Category Archives: Europe

Rise

I’ll never claim to be devoutly religious, but there are things about Catholicism that ring true for me. Over the years I’ve learned to absorb the lessons of my religion in which I find meaning and reject the tenets which I find to be contrary and, while I don’t imagine myself to be a poster child for Catholicism, I do believe I represent some of the finer parts of the religion I was born into.

Easter, the most holy of holidays, has become one of my favorite Sundays. I think my fondness for the day has evolved over the years as I’ve celebrated the day with family, both in Ireland and in Germany. Witnessing the traditions of my religion, in the countries where my family continues to live, provided me with a perspective I may not have had otherwise. It’s taught me a few things, too.

  • Making the effort to put on your good clothes is an exercise in both pride and respect.
  • Believing in miracles can lift the heart and move boulders.
  • There is a season for rebirth and it comes every year. Honor it.
  • Looking for sweetness is an effort that can really pay off.
  • Attending a mass being conducted in a language that is not your own causes one to hear with one’s heart, rather than one’s ears. You don’t really have to leave the country to do that.
  • Flowers provide the most simple of joys.
  • We each have the ability to rise. Believe it.
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Filed under Europe, family, Flowers, Germany, holidays, Ireland, love, musings, Observations, Spring, sunday

Steps

In Italy, there are more steps than you can imagine. They’re everywhere. I remember my first trip to Italy, when I visited Liguria. I was so impressed with the beauty of the women – strong-looking women, with great legs from all of the walking they did, seemingly from terrace to terrace, probably with a glass of Pigato in hand. If there weren’t steps, there were hills and sidewalks to walk. The pace was comfortable, never rushed, and somehow life felt like something to be savored. It spoke to me.

I saw and felt a similar vibe when I visited Rome. There were steps everywhere and my legs got a workout carrying me all day as I explored the city. Again, there were steps too plentiful to count, and sturdy and attractive women. The pace was ideal and I found it easy to breathe there.

I thought about how steps in Italy actually took you somewhere. Your feet carried you from place to place and you felt, I imagine, strong from it. It wasn’t important, though, to measure or count those steps. I mean, what would a number measure? How many times you moved your feet? Who cares about that anyway? Do people really positively evaluate their lives on the basis of the number of steps they take in a single day? That’s just weird.

In Italy, everyone walks and navigates steps all around the country. The steps are what connect places to one another, city to city, town to town, village to village. Steps are how you get somewhere.

In America, people don’t walk regularly but they do talk about how many steps they have taken on a particular day. They wear devices to collect data about how far and fast they walked during a specific time period. People set goals and are encouraged and held accountable by their devices. It’s all about achieving a number, regardless of how you do it. A step is a step whether your eyes are open or closed. It doesn’t matter what you see along the way, the importance comes from a number.

I’m sincerely sorry if I sound judgmental. It isn’t my intent. We all take our motivation where we find it and I respect that truly. I was just so struck in the difference between the connotations of a simple word like “steps” in two different cultures. Maybe it’s time to stop counting and start going.

 

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Filed under Europe, favorites, Italy, musings, Observations, travel, Uncategorized

The things she carried

Returning from a long anticipated vacation can be challenging even without the body clock readjustment necessary from a six-hour time difference and a nine hour flight.  Fortunately, there’s some consolation in the form of souvenirs whether they’re physical, emotional, mental, or some combination of all three. My recent trip to Italy provided an excellent array of “things” which will continue to provide memories of a wonderful trip, as well as life inspirations moving forward. Some of the highlights…

In my suitcase I stashed the nearly intact hunk of fine Italian butter that I just couldn’t leave behind. I wrapped it tightly (and cozied it up next to a few slices of lovely prosciutto) and placed it in a small ziplock bag I had recycled. I thoroughly enjoyed the butter on toast for a number of mornings, sitting in my DelSo dining room.

Three bottles of Duty Free booze – a 10-year-old tawny port, Amaro, which I have limited familiarity with but want to experience, and a promising bottle of Amarone which I will uncork when the urge strikes.

A very large Toblerone bar to replace the one my oldest son lost a few years back to Jeter.

A beautiful green, wool blend overcoat which straddles the line between cozy duster and oversized topper. I bought it in Naples for 15e and it makes me smile when I see it hanging in my closet.

