What I dread about returning to the U.S.

23 Oct
22 October 2016. I listed my beefs with Roma the other day. Turnabout is fair play, so here are the things I am not looking forward to in gli stati uniti.
  • Having to fly to go to Europe. How we have loved jumping on trains! 10 hours or more on a plane is not fun, even in Business Class. When we come back to visit, we will take long trips (we have time!) to make the flights worthwhile. In the meantime, I am overusing my United Mileage Plus Visa to accrue as many points as possible. I wonder if we can charge a house?
  • Incredible choice of squash, and the pumpkins--of various kinds--taste amazing, as does everything.

    Incredible choice of squash, and the pumpkins–of various kinds–taste amazing, as does everything.

    Food additives, wooden produce, and high prices. Food in Italy tastes like it should taste. Red peppers zing, potatoes require no butter for flavor, and the overall need for everything from basil to thyme is minimal because the produce is so darn flavorful. In the U.S. we wax our fruits and veggies to preserve them, and God-knows-what is done to cattle and chickens. I am hoping that between the Farmer’s Market and Nature’s Foods I can find good organic stuff. It will cost significantly more to feed us than it has in Italy. I shudder to think of what wine costs in the U.S! And good olive oil!
  • Car-orientation and having to drive again. Yes, the buses in Rome are problematic, but it is possible — even desirable — to live without a car. Unless we want to live in a 700 square foot condo in downtown Portland, we’re going to have to buy a car. It just is not feasible to depend on buses, light rail, and trains. Ric has not driven in 3 1/2 years, and I have not done so in 18 months. We may have to have our son take us to a big parking lot and give us driving lessons.
  • Few trains. Sniff.

    Now THAT's Italian...Pizzeria Al Forno della Soffita.

    Now THAT’s Italian…Pizzeria Al Forno della Soffita.

  • Pizza. Papa Murphy’s Take-and-Bake will no longer cut it. There is good pizza in Portland: Apizza Scholls and Ken’s Artisan Pizza are renowned, with wood-fired pizzas and high-quality ingredients, but you have to line up about 17:00 to get in. We can barely stand to eat before 20:00 anymore. Nostrana has great pizza, too, but costo molto!
  • Eating dinner at 18:00. In Portland, we used to go out on Saturday night and leave the house at 17:30 so we could get a table without a reservation. Now at 18:00 I can barely think about eating except on occasion a little aperitivo. We like to sit down at a restaurant between 20:00 and 21:00. Even eating at home we seldom tuck in before 20:00. By 20:00 in Portland, most restaurants are thinking about shutting down the kitchen. The afternoon just seems longer and more useful when you aren’t thinking about dinner at 17:00. 
  • Lack of social outdoor life. As much as the sidewalk traffic in Roma can make me crazy, I do love the passeggiata tradition in Italy. It is most fun in the smaller towns. Take a walk, have a coffee or an aperitivo, do some shopping or just lick the windows, as the French say. In Paris, there are the terraces and in London the pubs. In Roma, we have the tiny bars. It is an excellent pre-dinner habit to take a walk, sit with friends and visit. In the U.S., we all pull into our homes using an automatic garage door opener and settle in without chatting up the neighbors. 

    Giant cappuccino in the U.S. The Italian version costs us about €1.20, even sitting down at our neighborhood place. It is JUST RIGHT.

    Giant cappuccino in the U.S. The Italian version costs us about €1.20, even sitting down at our neighborhood place. It is JUST RIGHT.

  • Giant cappuccini. No, I did not mistype. cappuccini is the plural of cappuccino. I think I will have to order the child-size. No one needs 12 ounces of milk to one ounce of espresso. 
Maintaining our Italian lifestyle after our return is going to be about as difficult as playing darts with spaghetti. We shall persevere and let you know how it is going. Four days until we fly!!!

23 Responses to “What I dread about returning to the U.S.”

  1. mvaden1948 October 24, 2016 at 15:50 #

    I don’t even bother to order a cappuccino here because so far I haven’t found anyone who can make a good one. Yes, in Seattle the coffee capitol of the world or so Starbucks would like us to believe. I ordered one in an Italian restaurant run by Italians. Ha! Even my lovely Italian teacher who was with me took her spoon and dug around in it….say “where’s the coffee?”. Too much milk not enough espresso. I’ll just make my own rather than pay $6.
    I am so looking forward to my month in Venice in March….although I’m not looking forward to the incredibly long flights.


    • GoodDayRome October 25, 2016 at 11:12 #

      Maybe we’ll just go out for wine instead of coffee. 🙂 I used to love Starbucks, but it is a den of last resort for us now. Michelle I have to find time to come to Seattle and meet you! One of these days! And I look forward to reading about Venezia next spring. I am ALWAYS up for a trip to Venezia. Everytime we leave there I cannot wait to go back.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mvaden1948 October 27, 2016 at 15:45 #

        I will have to send you the info on the new apartment as the price can’t be beat. I’m hoping it’s as nice as it looks.


