Sunday, May 20, 2007

Using Powershell to move from iTunes to Windows Media Player (WMP11)

Update Oct 2011: If this helps, you may also be interested in Exporting songs in Windows Media Player by star rating.

This is only for the techies but this is what I spent my day on. I have been annoyed w/ iTunes for awhile now and since I finally killed my iPod it is time to try WMP again. I also wanted to play w/ powershell (which rulez) and this seemed like a good task.

This is a simple powershell script to take all of your music in your itunes library and import them into the WMP library. I deved this on vista x64, no idea if it works elsewhere. I don't see why it wouldn't. I also bring across the rating, which was frankly the point of this whole project. Everything else I was looking for seemed to be in the mp3 tags. If you want playcounts and similar, you can modify the script slightly to add the extra attributes. The logic is very simple, if we find something in a few days that needs to be added, it should be simple to fix (or at least, wipe and push new)

--snip: begin iTunes-WMP.ps1
#get itunes
$itunes=new-object -com itunes.application
$iTunesTracks = $itunes.LibraryPlaylist.Tracks

#get WMP
$wmp = New-object -COM WMPlayer.OCX
$WMPLibrary= $wmp.mediaCollection

#set vars
$rated = 0
$processed = 0
$added = 0
$1star = 0
$2star = 0
$3star = 0
$4star = 0
$5star = 0
$defstar = 0
$ctr = 0

#loop through tracks

foreach ( $ITSong in $iTunesTracks){
if ($ITSong.Location){
#add to WMP library
$newWMPTrack = $WMPLibrary.add($ITSong.Location)

#set rating
if ($ITSong.Rating) {

switch ($ITSong.Rating) {
"20" {
$newWMPTrack.setItemInfo("UserRating", 1)
"40" {
$newWMPTrack.setItemInfo("UserRating", 25)
"60" {
$newWMPTrack.setItemInfo("UserRating", 50)
"80" {
$newWMPTrack.setItemInfo("UserRating", 75)
"100" {
$newWMPTrack.setItemInfo("UserRating", 99)
default {
#so I have something to query for random nums
$newWMPTrack = 42

#so I have something to watch
if ($ctr%500 -eq 0) { Write-Host $ctr}

if ($ctr%50 -eq 0) { Write-Host -NoNewline $ctr "... "}


#output results
Write-Host "Processed: " $processed
Write-Host "Rated: " $rated
Write-Host "Added: " $added
Write-Host "1: " $1star
Write-Host "2: " $2star
Write-Host "3: " $3star
Write-Host "4: " $4star
Write-Host "5: " $5star
Write-Host "def: " $defstar

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Castles in the Sand

Castles in the Sand
Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
I slept most of the ride to Essaouira. I woke periodically to take in the scenery. I was mostly woken by some little shit with a drum toy, aren’t there parents here? How is this acceptable? The landscape was semi arid and, as I mentioned in the last installment, similar to NM. The bus was nearly an express with just a few stops for people and an ‘intermission’ stop (at the Kasbah, no rocking for us though). It still took about 3.5 hours before we crested a hill looking down into the surf town of Essaouira.

There are a couple of rumors about Essaouira. One is that Hendrix’s song ‘Castles in the Sand’ is written about a rock formation just off the beach. Apparently, Hendrix and other of his contemporaries liked to hang out here. Hendrix bought a hotel at some point. There is some debate as to whether the song is really about this rock but the rock does look like a castle melting into the sand. I guess I could investigate but I am going to prefer to believe the rumors for now.

We got off the bus at the station to the familiar clamor of people vying for your money. This wasn’t really any worse than any non affluent town but we were still a bit bruised from Marrakech. We looked into passage back to Marrakech for the next day and found a 5pm bus to be the best option. We bought tickets and started out towards the beach.

