My poor travel blog

I’m sorry, it’s true updating a blog is more work than it seems. I was waiting to catch up on some major stuff for my next posts, but I need to complain somewhere. Being an au pair is hard, and there’s really nobody to appreciate the difficulty of the endeavor. My host mother yelled at me today because she’s not h with my job performance. These children are so difficult. They barely function/do what I tell them to let alone learn English. Quote: “My children are smart, they should be speaking perfect English by now.” I know all parents think their children are awesome, but it’s been 6 weeks. Also, Pescara seems like it should be a lot of fun for young people such as myself, but you need to speak Italian if you really want to enjoy it, fair warning. I’ve had fun, but it’s been pretty subdued. I’m really glad I’m going to Naples tomorrow.

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Pescara Antique Fair

On my way to the center of town I got very distracted one day. I randomly stumbled upon a whole street shut down for an antique market. If you know me, then you know that for a 20 year old I’m freakishly in love with antiques and thrifting. I love the romance of jewelry and knick knacks that have a story behind them, even if most of the time you don’t get to know the story. I find owning antiques so much more fulfilling that something new off the shelf at a department store. And with the added romance of them being Italian antiques? Sold.

I loved walking up and down the street looking at all of the fares. Here’s an example of what all of the stalls looked liked.

Of course most of the stuff was pretty worthless as in all antique markets. More like a garage sale. I fell in love with some larger pieces, but I really didn’t like the idea of taking something large and/or breakable home with me in a suitcase. I kept browsing. Here is some antique crocheted lace that is the traditional craft of the elderly women in the area.

I ended up getting a silver ring, pretty low quality, I definitely overpaid for it, but I fell in love. That’s the problem with my shopping abilities. It is not a beautiful ring. At all. In fact, it’s quite ugly. But it reminds me of some of the gargoyles and creatures I’ve seen around churches in the area, and it was made by a local craftsman (supposedly) either way it will always remind  me of Italy. And I love unique things like this. 

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On my bus ride to Chieti I met a really nice lady on her way to her job as nurse who lives in Ortona. She recommended going there, and I had been wondering if I should, so the next afternoon I had free I headed there on a bus. I didn’t buy a ticket, I was still very confused about how to do that. Sadly this time the bus ticket guys got on and were checking to make sure everybody had a ticket. I had my “I’m foreign” act rearing and ready to be played out for better or for worse, when the girl sitting next to me actually didn’t have a ticket either. So, they wrote her up for what looked like a large fine. I was thinking “there’s no way they won’t give me a fine now after setting the precedence with her”. LUCKILY it seemed, through my quickly beating heart, that they had a fining quota, and had met it, so they didn’t even ask to see my ticket. What?! So lucky. I will definitely figure out how to pay for the bus next time.

I got to Ortona, again, having no idea where I or anything else was. I began wandering and was instantly excited about how much cooler it was here. Not cool as in awesome, but cool as in breezy and significantly more shady, so walking around was quite pleasant. Ortona is another medieval town like a lot of the rest I had visited, but this one was coastal so it definitely had a different vibe to it. It was also another very Italian town, nobody spoke English and I obviously stood out as a foreigner.I started off my afternoon with gelato of course. I loved this baby cone and marshmallow they put on it.

I managed to find the “waterfront” which was actually not a waterfront like I was expecting (like in Pescara). I realized we were actually on the top of a bluff with an amazing view of the port.

I then decided to walk along this road on the edge of town to see what I could find.

I found a Castle!

The castle was built in response to Venetian powers destroying the port there. Here’s a wikipedia link to a brief but interesting summary of Ortona’s history. I was so excited I found a castle.

Me with the Castle

View from the Castle

Inside the Castle

Me inside the castle with a view of the port

Me under the Castle

I then headed back into the main town (Ortona is very small) and found the main church which almost every street has a view of.

