Monday, 10 November 2014

Black cats are lucky!

Why is this blog called "Souvenirs of a Black Cat"?
Because I've always a particular affection for black cats, a real soft spot.
Their shiny and soft hair, with the colour of the night, their intense and intelligent green eyes, are like the apotheosis of the felinity to me.
Whoever knows and loves cats, is aware that the black ones are usually charachterized by a particular intelligence, by a curious predilection for everything made of paper and by an even more adventurous and rebel spirit than the feline average.
So, if we ever want to humanize it (even if I'm nor actually sure I would give it any advantages in this way), the black cat would no doubt be a traveller and writer cat - therefore my perfect alter ego, the ideal mascotte for my blog about travels, observations and mysteries.
But it's not just this...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Farne Islands and Hitchcock fantasies...

Farne Islands are a group of uninhabited islands along the Northumberland shore, on the border between England and Scotland.
With "uninhabited" I mean that they are not inhabited by human beings; but yet they have quite a number of inhabitants.
They all are inhabitants with feathers, wings and a beak, and there are so many of them that the National Trust has made a protected oasis out of it, called the Birds Sanctuary.
You can reach it with a boat tour: there are many of them and they all depart from the harbour of Seahouses.
The approximated cost is about 30 £ (plus some other 4 £ for entering the island), and they consists of a circumnavigation of the archipelago with a landing of about one hour on the main island, the Inner Farne.
Both on Lonely Planet and at the ticket office is warmly recommended to wear a hat or a hood when you land on the island.
Sure, we think, no one enjoys a not-requested shampoo, expecially if it doesn't exactly smell of jojoba oil or silvestris pine.
"Oh no, it's not for that" - giggles misteriously a guy we've met on the bus.
"You are a couple of brave girls" - he adds, before getting off and leaving us.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bamburgh Castle: on the top with ghosts

We get in Bamburgh on a double-decker bus - which, as far as I am concerned, is one of the peculiarities about travelling in the UK which mostly enthralls me.
Ginger Cat & me have an almost childish taste about travelling on double-deckers - obviously upstairs, where it feels like flying.
Just like kids.
And in fact in the seat next to ours there are Batman & Superman - or, better, two young boys wearing the caps of their fave superheroes.
And we fly with them.
After all, as it's known, also Batman doesn't fly, if not with the aid of some technological Bat-gadget. Or with a double-decker bus, come to that.
Anyway the landscape we are crossing is amazing: fields are enlighted by the golden kiss of the sun, and everything is so beautiful that we are able to enjoy it, ignoring for once that tiny voice that keeps on complaining about how you cannot take pictures of this beauty, because of the army of kamikaze mosquitos committing their last sacrifice on the bus's windshield.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Staglieno Cemetery, an open air museum

There was a song we used to sing when we were kids, which was talking about a black cat king of a cemetery - that's because in Italian it rhymes ("nero" "cimitero"), and also because that's a good association between two icons from the gothic world, having a gloomy charme.
And so I cannot avoid thinking about its tune, whenever I start writing about cemeteries - and it kinda turns off the solemnity and concentration that I still have impressed from the atmospheare of the place I've just visited.
Anyway, it's an association that totally makes sense, because, also for what concerns myself, being a black cat inside, I've always been somehow bewitched by this kind of places and their maybe a bit creepy but undeniable charme.
Within the last few years, talking with some people, and browsing some sites and blogs, I've found out that, after all, I'm not the only one, and actually the so called "cemeterial tourism" is quite more popular than you may think.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Betws-y-Coed and Gwydyr Forest: the real soul of Wales

Wales is the land of the Red Dragon, it's the land of Merlin and King Arthur, it's a land of myths and legends, of wizard druids and heroes.
It's a land full of legendary stories, where you don't really know whether supernatural was used as a metaphor of what was actually happening, or if was what had actually happened to be then transformed in supernatural.
These stories have been handed down orally, from father to son, sliding through one generation after another, with no stopping even in front of the advent of Christianity, but simply changing face to the protagonists: no more druids but saints, with no more dragons to fight but with Satan as adversary.
Because they are not simply stories, they are connected with the identity of this Country.
They are connected with the green of its valleys, the mellowness of its hills, the shadow of its woods.
With the flowing of water and the blooming of the bluebells.
When you are surrounded by so much beauty it's not difficult to believe that magic actually exists...

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Once upon a time there was a Queen... who had a Villa

There are cities that never end to surprise you.
They're that kind of cities that had a very long History, intense and rich of ups & downs. Those cities that have mysterious and slightly sly ways just like an Experienced Woman, but that at the same time manage to keep the class and the aplomb of the nobility to which they belong.
A nobility that might even be decayed, that might even be transformed into working class humbleness, but that, when it's real and genuine, still keeps its own dignity and beauty.
And, maybe, it even manages to catch you by surprise with some unexpected discoveries, just like when you climb up to the attics of old palaces, and you find a dusty chestbox to rummage.
Turin is undoubtely one of these cities.
And its attic is the Hill, where it's situated the Villa della Regina (Queen's Villa), a small and precious jewel forgotten in a chestbox.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

What makes an "holy place" holy?
Is it only the sheer fact of being chosen, more or less casually, to erect a temple, a church, a worshipping building?
Or maybe it gets chosen exactly because it actually emanates sacrality, because it's a place where man, for some reason, for some esotherical requirement of its topography, or simply for its beauty, is able to feel closer to god?
I like to think that, once upon a time, there must have been an era when human beings used to be more aware and deep in living their own presence on this Earth - and that, therefore, also their spirituality wasn't made only of concentration and isolation, but mostly of communion with what surround them, in an holistic exchange with the harmony of nature all around, in order to reach that wonderful sensation of feeling part of the Whole.
And that, so, holy places weren't chosen randomly.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

How Vienna got ransomed by 8 of its alternative faces

The first time I have visited Vienna, years ago, the mercury coloumn of the thermometer was over 40° C.
I swear.
It was my birthday and I really really wanted to celebrate it with a slice of authentic Sachertorte, but temperatures had stolen any desire for chocolate from me. Which is like saying Winnie the Pooh doesn't want honey anymore, or Bugs Bunny becoming disgusted by carrots.
So figure it out.
What I remember about Vienna, then, are only the trees (where we were desperately looking for some shelter and refreshment), ice creams (which were our only source of nourishment) and the smell of horses' poop (that the heat had amplified, giving me the impression that, from the Stefansdom area, where the carriages take romantically around tourists, it had got diffused all over the city).
But how come - I've kept on telling myself for years - Vienna, for goodness!!
Sissi, valzer, the beautiful blue Danube, the Klimt's kiss, the '800s atmospheare, the austere and elegant architecture, the cobbled roads...
Billy Joel even dedicated a song to it, come on!!
It's just not possible that my main thought about it can be horse's poop.
I really have to give it a second chance.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Liebe Liebster - round two!

