Notting Hill on a foggy day


The life of a freelance journalist is not easy. I spent most of my weekend in the radio studio, especially yesterday, updating stories about the tragic Russian plane crash in the Sinai peninsula.

However, a very dear friend of mine gave me a book just a few days back – she put a sign at a certain chapter, and said “that is for you”.

I read the chapter, with a very sceptical mind, but I still decided to follow what the author suggested. By investing minimal effort in fighting one’s own feelings, the author claims that not only one will feel happier, but achievements will come easier.

In a moment like this, I’m giving a go at alternative strategies to figure out at least parts of my life.

For the second day in a row, I allowed feelings and thoughts to flow in and out of my head. I never felt angry or unhappy. Not even the nostalgic feelings lasted too long, when thinking of what I was up to a year ago.

In an attempt to get closer to my true wishes, once I finished working today, I decided that the foggy London weather could not stop me. I needed to spend some time walking and enjoying the street life.

Notting Hill, with the cold, grey-ish weather seemed – for some reason – a good choice.

A short tube ride away from my office, here I was, crossing the doorstep of the Notting Hill Bookshop. Yes, the one from the movie featuring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts.

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I had never been there before, but I never say no to visiting a good bookshop. I wasn’t very impressed at the selection of travel books, to be honest, but I dropped my ear to a conversation the bookseller was having with an Argentinian customer, and her kindness and genuine interest in the man’s stories made me feel welcome and at ease in the tiny space.

She even allowed him to go behind the counter while she took a picture of him giving his best impersonation of a very confident Hugh Grant.

Not discouraged by the cold that I believe attempted to freeze my fingers, I took a long stroll around the area, enjoying every bit of it, from the colourful houses in Portobello Road, to the luxurious interiors I had the chance to see further towards Notting Hill Gate.

I tried to resist eating a crepe with Nutella, but then I told myself I should just embrace life and forget about eating healthy for one day.

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I hadn’t felt this good in a while, and I hope it keeps going this way. I’m sure I’m a step closer to understanding what I want, but I still need time… and more walks in the cold, foggy weather.

F.

water and paper


Did you ever notice that the sound of water on the banks changes depending on where you are?

The Northern Sea doesn’t sound like the Mediterranean Sea, the Seine sounds nothing like the Thames.

In a desperate need to escape my room and breathe some fresh air, I went for an evening walk along the South Bank.

With the autumnal breeze making my hair curlier than they are, I strolled along the walkway and attempted to clear my mind from a bunch of unnecessary thoughts.

I then saw it: a lamppost. Nothing special, you would think. That very same lamppost was the same one I took a photo with over a year ago. That very same night something special happened, and nothing was the same.

I walked towards it, remembering the photo, the day, and who I was with on that windy September afternoon.

Then, feeling like in a familiar place, I sat down on one of the steps to the Thames.

The water was low tonight, so I had no fear of the waves infringing on the dirty sand below me.

I took “Travels With Myself and Another” by Martha Gellhorn and I read about Africa, intestinal flu, and harelips.

Water and paper are two strange companions. Work a charm when combined, but cannot stay too close, as the water would destroy the paper. Aren’t some people a little bit like that, too?

F.

I’m Back.


I created this website years ago. I don’t even want to think of what I first called it.

When I got around to properly use it, it was late 2011/early 2012. I started blogging because I had applied for a blogger position at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and I didn’t get it. I was annoyed and decided to “teach them a lesson” by starting something with a broader readership.

As stubborn as I am, I ended up succeeding. “Of course you did” – would say my friend Elena, who praises my stubbornness whenever she gets the chance.

Blogging became an increasingly important part of my days in the Netherlands, being something I would do almost every day. I attracted a readership of thousands of people from every corner of the world.

I stopped working on this blog because of two reasons: I didn’t have time for it, and I “outgrew” it.

The last significant contribution I made was when the How I Met Your Mother finale was aired, back in spring of 2014. Looking back at it, it seems like that single episode turned out to have much more of a symbolic significance that I thought it had at the time.

My life was completely revolutionised.

I finished my quantitative thesis, creating a fresh coding method. I moved to London. Five days in the country, I met someone who turned my life around. I attended and completed a Master course. I worked for the BBC, Penguin Random House, and I’m now at an international radio station.

What now? Why now?

I don’t know. I am lost. Oh, I am so lost.

For a moment I had it all: the right country, the right job, the right man.

It was so perfect, I started freaking out. Commitment, I discovered, is not easy. Not to a country, not to a job, not to a man – regardless of how much you love them.

