Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tonight we are Italian!!

This evening we joined our good friends on their garden to watch Italy vs Germany in the European football championship semi-finals.  They threw together an impromptu festa.  They took the TV outside, and set it up in the garden. There was an amazing feast of salads, grilled vegetables, fresh fruit and veg and 'carpaccio con rucola e parmesan'.

Upon the promise of a late night victory swim, the children cheered loudly for Italia.  My beautiful neighbour from downstairs looked at me and said 'we are one', and tonight we were, tonight we were Italian, win or lose.  We tried to sing the Italian national anthem, we yelled Viva Italia! It was a great experience for our children to experience not only this enthusiasm for the sport, but the national pride.

These are the experiences that bring meaning to our journey.  I remember when we were first in Australia and my cousin asked me who I would bet for in the Melbourne Cup.  I had never bet on a horse race, generally only gamblers bet on horses in Canada.  But in Australia, they set up special betting stations for Melbourne Cup, parties are arranged, fancy dresses and hats are picked.  And on the first Tuesday of each November, the country nearly grinds to a halt as people celebrate and watch the cup.  It lasts only a few minutes, but the parties last a few hours and the memories for me have lasted years.

When the clock ran down this evening and Italy had won 2-1 over Germany, we could hearing cheering from the village, and squeals of delight as are group jumped into the pool.  A win for Italy and a win for the children.

Being a part of something special to a country, like horse races, medieval festivals and football matches enriches the experience of the place we are in, it is a window into what makes that country what it is.  As I type I can hear voices from the village still singing.  I hope that someone visiting Canada could have a similar experience when watching hockey, enjoying a tailgate party at a CFL game, eating a pancake breakfast during Stampede or watching our national sport, lacrosse.  And I hope that visitor enjoys for that moment being Canadian, as I have enjoyed being Italian.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What NOT to Wear

Here in Italy the fashion is diverse, but tends to definitely land on the fully dressed all the time.  Some of the outfits I have seen while in the grocery store have been amazing, some shocking.  Often the skyscraper level high heel is shoe of choice.  I am often left wondering how they manage with all these cobblestone streets.

Molly and Mieran have been enjoying watching 'What not to Wear' with Stacey and Clinton.  They like to see the physical and personal changes that each person goes through.  It is a bit like a modern day Ugly Duckling, played out on YouTube.  They then love to critique my outfits and they love to quote 'Clinton and Stacey'.  On more than one occasion I have been asked, 'Is that what you are wearing?'  Clearly, yes, I am wearing it, what is meant by this question?  I may even get a 'Clinton and Stacey would like/not like that', or some other suggestion they have learned from the show.  Once I got told by Molly that my outfit was a 'to', in my head I heard '2', and I asked out of what, luckily she meant a 'to' wear versus a 'not to' wear.

There have been makeovers, on me, Finn, Pippa, really anyone who is willing is welcome to the 'Molly and Mieran' make over.  But seriously, check your self-esteem at the door because these two mini fashion critics can be ruthless.  They have picked up some good tips; things don't have to match, they just have to go or if you can't button the jacket, you don't buy it.  All fairly sound, I can agree.

My in house fashion critics, M&M often ask me, why don't I dress 'that' nice all the time, after they see me get dressed up to go out somewhere, that is not shopping or work.  Well M&M, though Stacey and Clinton may disagree, you can't wear high heels everywhere.  First of all, we live in the middle of an olive grove, I have to walk down 500 meters of dirt trail to make it to the village, secondly, I cannot run well in high heels and I have 4 children and a puppy and running is required and to be perfectly honest I don't find high heels that comfortable.  Now i am sure S&C would disagree, but unless they want to drop one of those WNTW credit cards off to me, I am not shelling out for the comfortable high heel shoes, I know they exist, but they are not cheap.  So, I would prefer to spend my money on some well made and pretty flats.

Where am I going with this blog post.  Well, last night I got dressed up for dinner out with some friends so I put on some heels, Molly and Mieran's favourite pick of my shoes. They are very comfortable, well made and pretty.  It was great, I felt good in them and I managed to wander down some cobblestone streets with out breaking my neck or ankle.  So this morning, riding my high of the high heels, I decided to wear them out to the  grocery store with M&M.  All went well, came home still feeling good.  We all headed out again for the girls'  dance rehearsal and I kept rockin' the red high heels.  The saying 'easy tiger' comes to mind.  As the afternoon wore on, and I was standing or walking about, I did not feel like I was rockin' anything but sore toes and a blister.  When we returned home i could not wait to retrieve my poor feet from the shoes, to enjoy the flat feel of bare feet on a cold marble floor, it felt strange and wonderful.

