Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Torino, Italy: Porto di Savona Ristorante

We reached Torino, or Turin, as some might say, after a fourteen hour bus drive from Budapest.  There was little to do besides consider a meal or settle in for the night.  I found myself doing a quick set at the gym, before heading out with the usual suspects for an authentic Italian dinner.  Adam took the initiative and sourced, Porto di Savona Ristorante, the most well respected and popular trattoria in town. Near the city center, it was just a quick ten minute taxi ride from the hotel.  Savona is a charming and very non-pretentious, family-style restaurant, just seconds away from the cities main square.  It was exactly what we were hoping for something familiar and easy.
I presume that the hotel was generous with their suggestion of Porto di Savona, because two other parties from our extended group were already seated and seemingly enjoying their food.
We waited briefly before being escorted to our table towards the back of the fully packed small informal dining room where we were then presented with menus written in Italian.  We opted for the more familiar English version.  The cuisine was traditional Northern Italian, offering brothy and hearty dishes, rich risottos, gnocchi, soups and lean meats--veal, pork, beef and lamb, and fewer tomato based pastas.  For an appetizer, I chose the goat cheese medallions topped with pesto, and for an entree, a very fresh and flavorful, homemade veal stuffed ravioli in a gravy reduction. Together, we chose a lovely Chianti and sparkling water for the table to help wash it down.  Dinner was spectacular and truly delicious, rich with color and flavor and lightly spiced.  We sat full bellied and savored the moment before deciding on dessert, choosing to cruise the streets in search of a Gelateria, as to not prolong our visit at Savona.  We didn't have to look far, walking only a few short blocks, before we eye spied a plethora of pastel colored iced cream through a window that seemed to be calling our names.  By now, I was craving straciatella (chocolate chip) and pistachio, two of my long time favorites.  Yum!  It was like reconnecting with old friends.
Our brief evening ended much as it started, at a taxi stand in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, waiting for a return trip to the hotel.  Though I can't actually say that I saw much of Torino this visit, I'd like to think that my time in town was well spent.
As they say, "when in Italy, do as the Italians,.....EAT, DRINK and be merry." Well, it's really, "when in Rome,.....", but hey, what the heck.

Until next time......Buon Apetito!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lucerne, Switzerland: The Alps & Mount Rigi

Today is about you, so look around and smile at your life and your choices.
Don't worry about the paths you should have taken or the opportunities you ignored.
Instead, breathe in the life that surrounds you--let it fill your soul with light and hope.

Your beauty and wisdom have inspired, encouraged, soothed and strenghened the people around you.
Reflect on the past and all the memories, good and bad, that have made you who you are today.
Your journey is far from over, as you will continue to grow, change, and flourish.

You may be another year older, but you are also another year stronger and wiser.
You are loved by many.

Life can be so busy, and we sometimes take for granted the important little things that make us smile.
Look at the sunset, share a cup of coffee with your best friend, or hear the wind rustle through the trees.
Take some time to listen to life and feel the sun on your face, and stop to watch butterflies in your garden.

Today, I give you the gifts of beauty, inspiration. love, and reflection. Use them wisely and carry them
with you as you enter another year ahead.

Enjoy your day!!!

--Carol Schelling

For more details about today's adventure, see my previous post, Zurich, Switzerland: Cartwheelin' on top of the world.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Zurich, Switzerland/The Alps: Cartwheelin' on top of the world!

Cartwheeling on top of the world!!!?..... Yes, that's me on the far left....
This adventure took us to the Alps, to Mt Rigi to be exact. Stacy and Graham took the initiative to organize a day trip outside of the city. Myself and twelve others from our 'Monster Ball' family, boarded a bus tour heading to the top of the world. Our journey started at 9am, at a pick up point where we then collected other tourists before the official 10am departure time. We drove approximately an hour outside of Zurich, through the serene and most picturesque countryside to reach our first pitstop, at which time we transfered from the bus to a cable car to be taken more than half way up the mountain to another depot. We were packed tightly into the small airbus that seemingly dangled from the sky. It crept slowly at an angle up the steep mountainside where we stopped again, near the top. We then boarded yet another vehicle, this time a train, that would take us the remainder of the way. Once at the top, the air, thin, and the views, spectacular, we walked even further to a higher vista. The weather was surprisingly mild, with the sun beaming brightly upon us, having melted the slight snowfall from earlier in the week. We were in awe of the views, taking lots of pictures, capturing ways to make our trip to the Alps most memorable,.....hense, the results, cartwheels. We had two hours to spend on the mountain that day, so we spent half of it eating lunch. The cafe restaurant at the mountains peak was full with starving tourist, and we were no exception. Once off the mountain, we boarded a ferry boat to Lucerne, a lakeside town 45 minutes away. It was a gorgeous day to be on the water, with reflections of the sun bouncing across the rippling waves. Once in Lucerne, our tour guide briefed us on what there was to see, before leaving us to ourselves, to roam the city streets, see the sights and buy souvenirs. When our time was exhausted, we met back at the designated pick up location, to board the bus that would drive us back to Zurich. It was now 5:30pm and the day had been long. We were quiet for the majority of the ride, mostly in a slight slumber. Once in Zurich, me, Stacy, Laura and Sonja grabbed a light snack before making our way back to the hotel. In all it was an amazing day!! How often do you get to do cartwheels on top of the world?!!! That alone made it magical!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Malmo, Sweden: REST IN PEACE Georgette!!!