One clementine, purchased at the Campo de Fiori market in Rome. Still not eaten, but intended to fuel this weekend’s half marathon.

Two items purchased at the Vatican – a simple silver cross and chain for my youngest son as a special gift in honor of his 13th birthday and a key chain depicting the moment God created Adam. That went to the guy whose eyes could have inspired Michelangelo’s paint color choice.

The other stuff I returned with is far less tangible. I came home relaxed, refreshed and confident in my ability to find my way around a new city or two. I have an even deeper appreciation for how Italians live – their sense of priorities, their commitment to la dolce vita, the importance of history and beauty in the everyday.

My trip was days after the most recent school massacre and ever since I’ve been considering how only in America do we repeatedly have these kind of events. Our culture of guns and violence is unique and I’m thinking that when I retire I’d like to spend more time in Europe than my schedule currently allows. I need to get serious about getting a German passport and citizenship.

The biggest thing I brought home was a more clear vision of the life I want. Where I want to be, how I’d like to live and what sort of companion I’d like to share all of that, and myself, with in the future. It may not have taken up any space in my luggage, but these thoughts have occupied a big part of my head and heart since I returned. Time to carry on.

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Filed under aging, Europe, Italy, musings, Observations, travel, vacation

21

This summer when I travel to Europe, it will be, I think, the 21st time I’ve crossed the Atlantic, which boggles my brain. What’s most remarkable, though, isn’t that I’ve been lucky enough to travel so often, it’s the fact that the next trip I will be taking will be with my now 21 year-old son. Oh! And it’s pretty much exactly 21 years since the very first time I took him to Europe.

I was running tonight and thinking about all of the places I’ve seen and all of the things I’ve learned since I began to travel, since I became a parent. For instance, I’ve learned there’s no better way to explore a new place than tying on sneakers and hitting the streets. Being strong and healthy are things I don’t take for granted and life has taught me that muscles, including the heart, need to be used.

The very first time in a new place, for me, is a consistent combination of exciting, overwhelming and mildly annoying. Parenthood can probably be described in a similar fashion. Getting oriented, making connections and finding the means to achieve a sense of competence takes some time. Again, particularly if we’re feeling optimistic, we could probably describe parenthood similarly.

When I went to London in 1988 with my brand new passport, my baggage was the heaviest among all of my friends. The excessive size of my luggage embarrassed me and caused me consider the discomfort of being responsible for a big, heavy bag. I don’t travel like that anymore. I no longer am willing to be responsible for carrying anything that is extraneous.

On our first trip together, Liam was about 5 months old. I remember organizing the transportation to the airport – a shuttle bus that made one stop in Kingston before heading to JFK, and climbing on board with my baby, luggage and breast pump without a moment’s hesitation. We landed in Dublin, got into a rental car and immediately drove west across the country to meet a friend who had decided to join us on our adventure and would be arriving the next day in Shannon. I had no reluctance or fear. It’s a big world and I was (and remain) convinced that my job as a parent was to introduce my children to as much of it as possible.

This summer Liam and I plan to visit 4 cities in 3 countries. It will be his 8th trip to Europe, something I’m kind of proud of considering my own travel abroad experiences didn’t begin until I was older than he is now. I know there will be moments when I feel stressed by the challenges involved with navigating an unknown city or transit system, but Liam has developed a great sense of direction and understanding of maps and he will be a big help. We’ll stretch our legs, figure out how to get to where we want to be, carry with us only what we need and do our best to learn by witnessing how other people live. I’m already getting excited.

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Filed under Boys, Europe, family, musings, Observations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

I ate (and drank) everything

(Let’s call this a throwback Thursday post. I started it last week on my final evening in Rome.)

It’s 8:00 in Rome and I’m starting to get hungry. The rain is pouring down, which makes my hope to go Enzo 29 again a bit soggy. I think I may need to stay closer to home on a night when the weather makes the prospect of waiting for a table at the perpetually busy Enzo more than a little discouraging. I’m out of wine so going out is my only option.

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But, first, what have I already enjoyed? The cream filled cornetto I had a few days back was pretty spectacular. Actually, all the pastry I’ve sampled have been perfecto. Not too sweet or overly large, but simply created from butter and spectacular dipped into a cappuccino.