Not wanting to deal with the taxis, we decided to try to walk to the beach. Of course, the bus station wasn’t on the map we had so we were pretty much guessing the direction. Judging from the seagulls, we were pretty sure the ocean was just over this large defensive wall. What we weren’t sure of was whether the city was north or south of us. We spied an opening in the wall and headed back to look down the beach in an attempt to see what we could find. The smell got worse and worse as we went farther back. This quickly developed into the worst smell I have ever ever ever smelled. I disregarded it at first and pushed on to get to the edge of the abandoned building so I could peer down the beach. 3 children were playing in this building and this smell. They came up to us asking for dirhams. One of the boys had an oozing hole in his head. Between them grabbing on me and the stench, I realized it was time to go. I was dizzy from the nasal assault. Indeed, for at least an hour, my nasal passages felt burnt out and for hours the memory of the smell would return. I felt like it had invaded me. Later in the day, when we passed the fish market, I realized that the root of the smell was rotten fish. I don’t know if there was a big dump of fish guts back there or what but it was rough.

We kept wandering into a gradually more and more crowded areas. It definitely seemed we were going the right way. We decided to stop at a hotel and ask how much so we had some idea of what we were getting into. The riad owner was quite nice. Of course, at this point, we had no idea that he was actually nice, just another smiling Moroccan offering something. The room was pretty cheap, had a bathroom and had a beautiful rooftop terrace with a view of the beach. We decided to just park there and be done with it.

After dropping our stuff, we headed out to the beach. The beach was nice, wide slope of sand though there was some garbage around. Lots of people around, playing futbol and relaxing. There were even some women in bathing suits. Must be tourists.

We walked the length of the beach, maybe a mile. Our destination was toward the castles in the sand, seemed as good of a destination as any. We passed the windsurfers and kite surfers. That kite surfing looks fun. We passed a camel stand, I assume they were there offering rides but they didn’t press us after we said no the first couple times. There were probably 20 camels and horses hanging out. They were well out of the main beach area, a destination unto themselves I guess. As we approached the castles, we realized that they were protected by a moat. An inlet of ocean water formed an effective river around the closest land to the rock formations. I had thought to ford it but it was actually a bit bigger than I initially thought and proved to be an effective deterrent.

We wandered back down the beach. This town was pretty nice. Had we not been bruised by Marrakech, this would be a very nice place.

Back to the hotel for a bit of rejuvenation before we headed out to see the sunset. I had hoped to find a place to eat dinner and see the sunset. We found one rooftop bar that was pretty nice but super expensive. Drinks were over 10$USD. It was quite a nice vibe up there though. I was ready to bite the bullet and eat there but apparently they only bring food up to the first two floors, not the terrace. Go figure. At least they had olives that were good. They may have been the first good olives I have ever had actually. We wandered on, past the fish market with its myriad of seagulls swarming above. This is when I realized the root of The Smell. They had a junior version hanging around the fish market but it was far less overwhelming. More of a Karate Kid to the other area’s Bruce Lee of smells.

We ended up watching the sunset from a square on the water which was quite beautiful. After wards, we tried to walk down the beach to th e surfer bar but it was closed when we got there. Doh!

Back up to ‘town’, we found a really nice restaurant off a small square. Decent prices, good food, a very nice place. I took a card, if I manage to find it, I will post recommendations about the restaurant and the hotel. Finally had some couscous. Also had a taster’s choice of yummy nut/honey/pastry things. Various types of baklava basically but with different nuts. Yum.

Didn’t find much in the way of night life in the town so we just headed back to the hotel and hit the sack.

Awoke the next morn and wandered down to the beach for breakfast. We found that the café we had lunch at the day before seemed to be the only thing open. No breakfast (or any cooked food) until 12 though. Ahh well, we had some teas and juices and pain au chocolat to hold us over. I dig the berber whiskey, but I like mint in general.

We ended up passing most of the day sitting on the beach watching the activity and talking/debating. Tough life, I know.

Eventually, we decided to head back to the hotel and see if the advertised massage was available. With such short notice, and we had already checked out of the room, we couldn’t get that one. He did find a friend to help me though. It was like 200 dirhams (25$) for a 1+ hour massage. I was initially skeptical but he mentioned that it was a traditional hamman massage and the price wasn’t too daunting. I decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, I have forgotten my guide’s name, I should have written this earlier.