Life is constant, and with that come highs and lows. It is magnified even more when you're on the road and at a distance.  I happen to be in Malmo, Sweden.
Today is a dark day for me.... Yesterday, Wednesday evening, I received word from home, via Skype, that my dearest cousin, Georgette, was in her final hours after her long battle with breast cancer. It is to her, my hero, that I dedicate today's post.
The family came together last night in prayer, as she lay in her hospital bed peaceful and still, waiting for her turn to be called. It was announced that she passed at 11:52pm. Being petite in frame, but strong in character, she always showed resilience, strength and determination, never waivering, remaining positive and optimistic throughout her fight with cancer over these past few years.
Georgette is the second oldest of my first cousins, on my dads side of the family. As kids, life was different. Her being seven and half years my senior, she was then the "big" cousin I looked up to and admired but didn't really know. I am grateful for our time as adults, having shared a bond and closeness.
It is now that I reminisce of times past when we were all young and vibrant, when three generations of Chennault's would come together at Aunt Shirley's house every Thanksgiving and Christmas for a "Norman Rockwell-esque" holiday event. We would feast on a turkey dinner, drink eggnog and spirits and share good laughs. The house was full of love, with Grandma and Grandpa Chennault, Aunt Kat, and Grandma Wahls perched on the landing at the dinette table watching over the shenanigan's going on in the oversized family room. Uncle Mike would randomly play a jazz tune on the piano, filling the room with ambient music, while "us kids", would run around the house playing with toys and games, as Georgette and the older cousins did "older cousin things". We were all so present and in the moment. Those were definitely better days, near and dear to my heart, that I am truly grateful for!!!
Years passed and times changed, distance strained family relationships, we all grew and blossomed into who we were born to be, developed families of our own and were consumed with everyday life, but, my and Georgette's kinship seemed to strengthen. "She essentially became the sister I never had". She would share how proud she was of me and my accomplishments, stating, "girl, you've lived the lives of three people". Hearing that sentiment ring in my ears today, makes me wish I truly had a reserve of years to give to her.
I last visited Georgette this past August while in Detroit. I happened to be on a break from the tour. I had no idea that that time would be my last. I knew she was ailing, but she always stayed positive, never indicating that her time might be near. The visit was brief, as we didn't want to overwehlm and exhaust her. My mom, dad and I sat quietly sharing Dunkin' Donut breakfast sandwiches, orange juice and coffee. It was nice.
These past months, with me touring and being in Europe, we've had the luxury of sending the occassional text or two, sharing a simple shout out to say, "I <3 u" and "ur n my thoughts".
Georgette was a restless soul, low in patience and tolerence, was private, abrupt and always busy, but never lacked generosity, honesty, or candor. She would openly and often, tell me how much she loved and admired me, and for that I am eternally grateful. With her being gone, I feel as though there is no stone left unturned. I will miss her and all that she is.
Now, more than ever, there is one memory that sticks with me most.  It is that of our time spent on the beach on Tybee Island, Georgia.  It was last year and the final day of the Chennault Family Reunion weekend.  It was Georgette's turn to play host to our bi-annual family event, and despite being tired, having organized a spectacular weekend of activities for all, it was time for her to exhale.  Feeling relief from her hosting duties, myself, cousin Bobby, mom, dad and Georgette, quietly spent that Sunday afternoon under beach umbrellas and on lounge chairs, drinking wine coolers and beer. We reflected on the good time had that weekend, the beauty of having "family", and our lives together years past.
Today, I will cherish that moment that I spent with "my cousin, sister and friend", the vibrant and seemingly more healthy Georgette, who I'd always known and loved.  It gives me great peace and solice to know that even though she has been robbed of her years, I have memories that will be with me a lifetime. RIP Georgette!!! You are missed already. With love... ;)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prague, Czech Republic: The Augustine Hotel

