Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The complications of living like a tourist

I haven’t written in awhile… perhaps you've noticed, perhaps not, but I feel I owe you an explanation.

The truth is that I couldn’t faithfully write about living like a tourist when I wasn’t feeling it… not even a little. Tried as I may to snap myself out of it, I couldn't. Rome's idiosyncrasies have gotten to me lately. I lost my will to sort through the plethora of disorganized websites and find interesting things to do. I couldn’t bear to get shoved into a dirty pole on a ridiculously over-populated bus going into the center of town. I didn’t want to lug around my camera in an already too heavy purse. I didn’t feel like trying new restaurants where the waiters would likely be rude and charge you for speaking like a foreigner. I didn’t want to notice the subtle differences between one tagliatelli ai funghi and another. I didn’t like spending 40 Euros on what seems to always been the same meal at another restaurant whose name I can’t remember.

Yes, I have been out-of-sorts. This part I admit. I even admit that it is my own negative energy making the subtleties, that I loved so much before, so hard to detect now.

What I haven’t wanted to admit is that these feelings are just a materialization of a bigger issue I have been wrestling with which is: aren’t you sick of living like a tourist? Aren’t you tired of not having a home? Why is moving to Rome seemingly always your default solution? And the scary answers are: Yes, Yes and I don’t know.

But these answers, this rut I am in, don’t get me anywhere at present. If anything, these are the perfect reasons to put my own mantra into play and take advantage of the situation I am in, take advantage of living in Rome. I may be questioning why I keep choosing Rome, why I keep choosing transience, why it is easier for me to feel like a tourist than feel at home anywhere. But I know that, after many months of hard work and waiting, I now have a great job. I now have an address. I now don’t rely on skype and vacation days to make or break my relationship. I can now stop trying to organize the pieces and instead just live them. So this isn’t the time to pick apart the present.

There isn't one relationship in life that doesn’t go through rough patches: with parents, with friends, with siblings, with loves, with bosses... everything goes through ups and downs. It is the same with the relationships you have with cities. You can be enamoured with them at times and on the brink of a divorce at others. Circumstances and moods in life go in waves. This, like all things, will pass.

In the meantime, I need to take advice that I once heard: even when you don’t feel a certain way, act as if it is true and in time you’ll end up convincing yourself. And I do want to be convinced.

So I am going out to dinner tonight at another Italian restaurant, camera in my purse and ready to look for the dish that has added mint instead of basil. I will note the name of the place, give the waiters the benefit of the doubt and faithfully blog about it, if not tomorrow, then soon. Because whatever I decide about my future, I am here now and shoving my complicated thoughts aside, now is really great. I just need to leave room in my brain to realize it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Beautiful Fall

Yes, I have been silent for awhile now. My stress levels have been skyrocketing for the last few weeks, and I'm sure you know how monopolizing stress can be on time and energy reserves. While I struggle to put stress back on its leash and to stop letting it run wild in the makeshift backyard that is my mind, I have perhaps been heeding the advice of one age-old saying: "If you don't have anything nice to say..."

So, for now, instead of nice things to say, I've collected nice things to show: it has been a truly magnificent Fall in Italy, Canada and the U.S. and I have made it a point to marvel at nature's beauty no matter where I am:

Drive by (photo)shooting of a pumpkin patch in Maccarese, Italy

Giant, homegrown (I believe) pumpkins at Agriturismo in Lazio

View of Montreal from a Terrace in Laval

Montreal Maples

Vieux Montreal

Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Montreal

On the drive back to Baltimore from Montreal

Mount Vernon, Baltimore

Autumn is truly my favorite time of year. Do you agree or have I failed to convince you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Piaceri d'Italia: Fichi

Remember this series? I barely did!

As I have previously mentioned, Summer keeps coming back for encores, refusing to give the stage to Fall. This week, Rome is again back in the high '80s F (30s C). So since it still feels like summer, I thought I would take this opportunity to write about an end-of-summer treat, fichi i.e. figs!

