Today I thought I'd pass along this article about pollution - and the (temporary) Italian solution. Though to be honest I haven't noticed any smog myself I do trust the experts and I'm all for a greener commute. In fact, this one didn't really impact me as I almost always walk to and from work but I'm sure it made life complicated for others. I hope the strategy works in the end!
Whew! Posting something every day is officially crazy. I'm still on track to blog every day for a month, but then I might go back to a more reasonable schedule. Unless my life gets way more exciting.
Today's snapshot is from the ever pleasant Villa Borghese park. I just love parks - as I may have mentioned in my post about visiting Germany - but this park in particular is so beautiful and low key at the same time that it never feels like a tourist trap or a snobby 'no dogs allowed' garden. There are always tons of families out*, occasionally exercising, but much more often just having fun. If Italians do one thing to perfection, it's relaxation. When I leave, this park will be one of my favorite Rome memories I'm sure.
*this picture is from a quieter corner but there were plenty of people elsewhere as I recall
Spotted at the park today - another reason why I like it here so much. The high today was in the sixties, yet everyone was bundled up in their boots, scarves and big puffy coats. There were mittens and even a solid number of wool hats with little ear flaps. Yes, this is a country full of people like me*.
*Unlike Serbia where I would always stand out for wearing gloves - even if it was sleeting. Serbia is a country full of people that eat people like me for breakfast.
Or maybe not so happy, depending on your level of household grocery crisis...as I have recently discovered, Italian grocery stores tend not to open the day after Christmas. Thank goodness for the resident immigrant community and their holiday-be-damned capitalism. Way to go migrants! It would have been a hungry day without you.
If you've been to Rome before then you've probably seen these little guys on street corners. It's not a hydrant, it's a nasone or "big nose". In fact it's a free and very convenient source of potable (drinkable) water. Either fill your water bottle from the continuously running spout or plug the bottom of the spout with the palm of your hand and water will shoot out the hole at the top of the spout, making a sort of drinking fountain. Word to the wise - you will get soaked trying to use this since it's hard to control the water flow. But it is kind of fun and certainly a life saver in a city where drinking fountains, even in public buildings are non-existent. (Speaking of, that's one thing that I've come to appreciate about the US - the assumption that everybody has a right to drinking water at all times. I can't count the number of times in Italian airports, museums, and other public buildings I have been desperately thirsty because it didn't occur to me that I needed to bring a water bottle along to an indoor activity. So plan ahead if you're coming to visit! Either bring lots of small cash to buy drinks everywhere or a reusable water bottle so you can experience the nasone.)
For weeks now the stores have been full of piles of imposing looking boxes (really, they're the size of your head) of a mysterious Italian holiday favorite known as Panettone. Someone translated it for me as fruitcake, which may explain why I never could bring myself to try any before. That and my overall disappointment with what Italians think cookies etc. should taste like. That's a story for another day though. Today, I wanted to share my adventures with Panettoncino - the little tiny version of the stuff they sell at the grocery store. I figured one serving wouldn't kill me, even if it did turn out to be fruitcake. And look how cute the packaging is!
Turns out, the Panettoncino was delicious (no fruitcake!) and I now regret passing up the chance to buy one the size of my head.
... Maybe tomorrow...
Kind of cupcake-y, but lighter and not painfully sweet.
This one is actually the only picture I took while in London last week. Think it sums up my feeling that London was a little crazy and overwhelming nicely. Though, to be fair, Rome would be pretty overwhelming too if I only ever saw the tourist center. Next time I travel I'll have to take some time to get off the beaten path.
At the MAXXI (Museum of 21st century art)
It was supposed to have tons of architectural exhibits - and you know how much I like architecture - but it tuned out to be mostly one big exhibit about urban planning and the ensuing social protests in Istanbul. Still fascinating, but not quite what I paid for. I'd recommend the museum if you generally like modern art and are in town for the long term but I wouldn't add it to your 1-week tourist itinerary.
Evidence that it's entirely possible to forget how crazy your life is sometimes - I have casually happened across the Trevi fountain three times in the past month on my way to dinner/meetings/shopping. Every time I barely gave it a second glance, always telling myself I'll have two years to actually stop and look. But no more! New rule : stop and smell the roses/enjoy the fountains.
Please enjoy, for no reason at all, the truly unique packing job I discovered when my HHE arrived.
Yes. This is exactly the most efficient use of 50 pounds of paper and an entire roll of packing tape. I salute you. Just wheeling the bike into the shipping container would have been ridiculous, obviously.
