Friday, December 30, 2011

powering through

Yup, two posts in one day. Continuing with the month of November...

Steve and I went to the Ferry Building one Saturday in order to get some ingredients for dinner: squab, sunchokes, and mushrooms. It was nearly closing time for the farmers market by the time we got there, but I managed to get a few shots as the vendors were starting to pack up. I went with the colorful rainbow chard for the picture of the day.

316/365 rainbow chard

We had our squab with sunchoke puree and mushrooms on Saturday night for dinner, but Steve saved some of the mushrooms to go on top of Sunday's lunch as well. He made the Richard Olney garlic soup that was featured on 101 Cookbooks a couple years ago. It's not a very colorful soup, but the mushrooms and some thyme on top helped for the picture. The flavor was, not surprisingly, very garlicky. It was good, though.

317/365 garlic soup

After a few days of learning the keyboard 2 part of Bat Boy: The Musical as fast as I could, it was time to go to a dress rehearsal for the show on Monday afternoon. I was going to take the easy way out and shoot a picture of my score on the seat of the car, but then I caught sight of some flowers in the parking lot.

318/365 parking lot flower

So I saved my easy shot for Tuesday afternoon, on my way to another rehearsal. It was a good thing I bought the Bat Boy CD about 5 years ago, because I don't really buy CDs anymore. They take up more space than mp3s, but they do make better pictures.

319/365 bat boy

Carmen and I went on a walk on Wednesday afternoon, since I didn't have to be at rehearsal until that evening. It was a surprisingly warm day, so we headed in the direction of Bi-Rite Creamery and tracked down the new location of Pot + Pantry while we were at it. We chatted with the owner a bit, and I took some pictures. The new store is super cute, like the old one, but a little bigger.

320/365 pot + pantry

Back to less exciting pictures on Thursday, I took a walk around the block and shot some purple flowers.

321/365 shrub with purple flowers

And more flowers on Friday. I went to Noe Valley for something that afternoon and saw some interesting ones peeking through a fence on the way.

322/365 escaping flower

This may be one of my shortest posts yet! I was too busy editing photos and playing for Bat Boy that week to do much else that was worth talking about—or photographing.

early november

Early November was when it started to finally feel like fall in San Francisco. The lingering warmth of Indian summer left right after Halloween, and the weather took on a slight chill. I went with Steve to the butcher shop that first Saturday to pick up something for dinner. It's not necessarily my favorite direction to walk in search of pictures, but I needed a subject for the day. I certainly wasn't finding one around the house. On our way back through the park, I saw some lavender hydrangeas that hadn't started to wilt yet—a bit of color for a mostly gray day.

309/365 lavender hydrangeas

On Sunday, Steve and I went to brunch at Beretta with Dan, Carmen, Elsa, and Bonnie. Since Dan had to do some work in Phoenix for a few days, they had flown in Steve and Dan's mom to help Carmen with Elsa. This was the beginning of her stay, before Dan left that night, and Elsa even behaved well enough that we all got to eat our food.

310/365 brunch with elsa

Like many of the days before it, Monday was spent editing photos from the Europe trip. And like so many of those days, I didn't feel like going out to take pictures of something else when I was on a roll. The difference this time was that I took the easy way out and shot a picture of my laptop with Lightroom open. At least it was an accurate portrayal of that day.

311/365 endless editing

I did leave the house to do stuff on Tuesday, however. I needed to run some errands downtown, so I stopped at the Anthropologie afterward. It's always reliable for a picture or two, and I didn't even mind too much that they put the Christmas ornaments out insanely early. I didn't use shots of the Christmas ornaments as my picture of the day, though. I have principles.

312/365 stuffed moose

Wednesday required another trip—this time to San Bruno. The day before, I had received an emergency email from a friend in need of a keyboard player for his high school's musical. Since I had enjoyed working with him last year, when he played a show for me, I agreed to do it. We met outside the mall in San Bruno on Wednesday so that I could get the score from him, and I took a random picture of the landscaping while I was waiting.

313/365 suburban jungle

We did our usual pizza night downstairs that Thursday, instead of our usual Friday. While I was hanging out with Bonnie and Carmen before dinner, I took a few pictures of Elsa in her bouncy seat. That was our present to Dan and Carmen for their baby shower, and I think this was around the time that they got out the toy attachment for the first time. Since our trip to Europe and their subsequent trip to MI, Elsa had become a lot more grabby and better able to take advantage of it.

