Sunday, July 11, 2010

Parma Parma Parma Parma, Parma-Chameleon

It's a terrible title, I know.  I should be shunned from the blogging universe for that, but I just can't help it.  I love myself some George Michael, and that song always pops into my head when I hear Parma.  

Christer was able to take Friday and Monday off, so we headed about 3 hours southwest for a long weekend in the Parma region of Italy.  Famous for the popular Parma ham, and known for having the best food in all of Italy.  Despite the scorching heat (compares with Florida weather in both heat and humidity) and general lack of air conditioning in most public places, it is high tourist season in much of Europe, so we were somewhat limited on what was available.  Christine managed to find us an old castle converted into a hotel a little bit outside of Parma, but there was no apartment available so we just had to book 2 separate rooms.  The castle and the views of the rolling hills and farmland were quite impressive.

For as far as you could see, and for the entire drive in to the city of Parma, was just miles and miles of farmland.  About 98% of the land was being used to grow hay, and it was rare to find a piece of land without a round of hay on it.

Instead of having a moat and iron clad soldiers standing around, this castle had much more aesthetically pleasing peacocks roaming about, making sure everybody was minding their P's & Q's.  Jameson's favorite movie right now is "Up," and if you've seen the movie, you know of Kevin, the Snype.  Every flipping time one of the peacocks called, Christer just absolutely could not resist the urge to say "KEVIN!"  Every. Single. Time.  Then, when Jameson was supposed to be sleeping at 3 in the morning, one of the peacocks called somewhere near our window, and Jameson, then wide awake, says "What's that??" (His current favorite phrase by the way.)  So yeah.  Peacocks...not so cool anymore.  There was this really cool solid white one that I just had to take a picture of though.  I thought these things were fairly rare, and now I've seen 2 since I've been in Italy.

This was the road that ran right through the middle of the castle buildings.  Note the ever-so-popular Land Rover Defender, which runs for a cool $100,000 in the U.S. for a 1980's model with over 200,000 miles.  It's a pretty sweet ride, and they stopped manufacturing them in the states for some unknown reason, and it's probably one of the few solid high-return automobile investments you could have made in the 70s and 80s.  Who would have thought?  They're all over the place here, and they all look like they're about 50 years old.  Maybe Land Rover ran into the same problem as Stride gum.  They last so long that nobody would buy new ones.  Alright, so not exactly like Stride gum, but you get the idea.

We got to the hotel and went up to the pool for a bit so Jameson could expend some energy.  We didn't really have time to do much else, so we just spent most of the afternoon at the pool until it was time to get ready for dinner.  We got ready and decided to eat at the restaurant that was part of the castle for our first night.  When we walked to the restaurant, nobody was seated, and the waiter/chef/owner informed us that they didn't open for another 50 minutes.  We just hung out outside and Christine and I took pictures when we heard the unmistakeable "cloppity clop, cloppity clop" coming up the road.  Sure enough, my first sighting of real Italian cowboys!

For dinner we had a zucchini salad for an appetizer (thinly sliced zucchini, thinly sliced parmesean, roasted pine nuts, olive oil, and salt), and I had a vegetable lasagna for my meal.  Real Italian lasagna is nothing like the Americanized version of the dish.  The pasta is very very thin, like a crepe, and there is zero tomato sauce.  The chef/waiter/owner told us he is also the chef for AC Milan, one of the huge Italian soccer teams, which is pretty stinkin' cool if you ask me.

Jameson went to bed during dinner, and since we were one building over, we just took turns checking on him every 10 minutes or so.  His crib was set up in the bathroom in my room because there really was no other place for him to be.  The shutters didn't entirely block out the light, and Christine and Christer's room had a sky-light, so the bathroom was the only option.  Somewhere during the night, I heard banging and little 19 month-old chatter coming from the bathroom.  I tried to ignore it, hoping he would go back to sleep, but then I heard him lifting up the toilet seat and letting it bang down, and then there was the whole incident with the peacock.  I got out of bed, thinking I must have just slept terribly and it was probably 7 am.  Much to my surprise/annoyance, it was really only 3 in the morning.  And Jameson was wide awake.  I tried everything I could, and finally went knocking on Christine and Christer's door at 5:30 so I could get some sleep.  When we met up around 9, they said he hadn't slept a wink, and had been wide awake ALL night!  So all 4 of us had gotten about 5 hours of sleep, and, as you can imagine, everyone was just so lovely and pleasant that morning.  Jameson was his usual self, just with a few bags under his eyes, but the rest of us were seriously dragging.  So what do we decide to do on this beautiful morning?  Drive 45 minutes into Parma and explore the city a bit, which will be blogged about tomorrow.

I apologize for all the changes to the page, but I wanted to make the columns wider, and then one thing led to another to another, and I literally became obsessed with making it look exactly the way I wanted it to. It's still not exactly how I'd like it, but let's face it, this isn't a professional blog or anything, so it'll have to do.  I will try my hardest to not make any more major changes, and just let it be, so thanks for putting up with all the commotion.  Also, I am proud to announce that I just purchased my domain name, so now you can enter instead of ""  Exciting, right??  For €9,40 you could have your own too!  (scratch that. Technical issues will have to wait until tomorrow.  I'm sorry to leave you on the edge of your seat like this.)

Today my favorite thing about Italy is:  Sacile.  I rode the bike to Sacile today and wandered around the town and did some window shopping.  It's just such a cute little town that seems to be exactly the right size.  Not too small, not too big.

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