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Christmas memories

18 Dec
18 December 2017
It’s been fully seven years since we last spent Christmas in our own home in the U.S. As I decorated the house, purchased gifts, and wrapped the presents, I have been reflecting on prior Christmases from when I was a child, from young adulthood, and over the 33 Christmases that Ric and I have been together.

My first Christmas, 1953, pictured with my big brother, Rick, and our dachshund, Peter, at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.

My earliest memories of Christmas are from about 1957 or 1958. Before that, I have only photos to tell me a little about our holidays.  What I do remember vividly: tangerines in the toes of our stockings (whoever thought that was what a kid wanted to find?); a flocked tree with silver & gold decorations (very modern! 1960?); tinsel on Grandma’s tree; an eggnog and cookie sugar high on Christmas morning while we opened presents; my parents’ insane tradition of inviting a few dozen friends and neighbors for a Christmas Day breakfast buffet of Swedish pancakes and sausage. I am certain my mother hated that stress and workload, but Dad was a real entertainer. Perhaps one reason their marriage failed eventually.

Also from 1953, my first visit to Santa at about age 10 months with brother Rick.

Swedish traditions ran through our celebrations. Our grandparents were all born in Sweden so their foods were the building blocks of the Christmas Eve feast. Swedish sausage, rutmus (a questionable concoction of rutabagas and mashed potatoes), sometimes the vile lutefisk, always limpa rye bread. And those lovely, delicate Swedish pancakes along with julekaka on Christmas morning.
My mother used to make dozens of complicated and delicate cookies every year. Several nights during the season she would come home from work and spend hours over such delicacies as sandbakkelse, pepparkakor, krumkake, rosettes, fattigman, and spritz, as well as Mexican Wedding cookies. All were stored in boxes in the hall closet which we dared not touch without permission. They were for Christmas, not before! We were only allowed to eat the broken and less-than-perfect specimens.

Classic family picture, probably for the Christmas card, in 1964. Brother Rick, sister Nancy, and me. And another flocked tree!

I cannot make many of these cookies. I never mastered the delicate touch required for Sandbakkelse or pepparkakor and my spritz took on demented forms although I can turn out a decent krumkake. Mom would be appalled to find that IKEA sells a pepparkakor to rival hers, albeit without the tiny almond slivers.
For many years I made limpa and julekaka but that has faded away except for the odd year I make these breads as house gifts. (Invite me over and I just might bless you with one!)
Some years our decorations were extensive and some not. Once I wrapped several large framed pieces of art with Christmas red foil wrap and white ribbon. One year I used fabric as gift wrap. My Martha Stewart moments. By contrast, when we were waiting for our house to be built, living in a temporary apartment with three cats and a gigantic collie, all of our Christmas stuff was in storage as our house was supposed to be ready by early December. Apartment bound, we had an evergreen in a pot on our patio that we strung with lights and a single red candle on the mantle.

That’s me, front-and-center, with the 1970 Santa Lucia candidates at out Swedish Lutheran church, Gustavus Adolphus.

For many years there was a nativity, but eventually, so few pieces remained unbroken it was discarded. When Derek was little he liked to hang “Herk” on the roof of the manger shed. You know, “Herk, the herald angel” from the carol.
The church was a big part of the holidays until we became rather “unchurched” (Lapsed Lutheran here). 11:00 pm services on Christmas Eve, Sunday School pageants, choir concerts, and Advent wreaths. In 1970 I was a candidate for the Lucia Queen at our Swedish Lutheran Church in St. Paul. Didn’t get crowned, though. Mom said, “They gave it to the rich girl.”
Many holiday seasons were spent working in retail, which can ruin Christmas for you if you aren’t careful. My high school and college jobs were in retail but luckily back then stores were not open extended hours like today. We still closed at 21:00 and Sundays were Noon-17:00. When Ric and I had a retail store, it was so overwhelming at Christmas that I barely remember having a tree one year.

Derek, 1977. So sweet!

