Sunday, 31 July 2011


Today we were invited by J.A.& G to their rustic chalet on the Gatineau River just 20 minutes away from Ottawa. They are located in a vast green forest and park land just outside the Nation's Capital. Every summer we go to the cottage for the day, have lunch and take in the silence and tranquility of the place.

This year to celebrate our return to Ottawa after a 7 year absence, J.A.&G invited us right away to come up to the cottage. They have had this place for at least 30 years if not more, its rustic but beautiful and so green and peaceful. We always have the most wonderful meals and lots of fun conversation. These are old friends and no pretence here, we all know each other too well.

It is just fun to be there in good company. A good day, with good friends and good food, today we had venison meat, a Moose that A shot a few months ago, not Bullwinkle, it was delicious.

The Gatineau River flows into the Outaouais River which then connects with the Saint-Lawrence River that great Canadian River. It use to be an area of lumberjacks and wood mills, nowadays it is cottage country, just outside the city, hard to believe that we are so close to a large urban centre and yet surrounded by so much wildlife.
The wooden pathway from the cottage to the river.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Quiet Weekend

This is a long weekend in Ontario, August 1 is Ontario Day. The weather has been very pleasant and there are a few tourists about. We continue to prepare for the coming week which will be very busy with two moving days on Tuesday and Friday and a visit to Customs in between. Setting up house is serious work, however so far it has gone well. We will have to continue to downsize and get rid of things we no longer want nor need. Walk around a bit today, had a very nice lunch at the Parliament Pub in front of Parliament on Wellington street, the menu is written to reflect current politicians in office and dishes they might like, it is quite funny to read. Then later this afternoon I went to buy some wine at a shop on Elgin Street only to be told by the store owner that he had just been robbed, I turned around to see about 6 police cruisers converge on the shop. This is something that is not much talked about in Ottawa, but the level of poverty and despair, drug abuse, homelessness, economic disparity is just below the surface, there are a lot more beggars here or at least they are far more visible than what I saw in Europe, it is something you notice right away.

We often complained in Rome of poor client service, it is not much better here, unless you deal with a family owned business or a small independent business where the owner and staff have a stake in cultivating local clients, you will find the big box shop or business to be very indifferent to clients, borderline rude, Starbucks, Bridgehead, Loblaws, staff is surly and indifferent. It pays to go to smaller businesses. We have had on average one meal a day in a restaurant, noticed that a sandwich is about $12. dollars, a beer $6.50, a glass of wine about $10. a coffee $3.65, desserts $5.00, no bargains here.
Dinner for 3 persons around $160 dollars + 13% tax and 15% tip, no wonder tourism is way down to the levels of 1974.  Ottawa has become a very expensive city and I do not find that quality is present in the price paid.

We will certainly have to get use to a lot. Making our own coffee, bringing lunch to the office, etc...

On the other hand, there are lots of summer festivals in Ottawa, one is ChamberFest, another is the Buskers, another is dedicated to the Rideau Canal as a UNESCO World Heritage site with bands playing and entertainment around the parks and street in the city centre, most of it free to be enjoyed.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Sparks street, Ottawa

We have been walking a lot around downtown Ottawa, getting organized for our move in days next week, Tuesday and Friday. Wednesday will probably a visit in the morning to the Customs office for clearance of the sea shipment. Then I will have to get the car tested etc.. to get my permanent licence plates from Ontario. The kids come home from summer camp Thursday, by then we should be able to live in the apartment. It will be a busy week, lots of organizing and sorting out. Ours is a Unesco World Heritage address on the Rideau Canal in the Golden Triangle.

                   Enjoying a glass of white wine on Sparks Street

        The Rideau Canal, c.1826, our living room window view.

The Rideau Canal is 202 Kilometers long, built in 1826 it links Lake Ontario at the City of Kingston
and our National Capital, Ottawa.

a new beginning

Now in Ottawa, a new life, a new beginning. We are bit by bit getting our papers in order getting organized, settling in. The move into our new apartment is next week, with all the work of unpacking this implies, of organizing and deciding how to make it into our new home. The services we have received so far from the different government bodies has gone well, even smoothly one could say. The puppies are fine. On the other hand, Ottawa is an expensive city, right up there with other world cities. Housing is unaffordable, food is very expensive, restaurants overpriced and overtaxed, traffic gets snarled easily, there is a lot of poverty amongst the riches and it seems nearly everyone has a tattoo or piercing or both, a form of social protest?

