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Archive for October, 2008

 

The past few days have seen nasty weather. In a country that supposedly has the best weather in Europe, gloomy skies and rainy days isn’t quite the norm. But that is exactly how it has been these few days. It rained the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

This morning, when I woke up, I could see the sun shine brightly from my window. But when I stepped outside, it was SOOOOOO windy. The wind was blowing in my direction and it slowed my pace. I left the house at the exact same time I usually do, and reached class 5 minutes later than usual. I really felt as though the wind could blow me away, no kidding.

 

The trees are shedding its leaves.

 

I took the picture above while on the way to class. Some people say that autumn is their favourite season because everything looks “orange and pretty”, but somehow I dont quite like it. I know it sounds stupid, but I feel sorry for the trees losing its leaves. I mean, its not too different from a person losing their hair is it? 😛 Granted, the trees do get their leaves back in spring, but trees are SUPPOSED to have leaves. Trees without leaves is just….wrong 😛 Heh, I am rambling. Perhaps it would look better in winter, when the trees have NO leaves at all. A bald man looks better than a balding man, no? 😛

 

Denim amidst the brownness

Denim amidst the brownness

 

After yesterday’s walk in the rain, my Converse looks more brown than denim 😛 Time for a wash.

 

You know what I really like to see? Nothing warms my heart and gives me more faith in life and love than seeing an old couple still in love with each other. When I was in Sweden, I saw this elderly couple in their seventies. They were holding hands and walking to their car. And when they reached their car, he went over to her side, opened the door for her, let her in and closed it. Then he walked over to the driver’s side and got in.  I thought these things only happened in movies.

 

Then last week, I saw this Italian couple who were walking about 100 meters in front of me.

 

Walking hand in hand

Walking arm in arm

 

Sweet isn’t it? I realized I was smiling to myself, and I quickly whipped out my camera to get this picture. I wonder whether there are many couples who reach their golden years still very much in love with each other?

 

I’d like to believe so.

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After our hearty lunch in Vernazza, we continued our trek to village #3, Corniglia. It started to drizzle a little, but it wasn’t too bad. This time around, the trail was relatively easier. There were still some majorly steep steps to conquer, but they were not half as difficult as the trek from Monterosso.

 

There were some really nice pine trees that reminded me of the Salem Cool Planet ads that were on Malaysian TV when I was a kid. Speaking of pines, does anyone have any idea why pine nuts are SO expensive? I wanted to buy some at the hypermarket to make pesto, but I was taken aback to see that a small pack costs EUR 5! Perhaps its because pine trees are not common in this part of Italy? I dunno.

 

Pine tree

Pine tree

 

 

Vernazza

Vernazza

 

 

Bee on a flower

Bee on a flower

 

The sun was setting by then, and we had to quicken our pace. Along the way, I managed to capture a few shots of the beautiful sunset.

 

Sunset at Cinque Terre

Sunset at Cinque Terre

 

As we traipsed along, I came across this clearing that looked like it came out of a storybook.

 

I wonder what is beyond the light?

I wonder what is beyond the light?

 

There were also many olive trees that were being cultivated by the people there.

 

Olive Tree

Olive Trees

 

Which of course means, lots of olives!

 

Olives! Yum!

Olives! Yum!

 

Walk, walk, walk, and finally we reach Corniglia!

 

Corniglia view & Corniglia Train Station

Corniglia view & Corniglia Train Station

 

Of course I squealed when I saw these:

 

Orange trees!!!!!!!!

Orange trees!!!!!!!!

 

And also these:

 

Soooo pretty!

Soooo pretty!

 

Corniglia seemed like a smaller town to me. Orange and lemon trees were aplenty. I took like a gazillion pictures of them 😛

 

The clear blue waters of Corniglia

The clear blue waters of Corniglia

 

The sun was rapidly setting, and we made our way to village #4 Manarola. This trek was really easy. Literally a walk in the park. The ground was flat, and there was pavement occasionally. From Corniglia, we reached Manarola in about 15 minutes or so.

