Kalimera

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Two weeks in paradise and counting.

Andros, a two-hour ferry ride from Athens and we enter a new dimension.

Four beds, a bathroom, a kitchen and a terrace with glorious views. That’s all we have, that’s all we need.

It’s hot, scalding hot, but the beach is only 2 minutes away down what it seems to be a never-ending staircase to wonderland.

The small town of Chora is welcoming and friendly. First hand, it seems almost too small. But day after day the town expands in front of our eyes. Everything we need is here, so reachable. People become acquaintances, acquaintances become friends.

I have been reminded how wonderfully simple life can be. First love. Infinite memories…

Thank you Chora.

Fano

20150517_163418Friday noon Marcos left for a fun-filled weekend in London. The kids and I went for ice cream and packed our bags. No way I was going to be a single mum in a city reaching 28 degrees, when I could hop on a train, actually two trains and be in the Adriatic coast… right? Who’s with me???

So, being my I- can-do- it-self, Saturday morning, Remo, Nika, Petra and I got on our way to the town of Fano.

Getting there wasn’t too bad… I did sweat quite a bit, especially when I had to climb the second train (the regional one) with a shoulder bag, a suitcase and a 5 year old velcroed to my hip. But after almost four hours, we made it.

The sky was grey. The taxi ride (8 blocks) from the station to the hotel was a fast and angry one and the taxi driver took off with my change; but we had made it! I had made it, and still had 3 kids with me.

The hotel apartment was enormous. It was inside an old palace, hence the name of the place: Palazzo Rotati. It had two rooms, a small kitchen with a round dinning table where we had breakfast in the morning, a balcony with sea views, a long corridor and a big bathroom. It was super clean and very tidy but most importantly, it had great beds and it was quiet. Oh… but it wasn’t ready when we arrived so we left our luggage and went out for lunch.

People tend to either give mothers with their children two kinds of looks: the “please don’t sit here, please go somewhere else” look or the opposite one. The owner of the restaurant must have been a dad, and a good one. He was welcoming, he took care of the kids’ food fast and made me a Spritz (oh yes people, I tried it in Venice and I’ve been hooked to this refreshing aperitif ever since… with Aperol that is, not Campari ;).

It was the best lunch I’ve had in Italy since I arrived, we were happy.

We had a quiet night. Breakfast was brought to us at 8 the next morning; a mixture of freshly baked sweet pastries, eggs, fruit and ham and cheese toasties. We headed to the beach and after acquiring the local beach know-how we got settled. We rented loungers and a beach umbrella which gave us access to the pools (yes New Zealanders, there were 2 pools at the beach), volleyball courts, showers, toilets and changing rooms and all other recreational services you could think of.

Took a bit of getting used to not having sand under our feet, but after a while I realised how much easier… and cleaner the whole day-at-the-beach gets. Can you imagine wearing heeled wedges to Pakiri Beach? – don’t think so, but in Fano, women and men rock up to the seaside looking good, very fashionable and with very small swimwear.

We stayed at the beach for a couple of hours, had lunch in our new favourite restaurant (the kids had squid and octopus) and went back to our loungers. It was hot but the breeze made it very pleasant. The emerald sea was crystal clear and we went in. I was expecting it to be warm. It wasn’t. That day we dived in the Adriatic Sea for the first time in our lives, and it was cold, I mean cool…

Around seven we headed back to the apartment. On our way there we stopped at a small greek restaurant. Dinner was quick, fresh and delicious. ~Effey, I thought of you~.

Near Fano there is a variety of attractive touristic sites. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to visit them but we were told the Medieval town of Urbino and the Grotte di Frasassi are worth a visit.

This was a short and sweet weekend away with the kids. I admit there were moments that felt quite challenging, but we all helped each other out and made it work. We experienced new places, new foods and new ways of living. And we did it together.

 

Mercato Centrale di San Lorenzo

El Mercato Centrale or Central Market is located in the centre of the city, only a short stroll from the S. Maria Novella train station. It is also known as the San Lorenzo Market and is one of the oldest in Florence, built in Via dell’Ariento in 1874. Back in the day, before supermarkets for ever changed the way we buy our food, most florentines would buy their fresh produce from here.

The San Lorenzo Market could be divided into three different sections. The outdoor area with the wooden stalls that sell scarfs and leather goods like bags, wallets, jackets, belts and gloves; the ground floor of the covered market, where fresh produce shops are found (cheeses and cured meats, vegetables, fish, meat and flowers) and the first floor, where since the spring of 2014 people can enjoy a variety of foods prepared daily from 10 till midnight.

