12 September, 2012

Italy: Day 1 - First experiences

Flying on Air Canada to Italy means that you will hear all of the airline announcements in three languages: English, French, and Italian. I have a hard enough time tolerating aircraft announcements in one language.

I didn't manage to sleep on the overseas flight. I can't say I tried very hard, but I can safely assert that, even if I had tried, it wouldn't have happened. So, instead, I watched "The Godfather" (which, believe it or not, I had never seen). Then, I moved on to (the bad choice of) "Tropic Thunder." I was sure I hadn't seen this one before, but every scene looked vaguely familiar, which suggests that it was unmemorable the first time.

Arrived in Rome at 10am. The giant 767 stops on the runway out in the middle of nowhere, and they have you go to the terminal in special buses. Strange for big airplanes in a big city. Not sure why they do it. Then it was a long walk though the terminal to a long line at passport check (where they didn't even stamp my passport). The baggage claim, and then wandered toward the cafe where I met two of my fellow travelers, who had apparently arrived at 6am and had to wait for me for four hours, since we were all riding together in a van from Rome 2.5 hours north to Gubbio, where Locanda del Gallo is located. Three other members of our small group were arriving on later flights, and coming by bus to nearby Perugia.

The drive from Rome to Gubbio went by amazingly quickly. It was pretty, with rolling hills and lots of trees. It could have been a scene from somewhere in the United States, except for the Italian road signs, the absence (for the most part) of SUVs (a good thing), and the fact that the hillsides are decorated with ancient stone architecture, indicating that it is definitely somewhere very different.

Though the drive was pretty, I was mainly consumed with the conversation of getting to know my yoga teacher for the week, Sue Jones, who runs a non-profit called YogaHope. There's nothing better than a long drive to get to know someone, and I immediately felt a connection, which was definitely facilitated by the fact that we're both quite open in talking about our experiences. Our other yoga travel partner slept in the back for much of the ride, so it was mostly just me and Sue.

When we got close to our destination, we left the highway, and begin ascending a winding, narrow road, with beautiful views and steep drop-offs on both sides. Eventually, the road became a dirt road, with stone buildings every so often. And finally, it dead-ended at Locanda del Gallo.

I should have napped upon arriving, but mostly did some communicating on the internet, and then hung out with Sue for an hour or so, before heading back to Perugia to pick up the others. While driving down the hill to get them, we had to slam on the brakes, because a wild boar ran across the road. Yes. A wild boar!

We picked up the others, who were excited to be almost done with their traveling (two of them, sisters, had spent a few days in Naples area prior to joining us, as they have family there).

About half our group is semi-fluent to fluent in Italian, which is interesting to be around, though I can't really follow much of anything, other than the vaguest sense from the parts that sound like Latin or Spanish (both of which I also do not really know).

By the time we all returned, it was after 9pm, and we sat down together for a late dinner, prepared for us by the hosts. It consisted of hand-made fettuccini with mushrooms and olive oil, followed by a curry-style chicken and sliced carrots, and a dessert of homemade chocolate and coconut cake.

The original plan had been to do a late-night yoga class, but a vote on the matter yielded a majority opposed.  For the record, I was one of the "yea" votes, since I had it in my head that I wasn't going to miss a day of yoga for the rest of my life.

Finally, after 30 hours away, sleep.

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