We are alive! We didn't mean to leave you all hanging, but after arriving back in the good old USA, Bootsie couldn't reactivate his phone, so we couldn't post a final entry on this here Journi. Three days later, with countless trips to Apple and Verizon, a new phone, and many long phone calls with "advanced technical specialists," we are up and running, sans our last photos, and want to say goodbye. It's hard to believe - 162 days and 147 moments later! Wonderful places and amazing new friends, not to mention connecting with old ones in exotic places. It's a great World folks, and we were blessed with an incredible journey - thank you Taft for making it happen. Arrivederci.(revised photos 6/29/'15)
11 June 2015
We took the tube to Embankment, a stop along the Thames, this morning, and walked from there to the Globe Theater for a group tour. Our guide was young and funny and loud enough, despite the cacophony of noise at the theater with several group tours going on at once, and the tech crew working on the set for the day's matinee. We grabbed lunch standing at a stall at Borough Market and then tubed over to the West End for a matinee of A Curious Incident...- probably the most amazing production we have ever seen. Every aspect of the show was unbelievably creative and cool and gripping. Without giving ourselves much time to switch gears, we walked to a Vodafone store- more issues!- and then jumped on a sunset ferry ride up the Thames to Greenwich and back, and crawled into bed thinking we had really done enough. It's time to go home!
10 June 2015
After a proper English breakfast with Cathy and Ralph, which included eggs and a rasher of bacon cooked on their beautiful Aga stove, we said "Cheerio"and headed to the station. We took the long route along the picturesque Itchen river past the ruins of Winchester Castle and in through the very quaint village, stopping in briefly at The Great Hall-home of the Round Table- before hopping on an express train back to London. Once settled back in the big city, we wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery and looked at portraits from the Tudors all the way to the present. All museums here are free, which is wonderful because London is a very expensive place to visit. We found a Mexican restaurant with delicious burritos and margaritas ( it's been a long, long time!) that was in our price range, and then collapsed and spent the rest of the evening watching a tv show on Canal travel through England, starring Prunella Scales, aka Sybil from Fawlty Towers. Basil!
9 June 2015
Winchester College was the destination today. Our headmaster Willy had set us up with a visit to the school, and headmaster Ralph Townsend and his wife Cathy kindly invited us to stay with them for the night. The train ride took us an hour southwest of London to the beautiful green and pastoral town of Winchester, and a cab ride brought us to Ralph and Cathy, who greeted us with a champagne lunch, after which we took a tour of the school, along with 50 visitors from a school in Nashville called MBA. Winchester College is VERY old- the oldest in England, it was founded in 1382- and has 700 boys, 13-18. People may say Taft looks Harry Potterish, but this school is the real deal. After the tour we peeled away from the group to go to the famous Winchester Cathedral hear Evensong. We then had drinks in the Warden's Garden, followed by dinner in College Hall, the original medieval dining hall, and a nightcap with the Music Dept at a local pub. The whole thing was pretty unbelievable.
8 June 2015
With only five days left of our time abroad, we have A LOT on the agenda, so to start the "tick off" we took the tube as far north as it would go, and met Hannah, who had offered to drive us up to Felsted, and then drop us off in Cambridge. Once there, Charles gave us a three hour tour of the town- in an hour and 7 minutes, we had a quick lunch and an even quicker coffee in the teachers' lounge, and then jumped in the car for Cambridge. A jewel of a town, Cambridge is also overrun with international tourists with selfie sticks, but lucky for us, they don't seem interested- or have the attention span- for choral evensong, so after a touristy 1/2 hour punting along " The Backs," we went first to Kings College for Evensong at 5:30, and then to St. John's College for their 6:30 service. A Herbert Howells fest! Bootsie was in heaven. A tasty dinner at a Chinese restaurant across from the chapel, a long walk to the train station, and then a late train back to Roberto's swanky pad. Phewwww!
7 June 2015
Bootsie had an ambitious agenda for our one and only Sunday in London. He wanted to catch as many choirs as possible, so we were planning to go to Matins at Westminster Abbey, 10:30 Eucharist at Westminster Catholic Cathedral, 11:30 Eucharist at St. Paul's, and Choral Evensong back at Westminster Abbey. That's a lot of church, even for him, and thankfully we abandoned the Catholic service, even though the choir was going to be singing the Vaughan Williams Mass in G. It was Howells' Te Deum at "Westy" that he cared most about, and it was performed so exquisitely that "it did him in." Other than church, we spent a lot of time in the futuristic looking "tube" and managed a quick visit to the vast and equally space-age-looking Tate Gallery. In the evening Roberto returned from his weekend in Madrid, and Bootsie cooked a good chicken dinner, which Roberto said was his first home cooked meal in a long time. Off to Cambridge for more church music!
6 June 2015
While our walking tour with Charles and Hannah was both wonderful and enlightening, it was also a little overwhelming, as there are more people in London right now than we have seen all together in the last three and a half months, and our tour took us right into the thick of it. Granted, the weather is beautiful so everyone is outside, and it is June, the month of school tours and weddings. We decided to limit our exposure to crowds today and opted for the John Soanes Museum, a rabbit warren of a house full of architectural drawings, paintings and historical objects. Then we tubed it over to London Bridge for a matinee of an Alan Ayckbourn play at the tiny Menier Theater. A wonderful production, it was just what we needed. After the show we wandered through Borough Market, which was closing up, and watched hoards of pub dwellers drinking their pints outside the pubs. Our last stop on our walk was the Queen's Walk, which runs along the Thames. Plenty of people to watch everywhere!
5 June 2015
Our friends from Felsted School, Charles Lee and Hannah Grace, took us on a whirlwind 3 hour tour of London today, and insisted that we pose in front of every landmark (25 in all) wearing ridiculous hats. There will not be any photos to illustrate this humiliating but nevertheless highly entertaining experience. We are glad that none of our other friends who guided us through Europe had the same idea. After 12 miles of traipsing around and nearly getting run over as we stood posing in the middle of busy roads, with a stop for English Tea on the top floor of Waterstones Picadilly Bookstore, we said goodbye, and limped over to St. Martin-in-the-Fields for a beautiful concert of Handel's Coronation Anthems, a fitting end to a day focused on Royalty and all of its splendor. We got back to our swanky pad in time for sunset (10 pm) and Bootsie cooked us a nice pasta dinner. Here in England we have reverted to our original monikers, Bootsie and Byrdie, as they sound like good British names.
4 June 2015
Farewell, Parigi! God Bless Uber! We were dreading having to haul our heavy bags to Gare Du Nord, but a 13 Euro uber ride made the experience a piece of cake. Having never taken a Eurostar to London from Paris, we thought we were giving ourselves loads of extra time, but by the time we had gone through check in, customs, and security, and walked the length of the train to our reserved seats in Car #1, we had about 10 minutes to spare. Our seats were facing backwards, which was too bad, except the train goes so fast you can't see much anyway, and also, the Chunnel is a non event; it just gets dark for a while. Still, it was quick and painless, and now here we are in London, staying with Roberto D'Erizans in his swanky high rise apt in Canada Water, where we will be camped for the next 5 days. London is really beautiful! We took the tube in to London Bridge to have dinner at one of Jamie Oliver's restaurants, and then took an after dinner walk along the Thames on a beautiful evening.
3 June 2015
There was a lot to pack in to our last full day in Paris, beginning with an exhibit of Klimpt and the Viennese Seccesionists at the Pinacotheque, which we loved. Then a stroll through the Tuileries before heading over to the Marais, to the Picasso Museum. We had lunch in a cafe near the museum, and sat next to a woman who had 2 diamonds the size of marbles on her finger. Just another day in Paris. After saying our goodbyes to Lisette and Juliet, we strolled through the Marais towards a SERIOUS restaurant supply store, passing by the Pompidou Center and the church of St. Eustace, through a lively park full of kids. By the time we got home we were dragging, but after a glass of rosé we were geared up to go out to a nearby Vietnamese family restaurant for a delicious and very inexpensive dinner. The 2 children sat at a table, eating their pho and doing homework while the parents cooked and served. One last walk up the hill after supper for the Eiffel. We ache but we're happy and sated.
2 June 2015
There just aren't enough real churches in Paris for Claude, so we had to take a train ride to Chartres today. All good pilgrims start the day with a pastry or two before setting off on their pilgrimage, so our first stop was our neighborhood boulangerie. Next stop Montparnasse, where we boarded the train, and an hour later, the town of Chartres, looking a little severe but nonetheless striking on this blustery gray day. The cathedral was under renovation, so it didn't exactly provide the "rush" that Claude was hoping for, but as he loves to say, "it didn't disappoint." We found a locals-type restaurant for lunch, and then headed back to the big city. We met up with Lisette and Juliette for a magical evening, starting with a glass of wine at the apt where they are staying in the 9th with amazing views in every direction, then one of the best meals we have had in a long while, at Le Pantruche, and then a walk in the moonlight back to the metro at the end of the evening. Ah, Paris!
1 June 2015
No matter what city you're in, Mondays are always tricky days for visiting museums, but we hit the jackpot with the Fondation Louis Vuitton, a totally cool Frank Gehry building on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. There was only one exhibit open, which meant there weren't many people(there are A LOT of tourists in Paris right now), it was a great exhibit (Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko, Emil Nolde, Kandinsky, Giacometti were just a few), and the building is so fun to explore. And then the part of the park it is in, the Jardin Acclimatation, is lovely too. There was a cute little electric bus that took us back to a metro for only one euro. Just perfect. For dinner we walked to the Latin quarter to a tiny Korean BBQ restaurant. As we start to count our remaining days in Europe, each one is truly a gift.
31 May 2015
Happy Mother's Day from Paris. We have had Mother's Day 3 times since being in Europe, and still no diamond brooch or dozen roses for Marie Francoise, but who's keeping score. We did go to church at the American Cathedral (chef and cookbook writer Patricia Wells is an acolyte!), and saw an old friend from St. John the Divine, Lucinda Laird, who is now the Dean. Claude wants to come back and do a Collegium concert. After church we met up with Marie Francoise's old friend and high school roommate Lisette, her sister Sallie, and Lisette's friend Julie, and had lunch at a fancy cafe next to the pyramid at the Louvre. In the afternoon we strolled around the Luxembourg Gardens before meeting up at Sallie's apt for a really fun dinner with Sallie's French husband Denis and youngest son Nicholas. We stayed late into the evening, and Sallie treated us to an uber car back to our neighborhood. Uber is awesome. And it is wonderful thing to spend time with old friends in exotic places.
30 May 2015
It is pretty exhilarating to see the Eiffel Tower from the air on a beautiful day. We flew into Orly, and after claiming our 300 pounds of luggage we wandered around the airport looking for the train to Paris. Not that well marked, so we stopped a woman to ask her. "There is no train; you must take a bus," she said dismissively in her thick French accent. Wrong. But so predictable. We found the speedy little train and headed in to Paris with our steamer trunks on wheels, and then dragged the bags to our apt, a 10 minute walk from Notre Dame. The apt is small but light and clean, and we are in a great neighborhood full of bakeries and charcuteries and all kinds of people to watch. So fun! We walked to the Latin Quarter for fondue, and crawled home to bed. It is really exciting to be in Paris. Our French names for the next few days will be Claude and Marie Francoise. It's really too bad we don't speak French.
Arrivederci Roccantica! After spending the day packing, cleaning, taking one more trip to our favorite grocery store, Emme Piu, where the checkout woman made a big fuss over us, we said an emotional goodbye to our dear neighbors over a glass of prosecco and called it a night. Early this morning, after a very emotional goodbye from Ada, we drove the car to Fiumiccino. Once we got through security we opted for a big hamburger lunch-for-breakfast instead of one more Italian panino or bowl of pasta. It was the best thing we've eaten in a while. (Apologies to our vegetarian friends.) Next stop: Paris!
