Category Archives: Explorations beyond Southern Arizona

Colorado, I love you.

No, really I do and I want to go back very soon – to cool mornings and balmy, but not BALMY hot afternoons. I want to go back to creeks or cricks, dependent on whether you speak English or some Nebraskan version of the language. To green grass, aspens and pines. To rhubarb in the meadow by the spring and dandelions enough to last for weeks. I want to go back.

We spent the long holiday weekend up on the Western slope of the Colorado Rockies at Green’s Aunt and Uncle’s cabin. Well not exactly in the cabin, we camped close by though. The last time we were up here was some years ago, before we were married, before we had Bean. It was even more beautiful this time. I promise to share more photos soon.

We made it back to Tucson in the wee hours of Wednesday morning after driving for 16 hours straight. Okay, Green drove for 16 hours straight. He drove and I read two books which I’m not even going to share the titles of because so they are wonderfully trashy I fear you may never talk to me again. I offered to drive. I played I-spy with a certain four year old and I read and now I must sleep.

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You’ll Never Walk Alone

When you walk, through a cloud
Hold your heaaad up high
And yowuuuuuuuul nnnever walk aloooooone.

To be sung loud and proud and typically inebriated. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song You’ll Never Walk Alone is the Liverpool Football Club anthem. And you will never walk alone, because there is always someone in the rational football (soccer to you barbarians) world who understands the passion of LFC. That it is not just a game, but something much more, and really you never will be alone because there is always someone there who feels the same. Nick Hornby does such a good job of expressing the love for football that we’ll forgive him the love of Arsenal in Fever Pitch. What prompted this odd football note in the middle of explorations of pasta, adoption and navel gazing?

Finding this photo in the stack. Seen in the street market outside the Central Market in Florence.
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As I look over the paperwork for our big adoption agency I remember we’re not alone, there are thousands who have completed the seemingly endless paperwork. In the grand. or even not so grand, scheme of things this really isn’t even a blip. Now cleaning up our house ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

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Cinquecento

Cinquecentro in Red with Little People for Size Comparison

We’re back. At least physically we are. Mentally, I’m still in Florence sipping chugging chianti and devouring mozzarella di Bufala Campana. I’m going to surround myself with pictures of Fiat’s Cinquecento, open up a bar of Novi Nocciolato Gianduja, pour a glass of wine (perhaps not, drinking in the middle of the day with just a dog and two cats for company might be suspect) and relive a little of the past three weeks before picking up my child who has been up since 2am this morning. Hello jet lag.

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Thoughts upon revisiting Florence

We spent close to seven months living in Florence. We left just over a year and a half ago. I miss Florence.

Thoughts on our return to Florence:

1. Living inside the city means that one of your neighbours will be a musician, an opera practice studio or other mind-blowing opportunity to listen to the classical music while sitting on the pot, putting out laundry etc. This time, we’re right next to a violin, viola and cello maker. They look out onto our laundry courtyard and occasionally we hear the first voice of a beautiful instrument.

2. There is always a new gelateria to be tested, but you shouldn’t drop the old favorites.

3. The same goes for eateries. There is always a new trattoria to try or one you just never found before. Word to tourists, go to the south side of the river, the Oltrarno, to eat. Cheaper, and if you’re a bit away from the Ponte Vecchio significantly less tourists. Our favorites are still Alla Vecchia Bettola and San’Agostino 23, but with the change in hands of D’Gione and a great experience, but not as stellar as the first at Cavalo Nero, I’ll add L’Bridonelle (truffle pasta and fried zucchini flowers were amazing) and Trattoria Dell’ Orto (Crespelle – a Florentine speciality)

4. I forgot how bad the tap water smells. Even I can’t bring myself to drink it. Frizzante all the way baby.

5. The obsession with Louis Vuitton bags by Florentine men and women is completely beyond me. Those bags are just plain ugly. Really, you’re dressed exquisitely why add a dour brown bag with advertising all over it that looks exactly the same as all the other brown bags, and for that matter the knock-offs that are being sold all over the city.

Knights' Garden and Porcelain Museum in Boboli Gardens
6. Boboli may not be highly manicured like a fine English garden or how it was in the time of the Medici, but my mum is right, there is a greater beauty to be found in the fact that it is no longer only for the obscenely rich and their cronies -that the people of Florence can enjoy the space for free, and the rest of us for really not that much. It feels like a nice big F.U to the bourgeoisie. (What my dad noted is also important: when you think about how many great relics this city has to protect, something has to give and some open space in the middle of the city that all can enjoy is precious)

7. If you’re planning on going to Boboli, you should walk around the Northeast wall of Fort Belvedere out of the gardens and to Giardino Bardino. Another triumph for the people of Florence. Fought for and won just this century so that all could experience, the pergola blooms wisteria in April and the hydrangea in summer. Early mornings before everyone else makes it are best.

Bardini Pergola
From two years ago. We just missed the wisteria bloom this time.

8. I’d forgotten about the septic system for inside the city walls. Living on a large leach field can be smelly. Not unrelated, those rowing teams look so peaceful in their rhythmic movement down the Arno, I’m not sure they should be.

9. Wherever you are in town you’re going to be woken by the bells pealing the call to first mass. It doesn’t matter how thick the windowpanes, walls, or pillow, the bells are too mighty to be silenced.

10. Carousels are fun at two years, at four years and forty-two years.

We went on the carousel in Piazza Republica a lot.

11. If you’re here for any length of time you will see at least one motorbike accident. You’ll wonder why you don’t see more. Motorcyclists are crazy here and dodge and weave against traffic.

12. The sidewalks are ridiculously narrow. The order of who has priority on the sidewalk:
a. Old doddering Italian ladies and gentlemen have right of way. Don’t make them move off the sidewalk, it is too bloody precarious. Just say no to broken hips.
b. People carrying infants or pushing toddlers in prams come next, but expect to be cooed over. This is the price you pay so that you can bring your babe back into the nicest restaurants and be welcomed with open arms. Just enjoy it.
c. Same goes for pregnant ladies. You’re going to get cooed over. You are a goddess, enjoy the adoration. Maybe that should be a Madonna instead?
d. Late middle-aged Italian ladies who think that those in b and c should move out of the way. No really, it isn’t going to happen. In fact, unless you look infirm I’m going to stand my ground with my four-year old. I don’t give a crap about that look you’re giving me
e. The rest of you
Note: Italian teens still think that they have priority that they did when they were little and are oblivious to all. Maybe this isn’t just an Italian thing.
Dear tourist with the huge camera. You might consider that camera your baby, but it doesn’t give you any traction on the sidewalk priority listing. Get off the sidewalk as my child approaches and I haul groceries back from the store.

13. You won’t catch me on a bike inside the city walls, but sans helmets, the old and young take to rickety old bikes (none of this fancy shiny bike stuff here) and risk life and limb on the streets here. Tucson, note you could learn a thing or two from the bike parking opportunities here.

14. Those double-decker sight-seeing buses might be great for other cities, but Florence is a city you can walk. Grab a city bus to go up to Fiesole for the day, but walk to the rest and save a bunch of money.

15. The Accademia and Uffizi are definitely worth a visit, but check out some of the smaller museums and churches. The Bargello is amazing as is Santa Maria del Carmine which were new to us.

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16. If you’re in a vacation rental (an apartment that a Florentine is renting out) you might be told to sweep up the leaves off the patio by your elderly neighbour. He stopped short of asking me to weed. Just.

17. If you’re in a vacation rental you can save loads of money on meals by eating at home. I know, you’re thinking what is the point of that, if I’m in Florence? The produce here is so much better than anything we find in Tucson. If fruit and vegetables tasted like this all the time then you couldn’t stop kids from eating them. Tuscan cooking is based upon the quality of ingredients. It really is easy and quick to make something scrumptious here at least for one meal a day.

I’m sure there is more, but this is quite long enough.

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Eurocamp

I need to catch up a little. We’re in Italy. Green needed to be here for ten days for work. Before you begrudge him those ten days please know that ALL he does during those ten days is work. Off early in the morning not back until after eight at night and then he works some more from here. Me? Oh, I definitely got the good end of the bargain here. I get to revisit a place I love and see my mum. Oh, and I get to show Bean Italy and this time there is a good chance she’ll remember it.
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Lake Maggiore
Now before those ten days started we figured we’d actually take a vacation as a family, so we came over for a whole two weeks prior. This is unheard of in the Bean household. A vacation that isn’t visiting family? A whole two weeks? But how to see Europe cheaply? With a four year old in tow? When you’re no longer spring chickens? Camping darlin’. Well, Eurocamp. I’m not sure that counts as camping.

