Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Learning things the hard way…take 2!

You would think that living here for almost two years would have helped me get in tune with bureaucracy and the rules of the polizia municipale (municipal police). I rarely drive my car and keep it parked for days on end within legal parking spaces designated for residents of Lucca. If it is a yellow-striped space, it is for “A” resident parking.

Lo and behold, I came to my car during a rather hot day recently only to find a parking ticket on my windshield. As it was in Italian and illegible due to the ink fading from roasting in the hot sun all day, it was impossible for me to determine why I had received it. I took it to work to see if a colleague could help decipher it, but she couldn’t read the faded copy. She suggested we go to the polizia to see if we could see the original, but we weren’t able to get there that day. I thought that maybe there was a restriction on the number of days a car could be parked in any one spot so I moved my car.

The next day, there was another one! Both were for € 23,00 (about $30/each). The second ticket was legible and my colleague said she thought it said that my insurance had expired and something about my windshield. My insurance doesn’t expire until December so I was totally confused. I rode my bike over to take a look to see what they were referring to and noticed an insurance paper in my windshield that had belonged to the previous owner. It expired on May 28. I had no idea that you have to post your insurance information inside the windshield. I found the paper that I had received from my insurance company, made a photocopy and took the original to the polizia to see if they would give me a break – nope! I had to pay for both tickets and found out the hard way about the insurance posting rule. The original is now proudly displayed in my windshield.

I came home late Sunday evening and drove around for about 20 minutes trying to find a parking place. I ended up halfway across the city center before I found a lovely yellow-striped place on the end of a row of filled ones. I parked, locked my car and walked home.

The next day when I arrived home from work, my friend was waiting at my apartment because he had been in the hospital all day and needed a ride home. He had tried calling me and something was wrong with my SIM card so I didn’t receive the messages. We walked to where my car had been parked and there was no car!

I looked around and noticed a sign directly above the spot where there was a sign with a disabled emblem on it. There are no different color parking spaces here and no little disability emblem on the ground to tell you not to park there. Only a very small sign against the wall in the vicinity of the space. Of course at midnight, I was only looking at the space itself and not noticing signs. Another learning experience…sigh…my poor friend had to find another ride home after we had tramped through the crowds of people in the heat to get to where my car should have been. He was in no condition to walk, much less have to return by foot since I didn’t have my car.

I went again to the polizia the next morning to find out where my car was as, of course, there was no notice or phone number on the sign with the disabled emblem. They directed me to the tow yard and after paying € 60,00 to get it out, they also handed me my ticket for € 78,00 for parking in a disabled spot. What a mess – it makes me wonder why I think I need a car. Bikes are so much easier and you can park them anywhere!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interesting Uses for the Bidet

The bidet is a foreign concept to many Americans and people living outside of Europe. However, it is widely used and installed in most homes in Italy.

A bidet usually sits directly next to the toilet and is used to clean the nether regions after you use the toilet. It is also used by many for a quick freshening up after a lively romp in the hay or maybe for a more useful or boring reason. I don’t really think I need to be more specific, do I?

However, I have personally seen or heard of some very interesting other uses for it; many of which I have tried.

1. Cleaning one’s feet or soaking them after a hard day of trekking or hiking with tour groups. I have personally used it for this purpose on many occasions. The cool, fresh water feels absolutely wonderful splashing on my toes and massaging my very sore feet after a hard day of walking the many cobblestone streets.

2. Clipping one’s toenails. Yes, it is the perfect location for this nasty job. You can sit on the toilet and prop your foot directly on the bidet. After clipping your nails, you can easily wash the clippings down the drain.

3. Storing extra rolls of toilet tissue. Many people use the bidet to store extra rolls of toilet tissue. After all, it usually is installed directly next to the toilet. How convenient for many since the bathrooms are usually extremely small with no storage space.

4. Keeping flowers fresh. My colleague had her fresh-cut flowers stored in the bidet today at work. She filled it slightly full of water and it was the perfect location to keep them since the sink was off limits due to its frequent use.

5. Holding potted plants. Many people put their plants in the bidet because they don’t have to worry about water leakage from overwatering. And, the water can come directly out of the faucet so you don’t even need a watering can!

6. Throwing up. Okay, this one is a little sick (literally), but who hasn’t sat on the toilet with one problem coming from one end only to have the top half rear its ugly head a moment later? You can relieve both ends at the same time!

7. Taking a sponge bath. It’s a really convenient location to take a quick sponge bath when your caldaia (hot water heater) is on the blink, which often happens in Italy. You can fill it up with pots of hot water much easier than filling a bathtub.

8. Soaking your laundry. Bidets are great for soaking and helping get those tough stains out of your clothing. Generally, in Europe the washing machines are also in the bathroom so you can easily remove them from the bidet and throw them directly into the washing machine.

