A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

Montmarte and Sacre Coeur

I got to Paris and it was POURING rain. Since all I had in my backpack other than my purse was papers, electronics, and clean socks for the plane, I was excited to see that there was baggage storage, very conveniently located right at the entrance to the trains. They showed no signs of life at 5:59, but opened promptly at 6 and took my bag.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I was off to the city!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">So, normally I go to a new place with no clue if/when I'll be back, so I'm a very aggressive traveler, trying to do and see everything. This time, I know I'll be back in a week and a month, so there was no pressure. I went to Paris and didn't even glimpse the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Seine, or Bastille (although the last is because it doesn't exist anymore).<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">This trip was inspired by Sacre Bleu, a book by one of my favorite authors, Christopher Moore. If you haven't, you should read it. It's hilarious.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">It takes place in Monet's Montmarte and features many of that era's artists.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Fortunately, the RER train from the airport stops at Gare du Nord, which is relatively close to Montmarte. Even better, the rain had changed from a pour to a gentle rain, meaning that it was minutes before my feet got wet, but they were never sopping and swimming.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The crown of Montemarte is Sacre Coeur, a huge church on top of a hill. I saw a sign for the church, so I followed it up some steps, but it turns out those were just the steps to get to the steps to get to the church grounds.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When I finished with the steps to the church grounds, there were still the steps to get to the church building and then the steps into the church. It was all worth it.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">First, the church has a great view of the surrounding city. Everything out there is just so low and flat compared to Sacre Coeur.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Secondly, maybe because it was early early morning and I was the only tourist there, but the church felt like a church and not a tourist attraction. At the same time, it felt very alive. I'm guessing part of that was the beautiful singing from a small prayer service being conducted up front. The acoustics brought that pleasantness all the way to the back.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I wandered around, looking at the various works of art on the ceiling and walls, and just in awe of the glass. It was so funky and didn't have that medieval preachy vibe to it. I think that the stained glass there might be my favorite stained glass of any church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other building that I've ever seen.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When I had finished in the church, I wandered around the streets of Montmarte and could feel the old times. I could fool myself into thinking that this was how it was in the time of the great artists.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The one thing missing was the smell of bread. I wanted to get some bread from a bakery like in the book, but I was struggling to find anything open. It was 8 am and everything was dead, including any bakeries or bars. (The area was mostly bars). I found it hard to believe that people didn't need to go have breakfast at a cafe or go to work or do something. 8am is not that early.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">But, even Starbucks was closed.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, I left the upper part of Montmarte empty-handed. I took the stairs next to the funicular (225 steps) down and found a bakery called Pain Pain. Now, I was disappointed that I couldn't smell it, but it was a bakery and it was open. I asked the lady in my pantomime what she liked, and was pointed to an apple pastry that was amazing. It was mostly apple filling, with just enough pastry to keep it in. I love getting more filling than bread! I also had a decent covered begniet-thing that was good. I was very pleased with and full enough from my super-cheap breakfast.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">That was, until I saw the fromagerie. It was about half-past 8 and all the little markets were starting to open and put out their produce. I saw some delicious-looking cherries, some odd white strawberries, and a ton of large white asparagus. I was able to walk past those, but the cheese store was just too tempting. Again, I asked the guy what his favorite was, and he pointed me to a balled cheese that began with an R. I should have written down the name. It was delicious and creamy like the inside part of a brie, but without the rind. It was so rich that I was only able to eat about half of the tiny ball before I decided I was done for now.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">As I ate it, I walked around to the Moulin Rouge and the area of town with all of the sex shops. Check. Not much to see on a drizzly Friday morning.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I decided that I'd see if St p?? Hall was open-no. And then walked toward the Republic Square. On the way, I happened upon a little indoor market, where various vendors sold fruits, vegetables, meats, seafoods, oils and spices. What surprised me was that it was after 9 and many of the stalls were still being set up, or they hadn't even started the process. That's pretty late, from my experience.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Also on the way to Republic Plaza, I came across a bakery that was filled with French people. So, I stopped in and got the smallest baguette they had, which was still pretty big.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">So there I was, walking down the Magenta Boulevard, an umbrella in one hand, a baguette in the other, and my chunk of cheese in the other, alternating bites (not of the umbrella), and happy as a clam. I guess I must have looked local, because some woman come up to me and asks me something or other in French. I just stared and said "I don't know?" Turns out, she was also a tourist and was happy to switch to English to ask me directions. I still didn't know though.

