Wednesday, April 30, 2014

postcards from rome

the trevi fountain // throwing a coin // the pantheon // our favorite eatery 
evening at piazza navona // piazza della rotonda // 
trajan's column
borghese gardens // overlooking vatican city // 
dome of st. peter's, the roman forum
the colosseum // roman center // sunset at trajan's column

Rome completely surprised us.

I was hoping something like that would happen. That my expectations would be shaken, that I would fall in love where I least expected it.
Traveling is such a personal and wondrous thing, so you're bound to get varied opinions and input when other people find out you're going somewhere they've been. We had a lot of responses to our Italy trip, and we heard a lot of the same. Florence is the best, Rome is the worst, eat as much gelato as you possibly can. We definitely gelato'd all day, every day, but we found that once all was said and done, it was Rome that had truly romanced us.

It's a beautiful city. It's bright and so full of life, the history is astounding, the food is life-changing. It's a city full of gems and secrets. It's a place for people-watching and wish-making and some of it is so familiar, you'd swear you had been there before -- and some of it is so impressive and surprising it'll take your breath away. Trajan's Column, The Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, The Sistine Chapel. Those were the things that truly took me by surprise.

I can definitely understand the general overwhelming feeling of Rome, the way it's tailored to tourists and can be too busy and hot and crowded, but we just found ourselves accepting it for what it was and demanding more. There were so many times when Dusty and I were quite literally giddy.
Like when we went into a little streetside pizza shop, and they sold pizza by the slice. They cut out a huge chunk of the pizza (mine was potato and rosemary), folded it up toppings-side-in, like a big pizza burrito, and wrapped it in paper. We walked outta that shop with our to-go pizza-folds, biting and chewing and smiling in-between, walking around Vatican City like we lived there.
Or when we were walking down little Roman alleyways, following our map, and suddenly we burst into this open plaza with bam, The Trevi Fountain, towering and sputtering and musical. We first came upon it at night, and the glow of the street lights and the sound of the water and the bundles of people hanging out there was truly exceptional. We hopped around the corner to grab gelato and came back to join the cool kids.
Or like that time we stumbled upon a bright yellow building with a little side alley of tables and chairs, and had the best pasta of our lives. Cacio e pepe, you stupid delight, you buttery, peppery goodness. They gave us fresh tomato bruschetta and little complimentary glasses of limoncello.
We went back on our last day, of course, just in case Da Francesco had been a dream.

I think I could write a love letter to every place I've traveled thus far, but Rome is just so packed full, it's heavy with sights and eats and meaning.
I suppose it's all in the details, and Rome had so many wonderful details.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

wanderlust wednesday

Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy. March, 2014. 

This bright city square mirrors the shape of the original stadium beneath it, built in the 1st century.
It houses some of the most stunning fountains in the city, and is frequented by local artists and sun-seeking tourists. 
Grab some gelato and take a seat, listening to the gushing Fountain of the Four Rivers created by the talented Bernini, or stroll through the vendors to find a one-of-a-kind painting of one of Rome's many sites. 

i'm not a reader: the common lie

Use Grammarly's plagiarism checker, because evil shouldn't have a foothold in the reading world!

"I'm not a reader."

It's a statement I've heard again and again in various conversations, sprinkled in with the how are yous and the what have you been up tos and the have you read this yets. 
I think I bring up books and stories so often in chats because I'm passionate about them, but coming across this particular answer has always confused me. Oh, I'm just not a reader. 

I never quite understood what that meant, because the assumption in each of these cases was that the person could read. If you can read, then how can you not be a reader?

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.
Mark Twain

I think Mark Twain knew what was up. He loved cats, worked hard, had a fantastic sense of humor. He also loved to read and write, which secured his place in American history. He was (and, thanks to the internet, still is) a spouter of wisdom.
That quote points a finger to one of the roots of the problem. The right to read, the blessing of sight and ability and opportunity demands a human to read.

Several years ago (coincidentally it was in the throes of the written Twilight saga) I decided to try something.
When someone said to me I don't read or I'm not a reader, I would take it upon myself to make them prove it.

My college roommate was my first test subject. The only thing she had ever read was Twilight, and she was convinced she generally disliked reading and that the Twilight saga was the only thing she cared to read.

This was a great place to start this project, because the idea that the Twilight saga is the single greatest thing you've ever read is way too sad to comprehend. It's a gut-punch to the literary society as a whole, really.

I thought carefully about her personality, chose some of my favorite books that I knew she would enjoy, bought them for her, and begged her to read them.
If and when she finished them, if she still hated reading, she could have my permission to proudly announce to everyone that she is not a reader. 

The thing is, I wasn't trying to bully her into anything. I wasn't trying to be right. My driving motivation was that reading is one of the most incredible gifts in the universe - I knew she would be better for it, because reading is so good for you, if I even have to say that. I should hope that it's common knowledge.
To have the ability and the skill and the knowledge to read, but choosing not to, baffles me.

Here's the key: find your genre. 

