Tag Archives: Portland

Ex expat

15 Jan
14 January 2017. Twelve weeks ago we were still roaming in Rome. Seems like a distant memory, almost a dream.
When I see photos on Facebook by my friends in Italy, I really miss it. Walking around at Christmas was a biggie. My heart wanted to be there; However, my mind knew the crowds and the usual problems would make me crazy.
Personally, I don’t miss living in Rome, but I do miss our Italian lifestyle if that makes any sense.
We miss the being able to do most of our errands on foot.
We walked everywhere in Rome. If a bus was not coming, we walked home. That is not remotely feasible in Portland where we are staying with our son. Case in point, yesterday we spent 30 minutes waiting for a bus delayed due to the snow. In Rome, even if we were all the way across town we just would’ve started walking because it was possible to walk home in an hour-or-so from almost anywhere. There is no feasible route to do that here.
Not to mention it’s just incredibly beautiful to walk through Rome. Just saying. But then Oregon has some damn fine scenic elements. 
Walking was our major form of exercise, something we accomplished almost without trying. I cannot get to 10,000 steps here without making a major expedition. Hoping I can change that big time when we move to the Oregon Coast next month.
We miss being able to walk to-and-from dinner.
In Rome, we could not only walk across town but could walk to dozens of restaurants we would be excited to dine at. And we would work off the calories by walking at least one way most of the time. It’s terrific to walk 20, 40, or even 60 minutes after a nice dinner. 
We miss coffee bars and cheap, high-quality cappuccini.
In Italy, it is a God-given right to have a great cappuccino for about €1.10. That’s about $1.17. A great cappuccino served at a table outside a little cafe, possibly with a gooey chocolate cornetto that cost €.90. For €4.00 ($4.26) we would have our repast. Since we frequented Bar Ponte Milvio, we would leave a Euro now and then for our friendly server and the guys behind the bar.
By contrast, this morning, we paid $11.00 for two black coffees and two pastries, we served ourselves, and they expected a tip! The pastries were good, but seriously?
I miss speaking Italian.
Luckily I have a class “Keeping up in Italian” starting next week, and I play Parole con Amici (Words with Friends) daily to keep my head in it. OTOH, I do love understanding everything that is said and going on around me and being able to make myself understood in a grammatically correct manner. 
We miss hopping on a train.
Ah, the ease of travel in Europe! We could go anywhere as long as we had a cat sitter. Tuscany for the weekend? Venice just for dinner? (Yeah, we did that once and spent the night.) Joyriding to Paris via Milano beat flying. Now we will have to mount a major expedition just to visit. And flying is a necessary part of U.S. travel. (I can’t see hopping on the Empire Builder to go to Minnesota and taking 37 hours.)
We miss excellent wines at a non-budget-busting price.
Wine in stores in the U.S. is not priced too badly, but in restaurants, well, apparently thievery is not illegal. $11.00 for a glass of wine is not uncommon. We could buy a bottle of decent Sicilian wine in a restaurant for about $17.00.
We do have a fine Farmer’s Market in Portland. Fine, especially if the weather is good. It’s tough to get there in the snow.
OK, enough whining. Yes, we knew we’d miss this stuff. We knew what the U.S. was like and we came back anyway. You know why? Because STUFF WORKS HERE.
  • You can run all of your appliances at the same time without blowing a circuit and you can afford to pay the bill afterward.
  • We have a clothes dryer. I can do three loads of clothes before noon, including sheets, which would have taken an entire day to dry in our spare bedroom during winter.
  • You can buy anything you want at most large grocery stores. Not only food but lightbulbs, batteries, cosmetics, greeting cards, gifts, stamps. You do not have to go to four different specialty stores. And you can get cash from the cashier when you use your debit card. I’d completely forgotten about that convenience.
  • You do not need to have €200.00 cash in your pocket to get you through the week. Debit cards are magically accepted even for a coffee. (But then a coffee can cost $3.00 so why not?)
  • No one sneers at credit cards and you can return items if you make a buying error. This is no small thing.
  • Nice clothes are affordable and there are petite sizes for those of us who are height challenged. Funny how you can buy clothes made of Italian wool in the U.S. at an affordable price point but you can hardly find them in Italy.
  • You can go to a bank and talk to a teller without waiting 20 minutes. And the teller will be pleasant and bend over backward to help.
  • The Internet really is a fast web. (Play on words there. Our provider in Rome was “FastWeb” and they weren’t. Fast, that is.)
  • The buses come when they are supposed to, and tell you when they are late. We have an app that tells us when the bus is scheduled and that gives real time updates as to actual arrival. So if traffic is heavy and the bus is moving slowly, you know it before you leave the house. Buses never just disappear as they did in Rome. Knowing when the bus is coming is a big deal and Rome has not mastered that service.
  • My cousin calls the U.S. the “Land of Stuff.” That is good news and bad news. We over consume in the U.S. OTOH, you can satisfy a lot of desires and solve a lot of problems with the products available to us here.
  • Online shopping is superb. Amazon and Alexa, we love you.
  • The U.S. Post Office, bastion of good service that it is, should be a role model for the world.
People, of course, were a major factor in moving back to the U.S. We have enjoyed the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with family for the first time in years, and are enjoying dinners with friends when we can get out of the frozen wasteland of our neighborhood. (There have been two major snow events and one minor one since mid-December. Having a car has been a bit of a joke.) Being on the same continent as your family has benefits.
It is more expensive to live in the U.S. We did not move back as a shrewd financial move. It would have been more affordable to live in Italy, from a strictly dollars-and-cents perspective. However, I don’t think I would want to grow very old in Rome. It’s just not an easy place to live, period. We are, after all, and for better or worse, Americans.
We will be back, Italy! To visit. 


