Sunday, June 28, 2009

Oh Gosh... Girls Weekend from Transportation Hell

Oh boy… this weekend was a roller coaster, fun at times but there were definitely some steep, twisting failures.

Saturday our plan was to go to Perugia - home of Perugina Chocolates… Well we made it to the train station a little late so we missed our train. The next one came in two hours so we debated for a while what to do and decided to go on the next train instead of waste our day. When we got to Perugia we had to take a scala mobile - escalator thing - up to the top of the city. We hopped on whatever we saw first, which was a “mini metro” that looked like a giant ski lift. It was super hi-tech. We rode that to the top, where we found the escalators that took us up farther. Of course it started raining when we reached the top plus we were hungry plus we needed a bano stat for a small bladdered emergen-pee. So after finding a W.C. and stopping by the tourist office to grab a pamphlet, we searched for Allan’s Paninoteca. There they had cheap and amazing sandwiches, and a crazy guy named Allan. Alas, his brother was working today, but he still made us AMAZING caprese sandwiches that were HUGE and only 3.50 because we got a studentessa sconti (student discout). Yes, you see Perugia is a college town, a.k.a where the attractive Italians are. So after we scarfed our paninos we frolicked around a little bit. We went to the café that is said to be the best cappuccino in Italy. It definitely held strong to those standards and I should have gotten 8 of them because they were only one euro! Soon after we went to the main chocolate store and to our luck it is taking a summer break and is closed for a month. Hmm.. well, we had passed a little store that advertised the Baci brand near the train station so we went back there…it was closed too. But this one was just on a daily siesta, not a month long siesta, so we happily fulfilled our chocolate needs (and he gave us all two chocolates for free!). We headed down the mini metro after that to make sure we didn’t miss our train, but we had almost an hour to kill so we headed to the Co-op across the way. There we bought Ciobar - which is the most amazing hot chocolate you will have in your life. Its not even really a drink, its more of warm pudding in a coffee cup that you have to slurp and lick out. Just trust me, its comes from heaven… We made it back for nightly dinner at the center and boy was it the best dinner yet. Not particulary because of the food, but it was so nice because we had our own table and our own portions and our own EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, I love our giant group. But it was nice to be selfish with our pasta for once and be able to stuff ourselves to our heart’s content.

Sunday…..oh man…now this is when it got interesting. Today our plan was to go to Montepulciano- home of the famous (and AMAZING) Vino Nobile wine and where they filmed for Twilight’s New Moon movie. Well, transportation was yet another issue today and I am so glad to say that we made it out alive and got back for dinner all in one piece. That being said, now I can tell you the trials we had since you know there is a good ending…

So we made it to the train station on time this morning, ha, and our train there was short and fine. Montepulciano is really only like an hour away, but you have to take a train to Chiusi and then get off and have a layover and get on another train from there… or so we thought. We were excited because our train from Chuisi to Montepulciano was a high-tech baby train. It was really short (baby) and had a chill couch-like vibe on the inside, air conditioned, and had the most amazing train bathroom I’ve seen in my life. Note: You may not understand the obsession with this bathroom, but once you ride a inner-city train across Europe and use their restrooms that have no toilet paper, no soap, no hand towels, no room to stand up or rotate, and basically no sanitary air to breathe then you will understand. So this W.C. was HUGE, had a toilet seat that rotated and squeegee cleaned itself for you, it didn’t have soap but I didn’t hold that against it since it hand a hand dryer. It was a heavenly experience and we all walked out of it like our lives had been changed forever. Anyway, so high-tech baby train took us to Montepulciano…except not really.
You see, Montepulciano is the highest city in Tuscany, and where we were was flat ground and I didn’t see the town walls ANYWHERE. So we ask someone walking where the main Piazza was and they gave us hand sign directions - this way and then that way basically. So we follow that until we start walking down a seemingly never ending country road. And in fact we saw a sign that said Montepulciano 9…meaning 9 kilometers which is roughly 5 and ½ miles. Um, no..There was a little wine store on the corner so we rung the doorbell to see if we could get some help. It was an older woman who didn’t speak English (of course) but she told us that if we walked 1 kilometer there would be a ospedale (hospital) that was nearby a bus station. Ah, well we decided why not. We had come this far so might as well suck it up for the .6214 mile walk we had ahead of us. I was in a particularly optimistic mood, though. I mean, we were walking through Tuscan grape country. Vineyards were on both sides of us, housing the grapes that produce the best wine in the entire WORLD! How cool is that?

