Posted by: Moni | April 29, 2009

My Unintentional Tour of Southern France

I’ve got to write this one out, because this story deserves the prose.  42 hours ago, I was sighing over the fact that the Travel gods were laughing at me – but 12 hours after that, I was convinced they were REALLY the good spirits of my ancestors watching over me.

It all started with me being skeptical of the Italian time table.  Every Italian train I’ve taken has been late.  Not like, five minutes late – more like, 30.  I took the train from Roma to Milan.  Gave up my seat so a cute couple could sit next to each other.  They took the four seat table and kept switching and talking, laughing and conversing – it was cute.  Then, I was pleasantly surprised to see it arrived on time!  Next! 

Milan to Nice – I was seated next to a classicaly Roman looking Italian man who made me sing “I’m too sexy” in my head.  There was also an interesting British couple with a kid came down the row, didn’t make reservations.  The wife is a bit frantic and didn’t want to sit in the next carraige.
Wife: But, they’re businessmen! businessmen!
Husband: That’s ok, So am I….
Later on, listened to an Australian woman go on about how everyone things Australians ride horses and chase down kangaroos. “Hmm!” I thought, “That’s just what people think of Texas! Only with…cows.”

Then came chaos. The handsome Italian supermodel got off the train at Genova, and a noisy Spanish couple took his place. OY.  They did not…stop…talking. What was surprising was I could understand them perfectly.  I tried to sleep and do my usual meditation of words – not too successful. Sigh.  If they weren’t keeping me up, the gorgeous sight of the Mediterranean coast in all of its beauty sucked me in.  I briefly wondered what it would take to retire in Monte Carlo – or at the very least, Firenze.  I’d rather be in Monaco or France, though.

On a positive note, I read the entirety of Isabel Allende’s memoir, “The Sum of Our Days.”  Loved it, as I do all of her books. I decided to write her a letter telling her about how her writing influences me. I haven’t written to an author since I was in grade school! I got so excited, and began with a set of reinvention rules for myself (to be blogged about at another time).   

The train was  50 minutes late.  I’ve officially missed my connection to Montpellier. Ouch! Nice was where it started feeling like it was going downhill.  The station and areas surrounding were covered in spray paint, and not taken care of very well, and the wench of  a ticketing attendant behind the counter dealing with all of the passengers from the train took one look at my 1st class Eurail pass and reserved me for two seats in a smoking overnight coach train.  Not even on the sleepers, which I could get on my ticket!  I didn’t know this, of course, until I was actually ON the train, looking for my seat. I sat down in that coach for about a minute and a half before I got angry – a really angry spurt of growliness – got up, and moved myself to the non-smoking coach to take my chances there.

This is where the ancestry intervened.  I phoned the car rental company in Montpellier to inform them I’d be late, and they said they’d leave the keys at a nearby hotel for me.  I also confirmed my reservation with the hotel to be on the safe side. I sat down in the car, surrounded with a bunch of other overnight travelers, and entertained myself with my blackberry’s games and ipod.   I did the one thing I NEVER do when I’m expecting to have to transfer cars, or trains.  I fell asleep. I mean, dead to the world asleep – for only 30 minutes.   I distinctly remember looking at the clock and thinking – OK! I have 20 mins until I have to get off the train at Montpellier and FINALLY be there…….and then, waking up 10 minutes after arrival time.  I waited ten minutes, anxiously waiting for the train to stop – because hey, if Italian trains are late, it could happen here too, right?

Then, suddenly, it was 45 minutes. Shit. I texted Alex about my suspicions.  Then, turned on my system and copied two numbers of friends of mine in Montpellier, and sent them a text to see if they were awake – since it was now 1:30am.  Juan Manuel immediately called me, and asked me where I was – I looked outside and said, “Carcassonne.” 

“Ohmaigod!” he said…
“What?”
“That is… west. An hour west.”

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuudge. I had suspected this was the case, and already had two solutions in my mind.  A – I stay on the train until about 4am and head back on the opposite direction on the same line, or B – I get off at the next stop and wait for the next one.  How many night trains are there, anyways?  Juanma decided it would be way better if I got off and didn’t take on an extra journey (which I agreed with), so I got off in Toulouse at 2:15am. Three hours away from Montpellier.

