hovie - april 2001
Had goodbye drinks with Manu's friend Sahar who was in town for the furniture shows
from Israel. Another friend of Manu's from Israel, Eyal, who's here studying joined
us. Mija had a good time grilling the two Isralies about the Hebrew language. Where
did it come from? Did Jesus speak it? Is it simialr to Arabic? Didn't come to any
final conclusion. Sahar thought it was only about 100 years old but that it had come
from the ancient unspoken language that the Torah was written in. Both did agree
though that Jesus must have spoke Arabic. Culture in a bar in Milan.
Went to Manu's home in the country side again with the usual gang. Manu wanted to
go for a hike through the woods, and since it was a beautiful day, we all agreed.
Well it was fun at first, great sceenery, birds, trees, etc. Then Manu got the great
idea to follow this creek into the woods. If you ever are given this option, just
walk away, don't even ask, just walk away. Of course we didn't and about half a mile
into the woods we hit mud. Nothing too bad so we continued. About a mile and a half
into the forrest the mud became pretty bad, not really any dry spots, and none of
us had hiking boots. Well you'd think at that point we'd turn back and call it a
day. Wrong. We continued through the mud and muck. Then, about 3 miles into the forest
the brush became so thick that we were haking our way through it, all the while being
6 inches deep in the muck. Oh yes, one more thing, Natasha was with us. Now she was
really loving all of this, every last dripping, soaking, dark brown, mudding, mucky
inch of her. She soon became two toned with everything from her shoulders down brown
and her head still white. But wait, there's more. About 4 miles into the walk I hear
Mija laughing and saying "oh my god." Now she was probably only 25 yards
ahead of me but I could not see a thing through the brush. When I finally came upon
the scene, I saw her with one shoe off and one arm elbow deep in mud. Yes, she was
trying to retrieve her missing shoe which had been sucked off in the mud. She finally
got it back but it was soaking wet and muddy. Luckily, at that point we were only
about 200 yards from a clearing. Problem was that it was 200 yards up the side of
a hill. To make a long story short, we made it up the hill, hiked the 5 miles back
to Manu's home (on the road this time, much easier), cleaned up, and drove back to
Milan... Exhausted. And Nappy (Natasha) was given a long, long bath.
Went to an opening for one of Manu's friends who designs bizarre chairs as part of
the week long furniture shows. The whole show was pictures of famous Milanese people
with the chair, and then, at the end of the exhibition is the actual chair. Interesting
but not a chair I'd want. Good treats though, expecially the ice cream bon bons.
Afterward about 10 of us went to a cool tratoria in the Navigli district and met
up with an ex co-worker of Andy's who was in town for the shows. He's now living
and working in New York city but worked here for 3 years. Had way too much food as
we ordered 3 giant platters of various risottos: mushroom, red wine, ham. Didn't
like the red wine one but the other two were fabulous.
Got to experience the Milan furniture design art walk with Andy, Manu, and a bunch
of other friends. Very cool and hi brow and most places had free drinks and appitizers.
It was actually more of a social event than actually looking at the furniture (isn't
that what art walks are for though?). Loved the Baffi stuff. Knew I would though
since they are a constant in my favorite magazine, Wallpaper. Very sleek, modern
stuff for the kitchen and bathroom. Also got to see some weird stuff like an easychair
made of rocks and rubber. It looked like one of those stone exposed park benches
but it was soft and comfortable. Strange.
Had a fun Mexican dinner at Igrid and Ben's place. Got to meet friends of there's
from Canada, California, and Italy. The girl from Canada had a 5 year old boy who
has only been here for 5 months and talks constantly in Italian. He'd keep asking
me things in Italian and when I didn't understand he'd look at his mom like "why
is this guy so dumb?"
mija - april 2001
Today we took a drive through Piedmont's wine area. We planned our destination to
be the small town of Barola where they produce very famous white wine. Barola is
so tiny that we almost missed it in fact. The winery is in an old summer palace that
also has a museum in it. We tried a number of the red wines but weren't really taken
with any of them. From Barola we went to ?? and tried some there their wines. Hovie
and Mom both liked this wineyard enough to each buy a bottle. From there, we were
given the name of a very fancy, world renowned chef owned restaurant in a little
town not far from where we were. However, it was much too early to begin to think
of dinner so we stopped in ?? first to have a walk around the town and have an aparativo.
As it started to get dark, we decided to head for the restarant. It really wasn't
far away but up in the hills a bit. Unfortunately, the fog started to roll in and
before we got to the town, visibility was about 10 feet. It was bad enough that I
was all in favor of turning around and getting out of the fog. As we were getting
to where we could see again, mom said that she was a little disappointed that we
didn't get to go to that restarant and she thought that on the way home, she and
Hovie would walk next to the car and make sure that I didn't drive off a cliff. She
is always up for an adventure. But, we found a little out of the way, family run
restarant that was actually really good and unbelievably inexpensive.