Eventually I arrived at the Republic Plaza. In this middle, there was a large statue with the ladies: liberty, fraternity, equality (the French values saying) on it. Very cool. Except, that it was covered in graffiti. People had spray pained all sorts of things all over it. Some, were nationalistic sayings "we are all Charlie," referencing the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks. But some were just graffiti. Some people had draped a clothesline and hung protest papers on it, which I feel is much better than defacing a national monument.

As I walked around the plaza, it looked like they were setting up for some sort of street fair. I went to take a closer look. It was all of the Red societies, opening booths. Now, I have no issues with people who truly believe in socialism or communism. But these booths all had out pictures of dictators. Somehow, I feel that venerating dictators who used the name of communism as an excuse to chain their masses and increase the wealth and power of a small oligarchy (while not actually practising communism) isn't really the way to convert people to communistic ideals. Of course, then it hit me- today is May 1. Labor day in many countries, and possibly in France. That might be why the streets were empty in the morning. That might be why I saw all those people selling flowers for the Red Cross. That might be why they're having a communism festival. I say might because I actually don't know for sure. That also might mean that I need to get back to the airport a little earlier as many people may be going on vacation. I took a walk back via a pretty canal. It even had locks in case boats wanted to use it, although I didn't get to see anybody on the canal, much less using the locks. That guess about needing extra time for the holiday was true. When I got back to the train station, I had to wait in a relatively long line to use a ticket machine. The wait was exacerbated by people who didn't have coins or cards with chips (cash and cards that only swipe are not accepted by the machines. I think you have to go to a desk to use those.) The train to the airport was crammed full. Even at the airport, the lines were long and I was glad that I already had my boarding pass. Lesson learned- check for holidays before you go some place.

First stairs to Montmarte

First stairs to Montmarte


Approaching Sacre Coeur

Approaching Sacre Coeur


Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur


Flower Sellers

Flower Sellers


Fromagerie

Fromagerie


Park in the road

Park in the road


Church

Church


Defaced statue

Defaced statue


Defaced statue

Defaced statue


Canal

Canal

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Italy for Italians

The hotel may be expensive for the size of the room (although not for Venice), but they are nice enough not to nickel and dime you. I was able to print my boarding passes for free, and really appreciate that they had a free computer for guest use in addition to the free wifi as my computer broke before the trip.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I had breakfast, checked out, and headed to the train station.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Even early in the morning chill, there are plenty of people out and about in Venice. This place is just always crowded everywhere. It reminds me of an amusement park- everybody is a tourist, everything is overpriced, there are massive crowds everywhere, but people keep coming because it's fun and you need to see it at least once.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Now, off to Vicenza!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">A friend picked me up from the train station and drove me around Vicenza, where she lives. The town is so cute and adorable! It looks like a fun place to live.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After the short tour, we headed out to Lake Garda. On the way, we passed vineyards and farms, and the occasional random castle. It was so picturesque!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Sirmione was just as picturesque. The lake is so flat and calm. The Dolomite mountains in the background were just visible through the haze. And the tiny castle was adorable.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">In front of the castle is a fruit-seller, who my friend said had the best fruit, and she was right. I don't know where he gets it, but everything was sweet and juicy and absolutely delicious!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We enjoyed it on a nice walk along the lake. We saw a bunch of Italians also enjoying the recreation that the lake provides. Unlike Venice, which was filled with different languages, Sirmeone was filled with Italian.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Our walk wound around the lake and some wooded paths until we saw what looked like a gorgeous park behind a gate that was opened, but closing. We took a walk through the gorgeous gardens studded with statues of Roman myths and up to an ancient-looking building before one of the guys that worked at the hotel informed us that this was exclusive and we needed to leave. It was a nice walk though.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Next, we entered the castle and the old part of the city, just to wander around. I know I'm repeating myself, but everything is just so beautiful and picturesque! Look at the pictures that can't begin to capture the beauty!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, we got hungry, so we headed out of old town and to a nearby restaurant. This is where I got the homemade pasta I've been waiting for this whole trip. We also had some strong olive oil with the bread, and some delicious caprese. It may have been the best meal I had this trip.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Unfortunately, after food, it was time to separate.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">We drove through some more quaint small-town areas to the train station and said bye (for now...)<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">This time, it was light outside as I rode the train, so I could see the Dolomite mountains, the farming villages, and the occasional castle watch tower out my window.

