Italian Food Part 1: Sorrento

I’m sitting in a kitchen in Caprese Michelangelo in the hills of Tuscany with a glass of a local white wine.  There s a fire going to keep the room toasty warm.  Jay is busy in our hostess’ kitchen preparing a tomato and fennel fish stew with ingredients that we picked up from the market that day, all of which were locally grown or brought in from the coast.

Is ‘local’ a theme here?  So far, it is and not just because it is a passion of mine.

Let’s start from the beginning:

In Sorrento, where I spent my first few days, the streets are lined with orange trees.  Small orchards of a few trees, herbs, and grape vines seemed to occupy all available space in backyards and on balconies.

Limoncello, a lemon based liquor, is not only regionally unique but also varies by producer.  One variety I tasted on a whim was far better, in my opinion, than others to the point that I might have though it was a different drink all together.

At night while enjoying a stroll down Sorrento’s small side streets, I caught a glimpses of the day’s catch – frutta di mare – in display cases visible from the outside of the restaurants.  No doubt this is meant to entice you in, and also to let you know what the fresh catch is for the day.  Fresh meaning that it was caught that day and brought up from the harbour.

Once seated at the restaurant for the evening I was pleasantly surprised with a local and superior in quality bottle of vino rosso – red wine.  This left no need to spend money on the otherwise pricey wine list, a pleasant occurrence which repeated itself throughout the trip until Rome.

Sorrento’s ability to not only feed me, but to do so locally and with great flavor was definitely appreciated.  I appreciated knowing that the locally produced and harvested foods comprised the entire menu.

Would this be repeated?  Find out about Tuscany in Italian Food Part 2: Tuscany.

San Diego Arrival

Lights sparkle over the water, it’s rippling effect creating a light show that seems to dance across the harbor. A sailboat glides by to find its place at the docks.

I got here an hour and a half ago. Knowing I would need to wait for a colleague to arrive at the airport, I asked around to find a place to wait.

The first time I asked that question the answer was to turn left, go down the road and you’ll find a Starbucks. Since that wasn’t really the kind of thing that I wanted to end up doing, with my interest in supporting local businesses before big chains, I was a little disappointed.

On a whim, just before I left the car rental place, I asked for a second time where could I go? The answer this time around was different. The attendant at the exit guided me to go right to the harbor.

While on my drive towards towards Anthony’s, the fish place that the attendant had recommended, I not iced a sign on the left side of the road that advertised the entrance to a solar or wind company. Regardless of what they were selling the message was clear to me I was heading in the right direction.

As I walked down the sidewalk ‘I want to know what love is’ was broadcast from a radio mounted on a bike taxi.

Sitting on the outside deck of Anthony’s, looking in on the more formal diners, I knew that on the deck with a Corona and Fish Taquitos, I was in the best spot the place had. Combined with the music, the lights on the harbor, and the atmosphere, I felt reaffirmed in every moment the feeling I got driving in town. I was in the right place.

At Schipol or ‘up all night?’

While hunting for a flight to Norway I came across one that was $300 less than the rest.  I was thrilled because the trip seemed to get more expensive by the moment.  The down side of the ticket was a 12-20 hour layover in Amsterdam.  At the time I thought that sounded like a great idea – go in to the city, check out a museum, eat, go to bed, and then fly out the next morning. 

Reality has struck. 

I enjoyed my long walk around the city.  By the afternoon I wasn’t really feeling my initial plan of staying at a hostel.   Sharing space with strangers can be interesting and entertaining for sure, and hostels are great.  I just didn’t want to wake up at 5AM or earlier to shower and catch a train into the city.  My boarding time is 6:46AM, you see.  I would rather be in the airport and know that the morning noises will wake me up eventually as well as the alarm that I am setting. 

Some thoughts about how to spend the night…
– walk the terminal to get some exercise and tire myself out a little
– read the second book in the Twilight series ‘New Moon’
– find one of those great lounge chairs that the airport has and crash for a few hours
– stay up all night in efforts to get myself  back on East Coast time

Signs that you should not go for a bike ride

The side of the wheels on Fredrikshavn’s bikes, where the spokes are, have a cute plastic disc advertising that they are city bikes.  At least they were cute until the wind picked up.  Then they acted as an impediment to travel- part brake and part sail working hard to stop me in my tracks and blow me sideways.

