Archive for the ‘people and places’ Category

Claire came for a visit in May 2014 and I’ve been wanting to publish this post ever since ūüôā

Padova (Padua) is one of the major cities in Veneto in northern Italy. When Clarie came to visit in May she went to visit Verona, Vicenza, Ferrara and Ravenna by herself even though I was dying to come along but couldn’t manage to change shifts at work. Padova is close enough to go for a day trip and come back in time to go to work at night. We wanted to see the city and visit some churches and museums but most of all we wanted to walk and talk and eat some great food and that’s exactly what we did.

Train ride: we chose to take the train instead of going by car. I thought it might be a hassle to find parking and either way from Cornuda  to Padova it takes only an hour and once there you walk 10 minutes and you are in the very center of the city and then you can look out the window and not worry about traffic.

Walk, talk, lose your wallet:¬†we walked from the train station towards the center without a real destination in mind. The first museum/church we found was none other than Giotto’s Scrovegni chapel and we sort of got lost in the park trying to find the entrance and when we did we made our reservations to visit the Chapel at 1pm. It was around 10am and we thought we would walk around and then come back in time to visit the chapel. So we went on our merry way down the main streets where all the fancy shops are and then a guy approached us. He was asking for donations for something, he talked to me and Claire kept saying “Say No Thank You” “Say you’re not interested” “Say goodbye” and I with good manners told him that was very nice of him but at the moment we didn’t have change with us to give him. Anyhow, I like helping people randomly, it must be because I volunteered at the homeless kitchen in Budapest and I sort of have a soft spot for street folks. I used to give my lunch away and my money and so I thought talking to this guy who was not a homeless or a beggar was okay. We keep walking and when we are almost at the Pedrocchi Caffee Claire turns to me and exclaims

“My wallet! They stole my wallet! It was that guy you were talking to! Let’s go get it! C’mon let’s go get it back!”

My heart just dropped, I wasn’t even sure I was still in my body. I think I screamed as well. And here Claire was telling me to go back and get it. And tell the guy, what exactly? “You’ve been naughty, give me back the wallet!” I had an umbrella maybe we could hit him with the umbrella so hard he would just beg us to take the wallet back and just let him be and promise never again to steal from tourists again. I really didn’t know what on earth I would do if really we were to go back and confront them.

Claire said “Let me check my bag!” and there it was, happy wallet, safe and sound in the front pocket of the backpack. I felt so relieved and nauseous at the same time. I needed a coffee! We laughed so hard but I felt like crying.

Oh, this must be a university: It was! We went in and looked around and thought it was nice. But we wanted to visit the university by the gardens, the one the map said it was at the end of the city, so we walked out of this university and went to look for THE university. It turns out this one was IT and so we ended up seeing it after all.


The Round Room (aka: the Baptistery):¬†we kept walking around and took a little street that I wanted to see that led to the Jewish ghetto and the synagogue. Instead we came our right in front of the Cathedral and Baptistery. We went inside the Baptistery because Claire’s¬†travel guide¬†recommended it. It was an interesting visit, colorful and quiet. People sit and look up and we did too, some people you could tell they were¬†art aficionado,¬†they pay attention to details and know what they are looking for. Claire and I talked to each other and kept wondered if the older man who sold the tickets thought his was a cool job. We ended up asking him, he said it wasn’t really his job, he was retired and he volunteered his time twice or three times a week. He thought it was nice, quiet, he got to see a lot of people. I think we were the first ever to ask him about himself.


Giotto and the night sky:¬†We got to¬†Scrovegni chapel 20 minutes earlier so we had a spritz while we waited. The visit to the chapel is done in like 15 minutes and before you go in you watch a video where the history and the renovations are explained and also you are informed of the interesting details of the fresco. Then you go in and it’s a round room that tells a story on the wall. Like a Bible in pictures. Just the story of Jesus, starting with his mom’s birth and then Mary and Joseph’s wedding and so on. ¬†At the entrance wall there’s a fresco depicting the Last Jugdement which is in my opinion the most interesting wall to study. Then we have the night sky, so beautiful, we loved it! And the vice and virtues (a virtue for each vice) were also my favorite.

PS: for a more detailed explanation of the frescoes make sure to check this blog post  from a fellow blogger.

Santa Giustina:¬†we went around looking for the university (which we had already seen) and the botanical garden and didn’t find them. But we went inside this cathedral through the back doors and had a peak inside. It was cold and moldy and we didn’t stay long.

Prosecco for lunch:¬†Claire’s¬†travel¬†guide suggested a certain restaurant and we went to the one right next to it. Actually we tried the first place but they didn’t serve lunch because it was late. So we ended up going to the next one and they said we could have the first course and we did. We ordered two different dishes and prosecco. The place was lovely as you can see in the photo.


