Friday, June 6, 2008

When we arrived in Rome, it wasn't without characteristic mishap: us staying awake all night so we could catch a 3 a.m. cab ride to the airport; Kim getting sick as soon as we arrived at baggage claim, and spending the bus ride to the camp ground clutching a barf bag.

We arrived in Florence, however, without any significant adventure attached -- just a simple train ride from Rome.

Florence, Italy is a cute little city, a lot like Boulder without the mountains. Kim and I settled into a new campsite located walking distance from the city center. The walk is up a large hill, and from the top you can get a beautiful birds-eye view of Florence. On Day One here, we flipped roles: this time Kim was the one venturing into the art musuems, while I stayed outdoors, wandered through the piazzas, browsed at a used bookstore (I bought The Kite Runner and finished it within 3 days).

That night I met a bunch of other travelers, mostly Brits and Americans, at the campsite's little cafeteria benches; they were all playing drinking games with an international twist. They were nice kids, and fun to hang out with for a night, but their mentality seemed rather silly. It wasn't the first time on this trip that I've felt older than the collegiate, study-abroad scene that many of the other travelers carry. Its amazing what a stark age difference lies between 21 and 24.

You know that popular travel book, Eat Pray Love, in which the author says she learned to eat in Italy and learned to pray in India? Kim and I have been eating like its an art ever since we arrived. Gelato, Italian cappucino, pastas, pizza (which is fresh and premuim-quality here -- top-shelf mozzarella and fresh tomatoes and whole basil leaves). The other night, in the process of trying tiramisu, we met a few guys who told us that Florence is a horrible place for studying medicine or engineering. All the social and parental pressure, they said, is to encourage Florentines into studying art. What a strange reversal.

We went to Pisa yesterday for one reason: to take pictures of ourselves holding up the leaning tower. Okay, this was really MY idea, and Kim was generous enough to humor me, long after she was tired of taking photos. ("Just one more, really, I think I can get my hands perfectly aligned this time!") We have pics of us kicking down the Leaning Tower, dancing with the Leaning Tower, leaning against the Leaning Towner, you name it.

A couple of Spanish people now living in California thought this was very creative (in fact, its commonplace in Pisa, but we didn't correct them) and asked us to help them pose for photos, too. We spent a long time with them ("nope, kick your foot higher ... okay, flex your toes ....") and they took several group pictures of all of us, together.

Today we're going to start walking from Florence to Siena, through the wine region of Tuscany, called Chianti. We have a haphazard map, no real walking route to follow, and no idea where we'll sleep at night. It sounds like Bike Trip, Part Two, but this time at least we won't be burdened with bikes.

On a totally unrelated note, here's something I've been wanting to blog about for awhile: when I travel, some people want to insist that I'm not American. You know those street vendors trying to sell crap, like necklaces or souveniers, from sidewalk stands? They yell "hello, hello!" at passing tourists? Well, when they see me, they yell, "namaste!" or "India? India?"

Then when I actually talk to people and tell them I'm from America, they're unsatisfied with the answer. The conversation goes like this:
THEM: Where you from?
ME: America.
THEM: Where your family is from?
ME: America.
THEM: You no look like America.
ME: Oh? What does an American look like?

When I was in Lisbon, I met an Indian guy who is also traveling around the planet. After cursory introductions, he says:
HIM: Is your family from India?
ME: My parents came from Kathmandu.
HIM: Oh, in Nepal?
ME: Yes, Nepal.
HIM: Can you cook curry?
ME: No.
HIM: If you could cook curry, I'd propose.
ME: That's why I don't.
HIM: It isn't a feminism thing. I like curry.
ME: So learn to cook it yourself.
HIM: Men are too stupid to learn how to cook. You should feel pity for us, and cook us curry out of your pity.

I had no good response to that.

Someone once asked me why the name of my blog is American Girl Travel. I think the answer lies in what I've outlined above.