Saturday, November 17, 2012

Puilly Fuisse . . . gesundheit

Puilly Fuisse . . . gesundheit 

If I see no more of France than La Source des Fées, my body found in Fuisse, one hand clutching the cow-sheep cheese hybrid, the other my cholesterol medication, it will have been worth it. Two-and-a-half-euros buys us a good sized puck of local cheese. The interior of which looks like yellow cake batter and tastes even better. The cheese crumbles under the knife like I imagine yellow uranium cake would and it attacks my vasculature in much the same way.

I form a mental image of the pungently delicious cheese going directly from my stomach to my bloodstream, plastering itself along my coronary arteries.For around thirteen euros we got a bottle of a local red. I take large medicinal gulps, downing the delicious antioxidants by the mouthful, imagining it scrubbing away at the cholesterol plaques like varnish attacks lacquer (or, if you grew up in the 70s, like scrubbing bubbles on a dirty tub).

Our suite (we were given a free upgrade as the regular rooms were booked) is the original section of the establishment, built in the fourteenth century, not in the new addition (1656 new).

When Chris Columbus was  Jetting across the pacific on his Yacht in search of new digs, our room at  La source Des Fées had been occupied for over a hundred years. Someone likely having built it, lived in it, and died there before Chris even fired up the engine of the Nina, Pinta, or St. Maria. 

If you have a chance visit Fuisse (preferably in warmer weather), stay at the magnificent La Source Des Fees.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Our stint in Italy starts in Rome. Anyone who knows me, knows I be lovin' me some art. We've hit the jackpot — a Vermeer exhibit and the Villa Borghese. The Borghese is like the TJ Max of the Renaissance. There is crap everywhere. Everything is so good in the end it all seems the same. After all the perfection, I find I'm most drawn to the Leprosy Wing exit hall which holds statues that didn't make the cut for the main museum — missing toes, fingers, and noses (as well as other delicates).

A lot of the Art in Rome is found in the churches. Here is the ceiling at Cathedral de Liberace.

If you can't make it to Rome, head to Las Vegas. I image the ceiling above Sigfried and Roy's bed is very similar to this.
We make our way to a smaller, less known church that is purported to house a Carvaggio.
And voila there it is in all it chiaroscuro glory. It is magnificent —

but my gaze is diverted by the condom machine in the corner.

Why is there a condom machine in a church? A Catholic Church no less! A post-postmenopausal woman, whose grey hose gathered at her ankles matches her grey orthopedic shoes and grey legs, approaches with euro in hand? The plot thickens. What's the randy old bird up to? Clink, the coin drops and a light shines from the heavens. I take it as sign of approval for contraception, but the condom never materializes. The light dims. Another person, another euro, more light, still no rubber.  Doink!  Coin operated light.

We head to Arezzo for a half marathon.
I love this Arezzo cat. 

The poster, I'm sure, says lost. This cat isn't lost. Look at his face.

 This cat hates his owner and has hauled ass. (This by the way is how I imagine all cats feel about people. Sorry, cat lovers.)

Next stop Pompeii. The weather is bad, it's off season, and we're arrive early, so there are no crowds. 

This is a replica of a statue that was in Pompeii, but now is in a museum in Naples.

Come visit Pompei. We moved all the cool shit to a museum in Naples. No, the twelve euros you paid here doesn't cover admission, but you can cram back on to the rickety subway, be there in another hour, and fork over another 12 euros. Grazie.

We are on to the Pompeii shell game. So, with olives in tow (Dan's right hand),

we decide to move on to the most beautiful place on earth — Positano.


We run the Path of the Gods.

Positano to Bologna and Bologna to Verona.
In the hills outside of Verona we find and we find gold — un ristorante privato (we had to fill out paperwork to eat there) that specializes in pesce. Our gift from the kitchen is fried fish, the name of which doesn't translate. It only swims in the Baltic. It is the best fish I've ever had.  They'd anticipated that our main course would not be enough fish for two.

The meal is magical. And by magical, I mean both delicious and having supernatural qualities. As you can see, after having the Branzino, I grew to gigantic proportions, dwarfing cars and terrorizng the sleepy agriculture village of San Mattia. 

Run! E 'il gigante Americano.

The hot spiced wine causes my brain to swell to the point where it's trying to escape out through my eye sockets. But I have a moment and am able to head to downtown Verona. Moment is the italian brand name for Ibuprofen ( it has a delicious hard candy shell)

 First stop — Casa di Guileta. I guess Romeo and Juliet, were actual people, spinning a whole new light on the play for me. Romeo an Juliet weren't just characters in the most famous play ever written, they were some poor Italian's unruly teenagers.