28 May 2015
Don't worry, no more sunset pictures. Today was all about going to our local post office and mailing a big box of dumb stuff. Thankfully, Nella agreed to accompany us down the hill to deal with the forms and the red tape. It took a while- there are a lot of rules- and ultimately, the post mistress was so unfamiliar with the process that she said to leave the package and come back next week. As we will be gone, Nella promised to deal with it. If it actually leaves the p.o. here in Roccantica, it will go by ship to the U.S., and take at least a month. Why are we bothering?
On our way back up the hill we stopped into a private chapel, where the door was open and a woman in a jumpsuit was working- her name was Giovanna. We got talking (in English) and she showed us the faux marble she was painting in one of the corners of the chapel. The chapel is owned by the Vincetini family, whoever they are. Oh, the connections we could have made! We have found the landed gentry of the town, too late!
27 May 2015
We said goodbye to Rome for the sixth and final time; over three months' time in Italy we accumulated an astounding total of 24 days in the Eternal City - WOW! We took a variety of trains back to Roccantica, where it was a dramatically dark and stormy day. We spent a good portion of the afternoon packing a box of books and maps which may or may not survive the Italian postal system. The rains stopped and as if Mother Nature knew we were leaving in two days, we were treated to a spectacular rainbow and sunset. For supper, Bruno whipped up a "refrigerator pasta," which was also a rainbow- of leftover ingredients - this is his forte and is ALWAYS delicious!
26 May 2015
Another gorgeous day! We have gotten very good at losing track of time on this trip, and we barely made our meeting time of 11:00 this morning. The late start meant that we had a very narrow window of time in which to see the five Caravaggios and one Raphael in three different churches around Rome, but we managed to squeeze them all in before closing time at 12:30, and then had a good pasta lunch with Giusepina and Letitsia at a small restaurant near Piazza del Popolo, before saying goodbye- until we see them in about a month up in Nova Scotia. After lunch we caught a bus to explore Monti, a neighborhood that Carmella has been itching to see for the last 2 years. We loved it! We slowly wound our way through Monti and back to Piazza Venezia and then hopped on a 916 back to our digs, in time for a beautiful sunset and a supper of leftovers. We are pooped! Time to head back to "the rock" and sit a spell, before we pack up for good and leave on Saturday.
25 May 2015
It was a beautiful day here in Rome, and Bruno led us on a huge walking tour starting at Piazza Venezia, over to Trastevere, back to the Jewish Quarter, behind the Palentine and ending in the Aventine. The amount of walking we did is amazing, considering his poor sad feet, but we were all game, and we stopped for a nice outdoor lunch in Trastevere, kindness of Giusepina and Letitsia. We also managed to slip in some tram and bus rides at different times throughout our day. We watched a wedding ceremony in Santa Maria in Trastevere, some monks preparing a slide show in Santa Sabina, watched hoards of tourists with selfie sticks, and then came back to our apartment, where Carmella roasted a chicken for supper, and Bruno shared some of his 3000 pictures of our sabbatical with our friends. Starting to look back over the last 5 months was an overwhelming experience. We have done so much!
24 May 2015
We are church-lovin' folk - well Bruno certainly is - so we went to the Anglican Church this morning for their 10:30 service. More interesting to Carmella was the walk we took to get there, a familiar route from when we stayed over at the B and B on Via Giulia back in March, which goes through Piazza Navona and skirts the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps before arriving near Piazza del Popolo. After church we came back for steak lunch on our terrace, and then headed to meet Gerrie and Katherine at their hotel. So wonderful to see them here in Rome! Together we took a tram to the Colliseum and then walked to Piazza Venezia and got on the most crowded bus ever, and brought them back to our pad for supper, a Bruno feast of saltimbocca and lemon pasta. More adventures with G and K (whose Italian names are Giusepina and Letitsia) tomorrow.
23 May 2015
Sylvia Poggioli may know a lot about Rome, but we know more, especially when it comes to public transportation. We took the train in from Roccantica this morning, and after having spent so many hours last time trying to figure out the busses and trains, we felt pretty smart about our route to the apartment we had rented for the second time near St. Peter's. Easy peasy. It was nice to return to our neighborhood, with its friendly coffee bars and open air food market. But when we decided to try and figure out the best route to the area of San Lorenzo, where Gerrie and Katherine, our friends from Nova Scotia, are staying for a few days, we spent three hours on various trains, trams, and city busses, and ended up frustrated, weary of the Italian transit system, and ready for a strong drink. Carmella thinks motor scooters are the answer.
22 May 2015
Marcello and Nella took us on a field trip today, along with Ada and six other friends of theirs, to Castelli Romani, the group of towns southeast of Rome, where the Pope has his summer palazzo. Eleven of us drove in three cars, stopping to walk around Genzano di Roma, Castel Gandolfo and Ariccia, before stopping for a mammoth lunch at one of the fraschette restaurants known for having the best porchetta. It was a lot of fun to be along on the expedition and not be in charge of herding the group (Thank God for Nella, for speaking English), and we were amused by Marcello who kept rolling his eyes and barking at everyone to keep moving. Our delicious and stupefying lunch of pasta, several platters of various meats, cheeses, vegetables, and more meats, went on for a few hours. We drove back up the autostrada to Roccantica just as the rain started. So full, we had to take naps, even though it was 6:30. A wonderful day with our thoughtful and gracious neighbors!
21 May 2015
We may not have encountered The Barber of Seville, but we met the barber of Bologna today. Bruno has been pining for a haircut, and we had passed by an elegant old world type shop the evening before, so we returned this morning for Bruno to "go under the scissors." It was a small shop where wives sat in the corner out of the way, while the men were shaved and shorn. Chris and Carmella had a great time taking pictures of the various customers. Then it was portici, portici. We had no idea how significant this word was, or how many portici we were going to walk under as we strolled out of town and up the portici covered hill to The Church of San Lucca. 666 portici up, and 666 down. By the time we said goodbye to Chris at the train station we had walked almost 12 miles, and had the blisters of pilgrims. It was a wonderful time with Chris, a 20 year old for whom we have great admiration, but we were glad to get on the train and put our aching feet up on the seats and rest!
19 May 2015
We expected to be dazzled by Bologna's production of The Magic Flute, but we certainly didn't expect to be wearing 3D glasses during the performance. While bizarre, the production was innovative and fun, and we certainly won't forget it, especially the scene with Sarastro and a dozen little kids, all wearing fake beards. Chris and Carmella got giggling and then couldn't stop. It is a treat to be in Bologna, and have Chris be our guide. We spent the afternoon before the opera strolling around under the portici visiting churches and an amazing 17th century "medical theater" where they performed dissections on a marble slab for students of anatomy. Chris made us a delicious pasta bolognese at his apartment, and then we walked to the opera. Right outside the opera house is a gathering spot for students who like to sit on the ground and drink big warm bottles of beer. A strange juxtaposition of classy meets hippie.
18 May 2015
It's been a quiet few days here in Roccantica, and we've enjoyed retreating into our shells to read our books and take naps in the heat of the day, a period of time which lasts from 2 until about 7pm. Once it has cooled down we can grill and sit out on the terrace. I'm sure that some of the things we've cooked lately have never before been made or consumed here. Indian spiced chicken? Cold sesame noodles?? We've also loved hanging out in the courtyard with Nella, Marcello, and Ada before and after dinner, talking and watching the rondoni energetically circle and swoop and call out to each other. This morning we drove up to Orvieto to catch a train to Bologna, where we will see Chris Browner, a former Taft student. We are excited to be taking him to The Magic Flute tonight. it would be hard to find a more knowledgeable or enthusiastic opera lover than Chris!
15 May 2015
With only 2 weeks left before we leave Italy and our comfy Renault Duster (we call it Dusty, 'cuz that's what it is), today we tracked down a carwash with a vacuum cleaner. The Italian carwash keeps the car standing still while the machine moves back and forth on a track. Maybe this is not new to you, reader, but it is new- and clever-to us. Back in Roccantica, while Bruno sat at the computer and focused on the last of our travel plans, Carmella took a stroll around town, taking pictures of the various doorways, some of which are simple and elegant, some creepy, and some which look like entrances to psychic parlors.
Bruno made fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with various cheeses, lemon zest and basil, we listened to The Magic Flute, and we saw the sun come out just in time to set.
It was noon before we left our rental today (no pictures, but we will be going back for a few days next weekend so we will post some, as it is a pretty "sweet" pad), and it took us a really long time to get out to Tiburtina and then on a train back to the country. Every time we return to Roccantica it is even more lush and inviting than it was when we left. Back on "The Rock", Bruno made a stir fry and we sat out on the terrace, listening to the sounds of the night: a dog barking in the distance, someone washing dishes, someone else watching t.v., the rondini(swallows) and rondoni (swifts) gathering, soaring, and calling to each other. Mostly though, it was the sounds of silence in the mountains.
(NO PICTURES TODAY - We're having trouble posting the few we have).
13 May 2015
Wednesday is not Prince Spaghetti Day here in Rome. It's much better, especially when it comes to the food. A healthy dose of culture matters also, so having mastered the complicated Roman bus routes, off we went to the Barberini (aka Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica) where we met up with Gino and Natalia. We saw a very cool show of Bernini drawings and more. And we thought of him as just a sculptor/architect! We spent a couple of hours at the museum looking at their permanent collection- a hodgepodge of good and weird paintings- and then took a bus to Quartiere Coppede, the wildly fantastical neighborhood of buildings designed by another architect named Gino: Gino Coppede. What a feast of imagination and architectural styles! We needed to rest our eyes after that experience, so we split up and went to lie down, before meeting up for a superb dinner at Gino and Natalia's favorite restaurant, Ditarambo. What a meal! Thank you G and A for dinner and for a fun time together in Roma!
12 May 2015
Gino and Natalia like to hang out in cemeteries, and it turns out that these places can actually be kind of fun. As Gino is an architect and a trustee of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, he has some knowledge and some opinions about them, and so we spent some time "chilling" in the Protestant Cemetery next to the Pyramid, where Gino and Carmella's Great-Great grandmother, Louisa Terry, and their Great grandfather's architecture partner, William Rutherford Mead, are buried. So are Keats, Goethe, and Shelley, but so what. We spent the afternoon in that section of Rome, visiting Centrale Montemartini, the museum in the old power plant, then going to St. Paul outside the walls, then to the cemetery, and then to look at an architecture school located in an old slaughterhouse. A fun day. And another Bruno feast, of pasta and grilled chicken and strawberries with creme fraiche on our roof terrace to cap it off.
11 May 2015
The bad news to report is that Bruno's cellphone was pick pocketed on Sunday, just after we arrived in Rome, and he hadn't backed it up in "the cloud" so we couldn't even lock it or locate it. We spent the day going to the Carabinieri station, and then on a series of city busses and metros to get out to a mall, where there was an Apple store where we were told they might be able to help us. The good news is that we met a series of unbelievably nice and helpful people throughout the day. There are a lot of good people in the world. So we have skipped a day of blogging, but yesterday we finally met up with Carmella's brother Sam and his wife Elizabeth and had a great time walking around Rome. From here on in, we will refer to them as Gino and Natalia. They showed us places we had never been to, like the Aventine, where there was a film shoot going on. Bruno cooked a good dinner for us and we ate on the terrace of the apartment near St. Peter's we have rented for a few days. More later!
9 May 2015
On our trip back from town this morning we bumped into Marcello, Nella and Ada on their way to a wedding at the country club. As Nella was going to officiate (she is a member of the town council), she was wearing her official sash, and since we wanted to see her in action, we tagged along to watch from the rosebushes. Back in Roccantica, Ada invited us to come watch her make ravioli and then have pranzo. Marcello brought prosecco and wine, and it turned into a party. Nella shared some amazing stories about Marcello, who nearly died as a baby and survived only because he liked donkey milk, and went on to be one of the carbinieri guarding Pope Paul VI. He is quite a character.
