Sunday, 29 April 2007

Million Dollar View

Hi this is just a quickie to say we are in Florence and its gorgeous. Not many of the internet cafes have usb plugs and they are heaps more expensive here E5 and hour whereas everywhere else has been like E2 an hour. So yeah you will get a proper in depth look at Florence asap.

We found a camping-ground that has what they call house-tents - these are basically family-sized tents with a fixed metal frame, wooden floor and lockable sliding door. For 35-Euro a night (for both of us) we're not complaining too much - though a power-point and a light would be handy! What they lack in the niceties they more than make up for in view - see the attached photo to get an idea of what we see when we get up at 6-am - yes that is am!

Anyway, that's all for now - when we find better net access we'll update properly.

Catch ya on the flip side.
Scott & Monique

Zona Tortona (where the real furniture is)

This blog entry is supposed to be about Tortona. But before I forget, how many of you like real almonds but don't like almond flavoured things? Scott thinks I'm weird and I don't think its that unusual.

OK, Tortona is a suburb in Milan, every year in conjunction with the furniture fair they have what's called Zona Tortona, which is a lot of exhibits in buildings and shops within the Tortona area. They have little maps for you so you know where they all are and there is quite a buzz in the air when you are in the area much more so than the actual fair. I think when I exhibit over here it would here not at the big show, all the big boys still come and check it out and there is a few of them exhibiting in tortona too, its just more alive.

On the friday night they had a late night shopping of sorts all the exhibits stayed open till midnight and a lot of them put on food and drinks, we had gone to the supermarket earlier in the afternoon and got french sticks and cheese etc. for David and then set it all up, had a bit of a munch (had to make sure it wasn't poisonous or anything ). David had said to wait until it got dark before exploring Im so glad we listened to him it was like mardi gras or something just a huge big street party it was amazing. Down Via Tortona (via means st or rd) there was the big superstudio stand which was a lot of different stands in together. Bombay Sapphire (yes the booze) had a stand in there as they have glass design awards, it was full of freaky looking martini glasses and they were giving out cocktails but they had to close to restock when we were in there damn it!

All in all it was a fantastic night I even think Scott enjoyed himself despite all the furniture and "stoolies" as he calls them. I met quite a few good contacts while working for David , its a long story but I met a guy from Toronto who said " oh I can so find you a job!" after he saw my lamps, and he came back a few days later with his Lighting manufacturer friend ( unfortunately we weren't there at the time but John did a great job as secretary) and he just happens to need a Lighting designer and an Electrical Engineer! so we will email him asap with details of when we get to Canada.

Well that is the conclusion of my blog entries on the Furniture fair in Milan ( I heard that sigh of relief from some of you) so yeah it was totally worth coming I gained experience, knowledge, inspiration, a few friends and possibly a job, so a damn good week all in all. Ciao from Milan off to Firenze ( Florence next).

Love from Monique and Scott.

Scott's take on all this furniture stuff (Phil & Stu READ THIS)...

Hmmm where do I start - well just for Kate I've come up with a new one Blah Blah Blah, Fur-ni-ture =)

In all fairness I probably had some idea what I was getting myself in for coming to Milan with the show on, having been to Sydney with Molly before and hanging out with the furniture crowd or stoolies as I shall now call them. If you've already read Monique's entry you'll have some idea of what was on show, how big it was etc. Well actually you don't - the Fiera in Rho was unbelievably huge! 24 halls - each one easily big enough for a full football (real football i.e.. rugby that is) pitch and chock full of pavilions that seemed more intent on catching the eye with glitzy entranceways than displaying furniture (although that probably describes most of Italy, ancient and modern). Oh and the people he he - I've never seen more sequins and silver moon shoes in one place in my entire life - and that's only the guys!!! Probably not a lot I can say about the show really - a lot more conceptual than I thought it would - especially since these stands aren't cheap. I wasn't blown away by anything really except for the fact that I honestly believe that Monique's stuff (and Cicada in general) would easily blow away most of the tacky crap there. Tortona was actually a bit better, still a bit of conceptual stuff, but most of the designers were younger and putting out more edgy stuff - definitely held my attention better. Oh and Tortona on Friday night was pretty cool - it's THE place to be and be seen with pretty much all the exhibits open until midnight and putting on free food/drinks!

