All’s Well That Ends Well

I spent most of last week in bed.  No, not that, sadly, in bed with a bug.  I did something very foolish.  I had the touted quesadillas of one of our neighbors.  She sets up a table on Friday afternoons and makes delicious quesadillas which she sells for 15P.  Normally, I would never do something so foolish, but my host raved about them and has had them numerous times and is of course inoculated against local bugs.  He lives here.  So I took my plate home and ate them.  They were very good.

Later that afternoon I walked to The Rosewood to spend the glorious hour before the sun sets ensconced on a banquet at their chic rooftop bar with an unobstructed view of The Parroquia.  I ordered a mezcal cocktail (when in Rome etc.) and some guacamole and chips.  All delish as was my server, Jose Antonio.  Seriously, he was able to converse intelligently about Sapiens–a book that has daunted many who have opened its covers–I am one of those people–though I plan to give it a go again when I get home.  He has been at The Rosewood since it opened eight years ago.

Then I took a taxi home.  The driver, Paco, a personable, attractive guy who had written across the top of his windshield in beautiful script “Nunca te olvido.  Te amo siempre.” 

As I paid him, I asked,  “What’s her name?”

“Luz,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“She found another.” he said sadly.

“Es impossibly! Ella es tonta!” I said.

He smiled.

I got out and walked home.

I wasn’t especially hungry at that point, but I made myself a bowl of rice and called it  day.

Hours later, I awakened to a ferocious head ache, chills, sweats, and gasping discomfort. I made a mad dash to the bath room, not quite making it. I lost everything I’d eaten for the past hundred years.  Right there!  Boom!

The next morning I awakened groggy and unable to move.  I was being prodded.  I did get up and looked into my little purse and, as my subconscious suspected, no wallet.  I had the change from the taxi driver when I paid him, but no wallet.  I realized it had fallen out in the taxi probably as I was getting out of the car.

Darling Luis, came in to check on me and I told him.  Both of us were ashen.  Again, stupidity prevails, that wallet contained my credit cards and about 3,000 P.  Thank God, my passport was safely at home.

I called my bank.  There is very little they can do but cancel the cards and, I was about to authorize them to do so, when Luis came to the door, face beaming, he had called The Rosewood, the taxi driver had turned the wallet in to their Concierge.  There was no cash or change in the wallet, but all the cards were there.  Later that day Luis and River ran to The Rosewood, picked up my wallet and left a big tip for the driver.

Have I vowed to mend my foolish ways?  Will I wear the little pouch Rick Steves sells under my shirts?  (Yes, I have one.) Probably.

I said a prayer of thanks, and went to sleep.  I pretty much slept for the next three days missing days one and two of the Writers Conference (more on that to come).  I dragged myself to the Conference the third day and all the other days feeling better each day but no appetite or energy in sight.  I’m sure both will come back!

“Mejorando,” as they say.

 

 

 

 

Wandering

I’ve had a couple of low energy days–maybe a little bug–so have slept a lot–that and tea are my principle responses to a bug.  Yesterday, feeling a little more energetic, I walked down Cinco de Mayo and headed to the organic farmers market.  Didn’t see anything I had to take home so I decided to head back up hill and walk around the neighboring Colonia Guadiana. It and San Antonio where I’m living are trending upscale (says the real estate ads) but I would classify them as solidly middle and working class neighborhoods.  There are tours of the homes of the “rich and famous” which I might sign up for later in my stay..

What interests me is the delight in color here.  I think color is an inherent quality of Mexican life–perhaps even DNA.  I remember the Aztec high class had capes made from the colorful feathers of tropical birds.  So delight in color goes back a long way.  You just marvel at the streets lined in sherbet colors and more vibrant paint.  Most homes extend to the sidewalk–if there is one–sometimes there is an entry courtyard.  Of course what we can’t see are the lovely interior patios and roof top gardens that usually exist.  River and Luis’ home is a perfect example of that architecture.

Enjoy!

Afternoon light in my bedroom

Buenas noches

Adios

 

img_3989

As my time in Mexico City ran out, I decided to revisit some places I liked and did not  take another tour.  I had planned to visit Teotihuacan which is 25 miles northeast of Mexico City.  The pyramids there were the most architecturally significant in Mesoamerica in preColumbian times.  It was the largest city in the Americas in the first half of the 1st millennium CE and the sixth largest city in the world with a population of 125,000 or more.  I regret not pushing myself, but next time.

