Just a girl rambling around the globe and writing about it.

Musings from around the block and farther.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Spa-mma Mia (Kami Spa, Rome)

Rome is filled with history and decaying beauty on every street corner. It's noisy and chaotic and full of modern life and rubbish on the streets. Romans race through cobblestone streets to have chimney-puffing smoke breaks and speak in rapid, angry bursts (when they may truly be saying sweet words to each other; it's a example of how the medium is the message). The food is heavy and delicious and cheesy and meaty. To say there is a lot of humanity, in all its forms (good, bad, ugly, beautiful, loud, brutal, pushy, funny, etc.) is an understatement.

On our first day, Raf and I took a walk around our apartment. We turned the first corner, onto a small alleyway, and as we passed an unassuming door, I noticed a familiar smell, like lemongrass and eucalyptus. 

A spa?

I stopped and stared into the calm void of basalt floors and sandstone walls. Sure enough, there was a highly rated ("Voted Rome's best day spa!") spa sandwiched between a ratty garage and a tiny wash-n-dry. 

A few days ago, I decided to finish off my Roman holiday with a massage and I must admit it was one of the very best souvenirs I could have gotten.

You don't realize - or maybe you do - that being gone from your regular routine can take a big toll on you. I don't speak Italian very well and we have stayed close to the more "touristy" sections of Rome, so there is a gruffness to the way we've been treated by the tourist-jaded Romans who inhabit those areas. No one has been outright mean or rude - I don't mean that at all - but there has been a lack of genuine sweetness and connection, except by our fabulous guide Grazie. 

Anyway, I didn't realize how much I needed to release the tensions of Rome until they were being knocked out of me via a blend of Oriental massage techniques. 

The actual spa was not what I'm used to. I've been to spas in Vegas and LA. I love the gritty Korean day spas where they scrub you within an inch of your life, until your skin glows. And most of all, I love the fragrant, luxurious Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, where you could spend an entire day and not remember there's a "real" world outside its Moroccan-tiled walls. In all of these places, the spa facilities are a sanctuary unto themselves, with steam rooms and saunas and beautiful baths and pools and jacuzzis and showers and fragrant amenities. There's usually tea and cool cucumber water and fresh fruit and cut flowers and a bevy of spa attendants and freshly laundered towels.

Kami Spa is not like that. For 30 Euro (the add-on cost to use the "facilities" if you have a treatment), there is a tepid pool (why?) and a steam room that smelled a little moldy. The showers are in that "facility" area, not near the lockers, and you have to walk through the lobby (where other clients are sitting and which faces the street) to get to the facilities and back. Weird. I was the only one in the "facility" area, too, which was odd, and they had to pull a curtain over the window that overlooks the lobby so I'd have some privacy. 

Okay, whatever. It's Rome, nothing is "usual." I'm game.

I took a quick dip in the not-warm pool and then went into the steam room. Once I got past the faint smell of mold, I found myself drifting away, my muscles relaxing into the warmth of the steam. The stress of the vacation literally melted away (you may laugh, but if you think about it, a vacation can be super stressful; this trip, I've been concerned about everyone getting enough to eat and having a good time and getting the right souvenirs and staying out of the busy streets of Rome so they don't get killed by a guy on a scooter who's smoking and talking on his mobile phone). I didn't want to leave.

Finally, it was time for my massage. The therapist (Nok) escorted me via elevator to her treatment room, which was beautiful and calm. For an hour, she kneaded my muscles and chased the stress away. I truly felt like a new person. An old, familiar feeling of calm contentedness came back... and I hadn't noticed its absence until it returned. 



So what if the facilities weren't up to snuff. The massage was the best I'd ever had - firm, thorough, muscle-relaxing... and exactly what the ring leader of this traveling circus needed.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Campo de' Fiori

This morning, while the girls slept in, Raf and I trekked to Campo de' Fiori for a coffee and some vegetables (we decided to forego the pizza and pasta today in favor of sauteing up some veggies).  

We've actually spent a few evenings and dinners at Campo de' Fiori because the girls love a little cafe there (which serves all the typical Italian dishes and is likely just as yummy as any other trattoria, but they like what they already know). The afternoon and evening crowd is lively, with street performers and musicians filling the center of the piazza. Last night, we listened to a 4-piece band (complete with accordian and stand-up bass) and watched two ladies tap dance their hearts out. The ever-present toy peddlers shilled light-up toys that fly and squish and splat and squeal. There was even a guy blowing gigantic bubbles that floated above the crowds until they popped into sparkling droplets. Since there's no real rush for dinner, you can spend the time waiting for your meal by looking up as the orange sepia Roman sunset gives way to an inky indigo blue that covers the city in a thick night-sky blanket.

