Shannon’s Super Sexy Blog. Music. Travel. Randomness. And a Lot of Wine.

Archive for March, 2005

Moon Over Miracoli

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

It is always so good to get back to Venice. It is, in so many ways, where I belong.

I say this after not living here for almost three years now. One must keep these little tidbits in mind, before getting one’s panties all in a twist about possibly moving back.

I got in Saturday night, just barely after a five minute sprint across the Frankfurt airport, and immediately went out to eat a pizza at Casa Mia and then go have a glass of wine at my favorite wine bar, La Cantina. By the time I did all that, it was already 11:30 P.M. So I went to the Piazza to hear the midnight Marangona, the bell that rings in the Campanile, the bell that I measure all my Venice time by.

I thought Easter would be a quiet day, with all the bars and restaurants closed. Boy was I wrong. It was PACKED here, and all the restaurants, all the bars, were open, even the places that are normally closed on Sunday. Osteria da Alberto was open. It is my favorite place (besides La Zucca) and I absolutely love the guy who works behind the bar. I went in and asked, in my most pleading voice, if I could please, pretty please have a table, but they were completo. They are always completo. There was a flea market in Santa Maria Nova, so I went and checked out the stalls there, then skulked back in to Osteria da Alberto. “OK then,” I told Favorite Barman. “Cichetti solo, alla banca.” It’s almost better, anyway, standing at the bar there. I had the best plate of cichetti, roasted potatoes so soft they practically melted in my mouth, peas with pancetta, some frittata, and some little marinated peppers stuffed with anchovies and capers. Favorite Barman commented on how good my Italian was. I wish I knew how to say “dude, you must be totally insane, because my Italian truly sucks.” Maybe Alice Twain can hook me up here.

From there I went into San Marco, and sat in the window in Il Cavatappi for the longest time, staring at the gazillion tourists streaming by. Nap time, then Easter dinner, with friends. The Maltese wine was not a hit, but I kind of liked it. I got home just before the bell rang.

I thought Sunday was uber-crowded. Yesterday was like Sunday on steroids. Speaking of Alice Twain, yesterday I got to meet her, and hang out with her and her boyfriend Luca, for the day. When I walked from my apartment near San Giovanni & Paolo to the train station (a thirty minute walk on a main thoroughfare) it was like a wall of people, all the way… thousands and thousands of people headed to San Marco and Rialto. I have never seen Venice so crowded. Not even during the Carnivale.

So when I met Silvia/Alice and Luca, I took them over the Scalzi Bridge, where we might have a chance to breathe. And sure enough, for most of the day, we walked around without total tourist annihilation. I took them to Campo Santa Margherita, down to La Salute, then back up through San Polo (where we did run into some tourist hell). We spent a good part of the day sitting in the cafes of Santa Margherita. It was sunny and warm there. Silvia gave me a beautiful scarf of purple and light blue wool that she made herself. They were fun to be with and we had a great Pasquetta just wandering around.

It is pretty funny, Alice wanted to come to Venice to see the “new” bridge that connects Piazzale Roma and Ferrovia. I was looking but I didn’t see any bridge! It might have occurred to me sooner that there is no way they are going to be able to build a bridge over the Grand Canal that fast. Eventually we saw a sign and a rendering of the bridge that isn’t built that Alice Twain came to see.

Last night I went to Trattoria da Alvise for dinner, on the Fondamenta Nove. Ruth wrote this one up for the book, so I went in to check and make sure it was still good. I ate some salad and fried calamari and they had a really nice house Cabernet Franc. They had a copy of “Chow!” on their bookshelf. I wanted to out myself so bad… but I didn’t, because that would defeat the book’s purpose, right? There is a new hotel on the Fondamenta… it looks really nice, with rooms looking out over the Northern Lagoon.

After dinner I went to the Tortuga Pub, a bar where there are no tourists, ever, to make sure the music selection was as I remember it. I remember the Tortuga used to be so smoky that I would have to stick my head out the window from time to time, to suck some air in, but I endured this because where else do they play Queens of the Stone Age in Venice? But now, with the new no smoking law, we get to breathe again! It is totally awesome, let me tell you.

The pub was playing U2 (old stuff, not new drivel) but there was a birthday party for a 16-year-old in the other room and a DJ started spinning some fine Italian rap. 16-year-olds on Guinness plus bad music equals I think I will finish my wine and go. But then I started talking to this British couple (his very first words were, “you are not a George Bush supporter, are you?” I kid you not) and we ended up drinking and talking for several hours; I am meeting them at La Cantina in an hour or so.