I had seen it many years past and I remember climbing to the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.  But to be honest I’d run out of steam.  Touring is exhausting.  Sometimes I like to give it a rest and just go to the places I like that require little effort and usually please me.

So my Concierge Ariel urged me to visit a small museum on the Alemeda just a short walk through the park from the Palacio de las Bellas Artes.  This little museum hosts the 1947 mural by Diego Rivera called”Sueno de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central.”  “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda.”

img_3974

This wonderful mural was originally displayed in the Prado Hotel.  In 1987 an earthquake destroyed the hotel but the mural survived intact.  It was transported to a safe place until the museum could be designed to house it.  Again Rivera has invited us to meet all the famous and not so famous personages in modern Mexican history including him, of course, and Frida Kahlo.  He appears as a boy holding the hand of the Calavera Catrina front and center and again on one side as a chubby adolescent his eyes closed in a dream.  Diego paints La Calavera Catrina with a feather stole symbolizing Quetzalcoatl.

The Catrina was created by a skilled engraver, Jose Guadalupe Posada, who played with the design in various publications.  She is now most famous for the Day of the Dead celebrations.

There was an interesting show upstairs focusing on the Rivera-Kahlo relationship with  Chinese artists post-Revolution.  The Chinese were interested in documenting their current social and political life in mural style.  Note Frida depicted in a wheelchair.

img_3982

I walked back across the Alameda Park and crossed Avenida Juarez to the beautiful Art Deco Sears building.  They have a tiny cafe on the 8th floor looking right across the street at the Bellas Artes. You can get a coffee, sandwich, a sweet, or a smoothie and gaze across the city and beyond.

Then I walked back on Juarez and passed the beautiful monument to Benito Juarez.  I think you could say that the Mexicans hold Juarez in the kind of esteem and awe that we hold Lincoln.  Juarez was the first “Indian” to become President of Mexico.

img_3985

Then I walked to the Hilton where they got me a cab back to my hotel.  Take advantage of this when you can–at any hotel.  They never ask if you’re staying at the hotel.  You will be insured a driver who doesn’t overcharge and a safe and careful ride.  I did have a rather harrowing ride one evening after the Folklorico performance in what appeared to be a metered taxi but once in the car no meter.  We agreed on a price–by now I knew what it should be–and half way there he asked me to go with him for drinks.  When I declined he asked me if I was too tired to go dancing.  At this point I was pretty nervous, but when I stopped responding, he dropped me right in front of my hotel and that was that.  I have no idea what I said or did to provoke his behavior.  Who knows.

One night I wanted something tasty and more upscale that Casa de Tonio.  I walked to the Marriot on Reforma.  I had a great dinner and the most amazing service.  I also had a wonderful chat with Alexis who was my server.  He likes 60’s American music and plays guitar in a band.  Since I’m a 60’s girl I gave him a playlist of my idea of the best of the 60’s.  It was such fun.  He spoke good English and was a very nice person.

I had stumbled on Roma Norte one day when I got very lost and said this is the place I’d live if I ever had occasion to move.  Some of the most beautiful buildings I’d seen were there circling a wonderful park–Plaza de Rio de Janeiro.  Lots of dogs being walked.  Lots of interesting people strolling or coming home from work.  And a lovely fountain with David in the center sans fig leaf.

 

Across was Toscano, a terrific restaurant.  Seating outside looking at the park and fabulous food.  I went there twice.  Each time I was very pleased with the food and the service and the ambiance.

img_3996

I went back to the Marriott Mansion my last day for lunch.  By luck they have live music Monday – Friday in the hotel during lunch service.  The 4-man group “Son entre 4 y mas” set up near my table and the leader, Javier Matias, came over and asked what I’d like them to play.  Not Cielito Lindo!  I opened my trusty iPhone to my play list.  Went to the Linda Ronstadt album Canciones de Mi Padre which has kept me company in all kinds of places.  They were so excited and proceeded to play numerous of these lively Mexican rancheros.  We were all happy!