It can be fun to have my fashion advisors/critics around but not all advice is sound, and practicality must weigh in at some point.  And the good old saying less is more is definitely my advice when in comes to wearing high heels.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Weekend By the Sea with Friends

A few weeks ago we went to Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri with some friends.  We have lived numerous places and in each one we have been blessed with fantastic friends.  We are very fortunate for this and it always makes leaving somewhere more challenging, as well as always feeling a pull to return to places where we have left friends behind.  Each time we have arrived somewhere new we have been very lucky to meet someone who then opens the doors to many other friendships. I like to think of these people as connectors, they bring people together.  Though we have made many friends along our travels, it is the connectors that can really make you feel at home quickly and can really shape the experience you have in a new place.

Here in Italy we have made friends with a wonderful couple who have introduced us to many people.  We feel really fortunate to have met Kirk and Charlotte, who run the Oklahoma University program in Arezzo.  I met Charlotte in the grocery store and she invited us to her house for dinner.  We have made a number of friends through them, two who connected me to a job and one who connected us to a puppy.  Once I went to Florence to listen to one of Kirk's art history lectures, which has helped to reignite my interest in Art history and architecture.  With this group of friends we have now shared many meals, had parties, helped pick up garbage in the community, seen magic shows and recently we took a trip to Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri.  

Mark and I and the children drove down to Pompeii where we met up with Kirk and Charlotte, their two boys and a group of people from OU.  It was so great to have a chance to tour Pompeii, a place I had studied about as a child.  And to go with friends makes it so much more enjoyable, and even more so when these friends have been here before and know a great deal about the site and the history.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we walked the length of the site both ways peaking into old ruins of house, churches and other buildings.  It was amazing to see how well developed a community there had been when Mount Vesuvius had covered it in ashes, rocks and deadly gas in 79AD.  

After the day in Pompeii we drove along the coast to Sorrento, a beautiful seaside town clinging to a cliff of the Mediterranean.  Sadly the drive from Naples is along garbage strewn roadways and garbage filled tunnels.  We stopped at a pull out to take a picture looking back across the bay to Vesuvius and as I glanced down to the beach it too was littered with bags of garbage.  Once on the peninsula the garbage gave way to brightly coloured towns stacked on the sides of the rocky coast.  It really refreshed the feeling of 'being' in Italy for us.  

Saturday morning we took a boat to the Island of Capri, a beautiful hilly island with white washed buildings climbing upwards.  We walked up a winding path from the port to the town of Capri, I stopped frequently to snap photos of Madonnas and gardens.  

After a cappuccino with a fantastic view of the sea, we took a bus down an impossibly winding and narrow road to a beach on the far side of the island.  

It was a bit cloudy but looked as though it might burn off.  Kirk knew of restaurant at the top of the island, above Anacapri so we decided to leave the beach and head towards the clouds and what a great decision that was, not only was the food amazing, but by the time we reached the top, over an even more impossibly windy and narrow road, the sun had burned away the clouds and we had the most fantastic view of the island and the sea.

On Sunday we headed along the Amalfi coast to the town of Positano.  We had a friend in Canada tell us it was one of his favourite spots in Italy and from the moment we arrived we could see why.  Pastel coloured building and vibrant vines of flowers climb up the side of the hill from the sea.  When we drove into the town, our search for parking coincided with a man from a restaurant telling us he had parking and Pippa desperately needing a bathroom.  Lucky for us, because the food was great and the service very friendly.  Mark had one of the best gnocchi he had ever tasted, and I had the best Limoncello.

We then wandered down through the streets towards the beach.  Stopped for a gelato and a quick wade in the sea.  It was a beautiful day and we wished we had more time, but we had spent the morning in Sorrento having sandals made for us, and now we needed to get back on the road to go and collect our dog from friends.  It was a lovely end to a lovely weekend.  Just like Venice we vowed to return one day and I hope that we get the opportunity as it is very beautiful and it would be nice to have more time to further explore this stunning coast.

I am not sure we would have made the trip to Pompeii and Sorrento had it not been that we had friends going, but we are certainly glad we did, it is one of the many great experiences we have had here that we will always remember.  And the whole weekend was that much better by having good friends to experience it with.