Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Free meat

During our afternoon stroll through Warsaw's Old Town, we stepped into a small, local shop to buy some meat & cheese for tomorrow's train trip to Inowroclaw. It's probably the only shop in Old Town that's specifically for locals and where no one spoke English. The woman helping us rattled on and on in Polish but we couldn't understand a thing, except for her cheese chopping hand signs. After we had picked out a few things for our snack bag, she went into a great passionate monologue of which we could only understand "telephone" and her pointing to a piece of paper. She put some free meat into our bag and wrote her phone number for us, while also insisting -- we think -- that we give her our phone number. We did but left wondering if we just exchanged for free meat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Warsaw Chocolate

A few drops of rain were our excuse to duck into E. Wedel, Warsaw's marvelous chocolaterie. For 12 zlotys each, we ordered the classic chocolate drink that they've been serving for over 150 years. It was the best chocolate I've ever had: thick, rich, creamy and devilishly chocolatey without being overly sweet. AT was right about the Poles and their love for chocolate. The charming place was packed and we seemed to be the only tourists.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday: food, family & churches

Had a late start to the day after an evening of Vin Santo and a morning finding bus tickets for our journey to the deep south of Italy. We raced out to Saint Peter's for a quick peek at the basilica before a fabulously rich lunch with cousins I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Then we walked to a nearby church, which had a long line waiting to get into the the start of a bible reading marathon featuring the pope. The old & new testaments are to be read continuously, lasting about a week. All the porta-potties were set up and ready for the crowds. My eldest zia was anxious to get there but no one was anxious to wait. Then we strolled along the ancient wall of the city, feature some Mussolini additions to build roads through them, ending at S. Giovanni in Laterano -- the pope's main church in Rome.

After the stroll and many stories between the eleven of us, we departed. I wonder if I'll ever see zia again.

A quick coffee and then off to dinner with cousins I've spent much time with but haven't seen in decades. I recognized them by there mannerisms before I recognized the features buried below memories of youth. We had a lovely dinner -- more food, drink and sweets, then parted, sadly.

We head to Cosenza by bus early tomorrow morning so this may be the last post while I seek out Internet access.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Florence: food & family

I'm falling a few days behind with this blog because of being away from Internet access. I hope to post photos and more updates if we ever get into wifi range. As we're leaving Rome in a few days for Calabria, this may be one of the last posts until we get to Poland.

Yesterday, we had a marvelous time reuniting with our cousin from Brazil at his home in Florence. We toasted with champagne the long-awaited meeting; for my parents, 40 years. We were also delighted to toast with our Terry cousins ;) who are spending a wonderful year in Italy.

A feast of simple Florentine cooking, including the renowned bistecca was followed by a morning walking tour by our art historian and cousin. Because our family is loaded with foodies, the tour took a delicious culinary twist and included samplings of maron glace, 15 year old balsamic vinegar, vin santo, and pecorino romano. Oh, and the best cafe macchiata. Yum.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The eternal city of tourists

It's been twenty years since I was last in Rome and I've noticed lots of change. The most obvious is the number of backpack toting, water bottle guzzling, running shoe sporting tourists.

We're staying a few blocks from the Coloseum and I was amazed at the number of tourists flocking to its gates. I didn't hear a word of Italian until I ventured further into the Centro.

Back in the 80s I never had to line up for any attraction. Now it makes more sense for me to enjoy the neighbourhoods and not battle the crowds to glimpse St Teresa in Ecstasy, La Boca della Verita, or the Foro -- so sad that there is now a fee.

Despite all this, it's still a fabulous city. I feel my heart belongs in Rome more than any other place. It's not my home but there is a comfort, a familiarity that I can't ignore.