Sunday, 28 February 2010

Olympic Glory!

Canada shatters record in number of gold medals won by Olympic host country
Who knew? Canada has rocked the Vancouver Olympics in a way nobody anticipated.

The most gold medals the stated goal of the Own The Podium program. Canada is number one.

The home team won the most gold medals at the 2010 Winter Games. Three on Saturday brought the total to 13.
Germany, which was next with 10 after Saturday, can't catch the host country Canada.

Canada's 11th came from the men's pursuit team, the 12th in snowboarding and the 13th in men's curling to establish a record for gold medals by a host country in a Winter Olympics. The previous record was 10 by Norway (1994) and the U.S. (2002).

Canada has won more gold medals in Vancouver than in any Winter or Summer Games. Canadians picked up 10 gold at the 1984 Summer Games. The previous high was seven, in both 2002 and 2006.

Canada also tied the record for the most gold medals at a Winter Games, set by the Soviet Union in 1976 and equalled by Norway in 2002.

Vancouver Winter Olympic Games end on a note of success. We should all be very happy of this great achievement by our Athletes.

Saturday, 27 February 2010


Yes folks more than Russia,China,USA, including the Scandinavians, GO CANADA!

The Winter Olympic Games end tomorrow on a high note for Canada, with glowing hearts!

Happy Birthday Nicky and Nora!

Tanti Auguri to Nicky and Nora.

Our little puppies turned one year old this week, they have been with us at home for 9 months now. Things are going well and they are just balls of joy. Dogs do bring joy to your life, they are always happy to see you and look up to you no matter your failings. They got a bath for their birthday and next week will get rabies shots. Of course they get treats too.

They are from different litters and have each a different set of parents. Nora is actually a few days older than Nicky. They enjoy the sunshine and will spend their days sunning in the south guest bedroom.

Just a nice song on the radio

Today I was shopping at the grocery store and there was a lot of people, they play a popular radio station with news and music for their clients. I heard this song, don't really know what it is but I like it.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Where have I been?

I have been away in London UK for a week or so, went there on business. I was in London last around 1997 at Christmas time. The City has changed, very multicultural but at the same time still very English, in the way things are done. On the way up from Rome I was not sure my flight would take off as Alitalia staff said they would be on strike that day, well I arrived early for my flight to find that no the strike at been called off at the last minute. Why did they want to strike, I have no idea, in most cases its because they can. Anyway got to London and took a taxi into town, love London Cabs, they are comfortable and spacious, the driver knows his stuff, no nonsense. I was staying on Grosvenor Square, very central, the large park has a statue of FDR and Eisenhower, the USA Embassy is at one end of the square and Canada and Italy at the other end. Canada also has Canada House on Trafalgar Square which use to be the residence of our Ambassador around 1900.

We went to see a play at the Theatre Royal Haymarket near Leicester Square which is now Chinatown. The play with Sir Ian McKellen and Roger Rees was Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, I had seen it maybe 35 yrs ago at least in French and I did not like the play at all it was done very differently with pathos, doom and gloom and existentialist angst. This time it was done completely differently more in the Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin approach, more a reflection on the absurdity of life and how we do not always control what happens to us, Fate pushing us around. Will went to see a play at the Apollo Theatre, Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, it is being very well received. We also went to the Barbican Centre for a concert with the BBC Symphony Orchestra sponsored by BBC Radio3, our friends David N. and J.S. invited us, it was a concert with pieces by Janacek, Korngold and Martinu, the conductor Jiri Belohlavek is an expert on these composers and he had a feel for their music. Afterwards we went to Smithfield which is the meat market of London, a huge place, with some restaurants and cafes open 24 hrs a day, if you want bacon or sausages at 3 am, no problem. We went to St-John restaurant whose speciality is English Tapas, who knew there was such a thing as English Tapas, lots of fun and very nice atmosphere. The restaurant has a website see www.stjohnrestaurant. com, I recommend it, the dessert was Eccles Cake and a slice of Lancashire cheese.