I love walking home from the Fondamenta Nove at night. My apartment this week is very close to where I used to live, and this is a walk I know well. The mists, the canals, the calli where if you stick out both elbows you hit both walls. In the day there were thousands, at midnight, I cross paths with two, maybe three people. The only sounds are soft, tiny waves breaking and the click of heels in an echo chamber. The Marangona is ringing, in the distance. It is a city of ghosts, my ghost, other ghosts, shrouded in a veil of midnight fog.

Surviving the Blue Grotto and Other Tales of Adventure

Friday, March 25th, 2005

It is our last night to look out over Spinola Bay. Who knows if I will ever get to Malta again.

We lucked out, meeting John and Angella. Yesterday, John drove us around and took us to a bunch of places – it would have been impossible, on the bus. He drove us through the cities and the small towns and through twisty streets and on pockmarked roads. We saw the Mosta Dome, where a bomb fell during World War II and did not explode, we saw the temples that are the oldest freestanding structures in the world. We took a boat into the Blue Grotto, and the sea was kind of crazy and the boat was pitching all around. As we were going in, another boat came out, and all the people had life jackets. We didn’t have any life jackets, and there were some pretty big swells out there. We’d rock a little and the boat guy would just smile a toothless smile. We’d go into a cave, and he’d say “look to the left! See the colors!” But I was looking for something I might hang on to if we went down.

Later, we went to eat with Angella, and a woman who I met in the bathroom (she commented on my hair) came to our table and presented me with a Jesus booklet. She was a missionary, and I am clearly a heathen. In the back of the booklet, there is a form you can fill out that says I, ________________ on this day of ______ the year _______, have accepted Jesus as my lord and savior. Now all my sins are forgiven and I will definitely go to heaven. Witnessed by _____________.

That just seems a little too easy to me, to get all your sins forgiven and be able to go to heaven just like that. I left the booklet on the table – it kind of freaked me out. But now I wish I had kept it.

Abortion is illegal in Malta. Divorce is not common. People drive like maniacs here. Today it was 75 degrees. Tomorrow I am leaving.

Happy Easter, may all your eggs be See’s Bordeaux.

Stimulus in Overdrive

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

I am full of food and wine with another dinner coming in only two hours, listening to Oasis in the internet bar by our apartment. It smells like incense in here. Wonder what they are smoking in the back. Two more days of this, then I retreat to calm and peaceful Venice.

Yesterday we went to the “must-see” city of Mdina. It is an old Norman walled town. It took us a gazillion years to get there. They have these crazy yellow buses all over Malta, and they go everywhere but you always have to change in Valletta. Like, every single bus goes to or leaves from Valletta. So it totally sucks unless you are staying in Valletta or you really like buses, which I do not. My philosophy is, life is too short to take a bus, unless it is faster than the train, or you have no other choice. In Malta you have no other choice. Unless you drive, but that is opening a whole ‘nother can of worms.

The buses are old here and have no spring in the seats any more. Was it worth two hours of butt-bruise to go to Mdina? Not really. I’ve been to a lot of walled towns. I’ve already seen a few Maltese churches. So I already did Mdina even before I’d done it. I was really happy to get back to the grime and neon of St. Julian’s – way more my scene.

We did have a really nice lunch in a restaurant called Bacchus, in a wine cellar. In fact, if you were to ask us our favorite things of the day:

Lisa: the architecture in Mdina
Colleen: the view from the back wall of Mdina
Shannon: Lunch in Mdina, except for that corn nut in my salad. That was weird.

After Mdina we walked over to Rabat. Rabat used to be where they buried the dead people from Mdina. Now Rabat is the working town, and Mdina is the tourist attraction. In Rabat we went to the Grotto where Saint Paul lived for a while after he got shipwrecked here and went all Jesus. Then we went to the catacombs, one of the burial places dug down into stone, little beds and big beds for dead people. Then back on the bus for another two-hour, butt-injuring bus ride home.

We were so exhausted last night (we could barely speak until the first glass of wine went down) that we stayed home and ate. Colleen and I had found some homemade frozen meat pies in the supermarket and bought them in case of emergency. They were awesome! Colleen had a salmon pie (mmm… salmony) and Lisa and I had beef pies. Then we watched part of a movie, dubbed in Italian, where Linda Fiorentino was ankle cuffed to a hot dog stand while Wesley Snipes talked to her in a microphone and shot a bunch of people. We had no idea what was really going on, but we were too full of pie to change the channel.

Yesterday I also ate some lamb and mint flavored potato chips from the U.K. The chips make up for the Oasis song that is playing right now.

