Oh, Those Interesting Italians!

Trip Start May 22, 2011
Trip End Jun 03, 2011

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Saturday, May 28, 2011

Today was such a wacky adventure day that I could write an entire book on our experiences. The day started wonderfully as Madison was such a sport to get up early and go with me to the Nice flower and vegetable market that is held each Saturday. We walked down the Quai des Etats Unis to the Cours Saleya area, otherwise known as Old Nice. There at the market was an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish, breads, and flowers. Among the vendor's items were the largest red peppers I have ever seen. They truly were the size of a football! Every item was extremely large in size, but not in price. It made me want to get home and cook! And everything was so fresh, homegrown in the region. The flowers were magnificent, too. So many fresh cut selections of roses, peonies, daisies, sunflowers, etc., they were all so beautiful.  This part of France is also known for its lavender, so we purchased a few sachets to take home.

We then returned to the hotel to check out and proceeded to the train station to begin making our way to Venice. The first train was packed as there were so many people going to Monte Carlo, a few stops down the line, for the Grand Prix race. After that stop, we were pretty much the only passengers until Ventimiglia, which is just across the Italy border, but still along the amazingly deep blue Mediterranean Sea. It is such a picturesque setting with the azure blue sea below the hillside buildings of whitewashed plaster that appear to hang off the cliffs.

The second train we had to take went from Ventimiglia to Milan, about a 3.5 hour trip. Saturday must be wash day for Italians because every town we rode past, the people had their laundry hanging from every line possible to dry (do they not have clothes dryers in Italy???). The train would stop every 30-40 minutes or so at a small town station to pick up or drop off more riders. Madison and I did not notice the stops as we dozed and snoozed quite a bit. That is, until about an hour and a half into the ride. I'm not sure what town it was, but at one of the stops two Italians came aboard that we will never forget. Our seats were two forward-facing, and two backward-facing with a small table in between. Madison's seat assignment was facing one direction, mine in the opposite, both on the aisle. We were both awakened by a middle-aged, rough-looking man who could barely see, and his less-than-four-foot-tall, wrinkly-skinned mother with no teeth, who was the grumpiest woman I've ever seen. Both of them mumbled under their breath yet you could tell they were complaining about everything.

They were the typical stereotype Italians - loud, boisterous, neither spoke a single word of English, yet you could tell that 'Mama' bossed 'Guiseppi' even though she was so short she barely came up to his waist.
I tried to put Madison at ease by suggesting we sit together on the same side and they sit together on the same side, but neither of them would even consider it. But Mama continued to bark out complaints to Guiseppi for the next hour in a deep voice that did not match her petite size, but could be heard throughout the entire train carriage and he would argue back to her, waving his arms as he spoke passionately. She finally took a pill and went to sleep. She wasn't sitting back in her seat, resting on the headrest. Instead, she sat on the edge of the seat with her head leaned over. Madison thought she had died, and was worried the old woman was going to tumble over on to her! Both of us were thrilled when that train leg was complete. They would just look at us and begin arguing again, even though we did nothing to cause such disgruntlement.

On the third and final train leg of the day, we were again sitting in a foursome seating arrangement, however, this time we were side-by-side, opposite a nice middle-aged couple from ouside London on their 25th anniversary to Venice. This leg was 2.5 hours long, and surprisingly, we had a pleasant conversation the entire trip-- no sleeping on this train.

We arrived about 6:30 p.m. in Venice, and took the vaparetto (water bus) to the Rialto Bridge stop and made our way to the hotel. It is a small inn of about a half dozen rooms. Most of the hotels are like that here. There are no cars at all on Venice island, so the 'streets,' which are really more like allies, are very narrow, maybe about six feet wide. Outside our bedroom (second floor) window across the ally is a restaurant kitchen with which we could do a tin can telephone line. The streets are a labrynth of a maze, many with dead ends, others with small foot bridges crossing a waterway with a gondolier boat and driver below, and still others meandering to another small street. We have already walked to Piazza San Marco (we're staying in this area), the large public square, where we sat and watched all the people while we dined on calzones and gelatos.

Venice is a unique city, which I hope to explore even more tomorow, after we attend church -- Mass, actually -- at San Marco's Basilica. Yup, the Baptist girls are going to a Catholic service tomorrow! I wonder if we will blend in .....
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Janice on

The market sounds wonderful! Too bad everything's so perishable.

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