Saturday, April 30, 2011

First the Pope, now Rick Steves!

My husband was standing at our window last evening, watching the street action below and said “That guy sure looks at lot like Rick Steves.”  “Yeah, right,” I said from the bed while reading. “It IS Rick Steves,” he said, moments later.
Four hours later, he walked into the restaurant where we were enjoying incredible seafood spaghetti. Wow! He was so tall! We introduced ourselves and he asked us about our accommodations, the food and service in the restaurant, making notes for his 2012 “Snapshots of the Cinque Terre.”  I asked him if he was traveling with his family and he said that, no, he was divorced. (Open mouth, insert foot, BoomerGirl.) After a brief discussion, photo and autograph session with the other Americans in the joint, he was on his way up the main street.  We heard that he stayed the night and ate breakfast with our friend Massimo, one of two brothers who owns a restaurant (Two Pirates) up the street.
    Hopefully, I'll post more tomorrow, but you never know in the Cinque Terre.  Ciao!

Grazie, WiFi!

We finally found WiFi in Monterosso, one of the five villages in the beautiful Cinque Terre (the Five Lands), where we landed two days ago.  After the madness of Rome, all I can say is ahhhhhh.
We are staying in Vernazza in a room overlooking the main street.
 We love our neighborhood …
The local specialties here are fresh anchovies, which are nothing like the salty, fishy version we’re used to…
and pesto (see above - internets not working well - O.M.G., it’s divine!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Roman holiday: Part tre!

We're having a Kansas-style thunderstorm in Rome, which is a much-welcomed event since we just returned to Hotel Rex after a long, exhausting day. It started at the Vatican with an audience with the Pope. That's him in the white....
This is where I took that shot....
Just the Holy See and me, with several thousand of our closest friends. At the end, we all received the papal blessing and, I have to admit, in spite of my mixed feelings about the Catholic Church, it was quite a moving experience. Here I am, pictured below, post-blessing. Notice the saintly glow. Or, maybe that's perspiration clinging to my forehead.
Then, it was onto a lunch of pizza, wine and beer, which is getting to be WAY too much of a habit lately....
and some authentic music....
like the theme from "Love Story." After lunch, we jumped back on the Metro and headed for the Colosseum.
 Man, that thing was in ruins! Who knew?!
Not to be irreverent here, but....'d think they'd at least tuck-point the place.
 I mean, just look at it!
I'm sure the cheesehead posing with the Spartans agrees with me.
(Note to self: Tired feet and sarcasm may not be a good mix.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Roman holiday: Part due!

    I am enjoying my second glass of wine before dinner and free, unlimited wireless internet at Hotel Rex while listening to a couple arguing across the back courtyard. (I think they had sex twenty minutes ago because they stopped fighting, then the man started screaming - not moaning, screaming - in a rhythmic manner for 5 or 6 minutes and I didn't hear a peep out of the woman. Now, they're yelling again.) How Italian is that? (And this is not the wine talking.)
    Here are some more pictures from today:
The famous Spanish Steps.
Halfway up!
Halfway to go!
Our reward at the top: Trinita del Monti
Gorgeous mural inside the church.
Back on the street, a car show was in progress....
Because only Italian cops would drive Lamborghinis, si?
I still like my Toyota.
Oh, and the beatification of Pope John Paul II?  It's kind of a big deal here.

Roman holiday!

Rome wasn't built in a day, and you sure can't see it all in 24 hours. But, that didn't stop us from trying! Emboldened by our early check-in, we took off on a spontaneous, unplanned sight-seeing trip via subway and foot.  The mild spring day featured enough cloud cover to make the colors in my photographs really pop.  And while the lines at the Vatican discouraged us (we'll try again tomorrow), the rest of the city (and people watching) were sublime. Enjoy....
A street in our neighborhood.     
Entrance to the Piazza del Popolo  
Piazza del Popolo   
Another view: Piazza del Popolo
It started to sprinkle so we took shelter in a sidewalk cafe for a late lunch. 
Veggie pizza (what else?) with wine (what else?) Delicioso!
Getting ready to shop on Via del Babuino.