Sirmione Castle

Sirmione Castle


Moat

Moat


Lake Garda

Lake Garda


Forbidden garden

Forbidden garden

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Row Venice

I awoke in time for a hotel continental breakfast and headed out towards the Doge' palace/St Mark square.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I had heard that Venice was hard to navigate, but the hotel gave me good free map that made navigation very easy. I was able to admire the city on the way without getting lost.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Early in the morning, there were people at San Marco, but I wouldn't describe it as "crowds." It was relatively calm and I was able to see the very impressive buildings from the outside. I also had a good view of the grand canal.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Just before 8:30, when the Doge's palace opens, I got in line to enter. I was about 3rd in line, so I was able to pay and get in before even the first tour group. As a result, I generally had most of the areas to myself or myself and a few other tourists the whole time. By the time I exited, I could hear the roar of the crowds across the palace and so I was glad I made the decision to beat them.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The Doge's Palace museum was very interesting and educational. Personally, I found the sheer amount of space they dedicated to law and courts and keeping rule astounding. Plus, I could totally see the court scene from Serpent of Venice happening right there. I love the idea of living the literature!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">In addition to the court rooms, which oh by the way were completely covered in masterpieces, they showed off the prison area and some of the living quarters. The beds in the prison were rather large, but I still wouldn't want to live there. The other areas, I could handle.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Some of the rooms had walls that were "wallpapered" in fancy fabric. One was a library with an incredible amount of old, hand-written books. In general, all of the ceilings were incredible. Each was like its own art gallery.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The Doge's Palace was just so wonderful!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After exiting, I went over to San Marco Basilica, right around the corner. It's free to get in, but the line was very long. I pulled out my (still cold) mozzarella and bread and was able to grab a snack while I waited.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, it was my turn to go in. The Basilica is big, nice, and as impressive as others. They kept it dark, so it was hard to really see the gold ceiling, which was the good part. Maybe I'm just getting basilica-jaded, but it didn't seem more special than any other basilica, except for the ceiling, which was hard to see.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> Across the plaza from the basilica is the Correr Museum, which is included in the Doge's Palace ticket. Maybe people publicized this too much, because the line to buy tickets here was out the door and down the hall, whereas the line at the Doge's Palace was almost non-existent, even when I exited. Since I already had my ticket, I just breezed on in.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The displays here were more "modern" than the stuff from the 12-1500s at the Doge's Palace, here was a lot of stuff from the 1700s. Although, I thought that the coolest part was the collection of Doge commemorative coins they had that dated back to the first Doges.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Also, right smack dab in the middle of all of the old art, they had some random stuff on the Iraq war. I didn't really get it, but ok. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">On my way to the south side of town, I passed a church that had been half-converted to a music museum. THIS is how you do a music museum, Milan take a lesson. They acoustics were amazing, which I could tell because they were actually playing music. (What a concept!) If I knew anything about instruments, the museum would probably have been even better. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The next museum I went to was the Guggenheim. It is NOT worth the price. First, it is a very small collection of modern art. Yes, it had the requisite "blank canvas as art" (this one was grid paper) and the requisite "my kindergarten friend made that," but they were missing the toilet, they were missing the "pile 'o stuff," they were missing the comics-style dotted piece and they were missing the political piece. I feel like every modern art museum needs those. Instead, they had an over-crowded, tiny room of stuff that was pretty boring. Keep in mind, I generally love modern art museums and dislike the medieval/Renaissance religious/portrait stuff. But I have to say that I enjoyed the Doge's palace stuff, and even some of the Correr stuff much more than the stuff at the Guggenheim. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Santa Maria della Salute is located right across the way from the Guggenheim, so that was the logical next place to go. I have to say that I liked this much better than San Marco basilica. It was open and airy. It was filled with light. It felt much happier, which I suppose befits a place built to pray for an end to the plague.

