Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Top 5 Things I Learned on My Trip to Italy

I'm back from a lovely trip to Italy. It was more than I could have hoped for, and I'm very displeased to be home (please don't tell Squeaky the Cat or Capt. Nap).

"Oh, you're back? Whatever. Feed us at once!"
In spite of my efforts to make this an "I don't actually want to learn anything" trip (i.e., avoid museums, churches, and other Places of Cultural Significance), I did manage to glean five important tidbits, which I will now share with you:

1. Plane Food Sucks. Wait, you knew this already? Well, I hadn't traveled internationally in some time, so I was used to having a minuscule bag of desiccated pretzels and a thimble-sized cup of soda being grudgingly tossed at me. Not so when you fly overseas. You get entire meals. Like this one!

Time for my favorite game! Can you guess what THIS is?
"Now wait just a darn minute, Ms. CrankyPants!" you may be exclaiming to yourself. "Those look like delicious pancakes."

And I'd reply to you: "Yes, they do...IF THEY WERE PANCAKES!"

Nay, readers, nay. Those are not pancakes. This was the "chicken" dinner I'd asked for. Naturally, the entire dinner was masked by foil; had I seen it in advance, I would have gone with the beef stroganoff. (Okay, not really: I once had a Very Bad Experience with beef stroganoff). Here is a picture of the full dinner, for your enjoyment:

The chicken tasted like a poultry-flavored sponge. The roll: an ice-cold bullet. The best thing about the meal was that pathetic salad. Don't get me started on the dessert. RHUBARB? Who serves dessert with rhubarb in it? (Apologies to any rhubarb lovers.) How about a more mainstream fruit; you know, apples or strawberries? Blueberries? Come on, Lufthansa. You disappointed me. Greatly.

2. You Can Always Spot the Americans Abroad. I did not take any pictures, as I didn't want to get my ass kicked, so you'll have to trust me on this. Here in America, of course, one doesn't think twice about men in baggy cargo shorts, logo t-shirts, and baseball caps, and women in capri jeans and sneakers. I own more than one pair of capri jeans, and my husband is overly fond of his baggy cargo shorts. However, we left those at home in favor of clothing that we hoped would allow us to blend in a bit with the stylish Italians. (You can read about my efforts to become stylish here: Buon Giorno, Big Butt!) It was probably a wasted effort on our part. I don't think anyone was fooled by our H&M wardrobe. As soon as we opened our mouths, the jig was up. I could usually get across the subject well enough (e.g., bagno, gelato, pizza), but those pesky connecting words left me fumbling, pointing, and blushing a lot.

3. It's Impossible to Stay on the Swank Diet in Italy. That sadist Dr. Swank says of dieting on vacation:  "Although eating the low-fat way abroad is more difficult than at home, our experience indicates that it can be done." To which I say: "HAHAHA!" followed by something rude and unprintable. So it was with great glee that I left behind Tofurkey, cheeseless pizza, and fat-free ice cream.

Would you rather eat this...

...or this? Yeah, me too. 
4. Cute Animals Are Surefire Ways to Separate Tourists from Their Money. You know when you're strolling around a piazza and there are all sorts of artist types painting watercolors of landscapes or doing those godawful caricatures of people? Yeah, I always rolled my eyes at the people having their "portrait" done until I saw this:

"Look at how cute I am! Don't you want to buy something?"
I was immediately taken in by this little charmer. I approached and he wagged his tail winningly. They don't warn you about this insidious trick in any of the guidebooks I read in advance of my trip. As I crouched down to pet my new friend, the owner lurched out from behind his paintings and said he'd LOVE to do a sketch of me. Well...Ms. CrankyPants is immune to flattery, really, but the combination of the charming dog and the Italian-accented artist was too much for me to resist. Seconds later, I was sitting in a chair, having my "portrait" done while passersby looked on condescendingly. HEY! They hadn't been subjected to the dual charms of the dog and the artist. I was powerless! 20 minutes and 20 euros later, I was the embarrassed owner of a picture that looks nothing like me and that currently (and quite likely in perpetuity) is rolled up in a tube in my closet.

5. Italy Is Molto Bella. There really isn't much to say here. Below are pictures of my very favorite place in the world, Positano, which is on the Amalfi Coast. Ahhh...

Before I go, I must tell you that my brother in law, Clay, is once again doing the National MS Society's Bike Ride. He's been a great advocate for this cause, which really means a lot to me and many of you, I know. If you have, possibly, some extra cash lying around that you've been wondering, "HOW on earth will I spend this?" please consider donating to his ride at the following link: My brother in law's fundraising page


  1. My favorite part of your post? "The roll: an ice-cold bullet." You should rewrite this so that is th opening. It will rank along with "Call me Ishmael" and "It is a fact universally acknowledged..." as Top Opening Lines of the Ages. Let me also note that Readers are MOLTO disappointed-o that you did not share the sketch of yourself! We demand a viewing!!! Or else one of us will share the fact that this was, actually NOT your first time being persuaded (flattered) into sitting for a street artist! Where is that gem of a portrait from 1989-ish?! MK

    1. That old throwaway line? Why thank you!

      I'll CONSIDER adding the portrait. Maybe. Or maybe you'll get it for Christmas!

