Saturday, May 28, 2005


I've had 2 cases in the past 2 weeks that have really taken it out of me. Most of the time veterinary medicine is a great, rewarding job. Sometimes it is devastating.

Last week I managed the case of a young standard poodle. He had been purchased by a family with a 10 year old girl. They had done their research, selecting a breed that was appropriate for their family, then found a breeder, and waited for their perfect puppy. 3 days after they brought him home, he became violently ill with parvovirus and campylobacter (a severe intestinal bacteria, causing food poisoning-type symptoms in humans as well as dogs). The dog was previously treated at another hospital, had been sent home, then had just begun vomiting again when I got him. Unfortunately, under my care he rapidly deteriorated. We tried everything, IV fluids, powerful antiemetics, even a plasma transfusion from one of my nurse's dog who recently survived parvo. But, the double whammy of 2 severe infections took their toll. After 3 days he was moribund, laying in his cage unresponsive, vomit and diarrhea coming from both ends. At my recommendation, we euthanized him. I felt so bad that this puppy's short life ended so horribly - being removed from his family, then spending a week hospitalized, poked by needles, vomiting and pooping his guts out. We pulled out all the stops, and I don't think we could've given him better medical care. He died anyway.

This week I got a case of an old Golden Retriever with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (body's own immune system attacking its red blood cells). This dog had been put on an appropriate immunosuppresive drug that had an averse side effect on her - liver failure. And, she was getting anemic again. I called a human chemotherapy pharmacy and gave her an infusion of a powerful immunosuppressive drug, started aggressive hospitalization care, and got an ultrasound done on her -- but 2 days later, she was weaker, getting more anemic, and developed a GI bleed. Her owner was committed to spend whatever was necessary, but didn't want her sweet dog to continue to suffer. With the owner present, I euthanized her.

It is such a strange thing, after doing so much medically, to give an injection that actually kills my patient and undoes all of my previous hard work. Although both patients' treatments were clearly justified by their initial presentation, I can't help but feel guilty for "spending" so much of the clients' money. In the end, though, I feel my job is always to advocate for what is best for the patient, and alleviate suffering. Sometime that means aggressive treatment. Sometimes it means euthanasia.

Sometimes it really sucks.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Adorable things Colin said today

While we two are sitting at the table, eating breakfast, he suddenly asks, "What happened?" Clearly nothing has happened, other than the crunching of cereal; I know he is just practicing this phrase, trying it out conversationally. Still I'm not sure how to reply.

Then, "Look, a tongue!" he exclaims, then points in his mouth. What a great discovery! In each of our own mouths is a functional tongue! I am impressed that he knows this without a mirror.

"Stinky. Bum." I also appreciate this heads up before we head out the door to the doctor's office. The dr. later assures me this is a good sign for later potty training.

"A big, big bus! A BIG!" Colin points out many of the things he sees from the backseat, but he gets really enthusiatic about the buses.

"Hi Fi. Hi Fi, Mommy." He is grabbing my hand, keeping me from doing whatever task is occupying my attention. What are you saying, son? Hi Fi? Oh, its high five, he wants a celebratory slap on the hand. You bet, little guy; one on each hand for good measure.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I fought the law.... and I won!

I got a ticket for running a red light back in December that I felt I didn't deserve. For one thing, the light was yellow when I entered and exited the intersection. For another thing, I wasn't even the last person to go through the intersection. I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop down the road, who was radioed by his buddy at the intersection. The officer told me three times that if I didn't feel I was guilty, I could fight the offense in court. So I did.

It's really not like me to do something like this. I like to watch lawyer shows like Law and Order, but mostly because when I watch them I think, "There's a job I could never do." Ditto for cop shows. I know the majority of people feel that way about my job, for various reasons. Anyway, it was way more expensive to pay a lawyer to fight the ticket than to just pay the ticket nolo contendere. But that wasn't the point. They don't appoint lawyers for these minor offenses. A lay person should be able to manuever themselves through the municipal court legal system, so I decided to go for it.

There is a wealth of free legal advise on line. I did thorough research. I figured I could argue I was not guilty (because it is not red light running unless you "deliberately enter and proceed through the intersection after the light is red") and there was serious reasonable doubt that I was the car they intended to ticket (since I was not the last car through the intersection). I wrote out my opening arguments, cross examination of the officers, my testimony, and closing arguments. I had photos of the intersection.

