This post was started while we were still in Europe, we’d just started our journey through Italy. This post is a collection of thoughts I had as we travelled through Europe, of the things I saw that stuck out to me.
Narrow cobbled roads mean nothing to taxis and buses. They actually hoon down the streets.
Standing at a zebra crossing means nothing. I mean nothing! Unlike NZ where if you’re standing at a zebra crossing the traffic, by law, has to stop to allow you to cross, in Europe a zebra crossing might as well not even exist. You take your life into your own hands. A zebra crossing is not a place to rely on for safe passage across a road. You must have eye contact with the driver of an oncoming car before you can be sure that they will actually slow, because stopping is not always guaranteed.
Even the women’s public toilets smell bad.
Italians come in all shapes and sizes. And there’s a lot of them that are really short, I mean shorter than me!
The temperature is bearable here until it climbs above 28 degrees, then it really does sap the energy from you and it’s time to seek shelter.
The sun doesn’t burn, it’s just a really nice warmth (until it’s above 28 degrees).
Lifts are narrow. At all of our hotels we were thankful for the lift, but they only fit our suitcases, and maybe one of us. Some lifts were quite speedy, others so slow feel you can watch the minutes tick by.
Cake decorating is a non-event. Everywhere we visited, that had a department store, sold KitchenAids but they are pricey. Except they have them on sale at the moment. I thought the price was fixed and it was one of those items that you never see on sale (outside of America), but that’s proven not to be the case. The price varies a lot. Geneva they were dearer than NZ at full price, but in Bologna they were doing a really good deal, and throwing in the pasta attachment for less than what you could buy in NZ.
Finding cookie cutters is hard, even when we really thought we were looking in every nook and cranny we often couldn’t see them. The find in Bologna was significant which is why I went bonkers and spent more than €70.
Chocolate moulds aren’t too hard to find, in a speciality store, in France. Any other cake decorating piece of equipment is ridiculously priced.
The further into Italy we went the more we spotted stores selling pasta cutters/stamps.
Every restaurant puts out a bowl of parmesan cheese, which tastes significantly better than anything I’ve bought at home (and I think I buy quality), balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
You’ll also find they’ll bring out a little basket (or type of) with bread. I’m not sure if it’s to snack on while you wait, or it’s meant to accompany your meal.
We eat pizza differently to what we’ve witnessed. In Italy we’ve seen people eat a slice of pizza with the crust wrapped in the serviette. They don’t use a knife and fork, and they don’t just pick it up in their fingers. We’ve also seen them wrap the small end of the wedge over (to the crust end) and then eat the slice.
The drink of choice seems to be a Spritz. We noticed once we got to Paris that many people were having this brightly coloured orange drink. When we got to Modena we asked the waiter what it was and he told us it was a Spritz and was very popular. It’s Orange with Apple juice and white wine. We had one (well I had some and gave the rest to Mr Fussy), it was OK, but not what I’d have chosen.
Unlike our first trip (together) to Europe, this time we’ve noticed the breakfast served at a hotel now includes a good selection of cereal and yoghurt. Previously we’ve seen nothing but cold meats, cheese and pastries.
When people stop to have their photo taken with something significant, they really pose. I mean pose like they’re on a photo shoot. I watched one women in the Ferrari museum actually move from one stance straight into another and another and another. I mean really. What happened to just being in the picture with the statute or “thing”. Now it’s all flashy smiles and placement of arms etc. Maybe it’s just me and my dislike for my photo to be taken. At that level it just seems a bit gratuitous.
I most definitely will not miss hovering over toilet seats, or drinking so little because I had no idea where I’d find the next toilet. The toilets are pretty miserable.
Very few women had wavy hair. Or blonde hair. It’s not significant, just an observation I had. Still it’s hard to know if we were seeing tourists/visitors or they were locals.
The closer we got to Rome the easier it felt being a non-Italian speaking tourist. But despite it getting easier, there was no better feeling than arriving back on UK soil and knowing that 90% of the time you spoke the person you were speaking to knew exactly what you meant.
I already miss the paramsen cheese. I was at the supermarket last night and wanted to buy some. I just coulnd’t face the paramsen cheeses at the supermarekt. I’ve been ruined.
Also our balsamic vinegar isn’t nearly as special as I had thought. After having balsamic vinegar on every table we dined at, I’ve come to know that the thicker the syrup the better the quality. Ours seems like it’s thin dirty water. Again, ruined!
Gelato is very addictive. Or perhaps knowing I’d find it difficult to come by anywhere else I practically gorged myself on it. I’m paying for it now of course and the “D” word is on my lips. Too much dining out and gelato has taken its toll.
The water is so different that it made my hair feel so soft and almost limp. But then by the end of the day my hair felt really gungy. The pollution does that to it, but during the day you’re not aware of the pollution so it took me a while to realise the cause of the thick not straw-like feeling was from the pollution.
The buildings are stunning. The architecture, the detail, the materials. Just mind-blowing. But the buildings lack colour. Again as we travelled further through Italy colour started to to appear. It wasn’t until you saw a building with some colour that you realised you’d been deprived of it for days and days.
Exotic cars aren’t so exotic in Italy. Where you’d be gazing off into the distance looking after a Ferrari rushing past you here in NZ, it’s just so common place in Europe that it’s barely worth a second glance.
Public transport is so incredibly good. There’s plenty of options, the cost is minimal and it runs so smoothly.
Homeless people. We have homeless people in NZ and it would be wonderful if every New Zealander could meet their own needs, but somehow in your own country it feels safer. I wonder if it’s because we understand our laws, our medical system, our government agencies that have been set up to assist the homeless. When you’re outside your own home it feels scray. It put me on high alert all the time.
For all the differences, the unsettling times, the puzzlement, the frustrations, I’ll be back. Never again to Paris, but we’ll be back to spend more time in Italy that’s for sure. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever tire of the history, the scenery, the people and customs. There’s so much to learn and so much to learn about yourself when you travel to other countries.