October 2007


To the kind gentleman who bought me a much-needed bottle of water at the Maryland Renaissance Festival yesterday, thank you.  You saved the afternoon for me and helped me truly appreciate the Mediaeval Baebes’ performance.  I promise to pass along the favor.

To the couple sitting in front of me, I hope you found your memory disks at Lost and Found.  We took them straight there.

To Albannach, you are truly awesome.  We are taking your CD’s across the country and to the Continent to share with friends who love music, culture and talent…and you have all three, in spades.

To my husband, who put up with Sick Little Me, I had a brilliant time.  Next year we will need to wrap our travel/work schedule around the Albannach/Mediaeval Baebes performances.

To my children, I’m very happy you enjoy events like this.  While not all the acts were authentically Renaissance, you did see and hear some funny and amazing and priceless things.  Your enthusiasm gladdens my heart.

To the thousands of drivers, stuck like us for 2+ hours in the parking area, thank you so much for not getting cranky and ugly about the ridiculous gridlock experience.  Also, thank you for putting up with our newly-acquired Albannach CD’s, which helped us survive the gridlock and maintain our sanity.

To the readers of this blog, darn right I dress up.  It’s more fun that way.

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I moved from Italy to West Virginia in 2004.  Many, many people assumed that I would have a huge culture shock problem.  They didn’t realize that West Virginia was far more like Italy than most people think.  In fact, in every major way, Italy and West Virginia were similar.  They didn’t look alike, that was true.  West Virginia is range after range of low, rolling mountains.  Italy has a ridge of mountains down the center of the “boot,” volcanoes in southern Italy and Sicily, a forbidding range in Sardegna, and the striking, spiky Dolomites in the north.  They’re mountains, though, and they help define Italy’s amazing variations in cuisine, culture and tradition.

 Here’s the comparision I promised a few days ago.

West Virginia

Italy

Lots of small towns connected by winding roads

Lots of small towns connected by winding roads

Most residents of small towns are related, at least distantly

Many residents of small towns are related, at least distantly

Everyone knows what you’re up to

Duh

Everyone knows your plans, often before you do

See above

Gorgeous mountain scenery – plan a visit to Seneca Rocks and find out for yourself

Gorgeous mountain scenery – been to Trentino/Alto Adige lately?

Geocaching is a big deal

There is a geocache in the Pompeii excavations, and several other caches are stashed around the countryside

Mountains define the state

Italy is far more mountainous than you would expect; the entire center of the country is a mountain range, and then there’s Vesuvio and the Dolomites up north

 When I explained my Italian experiences to my new West Virginia neighbors, they understood.  Some of the things I truly loved about Italy – the close family ties, the small towns with their unique traditions, and their fierce pride in their heritage – really resonate with West Virginia’s mountaineers as well.  I learned as much from my two years in West Virginia as I learned the previous two years in southern Italy.  It’s all to the good.  I grew up near the mountains of southern California, and I gloried in every day near Il Redentore in Lazio and in every sunrise and echo of Evening Colors on our base in West Virginia.  Time in the mountains is always time well spent.

I’ve noticed lately that a few people find this blog by searching for things like “ancient Roman queen.”  I am sorry to report that the ancient Romans didn’t have any ruling queens at all.  The early kings were, of course, married, but their wives played insignificant roles.  After the Republic began, Rome’s famous “no king, ever” policy ensured that any woman clever and ambitious enough to get power wouldn’t be able to do so by marrying the top dog.

Julius Caesar couldn’t have himself crowned King of Rome – remember the famous scene where Marc Antony offered him the wreath during the games and the crowd cheered when Caesar pushed it away?

Caesar did bring a queen to Rome, his innamorata, Cleopatra of Egypt.  She fascinated the Romans, but she wasn’t popular, and neither was her idea that crowned rulers were, in fact, descended from gods.  After Caesar’s murder, she decamped to Egypt.

One could argue that Livia Augusta and a few of the other Roman emperors’ wives were queens with authority, at least behind the scenes, but they weren’t called queens or even empresses.  And, certainly, any power they exercised was unofficial; Roman upper-class women were expected to stay home, not become political leaders.

So, I have to wonder why everyone’s looking for ancient Roman queens.  Is it term paper time?

Today is Blog Action Day.  Bloggers around the world are contributing their ideas on this year’s theme, the environment.

