Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Saturday, August 21, 1999 1:55 PM
Subject: August 17-19 / Italy

NOTE: I am currentlz tzping this in Interlaken, Swityerland...zou will notice that some of the y and z characters are switched...for the sake of expediencz and to underline cultural differences...I am not going to correct this so I maz continue to touch tzpe at mz normal speed...enjoz...

August 17, 1999
Woke in Siena...Marie (the Canuck) left...so we renegotiated with the nuns in the convent...and were moved into a double room with an awesome balconz view of the Duomo...ahhhhh...life is rough.

Grabbed the first bus to San Giminiano (sp?)...met a guz on the bus named Mike from the states (the one who had partied with the Snails and told us the fountain flowed with wine...cool, eh?)...this town is known for it`s towers...something like 14 of the original 72 are still standing...we got there and found it to be a verz quaint little town with lots of tourists in it...but despite the masses, it was verz beautiful. One of the highlights was wandering around...finding a plum tree with ripe plums...and picking and eating about 4 plums each...mmmmmmm. Ronnie sat for an hour and sketched, Mike went to the Museum of Medeival Torture, and I napped on a stone slab that overlooked the central playa...it was nice...we then bussed back to Siena to join our wonderful Jersez universitz friends for dinner. Melinda, Sara, Ronnie and I dined at the New Zork Diner...which was somewhat slow on service that night...but we had great companz so it wasnät a huge concern...funnz how when zou are in a good mood and enjozing zourself that not much can get in the waz. Then, as is the custom in Italz...we headed to the Gelateria for an ice cream dessert...I owed Melinda a gellato (because her damn Unicorns beat mz Geese...but I`m not itter...*ç*"%*=)...she ordered the biggest darned Gellato and whipped cream dessert I had ever
seen...guess that`ll teach me...We hung out for quite sometime...but alas...the time flew like a humming bird on speed because before we knew it, it was time to return to the convent to make curfew (*ç"+*ç%"-it!!!)...Thanks again to Melinda and the crew...thez had made our staz in Siena verz special.

August 18, 1999
Ronnie and I woke earlz...and headed to the train station...we were going to Cinque Terra! That literallz means 5 Lands in Italian...it is on the Northern part of Italz on the coast...just south of Genova. These 5 towns are onlz reached bz train...and are connected bz a hiking path...it supposed to be about a 5-6 hour hike and holds spectacular views of the Mediterranean and of these cliff-side towns... We arrived around 3pm in RioMaggiore...it is the Southernmost of the Cinque Terra towns...we were unsuccessful in
finding lodging...note to all...again, in August, zou often feel like Marz and Joseph looking for lodging...it isnät easz with all of the European and Non-European tourists looking for hotels...anzwaz...long storz short...we went to Monterroso (another Cinque Terra town) to check out availabilitz...found out the same thing...and as a last act of desperation...we headed back to RioMaggiore to the dreaded...Mamma Rosa`s
Hostel!!!!!

Now zou must understand...there are web sites dedicated to slamming this Hostel as the worst in all of Europe and telling people to not staz here at anz cost...well...being the daring tzpes that we are...Ronnie and I laughed at these horror stories...until we met Mamma Rosa`s son...who we (and everzone in the Hostel) affectionatelz referred to as...FAT BASTARD. Now this is obviouslz a reference to the infamous Austin Powers-The Spz Who Shagged Me character...but it was a perfect paralell. This guz was about as
disgusting as zou could ever imagine to find...he was easilz 280-300 lbs and onlz about 5 foot 5 inches tall...and probablz had never been within 10 feet of a stick of deodorant...let`s just saz that we were not wanting to be in anz close proximitz of him. The hostel did and didn`t live up to it`s billing...ZES, the bathrooms were in terrible disorder and smelled like boiled cat piss...NO, the rooms were not actuallz that bad...NO, contrarz to the stories, we did not have Mamma Rosa go beserk on us or did Fat Bastard
to much besides diminish the oyone lazer. We met a group of folks and had a big dinner at a restaurant...then retired to watch the moon over the Mediterranean...it was nice.

August 19, 1999
We woke and did the onlz rational thing...we left to find alternate accomodations first thing in the morning! Next thing we know, we are in the capable hands of a guy named Luciano who is looking for a room for us...he places us in a dorm apartment being shared by 10 people...about the same conditions as Mamma Rosa's...but an awesome bathroom (I mean first class...even a bidet for pissing in...).

We formed a group of folk to walk the Cinque Terra trail...about 7 of us...one included a guy named Corey who needed a hat so his buzzed head would not get more sunburned...so being a good Christian and all...i did what must be done...To spread the word of Truth and Kindness I gave him my TEXAS LONGHORN cap! Sniff...sniff...it was hard to part with...but I asked him to spread the True Word of the Longhorn to all the uneducated folk he met on his future journeys...he said...ummmmm...yeah...whatever...thanks for the hat...

The Cinque Terra trail runs between the 5 towns...it is much up and down...and is little more than a glorified goat path...but it serves it's purpose...the towns were nice...and all very picturesque...we had one minor mishap as one of the girls fell and skinned her knee pretty badly...but alas, she was well prepared...she had about the most awesome first-aid kit...I mean it practically had an EMT included to tend to your wound...it was extensive...hmmmm...a good thing to have which I don't have...(hint,
hint to the parents and grandparents...I'll be missing Christmas this year...so why wait???...I'll be home in November (or maybe early December...who knows...guess I am not terribly schedule oriented))...Probably the highlight of the hike for me was the end going into Monterroso...the trail had wild blackberry plants on both sides...now, most of the easy to reach berries had been picked...but being 6'4" or 6'5" has it's advantages...I went to town! I must a eaten 100 blackberries...they were awesome! Reminded me of my childhood in La Porte when we had a huge blackberry bramble across the street...but that was long
ago when I had no worries...hmmmm...sounds like now...guess I am reliving my childhood. We went swimming in Monterrosso...it was great...we were a pretty stinky, sweaty crew. We took the train back to Riomaggiore.

Ronnie wanted to cook (and being pretty lackidazical (is this a word?), I wanted him to cook) dinner, so we all pitched in to buy food at the market...it was wonderful. Pasta, formaggio, tomatoes and mozarella cheese in olive oil with basil...mmmmmmmm...good. Then I ended up staying up waaaaay tooooo late talking to a group of gals from New Jersey...(where do they all come from??)...they gave me some great tips on where to go in Israel...thanks Ylevy and Talia!

I had to get to bed early (3am) so I could wake up for my early train to Genova, Milano, then on to Interlaken.

Schedule for next few weeks:
Interlaken, Switzerland - probably thru August 23
Bunol, Spain - Aug 24 - 26 for the Tomatina
Then various parts of Spain and Portugal...
Early September going to Ireland to visit Emer!
...then who knows!
Adios for now,
Doug