Friday, July 10, 2015

Do you ever feel transported to another time or place?  Sometimes as I'm crossing the bridge across the Schuylkill River on my way to work I catch a breeze as fresh as if it's just off the ocean.  I know I'm miles away from the shore, but I can just feel it.  I used to get the same feeling sometimes in our backyard in Tennessee.  It's as if that fresh, cool, breath of air contains a puff of magic that melts away the miles and transports me to the seaside.



This morning I was awakened a few hours earlier than I've been accustomed to lately.  I think the sun was shining extra clear after last night's thunderstorm and torrential rain.  As I opened the door of my balcony (sounds romantic, but in full disclosure I was forced to do it because the smoke detector was going off in protest of my roommate's delicious breakfast) I felt it again: that magically transporting breeze.  This time it took me to the other side of the world, to Turkey, to an early morning breakfast of tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, cheese, and olives; to the hostel owned by a sweet old lady in Pamukkale; to the anticipation of a day full of exploring ancient streets and mineral pools with friends.






In reality I'll probably have some breakfast, get tired, and take a nap (I'm hard-core committed to my "restaurant schedule") before waking up later to exercise, run some errands, and go to work.  But for now the day still holds enchantment.  I've been feeling quite nostalgic recently (and yet content, if that makes sense) and I'm thankful for this vivid connection to my memories this morning.  The world is full of promise.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rambling Plans

I'm going to see more old things tomorrow!  Ostia Antica used to be Rome's port town at the mouth of the Tiber.  With time and large deposits of silt from the river, however, it now lies at a distance of three kilometers from the sea.  It's still close to Rome, though, so the plan is to drop the kids off at school, see what we can see in a few hours, and zip back before 3:00.

Psych!!!  In the process of writing this blog post, I decided to do a little research and discovered that along with pretty much all public museums in Italy, the site is closed on Mondays.  We can't go.  :(  On Tuesday and Thursday I have Italian class.  Wednesday, Lea has to work early.  Friday, she leaves. Boo!

Well, I guess it's back to the plan to visit churches.  It's really surprising I haven't visited many of the most famous.  Do you know that I don't even have a proper guide book to Rome?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Le Cose Antiche

Today I did what I came to Italy to do, i.e. to see old things and to speak Italian.  I went with Léa (I'm spending as much time as I can with her because she returns to France next week...and because she's fun to hang out with, of course) to Villa Giulia, which houses the Etruscan Museum.  It's a grand three-story building featuring the art, history, and language of an Italian culture even older than that of the Romans.  And it's literally a five-minute walk from my palazzo.  I've passed it many times on my way to Villa Borghese (which is a little bit like Central Park in NYC) but I've never ventured inside.

The courtyard of Villa Giulia.

Colonnade.  Each panel features some different Greek god.
The visit began auspiciously (to borrow an Etruscan way of thinking) when I got the half-price discount for EU nationals 18-25 years old.  The man asked if we were students, and Lea said no, but (in her French accent) that she was 25.  I said mournfully that I was 26 and he said, boh, it was close enough, and promptly handed over the tickets without even asking to see an EU identity card.  Hooray!

I geeked out at the museum with my Italian dictionary in one hand and my little spiral bound notebook in the other hand.  There were sooooooo many artifacts there it was a little overwhelming, even though we had plenty of time to browse.  Amongst the highlights were original Etruscan and Phoenician inscriptions on gold leaf, many many fascinating Greek vases, beautiful jewelry from almost every era of Italian history, and a typical Etruscan terra cotta sarcophagus.

Famous terra cotta sarcophagus.

Fountain in the gardens of Villa Giulia.

Temple in the gardens of Villa Giulia.
We went home to change and then met up again for a delicious but inexpensive dinner in Trastevere.  Then we climbed the Janiculan Hill, the highest point in Rome, stopping at the top to talk and enjoy the view of the city.  Finally, we returned home by way of Vatican City.  There wasn't actually much to see at that time of night since the gates were closed, but Léa pointed out that the pope makes an address in St. Peter's Square almost every Sunday at noon.  I think I'll try to go one Sunday soon.  I also realized that I hadn't actually been to St. Peters during my three months here.  I'll need to remedy that soon.  Maybe a tour of Roman churches can be my next adventure.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Il Festival di Cioccolato

