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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SORRENTO/NAPLES—END OF THE LINE

It's Wednesday early evening; we arrived in Naples around noon today—it took longer than we thought it would.
Backtracking a bit: yesterday we took the train to Pompeii. Matthew says this is something he's wanted to see since he was in 8th grade, so it was cool to know his dream was coming to fruition on this trip. I had checked online about tours and they were really pricey—something like 250 for the two of us for a few hours. I didn't book anything, fortunately, because when we got there, this handsome Italian with dimples sidles up to me and says something cute like how a pretty lady needs a tour guide. I couldn't have agreed more.... So for 10 each, plus the 10 entry fee each, we had a great 2 hour tour...though not with the dimples—he was just the lead man. We had Mario, a grandfatherly type of cute Italian.

 There were 4 other couples in our group, which was a perfect size. I wish I'd taken notes—we know Matthew can tell about everything we saw and heard, but my memory has never been my strong suit. Pompeii is amazing to see—from the very beginning with the opening walls that were closed at night to keep out the riff-raff to the homes that have been excavated showing parts of frescoes and baths, etc to the human and animal bodies which had been covered and preserved in ash. Mario gave us a great overview of everything. We had a bite to eat there, then headed back to the train since the one room with the Kama Sutra type drawings from the whore house had such a long line, we'd have had to stay an extra hour waiting. The train was a nice way to get there and back—about a 30 min ride. We met a nice couple from Australia on the return who were on an 8 week trip, having just finished their 3rd week...and now they have no reservations or plans for the next 4 weeks, then go on a cruise. They'll be in Italy the whole time, and since they were heading for Florence next, we told them the name of our hotel, and they'll try to get in online before heading out later this week.
We had asked our concierge to make dinner reservations at the place the 2 couples from the cooking class recommended, so we headed there for dinner. It meant another ride down the big mountain and parking in the same lot we'd left earlier, but we found the main street closed to cars at night. And wouldn't you just know it—we'd borrowed and carried umbrellas from the hotel all day and didn't need them,so we returned them. The rain hit just as we paid for the parking, and had to walk in it till we could stand under a overhang and wait for it to let up. We weren't totally soaked, but definitely wet. Fortunately it didn't last too long and we were able to continue our walk without getting much wetter.



Coincidentally, one of the couples, James and Julie, came in ahead of us for a return meal and we ended up being seated next to them. One of the owners of Tavern Allegra, Jennifer, greets every table with prosecco, then the serve complimentary bruschetta as well. Nice start! We shared a chef's salad, which was delicious, then each had lasagne, also very good. James and Julie were having calamari as one of their dishes, and after giving us a taste, we also ordered that too. We didn't have a secondi course, but I watched and still can't figure out how all these people who order all the courses can get up and walk out without waddling. We did have dessert—we'd seen profiteroles when we came in, which are homemade by the chef using fresh Sorrento lemons in the cream. We also had a cherry cake—delicious! The best part of the evening was Jennifer's husband who plays his guitar and sings many typical Italian songs and a few American ones as you eat. There's also their other business partner, an old gentleman who goes from table to table, acting as host and waiter and who breaks into song when the mood hits. He is quite the character and obviously loves the limelight. At one point, they both donned yarmelkes and started singing Hava Nagila. Matthew was impressed because I sang along with them and knew most of the words. I really wanted to get up and dance, but that wasn't going to happen. They sang several sing-alongs, so most of the guests got into the act. It was really fun and lively.
Today we got up early and tried to get to Naples early enough to enjoy the day. We were told it would take an hour to get here, but it's farther and the traffic's worse than we though...but we did find the hotel without too much stress, other than the usual driving in an Italian city. We dropped our bags at the hotel—nice room—then headed to the airport to return the car. We were going to take a taxi back, but the rental car shuttle driver told us to let him drive us over to the bus stop and pay 6 to get back to the hotel rather than 15.50 or more by taxi. Worked for us...especially since we're getting down to little cash left.
We spent the afternoon finding pizza for lunch, since Naples is the pizza capital of the world, then walking around the piazza and out beyond it to do a little shopping. I actually found some yarn and a few buttons for my projects. The hotel charges 3 for 30 minutes online, so I won't be hanging on the computer tonight. I bought 30 min, just enough to check in and put this on the blog.
Tomorrow we head home—leaving here pretty early for an 8:50 flight that goes to Venice, then Philadelphia, then SFO. Another long day of flying—returning after 9 pm. Let's hope all the little kids have flown home today, yesterday, or on Fri. Ciao from Italy.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Sorrento--think Lemoncello everywhere....

 We arrived yesterday after searching out our hotel--another lost story, which seems to be the theme of this trip.  Okay, I've never said I have a sense of direction, nor do I say oh, I can read a map in any language, but give me a break when the map has no or few street signs and the streets aren't marked with any signs either!  Plus, when you do finally find a street name, it changes in the next block to something else you don't see on your map. 
 So we're lost in Sorrento which is crawling with tourists, end up driving down towards the wharf area trying to find the information office, which we passed but didn't notice and which turned out to be closed anyway.... and end up on this narrow, one-way circular drive that's for taxis only.  One of the many drivers who are standing around blocking our way of getting through comes to the car and very politely tells us we can't be there...so we ask how are we supposed to get out since the road is blocked with taxis on 2 sides and the drivers standing in the way between the cars.  They did finally move and even visually guided us through. 
 Anyway, we finally found a sign that said Hotel Prestige, so we started following the large hotel signs...though at one point we couldn't believe it could be higher up this mountain and we must have missed it.  I jumped out at one hotel point and ran in to ask where ours was, and she said keep going uphill for another 5 k.  Sheesh.....we finally found it at the crest of the mountain!  It does have a spectacular view...check out http://www.hotelprestigesorrento.com/ ...  When it's clear, we can see Mt. Vesuvius from our balcony.  Okay, it hasn't been perfectly clear yet, and it did rain some today and a lot last night...but maybe it will be clear tomorrow. 
  The hotel itself is lovely, the room is very nice and doesn't have that musty cave smell ( I loved the view from the cave hotel, but I did feel a little mushroomy after sleeping there), and the view is spectacular.  It is about 20 min or so uphill from the main town, but they do have a shuttle if you don't want to drive.
  We drove into town today since we had reservations for the cooking class tonight in town and wanted to spend time back here beforehand, so didn't want to be at the mercy of the shuttle times.  We shopped around a little downtown, then got lost returning, so didn't have much time to rest.
 Tonight we went to a villa down the hill for a Napolitan cooking class.  There were 3 couples--one young Asian couple from Montreal, about 30, and a couple from New Jersey in their 40's.  Then we skip a whole decade and get to us.  The teachers run an inn out of their family home, which is lovely.. They've only been doing this since April--She's an Aussie and he's Italian.  The recipes they use are from his mother.  We made ravioli from scratch, antipasta of zucchini parmesana, and tirimisu for dessert.  I have pictures and will get some up tomorrow if time allows. 
 Time to read a little before sleep...last day here tomorrow.  Thanks for reading the blog--I love knowing Edelle reads 'me' with her morning coffee.  I'm so much more fun than that old newspaper....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Town of Matera in the Basilicata Region

the view from our room


outside our door

a nearby square that had a live band playing tonight

the largest square --the fountain changes colors

eating in a cave--see Mom, we're fine and not too much fatter

on the way back to our room--this is just outside the door.  Pretty f'ing awesome, I'd say

oh, well....notice the cookies on the top shelf?  looks just like those killer cookies at Mini-Mezza Luna.  We're not sure they're the same, so we bought some to try later.

