A Family Affair

While going through the photos from our autumn 2012 vacation, it occurred to me that the pictures were different than the ones taken on most of my past trips.  Damany and I travel for 3 weeks every September, and we’re usually visiting new places and seeing new sights – taking ridiculous amounts of photos of our surroundings the whole time.  This time was different altogether…on this crazy trip almost all of the photos were of people.  This September-October, Damany and I had 2 weddings and some business to attend to – which changed the whole style of our holiday.

Il Matrimonio di Anna e Angelo Istanbul 2012 El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo

Touching down in Sicily (Sept 25) for my cousins wedding on the 29th, the entire week was spent with my family (4 nights in Partanna and 2 nights in Palermo).  I don’t get to see them as often as I would like, and the time spent is never long enough.  Of course, when you visit family in Sicily, all you do is eat all day.  Seriously.  You wake up and there’s cafe e dolce (coffee and sweets), and then about an hour later, you’re going to some other family members house to have a big lunch.  When I visited as a child there was siesta after that; it’s not so much the tradition anymore.  On one of our days there, a family dance party actually broke out after the lunch.  Maybe a couple hours after lunch you are eating a big dinner at another family members house.   And then you’re going to the bar, or out for gelato.

Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012

Between eating, we did go to the Aqua Calda (Aqua Pia these days – apparently a resort now).  It’s one of my mom’s favorite places in Sicily, and close to my dad’s hometown of Partanna.

Sicily 2012

Going to Palermo to see my cousin Fabio and his wife involved far less eating than in Partanna, and in reasonable portions.  We had what I would call a very chill, normal everyday life kind of time – it was awesome.  One day, really, all we did was sit in the house all day and chat, while watching Il Padrino (The Godfater – in Italian) – which by the way I am on a hunt for, so if anyone knows where I can get it, hollar!  We went to the bar late night, and filled our bellies with delicious kebab afterwards – getting only 3 hours of sleep before rushing to the airport.

Sicily 2012 Sicily 2012

Leaving there for Istanbul (Oct 2nd), we spent 4 nights in my favorite city for business.  Being that this was our third time in Istanbul, our business contacts had now become much more like family.  Instead of seeing the average tourist sites as we had on our first trip, we spent the entire day (practically every day) sitting at Elegance Carpet enjoying the company of our Turkish cousins, and watching them operate (it’s always a learning experience).

Istanbul 2012 Istanbul 2012 Istanbul 2012 Istanbul 2012 Istanbul 2012

Istanbul 2012Upon attempting to do something touristy, Damany and I found that we were now disinterested and unimpressed.  The real Istanbul didn’t sit in the walls of Topkapi Palace (though at least 6 gift shops do) – the real Istanbul sits within the streets, within the food, within the souls of the people and their ridiculous tea drinking culture.  The real magic of Istanbul is the people who live there, and I’ve come to understand that the most interesting days for me are those spent just watching the lives of those who make it such a magical place.  Their energy, their compassion, their humor – that is what attracts me to the city.

Skipping over to Rome (Oct 6) to rest for two days before heading back to The States, Damany and I had planned an all eating itinerary.  Being a foodie, I had been previously unimpressed with Rome’s food scene.  Maybe I’m partial to my family’s cooking in Sicily, but whenever someone says, “Oh I just loved the food in Rome,” I find myself severely perplexed.  I find Milan and Napoli to be much better food cities than Rome, and most of what I had eaten previously in Rome was pretty terrible to be quite honest.  So, this time I went with a list of eateries from Anthony Bourdain’s Layover.  With only one full day in the city, we were only able to choose two restaurants from the list.  Both trattoria’s (Cacio e Pepe and Betto e Mary) lived up to my expectations, so thank you Anthony Bourdain.

Rome 2012 Rome 2012

Staying at M&J Hostal was a great idea.  Not only was it VERY close to Termini Station (so easy to get to from the airport without a taxi), it also was just above a bar.  Our first entire night was spent in this bar, which offers discounts to people staying in the hostel (dangerous situation).  We ended up being invited to stay for a birthday party which was taking place at the bar, and met a number of interesting people from around the globe.

Rome 2012 Rome 2012 Rome 2012 Rome 2012 Rome 2012

Our Brooklyn pit stop was only two nights at home, and felt oddly like a layover in a fancy hotel.  About as soon as I walked into our apartment I exclaimed, “this is the best bathroom we’ve had yet!”  I almost considered doing some touristy things (like go to a museum) while home, but opted to rest up for the Puerto Rican wedding festivities to come.

Taking off for a Puerto Rican wedding on October 8th we arrived at JFK airport in the cold air, and would be landing in 90 deg F weather a few hours later.  I’m not sure that Damany and I were fully rested and ready to party after only two days of rest from one time zone to the next, but we hit the ground running regardless.
El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo

El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo El Matrimonio de Alayna y Romeo

I really appreciate having these moments in travel, where you fit into the average day (or a special day) in the life of those you are visiting…it’s rather refreshing sometimes to not be rushing around from one tourist site to the next, and rather to enjoy the company of the people around you.

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