Categories
Italy

Italy Journal – Naples Journal

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Almost all of the guidebooks and websites warned about less than ideal conditions in Naples. Pickpockets, kidnappings, shootings and general lawlessness seemed the most encountered terms in most write-ups. News footage on CNN of burning trash piles just a few days before our trip did not instill confidence.

There were air quality warnings for people with allergies – which wasn’t too encouraging for Audra who was recently diagnosed with a mild case of asthma. Still, like it or not we were going there. Songlines Magazine ran a focus article on some cultural offerings, so there was hope for us if we were in the right areas at the right time.

Alas, we were not. Our Naples experience, aside from the pizza, was a disappointment to all. More so to Audra and Kristy who saw it more as a means to an end – a junction box for our travels else where. I was disappointed because I have a thing for underdogs and really wanted to see some payoff to our visit besides a few pictures of garbage piles. There was also absolutely no time for exploration or family research. Each of our three experiences there (getting the ferry to Capri, getting a rental car for Positano, and returning the car for our flight to Sardinia) were all fast and furious, and none of them were very pleasant. Had we stayed there to take things in, I think we would have had a different experience.

As Audra points out, the corruption of past years and regimes has left the city and its people rather hopeless. There are signs of renewal, but the construction itself makes the city hectic at best – a least the part we saw, which admittedly wasn’t that much. While I didn’t feel unsafe for a moment in the section of town we were in, I was glad to leave, if only to cease the palatable distaste the others felt for the place.

I prefer to think of our brief time in Naples as more of a preview of something that could one day be a great city to visit. Just like any American city that can be much better if the people take pride in it, I think the Italians can make Naples a stop worth making rather than avoiding. But the people have to want it. That’s not to say there’s much to be done about the driving.

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Where in the world are Audra and Kristy?

 

Categories
Italy

Italy Travel Agency Review: Hidden Treasures

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Friends, Romans, country squirrels, lend me your tails.

Mariella at Hidden Treasures of Italy did a great job with our trip overall. Every one of our hotels either met or exceeded our expectations. We had clean, working bathrooms everywhere and the people were always willing to help. The cooking class that Mariella found for us was amazing (more on that elsewhere). Given the logistics and complexity of our itinerary, things went rather well.

Collectively, we agreed that the baggage transfer from dock to hotel in Capri was the main place where Mariella could have been clearer. There was a baggage transfer service, but we did not know, and it wasn’t anywhere in our paperwork to expect it. It would also have been nice to have a heads-up about the difficulty of returning a car to Naples on a Sunday when all the gas stations are closed. Also, in Sardinia, the main attractions in Cagliari were all closed on Monday, so a heads-up there would have been nice to prevent us from wasting our time driving there. Our hotel in Guispini was perhaps a bit too posh and had many amenities that we didn’t exactly budget for. As nice as it was, we just didn’t make full use of it for such a short stay.

My own personal pet peeve was that Hidden Treasures seemed to be completely oblivious to any specifically musical offerings along our way, and did not go out of their way to make that info available. I realized that they were not a world music travel agency, but I just expected more. Next time I would seriously consider using Songlines Music Travel operated by The Tailor-Made Groups Company, which only recently formed after our plans with Hidden Treasures were made.

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All that pasta did wonders for my physique!

 

Categories
Italy

Italy Journal – Resources

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Three amigos at the forum

Hidden Treasures of Italy was our travel agency. (See separate review)

Magellan’s – Online travel supply outlet that has a great tool for figuring out what electrical adapters and converters you need based on your destination. Take my word for it, avoid the confusion of Amazon.com and other sites with everyone’s anecdotal stories and save yourself time and money with this site. They have a wizard that walks you through everything, and what I purchased for Italy worked perfectly for all of my small electronics. I would not have been able to take so many pictures without charging batteries every night, and my iPod was kept juiced for the flights.

