If I could just take a moment to publicly acknowledge the fact that I'm blessed with a lovely life, I'd really feel like the elephant in the room would disappear. It seems here that my life is a perpetual cycle of Sunday dinners, vacations and NYC weekends. And, it is. But, please don't think for a minute that I am not acutely aware of the fact that I am so very fortunate. You should know, without a doubt, that I feel completely blessed by all of the events, people and memories I've experienced, good and bad. All of these have combined to make me who I am today, warts, scars and laugh lines. But, here's the thing: so many people in this world choose to hold on to that which has hurt them rather than that which has made them stronger. You know, it really is a matter of choice, of perspective, what we decide to hang onto. And, while the options aren't always as simple as let go or be dragged, that is the ultimate decision. What's the point of this conversation? Well, as I sit here in this house in Wellfleet, with the skylight lit roof and the delightful breeze, I know how lucky I truly am. Tell me about your blessings.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
We're off today for our annual visit to Cape Cod, so postings for the next two weeks will be sparse, if not nonexistent. We've visited the Cape every summer since 1999 and it is a tradition we all look forward to enjoying each year. Our first few years, we stayed in the Harwichport or South Chatham area, but for the last 5 years we've rented in Wellfleet, and I absolutely love it there. I mean, love it to the point that if I could move there without losing my place on the salary chart, I would do it in a heartbeat. In my "moving to Wellfleet" fantasy, Tom & I open a little wine bar and enjoy raising the boys in a small town that happens to expand for three months each year. I've heard the winters there are a bit more mild, but imagine (this is a fantasy, imagining is mandatory) there are still 4 seasons and if it is too mild to x-country ski, I guess we could bike more months of the year. And, since we wouldn't have to take a two week vacation to the beach if we lived there, we could always take x-country ski vacations during the winter instead.
For the next two weeks, we'll be riding bikes, bouncing between the ocean, the bay and our favorite ponds, and trying to get our fill of fish and ice cream. When we come back home, the Delaware Avenue roadwork should be finished and hopefully the DelSo will again be walkable.
Until our return, enjoy all the wonderful things the Albany area has to offer. See you in August!
Friday, July 23, 2010
While I thoroughly enjoyed my yellow salad the other day, I have to confess that I am positively obsessed with arugula. Don't get me wrong - I've enjoyed arugula since my first peppery bite experience a number of years ago, but something has happened recently to kick my sweet like into lustful love. And I blame it all on the lunch we enjoyed in Lucca.
Do you see that mound of arugula piled on top of the most tender imaginable carpaccio? Can't you almost taste it drizzled with olive oil which somehow manages to be both assertive and delicate, a squeeze or two of fresh lemon, coarse salt, black pepper and parmesan shavings? That, my friends, is where it's at, for me, these days and my appetite for this divinest of greens has not been sated, despite my non-stop indulgence over the last three days. Here's a picture of today's early lunch: the last of the arugula with all of the aforementioned ingredients, some croutons for crunch and finished - or shall we say crowned, with a lightly fried egg. I think we both know I need to go to the farm market tomorrow. Who wants to come with me?
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I'll be honest here, the allure of Boston has always escaped me. Perhaps it is because I grew up so close to the city, but, I've always failed to be impressed by Bean-town. Admittedly, my experience with Boston is pretty limited, I've probably been there less than a dozen times, but it is difficult for me to take that town seriously as a city. From my very first trip there, I've consistently floundered in my attempts to find a cool independent place for lunch or to shop. Since my friend moved there though, I've definitely been to some areas which I've enjoyed like Newbury Street, Boston Commons, Quincy Market, the Children's Museum and, of course, the Aquarium. I guess I just don't find it to be a particularly exciting city, but perhaps witnessing your baseball team's (almost) perpetual post-All-Star break choke is excitement enough for the natives.
