East of Paris Bookstore

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Il Convivio

Il Convivio Troiani is a Michelin starred restaurant on the Vicolo dei Soldati in Rome. Our taxi zig-zagged at great speed to get us there leaving me feeling lost and disoriented. Then we had to walk a hundred feet down a dark lane to get to the door. Fortunately the sign was well lit. But, the door had no handle!  Made me think there was a secret knock to be followed by a "Guido sent me" code. We rang the bell, gave our name (it worked), and were swiftly ushered in.


Mr. Wonderful and I had an unfashionably early reservation at 8:00 p.m., so the restaurant, which consists of a few adjoining rooms, was virtually empty when we sat down. This gave me the chance to look around and enjoy the minimal though quirky decor ...


Il Convivio's menu is small and there is no room for deviation. However, the choices were delicious, made fresh daily from organic ingredients, and said to be typically Roman ...


I had forgotten to bring my camera, so I had to depend on my old iPhone ... which does not do well in evening light. But, I was not the only one in the little restaurant with electronics. Across from us sat a young Russian family with two children, who seemed to be between the ages of 8 and 12. The children hardly said a word, so rapt were they reading their iPads. I mentioned to Mr. Wonderful that I never expected to see little kids with iPads in a formal restaurant. He pointed out that iPads kept the kids busy and let their parents have a peaceful meal. He also reminded me that when our parents took us to restaurants they would bring coloring books or other distractions. The only difference was that there were no iPads when we were 12 years old.
He was right, and so deserved to enjoy his wine while I contemplated buying the new iPad 2 when we returned home.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Peach & Blueberry Tart

This morning I was trying to figure out what to do with a jar of canned peaches I found in my pantry.  A bit of internet searching led me to an easy to follow recipe at Leah Cooks Kosher.

I only made one tart, so I cut Leah's ingredients in half and substituted butter for the margarine and lemon juice for the lime juice in her recipe.  The results looked good and tasted better.
Thank you Leah!  Thank you Internet.

Little Luxuries

When traveling, I like to find souvenir gifts for my friends -- little luxuries ... ordinary things that are made into something special.  


Through years of trial and error, I have developed a few rules when shopping for souvenir gifts.  The gifts should be light-weight, not liquid, and unbreakable.  They should not too expensive (in case they disappear en route and not to make anyone feel uncomfortable) and not too personal (can't exchange the wrong size or color once you get home). 


Thus, my souvenir gifts tend to be specialty soaps, candles, stationary, candies, chocolates, and linen items. On my last trip, the little luxuries that I brought home included perfumed soap, lemon drops, candied orange peal, chocolates, and an apron decorated with embroidered lemons.
In Pompeii, I was thrilled to find a chocolate bar al peperoncino -- sprinkled with hot chili pepper flakes. It made me fell a lot better about (mistakenly) adding cayenne to my home-made halva a few months ago, which I posted about here.
P.S., a full disclosure about the lovely packaged perfumed soap. I kept it in my library along with the other gifts. For some reason, every time I walked into the library I thought I was smelling some kind of insect repellant. When I took the soap away, the smell disappeared as well. Lovely as that packaging was, this was not a little luxury to be given to anyone!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hotel Splendido

Splendido, doesn't the name invoke warmth, langor, luxury?  If that's what you think, then the Hotel Splendido in dreamy Portofino is calling you.
Originally a monastery building, the Splendido hugs a rugged hillside and offers stunning views and garden walks.
While our room seemed a bit tight its airy style and dramatic views were terrific.
And, there were lots of bath gels, shampoos, and various creams.
The service was excellent ... fast room service and an exceptional concierge.  Mr. Wonderful forgot his cane, so the Spendido's concierge had a local pharmacy deliver a new one, on a weekend no less.  He even took account of my husband's height to be sure that the new cane would be the correct size. If that's not "Splendido", what is?

Finally, the other sine qua nons: (i) Internet was included in the price of the room and wireless was available everywhere including the pool area; and (ii) the food ... heavenly.

The hillside hotel has a sister property along the harbor, the Spledido Mare.  There is a shuttle van running between the two locations at precise 20-minute intervals.  The shuttle obviates the need to walk or drive the steep, tight serpentine road to and from the hotel, although the walk is worth doing (downhill) at least once.

To take a few liberties with their tag line:  the Splendido certainly made me feel that way.  This is a place I'm definately willing to return.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Street Art

Walking around in Italy, there is art in every corner ... and not just old Roman statues ...
Murals and sculptures and fun ...
And just when you think you've seen it all, take a stroll in Bonifacio, Cosica:
 



Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Remembrance
Today, as we celebrate Independence day, I cannot but remember the American Cemetery and Memorial at Nettuno, Italy, where rest our war dead from the Italian campaign in World War II.
A dignified yet painful symmetry
The cemetery at Nettuno is a place of peace and of a painful yet magnetic beauty, a special island of order 38 miles south of Rome and surrounded by decaying urban areas in a scruffy land of reclaimed swamps. Like other American military cemeteries from the Civil War onward, Nettuno is a place of utter simplicity and quiet depth. In his book, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America, Gary Wills notes that starting in 19th century, cemeteries became expressions of "simple grandeur" and that 
As the trees spread and extend, the quiet beauty ... will yearly become more striking ... (p. 70)
The tall slender Roman pines at Nettuno have spread to provide shade for our fallen warriors in an almost forgotten corner of Europe. I cannot help but send a prayer of thanks to them as I complete preparations for our 4th of July BBQ and party. Without them, and others like them, we would have no freedom or party.

A few more photos ...






Saturday, July 2, 2011

Room with a View


5:30 a.m., morning breaks over Rome
If you get a room with a view, then the Hassler Hotel in Rome can be enjoyable.  But, after a twenty year pause, returning to this hotel was a disappointment.

There is no question that the Hassler's location atop the Spanish Steps is terrific. A walk down those many steps leads straight to the Via Condotti, the heart of high end fashion shopping. A climb back up those steps helps burn off calories from lunch. And, sitting in the garden at the Hassler provides a quiet respite in the afternoon.
An artichoke tortoise in the garden
Here are the things about the Hassler that I liked:

  • Location.
  • Comfortable bed with crisp cotton sheets.
  • The best (strong) bath and shower water pressure anywhere.

Sconce in the bathroom
Here are the things that I did not like:
  • Room service is not 24 hours, so beware if you have to leave for the airport by 7:00 a.m.
  • An extra 20 Euros a day for Internet connection ...this on top of a 700 Euro room. Treating an Internet connection as something "extra" rather then a necessity irks me even more than the over-the-top charge.
  • It takes a very long time for the staff to answer the telephone.
  • There was no separate shower and the glass closure in the bathtub was only half a door (not unusual in Europe) ... so that strong water pressure contributed to a mini flood on the floor
  • The general feeling that that place is tired.
Lobby flowers were out of proportion to the chest they were on and no where near as nice as similar flower arrangements  at the George V.

Lots of red and gold in the lobby ... perhaps too much.
Overall, I doubt I will return here.
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