I left everything valuable with zach in the riad and went down the alleys with this guy. He spoke a bit of English but conversation was strained. He led me through back alleys to the hamman. It wasn’t the most direct route to the destination but it was the local route, avoiding the main shopping roads. Reminded me a bit of getting around in Taos.

The hamman episode was quite an experience. We entered a small door that I would never have called out as special, except perhaps by traffic. Inside is a dimly lit basement/tiled cave. We walked in to the first room and there were a couple men sitting around minding stacks of buckets. Really they just seemed to be hanging around there as my guide did all the work. We went into the next room which as a fully tiled room with a bench around. This was the changing area. Absolutely no nudity. It was all men at this point. Apparently, the women do this ritual in the nude but men wear shorts. Even when changing into the shorts, you wrap a towel around your waist and change under it.

After changing we went through a small wooden door. The door was weighted to close by hanging a half full plastic bottle on a string above the door. When pushed open the bottle would move with the door but its weight would force the door shut. Simple but effective.

Immediately beyond the door was another tiled room. Some light filtered into the dim room through an obscured window. Having read a bit about the hammans, there is supposed to be a cold, hot and very hot area (or cold, tepid, and warm in the bad ones). I assumed this was one of the cold or warm rooms, it turns out it was both with different water sources. We ducked through a low archway into the next room.

This room was darker, having an even smaller dirtied window above us at ground level. The wall and floors were tiled. In one corner there was a small fountain with a pool of water below. This was the very hot area. The water was a little cooler than a hot bath, pleasant and hot but not burning. There were pairs of locals washing each other. Some would just wash each others backs but some would wash each other fully. Still absolutely no nudity, you washed yourself under the shorts.

My guide pointed to one end of the small room. He poured a bucket of hot water down on the floor and directed me to lay there. This part was definitely not for anyone squeamish about cleanliness. I ended up laying on my stomach on the ancient floor with my forehead pressed against the tiles. He produced a rough sponge from his wash bag and proceeded to scrub me down. Having a bit of sunburn, this was a painful. After the exfoliation, he gave me a massage. I can only thing of this as a manly massage. Painful at times, very deep, lots of stretching me in different ways. It seemed very much a warrior’s massage. Quite good, laying on the floor, as uncomfortable as it is, does allow for more mobility than a massage table.

After the massage, we got up and went to the warm end of the other room. This was just for normal washing. My guide washed me down with a bit more massage in the warm water. When I asked him about his soaps and lotions later, he was very proud to point out that they had no perfumes. I got the feeling that this was very important to him. Thinking about it, I believe I read that it is hard to make a soap that doesn’t stink without masking the smell in perfumes. After all was said and done, we rinsed with the cold water to bring our core temperatures down.

We headed out, changed, and made our way back to the hotel. Quite an experience, I think I should make it a goal to try different massage styles around the world.

I found Zach at the riad. We gathered our stuff and headed for the bus station. The bus stopped at the Kasbah. I got off this time and wandered into the shop. I guess my French accent is getting better. The shop keep came up and said “bonjour’. “bonjour, ca va?” I replied. He responded he was good and asked me how I was, “comme si, comme sa” (so so) I replied. Then he took off into French and I had admit I was lost. With French being a primary language here, I was pretty happy to get that far. He of course, smoothly switched to English but didn’t really hassle me after I said I was just browsing.

Neither Zach nor I could really face the idea of going back to old city so we hopped off the bus at the stop before, in new city Marrakech. We found a modern hotel for about $50US/night. We dropped our stuff and went out to find some dinner. This was a whole new Marrakech. This was a modern city with a North African twist. About a billion times nicer than old city, we sat outside and ate dinner on a large street. I tried the camel (tastes like beef) while we watched the locals stream by. My god, there are a lot of beautiful women there.

I realize, in hindsight, that our main mistake was staying in old city. With how obnoxious the airport was, and after heading directly into the obnoxiousness of the Medina, I didn’t get there was a ‘not shitty’ part of Marrakech. Had we stayed in the new city and visited the old city as a tourist attraction, it would have been much nicer.