Well, it turns out the station was closed. I walked around the station, completely alone, feeling like I was in a zombie movie.. until a security guard found me and made me leave. Hmm. Where to?  I walked over to the cab stand to ask if they knew of any hotels (there was one across the street), and ended up with a little gang of protectors.  I spoke to them for a little bit, and one bought me a coffee while the other informed me that the station opens at 4am, and it may not be worth the 50 euros for a hotel. 

I decided to walk over to the hotels to see if they had any vacancies anyways (turns out, they had no room at the inn), while an old lady outside the door was accompanied by two good people trying to take her in, and her two dogs as well.  I started walking down the street to the next hotel, when a shady man apparered out of the shadows and started mumbling French at me.  One of the dogs from the old lady’s camp came out and growled at him.  He turned around and walked away, and I silently thanked my grandmother profusely for scaring the guy with that sweet looking dog’s help.

At that point, I immeditely turned around to go stand with the cabbies for another 45 minutes until the train station opened. They acted like a small Italian mob, distracting anyone who so much as came near us with heckles for cab fares (even though they rotated calls every 10 minutes).  4am came along, and I thanked them before wandering into the train station (and out of the rain and cold).  Toulouse’s train station is relatively small.  I re-read the last few chapters of Isabel’s book to distract myself (with one eye on the rest of the crowd there), and walked around until my train was ready to go at 7.

I did not let myself so much as blink on that three hour ride back to Montpellier.  I had decided sometime between 4 and 6 that I was just not destined to get to Montpellier that night. I was, however, starting to get exhausted after only having 3 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours, and started stretching, practicing yoga poses, and plucking my eyebrows to stay awake.  You guys know how much I hate plucking. Its like torture for me.

I did see some very notable sights that were invisible to me in the dark;  Electric generating windmills (TONS of them!), cheataus, graveyards, castles, mountains, vinyards.  Its beautiful out here.

Then, I got to Montpellier. Finally!  I called Juanma to let him know I was there safely, and went about trying to get my rental car.

This, folks, is why I think it was divine intervention.  Even with directions from the car rental guy, I could not find that hotel he left the keys at for the life of me. I walked, and walked, and walked. Got to know the area of the train station well. Went back to the rental place, and for the first time this trip, started tearing up out of frustration.  I was tired, 30 hours into almost no sleep, and wandering like a zombie through a foreign town I’d never been to looking for the Holiday Inn with a Hertz counter.  After making the attendant explain it to me again, and draw it for me, and give me his phone number, I wandered around in the direction he sent me – and found it in the complete opposite direction he sent me. Maybe that was a language barrier – but I realized I would have never found that hotel without someone’s help. In a railway neighborhood. Once I got the keys – I had to walk BACK to the rail station to GET the car. Holy. Shit.  Montp isn’t a bad town, but I’m convinced I would have been stabbed and robbed at the very least had I had to explore that rail station past midnight last night.  The wench behind the counter, my grandmother, and other loved ones (even Paula) hovering around did me a great service. 

I have made it a habit to get lost in this town, though.  I haven’t gotten into the car once without going in the complete opposite direction I wanted to be in.  It IS fun zooming around in a small hatchback. I told myself I’d return the car this morning, but after a drive to work and back – I was singing along with the radio and figuring out the dimensions of the car. I better not remember those when I get back into my own.

I was getting delerious sitting in one place at work, but after a walk around the Antigone district and buying a few gifts I am now 42 hours in without any sleep.  I somehow feel relaxed and just tired enough for a good night’s sleep.  Maybe that’s what it really all about.

Posted by: Moni | April 29, 2009

Helloooooo Limoncello!

I took the time to copy down the poem on that Italian Restauraunt’s wall, and by golly, I’m going to note it!

“ROMA”

‘sto pizzico de Roma e’ sempree stato
l’attrattiva piv bello der turista,
Roma moderne e antica melte in vista
Un rudero vicino a in fabricato

Se ogri demolizzione e rattrista
perce scanella vn seneo per passato passate
er progresso insensibbile conquista
co’ la potenza der cemento armato

e indove vnTempotvtto l’orizzonte
scibfubava ner verde ch’era vn vanto
c’e’vn grappolo de case, vn a
parco, vn porte

Roma segve er progresso, se rinhova
versaina lagrivccia de rimpinto
e canta l’inno ala potenza nova!