But today was our first time in Il Campo during its busy daylight hours. I've heard and read that "true Romans" don't shop there and that it's only for tourists, but hey! We're tourists, so wandered around, looking at the beautiful produce and souvenir stalls, stopping at a caffe bar for a "caffe shakerato" (espresso shaken with ice... basically, an iced coffee with a fancy name!). 

olive oil cans
espresso pots

caffe shakerato
The walk there was easy, effortless, took about 10 minutes (as opposed to 20-30 minutes with three girls to herd). The way home was crazy and chaotic, due to a strike or protest that crowded the streets with protesters and police of every kind (lots of different uniforms), as well as a helicopter overhead. Many streets were closed or blocked and we had to find a new route around the city to get back to the apartment. Luckily, it was a fairly peaceful protest (if it was, in fact, a protest), and we made it back only a bit later than we'd expected.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pixie Delights in Ojai

image from ojaipixies.com

We're still in Rome, but I just found this post about Ojai, which I never published. Please enjoy this little bit of California sunshine between posts about Italy.

My favorite scent in the whole world is citrus.  I'm a rabid fan of orange blossoms, but I am also partial to the fresh sugar-citrus smell of Meyer lemon rinds, the green-grass fragrance of lemon leaves, the tart kiss of a satsuma. Blood oranges, lemonade, greyhound cocktails, lemon squares, lime-laden mojitos... I love 'em all. 

It follows, then, that one of my very most favorite places in the entire world is Ojai, just 45 minutes north of my house. Not only is it beautiful, but the valley is full of citrus trees.  Driving along Ojai Avenue, past the pin dot of the main drag, Libbey Park and the arcade, the streets become tiny thoroughfares, winding travelers through a fairy land of Pixie tangerine trees.  

The famous Ojai "pink moment"
I wanted to jump out of the car, run through the trees wildly, throw a picnic blanket on the rough ground and eat as many tangerines as I could pick with my bare hands, standing on tippy toes to reach as high up in the trees as possible.  And when I sated my citrus cravings - for the moment - I would lie on the blanket and fall asleep under the green canopy of glossy leaves, my chin and arms sticky with tangerine juice, my lap overflowing with discarded peels. 

They call Ojai "Shangri-La"... and I'm a believer.

For the record, we stayed at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, which is a magical dream of luxury and quiet.  We ate rich Italian food at Boccali's - ask for Starlet when you go, she's a doll of a waitress.  And if you're lucky enough to find yourself with time on your hands, I'd recommend a reflective hike at Meditation Mount, on the far east side of the valley, preferably at sunset so that you can witness the majesty of the famous Ojai "pink moment." Then cap off the day with a kuyam treatment at Ojai Valley Spa.  Bliss. 

The Art of What Is - Villa Borghese in Rome

Before we left, I remembered to buy tickets for the Borghese Gallery in Rome. It's an interesting ticket process: at least a week (or a few days) in advance, you reserve and pay for your 2-hour timeslot online (you can only go at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm or 5pm); a half hour before your time, you line up in the ticket office with the print-out of your reservation, hoping you're in the right line and wondering if the clerk (who's on his phone the whole time) even knows you're there; and then, tickets in hand, you have two hours to explore one of the world's most beautiful art galleries. 

When I booked online - over a week ago, in California - I couldn't decide on the "best" time slot for our family of five. Would they wake up early enough for the 11 am slot, knowing we'd have to be there at 10:30 and thus would have to leave the apartment at 10 am (the girls are not early risers on a "regular" schedule, so vacation mornings are even more of a challenge)? Would 1 pm hit us right at lunchtime? Would 3 pm be too late because we'd be out exploring the city and perhaps reluctant to go and see art?

I had *thought* I'd booked 11 am, so we rallied the girls - not easy with an ice cold shower that never warmed up - and walked up Via Veneto past the chi-chi sidewalk cafes and stood in line behind a gaggle of American college-age girls and got our tickets.

At the ticket window, the clerk finally stopped his conversation with his co-worker and turned to me with my tickets in his hand, "These are for 3 pm. Next!"

The good part? We had hours to ride bikes and a surrey around the gardens again, caught a gorgeous view of Rome from above the Piazza del Popolo and had a nice lunch at a cafe within the garden (Marlowe had another minestrone soup and I had my first non-cheese, non-pizza, non-pasta meal since we arrived: spinach and white beans).