8 May 2015
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Gerald Manley Hopkins
7 May 2015
If you are in this part of Italy and you need a dentist, we have a good one. Poor Bruno, just given a clean bill of health by the foot doctor, bit into a stale biscotti and broke a tooth- a molar with a really old filling- one of those ones the dentist always says is eventually going to disintegrate. It did. And thankfully, our good neighbors have friends who are dentists, and Nella took us to the town of Cantelupo and translated for Bruno. And the dentist did a bang up job, and all is well again. After that adventure Carmella took a long walk and met Bruno at an Italian country club where there are trillions of roses in full bloom. What a great smell! Too bad Bruno couldn't smell anything (novocaine?). Pledging to eat only soft foods, Bruno made a risotto with fresh peas, fennel, leeks and mushrooms for supper. Poor Bruno. Poor Carmella!
6 May 2015
A hot, sunny morning when we set out on our day's adventure. Marcello had suggested our itinerary, which included a drive up to Montefiascone, then around the shores of Lago di Bolsena, up through the gorgeous green and fertile hills of southwestern Tuscany to the town of Pitigliano. Bruno's pasta was so delicious that he groaned all through lunch. Good thing we were the only people in the restaurant. We enjoyed Pitigliano, nicknamed Little Jerusalem: the setting, the story of Count Orsini and his relationship with the Jewish community. Orsini's favorite doctor was Jewish, so Orsini had a synagogue built for him. The sky became increasingly overcast as the day went on. It turns out there was a huge warehouse fire in the valley near the autostrada, and its smoke permeated the air all day. It was a warehouse full of wood pellets. Back on the rock, we shared our day with Nella and Marcello, who has a wonderfully expressive face.
5 May 2015
Summer has arrived in Poggio Mirteto, where cafes have put up their outdoor tables and umbrellas, and lots of people are out and about. We went in to town this morning for groceries and ice cube trays, which are very hard to find. What do the Italians have against ice, we wonder? This afternoon we drove back to Bruno's foot doctor in the picturesque town of Torri in Sabina. She is so nice that Bruno has invited her to come visit us in CT. Back in Roccantica, we decided to break out of our Italian cuisine rut, and Bruno marinated pork tenderloin in an Asian marinade, and made shish kebobs which Carmella then grilled. He is the cook, but she is the griller, as well as the IT person. We make a good team.
4 May 2015
Suddenly it was midsummer on The Rock, and there wasn't anything we wanted to do but put up the big umbrella on the terrace, cook hamburgers on the grill, drink beer, and take a nap. We did experiment with salting and sun baking some zucchini and eggplant, a technique our friends in Faicchio use regularly. We'll see if ours tastes anything like Lina's. Otherwise, the day was stops and starts: the wifi went from good to painfully slow for Bruno, who was researching flights to Paris, and Carmella took the bike out of the shed and tried riding it around. It ain't Amsterdam. These are the times she wishes she were Dutch, as the Dutch don't grumble; they just cope. Need to wear a skirt to work and take your 3 kids to school? Just do it! Throw the kids in the front of the wheelbarrow bike and go!No complaining about rocky steps and steep hills. What the heck do we have to complain about! Absolutely nothing - life is grand and we are loving every minute of it. Now where is the pool?
3 May 2015
We finally found a perfect field of poppies on our way to the autostrada, and with cars whizzing by us, risked our lives to get the photo. Bruno had a bee in his bonnet today to go on a field trip in the direction of Viterbo. Sibylla had told us about the Sacro Borso of Bormarzo, a garden of immense statues, mythical and symbolic, built by an italian nobleman for his wife in the 16th century. A big park full of families walking and picnicking on this fine Sunday in May, it felt like the place to be- a little crowded but definitely lively, and we had our own picnic - with a little prosecco! Sibylla had also told us about a peony farm in that same area, so after our picnic we drove to Vitorchiano, also busy (it is Labor Day weekend here in Italy, which explains the crowds), a farm with more peonies than we've ever seen. We were a little late, as some were over, but there were lots of buds and perfectly beautiful ones to see, and wisteria as well! A day full of monsters and flowers!
2 May 2015
Your challenge, reader, should you choose to accept it, is to find the cat in the first six photos. This cat had no connection to the bride and groom, but seemed intent on being part of their fairy tale, and followed them from the bottom of the village, past our house, to a chapel and a tower at the highest point in town, where the photographer (and his drone) waited for them. We had just been up there with our neighbor Ada, who as a church elder had a key and had invited us to go see it when we had gone over to her house for coffee earlier in the day. I wouldn't say our Italian is much better but it is getting easier to communicate with her. Not that we fully understand her, but there are fewer awkward silences. In between morning coffee and the wedding excitement we drove down to the Tiber, which travels through a lovely nature preserve near the train station. A great new discovery, we plan to come back for a bike ride later in the week as the weather is supposed to heat up.
1 May 2015
It was a day of adventures in the rain: of trains and car rides through dark scary tunnels and terrifyingly high mountain roads. We said goodbye to the nice family who owned the B&B, who have 12 children, 11 of whom are boys, and stopped into see the church of Giovanni on our way to the train. Dogs are welcome in churches here. Our train took us thru dark tunnels back to La Spezia and our car, and we drove towards Barga, via Carrara and the eerily beautiful marble mountains above the sea. The road we took was without question the freakiest experience that Carmella has had. Bruno was a little scared, but he kept a brave face at the wheel as we drove higher and higher up switchbacks and through long empty tunnels full of potholes. We reached the top and Carmella was ready to get out and walk, but Bruno and some German bicyclists talked her out of it, and we descended down the mountain's other side, to Barga, to a place called Mount Tabor, and a lovely nun named Sister Evangeline.
30 April 2015
Waiting on the train platform in Monterosso with the throngs of other tourists, we watched a tourguide from hell trying to herd a large group of Italian ragazzi onto a crowded train. At times like this we are reminded how lucky we are to have Stefania as our Italian guide, and how nice it is to be traveling without a group. We spent a lot of the day, it seemed, on platforms, as some of the walking paths between the towns were closed after recent rains. Also, the train schedule is confusing. We didn't mind, though, because Annie and John are so fun and we had such an amazing time hanging out with them. We had a delicious lunch of pasta and a little fried calamari in the the town of Manarola, and then met up again for a drink in a square near our b&b after a walk along the water in Monterosso, then a pizza dinner. Another great time connecting with good friends in Italy. What could be better?
29 April 2015
Ciao from Monterosso al Mare, one of the 5 towns in the Cinque Terre. After a 4 hour drive from Roccantica, we left the car in La Spezia and rode the train to Monterosso. It's more like a subway than a train, as the train is mostly in dark tunnels, with only brief snatches of seaviews, but it's a short ride. Our b and b is up in the town, and our room is an attic with a skylight for a window, but it is cozy. We took a big walk around the town before meeting up with Annie and John Carter for dinner. Carmella and Annie went to high school together, and John, Annie and Carmella went to the same college. Carmella is also godmother to their son James. It is wonderful to see them, and we had a delicious and expensive seafood dinner together(they all seem to be that way: expensive and fresh!), and our sweet waitress from the D.R. knew her way around a fish. We talked so much we didn't notice we were the last customers in the restaurant, and the waiters were patiently waiting for us to leave.
28 April 2015
Between making pasta and going to the foot doctor, Bruno had a busy day today. With the rain coming down hard, and Carmella tucked in, watching The Theory of Everything, Bruno had a quiet moment for his first attempt at making pasta by hand. Although he has given himself notes for next time, it was a successful venture and he was able to give some to our neighbors, who accompanied us to the foot doctor later in the day. We had expected the doctor to be an old man with a big nose and thick, grimy glasses, but it turned out to be a cute young woman with a gentle touch who spoke excellent English. She did say "Oh my God" when she took her first look at the toe, which made Bruno laugh, but we think it was in reference to the amount of mercurochrome he had caked on in the last week. Our neighbors Nella and Marcello are amazing, driving us to the little town where she was seeing patients that day, then to the pharmacy in another town. By the time we returned home the rain had stopped.
Rain, rain, much needed rain, forced Bruno and Carmella to stay put and actually get some essential planning done for future travels: this week to Cinque Terre, and then in June when we leave "The Rock" and move north for a road trip to France, where we will say goodbye to our car. Our six month journey's splashy ending will be our two weeks in England. Can't believe after such a remarkable trip that we are actually looking at the home stretch! Anyone who has ideas about driving in France or things we should do in England is welcome to submit thoughts and suggestions, and maybe even receive a guest spot on the blog.....
26 April 2015
Blog entry #113 from Starship Bruno and Carmella. We were content to "stay put" this morning in our weekend cottage overlooking Lake Trasimeno in one direction, and Lake Chiusi in the other. This area is actually Umbria, not Tuscany, Stefania informed us, but whatever it is, it is very green and beautiful. We dragged ourselves out for a drive north to the Abbey of Farneta, and then to explore the town of Cortona, where we saw a huge rhino sculpture which made us think of our friends at Taft, but didn't stay long in either place. Sometimes, as Bruno likes to say, the magic isn't happening. Much happier to go back to Villastrada and sit outside and soak up the views. Stefania and family came by in the early evening and we said our goodbyes, and then we sped south down the autostrada, back to Roccantica.
25 April 2015
Although Stefania may have imagined that we would want to spend our weekend exploring the area and the many beautiful towns we hadn't yet seen, what we really wanted to do was spend time with her family, doing what they do on a typical Saturday. So we drove up to a pretty town right outside of Florence for Lorenzo's bike race. Lorenzo is a 5th grader, and his sister Georgia is in 2nd, and Lorenzo loves biking, and is good at it. This was a big regional kids' race, and he came in 3rd (and got his first trophy). Stefania and husband Massimo are very laid back about the whole thing but of course some of the parents: Mama Mia! After the races all the families brought out the lunches and ate side by side in the tents they'd set up. Whole sides of prosciutto, porchetta sandwiches, several kinds of cheeses, cakes, wines- you name it, it was on the picnic tables. We stayed for the awards ceremony, then drove back to the lovely cottage we are staying in, in Villastrada for a quiet evening
24 April 2015
More to write about today than Bruno's throbbing toe. We drove up to Montepulciano to meet Sibylla for lunch, stopping first at the church of San Biagio, a beautiful church at the bottom of the hilltown. We had a delicious lunch in an osteria with an impressive cantina. Rows of huge wine casks leading down into what was once an Etruscan tomb. We said goodbye to Sibylla, and spent some time walking around Montepulciano before driving back some of our favorite haunts, La Foce and the sheep farm where a fabulous pecorino can be found. The owner, Giuseppe, is a nice man who runs a successful cheese tasting event for groups, and we brought Collegium here last year. There was a 4 day old lamb, runt of the litter and abandoned by its mother, who he'd been nursing. Castellucio, the castle at La Foce, was in the midst of serious repairs, but it is always breathtaking. We later met up with Stefania, our friend and guide on Collegium tours, and in whose lake cottage we are staying. More later!
23 April 2015
Not much news from "The Rock" today. Like Saint Cecilia, Bruno has had to endure some scaldings, as Carmella insists that the water in his foot bath be HOT. We spent a lot of money at a dollar store and took a little walk around our town. For supper Bruno made a Calabrian potato fritata with ricotta and roasted red peppers, and then we watched Katherine Hepburn in Stage Door, and marveled at the pace of the dialogue. Maybe it was just because they were speaking English.
22 April 2015
There's that old saying: It takes a village, and this was certainly true today, when Bruno revealed that the ingrown toenail that he has been nursing since February had become angrier and more painful after all the walking we'd done in Amsterdam. Carmella consulted the neighbors, who told her that Roccantica actually has a resident doctor, and Marcello offered to accompany Bruno down to see him during office hours in the afternoon. Amazing! And there's a pharmacist next door to the office! Even more amazing. And we thought there was nothing to this town. Marcello speaks no English, and the doctor doesn't either, so Bruno pre-loaded his questions and explanations on his iphone. On the way back we stopped in to see Marcello's 92 year old mother-in-law (she DID used to speak English, about 60 years ago). Our other neighbor Ada came over later to see Bruno's toe for herself and offer advice. It is, after all, her grandson who is the town doctor!
