Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ferragosto Vacation to Prague

Last week we visited the most beautiful city in Europe, Prague. Yes, I know that's a big call, but in my opinion there is no nicer city that I've seen. And I could only say that statement after I swallowed my pride and sang ten rounds of the Polish national anthem as penance. Then I sang 'Advance Australia Fair' and after that I was confused about my nationality and exhausted so I had to drink a small-ish glass of Czech beer that was bigger than the size of my head.

Apart from the gorgeous architecture, the best thing about Prague was undoubtedly the food. Oh, the food. The fatty, hearty, homemade food with not a hint of fresh vegetable on the side. Here is one of their traditional dishes, the pork piglet with saurkraut and Czech dumplings. Try eating that with apple strudel for dessert four nights in a row...I did and let me tell you I didn't feel good on the fourth night.

Ok, if you are not that excited about food that will potentially knock ten years of the life span of your heart, Prague also has some amazing statues with some especially beautiful ones on the famous Charles Bridge.

The Charles Bridge also had some buskers. This was one of the weirder ones we saw...look closely as to what is on the poor dog who looks like he'd rather be anywhere else and is clearly not impressed.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Prague Castle hotel and on the last morning we decided to have a mocktail before we were due to go to the airport. I said MOCKTAIL not cocktail - it was only ten am after all!

The strangest thing happened. We could see outside our hotel on the street there was a film shoot of some kind going on. Cars were screeching around a corner and there were actors yelling whilst acting out a scene. We sat down with our mocktails at the hotel outside tables to relax and see what was going on. We later found out it was a Russian James Bond type of movie, according to the hotel.

Ok, that's strange but not as strange as what happened next. The action moved from the side of the hotel and moved right next to us. The table to our left that was about five centimetres from ours was empty and all of a sudden ten girls run up and start setting it up with props, actors and voila, filming has begun.

I looked over at husband and said 'we are clearly going to appear in these scenes' to which I hear the bellowing Russian director yell out 'tell the actor to stop looking up and talking' to which the Czech director yelled out just as aggressively 'she's not an actor, she is staying here so I can't ask her to do anything'. Polish, Russian and Czech are very similar so I could understand it all and decided to keep my head down.

Then all of a sudden I felt uncomfortable and said to husband 'I'm going inside'. We both got up and the director came over and said in English 'please just stay for a few more minutes until we get the take'. What the? I looked around and realised there was a few put-out looking extra's that clearly would have liked to be in the scene. It was very random and if anyone watches a Russian James Bond film where the actor yells out in a thick Russian accent 'Hurry up, there's no time to eat (actor grabs other actor's massive mug of beer and slams it on the table). The Russians are coming!', then look for us and we are the people looking very confused next to them. They did about ten takes of this one line and so the same line was running through my head all day. When we were having lunch at the airport, I annoyed husband by saying ' Hurry up, there's no time to eat, the Russians are coming!' Ok, so it was like the tenth I had said it in the last hour, but I don't know why he got annoyed.

Russian directors yelling at us aside, we had the most wonderful holiday in Prague. I recommend everyone to go to this beautiful city. Try the Czech beer, make an opinion whether the Czech women deserve the title of being the most beautiful in the world (debatable!) and visit the Communism museum to see how much this country has gone through. I know I sound like a tourist book, but honestly WE LOVE PRAGUE! Next stop in our series of mini-breaks is Switzerland so we'll see if one bite of real Swiss chocolate will change my mind as to which is the best city in Europe. Yep that's all it takes to change my mind, one block of good chocolate.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

August holidays in Florence

If you are an environmental activist and urge others to switch off electricity and save power, do not read on!

See, I am addicted to air conditioning. My body doesn't function without it and I become a grumpy, mean and complaining wife when it is not on - well, so I've been told but I don't believe it.

Even in the cold European winter we sleep with the airconditioning on all night. Husband has to wear a tracksuit and beanie to bed while I am in my summer pyjama's. And those living in Florence right now know it's DAMN hot and humid here right now. Coming from Karratha where 45 degrees celcius on the thermometer is really not that big a deal, I never thought that Florence summer would be extreme. But the humidity here is honestly stifling and is all that everyone talks about.

