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Guess who’s going to Florence? (Part One)

24 Feb

And has returned!!!!

Way back at the beginning of this blog when we were in the planning phase, our very dear friends were going to make the trip with us. Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be the case as other commitments, etc. came up and the timing was just not working. And that was fine. But now for the rest of the story….

Come to find out, quite by accident they went to Florence in December! Ouch! No, not really. They have or  (had) a family member in school in Florence and other family members decided they needed to visit him so they did. But we were in a puzzle as to why they didn’t mention it to us. Well shut my mouth, and I probably should have, but on evening when we were visiting, my friend mentioned the possibility of going after all. I innocently and in a funning manner said, Oh ho,  I’ll have to break your legs if you do! Much to my surprise and chagrin there was uncertainty as to whether they were in bodily danger or not on their part. OMG! Just shows to go ya that one must be ever so mindful of what comes out of ones mouth, whether in jest as was my case, without follow-up to make sure what we say is taken in the vein it was meant.

However, as with hubby buying Italian shoes before me, (see previous blog posted October 20th) it would have behooved them to let us know and help with travel and packing. But let me explain:

1) My girlfriend decided to fly in comfortable clothes. She wore cotton Capri’s, tennis shoe mules with no back and no socks of any kind. They flew into London Heathrow airport where of course it was freezing cold.

2) Their connecting flight to Florence had been cancelled, but only after being told about 20 times not to worry, it was just delayed.

3) Hours later they were bused to the other airport – London Gatwick airport and flown to Bologna. Then they had to take a train to Florence. But first you must understand that her husband very understandably was freaking out at one point before they got on the flight and she had to take him aside and explain that he needed to calm down, that he looked very anxious (which he was) and looked like he was a terrorist and probably had a bomb strapped to him (which he most certainly did not) and to please take some deep breaths and calm down. You had to be there when they told it, it was simply hysterical and we laughed and laughed)! (He is the most gentle, kind man imaginable!)

They finally arrived, found their hotel and fell into bed. Guess what the first thing she bought the next day? Okay, coffee of course, but after that? Italian boots! Fantastico!

They of course had a marvelous time, spent great quality time with family and saw many sights not previously seen. However, our previously anxiety ridden friend also seemed to have made quite a hit with the local gypsy’s. No one else in the group seemed to have this problem, so it was decided that while in Florence, do as the Florentine’s – have a make over. Perfection! He embraced it and is quite the European handsomer man, from hair to clothing.

Their return flight wasn’t much better.

The good news is that they shared some quite wonderful pictures – mostly of food which I am going to share with you! However there are also a number of quite lovely scenic pictures, Christmasy, foggy, etc. So here we go:

Spices:

Spices

More Spices

More Tasty Treats:

Do it yourself sandwich

Desert

Biscotti

Sandwiches

Seafood

Now I did say December didn’t I? Well, let’s see a little holiday festivity:

t
Even the rain couldn’t keep people off the streets for a some gaiety and last minute shopping.

IMG_XmasInFlorence2012_4sm_0896

I thought the above picture was innovative and interesting. That’s just me.

IMG_XmasInFlorence2012_5sm_0891

I thought this was a lovely shot but am hesitate to see what is in the shop! I’ve learned my lesson!

IMG_XmasInFlorence2012_6sm_10884
Even the restaurants get into the swing of things. This is one of all our favorite restaurants. When my hubby and I went last October, it was our “big splurge, the big night out!” Unfortunately shortly after we had our appetizer – Oh! anti pasta (how quickly one forgets!), ordered wine and were happily sipping it, ordered our entrée that I became …..obnoxiously uncomfortable and ill! So we had to wrap up our dinners and take them home. It was the oddest thing as I never got violently ill, and it passed in a couple of hours. Weird. Maybe just too tired from tramping around all day (and we did have the loveliest of weather – oops – sorry!) but the leftovers were fabulous! I know it wasn’t the food and the service was rival to none. We ended up going back for souvenirs and had the paper placemats laminated for our friends. That was fun! They gave us all kinds of goodies and were so good to us.