I think sometimes people grow up hating reading for various reasons. Perhaps they were slow to learn how to read, or they weren't allowed to read, or they were forced to read things they didn't like.
But once they're outside of that environment, I think everyone can be a reader. Find your genre, fall in love with books and stories. Not just for entertainment, but for your own betterment.
My roommate discovered her hidden love for reading through this experiment, and it was the best part of that whole endeavor. It was so exciting and it still is, being able to swap books and share stories.

Reading can relax you, it can sharpen your mind. It can expand your vocabulary. It forces you to sit and focus. Reading can develop your analytical skills, and can even ease depression. A compelling story can boost your empathy and challenge your character. Reading broadens the horizons of your understanding -- almost everything anyone is doing or saying comes from a book, or an idea that began in one. Books are history, society, memory, adventure, experience. Reading takes you places.
Reading is good for you. 

Let good prevail, my dear friends. Those who claim you are not a reader.
Fight evil; read books.

Update: I love this article, it gets me. 

note: this blog post was sponsored by Grammarly, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

istanbul, not constantinople

blue mosque
hagia sophia

I know, I know -- cheesy song title reference.
But what can I say? This song was in my head the entire time we were in Istanbul.
What an amazing city. Impossible to take in in just one day, but from our first impressions it's a maze of light, color, flavor, spice, history, mystery and spirit.

We had never traveled anywhere like this before, and were really intimidated by the sights and the food and the language. But it's all incredible, truly, and we had to dive in with arms wide open since we had such a short stay there. The people were so friendly and the baklava, so yum

treats at hafiz mustafa

I would love for this blog to morph into a fashion/travel blog eventually, and this feels like a good time to dive into the travel portion, laying out some highlights of our recent March trip. 
Of course, style still plays a significant part -- packing for a two-week trip to Europe is one of my biggest challenges yet. Layering and re-wearing and packing light and being's a lot of planning!
I've never been a great packer, and this trip just reiterated the fact that I still need a lot of practice in travel-packing -- I always bring way more than I actually need. 
Bring twice as much money, half the suitcase weight. Always.

grand bazaar

rustem pasha mosque

Since we didn't have a lot of time in Istanbul, I don't have a lot of experience or advice for those wishing to visit there for longer than one day -- but I would say the must-sees that we experienced are:

- The Blue Mosque
The Hagia Sophia
- The Grand Bazaar
- The Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)
- Rustem Pasha Mosque

These five sites are all within walking distance to each other, and you can make a nice little loop to get a feel for the city. Get a good map, which you'll most likely be able to find at your hotel. We stayed at the Amiral Palace hotel which was a really charming spot. It was very affordable, too, and included a continental breakfast of Turkish tea, fruit, nuts, olives, etc. as well as the standard eggs/cereals/pastries.
The host was extremely friendly, but beware of the tourist traps. We fell for one, so we can vouch! He put us on a shuttle to a sketchy little restaurant area, where it quickly became clear there was an arrangement between the hotels and that particular restaurant strip. Mediocre, touristy, expensive. Skip all that and have a plan!
Tour the city on your own. Hit all the big sights, and stop at any cafe and have kebabs and baklava and Turkish tea or coffee...
You can also do like we did and finish your day at Hamdi Restaurant, right on the water. It has a stunning terrace level view. Some claim it's a bit touristy, but you can't beat the view.

hamdi restaurant

We didn't actually get to go inside Hagia Sophia or Blue Mosque, because we arrived after they were closed on our only night, and the next day we only had until a little after lunchtime to tour the city before our flight to Rome. We chose to spend that time in the Grand Bazaar instead of waiting in lines to see the mosques -- it was a tough choice, but I'm pretty confident we'll be back to Turkey to see those mosques!

We couldn't pass up the bazaars, as souvenir-driven as I am. We bought loose teas, Turkish bowls, a gorgeous beaded lantern, scarves, glass tea cups and was definitely the highlight for us, holding hands and pointing to everything, eyes popping and mouths dropping as we drank it all in.

Traveling can sometimes be stressful, especially with a tight time limit. I think it's really important to communicate expectations and must-sees before you even leave, so no one is surprised or disappointed.
Dusty and I have traveled enough together that we're getting better at functioning in new environments, and knowing what our priorities are (food and shopping!).

If you've ever been to Turkey, I'd love to know your thoughts and your favorite sights/eats!
Hopefully we'll be returning someday soon.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

hello, hello

Dress (remixed, remixed, remixed): Ruche (similar, similar), 
Top (remixed): Modcloth, Earrings: from Venice

Since March 1st was my last blog post, I'm going to acknowledge my embarrassing lack of blogging last month! I can't believe it's already a solid week into April.

Quick update on my life: our trip to Italy was amazing, pizza and pasta will never be the same. We came home and took a weekend road trip to North Carolina with some friends, then celebrated the upcoming end of law school with our Barrister's Ball. Some of our best friends from college visited for a week and we spent the weekend with them in DC, and this past weekend we celebrated my husband's 25th birthday!

All in all, March was good to us. It was a month too busy and thriving to even blog about, but I'll attempt to play catch-up over the next few weeks while we start wrapping our minds around the fact that we're moving back to Arizona next month. 

Until I get my act back together, may I just say hello, how are you, how have you been?
It's so nice to see you again.