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As is my true style these days, I start entries what feels like a long time ago, and then I dabble in them a little bit when ever I get a chance to myself (which is never because I always feel like a decapitated chicken), and so the entry stretches on and on. This particular entry was started four weeks ago at the beginning of November, on the long weekend. Continue….
Last weekend was a four-day long weekend in Italy and the buzz over having a three-day work was everywhere. I’ve mentioned somewhere before in my entries that if a holiday falls on a weekend, the holiday is not extended to the adjoining Monday or Friday, and hence it’s a lost ‘day off’. In a nation that takes the longest of lunch breaks, you’d think they would grant this missed-day of celebration, but alas, it is forfeited. All Saints Day fell on a Thursday and so Friday was seen as a bridge-day resulting in our clan having four days together. We rented some wheels and decided to cruise around out of town for a bit. With friends we decided to explore the town of Portofino in the region of Liguria on one day. Portofino is famous for its fishing-town scenery and popularity with celebrities. Though the hamlet is easy to ooooh and aaaaaah over, getting into it proved to be test in assertiveness, patience, skinnyness, and strength in one’s marriage.
Legend has it that driving into Portofino is reserved for residents only, but this is Italy after all where laws are merely words on pretty pieces of paper that are randomly picked to be followed. We learned that from the nearest town of Santa Margherita Ligure, you can either catch a quick ferry ride or take the bus to get there. On our particular day, the waters were too rough for a ferry excursion, so we bought tickets for our bus and waited along with the other throngs of people who were diverted from the ferry. Eventually, the bus arrived and we realized it was just a simple small orange city bus, yet we were a strong crowd equivalent to that of a small village anticipating to board because the next bus was not coming for an hour. Despite the fact that ferry’s were not working, the bus schedule remained the same and more buses were not added to the route. The bus doors flew open, elbows were in position, and like cattle we stepped on the bus. As the bus gasped, grunted, and struggled to breathe as it pulled away from the stop, I recall trying to look at the pavement where we all just stood moments before and it amazed me we actually all fit on the bus. The pavement was cleared and so we began our five-minute drive (literally), into Portofino.
There is one, thin swirling ribbon of pavement that leads to Portofino so taking a city bus on that road was interesting. Minutes later, we arrived, got off the bus and had to fight through the crowd that was waiting at the bus stop to board their turn on the over-stuffed box with wheels out of Portofino. If you have been following this journey with us on my blog, you will be aware of my love affair with this nation because I truly do love it here. However, embarking italians cannot get it straight that it will be much simpler, quieter, and actually sensible to allow the arriving set of passengers to disembark before they try to load themselves on the bus. I cannot tell you how many times I have yelled ‘Aspetta!’ (wait!) at my fellow comrades while on public transport. Furthermore, now that I am finishing this entry near the end of November, I can write that earlier last week I traveled back from Poland with the kiddos where again, I had the pleasure of traveling with italians on an airline that doesn’t assign seats. Mayhem, pandaemonium, and barbarism ensued even if there was a meager attempt to form a line up. It’s comical and has lead me to believe that when it comes to any kind of mode of transportation, italians embark planes, trains, and buses by the process of osmosis and diffusion. The semi-permeable barrier is the plane/bus door, where inside of the vehicle lies the area of low-concentration of people and hence is the desired location. Outside, particles of italians accumulate in a noisy solution around the semi-permeable barrier and this high-concentration of people slowly gets stronger, anxious, and bursting to move. You hear rumors of this stereo-type when you first arrive, but though I respect the people of this nation greatly, their ability to line up is equivalent to my ability to sing in tune…epic fail for both.
