Food

A Disco Who? {10}

When I was just a young pup while at Kate’s Joint in the East Village I had some ‘Disco Fries’ which I guess is what the Americans call Poutine (which were also incredible!) but when I went back a few years later, they’d stopped using a vegan cheese and had started using one with casein. Total horseshit, right?

After seeing Dan’s blog a short while ago I realized that it’s probably been 15 years since I had authentic Poutine and close to 10 since I had those Disco Fries I haven’t been able to get the thought of that hot gravy like a river of lava ebbing and flowing over a mountain of deep fried potatoes and greasy curds out of my head. Well, I’ve been working late a lot this week so I figured I’d make myself a little treat…

1st stop: Thuet for some way too expensive (but mighty fine) french fried ‘taters…
Thuet - BiteMe

Thew on some mushroom gravy…
Mushroom Gravy

Busted out the Tofutti…
Tofutti

And had myself some Pouuuuuutine!

Poutine

Now I hold no false illusions and I’m not going to pretend that my Poutine compares to any that the Poutineratti of the city are clammering over but I’ll be damned if it didn’t hit the spot tonight, boy!

Banned In DC {4}

See Y'All Next Week

I flew in to Dulles airport on Wednesday and made my way to Arlington, VA around 5:20 just in time to pound out a bunch last minute changes for a client meeting at 6:00. This would set the tone for the next couple of days which I would spend in the nicest (certainly the most expensive) hotel I’ve ever stayed at in my life; working from sunrise to well beyond sunset. Oi vey!

Steph flew into DC on Friday and I met her at what is probably the worst (and not even the cheapest) hostels I’ve ever stayed at in my life and let me tell you, I’ve stayed in some seriously sucky places in my day; I’m talkin’ poo stained towels pubes on the bed linens sucky… Come to think of it, maybe this one wasn’t so bad.

At least I was with my girl, who is a total babe, the work was done and all was well. We got settled, pushed the two tiny, plastic pee sheet draped beds together, had a little nap and then made out for Soul Veg. but before we’d reached the half way point of what would have been a killer long walk Steph had the good sense to get me to call to see if they were open; “sorry bro, we closed 10 minutes ago.” Well, sheeeeeit.

Steph is a babe

So, we headed into Washintgon’s China Town (If you wanna call it that; it’s all just regular North American shit with Chinese characters on the signs in addition to the regular ones) and found a great Tapas joint called La Tosca with live music and sangria a plenty.

The next day, I woke up with the beginnings of what would later develop into a pretty brutal cold but we weren’t gonna let that, or the rain, ruin our good times so we moved over to our new hotel (much better, and not much more expensive), ate breakfast in the stairwell and then hit up the Smithsonian and The Mall to check out some of the monuments. The last time I was in DC I pretty much only saw the convention center, my hotel and Georgetown – the last time before that I was 8 so it was nice to see some of what the city actually has to offer.

An homage to the boys back home…

Would hanging out at the Lincoln Memorial in a Lincoln jacket be considered the tourist’s equivalent of “wearing the shirt to the show”?

All class, all the time.

We went to Georgetown to check out Anthropologie then back to the hotel to mellow out before making our way over to the historic Black Broadway for a late night bite at Ben’s Chili Bowl (est. 1958); seeing as some of the boys and I are planning on entering the 2nd annual Left Foot vegan chilli cookoff I’m sampling chillies from all over – dedication to R&D is what makes us #1.

Steph was impressed. Very impressed.

Almost as impressed as she was when she found out that I messed up my memory card and lost a bunch of photos.

We had originally intended to spend Sunday in Baltimore with our buds Omar and Bubbles but longer than expected drives and unfortunate sicknesses kept us in DC. Fortunately for us, it was 20 and sunny so we went to the Zoo and then on the recommendation of some of the fine folks on DCfixed.com we checked out Asylum – a vegan leaning rock ‘n roll / biker bar in Adam’s Morgan (think Queen Street West) before getting in a cab to the airport thus ending a pretty great trip in the US of A’s capitol.

On an unrelated note; Shepard Fairey must have recently gone bananas on this town.

