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Friday, February 26, 2010

Ditty in Dialetto

My parents, having come from Italy right before I was born, always spoke Italian to me from the beginning. But between themselves, they often spoke the Lombardian dialect. I came to understand it completely, but never really learned to speak it. Every time I'd go to Italy, I would hear the dialect spoken and I felt like a snoop because others thought I couldn't understand it, but I comprehended everything!!! And whenever I heard it, it made me happy - it always seemed so comical. Even when the people were having a "discussion", it never seemed like they were angry or upset with each other!! This little "ditty" was one that I learned (one of the few things I can actually say in "dialetto") and it is one of my favorites!! To the foreign ear, it all sounds the same...but it really does mean something!!! Who can figure it out?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Some Things to Do in and around Portland, OR

On a beautiful sunny day, Cathedral Park in Portland, along the banks of the Willamette River, is a perfect spot for a casual picnic. The park sits underneath the St. John’s Bridge – a green colored suspension bridge with towers that resemble Gothic cathedral spires. The bridge was begun in 1929 and dedicated in 1931. It is the only suspension bridge spanning the Willamette, and also the tallest bridge in Portland. This area is peaceful and a wonderful spot for just relaxing.

Right across the Columbia River from Portland lies the old British outpost of the Hudson Bay Company called Fort Vancouver. In 1825, the HBC (a large fur trading organization) set up headquarters here. For the next two decades, Ft. Vancouver became the fur trade capital of the Pacific coast. Many people of all nationalities worked and traded here.

In the 1830’s and 1840’s, American settlers came to the Willamette Valley to farm and live. The HBC made supplies and credit available to these new settlers. This influx of Americans resulted in a division of the Oregon Country and left Ft. Vancouver on American soil. For a few years the HBC continued to trade with the settlers and Indians, but trade diminished and the company abandoned the fort. By 1866, the Fort was abandoned because of fire and decay destroying all the structures.

In 1947, archeologists began excavation on the site of the original fort recovering many artifacts and allowing for reconstruction of the original structures. Touring this wonderful place harkens the visitor back to life in the Old West. Many docents, dressed in period costume, work the facility in the blacksmith shop, the bakery, the kitchen, the general store, and the fur trading outpost.

Seeing the fur pelts hanging from the walls and on the floor is very interesting, even though a bit sad because of all the animal slaughter that went into this trading business. But this is how life was like in this part of the country in those days, and the authenticity is amazing.

The visitor can experience life as it truly was in the 1800’s.

The Best Pizza I Have Tasted So Far

Ken's Artisan Pizza in Portland, OR, is truly one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten, and being Italian, I am pretty particular when it comes to pizza. This wood-fired pizza delivers that crunchy, slightly burnt, and never soggy thin crust that, for me, is the epitome of a great pizza. And then, when it is topped with fresh and savory ingredients, DELIZIOSO!!

The restaurant is located in Portland’s quaint South East neighborhood. It is a fairly small place which, unfortunately, doesn’t allow for lots of seating. Therefore, there is ALWAYS a long wait – sometimes upwards of one to two hours. They do not take any reservations, but they do allow you to have a glass of wine from the bar while waiting to be seated. The ambience is simple – lots of wood!! Supposedly the wood was salvaged from the Giant Dipper roller coaster in Jantzen Beach!! Nice to know that the vintage roller coaster lives on!! The giant wood oven in the center of the restaurant is fascinating to watch as the pizza artists put their creations into the burning inferno just to have it reappear as a super-culinary delight.

This restaurant did not disappoint in any way – even the long wait was well worth it!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Nines Hotel in Downtown Portland

This Luxury collection hotel is located across the street from Pioneer Square in Downtown Portland. The Nines is located on the upper 9 floors of the historic Meier and Frank building (therefore the origin of the hotel’s name!). The lower floors are occupied by Macy’s.

The hotel boasts a very chic interior consisting of gray, aqua, black and taupe color schemes with crystal chandeliers and marble bathrooms. The d├ęcor is a beautiful mix of modern and classic design elements. Even though the rooms are a bit on the small side, all the amenities are included. Charging stations and Ipod plug ins for listening to all your Itunes favorites are found in the room as well as free wi-fi. When the turn down service occurs in the evenings, you return to soft music playing in the background and some pseudo chocolate brownies. The brownies aren’t great – they taste too healthy to be good but the thought is appreciated!! The beds are absolutely wonderful – plush duvets and soft, but not mushy, pillows – which make for a very restful sleep. The rooms on the top floor, facing the street, are extremely quiet.

The hotel proudly displays a contemporary art collection from local artists, and the art is not only found in the public spaces but in the guest rooms as well.

There are two dining establishments: The Urban Farmer is located in the downstairs lobby (which is on the 8th floor) and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It looks to be a typical hotel restaurant, and not too exciting.

But, on the 15th and top floor, is the very chic Departures bar and restaurant. The atmosphere up there at night is electric. It is dark, but the twinkling lights of the city below create an exceptional aura. There is a lot of life up there. The clientele tend to be on the younger side, but not to say that an older person would feel out of place. Even though it was very lively and crowded, it was also very romantic. The cuisine is Asian-flaired with a modern twist.

The Nine’s location is very convenient for walking the Downtown area and for hopping on Portland’s extensive public transportation system. Many stylish shops and boutiques, as well as exceptional restaurants, are all within easy access to the hotel’s location. All in all, for a Downtown experience, the Nines is a wonderful and luxurious escape.

Monday, February 15, 2010

An Italian Recitation

Well, today I finally got the courage (after a bit of practice) to post my recitation of a very famous Italian poem by Giacomo Leopardi. I have tried to enunciate as well as I possibly can, but I'm sure my pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired :( I don't think I could ever lose the American accent that permeates my Italian to the core. This video also highlights some of the beautiful Italian countryside of which this poem speaks of.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Vampire of Venice?

Today on the news, I saw this interesting little clip about the so-called vampires of 16th century Europe. What could they be? And my question remains why all these weird and evil creatures survived then but have since disappeared from the world? Or are we just calling them something else? Hmmm...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gratitude Friday - Time

Time is a blessing, and when you can find that you have some free time, it needs to be treasured. Our lives have become so frantic that we tend to use every spare moment to get another errand done. You'd think that with all the modern conveniences we have now over what our parents and grandparents had, we'd have more free time to spend enjoying life a bit. But instead, we add more and more to our plate!!! So I have decided that I am going to sit back and take things a bit slower. I am going to learn to say "no" to those things which I don't feel to be important. I used to feel guilty when someone asked me to do something - but now I've decided that I will do something because I enjoy doing it, not out of a sense of duty. It took me about 30 years to figure out how to say NO, but it is getting easier. Life is just too short - you can't fill it up with things that are not enjoyable. And when was the last time you lay down on the grass and watched the clouds stream overhead? I know it's been years for me....once the weather gets warm again, I promise to myself that I will do it!!!