 

View from Manarola

View from Manarola

 

 

The village of Manarola

The village of Manarola

 

It would be so so so romantic to have a room in one of the houses above facing the Mediterranean Sea wouldn’t it? 😉

 

And we continued on to the final village, Riomaggiore. Along the way, we passed Via dell’Amore ( Lovers Lane ).

 

Entrance to Via dell'Amore

Entrance to Via dell'Amore

 

As you can see, it was almost dark. We reached the final town of Riomaggiore, and although the scenery was pretty too, my camera couldn’t capture much.

 

Sunset at Riomaggiore

Sunset at Riomaggiore

 

I was glad to have been able to complete all 12 km of Cinque Terre. It really is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

 

The HB has a tough task ahead now; to bring me to a place that is prettier than Cinque Terre! 😉

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I am sprawled on the sofa as I write this. My entire body is aching like it never has. My calves are sore, my thighs are sore, and I have to walk with a weird gait no thanks to my stressed out limbs. Why?

 

It is because of the trip we had yesterday. The 12km hiking+walking+climbing+struggling trail. Strenous? MOST DEFINITELY. Worth it? ABSOLUTELY. Cinque Terre is the most beautiful place I have ever been to.

 

Cinque Terre (pronounced as CHEEN-kweh TEHR-reh) literally means The Five Lands. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Lonely Planet says that “if you miss the Cinque Terre, you will have bypassed some of Italy’s most extraordinary countryside”. I agree wholeheartedly. Perhaps I have not seen much of this world, but I think that Cinque Terre has one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Picturesque and quaint, it would be my idea of a perfect honeymoon destination.

 

Cinque Terre consists of five villages; Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

 

We took a two hour drive from Modena to the train station in Levanto. On the way there, we stopped for a short break, and the weather was rather dreadful, a foggy 11 degrees.

 

 

I was worrying that the weather would be the same in Cinque Terre.

 

View from Levanto Train Station

 

But we were blessed. The weather was great. Blue skies, and the sun shining brightly. From Levanto, we took the train to the first village, Monterosso. And this is the view that greeted us.

 

 

Monterosso, Cinque Terre

Monterosso, Cinque Terre

 

 

 

 

 

It was breathtaking. The clear blue waters was as clear as could be.

 

Clear blue waters

Clear blue waters

 

 

We began the hike from Monterosso to the next village, Vernazza. The breathtaking view somehow misled me. I thought we would have a pretty, easy trail to Vernazza. HB told me that the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso would be the most strenous and least scenic. The word ‘strenous’ is a real understatement.

 

It was a mostly uphill trail, consisting of rather muddy tracks and granite stairs that nearly took the life out of me. I kid you not. My muscles ached, my thighs felt as though it was about to explode. We had to stop for short breaks in between as I was feeling dizzy and out of breath. Blame it on my low blood pressure >_<

 

This would be an EASY trail

This would be an EASY trail

 

But I survived. All 4 km of the trek between Monterosso and Vernazza. I could have cried. Vernazza never seemed to come in sight. I felt as though I was trekking to the moon! 😛 Until I saw this:

 

 

 

 

Finally! Vernazza! I breathed a sigh of relief ( I think HB too, coz I think he was afraid that I was about to keel over, LOL ) and we trekked another 15 minutes or so to the village.

 

 

V for victory baybehhh!!

V for victory baybehhh!!

 

We were absolutely starving by then. As we traipsed through the piazza, the smell of yummy food wafted through the air. We looked around for a bit and plopped ourselves at Trattoria Del Capitano to have lunch.

 

 

Chef's recommendation

Chef's recommendation

 

We had the set menu meal that cost EUR25 each without drinks.

 

Spaghetti "chittara" alla fantasia di mare

Spaghetti "chittara" alla fantasia di mare

 

The first dish was pasta. I chose the seafood spaghetti, and HB had the pasta with pesto pictured below.

 

Pasta fresca al pesto

Pasta fresca al pesto

 

 

 

Anchovies

Anchovies

 

And this is what we both had for our mains. Anchovies are a specialty of Cinque Terre. And of course, gelato for dessert.