My art shot of the night....it's our view and my camera having fun.

On the road again....lost, found, wet. still waiting to dry

Saturday:
After very little sleep listening to the rain and wind all night, we 'awoke' and got ready to leave Puglia. We said goodbye to the Oregonians, then headed into the darkest clouds towards Matera. It should have taken us about 2.5 hours, but it took 3 since 1. it rained like a mother and 2. we got a little lost and ended up at the ocean instead of inland.
We finally arrived in Matera and found the information place without much trouble. We asked her advice on which hotel we'd listed from the travel book (we gave the book to the Oregonians to take since they had nothing with them except the GPS and were heading to another area of Italy that was covered in our book). The information woman made a reservation at Hotel Sassi and told us how to get there. She said we had to leave our car since it was walking only in this part of the town and it should take us 10 min. At least 45 minutes later with the rain coming down constantly on us, and us without umbrellas or that great rain poncho I bought and didn't pack, we were about to head back up the cobble-stoned hill to start over when an old gentleman came out of his home and I asked him for directions. He told me to go back where we'd just been and around the corner and down....then he got his umbrella from his home and motioned for us to follow him. What a sweetheart—it was such a maze and down several sets of steps, which by now had a little river running down them, we'd have never found it.
Once here, the beautiful young woman at the desk showed us to our room (which meant lugging our suitcases back up the stairs we'd just schlepped them down) and up more stairs to our cave room. She is so lovely—offered us cappuccinos after we settled in and were ready to return to reception to check in. We were obviously drenched and needed to peel off our jackets—remember mine...the non-waterproof one?--and dry ourselves off. She said she'd give me the cord for the computer which is free. Hallelujah!
Meanwhile, the room is lovely, though smells a little musty and cave-like, with a view across from us of the old town, which Vivienne says wait till we see it tonight—it will be a 'surprise.' She made dinner reservations for us at a nice place and was so accommodating, we almost forgot how wet and miserable we were getting here. She told us a little of the history of the town—that people started living in the caves around the 5th Century and were here till the 1950's when 15,000 inhabitants were relocated from the Sassi. The rooms were actual homes and the people housed their animals in the floors below. The Italians felt shamed by the fact that people had to live here in such poverty and many were killed off due to malaria, so they closed the town and left it until the government took over and put money into renovating it in the 90's. I hope it dries us before we walk to dinner so we can see more of it and enjoy the short time we're spending here. I'll get some pictures and add them, maybe tomorrow before we leave.

Puglia continued....

 I notice I have skipped yesterday(Tues)—which was a nice day in Gallipoli, about 20 min from here. This is also an old town with a large fishing port. The area is pretty and interesting, but it's very touristy with lots of shops selling overpriced tourist crap. We ate at another recommendation from one of our many books. Puglia is known for certain specialties, and the one at this restaurant that sounded like a good idea was sharing their antipasti dishes as a main course. They had 4 or 5 different dishes, many of which turned out to be fish—octopus in vegetables, octopus in tomato sauce, polpette which is the rolled thing, this time it was snapper with something inside, eggplant minced with other stuff, a small piece of bread with something on it, also unrecognizable. Matthew really liked everything—I bet you can tell I was not overwhelmed.
By the time we returned to the apartment, we decided to hit the pool for awhile with our Kindles. The neighbors from Oregon were down there—we have spent quite a bit of time talking to Cheryl and Milon. We haven't seen the other couple as much, and it turns out, they're the ones who have the timeshare and like to lay low and not race around as much. We saw them tonight at the corner near out condo watching the sunset, and they've been having dinner in most nights. We don't get it—come to Italy and sit by the pool, then cook dinner for yourselves. The other couple, Milon and Cheryl, are more on-the-go types who'd like to be seeing more and going out more, but they're sort of guests of Terri and Bill, plus I don't think they've traveled much, so are following the other couple's lead. The men are retired military, so we doubt we have lots in common, especially politically, but they've been very nice and we've just stayed away from certain topics, though I did mention meeting a man by the pool this afternoon who turned me off immediately by talking his political views and other things in the first 5 min. of conversation. What he said was he's from CT. and we said our good friends' daughter and family live there, so he said CT's a horrible state to live in because it's the “most liberal state in the country.” He went on to say he's anti-abortion and belongs to a group of anti-abortionists, so he won't leave CT, even though it's full of liberals.... Before he left, he said his wife has been in bed since they arrived on Saturday (this is Wed) with a bad back, reminding him she's 78, then wanted to know if we're going to the barbeque grill night tomorrow here. It didn't take me long to decide I didn't want to go and spend an evening anywhere near this guy. So I guess our views are out of the bag now to the Oregonians...though they probably guessed them.
Wed:   Glad we got online today..that was truly amazing because we went into this store in Lecce (tried again after that last fiasco) that sells computer equipment and works on them, but isn't an Internet site....but after we pantomimed what we needed and I mentioned wi-fi, he offered to let me sit there and get onto his server for 30 min. We asked if we could pay him, and he said no. We've met the nicest people here on this trip.
How our day began: We arrived in Lecce early enough today—around 10—but then did the circle around the town game...though this time we were within the old city's walls. We had a much better map with more street names, but many streets were marked limited access, which means only those who live or work there are allowed, so we went in a circle trying to get into the center near where our map showed parking. We never made it, then a traffic cop tell us where we could find parking, but that was a bust. Finally we found the information center, and I ran in and was told how to get out of the old town and park outside, which is where we were in the first place about an hour before. Crap.
We had skipped breakfast—yes, we actually skipped a meal—so were starving. Two books Matthew has suggested the same restaurant, so we headed over there. By now, it's close to noon, so of course, we find it and they're not ready till 12:30. we made a reservation and that's when we found the computer store just down the street.
The restaurant was small and homey with 3 or 4 women running the place, probably all familia. Later a man joined them helping serve when the place filled up. The travel book says they're known for their fresh vegetable dishes as starters, so we started with them as a shared course. They served 2 slices of grilled eggplant, red and green peppers cooked to perfection, white beans, and potato salad with fresh celery and carrots. Then we each had a small bowl of homemade pasta—mine was long curly noodles that seemed made of wheat with a meat sauce, and Matthew's was a traditional Pugliese dish of flat white noodles with garbanzo beans and fried pasta pieces. Both were delicious. We shared another course because it's also a traditional Pugliese dish we'd read about, which is the polpetti—meatballs. These were veal stuffed with some kind of wonderful white cheese that oozed out as you cut into them. They were the best thing I've had in Italy so far. With such a fantastic meal, we couldn't resist dessert too—figuring we'd eat light at dinner, if at all. They had a “cake” with cherry filling that wasn't really like cake as we know it. This was moist and creamy with a hint of the filling at the edge near the crust,, rather than all through it. Matthew had a chocolate bomb—ice cream—with a zabaglione filling. We were stuffed, but happy. We spent a couple of hours walking around the old town after that, but of course. everything was closed, including the churches, due to the afternoon Italian siesta.


