Monday, June 4, 2018

I promised Glenn adventures, not just travel

16 May, Atlanta GA USA
And we are definitely having an adventure.

Up early — who can sleep the night before a big trip?  Not this woman.  It’s why I never really minded those 6 am flights when I lived in Skopje, up and out and on my way.

Glenn and I walked up to Pamela’s on Murray for breakfast, then returned to do a final run through of the apartment and call for a taxi. We opted for a regular cab to the airport as we figured the cab driver would have an easier time getting a return fare than a Lyft would.  Jason, our driver, was on time, personable and a good driver.  We got to the airport at noonish well within the three-hour check in window recommended for our 3:30-ish flight to Atlanta, our first leg.  We each did a bit of walking and wistfully wished we were on the overbooked LaGuardia flight that was offering $1200 to anyone willing to relinquish a seat.  

Then the first delay of our flight was announced … we could still make the Milan connection, per Mark at Delta.  I called to check in lieu of standing in a long line at the counter.  After the second delay, I called again, and we decided to rebook  We’d never make a 20-minute transfer from one terminal to another.  Per Heather’s suggestion, we re-checked in for our original but now very late flight and confirmed that our bags would be in Atlanta.  She said to be sure and get a hotel voucher.  Our delays had been caused by a mechanical problem that led to a need for different plane.  

And then there was the third delay — after about 20 of us had boarded.  A lug nut on a wheel was found sheared off; a new tire was required.  We deplaned, re-planed and finally arrived in Atlanta about an hour after we should’ve been over the Atlantic.  We found the Delta Help Desk, got help and hotel and meal vouchers, found the shuttle and arrived starving and exhausted at the Marriott Courtyard Atlanta South.  But, food first.  Or should I say alcohol.  I had a glass of wine, Glenn a beer and we shared a caesar salad and chicken/bacon quesadilla.  All delicious.

Back in our room, I opted to finish my wine on the deck outside our room.  Lovely to be outside in fresh air and warm but not hot temp,  Glenn talked to both of his daughters … and fell asleep.  I’m next.  More tomorrow.

17 May, Maynard Jackson International Airport, Atlanta
Cloudy skies and even a bit of a sprinkle, but off to the airport we came.  After breakfast — and coffee, of course.  

Sierra, the young woman handling the hotel cafe, was swamped, and the credit card machine still wasn’t working.  Our vouchers covered all but 66 cents plus any tip.  She had no change, only a drawer full of $20s.  Putting anything on our room wouldn’t work; we had filed no credit card with our registration because we used the Delta vouchers.  A supervisor came over to help and seemed to make things worse.  Sierra politely asked her to leave and continued to get things done as efficiently and pleasantly as possible.  Eventually I was able to get change for my $20 from the front desk and paid the check and tip, complimenting Sierra for her fine work in a very tough situation.  Meeting nice people has been one of the pluses of this lengthy delay.  

Before we left the hotel, I used my Skype Out to call Olga in Reggio Emilia and let her know we’d be a day late (and a dollar short since I used my Skype Out account. which allows me to cheaply call a real phone when someone doesn’t have Skype.)

We’d emailed Olga the day before, but we weren’t sure if she was as compulsive about emails as we are.  But she’d seen my message on her phone and knew we’d be arriving on Friday.  Then I left a voice message on ItaliaRail’s Customer Service line to see if we could get any refund on our Milan to Reggio tickets that we obviously won’t use today.  And finally booked new tickets for tomorrow.

With time to kill, we did the “Laurel vs Yanny” test.  That’s the sound that some people hear as “Laurel” and others as “Yanny.”  I heard Laurel almost the entire spectrum and something like Yanny in about a quarter; Glenn heard Yanny the whole way.  Hmmm.  No wonder Glenn doesn’t hear sometimes ….

Glenn in Atlanta
Since we had to check out at noon, we went straight to the airport with lots of time to get to the international terminal, see a ticket agent to be sure that our checked luggage really would meet us in Milan, and get in our daily steps requirement.  We took turns sitting with the carryons.  Glenn found an interesting art gallery at the end of our concourse: two huge wall murals with a quotation made from business cards on one side, and the opposite wall displayed the five vowels individually made from business cards.  

18 May, Milan, Italy
It’s official.  Glenn slept with another woman.  When I had to re-book us for the Atlanta-Milan flight, I wasn’t able to get us an exit row nor Delta Comfort for both of us. Got one of each: I got an aisle Delta Comfort in the center section, and Glenn opted for a two-seat exit row with even more legroom.  Next to him sat Angela, 31, a stock broker from Atlanta.  With a friend, she is venturing overseas for the first time ever.  She had traded seats so a married couple could sit together.  When I came by to say “hi,” she thought I was going to ask her to switch.  I assured her that we would be fine.  We chatted several times during the flight. I invited her to visit Pittsburgh (she’s never been), giving her my contact info.  And she and Glenn chatted about places to see while she’s on her whirlwind Italy trip.  During the 8+ hour flight, Glenn slept for some time, I nodded off for a bit, and Angela said, despite wearing an eye mask, she didn’t sleep at all.  Welcome to transoceanic flights.

19 May, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Malpensa Airport in Milan was hectic but pretty easy to get through.  We took a bus to “Milano C.le”, the main train station, where it was sunny and pleasant outside.  We checked our two biggest suitcases for the day, then found a cafe with outdoor seating and had a European breakfast (sandwich and cappuccino).  We checked out where our train would leave from, then wandered around the area of the station.  My Poland phone worked to call Olga, but it’s battery was way too low to ensure we could call her when we arrived in Emilia, as promised.  The woman who checked our bags let me use an outlet there; I stood for 40 minutes to get a 25 percent charge!  Thankfully I was able to continue recharging on the train.

