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by SS at 7:05 pm on Wednesday 14th July

I'm a bit worried that I'm in the wrong place - this is supposed to be the gate for the British Airways flight from Bologna to London Gatewick but there is no one else here. The Aerobus broke down on the way to airport and there were some amusing acts of Italian rage as fellow passengers saw the next Aerobus drive straight past us. Arriving at the airport, I rushed to the very busy checkin counter and managed to bypass the queue because I had checked in online. When going through security, lady looked at my boarding pass and said 'London this way, directing me to an empty queue - the only empty queue out of many full queues.

The only difference appeared to be the addition of an explosives scanner which, predictably, found nothing. Wandering around duty free, I struggled to find any genuine Italian coffee to gift my mother - a lifelong coffee addict (and hence coffee snob). Whether this Segafredo brand raw coffee from Costa Rica will be up to her taste, I am not sure. Quite whether it will even work in her fancy coffee machine is another matter.

My brief visit to Bologna was spurred by both growing boredom and restlessness at home (four years of summer jobs have rendered my ability to enjoy largely vacant periods of time null) and a desire to meet up with a TDA rider who I became good friends with before he unfortunately crashed out of the Tour on our second day in Ethiopia.

This was my second visit to Italy - my first being a school trip to the Lake Guardia region. Bologna is considerably older than much of what I recall of the last trip and I enjoyed the architecture. A student filled city, there was graffiti covering a lot of the area. While the vast majority of this was crass and unimaginative, there were some witty legitimate attempts at making a pictorial statement.

The city itself varies from being clean to dirty (although any traveller who has visited India will rejoice at the cleanliness). Walking the covered arcades that line the streets is fraught with danger from weaving cyclists. I was amused to see a girl on a bicycle trying to navigate a narrow gap between a row of tables and a shop front while eating a gelato with one hand and steering cum balancing with the other. Another danger is produced by the city's large dog populations and their careless owners - you can be as diligent as possible but will still dirty your shoes.

Moving onto more gastronomical and delicious matters, most people of the world are familiar with Italian food. Whatever you thought was good Italian food outside of Italy is easily matched by the cheapest street level pizzeria and for a meager 3, a margharita worth of happiness can be yours. Pasta is similarly wonderful although Vegetarians should be sure to question their assumptions when ordering about what most filled pasta actually contains.

The gelato is also a favourite of mine and, in the baking summer temperatures nearing 40 C, was the perfect treat (to be offset by about 12 hours of heavy cardio-although I wondered how all the patrons of
the parlour were so skinny). A final mention of the food, my host was insistent that I try the coffee. Apparently it is in another league to what is normally served as an espresso. Indeed it is that jolt of caffeine which is fuelling this literary burst and I can confirm that while most coffee irks me tremendously, this was at least drinkable (with a reasonable addition of sugar). The accompanying 'pasta', known to English speakers as a pastry, was much more palatable - imagine a croissant filled with Nutella in one half and custard on the other.

As a tourist, there is a fair amount to see. We followed one of the excellently presented walking tours courtesy of Tourist Information. The museum of modern art (mambo) was quite interesting, as were several churches. Most museums are usually free to visit but you may need to pay for special

On Saturday evening, we saw an Italian-subtitled American movie in a giant open air cinema in the main piazza of the city. While the movie itself (a 35 year old film called Nashville) seemed to lack a story line, the atmosphere was quite amazing - the piazza was packed full of thousands of people. Confused by the movie's lack of plot and aching from the brittle and unsympathetic chairs, we left early. Hopefully Google will be able to help us figure out the true intent of the movie.

On Sunday we took a state bus on a whim and travelled some distance out of the city to experience the rolling countryside hills. My host, a big road cyclist, related his stories of climbing the hills at just over 6kmph. He is a superb climber too so I imagine that I would most likely be walking.

That evening we watched the first half of the World Cup final in a packed Irish pub just off the main piazza. An overwhelming bias towards the Spanish side was obvious, for reasons I am unaware of. This was the first football match my host was watching and as he tried to work out the offside rule, he was quite amused at the ridiculous showboating of the world class soccer players. After play paused for half time, we went home to rehydrate ourselves via the local gelateria.

Despite trying our hardest to stream the football via the neighbour's wireless connection, we failed and thus I can maintain my achievement of not having watched the entire of a single world cup 2010 match.
Once I land back home, I will thankfully be reconnected to the world (my new mobile phone contract was annoyingly not enabled for roaming, leading to an interesting experience trying to contact my friend on arrival by first trying and failing to use a public payphone and then asking strangers nearby to use their mobile phones).

(The above post was written entirely on a touch screen keyboard. Intense.)

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