My Sister in law will be celebrating her fabulous 40 later this month, and is going to Rome with her Mum. She asked me for some travelling tips, and since I now have done this research and written down my favourite places, I thought I might as well post it here on my blog.
ROME is the city that oversleeps. Unlike other European cultural capitals, this glorious jumble of history and art changes slowly. But lately, Rome has welcomed some new sparkle. A futuristic museum in the historic center has added color to the city’s architectural scene. Around town young chefs are experimenting with local ingredients to create new tastes. Even old palazzos have been given makeovers. After years of hitting snooze, this ancient city might just be waking up.
1) MODERN CURVES
The Maxxi (Via Guido Reni, 4; 39-06-3996-7350;fondazionemaxxi.it), opened in April 2010, and is still the talk of Rome. Designed by Zaha Hadid, it is the city’s most ambitious contemporary art museum, and offers playful views with its odd-angled ramps, hidden corners and oblique windows. And although still young, its permanent collection features works by a respectable range of contemporary artists, including Francesco Clemente,William Kentridge and Gerhard Richter.
2) ARCHITECTURAL APERITIVO
For a modern aperitivo, glide over to ReD (Via Pietro de Coubertin, 12, 16; 39-06-8069-1630;www.redrestaurant.roma.it), a trendy restaurant with a lively lounge bar that draws concertgoers and musicians alike. The lounge is situated on the sidewalk outside the Auditorium (auditorium.com), a multifunction complex, designed by Renzo Piano, which has become a cultural hub since opening in 2002. If it’s fall, check out the Roma Europa Festival (romaeuropa.net), which brings music, dance and theater from around the world.
3) PASTA NOUVELLE
For a change from the usual spaghetti all’amatriciana that dominate Roman menus, head to the residential neighborhood of Prati whereSettembrini (Via Settembrini, 27; 39-06-323-2617; ristorantesettembrini.it), a chic new restaurant, uses classic ingredients in novel ways. Mullet on a bed of vegetables (16 euros, about $22 at $1.33 to the euro), tender rabbit (12 euros) and a risotto with the deconstructed ingredients of eggplant Parmesan (14 euros) are standouts. Décor is minimal but warm and the outside tables on a broad boulevard are roomy.
4) FRUIT SCOOPS
Skip dessert and grab a cone at the Gelateria dei Gracchi (Via dei Gracchi, 272; 39-06-3216668) or Al Settimo Gelo (Via Vodice, 21a; 39-06-372-5567; alsettimogelo.it), two of the city’s best gelaterias, in a city full of them. At Gracchi, the fruit and nut flavours taste fresh off the tree, and might just be worth the price of the plane ticket.
5) RESTING PLACES
Like Père Lachaise in Paris, the Protestant Cemetery (Via Caio Cestio, 6; 39-06-574-1900;cemeteryrome.it) is one of Rome’s most meditative and overlooked spots. The final resting spot of non-Catholics for centuries, the cemetery counts John Keats among its permanent residents — his tomb reads “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” Besides romantics, there’s often a steady stream of graying lefties, who pay tribute to Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party.
6) PROVINCIAL MARKET
For great food, friendly service and low prices — and priceless views of Trajan’s Column — head to the Enoteca “Provincia Romana” (Largo del Foro Traiano, 82-84; 39-06-6766-2424). The sleek new wine bar was started by Rome’s province of Lazio to promote local products and wines. The meats and cheeses are excellent, as are its salads. Sit and enjoy the scene, or take a delicious pressed sandwich of spicy grilled eggplant with fresh mozzarella and basil (about 3.50 euros) for a picnic in the nearby Roman Forum.
7) MADE IN ROME
Not all of Rome is set in stone. For a dose of neo-realism, stroll around San Lorenzo (madeinsanlorenzo.it), a former working-class district near the Termini station that’s come alive with chic boutiques and workshops. Find handmade women’s clothing and jewelry at Myriam B. (Via dei Volsci, 75; 39-06-4436-1305; myriamb.it). Claudio Sanò (Largo degli Osci 67/A; 39-06-4469-284; claudiosano.it) makes custom bags and other leather goods, and Candle’s Store (Via dei Campani, 49; 39-06-446-4849; candlestore.it) has artisanal candles.
