Archive | May, 2011

I saw this sketch in a little kiosk that sold old maps, postcards, and prints in the center of Rome:

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Lovely, right? I kind of wish I had bought it. But mostly, when I look at it, I can’t help but think of this:

My mind is warped.

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Still, those chariot drivers must have needed something to put on their mud flaps, right?

There are times, when I travel, that I see behavior that makes me want to scream. Like yesterday morning, when a gaggle of young, mobile, healthy tourists refused to get out of an over-crowded elevator to make room for my husband’s grandparents (who eventually walked down five flights of stairs rather than wait for the next lift). I actually proceeding to run down to the ground floor to scrutinize the group in search of someone limping or hobbling, and planned on yelling at every single one of them after confirming they were healthy, but I didn’t make it in time (Perhaps it’s all for the best, because I suspect I would have lost my nerve.)

Or when I was in Italy a few weeks back, exactly at the same time that the tsunami happened. And while shopping at the Campo de Fiori in Rome, I saw this exchange between a vendor and a tourist: (more…)

Italian interior design hurts my brain. You’d think that for a country so well-known for its clothing, the inside of homes and hotels would be more fashionable. Instead, they’re what I imagine people in communist Russia thought the future would look like. The decor is weirdly sparse. Even in homes where people have been for decades, it looks like they just moved in. And most of the furniture I’ve seen, no matter how new, isn’t sleek or modern looking. Instead, it has an inexplicably pastoral look to it. It’s like someone’s grandmother all of a sudden decided to be a minimalist, but didn’t bother redecorating.

Sadly, I don’t have a lot of photos that depict this concept, though this one isn’t terrible (ignore my passed-out husband on the bed):

Bizarre, right?

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The room was entirely empty save for the bed and a small nightstand. And despite being brand new (the hotel was only a few years old) the design on the headboard looked like a well-preserved relic from the 1900s.

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To follow up on yesterday’s ten facts about San Marino, I decided to add some visuals of our trip to the lovely little mountain town country. My apologies to those of you who dislike top ten lists, or have a phobia of the number ten, or sustained some traumatic injury as a child while learning base ten (which, if you are anything like me, involved those little orange blocks). I realize this is the second post in a row to feature that number so prominently (also, it is the 10th!) But I am jet-lagged, and having a bit of structure to my blog (in the form of finite, numeric lists) helps reign in my wandering mind, which so easily gets off-track.

Which reminds me: I could really go for some cake right now.

Anyhoodle, here’s ten photos from our visit to San Marino. And a special thanks to the ragtag band of folks who escaped the conference with us for a few precious hours to go sightseeing. You all rock.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some butterscotch krimpets.

  1. Snowy stairs.
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    Yes, we climbed then. With minimal slipping, I might add.

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  2. Nice vantage point.
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    Geography isn't my strong suit, but I'm pretty sure we can see Russia from here.

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… but never asked (mostly because you had never heard of it before).

Downtown San Marino.

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During our last trip to Italy, Rand and I spent a few days in San Marino, which is not far from Bologna. Prior to arriving, my knowledge of the place could be summed up thusly:

  • It was the answer to a rather misleading question in Trivial Pursuit that threw Pinguina off track last time she played. The question was, “What European republic rhymes with the name of a famous football player?” And while “San Marino” and “Dan Marino” do rhyme, it seems kind of unfair as the last three syllables of each phrase is, in fact, identical. By such logic, one could argue that “orange” actually rhymes with itself. A bit of a cop-out, really.
  • Absolutely nothing else.

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and I couldn’t think of a better way of celebrating than by paying tribute to her on my blog. Which, really, could almost be rephrased as an insult: “Really? You couldn’t think of a better way of celebrating than by writing on your blog? Seriously?”

She also taught me to not poke myself in the eye. A bit too late.


And no, seriously, I couldn’t imagine a better way.