Since I do have a good friend there who is about to have her first baby, Q & I gave it another try this past week with decent results. We drove out Monday in the late morning arriving in Medford in early afternoon. The heat, and the stage of my friend's pregnancy, dictated our limited agenda for the day, and we decided to take the train to Quincy Market for a walk around. The T is definitely a convenient way to get around despite any lingering bitterness I may have following the U2 show we saw last year at Gilette Stadium, when we would have liked to have taken public transportation, but the T only runs when the Patriots are playing. Apparently it doesn't matter that there might be nearly 70,000 concert goers because only football fans count. Whatever.
Quincy Market reminds me of the South Street Seaport, and is a great way to spend an hour or two. There are places to eat, shop and be entertained and Quinn certainly enjoyed himself. The waterfront is close by and it is generally a nice area to walk around, but that is about all I can tell you. I simply don't know enough about Boston. And - that's where you come in. Yesterday I got an email from TravelZoo with an offer to stay at a pretty decent hotel in Boston's Back Bay (wherever that is) for cheap - $139 a night. I went ahead and booked two night for our anniversary, figuring I could finally explore B-town and try to develop some love, while also meeting the Clancy baby. So...what do you suggest we do? We'll be there Saturday - Monday and you know we like to eat and drink. Please share your suggestions, which should not include the Red Sox unless they're playing the Yankees, and I will dutifully report back. Thanks for your help!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I started making a green salad this weekend, however, I actually ended up with a more decidedly yellow one! I mean, there definitely was a green "base" of mixed field greens, but by the time I added all of the beautiful vegetables (and 2 fruits, counting tomatoes) I ended up with a delicious bowlful of yellow yumminess.
To my foundation of greens, I added: roasted beets (really - you don't like beets? Really? These were like candy!), fresh corn off the cob (leftover), yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow peppers and cubed mango. I finished the salad with a dressing of olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper and mustard. Totally delicious. For the last two days I've been craving arugula with olive oil, lemon juice and salt so that's my mission for today. Don't you love summer eating?
Monday, July 19, 2010
The word "camp" connotes many different things to people. For me, "camp" reminds me of that place where my mother sent me for a week, the summer before 8th grade, because I was on the verge of getting out of control. I remember a cool monkey bridge, early morning swims in a lake hidden by a fog of condensation, making new short term friends and getting my first kiss. Not an overall bad experience, despite it being the summer we lost Thurman Munson. And, FYI, it didn't prevent me from my continuing spiral to the "dark side," if you consider some typical teen aged rebellion to be worthy of panic and punishment. Perhaps things might have turned out differently, Mom, if we had both stayed home, huh?
I've heard "camp" used as slang for the "big house" or prison. This usage is probably most on par with how our two older boys would describe camp. They definitely resent the structure a week of camp inflicts upon them during a 10 week stretch of being primarily on their own time frame. I think that the timing of their camp week is a pretty good check in the otherwise unstructured block of time known as summer. We purposefully do not over schedule their summers with enrichment and lessons because they are kids and we want them to simply have a chance to experience their own rhythm for a few weeks. But, a week's worth of structure can only benefit all of us. And it will provide me with an opportunity to prepare for our next getaway to the Wellfleet.
This is Liam's third summer at camp, and Griffin and Liam's second summer at their current camp in Rensselaer County. Liam's first camp experience was at Camp Chingachgook, which was a beautiful spot, but outrageously expensive (in my opinion) when we considered sending two boys. I mean, seriously, I could book an additional week on the Cape for the entire family for the price of sending 2 kids to Chingachgook for a "week." Week is in quotation marks because a "week" of camp is similar to an "hour" of therapy - not an accurate measurement of time, when week = Sunday through Friday.
