I’m in Perrugia right now – the home of those chocolate thingies with hazelnut cream in the middle. So of course, we had to go to a cafe yesterday to have a ciocollata — a very thick, Italian hot chocolate that many people eat with a spoon. We walked into a cafe that looked promising (i.e. lots of people). I opened the menu to find pages and pages of different kinds of hot chocolate — one with vanilla cream, another with mint, those with rum, berry cream, grand marnier. You name it, they had it. I was tempted by the vanilla one and the mint one, but in the end, I went with the tried and true plain hot chocolate with extra milk. It was amazing. (Picture of the menu to come if I ever figure out how to put up a picture).
We’re in Rome right now. I was here once before when I was just 10 years old, but now that I’m here as an adult, it’s astonishing how old the city is. And how well preserved it is. Everywhere you turn, there are ruins of ancient structures to remind you about the city’s old, old history.
One of the first things that struck me was its stark contrast with Kyoto. While not as old as Rome, Kyoto is a city brimming with history. Yet, you can hardly tell when you get off the bullet train and step into its ultra-modern, ugly, and monstrous train station that divides the city in half. You step out of the station to find a city of concrete. You have to actually visit temples and shrines and walk a few feet into the place to feel some semblance of history but even then, you see advertisements everywhere.
Rome gives me a sense of what Kyoto could have been, if the city planners did a better job.
Having said that, Rome is not entirely immune either. I was absolutely shocked to see a huge advertisement blanketing the Trinita Dei Monti — the church on top of the famous Spanish Steps.
I’m in holiday card hell right now. I’m leaving for a holiday at the end of the week, so I’m trying to finish all of my holiday cards before I leave. Which is easier said than done. In Japan, it entails, first, the New Year’s postcard, which you must arrange to have delivered on New Year’s Day. Postboxes in a couple weeks will have a special slot marked just for New Year’s cards that they will hold for you until Jan. 1, but since I won’t be here for that, I have to have someone send it in for me. Since it’s to be delivered on Jan. 1, the wording on the card has to refer to 2004 as “last year” and 2005 as “this year”. This basically means you, or rather I, make a lot of mistakes.
To further complicate things, I’m also doing holiday cards for certain executives, who will likely receive a room full of New Year’s cards (literally) and won’t even realize that I’m one of their thousands of well wishers. I figure they’ll read my holiday card if nothing else because it’s in a red envelope and because they don’t typically get holiday cards. Anyway, the implication of this means that I mix up the New Year’s greeting with the holiday card, and start referring to 2004 as “last year” in my holiday card, although it has to say “this year” since I’m sending it in 2004. In a nutshell, this means more mistakes.
So far I’ve done about 70 cards, and I’ve got another 40 or so. And I haven’t even started personal ones. I’ve also been making daily trips to the post office to exchange the postcards I screwed up for new ones. (They do this for a modest fee of 5 yen a card)
I went to a French restaurant called Petit Marche in a fashionable part of outer Tokyo called Jiyugaoka yesterday with a source. I found the restaurant in Zagats, and the food for the most part was okay. Except for two complaints. One: The truffles on my risotto were the most vile-tasting truffles I’ve ever had. They were like medicinal-tasting cardboard if there is such a thing. I wondered if they had bought pre-shaven truffles, which I think could be entirely possible.
Second, the steak I ordered as my entree was 60 grams, which is a little more than 2 ounces. I could have gotten 100g (a whopping 3.5 oz) of steak if I paid an extra $9. I didn’t. With these kinds of portions you’d think I’d lose weight in Japan but eating with my husband does not allow that. Even as I write this, I’m dying of stomache pains (seriously) from eating too many oysters tonight for dinner.
(By the way, my comment function is back on. I’ve decided to risk the spam once again.)
My regular readers (that’s you Yuki and Ry) and my family already knows how much I love watching television but you’d probably die if you knew how much U.S. television I actually manage to keep up with from Japan. So here’s a running list:
Law & Order CI
Law & Order
Amazing Race – I love this show
CSI New York