Cabela’s – Outdoor sports supply store and web site. Special thanks to Justin for turning me on to this place. It was almost as much fun as shopping at a music store. This is where I got most of my outdoor wear including some lightweight non-cotton shirts and super light-weight pants that had removable legs to transform into shorts. Another smart purchase was a pair of hiking shoes that were dressy enough to wear out, but rugged enough for the miles of walking we did (as much as 10 miles a day). They are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever had and well worth the investment.

Trip Reading – I knew there wouldn’t be much time to read, but that we’d have the occasional down time on planes. I chose to bring Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” which Audra had been recommending for several years. It turned out to be a nice light read, and it was interesting to read about his experiences in Centralia while I was on my way to Sardinia. I also brought a new book of Rumi poetry by Coleman Barks, many of several I have in my collection for whiling away small moments for inspiration.

Garmin GPS 350 – I will admit that I was skeptical about dealing with a GPS overseas. I was reveling in the lack of laptops and cell phones. So I was somewhat amused when Kristy (and not me, Mr. Gadget) suggested it. In retrospect, it was probably one of the smartest things we did. It helped reduce the stress of driving just enough to make it bearable. It was completely useless in Sardinia, since those maps were not included in the Italy mainland package, but that proved to be a non-issue since Sardinia had very well-labeled roads and towns. It also did not work on foot very well as there was usually no signal, or any signal we did get was not strong enough. I think we became a bit too dependent on it in Ravello, and it led us astray just a bit, but that turned out to be part of the adventure. Listening to the Americanized (poor) pronunciation of the street names was also a hoot (we later switched to the British voice who did a lot better).

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Computer... plot course around garbage and scooters.

 

Categories
Italy

Italy Journal – Eczema in a Strange Land

{Reposted from my original 2008 trip journal and reflections in 2009}

A minor skin condition on my right index finger turned into a major travel hassle. I went from place to place looking for something to cure. The last thing I wanted was a life-threatening infection in a foreign land. It made for an interesting experience negotiating health care in a strange place.

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Eczema!

First I tried some cortisone from a local pharmacy. That reduced the swelling, but didn’t stop the blistering. Local aloe – acquired from one of our long walks on Capri where it grows out in the open – didn’t seem to help much. I’m guessing the non potable water didn’t either because by the time we reached Positano the wound was infected with yellow puss. That’s when I had to find peroxide and an antibiotic cream. The local pharmacist in Positano was very helpful. She said that if it didn’t clear up in a few days I would need n oral antibiotic. My lymph glands in my right arm were swelling up, so this wasn’t looking good.

But I was more annoyed than anything because it added another 10 minutes to my morning routine and I was constantly worried about it opening up again. I also knew that getting home wasn’t necessarily going to get me to a speedy recovery. I’d have to get a referral and get past my PCP who had previously said this was a dry skin condition.

Then again, it gave me something to distract me from the car sickness riding in the back seat to Ravello and Pompeii. Swimming in the Mediterranean helped wash it out too. The wound started to heal by the time we left for Sardinia, but remained a maintenance issue through the rest of the trip and even after we returned to the states.

I later learned it was a form of eczema triggered by allergies, weather or soaps. Potentially no real cure. It might go away, it might not. Dermatology appointment pending (several months out). It’s not contagious and is fairly common from what I’ve learned on WebMD.

Exactly how I acquired this – in that place – is very bizarre. It happens to be the very place that a mouse wheel rubs when I work on the computer. Perhaps my body is trying to tell me something.

