reblog: Toni DeBella, Rick Steves, and The Food Police in Italy

Very funny (while informative) video produced by Toni DeBella, a blogger (Orvieto or Bust) who has relocated her life to Orvieto, Italy.

location of Orvieto, Italy

location of Orvieto, Italy

Rick Steves, a travel consultant, is based in my state and is well-known for helping Americans be smart and courteous European travelers.  I had a bunch o’ Rick’s info packed for my Italy trip that didn’t happen.

There are apparently four videos in The Food Police series, but I did start with the Rick Steves episode at the link (below).  It’s only 9 minutes long, well worth watching (loved Rome’s cobbled side streets).  The other episodes are shown at the link, too.  Only about 3-something minutes each.

Rick Steves in My Inbox

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volcano gawkers

We live along a part of the Pacific Rim of Fire, a seismically active horseshoe of volcanoes and earthquakes.   Well before I lived here, in May 1980, Mt St Helens, one of the local conical volcanoes erupted so strongly that it exploded cataclysmically upward and outward, destroying 14 percent of its peak and devastating about 150 to 200 square miles of forested land.

Here’s a very short video that shows the before and after shape of the mountain (with amusing musical accompaniment).  Here’s a National Geographic gallery of pics.  Our pics upcoming will show only the after.

Last Friday we took the camper to a park about 50 miles from Mt St Helens, just to get out of Dodge for a few days.   Almost as an afterthought the next day, we decided to drive the 50-mile road that winds toward the summit and go nose around.

The only other time we’d been here was heavily overcast with no chance of seeing this volcano.  I’ve flown over the area many times, so have seen the destroyed peak and bleak landscape from 30,000 feet.  Our Saturday was clear and warm.

Herewith, perhaps too many photos to illustrate those 8 hours we messed about.  (N.B.  Click on any photo in a section and they’ll get bigger!)

We continued tootling up the road, along sections of the Toutle River that were devastated in the explosion.

For the gawkers, the smart powers-that-be constructed many waysides and several complex interpretive centers.  I kept wondering about having to rebuild if the mountain blew again….  We’re a peculiar species.  I digress.

bunker potty--I'm trying to imagine the request for proposal:  need blast-proof potty in case the mountain blows again

bunker potty near the end of the road–I’m trying to imagine the request for proposal: need blast-proof potty in case the mountain blows again.  Maybe we’re supposed to hide in their for a few weeks?!

We found a wayside about 20 miles (?) away from the mountain, just a parking lot with three interpretive signs, no facilities, and a knock-em-dead view of the peak and surrounding terrain.   We had the camper (with a potty!).  We lingered.  Had lunch al fresco, had naps, and I did laundry because I dumped a cup of tomato juice right into my only bag of clothes.  Sigh… !!

Our final view of the mountain at that spot:

late afternoon and the clouds bathe the broken peak

late afternoon and the clouds bathe the broken peak

The clouds continued to thicken.   Sunday the cloud deck was so low that there was no hint of a peak.   Weren’t we smart to go up the road on Saturday?!

We took kitty Calpurrnia with us because she needs three medicines twice a day, though we’d rather leave her home with Ooper.  They probably snuggle up when we’re not looking.  …  Nah…  Not sure how much longer she’ll be with us, our old girl, and it grieves me deeply to think of her fuzzy tortoise-shell self absent.

The camper road trips are quite demanding of me, but I recover faster now, which inspires lasting hope instead of mere pockets clung to in desperation.

thankfulness

Most of this year has been a big ole, limb-tearin’ bear.  I would not be where I am in my recovery if not for you who have joined me along a lengthy, unknown, and often very sad, road.

Thank you.

Tomorrow morning, Big Mister and I are taking the camper to our favorite out-of-the-way park for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I get to go on vacation!!!

our favorite camp site looks right over the bluff to this view. with all our storms right now, the waters should be roiling!

gimmee the drugs, man

I’ve been sick for a stinkin’ month.  My usual prescription is rest and the occasional ibuprofen.  But today, the light bulb went off, albeit a slow-to-warm fluorescent, when I realized that I was actually getting worse instead of better AND that I’ll be flying in two weeks and a couple of days.  aggggghhh!

No respiratory thing to start a trip on  a pressurized craft!  No, no, no!   The thought of my poor old sea-level ears and lungs being pressurized to 6,000 feet fills me with dread!  Gimmee the dang drugs, man!  (My physician’s assistant, who only sees me when I’m dead or dying or if I have to get refills of happy pills, actually had an appointment this afternoon and I got the drugs, man!)

The last time I went to Europe I had pneumonia.  It was a grand ski vacation for three weeks to Austria and Switzerland.  I tried to ski (telemark), but I was in pretty bad shape for a while, so spent a fair amount of time riding the narrow-gauge rail a little way down the hill to the baths.  Which, of course, I loved!