this looks awful, but was so delicious with the cheese inside..  I've since found a setting on my camera for food, so they'll look better after this.

We loaned Milon our book on Puglia, then Matthew gave him his Discover magazine after he finished it because Milon has already run out of reading material (when you spend most of the trip at the pool, that can happen) and also because his shipment for books for the trip didn't arrive before they left. Anyway, to return the favor, he's loaning us his GPS for which he bought a European chip. We'll take it tomorrow and see where it leads us. We're also hoping to use it to find the directions for our hotel in Sorrento. I have an address, but no idea how to get there. I hope we have Internet in our hotel Sat. night but we're thinking of staying in a cave hotel. We have no reservations for that night—we're driving about halfway to Sorrento, then stopping in one of two towns for the night. . I thought it awesome when we stayed in that cave hotel in Cappodocia, Turkey.
Last night, Wed, after returning here and hanging out for a few hours, we decided to go into Porto Cesareo for a light meal. By now, it's almost 8:30, and the restaurants are just opening for the dinner crowds. We're not thrilled at this timing, but when in Rome.... plus, you can't really get a meal any earlier. We walked around and around trying to decide which place to hit—I was interested in eggplant parmigiana; Matthew wanted a pizza. We finally agreed on this one place, though they don't have the eggplant on their menu. We'd seen many people ordering mussels the past few nights, so we decided to share some mussels gratin, then each have a pizza, and again, brought half home.
All seemed well enough, though Matthew was having a weird pain in his calf before going to bed. About an hour or two into the night, I awoke freezing—my feet especially. By the time I'd gotten up to put on socks, I was extremely cold, shivering tremendously, so I added my Turkish pants and a long-sleeved top before returning to bed. I tried bundling myself up, but I kept shivering uncontrollably, even when Matthew tried to warm me up by wrapping himself around me. I don't know how long this lasted—probably a few hours. I could not stop shaking. I've never had this happen before, so was worried since I didn't know what was causing it.
Meanwhile, Matthew's calf was causing him horrible pain. It has started when we got back from Lecce, but got worse after dinner and into the night. What a pair! I couldn't stop shaking enough to worry about him, but finally did get some rest. He was moaning all night, plus he tore the skin on his elbow on the mattress button, even though we put their thin mattress pad on.
By morning, around 8:45 when I finally got up, I was feeling a bit better though still not 100%. Matthew's leg was still in much pain, so he started the day with Ibuprofen. Needless to say, we decided on a day staying here, maybe by the pool. After elevating his leg and taking the pills, Matthew felt a little better, so we sat outside in the sun. Our neighbor had gone to the pool, but in the early afternoon, little raindrops suddenly appears as the sky clouded over and darkened. It was Pisa all over again—loud kaboom of thunder and close lightning strikes. The 4 from OR returned from the pool surprised to see the two wanderers “back so soon.” We explained why we'd never left the condo, and Milon's first question after hearing what I'd been through last night was, “Did you eat any shellfish?” He says he's had a similar reaction from it, so that explains my malady. He thinks Matthew's leg could be the same thing...it just landed on him differently. I sure hope so since we still have a fun leg ahead in Sorrento.
We've spent the day just relaxing, staying close to the bathroom, and trying to feel better. Milon stopped by earlier to see if we needed anything since he and Cheryl were heading into Nardio, which was very sweet. We decided to stay here to eat leftover pizza and whatever else we have in the refrig, and invited ourselves to Terri and Bill's with our extra bottles of wine to get help finishing them. They were cooking when we dropped by, which looked very good and said they wanted to invite us to join them tomorrow night in Porto Cesareo at a place they've found there. But we'd just made reservations for dinner at a little village for our last night in Puglia, so we declined.
We went over to Terri and Bill's condo after dinner and had a delightful evening with the four of them drinking wine and sharing stories for a couple of hours. They're so nice—very down-to-earth. Terri and Bill lived in Iran for 2 years when he worked for a private company during the Shah's era, teaching the people how to build and fly helicopters.


Friday:
 Today is our last day here, and we decided to go to the nature reserve near here and explore it for the day. We had a nice easy hike in, saw lots of lizards and giant bees that thought my white shirt was the flower they pollinate, then got to the end of one hiking area where the ocean hits and you can see some caves where people lived or used as shelter. The gazelle hiked down the ravine and up the next hill to see the ruins and the rock wall nearby while I communed with nature and tried to ignore the giant bees. For me, it was just enough, though I think the gazelle could have hiked and explored much more. He was only bleeding a little bit on his uncovered legs when he returned.


We headed out for lunch from there after talking to 2 young men with their large weimaraner, saw a sign for a B&B and drove in to see if they serve to the public. They didn't, but he directed us to St. Caterina, which we'd seen signs for, but hadn't checked out. We then headed back the way we came and followed signs to this town...which turned out to be full of large beautiful homes. Many of the eating establishments were closed, but we did find one and had a lovely lunch of fresh pasta and tzatziki with great crackers. I was stuffed, but since dinner was still about 7 hours away, figured it would be okay by then. Mainly it was fun to find a new spot so close...
Here's some of what you're missing:



