Posts Tagged With: food

Ortona

On my bus ride to Chieti I met a really nice lady on her way to her job as nurse who lives in Ortona. She recommended going there, and I had been wondering if I should, so the next afternoon I had free I headed there on a bus. I didn’t buy a ticket, I was still very confused about how to do that. Sadly this time the bus ticket guys got on and were checking to make sure everybody had a ticket. I had my “I’m foreign” act rearing and ready to be played out for better or for worse, when the girl sitting next to me actually didn’t have a ticket either. So, they wrote her up for what looked like a large fine. I was thinking “there’s no way they won’t give me a fine now after setting the precedence with her”. LUCKILY it seemed, through my quickly beating heart, that they had a fining quota, and had met it, so they didn’t even ask to see my ticket. What?! So lucky. I will definitely figure out how to pay for the bus next time.

I got to Ortona, again, having no idea where I or anything else was. I began wandering and was instantly excited about how much cooler it was here. Not cool as in awesome, but cool as in breezy and significantly more shady, so walking around was quite pleasant. Ortona is another medieval town like a lot of the rest I had visited, but this one was coastal so it definitely had a different vibe to it. It was also another very Italian town, nobody spoke English and I obviously stood out as a foreigner.I started off my afternoon with gelato of course. I loved this baby cone and marshmallow they put on it.

I managed to find the “waterfront” which was actually not a waterfront like I was expecting (like in Pescara). I realized we were actually on the top of a bluff with an amazing view of the port.

I then decided to walk along this road on the edge of town to see what I could find.

I found a Castle!

The castle was built in response to Venetian powers destroying the port there. Here’s a wikipedia link to a brief but interesting summary of Ortona’s history. I was so excited I found a castle.

Me with the Castle

View from the Castle

Inside the Castle


Me inside the castle with a view of the port

Me under the Castle

I then headed back into the main town (Ortona is very small) and found the main church which almost every street has a view of.

Some sort of actually religious ceremony was going on so I didn’t get to go inside. Later this led to an interesting conversation with my host mom about religion, where I figured out that she’s an athiest in all but personal declaration of the word. We had a good conversation about how the catholic church dominates Italy and how that hurts their society in a lot of ways.

While Ortona’s history is rich, beginning in ancient Roman times, most all of the monuments have crumbled. I managed to notice that last bits of a monastery near this church. Most everything else is in decay or has been torn down/built on top of. Makes me grateful for the history people have managed to preserve!

I finished up the day with apertivo, the drink was DELICIOUS, something guava based. Perfect in the residual heat of the day.

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Knitting in Italy

So this is a report on knitting in Italy in general.

For some reason I thought knitting would be more common in Europe, or at least more accepted. But I’ve gathered it’s just as odd here for a young lady to bring out her knitting while sunbathing or on the bus. In fact it’s probably more odd as they add it to the list of the strange American things I do. The boys I babysit find it annoying because they’d rather I’d be playing with them. Oh well. Every little girl I meet worships me and pretends to knit next me. One of many reasons I should’ve picked girl children. In general EVERY old lady who sees me tries to come up and talk to me. Even the really fashionable old ladies who you wouldn’t think knit. It’s really sad though because none of them speak English, and I’d love nothing more than to discuss knitting with them. It always ends up being a little awkward and they walk away. Especially while I was knitting my bathing suit, quite scandalous once the old ladies realize what it is. Oh well. My Italian is getting better, maybe sometime soon I’ll be able to communicate better. Maybe I’ll focus on knitting words.

It has been the greatest way to relax here though; the best break from stressful communication issues and child watching. I’ve tried combining the getting gelato/knitting activities, but gelato melts too fast here so I have to eat all the ice cream, then knit. Which is fine, I use the excuse to sit in the cute cafes longer. One of the best activities I’ve found is discovering gelato flavors. Some are really difficult to figure out, and if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll remember great amarena/amaretto confusion. My latest adventure in gelato flavor exploration was when I went to knit yesterday afternoon. I got the classic nocciola (hazelnut), and amarena again as I really like it, but I was intrigued by a yellow and red gelato called zuppainglese. I asked the attendant what it was as she spoke a little english, and she excitedly translated “english soup”. Well, I had gathered this much as that’s the direct translation, but I still had no idea what it could be. It looked like cheesecake flavored ice cream, or maybe raspberry lemonade. So I ordered it. At first it did taste like cheesecake so I thought I was correct. Upon further enjoyment I decided it tasted more like egg nog. It was delicious, but I still did not know what it was. Later I remembered to translate it, and apparently zuppa inglese is “trifle”! A very random flavor, but that’s half the fun!

