Thursday, November 17, 2011

Little Skater Girl

They were pink in colour and un-securely strapped to her feet as all 8 wheels spun to a stop.   She huffed a semi frustrated sigh, but a small inkling of confidence emanated from her aura.  She struggled to pick herself up, trying desperately to cement her rolling foot into the ground beneath her.  Once again, she fell on her back side and this time, she sat helplessly staring up towards her mother asking for help.

The look she gave to her mother was one of which I have seen so many times.  Once again, my teaching instincts kicked in and I wanted help her try...just one more time.

"Hi, I can help her."  I said to the mother assuming that she could understand English.

The mother panned her head to the left to respond to me.

"I teach skating lessons in Canada, I can help your daughter skate."
"Ah, ok! He is going to help you skate!" she said to her girl in Italian.

I took a knee in front of her to get at eye level. 

"Ciao bella.  Mi chiamo Antony, e tu?"
"Fragola."  she responded gnawing at her index finger, staring down at her skates.
"Molto piacere, Fragola. Quante anni hai?"
"Quatro".  she said.  

I quickly adjusted her skates by fastening the buckles and made sure that her pads were correctly placed at the centre of each knee.  I then picked her up and had her stay in one position.  She fumbled a bit to find her balance but soon she was able to freeze in one spot. 

"Guardami e fare cosi." I said slowly.   

I told her to keep her knees bent and to keep her arms straight.  I began to march in one spot and she happily mimicked me.  After marching in the same position for 3 minutes, I had her try to touch her toes without falling.  She did as she was told and I had her count to three.

"Uno, due, tre!" she said.
"Brava...e poi alza. Vieni qua."

She stood up and trotted slowly towards me hobbling along the way.  I tried to keep her eyes focused on my chest.  Slowly, slowly she began to improve slightly as she skated across the smooth brick ground. By this point I handed my camera to her mother to document the her skating.

After the lesson her mother talked to me.

"Thank you for teaching he.r  In a few minutes you had her skating.  She doesn't skate very often."  she said happily.  

"Fragola, dire grazie."

Fragola said thank you and then she gave me a little kiss on the cheek.  She smiled and continued to skate on her own.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Help me with my homework...per favore.

We had just finished a magnificent dinner at Il Navicello restaurant in Levanto, Italy.  We were all getting along quite fine despite the fact that the10 of us, met merely 2 hours ago.  After eating my amazing pizza topped with fresh salami, I sat back and savored my red wine while practicing my Italian with the native speakers at the table.  

We asked for the bill and went back inside the restaurant to pay.

"Tu parla inglese???"  the waitress asked me after I paid my bill.
"Si, per che sono Canadese." I replied proudly. 
"Si si, lui parla inglese!" said the waitress to a young girl in the back of the room.

I wondered how she knew, maybe my jacket with Canada written boldly on the back was the dead give away.  

Of course it was. 

Moments later the young girl came right up to me who I estimated to be about 11 years-old.  She was holding a book in her hand with a pencil and seemed a little relieved to see me.  The waitress said to me that the girl needed some help with her English homework and asked if I could lend a hand.

"Si, si, fammi lo vedere." I said.

I took a quick glance at her homework and realized that all she had to do was translate some dialogue into English.  My eyes lit up and I felt more than confident and happy to give her a hand.

Her father (who is also the cook and owner of Il Navicello) waltzed into the room, pulled up a chair and sat me down to help her daughter.  

Soon, my group of friends and other people from the restaurant gathered around the table to watch me teach the girl.  

"Turn the spot light off please!" I thought to myself.

"Come ti chiami?" I asked her.
"Angelica."  she responded shyly.
"Ah, va bene, mia sorella si chiama, Angie."

The lesson began as I scribbled down word for word what each sentence said.  The dialogue was simple to translate, but I made sure to sound out every single word I wrote and then asked her to repeat after me.

After 20 minutes, her homework was complete.  I had Angelica read the dialogue from start to finish and made sure she understood what every word meant.  For my efforts the waitress brought over a small shot of Limuncello for me.

The following day, Bernard and I walked into the same restaurant to have a big bowl of pasta after we got LOST in Vernazza (more to follow).  The waitress who served me the night before was happy to tell me that Angelica received a good mark on her assignment.  The news made me smile and I told her that it was my pleasure to help.  

After dinner the waitress asked me if I wanted anything else after I asked for the bill.  I politely said no since Bernard and I were late to meet up with some people.  The waitress walked away and then returned to my table shortly after with a shot in hand.

