CG European Trip '07 - "Les Girls" (the first week)

"Les Girls" is the title of a movie from 1957 which has little to do with this narrative. I will tell you about the people I met, some of whom, naturally, were girls. Granted, in Italy - especially the first week, with four men in a Bismarck, spurring each other on - girls become a natural point of thought, reference and discussion during most of the day, and night. However, all encounters recorded here, with boys and girls alike, are of purely platonic, social character. For information about other encounters....well, let's put it this way: You're on a need to know basis, and you don't need to know.

This is going to be long. Don't read all of it at once. Read it a day at a time. Savour.

Day 1: Varese and surroundings
Four Swedes travelling together, all with their individual characters and traits, are bound to attract the attention of others for whatever reason. We were in luck. Somehow, people seemed to like us. Our first meal, at a restaurant on a hill, shortly after I had driven Bismarck into a wall going up the hill, we met Alex - a Brasilian Pilates instructor living in Varese since 7 years - who immediately took us to heart. He gave us advice on what to see, where to go. Without him, we would not have gone to lago di Maggiore (and had the swim by the tree with the yellow shirt in it), or to Via Reggio (where we lent the lighter from the Italians) or to Swiss Lugano (where some of us had another swim). He gave us lots of other advice, most of which we did not follow. Regrettably in some cases, perhaps, but let's be happy about what we got. Alex - thank you!

Day 2:  Lago di Maggiore, Lugano, Lago di Como (Torno)
Tuesday, the day we shun the company of others. But we did almost meet George Clooney, Silvio Berlusconi, the guy who owns Ryan Air, and yes - and this was a close one - the Prince of Saudi Arabia. All inhabitants of the lake Como area, and the latter our neighbour when we stayed at the Villa Flora in Torno. I felt a strange, let's call it supernatural sensation once, while walking down a narrow passage towards the lake, with a cemetary on the one side and a private property on the other, of being close to something very famous. In fact, we did not meet any people of much significance to us. Am I telling the truth here? I think so. Maybe if we had explored some situations further, it would have been different. Take for example that cemetary I walked by. Just at the start of it, by the church, I heard music playing from the second floor of an adjoining building. Windows were open, the sill lined with red flowers, and behind them in the room, which I gathered from the sign on the door, lived someone, I guess the caretaker. Now, wouldn't that have been a lovely person to meet?

Day 3: San Giovanni, Bellagio, Les Cinque Terres
The third day. Godness. We met with greatness. It started doucement: A lovely waitress serving us a beautifully composed meal at the restaurant Mella; a mixed family of Belgians at the beach just next to it; the Italian bikini team on the road...well, no, let's not go that far. I promised exaggeration, not outright lie. But I fool you not, when I say we met, in Bellagio, lo and behold, I guy who had Bruce Springsteen in his contacts (!) on his Iphone (!!). Of course we were - especially Magnus the Sony-Ericsson-guy - amazed and impressed by the phone. Imagine the heart and soul of scores of engineers and designers that have gone into making that phone. The beauty of it! The capacity!! The completeness!!! Hmmm. Oh, yes, and then the matter of Bruce. Well, apparently, Mr Ely (that was his name, Ely, Joe Ely) had played with Bruce on a few occasions, and Clash, and Stevie Ray Vaughn, to name a few others (we found this out afterwards, though, honour where honour's due, Stef at the time seemed to recollect his name from some musical context). He happened to scroll by Bruce when showing us the phone, while I was asking his wife what line of their business they were in: "Oh, your husband is a musician on tour. And what kind of music does he play?" So close, yet so far away...

Come nightfall, we had sped our Bismarck 200 miles south, to les Cinque Terre. Oh, what a wonderful sight. Hundreds and hundreds of backpacking, adventurous girls from around the world. The village we were in - Riomaggiore - was nice too. While overlooking it, munching away on real Italian pizzas, Hans and me heard the unmistakeble nasal sound of Montreal french behind us. There they were - four girls with a denominator (the lingo; our background in Montreal) we could profit on. Well, it took us some time to approach - we are after all shy and reserved Swedes - but eventually we made contact. We had a lovely chat, they recommended us a camping site in Firenze, we agreed to try and meet them there, and said our farewells. Halfway up the slope to the car we realized that we had forgot to ask them their number, or better yet, ask them to have some wine with us. They, their hostel to be precise, were lost to us in the maze of streets of Riomaggiore. Again, so close, yet so far away. We took comfort in that, as the saying goes - "though lovers be lost, love shall not"(?).

