Sunday, August 28, 2016

Ischia

Welcome to Ischia!

If you're thinking of a trip to Italy and want Capri without the crowds this is probably as close as you can get.  It's actually been awhile since I visited but just remember to post about it now.  I'd highly recommend a long weekend there. I'd also recommend that you rent a bright red Vespa while you're there. And wear a fancy 1950's sun dress and big glasses. And carry a great big purse with an adorable lap dog in it.  (This is that kind of place.)

So, what to do in Ischia:
  • Visit the above castle (during the day of course, though it was beautiful to see at night).
  • Shop! There are a ton of shopping possibilities on the main drag.
  • Sit on the beach!
  • Visit one of the thermal baths. We tried Negombo (bonus points for the very Sri Lankan name!) and it was fantastic.  It's not a 'bath' in the ancient Roman sense, but more of a low-impact water park.  I highly recommend it but naturally took no photos.
  • Explore the charming interior of the island by (small) car or motorino.
  • Do some boating. You know, if you brought your boat...
Ok, that's it for my recommendation. I'll let the photos speak for themselves!





Sunday, August 21, 2016

Galleria Doria Pamphilj


I've been on the lookout for attractions in Rome that offer a break from the crowds and thought I'd share with you this recent discovery - the Galleria Doria Pamphilj. It's right on the Via del Corso, just a block or so from the Vittorio Emanuele Monument and the Forum.  It's unairconditioned, but otherwise very pleasant. I love how peaceful and off the beaten path it felt - despite the fact that it has it's fair share of world class art just kind of hanging around. If you're headed to Rome and don't have the stamina for a big museum I highly recommend this little gem.


The inner courtyard is particulrly lovely.


Upstairs the walls are just about overflowing with artwork.


It's difficult to imagine a family living here...



One of the more famous pieces, a Caravaggio. There are also others by Caravaggio, a few busts by Bernini and works by Raphael.


Monday, August 15, 2016

What a difference a year makes!

One of my favorite blogs recently posted a series of 'room evolution' photos to document their getting settled process in a new home. Since they're professionals the end result (and even quite a few of the interim results) are pretty awesome. If you like that one check out another room evolution they did here.  

I thought it would be fun to do a version of my own - and what with the mobility of this lifestyle it seems like a blog idea that will just keep on giving, right? :)  And if this inspires anyone else to chime in and (please, please, please!) tell me how to decorate my house so much the better.

So, the evolution of a foreign service apartment (part 1 of ?):

Below is my living room as of August 2017.


Homey!


Not wanting to spend a mint on furniture for the one unfurnished apartment I'm likely to occupy in my career - especially while saving up to build on and furnish the sand pile - I've been trying to work with the Ikea stuff I had from grad school.  Granted, the home design experts with the blog I mention above advise that you play around and try new things but it's a little harder to do that with a budget target of $0.



So how'd I do?

Well, 0 dollars was a little ambitious, but I haven't spent much in this room.  Once my stuff arrived I rearranged the furniture - for free! - hung some artwork I already had, and unpacked my big Ikea coffee table.  To get to this point: 


It still felt pretty empty though so in the end I did buy a few pieces including the clock/wall art behind the TV - $20, the TV itself $100, some dirt cheap Ikea lamps (only one is visible here) - $16 and the rug - $70.  Total $206.  This room still needs plenty of TLC but I'm happy with the progress so far given my budget and total lack of decorating intuition.


In the dining area I haven't spent a cent. I moved in my keyboard - now that it's in the living room it gets more use than in Lagos - my big brown chair and my own Ikea table - ironically to replace the Ikea table GSO provided.

Eventually I added some curtains, hung some artwork, and swapped out the brown chair for this white one.


And just to round things out, a view in the other direction. 










Sunday, July 31, 2016

Torino (Turin)

Following the trip to Valle d'Aosta I took a day trip to Turin to check the region of Piemonte off my list. It backfired of course when I discovered that I really enjoyed Turin and didn't have time to see everything.  We'll see if I make it back. In the meantime let me just suggest that if you lan to go you set aside two days to hit the highlights.

So what did I have time to see? I spent some time shopping and eating and walking the center of town (despite the practically paralyzing heat) but most of my day was spent at the National Museum of Cinema.

I know that Turin is famous for it's Egyptian Museum, according to Wikipedia the second most important Egyptian museum in the world, but as a film buff - and what with this not being Egypt and all - I went with my gut.  I'm so glad I did!

The film museum is one of the best I've seen in Italy; interactive, informative, fun.  It starts with a history of picture shows and how film was developed and includes exhibits and clips from all kinds of film classics.  And best of all it's located in one of Turin's architectural landmarks, the Mole Antonelliana with a fascinating history of its own.  You can buy a pass to visit the top and get a view of the whole city before making your way through the museum.

Just a few pictures to give you a taste.


This is the building. You can't miss it as the shape is just all around kind of weird and the scale is impressive.


I'm not sure what strikes others when looking at this view,mbut for me it's just so striking to see how different the city is from Rome. Where are all the churches? ;)



Apologies for the quality of this shot. The lighting was really low inside to accommodate the super awesome 'theater' set-up in the center of the museum.