Then there was the year we almost killed Mom. Our mother worked hard as a nurse for 44 years. Often she was stuck working Christmas Eve or Day. One year she was quite unhappy because my brother and his wife were not going to be able to travel to St. Paul for the holiday. After work on Christmas Eve, she was invited to my house after so she could be a guest and not the hostess. She came in from the cold Minnesota evening, her glasses fogging up, and much to her surprise my brother bellowed out “Merry Christmas.” She dropped everything she had in her hands and burst into tears. I thought she was going to keel over from the surprise. That was a good Christmas.
Our entire family lived in Minnesota when I was a child and young adult but eventually dispersed as careers and marriages took my siblings, cousins, and me to other states. Inevitably we would forget who-was-where for what holiday. My mom and I would argue about where we were the prior Christmas or Thanksgiving, and we would forget who-gave-what-to-whom as a gift. In order to stop the arguments short in 1980 I started keeping a holiday journal with all the relevant details. Many years I have whipped out that journal to solve a dispute or remind myself what had happened.
As youngsters and up until I was 30, we always gathered with our maternal cousins for the big holidays. Some years there were 15-20 people and no one had a very big house. Everyone brought part of the dinner so no one had to do everything. I remember a lot of fun, warm, wonderful gatherings as our cousins were practically siblings to us.

Ric’s sister and her family invaded Omaha for the holiday in 1985. We still talk about how much fun we had!

In the 33 years Ric and I have been together the cast of characters at the table have changed. Parents and my sister have passed away, cousins live far away. Our Oregon years have seen gatherings of friends and neighbors as well as a few holidays we spent alone by choice at the coast.
Our time in Rome was a huge change. We often traveled over Christmas enjoying winter wandern in the mountains or holiday lights in Paris and London. Last year we were freeloading at Derek’s while house hunting but enjoyed a traditional holiday in Durango, CO, with my brother and sister-in-law. A very white and merry holiday indeed!

Christmas Eve 2008, >8 inches of snow kept everyone from leaving the ‘hood.

On the other hand, Christmas 2008 sticks in memory due to the horrific weather we endured for a week. Day-after-day it snowed, cars got stuck, the airport shut down, offices closed. Living at 750 feet above sea level, my car was frozen to the driveway for eight days. I spent six hours getting home from work via public transportation on the 23rd. Our friends could not get to us for Christmas festivities and our neighbors could not leave the ‘hood. We pooled our resources, with Scott bringing 2 magnums of fine Australian Syrah while Ric, Derek, and I cooked a beef short-rib dinner. The weather was awful and inconvenient but we relish the memories of that holiday.
Bone-chilling cold is also a memory of Minnesota Christmases. For several years I held an open house on the Sunday before Christmas and I remember one year that it was so cold that when we got home from church that morning the toilets did not function. I am not certain how I got them working. Luck, I guess, because the party went on. One year I got drunk on Swedish glogg at my own open house. Heating it up does not really kill the alcohol. My sister poured me into bed and did all the cleanup.

Santa takes his dinner break at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milano in 2015.

Bless all of you who plan ahead and send out hand-addressed Christmas cards every year. It is a tradition that I have let slip completely. I have embraced e-cards, which I know do not offer the same personal connection. I remember my mom, when not laboring over her cookie hoard, spending evenings sitting at a card table in the living room writing notes in cards, addressing them by hand, and carefully recording in her book who she had sent a card to and who she received them from. If she did not get a card from someone for two-or-three years, she dropped them from her list. Does anyone do that anymore? Track the giving and receiving of cards?

Ric and I at a mountain rifugio above Italy’s Val Gardena for Christmas Eve lunch.

Oh, so many more things come to mind as I write this! My Barbie Dream House from Santa in 1962; Going to our favorite Grandma’s on Orange Street in St. Paul with all of the cousins (how did we all fit in that tiny one-bathroom house?); Rushing home from church on Christmas Eve 1968 for the Apollo 8 moon orbit; Derek’s delight at receiving a rocking horse when he was a toddler; Traipsing around eastern Nebraska and western Iowa seeking a u-cut Christmas tree, finding none and ultimately buying one at the YMCA in Omaha; Pickled herring, sylta (headcheese), and Bond Öst for our Christmas Eve Swedish antipasto; Walking on an Oregon beach with frost on the sand; An Italian all-fish dinner on La Vigilia di Natale (Christmas Eve) at Antica Taverna in Roma; Hiking across the Alpe di Siusi on Christmas Day.

 

Preparing lunch for Epiphany in our embassy-provided apartment in Rome. Epiphany is a BIG DEAL in Italy.

Most of all, I like to remember being surrounded by family and friends, whether as a little tyke in Minnesota, or all those years gathered ‘round the (various) tables we set in Portland. The traditions may change, the location too, but the Christmas feeling is there with the ones we love.
Merry Christmas everybody!

Our 2017 tree in our new home in Lincoln City. Our first big tree since 2010.