We did a bit of shopping, me for toy soldiers 54mm and bought all manners of soldiers for my collection in Shepherd Market. I can get carried away, too easily. London is a great place for this sort of thing. We also bought English cheeses, a Saint Crozier blue, Leicester red and a third one made from a rare breed of Sussex cows who are almost extinct as a breed but making a comeback because their milk is of very good quality, the shop Paxton & Whitfield is on Jermyn street near Fortnum and Mason. We had lunch at F&M, very good food and nice atmosphere, I told Will it reminded me of Murray's in Montreal.
We also visited the new Medieval and Renaissance galleries of the Victoria and Albert Museum, wow! We also pop in the Brompton Oratory next door, Cardinal Newman, the Anglican convert to Roman Catholicism use to be a member of the Oratorian order. The Pope wants to make him a Saint, but when they opened his tomb last year, his body was said to be very well preserved, however the rush of air reduced everything to dust in seconds, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Remember I was there for work, I did work and did all this other stuff. Will also discovered a very nice restaurant called Cafe Boheme, we had a wonderful supper there after the theatre. A lot of restaurants in the theatre district are open until 3 and 4 am, so if the play ends at or near midnight and you are hungry, you have options. Will said that he found there were lots of crowds and this is true on all main streets, a bit much at times, but very lively. In Chinatown, I noticed how many of the restaurants offer all you can eat for 3 pounds sterling chinese buffet, I remember what my father use to say about this, he who worked in the restaurant business all his life, called it Hepatitis buffet, very unsanitary. I do not remember ever seeing such a thing in China, even in the huge restaurants on 4 floors, you ordered from a menu, a la carte, no buffet.

The flight back took forever, it is only 2 hours and 10 minutes from London to Rome, but I noticed that Alitalia had an old MD-80 and once I saw that I thought there will be problems, of course it broke down, mechanical problems before it even left Rome, so Alitalia had to get another plane and this created a 2 hour delay with no compensation. The staff in London pretended they had no idea that there was a delay. When it was pointed out to them on the big electronic board, the reaction was, oh look!? So instead of arriving in Rome at 7:30pm we arrived at 10:30pm. They also serve only a juice and one cookie on the whole flight. Next time I will fly British Airways, they serve a full meal.

I found that London has an energy Rome simply lacks, so much more engaging.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Snowstorm in ROME

On friday morning as I was getting ready to go to work, I noticed big snowflakes falling. The last time it snowed in Rome was 40 yrs ago. It is cold in winter but never that cold. Friday was cold, there was a snow warning, no one believe it. Though there is snow in Firenze and Bologna and elsewhere in Northern Italy. The mountains outside Rome are covered in snow, but it was not possible for some reason. So it all started slowly, just a few flakes and then it started to snow hard and in no time at all it was accumulating. It snowed until 11:30. Then as lunch time approached the skies cleared and the snow started to melt. It was beautiful to see, imagine Rome under the snow, I see it almost as a priviledge. Two years ago I saw the Acropolis in Athens under snow and that was magical. Some pictures to show you from our house and from the Villa Torlonia next door and the Colosseum that photo was taken by my friend Lionel.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Concert at the Papal Chancellery

Last night I was pretty tired after work and had a headache, at 6 pm my colleague called and asked me if I was willing to go to a concert at the Papal Chancellery, the Palazzo della Cancelleria. A magnificent building near the Palazzo Farnese seat of the French Embassy in Rome. I took 2 aspirins and got dressed. My personal policy is if you serve food at a party I will be there.

The Concert by invitation only, was given by the Ambassadors of Spain to Italy and to the Holy See to celebrate the Presidency of the European Union who is headed this year by Spain. The great palace like so many in Rome is not heated and it is all stone and marble inside and out, it was a windy and cold night. The great room (magna Aula) has room for 600 people and it was full. We entered the palace and turned left towards to great staircase, I said to my colleague that in Rome you should not have a heart condition with all these great staircases, no elevators anywhere. The concert was given by the Complesso Spagnolo di Musica da Camera. The soprano was Gudrun Olafsdottir who sang pieces from Manuel de Falla, Vivaldi, Rossini and Federico Garcia Lorca. The ensemble also played pieces by Cesar Franck, Boccherini and Ligeti. Afterwards a champagne reception was given with wonderful food, a great parmigiano reggiano cheese carved out of a huge wheel of cheese, and sweets made for Carnival Season. The reception was in the great courtyard and it was a bit cold but the champagne warmed us.

The Palace was constructed between 1489–1513, being the first palazzo in Rome to be built from the ground up in the new Renaissance style. The long facade with its rhythm of flat doubled pilasters between the arch-headed windows is Florentine in conception, though the concept of drafted masonry is ancient Roman in its origin. The grand doorway was added in the 16th century by Domenico Fontana on the orders of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.

The building's bone-colored travertine was scavenged from the nearby Roman ruins of the Theatre of Pompey,were Julius Caesar was assassinated. The theater of Pompey like the Eternal City was a field of ruins, built for a city of over a million people that now housed about thirty thousand. The forty-four Egyptian granite columns of the inner courtyard are from the porticoes of the theatres upper covered seating.

The Cancelleria was built for Cardinal Raffaele Riario who held the post of Cardinal Camierlengo to his powerful uncle, Pope Sixtus IV. The rumor was that the funds came in a single night's winnings at card playing. The Palace still houses the Papal Chancellery, and is part of the Vatican State, not subject to Italian sovereignty.