Alright folks, I'm trying something new. Writing exclusively about my travels seems a bit unsustainable - now that I'm back from London I have every intention to just hibernate here in Rome for the rest of the winter. After all, people pay good money for a few days in Rome, - I can vacation here every weekend!
So to kick things off I thought I'd try to post a tiny bit more often... Maybe to the tune of once-a-day though we'll see how long that lasts. ;)
Photo #1: the bus - I like the bus and increasingly manage to use it successfully. My only beef is that you can't get a bus ticket on the actual bus. No, you buy them at news stands inconveniently placed without any thought to where the bus happens to stop. Other than that though, public transportation for the win!
Getting sick of hearing about my travels yet? I'm actually a bit exhausted by the travel schedule myself - particularly in this past month and a half - but I'm so close to so many amazing things that I'd feel like a slug if I stayed home too often. (Not likely to find myself back in Europe for my third tour!)
This weekend, however is an exception. I'm home and had a wonderful, domestic goddess-type day. Laundry, baking cookies, hanging pictures... The most exciting thing I did was take a walk to get groceries. (Ok, ok, groceries and gelato.) It was lovely though - soft rain, leaves on the sidewalk, window shopping for Christmas... I really do love my neighborhood. Whoever assigned me to this housing made the perfect choice for me. It's quiet, convenient, no tourists and lots of stuff I can walk to. Thanks housing board!
But back to the topic I meant to talk about! Last week I traveled out of my beloved Rome again, this time to visit Taormina.
I guess Europeans all know this little Sicilian resort village, but I had never heard of it before I arrived. Then, when I decided to spend a week immersing myself in all things Italian I thought it sounded interesting and booked a visit. I'd highly recommend it, though there aren't many places in Italy that I wouldn't recommend visiting if we're being honest...
So - to get there you can fly from Rome to Catania (in Sicilia) then there are regular buses and somewhat less regular trains.
I went in the low season and there were still plenty of tourists, so I'd imagine it could be a bit unpleasantly crowded in the summer. Still, with views of Mt. Etna and the Mediterranean, cute cobblestone streets and lots to do it's a must see.
In no particular order, here are some photos from my trip.
Taormina is a coastal town in Sicilia. It looks out over the Mediterranean to the south and Etna to the west. And see that smoke? Etna is an active volcano so it was like that the whole time I was there. Sadly I didn't get to climb the mountain because it was out of season and no one would take me, but that just means I'll need to come back some day!
This is the piazza of the Duomo
One of several beaches - while pretty this one was unpleasantly rocky and I spent more time at the other.
Just pretty - this sign led the way to a winding path from Taormina down to one of the beaches. Theee were buses too, but I had to work off all that Sicilian food somehow!
Taormina is the site of some Roman ruins, including this temple which overlooks both Taormina and Mt. Etna with a perfect sunset view.
The public park was also lovely and not crowded at all. I think I visited at the perfect time of year.
This church overlooks Taormina on the path from Castelmola.
The piazza/entry of Castelmola - guess I should explain that this is an even smaller town you can walk to from Taormina, with more views, restaurants, and cute streets.
Castelmola's Duomo and central piazza
I have a million more pictures but I think this set is enough of an appetizer, no?
Speaking of appetizers, Happy Thanksgiving!
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Berlin for work and while I have to say that I haven't been that cold in a very long time, it was still a really excellent trip and I enjoyed the chance to get away and meet up with a number of colleagues posted to other countries in the region.
Mostly I was working and attending representational functions in the evening, but I stayed downtown and did get a chance to see quite a bit just in passing.
My overall impression was that Berlin is very modern - clean, organized, cosmopolitan - and of course, very cold. ;)
Here's the Brandenburg Gate, right next to the US Embassy.
A statue in the Tiergarten park - I loved this park and as my colleagues can attest I wanted to spend every free moment here, wandering around.
Side view if the brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag
A Berlin Wall exhibit
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Another view of the Memorial - while there were no informational plaques or anything the memorial alone was very moving.
Part of a mini Christmas market set up in Potsdamer Platz.
The weather has finally settled down a bit here (good temps, little to no rain) and I've been settling in a bit myself. In the past few weeks I've done some traveling and some local exploring, and I've spent way too much time obsessing over my apartment and how to make everything fit just right (shouldn't be hard since I don't have that much stuff, but as a style-impaired person, this move has been extra challenging).
My house isn't ready for any big-reveal, HGTV moment yet, so instead how about a few pictures from a walking tour I did last weekend?