This morning couldn't have gone better.  I met, by chance, one of the other au pairs whom I haven't really seen in (possibly more than) a month while I was waiting for Léa in Piazzale Flaminio.  We ran to get a coffee together, during which time I told her my plan to go to the university and see if I could find some lectures to audit.  She wants to come, too!  In fact, she's working on her second masters degree right now so she's definitely of the academic mindset.  I'm surprised she isn't too completely exhausted to come.  There's another girl I met through Emmanuelle in our class at language school.  She works for a family whose father is a professor at the university.  He confirmed that you could attend lectures for free.  So now we have a little group to go on Monday and investigate.  I have no idea what we'll find, because the website was a bit confusing.  I think you have to inquire about the schedule with the different department heads, but I'm not sure.  Anyway, even though courses are wrapping up for the end of the semester in the United States, they are just getting started in Italy.  The system is not entirely clear to me yet.  Maybe I'll figure it out after I show up.  And maybe being at a university will inspire me to finish my own university applications.

The main event of the morning, however, was to go with Léa to a chocolate festival I'd read about on one of my Rome blogs.  To get to the festival we had to take the tram near my apartment.  We were both starving and I tempted her with pictures of the pumpkin pie I'd made yesterday.  So as we passed the building I ran upstairs, grabbed some plates, forks, and napkins, and assembled a little take-away platter (complete with whipped cream on top).  We paraded down the street with our pie to a little park across the river, where we enjoyed the first of the Thanksgiving leftovers.  I talked about how today was a big shopping day in the United States, and she already knew about it!  Apparently Black Friday has been featured in several films and TV shows she's seen...who new?  I'm kid of sad that it's such a famous phenomenon.  Thus sustained, we made our way to Piazza Mazzini where we were greeted by a circle of tents full of chocolate and people wanting to give us samples of typical Sicilian desserts.  There was every shape and size of chocolate imaginable -- look at the chocolate shoes below!





After we circled the festival once or twice, sampling all the while, we went around again to make our purchases.  I bought bought some candied ginger and orange peel dipped in dark chocolate, along with some dark chocolate espresso beans.  Léa bought lots of kinds of truffles.  We immediately  sat down to enjoy our treats next to the fountain in the middle of the piazza, all the while being serenaded by a school band (which, it must be noted, included several classical guitars).





I also tried marron glacés for the first time, thanks to Léa!  If you're like me and don't know much about this French-Italian dessert, it's basically a candied chestnut.  It tasted pretty nice, but a little bit mealy.  I've tried it in gelato before and think it goes very well.



I told Léa that the only problem with having a such a nice morning is that the day couldn't possibly get any better.  She pointed said that maybe we'd meet the man of our dreams later, or find a €50 bill on the street.  You never can tell.

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Style

Hello, everyone!  I thought I should check in with a quick post and let you know that I'll be writing again soon.  In the meantime, you can read some archives if you like -- now that this blog is actually legible!  I was showing some posts to Emmanuelle and was surprised at just how difficult it was to navigate.  You all are very patient people.  I mean, I knew the background photo made the posts a bit challenging to read; then I realized that it made the side bar almost impossible to read.  I'm surprised there weren't complaints!  I hope this is an improvement for those of you who aren't reading an RSS feed.

I feel like I owe you something of a story, too.  Today was one of the first cold days I can remember here.  Well, it was kind of cold.  I wore a hat while taking the boys to school this morning, partly because it was so cold and partly because I didn't want to fix my hair.  Little did I know what trouble I was causing.  Immediately Pietro demanded a hat like mine, along with gloves and a scarf.  In the end, he had to content himself with the hood and the pockets of his winter coat.  When we picked them up from school, it was almost too warm to wear a coat.  Ah, the weather in Rome.

Sorry, that wasn't a very interesting story.  I would really like to do something new and different this weekend.  We'll see what I can come up with.

Alla prossima!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happenings in Rome

Sometimes I am so caught up in day-to-day life that I miss certain exceptional events that take place in this city.  In the past few days this has become apparent in a couple of things I've only heard about.

Thing #1: A Gangnam Style Flash Mob in Piazza del Popolo.  While I was probably getting for bed after a busy day at home, this was happening just a ten-minute tram ride away.  It was huge!  I'm surprised I didn't hear it from the apartment.