Liebster Award

Here we go with another Liebster Award!!
For those who don't know it yet (if there are any?) a Liebster Award is not a "real" award (like - you don't really win anything, no plane tickets to New Zealand, no Iphones, no money and not even a keyring), but a chance to get to know new interesting bloggers.
When you get nominated you are being made 10 questions, and then you have to nominate 10 other bloggers whom you consider worthy to be read and make them 10 (decent) questions.
I've been nominated by my friend Anto from We12travel - ooops, as usual I'm pathetic with me-marketing: I shouldn't have told she's my friend, I should have told that she's bumped by chance in my wonderful blog and found it amazing *lol*.
But anyway - I like answering questions, makes me pretend to be a celebrity for a short moment and you knwo we cats are a bit posh like that.
Then I'm not sure my answers can always be intelligent: French soccer player Michel Platini (one of the heroes of my childhood) used to say that "Even Einstein would look stupid by being asked questions everyday" - and I'm not even really being asked questions every day!
Not even once a month, I'd say, so mind you!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

About doing things out of your system

I have to admit it, I'm not the biggest fan of doing things out of your system.
Not that I deny that it's a useful practice, but I think that it's kinda overrated nowadays.
Our society seems to be pushing us at becoming some sort of new-age superheroes, claiming that it's just a matter of slipping into the correct state of mind and then you'd be able to do just everything you want - empowering your hidden skills with the "If you want you can" kind of mantra in all its declinations.
Well, this is not true.
I don't mean that one shouldn't do everything in his power to pursue his dreams (since it's also what I'm doing, anyway); but it's not true that it's just a matter of wanting and we can obtain everything.
It's quite a dangerous thing to claim: we cannot do everything we dream, we are not able to have any possible skill on earth we'd wish to have - and we must be very well aware of it.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Barter Books: keep calm, black cats love reading!!

Everyone has his own personal definition of Paradise, according to his biggest passions.
Who love books often daydreams to get closed like forever in some labyrinthic libraries, where you don't even understand if walls exist or if they are made of bookshelves, where there are very high piles of books, where you can find all the stories you've always had in your to-read list, and then many others, unknown until that moment, but ready to be loved as soon as you will dive into their pages.
Who love books, England and finds himself at ease among a touch of vintage, should visit Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Grado - or how cats like the sea

I'm no beach animal, you know.
Somebody gets surprised by it and finds it strange, probably because he's born and grown up in a beach animals tribe, and has always met just beach animals - until he hasn't met me, a rare beast who gets bored under the beach umbrella, who seeks for the misty and gloomy lands of England exactly like a mosquito seeks for the lights, buzzing against it, attracted like a magnet, like a primordial desire.
But it's not always been like that.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Turin in the Middle of August

Once upon a time Turin in the middle of August was a ghost city.
It was the time when the equation Turin = FIAT was very tight and essential, with no alternatives: Turin used to live on FIAT, it was a village built around FIAT.
In August FIAT was closing, and Turin was closing as well.
Everybody was going at the seaside: Piedmontese in Liguria, and the Southern immigrants who came here to work at the welding line were going back home.
Shops had the shutters closed and even the pidgeons were starving.
During that time nobody was yet aware that Piazza Castello is beautiful, and therefore nobody was surprised to see it empty.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Alnwick Castle, or how the Duke of Northumberland is very skilled in tourism marketing

I must confess, I didn't even know that Alnwick Castle existed.
It's been Ginger Cat who, when we were organizing our trip in North-East England this year, has discovered that not only it's been the castle that has been used for the external shootings of Hogwarts, but that, among the many attractions that it offers to its visitors, there are also broomstick flying lessons, just like you do during the first year of the Magic & Wizardy School.
Broomstick flying lessons?? Shoot me.

Since the nerd inside of me doesn't do the slighter effort not to show up (and actually I'm not even sure that I do have a not-nerd part, to be honest), we have immediately put it in our itinerary.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Gdansk: a surprise bonbonnierre

I guess it's true when they say that expectation is the root of all the disappointment.
Or, at least, it's surely quite obvious that, when your expectations aren't quite clear, you might become more open to good surprises.
Poland, to me, has always just meant one of my best friends.
I mean, a twin soul whose pen has happened to cross mine 12 years ago thanks to the will of a good fate - and, even if we had never had the chance to meet in person until now, we've got in touch so deeply since the early beginnings that I guess she is one of the persons who know more about me, including my own shadows.
But about the country itself, I wasn't quite sure about what to expect.
I guess that we Westerns end up to put all the ex communist countries in a sort of similar cauldron, as if the sovietic utopia of level them all and making them all standardized, cancelling their own identity and singular charachteristics, had finally worked out in the end.
But this is just a blinding stereotype based on the sheer flaw of not knowing enough, of course.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Berwick-upon-Tweed, and upon two different worlds...

Berwick-upon-Tweed has the kind of charme of things hanging half way.
Whenever a person is being defined "neither fish nor fowl", it's usually intended in a negative way, as something without any shape or direction, without a defined personality and therefore as something that evokes indifference.
But I also think that hanging halfway hides an enormous potential, a way to be able to be both the things you are suspended between, representing some sort of reconciliation, a junction between two elements that are usually considered very different from each other, if not actually the opposite.
Well, Berwick-upon-Tweed is not English nor Scottish.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Airports tales

When I was a kid to me the airport only meant seeing my dad again.
It wasn't happening that often, but sometimes we were going to pick him up at Caselle, waiting among the shops and the cafes for him to appear between the smoked glass sliding doors.
There was the excitment to see him again, but for me, since the beginning, it had also started to be mixed up with another kind of emotion: the emotion of the airport itself, the emotion of leaving, of selecting and closing your necessities inside a small suitcase to be carried along with you and thinking that now you are here but in a couple of hours you will be thousand of kilometers away.
During those times my biggest travels were Liguria's seaside, less than a 3 hours drive from home: I didn't know yet what was behind those smoke glass sliding doors, I wasn't yet skilled with all the procedures and the rules that flying requires.
I had just seen the slice of world which had been given to me at my birth; but yet there was something in these aseptic and frenetic places which was attracting me in an unexplainable way.
It was the seed of the travel bug which was already growing inside of me.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Newcastle - or how a cat from Turin has befriended with the Geordies

Whenever I visit a big and industrial city I always fear it might turn out too grey, brumpy and busy.
In the urban settlements I visit I'm always looking for that certain welcoming and cosy touch, that respectful bond with their own history and traditions which gives you the impression to step inside an old family's living room, where you can sip a tea looking at the pictures of the grandparents of your host.
But industrial cities are often too pragmatic to care about this aspect: the furniture of their living room is minimal, very modern and functional, and they find it self-defeating to get lost in nostalgic contemplations of the past, since their goal is running towards future as fast as they can.
But Newcastle was inspiring me.
Being from Turin, I was somehow feeling it alike even before actually visiting it.

Friday, 11 July 2014

A day in London with Ginger Cat - and so the adventure starts...

Every story has its own incipit, every travel has its own start, every adventure has a beginning - and Ginger Cat & me usually like to start ours with London.
A bit because we are obliged (since both Turin and Genoa have direct flight connections to the UK only on its capital), but mostly because we love this city, all our British trips, which for us sound more like an homecoming rather than an holiday, start and end in the Eternal London.
This latest travel, for what concerns me, has been preceded by a very hectic week, made of anxious rushes and evenings when headache was transforming me into a lethargy animal - so I haven't even got too much aware of time passing, and, when I went to the airport, I still wasn't able to realize nor to be on vacation, nor to be about to leave for my most beloved country.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Bonaventure Island - home of the gannets in Québec

When we got there it was surrounded by the mist.
It was looking like a pirate ship coming from the fog, and the gannets coveys curled up in the rock's cracks looked like its crew.
Bonaventure Island belongs to the National Park that has its same name, associated to the Rocher Percé, the rocky spur that to someone reminds a graceful girl, but that for me is like a bison drinking, of which I've told you about here and that is just a few meters away from the coast of the Gaspesie, in Québec (Canada).
Island is uninhabited since 1971, the year when it's officially been transformed into a Park.
Just uninhabited by human beings, of course; but it seems to be the favourite place for almost 300.000 gannets.
Why these animals have chosen this place so avidly and eagerly, instead of just any other else, we will never get to know (I'm a cat, after all, so it's just difficult to get to feel empathy towards birds) - but one thing is for sure.
Gannets really have made a very good choice.

Turin's Cat Café - NOW we can meow about it!

