Netnet Camomot .
FLORENCE, Italy – I’m writing this while waiting in line at the check-in counter at an airport in Florence, Italy. I don’t know the airport’s name—I can memorize only its location. Well, please define location. It’s more like, Airport, Florence.
The brain has turned to cotton after all the European history, trivia, statues, paintings, churches, shrines, palaces, mansions, bridges, rivers, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, that I should have Googled and learned before this vacation, so, I could appreciate them more. But I was too busy when I was in Cagayan de Oro, I had no time to Google Europe.
The long and winding line is hardly moving, it makes Ninoy Aquino International Airport look nice. Apparently, the airport’s computer system is currently being upgraded and this has been causing delays in the last two weeks.
It has been almost three weeks of travel from Amsterdam to Brussels, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Paris, the Our Lady of Lourdes shrine, Padre Pio’s shrine, Rome, Florence, Venice, I’ve already forgotten the other places we’ve been to.
The advice from well-seasoned travelers is to take as many photos as you can. Which is great advice since the only way to track the countries you’ve visited is through the phone’s photo album that does reflect the places where you had the time to take photos.
Usually, you’re taking photos while walking, afraid to be left behind by the group. Walking as an exercise should be at least—or a maximum of?—10 thousand steps daily. But there was that day when it reached more than 13 thousand! Still, weight loss remains impossible since the equation should be less food intake, and more exercise. It seems like I’ve gained weight, does this mean 13 thousand steps daily are not enough to burn a day’s calories? Que horror!
Forget about sitting inside a museum and staring at Mona Lisa. Besides, where is Mona Lisa? Opting not to rely on audio guides since we barely had two hours at the Louvre before moving on to our next destination, all we did during the one hour we were actually inside the Louvre was to look for the Mona Lisa which involved climbing up and down many stairs, as some museum guides sat in room corners, with one particular lady guide haughtily pointing her index finger at the direction we were supposed to take. When we finally reached The Mona Lisa, we realized how disorganized the Louvre could be. There were no lines. Instead, we pushed our way to the front, the same way the Pinoy would push his way to the front of anything.
Paris is so overrated. It has learned to rely on the popularity of its name, and bahala na si Batman with the Eiffel Tower whose second level gave us a bird’s eye view of Paris since access to the top was already closed by the time we arrived, which was late at night, a cccccold night especially for the Pinoy used to 35-degree-Celsius summers.
The lowest “degree” we survived was four degrees Celsius, but we did look forward for that to go lower so we could experience less-than-zero weather, like as if we had not experienced winter before. Brrrrr.
Three of us in the group were the dedicated tourists who braved the rainy and cccccold morning before our flight to Florence, so, we could pose at the Arc de Triomphe which we somehow missed in between the walking and the Eiffel and Versailles and the Mona Lisa. Well, talk of triumph—we did reach the Arc. Success! Yay! Our hands were freezing, Chinese tourists were taking over the best views of the Arc, it was raining cows and carabaos, and there we were, smiling for our phones’ cameras.
A rally was scheduled that day and the Arc had police cars around it—a tourist attraction morphing into a rally venue a la Mendiola. Paris has been dealing with rallies in the last few months, and that morning wasn’t an exception—the Pinoy familiar with protests won’t feel homesick in Paris at all.
We have not seen a Jollibee outlet, so, the Pinoy’s best friend in Europe is McDonald’s because fast food is tasty and cheap. But we vowed to have one good meal each day, usually for dinner, and resto menu prices in Europe could be kaching kaching, the secret is not to convert them to pesos unless you want to realize you’ve spent P3,000 for a meal.
Water is also expensive in Europe but this is our chance to rehydrate with Evian. Which may then necessitate the use of a rest room which usually charges some fees, from 50 cents to 1.50 euros. Gasp!
The only place different from the rest is Venice. One word: water. More like canals, complete with the smell. They have “bus stops” and “waiting sheds” and “buses,” all on water, which make it unique. And all that water could make any photo taken there look perfect, like a postcard.
We tended to have pizza and pasta even in France, seemingly unable to wait for feasting on Italian food while in Italy. Pizza may have cheese and red meat, same for pasta, making this vacation a major test of resolve for the dieter.
Even a simple pasta with fresh tomatoes paired with fresh blood orange juice could be the tourist’s yummiest experience in Italy, their taste staying with them till the next yummier meal.
Souvenirs from Amsterdam to Florence practically look the same, with only the name of the place plastered on each item distinguishing them from the other, thus, if you bought a magnet, keychain, shot glass, wallet, or some other souvenir, it’s while packing your things for the flight home that you start to notice—oh, they all look the same! Even the rosaries sold at souvenir shops in Rome, and the shrines of Our Lady of Lourdes and Padre Pio look the same—if you’ve been to Catholic shrines in Pinas, that’s the same rosary you’ll find in Europe. Much like those woven wallets in Pinas that have a small wooden Palawan, Davao or Cebu tag on them. Lesson learned. But at least David and his, uh, thingy may look different from the rest.
David who? Well, Google “David Florence” if you want to find out why there’s the thingy.
If Pinas has stray cats and dogs, Europe has pigeons that feast on food left on tables or even the food you’re eating. Tourists may find them cute and amusing, but Europeans tend to shoo pigeons away since they could bring in diseases.
Europe is a favorite location for movies and the tourist may find many familiar places here as he tries to remember the movie where he saw them.
As for the pig collector, piggies can be the Murano kind, enamel, or Delft Blue. There’s always a piggy in every corner of the world, and it’s up to the collector to choose which piggy she likes best. Even Longchamp has a piggy leather bag but with a price of more than 400 euros, does it spark joy?
But there’s that day when the collector is looking for a piggy and finds a non-piggy bag instead. Make that many bags since Europe is known for its bags. The bag searcher can choose which fits her personality, but the senior moment may inspire her to limit her choices to the nylon kind—lightweight for the senior-moment shoulder and back. In other words, had that Longchamp piggy bag been made of nylon which is, of course, cheaper than leather, then, sure na.