 

Gelato

Gelato

 

 

We were also quite lucky to have witnessed a “wedding”, or well, sort of. The bride came down from her house, right behind me and walked about 200 m to the church, cheered on by family and friends, and tourists like me 😉

 

 

 

 

After our hearty lunch, we walked around for a bit and took more pictures. It really is easy to fall in love with Cinque Terre.

 

 

Pretty view of the promenade

Pretty view of the promenade

 

 

And then, it was time to continue our trek to village #3, Corniglia. Stay tuned for the next installment of Cinque Terre, Seconda Parte.

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I got this joke from a forwarded email, and it made me LOL. Hope it puts a smile on your face too!

 

And oh, you don’t even have to be Catholic to appreciate this joke 😛

 

Little Mary Margaret was not the best student in Catholic School
Usually she slept through the class.

 

One day her teacher, a Nun, called on her while she was sleeping.
‘Tell me Mary Margaret, who created the universe?’

 

When Mary Margaret didn’t stir, little Johnny who was her friend
sitting behind her, took his pencil and jabbed her in the rear.

 

‘God Almighty!’ shouted Mary Margaret.

 

The Nun said, ‘Very good’ and continued teaching her class.

 

A little later the Nun asked Mary Margaret, ‘Who is our Lord and Savior?’
But Mary didn’t stir from her slumber.

 

Once again, Johnny came to her rescue and stuck Mary Margaret
in the butt.

 

Jesus Christ!!!’ shouted Mary Margaret and the Nun once again said,
‘Very good,’ and Mary Margaret fell back sleep.

 

The Nun asked her a third question…’What did Eve say to Adam after
she had her twenty-third child?’ Again, Johnny came to the rescue.

 

This time Mary Margaret jumped up and shouted, ‘If you stick that
damn thing in me one more time, I’ll break it in half!’

 

The nun fainted.

 

😀 

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So I was surfing online today, and reminiscing about my school days. It has been ten years since I left school.

 

Out of sheer nostalgia, I googled “TIGS 1998” and voila, the official website of my secondary school popped up. Wow, the teachers have their own email addresses, there are links where students can download previous year’s exam papers, exam schedules, forums, E-Homework(!!!) and a whole bunch of other stuff.

 

I then clicked on “Staf Akademik” and it brought me to a list of names; teachers who are currently teaching in TIGS. And goodness gracious, I see familiar names!!

 

Puan Hasnah, the Bio teacher who was rather err….strange 😛 She was awarded Guru Cemerlang ok! Beat that!

Pn.Elizabeth is still there too.

So is Pn.Rashidah Mentol, Pn Siti Zubaidah (the one the girls nicknamed Pig Got Beaten 😛 I’m sorry it sounds mean, but her name DOES sound like that when pronounced in Mandarin).

Pn Rateni(!!!!), OMG she taught me when I was like what, 14, 15?

And En.AZMAN!!!!! Yes, the one who taught us Kemahiran Hidup from Form One onwards. Goodness gracious, he’s  STILL there!!

 

I still remember our K.H. projects, the wooden bench, the stupid alarm emitting thingamajig, the electronic circuitboard, (I had SO much fun playing with the pateri), the plumbing works, LOL 😀 the memories!

 

Strangely enough, I do not remember the sewing projects nor the cooking classes very well. Those were under the Ekonomi Rumah Tangga (ERT) stream, whereas we were in KMT (I forgot what it stands for, but it involved carpentry, plumbing, electronics). Basically what the guys would do.

 

Till today, I have no idea why they made us in the Science stream take KMT. I have not even once had to do any carpentry, plumbing or electronic works around the house.

 

But look at my mum. She did ERT back in HER school days, and she is ONE MEAN COOK. She actually still has her school cookbook, with yellow crisp pages from her days in school. That’s like back in the sixties ok. That book is an antique! Oh, but it holds many “secret recipes” which I should learn.

 

Ahh, the memories just come flooding back. How we used to hide in the library to avoid assembly on Monday mornings, the never ending mesyuarat pengawas, the stories of haunted toilets, the canteen food!