Are you for second chances?
As for me, I always try not to deny them to anyone; but I must also confess that, in my personal experience, almost all the second chances I've decided to give have turned into a delusion. Not to mention third, fourth or ten-millionth ones - since I tend to be recidivous.
But each rule always has an exception, and, today, I've been really happy to have decided to give a second chance to Miagola, the first cat café set in Turin, opened 3 months ago in the pedestrian area of via Amendola.
If you've happened to read it, you will know that my very first review on this place hasn't been exactly positivee: I had written it in a very rainy April Saturday, when the Ginger Cat & me had been quite disappointed about our chaotic lunch had there, poisoned by a very strong disorganization and by noise and confusion that were drawing the cats away, making them stay hidden in their shelters and avoiding stepping outside among blatant adults and running kids.
I've been pondering for a while whether cancelling the forementioned article or not: I was sorry to leave some negative campaign for a place that, in the end, not only has been able to ransom itself, but that is also a very special spot, as we've found out today and as I'll tell you in a moment.
In the end I've decided to leave it, adding anyway a small disclaimer - in this way, if anybody might have had the same kind of not so positive experience with this place that we had (and, according to Tripadvisor, we have not been the only ones), can know that it's sometimes worth it giving a second chance.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Urquhart - because Scotland knows what ruins stand for!

I've always had a soft spot for ruins.
Well, actually it's more than a soft spot. They attract me like magnets, they bewitch me, they charme me.
I'm a black cat, after all, and I do have a gothic soul: decadence draws me away; it has the melancholic charme of what has been and no longer is, and that is therefore bared from all the mean things and the troubles of everyday, revealing its most intimate essence, that goes beyond any labels of good or evil, of positive or negative. Things' most intimate essence is their truth, and truth is not good nor bad, not pretty nor ugly: truth simply is true, is what we often don't want to see, but that, in the end, is what we are being left with.
And that's the way ruins are.
They've been rich and powerful, they have dominated the world of men or their spirituality - and now they are sitting in a corner, as lonesome as decayed nobleman, lost in contemplating with their misty sight what no longer belong to them.
But sadness of the decadence has also a sort of reflection in it, wounds that cripple their walls have an intense and rich history - and their essence gets being distilled in all of this: power's boasts no longer exist, they get milded by defeat, which makes them more noble, which gives back to us not a controversial symbol of domine anymore, but a trascendental story, made of both lights and shadows, of injustices and heroism, and that, because of this, it gets its own sort of beauty, it becomes worth of respect and it makes you willing to get to know it, and to write about it.

Monday, 9 June 2014

[My Top 10] Bergen: fjords, salmon and wooden houses

For as much as I might be into making Top 10 lists like the "High fidelity" protagonist, if somebody might ask me to do a Top 10 of my very favourite cities I would be in serious trouble.
Same thing would happen with an absolute Top 10 of my favourite books or movies.
It's just a too big and wide field, I prefer focusing on a niche.
But Bergen would surely enter quite many Top 10's.
It would feature in my Top 10 cities where I'd like to live. In my Top 10 places that can make you feel in another time. In the Top 10 cities which have positively surprised me the most.
And perhaps also in the absolute one, pretty much for sure.
I've been here in 2009, together with Ginger Cat, and we've spent 5 very pleasant days in this fjords capital, steep, wooden, silent but not gloomy, colorful but introvert, that smells of smoked salmon and that in just a couple of steps makes you dive into a wild and awesome nature.
So here is what I would recommend you to see, if you'd happen to pass from there...
But, actually, I'd say that the very first thing I'd recommend you would be not to "happen" to pass from there: plan & decide to go there, it's totally worth it!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Villaggio Leumann, a corner of Switzerland near Turin

If you happen to go along the infinite Corso Francia with its many streetlights, travelling from Rivoli towards Torino, you won't help but noticing it.
The small houses of the Villaggio Leumann village of Collegno are a mixture between a Swiss town and Art Nouveau, as if someone had shaken up and mixed elements from the two styles: if buildings could actually procreate and reproduce themselves, with a random chromosomical recombination, like it happens for living beings, the result would be like this.
There are some trellis houses, some flamboyant element, wooden fences that demilit small gardens in bloom and pedestrian cobbled alleys, which represent a remarkable contrast with the ten-floors buildings and the asphalt surrounding them.
It's a bit like seeing a cow in a cement jungle.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Bodnant Garden - how do you imagine Paradise?

There are places that give you the impression of having already seen them even before you have actually visited them.But this doesn't happen because you have seen them in some movies or in some déja vu - it simply happens because they are very similar to something your fantasy has created while you were daydreaming.
They are places that, as soon as you step there, make you open your mouth with marvel and make you say "Oh, so you exist for real, then!".
This has happened to me with Connemara, whose green and blue lands were looking incredibly like to the kind of landscapes that my mind used to create as a background when I was reading fantasy novels; and this has happened with Bodnant Garden as well, which is the garden of a villa around Conwy, in Northern Wales, that now is entirely open to the public.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Cologne - Gothic cathedrals and chocolate

Even if I had never been there, Cologne belongs to my childhood.
During those years Cologne was for me a snowglobe with the cathedral and several wooden toys coming from a shop that no longer exists.
Cologne has been one of the first and most frequent work travels of my dad - and, at 8, I used to kinda boast about it, about the fact that my father was going to Germany for work. It was something somehow special, even if then I was missing him.
And then I remember that, when he was coming back home after some days away, it was almost a kind of celebration; and I also remember the small plastic bags containing butter sandwiches and gummy bears that Lufthansa used to give to the travellers in the waiting room. The '80s used to be another era for airlines.
Since he's retired, almost 7 years ago, he's been kept on telling that he wanted to take us to see this Rheinan city that, to my mum & me, was almost like a sort of mythological tale - and to him some kind of travel along the memory lane.
So, last Sunday, for his 64th birthday, the promise has come true.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Conwy - the smallest house and a castle

Bus journey from Llandudno to Conwy is short, but the 20' route that connects the two towns is already a sort of small tasting of the best of Wales.
Meadows, gorses, sheeps, rocks, beaches, sea... and then, all of sudden, Conwy appears on the horizon: the small borough with its trellis houses perched on the bay, closed, almost hugged, by the imposing medieval walls which are still intact, and the castle on their side, dominating them, strong and reassuring, almost like a sort of father trying to shelter his beautiful daughter shielding them with his imposing figure.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Llandudno - 2 "L"s & 10 good reasons to visit it

It took me a while to decide which town to choose as a base for our exploration of Northern Wales.
Llandudno grabbed my attention because it is situated in a strategical position and because it was well connected with bus routes to the main places I wanted to visited.
Bill Bryson, in his "News from a small island" (an ironical and very pleasant chronicle of a journey through Great Britain, from Dover to the most extreme point of Scotland), defines it "soporific"; but, when on Lonely Planet insted I've read "Victorian seaside resort" and "tiny pastel colour houses", I've decided to give it a chance - after all I've already stumbled upon the fact that dear old Bill and me not always share the same point of view.
For example I team for Oxford and he for Cambridge - but we will talk about this another time.
Moreover, of Llandudno I fancied the name: with its initial double "L" was evoking Welsh-ness to the maximum degree - wild beaches, a lot of green and some legends about wizards and heroes.
I just had quite some doubts about how it should have been correctly pronounced - then I've asked to Ginger Cat, who has studied Gaelic, and who revealed me that it was simply to be pronounced the way we would have read it in Italian.
Well, simpler than I've thought.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Wales & stereotypes

When coming back from a trip it always takes a while to get readjusted to reality.
And when the trip happens to be in my most beloved country, it takes a double effort ;)