So a wonderful two weeks were over.  I could not have been more pleased with my time there.  I would rank Mexico City right up near the top of my favorite cities–that includes Roma and Paris.

Jumex, Soumaya, and Museo de Antropologia

I am a museum nerd.  When I’m kinda tired, overwhelmed, and don’t really know what I’m doing a museum is just the place for me.  And if I’m alone, so much the better.  No one to urge me to hurry up.  No one to judge my choices.  No one to insist it’s time to 1.  eat, 2. leave 3. find the bathroom 4. chatter about and comment on the nature of my current object of fascination.  It’s really best if you just leave me alone and arrange for a time and place to meet later in the day.

I have this dandy little book published by Phaidon and authored by Wallpaper’s City Guide series on Mexico City.  It’s a guide that is very carefully curated and makes no attempt to be a comprehensive guide to the city.  It’s only interested in places and sites that are laudatory.  The introduction is most complimentary of the city of today: “Mexico City no longer begs a visit.  It demands one.”

Being slightly brain dead, I took a taxi–Yes, a taxi.  I know there’s a great metro.–to Museo Jumex and it’s neighbor across the tracks, Museo Soumaya both in Nuevo Polanco.  The austere design of the Jumex is clothed in sand colored travertine blocks and topped with an unusual sawtooth roof.  Cutting edge modern work occupies three floors.  There is a cafe that offers simple but good food at reasonable prices.  The 50P entry fee is waived for mature visitors.  Very kind indeed!

I started at the third floor showing an exhibit on the impact of TV on modern culture.  The piece I most enjoyed was a video which I took to be a commentary on the Mexican soaps which are notorious for their dramatic plots and divas.  The video featured a cast of individuals ranging from a 9-year old boy to several good looking men and women.  Every single actor cried, wept, sobbed, and struggled to control trembling lips, and leaking eyes.  They hugged and sighed and threw themselves on couches, chairs, and beds throughout the video.  It was well done and amusing.  I don’t know how the actors were able to produce so many tears.

Next Museo Soumaya.  I saw the train tracks when I arrived but was surprised that they were functional. As I was exiting, a long train rumbled along the space between the two properties .

The Soumaya is a breathtaking design.  The exterior is covered in scale-like metallic tiles which mold to the sensuous structure.

Entering, the first piece I was drawn to was a large mural by Diego Riviera “Bano de Tehuantepec” or “Rio Juchitan” 1953-1956.

A scene of women bathing in the river and a man with his son who doesn’t want to have a bath.  It is composed of glass Venetian mosaics.  It is vibrant and beautiful.  (I just photographed the ends.)

The interior stairway circles up the 4 floors each dedicated to artifacts ranging from coins to furniture to paintings of Mexican history and life.  It is an interesting collection.  My favorites were a collection of folding screens that are remarkable and in superb condition.

Even more noteworthy was the behavior of the numerous elementary and middle school  students who stood quietly and respectfully listening to the docent.  I found it amazing.  It caused me to reflect on the children I taught when I was a teacher in California many years ago half of whom were Mexican American.  They too were absolutely respectful and polite.

I had a light lunch and realized I needed to rest.  I almost took advantage of the floor mats scattered about for napping art patrons.

Instead I taxied back to the hotel and slept for 12 hours!

The next morning I headed out to the highly touted Museo Nacional de Antropologia located in Chapultepec park.

On Sundays major streets are closed to traffic and people on foot, bikes, pushing strollers and walking dogs fill them.

There is only one entrance open to the park on Sunday and getting there takes much longer since the taxi has to circle the entire “forest” depending on the direction you are coming from.  Nevertheless, I arrived and entered.  There are ticket kiosks which I recommend using as the lines at the ticket windows are long.  The entry fee is 75P about $4.00.

I would guess that the majority of the visitors were Mexican families.  No strollers.  Children either walked or were carried.  A sea of multi-generational families  Many of the kids had workbooks they were writing in as they gazed at exhibits.  I gathered schools assign their students to go to the museum.  And why not!  It is amazing.

Lots of the exhibits are replicas–clearly the Pyramid of the Serpent no longer exists–but the replica is fabulous and huge conveying some of the dimension and splendor of the original.

The building is a U-shape two story modern building which begins at ancient history and anthropology and concludes at modern times.  The tall fountain in the courtyard is a wonderful way to cool off.