Thing #2: High water in the Tiber.  The river used to flood regularly and wreak havoc on the city, so now there are high embankments on either side.  I don't think it's in danger of flooding its banks, but it's still pretty spectacular to see (and I did actually seen it, but only from the window).



You can see more pictures of the high water here.

I'm thankful for the Internet so I can keep up with happenings in my own backyard.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pizza Pizza

Have I done a post yet on Italian pizza?  It's something quite different from American pizza.  Usually thin crust, often without cheese, it's something you could eat for lunch or dinner without guilt.  Sometimes it's even healthy!

Even though Rome has no lack of McDonald's and Burger King, pizza is without a doubt the real Italian fast food.  There are many pizzerias selling pizza al taglio or pizza al trancio (which basically means pizza by the slice).  After you choose the variety from the counter full of wide rectangular trays of pizza, they cut off a piece to your specifications, fold it in half, and hand it to you wrapped in piece of paper.  Here's some pizza margherita that I ate in Sora two years ago:


Pizza margherita is one of the most basic types with tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.  (I remember when my cousins made it at a family reunion once.  Aunt Ruth told us the story of how it was first made for Queen Margherita of Italy and how she loved it and how it was named after her.  I always remember that family reunion when I eat pizza margherita.)  There are many other interesting types, however.  You can get your daily dose of vegetables atop your pizza.  You can get fresh mozzarella di buffala.  You can even get french fries on top!

Two or three times, Mariacarla has made pizza for us at home.  She makes her own crust, spreads it with olive oil and tomato sauce, and bakes it until it's deliciously crispy and warm.  SO good.  No cheese.  It's called pizza rossa and it's surprisingly tasty for how simple it is.

After language school today, I went my roommate Emmanuelle and some other girls to a pizzeria in Largo Argentina.  They go there often, and if you come to visit me perhaps we will go there too because it's really delicious and quite reasonable.  I paid € 3,90 for this satisfying meal:
  

The one on the left had fresh cherry tomatoes, and the one on the right had mozzarella and some kind of greens -- not spinach, but I can't remember the name that the lady told me.  Both were super good!  My cousin Anna told me that she was spoiled for pizza after coming to Italy -- and I have to agree.  There's nothing like it!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Do you ever feel transported to another time or place?  Sometimes as I'm crossing the bridge across the Schuylkill River on my way to work I catch a breeze as fresh as if it's just off the ocean.  I know I'm miles away from the shore, but I can just feel it.  I used to get the same feeling sometimes in our backyard in Tennessee.  It's as if that fresh, cool, breath of air contains a puff of magic that melts away the miles and transports me to the seaside.



This morning I was awakened a few hours earlier than I've been accustomed to lately.  I think the sun was shining extra clear after last night's thunderstorm and torrential rain.  As I opened the door of my balcony (sounds romantic, but in full disclosure I was forced to do it because the smoke detector was going off in protest of my roommate's delicious breakfast) I felt it again: that magically transporting breeze.  This time it took me to the other side of the world, to Turkey, to an early morning breakfast of tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, cheese, and olives; to the hostel owned by a sweet old lady in Pamukkale; to the anticipation of a day full of exploring ancient streets and mineral pools with friends.






In reality I'll probably have some breakfast, get tired, and take a nap (I'm hard-core committed to my "restaurant schedule") before waking up later to exercise, run some errands, and go to work.  But for now the day still holds enchantment.  I've been feeling quite nostalgic recently (and yet content, if that makes sense) and I'm thankful for this vivid connection to my memories this morning.  The world is full of promise.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rambling Plans

I'm going to see more old things tomorrow!  Ostia Antica used to be Rome's port town at the mouth of the Tiber.  With time and large deposits of silt from the river, however, it now lies at a distance of three kilometers from the sea.  It's still close to Rome, though, so the plan is to drop the kids off at school, see what we can see in a few hours, and zip back before 3:00.

Psych!!!  In the process of writing this blog post, I decided to do a little research and discovered that along with pretty much all public museums in Italy, the site is closed on Mondays.  We can't go.  :(  On Tuesday and Thursday I have Italian class.  Wednesday, Lea has to work early.  Friday, she leaves. Boo!

