Archive for November, 2009

21
Nov
09

Italian Dressing

There’s nothing called Italian Dressing in Italy. That’s no surprise, right? The French call the quarter-pounder a Royale with Cheese, and the Italians would just call their dressing, salad dressing, surely. Imagine our surprise when we couldn’t find salad dressing at the supermarket. Lots of mayonnaise, lots of other sauces, lots of dressing ingredients. No salad dressing by any name we could decipher.

It became clear after we ordered a salad at a restaurant. The waiter gave us a little cannister of olive oil and a little cannister of balsamic vinegar. Aha! It’s mixed at the table. Nobody has ready-made vinaigrette because the ingredients are common table condiments.

I wonder what a table would look like with every culture’s condiments? Salt, pepper, sugar, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, wasabi, chilli oil, MSG shakers, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, chutney, etc. You could serve the customers a lone raw potato and the rest would take care of itself. 😉

 

21
Nov
09

Venice

Venice is a maze of twisty streets, all alike. As with most mazes, the walls are much less interesting than the paths. The shopping is shit: it’s either Gucci, Prada, or street vendors selling plastic bath toys. There’s very little in between. Save for the overpriced restaurants and the occaisional art gallery, there’s little reason to ever set foot indoors.

The maze consists of tiny streets and the famous canals intertwined. Venice is like a bonsai tree among cities. It’s been cramped in the same small space for so long it’s grown stunted and warped. (I’m ignoring Mestre, which we didn’t visit. It’s a suburb on the shore of the lagoon half an hour’s bus ride from old Venice. That’s where the locals eat and sleep. I hear it’s rather normal compared to the theme-park atmosphere of central Venice).

As a city, Venice is disappointing, but as a maze it’s astoundingly intricate and the finest I’ve ever explored. If I ever do a game prototype that demands a maze, I’m going to be tempted to crib from Venetian satellite imagery.

15
Nov
09

Positano

alleyPositano is the most beautiful least practical place. It’s a steep coastal cliff that’s barely suitable to cut a road into, but the refugee founders managed to build a town there, growing crops on the terraces.

Most of the town is spread along one windy hairpin laden road. If I recall correctly there are two intersections in the whole place. The rest of the buildings are hidden up steep staircased alleyways. Even the alleys have vertigo inducing million dollar views (as you can see at the side).

The linearity of the town means you don’t have to worry much about getting lost. The town is situated at a U-shaped crevice where the cliffs double back and form a kind of canyon sloping down toward the sea. It’s a strange feeling to be able to stand at the top of an outcropping and realise you don’t really need the tourist map anymore, because the opposite face of the town is spread out before you, every building visible.

I thought the likes of Queenstown was a tourist trap, but I think Positano might have it beat in that department. Restaurant prices seem to be the result of market collusion and I got the impression that hotels outnumber private homes.

We got a great deal on a 4-star hotel room and I’m still not sure how it wound up in our price range. It was a pretty swank place, but I think I might’ve been more comfortable in a well run 2-star place. Even if the room rate is cheap, they still feel entitled to try and work in exorbitant fees for every service. Poor Melody came down with bronchitis, and we wound up having to book another night at a ludicrous rate so that she could recover. Oh well, you can’t plan everything.

15
Nov
09

The Vatican

ceiling

I went to see the Pope’s house. I’m not a big fan of the guy, but I heard it was quite something, and it was.

The tour started with the Vatican art museum, which is submerged in a tide of people. It pushes you along ceaselessly at half walking speed. Even at that hasty speed, it takes 3 hours to see the permanent exhibition. Every wall and ceiling is covered by something impressive. The mosaics on the floors weren’t bad either. It’s like a treadmill of masterworks. After that, you stagger out in front of St. Peter’s Basilica dizzied by sensory overload.

Perhaps the Vatican is trying to corner the art market, or maybe they’re going for a Civilization culture victory. Bet the Italians will wish they had finished the job when Rome gets culture-flipped. 😉

It’s a fantastically ornate monster’s lair. It’s a little sad to think that this is where all the marble missing from the ancient Roman sights went. I was certainly disappointed when I showed up at the Pantheon, and instead of it being full of awesome Hellenistic gods, it had been retrofitted as a church and was full of saints instead. Bah! Doesn’t Italy have enough churches already?

That said, I was tickled to see one basilica with coin operated machines controlling the lights for the artwork. If you want to see the sights you have to use coin operated enlightenment.

15
Nov
09

Rome

fountainMan, central Rome is thoroughly awesome. It seems like there’s something fascinating hidden in every street, be it a ruin, a huge basilica, a fountain or sweet alfresco dining. The sights we queued for weren’t as interesting as the ones we found serendipitously.

Rome is easy to get around. Most sights are within walking distance. My guidebook says the metro isn’t worth bothering with, but it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. If there’s a metro stop near where you need to go, it works extremely well. Far easier than trying to figure out how the buses work.

11
Nov
09

Back from Italy!

Freshness is Protagonist!

Freshness is Protagonist!

Soon I’ll post about how it went, but first I have to make some travel insurance claims. :-/