It's 5:30pm, exactly, and I'm back in my hotel room. Today, I had the most amazing meal and afternoon!!! It was all so random. That's what's beautiful about travel, each day is full of surprise and mystery. Yesterday I woke in Zurich, now today, Prague....
When we arrived this morning to gloomy and wet weather, I went to the gym for a nice work out, before running into Robbie, our pastry chef, at the front desk. I was only there to inquire about the internet connection, or should I say, lack of, when he invited me to join him to share a cab across town. With no definite plan, I accepted the offer, quickly went to my room to shower from my gym session, joined him in the lobby a half hour later, and we were on our way. Yes,...on our way to the Augustine Hotel. I had only just learned of the five star hotel from him the day before. He had plans to retrieve something he had left there from his last visit in town and didn't mind me tagging along. As a chef for Pink, having stayed at the hotel this past summer, and fond of it, he shared stories with me of his amazing experiences working alongside the kitchen and hotel staff. The former monastery, now hotel, sits very unassumingly on a small side street in a prime section of Prague, walking distance to the famous Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. The inside hallway off the reception area features gorgeous 20th century Cubist sculptures, which compliment the stone arched hallways, wood and frescoed ceilings and cloistered terraces. The furnishing is clean and modern, yet comfortable. The setting is heavenly, appropriately so, considering the buildings origin.
Taking a moment, Robbie was welcomed and greeted by the head chef of the restaurant before we made our decision on what to eat. I chose the beetroot and goat cheese salad to start and a wonderfully flavored piece of cod with chickpea, tomato and artichoke to follow, while he ordered the salmon with cucumber and a pigeon entre. We washed it down with a light dry white Czech wine and sparkling water. It was all so divine!!!
Finishing our meal, Robbie scurried off by taxi to make his afternoon work call, while I took a leisure walk back to the hotel, pit stopping at the Charles Bridge for some night time photo ops before turning in. Today was a good day!!!...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Zurich, Switzerland: Picasso & Giacometti Exhibits

Today was good practice in living in the moment.
We reached Zurich midday, from Vienna. Bored and restless, now settled into my hotel room, in an instant, I hopped up with the intent to venture nearby to purchase a few needed toiletries, when I ended up in the city center instead. I was spontaneous and adventurous, a bit intimidated by my foreign surroundings, and with no direction on where to go, I took a chance and boarded the local above ground train into town to roam the streets. I had planned to walk aimlessly in search of new discovery when I stumbled upon the Museum of Modern Art. Before leaving the hotel, I had briefly looked online to see what there was available to do in town, when I learned of the featured Picasso exhibit at the Kunsthaus Zurich. I was in need of a dose of art and culture and today seemed perfect. The weather was wet and gloomy, so it felt appropriate to be indoors.
The exhibit interested me, not because the featured artist was Pablo Picasso, but because the artwork displayed was that of his first retrospective museum exhibition in 1932 at this actual venue. It was a very significant show for 2oth century modern art, and a first for a living artist. My footsteps were virtually reliving a moment in history.

Above, video images of the retrospective exhibition of 1932.
Below, is Picasso in Zurich in 1932.

When first entering the show, displayed on the walls were framed black and white photographs of the actual opening from the 1930's. The paintings displayed throughout showed the evolution of his style from the first three decades of his career as a painter. It was interesting to see his paintings transition from his early Classical work to Cubism. In actuality, I'm not a big fan of Picasso, though I respect him as a painter. I find it educational and inspiring to take in original artwork, dispite my feelings of the artist. After slowly gazing the display of paintings, and few drawings, I went downstairs expecting to leave, when I noticed a showing of work by Alberto Giacometti. For as long as I can remember, well,.....since college, Giacometti has truly been one of my favorite artist. I can remember being instantly impressed with the power and expressiveness of his understated elongated figures and portraits. There is a stillness about his work that speaks volume. I walked through the five rooms of sculptures and paintings feeling hightened and in awe of this body of work. The Picasso show was worth seeing, but the Giacometti collection of work moved me. I left the museum inspired and spiritually lighter than when I walked in. There has been one other time that I recall being particularly moved emotionally by an artist work, and that was at an exhibit by Gerhard Richter at the Art Institute of Chicago a few years back. "Art should be more than just a pretty picture, it should evoke emotion and inspire, having the viewer leave feeling better for having experienced the art".

These are some of the Picasso paintings I observed at the exhibit, and below, are sculptures and artwork displayed by artist, Alberto Giacometti.

I left the museum, heading back towards the city center, before making a detour on a nearby street lured by the cute boutiques and restaurants. I was now hungry and had an appetite, but cluless about where to eat, when I noticed a cute cafe restaurant called Henrici. I sat at the sidewalk table overlooking the square, covered awning sheltering me from the rain, when I ordered a nice cucumber dill soup and Irish coffee to warm the soul. I don't mean to sound sappy and ethereal, but it was at that time that I basked in the moment, being very present in my surrounding. I soaked up the environment, moved by the sounds of distant church bells and the rythm of passerbys,.....moms pushing baby strollers, couples toting umbrellas, shop keepers dumping garbage and cigarette smoke curling past my nose. In that instance, I was tickled emotionally by my unfamiliar setting. It was a moment that I wished I could capture and bottle, only to relive again.
Fastforward to real time, my phone text alerted me that my friends were headed to town and wondering of my whereabouts. We arranged to meet in the area once they were situated. As it was, they ended up at a Mexican restaurant just around the corner. I joined them, having a caipirinha before we carried on cruising the active streets. We found another watering hole called U-turn and had one more drink before deciding to call it a night. It was yet another unexpected great day. As usual, I have no complaints....