The absolute highlight for me however, was the opening for Kef's new range of Muon speakers (designed by some famous dude called Ross Lovegrove - yeah I'd never heard of him either). The opening was in Milan's Leonardo Da Vinci Institute of Science and Technology - just a short walk from Tortona. Found the opening in one of the old (and I mean really old) lecture halls, frescoed ceiling and walls, the old bench seats around the walls - very cool setting for a technology launch. Anyway, there in the middle of the room were the speakers. These things were massive - both literally and figuratively. 2-metres tall and made out of 6-mm thick aluminium, six speakers in the front and two in the back - absolutely stunning. I've attached a photo from the press pack and managed to be given ;-) so you too can appreciate just how sexy these things look (sorry Brent they're not Sony).

Ciao Guys,
Scott & Monique (well really just Scott for this one =)

PS. They're relatively affordable too, coming in at a measly £100,000 (yep that's pounds sterling). Hey that's cheaper than a Ferrari! How many pairs should I put you down for Phil?

Saloni (The big furniture fair in case you didn't know)

On Thursday we went to The Saloni ( The big furniture fair) at the new Milan fairgrounds at Rho it is the last line on the red line metro. But Janine convinced us to take what she thought was a new metro line the blue line turned out to be the normal train line. The machines telling you what train is arriving weren't working so we had a bit of waiting around till we could ask someone but we eventually got out to rho.

The fairgrounds are unbelievably huge, 24 massive pavilions it is 1km to walk from one end to another, they actually have a bus that just does a circuit around the building, but more on that later. So yeah it makes the Sydney exhibition centre look like a pimple.

The show was absolutely amazing. You guys at Cicada have really got to get off your bums and have a look at this!!!! There is no way you could do all of the pavilions in one day so we did the recommended ones 5, 7,8,12 ( contemporary and Design)and Satellite ( newbies) which was in 24. Some of the stands must have cost a fortune in building materials alone, some had full blown walls and windows, and some the stands were more interesting than the furniture.

There is still the odd horrendous looking piece one stand was full of bright coloured satin couches Im talking barbie pink bright. Scott got told off for taking a photo but they didn't have a sign up and we were only taking a photo cos they were so butt ugly.

Pavilion 12 was definitely the best, this is where all the big boys were hiding, Cappelini, Vitra, Cassina, Phillipe Starck (didn't see him unfortunately) to name a few. Definitely a lot of money in that room. A lot of the stands actually had little boardrooms attached to them for sealing all the deals.

Satellite was interesting there were 3 NZ stands. 1 of which we thought was good. We got talking to the only Nzer actually manning his stand and the stand only cost him $5000 which I didn't think was too bad considering they charge those kind of prices for shows in Little ol Auckland. A lot of the work in Satellite is conceptual so basically crap. I did find myself thinking why would you bother bringing that here a few times. You could definitely tell who had done shows before and who hadn't, Im glad I've got a few under my belt now. A few of them had quite good work but they hadn't thought about the space, how to decorate it, arrange the work, signage etc. Image is everything when it comes to attracting people to your stand i think if you aren't going to do it properly why bother. Satellite did really get me enthused I was wandering around thinking well I could do this and this.

it was now nearing 6.30pm and the feet were really killing us. For some unknown reason they wouldn't let us back through the way we had come in to Satellite and we had to go out the door at the end which meant catching the bus back down to the other end of the complex to the metro station. Well the show closes at 7pm so everyone had the same idea of getting out a bit early so we were packed in like sardines on the bus unbelievable as it may seem but it made the Kaiti bus look really roomy i mean really roomy!!! This was also the slowest bus known to man we were actually getting past by pedestrians. Finally we got to the metro station what a mad house!!! And because Rho is so far out of the city, they have an urban limit on the ticket prices so they were E2 instead of 1. I went and got the tickets and did the Italian thing of just weeding my way in I must have really past for a local. We got down to the platform just as a train left which meant we were right at the front, this Italian guy in a suit tried to push his way infront of us but when the next train arrived the doors were in a slightly different place so we managed to get on first in the stampede and get seats. it was 27 stops from Rho to our stop we were only 3 stops off travelling the entire red line. We were absolutely exhausted by the time we got home. Bye for now.

Love from Monique and Scott.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Milan - the first few days

So after a week in Bologna we decided to head for Milan. We had to check out at 11 and being the morning people that we are (I could write Tui billboards) we didnt think we would quite make the 11 am bus to town so we hung around the cafe for a couple of hours chatting to the owners (Manuella and Mario?) and took the 1pm bus which we thought would be perfect timing for the train to Milan that left at 1.42pm. Well it would have been perfect timing except it is strike season over here and the earliest train we could get was a Eurostar at 5.05pm. So we had 4 hours in Bologna train station playing Last card!!!!!