Today Colleen and Lisa went off on their own (I am totally anti-bus, you won’t get me on another fucking bus for a while) and I went to the home of Angella and John for lunch. They are from San Francisco and moved here last August. I hooked up with Angella via the Chowhound message board. They are really cool and made me a fabulous lunch served up with some great Sicilian wines. We hung out and talked, ate and drank for almost three hours – that is why I am so full – and they are coming around to pick us up at 8:00 to take us to eat fish in the fishing village of Marsaxlokk. Damn! I am such a piggy.

Seriously though they are hella cool and I think they are going to take us around the island tomorrow, making it totally unnecessary to ever board a bus again, at least for a while.

Only two more days! Everything is going by so fast.


We’re on an Island, No Immediate Plans to Get Off

Monday, March 21st, 2005

You can use the internet in many places in Malta, for only One Maltese Lira for seventy-five minutes!

Plus right now I am doing this in a bar where “Purple Rain” is playing. Sweet.

Before I got here someone said to me, “a whole week in Malta, isn’t that too much?” I basically answered that no, that is just the way I do things. Now, after only two days I know that a month may not be enough. And this is an island only seventeen by nine miles around. I’d figure the math out on that one if I could, but you probably get the idea.

The island of Malta is beige and smoke and hazy light. Pea green on the inside of the pastry shell, turquoise where the ocean meets the beige city wall. Pink where the sun sets. Malta is third-world, Arabic, from another planet. Malta is bombed out and filled with life. I am totally enraptured with it, and can’t figure it out.

We have a really nice three-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a building with only one apartment per floor. But when you walk around to the bay, and look up at our building from the back side, the two floors below are shells. There is no back wall, just empty space. And alot of Malta is like this – buildings with varying degrees of misuse, inhabitance, and repair. Laundry racks on balconies with unbelievable views.

The housing prices are high here though – I have already checked it out.

Today we went to Valletta. Went to the pub where Oliver Reed died after drinking eight beers, 12 shots of Rum, and half a bottle of Whiskey. Valletta is full of skeletons, not ghosts. Skeletons on the church floors. There were crazy wars fought here with heads chopped off and shot out of cannonballs. I’ve never been anyplace like this before, never.

I never want to stop traveling. I want to keep going, forever. There is so much to see!

We’ve got quite a few more days here, and internet just steps away from the apartment, so I’ll be posting often.


How to Spend One Hundred Maltese Lire

Sunday, March 20th, 2005

Here we are in Malta. It is pretty fabulous, let me tell you.

Before I get into the fabulousness of Malta, let me tell a little about the journey here. Yesterday the Signora practically kicked us out of the villa right at 10:00 A.M. and so we had many, many hours to kill before our 7:00 P.M. flight to Malta. With a car full of luggage, we couldn’t leave the car alone, so we decided to drive the road that goes around Etna.

This was like several hours of playing chicken with various BMWs, Audis, and even Fiat Pandas. It was totally pazzo. The road is not wide and you’ll be going up a hill and around the corner will fly someone who is PASSING someone. Lisa, now known as “Balls of Steel” Wisniewski, drove. I was very impressed. Thankfully I was sitting in the back seat so when things got too hairy, I could stare at the back of the front seat instead of the road.

At one point, in a small town called Adrano, there was a Mercedes illegally parked on one side of the tiny street, and another, smaller car illegally parked on the other, and cars going each way just centimeters from getting extremely personal with one another. Then down the street comes a fucking semi-truck. Just as we are about to meet with the illegally parked car on our side. We had to get through the space between the truck and the car, and about halfway through all of us simutaneously let out this loud “AAAIIIIIIIHHHHHHHHH.”

But we made it. At one point Lisa yelled, “that guy was passing a COP! I just don’t get it.” There is nothing like getting out of a car after driving the small towns of Sicily for a while.

Eventually we went to a gas station and pounded some savory pastries Colleen had picked up, and thankfully I had a bottle of Etna Blanc and my Riedel O glasses in the back seat, with which to calm my frazzled nerves. I can’t believe I actually drove in Sicily alone once.

So, then to the airport way early where I bought us all some really bad white wines and some cheese puffs to make the wine taste better. They loaded our Air Malta flight really early. Lisa asked if it was indeed, our flight, and the guy said it was. So Lisa asked why they were boarding ahead. “When all the passengers are on, we will leave.” OK then! Make sure not to lag, next time you fly to Malta.

Then, off the flight, we had another hairy ride to the apartment. They drive on the left here, and it’s a “with your front bumper” philosophy in Malta just like it is in Italy. But for some reason we were extra sensitive last night. We were in a van, and after the fourth near-miss with a car or a bus, Lisa said “I am NOT driving here.” No problemo, homegirl.