Friday we headed to Venice for 2 days. Amber was nice enough to let us stay at her
place so we headed straight for Murano and the workshop. We wanted to see Amber and
Pino working. Amber met us for lunch and it was one of the best meals we would have
during Mom's visit to Italy. Amber picked a really great spot and the food was yummy.
After lunch we went into the factory and watched Pino make a sculpture of an Anne
Geddes design. It was amazing to watch this baby inside a flower take shape. Absolutely
While Amber was showering, we went shopping in Murano. Mom bought a couple of gifts
for people. I told her that when she sees something she likes, to buy it then because
she may never get another chance! Dinner was at one of Amber's favorite restaurants.
Everybody there knows her and all the waiters stop by to say hi or at the very least
to pat her shoulder as they walk by. It's very cute.
Saturday we got up and went shopping. It's strange that I've been shopping enough
in Venice that I know where the good shops are and can find what I'm looking for
better there than in Milan. Mom bought a pair of shoes (a huge purchase on her part)
and a few more gifts. Then we went into the Basilica di San Marco. This was the first
time that I had ever been in. The church is completely decorated in mosaics. It's
goregous and very intricate. There is one area where you can see the mosaics up close
that it's unbelievable that the huge pictures on the walls are actually made from
little tiny pieces of glass or stone. It's interesting to see how a shade dark stone
here will add the necessary shadow to make the picture look real. Very cool!
Before we left, we went back to Murano to pick up our sculpture that we've been waiting
to bring back to Milan. Amber had it roped to a cart for us because we had to walk
it from the studio to the vaporetto and from the vaporetto to the car. It was actually
a very heavy, large box. It barely fit in the trunk. When we got home, we opened
it up and it's awesome. It's a lot bigger than we thought and reflects the light
in a really cool way. We put it in the living room and it's definitely the thing
that you notice when you come in the room.
After class, Mom and I went to the outdoor market. She has decided that my planter
boxes need to be filled with flowers to make everything prettier. However, she couldn't
believe the prices for flowers at the market and was flabbergasted that there was
no bartering done. No, this isn't a flea market, this is a market where people actually
shop for their food and goods everyweek. It's much more like a supermarket/department
store. She was also very picky about which vegetable vendors she would patron. I
am too but for different reasons. I look for a vendor that seems nice. She looks
for one that doesn't smoke.
Mom arrived today. She was quite the trooper. After an incredibly long flight, she
was tough and didn't go to bed until about 1:00 am. We went to a local restaurant
that we go to a lot for dinner. We have apparently gotten used to the smoke in Italy
but since this was Mom's first outing, she spent the meal with her napkin over her
face, moaning about the smell. Well, that's something that she will just have to
get used to!
Pat and Chardie arrived in Milan and are planning to spend 2 days with us. They are
our first visitors and it's very exciting. I realized how little I actually know
about Milan as we were trying to figure out what we should do. Since they were kinda
museumed out, they opted for shopping. And that is something that I know about! We
planned to meet Hovie for dinner at a restaurant that we go to frequently after Hovie
finished his Italian class. In theory, it was foolproof. However... I forgot to bring
my cell phone which made contacting Hovie difficult and there was a sudden, vicious
downpour that drove us out of the streets sooner than we had planned. I had to call
Hovie before his class was over and he hung up on me rather than talk during his
class and it went downhill from there. I was not able to reach to him (which was
frustrating since I had to run into the storm to use the pay phone), his phone just
kept going to voicemail and unbeknownst to me, he didn't remember where the restaurant
was (one metro stop away). Needless to say, he missed out on a really yummy dinner.
We finally met up with him at the bus stop on the way home. He had been roaming the
streets of Milan hoping to run into the restaurant.
We (Manu, Andy, Dave and us) spent the weekend skiing in Switzerland. It only took
about 3 hours to drive up there. However there had been a landslide and part of the
road was closed. They detoured us through what appeared to be a large construction
site, the kind you find is Issaquah where they are building acres of new houses.
It was pitch black and a little disconcerting. To get us back onto the road, we had
to make a sharp, narrow right turn through someone's backyard. And the roads in general
were comprised of hairpin turns that made everyone car sick.
Saturday we headed up the mountain. It was very interesting to see the difference
between the slopes here versus in Washington or Whistler. There are no trees so pretty
much you can ski anywhere that you can see. The groomed slopes are also about the
same as green slopes. It was only off the groomed slopes that there was any difficulty.
However, there is absolutely no signage so you never really know how difficult that
non-groomed sections will be.