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

Speaking of Shepard; I wonder if he’s getting residuals off all of the Obama merch with his image on it, or the McCain “Hero” ripoff (which I forgot to take a photo of) or the numerous obvious references that are already popping up due to the popularity of the piece?

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

As I was writing this, I was about half way through the short flight home to Toronto with the pod on shuffle – one serious jam after another! Propagandhi – Mate ka Moris Ukun Rasik an; Jesse – Smarm; Concrete Blonde – Everybody Knows; The Draft – Impossible; The Slackers – Feed My Girl; Sigur Ros – Untitled 5; Bat For Lashes – Sarah; Iron Maiden – The Trooper… But the shuffle and the writing were both cut short when we flew into a storm and hit some major turbulence; I’m talkin’ swearing out loud, laptop almost falling into the floor turbulence… I’ve been fairly lucky in the past and only had one really bad landing flying into Newfoundland a few years back but this one surpassed that bad flight by a wide margin – I don’t remember ever thinking that I was going down like I did tonight. Gnarly.

All I want is your extra time and your… {4}

I’d like to wish my good friends Sean & Aidan a heartfelt congratulations on the official beginning of their lives together. The wedding was an absolute blast and I, like all those in attendance, am honored to have been a part of it.

I’ve got a ton of photos from the night but I haven’t the time to sort them right now so for the time being I’ll pass a DVD off to the groom and let him post what he likes – look for them in coming days.

I’d also like to congratulate Rob. Congratulations, buddy. Way to go.

Cheesecake

I’d like to propose a toast… to Jammin! {2}

Saturday started with some good old fashion boy’s fun out in Scarberia at Gladiators Paintball Area. The place is tiny, and it really kind of sucks the big one but it would be hard not to have a good time when you’re running around trying to get one over on your friends by way of pegging them with fast moving, sting inducing projectiles.

Gladiators Paintball

Gladiators Paintball

Gladiators Paintball

Gladiators Paintball

Gladiators Paintball

Gladiators Paintball

It’s a good thing we had Walker with us to clear it all up because Sparky got himself into a little trouble with the law for drinking in the parking lot.

Totally unrelated but seriously, how sweet is this sign? I’m certain that Draplin would approve.

Our boy Matty Matheson aka Matty BSOD #1 is the head chef at the recently opened Oddfellows at the corner of Queen & Shaw so we figured it would be a good place to kick off the evening. Oddfellows did not disappoint in the slightest and I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already.

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

Oddfellows

This weekend was Nuit Blanche in the city so there were art installations all over the city that went all night long and the streets were absolutely crawling with people. Aner is convinced that Scotiabank set it up on this weekend just to fuck over the CIBC Run For The Cure on Sunday morning – the dude abides. Last year’s Nuit Blanche was a lot of fun, and the first night I really got to hang out with my favorite gal, so it’s a shame that I missed out this year but somethings are more important and my main man Killen is one of them.

We moved from Oddfellows to the Beaconsfield – a friend of Sean’s works there and made sure that we got appropriately hooked up, thanks Eddie!

The Beaconsfield

The Beaconsfield

Everyone knows that we’re number 1!

The Beaconsfield

The Beaconsfield

The Beaconsfield

Well, almost everyone…

The Beaconsfield

The Beaconsfield

The Beaconsfield

The Beaconsfield

The rest of the night looked an awful lot like this for me; I’m not sure yet if that is a good or bad thing.

Shout out to Robbie for getting everything organized and making sure that our boy Sean had a stag that he wont soon forget.

Things Fall Apart {5}

On the way home from work yesterday as I was whipping along King street a guy pulled out in front of me after looking right at me which is nothing new and I had to skid to a stop which is nothing new but as I pulled up with my right foot I felt a significant amount of give and thought… hmmm, that’s new. So when I got home I flipped Lucille over and just as I’d expected…

MKS Toe Clip

Fortunately for me I’ve broken a fair share of toe clips in my day, usually one at a time but I buy a new pair at a time so I usually have a spare or two kickin’ around. Thirty Helens and One Ben agree – if you’re going to ride a fixed gear bike, proper foot retention is crucial.

