Chinchero Peru; Church and A Wedding

June 28, 2014
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At the top of the hill the church sits low atop stones which predate Columbus, whitewashed against a blue sky with looming clouds. At 9am sharp a man climbs into the bell tower and the clanging of the bells begins. We’d come to Chinchero, high up the mountains of the Sacred Valley, and suddenly bells were clanging and banging instead of ringing and pealing. There was no gentleness in the sound, but as soon as it stopped there was a silence tempered by only a bit of wind and a baby’s cry.

Video of the clanging bells and church square:

The morning, our first full day in Peru and Palm Sunday (though we saw little evidence of celebration), started at our hotel where we were met by one of Percy’s colleagues, a young Peruvian woman with a name so unusual that neither of us can remember it now. She met us in the hotel lobby and escorted us to the car which was one of the ubiquitous Toyota sedans seen all over the world.

Our first destination was the high mountain town of Chinchero which sits at almost 12,500 feet. I was nervous that the altitude might affect how I felt on the first day, being up that high, but I felt fine save a bit winded while walking uphill. Before we left, I really debated the order in which we’d do our 3 days of sightseeing in the Sacred Valley. Many people visit the town of Pisac because the market is supposed to be the largest in the region on that day, but I’d also been told the one in Chinchero was smaller and more “authentic”. I wanted to see a real working market, filled with food and goods for the local residents, not just stuff for tourists. So …

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A Visit To Trajan’s Market in Rome

April 23, 2012
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Even after many trips to Rome there’s always something new to see. I must have walked past the ruins of Trajan’s Market dozens of times and never really gave it much thought. This time I thought, “how is it possible I’ve never been in to see a 2000 year old market?”

They were taking down installed pieces from an art show when we arrived so unfortunately there were parts of the museum which were off limits to visitors. Still, we decided to go in and they discounted our tickets by a couple of euro. The entrance to the museum is on Via IV Novembre, but you can see the curved three story building of the market’s offices when standing in front of the Forum on via dei Fori Imperiali.

Inside the museum’s entrance is the vaulted Main Hall of the old market. Now, in the niches which once held shops, are various statues.

Trajan's Market

Once through the Hall and out into the open areas, it’s easy to imagine this as a bustling market almost 2000 years ago. According to what I’ve read, certain sections were set up for certain types of businesses, so on one street were all the taverns, and another area might have held all the wool sellers or jewelers.

Trajan's Market

Trajan's Market

Trajan's Market

Trajan's Market View

The view of the “Wedding Cake” or Victor Emmanuel Monument from the top of Trajan’s Market. In all my trips to Rome I’ve never been inside this structure. The Capotoline Museum buildings are in the back, to the left.

Finally from the chapter of my (yet unwritten) book called “Places I’d Like To Live Someday” check out these three apartments. They can all be seen from the top sections of Trajan’s Market so I can just imagne the views they have from their balconies…

Trajan's Market View

Trajan's Market View

Trajan's Market View

For more on Trajan’s …
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Food in Rome; Restaurants,the Campo di Fiori Market, and a Giant Mortadella?

April 19, 2012
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One of the best things about being in Rome (besides the 2000 year old monuments around every corner) is the food. Like the monuments, fantastic fresh food is literally around every corner, whether in neighborhood outdoor markets, restaurants, or small specialty shops,  the quality of the food is astoundingly good. That’s not to say a bad meal can’t be found, but if you do your homework, you can eat very, very well.

One of our first stops was the Campo di Fiori market. Yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also filled with locals who shop there daily as well as some of the most beautiful produce.

One of my favorite vegetables to eat in Rome is Puntarelle, a bitter green which is usually served raw with a lemony anchovy dressing. In the Campo di Fiori market, you can see how this green is cut, stripped and prepared for purchase.

You can also see how artichokes are cut down to just the small hearts for the famous artichoke alla romana dish. If you’d like to read more about Roman markets, check out my Four Favorite Markets in Rome on my other blog, Former Chef.

The Campo di Fiori is also home to the famous Forno del Campo which is best known for its foccacia. Of course, we had to stop and get a slice which was still warm, right out of the oven.

I’d been wanting to try La Fiammetta since our trip in 2008 when I’d read on Chowhound it had the best eggplant parmesan around. I love anything eggplant, but had not been able to make it to the restaurant on either of my last two trips. This time we went and I am very happy to say we were not disappointed.

The eggplant parmesan was some of …

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Of Buffalo Mozzarella and the Kindness of Strangers

March 14, 2012
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One of the reasons we went to Paestum, besides the incredible ruins, was to visit the birthplace of buffalo mozzarella and hopefully see how it’s made. The day before we’d attempted to visit Vannulo dairy and arrived in late afternoon only to discover there were no tours (sometimes, but only in the morning) and saw nary a buffalo. I had to console myself with some chocolate gelato made with buffalo milk (really good).

The next morning we set out on foot from our hotel to visit another local dairy, Masseria Lupata Barlotti. The walk was about half a mile along a two lane road with not much shoulder. We tromped though the long grass at the side of the road, past fallow fields, as cars whizzed by. About half way there, a woman in a very small car stopped and asked us, in Italian, where we were going. We told her “to the farm” and she motioned for us to get in. My Italian is minimal, but she made it clear it was not safe for us to be walking along the road. She dropped us at the driveway to the farm amid many “molto grazie”. My mother and I were surprised at her generosity, but not as surprised as when the exact same thing happened on our walk back to the hotel.

