Paris is just Paris…

… and it is just beautiful! Just got back from three days in Paris and it is hard to get back to work. But to think of it, three days aren’t really that long to cause a break or real interruption in your normal daily routine. This time it was enough though to take a mental break and relax for a few short days which was needed. It was likely due to the magic that Paris weaves. The city, even though we had cold, wet and windy weather, was filled with both tourists and residents alike and I suppose it must be like that all the time if not worse during the peak summer months.

I had been to Paris just once before (I am not counting all the transfers at the CDG airport) over 10 years ago with my older sister in December. We were also there two or three days but our experience then was very different. Met a lot of rude French, stayed at a hostel and ate mostly at McDonalds. This time we actually found some courteous Frenchmen and women and had several fantastic meals out. We still walked our feet off but in a city this size that is inevitable. I remembered it being bigger, everything further away and staying in Montmartre insisted on taking the metro as much as possible. But it wasn’t bad, one day we walked from Montmartre in the 18th arrondisement to the Eiffel Tower and it didn’t seem that far. Okay, so we were really tired by then and took the metro back but I suppose I’ve gotten more used to walking and the distance seemed less intimidating. We didn’t visit any museums this time, but enjoyed being outdoors and just seeing the monuments, gardens and sights. We’ve promised ourselves to go back soon, definitely not wait another ten years to go back. It is after all just a two hour plane ride from Florence, practically a hop away!

All day I’ve been fantasizing of making galletes and crepes soon, I’ve found some recipes already I’ll have to give a try and share with all of you!

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Óbidos, a charming village

On to our second day in Portugal, still in Óbidos. Since we arrived at 6pm the night before and went  straight to the medieval festival, we spent the morning exploring Óbidos, looking forward to walking on top of the walls. The small town has flowers everywhere and so I took lots and lots of pics of those but I will spare the lot of you from those and only post them if someone wants to see them.

Rua direta in Óbidos
Rua direta in Óbidos

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A trip to Medieval times in Óbidos

I’ve been meaning to post pictures of our trip to Portugal since we got back (almost a month ago!) and I just thought the idea of a photo blog was the perfect way to share our week with all of you!

Day 1 – We flew into Lisbon through Paris and after a short taxi ride from the airport to Campo Grande (and a while to figure out where the exact bus stop was), took a bus to Óbidos. The ride was about an hour and we took the chance to take a brief nap, tired that we/I was after a very hellish week. This is the incredible view we had as we neared the town. We got in after 6 p.m. so just in time to head toward our b&b and then head over to the medieval fair.

Óbidos - view of the walled town
Óbidos – view of the walled town

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Junk food in Italy

There is no good junk food in Italy. As an American used to at least a whole aisle of junk good in US supermarkets, what is on offer here in Italy is pretty pathetic. I am sure it is all for the best, for my own good at least. But let me tell you one thing, junk food or not, you can still gain weight here from all of the other good food! 😉

So what can and can’t you find here? First, no Doritos, no Cheetos, no Twinkies or Ho-Hos. No corn nuts, no sugar daddies.  No chocolate covered raisins or Reese’s pieces. Think of your favorite candy or salty snack food, you won’t find it here.

The “junk food” section of our local supermarket has Pringles chips in maybe 2 flavors and two brands of plain potato chips and maybe one flavored with paprika. Sort of similar to BBQ but not the same. No ridges, no sour cream and onion, no cheese flavored ones, nothing of those extravagant tastes! One brand of plain tortilla chips. The same one makes cheese puffs and that is as close as you get to real junk food.

As for candy, there is slightly more choice. You can find snickers, kit-kats and twixs. Then plain chocolate, dark chocolate and hazelnut chocolate bars. Lots of chocolate bars. If you love chocolate, as far as candy goes, you are set.

Personally, I prefer salty snack foods so you can see I’m at a disadvantage. Oh well, helps keep me from gaining too much weight – but I’ve got plenty of pasta and pizza to keep me from losing any ;).

Now the breakfast aisle – that is where Italians like to go crazy. A whole aisle or more. But we’ll talk about that on another day. Now, I’ve got to go make some pizza!

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Things to love about Italy

Vernazza in the Cinque Terre
Vernazza, one of the five towns in Cinque Terre

My last post was sort of negative about Italy (it was one of those days) so I don’t want anyone reading this to go away with the impression that I don’t like living in Italy! That would just be not right. 