So the moral of this story (Part One) is stay tuned for Part Two. Tons more pictures – lots of food, haute couture, scenery in Winter, etc. And of course my version of their trip- Lol!
And of course the moral of Part Two!

So then……

10 Feb

Where to start, where to start…okay how about this. Thank you to all the people and bloggers that read my last post “Driving & Driving”. It was my second most read post and for this rookie I am ecstatic! A little concerned perhaps that the subject matter was so popular, but reassured that the first most read was food. Obliviously an audience of fabulous taste. My kind of people for sure!
So this is a shorter blog with some bits and pieces of some varied pictures. I have found that since returning from our trip it takes me longer to organize, categorize, and optimize the photos we took. We both work full-time and other commitments that take up a lot of our time. It’s also the reason that I’ve probably confused you with when the next post will come out.
I plead rookie-izm and hope you’ll bear with me. (Was that a word? Let’s roll with it, okay?)

Upward and onward. When you buy bottled water how do you know it is truly purified, filtered, clean, etc? Well, Germany (at least at the airport – when we were leaving) had a fool-proof way of reassuring us. Behold!

This water is OK!

Whew was that ever a relief!

Wudy - A different kind of hot dog?

How could we cut off the price? And it’s 40% off! And why didn’t we buy some! Oh my! Sheesh! I guess we were laughing too hard! This is a hot dog with a vein of cheese inserted in the middle, I guess like a pig in a blanket? It is a snack. Why is that not in Italian? Okay, I am SO no going there. What?

Balsamic Tasting

She is so gorgeous we both forgot to get her name. I think we got her card, somewhere. Probably hubby is hiding it. Can you blame him? She does balsamic tastings at the open market (see previous posts).  The stall was the kind that even if she wasn’t there you would just spend thousands….and I mean Euros, American, whatever. Good grief they were good!
As an aside my sister wanted to know how I could possibly gain five pounds when I was walking 10 + miles a day. Then I met a co-worker who had a friend who went to Tuscany for 6 weeks and gained 28 pounds. I felt so much better, yet cheated. Next time 6 weeks for sure!!! You Have To Vote On This!!!!! Go to comments, come on!!!!

More soon! Originally written in November! Life got in the way!

The Accademia Gallery

21 Oct

Today we sashayed into the Accademia Gallery. I just love the Uffuzi card – waiting in line is no way to spend your vacation. This is a much smaller showing of incredible art but no less spectacular. Of course the main course is David, so awe inspiring, imposing, and majestic. Once again no photos are allowed. Once again everyone was snapping away with their phones. Urged on by two friendly tourists who sound like they might be from the UK we braved the wrath of the staff and took a few pictures. We didn’t want to be greedy, but how can you resist a handsome man in all his glory and fame?

Notice the lighting on his face. This comes from a window. Truly a breathtaking work of art. Unfortunately the universe once again and stepped in and made it impossible for me to manipulate the few other pictures we clandestinely took.  There was another David outside in the garden and guess what? He had been “colorized”! Honest! Just like the “Wizard of Oz”. I wish I could post it, but it was one of the few that bit me in the butt. I’m hoping that when hubby wakes up he will have superior knowledge of how to correct this challenge.

In the meantime….today is Sunday. If you are family or friends please sit down before reading further. I got up at 6am! I watched the sun come up with it’s delicious fall coloring and the hush of the neighborhood. Hubby (being the brilliant man that he is) was able to capture the church bells. I think it’s only fitting that I upload them for you as they are gorgeous. This was taken from our terrace.

Church Bells – Duomo      (Right click for PC)

Hurrah! Hubby is up and rarin’ to go – but not without solving the impossible. See? I told you so! Let’s start with the colorized David:

You didn’t believe me did you? I swear I did not alter this in anyway – he’s in a different location. Oh, and once again my brilliant husband has pointed out that he took a picture of the plaque for this statue:

I’m not sure how well you can read it but the artist is Hans-Peter Feldmann.