 

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Cross-Cultural Experience

20 Dec
December 19, 2016.
I first posted the blog below on December 9, 2012. It is a happy seasonal memory I thought I would share again. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Last night we attended
As is tradition all over teh world, a girl is chosen to play Santa Lucia and wear her crown of candles.

As is tradition in Scandinavia, a girl is chosen to play Santa Lucia and wear her crown of candles and red sash.

…a Swedish children’s concert in celebration of Santa Lucia (whose feast day is Dec. 13)
…sung by a children’s choir from La Chiesa di Svezia (The Swedish Church), which is Roman Catholic
 
…held on the day Italians celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
…in a German Lutheran Church (the only Lutheran Church in Rome)
Half of the service was in Swedish, half in Italian.  It was sweet! I recognized a lot of the music from my Minnesota Swedish Lutheran upbringing.
Not your average Lutheran Church.... This one is German, the only Lutheran Church in Rome, built in the early 20th century.

Not your average Lutheran Church…. This one is German, the only Lutheran Church in Rome, built in the early 20th century.

The chorus ranged form 4 or 5 year-olds to teenagers, boys and girls.

The chorus ranged from 4 or 5 year-olds to teenagers,both boys and girls.

The Swedish ex-pats here, both from the diplomatic community and those who have married Italians,  support a lively Swedish language program to keep in touch with their heritage. There was a Swedish Christmas market last weekend at La Chiesa Svezia.Chorus by candlelight. Sweet sweet singing all in Swedish.

Kilograms, centigrade and convection, Oh My!

24 Nov

24 November 2016. We are celebrating this most-American of holidays in Seattle with pouring rain, but surrounded by family. I am the chief cook but thanks to two able sous chefs, Ric and my sis-in-law Deb, I am not spending the entire day in the kitchen. Our nephew is supplying excellent wine and Alexa, the digital assistant will play any music I desire on demand. She also sets timers. I have fallen in love with her and a few minutes ago ordered one for our house. 

We are grateful to be back in the U.S. for the first Thanksgiving here in 5 years, but cannot help taking a look back on a fun-filled feast we held in Italy in 2013, when Ric and I cooked for 11 Italians on Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy the look back and wish you all a very blessed holiday.

Thanksgiving 2013, A look back

I’ve prepared a lot of turkeys. A conservative estimate would be that I have prepared 40 over the course of about 36 years. My first was when I was in my mid-twenties and decided I had to be the hostess for Thanksgiving and my mom had to help. I was terrified of ruining the Butterball. The years we did not prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving at home I surely made one for Christmas or sometime during the autumn.  And I graduated over the years from frozen (Norbest with a built-in timer!) to all-natural farm-raised turkeys from an organic store. But the most satisfying turkey-venture was this year, in Rome.
Leonardo reads the menu - in English and Italian - as we start with the soup.

Leonardo reads the menu – in English and Italian – as we start with the soup.

Our friends, Alessandra and Francesco, invited us to prepare the feast in their beautiful apartment. They would provide the turkey and wine while Ric and I would prepare the contorni (side dishes). Knowing they had an Italian oven, which are smaller than most we have in the U.S., and since this type of meal is a bit unusual in Italy, we gathered over supper the Friday before Thanksgiving to plan our attack. I warned them that turkey takes time: I will be in your kitchen much of the day.  Since Thursday was a work-and-school day here for all but employees of the American Embassy, I worried it might be an imposition. But Ale and Francesco were undeterred and in fact invited a crowd to experience the American feast.  There would be 11 Italians at the table, plus Ric and I. We decided that if it would fit in their oven, a 7 kilogram  turkey would be a nice size, about 15 pounds U.S. Their friend Stefania would provide dessert.
Beautiful butternut squash and fresh sage on the way to making a velvety soup.

Beautiful butternut squash and fresh sage on the way to making a velvety soup.

Early Thursday we headed out to pick up artisan bread for the dressing and fresh green beans, managing to get in a 6 km walk in advance of the feast.  While we were inhaling the glorious smells at Roscioli, Francesco called and said “You need to talk to Ale. She has the turkey and it’s big.” Ale confirmed: her butcher has provided an 8 kg (17-pound) hen turkey and the butcher says it will take 5 hours to cook. Can we come earlier to start the cooking?
Ale's elegant tableware from Castelli, famous for ceramics.

Ale’s elegant tableware from Castelli, famous for ceramics.

