Saturday, October 23, 2004

Rome, Italy--Days 264/265/266


Life in Italy is fabulous--I have spent the past few days wandering around Rome with Mo--the coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican--ahhhh, its all so wonderful. Just a few days here is not enough to take it all in but I guess that just leaves more for us to do when we return! I threw in a few coins into the Fontana di Trevi which, according to legend, means that I will make it back to Rome soon. The weather is hot, the food is good, I have no complaints. Except the fact that Mo left early this morning back to the States. By the time I was up and ready to hit the zoo she was well on her second flight from Brussels to Chicago.

I got up and walked up to the taxi stand near the hotel (which is in the boondocks of Rome) and took a cab to the entrance of the zoo. After standing in line for eons, I finally was able to buy my entrance ticket and head into the zoo.

I found one hippo Carlo in the pool (there should be two--Carlo and Mimi) so I took pictures of him for a couple of hours. He did a great job--got out of the pool, walked around a bit, went back in, swam around a lot, you know, all the great things that hippos can do for me to help me get good pictures--and I left a few hours later with a good collection of photos for the porcelain service and the determination to come back in the morning to get pictures of Mimi, who was inside today and hopefully would be outside tomorrow. I left when Carlo was brought inside by the keepers who began cleaning their enclosure, telling people that the hippos would not be back until 5:30pm. I decided not to wait.

Now I am wandering around Rome, trying to find a gelateria. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Venice, Italy—Florence, Italy—Siena, Italy—Day 261/262/263

The past few days have been a short break from the hippos with Mo and I stopping in Florence and Siena on our way down the hippos in Rome. We spent two days in Florence visiting the infamous Duomo (I made Mo climb all 463 steps inside the dome to the top!) and the Battistero nearby. We saw Michelangelo’s “David” in all his glory (did David REALLY fight Goliath naked? Anybody know?) and went to the Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti (built in the 15th C) to see the Galleria Palatina.

After two days in Florence we took the train to medieval Siena where we visited the Piazza del Campo (again making Mo climb to the top of the tower in the plaza for the view) and visited Siena’s amazing black and white duomo which is just awesome with its amazing marble flooring and relics. Tomorrow we are off to Rome and are both excited about the abundance of historical wealth the city holds for us.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Venice, Italy—Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy—Day 260

I woke up early this morning and headed to Lignano Sabiadoro, which is just about an hour outside of Venice by train. Leaving Mo to catch up on sleep and to sightsee throughout the day, I headed to the zoo solo.

My train took me to Lausana, where I was told (by the zoo website) that I could catch a bus to Lignano and then probably get a shuttle service to the zoo from the Lignano bus station. I kept my fingers crossed that this would happen.

I arrived into Lausana (which is about 20 minutes from Lignano) and headed over to where I thought the bus station was. Problem was that it was Sunday and the bus station seemed to be closed. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where on earth I should get the bus, let alone which bus I should take and where it would take me, so I had to give up after about fifteen minutes of trying to figure out the bus schedule. I headed back to the train station in search of someone to ask and walked past a taxi stand with a lone taxi waiting in it.

I decided to ask someone first before hopping in a taxi (just to make sure I knew where the zoo was). Big mistake. The taxi pulled away just as I decided hmmm, I should really get a taxi right now. I was stuck. I went and waited at the taxi stand for, oh, ten minutes or so and no more taxis came. It was a small town, what was I thinking? There were a few people around the station but I was determined that I could find a taxi on my own.

I finally went into the little tobacco shop and bought a phone card and ended up calling for a taxi. Our conversation was amazing—how I managed to get out that I needed a taxi at the train station was that I ended up using a bit of English AND German. Somehow, I managed to get my point across, although I wasn’t so sure that the taxi would show up.

Luckily it did. I stood there for quite a while, assuring this old man that I had called the taxi (he was very concerned that I was waiting for nothing and gestured to the sign with the taxi phone number and then made a phone with his hand and kept asking me in Italian if I had called one) and just then my taxi pulled up. He took me to the zoo which was a good, expensive taxi ride away. Dropping me off in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, I stood in an empty parking lot not knowing where the zoo entrance was.

Turned out I was at a big complex—there was not only a zoo but a park, a marina, and some other things. The map for the whole area that was posted up on a huge billboard looked too complicated but luckily I found the zoo. I walked over to the entrance (still feeling like I was the only one around) and eventually found it.

I bought my ticket and headed into the zoo, finding the two hippos just getting into their water. They would proceed to stand in the water for, oh, two or three minutes before they both collapsed into their steamy bath. I snapped away and watched them for a good three hours without them moving that much at all. Did I mention that this whole time the lions (located next to the hippos) were engaged in R-rated behavior the ENTIRE TIME. People would come watch the hippos and then dash over to see what the lions were up to (there was a huge glass panel that really didn’t allow for any privacy really) and I just stood my ground, waiting for that miraculous moment when the hippos decided to do something else, putting up with the ferocious growls and groans coming from next door. They never did. Luckily the water in the pool was just filling up when I arrived so they were like knee deep in water when I showed up. Water poured in slowly but surely and as the morning wore on they got deeper and deeper in the water.

It was easy to tell the male from the female (due to the dung spreading habits of the male) and I went off in search of their names. Asking the ticket lady didn’t work (I had written down how to ask what their names are in Italian and shoved my notebook at her in desperation) and finally tracked down a keeper who helped me (I did this by literally running after her, shouting “Scusi!! SCUSI!”

I went back to the hippos and found Tina (the female) and Pippo (them male—again with the Pippo—it must be something important in Italian) who had not moved at all. I continued to take pictures for a bit before deciding that my photos were sufficient. I said goodbye to the hippos, and to the lions (who were at it again…) and had the ticket lady order me a taxi which was nice of her. One eventually came—a woman taxi driver (my first!) and I was soon heading back to the Lausana train station. Her taxi was this completely old school white station wagon, very hip if you ask me—quite the ride.

She dropped me off and I waited for my train back to Venice. Two hours later I was back on the water ferry heading back to the Piazza de San Marco to meet Mo at the hotel at five o’clock. After snagging a gelato from down the street, I met Mo at the hotel and we spent the rest of the evening walking and losing ourselves in Venice discovering perhaps a little too late that there ARE signs directing you where to go.