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4 September 2011 : Firenze-Siena, Italia            jump to this page > > >
Sunday from Firenze to Siena
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The excitement of Italy is on the girls, and we're all up for breakfast before nine. It's still hot hot hot but the clouds are threatening as we eat breakfast. Afterwards, with an hour and a half before check out, the girls and I head out in search of some medicine for Rochelle ...and end up at the farmer's market, where I leave them to go back to the room and move our luggage into storage and Rochelle, who is not feeling well, to the lounge. Walking past the Duomo on the way back to join the girls I pass a tour group of Japanese – the place is lousy with tour groups, little flocks of sheep dutifully following their shepherd, who holds an umbrella or a little flag aloft for them to follow. The Japanese guide is talking steadily into a little transmitting device she wears around her neck; all her flock are wired for sound, but that's not the funny part. At least half of them are holding their cameras aloft, pointing and clicking every which way. It's a hilarious picture. (Later, in Siena, I see another tour group, Germans this time; they aren't holding their vidcams aloft, but are shooting from belly button level … but it's the same phenomenon. “I don't remember anything about being there, but I must have been, because Look: here are pictures I must have taken...”

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The Farmer's market is a delicious delight. Amongst the schlock tourist booths there are many, many legitimate farmers, offering more than enough to live well on: nucce (chestnut flour pancakes stuffed with ricotta), awesome artisan cheeses, foccacia made with flour ground on the farm from wheat grown on the farm, heirloom tomatoes of multiple varieties, mosto lambrusco (unfermented grape juice pressed from Lambrusco grapes), wooden cooking implements and toys, on and on and on. Damiana negotiates two cheeses, one a soft goat cheese rolled in wood ash. In the process of purchasing tomatoes and a pepper, Sienna is engaged in conversation by the farmer, a lanky, furry boy who would fit right into Mendocino County. He wants to know if this tomato is called the same – ox eye – where we live? Her purchase of four nice tomatoes and a goodly pepper amounts to .9 euro. Damiana experiences the same connection over eight plums of two types and four luscious figs: .80 cents (80% of one euro; a euro is worth about $1.55.) Again and again, the shared appreciation of real food is more of a bridge than our language differences are a gulf.

22 September 2011 : Padova            jump to this page > > >
Food Porn in Padova
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I have always been captivated by markets, and the ones in Europe are spectacular. There is a lot of choice; there is clearly a relationship between the habitual buyers, who have their favorite stalls and greet the stallkeepers like old friends. That keeps the food good. When we bought food in the markets, first in Sienna, and now in Padova, we are treated kindly, in part (we think) because we try to communicate in Italian, and that gives us points despite the fact that our Italian is so halting and eccentric. The fact that we understand food seems to come through. We get the tender fichi and the juiciest susine (plums) even when we don't know how to ask for them.

Food is obviously an obsession for the Italians, as it is with us. So here are some pictures of the offerings on one late September day in the Padova market.

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12 May 2016 : Barcelona            jump to this page > > >
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A small sampling of Boqueria treasures

14 May 2016 : Barcelona            jump to this page > > >
Slow Saturday
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Mercat de Santa Caterina

Our bodies having (mostly) arrived, and remembering our traveling pace, today was a perfect day. Our first task was to find a printer to print our TGV tickets for Monday.

18 May 2016 : Collioure            jump to this page > > >
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Today is market day in Collioure, and so that's where we start out. An interesting mix of tourist crap, useful durables, farmers' goods (beautiful!) and prepared food that looks gourmet to us (see the paella below).

We don't need anything, but can you go to a market and not buy? We can't! We could share an artichoke for dinner -- we have been on a "big meal at lunch" regimen since we got here, and then salad at night, and that's working well for us. Mushrooms too beautiful to pass up, ditto the strawberries. The man who grows the strawberries insists I buy some of this kind and some of that; when he sees I have already made that choice, he complements me on my perception.

The real treasures are the local melon and some mountain lavendar honey, but I know it will all be good. Two shopping bags full for 25€.

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21 May 2016 : CÚret            jump to this page > > >
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Cherries we found. Cherry beer, cherry pie, cherry pizza, cherry juice and wine, cherry blossom honey, every cherry theme thing you can imagine and some you can't. The town brass band was playing loudly in the square, people were barking their wares, old friends were seeing each other (for the first time since yesterday) and exclaiming loudly, hugging, doing the European triple kiss. There were dogs, babies in enormous eight-wheeled crispers, little old ladies with enormous wheeled shopping baskets...

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There was the cutest miniature pig and goat right in the middle of everything, and everybody was snuggling close and saying (in French), "Aw..." I had to scritch the pig. It was just as bristly as I expected. The goat wanted, as do all goats, to have its horns scritched, so it butted in.

There was going to be Sardana a little later. There were going to be a lot more people, too. This is Céret's biggest annual event, and while I'm glad we happened to be on time to see it, the crush of people isn't exactly our thing. I did find the knife of my dreams (still my fave in 2017), and we bought some cherries and white asparagus. The stall keepers are phenomenally generous and attentive; they seemed to be having the times of their lives. The goat and the pig were, too. 

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next group : Sète

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