I don’t think this concept has really made it to the US, but when I was a kid and we went on vacation it was most often a Eurocamp. The basic gist is this: You show up at a campsite or parc. The tent, which is more like one of those tents out of Harry Potter than a backpacking tent or even one of those large car camping tents is already set up, complete with beds, stove, table, linens and towels (if you order them), a grill AND a fridge. See what I mean, not even remotely like camping other than you’re under canvas. Anyway book at the right time and you’re looking at about $30 or so dollars a night. The campsites usually have a restaurant, hot showers, laundry facilities, swimming pool, and a basic shop of sorts. I mean, really this isn’t camping, but when you’ve got a kid and a limited budget it works really well. The sites are usually infested with kids, which as they get older means they go off and entertain themselves while you get toasty on a little local vino. Sweet eh?
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Well it was sweet, but next time I’m going to remember the following: When choosing sites close to large mountain ranges that include active glaciers remember that they might be a bit nippy. Just because they weren’t nippy in July, 30 years ago when you went as a kid, doesn’t mean that they won’t be nippy in April at the beginning of the season. Remember your freaking fleece jacket and extra sweaters or you will freeze your ass off.
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View from our camper in Bourg d’ Oisans

I’m not sure if I should admit that I actually did think that the temperatures might be a wee bit brisk, but decided I needed the space in my suitcase for cans of olive oil and yarn from Florence instead. Hmmmm. My cold and cough have subsided now you’ll be pleased to know. The other admission is when we were in the French Alps at Bourg d’Oisans we weren’t even under canvas, but in a wee cute Eurocamp mobile home which had its own bathroom. A mini apartment with a heater. Oh, and a grown up bedroom with a full bed, and a teeny kid room with bunk beds that looks like something out of a ship galley. Still, it was cold outside. Yeah Eurocamp! It rained, we played cards and knit. It was nice, we went out and explored. We ate out at some great places, but also had the option to cook and eat cheaply at our home/tent. Lovely. Oh, and then we went to warm, sunny Vernazza and stayed in a hostel room, which is where the earlier post’s photo was taken.
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Playing cards or something in the Eurocamp mobile house

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Where in the World?

Vernazza, May 2011

It has been a bit silent over in GFG land, but now our house sitter has been firmly embedded for a week I don’t feel like such a twit saying we’re not there. Funny thing is we met him and his family where we are now. Their apartment was just 2 minutes walk from where we are in Florence this time. Green and J.C. (no really) worked together and it took them a couple of months to realize that they had partners with young children exploring Florence alone. Hmmph! Astronomers. Then Z,C and Bean and I explored together and it was fun.

Of course, this time Green gets sent to Florence (oh, the hardship) just as J.C. and his family are moving to Tucson from Spain. This time we’re only here for a few weeks though. We’ve been in Italy and France for nearly 2 weeks now, a sweet vacation before the hard work (for some) began. We got to see a dear friend’s mum and meet a ‘virtual’ friend I know from online and her family while we were in France which was fabulous.

The internet is painfully slow here in our apartment and I may have to just upload the pictures and tell you about it when we return. I’m perched by a window in a most uncomfortable and precarious position to get slower than dial up connection. Terrible isn’t it?

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Snow Flurry

We made a quick trip this weekend to Bear Creek Cabins in Pino Altos, New Mexico this weekend with friends. Hot chocolate, peppermint schnapps and Bailey’s were the order of the day. Bean just settled for hot chocolate, or as she says “Hot! Hot! Yo, we got it! Hot chocolate!” It apparently must be said as sung in the Polar Express movie. I had images of knitting curled up by a fire, but I think next time we should spend a few more days there so I have time for such luxury.
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The snow came down thick and fast on Sunday morning. So thick that just two hours after it started falling we were getting stuck trying to get out of the drive way and the road from Silver City to Lordsburg was closed. I wasn’t going to argue with that nice police officer who was braving a veritable snow storm to turn us around.

The white stuff on Bean’s hair – snow.

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