We returned to the condo to relax—oh oh, both fell asleep, so we must be Italians now—then pack so we'd be ready to bolt when we want tomorrow. We've decided on a route—based on getting about half way to Sorrento, where we're expected Sunday, and the fact that Matthew's leg is feeling much better. If it hadn't been, we'd go the fastest route to get to the town with the cave hotels.
As the afternoon unfolded, the sky started to darken more and more. Our dinner is supposed to be about 40 min. away from here, and though I did get dressed as if to go, I kept thinking it's pretty far for food after eating well for 2 weeks...and if it's storming like yesterday, would we really want to be out in it in the pitch black? We decided to cancel our reservation...just too far and too nasty out. The rain has started. Hopefully it won't be like this tomorrow when we check out and start driving a couple of hours...
Our last dinner in Puglia..back to Porto Cesareo to the place where we had the good salads.  Here's what just the dessert--panna cotta--looked like:  the barrista makes the designs on the plates with chocolate and other sugary things then adds little candies.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Puglia with no Internet...GRRR

BLOG 2--


PUGLIA—NARDO

Arrived today at 2 after the 3-hour drive to Rome Airport. We forgot to stop for gas, so found a station just outside the airport, but no way back in for the car return....10 min later we found a turn off outside a town where we had to pay to turn around at the autostrade, then pay again to get back...like 2 for the experience of a u-turn.
We finally got back in and returned the car with about an hour till our flight was to leave and us not even in the terminal. Got the bags checked, found where to go, and made it just in time to stand in line to board. Whew. All this and hot and humid to us (no to others, I’m sure, since it’s not over 80*).
We had more trouble finding the condo complex than finding the town, so arrived here around 4:30. check-in is supposedly at 6, but thankfully they were checking people in and we were in condo #1, which is near the office on the ground floor. We spent just a few minutes in there before deciding to ask if they had something on the second floor. One of the women took us around the corner and through the woods (not really, but on the other side of the complex) to see if we liked this other one better, which we did. It has a lovely view of the water and tonight we watched the sun turn bright orange as it seemed to literally fall into the ocean. Nice.......
The complex is the weirdest we’ve ever encountered---not one bar of soap is provided for either the bathroom or the kitchen. There is NO Internet at all anywhere, so I’m writing the blog at the table in hopes of cutting and pasting online when we find it in town. So not so much communication, Mom. We do have air-con, however, so have no idea what the info paper was all about.
We briefly met our downstairs neighbors—two couples from Pennsylvania—and our upstairs ones who are from Salem, OR. They were slightly upset since their electricity isn’t working. It’s the kind where you put your key/card into the slot when you come in and the lights and air-con go on. I like that since it forces people to conserve.
We were starving by the time we got here, so went to the bar at the pool for some pre-packaged panini. They were pretty awful, but he –Diego, the barkeep—recommended a restaurant in the small nearby coastal town for dinner. BUT he ways it doesn’t open till 9. Reminds me of Spain... The pool is large and very nice, so we’ll probably do some sitting and reading tomorrow after going to the local farmers’ market. The specialties of the area are olives and great fruits and vegetables, so we’re looking forward to bringing some back here for breakfast and snacks. We saw watermelon growing in fields as we came in.
One thing I can never get used to about traveling is the stickiness when it’s humid. I already feel like most of my clothes smell, even after I’ve washed them. Anyone remember the old joke with this punchline: Who knows you in Japan?
Dinner turned out to be in a town about 8.5+k from here and we were surprised when we got to Porta Cesareo that it was larger than we expected. That meant there are more restaurants and we had no idea where this one Diego mentioned was. We drove around the dock area and just as we were about to give up, there was Lu Cannizzu right in front of us. We got a table right away in the outside area and the place was already hopping and almost full. We ordered salad verde, which was just lettuce and tomatoes with oil and balsamic served in bottles on the side for you to add yourself. Then we shared a pasta dish for 2—scampi with linguine. The shrimp are served whole and you have to crack it like a crab and eat out the meat. I started by removing the heads and discarding them, ignored the legs which are tiny (Matthew tried his best to suck out every little bit from his legs), then ate the main part, which was absolutely delicious! The pasta didn't have a fishy taste at all and was fantastic. We shared a bottle of rose since it only cost €8. We skipped dessert there and opted to go across the street and see what flavors of gelato they had. Interestingly, they had new ones we hadn't seen in other areas, so Matthew tried the fondadente Minimare which was the darkest chocolate ever. He also had coffee flavored, which I had too, plus I had amareno, cherry. They were also delicious. We walked around the town, which was about 11 by now and everyone was out walking, eating, chatting, laughing..people of all ages, many families with young children.
Day 2: We slept poorly—this time because the air conditioning made us cold and we didn't put enough coverage on ourselves. We'd been too hot in the last place with just a fan for circulation, so we didn't prepare the bedding well. Tonight will be better—lower the air-con and put a blanket on.
We went in search of the farmers' market today, passed one that was part flea market since we were told the big one was near where we had dinner in the next town. We got there and found 3 farmers only and nothing else, so bought some great figs and went back to the other one for more fruit. We now have nectarines, grapes, and a melon, but realized as we drove all over, including back into Nardo, that we'd missed the food time and would have to wait 1.5 hours till pizzerias and other places opened for lunch around 1:30. Instead, we went to the super mercado and bought bread, salami, and cheese to bring back and make sandwiches. We also got coffee and milk and yogurt so we could eat in the mornings and have coffee in. Someone from the front desk delivered an espresso maker today since we told them our unit was without one. It's small and will only make one cup at a time if we use the large cups they gave us. Weird setup.
We spent much of the afternoon here, me catching up on some laundry, then hanging it outside on the plastic laundry hangar they give you, which works well except for a day like today when the wind takes things down. Thank goodness nothing flew over the balcony into the neighbor's yard! Matthew caught up on some sleep on the couch, I went down to the condo 2 doors away where the couples from Salem were out talking. We shared stories of timeshares and jobs—Terry's a retired teacher, Cheryl was an administrator in education, and the two men are retired from the military where they built helicopters for 35 years. They seem very nice and hopefully we won't have reason to talk politics...
Matthew and I drove down to the rocky beach—it's impossible to walk on, so they've built a large wooden deck with many chairs and umbrellas to rent and even have a walkway and stairs into the ocean, which looks dangerous as hell. No f'ing way would I attempt that one. Even Matthew, who's always much braver than I, says no way. The rocks look like lava or limestone—very sharp edges. We then drove to San Ysadora's beach and checked out one of the old torres (towers) and the nearby beach. It's a little tough to walk on, even in good shoes, but we went out to see the guy who'd just caught a beautiful large fish, then continued out to near the water's edge. It's sad to see how thoughtless the Italians are about their land—crap left everywhere—broken bottles, cigarette butts, plastic, etc.
Then we were in search of a farmacia—this time for me! The damn mosquitoes love me; I must be delicious. I had to find some anti-itch cream so I can survive without leaving itching scars. By now we were ready to leave the town and head back, but unsure about food, so by the time we got near our condo, we started looking for someplace to eat nearby. The signs for the pizzerias were deceiving since it was before 7 and none were open. We finally followed some signs that lead us up a wild road to the top of a small hill. The place looked nice, but we were told it wouldn't be open till 8 and it was only 7:10. We checked out the menu—they have quite a selection of food, including horse meat, so we thought we'd drive back to our apartment and wait. On the way, we saw a place that looked open, so we drove in. they had the traditional meat dish where you see the meat displayed and they grill it for you, so we thought this would be good to try (plus, Matthew had said he'd try horse when he didn't think we'd find it on a menu, so knew I'd be expecting him to have it at the other place. Not really since I didn't want to watch him eat horse...). Our waitress was adorable—Francesca--and spoke pretty good English, so she answered questions about the menu. We shared polpette, which is also traditional Puglia food—small meatballs made from veal, in this case. They were delicious, served with chopped tomatoes and rocket. I had the mixed grill for my entree and Matthew had the rolled veal with cheese inside, also traditional fare. Mine was fair—much of the meat was chewy, even though it wasn't overcooked. If we go back there, I'll stick with the polpette and get a pizza, which looked good. So far the bread in this part of Italy is much better than what we had elsewhere—the Tuscan bread has no salt, so it pretty tasteless. Last night they served more of a pizza crust cut in wedges, which was great.
This area looks great for exploring. We have an awesome car, much bigger and more comfortable than our last one. It's a Fiat Punta, but since it's not an automatic, I can't drive. Oh shucks.... I'm now working on knitting my third hat of the trip and figure I might get 4 done while we're gone. Today we're off to Lecce, which is supposed to be an interesting town architecturally, then we might drive down the coast on the other side of the point and return straight across from there. Sounds weird, but it made sense when we said it looking at the map.
Monday:
we thought we were ready for an adventure...we drove to Lecce, a large town about 45 mnutes from here. When we got there, the traffic was heavy and the street signs few. We were on a main street that ended with a lovely obelisk, which I did find on the map in our book, but I had a hard time directing where to go from there to get to the center of town. There were no signs marking the centro and I think we wanted to turn left somewhere, though I couldn't figure out where since the maps we have didn't really show all the street names and I couldn't see them anyway. It took us an hour to wind our way around and then we ended up where we started, so we'd made a circle around the old town without ever finding it or getting near. There was a cop directing people away from the street we wanted, so Matthew said if he won't let us in there, we're leaving, and that was the end of Lecce. I found it a dreadful experience that made me want to book a flight home between the frustration of the traffic and getting lost added to my husband's displeasure. We usually look for the tourist information spot, but it was next to the duomo, which was in the center of town we couldn't get to.
Matthew wanted to drive the coast road back since we hadn't seen that area....by now it was noon. He was continuing to be frustrated since the signs he followed were less than helpful and didn't always show the towns he wanted, but we finally made it out of the city and onto the coastal road. We were hungry after awhile, but couldn't find anything open in the towns we went to. By now, it's after 1, I have to pee, and I'm getting hungrier. We hit one town and drove around,, followed signs for a pizzeria only to see it also closed. Everything looked quiet and closed up as in the other towns, but since this one was a little tiny larger, we kept looking. Finally we found the main square where it was dead...but we saw one man at a table outside and then miracuously, we saw someone walk into a 'cafeteria.' it turned out to be the only thing open, maybe for miles, so we had a not great sandwich with prochuitto and cheese, then since they had gelato..... We asked why everything was closed and we think they said everything closed at 12. we have no idea why. Or if that's really what he said.
We drove the coast the rest of the way back with fortunately nothing eventful to report. The water—Adriatic--looked beautiful. The weather has been sunny but very windy. My hair has looked wild and out of control daily, so i've given up trying to do anything much with it. Fortunately, I have a hat to wear! Soon, I'll have another one from which to choose. The other one is child size, though I don't know how I managed to make it so much smaller. I wasn't trying, but it will be a cute kid hat.
We rested when we returned to the condo, then went for a late dinner in San Cesareo again. We were trying for the next town, San Ysidoro, but couldn't find a single restaurant or pizzeria open. Cesareo is a fun place to walk anyway, so we went to the closed street where many food choices exist. We had huge salads, mine was lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, and some artichoke hearts; Matthew had a potato-based salad with no lettuce, which was delicious. Then we eat had a pizza—in Italy, it's verboten to share a pizza. We each ate half and brought the rest home. We didn't finish dinner till 10:48—too late, but it's when the natives eat.
 More to write and catch up, but not today.  We're back in Lecce, this time we made it into the old town and still couldn;'t find the parking, so ended up outside the main old town to park.  just found a very nice man near the restaurant where we can't eat for another 15 min who owns a computer store, not internet site, but he let me use his wi-fi anyway.  that's it for now...more later. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