The bad part? We're back at the apartment and I think two of the girls are staging a mutiny. 

Chances are, it will just be a museum trip for me and Emme, which is fine, too. My expectation was to show my whole family this museum that I love so much, the place where I fell for Caravaggio and Bernini in a big way, but it appears that I have to let go of that expectation and practice the art of being with what *is* rather than what I expected.   I'll leave in about 20 minutes to hike back up to the Villa, but for now, here are some pictures:

The girls love these stands all around the Villa Borghese;
Emme ate two huge panini the other day and we've also had
cold water, Gatorade, Nestea, Oreos, gelati... It's awesome!
Sure beats a dilapidated ice cream truck in the Valley. 
A 4-person pedal-powered surrey. It goes way faster than you'd expect
(though still not as fast as a regular bike. So there's that...)
Serena overlooking Rome.
Emme and me above the Piazza del Popolo.
Yes, she's taller than me.
Marlowe, continuing her culinary tour of Rome, ordered a
strawberry granita with whipped cream at lunch.
Soo yummy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Travel Tips - Erin's European Life Savers

Now that we've been living out of suitcases in Europe for over a week, I feel comfortable sharing a few of the things that have made our lives and traveling with the kids much, much easier. 

1 - laptop - Having a laptop has made it easy to look up various destinations and maps. I love typing as opposed to tapping on my phone or iPad (although we brought those, too, and have used them extensively). The kids like looking up YouTube videos of their fave shows, too, when they're tired and need to veg out. Some people might balk at that - they're in Italy, for god's sake! But honestly, I think they've earned it since they've been cool with walking all over Barcelona and Rome with us. It's a treat... and it keeps us just as happy (no fighting = good, quiet siesta times).

2 - dropbox - About a month ago, I signed up for Dropbox (www.dropbox.com) so that I could upload and store all of my pictures and music in "the cloud" and access them from any computer or device at any time. I had no idea how awesome it would be for traveling! Of course, I can access my travel docs on my phone and iPad and laptop, etc., but I can also upload the pictures from my phone and my regular digital camera onto my computer and Dropbox will automatically upload them to "the cloud" so they are safe and sound. No more worrying about losing my camera or deleting pictures before I get home. My memories are safely and digitally preserved.

3 - tour guide - I've said it before, but I'm a big believer in paying for a private local guide to help you get oriented in a city, especially if you have kids. Some people (and I used to be one of them) love planning a trip and taking out their maps and guidebooks while walking around a city, but now I prefer walking and talking with a guide whose job it is to answer my questions and customize a tour around my family's needs and interests. If we want to stop for gelato, we stop. If we have a question about the ruins, it's answered. If we need transportation, they arrange it. Bing, bam, boom. Even a 3-hour tour once during the trip is enough to get familiar with a local's-eye view of a city and glimpse into the life of someone who lives here. Because of our tours, we've been able to see cities from the inside out, learning about specialty foods and customs and festivals. Often, we'll find ourselves far from the crowds, in spots where the views are spectacular and there are no other tourists in sight. It also ensures that we don't wander in circles trying to find a landmark or a Metro station or a taxi when the kids are tired, which is worth its weight in gold!

4 - adaptors - Buy your adaptors on Amazon for a few bucks before you leave for your trip. We got three adaptors this time and they have been invaluable for keeping our phones, camera, laptop, kindles and hair straightener working. We're lucky that most modern US appliances can convert to both 110 and 220 electrical outlets, so all you need is the right adaptor. When my family moved to Naples, Italy, when I was a teenager (about 25 years ago), we had to have a small converter that plugged into the wall, and then we could plug our appliances into that... but still, we fried our fair share of hair dryers... Needless to say, I'm glad it's so easy nowadays!

5 - go grocery shopping - Even if we stay in a hotel, I like to go to local grocery stores to check out snacks and get bottled water, fruit and picnic items. We've learned that you have to weigh your own produce at most European markets and the machine will give you a sticker to put on the bag (and if you don't do this, you'll get a stink eye from the cashier and the long line of locals behind you!), and you often are required to bag your own items in your own bag. Plus, I love the brand names of foreign products (case in point: Horniman's teas... hmmm...) and it's reason enough not to bring your own shampoo to try something new.

6 - rent an apartment - Sure, you won't have a concierge downstairs, but you'll be able to feel more "at home" in a foreign city if you have your own space. The drawbacks are that you can't call downstairs if you run out of toilet paper or garbage bags, but it's nice to have your own entrance and exit, and to spread out a little bit more than in a tiny hotel room. 