After enjoying the Accademia we headed for the San Lorenzo Piazza and came across an amazing musician. Did you see the movie “August Rush”? It was about a small boy who played the guitar in an unusual way. Well there is more to the movie than that, and it’s very good – we recommend it! Anyway, this musician is named Mose Oliviero (and Zoe – his little dog). We hung out and listened to him for quite a while and ended up buying some CD’s. What a sweetheart, a very kind, gentle man with an abundance of talent. We got to talking with him and he has a channel on YouTube. “MrRemaggiore”. Of course we took his picture for you and also the CD sleeve.

Little Zoe is sitting next to him in his guitar case. She was adorable as well. Here’s his CD:

We continued strolling around the plaza, so many amazing shops with a plethora of goods. Lots of leather – shoes, jackets, handbags and wallets, all in every color and design you could wish for. Then we finished up with dinner at ZaZa, which was quite lovely and the service “fantastico”! The streets of Florence in the evening are so charming, gaily lit, people mingling, or rushing to some important appointment.

We are so blessed to be here and have so many varied experiences. And guess what? We’re off to have even more!

More later, Ciao! DJ*

Wanderings and more food

18 Oct

Sometimes it’s hard to get started writing. I don’t know where to begin, my thoughts are racing and jumbled with no cohesive order to make this interesting. So I dive right in praying that I can edit before hitting publish and even know that if I accidentally publish, I can still edit. Yes, I’m procrastinating.

So I promised a picture of dinner after the Market. Well, that was eaten. We were ravenous but I do have one picture of the ingredients. Cross your fingers that it uploads properly.

Dinner after Mercato Centrale

We have apples and red grapes (with seeds – that will teach me to assume!). In the back are spinach and ricotta filled raviolis which took us forever to find, oh but there is no escape now! Pistachios, Parmesan, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, basil, and beets.We cooked the pasta, drizzled olive oil over it and sprinkled the Parmesan on it…..divine! A wonderful garden salad with all the trimmings tossed gently with olive oil and balsamic and voila! A delicious meal.

The lettuce had been picked that morning in Tuscany. The sweet little man who sold us this and the tomatoes and basil was quite a character. He was explaining to me that there had been rain the night before and the lettuce was therefore quite muddy so it had to be rinsed quite well. I agreed but without further ado he went to the stall across the aisle and washed it himself for me, smiling, gesturing and talking while bagging up everything for us. I had been drawn to his stall when I saw him and another man with a bull horn singing, joking, and laughing away. It was such a lively, happy stall I couldn’t resist. I am very glad I didn’t. I believe the produce was so wonderful because of all the love and joy.

We wandered around some more, making small purchases, and bought slices of pizza with tomato, mozzarella, basil and olive oil to fortify ourselves. You’d think we’d be tired of eating the same thing so regularly but I think I could live off of it. We also found a stall where they did balsamic tastings – we didn’t have time but were invited back – you can be sure we will.

Wandering back home we took some pictures around the Duomo area:

The next shot is a close up of the picture above the door in the previous picture:

Close up

Of course the pictures don’t do the buildings or architecture justice. It’s amazing how intricate the work is and how long the buildings have withstood time. It’s really quite humbling in the grand scheme of things.

On a lighter note here a picture of an apartment I just thought was adorable.

Neiborhood Apt.

I like the doors and the cheerful flowers on the balcony.

That’s it for now. It’s almost 4am here as I write this. We go to bed around 10pm or 11pm and I only sleep for about 3 – 4 hours. So up I get, eat a snack and when I start to feel drowsy, back to bed I go. Same with hubby but he can sleep at the drop of a hat. Freinds and family back home are probably shocked as I am normally a night owl, then sleep in late (when not working) and am so NOT a morning person. Maybe I was a baker in Italia in a previous life!

Ciao for now! DJ*
P.S. I was able to correct the picture in the last post. Hurrah!

Mercato Centrale-Firenze circa 1874

16 Oct

Mercato Centrale-Firenze circa 1874

So we ventured a little farther today in search of some local incredible produce, pasta, fruits, and whatever else we could put our noses next to.
Don’t worry, we were very polite and mindful and didn’t touch unless we asked and were assured all was well. What delightful people. Here we go with a veritable plethora of pictures;

These little fellas were in more than one stall and the smell was incredible, and seemed oh so edible. Every imaginable type, some packaged, some loose, and even some vacuumed packed for take home. Mmmmm! We love us some mushrooms! And these you can bring home! Hurrah

Meat to Admire

Now for you carnivores, (Update: Thank you Janice – it was something else, but you got me  thinking!!) we do have some tasty meaty treats for you. I believe these are cured hams of different types as far as preparation goes. Some have rubs, others are plain. What you can’t see is that they are tied up by their hoofs! I think it’s so you know what type of animal it is. They too smelled good – very aromatic due to the spices. But wait! There’s more! 