314/365 bouncy seat

And finally, another picture that required very little effort. It was a rainy Friday, and I didn't want to go anywhere, so I took a picture of the magnolia flower blooming outside the bathroom window. I had my eye on it for a while, waiting for it to open, but this was as open as it ever got. With the cold weather, rain, and wind, it turned completely brown not long after.

315/365 wet magnolias

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I may be close to caught up with posting pictures to Flickr now, but I'm still way behind on the blogging of the 365 project. Time to chip away another week from the ever growing backlog of posts.
I went shopping on Valencia Street on the last Saturday of October, and the window of 826 Valencia caught my eye. They had a whole Gulliver/Lilliput scene set up, with the a dollhouse full of Lilliputians and their usual boy mannequin playing the role of Gulliver. But my favorite part for the purposes of the picture of the day was the book that was to the side, setting the scene with the help of a Lilliputian.

302/365 the folly of lilliput

While I was shopping for other things, I found myself a new favorite mug at Aldea Home. For Sunday, I had Steve make me my usual morning coffee in that same foxy mug, and I took a picture of it in its spot on the coffee table.

303/365 new mug

Halloween was on Monday, and I had gotten a few ideas the night before, when we walked home from Alyson's birthday dinner at Andalu. There were some interesting Halloween displays in the store windows along Valencia, and most of them had enough light to make pictures at night a possibility. Since I hadn't brought my camera with me on Sunday, it worked out well to take a walk there on Halloween night. (It's not like we got any trick-or-treaters down our little alley anyway.) I had remembered the rat mask on the mannequin in the window of Dema, but I was also drawn to the mannequins with wigs in the window of Retro Fit.

304/365 a very valencia halloween

It was back to the other side of the street the next day for a Dia de los Muertos picture. I had hoped to find something in the window of Casa Bonampek, but I ended up liking this picture from the window of Laku better. It had a nice warm fall feel for the beginning of November, in addition to a couple of skulls.

305/365 day of the dead

Steve and I went to see Hair that Wednesday and had dinner at Zero Zero before the show. My favorite thing that we ordered was the shells with butternut squash, sage croutons, and crumbled gorgonzola. It looked a bit like macaroni & cheese, but it tasted like fall.

306/365 fall pasta

For Thursday's picture, I decided that it was time to take another calendar shot. I usually try to do those on the first of the month, but I hadn't needed to use the idea then. So it was taken on November 3, which is when I actually got around to changing the calendar anyway, from September and October to just November. Since it was a little colder and drearier that day, the bedspread felt like a fitting backdrop for the soup picture.

307/365 november

Last, I babysat Elsa for a while on Friday afternoon. When Carmen got back, I took a few pictures of the Vespa figurine that we brought back for her from this shop in Orvieto. I kind of wish we had gotten one of these for ourselves, but this one has a good home. It even made it onto their Christmas tree.

308/365 the vespa

That's one more month done... Here's the mosaic for October.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

pumpkin madness

If there was a dominant theme for week 43 of Project 365, it was pumpkins. Or perhaps just the color orange. In any case, it was late October and Halloween was approaching.

Steve and I went out for an afternoon snack at Mission Minis that Saturday. It had been on my list of ideas for quite a while, and I had been seeing the tiny cupcakes at Ritual Roasters for ages. Finally, it was time to try some from their little storefront. We got three: Swiss Almond Coconut, Cinnamon Horchata, and Meyer Lemon Creme. The meyer lemon one was easily my favorite. I've really started to love lemon stuff in the last few years, and this one had a lemony cream cheese frosting on top. The horchata cupcake was pretty good too, although it may have been on the dry side. The almond-coconut one was our least favorite, though. After the cream cheese frosting on the other two, the buttercream just seemed too sweet and greasy.

295/365 mission minis

The next day, it was time to cook something new for lunch. We kind of informally continued 2010's 52 Weeks of Food project this year, taking breaks when it wasn't convenient for Steve to cook something new each week. We wouldn't have been able to keep it going during the 4-week vacation anyway. But since I needed a picture of the day for Sunday, this was a good opportunity to bring it back. Steve made his first attempt at Cacio e Pepe, a Roman pasta dish with a "simple" sauce of cheese and black pepper. It turns out to be not all that easy, however. Steve has made it a few times now and still hasn't quite mastered the technique of adding the cheese and pasta water back into the pasta without it getting too hot and clumping together. Nevertheless, it makes a nice quick lunch and can be fancied up a bit with fried zucchini sticks on top, like so.