All the shops are run by artisan merchants and the offer is varied: from baked bread and confectionary to fish, meats, salamis and cheeses, chocolates and gelato, fresh pasta, wines and the Tuscan speciality:  lampredotto sandwiches  (a soft roll stuffed with tender slices of tripe (beef belly) and a spicy sauce ~ sounds gross – tastes divine.

The fresh produce part of the market opens daily at 7.30 and closes at 2. Early in the morning, specially before the lunch rush, the place is filled by locals. Tourists are welcome too but standing in line and ordering un quarto di pecorino can present itself somewhat challenging if one doesn’t dominate the language. It might take a few visits before one decides to go for it and buy food like the locals do but let me tell you, it is well worth it.

12pm Lampredotto awaits.

Via Statuto 8

This is where we live in Firenze

We’ve been in Florence for almost two weeks now and we’ve settled down quite happily. It could be said we feel at home.

Our apartment is very comfortable, with its 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, separate kitchen and dining room and enormous living area and balcony. The girls’ room is on the second floor, reached by an old and squeaky wooden staircase. They’ve christened it Sleeping Beauty’s Castle…

Just across from where we are we have the best gelato in town at Gelateria de Medici – I should know… I’ve tried a few-, pharmacy and hairdresser (I’ll tell you about my experience there another time). Bus stop and train station 2 minutes away and supermarket and fresh pasta shop 5 blocks away.

We walk everywhere, e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y! It takes us 25 minutes (2km) to get to the city centre, so we are all getting quite fit! I never thought I would see my kids walk so much everyday without complaints, but as Nika pointed out, in this city stories find you because history is everywhere.  It’s like living in the XXI st Century Renaissance.

Architecture, people, even cars are different here. I love cars, I’ve always have and I wish I could get into one of those mini car/motorcycle-with-doors we see all around town! You should see how they park. It’s almost like there are no rules. Everything goes, as long as it fits. And this, of course,  includes the sidewalk.

People, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, they all intermingle in the tiny streets of Florence; miraculously no one gets injured.

I confess that walking with three children in the middle of the city can sometimes be quite challenging, specially when the sidewalk suddenly ceases to exist or when the street is so narrow one has to play “you can’t get me” with the passing cars’ rear mirrors.

Shops in Firenze are quite different too. It takes some time to get used to but once you do, it all makes sense. For example, in a parrucchiere, or hair salon, they not only cut, style and colour hair but they also do manicures, pedicures and all other estetica services (facials, massages and various beauty treatments).

Supermarkets are half the size of the ones back home and are very crowded.  Products sit on shelves and hanging from both sides of the aisles. It takes good set of trolley driving skills to get through those! But only after figuring out how to detach the shopping trolley from the chain it is attached to (a coin has to be inserted in the handle to release the trolley. Once you’ve finished using it, the lock should be reinserted to get the coin back — someday somebody will thank me for this tip).

Last but not least, gelato shops. Seems like there is one every couple of blocks, although be warned, quality can vary significantly from one gelateria to another.

Every city has its own charm, but as we all know, Italians are known worldwide for they food and their… passion. In Florence, this passion is in the air.

And we love it!

Back In Time

Let’s go to Rome“, he proposed.

Two hours later we were on the fast train to the Roman city ~only a 1.5 hr trip~.
To be honest, I wasn’t impressed. Big and impersonal, Rome had to grow on me, specially after a ghastly lunch experience. NEVER and I mean EVER go to a restaurant in a touristy area. It’s always the same story: bad food, steep check. Being a self proclaimed foodie myself, I take my food seriously, so I would normally spend a decent amount of time researching where the locals indulge themselves with magnificent cuisine… but this time around I didn’t do my homework and lunch was a disaster.

Fortunately, round the corner from the trattoria, there it was. Standing tall, breathtaking. I was smitten.
Rome had conquered my heart.

The Coliseum.
Built more than 2000 years ago (Vespasian began its construction 72AD and his son Titus opened it in 80AD with games that lasted 100 days) it is one – if not the one – of Rome’s most impressive buildings. The entrance is pretty straight forward. There are guided tours, video guides and audio guides- at an extra cost -. Any of these options is well worth the investment because there is not a lot of historical information around the site. The whole Coliseum experience lasts between 45 and 60 minutes… unless of course, you are lucky enough to not be lugging a hungry/thirsty/tired 5 year year old and wish to sit and take it all in.

The entrance ticket to the Coliseum also includes the entrance to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. If you are like me, I had no idea what these were.