And the meat goes on, and on, then more!

Here’s one of the “good lookers” I’ve had a few requests for. And there’s a handsome man behind the counter as well. (hee! hee!) This stall was incredible with lots of meats, cheeses, you name it. Seemed like a one stop shop for a picnic. For about a hundred people! Much too difficult to decide at this place and the lines were long. Yes, lots of people I had to shuffle back for artistic license. Of course they all understood perfectly, as this was the beginning of the “Renaissance” era, they created it…need I say more?

A bit of everything already packed to go home

Here we have a bit of everything packed to go. The cellophane was a bit shiny so it’s hard to see all the different bits and pieces, but trust me, it was pretty impressive.

Lemoncella, but of course.

So as you can see you need something to wash all this good food down with and I wouldn’t be true to “Under the Tuscon Sun” without the beloved “Lemoncella”! It’s very good, like lemonade on steroids so we steered clear…so far.

Okay? Will this hold you over for a bit? I really have to pay some attention to my sweetie who has been slaving over all the goodies we bought today (more pictures soon) and I must fill my tummy! Dang, now that Lemoncella sounds good!

More later -thanks for stopping by and keep those comments coming! We love them. And oh, by the way, there WILL be a test! : ) DJ*

We’re Here!

15 Oct

I can’t believe it! Finally. Although I do miss those lovely days of anticipation, the present far outweighs the past!
The trip started Friday night with final packing and a lovely 2+ hour ride to the hotel arriving at midnight, a four hour cat nap and then off to the airport. Board the short 3 hour flight, everything lovely, nice crew but not very communicative. What’s that you say? We’ll be arriving a little over an hour late? No problem – I’m sure our INTERNATIONAL connection will be more than happy to wait for your sorry arse.  But we made it with time to spare so all is good.

Now we board Swiss for the Lonnnggggg flight…..dum, dum, dum….I LOVE THIS AIRLINE! Fabulous crew, friendly, no request too trivial, great snacks, great food, more snacks. We had a quite lovely glass of red wine with dinner. I had vegetable lasagne, hubby had the chicken and rice with veggies, and it was Good. Are you sitting down? It was all free. Now, in my past experience “good” alone was a miracle. But in this day and age free is just a revelation. Oh? You didn’t hear that? FREE! And of course the individual TV screens with movies, music, TV shows, etc. And they even passed out ear plugs. Did they know that poor little 3 year old girl was going to be a nightmare throughout the trip? Well, she was. 8+ hours was not her idea of Disneyland and she let it be known every. single. second. And poor Dad. I hope they are doing better now.

And then we land, we change planes for the short hop to Florence. Very short, again great crew, nice beverage service, again free, which boggles my mind, and we are in Italia.
But first I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how gorgeous that short flight from Zurich to Florence was. Very pretty soft morning light. The landscape was lush and green, trees, trees, and more trees. And then there were Alps (or very large mountains covered with snow that I have decided are (my) Alps). So very majestic. We are native Californians and yes, we have the High Sierras, Tahoe, Mammoth, and other snowy places, but momma mia! The (my) Swiss Alps are simply breathtaking! I am so loving everything Swiss. This may be our next trip. Oh! And then there were the crazy clouds! We had normal clouds, very cute. And low clouds where the mountains would stick up through them, the color of the clouds – I’ve seen pink clouds before, but have you ever seen blue? (Here is an opening for some brave soul to make a comment!) It’s probably a light, reflective, water thing but I’ve never seen anything like it before and it dazzled me. I think to myself “How blessed am I to have the opportunity to experience and see such marvels?” Very blessed.