MKS Toe Clip

When riding a bike in the city in general, but especially riding brakeless; little equipment failures could have catastrophic results so it’s really important to maintain your bike properly to increase your chances of getting to where you need to go safely. I’ve been unusually busy so maintaining the bikes hasn’t been at the top of the list but I’ve been hearing some clicks and creaks lately so last night when I got home from another Dirtballs! victory I decided to put on some risotto and get the old gal in the stand for a good jammin’… I mean poundin’… I mean cleanin’ / tightenin’… Yeah, that’s the one.

I guess because things deteriorate a little at a time you may not noticed the drop in performance but after giving your bike a good tune up you really notice how sluggish the ride had become – even something as simple as maintaining tire pressure will improve the quality of your ride tenfold! I took ‘er out last night and this bike runs so smoothly and quietly now it’s like the first day I built ‘er up. Moral of the story? Get a stand, get some tools and keep on top of your bike – it’ll thank you for it.

Be sure to check out Robbie’s new weekly feature: Gourmet Sunday aka Chow Hounds aka I’m A Huge Fatty

Chow Hounds

…and Killen’s daily feature: Buds

Hot Time; Summer In The City {5}

I’ve been laying low a little bit for the last little week, trying to stay busy, enjoying my summer and let my poor old knees & tookus recover from last week’s Thursday 100s but here’s a quick recap of the last week or so of my life.

Polished off our work on Sparkles’ home reno project out in Upper Beaches Scarberia.

Tried to sneak into this old building on the east side but figured we’ll go back when we have proper flashlights and wooden stakes to fight off the vampires that live inside.

Fireworks are bad still!!

I’ve had a recent obsession with making my place look a little bit more homey and I figured some barnboard frames might help out a little bit but at $120 a pop (marked down from $140) I figured it’d be a fun little DIY project and when Ben mentioned that he and Nick had recently redone the Vice office in barnboard from his dad’s place and had some left over I jumped at the offer.

I swung by the officer where Nick was working on a shelving unit and banged out the framework but I still need to get some glass cut and build the backing.

I’m always amazed by what I can fit in this bag.

Breakie at Sadies with the fam.

Checked out the Forfeit, Crossroad, Eating Glass, etc. show at La Siesta Neauveax and had fun at a hardcore show for the first time in some time. Caught up with a lot of old friends and checked out some good jams. Stuck In The City are doing some great things for hardcore in this city.

What is this? A white T Shirt Convention?

Elijah quickly realized that he wasn’t wearing a white shirt and felt horribly out of place.

A quick thinker; he quickly remedied the situation and saved himself further embarrassment.

I, however, don’t mind the embarrassment.

I’ll tell you what I do mind, though… PINKEYE!

Triplog Day 16: Rome > Toronto {2}

Goodbye Spain / Italy. Thanks for the memories.

Triplog Day 15: Rome {0}

Robbie left to go back to jolly old England today so we sent him off with a truuuuuuuly authentic English breakfast. I think his omelette had just a little bit less bacon grease than his from a couple days prior.

After breakfast Spark and I got settled in our new hostel (complete with HOT shower unlike our last one) and headed out to meet up with Beth for a little more Roman exploration.

We headed into the Trastevere which was a pretty sweet little area of town – it reminded me at least a little of some of the nicer areas of Brooklyn which I really liked. I have a feeling that if you got to know this area of town a little bit it would become an amazing place to live.

On the way back downtown we encountered this giant douche driving around a city filled with the tiniest cars (even the buses here are tiny!) in a Hummer blasting 1) White Wedding – Billy Idol and 2) The Final Countdown – Europe. A young Roman and I really bonded in our joint excitement!

We said our goodbyes to Beth and made our way back to the hostel to get a good night’s sleep before the epic journey we’d face the next day. I’m pretty sure a local dude called us “Turkey Balls.”

The final SUNDOG of the trip. :(

Triplog Day 14: Rome {4}

Today was one of those days that ended up amazingly but started off pretty monumentally badly. Given that Robbie was leaving tomorrow and Sparkles and I were leaving the day after we figured that we should figure out how we’re packing our bikes for travel. Before we left my lady was kind enough to do a bunch of ‘cycling in Rome’ research for me which included the printing of about 100 Roman bike shops so I figured we’d be golden! What I didn’t count on is that out of all of those shops, maybe 4 of them were anywhere near downtown Rome and only 2 of them were anywhere near us. So, we mapped out the 2 closest ones and headed out in search of them only to discover that bike shops, like most other shops in Rome, tend to open and close whenever they want. 2 hours of walking around Rome in search of boxes and no dice.