The concert was in the great room with its vast mural that Giorgio Vasari accomplished in a mere 100 days. We sat under the gaze of God the Father, who is always pictured in pale pastel colors with a triangle above his head. Since the late 17th century the Cancelleria has been the center of musical life of Rome, though nowadays it has stiff competition from the Parco della Musica.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Friday afternoon ritual

On Friday's I finish work at 1:30 pm and usually these days I will drive out to the countryside with the puppies for their training or if it is raining like today I will take a nap after lunch or go get my haircut and then walk home via my favorite toy shop on Via Delle Terme di Diocliziano near the Termini Central train station. Today I went to get my haircut, so I phone the barber shop and make an appointment, one never arrives without one, they are busy and even if not, there is a certain protocol to observe. The barber shop is located on Via Dei Serpenti (snake Street) across the street from the Italian Central Bank in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Rome the Suburbia or suburb from Latin meaning outside the town centre Urb. In antiquity the suburbia was on the other side of the back wall of the Temple of Mars the Avenger, the limit of the Imperial Forum. The neighborhood looked pretty much as it does today minus electricity with apartment blocks 3 to 4 storey high with shops on the ground level. After Rome lost its status as Capital in 350 AD for Constantinople, the whole area collapsed, people left and for 1400 yrs it was mostly fields and ruined buildings and this is where the name snake street comes from it was a wild area. Today's buildings date from 1870-1910 when the new Rome was rebuilt to suit the new unified country of Italy.

No matter if I phone the shop 30 minutes before I want an appointment, they can always accommodate me. No one at the barber shop is on a first name basis, all the clients have a title, you are professor, Engineer, doctor, counsellor, Minister, President. A client will call and immediately will be courteously greeted with his title, Mimmo or Franco who own the shop must have a great memory because they will know from the name of the client what his appropriate title is. Per example Frascati calls and he is an engineer or Lofranco calls and he is a doctor and this is how people are addressed. When you arrive at the shop, both Mimmo and Franco will greet you even if they are busy with another customer, hand shake and enquiries about your health. Help you with your coat and then offer a newspaper, on the TV screen its the stock market listings, no sport listings here, they have the sports newspaper but that is it. Their customers are considered important, educated,serious people of a certain age. Both Mimmo and Franco listen to their customers stories but never comment, they listen politely, while cutting your hair. They are both very good barbers, true professionals, they know their business. Their customers include people like the President of the Italian Republic, Governor of the Central Bank, Ministers of the Government, Senators, politicians,famous actors, etc... Given the clientele you would expect something luxurious and extravagant with designer decor or specialty coffees or attendants etc.. and high prices, no not at all, it's a very small shop, only 3 chairs and the decor is 1970 vintage, nothing has changed but it is comfortable and gives an air of permanence, a bit like an old boys club and the price, it's the same as other salons in Rome, no more no less.

Today Mimmo told me about his vacation in the Caicos Island and how many Canadians tourists were there also on vacation. It is true that in the 1970's Canada considered taking over the Turks and Caicos Islands. He complimented me on my fellow Canadians, finding them very polite and kind. He wants to go back.
He told me that the tennis coach was Canadians spoke French and he met his mother who was visiting. With Italians you will get big points if you show respect to your parents. He was impressed with the tennis coach because he was respectful towards his mother, see how the Italian mind works.

Franco always cuts my hair and I also get a manicure from Elena, who has a summer house on the Adriatic near Fano. It's a relaxing time and a quiet one, the salon is as quiet as a library. It only took 15 minutes to cut and wash my hair, on the way home I decided to walk up Via Nazionale and just behind the ruins of the Baths of Diocletians, I went in to this Sicilian café where they have canolli stuffed with sweet ricotta cheese so Will and I could have tea with it.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Cooking class on a Sunday morning

On Sunday morning we were up early and went to our cooking class in Riano which is a far suburb of Rome. You can get there by metro from Piazza Flaminio and you get off at the Montebello station about 20 minutes all together and it only cost 1 euro.
We drove since it was more convenient and I had guests coming with me to Wendy Holloway's B&B Flavor of Italy.
See her web site,

The cooking menu had several recipes on Artichokes, they are in season right now, in fact it is just the beginning, we prepared Carciofi alla Romana and Carciofi alla Judaica, both are very old recipes, the artichoke Jewish style is 2600 years old as old as the Jewish community of Rome. I learned how to select them at the market, clean them, cut them and cook or fry them. We also made Ravioli with a spinach pasta stuffed with pumpkin and walnuts. Saltimboca alla Romana, thin veal scallop with sage leaf and a paper thin slice of prosciutto and 16 individual chocolate soufflés, they were beautiful.

It was great fun and we all learned something. We had a wonderful lunch of the food we prepared. A very nice way to spend a Sunday.