I’m just trying to scare you with the title to this blog post. I promise I’m not going to regale you with tales of every adventure we have had during our travels, though there have been quite a few. And many of have been very funny and interesting. But I understand you can only tolerate so many stories about us, no matter how amusing our antics were.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we approached the 2008 Big Adventure as though it could possibly have been our last time to travel abroad. It wasn’t. We took another trip in 2010 that was very different from our past trips, but very fun just the same. We cruised the Mediterranean.
Both in 2008 and 2010, we took a two-week Royal Caribbean transatlantic cruise over to Europe in the spring. In March and April, the cruise lines move their big ships from the Caribbean over to the Mediterranean to take advantage of the weather. When they do this, they offer smokin’ deals to sail over one way with them.
In 2010, we elected to take advantage of the smokin’ deal sailing across the Atlantic, but remain on the ship for two more weeks as it began its summer Mediterranean season. As a result, we were in one room on one ship with one room steward for one month. The first two weeks we traveled primarily with Americans; the second two weeks we traveled primarily with Europeans and Asians. Very different kind of atmosphere. Both fun. We never got tired of being on the ship. In many ways it was nice to know where you were going to call home that night. We were getting older and we didn’t mind someone sort of taking care of us.
On the 2010 trip, we visited Naples; Sicily; Rhodes and Athens, Greece; Ephesus, Turkey; and Cairo, Egypt. It was a wonderful trip. Seeing the pyramids and sailing down the Nile were on my bucket list and I didn’t even know it!
I don’t know if we will get back to Europe again. I hope so. If we don’t, I have no regrets. Man, I have seen a lot of things for a girl from a small farm town in Nebraska.
As I offer my final recipe for a typical Italian item, I want to tell a couple more stories, and then I’ll quit. I promise.
The first time Bill and I were in Rome, we were taken aback by the unexpected enthusiasm Italians have for their food and wine. They know their food is good, and they want to SHARE their love and enthusiasm with you. They won’t be disgusted if you order the wrong wine with certain food. They will laugh and make sure you get the RIGHT wine no matter what you ordered, even if they have to give it to you for free.
We were at dinner that first night in Rome (the night after the overnight train episode and after the audience with the pope episode – it was a long day) at a restaurant we simply stumbled upon. (We didn’t know it yet, but it really is hard to stumble upon a restaurant in Rome that isn’t delicious, especially if you are off the beaten path.) We were seated, looked at the menu, figured out what it said, and placed our order. Bill got a pasta dish with some sort of seafood. When the waiter brought it to the table, he asked the waiter for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. The waiter didn’t laugh. He didn’t turn up his nose. He smiled at Bill and said, “No.”
“No?” Bill asked.
“No,” the waiter happily replied.
Bill pointed to the table next to us at which the waiter was generously grating cheese onto the diner’s pasta.
“No cheese on fish,” the waiter said, with such finality that Bill succumbed.
We learned later that the Italians never use Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on seafood, believing the flavor is too sharp and strong to accompany the delicate flavor of fish and seafood. It would overpower.
But here’s the thing. The waiter wasn’t disdainful or rude. He simply wanted Bill to experience the food that the waiter loved so much in the best way. We found that throughout Italy.
It’s why they often give you free stuff. It’s stuff they think you would have ordered had you not been clueless Americans. The waiters will bring you a sample of the area’s specialty because they’re afraid you might not order it yourself. Plus, they just want to be generous. It’s their nature.
During that same trip we were at dinner one night in Rome at a restaurant on the Piazza Navona. It was a warm evening and we were dining outside, as we almost always did. The passagiata had started. We were waiting for our check, but instead of the check, the waiter brought us each a small icy glass of a yellow liqueur. It was limoncello, and believe it or not, we had never seen or tasted it before. I will never forget how good that first sip tasted – icy cold, sweet and tart. Just the thing on a warm summer evening. I was hooked and remain hooked to this day.
Since then we learned that it is fairly common for restaurants in Italy to offer their diners complimentary after-dinner drinks, maybe grappa or sambucca, but often limoncello and often made right there at the restaurant.
Hope I didn’t bore you too much with my reminiscing about our trips. They are precious memories, that’s for sure. I got some funny comments this week, and would love to hear more stories about your travel experiences.
I leave you with this delicious recipe….
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
3-1/2 c. water
2-1/2 c. sugar
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away any remaining white pith from the peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-qt. pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.
Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least four hours and up to 1 month.
Nana’s Notes: This limoncello recipe is the easiest thing to make. I was unsure how difficult it would be to peel the lemons, but it was very simple using a potato peeler. Sip it from little liqueur glasses, thoroughly chilled, preferably on the Piazza Navona Heavenly. I keep it a lot longer than 1 month in the refrigerator.