Hello, bonjour! I am now settled in the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel and Resort, and it is pretty much the best place ever. I'll have lots of time to rave about it in the coming week though once I've seen and done more here, for now I want to talk about the last few days doing the tourist thing in Italy. So timex, ch0ppy (Matt), and I stayed in San Remo Sunday night and played online tournaments until 7am or whatever because of the time difference. Our plan was then to check out Pisa and Florence before heading to Monte Carlo for the EPT grand final, but at the last minute while we were looking for hotel/finalizing our plans before leaving timex dropped out and decided to just stay in San Remo and be a degenerate, so only ch0ppy and I ended up going. We decided to try to keep the trip cheap so we ended up booking a cheap hotel in Pisa for 3 nights. The first night we arrived and crashed almost immediately after a quick wander around town and bite to eat. The second day we went to see the leaning tower as well as checking out the rest of "Piazza dei Miracoli", or Square of Miracles as it is called. The third day we went to Florence for the day and did one of those open top bus tours all around the city.
So day 1 ch0ppy and I leave timex passed out and hop on the train towards Pisa. We transfer in Genova and arrive in Pisa around 4 or 5pm after a 5 and a half hour journey counting wait time for our transfer. It's a short cab ride to our hotel from Pisa Centrale but as tired as we are it's still too early to sleep. We decide to kill some time wandering around Pisa looking for a decent place to eat and end up at a pizzeria by our hotel. Our server looks like the stereoypical Italian pizza man from North American tv/movies which amuses ch0ppy greatly. We're so tired we can't even finish our pizzas and we're passed out in our uncomfortable 45 Euro/night beds by 8:30.
We sleep in until just before 10am and miss breakfast, but we're feeling refreshed and ready to do the tourist thing. We get a cab to the Square of Miracles and after grabbing lunch at a place the cab driver recommended nearby (the only cab driver we had in Pisa that spoke any english beyond "leaning tower" or "train station") we see the tower for the first time. It really is a pretty remarkable building to see first hand. The lean is quite pronounced (approximately 5 degrees, though it was even more than that in the 1990s before it was closed and scientists had to figure out a way to straighten it up a bit and prevent its collapse), and the white marble with which it is built is quite striking. We paid our 15 Euros each to go inside and climb the ~295 steps to the top, and it really is a spectacular view down on the city, the cathedral, and the rest of the square. We next paid our 10 Euros to check out the rest of the buildings of the square. The cathedral was quite nice as well. I've never been inside one before so I was very impressed, though the Duomo in Florence the next day blew it away, but the rest of the square was quite underwhelming, though we did end up learning a lot about the history of Pisa and the Square of Miracles. I also paid 30 Euro-cents to take a piss. Go figure.
The next day was a quick hour long train ride to Florence where we met skier_5 (Tommy) at his hotel and went for lunch. The three of us then got on one of those hope on hop off open roof bus tours of Florence. We went around on the first line seeing some of the sights, only hopping off on a terrace across the river from the main part of the city where there was a statue by Michelangelo and a great view down on Florence. We then all went to the Duomo (cathedral) which was really nice. Most impressive was the huge mural way way up high on the ceiling. We paid to go all the way up to the top of the building and get a closer look at that mural on the way up to really appreciate how huge it is, as well as an incredible view down on to the city. ch0ppy and I then went around on the 2nd bus line which took us way out into Fiesole. We then met back up with skier and Ben Straate (straate on Stars, when I first started playing cash games seriously we were both 3/6 NL regulars on Stars and he was probably the first really aggressive really good player I ran into regularly. Most regs were nits and the few LAGs were terribly spewy. We both moved up to the bigger games fairly quickly.) for dinner. We tried to join them for drinks after but we ran out of time looking for a good bar and ch0ppy and I had to get back to the train station so we could crash back in Pisa for the night.
Yesterday ch0ppy and I checked out of our cheap hotel with no tv or internet and hopped on the train towards Monte Carlo. There were some delays and decently long waits for transfers so the trip took a lot longer than it was supposed to but we finally arrived in Monte Carlo around 9pm. So far I have nothing bad to say about the place. Most of the people we've met speak both english and french very well (french being the official language here), the city looks gorgeous, and the hotel/resort is amazing. More on that note once I've been here longer. I'm sorry no pictures for now. I took a lot in Pisa but my camera battery died and I don't seem to have the charger with me so you'll have to wait on those. ch0ppy got a lot of pictures of everything I missed though. Time to stop sitting in my room and go check this place out. A bien tot,