I should have known the bike ride was doomed when the back wheel began to squeak rhythmically while in motion.  Maybe the tip off could have come from the loose steering, the drunken appearance of which had the bike moving in anything but a straight line.SDC12683

Another glaring sign that I should have walked may have been when my skirt flew up all the way up when I reached the first busy intersection.  Rather than cause an accident and perhaps getting in trouble for indecent exposure or being lewd in public, I decided to go back to the hotel and change into pants.

That’s probably when I should have decided to walk around town instead of biking.  But I didn’t.

I got back on the bike and headed to the Palm Beach.
Up an enormous hill.
With the wind pushing me back down.
Funny thing, biking back into town felt like I was still going uphill…  Maybe it was just the heavy rain that hit while I was at the beach that made it feel that way.

My citybike is now retired to the front of the hotel where it lives and I will be walking the rest of the time with the umbrella I bought to replace my lost raincoat.

So to conclude, please keep in mind any one of the following might be reasons to avoid going for a bike ride on any given day.  Simultaneous occurrence of all results in a definite suggestion from me to walk.

1.Wheel covers that act as brakes and/or sails
2. A squeaky wheel
3. Inability to steer
4. Inability to remain clothed while riding
5. Wind fighting you the entire time
6. When it is uphill in both directions
7. Ominous clouds in the distance

Gais Football Match

The excitement of the fans was palpable as I entered the stadium.  I was on the lookout for the woman and her daughter who I came in with.  The ticket I bought was standing room in the top tier directly behind the goal.  The other side of the field held 50-100 fans from the other team, which had come from Stockholm on a Monday night.  Our side in the green and black, I have been recruited as a Gais fan, had a few thousand.  The opponents side of the field

I found out the the reason for the cops was because this particular match-up had a history of fights.  Part of the tension comes from both teams being at the bottom of their league.  This was a VERY important game for both of them.  The winner would have a better chance of staying in the league.  In Sweden, the team at the bottom drops down to the next lowest league based on performance.  Also Göteborg is know as the second city in Sweden to Stockholm…

Goalie down!  and the crowd chants 'You're sexy in pink!' to show their support
Goalie down! and the crowd chants 'You're sexy in pink!' to show their support

Göteborg has four football teams at this particular level.  Gais is currently ranked lowest, but I can attest has some passionate fans.  The stand roared with coached cheers, chants, and song even before the team came onto the field.  I am not sure that that passion let up for more than a few moments at any time during the 94 minute game.

The game started and I hadn’t found the people I came with so I found a spot to stand in the bleachers and watched the game, chatting with the woman next to me.  Goal! Gais scored first in the game.

I took a break just before halftime and when I came back found my standing place taken.  So I had to move on to find a new one.  Still no sign of my new friends.  I found a spot at the very top row, got to talking with the people around me and got a great education about the details of the rivalry between these two teams and Swedish soccer details.  The other team scored.  Boo!The Game

Finally, just before the end of the game I ran into the women I had come with.  The game ended tied 1-1.  But I ended the night with new friends and having had a great experience.

First night in Göteborg

Welcome to Sweden.

I had little trouble finding my hotel and getting checked in although the pouring rain made me walk in to front door looking like I had taken a shower in my clothing.  After I settled in I went for a walk to check out the nearby area and sniff out dinner.

I made my way down the street and noticed a something I had also seen and heard in Norway.  Football (soccer) fans pre-game.  Now while I had avoided the pub in Oslo I decided this time to go in. Why not?  The place looked like it had food, and maybe watching the game in the pub would be fun.  I might even get a chance to meet some locals.

So I walked in to the Gamle Port and squeezed my way up to the bar.  What am I thinking?  I should just go to some quiet restaurant and have a relaxing evening back at the hotel.  But, I’ve gotten this far and am not going back now.  One beer and some football and then I can move on if I still feel this way.  I was still unsure at this time about tipping.   The guidebook said not to leave a tip, but I saw other patrons doing so.  I turned and asked the guy crammed up to the bar next to me what I should leave.  Once that was taken care of I decided to go outside and get some air, the place was hot.