Lots of nice tracitional architecture. It was too hot to hang around outside but the city seemed just packed with nice looking cafes and shopping arcades.  Next time maybe!






Monday, July 25, 2016

Valle d'Aosta

I would just like to dedicate today's blog post to The Sound of Music, because that's basically what it's all about.

So, by way of introduction:

I am suddenly, pathologically incapable of going on vacation. Poor timing right?

Long story short, I took some leave this summer intending to either take an epic European vacation or go home to see my family. In the end certain family members couldn't make it and other certain family members are coming later this year and I just never could bite the bullet and book something in Europe...so... I ended up having a very mellow staycation.

Thanks to my dear saint of a friend from language training I was at least able to get out of town for a long weekend in one of the Italian regions I hadn't yet visited - the tiny, out of the way, Valle d'Aosta.  If you don't speak Italian that means Valley of Aosta.  ;)

As you can see below, it's basically the Italian end of a mountain chain you may have heard of before - the ALPS.

We had a great two days hiking basically straight up and I am proud to report that I didn't really start complaining and implying that we might die on the mountain until the second day.  But as you can see, the views made all that effort really, really worthwhile and to be honest, it was nice to just get out and move in the fresh air.



Above is our super cute AirBnB.  It was my first stay in an AirBnB and I really liked it.  No serial killers at all!




Something about green grass, cows with bells, and unspoiled nature is just so, deeply restful that even after a 6 hour hike I felt like a new person.







 As I may have mentioned before, this is really the huge, unbeatable benefit of actually living overseas - time to see all these out of the way places. Everybody comes to Italy and sees the Colosseum, and it's great, but so few people have the time to get up to this far NW corner to spend a long weekend hiking, or down to the far SE corner to stay by the sea and eat and shop all day, or climb around on the foothills of Mt. Etna, or any of the many awesome experiences I've had while here.  I have to keep reminding myself to savor every minute and appreciate this chance while I have it - before I head back out to the wild blue yonder.




It's a good life though, eh?


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Blast from the Past

Check out this NYT article on Lagos' party scene. I'm not a huge partier but boy do those pictures bring me back. And enjoy the bonus playlist while you're at it!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Random thoughts

I had some correct guesses offline, so I figure the mystery tour can come to an end.  The photos from the past few weeks were from a recent trip to Oslo. I really enjoyed and would recommend it - particularly if you get the chance to take a few days outside the city to see some of the beautiful landscapes and coastline.

Since returning from that trip I had a busy few weeks at work and now I'm back on leave! (My leave planning was a mess this year - I basically took two days total for my first 7-8 months at post, then three weeks in the past month - but it has been nice to have so much time off recently). Last weekend I headed up to the Alps in Italy's smallest region, Valle d'Aosta, way up by the French border. More on that trip later, but in the interest of randomness here are some Rome-based adventures first.


Bagels! It only took me four hours to find this little puppy. Not because bagels aren't available in Rome. In fact it turms out there are at least a handful of bagel sellers scattered around town. No, it took four hours due to Italy's infuriating customer service policies. I would walk into a bagel seller's store, SEE the actual bagels, fresh, ready to go etc, and ask to buy a bag, only to be told that "We only sell them as sandwiches." Since I had other plans for the bagels I couldn't buy them with toppings already spread all over.  I asked for toppings on the side as a compromise - same price mind you, even less work, they said no. (Followed by, "it's not bread you know".) Sigh. This, Italian food service professionals is what we call a failure of imagination. This isn't a one off experience though.  In Italy they sell stuff the way they always sell it and if there's another way to make money they don't even want to discuss it. (Not even during a recession, with paying customers standing in their doorways apparently.) it happens a lot with lunch vs dinner menus and coffee selections too.  There might be a few exceptions to this rule, but they are definitely few and far between.  

It's not a big deal and usually inspires nothing more than an eye roll on my part, but don't be surprised when traveling to Italy if the same arbitrary rules get you too. ... And bring your own bagels. 


I love my neighborhood. I came back from Oslo to flowering trees everywhere. They lasted for several weeks and absolutely made my day each time I saw them.  And this vintage car is a big favorite too.


I can't believe I'm just posting this because these pictures are OLD, but I stopped by the Pincio (part of Rome's Borghese Park, and ran across this adorable puppet theater. They sell old-school Italian sodas and have shows for kids all summer.  I don't really like puppets but plan to check it out at least once regardless.


Ok, I admit the puppets themselves are pretty creepy.


In addition to the Great Bagel Tour I swung by the non-Catholic Cemetary of Rome the other day since I was in the neighborhood.  It's famous as the resting place for Goethe, Keats, Shelley and basically all the expatriates who have called Italy home down through the years.  It's a quick detour, I think a half hour was plenty, but nice and full of interesting history.


Keats' grave - hard to remember he was so young when he died.  You can also visit the Shelley-Keats house/museum in the centro by the Spanish Steps.


The cemetary abuts the old city walls which incorporate this even older pyramid built to commemorate Caias...something. (I love history, I swear.) You can reach all this from the Pyramide metro stop in case you're interested.

Ciao for now!