Some sort of actually religious ceremony was going on so I didn’t get to go inside. Later this led to an interesting conversation with my host mom about religion, where I figured out that she’s an athiest in all but personal declaration of the word. We had a good conversation about how the catholic church dominates Italy and how that hurts their society in a lot of ways.

While Ortona’s history is rich, beginning in ancient Roman times, most all of the monuments have crumbled. I managed to notice that last bits of a monastery near this church. Most everything else is in decay or has been torn down/built on top of. Makes me grateful for the history people have managed to preserve!

I finished up the day with apertivo, the drink was DELICIOUS, something guava based. Perfect in the residual heat of the day.

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Okay so the inevitable has happened, my travel blog was largely abandoned for weeks on end. I will try to fill in some gaps here, based mostly on what I have pictures for. Overall my experience has improved immensly as the boys have actually started learning some important English, and I can understand a fair amount of Italian.

So I went on a day trip to Chieti, which is another one of the four larger cities is Abruzzo (Pescara-L’Aquila-Chieti-Teramo), and it’s about a half hour bus ride from Pescara. Unlike Pescara it is a historical medieval town that sits upon a hill top. Really, it’s everything Pescara isn’t. The same university that has it’s faculties of foreign languages, architecture, and social sciences in Pescara has it’s faculties of medicine and science in Chieti. I’ve actually recently met some med school students from South Korea doing internships at the med school there, sadly they’re leaving in 10 days.

I arrived in Chieti at about 2:00 pm, and my first thought was, “shit, it’s like 100 degrees out” as I was greeted with a dense heat that made the air feel claustrophobic. I shortly realized that it actually was 100 degrees out, and I also hadn’t eaten lunch, so my first instinct was to find somewhere to hide and eat for a little while. I started wandering around (by the way, this is what I always first do in cities, I’m not one for researching ahead of time and planning an itinerary). I then realized that a small town, middle of the day, extremely hot out, in Italy, has NOTHING open until about 4:30. I mean nothing. Ghost town. Tumble weeds. It was quite awkward when I did run into the 2 people I saw between the hours of 2 and 4:30, because I was clearly a tourist girl who didn’t know what I was doing. I contented myself with getting pictures of most of the major landmarks. Here is the main church (I couldn’t go inside until after 5:00)

The pope statue outside the church as actually quite a recent addition (in comparison to everything else, I forget what the actually date was).

I also found the last remains of a roman temple that had the most amazing brick work.

Wandering around I found many angles of what is supposedly a theatre but looks more just like another church to me.

Wandering around I found some cats, that I was legitimately concerned were dead, as it was so hot out. I did finally find a small cafe open in the viscinity of the cats on a random street. It actually wasn’t probably “open” as the probably weren’t expecting customers, it was just the owner’s family hanging out. But it was physically “open” so I went in and got some water and coffee. They were interested in trying to communicate with me, so it was a positive experience. Around the church area there were a lot of flowers spread out, which by my guess was an indication of a recent wedding.

I completed my wandering around by going to the area of what I believe was an architecture museum? It was the main museum in Chieti. I didn’t actually go in as it looked really small and I wanted to save the euros. The area was really pretty though with a park, fountain, and amazing view of the area. As Chieti’s a hill top town it has amazing views from a lot of different angles. Unfortunately as the day was so hot the haziness obscured what would be most of the mountains and things to see.

I decided to head back to the bus stop as I had plans to watch the Euro Cup final at a beach lido and didn’t want to be late (considering my history with buses). Everything was a little livelier now, people were coming out of hiding. It was good to see that people actually live there. All in all I’d say Chieti is beautiful but I don’t think I really experienced it. I’m going back on Saturday to have my birthday dinner there with a friend who lives in Chieti (she was already inviting people over for dinner, I just told her we were going to make it my birthday dinner).

