It’s time for my annual holiday respite. Enjoy the picture of the pups with their buddy Renfield.
That was a moderately adventurous weekend, as my weekends go. I took a few days off work and headed down to Bodega Bay on Thursday morning for my second crabbing expedition. It’s a pretty cool deal. Apparently this bunch of guys have gotten together every year over the last few decades to go on this trip. Same guys, same weekend, same campground. This might sound like a somewhat familiar scene to some of you. I kind of butted in on their trip two years ago and had a great time, so I decided to butt in again this year. In Float-Trip terms, that would earn me the maligned label of “interloper.” Hey, what are ya gonna do, I need entertained.
Anyway, interloper or not, I enjoyed my weekend. I made a few key upgrades from the last time I went. First, I slept in my car. Last time I was in my tent, and I was freezing cold, uncomfortable, and all my stuff was a wet, sandy mess. This time I was just uncomfortable, so that’s a pretty vast improvement. I also made it a point to get some prescription sea-sickness meds. They make these little patches that go behind your ear, and the results didn’t lie: People wearing them didn’t get sick, people without them got sick. To a man. I was told to get them last time, but nobody mentioned that they were prescription, so I showed up at CVS the night before the trip and was out of luck. And, yes, was firmly in the “got sick” category. Other than those two key upgrades, it was essentially a repeat of the last trip. Catch crab, clean crab, cook crab, eat crab. And, repeat. Good times.
Wow, a two week vacation. Let me say, it wore off very quickly. Two days back in my cubicle dungeon and I felt like I’d never left. But oh, did I enjoy it while I was gone. I should make some effort to detail our trip I suppose, because 1) I didn’t do anything of note this past weekend to blab about, and 2) it was just a great trip.
We started our great adventure in Venice. (That would be Italy, if there are any readers as geographically disinclined as myself.) Now, there were two very negative parts to this trip: Flying over there, and flying back. Miserable. Add in our drive time, layovers, flights, etc, and we spent a full 24 hours each direction. That’s two days of vacation down the drain. But what can ya’ do; Gotta get there somehow. So, we arrived in Venice with our friends Michael & Alaina on Sunday the 7th. Like, mid-afternoon-ish. We were all pretty beat up, but a nap would have really thrown us off so we tracked down the Martins and began our two week festival of eating, drinking, and sight-seeing. There were many “segments” to this trip, so we only had two days to enjoy Venice. Honestly, that was probably about right. We took a guided walking tour, took a few self-guided tours, went on the obligatory gondola ride… I think that effectively covered Venice. Worth noting, we had sunny, 70 degree weather the entire two weeks we were in Italy. Have you seen the news there lately? Wow, we dodged that bullet.
After two nights in Venice, we took a train for a few hours to Cinque Terre. The trains were our primary mode of travel for the trip. Relatively inexpensive, fast, and easy to navigate; with one notable exception they treated us pretty well. The trip to Cinque Terre was uneventful though, and we kicked off a couple of days exploring that region. Some of the top events here (for me anyway) were a class on pesto making, and a boat ride to view all five villages from the sea. Our guide on the boat trip was great, although I struggled a bit understanding him. He was born and raised in one of the villages, and he had all kinds of interesting history to share. The only downside to the villages were the crowds, which were just crazy. He told us the crowds we had to wade through were nothing, this was the “down time.” He showed us a few pictures that backed that up; Crazy. I would NOT want to be there during the summer. He even said he came home one time to find a group picnicking in his back yard. The poor guy actually got pretty upset when he got to talking about “the way it used to be,” and he was only like 30 years old. What can ya’ do, sounds like they’re just taking the good with the bad. With the tourist money comes the crowds.
Another train ride got us to Florence, with a brief layover in Pisa. At the train station in Pisa, we dropped our bags in storage and hiked a few miles through town to see the leaning tower. Yeah, I’m going to venture that everybody has seen the pics. And, honestly, it looked pretty much exactly like the pictures. We did enjoy checking out all the buildings around it though, it was definitely worth a stop. After a wonderful lunch, (there was definitely no trouble finding places to eat on this trip,) we retrieved our bags and headed on to Florence. In Florence we found lots of walking, and lots of sight-seeing. We also took a class on how to make homemade pasta there, which was straight awesome. First thing we did when we got home was order all the equipment we needed to make it here, which we’ve already tried with what I declare as success. (The obvious flaw in this scheme is, you can buy about two lifetimes worth of dried pasta for the same price… Eh whatever. It’s fun and it does taste better.) Florence was also the scene of the “incident,” about Friday or so I believe. There are two things you can be guaranteed of on a Kenagy vacation: Either I will get sick, or Donette will hurt herself. All too frequently, it’s both. On this trip though, it was just the latter. We were hiking back from dinner over the very uneven cobblestone when she took a misstep and rolled her ankle with a quite audible crack. Being a glass-half-full kind of guy, I looked at the bright side: We’d been walking 8-10 miles per day, and that effectively ended that trend. Nice comfortable taxis from there on out.
After a great couple of nights in Florence, (injuries aside,) it was on to Sienna. I dubbed this leg my favorite, for no particular reason. I just liked it. We had a fantastic hotel, and there was a really cool downtown area that I just found… “fun.” We also had a great dinner, at the recommendation of one of our cab drivers. I ate pasta and pizza the entire two weeks, but at this place I ordered an obscenely large steak. Actually, I split it with Martin, and it was a good thing because that hunk o’ beef had to go a solid 3 lbs. I tend to shy away from beef outside the US, but this was admittedly delicious. We also went on a full-day wine tasting tour of the Chianti region. Yeah, because we don’t get enough of that at home. We actually had a great time, the differences in their production were very interesting and the wines were fantastic. The only downside was, we got a tour at each place. The first one was engaging; The second was redundant, and the third was borderline annoying. (Thankfully the third one had just enough unique features to keep things interesting.)