You might recognize the leaves before your recognize the fruit. Fig leaves are common symbols of decency often used by sculptors and painters to cover up a human figure's "unmentionables." It is also one of the oldest fruits recognized by men; there are mentions of figs as far back at 2500 B.C. (Want more history?)

In the U.S., I would venture to say that the only widespread exposure to figs are the cookies, fig newtons. I don't dislike this cookie. However, not only are fig newtons a vast misrepresentation, they are a HUGE insult to the fruit. Figs are a lot less sugary and dense than the cookie filling would have you believe. Real figs are delicate and sumptuous and unlike any other kind of fruit you have tried.

I personally think that figs are so amazingly tasty that I wouldn't dare cook them or do anything but eat them fresh. However, there is a slew of recipes and ways to use this fruit from wrapping them in prosciutto to eating them with caramelized onions and goat cheese. So knock yourself out. Do me a favor though? Try eating one plain first. If you don't love it, douse them in oil and deep fry them if you fancy. Just don't tell me about it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

To Every Season

Fall in Rome
It always makes me happy when a season begins to turn. For me it is a tangible reflection of the philosophy: "This too shall pass." Seasons change. So do circumstances. 

Summer to Autumn is probably my favorite of these changes. The frantic heat of the day calms itself, relaxing into a peaceful coolness.The humidity dies down and the breeze picks up a freshness. The night air, with its briskness, feels like something is on its way. And the colors of fall mix the warmth of summer with the earthy bareness of approaching winter. 

Autumn has only tentatively peaked its head into Rome in the last week, ducking back out this weekend when temperatures rocketed into the 90s F (mid-30C), but I know that with each September day creeping by, an autumn filled with promise isn't far away.

To mark the arrival of Autumn in the U.S., I would always make a special effort to go apple-picking, a decidedly season-appropriate event that amuses me beyond what one would guess. (I climbed trees as a kid, perhaps that explains it?)

In Italia, equivalent autumn-esque events are the Sagre, local festivals usually coinciding with a harvest, but not always. There are now sagre of every kind, celebrating products from funghi porcini and potatoes to pizza and chocolate. If you are a devottee or connoisseur of any particular Italian product, you can likely find a corresponding sagra

This year I am particularly interested in attending the Sagra al Fungo Porcini in Lariano, Lazio (September 15- 25) because, well, they are amazing! I am also entertained by the fact that every year they give out a prize called the Golden Mushroom (Fungo d'oro) for the person that has most distinguished him or herself throughout the year in the area of culture, performance or sport. I don't know the connection between mushrooms and proud performances, but I would love to see the medal!

I am also intrigued by the Sagra delle Castagne, festival of the chestnuts in Soriano, Viterbo (September 28- October 16) because I have immensely fond and vivid memories of getting warm chestnuts off of stands on cool fall days in New York City. Seeing the intensity of the website, in particular the promotional video, I am even more convinced to attend. These people take chestnuts seriously! (Ok, ok, their fervor might also have something to do with the medieval games tournament that they put on... or the chestnuts, you decide).

Really the sagre are just another opportunity to celebrate food, and that's good enough reason to attend. Let's face it: most of us don't need to excuse to do that! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Doggy Dog World

Alright so you all didn't go for the "I'm not a crazy cat lady" thing. So here is the follow up: Dogs of the World!

New York City, NY

Rome, Italy

Dublin, Ireland

Nemi, Italy

Nice, France

Chicago, USA

Howth, Ireland

Dog on a Roof: Boca Chica, Dominican Republic

Awkwardly positioned dog: Atlanta, GA

Macchie Alte Agriturismo: Manciano, Italy

Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala

Ravenna, Italy

National Mall, Washington D.C.
Bonnie & Clyde: Sudan (courtesy of a friend)
Perhaps now I have proven my point. Or perhaps, instead of a crazy cat lady, now you all think that I am just plain crazy... well, that's the risk I run I guess.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Living life's lessons in Italy

Today I went out to buy mosquito repellant and laundry detergant and instead came back with cauliflower and onions.