21 April 2015
With only a few hours left in Amsterdam, we decided on walking, eating, and soaking up more of the local culture. We walked to the Winkel's appeltaart cafe (it's a classic Dutch apple cake, and it was just as tasty as it was the first time), then to a cheese shop (too full to think about buying any to take back to Italy). Then to a shop with lots of cool funky stuff by Dutch designers. A colorful character happened to be in the store. People watching never gets boring! Better for Carmella to people watch in the safety of a building. She is far too distractable. After collecting our bags, we tagged along with Mary and her Uber car and got to the airport with lots of time to spare. The Amsterdam airport is nice, and we were happy to put our feet up on the comfy seats and enjoy the free wifi until our departure. After a beautiful flight over the Alps we were back on "the rock" by sunset. Tired but happy, we basked in the glow of many wonderful memories from our trip to Holland.
20 April 2015
We have eaten too much, but we continue to have a grand time here in Amsterdam. Lots of walking today, with a stop for coffee at a cafe with the tiniest terrace in the city, then a visit to the beautiful Portuguese synagogue, which dates back to 1675 and exemplifies both the Dutch attitude of religious tolerance and the stature of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. With a quick visit to the Botanical Garden- more butterflies!-we sat down for a leisurely lunch at the elegant Rijksmuseum and had, among other dishes, a mind blowing gazpacho, with lots going on in it. After lunch we visited the museum, which has just completed an 11 year restoration, and saw paintings by Hals, Steen, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. Back home for a rest (tired!) and another Dutch lesson from Arthur, who is very patient with us idiots, we dined in a beautiful greenhouse restaurant on the edge of the city. Quite a time we've had here. We are so grateful! Thank you Mary, Brad and Arthur for making it happen!
19 April 2015
Our hero Arthur rented a car for the day and drove us out of town, first to show us a couple of buildings and then to visit the Krueler Muller Museum and grounds. While looking at a town hall in Hilversum by an architect named Dudok, we met an um-pah-pah band getting ready to play for a big road race in the town. We drove on to the museum, which is in a rural area and requires parking the car and riding bikes. So fun! An amazing museum with a huge Van Gogh collection as well as a sculpture garden. We rode to another part of the park to see the "yachthaus"- a very dark and Germanic "cottage" designed by Bremner where we were trapped for an hour by a windbag tour guide. We got stuck in a bad traffic jam on the way back to Amsterdam but what an amazing dinner we had at a restaurant called Daalder then we returned!
18 April 2015
What a fabulous day we had here in Amsterdam. The best part is that Carmella is still alive, after having had 2 close calls: first with a tram, and then with a bicyclist who- apparently- had the right of way at an intersection. Humph. This is a beautiful, vibrant city, but it is a terrifying experience to walk or bike here. Nonetheless, Arthur, like Sibylla the other day, had us up and walking and biking all over the place. We walked to a farmer's market to buy dinner ingredients, with a brief stop to have the BEST appeltaart in the world, rode to 2 different museums, the Van Loon House and the Hermitage, then biked out to the former Olympic rowing center to watch a regatta. The air was cool but the sun was out and the light was just like in a dutch painting. We rode along the Amstel river and through rural neighborhoods and city parks, and then busy city streets packed with trams and bikers. We definitely felt out of our comfort zone at times, but it was so exhilarating!
17 April 2015
Our flight to Amsterdam was quick and uneventful, as was the train ride into the city center and the tram ride to our lodgings. It is so much fun to travel to a new city and figure it all out! We are staying with Arthur Kuijpers, a friend of Carmella's cousin Mary and her husband Brad, in a spectacular house right on one of the canals, but on the back side, so the house looks out over a big garden. The windows are huge and Arthur has a big black Aga stove in the kitchen, similar to the one Carmella grew up with. We took a walk around one big chunk of this beautiful city, and then walked to the opposite direction to dinner in the older section. Arthur, though he is very tall and has a huge walking stride that is a challenge to keep up with, is a wonderful guide and a gracious host. When we arrived there were lots of flowers all over the house to greet us.
16 April 2015
We hope you like pictures of springtime, winebars and children, because that's today's post. Today was a "working day" for both of us, and Carmella took some walks, up in the hills behind town and the roads below it. In the early evening we drove to Casperia to have a drink at Vigna, the winebar. The town was full of life, with little kids playing in the square, someone celebrating his birthday with his buddies, people coming home from work and greeting each other. Stores we had never noticed, such as the toy store, were open for business. We like this town, and might need to make the trip over here a regular ritual. Tomorrow we're off to Amsterdam!
15 April 2015
Bruno purchased his matterello for making pasta; now all he needs is a counter big enough for that rolling pin. We drove to Tivoli this afternoon to see the Villa Adriana and had a nice afternoon walking around the Central Park sized ruins on a beautiful day with warm sun and gentle breezes. Our mistake was skipping the building with the model of what the villa and grounds might have looked like-until the end of our tour. There was a huge tourgroup of French teenagers in front of us when we arrived, and we don't mingle with just any ragazzi, so we avoided them, and the model. As a result we were confused when looking at the map, listening to the audioguide, and staring at the ruins in front of us. Sometimes all ruins look alike. Happy to be back on our terrace talking to our neighbor, with the help of google translate, but sorry to miss the remake of Ben Hur, which is being filmed at Villa Adriana tomorrow. Another of Bruno's favorites!
14 April 2015
Primavera e pasta! Back here in Roccantica the sun is out, the wisteria is out in full force, and the air is sweet. We had asked our neighbor Ada for a pasta lesson, and today she poked her head out of the window that looks out on our terrace and announced that today was the day. Although she only speaks 3 words of English we understood her pretty well. Bruno doesn't have her technique down perfectly yet but he wants to. First he needs to buy the rolling pin, and then practice. He did, however, make a delicious pasta sauce for dinner.
13 April 2015
Bruce here: During the 2nd Act of Der Rosenkavalier, which you heard Helena mention as being my favorite opera, there is a famous scene where Octavian, dressed in a silver costume, presents Sophie with a silver rose - an old Viennese tradition of the groom announcing his marriage intentions to his future bride. I was reminded, as Helena and I are now in our 25th year of marriage, of the significance of that silver rose to us both, and our 25 extraordinary years of life together - and the hope of many more to come! She is an incredible life partner, I love her dearly, and thank you Vienna(and Lise and Mark) for enabling us to renew our love and commitment to each other, our family, and our friends. Wir lieben dich Wien! Auf Wiedersehen! Our journey continues to unfold in miraculous and wonderful ways with new discoveries about ourselves and the World happening every day!
12 April 2015
There were many times today that Bruno wept-for joy. Our second full day in Vienna was a mind blowing extravaganza of music, art, food and culture, beginning with a Sunday church service at St. Augustin's that included an orchestra and choir performing a Mozart mass within the liturgy. Bruno wept. Then a visit to the Albertina museum with its beautiful European paintings from the 19th and 20th century, and the Schmetterling Haus(a butterfly house). A delicious lunch next door at Palmenhaus,a beautiful late 19th century greenhouse. In the evening we attended a concert at the Mozarthaus, the oldest concert hall in Vienna, and Mozart's residence for a short time. The icing on the cake was a live televised performance of Bruno's "most favorite" opera, Rosenkavalier. You can bet that Bruno wept again, transported by the final trio, the caliber of singing, the rapt audience sitting watching the screen, and the unquestionable importance and vibrancy of the arts here in Wein!
11 April 2015
Breakfast in the Green Dining Room at the Hotel Sacher is an excellent way to start the morning, with a buffet that includes anything you can think of, including pitchers of water with various types of rocks and minerals for a good cleanse. We walked to the secession, a modern museum housing a large Klimt fresco, then to a huge outdoor market to buy picnic stuff. From there we navigated the subway system to ride to Schonbrunn, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. A tour of the palace and a walk in the gardens, and then we found a shady spot and devoured our picnic. After lunch we jumped back on the subway to go visit Freud's house, a suprisingly simple but moving little museum. Walking back to our hotel we went through one magnificent square after another, passing through beautiful courtyards and in and out of grand churches. Close to the hotel we passed the imperial stables of the Spanish Riding School. A quick rest and then a drive to the outskirts to Vienna's oldest restaurant!
10 April 2015
Bruno and Carmella, aka Dieter and Helga while here for a whirlwind weekend in Vienna, are being hosted by our dear friends Lise & Mark. After a brief flight from Roma, we boarded the brand new high speed train which goes from the airport to the center of Vienna. The weather is perfect - spring everywhere, with many people out in the parks. We are staying across from the Staatsoper, the Vienna opera house, in the famous Hotel Sacher, which is splendor beyond description. On a beautiful spring night, we walked to dinner via St. Stephen's Cathedral, and coming back from dinner we got to see the final scene from Anna Bolena live, on a huge screen set up outside the opera house: truly amazing! Music, music, music, everywhere! Another spring day promised today and we're off to the Schoenbrunn Palace - can't wait!
9 April 2015
According to one of our travel guidebooks, ancient Romans believed that Narni was at the edge of their known world, and beyond it lurked phantasmagorical creatures large and small. Some think that CS Lewis named his mythological kingdom(Narnia) after this town. Lions reminiscent of Aslan were certainly in evidence, as were other smaller creatures! Less than an hour away from Roccantica, this town beckoned us today, and on arriving we were caught up in the allure of these myths. Even the creepy corpse of St. Lucia of Narnia belied a more fascinating tale. We even found a 12th century fresco of Carmella and Bruno! Narnia is currently engaged in a battle with Rieti, as they both claim to be at the center of Italy. On the way home we stopped to see Cascate delle Marmore, Italy's biggest waterfall, and then continued home on back mountain roads with spectacular vistas.
8 April 2015
If you asked Bruno about today, he would say it was perfect. Free time until 4:00, during which time he could catch up on emails, bill paying, laundry, blah blah blah. If you asked Carmella whether it was a good day, she would say "meh" - if she were feeling charitable. She tried sitting still, and then she went for a walk, but she wasn't really having a ball. We finally got in the car to do some errands, and she was as pumped as our old dog Covey used to get when being taken to the beach. The trip wasn't all that exciting, but we did go to our favorite market, then drove by a Knife and Axe club that looked enticing. Perhaps we'll join when we return from our weekend in Vienna.
7 April 2015
Sibylla had us up and out early this morning, as she had the day off, and there was a lot she was excited to show us. Our first stop was the relatively unknown but picturesque town of Citta della Pieve, where we visited the Perugino's fresco of the Adoration of the Magi at the Confraternita Sancta Maris dei Bianchi. The fresco was beautiful, but the robes and the cross were a little creepy. Nonetheless, this brotherhood does good works, and dresses up to process around town with the cross. The next stop was Perugia, another city we had never visited. We parked and walked to the underground maze of houses remaining in the foundations of Rocca Paolina. Stopping briefly for a panino and a coffee on the run, we then stopped by Pisano's Fontana Maggiore, Palazzo dei Priori, and Collegio del Cambio for more amazing frescoes. Our final stop was at the Tempio di Sant'Angelo on the opposite side of town. Lots of beautiful buildings and works of art. Grateful to Sibylla AND our GPS!
6 April 2015
With Bruno back up to speed we spontaneously decided to go on a road trip this morning to Tuscany. An hour and a half drive, but weeks behind Lazio in terms of spring. Thanks to our friend Sibylla from La Foce (who is from Chile but speaks several languages and among other talents gives the tours of the La Foce gardens), we found a room at a very beautiful little hotel in Sarteano and had lunch there before heading to a concert at the church of San Martino. A spectacular concert of two concerti and Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. The church had never in its life been heated, and it was plenty cold, but we were prepared, having spent plenty of time in Italian churches. After the concert we shared a glass of very good wine in our nice warm hotel room, kindness of Sibylla, and then the three of us went out for a late pizza and beer supper. It's fun to be in a different province, and with a wonderful friend, even if it is FREEZING.
