Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Summer Vacation Hijacking

Karen climbed the seven story tower of Poppi castle
and lived to take this picture

Pet's vacation spot was a wedding held at Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn NY.


First off I want to say that my summer vacation is totally to blame for hijacking all my time for the last two months and causing me to disappoint our dedicated blog fans. Pet is totally not responsible. Right Pet. : ) I just got back from three heavenly weeks in Tuscany. And of course I had to prep for the big trip for most of the month of May and the beginning of June. It took two weeks just to figure out how many outfits I could squeeze into my 21 inch carry-on. As I am the blog master for The Transplants I chose to vacation in a lovely country villa that had no internet. I know, totally irresponsible of me. : ) But I wanted to get back to my simple country roots. And funny enough in the small town of Poppi the countryside looked a whole lot like upstate New York. Well, except for the quaint stone houses and an occasional medieval castle. Lol


Welcome back to the blog, KA! I've always wanted to visit Tuscany since I had Tuscan neighbors, fabulous cooks. The area food must be amazing! But as far as the countryside, if you live surrounded by farms with grazing cows, you head for the city. Which is exactly what I did, hopping a plane to Baltimore, proving once again flying out of a small city is not for sissies. Same goes for the drive to Brooklyn, NYC, for a family wedding reception. Found out that what I think is a traffic jam on the Jersey Turnpike is status quo to my city relatives. Actually, they commented on how light the turnpike traffic was and how sad the gas crisis keeps everyone home. Bumper to bumper for fifty miles means gas crisis and everyone's staying home? Not to us bumpkins.


Don't get me started on gas prices. With all the taxes they add in California we pay the highest price next to Hawaii! I much prefer to talk about food. The meals in Tuscany were quite simple but everything was fresh and wonderful. Similar to my grandmothers farm cooking but doused with tons of olive oil. And boy do they love to eat! Went to a big family style dinner one Sunday that was eight courses and took four hours! Not to mention the liberal pouring of wine with every course plus the after diner drinks. Grappa is basically 100 proof rubbing-alcohol. Yuck! But limoncello is very yummy and refreshing but watch out as it has quite the kick. Even the locals had a hard time standing once they finished their meal. Made the half-hour drive back to our villa, down windy country roads dominated by drunk Italian drivers, even more exciting.


Sounds like our family wedding reception. The meal took four hours and we plowed our way through eight courses. Unlike the weddings of old where everyone staggered out, drivers remained stone cold sober. The real wedding turned out unusual also. The bride hails from Los Angeles, the groom New York City with summers on Cape Cod. So on Saturday they married at the Cape with only close family present. The Saturday after they partied n Brooklyn with all the East Coast relatives and friends. Finally, they'll be honored at another reception on the West Coast before leaving for their honeymoon in Hawaii. What with new outfits for each event and all that planning, the miracle is the bride hasn't taken to drink. Yet. : )


Ah weddings. That could fill a whole blog post and more. I prefer the kind of vacation I just had. Traveling to foreign lands and soaking up the scenery. The people watching in Italy can't be beat especially the men. The way they preen their hair and dress impeccably I sometimes felt like I was in a perpetual fashion shoot. And as I was traveling with my Mom, not my husband, I was looking forward to getting pinched. I was so disappointed after three days nothing. Then on the fourth day I hit pay dirt. I didn't get pinched but I was propositioned twice!


Italian men have their priorities right. Instead of obsessed by sports, their favorite activity remains women, no matter how old they are. If you were single, you'd probably be telling us much more exciting tales re your trip to the Tuscan Hills. I do believe a few books and movies have the theme of falling in love in Tuscany. Since you're a married woman, tell us more about the fabulous food! We have here in Monroe County a country butcher who makes great hams and bacon, now discovered by trendy New York restaurants, who proudly proclaim, Bacon from Benton. Sis visited from LA recently and we stopped by for a tour. When we got to the bank, the tellers sniffed our smoky aroma and proclaimed, "You've been to Benton."


Benton's sounds like it would be right at home in Tuscany. They sure love their pork. In fact I haven't ever eaten that much pork in my life. Everything had bacon or ham. Whether sprinkled on a salad or in pasta or totally covering the top of a pizza you had little choice in the meat department. I think the most interesting thing about the food in Tuscany is that it doesn't really fit the classic American Italian mode. The pizza doesn't have a tomato sauce and neither does the pasta. But my favorite thing was the gelato. I became quite the connoisseur. : ) The best gelato I had was in the beautiful multi-towered hill town of San Gimignano. And according to the huge banner above the door it is world famous. No doubt in my mind it's well deserved. The stracciatella (stateside known as chocolate-chip) was to die for. Theirs had an especially think layer of dark chocolate drizzled over the top to make it extra yummy. Once you've had a really good gelato, ice cream pales by comparison.