The first floor circuit took me 2 hours. 

The second floor which I almost passed on–I was tired and hungry–I liked the best.  It is focused on the indigenous people of Mexico stretching to the Chaco in New Mexico and Anasazi of Mesa Verde in Colorado.

The statue below is a member of Los Raramuri “Niki raramuri ju.” I am a raramuri. I have light feet.

I was amazed.  I watched all the very well done and informative videos and left hungering for more.  I told you I’m a nerd!

One of the nicest features of the museum allows visitors to exit the exhibit rooms to relax outside and enjoy the gorgeous gardens and the pleasant weather.

The entire property is enclosed making this possible.  I spent two more hours but it was time for my comida–3 o’clock the big mid-day meal.

I read that there was a restaurant and headed toward it.  I had very low expectations.  Boy! was I surprised!

Sala Gastronomica “Sabores Mexicanos” was perfect. It offers a menu that celebrates regional favorites using ingredients sourced locally.

I hadn’t had a proper meal since I arrived. I ordered a glass of vino tinto, agua minerale, pollo de Oxaca and mole poblana con arroz. This was my first mole poblana a sauce made of ground seeds and nuts, chilis, spices, masa and Mexican chocolate–it will not be my last.  It is delicious!

For dessert I chose a sampler of Mexican dulces which varied from tamarinda dulce and tamarinda con chili (didn’t like) to marzipan and coconut dulces, but my favorite was a lime split and filled with juice soaked shredded coconut.  A superb espresso made with beans from Chiapas concluded the feast.  The wait staff are excellent. The open patio and banquettes where I sat are divine.  This dinner set me back $50 plus a 20% tip.

Back I went to the hotel totally satisfecha!

 

Deja Vu All Over Again (thanks Yogi)

The first time I visited Mexico I was 17 years old.  That time I was an exchange student to Los Mochis, Sinaloa.  That was a transformative event in my life.  I learned that I could do all kinds of things: speak fluently in another language, understand course lectures in Spanish, dance the way the kids there danced, and handle myself in another family–none of whom spoke English.

The second time I visited Mexico I flew Aeronaves de Mexico’s champagne flight and felt like a celebrity.  I was 18 then and was visiting the most stunning young man I knew.  He lived in CDMX with his well educated Catalan family. That was also a wonderful experience.  Then I visited once again in the 70’s touring about the very hip Zona Rosa and Coyocan seeing Frida’s Blue House before most Americans knew who Frida Kahlo was.

This trip is a very expansive one–six weeks–two in CDMX–Ciudad de Mexico, or DF (deh effe)– Districto Federal– and a month in San Miguel de Allende a colonial silver town in the state of Guanajuato where I’ll be staying at Casita San Miguel owned by my friend– known to some as River Song Jewels–and her husband Luis Romero.  I’ll be attending the writers conference held there annually.  I greatly look forward to this.  All of this!

img_3609-5

Mexico City (CDMX)  has a population of about 9 million. Just about the same as that of New York City.  CDMX has the second largest metro system in the world. (New York City’s is the largest.)  It’s a good thing because the traffic is really bad and so is the air quality.  It took me two days to adjust my eyes to the air quality, and my heart and my body to the altitude.  CDMX ‘s altitude is about that of Mt. St. Helens.  I’m accustomed to sea level!

I shot the picture from the airplane just before landing.  The one above is a 16th C folding screen.   This beautiful rendering shows the city as it once was: a group of islands in a river.  Over time the water was drained and the land filled in and the view from the air today shows nary a glimpse of water.

I’m staying in a grand old hotel–not so grand now–in the Zona Rosa which is no longer hip.  The Hotel Geneve opened in 1907. It has wisely retained its glorious lobby and various salons, barber shop, patio, garden room and bar.  The rooms are comfortable but mold is a problem in the bath rooms. There is no AC–the windows open–but the staff is extremely accommodating and strive to please you at every opportunity.  It is listed on the internet as a 5 star hotel–I don’t think it deserves that many stars.  The food is mediocre but inexpensive as are the rooms.  Mine is $77/night.  I am also a short walk from the Metro.

