It's Your Hour - Use it Well

By: leelefever on December 4, 2006 - 9:37pm

I suppose this is our 23rd time zone crossing of the year, into New Mexican Mountain Time and out of Texan Central Time.

I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't take extra hours like this for granted. They may tell you at Day Light Savings Time to change your clocks at 2am on Sunday morning - but don't listen to the propaganda. That hour is *your* hour and you can use it how you like. Maybe you'd prefer to use it right after breakfast and have extra time to read the paper. Maybe you want to sleep an hour later or go to bed an hour earlier. My advice is to use it wisely.

For instance, one time Sachi and I waited almost 6 whole days to use an hour of day light savings time. We rented a car in Italy and arrived in Rome on a Friday. On Saturday we met our friend Robin and had a highlight of a day. For the next 5 days we travelled up the Italian coast and finally back to Milan to catch a train to Geneva. When we reached the station on the following Thursday, we noticed something perplexing: the train station clock displayed a time that was one full hour earlier than our watches. How could this be?

As it turns out, the time changed the prior Saturday at 2am - 5 days prior. We had been living in a world that was an hour before us the whole time and had no clue. With no where else to go, we huddled outside an espresso cafe, sat on our bags and spent the hour, OUR hour, shivering as we watched the minutes tick past before boarding our train. This was not a good way to spend our hour and I hope will serve as a reminder to others.

Remaindered Italy Photos

By: leelefever on November 5, 2006 - 10:37am

We saw a lot on the latter part of our road trip in Italy, but moving around so fast it's hard to say too much.  Luckily photos say more than we can (some say up to 1000 words!) So, here goes... Italy in photos.

 We can't talk about the Italy trip without mentioning our silver companion: An Alfa Romeo 147 without which little would be possible.

Oh the places we would go. After Rome we headed to the west coast and to Lucca and Vernazza which is part of Cinque Terre.  Lucca, like so many small medieval places, oozes charm...


 From there, it was off to Vernazza, a tiny coastal village whose main focus now is tourism - lots of it.


 Vernazza led us through an area called Carrera where they pull huge chunks of marble out of the mountains. 

We got a piece of statuario marble in the shape of a cheese slicer - which is why we needed to use the Itailian Post Office

 And the drive back to Milan took us through Rapallo...

And we can't mention Italy without a nod to a woman we met on the train to Switzerland.  She spoke Italian, French and Spanish, but hardly a word of English. Yet, she charmed us with her Itialian gesticulations.  I bet she lives to be a hundred and five.

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Siena, Italy: A City Preserved

By: leelefever on November 3, 2006 - 2:11am

I never thought about it during the first day there, but Siena, Italy is a place that can be viewed through a few lenses.  Sachi made an observation that put the city into a unique perspective and changed what really interested me about it.

We were wandering and visibly excited (I’m sure) to be experiencing one of the most atmospheric cities on the trip.  Siena blew us away with charm and history, as did her little brother San Gimignano.  Both walled, medieval cities with narrow, winding streets – they drip with Euro-charm and overall Tuscan wine country pleasantness. 

These cities are not practical for cars and thankfully, there were few.  It’s rare to see a car parked within the walls and only regulated commercial cars run about consistently.  This makes the cities very pedestrian-friendly and protective of their 12th century buildings.

After a day of wandering, Sachi mentioned that if you looked at the city’s appearance from a modern perspective, Siena looks dirty and a little broken down.  At first I dismissed it, but then took a second look.  She was speaking the truth.


I soon realized that Siena was showing its age in a serious and conflicting way.  The city is free of rubbish, but in many places, you can tell that the bricks have collected the exhaust from too many cars for too many years. 

 Plaster crumbles and paint fades.  Stone pavement covers nearly the whole surface as life finds a foothold among windowsills.   

Rusted horse ties, broken street lights and powerful doors adorn a city preserved.  Siena is a city where the evidence of age and 100’s of years of use has become an asset - a defining factor.


Siena is also a city that has been left alone.  The buildings have not been painted in years and may never see paint again.  There are no cars, but the walls have been shaped by years of opened doors and clipped corners.  Foundations of buildings appear to be wilting away before your eyes. Yet, it is all part of the undeniable charm that becomes invisible as it blends so perfectly with the overall atmosphere. In Siena, age is beautiful.


The city leaves us both comparing the ways in which historical cities and sites are managed.  Siena is a preserved city – it looks and feels like a city that is 1000+ years old and it represents what we look for in sites.  You can see how time has changed it. 

Compare this to many of China’s sites that have been renovated recently (many after demolition by the Communists).  The Great Wall is a great example of renovation.  It is quite difficult to visit the wall from Beijing and see the “original” wall.  In most tourist-accessible places it has been renovated into a safe and secure experience that is mostly free from many of the genuine articles of the original wall.  Not interesting to us.

