Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Psychic Travel Log, Volume II

Our European vacation adventure continues...

Psychic Travel Log, Volume II – Cortona

One week into our vacation we had almost fully adjusted to the time difference, although Son Number Three continued to fall asleep in his lunch and wake up at two in the morning. That was only a problem because our Milan Airbnb apartment was the size of our master bedroom at home. Naturally it was billed as “sleeps twenty,” because it was enormous by European standards. We spent a lot of time outside.

We spent two and a half days in Milan, with the main activity centered around going to see The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci. He painted it on an entire wall of a church.

Here’s a recap of the viewing:
Everyone: “Wow. That’s a big painting.”
Boys: “Why does it look so old?”
Me: “Because it is.”
Boys: “Who are all those people?”
Me: “Well, the one in the middle is Jesus. The scary looking guy is Judas.”
Boys: “Who’s the lady?”
Me: “That’s John, not a lady. I’m not really sure who all the other ones are.”
Boys: “Why aren’t they eating?”
Me: “They’re about to.”
Boys: “We’re hungry.”
Me: “Me too. Who wants to go get pizza?”

The World’s Fair was also in Milan this year, so we booked tickets ahead of time for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s a recap of the fair:

Boys: “Where are the rides?”
Me: “It’s not that kind of fair.”
Boys: “Where is the Ferris wheel?”
Me: “It’s not that kind of fair.”
Boys: “Where are the corn dogs?”
Me: “It’s not that kind of fair.”
Wife: “At least there’s no scary meth addict carnies.”
Me: “Who wants to see the exhibit on hybrid disease-resistant corn crops they’re growing in Africa?”
Boys: “We’re hungry.”
Me: “Me too. Who wants to go get pizza?”

We then rented a car and drove from Milan to Cortona. I bought the insurance because I don’t understand Italian well enough to know that it was being included. That was a good thing, because Italian drivers are insane, and Italian roads have no actual rules. At least they drive on the right side of the road, but the road signs make no sense. I feared for my life for the entire seven-minute drive from the car rental place back to our apartment.

The first time I drove in Italy we didn’t have kids yet. I remember it being kind of fun – sort of like driving in Tijuana while wearing a blindfold. I remember a lot of my life before having kids as being fun. Now, however, that my sweet, precious children were in the car with me, asleep and drooling at ten in the morning, the whole driving in Italy thing was no longer fun. It was ridiculous. Why is everyone in this country trying to kill my family with their cars and their scooters?

In order to accommodate six people, we rented the largest vehicle manufactured in Europe that is not a city bus or a cement truck. That being said, it was smaller than a Toyota Camry. Even so, our car did not fit in any of the lanes designated for vehicular traffic, nor did it fit on any of the sidewalks where Italians normally drive. There was also no place to park it. I was forced to simply leave our huge people mover in the center of the road blocking both lanes when I needed to stop. Fortunately, this is normal in Italy and no one noticed.

We were heading for a town called Cortona. Actually, we were heading for a farm house in a small village near Cortona that does not appear on any maps. What could go wrong?

Fun fact: If you are trying to find a farmhouse in a nonexistent village that is only two kilometers (whatever those are) from the town of Cortona, it will take you approximately four hours to locate it, once you have reached Cortona.

Italians apparently consider it rude not to know where you are trying to go, so if you ask for directions and they don’t know, they just make something up to be friendly. No wonder everyone here drinks wine like marathon runners drinks water.

Also, I learned that the Italians don’t bother with the diagonal red stripe on their “don’t do this” road signs. For example, a sign with a red circle and a car in the middle means “no cars,” even though there is no diagonal red stripe through the car. The red circle with the car in the middle and no diagonal red stripe definitely does NOT mean, “OK for cars to go here,” like one might surmise if one was used to the presence of the apparently-not-so-universal diagonal red stripe on “don’t do this” road signs.

Also, when you happen to drive your car into an Italian no-car zone, you will learn a lot of new hand gestures from the helpful locals.

Since we had been in Italy for almost a week on local time - or about three months on our bodies’ clocks - Son Number Two spoke fluent Italian by then, so he was able to pick up enough of the farm country dialect to figure out what all the hand gestures meant. Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to say those words in English.

We finally arrived at our farm house paradise where we spent the week swimming, eating, catching up with our long-lost relatives, and desperately avoiding driving anywhere unnecessary in our giant car.

Cobblestone streets in ancient cities may look quaint and picturesque, but they are hell to do a U-turn on when you misread a red circle sign.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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