Girls day out

Susan and Matea went out this afternoon…

on their way out.

 … for Matea to get her hair cut (I believe her first real cut since we moved to this country in August 2010!)

…and after

They grabbed some treats from the boulangerie next to the hair-dresser – then went over to eat by a chateaux.  Everything was going so well until 

– the van decided to not start! 

 So they sat in the 34* heat until ….dum du daaa….BOYS TO THE RESCUE. Jonah, Micah and I came (with Alma for good measure)  We tried jumpstarting it – but it was just not firing. It was acting like it wasn’t getting any fuel.  Then Susan pointed out – “could it have to do with the fact that the tail pipe is right against  the hill back here” 
 So much for boys to the rescue.  
Yup – that was it. 

il mare

One of the great things about being along the sea is, of course, the sea.  All four of our kids love the water – and we made the most of the fact that we were staying so close to the water.

There was quite a bit of swimming, playing on rocks, diving, playing in the sand – and even eating sand for some members of our family.


A few weeks ago I got to go to Vienna to conduct some research for my second year PhD paper.  
For my paper I am investigating what allows resource-constrained individuals to be able to overcome their constraints and create successful innovations.  The field that I’m looking at is the coffee-growers who supply the specialty coffee world.  Most coffe in the world is sold as a strict commodity, with farmers just producing as many kilos as they can, not caring about the quality, and most buyers giving those farmers as little as they can get away with. However there is some that is sold basically the same way that fine wine is: the utmost care and attention, influence of terroir, buyers travelling the globe to find the best crop, the grower is treated as a valued  partner instead of a cog in the wheel of some global commodity chain.  So to find people to interview I traveled to Vienna during the World Barista Championships.  What a strange thing that is.

You have no idea what a big deal this is until you are there. These are people who train for months to serve their 3 different drinks as 7 judges rate their every move.  There is really no way to describe it.

The great thing is that coffee growers, buyers, national coffee boards, micro-roasters, and exporters were there and I got to talk to people from: Uganda, Columbia, Honduras, Ethiopia, Norway, Canada, Brazil, Yemen, India, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama and where ever else I forgot.
And – as you may presume, the average person who attends a competitive coffee serving competition….is not your average person.  You would be easily forgiven if you were to have confused the event for some kind of Global Hipster Gathering.  Every time you turn around: waxed-moustache, full-beard, ironic-tee-shirt, skinny jeans, yellow socks, pink Toms, hemp messenger bag  – and that was just one guy. I’m sure they were all a bit devastated they couldn’t bring all their retro-cameras and cruising bikes with them.
The other very surreal thing about the trip is that I met up with friends from Edmonton while there.  The Canadian National champion is from Transcend Coffee, so quite a few of their crew was there – so I got to see old friends. The weirdest was spending time with James – as he’s someone that I pretty much saw a few times a week all the years that we’ve ever lived in Edmonton – and then we moved almost two years ago and I haven’t seen him since. 
Then he popped in here for a visit on his way to Vienna, then two days later I met up with him there – and we spent some time hanging out, exploring Vienna – as if it were normal.   

Vienna is a pretty cool city – lots of interesting things to see – also a lot of strange things:

14 feet along the Cinque Terre

Since the idea of the Cinque Terre holiday is fundamentally about hiking between the villages, that is exactly what we spent a fair amount of our time doing.  So there were 7 of us walking along the trails from age 5 to {redacted} plus Alma on my back.  

The first day we drove to Riomagiore and did the easy walk along the via del amore to Manarola. Twice we we drove down into La Spezia (a real city with grocery stores) and took the train to  Monterosso al Mare, once we stayed there and some played at the beach while others strolled through town. We hiked the ‘officially-closed-but-you-can-still-use-it-just-step-over-the-equipment-we-flew-in” trail from Vernazza to Corniglia.  Basically, we used boats, trains, cars to get to our starting point – and then back home.

The views that you get are amazing.  They are the kind of views that dont’ even seem real. We found ourselves saying on several occasions that it seemed like it was fake, or that we were on a movie set.

funny – it seemed like such a good idea

I can’t explain how glad we were to find this.

A display showing some of the destruction of the flood last year in Vernazza

eating pizza in a shady ‘side street’

coming down some of the stone steps along the vineyard terraces

gelato e pasta

One of the things that is hard not to like about Italy is the Gelato.

Not only is it good (at least if you get it from a place that actually makes it – not just a franchised stand like mostly what we found in Rome last year) – but it is everywhere, reasonably priced, and is not so bad when you’ve made your kids (or in-laws) hike over mountain trails in 33 degree weather along an exposed south-facing rocky slope.

you can see the Gelato being made by hand in small batches in the back of the store

Of coure man does not live on gelato alone, and when there is that much hiking involved you need to get some carbohydrates somewhere – and for us, that came in two predominant forms: pasta and focaccia.  

Focaccia is apparently originally from the Liguria region where we were, and we can all attest to the fact that they sure know what they’re doing.

All of the kids (and all the adults) loved the food, and would have probably would have packed on a few kilos each if it were not for the caloric output of the hiking.

We had a lot of fresh basil and pesto (another Ligurian specialty), local cheese, lots of bread – and everything with lots of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

supper (shoes &/or shirts strictly optional)