Thursday, December 6, 2012

6 Dec 2012 Thursday, Camping at CDG Airport

I'm at the airport at 6.12 am and it looks like all the flights are being diverted to Pisa. They're going through the boarding process, but I see a tour bus outside. Time to stay attentive.

I could NOT sleep last night. I had packed, weighed my bags and laid out clothes for today, thinking I could relax and sleep.

I was in bed by 9.30 and up at 4.00 to catch the 5.00 taxi. The new Amerigo Vespucci Airport is modern and so easy to use. An Air France rep stood at the automated boarding machine and pushed all the buttons. Insert passport, pay for extra bag with credit card reader, make seat assignment changes.

Evviva! I changed to a window seat. I'll be able to sleep. Step up to the counter, weigh in bags (22.3 k and 18 k). Carry-on bag and purse over the shoulder and through security.

In the transport bus, I saw this hand rail, with three strangers grasping tightly to keep balance.  I  had capture this picture.  We are all traveling together, through this airport and through life.  We have these close encounters, but do we really notice and appreciate these moments.

We flew to Paris on CityJet. I think we were on-time. Honestly I was so tired that I immediately fell asleep and didn't wake up until we touched down in Paris.

What a disorganized transfer we had. Something may have been going on. The tram dropped us all off at an inbound security corridor, where there was no signage to know where to go. One lone man was at an intersection directing us right or left. We went though passport control. The lights which show red-green were not working. We were all herded into a small room. There was a list of boarding gates, but I couldn't get close to it. Then I saw my flight was flashing boarding.

An Irish security man asked to see my boarding pass. "Get off at the second bus stop L," he barked.  L for Lincoln I asked? L for love, he responded. Ok. I have it.

But the bus did not come. Ten minutes, no bus. Men started to shout in English, where's the BUS? Finally one arrived, but already full. Tempers were rising. I thought, we're all still here in this room together, they must know to wait for us.

The Irish man made a phone call and buses arrived a few minutes later. Packed like sardines, everyone was looking at their watches. We stopped for five minutes to let a taxiing plane pass in front.

At Terminal L,  I walked as fast as I could without running, passing three men pacing and armed with Uzi weapons resting on their hips. No way I would have run past them.

Finally, I arrived at gate L22 just in time to see, "boarding is closed" (in French, of course) flashing. The plane was still was too late to board.

Ten of us missed the plane. I was directed to the assistance desk and given a seat on the next plane, plus a voucher for lunch. The assistance lady had me follow her to another terminal, where I had to go through Security once again. She spoke perfect English.  I was polite and nice.  It was not her fault they had closed the gate.  She asked why had we been so late and I told her!  Stuck in the transfer room for 25 minutes, without a transfer bus.

So, I'm camping here for 6 hours! Instead of getting to LA at 3pm, it will be 10pm.  That means arriving home after midnight.

The voucher was only good for a drink, hot dish or salad and dessert. The hot dishes looked scary. I paid 10€ for Pita Bread, hummus, tabbouleh, which was really delicious. No charge for the water and French Macaroons.

I brushed my teeth and found a resting good spot. With two bags on the seat next to me, I slept soundly for 2 hours.

There is frost on the car tops outside. I searched for the neck massage stands but they have none here. I asked. I always wanted to try one...

For an afternoon snack I choose yogurt with a real vanilla sauce and Bio crackers. This stand near gate 49 only sees organic food. I've found a wonderful salad!

I've walked around and finding the terminal is mostly empty of passengers. Lots of shops but no customers inside. I have no desire to shop nor eat anything sweet. Time for another nap. Thank goodness for the iPhone and its alarm.

One more walk around the terminal and I've found something I really really wanted.  I've already bought one of these in Cremona  for Marta,  when she first learned she was pregnant with Baby B.  And now I have for myself. It's a French, Moulin Roty mouse.  Adorable and filled with memories.

After a safe trip home, I unpacked the following day.  My treasures all arrived safe and sound:


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 Dec 2012, Firenze and the Paper Shop Tour

I had made plans to drop off an organic bath sponge for Anamaria after her class this morning. I was not a student this week at Scuola Leonardo DaVinci, but I was still welcomed back and even invited to a special tour this afternoon.  

