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martedì 17 dicembre 2013

Irish soul

Who remembers the 80's has to remember this song: talking about Ireland of course one thinks about U2 and yes there is Bono in this song but I thought this represents one of the songs which most expresses Irish soul. Yes there are many other artists and songs but this for me is truly Irish. By the way a lot of people say I look Irish, for the colour of my hair, for my eyes and a fair skin with freckles in the summer that doesn't look too Southern Italian. Well I am 100% Neapolitan, born and raised and I really don't know where I got these features, but I like them and if I don't look tipically Southern Italian what the heck. However, there must be something in my genes or somewhere along the road some Irishman must have crossed my grand grand grand grandparents because everytime I go to Dublin for some reason I feel very comfortable and kind of at home. Yes I love the sun, the sea and the heat but that melancholy on the cliffs, that light fog, those green fields touch my heart and make me feel good. I was in Dublin for a conference and it was my second time there. The first time it had been years before for Saint Patrick's day when I really had a blast! This time the weather was pretty nasty and the city was full of tourists. I stayed Trinity Capital Hotel very close to Trinity College, a very purple and modern hotel with a little kitsch taste. The position is central and convenient and you can reach almost everwhere in the center just walking. From there I could easily get to the Shelbourne hotel, the venue of the conference , from where I sneaked out to Saint Stephen Green for a walk. Who says swans and duks are not friendly? Look at this chaps coming out of the pond just to get some food and be close to people. Then I would take a stroll in the little streets of the center to look at the shops. During that walk I caught what turned out to be the most colossal cold I got in years... Of course I was optimistic with light clothes at the end of September: never underestimate the Irish weather.. Also Lucky Finnegan and Molly Malone looked at me with pity when I was the next day walking the streets with a running nose, a terrible cough and a fever. From then on I have blurry memories as also my pictures show: I know I was at a gala dinner and met many nice people amongst which also somebody who turned out to be a very good friend. We were taken to the Guinness factory for the farewell party in private buses with a thunderstorm outside and air conditioning inside which made me even more sick. And that's the evidence that I don't have any Irish genes after all... Another one is that I don't particularly like Guinness.. so I guess that makes me a 100% Southern Italian and that's it. The next day I was more and more sick but nevertheless I could take a stroll in Temple Bar and look at the shops in that area, stop in a pub for a pint of lager like the Irish would do and eventually have a bite in a very non Irish place but one of my favourites all over the world. People who follow this blog already know my insane passion for Wagamama and the fact that wherever I find one of them I'll have to go eat one of their famous soups at every cost. Amongst the shops I found I loved this one: Om Diva. I am not very keen on shopping in general but when I find something special like this one then I must stop and get something and believe me it was worth it. Oh well Dublin I am sure something will bring me back there one day and I hope that time I'll be in better shape. Until then Slán, Slán go fóill. Cheers

giovedì 21 novembre 2013

I want to live in Martha's Vineyard

While I was trevelling around New England in May I decided to stop for a few nights in Martha's Vineyard, which I had heard so much also sadly for the tragic death of John John Kennedy and his wife. So I booked a room in a lovely guesthouse Narrangansett House situated in Oak Bluffs one of the most pictoresque sites on the island. The houses are all coloured and look like fairy tales mansions, the town is on the sea and you can take a long walk to get to the beach and then throught the internal part of fields and lakes. I spent a very nice vacation there: resting, being in the nature and exploring one of the nicest places I have ever seen. In the morning I would take my breakfast from the kitchen and bring it on my little porch, have a chat with the very nice lady owner and then walk or drive to the beach and lay down in the sun. To get to Martha's Vineyard one has to take a ferry from Cape Cod which takes one hour or so and the funny thing is that once you get to the island the locals will ask you if you have just come from America since they live in the Vineyard and in their conception it's not even part of the States. What is it then ? Well It's just the Vineyard. In Oak Bluffs a very nice walk to take is in the heart of the little town where the so called " gingerbread houses" are. Thi s is their history" Some of the earliest visitors to the area that became Cottage City and later Oak Bluffs were Methodists, who gathered in the oak grove each summer for multi-day religious "camp meetings" held under large tents and in the open air. As families returned to the grove year after year, tents pitched on the ground gave way to tents pitched on wooden platforms and eventually to small wooden cottages. Small in scale and closely packed, the cottages grew more elaborate over time. Porches, balconies, elaborate door and window frames became common, as did complex wooden scrollwork affixed to the roof edges as decorative trim. The unique "Carpenter's Gothic" architectural style of the cottages was often accented by the owner's use of bright, multi-hue paint schemes, and gave the summer cottages a quaint, almost storybook look. Dubbed "gingerbread cottages," they became a tourist attraction in their own right in the late nineteenth century. So, too, did the Tabernacle: a circular, open-sided pavilion covered by a metal roof supported by tall wrought iron columns, erected in the late 1880s, which became a venue for services and community events. The campground's gingerbread cottages are cherished historic landmarks as well as very expensive real estate. Many are still family owned and passed on generation to generation. On April 5, 2005, the grounds and buildings in the Campground were designated a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior." ( from Wikipedia. They look indeed like the house of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. See for yourselves. Nice huh? The other town on the island which is worth visiting is Edgardtown which instead is more posh and full of white houses and trendy shops. Mind you :it is a very small place but it's very nice and refined although I surely preferred Oak Bluffs. The nice thing about the island is that it is nice to drive around and stop wherever you like and the landscape changes quite ofetn to allow you to enjoy different aspects of nature: sea, lakes, woods, wildlife and gorgeous views. I'll never forget my staying, for many reasons and the colours and landscapes of this wonderful island will always stay in my eyes as I'm sure they would stay in yours.

lunedì 28 ottobre 2013

Bali Om

I was in Bali in August for a couple of weeks after I decided to meet one of my best friends who was there for the summer holidays.I had been there once before many years ago and I had mixed memories of that journey so I took the opportunity to try the Balinese experience again. I arrived after 24 hours journey and dazed and confused as I was I took a taxi to one of the most beautiful places I could remember: the cultural and spiritual capital of the island ,the wonderful city of Ubud. It was full of tourists when I first went there but this time they were three times as much. Nestled amongst green hills and rice fields it is a destination for yoga aficionados, nature lovers and people in search of their spirituality. Bali is known worldwide for many things including shimmering nightlife but there is very little of that in Ubud. It is an oasis of peace and quiet especially at night and especially if, like me you are staying in a homestay, what the Balinese call rooms in a typical house which includes a few short buildings, a garden and a family temple. The only thing that might disturb you at night is the roosters crowing which can go on all night long. All the Balinese families have many chickens and at least a couple of roosters. The sad news is that they use them also for cockfighting which is a religious happening and takes place in temples. Needless to say I find it barbarian and notwithstanding the respect I have for every religious belief it never justifies cruelty against animals. Balinese people are hindu but in a different way than hindus from India as you might have gathered. The main attraction in Ubud is the Sacred Monkey Forest, a wonderful oasis of nature and shade from the humid heat of the Balinese summer. As you might have gathered from the name the forest is inhabited by monkeys. Tons of monkeys. These pretty cheeky creatures are used to tourists and therefore are quite aggressive: if you have anything hanging off you: a bag, a backpack or if you are carrying a shopping bag, or even just wearing sunglasses, necklaces, scarves,let alone if you are carrying any food be sure they will snatch it from you and won't let it go even if they are not interested. If you try to get your stuff back they will grin,and threaten you because everything that was yours has now become theirs and they will bite you even. I was snatched a little shopping bag with a few souvenirs outside the Forest (!!!) from a big monkey and there wouldn't have been any way of getting it back if it hadn't been for the old lady working in the ticket office. Anyway it is a must go and the monkeys are very funny, they play, jump from one tree to the other, swim in a big fountain and even plunge. They are lovely creatures, and the cheekiness is part of their nature. With my friends we decided to go to the sea side, which for us Mediterraneans is not so special: mind you it is very beautiful but if you're not a surfer than it is not so interesting since you can never swim : it's either high waves or very strong currents. Every year somebody ends up drowning so it's better not to risk it. Plus there is the problem of the high-low tide. In the afternoon you have to walk a lot before reaching the sea. The atmosphere though is precious. It is one of the most relaxing places where to go on a beach. The locals are very nice and helpful and for a ridiculously cheap sum will give you sunbeds and drinks , or you will be able to buy fresh fruit or food while laying down in the sun. After a whole day of rest you will be able to admire wonderful beach sunsets and feel in peace with the world. Our first stop was Sanur a pretty town, with a nice beach and very relaxing atmosphere. This place is very nice on a Sunday when hoards of locals would go down to the beach with their dogs and fly kites all afternoon. You know that kites are one of the typical things in Bali right? In the whole island you will see millions of them with varous forms and colours flying over your head. Another thing why Bali is so famous is nightlife as I said before, for that you have to go a little south in the infamous village of Kuta or the more refined Seminyak. I was in Kuta many years ago and honestly I wouldn't go back there. I wasn't a hooligan then and certainly I am not now so I avoided it and my friends took me to Seminyak where they had rented a little villa for as much as 35 Euros a day. Yes these are the prices in Bali. You can obviuosly spend a lot if you go to 5 stars hotels or rent Hollywood style villas (and there are many)even if it's gonna be less then what you will spend at home for something half as beautiful, but if are on a lower budget you can still really splurge yourself. Now, as much as nightlife is concerned there are truly truly amazing places where to go: Potato Head, Kudeta,La Plancha and many more. If you are not interested in shimmering nightlife and want to keep a lower profile there are many typical place where you can have your Mie goreng or Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado and so on. This is how the day goes: you lie down on the beach, sip a coconut water (from a real coconut), then go bathe in the sea, lazily go to eat something at lunchtime, take a nap on your sunbed, read a book, plunge a little more in the water, sunbathe, watch the sunset drinking a Bintang (beer) and then go take a shower and get ready for the night. What a hard life uh? I spent the time I was there like this and believe me I enjoyed every moment of it. My first trip to Bali many years ago was more cultural : I went to see all the temples and the things there were to see but this time it was all about relaxation and enjoyment. When my friends left I decided to go explore the north and ended up in Lovina, a totally different place as to atmosphere and landscape. First of all the beach is black and then it is formed by all these little villages where it is very relaxing but there is nothing really special. Nevertheless I enjoyed it and ended up staying three nights. The only things to visit in that area are the Hot springs in the middle of the forest and a Buddhist temple where you can practice Vipassana meditation. I spent my last three days in Bali in Jimbaran a half moon of white sand where apart from nice hotels there are a lot of little fish restaurants on the beach where you can eat a nice fish dinner in the light of a candles right by the ocean . Needless to say that it is more a place for couples than it is for solo travellers. Nevertheless it is definitely worth going and staying at least for one night. You can then take excursions and explore the surroundings like I did although I knew them already. I went to Balangan one of the ost famous surfers beaches, where it is very hard to even plunge in the sea but is somewhat very beautiful. And then Ulu Watu the sacred temple situated on a cliff by the ocean where you can enjoy spectacular sunsets and where the monkeys are even more aggressive than in the Monkey Forest. I personally saw four sunglasses being snatched away by the naughty things plus a pair of what I afterwards learnt was a pair of 1000 USD reading glasses which they just broke in two and tried to look through. What can I say ? Bali is a magical place, every corner is special, and I remember every moment of it with pleasure. The little alleys with temples on one side and rice fields on the other, all the offers made to the Gods everywhere, the smile of the children, the colours, the fruits, the incredible vegetation. Bali will always remain in my eyes so my yoga mates will forgive me if I changed the mantra Hari Om only for this one time.

venerdì 6 settembre 2013

New England New Me

I went to New England at the end of May since I had a ticket I had to use with the miles and had chosen NYC where I have lived many years ago. I decided that in the end I wanted to be more in contact with nature and so I decided to go to Massachussets instead and visit Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. I definitely made the right choice. When I was younger I didn't particularly appreciate those long beaches on the ocean with the woods in the back. Now I do.A lot.As simple as that. I also wanted to be by myself and get a little introspective, reflect on certain issues, practice my yoga and meditation routines daily and being in contact with this kind of nature. Therefore, I went to Boston, rented a car and drove around that area. I was jetlagged and very tired the first day, plus the weather was horrible so I managed only to get to Falmouth, a very pretty town in Cape Cod. I didn't manage to see the beaches since it was raining so I just took strolls into town and stayed in an old fashioned but very nice motel: Mariner Motel.
The next day I decided to drive to Newport since the weather was really bad. At least I would be into a bigger town and would be able to do something. Well you guys from the States know it already but I have to say it anyway : Newport is beautiful. The harbour, the mansions, the nature: everything is pleasant and nice to look at. The mansions for us Europeans are not that interesting in terms of architecture or furbishing but certainly they have a fascination. Too bad for the weather: it was rainy,(very)cold, and miserable. Nevertheless I had a very good time there and met some interesting people. I stayed at Blues Inn, a very pretty B&B close to all the major amenities. The only one I managed to reach was Benjamin's, which apparently is one of the most popular restaurants and also bars. As a matter of fact I ended up staying there much longer than I expected since after having dinner there I met some very funny guys and spent a few more hours at the bar downstairs.
Then I went to Martha's Vineyard but that deserves a post by itself, and then to pretty pretty Provincetown. Now, I knew that it was famous for being an artist town, but nowhere did I find that it is a Gay-Lesbian favorite venue. I just found out by myself. To be clear there absolutely is no problem for me. It was really funny though to probably be the only straight person around at that time. Provincetown is a lovely place and I found a very nice guesthouse called The Carriage House, where Angus, the owner is fantastic and the breakfast he serves is superb. As far as restaurants go I wasn't very impressed with the one I went and I don't remember its name.
The next day I visited Chatham, another very pretty little town in the middle of Cape Cod and drove all the way down to Salem, the witch town. Mind you, the weather had changed abruptly so from 15 C° it became 30C° with a 80% humidity. Needless to say i was nearly melting and driving around in my car was the only moment when I could have some air conditioning and some time out from the heat. Now, I talked about the fact tha Provincetown is mainly a gay venue, at the same time Salem is a witch town, meaning the town revolves around the witch thing. Everything is witch-related, houses, museums, restaurants and ...the people. I have seen many women around who looked like what we would think a witch looks like and some people I talked to told me that there are in fact still practising witches and you can see them especially at Halloween when apparently you can't even get into town from the traffic of people going there. I liked it but i don't think I would repeat the experience.
The last day I was in Boston, where I had been many years before. I didn't recognize it really. It has changed a lot, however it is still a nice city although not one of my favorites in the States. Also it was so hot that I spent all afternoon in Boston Common a park in the center where I was surrounded by an army of squirrels and ducks which I had to relinquish my nuts and dried fruits to.
Then I managed to go and visit a little bit of the city and made it until North End the Italian neighbourhood going through Quincy market, which is a semi historic building in which you can find all kind of food sellers.Then I basically melted so I had to go back to the hotel and lay in the air conditioning. I would definitely go back to see the Hub again better with another kind of weather,spend some more time there .Love their accent by the way. By the time I went back I realized that this journey has helped me changing my prespective on a lot of things, to be free and in conact with nature, to practice my meditation and yoga, but more importantly nested a new me or somebody who was already there but hadn't come out yet. Here's to New England then!
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