God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
OK--I posted yesterday and two in a row is not my normal MO--but, this I couldn't resist.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
At our little party, Barb rhapsodized over the red, ripe, juicy, delicious tomatoes available in a bunch of varieties and sizes everywhere in Italy. It seems she hadn't been able to eat their bland, tasteless cousins here in the US. I sort of nodded and rather listlessly agreed with her, not giving a whole lot of thought to the question.
As I wrote last year, coming back to the states after our extended stays in Italy, demands adjustment time. The first few trips to the grocery store, I reflexively look for the basket of cellophane gloves. Produce is not to be touched by bare hands--no multiple shoppers squeezing and handling that peach before I buy it--makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? I look for the scale which provides a price sticky to adhere to the bag after I weigh the produce--makes check out a lot faster and easier. Walking up to the store, I reach into my wallet to get the coin needed to unlock the cart and then realize that we don't do that here. Instead, we have traveling carts finding their way to homes, schools and roadsides. The Italian system works because the shopper reclaims the euro by reattaching the cart to the chain.
Of course, we have some transportable ideas, too. For example, people who bag our groceries. This is really appreciated the days I do a big shopping. In Italy it is a quite a challenge to pay and bag before the next customer's purchases begin co-mingling with mine. I'm glad to see more and more fellow shoppers here bring in their own reuseable bags--a common practice in Italy for many years.
Because we are a new country, things like electricity, power, telephone wiring--let alone highspeed--are a taken for granted part of our daily experience. We can have large appliances and even run them simultaneously. Europe is different. Retrofitting centuries old buildings built of thick stone walls is difficult. In many places, power sources are limited, again due to infrastructures that go back hundreds of years. My most favorite place in Italy, Sant' Antonio outside of Montepulciano, does not have ovens or microwaves in its apartments or on-site guest laundry facilities because their power allotment does not allow for these things.
Back to tomatoes--so, I miss the Italian ones, along with snapping fresh green beans, delicate zucchini flowers to quickly fry in 00 flour, fresh pecorino in all its varieties, prosciutto from Falornis macelleria, fish from the morning's catch and fresh pasta from the pasta shop. Even our celebrity stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's don't fill the bill, let alone Ralphs, Von's or Wegmans.
These are things I can't bring home with me so, until next summer, I'll settle into San Diego and enjoy what we have--sandy beaches, corn-on-the-cob and no winter.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Casey is sick and has been since the last night in Italy where he awoke at midnight with a terrible stomach ache. He has slept almost non-stop since we arrived home Tuesday night. He has canceled play dates with friends he has not seen for two months and karate lessons. He manages about two bites of food before he pushes it away and returns to the couch and pillow. Drinking liquids is about all he accomplishes and not much of that. Yesterday we went to see the doctor who says it's a virus but I'm not too convinced of that as he is missing a primary symptom of a stomach virus. So, we will wait it out a little longer and hope it all goes away. If not, I guess a trip to the hospital is in store for this weekend. It is so hard to have a child hurting and not be able to fix it for him!
Then there is THE table--remember the one we ordered in Florence? The round one to match the rectangular one we treated ourselves to last year? The one we were so excited about? It was waiting for us when we returned and we were happy.
But, when we opened the crate on Wednesday, we stood and stared and cried--our beautiful table or, at least, what was meant to be our beautiful table. As you can see, if it were whole, it would be lovely. But, it isn't.
I e-mailed and sent the picture to Giotti Ceramiche in Florence, the creators of the table. They responded immediately and will be making a new table for us--no hassle, no fuss. They and DHL will figure out which of them is responsible. In this day and age it is so nice to work with a reputable business and people. If you are in the market for a lovely, beautiful piece of usable art, I can recommend someone to you.
It will be several weeks before we have our new table as the production department is on vacation until September 1 and then it will take 6 weeks to make it. Since these are individually designed tables, worked out between the artist and the buyer, there isn't a regular production line or supply on hand.
Lastly, time to share, I think that I may not have a complete mind--a thought I've entertained for a while now. Before we left for two months, it seemed like a very sound decision to have a barbecue/swim party for 40 people 4 days after returning. Now, the idea seems rather dumb; however, I would make the same decision again. We have dear, dear friends who are missionaries and this is their last weekend home on furlough. Typically we host a party for them and our friends and since we were gone all summer, this was the only chance.
And so tomorrow the grill will burn, the jacuzzi will bubble and the watermelon will drip and we will enjoy good conversation and fun. But, I do wish we had a lovely round table for people to admire.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
We ended our time here at a very lovely place with very special people. Friends Mary and Maurizio Tacconi have created an exquisite country inn. Genius Loci, snuggled in little hills above Bevagna in
With all of this said, it is not a museum but a wonderful place to enjoy and, maybe, dream of calling home. If you sit quietly, gazing out over the countryside, you eventually sense that you are becoming a part of the picture. The words peace and serenity come to mind.
But, even better than this storybook place was the time we spent with friends of ours who call Italy home. Friends we had not been able to visit this time and so they came to where we were for a “get-together.”