And Still the Winner Is...

  Drove to Siena today and after an extra hour's detour through Volterra way the hell up in the mountains, we arrived in time for lunch. No surprise there.... anyway, we went to La Torre, which is where we had the most fabulous pasta 9 years ago. The place still looks the same except he's upscaled it slightly with tablecloths instead of just the formica tables. Oh, and the procuitto doesn't hang on the wall now; it's sitting discreetly on the counter. BUT the drying homemade pasta is still on the table as you walk in...and it's just as delicious as we remember.

The owner doesn't give you a menu; he tells you what he has and what he wants you to have....so I got the fettucine, which was wide and thin, with Bolognese sauce and Matthew got the same pasta with funghi sauce. Both were great. So great, rather than have another course, we had another pasta—this time, we asked for the one we had years ago, which she called fiocchi. We're not 100% sure it's the same one, but who cared—it was wonderful! It was a large filled pasta with ricotta and spinach inside with butter and oil and Parmesan on top.









After lunch, we walked around the town and up to the cathedral. We hung out there, but then decided seeing the outside was as much church time as we wanted. For a mere €10 each, we could have seen the Baptistry, the cathedral, and the museum or something else. By this time, we were getting tired and my feet weren't thrilled seeing another church. I realize there are those of you who thrive on seeing those churches, but let's remember who's writing this and to whom she is married. Besides, the church in Siena has so much stuff on the outside, it's a cultural experience in itself. It's really beautiful, but since the battery on my camera died prior to getting up there, I have nothing to show you. First of all, the exterior is striped like the one in Florence – white and gray marble – plus many statues of apostles and other guys. Just google it, if you want to see....
We drove home after stopping back in the square or near it for a gelato. It was the best we've had so far. One book told us to go to the ones where the banana isn't bright yellow, but tinged slightly gray, then you'd know it's not a mix. Well, we tried that in Florence and I thought it was awful (I didn't have banana, but the ones I tried weren't creamy), so this time, we went for the yellow banana kind and it was delicious! Uh, wasn't it just yesterday, I had some dumb comment about food?
We drove home the way we thought the map suggested, so this time the 1 hour 45 min. drive only took a little over 2 hours. We've packed and had dinner at a local place—I know, more food! But mainly we wanted fresh salads, then shared a pizza and small eggplant parmigiana. We're stuffed once again...
Just read the information about the next place. I thought we had air-con, which we haven't had here this week, but when I read more closely, we're staying in “villas” and they do not have air-con. Oh great. I told Matthew that if this place is crappy, or if we've had enough after half the week, let's move on and find someplace else to go. Leaving by 9 tomorrow to the Rome airport, which is 3 hours away, to fly to Brindisi. Then we drive 80 k to the resort. Let's hope for the best.