Despite having to double check where Olga’s street Via Alberti is located, the cab driver brought us directly here.  As we drove, things actually looked familiar from our visit last summer.  A smiling Olga was waiting for us.  After she showed us around the flat, complete with a pile of breakfast goodies and nibbles, she departed for her flat upstairs and we took a nap.  We all went to dinner at a nearby restaurant where Olga had made reservations.  She and Glenn had delicious and very large individual pizzas, and I had a green salad (insalada mista) and linguini con vongole (linguini with white clam sauce).  That’s one of my favorite Italian meals, and it was perfect other than half a dozen broken clam shells in the sauce — lots of flavor, lots of clams and al dente pasta.

Back at Olga’s, I plugged in both phones for recharging.  My international data for the iPhone starts later— heaven forbid that a US company should accommodate time zones; that is, it won’t start until midnight in the US.

This morning we took a walk to explore a nearby shopping area.  We didn’t want to get lost by going too far afield. Found a lovely coffee shop that was open, and Glenn had a cappuccino and I had two americanos.  Back at Olga’s we have slowly been getting ready for the day.  Olga will take us to the Center, and we’ll bus back.  Tonight we have dinner with her friend Anna who taught English.  

Ceiling of Reggio Opera House
By the time I leave here, I’m going to need a new — larger — clothing size. Yes, we walked a lot today.  Olga drove us to the center at 11 and we returned by bus at 4.  We got free city maps from a kiosk which helped a bit.  But mostly we wandered and saw a few things we’d seen last year.  We went to a European Photographic Exhibit at a museum on the opera house square, went into the opera house (awesome) and found a cafe with internet that worked.  I had a panini for breakfast on the museum square, and at WellDone, a cafe near where we stayed last summer, Glenn got chips (french fries) and Italian cola (Molecola) and I had sparkling water and an ice cream sandwich.  We found our way to the bus stop and arrived at the Coop supermarket near her flat.  Picked up a few things there and returned home for a siesta.

Even later
Of all the Italian surnames for Olga’s friend Anna to mention as her birth name, it had to be Codeluppi.  We had dinner at Anna’s house tonight and a lovely evening of chatter about many things, including family.  When Glenn talked about his ancestry work, Anna told us that she’d given her students a project once to map where Italian names were found in the world.  She said she was surprised to find hers in New York.  And when she answered Glenn’s question about the name, she replied Codeluppi — the birth name of our first grade teacher and part of a big family that lived in the same town where Glenn’s dad grew up.

Anna served baked tagliatelli — both pasta and sauce homemade — in delicious but too large portions.  Dessert was mini cream-filled donuts and fresh sliced strawberries.  

20 May
No internet at all today as Olga has none and our little caffé is closed on Sundays.  When we found it yesterday, we noticed a wi-fi sign on the door but neglected to check the hours of operation.  Open at 7 am but closed all day Sunday.

Midday dinner with Olga and her friends Clara and Annibale was another food and wine extravaganza.  We had met them last year and know they are excellent cooks.  Bruschetta and Lambrusco on the patio to start, then pork tenderloin, fresh salad, sauteed zucchini,  and a tart of green pea and feta mousse that even Glenn liked (I’m going to get the recipe) with a chianti-like homemade wine and Asti Spumante, buraka cheese with grape tomatoes, and finally a fruit tart with fresh strawberries, and a fruit liqueur that Olga brought.  Have I eaten enough for a month?

Lots of family ties discussed as Clara’s grandmothers were from two of the villages from which Glenn had grandparents.  They may yet be related.  Unfortunately with so much food and wine, I actually started to doze.  To distract me, Olga suggested that a short walk to a nearby park.

Back home Glenn and I both napped for more than an hour, declined Olga’s kind offer to heat up Anna’s leftover pasta and took a long walk that included a gelato stop.  Tomorrow back to the Center to get online and to find a place to print things.  We want to go to Rome on Tuesday or Wednesday.

21 May
Much frustration this morning.  We got up early to walk over to our caffé for coffee and try the wi-fi.  But for some reason it won’t accept our credit cards.  Maybe it’s because it’s 2 am in the US, and I recall that’s when computers are updated.  Oh, well.  We’ve had excellent cappuccinos.   

Patience, patience.  The woman who served my panini just brought the caffé’s wi-fi code, and after seeing my many unsuccessful tries, she again took pity on me and came over.  I was mis-readying her numeral 9 as the letter “s.”  Nearly 200 messages flooded in and were quickly deleted.  Among those that arrived were four from my Visa card with international charges alerts and three from Vodafone that I had become part of the Vonafone community.  I could just input the code in the email … which I might actually do if the email contained any words.  Two messages in the inbox list only get as far as telling me I’ve been charged 5.79 euro, and a third welcomes me, again with no copy.  Glenn apparently has codes but cannot figure out how to use them.  We’re going home to shower and walk into the Center.

Olga was surprised when I told her we were walking into town.  Two kilometers!  she said.  I told her we’d be okay; Glenn walks at least five every morning.  Before going, we checked a map she gave us as well as the one we had.

Ugo Bossi, where San Pietro meets
San Stefano and always pointing
in the right direction

The only real tension between Glenn and me is when we are planning to go somewhere, especially on foot.  His business in traffic control helped make him map-dependent.  I like a map to get the lay of things but generally rely on my observations.  I had watched the route Olga took when we drove to town yesterday and didn’t need to look at a map to know where to go.  We worked it out, as we always do, and had a great day overall.

Internet, or rather lack thereof, seems to be out biggest obstacle.  We had lunch at WellDone, and I easily logged into their server.  After taking care messages and reading a bit of news in my many news feeds, I sent Jennifer, Glenn’s younger daughter, a text on my iPhone to determine if she was available; it was 6:30 am in PA.  Since we was, I opened Skype and used SkypeOut to call her, then handed the earphones to Glenn.  Shortly after they finished, I did the same for a call to Michelle, the older daughter.  In the late afternoon, I used SkypeOut to call Uncle Victor and set up our Skype call with him and Aunt Louise.  Took some doing, but we got through for a few minutes of catching up.