9. Washing your pets. If you have small pets, this is a marvelous invention. Fill up the bidet, dip in the dog, cat, or gerbil, give them a quick shampoo and rinse, and off they go.

10. Drinking fountain for pets. If your cat or dog loves to drink from the toilet or is always getting in your way at the sink, this is a much more hygienic option.

11. Shaving your legs. If you want to give your legs a quick shave, there is nothing more convenient. You can rinse the blade in the bidet tap and wash all that cruddy hair right down the drain.

12. Bathing the baby. Why bend over the tub or try to find room on the nonexistent counter tops in Italian kitchens? The bidet is great for giving your baby his nightly bath and much easier on the back.

13. Storing cold wine, beer or soda. When you have a party and don’t have a lot of fridge space, fill up your bidet with ice and your guests can grab a cold one when they go to the bathroom to get rid of the last one.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010 Goals

Okay, I am posting my 2010 goals and dreams so I will stay on track. My dream coach Serenella says if you share your dreams and aspirations with others, they will encourage you to stay focused on achieving them. Here goes:

1. Have a social life.
2. Meet some great men and go out on fun dates (changed from "Find a boyfriend" at the request of my friend Melanie :-)).
3. Go for the nightly passegiata in Lucca like the rest of the locals.
4. Be more patient when walking my dogs; e.g., try not to say, "hurry up already."
5. Be more patient with deserving colleagues.
6. Continue to focus on my ultimate dream of being an interior designer in Tuscany.
7. Balance my life more with exercise and meditation.
8. Include more stress-free relaxation techniques in my daily life.
9. Continue to eat healthy foods and cut back on stress-related eating of snack foods.
10. Don't chew or pick at fingernails.
11. Faithfully take vitamins and supplements.
12. Become more financially secure.
13. Eliminate or cut back on times spent with negative people/influences in my life.
14. Continue to improve my Italian.
15. Pamper myself more.

Sound achievable? Well, I'm on the right track. So far, I have worked on all these goals - especially the pampering one.

Yesterday, I went with my friend Anne to my favorite spa, Grotta Giusti, for a full day of pampering. We both had the Oriental package.

We began the day by changing into our sumptuous green robes and slippers and going down into the natural grotto. Picture a cavern with warm, humid air and stalactites and stalagmites growing up and down from it. The air was so humid that drips of water fall regularly down from the top onto my head and face.

We began in paradiso (paradise). This area was fairly tepid with only slight humidity. We were encouraged to begin in this area to gradually prepare ourselves for the other rooms. After only a few minutes, we made our way to purgatorio (purgatory). There are lovely reclining chairs all throughout where you can sit or lie down and breathe in the warm, moist air. It is around 91-92 degrees in this area.

After another 10-15 minutes, we proceeded to inferno (hell). Since it is so hot in this area (95-100 degrees with 99% humidity), you can't do much but just sit and relax. It was actually nicer than a steam room because, even though it's cavernous, there is air that circulates more freely than that which is found in an enclosed box. After another 30 minutes or so, we walked down to the Lago di Limbo. It was in the deepest area of the grotto and was crystal clear.

Next on the list was hydromassage. I had never experienced this sort of thing but had heard it was quite amazing. It was. You undress and stand under a very large waterfall-type shower head that comes on with amazingly warm water pouring down on your head. Then, a spa person blasts your body (front and back) with warm water from a fire nozzle gadget. It was heavenly. I asked her if she could do it for another 30 minutes when she was finished and she just laughed - I was serious!

The next amazing experience was a body peel. Again, sans clothing, I lay down on a towel-draped bed and waited to see what would happen. The woman began by draping a very warm towel over me and pushing down on pressure points which caused me to relax. She then removed the towel and began pouring warm oil all over my body and massaging it in. After 30 minutes I began wondering when the "peel" part would start but not really caring. It was heavenly. After about 45 minutes, she started massaging a warm paste of sea salt everywhere and then told me to rinse it off under another amazing warm shower.

Next - lunch next to the hot mineral pool.

After lunch, Anne and I went outside in the freezing cold to get in the pool. You could see the steam rising from it. We didn't realize until later that there is a separate cabana where you can disrobe and actually get into the pool without being exposed to the weather. Too late...we were already out in the cold.

Inside this amazingly warm, natural mineral pool are seating areas that have jets positioned at different locations so you can rotate around the seats and find just the one that hits the spots that need the most attention. The water was perfect and it was a very pleasant hour.

Following the pool, we took off for our last appointment for the day. Mine was a 80-minute Chinese massage with reflexology. By the time we left that day, I was seriously a limp noodle.

Why didn't I think of these goals earlier!?!?