Termaio Galletti

Posted by: Moni | April 27, 2009

Italy

26th. Train to Italy. There was at first, a really crazy old woman. Slamming papers, sighing. Caning. The works.  Got to Milan, ran.  Got to Rome. Got help from a nice lady behind a counter. Found my crazy ass landlord.  Crazy ass landlord dragged me around town (literally), from trattoria to by the ruins, to the presidentail office.. until I demanded to go back. That fixed it. Slept badly.

27th – After a crap breakfast, got into a better (quieter!) room.  Went and wandered around a bit, found the colosseum, took the metro to the Vatican. Got more pics. Went shopping.  My metro ticket was lifted. Got another. Went back with intentions of shopping more – RAIN! – Stayed in, went to eat, then ate my weight’s wroth of pesto pasta, caprese salad, vino russo.  Trattoria played 1 cd over and over.  Had a half bottle portion of wine and then 2 shots of limoncello for desert. 23 euro for the whole thing?  I want to go back.  Trattoria had a poem on the wall. Wrote it down, will transcribe later.

Thankful that ATT has int’l txt for free. Txting Alex and Tweets the whole time. Sigh.

Posted by: Moni | April 27, 2009

Germany

22nd – 23rd.

Airplane, no sleep, trains from Frankfurt to Stuttgart.  Stuttgart to Weil der Stadt (but almost went to Fielderstadt).  Arrived to JR and Remy’s – Gorgeous house! – went on a drive to Weil der Stadt, found a supermarket and got some Kinder Eggs and Dessert.  Kept on the drive, and went to Bad Liederwald – the edge of the Black Forest. The Black Forest! Isn’t that from the fairy tales? Yes! 

Went on a 7k walk around the forest with Reny’s German Shepard, Yumbo. Reny amazes me. 8 months pregnant and hiking, dog training. Yumbo is so amazingly good.  Went home, drank coffee, watched a movie, drank more coffee, waited for JR to get home .. had wine and anisette. Real anesette.

24th – Robert – Bosh – Krankenhaus. Experienced a German hospital. Its pretty! You wouldn’t think its a hospital.  Later on, went to Stuttgart’s Springfest (Frühlingsfest) – had a lot of time on the Autobahn. Autobahn is fun! I wished I was driving.

25th – Back to Stuttgart for train ticckets.  I hope it goes well.. since I left my railpass at home. That’s right. I did that. I didn’t know that piece of paper was a railpass.  Fixed it, hung around Stuttgart, ate Gelato, took pix. Reminded self to give JR-co Tina and Tanya’s email addies. Washed clothes, went to bed.

Posted by: Moni | April 27, 2009

New Approach

I got this quick summarization idea from a friend of mine.  I’ve been carrying a small notebook around and writing notes here and there about what I will actually remember, as opposed to my standard prose. Be prepared! Its short and… descriptive, but not.

Posted by: Moni | March 16, 2009

Funny!

I was searching for a shopping center in Cedar Park online, and on my first page of google results I got – THIS!

http://www.mandaluyong.gov.ph/travel/index.aspx?node=2

Which happens to be on a block of shopping centers I regularly visited in the Philippines. Hah!

Still can’t figure out how “Cedar Park” gave me the Megamall.

Posted by: Moni | September 17, 2008

Wild Weekend

So, finally! I’m getting around to post about the weekend.

It was really a ton of fun.. I was definitely tired after that, but it was well worth it.  

I went…
– Shopping at Greenhills.
– Walking through the malls in Makati.
– Ate some interesting Chinese Food, and the Hard Rock Cafe, and a few other places I don’t remember.
– Went to the Hobbit House in Malate.
– Took my first trip down to Burgess and went to a couple of highly questionable places.

Now, without getting too descriptive – it was lots of fun, and I don’t know how long I’ll remember all of it. LOL.

Posted by: Moni | September 9, 2008

Typhoon Sinlaku!

I cannot escape Hurricane season.. I mean, Typhoon season, since I’m in APJ. I swear – it rained more here in the last DAY than it has in Austin all YEAR! Its crazy.. I sat through morning traffic no less than 3 hours ago watching people just get drenched by buses on their way to work, or running through the traffic on their way to get cover, or riding motorcycles with flip flops on so their feet can dry.. Man, if this were the US they’d be gone gone gone…!

Posted by: Moni | September 8, 2008

Longest. Flight. Ever.

So this is going to be a “waa” post if I’ve ever written one.. I hate it when people complain, but all I have is adventure on this trip to tell everyone about.