She insisted for me to have one last shot of Limuncello...on the house.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Child vs Pigeon

What drew my attention to him was when he paused like a statue for more than 2 minutes.  With his palm floating in the air, he waited patiently for one of them to accept his offering.  He had the intrepidness akin to all five year-old's, as he broke his frozen body and then haphazardly sprinkled some crushed up pop-corn upon the many birds collecting at his feet.  I couldn't help but stare a the child's willingness to tease and play with some of the thousands of pigeons in front of Milan's Il Duomo.  

He paused once again with a large hand-full of popcorn and waited patiently for a visitor.  Sure enough, one pigeon gently sailed into his hand to have a small taste.

Snap, snap, snap went my camera, hoping to capture the gentle connection between the pair on the cloudy, yet warm day in Milan.  He smiled and laughed with excitement while the bird quickly nibbled at the feast.  Soon 4 others rapidly swooped in as though to launch an attack on the lone soldier.  The child's facial expression grew into sudden fear as 5 more pigeons targeted the child's hand.

Snap, snap, snap I selfishly tried to capture more reaction shots.  At that moment, I could sense the child's demeanor was about to shift into a naughty state of mind.  As predicted the child winced in frustration and then vigorously shook his arm to free himself from the bombardment of the hungry pigeons.

One of the pigeons took exception to the agitation and fought back by pecking at the child's arm.  It then quickly moved up towards his face in an attempt bite on his ear.  Immediately, the child swatted at the pigeon and successfully made contact with it.  The bird fell hard onto the ground and appeared to be in a slight daze.  

Satisfied, a small mischievous look fell upon the boy's face.  He hovered over top of the bird and grabbed it by the tail feathers.  He looked right into my camera as I shamefully continued to grab photos.  He held up his trophy past his head, while the pigeon fluttered his wings to escape.

Seconds later the child threw the bird into the air.  The child laughed as he watched the pigeon perch itself on the church behind him.  Moments later, the boy then reached into his plastic bag of popcorn and held aloft his hand, hoping for another visitor.  

Antony S Scandale

story and photos copyright 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Milan...rain rain rain rain.

I will keep this blog entry short and sweet.  We have had nothing but cold, wet weather here in Milan which naturally adds a gloomy feel to the trip.  What I won't do is complain since I managed to have some fun in this weather.  In summary, what I did was take my camera out and tried to get as many photos as possible despite being under the pouring rain.  

There was one night when the rain was just relentless and it happened on the heels of the devastating flood in Genova.  It was pouring so much that a lot streets and sidewalks were impossible to walk on without soaking your feet.  But it didn't matter to me, instead braved the weather to find the world famous Il Duomo Church.

Here is a sample of a few photos I managed to take during that night.  I hope to post more photos on my site soon.  At this moment I am having issues with my Net provider.


Next.  Kid vs Pigeon

photos copywrite 2011 Antony S Scandale

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One Way to Milan Part 2 "One Star Hotel"

Above me in all of it's shimmering glory was a sign which gleamed like the light at the end of tunnel.  

Hotel Italia.  One star.  And my only solution.

I walked into the dark, entrance and approached the receptionist sitting at his desk.  The reception area was small, unwelcoming and the atmosphere felt as though it needed some sort of an exorcism. 

"Quanto costa per una camera?"
"40 Euro."
"...sigh.  Avete internet?"
"Qui no."

I didn't care by this point.  I just needed to fall asleep.  I hesitantly grabbed my key and headed up to my room.  The hotel was extremely quiet and I wondered if I was was the only soul (besides the phantoms) who was staying the night.  I reached my room and noticed the width of the two doors.  Each door was maybe 2 1/2 feet in width with a height of maybe 6 feet.  Hmmm.  After using the key to unlock the door, (which took nearly 3 frustrating, sweaty minutes) I walked into quite possibly the smallest hotel room in all of Milan. 

After a slight pause to absorb what I'd gotten myself into...I just burst out laughing and squeezed my body and bag through the door jam.  Immediately to my right was my tiny single bed which evidently, blocked the other door from swinging open.

Dear god...what a dive.

I calculated the width of the room to be 7 feet wide and perhaps 11 feet in length.  At the end of the room was a sink and a long window er...oh, but it had a 10 foot ceiling and a brand new mini flat screen TV!  I dropped my heavy bag upon the bed and just sank my sorry ass into the hardened mattress and continued to laugh at my situation. 