Siena helped us to see that preservation is something that we look for and appreciate (when reasonable).  I want to see a city that wears its years like a badge of honor.  I want to scramble over the Great Wall that is still trying it’s best to stand up to the years.  I want to see the effects of time on the genuine articles – and preservation is what we’ve learned to appreciate most.

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Adventures with Poste Italiane

By: leelefever on November 2, 2006 - 3:02am

Sending packages home is how we manage to stay light, and usually it is not a problem. China, Vietnam and many other unexpected places make it a smooth, albeit paperwork laden, operation.

In Italy, where some things are so well designed and easy, the postal system seems to be a mess - at least for the traveler.

We needed to send home about 10 lbs of items and, as usual, found the post office near the train station in Milan. After waiting for 20 minutes, they could only sell us an oversized yellow box and the basic direction of another post office where we could send it. So, with our backpacks and a giant yellow box, we walked to the other station and waited again. It looked bad. There were 6 windows all blocked by glass - no place to pass over a big box. With a help of a very friendly Italian guy, we finally communicated that we wanted to send the box to America. At this point, she looked at us like we requested an express package to the moon. Neither post office was set up for sending packages - only items that could be slid under the glass sneeze guard. I wonder how Italians send a package?

When she asked about the contents of our giant yellow box, my translator communicated that one item was pasta. She shook her head and had to look up if it was OK to send pasta to the US. I just wanted to say "We're in Italy right? Is pasta a protected item here? Is the US concerned about ecological effects foreign pasta? C'mon"

After a lot of talking in Italian, it became clear that our 10lbs of goods would cost USD 90 and about 500 dollars of pure hassle. Our translator left us with solace by saying that even for Italians, the post office is always an adventure. Fortunately for them though, they don't have to schlep around 10 extra pounds wherever they go when it doesn't work out. Maybe it'll be easier in France.

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On Love and Gelato

By: leelefever on October 31, 2006 - 10:17am

On Love and Gelato, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

All gelato is not made equal. Its hard to tell until that first lick - when it desolves and leaves a sweet silky smooth taste in your mouth. You can feel the love when it's real. Today I met my new favorite - pine nut ice cream. I'm still feelin the love.

In fact, we're both feeling a lot of love in Italy. Florence, Rome, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca and tomorrow Cinque Terre - its all so amazingly rich. Culture, art, food, architecture, people, cars, colors, smells - the Italians do it differently and we like it - a lot.

Unfortunately we haven't made time for uploading pics and videos, but they are coming soon. Until then, enjoy Halloween and remember to vote in a week (if your in the US)! We totally dropped the ball for absentee ballots.

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Italian Halloween

By: leelefever on October 28, 2006 - 2:30am

Italian Halloween, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

I'm not so sure this costume would go over too well in the US. That is unless you wanted to go as a Ku Klux Klansmen, which is surely one of the worst costume ideas ever.

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Meet a Roman: Robin Good

By: leelefever on October 28, 2006 - 12:33am

Meet a Roman: Robin Good, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

I've known Robin through the Web for a few years now, but this is the first time we've met in person. When Rome came up on the itinerary, I looked forward to seeing Robin and he has been an amazing host. Last night we had a great dinner in the neighborhood where he grew up (near the Vatican). As an added bonus, we got aquainted with what he called "Tobasco Place", where he and his friends used to dance alone at 3am to Earth Wind and Fire on top of columns around Castle St. Angelo back in the day. From the picture above, you can tell Robin is full of personality and spice - I could totally see him busting a move out there. Today we get on motorbikes with his brother to "see places no tourist sees". Sounds like the Rome we'd love to see.

Check out one of Robin's sites at .

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Venice in Photos

By: leelefever on October 26, 2006 - 5:34am

Sorry to rush into this, but Venice is fairly self-explanatory...not off the beaten track by any means, but one of my favorite places.  This was my third visit and Sachi's first, so I tried to play guide as best I could.  here are the photos... 



Yup, that's UPS - and DHL has boats too...


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Venice Underwater

By: leelefever on October 26, 2006 - 5:28am

Most people agree that Venice, Italy is sinking, but it's only about a few millimeters a year.  The real problem is that the water is rising more and more each year. We were surprised to arrive and find that a great deal of the city was inaccessible due to floodwaters.

This short video is not our smoothest effort, but does show you what was happening...


This article has more info.

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Want One

By: leelefever on October 26, 2006 - 2:51am

Want One, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

We've seem these little "Smart" cars all over Europe - especially in Germany and Italy. They cost about USD 6-8,000 and we've been curious about their gas milage. Seems pretty smart to me.

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