7 - make yourself comfortable - We often find ourselves spending less on touristy activities and a little extra on the things that make our trip more comfortable or enjoyable. In Barcelona, we bought inexpensive beach towels, which we gave to the cleaning lady when we left; it may not seem like a big deal, but we used them over and over throughout the week! In Rome we've had mild weather, but even so, our apartment's A/Cs limp along. When I left the windows open at night, though, we got bitten by mosquitoes. The solution was to buy two cheap fans from an old guy in a little shop around the corner. We'll bequeath them to the apartment and to all the lucky travelers who rent it during the sweltering summer months, but the fans have made our trip that much better! And when I think about it, I'd much rather have a good night's sleep than a suitcase filled with cheap replicas of the Vatican or key chains.

8 - splurge-worthy souvenirs - Before I take a trip, I really think about the item(s) I'd love to bring home to remember my trip, besides pictures and these blog posts. In Barcelona, I took Emme and Serena to Lluis Manuel in the Gothic Quarter for espadrilles. In Rome, I found a beautiful leather purse and Raf bought a wallet. Emme and Serena asked to buy some make-up at Sephora, which they can buy in the US, but they wanted something they'd used every day that would remind them of Rome, so I said yes. Marlowe has gotten several toys and laser-lights to use at night. I also have my eye out for a gold ring to commemorate our 15th wedding anniversary. If it's a nice item that I will use all the time and makes an ordinary day feel special (like the purse I bought or Emme's new mascara), then it's worth the splurge to me. Boxer shorts emblazoned with the image of a marble statue's penis? Not so much.

9 - ziploc bags - I like to grab a handful of various sizes before I leave and tuck them into my suitcase. You never know what you'll need them for: protecting phones if it's rainy, holding the second half of a sandwich for later, carrying Euro coins, separating snacks, etc., etc. 

10 - get into it - If all else fails, just "get into it," one of our favorite lines from "The Darjeeling Limited." Raf and I say this when we don't quite know where we're going or what we're gonna do, but we want to get out and enjoy the city. The line from Darjeeling is from a scene in which the oldest brother (Owen Wilson) is getting a shoe shine and the kid steals his shoe. He hobbles after the boy, then stops and says something like, "I nearly died, Jack's heart has been broken and Rubby's having a child. Let's get into it!" as a sort of battle cry, like there's nothing left to lose. It seems to cover everything. 

Just get into it!

The Grand Tour

One of my best "tricks" for traveling, especially in a busy city in high season, is to hire a private local guide for at least a few hours. Not only will they buy your tickets in advance and navigate you through the crowds like a professional, but they can help you understand exactly what you're looking at (which is helpful when you're facing a pile of rubble that belonged to this emperor or that temple to some goddess we can't remember). They can also point you in the direction of a great trattoria or find the name of a shop that sells more comfortable pillows (if, like us, you're staying in a great apartment with cardboard-flat pillows). The other nice thing is, a guide can take pictures of all five of us!

Allora... The Grand Tour. We didn't go to all of these sights with our Roman guide Grazie, but she really helped us get a feeling for the ancient cities within Rome.
The Roman Forum with Grazie
Piazza del Campidoglio
The Coliseum
Trinita di Monti (top of the "Spanish Steps")
Piazza del Quirinale - the Italian version of the White House,
 where the Prime Minister lives. It's also a kick-ass place
to view the Roman sunset.

How Do They Do It? Roman Feats of Wonder

Largo di Torre Argentina - this archeological site
has been excavated under the medieval city and turned
into a cat sanctuary. I'm not kidding!
The big holes in the walls of the Coliseum represent a pillaging for
metal; when the Christians began to rule Rome, they took metal and other materials from the
ancient imperial Roman structures and reused (recycled!) them to build churches.
These holes were bored into various columns to find the metal poles that held the columns up,
then they were heated so the metal would pour out. Genius. Except that the columns were no
longer reinforced against seismic or volcanic activity...
We've seen these guys at various sites around the city.
I think the guy on top is sitting on a pedestal that is supported by a
zigzagged pole located within the bottom guy's orange shirt.
Smart cars are great in Rome because they can be
 parked either forward or sideways - makes no difference!