We weren’t through yet. We thought our flight left at 10 but it turned out to be 10:50 so got to the airport nearly 3 hours before our flight was due to depart. It was a good thing though. This part was even more unorganized than coming in. As soon as our flight started check in, we jumped in line. We were pretty close to the front of the massive queue that formed as they leisurely checked us into the flight. After waiting through that queue, there was a queue to get into the customs area, and then a huge queue in customs. We had to fill out the same stupid landing card and sit there while he typed everything in and didn’t ask any questions. By this point, we are getting worried about missing our flight. Even with the 3 hours in the airport, we barely made it through customs before boarding time. After customs, I was worried about getting through security. I was carrying a big water bottle and I had an ‘illegal’ bottle of sun screen in my bag (we had paid 10$ for the small bottle, I was going to wait until they made me throw it away). I would have dumped the water but saw no garbage cans to do such. As customs was only trickling people through, security had no line. I was scrambling to put my phone and camera and stuff in my bag for the x-rays but the guy waved me off and motioned me through the metal detector. I, of course, set off the alarm but he quickly patted my chest once in a mimicry of a search and waved me through.

I ended up having 5 minutes to run through the duty free. I picked up some weird fig liquor. It is Marrakech in a bottle. When you take a sip, it tastes terrible, then there is a part that isn’t so bad, kind of good even, and then it tastes terrible again. Marrakech in a bottle.

Once we finally got on the plane, we were delayed for an hour because there were 129 people on board and they only expected 128 or something. We all had to be rechecked for boarding passes. Eventually the airport manager guy came on and started yelling at the crew saying that 128 + a baby is a stupid distinction, the count is 129 now get out of my airport.

And you would think the travels would be over then. Coming into Luton, we were getting really low and there was still no runway below us. The pilot actually had to give a big boost of engine just before we touched down to catch the edge of the runway. Then the bus to the train station had a driver with a primadonna moment when he started telling people he wasn’t moving until more people used the luggage racks. Ahh well, eventually, we made it home. Coming back to the first world was my birthday present and it was a good one.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"I just want out"

Lost in the souks
Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
Ooh my god it’s funking early. In order to catch our 7am flight, we had to get up and out of the house by about 4:30am. Of course, we got to bed early, just after midnight. Ahh well, slept on the flight. Nothing fancy at this airport, we stepped out onto the tarmac and wandered over to the customs lines. The lines were terribly unorganized and it took us at least an hour to get through. The annoying thing was that after all that time, they didn’t even ask any questions. I guess they used the time to enter the data from your landing card into the system. Why that needs to be done in real time, I have no idea.

We found the one working atm in the airport. There was a ‘helpful’ local standing over it and ‘helping’. A bit sketchy but we needed the dirhams. Once through that hurdle, we went out to the taxis. After a short argument over price, which we lost, we settled on 150 dirhams. This is only about 20 bucks but it is still far more than we should have paid and really set the stage when he took us down the road and then pulled over to argue for more money.

The driving was crazy, as it is in most 3rd world countries. This guy was passing on both sides and forcing oncoming traffic out of the way. His English, which seemed fine when we were bargaining for money, was curiously degraded when we asked about town. In any case, he got us to the square and directed us down an alley to, ostensibly, our hotel. Completely wrong directions though.

I had other directions from a friend at work and we found our way to a small riad just south of Fna Square, Hotel Nissam. For 200 dirhams (25$) we got two beds and a wash basin in a quiet riad courtyard. The riads are really nice in Morocco. They seem to be a tranquil oasis in the midst of the bustle and assault of the city.

We dropped our stuff off and headed to the Fna square. There were monkey handlers and snake charmers and all sorts of interesting things in the square. We found a café overlooking the square and stopped for lunch.

We decided to head out to Essaouira for a day trip the next day. It was either that or the mountains and maybe the dessert. Both sounded nice but we chose the beach. The bus to the beach was supposed to leave from Bab Aganou. We went looking for this through the winding alleys that made up the Medina (old city). Keeping a sense of direction was quite difficult in the winding alleys. There was traffic of all sorts, from donkeys to motorbikes to cars. Stray cats everywhere.

Eventually, we found the wall between the new and old city. We were trying to determine which way to go when we met Ali. He explained a couple of the options to get to the beach and took us to the various desks at the bus station, etc… After we squared away our Essaouira tickets, he offered to take us around ‘the real Marrakech’. Well, not so much offered as started taking us. I asked him how much he wanted and he said ‘what ever it’s worth to you’.

