May 12, 2007

Planes, trains and autmobiles

People often think from watching movies that train travel is romantic. I've heard a number of people say they'd like to take the Orient Express. I've ridden trains late at night through empty frozen stations. I hear stories of people being robbed in their sleep on trains.

Yeah, not so romantic anymore. We'll see. Tonight it's 11 hours on a train. If I have all my stuff when I arrive, I'll be a very happy camper. Even better if I actually get some sleep.


In other news, I went shopping in a Barcelona grocery store today and discoverd you can buy whole ham legs. *drool* I purchased a few boxes of Paella seasoning. Hopefully, I can learn to make paella when I get home. Anyone know who makes a good paella pan?

Milan & Barcelona

Munkey's Photos Click Here

May 10, 2007

What was I talking about?

As I sit on the ocean's edge, I can't help but be romanced by the cool evening air ad the surrounding warmth of conversations. The light chatter of glassware and the light clink of silver; the sapprano notes to theopening corks and laughter's bass tones. The night air is mostly still. The small trees surrounding the terrace have only the slightest of flicker. The staff repositioning lights to create marmer abmbiance of the diners.

A slight breeze caresses my cheek and fingers my hair. I imagine the soft touch of skin, the warm pulse within. The swirl of rich flavors cross my palette like a lovers kiss. Gentle, exhuisite, intense all in the same moment.

Rapture. Implies the enclosure and total surrender to another. Can a simple meal provide that? probably not, but it gives a nice illusion to consider it. My intellect tells me no, but perhaps if you give it the right properties.

I'm too far from the sea to hear the waves, but the hint of salt on the air s refreshing after days of busses, taxi's, scooters and cars.

Monopoly money

There is a temptation when using currency that you are not familiar with to treat it as a play money. You begin not translating actual costs and not considering an items true value. A tiny can of soda that costs 1.35 Euros becomes cheap. In reality, that soda cost almost $2.I'm not nipicking the cost of a soda, but move onto more expensive things and multiply them at dinner and pretty soon, you have real issues. We won't even get into the 4 euro Gatorade I was robbed for in Milan last week.

Walk into a curio shop or clothing storeand feel like you never get the item at home or caught up in 'travel shopping' mode and your visa bill might get into a heavyweight bout with the bill from the Christmas season. But these new shoes will look so fab. lol

May 08, 2007

It's over there

I just realized that I am graced with a sometimes phenomenal sense of direction. Yesterday, it went both ways for me. I got on a bus going the absolute wrong direction and was totally lost for 5-10 minutes when I got off it. Then I went into the gothic/castle distric and walked through the winding, narrow streets with great confidence I knew where I was. So Strange.

Barcelona is a stunnig city all at once modern and full of great design, but also featuring buildings that are hundreds of years old. For example, one building I sat in the shade of and had a cool drink wasbuilt in 1829. This would seem to be a relatively new building here. The juxtoposition doesn't seem at all out of place, but rather like a ntural progression of thought thru time.

The people here aren't as 'high fashion' oriented as Milan, but are well/neatly dressed. Clothing overall, isnt as expensive here either. For today's fashion note, man-bags are back in a big way. Here and in Italy, I saw a profound number of different styles of man bag. Like slimmed down and squared off notebook bags in a variety of fabrics. From leather to mostly canvas and nylon. The looks are current. Rugged without being mountain climberesque. Utilitarian is probably a better way to put it. How many men are carrying these bags on their shoulders? Probably 40-60% of the men I see have them. It's hard to tell true numbers since most tourists don't have them and both cities I've visited thus far are crawling with tourists.

Last note - Jamon ham. The spanish version of prosciutto - Must try to bring home an entire ham. Simply delicious.


I'm getting more comfortable pausing in odd locations to take photos. Taking more time in a scene to get the better shot than to just bang one out hoping for the bst. It's almost like Art Direction! I hope the images from this trip will bear out in the end when I go back to review tem later. I'm trying very hard to be more aware of smaller details rather than seeing and shooting the obtuse, focusing a little more on the acute. Sometimes this means backing off from a potential photo and tracking sideways to get a more dynamic angle. I continue to be frustrated with the long shot my camera takes, but there is nothing I can do about it. The pix seem very grainy and washed out when trying to use the landscape feature. Very annoying.


It's official, I've become a Tapas whore! I've barely begun to explore Barcelona, but I love it here. So many people walking the streets, the vibe is pure ENERGY! Much less conservastive than Amsterdam (which is known for its open mindedness.) Alternative would be a great descriptor word for Barcelona. I see tons of Goth and ALT/tattooed people everywhere I go. Now, if I could just find the hangout spots... By US standards, most places here are very small. The place where I had dinner tonight seems nearly palatial with about 20 tables. I went by a place earlier that had four. I really wanted to stop and eat there, but it was much too early in the day/evening.