We planned to serve the soup at 19:30 and the main course about 20:30, so we figured the bird needed to go in the oven about 16:30, if it weighed 7 kg. Now we had 8 kg to deal with, and (surprise!) a convection oven, which changes the cooking game considerably, plus the butcher’s recommendation to cook it in a low oven for 5 hours. Yikes!  Arriving about 14:45, Ric set to chopping herbs for my herb-butter turkey recipe. By 15:20, after calculating and re-calculating cooking time and centigrade-versus-Fahrenheit, we had herb-butter under the skin and put her in the oven trussed up as tightly as we could, just managing to squeeze her into the space available.  (Ric has a wonderful little app on the tablet that does all manner of conversions since our American-system brains have to constantly deal with length, volume, temperature and distance conversions.)  With any luck, she would be done by 20:00, giving 30 minutes for “rest” and to make the final prep.
Every good dinner starts with prosecco. Rita, Valentino, Francesco, Eleonora and Nello.

Every good dinner starts with prosecco. From left, me (elbow), Rita, Valentino, Francesco, Eleonora and Nello.

Whew! Deep breath, now all we have to do is monitor, baste, add broth, and prepare the contorni. Ric is a terrific sous chef and spent the next hour carving up butternut squash for soup, peeling potatoes, and various other tasks assigned, while the kids came and went. All-in-all Alessandra, Ric and I spent a compatible couple of hours doing prep, setting the table, chatting and enjoying the time immensely. At each check on the turkey, I worried it was getting too brown, but my research on roasting a turkey in a convection oven said do not cover with foil. By 17:30 I was nervous: it looked done. My brand new meat thermometer (Celsius, of course!) said it was done in most parts.  Can’t be! Two hours at 160C (325F) and it’s done!?!?!? The main event was still 3 hours off! We wanted the guests to see this magnificent beast, but how could we hold it safely not have it dried out like the scene from “Christmas Vacation?”
Ale said, “We must Google it!” We typed in “how to hold a turkey safely when it’s done early.” Amazing
Eleonora, Stefania and Francesco share the cranberries

Nello, Eleonora, Stefania and Francesco

number of hits! Who knew?  Survey says: aluminum foil, low low temp (about 200F), and moisture in the pan beneath the turkey.
Can I tell you this was the most beautiful turkey I’ve ever made? And the moistest? And the best-tasting? My updated recipe for perfection at Thanksgiving = The company of people you enjoy + Natural Italian turkey + Convection oven + Creativity and a little experience with turkeys.
Ignore the goofy-looking cook and focus on the bird: perfection!! Sara clearly finds me amusing.

Ignore the goofy-looking cook and focus on the bird: perfection!! Sara clearly finds me amusing.

I think the only side dish quite familiar to the guests was mashed potatoes. Gravy is not normally made in Italy, nor dressing/stuffing as we do in the U.S. (mine is made with sausage, apples and raisins). We managed to acquire fresh whole cranberries (shipped in from Massachusetts)  and made sweet potatoes with gorgonzola.  Stefania’s tarte tartin and homemade whoopee pies made for a festive and tasty finish.  See the whole menu here. Multiple portions were consumed and even the kids were adventurous in trying foods they’d not seen before. No one seemed to miss pasta.
Everyone who has prepared a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner knows that the final prep is chaotic. Getting stuffing, Potatoes, sweet potatoes, veg, gravy and turkey all on the table at the same time. Ronnie is a blur as he speeds to help!

Everyone who has prepared a  big turkey dinner knows that the final prep is chaotic, getting stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, veg, gravy and turkey all on the table at the same time. Ronnie is a blur as he speeds to help. Thanks to Ronnie, Ric was off clean-up duty for a change.

Dinner went off without a hitch. Except as usual, I forgot something, sending the sweet potatoes to the table sans the candied pecans on top, and I forgot the pepperoncini for the green beans. (I think I am the only one that noticed.)
Last year, our first Thanksgiving in Italy, we knew we would really miss the large crowd we tended to gather around our table in Portland, so we celebrated in a totally non-traditional manner. This year we had a memorable, wonderful day thanks to Alessandra, Francesco, their family and friends. We are very grateful to have been able to share the traditions and spend our holiday with them and to them for opening their home and kitchen to the American Invasion.
I am so getting a convection oven the next time we need to buy an appliance.
Thanksgiving green beans with red peppers and American bacon. Not your mother's green bean casserole.

Thanksgiving green beans with red peppers and American bacon. Not your mother’s green bean casserole.

I ragazzi doing what kids usually do after dinner.