Caff√® Pedrocchi:¬†This caf√© was mentioned in Claire’s travel guide as a world famous coffeeshop. It is very pretty and we had a coffee in the red room. There’s also a green and a white room. The reason why this caf√© was a nice experience for us was because of a certain waiter with a passion for his job. I ordered a macchiatone (a mix between macchiato and cappuccino) and Claire ordered tiramisu with red wine and a cappuccino. Red and tiramisu are not usually served together here in Italy but the waiter didn’t think it was strange and he brought everything plus a little bowl with salty snacks. When he came back I asked him if it was weird to order wine and tiramisu and he said one could order whatever they please but that yes, usually tiramisu is served with sparkly wine but that some cookies went well with red wine and he went away and came back with a little plate filled with cookies. He was very nice and if I ever go back to Padova that’s where I’ll go have a coffee.

Street Art: We stopped to talk to a street artist girl who was painting a madonna on a canvas right there on the floor. I thought her art was very pretty, what do you think? I later sent her this photo and she said it was the first time someone had ever sent her a photo (even though many promised they would) and she was very happy about it!


Back Home and Last Thoughts: around 5 pm we took the train back home. We carried around the umbrella the whole day but didn’t use it. Claire got herself a yellow dress at the market, she said it reminded her of “Under the Tuscan Sun” and I got a scarf to match the dress I would wear at my brother’s wedding. Overall it was a great day, the kind that remains in your memories forever.


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Chile is a country in South America, with a long narrow coast strip between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Chile, along with Ecuador, are the only two countries in South America that don’t border with Brazil.

History: before the Spanish colonization, north Chile was part of the Inca Empire, and center/south Chile was inhabited by Mapuche Indians.
In 1520 Ferdinand Magellan discovered a passage that is named after him–the Strait of Magellan.
In 1818 Chile claimed its independence from the Spanish under the command of O’Higgins.

Languages: Spanish is the oficial language, but some indigenous languages are spoken in Chile, among these Rapa Nui.

People: The population of Chile is mainly of European origin—predominantly Spanish descendent.
The Mapuches are of Amerindian ancestry and they form the largest indigenous group in Chile.

Atacama Desert in northern Chile is known as the driest desert in the world.

Snail Trail—Paso Caracol, the road that goes from Chile to Argentina through the Andes mountains. If you suffer from car-sickness, this trip is a nightmare. I used to dread it as a kid

Chile is famous for its wine industry. Vineyards are a part of the Chilean landscape, particuparly in central Chile.

The Osorno Volcano in the South of Chile, in the Lakes Region.

Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean belongs to Chile.

Food: Fish and seafood are characteristic of Chilean cuisine.

Chilean empanadas are the best I’ve ever had. They are little meat pies with lots of onions and olives.

Sopaipilla—known in Argentina and Uruguay as torta frita and similar to the Hungarian l√°ngos is a fried pastry, traditionally includes pumpkin in the dough.

Humitas are a typical Andean food, where the dough is made out of grained corn, is spiced and wrapped with corn husks and are then boiled or baked.

Trigo Mote—boiled wheat that it’s a little bit like porridge, but eaten cold or drank if made like a smoothie, and can have dried fruit added to it.

As you probably noticed there are two dates on the header. That is because we lived there twice, the first time in 1987 for almost a year, and the second time in 1998 till 2001

In 1987 we moved from La Paz, Bolivia to Santiago Chile. We traveled by land. I remember my parents bought a new red dress for the trip that it’s still around—in a wooden chest up in the our attic.
The trip down through the desert was quite something. Very hot! We had to wait at the border for a while and then took a taxi from Tacna in Peru to Arica in Chile.
We saw the sea for the first time, at least the first time I can remember and we visited Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta which are cities by the coast but with desert climate.
We lived in Santiago, close to the Mapocho river. My brother Daniel was born there.
During that time there was a campaign against a typhoid fever epidemy and we couldn’t eat any leafy greens, strawberries and watermelons.
In our backyard we had a grape-vine canopy that was our favorite playground.
Our uncle Santi, married to mom’s sister Ana is from Chile and he used to laugh at our Bolivian accents and that we always wanted to eat beans and tropical fruits. He said we talked like cholitos from the Andes mountains.
We stayed in Chile for a short time, only 11 months, and then we moved to Uruguay.

Then in 1998 we came back to Chile from Ecuador, another odyssey by land. Took us a week to get from Quito to Rancagua. We were 11 people with lots of lugagge, including an electric piano. I don’t know what in the world we were thinking, but maybe we were just so used to it that it seemed the normal thing to do.
We first went to Rancagua because Ana and Santi lived there, but later we moved to Santiago.

I was 18 at the time and almost as soon as I got to Chile I went to live with friends who had a Charity Foundation, that is still active and thriving, to help as a secretary and learn the basic management of volunteer projects. A large supermarket would give us the food/items they couldn’t sell and we would distribute it among the many institutions and needy families.
We also performed in schools with a clown and puppet show.

During that time I lived with a young girl from the States, Claire, who is one of the smartest person I know. We are still very good friends. We tried to have a little garden in the back of the property but the soil was terrible and there was no irrigation system so it was a complete failure. But we entertained ourselves with books, cooking and long walks around the neighborhood.