It is all a matter of getting use to a new life, new habits as Rome fades like the disappearing shore as one travels out to sea. Once the routine of life is established we will be more used to this new groove. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Today being Sunday I had lunch, Pranzo, at Simonetta and Renato, who were so very nice to invite me on my last weekend. What I realize today is that I am tired of saying goodbye and changing life every 3 to 4 years. I am getting to old for this kind of adventure. I know what Will means, it sometimes takes me time to get it, but in the end I do understand. There were also coincidences today, the white wine I brought came from the Whittaker Estate on the Island of Mosia in Sicily near Marsala, the famous Grillo. I did not notice when I bought it, we visited the island in May, site of the biggest Phoenician settlement known in the Mediterranean.

I had also given Renato an old illustration from the London Illustrated News 1854 and it is about the Italian war of independence picturing the French Troops allies of the Pope against the Italian. Renato pointed that out to me, he has another illustration on the same topic.

Had a very nice lunch on Friday with colleagues and looking at the pictures, how much I enjoyed working with them all and how much I will miss them.

                                Michi and Georgia

                               Linda, Jolka and Gail

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Arrivederci Roma!

My last weekend in Rome, on Wednesday I fly to Canada for a new chapter in our life. I never thought that leaving la Citta Eterna would be so difficult. Had a wonderful lunch yesterday with colleagues to say goodbye and tonight had a wonderful dinner with colleagues and tomorrow Sunday lunch with Simonetta and Renato.
We always say we will return, but life is funny and one never knows if we will be able to come back one day and even if we do,  will it never be quite the same. As I write this, I am listening to the Opera Madama Butterfly by Puccini. To me this is by far my strongest memory of Italy, of Rome. The music brings me back to that evening at the beginning of our stay in Rome, Will had mentioned many times the summer opera season at the ancient baths of Caracalla and we went quite a few times. But on that warm summer evening as we sat in the open air amongst the majestic ruins and the great Roman Pines listening to the music, I remember suddenly seeing this gigantic full moon raising slowly in the evening sky on the right of the stage, it was magical, the light of the giant full moon casting a glow on the old stones. I suddenly thought this is what is wonderful about Rome, this mixture of music, of the ancient, of history, the setting, thinking of all the great operatic artists who sang at Caracalla. It simply speaks to you. For a moment we were alone, Will and I, with the moon, the singers, the music of Puccini, and Rome.  You will never see in the world anything like Rome!

Here is the production we saw that evening.
                                    a recent picture at Caracalla

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Real Italian Food

Living in Italy I have been spoiled by the discovery of what real Italian food is compared to what is served in North American so called Italian restaurants. On a recent trip to Canada I abstained from going to those Italian restaurants, one look at the menu posted outside and I realize that it was fantasy Italian adapted for untrained and undisciplined palates. Here are some pictures of real Italian food served in Italy.
A warning there is no pictures of spaghetti and meat balls because it is not Italian.

salad of cherry tomatoes with capers and anchovies

Cuti a very good white Sicilian wine

semi-freddo with marmalade of pickled oranges

Ravioli Trapani Style

Spaghetti with shrimps and clams
a personal favorite, warm mash potato salad with octopus and Italian parsley
the potatoes are mashed with a spicy olive oil, no butter or cream is used.

Cod on a pumpkin purée

Breakfast foods in Ragusa

Said to be the best Ice cream shop in all Sicily and Italy, Ragusa Ibla

Gelato of Beets, delicious, who knew you could make ice cream from beets

Sicilian cheeses advertised by a cheese shop in Ragusa

Marmalades and pickled jams as accompanying regional cheeses
the Sicilian cheese plate

 Fish croquettes

 Seared tuna served with cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar

 endives and pesto salad
 green beans and giant shrimp salad
paté of eggplant in a tomato coulis with ricotta cheese

goose liver carpaccio

four years

Today Will and I celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. We have been together 34 years. Will is in Canada today in Ottawa under a very warm and humid 32 C while I am in Rome in a breezy 24 C.

He left for Canada a few days ago with the puppies and I will be joining him in a few days for our new adventures in Ottawa. It will take some adjusting and we believe it may take as long as one year to re-adapt to the North-American lifestyle after all this time in Europe, but we have done it before.