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Pescara Days

So it has been a little while since I’ve posted. That’s mostly because the days have settled into a pretty reliable routine and nothing that outstanding has happened. But let me attempt to write about a few notes of interest. It has been the Europe cup for soccer, and Italy did really well getting into the championship game, then they lost really badly to Spain. I watched the last two games at a beach club called Miramare with some new friends I met through couch surfing. I think out of all the people I’ve met so far I really get along with this group. The sad thing is they’re a bit older, all around 30 I’d say (they did introduce me to some young travelers though, and we had a fun night going out on the beach ;). However they understand the situation I’m in, and here I honestly do feel older than my age here. I’ve gathered that people 20 years old here most often haven’t gone to university yet, still live with their parents, basically are somewhere still in the high school level that we have in America. It’s not everybody, but the fact that I’m almost done with my first degree while I’m still 20 really amazed them. They had thought I was much older until I told them I was 20. I’m still trying to meet up with a group of ERASMUS students here though, and I think that will be a fun group closer to my age. Anyways, watching the soccer matches at Miramare was really fun! Unlimitied beer, delicious pizza, and various antipasta during the game, and lots of amaros and salsa dancing afterwards. It was a really good environment and I feel like a good slice of the Italian culture.

Here is a picture of Lorenzo and I dressed for Italy. 

On the children front things are going much better. They’re becoming more comfortable around me which means they do a little more of what I tell them to instead of me just chasing after them. Hopefully things continue on this way.

A last update is that going out to beach clubs at night is different from normal clubs. For more reasons than always having large amounts of sad in my shoes. People are more spread out, so I’ve had a hard time finding a legitimate club; people aren’t forced to dance as happens in a crowded room.

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Knitting in Italy

So this is a report on knitting in Italy in general.

For some reason I thought knitting would be more common in Europe, or at least more accepted. But I’ve gathered it’s just as odd here for a young lady to bring out her knitting while sunbathing or on the bus. In fact it’s probably more odd as they add it to the list of the strange American things I do. The boys I babysit find it annoying because they’d rather I’d be playing with them. Oh well. Every little girl I meet worships me and pretends to knit next me. One of many reasons I should’ve picked girl children. In general EVERY old lady who sees me tries to come up and talk to me. Even the really fashionable old ladies who you wouldn’t think knit. It’s really sad though because none of them speak English, and I’d love nothing more than to discuss knitting with them. It always ends up being a little awkward and they walk away. Especially while I was knitting my bathing suit, quite scandalous once the old ladies realize what it is. Oh well. My Italian is getting better, maybe sometime soon I’ll be able to communicate better. Maybe I’ll focus on knitting words.

It has been the greatest way to relax here though; the best break from stressful communication issues and child watching. I’ve tried combining the getting gelato/knitting activities, but gelato melts too fast here so I have to eat all the ice cream, then knit. Which is fine, I use the excuse to sit in the cute cafes longer. One of the best activities I’ve found is discovering gelato flavors. Some are really difficult to figure out, and if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll remember great amarena/amaretto confusion. My latest adventure in gelato flavor exploration was when I went to knit yesterday afternoon. I got the classic nocciola (hazelnut), and amarena again as I really like it, but I was intrigued by a yellow and red gelato called zuppainglese. I asked the attendant what it was as she spoke a little english, and she excitedly translated “english soup”. Well, I had gathered this much as that’s the direct translation, but I still had no idea what it could be. It looked like cheesecake flavored ice cream, or maybe raspberry lemonade. So I ordered it. At first it did taste like cheesecake so I thought I was correct. Upon further enjoyment I decided it tasted more like egg nog. It was delicious, but I still did not know what it was. Later I remembered to translate it, and apparently zuppa inglese is “trifle”! A very random flavor, but that’s half the fun!

I finally managed to snap a picture of one of lizards around here while I was knitting. It was difficult, it scuttled by a few times and I didn’t have enough time to get my camera out. This time it stop to drink some water from the base of a plant. I win.

Finished my bathing suit!