I finally managed to snap a picture of one of lizards around here while I was knitting. It was difficult, it scuttled by a few times and I didn’t have enough time to get my camera out. This time it stop to drink some water from the base of a plant. I win.

Finished my bathing suit!

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Teramo Pt. 2

My day in Teramo.

This is such a good example of a lot happening in one day.

I got up early, showered, got on my site seeing clothes, ate the subpar breakfast, and got out into the world.

The first thing that hit me was the fact that apparently there is a market Saturday morning. Or at least there was this morning. And I don’t mean farmers market. I mean basically every foot of every street in the entire city had a vendor on it, selling any and all kinds of products. Foods, clothes, toys, rugs, anything. It was crazy. It was very interesting, but at the same time not at all what I wanted. I wanted to see a slow romantic town, that wasn’t as overwhelming as this was. So I finally escaped the market and found a bench in the shade, where I started working on my lace pattern. Eventually some old ladies came and shared the bench with me, then one was replaced with a man. They tried to talk to me but we both quickly found out that we could not communicate. It’s times like these when I realize how little Italian I’ve learned. The old lady was very entertained by me knitting a bathing suit. She was a classic elderly Italian woman, fanning herself in the heat, wearing a funny shirt with a rhinestone Vespa on it. We managed to cover the basics of my name, where I’m from, and how long I’ll be in Italy. At this point they both called my attention to a creep many who had been walking up and down the street continuously smoking a cigar. I had noticed him, but hadn’t thought too much about it, it was a nice place to stroll. But they clearly had a better idea than me about the situation. They insisted on finding out where I was staying and having the old guy escort me home. I thought this was a little extreme, mostly because I wanted to go get pizza, but there was no arguing with two of them for more reasons than the fact that I physically couldn’t. As we headed back through the extensive market I realized the creepy gentleman actually did follow us. We turned more corners, took a fake water detour, headed back to the market, and the guy was still following us. At this point I was EXTREMELY freaked out. I’ve never actually felt so hunted. At the same time I wasn’t sure taking me home was the best idea if the guy managed to follow us all the way there… then he would know where I was staying… but at some point we did manage to evade him and make it the apartment where the B&B was. Then my elderly companion told me to never go out again without a companion (as if that’s possible) and call the police next time something like that happens. Also to call him Papi.

I went inside thoroughly shaken, decided to hide out for a while, and ended up deciding to take a nap through the midday heat. I was almost afraid to leave again wondering what would happen if I ran into the creepy man again with nobody to help me. But I didn’t go to Teramo to hide in my room, so around 3:00 I headed into the city again, slick with sweat. It was still the heat of the day so everybody had deserted the streets. To my surprise the ENTIRE market had disappeared. It was like a ghost town compared to two hours earlier. I really liked this. So despite the heat I went around the city again, taking pictures this time. The sites here aren’t strikingly impressive, but they do have a nice romance to them.  There are the last remains of a Roman theatre, intertwined with modern homes, and leading to a beautiful church. I went in the church and was thoroughly rewarded with medieval art and design (and pleasantly cool temperatures). I kept thinking I was going to get kicked out because of my scandalous off the shoulder shirt and my atheism (clearly nobody would be able to know this, but whenever I go into a church I feel like whenever somebody looks at me, they know), but they were busy setting up for a wedding later in the day. After the church I got some gelato at a café with a nice view of the piazza. I knit for a little while, and then went to find some other landmarks. I got some subpar pizza and peach tea (have I mentioned the peach obsession yet….) for lunch, knitted some more, then FINALLY got the courage to ask somebody to take my picture with the church. There are very little tourists here, but there were some others other than me, which felt nice. The first tourists I’ve seen since coming to Italy! I bet most people can’t say that. So I didn’t feel too awkward asking someone to take my picture; I was rewarded with the man speaking English, a wondrous thing. I kind of regret not talking to him more, but he was on a stroll with a lady so I didn’t want to interrupt.  At this point all of the people were coming out of hiding for the evening, so I decided to go back to my room for a break. So here we are! Catching up on blogging.

Sight seeing outfit that attracted the buzzards apparently.

For some reason I fell in love with this fountain.

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New Friends

So, I officially have two friends now. I’ve met a lot of people, but these two are more reliable/speak English/are really enthusiastic about entertaining me here. My new friend Alfredo is really proud of Pescara and wants to make sure I have the best time while I’m here. He has talked me into joining the beach volleyball league he is a part of, and insists (like everybody else I’ve ever met) that I must be good at volleyball because I am tall. He’s in for a good surprise…. maybe I’ll be better at beach volleyball? Anyways, it’s always interesting to actually find out the kinds of people you’ll meet. I never expect either of these two, they’re very unique and have both shown me how different people live in Pescara. I’m excited to meet somebody from couch surfing tomorrow, he seems like he’ll be a new piece to the puzzle of the Pescaran people.