After all our hard work, we stopped for a drink (beer for Glenn, Campari Soda for me), then started the walk home.  As the winds picked up and skies darkened, we decided to take the bus.  Good choice.  We only had to walk two blocks in the rain.

22 May
Rainy day but fruitful morning.  Off to our caffé for coffee and Internet, then to a nearby travel agent where we found Maura, who spoke English, and helped us book next week’s trip south.  We’ll go by train to Naples first and stay two nights, then train to Salerno for three nights.  Naples will be our base for Pompeii, and Salerno for the Amalfi coast.  We’ll return from Salerno to Reggio.  We have hotels booked in both Naples and Salerno, and a place to eat in Naples recommended by Maura.  Big plus — our train back from Salerno to Reggio is direct, no running through train stations trying to interpret signs.

I checked out a local laundromat, and we bought sandwich makings for lunch.  After we eat, we’ll return to the “lavanderia self service.”  I did a load of light colors at Olga’s last night, and they are still soaking wet today.  The laundromat has dryers, so we’ll take the wet things to dry and the dark load to wash and dry.  Thankfully the instructions are in English as well as Italian and German. 

Found by shopping center:  a receptacle
for used batteries.  What an idea!

Laundry done, emails checked, trains to Perugia-Assisi and hotels checked but not booked.  A walk through a drizzle home to put away clothes, read, take a short nap.  Then back to the caffé for a quick download of a book by Glenn, followed by some shopping for dinner.  We’re going to replicate lunch for dinner, too tired to find a restaurant and things close earlier here than in the big cities of last year.  Here everyone shuts down at 7:30 while in Rome, Florence, Venice, restaurants re-open at 7 pm for dinner/supper.  I had bought a bottle of wine and we picked out some cold, grilled peppers, an orzo salad and some miniature sweets to complete the meal.

24 May
Another day of high adventure after a pretty tame yesterday.  On Wednesday we took our time going into town (read:  lots of coffee and wi-fi time at our favorite caffé, showers and clean clothes at home before leaving).  We went back to the caffé for lunch (a delicious warm grain salad for me, lovely rigatoni with red sauce for Glenn).  In town, we looked for the various museums and galleries where the European Photographic Exhibition is.  We learned quickly that none of the venues is open until Friday.  In our wanders a German couple who spoke English and heard us talking stopped us.  They were seeking a city map.  We gave them the best directions we could to the newsagent where we’d gotten ours and later realized we had an extra we could’ve give them.

So, today’s adventure.  We walked to the old train station to take a local to Bologna; no need to pay taxis and high speed costs for a less-than-60-minute trip. Yesterday in Reggio we saw a series of free-standing poster boards about the photo exhibit in other Emilia Romagna cities.  One that caught our eye is in Bologna and features photos of Pittsburgh during its steel-producing heyday.  Olga gave us some ideas of other things to see in Bologna, the two towers and town square, for example.  So off we went …

In Bologna, we walked into the Center (about 2 km). 

Neptune statue on Bologna square
Lots of spectator stands being assembled, perhaps for 2 June festivities (a national holiday).  Found a tourist info office and got what we thought were directions via bus to Fondazione MAST where the exhibition is.  We were told it was outside the city center so not on our map.  Carefully watching both sides of the various streets our #19 bus traversed, we got all the way to the end of the line at the village of Casteldebole and no gallery.  We sat for a bit, and returned to the center city.   Just before we alit the bus, there was a sign directing travelers back to where we’d been to the Fondazione MAST.

We exited the bus a few stops before the city square and headed for the train station which was jammed.  We were both tired and hot and ready to be home.  The ticket lines were long.  I sent Glenn to check which local train we’d take and I got in line at a self service machine.  Before I had to buy, he returned.  The only train he could identify as going through Reggio was one to Milan that was just leaving.  We spotted a train helper at another machine that only handled the high speed AV trains.  We told her where we wanted to go, she took great pains to tell us this was the high speed train, and we got tickets.  Once we left Bologna, we’d be in Reggio in 20 minutes.  And we were.  It’s amazing how quickly the AV train gets up to 220 km per hour.  It cruised mostly at 240 but got as high as 260, and we didn’t feel like we were moving.  We taxied to Olga’s, tired but also very hungry.  En route to her meeting, she dropped us at a restaurant we hadn’t seen before.  Definitely going to return — it’s an easy walk from Olga’s — and we stopped at our caffé and used the internet en route. 

No art exhibit but a familiar name

BTW, if you’ve noticed, I say “we walked” a lot … because that’s what we’re doing.  We both wearing FitBits and check at the end of each day.  Many days we are well over 15,000 steps, some have approached 20,000.  My stride is apparently recorded as shorter than Glenn’s, so his steps equal more miles than mine.  Something to fix some day.

25 May
After our morning coffee-and-Internet run, we told Olga that we weren’t going to Bologna again today.  It’s warm and sunny.  I’d do some laundry and we’d stay in Reggio.  She called the parmesan cheese maker and arranged a tour, pronto.  No showers, just a quick teeth brushing.

Roncocesi is a small village outside Reggio, and the cheese maker has modernized the facility since Glenn and his family visited a few years ago.  For example, a machine turns the huge rounds of cheese, two at a time, not a person, and cheese is lifted from the brine bath by another machine.  The cool aging room holds 18,000 rounds of parmesan!  It has to age for at least one year, then an official controller checks every round, marking first quality with a special stamp.  Second quality is scored on the round edge although we were told sometimes producers or stores sand off the lines and it’s sold improperly.  

Glenn, our guide and Olga
The retired owner started our tour, and his son completed it.  He used a small ball peen hammer to tap two rounds of cheese in many places so we could hear the difference between first and second quality.  
Testing cheese quality

A few of the 18,000 wheels
in storage for a year or  more

After the tour, we were hosted with beverages (only the Prosecco and water were drunk) and snacks. including some lovely looking sweets.  I actually didn’t have any because they also served a spinach pie similar to spanakopita but with more of a pie crust than one of fillo dough.  I’d tasted this last year and really like it — an excellent breakfast.