8) CREATIVE KITCHEN
A handful of restaurants specialize in what Italians call “creative cuisine,” new takes on old standards. One of the newest is Pastificio San Lorenzo (Via Tiburtina, 196; 39-06-9727-3519; pastificiocerere.com), an upscale yet informal restaurant and wine bar that opened last year in a former pasta factory. Favorites include a breaded poached egg in a delicate Mornay sauce (10 euros), grilled tuna with a yogurt sauce (20 euros) and a roasted suckling pig with sugar-coated figs and blanched French beans (18 euros).
9) STREET LIFE
No night on the town would be complete without a stop in the once gritty, now hopping neighborhood of Trastevere. Cool bars include Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama, 4-6; 39-06-4549-7499; freniefrizioni.com), where you can drink while looking out on the Tiber. Or you can grab an artisanal beer at the pub around the corner, Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa’ (Via di Benedetta, 25; 39-380-507-4938; football-pub.com). If you prefer to stay in San Lorenzo instead, follow the party to Aurunci 42 (Via degli Aurunci, 46; 39-06-445-4425;arcoaurunci.it), a friendly bar in the Piazza dell’Immacolata, which becomes an open-air lounge on weekend nights.
10) CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE
From the Galleria Borghese to the Palazzo Massimo, Rome has a daunting array of boutique museums in varying degrees of repair. Just reopened after an extensive renovation is the National Gallery of Ancient Art of Barberini Palace (Via delle Quattro Fontane, 13; 39-06-482-4184; galleriaborghese.it). Its formidable collection, now reorganized on freshly painted walls, includes Caravaggio’s “Judith and Holofernes,” in which the biblical heroine winces slightly as she draws her blade.
11) PIZZA BY THE SLICE
Three years ago, two ambitious young chefs, Stefano Callegari and Gabriele Gatti, took over a hole-in-the-wall in the Testaccio neighborhood and opened Pizzeria 00100 (Via Giovanni Branca, 88; 39-06-4341-9624; 00100pizza.com), named for the grade of semolina flour. The popular pizzeria specializes in “trappizzini” — triangular pieces of thick pizza bianca, which they fill with pillowy meatballs, tripe and other savory stuffings (from 3 euros).
12) KEY TO THE CITY
Amid the general chaos, the city has wonderful pockets of calm. Stroll up the quiet Aventine Hill to find the city’s best Baroque joke: a keyhole at the headquarters of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta (Piazza Cavalieri di Malta) that perfectly frames a view of St. Peter’s Basilica. In the orange garden down the street, the view of the city stretching out beneath you is breathtaking. That is, after all, why you came.
I’m a bit dreamy today. And I voyage in my mind, to places I’ve visited, and loved. You know what I mean, those places where you think you will be able to stay in love with life in general,,, just by breathing. And I do believe that when I finally left, I left as a little bit different person, a person that brought some of this paradise within, in my heart.
Some years ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Egypt. And during my stay, one of my many dreams came through, and I got to spend a day at the pyramids at Giza. It was a glorious day, which I’ll never forget. The pyramids were breath-taking, and it was one of those moments, were the reality exceeds my dreams and expectations. However, I also found, that there was a lot of information about the pyramids that I was not aware of. So I’ve used some of my old study techniques, and read different historical books and documents, to better understand the history and purpose of these great monuments:
During Egypt’s Old Kingdom the pharaohs established a stable central government in the fertile Nile Valley. Perhaps the greatest testaments to their power were the pyramids and other tombs built to shelter them in the afterlife.
Ancient Egyptians believed that when the pharaoh died, he became Osiris, king of the dead. The new pharaoh became Horus, god of the heavens and protector of the sun god. This cycle was symbolized by the rising and setting of the sun.
Some part of a dead pharaoh’s spirit, called his ka, was believed to remain with his body. And it was thought that if the corpse did not have proper care, the former pharaoh would not be able to carry out his new duties as king of the dead. If this happened, the cycle would be broken and disaster would befall Egypt.
