italy/france trip recap

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Antipasto

Wow! Just got back from a 2 week trip where I, husband, and mom and dad and sister hit Milano, Como, Bellagio, Varenna, Pisa, Firenze, San Gimigniano, Lyon, and Oingt (pronounced as a nasally oo-ah). It was wonderful getting to see family (my husband’s family is all born and raised in Italy), celebrating our marriage with those who could not make it to the US for our wedding 2 years ago, and seeing some more Italian and French cities. Quite a trip! Happy to be home, but I’ve of course got some of those post-vacay blues.

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Table setting at my in-laws house…bruschetta!
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Bowls warming up for onion soup
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Family (minus 1 sister) after a huge and amazing meal at an agriturismo in the hills above Lago di Como
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Chestnut Fettuccine and Radicchio Risotto at the agriturismo
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The city of Varenna on Lago di Como

I’ve been missin’ the cured meats, which I ate way too much of. Seriously. It was probably too much. This trip I found myself appreciating Speck more than I ever did in the past. I hadn’t noticed before that Speck and brie is something that is often offered together whether on a pizza or a panino. Although Breseaola is still my preferred cured meat. Yum, so good. I miss aperitivo and digestivo time. I could skip the primo piatto and secondo altogether in exchange for aperitivo/antipasto time. I tried several new digestivi this trip, one of which was Braulio, which is made from an infusion of a mix of plants, roots, and alpine herbs in the valley of Valtellina. I liked it, although didn’t love it. I miss gas stations with beyond beautiful and fancy crema-filled brioche and cappuccinos and panini and deals on beautifully packaged wine and chocolate and biscotti…aka the Autogrill. I miss how everyone, aunts and uncles and cousins, etc., asks you what you ate for your last meal and/or what you will eat for your next, because the passion for food and the art of the meal is so great that it is commonplace and natural to inquire. But most of all, I miss family. We don’t see them enough, of course, an ocean between us. It is especially evident with a little niece growing up so fast, with many milestones passed in between the times we see her. But I’m thankful for Skype and now that the husband is out of school and I will graduate soon, we will have more money, albeit probably less time, to visit. Gosh, I sound depressing. (Hopefully endorphins from all the working out I’ve been doing since I’ve been back will kick in soon…If not, I know starting my next rotation will help)

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Duomo a Milano never gets old. Never.
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Adorable city of Oingt, France
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THIS marron (chestnut) molten cake at Chez Marguerite in Oingt, France

Onward, I was a bit worried about my progression with Italian on this trip due to the fact that, in being busy with school and rotations, I hadn’t been able to devote much time to brushing up on my Italian. Luckily, however, it all seemed to come back to me and of course progressed some. I acted like a translator this trip as my parents and sister do not speak Italian and my in-laws and husband’s family do not speak English, with some exceptions. That is a good way to improve your Italian (or whichever language) right there. When you are forced to translate, you are forced to learn and learn quickly. My head felt at times like it was going to explode, between remembering which language I was translating to and from. Multiple times I began to talk to my mother-in-law in English and parents in Italian, before seeing confused looks on their faces and realizing my mistake.

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Right outside the bouchon we ate at in Lyon, called Le Musee

 

Hopefully we can make it back to Italy sooner than 2 years from now (that is what we have been averaging). Next time will hopefully and most likely will be a trip to Sicilia. That is where my father-in-law is from and much of the family still remains there. I have never been and am a little scared (my brother-in-law describes it as the 4th and maybe 5th dimension), but very very excited to go and experience it. Maybe a few days spent in Roma before heading down there too. If we are living in DC, there is currently a flight directly from DC to Rome, which would be oh so lovely!

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At an Agriturismo for our belated wedding lunch. It was perfect.

 

 

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Obligatory Pisa pic…with Dad trying too
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Colle Val D’Elsa in Tuscany, maybe my favorite place of the trip
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Agriturismo we stayed at outside of Florence
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The last night in Italy we saw the Last Supper, beautiful

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I’ve got 5 rotations left before I graduate! It’s very exciting. I’m ready to get back into them after this long and nice vacation time and finish up strong. That’ll get me back into the routine of things here…But until the next one starts, I think I’ll be hanging on to memories and remnants of the trip. For example, I made homeade pasta last night at 9 pm and plan on canning some melanzane sott’olio today. And maybe buying some Campari? Yes, that sounds awesome. Baby steps:)

 

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learning languages with the Tandem app

So I’m all about the pen-pals when I’m learning languages. Here are the reasons:

  1. Free!
  2. Easy…there are apps!
  3. I’ve made some AMAZING friendships that began as language pen-pals!

My first pen-pal was the old-fashioned type…through snail mail! I was in 5th grade and it was an opportunity through girl scouts to write with another girl scout in England. I remember that is was the coolest thing when she sent me a little photo of herself and I sent her a homemade friendship bracelet. We wrote to each other off and on for some years, but you know, in growing up and all that, we lost touch. Actually, I should totally try to find her old address and send her a letter. I’m gonna do that. Now I’m excited.

Anyway, I picked back up the pen-pal bug when someone mentioned it to me as a way to help me learn Italian. I joined a website called conversation exchange and met several native Italians who were learning English. We started emailing each other and I actually met one of them in person in Italy a few years ago. It was super cool and we still Skype and keep in touch.

