This is the first new post I have put up in a while (with the exception of the one from the 4th of April which I wrote then but posted today) on account of computer problems, interior decorating, and parental visitations.
We had a short and eventful 5 days in Maine. A junction in our season, it was filled with a lot of packing and unpacking. We had a mountain of mail and boxes from the past 6 months. The largest of which we sent from McMurdo. The funny thing is that the bulk of them we repacked in another box to send back to Antarctica in the fall. The second bulkiest of the mail was from Raytheon. Mostly benefits junk but we also had all our paperwork for next season. We expect to have some news of next season’s work tomorrow so I am not going to get into it in this posting. I will mention that we found an “American Medical Center” here in Milan where we can do our medical exams which is a great relief for us. Otherwise we would have been faced with a mountain of translations.
For the weekend that we were in Maine, my mother had organized a party with all my brothers and their families, so we were pressed to get all our packing/unpacking done before then. I successfully rebuilt the battery pack on my little Sony computer with cells I ordered from Malaysia when I was at McMurdo. I also began to experience the first symptoms of a breakdown of windows on my Dell. Since, amongst the piles of boxes I also had a new hard drive from the Sony I put of further mucking about with computers until I got back to Italy.
When my brothers arrived we were all put to work chopping and stacking wood, raking leaves and getting the yard and house ready for the summer. We had a great time together. I went out and made a potato gun to celebrate spring with. There was a strange absence of auto repairs at this gathering with the exception of one flat tire change.
On Sunday Luci and I returned to Italy and were welcomed with rain and an extra room in the Pandolfi apartment. The winter, the neighbor lady moved out and Luci’s parents bought her apartment and had a door put in between them. They then proceeded to clean out and redecorate the walls and bathroom. When we arrived we were faced with another stack of boxes. This time of furniture from Ikea waiting to be assembled. With my Parents scheduled to arrive in under a week, we had our work cut out for us. In fact we barely got around to unpacking our bags by the time they arrived.
For Christmas we got my parents tickets to come visit us for a week. It was my father’s first time to Europe and my mother’s first time out of the country. They were also greeted with rain and a half empty room smelling of pine wood furniture fresh out of the box. After they had a few hours to settle in and a massive Italian meal, we took them straight out to see the sights. We went into the city to see the Castello Svorzesco and see a mass at the Duomo. They got to witness the nomination of a new pope while they were here in Italy.
On Monday we took them to Venice. We got really lucky with the weather because it was sunny the whole time. I think they were really blown away (as to be expected by such an amazing place). We drove from Milan to Mestre on the Veneto coast and parked and rode a bus to Piazza Roma, the only place where cars are allowed on the island of Venice. We walked across the main island; over the Ponte Rialto to Saint Mark’s Basilica. From there we bought our 24hr Vaporetto (water bus) tickets and crossed the lagoon to our hotel on the island of Lido. It was a really elegant place right across the street from the vaporetto stop.
In the afternoon, we took the boat up to Burano; an island in the lagoon that is know for their lace works. Then we walked around the streets of Murano (known for its blown glass. We had dinner in the Canereggio borough of Venice and took an evening cruise down the Canal Grande back to our hotel. The next morning we took the boat back to Murano to see a glass blowing demonstration and then spent the rest of the day either riding the boats or walking the narrow streets of Venice. When we saw the dark clouds arriving from the west late in the afternoon we took it as a sign to start heading back to Milan.
On Wednesday, Luci and I had arranged a viewing of Leonardo Davinci’s “Last Supper” at the church of Santa Maria della Grazie in the center of Milan. We took the opportunity to see some more of the downtown and, miraculously, the rain held off. My mother was particularly impressed when we went up onto the roof of the Cathedral to see the thousands of statues that decorate it up close. We then hopped on a trolley car and rode down to the Canals where we ate at the best pizzeria in Milan. After viewing the ”Last Supper” we did some shopping for teaching aids for my mother’s international cuisine section of her home economics curriculum (amongst other things).
On Thursday, we drove west to Valle d’Aosta to the valley where our Hut is. Because the season is still very early and the trail is a challenge even when it is not covered with snow, we did not go up. Instead, we ate large typical lunch at a friend’s hotel at the trailhead. After lunch, we drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Chamonix, France. In Chamonix we walked around the shops and in the morning went took the gondola up the Brevent for the amazing view of the Mont Blanc Massif. Instead of driving straight back to Milan, we decided to return via Switzerland and the Passo Sempione. We ate a massive lunch of fondue which lasted us the rest of the day.
On Saturday we remained nearby in Lombardia. Luci’s parents took us out to eat at a restaurant over looking the Adda River where we amused ourselves watching a wedding reception in the neighboring dining room. Before leaving my parents stocked up on Italian foods to bring back with them (we had to lend them another bag). This morning they left early. They should be arriving back in Boston right about now; exhausted, no doubt, after a tiring but refreshing vacation.
Coming up next time…Luke and Luci tackle Antarctic red tape and shop for a motorcycle for their next great adventure(s).