Psst! (Moving On)

This turtle’s travels will soon be coming to a halt, give or take a couple more posts.

For current musings and activity, head over to Salon du Thé.

Taxi! Smettere di essere uno strano uovo e concentrarsi sulla strada!* (Napoli, 23-27 April 2009)

Bustling, chaotic, anarchic Naples.  Jewel of Italy’s south.  Birthplace of at least three popes and a couple of kings and queens.  Sacked and invaded by the Goths, Byzantines, Normans and other long-forgotten races in times immemorial since its founding during the 8th century BC.  Glorious, romantic, dilapidated Naples.  Its history and virtues recounted and extolled by countless poets, writers, artists, bards and troubadours throughout the ages.  The subject of many a cautionary tale (“watch your bags – the city is full of pickpockets!”, “oh, and watch out for the mafiosi too!”) and of Northern Italy’s scorn (“it’s dirty – get out of it as soon as you can!”).

We stepped off the plane onto the tarmac of Naples airport, the Italian morning sunshine making us blink as it slowly thawed our English-spring frozen bones.  The April air was heavy with the scent of spring – common enough in Europe at this time of year – but deliciously overladen with the ripe, sultry lusciousness only found in a city of the south.

But despite the weight of history, of legend, of Hollywood myth, where would Naples (or Italy) be without its food, coffee, shopping, mad taxi drivers and peacocking males?  Or, in other words, where would Italy be without those things driving three girls to the Continent for  a weekend of fun?

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Ich Bin Ein Doughnut* (Berlin, 16-19 June 2009)

Seven years of living in Europe and I’d not once made it to Germany.  And I had concluded that for all intents and purposes, I probably never would, unless an occasion demanded it.

“But you can’t leave Europe without seeing Berlin,” a friend exclaimed, aghast.  “Berlin is awesome.”

I was unconvinced.  Germanic food had never really appealed.  During visits to Vienna and Salzburg, I had initially attacked the gulasch, sachertorte, sauerkraut and apfelstrudel with gusto.  But prolonged consumption of dumplings, stew and offal had left me nauseous, plump and err… longing for a Marks & Spencer salad.  And a country known for punctual trains, dour burly, efficient folk (permit me the stereotypes, please!) and the shrill synthesized electronic beats and heart pounding bass of techno was quite the antithesis of my ideal café (con leche/au lait/latte)-quaffing people-watching foodie-fuelled break in one of the laidback, emotionally volatile Continental nations.

Still, there was that undeniable slice of history that Berlin inhabited.  I’d been fortunate enough to visit Moscow, St Petersburg, Vienna, Paris, Versailles, Rome, Budapest, Prague, Amsterdam and London, of course.  It was time to venture to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

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Judging an e-Book by its cover

Here in the UK, there has only been the faintest ripple of interest in Kindle, the wireless reading device which, endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, is making a big splash across the Pond.  Effectively an iPod for books, Kindle allows you to download books via Amazon and access them much like the iPod access music via iTunes.  Kindle, with its smooth white rectangular shape, even channels the spirit of Apple’s creation.  The Kindle application can also be added to your iPhone so that your iPhone effectively becomes an e-reader.

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Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know: Mad Men, AMC, 2007/2008

The opening sequence of Mad Men floats across the screen like a slick, successful Everyman executive’s nightmare: the silhouetted man reaches his expansive office, which slowly crumbles as he freefalls, past giant advertising billboards towards what end, we are unsure.  His doom?  Utopia?  Only the final episode will tell.

By referencing indelible images of the past (9/11, Hitchcock’s Vertigo) and soundtracked by David Carbonara’s haunting instrumental theme, the scene is set.  Madison Avenue.  New York.  The 1960s.  Nixon is in power and a young Senator by the name of John F. Kennedy is making his mark.  A time when men are men – and on Madison Avenue, they are the masters of the universe – and rarely seen without a cigarette or a drink in hand.  A time when women are housewives, mothers, daughters, secretaries, mistresses and shopgirls and occasionally, artists or divorcées – but never equals.  When children are seen but rarely heard.  When hippy beatniks and their ‘art’ are irrelevant and peripheral.  The Beatles have yet to hit America, the Summer of Love is almost a decade away and Vietnam was simply an exotic destination in East Asia.

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Engaging in liplock, sir? You’re nicked!

In news to cheer the hearts of all broken-hearted, lonely folk  beseiged by the media and marketing pre-Valentine’s Day blitz last week, one UK train station has imposed a kissing ban.

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