Well, I guess it's back to the plan to visit churches.  It's really surprising I haven't visited many of the most famous.  Do you know that I don't even have a proper guide book to Rome?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Le Cose Antiche

Today I did what I came to Italy to do, i.e. to see old things and to speak Italian.  I went with Léa (I'm spending as much time as I can with her because she returns to France next week...and because she's fun to hang out with, of course) to Villa Giulia, which houses the Etruscan Museum.  It's a grand three-story building featuring the art, history, and language of an Italian culture even older than that of the Romans.  And it's literally a five-minute walk from my palazzo.  I've passed it many times on my way to Villa Borghese (which is a little bit like Central Park in NYC) but I've never ventured inside.

The courtyard of Villa Giulia.

Colonnade.  Each panel features some different Greek god.
The visit began auspiciously (to borrow an Etruscan way of thinking) when I got the half-price discount for EU nationals 18-25 years old.  The man asked if we were students, and Lea said no, but (in her French accent) that she was 25.  I said mournfully that I was 26 and he said, boh, it was close enough, and promptly handed over the tickets without even asking to see an EU identity card.  Hooray!

I geeked out at the museum with my Italian dictionary in one hand and my little spiral bound notebook in the other hand.  There were sooooooo many artifacts there it was a little overwhelming, even though we had plenty of time to browse.  Amongst the highlights were original Etruscan and Phoenician inscriptions on gold leaf, many many fascinating Greek vases, beautiful jewelry from almost every era of Italian history, and a typical Etruscan terra cotta sarcophagus.

Famous terra cotta sarcophagus.

Fountain in the gardens of Villa Giulia.

Temple in the gardens of Villa Giulia.
We went home to change and then met up again for a delicious but inexpensive dinner in Trastevere.  Then we climbed the Janiculan Hill, the highest point in Rome, stopping at the top to talk and enjoy the view of the city.  Finally, we returned home by way of Vatican City.  There wasn't actually much to see at that time of night since the gates were closed, but Léa pointed out that the pope makes an address in St. Peter's Square almost every Sunday at noon.  I think I'll try to go one Sunday soon.  I also realized that I hadn't actually been to St. Peters during my three months here.  I'll need to remedy that soon.  Maybe a tour of Roman churches can be my next adventure.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Il Festival di Cioccolato

This morning couldn't have gone better.  I met, by chance, one of the other au pairs whom I haven't really seen in (possibly more than) a month while I was waiting for Léa in Piazzale Flaminio.  We ran to get a coffee together, during which time I told her my plan to go to the university and see if I could find some lectures to audit.  She wants to come, too!  In fact, she's working on her second masters degree right now so she's definitely of the academic mindset.  I'm surprised she isn't too completely exhausted to come.  There's another girl I met through Emmanuelle in our class at language school.  She works for a family whose father is a professor at the university.  He confirmed that you could attend lectures for free.  So now we have a little group to go on Monday and investigate.  I have no idea what we'll find, because the website was a bit confusing.  I think you have to inquire about the schedule with the different department heads, but I'm not sure.  Anyway, even though courses are wrapping up for the end of the semester in the United States, they are just getting started in Italy.  The system is not entirely clear to me yet.  Maybe I'll figure it out after I show up.  And maybe being at a university will inspire me to finish my own university applications.

The main event of the morning, however, was to go with Léa to a chocolate festival I'd read about on one of my Rome blogs.  To get to the festival we had to take the tram near my apartment.  We were both starving and I tempted her with pictures of the pumpkin pie I'd made yesterday.  So as we passed the building I ran upstairs, grabbed some plates, forks, and napkins, and assembled a little take-away platter (complete with whipped cream on top).  We paraded down the street with our pie to a little park across the river, where we enjoyed the first of the Thanksgiving leftovers.  I talked about how today was a big shopping day in the United States, and she already knew about it!  Apparently Black Friday has been featured in several films and TV shows she's seen...who new?  I'm kid of sad that it's such a famous phenomenon.  Thus sustained, we made our way to Piazza Mazzini where we were greeted by a circle of tents full of chocolate and people wanting to give us samples of typical Sicilian desserts.  There was every shape and size of chocolate imaginable -- look at the chocolate shoes below!





After we circled the festival once or twice, sampling all the while, we went around again to make our purchases.  I bought bought some candied ginger and orange peel dipped in dark chocolate, along with some dark chocolate espresso beans.  Léa bought lots of kinds of truffles.  We immediately  sat down to enjoy our treats next to the fountain in the middle of the piazza, all the while being serenaded by a school band (which, it must be noted, included several classical guitars).





