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Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Life, Travel | 2 comments

Fountain Hills

I was scanning Google Maps, planning for our Italy trip, when something piqued my interest that other people might think of as mundane. I mentioned it to Phillip.

Me: Did you know there’s a grocery store in Vatican City?

Him: We should totally go!

Me: That’s what I was gonna say!

***

Another day, researching tours for the Doge’s Palace in Venice, I started to tell Phillip about the options…

Me: Okay, this tour costs a little more, but you go through secret passages–

Him: Let’s do it!

***

I’ve traveled with a lot of people, but Phillip is definitely my favorite.

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Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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The Southwest’s Indigenous Food and Films

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in Craft, Travel | 2 comments

I don’t think I’ve shared this video of a cooking demonstration from Agave Heritage Festival in Tucson here yet.

It seemed fitting to post this on Indigenous People’s Day (which I’m glad is gaining traction over Columbus Day!), since the recipe includes several local ingredients originally used by the Native American tribes in this area.

Also, unrelated to the video, we went to an IPD screening of two documentaries by Diné (Navajo) filmmakers at the Heard Museum yesterday. Both films were really great!

Heard Museum

You may get a chance to see them too, since they’re traveling around on a Navajo Films Documentary Tour starting in November, and one of the films, The Mayors of Shiprock, will air on the World Channel November 6.

Heard Museum

If I can track down tour dates, I’ll put them on the next Happenings List.

 




 

Microblog Mondays: Write in your own space

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Italy: a 30,000-Foot View

Posted by on Oct 6, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Past midnight, we are zipping through Rome in the back of a cab, street lights flying by, windows down. It has taken 4 flights to get us to this point, and, after all that time in planes and airport terminals, the outside air feels delicious.

Italy map

In about an hour, we will have checked into our hotel. We will sleep like logs (or maybe like a pair of felled Corinthian columns) our first night in Italy. And that will be even more delicious.

Roma Room

Over the next two weeks, Phillip and I would be traveling from Rome to Venice to the central Italian countryside to Florence and back to Rome. Here’s some of the stuff we were up to.

Colosseum

Rome I

Arrived by: plane – Delta + Ryanair | Lodging: Hotel Roma Room | Food / drinks: Hotel Roma Room + Lettrere Caffè + Locanda Del Gelato

Our first day in Rome, we took a Colosseum tour and visited the Forum and Palatine Hills archaelogical sites.

From there, we walked the length of the Circus Maximus into the Trastevere neighborhood, ate enough apertifs to equal dinner, and then were irresistibly drawn into the gleaming gelato shop across the street.

The next morning we were on a train to Venice.

Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Venice

Arrived by: train – Italo Treno | Lodging: Couzy House in Venice (Airbnb) | Food / drinks: Un Mondo DiVino + Gelato Di Natura (at San Giacomo dall’Orio)

From Venice’s Santa Lucia train station, we lugged our rolling suitcases over stairs and bridges and bridges with stairs to get to the quiet street where our Airbnb apartment was.

Venice bridges

We had timed our visit so we could see both the annual Regata Storica gondola parade and race AND the  premiere of the opera “L’Occasione fa il ladro” at Teatro La Fenice.

Of course, we saw some of the city’s more permanent sights, as well.

Doge's Palace, Venice

At the Doge’s Palace, we wound our way through the ornate apartments, stuffy prison cells, and across the Bridge of Sighs. Afterwards, we went to the Basilica San Marco, craning our necks to marvel at the detail of its ceilings covered in gold mosaics.

Venice Grand Canal

We rode a water bus down the Grand Canal but mostly did a lot of walking and got lost so, so many times.

When we were just starting to maybe get the slightest grasp on getting around, it was time to retrace our path back over stepped bridges towards the edge of Venice – and into a car rental office.

 

Le Marche

Getting there: car rental – Auto Europe | Lodging: La Tavola Marche | Food / drinks: La Tavola Marche + Crazy Bar

Pears in wine

We were already behind schedule when we picked up our cute two-seater Smart car and began the (supposedly) 4-hour drive toward our next stop in the countryside of the Le Marche region.

Of course, it took us longer.

Le Marche

Winding through mountain roads well after dark, we finally arrived at La Tavola Marche, the inn/cooking school/agriturismo where we’d be staying. It’s run by a pair of American expats, chef Jason and marketing-genius Ashley, who have spent the last 10 years immersing themselves in the local culture and cuisine.

The “agriturismo” classification means all the food they serve must come from their own property or the local area. So they have fruit trees, chickens, and a big vegetable garden. We got to check it out the next afternoon, picking tomatoes for our cooking class.

Our last full day there we hiked a bit, and then got to sit back and enjoy a five-course dinner Chef Jason prepared just for two other guests, Phillip, and I.

Piobicco

At checkout time, we packed up our rental car, stopped briefly in the nearby town of Piobocco for postcards and an espresso, and then drove on to Florence.

 

Il Duomo, Florence

Florence

Getting there: car rental – Auto Europe | Lodging: Hotel Ferretti | Food / drinks: Gelateria Vivoli + cafeteria in the Uffizi

Arriving in the city to a tangle of traffic, we were glad to leave our rental car behind and head to the Hotel Ferretti, walking distance from all the sights we were planning to cram into our single-night stay.

We visited the Piazza del Duomo, the Uffizi Gallery, and (lesser-known) Vivoli, a gelateria that’s a contender for having the world’s best gelato.

We were also a short walk from the train station, where Italo Treno would take us back to Rome.

