Browsing Tag



His and Hers

August 29, 2015 • By

Balconies with a sea view, moonlight dinners and bushels of roses and other fresh, fragrant flowers are the norm in Portofino, Italy, as are wealthy people with yachts to envy, couples in love and 28 members of the Qatar royal family.  This disqualifies Joyce and me (mother, daughter) but that did not stop the hotel staff from trying to make sense of our odd coupling.

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At Splendido La Terrazza

At dinner on the terrace of Splendido, La Terrazza, we snapped lovely pictures documenting our stay.  Seated with a stunning view of the Portofino cove, we relaxed with a glass of wine and began perusing the menu, but upon closer review I realized my menu contained no prices.  Perplexed, my mom reported her menu had plenty of prices listed. We decided she is “the man” or perhaps “Mr. Mom,” and therefore responsible for paying the bill.  Albeit old-fashioned, traditional etiquette dictates that the person paying for dinner receives the menu with prices.  I’ll take this as a win.  We enjoyed lobster and rocket fish for the starter, followed by sea bream and veggies for our main course–all fresh and very delicious–and to finish, an Italian-sized serving of creamy panna cotta with raspberry sorbet.

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Splendido Moonset on the Sea

Before retiring to bed, we entertained ourselves with people watching from the terrace, serenaded by live music from a Barry Manilow-like besequined pianist who fancied my mother and sang her favorite song, Nella Fantasia.  She sprang to his side upon recognizing the melody and even patted him on the back to show her gratitude.  He then stopped playing and gave us a history of the song for the next 10 minutes. I wrote down Lady Caliph and promised I would do something or another with that information.

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Blue Slippers, I prefer white

We retreated to bed and I found the turn down service placed blue slippers next to my bed.  I yelled to Joyce in the bathroom, “It’s so weird! I have blue slippers and last night I had white.”

She then started hysterically laughing and shouted back, “They must think you are the man because you left that XL Michigan State T-shirt on your bed.”

Sorry, Spartans, it’s back to lingerie and pretty things for this princess to sleep.

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Splendido, our hotel view from the sea

With two more days to admire our incredible sea view, Joyce and I decided to mingle amongst the tourists and see other parts of the Italian Riviera.  We hopped a shuttle to a water taxi and 15 minutes later docked in Santa Margherita, a much larger port than Portofino.

It’s noisy and busy and more commercial than our base.  It has beautiful beaches, lengthy hikes hugging the coastline up into the hills and more casual restaurants and shops.  Whereas Portofino is a special kind of luxury, Santa Margherita is hustling and bustling and perhaps provides a more ideal stop for the everyday traveler.  There are more accommodations, and it also serves as a transportation hub to other towns and villages along the coast.

Portofino Marina

Portofino Marina

We sweated a fair amount walking the streets of Santa Margherita, and worked up a desire for a refreshing scoop of gelato.  I mean, there are so few calories in a cup of Italian gelato… why not order two scoops?  And we did.  To add to further insult, a bird shat on me while we waited for the ferry. They say that means good luck and by “they,” I mean those individuals who see it as a bad sign and want to feel good about themselves.

This is the second time a bird has relieved itself on my head. I would define it as an unwelcome and very unfortunate experience.

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Italian Riviera -Santa Margherita

We returned to Portofino, gobbled up a cheese and arugula pizza, and considered another helping of gelato, but with dinner plans in our future and Joyce already in a shop, waving her wallet, we skipped it.  Besides, hell is about to freeze over.  We are going to 6:30pm Mass on vacation in Italy, where I am sure to find plenty of air-conditioner in the 114 year-old Catholic Church. Yeah right!

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Portofino’s Catholic Church


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Mother and Daughter take Italy

August 28, 2015 • By

Celebrating birthdays is something I enjoy, especially when it’s my own. But since my mother, Joyce, is enjoying one of those milestone birthdays–the big “70,” I planned a vacation worthy of her extraordinary life, which means no backpacks or Howard Johnsons (see Datong, China).

We departed Chicago via Newark on United Airlines on Wednesday, August 26 and, since she is technically injured and scheduled for hip surgery October 27, we traveled in style: first class. Unfortunately, we flew a U.S. carrier where first class is anything but posh.  Thankfully, the front of the plane includes real silverware and bottomless wine–at least until the lights go off for sleeping.  A reclining “bed” beats back of the plane–where I tend to travel–any day of the week.

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Newark to Milan on United Airlines with sparkling wine to start

After a mere 7 hours, with our crew readying the plane for the descent, I, too, prepared myself for arrival, and discovered, to my chagrin, that my passport was missing.  Frantically, I emptied the contents of my bag, dug my hands into seat pockets and then tore apart seat cushions. (I hope you never have to look under an airplane seat, where I found food for a family of four.) And when I lifted my head from the floor, there stood Joyce who discovered she’d collected my passport with her own when we first boarded.

Instead of admitting guilt, she blamed me for not putting it away in the first place… Only 9 more days to go.

We arrived in Milan and became thoroughly acquainted with about 300 Chinese students in the immigration line.  Our fellow passengers whisked by us in the adjacent line as we stood, exhausted and sweaty.  I always pick the jackass line no matter the country.

About 50 minutes later, Joyce and I stepped forward to the customs officer, who examined our faces, noted we were American, smiled and said, “So good to see an American passport.”  I responded, “we are glad to see you, too,” and, without a single question, he stamped our passports and our journey in Italy began.  Two hours later by car, we found ourselves in the seaside village of Portofino on the Italian Riviera at the Hotel Splendido, a sliver of paradise on the Mediterranean Sea.

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Portofino, Italy

Portofino is known for its colorful homes and buildings and its quaint harbor.  Celebrities and the wealthy put Portofino on the map in the 60s as they traveled from Rome, looking for serenity.  It’s considered a getaway for artists, models, dreamers and romantics… and newly discovered by daughters.

The marina area is dotted with al fresco restaurants offering pizza, gelato, fresh seafood and high end Made in Italy shopping with the likes of Salvatore Ferragamo, Brunello Cucinelli, Louis V, Pucci, Missoni etc.  Crowds converge along the water’s shore at all hours of the day, but for great people watching, take a seat for a cocktail or meal around sunset and entertain yourself with locals and tourists mingling. We dined at the Chuflay, Splendido Mare (our hotel’s sister restaurant) for our first proper Italian meal: dorado, pesto pasta and fresh eggplant.  A piano player provided a certain peaceful ambiance, making it a perfect evening.

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View of the marina at Portofino, Italy

Determined to sleep through my mom’s snoring, a condition she vehemently denies, I purchased three types of Mack’s earplugs.  Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner!  The Mack’s wax plugs worked so nicely that we slept 11 hours on our first night in Italy.  Ooops.

What we needed after a proper rest was more relaxation poolside at the Splendido.  We lounged with umbrellas and Pellegrino, watching the likes of the Balista and the Polaris yachts depart our little village for the great open sea.  It gives new meaning to the phrase “living the life of luxury.”  My mom suggested I should gather (look desperate) at the hotel bar or mingle near the multi-million dollar yachts.

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Joyce enjoying the view

She is always trying to marry me off and reminded me again,”it takes as much effort to find a rich man as a poor man.”  After 24 hours of hanging in Portofino, she has me convinced she can’t be wrong.