First piece – my own fault! My good friend Christian is leaving Austin, so the night before I left he had a “lets go downtown” shindig.  I went with my wonderful friends, and lo and behold – its 4am when I’m getting home and Super Shuttle is coming to get me in 45 minutes.  So I keep myself awake, make sure I have everything packed, and go to the airport at the butt crack of dawn to catch a flight that is 3 hours later.  The lovely ladies at the AA first class desk put me on the early flight to Dallas so I can stay in one place for a while – which ends up being a LONG while because…

The flight to Tokyo was delayed!  Wow-ee.. by almost two hours.  It wasn’t so bad, because the connection to Manila was going to take us about 5 hours anyhow.  I met up with a coworker in Dallas, and we waited it out until it was time to leave.  The flight to Tokyo was interesting yet painful.  I think I like the old business class seats better than the new ones, even though the new ones have more functionality.  They were a little bit more comfortable.  I had a hard time sleeping even though I was wiped out from the night before just because of the discomfort – which is saying a lot because I’m usually that person who is out cold before the plane even takes off.

Thankfully, I sat next to a very normal lady who didn’t bug me at all.  WHEW! Oh, then there were a couple of rednecks behind us who would speak loudly about how their wives don’t mind if they sleep with girls in Asia. The girl and I kept giving each other looks of disbelief at the crap they were talking about — but really, if I were there wives I wouldn’t mind either.. that would get them off of ME! 😛  Hahah.. then, there was a guy on the flight who looked SO very familiar to me.  I could not place him at all.. but I think I’ve been on that transpacific flight with him before.  By the end I was trying to remember where he worked, but oh well.

Then we get to Tokyo.  We took the train out to the new terminal and hung out in the Admiral’s lounge drinking beer from that wonderful little Asahi dispenser. There we ran into our other travel partner, who had run into ANOTHER person from work!  We’re apparently a little party out here this time — which honestly is wonderful for me.  I’m so used to going this trip alone.. its been a nice change of pace.

Tokyo to Manila – delayed again.  Why?  There’s a category 2 tropical depression! ah! So we get in, get a little turbulence and a lot of rain. Ahhh. Welcome Back Miss Monica!!  Everyone at the hotel still recognizes me.  The lounge guys all said hi, and asked how long I’d be here.. the concierges did as well.  I’m definitely not on the same routine as last time though – this time I’m hitting the gym a lot more!  I actually went today even though I could use today as a bye day since I’ve had very VERY little sleep in the last 48 hours. I went anyhow – I feel wired and decided I could use it.

I feel good!  This is going to be an insanely busy business trip, with more travel thrown in (HELLO islands!).

Posted by: Moni | August 23, 2008

The RVG

I always feel incredibly nostalgic when I go to the Valley.

That is, the Rio Grande Valley. The one in Texas. Its a valley because its at the delta of a river, mkay?

So, I grew up here but never really felt comfortable living here. I always kind of felt like an outsider, or like I didn’t really belong where I was. It started getting better in high school and college, but the second I got an opportunity to move to Austin, I took it.  I’ve always felt way more at home in Austin, even with I was a kid – but all of that doesn’t change that this place is where my roots are.

Its been raining almost nonstop for about 11 days – the hurricane damage is still prevalent, there is still debris laying around, but it somehow all reminds me of being a kid again.  We drove around, and I noticed all the things that are so familiar to me, yet completely unavailable to me in Austin.  The fierceness of an afternoon valley summer rain, the siestas, the way everyone hugs and kisses when they see each other.. the condensation on the windows of every storefront. Palm trees. Gorgeous flowering vines. Spanish tile. Fabuloso. ;)

I drove over to my cousin’s coffee shop, Ambrosia, and hung out there with my parents for a little bit.  I got to chit chat with him and see how he was doing, which was nice.. I’m going to meet another cousin’s new baby tomorrow, too. Hmm. Roots.  The art district in McAllen reminds me of my freshman year of college and hanging out with Shane James. That is one friendship I miss dearly. I know he’s around, but I feel guilty not hanging out with my family whenever I actually get down here.  I miss a lot of my old friends, and have a lot of fabulous memories with my friends from “the lab” and school in general.

I don’t know if I could ever live here again – I don’t ever think that I can – but I do know I have a home and a chunk of my heart here.

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