Back home I did two loads of laundry and hung it to dry, then we went into the Center.  I needed to print our Pompeii tour tickets and directions to the gallery in Bologna (we’ll go there sometime after the Napoli trip).  Hot and sweaty day.  We stopped several times for something to drink as we visited locations in the European Photography Exhibition.  A couple weren’t open but we saw several, ranging from extremely interesting to “huh?”

One of the most interesting was at Spazio Gerra, an open, mostly glass gallery at the end of a piazza near the opera house plaza.  A lovely young woman who spoke good English walked us through all three floors, explaining “fotoromanzo” to us.  Without her, we would never have understood the gorgeous black and white pix.  Pre social media and reality TV, Italy had several magazines similar to comic books only they were illustrated with photographs and the stories were romances typical of those times.  One, “La Colpa,” is about a young woman who’s raped and when she goes to the police, she isn’t believed; she’s shunned and made to feel guilty.  As part of the exhibition, the story has been updated, photographed and posted on Instagramyui.  Our guide said the exhibition director wanted to bring the story into the #metoo generation.

27 May
I’m slowing down in my writing, so much going on, no time.  Yesterday Glenn and I took Olga and her friend Anna, who’d hosted us at her home, to lunch.  We spent several hours at the restaurant and at Olga’s chatting.  Anna wants us to come to her mountain cottage and also to take us to the largest lake in Italy, a couple of hours north of where we are

Glenn and Anna talk family

Today we walked to the center for lunch and hoping to see more of the exhibit.  No luck on the latter but found an excellent restaurant (does Italy have any other kind?) for lunch.  I opted for Nizzarda, a saladé Nicoise) and Glenn had spinach gnocci in gorgonzola sauce with crisp prosciutto sprinkled on top.

28 May, AV train to Napoli
Here we are on the high speed train to Napoli.  Who’d’a thunk it?  We’ll stay two nights in Napoli and three in Salerno.  We packed light, one small suitcase and one carryon along with our laptops.  Remarkable.  Glenn’s getting better at packing light.  Just noticed we’re up to 300 mph!

Later, Napoli, Italia
Way hotter than Reggio and humid, but then we’re on the sea.  We got a map at the train station, located our hotel (Palazzo Caraccioli, a Sofitel) and trudged upward through a teeming microcosm of the world — natives and immigrants from everywhere.  Vendors in small store fronts and moving through the crowds, selling everything you can imagine.  “Carton of cigarettes, give you good price.”  Every few feet a sidewalk cafe, bar, gelato stand squeezed onto the worst sidewalks I’ve ever experienced: broken pavers, uneven surfaces, garbage and trash  Cars parked everywhere literally or driving like bumper cars in the streets.  A construction zone blocking our way across the first piazza we had to traverse.  But we made it.

The hotel is beautiful, truly an old palace with two large interior courtyards (one a formal restaurant and the other a large seating area).  Each has a large canopy as well as a unique drainage system to keep guests dry on rainy days. 

Dining room courtyard at hotel
And the wi-fi is strong throughout the hotel.   That taken care of, off to find food; we’d left before breakfast and only had complimentary cookies on the train.

I had the best bread I’ve ever had in my entire life at a little sidewalk cafe a block from the hotel.   “Nuff said about that.

Bruscetta on THE best bread

After dithering about transportation to Pompeii (45 minutes away), we finally ordered a taxi to pick us up.  We meet out guide tomorrow at a coffee shop near the site entrance.

29 May
The Acropolis, Delphi and Corinth in Greece, Stobi in Macedonia — all awesome pre-Christian archeological sites that I’ve visited but none comes near Pompeii.  Perhaps a big part of my reaction was our guide Barbara:  personable, professional, knowledgeable and passionate about her subject.  She spoke English well although she didn’t learn it as a child; she didn’t want to sound like her Boston-born father

That's me at gate to Pompeii
Our group of four (Glenn and I and a young couple from Dallas) got an incredible history lesson full of enlightening tidbits — things you didn’t learn in history class:

  • Pompei held no importance to history or Rome until it was destroyed by the heat (temps of 200-500F) and ash of Vesuvius which literally blew its top.  As a result of the eruption, it has two peaks with a valley in between. 
  • Vesuvius was said to have erupted in August 79 BC.  However, more recent discoveries indicate September or October were more likely.  Fragments of freshly harvested foods from were found in excrement in the sewer system.
  • Pompeii is a typical Roman street grid, all of them one way and stone.  The first “zebra crossings” were three large flat stone blocks spaced across the street so pedestrians didn’t have to walk in streets fouled by chariot horses.  You can still see chariot grooves in some of the crosswalks.
  • Rome was a highly patriarchal society.  A woman went from under the thumb of her father to under the thumb of her husband.  Husbands could divorce, women couldn’t.  One enlightened ruler eventually allowed women to divorce IF they’d produced three children. 
  • In the 19th century a particularly Catholic ruler outlawed the use of the phallus, the long-standing symbol of fertility and good luck found everywhere in Pompeii. But the ever superstitious Romans just switched to a small red chili pepper, now as ubiquitous as the phallus once was.
  • Prostitution was legal, open and accepted.  The town brothel provided women for men, men for women and men for men.  Notice, no women for women; it would’ve undermined the sense of masculine superiority, per our guide.
  • Slaves, mostly people captured in battle, received housing, food and a small stipend.  If they had special skills, those skills were used and rewarded.  For example, educated Greeks constituted much of the education system.  In some cases a slave was better off than a poor free man.  A slave might save his stipend and eventually become a wealthy free man, equal to other men with similar resources. Money ruled.
Rich man's house: entry with pool to collect water,
open courtyard surrounded by columns, rooms.
Small world note.  As we left Pompeii, I passed a man wearing a Steelers cap and said quietly, “Go Steelers.”  He replied in his best Pittsburgh accent; he was from Monroeville, which lies between Squirrel Hill and Mount Pleasant.

