Thursday, July 31, 2008
  Onions on a Plane

Our flight out to San Diego left Philly at 6:30 am. That necessitated us missing out on a few things, such as sleep, and breakfast. Before boarding we got a couple of breakfast sandwiches to take on the plane. We waited to open them until the stewards had started their complimentary beverage and food- for- purchase service. These were not your fast food style breakfast offerings. They had been purchased at the airport outlet of Chickie & Pete's, a local eatery known for sports bar food and crabfries. They were on hoagie ( sub I think the rest of the country would say) rolls and stuffed with eggs, peppers, bacon and onions. I felt a little guilty because I knew how good they smelled, especially compared to the airline fare.
Like I said, we waited until we were served our complimentary beverage before digging in. One of the stewardesses came over to our aisle. "Excuse me sir", she said to Sarcasdad. "Are there onions on that sandwich?"
I couldn't imagine why she was asking. Had we offended another passenger with an onion aversion? Did we break one of those airline rules that change by the minute? Was there a charge for bringing your own food,with onions, on board? Or , did she merely want a bite?
The Stewardess elaborated. "She" she said , pointing to a co-worker, "thinks she smells something burning. But I think it's just the sandwich".
Being sensitive to passenger comfort, the stewardess announced this in a voice that only reached about ten rows in front and behind us. I am sure the "something burning" part of that sentence made everyone sit up and take notice. "So what do you think? It's the onions?" the stewardess asked ?
I can't speak for Sarcasdad but I think it was unfair to lay that call on him. Imagine the headlines. Plane Crash Blamed on Man with Sandwich. "I thought it was the onions" the passenger claims. "It did smell good though," says another passenger.
If you are flying anytime soon, you may want to check the TSA site to see if onions are still allowed in your carry-on.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008
  Didn't Feel a Thing

Apparently we were in California about 45 minutes before the biggest earthquake since 1989 hit the area. We didn't feel a thing, We actually heard about it when we were fiddling with the radio in our rental car. We came across an LA station giving breaking news coverage of the 5.4 earthquake and, what was at the time, 15 aftershocks. Much like the newscasters back home in Philly, the on seen reporters seemed trying desperately to find someone, anyone, who had suffered tragically due to the event. Fortunately, they were getting interviews with shopkeepers who had things fall off shelves, and nothing worse. Our first thought was, well that was LA, not here. Then we learned that the quake was reportedly felt as far away as San Diego. We figure that at 11:45 we were somewhere between getting our luggage and on the shuttle to the car rental place. Figures. We're right on the edge of breaking news, and we missed the whole thing. Such a part of the California experience too. I know we aren't the only ones because everywhere we went, people were just going about their day, and no one seemed shaken or stirred.
Last night we met up with BIL and had dinner in Old Town. It was yummy, but I was not very good company. For some reason this 3 hour time difference knocked me for a bigger loop than flying to international destinations. Today we plan a jaunt through the Gaslamp District. If San Diego is anything like Philly I expect to see sidewalk vendors with T-Shirts that say "I Survived the Quake of '08". Catchy little rhyme don't you think?

Sunday, July 27, 2008
  California Dreamin

This has been quite the busy summer for the Sarcas-family. I mean, I have not even finished boring you blogging about my trip to Italy. (Yes, there is more). And I did not even get a chance to mention the holiday weekend trip to the charming seaport town of Mystic Connecticut for our niece's wedding. And now I'm packing for a trip to San Diego. Or I should be packing, instead of say, oh, blogging. The trip was a last minute decision, so the packing should follow suit.
The reason for the trip is a family function. But we figured if we are flying 3000 miles we ought to do a little sight seeing. Anyone have any suggestions? Hurry . We leave Tuesday.

Friday, July 25, 2008
  How YOU doin'?

