No wonder Dr. Blake is smiling. He’s about to dig into his first taste of carciofi alla giudea. I’d been rhapsodizing about this deep-fried whole artichoke, a specialty of Roman Jewish cuisine, ever since I’d tried it on my first trip to the Eternal Città back in the early 1980s. The leaves are crispy, the heart soft. A great combination. Right, Dr. Blake? (A closeup of the deep-fried star tomorrow.)
July 30, 2014
When I lived in Rome for months at a time during the 1980s, things were different. The Jewish ghetto was, well, a ghetto without a lot of outside influences. The currency was still the lira and the exchange rate was excellent. And there were lots of tiny trattorie where you could get an excellent meal for next to nothing. Flash forward some 25 years. Mass tourism has raised prices sky-high. The euro makes things even more expensive. And look at this fancy cheese shop in the middle of the Jewish ghetto. There are still good meals to be had. But no more bargains in any areas frequented by tourists.
July 29, 2014
When I was returning to Rome, this time with Jay, after 23 years, I had no idea where to eat. Restaurants come and go, and I wanted to know some of the places that stayed put for good reason. So I asked my friend Sylvia, an NPR reporter based in Rome for decades now. I mentioned that I wanted to eat carciofi alla giudea, the famed deep-fried artichokes of the Roman Jewish ghetto. She recommended Ba’ Ghetto, seen here. Actually, given that this is a kosher establishment, they have two restaurants across from one another. One serves meat. The other, “Milky,” serves dairy. And both serve the artichokes. Are they open on Sunday? You bet. But not on Saturday.
July 28, 2014
July 27, 2014
St. Peter’s Basilica is impressive enough. But how much more wonderful was it to come upon this procession one Sunday morning, banners proudly held, purple-cloaked penitents walking backwards so that they are always facing the statue being incensed, still to come into view.
July 26, 2014
What a treat it was for me to introduce Jay to Pizzeria da Pasquale, home of my favorite potato pizza in Rome. When I lived nearby in 1984, 1986 and 1988, I was a regular customer, selecting pizza a taglio (pieces cut to order, charged by weight) from whatever kinds were on offer. Seen here on the right: potato and zucchini in the back, sausage in the front. On the left: an assortment of stuffed pizze (crusts on top and bottom; filling in between.) Of course, for Jay’s first visit, we had a rich assortment.
July 25, 2014
The spacious staterooms we’ve stayed in on board the Wind Surf allow close-to-the-water perspectives toward each of the ports we’ve approached. Like this view of Amalfi, seen after an overnight sailing from Sicily (including passing close by the active volcano of the island of Stromboli, complete with red-hot lava explosions seen through the darkness.)
July 23, 2014
My friend Penny once told me, “Open your heart just the tiniest bit and love will find its way in.” I thought of that, and of Penny, when I came across this photo from the hard and stony island of Monemvasia. Harsh sun, rocky, strong winds off the sea...and still a plant blooms.
July 22, 2014
When you build your city into the side of a mountain, you’re bound to have to create a tunnel or two to get from place to place. Monemvasia was the steepest place I have ever encountered, though this photo makes it look so easily navigable.
July 21, 2014
July 20, 2014
Our ship was docked in Piraeus for the day, so we hopped on the nearby tram and were in downtown Athens in 20 minutes. Easy. Our agenda: visit the Acropolis and have a gyros sandwich. Missions accomplished. The second task happily fulfilled here at Sabbas, smack dab in the middle of central Monastriaki Square. Easy to buy a gyros and find a shady spot in the square to eat it. Mighty good. (But what I want to know is this: There are three items listed in Greek on the sign and only two in English. What gives?)
July 19, 2014
Wow! Look at the size of those olives in the round bread on the right. This is Greece after all. But, truth be told, I was paying more attention to the pastry on the left, bougatsa. My Greek-American friend Lea had wisely suggested I pick one Greek specialty and then see how it was prepared in the various parts of the country. And taste each one, of course. Bougatsa was it. Thanks, Lea.
July 18, 2014
Fish on Friday. In no way does this still photo come even close to indicating the madness within the fish section of the Athens central market. Tight aisles completely filled with people, if moving at all then moving very, very slowly. I didn’t mind it one bit. Dr. Blake freaked out. It turned out to be a brief visit. But we spent more time in the meat and produce sections, which were outdoors and less populated.
July 17, 2014
Look at how the city is perched way, way up on top of those imposing cliffs. Still, the difficulty of approach has been no deterrent for the many cruise ships that come to Santorini each day. And as for how you reach the top, you have a choice of three options: donkey, cable car and walking (along the same path the donkeys take, so be careful.) We took the cable car. In both directions.
July 16, 2014
We’re so spoiled. Ever since our first cruise on Windstar, we’ve become accustomed to the line’s smaller ships (149 or 312 guests), bright white sails above. So when we pass in our travels those huge boats with thousands of passengers, we shudder. We think of waiting in line to eat, to get on the shuttle boats to shore, to just about everything. OK, so we don’t get lounge magicians, putting greens and rock-climbing walls. That’s fine with us, too.
