Monday, October 29, 2007

So ready to go...

Well, here I am about 48 hours from departure. And I'm just tired. I am tired of work, tired of looking for work, tired of worrying about having work, tired about worrying about health crises, tired of dealing with family things (though not most of my family members themselves), tired of keeping the schedule I keep, tired of keeping myself together when I really just want a nap, even tired of doing Spinning profiles and going to class -- although I know I'll be fine once I get there.

I don't know what it is, but in the week or so leading up to vacation, every little thing becomes overwhelming. I think, hope, pray that this upcoming change of scenery is enough to breathe some life back into my weary head.

So I've stopped reading for the trip, stopped planning, even stopped packing. It's time to just go and let it happen. So I have chunks of days with no itinerary, I'm just gonna go with the flow. HORRORS! I might even relax. I might even {gasp!} have a siesta!

And maybe, after some gnocchi, gelato, campari, shopping, art, churches and a few hot Italian men (kidding!), I'll come back restored and a little less tired.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Italy, here I come

I've reached that critical point in the countdown to any trip where my departure day is finally included in the 7 day weather forecast. Granted, it says rain, rain and more rain, but if Roman meteorologists are anything like those we have in Boston, I should pack my bathing suit. Seriously. But just in case, I've bought an all-season, long, weatherproof coat. I figure that will cover me in any eventuality. Except maybe beach weather.

I've just exchanged enough Euros to hit the ground without running immediately for an ATM. I have stocked up on OTC remedies for all that may ail me (except of course campylobacter, which I encountered in Spain and hopefully will not meet up with again in Rome). I have compiled lists of sights, restaurants, internet cafes, train schedules for potential escapes from the city. I've confirmed my flights and hotel. I found subs for my spinning classes while I'm gone. I still need to cancel the newspaper and remind the credit card companies not to cancel my account when I make that first big purchase out of the country. But they probably still will. I found a converter to charge my iPod abroad, so I've loaded it with past seasons of The Office and will watch tv on my way across the pond.

So this is how my traveling mind works, organizing the trip into nice neat little segments. I have a rough itinerary, which looks something like this:

Thurs Nov 1
Arrive 9 a.m. – limo to hotel
Trajan’s Market
Capitoline Hill – Campidoglio, Musei Capitolini, Monumento Vittorio Emanuel, S. Maria in Aracoeli
San Pietro in Vincoli

Fri Nov 2
Baroque Rome Tour (9:30 – 1:00) [includes Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Palazzo Barberini]

Sat Nov 3
Roma Antica Tour (9:00 – 1:00) [Palatine Hill, Palatine Museum, Aqueduct of Claudius, Golden House, views of Roman Forum, Forum, Mammertine Prison, Imperial Fora, ends at Colosseum]

Sun Nov 4
Galleria Borghese Tour (2:30 – 5:00)

Mon Nov 5
Caravaggio Seminar Tour (9:00 – 12:30) [includes Santa Maria del Popolo, Sant’Agostino, San Luigi dei Francesi, ends at Galleria Pamphilij]
Private Vatican Museum After Hours Tour (3:15 – 6:15)

Tues Nov 6
Vatican Scavi Tour (9:15 – 10:45)
Tour St. Peter’s
Climb dome
Castel Sant’Angelo

Wed Nov 7
Free! Orvieto?

And we don't want to talk about what happens after, because it entails leaving Italy and coming home, and that's just something we don't need to think about just yet. I have much, much more to add to that itinerary, but those are the bare basics at any rate. I know I won't get to everything I want to, but I'll give it a try nonetheless.

This weekend I'll start packing, laying things out in piles and making sure all is in order. Sometimes I think the anticipation thing is the best part. Until I get there, sigh over something gorgeous and devour my first gelato.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Halloween candy hell

As I say every year, the descent into holiday eating has begun. This year, my Halloween favorites were out on the shelves in mid-August. I can honestly say that I was enjoying my first bag of candy corn in 2007 while reading a book at Long Beach in Gloucester. And it was over 80 degrees out. Craziness.

While the mellowcreme pumpkins are my perennial favorite, candy corn will certainly do in a pinch and the Autumn Mix, with its smattering of pumpkins amidst both candy corn and Indian corn, can serve a purpose as well (which is just to inject pure sugar into my system asap). I have no shame when I admit that I can eat a Big Bag (that's two pounds, available at Target for the bargain price of $1.99) in less than a week. Indeed, high school friends will remember those football games where I would indulge in a bag while sitting in the bleachers, approach the "almost-vomit" point, take a short break, and then finish it off. Time has not changed that behavior.

But as a chocolate lover as well, I was nearly ecstatic when I read that Hershey's is putting out a limited edition candy corn-flavored Kiss. Oddly enough, Hershey's doesn't promote this offering at all on its website. I wonder if they are embarassed to do so.

I found them at Target. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think there's such a thing as bad chocolate. If they weren't marketed as "candy corn" flavored, and I wasn't such a candy corn/pumpkin enthusiast, I might not have been as disappointed. To me, they taste just like white chocolate with an after-taste that I just can't place. To my sister, one word suffices: vile. I had a couple handfuls over the weekend, but decided not to finish the bag. There'd be no near-vomit point with these.