It’s quite amazing to me how disparaging a lot of the people here are about Pescara, even my host family. When speaking to people of my life and how I ended up here and how I like it, they’re always very confused about why I would pick Pescara. I don’t think they realize that while they might not have the Colosseum or Greek ruins, they have a beautiful unique culture. It’s modern Italy like you really can’t get anywhere else. Of course I’m interested in classic Italy and the beauty of the historical sites, but Pescara is a great example of how Italy is growing up and facing the new world. It has experimental architecture that is trying to bring Italy into a new generation while still keeping the classic Italian charm. And above anything else, the fresh Italian food is as good as anywhere, and that’s really the most important part.

So, my new friends are helping me get to know Italy better, more through getting to know them than anything else.

P.S. I’m getting fat from Italian food and having a full house of food I’m allowed to eat (normally I don’t have that many groceries and it’s out of my own pocket when I go to get them; here delicious food just keeps filling up the refrigerator. Needless to say my self control has been pitiful). So it’s time I figure out the will power to not gorge on all of the free Italian food and start jogging/playing beach volleyball more. Wish me luck!

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The Weekend

Ciao people!

A few things have happened since I’ve written. It was Lorenzo’s birthday so there was a large party on Saturday for that. At first I dreaded that thinking of the kid parties I know, and expecting that the au pair would be involved in herding children somehow. That however turned out to not be true at all, we simply went to one of places on the beach that the family rents a palma, where they had set up a little party area with drinks and a pizza/fry buffet. All of the kids were entertained with the impressive playgrounds they have here on the beach, and all of the parents stayed for the party as they were friends of Madda’s. So I actually just got hang out and eat pizza, and figure out which of Madda’s friends could speak English, not bad at all! And family friend Ilaria made the cakes, they had Mario and Luigi screen printed on them. The cake was SO good, I was expecting a normal sheet cake (which I hate) at first, but when I ate it it was an amazing torta with fresh whip cream instead of dense frosting, and pastry cream with fresh peaches in the middle. SO good. I’ve eaten way too much of the leftovers since then….

After the party I got to go out with my new friend Martina. She is amazing, so funny, and maybe not the usual type of person I’d make friends with. She had been an au pair in Dublin so she speaks very good English and understands my situation. We’re also equal parts Irish which I thought was funny.

Anyways, she took me to a wine bar that is off the main riviera party scene. Again, not what I was expecting to be doing with my night, but it ended up turning out better than even could of hoped for. It was such an intimate little setting, tucked away on a back street with tables out on the side walk. Everybody there knew each other. Her friend was the bartender so we ended up getting many free shots, “chicettas” (spelled completely wrong), and some free wine as well. All night she just kept pouring shots, and I’m not going to say no to that. Martina’s not a big drinker these days as she’s “old” (24) so she was taking shots of this dark liquor instead of vodka. I thought it was wine at first, but she corrected me and tried to explain what it was. It was a liquor made in Abruzzo from a fruit she did not know the name for. We tried very hard to figure it out with descriptions like “big cherry” and “really ripe cherry” from Martina, but they were adamant it was not actually a cherry. Thankfully my Italian phone has internet so we finally decided to google translate it and it turns out it’s just “black cherry”. Apparently here they have a completely different name for them, while cherry is “ciliegia” black cherry is “amarena”. Not only did this discussion help me learn about a new liquor, but it solved the mystery I have been dealing with with gelato flavors. I had ordered amarenetta thinking it would be something like amaretto, but then got black cherry flavor, though I couldn’t actually recognize what it was. I now know a lot about the Abruzzo black cherry!

The night turned out very fun and I met some more people. One of the bartenders had lived in Seattle for a year and he was very excited to meet me. A short hipster version of Fabio had his eye on me all night, and wanted me to go to more bars with him after we left, which I would’ve done just to get to know more places, but Martina helped me figure out that they wanted to go to a place that was very far away. I don’t really need to do that as all the best places are close to my home so I turned him down. We stopped by Zara on the way home which is the biggest bar/beach house party there is. SO many people are there, especially starting around midnight. All in all a very good night and I got to know Martina a lot more. She is introducing me to a young knitting circle on Thursday which I’m excited for!