There are many things to like about Italy, whether you live here or are just visiting. These are just a few I was thinking about today.

1. Italy is a beautiful country, almost everywhere you look, the view is just plain beautiful whether you are in a city, village or in the countryside or by the coast – I should say especially the coast. No matter where you come from, whether your own region or state is beautiful for its own views and landscapes – you’ll still be impressed with what you see in Italy.

2. The food, of course. There are few people I know who don’t actually love Italian food but most everyone does. No matter how good it is back home, when you come to Italy you’ll fall in love all over again with the taste and simplicity of most of its dishes, the extraordinary flavor bursting in your mouth and capturing all your senses. From pasta and pizza, there are endless variations to please all. Have you ever tried wild boar? Yum!

3. Life here is “slower” and I don’t mean that as in the slow, romantic way often portrayed in movies. I live in Florence, it isn’t a large city but it still is a city of over 300,000. The impression everywhere you go is that no one is in a great hurry to do things. The bank, the supermarket, the stores, the restaurants (let’s not even talk about the post office!) There is a sensation that there is time for everything and everyone and that you’d best take your time doing what you’re doing. It is a nice sensation, in general. As a visitor or as a resident, you adapt to this slower pace and even if your days are packed with visiting several museums, eating out and walking miles, at the end of the day you are happy to be in Italy.

4. Mozzarella di Bufala! It does not count as part of #2 because it just doesn’t. It is one very fresh ingredient, not a dish, even if I can eat it all by itself (of course, not a whole one). Yes, it is that good.

These were just some things that I thought of make living in Italy a pleasure, if I think of any others I’ll add them to the list.

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the experience of living in italy

i live in italy. i am not italian. sometimes i love italy, sometimes it can be pull-your-hair-out frustruating to live here. most of the time, it is just home and it is just this way.

living in italy is an interesting experience. one might say it is an interesting social project. to live here and observe, to compare. i often feel very much an outsider. even after more than 6 years of living in florence, more than 10 years since my first experience with italy.

often times i am caught up in moments of exhilaration: gazing up at the duomo, i feel so small. it took centuries to finish that cathedral, hundreds of men worked their whole lives on it without seeing it finished. along these same streets greats of the past such as leonardo, dante, michelageno walked and worked.
this country is so full of history, being here and being conscious of its past makes me feel so alive and full of joy. i am here today, this is my city. it is a beautiful country. it is full of the past but people still live here today. it is a living museum.

other times, living in italy can be highly frustruating: some things seem to not work at all, but they do, in their own italian way. what do laws exist for? to be broken, of course! at least that seems to be the italian way. sometimes i wonder if italians have forgotten their glorious past? it is hard to believe the roman empire prospered in these lands.

i have become a pessimist, living in italy.

no country is perfect, i know that. every single government tries to do its best for its citizens, at least in theory. after thousands of years, democracy is still in its infancy. no country is immune to special interests, lobbies, money and power. it seems that if allowed, those in power fall in love with their position and will never let it go, not willingly. i wonder how italians can vote for berlusconi, how they can complain and complain and not use their vote to make their elected officials take responsibility for their actions… or inaction. how could he have been re-elected into power is a further mystery. with the current world economic crisis, who knows where italy is headed.

living in italy is truly an experience.

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a new blog is born!

Hello! This site has been up for several years now, always meant to be a personal website/blog. It was first used to post details and photos of our wedding in 2002 and that stayed on the site.

Time has passed, I’ve been really busy and working. I can’t complain since things are going quite well. But in the back of my mind I’ve always kept thinking of what I’d like to do on this site. I’d like it to be a place where I can share with family and friends events and thoughts happening in my life. My interests and hobbies, collecting information and links to other wonderful sites and blogs that now make the core of the internet.

I’m on the Web a lot because of work. I do my share of surfing and have seen the popularity of blogs rise during these years. I do my fair share of reading many of them, from personal sites to food blogs to travel blogs that I find interesting. I’ve always lurked, always appreciating how much people share about their life and interests and feelings. And I’ve decided to take the plunge!

Why not? As long as I don’t write things that might come back to haunt me, right? So here is my first post – and a new blog is born! 🙂

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