Left coast life

17 Nov
17 November 2016. It has been scarcely three weeks since we left Rome. In that time, we have been to the dentist and eye doctor, bought new glasses, established ourselves with a General Practitioner, figured out public transportation in Portland, learned to drive again, bought a car, and had an offer accepted on a house after a 3-night trip to the Oregon Coast to “start” house-hunting. Yes, we will truly be living on the left coast, at Lincoln City, Oregon. Here’s our house-to-be. It’s about a mile from the beach. house
Driving is a necessary annoyance. We have a lovely hybrid vehicle; However, we are still trying to use public transportation for trips to the city centre to avoid the hassle of parking and to keep ourselves walking and wandering and discovering. You cannot adequately explore a place by car as well as you can on two feet.
We have made progress in the ever-important search for good coffee. We have managed to find three places: Coffee Time  on Northwest 21st Avenue makes an excellent and small cappuccino, Grand Central Baking just a block from our son’s house makes a smooth and rich cappuccino, and Great Harvest Bread Company  on Southwest 2nd Avenue made an Americano I found pleasant: not burned, not bitter, and not too big if you ask them not to add too much water. We have found that a flat white at Starbucks is pretty good and at 8 ounces about the right size. At $3.40 it is hardly a value and they expect a tip!
Last time I shared some of our observations after only a few days back in the U.S. In the past 10 or 12 days we’ve noted many more. These are things we took for granted until we lived overseas for 4 1/2 years. Now, they are astounding.
  1. Elevators are huge! I had forgotten you can put 10 people in an elevator without having to become intimate.

    This is the elevator at our embassy apartment in Roma. You coudl get 3 not-too-big people in it. One might call it "intimate." Quaint.

    This is the elevator at our embassy apartment in Rome. You could get 3 not-too-big people in it. One might call it “intimate.” Or quaint.

  2. In the US, cars do not park on the sidewalks nor in the pedestrian crossings.

    No one parks like this in Portland, but this is a failry common approach in Rome: on the sidewalk and in the pedestrian zone.

    No one parks like this in Portland, but this is a fairly common approach in Rome: on the sidewalk and in the pedestrian zone.