Ali said he had a craft fair that only happened once a week that he would show us. Somewhere ‘only the locals knew’. Alright, whatever, supposedly violent crime in low in this city and we had nothing better to do. He took us to a beautiful riad deep in the twisting streets the medina. It was really quite nice. Then he took us to a small shop where we met a berber merchant. Apparently they are part of some collective, this is where the street vendors buy their wares, this song, that dance. The merchant was a likeable sort and he brought us out some ‘berber whiskey’ (mint tea). After the tea, we browsed his shop and ended up buying a few things. The haggling was all done on paper and was very ritualized. He knew exactly what he was doing though and extracted a bit more money than we meant to spend. At one point, we realized that Ali was doing drugs in the bathroom. My guess is he just brings people to this guy in return for a couple hits. Not sure what it would be, maybe opium?

When we were finished and feeling a little ‘taken’, we stepped outside to find Ali waiting for us (with newly bleeding gums). He walked us about 50 ft down the street and said that we could get back to the square if we just took the first left. We gave him a bit of money and he hemmed and hawed. We ended up giving him about 120 dirhams (15$). Looking back at the scam later, it was too much. Especially since his directions to the square were nothing even approaching adequate.

Thoroughly lost in the souks, we wandered around trying to find the square. At one point a little kid mentioned he knew where the square was and took off in one direction. We told him not to bother but him and a multiplying number of kids kept going with us. Not 50 yards and 2 turns down the alley he mentions that the square is just down there, right and then right. With that he puts his hand out. We gave him a coin or two and that just pissed him off. I was a bit worried at this point b/c he had assembled a not small posse of little shits. We pointed out that we didn’t ask for his help. By this point I was getting fucking annoyed and sick of the town in general. We pushed our way out of that but by this point we were annoyed with the whole situation.

While wandering through alley after alley of crap for sale, I saw an exchange that about summed it up. One of the vendors spotted a middleaged, overweight woman. “Can I help you? Would you like to sit?” he asks. Her reply was a pitiful sounding “I just want get out” (of the souks I am sure). “Let me call my friends, they will help” came the reply. I have no doubt that they would take her 3 or 4 turns, get some money and she would be as lost as she was when she started.

After having to fight off plenty of people who wanted to ‘help’, we eventually found our way out. As an aside, I think this is what annoyed me most about Marrakech. I like travel as an opportunity to meet people from different places and see how we view the world differently. In a place like this, everybody is smiling and helpful and absolutely on the con. And if they happened not to be, you wouldn’t know it bc damn it sure seems like everybody is trying to wheedle money out by any means necessary. There was absolutely no feel of camaraderie or interest in anything other than what they could extract. It reminded me of the feeling some people have of stealing from large corporations and how it isn’t stealing. The whole thing made me wonder why I bothered coming there at all. In retrospect, I realize that we should have stayed out of the center of town. Coming from the airport (annoying), to the old town (annoying), I didn’t realize there was not-old town. I think it would have been fine as a thing to see for a couple of hours. As an enveloping situation, it was just a pain in the ass. It was definitely the most obnoxious tourist trap I have found.

When we finally found the square. It was more bustling that before. There was even a guy selling human teeth. We headed through the square and back to the riad to regroup. The riad was a welcome bit of tranquility.

When we headed back out for dinner, we were immediately accosted by merchants of various types. We found a restaurant on Bab Agnou and ate some dinner. Next door was a riad with a massage. Hmmm… massage sounds good. I signed up for one and the guy was very good. Feeling a bit better after the massage, I headed back to the riad to find Zach.

We headed over to the one place nearby to get a beer. The Hotel Grand Tazi. Being a Islamic culture, drinking is frowned upon. Apparently there are a few bars but they are considered, well I guess sinful and only prostitutes or johns would go there. The only other place to get drinks are in hotels.