This time, we’d only walked about 30 feet when another tiny car pulled over and a different woman insisted that she give us a ride. We thanked her and got in. Again, she spoke no English but we figured out what she was saying, “You would do it for me.” I was stunned. And honestly I was not sure I would, back home in Los Angeles, where we never pick up hitchhikers, let …

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Naples Porta Nolana Fish Market and Piazza Dante Farmer’s Market

November 20, 2011
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If a city has a market, I’m going to visit it. Having been a chef who specialized in fish and seafood, I’m always attracted to a city’s fish market and the Porta Nolana market did not disappoint. It’s outside, on the street, and very much reminded me of the La Vucchiria street market in Palermo with the crumbling buildings, artfully displayed food, and vendors in rubber boots calling out  jokes to each other and selling their wares to passersby. We seemed to be the only obvious tourists there, and while we got a few curious looks, no one seemed to care.

We walked from the train station at Piazza Garabaldi to the streets where it starts; Via Santa Maria delle Grazie a Loreto and Via Padre Ludovico da Casoria. Naples has quite a few markets and if you want to see more than what I’ve seen here, I highly recommend you check out Napoli Unplugged’s extensive list of markets in Naples and map of the markets.

Naples Fish Market

Naples fish market

Naples Fish Market

Like the shrines in my Naples at Night post, this neighborhood had its own shrines watching over it.

Naples Fish Market

Naples Fish Market


On our first Sunday in Naples we came across a Farmer’s market in Piazza Dante. This one seemed to focus on organic and artisanal products only, from cheeses, to meats to bee keeping and honey production. There was even a display encouraging people to grow their own produce.

Naples Farmer's Market

Naples Farmer's Market

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Tokyo’s Ameyoko Market and Yakitori with the Local Crew

August 31, 2011
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We all hope for unscripted moments when we travel, don’t we? It’s those precious minutes when you actually get to interact with someone who lives in the place you have traveled halfway around the world to visit, someone who isn’t paid to interact with you (like a hotel employee, tour guide or waiter).

These experiences seem fewer and farther between now that we have up-to-the-minute travel blogs to point the way, yelp reviews to tell us where to eat, and smart phones to guide us on the go. Still, those authentic moments can and do still happen, when you least expect it. And that’s how we found ourselves sharing beer and yakitori with a group of guys at a little stand inside the Ameyoko Market in Tokyo.

We had spent the morning in Ueno Park visiting the Tokyo National Museum, which while partly closed due to the March 11 earthquake, was still worth the visit to see the beautiful historical kimonos, art, and archaeological finds (swords, pottery, jewelery, etc.) of Japan. It was raining so we didn’t feel like walking through the huge park to visit any of the other sights there; various pagodas and shrines, a lake, and several other museums. We did however, pause to take a picture of this life-sized blue whale outside the National Science Museum. A comprehensive visit to this park could easily take several days in better weather.

The Ameyoko Market is across the street from the South end of the Ueno train station and runs underneath the elevated train tracks. There are two larger pedestrian streets which run parallel to the train tracks and several smaller alleys which crisscross underneath. Legend has it this was a place where black market items could be found, especially after WWII. Now it’s filled with everything from …

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Kyoto’s Nishiki Market and Daimaru Depachicka (Food Hall)

June 21, 2011
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Kyoto’s Nishiki Market Street

If you’re interested in food, when researching Kyoto, it’s almost impossible not to come across references to Nishiki street. This market is often referred to as an “alley” but really, it’s quite clean and comfortable because it’s located one of the covered arcade streets running parallel to Shijo St between Teramachi St and Takakura St. 

While the surrounding streets are also covered arcades (which is great in inclement weather like we had), those streets are bursting with clothing shops, souvenir stands and restaurants. Nishiki is all about the food; it’s filled with market stalls catering to every kind of Japanese specialty imaginable, many of them unique to Kyoto. There are all manner and variety of pickled vegetables, fresh tofu and yuba (tofu skin), fish mongers and butchers. There are a couple of well known knife shops here though our budget prohibited any purchase.

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A Tale of Two Breakfasts in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market

May 31, 2011
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Monday in Tokyo

Despite waking up in the wee hours of the morning, we got a later than expected start. Walking to Shinjuku station during the morning rush hour is like fish swimming upstream against the crush of people headed for work in the surrounding office buildings. Inside the station, where we planned to find the JR office and activate our rail passes was chaos. There was no break in the torrent of people coming up from the train and subway lines. The sheer quantity of people inside the station had my claustrophobia button kicking in. We finally found the JR office near the south entrance of the station, but it does not open until 9am so we waited, first in line. Our passes were activated by two 2 people with many stamps and signatures, and finally we had our seat reservations for Kyoto and the return.


Our plan was to go to the Tsukiji Fish market but we weren’t in a hurry since I’d read that visitors we not currently allowed inside the popular early morning tuna auction. The number of visitors allowed inside has been limited for a while now, and after the earthquake some people were saying the vendors (some of whom don’t like tourists in the market) had been lobbying to keep them out all together. So, while it’s a good idea to get their early because the inside section of the market with the fresh fish seems to start packing it up after 10am, we didn’t feel the need to get there at the crack of dawn.

The Toei Oedo metro line (the pink one on the map) goes from Shinjuku station to Tsukiji station and upon exiting, turn left and the entrance to the market is right around the corner. It’s a pretty vast …

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