Tea Party Tuesday: Profumo di Capri

It’s a national holiday here in Italy, and while I was promised a parade replete with marching bands and elderly veterans in feathered hats, the truth is, it’s raining and no one seems to want to go out.

I spent some time on the island of Capri recently (I’m publishing my guide to the area tomorrow!) and the whole place smells incredible; imagine your fantasy laundry detergent plus the base notes of you favorite aunt’s signature everyday perfume in the ’90s with just a dash of brine. Everything smells just like that. It’s enough to make you highly likely to buy ANYTHING labeled “smells somewhat like here.” My credit card statement will confirm this.

Right before I got on the ferry home, I was browsing a little tourist shop for some candied Capri lemon peels and noticed they were selling the island’s signature tea blend. Since I cannot resist coming home with a tiny sachet of tea, it came in a cute tin, and it said that was Capri-scented, I bought 50 grams.

When I got home, I popped open the (very cute) tin and took a whiff. It smells not at all like tea, but rather strongly of Lemon Pledge, a scent I associate strongly with a fear of disappointing my mom and low-stakes accomplishment. A meaningful connection, to be sure, but maybe not the best impression for a tea to make. I dumped out five grams to take a look, and it was not photogenic; the lemon peels aren’t very yellow, and the leaves themselves were unshapely.

I brewed it according to the instructions and…it tastes like Lemon Pledge (or what I imagine Lemon Pledge tastes like had my mother not repeatedly warned me not to drink cleaning products as a child).

Look, sometimes you buy a dud. If you’re in a country where no one really likes tea on an island where it’s always sunny in a tourist shop that traffics mostly in liquors and bon bons, you should expect you’re going to get sub-par tea. In retrospect, I should have heeded a few warnings: one, the importers for this tea are based in Ferrara. Two, the label didn’t tell me anything about the mysterious “té nero limone” so it really could have been anything. Three, the one piece of info on the can said something to the effect of “packaged for the XYZ Brothers’ Liquor Distributors.” The takeaway is that I’m an idiot.

Silver lining? I think I can salvage it as some Delta-style lemon-mint iced tea here in a few weeks when the weather turns around. Tell me of your tea fails, readers! Surely I cannot be the only one.

Getting Out: Charleston

Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge
Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge

Ah, the Holy City, my current home. I’ve been living in the tourism capital that is Charleston for about a year and a half now, and I’ve got designs on staying a few more months. We welcome scads of visitors every year who arrive by the thousand via tour bus and cruise ship, eager to take in the beautiful architecture, rich history, and world-class food.  The weather’s not bad, either. Truly, I run out of things to complain about. Founded in the 1670, it’s one of America’s oldest cities, and it’s still a functional port today. Though things have changed a lot here over the past few centuries, it remains a gorgeous city that is much more progressive, zanier, and more diverse than the rest of the state. Nicknamed the Holy City because of a nearly-embarrassing overabundance of churches, Charleston has played an important role in several faith traditions– Reform Judaism was born here, the country’s oldest Unitarian church is here, and it’s one of the most important cities in the Bahai’i faith.

A Charleston pocket park.
A Charleston pocket park.

It’s also routinely listed as one of the best vacation destinations in the world, so we get a true cross section of the population visiting, though they seem to fall almost entirely into three distinct categories: people who want to look at the beach, people who want to eat our food, and people who want to interact with a friendly kind of slavery. I’m always happy to see the first two, but believe me: I am not sympathetic to your position that the Old Slave Mart was “a downer” or your weird obsession with plantations. If you’ve got a soft spot for John C. Calhoun or want to tell me how human bondage wasn’t so bad, please just stay at your house and do not give money to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

After the jump, check out some photos I’ve taken around town and get my recommendations for the best places to eat, drink, stay, shop, and do in my adopted hometown.

Continue reading “Getting Out: Charleston”

Lazy Sunday: 13 April 2014

Despite Field Day being my least favorite day of the year in grade school, I’m voluntarily attending one today. If you’re luckier than me and spending this time in of doors and not playing Capture the Flag, enjoy some fancy reading materials.

Getting Out: Birmingham, Alabama

An alarming number of people think that I moved to Charleston from Alabama. Like New Hampshire and Vermont, Mississippi and Alabama are both variations on a theme in terms of shape, and are exactly next to each other. As it turns out, most Americans are terrible at geography, and there’s no mnemonic device that helps you remember which one is which.

A view from the bar of the Redmont Hotel.
A view from the bar of the Redmont Hotel. I recommend skipping it, but the views cannot be beat.

Additional confusion comes into play when it turns out that I know Birmingham pretty well. I went there often as a kid, it was a midway point between Oxford and Atlanta, and I spent almost a week there this autumn for a business trip. I love that town, so I get excited any time there’s a chance to stop in. No one ever believes me when I say this; Birmingham gets no respect.

Continue reading “Getting Out: Birmingham, Alabama”

Lazy Sunday, 14 July

I hope you’re enjoying yourself as much as I am.

Getting Out: Charlottesville, Virginia

Oh, college. I remember you sometimes-fondly, often not-so-fondly. See, I was bad at going to college. I got good grades and had friends, but I loved Charlottesville, Thomas Jefferson, and the idea of UVA more than I loved College: The Experience. Toward the end there, one of my peers described me as less a student and more a “townie who takes a lot of classes,” which I think was supposed to be an insult but was definitely true. I lived far from Grounds, worked far from Grounds, and cultivated relationships with long-time Charlottesvillians. I was glad I did that then, and I’m glad I did that now.

This guide grows out of an email I initially wrote to my friend Gill entitled “places for your to go and see and be and do in charlottesville, the nicest town in the entire world.” Gill was trying to impress his U.Va. grad wife by taking her to some places she hadn’t been in Charlottesville, and apparently this list helped.

This will be your face the whole time you're there.
This will be your face the whole time you’re there. It was my face for most of it.

I have virtually no photos from when I lived in Charlottesville that aren’t of my friends and me in younger, thinner, drunker, more beautiful days, because I left there in 2010, before the spread of smartphones. I’ve been back many, many times, but the photographs from those trips, too, are just a nostalgia binge. I’ve dug up a few good ones for you, and those are with the tips I’ve wrangled for you after the jump.

Continue reading “Getting Out: Charlottesville, Virginia”

Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky

I usually do my travel guide on Mondays, but I’m about to move from Louisville, and I’m getting in my “last ______s” right now. People ask me about what to do in the city all the time, so maybe I’ll just make a list for you right now. It’s timely, right? You’re coming for the Derby, I hope.

Horses may be our civic religion, but there's so much more than that here.
Horses may be our civic religion, but there’s so much more than that here.

After the jump, there’s all I know of the place, condensed into a long-but-Reader’s-Digest-length list. Continue reading “Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky”

Getting Out: Las Vegas

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I usually aim for under-the-radar, hip stuff to do when I’m traveling. My interest level in going to the Galco Soda Stop, for example, is greater than my desire to see the Hollywood sign. You will never hear me advocating that you visit a restaurant with locations in more than one county.

That said: Get over it.

Not pictured: sequined minidress, six inch heels.
Not pictured: sequined minidress, six inch heels.

The point of Las Vegas is that it is corny, it is over-the-top, it is terrible, it is bright and loud and dingdingdingdingding. Embrace it, and do what you’re there to do. Eat well, drink too much, lose some money you had to lose, and take in some shows. After the jump, I’ve got some suggestions.

Continue reading “Getting Out: Las Vegas”