Three Coins in the Fountain

Trevi Fountain is interesting to me because it is both much bigger than I expected... and much smaller... I didn't know that you could just wander through the historic city center of Rome and then BAM! Sandwiched between three streets ("tre via" = Trevi), gelato shops, pizzerias, souvenir shacks, illegal toy peddlers and legions of tourists, the beautiful Trevi is a testament to the wishes and dreams of every visitor to Rome.

I was thinking about it today, as I watched hundreds and hundreds of tourists traipse through the Coliseum and Forum. We all want the same things when we come to Rome, don't we? To walk in the footsteps of emperors and gladiators, to imagine the world before iPhones and computers and cars and airplanes and TVs and working 9 to 5 and trying to keep up with the Joneses... We want to imagine that we are the ruling class of Rome, the men and women in white togas with slaves who will build travertine columns to the sky and erect statues in our images; or maybe we're the rich art patrons who employ the likes of Bernini or Michelangelo or Caravaggio to adorn our palaces with frescoes of angels... 

Rome is still unfolding to me, releasing its charms bit by bit. Every day, I feel as though I capture a little more of its magic, somewhere between its cramped "parking lots" (i.e., streets and sidewalks) and ochre and sepia buildings and lush "palm pines" that reach into its inky blue night sky with their lacy silhouettes. 

But it takes time to learn a city. To ensure the girls will be back, we gave each of them a coin...

Here's hoping for the ultimate return on those three Euros, in the form of three wishes fulfilled and three future trips to Rome.

When in Rome

Coming from Barcelona, our first impressions of Rome were about noise and chaos, ancient streets and an impassioned machismo in the air. It's a 180-degree turn from the laid-back Spanish lifestyle.

But... that also includes food.

As I may have mentioned, we aren't huge fans of Spanish food - that may change as we spend more time there, so I'm not ruling it out just yet. 

But Rome is a FEAST for the palate. Every single little bar/trattoria/pizzeria/enoteca/caffeteria/hole in the wall seems to be as good or better than the last one. Even "touristy" spots have given us reasonably priced meals that are incredible near the Trevi fountain and Campo di Fiori and even just below our apartment.

I'm the first to admit I've raised three picky eaters, and yet each of them has been in food heaven here in Rome. It's particularly fun to watch Marlowe (the pickiest one of all) try new foods... and ask for seconds. Raf is trying to decide whether or not Paris is still his favorite city to eat in, but each new pizzeria makes his decision even harder. 

Me, I'm content to live meal to meal, although my stomach can't match my desire to eat!

Again, a photo tour of our gastronomy:
Fried ricotta with walnuts and honey on arugula (I know, right?)
Marlowe finishing up Serena's spaghetti with meatballs
Pretty fruit tarte at the Borghese Gardens
wine with a prosciutto/arugula/parmesan pizza
Marlowe loved the lunch buffet at this tony Via Veneto
restaurant so much, she's asked to go back every day 
Marlowe's mini torte at CineCaffe
in the Borghese Gardens


The famous House of Fendi in Rome's "shopping triangle"

Most visitors to Rome make a pilgrimage to the Vatican, feeling the rapture of their faith and religious beliefs. 

I'm all for that, of course, but I'm not Catholic and so a large portion of the beauty of the Vatican is lost on me.

However, I am a big believer of beauty for its own sake and I have a strong affinity for the authentic quality of certain Italian design houses.

Namely, Fendi. 

I've purchased a few pairs of sunglasses from Fendi on previous trips to Italy and this time I only wanted to visit my beloved Casa Di Fendi, as a gesture of my undying affection. Sure, there are knock-offs on every street corner, but the true Fendi goods are so beautifully designed, they take my breath away. When I entered the building and tooled around the ground floor to the Sala di Scarpi (shoe room), there was a well-to-do woman busying several Fendi salesmen with requests for this stiletto and that mule... I watched her in my periphery as she pranced in front of the mirror.

I just had to sigh. Oh, to be her for that moment. 

Sigh. Fendi. (*shaking my head, smile on my face*)

I ached my way through the masterfully displayed heels and leather ballerina flats and leopard print stilettos. 

It cost nothing, and yet, it means the world to me, to know that beauty like that - designed simply to be beautiful - exists in the same world as I do.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hard Luck Cafe

Because it was our last day in Barcelona and because the kids had been fantastic travelers, trying new things and traipsing along endless streets and through mazes of underground Metro stations, I thought it might be a good treat to take them for a good ol' "American" meal at the Hard Rock. 

Two of my girls are dyed in the wool Carnivores (note the capital "C") and they are quite at home in Texas, so a burger joint was well worth the hour-long wait.

