Documenting my love of travel, both at home and away

Posts tagged “backpacking

In Which I Do Not Write

Ack! It pains me to do this, but I am writing the shortest post ever due to lack of discipline. Can’t someone turn off the rest of the Internet while I do blog stuff?

Today, you get one picture, with the promise of much more after I finish working tomorrow.

 

Spaghetti with tuna and parmesan cheese! My first meal at the farm here in Dozza, where I am living with two parents (one English, one Italian), two cute little girls (I envy their bilingualism), two Australians (a married couple, fellow help exchangers), three dogs (mother, father, excitable puppy), a three-legged cat, two pigs (enormous), and an unspecified number of cows and goats.

Dolci Sogni/Sweet Dreams!

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Ruminations on Hitting the Road, the Doughnut-Pizza, and Other Tasty Tidbits

 

One of my favorite sunsets. Caylus, France, April 2009

 

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, the sky – all things tending toward the eternal or what we imagine of it.” -Cesare Pavese in The Comfort of Strangers

 

[This is a wonderfully accurate quote about travel except for one thing- sleep is one of those essential things that has on the whole proven difficult for me so far. I have allowed myself some leeway, given the six hour time difference, and this means opting to going to bed earlier rather than hitting the town with my hosts on some nights. Everything in moderation! ]

In the past five years, I have realized that travel isn’t for everyone. It’s uncomfortable and uncertain, unsettling and isolating. The only constant is knowing that the factors involved in your day-to-day life will not remain the same for long, and knowing this at least provides some comfort. Perhaps it is because of the unstoppable changes that traveling appeals to me; there is always something new to discover, a new person to meet, a great mural around the corner, or some food that for some reason I never knew about until now.

Enter the panzerotti.

 

fried pizza pocket thing

innocent looking enough, my first panzerotti was every bit as delicious as the long lines indicated

 

I think that I am forever in debt to my host in Milan, Stefania, for introducing me to this culinary masterpiece.  Wikipedia tells me that outside of Italy, the panzerotti is popular in the United States, particularly Southern New Jersey, which is news to me. I must have been concentrating too hard on the zeppoles, garlic knots and pizza to notice them on all those childhood vacations to the Jersey Shore. Back to Milan- Stefania told me that this particular place, Luini, just off the Piazza Duomo, is famous throughout the city and is known for nearly always having lines out the door, though she hadn’t been there yet herself. Why, what better reason to tackle something you’ve been putting off than showing your couchsurfing guest the best your hometown has to offer! True to rumor, the line was out the door and spilling on to the narrow cobblestone street. And as for the taste? Well, if you can, try to imagine biting into one of the most delicious plain doughnuts you’ve ever had. Now, combine that with the taste of tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese- and how your taste buds will delight! Though it may sound like a strange combination at first, I immediately had another, this time filled with spinach and ricotta cheese. Subsequently, I also sampled a panzerotti in Bologna, which was still delicious but couldn’t compare to the high caliber Luini in Milan. And though I’m curious where and how soon I might find panzerotti back in the States, I know that it will be a far cry from any I eat here in Italy.

Another bready food item I’ve had is panetonne, somewhat similar to what we call fruitcake, though this is more palatable. Cliche as it sounds, I have had pasta every day so far (and even introduced my Bologna host to tossing eggplant, garlic and olive oil in pan and serving it with penne), and I treated myself to gelato twice while in Milan.  The other morning, I visited Bologna’s fruit and vegetable market, eager to get some frutis and vegetables in my system. Though there were far too many options with all the exact same selection (terrible for someone as indecisive as I), I walked away satisfied with the prices and even hungrier than when I  set out.

 

uova e spinaci/eggs and spinach for breakfast

This is a photo I hastily took before i ate- both the eggs and spinach picked up at the city market.  I’ve seen dark yolks before, and plenty of double-yolked ones, but these eggs were definitely the most orange I’ve ever cooked.

Now I am situated in Dozza, which is about half an hour from Bologna, with a family that keeps animals for consumption. You might be eating a lot of pasta and pesto for dinner, they said, when discussing my vegetarianism, but that is just fine with me. I’ve gone from couchsurfer to helper- doing various tasks around the house and with the animals in exchange for a place in their home and all meals provided for. My arrival here marks the 10th place that I have spent the night throughout the month of January, the most I have bounced around, ever, to my recollection. Here’s to feeling a bit settled!

A shot in Milan from Thursday (I will be sure to get better pictures of the Duomo and the rest of the city when I have a few more days at the end of my stay):

 

One of Milan's landmarks, a Gothic cathedral called the Duomo


At Long Last, I Am Here

On the beach in Nosara, Costa Rica, December 2009

I will get the obligatory and quite cliche “Hi, world, this is my first blog” line out of the way and say first, thank you for reading this (though I imagine most of you are family members eager to hear of my safety and whereabouts)!

At long last, I am here- what does this mean? For the fourth time, I am in Europe, and for the third time, in Italy.  I believe it is the fifth time I am on an extended solo trip (certainly not a “vacation”), and it is the second time I have bought a plane ticket relatively spur-of-the-moment because I got an email about cheap flights that I  simply could not pass up.

 

capturing the bright sun in the cinque terre

sunset effects in the cinque terre on my second visit to Italy in 2005

“Here” also means finally starting a travel-related blog that I have been meaning to write for probably over a year now. After much debate, I settled on this name, partially inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of the Open Road”, and a bit borrowed from the title of an Iron and Wine song, “Lovesong of the Buzzard”. Whether or not this is actually a good title, or everyone else likes it, is neither here nor there at the moment, as I wanted to get on and just write already.  I hope to share what I learn, see and experience while traveling- at the moment in Italy- as well as provide you with interesting articles, websites and resources I find that will probably have something to do with travel, sustainable living, a combination of the two, or maybe even something else entirely.  In addition to mere words, I will try to include plenty of photos (yay! everyone likes pictures), because seeing places from each person’s point of view is really one of the most intriguing aspects of storytelling and traveling.

Lastly,  “here” refers to the place I am in internally while on the road. As my plane took off from JFK last night, I wrote in my journal, “Happy Me Time again! (I have granted myself this)” , for traveling alone is where I come alive. I feel rejuvenated, reinvigorated, and reinspired.  I am in my element- in a position of being both the audience member of the play and the one in the starring role.  Armed with my camera and my journal (and for the first time, an amazing assortment of techie gear), I am suddenly an expert at such things as navigation, geography, miming, reading foreign street signs, and striking up conversations with strangers.  Of course, I’m no expert: earlier today at the Milan Stazione Centrale (the central train station), I somewhat desperately ended up paying 3 euros for one local phone call.  This little incident ends up being one of the comical snafus that usually occur on those uncertain first days and don’t detract at all from the overall sense of, well, awesomeness! This is me, doing what I do best. I am  soaking up those feelings of competence and self-confidence, revelling in the unique perspective I get by staying with locals…and hopefully doing some interesting enough things to keep you guys interested. Happy reading! More to come quite soon!

 

Barcelona had some wonderful graffiti

words to live by in Barcelona, Spain, April 2009

From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.”
–Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road