From travel

Dr Weil Misses #9

Got this in my inbox today: 8 Reasons the French Are Slim. As usual with these lists, the focus is on the WHAT and HOW of EATING. But fitness isn’t just about eating. It’s about using up what we eat… which is why farmers of long ago were HEALTHY even on a meat-and-potatoes diet. And the farmers I know will argue that it really wasn’t strictly meat-and-potatoes either; they ate LOTS of veggies and fruits too. So going back to the French, #9 reason why they’re slim is because THEY WALK EVERYWHERE. I’m not French but when we stayed there for a bit, in the 18Γ¨me, we were struck at how easy it was to get our daily exercise. Their streets are made for walking. It seemed impractical to own or rent a car, and unless you were going far it didn’t make sense to wait for the train or bus. Very different from our neighborhoods here, most of which don’t even have sidewalks.

Two years ago, on a whim and after the Paris trip, we decided to walk to Panera in the middle of the day. A friend saw us, thought our car had broken down, and offered us a ride! People driving by slowed down and looked at us as if we were crazy. Since there wasn’t a sidewalk on the main thoroughfare we were forced to make our way through sometimes rocky terrain, crossing a small creek in the middle of one of the neighborhoods. It was only a few blocks, negligible by Montmartre standards. We entertained ourselves by flinging French phrases — including some mild insults πŸ˜€ — at each other, and pretending we were making the trek to our favorite boulangerie/patisserie. The destination wasn’t as exciting, but you try to be happy with what you have.

It’s ridiculous how our suburbs work…. to go walking anywhere, you have to drive first. If we want to go walking around our neighborhood, it’s best to do it before rush hour, otherwise we may be getting exercise but we’ll also be inhaling the carbon emissions from cars on the nearby highway. I would rather walk the streets of Paris than get on the machines at our local Y, four minutes from where I am. The genius of Paris is that you’re enticed to walk not just by the streets themselves and what you’ll find on them, you’re also led by your nose. All your senses are engaged, and rewarded at the end with some flaky, buttery stuff. While I’m all for delayed gratification, the short-term ones provided by a walk to the local bakery or pastry shop are infinitely more appealing than the thought of showing off a well-sculpted body at some crowded beach somewhere, several MONTHS later. Forget that.

There’s an idea for the Kinect and Wii Fit folks. Get us some Parisian scenes we can strap onto our heads. While you’re at it, infuse the program with the scent of freshly baked baguettes as well.

Using a GPS in Italy

Hooray! Right now we are being told that there’s a 95% chance EB & kids will be sent to Italy soon. For a while there it was iffy and I didn’t want to encourage false hope — knowing that our dh’s company specializes in emotional roller coasters ;P . Our own trip is still up in the air, but I’m leaving that in God’s hands. But I do have LOTS of tips for using a GPS in Italy, including Rome.

First things first. This is the GPS we got:

Right after Christmas last year the price went down to $276, and then it steadily rose from there; we ended up getting it at $335. So if you’re looking to purchase something like this and you have time to wait, right after Christmas is an excellent time to do so.

What I love about this GPS:
– really easy to use, once you get the basics down. Our children, down to the 7-year-old, can use it, with only a bit of guidance.
– Europe is built in, so you don’t have to buy additional software, etc.
– The screen is 4.3″ — one of the larger ones available.

Now my personal tips, in no particular order… if I start sensing a theme maybe I’ll do sections, but for now I’ll give you a list!

– Sometimes the GPS will say turn left or right at a roundabout — it doesn’t “see” the roundabout. As long as you follow the general direction it’s telling you to go, you should be fine.
– OTOH, sometimes a street that branches out in different directions is called a roundabout, even when there is no actual roundabout. Again, as long as you follow the general direction, you should be fine.
– Sometimes the roundabout is SO negligible so you’ll really be going in a straight line with just the tiniest bit of a swerve, but GPS will still tell you “take the second exit at the roundabout”, instead of just “keep driving” or “go straight”. Again, just pay attention to general direction.
– We have our GPS set to 3D, but if it helps you there are two other views (destination up or North up, I believe) that you can switch to if you’re more comfortable with and want to mimic a regular map.
– Make sure, before starting out on a journey, that you’ve got your settings exactly as they need to be. I do a lot of pre-planning at home before we go, so I regularly switch between simulated and non-simulated. If I forget to switch to non-simulated before we go, that messes us up.
– I also did a lot of pre-planning our walking routes, so I set the navigation option to “Pedestrian” instead of “Automobile”. A couple of times I forgot to switch it back, and approaching Rome the GPS kept on telling us to go to secondary roads — very frustrating, and cost us at least 30 minutes additional time trying to figure out exactly where we’re going.
– The GPS’ battery only lasts so long, so when we take it walking we still have a paper map with us and use it more, and then switch to the GPS when in dire need or when trying to find food/places not on the map.

