Adventures at home, abroad, and online

Category: Childrens Crusade Page 1 of 7

Italy to the Holy Land, and then on to India


In which I detail everything I will take with me for this two month adventure:

– one Marmot rain jacket, ripped
– one “Freedom Flies” hoody
– one Ibex wool long sleeve shirt, in the off chance it gets cold
– one pair sneakers
– one pair Chacos
– two light nylon pants
– three short sleeve button up shirts
– two long sleeve Mtn Hardware Canyon shirts
– two pair shorts, which double as swim trunks
– one packable duffel bag, for assorted purchases
– one silk sleep sheet, for hostels
– one red checked blanket, for picknicking and sleeping in train stations
– one neck pillow, because I’m a pansy
– one tiny headlamp
– three pair light socks, one pair smartwool
– four pair underwear, one of which is a $25 pair from Ex Officio. It’s the most I’ve ever spent on underwear before, but it claims to last one (mythical) man month. I’ll put that to the test the minute Ruth leaves.
– one Lawrence of Arabia sunhat
– one passport holder with two US passports (seriously)
– one deck playing cards, useful as impromptu emergency cryptosystem
– various electronic stuff
– one Canon S3 camera
– one Qstarz GPS datalogger, for geotagging
– chargers and sundry cables for each
– various toilettries
– one packtowel, one tiny face towel
– one medkit
– seven maps (Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, Slovenia, Istanbul, Israel)
– two guidebooks
– one generic Let’s Go Eastern Europe from 2002, acquired on the cheap
– one Rick Steves guide to Istanbul, which I actually bought right next to Patrick Smith at my local bookstore

Seems like a lot, yet also very little. I’m trying hard to stick to the rule of “take half as much stuff as you think you need, and twice as much money.” Still more than Ruth is bringing, but she doesn’t have to prepare for the desert heat and cold. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. I hereby admit defeat in the great Map-Off/Pack-Off to 2008. Ruth, the map of Iraq is yours, even if I will probably go there before you.

Step One

La Dolce Vita

Our voyage begins in Dublin, with an Aer Lingus flight full of hot Irish stewardesses, and a morning feast of blood sausage and runny eggs. Passing by a bar, where tourists and locals alike were drinking at 8 am local time, we flew to Rome. A short train ride to Firenze, and the adventure really began. Due to some logistical foul ups, we didn’t have lodging arranged. We wandered around the city until 2; taking in the Duomo without the hordes of tourists, and then hunkered down in the grass by the train station. It was sort of like camping, but without less wildlife and more drunks and homeless folks. I actually didn’t really sleep, preferring to stay awake and watch passersby. And they say chivalry is dead…

The next day we got a bus to Panzano, and met Janet and Lou to take us to the Villa Bracciano. It’s an incredible 500 year old castle, with a pool, stocked wine cellar and stunning hillside views. This is travel Sable-style, and we made to sure to enjoy it while it lasts. We toured charming hilltop towns, ate hearty meals and drank wine until we could drink no more. Then the next day, we did it all again. My favorite meal was at a restaurant in Panzano called The Butcher’s. He is a friend of Jamie Oliver, and it’s apparently frequented by Jack Nicholson. There is no menu, just wave after wave of meat dishes. I had more wine than normal, and ate myself silly on rare lamb balls. Our last night we dined on our patio under the moon, and finished the evening with drinking games and Hannah Montana style Uno (apparently she’s kind of a big deal). Ali dubbed the trip Sable Crunkfest 2008, and I have to agree. Next year in the Greek Isles!

With teary goodbyes, and firm warning to come home alive, we departed this morning and continued to Lucca and Rome.

The conquering heroes
Our sweet pool
A long night in Firenze
Wine tasting at Cennotoio
Lou can hold her own
Crunkfest 2008


After another curvy bus ride, we arrived in Florence ready to see it in the daytime. We rocketed through the Duomo, including the archaeological excavation in the basement, saw the statues in the Loggia, and got shat upon by pigeons. I cursed them out in their native tounge, and they flew off in shame. I bought an excellent leather satchel at the market; the Indiana Jones theme song came on a nearby radio as I was picking it up, so I know it was meant to be. Now I can graverob in style.

Took a train to Lucca, a walled city recommended by Kali’s roommate Miranda. I concur. It’s significantly less touristed than other major sights, but just as charming. We biked around the walls, bike jousted in a former Roman amphitheater, climbed a clock tower and watched the gears as it rang, and almost rode a sweet carousel. I say almost, because although the tickets we bought directly stated no-reimboursable, they kicked us out when it became clear that we actually wanted to ride, not just take silly pictures. Apparently the ostrich was too delicate for my american ass.