Do you ever wonder if anyone out there is listening? Apparently, yes. captures the thoughts,well actually, the feelings , blogged on the internet. Presented in "six discreet movements", this is a fascinating way to waste some time online.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
  No Taking Your Pants Off in Italy

We took a train to Florence, or as the Italians refer to their city, Firenze. It is a major metropolitan area and in many ways not that different from New York or Tokyo or Philadelphia. The very first thing we did was hit an internet provider to check emails and make hotel arrangements for our stop over in Rome later in the week. That mission accomplished we walked the narrow crowded city streets to the Duomo. It is a very impressive gothic cathedral.P6130009

Lunch was pizza at an outdoor cafe. I didn't think the pizza held a candle to what we had in Orvieto. From our seats we could see a most beautiful carousel across the square. Sarcas-sis, Shirley and I accompanied the CP on two turns .
Then he convinced the men to join him so we ladies took the opportunity to go shopping.

The square was ringed by many vendors. A kiosk with leather purses caught my eye . One in particular struck me as being perfect for Sarcasmo Jr. I made a half hearted attempt at haggling because the Captain told me it was the way to do business here. The proprietor was not at all receptive. We went and got the Captain to give a it a try, but he had no luck either. Right across the street from the square were many shops that sold leather at much higher prices, so there was no need for this man to barter. In truth, I was happy with the price anyway. So the bag was bought, as well as some writing paper at another stall, and we moved on.

We strolled down the Ponte Vecchio P6130031to the Uffizi Gallery, where we waited in line for timed entry. The way was lined with street artists and performers. Once inside we saw endless statuaryP6140054 and oil paintings. The most famous, Venus Rising.

Having soaked up as much culture as we could stand, the only thing left was to get some gelato.Gelato stands are to Firenze as Starbucks are to Seattle. We stopped at an outdoor establishment. We all picked our favorite, which, in the CP's case was something chocolate. So we had a three year old, in the heat and humidity, with a chocolate gelato. The results were predictable.

After the CP had enjoyed his gelato , his Dad went to get some water to clean him up. His Mom dug a spare set of clothes from her backpack.Right there on the sidewalk we stripped off the chocolate covered shirt and replaced it with a clean one. The CP had something to say about it.

"Hey' he said. "No taking your pants off in Italy"

I don't know why. Not one of those statues in the Uffizi gallery was wearing pants.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wednesday, July 09, 2008
  Genius is a $6 Word

Now here are two young men who are putting their education to good use. They are selling words. The ones in the dictionary. Actually, they are selling the opportunity to be the definition. Here's the gist. You pick a word that you feel your blog or website represents. You buy the word for $1 per letter, and it becomes a link to your website. Your website becomes the new definition of that word,
Inspired ($8), The creators of The Big Word Project claim it is about creating new definitions for words, I think it is a very clever ($6) way to pay for grad school.
$1 a letter seemed like a bargain ($7) to me, so I scoped out a few words. Sarcasm, mouse, irony & goddess are already taken. along with 5,813 other words at last count. There are still plenty available for the re-defining. Such as both flotsam & jetsam, frank and moonbeam. But not imagine or practical or redhead. They've already been bought.
What word do you define? Got any suggestions for me?

I found this on ShinyShiny. Sadly, the word shiny is no longer available.

Saturday, July 05, 2008
  Giorni di Vino e Delle Rose

We let the CP explore the playground for a bit while the adults sat and contemplated what was next on our tour of Orvieto. Remember, we planned on hitting a vineyard or two. It was already mid afternoon. We were banking on local wineries following the custom of closing down for a few hours for a midday meal and then staying open until early evening. The Captain consulted his Rick Steve's Italy guide and called the number for a vineyard that offered tastings in Orvieto. They were open until 5:45. We took the next tram down the mountain , got back in the van and plugged our new destination into the GPS.