                                         at dinner in Rome in a Tapas restaurant

                          After the Rome Marathon with Walter and Vincenzo

                        At breakfast on the rooftop of our B&B in Agrigento

Sunday, 17 July 2011

What I will miss from Rome

Leaving Rome after 4 years in the Citta Eterna is difficult, the only other cities in my various postings abroad I had regrets about leaving were Cairo and Warsaw. Cairo had a special feel in 1991 when I left and to this day when I think of Egypt I always feel nostalgic, there was a certain elegance to the city and our lives there at the time, memories of Mountolive perhaps, our penthouse apartment on the Nile, to see this magnificent river pass under our balcony with Cairo at our feet and to our right the eternal pyramids of Giza in the distance in the setting sun was truly magical.  Warsaw was another city, full of elegance and style in the only way the Polish people know how to do it, full of dignity, pride and sense of history. What a great place it was then in 1999, what friends we made.
Statue of the Bersaglieri soldier Piazza Porta Pia
Porta Pia known in antiquity as Porta Nomentana

                               Piazza Repubblica

                                    the opera house of Rome
a good after theater restaurant in front of the opera house
via Genova leading to the gardens of the Quirinale Palace

Leaving Rome is a similar experience, so many wonderful memories, so many delights and experiences which will remain with me for the rest of my life. Like this morning seeing the white transport helicopter of the Pope flying him and the Papal Court from the Gardens of the Vatican to his Summer Palace at CastelGandolfo where he will remain until September escaping the heat of the city.
Via dei Serpenti leading to the Colosseum which can be seen at the end of the street.
the private family home of the Italian President on Vincolo dei Serpenti.
the full moon over the dome of the Church of San Rocco by the Mausoleum of Emperor Augustus.
the museum housing the Ara Pacis of Augustus, with his great text Res Gestae Divi Augusti which is the funerary inscription of the deeds of Augustus and the basis of jurisprudence today.

I will miss our box at the Teatro del'Opera di Roma and our attendant who always unlocked the door to our box or the summer evening open air presentations of the opera in the ancient ruins at the Baths of Caracalla. The Accademia Santa Cecilia concerts at the Parco della Musica and the very nice lady who would always reserved a taxi for us for after the show and who knew us by name. The many wonderful restaurants in Rome where we were regulars like Stella Maris and Checco e Lina Le Petit Bistrot or on via Borgo Pio at Il Mozzicone were we would go for comfort pasta like the best Carbonara in Rome, this is were we ended up when our dear old Reesie died 3 years ago. We could always count on a table. We also discovered many great eateries in Italy, often in small towns or villages, thanks to Gambero Rosso and le Guide Michelin. Being able to discover and taste the fine wines of so many regions including Sicily while the waiter explained the food specialties of the area.

The incredible choice of Men's fashion in stores, so much variety and so much style. I am so glad I took full advantage of it to renew my wardrobe. I will also miss my barber Franco and his colleague Mimo, sharing him with the President of the Italian Republic. How many people can say that or that is shop is below the President's private home on Via Dei Serpenti, steps away from the Quirinale Palace. I will also miss our butcher Armando on Via Alessandria, our having my morning espresso at the Australian bar served by Sandor, Massimo and Germana, excellent coffee, not to mention Judy's cooking at lunch time. All the wonderful people we met and of course our friends in Rome and the Canadian Club of Rome,
an old street in Rome near the Tiber, a residential district.
the bridge King Vittorio Emanuelle II crossing the Tiber to the Vatican with the dome of St-Peter in the background.

On the more mundane, things like our fruit seller on Viale Regina Margherita or the Esso station attendant at Piazza Galeno with whom I chatted each time we walked Nicky and Nora, talking about results of cricket matches in Asia. The old 1950's vintage trams on line 3 or 19, riding them across town. Being able to walk over to the Villa Borghese park on a hot day in Rome when the sun is like hot lead and just enjoy the shade and quiet of this great park. The cashiers at our local CRAI grocery store on Via Alessandria. Or the ladies selling wine at the Enoteca on the Piazza Regina Margherita, who always had good advice and a little discount for the wine I purchased. Many people in the service industry are themselves expatriates, guest workers from Bangladesh, India and Egypt, all making a life for themselves amongst the Italians. Italy today, I discovered, is a cosmopolitan country with little to do with the Italy of the movies.

We are thinking of coming back one day, renting a small apartment, not in Rome, no, but possibly elsewhere like in Pesaro on the Adriatic, for a vacation.
our building entrance on Via dei Villini, an oasis of greenery.
On the rooftop of the Minerva Hotel, Rome
But now it is time to think of departure and goodbyes and renewal.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Tomorrow our two little dogs will leave their native Italy where they were born for Canada. All their papers are in order and their suitcase is packed. They have only known Capena were they were born at the Casa degli Orsi, our neighborhood streets in Rome and the gardens of the Villa Borghese.

A big new adventure awaits them in Ottawa.

Eleonora della casa degli Orsi aka Nora

Fantastico Nicky, our Nicholas aka Nicky

Remember little ones, no barking and no smoking in Canada.