March 1, 2010, part 1
It’s now just 2 hours until we arrive in Milan. Local time is 6:30am. As we are now so close, I can’t sleep anymore – I am so ready to have a cappuccino and see what this next phase of our lives will be like….
The trip has been good but surreal — we are exhausted, dazed, and a little worried, but overall completely happy. These last 48 hours have got me thinking about a few themes that I think will be important for these next nine months. In addition to studying the Slow Food movement, I hope to learn how to slow down in general. Evidenced by the way I worked up to less than two days before moving overseas, I have become so used to having way more going on at any given moment than is realistic. It seems like I’ve been going on a near steady rush of adrenaline for years. I love being busy and getting involved in things I am care about, but this type of schedule really has to stop.Second, I really want to simplify my life, particularly in terms of the number of things I have and the things I buy. When I saw that I had packed my 2 big bags and my closet still looked full of things I wasn’t going to bring (and this was even after a few rounds of donations), I felt ashamed. The funny thing is that I don’t even wear a fraction of these clothes. Basically I have a lot of things I don’t like and don’t need. It would be much better to only have a few things that I truly like and that are better made. I am excited to try out a different lifestyle while in Italy. While I have adopted the slow food philosophy in the past, even in LA, I can’t say I really know what it is to have an overall slow lifestyle.
Renting a car wasn’t hard at all, and was a pretty good deal. Paul quickly accepted the challenge of driving in Italy first thing, and we were on our way (after a morning cappuccino, that is.)
On the way to Parma we stopped at a gas station along the highway where we enjoyed a glass of fresh squeezed blood orange juice served in real glasses and a freshly toasted panini. Since when can you find a decent snack at a gas station? The American option of something like hot dogs that have probably been turning all night at a 7-Eleven display, paired with a Slurpee, came to mind as a pale comparison and we laughed.
Things were going well. As a good omen, we even saw a truck for a company called Ventura on the way. After driving around Parma for an hour, we finally found the piazza where our apartment is and our new landlords were patiently waiting for us. They even had a nice bowl of fruit and some groceries as a welcome gift.We spend the rest of the day trying to return the rental car and then wandering around dazed and later enjoying an aperitivo at a local bar – which gives nice little snacks along with the drinks. Surprisingly we had a really hard time finding a restaurant for dinner. As we learned, dinner doesn’t start until 7, many restaurants are closed on Mondays, and there really aren’t that many full service restaurants from what we can tell. It seems like we would walk 10 blocks and not see a single restaurant, meanwhile passing dozens of elegant bars, which serve coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and drinks. There are also many pizza places. But what we were looking for was a restaurant to have a full dinner to celebrate our arrival, and after walking around from 7 to 9 looking for one, we finally just had a pizza. The pizza was excellent – it had locally made ham (prosciutto cotto) and mushrooms (funghi), and was just 5 euro. Not bad for our first day.
March 2, 2010
A little sleep can make you feel like a new person. Though we have so many things to take care of in order to settle in, we decided we didn’t want to worry about any of that right away, so we just spent the day soaking in Parma. It was sunny and crisp and the city was full of people on bikes and on foot. Walking around we feel like we can fit in and were even asked for directions by two Italians. Once we start talking it is clear that we are foreigners though. The funny thing is that our neighborhood, which is right on the edge of the historic center of Parma, seems to be a center for immigrants, particularly from Africa, and there is some sort of grassroots organization with an office right by our house that organizes protests and activities for “migrants.” A small group of protesters passed us by on the street as they marched for fairer laws for employment, and we were almost tempted to join, as Paul is undoubtedly going to have a hard time finding a job here, too.
We went back to a restaurant we spotted the day before that had been closed and had a nice lunch of some of the specialties from the region: salumi and torta fritta, tortellini in brodo, cinghiale and polenta, spinaci parmigiani, accompanied by house vino, and espresso. We loved the lunch, but ultimately can’t do that very often. It was 50 euro, or about 75 dollars. This is fine every once in a while, but as soon as we can, we need and want to start cooking. It seems like maybe eating out is really for a special occasion here, as not that many people seem to be doing it regularly, other than having a snack or a pizza. At least that is what we are guessing – who are we to say after just 2 days here? Despite the lack of restaurants, there are many specialty food shops selling produce, meat, fish, homemade pasta, bread, sweets, etc. Tomorrow we should be ready to join the Italians for shopping for quality ingredients to cook at home.