The downside for this location for a single woman is night life in this area.  I still don’t really know my way around either. There is a lot of activity on the street at night and I don’t feel comfortable walking past dives, parlors offering various kinds of services–“happy ending here–” and bars.  It’s fine during the day and on the weekends its full of working class Mexicans and their families just out to shop and stroll and eat out.

There are a few good restaurants, I’m told, nearby but at night take a taxi there and back.  An authorized taxi.  Gypsy cabs abound but they don’t have meters.  If you know your way around and know the going rate for your ride, go ahead but I don’t and I’m sure I was over-charged more than once before I caught on.  Anyone who has traveled in big cities all over the world knows this is not unusual.

Some friends have been a little surprised at my choice to come here. Some have even suggested that my personal safety might be compromised. Sadly the drip, drip, drip of negative talk about Mexicans has had an impact.  I have never had a negative experience with a Mexican—American born or otherwise.  I find Mexicans to be polite, accommodating, friendly, hard working and very generous–often when they have very little to share.  Numerous individuals seated near me in a restaurant when leaving smile and say “buen provecho”  –enjoy your dinner–.   When’s the last time a stranger has said that to you?  They unfailingly wish you a good day whenever you have an interaction be it commercial or just going about your business.  So that’s where I stand.  Just so you know.

 

Eating Alone in Italy

This is a story that grew out of the Writers Workshop I attended in Montalcino, Italy in May 2018.  

Is it possible for a single woman to find happiness dining alone in Italy?  Sometimes.

Several days in Rome was an exciting prelude to a travel writing workshop in Montalcino, a Tuscan hill town. I had been to Rome two other times always with my partner.  Wandering around on my own, taking as long as I wish to visit museums, writing and musing about the day’s tramp ranks high on my list of great things to do.  Along with exciting exploration, the company of others to debrief over drinks and dinner ranks high.  I have traveled a lot for business and for vacations but this was my first foreign adventure as a single.  I would be eating alone in a culture devoted to long, noisy dinners with friends and family.  I was a little nervous about managing my feelings.  Would it be depressing to eat all my meals alone?  Would I be a target for unwanted attention?  How would a woman sola fare?

I deliberately selected a small, well situated hotel I had stayed in before because I knew it has a wonderful staff and a very welcoming atmosphere. I chose a hotel over an Air B&B because it would be less isolating.   I was a little anxious about Rome alone–but not a lot.  I knew the hotel staff were friendly and helpful.  They would look out for me–and I could do a good job taking care of myself.  I knew that for sure.

Rome mid-May. Some rain, some sun, not too hot.  My room was dark and monkish.  The sole window dressed in sheer white cotton curtains presents a view of the neighboring stucco wall. The crib-sized bed would probably preclude athletic sex should that opportunity arise.  I slept like a log and was awakened at dawn by a sea gull convention. The bathroom was tiny—the shower would accommodate me as long as I didn’t gain weight.

The good news was breakfast on the roof, cornetti and cappuccino and views of tile roof tops and cupolas in every direction. WIFI included.

The first day I visited favorite places dodging intermittent rain. I was getting tired but trying to fend jet lag off.  I was getting cold and damp too and my thoughts turned to dinner in a pretty restaurant with a glass of prosecco to celebrate my return to Italy.  I knew I had to hold out until at least 7:30 for dinner. The concierge suggested a good restaurant a short walk away.  I’ve learned to be cautious about relying too heavily on concierge suggestions as they may be getting comps from those restaurants for sending customers.

At 7:15 I left the hotel and walked the short distance to the restaurant.  It was exactly 7:30 when I arrived.  I was the first customer.  The woman who ushered me into the dining room asked “Sola?”  “Si.”  I replied.  She made a sour face telegraphing her disdain for my status.  I followed her into the first small room.  She seated me at one of  two small tables separated by about 3”.   These tables lined the path leading to the larger grander dining room.  They would not be anyone’s first choice.  That’s where she put me.  I didn’t have the gumption to complain.  I was very intimidated by her.

I sat alone for over 15 minutes contemplating the lineup of stemware ranging from water to wine on my table.  Customers began arriving and I noticed as they paraded before me that most were not Italian.  Larger parties were taken into the main dining room. Finally I flagged down a waiter who had been busy adjusting his waistcoat and asked for a glass of prosecco.  He seemed pleased at my choice and in about ten minutes returned with a bottle of prosecco and poured me a glass.  Another ten minutes elapsed; a waiter came by with the menu.  There were a lot of waiters and still a lot of empty tables but they were in no hurry to feed me.