296/365 cacio e pepe

Monday seemed like a good day to go to Noe Valley for some errands, not that I remember what they were anymore. What I do remember is that there were these branches of pumpkin-shaped things outside the flower shop.

297/365 little pumpkins

Tuesday was absolutely pathetic for pictures. I was knee-deep in pictures from San Sebastian and fresh out of, well, fresh ideas. Steve and I went out for burgers at South End that evening, so I took a few shots of the pumpkins across the street from the house. And that was all I got that day.

298/365 neighborhood jack-o-lanterns

Wednesday was another walk to Noe Valley, since I wanted something from Whole Foods. I went and found some pictures to take of the pumpkins and assorted squash outside the store.

299/365 bushel of pumpkins

Day 300 of the project was that Thursday. Normally, I'd try to do something numerically significant or exciting, but I was being exceptionally uncreative that day. All I could think of was dinner at Contigo—our first time back after the visit to Spain. Neither Brett nor Elan was working that night, but the food was fabulous as always. I figured a picture of a couple tapas selections was at least fittingly celebratory for the day, even if it didn't have much to do with day 300.

300/365 contigo tapas

For Friday? More pumpkin—to eat, this time! I needed a break from photo editing and had both an itch to bake something and a craving for pumpkin bread. The Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf from the Baked cookbook was the answer, and I decided to make two, since they freeze well. I also remembered that I had bought a second loaf pan from Pot + Pantry a few months before, so I was able to bake them at the same time. And then, tragedy struck when I tried to take the loaves out of the pans: the bottoms stuck! I must not buttered them well enough. Luckily, I had taken my pictures while the loaves were still safe in their pans. Also, it was just Steve and me eating the product, so it didn't matter too much that the bottoms of the loaves looked like they had been mauled by bears.

301/365 pumpkin chocolate chip loaf

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

plants & playthings

Moving on with the pictures I took in October, after we got home from Italy... I feel like I have to preface this by saying that my attentions were on editing pictures, rather than on taking new ones. I kind of half-assed it on a lot of these days, since the editing required so much time and effort.

This particular Saturday was no exception. I didn't really feel like going anywhere or doing anything that would have provided a more interesting photo subject. I just shot a few pictures of Steve's padron pepper plant in the utility room. I think the flowers were a new development since our vacation, but it took much longer to actually yield any peppers. We've gotten a few in the last week or so, although we haven't tried eating any yet. It's probably been too cold for them to really take off.

288/365 pepper plant

Steve made some brown butter almond cakelets with huckleberries on Sunday afternoon, but I wasn't feeling very excited about any of the pictures I shot of them. I ended up taking pictures of the dying dahlias and cosmos on our kitchen table instead. Carmen had left them for us when we got back from our trip, but they didn't last very long.

289/365 dried dahlias

On Monday, I went on an outing with Carmen and Elsa to Fillmore St. in Pacific Heights. We walked around a while and eventually stopped for some dessert at Citizen Cake. They moved to the Fillmore location from their Hayes Valley one about a year ago, but apparently they're closing at the end of the year. Looks like Elizabeth Falkner wants to reinvent her restaurants after her recent Next Iron Chef appearance. (Spoiler alert: she got second place, so she is not the next iron chef...) Anyway, our desserts were lovely and inventive in their flavor combinations, although they were pretty intense.

290/365 citizen cake

The next day, Carmen wanted to do a photo shoot of Elsa. The plan was to get some pictures of her in the take-home dress that hadn't fit her when she was born. But first, we did some (mostly) naked baby shots. By the time we got around to putting Elsa in the dress, she was getting fussier and promptly spit up down the front of it. That was enough for one day.

291/365 elsa & the hat

Wednesday was another field trip. I tagged along with Carmen and Elsa again, while Carmen looked for a loveseat at some antique shops in Cow Hollow. We weren't at all successful in finding anything, but I got a picture of some toy cars at one of the places. Afterward, we walked around a little more and got some cupcakes.

