Monthly Archives: November 2013

39 Days

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It’s been a long journey. I’m having difficulty remembering that five weeks ago I was a student at BABILONIA in Taormina, Sicily. I’ve traveled, made new friends, seen new places, revisited and glorified in the treasures of Tuscany, delighted in the company of Telma, reveled in the remembrances with Sally and Johanna. It’s been a long and wondrous journey.

As I sit in the Doubletree near Heathrow, I’m reflecting on these past weeks with gratitude, anticipation, and wonder. I’ll share some secrets.
. . .I was brought to tears walking down a small vicolo, alleyway, in Modica, after acknowledging to myself that I can do something I’d never imagined possible. . .speak, and almost, sometimes, understand Italian.
. . .I adore Italy and all things italian. . .even half-italian, like Don.
. . . I believe this will be my final 39 day trip for a long time, for a variety of circumstances.
. . .i can travel through 3 climates with a carry-on bag that’s been crushed and filled with things I never intended to buy.
. . . We shared this trip with Nana Weinberger. Her ashes lie under a lemon tree in Sicily, in the Ionian Sea, in the Alacantara Gorge, in the garden of Bristol Cathedral, and on a beach in Sicily. She was a traveller and we intend to keep her traveling!
. . .I missed my mother on her birthday, November 8.
. . .I worry about my family when I’m away.
. . .Im extraordinarily grateful for opportunities. It’s really about seeing the possibilities and having the courage or stupidity to follow through.

A few outtakes of photos. . .

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Con Te parterĂ². . . Time to say goodbye. Wheresweinberger closes today, until the next adventure. Where?? When?? Chissa!. . .Who knows?!

A Gentle Week, or. . .A Non-Wow

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Traveling and new experiences elicit a range of emotional responses in me. Awe, glee, surprise, and gratitude come to mind. Many times it’s just an amazed WOW!

This week wasn’t a wow.

It was long, long cups of tea. . .

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. . . While we discussed our families. . .the joys, sorrows, regrets, worries, hopes, dreams, and remembrances.

It was poring over the Bristol map as we made plans to try to find our way in a place we used to call home.

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It was meeting Johanna’s granddaughters, whose dad Kristjan came to Bristol when he was 14 to live with Johanna while she was a student like us. Their presence in England urged our reunion forward.

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It was walking to the village to buy endless bottles of wine, shopping in charity stores, sharing iPad knowledge, sleeping until outrageous hours, looking at pictures, and remembering all the things we’ve wanted to ask each other that we’ve saved up for just this time.

No, it wasn’t a wow. It was soul-satisfying, want more of that, when’s the next reunion.

I think it was. . . Love.

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What I Know for Sure. . .

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I’ve learned one or two things about me as a mature, seasoned traveller.

1. It’s wonderful to have a day of exploring, seeing new places, being on the go,
2. It’s not to be repeated the next day.

A day off was in order today. And that meant. . .leisurely cuppa in the morning, no real schedule, and a day at home.

A midday trip to the grocery store was in order because Johanna and I are in charge of dinner the next two nights. Like Telma, a day out in a foreign grocery store is enough of a field trip for me! I discovered lovely English things like salad cream, individual Christmas puddings, and long beans. But they’ve not found their way into my suitcase!

Instead, our mission was provisions for lasagne, salad, chicken Marsala, and the accompanying vege, antipasti, ecc.

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We did well. . .

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Later in the afternoon another old, dear friend, Dave Ramsay, arrived. He’s been our friend and fun hair guy since 1976. He gave Ben his first haircut. He and partner Jayne met us in Italy a few years ago at La Tavola Marche. He and Don share affectionate names, like “old sot,” “wanker,” and others equally as x-rated.

Today he was here to catch up on news, and cut my hair, thankfully.

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OK, Mrs. Weinberger, it’s time to remove your blouse. Oh, how did THAT get in this post??!!

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A pub meal seemed in order so off we went (after I inadvertently took Casper’s car key and caused anarchy and a Harvey family meltdown!). How wondrous to be able to walk to and from the village and the pub. So very English.

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My lamb pie was enormous! Must have been a big lamb. . .

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Beside the pub I discovered Pearl and Rosina’s big brother, a real handsome fella.

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Old friends, old cars, old pubs. . .a great day for sure!

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It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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If you’ve been to England you know the saying, ” if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” ,with a sunny day on monday we knew we’d better get out and enjoy it because it would likely go into hiding at any moment.

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Sally and Chris’s new home in Winscomb houses our reunion. The lovely garden and apiary nestles the house on three sides.

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What better way to start off our week than a jaunt around the Somerset countryside. First stop, Street, with its outlet mall. Me, saying, “I’m not buying one more thing because I can’t carry anything else ‘” made the first purchase of the day! But how can you pass up Clark’s in a wide width, your size,and “big girl”shoes!

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At Jaeger both Sally and Johanna decided a coat would be in their future.

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“It’s called a FUNNEL collar, Chris.”

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“Sally, try the red one. It will make you sparkle.”

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“This one is a better cut for you, Sal.”

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“Work it, girl!” (The final choice)

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“Johanna, try the red one. It will make you sparkle! ”

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“The stripes suit you perfectly and it’s wool to keep you warm.” Sold!

The it was off to Glastonbury, where once upon a lifetime ago Don and I brought my parents to buy sheepskin coats. My dad had gotten an Amex card just for that purchase. After he and my mom chose their long-awaited and much-saved-for coats, he was shocked to learn the shop did not accept Amex. He nearly had a stroke. But the kindly shopowner gave them the English cure-all, a strong cuppa, and hurried off to the hotel to put the coat purchase on THEIR account and worked it out from there.