This was the map we used in 2003, and again this year,

but I left it accidentally at a bookstore so if we go back, we’re getting this:

Back to the GPS.

– If you drive through tree-lined streets, the GPS might get confused and will tell you to drive again from a previous spot you’ve already been. My suggestion is to look at all the directions prior to driving so that if while on a street the GPS goes insane on you you still have a pretty good idea which direction you should be going. When you’re “found” by the GPS again you’ll at least be nearer to the goal. Stopping in the middle of a route (when possible) sometimes helps; sometimes not.
– Same thing will happen when driving through tunnels, esp. long ones.

I’m sure you already know this, but yes, we consider a GPS an essential when driving in Europe, and ESPECIALLY Italy. If we had a GPS in ’03 when we went to Florence and Assisi we would have been spared a lot of headache and frustration and stress. Just the feature that recalculates directions is priceless — that alone has saved us a tremendous amount of time.

– One thing that we found useful in Rome: when you turn on the GPS it doesn’t automatically find you, and sometimes you’ll sit there, and sit there, and sit there — waiting for it to find you. It helps to just drive; the satellite will find you eventually. Of course, be prepared for any mishaps, but I think that’s an exciting part of the adventure. I’m one of those people who actually ENJOYS getting lost and trying to find my way out of a maze. DH hates being lost, but he is an awesome driver (the Manila training helps :D) . Together we make a good team. I tell him what to do and where to turn and he just follows. We saw many sights in Rome that we probably wouldn’t have if we had not gotten lost.

DS needs computer now. Will be back later, either to add to this or to make a Part II!

Italy Tips, for EB&Kids, Part IV

Shopping in Pescara/Chieti

First, where to shop.

A block away (on your right when you’re facing the sea) is Falcone Mini Market (Viale Alcione, 201) — they have basics if you run out of something: local olive oil, local wine, butter, milk, sliced bread (though they carry the San Carlo brand which we find too dry), plus produce — garlic, onions, different kinds of greens, whatever’s in season…

Three blocks to the left or so — and you have to cross the street — is Conad — in a basement (Viale Alcione, 22), so you might miss it if you’re driving by. It’s a mini-supermarket, larger than Falcone.

If you walk towards the back of the apartments and keep walking you’ll come to an underpass (a bit creepy but when we’re in a group it’s fine) — go through it and out — and cross another street — and you’ll come to a small shopping center. The meat shop is “Osmi Carni“; there’s also a fruit and veggie vendor, and another mini-supermarket which we haven’t been into. The crossing can get a bit tricky though, as the street is busy.

— Paco: and the walls of the underpass are all covered w/grafitti

Past Falcone on your left, if you keep walking about 10 minutes more or so, you’ll come to a bigger plaza/strip mall, but no groceries here. However, you’ll find gelato shops, pastry, pizza and bread, a few bars (not like bars in the US, but really just places where people stop to have a snack). Nothing spectacular but good for when you’re out for a walk and need to get a quick bite with the kids.

— Paco: and there is also a church and a huge plaza there. (Mom: I’ll get to churches in my next posts πŸ™‚ )

Past that, about 15-20 minutes more — there are more pizzeria, gelateria, etc. Hombre is quite good for pizza — prices run around 6 Euro for something that will fill up Aisa πŸ™‚ . And Il Gelatone — E knows about that since it’s right by the hotel he stayed at — has excellent gelato. But I digress… (gelato does that to me)

–Paco: It’s all homemade gelato there (w/ excellent Limone)
–Aisa: ~ Ma, are you kidding me? I could’ve had another whole half. The gelato helped, though. Thanks.
–Aisa:~ You can taste the alcohol πŸ˜€ in the Crema Rum… I’m sure Uncle Eric could tell you that.

Back to grocery shopping. On your left, when you get to the roundabout and turn right (Via delle Naspee) — then drive to the next roundabout and take the 2nd exit — which is actually the entrance to a shopping center — there’s a bigger Conad on the left, past the two department stores, this one with a parking lot. This is good for after-work runs if you’re pressed for time or only need a few items.