Exhausted but throughly satisfied with our day, we took a local train back to Napoli, cleaned up at the hotel, then found another sidewalk cafe with more incredible food. 

Old and new in Naples.
30 May, Inter-City train to Salerno
After a relatively leisurely breakfast, we taxi’d to the train station, checked two suitcases at “Left Baggage” and hopped on a tour bus for the first of two circuits.  Our way to see some of Naples’ history and kill time before our train.  An IC train isn’t as luxe as AV but more than sufficient for a 90 minute ride.

Me outside Napoli's best pasta restaurant,
per our travel agent in Reggio
Glenn enjoying rabbit in the style of
Ischia at di Martini.  Our travel
agent was right!
Later, Salerno
Here we are at the Grand Hotel Salerno, our home away for three nights.  We have a view of the port and of the train station from our balcony, working air conditioning, daily breakfast and a bar that serves Campari Soda and decent beer.  We’re set.

31 May
Phew!  What a day.  We walked miles today in the hot sun, first to find the right pier for our trips to Positano and Capri, then in Positano.  Somehow we got discombobulated over the Capri schedule and pier and literally missed the boat.  We bought tickets for tomorrow.  Then we schlepped back to the first pier in the hot sun and headed to Positano.  That’s Glenn’s daughter Jennifer’s favorite place.  (She did a semester abroad in Italy as a college student.)  

Positano was a picturesque as expected.  Also hot and crowded.  Glenn’s photos will tell the story.  We checked out a beach-side eatery Jen suggested — up about 200 steps, then down 200 more to the place.  it was more bar than food, so we went up about 200 steps, then down again to find another spot to eat.  The saving grace was the whole walk was in the shade.  So much cooler we thought we’d left the island.

Arriving in Positano
We spent the day wandering and people watching, stopping for cool drinks and comfortable seats.  Did a bit of souvenir shopping for the granddaughters.  Then back to Salerno to wash away a day’s worth of sweat before dinner.

Dinner was once again spectacular.  We walked down to the beach and ate at Surf, “lounge/bar/restaurant.”  Are  you tired of me writing about incredible food?  Well, too bad, as this meal was another outstanding example of Italian cuisine. What’s even more amazing is how humane the portion sizes are — just the right amount to satisfy, not add 20 pounds to your hips.  Service was impeccable.  A waiter came over to chat because he heard us speaking English; he’d lived in Boston.  He escorted us to see the dessert array … which, of course, we could sample because our dinners had been reasonably sized.  The owner stopped by to ask if all was well.  Another English speaker.

Tomorrow we’re off to Capri early and on Saturday we take the train back to Reggio Emilia.

One of many Garibaldi statues


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

They weren’t kidding about April showers

1 April, Easter & April Fool’s Day, Mount Pleasant PA USA
Going to church was a nice way to start this unusual first day of the month — Easter and April Fool’s Day.  i won’t make any bad jokes about that.  Glenn and I attended his daughter Michelle’s father in law’s church, then had lunch at his home.  Since we did all of this last year, I  remembered most of the names of Chris and Mindy’s extended family.  And again worked hard at not overeating.  The buffet was large and delicious.

Sara in her Easter dress

Since the sun had come out and rains stayed away, granddaughter Sara and her cousin Allison enjoyed their annual Easter Egg hunt, amassing scores of trinket-filled plastic eggs.

Now, this evening, Glenn and I are decompressing at his place over a glass of wine and a very light supper.

2 April, Squirrel Hill
Returned home this afternoon, then after putting things away, made a trip to the Waterfront shopping area in Homestead.  It’s on the site of the old Homestead Works of USSteel where the infamous and bloody strike took place in  1892.  Interestingly I am reading Meet You in Hell, a book about the fraught relationship between Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick.

3 April
Rain during the day, and a thunderstorm tonight.  I love thunderstorms so enjoyed the that. 

Did two exercise classes today and ran errands in between — early to bed for me.  Argh!  I just saw a centipede cross from the wood floor to the rug.  Creepy.  I’m off to get it.

4 April
Disappointing that water ex was cancelled, but there’s a circuit class at the same time.  Different instructor than my Tue-Thur class but still very energetic. Worked hard.

Mid-day Glenn arrived for our trip to the LDS church in Greentree.  They have access to the ancestry documents the church complies.  We arrived to find the library doesn’t open until this evening.  So, off to IKEA to look for wall shelving for Glenn’s bathroom and small table for my printer.  Didn’t find anything for me but got a few ideas for him. 

On the way back we stopped to see Victor and Louise. Glenn needed to help Victor with his new mobile phone.  Then we went to the Water Front to continue our shelving search.  We ended the day with dinner at Vue 412 atop Mount Washington.  I had bought a Groupon to check them out.  We had a perfect view of the Golden Triangle as the sun went down.  The lights came on at PNC Park for an evening baseball game.  And the food was great too.  I’ll make a reservation to bring Violane and Stephen here when they visit.

5 Apri
Weather so far today: dark clouds, snow, sunshine.  And it’s only 11 am.  I’m doing a bit of laundry and cleaning, then I’m off to Mount Pleasant.

6 April, Mount Pleasant
Glenn and I did an early morning walk, then lunch with his younger daughter Jen and daughers Emma, 3, and Callie, 3 months, came over for lunch.  We were “celebrating” Jen’s last weekend before returning to work from her maternity leave.

7 April
What month is this?  It is totally white outside — about 3 inches of snow fell overnight, after a steady rainfall.  Glenn’s car is not only covered in snow but also underneath that, ice.  

View from Glenn's kitchen
We went to see the movie Chappaquiddick, then had dinner at Rizzo’s in Crabtree.  Near us was a birthday party for a woman celebrating her 101st.  The whole restaurant sang “happy birthday” when the server brought her cake with a few candles.

