ORVIETO:   Walking down a narrow, crowded street in Orvieto, you turn a bend and you get your first glimpse of The Duomo, one of the most important cathedrals in Italy.  That first feeling of awe was nothing compared to when we walked onto the piazza.  It’s massiveness is imposing.  The front of this building is beautiful and inspiring, but the sides of the building are painted with stripes.  My first thought was war, then the stripes on concentration camp uniforms.  The building said to me, I am beautiful but I am also a fortress.  I don’t know what I am talking about.  I’m just telling you fluid thoughts as they transpired.


1st Glimpse of Duomo
1st Glimpse of Duomo

Inside, there are less decorative facades of the building than most catherdrals of this size.  How do I say it?  It is less gaudy.  There are less “monuments” to the famous. It rests on the fact that it is a holy place.  There are two small chapels on either side of the front altar area.  One is for prayer only, and I went there and said prayers for friends who are battling illnesses or grieving.  As always, I asked him to strike down terrorists like ISIS, dictators, and several of the idiots  who have thrown in their hat for the USA presidential race.  (I guess I should stop doing that.  One good request might get cancelled out by a not so nice one.)

Anti-Christ (who looks somewhat like Christ) and Lucifer whispering in his ear.
Anti-Christ (who looks somewhat like Christ) who is fumbling during a speech to the crowd.  Lucifer is  whispering in his ear what he wants him to say.

The other smaller chapel, Chapel of San Brizio has an altar in the center but it’s the frescos that captivate you.  I should tell you that they were painted during the period of 1499-1504 by Luca Signorelli, a man who certainly had every reason to go home every night and complain to his wife about his poor, aching back and neck.  The Frescos are of the Day of Judgment and the After Life.  They are the stuff of nightmares, but nevertheless compelling.  I thought about this guy Signorelli.  His frescos are his interpretations of Revelations, which makes you want to know more about him– this painter who had such visions.  This one in particular stood out.

Prediction of the End of the World
Creatures that look like ISIS

Men dressed in modern attire coming from a different kind of church not particular to anything painted in this chapel. They remind me of, well, you decide.

PAUSE No. 2:  The white-haired, tuxedo-wearing, mad professor playing the flute on the street.  Specifically, Ava Maria.  I cried.  I saw him again later and took a short video, but you had to be there.  Dean saw him as well but this time he was in a heated argument with another man.  At one point, he was screaming at the other guy, then stormed off.  Maybe he is a relative of Signorelli.Kimi

PAUSE No. 3:  Thirty-minute drive from Orvieto is a beautiful little town on Lake Bolsena.  It’s a great excuse for a drive to find a place to have lunch overlooking this lake dotted with islands.

Lake Bolsena
Approach to Lake Bolsena

The day we went, it was a cloudless day and the lake was a deep blue.  It was the first water we had seen in Italy and it warmed my heart.  A tree lined street carried us along to the shore where we dined in a little restaurant that looked like it belonged in Nice, France.


PAUSE 4:  The best seafood restaurant and perhaps our best meal in Orvieto took place at CIBUS on Via Garibaldi, a small piazza.  Travel Advisor Cibus  Dean ordered a octopus seafood salad and I had stuffed sardines.  Mine were good, but Dean knew better than leaving the table for a second.   Cibus chef and II later went back to the kitchen and asked to talk to the chef.  I was hoping I could watch them tenderize the octopus, but he told me that when the octopus is first caught, the fisherman bites it and kills it before it has time to tighten up its muscles and get “tough”.  Usually, you have to beat the octopus against a table or something.  I’ve watched it done in Greece and have done it once myself.  But, biting the octopus?  Where do you bite it?  I need to research that one.  Why do I feel that I lost something in the translation?

Another good restaurant was next door.  Very regional, comfort foods.  Il Cocco Ristorante on Via Garibaldi.

PAUSE No. 5:  The Pisco Sour that the bartender just brought to me at our favorite restaurant so far in Orvieto, Bar Montanucci, which touts itself as a Caffe Pasticceria Gastronomia

Best Bartender Orvieto
Slavic, Best Bartender in Orvieto – May 2015

Ristorante.  They have an amazing buffet at lunchtime that reminds me of tapas bars in Spain, a glass cabinet full of beautifully displayed tortes, and pastries.  And, then there is the bartender who makes every drink with such artistry that I keep waiting for him to sprinkle fairy dust from a wand over the whole thing.

PAUSE No. 5:  Dean and I (finally) feel better.  Energy is back up and I think we aren’t walking around slack-jawed anymore as we appreciate the sites around us.  However, Kleenex is still my best friend.  I think it is all the cedar trees blooming around me.  Austinites:  you know what I am talking about: cedar fever.

Sorry.  I know I need to post photos.  I miss my computer.  I’ll try to put aside some time and some Pisco Sours for photos tomorrow.

Now, my second Pisco just arrived and I’m pretty sure I see some fairy dust on it…..


Philadelphia’s South Street, etc .

Ben Franklin garage doorWe traveled to Philadelphia, PA recently for a wedding. I worked at a client site in Philly for about six weeks several decades ago. I was on a ridiculously lax expense account so I dined like I suspect members of Congress do when they cross paths with a lobbyist. It was a fun six weeks except for the actual work I was doing: interviewing employees of our client, and ultimately making suggestions for the ones who needed to be laid-off.

I had good memories of South Street back then, so we rented an AirBnB apartment off of South Street. Like most things in life, it has changed into more of an eclectic neighborhood by day: lots of restaurants and sports bars, hat shops, sex toy shops, consignment stores (some good, some skanky), and a Whole Foods.   Continue reading

What does a Mississippi Gal do with Left-Over Grits? Make salad.

Put left-over grits in a container. Pack it down so when it is cold it will lift out of the container in one piece.  (My mom used to put the left-over grits in an open ended left-over soup can.  That way when she wanted to use the cold grits, she just pushed them through to the other side, then cut up the cylinder of grits into slices.)Grits-Houlimi Salad

Cut the grits up in slices and cook slowly(medium heat) in a combination of butter and canola until crispy. (If you do this too hot and fast, it won’t work, although you could put it into a fryer and be done with it but the grits would absorb more oil and butter – less healthy. Anyway, cook until crispy. Then cut into cubes. Allow about 10-15 minutes for this.

Another Unexpected Ingredient:  Halioumi cheese. It is a weird sheep cheese from Cyprus that you can grill and it doesn’t melt. This is the best way to eat this cheese. Served cold, well, it is like doing penance. Grill it on the grill or cook it on a high temp cast iron skillet, which is what I do. (You can also put it on a non-stick pan on high and cook very quickly till brown.) Cut up into squares and put aside.

Make your salad dressing. I did a basic balsamic vinegar salad dressing with a bit of orange zest and smoked salt. The latter is not necessary.

I cooked two slices of bacon and chopped up the crispy slices afterwards. Chopped up some tomatoes (not too much), spring mix salad, and tossed all the ingredients. (Gently put the cubes of grits on top. They tend to crumble if you just toss them with all the ingredients.)

Note: My Momma taught me not to waste. An easy enough concept since I couldn’t feed my leftovers to the poor people in China. I am referring to the mantra of our parents: “Think of the poor people in China syndrome of the 50’s generation”. I am sure that I am not the only person who silently thought that if it made sense to ship over the food we didn’t want to eat on our plate, we would have happily taken the money out of allowance to pay for it: just to not hear that phrase at the end of every friggin meal.

I don’t want to think of what my parents would say about China now.