28 June 2011

The Self-Tanning Incident

While I know this sounds like the title of a How I Met your Mother episode, wherein Ted wakes up and doesn't remember how he ended up in a spray tanning booth with a hickey, it is not. It is, in fact, a very real event that happened to yours truly, and I am just finally getting over it.

It was the weekend of my friend S's wedding, and I realized that my legs were almost transparent, so long had it been since they last saw the sun. I had just a few hours before I needed to be at the rehearsal, and ran to the store to find some lotion that may give my legs a hint of color and perhaps a little shimmer.

When that search came up empty, I grabbed what I thought would be the next best thing -- spray tanner. Now...I don't know that I have ever used this stuff, so I am not quite sure what possessed me to purchase this product, L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Properfect Airbrush. But it looked fancy so I thought I would give it a go.

Problem #1...there is no tint to show where you have sprayed. So, you just have to hope you are getting all the good spots and not accidentally skipping over parts. Problem #2...the button is a bit tough to hold down, so, if you are trying to hold your leg up and spray (oh, yeah, and trying to keep balance), things could get a little tough. Problem #3...it smells.

So I went ahead and sprayed, let it dry, and headed out to the rehearsal. I was in a dress, but it was in the evening, so I didn't give what my legs may be looking like a second thought. Luckily, we were either at a table or in a dark establishment most of the evening.

Because the next morning, when I woke up, I took one look at my legs and wondered who the heck beat me up the night before. I had huge, terrible streaks all over my legs. Spotty coverage, some running...it was horrible. I started panicking...there was nothing I could do to hide this; even trying to spray to even it out did nothing. I had to do something I hadn't done in years -- wear nylons. Yes, it was that bad.

My point? Well, there are a few....1. Don't self-tan on your own...it is worth the 25$ to have someone else spray you. 2. If you do self-tan on your own, don't be stupid like me; test it out a week or two ahead and then give yourself a day or two to even things out. 3. Rubbing alcohol doesn't work on stains that have set on your legs. 3. Don't buy this particular product. There are way better ones out there (according to friends and family that use them).

And, also, to have a pair of nylons on hand in case of mishaps (tanning, shaving, falling, etc.). They come in handy.

I will say, however, that the actual color that showed was a nice, medium color, pretty akin to my natural tan, and not at all orange. Oh, and it lasted a while. It was about 2 weeks before all the color had gone away.

25 June 2011


Summertime rolled around, and finally so did the sunshine!

We had a couple days of 80+ degree weather here in the City proper. That so rarely happens...we could walk around at night with no jacket on! 

I sometimes wonder if this is something I would want on a daily basis, or, if the fact that it happens so rarely makes it really special. I haven't arrived at a decision yet.

22 June 2011

Best Things: Monterosso al Mare

The Old Town of Monterosso

The Cinque Terre (Five Lands) of Northern Italy are truly spectacular. Each of the towns -- Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarolo, and Riomaggiore -- are places I feel so lucky to have ever seen. I've now been there twice, and could probably go again if I went with someone who likes hiking (more on that in another post).

Vernazza gets mentioned quite often as the most picturesque, and recommended to all as THE place to stay. And, I will admit, the first time I went to this area, I tried to book a place there. Those that I wanted had no vacancy, so I ended up in Monterosso al Mare. Now, looking back, I am so glad I did!

This guy was just hanging out
Monterosso is the northernmost of the towns; it is also the only town of the five with a "sandy" beach, and also quite a few hotel options. We stayed at the Albergo Pasquale, an ideal hotel right on the crux of the old and new towns. I cannot imagine a better location. And, if I may for a moment...we were so lucky with this hotel. Our room for the three of us was huge -- it had a king bed (which we probably could have split if we thought about it -- and a little side room with a twin bed and its own TV. And, while all the rooms have ocean views (the hotel is kind of built into the side of a hill), we scored one of the rooms with a balcony. It was awesome. They also provided one of the best breakfasts we had on all of our trip. It included a full spread of bread, cheeses, salami, cereals, whole fruit, fruit salad...AND, eggs to order. Plus, they had possibly the best cappuccino I ever had. The cappuccinos in Italy are something else, really. Perhaps because they use real, whole milk instead of the non-fat I would usually get here, or perhaps because they are made with a little something extra. I dunno...the one here was awesome.

Monterosso is a great start to the Blue Trail...I will say it is quite a challenging hike from here to Vernazza, it is absolutely lovely. Most maps seem to have you starting at Riomaggiore...which I guess makes sense if you want to end in a larger town with more dining and drinking options. But, if you are staying in Monterosso, you can just hop on the train back and eat and drink to your heart's content.

