.

We drove down to Rome to see the Colosseum and such. We got in to Rome before noon, but we ran in to traffic. We ended up parking at a subway station – one of the ends of B line, which means we we had a thirty minute or so train ride, including a swap to A line. It was interesting to see the difference on the two lines – the B line trains were new, clean (on the outside) and had TVs showing 5 minute commercial loops. The A line trains each had more graffiti on them than you can find in most US cities. We got to the Colosseum around 1PM. Luckily for us, by taking an English language tour for 4 Euro extra per person, we were able to bypass the line and get in quickly – We had to be out of Rome by 5PM. The most important parts of the Colosseum were the pidgeons having sex, and the cat who lived down near the bottom.

After the tour and taking a bunch of pictures, we had lunch at an Einstein “themed” trattoria, then we piddled around the Forum for half an hour.

We took a few group pics, and then took the subway back to Anagnina an the car, so we could make it back to the villa by 7PM to meet with Miss Teodora and check out, since we had to leave at 6AM the next morning. The checkout went smoothly, and we spent less on heat than we had budgeted. Then we changed clothes to go out to dinner to a town on Lake Trasimeno, one of the biggest lakes in Italy, and conveniently close to Perguia, to try some Italian sea/lake food. Well, the place we THOUGHT we had made a reservation for the night before was closed – very mysterious, but we found another restaurant on the lakefront. It was a very nice dinner – the food was different than we had been eating, and we had white wine with the meal, along with shrimp. We spent several hours eating and talking about the Constipootional Convention, finally leaving at about 11:15 to go home and pack, and sleep and such.

I woke up at 5AM to shower. We were out of the place by about 6:10AM, and Fred and I were dropped off at the Terminal by 8:30AM. Joan and Chris, who’s flight was several hours later than ours, then went on to drop off the car – and ended up being at the airport too early to check in.

Terminal 5 at FCO is just a security shell for flights to the US. In the outer area there are catwalks manned by policemen with submachine guns – not exactly what I am used to. After you check in, you are taken by bus to a proper terminal. The flight left about on time, so we should be OK for our connecting flight at Dulles. I can’t wait to get home, even though the vacation was fantastic.


posted by neil at 2:15 pm
under Italy,travel,Umbria 2009  

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Italy mini debried

Italy was great! There will be much more later in text and pics. Layover at Dulles for another hour or so.

posted by neil at 1:45 pm
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

New Slang

In the Car between Perugia and Rome –

Poo Braille!
Take the fifth!

posted by neil at 7:15 am
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Prima Donna

So, yesterday we went to Montefalco, a tiny hill town known for its vineyards. We pulled in to the town’s parking lot blasting the Numa Numa song, in order to obey local customs. We then wandered in to the 100mx100m or so walled city. We found the town square and a wine and oil shop. Joan’s French jacked us in to the proprietor and we got a tasting of local wines at the attached bar. It was some genuinely good stuff and we all ended up buying some wine, on the assurance that the town post office would help us ship it.

Oops, the post office was closed!

We ate a lunch of paninis that we bought at the small grocer on the square, and rested of the wine before heading back down to Spoleto. We reckoned the post office im Spoleto would be opened and would help us get our goods shipped – but nope. One was closed and the other had no boxes. We looked up Mailboxes Etc via the power of Chris’ Blackberry and found there was one in Perugia, figuring we would go later.

But I get ahead of myself. On the way out of town we stopped at a place advertising THIS YEAR’S OLIVE OIL. The proprietor was glad to practice his English with us, as he was currently transitioning form the oil business to an oil and wine business, and was building a tasting room near the current building. The oil itself was very good, and we had a good time talking to him about the area, and his plans for the tasting room. We all bought some oil, Chris and Joan investing in a 5 liter can!

In Spoleto, our main activity was to visit the town fortress/prison – Rocca Albornoziana – a genuin castle. This afforded as a good view of the Ponte delle Torri aqueduct, and a lot of other COOL STUFF – an echoey well, pot cubbies, daily life frescoes, just good stuff. They were also closing the castle down as we were walking through, dropping the portcullis as soon as we left the courtyard!

