Thursday, June 21, 2007

father's day at the beach

i thought that hopping on a train and going to the beach sounded like a good idea. and since it was father's day in america and i'm an american father, i got to make the decision. brandy didn't even know where we were going.

i think she was pleasantly surprised.

Portonovo, Le March, Italy

This town is far enough from big cities and is so off the beaten path that most tour books don't mention it. It is not on the way anywhere, so you really have to go out of your way. Those who do are rewarded greatly. The water is crystal clear and the landscape is like the chalky limestone hills of Austin, Texas cut abruptly by the Mediterranean Sea.

The beaches in Italy are a bit different than what we are used to. Most Italians go to be seen and talk with their beach friends--who may be the same friends they talk to every other day or they may be friends they only see at the beach. Either way, the 2 reasons to go to the beach are to talk and to develop an extremely dark tan. The threat of skin cancer doesn't stand a chance compared to the Italian needs to look good and be social.

Here's Brandy looking good and being social.

The food is wonderful. Seafood obviously is the big star. Here is a sequence of Nora trying a snail cooked in a tomato&garlic sauce.

ok, ill try it...

Chewing...hmm, strange texture...

nope, definitely not a winner.

she also had some gnocchi with prawns. it was excellent.

and i had some tagliatelle with clams (vongole) and a grilled sea bass (spigola). they were both excellent and the fish was the freshest i've ever had. here's a picture of the pasta.

Another thing that's different in Italy is the beach itself. Many are pebbly, some are sandy, some are just plain rocky, and others feel like you're walking on Nerds candy--smooth and not painful to walk on (almost massage-like), but definitely not fine enough to be sand. This beach had them all. The main part of the beach is sandy and then pebbly. By scrambling across some rocks and wading through some knee-deep water, you get to a different beach. It had some of the nerds candy sand and some good old fashioned sand. This is where we went.

Here we are crossing the rocks:

Here's Nora wading through the knee-deep water.

And here's the view down the beach.

Ah, what a view...

The water is nearly perfect--a little cold but very pleasant on a warm day and clear as can be. the only thing missing is surfable waves. Well, you can't have everything...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Update on Bush's Visit

After recommendations from the Italian government and Secret Service, Bush decided to cancel his visit to Trastevere. It seems that the narrow, winding alleys of Trastevere were too difficult to secure. (That's a major understatement, by the way. That they ever dreamed they could logistically pull off a visit to our tiny piazza is beyond me.) See the mayhem Bush's visit caused below. This is what I what I was afraid would happen below my house. Unfortunately for our friend Maria it happened below hers instead. Sorry, Maria.

We managed to stay completely clear of the whole thing. Nora and I went to the park (Villa Pamphili) and had a wonderful time. If you could see past the police posted every five feet along the path, it was very peaceful and serene.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dub-ya is starving my family

George W. Bush will be in Rome on Saturday. Just look where the tiny piazza that he's chosen to speak is located!That's Piazza Sant' Egidio. Notice how it's located at the end of Via della Scala---MY STREET!!
Oh help me. We'll be lucky to leave our homes at all on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Trip to Lecce, Puglia

Puglia (pronounced Poolia, like Julia) is down in the heel of the Italian boot.

Lecce (pronounced much like the Spanish word for milk--leche) is the beautiful town in the middle with its own style of architecture: lecce boroque.

People in Lecce are short. Even Nora has to duck to get in.
This is the hotel we stayed in. It's in a 16th cenury palazzo and only set us back about 45 euro/night. Highly recommended with a great rooftop view. There are actually 2 in the palazzo: The Centro Storico B&B
and The Azzurretta B&B.
The owners are brothers. The brother we stayed with is named--i kid you not--Toolio.

I am a deadly weapon. You've been warned.

Here's a common mode of transportation. Not really, but it does remind me of the bigwheel I had as a kid.

This blurred view of the Puglia countryside between Bari and Brindisi. It looks like an impressionist painting. You can probably photoshop a Monet painting pretty easily from this.

Nora likes to make her mom nervous. OK, maybe I encourage this behavior.

The happy travelers in Santa Maria di Leuca.

The water is really that color. The limestone filters the water and the light sand reflects the sunlight. It looks clean enough to drink (not recommended).

These next 2 are taken from the very tip of the stilletto heel of the boot. It's the first place in Italy to see the sunrise in the morning.

These people were having a picnic and catching sea urchins, clams, oysters, fish and other stuff that they eat raw in Puglia. Don't cringe; it tastes great.

More beautiful water, if you like that sort of thing. Again, not drinkable. Who knew?

Very trusting people. Who wants a boat?

Crazy kids--horsing around. (Sorry.)

We decided to go different ways. The beach north of Otranto, Puglia.

I'll miss her, though.

United again, surfing the rocks of the Adriatic Sea.

Brandy doesn't like to run around in the sand as much, but she doesn't judge us for our childish behavior.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Relief and Revelation

Update on our 9months of bills situation: really not so bad. Our total amount for nine months of bills looks like about 3-4 months of bills in Texas. I guess that's the upside of living in a shoebox. An air conditionless shoebox.

That was the relief. Here's the revelation: In the middle of all of this piles-o-bills anxiety, I ran out of hair product. And ever since the ogre at the airport took my new bottle of Bumble and Bumble, I've been bouncing around from mousse to paste to cream...none of them good. Frankly, I don't think the Italians have a clue what to do with curly hair. It looks as though the women here brush their curls...even when dry!! (Ask a woman with curls if you don't know.)

So with the end of each tube or can or bottle, I've had to search for another mediocre replacement. But this time I didn't want to spend another precious Euro on something mediocre--not when I had nine months of bills looming over my head. On the other hand you can't just go around with curly hair and no product whatsoever.

That's when I remembered something a wise stylist once told me: Curls only need moisture--that's all your product needs to do--keep 'em moist.

Olive oil.