Lovely Lugano (Vacation Part 2)

After we met our rental steed and drove through a few alps, we stopped for a day and a half in my favorite town of all–Lugano, Switzerland.

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That’s my favorite tree-lined lakeside walk.  With my favorite red benches.

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Those colors are amazing.  Nothing but sunshine, lake, and Lugano-ness there.  And once you’ve soaked that all in (or tried very insufficiently to do so), there’s a really nice hike to the right of what you’re seeing in this last picture–Monte San Salvatore.  If you’re Scott and not Hannah, there’s even some climbing to do.

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If you’re moderately in shape (meaning not in shape at all), the hike takes between two and two and a half hours on the way up and about an hour on the way down.  If you’re in good shape, you can probably float to the top on muscles and memories of the lake.  It’s a nice hike, and you get to see this at the top:

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And eat this at the bottom:

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The Tourist bar was originally purchased by me as a joke for my roommate.  “Hey look, it says ‘Tourist’ in giant gold letters!”  That kind of joke.  But the Tourist bar played a joke on me instead–a delicious joke.  I opened it just to try it out on the way home from the grocery store (a 5-minute walk at the time), and I had finished the entire full-size chocolate bar before I got to the apartment.  Ha.  You win, Tourist bar.  Trust me, it’s good.

So now that you’ve enjoyed the lakeside, the mountains, and memories of chocolate, it’s time for some town goodness.

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Yep, that kind of town goodness.  Sure, it’s the Louis Vuitton building, and I could never in my life think about buying anything inside of said building.  That doesn’t make it sad though.  That makes it excellent window-shopping territory.  There’s nothing sad about looking into a nice window and enjoying the incredible building around that nice window.  Check out the details:

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You know what else is high-quality?  This guy:

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Scott got this lovely shot by pretending to take a very close-up picture of me.  Nope.  Just capturing the Village People come to life.

So really, I can’t think of a place I love more than Lugano.  There’s natural beauty, man-made beauty, and even ridiculous people-watching.  It’s a triple threat.  We got pretty lucky with our timing, too.  There was a film festival (all in Italian) in the piazza outside of our hotel.  There’s the world’s best grocery store (Manor) with the world’s best views (both available year-round, thank goodness).  I highly recommend a visit there if you ever get a chance.

My favorite quote of the trip was sometime near the end of our full day in Lugano, when Scott said, “The only sad thing about Lugano is that we have to leave it.”  Agreed, sir.

Anywhere

One of my friends and I sometimes play the “where would you be” game.  So if  I could be in any place/time right now, I would pick this spot:

I would live above that shop, and I would spend the morning walking around town, maybe picking up some ingredients for dinner.  There would be hot chocolate and a wingback chair near the window for reading/napping purposes.  In the game, it would naturally be a Saturday morning.  It might even be a Saturday morning before a long weekend.

That’s the nice thing about dreamland.  You can make up fake long weekends and pretend that there’s snow on the ground when it was something like 97 degrees the day before.  Since I’m being really unrealistic, I want a specific cup of hot chocolate, too.

My roommate and I used to go to a coffee shop called Vanini during study abroad.  We went to Little Vanini because Big Vanini several blocks away was more touristy.  Ours only held four tables for two, and it had one display of beautiful chocolates.

At Little Vanini, you could order something called “cioccolata densa.”  When Swiss/Italian folks describe a drink as dense chocolate, they mean business.  The first time we ordered the cioccolata densa, we expected a darker version of American hot chocolate.  But no.  This stuff was heaven in a cup.  It was like chocolate pudding mixed with semi-sweet Swiss chocolate mixed with fairy dust.  You literally had to use a spoon to get it from the cup to your mouth.  And this freakish amount of praise for hot chocolate is coming from someone who usually prefers marshmallows to the actual drink they go into.

