13 June 2015

When in Rome, do as Romans… almost… do

“The valiant gladiator Habeaus Mobilus throws down his trusted gladius graecos – that would be his dagger – and in a final offensive push, reaches behind his waist and unleashes his… errr…. errr… mobile phone???”

As the old Roman game show host Nefarius Purpus once said … – The Pen might be mightier than the sword, but your best option is “Phone a Friend” … πŸ™‚

P.S. Anybody remembers the reference to Asterix?


13 June 2015

Sometimes it is about learning a new language…

… and sometimes it is simply about getting water.

As the family and our friends were busy visiting the places that you evidently come to Florence for, I took a different path and made friends with random people on the streets and took some random pictures. So, if you are expecting to see all the grand stuff that Italy is famous for, you will be disappointed. It is probably going to be more like seeing Italy thru a completely different (and uninteresting) lens.

Once the family and our friends went off to Basilica di Santa Maria Novella, I hit the streets to check out the rest of the city. The first order of business was to relieve myself. Which was not the difficult part – since most restaurants in Italy seem to have restrooms.

The more difficult part was to cajole the water to come out of the tap to wash my hands. As you can see from the tap in the picture, there was nothing untoward about it, to begin with πŸ™‚ And then you realize that there was nothing very toward about it either πŸ™‚ since there was no visible way to get the water to flow.

I did what I would do in US. I assumed it is an automatic one and tried to keep my fingers/hand close to it and started gesticulating wildly to see if it would trigger the sensor. Next, I closely inspected the tap and came to the realization that in reality, there was no sensor. I was truly stumped. I tried quite a few things – including tapping the tap on the head and even tried to move the whole tap up and down. More deperate than thoughtful, I even pretended to walk away and then suddenly turned around to see if I could fool that particularly obstinate tap πŸ™‚ Nothing doing!!

Almost ready to give up on my fight, I tapped into (apologies for the bad pun) my Indian “jugaad” and asked myself what would I do if that was my restaurant and the tap was malfunctioning. Of course, I would close the valve at the bottom of the sink to stop water from flowing at all.

Quite confident of myself, I stooped down to check for a valve under the sink. And it is then that I noticed a funny looking stick sticking out on the floor – almost looking like a pedal. Unconsciously, I pressed it with my foot. At that point I would press just about anything to see how to make the tap work. It was not about the water. It was an issue of my prestige versus that of the tap πŸ™‚

Speaking of which, prestige was indeed restored! That was the pedal!! Turned out, pressing it with your feet was the way to get the water flowing!! Who knew???

Later I found out a few more restaurants that had the same contraption (not all though). One even had a hot and cold water controls – one pedal with a red shoe and one pedal with a black shoe !!

One more thing learnt during this trip…


10 June 2015

I do not make these things up…

Flew in with the family to Milan and then a few hours of drive to Bologna. And then another half an hour drive to the top of the mountains in Varignana to reach an old castle recently converted to a beautiful resort.

Our other vacation friends – Sunil and family from Dallas – reached us later in the evening. After walking around the beautiful property, taking in the beauty of the valleys from the mountain top, we settled down at the restaurant bar to try out some Italian wine.

As unlikely as it might sound, I thought I spotted somebody – even in this really distant spot – that I might have met before. After excusing myself from my table, I walked to the other table and politely asked if I could interrupt. And that is when the yellings started!! There was not one but two friends from my past who were having a company meeting there!! Made a few new friends too!!

Remember how I met Cindy in a remote resort in a bar in a small place in Costa Rica? Or how I ran into Suman from school days while laying by the pool at a resort south of Kolkata? It appears, that streak continues – this time with Patricio Remon and his team!!!


10 June 2015

Interesting sight

You know how you can often find a McDonalds or Subway attached to a gas station in U.S. for hungry drivers. You know what you can get in Italy? An open bar!!!

And this is in a country with tougher drinking and driving rules than US (penalties start at 0.05% and progressively increases)!!!


10 June 2015

The real fun of visiting a country

We have a couple of hours drive from Milan airport to the resort outside Bologna. Our driver understands zero English and my Italian is nothing!! One hour into the journey, the girls are all sleeping and so far I have learnt all the numbers and about fifty words for daily use from our driver Renzo.

Now comes the fun part over the next seven days as I mix up all my newly learnt words and make a fine mess of it. Past experience has shown that actually these mess ups make for some memorable moments.

Already, I mixed up “amore” and “amigo” leading Renzo to believe that the owner of the resort (an old business and personal friend of mine) is my “lover” πŸ™‚ (I was trying to say “friend”) πŸ™‚