I've landed back in Turin on Monday evening, with a mix of emotions consisting of longing already the awesome places I've just left behind and of treasruing the beautiful memories collected there, willing to finally sit here and write about them, sharing with you my stories about the places we visited and the beauty we gathered.
Yesterday I've returned straight to work, and it has been a long and hectic day, catching up with all the tasks left behind and the new issues emerged during my absence. So when I finally got back home, I didn't really feel like turning on the pc - my headache was begging for mercy...
But tonight here I am.
I've just booked the flights for two more upcoming trips in July and August - this year there is definitely a lot going on; so now it's high time to start catching up with my Welsh adventures :)

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tell me why I don't like Mondays... if this does count

It's been a while I wanted to start a new serie of posts called "Tell me why I like Mondays" or something like that, since in the past 2 months I've been collecting some interesting material about how blissful a Monday can be in spite of its bad fame; but then I've realized it would have actually been a sort of bummer.
I'll explain you.
I guess that 99% of workers who spend 8 hours a day / 5 days a week in an office might suffer from the so called Monday Syndrome.
I actually also know someone who suffers from a Friday Syndrome, because he kinda freaks out at the idea of leaving his office life - but now I don't mean to do shallow psychological interpretations nor be judgemental about the proportion of satisfaction that his private life might have compared to the professional one.
Let's talk about me, and I surely belong to the 99% suffering from the Monday Sydrome, starting feeling gloomy already on Sunday night, willing to smash the alarm against the wall as soon as it rings (if only it wasn't a 400 € smartphone), and feeling like being at the dentist's as soon as I step inside the linoleum hall of my office.
I actually once felt relieved at the idea of having to go to the dentist, because it meant being able to go out from work earlier. See how wrecked I am??
Well, but since a couple of months my Monday Syndrome no longer exists.
I know that now you might with eyes wide open and you're about to beg me to tell you the magical recipe I've found to longer suffer from it; but, well, the point actually is that my counterpoison is not really a medecine: it's a sort of surgery, which has cut out the trouble at its roots.
That is, since March I've only been having just a working Monday.
So do you understand the logical contraddiction behind it?
I cannot boast for having found the cure to my allergy while I've actually simply kept myself away from the allergen.

But I wanted to share with you anyway the (ri)discoveries made during these Mondays of freedom; so, avoiding to proclaim obvious healings for the Monday Syndrome, I'm just inviting you to follow me during these strolls along an alternative Turin, half-desertic and charming.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Turin's Cat Café - please come back when you'll be ready...

It's been since a few months that I was reading on Facebook the piece of news concerning the opening of a Cat Café in Turin, and this had made me grow lots of expectations.
For those who don't know it yet, a cat café is, like the word itself may suggest, a café where there are cats as well, who offer their pleasant company while you are having something there (or better... maybe having something there becomes a sort of excuse for enjoying the cats' company) and who can also be caressed and cuddled - just if they want, of course.
It's a kind of format born in the Far East (Japan and Korea) and that, little by little, has started diffusing in Europe as well, and now also in the US.
I was a bit skeptical about the fact that it could arrive in Italy too, if nothing for the fact that here public exercises must undergo through very anal hygiene rules; but, actually, if there could be a city that could have worked as a candidate for starting this kind of business on Italian territory - no one could have been better than Turin, with its Middle European appeal and its tendency of becoming a cradle for new things.
I've got to know that the first Turin's cat café opened while I was in Paris - experimenting something similar for the first time, by the way.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Liebster Award - 10 questions to me & 10 to you!

Souvenir of a Black Cat has been nominated for the Liebster Award and I'm very happy about this :)
It's not a real "award", but it's more like a chance to get to know new emerging blogs.
It's like a sort of virtual chain which consists of answering to the 10 questions made from who nominates you and nominated yourself 10 other bloggers asking them 10 new questions.

Sara from Vagabondamente is the one who has nominated me, and I thank her so much, because I truly enjoy this sort of stuff.
And here are my answers to her questions... 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

[Down the memory lane] - Easter where you want

In Italy we say "Christmas with family, Easter with whomever you want".
But my personal interpretation of this has always been more like "Easter WHEREVER you want".
I'm a wandering soul and I'd always be willing to pack, not caring about the weather or the seasons; but, since I'm also a cat, I have to confess that extreme cold makes me a bit lazy and more prone for mental trips, made in the warmth of my living room, acrosso the pages of a good a book or through the swirls of a daydream.
So - Easter is somehow my turning point when, thanks to the first holidays batch of the new year and the crispy Spring air that makes you eager of new things and exporations, I usually unlock my suitcase for the first time in the year.
This one is actually a particular year: I've already done the first trip, and the Easter holiday is postponed of one week, with next Sunday's departure for Wales; therefore this Easter is for me an homely one, and, after having stuffed myself with chocolate, now I can dedicate myself to leaf through some memories of my previous Easters, spent travelling...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Whitby - If I were a vampire I would choose you as well...

Spring is my favorite season.
It's not just a matter of colors or temperatures, it's the air that you breathe that I like: it is an air that smells of rebirth, of hope, that makes you want to start something new, to discover something that you have never considered before.
And, consequently, to travel.
But the air spring is also a sort of curse to me, since I'm allergic to some yet to be identified pollen, that transforms me in a sort of feline version of Sneezy from the Seven Dwarves, anytime I dare to breathe them with my nostrils.
Now I don't mean to quibble about how each rose must have its thorn - I'll rather make an apparently nonsense connection and tell you about the most beautiful place where I've ever have an allergy attack; that is Whitby , a small gothic pearl, beautifully gloomy, perched along the coast of Yorkshire.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Cat Band in Genoa

"Lucky you are, you are always on the road!" - has been the comment of some colleagues when I told them that on Saturday I would have gone to Genoa.
I smiled, and I thought that, actually, I go to Genoa so aften that I almost don't even consider it a real "travel" when I go there.
My friendship with Ginger Cat has been lasting, with solidity and importance, for 6 years, and we always try to meet at least once a month, alternating with some reciprocal visits.
I know the route of the railway line through Asti and Alessandria and then crosses the Alpes-Maritimes very well; as well as some corners, some libraries and some restaurants in the ducal city.
But the fact that I do not consider it a "real" trip does not mean that I do not consider Genoa as a worthy destination.
Indeed, it has been so long since I have been considering writing a post on the subject ; and I decided to draw inspiration from the trip of last Saturday when this time my visit there has been joined by Tabby Cat, Siamese Cat and Cat Gothic, bringing the feline company (almost) in full force.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Percé rocks!!

Percé is a small village overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the region of Gaspesie, Quebec.
St. Lawrence feels like the sea, but it is not : I was about to describe Percé as a "seaside resort", because this is actually the kind of impression one gets at first, with the mirror of water looking infinite in front of you, the seagulls fishing for crabs, and lobsters as the main local specialty; but the St. Lawrence is actually a river.
Percé is a pretty little place, a holiday place that has a bit of old England taste (despite being in the French-speaking part of Canada), with colorful wooden houses, a creaky bridge that takes you along the shore, a few souvenir shop with a sort of modern kitsch taste, and some friendly small restaurants specialized in poutine .