We got into Milan at about 7, managed to catch the metro, change metro lines and meet Alex at the Villa San Giovani stop. She is really lovely she is english but has been living in Italy for 12 years teaching english and she is as addicted to diet coke as I am. She had a girls night at the pub organised so she showed us where everything was, directed us to a chinese/italian restaurant a couple of blocks down the road, and left us to it. Oh my god the chinese was sooo good! and cheap we got a sweet and sour pork, a spiced veal, a normal fried rice and a curry rice for 10 euros. Then we crashed it is surprisingly tiring bumming around in a train station for 4 hours.

Next day (14/4/07 for those of you playing at home) we got up at 9.30am and had a mad panic to get ready by 10 as Alex had a guy coming round for a lesson. Again managed the metro fine and got right across the otherside of the city to Porta Genova. From here you just go across the bridge over the train lines and you are in Zona Tortona, walk a block and you are where Trubridge is exhibiting.

These few days weren't very exciting we were doing 12 hour days putting lamps together and setting things up. Oh the first night when we went to leave at about 10 pm David snapped the key in the lock to the gate to the area, and we had to climb the fence to get out. We have since found out there is actually a button you push to unlock the gate you don't even need a key!!! Another amusing incident was Trubridge advising Scott on the best way to wire a plug. Other than that all we saw over these few days was the metro, Tortona and the 2 blocks between the metro and Alex's apartment (it would be perfect if we could find a place like hers in Toronto).

Our first free day was wednesday so we decided to go into the city centre and see things other than furniture. We went to the Duomo (more bloody scafolding but apparently it has been up for 5 years.) Went into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle, its this amazing old shopping mall in the shape of a cross with a glass arched ceiling its quite funny it opens up in the middle and on the four corners facing each other you have Prada, Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz and McDonalds!
From here we walked down the road on the left of the Duomo which is where all the flash shops are, oh the shoes the clothes the handbags it was amazing! (Kate you so have to come to Milan!!!)

At the end of this street is Piazza San Babila where Cappilini (one of the big boys in furniture manufacturing over here) have a temporary showroom, it was amazing it was 2 stories. So yeah after that we found a whole street of little furniture exhibitions (its quite handy there has been magazines and catalogues to pick up everywhere telling you where all of the exhibitors are around the city, who has cocktail parties and openings and bright coloured flags outside the buildings where the exhibitions are so they are easy to spot.) so yeah we ended up doing furniture stuff on our day off. At 6.30pm we caught the metro to tortona Big mistake!!! it was so packed (made the kaiti bus look like nothing) so we could get changed to go to some openings. I had my nice shoes on (little strappy kitten heels) and we decided to walk to the opening of Kef speakers at the Leonardo Davinci Science and Technology Museum. They were some sexy speakers they were 7 foot high and made of what looked like1 piece Stainless steel and the room they were in had a frescoed ceiling. But it was a little further than we thought especially in the wrong shoes! Needless to say I changed my shoes back in the metro station on the way home.On the way we had seen a Indian restaurant so on the way back to the metro we popped in there it wasn't as hot as at home but soooo good!! I now have meaty blisters on both little toes and under my big toe and sort of the ball of my right foot!! Nasty!!! We are off to the furniture fair at the new milan showgrounds at Rho tomorrow I cant wait. love to everyone from Monique and Scott.

How to get cheap booze and your passport stamped for E2.50

San Marino, the worlds oldest republic, the home to the European Grand Prix and a million little stalls pushing everything from cheap & nasty lemoncello to ninja throwing stars, to super cheap postcards (10 for E1) to guns - many many guns. This place is a tax haven and thus everything is duty and tax free and has existed entirely inside Italy's borders since about 350AD. It's now a member of the EU and has switched to the Euro (was previously using it's own Lire).

We thought it'd be quite neat to go and visit San Marino since it's the other city state still in existence inside Italy's borders (the other of course being the Vatican) and I'd read in the guide book that you can get your passport stamped (for a small charge of course)! Note: since our passports have not yet been stamped in Europe we thought hey we'd better prove we've been and we're not just hanging out in Auckland or something.

Anyway I digress, we caught the train from Bologna to Rimini which is a real an odd little town on Italy's east coast. A beach-side resort and apparently very popular with Italian's themselves during the summer - apparently very tacky with a seedy nightlife (two things that seem to be pretty popular with Italians). We didn't really see this side of the town as we were in a hurry to get to San Marino (had to catch the bus which thankfully has its station right outside the train-station and next to the tourist office). Wouldn't mind coming back here sometime, the beaches looked pretty good and I think they may actually be free here (still can't get to grips with the concept of a pay beach...)