I arrived at school 10.20, after stopping to take a few pictures on the way. It's cold but dry today.

I sat outside the glass door of the classroom and didn't mean to interrupt, but first the sweet Japanese student gave me a shy wave, then Antonella, the teacher peeked out, and finally Anmaria turned around and smiled. I feel so comfortable at this friendly school.

After saying goodbye to everyone in school, I walked up Via Servi up toward Piazza San Marco.

I wish I had a kitchen here!  The vegetables always look so fresh and delicious.

I picked up a panino of pecorino cheese and prosciutto on focaccia. I understood, 'heated up?' No thank you. To take away, please.  I love these small victories of understanding and being understood.

Yesterday I bought purple plastic flowers to take to the cemetery. With lunch in hand, I made my way toward the bus stop.  I had a few more errands to run.  I'm looking for cannoli forms for Sierra in Illinois.  She wrote me this morning, hoping for a recipe for cannoli. I don't have one, but I sent her a great link.  

A video shows every step. Sierra was in my Italian class for two years at OCC.  Many of us use FaceBook to keep in touch. While passing through Illinois several years ago, Sierra met a nice young man who is a farmer. Now she lives her life in a totally new world away from surfing in Huntington Beach. I think Sierra has a book inside her, waiting to be written. Other fellow classmates are also pursing new lives. They're now scattered all over and in the professions of ballet, marketing, opera, NY high fashion, theater and photography.  It's a credit to our professor, Franca Hamber that we are still interested in each other's lives. It's not easy learning a new language. It takes courage and humility. Franca nurtured all of us. 

I stopped at both a kitchen store and a home-goods store with no luck finding cannoli forms. 

I arrived at the autobus 25 fermata (stop) at 10.50 and checked the schedule. Perfect timing because the next bus for Trispiano left at 11.05. I always have bus tickets in my coin purse. They're good for 90 minutes, after validation. 
The trip up the hill to Trespiano is 25 minutes. Passing by the public gardens, I noticed the huge glass greenhouse or Tepidarium  is being renovated.  (Giardino dell'Orticultura)

I rang the bell to exit the bus. This time I know it's the next stop after Bolognese 27. There are other Bolognese stops with numbers. I need to find out why.  

At the flower shop I purchased a living purple hyacinth to leave with Alessandro's mother. Crossing the street to the cemetery's entrance is dangerous. I wonder how little old ladies are able to do it.  On the right, the road turns and one can't see oncoming traffic. To the left, traffic speeds up the hill like it's a freeway. 

There is a little bus which waits outside the lane, lined with tall cypress trees. The driver pulled away when he saw I didn't want a ride. He had four passengers. 

I like making the long walk in. Time for reflection and noticing inscriptions on tombs. 

I climbed up the two sets of lichen covered stairs. I can easily find Alessandro's mother's plot now. Someone had been here recently. In the left flower holder were a few yellow daisies and one pink carnation. The small potted hyacinth fit perfectly in the left holder.
The lighting was good so I took a picture of the two angels. I guess I always take the same picture, regardless of lighting.  These angels on his mother's family tomb have special significance for Alessandro and me.

Then down the stairs and down the road to find Alessandro's marker. Someone has recently been here too. They left a single flower which is totally wilted in the crack of white marble headstone. Not a daisy or carnation. Perhaps a student? Two of the 19 stems of plastic purple flowers I left last year are still in place. Also to the right, someone has placed a large red silk rose. 

I rearranged its greenery, which was obscuring Alessandro's name ..the Al part. I left my older flowers in place and added the new purple ones. I decided to take a picture.  

I stood overlooking the view and ate my sandwich.  The fog was heavy but low. The hills are green and a few large villas are scattered. I didn't feel Alessandro here. I didn't expect to.  I feel him in other places. This is not where he wants to be remembered, but I want to maintain the flowers. 

I walked back out to the main road. It was 12.10 and the next bus, according to the schedule, was at 12.23. After waiting perhaps 5 minutes a woman approached and asked if I had been waiting long. She said yesterday they were delayed 20 minutes at the site of road construction down the hill. This stop is near the end of the line. The bus comes up the hill and then turns around to go back to Firenze.