Monday, 31 March 2014

Paris - Day 3 ... relaxing with cats and flowers

Remember how I told you yesterday that I should start to take some lessons on how to learn to slow down a bit my crazy march of the beauty of Paris, as the fatigue was beginning to take its toll?
Well, now I would have liked to write something type "Nah, after a night of restful sleep and I am totally reborn and ready to go for a new marathon walking till Versailles!" ... but of course it is not exactly what happened.
Let's say that today my "slowdown" lesson was a must, because I was definitely knackered and sore in almost any part of the body.
So the theme of today's post will be "How to enjoy a day of complete relaxation in Paris" ;-)

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Montmartre et le Chat Noir

Montmartre doesn't belong to the metropolis, Montmartre stays on its hill and overlooks the city from above with that slight sense of superiority that, more or less, all the artists have.
Montmartre isolates itself because it already is out of time, as anyway art has to be, and it dresses up with streetlamps, cobble-stoned alleys and pastel colors houses.
Montmartre is a bohémien artist, he hangs around with an old coat and contemplates with melancholy the skyline with a cigarette sliding from his lips.
Montmartre makes your soul dance with the sound of an accordion, paints a scene on your heart, makes you feel a bit like a Poète Maudit, seeking for something you will never find, and a bit like Amelie Poulain, trying to grab with your wide eyes and your shy smile all the beauty surrounding you.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Paris - Day 2 ... and its positive sides

Well, with the previous post, in fact I have been a little too whiny.
My second day in Paris was actually anything but negative, so, to do a sort of counterpart to the previous complaints, I guess I should now proceed with the positive aspects.

[*] Not all Parisians are necessarly snobbish 
First thing, as a sort of counterbalance to the annoying guys of Montmartre with their bracelets, I want to tell about a random act of kindness by a stranger, who, seeing me being a bit lost looking at the map at the exit of the Metro, has asked me if I needed directions.
And it's actually the second time that something like this happens to me, and by the way alway in Paris.
So here is my official disclaim against the stereotype of (almost) all the Parisians being stuck up!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Paris - Day 2 ... the whines of a Grumpy Cat

Might it be that being tired makes me whiny like a baby who needs to sleep - and I confess that, maybe age is beginning to overwhelm me, but after exploring a large slice of Paris relying solely on the energy of my feet, I  DO feel very tired ...
In any case, I decided to spend the day today to talk a bit about some negative sides this time.
Yeah, I know that I had made ​​a boy (girl? cat?) scout promise to to force myself to focus always primarily on the positive ones, and actually to always go pick them, to look proactively for them. I think I almost always succeed doing it, and believe me, it was not easy to discipline and self-form me in this, since I am not born nor I have been educated to do so.
Well, but now my digression sounds a bit too much mélo: after all the negative sides of a vacation in Paris cannot be so dark and hard to bear!
Anyway I think that a little bit of healthy criticism every now and then can be just as useful as enumerating what is beautiful and pleasant.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Paris - Day one... with 10 things that have made it special

If three is the magic number, then four surely has something special too about it, because I guess I can say that my 4th time in Paris has been the one I've enjoyed the most.
And the first day has been the most enthusiastic one.
I had almost had forgotten how beautiful this city is - kinda put it aside in some boxes in my memory. Ok, it hasn't stolen my heart like London has, but still it makes it beat - quite fast in some enchanting corners.
It's both royal and cosy, and I don't know how it does such a trick. Well, I should, perhaps - as anyway it is something that all the cats are very good at doing, at being both majestic and cute. So - do I have to say that? If a cat was a city, then it would probably be Paris.
I guess that's why I've always considered it a bit foregone, kinda taken for granted? Or, well, I guess it's also because it somehow looks similar to Turin. That's a similarity it strikes me more and more every time - and earlier today I was flipping through my pictures on my phone being a bit absent-minded and for a second I hadn't realized I had finished Paris photos and I was actually looking at Turin's ones.
But ok, that's the similarity between two cousins, of which Paris is the filthy rich, unfairly stunning one - while Turin is a pretty girl, but she has to work in a factory for a living, and she has calluses on her hands. Yet, when I go to Paris I'm just not able to get surprised, as I notice the familiar features, something vaguely recognizable, if not totally similar.
Still, I've always made efforts in order to notice beauty in the everyday, and since I've become a blogger I've refined this skill to the top - so this time I've got totally striked by how much familiarity can be stunning as well.
Paris is made of gold and stone, of gothic and liberty, and all its facets - the romantic one, the posh one, the elegant, the cosy, the dark... just melt into an unique mixture.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Hello St. Paddy, I'm the Lucky Black Bog Cat!

Happy St Patrick's Day everyone!!
No, we don't celebrate it in Italy: I guess they do something in some random pub, but that's nothing like "real" celebrations. I usually wear green on this day, but, since it's something I like doing on a regular basis, I guess nobody really notices that it's made on purpose.
Then, here, March 17th (besides being my best friend's birthday) should be the birthday of our country as a nation, since Italy got unified on this day in 1861 - but nobody cares about this either.
But - well, since I usually like boasting around telling that I have Celtic blood in my veins (I have no evidence of that, besides my pale skin, my green eyes and the way my heart skips a beat whenever I reach what I call my homeland - but who needs scientific proofs after all?), and since Irishs have a legend about a big black cat wandering around their bogland who is supposed to bring a very big amount of luck to whomever meets him (and living in a country where black cats are ignorantly considered as a symbol of bad luck, I can't help but being grateful about it); here I go, following the flow and doing what every single travel blogger on the planet is doing today - an Ireland related post!!
I guess this should have been part of the "Down the Memory Lane" section, since it's been since 2005 already that my paws don't step over the Emerald Island's soil (OMG); but to me it still feels like yesterday, so here we go with some random impressions and memories about some of the places that I've liked the most.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Down the memory lane - Le chat noir à Paris

In exactly one week my paws will be wandering in Paris - a city where black cats do have quite a reputation.
Even if it will be my 4th time, I am already utterly excited, just as if it was my first one - because it will be my first time with the eyes of a blogger.
I have already set my itinerary and have plenty of ideas, but I guess it will be more interesting to share them real time!
Today, as it seems that it's in the nature of a black cat to be a bit nostalgic, I'm going to share with you some of my memories about my previous visits to the Ville Lumiére - just some bits & crumbles, more connected to an emotional point of view rather than a touristic one.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Salem - as I am a black cat, after all...

Salem is a pretty and cosy city.
It has beautiful Georgian wooden houses, pebbled alleys and a fané allure that makes it feel as it's been preserved since the Pilgrims times.
So it could be actually a quite well known touristic spot even just for this, for being almost a sort of open-air museum of the American colonies of the 17th century, but without any kind of stiff or fake impression.
And it could have belonged anyway to history for its sea commerce with the Far East.
There are still plenty of evidences around about this: the vessel Friendship moored at the harbour, for example, or the Peabody Essex Museum that hosts art works, crafts and peculiar stuff collected by the local traders during their voyages in those lands.

Peabody Essex, Salem
Meet mr Peabody Essex!!

Or it could be famous just for having given birth to the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, and attract people just to witness that the House of the Seven Gables described in one of his novels actually exists, and that it reflects indeed the gloomy puritan atmosphere by which the society of those times was haunted...
But the real reason for which it is world-wide famous, for which Stephen King has decided to dedicate to it one of his most famous novels, for which quite some movies and TV series have been set here - and for which, I admit, Tabby Cat & me had decided to inclued it as a "must" visit during our last summer's trip along the East Coast, is quite another.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Chester - A coffer of Medieval treasures

I've started studying English at school at the age of 11, like almost everyone of my generation in Italy.
English immediately became my very fave subject, also because I was learning it with pleasure, without doing much effort.
I surely had a very good teacher, but I guess my most vivid memory about those lessons was the book she had chosen for us pupils. The book was called "Dear Penfriend" and was based on the formula of presenting English habits and places through letters of imaginary girls and boys: each chapter started with a short letter of presentation by someone, and then the place where this imaginary teenager was living was being presented, together with some costumes & traditions hints.
I truly loved that book. Besides the interesting contents, it was also very colorful and catching, and I used to read it over and over again - not only when I had to study stuff from it, but just because. I was keeping on daydreaming all the time about visiting those places one day...
I actually blame that book for two of the biggest passions in my life nowadays: penpalling & UK.