Categories
Italy

Italy Journal – Observations

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Wine & Roses

{Reposted from my original 2008 trip journal and reflections in 2009}

Nothing is free – I came away from Italy with a reinforcement of the idea that “nothing is free.” It’s not that much of a revelation when gas is so expensive and the US economy is having a ripple effect everywhere. Every little thing had a cost associated with it, even if it appeared to be free or included. In most restaurants there was a “cover charge” on top of whatever you ate, just for sitting down. Then of course you have to consider tip, which usually can not be placed on a credit card, so you need to be sure to have cash on hand. At one point at dinner, I returned from the lavatory to find Audra and Kristy with roses presented by a charming roaming flower man. Of course they were not complimentary  (five Euro). Cash tips took a chunk of our daily budget, especially on travel days. At the Pompeii refreshment house, they charged 3 Euro for a 12 oz. iced tea. Most of our guides made you feel obligated to tip them, even if you had already paid for a tour. I felt obligated to tip most of the street musicians. The guide books warned of possible charges for public rest rooms, and for the most part they were right, though the bathrooms sometimes didn’t have seats.

Capri was the most expensive, since as an island everything needs to be brought in – more so because it doesn’t have drinkable water. You have to keep your own supply (unlike our hotel in Positano that supplied it for us).

But more than the obvious monetary outlay, you got an even more intense sense of what your time was worth on a trip like this. Do you really want to schlep your luggage up hundreds of stairs, or would a porter service be better so you can use that time doing something more enjoyable? Do you really want to drive across Sardinia to experience the land, or stay a few more days somewhere to get to know one place better? These are questions you find yourself asking when you realize that for a little more money sometimes you can have a better experience, and when you are talking about a trip like this, being reserved in your spending can end up costing you valuable vacation time and only crank up the stress you are trying to avoid.

Language – We really had very little trouble getting along with limited Italian, even in Sardinia where English is spoken less. Several months before the trip I started listening to Learn In Your Car Italian, picking up some of the important phrases I would need and learning some vocabulary. Again, due to my semester schedule in the Fall and Spring, there was little room for a formal class. Audra got a CDROM and used my tapes too. Kristy took a travel Italian class.

I had two experiences where my weakness with the language really showed. In one case I bought a few postcards with a larger denomination bill than required. The salesperson asked me if I had change, as in anything smaller or any coins to make change. I did not. But somehow she thought I was OK with this, so I did not get the correct change and ended up paying something like 6 Euro for four postcards! I only realized all of this afterward, and didn’t feel comfortable going back since it was really my own error. That might explain why the salesperson’s daughter was so friendly about showing me the closest Internet café.

During one of our first meals, I wanted a cold tea, but got confused between hot (caldo) and cold (freddo), and ended up with a hot cup of tea when it was 85 degrees outside. I explained (poorly) that I was confused and it was resolved without much trouble.

While visiting one of the ruins in Sardinia, the tour guide explained – in limited English – that there were no tours in English. The guide books had warned of this. We waited for the tour to start, but it didn’t look like anyone was coming we so went on our own and did OK exploring the site, even if we did not get as much context. We got kindly reprimanded for not going with the tour. That was probably our only real faux pox. Silly Americans!

Never trust your bank – I wanted to make absolutely sure that we did not come back to any surprises with our household bills while we were out. To this end, we paid our mortgage ahead for July, in person, at the local bank. Two days before we left we got a letter saying our escrow had been recalculated and we owed for that, so I made an additional payment (in person) to catch everything up. We had two tellers promise us that we would not have anything to worry about and that we should relax.

Upon our return we had a letter from our bank telling us that our *June* payment was still unapplied because of some nonsense with the escrow, which wasn’t supposed to kick in until July anyway. So within 30 minutes of being back from Philly, I was on the phone with the bank on a Saturday morning, just before they are about to close. They assured me they would look into it Monday and that it could be worked out. Later that following week I finally received a statement that showed how everything was applied and that in fact they had screwed it all up the first time just as I expected they would. You can never be too sure with things like this, and it makes one wary of having accounts with anyone these days. People just do not seem to take pride in their work.

Speaking of which, I think I can also mention that you can’t trust your credit union either. I told mine – in writing weeks before – that I’d be going abroad and to make sure my account remained active. I called a few days before the trip and they didn’t have it on file, so they made a note. I called the next day and they STILL hadn’t made the note in the proper place on my account.