I know you'll probably kill me for this but the Gelato you described sounds just like what we had at Olive Garden the other day. Well their chefs do study in Tuscany, and we loved the stuff. What are the sight seeing attractions in that province? Are there mega cathedrals like those that you see in other parts of that country? I love sight seeing and when my hubby drives through the back roads he loves, I am always on the lookout for those brown signs leading to a historical or natural wonder. Do they have those in Italy? Or do you keep your guidebook clutched in your fist? My niece moved to Napa, California, last week and we Easterners are looking forward to visiting that famous nearby valley. Rumor is the wine rivals Italian and even French brews. True, oh world traveler?


You might have to go wash your mouth out with soap. Olive Garden gelato is like the real thing??????? No way! I tried some at a local gelateria here in Pasadena that is supposed to be an Italian import and it was a total disappointment. Totally Americanized. Was more like ice cream than gelato. There is a huge difference in texture and flavor. But enough about the wonders of to answer some of your questions. There are many mega cathedrals in Tuscany, Assisi, Siena and Florence to name a few. In person they are totally jaw dropping in their scale and beauty. I think I shot over fifty pictures in the Florence cathedral alone. The marble work on the outside is so beautifully carved and the layered colors of green, pink and white marble are like the most beautiful wedding cake. In Siena the cathedral is an eye-popping black and white layered confection. No wonder the pastries are so beautifully decorated. And yes they do have historic markers. And history is everywhere you look. And not just a couple of hundred years old like here but there are many things that are from Medieval times as well as from before Christ. But my favorite has to be the castles. After climbing seven stories to the top of Poppi castle's tower I could really appreciate what it must have been like to hike up the almost vertical stairs with 80 pounds of body armor. Just lugging my camera and water bottle was enough!


We visited a beautiful cathedral last winter in Mobile, Alabama. I've been to Italy and stopped at the cathedrals but my favorite is the Washington National Cathedral. Love those gargoyles and on the premise is a great herb garden. Would also like to visit some of the great castles of Europe, so how about taking me along on your next trip over there? I'd be glad to carry your camera and water bottle up the stairs. You could really get into a historical mood with your own lady-in-waiting. Do you have your next vacation planned? We don't care to travel when the weather is hot, for instance like now. But we do have a trip to the Shenandoah Mountains in late August, a family gathering for my birthday. You're invited and you don't even have to carry anything!


Wow my own personal lady in waiting, the offer is tempting. But I'm afraid I'm not up for another trip till next year. After it took almost 30 hours to get home, eight hours spent in airports and four hours stuck on the tarmac in Philly and then I still had six more hours to fly home. I'm done with flying for awhile. Well, except for the National RWA writers conference in San Francisco but that will be a breeze after my flight home from Italy! But I do wish I could come to your birthday bash. Sounds like fun!


Birthday celebrations are pure fun, as you well know since you've hosted a few. But that's a subject for another blog. Now writer's conferences in beautiful places seem like a vacation but you'll never get a chance to see the outside of the conference room. Instead you'll get to meet IP's or Industry Professionals and often they'll ask to see a sample of your work. In Wisconsin in Mid May, an editor and an agent did just that after I told them about my kickass Grandma book. All right, chapters done, I'll send them right out. However when whipping the pages into shape, a completely new story emerged. Hope those lovely women in New York are patient! You'll find out at the San Francisco biggie. Even better than a conference in a scenic place is one nearby like Northern Georgia where I'll be heading in October. The leaves will be turning and the book that never dies will have THE END on the last page! I can dream can't I? For now, we say adios to vacations, get down, and dirty, and back to work.


Laurie Schnebly Campbell said...

You two have me wanting to visit BOTH Tuscany and Tennessee. (We'll leave Brooklyn and Hawaii for some other year.)

Meanwhile, though, it's good to know there's at least an imitation of that wonderful gelato at Olive I know where I want to eat tonight!

Sandy said...

Hi Pet and Karen,

Great blog! It brought back memories of my travels in Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal and Spain. Some beautiful churches in those places. I love to travel, and you guys are giving the wonderlust again. No desire to go back to Hawaii because it's becoming too commercial. Although, the first couple of times I went there it was Paradise.


Everything Natural Pet Food said...

Wonderful blog. Makes me want to go there.

david said...

Wow Tuscany sounds great! You make me want to hop a plane tomorrow. Got to try some of that chocolate chip gelato. Fun blog!

Anonymous said...

Oh My, Pet,Karen, We have gained 10 pounds,just reading the blog, Tuscany,pork fat, olive oil, pasta,gelato,and way,way, too much wine,can it get any better? Ah what a life!!!! Thankyou

wendy&Bill said...

Pet,Karen, only you guys know how to send us all someplace like Italy,by just reading your blog,love it,Wendy&Bill

Fran said...

Wow, what great travels-- Tuscany, New York City--both wonderful places. What happen to the "stay-cations"? Thought everyone was staying home this year due to the high gas prices? Glad somebody's getting away....