292/365 antique cars

And then I babysat Elsa on Thursday morning. (Apparently, I was making up for all the lost Elsa time while we were gone...) I believe this was the occasion when she woke up as soon as Dan & Carmen left. She clearly needed some more sleep and wasn't going to fall asleep without help, but I managed to get her down again after feeding her a bottle. When Carmen got home, I got out the finger puppets that we had bought for Elsa in Florence and took a few pictures of them.

293/365 finger puppets

Back to the homemade portrait studio on Friday, Carmen and I finally managed to get pictures of Elsa in the take-home dress. Carmen's dressmaking work did not go to waste. Elsa did the typical little girl thing and spent most of the time trying to eat her skirt, but we got some cute shots. In fact, I'm a little surprised that we managed the one below. At not quite four months, she still needed some coaxing to stay up while lying on her stomach. Many of the ones of her in that position featured a rather concerned looking Elsa.

She was also not a big fan of being put in her skunk Halloween costume after that, but Carmen was able to distract her enough that we didn't just end up with a crying skunk in all of the pictures. Since Elsa didn't actually wear her costume during their Halloween trip to MI, it's a good thing we took pictures of it that day.

294/365 sassy pants

This concludes week 42, if my calculations are correct. Only about 10 more!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the end of the vacation

Two months after our return from Spain and Italy, I've finally finished editing and posting all of my trip pictures—the ones worth posting, that is. I whittled them down from over 9000 images to about 550. Not bad for 4 weeks away. And this is the last blog entry for the vacation!

Our last Saturday in Rome covered a few obligatory tourist sites and pretty much none of the places to shop that were on my list. First, we walked up to Piazza del Popolo. Although we poked our heads into Santa Maria del Popolo for a second, we didn't linger. There seemed to be a wedding either getting ready to start or in the last stages of winding down, and the Chigi Chapel looked like it was under construction anyway. So we continued up a set of stairs to the Villa Borghese Gardens. There, we took a few pictures from the terrace and walked around for a bit. Post-gardens, we headed to the top of the Spanish Steps and proceeded to walk down them. The place was crawling with tourists and really pushy, obnoxious rose sellers, so we didn't stick around any longer than we needed to to get the pictures I wanted.

Lunch was next; we went to an okay pizza and pasta restaurant near our apartment, for lack of better ideas. In the afternoon, we took a little break, got gelato at Grom, and went to see the Trevi Fountain. This was our second visit to the fountain, but it was our first in the daytime. It was definitely more crowded than it had been at night. (The actual square it sits on is way smaller than you'd expect for such a landmark.) To get my pictures, I had to work around hoards of people, including tour groups with their guides holding umbrellas or sticks with scarves tied to the ends. It was challenging, but I got a few pictures worth posting. When it was all done, we even managed to get close enough to toss our coins in.

Dinner that night was at L'Asino d'Oro, a restaurant with a chef from Orvieto. It had been on my list of places to try anyway, but our new love of Orvieto and its food cemented our need to go there. (You know, when in Rome... eat food from Umbria...?) It turned out to be a good move, even though it was a little out of the way. The food was tasty and maybe a bit more inventive than what we had in Orvieto. Of course, my favorite thing was the pasta with the black truffles; I was glad to have one more version of it.

281/365 fontana di trevi

Because we had switched my itineraries for Friday and Sunday, Sunday became our Ancient Rome day. We decided not to go to the Forum, after seeing how long the lines were. (I'm not convinced that Rick Steves' suggestion of buying tickets at Palatine Hill is up to date; it looked like there was only one entrance for Palatine Hill and the Forum.) Anyway, if we were going to wait in line and see one thing, it was going to be the Colosseum. That line turned out to be pretty badly organized, but we eventually made it in. (Hint: if they tell you to fill in the corners around the right hand side of the line, do not do it. You will end up much farther behind those who stay where they are, because you end up fighting with many more people for the single ticket window furthest to the right.) So... we got into the Colosseum, looked around, and took more pictures. It was big, old, and pretty cool. And it mostly made up for the annoyance of the line.

