Saturday, May 26, 2012

What a difference a week makes

Last week at this time, as you can see in the photo on my previous post, there was just a tiny hint of green on the trees. Now, there's leaves. Spring is short and sharp here in the Yukon. Ditto the fall. It is one thing I do miss about living here - the long slow slide from summer through autumn into winter. Here it's more like a slap in the face. Spring is so abrupt in the Yukon that spring and summer flowers bloom at the same time in a glorious rush of colour.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Veggie Gardens

Over the last week we've slowly plugged away at preparing the vegetable gardens. I started with the potatoes and then moved to the carrots, garlic and romaine. Now I need to decide what to plant in the last remaining veggie bed.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Rome Recycles

One of my lasting impressions from this Italian visit is this difference between how Italians and Canadians consume - consume everything from food to space to material goods. Food is purchased for immediate consumption, not for keeping in the often non-existent refrigerator. When you are looking for produce, the owner of the shop will select the fruit or vegtables for you under your watchful eye. Often they are deposited into a brown paper cone (deftly folded by the shop owner) instead of the ubiquitous plastic bag. A cup of coffee is small and immediate. Served in tiny cups on marble counters to be consumed rapidly at the bar. When I was in need of a coffee or a bathroom I'd listen for the musical ring of heavy china saucers hitting marble counters with the tinkling rattle of teaspoons - sure sign of a coffee bar. The cost of admission to the toilet was the minimal cost of an espresso.

Space in Italy is at a premium. As polite Canadians we were always trying to stay out of the way. Impossible. Every square inch is utilized for some purpose or another - there is no 'out of the way'. The corollary of this is that all the space has a useful purpose - be it parking or picnicking. Trains are well used and well loved - they are there to move Italians around, not for comfortable touring. Each space on the train is used, often for multiple purposes. Italians happily inhabit spaces we'd use only for storage of small things. Italians just seem to be happier with less stuff over all.

I really noticed the fact that there was more recycling everywhere in Italy. Mostly plastic and glass, but still recycling. If they instituted composting they'd have it made. I did feel that there was a huge over consumption of bottled water. The fact that almost everywhere in Italy has piped potable water is huge. Why Italians don't trust it I don't understand. Christopher figured out how to ask for tap water when we ate at restaurants. I was surprised how often they'd say it wasn't drinkable and we'd end up with another plastic bottle.

Returning home through Italian and German airports I was so relieved when we arrived in Vancouver international. It is HUGE! We have the luxury of space here in Canada- unfortunately I think we don't always understand that it is a luxury. With all that space it's as if we feel we need to fill it up with stuff, material goods, huge homes, cars, ATVs and campers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

There and Back Again

We made it home safe and sound. The Air Canada customer service desk staff in the Vancouver Airport were fantastic - here's a shout out to Mitch, the supervisor who got us on the next Whitehorse bound flight. Jet Lag is surely a curse on all travelers. I don't notice it as much when I am starting my holiday and there's the Trevi fountain and the Colosseum to look at. On the return on the other hand...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Vancouver we love you

Would you believe a second screw up by Aeroplan? Yes. This time our flight doesn't even exist any more. And so here we are enjoying the weather, sights, coffee , sake and sushi of Vancouver. Not bad all in all. Only slightly worried about the dog.

Monday, May 7, 2012

En Route Roma, Frankfurt, Vancouver

A nasty hiccup this morning on arrival at Rome airport. Air Canada changed your flight madam. Madam your flight departed TWO hours ago. Panic ensued. Luckily Chris kept his head, spoke kindly and reasonably with fks who could fix things and with a small prayer to the Italian Catholic God of travelers we hope it all works. A curse on Air Canada and all it's feeble bastard minions!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hotel Domus Praetoria in Rome

The Hotel Domus Praetoria gets a special mention in the blog because the location, the rooms and the staff are exceptional. When we arrived jet lagged and exhausted they smoothly and efficiently assisted us to our room with the heavy bicycle bags. Then, when we discovered that we couldn't store them at the train station the folks at the Domus Praetoria stored them for us - for 3 weeks for free. Stay with them, they are lovely, the location can't be beat and the price is right.

Up the Boot and a Roman Reprise

My last few posts have been made with my little ipod, keeping the verbiage down to a minimum. I've got my fingers on the keyboard of the computer now, so this could (will) be a longer post.

We were sad to leave Salina but very happy we'd found such a lovely part of the world. Though we keep going back to Sicily, until now we had not found a place we would return to over and over.  We also discovered that we like slow travel. The fast ferries were not for us - causing sea sickness, overheating and general upsetness. The slow ferries on the other hand are just the ticket. The journey feels more real on the slow ferry. We ended up on the slow ferry because of the bikes, we were just not going to package them up and drag them down the gang plank onto the fast ferry.

We arrived in Milazzo in the afternoon and spent some time on a hidden beach. Once the sun went in, we adventured back into town and I attempted to see the castle. A national monument, an EU site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just not possible. Who knows why? It is Italy. The 'antique cathedral' is open, but inaccessible because it is behind the locked gate of the castle. Sigh. The whole top of the hill is this huge fortification dating from the Norman conquest of Sicily. The view from the one part of the castle outside the fence was lovely.

After this slight disappointment, we attempted to find a restaurant open for dinner. Keep in mind this was around 7pm. Most Italians and all Sicilians don't eat until 0830PM at the earliest.  Nothing, not one place. Finally I spotted a restaurant door that didn't have a closed sign, I stuck my head in and asked if they were open. After general discussion, it was agreed that yes, they were open. We were treated to a very tasty meal of seafood, pasta and grilled fish. Sadly we had to rush away to get to the train station to catch our night train to Rome.

We arrived at the Milazzo train station (4k) out of town with plenty of time to spare for the packing of the bikes. We wended our way through a huge school of Italians waiting by the doors. I assumed they had recently arrived by train and were waiting for a bus to pick them up. Christopher knew different but failed to say so.  We discovered a few minutes later that they were just waiting for a critical mass of Italian humanity before flooding onto the station platform and washing over us like a happy flock of birds. We considered moving, but figured that someone would end up on the tracks if we shifted even a buttock. Then, as suddenly as they arrived, they were off again, to the other end of the platform. It was then that I uttered a prayer to the Catholic Italian God of trains and travellers. "Oh Lord, let the train stop right here in front of us. Lord, let the door to our compartment, number 6, be right here, and please, please let the door not be locked". I think all the candle lighting in all the cathedrals payed off because the train did stop with the door to coach 6 right in front of us, and it wasn't locked!

The night train was less painful than last time because we had less luggage. There was this unfortunate incident when my sleep addled brain convinced me to accidentally pull the emergency train stop as I was trying to climb into my bunk.  Just so everyone knows... never do what I did.  The train does stop... very fast.  Thanks again to the Catholic God of Italian Travellers (again) I wasn't arrested and they let us stay on the train.

We arrived in Rome somewhat shaken due to the emergency stop incident, but resolute in our plans to get back on another train and go to the beach. We almost made it to the beach. We did make it to a wonderful archaeological site and a great agritourismo for local wine and olive oil, and back to Rome on the train without incident.

Our vacation rental by owner is lovely and right in the heart of Rome. From our upstairs terrace we are able to see the Colosseo and other fantastic landmarks. Last night we wandered around Rome enjoying the night scene.