After a couple of drinks, we finally felt a bit relaxed. We headed back to the square which was still hopping. There were lots of interesting things to look at but anywhere you looked would cause a guy to come over and follow you trying to get you to come into his store or restaurant. Even as I munched on a kebab I had bought, the restaurant vendors wouldn’t take the hint after the first 5 ‘no’s. Even stopping at a drum circle, it wasn’t 30 seconds before somebody was there asking for money. When we told him no, he started shooing us away so we couldn’t stand there. Eventually, we gave up and headed back to the riad.

We were up early the next morning to catch the 8am bus out of town. Not that we were exactly sorry to leave Marrakech. The bus station was a marvel of chaos. Buses bumping people out of the way when they wouldn’t move out of the way fast enough. There were some people in uniforms or with clipboards that looked official trying to direct things. There were at least 4 times as many guys in plain clothes either standing around or doing some directing of their own. A couple of buses started to leave with people running up along side, throwing their luggage on the bus and then running to get in the open door.

This was our first glimpse of the new city. It looks much nicer. There are still big piles of garbage but at least they are generally within 20 ft or so of actual garbage cans.

The bus driver drove like a madman, passing other buses and a sundry vehicles. We rocketed through a terrain that reminding me of a poorer NM. Lots of adobe looking building and shepherds. With one stopover, the bus took a good 3.5 hours to get to Essaouira.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hiking the Cinque Terra

Riomaggiore Sunset
Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
Next up, we hopped a train to Cinque Terra. CT was remembered as a favorite from my 98 backpacking tour. You never know if things will be as good as you remember them but this one is a winner. It has changed a bit, and I have changed a lot, but this place is one of my favorites.

Train is a great way to travel. As air travel has gotten so obnoxious, it makes train seem great in comparison. No body cavity searches, customs is generally easy, center of town to center of town. For anything less than about a 75 minute flight, it is generally quicker too. Anyway, the train through the Italian countryside was great. Even better after the two older Turkish couples sharing our cabin left. Not that there was anything wrong with them, they were pleasant enough. We chatted a bit and they were on their way to take a Mediterranean cruise. But once they left we had the cabin to ourselves and could stretch out.

We hit La Spezia with a bit of extra time so we stopped across the street from the small train station for a glass of wine. They brought out some apertifos that looked like green olives with the stem. Inside were a bunch of soft seeds the size of bbs. Odd and I still have no idea what they were.

We caught a quick train back up the line to our destination. We started talking to a group of traveling girls and almost didn’t make it off the train. I thought we were stopped in a tunnel out side of a station until Zach pointed out that there were people walking by the train. Luckily we managed to dash off the train before the doors closed.

The train leaves you looking at the Mediterranean in Rio Maggiore. This is the smallest of the 5 villages of Cinque Terra. I guess these were fishing villages, the land around is also good for some grapes but mainly citrus and spices. Apparently, until about 100 years ago, the only way to get from town to town was this hike from village to village. All the towns are perched on the cliffs at the edge of the water with steep narrow pathways to get around the town. We wandered up the central path to find the guy with our reservations.

Last time I came to CT, I just wandered to the bar and asked for a room. I think that still works for most times. During Easter though, the place was pretty packed and I didn’t risk it. We found the booking guy and he started to lead the way up to our place. This place ended up being at the very top of the hill. We just kept going and going. He mentioned there was a shortcut but that it was too early in the season, he wasn’t in good enough shape to go that way yet. As we approached the place, he pointed out a 90yr old man that still manages to get up there (it’s not like there were any escalators anywhere). OK, I guess I can suck it up. We had a single room in a 4 room house with 2 shared bathrooms. Not so bad, our room had a commanding view of Rio Maggiore and we could see the sea through the trees.

We headed down the shortcut which was basically a small stone alleyway/staircase that went all the way down to town. When I was first here, I had the best pizza in the world at this place so I wanted to return. The place was called Gigi’s or similar and the pizza was pretty damn good. I have traveled a bit more and met some other good pizzas. This is still in the top tier though. I also had a side of some pesto pasta that was delicious. What really topped the meal though was the Tiramisu. Wow, that was the best tiramisu ever. We contemplated ordering a second round.