Theoretically, we could have used the same tickets from the Colosseum to go to the Forum too, but I had had enough of the crowds for a while. Unfortunately, things weren't really looking up when it came to our lunch. It wasn't crowded, but we had the single worst meal of the trip at Urbana 47. Since it was Sunday, it was apparently brunch day. That wouldn't have been a problem, but they had the most confusing prix fixe menu ever. Add to that the insanely bad/slow service, high prices, and really mediocre food. We were glad when we finally left.

Back to the area around Via dei Fori Imperiali, we did some more looking around the ruins (see below). From there, we walked up to Piazza del Campidoglio, and finally to an overlook on the Victor Emmanuel II Monument, via a Rick Steves' shortcut. (At least he came in handy once that day...) It was rather chilly and windy by that time, so we made our way back to the apartment to get warm again.

We also had to track down a pay phone so that we could call and confirm our dinner reservation for that night at Glass Hostaria in Trastevere. It was kind of a pain, but it was totally worth it. The restaurant was one of the better meals of the trip, for which I was incredibly thankful after our craptastic lunch experience. The dishes at Glass were perhaps the closest to American fine dining that we found in Italy, probably because the chef worked in America for several years. Everything was done well, several of my favorite ingredients were featured, and portion sizes (split by the kitchen, since we were sharing) were perfect. We later found out that they have a (well deserved) Michelin star.

282/365 ruined

For our last day in Rome, my plan was to go back to Trastevere by way of Aventine Hill and Testaccio. When I was figuring out the itinerary, I assumed that we'd take the Metro, but we ended up walking instead. In fact, we never took any public transportation while we were in Rome. Places were generally much closer than they appeared on the maps, so we just walked everywhere. (Better for avoiding pickpockets anyway.)

So our first stop was Aventine Hill, where we found the keyhole with a view at the Villa del Priorato di Malta. The place is a private garden belonging to the Knights of Malta, but the view through the keyhole is St. Peter's Basilica, perfectly framed by the shrubbery. I waited in line three times to get the shot, since I had to use some trickery/trial and error to get my camera to expose it correctly.

After Aventine Hill, we walked down to the neighborhood of Testaccio, where we looked around a food market and eventually had a lunch of panini and arancini at 00100 Pizza. From there, we walked over the river to explore Trastevere. On the whole, I didn't take as many pictures that day as I probably could have; I think I was getting a little burned out after several weeks of sightseeing. But we saw the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, and we were able to make dinner reservations for that night at Osteria La Gensola.

La Gensola was where Dan and Carmen went for Dan's birthday two years ago, and it came highly recommended online as well. We got our seafood and some more pasta, which was good, but it didn't quite compare to the previous night's dinner at Glass Hostaria. Still, a respectable last meal for the trip.

283/365 trastevere

That brings me to the journey home. We woke up in Rome at 7:30am local time on Tuesday and didn't get home until about 12:30am San Francisco time. In between, we walked from the apartment to Termini train station, took the Leonardo Express train to the airport, rode in a shuttle bus or two to get to the terminal and gates, and waited for our plane, which was almost two hours late. We were getting worried that we'd miss our connecting flight at JFK in New York, but we made it. The pilot had made up some time in the air, and we were greeted with bright orange envelopes to expedite things once we landed in NY. There was even time to go to the restroom before we had to get on our flight to SFO. Finally, upon arriving in San Francisco, we collected our bags and took BART back into the city. It was a long day of traveling, but we were happy to have made it home.

The picture of the day? It was from a little walk around the Rome airport concourse, looking for something worth photographing. There wasn't much that captured my interest, but I got one final picture of the ubiquitous Italian Pinocchios.

284/365 last chance souvenirs

Then it was Wednesday, and I had zero desire to go anywhere or do anything. I'm not even sure if I touched my trip pictures that day to get started on editing. I did not, however, get a break when it came to taking pictures. Something had to be done, so I shot some of our souvenirs: the linen napkins and small watercolor prints that we bought in Florence. At some point, I'll get frames for the tomato and olive prints and hang them in the dining room. The tiny one of the countryside will probably go in a scrapbook or something. It was only 1 euro anyway.

285/365 pieces of florence

Back to the land of the living on Thursday, I went for a walk with Carmen and Elsa down Valencia Street. A new home store, Aldea Home, had opened while we were gone—a nice surprise. So much good stuff there and certainly worthy of a picture.