Further away, there are LOTS of options. If you bring a GPS with you, you’ll get at least 20 various places — Conads, Sidis, Tigre, Eurospin, etc. We haven’t shopped at those since if we’re driving farther anyway we might as well take the highway and get to the LARGE shopping centers.

Near the guys’ work place are Auchan Aeroporto and iPercoop. (There’s another Auchan near work but it’s not as nice, though it’s less crowded.) Both are large supermarkets — think Wal-Mart or Meijer, and you can get just about anything you want. If you need other things — cookware, beddings, sports equipment, clothing, etc. there are also stores within the mall dedicated to these. That’s what I love about the malls here — they’re not centered on cinemas or food courts or “flagship stores” like Lord and Taylor or Macy’s — the “flagship store” is the FOOD STORE. And the food store really is the main attraction and draws the crowds — try shopping at around 8 pm and you’ll see what I mean. I wouldn’t recommend this on a weekend (Uffa! That’s “argh” in Italian) — if you’ll remember life in Clarks Summit, Dickson City was the “night/weekend life” for the people there. There’s a similar feel here, but I won’t begrudge the Italians their love of food.

Here are their websites. I subscribed to their newsletter prior to leaving the US, that way I got a good idea of how much things cost on sale, before actually getting here, and I was able to give A an idea of how much our weekly budget would be grocery-wise:

AuchanClick on “Offerte” to find out what they’ve got on sale currently. If you want to see their ad online, click on the drop-down menu where it says “Visualizza Volantino On-Line” and select your location (Scegli la localita): Pescara Aeroporto. It’s open from 8:30 am to 9 pm. Their address is Via Tiburtina Valeria, 386 – 65129 Pescara (PE) — however, the first time we GPS’d that we got lost. Ask Alfredo which highways/exit to take, I guess. And Lina would know.

Ipercoop‘s ad is right there on their front page. Here’s their location. It’s the same exit as Fameccanica but you turn left at the roundabout instead of turning right.

There are other iPer in the area — a favorite of ours is the iPer La Grande (i’m guessing there’s various “levels” of iPer) in Citta Sant’Angelo — Via L. Petruzzi, 140, CittΓ  Sant’Angelo (Pescara).

These are all closed on Sunday; though I know for a fact some of them were open on Sundays in the spring. Maybe they change their hours seasonally?…

If you want to try another area, Ortona Center, about 20 minutes away, has another large iPer and the drive there is quite nice. There’s a large Scarpe & Scarpe (footwear) right by it, and there are more stores inside (mostly clothing + Bata (more footwear)).

-Aisa: ~ I wouldn’t advise planning to buy clothes here; it would be much wiser to come prepared to wear only the clothes you’ve brought for your entire stay. Yes, there are lots of clothing stores at the malls, but they’re mostly designer stores, and it’s pretty bad πŸ˜€ If you happen to find good deals, check the labels, because more often than not, the ‘good’ deals are MIC πŸ˜€ not surprising. Then again, maybe I’m just extremely picky xD but if there’s one thing I’m [very thankfully] spoiled in in the US, it’s Goodwill.

The largest mall in the area (some people refer to it as the American mall, including Jay B.), is Megalo. In the upper level are several restaurants if you need to grab a bite. As E has noted, there’s a preponderance of underwear stores here (actually, everywhere). On the other hand, I am quite taken by the spacious AND VERY CLEAN restrooms at Megalo, AND the food vendors in the halls. You can shop for beans and other dry goods, plus olive oil, dried tomatoes in oil, hot sauces, salami, pecorino, etc. That is, of course, if you aren’t all shopped out yet from being at the iPer.

There’s also downtown Pescara which I’ll cover in a separate post — if you can imagine shopping in downtown Cincinnati that’s what it’s like.

-Aisa: ~ And yet it’s not. Aisa would like everyone to note that she is NOT a city girl — far from it; she has more than once found herself walking in downtown St. Louis with Mama and felt that she can’t breathe. The point she would like to make is, despite not being a city girl, she LOVES downtown Pescara. The mountains and sea and buildings that are rarely taller than five stories make for a very pleasant experience.

And then there’s the open market on Mondays — there are others in the area, but we’ve only been to one of them. If you talk to Anne Marie she can tell you more about it as well. You can do your produce, cheese and meats shopping here, eggs too…. and everything else really — shoes, clothes, home decor, cookware, etc. One word of caution: there are many things that are made in China… but you’ll also find lots of things that are Italian-made. You just need a discerning eye. One guy tried to pass off some espadrilles as “Made in Italy”, but really, at 1 Euro a pair, you have to be suspicious :D.