Now that you’re well on your way to a sugar coma just by reading this post, I’ll let you imagine your own perfect spot.  This moment of imaginary vacation was sponsored by the super strength air-conditioning at my library that  makes it feel like perpetual winter.

Snap

Sometimes I miss Lugano so much.  How could you not?

When I was a little kid, there was a TV show called Out of This World where a girl could snap her fingers and stop time.  She went around fixing things before people knew what was going on and that sort of thing.  She could also snap her way to another place.  Of all the super powers I’ve ever seen (and I use the word “seen” loosely), that’s the set I envy most.

I could be in Lugano right now, dipping my toes in the lake.  Jumping in sounds good, but that’s melted snow from the Alps… no thanks!  And once there was no more gelato to be had and no more perfect views to enjoy, I could be back at work–nothing missed, no responsibility points lost, no budget blown to smithereens.  Oh, if only I were an 80’s television character.  Naturally, I would also do good for mankind with my mad snapping skills.

P.S.  The grammar check just told me that “mankind” is bias language.  Shame on me.

un’isola

Today is a nostalgic day.  What is it that I’m pining for?  Being surrounded by a foreign language.  I’ll explain.

I’ve been going through things and reorganizing lately.  It’s a good spring-ish thing to do, and I ran into some old journals in the process.  The journals start around 1990 and more or less stop in 2006.  You can imagine the insightful commentary of a six year-old.   I’m sure I’ll laugh about this blog in the same way someday, but some of the journal pages did capture things that I’m glad to remember.

One journal has more interesting content than all of the others combined, and it’s from my semester in Lugano, Switzerland.  It felt essential to record my thoughts during those months, probably because there weren’t a whole lot of people around who spoke English.  It’s hard to verbally process anything if you can only apologize, say thank you, and ask for two scoops of ice cream.  Clearly, I learned the truly necessary phrases in Italian, but they didn’t get me very far.

Not speaking the local language seemed to put me on my own little island.  I was living among people, but I was almost invisible because I couldn’t communicate with them.  I could be a part of their world, but I couldn’t really impact it in any way.  No one there even knew if I was mute or spoke Russian or what.  It’s amazing how little you need to speak when you know it won’t communicate anything other than “I’m not from here,” so I spent a large part of my time there in silence.  I had friends, sure, but there were no small interactions with strangers and acquaintances that happen so often here.

People here know stupid things about me.  The cashier I see every week at the grocery store knows where I work and that I’ve been trying to quit drinking Coke for the last year.  I know that she has a son in college nearby and that she worries about him a lot.  Those kinds of interactions and acquaintances don’t seem important until they don’t exist.  I would have told a woman who sat down next to me in Lugano that this was my favorite bench, and she might have told me that it was her favorite bench, too.

Every once in a while, that lack of connection made me feel sad and alone.  It didn’t last long though.  Most of the time, I felt an overwhelming freedom and joy.  Too much of my time here is spent worrying about what other people are thinking–about me, things I care about, or totally ridiculous stuff that no one cares about.  When you don’t interact with anyone, all of that worry vanishes.

It’s that simplicity of life that I miss the most.  I started to love the silence that made up so much of my time.  Even other people’s conversations melded into a sort of Italian-flavored white noise.  It was a perfect time to sort through thoughts that usually get drowned out by louder ideas and distractions.

It did seem weird to be so utterly out of touch with other people’s thoughts.  The priest in the catholic church I sometimes went to could be talking about his new socks, for all I knew.  The only thing of theological significance that I did understand in several services was when he said that Mary was sinless.  Hmm.  So glad I heard that kernel.  And I was happy to go back to my world of complications and acquaintances at the end of the semester.  You can’t live a very full life if you’re alone on your small island all the time.  But sometimes I miss my island.  I used to pretend that people were having conversations about how much they liked the squirrels on the rail, when they were probably talking about that jerk from the marketing department.  My island is just a nicer place to be sometimes, and whenever I go to a place where English isn’t the dominant language, I have such a good time being back there again.