Okay, so we land. We have two options:  a) go here if you have stuff to declare, b) go there if you don’t.  We don’t, so we go there. And, find ourselves out on the street. What happened to customs? We’ve been through Switzerland, and now Italy, and no one a) has cared about our luggage and carefully labeled liquids in see through containers – okay, twice my carry on was searched due to a nefarious electronic device which was quickly pooh-poohed as “Oh, Keendle, pah!”  So it’s not the new “Fire” – jeez! I want my passport stamped with Italia! We had to be persuasive with the Swiss (did I mention they are very good looking?) to get the stamp. I don’t think anyone else got the stamp. But it’s happened to me before in a previous lifetime when I was vacationing and I did go through customs and almost missed out on the stamp. They said oh no, not necessary. And I quickly explained why it was oh so very necessary and they changed their minds just as quickly! So to be robbed in our country of current choice of the beloved stamp and now we can’t even figure out how to get back in the airport (this should make a good story upon departure!) I am temporarily crushed. I am determined to have it stamped twice (on different pages even!) when we leave.

Now we have to notify Apartments Florence that we have arrived and to meet us to let us in, tell us the in and outs and a few local tips and we’re off. My brilliant hubby has secured Italy cell phones and we dial away. Doesn’t work. Try again. This time we get a message in Italian and a disconnect. Obviously we miss dialed and got a recorded message telling us we don’t need the area code or something. (No we didn’t use the country code!) So we decide to head over and call from outside the apartment. We get a Taxi and the driver doesn’t speak English. He looks a little afraid of us so he  calls over another driver, we explain where we are going and that we’re having problems reaching our party. He whips out his cell phone dials the phone, reaches our party,  talks a while,tells us we’re all set,  assures the other driver we are safe, and away we go. How nice it that? (He was good looking too!) We arrive and in five minutes- if that- our greeter (another good looker!)  arrives and shows us our apartment and is on his way. The apartment is better than I imagined. While being completely renovated, updated, whatever, it’s not all sleek and glossy like a big city US apartment – it’s Italian, with loads of charm, and cosiness. I feel completely at ease and at home. We look out the kitchen window and see the top portion of the Duomo. The bells ring often, I haven’t figured that quite out. Oh, but they are heavenly! “Ding. Dang, Dong!” (From Under the Tuscon Sun movie).

We unpack, then take a short trek out and about. We find a local grocery store and stock up on local meats, cheeses, vino, bread, oil and balsamic, and greens. Food of the gods. We ogle all the shops, find 2 gelato shops, (yay!) and wander a bit, then home to dine, snooze, sip wine, then decide to take a nap. My nap ends up “down for the count”. Poor hubby tries to wake me but a train could have come through the apartment and I’m still out. He gives up and joins me. We wake at 2am and have another feast. We laugh and talk and I decide to update the blog, but after the first paragraph I’m sleepy as is he so we decide to to bed. We’ll get up early and explore. And then it’s noon. And pouring rain. We decide this is perfect and get organized, putter around. He goes back to the store to stock up and I sit down to write a  quick update. Yep, this is quick all right! I’m sure I won’t put you to sleep with long blogs like this after today. Too much too see and do. I make no rash promises however.

Not a bad start to the dream of a lifetime. I am surely blessed and in heaven. Plus I get to do all this with my best friend\husband whom I adore. Love to the family, our friends, and all of you out there following me\us.

Arrivederci!

19 days and counting

23 Sep

As our excitement builds, we keep discovering more about the area and local treats in store for us. Wonderful markets abound with an abundance of produce, meats, sauces, and other choices sure to delight. For a couple who moved to a small town in a desert state from San Francisco our taste buds and salivary glands are going nuts! We stumbled up this wonderful video and watched with slack jaws and the memories of fine dining in years of old. Could it be? New delicacies await us? Here’s a video we found by “yaimaisland” on YouTube.com:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvqEbjq4iD8

Hungry? Oh my goodness. That’s one of the reasons we rented an apartment – with a kitchen of course, so we could buy the local food and play with recipes, spices, flavors, textures, and pure deliciousness! A picture of this fabulous kitchen follows. You can only imagine how much we are looking forward to this adventure.

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