Finally we made it to our apartment which is totally awesome. It is in an area called St. Julian’s, where there are all kinds of restaurants and bars and a lovely, working port. From our apartment we look out onto the bay and the port and there are two balconies and a nice living room from which to do so. Once again, my apartment rental radar worked out well. I was hoping for Maltese MTV, but I guess there is no such thing, but we do have Italian MTV and already Lisa and Colleen seem to be sort of hooked. Also late last night, I watched that skateboarding show “Extreme.” In of all places, Malta? Hmmm….

Today we walked along the promenade that goes along the sea until you get to a place where, across a bay, you can see the fortified city of Valletta. Along the ocean there is almost uninterrupted crappy architecture. It is so bad, it is kind of riveting. The sea is beautiful and there are many outdoor cafes along the promenade (I am typing this in one, now). All the shops are closed and the bars and restaurants open and busy. I’ve already tried one of the Malta specialties, a little pastry with smashed peas in it. I also ate a Steak and Onion Pie. The Maltese wine… so far, it really needs to have food as an accompanying feature. But it is not too bad. I forced Lisa and Colleen both to haul two bottles of wine over from Sicily. They are going to thank me for this, in the future.

We had some great Greek food last night. In our neighborhood (THE gastronomic center of Malta – who knew?) there is Chinese, Malaysian, Italian, French… even an Indian takeout place. Plus a million pubs. One little problem is the Maltese Lire. One Maltese Lire equals about three dollars. So everything looks really good, like 5 Lire for a bottle of wine. Till you triple it! So I have decided to forget about the dollar and pretend it is all the same. It worked for me with the Euro last week. Sometimes it is good to be a fantasist.

In the Maltese language two Xs makes the sh sound. So, for this week my name XXannon. In fact I may just keep it that way forever.


Hang On, Little Tomato

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

Yesterday, Colleen fell and broke her finger in Siracusa! She had to go to the emergency room.

She is OK but she has a big white thing on her hand.

I was sitting and reading on the terrace at the villa when Cheryl called, she was like, “so, how are you, are you having a nice day?”

Then: “I’ve got a little news update for you…”

By the time they got home several hours later I had prepared a bunch of food and got out the wine. Colleen was a little shaken up but by the end of the night, she was giggling just like she always does.

We went through quite a bit of wine last night. At the hospital, the doctor almost put the splint on the wrong finger. “Was the doctor Swarthy?” I asked. (Swarthy is one of my words-of-the-week.) I guess he wasn’t, but he was nice and there was no bill.

Everything is cool now. Lisa, Colleen and I went up to Castelmola, a tiny town on the top of this rock looking way down on Taormina, which is already pretty high up. In Castelmola they have this bar where there are all these sort of phallic decorative touches. They also have a cute balcony looking over a pretty square. For the phallic touches, you pay an extra price for the prosecci, but I think the tile-work in the bathroom is worth it.

From Castelmola we walked all the way down, zigzagging for three miles, to Taormina. I won’t even go into the views up there because it is impossible to describe. Maybe Lisa will email me some of her digital pictures later and I can post them. The volcano, Taormina, the sea… wow.

I’ve decided dinner tomorrow will be at a place called Al Duomo, and they know we are coming and why. There are two guys riding bikes all around here today and everytime they see me they say “Ciao, Capelli Rossi…” but I think I am going to go purple tomorrow because, yesterday after the hospital, the girls were driving around in Siracusa and there were all these hookers on the road, and they all HAD PINK HAIR. And that guy thought I was an Albanian, way back in Palermo!

Tomorrow we are going to chill at the villa, and head out in the afternoon for wine at both the Wunderbar AND the Grand Hotel Timeo, then dinner.

Tonight we are having a farewell pizza… Sicily is almost done. I would be sad except I still have three weeks to go, Malta and then home to Venezia, then on to Rome.

Giant kisses to my Mom. Mom if it was not for you I wouldn’t be in the place I am, physically or in my head. I love you.

Next time I write I will be in MALTA.

If you listen hard, maybe you’ll hear me screaming

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

OK, I am officially in love with Taormina (again.)

It is so unbelievably beautiful here! Today it is very clear and you can see Mt. Etna perfectly, covered with snow and smoking. And it is warm, a perfect day to sit and stare at a volcano with your face in the sun.

I am on my own today. The ladies all went to Siracusa. I did not go because a) I have been there and b) there was no room in the car for me. Also c) I am cooking for them tonight, so came into town to forage for provisions. Plus d) I want to play my music really super loud and run around the villa screaming for a while.

