“Another” Day by the Sea

Ciao Readers!

So, when we lived in Florence (the more times I write that the less real it seems) we took a day trip to a little town called Castiglioncello to see the ocean, which I followed with the blog post “A Day by the Sea.”  Hence the title of this post…

When you go to tourist language schools in Italy they want to make sure you have a nice time, so there are usually optional activities most afternoons.  Sometimes they are educational, sometimes cultural, sometimes culinary, and sometimes just a chance to get out and about with other students…. Wednesday’s “giro” was a drive to a little seaside town, Portovenere.  If you’re familiar with the Italian coastline (NW side), Portovenere is just a short ways from the much more famous Cinque Terre, in Liguria.  While it is an adorable little town and there are a couple of minor “sights,” including a couple of very old churches, it’s really all about the sea….

Enjoy:

“The Wanderer’s Guide to Lucca”

Ciao Readers! And happy Monday after Spring Break! We have finally made it to Italy….

The title of this post reflects both its focus, as well as the book from which I got most of the substantive information.  As you may recall, back when we lived in Florence (was that real?!), we took a day trip here and had a thoroughly lovely time.  Now I have 10 days in which to really explore this place…

Lucca is mainly known for two things – primarily, its wall; secondly, Puccini.  Apparently there have been 3 sets of walls built around Lucca, dating back to Roman times;  the current wall, which completely circles the town, was built from 1550 to 1650, using much of the town’s resources (human and economic) for 100 years!   Either it was money and time well-spent or wasted, depending on your perspective – no one ever tried to bombard the town again (Pisa had in the past).  Of course, the walls did little to protect Lucca from “modern” warfare, and Napoleon took over in the early 1800’s and “gifted” the city to his sister, Elisa.  Now the wall basically serves one perfect function – THE town park where everyone bikes and jogs and partakes in the lovely Italian ritual known as the “Passeggiata” (ambling, chatting, and basically passing the time).  I spent my first two days here doing my own passeggiata – come along with me:

In addition to the lovely wall, the entire town has lots of cool old architecture, complete with more churches than you can count, and relaxing little bistros and shops now occupying the old historical buildings.  I am sure I will learn more and post some specifics, but for now, take a wander with me around Lucca (saving my stop at the truffle store to taste and shop for a future post about food), ending at the picturersque building that is my school (which I start tomorrow/today when this posts):

Thanks for joining me!

Fast to Fancy – NYC Food is Fab!

Ciao Readers!

So, as I sit here in Lucca Italy on a rainy Sunday and try and think deep thoughts (time to think = large part of my motivation for this trip), I’ve decided a light-hearted blog about food (what else?!) fits the bill until I have something more profound to share….

Every time I go to New York I am overwhelmed (in a “I wish I had more room in my stomach” way) by all the food choices. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d be adrift without a steady supply of New Mexico green chile (everything’s better with it – including matzo ball soup!), but it’s a big wonderful world full of food out there and no matter what you want, New York has it (in contrast, NM does not have any of the following things we enjoyed on our trip): Octopus cooked to perfection? -check. NYC style pizza and linguini with clam sauce? -check. Lobster rolls to rival Maine? -check. Korean food court? -check. Egg bagel with whitefish salad? -check. 100+ year-old Italian bakery with tricolor cookies? -check.  Shake Shack? -check and check! But instead of continuing to drool in my mind, I’ll “share” some of these delicacies with you – Bon appetite!

Two subways and a walk for the tri-color cookies of my dreams (and some requested pignoli cookies for our friend Sue, formerly of NYC) – totally worth it:

Carbo-loading before the NYC half at our perennial favorite, John’s – YUM!

An expedition to Food Gallery 32 in “Koreatown” for spicy squid and bibimbap:

Our splurge lunch at Marea on the outskirts of Central Park (I didn’t have the chutzpah to pull out my camera too often in this place, but here’s the best thing we had – from the menu – “POLIPO – grilled octopus, smoked potatoes, pickled red onion, radish, chilies, tonnato”):

A trip to a hip new food court, where Luke’s Lobster serves a mean lobster roll (i.e. butter soaked bun filled with sweet and tender lobster):

And, of course, the joy of once again requietting my new-found love of a “fast food” burger – SHAKE SHACK!

Thanks for reading (and dream-eating with me)!!!

New York City Half Marathon

Ciao Readers!

