Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympics Coverage

I've been trying to watch the Olympics -- we don't have a TV -- and luckily Rai lets you watch TV online. So that is nice. However, they only show skiing events, since those are happening in the evening here (they don't bother with curling or hockey). Of course NBC won't let anyone outside the US watch any videos on their site. So I was looking around for a way to watch other events like figure skating, snowboarding, or speed skating, and discovered this list of countries that can watch Eurovision's programming online. Unbelievable. While Italy is not on the list, countries in the Caribbean, south Pacific, north Africa, Russia and other countries bordering China, etc. can watch Eurovision online. Even San Marino, a microstate completely surrounded by Italy, is on the list. Non ho parole.
UPDATE: Evidently, Sky Italia acquired the broadcasting rights from the IOC, instead of Eurovision. But Sky Italia's site has very few videos, and most of them are delivered in blips. And you can't watch anything live online.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Taking your leftovers with you from a restaurant apparently isn't done much in Italy. Once it took three people to figure out what to do, and they ended up wrapping the pizza in aluminum foil. The waiter at the pizza place this evening arranged my leftovers nicely in the box:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


A few months ago, I found out that I had won two free nights at the Park Hyatt Vendôme Paris by participating in a Lufthansa internet quiz. We thought about combining it with a visit to the Paris opera, and were lucky enough to be able to get tickets to a performance of "Idomeneo" -- I realized only afterwards that this was Valentine's Day weekend, so it worked out well.
We arrived on Saturday in the early afternoon after a quick flight via Munich, and checked in to our luxury accommodation. Lucky us were even given an upgrade to a deluxe room, and two minutes after we got to the room, an employee of the hotel came by with a bottle of wine to welcome us. Not a bad beginning. Though it was cold, we did leave the hotel some in the end, and went to see Notre Dame, before returning to the hotel. That evening was the opera, which was at the Palais Garnier, a short walk away from our hotel. It's probably best known these days for being the setting of "The Phantom of the Opera," with it's majestic chandelier. We had no chance of being killed by it falling, though, since we were sitting up in the Amphitheatre seats. Note to prospective visitors: the view from there is excellent, the acoustics good, and the price remarkably cheap compared to most other seats. However, the seats are probably the most uncomfortable that I've experienced: so steep that your feet don't touch the floor, spaced by the minimum amount possible so that your knees are probably hitting the head of the person in front of you, and to top it off, a hard bar poking in your back. We were very happy when the break came. The performance, on the other hand, was world class. All singers were excellent, with the main characters of Charles Workman in the title role and Vesselina Kasarova as Idamante being the standouts for me. The choir, much utilized in this opera, was very good as well, and carried the action.
The next day, we had a nice breakfast (luckily included for us, otherwise it would have cost €42!) and then went to the Louvre. What a pleasant experience after having to endure the pain that is getting tickets at the Uffizi! Of course, we went to see the highlights such as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Napoleon apartments, but we spent the most time in the Oriental and Egyptian antiquities section, which has a very impressive selection. In the afternoon, we met Christian, a friend of mine from college, and his wife Kathrin at the Cafe Angelina, where we had a nice decadent African hot chocolate. After wandering along the Seine at twilight, we went to a cozy Creperie for dinner, since both Kristen and Kathrin are vegetarians, who are not well accommodated at most French restaurants.
Monday after checking out and storing our luggage, we took advantage of the metro tickets we had left over (a pass of 10 tickets simply gives you 10 single tickets) and went to see Sacre Coeur and Montmartre (passing by the Cafe des 2 Moulins on the way), the Centre Pompidou and Pletzl, and the Eiffel Tower, before heading back to the hotel. Before heading towards the airport, I was able to pick up some wine and baguettes, which will contribute towards a very nice dinner soon! Our flight back was slightly delayed, so while we were able to make our connection in Frankfurt, our bags weren't, but they've since arrived.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chocolate Fest

Last weekend there was a chocolate festival in Piazza Santa Croce. They had lots of things I'd never seen before, like sausage-looking chocolate, chocolate that looked like rusty tools, and the chocolate "food" in the picture below, as well as more traditional things like hot chocolate, chocolate covered strawberries, and little chocolates with all kinds of weird flavors added. Of course there were lots of large chunks of regular chocolate as well. Many vendors were giving out free samples.