I’ve mentioned my mom before on the blog – her antics on Facebook, her long-standing war with Rick Steves, the way she trolled me and my brother for Christmas – but I don’t know if I’ve ever discussed the skills she’s given me that help make traveling the world so much easier. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, and because we so rarely have the opportunity to say thank you for this sort of thing, here are the ways my mother has made me a better traveler.

  1. Suspect everyone. Okay, fine, so my mom’s paranoia hasn’t exactly benefited me in every aspect of my life (until I was about 15, I would panic every time I walked by a large hedge, because my mother had explained that there were likely murderers hiding behind them, who could jump out and kill me). But when traveling, it’s always good to have your guard up, especially if you’re in a place that’s unfamiliar and new. I always stick to well-lit streets, keep my purse close to me, avoid flashy jewelry, and try to be wary of my surroundings … especially hedges.
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    Also, everyone is a potential kidnapper, so keep your babies close at all times.

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  2. Demand your money’s worth. The setting: Universal Studios, Florida. The year: circa 1989. The scene: my mother, angered at the number of broken rides and malfunctions we were forced to endure after shelling out money for expensive tickets, leads a revolt of dozens of tourists, who manage to get their tickets prices refunded. My family and I use the money to gorge ourselves at the usually-prohibitively-expensive Red Lobster. The lesson? The (politely) squeaky wheel gets the Chesapeake Bay cheddar biscuits.  (more…)

TV outside of the U.S. is such a treasure. After spending the whole day roaming around a foreign city, sampling a dozen or so local desserts (for journalistic integrity is at stake, and if you do not try them all, Fox News wins), and getting lost at least twice, you return to your hotel room, exhausted, and out of habit, you plop down on the bed/chair/holy-crap-our-hotel-room-has-a-couch and switch on the telly.

And that is where, depending on your geographic location, things will land somewhere on the spectrum of completely familiar to bat-shit crazy. Nowhere is this more true than Italy. Are there stranger television programs in the world than those found on Italian networks? Absolutely. But they are often in languages I don’t understand, and so their mysteries remain locked (we’ve watched ourselves on Japanese TV numerous times. We sincerely haven’t a clue as to what any of the screaming, animated angels, and Whitney Houston background music was all about). But in Italy, I speak the language. I know at least some of the local celebrities. And often I have a relative nearby who can put things into a cultural context for me. And still? Despite all of that?

Italian TV makes NO DAMN SENSE.

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A while back (it seems a lifetime ago), Rand and I were sitting in the living room of our old home talking about our then-upcoming trip to Italy.

“Do you have a must-see list of places you want to visit?”

“Not really,” I replied honestly. “But I have a must-eat list.”

He looked at me, waited a beat, and replied with grave sincerity: “I love you so much.”

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Truth be told, I rarely have a plan of what to visit when I head to a city. This is amusing, because I am one who diligently plots most elements of her life (I remember meticulously charting out my 8th birthday party into 10 minute increments before my mother stepped in and stopped the lunacy). It just seems pointless – so many of the best adventures I have happen on the fly, and besides, when I do plan things out, a wrench is often thrown into the cogs and things never go as I anticipated. So I prefer to just head somewhere with a vague idea of what I want to see (i.e., Italy = old stuff; London = big clock) and that’s that.

But when it comes to what I’m going to eat? There can be no ambiguity there. I’ve staked out patisseries. I’ve tracked down cupcake carts. I traveled across Manhattan for hummus. I’ve walked across English cobblestones in uncomfortable shoes while braving freezing rain in search for a meat pie. And when I do plan to see a particular sight? I’ll have at least three or four nearby restaurant options jotted down in my purse.

The way I figure it, eternal landmarks come and go, but a really good meal? The memory of that lasts FOREVER.

And so, before we left for the eternal city, I had a list of dishes that I wanted to devour. Some distinctly Roman. Some merely Italian. All of them were must-eats. Oh, and we went to the Pantheon and the Roman Forum and saw a bunch of other nonsense like that. But whatever. Let’s talk about the food. (more…)