After an excellent meal, we wandered to the water (which pretty much completed our tour of town). We stopped at the bar but we were tired and ready to hit the sack to be up for the hike the next day. Besides, I wasn’t sure it would be trivial to find our way back up the hill.

We caught the train to Monterosso at around 10 or so. I prefer to do the Cinque Terra hike from Monterosso to Rio Maggiore. This is mainly b/c the hard legs are between Monterosso and Vernazza and Vernazza and Corniglia. I like to get the harder stuff done first. The first leg is the hardest and the second leg is the most varied. If you only have time for one leg, definitely make it Vernazza to Corniglia. One thing that has changed since my first trip was that it is now a National Park. As far as I can tell this means that they charge you for the hike now. There was also a lot more people on the hikes.

Even so, the hike is amazing. The trail is a couple hundred feet up from the water, which you can see on your right. It winds through small farms of grapes, citrus, and herbs. Most of the path is dirt there are plenty of places to fall you your, well, at least marked unfortune. Many of the worst places do have handrails and whatnot. Even with all the people, the hike was stunning.

Each town has its own character and you can pick some of that as the trail winds through the town. We stopped in the middle town, Corniglia. Unfortunately, there was just too many people. We sat at a restaurant for a bit but got no service so we left once our initial exhaustion had worn off. We stopped at a pizza spot, selling slices and such. I assumed it would be quick and grabbed a soda out of the fridge and opened it b/c I was thirsty. The damn line to get food turned out to be nearly an hour. The pizza was good when I finally got it but it was just too crowded.

The next 2 legs are much easier though there are a considerable number of stairs coming out of Corniglia. Manarossa to Rio Maggiore is known as the ‘Lovers Walk’. We stopped for a drink at a café near Rio Maggiore. Tried a local Limoncello. Meh. Nice place though. Great view.

We headed back into town and up the hill to the room. I passed out for a bit and Zach headed into town. After a pleasant nap, I headed down to bar centrale and found Zach. On the way in from the walk, we found a bar/café on the far side of the train station that looked like it may have an ocean view. We stopped there for sunset. Had some munchies that were just excellent. The tomatoes must be local, they were fantastic. Met a couple that was recommending Vernazza’s square for nightlife. Wine bars around a big square. It did sound nice, maybe next time.

We went back to our new favorite restaurant, Gigi’s. We weren’t really hungry, we just wanted more tiramisu. We weren’t as early this time and had to wait to get a table. It wasn’t so bad, we spent the time chatting with random travelers. I had the same pasta from last night (though I ordered the lasagna). It was still great. I was realizing that I was pretty full from the last meal still. Unfortunately, they were out of tiramisu. We had some fantastic chocolate thing in its place but it was no tiramisu. Doh!

Thoroughly stuffed, we headed up the hill and passed out.

After a nice breakfast of crepes and cappuccino at the Bar Centrale, we caught a train to La Spezia. This place was a madhouse. All the trains to Milan were sold out. Our next best bet was to take a train to Genova and hope to connect from there. The train was absolutely packed, standing room only for a few stops. Then we hit Monte Rossa and everybody got off to go to the beach. That is one big plus about Monte Rossa is they have the nice beach. Once we got seats, it was a beautiful train ride up the Mediterranean coast to Genoa. Found a connecting train in Genova that left in about an hour so we wandered and found some food. I wanted one more pasta meal but it wasn’t to be before we left italy. It left me hankering for pasta for weeks. We trained to milano and then bussed to the airport. Flew to London, caught the Stansted Express back to London. Too late for the tube so we walked towards the bus and by some miracle found a taxi near Liverpool st station. When we finally got back we had be traveling for some 14 hours. Ahh well, it was worth it.

Quickstep through Milan

Originally uploaded by cornasdf.

We hit Milan pretty late. Caught the bus from the airport to the central station and then a taxi to the hotel, the ABC Hotel. The location was good and central, the hotel itself looked pretty sketchy from the outside (just a small sign in a row of industrial looking buildings). When you finally wind your way through the buildings to the hotel though, it was pretty nice. Breakfast served in a nice little bar area with a great patio/terrace type thing.

