Monday, June 18

When in Rome...

All is well here in Texas. We're still having far more rain than usual (flash flooding!) which means that while the temperature is ramping up (getting close to 40, so is the humidity (ick). Our Friday nights sitting outside at the pub are more like a mass group sauna session! The dreaded lurgie has all but moved on leaving me with a residual cough that may be more force of habit than any great morbidity. Jo has survived her first few weeks of full time work at the Foundation and already knows the names and locations of more people than I do! She's fitting in really well and seems to be the "Nanny McFee" of our research group ;)

This post is horribly delayed for many reasons, including a general level of slackness and the fact that I have been poked and prodded for a few weeks by specialists, ending in minor surgery last Thursday to remove a breast lump. Looks like it's all ok but I get the results sometime this week so I'll keep you posted.

The other news is that Jo's parents are winding up their world tour with a stint here with us in San Antonio. They were supposed to arrive on Wednesday night after flying from the UK, but their flight out of Chicago (the last one) was cancelled! Leaving them bagless in a "Super 8" motel with red walls and far too many mirrors... The eventually arrived in San Antonio late Thursday, again bagless! Anyhow, all is well now and their bags have finally joined the party, and the rest if fodder for another blog entry!

However, back to Italy and the promised update on Rome. This is a tricky entry to write because we managed to pack so much into our six days there, so I'm going to be led more by the photos than anything else.

In short we spent the first 4 nights in a very mod but swanky hotel with a stunning rooftop pool but very odd rooms. You can check them out online - it was like living in an Ikea catalogue. The room came equipped with a huge lawn-green shagpile rug, a lamp contained within a big white balloon that blew up to a huge ball on the wall when you switched it on and fruity bathroom products in shotglasses...

We managed to get to the Trevi fountain at night, the Spanish Steps just before sunset, a full day at the Coliseum and Palatine Hill (my favorite) just wandering through all the ruins and a day at the Vatican. We had wonderful dinners (fortuitous timing for asparagus and porchini mushroom season!), lovely local wine and even some great cheese, olives and other deli delights from markets and corner stores. I had some wonderful coffee and even learnt (the hard way) how to order one at a proper Roman bar. We didn't get to the Pantheon (it was closed) but we did hit a great modern art gallery where we got to see a range of wonderful surprises including 'the wounded angel' (and some wonderful bronze sculpture which I never dreamed I would like!)

But I know that all you guys are really interested in are the pics so here we go...

We hit the Spanish Steps on a public holiday, destroying our plans of handbag shopping, but we had fun just wandering. Sadly the holiday meant the pantheon was also closed, but there was plenty of other stuff to look at!

A tiny Roman street in Trastevere on a lazy Sunday afternoon...

We had a great pocket guidebook, which is incredibly daggy and touristy of us perhaps, but it came in handy on more than one occasion!

A tiny grocer in one of the back streets

Aside from billions of tiny tiny cars, Rome was also brimming with vespas! I had such a craving to ride one but Jo wasn't so keen. I can just imagine how fun (and scary) it must be to fly along those tiny cobbled streets!!

We found this scene in a tiny back street while walking from A to B.

We decided that if we ever lived in Rome, this is the apartment we wanted to live in! Not only did it have a spunky shape and great outlook it had an amazing looking rooftop garden Gorgeous :)

This is part of the old wall surrounding Rome (I think)

The photos of the Coliseum and Palatine Hill might have to wait for Rome part 2 or this will end up being my most epic post yet!!


When we first arrived in Rome Jo said "Whoa this town has great knockers!" And she was right...

Good looking mail boxes too.

Monday, June 11

Torino (Turin) and the first leg of our trip

Well, we're back in San Antonio, safe (but not so well - I came down with a chest infection the minute I set foot in San Antonio!). At the moment we're working on digesting the 600+ photos we took during the trip. The most tragic part of the whole adventure was that my beautiful pentax SLR packed it in on the first pic and was dead weight (she's not light you know) for the remainder of the trip, so we were stuck with mr stinky mini-digital for sharing our memories with y'all.