— Paco: It also gets pretty tight in some areas, you might want to keep the kids close and keep an eye on them, and keep the valuables stowed.

A couple more notes on the shopping experience itself:

When using your credit card/debit card, take your passport with you and present it along with your card. In case you didn’t know, call your bank first before you leave the US, or they’ll suspect fraud and only the first transaction will make it through. You get shopping carts Aldi-style — stick a Euro in the coin slot to get the cart out; later, return the cart and pull out your Euro. Great fun for the kids.

— Paco: and all four wheels [of the cart] rotate; fun for drifting in less crowded areas, but not that fun when it’s heavily-loaded. I try to keep the heavier stuff towards the rear, it helps a little.

In the next post I’ll tackle the “what”. I’ll just go through a list of everything I can think of, and whatever I miss I’m sure you’ll enjoy discovering on your own πŸ™‚

if you know the names of specific stores, you can look for it on the Italian yellow pages:

Pagina Gialle

if you just have a category in mind, sometimes google maps is better for finding things.

Vasto Excursion

just a few notes from the lovely weekend:

visited Lanciano: Santuario del Miracolo Eucaristico — 48 minutes from here.

Had a picnic at a small plaza near our parking lot. Wanted to visit the Santa Maria del Ponte but it was closed… so we just walked around and decided to drive to Vasto… (more info about Vasto here)

Beautiful views of the Mediterranean! I’ll try to update this post with pics at some point… I’m still working on March! Uffa. (That’s “argh” in Italian.)

So we wandered aimlessly… and found a really nice playground — all 4 kids had great fun riding this see-saw-swing thing. I promise to upload a video… again, when I’m done with the pics!

Walked to Cattedrale San Giuseppe — beautiful, old church — this is what it looks like in the winter. They had the sanctuary off to the side where the Blessed Sacrament is and a statue of Jesus and His Sacred Heart — with a wide open window and a kneeler for one. There was also a curious wooden structure in what I suspect is the Baptistery on top of what looked like a marble font, but I couldn’t tell for sure. The other reason I think that’s the Baptistery is because there’s also a painting of Jesus being baptized by St. John the Baptist.

In that picture, you can see the plaza to the right (your right if you’re facing the church) — and there’s a little brown door right beside the church (it’s actually across the street, but not apparent from this angle. That’s one of the best gelaterias in the area — their gelato comes from Gelateria di Noto. Yum yum! Ds-12’s favorite Limone comes from there. I got a combination cioccolato/frutti di bosco (wild berries). DD-18 got an awesome Limoncello. Lina, however, says, there’s an even better gelato on the left side… we’ll have to go back to try that one!

From there we again wandered aimlessly, and came across a street where artisan ceramicists were working. They do custom-made stuff, so when we get back in the fall we’re ordering a family plaque, or something… I’m getting a creamer/sugar set ’cause mine at home are too small for a family of 7. Prices are very reasonable, depending on how complicated the design you choose is. They also hold classes for kids as well as adults.

We got really lucky and stumbled into St. Mary Major, where one of the Holy Thorns — Sacra Spina is. Wikipedia doesn’t have it included in their “Holy Thorn” entry.

Got home and had leftover porchetta (the Italian version of Filipino lechon πŸ™‚ ) for dinner. No, we refuse to worry about the swine flu πŸ™‚

Italy Tips, for EB&Kids, Part III

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

The Condo, cont’d.

The Laundry Room

… is small and serves as the “1/2 bath” — so you can go to the bathroom while doing your laundry, I suppose πŸ™‚

There’s a small Electrolux washer that holds about 1/3 of what my American washer does. And there’s a sink to do your handwashing, but mostly the kids have been using that to rinse after-the-beach things. There’s also supposed to be some sort of electric dryer above the toilet, but the condo owner said it was broken.

– Aisa: ~ Hanging the clothes outside can be time consuming, but it’s a very pleasant thing to do. Note that the sun is on the extreme left end of the balcony, the end that opens up to the two smaller bedrooms.