The bus trip to old San Marino (up on top of the peak and surrounded by the new town which appears to be full of discount/outlet malls - being a tax haven explains this) wound it's way around the mountain/hill for a good half hour and afforded some great views of the surrounding area and the Adriatic. One thing did notice and that was the haze - you just can't seem to escape it wherever you go.

Old San Marino is the old original city inside the original ancient city walls on top of the peak. The cities police force and army (yep has it's own army of about 1000 I think) are based up here, along with a few museums, over-priced eateries and a few normal businesses (couple of banks, pharmacies, hotels etc...) You can walk around on top of the old city walls, peering out the battlements and slots etc. to see some amazing views of the whole area - it really is a great spot for views. When you've had enough of walking along the narrow walls you pop down into the city streets which funnily enough are only slightly wider. This town - even with all the tacky souvenir shops really does have a strange sort of charm - we actually really liked it because you can find a street that has no shops on it, no other tourists and an amazing view.

Had a look through a couple of museums too.
1. The Leonardo Inventions tour was here which a great stroke of luck, both of us very interested in this sort of thing. A group of people (can't remember who, no surprise there though I suppose LOL) have actually built a bunch of Da Vinci's inventions based on his notebooks and drawings. Some of them employ some ideas which are still in use today, quite amazing (the hang glider for example, I reckon would actually work). This then gave us a discount for another museum so we went to;
2. The Torture Museum. This appeals to peoples darker sides I guess. Showing engravings and illustrations along with sometimes a little too much detailed descriptions of how the various devices worked. It was the simpler ones that were usually the worst, such as, simply chaining someone so they can't stand comfortably and can't sit comfortably. Or ramming a spike - well let's just say where it shouldn't be...
These were great little side distractions - especially the Leonardo exhibit, well worth seeing.

To finish up we did the standard cliches and sent a couple of postcards and bought a cheap (remember tax and duty free) bottle of lemoncello. Note: for those wanting to come to Italy, don't buy the cheap (tax and duty free) lemoncello =) Caught the bus back to Rimini. Ended up spending all day up there so unfortunately had to pretty much just catch the next train back to Bologna.}

Warning this entry is about cars. Kate this means YOU

So anyway, while we were in Bologna we thought hey why not pay a visit to the car company that makes cars for the common man... to drool over FERRARI !!! Modena (head office) and Maranello (factory, museum, official store and about a million unofficial ones) are two small towns just out of Bologna. Speaking of which - Bologna really is the petrol-heads dream town; it has the Ducati and Lamborghini factories and Ferrari and Maserati and within 30kms.

Anyway, short train trip to Modena then an interesting time finding the information office (helps if you look at where the i symbol is on the map eh). ( Please note I did not have the map from monique) Had a quick look around Modena - definitely a different feel to even Bologna, much more provincial, everything moving a bit slower. The best example of a Romanesque duomo dominates the centre of the town with a huge piazza at the south end and on this particular Tuesday it was filled with groups of old men having heated discussions on something???

Caught a local bus to Maranello, bit of fun because the local buses don't tell tourists when to get off - luckily Maranello isn't that big and all the guys standing around outside the factory wearing bright red overalls plastered with Ferrari and Shell having a smoke; sort of gave it away that we were in the right place. Made our way to the information centre - inside was a never-driven Ferrari Maranello that had been donated to the town. If I was the Mayor, I think it would become my daily driver! Oh and we haven't seen any Ferraris driven on the road yet either?!?!

Followed the map to the museum, everywhere you looked there were people in Ferrari overalls, shirts, uniforms etc. oh and the bright red suedey-looking boots - I think this town is somewhat dominated by the company. A little pricey to get in, \'db12 each but whew - what a bargain! There were 31 cars (Monique thinks - incidentally she was as car-car-car as I was!) on display, ranging from the old classic looking ones, to a brand new looking F60/Enzo (and an F50 just for you Phil) and a whole bunch of the Formula 1 versions (again a range in ages). There was a mock-up of Enzo Ferrari's office (it shows a complete contrast in the way he organised his own life from the flair his cars had) and even a short film showing a collection of clips from movies where the cars have played a role. With the wide variety of things in here, anyone that has even the slightest of interest the red beasts (and lets face it, they should only be red - it does go faster) will thoroughly enjoy this place.