It also has a great view of some of the fancy old houses/palaces on the Grand Canal. I just love the idea of somebody rowing up to the house for a visit! Some of the houses are so fancy that I truly can believe the rich merchants of Venice lived there and that alld the stories I read took place there. You really do have to see them to get a feel for the tales. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">As I have now been walking on stone for 3 days straight, I thought it would be a fun idea to get a boat-bus up a few stops to the Rialto. Just as I was thinking that, one showed up to the stop. But, when the guy told me it was 7 euro a ride, I decided that my feet didn't hurt that bad.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Besides, the whole city is basically just a museum. Walking to the Rialto is like walking through a big art gallery. All of the streets are filled with shops selling paintings, gorgeous Murano glass, artistic jewelry, ceramics, and scarfs. Even the glove store window looks like a piece of art. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The whole city also seems to be filled with tourists. I didn't see any offices or business people, just tourists and those catering to them. Anywhere you go, there are groups in matching hats, families walking around with their cameras out, and couples on vacation. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">There is no place that is more true than the Rialto. The bridge is lined with one souvenir shop after another, and both ends of the bridge are an extension of this.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Nearby, I found a little market with fresh fruits, veggies, and fish, but nobody seemed to be buying anything but the prepackaged spice blend souvenirs. I so wish I was staying longer and at a place with a kitchen. The artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes looked amazing!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I should have just bought a bread-cheese-dried tomato lunch there, but I was suckered in by a restaurant with a too-good-to-be-true-in-Venice price for pasta. It was. By the time I had a water (nobody in Italy so far has let me just get tap water, they'll only give bottled), and they tacked on some fee for the bread (expected) and some BS service (that specifically said tip not included, although that's what service means, so I didn't feel obligated to add a normal tip), the 7 euro pasta was twice the price, and neither the pasta nor bread were that great. Also, I thought they might have Amontillado (not a whole cask, just a cup), and they didn't. Oh well. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After the eh food, I decided I just needed the chocolate-covered, bigger-than-your-fist merengue I saw in some window. It cost a fraction of what the meal cost, and was many times better tasting- an excellent choice.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I headed to the north end of town so that I could be sure to make my rowing lesson on time, but also because I hadn't seen that part of town yet.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I saw some more great vegetable stands and another tempting bakery. This time I got a "sicilian" cannolo. Apparently, the Sicilians want to celebrate Christmas year-round, so they ruin their cannoli by filling them with nuts and the rubber-fruit that goes in fruit cake. Lesson: even the world's worst cannoli is still better than plenty of other properly-made desserts.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The old Jewish ghetto is also in this part of town. Honestly, if it weren't for the synagogue and the kosher restaurant, I wouldn't know it from any other part of the city. Most of the city looks old and run-down as if paint was more expensive than gold.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">But of course, there were still the tons of shops selling museum-quality art and glass. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I wandered around to see everything until it was close to time for my rowing lesson. OMG that lesson was awesome!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> Row Venice runs lessons where they teach you gondola-style rowing and then get you out in a "trainer" gondola to practice. The trainer boats are wider and curved a little different than the gondolas the professionals use, but that gives them better stability and steering for beginners.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I got a 5-minute explanation of the boats, paddles, stances, techniques, and then it was my turn to practice. After adjusting my stance and seeing me paddle a few times while we were tied off, the instructor declared me ready and off we went. We rowed down a side canal and out into the lagoon where we could see Murano and some other islands. My balance was tested every time a motor boat passed by, but I didn't fall over once, much less fall in. We rowed around the lagoon and then back into some of the northern canals. Seeing Venice from the water was cool, but it was even cooler to be doing the rowing. For my first time, I was doing pretty well at pulling in my oar to avoid obstacles and just generally keeping the boat moving.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">There were a couple of tight spots where I pulled in the oar completely and the instructor paddled, like when we'd go under a short bridge or when we had to pass a boat in an area where there wasn't room. But, they have a saying in Venice: if you have 3 boats over a meter wide, the only place they can all pass at the same time in a canal less than 3 meters wide is Venice. (The instructor shared that with me, as well as other stories about living in Venice.)<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The lesson lasted an a hour and a half, but it sure didn't feel that long because I was having so much fun. I'm not quite ready to quit my day job to go to gondolier school full-time, but if I was in Venice another day, I would have asked to schedule another lesson. If you come to Venice and can stand without a cane, you HAVE to do this. Skip the Guggenheim, pass on the fancy tour, do whatever you have to, but absolutely, positively get a rowing lesson from Row Venice. This was the best thing I did in Venice. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The only thing negative I can say is that after 3 days of walking and an hour and a half of standing rowing, my feet were tired. Fortunately, it was about 6pm, which is Venetian happy hour. I saw a bunch of bars that had tons of people sitting outside with drinks and appetizers, so I checked a few to see if they had Amontillado. Nope. By the looks I got, it was like I was asking for a flux capacitor or the key to the pool on the roof. But I wikipediaed it before the trip, so I know it's a real thing. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, I just needed a seat, so I sat at a bar and got the typical Venetian happy-hour drink- a spritzer. I have no idea what's in it other than an orange slice and olive, but everybody was getting one and the bartender recommended it, so I got one. It wasn't bad tasting and wasn't so strong that I really felt it, which is good, in my opinion. Most importantly, it gave my feet the much-needed break required to continue on.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I walked around some more until it was real dinner time and I found a place that had some eggplant spaghetti. The place was small and apparently they had a lot of reservations, so I was seated outside. It wasn't so bad at first, but by the end, even my sweatshirt wasn't keeping the cold off. I was very thankful to get to my warm bed back at the hotel.