Chester was one of the places presented in that book.
I was finding it so charming from the pictures displayed on the pages, with its medioeval appeal and the trallis buildings. Maybe I should blame the book also for my soft spots about these two aspects!

Monday, 3 March 2014

What do you travel for?

We travel not to escape life

I once read on the Facebook page of a friend something saying, more or less, "Instead pf dreaming about your next vacation, start building a life you don't want to escape from".
Although this thing totally makes sense, in a way, and although I cannot deny I've been welcoming my travels even more than usual in certain peculiar periods of my life when I *just* needed to run away from everything for a while - I just cannot agree with this saying.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Brittany: my Top 10 dreamland places

I've always felt a strong, compelling attraction for the Celtic world.
Always, like since forever, because I had found out later that my favourite fairytales as a kid, the ones I wanted to read or hear over and over, because I loved so much what they were making me daydream of, were actually derived from Celtic folklore and legends.
Like every strong and genuine passion, I am not able to explain rationally what exactly is that I like so much about it. I mean, of course I could recount a pretty long list of charachteristics of the Celtic culture and civilization that I find appealing - like their love and respect for nature, their communion with it, or the fact that they use to give a same and equal importance to the masculine and feminine principles - but, all in all, the biggest and sheerer reason for my attraction is quite obvious and simple.
I feel dragged to it. I feel I belong to this culture, to this world: I mirror myself, my inner soul there, and, during the years, I've found some important answers.
When I was younger I was even totally and genuinely convinced that I must have been a Celt in one of my previous lives. Nowadays I no longer ask myself this kind of questions; but still I reckon the strong feeling of homecoming whenever I visit any of the areas where the Celtic tribes used to settle.

Among the Celtic homelands that I've seen, Brittany is the one where I've felt the strongest sense of arcane, of something primordial - a sort of magic that is wild and very powerful.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Tadoussac: where whales enjoy to be watched

Tadoussac is a small village in Québec at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers.
It looks just like a bunch of colorful wooden houses thrown along the Saguenay fjord, but it actually holds the record of the oldest European settlement in Canada.
And, besides this, it holds at least a couple of surprises.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Down from the Rabbit's hole in Valentino Park

I wasn't planning to visit this place yesterday.
And actually I wasn't even planning to write a post about it.
But sometimes unplanned things turn out to be beautiful surprises: just like Alice, you get curious and follow the Rabbit down in the hole, finding out a new realm of wonderland... even when the "wonderland" is actually a place you know already pretty well.
But sometimes there are days, special days, when you simply get able to see things with new eyes, under a new light, with their beauty suddenly exploding, like a firework that turns the everyday sky into a feast.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Cinema Museum in Turin - a Mole full of dreams

Mole Antonelliana is a peculiar building.
It makes Turin's skyline pretty unique, and, when you see it for the first time, it makes you wonder what the heck it is.
It should have been a Jewish synagogue, but, for its shape and its mass, it doesn't really look like a synagogue.
Well, it doesn't actually look like any other kind of building in the world.
Alessandro Antonelli, the architect who designed it, was a sort of crazy genius, and it would have been really interesting to take a peek in his head and find out what he was wondering about when he conceived his masterpiece.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Central Park - 10 things we saw and one we missed...

Going to Central Park is not simply like walking through a city park.
It's actually more like stepping into some kind of parallel world: one moment you are in middle of Manhattan's skyscrapers and traffic, and the moment after you are surrounded by this green little big universe with its own soul and personality.
It is indeed the green lung of NYC, because it's so big that it could surely work fine even for such a huge metropolis like the Big Apple - and it surely provides also a metaphorical chance to breathe, to take a break from the syncopate rhytms that rule outside of it.
It's like an oasis. And I know this is something that could be said for almost every city park in the world, but here this contrast is even more sharp and evident.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Torino and its Magic - Some hints about the mysteries of a mysterious city

Torino is defined to be a magical city.
There are tons of books and even tours about this aspect, and there are plenty of legends and credences that justify such definition.
But is it magical just because it is charming and bewitching, with an arcane and suggestive halo which can become very attractive for some, or because it actually hides secrets from occult science, both from white and black magic?
I'm not going to answer to this question, simply because I haven't found an answer myself yet: I am a totally rational and concrete person, but still I admit I get charmed by such topics. Like, I don't believe it, but it would be bewtiching to - somehow as when, during your childhood, you have already found out Santa Claus doesn't exsist, but a tiny part of you still hopes it's not your parents that bring the presents under the tree.
So - here is an overview of some of the legends, the myths and the facts that have contributed to create Turin's magical halo. Then feel free to make your choice - whether to believe them or not.
After all it wouldn't be wrong to state that magic is just in the eye of the beholder: if you believe it, it does exsist; if you'll look for it, you will find it; prodiges do not show up to everyone, but only to those who will follow an effort, a path to look for them. And this surely applies to Turin's magic - both the esotheric one, and the one related to the sheer charme of its discrete and regal beauty...

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Black Cat & the City

Have you ever fallen in love with someone completely different from you? With someone so different that, before getting to know him for real, you'd always thought you would have hated him?
I have, and it's happened at first sight.
I'm talking about New York City, also known as THE City - which I've always thought it was somehow snooty and stilted, but now I do get it.
New York is "the" City for antonomasia because it has the quintessential charisma of urbanity. Sure, it is big and it is loud but it does it with a style: that's not chaos, that's dynamicity and it actually melts in harmony as a feature of a city that is the center of the world, that neverendingly creates and is on the moving.
I've never thought I could have been a NYC girl: I'm all for cosy atmospheres, Old Europe, silence and quiet, places that makes you feel like you are stepping back in time, and I thought that the Big Apple, so modern, so rampant couldn't really be my cup of tea.
Still I thought it was a "must" to visit it for once in a lifetime, so I was curious to see it.
And I'd say it's been the biggest positive surprise in my life as a traveller so far.
That's why, basically, I sometimes end up choosing to visit places that don't really appeal me at first: I like giving myself the chance to get surprised, and I like getting confronted with something quite different from my usual destinations, because it might help to reveal some new parts of myself.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

[My Top 10] - Boston, the (new) England [part 2]

 [read here Part 1!!]
My love for Boston couldn't be squeezed in just one post!
So read here the rest of my 10 reasons why I've enjoyed this city so much.

[6] Hiring a car and wandering along Cape Cod peninsula
Oh, well...
Actually I'd love to have plenty to write about this point!
Cape Cod is a beautiful region and it combines all my favourite ingredients: wild beaches, open ocean, lighthouses...

Cape Cod

But unfortunately the day we had chosen to hire a car to explore this amazing peninsula has been doomed by an everlasting rain - so we could enjoy just the half of the beauty of the region, just by seeing it through our car's windows, and not by living it fully.
But alas, what we saw has been gorgeous anyway, so I truly recommend everyone to do the same - hoping that you'll be luckier that we've been!

[My Top 10] - Boston, the (new) England [part 1]

Boston has basically been my first approach with the Usa (if we do not count my layover in Newark airport when flying back from Canadat), and I think that for an European it actually represents the ideal place from where starting to explore the States, as it brings along a sort of cultural (and visual) mediation between the Old and New Continent.
Boston is the oldest American city and it still keeps a strong connection with its roots, a very marked British appeal.
So how could I not fall in love with it? ;)
What has mostly impressed me has been that, for being a big and important American city, it is incredibly cosy and quiet. Maybe it's because the most distinctive aspect of Boston is not connected with productive activities or with power & money, but basically with culture and knowledge: its universities, its important history...
I like this, and it definitely makes Boston a city where I'd enjoy living - and here follow 10 reasons why I would...