So, we headed back to the hostel and I spent about an hour on the nerd trying to figure something out before we decided just to try calling the airline to see if they had any bike boxes available. They told us that they actually don’t allow bike boxes, which is funny because we definitely boxed them to bring them with us, but we’d have to use that saran wrap type stuff at the airport but not to worry because they are very careful with bicycles. We didn’t really buy that but figured we’d just have to take the chance so we picked up some bubble wrap just to be a little safer and called that case closed.

Realizing that we should have ridden around to the shops, we hopped on our bikes and headed down to the Colosseum. We missed the tour we wanted to take by a couple of minutes but figured it’d be worth taking a poke around regardless.

Much to my surprise and delight both THE SUNDOG & Sitty Robbie made appearances.

Our admission to the Colosseum also gave us access to the Palatine Hill which is one of the most ancient parts of Rome. It was truly beautiful and I really wish that we could have spent more time there but we’d already planned to head back to Africa to meet up with our friend Courtney for dinner.

Now, Spark’s sister is staying in Rome with her friend Lorenzo and we were lucky enough to be in town on the night when Lorenzo was throwing this big party in this old farm house (technically a castle) on the outskirts of the city. We didn’t know much about it other than there was music, art and lots of booze. We had to take a couple of trains, a cab and walk just to get there but it was a lot of fun and well worth the trip.

Robbie: “Beth, did you come straight from Aerobics Class?”

Robbie’s new Facebook profile pic, I guarantee.

The real party started when it came time to leave and we realized that we had no idea how we were getting home. It was around 4am and we were in bit of an industrial district (think Royal Windsor Drive in relation to Toronto, both in terms of feeling and geography) and there were no phones to be found to call a cab, very few cars driving by and most of them were probably piloted by drunk party goers. Apparently this is the norm in the region so I would have been hesitant to hitch anyway; at this point, with Spark half sleeping on a milk crate beside a news stand, I decide that we are walking towards Rome and hopefully something amazing will happen along the way. About a kilometer or so down the road something did! A city bus drives by and we decided that no matter where it went, we were getting on it! We flagged down the driver and hopped on – the driver didn’t speak English but we spoke just enough Italian to find out that it finishes it’s route approximately 2 minutes from our hostel. Sparkles woke up about 45m-1h later at Termini and his eyes lit up like a kid on xmas morning.

Our view of Spark:

Spark’s view of us:

Triplog Day 13: Rome {5}

After an unsuccessful attempt at a meet-up yesterday caused by my police troubles in Florence – we headed over to the train station first thing to meet up with Spark’s sister, Beth, who was staying in Rome for a little bit before heading off to Dubai.

No wonder the cops here are assholes – they have to ride around on Segways!

Who am I kidding? I would kill to ride around all day on a Segway.

Vintage Footie Jersey shop? Giddy up!

“This Pizza is so good, I need another one.”
“But you’ve only taken one bite out of that slice!”
“Doesn’t matter, it’s so good. I need another one!”

This shop was dope – they made personalized aprons and things of the sort so Spark and Beth picked one up for their niece, Olivia. I was really impressed to see the guy adorning the fabric in the old fashion way – no new fangled computron sewing machines up in here!

We’re classy.

And magical.

To quote Scotty Willemsen at his wedding “I’d like to thank little boys.”

So, what’s the one thing that you’re not allowed to bring into the Vatican? Swiss Army knives. I had my knife confiscated in Florence but Spark forgot to take his out of his bag so we had to do the Vatican in groups of two as to not lose another of Sean’s knives.

Matt: There’s a lot of glare in this shot.
Rob: There’s a lot of self-importance in that shot.
Matt: BURN!

This kid was amazing. He got scolded by the same woman 3 or 4 times for making pigeons fly into her daughter but he was relentless in his endeavors. Ultimately, Chunk of Goonies fame, failed to capture a bird but he was successful in capturing a little piece of all our hearts.