No, Julliet. The Montagues are thugs.
But Mom, I love him.
You zip your mouth, young lady and go to your room.
I hate you. I'm going to kill myself.
You're going to wish you were dead, if you don't start marching.

Dozens of people fill Juliette's courtyard (that's not a euphemism, there's and actual courtyard) and line up to have photo wiht her bronze statue. Touching her right breast is reported to cure syphilis bring about love. The walls are graffitied with love notes from lascivious pervs hoping to get a piece hopeful love birds.

Casa di Romeo — nada. A simple sign, some brick walls, no drama, no crowd, likely just some dude inside, a modern day Romeo,  playing his X-box.


In the bathroom of our restaurant privato — a stereo, a jambox and some left over cooking utensils (hopefully not still being used)

two bastards in love

Italian signage —

 Come to Italy where people are busy shoveling shit

stealing stuff and sneaking away with it

& humping automated doors.



PS —
I don't want to give the wrong impression of Italy. I like it. I'll definitely come back, at least in 2029 to see Madge in Bologna.

 How could I not with her genitals all-aglow, restrained only by her arthritic fingers and cotton-poly blend, granny-panty couture. Madge. When did Madonna become Madge? I want to met the gay who was the first person to start calling her Madge (you know it was a gay)

We leave Italy and just in time. My pasta receptors are saturated. If I see one more pizza margheritaaaaa or one more Roman ruin, my heads going to explode. Explode! I tell you. Next stop Locarno, Switzerland for half marathon number three.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


     Exit Dublin and on to Dubrovnik. 

     We board our flight by groups. Fairly simple — A then B then C then — you get the point. Normally, I wouldn't bother to explain something that is so self-explanatory, but for the passengers on Aer Lingus 446 it was like teaching calculus to Alzheimer patients who've had a melatonin and barbiturate cocktail — impossible. The boarding agent had to leave her post at the jet bridge and ask each individual passenger if they were group A. The passenger would look at their ticket, whimper, then present it to the woman.
     "Yes, this is an A you go now" or "No, this not an A. No yet for you. Later. You B. Wait here." A portly grey-haired man in front of me blurted out, no less than four times, "What about D?" 
    The good news — when she finally says boarding all rows all groups, the crowd just stands and stares. Unimpeded, I casually stroll onto the plane.
     In the Dubrovnik airport, a burly man in military uniform notices the cardboard tube sticking out of Dan's backpack and pulls us aside.
   "What is tube?"
    "A map?"
    "Is new map or antique?"
    "Seventeenth century."
    "Show me."
     Like a seventeenth-century maiden asked by a suitor to see her ankles, Dan gingerly pulls back the lid giving him the just the slightest peeksy of the map's edge. Like a red cape, the sliver of map causes the bull's officer's nostrils to flare. He snorts and adjusts his gun belt. After some coaxing. Dan is forced to reveal the goods.

     Unwashed hands besmudge the haul. "Careful please," Dan says, confused as to who is in charge.
     "I AM CROATIAN CUSTOM'S OFFICER," says Mr. Croatia 1976, pounding his chest like King Kong. "YOU BREAK LAW, DO NOT DECLARE MAP, AND I AM THE ONE TO BE CAREFUL." At this point I'm excused from the airport, so Dan and his new friend can have some alone time for the prostate exam  group-hug portion of the interrogation Croatian welcome.
      Having refused to pay a bribe, Dan and I limp from the airport to beautiful Old Town.  On the wall that encircles the city, we lick our wounds and take in the view. 

     Two kilometers outside the wall is the bombed out remains of Hotel Belvedere.

     We walk through the mortar-blasted grounds, down ten flights of stairs carved into the Dalmatian coastline, and jump in the Adriatic. 

     It's mid-October and we're swimming in the clear turquoise water. The dichotomy of this site is much like the contrast in the people — War torn /angst ridden and overwhelming beauty/kindness. 
     Hvala is Croatian for thank you. We said it often. The citizens of Croatia fall into one of two categories — the most friendly, gracious people in the world or brutish, ready-to-extort-money, one-rubber-glove-on cavity searchers. The concierge at our Hotel in Split, our apartment manager in Dubrovnik, and the staff manning the wall in Mali Stone fall in to the former. 
     I think the Croatian Civil War of the early nineties must have left some of the residents scarred, their residual hostility a side effect of war. But three days later while in our Dubrovnik apartment, I come to understand the true orgin of the citizen's irritability. It isn't the 1991 war. It's chaffed buttocks. 