To prevent such a catastrophe, each dead pharaoh was mummified, which preserved his body. Everything the king would need in his afterlife was provided in his grave—vessels made of clay, stone, and gold, furniture, food, even doll-like representations of servants, known as ushabti. His body would continue to receive food offerings long after his death.
To shelter and safeguard the part of a pharaoh’s soul that remained with his corpse, Egyptians built massive tombs—but not always pyramids.
Before the pyramids, tombs were carved into bedrock and topped by flat-roofed structures called mastabas. Mounds of dirt, in turn, sometimes topped the structures.
The pyramid shape of later tombs could have come from these mounds. More likely, Egyptian pyramids were modeled on a sacred, pointed stone called the benben. The benben symbolized the rays of the sun; ancient texts claimed that pharaohs reached the heavens via sunbeams.
Contrary to some popular depictions, the pyramid builders were not slaves or foreigners. Excavated skeletons show that they were Egyptians who lived in villages developed and overseen by the pharaoh’s supervisors.
The builders’ villages boasted bakers, butchers, brewers, granaries, houses, cemeteries, and probably even some sorts of health-care facilities—there is evidence of laborers surviving crushed or amputated limbs. Bakeries excavated near the Great Pyramids could have produced thousands of loaves of bread every week.
Some of the builders were permanent employees of the pharaoh. Others were conscripted for a limited time from local villages. Some may have been women: Although no depictions of women builders have been found, some female skeletons show wear that suggests they labored with heavy stone for long periods of time.
Graffiti indicates that at least some of these workers took pride in their work, calling their teams “Friends of Khufu,” “Drunkards of Menkaure,” and so on—names indicating allegiances to pharaohs.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years. Much of the work probably happened while the River Nile was flooded.
Huge limestone blocks could be floated from quarries right to the base of the Pyramids. The stones would likely then be polished by hand and pushed up ramps to their intended positions.
It took more than manual labor, though. Architects achieved an accurate pyramid shape by running ropes from the outer corners up to the planned summit, to make sure the stones were positioned correctly. And priests-astronomers helped choose the pyramids’ sites and orientations, so that they would be on the appropriate axis in relation to sacred constellations.
From stone pusher to priest, every worker would likely have recognized his or her role in continuing the life-and-death cycle of the pharaohs, and thereby in perpetuating the glory of Egypt.
While France may be the land of liberté and laissez-faire, there are a few things that will not stand on French soil, among them ketchup in school, Rihanna’s “We Found Love” video and burkas. Now resent events add child beauty pageants, padded bras and high heels for young girls to that list. Not bad, not bad…
A new French government report has called for a ban on child beauty pageants and padded bras and high heels for young girls, reports MSNBC. The recommendations come on the heels (pun slightly intended) of a January 2011 photo spread in French Vogue featuring Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau, a high-fashion model clad in sky-high heels and provocative attire. While that is nothing unusual in the world of glossy magazines, the fact that the model was a 10-year-old girl raised even the most Botoxed eyebrows around the globe. While French Vogue defended its photo spread by explaining the girls were just dressing like their mothers, the international outcry was deafening. The photo reminded me of the film “Lolita”, and the girl’s provocative feature, did make people of the fashion industry think twice.
In light of the global attention, the French government decided to study the topic and has now issued their report. Chantal Jouanno, the senator who authored the report, said that the sexualization of young women was “contrary to the dignity of the human being” and was a step backward for gender equality.
Finally, we get a reaction more in the way most of the world think. I love spending time in France, and even more now, when I hear that child pageants might be banned, and that even the most important scene in the Fashion world, will not invite toddlers to play. Let the toddlers play at home, and let the fashion world be for the grown-ups.
The young girl’s mother defended the photo-shoot, and that only made matter worse, in my opinion. And again, this act made me think of the many pagent moms we’ve seen on the reality show “Toddlers & Tiaras”. The ones, that claime they are doing this for their daughters, and that their children loves the attention. When the children in fact are to young to understand what they love or like, and they are just exhausted and tired. Little persons, that are in no way protected from their parents “push and pull” strategies.