The SUNDOG does the Spanish Steps

Il Margutta – definitely the most expensive / fanciest meal of the trip and as good as it was, it most certainly wasn’t the best. In any case, it’s nice to see all the options for Vegetarian / Vegan fine dining throughout the cities we were in.

Triplog Day 12: Siena > Rome {2}

Siena is a beautiful city and we had a lot of fun here. I wish the weather had been better but that’s pretty much the case for most of Italy. What can you do? We made the best of it and wouldn’t let a couple of soakers ruin our good times.

We figured that we’d hop on a train to Empoli and then transfer to Rome which would mean that we wouldn’t have to head all the way back to Florence. Once we got off the train at Empoli we realized that we did in fact have to roll on to Florence to make the transfer. No biggie, right? We’d just get on the next train, right?

Well, a couple of seconds later my heart sunk into the pit of my stomach as I realized that I left my little Under The Weather bag in the bike car on the train – the very same bag that housed my passport, my phone, my notebook, a little wooden monkey that I brought with me for good luck, our eurail passes, some postcards for my lady and my new camera complete with about 800 photos – in fact, every photo that you’ve seen up until this point was on that card and would have been lost forever.

Spark was trying his best to keep me calm but I wasn’t having it – I was so unbelievably mad at myself for leaving behind some of the most important things to me on this trip and just seriously wanted to get on a plane, head home and sulk for a month. I’m aware now how ridiculous that sounds but there was no looking at this situation logically for me – I was very quickly losing my mind.

I went to the little Police station and Spark went to the train information center and between our phone calls we were informed that they had in fact found my bag and would hold it for us in Florence – words can’t even express the relief I felt when they told me that they had my bag and told me that everything seemed to be there; camera, passport, phone, etc.

When we got to Florence I quickly found out that they’d left one item off the list when they were telling me what they’d found in my bag – a huge fucking knife! Now, my good friend Sean works for Swiss Army so before we left he asked Spark and I if we wanted to take some Swiss Army Knives for our trip? Of course we do! We’re boys, we like knives and things of the sort. We didn’t expect that Sean would show up with two huge Rambo knives but we took them anyway…

They directed me to the Police station in Florence to collect my bag where I was asked to join the officers in the back room where they kept me for the next half an hour or so. The officers took turns coming in and telling me how much trouble I was in and then coming in and telling me that they thought I was a good guy and were going to try to talk to the others on my behalf. A little good cop, bad cop maybe? It was mostly pretty tame until the guy came in with the “Do you have a lawyer?” talk. Either way, I knew that this really wasn’t that big of a deal and the worst that was going to happen was that I was either going to have to pay a fine or a bribe and I’d have a funny story to tell…

Meanwhile, Spark & Robbie are waiting on the train platform wondering why the hell it’s taking me so long – eventually the cops got tired of messing with me and let me go with a warning and I went on my merry way. I was just happy to have my bag back all its contents safe and secure. What was amazing was an hour later while on our way to Rome I hear this super loud, annoying euro dance ringtone blaring from my bag so I open it up, take out my phone and answer it – the caller hangs up. Not only did the cops change my ringtone and the background on my phone to some purple frilly thing but they called me to embarrass me on the train later on! Slow day for crime fighters in Florence, boys?

It was also on this ride that Robbie earned himself the name Dr. Italiano but I’ll save that story for another time…

This was the first photo taken of me; a free man once again.

Once we checked into our hostel in Rome we hopped on the nerd to see if any of the restaurants on our list were nearby and nothing really was but fortunately Sparkles spotted an Ethiopian joint called Africa down the street which was amazing considering 5 minutes earlier Robbie had requested “anything but Italian food tonight.” Giddy up!

After an incredible meal we moseyed on down to the Coliseum which was every bit as impressive as I’d hoped and it was neat to see it all lit up.

Triplog Day 11: Siena {6}

Sparkles loves footie.

We love Duomos.

People love to hurt each other.

Iron Maiden!!!

Boys love to eat.

I like Turtles.

We love roughhousing.

Triplog Day 10: Florence > Siena {1}

We packed up, fixed Robbie’s flat and got out of the city at a reasonable hour so that we could get into Siena for check-in before 5pm. For a city with as many bikes as Florence you’d hope that it would be a little friendlier to cyclists. In fairness, it’s really not that safe for anyone in this city; drivers, scooter folks, bikesters, segway operators and pedestrians alike so it’s probably just a matter of getting used to the dynamic of the city and knowing how to handle yourself.