When I picked up the boys from camp last year, they looked tired, their complexions were a bit darker (a combination of sun and dirt) and they seemed bigger, perhaps even slightly older. They enthusiastically filled the car with their stories and experiences from the week and I got the impression that they had really enjoyed themselves. I asked if they were already looking forward to next summer and they bombarded me with their lame criticisms of camp - the food, the lack of privacy, the being on a schedule... These are all valid complaints, but certainly issues which they will have to contend with for many, many years to come. Why not learn some coping skills? So, here we are, Summer 2010 and the big boys are at camp (again) and Quinn is home with us for his own version of camp, or, as I like to call it, Boot Camp. This little boy of ours needs some attention (or breaking, akin to a wild horse) before he heads off to the big K in September.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Inspired by my previous post, I decided to blow off Spinning class this morning in favor of a real bike ride outside. Not one of those 25 milers on my road bike today, though. Instead I hopped on my old faithful, Trek, and rode to Troy to reap some harvest at the Farmer's Market. The ride over was wonderful! There was a gorgeous breeze blowing in from the Hudson and it felt great to be outside. Today's market was in a slightly different location due to today's Troy Pig Out - River Street, and I really loved this set-up. Shops were open and the market snaked its way around the monument in a way that led shoppers in a counterclockwise fashion that made seeing everything really easy. I picked up some lovely things, including peaches, tomatoes, leeks and rainbow beets. Unfortunately I seemed to have lost my leeks somewhere on the way home, probably going up the hill on Second Avenue. I'm sure there is a joke in there just waiting for your creativity. Oh, well - it gives me a good excuse to ride to another market soon.
We all learned a little Italian on our trip (Quinn's "buon giorno" is the cutest thing ever!) but the phrase above is my new inspiration. The sweetness of doing nothing - what a wonderful sentiment, philosophy, mantra. The thing is, however, I really don't do "nothing" well. My inability to do "nothing" is probably related somehow to my struggle with living in the moment.
While on vacation, I can relax with the best of them without feeling pressured to do anything, but, at home, it's a different story. The tighter my schedule, the more productive I am. The 10 days of ridiculous heat and humidity we've been experiencing since our return, have completely drained me of any initiative to accomplish anything - and, as I look around the part of my house visible from my air conditioned living room, I see a lot that needs to be done. Toys that need to be tossed, shelves that would benefit from dusting and straightening, tasks that I can't get to during the school year that are screaming for my attention, but I can't seem to get started with anything. And, of course, there's something about humidity that just makes everything seem dirty.
This is not the sweetness of doing nothing, this is the stickiness of doing nothing. I think I'll go clean a shelf.
Il Dolce Far Niente by William Holman Hunt - Image from Victorianweb.org
Friday, July 16, 2010
Prior to our visit earlier this month, I hadn't been to London in a long time - almost 20 years. In the past I've always considered London to be huge, sprawling in every direction with too many neighborhoods to ever fully explore. This sensibility of mine made planning a mere two days there a bit of a challenge - where to stay? What to see?
I began by booking a flat rather than hotel rooms and I selected an area of the city that was just being developed during my last visit - the Docklands. This area southeast of central London is very reminiscent, to me, of Battery Park in NYC. I received some criticism for staying "so far" away from the tourist areas, but, this place was just about ideal for us. The flat itself was modern, but a bit dingy in the carpets and bathrooms, with a grocery market and transportation (Docklands Light Rail) nearby. We arrived late on Saturday night, leaving 2 full days for hitting the sights.
We began by figuring out the transportation system, which is both fairly priced (about $25 total for our family's one day travel cards) and convenient. Using a combination of the DLR and the Tube, we were on Regent Street in 20 minutes - perfect. Our meandering path took us to Piccadilly Circus, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, past 10 Downing Street and to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. We bought tickets for the double decker bus tour in the afternoon and spent the latter part of Sunday, as well as Monday morning, riding the bus (and a boat on the Thames) around London. This was the third hop on/hop off bus tour (the others being in Dublin and Belfast) we've done and they are a really easy way to hit the major sights. I don't know why these tours are so expensive at home (NYC for a family of 5 = $220+) but in London the price at less than $100 was a great value. Actually, we found most things, including the London Eye and the Tower of London, to be about $100, not quite the hemorrhaging of money I had imagined, but certainly capable of putting a dent in your wallet without consideration. We had hoped to ride the London Eye at sunset, but the evenings are so long in Europe in the summer that we didn't have the fortitude to occupy ourselves until 9 pm, particularly since we were still on Italian time. The views were outstanding, but, honestly, I could have done with a 15 minute ride rather than the 30 minutes required for a single rotation. I definitely get a little irrational about heights and was convinced that at least one of the Lilly boys was going to push against the door that quite clearly said "Do Not Lean on Doors" and plummet to his death... I did take a moment, however to catch a photo of this factory (minus the floating pig) which gained fame as the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals album. We finished the evening with a great dinner, including Peking duck, in Chinatown. Should we have had pork, do you think?
