To Market To Market

Let’s get right to first things first.  Being in Florence for a month means we need food so top priority is going to a market.

Mercato Centrale/marketFirst, I went to the big market, Mercato Centrale, which had dizzying arrays of everything

Mercato Centrale/marketfrom pasta to cheese to meat to olives to sweets to seafood to fresh produce.  I was too far from “home” to carry a load so my purchases were few.

Sant'Ambrogio/marketMuch closer, I discovered Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, not quite as fancy nor as touristy.  There I plunged right in.

marketWhile food was the calling card, how could I resist buying a wonderful leather bag for only $20E?  It’s for my daughter, but today it came in very handy as a carry bag.

marketNow on to the produce.  I actually came prepared with a list so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy everything in sight.

marketEven so, I couldn’t pass up these little artichokes.  Now if I can just figure out how to prepare them.  Any suggestions?

marketTrying to decide what cheese to buy is always a challenge, but after sampling this soft gorgonzola the decision got a whole lot easier.  That is one of the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted.

marketI don’t know how many euros I ended up spending, but I felt like the market was a lot less than shopping at Whole Foods and twice as much fun!

market/PhilThankfully, the hubby was with me or I would never gotten home with all my purchases. Would you believe those two humongous bunches of flowers were 5E? I’m in heaven!

vegetablesGetting home and putting everything out was just as much fun as the purchasing.  Isn’t this a beautiful still life?

I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and  start filling the apartment with tantalizing food smells.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

P.S.  It’s hard for me to keep up with your posts right now, but I look forward to catching up later.

From Dream to Reality

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

For years I’ve dreamed about being in Italy, this time not in a country villa but in a town/city where I could immerse myself in everyday life.  Now the dream is a reality and Florence is where I’ll be for a month.  Why Florence?

FlorenceIt is one of the world’s most beautiful and intriguing spots

Duomo

Duomo

well known for the domed Duomo that can be seen from all over the city.

Santa Croce

Santa Croce

It is home to stunning architecture

David as he stands in Plazza della Signoria

David as he stands in Plazza della Signoria

and familiar works of art created centuries ago.  

FlorenceNow I’m sure to see much of those sites, but the real reason I’m here is to discover markets with all their temptations.

Florence/foodI want to buy fresh ingredients for meals we will eat at home

Florence/gelatoand sample every flavor of gelato. 

Coniglio stuffed with salami, spinach and fennel

I want to try as many authentic Tuscan dishes as possible.  In Florence, that should be no problem as there are thousands of restaurants.

FlorenceI want to explore tiny side streets hoping to find artisans at work

Florenceand when I need a break I want to stop at a sidewalk cafe for refreshment.

FlorenceIn the evening, I want to be part of the noisy crowds that eat and drink late into the night.

Hey, I better get started if I’m going to find out whether the reality is as good as the dream!  Won’t you join me for the adventure?

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High On A Hill

Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, we took a train from Zurich to the small town of Einsiedeln.

EinsedelnThere would be little reason to visit there were it not for the Benedictine abbey sitting high on a hill.

EinsiedelnApproaching the abbey, one passes the fountain of Our Lady fed by fresh spring water on the spot the hermit monk Meinrad chose to settle in 835.

EinsiedelnInside, the abbey is strikingly beautiful with painted ceilings and delicate sculptures centuries old.  I had taken one photo before seeing the sign that none were allowed, but this one will give an idea of the stunning interior.

EinsiedelnThe abbey is best known for its chapel with the Black Madonna which has an interesting story.  The original flesh color of mother and child darkened through the years because of soot from candles, incense and oil.  At one time, the images were returned to their original tones, but the Black Madonna had become so important to pilgrims that it was returned to its darker color, never to be changed.

EinsiedelnThe grounds are immense and sources of income are few.  Horse breeding contributes and effort is made for the abbey to be self sustaining.  A lady I chatted with said an idea is being floated that would require young people to do two years of civil service there to offset some of the maintenance expenses.

EinsiedelnAside from the abbey, I so enjoyed observing the monks and nuns who live there.

EinsiedelnThere was joy in smiling faces, and I couldn’t help but respect their commitment to living humbly according to Benedictine rule.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Zurich: A Quick Look

ZurichOn the way to our real adventure, we made a quick stop in Zurich.  Lovely as it is, it is one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been.  A beer and bratwurst served with fries $30….really!

We strolled the streets and while the following may not be in sight seeing books, here’s what caught my eye.

SteeplesSteeples standing tall against blue sky.

PeoplePeople taking time out to steal quiet moments in the sun

cell phone talkersand, more likely, chatting on cell phones, checking messages or whatever.  That’s fodder for another whole post!

muralsWorking from cartoons and using only spray paints, artists creating fun murals to hide construction sites.

ZurichSnow capped Alps providing a backdrop for Lake Zurich

Zurichand breathtaking sunsets casting a magical glow over Zurich making it a canvas only God can create and artists try to copy.