So, I am back. Back to figure it all out again. I know what I love, I just need to know if it’s also what I want.

Suggestions (and encouraging replies to this post) are welcome.

F.

How I Met Your Mother

“And kids, this is how I…” said goodbye to HIMYM


How I Met Your Mother
How I Met Your Mother

You can’t just jump to the end. The journey is the best part.

– Robin in ‘Murtaugh’ (HIMYM, 4×19)

The beginning of summer 2010 was a hard time for the 17-year-old insecure girl I was. Heart-broken from the break up with my very first long-term boyfriend, I found myself with a gap of an entire month between the end of the school year and the dates typed on my tickets to Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

On June 22, 2010 I woke up and realised that for the first time in more than a month I did not feel like watching “Mamma Mia!” and “The Notebook” for the billionth time. I needed to put aside what had happened, and move on. I cooked a crazy amount of pancakes for my friends, we laughed watching “It’s Complicated” and I felt again the will and energy to smile and actually laugh as much as I used to.

Once back home I grabbed a yoghurt and decided that since it was too hot to do anything during the day, I was going to watch something that could make me feel happy and open my eyes to the fact that even failed relationships have a silver lining. Google gave me the answer: watch “How I Met Your Mother”.

For the first time in almost two months I wrote in my agenda:

I miss D******o, but just a little bit. It’s bearable.

So, that’s how it started. Almost four years ago, I dedicated a month of my teenage life to catch up on the five seasons of the show. I saw Ted going through hard times, and it gave me the strength to start processing what happened to me.

Almost four years later, I am in a different country, I remember that very first boyfriend only when I need to write a sentimental piece about my past, and it is no hazard to say I am a completely different person.

I literally ‘grew up’ watching “How I Met Your Mother”. Just like Ted went through a series of fun, painful, unstable or strangely durable relationships, I went through relationships, experimental periods, being single for choice, having one night stands, engaging in a FWB relationship… and ending it because the other part was too involved.

I am not saying it all happened because of a TV series, definitely not, but it kind of became the televisual token of my evolution from insecure teenager to confident young woman.

How is one supposed to simply say #farewell to such a significant part of life?

Here is my strategy:

1. Re-watch every single episode of all the nine seasons. Watching them after March 31st will be too intense, it needs to be done now.

2. Consider the idea of getting a tattoo of a yellow umbrella, so to always have a reminder of the importance of friends and hope. After careful consideration reach the conclusion that you could never be able to do such thing because: a) you have a deep-rooted hate for colour tattoos, b) you insanely fear needles.

Pinterest
Pinterest

3. Understand the value of having good friends in your life, and don’t forget to tell them how much you love them. Because in the end…

Whatever you do in this life, it’s not legendary unless your friends are there to see it.

– Barney in ‘Sunrise’ (9×17)

4. Become terribly nostalgic about your past, hence re-read your old diaries.

5. Since you have re-watched all the episodes, you notice subtle ‘clues’ hidden throughout the seasons.

6. Come to conclusion that one of the main characters will eventually die. Exclude Marshall and Lily (because, come on, that would be useless and too cruel).

HIMYM CBS
HIMYM CBS

7. Try to accept that the character dying will eventually be The Mother. Yet, hold on to that bit of hope you have and still wish the directors will decide to give Ted his happy ending.

8. Fear that the one dying will be Ted… and feel entitled to freak out a bit.

9. Listen to Cristin Milioti’s rendition of “La Vie En Rose” about a hundred times, always appreciating her voice.

10. Consider buying a ukulele. Give up the idea when you realise you’ll have to move to another country in four months. Yet, like in the case of the tattoo, you know you will still keep thinking about it for a while… and maybe one day…

11. Finally, remember how you got to love the show. Remember that you started watching it because you needed to move on.

12. Look back at the one you were a few years ago. Then look in the mirror. Notice the difference in looks and especially in personality.

THEN NOW
THEN: New Year’s Eve party (2009-2010) NOW: Honours symposium graduation (June 2013)

13. Congratulations, you’re now ready to tweet your #HIMYMFarewell.

Now, let’s just hope we get a satisfying ending… and don’t pretend you won’t cry. We all will.

F.

Pre-Birthday Pre-Christmas “Gilmore Girls” Weekend Marathon


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On 9/11 I decided I would have become a journalist. I decided that my voice, my words, and my writings would have served a purpose when I would have grown up.

In 2002 I casually turned on the TV in the evening, and found out that there was a character in an American series that was as dorky and weird, and as much of a literature-freak as I was: Rory Gilmore.