286/365 aldea home

And Friday was the day when we gave Carmen, Dan, and Elsa the little souvenirs we had bought for them in Italy. The packages had made it back with us mostly intact, so I took a quick picture of them all together. For Carmen, we got a Vespa figurine from Orvieto; for Dan, a police cat bottle opener from Rome; and for Elsa, a couple finger puppets from Florence.

287/365 fun for the whole family

So that was the Europe trip! If you'd like to see more of the pictures, the entire set is here. I hope to make a nice Blurb book with all of them sometime in the new year, but I'll settle for finishing the 365 project in the meantime.

Friday, December 9, 2011

tour d'italy

Wow, back to Florence. While I was getting towards the end of Rome in my photo editing and posting, it was back to Florence for the beginning of this post.

That Saturday seems like a long time ago, and in fact, it was a little over two months ago. It was our "shopping day" in Florence, since many stores would be closed on Sunday. We began by finding a fancy linen store called Loretta Caponi, which was recommended by Carmen. It ended up being a bit too fancy and expensive, especially when we were just starting our shopping. I wasn't ready to commit to buying anything when there were more stops to make. So we continued down my list and looked at a couple more shops in the same area, including Letizia Fiorini, where Dan and Carmen got my Pinocchio figure two years ago. There were more of them in the window, but we selected a couple finger puppets for Elsa.

Lunch was next; we stopped for sandwiches at 'Ino. (Very tasty.) After that, we made our way across the Ponte Vecchio to the Oltrarno neighborhood. We visited a different linen store, Busatti, where I got a couple nice napkins to use for food photos. Then, we tried to go to a children's store called Britta in Bicicletta, but it was closed for the Italian equivalent of the siesta.

To kill time, we decided to walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo to see the view of the city from there. (It was on my itinerary for the next day, but we were pretty close anyway.) On the way, I took the picture of the day (below). A little farther up, we found a Japanese girl selling little watercolor paintings from a tiny store. We bought a few—7 euros total—on our way back down the hill. Britta in Bicicletta was open when we got back, and we were able to find some cute clothes there for Elsa's Christmas present.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting gelato from Carapina—our favorite in Florence—and ducking into the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio for a few pictures on the way back to our apartment. Dinner was at a restaurant called Io - Osteria Personale. It started off great, with lots of promise, but it was ultimately disappointing. The first couple courses were wonderful and inventive, and then the food quality and service both suffered as the dining room filled. For an expensive place, that's not cool.

274/365 florentine

Sunday was park day. But first, we popped across the street to see Michelangelo's David. (You know, just a regular Sunday morning...) The Accademia was pretty enjoyable, since it was a more manageable size than the Uffizi Gallery. We saw the exhibit on musical instruments, another on a specific sculptor, and of course, David and the other Michelangelo works. The downside was that I left my sunglasses in the metal detector tray, since I hadn't brought a bag. I was too busy catching my camera on the other side of the conveyor belt to remember to pick up my sunglasses, and I didn't realize it until we had left the building. We ended up just going to La Rinascente—a department store—and buying a new pair.

But back to park day. Steve and I went back to the Oltrarno so that we could visit the Pitti Palace's Boboli Gardens. It turned out to be a lot of walking around in the hot sun, but I got a few pictures out of it. Near the little porcelain museum, there was a terrace with a nice Tuscan view, which ended up becoming my picture of the day. If nothing else, it was a good contrast to the city street scene from the day before.

Once we finally found our way out of the gardens, we had to find lunch. That turned out to be quite a challenge, since everywhere that sounded good was either closed or looked way too busy. When we finally settled on a place, it was pretty mediocre, but at least it was food and a place to sit.

The rest of the day, with the exception of a gelato stop at Carabe, was spent chilling at our apartment. We had dinner at Cipolla Rossa, not too far away, and it turned out to be mediocre as well—like they were catering to tourists and not keeping the standards very high. Anyway, it was time to move on from Florence.

275/365 tuscan countryside

On Monday, we took the train to Orvieto, via Firenze Rifredi station. I didn't know a whole lot about Orvieto going into the trip planning. It was one of the hill towns between Florence and Rome, covered by Rick Steves in the Italy book, and I had seen some pretty pictures from Flickr contacts who had been there. It may have started out as the wildcard pick of the trip, but it quickly turned into our favorite place. It was small, charming, and not chock full of tourists. I think most of them were daytripping in, and it was probably moving into the off season anyway. There were souvenir shops and even a few Italian clothing chain stores along Corso Cavour, but it still felt authentic rather than cheap. (And yet, prices there were some of the most reasonable on the trip!)