Today we walked past the Glastonbury thorn, which legend has it that when Joseph of Aramathea arrived in Britain he thrust his staff into the ground, and rested. By morning, his staff had taken root – leaving a strange oriental thorn bush – the sacred Glastonbury Thorn.

The thorn tree was vandalized two years ago, but a cutting from the original has now taken root. Sally said that on Christmas Day a cutting is taken to the Queen.

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Fish and chips or a Ploughmans lunch was on our agenda, so with two pubs closed for unknown reasons, we made our way to a fish shop. Bynnowmthe weather was sunny but chilly, and we cozied up to the coal stove.

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Johanna was tickled to learn that their fish came from Iceland. I had the largest piece of haddock I’ve ever seen in a fish’n’chips shop. And of course, a beer.

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Onward now to the soaring and magnificent Wells Cathedral. I don’t think we ever are here suing our Bristol year, because I surely would have remembered its magnificence.

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I can honestly say. . . There is nothing in the world to compare to English cathedrals. Wells is one of the most beautiful.

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No photos are allowed inside, but you can see it here.

We marveled at a simple and striking exhibition to remember the fallen victims of Afghanistan. . . Over 1400 porcelain cups, each made of 300 grams of clay, the weight of the human heart. It was the first day of the exhibit,and we were blessed to be among the first to see it.

Outside the sheer size of the ancient structure amazed us, as we walked to the Vicar’s Close to see buildings from 1363.

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After a final look at the cathedral, we headed back home to the warmth of Sally and Chris’s kitchen, a proper cuppa, and a solid English meal! Thanks for a great day!

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The Bristol Broads 1976-2013

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In 1976 I was the recipient of a Rotary International “Teachers of the Handicapped” award, which enabled me to choose a country in which to study special education. But a broader purpose of the award was to serve as an “Ambassador of Goodwill” and speak to Rotary Clubs, attend functions, sand represent my country. It was an awesome responsibility and opportunity.

At that time I spoke no foreign languages so was limited to English-speaking countries. A chance connection with a rugby player from Bristol,England led me to the place we called home for the 1976-77 school year. May I be so hackneyed to say that year changed my life? Yes, I think I’ll go for it. The connections, friendships, and opportunities from that year continue to enhance my life and that of my family and friends.

And so it happened that Johanna Kristjansdottir, another Rotary fellow, and I became friends along with Sally Harvey, a native Bristolian. We remain friends all these years later. Johanna has seen Sally, I’ve seen Johanna, Johanna has seen me, I’ve seen Sally. . .well, you get the picture, but the three of us have not been together for over 35 years.

This is our week.

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Johanna is in the middle, I’m second from the right. It was a lifetime ago.

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This is us now. The sun welcomed us back to Bristol, and for that we were grateful.

Roma. . .Incantata!

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Our final jaunt took us to The Eternal City. Don and I “slept” (as the Italians would say) in Rome for 3days a few years ago, with the accompanying tourist goals and google-eyes. This was different. The hours stretched in front of us with no particular plan and a feeling of lots of time to wander. The rain was behind us in Toscana.

It’s good to be a tourist sometimes and take the tourist shots. I tried not to miss any opportunity!

First stop, the Victor Emmanuel monument, more commonly called the Wedding Cake monument. Made of white marble, it sits atop a high hill and is visible from many parts of Rome. Controversy surrounded its construction, as it took a large chunk of a medieval neighborhood as its footprint. The white marble was also thought to be a bit garish compared to the worn brown of many of the surrounding buildings.

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But for Telma e Luisa it was the first of our photo ops of the day.

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Il Fiume affollata di gente , a crowded river of people, thronged the streets of Rome, the trattorias, the attractions. We made our way to the Pantheon along with the crowds. . . .

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. . .then wandered on to Piazza Navona, filled with artists and street performers.

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With tummies growling, we decided to use Rick ‘s guide to find one of the “best restaurants in Italy.” A quick look through Campo di Fiore didn’t reveal any of the best, so our feet took us back toward the pantheon, along the way discovering two much-needed items. . A car charger for Telma’s GPS. . .and a delightful tassel shop.

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Did you not know that tassels trump tummies?!

Close by we reached our goal:

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Caught between pranzo and la cena, we nonetheless knew we wouldn’t go hungry. The restaurant was brightly modern and simple, and at this in-between time, it’s only patrons. We both agreed the food was good, but not what we’d consider among the best we’d had. But, hey, the rain had now caught up to us and we drank prosecco as we heard it splashing on the cobblestones.

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I had never been to the Spanish Steps, so we soldiered onward, despite the rain. Where were the umbrellas?? In our suitcases, of course.

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Now thoroughly soaked, we did what any sensible women would do. . . We went to la galleria, the mall, and had a drink.

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With the rain now a memory, the Roman streets glistened as we linked arms Italian-Signora style and enjoyed our stroll back to the hotel shuttle. Le castagne roasted on the street corner drew us nearer with their earthy toasted aroma.

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With hearts and tummies full, our coach returned us safely to the Hilton airport hotel. All too soon the next morning it was time to say arriverderci to Telma.

Telma e Luisa have coined our tag line. . . SEMPRE PRONTE. . . ALWAYS READY. . ..for more adventures, fun, food, wine. . .and whatever the Universe serves up!

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Leaving La Loggia

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Toscana wept as we were about to leave her. Our first rainy day in four weeks. Our bags were packed, and we were ready to go. . .to Rome!

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Mine was barely hanging together , having sprung a new crack after the panty repair of one month ago!

So, another largegrazie mille, a thousand thanks, to Telma for once again sharing La Loggia with me. Click the link and visit for yourself.

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Arriverderci, Toscana with love from Telma e Luisa.

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