I’ve had pasta – a lot. There was with delicate clams in Napoli, and Amatriciana, carbonara and cacio e pepe all from the same wonderful trattoria in Trastevere. Delicate duck filled ravioli and hearty rabbit ragu with paparadelle. Tender prosciutto and bresaola and the best friggin porchetta ever. Cheeses – fresh ricotta, something smoked from the provolone family and a burratta that almost made me cry. I enjoyed pizza margherita in Napoli, but it was trumped by the panini presented to me wrapped in paper and unlike any sandwich I’ve ever had before. There was also pizza in Rome at a special spot recommended by a local (to Albany) pizza aficionado called Bonci. The crust was like eating air.

Don’t worry – I ate my veggies, too, in the form of artichokes (both deep-fried and Roman style), sautéed chicory and other contorno. Oh! I also had zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies which were divinely addictive.

I drank the most simple of wines. Falanghina in Naples and the house bianco and rosso in the trattorias where I took my meals. Of course, I sipped prosecco and limoncello to bookend a dinner or two and I tasted amaro and found it to my liking as well. The highlight of my wine consumption came in a single glass of absolutely divine Amarone on my last night in Rome, the night I initially began to write this post just a week ago. My belly, and more importantly my soul, remains full. Te amo, bella Italy.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, travel, vacation

Thoughts inspired by dinner at Enzo29

img_4217-1Americans are always the loudest. They want everyone to hear them but they don’t know how to listen. I want to softly tell the table of 6-Got-SUNY-semester-abroad written all over them, (unfortunately not in invisible ink), that I adore their enthusiasm and excitement but couldn’t they enjoy themselves just as much if they spoke in more quiet voices?

Waiting for a seat in a restaurant that I saved my cacio e pepe cherry for. Sorry if that sounds vulgar. It wasn’t my intent.

The crew here is outstanding. The door guy, smoothly and with a discreet disdain that even Paul McCullough could learn from, was impressive. The servers all served smiles.

This restaurant is at the end of a street named Salumi… Come on.

If I knew how to say it I’d say “I’m so sorry I don’t speak Italian because it is such a beautiful language.,” to every Italian I was lucky enough to encounter.

I just said “no bread.” I had the bread last night and it was delicious. I didn’t need it again, though.

It’s ok cool to be recognized with smiles when you frequent the same trattoria two nights in a row.

There’s a man wearing a lavender, I assume cashmere, turtleneck seated directly in front of me. He isn’t even trying to be ironic.

img_4221-1Holy shit. This cacio e pepe is the best pasta I’ve ever had. Ever. Period. The sautéed chicory on the side is a spicy green vegetable nirvana. Contrasted, yet companionable, to the pasta it all creates something which can only be described as sublime.

img_4222-1This meal is one of those that can be described as “final meal request” material.

I ate my full leaving enough on my plate(s) to prompt a couple of queries to confirm that I had found everything molto bene. Si! I just wanted to save room for dolce.

The tiramisu was worthy of service in this very, very fine trattoria. Bene. Molte bene!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, Random, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, vacation

#solotravel

I’m cozy in my Rome AirBandB with a glass (or 2) of wine and vague plan of taking a hot shower and heading out for dinner. I think I’m going back to the same place I enjoyed last night because I must have the cacao e pepe there. It wasn’t possible to fit it in my belly last night, but, tonight there’s room after a day of walking without a stop for lunch. I mean, if you don’t count gelato as a legitimate meal, that is.

It’s been a wonderful few days – actually I can’t believe I’ve already been in Italy for 5 days. It doesn’t seem possible. My pace has been mostly leisurely, but the days have passed quickly and I’m hyper focused on how many more meals I get to indulge in before I head home. Not enough.

When you travel by yourself, hours may pass with the only conversation you have is with yourself. Getting “lost” means nothing because there’s no place you really need to be. Taking a left instead of a right is ok. Eventually you’ll find your way to where it is you want to be. Yesterday, in Pompeii, I stood in the same spot for more than 10 minutes waiting for the clouds to offer me a peek at Vesuvius. I felt no haste, only gratitude for the luxury of time of my own.

Coming to Italy solo was a big leap. Of course, traveling to what feels like the most romantic city in the world would be lovely with a partner, but to not come alone would be a disservice to myself. Not experiencing this beautiful country, or the world at large, would be regrettable in a way that I’m not willing to know. Time to go shower. It’s almost my dinner time.

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Filed under beauty, Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Italy, Observations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation