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Travelogue – Italy

Day 1

So here I am again, trying to put in my thoughts in another travelogue to Europe and this time to Italy. Our first stop will be at Verona.

The Lufthansa to Frankfurt was uneventful. Even though the economy seats are not comfortable, I slept quite well through the 10 hour  flight. I stayed up till the midnight snack time – they served a stuffed bread roll at 3.30 am IST. The flight fills up with the smell of food and makes it difficult to concentrate on much else but food. Anyway, one of the music channels had some fundoo  Bollywood numbers  and I let myself dose off with them earphones. I also have to tell you about this incredible investment I made before this trip-  An inflatable neck pillow. I salute whosever idea it is; Made sleeping a lot less stressful than it would be otherwise.

The less said of the food served in flight the better. I woke inbetween and looked at the screen showing the flight path and I saw us flying over Telaviv or some unfriendly country and decided to go back to sleep. When I finally woke ( was woken up, actually- GSR is pretty stubborn with his wake up time even in long flights with no workplace to go to) up, I saw ‘Wake up Sid” playing on the channel and decided to stay up and watch. I had missed watching it on several occasions and I caught up with it midair on my way to Frankfurt. I loved it too.

We were served a plate of stone cold idlis and idappam  as an excuse for breakfast. We ignored them and cleaned up the flavored yoghurt alone. At the airport we ate Spanish Omelet’s and washed it down with a Latte. I picked a copy of  Khlaed Hosseini’s The Kite Runner from the Relay bookstore and begun reading it. I have a copy of the DVD that I have been meaning to watch but I guess that will be more interesting once done with the book.

We have a connecting flight to Verona in half an hour. Hopefully this flight will be comfortable and uneventful too.

Day 1 – Latter half.

Our flight from Frankfurt was in a comfortable Air Dolomiti, a partner airplane service of Lufthansa by an Embraer 195. The seats were extremely comfortable with loads of leg room and it was a short flight into Airporto Valerio Catullo- The airport in Verona. Our in flight  sanck was a pork sandwich (that thankfully we realized in time)and so enjoyed only the fruity biscotti with coffee. Our luggage did not get misplaced as GSR constantly fears. The others who will be a part of the World wide conference starting tomorrow, from different parts of the World, flew with us in the same flight. There was the hotel cab service waiting for the group at the airport and so we were on our way ‘home’ in no time.

The Villa Amista is a 16th Century Villa (http://www.byblosarthotel.com/ ) and we are all checked in here.  The front office is very colorful with contemporary paintings ( mostly nude, as far as  the eye can see) . I will share a few pictures with you when I click them. Did not want to look like someone who is shocked to find artistic expressions of nudity in hotel lobbies…which I am.  Anyway it adds to the ambience of the place. Surrounded by vinyards.. nude pictures of women.. and a conference setting. Our first event starts at 7pm this evening. Dinner at the restaurant.

A few things I noticed about my first brush with Italians.

a) The flamboyant  choice of colors in the rooms. Our room has an Orange fridge, shocking pink light fittings, A yellow bedside couch, a light green chest of drawers and blue paint on the walls. Did I mention the color of the HIS and HER bathroom slippers?  Blue and Orange. Thankfully the towels and bathrobes are white.

b) The English accent of the front office staff – ‘ Misterrrrrrrrrrr. Ramesh-uh.This is the form-uh in which is given-uh all the necessarrrrrri inforrrrrrrmashun-uh. Please sign-uh …’ere… and ..ere -uh. My koleeg-uh will now show you to yourrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrrroom-uh. ‘ They stress the ‘r’ sound and end with a ‘uh’ sound at the end-uh of everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry word-uh.ok, you get the dhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrift-uh.

I will limit my observation to two for now. Will observe, detect and report as and when I observe and detect.

Day 2

Good morning faithful readers of my updates.

The conference for the men has begun and that left us ladies to do our own thing this morning and most part of the day. The breakfast spread at the hotel was fantastic. We had an array of cheese, breads, yoghurts, breakfast cereals. fruit, flavored milk and everything else that vegetarians don’t eat- ham, salami bacon and other breakfast meat.