Anyhow, onto the trip! We left the US from Chicago and flew into Frankfurt in serious cattle class on an American Airlines plane. Don't fly with them. They've taken everything bad about flying and concentrated it into one high definition experience. Blergh. Frankfurt was my first ever experience of Europe and consisted of a spunky elfin boy at the check in telling me I wasn't on the flight to Turin and security guards barking commands at me in German then pulling me out for a full on body search in which they attempted (vainly) to find my bra and after giving up proceeded to stick a very cold metal detector down the back of my jeans 0_o When we made it to the gate we discovered that the flight was overbooked (leaving me off the list) but thanks to Jo's magical people charming skills I not only ended up on the flight to Turin, but in first class! So my entry to Italy was with champagne in hand, prawns in my belly and a stunning lemon panna cotta for dessert (while poor Jo got water and a tiny toblerone).

Turin was gorgeous. It took us a while to realise that the Winter Olympics were there last year (slow I know) but that meant the city was all spanky and cleaned up still. My boss quickly moved us from our nursing home style conference hotel to stay with him at the stunning Principi de Piermonte that was opened the same day as the games! It felt like rags to riches, but there was surprisingly little difference in price between the two...and a whole lot of difference in quality. The conference hotel had camp beds and a shower the size of a coffin! The best moment was when Jo opened the curtains and let out a little involuntary scream!

I won't go on about it too much, but the hotel was a big player in making out time in Turin so wonderful. The room was gorgeous and so lovely to come home to after spending all day at the conference (which was held in some industrial hotel on top of a hill on the edge of the city so you were trapped there) and had the most incredible bath.

The other brilliant thing about the Principi was the barman, Flavio, who not only made incredible drinks and great conversation (like the time he visited Australia and ended up in the middle of Mardi Gras) but he also had excellent food recommendations. Flavio got us in to a couple of different restaurants that specialise in local cuisine and we had some wonderful meals as a result. The highlight for me was a dinner we had with some friends we'd made at the conference, great girls from Norway and Finland who were so much fun to hang out with, as well as my boss John and his partner Jo. We went to a little restaurant called La Campannia where the owner, a little old Italian man, took charge of us and planned our menu for us. We started with an incredible raw sausage (yep, raw, but amazingly well spiced), followed by a range of meat based antipasto that I wish I'd taken pics of but I was too busy devouring, followed by multiple pasta bliss then a dessert trolly that made my eyes bulge! Throughout we had wonderful local wines and we, of course, ended with homemade grappa and lemoncello. Every meal we had in Turin was good! IF anyone is heading to Europe and wants to sidetrack for a little R&R and some great eating, I'd highly recommend hitting Turin and the Principi for a few day and let Flavio be your guide (he also makes a wonderful aperol and champagne cocktail). Although every time he recommended a restaurant to us he sent us there with a little blue envelope addressed to the owner and we still have no idea what they said!

Believe it or not, this one was the lowest on our list of good meals we had in Turin!

The other place he sent us to was the Museo Nationale Del Cinema (National Cinema Museum) which was just wonderful! It's housed in a wonderful old building (the Mole Antonelliana) that is one of the icons of the city. The museum is basically a mass collection of installations that progress you from the earlier forms of moving image (shadow puppetry, magic lanterns...) through to dedications to modern film genres and mechanics. There's a lot of interactive stuff including a bike you can ride that bluescreens you into ET along with the other flying kids! We were pretty over stimulated by the time we got to the end, but it was a great experience.

On our second day in Turin we had an amazing moment where the skies, that had been gloomy and overcast since we arrived, slowly cleared to reveal the snow capped Alps all around us!

The view from our window where you can see part of the mountains.

More mountains...

And even more Alps...


Anyhow, that's probably enough about Torino for now! The conference well, my talk was ok and we had a wonderful and relaxing time (I guess that could have been enough of an entry right there!) I'll leave you with the usual mug shot :) More Italy coming soon so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 3


Just a little teaser to let you know that we really are in Rome and we're having a lovely time...too lovely to spend very long on the blog at this point! You'll have to wait till we get back to San Antonio for a real update. So far the trip has been amazing, cigarette smoke and petrol fumes aside.

(and by the way...this post is complicated by the fact that blogger has decided to only speak to me in Italian!)