The group I went with was a bunch of downhill ski patrollers I associated with in my capacity as a backcountry ski patroller.  My dear friend Dolly, who was not a patroller, went too and we were partners in escapades and curious adventures.  One non-skiing day, the whole group went on bus tour down the mountain and on the way back up, Dolly and I decided we should get off at the baths.

Well.  We were in Switzerland.  I spoke basic French, a smattering of Spanish, and pretty good Chinese.  (I could also say mit schlage in German, which means with whipped cream, but I couldn’t find a way to comfortably or helpfully toss it into the conversation.)  Dolly spoke Spanish fluently.

You should have heard the two of us faking it in French, English, and Spanish to ask the driver to please let us off at the place where we could catch the narrow-gauge.  I probably threw in some Chinese because my brain gets all bollixed up with all the languages floating around.  I digress.  (Cue Eddie Izzard dancing.)  Our busload of buddies ended up cheering for us –and the driver–  as we stepped off at the correct place!

On our way to Europe from Anchorage, we stopped over in Copenhagen, which I thought was quite fabulous!  We had about 24 hours there and I planned to make use of that time, jet-lag be damned (and very real!).  Dolly and I decided to find our way to Roskilde, the site of the Viking Ship Museum.  We’re both adventurous and have that attitude that carries us wherever we want to go.  We knew we could catch a train, so planned to trundle off to the station.

The others in the group, I think there were 9 others, decided that might be fun, but not a one of them was interested in finding the way.  Keep in mind that everyone else in the group was a tough downhill ski patroller–they see broken bones, blood, contusions, all the icky stuff, whereas we backcountry folks tended to see avalanches and the occasional stabbed-himself-with-his-pointy-pole stuff.  Well, there was that one guy who dropped dead, but that’s for another story.   (Eddie Izzard again dances in my head!  la la la, where was I?)

Nobody else spoke a language other than English either, so I imagine it was kinda daunting.  The group of us started walking to the train station, Dolly and I in the lead, reading the Danish signs (how?) and the 9 others following in a duckling-train behind us.  Standing at stoplights was particularly amusing — the Other 9 would mill closely around Dolly and me, clearly not willing to leave us, so we 11 would stand in a clutch until the light changed, then the duckling-train would chug along again.

Dolly and I bought the tickets for all 11 of us.  The Other 9 stuck close by us on the train ride–what if we had tried to sneak off without them?  How would they get back to Copenhagen without us?  How would they find the hotel?  gasp!  (Lots of folks speak fluent English there, including the ticket seller at the train!)

At Roskilde, we walked in a duckling pack until I thought I would scream.  I am an independent sort and require a level of independence of those around me.  When we finally got down to the water and the museum, I ducked out on ’em and wandered around the museum that I had wanted to see, to experience, without a single quacking duckling in my wake.

Then it was time to go get the train back to the big city and we did the duck walk dance again.

That was a grand trip.  I still have the souvenir sweatshirt from les bains de Val d’Illiez where I spent so much time soaking away the pneumonia!  (The baths are MUCH fancier now than when we were there!)

My first stop on my Italy trip will be in a tiny village called Bagni di Lucca.  Bagni means baths.  Yep, I’m going to soak myself in the baths again.  How cool is that?!

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

planning and planning…

I’m going to be in Italy for a month and have plans for only the first 10 days.  The rest will fall into place!  This is the area I’ll concentrate on…  but who knows what could happen?!

After landing in Bologna, I’ll hop a train and bus to stay with a blogging pal in a tiny village in Tuscany.

 

A couple of days later, I’ll take the train to Ravenna where I’ll take a 5-day mosaics class that teaches the traditional methods.  I will also celebrate my 55th birthday there!  I’ll be staying in a small B&B right in the historical district and will quite likely ride a bicycle to class!

I’m hoping to apprentice in a mosaics workshop, which would require that I stay in Italy for longer than a month.  If I still have money, I may do that!

that is mosaics!

  Then, since Venice is just up the road, I’ll probably head there.  How could I miss Venice?!  Burano or Murano?

Siena?!   I have a guidebook that belonged to my uncle who visited there on a break from North Africa during WWII.    I’ve long wanted to see Siena….  but it’s south of that purply highlighted area!    hmmmm….  what to do?  what to do?

four Wednesdays hence

… I will be wishing I could get comfortable in my cramped Lufthansa airline seat so that I could sleep away the 10-hour overnight flight.

Lufthansa long-haul flight

I will also want to stay awake to watch icy white Greenland slide along below us, 41,000 feet under those wings.

Four Wednesdays hence I will be living my dream of spending a solo month in northern Italy.   I have the round-trip ticket, I have registered for the 5-day classical mosaics class in Ravenna on the east coast, and I know where the flight sets down outside Bologna, but I still don’t know where I’ll lay my jet-lagged head the first night or nights thereafter.  I don’t know if I’m renting a car at the outset or at all.