Of all the towns, Monterosso has the most options to keep busy, especially in the evening. There are many restaurants and little bars in the older part of town, and due to the resorts, there is a lot going on in the evening on the newer side, as well. It has a very relaxed vibe, and I think even if it were very crowded, there is enough space in the city where visitors won't be on top of each other...the other towns are much smaller and I can see the crowds being off-putting. Also, if you want to try some delicious focaccia and pesto al gnocchi...this is your place (the best pesto I've ever had, I think, was at Ciak...my steak was also delicious. The others with whom I was dining were more indifferent about their meals there).

Sunset View of the "new" side of town
Monterosso is very accessible. Most of the trains going north and south seem to stop here (both the locals and the regionals). It's especially helpful when you are exhausted after a day of hiking and just want to get home! From Milan, we took a train directly here; this option is also available from Pisa. I wouldn't recommend driving to the Cinque Terre in general -- the roads seem rather treacherous -- but taking the train is simple and extremely scenic (especially if you get to go through Genoa).

19 June 2011

I Promise...

...to stop talking about my trip at some point. I just did so many cool things, and wish I was still on vacation, that I want to share!

Here's a little something to get you through the day.

(yes, I know it is not Friday...but I dare you not to dance during this song. DARE!)

16 June 2011

Best Things: Vatican Necropolis

Tony & Mom entering The Vatican
The Vatican is one of my favorite places. It is the main reason I am willing to return to Rome again and again...the artistry and history in this particular little city/country blows my mind, in large part because much of it is Renaissance, which is my favorite.

I had only vaguely heard of the Necropolis and Grottos of St. Peter's Basilica. I had never given it much thought until my mom put it on her "must do" list. Located beneath the Basilica, it follows history through the very early days of Catholicism in Rome, through to the modern day practices. It is quite a history lesson and quite an experience.

Tony & Mom pretending to ask directions
First off...you MUST reserve in advance. The Uffizi Scavi's (Excavation Office) website has all the detailed information. Follow it. It is very important! You will set your time, date, number of people, language, and all that good stuff. The office is quite responsive (which surprised me). They will get back to you with your appointment date and time, and how to pay. It is all very organized and easy. At the time we went, it was 12E/person.

When your big day finally arrives, you'll go all the way to the left side of Piazza San Pietro (towards the Petriano Entrance). About 15 minutes before your appointment time, the nice Swiss Guard in the fancy uniforms will allow you to head on back. They'll check your confirmation, so make sure to have it handy. I actually really like this part; it is a part of the city that not everyone gets to see, and allows you to experience the working part of the Vatican, versus just the tourist part.  The guards inside are helpful and will guide you the correct way should you appear to be veering off the path.

Once at the Uffizi Scavi, one person in your party should go and check in. This is where I realized they are serious about dress code...I had a tank top on because it was warm outside, but had my sweater with me to cover my shoulders. The moment I walked in, the guy behind the counter scolded me. I quickly told him I had my sweater, and he pretty much made me put it on before I walked back out. So...they are SERIOUS about the shoulders covered/knees covered rule!

How Much is that Basilica in the Window?
Other rules they're serious about? No babies (one couple left their little one with the father's brother, who appeared to be a priest), no big bags (you need to check those by the Petriano entrance area), and no cameras. At first I was bummed about this, but it's rather dark down there, so photos wouldn't be so great, anyway.

They keep groups to about 12, and do their best to accommodate your language. Our guide was a local university student (seemingly matriculated, because I am pretty sure she was my age or older) who was a native English speaker (from New Jersey or something) and also spoke Arabic (I think...one of the Middle Eastern languages and that sounds the most correct). At any rate, they'll do their best to speak in your language.

We were lucky to have a terrific guide, though I would be surprised if there were any bad ones in the bunch. She was very educated about church history, which was awesome for a nerd like me... some people in our group liked it for the religious reasons; I enjoyed it, more objectively, for the historic perspective. The Catholic Church has a very rich history; while many movie makers and authors have used it as a basis for fascinating works, the truth needs very little embellishment!

You get to walk through various chapels and crypts, some rather recent. The grand finale in the necropolis is a look at the bones of St. Peter himself. They are encased in a special, NASA-created box, and hardly visible, but they are the basis for much of the religion and importance of the Vatican, something I didn't really know.

Once the tour is done, the guide leaves you in the Grotto, where there are many tombs of old popes. We got to see where PJII was originally buried; he has since moved up to the Basilica (in a chapel right near Michaelangelo's Pieta).

Very glad we were able to do this! Feels like a secret club I'm now in.

13 June 2011


I am not sure if this officially means I am old...but this week I was told I have bursitis in my hip.

