I forgot how much I liked this author!!! I bought a couple of his books when I was over in the UK like a million years ago and I haven’t read anything since. And when I was just browsing the travel section at the library, I saw this one and just took it. It is about an Aussie who buys a vespa in Italy and drives it around all summer. He goes to small towns and has issues with the bike along the way and it’s really entertaining. It’s an area I have been to many times, but I wish I could remember the small details of the small towns we have driven through. Nothing super special, but just a really enjoyable read.
I am loving my inter-splicing of non-fic books lately, but this book really pissed me off. Generally, it was about a Dude in Italy that takes people on tours around the Chianti region. It was interluded with chapters about the Dudes up bringing and how he came to love the region, which I actually liked a lot. The chapters about the people he took on tours, while kind of entertaining, got really really annoying after a while! Yes, I know Americans are idiots, but the kind of tours this guy caters too, there is no way around it! He offers personalized tours of the region, which of course cost a pretty penny. Think about the people that can afford these types of tours! Of course most of them are going to be morons! When you have to fend for yourself in a foreign country, you are more adapt to blend in and accept whatever comes your way. But if you have the money, of course you want it to be like what you are used too. I liked the chapters more about the people that would just accept the culture and became friends with the guide. Reading about idiot Americans gets both annoying and boring after a while. A quick, easy read, esp. since I have once again been to the region and can somewhat picture it. But annoying to some degree, seeing to just want to cash in on America’s recent interest in the region. Lame.
I have flown my share of shady airlines. But probably the one I get the most weird looks about is Kuwait Airways. When I spent the semester at UMass, my sister was spending the semester in Florence, Italy and I wanted to take a week off and visit her. You know, since I was already half way there. The summer before the semester began, I planned the whole week, which included a dirt cheap flight from JFK to London. Seriously, the whole thing, with taxes came to $300 in mid October, which was easily $100 less then anything else. And it was on Kuwait Airways. When I told people I was flying them, they were like, do you think it’s going to be okay. I would respond with, when is the last time you heard of this airline having any issues? And everyone would come back with a “true”.
So I checked in and don’t remember having any issues. Nearly everyone checking in was wearing some sort of garb, weather it be middle eastern or indian and the only other white person as far as I could see what an older dude standing behind me in line. He started chatting with me and he said he had taken them over to the US (his accent ID him as British) and said they were fine. No alcholole on board, which is a non-issue for me. I was issued a window seat with no problems. I remember the terminal being super empty. I remember when they called certain row numbers to board, everyone stampeded the gate, which in one of my pet peves. I hate when people can’t follow rules like that. I board last, to avoid the crowd. I have the whole 3 seats in my aisle to myself. Someone sits on the asile seat but before we take off, they move, so I end up with all seats to myself. YES! In looking throughout the cabin, I see the middle seats are jammed and full, bu the edge seats are more empty. So weird, but good for me! For the first time ever, I sleep the entire flight. Helps that it’s a short flight too, you leave at 10pm and you arrive in London at 10am, which is perfect! I am used to leaving mid afternoon and arriving mid day and getting hardly any sleep. I don’t remember the food and I remember the entertainment, while everyone having their own screens, not being the best. I remember one channel on the tv having the option to see which way Mecca was, so you knew which way to pray, which is not normally an option on any flight I have ever been on before. So that was different. No issues on arrival and no issues at immigration or customs because of the flight. All in all, a totally regular, normal flight.
The way back was just as fine. Since there is only one flight a day, there is really no fear you are going to miss it if you get to the airport with enough time. I was in line behind a white family who was returning to the US and flew them for the same reason I did, dirt cheap! When I boarded, I had my whole row to myself again (window for me, of course) but once we took up, some guy sat on the aisle of my row, which I totally did not care about. I would prefer to have the middle empty anyway, as I like to pull that tray down for drinks and stuff as not to have to deal with mine. The center of the plane was again packed. And compared to what I am used to, another quick flight. You leave at 3pm local London time and are back in New York City just in time for dinner!