Venice in the morning

Venice in the morning


San Marco Basilica

San Marco Basilica


San Marco Plaza

San Marco Plaza


Doge's Palace courtyard

Doge's Palace courtyard


Doge's Palace justice area

Doge's Palace justice area


Doge's Palace after the crowds hit

Doge's Palace after the crowds hit


Souvenirs = Art

Souvenirs = Art


Venice

Venice


Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute


Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute


Souvenirs = art

Souvenirs = art


Just a pretty bridge

Just a pretty bridge


cannoli

cannoli


I'm rowing!

I'm rowing!


Rowing the back "streets" of Venice

Rowing the back "streets" of Venice

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Steps of San Marino

The Sunflower City Hostel is very much designed for late-night people, but not so much for people who want to get going in the morning. I got up, dressed, packed, and was ready to use the internet until the front desk and breakfast opened, but they close their computer/entertainment room area as well when they close for the night. Stuff doesn't reopen until 8am (which I knew about breakfast and the front desk, but not about the other stuff). Oh well.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Breakfast was toast with toppings and cereal with milk, which I ate quickly, so I could check out of the hotel and check out Rimini before I caught the bus to San Marino.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Rimini very much has the feel of a beach town, but it doesn't smell salty, which is odd to me.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> I wandered about and stumbled across some Roman ruins- mosaic floors and such, but could only see them through glass windows as the site wasn't open yet.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I found some temple that is old-looking and probably a tourist site when it is open.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Just walking the streets was interesting as there were some very old buildings mixed in with the new.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I also stumbled across the market! Yay! It made me wish I had a kitchen here to store the food and cook it. The fresh produce included zucchini with the flower still on, perfectly-ridged heirloom tomatoes, purple-tinged artichokes, beautiful fennel with the top still on, and other wonderful delights. The seafood section was a bit disconcerting as a lot of the stands had creatures that were still wriggling and crawling about. I suppose you can't get fresher than "still alive." They also had quite the selection of meats, cheeses, breads, and fresh pastas that made my mouth water.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">From there, it was time to head to the bus to San Marino, which picks up from by the main train station.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I was surprised that we couldn't see San Marino for quite a significant part of the ride. I expected to be able to see a mountain from afar. When we did see it- wow. It's this huge cliff that just juts out.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> The bus wound up the road and dropped us at the bottom of the city of San Marino. While I had regretted carrying my sweatshirt around Rimini this morning, I was so glad I brought it to fend off the San Marino winds. I smartly took the elevator to the main street instead of the stairs- I soon got more stairs than I needed.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I had decided to hike to the top and the towers first, while I had energy, and then walk downhill the rest of the day.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I usually love counting steps, but I think at about a million I lost track. I climbed the steps at the city wall to get to the tower area, climbed to get to the tower entrance, and climbed in the tower. San Marino is not for those who can't do heights, slopes, or steps.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I paid for entrance to the first tower (4 euro) and would say it's only worth it because I'm here and its something to do. Also, as I started here, I had the whole place to myself for a while. The first tower has a 3-room "museum" with signage in Italian and English. It tells how the tower is about 800 years old and has been the backbone of San Marino since. Other than that, it's just basically a place to climb around and get good views. The views, especially from the top are pretty far though.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I can see that between the cliffside and the tower, it's pretty impossible to attack. Any archers at the top would have hours to pick off any soldiers that tried scaling it. The soldiers would have a very difficult time climbing and not falling, and by the time they got to the top, they'd be so tired they would just roll over and beg for mercy. From this view, it's obvious why San Marino has been able to maintain independence.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When I finished the first tower, I headed to the second tower. This tower is actually on the highest point of Mt. Titano, so uphill I went again. After, I headed to the third tower, which you can't really go inside, but still has quite a view.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I have now been to the three towers on the flag of San Marino.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">It looked like there were hiking trails on Mt. Titano from the towers, which would be cool to check out if I had a hiking buddy. Without one, risking twisting my ankles on some steep mountainside wasn't worth it, especially since I already had a close call on some of the rocks.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">In order to return to the main city without getting lost, I had to go back up to get down. I'm not crazy out of shape, but San Marino is steep, and I was feeling it, so I was glad to sit down for lunch.