Posts tagged ‘observations of obvious’

November 1, 2011

The sounds of Roma

Rome is filled with so many interesting and wonderful sounds!  The first sound in the morning is the opening of shop fronts, a nasty, gritty sliding sound that signals a new day.  Next comes the roaring of trucks coming to stock up the nearby shops and restaurants with goods.  Unknown birds cluck mechanically in the distance (we are still trying to find out what kind of birds they are).  Next comes the loud chorus of the street cleaners – a load brushing, roaring, and spraying sound.  At quarter to seven the bells of a nearby church begin to ring and go on for several minutes.  The day begins early.

During the day the sounds are more typical of any city.  There is the sound of (Italian) chatter, of cars passing, an occasional dog barking, and the calls to-and-fro of daily business.  The sound of an occasional (foreign) street musician can sometimes be heard, or the whirring of some toy that a street vendor is trying to sell.  Dusk brings the sound of street performers.  Accordion and violin players line the restaurants or claim a fountain at the center of a piazza.

When our class was preparing to head to Rome, we were warned how much tighter the living is and closer the quarters.  When I arrived at my apartment I was quite surprised to find it quite spacious despite the fact that several of us have to share rooms.  There was one day however when I heard my first Italian neighbour rivalry.  One night when I was cooking my dinner I heard the sound of a nearby organ playing.  I thought it sounded beautiful, but a few other people didn’t.  After only a few minutes they started complaining and shouting for the poor organ player to shut up.  It was very amusing because he continued playing for quite a while despite the catcalls and almost responded to them with his music!

Another moment when I recall a memorable sound is when Vikkie and I went together to see the Spanish steps late one evening.  The stairs were filled with a hundred or more people sitting, talking, arguing, drinking, and one group specifically that was singing.  I found it impressive how something as simple as a large stair on a piazza could draw so many people.  Everywhere in Rome the sound of the people in a Piazza is filled in with the lovely sound of moving water from a nearby fountain.

March 22, 2011

Things I love about Toronto

  • Because you don’t feel like standing around for the streetcar, you decide to see if you can beat it on foot to the next stop… or even maybe the next; it is always a bit of a bet.
  • It is always amazing when you come over the crest of a hill; perhaps it is one street that you walk down every day, that gives you this amazing streetscape view towards downtown with the CN tower clear as day in the background.  North, South, East, or West, there is always that special spot.  For me in fall 2009 it was heading South on St. George Street through the U of T campus on my way to work, and now I get the view on Dundas Street going East over the train bridge near College on my way home.
  • Little Italy on College Street west has some amazing restaurants and one or two fantastic gelato places.  Yum!
  • China town on Spadina and Dundas is a great place to find deals IF you know where to look!  It’s where I bought a sweet vintage bike last summer.
  • I currently live in Little Portugal near Dundas West.  I even have an old Portugese couple as neighbours who do not speak much English.  Every few blocks out this way you will find an amazing Brazilian or Portugese bakery that sells delectable breads and pastries that beat Tim Hortons any day!
  • Tim Hortons still deserves a mention on this list however.  In Toronto you can also find one of these on every block no matter where you are in the city.  The Canadian Maple donut and the medium hot chocolate will always be my old faithfuls!  The ‘roll up the rim’ campaign has recently begun which has now almost become a highlight of the winter to spring season.  Rrrrroooooooll up the rrrrrrrrriim to win!
  • Biking in Toronto is a blast as long as you have the most important piece of equipment: a loud and annoying bell.  It will save your neck several times from those Toronto taxis that like to pull over right in front of you.  The thing that makes biking completely worthwhile is how much you save not paying for the TTC, the exercise you get biking an hour per day, and also the joy of leaving at the same time and arriving at your destination 15 minutes earlier!
  • If you are an architecture nerd like me, you might enjoy the revival and reuse of older buildings that give Toronto streets quite a bit of character.  Most of the main shopping and gastronomical areas of the city were once houses.  Now the main levels serve as establishments of all kinds, with apartments above.
  • Toronto offers any kind of cuisine imaginable and quite authentic too!  I have had everything from Italian (arincini!), Chinese, Japanese (sushi!), and Greek, to French, Thai, Indian (roti!), and Ethiopian.   I just discovered this awesome Polish place near me that serves the most amazing Pirogis (pirogi!).  A few blocks down from me there is also the Canadian old faithful:  Poutini’s House of Poutine!  Then we must not forget the crazy creatives.  I just recently went to a brunch place called ‘the Starving Artist’, where everything on their menu… even their club sandwiches, was made with waffles.  Yum yum!
October 6, 2010

Swell things about Switzerland

Now that I’ve been in Switzerland for over a month, it is time that I make a list of things that I think are pretty swell about Switzerland.

– Most of the public telephone boxes are square and BLUE with a little light on top.  Can’t get any more swell than that!  Best phone experience EVER!  ; )

– The Swiss building code requires every residence to have a nuclear bunker (unless there is access to a communal bunker).  Hard core!

– The Swiss ten bill has Le Corbusier on it with his awesome nerdy glasses.  ‘La Petite Maison’ by Le Corbusier is a short drive away.

– The Swiss speak slower and clearer french than the neighboring French.  Thanks!

– Swiss wine is amazing.  The harvest starts this week.  The vines are all stepped on really steep slopes that look incredible.

– Lake Léman is gorgeous.  You can see France and the alps as clear as day on the other side.

– The Swiss say septante, huitante, and neunante, instead of soixante-dix, quatre-vingt, and quatre-vingt-dix.  WHATT?

– The windows don’t have screens and can open up all the way (more than half the area of the wall).  Unfortunately that doesn’t mean they don’t have mosquitoes.  : P

– The Swiss give three ‘bisous’ (kisses) as a greeting.  It is the same as in the Netherlands.  Girls kiss girls, boys kiss girls, but boys don’t kiss boys (unlike in France).

– The metro here is twice as efficient and more than half the price of the TTC.  Use this as a precedent Toronto!

– more to come…..