Since that day in mid-2002, every evening, Monday to Friday, I tuned the television in my parents’ room and watched “Gilmore Girls”.

Excluding those few moments when my mother decided to come in the room and ruin my special moment by sitting next to me while commenting on how she would have loved for us two to have had the same kind of mother-daughter relationship, I truly enjoyed watching to that show.

Years went by, and so did the show. I changed, and the characters changed too. Rory’s journalism dream became reality, and maybe that was also some sort of encouragement I had to pursue my own journalistic career.

However, as years went by, I experienced new feelings, new interests, I met new people, I had my first serious relationship, and suddenly,  in late 2007, I stopped following the same routine, and spent my evening chatting or messaging with my friends or boyfriends of the time.

When everything ended, when the craziness of my teen years calmed down a bit, when I finally broke up with my abusive boyfriend, I realised that I had lost more than some “Gilmore Girls” episodes: I had lost focus and I had lost part of who I was.

Although I did find a way to return “myself”, I never wanted to watch the episodes of “Gilmore Girls” I missed in those years. At first it seemed too painful, then I felt ashamed, and later I thought I completely lost interest.

Last Friday I came back home, my hair a mess from the wind and the constant curtain of fog that wrapped Rotterdam for the entire day, a vegetable soup to keep me company, and some sort of nostalgic feeling I could not precisely name.

On such a days I have a few options on what to do:

  • Lord Of The Rings marathon – hardcore, all 3 extended versions over 2 days
  • The Holiday + Love Actually + ice-cream
  • Two-day inverted Harry Potter marathon

But this time, none of the options mentioned above sounded appropriate.

Moreover, it will be my birthday soon, and as usual, I just wish I could just skip that day. My birthdays have always sucked: so close to Christmas, people are either busy or on holiday, the only conversations one can have are about presents, families, and New Year’s resolutions, and the focus in never on me. I guess that’s the price to pay for being a late-December kid, and I don’t mind. I just don’t like big birthday celebrations.

A tiny voice that remained silent inside of me for years and years murmured “watch the seventh season of Gilmore Girls, the one you never wanted to watch”. So I did it.

I wish I had done it before moving away from home, because a scene like this would have made me cry even more than I did today:

“You’ve given me everything I need”.

I believe that sometimes people just need separation. From family, from friends, from their job.

Sometimes people reach that point when they could not possibly learn anything new by staying in the same place or around the same people. Hence, the need to move on or away.

For as crazy as my marathon habits may sound, I can ensure you, they’re damn therapeutic!

Gingrbread cookies - BDSM style

Christmas Spirit, New Year’s Prospects


Gingrbread cookies - BDSM style
gingerbread cookies – BDSM style

It has been a shameful long time since I last published a blog post. I feel sorry for my loyal readers, who kept checking this website hoping that my witty fingers would come up with a new juicy entry.

Truth is, I am experiencing a bit of a writer’s block combined with an actual freelance job as a correspondent, which makes my writings almost always travel-related.

I still love writing, I enjoy it as much as always, but I felt that none of the things I had in mind were good enough to be shared here.

I first went through a rather gloomy moment: two very important people hurt me so much I still do not know if I will ever be able to see them as the important people they used to be. At the same time, some wonderfully surprising things happened, putting a smile on my face despite what I was going through.

Life is full of unexpected twists, surprises, and sometimes, unfortunately, delusions. It is up to us to find the silver lining in what happens to us – and I always try. I am not sure I actually always succeed, but I certainly try.

Left with a hurt soul and a confused mind, I started looking at what’s around me with a different perspective, to see what I had been missing.

I visited my family in Italy, I did not tell them what had happened, and I simply spent time away from everything.

I went to Dublin with two friends. We danced, we drank, and I allowed myself to let go some strains and make the most out of what I was experiencing.

Some lose themselves when they travel, instead, I like to find myself in places I had no idea I could find myself – like an old, dirty, and definitely smelly punk-rock pub in the Temple Bar area.

On the very same night I came back from my international wonderings, I received a surprise. The day after, another one.

Since then, I started seeing my life in the Netherlands more as a countdown than as a normal staying.

Living in the same country for three years can trigger people to define that place “home”, but as the proverb says, home is where the heart is. And so be it.

This will be my last winter in this country, and I decided to embrace it fiercely and fearlessly.

As soon as December started, I found in my heart the strength to face same of my fears, and eventually begin a journey towards forgiveness.

I may be the only one out of three who wishes to make things right once and for all, but it’s Christmas time, and on Christmas we tell the truth.

The prospects for the New Year are still partially unknown, but this very last December in Holland has the potential to function as a full stop or as a comma in my life.

F.

On Breaking Bad series finale


CAREFUL! This post contains spoilers.

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On Saturday the 28th, the BBC listed the then-upcoming Breaking Bad series finale as the TV’s top 10 endings.

The creator and director of the series, Vince Gilligan, declared in an interview that he didn’t have the slightest idea on how to end the series until two months before shooting the last episode.

My boss doesn’t know this yet, but today I was late for work because I decided that I had to watch the finale before I could open any social media (and do my job).

Now I’m sitting at my desk and I can’t decide whether I’m satisfied with the finale or not.

Walter dies. That’s what we expected from the beginning: a man with lung cancer has to die. Sooner or later it just had to happen.

Jesse lives. This was not so expected, but maybe we could have guessed it.

I can’t deny it was a nice wrap-up, it puts a full stop to a series that was ready to end.

Am I satisfied? I don’t know.

This is how I wanted it to end: Walt realises he did many mistakes and tries to fix them. Jesse is finally able to take his little revenge by not shooting Walter when he asks for it. Skyler is the usual cold distant bitch who is also still a bit in love with Walt. Flynn is just a figure that walks home without noticing his father.

Right at the beginning of the show ABC showed the hashtag to use on Twitter: #GoodbyeBreakingBad.

It was not a proper finale, it was a goodbye episode.

It happened with Friends and with Private Practice before than with Breaking Bad.

Sometimes the author decides to wrap up the story as if it was a goodbye.

We’re sure Todd will not hurt Holly, that no one will produce blue meth any more, that Jesse is hurt but able to smile and embrace life.

For once in this season Walter takes care of all the mess he created over the years. He leaves the scene in solitude, after killing people, releasing Jesse, and telling his wife that what he did was never for the family, even though it was.

Walter is no longer Heisenberg, he redeems himself and fixes in the best way possible his mistakes.

He becomes the “father” of all us, the viewers of the drama. He reassures us that things fell into pieces, mechanisms broke, and people died, but we can go to bed with a light heart, because everything’s fine.

Just like in many Hollywood movies, the WASP ideology comes back: you can be the modern incarnation of Scarface, you can be a killer, a meth cook, a drug entrepreneur, but if in the end you redeem yourself and do a good action, then everyone’s OK with it.

Walter’s death was the ultimate act of redemption.

Hated by his family, he killed his brother-in-law and best friend.

Have to say it… after this, I think I liked it.

F.

***

For all Breaking Bad virgins, enjoy this 5-seasons recap (it doesn’t include the second part of season 5, so that you can still enjoy it if you like!)

P.S. – Belvedere of Vienna: a museum in a museum


You are currently reading from the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project.

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I love Art, I love going to exhibitions, and I love paintings as well as sculptures.

The one place I really wanted to visit after Schönbrunn Palace was the Belvedere Museum.

The Belvedere itself is already a wonderful place: a historic Baroque building consisting of two palaces, the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. Something big, pompous, shining, and tidy at the same time.

But that’s not all.

The Belvedere hosts a very interesting museum of Fine Arts, the Austrian Gallery of Belvedere.

The collection is very extensive, and summarises the Austrian artistic movements and trends in both the Lower and Upper Belvedere.

The most interesting part, in my opinion, is the part of the collection dedicated to modern art of the 19th and 20th century.

Among the “big Austrian names” there are Schiele, Kokoschka, or Klimt (to whom is dedicated a wide section).

Not to forget that the 19th-20th century galleries include international art pieces by for instance Renoir or Monet.

Just like in (almost) any other Fine Arts museum, people are not allowed to take photos or to make videos, so you’ll have to go there and see how splendid those works of art are.

Oskar Kokoschka is among my favourite painters, but I have to say, I would have never expected to be so emotional in front of his paintings.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt was also breathtaking, so were many other paintings at the Belvedere Museum.

Of course the location of the museum itself is amazing. I won’t stay here and write about its history, but being in there, in the Marble Room, or walking in the gardens, is an experience that one can’t easily dislike.

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Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.

source: Flickr

After 22 at the tram stop


source: Flickr
source: Flickr

Not too long ago I was complaining to my friend that today I didn’t seem to be able to speak proper English, nor proper Italian.

I went to the cinema, watched Blue Jasmine, by Woody Allen, and felt like today I was a bit blue too.

After kissing goodbye and waiting for my friend to hop on her tram, I headed to the metro. I got out, and walked to the tram stop.

After a quick look at the board, I walked to the benches and got ready to wait.

A homeless man said something to me. In Dutch, of course. I clearly didn’t get a word of what he said.

In broken Dutch I tried to explain that I didn’t understand what he just said. He repeated it.

Then, feeling bad for the man, I replied in English: “I am sorry, I don’t speak Dutch”.

To my surprise, the man looked at me, and said: “Y hablas Español?” (“And do you speak Spanish?” – Spanish)

“Sì”, I answered.

Two guys were standing next to us, and looked at the scene between idiotic laughs and the fear the man could do something.

Turns out that he didn’t ask for money, nor he bothered me, but he had just seen the frown on my face (due to the acknowledgement that I had to wait good 17 minutes for my tram), and he wanted to know if I was all right.

We got to talk. I learnt he was Portuguese, and he shared some bites of his life with me.

He asked me where I was from, and when I said I was from Italy, he got this semi-sad look, and told me another story.

Although he is Portuguese, in his entire life he had only been to Italy once, for three days, when he was forty-four. He went to Genova.

Then his tram came, he stood up, said bye, said that he had a nice chat with me, and thanked me for treating him like a “normal” person. I smiled at him, “fue un placer” (“my pleasure” – Spanish).

As he opened the door of the tram, he looked back at me and said: “Ahora tengo setenta y dos años, soy viejo! …pero tù no lo eres!” (“Now I am seventy-two years old, I am old! …but you’re not!” – Spanish).

“Obrigada” (“thank you” – Portuguese) I replied. He smiled, happily.

Maybe the only reason today I wasn’t able to speak proper English or proper Italian was just because I was simply destined to speak Spanish… with a sprinkle of Portuguese!

F.

P.S. – Mouthwatering Pleasures at Gerstner


You are currently reading from the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project.

***

If I had to pick between savory or sweet tastes, I’d definitely go for savory. But there is one food I am addicted to, and it’s not savory: chocolate.

Before stepping on the plane to Vienna I had one fixed thought in my head: C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E  C-A-K-E-S.

Unfortunately Vienna is not particularly lively when it’s later than 18.30, and I missed the feeling of visiting a bakery (konditorei, in German) after dinner… This was until I discovered Gerstner.

Located in Kärtnerstrasse 15, right next to Stephansplatz, there is Gerstner, bakery and coffee lounge open until 20.30.

I had to document myself, but I discovered that the place was founded in 1847 by Anton Gerstner. The pastry shop has ever since been appreciated and renewed among Viennese people, and in 1873 Gerstner even received the honour to be the official Imperial Court’s Cofenctioner.

Gerstner used to cater royals, international conventions, the opera house, and many other honorable places or people. It expanded itself and it is now known as Gerstner Imperial Hospitality Group.

The bakery lounge is adorable, a bit retro in style but very classy.

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I am not that of a fruit-cake lover, so I didn’t order neither the Strudel, the typical Austrian dessert, nor the Sachertorte, the most renewed cake from Vienna.

However, my travel companions did, and our table consisted of four different desserts that I had the luck to try.

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The Sachertorte is a specialty of Hotel Sacher, near the Opera House, and even though the one they prepared at Gerstner was good, I’m sure it was not supposed to be so dry.

The apple strudel was rated “ok-good” by a true strudel connoisseur, but the raspberry strudel was something completely new to our tastes, and it was a pleasant dessert. In both cases, however, the pastry was maybe not crunchy enough…

Last, but surely not least, the Gerstner Cake. My dessert.

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.

A pleasure of the senses, a French kiss under form of a piece of cake.

The Gerstner Cake is (obviously!) the specialty in this konditorei, and it’s worth all 3.10€ it costs.

If you have the chance to visit Gerstner, don’t think you have to get a strudel just because you’re in Vienna, get a Gerstner!

The complete choice of cakes included the poppy-seed pie, various tarts, nut cake, the Linzer Torte, the Kardinalschnitte, the “Haustorte” (lit: cake of the house), and the favorite dessert of Kaiser Franz: some sort of vanilla foam cuts with syrup.

The variety was satisfactory, the taste of the cakes very good, the service impeccable, the prices affordable, and the location simply perfect. I couldn’t do anything else but recommend a visit to Gerstner in Kärtnerstrasse 15, Vienna.

The opening times vary depending on seasons and days, therefore you should check the sign on the window.

For further information about Gerstner Imperial Hospitality Group, visit: http://www.gerstner.at/.

Stay tuned for the rest of the entries for the P.S. (passport and sunscreen) Project, follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #passportandsunscreen!

F.