I responded that the 11am bus was only delayed by 5 minutes. Then we started a conversation. She said my Italian was good and it was her dream to learn English. The bus arrived on time and we boarded. 

She approached me again with a religious pamphlet and asked if I would like it. I said certainly, but would you sign it with your name, which she did. During the trip down she was thinking. She approached again and asked if I might write to her. She gave her address. I wrote to her last night.  Her name is Laura

I had time to visit the Cappelle Medicee, which closes early at 1.30. There is a security station similar to those at airports. Two attentive guards. The main huge room, filled with jeweled decorations is fairly dim on overcast days. Its dome is another one by Brunelleschi. My main interest for coming today is to see Michelangelo's sculptures. Both Lorenzo and his younger, murdered brother Giuliano, are buried in this small room. No pictures are allowed anymore. 

I  bought a book, with translations of many of Michelangelo's letters and poems from the souvenir stand. This stand also sells jewelry made with precious stones, following the theme of the grand room. 

The Medici lived in this quartiere. Their former home is also a museum, but closed on Wednesdays. One needs to plan carefully. I hadn't planned on the visit.  It was only last night I saw a Tarot Card exhibition is running there. I'm sure they had a nice selection of cards for sale.  Only a few hours left and I still need two things:  Tarot cards for a friend and cannoli forms. 

I walked to the Sant'Ambrogio quartiere and did find stainless steel cannoli forms for 3€ (a package of four). I bought one for myself. I had no trouble being understood in this Alimentari shop, which carries household hardware, kitchenware, plastic table clothes, cookware, soaps and cleaning supplies. Not everything is displayed. 

I didn't see them displayed and asked. Take a number Signoria, was his reply. I turned around toward the counter, but didn't see the ticket dispenser. There was no one in line!  Another man behind the counter, said "Mi dica." Tell me what you want. 

He looked everyplace I had already looked.  He needed to ask where they were. Meanwhile, he was opening lower drawers and  rummaging around. Eccoli! Here they are!  I love these shopping experiences. 

In that same area is my favorite hot chocolate shop, Vestri. I've stopped here for years, first as I waited to meet Alessandro and now just because I treat myself to both good memories and warm chocolate goodness.

I took the 3€ large size. It was too hot to drink but my hands did warm up. By the time I reached the Duomo, my cup was empty. Vestri YouTube (The Food Channel)

I revisited the Tobaccaio to buy Italian Tarot cards. Mostly they seem to be made in France. With a limited choice and no more time, I choose the ones from Piemonte. 23€

I was watching my time but taking picutures. They're getting ready for Natale (Christmas).   I needed to be in front of the school at 3.00 for a special tour, given at no charge. 

Armando Poggi (Via Calzaiuoli 103/R), the shop where I bought a charm bracelet last May is near the Tobaccaio.   I have all the charms I want.  I've decided to finish the bracelet with three glass Venetian beads. They are shades of pink and purple. 

At 3 sharp I joined 7 students and we followed Antonella to the store Signum.  Our host was taking a cigarette break, sitting on the sidewalk. He was wearing a once white lab coat. Now it's spotted with a rainbow of colors. 



I filmed his demonstration of making marbled paper. Each sheet only took 5 minutes to prepare. His skill makes it look easy. It was really a special treat to witness the technique.

I spent the next two hours just walking the Intersecting streets, without a map, heading toward Santa Croce. I browsed a second hand shop and then window shopped at a studio for making mosaics, using cut stones. There are all types of workshops in this area: leather, antiques refinishing, lighting. Children were riding their bikes on a narrow street, with mothers nearby. I was lucky to also take a photo of a young, new college graduate, wearing her laurels.  This is what I love to do, walk and look for pictures. 


Just after 6, I arrived back at the hotel, with plans to go out and buy milk and yogurt. Alessio and Asumi gave me a jar of chestnut honey, a little bitter they said, but a perfect accompaniment for cheese. 

I packed and weighed and rearranged my luggage until 9. I went to bed, hoping I was going to get a good night's sleep before the 4am alarm.