Monday, July 11, 2005

Is the Penguin Native to Italy?

June 19, 2005, 12:45 PM, Siena, Italy

Just got back from walking all over the walled city of Siena. It’s mighty hot outside. Sure wish there was a pool at this hotel. It would be nice to spend the afternoon siesta floating in a cool swimming pool.

But let me catch you up on what happened yesterday. After I dropped off my Alpha Smart in the room, I headed back downstairs to leave my key at the front desk. There were several people standing there, checking in, I presumed. I reached past this one man to put the key on the desk and said, “Scusi.” He turned to me and said, “So, do we just leave the key instead of carrying it around?” And I responded with, “Yes. You’re American! Where are you from?”

Turns out he and his wife were from Indiana, just like me! Southern Indiana, around Evansville. His wife walked up as we were talking, and then Kathy came through the front door. I introduced Kathy to the couple, telling her they were from Indiana. Their names were Kurt and Bonnie Knight, and they were in Italy celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary. Anyway, it was like talking to two old friends. We stood in the lobby for at least twenty minutes just getting to know each other. They’d just left this gorgeous palazzo in the southern part of Tuscany, and Bonnie was more than a little disappointed in our hotel here. Kathy and I assured her it was much nicer than “the cave” in Sestriere. I’m not sure if that made her feel better, though. It sounds like the place they were staying in Tuscany was like from a movie.

We finally parted to go up to our rooms, making tentative plans to see each other later. As soon as Kathy and I were alone, of course, we apologized to each other and hugged. So everything is back to normal. :)

While Kathy showered, I took my Alpha Smart back downstairs, ordered a beer and went out into the garden. Kurt and Bonnie were sitting at a table there, and waved me over. So we had a good time talking while I waited for Kathy. And then when Kathy arrived, we chatted some more. While Kathy was talking to Bonnie, I told Kurt about the pigeon incident in Piazzo San Marco, and when I told him how the pigeon had landed on Kathy's hat, he started laughing. I mean, really laughing. And then then said, "A penguin, huh? You don't often see penguins in that part of Italy." I cracked up, realizing what I'd said. (So, for the rest of the trip whenever Kathy and I saw a pigeon, we called them penguins....okay, maybe you had to be there.) After the four of us finished our drinks, we decided to all walk into the walled city together and find a place for dinner.

It was really magnificent—very old and Gothic. The Piazza de Campo was incredible with the tall tower and cathedral. We chose a ristorante there in the piazza, and Kathy & I ordered pizza and beer. (It was our pizza night, after all.) It was okay, but again, nowhere near as good as Roberto’s. Not even close. But the conversation was fun, and we really enjoyed hanging out with Kurt and Bonnie. They are so cute together. It’s so sweet to see a couple still in love after thirty-five years. She told us that they got married when she was 17! Kurt reminded me a lot of Frank with his personality; he’s so easy-going and laid-back. I know Frank would’ve loved them.

We met the Knights’ again at breakfast before they left for the train station. They were spending a couple of days in La Spezia, then taking the night train to Rome where they’d spend a few hours before flying to Spain for Kurt’s sister’s wedding.

Kathy and I went into the walled city this morning to walk around and possibly…shop. I saw lots of things I liked—especially the Tuscany pottery—but it was all very expensive. I thought maybe I’d find a tiny olive dish or something to buy for a Bunco gift, but even those were well over my budget.

Right now, I’m sitting in the courtyard of the Hotel Moderno, and the bells are ringing from one of the cathedrals in the walled city. This really is a gorgeous place. To my right is a circular fish pond with a ring of cherub statues around a palm tree. In front of me are magnolia trees and rows of terracotta pottery bursting with multi-colored petunias. Slightly to my right and up above a fence and a couple of manicured trees, I can see one of the massive cathedrals from the walled city. Wish I had my camera out here with me. It would make a nice picture.
We had done a lot of walking this morning, mostly uphill—what a work-out for the calves—we came back to the hotel and I tried to call Frank to wish him a happy Father’s Day. Couldn’t get through. We returned to the walled city, went to the Duomo Cathedral, shopped some more and bought some delicious gelato in the Piazza de Campo where we had dinner last night. I found some Murano earrings to match my necklace…well, it kind of matches. If I’d been smart enough, I would’ve bought earrings in Venice because there, I could’ve got them for 5 Euros. Here, I paid 10. I also bought a Murano bracelet for a Bunco gift. I think the “Bunco Babes” will love it.

I called Frank and we talked for a few minutes. He and Leah were going out to breakfast with Barb and Jack, and then Leah was taking him to play golf followed by dinner tonight at a Chinese restaurant. Then Kathy called Daddy, and got to talk to him for a full minute—using her so-called “free” ten minute calling card that Eurail Pass gave us. I still have about twenty minutes on my card, and I offered to call him back but she said no. I guess I should have. He’s my father, too. Maybe I’ll try him again later when we go into the walled city for happy hour.
We came back to the room about three-thirty, intending to rest just for a few minutes and then come out here to the garden to read. But we made the mistake of lying down on the bed in the dark, cool air-conditioned room. An hour and fifteen minutes later, we woke up, and it was time to shower and get ready to go out for the evening.

I’m sitting down here now, waiting for Kathy. It’s cooler than it was, thank God, and I’m feeling fresh and energetic and ready to start walking again.

Tomorrow we leave for Florence. Only two days to go, and we’ll be on our way home. Yes, it’s always sad to see a vacation come to an end, but I have to admit, I’m ready to go home. Ready to go back to my real life. Ready to be home with Frank and Leah (even though Leah will be leaving for Atlanta just a few days after I get there.) That’s going to be weird—just me and Frank in the house again—the first time since last October. No more listening for the garage door opening, telling me Leah is home safe. No more sleepless nights waiting for her to come home. No more fighting for refrigerator room because of all the weird vegetables she’s stuffed in there. And…oh, no! No more Sunday night gourmet dinners prepared by my talented daughter’s hands. Yes, it will be hard to get used to. But I just want her to be happy, and hopefully, she will be in Atlanta.


At 4:18 PM, Blogger Curt said...

Hey, Carole! Your blog has been fun reading. Having met you and Kathy and parting with great memories makes it all the better. I'd say your account is very much my take on the time we hung out and shared stories. It really is the best part of travelling--those chance encounters and finding common ground. In our case, there was a lot of it!

Boni and I have spoke of you often and always with a smile on our faces. Even after coming home and needing something to bring a smile after the end of a great trip.

Time to get to some projects, but we'll be in touch.

Curt and Boni

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