Barb and Art from San Venzano, Umbria, Judith from Città di Castello, Rita and Lino from Chioccio (well, we did see them while we were in Greve) and Mary and Maurizio. We shared a wonderful summer pranzo (lunch) of red, ripe tomatoes, mozzarella, meats, cheese, honeys, salads, some strange egg plant dish by chef Judith, melon and surely more. Barb brought her wonderful brownies and chocolate chip cookies as a gift to Casey who has crowned her the champion cookie maker. What a feast we shared, mixed with laughter and conversation. It was a good day and a good way to cap off the last 8 weeks.
A feature of Genius Loci which I really want to share is the room we had which was beautiful—as far as I am concerned, the best of the best. And…it has the special quality of being fully accessible for people who need extra space for wheelchairs. The bathroom has been designed for such needs as has its location (the best in the house) and the door ways. There is a large king size bed and a separate sitting area with a couch and room for maneuvering a chair. And, I don’t have words to describe the views from this room. I can’t wait to tell my friend Mary (another Mary) about this room and place. I must warn you though,the tariff here comes in at the higher end but it’s worth saving pennies to be here.
Mary has quality pieces of pottery from Deruta displayed throughout the common rooms for guests who are in the market for new pieces but either don’t have the time or the inclination to go shopping. I now have a little more carry-on items than I had anticipated. But the biscotti jar will look so lovely in my kitchen with its matching spoon holder, and then there are the tea light holders and a little something more.
Now it’s time to make sure the alarm is set, turn the lights off and dream of what was and what will be.
Post Script: I did not post this last night and now have a quick update for those who fly from Roma via a
These were the steps:
- Shuttle service from the Airport Hilton to T5. (arrange the night before or you may need to push your carts through the long corridors to terminal B and catch the airport shuttle to T5 which would be a real pain. Talk to the bellhops rather than the people at the check-in counter who don't seem to know this service exists.)
- Get luggage cart (€ 1) if needed.
- Quick confirmation of passport and answering the “did you pack your own luggage?” questions.
- Check-in and baggage counter. There are separate lines for business and first classes.
- Passport control and security
- Shuttle to terminal C
Now, 25 minutes until boarding and then wonderful airline food and home.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I started bringing mine because it is an easy way to journal as I hate, totally hate writing with pen or pencil. The other reason is that having a computer along is a convenient, organized way to handle the hundreds, thousands?, of digital pictures we tend to take. My theory of photography is that if I take 1000 pictures there are bound to be a handful of good ones, maybe 2 or 3 exceptional ones. I download, file and label as we go thus avoiding confusion as to where we were and what the picture is several weeks later when sorting them out.
2001 was really before high speed internet access and dial up was the way. Good providers were ones you paid for, such as AOL. Gaining access in countries or cities away from home base was problematic, expensive and required some advance investigation. But, it still was a 21st century way to keep up with things at home and conveniently communicate across time zones.
As the years passed, access became easier and high speed began to be available in more and more places—particularly in the
This year we have been surprised by the growth in not only high speed access but wireless since a year ago. In
Now, in 2008, bringing a computer is for more than journaling and downloading photography. We use it for banking, bill payment, monitoring ATM withdrawals and charges and keeping track of balances. This is so much easier than the convoluted way of doing these things in the past—making sure we had people at home taking care of matters, etc. Again, I know that many people are apprehensive about using the net for these purposes, but, we are OK with it. We only use our own computer and have many safe guards on it.
Another bonus with the computer is SKYPE—calling via the computer for pennies. Of course, again, high speed access is a must. But, it is a good way to keep in touch with home. Actually, you don’t even need to travel with computer anymore to use SKYPE. With a VOIP phone you can call anywhere wherever there is high speed access.
As with all things, there are downsides to this electronic age when traveling. Now we have one entire carry-on filled with nothing but electronics —computer, external drive, quality earphones, IPOD, portable speaker, cameras, current inverter for the plane and car, DVD player, Nintendo DS, GPS, battery charger and, of course, all the cords and adapters required by each of these. It drives Ken crazy as he is not the techie in the family but……….he enjoys the benefits of having a person who is.
Hopefully, there will be no more must have electronics. I have read that there is a move afoot to synchronize chargers so that one size fits all. That would be nice.One last thought in this rather boring entry, it's a good idea to bring a short ethernet cable with you for places that have high speed but not wireless. Occasionally I have found this useful.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Our history at Sant’ Antonio began in September 2001. We were scheduled to arrive here from the
As we sat in the stunned silence that became the atmosphere of the world for a while, we watched candle light vigils from
So this is when we met Nico and began to appreciate him as a person and his dream of what Sant’ Antonio would become. His goal was and still is to create a place of quality and beauty for his guests. Year by year he adds to the dream. Along with the priceless views God has created here, Nico equips the apartments with high quality dishes, glassware, plush towels, inviting bedtime linens, flat screen satellite TV, a gigantic screen in the common room for watching special events such as the Olympics, World Series, Soccer Cup matches, etc., barbecue grills, pool area, wireless connection and a myriad of services. We have recommended Sant’ Antonio to many friends and acquaintances over the years and, without exception, they have loved it and Nico. Most have returned. In spite of the richness of what it offers, it is simple and unpretentious—quite classy.