Arreviderci, Marina! Ciao, Roma!

After we literally sailed off into the sunset, we enjoyed a farewell dinner in Toscana - the last of four specialty restaurants onboard the ship we tried on the cruise.  It was a knockout, too, from its fab bread basket...
 to the dessert quintet....
which, if I'm going for accuracy, I actually had during the winemaker's dinner the night before in the same restaurant.  Here is the Italian winemaker (left) and one of the Marina's executive chefs (right) posing with our new friend, Avedis from Nova Scotia. (He looks like a happy camper, yes?)...
We all shared a table with Larry and Laura Martin, our hosts from Food and Wine Trails and the good people who awarded me such a terrific prize.  (Thanks, Larry and Laura!)...
This morning, we disembarked the ship around 8:30 and rode the train to Rome, arriving at 10:30 a.m.  After a short walk from Termini station, we checked into our hotel which shares its name with the hubs....
That, of course, means we'll be taking everything home with the hotel's brand printed on it.  Hopefully, including the cool key ring.  Then, it was out the door to see what we could see.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Holiday in Sorrento

The last port of call on the cruise: Sorrento, a happenin’ spot due, in large part, to it being Easter Monday, a national holiday. Tourists, families and throngs of teenagers out in force.
 Tender boats took us to shore then we boarded shuttles up, up, up to the town center.
The crowds were a little much, at first, so we took refuge in Bar Ercolano where I had a local limoncello (the liqueur was born here) and the hubs had an Italian beer.  Excellent people watching!
They grow lemons everywhere. This particular variety is bigger than your fist.
While waiting for the shuttle back to port, we leaned over a bridge and spied an ancient overgrown castle in the gulch.
Way cool!
Tomorrow, we’re off to Rome by train, along with our fellow 1293 passengers. Wish us luck. But first, it’s a farewell cocktail party with the Food and Wine group (more on the fabulous winemaker’s dinner last night later) and dinner at Toscana. Ciao!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A restful Easter day at sea

After a day of touring yesterday (see how the Marina welcomed the shore excursion people back to the ship – complete with band, receiving line, applause and waiters offering cold beverages):
we wanted to make Easter Sunday a day of rest. So, we slept until 10:30 (not by plan) and decided to enjoy our next port , Amalfi, from the ship:
The view was available from the Terrace where we enjoyed a delicious lunch…
of almost-healthy mahi-mahi, parrot fish and grilled veggies (OK, that’s tiramisu in the back)….
and also from our private deck.
After a two-hour nap, it’s onto the private winemaker’s dinner with the “Food and Wine” group.  A happy Easter, indeed. We’re feeling blessed.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day tripping to Tuscany

The cruise prize package included a shore excursion in Tuscany today. Our destinations:  Sureveto, a charming medieval village dating back to the year 1000, known today as a Slow Food City, Wine City and Olive Oil City (what’s not to love?); the Tua Rita winery where we enjoyed a 5-course winemaker’s lunch (yes, as in the noon meal!); and the hamlet of Bolgheri, immortalized in Giosue’ Carducci’s poem “Before San Guido.” In the interest of time and the ship's 95 cents-per-minute charge for the internet, here are the highlights:
 A charming street in Sureveto…
 Sureveto’s town hall…
 The window of Sureveto’s local Commie chapter….
 A Sureveto church all dressed up for Easter…
The winemaker at Tua Rita was a tall drink of Merlot….
 First course of the winemaker’s lunch: Antipasti…
 Second course: Pappardelle Al Cinghiale (wild boar and noodles)…
The Italian cops stopped us on the way to Bolgheri, just to give our bus driver a Breathalizer test.  True story.  Can’t be too careful, I guess….
 The square at Bolgheri…
 An enticing shop in Bolgheri…

Boomer Girl Review: Ultimate Oriole Feeder

I've still got a way to go before I'm feeding pigeons on the steps of St. Paul's (which I never thought was a bad thing to do ...