Drunk snack Italian style

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I found the alcohol

So I found a small grocery store yesterday that’s really close to my home. It’s not as big as your classic safeway, but definitely bigger than the small fruit shops and cheese shops I’ve been to so far. I’ll probably go there to get some snacks for a picnic or something in the future. I was mostly excited to figure out that they had a good selection of alcohol. I found some off brand Bailey’s that I’ll think I’ll get next time to mix with some moka coffee in they sunny afternoon. They had huge wine jugs (and not just carlo rossi here) that were very impressive. I also found out that they list their ingredients on their alcohol, which I find kind of nice.

I was debating about what to get myself, it wasn’t the usual array of options. I found maraschino and grappa, two things I definitely want to try while I’m here, but I didn’t really want to commit to a large bottle of either at this point. I ended up finding really cute peach vodka, and thought, what the heck, it’ll make me feel at home. Why not do something that’s in my culture at this point. The vodka was only 5 euros, so nice! So I bought the vodka pesca and some fresh pesca juice (they really are obsessed with fresh peaches right now). This ended up being a really delicious combo and I drank a  little before I went out last night. Apparently that’s not in their culture either, to drink a little before you go out, but hey, it was fun to buy some alcohol as I wouldn’t be able to do that in America currently.

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Madda cooks very well

One of the nice things about being an au pair is that it’s cost neutral. This is largely in part because your host family has to feed you. This doesn’t mean that they’ll feed you well. I feel I got really lucky with Madda. She cooks very well and makes a point of using fresh ingredients and creating balanced meals to keep the kids healthy. It’s not very complicated cooking, but it’s very good because of the delicious ingredients. She’s been teaching me how she cooks the dishes, a lot of quick tips that I’ll be able to use to make quick good Italian food when I get back. Shown are some pasta dishes she’s made, one is sauteed tomatoes in olive oil and fresh garlic with “squeaky cheese”, and the other is fresh clams and tomatoes in olive oil. When we ate that meal Anzo (host dad) brought up that we had giant clams in Washington. Apparently the clams we eat at home are some of the biggest clam varieties. I told them about how we’d dig for clams at the beach and made chowder and clam patties out of them. I also have a picture of fresh homemade focaccia that was dripping with olive oil, and Madda making homemade pesto. There have been other dishes that were very good, I haven’t taken pictures of everything. There have been very good fresh fish dishes, roasted zucchini/eggplant dishes, and sauteed chard dish. All very good and pretty simple to make!

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Shopping district

I love the shopping district here. When I get time off from the children there are a very limited amount of places I can go. There aren’t any wonderful historical sites, and I don’t know how I’d manage a day trip yet as the bus system is huge fail, and I can’t drive stick. So, I’ve just been venturing to Old Town which is the higherend shopping district. It’s about a 10 minute walk from my house. There are countless shops ranging from H&M to the most obscure high end boutique. While the beach scene/night scene has its own people watching wonders, I feel the old town is almost better. People are being a little classier and looking their best. There are no cars allowed on the streets so that allows for sidewalk Cafes and a more welcoming pedestrian feel. I’m a little less awkward here about ordering food or buying something, as I feel like its a little bit less an exclusive local community.

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It’s getting easier

So it’s day five, and time has been flying! I hope the whole summer doesn’t go so fast. It’s getting easier with the boys, I’ve learned some key words to look for:

Spiaggia-beach

Piscina-pool

Occhiali-water goggles

Calipso-a type of popsicle they like

Gelato-any kind of ice cream, more likely an ice cream popsicle thing than what we think of as classic gelato. They call that “gelato fresca”

Doccia- shower

Caldo/freddo- hot/cold. Especially important when it comes to the shower, Antonio won’t get in a cold shower.

Casa- home

Mama- basically if they say this around me it’s while they’re crying, and it’s pretty clear they want nothing to do with me.

These are basically the keystone communication points when it comes to my time alone with the boys. More and more Italian is making sense though, I hope three months is enough really learn a good amount. The kids are quite shy about attempting English, but I might try and sit them down and do some sort of official English lesson soon. I think I need to be more strait forward about my attempts to speak English with them.

It was Lorenzo’s birthday yesterday, so we had special pizza for lunch. It was their favorite pizza, but they’re not allowed to eat it very often. He also received a new Wii and some games to play with it, which I really liked because they’re easily entertained by it, which makes my job easier.

I got the after noon off the last two days and went for a walk the first day, and a bike ride yesterday. I got to know the city a little better, where the shopping district was, where some gelato places are. I bought some gelato yesterday and it was very nerve racking, my first time buying something on my own. It went very well, the lady was used to people ordering in English surprisingly. There really are no tourists here.