Monday we hit up the Tower of London, which is only cooler after watching a couple of seasons of The Tudors. We didn't see the crown jewels (insert Royal family joke here) this time around because the queue was way too long, but the boys definitely got something out of visiting this amazing place. The family split, as Tom and the two younger guys went the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum while Liam & I shopped, and then bounced to Covent Garden, where Griffin and I took in some street performances while Tom, Liam & Quinn visited the London Transport Museum.
While we certainly didn't see close to everything that London has to offer, the guys definitely got a flavor for the city, the culture and the history. The weather was spectacular, the boys were generally cooperative and the beer was tasty, all good reasons to go back before too much time passes.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
So, a couple of weeks ago our coffee maker died. It was a Cuisinart and it had served us reasonably well for 5 or 6 years. I say reasonably well, because Tom was less than impressed by the temperature of the coffee produced and I had experienced a few too many times its tendency for the grinds to clog up the works and overflow onto the counter. Not exactly what I want to deal with before even having a cup of coffee. I think this may have been the first time we outlived a coffee maker - prior to owning our most recent machine which had an insulated carafe, we've always had glass carafes which shatter with minimal effort leaving the interesting dilemma to either buy a new carafe for $15 or simply replace the entire coffee maker for $25.
Anyway - after the coffee maker crapped out, we pulled out our wedding gift French press (thanks again, Rachel!) and you know, that French press makes some damn fine coffee - creamy, rich and delicious. However, we just don't find the French press practical for daily use on a long term basis. Maybe it is the capacity (4 cups) or the lack of a warming capability, but for some reason we never consider the FP to be our permanent coffee making method, so, it was off to Macy's. And Target. And Bed, Bath & Beyond. I could have purchased the identical coffee maker we were replacing (and maybe I did only to bring it home and refuse to take it out of the box because I really wanted something new and had only succumbed to the pushy, less-than-helpful salesclerk at the "good" Macy's) but felt like I wanted something more - an improvement, shall we say? At this point, we left for our Euro-adventures, where, incidentally, we made our morning cups in an endless cycle of fill, heat, empty, repeat using a true old school espresso maker, and the coffee maker hunt was put on hold until our return.
Our criteria was pretty tight - thermal carafe, stainless, minimum 10 cup capacity, well rated. After way too much searching, we selected a brand we had never heard of - Zojirushi, since it seemed to meet all of our needs. Our new coffee maker should be delivered tomorrow and we plan to christen it Saturday morning. I'm optimistic that we will be pleased with its performance, but must admit, I will miss the lovely mug of deliciousness from our reliable, low tech French press. How do you brew?
Monday, July 12, 2010
I don't really play chess, I'm more of a backgammon girl, but I was pondering relationships and friendships during a blissfully quiet car ride recently. Tom & I were talking about some old friends and recent events that have caused some pretty major rifts in the friendship we all share. I was considering how adults in relationships, be it marriage or some other state of commitment, often act as "checks" to prevent one another from spinning out of control when situations become stressful. You know how you can witness your beloved getting amped up when circumstances are challenging and how often your role during these occasions is to keep your partner reasonable and rational rather than encouraging them to go off the rails? Or how when one half of a team is heading towards a level of self-centeredness (of epic proportions), their partner can interject a sense of perspective that causes a new consideration of all of the involved parties and their own individual circumstances? I kind of think of these occasions as opportunities to "check" your mate and it seems to me that this exercise in grounding is a component of most successful relationships.
I was thinking about adults who have never been in a long term (5+ years) relationship ("relationship" can include parenting) and I believe their lack of a "check-mate" somehow prevents them from every really seeing and understanding an alternate perspective on a situation. If you continually fly solo how can you ever truly understand that you are not the center of the universe? If all you think you have to consider are your own needs and desires, conflict is naturally bound to occur when someone else's considerations are introduced to the mix, right?
I know that my husband will indulge me in a myriad of ways, but when (note I didn't say "if?") I go too far in any direction he is always there to point me to a better (better for me, better for us, just better) direction. And we both continually work to make our boys aware of both the way their behavior impacts others, and the fact that everyone has their own issues to resolve.
Adults who have not had the benefit of a "check mate," and who have not independently developed a sense of perspective regarding their own importance, make me want to scream "game over."
image from http://storij.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/checkmate_bubba73_at_en_wikipedia.jpg
Sunday, July 11, 2010
We are finally wrapping up Tom's 50th birthday extravaganza with a family & friends gathering in Massachusetts at my brother-in-law's place. After a hot and humid welcome back this week, yesterday was the first day I cooked anything more involved than grilled cheese or turkey dogs and, I must admit, it felt pretty good to get back in there.
We wanted to keep things pretty simple and not have to fuss when we could be swimming or lazing around, so I tried to make items that would be prepped in advance. Continuing to riff on the Tuscany theme seemed to make sense so I decided on a panzanella salad and tiramisu to start and end the meal. I've made panzanella before - it is truly the perfect way to throw together summer's bounty in one bowl, but I really played with it this time around. Operating on the premise that most anything tastes better when grilled, I grilled all the veggies for the salad - other than the tomatoes, cuke and the fennel. It's nice to have a bit of crunch, too. For vegetables I chose red peppers, zucchini, portobella mushrooms and red onion. The zucchini were cut into thick discs which I brushed with olive oil. I left the mushrooms whole during grilling and gave them a little brush of olive oil as well. After the veggies were all cooled, everything got a coarse chop, a dash of sea salt and a toss to mix in a large bowl. I julienned the fennel and chopped the cucumber and added them to the mix along with a drained jar of capers, a big handful of chopped basil, some cubes of fresh mozzarella and about 3/4 cup of nicoise olives. This morning I finished things up by adding 3 chopped tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic to the bowl of veggies. I hollowed out a round loaf of sourdough and then tore the insides of the loaf into chinks which I places on a baking sheet. A 1/3 of a cup of olive oil was warmed with 3 minced cloves of garlic which I then tossed with the bread chinks and warmed in the oven until crunchy. The bread was introduced to the vegetables and the combined ingredients were then spooned into the bread bowl. Done.
We originally planned to grill steaks, burgers and hot dogs but I got a hankering for something a bit more interesting. Leg of lamb was the answer! We called Falvo's and asked them to prepare a butterflied piece for 12 adults. $47 later (which really seems like a fair price for the beautiful, hand cut piece of lamb) we were in business. Fairly recently I was at some appointment (nails, dentist) and the television was tuned to Rachael Ray as she prepared a leg of lamb and I let that be my inspiration. Now, you Racheal Ray haters, she never claimed to be a chef, nor do I, and I do appreciate the simplicity that she brings to the table. I poked some slits into the lamb and inserted slices of fresh garlic into them. Next came a generous sprinkling of coarse salt and ground pepper. And to finish - a bath of olive oil, mustard, lemon juice and chopped rosemary. We'll grill that bad boy up later.
We're wrapping things up tonight with tiramisu and limoncello. My tiramisu isn't traditional - I don't add eggs for starters, but everyone who has sampled it seems to enjoy it. I soften marscapone and then beat it until smooth. Next heavy cream, vanilla and sugar get combined to make a whipped cream which I fold together with the marscapone. I add a generous amount of kahlua and a splash (or two) of sambuca to strong (cooled) brewed coffee in a flat bottomed pie pan. And then the assembly process begins. You've got to move fast at this point because the lady's fingers disintegrate in no time flat after they've been dunked in the coffee. I used a large, glass pan this time around because I'm making enough to serve a gang of 12 or 15. Place the pan of coffee right next to the dish you're assembling the tiramsu in. You'll immediately understand why when you dunk your first row of lady's fingers. It's a pretty simple process of dunk, place and top with a generous layer of the whipped marscapone cream. Repeat. I usually do two layers and finish by dusting the top with cocoa powder. Refrigerate.
So - that's our plan for the afternoon. What do you have going on?
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Prior to our trip to Italy, I organized a special meal for Tom's (never-ending)birthday celebration. While we had originally hoped to have someone come to our villa to cook, it made more sense for us to travel a bit down the mountain to our chef's villa so she would have all of her utensils and cookware available. Although Tom's actual birthday was Monday, I decided that Sunday made more sense as most businesses are closed Sundays and we would looking forward to having a very mellow day after our previous day's travel exertions.
Our hosts, Lisa and Roberto were lovely. Our party of 8 arrived around 7 pm and were warmly greeted by a trio of Labrador retrievers and some pretty nice humans, too. Our alfresco table was charmingly set, complete with Ikea flatware, and we (adults) settled in to partake of the traditional Tuscan meal being laid before us. The meats and produce were all local, some actually were specifically from (grown and/ or raised )in the gardens and fields surrounding the property. The wines, both bianco and rosso were from the nearby village of Montecarlo where they apparently are cooperatively produced and bottled/bagged.
There has been some recent "discussion" on a couple of local blogs regarding the value of promoting restaurant ingredients as being local. Well, at this place I suspect that every item being served came from within a 25 km radius of the villa. The menu included prosciutto, a fantastic lasagna of the lightest pasta with both a bechamel and a meat sauce, a wonderful panzanella salad and sliced beef. I'd give you more details, but, unfortunately my jet-lagged brain failed us both. We finished with tiramisu and the tastiest limoncello I've ever had. I mean, it was so delicious that we asked for the remainder of the bottle to take home. And then bought 2 more bottles (for $6 each!) to bring home in our luggage.
On our final evening in Tuscany we wanted to again enjoy a locally produced meal together. Our villa had come with a binder filled with suggestions and one place in particular caught my eye - Agriturismo-Montaione. This remote restaurant was described as serving organic, traditional cuisine and we thought it would be the perfect ending to an idyllic week. We spent the afternoon that last day tooling around, checking out neighboring villages, and took the opportunity to scout out the location for our evening's repast. Good thing! This place was seriously in the middle of no where. Driving there was an adventure as the round had a couple of switchbacks which required three-point turns to maneuver - fun!
Our reservation was for 8 p.m. and we arrived hungry. The meal began with both vino bianco and vino rosso, and antipasti, which consisted of pickled vegetables and beautiful prosciutto and hard salami. A pasta course of both tagliatelle with wild mushroom sauce and ravioli filled with ricotta and basil served with a rich meat sauce, followed the antipasti. Our middle child, who "doesn't like mushrooms" (as if one had ever crossed his lips before!) went crazy for the tagliatelle and had 2 servings. Good thing we cut him off at that point because the meat course(s) which came next were outstanding - to begin: beef sliced super thin and served rare au jus. Ahhh - delissimo! At this point, both of the older boys were in heaven after many pizza filled days, and their lips were shiny with grease. They were definitely major participants in the decimation of two platters of that beef. The beef was followed by a platter laden with roasted chicken, pork ribs and fantastic fried potatoes. This was the point in the meal when everyone loosened their belts to better enjoy the abundant feast which had been placed in front of us. Thinking this was the end of a phenomenal meal, we ate with abandon only to be surprised by yet another meat course - an incredible chinghiale (wild boar) stewed to tenderness. Wow!
