One of the best things about coming back to North America from Europe is that the time change makes you get up early - I feel like I can get *so* much done in a day - except that I have absolutely no work ethic at this point.
First off, I asked for everyone to send me ideas about what they'd like me to bring back for them - I realized yesterday as I was uploading, labeling, and organizing photos from the trip (I anal-retentively do this right when we get back because otherwise I can't remember which church is which) that I neglected to take pictures of the food-stuffs that I promised! However, whenever we got a cheeseplate (chevre! pecorino! buffalo mozzarella! camembert!) I always thought of you, Hilaire!
Squadratomagico, I actually did keep my eye open for some white truffle oil, but I couldn't find any! However, the pasta I had one night in Florence (at a little cafe looking out on the Duomo) had black truffles in it (along with a lovely cream sauce over bowtie pasta).
Dr. Virago, we had croissants and cafe au lait every morning in our hotel in Paris. And, on our last night in Paris, we went to a chic restaurant called (in English) "The Cow on the Roof" (hee, hee!); we had an amazingly fantastic meal - the Dutchman ate escargots almost every day we were there (I watched) and I had the coquilles saint jacques with a creamy mushroom risotto and a chocolate souffle for dessert. Top all that off with a half bottle of Moet and a bottle of burgundy - that one's for you!
JB, let's talk about the wine - dear god! First off, I noticed that the wines in Europe (Paris especially) are much more subtle than the ones you can get where I live. We drink a lot of Chilean, Argentinian, and Spanish wine here (because it's the wine we can get most reasonably priced) and it's a lot richer than the wine we drank there. The D's father came down to meet us in Tuscany for a night (he's on a driving trip all over France and Italy at the moment) and he brought us all kinds of fantastic wines. But we couldn't drink them all (even thought there were 10 of us!) - damn the airlines not letting us bring liquids on board! Here is proof of one of our valiant efforts one night:
Sisyphus, I did actually see a lot of awesome doors - and I did take a picture of one - I'm a sucker for architectural shots. This is an old door (not sure how old) in the little town nearby:
Morgan, I did see a lot of lovely manuscripts (especially at the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris) but of course they wouldn't let me take any pictures! However, I did snag a picture of a medieval tapestry, so this one's for you:
NK, crepes and gelato were consumed often and very happily! When we had dinner in the lovely medieval town of Lucca one night, on our winding way back through the oldest part of the city toward our car, we stopped at a particularly nice gelato place on a square overlooking the main church. I had passionfruit and coconut gelato - yum! And the most interesting crepe-y thing we had actually wasn't in France, but in Italy - one of the Dutchman's first courses one night was "crespelles," which was filled with cheese, a little cream, and some asparagus and mushroom slices (*thud*)!
And finally, Dayna, your present was actually the one I took pictures of - gargoyles! Here are two of the best:
This one is on the Duomo in Pisa:
And these guys were on the medieval church of St. Merry in Paris:
And, Sisyphus, in response to your comment on my previous post - I did have a gorgeous Italian all ready to bring back with me (I won't go into the details of how I snagged him - it was a very complicated plan which involved a bag of these yummy almond biscotti cookies, a big net, and a tranquilizer dart) - but he wouldn't fit into my carry-on luggage! And we were already over the limit on our checked bags - do you know how much they charge you per kilo for that shit????
So, now to a list of funny random things that happened or that we saw on our trip. This list was composed while we were sitting outside at a little cafe in Paris just a block away from the Eiffel Tower - we were drinking *the most expensive* Kronenbourgs (French beer) on the planet and watching the rich Parisians walk by.
1) Most random question asked to us in a French bistro: (In French) "What is the population of Japan?" - we were stumped. But I just looked it up on Wikipedia and it's 127,433,494 (2007 estimate).
2) On our way over to Europe, we took a red eye to Paris from Home City before we had a long layover and caught our plane to Italy. When we landed at Charles de Gaulle at 6:15am, what did we see on the grassy patches in between the runways? Rabbits. Tons of rabbits. I'm talking about hundreds of rabbits here. As the plane taxied to the gate, they all hopped away from the plane as it passed by. If you think about it, it's actually quite a safe place for them to be - they don't get onto the runways themselves (a big swathe of concrete isn't that enticing for a bunny) and it's not like they're going to get spooked and hop in front of a 747 like they might on a regular road.
3) When we were at Montmartre (which is on a very steep hill in Paris), we were wondering how the hell people moved into their houses when they were on such steep streets and then on the fifth floor of the building. At the time, I was puffing my way up towards the Sacre Coeur and was wondering how the hell they'd make it to their front door. Then, as if from on high, we saw the answer:
This is a moving truck with a little platform furniture elevator on it. While we watched, they loaded a dining room table, a couch, and assorted chairs on this contraption and lifted them up to the big windows of this apartment.
4) In Italy, there were many many tourists (obviously) - we were for some reason constantly getting caught in groups of Japanese tourists who panic if they're seperated from one another by a stanger. So, we ducked out of the fray for a bit at Santa Croce and had lunch and what did we then see going by? A group of Japanese tourists riding along the bumpy Florentine streets on Segways! It was very surreal...
5) In the little town near where we stayed in Tuscany, there was a nice grocery store and the butcher loved to speak English - particularly *American* English, he said, and was so happy to hear that I was American. So, never one to look a gift horse in the mouth (or a friendly, pro-American butcher for that matter who will give us extra prosciutto and not charge for it), I was the one who ordered our stuff. One day we were there buying something and he was also getting us some cheese - in the middle of trying to figure out which cheese was which he tried to explain the difference between two of them. He kept saying something in Italian and making a gesture like he was gently squeezing a sponge. I blurted out, "Oh! You mean this one is mushy?!?" - he cackled with delight and called out "Mushy!" at the top of his lungs. Then for the rest of the time we were there, we would hear him yelling "Italian something something something Mushy! something something..." - when we finally left, he said "I love mushy Americans!! Ha, ha!..." So, I take credit for teaching the Italian butcher a little more English...
More posts to come!