The first weekend in April was my first trip out of Paris! Beth arrived at CDG, we dropped off her suitcase at my apartment, and turned around and booked it back to CDG. We jumped on a plane to Frankfort after discovering that airport security doesn’t take kindly to Beth and her bottles of liquids, creams, and gels. If you happen to be hungry at the Frankfort airport, I recommend the giant wurst. They come mit bretzel or mit roll. If its Passover, Beth will eat your breztel. The breztels got rave reviews. I also discovered that the Frankfort airport is huuuuge. It takes a lot longer to walk across the airport than to eat their wurst – I recommend extra wurst for the journey.

We next flew to Verona, Italy, and then took a midnight train to Bolzano. Finally, we found the last cab in Bolzano to get to Selva Gardena, a little Italian town in the German speaking part of the Alps.  I discovered that I have a bit of trouble navigating German speaking regions, simply because the bulk of my knowledge of German comes from the Castle Wolfenstein series.  Shouting, “Schnell!  Schnell!” does not smooth things over with the natives.

So, why did we take every mode of transportation short of a rickshaw to get to a little town in the Dolomites?  To watch the 2010 Gardena Spring Trophy, of course!  My cousin Jason was competing for Team USA as a Junior National Champion, and he, his parents, and little brother Dylan all came from America for the event.  Cousin Lisa also came up from Rome, and friend of the family Elli came from Barcelona to round out the cheering section.

It turned out the competition (well, the second half) wasn’t until the evening, leaving all Saturday to explore Gardena (or Wolkenstein, as the Germans call it.)  The little towns in the region thrive mostly off of tourist dollars from Italians skiing the Dolomites, which Andrea tells me provide something like 130 km of ski runs to Gardena alone.

We arrived in Selva around 1am, it was pitch black out.  At breakfast the next morning, I noticed a man outside was wearing a green pointy felt hat with a feather in it.  Obvious Statement by me #1: “Hey, we’re in the Alps!”

A little later we left our hotel to explore.  Everyone knows the Alps are big.  But the scale is so incredible, that stepping outside the hotel immediately causes Obvious Statement #2, “The Alps are big!”  Look at those mountains in the background – ridiculous.

Beth and I took the ski-gondolas up to the top of the mountain, which rivalled the Frankfort airport in huuuge, but not as huuuge as one of the Dolomite formations next to the mountain.  We measured, it’s at least three Beths tall.

Beth also managed to get photobombed by Jesus.

We walked around Selva for a while, found some lunch (any meal in Europe takes at least two hours), and window-shopped the cute little Italian stores selling interesting Italian pastas.

Late in the afternoon we met up with Brown et al., who went skiing for the day, and walked over to the Gardena skating rink.  In order to keep the ice from melting, the rink keeps the entire building at LN2 temperatures.  Two weeks later, I still can’t feel my toes.

So, how’d the actual competition go?  Jason CRUSHED IT.

I’ve seen Jason skate before, but this was the first time I’ve ever gotten to see Jason compete.  I think this was his first competition as a US Junior National Champion (look at all those capital letters), and he just blew all the other Junior National skaters out of the water.  I don’t know much about the world of ice skating, but this kid is clearly the Next Big Thing in the world of skating.

After the competition we got to briefly congratulate Jason before Team USA snatched him away again.  Steve and  Marla took the rest of us out for a nice dinner, it was great to see everybody!

Sunday, Beth and I trekked home, although we had a six hour stop in Verona, which seems like a really cute little town.

Supposedly Verona has a bunch of Romeo and Juliet related sights, but we managed to miss all that.  What we did see in Verona is a girl who gets to ride around in a hippo-Segway giving out restaurant promo coupons!  We also managed to catch the tail end of Easter mass in Verona, making me now a better Italian Catholic than Loreto.  I’ll try to post more pictures of the weekend when I get a chance, but it’s bedtime here.  Did I mention the Hippoway?