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Last bit of Teramo and Italian soccer match

So the last bit of night in Teramo was mostly uneventful. It was fun to be about the city in the evening, but I couldn’t find any bars/evening spots that I felt truly comfortable socializing with the locals (especially after the day I had). I did go to a bar that was on one of the main squares alone, and looked like a confused tourist trying to read the menu. I thought it was more a food establishment, but it was more of just drinks and appetizers. So I asked the waiter and he spoke English, and said they do the classic Italian happy out if you order a drink. I was indecisive (as I pretty much always am) so I told him to bring the best drink they made. He brought me the house drink that was just named after the bar “grande Italia” and it was a blended drink of fresh fruit/alcohol, don’t ask me what (I did try to ask, but they did not understand what I was asking, I could only tell that there was definitely peach in it big surprise). They also gave me bites of pizza, and a bunch of little delicious sandwiches and things, most of which I had no idea what they were. A highlight of this trip into town was also meeting “Antonio” a giant polar bear dog who laid in the middle of the square all night, and apparently all of the locals knew his name and would pet him and feed him. He was super old and adorable, I couldn’t help wondering if he just lived in the square getting fed.

The following morning I tried eating the horrible B&B breakfast, but decided to go and try and find a bar, I knew there were some close. Sadly I discovered that Sunday morning in a small town like this meant everything was closed. I ventured out further and finally came to the same bar that I went to happy hour the night before and they were open. I think this was lucky though, they had the most AMAZING pastries. I wish I’d taken a picture, but the waiter from the night before was there so I didn’t want to look like even more of a tourist fool. Slightly late for my bus I hurried back to my apartment, to be assaulted en route. An old guy on a bike stopped and started talking to me in Italian, he was pretty old so I considered him harmless, tried to tell him I don’t speak Italian, but he didn’t care and decided to grab my ass and take me by the arm and pull me somewhere. I freaked out yelling “scuzi” and pushed him away, finally making it to my apartment. I headed to bus stop, but missed my bus, meaning I got to sit at the bus stop for an hour during the heat of the day. Luckily a really cute 15 year old girl came to sat by me and was really chatty, wanting to practice her English. She told me she really liked Lady Gaga and wanted to study in the US someday. Apparently most of teenagers and students in Teramo take this bus to the beach on the hot weekends, so it was quite croweded.

I finally made it back to Pescara though! Later that day was the Italia vs. England soccer game which was the quarter final in the European cup (bear with me I’m just going by what I think the guys told me, it may be wrong). Enzo (host dad) had some family friends over and prepared some food. Basically a bunch of break and garlic tomatoes to put on it. I wish I had a picture before it was sliced up, it was the biggest loaf of break I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t follow much of the soccer game, but found it way more entertaining that I thought I would. When good teams are playing and actually keeping possession of the ball instead of it randomly being kicked about it can be thrilling, even though nobody ever scored. I learned that England’s goalie is really attractive, even though he got beat in the shoot out. I also learned that number 16 of Italia is the sexy version of Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny. That about sums it up. I also ended up eating about a whole watermelon. Which was amazing.

Italy ended up winning which means we play Germany tomorrow in the semi finals. After the game everyone drove around honking and waving flags and lighting off fireworks. It reminded me of when I was in Vancouver for the gold medal hockey match and Canada won. So fun!

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Girl on a Bench

Just a quick note to all of the potential stalkers out there. Does a girl knitting on a bench really look like that easy of a target to you? Do you really think I won’t know how to use my size three metal needles when the time comes? Seriously, figure something better to do with your lives.

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Teramo Pt. 2

My day in Teramo.

This is such a good example of a lot happening in one day.

I got up early, showered, got on my site seeing clothes, ate the subpar breakfast, and got out into the world.