St. Peters ceiling

Rome II

Getting there: Italo Treno | Lodging: Mallory’s Guest House (Airbnb) | Food / drinks: Trattoria Sora Lella

Rome window

This time, we stayed in an apartment building built by our Airbnb host’s great grandfather. It was a lovely place to hang out when we stayed in to rest one rainy morning.

The day before we had wandered through the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. We managed to make into the Vatican Post Office before closing time, so Phillip could check out the stamps.

At some point, we crossed the invisible borderline from Vatican City back into Italy. Instead of going straight to the Metro, we opted to walk by Castel Sant’Angelo (Hadrian’s Tomb) and hop on at the Spanish Steps.

Tiber River in Rome

Our final evening in Rome, we went to dinner on an island in the Tiber River. A couple different locals had recommended Trattoria Sora Lella for authentically Roman food, so we got the tasting menu and savored every forkful.

The next morning we were back in a cab, zipping through city streets on a circuitous route to the airport, grateful for our time in Italy.




We received media passes from Teatro La Fenice and Italo Treno. 

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Museum Day in the Garden

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 in Travel | 1 comment

Last Saturday was Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day. The weather was too good to be inside, but they count the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) as a museum, so we took advantage of the free admission and spent the afternoon walking garden paths.

I guess a botanical garden is kind of like an outdoor museum with living plants and animals.

We saw a hummingbird and bees buzzing around the Garden’s flowers and a big lizard was just hanging out on a rock next to the bench where I was sitting.

Since the DBG no longer allows picnicking, we ate our lunch at a nearby picnic area in Papago Park and were entertained by ground squirrels scurrying around and birds attempting to carry off pieces of a pizza someone had left behind.

Maybe they’re the reason DBG banned picnicking. You really don’t want grackles flying through your museum and dropping half-eaten pizza slices.




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Around the Baggage Carousel

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in Travel | 11 comments

Airport

We definitely thought we’d sleep on the overnight flight from L.A. to Paris.

Flight

But we were mistaken.

Instead, we arrived at Paris-Charles De Gaulle airport in an exceptionally groggy state with an hour to get through the passport line, collect and re-check our baggage, and catch our connecting flight.

Air France plane

But we were misinformed.

Our bags wouldn’t be coming down the luggage conveyor we were watching so intently. By the time we realized they were booked through and already on the plane for Madrid, we almost didn’t make the flight, arriving breathless at the gate as final boarding calls were announced.

Paris airport shuttle

The plane took off, and we could see the Seine below us through breaks in the clouds.

Seine from the plane

A couple hours later in Madrid, we found ourselves once again staring down a baggage carousel, so we could switch airlines for our last flight.

Plane

It was around 11pm when that flight landed in Rome, and we went – one more time – to wait for our bags.

Baggage claim

And that is how you tour three European capitals’ baggage claim areas in one day.

Madrid airport: buen viaje




 

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Smithsonian: Air and Space Museum and Mitsitam Café

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Smithsonian American Indian Museum
Cafe at Smithsonian American Indian Museum

Cafe at National Museum of the American Indian

While I could have easily spent a full day at the Smithsonian American History Museum, a D.C.-area friend had recommended the Mitsitam Café at the Smithsonian American Indian Museum as a “little known gem.” I decided to make my way there for lunch.

Mitsitam cafe
Smithsonian Native American Museum

The cafeteria serves native-inspired foods that span the American continents. I got a buffalo burger and fry bread.

Smithsonian Native American Museum

The menu also includes options like wild rice and ceviche.

DC Museum cafe

This is definitely a place I’d like to come back to and try more things!

Smithsonian space museum

National Air and Space Museum

When I walked down Independence Avenue to the south entrance of the Air and Space Museum, I was discouraged to see a line over 100 feet long to get in. I had started back toward our hotel, when I looked back and saw that the northern entrance – along Jefferson Drive – didn’t seem to have a line! Sure enough, about five minutes later I was in the museum!

Air and space museum

So keep in mind that there is more than one entrance, especially since, as Stephanie later told me, the Air and Space Museum is the most popular of the Smithsonian museums.

Amelia Earhart

Immediately upon entering, I saw display spaces festoooned with replica and original air and space craft – a lunar landing module, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the front half of the fuselage of a 747, rocket nozzles as big as my living room.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: plane

In the past I had wanted to be an astronaut, so I was particularly intrigued by the exhibits showing relics of the U.S. space program in the 60s and 70s – toolkits, suits, windowed hatches, flight manuals, and the like. There’s even a very official and ornate “certificate of merit” presented to the first chimpanzee sent to space by the U.S., which I found both ridiculous and moving. While I was certainly impressed by the spacecrafts themselves, oddly, it was these historic bits of ephemera that captivated me the most.

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The guided tour moved a bit too slow for me, so I bailed out to cover more ground.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Marty met up with me about an hour into my museum visit, so that was a nice surprise. We toured the World War II fighter aircraft exhibit together. I especially appreciated the naval aircraft display that replicated both the deck and interior of an aircraft carrier.

Air and space museum

Unfortunately, our time soon ran out at the Air and Space Museum. We went to the food court with the biggest McDonald’s I’d ever been to. There was a large seating area and lots of windows to let in light. Fortunately, we went as the day was winding down, so we didn’t have to wait in line long.

National Mall sunset

I enjoyed sitting in the gradually-emptying mega-McDonald’s and debriefing the museum sights with Marty.

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