Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Settling In

I have been on a more even keel the past few weeks, settling in to my new life and getting into a routine. Changing hasn’t been easy, but it has been full of small rewards. I am trying to focus on them rather than on the fact that I miss my old life and the people in it.

There are some truly lovely people here, without whom I would be lost. Jen has been great. We see each other a few times a week to commiserate as we eat, usually in some tiny Italian place I have sussed out. One of the truly wonderful things about Munich is the amount of Italians who have emigrated here and started these great little trattorias. Several weeks ago we ate in one with four tables and had the most amazing tagliatelle al tartufo with a beautiful glass of straw colored Orvieto. We followed it up with a perfect cup of cappuccino served by a sexy young Italian waiter. Giddyup! Last week’s find was Bistro Isola di Ischia (Ischia, for those of you not obsessed with Italy, is a small island off the coast of Naples). Another small joint with tables packed together, but we managed to find a comfortable spot for us and for Henry patiently curled up at my feet. These places don’t have an extensive menu, just what the chef/owner was in the mood to cook. We both went with spaghetti con rucola (arugula) and a glass of crisp vinho verde from Portugal. The chef sautéed the arugula with a smattering of fresh tomatoes and garlic. We put some pecorino romano on it as well as some black pepper and it was amazing. We walked away from lunch having spend something crazy like eight dollars.

I often think about my friend Mark, from Rent A Chef in Haddonfield, when I am eating these uncomplicated yet wonderful meals. Mark has been trying to do something similar in his place. He offers three or four entrees for lunch priced at about five dollars and they never failed to please me and my lunch buddies, Jason, Bob and Danny. Unabashed plug here: Mark is a great chef, an engaging guy who really wants to please. If you aren’t taking advantage of his skills, honed in France, you’re crazy!

Lise is another angel. Chris has known her for years. She’s from Dublin and has lived in Munich for years. I met her years ago when she was visiting Jen and Paul in Haddonfield and we hit it off immediately talking about books. She’s smart and funny and as warm as anyone I have ever met. She has gone out of her way to welcome me. In the year running up to me coming to Munich, we emailed most days, and really began what I hope is a solid lifelong friendship. Lise reminds me of Joanna in that she’s an earth mother and very open. Loves to feed people. Very easy to be with. Chris travels overnight at least one night a week and Lise has seen to it that I am busy when he is away. Last week we dyed one another’s hair and highlighted this Irish gal Anne’s hair as Jenny sat back drinking Prosecco and offered commentary! Then we watched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It was like being with Jo and Tom and John!

I am homesick, but I am dealing with it, making a home with Chris and Henry, really expanding my relationship with Jenny and Lise, as well as others. I am dealing. There have been some tough days, usually when it is raining. I just want to crawl under the covers and ignore the world, but don’t. I force myself to get up and get dressed and get on with things. I think the thing I miss the most is that the phone never rings! At home I was totally connected, almost too much so. But I am learning that it can be nice being out of the loop, not knowing the minutiae of everything!

Just when I need it a lot, I am getting a visit from home. My sister Gina, her husband John and their two great kids Lily, 10, and Jack, 7, arrive in Munich on Friday morning! We have all sorts of fun stuff planned and leave for Italy on Monday morning. We are taking a train which goes through the Alps and the Brenner Pass. It is a spectacular ride which I took last year. There’s no reading, no knitting. All you can do is gape at the stunning Alps! I am looking forward to it with the kids. I have been to Italy an almost embarrassing amount of times and am simply dying to share it with my beloved sister who sees art and beauty all around in her daily life!

Chris is meeting us there next week. We’ll head back to Munich on the 23rd from Florence and Gina, John and the kids will continue on to Rome and leave from there on the 27th. We also leave Munich for 12 days in Ireland on the 27th. Chris’ good friend is getting married in a castle outside of Dublin so we are using that as a springboard to a nice jaunt around Ireland.

I will try to squeeze a few lines in between Italy and Ireland, but I am not overly optimistic!


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