First off, EUR - it's a neighborhood in southern Rome that is pretty far off the beaten tourist path. It was built by Mussolini for the 1942 world's fair that was cancelled because of WWII. An office-mate offered to show me around, but the timing didn't work out and I ended up going on my own. Luckily google led me to a walking-tour guide which was very manageable and mostly up to date.
The major draw in this neighborhood is the architecture. It's described in all the guidebooks as 'Fascist-style', but it's basically the same large-scale, clean-lined look that you'd associate with buildings like the Kennedy Center in DC (or the imagined world of The Incredibles). Mussolini's goal was to make a modern city that echoed the classical buildings from Rome's center. With that in mind, see if you can guess the inspiration behind the buildings below:
1) St Peter and Paul Basilica
2) Palazzo dei Congressi
3) Palazzo della Civilta Italiana - Fendi now owns the building - only fitting for such a slick place - and they've got a (free) exhibit on the ground floor showing the history of the neighborhood and it's development. I highly recommend it.
4) Obelisco de Marconi
The area is actually a nice break from the center of Rome that's perpetually filled with tourists, cars, and noise. EUR, while certainly not empty, does give you a nice sense of breathing room. There's also a big park which I'm planning to come back and explore - and if it just so happens that this park is home to a truly fantastic gelateria, well, what a coincidence!
Also, this museum was on the walking tour and advertised as a hidden gem. Unfortunately it has been closed for some time and there doesn't appear to be a plan to reopen it any time soon. But I enjoyed walking around - even more so this weekend when I recognized the building from the newest James Bond movie!
From the funeral scene.
So that's EUR - there are plenty of other interesting buildings in the area, which I did see but didn't include here. Consider a visit if you'll be in Rome and want to see something unusual.
The original plan - I don't think the amusement park ever got built. Too bad!
And for the answers to the mini quiz, these are the inspirations for the buildings above:
1) St. Peter's Basilica
2) the Pantheon
3) the Colosseum (the EUR version is actually known in Rome as the Square Colosseum)
Probably not, but just in case check out this great article on a local musician. It's great to see an article in such a big paper take the time to talk about the good things in Lagos, and this one in particular really gives a feel for the place. Or maybe it's just me, remembering my old 'hood.
Anyway, it's a good reminder that wherever you are there's something cool to explore!
I know, my travel pace has been exhausting, hasn't it?
In fact, in a much needed break from recent tradition this weekend I actually stayed home - in my own house! - and played domestic goddess. It was lovely. I made vegetables (wholly absent from my diet so far in Rome, except of course as pizza toppings), I recycled tons and tons of packing material from my move, and I finally got a chance to set things up a bit! You see my shipments have all arrived and I even got an order from Ikea, but mostly lately I've been coming home late, looking with envy/exhaustion at the pile of 'homey stuff' and heading straight to bed. Now, with the curtains up, the boxes gone, and a few actual decorations in place my apartment feels mighty civilized.
The only bummer so far in the unpacking process has been the discovery that my computer is 100% toast. Maybe that can be my project for next weekend...
But anyway, back to Dublin. Last weekend was a three day weekend and I've been hoping to visit a friend posted there for some time. It wasn't quite as cheap as I'd hoped, but other than the flight I didn't really spend more than I would on a normal weekend. And it was so great I can't describe it. Seeing my friend, drinking starbucks :), enjoying some nature, and just experiencing something totally different than Rome - highly recommend it.
(Some family will be thinking right about now why I didn't plan this trip at a time when I could also visit the relatives who are in fact moving to Ireland later this year. My answer - cluelessness and poor planning. But hey, now I can come back!)
What all did I do in my 48-hour whirlwind tour of Dublin?
*ate fish and chips
*drank multiple pumpkin spice lattes
*had a 1/4 pint at a pub
*listened to some lovely live music (traditional Irish)
*toured Temple University and saw the Book of Kells while there
*walked St. Stephen's Green
*saw Dublin Castle and took some goofy selfies
*hiked the cliff trail in Howth (the *best*)
*and of course, ate a lot, shopped, and took lots of pictures - see below
All the books! Trinity College Library
On the campus of Trinity College
This Irish breakfast could feed me for a week. Delicious
Would you believe that this is my first ever beer? While I'm still more of a wine girl it was better than I was expecting.
The town of Howth
I can't explain how much I liked this hike, but it was pretty much my favorite thing ever. It's just an hour's train ride from Dublin but you feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere. The hike wasn't too hard, the ocean was beautiful and the air was just really fresh. I felt healthier with every breath. ...sigh
All in all, Dublin was fantastic, but it's also really nice to be home.