Ruth's new best friend
Garden tower in Lucca
Finally, german beer

We did a blitz trip of Pisa, stopping just long enough to take staged pictures, and then off to Rome. On the train we sat next to some american students, who managed to tell ‘I was so drunk and’ stories for two solid hours. You’d think that after getting one’s third DUI, one would learn to temper one’s behavior. But not Matt from Michigan State; cheers buddy, you make the rest of us look bad.

Leaning on the tower

When in Rome

Take stereotypical photographs.

Musolini's square colosseum
Roman Jewish ghetto
Trevi fountain

Monday, saw Mussolini’s vision of the suburb of the future at the EUR on Monday morning. A square colliseum, unwelcoming plazas, all dedicated to the power and the glory of the state over the individual. Lovely guy. Picked Hannah up at the airport smoothly, and went to the Jewish ghetto for dinner. Excellent carcioffi, and a stunning walk through the city back to our hotel.

Tuesday, went to Galeria Borghese and marveled at what man can do with marble. Then staggered through the modern art museum, and took a nap in its air conditioned splendor. Ate lunch with a combination of buffalo ham and mozzarella and vending machine treats . Kinder Bueno! Saw crypt near Barberini, where monk bones are arranged decoratively, waiting for the resurection. Then saw Il Incredible Hulk, which Ruth and Hannah loved, and I napped through. Had dinner near our hotel at Tino’s greek restaurant, where they literally did not stop bringing us food until we begged for mercy.

Riding around in the Popemobile
Big Pope
Holy Roman Coronation

Wednesday, saw the Pope at the Vatican. We tried to sneak in without tickets, but that would have been an even surer way to hell than Judaism. They eventually let us in when the square didn’t fill after the big guy started talking. Saw the popemobile, but sadly no funny hat. Then to the Vatican museum, where we rushed by the art to get to the Sistine Chapel. Ruth took some verboten photographs, but they were worth the scolding.

Then the ‘Caesar shuffle’, from the Colosseum through the Forum, over the Palatine Hill and to the Pantheon. Got the Augustus’s newly restored house just at closing time, so no frescoes for me. Had lunch near hotel, at Perilli in Prati, which had an excellent antipasto buffet. Ruth and Hannah went shopping, and I returned to the hotel for naptime. Then, dinner at a place renowned for tripe, near Piramide. Very tasty sauce, but not so sure about the texture.

Thursday, took early train to Naples, then another to Pompeii. Well preserved and restored ruins, roads and bollards. Definitely a society of engineers. It was quite hot, and I’m getting sick, but it’s got to be good training for later. Then took the train back to Naples. Walked to the archaeological museum through the most stereotypically Italian neighborhood I’ve seen yet. Old women cussing out impudent young men on Vespa’s, gritty streets still recovering from the trash crisis, and simple but incredibly tasty pizza. The museum is poorly signed, but has an amazing collection of giant statues (the Farnese collection), and the mosaics and jewlery boxes from Pompeii. Also, a ‘secret room’ of erotic depictions, from the Lupanare (brothel). Train back to Rome, and another day successfully completed.


Left Ruth for a flight in Rome, and H and I caught a train to Venice. Sat with some chatty Italian ladies, and I read my books and got excited about Istanbul. Hannah slept, as she is a champion napper.

Hannah and the Bridge of Sighs
Exquisite lobster

Venice was lovely, but filled with tourists. Worth it for a gondola ride and an excellent dinner, but not for more than a night. Did the Rick Steves walk from San Marco to the Rialto, stopping at Harry’s American bar, apparently a favorite of Hemingway’s and inventor of the Bellini. Dinner at Osteria alla Botella, where H and I shared an incredible lobster pasta dish. She kept trying to reverse engineer it, and I look forward to her attempts, but I doubt it can ever be fully recreated. A thunderstorm at night heralded a cooler, or at least less humid, tomorrow.

Went to Shabbot services at the sole remaining synagogue, which was wonderful. We were separated by gender, which made me angry, but we both enjoyed the service. They had some different practices, but ended with Adon Olam sung to the same tune I remember. Very cool.

Then to the Peggzy Guggenheim museum, where we saw the fabulous art of all her fabulous lovers. Then back to the train, where we sat next to a Candian-Slovene couple and their multilingual, adopted Thai four year old. Globalization at work, right there.

Looking forward to being away from the tourist mobs, and a little further off the beaten path.

Venice Stereotypes
Hidden spiral staircase

Page 1 of 7

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén