Mai Perso - Travel adventures

Bologna and surrounding impressions

May 30, 2011
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Anna Maria is the one restaurant you can’t miss when in Bologna.
I don’t think I have ever, in my entire life, had such light, silky, delicate Italian pasta.
Only now I get the meaning of the Bolognese cuisine with the Taliatelle al Ragu it has been so famous for.
The Ferrari factory and the mother of all Mortadelas in the local market, where just minor anecdotal touristic extras.

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I also only eat what I kill. just kidding ;)

May 29, 2011
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Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has taken on a new hobby, butcher in training. It has been reported that Zuckerberg updated his status on his personal Facebook page: “I just killed a pig and a goat.” his challenges supposedly take his mind off of the Facebook daily grind. Well dude, join me on a trip to Emilia Romagna in Italy and you may want to take on a different challenge. Skip a grilled Panini with Prociutto and fresh Mozzarella di Bufala, because you didn’t get to kill the poor pig, six month ago, before it has been artfully transformed to this Prociutto?
We have arrived to downtown Bologna after driving down from Milano, passing through culinary heaven lane, through Modena and Parma. The landscape included Rice fields, yes like the ones in Japan i was telling you about, vineyards, farms and Salumi factories.
Once in Bologna, we went for a stroll through downtown. Old, beautiful, and buzzing with crowds, all local.
The food scene was almost overwhelming. Deli stores, restaurants and bars everywhere, fresh pasta, ready made food to go and of course giant Parma Ham Salumi, hanging everywhere above the counters.
A procession of the local Papal representative, followed by a long tail of religious catholic believers was crossing town for some holy lady’sbmemorial day, and a rogue protester promoting the end of the world, was being harassed by local police, because he chose to deliver his message fro the top of a statue in the middle of the Piazza.
With jet leg and a severe need for a shower and some sleep, we rounded up the first half day in Italy with a ridiculously tasty Macchiato and a sandwich with grilled sausage, onions and peppers fro a street vendor, accompanied with a cold beer.
A promising day one of a new Italian visit.

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Angers, a little bizarre French town

May 18, 2011
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It’s been years since I left Angers, with mixed memories of great ingredients, beautiful up scale downtown but miserable restaurants and people with attitude.
The city lays in the Loire Vally, in a region with good white wines and decent sparkling wines. There may be even a few famous Saveniere wine houses around it.
I loved strolling up and down the pedestrian center, stopping by my favorite ‘hole in the wall’ sandwich bar, selling crunchy baguettes filled with hamburgers, French fries, melted cheese and pickles.
A phenomenal grilled chicken joint, a few blocks away, was an alternative.
The Saturday farmers market, had real farmers, with selection of produce, cheese and meat products, un matched with what you find in any deli or shushu farmers market in the US.
So a few years back, en route from Spain to Switzerland, we decided to stop for a day and revisit the magic.
We found our way to town, parked the car in the underground garage in the city center, got out at Galleries Lafayette and turned down the street direction the sandwich Bar, better known as “Broodje Fred” (Dutch for Fred’s Sandwiches).
We had a plan. Grab a bite, pass by the local launderette and do our laundry, shop for some food and other necessities, check out the town and be on our way.
As we walk down the main drag, the city morphs to a scene from a funky movie. At the doorstep of the launderette, a hobo is fighting with a gipsy, on begging territory. He is throwing his food around, screaming that she should leave town since she is taking away all his “customers”.
We hang around, sensation curiosity kicking in. A young, slightly disturbed young man, cruises by in moon walk style, oversized headphones on his ears, singing weird songs in a high pitch, loud voice. As he passes by the fountain, a Greek Orthodox priest shows up in the doorway of the house across the street, and starts shouting obscenities towards us. us of all people surrounding the fountain.
Picture this, A restored medieval town, with a picturesque fountain surrounded by 18th century houses. A dirty homeless leaning against a wall, with a sandwich smeared on the floor across the stone alley. The guy is screaming in French,the gipsy, telling her to go do things to herself. The chubby gipsy beggar shouting at him in what sounds like Romanian, god knows what her response is. The local Michale Jackson, is moon walking and squeaking in high pitch voices, just as the Greek priest makes an appearance out of a large stone doorway, sending profanities our way.
Needless to say, I was laughing my butt off by now. I don’t remember ever being in such a surreal scene, definitely not with an active role in the act.
Angers will forever be the city that lives in a movie for me, and no longer the posh French countryside town.