Back to Portofino,…..we noticed a cab stand at the bus stop where we were deposited and decided that on the way back, we will ride in a cab since it was such a short slow trip. We wandered around, ate, the kids played near the water for a bit and decided eventually to head back. At the cab stand, the driver of a mini-van cab informed us that it was a sixty-euro cab fee to go back into Portofino. That’s robbery if I’ve ever seen it, but we’re no fools. Recall, I said the bus ride into town was only four or five-minutes long and hence fifteen euros a minute was ludicrous. We decided to walk back into town but that idea got squashed fairly quickly since the road was so narrow and there was no where to share the road with cars and strollers. Grudgingly we turned around to the doomed bus stop which was already starting to swell with italian particles. Forty-five minutes later the bus pulled up and wowzers, did it ever unleash a monster. It’s as if the bus was a celebrity and we were eager and excited fans willing to throw ourselves at it…(and I must shamefully admit, even I got into the yelling). The pushing, stomping, and shoving ensued and Matlock clambered with the strollers while I took the kids. If we didn’t get on this bus, it would be another hour before we could attempt to leave again. It was imperative to get on regardless if everyone clearly had the same thought. All of our group managed to suck in our tummy’s enough to squeeze onto the coveted orange wagon, but Matlock and the strollers were left behind. Through the window of the bus, this caused some tension between Matlock and I because now we would have to wait another hour for him to arrive in Portofino. I blamed him for not being assertive enough to claim a spot and though he was carrying two large bulky items and hence was harder for him to do so, this fact did not matter to me, the wife. Ten minutes later, we were back in Portofino and I called Matlock to obtain an update on what he would do. Being a woman I may be irrational, I admit, but I don’t hold grudges or stay upset for long. Matlock said he was walking over-as it turned out, had we walked a little further as we originally attempted, we would have seen a little pathway that divulged off the main road and that was safe AND also provided spectacular views and beach-stops too. Upon his arrival in town with us thirty minutes later, we had a good laugh at the situation. You truly can’t stay angry with the way this nation functions for too long. Sometimes it makes you huff and puff, but you just have to roll with it.
Since we’re on the topic of buses already (and fittingly, why I decided to use the title of one of the Who’s famous songs for this entry), I had a comical experience on a city chariot last week where I actually got requested to remove myself off the bus. After dropping the kids off at school, I normally run to do groceries at my favorite grocery store which I later pack into my double-decker stroller and catch the bus home. At home I unpack all my goods and head right back for the kids. Such has been my delightful routine for months now but this day proved to be different. After I boarded the bus, we drove one stop and then the bus driver walked out of his little plastic-glass enclosure and came up to me on the bus. He asked me where my kids were because strollers are not for food, but for children and hence I had to get off his bus. I was getting evicted! My first reaction in my head was to reply ‘but I’ve got plantar fasciitis!!!’ and though it is a latin word, I had no idea how to say this properly in italian and hence I risked looking more foolish because I’d probably say something that implied ‘but I like fake plants!’ or ‘but planets are fascinating!’. He went on to say that I can either fold up my stroller and remove all the food in it, or get off his bus. Basically, if a stroller has no kids in it, it should be folded up. Wowzers, did he ever rock the mic like a vandal! Milan’s transit system has rules and regulations about how many cats, dogs, birds, and fish each passenger may bring on board, but clearly this Noah was having a bad day and did not like me messing with his ark. I had no option but to get off the bus where I expressed what the bus driver should do next (in my opinion), and walked home. In a sense, that is the essence of Italy-one day, the rules and regulations don’t matter and the next, they’re more popular than marble columns. This country is never short on adventure and hence it keeps me marching with a smile even if for a second I do grit my teeth in frustration first.
It’s late so I’m off to publish this post. Both kids are up battling the dark forces of germy invaders and hence I am surrounded by orchestras of coughs and fevers at 2:15 in the morning. Little Miss Stubborn turns five this weekend and all week we’ve been prepping for her fiesta. Thirty other kids are coming to celebrate with us, so we all need to get our rest. The thirty kids don’t phase me but the fact that she’s turning five already makes me dizzy and anxious. Has it been 1826 days of bliss already??!