We have been here every year since 2001 except 2002. In 2003 we brought Casey and he set eyes on his first girlfriend, Sophia. They have been good friends ever since and, as with Camilla, anticipate days spent together. Casey was in tears when he left Camilla yesterday but found laughter and fun again once with Sophia. Men, even at a young age, seem to have a proclivity for fickleness. No? Or maybe it is just that both Camilla and Sophia share a quality that ensnares young men.
Last night we stayed home and had a simple pasta dinner, enjoying the ease of being at home together, talking and laughing. Today we took a drive to two small villages I have wanted to visit—not having been to them before. A friend of mine offers week retreats in the
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Monday he was with Camilla, her parents and her grandfather in Castiglione della Pescaia, speaking Italian exclusively. At the gelateria were several Americans having language difficulties. Casey, being somewhat outgoing, offered to help, whereby the Americans were quite amazed and impressed with his language skills. “You speak English very well for an Italian boy.” I think he has crossed the bridge! Maybe we must leave him here. After all, he does have an Italian family.
Alessandro, Nicoletta, Signora Franca and Camilla have become his second family. He loves them and they him. He is as comfortable and at ease with them as with us—well, almost, anyway. Nicoletta’s father, a dignified man from
It seems he is also becoming his own voice and taking charge of his life. For a while now he has stared longingly at Mohawk hairdos---they have held great fascination for him. But…stodgy old gramma and papa have nixed the idea—actually, more papa than gramma.
Before we left for
Again at lunch today he told us that he wants to stay in
At this moment the two of them are sequestered in Camilla’s house, doing their summer Italian homework. Children here have language and math workbooks to complete during the summer so that they don’t lose learning over the lazy months of fun. Last year Casey brought his home and they served as good material for his tutors during the year. This year we ordered them for him when we got here and he is doing the work with Camilla. What is not completed will again be done during the year.
So, yes, he is becoming an Italian boy who promises to grow up to be a handsome, well-spoken, fun-loving, brilliant Italian man. Camilla may have competition!
Monday, August 04, 2008
Our trip to
So yesterday morning, we saunter across the bridge, through the towers, down the marble road and discover that the Italians have arrived in mass—it is August, when
Random Note #2—Crossing Borders
Thursday we entered the twilight zone of pre-EU when crossing borders was not always easy—or maybe equitable with the 21st century experience of crossing from
We took a bus tour to
The twilight zone came when we were returning—supposedly to be in
The explanation I was given is that
The result for us was that we missed our final night in
Random Note #3—Eavesdropping
Yesterday we needed to be at the airport by —which gave us time to enjoy the restaurant we had missed the night before—due to Random Note #2.
Proto Restaurant was not a disappointment--offering excellent food, sophisticated but pleasant service, a nice roof top terrace and upscale touches. It was a nice way to end our time in a lovely country.
This note, though, is about the unintended entertainment provided by 5 Windsong Cruisers—3 heavily made-up matronly women with much costume jewelry and two men and a patient, kind forbearing waiter. It was a comedy, but one that accounts for the bad rap Americans sometimes get. There must have been 15 minutes, minimally—Ken says longer, of questions by the women ascertaining the ingredients, preparation, portion size, presence of garlic, thickness of mussel broth and things I can not even remember regarding everything on the menu. Then there was amazement when they learned that the wines being suggested were Croatian—“Croatian wine? How interesting. Imagine that.”
In the meantime, one of the men spent the time hiding behind the wine list, held up to completely shield his face from view. The other man just stayed out of it all, pretending not to be there but then ordered half a liter of wine for the 5 of them. The waiter never became impatient or rude—he was a perfect gentleman throughout it all, patiently answering every question. Once in a while he would look over at Ken and give a little quirky smile—we had already spent some time talking with him, not about food. It was all Ken and I could do to control our laughter.
When we left, I mentioned to the waiter that he was an amazingly patient person. His response was “There were many questions, weren’t there?”
Random Note #4—
One day we had our landlord’s son, Teo, take us to Mostar in
It was an interesting day as much in the driving and seeing as in the stopping at places. Much evidence of the destruction of the war is still very evident and eye-opening for those of us who have not experienced the violence of war. There seemed to be greater poverty in the border area than in the places we saw further into the interior. But—as with
Random Note #5—Fish
If you like fish—as fresh as it comes—then
Random Note #6—A Favorite Drive
One of my most favorite
Random Note #7—Casey
Finally, no entry is complete without Casey. Ken and I were so anxious to see him after two weeks plus, that we broke speed limits all the way from
Now tonight, he has already left us as he, Camilla and Alessandro have gone overnight to a Tuscan beach town. But, such memories are ones he will carry for a lifetime and we are happy he will have them. Everyone here marvels at the relationship of these children—as Casey told someone “we're closer than best friends.”