The decision from the French Government is probably shocking to some pageant parents, and there will probably not be much consideration on the alleged upcoming show Toddlers & Tiaras Go to Paris.
VIVE LA FRANCE!
Ideally situated in the heart of Southern France, between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, the cosmopolitan and enthusiastic “Ville Rose” joyously mixes heritage and lifestyle, great cultural events and festival pleasures. Toulouse is an absolute must for everyone wanting to explore France. At once both modern and proud of the legacy of its past, open and radiant, you are bound to be seduced by the incomparable Toulousain lifestyle, coupled with the wealth of its cultural heritage. Even if you are not as lucky as me, who has my sister and her family living nearby, your stay in Toulouse will certainly be a time of great pleasure.
Toulouse, France’s fourth biggest city, is bubbling over with life. There’s nothing like a stroll around the historic centre, walking alongside the Garonne and the Canal du Midi, or stopping in one of the many cafés whose terraces spill out onto the streets. All over the city, the ambience is friendly, tinged with the well-meaning familiarity that I find particularly for the people of South France.
Toulouse is also a major shopping destination. All the major internationally-renowned brands in fashion, design, leather goods and jewellery are represented in Toulouse. The city neighbourhoods also live by the rhythm of the open-air and covered markets. Here you’ll find local products from the Midi-Pyrenees, which is one of the South-West’s most important gastronomic regions – producing wine, foie gras, cheeses, charcuterie, and of course cassoulet – the Toulousain dish par excellence.
2,000 years of Toulousain history have left the city scattered with a first-rate heritage that is representative of the Southern French style at various moments in history.
The Saint-Sernin basilica, a jewel of 11th and 12th century Roman art, is an important stage on the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrimage. It is home to the grave of Saint Saturnin, first bishop of Toulouse in the 3rd century. The Jacobins convent buildings are visited for their Southern-French gothic architecture including the amazing “palm-tree”, a pillar from which twenty-two branches stem.
At the heart of the antique dealer’s quarter, the Saint Etienne cathedral bears witness to the evolution of several styles of sacred architecture. The city is also very rich in Renaissance townhouses: hôtel de Bernuy, hôtel d’Assézat, hôtel de Pierre… Not to forget the Capitole, currently the City Hall, with its magnificently decorated historic rooms and the immense ‘place’ with its Occitan cross. Sneaking a peek under a porch can sometimes reveal stunning gardens and façades. 19th century industrial buildings renovated as cultural venues prolong the tradition of brick – such as the Galerie du Château d’Eau, the Musée des Abattoirs or the Bazacle – a permanent exhibition space on the banks of the Garonne.
The city at the Garonne river is on the site of an ancient Roman settlement; even today many of the smaller streets follow their Roman counterparts and many of the red brick buildings are of a pseudo-Roman style. These buildings are also what give Toulouse its nickname La ville rose (The pink city).
Toulouse is a big city, but the historical centre is quite small, so you can walk to most beautiful and famous destinations in the inner city quite comfortably. This is definitely the best way to explore the city. My niece and her boyfriend took me exploring the city when I last visited, and I was so impressed, even though I’ve been there before, I left the city with a passionate print in my heart.
I find that Toulouse is one of the most alternative French cities – maybe due to its huge student population and its historical past with half a million Spanish republican/communist/anarchists ‘rebels’ that settled in the region after they failed to rebel against Franco and escaped through the Pyrenees during the ‘Retirada’ in 1939. I don’t know this for sure, but I sensed a rebellion attitude from great graffiti like this:
And of course, during my first visit to The Pink City over twenty years ago I bought a print that has been following me around since, and which I see as one of my art treasures: The print of the Seated Dancer in pink tights by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec. I know that this artist did not live in Toulouse as one might assume because of his name, but for me, the artist and the city reflects my passion for art and traveling.
It’s not every day that we have a Norwegian visiting Ellen DeGeneres. The one-man band and YouTube sensation came all the way from Norway to perform his song “C’mon Talk” on the show. You’ll be singing it for days and wondering how he did it for even longer. Watch here!
I also love how the interview went, looks like he had a great time. And why wouldn’t he?