  3. Maybe it’s just in Portland, but buses are terrific! The drivers welcome you on board and they arrive on time. Most remarkably, rather than flagging a bus down as one does in Rome (or they won’t stop), the other day while standing at a stop serving 2 different lines we had to wave off the bus we did not need. So polite! Of course, the cost is much higher. A single trip is $2.50 versus €1.50 in Rome. My Roman friends will gasp when I tell them an annual pass is $1100.00 versus the €250.00 we paid in Rome, but then the buses here run on time and show up.
  4. People do not talk while riding on public transportation. It’s almost like being in Paris. They also wait for you to get off before shoving their way on board, and people queue up. I’ve even been deferred to in boarding. In Rome, people would shoulder me out of the way in the scurry to claim a spot onboard.
  5. The mentally challenged engage you in conversation on public transportation. In Rome, we seldom saw challenged people of any sort out alone, if they were out in public at all. It is refreshing to see people of varying abilities making their way around the city, confident and free, accepted by their fellow travellers.
  6. Dogs pee on the grass. Sidewalk puddles are (usually) from rain. This may only have meaning if you have lived in a big city without grassy areas.
  7. I can wash and dry clothes at the same time while making espresso and ironing. This is huge. Thank you, USA, for plentiful and affordable electricity. And we could turn the heat on before November 15. 
  8. I no longer need to clean the calcium out of the cat’s water dish with vinegar.
  9. Tipping is the scourge of America. Prices are so much higher than Europe as a whole, yet we are expected to tip even if we serve ourselves at the counter. This is going to take some getting used to.
We are thankful for all of you who have followed our story since GoodDayRome debuted 4 1/2 years ago. I am not sure where to go with blogging. Obviously, for awhile I will have little to say about Rome. I will keep posting what’s going on in our lives as our transition continues, so I hope you will stay for the ride. When we travel back to Europe, I will probably blog about our travels.
I am writing a book about easy hiking in Italy’s Val Gardena. It is for people like Ric and me (yeah, old people), people with children, or anyone who does not fancy climbing mountains but enjoys a good stroll. If I can take a deep breath and work on it consistently for a few days, it should be published on Amazon by late January. I will let you know here when it launches. Maybe 5 or 6 people will actually buy it. 
For our American friends and readers, Happy Thanksgiving! It is exciting to be back in the USA for this most-American of holidays and I am looking forward to our family gathering and cooking up a storm.
kitchenSpeaking of cooking, I can hardly wait to start cooking in my kitchen-to-be.


Rocky Mountain high

23 Aug
We are in the Wild West now my friends. We find ourselves in beautiful Durango, Colorado for the final stage of our U.S. Megatrip. We wrapped up our Seattle visit to the tune of a rare thunderstorm, returned to Portland for some final errands and socializing, and moved on to the great state of Colorado. (Hover over or click on each picture for the caption.)
I feel terrible that in my last post I neglected to mention Susan & Larry and Gayle & Dennis with whom we also enjoyed terrific meals during the first Portland segment. We ate our way through the city.
Upon our return to Portland for the second visit, we picked up awesome new eyeglasses – my first non-red glasses in about 30 years – and enjoyed a few more dinners with good friends. We’ve had a Lebanese mezza, Northwest salmon barbecue, sushi, more brew pub lunches, and breakfast at a very hip Portland spot, Tasty and Alder. Thanks to John & Janet, Diana and the fabulous Femmes, Jim & Wanda, and J.C. & Maarja! Notice we have not had Italian food at all (except the pizzas previously reviewed at Our Weekly Pizza).
Durango is high-altitude living. My brother’s house in the valley sits at 7500 feet/2286 meters above sea level. That takes some getting used to. That is higher than most of the hiking we do on the ridges and high meadows in the Dolomites.
We needed to spend a couple of days getting used to the elevation in this high valley with little energetic exercise, so we took a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Thirty-one years ago Ric and I had our first vacation together and it was to Durango to ride the D&SNGRR. I am delighted to say the railroad has endured as fantastically as our relationship. The ride is a trip through time with authentic coaches, a coal-fired steam engine from the 1880s, and a narrator in character that relates stories of the era. It is an exceptionally beautiful ride through the mountains.  I am pleased to say the Animas River is more-or-less of normal color after the toxic spill a few weeks ago, and is expected to recover.
Once acclimated to the altitude, my brother and sister-in-law took us on a high-elevation hike to Engineer Mountain. For the record, we hiked to “Bus Stop” which is known in our family as “The Lunch Log.” Friends, this hike started at 10,660ft/3249m, and we climbed to 11,617ft/3541m. The round trip was about 5 miles, so not a bad climb, except for the fact that these flatlanders were hiking to an elevation higher than the peak of Mount Hood in Oregon (11,250ft/3429m). We feel pretty pleased with ourselves that we did it without fainting or hyperventilating.
Today we took a Path to Breakfast, enjoying a 4-mile jaunt through the valley and down into the city of Durango where we indulged in an American-style breakfast. We were fortunate to have the company of Australian Shepherds, Quip and Millie, as well as humans Jane and Susan. We have not hiked with dogs in years and it added a lot of fun to the hike. Jane spotted bear tracks on the trail – a sizable bear with a paw as big as a small human foot – a reminder that this land is still wild. Even more fortunate, we were given a ride home from Durango.
Milly and Quip on the path to breakfast, Durango.

Milly and Quip on the path to breakfast, Durango.

We have a few more days stateside. You’ll hear from me again, no doubt, as I get my head around the inevitable compare-and-contrast Italy and the U.S.
Sharon and Catherine photo bomb me.

Sharon and Catherine photo bomb me.