That villa is AWESOME. I think what is making me allergic is in my room. There are some ugly Picasso drawings in my room and that may be what is killing me in there. But in the morning everyone goes right outside my window to have coffee on the terrace, and I throw open my window and say Buon Giorno, looking all glamorous (not.)

I think those Picassos may be originals because they are way too ugly to be prints. Also in my room there is a framed thing that says “Love with Sex” and some other weird stuff. I think it was decorated circa 1967. Some kind of bizarre love nest. I am having crazy dreams.

Yesterday, we walked around Taormina and then ate a huge lunch (at Rosta-whatever, Tom) and then went to the ancient Greco-Roman theater. It was so hot. Between the pasta and the sun, I could have laid right down on that ancient rock and slept. But then we went next door to the Grand Hotel Timeo, all faded elegance, and had a bottle of white wine on the outdoor patio there. The view was killer and the wine good and not too outrageous.

There are ghosts everywhere. Ghosts in the crazy fish market in Catania, ghosts in the Greek Ampitheater. There are ghosts in the Grand Hotel Timeo. I am high up on a mountain surrounded by ghosts, in search of the perfect Salsiccia. God, I love it here.

Harsh Little Baby, Don’t You Cry

Monday, March 14th, 2005

We are cruising around Catania today, a big, crazy city, waiting for Lisa’s plane to get in. We’ve stumbled into the student area where there is cheap internet. I could spend two hours here trying to catch up but can’t keep the ladies waiting. So I’ve got half an hour – I will do my best.

Our villa in Taormina is fantastic. It is huge! There is a big terrace and yesterday it was so nice out there we did not even make it into the town until almost 2 P.M. We look out onto the Isola Bella and the sea. All of us have our own bathroom. My room is eclectically decorated with some fairly bizarre stuff.

The only bad thing is I seem to be sneezing alot and Cheryl says it is because I have been eating so much sugar and white flour, that my spleen is out of whack, so I am having allergies. And this could be true because basically I am living on fried pastries filled with ricotta, crumbly dark chocolate spiked with hot pepper, pizza Diavola, fried seafood, and, of course, a LOT of wine.

It could also be the mold and the old books in the villa.

Tom – we will definitely try Piero’s place in Taormina… Kelly I think you recommended La Botte and we ate lunch there yesterday… it was awesome. Last night we hung out at the villa and ate cheese, proscuitto and cannolis for dinner.

So what is all this Harsh Little Baby all about? You might ask. In Cefalu, I had some grappa, and I was trying to tell the owner that it was smooth (morbido) not harsh. But we could not figure the way to say harsh. The owner spoke pretty good English and I said the word harsh, and she said oh yeah, like harsh little baby.

So know I keep thinking those words, along with Bitte this and Bitte that. Also, yessssss…. like Napolean Dynamite says it has been in our vocabulary alot, and I have taught this to all the ladies.

Between the food, the wine, and the guys here, one could seriously think about moving to Sicily. It is pretty awesome so far.

Everyone at the Vine – I miss you guys too.

It is a clear day and we can see Etna smoking. I am getting very thirsty for my first Vino Bianco of the day. My Italian is coming back a little – I talked to three guys from Ragusa yesterday for a while. Man. It’s a good incentive, to be sure.

Swallowed by Sicily

Sunday, March 13th, 2005

Shannon called to tell me that she has been “swallowed by Sicily” and will post again when she can.

Meanwhile, I have made some changes to her blog colors. Either a pleasant surprise when she next logs in, or a green shock.

La Chiesa de La Rocca & Rolla

Friday, March 11th, 2005

Here we are in Cefalu, and this is the big Norman church, that sits right up against the rock that overlooks the town and the sea. This place is fantastic. Beautiful, warm, sunny and hardly any tourists. Though I have been taking up the phrase “shut up, bitte.” Just kidding. Maybe.

In Cefalu I am trying to sort out my feelings about Palermo. I feel that I only scratched the surface of something the size of the Great Wall of China with my pinky nail. And yesterday, after being stuck in traffic on a bus for an hour, I was really ready to get out. But fast travel is not my gig, slow travel is (just not the kind of slow travel that involves a bus going one mile an hour.) I was really intrigued by all the bombed out buildings with graffiti all over them. And the outdoor market that goes on forever. And the food didn’t suck, either.

We are very happy here in Cefalu. We climbed halfway up La Rocca and now, I am going to try to get Colleen to go to a wine shop that has a little tiny balcony on the sea, where we will drink a bottle of Duca Enrico. This is a good place to walk slowly and breathe. I was walking too fast in Palermo.

Tomorrow, we head to Taormina and the villa. Tomorrow we will eat dinner with Cheryl and Nancy!

I love Sicily. It is so beautiful here, my heart hurts.