On the Road Again....


Today, Thurs, we headed to some nearby towns since we haven't seen that much of what's right here. It was really fun to see the area and walk around. We ate lunch at a place recommended by one of our books, but they didn't have the dish mentioned in the book—artichoke lasagna, which is what I was wanting. I had the ravioli with spinach and ricotta and Matthew had the pasta with pigeon and boar in a sauce. Both were delicious, but I swear something hit me—like did they lace my lunch with sleeping drugs? I couldn't keep my eyes open. We headed to another town, and I missed most of the landscape because my eyes refused to stay open! We did end up in a really cool hill town—actually two—but the last one we read about has a restaurant with a Cordon-Bleu trained chef, so we made reservations for dinner tonight. Yeah, I know...we're all about food.
Dinner was good, but now I want to swear off food for the rest of the trip. Or until we go to Siena tomorrow and find the best pasta we had 9 years ago in all of Italy. I can hope he's on vacation and can skip all meals....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Florence by day...


Florence by day...

We planned on getting up early, but we had a difficult time sleeping—I because someone didn't want the air conditioner on, so I slept a little, then woke up hot and couldn't get back to sleep and Matthew said he thinks it was the large dinner finishing late along with the very chocolate desserts. We did make it to breakfast at the hotel with about 10 min. to spare. I don't think they were too happy we were still sitting there after 10, but what the hell..
We checked out and left our bags there, then went to the nearby stone museum, Peitre Dure, recommended by Judith as a good one. We were able to walk right in, plus buy tickets for David for 3:30. We enjoyed the stone works from the Medici home and other places and loved the great samples of agate from around the world. 

agate slices....malachite fireplace....inlaid stones
Before leaving San Vincenzo, I looked up bead stores in Florence and emailed a shop called Beaded Lily to say we'd be there and I was interested in talking to them about some mesh wire ribbon they sell. We tried to get there after the museum,but missed them by a few minutes, so had to kill 2 hours … first, checked out the yarn shop I'd written down, which turned out to be gone. The owners have retired and the man whose business is across the street took over her space as well. So now I'm forced to walk back across the Ponte Da'Vecchio
and buy leather gloves which are more than double what I paid 9 years ago. Damn Euro. Oh..they're the orange ones. Of course.

Then, since we still had over an hour left till we could meet Lily, we strolled over to another of Judith's recommendations—Rivoire for their famous hot chocolate. Matthew opted for a cold cappuccino and we shared fries—for a total of 19.50. yikes!   (I forgot to take a picture until we were nearly through.  YUM!)


We did get back to Lily's shop and met her and her husband Tim who makes glass beads. They're from NY and then Seattle and have lived in Florence for almost 10 years. We spent about 1 ½ hours with them, and Tim explained to Matthew how he makes the lampwork beads—he's had orders from Chanel twice for hundreds of the same bead, which becomes more like a production than a creative thing, but says it's so good for the business he loves getting those orders. I bought a bunch of the mesh ribbon in many colors in both thin and thick widths(not surprised, are you?) and will figure out how it will work with what I do later.
We finished there a little late, and David at the Accademia was quite a ways away (Beaded Lily is on the other side of the Pont Da'Vechhio, for those who know their way around), so we had to sprint our way there. We were given a set time with a 15-min. grace period... My feet were hurting and I was so hot when we finally got there, I was not standing in line for one minute, so walked right up to the head of the line and sweetly showed my tickets to the guy there and said we have reservations for that time. He opened up and let us through. Yea me!
When we got in, I headed for the benches at the far side of the room in view of David...Matthew took off to find the WC. I needed time—like about 30 min.--to sit and cool off, take my shoe off to see my first blister of the trip, roll up my pants, and do anything else I could to make myself more comfortable. As I sat there, people walked in by the droves and I smiled at them as if it was my job as the bench monitor. An Asian woman sat down next to me saying she needed to rest a bit too. Then a young also Asian couple came over and she sat and he left to wander. She had an audio she was listening to about the museum. The first woman and I started chatting, and she said she was from California....I asked where and she said Torrance. I told her I'm from No. CA, and she said she used to live in San Mateo! The young woman then turns to us and asks if we just said San Mateo....which is where she and her husband just bought their first house! So by now Matthew's back and there are 4 of us sitting on this bench from the same area. Both women turned out to be nurses, and the older one used to work at Carlmont Nursing Facility, just down from Ralston...
Before leaving Florence,we stopped for gelato, but even though it was recommended in one of our books—NOT Rick Steves—it was only fair. We got our stuff from the hotel and our car out of hock, then headed back to San Vincenzo. We had dinner here at the resort, then tried to get to bed relatively early.....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Firenze 14 September or Eating for Three