We really only had one big ride planned from Florence to Siena with a stopover in San Gimignano – about 150k all in all if I’m not mistaken. All the talk of the hills in the Chianti region made us a little nervous but we were willing to plow forward regardless. Once we found out that we were going to get dumped on the entire time we decided to call the ride off, hop on the train to Siena and just see what happens with the weather.

Just before Poggibonsi we decided that the weather looked good enough that we could get off and ride. It was only about 25k but at least we’d be able to see a little of the Tuscan countryside with the wind at our backs so we got off the train, geared up and figured out how to get to Siena. Keep in mind, at this point we have maps and stuff but no real riding directions so after exhausting the few options we presented ourselves with we decided to ask a local who spoke no English but was able to give us directions worth following.

What he couldn’t have told us was that doing this ride, as seemingly short as it is, on single speed / fixed gear bicycles with 40 lbs on our each of our backs would be retarded – which it was. What he also couldn’t have told us was that the skies were about to open up so we’d be getting drenched for a good portion of the ride. We knew that there would be hills but I don’t think that any of us expected that even the flatlands would actually have a slight incline so you’d be trucking along incredibly slowly on the flats wondering why you’re not moving faster? I mean, being overweight and out of shape might have something to do with it but I’d much rather blame the roads.

The last 5k or so was mostly downhill – in fact a pretty serious downhill that (on a fixed gear) was actually pretty gnarly so it wasn’t as welcomed at this point as one might expect – I’d have given anything for a completely flat, dry road at this point but before we knew it we were entering the North end of Siena and I think we were all pretty proud that we’d made it without having to throw in the towel at any point.

25k = easy. This particular 25k = one of the toughest of my life.

Once we made it to the city we decided to look up the place that we were staying at which was said to be about 12k outside the city on an old winery. The prospect of relaxing on a nice Tuscan farmhouse was pretty enticing but once we realized that the place was 12k back the way we’d come in we decided to cancel our reservation and roll into Siena to try to find somewhere to stay. Because it was pouring rain again at this point and we were tired and cranky we poked out heads into the first place we saw which actually ended up being one of the nicer places we’d stay on this trip and not really much more expensive by any stretch.

Spark was digging through one of the travel books that our new friend Courtney passed along to us and he singled out two restaurants in Siena not initially even realizing that both of them were listed as ‘Tuscan / Vegetarian’ – Giddy up. We chose one and made our way over to Castelvecchio which ended up being one of the best meals of the trip and certainly the most memorable dining experience.

The owner / waiter, Mauro, made his way over to the table and we greeted him the way we greeted many people on this trip – Buono Sera. Do you speak English? To which Mauro replied “Sometimes, the same way sometimes you speak Italian… but not today” and then he proceeded to speak to me in Italian. I couldn’t tell right away if he was taking the piss or not but I liked the cut of his jib. His English ended up being perfect and he pretty much spent the rest of the night coming over and joking around with us. That was, of course, when he wasn’t serving us up some of the finest food I’d had in recent memory.

Towards the end of the meal Rob proposed a challenge to Mauro; if Spark could order his desert in perfect Italian he’d get to eat it for free. At this point the entire restaurant turns and looks and Sparkles fails pretty miserably, just as any one of us would have in that situation… Except for, perhaps, Dr. Italiano himself. Mauro then proposes a challenge to us; if any of us can name the utensil that he is holding in his hand (a spoon) in Italian – they would eat for free. Cucchiaio? I guess spoono wasn’t an acceptable answer.

Mauro is a sweet bro and his restaurant is top shelf so if you ever find yourself in the region make sure to go pay him and his beautiful pup Deva a visit.

The main square in Siena, Piazza El Campo is beautiful at night. Apparently once a year this square is transformed into the site of a huge horse race, the Palio, where all the neighborhoods in the city come together to compete – the old photos of the event were pretty amazing.

Triplog Day 09: Florence {3}

Last night Florence totally pwned us! After dinner we spent hours after hours walking in circles trying to find something to do other than standing like jackasses in front of the Duomo, getting rained on and generally hating life… and freedom.