8 April, Squirrel Hill
I slept in this morning in Mount Pleasant, felt good.   Then Glenn made a traditional Italian rice cake (done and sampled, mmmmm).  We emailed to Olga about our arrival in Reggio next month, then I made train reservations from Milan to Reggio.  We checked out tours to Pompei but made no decisions.

We met friend Janet and her sister Judy for lunch in Mount Pleasant.  They had been at Hidden Valley getting Janet and Dennis’ place ready for friends to use.

Back home now, I put away laundry, empty the dishwasher of clean dishes, and got ready for the week.

9 April, Aunt Louise’s 89th birthday
Back to water ex, hurray.  But it’s snowing … again!  A “light dusting” fell overnight, covering my car, but by the time I left for the JCC, remained.  But now it’s snowing again.  Ugh.

I had coffee with Victor and Louise and took her some of Glenn’s scrumptious rice cake.  She loved it.  Victor doesn’t eat rice, a carryover from his Korean War experience.

10 April
Spring may finally have sprung:  blue skies, a little nip in the air, but my little car looks clean and shiny under the sunshine.

I stopped to drop off rice cake to Janet.  Had planned to leave the package on her doorstep, as arranged.  But she was home, so we talked about a women’s group she belongs to and that she thought might interest me. It does but unfortunately I’ll be arriving in Reggio when they meet next.  

12 April
Glenn drove in this morning, and we went back to the Mormon Library in Greentree.  They’ve changed how they work, no longer providing microfilms.  Much more is on line.  A very friendly aide helped Glenn get online, and let me use her account to check out how the system worked. 

Tonight I’m ushering at the New Hazeltt Theater; Glenn will go to Victor’s.

13 April, Mount Pleasant
We made a quick early morning trip to Mount Pleasant.  Emma had high temp and cannot go to day care.  We had her for the day at Glenn’s.  She was quite warm to begin with but her temp seemed to improve in the afternoon.  

14 April
A week ago it was snowing, today it’s 80 degrees.  Friend Johanna joined us for our morning walk at the mall.  She and I had coffee for an hour while Glenn continued walking.
Later today we’re going to granddaughter Sara’s 6th birthday part at her other grandparents Chris and Mindy.  Michelle is making sushi.

15 April
At last the weather is good enough to walk outside.  While I’m used to walking at below freezing temps, Glenn isn’t.  So we walk the mall a lot.  Today we were outdoors at the local Y.  Temps of 50s was perfect for walking but the forecast is for colder temps and snow during week.  Yuk!

Back at Glenn’s, I “napped” on the porch a while but I needed a light blanket since I was so still.  Glenn’s other “non wife” came by to get some documents.  Pam and Glenn have worked together for so long that many at the Westmoreland Fair thought they were married.  A year or two ago Pam bought a bench for the fairground and had a message carved in the seat back that said she “is not married to Glenn.”  I told her maybe I’d buy one to put next to hers, one that says “And neither is Suzi.”

Glenn made wings in the air fryer for dinner.  That’s among my favorite meals.  Tonight I’ll drive back to Squirrel Hill. 

16 April, Squirrel Hill
Back to water ex, then off to lunch with high school classmates.  We have a core of friends that get together fairly often and others who join when they can.  I’m getting around more easily from Squirrel Hill. I actually found the restaurant with no wrong turns.

17 April
Snow, snow and more snow.  Unbelievable.    I drove to Ross Township to pick up the baskets Glenn ordered at The Container Store and to check out some trousers at the nearby mall.  No luck on trousers but the Container Store had the baskets.  

18 April
Sunshine!  I feel like way too many of my blog posts sound like weather reports.  But every where I go people are complaining about this winter and how long it’s lasted.  

I went with Louise to the doctor this morning, her semi-annual check to get her prescriptions renewed.  Glenn came in to join us for lunch at Red Lobster, our treat to celebrate her birthday.  Now, as I write this Glenn is napping on the loveseat with his laptop in his lap.

19 April
What was I writing about weather talk?  Snowing again — argh!  I am so fed up with winter, but then, so is everyone else.  As an antidote, I spent the afternoon switching winter and summer clothes around. Egads, do i have a few pairs of navy trousers?  Glenn worked on his family tree while I did that. 

My deck in Squirrel Hill

I need to clean out the freezer before European trip. I don’t want to risk the something in the refrigerator breaking down.  That happened a few years ago in Minneapolis, creating a horrible stench from the one pound of hamburger that I’d miss when I cleaned the freezer.  So, I’m starting early.  Today I defrosted a leftover rice dish for dinner.  We had our first fresh watermelon for dessert, compliments of Victor and Louise. 

20 April, Mount Pleasant
Glenn has a cold.  He left Squirrel Hill early today, dropping me off at water ex en route.  After class, I had coffee with Mary an EFHS ’62 grad who’s in the class.  Now I’m watching the Penguins hockey game and doing laundry.  So nice not having to schlepp up/down steps.

21 April, Earth Day
Glenn and I spent the afternoon at an Earth Day event at St. Vincent College.  Sara, Michelle and others from rabbit club were exhibiting.  Sara’s rabbit Anna demonstrated hopping, and her Kevin was his usual laid back self and was petted and held by assorted children and adults who stopped at the table.  Weather was perfect for such an event, and we wandered around to see other exhibits, all very interesting.

We were "hangin' with Kevin" at Earth Day.
Kevin is Sara's very mellow rabbit.  He endured
hours of petting and handling by strangers with nary
a complaint.

24 April, Squirrel Hill
I had lunch with Victor and Louise.  Afterwards we had a spirited discussion around their lack of wills.

25 April
I’m taking part in a couple of studies through the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).  Today was my first meeting about the sleep study — they’re looking at how shift work and non-shift work affects sleep.  I took the bus to UPMC, then walked up the hill to Western Psych where the orientation and initial intake were scheduled.  Took 4.5 hours!  I left with a sleep monitor that I have to use overnight, then return via UPS.