5 April 2015
As we mentioned in our last post, we woke up at 6:30 to a rainy cold Easter morning, and decided not to make the trek into Rome. We lit a fire and had a lazy morning, and around 11:30 Bruno made french toast. We gobbled it up and Carmella went out to get wood, and bumped into our neighbors Marcello and Nella and Nella's family, and they invited us over for Easter pranzo, which they were just about to start. Needless to say, it was awesome, even if we weren't the least bit hungry. An Italian groaning board full of wonderful food(vitello, some local innards dish, two pastas, artichokes, roasted potatoes, lamb, fruit, chocolate torta, and of course prosecco and wine!), visitors coming and going, and Bruno singing Old Man RIver, O Solo Mio, and Faniculli/Faniculla - with a cold! We stayed for about 4 hours, and then took a walk around town to try and digest. Later we watched Travels With My Aunt, a very funny movie! A day full of wonderful surprises.
4 April 2015
Bouna Pasqua! Here in Roccantica it is rainy and cold, and we are spending the day here rather than heading to Rome as we had planned. We had a fairly low-keyed day yesterday and Bruno is much better! After a breakfast of toast, eggs, and fresh squeezed blood orange juice, we drove to town to buy ingredients for our Easter dinner. Town was bustling: the butcher, the vegetable market, the wine merchant and the florist (conveniently located next to the coffin store, as noted in the blurry pic). We took a spin to a small town called Toffia, and walked around before heading home when it started to rain. Bruno braised the veal that we thought was lamb, and we started new books. Missing family and friends on this weekend but very glad to have each other's company!
3 April 2015
Bruno here: a quiet Good Friday here on The Rock. While I tried to get rid of my cold with a piping hot bowl of ribolitta, and a long nap on the terrace baking in the sun(it's working!), Nurse Carmella went off the time clock for a well deserved hike up the hill. Her new sport - rock climbing (anything to escape her moody patient!). The day ended with a walk down the hill to the local chiesa for a Good Friday service, which for our little ghost town was surprisingly attended - it looks like people are coming home for Easter, and maybe also to experience this glorious Spring!
Buona Pasqua to all!
Baci e abbracci.
A feeling better Bruno
2 April 2015
Although Bruno would have appreciated another day of rest and recuperation, Carmella was itching to go on an excursion, so off we went to the gardens of Tivoli, about 30 km east of Rome, and about an hour south of here. Bruno imagined that we would drive to the garden, take a look, and then get back in the car, but it turned put to be a lot more walking than he thought- or wanted. We parked on the opposite side of town and wandered around for a while ( and saw some Fellini-esque scenes) before we found the gardens. And then it was a hike down the many steps to the bottom. But it was well worth it. Having watched the opening sequence of the movie 3 Coins in a Fountain, we had to see those fountains for ourselves! There is a lot more to see in this town, including Hadrian's villa; we will be back.
1 April 2015
Without too much fuss, Zsa Zsa has settled back into life in the country and the chores that go along with it. she isn't the best nurse, nor is Bruno the ideal patient, but with any luck Bruno will mend soon and they will still love each other when he does. We took a trip to town for whiskey, oranges, lemons and honey for Bruno, some more wood for our fireplace, and some lamb chops for dinner. Bruno took a nice nap out on the terrace, surrounded by the laundry, and later we cooked the chops in the fire. They were delicious, and cooked perfectly, but in the middle of the night Carmella awoke suddenly, like Miss Clavell, with the realization that although we had asked the butcher for agnello, what we got was vitello. As they might say in Nova Scotia, "Them's weren't no lamb chops!" Still tasty though.
31 March 2015
Before we left Rome today we went to one MORE concert, this one at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome's truly stellar concert hall in a section of Rome not easily accessed. A 40 minute walk to Piazza del Popolo plus a tram ride got us there, along with at least a thousand school children of all ages and stages of politeness. Sam and Michael Whalen, sons of Dana and Tom, were playing Beethoven's 1st Sym.(cello and violin) in Rome's exceptional youth orchestra directed by Sir Antonio Pappano, who also conducts Rome's premier orchestra. We were blown away, & the length was perfect for the attention span of the audience. After the concert we jumped on a bus and took the long and meandering route to the train station at Tiburtina, caught a train that was just arriving, and were back at home in the late afternoon. Bruno made himself a chicken soup and then more or less checked out. Though she was glad to be back home in Roccantica, Carmella felt like Zsa Zsa Gabor in Green Acres.
30 March 2015
This morning we met our new friend Jose the Cuban painter for a visit to Santa Cecilia. Besides painting, Jose is a guide, trying to break in to the ranks of licensed tour guides here in Rome. A wonderful and very knowledgeable guy, he is also as handsome as Ricky Ricardo, so we think Bruno's choir kids might like him. Poor St. Cecilia was martyred in 230, and they tried scalding her to death in her own baths. When that didn't work, they tried chopping her head off. That didn't finish her off- it took 3 days for her to die. This church is a beautiful tribute to her in statues, mosaics, frescoes, and an archeological goldmine in the undercroft. After a visit to the frescoes of Cavallini, and a trip in an elevator with an old nun, we said goodbye to Jose, and Bruno took to his bed for the afternoon, while Carmella went for a walk up to the Gianicolo, the hill above Trastevere. In the evening Bruno left his chambers and we walked to dinner at Trattoria de Teo in Trastevere. Stupendo!
29 March 2015
Holy Week is a big deal for Bruno, so we spent a lot of time in church this weekend, particularly on domenica delle Palme. Even choosing the perfect church for Palm Sunday is important, and luckily we scored with All Saints Anglican, where the service began in the church garden. We heard a fabulous reading of the Passion by Brits with perfect BBC speaking voices, and a great sermon by Dana English, who had hosted us for supper on Friday night. We also got to sing Bruno's favorite hymn, Love Unknown. After lunch in a restaurant near the tomb of Augustus and a gelato near Piazza Navona, we took a rest before heading to a superb performance of the St. John Passion at the church of St. Paul's within the Walls. Wonderful and exhausting day, rich with music and liturgy. Even though he is coming down with a cold, Bruno is content.
28 March 2015
A sunny spring day in Rome is hard to beat. It was a day to find the warmth of the sun, something one never does here in the summer. Carmella had seen a poster for a guided tour of the Farnesina Gallery, which had always been closed when we walked by during previous visits, so we scurried across the river at 10am, in time for a fascinating tour with a wild haired bug eyed man who shared lots of stories about the palazzo and its checkered history. We then walked through Trastevere to a tiny and very popular restaurant we'd always wanted to try (Da Enzo). Later, just before sunset we walked to Castel Sant'Angelo- another place we'd never been to- and climbed up to the ramparts to view the lights of the city and then explore the various dark and spooky corners of the castle- very few tourists at that time of night. We ended our day at All Saints Anglican church, where our new friends were singing the Faure Requiem. Lots of walking, lots to take in on this glorious Saturday in Roma.
27 March 2015
We had planned on going into Rome for Palm Sunday service and a performance of the St. John Passion, but when we were given a last minute dinner invitation for Friday night in Rome, we decided to go in for an extended stay at our B&B. We caught the train this morning, left our bags at Gonfalone 6, and headed to a local osteria for a bowl of fresh pasta before jumping on a bus and heading to one of the coolest museums we've ever seen: Centrale Montemartini. This is a former power plant that has been reimagined as a museum for Roman artifacts. No tourists here! We had the place to ourselves. Later, a walk along the Tiber; all the rain we have had recently has flooded the banks and walkways that usually line the river. We witnessed our first Roman rainbow before heading to dinner at the house of Tom Whalen and his wife Dana English. The guests at this amazing dinner included a British theologian who teaches at Oxford, a Cuban painter, an American composer, and little old us.
26 March 2015
As exciting as a trip to the lavandaria is, it wasn't nearly as important as the news that our neighbor Marcello gave us when we returned from town: the local priest was scheduled to come bless his house at 3:00 (a Lenten tradition here), and we might be able to get him to come bless us and our house too. We rushed down the hill and tidied up the house in a hurry and then anxiously waited at the window hoping to see him. Sure enough, just after 3, he arrived just as the rumbles of thunder began. The blessing was over in 2 minutes, and he went off to the next house (in his Mass. Maritime rain jacket), as the thunderstorm began in earnest. Thinking of family and friends, we had a nice long skype session with daughter Abby, granddaughter Grace and her friend Anna. The storm ended at sunset, and Bruno made a chicken stew reminiscent of the kind Carmella's sainted mother used to make.
25 March 2015
There were no lunches on the terrace today. It was the most intense and relentless rain that we have seen since we've been in Italy, but that was fine wirh us. Our friends had completely worn us out! We needed a day to rest and catch our breath. We booked our flight to Vienna, a task that took us all morning to accomplish, and then Bruno read Mark Helprin's book A Soldier of The Great War all afternoon and late into the night. Carmella read her book as well, and finally dragged out the Italian grammar book that has been sitting idly on the shelf since we arrived. We think it is time to start learning the language!
24 March 2015
After bidding Pepe and Lupe a sad adieu over breakfast, we decided to do another walking tour of Roma. Maybe not as many clicks on the Fitbit as the day before, but still large enough for our tired feet. The highlight of the day was a visit to the Galleria D'Arte Moderna where there was an amazing exhibit(Artisti Dell'800) of not so modern paintings and sculpture(late 1800s) - all very beautiful. A stop at St Paul's Within the Walls(Episcopal) to check out the space for a possible future concert with Collegium and then a rush- hour Metro and train ride home, where things are looking greener than ever! Another amazing trip to Rome! Rain is predicted for the next few days so we will try to keep the blog interesting and reader-worthy. Proviamo!
23 March 2015
As much as we love life in the country, we were anxious to get an early train into Rome to make the most of our friends' last day. After dumping our things at our hotel, we started walking, and barely stopped for the next 5 hours. Pepe's fitbit clocked us at 21,000 steps by the time the day was over. We covered a wide swath of the ancient city, and ate very little! Small panini! Tiny cups of gelato! We are so restrained sometimes. In the evening we met up with our friends and neighbors from Watertown, Tony and Anne Fizgerald, and their friends the DeRosas, and had a long and lively dinner at a local trattoria, a fifteen minute walk from our hotel. Even more walking! All in all, a great last day and night with our good friends. Sorry they are being pulled back to the US by their silly jobs. We will miss them.
22 March 2015
We woke up to heavy rain, which in a way was a relief and a call to relax a little with reading, napping, and a lovely colazione(breakfast). Luckily, the weather cleared by noon, giving us the opportunity to take a couple of walks, interspersed with a pranzo(lunch) on the porch. Bruno made arrancini(rice balls) which were delicious and a lot lighter than they look. Our day ended with a trip to our neighboring hill town, Casperia, to walk around before a stop at Vigna, a wine bar with free wifi. Our new friend Johnny Madge is the wine bar owner and an olive oil distributor to the US, and when Lupe said she wanted to purchase some of his oil, he gave us an amazing array of olive oils to taste. On to Rome tommorow for Pepe and Lupe's last day! Boo, hoo!
21 March 2015
A clear, crisp morning in Roccantica, so Carmella, Lupe and Pepe went to the bar for a coffee and then took a walk while Bruno stayed home to make panna cotta. He had to abort the project when he tried to add a little salt and the top came off the salt shaker, and it all fell into the saucepan. We drove over to Farfa where the monks were singing a noonday Mass (there are only a handful of monks left in this abbey, but they all sing beautifully), and came back for fried stuffed zuccini flowers on the sunny terrace. Suddenly it was 5:30, and we had just finished lunch! We took a quick hike up into the hills to visit the mules in their pasture and watch the sun set, and came back home to a late supper, which Bruno masterfully cooked on the fire. Mountain air certainly makes us hungry.
20 March 2015
After one last walk through the narrow winding streets of Taormina, we packed our bags and drove our rental car back to the airport in Catania. Catania has a pretty terrible reputation; every tourist we met had been mugged or had their car broken into, so we drove to the airport feeling smug that we had avoided it. However, when we arrived at the Vueling check in desk we were told that a country-wide strike was occuring, and all planes and trains across Italy were affected, and our flight was either delayed or canceled. Oh no! Did that mean a night in Catania, the mugging capital of Sicily? We waited in suspense for an hour before we were informed that the flight would take off, but not before we saw almost every other flight canceled. A miracle! We flew to Rome, picked up a car we are leasing, and arrived late in the evening, but not too late for Bruno to make us a mushroom risotto, and have a cozy dinner in front of the fire.