Leaving the museum, we thought we should probably pick up a souvenir or two, I especially thought Ferrari cufflinks would be most representative of our time in Italy - how about NO! I'm not paying \'db98 for a pair that at best - as Monique put it - were cute. Seriously, I think I know how they manage to afford to fund the F1 team, build a bit of a following and then screw as much money out of the fans as possible - I will shudder everytime I see someone when official shirts etc. from now on because I know how much they cost! Anyway, just to prove we're not complete cheapskates we did spring for some postcards. ( There were heaps of cool girls T-shirts but they were like twice the price of guys ones they had handbags too!!)

So once we escaped the shops with wallets intact, we thought we'd try and a have a look at the factories test track on the outskirts of town (luckily it's a small town). We managed to see a couple of cars whizzing around through some trees through a barbed wire fence - worth it though, the sound alone was CHOICE! Thought we'd better start heading back for the bus and walked past this old looking building, just across from the factory entrance and what do you know, about 6 new and newish Ferraris being worked on, and two of them left the workshop (being driven by what I'm guessing were pimply faced apprentices)!!! One left the factory now as well, then it was all on - at long last I was seeing them on the road, we must have seen about a dozen while walking back to the bus stop!

Caught the bus back to Modena (passing the factory again on the way when they were all leaving for the day) and saw a guy still in his overalls get onto a scooter - and 3 guys waiting for a bus all in overalls there's something just plain wrong with that!!!

Got back to Bologna and missed the 7pm bus so while waiting for the 9pm one, thought might as well get some tea. We both got the Bolognaise - hey when you're in the town that invented it you've got to try it right. Not quite what I expected - I think I actually prefer the NZ version - it was quite typical of Italian food in that it was actually quite simple. Basically just meat in (a little) sauce over the pasta. Not sure whether it's because they normally have so many more courses and split the variety of veges and flavours up over different dishes or what but I prefer mushrooms (Molly is going yuck now), capsicums etc. added in.

Vrooom vroooom,
Scott and Monique

World Famous in Bologna

Ok where to begin? Sorry we haven't updated the blog in ages firstly when we were at the camping ground in Bologna we had major trouble connecting to the wireless network, then when we got to Milan we were so busy and exhausted from putting lamps together for Trubridge that we just haven't had a chance.\

OK so back to Bologna when we last left you we were bumming around the camping ground over easter. On the Tuesday we ventured into the city by bus (it was so convenient having the bus stop inside the gate) We walked around town basically all day, there is a big square by the duomo which was really pretty. We wandered down to the university (one of the oldest in Italy) and went to the Science and Technology Museum there were some really old maps NZ didnt exist on and some whirly things (thought I'd add that for you Jo they had a really big one!! hehehe) There are so many pigeons over here its ridiculus, and has become the subject of amusement for Scott and a few locals (Most of you know I'm not a big fan of birds after being attacked by a magpie when I was 6) We were down in the Piazza Maggiore and I was spontaneously dive bombed by a pigeon and screamed (as you do) Scott absolutely cracked up and is still hassleling me about it.

Anyway we decide we had had enough for the day time to go back to the camping ground, went back to the bus stop where we had got off and watch the bus go past on the other side of the road!!! Now the bus out to where we are staying only goes every 2 hours so we had a bit of time to fill in. So we looked it up and found where we were meant to be and thought we should go and check it out. So we sorted it all out and the feet were a bit sore so we saw a little park with a fountain in the middle of the roundabout so we went and sat down. We saw a guy with what looked like a TV camera didnt think much of it they appeared to be investigating the pump to the fountain. Later that night ( yes we managed to catch the bus alright) we were watching the Bologna news on TV and there's these 2 tourists sitting by this fountain!!!! The news bulletin showed a knife, a syringe and some homeless people so we think it might have been about a drug induced stabbing. So we are famous now in Italy.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Amalfi - most exhilarating bus ride ever!

As you would have read earlier (and if not - well what are you waiting for???) we made it to Amalfi - click the link for proof (I'm not that good with Photoshop to make photos) =)

Anyway, absolutely gorgeous part of the world - stunning scenerary along the very windy road with the gaps between the various towns interspersed with ancient forts/lookout points. Turns out at one point Amalfi was the most powerful city state in this part of the world. When you're there you can see why - there's no way anyone was sneaking up on them. And if you can live off lemons and limoncello (lemon liqeur) then no one is going to manage to beseige you. Oh and about the lemons, the locals reckon the gigantic ones are sweet and can be eaten like a grapefruit - well just try it - go on I dare you take a huge bite - hmmmmm sour! Don't trust them!!!