Glenn came into town in time for dinner.  We’ll return to Mount Pleasant together tomorrow.

26 April, Mount Pleasant
We drove over to Pittsburgh Trophy to get a plaque for Glenn’s friend Frank who won their Final Four competition.  The loser has to buy the winner a trophy, always something humorous.  Glenn won last year and Frank’s trophy to him mimicked Trump’s language — “yuge” award, etc.  Glenn’s giving Frank an old trophy with a rabbit on top and a simple:  “2018 winner” and Frank’s name.  No indication of what he won etc.

Then we went to Derry for cards, lunch and lots of laughs and fun with friends Gary and Johanna.  I’m really enjoying these games and spending time with them.  Before we left, we walked around Keystone Lake.  We’ve informally talked of joint travel, and Glenn and I agree that we’d enjoy that.  We’re all interested in a US river cruise, maybe that’ll be our first.

Big win tonight for the Pens against the Capitals, 3-1 with all Pens’ goals scored in third period.  This is going to be a close series.

27 April
We haven’t eaten since coffee after our morning walk. We picked up Callie and Emma after daycare and kept them until Jen got home, so busy.  Glenn’s cleaning his refrigerator pre-Europe, so nothing to snack on.  I’m starving … 

28 April, Squirrel Hill
This morning we walked at Mammoth Lake in Mount Pleasant Township, nice change from the Y (outdoors spot) or mall (indoors).  Violane has texted with their estimated ETA.  As the day moved on, it got colder and windier.  I checked the Gateway Clipper schedule to book our river cruise and found it wasn’t operating (it had been on the schedule two weeks ago when I looked!).  So, quick change of plans.  We drove to their hotel at the Golden Triangle and walked over toward the Block House and Fort Pitt museum.  Then we drove across the river and took the Duquesne Incline up to Mount Washington.  We were really early for our dinner reservation at Vue 412 but they were able to seat us fairly quickly.  We had a table with a view and enough food for 10.  I brought home leftovers.

Mammoth Park Lake, my new lake
view for morning walks

29 April
What a fantastic weekend with Violane, Stephen and Glenn.  Still cold and windy but warmed by visiting with good friends.

Today we picked Violane and Stephen up at 8, then drove to the Strip District for breakfast at Pamela’s, a local cafe chain.  They serve typical Pittsburgh portions — huge.  Afterwards, we walked around Strip, checked out Wholey’s market (excellent fresh fish and meat).  We drove to Phipps Conservatory in Oakland for a walk through all of the exhibits, then drove through Schenley Park and Squirrel Hill before returning them to their rental car for their drive back to DC.

Some Chihuly glass dots several exhibits
at Phipps Conservatory

Camera-shy Violane snaps pix

Glenn and I spent a lazy afternoon catching up with emails, then watching a very disappointing Penguins’ hockey game.  They lost to the Capitals.  Next two games are in Pittsburgh; hope our playing and luck are better. 

Since Glenn’s in Mount Pleasant tonight, I’ll use the sleep monitor.  Hope I can sleep with all that paraphernalia on me.

30 April
Well, I slept incredibly well and awoke to a chilly but sunny day.  Hurray.  Perhaps spring has sprung permanently at last.  Off to water ex and to run errands.

Is it spring yet?

1 May, Squirrel Hill, Labor Day in much of the world
Nice way to start a new month — with a sunny day and a massage.

3 May, Constitution Day in Poland

Tosia gets a final wear
of the hat I made he
4 May, Mount Pleasant
Glenn and I have the privilege of taking care of granddaughters Emma 3, and Callie, 3 months today.  It’s a beautiful day to play outdoors, so Emma and I did just that.  Mostly we kicked around a small ball — she’s learning to play soccer.  At one point, she sat down on the porch step and said, “How about you kick the ball and I’ll watch?”  That’s our girl!
Emma on the porch

Pappy feeds Callie.

5 May, Cinco de Mayo in Mexico & Brunch with the Elephants in Somerset County PA
We were lucky to get tickets for the ‘brunch with the elephants’ event at the Pittsburgh Zoo’s elephant refuge.  The zoo opens the refuge to a small number of visitors (under 500) every few years, and the newspaper where Michelle works is a major sponsor.  We got five tickets, taking Victor and Louise as well as Pam, Glenn’s other non-wife.  Pam and I get along incredibly well; I’m looking forward to spending time with her at the Westmoreland Fair this August.  We connected with Michelle’s husband Seth and their daughter Sara at the refuge.  We enjoyed a buffet picnic, saw some zoological exhibits, including a one-eyed owl and an opossum, then got into a big wagon for our turn to see the elephants.   Three young zoo keepers were incredibly knowledgeable and told us about the five in residence, four females and one male.  They were all rescued, some coming by plane from Africa.

I bid on and won a wine basket at the silent auction.  Two bottles of wine too sweet for me so Michelle will get those.

7 May, Berlin, PA
Tonight we’re enjoying the company of third granddaughter, Sara, who recently turned 6. 
Sara doing homework.
We picked her up after school and will stay until her dad returns around 9:30 from a seminar he’s teaching.  Homework was finished without a problem, snack was eaten and a bit of TV watching done, then off to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Somerset.  Sara order enchiladas, adult portion, and declared she loved avocado, ordering a side of guacamole.  She proceeded to polish off most of the dinner and all of the guacamole.  She just went to bed, upper bunk with three dolls and a host of pillows and comforters.  Glenn’s got his laptop on his lap and snoring.  I’ll stop now and read a bit.

May 8, 19th anniversary of my son Peter's death
Glenn, our high school friend Suzie and I went to Linn Run State Park for a bit of outdoor air and sunshine while we gather our thoughts of loved ones no longer with us.  It was a wonderful time.   

Glenn, Suzi and Suzie

We found these "sculptures" by the creek.
So we made our own ...