This task, on one of my infamous lists, was one that I was really hoping to cross off. Every day without repellent, I increasingly undergo metamorphosis, turning into a child with chicken pocks. Yet, my numerous attempts to find this product at grocery stores around town had failed.

Today was another failure. I had forgotten about the custom of closing for the "siesta" hours of 13:00- 16:00. Closing in the afternoon is a decreasingly common practice in Italy, but it still prevalent in some of Rome's traditional neighborhoods. I could have sworn though that this particular store, one that I pass at lease once if not twice a day, had always been open in the afternoon. That is the thing about signs and store hours in Italy however: they are not fixed.

It is times like this though, staring incredulously at the closed store with a new sign, when living in Italy reminds me of life's lessons: You can set out with one goal in mind determined to achieve it and end up instead accomplishing something entirely different.

I like this somewhat humbling reminder that personal desire for something is not the sole factor in making the world turn. In fact, it is often a small piece in how certain events unfold. Circumstances will be what they are, and you can get angry and upset that your plan is foiled, or you can say, "Oh well. I'll make the best of it," and go home with cauliflower and onions.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cat Lady's View of the World

This post will likely brand me as a cat lady for many days to come. However, I have a few arguments to counter that point:
  1. In the two years since I have started this blog, I have only spoken about cats once.
  2. I still only own one cat. 
  3. People photograph strangers all the time as part of a city setting, so why not cats?
  4. I coo over all animals, not just cats, as my numerous trips to the National Zoo and my blog post about Squirrel Appreciation Day will witness.
Most importantly, this blog post is an answer to all those times that my sister, or other less-photo crazy friends, would say, "What are you ever going to do with another picture of a cat?" 

Ecco! (as they say in Italian) i.e. Here it is, folks! Put on your cat-lady lenses and this is what the world would look like:

Montepulciano, Tuscany

Granada, Nicaragua

Arezzo, Tuscany

Valencia, Spain

Cinque Terre, North Italy

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Monteverde, Rome

Nemi, Castelli Romani

Marrakesh, Morocco
Rome, Italy

Buenos Aires, Argentina

El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico

Bagno Reggio, Italy

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Montreal, Canada

Milan, Italy

And if you still aren't convinced, I can do a similar post with my dog pictures too by the way. So hush up.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Beach Trekking & Tracking

In the spirit of summer, especially of Agosto Italiano, I am sharing some snapshots of the favorite Italian past time in this sizzling month.

There is definitely a huge beach culture in Italy and each person has an opinion (often differing) on which beach is the best and why. The cleanliness of the water is usually the first of the reasons for which a beach is or is not raccomandata, but there are also thoughts on the type of beach: white/black sand or stone, private or public and stabilimento or bring-your-own.

Stabilimenti are privately run areas of the beach where you have to pay for the parasol (umbrellone) and the beach chairs (lettini). It also usually gives you access to showers and changing rooms. All matching colors and equally spaced areas, a stabilimento is proof that Italians can be organized when they want to be. It kind of makes sense that the setting for this is at a beach.

Here are some pictures of practically all of these different types of beaches. I visit them indiscriminately because growing up in the U.S. mid-Atlantic with the closest beach being 3.5 hours away and situated on the cold, brownish, murky Atlantic Ocean, I rarely see any of the Italian beaches as anything less than glorious.

Stone Beach: Guardia Piemontese, Calabria

Stabilimento Only: Santa Marinella

Stabilimento and Bring your Own: Anzio

Public Beach: Monte Argentario

Private Beach: Conca Azzurra, Sorrento area

Resident-Only Beach: Lido dei Gigli

If you are curious, like I was, about where these beaches are located in respect to one another, behold the map below. I have covered quite some ground in the last three months! 

Beach tracker
Do you have any beach recommendations, inside or outside of Italy?


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