May 07, 2007


I’m having a hard time today not being an ugly American. Nothing seems to be going right. I did ok getting a little sandwich for breakfast (despite the odd look of the barista) along with my coffee. Then I managed to buy magazines to look at a newsstand. Returning to my hotel, I was told that I had to leave for the airport at least 3 hours before my flight to ensure a timely arrival for check-in. OK – I had the desk call me a taxi and it arrived more than 30 minutes late. Then the driver wasn’t into getting me to the airport in a hurry. An ensuing argument about the fare (45 Euros more than it cost to get to the hotel) didn’t do much to improve my manners. I’m not complaining. I’m trying to convey that the impressions we give off when traveling are very easy to misconstrue. We find that our tempers rise and our lips and tongues move before we have adequately thought the situation and a proper response thru.

I say we, because I’ve seen the behavior over and over on my travels. I work really hard not to be an ugly American. Sometimes to the point of biting my tongue when perhaps I shouldn’t. But, we are really ambassadors to the world at large when we travel. Gotta represent. (Not even sure I’m allowed to use that phrase, but in this case, it’s fitting.


And we are off to the races in Barcelona, Spain.

May 06, 2007

What? No reins, i'm outta here...

Last night after dinner, I went to a bar with some new found friends upon their invitation. The place was called Living – Their card reads Liquers & Delights. A beautiful bar, it reminds me of the bars in Rio where everyone stands outside and talks over their drinks. I got a small discourse on the artist/designer that designed the Arc de Triumph like gate in Milan. It honestly reminds me more of the Brandenburg (sp?) gate in Berlin. Apparently, the artist committed suicide over the fact that he forgot to put reins on the horses. I’m not sure if my leg was being pulled or not. I’ll have to research this one when I get home.
The generosity and overall friendliness of people here astounds me. Tonight, they are out of beef, which I ordered, they offered veal instead. Milanese style (breaded and fried) which I had two days ago. It’s good, but he noted my reluctance to order it and offered to prepare it a different way just to please me.
I never expected to order ‘off menu’ while in Italy. This is something I do often at home to get the meal I desire. Yes. I am high maintenance, but at least I’m aware of it. Actually, that reminds me that I’m craving chilidogs and onion rings from my favorite dive bar – the Vienna Inn. Soooo not high maintenance.

A quick note on tie tying Italian style: The current trend is a large, loose, 4-in-hand knot that is about 2 buttons above ones waistband. In other words, SHORT.

Thinking back on my personal frustration with both my handwriting and my own difficulty reading my own handwriting the last couple of days, I’m wondering if there is a remedial handwriting class I can take. I think in a big way, it’s about slowing down, it’s not that my hand doesn’t have the skill to make beautiful letters, but rather that I’m too hurried trying to get my thoughts out before they disappear.


OMG!! The waiter just delivered a plate of dark almond brittle and chocolate chip cookies – after I already had a crema tort with fresh fruit puree (with real whipped cream). I definitely need some clean shorts; I’ll let you figure out why. Haha


I’ve never seen a chef smile so much. Whether he’s out sorting silverware, and even bussing tables the chef is a happy guy. He obviously loves what he does and puts a great deal of pride into being one of the best local trattoria’s in the area.

May 05, 2007

'scuse me, but are those undies?

Saturday – Many shops are closed today. I walked for about 30 minutes to find a pizzeria for lunch and only just managed to catch that out of the corner of my eye. One thing that strikes me today is that people dress here regardless of day. Maybe it’s not a suit and tie, but over half the men I’ve seen are wearing collared shirts and T’s with printing on them are a rare find. I guess here, that is pretty much like wearing underwear as outerwear.


I wonder if the uber wealthy feel lonely. Recently, I’ve been called a jet-setter. Perhaps I am, but not in my mind. I’m not out hitting the best clubs and getting VIP treatment. I don’t dress like I just walked off a runway (nor could I pull that off). I’m just a guy traveling and trying to see and experience how other people live.


Assumptions – So easy to make, so difficult to retract and move beyond. How many times in your life have you assumed something only to find out you either blew it way out of proportion or were off in a completely different direction than you thought. Often, we fret over little things we imagine, how much larger is our thought controverted by the degree of our assumption often resulting in a bigger fall and thus, more personal embarrassment later.

Drip drop

Despite heavy rains that sometimes have pools of water up to the middle of the wheel of the cars in the streets, I’m out and about. Foot traffic is noticeably light, but in Milan, the fashionista’s still appear. I’m watching a beggar that has on a three-piece suit inside the Galleria. Apparently, in Milan even the homeless are affected by fashion or the drive to be as presentable as possible. Pride perhaps?

My eye transitions to watch a small group of teenagers play the pickpocket game. They aren’t very good at it, so I doubt it’s something they practice often.


I’ve been pondering umbrellas due to the rain. Function and cheap or expensive and durable? I’ve seen both today. Having forgotten my handsome, but rather inexpensive wood handled Budapest umbrella at home, I was forced to visit a .50 Euro store where I purchased a tiny fold up model that ‘may’ make it thru today if I don’t open it too many times. It makes a strange grinding noise as it closes so I am sure even though new it is on its last legs. Hey, what can you ask of an umbrella that costs 2 Euros? That’s like $2.80.