      Yes, there was that one time in London, I know. That's jammed into some forgotten corner too. :)

  2. I recognized the nasty flattened chicken right away in the first shot(from being served it on numerous overseas flights). Beautiful shots of Positano!

    1. Karen,

      I am dismayed to hear the "chicken" was not an aberration. Nasty, indeed.

      It's hard to take a bad shot of Positano!

  3. Hello!
    I think you should let us see the sketch too!
    Sounds like you had a fabulous time. So good to get away from normal routine.
    Hope the weather was better than we have had here - rain, rain and, oh yes, more rain. Least I don't have to water the garden, lol. Where has our summer gone and can we have it back??

    1. Oh, it'd make you laugh too much. Not sure I can stomach the embarrassment!

      The weather was perfect: Venice and Florence were cool-ish and overcast. Barely any rain. Positano was sunny but not hot. Wish I were there right now...

    2. I'm sure it was just lovely!
      Still raining here today. Wales is definitely a good place to live if you're an MSer with heat intolerance, meh. Summer seems to have skipped over us so maybe I should start writing up my Christmas list...

  4. Airline food is special. As a vegetarian one of my most memorable meals was baked potato stuffed with mashed potato. No butter, no milk, no cheese, no flavour. Served tepid.
    I am glad that you had a ball and echo everyone else. The portrait please. Pretty please.

    1. Oh, my. That does sound offensive! A tepid potato. Sounds like someone I used to work with, actually.

      Okay, I promise to post the portrait shortly. Sigh. Am safe because it really does not resemble me in the slightest!

  5. Nay, readers, nay. Those are not pancakes.**

    WTF. Where's the syrup?

    I think I'm in love with you...Your writing, that is.

    thanks for the giggle. X

    btw, just got back from London. LOVED the food on Delta. The flattened chicken was sinsational and the curry rocked.

    Am I weird?

    1. Weird because you're in love with me, or weird because you liked airline food? In the first case, no, not at all. I get that a lot. In the second case, yes. Very weird.

      HEEHEEHEE, just kidding. I am rather giddy that you said you love my writing; back at you! As I proved by having that damn portrait done, I am a fool for flattery.

  6. I must add my voice to those demanding that you post that portrait IMMEDIATELY!! I feel certain that I can embarrass you far more than any drawing could do - not that I would ever threaten you, of course ;)

    Those photos of Positano are gorgeous! Well done!

    That "food" looks neither like chicken nor pancakes - it looks like something I might find dried into a puddle on the floor from a recent overindulgence (I am speaking here, of course, of the pets, not me!)That pizza, on the other hand, looks fabulous and reminds me how much I loved the food on my one and thus far only trip to Italy.

    1. The pressure! The pressure! Your thinly veiled threat is noted. I'm sure you *could* embarrass me, BUT (do I need to continue?!)...

      It hadn't occurred to me that the "chicken" resembled vomit (or poo, for that matter), and usually those are areas my mind goes to immediately. But, yes, now that you mention it, it DID resemble something of that nature. The pizza...dreamy.

      Thanks for the compliment on the photos. It's just a stunning place.

  7. The food looks good except the plane food. I guess it is hard to not look like a tourist:)
    Yay for your brother in law

    1. Oh, I'm still dreaming of that pizza. And gelato. And pasta. Sigh.

      I'll tell him you said so! Thanks!

  8. Italy looks great compared to the food to get you there.
    Glad you are home!

  9. You should have fired the 'bullet' at the steward that gave it to you! Disgusting. However, the last flight I was on I got given an omelette that I swear actually WAS a sponge.
    Whatever Dr Swank may say, the diet is not possible abroad. Well...maybe it is. If you're content on eating bread sticks and tomato all week! Glad to hear you abandoned it for the holiday though and made the most of it. I'm not sure what the Italian is for 'can I have my pizza with no cheese?'. I very much doubt it even exists...in fact...I reckon you'd get a full slap in the face if you tried it! :D

    1. Ha! It was tempting to fire that bullet, indeed. Re-VOLTING.

      I remember your vacation (Finland?) and the PIA to even try to stay on a diet. What's the point of a vacation if you're stressing over food? I'm back on the Swank-gon now.

      Believe it or now, I did learn how to say no cheese (senza formaggio) but I NEVER used it :)

  10. Hi!
    I was diagnosed in 2007 and finally just started the blog that I have been writing in my mind since I got "the news." (also wrote a book, but that is another project to tackle.) I came across your blog while doing research for a post and love it. I would love to put it on my Blog Roll, but having already been contacted by one woman "demanding" that I remove her blog from the list, because she didn't care for my sense of humor (or lack of class as she put it:) figured I will ask from now on. I am fully aware that it is MY blog and I can put what I want on there, but figure I would rather not endorse someone that doesn't like me or my lack of class. Can't remember if I had to include my email to send this, so if no, my email is meg@bbhwithms.com

    1. Hi Meg! I am a bit frantic right now (starting a new job tomorrow morning), but I'd love to be on your blog roll. I'll check out your site tomorrow, when I can catch my breath.