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I got homemade gnocchi at this little restaurant, il beccafico, with a great view of the surrounding hills. The food was cheap and ok, but the view was what made lunch great.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After lunch, I went walking around the main part of town. There are a lot of shops selling jewelry, weapons, and handbags as well as souvenirs and other stuff. Apparently, for stamp and coin collectors, items from San Marino are a hot commodity, so those were displayed prominently all over the place. I also saw a bunch of statues, some of which were quite interesting. Why anybody needs a large metal wasp orgy is beyond me, but ok. Then, there was a series of robot-looking statues with names like "Skank Angel." One of the robots was quite obviously intended to be a female with quite a bit of junk in her trunk.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The old town is quite cute, although still quite hilly and with a lot of stairs. At some point, the amount of stairs just became a joke and I'd go up stairs that led nowhere just because they were there.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">At some point, I'd seen enough shops, and since I wasn't going to pay more than twice what I paid for the tower to go into the irrelevant Vampire museum, I headed over to the funicular.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">It's at the edge of town, has (smelly) free restrooms, and for a couple euro, will quickly take you down to Borgo Maggiore, another town in the country of San Marino. Because there's more to San Marino than just San Marino.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Borgo Maggiore looks like the suburbs where real people with non-tourism jobs live and work. There was a church that looked touristy, but there was also a gas station, supermarket, and other stores that didn't necessarily cater to tourists.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Also, I met somebody who was probably not in the tourist industry.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Up some stairs from where the funicular drops you, there is a bus stop on the Rimini-San Marino line. But, it is headed towards San Marino. I wanted a bus back to Rimini, and didn't see a stop right across the road. So, I asked the nice guy in my best Spanish where the bus to Rimini was. After much pointing at the sign and English and more Spanish, I finally gave up and asked some other guys, who were able to direct me down the road a minute to a circle where I saw the sign for a bus stop. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I caught the bus back to Rimini and had enough time to check out the beach. After all, Rimini is a beach town.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">First stop was a gelateria. The lady at the counter said her favorite flavors were nutella and Alabama, so that's what I got. Apparently "Alabama" is the world's best cookies and cream. (It even put the Cookie Monster by Lansdale to shame, and I love that stuff.)<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I enjoyed my nutella/Alabama cone up their version of boardwalk and up the sand. I could tell it's almost beach season- all of the beach bars and entertainment centers were repairing doors, painting, fixing paving stones or otherwise fixing up. They even had big bulldozers out, moving the sand back to where it belongs.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">There were only a few groups of people actually out on the beach, and only one group I saw that was in the water at all. When I stuck my feet in, I felt why- the water was VERY cold.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Even though I was in the water a bit, saw a ton of seashells, and had sandy feet, it just didn't feel like beach to me. Maybe I'm a spoiled beach snob, having grown up with Ocean City nearby and having lived in Cape May and St. Kitts, but it just doesn't feel like beach to me without salt air. That's like a fundamental requirement to me. Without that, it's just "the lake" or something.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After the beach, I grabbed my bag from the hotel and headed to the grocery store. My roomies from last night had warned me that Venice was crazy expensive, and that I should definitely buy food before I go and bring it there.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Since I wasn't hungry, it was a great time to grocery shop and not overbuy. I got a big ball of mozzarella, some foccacia, some olives, and immediately wanted to eat it all, which would defeat the purpose.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">So, I went in search of dinner, even though it was a bit early for that. The first place I saw with pictures of good-looking pasta in the window took me right back to the Caribbean. Despite the fact that there were over 20 pasta dishes on the menu, he informed me that he only had 5 of them. When I asked for one without meat, he offered the salmon, so I said thanks and left.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Funny enough, the next place I saw happened to be a vegan place. I think I've eaten enough cheese in the past couple of days that it would be a good apology to the cows to go vegan for a meal. I asked the lady at the counter what her favorite thing was, expecting something Italian. After the mushroom burger, it was the regular vegan cheeseburger. I was a bit hesitant to get a veggie burger instead of the other exciting items, but she didn't steer me wrong. The mayo was amazing, the cheese tasted like the milk cheese you get in Israel (which isn't a particularly good compliment, but it did taste like some real cheese somewhere), and the burger had some interesting spices in it. I enjoyed it, and more importantly, I was dissuaded from immediately chowing down on what I bought for later.