Accompanying all this meat were bowls of white beans cooked al dente and flavored with olive oil and salt - simple and delicious. We threw in the napkin at that point unable to consume another bite but somehow managed to indulge in some light yellow cake, biscotti. and a slice of mild goat's milk cheese cut from a 10" wheel. I expected the cheese would have a funk to it, but it was absolutely delicious. We followed local custom and dipped the biscotti cookies in vin santo to soften them and thus, we concluded an incredibly memorable meal. Our drive home through the woods and valleys gave us time to digest and make some room for that bottle of chilled limoncello that waited for us at the villa. I don't think any of us wanted to leave Italy, but meals like these will stay with each of us for a long time to come. Probably on our waists.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
When I originally made our travel reservations, I purposefully, mentally minimized the amount of exertion involved with transporting 4 suitcases, 3 children, and 2 adults thousands of miles, via three flights and four airports. Sort of like getting pregnant without really thinking too much about actually birthing that baby. Good thing. I have to confess, the trip to Italy was completely draining - the drive to JFK in traffic on the last day of school, the flight to Geneva in an Ambien-addled blur, the trek from Heathrow to Gatwick in a hired car whose driver, while pleasant, had a decided aversion to a/c and then the ridiculous clusterf*ck that was (not)EasyJet. By the time we hit Pisa airport the sun was setting in a glorious burst of color and we had been traveling for more than 24 hours. And, here's where the real fun began...
In an attempt to freshen up, I brushed my teeth (finally) and we loaded up our rental car and started towards the villa. Now - have you ever driven in Italy? I'd have to say it is on par with driving in Ireland - the side of the road is certainly more familiar, however, the roadsigns are a bit lacking and, I did mention it was getting dark, right? Somehow we missed the sign for the highway and found ourselves stuck on some smaller roads, generally heading in the right direction but certainly not directly. After about an hour of fumbling around, we found ourselves on the correct road, traveling in the correct direction and our confidence grew - we were going to make it. This point, in retrospect, was reminiscent of the moment before transition in active labor. We were feeling pretty good, (other than my screaming migraine), we knew where we were going and thought we knew how long it was going to take. And thanks to all things being measured in kilometers, the distance was ticking off quite rapidly.
The roads became increasingly more winding, I'm talking second gear winding. But, it was okay because we were actually on the map and practically tasting that first refreshing glass of vino bianco. We continued. After about 15 more kilometers we arrived at the described location to meet the owner but...we weren't meeting the owner since our friends had already arrived earlier in the evening which meant we were done. No further directions were available, nor was cell phone service. Yikes - now what?
We started driving up random driveways looking for our friends. We stopped this exploring after I was nearly brought to tears when our car would not go up a stone driveway because the incline was so steep that the car could not make it. And then we almost couldn't turn the car around in the infinitesimally small area available. This may have been the low point. You know, when a laboring woman just can't possibly push anymore. I'm getting palpitations just remembering... Finally, we stumbled upon a social hall, a place we came to learn is open exclusively on Saturday nights where the residents of Lanciole prepare and eat food together. They follow the feasting with traditional music and dancing, and these weekly events seeming go far into the night. Lucky for us since it now approaching 11 p.m. We asked for directions with gestures and a document showing the villa's address and were directed to continue up the road even further. Which we did, until we got to the point where the road forked and we again found ourselves lost. We headed back down towards the village. Our next move revealed the degree of frustration and panic which we found ourselves completely enveloped with - we knocked on a door. And the lovely people who answered the door spoke English!! Despite their being visitors to the area rather than locals, they were quite helpful and together we went to the social hall and miraculously enough, we met the caretaker of our villa, who hopped in her car, and led us up the road and through the woods to our home for the week.
We were greeted with tremendous relief by our friends (who had been nearly as frantic as we were), I popped a couple of Excedrin Migraine tablets and tucked in to some pizza and vino, before tumbling into our canopied bed. We woke the next morning after 11 a.m. and, just like the memory's failure to recall the physical challenges (great euphemism, huh?) of childbirth, the efforts expelled to arrive at this magical place were already fading.
Nighttime view from our terrace of a neighboring village
Easyjet photo from http://ganes.co.uk/italy/easyjet.jpg