They don't make it easy. I went to court for a pre-trial hearing and then for discovery before my court date. At discovery, both ticketing officers showed up. It is generally known that if your ticketing officer doesn't show to your trial, they dismiss the charges. So I pretty much figured I was in for a fight. But, it was obvious neither officer remembered me, or made any notes about me (a big mistake on their part - no proof of my guilt), so I felt cautiously confident in my case.

So today, 5 1/2 months after the ticket, I had my day in court. There was a group of about 12 of us. The bailiff stated 2 names that were automatically being dismissed. The rest of us had to acknowledge our presence to the judge, and decide (after a lengthy explanation) whether we wanted a court reporter (needed only for appeal). The bailiff went downstairs to get our officers.

By this time, I was ready for my fight. As with each previous appearance, my heart was pumping, but I was prepared. The bailiff came in and handed the judge a stack of legal files. He called me forward, and my case was dismissed! Woo hoo!

I was only disappointed a tiny bit that I didn't have my say. Mostly I was relieved! It was like getting $200 back in my pocket! I won, without a fight! I wanted to celebrate with champagne, but instead, I went by Starbucks and got myself and Lisa (who really bailed me out again, watching Colin) some Cafe Lattes. Mmmm, the sweet taste of victory!

Birthday Party for Colin

Colin had a great day yesterday, celebrating his birthday. We had just 2 of his friends over, and Oma and his cousin Andrew. He had lots of presents and a really cool basketball cake, shown below. He got really excited when we sang to him, and started trying to blow the candles out, like a fish, before the song was over.

The cake was awesome! Colin says, "Bah-geh-boll...... cake."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Woman's face miraculously heals in 6 days!

My face looks practically normal now (yea!) except for a slight bluish bruise under my left eye, easily covered with makeup. The ants are gone (stitches) and my lip looks normal, but still feels a little thick. My boss wondered if I had amazing Vulcan healing properties....

Colin turned 2 (2!) on Tuesday without much fuss. It was kind of a bummer of a day for a birthday, since I left before he woke up, and Anthony left for Dallas after dropping him off at preschool. My friend Regina picked him up, then I fetched him after I got off. When we got home, Stephanie and the twins were waiting for us. I made a hasty dinner of tacos and he had a whole wheat cookie for dessert. Fortunately, he didn't notice the lame celebration. We plan to do it up right this weekend, when his dad can make him a basketball cake and we can all watch him open presents together.

It almost didn't seem like his birthday anyway to me, since he was born at 10:45 pm. He went to bed before his actual birthday time. The following day I was able to concentrate much more on him, and celebrate better - mentally, at least. We had a great morning with Steph and the twins, just playing in the backyard, feeding the chickens grass. Then we had lunch at Hula Hut on the water (Rook! Water! Ducks!) and went to the flagship Whole Foods (you gotta see it, Uncle Buck!). Shared another nice dinner at home with Steph and the kiddos.

Colin did have a "terrible twos" moment on Monday. Anna had her check-up, and he screamed inconsolately when she left for her hearing and vision test. Anna didn't have to get a shot, but she didn't forget about the ice cream I promised her afterwards. There is a great gelateria near the doctor's office, so we went there. Of course at 10:30 am they are just putting the gelato out, and there were 4 professionals in there, enjoying cappucino and using the WiFi.

Colin's screaming mood had not ceased, and he roamed around the place, shouting, manhandling the vintage Vespa with the large "Do Not Touch" sign, trying to pull down the napkins and spoons, and generally doing everything he could to provoke me. If I held him, he screamed, and if I didn't, he was a ruckus. Finally we ordered our gelato, and I put him into a highchair in front of his frozen strawberry treat. He wouldn't eat the gelato. "No!" he said, pushing it away with the back of his hand, then howled. The WiFi-ers shot me dirty looks. What could I do? Anna and I hurriedly ate our gelato, and his. The clerk said, "Don't worry, in the afternoon this place is crawling with kids." Yes, but not at 10:30.