Next, I wondered about the condition of the W.C. since I desperately needed to get out my wet clothes and into a hot shower.  I took a stroll down the hall to have a looksy.


Well, let's not talk about the toilet with no the plastic cover for your bum.  And please don't allow me to regale you about the slippery floor of urine. 

The only real high-light of the evening was the super old, military green phone which lived on the small light stand above the bed.  I'd never seen anything like it before and to pass the night away, I tried to take some award winning photos of this archaic monstrosity.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

One Way to Milan Part 1

I was quite lucky.   

The platform was empty except for the train conductor who waited patiently for my arrival.   He quickly glanced at my e-ticket and didn’t bother to view my VISA card to compare rightful identification.  Instead he whisked aboard as we had less than 3 minutes to leave for Milan.  Again, I bought a one-ticket and this time, I was going to the City of Fashion to meet up with a friend and some extended family members.
While I enjoyed my time in Munich, it was really time for me to change locations and all I wanted to do was absorb the culture of Italia for the 3rd time.

I searched for my reserved seat and to my surprize I realized that second class was quite empty. I walked down the tight corridors to find my post then grinned from ear-to-ear to find that my booth was completely empty.  At that point I hoped that I would just enjoy ride all by myself and undisturbed.  Quickly I sat back, put my feet up, flipped on my IPod and hoped to sleep during the 8 hour train ride.  

However, sleeping on a train, plane or automobile is a very difficult thing for me to accomplish.  I guess it’s primarily because I love watching the scenery fly past me. But, I knew the real reason why I wouldn’t get any sleep on this trip.  My mind kept saying this phrase over and over again.

“As soon as I arrive in Milan, I will have no place to go.” I said, while wishing to have made a plan.
“Don’t worry, you’ll find something” said my heart.

The train went through the Alps making stops to Innsbruck, Verona, Bolzano, Brecsia to name a few and the scenery was just fantastic.  I was so engrossed with the sheer beauty of the high Alps, the audio playing in my ears simply faded into the background.

Just after 9 pm I overheard that we had arrived in Milan. As soon as the train stopped, I grabbed my gear and jumped onto the platform.  Within moments I felt that something wasn’t right.

“NO this isn’t it. Get back on…get back on!” said my heart.
“Scusa…dimmi dove siamo?” I asked the train conductor.
“Milano Lambrate.” she said.”


I jumped back on the train as quickly as possible.  Had I stayed in Lambrate, it would’ve spent 30 Euro on a taxi to the centre of Milan.

10 minutes later, we arrived at Milano Garibaldi and once again, it was just like my Florence experience all over again.

I literally had: no place to go, no map of the city BUT this time, I could speak a little Italian.  I asked a few people where I could find a hostel at this time of night and many of them told me that there are not too many hostels in Milan (believe it or not).  One person suggested for me to take the Metro into Milano Centrale where there are many cheap hotels in the area.  I took the suggestion to heart and found myself at my destination.   

To my utter dismay, it began to pour hard as walked I around looking for some options.  I kept asking my heart where to go?  

Instead my stomach piped up.  

“Dude…time to eat….you can ask questions later.” he roared.

The rain bombarded the city with heavy drops as my back pack began gain an extra 3 pounds of weight.  I was completely soaked after 10 minutes of walking the streets Milan and slowly I was becoming a little frustrated with my decision to not plan ahead.

I walked around one corner and found a small hole-in-the-wall Kebap Shop and well, the Doner sorta hit the spot, but let's just say I won't go back there again. 


I tossed the rest of the dog food into the waste basket and pressed on with my search for a hotel.  By this point I didn't care where and how much...I just needed to get dry and that's when I came across this brilliant spot.

Oh my god!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Can't Get Away from...Dry-wall!

Ok.  There is no secret.  I am not a fan of Dry-wall.  In fact, it is probably the least interesting job I have ever had to do.  However, I am VERY grateful to have learned the skills from my father who is one of the most hardest working and is the most knowledgeable person on the planet.

Before I left for Europe, my father jokingly said.

"You know, they use Dry-wall in Germany." 

All I could do was just shudder at the very thought of me, picking up a putty knife and fill-in a couple holes in the wall.  And really, who would want to do such thing while vacationing?

Well, not even a week ago, my dear friend Betty decided to do a little renovating at her flat in Munich.  The job required some painting and...gulp "filling in some holes in the wall". 