Arriving on the train, we had to take the funicular up the hill to the old, walled city. From there, we caught a shuttle to Piazza di Ranieri and found our B&B apartment nearby. It was a cute little one-bedroom place, right near one edge of town. That meant that there were views of sweeping countryside not far from our door. After checking in with Sabrina, we went out to look around.

It took some wandering, but we found Via del Duomo and eventually the Duomo itself. It certainly wasn't as large a cathedral as Florence's Duomo, but it was rather big and ornate for such a small town. We saved our visit to the Duomo for another day; the gelato shop nearby was higher up on our list for that afternoon. And with that accomplished, we were re-energized enough to walk around town some more. We looked at several shops, walked some tiny side streets, and strolled the main street through town, which was a bit more commercial. What really captured my interest, though, was a street called Via Michelangeli, the apparent home of the city's woodworking family. There was wood art everywhere, as well as a shop or two—of wood art, of course. I settled on the below picture of a puppet in the shop window as my picture of the day.

That evening, we went low key for dinner, giving the restaurant on the corner of Piazza di Ranieri a try. Sabrina had recommended it, and it was nice and close to our place. At Al Pozzo Etrusco, we sat outside and each got a pasta dish. Then, we shared the osso buco. It may have ended up being the least notable meal of our time in Orvieto, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. By the time we had finished eating, we had shared a small bottle of syrah and gotten a couple free shots of an interesting local liqueur. Then, Steve ordered a shot of local grappa, and they gave us a couple shots of cream limoncello. It was a good thing we didn't have to walk very far to get home...

276/365 orvieto

The next day, we decided to do laundry. There was a washer in our apartment, and Sabrina showed us how to use it. She also provided some clothespins so we could hang our clothes outside. There was a drier elsewhere, but the sun was cheaper and more efficient. There happened to be a tour group nearby while we were hanging our stuff up, but oh well. It ended up being our easiest laundry experience of the trip, since we didn't have to wait for a free machine or hang damp clothes all over our room. We just came back later, rotated the clothes that were still wet, and took them all in when we found them dry.

Other than that, it was a big food day. Sure, we climbed to the top of the Torre del Moro to look at the city from above, and we explored the Duomo (no pictures inside); however, the word of the day was "truffles." We ate our lunch in the lovely backyard garden at I Sette Consoli, where there was a special white truffle menu. I got the risotto with white truffles shaved on top (see below). It smelled amazing and tasted even better. Possibly the best spent 25 euros of the trip. The rest of the meal—Steve's ravioli and our shared tiramisu—was also wonderful, as was the service.

That afternoon, we set out to take a walk all the way around the city on the wall's trail. We got maybe a 1/4 or 1/3 of the way around, and then we took the wrong fork. That led us back up to the square near the funicular station instead of continuing around the city. Deciding we had had enough walking for the day, we just made our way back up the main street. It was time to check on our laundry anyway. We went back out later for dinner at La Palomba, where I had pasta with black truffles grated on top. It was a very truffley day.

277/365 truffle heaven

For Wednesday, we had plans to go to Civita di Bagnoregio by bus. It was supposed to be a cute little town, connected by a long footbridge to Bagnoregio. That didn't end up happening, though. Once again, we had had enough of traveling for the moment and wanted to stay put in Orvieto. After all, we liked it so much, and we hadn't come close to exhausting the sightseeing and picture opportunities there yet.

In the morning, we went down St. Patrick's Well, which was interesting but too dark for pictures very far down. Then, we walked back up the main street again, taking side streets to see where they would lead. We stopped for lunch at a little place called Trattoria dell'Orso and shared a couple of the pastas they were making that day. There was the usual tagliatelle with black truffles and cheese, and there was a filled pasta with vegetables. Both were relatively simple and completely wonderful. If we had had another day in town, I would have loved to go back for dinner there. The host was charming too, and he told us we should take the bus to Civita di Bagnoregio... Next time, I guess.