19 March 2015
A glimpse of our elusive friend "Edna" this morning. She seems to have her own weather system, so although it was mostly sunny down here in Taormina, she was enshrouded in the clouds for the rest of the day. We walked to the ruins of the Greek amphitheater (7th century BC) on the other side of town where Bruno gathered a crowd with an impromptu performance of a Verdi aria. After the "Bravos!" from all 3 of his adoring public we walked on to the public gardens (look at the height of that cactus!) before coming back to our sunny terrace for lunch (Bruno made a tasty frittata with the leftover primavera). On our late afternoon stroll around town we discovered a Mass going on in celebration of the Feast of San Giuseppe. Check out the altar, which is decorated in elaborate bread sculpture. We really have grown to love this town. Each day brings new discoveries, and although it is chilly, it is a town to visit in the off-season!
18 March 2015
According to Greek mytholgy, Acis was a shepard boy, loved by Galetea and murdered by the jealous cyclops Polyphemus. The gods, pitying Aci, turned him into a river which flowed down from Mount Etna. "The Acis" are a cluster of seaside towns south of Taormina, and that is where we headed today. Although the air was cold, the sun was finally out. With Pepe Frew at the wheel, we took back roads through miles of lemon trees towards Acireale, and after parking in a town square, walked through the gritty but lively town. We had some outrageously good cookies at a pasticciera called Bella's in Acireale and then strolled down a hill for 2kms to Santa Maria La Scala for a fantastic seafood lunch in an empty restaurant right by the sea. Suddenly it was 3:00 and our metered parking was about to expire, so Lupe and Pepe volunteered to run up the 2k hill to get the car. Later, in honor of spring's arrival, Bruno made pasta primavera for supper.
17 March 2015
La battaglia per la Persefone tra Ade e Demetra(The battle for Spring between Hades and Demeter) says it all both here in Sicilia and in our other homes in New England and Nova Scotia. We witnessed an amazing storm and were reminded of Greek mythology and the rich stories which legend says take place in this area(Mt. Etna is the home of Cyclops, who threw the boulders in the local harbor in anger as Ulysses escaped). The drama of these stories played out last night in lightning and hail! The sun was out this morning with a glorious view of Mt. Etna. The Gods are quiet, so for the moment it appears Demeter won!
16 March 2015
For some silly reason we had thought that leaving on an early flight for Sicily was a good idea. Not so much, but in the plus column, the plane was empty so we each had our own row for the hour long flight. After picking up our rental car we drove to Taormina and the house we have rented for the week. A beautiful town, even on a grey and rainy day, Taormina is packed with tourists in the summer. Not now in the off season, though. We had a magnificent lunch at a restaurant that the pistachio seller we met recommended, and took a stroll through town in the afternoon, and then came back to our home for an evening meal and some excellent Sicilian wine. The weather looks bleak for our visit here but with any luck we will see Mount Edna, as we call it, at least once. Thank God we all like to cook and drink wine and our friends Lupe and Pepe Frew still like us and haven't threatened to leave.
15 March 2015
We have a new friend in Rome: Dorina from Moldava who looks after us at Gonfalone 6, but we dont have the heart to tell her we want real milk in our coffee, not that long life stuff. This morning we went to Mothering Sunday service at All Saints Anglican near Piazza del Popolo, where a friend of Carmella's cousin Mary is a priest, and then we met up with our good friends the Frews. So great to see them and be with them in Rome. Though it was grey and rainy and not great for any big walking tours, the day was a wonderful blur of long and very delicious meals at 2 different restaurants. Whoever the patron saint of good restaurants is, he or she was watching out for us and leading us to great finds. Off to Sicily on Monday.
14 March 2015
We left our little town of 10 people to face the 3 million or so who were in Rome yesterday. We walked for about 6 hours, from our b&b on the river to Piazza Navona, then to an internet store on Via Corso near the Piazza di Spagna (don't get Carmella started on internet issues), climbing one of the seven hills of Rome (Quirinale) to Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore, a church which Bruno the church lady says "doesn't disappoint." Too Tired to face a crowded restaurant for dinner, we ate a tasty takeout salad and drank lambrusco (a mistake, for sure) in our cozy room and watched badly dubbed 70's American tv shows.
13 March 2015
Today's big lesson: sometimes it is better to be wrong. We had been feeling half-hearted about our guided tour of the abbey at Farfa. Maybe it was our doubts about the tour itself, but more likely it was our skepticism about the unknown tourguide. We have had a lot of local guides over the years, and some have been wonderful, some wacky, and some downright dowdy. Much to our surprise, our guide turned out to be a wonderful and attractive young woman named Ilaria, fluent in several languages, and thoroughly charming! And the abbey! Exquisite! The monk responsible for building the first church on the site was Syrian, and the Christian Church was destroyed by the northern aggressors (Lombards), which seems especially poignant, given the current situation in Syria. A stop at the Friday market to buy fresh pasta and then home for late lunch on the terrace.
12 March 2015
We had three goals in mind this morning: first, to make cookies in the tiny toaster oven and deliver them to our neighbors, in honor of Katie Fisher Day. Katie was a student at Taft and the brother of Matt, one of Carmella's all time favorite students, and though Katie died much too young, she is remembered and celebrated on this day with the simple act of making cookies. The neighbors, Marcello and Nella, were impressed with Bruno's cooking! The second goal of the day was to get a new housekey made (nothing is ever easy) in Poggio Miterto, and the third mission was to drive over the hills of olive groves to Farfa, to have lunch at Lupi, a restaurant, and then to go on a guided tour of their famous abbey. Thursday is gnocchi day in Italy (for real)! We were successful on all fronts except for the abbey where the guided tour of the day was only offered in Italian. So we made an appt. for Friday morning and returned to Roccantica for a late afternoon walk and another magnificent sunset.
11 March 2015
After a morning expedition to the hardware store in Poggio Mirteto to purchase i sostegni e viti (braces and screws), we returned home for lunch and then Bruno set to work fixing the pullout bed, which our landlords had warned us was poorly costructed. While he worked on that project Carmella finished her book, All The Light We Cannot See, and then took a walk down the mountain toward Casperia. Lots of evidence that spring is coming: men burning dead brush in their olive groves, flowers cropping up here and there, and a poster for a Fried Cauliflower Festival coming up next week here in our own Roccantica! Bruno cooked a magnificent meal on the fire tonight: sausages and grilled vegetables. He says he will never use a propane bbq again!
10 March 2015
Today's adventure was about finding fire wood. We had to look up the words at least 10 times because we kept forgetting ( a combination of stupidity and anxiety), and set off in search of legna da ardere. Its not as though we could google "firewood to purchase near us." Anyway, we found it! We had to weigh the car before and after, and a trunkload cost us a whopping 8 euros. The next excitement was finally meeting some people in our town, including our immediate neighbor Adda, and an Australian woman named Nella who can translate for us! Joy!
Finally, we cooked a split chicken in the fireplace tonight snd felt pretty proud of ourselves. And it was so good.
9 March 2015
A bright sunny morning on the Tevere (our B&B is right on the Tiber River). Despite our pathetic pigeon Italian, we chatted over breakfast with Dorina, the helpful and friendly young woman at Gonfalone 6, and set off to meander towards Piazza Venezia and the Vittoriana, to an exhibit of Giorgio Morandi’s paintings. Lots of still lifes with the same 4 bottles, and some beautiful landscapes. We climbed to the roof terrace to catch the fabulous views of the city, and then walked to the Colosseum, where we saw lots of groups of young and old tourists. (This sent shudders down our spines. We do this?) We continued walking to the church of Giovanni in Laterano.Our pilgrimage home took us down through the city gates, on to a metro, and out to Tusculana, where we were just in time for our train back to Poggio Mirteto and our car. Back to our home in Roccantica tired but very happy. A fire in the fireplace, and a delicious pasta made by Chef Bruno.
8 March 2015
We drove to the train station in Poggio Mirteto this morning and caught the train to Rome. Ahh, city life! So excited to be here and able to navigate the metro and busses, and find our way around the maze of Ancient Rome. We found our B and B- a great find thanks to Fitzgeralds- near to Campo dei Fiori, and had lunch at an outdoor cafe, then a walk to pay homage to the settings in Tosca: Farnese Palace, Castel Sant'Angelo, and Chiesa Sant'Andrea della Valle, all in our immediate neighborhood! The production of Tosca was stupendous: the opera house, the singing, the simple but highly charged storyline, and the sets. We shared box seats with the parents of a little girl in the production, who came up and sat after the first act. She was so cute, so excited! Supertitles are truly a godsend. We could follow along in English and Italian too! Afterwards, we had supper with Libby and Paul DeRosa, friends of the Fitzgeralds, at a local family-run restaurant, Settimio. Giornata stupenda!!
7 March 2015
Bruno decided that it was a good day to do laundry, and Carmella went for a hike above the town- a different one than the other day. She turned around when she heard a wild boar in the bushes next to the path. Then a pasta with truffles lunch at a nearby taverna where our waiter casually informed us that he was the mayor of the town. We returned to Casperia later in the evening for a surprisingly good concert of Bulgarian choral music. Our new friend Johnny Madge, owner of the wine bar in town, was the only man in the choir of 16. The concert ended with the choir director teaching us all a round(Belle Mama) which we sang lustily over and over again - lots of fun!
6 March 2015
A glorious morning here in Roccantica inspired us to widen the boundaries of our now familiar neighborhood and go exploring. We drove up through the mountains and the pretty (and countless) hilltop towns to the big town of Rieti, a spectacular setting with snow covered mountains in all directions. After walking around the town (closed up for lunch - surprise!!) we drove south to the abbey in Farfa. The abbey was closed but the beautiful church was open. We will definitely return to both of these places.
5 March 2015
We awoke to a gale battering the shutters and roof of our little mountain fortress. A good day for Bruno to make a stew and Carmella to read her book and when the wind had died down, to go exploring the town and the surrounding hills. We drove over to Casperia late in the afternoon, but it was too bitterly cold for much of a passeggiata. We found a new supermarcado on the way home-very exciting. Some people enjoy going to the gym. We prefer to get our workout in a big supermarket, especially when there is a large porchetta being carved. Bruno’s beef stew was delicious, and Carmella managed to stay awake for the entire screening of Grand Budapest Hotel after dinner. A miracle! The other miracle: the sun is out this morning and it is cold but clear. Off to see Farfa.
4 March 2015
We had a productive day stocking up for the impending storm. We are getting more and more familiar with all of the back roads to the various markets and it's fun! Although more French than Italian, our dinner tonight was delicious and we are learning to imagine our teeny tiny kitchen as a galley on a boat. We have plenty of books to read, the pantry is full, and we look forward to hunkering down until the weather improves. We are, however, planning to go to the nearby town of Casperia for a book fair tomorrow(?!)Maybe we'll go to the next town, too, for the chocolate fair- mmmmm!
3 March 2015
We learned valuable lessons yesterday, mostly involving the Italians we offended throughout the day, like the hotel clerk who was mad at us for thoughtlessly keeping the hotel luggage cart in our room over night; the man in the car behind us who nearly got rear ended when we stopped our car suddenly at the sight of an enticing pizza place; the Italians in the supermarket waiting impatiently behind us in line, as we paid for our vast supply of groceries (I guess Italians only shop for one meal!). We are sure there were more, but in our dopey-sleep-deprived state, we just kept making mistakes all day. Nonetheless, we arrived alive and unscathed at our new digs in the late afternoon. We drove to the top of the hill above the village of Roccantica, parked and walked to the house with our bags. It is a lovely tiny jewel of a town, and our terrace has a stunning view of the mountains to the north, but we haven't seen very many people, and none yet who speak English.
