Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Living Vicariously in Italy

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Reader Hannah is spending the summer in Italy (sigh), and she’s blogging about it. Have fun Hannah! I’ll be reading.

In the Italian Details

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

A few more vignettes from my trip.

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A gorgeous gramophone

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The poem on our menu the first night we ate out

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Postcards

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More postcards

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A decorative stack of vintage luggage that was in one of the bedrooms at the villa

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Me with an insanely large cup of tea

La Dolce Far Ninente

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

This blog was written two days after I arrived in Italy. Alas, the house would only allow us ten minutes of Internet access at the most, so I was never able to post. It’s probably a good thing that the Universe made sure we got off line.

March 24, 2011

La Dolce Far Ninente is Italian for “the sweetness of doing nothing.”

After an eight-hour flight, I touched down in Rome and the whole airplane cabin began applauding. I’m not sure if we were applauding the pilot for a smooth landing or the Roman gods for seeing us there safely, but I participated enthusiastically because I got a kick out of the sporadic clapping. When I went through security, the guard did not stamp my passport. This perturbed me. I was going to request it but feared it would look suspicious. “Why do you want your passport stamped so badly?” Um, because I’m in Italy, and I’d like my passport to reflect that fabulous fact.

Once I had my bag, I readied myself to get on two trains. The first was easy, getting on a shuttle from the airport to Roma Termini (Rome’s central train station). The second, required a little more maneuvering and standing in front of signs long enough to make it obvious that I’m a tourist. I found my track with moments to spare and was off to Orvieto. An hour and half later, Jennifer picked me up and we drove through the Italian countryside.

The villa we’re staying in is in the middle of nowhere. There are no street lights and barely any cars. The silence is striking. It begs your attention. There are no clocks in the house. You have to go out of your way to find out what time it is. If you drive twenty minutes in any direction, you’ll come to a town—small and magically built on a hill at least a thousand years ago.

I’m savoring the space. The space in the house. The space outside the house. The sky at night showing six hundred more stars than I knew existed. The undulating terrain. Usually when I travel, it’s go go go. Go to this museum and this restaurant. Let’s see this show! But here, I’m trying to simply be while enjoying the quiet, the company, and the wind dancing in the fireplace. A few initial photos:

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The nearby castle

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Tiny town street

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Sheep crossing!

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The town and the terrain go so well together.

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My first authentic Italian pizza

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Me and the villa

Right on Time

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Welcome to spring! It showed up on schedule. In the northeast, we had a gorgeous Friday, a slightly cooler but still sunny Saturday, and a Sunday similar to Saturday. The rain waited for Monday, which was very thoughtful of it. This weekend, I bought a vintage vanity. I only paid $10.50 on e-bay for it. It’ll make it’s way into my bedroom at some point. For now, it’s sitting pretty in the living room.

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I also received a letter from the mystery traveler. This time he writes from Bamako, Mali.

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He asks me what I need to “get in the mood” to write. That’s a great question and one I’m not sure I have a great answer for. I need tea, undoubtedly. I need a good idea. Oh! I need a deadline—even if it’s a self-imposed one. The myster traveler needs “a cup of coffee, a clean desk, a good pen, and paper that’s being asked to be written on.” I’d say these elephants are definitely asking for a little language love.

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Finally, I leave for Italy today! As I said, you may or may not hear from me when I’m there. We’ll see what the week has in store. Ciao!

Italian Surprise

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

It happened on Friday March 4th. My friend Jennifer wrote told me she’s renting a villa in Tuscany for a month—a 40th birthday present to herself. She asked me if I wanted to join her for a week. I wrestled with the idea: Oh no I can’t. But I have to! But I can’t. But I should! Then she sent me the link to the villa, and my mouth fell to the floor. I landed on But I have to! Because THIS opportunity is never coming around again.

I asked my bosses if I could have a week off. They graciously said yes, and I leave for Italy early next week. I’ve never planned a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants International Trip before. Needless to say, I am very excited.

When I travel I usually sacrifice space—staying in hostels or very small hotel rooms—which I’m happy to do because traveling cheaply is what enables me to travel. This trip will be drastically different because the place we’re staying in is as appealing to me as the country we’re staying in. If it’s rainy, I’ll light a fire in my bedroom and open a bottle of Montepulciano. If it’s sunny, we’ll visit the town itself.

I usually try to ignore the Internet when I’m abroad, but this time I might make it a point to blog. The house has ample and inspiring room for writing, so I’m sure it’ll get my creative juices flowing. Jennifer is there already and she tells me the wireless is temperamental, so I make no promises, but I will do what I can.

The Ides of March

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

I have a surprise trip coming up to the land of Julius Caesar. (Surprise = this time last month I didn’t know I was going). More details tomorrow! For now, enjoy the Ides of March–it’s always been a good luck day for me.

My Vacation in Cocktails

Friday, February 4th, 2011

What brought me to Honduras specifically was a wedding. It’s a country I may not have traveled to otherwise, but I’m so glad I went. One of my cousin Kate’s good friends was getting married, so we decided to turn the festivities into a full vacation. All drinks appear in chronological order:

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We arrived in San Pedro Sula on a Friday afternoon. Once settled, we went out to dinner at an open air restaurant—the name escapes me. I remember well that the grill was enormous and the Honduran football (soccer) team was playing. The bride to be, Karla, ordered for us. What came next were two mammoth plates of meat—pork, beef, chicken, and sausage. A carnivore’s delight! We drank Barena, which is a Honduran beer similar to Corona. It was a perfect pairing.

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The wedding took place on Saturday afternoon and the reception went well into the night. The bar’s specialty were these cute little Piña Coladas, so that’s what we drank. Until they started pouring the wine that is.

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On Monday, what was left of the bridal party got on a bus and went to Copan—a small city centered around some extraordinary ruins left by the Mayan people. While there, we went out to dinner at a lodge/restaurant called Hacienda San Lucas, which is situated on a hill offering spectacular views. The restaurant is at the top of the hill and at the bottom are stumps and extra large stones offering a front-row seat to the sunset. We ordered our drinks at the top of the hill, and I was beyond impressed when the staff brought them to the bottom. It was a mighty balancing act that enabled me to savor an Argentinean Chianti and the view.

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A romantic dinner for twelve at the Hacienda San Lucas.

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On Wednesday, we said goodbye to the newlyweds and their kin and headed off to Roatan—one of the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. My first drink on the island was a Monkey La La. Yes, you heard me correctly. This is the island’s signature drink and all the bars serve it. It’s made with vodka, Baileys, Kahlúa, and I’m guessing cream. The Baileys stands out among all the other flavors. It’s a glorified milkshake.

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To accompany my reasonably-priced lobster dinner, a Margarita on the rocks (yet still in a ridiculous glass) with salt.

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After dinner, the owner of the restaurant offered us a shot of this stuff. You can’t see it very well, but there is a plant in this bottle. Apparently you mix some liquid with the plant and volia—you get a drink that tastes like black jelly beans.

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It is, admittedly, a little shady to drink such a strange thing but since it was the owner and not some random guy on the street (or at the bar) offering we took our chances. The shot wasn’t my taste, but it also wasn’t laced with anything. A win/win I’d say.

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More Monkey La Las to celebrate the fact that we have nothing to do in the middle of the day.

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This is either a Tequila Sunrise or a Strawberry Margarita, which are strikingly similar when you think about. In any case, it was a great trip—an ideal mix of culture, adventure, Caribbean breezes, fabulous food and memorable drinks.