After breakfast,  we  went for a walk about in the garden surrounding the Byblos and walked to the vinyards upfront and enjoyed a bit if sunshine and got back. We plan to take the shuttle into town at 12 noon for a walk around the town and also lunch. Will write more of my adventures from today later.

Meanwhile, here is some trivia for you. Just found out that the leaves in my dinner salad last night were Rucola and Radicchio- For details from the Wiki read on.

Rucola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruca_sativa)  and Radicchio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radicchio)

Day 2- Latter half                    

As decided, all the women in the group gathered at the lobby of the Byblos a little before 12 noon. We were advised to wear comfortable walking shoes and also carry rain gear, after last evening’s showers. The sun was out and there were rain clouds hovering about. It looked like a perfect day to be walking about downtown.

Before I go on with details of what followed that, let me introduce you to the group that I was with. There was Linda, Caren, Fotoula, Mamy, Corinne, Grace, Luisa and of course me. Linda  and Caren are Americans and live at Des Moines, Iowa. Fotoula is Greek. She grew up in Australia and lives at Antwerp, Belgium. Mamy is Indian and has just moved back to India. Corinne is a European from London and she just moved from Singapore to Antwerp, Belgium. Grace is Chinese and lives at Zhuhai, China and Luisa is Portugese and lives in Brazil. So there you have it, a bunch of women from different parts of the world, with their camaraderie and wealth of information to share.

At 12 noon we were picked up in a VW driven by someone who looked like he had Mafia clout- dressed in black trousers, a full sleeved black polo tee shirt a black Rayban and a cell phone to his ears. After a 20 minute drive we were dropped off at the Arena. That’s where Alicia Keys had performed the previous evening. The Arena is a giant monument from 2000 years ago. You may have to check my Facebook for pictures from here. The roads here are called ‘via’ . We walked down via Mazzini, towards Piazza Dei Signori, a large town square with restaurants and shops.

There was not much to do yesterday and so we stopped on our way looking at people who were out on the ‘via’. There were people walking  their dogs, artists who had displayed their works of art and entertainers. I walked by a musician and a man disguised as Charlie Chaplin, an Egyptian Mummy and a traditionally dressed Italian couple.

The via’s were lined with tall buildings on either side, some of them with metal balconies that had colourful flowering plants. We stopped at ‘La Locanda Dei Capitani and had lunch there. I ordered a “ Primi  Piatti”( the first course) which I was told was a smaller meal compared to the “Secondi  Piatti” ( as you guessed, the second course) . I even figured out what the ‘Spaghetti al torchio con pomodoro freso e basilico’ meant. I know the name sounds a mouthful.. so was the meal. I washed it down with a cappuccino.

We walked back along the same roads and stopped at various places to let some of the women to change foreign currency and shop. I also had my first gelato on my way back.

Day 2 – Evening

When we women got back from our rendezvous at the Piazza dei Signori it was almost 5 in the evening. We still had a couple of hours before the big dinner and so we went back to our rooms to do our own thing. I watched ” Everybody loves Raymond’ on Fox (I have always wanted to watch Fox network!)  and by the time I figured out how to change the language preference to ‘Inglese’ from ‘ Italiano’ most of it was already done.

The men got back from their long day at conference and a drive to a new facility that the company has acquired around 6 in the evening. We had just enough time to catch up on each other’s day before we stepped out in our evening wear for the dinner. These westerners are sticklers when it comes to time.

We met at the lawns of the Byblos for some champagne and short eats and then sat down to dine with the group. Dinner was a  4 course elaborate meal. Special vegetarian food was organized for us. More wine bottles were corked open ( By now I have begun actually enjoying white wine but still unable to stomach the red wine). We were sat in groups with name cards and customized menu cards. We talked and wined and dined and it went on till about half past ten. By that time we were all ready to call it a night.

We have an early morning start to beautiful Venice tomorrow

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