[1] Beacon Hill
This quarter is a small, charming and cosy jewel.

boston beacon hill

It's one of the areas where you definitely can sense the most of the British roots of Boston. Its Victorian houses, its elegance, the old streetlamps and the pebble-paved alleys... all is SO Brit here, and basically you can tell you are in the Usa instead because everything is just bigger ;)

Boston Beacon Hill

Or because in one of these alleys you can find a stars & stripes flag and a parked pick-up truck!

boston beacon hill
Pic taken by Tabby Cat
Beacon Hill is made of a lower part, which is flat and mainly hosts lovely antiques & craftmen shops plus restaurants/cafés; and of an upper part, which is just residential and goes steep - that's on the hill from which it gets its name.
It's enjoyable to wander and get lost in both of them, as you can either end up buying something pretty or daydreaming about your ideal home :)

[2] Common Park & Public Garden
The Common has been the first thing I've seen of Boston, as it was close to our hotel - and it's been pretty strategical as it's also the point where the Freedom Trail starts (see next), so I would recommend everyone to begin visiting the city from here.

boston common park

It's the oldest public park of Boston and it's a very nice place where having a relaxing stroll.

Boston Common Park

It was so funny to see children (and some adults as well) splashing in the Frog Pond - which is a large and shallow pool, that during winter becomes an ice-skating ring and during summer... a refreshing shelter!

Boston Common Park

Boston Common Park

Parallel to the Common Park there is the Public Garden: they are basically simmetric and just divided by Charles Street - and actually at first I had thought it was all the same place.

Boston Public Garden

And perhaps I'd say it's like they are two different sides of a same thing, like the masculine VS feminine part of a whole: the Common is male, dedicated to physical activities and dotted with war memorials; while the Garden is definitely female, with its artsy botanical beauties and the Swan Boats sliding over the lake.

Boston Public Garden

Plus it's mostly loved by children, exp. for the cute sculpture Make Way for the Ducklings, which portraits the feathered charachters of a childhood book by R. Mc Closkey.
These ducklings are SO loved by children that it's basically impossible to take a picture of them without a storm of kids hanging all over...
Except if you are together with my friend Siamese Cat, who, being a teacher, has been able to make them respect discipline for the 5'' we needed to snap the picture ;)

Boston Public Garden - Make Way for the Ducklings

 [3] Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a 4 kms long path of red bricks, starting from the Boston Common and arriving till Bunker Hill Monument and leading you to the discovery of the history of American Revolution through the salient places that have witnessed it.

Boston Freedom Trail

It's like walking through one of those chronological lines you find on history books, but, instead of just reading a meaningless list of events, here you can have a visual evidence of the most relevant facts, may it be through monuments, places or museums.

Boston Freedom Trail

The path it's easy to be followed by yourself, which is what we've done, and that's the best option if you prefer to take your time for a deeper look to what you'll find most interesting. But if you prefer having someone who can help you getting more knowledge about the historical facts that this trail has witnessed, there are lots of guided visits available.

Boston, Freedom Trail

Things you can do along the Freedom Trail and history behind them do deserve longer details - so stay tuned as more will follow!

[4] Harvard
As I've said above, the greates richness of Boston is knowledge - and Harvard University surely is one of the universal symbols of it.
The first place you meet when you get off the metro is Harvard Square, which is the place that mostly can give a dip in a Brit atmosphere: the streetlamps, the hanging flowers, the red bricks... and, all in all, the feeling.

Harvard Square, Boston

 It's a colorful jigsaw of little shops, cafés and bookstores, and it really is the heart of Harvard - the point from where you can start your exploration.
From here you can enter the University ensemble, sneaking through the iron gates that lead to the campus.
And, wow, you really feel like you are stepping inside a legendary place!
Well, Harvard is legendary: if not the most prestigious, it surely is the oldest university in the Usa, and walking along its yard really makes you feel surrounded by a mythical halo.


 In the Johnston Gate you can find the two academic buildings, the Massachusetts Hall and the Harvard Hall: they are massive and they do look like two temples, which after all is what they are - temples of knowledge, and (hopefully) also of wisdom.


It's been so nice to relax in the green and neat courtyard, pretending for some minutes to be a student. 
Tradition says that touching the show of mr Harvard's statue will bring you a fast and lucky graduation - pity that I'm already done with my studies!

Harvard, the lucky shoe

But this tradition is actually peculiar, because the sign on the statue hides three lies:
1) John Harvard was not the founder of the University, he was just a benefactor;
2) The University was actually founded two years later than what the sign claims;
3) We are not even sure that the guy portraited IS mr Harvard!!

Harvard, the three lies statue

[5] 75 Chestnut
This cosy restaurant is situated in one of the alleys of Beacon Hill and it indeed suits the surroundings, as it totally has the kind of shabby-chic elegance which I find so warm and welcoming; but it truly deserves a mention apart because here we had one of the best meals of the trip.

Chestnut Road, Beacon Hill, Boston

Wine was tasty, place was pretty, food delicious and the waiter hot - what more can you ask for?? ;)
I had a tower of starters, which was actually a complete meal, as it consisted of three dishes with big portions in.

75 Chestnut, Beacon Hill, Boston

 There were crisp fried calamari, roasted garlic bread and eggplant ravioli.
Everything was superb, but my heart cried when my stomach didn't have anymore room for the marvellous raspberry & white choc cheesecake I chose for dessert.

Cheesecake - 75 Chestnut, Beacon Hill, Boston
Such a pity, it was one of the best cheesecakes I've ever tasted!
Well, yet another good reason to come back :)

[part 2 is here!!!]

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Arran - a.k.a. Scotland in miniature

When Ginger Cat & me were planning our trip to Scotland in summer 2011, my main wish was to include in the itinerary at least one island, because I stil haven't visited any, not even the Island of Skye.
I was actually thinking of the Hebrides, but when Ginger came up with the unusual idea of going to this almost unknown Isle of Arran I've immediately got enthralled by the idea.
Mostly because, in fact, it is unknown - I have to admit it: I've always had a soft spot for the underdogs, more or less in any fields, and I'm all for discovering small hidden treasures far away from the main path. Moreover, we were doing our trip in August, and in August choosing less touristic places can actually make a difference with being able to enjoy your destination to the fullest, instead of just fighting in the crowd to do and see things.
And indeed, it's really been a little jem this one we've discovered.
I'd say the 3 days spent on Arran have probably been the past part of the trip - altough it's been a very interesting trip with so many other memorable destinations.
This place includes all the sort of natural environment which I find most beautiful and which fulfills my heart with peace and serenity: wild rough beaches, enchanting woods, moorlands, cliffs - my soul just fits this kind of landscape, it makes it vibrate, both with emotions and peace, like a sort of homecoming.
I'm glad we chose this place.
When telling about it, most of people was mistaking it for the more popular Aran Islands in Ireland - but no, this ARRAN, with double "R" and it's in Scotland, more precisely in the Firth of Clyde. Not too far away from my original plan concerning Hebrides, actually, and it's even quite similar, both physycally and culturally, to them - but they are separated from a peninsula, so it doesn't count as one of them.
It also has a different ethimology from its Irish almost homonymous: Aran means "kidney", as that's the shape they have; while Arran is probably a Brythonic derivation which means "high place" (the Goat Fell hill overcomes the 800 mt - which is a pretty considerable high for the Scottish standards).
As for its shape, the isle is actually nicknamed Sleeping Warrior - as its coast seen from the mainland actually looks like a sleeping human figure, and I find this so charming. I wonder if there are any legends concerning this sleeping warrior transformed into an island - and if there are not any, maybe I should try to invent one :D

