Saturday, July 17, 2010

Arnold and Danny DeVito Were Onto Something

There's nothing like a good Italian beach to make you suddenly and acutely aware of A: How incredibly pale you are, and B: How incredibly modest you are.  Seriously.  I've lived in Florida for nearly 24 years now, never more than an hour away from the beach, and with a pool in my front yard.  My first beach trip of the year is generally in January, and my last lay out/swim at the pool is normally somewhere in November.  That means the most I ever go without wearing a bathing suit is about 2 months.  It was my daily habit to lay out by the pool and read everyday before work, so I was rockin' a pretty decent tan when I arrived in Italy.  Now, I've gone almost 2 months here without wearing a bathing suit, so obviously I've lost some of my tan, but you'd think that the 24 years of Florida sun would have somehow found a way to permanently tan my skin just a bit.  Maybe it has, but I've got NOTHING on these Italians.  I wanted to ask for a picture just to show the difference in skin's sickening.  It would be like putting Kate Bosworth next to Denzel Washington.  Absolutely no comparison.  There were 5 year olds with tans that were easily 10 shades darker than me.  And they've got virtually no tan lines, which brings me to my next beach observation.  Men wear speedos.  All of them.  Bright pink drawstring, plain white with a palm tree picture over one butt cheek, and little mini shorts.  I saw them all.  From 2 years old to 80, they were all showing some serious leg.  After some observation, here's how they do it.  The guys wear their speedos, and then wear regular board shorts over top.  When they're not swimming or tanning or strutting their stuff, they put their shorts on, you know, just to cover up a bit.  I saw the same super tan 5 year old wear 3 different bathing suits today, not a single one less than 2 inches above the knee.  So we've got all ages of tan Italians running around in Speedos, and then we've got the women.  I didn't see a single one piece bathing suit on the entire beach today.  I think I would have noticed too...she would have stuck out like a sore thumb.  I'm talking, everyone, from 80 years old to 8 months pregnant, wearing teeny weenie bikinis.  And yes, there were a few who were tanning topless.  And it wasn't attractive.  I seriously felt like Jackie O sitting there on the beach in my black two piece bikini.  And it's completely normal here to not just not dress your daughter on the top if she's under the age of 7.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Know You're Italian If...

There are some things in Italy that just make me laugh.  For instance, the same old man driving his tractor down the road in front of our house every morning.  The mobs of 30+ bikers flying down the road, and bikes trailing mopeds/vans as pacers are also pretty funny.  The mail lady driving her moped with her little white helmet on always gets me, as well as watching mopeds drive right past you and all the other cars in front of you at a red light just to weasel themselves in front.  These things aren't necessarily comical, they just elicit a chuckle because they're so ordinary but yet so unique to Italy.  Never in America would you see  warning signs on the side of the highway about an upcoming speed trap, and then see a giant sign next to a box with a police officer painted on the side signaling the radar zone.  You also wouldn't ever see a CAN of Coca-Cola for €3,49 unless you were at a theme park, and hanging the laundry out to dry is (sadly enough) pretty much a poor man's game.  Here are some pictures I've collected of things you'd only see in Italy.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Am Lion, Hear Me Roar

The other day when I rode the bike into Sacile, I noticed that the best shoe store in town had practically everything on sale.  In Europe they don't do the whole clearance rack/sale rack thing.  They generally have sales twice a year, and EVERYTHING goes on sale.  Kind of like Victora's Secret's semi-annual sale.  As a seasoned rider/runner, I know never to leave the house without some money, so I was prepared to buy myself some shoes right then and there.  My Italian isn't good enough to decipher the hour signs, which usually have multiple sets of hours on them because of the odd hours stores are open here.  I hung around until 4, and then decided the store probably was just closed because it was Sunday, so I headed home.  I asked Christine if we could go back in town so I could get some shoes (there were several pairs in the window I had my eye on), so Christer got a ride to work today so we could have the car.  It turned out that they didn't have any of the shoes I wanted in my size anymore, so I left empty handed.  I STILL don't have a single pair of Italian shoes!  I'm striking out everywhere we go.  Christine and Jameson got gelato, and a bunch of kayakers were practicing on the course on the river that runs right through the middle of the town.  It was super cool to watch.  I would compare it to the precision of downhill skiing, and maneuvering through the poles, but you're in a kayak and have the flow of the water to mess you up.  It takes some serious upper body/core strength to turn these boats on a dime, like they were doing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whoopsie Daisies!

In the haze/fog/heat of last night, both literally and mentally, I failed to include a few important pieces of our trip to Parma.

First off, Parma is the home of the extremely popular parma or proscuitto ham, and the origination of Parmigiano-Reggiano (which is also produced in the Reggio Emilia), the "true" parmesean cheese.  It is also home to 2 global brands, Parmalat, and Barilla pasta.  Yes, the Barilla you find in your nearby grocery store really is produced in Italy.

After we left the city of Parma and headed back to the hotel, we all decided it was time for a nap.  Jameson was falling in and out of consciousness the whole ride back, so we thought a solid nap for him was a done deal.  We put him back in the crib in the bathroom, and all was well, until about 10 minutes later when I heard the exact same noises as the night before.  Sleeping just wasn't happening.  Christine and Christer tried for a bit in their room, but they soon came to the realization that he just wasn't going to sleep, so they headed down to the pool while I napped.  At about 6 we moved his crib and all his stuff up to their room so they could put him down for the night.  At about 7 I got a knock on my door.  Christer: "We're just going to go home.  Jameson won't sleep for anything, and this just isn't worth it."  Hallelujah!  Let the angels rejoice!  As I said yesterday, I didn't really have any idea of what to expect out of Parma, so leaving early was no big loss for me.

So here we are, it's 7pm and we're loading up the car for the drive home.  Jameson still didn't sleep a wink during the entire drive, but he was 'lights out meatball' as soon as he hit his crib at home.  On a side note:  We stopped at McDonald's on the way home because we were all starving and it was the easiest and quickest thing around.  The McDonald's didn't have an intercom to give your order.  You just drive up to the window and give your order, pay, and then get your food at the same place.  I got my usual, hamburger and a small fries, and some things just never change.  McDonald's in Italy is exactly the same as McDonald's in Oviedo, and let me tell you something.  After 2+ months of zero fast food and reasonably healthy/fresh meals, that McDonald's meal was terrible.  I literally felt like I was clogging all of my insides with grease and fat, and I felt what I can only assume is a percentage of what the guy in 'SuperSize Me' felt a portion of the way through his experiment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Some People Call Me the Space Cowboy

Err...I used my good Parma title for yesterday's post, and I'm fresh out of ideas.

So let's pick up where we left off, shall we?  Jameson had been awake since 3 am, and some combination of the 3 of us had been awake with him since then, so, needless to say, we were all exhausted.  Our first full day in Parma wasn't going to go to waste though, so we all piled into the car and drove about 45 minutes to the city of Parma.  Of course, as fate would have it, Jameson fell asleep about 10 minutes outside the city, and promptly woke up as soon as we parked.  First stop?  COFFEE.

I don't think any of us really knew what to expect from the city of Parma except good food, so it was a completely new and foreign place as far as the city goes.  The city itself kind of reminded me of downtown Knoxville or Macon.  The way the streets were set up and the shopping and restaurants just really made me feel like I was walking through downtown Macon in the middle of the summer.  

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.