Thursday, June 29, 2006

St Malo

Here I am, in quiet St Malo, on the west coast of France. Ive only just started speaking to everyone in French - imagine that, I wait for three years to speak French and once here Im speaking Italian. I was in desperate need of a few days of tranquility, and thats exactly what I have here, in abundance. Theres only the very young, the old (who stroll arm in arm day and night, bless), and this magnificent beach. It stretches for miles and the tides really are something else. In the afternoon you have to walk ten minutes to get to the water and in the evening the waves are hitting the boardwalk, bringing up fresh seaweed. The sand is so soft and sparkles like stardust. The air is the most delicious sea air, very fresh and healthy.

Last night over moules frites I watched France win and was so so happy, cheering with the locals who love the oddity of an Australian girl who supports France. I missed seeing Australia play Italia as every single bar, cafe, restaurant in Florence was bursting, and I walked for two hours trying to find a place to watch, only hearing the last minute cheer and raced in to see what happened, but good on Australia for keeping Italy at bay, and for making it through. France have renewed vigour, and I really hope this 98 rematch coming up can do them proud. Zidane is still one of the classiest players and deserves a fitting end.

Today I went to Cancale to do exactly what Id always wanted to there: eat the oysters that are the most famous in the world. I chose 6 of the top class ones and 6 of the sauvage type (5.50E) and sat on the perch with everyone else sucking them down and tossing the beautiful shells onto the bay, for prosperity. They were good, briney and silky smooth, but I must say now that Ive had them, you cant beat a Sydney rock or Pacific.

A la prochaine...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Everywhere You Go, Always Take The Weather With You

Thats very much the case with me. I planned to flaneur around Bologna today, but it was 40 and no breeze. But I had my prosciutto San Daniele and tortellini in brodo (oh, yum) so I achieved what I came here for. Could only think of moving on so headed down to Florence, and to the place I stayed three years ago (and where I met Ruth). Its exactly the same and just as great.

Florence is on heat. Ive never seen such crowds, so thank god for gelato (two today: fior di latte e fino di mondo, and limoncello e mura). Its temporary relief from this landlocked heat. African fake bag sellers are everywhere, as are beggers and ciao bellas. Its just as beautiful but hard to appreciate - what a difference a month makes! I was here in May and you could stand back and contemplate the Duomo and the piazzas, now it is swamped with tourists and someone out for a buck.

Vai Australia! I hope to catch the game but uh, um, Ill also be at The Mall...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Viva Italia!

You arrive at the airport, and this is what awaits you.

I Say Saregna, You Say Saronno, Should We Just Call The Whole Thing Off?

The train from Como to Ruths cousins place somewhere between Como and Milan was one of those surreal life experiences. We had the whole compartment involved, the United Nations as it were, everyone managing to communicate somehow that we had no idea where we were and that meeting her, already called off the night before as it was impossible to with the crazy transport, may not be happening again, but, for the millionth time in three days, we made it.

We had a gorgeous lunch with her cousin who has been living just outside of Milan with her typically gorgeous Italian boyfriend, before hopping on the train and saying our hurried goodbyes at Centrale. Now Im in Bologna, just for the day, to eat massive amounts of tortellini and then tomorrow, The Mall in Florence. Tomorrow night, the overnight train to Bretagne. Oh Italy, how I love you.

Thousand Words

Oh yea, this is what its all about



Breakfast In Switzerland, And Other Crazy Capers

The past three days have been crazy. I flew from Palermo to Milano on Wednesday and met Ruth at the hotel. Ruth, for those playing at home, is the most wonderful girl who I met in Firenze three years ago, and we hit it off immediately, so it was the best present when she told me she would meet me while I was over, and we chose Milan, with a sidetrip to Lake Como.

I cant begin to document every amazing, hilarious, crazy thing that happened to us, so just some highlights...

Our first dinner in the Brera district, being eaten alive by mosquitos and given a bottle of Off! from the waitress - you are all getting this in your Christmas stockings, it is the best thing ever, followed by the fortune teller who you just wouldnt want your fortune read from.

Dancing to Italian love songs in the laundromat (Ruth, forgot to tell you, there was a note in the bag with the carefully folded laundry: sei semplicemente "meravigliosa". And to a certain someone reading this, that makes two meravigliosas in recent times, wink wink ;-)

Going to 10 Corso Como. This has been a dream of mine since I was little, oh yes, and it was so so cool and different as I hoped. I didnt buy anything but the French martinis and Chambord kir royales we had in their cafe after a long browse was the best purchase.

Next stop was Il Salvagente, the discount designer store but as it was closed for lunch we went looking for a place to grab a bite to eat, and stumbled upon the most amazing restaurant. It was after 2 and for some reason everything in the area was quiet, but the owner warmly welcomed us in. It was a gorgeous-looking restaurant and we expected everything to be expensive, but the lunch menu was 13E and was sensational. Gnochetti with vegetables followed by cotoletta milanese for me, pesto and salmon for Ruth, and all brought out covered in those grand silver lids and we couldnt believe our luck. Then more of that amazing coffee, and as we left the owner gave us her homemade biscuits as well as her recipe for pesto and we hugged and kissed and it was just so lovely.

And of course, a walk down Via Montenapoleone. Would you expect anything less. And we both just loved it, the window displays so clever and creative. I bought some more Aqua di Parma perfume, before rushing off to pick up our tickets for La Scala. My feet have never hurt so much but we made it, just, and laughed our way to the cheap seats in the very back. Ill explain how bad their were in person and bless the Japanese tourists in front of us who took off at intermission and left us being able to sit straight, if not to see much better. It was though a fantastic experience and we had a great laugh and thank you so much Ruth for the tickets xox

And falling in love with Milan (see later) and asking people about rent and cost of living...Jamie Oliver the annoying prat from Norway at the bar where we finally got nibblies with our wine...the beautiful taxi drivers making us double over with laughter...the cheeky devil train attendants and Ruth intepreting when the station closes at 1 come and see me as when the moon clouds over...hearing this: "do you speak English?" - "I am speaking English"...our last lunch at Peck...

Then it was off to Lake Como, including the encounter with the village nutter who spoke perfect Russian. The bus up to Menaggio was unreal, we were both gobsmacked with how beautiful it is, like a fairytale place that cant quite be real. While drinking and madly Off!ing ourselves we thought how crazy it would be to go to Switzerland for breakfast and so we did. We got the 6.02 across the border and were a bit dismayed when nothing was open, but then spotted a queue outside a shop at 7.30 and rushed in along with half the town to have a fantastic apple pie and coffee (paid in old school francs), then headed back, sleeping on the bus...