We took the ferry back to Salerno that night - couldn't quite face another hair-raising journey by bus crammed full of loud locals and nauseous scouts on a field-trip. That was definitely a highlight - you can see the coast for all its rugged beauty from the comfort of a boat travelling in a straight line. Oh yeah - at this point Monique was watching the inside of her eyelids - but I think she believes me about all the old forts etc...

Oh well, running out of internet time so must dash.

Stay cool 'till after school!

Bologna Easter Monday

Today is Easter Monday and again everything is shut.
Managed to call home collect this morning, 2nd time lucky!!! The First time the rude buggers didn't even answer and it wasn't even an odd hour, and the 2nd time the operator didn't speak as much english.

Had my first Italian hot chocolate this morning, it was like drinking hot instant pudding, it was nice but probably a bit much for breakfast especially when you have just had a chocolate croissant hehehe croissants for brekkie are so goood!!!

It has taken me a little while to work out what is different about Rome, yeah its incredibly old, and narrow streets and all but I've finally put my finger on it I noticed it when we were in the taxi here in Bologna, its Signs. They must have some kind of restriction on it in Rome to keep in with the old buildings etc because you saw very little advertising for things, no billboards, very few neon signs etc yet what we have seen of Bologna so far, it could be a city anywhere.

Yeah day 2 with nothing open is dragging a bit, my choccie buzz has worn off and I really need a Diet Coke (called Cocacola Lite over here) and the Bar doesn't open till 5pm and its only 3.22pm Aarrgh. Hence why I'm writing another blog entry when we haven't done anything interesting since the last one sorry guys.

We are going to have to start actually planning our trip from now on in, so we don't get stuck paying for 1st class again (nice as was). Well I spose thats all for today. Don't forget to leave us comments, and if you use the annonymous button put your name at the bottom its driving us nuts trying to work out if the comment on the wifecake entry is someone we know or a random.

Byedee bye. Or should I say FUN!!!! hehehee
Until next time this is Monique signing off. (and Scott) woops!!
Man do I need a coke Im starting to lose it.

Bologna Easter Sunday

Well today we are in Bologna, its Easter Sunday and of course nothing is open.
I'll start from the beginning.
Yesterday we arrived at the train station bright and early at 8am to get tickets for the 8.40am express train to Milan Centrale (which stopped in Napoli, Roma, Firenze(florence) and Bologna on the way). and found out that second class had sold out and we had to pay 158 euros for first class. The express trains are Called Eurostar they go super fast, (one scared the crap out of us while we were waiting for the train back to Salerno from Pompeii,) anyway the Eurostar trains are the only ones where they actually have your seat allocated. As we had already booked and paid a deposit for our accommodation in Bologna we had to take the expensive tickets. By now Scott has caught the cold I have been battling for a few days ( and doing the boy thing and thinks he's dying hehehe) and I've taken carsick tablets as it's a 5 and half hour train journey ahead of us so we were both a bit cabbage. We went to the cafe at the train station for brekkie, I still can't get used to paying first at one counter then ordering its just odd! We are waiting on the platform for the train then realise the one sitting there has got Eurostar up the side of (really with it ay). First class was probably a good idea for that length of trip, our seats reclined and were wider than normal, we had nifty little tables that slid up an out of a narrow divide between us and the guy facing us, we got drinks and a packet of choccie chip cookies and a bag of crackers, and lollies like Air NZ used to do after every stop.

We arrived in Bologna at 2.15, and decided to have lunch before we went to the place where we are staying, ended up having McDonalds, the McChickens have different mayonaise in them for the record, they have a few different things actually at some you can get wedges (patatine deluxe) and crumbed camenbert, and the prices are different between stores which is weird. Anyway they were busy as and we missed the 3pm bus to Centro Turistico Citta di Bologna, and as they only leave from town every 2 hours we got a taxi as we couldnt be bothered waiting till 5 and REALLY wanted to take our packs off. The taxi only cost us 9.50 euros which wasn't too bad it was convienient after all, it was the first time in a car over here it was so strange being on the other side of the road (didnt notice it on the bus to Amalfi cos the road was so narrow the bus driver took the middle) guess we better get used to it ay!

The CTCDB where we are staying is really nice its a camping ground but it has Bungalows that sleep about 4 and Chalets that sleep 2 (thats what we are in) there are quite a few of them. We have our own bathroom with a toilet with a seat woohoo and its 19 euros each a night. What we would call the cookhouse only has dishwashing facilitys unfortunately (we are dying for vegies really sick of tomato and cheese) but there are laundry facilities, a swimming pool (its warmer here but not quite that warm) and a Snackbar that has pastries and what not and of course coffee, oh and wireless internet is available over the whole campsite which is handy. So yeah its not to bad a place to be stuck for 2 days with nothing open. The bus actually stops inside the gate which is great, no worrying about when to get off.