Rimini

Rimini


Rimini

Rimini


Rimini Market

Rimini Market


Yes, they're still moving

Yes, they're still moving


San Marino

San Marino


San Marino

San Marino


Skank Angel

Skank Angel


Tower 2 from Tower 1

Tower 2 from Tower 1


How to get to the next tower

How to get to the next tower


Tower 2

Tower 2


Tower 1 from Tower 2

Tower 1 from Tower 2


Tower 3 from Tower 2

Tower 3 from Tower 2


Just a great view

Just a great view


The 3 towers on a door

The 3 towers on a door


Down the funicular

Down the funicular


More to San Marino than San Marino

More to San Marino than San Marino


Rimini beach

Rimini beach

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in San Marino Comments (0)

Milano

First, I want to say a little something about Paris CDG airport, as I had a short layover there.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Apparently, they don't have lots of early-morning flights, because when we arrived, we had to wait both at immigration and security for them to get their equipment together and start service.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When I got to my departure gate, there were a couple of choices for breakfast. One cafe had French Toast, which would have been cool, except that one piece was 4.5 euro (about $5). Duty-free had a wheel of camembert that was about the same size as the piece of french toast, and was the same price. So yes, I ate a whole wheel of camembert for breakfast because it was slightly cheaper than a fancy piece of bread. Viva France!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I tried to stay awake to see Paris from the air, but as it took more than 2 minutes from when I got on the plane to when we took off, that didn't happen. However, I did wake up a little bit before Milan and got to see the alps from the air, which was quite the view.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Upon arriving in Milan, I went to the atm to get money, but one of my cards was expired (oops) and the other didn't work (crap). I would have been so better of exchanging cash anywhere else, including every other airport I've ever been in. The exchange rate there was horrible (like 15%) worse than elsewhere I saw today, they took double the usual commission, and then the lady had the gall to offer me a map like it was free and then try to charge me 2 euro for it, as if there wasn't a place with free maps only a few meters away. I was extremely unhappy with my experience, but I didn't really have any choice at that point.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After that debacle, I headed over to get a bus ticket from the airport to the central station and a FREE map.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The bus is a nice, comfy coach bus and the route allows you to see some of the city that you probably wouldn't otherwise see as there are no touristy things there. It dropped me right at the central station, which has metro access to the rest of the city, but more importantly, has luggage storage.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> After leaving my stuff, I took the metro to the Duomo, which is the big sight to see. For 7 euros, you can climb 167 stairs to the roof. (Or, you can pay another 5 to take the elevator.) Either way, there are more stairs to get around the roof.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> Once there, I had a great view of the city, the spires, and the restoration project.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I was surprised at the view of the city because, despite having climbed all those stairs, I didn't feel quite so high up. But I could see for miles from there!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The spires are incredible. Each one has a statue at the top that must have taken an artist a long time to carve, and it feels like there are hundreds. Plus, each butress and each doorway, every handrail and window was covered in carvings or statues that were intricate. The roof was like its own sculpture garden with thousands of old sculptures.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">At the very top, they also added some modern sculptures, which look pretty new.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">They also are renewing the rest of the duomo. There are large advertisements covering the scaffolding in some areas, which I think is tacky, but I guess when you sponsor such a large renovation, you get to live on in people's vacation pictures forever. <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The area where they're replacing the stone is pretty obvious as the color is fresher and the lines cleaner. It feels sort of like cheating, but I suppose in a hundred years it will be just as faded.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> In the plaza by the duomo, I got assaulted by some guy with string bracelets. He rudely grabbed my wrist and started putting one on, so I pulled back and threw his bracelet back at him. I know this trick- they tie it on you and then say you owe them money for it. *Alternately, their friend pickpockets you while you deal with them. I tried to leave and he kept insisting that it was free and trying to put it on me. I shouldn't have let him, but I finally did. As soon as it was on, he wanted "money for Africa, waka waka Africa." I walked away. The only good thing to come from this was that the rest of the day, whenever somebody else tried to pull the same crap, I just raised my wrist to show I already had. As soon as I walked away, some other guy who was surrounded by his bird friends put corn into my hand. The birds started coming at me, as I'm sure they know the drill. I threw that corn on the ground so fast. I do NOT want germy birds all over me. I left that place so fast he didn't even have time to ask me to pay for the corn. I'm sorry if I have a skeptical view of humanity, but you don't just assault people with stuff if you're not trying to run a scam. You offer, like all the nice guys trying to sell selfie-sticks. You give people space and a chance to respond to you. Anyway... <br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">After the Duomo roof, I walked around the area. It is the big "expensive store" shopping area, so it didn't have many places to eat, much less reasonably-priced or interesting places. It was pretty and fancy though. The irony of having signs and flags for the upcoming Milan expo (theme: feeding the world) juxtaposed with shoes whose cost could feed a family for a year was not lost on me.