I am pretty sure this is what my aunt had as she slid towards hip replacement. It is what all the people at the rest home complain about flaring up or something. It is not what should happen to a thirty-something hip.

Maybe I am being a little drama. The doctor said it happens to people of all ages, and perhaps I slipped off a curb or something running and irritated things (likely), and then continued to irritate it what with the ignoring of pain and the continuing of running and boot camp. Oops. The pain got so bad, and me so cranky, that I had to go to the doctor.

So now I am sidelined for at least a week, hopped up on lots of ibuprofen that, while it is FINALLY starting to help, is really upsetting my tummy. And I feel like a little old lady as I gimp along the street.

But, I am trying to listen to the doc and take it easy. And I hate it.

10 June 2011

Best Things: Rome's Villa Borghese

Lady in the Fountain
Rome is a huge city...as I mentioned in my post about the Vespa tour, there is so much to see when visiting, that time you go, you can find something new and unexpected.

For me, it is also a very overwhelming place. I've now spent quite a bit of time there, and it's no secret that it's not my favorite place in the world. But, the city and I did get along well this time.

One important reason for that? I was able to get away from the crowds and find some moments of peace. Our trip happened to coincide with the beatification of Pope John Paul II, which meant many, many pilgrims heading into town to celebrate him. It also meant throngs of people in almost every nook and cranny...not my favorite thing.

On the day of the actual beatification ceremony, my brother and mom went over to the Vatican and ancient Rome, and I decided to wander. I am so glad I did! I headed to the Spanish Steps, then decided to continue walking up the street and see where that led me.
Bike/walking Path

And there, right in the middle of the touristy center of Rome, was the Villa Borghese. I had heard about these for a while, and my goal HAD been to go to the Borghese Gallery, but that was abandoned once I entered the park (oh, and forgot to get a reservation and all that jazz).

The Borghese Gardens sit atop a hill in Rome, extending from right nearby the Spanish Steps all the way down to the Piazza Popolo. I am not sure how deep it goes, but it looks to be a mile or two. I kind of pooped out after a bit, so couldn't explore it all. BUT, what I did get to see was pretty amazing.

If you just continue down the entry path, you'll hit the  Plaza Napoleone. From there, you will see a gorgeous cityscape view of Rome, including the side of the Vatican. It is fun to try to orient yourself to where you exactly are! While I was there, helicopters were flying all over the Vatican and more central city area...though it felt like they were miles and miles away, that's how peaceful the park was. This particular plaza is rather popular -- when I arrived there was a gaggle of teenagers there on some sort of school trip, all in matching clothing and special little hats, and being followed by a very harried-looking group of adult chaperones -- but still there was a sense of quiet.

I continued my walk throughout the park, and discovered a carousel, bike rentals, signs for a casino, and much more. Locals were there, on their runs, trying to dodge the tourists (made me miss my running shoes!). There is also this very cool water clock...I thought I had taken a picture but apparently I didn't! There are also a ton of trees...which makes me think that on a hot day, this would be a nice respite from the heat of Rome.

Overall, it is a great place to get away from the crowds and noise. I imagine it would get crowded up there, but the sheer size would allow you to find a peaceful spot. And, overall, I think there is something about parks that mellows people out. If you're traveling with kids, this is a great place to let them run loose for a bit, and entertain them with the bikes, little amusement park, and a zoo. Or, if you'd like, perhaps grab a sandwich and some vino and have yourself a little picnic.
View of Piazza Popolo from Villa Borghese

01 June 2011

Sickness, Right?

It was a lazy, post-party Sunday. I innocently went to my friend's house to pick up my dog (who had an unplanned slumber party with said friend's dog due to party Saturday), and found that I needed to rest a bit before I headed back to my house.

She was also feeling the urge to rest before heading into the kitchen to make her coffee and get an aspirin, so graciously turned on the TV...to one of the most horrific shows I've ever seen.

"Extreme Couponing," which comes to us care of TLC, showcases very sick people who have an obsession with buying things they don't need with coupons. Some of these women apparently think it is cute, or that they are saving oodles of money...but they are sick.

Yes, they are saving money. But they are buying things they don't need. So...wouldn't the better savings be to not buy those 35 bottles of Malox? Or the 15th pack of hot dogs for a party of 20 people when your refrigerator is already stocked with them? These women were GETTING OFF on their purchases.

At least one was buying milk with coupons, so their kids were at least getting one thing fresh. But there was no fruit, no fresh veggies...all processed and frozen food that could be purchased with coupons.

I was grossed out enough that I had to sit through two episodes, hoping things would get better. But when it came time to roll off the couch and go back home, I just felt kind of ill. I am no paragon of good TV watching, but this was a low.