     I haven't seen peach-colored toilet paper since the early 1980's when my friends and I would toss it into trees during our midnight house rollings. At first I thought the emblem on the paper was a feather, but now have come to recognize it as the Croatian pine cone. The toilet paper, made from a mixture of coarsely ground cones and sand is held together with communist-era, Eastern-European, textile adhesives. With just one sturdy square of paper, you can easily remove your intended target along with several layers of skin.


Highlight - the beautiful scenery and weather.

LOW POINT- second hand smoke
In Split the cigarette reigns supreme. 300 AD relics are so common they're relegated to ashtray status.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IRELAND: A Love Story (my abuse of the comma, dashes, & run-on sentences)

Let's just be clear. I love Ireland — the Dingle, the ring, the tip, the whole wet bastard.
We visit the pubs of Dublin and encounter The Irish Sobriety Test —the step up urinal. 

It's how you know when it's time to stop drinking. Approach the urinal and step up fourteen inches onto a narrow ledge, sway forward and you're in the pisser, backwards the floor, right or left and your into the bloke next to you.
     We leave Dublin and drive our tiny, standard, stick-shift-and-steering-wheel-on-the-wrong-side car down a narrow, one-lane-supposedly-big enough-for-two-cars goat path deep into the Dingle. The Dingle— it sounds wrong, but there isn't a berry in sight, only breathtaking seascapes.

                                         (Yes, that's for two way traffic)

     From there, on to Doolin, a surf town with a great local beer — the Dooliner.  A cross between Guinness and Smithwicks, the Dooliner is like gravy diluted with a shot of seltzer, delicious. I've only been away from it 36 hours, but long for it like a missing limb, if my missing limb were a dark, rich, delicious brew (which it is not, the pale, unpalatable, gangly bastard).  

     Next stop Galway, where Moira, our B&B hostess in her nice woolen skirt, apron, and expensive-appearing high-heeled shoes (not trashy-hooker-high-heels, just an inch-and-a-half,the proper height in which one would  serve "brekky") had prepared a feast for us. Thus far, we'd had pretty standard fare at our breakfast-included hotels — box cereal, mini-croissants, instant coffee, eggs-cooked-hours-earlier-and-left-to-rubberize-in-tepid-water. 
    Moira would have none of that. She was stickler for detail, like Mommie Dearest, only she hadn't beat us with a wire hanger. (I'm sure if we'd asked, she would've glady obliged. There's always next time.) After the freshly-squeezed orange juice, French-press coffee, homemade granola, free ranged eggs (not two-feet-tied-to-a-stake-free-range, "proper free range," the-chickens-need-ear-tags-so-the-farmer-can-find-them free range {and ears on which to place the tags}), I begin to grow suspicious of Moira's cheery disposition and perfect smile. Mid-way through the third course and I'm certain Moira is fattening us up for the slaughter.  I give her my best I'm-gristly-and-unsavory look, yet am unable to stop eating. Hansel and Gretel were pushed in to a hot oven. Dan and I were to be led to the basement, pushed in to a meat grinder, and made into sausages for the next guests.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Ireland is great. Beware of the baboon-assed, Irish sheep. They drink a bit too much and wander into the road.

One of my favorite memories of London was with a docent at the Wallis Gallery. She was a delightful sixty-plus-year-old ginger (bottled) who was in love with all things Wallis. She raved about the new "claret" wall paper in one of the gallery's upper rooms — the exact same shade as a Ring of Kerry sheep's ass. Both were a bit much for me, but now I can see how the English Anglo-Norman's really put their mark on The Isles (and the sheep). History is great.

Next stop, Dingle. (bipp bipp, shush it)

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Cornwall - Destination St. Ives

     Cornish accents are pleasing to the ear, and when heard from the mouth of a four year old girl, they're downright adorable. "Mum, if someone fell down there, would they crack their head open?" said  the little girl, standing on the sea wall in her pink rain-boots and pointing to the jagged rocks six feet below. 

It was an excellent question. I wanted to help the little girl out, but before I could answer her question, I needed more information. 