And, as if you need one more warnings from me, you can not trust the post office to follow your instructions about holding and delivering mail. This is really no surprise because we had the same problem last year. The US Post Office continues to be one of the worst vendors that I use. Audra set up our mail holding in person. She asked them three times if our mail would be delivered the Saturday of our return, and they looked at her with disdain as if it was too much trouble for them to assure us they knew what we wanted. Was our mail delivered the day we returned? No.

Categories
Italy

Italy Highlights

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2008 Itinerary & Highlights

(Flight from Philly direct to Rome US Airways)

June 12-13-14-15, Rome (Leaving 6/16)
HOTEL MODIGLIANI Via Della Purificazione 42, 00187 Rome
Near the Spanish Steps and Via Veneto
Highlights: Cappuccino, Coliseum, Vatican, Ostia Antica, Forum

June 16-17, Capri (leaving 6/18)
VILLA KRUPP Viale Matteotti 12, 80073 Capri ( N A )
Highlights: The look on Kristy’s face in Naples, food, hotel view, cable lift

June 18-19-20-21, Amalfi Coast (leaving 6/22)
VILLA LA TARTANA – Vicolo Vito Savino, 6/8, 84017 Positano
Highlights: Great service at hotel, Mama Agata Cooking class in Ravello, Pompeii, Live music on the beach

June 22-23-24 Southern Sardinia (leaving 6/24)
HOTEL TARTHES – Via Parigi, 1  Guspin, Cagliari – 09036 Positano ( S A )
Highlights: Our first Sardinian wine. 4000 year old Nuraghic ruins.

June 24-26 Northern Sardinia
IL MUTO DI GALLURA – Localita’ Fraiga – 07020 Aggius ( Sassari )
Highlights: Mierto and mint aperitifs, roaming the farm, Paulo, playing music

6/26 Leave farm, drop off car in Olbia and fly back to Rome. Check in HOTEL MODIGLIANI.
6/27 Last day in Rome. Early checkout.
Depart from Rome 11:15 AM (Italy time) to Philly.

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Categories
Blog Ireland

Life of the Rover

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Breakin' the law...

So we made it to Dublin after several other dubious musical experiences, and one day made our way to St. Stephen’s Park. Beautiful gardens, people feeding swans and ducks in quaint ponds… a guy with a beer in his pocket. Pretty laid back. So I pull out my guitar to just practice a bit and rest. The guy with the pocket beer liked it, but within moments the park guards (?) came by and pointed out that there was no music allowed.

So much for Irish Hospitality.

I wasn’t even singing, or busking really. Just practicing.

So now, every time I play “Life of the Rover” these lines have more meaning…

There’s a bylaw to say you must be on your way
And another to say you can’t wander

Categories
Italy

Italy Trip Journal – Preface

italy_coliseum_jd{Reposted from my original 2008 trip journal and reflections in 2009}

Preface (below)
Itinerary & Highlights
Observations
Eczema in a Strange Land
Resources That We Used
Travel Agency Review
What We’d Do Differently
Do YOU have a sugardaddy?
Naples
Northern Sardinia
Southern Sardinia
Music Journals: Baby TaylorRomeCapri – Positano/RavelloSardinia
Postscript: Walmart Culture Shock
Italy to Knoxville – Glitter & Doom

Our original plan was to accompany a church group on an American Music Abroad tour of Northern Italy with our friend Kristy. For those who don’t know, Kristy is Audra’s best friend and roommate from college at Bloomsburg University. Kristy now lives and works in Westchester as a nursing educator. We were not going to be singing with Kristy’s choir, but we would get the group rate and travel with them.

That was mid-2007. Then the US dollar began to tank and the choir tabled their plans. We decided to push on by ourselves. We discussed changing our destination to explore the slightly more cost-effective southern part of Italy and eventually enlisted the help of Hidden Treasures of Italy (www.htitaly.com) for the accommodation arrangements (a review will be included later for those interested in using them).