I wasn't so sure about Marlowe, whose vegetarianism has only wavered for the occasional turkey jerky. She didn't want another Caesar salad, so I ordered us both the "Veggie Leggie" burger, which the menu said was topped with grilled veggies. I'd assumed it was also a veggie patty.

My brother in law Max used to say, "If you assume, it makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me.' "

And so it was that Marlowe and I both ate huge beef burgers in Barcelona.

It seemed like a good enough idea at the time - I didn't want to send the burger back (since there were, technically, veggies ON my burger), and I could chalk it up to getting a huge dose of B12. Plus, Marlowe LOVED it. Raf snapped the shot above because we were all shocked. My dad will be so proud; I think I can hear him firing up the grill already...

The drawbacks of eating at the Hard Rock were the burger-induced stomach ache I couldn't shake the rest of that day/night and the fact at Emme put her new retainer on the table to "keep it safe" while she ate... And then we all forgot about it.

Luckily, it was a small price to pay for a travel memory. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

There's No Place Like Rome

While I don't feel quite "done" with Barcelona yet - and I'm sure I'll write a little more about it this week - we are now in bella Roma and I wanted to post a few pictures. 

Whereas our time in Barcelona was effortless, from transportation to visiting museums to even checking in at the airport, Rome has already established itself as our stubbornly different new reality. We arrived at Fiumicino airport 15 minutes early and I took it as a good sign... until we got to the baggage claim and were told the ground workers were having a "union meeting" and our bags would be delayed. 

"Union meeting" = strike

Ahh... Benvenuti a Roma.

I remember, from when I lived in Naples as a teenager, that Italians like to strike. It wasn't uncommon to be on a train bound for downtown Naples and be two stops from my destination and the train would stop due to a strike. Passengers would shrug and hop off, then find a bus. It happens, they'd say. 

I called our driver Stefano and he said, "Yes, madam, we know about the strike. No problem. I'll wait."

And so it was that we waited for 90 minutes for the bags to be released. On the drive to the apartment, we passed through the ancient Roman city wall and gawked at the ruins of the Roman baths and the Circus Maximus, then Stefano pointed out the "wedding cake" building and the famous balcony where Mussolini spoke to the Italian people. It's not quite July but it was already sweaty with tourists in tank tops and fanny packs, brand-new sneakers and sunburns. Our apartment contact rode up on a Vespa and unlocked the doors for us, all the while chatting on her Bluetooth (except when she scolded Marlowe for putting her shoes on the couch and Emme for climbing the ladder to the storage space above the closet). 

When she left, I turned to Raf and felt like I wanted to cry. Where was the magic? Had I left it in Spain?

The kids were hungry, so we set out for a quick pizza, pasta and gelato, choosing the first pizzeria we could find. I didn't have high expectations - whatever, let's just get some pizzas and pastas and get back to the apartment - but from the first bite, I knew we were in Italy. Creamy mozzarella... thick Bolognese on fat fettucine noodles... thin, crisp crust...

We took a few hours to recharge (wherein Raf taught us all to play Blackjack, using some weird tchotchke rocks we found in a dish).

"It's a supermoon tonight," Serena said. "The moon won't be this close to the earth again for, like, a long... LOOOONG time...." 

And so we wandered into the Roman night and followed the street until it brought us to the obelisk at the top of the Spanish Steps, stopping every few feet to look back at the glorious buttery moon. Suddenly, there it was: the magic I'd imagined. 

And again I thought, Ahhh... Benvenuti a Roma.

Welcome to Rome.

The Blackjack lesson
the Super Moon
Ever since the movie "Moonstruck," I can't help but think,
"Hey, it's Cosmo's moon! Look! La Bella Luna!"

At the top of the Spanish Steps

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Do Over" Day in Barcelona

Spending  a week in Barcelona is a gift on many levels. Aside from basking in seven days and nights of magic, we don't feel rushed to get around or to see everything, and we can revisit sights we love.

So today, we decided to "re-do" Wednesday's beach and biking day, with a quick jaunt into the Barri Gotic for churros and chocolate at another famous xocolateria. To make it a little more interesting, we took a trip on the funicular up to Montjuic first, then cabbed it to the beach.

On the funicular (cable car) at Montjuic

Can you tell which of us doesn't like heights?
Marlowe loved the great views of Barcelona
At Bogatell Beach

At this place, the churros were better than the first churreria,
but the chocolate wasn't as thick and pudding-ish
A real horchata (made from the chufa nut, not rice),
which tastes like a sweet almond milk