I've left the remnants out for my co-workers today, about a dozen men with typical men appetites. We'll see how fast they disappear, if they do at all. And I'll just revert to my mellowcreme pumpkins.

T-minus 30 and counting

So I am officially 30 days from Rome. Sigh. I booked this trip back in May, so you can imagine how interminable the wait has been, but if past practice is any indication, the last 30 will drrrrrraaaaaaagggggg.

Today I'm trying to dredge up some thoughts to help it go by faster. I'm still juggling refresher Italian lessons on the iPod and reading whatever I can get my hands on to bring me up to speed on Roman history. That said, there's still more to consider.

I've been fortunate enough to never need general anesthesia, however, the prospect of another overseas flight is enough for me to consider extending that medical tool to air travel. Seven hours to Frankfurt, ninety minutes to change and another two hours to Rome. How delightful if I could just get that happy pill and wake up alive and refreshed from a sound sleep in bella Roma? Alas, I am looking for ways to kill time while I'm unable to sleep (late afternoon flight, lesser chance of snoozing!) and then how to entertain myself for 11 hours on the ground before I can cave in to jetlag and let myself sleep in Rome? (I'm thinking visiting the "light" outdoor sites in Rome, like Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Vittorio Emmanuel and Campidoglio...all spots that won't require a lot of thought, will be out in the daylight to help reset the internal clock yet are things I can dully check off the To Do list.)

But the excitement of tackling another large city and devouring it while feeding my senses is beyond compare. I've consulted maps, booked private tours and plotted a loosely woven and somewhat forgiving itinerary (I may fit Florence in yet!) Yet with the amount of art, architecture, ruins and sheer beauty awaiting me, my mind can hardly prepare for it. Then there's gnocchi, grappa and gelato, ah, yes, gelato, which awaits my sense of taste and smell. And to hear the rhythmic melodies of spoken Italian again, like a song I have to sing. Yes, it's all there and waiting. For me.

Just thirty more days.

Road shock

Somehow I managed to spend the entire summer riding indoors. Between the amount of classes I covered for other instructors and my own scheduled classes and then my inclination to only ride outdoors on days between 65 and 78 degrees and no humidity, my days outside this summer were few and far between.

So this weekend, with Saturday giving us a glorious 77 degrees, light breeze and blue skies, I hit the pavement on my hybrid. Outdoors of all things. It felt so good Saturday, that I suffered the slightly colder, darker and damper Sunday as well. And I realized that after two days and nearly 60 miles logged, I am suffering from road shock. Much like culture shock, road shock brought me to the realization that, no matter how hard we try to simulate an outdoor ride in our spinning profiles, we will always fall short in a few basic areas, yet, indoor riding also has its benefits.

First, we will never be able to effectively instruct how to find a flat road. I found about ten types of flat road on my short excursions this weekend. None of them required no work. Too often, we let our students get away with what I call "free-wheeling" that is, pedaling with virtually no resistance and indeed, pedaling to no where. I've tried to tell them that riding with so little resistance is akin to pedaling if your chain has fallen off. But if you've never ridden outdoors and never had your chain fall off, you'll never get it. Advantage outdoors.

Too, it's virtually impossible to explain the work involved in riding into a headwind or riding a false flat (looks flat, needs some legpower) without having them launch themselves into a full blown hill climb. I suffered about 5 miles of headwind yesterday, never felt as if I was on a hill per se, but my legs were jelly by the end of that stretch. Similarly, I also found about 5 miles of flat with the slightest bit of descent on it. I hit it in a big gear and took it at about 24 mph (amazing on a hybrid!). That's such a liberating feeling that I wish I could convey in my profiles! Advantage, still outdoors.

Hills are not so forgiving either. When you reach down for the resistance knob to make it less of a hill, there's no knob there and you're stuck with said hill. Yes, I did reach for it once outside and was dismayed to find it missing, perhaps a sign that I've spent a little too much time inside! Advantage, indoors if you're not into suffering.

The whole balance thing, you know, keeping the bike upright? Completely underestimated. Arms, shoulders, back and abs are all feeling it this morning, something they rarely do after weeks of spinning inside. Advantage, outdoors.

Concentration is a might bit different as well. Instead of being able to zone out and find my special place for the duration of the ride, I have to watch for traffic, dogs, potholes, gravel, automobile traffic and traffic patterns. Not quite as relaxing as on the inside. Advantage, indoors.

Doing my loop ride in reverse and laughing at myself when I realized why I always went the other way (it was much easier the first time around!) is something I can more effectively communicate in out and back profiles now. Advantage, even.

And snakes? Never a good thing, even in the roadkill form. Advantage, indoors, definitely indoors.

Finally, the soundtrack is missing. On particular stretches of flats, climbs and everything in between, I wanted to reach for the remote and turn up the music, or switch it to something more agreeable for the effort. But like the resistance knob, the stereo is missing too, leaving me with whatever melodies I could conjure up and stick with in my head. Advantage, indoors.

I'm hoping that in the coming weeks I'll be able to squeeze a few more weekend rides in before the temperature falls below my comfort threshhold. I'll keep looking for ways to share my joy and my pain found outside with my classes. After all, that's where the challenge lies for the spinning instructor.