Thursday, August 22, 2013

10 things I learned in Rome

 1. Walking is always best. Public transportation (the metro or bus 64) will save you blisters, perhaps, but you will miss the countless beautiful moments hidden in unexpected back alleys.

2.  That said, invest in a good street map beforehand. Particularly if it has interesting tips and historical facts.

3. Watch Roman Holiday and track down the spots where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck went.

4. Italian food is divine. Italian restaurants are not. Overpriced and with disappointing quality, stay away from any tourist cafe or restaurant near main attractions (so, basically all the restaurants). That said, here is a link to one woman's favorite places...

5. The Vatican is a total zoo. Beautiful and magnificent (getting to see the Sistine Chapel is absolutely awe-inspiring), but your stress level will probably rise with the masses/throngs/swarms/mobs of tourists who crash into you, step on your feet, forget deodorant, or have forgotten how to move.

6. Always tip the street musicians. They bring beauty and life to the streets. Let them know you appreciate it.

7. If you can, go in the spring or fall. August is awfully hot and most shops (and night clubs) are closed since the Romans are all on vacation themselves.

8. Grattachecca. Found only in Italy's capital, this shaved ice, fruit juice and fresh fruit chunks is hands-down the very best way to quench thirst during the torrid August days. The best, and oldest, one is lemon and coconut. You shouldn't pay more than about 4 euro for one (at the most).

9. Make friends with a gelato worker. If you go enough, they'll start giving you discounts or extra scoopings.

10. Explore at night and learn some Italian. Not only is the temperature a good 10-20 degrees cooler, but seeing the ancient monuments lit up is breath-taking, and this is when you'll get to meet new Italian friends to explore with.

11. And go with your best friend. :D

Monday, August 12, 2013

Free Wifi

Starbucks in Madrid has us pegged. The barista with grey eyes smiles when we ask, again, for the wifi codes along with our espressos. 

Madrid is a patchwork of color, languages, and mouth-watering cuisine. Mom and Spanish-Dad found a little flat tucked inside a colorful courtyard; drying laundry and wailing toddlers are our constant companions. Additionally, we are deep in the heart of the most ethnic section of the capital city. Renown as a low-rent district, it attracts a vast array of immigrants; over 50% of the population is estimated to be of foreign origin. Popular amongst squatters, drug dealers, socialist youth, and newly arrived immigrants, the area bears an eclectic aura, the "buenos dias"s laced with heavy accents. Our neighbors are Moroccan, Senegalese, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi, though countless other languages, dialects, and traditional dress frequent our narrow streets. I adore it.

Our apartment

El Metropolis

Guitarist outside the Prado Museum (who has an amazing CD)

Street musicians at El Rastro

And in the metro

Goofing around with a blue balloon outside the Reina Sophia Modern Art Musuem