A true low point hit when we finally gave in and decided to take a flier from someone on the street directing us to “The Fish Pub – Hip Hop Non Stop!” We were then paraded through the streets while the locals all took turns laughing at the idiot tourists being dragged to what was obviously going to be the worst place to be in the whole of Florence.

After about 10 seconds in the place we knew that we were going to regret ever coming but we ordered a couple of drinks and decided to give this shite pub full of bubbly tourists, Italian creepers and the old school hip hop stylings of Justin Timberlake a shot.

Lowest point of the night for me? The “free shot” coupons. I was mortified when Robbie pulled them out because I knew that the moment those pieces of fancily painted cardstock passed from our hands into theirs our place in dumbass tourist history would be firmly cemented. The bartender handed us a couple of pre-mixed juice shots (probably actually just juice) and we handed over our dignity in kind.

The first thing we did when we got back was busted out our travel books and made a list of the things were going to do when we woke up because we knew that there was something about this city that we must have been missing.

Our first stop was the Bargello – we’re boys and the prospect of visiting an old prison that was the site of public executions and untold horrors was at least mildly exciting. Our bloodlust was unsatisfied as very little about the history of the building is on display and it has largely been converted to a museum of art which was fine because it displayed a lot of really beautiful work.

Next stop was the Uffizi Gallery – more of the same, but beautiful work none the less.

At this point we made our way back across the Ponte Vecchio to pick up some art from local painters and then back across town to the hostel for a little siesta.

Once back at the hostel we decided to take the bikes out for a spin and head out to the local Velodrome. Not that I expect that we’d have been able to have snuck on anyway but I was a little bummed to get there and find a local footie match going on right in the center of the Velodrome. We sat down anyway and enjoyed the game – complete with diving, red cards and a face slapping Smurf with a Napoleon complex. Come on, brah, you’re 3 apples high!

It’s funny how this photo makes the walls of the Velodrome look almost completely flat but they were pretty damn steep in person. Weird.

We set out again in search of the Piazzale Michelangelo that we couldn’t find the other day and discovered that it was pretty much right where we were – only up! We did the little hill climb and found our way to, as it had been described, a truly spectacular view of the city. I can only imagine how it would have looked at sunset… and without 300 tourists… and without the all fake Gucci bag salesmen…

We then shot across town to Il Sedano Allegro, a vegetarian restaurant that had received pretty good reviews – not the best food we ate on this trip but most certainly not the worst, either.

Sparkles loves Greg Benedetto

Back at the hostel we made friends with a lovely gal named Courtney from Chicago (via New York) who is traveling Europe by herself so after we assured her that we were ill intentioned creeps we invited her out for a better attempt at a night on the town than we’d had the night before.

The travel book my parents got for me made mention of a gelato spot in Florence that “we’d be talking about for the next 50 years” so after watching Robbie get hosed on a 9 Euro cone the day before we figured that we’d give it a shot. It was amazing, well priced and fortunately for me they had a dairy free double chocolate fudge gelato that had The Rennick’s Fat Belly written aaaallllllll over it.

We also had what what supposed to be a pretty sweet little bar called Mayday on our list buuuuuuuut it was closed so we settled for a fancy bottle of wine at a 4 star hotel instead.

Now, this photo reminds me of an amazing story from earlier on in the trip – Sparkles is reenacting the story for our American friend here… I was about to write about it but I realized that it’s really not funny without the reenactment so be sure to ask me about getting yelled at by an Italian woman behind a glass wall next time you see me.

Gradisco la tartarughes.

Triplog Day 08: Florence {4}

We’re 8 days in with very limited space for extra clothing and we’re three boys who like to ride bikes – rest assured, we stink. We figured the first order of the day should be to find a laundry mat and get some serious business taken care of.

We also found a dollar store where we could buy detergent, soy milk / cereal, bowls to eat the cereal in and most importantly a sewing kit / iron on patches to repair my blown out crotch.