On the way to the car we saw a town dog who was friendly and funny. We also ran in to a very friendly cat, whos owner called her, justly, a Prima Donna.

We then headed back north, intent on Iper Coop for some port and smores materials. We noticed more and more fires as we were driving, more fires than any of the other days. We decided that Thursday must be “burn your Garbage” day in Umbria. According to Chris, the air quality level rivaled India on a good day. It bugged us all, giving Fred a headache.

At Iper we found reasonable facsimiles of marshmallows and graham crackers, as well as some Valrhona chocolate. The marshmallows were in the kid’s candy section, and we got some dolce-salato crackers, but more on that later. We also got some port and some passitos, as well as some jarred truffles to bring home. In the checkout lane we were behind some woman who had 1/3 too much stuff, and had to put her excess in to our empty basket before paying with her Italian equivalent of EBT. It was pretty weird. But we made it out of the store with our goods.

We then drove off to find the Mailboxes Etc. They were just closing the gate as we pulled up, but Joan (WOOT!) asked them if they could help us, to which they cheerfully agreed. Fred and I got our stuff shipped to the US (via a slow boat evidently, but that’s OK), but they were not able to ship wine to Canada. They did sell Chris and Joan packing material so they could bring their goods on the plane, so it was good all around, save for Fred’s headache, which was only getting worse.

Instead of going out we decided to eat in, so Fred could rest. Also, we had to finish the rest of the half of pig we bought from the pigmonger the other day. We did make a reservation for Friday, however. We had a good dinner, and then dessert. Gelato and port, followed up by the passitos (dessert wine made from raisins) with ersatz smores. The Valrhona chocolate was a bit much, but the SALTY (duh) dolce-salato crackers were quite nice for smores, and the weird marshmallows were close enough to the real thing. The Nestle biting chocolate worked a little better.

We stayed up until 2AM, burning the rest of the wood, the right wing newspaper we had bought, and drinking the rest of the passitos. Chris unbent the iron andiron, making it look almost as good as new. If we would have made the potato bot, that would have been the time to assign him to cook himself, but alas, we did not.



posted by neil at 9:45 am
under Italy,travel,Umbria 2009  

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Parlez Vous?

Montefalco, Frederico II – Tasting Wine, Joan’s French FTW!

posted by neil at 12:55 pm
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

That poor dog!

In the Villa – We got to Florence at 11AM yesterday. We parked and then walked over to the plaza near the Uffizi. We took some pictures before heading in to the Museum. We spent about 2 hours before we were arted out. I mean, it’s full of some really good art, but, especially the first series or rooms, are very skewed to early religious art… so you can get burned out on that.

Afterwards, we walked towards the Duomo, making a stop for lunch at a pizzeria. There was an unfortunately confused fellow American sitting near us, who I think really wanted to ask us for help but couldn’t quite screw up the courage. Oh well. After lunch we got gelato. Oh man, delicious! The tiramisu that Fred got might have been the winner, but they were all quite good.

The Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) is a magnificently grand cathedral. The main hall is humongous and open, and pretty much like nothing I’d seen before. It was crazy to think of the generations it took to build it, and that it had been standing for over half a millennium. After we looked around the inside of the church, we headed back outside to go up to the top of the dome.

The climb up is quite interesting, with a series of spiral stair cases and switchback staircases. There is an interlude where you walk along a balcony just below the dome itself, and get to see the fresco up close.

And then you climb up a staircase leading over the the inner dome itself, and ascend through a hatch on to the roof of the dome, and are treated to 360 degrees of views around Florence.

After we descended to ground level, we went to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which is filled with original artwork from the Duomo itself, which is either being restored, or under preservation. Included in their treasure are the actual panels of the doors of the Baptistry, in nitrogren class cases, and the Pieta del Duomo, one of Michaelangelo’s last works. The cashier at the museum was a particularly fantastic gentleman, so great in fact that he was immortalized with his own statue:

We then did some minor shopping. We crossed over the Ponte Vecchio, the only medieval bridge left spanning the Arno River in Florence (thanks Hitler). In our wandering, Joan and Chris found the honey grappa they’d been searching for.

