Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sardinia

Italian region number #13 - check!

This past weekend I tacked on a day trip to some work that was happening in Cagliari (southern Sardinia) and had a truly amazing time. 

I think most Americans haven't even heard of Sardinia, or if they have they probably think of it as a big, empty desert of an island.  But since moving here I've been waiting to see it. Sardinia is known to Italians for it's beaches and for good reason - the island is ringed by some of the most crystal clear, secluded beaches in Italy. I only got a taste this time but what I saw, I loved!


There are palm trees and sail boats, what more do you need in life!


Obviously, the ocean is the biggest draw. I scheduled a sailing trip which was very unprofessionally cancelled by the tour company when a bigger, more lucrative group came along (a big anti-shout out to Sardeo.com for not honoring that reservation) but I was fortunate to find a second tour provider at the very last second. 

Still bummed out that I wasn't on a sailboat, a group of dolphins came along to make me feel better.  They swam in the boat's wake for 10 minutes easily, jumping and just generally enjoying the waves. 
Major happy. :)
Then we stopped at tiny cove where I had my first (successful) scuba experience.  It took awhile to overcome my initial complete inability to breathe through a snorkel. That and I'm really, really bad with flippers. After several minutes of panic and sea-water consumption I finally found my sea-legs (and sea-lungs?) and started stalking some sea creatures.  My wonderful guide even brought this little guy onboard for me to watch for a few minutes.  Did you know they move?!


We also spent plenty of time laying around in the sun, soaking up some much needed vitamin D. The ride back even included a mini storm and some subsequently beautiful views. ...sigh...



Of course, Cagliari is also a beautiful town and I enjoyed the architecture, narrow streets, and a tiny sampling of seriously tasty restaurants. 




  Once was great, but I'll definitely be back!


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!