Changing house

8 May
In Italian we say cambiamo casa: we are changing house versus the colloquial American “moving.” I like it. The Italian verb muovere is used for lots of things from “moved to tears” and taking legal action, to a dog wagging its tail, but never for the process of going to a new residence, hence changing house. Ric and I have been very busy changing house and thus there have been no posts to GoodDayRome and few to Our Weekly Pizza.
External view at Via di Villa Emiliani. You can see my head in the window to the left of the balcony.
External view at Via di Villa Emiliani. You can see my head in the window to the left of the balcony.
Some of you may not know, but we are retiring later this month and staying in Rome: the plan is to remain here for two years to travel and enjoy before returning to Portland, Oregon. We had to leave our lovely apartment on Via di Villa Emiliani because it was provided by the Embassy and a new diplomat is arriving soon. Last October we embarked on a search for new place (that alone will be a future subject as it was a process unlike in the U.S.) and May 2 we picked up the keys.
We have continued to shed stuff. We started to downsize in 2003 when we left our large home in Lake Oswego for condo life in NW Portland. We continued when we moved to Rome as our embassy-provided apartment was almost half the size of the condo. The new apartment is furnished, although we chose to bring a few pieces along, and as we will be paying to store anything we send back to the U.S., we wanted to send only those items we most cherish: Ric’s collectible trains, some family heirlooms, art, and so on. No sense paying storage for two years for a set of flatware that cost $130.00 10 years ago. We retained for use in Rome things that make us comfortable: our own linens, some kitchen utensils, wineglasses, espresso cups, our Nespresso machine (of course!) and so on. (The “furnished” rental apartment has two wineglasses. Seriously?)
 Our embassy community is a great outlet for selling furniture and we were able to unload sell almost everything we needed to: bed, desk, table and chairs, various cabinets, excess luggage, small appliances, etc. There are several churches involved in refugee relief and the local Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s Within the Walls, was able to take some things and referred me to another large relief organization that picked up dishes and other kitchen items we no longer need. When we get back to Portland my 13-year-old plates can be replaced.
Then there are the things that it is hard to find a “home” for. They might be disposable or unwanted by us, but they might be treasures to someone else. A “garage sale” is unheard of, so we carefully set these items out by the curb to see if anyone would claim them. If they are still there in a couple of hours, we take the next step and put them in the trash. There are people who make a life out of “picking” and no doubt some of their treasures end up at Porta Portese, and there are neighbors who will claim a watering can, flowerpot or lamp.
The train tables-- two-of-four -- momentarily used to stack things before moving.
The train tables– two-of-four — momentarily used to stack things before moving.
Ric had some hobby tables he used for his trains. They fit in the category of things-not-worth-storing-for-two-years, so we set one out in the street one day, and voila! it was gone in less than two hours. So a few days later we set out another one. Whoosh! It vanished while we went to the market. There were still two left and we figured we’d use the same magic act to make them disappear; However, in talking to our portiere who was claiming some garage shelving we wanted to give away, Ric said we should ask him if he was interested in the other two hobby tables. So we invited Emilio up to see them. Oh yes, he wanted them! At his casa al mare he has three storage units and can use the shelving for beach umbrellas, chaise lounges, gardening equipment, and all the paraphernalia one has at a beach house. Or he can put them at his son’s house. But, he wondered, did we set one of these units out the other day? Because Emilio was the
Items left curbside are retrieved by people who can use them.
Items left curbside are retrieved by people who can use them.
person who claimed it off the curb! He is, in his own words, un conservatore, a person who keeps stuff.
Changing house in a city full of apartments with tiny elevators is fascinating. Balconies and windows become entry-and-exit points for boxes and furnishings. The team rolled in with a small truck (easy to maneuver in the narrow streets) and a lift vehicle that provided an outdoor elevator. In less than 4 1/2 hours they boxed or wrapped everything for the new apartment and loaded it on the truck. By 4:00PM they had everything inside the new one. At each end the portiere (building superintendent) supervised the process. A second morning was devoted to packing up the items for storage in the U.S. Click on any photo for a slideshow and larger view. 


So as I write this it is early Friday morning. We are still not completely unpacked. The bedroom and bath are organized, but the kitchen is still in boxes and while most of the electronics are hooked up, the guest-bedroom-office is a dumping ground to be sorted out. We have 10 days before the first guest arrives so we need to kick into high gear. And we still have 7 days of work left before we retire.
So we are establishing “Base Camp Barton” where the cats will reside while Ric and I travel, and many cat sitters have been lined up for the coming months. More later….
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