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

10 things I've loved about Copenaghen

I've been in Copenaghen at the end of October last year: the air was chilly, obviously chillier than what it was in Italy - but it was still possible to enjoy staying out, not only strolling but even sitting on the bench for a while, with the proper equipment in term of warm clothes and with some sun shining.
I've like the city. It didn't beat Stockholm in my personal classification of the Nordic capitals, but it's an honourable second place, very close to the first one. And, while they have similarities in architecture and structure, Copenaghen assumes a very different declination from the Swedish capital - just like two cooks preparing the same recipes with (almost) the same ingredients, but adding a very relevant touch of their own personalities that make the final result undeniably different.
When you walk around Copenaghen, you just can't help thinking about Hamlet: there is something intense and tragic in this city, but I mean it in a positive, emotional way. Just like a very quiet and silent surface that hides strong and wild emotions.
You are compelled to seek these emotions, to explore hidden corners, to slip into courtyards, to follow secondary alleys. It's less tidy than its Swedish cousin - the surface lets shine through some hints of the turmoil: architecture has some extra curvy lines, here and there appear some strong colours.
Maybe, just like Hamlet, also Copenaghen questions itself about being or not being: but the contrast between the neat Scandinavian appearance and the more flamboyant flashes doesn't provide indecision, but a richer, variegated personality.
And now let me tell you which ones of these facets I've enjoyed the most...

Thursday, 16 January 2014

5 British Cities I've left my heart in

British cities are British.
May them be modern and industrial, or old and cosy; may they have the charming gloom of the North or the friendly brightness of the South - they can only be in England and nowhere else.
Like the members of a large, aristocrat family, they all differ from one another but yet they have some traits in common - that little undefinable "something", that sort of air which tells you they all belong to the same roots.
Maybe it's the pebbles alleys, the towerbells with the pinnacles, the trellis wooden houses, the red phonebooths, the old fashioned signs of the pubs or the smell of fish & chips in the air - or maybe, better, it's a combination of all these small things. Just like a chemistry law, the result is something more than what we might expect from summing up all the single components - that's Britishness and that's what I love: it's the common trait you can find from Cornwall to Yorkshire, and that's the one thing I mostly enjoy of this country.
Its way of being, simply.
London is out of this list because it would have been a rather obvious choice and a way too easy winner. I wanted to focus on other places this time, so sit down with your cup of tea and come explore a piece of England with me!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Turin & the Tabby Cat

Sometimes you can travel without even leaving your hometown.
That usually happens when a friend comes to visit you: the first exciting part is choosing the itinerary to show her/him, in order to include all your favourite places - those that are meaningful to you, those that you find prettiest, but also those that you think she might particularly enjoy. And this part already requires an exercize of seeing your city with another kind of glimpse from the one you can have everyday, because you have to think about what is beautiful about it, what is valuable, what is special.
But then it's when you actually put in practice this plan, and start exploring your surroundings with your friend that the adventure really begins - because you start seeing everything with new eyes, with the eyes of someone that doesn't see your city daily, that maybe even sees it for the first time, and then it can happen: you will be able to discover things you had never found out before, and, what's perhaps even more interesting, giving a different shade to the things you usually do.

So - these are the new things I've done and seen (or maybe just put under a brighter light) during this weekend's visit of my friend Tabby Cat...

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

10 Museums in Turin you shouldn't miss out

What's the best way to spend a rainy and cold morning when your heating is not even working properly?
Going to visit some museums, of course, exp. one that has recently opened (in 2009) and that I've always been rather curious about.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

10 ways London has managed to surprise me

Cities are like people.
When they have well defined personalities and lots of interests going on, they will always hang you up in interesting conversations, no matter how often you meet them.
Then, with cities this gets on an even bigger scale, since anyway their lives are much longer than those of humans, and they are way much more multitasking - with a lot of activities and events going on in every single corner of them, with millions of single minds thinking ideas, millions of hands making them real and millions of single lives summing up and giving breath to the soul of the city.
And London definitely belongs to this category.
We meet almost every year, since our first rendez-vous in 1998, and, although there are some good oldies of it that, just like favourite subjects in a conversation, I never manage to miss, every single time I've been there I've managed to discover something new - a different side of its personality, a place, an experience.
Something that makes me definitely agree with Samuel Johnson when he was claiming "A man who is tired of London is tired of life".

Saturday, 4 January 2014

2013: a year of travel achievements

2013 is over since a few days.
It's been one difficult but important year, made of lessons and achievements, of some gloomy moments but also of creativity and some great fun.
And anyway it's made me decide to open this blog :)
So - because of this reason, and because most of the positive parts it's given me have been achieved during/because of trips, I've thought it would have been decide to commemorate such achievement with a post :)

In this year I've managed to...

10 reasons to love Turin (part 2)

[--> read here the first part]

[6] If you love food...
Local traditional cuisine is rich and energetic, mainly based on meat and ideal to be enjoyed during coldest months.
Roast meats, such as Brasato al Barolo (cooked with the local delicious Barolo red wine), or boiled ones (Bollito misto, which includes many different boiled meats served with different sauces) are probably the most famous traditional dishes.
But there are also some seasoned and strong-flavoured cheeses, such as Castelmagno, Raschera and Toma.
And another famous main course is Fritto misto, which includes many different fried foods, like steaks, veggies, cookies, snails and offals.
But since we are in Italy after all, the tradition also includes some pasta dishes, such as agnolotti, pasta stuffed with meat that is usually served with butter and sage, or tajarin, a tiny version of tagliatelle.
Traditional starters include Vitello Tonnato (veal with tuna + mayo sauce), Acciughe al Verde (anchovies with parsley and garlic) and Tomini al Verde/Elettrici (fresh goat cheese topped with parsley+anchovies or spicy peppers sauce).
But if you are brave enough and don't have many problems about garlic, don't miss the most peculiar of the Piedmontese traditional dishes: Bagna Cauda, a deadly but delicious hot sauce made with garlic (LOTS of it), cream and anchovies and served with raw and boiled veggies.
Among my favourite places where to taste these traditional dishes there are the Tre Galline restaurant (via Bellezia, Quadrilatero area) and the Antiche Sere Osteria.

Friday, 3 January 2014

10 reasons to love Turin (part 1)

I love Turin.
Might sound easy, since it's my hometown, but it hasn't really something to do with that: I mean, it's not much that I'm born here, but it's more like I couldn't have been born anywhere else. No, not even UK. I would want to be born in UK - but I am born in Turin, and I belong to it.
And Turin is like a cat.
It's elegant, in a natural way that might look sober for most of the time, but that can surprise you with sudden swirls and sparkles that have their own amazing harmony and grace.
It's indipendent: it doesn't really look like the typical Italian city, it has a sort of more Mid-European allure, with maybe a tiny bit of Britishness. It's out of any cliché and has its own personality - like it or not. It's Italian when it likes to be Italian, French when it likes to be French; it struggles between being cosmopolitan and staying pent-up in its withdrawal between the Alps - but you can tell it's just 100% Turin all the time.
Like a cat, it doesn't always reveal its best side to anyone: it can scratch or it can purr - depends on its mood and how much you click with it. But for those who know how to take it and that can guess the right way to caress it, the effort is totally worth it.
Don't worry, anyway: it's getting a more and more friendly and sociable cat within the latest years, and expecially since the Winter Olympic Games of 2006 when it finally decided to reveal itself to the world, wearing its best dress.
Turin wasn't much considered from tourism before 2006 - basically because tourism wasn't considered by Turin, then. But then one day it woke up and got tired to be considered an Ugly Duckling while instead it was a swan: Lonely Planet writes that "It's the most beautiful among the less known Italian cities - or, if you prefer, the less known of the most beautiful Italian cities" - and I find it a very fitting definition.