Fortunately, that is a great exception to Colin's usual sweet, sunny disposition. The best thing he does is repeat the words at the end of every phrase when you sing him the "Night Night Song". Also known as "Goodnight My Angel" by Billy Joel. We sing it to both the kids before they go to sleep. I didn't know he did this until Anthony went out of town. It chokes me up every time.

By the way, I am enjoying typing this on my lovely flat screen monitor, right in front of me! Attatched to the top are some trip pictures, and on the side is an attatched vase with zinnias in it. Did I decorate my monitor this way? No, it was Anthony. I may not have seen him this week, but he lets me know he still loves me!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Dog Bite Face

Ouch. Look at that pouty lower lip!

Thank goodness for people like my friend Lisa, who said, "It really doesn't look as bad as I expected," and sister Stephanie, who said, "You really have to put that picture on your site so people can see that its not so bad. Everyone is talking about it."

This picture was taken a day after the bite. Yesterday, it felt much better and the swelling went way down. Even though the black eye got more colorful, today its almost concealable with makeup.

Bonus: no need to put eye shadow on the bitten eye, as the bruising naturally colors the eye crease!

Here you can see the "ants" on my lip (stitches).

Monday, May 16, 2005

Last bit of the trip

The train from Barcelona to Madrid was good. The cabin was tiny but private, with 2 little bunkbeds, and tiny collapsable stairs to get to the top bunk. The train left at 11:30 pm and arrived at 7:30 am, which made for a brief night of sleep, but we made up for it with a siesta later.

The metro in Madrid was also fast, clean, efficient. We got to our hotel a little after 8, planning to just dump our bags until later, but our room was ready, so
they gave it to us. The room was terrific, except for one small detail -- despite this being our "second honeymoon," we had twin beds everywhere we went - on the boat, in Barcelona, and now in Madrid! Very Lucy and Ricky. Oh well. We did have a balcony that overlooked Plaza del Sol, a huge bedroom, and a bathroom that was all marble, with a huge tub, bidet, and towel warming rack.

We went down to the cafe and ordered breakfast, getting something I'd never eat at home - churros dipped in warm, liquidy chocolate pudding. Very rich and yummy.

We wandered over to the Royal Palace (Spain's equivalent to Versailles), which was sumptiously overdecorated in typical Rococo abundance. Every ceiling had a majestic fresco,
there were tapestries, Chinese urns, marble statues, and antique clocks in every room, which brought sounds from the 18th century to our ears every time they chimed. The current King and Queen still use the throne room to greet guests before the large dinners they throw about 12 times a year, at a banquet table that must seat over 200.

Afterwards, we stopped in Plaza de Mejor, which Anthony recognized from the drawings his parents used to hang in their living room when he was growing up. It was another beautiful day, and I said to Anthony, "Can you believe we're in Madrid, your birthplace?"

After resting, we walked around and had another great tapas dinner, sitting in Plaza Santa Anna, at a tiny wine bar that spilled out to the sidewalk and over the street into the square. We had great cheeses and tried delicious Jamon Iberico, the ham made from pigs that are allowed to roam freely and eat nothing but acorns. It was a beautiful night, and we couldn't believe it was the end of our wonderful trip, but we were anxious to get home and see our kids. We really could've used one more day in Madrid, but it was good to have an entire day with Anna and Colin before I had to go back to work.

Happy Birthday, to me

Yesterday was my birthday. It was a great day, despite turning 35, the worst part of which is I can't check that 28-34 age group box on surveys anymore. I can't think of myself as being in my early-30s anymore. (Hmmm... how long can I be in my mid-thirties? Until at least 39 1/2, methinks.)

Yesterday I woke up, hearing Anna rustling around my bedside. As I pulled the sheet off my face, she said, "Happy Birthday, Mommy!" Incredibly sweet!!! All day long she'd come up to me and say, spontaneously, "I hope you're having a happy birthday! Here's a birthday hug!" Later we all had a little picnic lunch at the park, which was just perfect except for Anthony getting stung on the feet by fireants.

For my birthday Anthony gave me an awesome flat screen monitor!!!! So now I can blog without creating a crick in my neck (previously I had to twist my neck and gaze to the left). He and Anna also made me Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Cloud Cake while Colin and I went for a bike ride.

