Italy Day 5 and 6: Florence

Day five started breakfast with at The Pirate and a train trip through Carrara to Florence. It took forever to find our bed and breakfast, the B&B Galileo 2000, but it was great: a comfy bed in a spacious room, in what looked like an old merchant's palace.

Italy Day 4: Vernazza

Italy Day 3: Vernazza

Italy Day 2: Vernazza

Italy Day 1: Milan

Vacation in Italy

Betsy and I leave for Italy tomorrow! A day in Milan on each end of the trip, with equal parts Cinque Terre and Tuscany in between. We're both excited, especially Betsy. It's her first trip to Europe, for her birthday. Watch for photos here when we get back.

Italian with a frozen face

Betsy and I are planning to go to Italy for her birthday, so I'm trying to learn some Italian. I like to walk around for 30 minutes, the length of one lesson, with my iPod, repeating the lesson out loud. This is socially awkward, but it gets me out of the house.

Today I went for my first walk with Italian. It's going to be extra-challenging to get the pronunciation right if the weather keeps up like this—it's 22° F today.

Northwest Christmas

I'm in Caffe Fiore in Ballard, reading a Stranger article about Barack Obama and sipping a luscious caffe breve. Feels like home.

Betsy and I are back in the Northwest for Christmas, visiting her family and mine. We're staying with friends tonight and in the meantime I'm relaxing. May go watch some English soccer with Josh today, do some shopping, play Eve. Probably some work, too.

It sure is nice to be back again.

Back in Seattle

Work brought me back to Seattle for a few short days. We moved our office upstairs to bigger digs and I helped set up the network. For my next trip to Montana the end of this week, I'm also helping polish up a hardware project.

Ben and Lindsey hosted me at their new house (thanks guys!). While waiting for them to return from climbing on my arrival day, I spent some time at the Farmer's Market in Ballard. I had a great veggie quesadilla and sat and read Alpinist 21 in the new Caffe Fiore.

Tonight we had a bunch of my friends over for some burgers and beer. I miss 'em and I hope everyone will come out and visit us in Boulder soon.

Convenient train pass for Tokyo visitors

Visitors to Tokyo can buy a cheap train pass that gets them a ride on the Narita Express (NEX) plus a Suica card with ¥2000 of credit on it, all for ¥3500. That's more than a 50% discount on a one-way trip to most NEX destinations, which itself is pretty nice, but the best part is the Suica card.

The credit-card sized Suica device lets you pass easily through station gates by pressing it against a pad, which records your trip and deducts credit from your account. A big time-saver, eliminating the need to stop and buy individual tickets for Tokyo-area JR train and subway lines, and indispensible for a business traveler trying to get to places on time. You can even buy snacks using the card at some kiosks. Add more credit to the card by feeding cash into machines next to where you'd normally buy tickets.

Don't worry about leaving a few yen on the card when you fly out—it's good for 10 years after you last use it, so you can get right on the subway after you arrive on your next trip.

More info here:

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