Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Week In Pictures

This week was a brilliant reminder that, even when I have nothing major on the agenda, there is just always so much going on here in Roma.  I suspect that this is perhaps true in lots of other great cities worldwide.  But one doesn't always have the available leisure time to seek out -- or stumble upon -- the fun events that are taking place right in your city or even your 'hood.  I pretty much do.   

1.  Last Saturday night, right after getting back from Istanbul, I heard lots of commotion around the block in Piazza del Popolo.  Turned out there was a 10K about to take place through the streets of the city.  The starting gun didn't go off until 10:00 pm and the piazza was mobbed with runners and watchers.  A very fun environment.  

Right after the starting gun, the runners take off down Via del Corso.  
2.  Tuesday night was then a totally fun little opera + ballet event.  Yes, I said OPERA and BALLET!  (How many times do you think I've gone to see any opera OR ballet in the past?  Exactly!)  OK, sure, it was a little cheesy.  I think they tried to make it accessible for novices -- you know how that goes.  The masses.  But I enjoyed it anyway.  'Twas in a little 100-seat (or so) church, and they even did that number from the famous Bugs Bunny episode!

3.  Then, there is the Lungo il Tevere Roma.  This is a little festival that takes place in Rome every summer.  For about a kilometer of the Tiber right along the Trastevere neighborhood, dozens of stalls go up where they sell crafts, art, cute clothing, etc.  There are also a bunch of pop-up restaurants and bars.  I went over there with a friend on Wednesday night, and it was fantastic to walk along the river.  Great place to spend a few hours on a summer night in Roma.

4.  Finally, there is a hot music festival going on right now in Piazza del Popolo.  I think it is going on for another night or two, so I'll have to check it out again.  But even while passing through just before, a band was practicing and getting ready for its performance.  They were great!

So much to do, so little time!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Marriage Equality: The Reporting From Italia

Today's decisions by the SCOTUS are even big news here in Roma.  Here's what I saw on TV when I passed by the lobby of the swank hotel just a few doors down from my pad.  The headline says it all: " Corte Suprema USA: Matrimonio Non E Solo Uomo-Donna."

The Next Time I Get Married......

Hey, so, the next time I get hitched, please remind me to consider getting at least some photos with the lucky gal at the Colosseo.  It's a great venue, si?  


By the same token, the next time you get married, consider hiring me as your wedding photographer.  These are all pretty good, aren't they?  Seems I have a good eye for this stuff!

Of course, there are couples like this one that make it easy: look at them!  They look like the Italian Don and Megan Draper.  (I have NOT watched this season of Mad Men, which I know just ended.  Please -- no comments or spoilers.  I'm saving this season for when I return to the US!  I'll need something to help me overcome the inevitable depression I'll have to battle then.)  This couple was literally stopping traffic -- and they had the police helping them keep paparazzi like me away.....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

To Beat The Heat

Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli couldn't do it.  But they didn't have as much free time as I have!  I'm determined to beat the heat.  And it's imperative that I do.  Why???

Well, things in Roma don't always run so smoothly.  For example, since I moved into this apartment near Piazza del Popolo 2 months ago, the owner has been saying that he is about to get the air conditioning installed.  OK, that's not entirely accurate.

Actually, for the first month, he said that there is air conditioning in the apartment.  I kept reporting that, although I am thick on occasion, I did not see any vents anywhere or any controls anywhere.  I therefore was skeptical about the claims that there was air conditioning.  Antonio finally came over to check.  He of course backed me up: there was no air conditioning!  (The jedi mind trick simply would not work on me.)

At the end of May, the owner changed tack.  He now said, "OK, yes, we're going to install the air conditioning pronto."  They came over 3 weeks ago, before I left for NY and Istanbul.  They asked me if I want it in the bedroom or living room.  They said it'd be in in a matter of a couple of days.  I said they could pick the day because I'd be out of town.

Here's what I saw when I walked into my bedroom on Saturday after returning from Istanbul:

Yes, that's the air conditioning unit -- still partially in its packaging -- with a makeshift sign above it saying "Work In Progres."  To make matters worse, although we had an incredibly cool spring, summer arrived in Rome while I was away.  Last week, it was stifling -- several days in a row in the mid-to-upper 90s.  This week is a little cooler, but it's still warm and humid and stuffy in the apartment.