I looked around her apartment and it was quite clear that her living-room needed some TLC; and that's when I noticed the 12 holes in the walls and ceiling.  


Nevertheless, a smile rolled out from my face and I happily participated in the action. 

After picking up some supplies from a hard-ware store Betty, Mishco and I began the reno.

Have a look!  :o)

Laughing at the fact that I can't run away from Dry-Wall.

Mischo was my "slave driver" I mean Boss.

Yup...this is a familiar look. Mud on the hands.

Betty hard at work! :o)

The square shelves waiting to be drilled into the wall.

Augustiner Beer...Give it a try!

Bierhalle with the Frauenkirch in the back
Augustiner Beer

I couldn’t help myself.  I had fallen prey to the golden suds which evidently summoned for my return to Munich.   After a 2 year absence, I found myself alone at the famous Augustiner Bierhalle just a stone’s throw away from the Frauenkirche Church.  

It was no accident, I was in the market to consume (in my opinion) the best beer created by the Germans.   The one particular beer I was looking for is called, Marzen (March) which contains the alcohol strength of 6% and is made especially for Oktoberfest.  According to many people in Munich, Marzen is by far the best beer one can drink during the 2 weeks of Oktoberfest.  However, because I arrived in Munich exactly 2 weeks after the massive party, I knew that finding this beer would be next to impossible.

Trying hard to contain my child-like emotions, I waited patiently for my server.  My lips were parched from de-hydration; a condition which only strikes when my breakfast contains only a strong espresso in the morning (something which is happening a little too often on this trip). To pass the time I began to munch on the very expensive pretzels which sat at the middle of the table. 

“Hallo!” Greeted the waiter.
“Hallo!  Uh…Oktoberfest Beer?”  I asked with a slight look of concern on my face.
“Yes, we still have it.”

A sigh of relief fell upon face followed by a huge bright smile. 

The Monks created Augustiner during the early 1300’s and according to the staff the very first beer was brewed at this particular spot.   The company has since moved their factory to the outskirts of Munich they but have managed to keep the Halle as watering hole/restaurant for Tourists and locals.  

Moments later, there stood the holy grail of all beers.  I hovered over the thick layer foam just inches from my salivating lips as I examined the tiny streams of bubbles running up to the surface.

Carefully, I lifted my 1 liter mug and took my very first swig.

It was heaven on earth all over again.

The beer with its’ smooth body and shimmering golden texture was like swallowing liquefied candy.  

Exactly how I remembered it!

If gold had a taste, it would taste like Marzen.

I nursed my beer to savor every potent drop, while sitting upon the long, harden wooden benches.  The comfort level of the benches was akin to those found at a church as my bony behind began to ache.  I clasped my stein with two hands and for a brief moment, I felt as though I was saying a prayer to the Monks responsible for this sweet liquid.  Out of sheer curiosity, I searched for the padded kneeler below the table.  Jokingly, I thought, perhaps the proper way to consume Augustiner is upon your knees; unlike within the tents of Oktoberfest the beer, is to be consumed while standing upon the benches, happily singing with your mates while participating in the drunken debauchery.

Not here.  

At the Bier Halle, you are to sit and chat loudly drinking and/or eating traditional German food consisting of mashed potatoes, pork and pretzels.

As the minutes past, my speed of consumption began to increase.  I realized that I was down to half a mug after sitting at the table for 7 minutes. I placed my mug down to pause for a brief moment.   My mind began to feel slightly un-balanced as the 6% welcomed me back to Munich.  I reciprocated with a sly grin while suspended with a sensation of euphoric bliss.  But, I began to think about my friends back home; wishing for them to accompany me for a Masse.   At that precise moment, I panned over to the empty table to the right of me.  3 years ago at that very table, I was coerced by an elderly gentleman to try snuff for the first time.  Blame it on the alcohol.  See video.

Less than 3 minutes later, I completed my liter of beer in what seemed to be a personal record.  I am not known to be a drinker, however the flavor of this beer is so brilliant and so incredibly addicting it is VERY hard to not consume at a fast pace.  While I could’ve ordered another, I just sat satisfied, knowing that I will drink another liter…er tomorrow.  

Should you find yourself participating at Oktoberfest or just visiting Munich, be sure to give this beer and/or any of their other products a try.

Augustiner Restaurant und Bierhalle 
Neuhauserstr. 27 - 80331
Tel. 089 - 23 183-257  
Fax 089 - 260 53 79