European football

Outside I asked a nice woman why there were so many cops around.  She explained to me that everyone there was getting ready to go to the Gais game and that the place would be empty in 5 minutes.  We got to talking and she asked if I wanted to come to the game, which was only a few blocks from my hotel and where we were standing.

Knowing the reputation of European football fans, I figured it would be an experience if nothing else…

The lovely weather.
The lovely weather.

Tongue tied

In the elevator heading up to my room in Oslo I had to coach two young men to insert their card in order to press their floor number.  While they had been having a conversation for a bit it wasn’t until I heard one of them say ‘fuck’ that I realized they the had been speaking English the whole time.  The thick Irish accent had masked my ability to understand them. 

I have found myself very quiet on this trip.  You see, while I know that most Norwegians speak English better than some Americans, I feel uncomfortable assuming that they should speak to me in my language.  During the time I have needed to I have asked questions in English, so for the most part I have kept silent. 

I tend to be good with languages so it is frustrating to me to not be able to communicate with someone in their native language.  I can read and understand most of the signs and some of the other writing, but I haven’t learned yet how to pronounce some of the sounds.  It doesn’t help that they are different.  For example the town I mentioned in my last post Skein is pronounced Schein and the letters sch are pronounced sk. 

One or two words a day.  I’ll be able to ask for a meal by the end.

Don’t miss the nature.

On my flight from Amsterdam I had a nice conversation with Björn, an oil rig trainee heading home to Skein, Norway.  We had a number of interesting topics to discuss during the course of the trip and the one I find the most interesting is what not to miss while visiting Norway.

I asked him ‘Björn, if there is one thing I should make sure to see while here, what is it?’

He replied ‘The nature!’

I was admittedly surprised.  I was expecting something different.  I am not sure what, but I was not expecting that. 

I guess maybe I have more often found the answer to that question to be check out this area of the city, this restaurant, this store…  Even when visiting and area known for its outdoor beauty.

But then the guidebook backed this up by roughly saying the same thing ‘be sure to spend time outdoors.’ 

I shouldn’t be surprised.  In Oslo you are able to take the subway to nearby lakes and hiking trails in the mountains, and there are tons of parks all over the city.  There are also boats, and ferries to take you to nearby islands and less populated areas.  Sweet!

The 80’s

No matter what I do here I can’t seem to get away from the 80’s.  When I first arrived it was the background music in the cafe I had the exorbitantly price wine. 

80’s music and other early American pop was playing  at Lövebakken the restaurant where I had my first dinner. 

Now I am on my second day and there is an exhibit on the 80’s in the Norwegian Folk Museum.  ‘Take on me’ was playing when I walked in.  I wandered through the interesting exhibit learning more about Norway in the 80’s.   I also got to stroll down memory lane a little since so many products, styles, and entertainment were the same in both Norway and the USA at that time.  

Getting to the back of the room there was a Michael Jackson movie playing.   I don’t know if they chose to play it because of his recent death or prior to it.  At least in American right now it feels like you can’t get away from Michael Jackson.

So here they are the two things I cannot seem to escape Michael Jackson and the 80’s.  Let’s see if it is the same in Sweden

Jetlagged

Why do I feel so tired after getting 11 hours of sleep?  It feels like waking up in the middle of the night even though it is 9AM,  Oh, wait, it is the middle of the night.  To my jet-lagged body at least.  Somehow I have managed to eat, shower, repack my suitcase, meditate and get down to the dock in an hour and a half.  I think this is pretty quickly considering I feel like my eyes need to close. 

At the dock I am waiting to catch the 91 ferry to Bygdoy for the museums.  Standing on the floating dock, I find myself moving gently with the water. 

Sitting in the warm sun while waiting for the boat is nice.  It reminds me of spring and the desire to get outside at every opportunity.

Remembering back to my trip to Kenya in January, I try to casually slid up my pant leg so that the back of my knees are exposed to the morning sun.  I remember someone saying that this was the trick to getting over jet-lag.