I am running out of tissues which is concerning though. We have just extended our accommodation here so we can see Bologna actually open, but there are a few places to day trip to from here too like Modena/Marenello where ferraris are made and San marino. \

We watched the Pope (pops mate) do his thing at St peters square this morning on tv we were like yeah we have been there, man the crowd was incredible. Italian Tv is quite odd they have a lot of game shows and really old B&W stuff and all the stuff you do recognise has been dubbed over which is just wrong! The News is the most annoying though cos we can tell that there has been some quite major happenings recently but have no idea what has actually gone down. There was quite a big story the other day after a soccer match (possibly rome vs Man U) the Police or Cabinari getting stuck into people with battens for apparently no reason, we think there had been a bit of a riot but the police got carried away we think anyway.

Hope everyone had a good Easter, we got one egg the other day, they wrap them up quite elaborately (not just tinfoil) and they have presents inside them, ours had a little teddybear on a keychain that we have named Bartholomew cos there is a B on his shirt. We just went to the Snackbar here at the camping ground for tea, we didnt realise they had a menu aswell as paninis and pastries. Scott had pork t-bone with mushrooms,olives capers in a white wine sauce and chips, and I had a chicken stew that had potatoes, carrots and courgettes in it. It was sooooo yum!!! So good to have a meal that didn't include Tomatoes and Cheese and flour!!!! Going to have another early night we both need it, hopefully our colds won't last too long.

Think thats about all for now.
Love to everyone, miss you guys.
from Monique aka molly( + Scott)

Saturday, 7 April 2007

What a relief!

Not in Napoli anymore - we managed to escape well it's not so much a rat race as no one was racing anywhere (except for people on scooters)! Anyway, we've made it to Salerno - nice little spot on the coast tucked in south of the penisula that Amalfi is on (the Amalfi penisula?) On the main trunk so can train to Pompeii and Bus-Ferry to Amalfi.

The hostel we're in (Hostel Koine) is pretty cheap, 500 metres from the train station, quite new and a little like the TV show Big Brother - with communal showers (separated boys and girls at least) - and no cameras that we could see! Anyway, it is cheap, €12-night each so it's a nice change.

Went to Pompeii two days ago and met a great Scottish couple (George and Carol) at the train station on the way who also introduced us to GeoCaching and incidently we've done our first one =) Haven't got photo's ready yet so you'll all have to wait for the 2000 year old pornography (sorry Katey)!!! It will get it's own entry at somepoint.

Yesterday we made the trip to Amalfi, there by bus and back by ferry. That bus trip is a journey and a half with the bus driver tooting around the blind corners (pretty much every corner) all the while hanging one arm out the window to wave at people he knew and gesticulate at the others! The 15km trip took at least an hour and makes the Napier to Gisborne road look like a drag strip (take note Lynda you will need drugs!) Again no photos yet - yeah yeah we're slack - they'll get there.

Lazy day today, bodies needed it thats for sure. Thought we'd actually be stuck with Good Friday and all - but every shop is open??? Off to Bologna tomorrow - tried to get to Florence but there is nothing there - booked solid so thought we'd at least get close by and maybe make a trip to the Republic of San Marino (and at least get our passports stamped somewhere in Europe!) and of course Modena/Marenello for the Ferrari's!!!!! (Blah blah blah car car car ay! from Monique).

Oh well that's probably us for now - wish us well getting to our accommodation in Bologna - pretty sure we'll need it! We're staying in some chalets just outside of town.

HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE - Love yous all eh fullas!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Naples - where to begin...

Everyone had warned us about Naples - but figured hey it can't be all that bad... Well lets just say it's colourful - and the colour is BROWN!!!! Can't believe that any self-respecting city would have the shambles of Piazza Garibaldi as it's first impression on visitors to the city (it's the piazza that the central train station opens onto). Beggars, hawkers, rubbish, packs of dogs, rundown (in NZ they would be condemned) buildings, a complete lack of any road sense (even for Italy)! Anyway, we found our way to the hotel through a group of fighting African guys - turns out they weren't fighting they were organising a street party - and we basically hid out for the rest of the night watching the excitement outside LOL

Next day (Monday morning) things had actually quietened down so we ventured forth into the streets of the town that invented the pizza. As we headed west, the town actually got a little nicer but major thoroughfares are about as big as an NZ driveway and the constant hustle and bustle was quite draining. Think worked out why Italians have so many churches and two hour lunch breaks - it's so they can actually escape the madness for some peace and quiet for a while. The attached link shows a typical street. NOTE this was considered a major road on the map - seriously!