The owner now says that he'll have it in by next Monday.  The issue is that he supposedly needs consent from others in the building -- who, by the way, all have air conditioning!  We'll see what happens.  I'm trying to make progres.....  I certainly haven't paid July rent yet!

But I've digressed.  The main point is that I'm trying to find ways to keep cool (or "beat the heat").  As luck would have it, there was a gelato festival on Sunday.  Fortuitous, right?  I had to go.  It was excellent.  Some really good flavors.  And I felt fine imbibing the calories.  My landlord made me do it!

This was my favorite flavor:  white chocolate with green pepper, pistachio, and wafer!

This one wasn't too bad either though:  ricotta cheese, pistachio, almond, and chocolate!

Come to think of it, the gelato cocktail (I chose Irish Ginger Banana) was delightful as well.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Final Thoughts On Istanbul

I totally loved my first visit to Istanbul and I'd go back in a heartbeat.  Istanbul lived up to my expectations -- and not all cities do.  It is not as polished and elegant as a place like Paris.  But there is so much history, the city is so alive, and it is truly a sea of humanity.  It is fascinating to see -- and hear -- from a cultural standpoint, there is water is everywhere, and there is awesome food.  Being there during the Taksim Square protests only added to the excitement that I believe is inherent in Istanbul already.

I'll try to come up with my Top 10 list for Istanbul.  One thing I can say right now is that I recommend splitting your trip into a portion where you stay in Sultanahmet and can be right near the major historic sites, and a portion where you stay on the Beyoglu side of the Golden Horn and can enjoy more of the hipster SoHo-type vibe and Istiklal Cadessi.  The combo is awesome.  (Maybe the only thing I'd change from what I did is to stay first in Sultanahmet; I perhaps did it backwards.)

It was also great to have Bryan meet me there.  Seeing old friends while I'm on this anno sabatico can't be beat.  It was wonderful to explore this fantastic world city together.  Actually, I've been lucky enough to have Bryan and Yonkel come over here back-to-back.  Whoever else back Stateside wants to come over here, just name the city and I'm there!  (OK, I might want to negotiate over which city we pick.)

Despite the above, it's also incredible to be back in Rome.  No more 17-day trips out of Roma.

I still cannot get over Aya Sofya.  This picture gives you an idea of how massive it is -- which parts of the structure are part of the Aya Sofya?  Are they really all part of it?  
Likewise, I am still in awe of the Blue Mosque.  Breathtaking.  
The view of the skyline -- including Aya Sofya (center) and the Blue Mosque (left) -- while ferrying back from the Princes Islands.  

Our last dessert: Helve, which was better than the Halvah I had a few times when I was young -- that stuff is like badly-flavored sand.   It helps to add vanilla ice cream.  
I'm not sure I'd been on a bike in 30 years.  
I'm not sure Bryan has shaved in 30 years.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Princes Island: Buyukada

Bryan and I spent our last day of the trip on Buyukada, one of the Princes Islands.  The Princes Islands are a series of tiny islands about 10 miles southeast of Istanbul.  As I understand it, they serve nowadays primarily as a quick little get-away for Istanbullus.  It is very easy to get a ferry that puts you there in -- depending on the island you choose and the speed of the ferry -- 60-90 minutes.

Part of the charm of the islands is that there are no cars, buses, taxis, etc.  Transportation is via horse-and-carriage or bicycle.  Bryan and I rented bikes, which proved to be a great way to get around.

For most of the day-trip, both of us felt on the fence.  Buyukada was fine, but it didn't seem so beautiful or charming that we'd necessarily recommend it.

How many horses do we treat cruelly every day on Earth?
But that changed towards the end of our excursion, when we walked down a steep path to arrive at this little beach -- Halik Koyu Plaji.  Wow!  This is a little stretch of beach; not big at all.  And the beach itself is stony; not fine sand.  But OMG, it's a beautiful spot, and it was incredible to spend 2 hours there and go for a swim.  Our only regret was that we spent so much time exploring the rest of the island.  In retrospect, Bryan and I both would have loved spending a much bigger part of the day there.  You can now do it the right way when you are in Istanbul!