From there, it was on to my second-favorite leg, the Amalfi Coast. The specific town we stayed in eludes me, so I’ll just go with “Amalfi.” Close enough. This was the area you see when you look at post cards of Italy. I would say similar to Cinque Terre, but even more picturesque. As in Cinque Terre, we chartered a boat, but this one was a little nicer and it was just the six of us. It was a great tour; They took us out to Capri for a few hours, and all the way around it, and up and down the coastline with a stop for a great lunch in a small fishing village. The remainder of our time in this area was spent shopping and eating at various wonderful restaurants. The James’ and Martins took a long hike down the “Path of the Gods,” but we were unable to join due to a quite swollen ankle. We met up with them several hours later for a late lunch, and they were something of a haggard bunch. I ain’t gonna lie, I took no small amount of pleasure in their misery. I chuckled inwardly. Actually I laughed out loud.
After a very long and quite frightening van ride from Amalfi, we got back to the train station. After miraculously surviving the van trip, we hit the only snag of our train adventures. We got our tickets and found our train easily enough, but then we boarded and just sat. And sat, and sat. After some amount of time, they finally announced that there were protesters standing on the tracks, and everything was halted. Hmmm, interesting. Honestly though, nobody seemed interested at all. They talked, got off and smoked, got back on, talked some more. Finally, maybe two hours later, they announced we were on our way. One by one, the trains around us pulled out. And still we sat. And still, nobody really seemed interested. After another lengthy wait, they came on the loudspeaker and calmly relayed that our train was out of service, we should go trade in our tickets. Chaos. Complete, utter anarchy. We sent poor Alaina into the fray, because she was the smallest and able to navigate between the flailing arms, suitcases, babies, etc. There was no “exchanging tickets” as they described though… The people at the ticket counter would just say “Go get on this train.” So, we’d hustle out to that train, and they would say, “All full.” Geez. We finally got one though; All’s well that ends well I suppose. Actually it was somewhat entertaining people-watching; There were a good amount of people that just flat lost their minds, and it was something to see. At the end of the excitement though, we did finally end up in Rome for the last leg of our trip. When in Rome, as they say. We fought crowds, ate good food, (there were some very standout meals for me there,) and saw the sights. We took a guided tour of the Vatican, which was fascinating if insanely crowded. The lady told us they have 30,000 visitors every day… Wow. I have no problem believing that either. We pretty much shuffle-stepped the entire three hours because the crowd was shoulder to shoulder the whole time. Not my cup of tea. Solid chance I’ll never see it again though, so I made an effort to take it in. We also visited the coliseum, and got tickets to the hop-on-hop-off bus so we could get around to all the highlights quickly. It was something to see, for sure.
Our big vacation has come to a close. We spent the last two weeks in Italy, the land of good coffee & food, stunning architecture & landscapes, and lots of tourists. It was a great trip, but I will admit it’s good to be back in the land of the English language, washcloths, normal breakfasts, and working toilets. Every place has it’s own charms I suppose. I should probably make some attempt to detail the trip, but I’d mess it up and get yelled at, and besides that we covered so much it would take me forever. Not to mention, I’m still a bit out of sorts after our brutal 26 hour travel time over the weekend. For now at least, I’ll just post a few of the 900+ pictures I took. (Seriously, I took 900 pics. So much to see.) Hopefully I get the notes right on them… It’s all jumbled up already.
Well I guess Fall is here, and I’m sick right on cue. Fever, chills, the whole bit. Sigh. It really cut into my weekend entertainment, although I gave it a respectable try. Friday we had a friend over and grilled some pork chops, which managed to come out decent. I am definitely a fan of brining the chops… Huge difference. They were fancy-brand meat too, that might have factored in. Other than the brine, I just put a little Jack Stack rub on them and threw them on the gas grill. Throw a salad beside it and call it dinner. After that we retired to the patio because the temp was so nice outside. That’s probably how I got sick; Can’t spend countless hours in a 6×6 cubicle every week and then expect to sniff the great outdoors without some negative consequences.
Saturday we had a day of wine tasting planned, but given my sketchy health we skipped the afternoon session. Truth be told, I’d have skipped the entire day but I’d made reservations for dinner at the evening spot and felt kind of bad just no-showing on them. Beside that, it was a free event and I’m not sure I could ever actually be sick enough to pass up a free dinner. (And to qualify, it was “free” for wine club members… Nothing in life is free, and that goes triple for wine clubs.) Anyway, this was the annual “appreciation” event at one of our favorite local wineries, Baiocchi. All the clubs we belong to have a similar function, but all with a nominal (and in some cases, not-so-nominal) price tag attached. We’ve never gotten around to attending any of them, not even at Baiocchi. This time I actually noticed the email and thought, well the price is right so what the heck. The dinner was actually at his house out in the country, and it was no small event. By my “tables x chairs = people” formula, there were roughly 60 attendees. A local chef came out and fixed a multi-course meal and talked about it all, and the wine pairings, all outside in some fantastic weather. I even talked to strangers. Truly a wacky night out for us.
Sunday was a day of football and couch time, as Sundays are probably likely to be for the foreseeable future. I was still just a bit under the weather, and didn’t want to push my luck by exercising or anything crazy like that. Some friends in the neighborhood did ask if we wanted to come over for homemade chicken enchiladas, to which I readily replied “heck yes.” Again, don’t pass up free meals.