Mine, with a little help from Glenn

Suzie's creation in memory of
Lance, her husband

9 May, Alexandria VA
The best laid plans and all that.  Glenn and I left early for our drive  to Alexandria; we wanted to arrive ahead of DC area rush hour, a nightmare he’s endured unhappily before.  Unfortunately the car had other ideas.  A problem arose that caused some loss of power and gasoline, but enter Siri.  She found a Jeep dealer in Hagerstown MD. They checked it out, had the right part and fixed it, all in about 90 minutes.  By then we were hungry … Back on the road, Glenn’s cousin Donald called. We are staying with him, except we aren’t.  He is leaving for Alabama, very last minute business trip.  May be back by weekend.  We have keys, and he’s left some food and beverage.  The HOV lane on the ring road north of DC helped but eventually we hit rush hour head on (not literally, of course), and inched our way to Donald’s.  Now for some dinner and a glass of wine … or two.

10 May
One big reason we’re in the DC area for this long weekend is that my friend Oren’s husband was buried today at Arlington National Cemetery — with full military honors.  Bill died about a year ago, and it took this long to get on the cemetery’s schedule.  Not hard to imagine when you see what all goes into full military honors.  First, a short service in the Old Post Chapel at Fort Myer, which sits on one border of the cemetery.  Honorary pall bearers brought in Bill’s urn and flag, and carried them out at the end.  The urn was placed inside a fake casket on a horse drawn wagon, and the casket draped with the flag.  Six horses with five riders pulled the caisson through the cemetery to the location.  An Air Force band preceded them, and all of the mourners in cars slowly followed.  The graveside ceremony was like my friend John’s burial a few years ago, including the 21-gun salute.  Oren’s sister handed out roses and we all placed one on his grave before leaving.  Afterwards we gathered for a reception.

It’s hard to describe how breathtaking and moving this ceremony was.  Something I’ll never forget.  It brought tears to my eyes as I thought of Oren’s loss as well remembering my son Peter and friend John.  And it made me proud to see that at least some of our traditions are being continued at a time so many are being destroyed.  

Each time someone spoke about Bill, they made much of him (and Oren) being a Trekkie and his childhood desire to be an astronaut.  When he was graduated from the Air Force Academy and could join the astronaut program, corrected vision wasn’t allowed, so he could not join.  But he’ll get some time in space, probably this summer, when a portion of his cremains will go up with a Space-X flight.  

Late in the afternoon I took a Metro to Arlington and met Susan, whom I met at the same time as Oren; they hired me for the TechnoServe Uganda program.  We nixed the first place we’d decided to meet because the owner has newly uncovered and multiple harassment charges against him.  I learned he also owns a Mediterranean restaurant we went to and liked during  last trip.  Won’t be going there any more.

It’s been more than I year since Susan and I got together, so much territory had to be covered, from my relationship with Glenn to new development in hers with Tony.  They are getting married next May.  Like Glenn, Tony is Italian, and not long after they met, he accompanied Susan on a business trip to Rome (she was speaking at a conference of some sort).  One day they drove to a small town about 90 minutes away and found some of Tony’s relatives.  Despite few of them speaking any English and Susan and Tony knowing minimal Italian, an awesome connection was made.  I have the name of the town; maybe Glenn and I can visit and send a postcard.

11 May
We had a lazy day, probably a good thing since we hit rush-hour traffic on the way to friend Inga’s in Bethesda.  We made our dinner reservation on time, and had a lovely time with Inga and her daughter Francesca (I still think of her as Frankie).  I remember when she was born, and now she’s already completed her second year of college.  Yikes.  

12 May
Today was Adah’s Bat Mitzvah at Sixth & I Synagogue, a non-traditional place for a non-traditional ceremony.  Adah is the younger daughter of my Peace Corps roommate Stacy and her husband Michael, also a returned PCV.  I was at her sister Abby’s Bat three years ago.  Although Glenn had attended a Bar Mitzvah as a kid, he’d never been to a Bat.

The ceremony was conducted by a female rabbi who had guided Adah’s year-long research into feminism and women’s rights.  The ceremony was pure Adah.  She addressed the three phases of feminism (suffrage movement, 1960s and current) in her presentation, “Notorious Women.” And it closed with everyone (or most of us anyway) singing “I Am Woman.”

14 May, Squirrel Hill
Major thunderstorm struck as I approached the turnpike to return home from Glenn’s.  I turned around and went back to his place to sit it out.  After dinner at our favorite Mount Pleasant restaurant, Margaritta’s, I came home and he went to his meeting.

We had an easy drive home yesterday after a lovely brunch with Aideen and Mickey to celebrate Aideen’s 50th birthday and Mother’s Day.  Highly recommend The Dirty Habit restaurant/bar which is actually in the Monaco Hotel in the Penn Quarter area of DC.

Con call with Steve and Ryszard re the coming board meeting in Poland.  Since I wanted to get started with packing, I decided not to stay at Glenn’s tonight.  And I’m making major progress.  So — back to packing.

15 May, Mount Pleasant
Gorgeous sunny and hot day.  Is it August already?  Walked up to post office to return some mail that was in my “hold” pile but not mine and stopped at Giant Eagle for some yoghurt and milk. My refrigerator and freezer are nearly empty except for condiments and ice.  I was sweating profusely when I got home.  Now I’m packed except for the laptop and electronics.  And Glenn’s packed with a “little help” from me.  All of his clothing etc. fit into my big blue suitcase, which is smaller than his big suitcase.  I am not gloating but I told him so!

Later, Squirrel Hill
Back home after dinner and visiting with Victor and Louise.  We will Skype with them from Italy, and Victor wanted to be sure he knew how to handle that.  I read and wrote a couple of dozen emails and checked us in for tomorrow’s flights while we all waited for Victor’s PC to update — PCs are sooooo slow.  We made a few practice Skype calls, then returned.  Glenn’s doing some last minute rabbit club things, I finalized my carryons and am recharging electronics.  

That’s all folks until we get to Italy.