Eventually we spied a castle on a hill above the road we were travelling, with the name of the winery we sought. But we couldn't figure out a way to get the van up there. The Captain pulled off to the side of the road and Shirley was volunteered to go check it out. She took off up the hill .When she returned she said the castle looked closed. A man came out of the castle waving his arms and shouting to us that it was closed. It was just 5pm. The Captain explained we had been told 5:45. There was some discussion about who we had spoken to and eventually it was determined that while the castle and the winery shared the same name, they were two different places. We got directions and headed off again. This time driving right into what appeared to be a vineyard, but without a building or person in sight. Another phone call got us on the right road and we finally ended up at a very modern looking place which was more like an office than a wine cellar. And there were no tastings done there. We were a bit disappointed but wine was purchased and we piled back into the van.

Sarcas-SIL(previously known as Sarcas-bro which some found confusing) remembered seeing a sign that said Winery and Lounge, somewhere down the road. We found in and turned in. What a find it was.

I am definitely a city girl. I like neighbors, am not fond of wide open spaces, and I think grass is nice to look at but kind of a pain to take care of. But I got out of the van and thought, "I could live here". It was beautiful. We drove past rows and rows of grapevines, all growing down the mountain towards the valley below. At the top of each vine, by the road we travelled was a rose bush.

We later learned that tradition says when the rose blooms, the grapes are ready. The road was also dotted with orange and lemon trees.
The lemons were the size of small grapefruits. As we approached, unannounced, and uninvited we were greeted by the owner. He waved, not to chase us, but to invite us in.

He gave us a tour of his winery. We saw the modern gleaming tanks
and the traditional oak casks.
He answered all of our questions, let us take photos and made us feel most welcome. He told us he had a staff of only 10, which if you could see the size of the property and the degree of cleanliness you would find as amazing as we did. After the tour he led us to the tasting room, and took us through a flight of his wines. Without a doubt, my favorite wine we had in Italy was purchased here,

His great grandfather started the winery which encompasses 84 hectares. And look at this view from the tasting room.P6120055 Down there, way below, is the castle that was closed.

*thanks to Sarcas-sis & Shirley for some of the photos.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

We always have a bottle of Orvieto white cooling in the wine fridge. And as visiting wineries was tops on our list of things to do while in Italy, learning that our villa was an easy drive from the town of Orvieto was most exciting.
On our first full day in Umbria , the 8 of us loaded into the van. I told you a little about our ride up the mountain. It did nothing to prepare us for the ride down. As we perched at the top of he "hill" , I tuned to the CP and said. "This is what Disneyworld is like, except there is no splash at the bottom". And so began our first descent on what we called "Mr Toads Wild Ride". Everyone wore their seat belt and we did not open the back windows just in case someone did not and we lost them.
The road to Orvieto was long and windy. And long. It ended at the base of a mountain where we purchased tickets for a tram, or funicolar. to take us partway up to catch a bus to the top
Once at the top we found a charming town. It is centuries old and still being lived in. Like all the hill towns in Italy that we visited, there was a public square, a church ,P6120024

and a bell tower. There were plenty of shops that catered to tourists. Here we were introduced to the beautiful pottery that we would see in shops every where we visited.P6120032

We stopped for lunch and chose to eat outside. In Orvieto we had the best pizza we have ever tasted. No where else we went in Italy was better.
Here is a picture of our waitress.P6120040
If the angle look a little off , consider that the CP is the photographer. This lovely woman was the first of many Italian ladies who made a fuss over him. He was kissed and pinched and hugged all over Italia. In this photo she is trying to convince him to give her a kiss. She was not successful, much to the chagrin of his great-uncle , the Captain, who is single, and was hoping.
We wound our way down twisty hills to the bus stop. Before boarding we took in a local museum at the request of the CP.
The bus took us as far as this fortress.P6120054

Which was probably built to protect this valley once upon a time.

This playground gave the CP a chance to work off some energy.

We took the funicolar back down to the parking lot.
Our day was not yet done.
Next-- we get chased from a castle and find the most beautiful place on earth.

There are more photos of Orvieto here. The detail and the colors on the church are worth a look.

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