Friuli

We left for Udine on Monday morning after taking Everett to school with Gabby and Granddaddy. We flew to JFK for a 5 hour layover and then to Venezia. Neither of us slept much during the flight. There was a young Mom sitting behind us who was traveling with a two year boy, and both of them were having a pretty rough time. The boy was in a carseat that put his feet in just the right position to kick the back of Chris’ seat. The strange thing is that Chris hardly noticed, in fact it was more comforting and familiar than anything else. However, the boy was crying intensely at times and we really felt for the Mom, as did many other passengers. Melissa and a couple other Moms offered to help her, but she was too far over the edge to accept it at that point.

A driver picked us up and delivered us to our hotel in Udine. We checked in, cleaned up a bit and then walked to Piazza San Giacomo for a pizza lunch. Then took a three hour nap, showered and relaxed before heading out for dinner around 8. It’s amazing how two days seem to evaporate in a fog of sleep deprivation when we travel to Europe.

This is an unusual trip in many ways: Everett is home instead of with us (school is now starting to interfere with his travel schedule); Chris has limited free time due to work commitments at the conference he is attending; Melissa is moving much slower than normal due to pregnancy. Her body continues to change rapidly. Her sense of smell is sharpened (she recently smelled onions from salsa on Chris’ breath from across the room), she takes frequent naps and she is becoming uncharacteristically absent minded. Her doctors and pregnancy books say the same thing about this stage: now is not the time for adventures, it is the time for resting and relaxing. This will be a different kind of trip than we have been on before. We have no big plans, and we don’t do anything quickly. Chris’ meeting took place from Thursday to Saturday. Carrie, Armin, Sophie and Anna came to visit us on Friday evening for the weekend. On Friday Chris attended a private tour of the Tiepolo exhibit at the art museum followed by a work-related dinner, while everyone else went had dinner at one a Carrie and Armin’s favorite restaurants. On Saturday we split up for the first half of the day: Chris went to his meeting; Carrie and Melissa went for a walk around town; Armin and the girls went to a museum. We met back up about 1pm and went to lunch, followed by some rest time and then all of us met at our hotel at about 5:30pm. On Saturday evening there was a big soccer match between the local team and Rome which was being played in Udine. For some reason the entire team came to our hotel a couple hours before the game. We were sitting in the hotel lobby with Carrie, Armin and their girls when the soccer team and their coaches walked through. We could see fans lined up on the street outside the hotel door, trying to get a glimpse. Note for the future: if you ever want to get into an event that is overrun with rabid soccer fans then a great ruse is to travel with children and a pregnant Mom who is knitting. That evening we walked around town and went to dinner at I Piombi. On Sunday we drove to Cividale for the morning, and then they had to head back home. It was great to see them and we are thankful that they made the trip down here for the weekend!

A few observations about the trip:

The Billa grocery store nearby is filled with large vase-shaped chocolates that have all kinds of treats and goodies inside. There are huge displays of them in the front and rear of the store and at the end of almost every isle. Perhaps something to do with Easter? They also have large, shrink-wrapped octopus in the refrigerated section. Chris was able to find a box of Pocket Coffee, a special treat that we have only ever seen in Europe. Melissa found some delicious yogurt.

The hotel, and to a lesser extent the town, smells like Jodi’s house, Chris’ maternal grandmother from Italy who lived in Washington DC until she died. Chris notes that he had the same sensation the time we traveled to Ascona Switzerland, which is just across the lake from Italy. Lastly, he has never made this observation in the south of Italy.

The key to our hotel room is attached to a large brass square with our room number on it. We think this serves three purposes: it makes the key more difficult to lose; it is inconvenient enough to carry that people are encouraged to drop their key off at the front desk when they leave the hotel; it is heavy enough to activate the spring-loaded power switch for our room. Like many European hotels, you have to use your key to turn on the electricity as soon as you enter your room. This is often in the form of putting your key card into a slot. At the Astoria we hang our large brass key from a hook. The downside of this arrangement is that when we leave our room, the electricity is turned off and none of our electronic devices get charged. Fortunately a body towel serves as a good substitute for the key.

There has been a lot of coverage in the news lately about celebrity hairstyles and babies (at least that’s what Chris has been told). He notes that Melissa decided to get bangs before Michelle Obama, and that she announced her pregnancy before Kate or Kim (Middleton or Kardashian). Fortunately the paparazzi doesn’t know where we are at the moment.

Note to Everett: Sophie and Anna seem to love Spooky Manor and Mystery Lighthouse as much as you do! They played it for a while on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Sophie said that she was thinking about Spooky Manor during the night. It’s an infectious game.

Udine does not seem to get a lot of American tourists, at least not at this time of year. We were pleasantly surprised to find few English translations or restaurant menus. One restaurant that we went to a couple times was I Piombi. The first time we went there Chris ordered Pizza and Melissa ordered salad. The second time Chris picked something random from the menu which turned out to be extremely delicious: polenta, fried pancetta, french fries and a piece of cheese. When they brought the plate out the shape of the cheese looked like a slice of bread, so we assumed it was cheese slices on toast. In fact, it was just a huge slice of toasted cheese! Delicious! Ironically, Chris ate this while engaged with the other adults in a conversation about a recent New York Times article on our diet in the US, and about the degree of personal responsibility that is needed to make good food choices. Chris promised to start making better choices as soon as this trip is over.

It rained for five days after we arrived. On Sunday the sun came out in the afternoon, so we walked up to the castle for the view and some fresh air.

Just when we thought we had conquered jet lag in the first 1-2 days it came back to bite us hard in days 3 and 4. Wednesday night was rough. We went to sleep around 11pmĀ but both of us woke up around 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep for hours. We read for a while, played word games on the iPad, and Chris got some work done. We got back to sleep by around dawn. We planned on going to breakfast early but both of us slept until almost 11am, so we raced downstairs to get some coffee before breakfast closed. Afterward we got cleaned up and walked across town to the conference in the Centro Culturale Delle Grazie. We had lunch and met several people, then Melissa went back to the hotel while Chris stayed at the conference.

We don’t exactly have Internet access. It’s more like the intermitternet. It is incredibly slow and unreliable, which has made it a bit difficult to conduct things as we are accustomed to, and it makes us realize how dependent we are on our electronic devices.

Comments (1)

One thought on “Friuli

  1. WOW! What an anniversary, baby moon, work related fantastic trip.

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY no.7

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