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, I found a little cafe/bar calle d Passarella that had a few local-looking people eating good-looking food. The artichoke pizza looked delicious, and I had just climbed a lot, so I decided that this was an appropriate time to have a whole pizza all by myself.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I don't know how the Italians do it. Thin crust pizza in the states is generally no good, in my opinion. It tends to be too crispy or too soggy or too greasy. Here, the pizza was thin, but chewy. It stood up to the sauce and toppings, but was soft. I still think that the pizza I got at the fish market in Naples years ago is the best pizza I've ever had, but this wasn't so far behind.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When I went to pay, I used my credit card, but then asked to make some change for a tip. The guy at the register wouldn't take my money and change it for a tip. I kept insisting that I needed to tip, and he insisted that they don't do that, so I just left. I felt so weird not tipping though.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I wandered around a bit after and eventually headed back into the Duomo, this time, into the main chapel. The inside is pretty standard for a catholic cathedral- vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, a huge organ. If you've been to one before, the inside of this one wasn't any different. What was interesting is that down below, they keep the body of a saint. You can only really see his mask and clothing, but its still cool that they have that much on display. The other thing this particular cathedral is famous for is a statue near the exit. Some saint got flayed and is standing there, bare to the muscles, holding his skin like he just doesn't care.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I guess I ate too early, because when I was done with the cathedral, it was still time for the Italian afternoon break. I found a park to sit in alongside dozens of Italians who were enjoying their lunches or a chat.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I'm not so good at sitting, and the church I wanted to see was still closed, so I checked out a supermarket to see if they had anything interesting. Not really.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"> But, when I came out, it was time for San Stefano to be open. The entrance is free, but they have boxes where you can put in .5 euro or whatever you want. It's worth it. I actually liked this church better than the cathedral because it was different. The walls of the main chapel were bright and painted with scenes. Plus, they've got an ossuary room. I find those soooo fascinating. I love the way people saved space in graveyards and honored the dead by allowing them to be part of something beautiful at the same time.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">From there, I walked over to the castle area. The castle is open to the public for free, but just to walk through the external part. That's kind of neat to do, but the outside of the castle isn't super-spectacular.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">There is a big park on the other side though. Apparently, this is where all of Milan is on Wednesday afternoon. There were a ton of 20-somethings in bikinis (women) or just swim trunks (men) sunbathing on towels. I guess this is as close to the beach as they have here.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I spent a while on a bench people-watching and trying to be "Milanese" until I just kind of ended up taking a nap on a park bench.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Fully refreshed, and with plenty of time until my train, I went back to the castle to check out the (paid) museum part. It's priced about right considering half of the stuff was under renovation or closed. Of the stuff that was open, a lot of it was Roman and Renaissance religious art and portraiture, which isn't my thing. There was an interesting display on furniture through the ages, some really cool armor and swords, and a display on musical instruments that would have been infinitely better if we could hear at least a recording of what they sound like. The dishes/silverware exhibit got me the most excited because they had some Murano glass, which gets me excited for Venice! I also really enjoyed a section on illuminated manuscripts, although at the time I was thinking that it was a lot of stairs to climb for one room. The one thing I can say they excelled at is that every room and section had papers in multiple languages so I always knew what was going on. They had a lot of stuff, so that was pretty helpful.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I decided to walk back to the train station through the Plazza Republica, but that turned out to be really nothing. I wanted to have pasta for dinner since I had pizza for lunch, but that was surprisingly hard to find at the train station. Every place had sandwiches and quesadillas, but pasta was just not on the general menu. I did, eventually, find some, and it was ok.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">A couple of logistics notes: the bathrooms at the train station are 1 euro to use, and there is a change machine there that will change 2s, 5s, or 10s, but it wasn't working. Bathrooms on the trains don't open until the train starts moving.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The train doesn't have any announcements or display to tell you where you are, what's next, or even what time it is. You just have to know when your train is supposed to arrive at your stop and pay close attention, or ask somebody.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The train arrived in Rimini at about 10:30pm. I was prepared to either walk the few blocks to the hostel or take a cab, depending on how shady Rimini seemed to be at that time of night. First, Rimini is very clean and tourist-friendly. Second, there were plenty of people still out and about on walks or bike rides. I was within view of at least 2 pedestrians/bikers the entire walk.

Milan Shopping, decorated for Expo

Milan Shopping, decorated for Expo


Cathedral

Cathedral


Cathedral Statue

Cathedral Statue


Inside San Stefano

Inside San Stefano


Milan Expo

Milan Expo


Expo Benches

Expo Benches


Castle

Castle


Gardens

Gardens


Sunbathers

Sunbathers


Castle Grounds

Castle Grounds


Dragon's Blood

Dragon's Blood


Cathedral

Cathedral


Duomo Statues

Duomo Statues


Duomo Roof

Duomo Roof


Duomo Roof

Duomo Roof


Gargoyle

Gargoyle


View from plane

View from plane

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)