Since I had eaten almost nothing all day and had trudged around for hours in the rain, I was hungry.  The waiter returned a few minutes later to take my order of squash blossoms for my first course and the roast lamb with oven-browned potatoes for my main dish.  The squash arrived in the form of four very large deep fat fried lumps about the size of a pair of socks rolled up in your sock drawer.  The barely visible blossoms were filled with mozzarella.  I was daunted by the presentation but very hungry.  I ate them and they were good.  Another long period elapsed and the waiter arrived with a plate of potatoes keeping company with a slab of glistening yellow fat.  If there was lamb involved in that mess I couldn’t see it.  I pried a corner of the fat up and saw what may have been meat but my appetite had vanished.  I pushed the plate away to the edge of my table.

At the waiter’s next pass he stopped and exclaimed “Mama mia!”

“Si,” I said “Mama mia!  Take this away and bring me my check.”

He did, pointing out that there was no charge for the lamb.  A wise decision.  I handed him my credit card.  Important lesson: austere dining rooms with no Italians in them should be avoided at all cost.

My next dining adventure was at a nearby locanda.  The door opened into a simple room crowded with chairs and tables without table cloths.  The walls were adorned with madonnas and other assorted saints, as well as climbing vines.  The fireplace was blazing.  More importantly, the room was full of happy, laughing, gesturing Italians.  The rain continued.  The tented space outside the restaurant’s open window was full of smokers huddled under it to escape the weather.  It was 8 o’clock or so and while the room was crowded there were still several empty tables.  I stood at the entry.  The waiter at the door noticed me but said nothing.

“I’d like to have dinner, please.”

“Si, signora.  Sola?”

“Si sola.”

With great consternation and much sotto voce conversation with other staff members he looked around the room at the available two tops.  I heard them muttering about Bruno who I gathered was the manager who evidently disapproved of seating unaccompanied woman–or at least seating one at a two-top during prime time.  Finally they pulled a small table into an alcove by the open window.  The curtains on the window blew the cigarette-smoke-infused breeze right at me.  I think  seating me at that table went against the natural gallantry of Italian men–the waiters seemed embarrassed–but that’s where they put me.

The bread basket descended.  The waiter stood with pad in hand.

“Vino tinto, un insalata misto, e spaghetti Bolognese, piacere.” I said.

“Bello!” he said with a big smile.

Within minutes the salad was on the table.  Fresh and generous in size—it could have been a meal in itself.  Shortly thereafter the Bolognese arrived.  Hot and good.  No wine made it to the table.  Perhaps that might induce me to linger?  “Il conto, piacere,” I said.  The bill arrived, I paid.  I left. I was happy. I squeezed by the moist customers standing outside the door in a long line.  I’ll bet no one was seated at my table.  OK.   Things are looking up, I thought.  Go with the Italians.  If your Italian is good, or marginally good, you will improve your chances of pleasant service.  But probably not a great table.

One sunny afternoon I was walking down Via dell’Orso and saw a wide-open door and a sign–Cipasso.  There was a chalkboard with a greeting written in English and Italian.  “If you like wine, come in.”  The open airy space is flanked by a wall lined in bottles ranging from big Brunellos to spritely Proseccos.  The bar stool–height tables are arranged in clusters easily moved to accommodate groups of two or larger.

There are vines ambling down the old brick wall behind the bar arrayed with delicious bites: bruschetta, a cheese board, salamis, mortadella and all kinds of other delectable morsels.  I knew I was home.

I went back to Cipasso every day.  Sometimes I ordered meat balls, sometimes lasagna, once bread pudding.  Tiramisu appears in the cold case if it’s your lucky day.  Oleg Grossu, the owner, speaks excellent English.  He and a small staff, including his mother, do the cooking.  (Since I was there, they have hired a chef.)  The front of the house is handled by Oleg when he’s not in the kitchen and his partner, Aurica Danalachi. They know wines, and more to the point, how to welcome customers and make them feel happy and appreciated.  They spent time with me.  They described the ingredients in each small plate.  They suggested appropriate wines.  They checked back frequently.  Both Oleg and Aurica are attractive, friendly, and interesting.  Cipasso, opened in May. It is a two-year old dream realized.   My last day in Rome I stopped to say good bye.  We shared prosecco and toasted each other and Cipasso.  I felt I was leaving good friends behind.