About a year or so ago, I came across another platform for pen-pal meetin’…an app called Tandem. It’s super user-friendly and has many cool extra functions other than just a way to find new pen-pals and text and video chat them. You can search for pen-pals based on which languages you are learning and which you speak, specifying if you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced, or native speaker. The app gives you suggestions on statuses for your profile. These are conversation starters that help you connect with like-minded language learners. One I see often is, “Let’s talk about where we will be in 10 years.” So…some are kind of deep, but there are lighters ones like “Who wants to discuss our favorite movies?”, among others. You can also search others by categories that you’d like to discuss: like food, hobbies, art, etc. Also, if your are texting with someone, there is a cool feature that allows you to easily correct what your pen-pal wrote if it wasn’t grammatically correct. It allows the other person to quickly and easily see their mistake and understand the correction. Disclaimer: sometimes I take it a little too personally if the pen-pal I’m speaking with uses this feature too much, haha. Just saying.

Another awesome feature of the app is language tutors. There are certified language teachers that you can access and have video chats with for lessons of various lengths. They cost $5 for 20 min, $10 for 40 min, $15 for 60 min, and $22.50 for 90 min, BUT the first 15 minutes with each tutor is free! I’ve had two lessons for Spanish and Italian and have had great experiences with them. Very caring and professional. And about the cost, $15 for an hour every couple of months or so isn’t that bad of a deal. I like the idea of learning the language on your own and then checking in with a tutor for some speaking practice and native speaker pointers every so often. That way, you really learn a lot in those 60 minutes!

Well, that’s all I have to say here. Tandem app is free to download and use! BTW, I’m totally not getting paid for this and have not been contacted by Tandem in anyway for writing this post. I was just realized that this is starting to sound like I work for them or something. Nope, just a satisfied user! Oh gosh that sounds bad too…

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa

foreign film review

Bonjour à tous!

So I wax and wane on foreign films. I really enjoy watching them and it’s like my favorite category when watching the Oscars (does that sound snooty? I really don’t mean to sound snooty.) However, sometimes it can get a little tedious reading the subtitles when you are in a mood to relax (does that sound too third world problem-ish. Well yes, I think it definitely does.).

Side note: I actually really love subtitles. Much of the world uses dubbing, and while it’s more convenient to watch dubbing compared to having to read the subtitles, the best way to watch a movie is in the language it was written in, right? Even if you can’t understand it. side note to this side note: really this is an over-generalization that all the rest of the world uses dubbing and I also gloss over historical elements of why countries use the dubbing/subtitle/cinema translation system they do. All that is for another post! Moving on…

But there are occasions, especially when I am in the middle of one of my “learn ALL the languages” binges that I love watching foreign films. I will spend like an hour or two on Netflix or Google just to find THE best foreign film in whichever language I am in the mood for.

Quindi, in the past few weeks I’ve been in said mood and have watched two foreign films: Corazón de Leon and L’Auberge Espagnole. The first is an Argentine movie in Spanish and the latter is a French movie with parts in French, Spanish (it is set in Barcelona), and English too.

The purpose of this post (or posts, might make this a regular kind of posting topic!) is not to give the plots away, but to suggest movies that will help you learn your desired language (I mean, in this case, if one of those desired languages is Spanish or French.) Additionally, I watched them without subtitles, so I probably couldn’t give you a plot summary anyway (ideally, that was a joke. I mean, of course I understood every word in every language…uhh.) But below you will find a language learning tailored review for what I learned watching these movies and maybe what I didn’t learn too! Enjoy!

Corazón de Leon: This movie is ADORABLE. Hilarious, sweet, and with a good message, all at the same time. It’s all in beautiful Argentine Spanish, which I find to be one of the easier forms of Spanish for non-native speakers to understand. This is a romantic comedy, so it is nice for Spanish learners since the plot easy to follow and actually pretty predictable (like most romantic comedies). There are several scenes when the female lead feels strongly about her words and speaks rapid fire Spanish with no hope of me understanding anything (I watched those scenes like 3 times each and still got nuttin’). But other than that, my intermediate Spanish brain really enjoyed it!

L’Auberge Espagnole: This gem is from 2002. I had never heard of it, but my husband knew the Italian translation of the title and remembers it. I LOVED this movie because it had parts in all my favorite languages (except Italian, although there was an Italian character who said a bit of Italian parolacce, which I am very well-versed in). What I really liked about this film is all the different cultures represented in it. The “auberge espagnole” is actually an apartment full of foreigners in Barcelona, all living together in (somewhat) perfect harmony. I also liked that they switched languages throughout the film so many times. Sometimes I didn’t even register which language they were speaking. Maybe they start speaking Spanish after speaking English for a while, and I didn’t even realize they have switched. Ahh, so cool. Love it. 

Et voilà! Let me know what foreign films y’all are watching too, whether it be with subtitles or without! Or for language learning or just for fun! Also, don’t be discouraged if you feel like you don’t understand a lot while watching a foreign film in the language you are learning. Just try is the key! I have no idea what is going on when I watch a lot of these films, but I ALWAYS, however small it is, learn something.

Un bacione,

Layne Alyssa