  2. John Henderson October 24, 2016 at 08:00 #

    Great piece. Here’s a scouting report from my trip back to Denver last month: https://johnhendersontravel.com/2016/10/07/cleaning-day-clearing-my-past-in-denver-clears-my-future-in-rome/.

    If Portland is anything like Denver, you will be shocked at the prices. I could not find a glass of wine in a mid-range restaurant for under $9. And every morning I had a headache. I hate sulfites as much as Republicans. I was born, raised and educated in Eugene so I know about Pacific Northwest cuisine. It’s outstanding, but, as you said, you’ll pay for it. Healthy restaurants are so overpriced it’s unhealthy.

    Good luck cooking. I remember my 11-year sojourn in Denver between Rome stints and I stopped cooking Italian. It was too depressing. The fresh tomato sauce had no flavor whatsoever. None. I added so much basil and garlic that it tasted like something off the floor of Olive Garden’s experimental lab. There is good pizza in Denver, as in Portland. Wood-fire pizza is really good. However, I remember paying $23 for a large. Thursday in Rome I paid 9 euros for a diavola that was even better.

    The biggest problem you might face is the people. Keep in mind that 40 percent of the U.S. population thinks Donald Trump should lead the free world. I didn’t run into any of those in my week in Denver and you may not either in Portland. But imagine having a nice conversation with a stranger in a coffee shop as we do in Rome. The subject turns to politics and your new “friend” says he’s voting for Trump. Keep in mind that disfiguring a person’s’ face with scalding coffee, particularly a 16-ouncer in a disgusting paper cup, is a felony.

    Inn bocca al lupo,


    • San October 24, 2016 at 22:27 #

      Yes, absolutely NO objective reporting in the major media, including PBS;
      A new savage persecution of those even thinking of voting for Trump;
      Pretty soon I bet it won’t be a crime at all to throw scalding hot coffee at a face voting fpr Trump!


    • GoodDayRome October 25, 2016 at 11:10 #

      I will continue to steer clear of discussing politics in coffee shops. In fact, I hope not to patronize any place that sells coffee in paper or styrofoam. First purchase for us is a Nespresso machine for home use.

      I read your piece on clearing out in Denver. What a trip! Last summer when we were in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco my blood pressure soared when my wine-by-the-glass was $11.00! The cost of housing is insane, too, and the per person price of a pizza, wine, and salad meal at Nostrana was about $50!

      We did not come to Rome for financial reasons, nor did we retire here for anything other than the pure pleasure of living in Europe for awhile. It was always the plan to go “home” within 5 years. We certainly are not going back to Oregon as a clever financial move. It’s all emotional, and a roller coaster of emotions at that. I am certain the first pizza we order there will make us weep with longing for Italia and a sensible price.

      But I can have halibut again! And fresh troll-caught salmon!


    • GoodDayRome October 25, 2016 at 11:10 #

      Crepi il lupo!


  3. Zoe October 24, 2016 at 02:46 #

    You will also have to retrain for hours: ciao 20:00, hello 8:00 and hope you know if it’s am or pm.


    • GoodDayRome October 24, 2016 at 04:49 #

      That’s funny! I used military time at work all the time, too. So much clearer!


  4. Chloe Erkenbrecher October 23, 2016 at 19:50 #

    I feel lucky that our food in California’s central valley is so good, even in the grocery stores. Only the tomatoes seem tasteless, but there are many farmer’s markets available where fresh produce is available and excellent.. I can get good pizza (very thin crust) at one place close by and it isn’t costly. I think it’s run by Sicilians. Perhaps Americans eat early in order to get back to the T.V.; in fact, think how many of them eat in front of the T.V. rather than at their table. Might as well serve canned soup and sandwiches. At the cost of food here, I would think they would savor each bite.
    Interesting that you would have moved north from Rome. I would prefer the south as I enjoy the food and people there much more. Hope that you can find your dream home in Portland.


    • GoodDayRome October 24, 2016 at 04:48 #

      Thank you, Chloe! The north appeals for the cooler weather in the mountains and the orderliness. Appeals to my northern European roots, I guess. But the food is still fantastic there!


  5. ckleonard October 23, 2016 at 18:45 #

    This post is so good for all of us here to reflect on what we have automatically come to just accept. Nothing will ever change if we just accept. The one thing on your list that I wish for you, is that you can find a way for no car needed. Michael’s suggestions were so on target to how I am thinking. A big decision factor in my choosing Holladay Park Plaza as my new home, is the availability of MAX and bus. When I move there I am also going to get myself hooked up so I can use Uber. Now, your suggesting CB as a possibility for you, gets you 5 stars in my book. The coast can not be beaten!


    • GoodDayRome October 24, 2016 at 04:46 #

      We are confining our search to close-in Portland, but the prices are frightening. We want a little space…. You can visit in CB!


