Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Accomodations on the road

Back in the days when the exchange rate was better and we could get more money from our US dollars, we stayed in places like this. This was the Ai Lumi in Trapani, on the west coast of Sicily. It was a self contained apartment above a restaurant. They were both owned by the same owners. It was located in the cars free area of the old town quite close to the waterfront, where all kinds of boats were docked and also the ferries that take people to the many islands off of Sicily. The restaurant was really fancy and they serve their famous fish with couscous dish. They served a great breakfast too, the yoghurt was so creamy and tasty. I was greedy and had too much yoghurt and had to go to the bathroom a few more times that day. We went to Trapani to visit Erice which we did and also to see the I Mysteries, a series of carvings of the passion of Jesus, this we didn't see because the church where they were housed was under renovations. The church should be opened by now and it's probably time to revisit Trapani.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In praise of cheap accomodations

After traveling for over ten years, I've my fill of all kinds of accomodations on the road. I've lived in fleapit motels mostly and some hostels and some very fancy hotels. I've stayed in a very fancy hotel in Paris where all their toiletries are from Anick Goutal, the very exclusive French perfumer and a converted chateau in Avignon, an extremely luxurious hotel in a room with a view of the Grand canal in Venice. My sweetest memories are of the times spent in fleapit hostels. In an expensive hotel, the clientele are rich and snobbish whereas in a cheap place, the clientele are usually younger and more exciting. They are more gung-ho and has more information and tips for a more enjoyable visit. I remember waking up in a really cheap place in Naples, Italy. There were two Japanese girls in the next room. We met at the coffee bar, so call, the owner was making coffee for us and was handing out packaged croissants. We asked them the usual questions, they arrived from Rome the night before by train and that morning was on their way to the ferry to take a boat to Capri where they'll visit the Blue Grotto. We tagged along and before long, all 4 of us were boarding a hydrofoil for Capri. We had a great time at the Blue Grotto and later we went to Pompeii. It was our first day and it takes a little time to get our bearings in a new place but the two girls helped make the process move faster. I told Sophie, 'I really admire their spirit' to which she replied, 'you have that same spirit.'
I remember arriving in Catania one year, the hostel we stayed in on our first trip was packed and they put us in an annex, another apartment that they owned, a few feet away. They gave us this pink room that looked more like a boudoir in a whorehouse. It was cheap and it had a great view of the waterfront of Catania. The second picture was of the cheapy place in Casablanca when we first arrived. When we tried to stay there again the second time after we've finished our tour of Morocco, the taxi driver wouldn't take us there, he didn't think we, two girls should stay in such a rundown place. He took us to a better place.
The important thing about hotels is that they should be clean and safe especially for foreign women. The funniest place we've stayed in was at a hostel in London. London accomodations are small, this one was small. There were 12 of us squeezed into a small room, there were 4 bunkbeds, each 3 berths high, in the 4 corners of the uber small room.
I know that travel shows on TV and in the magazines are sponsored by the big hotel chains and they want to sell an expensive room. Is there any correlation between watching these shows on TV and reading about travel in a glossy magazine and the reluctance to travel. The cost of such rooms are so prohibitive, one is discouraged to even plan a trip and these people end up going to the Caribean or Hawaii (again?). I still travel cheaply, living in cheap digs. I have a friend who told me that she doesn't travel like that anymore, meaning what, as one ages one is required to travel in grander style? What if you can't afford it, does that mean travel plans are out? Well, I still travel like a backpacker and I'm almost into my dotage and I still travel. I noticed that certain youth hostels has upper age limits. I chose the ones without.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Playing house

This was my first attempt at making a frittata or an Italian omelette. It is easy and a lot of fun. Break and whip up six eggs, add a little salt and pepper. Boil the baby purple potatoes till cooked through, slice them. In a pan, saute some garlic, onions, red bell peppers and green zucchini till cooked. Grease a metal pan and pour everything into the pan, put in 375 deg oven for a half hour and cut into huge chunks. Serve with a salad and some rustic bread. Mmmmmm....delicious.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Provence - Biot

Colorful awnings, the weathered outdoor tables and chairs, the chalk board advertising the daily menu, the grey stone buildings and the colorful shutters all scream out 'Provence". This could be anywhere in Provence. One will always remember their visit to anywhere in Provence. No one forgets, in fact, memories like these are always called to mind. It's no different in my case, as the weather heats up in Southern California, I think of the hot summer days spent visiting Provence, France. I remember the lavender fields very well. I remember the color, the smell of lavender as the workers went through the field cutting the stalks. Someone wrote, she never visits Provence until she knows that the lavender are in full bloom. That will be at the middle to end of July. One would see lavender patches here and there, all over the Provencal countryside. It's an incredible sight to behold. Biot is a little artist community outside of Nice, accessible easily by the local bus.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A church in Saorge

In the early days of the Christian church, ascetism was very popular. It was hard to be a good Christian among the heathen and the religious long to get away, live on their own and pray and worship God without temtation or distraction. A lot of monks ended up in the Egyptian desert, living by themselves in the harsh environment of the desert. We call them lovingly, 'the desert fathers'. However in Central Anatolia (Turkey) some religious men decided living alone by themselves wasn't such a good idea. They started monasteries to serve the local community and attracted a lot of people who were interested in this kind of monastic lifestyle. This trend began to spread to Western Europe. In Saorge, there is a monastic church that is still active. While there are no monks here, the monastery does rent out rooms to people who need to be away from society for a while to pray, contemplate or to write. There is a potager garden attached to it and it is really a lovely place.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Interlude in Wein 2009

Here we are in this uber grand palace that is a museum in Vienna. We were hungry and we went to the museum cafe. We ordered the regular stuff that they eat in Austria. I wanted to try the sausages. They brought us this simple meal, that was so delicious. I savored every bite. The little bread rolls were so pretty and delicious. I love it when people makes simple things so beautifully presented and still was so tasty. I've eaten a lot of things in a lot of countries but this meal remained one of my most memorable.