Now, anybody that has skied with me knows that I hate my ski boots. They reached
an all time level of hate by the time we were done sking. Not only was it nearly
impossible for me to get my feet into the boots, they were so tight that I couldn't
buckle them without losing the cirulation in my feet immediately so I didn't buckle
them. I tried to make the most of a bad foot situation and was determined to ski
everywhere that everyone else was. Skiing down a very!! powdery, steep, ungroomed
slope, I lifted my ski, which had gotten buried in the powder and when I raised my
foot, my boot and ski stayed in the snow. Yes, I only had the liner on my foot. Luckily
Dave, the best snowboarder in the group, was still above me and he came down to provide
assistance. Now remember that I could barely get my boots on in the best of circumstances
and the probablility of my boot going on in knee high powder was nonexistant. So,
Dave carried my skies and I walked with my boot in one hand and poles in the other
down the slope. However, it was steep and thick and I spent most of the time rolling
down the slope. I was totally exhausted by the time I got back to the groomed run.
The decision was unanimous that I would rent boots the rest of the trip.
We met a friend of Dave's for dinner in the village, which was about a 20 minute
drive from our hotel. We decided to take a short cut which would cut our time in
half. The short cut was really just a dirt road full of hairpin turns up the mountain.
I'm really all about a paved road!
Sunday we awoke to a mini blizzard with zero visibility and decided not to try skiing.
So, we went to the funplex and bowled. Such an odd thing to do in Switzerland but
we were in a very rural area without a lot going on on Easter Sunday.
Monday was a little foggy but we decided to ski anyway. I rented boots (so much more
comfortable but the bindings were far too loose). And, on the same troublesome run
(I know, what was I thinking), I fell, my ski fell off, buried itself into the snow
and I kept going. Unfortunatley, this time there was nobody above me that could collect
my ski. I walked about 10 feet back up the mountain to try to uncover my ski. I was
absolutely exhausted and did not try that run again.
It was a beautiful day and a bunch of us went to the country to go for a nice walk.
I decided to take Natasha because I knew she would think it was fun. Our stroll started
out innocent enough: walking on paved roads, then dirt roads, then through vineyards,
until Manu decided it would be fun to walk through the woods. The woods was actually
a dry river bed that wasn't that dry because it had been raining. It was also very
overgorwn with trees, brambles, and fallen trees. Everyone started out being very
careful not to get their shoes muddy but it soon became obvious that that was not
going to be possible. Our route became more and more treacherous, juming from one
side of the riverbank to another. By the time we realized this wasn't the greatest
idea, it just seemed easier to keep going. Natasha was having a great time. She was
following my every step but was mud from her neck down. She couldn't keep out of
the river and the banks were just as wet and muddy. The entire hike was also uphill,
going on and on, farther and farther. After a couple of hours we reached an area
that we could no longer traverse and we needed to climb a very steep slope to get
out of the river bank. We also had to jump over a wide expanse of river. I was in
about the middle of the pack, between Dave and Chris. I jumped and landed in deep,
soft mud and when I pulled my left foot out of the mud, my shoe didn't come. Looking
back at the place that my shoe should have been was only mud. There had been the
quicksand effect and my shoe was gone. Chris came over to poke the area with his
walking stick from his side of the river and then Dave came down the slope to prod
the area as well. It appeared that my shoe was gone. It was then that Dave, trying
not to laugh, informed me that I was going to have to dig for it. Until now I had
the faint hope that I would not have to get the foot I was carefully holding up (balancing
on one foot) muddy. But, to get my shoe, I had to stand in the river, reach down
and dig in the mud until it covered my wrist. When I pulled my shoe out, it was completed
encased in mud and made that awful sucking noise and then pop as it was pulled free.
I then had to rinse the whole thing in the river before putting it back on my cold,
wet foot. Finally reaching the top, we were dismayed to see that we were at the bottom
of a steep vineyard that we had to walk up and then dismayed further to realize we
were about 3 miles from where we had left our cars. A beer has never tasted as good
as when we finally got back to civilazation and found a bar to stop at. I think that
even Natasha, now covered in a hard casing of dried mud, was tired.
Today we went to St. Ambrosio. This church is 1000 years old and very neat inside.
Luckily (sarcasm) for us, we got there in time for the Latin service. It really made
me appreciate Vatican II. I much prefer to have at least a vague idea of what is
happening during the service. Hovie, of course, thought it was the greatest thing
ever and why don't we go to that service every week. There was certainly a lot of
incense and choir singing.
Since we have confirmed reports that we are going to be receiving our first visitors
from the US, we decided that we better make the guest room habitable. We cleaned
out the storage closet and put all our extra things in there. Now all the room needs
is a bed, sheets, and blanket.