So, it was not a happy day on Thursday when the airconditioner started leaking and we could not use it. Both our landlord and I rang around to find someone who could come fix it - IMMEDIATELY, like in an hour's time or as I predicted, 'I'll die of heat exhaustion.' But in August, every Italian person, including those that fix air conditioners is away on ferragosto (the mid August holidays). If you think I'm exaggerating, just take a walk around Florence and see all the doors with the sign chuiso per ferie posted on them. I've come to the conclusion that if you want to become a quick millionaire in Florence, become a tradesman and work in August.

The Italians that are not on vacation already, were all driving on holidays yesterday. We drove from Florence, through Bologna and on to Maranello to visit the Galleria Ferrari. (Ferrari museum). What should have been an hour and a half trip turned into three hours as our maximum speed on the autostrada was about 50kms per hour as traffic was nearly at a complete standstill. Husband complained bitterly as he loathes traffic, while I sat happily with the car air conditioning blasting away at maximum capacity.

Every car on the road was completely full with kids in the back, bikes attached to bike racks and roof racks full of suitcases. Most people in Italy drive small cars compared to Australia and going on holiday is very different to packing a 4WD and still having room for the dog to sit in the back. For some reason, nearly every person was on their mobile phone. I presume it was to tell whoever they were meeting at their holiday vacation that they were going to be about ten hours late due to the traffic.

Everyone who is anyone was on the road yesterday including this man who also takes his birds on holidays. There were two birds flying around in this cage.

When we finally got there, the Ferrari museum was really great and it was fun to watch my husband with a dreamy grin staring at all the cars, even though he is not really a 'car person'. Mind you, his grin was shared by every other man in the museum. The car pictured below was a custom made wedding gift from a husband to his bride which begged the question of why it was in the museum. Perhaps the colour didn't suit her or she just didn't have room for another one of these in the garage.

One the way home, we stopped at our favourite clothes factory outlet, Barberino. Husband bought some new clothes including a pair of jeans that are slightly too long. If he didn't look so damn good in them, I would insist he not buy them as they are slightly too long. And me, being the only Polish woman that does not know how to sew means that I'm going to have to fare l'impossibile (do the impossible) - find a tailor ... in Florence ... in August!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Italian replacement

This weekend my husband lost all interest in his me.

No, I didn't suddenly stop shaving my legs or stop showering.
And no, he hasn't riden off into the Tuscan countryside with a beautiful Italian woman that wears Louis Vuitton stilleto's while riding a scooter.

See, I try my best. After nine years together I still try to beautify myself with some makeup before he comes home. I cook dinner each night and I always let him have the good side of the bed. But nothing I do now will ever compare to his new love, the new Nikon SLR camera he bought on the weekend. Sigh.

Dear husband has had a flu for three weeks and I have been a dutiful wife who has lovingly ran to the chemist for medicine (ok it's only 30 metres away but I still went!), hand squeezed oranges to make fresh juice and cooked him chicken soup. But that all means nothing now.

On Sunday we decided to drive to Portofino for a day trip. SHE sat in his lap, he lovingly stroked her and I even think I heard the words 'I love you' come out of his mouth although he swears that was aimed at me. I doubt it though as he was looking at HER intently when he said it.

We'll see who looks after him next time he is sick in bed.

We had wanted to go to Portofino for a while as we been told it was beautiful. I don't know if our expectations were too high but we thought it didn't compare to the amazing Cinque Terre. It could have been that it was so stinking hot. Back home in Karratha it was not unusual to see a thermometer reading of 45 degrees celcius. So I don't know if it was the extra humidity or if I'm just getting OLD, but the heat really got to us in Portofino.

After we walked around the marina, we went to the nearby town Santa Margherita Ligure for lunch. But not before husband took a million photos with my new replacement. I must admit the view from the castello (castle) was truly beautiful. This was one of the million photos taken that day.

Here is an amazing boat moored up at the marina. Oh to be rich and beautiful in Portofino.

And here are some random innocent ducks that were not expecting someone to take twenty photos of them with different lenses. No one is safe from my husband's new hobby now.

And here is my foot, you get the picture now? Man, I have an ugly foot and a really weird tanline I'm going to have a foot complex.

Okay, this is not funny anymore. I'm trying to sleep now. Enough is enough. Turn off the camera. And why does my arm look so fat in this photo? Surely it's not the pasta and tiramisu I devour every night. Did you not get one of those lenses that makes everything look skinny?

Note what is next to me on the bed. Yep, it's the camera manual. Very romantic don't you think?