Monthly Archives: December 2012

Rome, Florence, Milano: a nice trio for a nice vacation

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Let me start by demystifying a myth. The Myth of best shopping in Rome. Nowhere have I seen shop assistance more preoccupied with exchanging news and impressions with their colleague instead of paying attention to customers.

December 25 and 26 are official holidays in Italy and even shopping malls are closed. Do not get fooled by a ‘open 24 hours’ sign. They open and close as they please.There are so few children shops in shopping malls. PreNatal is the place where you find pretty much all you need from cloths to strollers and other  baby and toddler stuff. You may find it in Euroma2 shopping mall, which is about 30 minutes by car from centre of Rome.

In Rome we stayed in Vatican Residence Suites, which is literally wall to wall with Vatican. It’s a self-service place – with a kitchenette and fridge to make you own breakfast/dinner. Staff is helpful. Hostaria San Pietro on Via Delle Fornaci is a great place to have dinner. The owner is their for his customers. Their desserts are heavenly. We enjoyed it so much that went there 3 evenings in a raw.

Since it was a short trip, we had time only for usual touristic destinations. If you have little time and what to see a lot, take a sightseeing bus. It will take you from St. Peter’s square to all major touristic destinations: Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon,

You can get out of the bus at their stops and visit monuments of interests. St. Peter  was such a disappointment and surprise to me. Dark, as in middle ages style. And such a cult of death with so many statutes and tombs to popes. I wondered if all Vatican assets would be sold how many hungry mouths can be fed.

Also, while in Rome, if you have a half a day, take a bus/train from Rome to the Sea Side. In about 30 minutes you get to Oscia, the closest destination. Enjoy the waves, but not too close, as our wet feet have learned after some intensive fun.

Florence and Fiesole are great and enchanting places. We took the train from Rome to Florence and in an hour and a half we were there. We stayed at Bodoni hotel in Florence, which is a 10 minutes walk from Duomo. Its’a clean hotel, with helpful staff and a decent breakfast. Near Duomo in Florence go to Buca San Giovanni and order home made ravioli with potatoes, cheese sauce and zukinni and a traditional Tuscan soup (very vegetarian with dissolved bread in it: “this îs the way they make it”, as a very client oriented waiter explains it). Try sweets at Scudieri (a sweets maker since 1939. Just useful to know that if you want a table, the price of sweets gets four to five times higher. “Service, madam” a smiling waiter will explain to you.

Florence is a great point of departure to other destinations and leisure opportunities. You may want to try cooking classes, wine tasting or one-day organised visits to nearby regions. The Mall, Space and Barberino outlets are for shopping lovers. There are bus shuttles from Florence to these places.Ask at your hotel.

We took the train again and in 2 hours were in Milano. A city of business. A city of fortunes. The Duomo there is magnificent and the Christmas market really enchanting with lots of traditional Italian delicacies.

Arrivederci, for now, Italy. We’ll come back for the rest!

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A lonely Christmas? Time to change perspective

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You’ve probably come across the article on “Top ten Christmas health risks” on BBC Health News by Fergus Walsh on

I am appreciative of his intention to keep us warned. Although enough warnings have been sent out this December with the entire Maya Calendar fuss. Paying attention to what we eat, how we behave, how much we drink, how safe are our kids are all to the point. I have to admit, these are valid not only for the festive season.
What made my brain raise a ‘ni-ni-ni” voice was the last paragraph: “10. Lonely this ChristmasThere’s only one thing worse than being surrounded by your relatives at Christmas and that’s not being surrounded by them. Someone callsSamaritans every six seconds but the charity says the idea that Christmas is the busiest time of year is something of a myth”.”138976886 Well, this is a rather pessimistic outlook, isn’t it? While I appreciate the reality, it is us who create our reality. We are all special. And special attracts special. And why not spend alone a Christmas? Is solitude in a time like Christmas that bad? See how time alone at Christmas turned out for TAMSIN OXFORD. She used it, in her own words to “reconnect with herself and enjoy the solitude”: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1340002/My-lonely-Christmas-Dumped-depressed-writer-fled-Vienna-spend-holiday–changed-life-good.html.I value time alone as it gives the beautiful chance to listen to the voices inside, which have been otherwise silent or censured by others’ voices and expectations. It is an opportunity to do an internal soft audit, go through different perspectives and simply appreciate the time with thoughts and moods which are meaningful to you. One may be surrounded by people at Christmas, and yet cry in their solitude.There are other options. For instance,  go to Orhan Pamuk for advice: “Even at the end of my life, there is still plenty that made me smile:1. Children-They represent what is vital in the world.

2. Sweet memories of handsome boys, beautiful women, painting well and friendship.

3. Seeing the masterpieces of old masters.” (“My Name is Red”)

You certainly have your own list of beauties. And these are just eye discoveries of what our mind already knows.  Those who value you will be there, before and after Christmas.

I remember my grandmother, a mother of 6, often alone on Christmas after her kids left home and just happy to see some of us the second or third day after Christmas.

Or maybe there is just a need for loneliness, for a change. “The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself”, Douglas Coupland.

Whatever it is, focus on Christmas, not on ‘lonely’.

Count your blessings and come back refreshed! Enjoy your Christmas wherever you are!

What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained

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3144-nOr4ML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Do you care about chemistry in your food? Are you passionate about what you eat? Are you curious about how to get best results with a knife pointing at your mussels? Or  is it really ham all that is sold as ham? Or why fish is cooked quicker than meat? What is really caviar and how it gets preserved? Or how does really caffein act? What to expect of your water filter? How to demystify food labeling? and many other questions get scientifically sound answers in this book. The author is the University of Pittsburgh chemistry professor emeritus and award-winning Washington Post food columnist, Robert L. Wolke.

Its a light week-end reading, plus the bonus brought be a number of recipes of delicious food, from his wife, Marlene Parrish, to bring the flavor into your kitchen and pave the way to a conscious nutrition.

Recycled Orchestra

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“The World sends us garbage. We send back music” Favio Chavez, Orchestra Director

This is how the teaser for the upcoming documentary “Landfill Harmonic starts.

Simple words. Powerful love message. Anything can be recycled with Love.

” The film introduces the town of Cateura, a slum in Paraguay built atop a landfill where residents have created music from the trash heaped upon them. Scouring the rubbish, the determined music-lovers have built violins, cellos, and other classical instruments, resulting in the “Recycled Orchestra.”

This kind of happy encounters warm your heart and produce a mental shift into better at a time when you most need it.

Think about it: what is worth it and what is not: the orchestra plays in a place ‘where a violin costs more than a house” 🙂