With the couple that ran the Foundation we traveled all over Chile, hosting youth camps and providing humanitarian aid to poor families. I got to travel down south and see the Lakes Region, with its beautiful pine forests and German/Swiss style homes and architecture.
In the south of the world, when you look up at the night sky, the stars are not over your head, but are clumped just above the horizon.

Later on I had a part-time job in a costume shop and I learned how to use the sowing-machine. I also did some baby-sitting and with the family of the kids I got to go to a ski resort up in the Andes and then to their summer vineyard villa in the countryside.

Then in February of 2001, my brother Pablo and I traveled to Italy. But that comes later!

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Bolivia is right in the middle of South America and it’s land-locked (one of the two countries with no passage to the sea).

History: Before the colonization it used to be part of the Inca Empire. It gets named in 1825 after Libertador Bolivar (a leader against Spain in the war of independence)

Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara—the last two are indigenous languages.
Very few words in quechua like “guagua”—(baby or small child) became part of our vocabulary. In our family we spoke Spanish (we still do) with a strong Argentinian/Uruguay terminology, if not accent.

People: Bolivia has a large population of Amerindians and mestizo or cholo (mixed Amerindian and European).
Men wear ponchos and women colorful skirts. Both men and women wear little round hats or the traditional alpaca wool ear-flapped hat. Guaguas are wrapped in striped-colored blankets. They wear simple sandals or are just barefoot.


Lake Titicaca–a lake between Peru and Bolivia. We saw it a few times in our travels

Mount Illimani–mountain just South of La Paz. When we were kids we used to talk about climbing the Illimani to see the snow.

Moon Valley–as kids we were terrified of this place because we heard that it was bottomless and falling in would take you right to the center of the earth

Llamas–beautiful animals, in Bolivia you see them everywhere

Food: Beans, potatoes, rice (typical Andean food), bananas, papayas, avocados, pineapple, tamarind.
There’s a creamy soup made out of peanuts that’s very tasty. We used to eat it all the time when we lived there, but didn’t have it since. Empanadas (meat pies) are also a typical meal.

We lived in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and La Paz, but we visited other towns and cities and passed through a few times on our way somewhere else.
Sofia and Marcos were both born there. We had a rabbit for a while–and a German Shepherd dog.

I remember the open-markets—if I close my eyes I can see it. The women in their long colorful skirts and black silky braids, the little vegetable/fruit stands, the smell of onions and dusty potatoes, tiny brown ragged children running around or sleeping on top of boxes. I was often scared that I would get lost and would hold tightly to my dad’s hand. One time, I must have been 4 or 5 years old, I got separated from him and saw him walking away, so I ran after him and held his hand only to find out it wasn’t my dad but a stranger who wore a similar jacket as my dad’s. I panicked but my dad was right behind and picked me up.
We were white-skinned compared to the locals and were treated as foreigners—but never in a hostile way. It was very common to bargain at the market for everything, my dad was an expert at that.

In June they celebrate the Fiesta de San Juan (St. John’s Feast) where people make bonfires all over the place and celebrate the shortest day of the year (opposite of what would be in Europe/North Hemisphere Midsummer’s Night—the longest day of the year). I remember it being a big deal, fireworks, music, a lot like a New Years Eve celebration.

Then they celebrate Carnaval—which is celebrated all over South America. You’ll find the typical parades and then the water fights. Don’t know how it is now, but when I was growing up, it was very common to go out for a simple walk and come back soaked through; sometimes kids would go as far as to throw eggs, flour, paint and water of course to people passing by.

My memories of Bolivia are very vague, I remember my family, and the houses we lived in more than the country and the people. I would love to go back some day and re-discover all the places we were in when we were little.

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I wasn’t sure how to write the People&Places posts. I’ve decided to go about it chronologically, and to write the date next to the country—that way you’ll keep in mind that a lot of information given here might be outdated (for instance the demography).

The first post should be about Ecuador— after all I was born there. But I’ll start with Bolivia for two reasons:

1) I was just born in Ecuador by chance and not because my parents lived there. As a matter of fact by the time I was a month old (old enough to travel) we left. My brother Pablo was also born in Ecuador, but same scenario—a month after we were in another country.

2) My first memories are of Bolivia. I remember Brazil, Peru and the other countries vaguely, but we were always passing through. Our first house was in Bolivia and thus it gets to be the first country I’ll talk about.

My early memories are blurry, as you can imagine. Thankfully my parents were more than happy to contribute with anecdotes and first-hand knowledge.

Posts coming soon! I promise! ūüôā

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In one of my older posts, When we were little I gave a brief rundown of my family’s travels around South America.

I thought I could write a little about each country I’ve been to, both in South America and in Europe, and tell you about the food, the culture, the landscape and the people.

I should warn you, first of all that I don’t have a good memory.
And I don’t have photos of certain places; that’s when google images will come to the rescue.

The People&Places posts will show the different countries through my eyes, with anectdotes of experiences and adventures I had in my many travels.

We’ll see how it goes! Stay tuned! ūüôā

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