I do know I will be celebrating my 55th birthday in Italy.  Cinquante cinque ani!

This dream of going to Italy has haunted me for years.  Perhaps once I’m there I’ll be able to articulate the tremendous magnetic desire to be in that tiny country.  Life experiences to now have narrowed like a funnel to point to the concluding reason for the disparate events that all seem to make sense now:

Mom had us studying Latin when we were kids and I continued to study in college.  Gaudeamus igitur, etc. and so forth!

We lived in Taranto way down at the heel of Italy when I was a wee thing and apparently my brother and I spoke conversational Italian to our housekeeper, though we apparently refused to speak Italian to our parents!  Dov’è Laurio?    Andiamo bambini!

The Ancient Italians, those amazing, warring Romans, have had my attention for decades.  They knew how to use concrete as well as any modern concrete contractor!  Amazing!  Underwater!

Some years ago I wanted to learn mosaics, but since I wanted to do outdoor installations, I stopped what I was doing with mosaics to teach myself about concrete as a substrate for those mosaics.  I love working with cement!  I love the smell of admixture in my cement and sand mix in the morning!

Four Wednesdays hence, as I fly to Italy, it will be two years ago almost to the day that I was laid off from a quite fine job, a job from which I believed I would retire with a nice little 401k.   I at least have the little 401k!

These last two years have been an exploration, a rediscovery of the guts I possess that have allowed me to simply try something!  How hard could it be?!  

In an effort to become employable once more, I studied landscape design, but after the third quarter of commuting to school in unfathomable traffic, I called Uncle! and stopped.  Simply stopped.  Panicked.  Didn’t panic.  Wondered and thought and pondered in that nonmoving space and time.

Recovered from the exhaustion brought on by being caught up in the too many people in too-close quarters driving aggressively at 70 mph!   As I came out of the exhaustion, I returned to my spot in the garage and poked around with my concrete stuff again.  Created some oddball stepping stones.  Became inspired, at last being rested and refreshed after a difficult 1-1/2 years, to work on mosaics along with the concrete.

Full circle.  I know concrete as a substrate for outdoor installations.  I learn mosaics in leaps and bounds, absorb knowledge and wisdom from the teachers who have written books.  Knew I wanted badly to go to the seat of Byzantine-era (around 600 CE) mosaics and learn at the feet of master mosaicists.

Still have to earn a living and wondering what in hell to do at my age when I’ve effectively been shut out of the job market.

Boing!  Clink!  Bing!   I shall be a concrete and mosaics artist and I will call the business Concrete Couture (TM).

Four Wednesdays hence, I shall be on my way to Italy, to tie together those disparate experiences, to bring to the fore all the courage I’ve ever had, to try something new, to take a leap of faith, the only net being the Universe, which has cared for this Earthling all these years, kept me alive and showed me how to thrive.

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

on the road for Xmas

We’re in our stalwart camper and ancient truck–here’s a previous pic so YOU get the picture!

Along the way–

And here’s where we’re staying:

Looking over the bluff to the cove below

We hear the changing tidal actions

The peace of a classical Chinese garden

For me, the Chinese garden inspires peace, which I need this morning.  Here are photos of this magnificent constructed space, very similar to gardens I have visited in Suzhou, China.  The spaces in this garden, as well as those China travels many moons ago are on my mind this morning.

Classic entry requires a slowing...

Ting (=pavilion) with a specific view

Classic elements: Ting (building), water, Tai Hu rocks

bridge, water, Tai Hu rocks--all hallmarks of classical design

every window with a different pattern

Stunning bark on the crabapple tree (Malus spp.)

To learn more or to plan a visit, go to Portland Classical Chinese Garden.

Watching paint dry while on vacation

This parade of home-goers was amusing only because we were on vacation!

Pacific Ocean

Ahhhhh….  this is where we have been for the last three days.  Well, actually, we’ve been down on that beach wandering and looking and just staring out to sea.

Ah, the truly pacific Pacific Ocean

We had an intense windstorm our first night, which was followed by an hours’-long intense rainstorm.  The next day the surf was high and pounded over into curls far away from shore.

Today, the obscuring spindrift has been absorbed back into the tides and the waters are calm.  That’s today, the picture.  Ahhhh….

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Hat Man on Interstate-5

Near our first night’s destination, we stopped to fill the propane tank just in case it was low–coffee to make and a furnace to run in case the temps actually drop below 75 deg F and 92% humidity!   This has been weird and unseasonable weather for us, not to speak of extremely uncomfortable.   Turns out we needed 4.7 gallons for our 5-gallon tank and would have risked not having coffee in the morning!  Yikes!