So the trip itself was 8-10 months in the making, with many emails and a couple conference calls to get everything set up just right. Kristy, having been to Europe several times, did the bulk of the interaction with the agency, periodically checking with us on our preferences. Audra became a bit more involved when it came to how to spend the second part of the trip. Sardinia was attractive for its mix of cultures and was a bit off the beaten path. Our agency agreed there were some good things to do there, so we included Sardinia on our itinerary.

It just so happens that I was swamped with college and creative projects while the planning was taking place. My involvement in the planning was rather limited. I had to be content that the money we were putting into this (two years of savings since buying a home) was going to pay off. I voiced only a few basic requirements:

No minute to minute schedule (we have enough of that at home)
A chance to play somewhere, even if it was just at an open mic
A chance to do some family research

I knew the latter point would be difficult. I wasn’t quite sure where to start or how much time we’d have for that sort of thing, but it was still an interest. When the question was raised about renting a car, I wasn’t crazy about it, but gave in. I felt that the experience itself, however it panned out, was going to be worth it regardless of the details.

I attempted to network online to find Italians who could direct me to venues or individual artists. This proved frustrating at best. Of the few responses I got, most were for venues outside of our route, or DJ clubs. While the world is smaller with the Internet, booking internationally is next to impossible without an agency, and it was far to late to seek one out.

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Hotel Modigliani elevator

So why Italy? Well, for me it’s a number of things. My family name of course comes from there, and as the first of my immediate family to travel overseas, this trip meant a lot to me. I became interested in learning more about my own culture during a brief period of genealogy research for a class a few years back. Italian culture is one that is seemingly invisible today – more or less melted down into American life, and we take it for granted. Then there’s the rather obvious artistic connection through various art forms.

For Audra, it was mostly the history and cuisine, both of which she had experience with as a teacher and a foodie, even though she is Irish/German. To some extent I guess it was the Vatican, even though she is not a practicing Catholic. For both of us it was the knowledge that Italy would be a good introduction to Europe. Many people there are bilingual, helping us with the language barrier, and the country is on good terms with the US. While we have invitations to Hungary, Bangladesh, Finland and other places, we both felt that Italy was a good start to begin our international travels.

Forms of transportation? 10

US Airways Airbus, cars (including two rentals), train to Naples, ferry to Capri, Funiculari, Anacapri cable lift, hydrofoil back to Naples, walking, small plane, airport bus.

Photos taken? Over 2000
Vacation in Italy? Priceless

Starting in Rome, the black line traces our path to Naples, Capri, then to Sardinia and back to Rome. We also stayed in Positano and visited Ravello and Pompeii. Since we covered so much ground, it is next to impossible to share everything.

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Categories
Blog Electro Travelogue

EM2011 Report

Poster by Jack Hurwitz

The Electro-Music festival and conference in Huguenot, New York in early Sept was another great experience and I came away inspired (if not well-rested). It was bittersweet however, as this was also the same weekend as the flood in Central PA (from the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee) and my mind was certainly not present as much as last year. In fact, it wasn’t even clear if EM2011 would be held, with bridges and roads out, but somehow it managed to stay afloat and for those who attended I think it made a big difference and helped keep spirits up.

For those that know me as an acoustic artist, it may seem odd to be attending such an event. But there are sides to my composition and musical interests that just do not get very much exposure in the folk/blues genre. Whether it is the influence of sound experimentalists like Ken Nordine or Brian Eno, or my exposure to electronics from an early age, I can not deny the attraction to sound as texture. Still, EM is not for everyone, and it takes a very open mind, and open ears to appreciate what some electro artists are doing. Whether it is the sorrowful cry of the theremin, or the clammer of power drill percussion from Brazil, there is something to be learned from all of these sounds because in the end they are the expression of the human spirit reaching out.

