17 July, 2012


On June 24th  Scott and I rented a little white Smart Car from Rome and drove south to the Amalfi Coast for what we anticipated to be a relaxing, visually stunning week-long vacation.  It was beautiful, there were moments of relaxing, but the absolutely crazy and constant twists and turns in every bewildering road journey that we took around the area made for some rather car-sick days and some reasonable doubts as to the accuracy/usefulness of our car's GPS.

First stop: Naples.  Here we shall try the World's-Greatest-Pizza!!  ...Naples...the streets lined with garbage, the unsavory looking characters walking the streets, the crumbling and in-need-of-paint buildings (I don't mean spray-paint because clearly the locals had that part covered), the impatient drivers and scary intersections...we're not loving Naples.

Ever hopeful about our upcoming euphoric pizza lunch experience, we followed our guidebook to the top 10 pizza places in Naples and found several in close proximity. The number 1 pick was closed since it was a Sunday, but number 2 had a promising description and a local walking by assured us that it was "fine".   So in we go to this authentic pizzeria that has been kicking since 1923.
Trianon Pizzeria in Naples
The wood burning stove (where the magic happens)

Yea...We each got our own. What?!
 Okay, it was pretty high up on the yummy scale.  It was decent.  We ate eat and liked it.  But there was no soundtrack that started playing, no clouds parting, no spontaneous group dance of any sort.  It was in the end "just pizza".  Shucks.

So, bellies full, pizza dreams slightly dampened, we headed on south to Amalfi.  We got to the village of Furore where we would be spending a week in a small bed and breakfast that was owned by a kindly, burly man named Pino.  His father was a chef in the attached restaurant, his cousin owned the small hotel down the street, his other cousin cycled around the town, and most every other man we encountered was also named Pino.  It seemed to be a very homey, non-touristy village where everyone knew everyone else and they had all always lived there.

The views from our hotel window, from our car, from any street we walked down, basically any time our eyes were open were just as beautiful as we had hoped.  We got extremely trigger happy with our cameras.  Here are two from the hundreds upon hundreds of rather similar images we took.
Our first day out we tried some hiking.  The maps did not really help us, our bed and breakfast guy's instructions did not really help us, our GPS really didn't help us... but somehow we managed to find one of several apparently famous trails.  If they're so famous how about some decent signage and maybe a hiking map?  Just saying.

We ended up walking into a private cliff-side vineyard which was totally beautiful but not actually where we wanted to be headed. Also, there was way more "nature" than we expected to encounter on our nature walk. We had a life-threatening encounter with a super fast black snake. Found out from our bed and breakfast guy later that they're not dangerous but at the time we were certain that we were doomed.  When he had safely zipped passed us, as if being pulled quickly by an invisible string up some steep steps, Scott managed to get a photo.  Not sure how because he was pretty shaky.  That guy does not like snakes!
Another scary thing we kept encountering were lizards.  I mean these things were everywhere.  The part that made them scary was that whenever you were approaching them they would jump straight up in the air.  All the more scary when you don't know that you are approaching them!  For any of you "Annie" fans out there I think this must be where the term "leaping lizards" came from.  Before being orphaned and taking up performing heartwarming song and dance numbers Annie had obviously done a fair amount of hiking along the Amalfi Coast.
After about 2.5 hours of hiking upward we found the sign pointing to the hiking trail that we had read about. Well we did not feel like "beginning" our hike at this point, especially after running into a similarly lost couple who had just come from the trail in question and indicated that it had taken them 3 hours. We are recreational hikers. Plus we're on VACATION. Plus it was HOT.  So that was not happening.

We decided to turn around and begin our descent. They have lizards...and cactus...we were hot...there was no way that we were walking three more hours in the wrong direction from home okay? 
We still managed to see this view during our misguided travels. Yea. Worth it!
That afternoon we decided to visit the only local winery and vineyard in the small area we were staying.  It was owned and operated by a couple  and their children and was a wedding present from the husband to the wife...Scott all I got was a diamond ring...