I also tried marron glacés for the first time, thanks to Léa!  If you're like me and don't know much about this French-Italian dessert, it's basically a candied chestnut.  It tasted pretty nice, but a little bit mealy.  I've tried it in gelato before and think it goes very well.



I told Léa that the only problem with having a such a nice morning is that the day couldn't possibly get any better.  She pointed said that maybe we'd meet the man of our dreams later, or find a €50 bill on the street.  You never can tell.

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Style

Hello, everyone!  I thought I should check in with a quick post and let you know that I'll be writing again soon.  In the meantime, you can read some archives if you like -- now that this blog is actually legible!  I was showing some posts to Emmanuelle and was surprised at just how difficult it was to navigate.  You all are very patient people.  I mean, I knew the background photo made the posts a bit challenging to read; then I realized that it made the side bar almost impossible to read.  I'm surprised there weren't complaints!  I hope this is an improvement for those of you who aren't reading an RSS feed.

I feel like I owe you something of a story, too.  Today was one of the first cold days I can remember here.  Well, it was kind of cold.  I wore a hat while taking the boys to school this morning, partly because it was so cold and partly because I didn't want to fix my hair.  Little did I know what trouble I was causing.  Immediately Pietro demanded a hat like mine, along with gloves and a scarf.  In the end, he had to content himself with the hood and the pockets of his winter coat.  When we picked them up from school, it was almost too warm to wear a coat.  Ah, the weather in Rome.

Sorry, that wasn't a very interesting story.  I would really like to do something new and different this weekend.  We'll see what I can come up with.

Alla prossima!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happenings in Rome

Sometimes I am so caught up in day-to-day life that I miss certain exceptional events that take place in this city.  In the past few days this has become apparent in a couple of things I've only heard about.

Thing #1: A Gangnam Style Flash Mob in Piazza del Popolo.  While I was probably getting for bed after a busy day at home, this was happening just a ten-minute tram ride away.  It was huge!  I'm surprised I didn't hear it from the apartment.



Thing #2: High water in the Tiber.  The river used to flood regularly and wreak havoc on the city, so now there are high embankments on either side.  I don't think it's in danger of flooding its banks, but it's still pretty spectacular to see (and I did actually seen it, but only from the window).



You can see more pictures of the high water here.

I'm thankful for the Internet so I can keep up with happenings in my own backyard.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pizza Pizza

Have I done a post yet on Italian pizza?  It's something quite different from American pizza.  Usually thin crust, often without cheese, it's something you could eat for lunch or dinner without guilt.  Sometimes it's even healthy!

Even though Rome has no lack of McDonald's and Burger King, pizza is without a doubt the real Italian fast food.  There are many pizzerias selling pizza al taglio or pizza al trancio (which basically means pizza by the slice).  After you choose the variety from the counter full of wide rectangular trays of pizza, they cut off a piece to your specifications, fold it in half, and hand it to you wrapped in piece of paper.  Here's some pizza margherita that I ate in Sora two years ago:


Pizza margherita is one of the most basic types with tomato sauce or fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.  (I remember when my cousins made it at a family reunion once.  Aunt Ruth told us the story of how it was first made for Queen Margherita of Italy and how she loved it and how it was named after her.  I always remember that family reunion when I eat pizza margherita.)  There are many other interesting types, however.  You can get your daily dose of vegetables atop your pizza.  You can get fresh mozzarella di buffala.  You can even get french fries on top!

Two or three times, Mariacarla has made pizza for us at home.  She makes her own crust, spreads it with olive oil and tomato sauce, and bakes it until it's deliciously crispy and warm.  SO good.  No cheese.  It's called pizza rossa and it's surprisingly tasty for how simple it is.

After language school today, I went my roommate Emmanuelle and some other girls to a pizzeria in Largo Argentina.  They go there often, and if you come to visit me perhaps we will go there too because it's really delicious and quite reasonable.  I paid € 3,90 for this satisfying meal:
  

The one on the left had fresh cherry tomatoes, and the one on the right had mozzarella and some kind of greens -- not spinach, but I can't remember the name that the lady told me.  Both were super good!  My cousin Anna told me that she was spoiled for pizza after coming to Italy -- and I have to agree.  There's nothing like it!