JD's rig for EM2011 - Keeping it simple?
RoDoJede - Robert Dorschel and Jeremy dePrisco
Solo electro performance - (Photo by Cyndi Heap)
Spooky walk back to the lodge.

































More photos can be found at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mindspeak/sets/72157627671987938/

Categories
Blog Electro Travelogue

Electro-music 2010 Review

JD's Electro-Music setup - Photo by Jeremy

Who? Festival produced by Electro-music.com – an international online forum and community of artists, enthusiasts and industry pioneers in electronic music. People of many walks of life.

What? Electro-music Festival 2010. This really was a celebration and not the usual industry conference with lots of ego, and PR hob-snobbing. Performances, many improv based, informal workshops, jam sessions and demos. A swap meet to empty your basement or attic of electronic critters.

Why? Because ever since 2005, this community has recognized a need to gather and celebrate their passion. No one was doing anything like this, so the event was born thanks to the effort of a dedicated few. Kind of like some countries.

Where? Mostly online but definitely global in scope and maybe beyond. This year, at the secluded Greenkill Retreat Center (a YMCA camp) in Huguenot, New York.

When? 9/10 – 9/12, 2010. Yeah, this already happened. Sorry you missed it.

How better to spend the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on NY and PA than to witness collaboration on so many levels of humanity at something so (seemingly) unhuman or extra-human as an electronic music festival. How better to spend this anniversary not tuning into any TV news, but rather the many broadcasts of music in these rooms among people from all over the world. What better way to express our resolve than to not read CNN, MSNBC, or other news sites, but instead explore our beginnings and futures as creative humans.

Photo by Hong Waltzer

As I mentioned to the organizers and attendees – it was such a life-enhancing event. Words can not describe (though I will try here and in future blog postings) to convey the camaraderie and inclusiveness that I felt this weekend. The passion, curiosity, integrity, energy and wonder that each person brought to this event were overwhelming at times, but always welcome and comforting.

Reflecting on other “industry” events that I’ve attended, this gathering had a completely different feel. All too often, conferences and niche festivals take on a rather cold feeling filled with ego and bravado, with everyone vying for attention. This weekend – refreshingly – showed none of that. There was too much awesome stuff going on to really get caught up in your own head about where you should be or who you should be talking to. Where you were was where you belonged at that moment. What you were hearing was important. The feeling of inclusiveness, mentorship and stewardship for the audio arts was palpable. It was like coming home. It was inspiring and humbling. As a first-time attendee, electro-music 2010 delivered beyond any expectations and will forever redefine my own musical direction.

Things I realized while at electro-music 2010:

  1. It’s not my job to interpret, define, categorize, identify, or explain my music.
  2. Electronic music can not be compared or contrasted easily to anything else. Just as words stretch to describe any music, they are particularly inadequate here.
  3. “Electronic” means what it says. And more. And less. It means all manner of pickups, triggers, controllers, manipulators and enhancers. Electronic = electrons = energy. Electronic music has energy. Propelling forward, taking you back.
  4. Those who compose, perform and create electronic music probably have the widest palette of sounds imaginable, and also the most flexible ears.
  5. Contrary to what some may think, electronic musicians do not hold themselves above “traditional” musicians. They simply want to continue the expression of life that music offers through the various technologies available.
  6. No two electronic musicians are alike – even if they both have the same *exact* instruments/setup. The person is still the instrument. No two people are exactly the same.
  7. Electronic musicians revere the composers, inventors and creators that came before them.
JD performs - Photo by Hong Waltzer
JD performs - Photo by Hong Waltzer
Electro jam - Photo by Hong Waltzer
Electro-acoustic jam - Photo by Hong Waltzer
Electro-acoustic jam - Photo by Hong Waltzer
Electro-acoustic jam - Photo by Hong Waltzer

{compiled 9/11/10 – 9/18/10}

Check out Jeremy’s photos on Flickr

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