Since my last post on “Toddlers & Tiaras” I’ve got a lot of response, both positive and negative comments. I’ve realized that even though I mean what I stated in my last post, I don’t know enough of the pageant world to defend my opinions to a larger audience. So, I decided to do some research. This is what I found out…
Beauty pageants became part of the American society in the 1920’s. Child beauty pageants began in the 1960’s. Child beauty pageants consist of modelling sportswear, evening attire, dance and talent etc. The children are judged based on individuality in looks, capability, poise, perfection and confidence. The judges call it, “the complete package”. There are glitz pageants, natural pageants, semi-glitz pageants, face pageants, online pageants, online photo contests, scholarship pageants, and coed pageants. Each type of pageant has its own rules and guidelines. And then there are the unwritten rules that you must know in order to be successful.
Beauty pageants originated as a marketing tool in 1921 by an Atlantic City hotel owner who wanted the city’s tourists to remain in town longer. A local news reporter started the infamous term, still used today by saying, “let’s call her ‘Miss America’!” Pageants were introduced into the lives of Americans and became a major event, although they were discontinued from 1929-1932 due to the Great Depression.
As the years progressed, pageants served as political, educational and entertaining events. Pageants offered scholarships and helped beneficial programs. Marking a racial breakthrough, in 1983 Vanessa Williams becomes the first African-American titled Miss America. In 1994 the first handicapped woman wins the title of Miss America. The pageantry world helps introduce a face to the faceless troubles of racism, handicaps and illnesses.
Pageants are usually operated by for-profit organizations that produce a local, state or national contest that appeal to many age groups for different reasons. Some mothers lie about their child’s age so the child can appear more mature and poised for that age group; now some pageants require birth certificates along with the entry forms to validate age. Beauty pageants are one of the fastest growing businesses in America. The prizes differ depending on the size of the contest; radios, bicycles, grants, cars, cash awards, trophies and tiaras are some examples.
There is a fee required in entering a pageant, which may include entry, rental fees, awards, administrative costs and company profits. Participants have other expenses like clothing, hair, make-up and sometimes hiring a make-up artist, travel, food and lodging.
Individual beauty pageants set their own guidelines for their participants, since they are exempt from the federal child labour laws (Fair Labour standards Act, 1938). Child pageant contestants are not considered to be “working” children although they receive money and prizes for their performances and practice for hours per week to achieve those goals.
In Universal Royalty pageant, the country’s largest child beauty pageant, all contestants receive an award for participating. There are sixty contestants from the age of zero to thirty years old; all divided into different age groups. As soon as the child can sit up on her/his own she or he can enter the pageant.
A competition is held usually every few weeks. There is a minimum cost of $545 to enter the pageant, which covers basic entry fees. Another $395 is needed for the maximum options of this pageant. The average cost of the pageant is about $655 which includes the formal wear, sportswear and dance. The average cost does not include travel, hotel and food, which can be up to an extra two hundred dollars. According to several stage mothers participating in Universal Royalty, dresses for sports and formal wear can cost up to $12,000 with a minimum of $1500. The grand supreme winner receives one thousand dollars in cash, ten-inch crystal crown, six-foot trophy, supreme entry paid in full to nationals, tote bag, satin rhinestone banner, teddy bear, bouquet of long stem red roses, gifts, video of the pageant, and photo on advertisement of beauty pageant. The participants are also required to bring gifts to the winning king and queen. Different beauty pageants offer optional competitions inside the pageant, like decorating your door, dad competition and talent. In Universal Royalty, family values are enforced. Therefore, the dad competition is free of charge and there is a fifty-dollar award and a plaque for the winner. Based on the competition, the child is judged differently, points are scored in each domain of the pageant, and the most overall points earn the participant the grand supreme prize. Prizes for overall photogenic are prejudged from photos sent before the pageant. Each part of the competition has an entry fee to participate.
Annette Hill is the director of Universal Royalty, she believes in an organized and professional competition. Annette was a former child pageant competitor, and also had her daughters participate. When she decided to open a pageant of her own, she wanted something different. She enforces family values by making a dad competition, which includes the fathers in the competition as well.