I seriously want to mug some people for their eyeglasses. They have the most interesting glasses I’ve seen in a good while. They make statements with their eyewear rather than show off dull conservative as so many people in the states do. I always wonder why people will wear interesting sunglasses, but when they are indoors, they insist on basic and boring. *sigh* Design + Function

My girlfriends throughout my life have oft complained that I have no ass. They should be grateful they do not live in Italy – not that I’m looking at guys asses, but as you look at clothing design you see people’s shapes. The lack of physical curvature is enormous here. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more than a few men wearing women’s jeans too.

iPods are as ubiquitous here as they are on NYC subways. This is a change from a year ago. Does this denote a change of acceptance of the iPod as a fashion accessory or merely the tuning out of Italian society? Many writers of late have decried the iPod as a way for people to put up walls in public places and cease to interact with those around them. Personally, I find the iPod much less of a social problem than the cell phone. Cell phones disturb and interrupt me in all sorts of ways in my daily life.

The patina of dirt on one vagrant’s jacket is something I wish duplicate without the potential smell associated with it. Unlike the 3-piece suit vagrant, this one makes his rounds peering into each garbage can looking for useful refuse.


Teatro Alla Scala – world renowned, it lives up to it’s reputation. I don’t think the other 4 people in my box would agree. They left after the first intermission and never returned. Not only did I get to move to a better seat, I had the entire box to myself for the remaining 1 hour and 45 minutes of the show. I’m nattily dressed. I think even better than I dress for the office. A striped rust, purple and olive tie on an olive ground shirt with a 3-button black suit. (As I’ll leave, I’ll see most of the men and pleatless pants and no cuffs on their trousers. Talk about not looking quite right.) My shoes however I purchased at the Moreschi store earlier in the day, so I know the calf skin, pebble grain leather is sewn into a current style.

During the opera, I tried to follow the translations on the mini screen at the front of my box, but I found that they actually hindered my enjoyment of the emotive music and incredible voices from the stage. The fact that they can sing in the ranges they do with the power they convey is simply mind boggling. I have no doubt that several of these performers could shatter glass or crystal with nothing but their voice. The stage never has more than 5 elements on it at one time. Very simply done, yet powerful ikn a way that is difficult to describe. The colors are all black, white, cream, grey and red. Striking contrasts are used to juxtaposition elements and people on the stage.


Are taxi drivers incredibly lonely people or generally anti-social? Driving unknown people around all day without speaking to them or listening to their conversations all day without offering input is beyond me.

Will it stick?

Once again, my notebook my constant companion. After missing breakfast on the plane due to being ill, I haven’t eaten in almost a day. I’m nearly dizzy as a result. I’m worried about eating, but it doesn’t appear that I have food poisoning. Perhaps just some tainted food that didn’t pass the system test. Whatever it was, a few hours sleep and a long walk seem to have gotten me past it.

Delightful dinner of cured meats and lobster linguine. Absolutely delicious. I feel like a retard for not knowing basic Italian. Typical ugly American – this is my 5th visit to Italy. You’d think I’d have learned the basics by now. Once again, today I was asked for directions. This always astounds me, but it happens on every trip I take. Somehow, this reassures me that I have a world look. Why this is important, I haven’t the slightest idea.

My headache is very much still in effect, but right now, my dilemma is Tiramisu or Soufflé al cioccolato con crema mascarpone. The waitress doesn’t speak much english, but we’ve done fine pointing and gesturing. hehe. I think I ordered the soufflé. Its 10 pm at night and people are just sitting down to dinner. I thought I had adjusted my schedule, but apparently I need to go ever later to dinner. At least I didn’t go at 6-7 pm as is so prevalent of US tourists.

This is a local café and I hate that I don’t know the local customs. Oh, apparently, I ordered the Tiramisu. This is one of the top three I’ve ever had. It’s time to call it a day. I’m so very tired.

May 03, 2007

There is a god

How do I know this? He/she/it miracled whomever was in the bathroom out of it at the exact moment that I needed to spew. Well, that's not entirely true. I managed that in my seat, but managed to keep it in (yeah, whole new level of gross here.) Last night was by far the worst flight I've ever experienced. Not just because I became that 'guy on the plane that hurled', but because of the cold sweats, leg shakes, cramps, bile mouth, headache. Yeah, one crappy flight. We won't even get into turbulence.

So where is he now? Inquiring minds wanna know. Well, at this very second, I've just checked into my world class, tiniest hotel room ever in Milan, Italy. WooHoo. I'm just gonna take a quick nap and then we'll get right into the action. Well, the taxi ride from the airport might count as action. 160 kph and a cost of 70 Euro - or well over $100 - Actually, at the exchange rate I got at the airport, it's $140. But who's counting. I had to get to the hotel and after the experience above, expedience is a plus.