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Showing posts from November, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

How terrific to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner. We spent a leisurely day free from worrying if the thermometer has been released by an overstuffed roasted turkey. On our way to dinner, we passed by Best Buy and saw people camping outside the closed store. These people must have had their dinner early or at the store's parking lot. They are serious shoppers who want to be the first to enter the store tomorrow when it opens at 5 a.m. and avail of the bargains on the first and biggest shopping day of the holiday season. It's been a cold night and it's unimaginable how they can sleep at the parking lot on Thanksgiving evening.

Our dinner table was filled with all the trimmings and more but before digging into the turkey, honeybaked ham, prawn cocktail, mochiko with Chinese sausage, cranberry, cheese and crackers, mocha cake, leche flan, apple pie, cashew nuts, and an assortment of chips, we said a little prayer of thanks. And it was this:
"Thank you Lord for this wonderf…

10 Places to see before you......

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park The proliferation of these books and blogs listing where you should go before you kick off is phenomenal. This is one of the reasons why tourists are sometimes disappointed with a destination because they had such high expectations after reading someone's overly enthusiastic and personal account of a place they visited and recommend you to see before your last breath. No book or magazine or e-zine can can give you a sense of place until you get there. So where you want to go is entirely up to you.
There are places we visit that linger in our minds long after the journey is over. Remember the ad, "Your Windsong stays on my mind"? Here are my Windsongs:
1. Yosemite National Park, California - When I first laid eyes on Half Dome, I had a frog in my throat. I thought of the artist whose hand sculpted it, painted the landscape with towering trees, sketched waterfalls and streams where his pets could sate their thirst and drew expansive meadows …

Panini e Torta

I know you're wondering why I would eat at a McDonald's after I've given you a list of fine restaurants where I had the pleasure of dining. Let me explain. I had just come back to Assisi at the end of a long day climbing one of those "mountain villages". I was tired, cold and was looking for a clean restroom. McDonald's was just down the corner from the train station so I ran over there and on my way to the clean Ladies Room, I passed by the display of tortas (cakes) and stopped to check out the goodies. There were cupcakes, doughnuts, croissants, and a selection of tortas. I was deliriously bewildered from the overabundance of choices. I finally settled for the Torta della Nonna (Grandma's Cake) which is filled with ricotta cheese and egg yolks and topped with confectioner's sugar and almonds. I could have had the Torta di Noci (walnut cake) or Torta Macao or Torta Caprese. Of course they offered cappuccino, latte, and café americano among other bev…

This thing called "amore"

Traveling by train from one hilltown to another in Umbria, I was privy to amorous displays by couples saying goodbye to one another. If the lingering kisses were an indication of how long or how far the girlfriend, husband, or lover is traveling, then I can surmise that the separation would be for a prolonged period. I can't say that the traveler was going very far because the train ride from Florence to Rome is only 2 hours.
I didn't see any tears but lots of intense kisses and caresses which brought a smile to my face. I even saw a young man keep holding back his girlfriend as she tried to board the train. In the end, he went up to the train with her and delivered her to her seat.
It was touching to watch from my window seat the show of affection unfolding live and in color. How wonderful to see that love is alive and well. It made me realize that parting is really "such sweet sorrow". But I disagree with Shakespeare that "I shan't say goodbye till it be mo…

A Room with a View - Saving Euros

Suore Svedesi, Assisi

With the dollar exchange vs. the euro at an all time low, I'm back to traveling as I did in the "hungry" years. This means staying at cheaper hotels without sacrificing clean and safe surroundings. I found this in religious hotels which offered not only nice rooms but in some, both breakfast and dinner as well. What a deal!

At the Suore Svedesi in Assisi, my room had a view of an olive orchard and church steeples behind medieval walls. It was harvest season and I observed some nuns picking black olives which were later taken to be pressed for olive oil. The nuns were having such a great time under unseasonably warm and sunny skies that I wished I could have joined them although I would not go up the tree. One nun's veil got caught in the branches and it was quite a picture as she tried to untangle her veil, laughing all the way. Only in Italy. * * * Suore Svedesi Via Moiano 1 Assisi, Italy s.brigida.assisi@libero.it For other locations around the world…

Vivere per mangiare

Umbria
Assisi
*Ristorante Bar Metastasio - Via Metastasio, 9
Bruschetta al Tartufo (Norcia truffles sprinkled over bruschetta)
Love the Braciola Erbe (grilled in aromatic herbs)
House Wine
Panoramic view of the valley from the terrace or eat indoors on a cold day in their rustic cavelike dining room.

Gubbio
***Taverna de Lupo, Via Ansidei 6
Prima Piatti - Sfogliantina al legere salsa bianca with tartufo, ham
Contorno - Timbale de asparagi e patate
Seconda Piatti - Trota in lemon sauce
Dolci - Assortment of biscotti
Wine: Prosecco

Perugia
*Osteria de Gambero (Ubu Re) - behind the Duomo
Antipasto - Bruschetta al tartufo
Entrée - Umbrichelli al persico del Lago Trasimeno
Dolci - Dolcetti delle Umbrie with Vin Santo
Dining room wall is filled with modern paintings.

Tuscany
**Kome - Via dei Benci, 41/R, Firenze
Sushi and BBQ restaurant near Santa Croce
Choose from the array of sushi, gamberi or chicken fry, noodles from color plates rotating around the bar. Or you can order the fixed menu which includes a variet…

Tartufo

It was an overcast day when I visited Gubbio. After sunny days, the cold November winter air claimed its due and it was reason enough to take shelter at a trattoria for some truffles and prosecco. For prima piatti I chose the sfogliantina al tartufo (Norcia truffles that are heaven). This was followed by trout from Lake Trasimeno with a timbale of asparagus and potatoes. The waiter, who lived in New York for a good many years, made sure my glass was always filled with prosecco. I had to say no to dolci (dessert) but he gave me a plateful of local cantuccini (biscotti). How could I refuse? After all that climbing to the top of the hill to see the Duomo, I thought I could afford to eat and not worry about the calories. Anyway, those hilltowns are really mountain villages. The climb is steep and the descent is as much a workout as it pulls the knees, not to mention the cobblestones that are the bane of flat feet. * * * Photo by Rosario Charie Albar

In Umbria and Tuscany

I have an ambitious plan to see as many places in Umbria and Tuscany. I made Assisi my base to explore Perugia, Gubbio, and Spoleto. But after days of climbing uphill, my feet now feel like lead. At the end of the day, I sleep for long hours to rest my body and prepare it for another day of physical training.

Today I'm off to one more hilltown, Orvieto. It's a late start but now I've accepted the fact that I can't possibly see everything. Unless I stay overnight in each town, I can only cover so much. And perhaps have some time to savor the Norcia truffles which are the black gold of Italian cuisine.

There was a train strike yesterday so I spent the day exploring Firenze. As many times as I've visited this city, there are still more places I haven't yet seen. I chose to return to Santa Croce to see the Pazzi Chapel by Brunelleschi and was treated to a fresco of St. Francis by Giotto and a Crucifix by Cimabue. It was bitterly cold and luckily I found KOME, a Japan…