Thursday, December 6, 2012

So I was in Italy, part three

Fixit notes on last couple entries: It's 'Castel Maggiore', with a 't', and the cat's name is spelt Emilia, not Amelia. Also, the last few entries are being updated with pictures where appropriate. I'll apply cuts in places so as to avoid loading issues.

Anywhoodles. I need to hurry it up so I can get to posting Bunraku fics, so let's see if I can get the rest of this in one go, and how obnoxiously long this entry gets as a result.

Obnoxiously long entry and a few pictures after the cut.

After lunch on Sunday I crashed again at the hotel for a bit and then joined Mom and Alex at the villa while we waited for the laundry to finish in the aforementioned terrible washer and broken dryer. And that sentence is bad and I should feel bad.

We set back for the hotel around 7, intending to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant, but it was closed, because it was Sunday. Despite the general attitude about Sundays, the restaurant being closed for dinner was unusual, and also rather annoying. So instead we fell back on the pizza leftovers, which the hotel staff was nice enough to warm up for us.

Alex covered the hotel bill, whereupon we discovered that the lovely continental breakfasts were not actually free, as had been believed, but were six euros a head per meal, and in a week this had amounted to quite the tidy little sum. (A note about prices: At the current exchange rate, the euro is worth about 25-30% more than the US dollar.) This was less than ideal, and although we were paid through for Monday morning as well, there would be no further continental breakfasting when we returned on the next Monday.

Packing commenced for Pontremoli. That's boring and nobody wants to hear about that. Also, I started writing my first Italy post.

I was not present the next morning when the rental car was picked up, but reportedly it was quite exciting: the rented car was a stick shift, which Alex hadn't driven in some years -- Mom had, but refuses to drive in the city due to unfamiliarity with Italian driving laws and etiquette. Oh, and they were also nearly hit by an eighteen-wheeler while taking an unprotected left.

We packed up the car, and I listened to my headphones for most of the three-odd hour trip. We stopped at a few rest stops for bathroom breaks and to let Alex smoke and caffeinate, and to pick up some music for the adults to listen to. Mom expressed some impatience when Alex took his time smoking, which I didn't understand until we reached Pontremoli.

Rather than stay at a hotel here, Mom had rented an apartment, and the guy we rented it from had a train to catch as soon as he'd gotten us shown around.

The apartment was at the top of the stairs, three flights up, and was a lovely two-story setup with an open kitchen, dining, and living room area downstairs connecting to a master bedroom, while upstairs was an open loft bedroom with a more extensive bathroom. I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures of the loft room (where I ended up sleeping), because it was a fairly nice, spacious setup, with a 'rustic' feel given by gnarly wooden 'beams' across the lower edges of the ceiling. Unfortunately the beams were also a bit on the low side and I smacked my head into them more than once. The door to the bathroom was similarly short and I quickly learned to duck a bit more than necessary while going in and out of it. A couple of sun windows in the ceiling let in light as well as giving a view of the castle sitting up on the hill, which was pretty cool.

Alex overheats easily, but unlike other people I know who solve that by wearing a bare minimum of clothing whenever possible, he likes to sleep in two-piece jammies and frequently wore long underwear (so he wouldn't get cold when we went outside). As such, he prefers to keep a cold house, which is more than a little uncomfortable for a freezebaby like myself. Worse yet, the heaters in the upstairs barely functioned, I suspect the presence of the sun windows indicated rather a lack of insulation up there, and unfortunately there was no way to close off the loft from the downstairs and try to regulate temperature that way.

Fortunately, it was warm enough in the bed, and I took to it early that night.

Tuesday we did some driving in the mountains, which involved lots of twisting roads that made me very glad to have gotten ahold of some Dramamine before we left. There were some lovely views, though.

Afterward we hit up the local Internet Cafe, whereupon I posted my first Italy entry, the one that was actually about cats and the Amsterdam terminal.

Much of the driving around of the next few days blends together. There's some very pretty country in that area and some lovely buildings, but when we weren't in a town it all seemed sort of the same, so I might get a few things out of order. Not that anyone but Mom would recognize the difference. (Hi Mom!)

One small town in the mountains, we stopped to look around and asked a local woman about any local caf├ęs where we could stop for lunch (there weren't any, as it turned out; tourist trade was pretty minimal in these areas). While Alex and Mom talked to her, I found myself distracted by some of the outdoor ornamentation. These little nooks were all over the place:

Along with stumps that had been hollowed out in places and spilled over with planters.

I think this may have been the same town where we were held up for a few minutes by a pony.

It even licked the car.

Eventually the guy in the background there, an old and very slow man with a cane, threw his cane onto the cobbles near the pony. The clatter startled it and sent it off down a side-street, thus clearing the road.

I believe this picture was when we were back in Pontremoli, and is a pretty typical example of the architecture on the side-streets both there and in many of the other little mountain towns:

It's a~all downhill from here.
Pontremoli was also marketed to me as being the 'City of Used Books', due to frequent little bookselling festivals and to the tendency for shopkeepers to leave racks of books outside during nice weather, with the understanding being that one can both take from and add to the shelves as they please. There weren't many out while we were there, it getting along toward winter and being generally wet and rainy out, although we did happen upon one under a covered walkway later in the week.

To go with the books, Pontremoli has a lot of benches, many of which have been decorated in various fanciful ways. While coming down from the castle on the hill, we encountered this bench with a little board game, complete with a spinner on the back there, and we ended up stopping to play it for several minutes.

There's even a spinner there on the back.
Wednesday involved more driving, and an amusing rest-stop at what turned out to be a Hot Chocolate specialty establishment with an extensive selection of flavors, including Cannabis. I was tempted to try it, but ended up opting for Orange Cinnamon instead -- amusing as it was, I didn't think I'd find the Cannabis as tasty.

Hot Chocolate in Italy is served very thick, almost but not quite the consistency of pudding in some cases. Although this stuff wasn't quite that thick, I did on a few other occasions default to eating it with a spoon.

We headed back to Pontremoli a little late, which was a problem because Alex has very poor night-vision and driving in the dark was less than ideal.

Thursday I awoke obscenely early, though I'd been doing a lot of that during this trip. We hit the internet point early, wherein I downloaded some reviews to watch later, and then headed out to a nice seaside town.

With elevators.

And a Megachurch.

Those are shops along the bottom there. I really have no idea what this structure is supposed to be -- I'd have assumed it was a stadium if it wasn't for the massive cross on the front there. It struck me almost like something from Futurama.

Downtown, we found this:

We have no idea what it says.
That's a fairly lowscale apartment building, by the way. Italian architecture is weird sometimes.

And finally, to close out Thursday, some cool lighting effects.

Even my shitty camera skills managed to catch it.
This is running longer than I like, so I'll wrap up next time around, methinks.

Next time: Lucca, comic conventions are the same everywhere, some last thoughts on Pontremoli, back to Bologna, and a few kittens for good measure. Bunraku will have to wait.

Images will be edited into the old Italy posts.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah - I was tempted to kick Alex upstairs to the loft for the cool so you and I could be warm. Ah well.


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