Day 4: Via Reggio, Pisa, Firenze
It just kept getting better and better. After having endured each other and the night in the small confinement of our car, we started out the day on the beach close to Via Reggio. We came, and we saw. Beauty. Beauty in the shape of two Italian girls just two metres east of our location. (Please forgive me, all friends and foes reading this, I promise you that this is the height of my girl frenzy.) We went to ask for a light (we smoked, though it still was only 10 am in the morning, just awful). We went into the sea, and threw ourselves onto the waves in a manly manner, flexing our muscles as inconspiciously as we knew how, fearing we looked as bloated as the Italian guys next to us (presumably, we shared the same objective). We went back, asked for a cigarette, as ours had run and succeded in starting up a conversation. Their names, which I will not mention here, were very beautiful. Especially the name of the girl with the bikini with the Italian flag on it. Upon our third visit, this time to say goodbye, e-mails and telephone numbers were exchanged (not foolish enough to make the same mistake again) as well as promises to, if plausible (which I of course intended to make it), to meet up in Bologna, where they worked/studied. I went back, alone, a fourth time to fetch the sandals I had forgotten. The image of the Italian-flag-girl with a smile on her face saying "Wow, hello, I thought I had seen you for the last time" is my last vivid memory of the encounter. We never did meet up in Bologna.

We saw the leaning tower of Pisa. Good sightseeing. Lots of people, but we met with no-one. There was this woman with her daughter who seemed to be carrying their luggage around the whole town (tourists, we saw them on various occasions), who we thought a bit funny and almost pitied, especially since the daughter seemed to carry most of the load, but no - we never talked. It was hot as hell though. I feel asleep on a bench.

Ahh, but then the camping in Firenze. I managed to - temporarily - put the morning rendez-vous out of my mind as we enjoyed a concert next to the site. The music, the crowd, the ambience! It was quite marvellous. Before, and after, we chatted with people, backpackers mostly, at the camping. One of us became very enchanted with two norwegian girls. Another of us joined in the conversation but drifted intermittenly off to harass some people (they were Irish, he kept calling them British) next to us. Myself, I developed paternal feelings for the girls, young as they were, and tried to steer our social gathering into a kosher direction. I was aided by one of the camp guardsmen who eventually hushed us off to bed, separately. The fourth of us had gone to bed earlier.  

Day 5: Firenze, Tuscany, Milano Marittima  
New day, new spots to visit. Firenze is grand! Our tour guide of the Dome had a flair for the job, and made our visit animated and educational. Kudos. 

We continued through Tuscany and found a wineyard after a chance turn. Stef went ahead and came back,  walking side by side with an elderly gentlemen. The man, in perfect english: "Well, the winery is closed, and my sons [who were in charge] are not here, but maybe my wife would like to come down and open it up for you". And then, the contessa herself, graciously interrupting her leisure time to show us the winery. Of course, awed and respectful as we were in her company, we did purchase quite a lot of wine. Good wine. Wonderful house. I wonder if she has any single grand-children?

We did not see much of Milano Marittima as we came in late at night. We did not meet any people. That day.

Day 6: Milano Marittima
Most of day was spent on the beach, eye-balling...people. Magnus took charge of the meeting girls part. We were particularly impressed of how, when night came and we all took to the fashionista-filled streets, he managed to meet and keep 6 girls entertained at the same time. The rest of us stood another table trying to look debonair, failing miserably. Magnus introduced us, and I think we were supposed to kiss their hands, like gentlemen (they were very posh). We shook their hands, awkvardly, and the show was all Magnus's again.  

Day 7: Bologna
The final day. As the others dropped me off in Bologna, I felt a bit alone and kind of blue. Giorgia, the receptionist at the hotel I was staying at, turned out to very nice and took effort to show me the best sights on the city map. Stefan, the night receptionist, provided me with apple juice as I was planning the rest of the trip by the computer. He was a strange cat. "You're so thin, you look like Brad Pitt, hein". No pun intended, I think he was actually just trying to be nice. Everyone knows I look like a young Paul Newman.


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