Friday, September 20, 2013
The first day in Italy, after our flight arrived late in the evening in Rome and we had picked up our rental car, we didn't have time to set up the GPS and depended on our wits alone upon getting to the hotel we had booked for the night. This was one of the few times we reached our destination with no problem whatsoever.
The next day we powered up the GPS, set our destination coordinates and set out.
Now, I haven't had much experience with a GPS, but Adva has. And except for the time that it tried to drive her off of the Jaffa port into the Mediterranean, she has had little to complain about. So, being quite trustworthy, we left the main highway (A12 / E80) at Ladispoli for the scenic route (SS1), as we headed north.
"The GPS will pick up the change," Adva said, in total innocence.
At the time, we didn't know that a GPS will do everything to keep you on the quickest route to your destination. It treated the concept of a scenic route or preferred side road with much disdain.
So we got off the highway headed west for the SS1. Our suspicions should have been first aroused when the GPS instructed us to take the fourth exit from the roundabout, sending us back in the opposite direction on the same road we had been on. A mistake, we thought. So we turned back around, ignored its repeated command to take the fourth exit at the roundabout and headed on. This definitely irked our GPS Hebrew speaker.
"In 100 metres, turn left!" she exclaimed.
Still trustworthy, we obediently did so and ended up following a garbage truck down what could only be called a cow trail.
"I will get out the Waze," Adva said.
The Waze is an Israeli invention which offers the best way to get from one point to another, taking into account traffic congestion, police traffic checkpoints, etc. As I continued down the cow trail and was instructed to turn onto another dirt road, the Waze became alive and another voice joined the melee.
"In another 100 metres, turn left," the Waze voice announced.
"In another 100 metres, turn right," the lady on the Israeli GPS countered.
"What am I supposed to do?" I shouted in desperation.
"I don't know!" Adva exclaimed. "Go straight!"
In short, we gave up on the scenic route and allowed ourselves to be taken back onto the highway. The GPS had clearly thought that it had won, but it didn't realize that we were putting together a counter strategy.
About an hour later, we bravely left the highway again and set out onto the side roads. Adva quickly fell in love with the squiggly lines on the map, representing roads with a maze of bends in the road and hills where you were constantly shifting in and out of gear. The GPS, in its rather sinister sense of humour, appeared to also enjoy the squiggly roads and was content in letting me struggle with them as long as I wanted. By mid afternoon, the GPS was doing quite well, getting things right about 70% of the time - and only sending us in circles the other 30%. In the end, we closed in on our B&B destination on the outskirts of Certaldo, but somehow both the GPS and the Waze couldn't get us directly to our target. Finally, stranded on a narrow road, an Italian woman on a bicycle graciously led us to our destination - despite the protest of both the woman on the GPS and the woman on the Waze.
"We just have to learn how to properly put in our destination," Adva said later over a glass of wine.
I merely nodded, knowing quite well that the GPS and I would be constantly at odds with each other with Adva in the middle. But the next day, as we stopped at different places in Tuscany for wine tastings, I gradually became much more forgiving of the GPS as well. As for the Waze, it was safely tucked away as we couldn't stand their bickering anymore.
But there came a point when even Adva could no longer award the GPS the benefit of the doubt. We had reached our second abode of accommodation - a farmhouse beautifully set out in the middle of a large vineyard about a ten minute drive from the town of Valiano. To get to the farmhouse from the main road, we had to drive up a long dirt path. The next morning, Adva set up our destination for the day on the GPS and we started driving down the dirt path towards the main road.
"In another 200 metres, make a U-turn," the woman on the GPS stated politely.
"What!" Adva said.
"In another 100 metres, make a U-turn," the voice said with increased authority.
"You've got to be kidding," I said.
"Make a U-turn now!" the woman exclaimed, as we reached the main road.
"Yeah, right," I said and turned right in the direction of Valiano.
After a couple of minutes, the woman conceded.
"In another eight kilometres, turn right," she said.
"She probably just got mixed up," Adva said, in her last attempt to forgive the GPS the errors of its way.
But the next morning, as we started down the dirt path towards the main road, we heard -
"In another 200 metres, make a U-turn."
And so this continued each day, for the four days that we stayed there.
But towards the end of our trip, we realized that the GPS was simply a part of the whole adventure.
"They say that the best thing is to get lost in Tuscany," Adva said.
And we did that quite well with the help of our GPS friend. So maybe we should thank her.
Friday, September 6, 2013
stood proudly before our front door
its shade protected us from the summer sun
its leaves and branches calmed winter winds
Birds fed off its berries
entertaining us with their early song
in spring its buds turned into beautiful flowers
where people gathered to share their awe
A black cat which long ago adopted us
climbed its branches in search of prey
but usually settled into a comfortable perch
casting a sleepy eye over the world below
From behind its branches we could hear laughter
of children from across the way
playing on the grass below
just as our own children played so many years before
And then early one day
the morning of the Eve of Rosh Hashana
we heard a loud crack
and then silence, no birds chirping more
Looking out the front
the world had changed before our eyes
our proud mighty friend
had collapsed and died
Stretched out on the lawn before us
in a great heap of broken roots and branches
the birds had flown away
and the cat was nowhere to be found
Tipping our hats
and paying our last respect
the saw began to hum
as we slowly cut the limbs away
Working all morning
through a maze of twisted branches
and solid trunk
we carried the last remains to a new resting ground
But people still stop in awe
to gaze at where the majestic tree once stood
for in its absence
its space it still fills