The bathroom

… is again, small but adequate. There’s a bidet opposite the toilet, but we are just not bidet people. The tub is as long as ours at home, but much narrower — I believe about 18 inches wide (the interior, that is). And don’t forget the shower curtain because you’ll be bumping into it as you take a shower if you’re not careful. The sink is huge as far as bathroom sinks go. We’ve been opening the bathroom window a lot, actually all the windows in the house are kept open when during the day and when weather permits — just better air circulation, hence healthier for us too. And the paint has been peeling off the bathroom ceiling, and steamy showers don’t help.

The bedrooms

There are three — one master and the other 2 for kids. The master bedroom has — I think — a king-sized bed. It feels bigger than our old queen-sized one, but smaller than our American king bed, so I don’t really know. S.ra Farina provided some sheets and pillowcases, but we needed more. I hadn’t planned on buying these when we came here, but I did find Italy-made sheets that were quite affordable. We bought our own towels as well. Common sense should have told me I should have prepared for a “move” as opposed to a “vacation” — but we didn’t even bring our most basic stuff (at least I remembered the knives!) that we take with us when we move from house to house. Esp. crucifixes and other religious items that we want around the house.

The balcony

This is one of my absolute favorite features of the house. It’s wrap-around and spacious, such that the kids can play balcony soccer (Paco invented the game and the rules, I’m sure he’ll be happy to teach Christian about it). The living room, kitchen and all three bedrooms all have exit doors to the balcony. You can view the beach from here. And check out what people are wearing so you have an idea of how chilly or warm it will be.

The condo complex itself is quite green and kept up well. In early April we were woken up several days in a row with machine sounds… turns out the landscaping guys were pruning all the trees around the condo buildings and planting flowers, etc. There’s a little grassy area in the middle/front of the complex, with seating — so the boys should be able to play there a bit. Not much running around, though, since there are cars coming in and going out, busier at certain times of the day than others, of course. Kicking balls is not allowed either, apparently. One disadvantage of balcony soccer is that the kids sometimes kick the ball out of the balcony, which means Paco has to make a quick run downstairs to retrieve it. Luckily we are on the first floor (counting the garages as “Piano 0”).

The neighbors are friendly and always ready with a Ciao or Buon giorno or Buona sera. S. Enzo occupies the door across ours. His wife died three years ago — he describes her as “bellissima” and quite clearly still misses her a lot. On the upper floor there is a little girl and her mom — they like going out for gelato. And then there’s a guy we affectionately call “Old Navy” because we don’t know his name, but he was in the Air Force and speaks good English. He has all kinds of tips on where to go and what to see, etc. Other neighbors in the condo complex are similarly amiable, so living here and coming and going are pleasant affairs. I have yet to meet an Italian who’s nasty. (Thank you, Lord.)

Next up: Shopping!

Italy Tips, for EB&Kids, Part II

Part 1 is here.

The Condo, cont’d.

The Living Room

The living room has 2 leather couches and 2 divans that fold out into beds — so you can have sleep-over guests if you want. Signora Farina also bought a new TV for the place; however, it only delivers local channels. Surprisingly, and as E has already noted, Spongebob Squarepants and Simpsons (neither of which do we ever watch in the US) are acceptable when in the Italian… while you don’t understand a whole lot of Italian. I have no idea if they’re still okay once you can instantly translate in your head.

The walls are painted a nice sunny yellow and there are a few pieces of artwork (framed prints).

The Dining Room

I really should just call it the dining area since it’s still part of the living room really. There’s a dining table with 4 chairs, similar in make to ours (and your) dining table back in Ohio. It extends, but we haven’t been able to find the inset leaves in the garage. We bought a vinyl tablecloth to protect the wood and I’ve covered up the seats with cut up 1 Euro pillowcases so the kids don’t accidentally stain them if they happen to spill something.

There’s also a huge sideboard with a marble top and glass shelves (with doors) — this is what we use right now to hold our homeschooling books and supplies.

Oh, and there is also a bureau in the foyer which you could use to store homeschooling supplies, though we’ve only used it as a catchall for keys, mail, etc.