I also had many nice phone calls, and Lisa brought me freshly baked Perugian cheese bread! Wow, it was awesome! I had it for dinner and breakfast this morning.

And, my face is healing, hurting less everyday. Thanks for all your sympathy.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hazards on the Job

I will post the end of our trip soon, I will.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of my graduation from Vet School. Today I got bitten by a dog, on the face.

It was a Rhodesian Ridgeback I'd met once before, and I remembered he was an adopted rescue dog who was very nervous. He came in limping from a torn-off toenail. He was acting all hinkey, refusing to get on the table, dancing around the exam room. I did a brief exam and he gave me some aggressive body language, staring directly into my face. So I backed way off and gave him some space while I talked to the owners. About 2 minutes later, I was squatting next to the dog's rear end, talking about a bandage and antiinflammatories, not touching or moving near him.

That's when he lunged, quickly, mouth open toward my face.

It all happened so fast and didn't really hurt. I leaped back and clamped my hand to my face. I stood there, reeling, thinking, "He bit me, I think he bit me, yeah he really did bite me." My nurse grabbed me by the shoulders and led me out of the room. I lamely mumbled, "Excuse me," and wandered to my office chair. The staff was immediately solicitous and helping me. They brought me ice packs, sterile gauze, and ibuprofen. My boss called his physician and got me in with him. 30 minutes later I was getting 3 stitches in my bottom lip, an abrasion over my eyebrow glued, and a tetanus booster. I went back to work and finished my afternoon appointments.

I'm pretty sore and bruised, and developing a black eye. The doctor said I was lucky, the places and the way I was bitten shouldn't leave any scar. When I got home, Anna frowned at my lip and asked what those things were. I told her they were stitches, like she had in her foot when her mole was removed. She started to get upset, saying she didn't like those stitches in my lip and didn't want any in her foot. She calmed down when I told her they were making me better (and that she didn't need any). Then she said, "I see that little ant on your lip." She keeps calling it an ant!

If I get brave maybe I'll post a picture of my face. In the meantime, enjoy some pictures from our trip, inserted into past posts below.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Home, home again

We have arrived safely back in the land of chiggers (bites on the kids) and humidity (felt it as soon as we stepped off the plane). Emily brought the kids, freshly bathed and in their jammies, to the airport to meet us. We spied them at the bottom of a long staircase, and a great sight it was, to see them jumping up and down excitedly in their colorful bedtime clothes.

That was last night, and fortunately I didn't have to go to work today, so I could really reconnect with the kids. Emily happily went home (fled?) to her quiet single life in Dallas. I hope Sabrina her cat left her alone while she caught up on her zzz's. My mom stayed another day, will work in San Antonio tomorrow, then head to Waco to visit her mom and Aunt Sudie the next day.

I changed Colin's dirty diaper today, and I realized it was the first time I had done that for 2 weeks. I hadn't missed that - in fact, I hadn't thought about diapers at all. It was great not thinking about anyone else's poop for 2 weeks!

Colin also successfully produced urine in the potty for the first time today for my mom! Yea, Colin (and Nana). Colin seemed confused and nonplussed by all our celebration.

Anna was my constant buddy after she came home from school - she even got in the shower with me this afternoon! The pre-dinner hectic hour was as bad - Colin woke up grumpy and clingy from his nap, and Anna had a few meltdowns, I'm sure working through her pent-up feelings she kept inside since we were gone. Still, it was a lot easier after a 14 day break. The constant dinnertime interruptions/demands were almost welcome.

So, I'm a little jet-lagged, so I'll have to post the last details of the trip another night. And pictures! We got some great images. What a joy not to have to bring 12+ rolls of film with us, have to figure out which were exposed and which weren't, then bring them back to be developed before you know if any of the things you wanted were actually captured on the film. Hooray for digital technology, and for my husband, for picking such a great camera and printer.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Festa de la mammas

Its a beautiful day again here in Barcelona. We are really loving this city as a tourist destination. It has many sites, very pedestrian friendly with a quick, efficient metro (we never wait longer than 5 min. for the next train, usually less than 2 min.), lots of tasty reasonable food - what´s not to like?