Giordano, Leonardo, Giuseppe and Sara, doing what kids usually do after dinner.

Giuseppe and Giordano at table - even the kids liked the soup!

Giuseppe and Giordano at table – even the kids liked the soup!

Me with my friend and Italian teacher, Eleonora.

Me with my friend and Italian teacher, Eleonora.

Kitchen action stops fo a quick pre-dinner drink. Ale, Eleonora., Francesco and me.

Kitchen action stops fo a quick pre-dinner drink. Ale, Eleonora, Francesco and me.

 

Il grande rientro

3 Sep
3 September 2016. The deserted streets of the past month are once again full of buses, cars, and motorini. The kids with their unmuffled  POS cars wake us periodically between 23:00-01:00 as they zoom down the hill behind our bedroom and careen around the corner giving us an extra blast of over-revved engine as they pass the front of the building. (The landlady said this was a quiet street! But then she’s Italian and sleeps with the windows closed against a possible chill when it’s still 79 degrees Fahrenheit at bedtime. If we are lucky it’s a chilly 68 when we wake up.)
There were almost no car horns to be heard for the last 4 or 5 weeks, and no double-parking. So many closed businesses. This all seems like a dream as the streets are once again clogged, the impatient drivers leaning on their horns, and an open parking spot is as rare as a Lutheran church in Rome. Stores re-opened with their “New Collections” displayed: the wools, browns, and grays of the autumn wardrobe. Newstands sprang back to life with fresh magazines in stock and the florists are once again oases of color on many street corners.
End of summer

Beaches will be empty soon. And delightful for those not into the usual cheek-by-jowl beach scene.

This, my friends, is Il Grande Rientro: The return to reality as thousands upon thousands of Romans give up their beach chairs and umbrellas and head back to work. School won’t start for another week-or-so, and that will add another layer of congestion back as each child is accompanied to the door of the nearby elementary school by a parent or nanny.
In every store and restaurant you are asked “Comè andata la Sua vacanza?” (How was your vacation?) Or perhaps “Dovè siete andati in ferie?” (Where did you go on holiday?)
So many people go away in August. SO MANY. Apartments are shuttered, entire apartment buildings have no windows lit at night, and renovation work continues day-and-night as contractors struggle to complete work while the owners are on holiday. I cannot do justice to describe what it is like to experience this thing. It is a phenomenon one has to live through to believe.
The great return even gets news coverage due to the crowded autostrada.

The great return even gets news coverage due to the crowded autostrada.

Then on Monday it was like a switch was thrown and the city was refilled from a firehose full of cars and people. And apparently this rientro is quite traumatic for the Italian who have been away for four weeks. There are articles about how to make it less stressful, what to eat (digestion being top-of-mind) to ensure a healthy return. Some sources offer practical and pragmatic tips. Others, like the Corriere della Sera, offer a lighthearted approach in 10 dishes to console yourself with at the end of vacation, including gelato, pizza, chocolate cake, and a Mumbai burger. It’s a funny piece.
Soon this will all seem normal. It’s the sudden onset that is so shocking. Just as things are heating up even more next week with schools coming online, we will escape to the U.K. for our next adventure. I’ll write to you from the road. Until then ben rientro!

This and that

12 Jan
Our trips supply us with anecdotes far beyond the pictures we take, and often provide memories we talk about for years: Our two collie puppies running on moonlit Cannon Beach in Oregon on New Years Day at 6:00-God-help-us-AM; A priest roller-blading, cassock flying, on Via Arenula; A beautifully dressed, kind Italian businessman personally guiding us when we were lost in Spoleto;  Running into a pack of Portlanders on a mountain ridge in Italy on Christmas Eve. Here are a few more tidbits from our trip to London, Paris and Switzerland.

Italian moments

I was amazed at how often we encountered the Italian language and Italians outside of Italy. I heard Italian every single day, whether in the street, on a train, or in a restaurant or a shop. It made me miss Italy.
Parisians can find panettone, pandoro and other Italian treats, too.

Parisians can find panettone, pandoro and other Italian treats, too.

On Christmas Eve at Dean Street Townhouse our waitress was from Italy. It felt like home to order and chat in Italian.
Even in the north of Switzerland, we heard Italian daily. Our waiter at Punctum, where we found an amazingly good pizza, was Italian. You can read about it on my other blog, Our Weekly Pizza.