The Kitchen

The eat-in kitchen is small but adequate. The fridge is about half the size of our (very American) fridge in the US; however I find that to be an advantage since I see everything that we still have more easily than I used to with our humongous fridge… which means less waste and that can only be a good thing. The cooktop (gas) and oven (electric) are both new (Electrolux) though you may have to adjust cooking habits a bit as they are considerably smaller than their American counterparts. Signora Farina bought new pots and pans, but they are all the flimsy Teflon-coated ones, so I bought a couple of stainless steel pieces that we plan to leave, at least until our last trip here. She also gifted us (or rather, the apartment) with a new pasta pot — obviously, extremely useful here in Italy πŸ™‚ . She also bought new flatware and kitchen utensils (the basics — pancake turner, long-handled spoon, pasta server, several ladles — all stainless steel). There’s a space-efficient Miele dishwasher which we will dearly miss when we go back home. The house comes equipped with lots of lightweight plates and bowls (Arcopal’s Veronica pattern), plus small coffee cups with matching saucers, and Bormioli tumblers (plus a few Nutella ones). There is also a large (hee) 3-cup capacity Mokapot + a solo Mokapot. No kettle so we use our skillet to heat up water for tea, and no microwave (microonde). Which is just as well since we’re trying to get away from that. Also in the cupboards you’ll find plastic dinnerware — which (whoops) the children have appropriated (some of them anyway) for beach play — yikes. S.ra Farina also provided bakeware (probably for lasagne) but I don’t know if you plan to do any baking — they’re Teflon coated, like the pots and pans. I got a package of those coated Italian bakepans instead.

I brought my Wusthof chef’s and paring knives (“have knives, will travel” is my motto) and bought a cutting board here. Three more items rounded out my batterie de cuisine: a peeler (so the kids can help me with peeling potatoes and apples), a whisk (the easier to beat eggs for tiramisu with, my dear), and a corkscrew — can you believe it, a house in Italy with NO corkscrew!? Oh, wait, one more. A salad spinner. The first couple of weeks I was rinsing out and drying the lettuce leaves by hand, it was crazy.

Next time, the laundry room, bathroom, bedrooms and balcony.

Italy Tips, for EB&Kids

Since dh has work colleagues coming over the next few months, I thought I’d do a series on living here to help them out a bit. I’ll start out with a random list of tips, and refine them and break up into posts as I go along, and as Internet access permits. I’ll include tips for others as well so this can be used as a general reference guide.

Getting to Pescara

The guys have been flying to Rome and then driving 2 to 2 1/2 hours to Pescara. There is an airport here but it’s cheaper to fly into Rome, plus the drive over is beautiful, with views of snow-capped mountains, olive groves, towns situated on hillsides/cliffs, etc. There are also trains and buses to Pescara from Rome but I won’t include detailed instructions here as they can be found elsewhere. Just google “Rome to Pescara” +bus or +train — this will usually involve getting a train from Rome Fiumicino Airport to the Tiburtina station where you can get the train or bus.

The Weather Here

Well, we got here in March and have been pretty much wearing our sweaters and coats most days, except for the kids who often find themselves warmer than I am — probably because they run around and all. It’s only really in the past week that we’ve been able to just walk without sweaters and go to the beach daily. The water is still pretty cold but the kids don’t mind taking a dip (so far, up to their waists) in between castle-building and just playing in the sand. The only other time we were in Italy was in November, so we were also wearing our winter coats save for sunny days. According to Lina the best months here are May and June.

One thing we’ve stopped doing here is checking the weather online — for one thing ‘net access has been tricky. For another it really is much wiser to just step outside and check how it feels, the way our grandfathers did it :).

Rome tends to be warmer than Pescara because it’s “more city” — but if you go early morning I still would recommend taking a sweater.

The condo

Hopefully I won’t be writing this in vain and you’ll get to stay here as well. The floors are all tile, so keep that in mind as you’ll have kids that will want to run around, etc. There is no dehumidifier so we open the windows whenever possible, just not at night because of mosquitoes. Yes, there are mosquitoes — not a lot though. There are also the larger mosquitoes that we only used to see in Texas!! But you probably won’t see them in the house.

There’s no air conditioning (not necessary) and no screens on the windows. I love the grates/blinds though because they can completely shut out light. Bad idea though if you forget to open them and you take a nap — you might wake up disoriented and think it’s night — this happened to us quite a bit our first few days, so now we leave them open about a foot from the ground.

Aesthetically speaking, the woodwork and glass insets are just beautiful. The doorknobs and fixtures are old-world and there’s art everywhere. The kitchen tiles are 70’s-ish but that’s okay — cobalt blue and yellow in a kitchen is just perfect. One word of caution: the keys are antique (Paco calls them analog keys πŸ™‚ ) and not interchangeable. We just leave the doors unlocked to be safe. There’s one incident with the bathroom door that we need to tell you about — so remind us :).

The main door is opened with a crazy multi-bit (?) key that works 4 upper and 1 lower bolt. A bit heavy handed so A sometimes chooses to just turn the key once.

to be continued…