It was late and we were hungry so we headed out looking for food. There was a ‘sinese’ place across the street but we decided to pass that up. Turned out to be a bad idea as every where else was closed. Even the Chinese when we went back was closing. After we wandered for a while we found a nice hotel and asked them. They directed us to Navigli. This worked out b/c I had heard of Navigli and wanted to go there. This is supposed to be a happening nightlife spot and a good spot for apertifos.

We did find our way there but everything was closed there as well. We found one restaurant that would sell us some pre made sandwiches. Nothing without meat though. I bought one but zach had to pass them up. That left, I am ashamed to say it, McDonalds. What else would you want to eat in italy but Micky-Ds? They aren’t kidding about the difference in sizes though; the medium coke I got was maybe 12 ozs.

Woke the next morning and enjoyed the hotel breakfast in the garden terrace. It was a very nice spot and a great way to start the day.

Our first stop was the Duomo. This thing was amazing. There are a few pictures but they cannot capture how vast and beautiful the building really is. It is one of the things that I feel my life is richer for having seen. It is amazing what people will do for their gods.

We tried to find the Bellini gallery but ended up wandering around lost for an hour or two. Milan is the economic center of Italy. The joke being that it is the only place any body does any work in Italy.

We eventually found the big castle park thing (If I had internet access I would look up the name but I don’t). We ate a surprisingly good sandwich from a vendor outside the castle. We headed in and wandered through a couple museums that they had inside. Saw a great, well preserved mummy among other things. There was a half finished Micheangelo statue that was really interesting as well. Only one leg was fully finished, the rest of the statue was roughly sketched out. You could see gross details such the nose and eye sockets but it was still very rough stone. Great to see into the artistic process like that.

After we felt cultured enough, we decided to head back to Navigli for some apertifos. The first place we found didn’t have any so, after a drink, we ended up wandering again. We did find a great pastry on the way. We eventually found a nice bar on the side of a canal well away from Navigli. Turns out, there were doing apertifos too. They had a spread of good food from small bruchetta types to pasta to kebabs to salads and more. All of it was pretty good too. Buy a drink and get free apertifos from 5 to 9. A fella could get used to this.

Wandering around that day and sitting there that evening, I realized why Italy was forced to pass that model law. If you hadn’t heard, they passed a law saying that models had to be at least a certain weight. It is still a pretty low weight, IIRC it is 105lbs or something. When I heard of this, I thought it was kinda dumb. But seeing how many women in Italy were so, so thin trying to emulate these models, I begin to see the need for such a statement.

We eventually wandered on to a hip spot near on the way to our hotel. It is a shell of a bombed out church that has been made into a city park with restaurants and bars all around it. We stopped at one of the bars and met some localish types. (They were half brit but had been in italy for a long time). They were lawyer types and liked to argue so we spent a bit of time in discussion. They did talk us out of stopping in Genoa on the way to Cinque Terra though.

Eventually, we headed back to the hotel. Milan was quite nice. I don’t think you need much more than a day and a night to see what you need to see though.

We woke the next morn and had a breakfast in the garden again. We had realized we had no pics of the Duomo from the outside so we headed up to get some on our way out. One thing I hadn’t noticed the day before was the 100 ft skeleton laying outside in the square. Not sure what the deal was about that, it was basically human but had a pointy nose. Quite odd.

We rushed to the train station but just missed the train. Another leaves in 2 hours so we got tickets for that one. About this time we realized we had lost a hat and book so we headed back towards the duomo. Most likely place was the café we had stopped in, so we went there. Luck was with us and we found our stuff. Now we were back at the duomo with an hour or so to kill so we wandered through some major shopping center. Milan is a shopping mecca. These were all 5th ave type posh shops.

Zach had missed the hotel breakfast so we went looking for food. Everything in the shopping center was too posh. We ended up seeing down some side street a huge line of people waiting in line for some pizza type shop. I wasn’t even hungry but I had to see what the fuss was about. It was Panzerotti, which is more or less a folded pizza, similar to a calzone. I had a spicy Italian sausage and it was excellent.

We headed back to the train station and wandered through some gem/stone shop. Some great carvings there. They knew it too, many were thousands of euros. Eventually our time came and we hopped the train to La Spezia.