The had actually dug a cave into the cliff-side to store and age their wine and it was pretty awesome in there.  Though they did not offer tasting we made out with a couple of bottles and some photographic evidence of our visit.

The following day we scouted out the surrounding area and collected brochures for ideas on what kinds of things we might get up to doing during our visit.  We settled on a boat tour that would take us to the island of Capri (yes the place for which those not quite pants, not quite shorts were named and also the Capri Sun fruit beverage where you poke the straw through the metal baggie thing.  You know the ones...)

It was a great day on the water and we were on a boat with a young Australian couple, a young Italian couple, and a group of Brits who had visited the place some 30 years ago and wanted to see what was new.  Besides those short pants and juice baggies I mean.

We stopped several times for people to swim along the way but decided we wanted to look glamorous and dry for our big Capri debut.

In the meantime, we enjoyed the amazing views of the cliff side towns that we passed and greatly enjoyed seeing the sights without having to drive around the crazy cliff side roads.
To celebrate not having to drive on this wonderful boat tour day, we arrived in Capri and decided to drive. This is not as illogical as it sounds because obviously a scooter is way cooler than a Smart Car right?  Way cooler.
Don't worry all ye who know of my awesome driving skills: I am merely posing in a parking lot for this picture and actually just road on the back of Scott's scooter.  Oh yeah, he wore a helmet when he drove for real too (just posing in the parking lot also).  Anyway, fedora versus helmet = way cooler.

Other than that we shopped around Capri and ate some pasta.  Besides the very strict parking laws and overcrowded beaches, we liked this island very much.

Additional days of eating, driving, sightseeing, and ooo-ing/aahing followed.  Probably our favorite day on the Amalfi coast was the day we rented our very own boat.  Boating license? Nah.  Sufficient training to be let loose with our own boat for the day? Nope.  Makings of an awesome day of danger and freedom? You betcha.

So we go to a boat rental booth and ask to rent a boat for the day.  They happily take our money and say a guy will bring a boat around for us in half an hour.  Enough time to buy a water and a sandwich and hope that Scott remembers what it was like when he drove a boat 13 years ago.  Like riding a bike right?

We hop aboard the boat and the guy shows Scott how to go forward and how to reverse, then as we are passing another boat he says "okay bye" and jumps aboard another boat his friend was on. So hopefully 20 seconds was all the review time needed. Yup. Scott can confirm that it is indeed just like riding a bike.
We puttered around for several hours, jumped out and swam a few times, and Scott even let me try driving too! It was sort of fun/scary until I came across the waves from another boat at full speed and nearly pitched my dearly beloved overboard. Ahk! End of lesson.


08 July, 2012

Last Visit to Italy

For 9 days in June I attended a "Dance Retreat" in Tuscany.  It was a dance camp for adults that also included cooking lessons and italian lessons.  I was massively excited because here was an experience to combine all of my interest - dancing, Italy, eating, and talking.  Yep: a dream come true!

Well it was a great time though not exactly what I expected.  I was amping myself up for 6 hrs of solid dancing every day and it ended up being a lot more laid back then that.  Some days we just enjoyed socializing and a single class or two and rather than leaving the lean-mean fighting machine that I had hoped, I ended up leaving with good friends and a belly full.

We did get to try yoga outdoors, interpretive dance in public spaces, modern, ballet, old school jazz, step dance, musical theatre, and lyrical jazz.  This sounds like rather a lot of dancing but it was more of a sampler platter rather than a full out buffet.  That's talking about the dancing.  The eating was a full out buffet for sure!  Food and wine were beautifully priced in the town of Livorno where we stayed and I enjoyed my fair share and then some.  Our cooking classes consisted of a wee bit of cooking (I love the simplicity of italian cuisine) and a whole lot of eating.  I have already tried making a cannellini bean recipe that we learned and it is scrumptious (and easy!).  I am happy to pass on the recipe to anyone who wants.

