Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trip Detour

Over the weekend, we encountered our first slight hiccup in the travel itinerary. After seeing the ruins of Pompeii, we headed up to the town of Modena. The intent was to visit with a friend of Hubby's, MP. Hubby and MP had worked together back in the 1980s while Hubby was stationed here in Italy.
Something was lost in translation so despite a couple calls on our end to identify a time and place to visit, we soon realized we had 2 days with nothing particular planned.

Fear not, Hubby had a plan. And a wonderful plan it ended up being.

For starters, Thing 2, the driver-in-training asked to visit the Ferrari museum. I admit, I'm not much into cars, but there is something about seeing a room filled with very pricey cars that makes every one's heart go pitter-patter. OK, not just pricey but very flashy and fast cars.

The museum is nicely done, albeit a little on the small side compared to the cost of admission, but as Hubby pointed out there is a fair amount of work that goes into keeping the place up to the Ferrari standard. I'm also starting to appreciate that while some venues are pricey (This and the Pisa tower), it does tend to keep the busloads of tourists and the street vendors selling selfie sticks at bay. Something the rich figured out awhile ago, paying for a tad bit more of a private experience is often worth it.

So while the museum was nice, what I found very interesting was the location. Here we were, driving along a country road, very similar in weather conditions to where my dad lives in Western Wisconsin (translation: both are muggy and buggy, swap the corn fields for vineyards where the famous Modena Balsamic vinegar is being grown) and BOOM...there she sits, the factory for what is often called the world's fastest car ever made. You can hear the classic rumble of the engine off in the distance (nope, not workers testing their product, but true officianodos testing their skills on a very expensive "drive a ferrari" experience....something that nobody in the Chang Gang was interested in.)

After this, we headed back to our lodging where we decided to check out the restaurant on the end of the street. OMG: filled with locals, our waitress had a difficult time making sure she got our order right (for the records she did get it right. you could just tell she was nervous about waiting on tourists, I"m guessing we are a rarity in this restaurant). Turns out it would have been fine if she mixed up our order, as everything was delicious and as I glanced around at the others eating nearby, everything else looked equally delicious.

On Sunday, we decided to briefly leave the beauty that is Italy, and headed on a day trip to another country. Just 2 hrs from our lodging in Modena, is the country of San Marino.

 It's the world's 5th smallest countries with what is the oldest surviving republic dating back to 300 AD. Perched high on the top of Mt. Titano one could easily appreciate how hard it would have been for the neighbors to attempt an invasion.

 On a side note, this mountain sits majestically high at 750m. HaHa: compared to our mountains back home it seems barely hill status, but one should factor in we start at sea level and started the climb up some twisty-turney roads, filled with bicyclists (and not the weekend road riders we see in Colorado...these guys were all in matching jersys and riding in large groups, suggesting it was either a structured race or a training day for local teams?).

We reached the top, yet again, before the hordes of tourist buses had made it up the hill, and headed off in search of some breathtaking views.

 Thing 2 wanted to show off his physical stamina, so he asked to take off on a path and said he'd meet us at the castle. Turns out we should have been a little more specific, as there are two castles in town.

 Oh well, with it being such a small country, and with great cell phone coverage, he soon found his way to our spot and my mama worries were subsided. At the time, I was a little more than worried, and slightly annoyed, but looking back on it, I realize there is a certain amount of humor in terms of saying we may have lost our child in such a tiny country?!

The rest of the day was spent wandering the town, seeing the bicyclists that crowded the roads on the route up, and realizing that this sleepy little country would indeed be a destination popular with school groups and tourists. But luckily, the selfie stick sellers must have gotten the memo not to be bothered by coming to San Marino.

As for the shopping, seems that given their independent nation status, and lack of a VAT, the shops offer a unique array of gifts. True designer hand bags (not the ones spread out on a tarp down some dark alley in Rome) and gun stores were plentiful. The designer boutique made sense to me: saving a little on the tax, means maybe you can get a wallet to match your purse. But the gun store? Not sure I understood that one until Hubby pointed out that in Italy the laws are very restrictive in terms of purchasing weaponry. But here in the country of San Marino, well, different laws applies. Sure enough, we saw many people walking around with long boxes, doubtful they were bringing home an umbrella to mark their visit to San Marino.

We returned to our lodging around 1700, and after a brief rest we took Thing 1 out to purchase his souvenirs from the local mall. Seems the Italian Gamestop had gadgets for his game that are too rare to find in the US? Okey dokey, this is his vacation as much as ours we realize.....and found ourselves back at the wonderful restaurant just at the end of the our block.
The take home lessons from all of this
  1. Sometimes plans need to be changed. Trying to assign blame or attach a reason leaves everyone frustrated.
  2. Having a few days in a vacation with nothg particular planned is a good way to regroup and re-energize.
  3. If Mama is acting anxious and stressed, find her a mezzo-litre of House wine. She soon will be returned to a reasonable state of being.
Until next time (strong wi-fi and sleeping children letting me have access to their gadgets...)

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