The first thing that hit me was the fact that apparently there is a market Saturday morning. Or at least there was this morning. And I don’t mean farmers market. I mean basically every foot of every street in the entire city had a vendor on it, selling any and all kinds of products. Foods, clothes, toys, rugs, anything. It was crazy. It was very interesting, but at the same time not at all what I wanted. I wanted to see a slow romantic town, that wasn’t as overwhelming as this was. So I finally escaped the market and found a bench in the shade, where I started working on my lace pattern. Eventually some old ladies came and shared the bench with me, then one was replaced with a man. They tried to talk to me but we both quickly found out that we could not communicate. It’s times like these when I realize how little Italian I’ve learned. The old lady was very entertained by me knitting a bathing suit. She was a classic elderly Italian woman, fanning herself in the heat, wearing a funny shirt with a rhinestone Vespa on it. We managed to cover the basics of my name, where I’m from, and how long I’ll be in Italy. At this point they both called my attention to a creep many who had been walking up and down the street continuously smoking a cigar. I had noticed him, but hadn’t thought too much about it, it was a nice place to stroll. But they clearly had a better idea than me about the situation. They insisted on finding out where I was staying and having the old guy escort me home. I thought this was a little extreme, mostly because I wanted to go get pizza, but there was no arguing with two of them for more reasons than the fact that I physically couldn’t. As we headed back through the extensive market I realized the creepy gentleman actually did follow us. We turned more corners, took a fake water detour, headed back to the market, and the guy was still following us. At this point I was EXTREMELY freaked out. I’ve never actually felt so hunted. At the same time I wasn’t sure taking me home was the best idea if the guy managed to follow us all the way there… then he would know where I was staying… but at some point we did manage to evade him and make it the apartment where the B&B was. Then my elderly companion told me to never go out again without a companion (as if that’s possible) and call the police next time something like that happens. Also to call him Papi.

I went inside thoroughly shaken, decided to hide out for a while, and ended up deciding to take a nap through the midday heat. I was almost afraid to leave again wondering what would happen if I ran into the creepy man again with nobody to help me. But I didn’t go to Teramo to hide in my room, so around 3:00 I headed into the city again, slick with sweat. It was still the heat of the day so everybody had deserted the streets. To my surprise the ENTIRE market had disappeared. It was like a ghost town compared to two hours earlier. I really liked this. So despite the heat I went around the city again, taking pictures this time. The sites here aren’t strikingly impressive, but they do have a nice romance to them.  There are the last remains of a Roman theatre, intertwined with modern homes, and leading to a beautiful church. I went in the church and was thoroughly rewarded with medieval art and design (and pleasantly cool temperatures). I kept thinking I was going to get kicked out because of my scandalous off the shoulder shirt and my atheism (clearly nobody would be able to know this, but whenever I go into a church I feel like whenever somebody looks at me, they know), but they were busy setting up for a wedding later in the day. After the church I got some gelato at a café with a nice view of the piazza. I knit for a little while, and then went to find some other landmarks. I got some subpar pizza and peach tea (have I mentioned the peach obsession yet….) for lunch, knitted some more, then FINALLY got the courage to ask somebody to take my picture with the church. There are very little tourists here, but there were some others other than me, which felt nice. The first tourists I’ve seen since coming to Italy! I bet most people can’t say that. So I didn’t feel too awkward asking someone to take my picture; I was rewarded with the man speaking English, a wondrous thing. I kind of regret not talking to him more, but he was on a stroll with a lady so I didn’t want to interrupt.  At this point all of the people were coming out of hiding for the evening, so I decided to go back to my room for a break. So here we are! Catching up on blogging.

Sight seeing outfit that attracted the buzzards apparently.

For some reason I fell in love with this fountain.

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WTH Birkenstocks and Bugs

So for some reason I’m extremely delicious to Mediterranean insects. This picture can barely begin to describe the amount of bites I have received. It looks like I have chicken pocks or strange disease. ImageAnd I’ve had bad bug bites before, I’ve gone camping for weeks at a time in Idaho and Washington, but for some reason these bugs love me more. Why don’t Italians use window screens…….

Last complaint:

I wore these Birkenstocks on my hectic travel day, and they gave me a horrible blister. I’m really upset, I had hopes for these shoesImage. The blister juices actually permanently stained the shoes, hate to say it but I think they deserved it. Image

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