Our fun week ended with getting to perform in a local dance school's recital.  We learned a piece on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning, cleaned it up on Thursday, and performed it that night.  It was quite a treat to get to dance on stage and something I would absolutely enjoy doing again.  Dance camps and recitals are not just for kids.  As a matter of fact I think we could all benefit from revisiting a lot of things we enjoyed as children.  As a matter of face, right now I am currently yearning for a good game of tag.  Or red rover.  How will I find anyone to play with me?!

Okay, off topic...so following the dance retreat, I took a train down to Rome to meet up with Scott.  We had a real surefire plan in which we would just "meet up somewhere in the train station".  Okay fine except upon arrival each of us separately discovered that a) the place was huge, b) the place was full of thousands of people.  So imagine each of our surprise when we did in fact find each other after not too much looking at all.  Ah the good fortune that follows the naive and uninformed.  This appears to be a common theme in my life thankfully!

We had two great days in Rome wherein Scott got to eat the best pork products known to man apparently and I of course got to once again enjoy more cheese, pasta and wine than is sensible.  We did our own "best of" tour according to our guide book meaning we tried the best gelato, best cappuccino, best outdoor market, best coffee, etc.  We also did a little shopping and visited a Leonardo exhibit but for the most part we just walked around took hundreds of pictures.

San Daniele.  Best pork product ever.  I hear.

Roaming Rome.

Leonardo da Vinci Exhibit.  This is a Tank!

Best Espresso in Rome.  Yup good.

"enjoying" a Summer Spritzer at the outdoor market in Rome.  Actually just posing.  It was gross.
 From Rome we rented a car and drove to the Amalfi Coast.  But that is another story and another post.  Stay tuned!

03 July, 2012

A Year in Cairo

So Scott and I have lived in Egypt for nearly a year now!  July 15th will mark the day that we moved here and spent our very first evening in Cairo locked on our little apartment balcony and wondering what we had signed on for.

What a year it has turned out to be!  A year of great new friends, of witnessing political history in the making, of making some travel dreams come true, and of daily surprises/lessons/adventures.

We are now the "Old Crew" as we have seen wonderful friends moving back to Canada at the end of their postings and a new roster of people are just now beginning to move in.  It is fun to think back to how strange and different everything seemed to us when we first got here ourselves.  While we now have a certain comfort level in our own day to day routine, there is still a lot that will probably always seem quite strange and different to us.  Perhaps at the end of our time here we will be a little stranger and different ourselves...

As for the pivitol political year, we have sat on the edge of our seats waiting to see what direction the country would go following the revolution and most especially waiting to see if people would be happy in the chosen direction.  After surviving the election of a new president this past week, now we can finally look to see what changes will begin to come about and hopefully the first steps will be encouraging and promising ones.

Travel has been a massive perk for this gig thus far and in 2011 we got to go to Rome for our anniversary and Tuscany, Florence and Venice for Christmas and New Years.  Conclusion: we love Italy as much as we always thought we would!  In 2012 we got to see Paris in February which was a dream come true and we left with a long list of things we would like to see and do there again if we get to return; and most recently we went to Rome (again!) and south of Naples to the Amalfi Coast.  We just returned three days ago so once we sort through our pictures I plan to post on that as well.  Stay tuned.

As for local travel, we have been able to go snorkling in the red sea, had an amazing close encounter with dolphins while paddle boating, gone camping in the dessert, sand boarded like champs (like snow boarding but on sand dunes), visited pyramids and ancient ruins, and we have only scratched the surface of all the local must-sees thus far.

Lessons from this year: patience is necessary for survival; sometimes the most logical solution to me is not the go-to approach for others; the sense of community and genuine openness of strangers is a welcome and wonderful change and something that I hope to take home with me; learning Arabic is real hard and my charades skills need work.

With that very brief and vague recap of my missed months of blogging:  G'bye for now.  Stay tuned for more routine entries (hopefully...) as I have the whole summer off!