With so much to take in, who needs a guide book?

 i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

High On Art

Japan InspirationOver the years I’ve looked at lots of art.  I always enjoy what I see, but from time to time an exhibit sets my heart to racing.  So it was with Japan Inspiration at Kunsthaus in Zurich because it opened my eyes to a new way of seeing.

Japonisme was an unfamiliar term to me.  What it refers to is the period from 1860 to 1910  when Japan, after 200 years of isolation, opened to the world. The aesthetic and formal language of Japan and Japanese influences inspired the creativity of many European artists, and this exhibit shows how they impacted Gauguin, Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and other Impressionists.  I was astonished to see the links between these artists and their Japanese counterparts.  Thankfully, I was able to take photos so you, too, can see the connection.

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt is one of my favorites, and her work depicting mother and child always steals my heart.

Japan Inspiration

How surprising it was to see a similar Japanese piece, the likes of which are said to have inspired Cassatt’s future work.Japan InspirationJapanese art often depicted women doing everyday things,

Degas

Degas

thus women doing the ordinary became subject for many favorite paintings by Degas.

Japan InspirationJapanese art was not modest when it came to showing intimate relations,

Picasso

Picasso

and a series of Picasso prints are equally as graphic.

Cezanne

Cezanne

Repeating landscapes was a habit of many Japanese artists and likely provide explanation for Cezanne’s recurring renderings of Mount Sainte Victoire.

Monet

Monet

Studying Japanese masters inspired Monet’s in-depth contemplation of nature. His water lily paintings are among his most familiar, but did you know the last years of his life were spent focusing totally on them and the reflective surface of his pond?

Toulouse Lautrec

Toulouse Lautrec

Japanese objects, such as the instrument in this Toulouse Lautrec painting, began appearing in Impressionist work.  I don’t know about you, but I never gave thought to the source of such images.

Gauguin

Gauguin

While I would not object to owning a piece by any one of the Impressionist masters, my preference would be one of Gauguin’s whose work did not escape the Japanese influence.

There is much more than shown, but this is enough to help you see the correlation between Japanese art and the work of many of the Impressionist artists whose paintings we so admire.  I hope it will help you identify Japanese influences when you next take a look at an Impressionist exhibit.

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Packing Tips

We no sooner get to Maine than we are repacking our bags for a month away.  From my Delta flight attendant days, I learned that packing light is the best way to travel.

IMG_4409I find it helpful to make a list of everything that might be needed and as each item goes into the suitcase, check it off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack and white are perfect for travel.  Add a pair of favorite jeans and with very few pieces it is possible to have an extensive wardrobe.  I won’t be seen by the same people day after day so what difference does it make if the same shirt or pair of pants is worn multiple times?

IMG_4411Knit tops that require no ironing are practical choices.  Tightly rolled and packed close, they take up minimal space in a suitcase.

Shoes are always the hard part.  Finding ones that are comfortable for walking and have some style is a challenge.

fitflopsThese days I go nowhere without fitflops.  They have good support and are oh so comfy except for the most difficult terrains.

IMG_4403For sturdier shoes, I’m crazy about  Nike’s Air Pegasus.  They are light, a little more stylish than traditional tennis shoes and perfect for a mostly black and white wardrobe.

IMG_4405For nights out I throw in a pair of sandals that are also suitable for walking the lesser challenging streets.

IMG_4412There you have it, a not quite full suitcase that leaves room for the treasures I expect to find!  

What packing trips can you share?

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Seeing Differently

In the 23 years we’ve been coming to Maine, this is the earliest we’ve arrived and what a difference.  Snow is melted. Ice is gone from the harbor. Temperatures have risen to the 40’s.  Spring, however, still seems weeks away.

Maine/Rockport HarborIn the yard trees are bare.

IMG_4375Gardens are brown with no hint of the color that is to come.

IMG_4376Their green leaves may have found their way through the cold ground, but tulip blooms are hidden inside.

IMG_4371That I can see, only one lone flower is bravely showing its color.

dirt roadThe dirt road where I walk is not yet open to traffic.  Quite honestly, I wish that were the case all year as it is more peaceful to say nothing of being safer when there are no vehicles on a road heavily used by walkers and bikers.

Rockport HarborRocks where we have summer picnics and often crowded with painters capturing the beauty of the harbor are bare.

IMG_4378Here and there snow melt is rushing to the sea, 

IMG_4381and for the first time I see the beginning of what will become bushy large leafed plants.  I would never have guessed this lovely would be the source of their birth.

StoneledgeReturning from a walk I see our house through the woods, a sight that in a few weeks will disappear.

Rockport HarborOn the harbor, quiet occasionally is interrupted by a lobster boat returning from setting traps and for now paying no attention to the 5 MPH speed limit.

Rockport HarborDocks float languidly waiting to be secured where property owners are lucky enough to have a pier.

Rockport HarborIn preparation for the more than 200 boats that will soon fill the harbor, the harbor master, a most capable female, locates the buoys that will secure the vessels.

eagleAs I sit looking out and thinking of and appreciating the differences I’m noting, look who stops by for a visit. Moments like this are just one of the many things that make life here so different than in Houston.  Without the contrasts, I don’t know that my eyes would be so open in both places.

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