Since this is a road trip blog, I offer these ideas for making your next journey more environmentally friendly.  And, if you already do some or all of these things, I thank you.

Take a Short Trip

Choose a destination that isn’t too far away, or that doesn’t involve much driving around once you’re there.  Try to minimize the time you spend in the car.  That way, you’ll have more time to enjoy your destination and you’ll reduce your emissions at the same time.

Pick Up Your Trash

Every single piece.  I’m sure you’ve been to as many trashed-up parks and rest stops as I have.  It’s frustrating to see how many people don’t care whether their used tissues hit the trash bin or the grass.  Don’t add to the mess, please.

Slow Down

High-speed driving wastes gas and doesn’t save much time.  Besides, it’s hard to appreciate the roadside scenery when it’s just a blur.  Let up a bit on the gas pedal and make the journey part of your travel adventure.

Combine Stops

Make your “pit stop” your “everything stop.”  Stretch your legs, walk the dog, wash your hands, check your map.  Don’t waste time and gas driving on and off the freeway every half hour.

Pack a Picnic

At your “everything stop,” enjoy a homemade lunch, and save the gas you’d have spent driving around looking for McFood.  You’ll save money, too.

Bring Your Bikes

If weather conditions permit, add a bicycling day or afternoon to your itinerary.  Bicycling is a great way to stay fit, get around and see the local sights.  Best of all, bicycling is cost-free and emission-free.

Thanks again for reading, recycling and reducing your impact on the environment.

Returning once again to searches that bring readers to this blog, I’ve noticed that many people are looking for information about California (Route 1) and Italy (mountains, ancient Rome).  Since I grew up in one place and lived twice in the other, it’s only natural that they both occupy special places in my heart.  I got to thinking about their similarities, and here are some of my ideas.

California Italy
Mediterranean climate Mediterranean climate
Wine culture (brought from Spain) Wine culture (exported throughout Europe)
Famous highways (Route 1) Famous highways (Via Appia and other Roman roads)
Long history (when you consider the age of the USA) – native culture and Spanish exploration are only the beginning Amazingly long history, well worth reading about.  Documented by Caesar and his colleagues as well as contemporary historians
Volcanoes (fortunately inactive) Volcanoes (active…)
Famous for its automotive culture (traffic, driving habits) Famous for its automotive culture (Ferrari, driving habits)
Friendly people Friendly people
Food from everywhere Distinguished local cuisine
People from everywhere People who can trace ancestry back 2000 years
Huge variety of scenery, from natural wonders to mountains to beaches – try Yosemite, Big Sur, Death Valley Huge variety of scenery, from natural wonders to mountains to beaches – check out the Dolomites, Golfo di Gaeta and the unspoiled hills of Le Marche
Why not visit some day?  There’s more to California than Hollywood and the Golden Gate Bridge. Why not visit some day?  Rome, Venice and Florence are only the beginning.

The two places are more alike than you’d think, and vastly different as well.  It’s a matter of looking into things a bit more carefully, rather than just doing the guidebook glance-over.

Some day in the future I’ll compare Italy and West Virginia.  They, too, are more alike than you’d think.

So, how often do you wake up and tell yourself, “I just have to be in (insert location)!”?  After I returned home from my exchange semester in Ireland, back in high school, I just ached to be back in the green hills outside of Dublin.  That longing doesn’t  go away.  You shove it down, stuff a bunch of daily responsibilities on top of it, and get on with things.

Our next outing will probably be to the Maryland Renaissance Festival…an outing we’ve loved for nearly 15 years.  (Time to dust off the garb…)  After that, we’ll see.

Last year at this time, we were planning a trip to Germany.  Although things were kind of tentative (we flew space-available with Air Mobility Command), we had a plan and we were, in fact, able to fulfill nearly all of it.  I love visiting Europe because I can literally feel the stress fall off my shoulders and slide to…wherever.  I can stand tall, take my best shot at the local language and poke around museums, castles and cathedrals to my heart’s content.

We’ve had record-breaking heat here Between the Beltways lately.  October and “92 degrees” just don’t belong in the same sentence.  I really feel for our local farmers, who are suffering through this drought and wondering how long it will last.  Please spare a prayer or positive thought for our drought-stricken farmers across the continent…it’s going to be a hard year for many people.