     Has this someone been drinking and lost their cat-like reflexes or were they pushed by an angry lover?   
   Is their skull brittle from old age or is it soft and rubbery from some rare connective tissue disorder?     
     You see, adorable little girl, it really all depends. Doesn't it? But her Mother, with no real interest in intellectual pursuits, returns my smile and ushers the little girl along, ignoring the important question and stifling the child's imagination. I guess child rearing is different here than it is in 'Merica.     Another difference, in America, a pasty is a small adhesive patch strippers used to cover the areola. In Cornwall, a pasty is a small, delicious, hand-held meat pie. Theoretically, a Cornwal pasty could be used as a nipple shield, but then it would just be a freak show. Wouldn't it? (a messy, albeit delicious, freakshow).

Highlights - Views from the cemetery, narrow streets and, of course, the cheese/onion/chive pasty.

Next freak show — Oxford.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

London to Bath


    It's a short eight blocks to the subway station, but by the time we make it to the platform, my shoulders are killing me. My backpack, jutting out three feet perpendicular to my spine, is trying to bend me to its will. It is succeeding. 
   Between a smartly dressed older woman and and a younger man is the one available subway seat. I approach and the woman clutches her diamonds. Even though my backpack takes up 98 percent of the seat, leaving a measly 2 percent for my buttocks, I'm relieved. Mounted to the seat, my backpack serves as a stanchion. I can't see the fancy woman seated next to me as my body is cantilevered out into the aisle, but I sense tension. She bristles and I realize she thinks me a dirty-smelly-hippy backpacking across europe.
      I am both pleased and annoyed. It is times like these when I wish I were multilingual. I would engage Dan, who is sitting a few seats down and across the aisle, in a foreign tongue, interjecting bits of English to make the lady more uptight.
     Italian - L'ultimo hotel ha avuto gli bed bugs?
                  Did the last hotel have bed bugs?

     French - J'espère que mon backpack à dos n'est pas infestée.
                   I hope my backpack is not infested.

     Spanish - El médico me dijo que esta rash puede ser contagioso.
                    The doctor said this rash may be infectious.

     Bath is architecturally stunning. The ruins of the Roman thermal baths are better than expected. Hot mineral waters, estimated to have fallen as rain in the nearby mountains 10,000 years ago, percolate up from the ground to fill the pools. The water is a milky jade, dense with the cast off dead skin of the ancient Romans. I imagine layers upon layers of exfoliated epithelium are encrusted with the minerals on the sides of the bath, an archeological goldmine.

     More evidence of Roman occupation was found at the bottom of the hot springs — curses written on flat little pieces of lead were folded up and thrown into the baths. The small notes implored the deities to wreak havoc on those who had wronged them, as if poisoning the waters with lead wouldn't be enough.
     In my pocket I have a wadded up silver wrapper from a Wrigley's Double Mint gum, not lead but it would do. On it, I scrawl a curse to train lady. I am not Roman, so I channel my English roots for a more fitting curse—

         If it's not too much trouble, could you make her tea tepid..
I neatly fold my masterful curse, The Dead Skin Sea Scroll, and prepare to toss it in to the bubbling spring. But sadly, my Seattle roots won't allow me to litter, so the woman goes unpunished.
   We leave the ruins in search of dinner. The streets in Bath all look alike. Fortunately, I don't have to pay attention as I've brought my navigator, Dan. His brow wrinkles and he scowls at the street signs. 
   "Are we lost?" I ask.
   "Are you sure?" 
   "Yep,"he says, " I got it
     I look up, and written on the corner window across the street is a sure sign that we are lost, lost and about to be arrested for trespassing 

—Hair and Beauty zone.
 Earlier today Dan spent an exorbitant amount of money on two maps at ye old antique map shop. That's not the exact name but you get the gist. For quite a bit less he could have bought and up-to-date map and we wouldn't be in this predicament. As always, Dan gets his bearing and leads us, as always, to a French Bistro.

     London and Bath are great, but fearing a bad case of the rickets, we plan our departure. Rickets — it sounds like an STD, something you might catch whilst performing unnatural acts on wicker furniture. It's not. It's a softening of the bones. No, not 'the bone' you perv', the bones with an s. It's cause — vitamin -D deprivation from the inability to have a pint in a sunny beer garden. So, we hop on a train and head for the beaches at Lands End -St Ives.

Highlights thus far - definitely the people and the food. The locals at the Pulteney Arms  pub were some of the most welcoming, engaging, entertaining, clever people I've ever met. Thanks Bath Locals

Low point - The moldy dungeon like bathroom