1 March 2015
After much internet anxiety and dragging bags that were way too heavy through enormous airports, followed by "do we have the perfect rental car"anxiety, we are finally here in Roccantica. An unexpectedly fun time last night in the town of Fiumiccino, next to the airport but nothing like staying near JFK. Really cool, right on the Mediterranean, lots of fishing boats and locals to see. We awoke to fog and rain and pounding surf, and set off, ever so reluctantly, to the unknown village of Roccantica, an hour of HAIRY driving north of Rome. We are way too soft, after driving around the western part of us with a GPS and a total understanding of the language. Now we have to think! Quickly, sometimes! We made it safely and it is really spectacular, and we will share more a domani!
18 February 2015
Although Helena has said about a hundred times in the last few weeks that she would rather live in California than in the northeast, and although Uncle Harry's funeral (in all of its beauty, dignity and finality) brought us back to the frigid cold a little earlier than we had originally planned, it has been a rich and wonderful ten days back here in the ole' east. We spent time with family (stayed with Helena's brother Sam and wife Elizabeth, and had dinner with Elizabeth and Arnie one night, but also managed to see the other five of Helena's siblings at the funeral). We got to spend time with cousins and their lovely families, saw old friends at the funeral, and then saw our good friends the Galloglys in NY (Helena's godchild Nell) who shared their stories of having just had dinner at the White House.
(CONTINUED)Then it was back to CT. to our friends at Taft, including the Frews and the Trainas (and their beauties Caroline and Lucy). We leave tomorrow for Italy, mostly excited but a little sad about the fact that we will be far away from those we love for a good long time. We have decided to change our blog name to The Further Adventures of Bruno and Carmella (nice names, huh?)and will try to keep up with it as diligently as we did under the banner of Bootsie and Byrdie. The fact that there is no internet in the little town of Roccantica does not discourage us. Where there's a will, there's a way. Stay tuned! Arrivederci!
PART 1: Little did we realize when we were sitting becalmed in our sailboat last summer dreaming about this sabbatical that the domestic part of our six months would unfold in the way that it did: that our trip would involve such wonderful, loving and caring people, and that it would ultimately become about the relationships and connections with our friends and family, more than the beautiful vistas in front of us. This was definitely true of Berkeley, but it was also true of every other place we visited. Each of our stops has been important and meaningful to us: our time with our boys in St. Thomas and all of their family there – Jess and Paul, Paul’s mother Pat, Joel and the rest of the boys’ friends at Fatty’s. Also Michael and Maria in New Orleans, George Elliman in Austin, Dore Kuntz in San Antonio, the many people we met in Santa Fe- like the woman at the courthouse who encouraged us to go see the pueblo in Taos.
PART 2: It was Gay Chanler opening her house to us in Sedona, and then our visit with Genevieve, Cy, Sterling and Adair in LA, and it was all the Berkeley family: Dave, Melissa, Lucy and Evie; Kit and Hayne; Jerome (although we never saw him!), MD, Eliza and Charlie. For Bruce it was also all of the people at Grace Cathedral who made him feel so welcome. Each and every one of these individuals has made this six weeks so much more than just a trip. And with Helena’s Uncle Harry’s death this week, we are reminded just how significant and how precious these connections in our lives are. The first part of our sabbatical journey draws to a close and we go home to celebrate the life of a loved one, but we also go home to dear friends and family members whom we have missed and with whom we look forward to reconnecting. FINI PART 1
Bootsie and Byrdie's Wild Adventures
15 February 2015
Sorry no post yesterday. This is the first time we have missed a day in six weeks! We are imagining that you devotees are pining for our latest entry. Actually, we're sure you are getting sick of looking at flowers and sunsets, and are happy we took a day off. ANYWAY: Bruce had church Sunday morn at Grace (just men, no boys so the pressure was on.) We met up for lunch with our friend Roberto, the serial educator (Taft, American School in London, and future principal of a middle school in Sao Paolo: the man doesn't stop. We are staying on his pullout couch in London in June before he moves!).
Today Helena went with MD (wife of cousin Jerome) to the pool at the Claremont Spa, and then we both walked to MD and Jerome's house for lunch. Their son Charlie is about 7 feet tall. We spent the rest of the day shopping for funeral clothes, as we will be leaving Berkeley on Wed. for the funeral of Helena's last uncle Harry back in NY.
14 February 2015
What to do on a beautiful Saturday in Berkeley. Hmmmm. How about a bike ride around the Cal Berkeley campus? And why in the world would anyone want to go to school in Boston? Crazy. It is so nice here, that we have decided to take jobs in the Berkeley cafeteria so we don't have to go back east to the bitter and snowy cold. The bike ride was fun, but the train ride that we took with the Landreth family in the afternoon in Tilden park was even better. Imagine a bunch of middle-aged men who love to play with trains, and imagine a bunch of toddlers, parents and stand-in grandparents who love train rides just as much. That was us this afternoon, up in the mountain behind Berkeley. Then, to top off the Valentines Day love, imagine a family love fest of three generations. We had a great dinner over at Dave and Melissa's with Buttrick cousins (MD, Eliza and Charlie). So great to connect to this branch of the family. Happy VD to everyone!
13 February 2015
While Bruce stayed home and caught up with emails, Helena walked over to Lulu's bike rentals to rent a bike and go touring and smelling the flowers(just like Ferdinand the Bull) around the neighborhoods. She ended up riding down to the Berkeley Marina, which has great paths and walkways and lots and lots of boats. Riding home she cursed the lady at Lulu's who had said Berkeley had lots of flat routes. It didn't feel flat. But it was fun! We drove back there in the late afternoon to catch the sunset. We have become sunset freaks. They sure are beautiful here in the West... and in St. Thomas... and Watertown.... and Mt. Horeb.... and Nova Scotia: everywhere actually! It's just nice to have time to really appreciate them, I guess.
12 February 2015
Up early and back to school today. Not our school, but Stevenson in Pebble Beach. We arrived early enough to wander around and take big whiffs of the amazing air. California smells so good. This morning it was the cedar chapel, which they call "Church in the Forest,"and cedar logs burning in the admissions building fireplace, but even in Berkeley, it is eucalyptus trees after the rain, and roses, and gardenias and rosemary, and so many more flowers. February is spring here, and it is sensory heaven. Anyway, thanks to our contact at Stevenson, Willow Manspeaker, who is the head of the music department, we had a really nice time visiting classes (Bruce sang with the Basses in choir rehearsal), and meeting lots of teachers, all of whom seem to have some connection, even remotely, to Taft. We left there this afternoon feeling good about our visit, our new friends, our programs and our school. Back to the sweet smells of Berkeley.
11 February 2015
Today was Lucy Landreth's "Winter show" at her Montessori preschool here in Berkeley, so we attended as stand-in grandparents. A lively and spirited event, even with songs like "Let it Snow" (sorry New England friends) and "jingle bells," it was over before we knew it. We said our goodbyes (Lucy was happily eating Madeleines at the after-party, so she barely looked up to say goodbye), we walked back home to pack and drive down to Monterey, where the Stevenson School has put us up for a night in the Casa Munras, a hotel we visited about 14 years ago with Nate and Sam. We have a visit at the school tomorrow, thanks to Erin Duffy (from Taft) who used to work there. We took a swim in the heated pool and a walk around town at dusk. There is a big golf tournament starting tomorrow -the AT&T- and we are the only people who have never heard of this event, and we have barely heard of the game. Also: a pic from Farley in NH, where she has a job plowing snow.
10 February 2015
63 degrees is a perfect air temperature, especially when the pool is 99 degrees, or so we found out when we drove up to Indian Springs Hotel and Spa in Calistoga today. We had been there once before with the whole family after a Collegium trip, when Rosemary was very little and terrified of the water, but this time we were there feeling nostalgic for the family. The spa no longer has pool passes unless you pay for a “treatment” so Bruce got a massage and Helena hung out in and around the pool all day. She was a wrinkled prune by the end of the afternoon, she had been in the water so much. It was a lovely experience, with the sun out, and very few other people around. Bruce was a happy man after his massage. After stopping for some BBQ at Buster’s in Calistoga, we hit the road and headed back to Berkeley via Sonoma, which has a very different feel than the road through Napa and St. Helena (where we had to stop - of course!)
9 February 2015
We got in the car this morning with only a slight idea, and ended up at Jack London Square in Oakland, a gentrified waterfront area with lots of restaurants and pretty boats. We headed for Jack London’s favorite hangout, Heinhold’s saloon, but sadly- or luckily-it wasn’t open yet. I’m not sure what we would have ordered at 11:30 on a Monday morning, anyway. Oakland’s Chinatown is a few blocks away from the waterfront, so we stopped there for lunch, randomly choosing an authentic dim sum restaurant, where nothing was in English. Not the menu, not the bill, and certainly not the clientele.
We drove into downtown Oakland to see The Cathedral of Christ the Light (what a surprise, a church!), which was actually cool, and the wall behind the high altar is designed to look like a bishop’s mitre.
We drove home through Oakland, and Helena went for a hike up to the top of the Claremont Canyon Preserve. A steep climb, but the views are worth it!
8 February 2015
It was raining hard when Bruce drove in to his rehearsal for the service at Grace Cathedral, and Helena went along with him to walk around Nob Hill. As it was very windy and rainy, she stuck close, exploring the Tonga Lounge and the famed Fairmont Hotel with its splendid lobby. Church was long, and Bruce had another rehearsal afterwards, so Helena got to know this lobby well. We drove back to Berkeley in the afternoon, and Helena took a walk while Bruce snoozed. Just before sunset we drove up to Grizzly Peak (up behind the Claremont Hotel) to catch the view. The road is terrifying there. No rail, just a road and a sheer drop into Claremont Canyon. Then we drove back to have supper with Melissa and Dave and the girls. The family is charming even though they are all in varying stages of a bad cold. We came home and fortified our immune systems over a glass of whiskey, and watched Casablanca on TV.
7 February 2015
Today we decided to get to know "our town" a little better, especially without the GPS - it is so easy to get dependent on these! First, a view of our home away from home, Sam and Elizabeth's apartment(2nd floor) in Berkeley. We love it! Next a trip to the Farmer's Market where we saw a bit of local color and also picked up some gorgeous mushrooms for supper not to mention some other goodies(God, the cheese is amazing out here!). Came home for lunch, then Helena went over to David and Melissa's to entertain Lucy, and give the exhausted parents a break. When she got back we jumped in the car and went and saw "Mr Turner," a strangely beautiful film heightened by the fact that we saw it in a full theater where pretty much all you heard was the occasional creak of a chair rocking(they need oil). No cell phones, no noise, just a bunch of movie goers set on having a great theater experience - very refreshing. Home for a wonderful pasta supper(no GPS!) and another great day!
6 February 2015
Okay, it is not the snowstorms that have plagued the northeast this winter, and yes, our weather has been pretty spectacular on this trip, but out here in California where they are having a water shortage, this rain is kind of a big deal. And it is kind of fun to hunker down in the first big rain storm they have had in a while. While we ventured out to do some errands (Bruce needs some black shoes for church, so he got some shiny new dress-crocs!), we have spent the rest of the day inside, reading and cooking fish soup, and thoroughly enjoying this cozy apartment of Elizabeth and Sam’s, in this great city, in this green and pleasant land.
5 February 2015
Helena went to the amazing Claremont Hotel pool and fitness center which is right around the corner from us here in Berkeley, thanks to her cousin Kit and her guest pass, and then went food shopping at our neighborhood grocery store which sounds boring but really isn't(it's California, everything looks great). Bruce stayed home to "save his energy" for his big Evensong debut with the Men and Boys Choir at Grace Cathedral this afternoon. This is a class act choir! Attentive, well disciplined singers both young and old, wonderful conductor and a magnificent space. Bruce is really excited about singing with them over the next couple of weeks.