  6. Marcia October 23, 2016 at 18:13 #

    I love your list of things you don’t look forward to in the USA. I prefer to eat later too but sad to say, Marc, likes to eat around 4pm IN THE AFTERNOON for dinner! I preferred Italy’s standard. And you are so right about pizza!

    I wish we could walk everywhere and live without a car too. It’s crazy the cost of one, plus the upkeep and basically the irritation of having to drive somewhere just to pick up one little thing. There isn’t a store within 4 miles of where we live here in Reno whereas in Italy, you had a perfect location.

    I know you’ll be going through culture shock returning back to your homeland and I look forward to your blogs about your experiences here!

    And I hope Janie does well too! I miss that cute little face.


    • GoodDayRome October 23, 2016 at 18:42 #

      Gosh, there are days we are barely done with lunch by 3:00PM! Janie continues to be cute and crabby. She will no doubt do fine. I will fret, however!! We are happy you had a chance to experience our European lifestyle!


  7. Christine October 23, 2016 at 18:00 #

    You didn’t mention the presidential election–maybe that’s a good thing. I’ve been wondering, if you had it to do all over again, after retiring would you still choose to live in Rome or somewhere else in Italy? Hope you have a safe trip back to Portland. Your posts will be missed! Buon viaggio!


    • GoodDayRome October 23, 2016 at 18:40 #

      We get plenty of coverage online and through the BBC. My only regret is we are coming back before the 8th! Should have thought that through! If we had to do it over again, I think we might have gone north, but we knew Roma quite well after 3 years at the U.S. Embassy, which factored heavily in staying in the city. It has been a great base for travel and for visitors!


  8. debbie Fischer October 23, 2016 at 16:47 #

    So looking forward to seeing you. . and welcome back to the beautiful PNW!! Its aglow in color and occasional crisp air when it isn’t full of moisture! Yes, the 10 hour plane ride is a bummer and does keep us from returning to Italy/other great places for awhile, but there is so much in our own “back yard” here too! It’ll be fun to see what “habits and customs” you keep from your years abroad, and what Portland things you slide right back into! Hope you keep your blog going for awhile!!


    • GoodDayRome October 23, 2016 at 18:38 #

      We are ready to embrace the rain, Debbie! I worry all the time when it doesn’t rain in Roma, while the merest drop of rain has the natives moaning! See you 11/2 at Femmes!


  9. Diana Shaw October 23, 2016 at 15:21 #

    Travel safe. Looking forward to seeing you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • GoodDayRome October 23, 2016 at 18:37 #

      Me too, Diana! November 2 for girls’ night is in sight!


  10. dalluva October 23, 2016 at 15:12 #

    Ciao Laurel — things have progressed a bit better in Portland since your years in bella Roma, though this is still America where traditions like the 6PM supper run deep. I remember back when my mother had supper on the table at 5PM sharp, ready for my father as he arrived home from work. God save you if you weren’t there on time (no food for you!). That tradition of early supper in the States seems bizarre to the Italians (and most Europeans), and after our own years of Euro travel, we’ve settled on a 7 or 8PM dinner timeslot. Anything earlier is happy hour.

    The food scene in Portland has gotten so hot, with so much variety and so many new restaurants, if you don’t have a reservation you’re pretty much hosed. Sunday brunches, where reservations aren’t taken, require you to arrive 30 minutes before they open to line up (come rain or shine) lest you be added to the wait list of 60 to 90 minutes…sometimes up to 2 hours. Bravo to the Portlandians for getting out and enjoying Portland’s culinary riches, but it’s pretty much out of control right now on the wait times. Our fav wood fired oven joint, Ken’s Artisan, can easily make you wait 60-90 minutes for a table. Worth it, but just barely. Thank god Ken’s team will hand you a glass of wine while you wait.

    So are you planning to reestablish roots as a suburbanite? I could see you 2 enjoying a condo in the Pearl or Slabtown, where a car really is optional. Uber makes it possible to get around far cheaper than owning a car, and using the car sharing services is very doable. I would love to be without a car, they are a headache — but if you want to live in the ‘burbs, you have to drive to everything. That is why I won’t ever live in the ‘burbs again.

    And yes, good olive oil is $35+ for a 750ml bottle (vs. $10-ish in Italy), wine has 3x-6x markup in the restaurants (and 2x in the retail shops), and wooden veggies abound. Expect some extended culture shock as well as pocketbook trauma.

    Welcome home! 😀



    • GoodDayRome October 23, 2016 at 15:16 #

      “Pocketbook Trauma” indeed! We had a taste of that when we visited in 2015. We’re coming back anyway. Not sure I can wait 60 minutes for a pizza nor for brunch. Maybe the key is to eat out on Tuesday not Saturday. We like to make reservations, anyway. And no suburbs! In town or waayyyyy out, like Cannon Beach.

      Liked by 2 people

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