How about being away from my children on Mother´s Day. I realized shortly after we booked this trip that we´d be gone on this holiday, but I tried not to think too much about it. I did hear both the kids´voices today, and that was good. They´re obviously thriving under the care of Auntie Emily and Nana. At least its not Mother´s Day in Spain, too ( I think they celebrate in a week or two).

This morning we went to the Picasso museum. Picasso spent his teenage years here in Barcelona, and this museum has many of his early works. Forget what you know as typical Picasso - we saw paintings and drawings where he studied the classical style as well as experimented with impressionism, art nouveau, even caricature. Eventually he created his own style, cubism - that´s the Picasso we all know, angular with split faces and strange anatomy. As Anthony said, it gives you a much better appreciation for his art, even if cubism isn´t our favorite.

We saw a lot of street performers in front of the Barcelona Cathedral (the large Gothic one, not the one under construction we saw yesterday). There were stringed instruments, puppeteers, and tango dancers, all performing for tips.

After lunch, we took the funicular up to Mt Juic, where there is an old castle and incredible views of the city. We wandered down through the beautiful gardens. Back in the city, we stopped for cafe con leche (basically cappucino) and pastries. That really picked us up.

After dinner tonight, we´ll take our last stroll through Barcelona, then ride the Metro one last time to the train station. Just a few more days of vacation, then we´ll be so glad to hug and kiss our babies again.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Dreaming to Barcelona

Last night I dreamed about Anna and Colin, mostly Anna, and my sisters were bickering about which Dora song was the best, the old one or the new one. I think that was sparked by our dinner conversation about sibling rivalry - that and of course how much we miss our kids, so much more this second week of our holiday. From the reports sounds like Colin is talking so much more than when we left. We miss his sweet, fun personality. And every little girl I see makes me think of Anna, and how much I´d like to show her things. We are determined to take our kids, when they get a little older, to Europe to expand their minds, like our parents did for us.

Internet access has been difficult, but should be much better for the remainder of our trip - this cafe is only €1 per hour (about $1.25). There are 2 cafes spitting distance from our hotel. So leave a comment, already!

I forgot to tell you all over Italy and France the wisteria and chestnut trees were blooming. We enjoyed a second day in France, just staying in Cannes. A tourist information person recommended to us a "fantastique" stroll through the city. I told her it sounded like a beautiful day in Cannes, and she said, "Oui, like every day in Cannes." We strolled through the pedestrian streets, ogling the shops and the patesserie. We decided to go ahead and buy our lunch at a bakery, in case it closed unexpectedly (happens a lot) - and of course we had to sample our lunch as we strolled. We had one baguette covered with pesto, chicken, tomatoes, olives, and cheese, and another, cut in half with ham, cheese, and butter. The butter was so fresh and creamy, and really set of the crusty loaf. Then we wandered through the weekly market. In addition to produce, there were huge bouquets of flowers (12 for €6!), and tons of bizarre looking fish, some of them terminally gasping on the ice. Then we hiked up to the castle and church overlooking the port for some beautiful views, hiked down and took a bus along Le Coisette/the beach, got of and wandered through the ritzy section. We got back on the bus as the skies turned suddenly threatening and got back to our ship at 2 for an early departure.

We had to sail all the way from France to Mallorca, Spain, and we ran into some weather. The seas had rolling waves, but fortunately neither of us got sick - not even Anthony! After dinner we went to the other dining room for its big windows - it really helps to look at the horizon - and it was entertaining to watch the crew fight the tipping of the boat. We went to bed early (not much else to do, couldn´t watch the shows). Mercifully the seas became calm about 3 am.

We didn´t get to Palma de Mallorca until about 11 am. We went to their cathedral. It was quite impressive outside, with flying buttresses, but a little dull inside, although the leaflet said it was the most beautiful gothic cathedral in all the world!

Then we went down to the beach, because I was determined to swim in the beautiful turquoise Mediterranean waters. It was COLD! I had to lay on the beach to warm up and dry off, definitely in the minority with my bikini top on. After nursing 2 babies, they just aren´t what they used to be! We walked the long way back to the boat, along the port´s shore, about 3.5 miles. The Spanish sun was intense. After a shower and a cocktail, we were ready for our last dinner on board.