The high humidity enmeshed in the strands of heat reminds me of one summer in Toronto when a nasty inversion trapped pollution along with the stifling, thick air.

Mom made an executive decision to remove the three kids from that muck, leaving Dad to go to work as usual.    She gathered us and tons of gear into our almost-new 1970 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon and headed way, way outta Dodge to Algonquin Park where the four of us would sleep in a tent and paddle a canoe on the lake.

Did older Bruddah catch a fish?  Did little Sistah abhor the messiness of camping?  Bruddah and I took a canoe and paddled and paddled in that brilliant sun blinking off the lake, sure we could get to the other side, wherever that was.  We didn’t get there and had to turn back, perhaps a little worn out by the excited intensity of the outward-bound trip.

In those years, Mom was still only a mother, assumed as the parental presence without personality, without intricacies, without feelings and thoughts, so I didn’t know very much about what she wanted out of that trip or if she got relief herself from that suffocating weather.  Now that I am older than she was then, I can muse empathetically about Mom’s own need to get out of Dodge.  Did her claustrophobia get battered by that choking air, fueling the drive to flee to cooler air?

We all relaxed into the lake-fed cooler air, along with many other families on their summer vacations or who also were escaping the confined heat of the big city.

Back to the road trip here in present day.

Now, moving off with propane fueled and the tank stored again in its cubby in the side of the camper and Calpurrnia stored inside the camper instead of under the front seat.  It was only 10 miles to the state park within sight of Mt. St. Helens, the volcanic peak that erupted enthusiastically in 1980, blowing off part of its top and sending mudflow and ash every which way.  I was finishing college in Tucson then, but it was big news that we followed with alarm.

As we pulled onto Interstate-5 with the roar of 8 cylinders powering a workhorse engine, we heard a car horn tootling, but couldn’t figure out what we could have done wrong on our entry to the highway.  As we accelerated to highway speed, the Big Mister saw something startling in his side view mirror:  A car behind us stopped on the onramp and a passenger leaned out and picked something up.  I actually wondered aloud if it could be a gun.  He didn’t refute my outrageous, paranoid thought.

Big Mister kept watching the driver’s side rearview mirror and suddenly there was a car in the left lane keeping pace with us.   In the passenger seat, a young man was grinning crazily at us, his hat tipped over one eye, the highway speeds blowing the apparent wind in his face, and the southwest cant of the sun lighting up the dense tattoos along his arms.   The driver was grinning at us, too.

Then I said it–they’re going to shoot us, aren’t they?

There are cultural etiquette and personal space expectations for the freeway, so his crazy grin and the neck-and-neck travel at 60 mph was assaulting those expectations and suggesting strongly the ire of road rage piqued by some slight back at the onramp when we’d heard that horn.

Still moving along fast, neck-and-neck, door-and-door, that grinning fool out the window.  Only 10 or 15 seconds have elapsed, and then that car accelerated easily and fast to move into the lane in front of us.    Realization slammed the Big Mister and me both simultaneously as we took in that last look backward of the man with the crazy grin and the hat tipped over one eye:  he was wearing the Big Mister’s hat!

That sleek gold Audi pulled to the shoulder and we followed.  That crazy-eyed passenger, ink up the length of his arms, grinning still, ran back to us and handed the hat to me.   No words, just shared grins of acknowledgement.

We hope he gets a hat like that–he looked great!

 

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

News you CAN use!

Trying to leave on vacation, but had to dash over and get this pic:

Finally, a vacation!

We’re off.  Way off.

Plus, we’re leaving for vacation in the camper, an old friend that has taken us all over our state and a couple of states abutting.  It even has a propane furnace!

in the wilds of Montana where we were advised to watch for bears!

We take the Bajaj scooter for a get-around vehicle.

(This is quite a change from the frigid winter camping of my Alaska years, and it did take me a little time to come to terms with the idea that I was not carrying my belongings on my back…  in the quiet wilderness.  I cried the first time we parked the camper in a state park and cowered inside away from the crowds–it was a very small campground–maybe 20 spots–and I was overwhelmed.   But now I love it and can’t wait to get on the road!  Still don’t like the crowds, but I can get away from them inside!)

Calpurrnia the cat goes with us.   The first night nobody gets any sleep because kitty-Cal walks all over us and flips and flops trying to get unafraid of the change.

Our sweet Calpurrnia the Calico Cat

Cats don’t like change.  Boy, do we change the scenery for her!  She hates it when I move the furniture!

Calpurrnia's opinion of the walls we were taking down!

We’re leaving CosmoBuddy-BoopScooter at home because he is still a wanderer despite having some strong navigational equipment removed.  We can’t take the chance of losing him somewhere far from home.

He has good company.

We’re going to hear an amazing flute player, Hanz Araki as part of our trip!  And after that, we have no idea, just will wander until we’re there.  Again and again!

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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