That small town feel

Many years ago, we traveled to my adopted hometown of Lindstrom, MN for my mother’s 80th birthday. The day we arrived there was a huge snowstorm and we were going to be very late getting from MSP to little Lindstrom. We called the motel and we were told they’d leave the key under the mat for us.  How cute is that?
No picture of Hotel Chur, so here is a serene little alley in the Alt Stadt, on our way to Punctum for pizza.

No picture of Hotel Chur, so here is a serene little alley in the Alt Stadt, on our way to Punctum for pizza.

We had a similar experience in Chur, Switzerland. Coming all the way from London, we knew we would not arrive until at least 10:00 PM, so I contacted the hotel. As the front desk staff goes home at 8:00 PM – odd in a hotel with 58 rooms – we received instructions via email including a code to a box that would release a door entry key. Our room key would be laying on the front desk (along with many others, we saw upon arrival). We had a moment of panic when the entry key did not release easily and I had to use a nail file to finagle it, but it all worked out quite well.

Fabled names

Drury Lane, Carnaby Street, Oxford Street, Piccadilly Square, Baker Street, Covent Garden, Whitehall. How often we have come across these names in literature and history and there we were in the midst of them! London Bridge, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace: fabled landmarks in a literary town. I have to say as much as I like speaking Italian, it was fun to understand every damn word whether spoken or written. No menu translation challenges. 
'Do you know the muffin man who lives in Dury Lane?' There really is a Drury Lane. Now try to get that tune out of your head for the rest of the day.

‘Do you know the muffin man who lives in Drury Lane?’ There really is a Drury Lane. Now try to get that tune out of your head for the rest of the day.

Melting pot

After dinner on Christmas Day, we ventured to the Odeon at Marble Arch to See “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” With reserved seats, there was no need to arrive super early to stand in line, although we milled around in the lobby for a while before the theatre was clear. We heard very little English being spoken among the various family groups waiting. Predominant language? Arabic.
Carnaby was well decorated for the holiday.

Carnaby was well decorated for the holiday.

Thanks to the former British Empire, London is truly home to many cultures. As a result, ethnic food is widely available. We love Italian food, but it was a real treat to eat good Indian food in a London restaurant.

Hailo

Hailo is the Uber for legal cabs. I am not a fan of Uber. I think the drivers who are licensed and who have spent years studying their cities should get my transportation Euro, Pound, or Dollar. London’s answer is Hailo.  In about 5 minutes, I installed the app, signed up, and had a cab scheduled for 06:30 the next morning. The driver was a gem, arrived early, helped with bags, and spoke with the most amazing Cockney accent. Luckily he could understand me better than I understood him. Hailo is also available outside the U.K. It worked great and I wish it would come to Rome. Thanks to Nigel for the recommendation!

Pedestrians & parking

As a pedestrian in Roma, one watches traffic ever-so-carefully. People wear headsets listening to music when they drive, they talk on cell phones even though it is illegal, and generally pedestrian crossings are used for parking so they get little respect as pedestrian zones.  
Orderly, I tell you! Look how the women areallowed to cross the street without a motorino shooting past. And no one is parked in teh crosswalk. Heaven!

Orderly, I tell you! Look how the women are allowed to cross the street without a motorino shooting past. And no one is parked in the crosswalk. Heaven!

In Switzerland, cars screech to a halt before you even know you want to cross the street. I almost felt obligated to cross the drivers were so polite and accommodating. Reminded me of Portland.
I love that in London and Paris drivers park where they are supposed to, inside the parking zones, not on sidewalks or within the zebra stripes. It makes for such an orderly city! Most of you take this for granted, but if you’ve ever been to Roma, you know that creative acts of parking make rough going for those on foot.

Crypt café

Cafe in the Crypt. Notice the tombstones on the lower left.

Cafe in the Crypt. Notice the tombstones on the lower left.

Eating in a mausoleum? Why not? At the famous St. Martin-in-the-Field there is a cafeteria in the crypt. It’s far from the Lutheran Church basements of our youth in the Upper Midwest. This is a true crypt with ancient tombs underfoot. The food was simple, of good quality and, for London, inexpensive. (One sandwich, 2 bottles of water, coffee and tea for GBP 9.85.) It was warm, with low-lighting, a polite crowd, decorated for Christmas.
We ate our light lunch with the Baythorns.

We ate our light lunch with the Baythorns.

St. Paul’s Cathedral also has a café in their crypt. Not as big, but great for coffee and cake.
I don’t see this trend coming to St. Peter’s anytime soon. Can you imagine the crowds if you could have lunch at the tomb of a deceased pope?
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