The iPhone in the wild

May 15, 2011
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A BI article touching on iPhone use when traveling, triggered some random thoughts about the changing role of the phone when traveling. The iPhone is your pocket size laptop. Call it whatever you like but these days when we travel we use it for photos and short videos (check out the movie trailer on dakar2011.wordpress.com, all taken with an iPhone), I have my travel guides on the phone, maps, lists of must see spots. I have a GPS tracking app that records our trip, and a translation app for situations in countries with languages we do not speak. It is how we track our flight and change them on the fly if needed, keep up with our blog, post photos to mobileMe, send SMS and MMS to friends and family along the way. We twit and FaceTime when we can, keeping connected to the people who follow us while on the road.

Don’t leave home without one, and make sure you get an international plan to go with it, or AT&T or any other carrier, will take you to the cleaners.

Check out this link http://www.businessinsider.com/iphone-on-vacation-2011-5


Non ha Mai Perso in Italia

May 11, 2011
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Highway A1 from Rome to Firenze, was not a great driving experience in a “Smart” car. What started as tons of fun in the busy streets of Rome, feeling like a double wide motorcycle, zipping up and down the cobbled stone alleys, turned into a noisy, boring drive on the freeway. We were making our way up north to Tuscany, searching for the statue of David.
An hour or so into the drive, after being taken over by any other vehicle on the road, including an Italian Carabinieri (Police) passing us at 100 miles an hour (160km p.h.) in a Fiat 500, I decided to challenge boredom and humiliation, and get of the main road. All of my best travel stories started that way. There is something about taking a left turn into an unknown road, that attracts adventures.
The road was heading west. I knew that somewhere west of us is the Mediterranean coast, and that if all fails, we can reach the road that will take us south, back to Rome.
We had no Map, no water or food, and some time on our hands. A perfect setup for disaster.
20-30 KM into it, we passed by a small town, with a cafe and an old gas station. I passed, thinking that we will make it to the next town, and by then, be ready for a break for dinner and a place to spend the night.
There was no next town. Two hours later, with the sun starting to go down behind the mountains, and an endless deserted winding road, the gas tank started making signs of getting thirsty. It was not alone. We were thirsty too, and hungry and getting worried about the prospect of spending the night in the car. Temperatures were dropping as the early spring weather was turning wintery. Fog was settling in here and there, a light drizzle and the road kept getting narrower as we climbed up the mountains.
As dark rolled over the mountains and the needle was hugging the “Tank Empty” mark, a restaurant with dim lights and a huge empty parking lot, emerged behind a curve in the road. We stopped, parked our mini mobil, and headed for the door. A large dining hall with scattered tables and chairs greeted us. Giovanni, was hanging over a table, with too much alcohol in his system. Other then him, the place looked deserted. If it was the American South, I would have imagined a famous Banjo theme to go with the scene. In Italy, it just looked as a natural scene from a Fellini movie, or as if we walked into the set of “The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover”, after hours.
Moments later, a lady walks in from the kitchen. We ask for food in an Italian, which is heavily mixed with Mexican Spanish, and made just enough sense for her to understand that we were hungry and settle for anything. A carafe of red wine, bottle of San Pellegrino and a day old bread basket showed up. Giovanni at the table next to us, tried to make contact, took another sip of his drink and passed out on the table.
Our hostess Maria, returned with two plates, Prociutto and a sampler of anti pasta. Grilled zucchini, olives, sardines, selection of local cheese and artichoke hearts.
A bowl of spaghetti with wild boar Raghu was served next, and a veal steak followed. Needless to say the food was delicious. The hunger and relief worked magic. What in another situation would have passed as a mediocre meal, was this time spectacular. As we were working our way through a good espresso, the door opens, a hunter walks in with muddy boots, and throws a pair of pheasants and a rabbit, hooked on a metal ring, on a table. His catch of the day and tomorrow’s dinner of a lucky family. He leaned his double barrel hunting rifle against the table. By now, I was waiting for the music to start and the movie titles to scroll across the wall of the restaurant. This was beyond surreal.
We were ready to call it a day. Maria told us about a hotel down the road, that will most likely have a bed for us. She called them to confirm. We made our way to the hotel, and climbed into a squeaky old bed, with a tired dawns pillow. I have not slept that well for years.
One is never lost in Italy. Non ha mai perso in Italia, said the hunter in my dream, as a few drops of blood dripped on the table from the limp head of the pheasant…