But there is only so much optimism when you keep walking and walking and walking and feel like you are getting farther and farther from civilization. So as we are walking we see a woman walking down to the road from her house, just on a leisurely afternoon stroll. We are getting ansty by now so we went to ask her where the town was and if there was indeed a bus that grandma didn’t know about. She informed us that no buses ran on Sunday (great..) and that the town was 10 miles down the road. Oh joy. We just looked at each other helplessly thinking, “Well, that was fun, looks like we are going back to the train station cause there is no way we are walking 10 miles for Robert Pattinson.” She obviously saw this and told us to wait there while she went to go do something - we weren’t sure at the time. But we hear a car door slam and an engine purr and here she comes in her little car to take us to Montepulciano. Now I know you may be freaking out, but this was definitely not a scene from Taken at all. She had a beautiful house, was really sweet, and -heck- when we got in the car she handed us her purse to put in the back seat. She trusted us just as much as we trusted her… We tried to talk with her but the language barrier was so bad that we didn’t talk much of the way. Its okay thought because A) it was the most amazing drive through the Tuscan countryside and B) we were all excited to be in sitting in a car for the first time in what seems like forever. Music, fresh air, scenery, control - cars have it all, and you don’t realize that until you are sent into a world of trains, buses, and boats that you don’t get to drive. Anyway, so she took us up to the city (yeah we would have never made it because it was FAR) and dropped us off outside the walls. We told her Grazie Mille like 800 times and she told us she was sorry because she didn’t speak English even though she had no need to apologize since we were the ones being the inconvenience!! All in all, most amazing woman ever… she has some good karma coming her way.

So we got to the town and hunger struck so we stopped at a trattoria and ate AMAZING gnocci (potato dumplings in crème sauce) and pici ( thick hand-made spaghetti, best known in Montepulciano). After we stopped by a wine store and tried some of the Vino Nobile to check that off our list. Then we headed… I mean, hiked, up to the Piazza Grande. This is where they filmed New Moon at the Volturri Castle or something (I haven’t read it yet) but Sara and Hayley were freaking out so I figured it was significant. We tried to decipher where all Robert Pattinson had gone and filmed (yeah we are mature) and took lots of pictures so after the movie comes out we can be like, “WE WERE THERE!!! LOOK!!” and have proof. It was a gorgeous little town and a beautiful beautiful day (even though we all brought our umbrellas cause weather channel said 95% rain… LIAR). We didn’t have much time though because we REALLY didn’t want to mess up getting home and we realized that this time we were going to need to take a bus to the Chiusi stop instead of going to the train station and then taking baby train. Finding the bus station was chaotic, and once again, we missed our bus. It all worked out though because the train we thought we would catch (that would have been cutting it close) doesn’t run on Sundays. So we had an hour to chill and breathe before our train came. I found an US Weekly in English and felt soooo out of the loop reading American gossip. I mean really? I leave for 6 weeks and 2 media legends die on me (oh and Billy Mays too!?) and I don’t even want to know what songs/movies/etc is new. Ah I am so out of the loop. Oh well, we made it back alive and just before the main course was served. Perfecto! The day was highlighted when we got ice cream cones for dessert. I, chocolate obsessed, followed that with a hazelnut Baci chocolate and am now perfectly content with the day. Livin la doce vita!

note: Picture taken during 2 hour wait after missing our train to Perugia. We took lots of artsy shots using the self timer to, well, pass the time.