Arrived at noon, found our hotel without too much hassle—only one wrong turn, which isn't bad at all and parked in the garage around the corner from the Hotel Cellai,which cost €23 for 24 hours and 2.50 for each hour thereafter. The hotel's room is small, but adequate, though the shower leaves something to be desired. They recommended Trattoria Zanobi for lunch, which was around the corner and not frequented by tourists. Just good homemade food and a nice pleasant place. We shared a Cabrese salad, then Matthew had pesto pasta and I had risotto with zucchini.
After lunch, we went to the Duomo Museum since all other except the Accademia closed at 1:30 for the day. The Accademia had long lines and we didn't have a reservation, which we found online for 39, so skipped. The museum we did visit had mostly sculptures and the best was eavesdropping on a professor who was lecturing about some of the larger pieces. I asked one of the students later, and she said they're from Boston College on a semester abroad. Not a bad life for a college kid. He was a good teacher and didn't even mind when I took his picture with the Donatello work, then voted when he asked their opinion on something.
We walked to San Lorenzo Market and checked out the leather goods—saw a great purse for 75 which was 55 at another shop later.....too much either way. The gloves I bought for about $10 nine years ago are now selling for around 25! The is ruining everything for both the sellers and the shoppers.
We returned to the hotel in the early evening and asked for a recommendation for dinner from the book we'd bought. They listed several, and the woman at the desk said one was the best she knew of but very expensive. They also have a cafe, so she made reservations for us there. It's an interesting place—they welcomed us, brought champagne (prosecco) and several appetizers that included tomato aspic, tripe, pickled zucchini in little dishes and on small plates for each of us, a piece of bread with chicken liver pate and some warm square of something souffle with Parmesan cheese. Then the owner, we presume, hauls a large chair over and sits at our table to tell us what's on the menu for the first 2 courses. We listened politely having no idea how this works, then he says to choose one from each if we want both courses and repeats them. I ordered polenta, which was rich and creamy with gobs of Parmesan, and Matthew ordered spicy fish soup, which he liked and pretty much guaranteed he'd get to eat without my spoon interrupting his meal. But when we were served this course, Joseph also brought over a bowl of the panzonella – thick tomato bread soup-- for us to also try. Our second course, or was this the 3rd, was a veal and pistachio meatloaf with carmelized red onion and homemade aioli on the side for Matthew and beef carpacc8io with something that looked like green goddess dressing on it along with shredded/sliced arugula and a beets and potato blend in a small bowl on the side for me. Then he also brought another full dish of the seabass carpaccio for us to try. We have no idea why we got 3 servings for each course, but since they were delicious, we didn't complain or even ask. We opted to share the dessert since we'd already pigged out plenty, plus it was 12 for dessert alone, and ordered the lightly coffee flavored mousse with dark chocolate sauce poured over the top. We had discussed the chocolate cake, but I preferred trying this other...so guess what also showed up? That damn cake was so moist and delicious! Nothing like the flourless cakes I've had in the past. The total for the dinner was 124—and would have been more, but they forgot Matthew's wine. It was just the house red, but when the bill came, we noted it was on there and was 14 for one glass, so we did tell Joseph we hadn't gotten it. Of course, we got 3 dishes extra instead, but he was very surprised and apologetic the wine never was served. He was quite impressive—does most of the serving and taking of orders himself, so he's on the move constantly in a full suit and tie and Italian shoes you hear clicking everywhere hurriedly. He's maybe in his 30's or early 40's, very handsome, and when the table next to us asked him to speak in English because they didn't understand Italian, he asked where they were from and then slipped easily into their native Spanish. I asked later how many languages he speaks since he's also spoken French earlier—he speaks 7 languages and also wants to learn Chinese.
We opted to walk back to the hotel after that meal,which was supposed to take about 25 min. We walked pretty steadily and it was a beautiful night, so it probably only took about 20 min. I might have walked off one of the smaller courses. Or maybe not.....
Gelato...everywhere

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rick Steves Needs to Re-examine His Taste buds!

Before Rick Steves, back to last night: we ate outside by the water and it had more in common with Barbara's than originally thought...not a real warm night with that ocean breeze coming in. It was actually better than HMB, but still I had to bundle up during dinner. I had bruschetta pomodoro with the freshest tasting tomatoes, then tuna steak with sesame seed crust over rocket, which we have grown in our backyard. Matthew ordered a warm seafood appetizer crostini, but it was blended together and none too exciting to me. Then he had the black ravioli, which we figured was squid ink...also not to my taste. He liked it, but mine was a much bigger dinner. :-)


Today we changed our plans. Instead of going to Siena, we're doing that later in the week and went to Lucca and Pisa instead. I hadn't slept much at all last night, nor did he, so I thought it would be better to drive 1.5 hours to Lucca, then home from Pisa which is 1 hour away instead of 2+.

So why do I no longer trust Rick Steves' recommendations? We walked all over the town of Lucca to find the pizza place he says is the one locals go to—they only do pizza, “but do it well.” No they don't. It was awful....runny sauce, canned mushrooms, crust not cooked enough. Yick. We had hoped to see the festival they have this time of year, but it's a religious procession tonight and the faire is tomorrow, with fireworks at 11 tonight. Forget it...too late for us.

So we headed to Pisa. I have to say, the tower is beautiful. I love the architecture and the lean is quite impressive. We bought tickets for the duomo, but not the rest in that area. Quite frankly, I can only do so many churches....they're not my thing. Seen one, seen them all...and this one was no exception. I had more fun watching everyone take pictures of every little thing. I also got a kick out of everyone doing the picture of them holding up the tower, so I held up a painting in the church instead. Never one to go along with the crowd, you know.

Just prior to walking into the church, little rain drops appeared. By the time we were done in there, bigger ones were falling, so we decided to head to a piazza several blocks away for gelato—another of RS's suggestions. We got about half way there when it started to really pour. We hung out in a doorway until it let up slightly, but then as it really came down in buckets, we again found shelter. It was an open building with offices around the inside and entrances on either side with an open ceiling in the center, so rain poured in from there and on either side. Just over the other side from us was the Arno river and we could see it pouring even harder on that side. We kept waiting for it to subside so we could march out to the piazza, but it never did....and then the thunder and lightning began. Once it was so close together, it shook the building and kaboomed loudly in our ears. That would have been fun except for one thing—I discovered today that my windbreaker is really just that and NOT A RAIN JACKET, as I had erroneously thought. It was perfect for New Zealand, but apparently it didn't rain there, so I never realized it wasn't waterproof. I was pretty soaked and getting cold.

We agreed to find a taxi to take us back to our car, which was at the bus station outside the old town. You can't park inside the old town unless you're a resident, so we came in by bus. But to return to where the bus would pick us up, even with our round trip ticket, was too far to get back to....

No taxis came by, so I went into the only office that had someone in it and asked if she could call one for us. Fortunately, she spoke English, and said since it was an emergency—guess she could tell by my hair and clothes—she'd make the call. It sounds like they're not supposed to make outside calls. The line was busy busy busy, so we talked about getting to a bus. The end result was she was able to get through after trying many times, gave us a paper with where we needed to go to give to the driver, and even waited outside with us for the cab. What a good Samaritan!

We drove back in rush hour traffic out of Pisa, then more rain, lightning, thunder....what a trip. We were exhausted by the time we got back, so opted to eat in the pizzeria here on the property, which turned out to have great food. No pizza for us—had my fill today on that bad choice. This place has wild boar and rabbit on its menu, so definitely not just a pizzeria. We have reservations for Florence tomorrow night, so hope to leave fairly early tomorrow. It's about a 2 ½ – 3 hour drive. And who knows how the weather will be? This place is like El Granada; one day, you're in your bathing suits and the next, get out the raincoat!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Airport arrival plus our next day

We had a little trouble finding the rental office as we schlepped our bags around the building at the airport, but finally got the car, which turned out to be a little box with barely a trunk—not what Matthew ordered. But we said the hell with it since we were tired and had to get on the road for the 3 hour drive to San Vincenzo. It was already 4:00 and we'd arrived around 7.