After a while we took a break in the plaza in front of Santa Croce, where we discussed dinner. We weren’t quite hungry yet, but we knew our best bet for food was in Florence, plus it was our one chance for Tuscan food! We found a small restaurant not too far away from where our car was parked, with a handwritten menu out front. The food at this mom and pop place was delicious and inexpensive. We eschewed wine and went through 3 liters of aqua con gas, much to the consternation of the proprietor, but it was what we needed.

On the way back to our car we found the spoor of the poor dog JFK, a dog who can poo at either of two settings, and was stuck on both. He looks something like the Agip logo, with the proper number of legs, and the fire moved down and to the left:

We left the city around 9:20PM, arrived home at 11:30 and promptly were done for the day.



posted by neil at 8:15 am
under Italy,travel,Umbria 2009  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Truck

In the car between the Villa and Firenze – DRIVE BEER.

posted by neil at 9:15 am
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Toast and Chocolate and Cats Oh My!

Villa – So today the french toast was a failure, but that’s OK. We still were able to eat breakfast. We left a bit before 10:00AM to go to nearby San Sisto for the Perugina Chocolate Factory tour. This tour was rather great. The guide was happy that I’m from SF, and she was also super straightforward about their nefarious marketing practices – In the 1980s teenagers weren’t eating chocolate, so they finely tuned a commercial to have them start buying Baci. The tour of the assembly lines was neat, and smelled nice. We saw them making Baci and the Easter egg – some of which were being filled with Disney’s Cars – but don’t worry, there were also Disney Princesses for the girls! The workers were all smiling, because really, do you HAVE to work in a chocolate factor, or do you GET to?

The museum had some great art, and the store was nice too, we all bought a bunch of chocolate loot. We were also given a bar of chocolate as a parting gift on the way out.

Then it was off to Gubbio. We got there around 1PM, and we quickly found ourself a nice Umbrian comfort food restaurant for lunch, and then wandered the wrong way a while before zeroing in on the main sites of the town. It’s really a very pretty city (wow, they all seem to be, don’t they?). After we saw some buildings and churches and a cat and a cask, we got coffee. In the plaza near the coffee shop there were some young kids dressed up as a king and a jester playing, very amusing. Afterwards, Joan bought a coat, satisfying a quest she had been on for a while, and making the proprietress’ day. I got some stamps so I could send out some postcards which I had bought at Perugina.

We stopped off at Pam for some more provisions on the way home and are now relaxing a bit before dinner.



posted by neil at 7:30 pm
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Amusing Interlude


posted by neil at 9:50 am
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Monday, February 23, 2009


Villa – Today’s plans did not go quite as planned – misses Assisi’s exit on the highway, so we kept driving until we reached Citta di Castello (we had planned to go to Assisi first, then perhaps Gubbio, then perhaps Citta di Castello). The Citta is a weird place, there is no actual castle there! We saw some towers,

had a nice Trattoria lunch (which made the trip to the city worth it) and then saw some more medieval sites.

After that we drove down to Assisi, since seeing the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi was one of my highlights. The church was very nice, and I saw some monks in the tomb chapel.

After the Basilica we saw some cats eating pasta

and had some TOO SWEET pastry and coffee. It was a nice time in a nice, scenic city.

One the way back we stopped at IperCoop for some groceries after trying to find an FM modulator at Mediaworld and failing and just getting some CDRW so we would have music on our drives (hence the iPhone hacking). IperCoop was sort of like a Meijer, with both food and non food items. The food choices were amazing, multiple refrigerator cases full of fresh pasta and the deli section was incredibly impressive. Unfortunately the bottles of olive oil were too big to pack and bring back. The prices, however, were great.

Back at home we cooked up dinner. Orecchiette in tomato sauce, steak and procuitto wrapped pork cutlets grilled over the fire, and some mediocre wine. We had gelatto for dessert.

Citta di Castello

posted by neil at 10:45 pm
under Italy,travel,Umbria 2009  
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