So far, we have really enjoyed Barcelona. We hiked up the sleepy Ramblas first thing after getting off our boat. At 8 am it was almost empty, unlike the picture below!

We ditched our bags at our hotel and went to the train station to get our tickets. We had reserved a night train to Madrid for tomorrow night. The station was a mass of travelers and multiple ticket windows. The signs are in Castilion spanish and Catalan (the local dilect) but not many in English. We finally found where we needed to wait, and when we got to the window, I said, "Hola, habla ingles?" No. I took a deep breath, drank a mental margarita, and dove into my Tex-Mex. "Reservation.... Madrid.... Manana....Ventitre...." (it leaves at 23.oo or 11 pm). She understood that, and said "Cash o visa?" but then printed us tickets for seats, not a private car with a bed. So I said,"No.....telefono.....reservation....con letto" she said it was all full, we could get a couchette on an earlier train (sharing fold down seats with 4 other people). We are too old for that. After much pleading on our part and some checking on her part, she found a private double on the train we wanted. It took forever for her to cancel the first tickets (printing a duplicate cancelling each part and stamping Anullata on each part, then stapling together), but finally we were saying, "Muchas gracias, senora," and leaving with what we wanted.

The metro in Barcelona is efficient and fast, as in Milano and London. We went to Sagrada Familia, the cathedral still under construction, designed by Gaudi.

Its architecture is familiar but modern.
I thought it was fascinating to see the work in progress, but Anthony was a bit bored. They started in 1866, did a lot of work between the 1880-1920, and have a long way to go.

We wandered through a local market. It had the same dazzling produce as those in Italy and France, but also had stalls with lots of hanging pork legs (jamon, like prosciutto).

The fishmongers were tough ladies covered with scales and fish blood, weilding large cleavers.

The butcher stalls were amazing - some seemed to specialize in the leftovers - I saw skinless sheep heads with horizontal eyes looking at you, cow hearts, lungs, lobulated kidneys, huge dark livers, tongues -- wow. Then at one poultry shop the woman was hacking chickens (heads attatched) and I noticed square plastic containers of dark yellow orbs - then I realized these were the yolks that came out of the uterus, that hadn´t been made into eggs yet! Wonder what they do with that? We ate a great lunch at a little cafe, sitting on a plaza, then retired to our hotel for siesta. We plan to walk around tonight and eat some tapas. Tomorrow its the Picasso museum, hike up Mt Juic, and night train to Madrid.

Please leave a note, we´ll probably check back manana!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Parlez vous anglais?

We are pleased to report we've had a good experience in France. All the people have been very kind to us, and some have gone out of their way to help us. The Cote d'Azur is quite international - we hear French, German, and British English everywhere.

We stopped in a small cafe for some coffee shortly after we got off the boat, then bought train tickets from Cannes to Nice.

The entire town of Cannes is scrubbing itself up for the film festival later this week - lots of cleaning and painting going on.

We enjoyed Nice, walking most of the day, including the long Promenade d'Anglais on the beach.

Ate quite a bit of crusty bread products, too, the best being a ficelle studded with ham. I went to the Marc Chagall museum and enjoyed the colorful paintings. The streets of Nice are beautiful, with wrought iron balconies. These French love their chiens - there is dog poop and pee everywhere (watch your step). The people smell a lot, too - either of too much cologne, or body odor.

I must say we had good desserts last night on the boat (after I dissed 'em) - Anth had a pecan pie loaded with nuts, and I enjoyed a creamy Panna Cotta. Also, at breakfast every day we have some wonderful Italian yogurt - intera (whole milk) - that is incredible. The fruit flavors are not burdened with huge chunks of tired, soggy fruit (although they contain 7% fruit), but instead infused with the flavor of them. I like the albicocca (apricot), Anth likes vanilla and cafe.

OK better go as this internet cafe is revoir!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Yeah, this trip is all about the food....

Hi guys, just a quick post from Vernazza.

Unfortunately its fresca (cool) today and piove (raining - well, sprinkling a bit). Still, the Mediterranean is beautiful.

After the post yesterday, we stopped for cafe and I had a crostatino con albicocca (small tart with butter pastry in a lattice pattern over intense apricot filling) - thinking of you, Steph. Mmmmmm.