We decided to try to see some of the things that we’re ‘supposed to see’ so we made our way over to our favorite Florentine landmark; The Duomo. To be honest I didn’t think it was quite as impressive on the inside as it was from the outside but we also didn’t take the tour and actually go up to see the ceiling the dome itself so maybe that would have been more ex. The one thing that I found most interesting about this building is that they didn’t have the technology or the knowhow to build the dome at the onset of the project but had faith that they’d figure it out in time – apparently it had been done in ancient times but the knowledge had not been passed down – engineering challenges like this must have been amazing in those times.

We went back to the Piazza Della Signoria to have a look at all of those amazing statues in the daylight and to our surprise the ‘Human Rights in Tibet’ banner was still flying in the square.

Our exploration brought us over to the Arno river and the Ponte Vecchio which was apparently the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed by the Germans under expressed orders from the Fuhrer himself. See? He wasn’t totally heartless! He wanted this poor old bridge to survive – it that doesn’t speak of the man’s endless compassion I don’t know what does!

There is a covered walkway that runs along the entire span of the bridge which was designed so that the ruling class could cross the bridge without having to walk in line with the peasantry.

Once across the Arno we had no idea where we wanted to go but there was a hill and we’re all gluttons for punishment so we decided that regardless of where it went, we were going up! That hill led us to the Forti Di Belvedere which gave us a pretty amazing view of the city and the countryside around it.

Next we set off in search of the Piazzale Michelangelo which was also said to have pretty spectacular views of the city but our directions weren’t very good so we only found Piazza Poggi and Rob only found some pigeons to chase.

This day is a bit of a blur because I have absolutely no idea what happened between Lunch…

…and Dinner…

…but I’m sure that whatever it was it involved the phrase “I’m hungry. What do you guys think? Are you hungry?”

Triplog Day 07: Cinque Terre > Florence {1}

We left the lovely Albergo Souvenir in Monterrosso at a decent hour and headed over to the train station for a light snack before moving on to Florence. I should apologize to Spark & Rob at this point for getting us yelled at by an Italian ticket taker at the train station who had no patience for… well… anything, it would seem.

I wish I’d taken a photo of the classy American we had the pleasure of sitting with from Pisa to Florence. I’d been making a conscious effort to judge people less and be open to meeting new people so when this greasy, indoor sunglass wearing New Yorker wearing zipper jeans, a bandanna pattern shirt and a silk screened blazer sat down next to me I was open to chat. It wasn’t 5 minutes before I regretted that decision – I think I pretended to fall asleep somewhere around “I would have fucked her but I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.”

We arrived in Florence in the mid-afternoon and checked into our hostel which, despite having clear directions, was difficult to find because cities like this don’t have a very good grid system and the street signage isn’t the best and streets just kind of start, stop and change name at random. It’s like living in the G-D Labrynth! What was really amazing was watching Bowie himself perform the Magic Dance outside the Duomo for spare change at 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon – really spectacular!

After we got settled and did a little walking around Florence we made our way over to Il Vegetariano which had come pretty highly recommended by both the HappyCow guide and the non-vegetarian owners of the hostel we stayed at. We got in there around 7 pm and the place was completely empty – we ran into the chef at the back who was still preparing food and he told us that they opened at 7:30 so we decided to go explore the neighborhood a little more before returning around 8:30 or so… When we got back in the place was jam packed with people and there wasn’t a seat to be found inside the restaurant so we set up shop in the makeshift tent in behind the restaurant. Ordering food in this place was insane – there is no set menu, no waiters, no real line-up and no real rhyme or reason. Basically you look at the chalk board, select your food, write it down on a little piece of scrap paper, hand it to the chef who is sitting at a little ticket booth type desk, pay him, he signs your paper and then you bring it over to another area where you had them your paper and they get you your food. I’m convinced that the chef likes the chaos because it makes it seem like everyone is just going craaaaaaaaaazy for his food. In any case, we figured it out, got our food and had a pretty frickin’ fantastic meal.

After dinner we decided to explore the city a little and made our way back to the Duomo for probably the 2nd time of what would become 300 times during our stay in Florence. Basically, all roads lead to the Duomo where Jareth tries to turn your baby into a goblin. GOBLIN!

We did stumble upon the Piazza Della Signoria which is filled with amazing sculptures including the fake David, a variety of homo-erotic works, a Human Rights in Tibet banner and Perseo beheading the Medusa – always a crowd pleaser.

Oh look, the Duomo AGAIN!