Moral: For that price, totally worth it. Not the best I have ever taken, but by far not the worst. The service was fine. And you can’t put a price on paying for a coach ticket and getting a whole row to yourself, especially on an overnight flight. We all hope for it, but it never happens. And I got to my destinations in one piece, which is the only thing you can really hope for when boarding a plane. Don’t knock certain airlines just because of their name and home country. I know I always think twice when I have to do this now.
Another book that is getting good buzz and in my opinion, actually meets it! The general overview is a bunch of people, mainly Americans, working at an international newspaper based in Rome. Each chapter is about someone different, so each story is pretty much self contained, which I always like. There was a blurb about how each story could have been it’s own book or stood on it’s own and I totally agree. All the stories were really engaging and while some of the people were annoying or whatever, all the stories were enjoyable. Between each chapter there was like this little interlude about the history of the newspaper that all these people worked for and that was probably my least favorite part of the book as it would skip years to the next “important” part and I would kind of get lost. Thankgod, they were only like 3-4 pages long. But I enjoyed the stories about the people a lot.
I had such medium hopes for this book! An American women is living in Italy and she adopts a dog! LOVE IT! Yeah, it ends up that the dog isn’t in the story all that much. It’s mainly about her relationship with some Italian Dude and his crazy family. They are in a small town in the south of Italy. Craziness ensues. The reason she takes the dog in is because for the most part in that area, dogs are left to fend for themselves and aren’t given the same love they are in America and she is not used to that. So she “saves” Marcus. The book ends with her coming back to America, because she breaks up with the dude and her job is over and she isn’t sure how the dog will react to NYC, so she wants to leave the dog with a family and pay for it’s upkeep, but then something happens at the last minute and she takes the dog with her. This book was more about her personal life then her life with the dog, so that was a bit disappointing. Meh
When my family traveled to Italy for the first time back in 1997, Venice was my favorite city on that trip. It was so different from anything I had ever seen, I had been wanting to go back since. I had been to Europe a few times since as well as Italy again but I hadn’t made it back to Venice. On my first big solo trip around Europe, I knew I wanted to spend longer then the average tourist in Venice, no matter what the cost. I just wanted to experience it!
Since it was the height of summer season when I was going to be there, I booked everything before I left London. I booked through STA because to me at the time, it was just easier that way. Since I was being super selfish on this tour, I booked a hotel in the “suburban” island of Lido because for every 6 days I paid, I got one night free! Originally I was going to do a week in Venice and a week in Lido, but the price of Lido drew me in, plus seeing and staying where the locals live for that long a time was appealing.
I stayed in a lovely place called Hotel Helvetia, which was walking distance from the vaoaretto stop and on the main drag of the island that lead to the beach. I was reading recent reviews of the place and I am glad to see it is still up to par! The hotel itself was fab. Super cute, very quiet, fantastic daily breakfast. Yes, it did get loud on the weekend nights, but it’s Italy and a large town! What do you expect?
During my two weeks there, I didn’t really do all that much. I had done the whole tourist thing with my parents, so I just hung out mostly. I didn’t even go into town every day. A couple of days I just stayed on Lido and hired a bike and road around the island a few times. I went to the beach. I read. A lot. I did make it into town and just wondered around. I went to Mureno and watched glassblowing. I took a tour around the Jewish quarter. I did laundry at a proper laundromat. It was great. At this point now, I am kind of over Venice, but I know if I hadn’t done my two weeks there, I would be itching to go back.
The town has also found itself in a catch-22 situation recently. Old people are dying out but it’s too expensive for the young people to move in, so the whole city seems like an amusement park you can stay in because it’s almost all tourists at this point. Who knows what the place will be like in 20 years. Even though I am kind of over it from a tourist point of view, if it was easier to live there, I so would.
Sorry about my lack of pictures. The first time I went was 1997 and was not even close to getting a digital camera. When I was back in 2003, I kept it klassy with film and scanned these pictures in for a school project, so this is all I’ve got.
Moral: I tell everyone they have to get there soon or the place is going to sink (don’t worry, it won’t in our lifetime). But still, there is no city on Earth like it.