Errata:
1. Church bells will wake you up early in the morning and go on for ages - hitting the snooze button does nothing!
2. Do Not (and we can't stress this enough), ever, ever buy or even taste Fanta Chinotto. You have been warned. Think of a fizzy Jagermeister without the pleasent side effects and a horrible aftertaste...
3. The police have segways - yet all they seem to do on them is smoke and look at girls???

Monday, 2 April 2007

Cassino

Just for those who don't know - nothing to do with gambling. This is the spot where the Allied forces in WW2 had a major battle liberating Italy from the Germans over a massive abbey on the top of a mountain that looks over a vast valley. My (Scott) grandfather was here and there are two big cemetaries and memorials.

This was a neat little city - not as hectic as Rome and certainly had plenty of colour and life. When I've composed my thoughts a little better it will get special post on my thoughts, what we saw and the people we met - suffice to say very, very moving.

Spent the night €75 but did include a bath! Bussed up the hill (don't even contemplate walking it!) the next day and saw the restored abbey and museum - absolutey stunning views of the valley - and the abbey itself is just incredible. It's a huge complex with stunning architecture and when it was built was relatively isolated. Apparently St Bennedict is buried here to. Well worth the trip.

Bussed back down the hill and caught an afternoon train to Naples.

Byeee for now :-)

PS. A lot of toilets don't have seats - what's up with that???

PPS. I have added a link to the photo of the view of the abbey from the commonwealth forces cemetary.

The Vatican

Got up really early (yes 5am is early)! to catch the Metro over to the Vatican €1 each - they know how to do public transport here - cheap, fast and efficient!

Wasn't signposted too well from the Metro though and ended walking halfway round the Vatican until we found St Peters Square - and just walked in - no queues that early in the morning funnily enough. Went through the obligatory x-ray scanners and just walked straight into the Basilica. Oh stood on the two points in the square where the four deep rows of columns turn into just one two - very clever design that!

Paid €4 each to walk the 550 steps up into the Cuppola - top of the basilica dome - well worth it - amazing, amazing views of the city and the rest of the Vatican. Nearly died of exhaustion and had to lean as I (Scott) walked because of the shape - wouldn't want to be much taller than 6' for that one. Sent some postcards and text messages from the roof! Yes they had a postbox on the roof. Came back down and joined the now 2 hour queue for the Vatican Museums.

Had lunch at the museum, surprisingly affordable and then walked in. Saw some incredible art, stolen marble and a whole lot of ancient artifacts (mainly greek and roman). And of course the obligatory Sistine Chapel. Throughly underwhelmed by this - whether it was the long wait, or the about 2000 people that had crammed into the room - it just didn't have the impact we was expecting... Oh and it's not a separate building - it's just another room in a long procession of rooms you go through. You do get some idea of how impressive it is simply because of the effort that went into it - but with all the noise and bustling activity the awe factor just wasn't there.

The next day with Rome pretty much done and dusted - packed up and shipped out to Cassino.

PS. Have added photo of Monique in St. Peters - notice how calmly she is taking everything in :-)

Sunglasses & Marble are NOT good friends

Funnily enough, when sunglasses hit marble floors they tend not to survive - and since Italy seems to have just a little bit of marble around the place it can be a problem - especially with frescoed ceilings and looking up all the time - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!! Anyway, all you need to do is walk down the road and you can get some "Genuine" Gucci glasses for €5 :-)

We've been having a little trouble finding internet cafes outside of Rome, couldn't find any in Cassino but have managed to find a somewhat sketchy one in Naples - speaking of sketchy - CRIKEY as Steve Irwin would say - Naples is colourful to say the least (we'll get to that in a later post)!

So anyway - we're still talking about Rome at the mo' (hope you're all following this :-) and on day three we just wandered around the Historic Centre - basically just the old part of town, every street would turn up another ancient piazza full of smart cars, scooters, fountains, huge facades and tourists! The Pantheon and Trevi Fountain are prime examples of this! Everywhere you go they seem to be repairing monuments etc. truckloads of Parisian schoolkids and American tourists. Photo's will come but this cafe has no way of getting them off my USB key - flash this Naples place!

The next day, we went to the Capitolini Museums, some famous art there that even Scott recognised! LOL The big hand, foot and head of Constantine - well worth €15 for both of us - and the museums surround a large square designed by none other than Michael and Angelo ;-)

Vatican tomorrow!