 

How many people actually loved their canteen food? Our batch back then sure did. The soto, lontong, nasi lemak, lontong darat, mee rebus. I remember how the canteen lady used to look out for my friend E.H. coz she had the tendency to “flick” the chicken pieces from other plates of soto so hers would have more 😀

 

Once or twice, she even got reprimanded! And how my other friend A used to flood her bowl of soto with sambal kicap till it turned a dark brown. The food was indeed delicious.

 

The good ol’ days indeed. I would give an arm and a leg to be fifteen again.

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Long time no write eh? Well, that’s coz I was busy with Italian lessons, and work in the afternoons. Also, the HB was around, and well, time just flew past!

 

HB took me to Bologna for a weekend trip. Over the years, Bologna has earned a few nicknames for itself. “La Dotta” (the learned one) is a reference to its famous university, and “La Grassa” (the fat one) refers to its cuisine.

 

Hey, where do you think Spaghetti Bolognese comes from? Or Bologna Sandwiches (known to the Americans as baloney sandwich)? 😉 Everyone knows Spaghetti Bolognese, but the Bolognesi actually call their meat sauce “ragu”.

 

We explored Bologna on foot, and it was an interesting experience to say the least. At the centre of Bologna’s old city is Piazza Maggiore. It is the focal point of city life, and is bustling with with buskers and mime artists.

 

Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore

 

It’s not a very good picture, I know, but I have a better picture that has me right smack in the middle of the picture, and well, I like to keep a low profile and not display my “pretty face” *coughcough* for the world to see 😉

 

And this is discreet me in front of Basilico di San Petronio. It is named after the city’s patron saint. It is the fifth largest basilica in the world and there is an interesting sundial designed by Cassini in 1656 that adorns the floor of the eastern aisle. (No pictures were allowed in the basilica though).

 

In front of Basilica di San Petronio

In front of Basilica di San Petronio

 

 

We explored a bit, and ended up at Le Due Torri (Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers). The two towers, like many towers in Italy, lean precariously. The taller of the two towers is the Torre Degli Asinelli.

 

Le Due Torri

Le Due Torri

 

Torre Asinelli is the one on the left, and is taller, standing at 97.6m with a 1.3m lean. The smaller tower is called Garisenda, and has a 3.2m lean *gasps* The Garisenda is closed to public though.

(*interesting fact* – The Two Towers were cited by Dante in the Divine Comedy. Don’t play play ok.)

 

And then, the HB had a revelation.

 

‘Let’s get to the top of Asinelli Tower, it has a really nice view of the city’ he said.

 

I looked up at the tower, and thought ‘It can’t be that bad, doesn’t look very high to me.’ So I chirpily agreed to it. Easy peasy right? WRONG!

 

Entrance ticket to Torre Asinelli

Entrance ticket to Torre Asinelli

 

It was an EXCRUCIATING hike to the top.  It took 498 steps to scale the 97.6m tower. To top it off, the wooden stairs were REALLY narrow. At some points, each step/panel (?) of the stairs was only about half the length of my feet. Imagine how hard it must be for those with big(ger) feet! It also seemed wobbly to me; I wonder how safe it is, it being built in 1109 and all.

 

Staircase in Torre Asinelli

Staircase in Torre Asinelli

 

This is NOT the place to be if you have acrophobia. Even *I* got a little dizzy peering downstairs. We were huffing and panting away. Ok la, okkkkk. It was ME who was panting. The HB is as fit as a fiddle and was laughing and jogging up the stairs. *rolls eyes* BUT it wasn’t just me who was struggling and groaning away. Most people were!

 

There was a juncture where we had to stop to give way to people descending, and this Italian lady who was descending (she was clad in a MINI SKIRT and HIGH HEELED BOOTS!!) soothingly told me in Italian, “When you reach the top, there will be a shop selling gelato and lemonade!” That cheered me up a whole lot. I told myself, I’d get a nice fat chocolate gelato when I reach the top. That lady was smart coz there’s NO SHOP at the top at all! Grrrrr.