They had a friend take me out to one of the beach bars two nights ago which was fun, I made one good friend who spoke English well as she had been an au pair in Ireland before. She understands what it’s like so I think we’ll hang out again! The place we went to was a very relaxed atmosphere and they even played one of my favorite songs, Africa by toto. There were many different kinds of people there, for the classic Jersey shore bro, to men who looked like they were in LMFAO, to strange Italian versions of hipster. I discovered there’s actually a night club across the street from my house, so I’m going to try and check that out soon. As of now I’m way too tired when it’s time to go out. Waking up early and getting sun all day adds to being sleepy.

I’ve made some friends at the beach who rent palmas near ours. I really like that aspect of the beach, all of the umbrellas may seem annoying to tourists, but it allows the locals to create a really neat beach community where everybody knows everybody and they become very close friends. The first day a nice mom of three who’s also a doctor gave me delicious mini pizzas. Today Giuseppe, a policeman, tried very hard to talk to me for a long time, even though he knows no English. He bought me a cappuccino and I told him Italian coffee was way better than American and he thought that was hilarious, and it became the joke of the day. He told everybody he saw about the “acqua colore” water colored american coffee. I found a hermit crab for the boys which they thought was awesome. It’s apparently called a “paguro”. They also beach combed a little bit and gave me the shells. I will have SO many shells by the time I leave, I will have to come up with an awesome project for them. They’re very pretty. Not as pretty as tropical shells, but prettier than Washington shells.

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First Play Time

So yesterday we headed to the beach in the morning, but it was very windy, so we didn’t go back after going home for siesta (still don’t know the Italian equivalent for siesta). Madda has also become sick so it was my job to entertain the boys for the afternoon. Dealing with these boys is a love/hate relationship so far. I know I would love hanging out with them and doing little kid things but not speaking the same language clearly frustrates them, which in turn then frustrates me. I have decided to carry around my large two way dictionary in order to look up words that could be important in telling them what to do, and have instructed them to look up words if they really need to communicate something to me.

While playing yesterday I was greeted by Antonio in an adorable lion costume, which he was too shy to pose in. The boys then had pillow fights and made forts out of pillows, all of which I watched while knitting. I’ve discovered that knitting around a child translates into “I must unravel this ball of yarn now”. I don’t mind that as long as it doesn’t get tangled or hurt the actual knitting, so I let him run around with my yarn ball. When I tried to ball it back up he stole it from and tried to ball it himself. Apparently this is hard for a child, and led to him unraveling it even more. All in all- ball of yarn: at least an hour of distraction for a hyper child. Winning.

At this point I decided it was time to give them the Knex toy I brought them in order to distract them from my yarn and stop bothering their sick mother. This was the best decision ever. At first they were wary of the toy as I couldn’t explain to them what it was. But I sat down and taught by example how to build things. I was just messing around and ended up making something that spun like a top, and they thought I was a GENIUS. They stole the invention, copied it, and kept spinning it around yelling “Ninja Go!”, which I later learned is a show about lego men who are ninjas. The Knex kept them busy all the way into the evening until papa came home and my duty to entertain was over.

While hanging out at home there was a strange scene out in the water with the helicopter policia, I’m not sure what they were doing but here’s a picture of it. 

For dinner we had kind of a fancy chicken noodle soup made with baby penne shaped pasta and apparently very fresh chicken stock. Then we mixed in crumbled Parmesan which surprisingly completely dissolved and made Parmesan flavored broth. Papa also made a strange chicken burger thing, but it was fresh from the butcher and flavored very nicely- not really a chicken burger.

It was a nice dinner and with Madda in her room it also allowed me to bond with my host dad more, as he hasn’t been around very often. For some reason I thought he was an economics professor, but I found out he’s actually an architect as well. He apparently won an award for designing “the most beautiful lamp in the world”. He also got his PhD at Berkeley, but can still barely speak English. His family is from Brindisi and he has two brothers and a sister. We drank good wine over dinner, and when we were finished he got really excited and brought out a strange liquor from the freezer. It was homemade so there was no label on bottle and looked like it was frozen. Apparently it was homemade by a friend out of the lemons from Naples. It was a very think gooey texture and opaque. It tasted EXACTLY like a lemon sandwich cookie (if you’re reading this sisters, you know the ones that dad always buys), but after the initial cookie flavor I realized it was probably as alcoholic as strait vodka. It was a struggle finish the shot. Maybe some night I am trying to drink more I will try it again. After the alcohol I go extremely sleepy (it was about 10:30) and I decided I will actually try and nap during siesta from now on. I fell strait asleep.

Well, we visited the police station today again, and I am officially a legal resident!

Categories: Au Pairing, Food, Kid Time, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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