The afternoon was spent wandering around some more. We walked along the wall past our apartment, in a direction we hadn't gone yet, and found some really pretty streets, including the one pictured below. I could have kept walking for longer, but the wine from lunch caught up with me. We had to go back to the apartment for a pit stop. Rather than retrace our steps, we returned to center of town for a little shopping. I was thinking that I hadn't really taken many pictures of Via del Duomo and its shops, so I remedied that too.

Finally, dinner that night was at Trattoria del Moro. It had been on my list of restaurants to try in town, but it wasn't quite as exciting as the other places we had gone. It certainly wasn't bad, though. While Orvieto wasn't very cutting edge culinarily, it easily beat Florence for us. There's something to be said for simple, well balanced food, especially when there are truffles.

278/365 orvieto afternoon

After our few days in Orvieto, we reluctantly headed back to the train station on Thursday. Our train wasn't until noon, so we had time to stroll leisurely down Corso Cavour one last time with our bags in tow.

When we arrived in Rome in the early afternoon, we dragged our bags from the train station to the office of Rome City Apartments to pay and get the keys for our apartment. We were a little apprehensive going into it, since it was a pay-up-front-in-cash thing, but it all worked out fine. They didn't even charge us the deposit that our information had mentioned. With keys in hand, we set out across the city to find our apartment, over a mile away in the neighborhood of the Pantheon. It wasn't the nicest building ever, but the apartment itself was fine, and the neighborhood felt safe. It wasn't far from the Parliament building, and there were little guard houses scattered about. Thankfully, the whole Occupy movement was only just getting started at the time, so we didn't really have to contend with any of that in the area.

The logical place to start sightseeing was the Pantheon, since we were already nearby. But first, some gelato from Il Gelato di San Crispino on the way. (I got their basil and honey flavors.) Then we went to the Pantheon (below) and looked around inside. After that, we walked down to Largo di Torre Argentina to see the ruins and cat sanctuary. Not quite as exciting as it sounded, since you can't actually go down into the ruins where the cats are. Still fun to see, though.

Later, we went to Renato e Luisa for dinner. We didn't have reservations, so we arrived right when they opened and managed to snag a table, even though it had a reservation card on it. (That strategy worked out pretty well for us on this trip, although we did make a few reservations at the nicer places.) There was a couple waiting by the time were done with our dinner, so we made sure not to linger. The food there was quite good, and we were able to check a couple classic Roman pastas off our list of things to try.

279/365 rome (if you want to)

And Friday. A change of plans was in order when I saw that the weather said rain for the whole afternoon. I decided to trade Friday's itinerary (Colosseum, Forum, etc.) with Sunday's, and we were set. We managed to fit in a walk to Castel Sant'Angelo and the Vatican before it started raining. The threat of a storm was enough to make us not take the time to go in anywhere, but as an added bonus, it made the light really interesting for photos outside (see below). I had been on the fence about going to the Vatican anyway, since we're not Catholic, and Dan and Carmen said it was one of their least favorite parts of their Rome visit. (Too crowded.) I had already decided that seeing the Sistine Chapel wasn't enough incentive to wade through the rest of the Vatican Museum to get there. I would have at least gone into St. Peter's Basilica, but it was late morning and the line stretched across St. Peter's Square. Not worth the wait, especially if the weather got bad.

As it started to drizzle, we headed back to the apartment. On the way, we stopped to pick up a couple paninis and a bottle of white wine at a random store that we passed. It made for a nice lunch break at the apartment during the rain showers.

It looked like it was going to be dry for a while in the late afternoon, so we headed back out for our daily gelato. This time, we went to Gelato del Teatro, which we had passed earlier. Then, we checked out Piazza Navona with its many fountains (and tourists) and Campo de' Fiori with its mostly packed away food market.

I had no plans for dinner, so we picked a restaurant from the Eat Rome app on my iPhone. We chose Osteria dell'Ingegno, in Piazza di Pietro, across from Hadrian's Temple. I had my second pasta Cacio e Pepe (cheese and black pepper) in two days, which made me happy. And a post-dinner stroll to the Trevi Fountain rounded out the day.

280/365 rainy friday

Well. Thus ends what's probably the longest post of the 365 project. Only a few days of the trip left to cover, and then I'll have to catch up on all the days that came after. But don't worry, I won't remember what I did most of those days, because I was too busy editing vacation photos to actually do much that was very interesting or worth talking about!