So, yes, a woman dining alone can find happiness at an Italian restaurant.  Save the fancy white linen restaurants for those times when you have a companion.  If you are alone, patronize small, intimate places that thrive on hospitality and satisfy their clients both emotionally and nutritionally.

If Oleg and Aurica invite me to their wedding.  I’ll definitely accept.

EGIZI ETRUSCHI

I’ve used The Tube in London. The Metro in Paris, the NY subway and today I traveled in  the metro in Rome.  It was Sunday and crowded.  But it worked flawlessly and cost about $3 for an all-day pass.  I found the ads which were posted on the walls very interesting.  I was also surprised by the many ads for McDonald’s!  My nearest stop from the hotel was at the Spanish Steps.

When I got off at the Termini stop the crowds were 20 people deep.  This is the largest train station in Rome and a major transfer point on the subway taking people to the airport and throughout the city.  I was heading to the Ostiense district out of old Rome on the B train.  When I arrived and emerged from the station I was standing near a very modern structure.  It wasn’t passing over water rather it passed over the metro’s tracks.

I was was excited to see a show about the contemporaneous cultures of Etruscans and Egyptians during the 8th-7th BCE.  at the Centro Montimartini outpost of the Capitolini Musuem.  The exhibit frames a dialogue between two Mediterranean-facing empires who communicated, shared, and engaged in commerce with each other.   Most of the Etruscan pieces were excavated at Vulci near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea 80 KM northwest of Rome.  The artists of Vulci were known for their bronze sculptures most vanished with a few exceptions.  The Chimera in Arezzo is one. The tombs of wealthy Etruscan’s contained Egyptian goods as well as their own beautiful art and jewelry.

I have long been fascinated with Etruscan culture.  This piece below is a wonderful example of granulation.

Seeing this show opened my mind further to the astonishing culture and talent of this little known people.   Volci will be a destination next time.

The show is held in a 19th CE electricity producing factory. The machinery has been preserved and provides a remarkable backdrop to the second floor exhibit of items excavated on the Capitiline Hill.

img_2480-2

img_2471-1

Artifacts discovered during the excavations of the Termini (train station) came from an Augustan-period garden full of statuary  and mosaics.  This exhibit is on the second floor.  What a glorious place that garden must have been. The remnants of salvaged mosaic floors alone are remarkable.

img_2491-1

I loved this statue of a young girl.  Notice her charming boots.  Very much like the ones many of us own today.

img_2487-1

img_2481

This is such a beautiful sculpture of a German–probably a warrior–captured by the Romans.  His funerary casket is decorated on the corners with these faces.

I had a thoroughly wonderful time gazing and pondering these magnificent pieces some Greek some Roman.  Finally I grew weary and headed back outside.

As I walked back over the bridge I realized I was tired and hungry.  It had gotten very hot and I needed to get out of the sun.  I spied an outdoor cafe behind a tall laurel hedge its umbrella-shaded patio beckoned. 

An English-speaking waiter seated me and proffered a menu. I ordered braised chicory and salmon souvide, a big bottle of sparkling water and a glass of prosecco. The salmon was impeccable.  The waiter is the lead singer in a Malhini. Their first album is coming out soon to be followed by a US tour. I offered to be his tour guide if they get to Seattle.

I returned to the Spanish Steps, the Spagna stop, where the crowds were even bigger and walked to my hotel. Took a quick shower. Wrapped myself in a towel and napped until 7:30!

Then I got up, dressed and went out for dinner. I found a sweet little place–Sopra Soto–(name to change soon to Don) very near Cipasso recently purchased by two very nice guys who kindly sat me at a 4-top!

I ordered the classic Cacio and Pepe, bruscette and an amazing tiramisu. The star of the evening was the Mufatto– dessert wine–heavenly with the tiramisu.

What a day! Delicious in every way. How to work off all this food and wine? More walking!