I am already in Lucca Italy, so slower strolling on my mind and agenda, but I couldn’t let the NYC half marathon come and go without a post!  Honestly, I’ve been waiting for 2 reasons – 1) the internet here in my apartment in Lucca is down for the second day in a row (add in gross sheets and ARG!) and 2) I was still holding out hope that the “nice” runners I met in the subway were actually going to email photos from the run as promised (I really regret not running with a phone/camera, that’s what I get for joining the 21st century so late).  But alas, we will do the best we can with what we have….

The day before the run (actually for 3 days before the run), there was a big expo/packet pick-up, where you got to get your number, shirt, spend money on more shirts, and find your name on the wall of runners (and panic wondering if your plane would get in on time in the snow so you didn’t miss the window to get your number):

The run started off in Central Park (where a nice woman took a picture AND emailed it to me):

We started in waves (different start times, as you can’t have 20K people all start at once!) and then in corrals – amazingly enough while I was in the last wave, I was NOT in the last corral (i.e. I was not the slowest runner there – actually came in 400-something in my 600-something person age group).  From this point words do not do it justice, so I will search the Internet for photos that do – picture a completely snow-covered Central Park bathed in bright sunlight – and then picture 20,000 people running through it, at one point doubling back and passing each other – the energy was palpable (I tried to psychologically harness it to help my momentum)…

photos from the interwebs (not convinced the first one is this year):

After we made our way up and back through Central Park (about 6.5 miles) we got to run straight down through Times Square (7th Ave.) – for some reason that was even a bigger rush (or maybe just one I could appreciate more because the VERY hilly part of the run was over).  Alas, more bad planning – while I knew Steve was waiting on the sidelines along Times Square to wave, we managed to miss each other in the giant crowds and 10+ blocks (again, Hope, carry a phone).  So, while I am not in this (that I know of – you can play find Waldo), Steve took this:

After the rush of Times Square, all that was left was another 5 miles down Manhattan in the 34-degree weather to the final rush of crossing the finish line!  I have to say, I look pretty good after 13.1 miles (and less freezing than those around me):

Honestly, it was the MOST amazing race I have run, so I will have to revamp my “top 4 runs of all time.”  Though, if I can get a little philosophical on you for a minute…..  For the first 6 miles I had a lot on my mind, so I knew I wasn’t fully appreciating what I was experiencing – I would tell myself to be Buddhist and in the moment and then I finally started to pay attention and take beautiful photos in my mind’s eye (yes, I know, real ones would have been good) – which just gets me thinking about how fast life passes (waxing poetic after turning 50 I suppose).  And, speaking of turning 50 – I trained for this race like I haven’t trained in a long time – I felt GREAT – I fathomed myself running at record speeds (for me) and didn’t even start to get tired ’till mile 12 (usually hits between mile 8 and 11) – so I was really surprised that I was at least 5 minutes shy of my “PR” (personal record – something many runners strive for).  I can’t help but wonder – was it all those darn hills (6 miles of them) or are there no PR’s left to get after 50……..?

 

Ack – I joined twitter!

Ciao Readers!

So, those of you who know me know I don’t (didn’t) buy into the whole social media hoopla…. Well, long story short, I decided I can’t accomplish everything I may want to in the travel-blogging world under my anti-social Luddite rock.  So I bit the bullet, joined Twitter (@HopeEckert), and almost immediately got retweeted by Bassem Youssef (known as “the Egyptian Jon Stewart”), who we saw in NYC last night – he has 9.2 million followers, so I think in the social media world that means something……?  A new adventure of a different sort…….

(inscription in book we got at the Town Hall last night, they were all different) #RevolutionForDummies:

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Newyorktoitaly

Ciao Readers!

It’s been awhile!  So, the title of this post is a play on the title of my blog, and a preview of some hopefully exciting blogs to come.  I am off to New York next week to run the NYC half marathon (check out the very cool course – map below).  As you all may remember from my other posts about running, I am no world-class athlete, so I got into this race the old-fashioned way – by getting my name drawn in a lottery.  It was very exciting to get the email this past December telling me I had made it in.

Now, I have to tell you I was worried about going, as I (had) an upcoming jury trial in April.  I thought I was cutting it close, but would make sure I was well-prepared in advance.  Then what do you know – the trial just got reset for June.  While that was rather disappointing, suddenly I had a big swath of open time….and lots of miles saved up…..and the ongoing dream of going back to Italy (to language school in Lucca to be precise)….  It seems as though the universe wanted me to go…..so after NYC I am off to try and remember how to speak Italian (and I am certain, take a cooking class or two).  Stay tuned!

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