4 February 2015
We took a drive up the coast today, first to Bodega Bay (setting for Hitchcock's movie THE BIRDS, which you should NOT show to your young children or grandchildren on a whim). The road off the highway offers interesting photo opps, and the town of Bodega Bay boasts the orginal schoolhouse from the movie, and a funky deli/homage museum. We learned lots of interesting tidbits (too much to share in this blog space, with its twitteresque rules about limits). The highlight of the day was Hog Island, where we were sold 2 dozen oysters and a couple of good local beers, and shown a picnic table, an oyster knife and a bbq. It was cold and grey, but it was delightful and relatively empty. According to the barmaid, the usual wait for a table is an hour at least, but not on a cold foggy day in February. We drove south, stopping briefly at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes for some Mount Tam cheese, and then returned to Berkeley where the evening sun was setting. Another great day on our tour.
3 February 2015
We navigated BART this morning to San Francisco, which plopped us downtown where we took a cable car up the hill to Grace Cathedral to stop by to check in with Ben Bachman, music director. Bruce will be singing with his choir a bit while we are here. From our perch high on Knob Hill we wandered back down the mountain to a surprisingly fine, free lunchtime chamber concert at St. Mary's in Chinatown followed by lunch at our old favorite, House of Nanking. Here you can order, eat, payoff your meal, and be out of there in 20 minutes. And to think we have taken 50 Collegium kids there more than once, and it is the same story! We took a cable car back to BART, and were happy to return to Berkeley. We drove to the Berkeley Bowl(worlds greatest market) and carted our strange assortment of fishes, meats, fruits and veggies home. We walked over to David & Melissa's for a quick supper with their fabulous kids.Tomorrow we are on to Pt Reyes before the big rain is suppose to hit on Thursday night.
2 February 2015
Today was catch up day: unpack the suitcases and do laundry, head to Verizon to purchase a new phone for Bruce, since his iphone 4 keeps shutting down while he is taking pictures, a little grocery shopping, and a sunset drive up to Tilden Park(the hills above Berkeley). Tonight we went to Helena's cousin Kit and her husband Hayne's house on the other side of Berkeley where we had a truly incredible dinner of grilled quail, polenta, beautiful local cheeses, and a sumptuous dessert of oranges in mint with fresh ginger. There may even have been a tiny sprig of rosemary. Mmmmm.
We are so happy to be settled here in such a beautiful place for a while. But we see that the weather is changing here later in the week, so we might get in the car and do some exploring in Pt. Reyes tomorrow. Cowgirl Creamery and Hog Island oysters here we come!
1 February 2015
As hokey and homespun as our little Seaside Motel was, it was the perfect stop on our way to Berkeley. A beautiful early morning sunrise with amazing light greeted us in Cayucos. A walk on the beach, breakfast at an outdoor diner, and then we took off for our ride up the Pacific Coast Highway. It never gets old - this is a truly spectacular road, even more so today because there were so many whales and such dramatic surf. We stopped a dozen times to check out the views and the whales, and stopped for lunch at Nepenthe (what is not to love about THAT place), and slowly made our way north to our home away from home, Sam (Helena's brother) and Elizabeth's beautiful jewel of an apartment in Berkeley. We had a nice supper with their son Dave and his wife Melissa around the corner at their house, and crawled back to bed! Goodnight.
31 January 2015
Everyone in the Carter Family house woke up early including us. We went for a morning walk at the beautiful Hollywood reservoir - the Hollywood Hills, where they live, is a real surprise for us - gorgeous! We love the Carter Family and they have been wonderful hosts and guides. We drove up the coast stopping briefly in elegant Santa Barbara for lunch and then continued on to Cayucos which we decided was a great place to stop before we move on to Berkeley tomorrow. We're staying in a funky, fun, mom & pop motel and we ended the day with a walk, and a gorgeous sunset over the Pacific. We're
looking forward to our drive up the Pacific Coast Highway tomorrow - we're sure it won't disappoint! As we move on to our "residency" for the next 3 weeks in Berkeley, Helena and I toasted to a hugely successful first leg of our sabbatical. Thank you Taft!
30 January 2015
Up bright and early to take Sterling to school and have a visit and a tour. Pilgrim School/K-12(and Church in downtown LA) is an impressive facility on the edge of Koreatown with a beautiful(and immense) chapel and organ. Look at that console! Then a five minute drive to Genevieve's Thai massage parlor, where Bruce had his first Thai massage. He drooled, and mine hurt, "but in a good way." Then a drive to Arcadia, where we had the most amazing Chinese dumplings EVER. Feeling virtuous for being so restrained not eating more, we drove to the Huntington Library in Pasadena, where we spent the afternoon looking at a wonderful collection of European and American paintings, and wandering around the grounds, which are beautiful and extensive. Way nicer than the Getty, in my opinion. We then drove back to Gen and Cy's, where Bruce made a lovely Italian dinner. On our way up the coast tomorrow, towards Berkeley, our final destination for this chapter of our sabbatical.
29 January 2015
It turns out that biking around the desert is not as easy as it seems, especially when you don't know where Marilyn Monroe's house is located so you end up riding around in circles. We finally found the houses of Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe and Nat King Cole and it was a blast but it took a while. Having accomplished our homage to the movie stars(when in Rome....) we said goodbye to Palm Springs and moved on to Hollywood, a glorious western sunset, and a visit with Genevieve, Cy. Sterling, and Adair who live in a wonderful house and neighborhood in the hills above Hollywood. We look forward to seeing Sterling's school tommorow and hanging out with another part of Helena's remarkable family.
28 January 2015
The sun comes up at 7:23 am in the canyon, and we were there to greet it, and to say goodbye. Despite the mountains that always seem to be beckoning in the distance, the road from the Grand Canyon to LA is bleak and dusty, especially if you decide to change your plans midway because you can’t cope with the idea of LA traffic at rush hour, so you decide to veer off and head for Palm Springs instead. Even Needles, where we stopped for a brief picnic by the Colorado River, is a little odd- and dry. To get to the picnic park, we had to drive on a dirt road that took us under the train tracks, with not much room overhead! The road through the salt fields of Amboy is dreary and far-reaching (see both directions). Bruce liked it, though. We arrived this evening in Palm Springs (swanky!) at the Movie Colony Hotel, with its pool and happy hour by the fire, and complimentary touring bikes. Tomorrow we will ride around and see the houses of the stars, including Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra!
27 January 2015
Confession: Bruce and I are terrified of heights, which makes being here and going to the edge of every lookout to admire the breathtaking views a challenge. But given the choice of hanging around the lodge with all of the tourists with the wrong clothing and the selfie sticks, or being courageous and heading out- or down into- the canyon, we chose to SUCK IT UP, to use a Sam Fifer phrase. and conquer the beast that is the Grand Canyon lookout. Granted, we are posers, so we didn’t do anything too risky, but nonetheless, we were slightly on edge all day.
26 January 2015
It should only take 2 hours to drive from Sedona, up through the narrow river canyon, skirting Flagstaff, up through the western edge of the Painted Desert, and into the Eastern edge of the canyon, and yet it seemed to take all day, for obvious reasons. We stopped about 10 times to ooh and ahh and take pictures, and explore the many pueblo ruins along the way. We arrived late afternoon, along with a bevy of Japanese tourists who seem to be in residence. The canyon is all that we thought it might be: stunning and majestic and much bigger than we imagined. We are staying in one of the "historical cabins" at Bright Angel Lodge. Very sweet, but no match for the history of those pueblos we have visited. It is supposed to rain tonight- shout out to family and friends in the East coast who are preparing for bigger weather. Grateful to be here tonight, and not planning on taking the helicopter ride or the mule ride tomorrow, but maybe a hike, or 2, and a picnic. Just not near the edge.
25 January 2015
Another spectacular day in Sedona. What a beautiful place! Helena and Gay took a hike this morning around Court House Rock, and then after a delicious lunch back at the hacienda, we took a drive to a fun rendezvous with Gay's daughter Hester and her family Rob, Guenther, and Maisie(did I ever mention that Helena has a large extended family?). Driving home from there, an inspiring stop at a truly magnificent 700 year old Pueblo cliff dwelling and well/bottomless pond, Montezuma's castle and Montezuma's well. After sharing a lovely bottle of Arizona red wine, we had dinner out at the bar at the fancy Hilton up the street from Gay's house. A wonderful time we had in Sedona and what an amazing hostess and tour guide - thanks Gay! On to the Grand Canyon tomorrow!
24 January 2015
Picture-perfect day in Sedona which started out this morning with a trip to a nearby mining town - Jerome. Lots of fun including the purchase of a new Stetson and some wine tasting. This afternoon our host Gay showed us the sights in
Sedona and wow, were those the sights! Overwhelming rock formations which changed colors from minute to minute as the sun went down. One of my favorites for obvious reasons was Cathedral Rock located near a sweet chapel built into the side of a mesa. More sights here in Sedona tomorrow before we move up to the Grand Canyon on Monday - thanks Gay for showing us those special places!
23 January 2015
Adios to beautiful Santa Fe and we hit the road again with a full day of driving West. What an amazing day and drive! First a stop to visit Helena's nephew Tobias and his 9 year old son Matthew. Lot's of fun reconnecting, and Matthew was an amazing tour guide, particularly in the Rio Grande Nature Center! We asked him if there was anything he couldn't do and he said, "I can't make butter!" On that note of wisdom we said goodbye and headed off following the sun West. The highlight was certainly our late afternoon stop in the Painted Desert. Absolutely breathtaking! Not a soul there - we had the place to ourselves which made it even more magical. All we can say is the pictures do not do it justice and we were totally transported. With a little reluctance we got back in the car and finished our drive to Sedona to Helena's cousin Gay who was waiting with an amazing home-cooked meal(she's a professional chef). We are looking forward to exploring another gorgeous area!
22 January 2015
Perfect blue sky day -post snow storm -with some fun exploring. Of course a stop at ART-O-MAT yes, we are now the proud owners of an original 1 inch cubist work. Then a walk around Santa Fe looking at some fun snow-clad items, followed by an awesome trip to the NM History Museum. Then we jumped in the car for a trip out to Pueblo Taos but first a stop at Santa Fe Opera where I made my debut, at the gate. God it was cold at the pueblo town but Elliot our guide did a great job filling us in on the history. Really cool(literally) - a UNESCO World Landmark site. A far cry from Lunenburg, NS, another site. On to Sedona Arizona domani.
21 January 2015
A fun relaxed day in Santa Fe. Even with snow we still managed to do a bit of exploring on foot. Saw the government in action at the Capitol followed by a sweet visit to another beautiful mission - San Miguel with a gorgeous reredos! Then a visit to the cathedral(St. Francis) where there was a big Pro Life service/demonstration going on (hmmm!). Lunch at the landmark Plaza Cafe where we had Mexican Mocha(yummy!). Wrapped the walking tour up with a visit to the NM Museum of Art. Otherwise we've been sitting in front of the fire waiting out the storm reading our books- me Cather's Death Comes to the Archbishop - perfect read for Santa Fe and Helena, The Goldfinch, which she just can't put down. Tomorrow a trip out to the Pueblo village in Taos.
20 January 2015
We decided to deadhead to Santa Fe from San Antonio(11 hours driving time) because of an impending snow storm. Beautiful drive with a great feel for wide open spaces and the Wild West. By the way 80mph is slow in these here parts. We played some cowboy songs(yahoo!), had lunch in Pecos which is in the middle of the oil fields- everybody was immense including the 3 Halliburton dudes sitting across from us. Next stop was Roswell, NM and the Alien Museum- we obviously had a blast! Arrived in to Santa Fe late and exhausted but our hotel is magical!
19 January 2015
The grand old Menger Hotel our digs in San Antonio - homemade rootbeer for breakfast(ymmmm) - coffee with Nathaniel's Proctor roommate's mom Dore - a walk through the Spanish Market followed by a trip out to a nearby German ranch town(Gruene) for lunch where we also saw(and loved) this old, still being used concert/dance hall. All in all a great time in Southern Texas! Tomorrow we move west and north towards Santa Fe . Happy trails.......
18 January 2015
Went to an incredible mariachi mass this morning at the San Jose Mission - exquisite space and a wonderful service - weather wasn't bad either! Then lunch at a tacqueria followed by a stroll around the Alamo and San Antonio's Riverwalk. Looking forward to discovering more of San Antonio tomorrow.