Cipasso

I’m not a food writer.  I don’t know a rhubarb from a roux.  What I do know and can recognize is vision, entrepreneurial passion, style and taste.  Oleg Grossu, owner of Cipasso has all that and more.  You step into a clean open space with old brick walls.  American Jazz standards playing–not overbearing–but there.

img_2014

Grossu, and his partner, Aurica Danalachi, have realized a two-year old dream.  After years working in the restaurant business, Oleg opened Cipasso this May.  Oleg has been a sommelier for 15 years and former manager of La Buvette and Dilla.  Cipasso has a small staff of two in the kitchen and Oleg–plus mama.

Oleg knows his wines.  One full wall in the beautiful sunny space at Via dell ‘Orso 71 is lined with bottles ranging from assertive primativos to sexy brunellos, spritely prosecco to blushing rosato.

img_2015

This is not just a wine bar.  Cipasso offers more than delicious appetizers and snacks.  It offers light dinners also.  The appetizers tonight were bruchetti with a classic tomato topping set off with small amounts of red pepper, a unique panzanella with the inclusion of cucumber hinting at spring, and a creamy potato puree piped onto bruchetta topped by anchovie and a sprig of green. On another visit I sampled a delicious white bean puree seeded with small shrimp.  These antipastos are offered with your wine served in shapely sparkling glasses.

For dinner I had the meatballs served with a deep green mound of rapini–Italian broccoli.  The meatballs were beautifully tender and tasty with a light gravy.  The rapini was perfectly cooked and well flavored.

img_2052

Saving the best for last tiramisu served in a short pot filled with a yummy creamy pudding over a thin base of chocolate cake threaded with a liquor and a sprinkling of dark cocoa and for a surprise crunch–rice crispies hidden in the cake.

img_2055

To finish: a perfect cappuccino with firm, tasty foam.

img_2059

What I like so much about Cipasso is that it offers a relief from heavy dinners served late in the evening.  I prefer eating light: healthy greens, some protein, a good glass of wine, and sometimes a superlative dessert.  Cipasso is just the kind of place I look for.  Happily it’s located down the street from my hotel the Portoghesi and two blocks from Piazza Navona.  Lovely for an after dinner stroll.  Tonight a violinist is playing Ed Sherran’s “Perfect”    Yes, indeed!

Cipasso is a wonderful place to land at the end of a long day wandering and sightseeing–usually on foot.  It’s so nice to be warmly greeted; to sit and stay with a glass of prosecco and a savory bite or two.  It feels like you’re at the home of friends.

Getting There

img_2010
Ready to go

Getting through SeaTac was a breeze compared to Heathrow.  I  intended to carry-on my new Away 22″ suitcase, but with a large tote and a purse just moving through the security lines would be a lot for me.  So I checked the suitcase all the way through to Rome.

However, I made a rookie mistake; I had put all my powders, potions and creams in a dopp kit in the large tote.  I was mindful of the under 3 oz rule and thought I was covered.  Not so fast. After a pleasant flight and a feast of a meal we landed in Heathrow about 1 am PST.

I wasn’t at my very best and then Horrible Heathrow struck.  Masses of people at every line and path.  Finally reaching the security check point which would allow me to get to the B gate and the flight to Rome–take off in 45″–I was pulled over.  All the contents of my  tote had been spilled out on a table and a grim faced women held out one sandwich size baggie.  “You can take only what fits in this.” Everything else will be sacrificed.” I stared (I’m sure my jaw dropped) at several hundred dollars of stuff on the table and said “But they’re all under 3 ounces!”  Doesn’t matter.

I was so flummoxed I couldn’t think.  “Let me do it for you.” Ms. Martinet said.  When she had finished, I had no liquid make-up, no toothpaste, no hand lotion and no sunscreen.  The more expensive cosmetics survived but I was very angry.  “Settle down,” I told myself, “you’ve got 15 to get to the Rome flight!”

I raced through a labyrinth of several elevators, escalators, long halls, crowds shopping in Duty Free and finally a transit shuttle which took 40 traumatized people to the BA plane.

Lesson learned.  All airports are different and so are their rules.  So PACK your wet stuff in your bag and check it!  As Ms. Martinet said, “If you can pour it or spread it, check it.  If you can cut it with a knife, carry-it on.”

However, leave the knife at home!