We had no trouble with the driving or getting to our destination—used the map book Larry and Judith loaned us, but it was easy....and we're old hands at toll roads. We had no money since our ATM cards wouldn't work in the machine at the airport, so we used the credit card for the eu1.90 tolls.

Got in at 7 pm and into our apartment. It's fine—nothing fancy to be sure, but good enough. The kitchen is lacking, though it has a sink, good sized refrigerator, and 4 burner electric stove, microwave, but only a small espresso maker and no toaster or other appliance. We do have all the plates and silverware, etc, of course.

We ventured into town last night to find an ATM that would take our cards, which we finally found. It would only give us Eu250 and nothing more, which is fine for now. The town looks awesome with lots of great restaurants and shops. It's larger than I expected and definitely a resort town.

We tried for dinner in one place, but they were full till 9:30 and we didn't want to wait an hour, so we drove down the street and found a pizzeria called Charlie Brown (complete with pictures of the Schultz family characters on the logo). We shared grilled vegetables and a small salad, then each had a pizza. It's expected here that each person gets her own, so I had a margherita and Matthew had fruitti di mare (seafood). They were good, but not quite as good as his. But then again, we were here in Italy, so how bad could it be?  They're served whole, so you cut your own slices.

We slept like logs after an exhausting two days of travel—I kept falling asleep everywhere we went, including after dinner at the table, so we made it an early night.

Day 2: San Vincenzo

I already love it here! This resort has a bar right down from our room with a barristo who speaks a little English and makes awesome cappuccino. We stood at the bar, remembering from our first trip that it costs more to sit than stand, plus we had a delightful conversation with him as he worked. He had cornettos—Italian croissants—in the oven, so we shared one and had our coffees while listening to people come and go and chatter with him. We met some people from Canada who speak as little Italian as we do who arrived late last night after coming off a cruise. The barristo helped us with our Italian and we helped him with English. I suggested we skip buying coffee for the apartment and going downstairs every morning since it was so much fun and a better cultural experience.,

We drove into town to walk around, eat lunch, find another ATM, and go to the local grocery COOP, which is always an event. I left my hand lotion at home, so was trying to figure out what to buy when a nice woman walked over and read the Italian on the jar, then handed me what I wanted. Barely a word was spoken since she didn't speak English, but she pantomimed that I could use it everywhere but my face. We bought a few staples for the apartment, then headed for lunch since I was feeling woozy. I forget how much energy traveling takes and my head reminded me it was time to eat and drink more water. We each had salads—Matthew ordered pomodori, which was just what it said—tomatoes. No lettuce at all. I ordered the spinachi which was cooked spinach salad and very good. Then we shared a cutting board of cured meats and cheeses (think salami, prosciutto, and other delicious meats that I'd never touch at home--or just check out the picture that I so cleverly added..,,,meats, some cheese, that's honey in the spoon and maybe chicken liver on that piece of bread). After lunch, we headed for our first gelato of the trip, which we ate while walking around the town. We were searching out the restaurant Matthew had read about and made a reservation for 8 tonight. It's right on the beach with its own private beach and reminds me a little of Barbara's in ambiance. We'll be sitting outside tonight—something rarely done at Barbara's, especially in the evening!

This afternoon we were going to drive around to nearby towns, some of which have great archaeological sites, but we knew we'd be pushing the envelope if we did, so opted to get into swim suits and go to the pool for a couple of hours. I'm reading a great book for our book club, Pat Conroy's South of Broad, so was happy to relax with it in the sun.

And we travel why?

Days like today make me wonder why anyone travels. The day started when we got to the Burlingame Hilton airport shuttle service, No problem finding it or parking, but the shuttle driver picks us and another couple up as he's answering his cell phone...another driver has been stopped by the police, so he has to cover his shift at another hotel. We had to wait for another shuttle to arrive, exchange cars, then do another pick-up before getting to SFO.

You know those flights when there's one 2 year old on board who's out of control with crying, screaming, getting overtired, so it's impossible to sleep? Well, that was my row today....and her young mom had had such a bad day already with her car being towed in SF with her daughter's suitcase inside, then leaving her cell phone with her boyfriend by mistake—and he won't be returning home to NY for 2 more days—that she was in tears. She had no time to buy her food before arriving at the gate and she barely touched the cheese and fruit she purchased from yummy US Airways. We had packed a bunch of food for the day, so I pulled trail mix and bread for her. I tried amusing her with whatever I had at hand, including hauling out my camera to show her my knitted bears. I was knitting a hat and we tried it on “Pooh” to see if it fit him yet.

I thought I'd paid my dues for the day, but the next flight from Philly to Lisbon was full of kids and the screamers were a few rows behind me. The bright side: not next to me.

Lisbon was a nightmare—they had us wait in a very slow line to get our boarding passes for the last flight, which was on TAP airlines. We finally got through there only to find out we had to go through passport stamping there and the line was snaking around the room with hundreds of people. We had gotten in with 1.5 hours to get to our next flight; the baggage took at least 30-45 min, then the lines took another hour. Then we had another pass through their metal detectors, where they stopped Matthew because of our food. Get this: they left the open nuts and raisins, Matthew's dried fruit in baggies, and made us leave the packaged Trader Joe applesauce! Go figure.

We got to the gate about 20 min before the plane was supposed to leave, but then had to wait for who-knows-what. We didn't take off till 11:45.

Not the end of our day....

Friday, September 10, 2010

San Bruno Fire

  What a horrific thing to happen--I feel for those people in San Bruno.  I know several people who live there and am hoping they haven't lost their homes.  I'd offer ours for the next few weeks, but not sure who needs shelter.  The national news did just say most of the people have relatives with whom they could stay
 Getting ready...well, after I get up from the computer.  All packed, still too heavy....both the suitcase and me, but I tried.  I'll do better next time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm a crazy fool today...finished 9 purses to take to Savvy Skirts, but then realized something odd happened and the pictures I had already taken were deleted or disappeared somehow from my camera, so took more, then put them on my website.  Today?  Like I have nothing else to do.  No, I am not packed....but everything is out and in total disarray in my loom room. 
 So since I took pictures and I'm still avoiding the suitcase, here are a few:
Yea, success!  Not one, but 3 pictures added.  I'm feeling very smart....

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

practicing uploading photos

I thought I'd never do this....

 I'm trying the blog route for our travels, so we'll see how this goes.  My main purpose is to post pictures as we go since it's easier--supposedly--than using email for pics.   We shall see.
 Already I've had trouble adding a picture to the blog, and I haven't left yet.  I'd tell friends how to find me on here, but hmmm....I don't think I know.  It's Wed, we're leaving in 2 days, and  I don't want to spend lots of time trying to figure all this out before we leave.  I need to pack.