What I Did on Summer Vacation

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.

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