July 15, 2014
July 14, 2014
Meet my friend Kevin. A gardener. He graciously helped me weed my very much overgrown yard and provided enjoyable conversation throughout. Here, afterwards, our very own déjeuner sur l’herbe, clothes on. Kevin is enamored of Paris and longs to return. It was only recently that I learned his birthday is July 14. Bastille Day. No wonder. Happy birthday, friend. And Happy Bastille Day, friends.
July 13, 2014
The narrow alleyways and paths are deliberately convoluted, it’s said, to frustrate invading pirates. In the past, I hope. We followed some of those paths, got happily lost, and wound up here in this tiny square with two of the island’s more famous inhabitants. They seemed to just be out for a stroll as we were. But they knew the neighborhood better.
July 12, 2014
Lunches on board the Wind Surf are always good. And the selections run from numerous salads and hot dishes on the buffet to burgers and specials from the grill. There is always a fish of the day, which this day was a deconstructed salade Niçoise with fresh tuna. And real Niçoise olives. Delicious, healthy, guilt-free indulgence. With a Greek island just off the port side.
July 11, 2014
If the tourists want icons, no problem. Though much was closed on our early morning, off season walk through “downtown” Mykonos, the souvenir shops were open to greet each of the tour boats that docked. There was even a nationwide strike called for this day. A parade of protesters through the town center. The shops were open.
July 10, 2014
My oldest (in a good way) friend in the world, Nick, is not only a bread enthusiast, he’s also a Turkey enthusiast. And so I feel compelled to track down and sample each kind of bread I can find each time I visit Asia Minor. Here in the ancient city of Halicarnassus, I researched two: a rustic cornbread specialty of Black Sea baking offered by a family of bakers who’d emigrated to the southern Turkish coast, and this variation on simit. The sesame seed-coated morsel is usually found in rings, so when I saw this straight-up version, well, I had to try it. (The knife in the photo is simply for size reference and does not comment on the resistance of the bread. Just saying.) Nick recently spent time throughout Turkey, learning to make a variety of doughs, breads and pastries. Does this mean I no longer have an excuse to do my enjoyable research?
July 9, 2014
A lovely stop in the ancient city of Halicarnassus, home to one of the seven wonders of the world, the Tomb of Mausolus (from which we have the term mausoleum.) I saw most of the city and its outlying neighborhoods during my morning run along the seacoast and inwards. This boat caught my eye, mainly because my nickname when in Turkey is Ekmek Kadayif (a rich, syrupy dessert made from bread, sugar, with optional clotted cream on top.) What could this mean on the side of a rowboat?
July 8, 2014
I love blue hydrangeas. When my landscaper friend Nancy was coming up with plants for my Watertown, MA, backyard, I wanted hydrangea. She questioned my choice of blue, wondering if it would be “too Italian.” (Nancy is Italian American herself.) Bring it on, Nancy! And now, every summer, I revel in the glory of these blue blossoms, beautiful enough for a wedding bouquet. Even an Italian one. (Today marks the one-year wedding anniversaries of both our friends Roberto and Marco...and Jay and me.)
July 7, 2014
In my wanderings (OK, I got lost), I came across this park, the walls of which were spray-painted within an inch of their life, as you can see. In a pristine, regulated, geared-to-tourism island such as this, I can only imagine that officials try to curb teens’ enthusiasm for tagging by allowing it only in this park. I like the idea. And I like that I got lost enough to find it, far away from the tidy tourist center.
July 6, 2014
July 5, 2014
July 4, 2014
Independence Day parades don’t mean as much to me as those on other patriotic holidays. I love our town’s Memorial Day parade. One reason is that it reminds me of the parades of my childhood. How we’d all run to the corner and wait, then thrill to the marching bands, wave at the marching firemen, etc. So this year, when this troupe from Miss Maria’s School of Dance came trotting by, I remembered that back in Springfield, NJ, in the late 1950s, it was Miss Bunny’s School of the Dance that marched in my childhood parades. Probably the same routines, just different music. Which one, by the way, do you think is Miss Maria? Could it be the young woman, hands raised, assuming the pose of one of the figures in Caravaggio's Deposition?
July 3, 2014
I’m a dog person. Jay is a cat person. He has better luck when we visit Roman ruins, even if they’re not in modern Rome. They always seem to have a thriving feline population, eager to receive a little human affection. Or at least check out your hand for any possibly concealed treats.
July 2, 2014
July 1, 2014
Yes, yes, I know. Greek yogurt is all the rage now here in the States. But this Turkish yogurt that I bought (by the pound in a Kuşadası delicatessen) was the thickest, richest yogurt I’ve ever tasted. Let the Turks and the Greeks battle it out about borders, politics and all the rest. The Turks win the yogurt competition hands down.