 

Finally, FINALLY, we reached the peak! And this is the view that greeted us:

 

View from the top of Torre Asinelli

View from the top of Torre Asinelli

 

 

View from the top of Torre Asinelli

View from the top of Torre Asinelli

 

You know how they say that all roads lead to Rome? Well, it was literally true in the days of the Roman Empire. Roman soldiers of yore constructed roads that would all lead to Rome. I wonder whether the straight long road in the picture above is one of them. Cool eh?

 

There were gaps in the floor of the tower that were rather scary. A child’s foot could easily slip through. Here’s a picture of one of those gaps/holes. You can actually see people climbing up or down the stairs through it.

 

View from a gap on the floor

View from a gap on the floor

 

Descending the tower was SO MUCH easier. Phew. And HB cheekily told those ascending, ‘Oh, it’s very close to the top already, only 20 meters ahead.’ Even when it was more than 100 meters to go. Good for him 😛

 

And then we went to THE place we actually came to Bologna for.

 

The Asian shop!

 

Hahaha 😀 I was so excited when we got to the shop that I forgot to take any pictures 😛 Oh my. There was soy sauce and curry powder and curry leaves and noodles and oyster sauce and chili sauce and spices and instant noodles and canned sardines and dried serai and dried kaffir lime leaves(!!!!) and ROTI CANAI and mantou and a whole load of other goodies in there. Granted the roti canai and mantou are frozen, but ROTI CANAI in ITALY?!?!!! Do you know just how PRECIOUS it is?!!

 

I was like a kid in there, and it was as though Christmas came early, as dear HB let me pick out ANYTHING I wanted. I could have keeled over from excitement. It was a pity that the shop was in the restricted area of the city, and we couldn’t drive in. Thus we had to be careful of how much stuff we bought coz we had to carry the entire load to our car which was parked about 15minutes away.

 

Still, I was (still am!) very, very happy. I was squealing away in there I tell you 😀 You should see our fridge NOW, heh! It’s packed to the brim 😀

 

And this ends our little adventure in Bologna. I told HB that the next time we go to Bologna, I’m gonna make sure we sit down and have a decent meal in the food haven/motherland/whatchamacallit of Italy. We were pressed for time this time around, coz we wanted to get to the Asian shop before it closes.

 

We got back to Modena, and HB brought me to this nice restaurant where I had my first WHOLE PIZZA meal. It was yum! And heh, I didn’t have any trouble finishing my whole pizza. We even had dessert; tiramisu for me, and mascarpone for him.

 

All in all, a truly enjoyable day. Thanks HB! 😉

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So I am chugging along with my Italian lessons. There are some words that just make me CRINGE although the meaning really is quite innocent. It’s so bad I can’t even bring myself to say it. Here are some examples.

 

#1 Pronto (Hello/ready)

This is my number one pet peeve. I feel as though someone is pricking my ears with a blunt needle when I hear that word. Which is often. “Pronto” is said when one answers the phone. For some strange reason, I just can’t stand the word. Maybe it is because of the way the Italians emphasize their R’s. And pronto isn’t “prone-toe” but it is “PRRAWN-toe”.  >_<  And HB loves annoying me by purposely saying PRAWNTOEEE all the time with this deep voice. Ugh.

 

#2 Autobus (Bus)

It’s a normal sounding word right? Wrong. Thats because it’s said with the article “L” in front, which makes it L’autobus. And the way you pronounce it? LAU-TOE-BOOS. Yepp. Not “bʌs” but BOOS.  >_< 

 

#3 Undici (Eleven)

I don’t like this word simply because it sounds like “undies” followed by a “ci” which somehow seems to sound like a Malaysian way of saying “cis”. Thus, put together, it sounds, to me, like dirty underwear >_<  Don’t ask.

 

#4 Genitori (Parents)

Genitori. Self explanatory.

 

#5 Oggi (Today)

Actually I don’t dislike this word. I just find it amusing. Makes me think of Kelloggs Frosties. Or eggs.

 

So there, five words that make me cringe. There will be more to come, trust me. 😛

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