Usually the mothers are the controlling authority over the competitors. The inexperienced mothers seem more pleased with any award the child receives at the pageant and less critical of the child’s mistakes on stage contrary to the experienced moms who seem more disappointed than their child to receive a lower-classed award than imagined. “There is no chance for a mistake”, as said by Annette Hill on her own pageant.
Preparing for the pageant requires time and patience, hair lasting around an hour and forty-five minutes, make-up around an hour. Different performances for every pageant require some participants to practice for about seven hours a week.
William Pinsof, a clinical psychologist and president of the Family Institute at Northwestern University said, ” Being a little Barbie doll says your body has to be a certain way and your hair has to be a certain way. In girls particularly, this can unleash a whole complex of destructive self-experiences that can lead to eating disorders and all kinds of body distortions in terms of body image.” Traveling, stress and competition are everyday aspects of an adult’s life, an average day of an adult requires at least these three aspects to make it to lunch hour, but at the age of eight, stress about body ideals, modelling, and trophies should not come into existence. Since there are no set rules concerning promoters, organizers and participants, pageants are neglected by laws governing them. Organizers want to earn money and are not concerned with the need to protect their participants, and they don’t.
According to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act, child abuse is defined as, “the physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child under circumstances which indicate the child’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened.” Most stage mothers claim that their child wanted to enter the pageant on her own. Does an eight-year-old girl know what is best for her? In 1996 seven-year-old Jessica Duboff died when her parents allowed her to fly a plane across the country because she liked it. Should parents rely on their children to know what is best for them?
Child abuse is defined as exploitation of a child, are these parents exploiting their child beauties? On a study done by Hillary Levey who researched child beauty pageants of the two to six age group for the Harvard University Gazette, she interviewed forty-one pageant mothers who participate in an average of five pageants per year. Levey concluded that mothers of lower-income and education enter their children in pageants because they want their children to learn the proper skills necessary to move up the social scale. One stage mother said, “I want my child to be aware that there’s going to be somebody better than her. It’s a hard thing to learn, it was for me, and I want her to start early.” Parents with higher incomes and education beyond high school often justify pageants by explaining that competition is essential for their children to become successful. According to Levey, the upper class mothers want their daughters to become lawyers, doctors or to have professional careers.
The families we follow in the TLC program “Toddlers & Tiaras” take their children to glitz pageants. Laws and regulations are needed for this arena; organizers, and worst of all, parents are manipulating innocent kids. Mothers take their kids and live vicariously through them. In order to improve the inadequacy of pageant regulation, every state should pass the bonding law, which states that a deposit is required for new promoters to assert the security of the participants. This only exists in a few states. There should be guidelines for the hours of work on stage, practice and travel. Organizers should be required to attain a certificate allowing them to work with children. Make-up and hair should be limited as to not enforce sexuality in such a young age.
Beauty pageants are one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. The government should regulate such an extensive enterprise, to provide safety, especially since it deals with children. The government protects the juvenile’s health from smoking and drinking and provides education and safety. Children have rights and laws guarding them against manipulative adults, aren’t these pageants a marketing tool aimed at children? JonBenét Ramsey’s death influenced the public to believe that all pageants promote sexuality and mistreatment, but there are always two sides to every story. Throughout this research, pageants proved to be both a negative and positive influence depending on their surroundings. Pageants that regulate make-up usage, sexuality and competition are recognized to be positive experiences for children. For example, Beatriz Gill a child pageant director and a former child participant, does not allow make-up or snug costumes in her pageants. Beatriz is one of many that have a positive outlook on pageants; she believes that pageants helped her become confident and self-assured. On the other hand, many of the pageants do allow excessive make-up, hair and clothing. These are the pageants that are exposed in the program “Toddlers & Tiaras” and are the grim examples of an industry that makes money and explore children.
The front page of People magazine that asked if Toddlers & Tiaras had gone to far, started my writing about childrens beauty pageants. Trough out this research I’ve found that my opinion stays. I believe that pageants have a long road before achieving a safe environment for children without introducing them to competition, sexuality and disappointment too early in life.