Even more so than inside the Coliseum, one can get lost in time whilst roaming amongst the gardens of the Palatine Hill. This is one of seven hills in Rome and one of the most ancient parts of the city. It is said to be where Romulus killed his twin brother Remus and founded Rome in 754 BC. Ruins of huts built by early settlers and of once imperial palaces fill isolated parts of The Palatine which stands right above the Roman Forum. I recommend taking the time to go up and looking at The Forum from above; the view is frankly stunning.

The Forum (or plaza) used to be a marshland which the romans drained and converted into Rome’s marketplace and political, administrative and religious centre. It is home to the ruins of various important ancient buildings and statues.

Once again, in order to bring these places to life, some kind of expert guidance is recommended.

Back on the train, we skimmed through the peaceful Tuscan scenery until arriving back to Florence.

There’s a feeling of belonging. Maybe it has to do with the fact that we’ve been here almost a week or maybe it’s just that we come from a small city and it feels familiar… all I know is that today Roma conquered my heart but Florence still owns my soul.


The standard admission ticket covers The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Children under 18 are free. 
Closed: January 1, May 1, December 25


I ❤ Shoes

There I was, Thursday afternoon, playing hide and seek in the city’s narrow cobbled streets when I stumbled upon it: Museo Salvatore Ferragamo.

Anywhere in the world that has a shoe museum is like home to me, so I opened the door.

An 1840’s building, Palazzo Spini Feroni is the headquarters of Ferragamo’s company and has been the designer’s workshop since he bought the palace in 1938. The museum is situated in the underground floor and it showcases Ferragamo’s masterpieces from 1927 till his death in 1960 and other shoes produced under his label to the present day.

Salvatore Ferragamo was captivated with making shoes that were not only beautiful but comfortable too. He studied human anatomy and invented an internal support made of steel that would help width distributing the body’s weight over the arch of the foot.  He also added the measurement of foot width which led to the creation of more than 70 shoe fit and size combinations we have available for men and women today.

Ferragamo’s designs displayed in the museum are breathtaking. All his extraordinary inventions are there for us to admire:  the cork wedge, the stiletto with metal reinforcement, the gold sandals and the invisible sandals made with one continuos nylon thread.

Salvatore Ferragamo is not only a world-known fashion brand but a symbol of immense self belief, greatness and success.

 

 

 


The museum is open from 10 am to 7:30 pm everyday; except 1 January, 1 May, 15 August and 25 December.
Admission: €6. Children under ten years of age and adults over 65 enter free of charge.
Free entrance to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum every first Sunday of the month.
Audio guide service in Italian English French Spanish and Japanese.


 

Sleepless in Dubai

jet lag
noun
  1. extreme tiredness and other physical effects felt by a person after a long flight across different time zones.
    “she was suffering from jet lag and needed to rest”… nahhh! really????!!! Tell me about it…
         24 hours+ but we finally made it into Dubai at 5am local time. Hot, dry, sterile. “it looks very modern and new” commented Marcos to the driver while we went down Sheik Zayed rd ~language barrier~ “yes, yes, very clean, very clean” he stated proudly.
    Got to the hotel and of course our room wasn’t ready, so we dived into our suitcases, grabbed our -got-to-the-hotel-too-early-essentials- and headed to the pool.
         Aha… the pool at 6 am. Let me paint a picture in your mind: onlyblondeinbikini. Other women there were wearing a jilbab {a woman’s modest dress} and a hijab {head covering or veil}. Tad uncomfortable so we covered ourselves and headed out to see the grand Burj Khalifa.
    9am: 30 degrees. Burj Khalifa is impressive. So tall it doesn’t fit in my camera, bummer. Tallest building in the world since 2010 (211 floors in total- 829.8m tall). Took only 5 years to build at a cost of USD $1.5 billion. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai has a penthouse at the very top. Sorry Donald, you’re fired!
         Neighbouring the tallest building in the world is the largest mall in the world. So we went in. Oh yeah baby! Welcome to Shoe District: 300 brands and the most breathtaking shoe designs. We walked around and visited the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo with its underwater tunnel and glass bottomed boats. Did I mention it is also the largest suspended aquarium in the world?
         Lunch and mall hopping with friends till 10 pm.
    After a 5 hour sleep – with interruptions: kids woke up to start the day at 2am – we headed to the Dubai Mall again for some ice skating. There was a sand storm so going to the beach was a no go.
    A few hours later we were on the plane heading to our first european home: Firenze.
     ❤