I enjoyed last night's dinner on the ship - rack of lamb with a great sauce, mmmm. The desserts are just OK, but we're thinking with everything else we're eating, that's probably a good thing.

I've been reading The Da Vinci code at night, which is great in this European setting.

OK, gotta run and get my fill of gelato, cappucino, and foccacia before we leave. Ciao. Ci vidiamo in Cannes!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Come aboard, we're expecting you...

I guess most people don't walk up to their cruise ships with large backpacks strapped to their back. You know that we did (traveling freaks that we are!). It just made the most sense with a heavy bag and a long walk. At our table there is a couple from Ft Worth and a couple from Hawaii, and sometimes 2 female coworkers from Ontario. The ship's typical passenger is white-haired, fat, frail, with sunburned shoulders. She's wearing SAS shoes, he's wearing ivory Rockports. Mostly Americans, some British or Australian. What is it about the English tongue that makes us all so slow and fat? And very complain-y.

As we took the mandatory shuttle bus from the boat into town yesterday, we could hear a woman behind us say, "I wonder why they all hang their washing out their windows?" and, "When you look at some of these impressive old buildings, you have to think if they could have just continued to progress how far they could have come!" Yes, and maybe they could then be as superior as us. Grrr. The buildings she indicated were not Roman, but they definitely predated her country, full of washers and driers. These attitudes make us absolutely crazy; we just hope that at least by traveling in another country her preconceived notions of the world will change, just a little.

The food on the ship has been good but not fantastic. We are missing the Italian cuisine (and language) a bit. We are also very disappointed at how much we are charged extra for some things - like juice and bottled water - outside of mealtimes. We feel like the crew is always looking for a way to charge us a little extra.

Most of our fellow passengers are taking all-inclusive tours at the ports, where they drive you on a bus and then herd you around like a bunch of schoolchildren. The fees for these tours compared to doing it on your own astound us. Our fellow passengers are very impressed when we tell them about the places we've been via train or local transportation. I'm sure our smug demeanor will lose its luster once we arrive in countries in which we are not so familiar (ie France, Spain). However, we are determined to still travel on our own skills, and thereby really see the countries and not just the sights.

Mommy, its a good thing you didn't go on this tour to see Davide by Michelangelo. We arrived in Livorno (closest port to Firenze) on Sunday, Maggio 1. May Day. Tutto chiuso (everything's closed). Including David and the Uffizi gallery. Most of the people who went on these tours, however, still managed to enjoy the city, crowded as it was. We planned to take a train from Livorno to San Gimignano (little hill town with many towers) but because of the holiday schedule would have taken 2 hours one way on the regione train (many stops). Instead we decided to go to Pisa again.

It was a gorgeous cool sunny day, perfect for walking and seeing the leaning tower, and eating a delicious pizza - Anth's with prosciutto and mine with artichokes, olives (real ones - not rubbery - with pits) and fungi ('shrooms). Also insalate - no iceberg in sight - and a liter of cheap fizzy mineral water. Then we had a beautiful walk back to the stazione, over the Arno, licking gelato.

This morning we docked outside Portofino.

The town is so tiny, we have to take one of the lifeboats (quite large) into the port. It was another gorgeous morning, and the water of the Mediterranean is so turquoise and clear, you can see huge fish milling around the dock. Because Portofino is a bit of a posh tourist trap, we walked from there to Santa Margherita Ligure. The hike was 3 miles, partly in the woods, partly on a beautiful boardwalk hung halfway over the sea, and partly on the narrow 2-lane road (pericoloso!). We stopped at the edge of town for a refreshing cappucino (how we miss those on the boat!) and then hiked up to the center of town. We ate some of the best pizza of our life (Anth's was swimming in pesto)

in a little place with friendly owners and many locals. At the moment, everything is closed for the mid-day break, so we are unable to buy anything (we need another international phone card, vino, etc). The only things open are the cafes and gelaterias (too full for that yet) and luckily, this internet point.

Tomorrow's port is Genoa, and we plan to take the train to Cinque Terre, one of our favorite places on the earth (we have tiles in our kitchen that show our favorite 2 towns). After that, its 2 nights in Cannes - we plan to visit Monaco and maybe Nice, too.

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