Besides the obvious things like family and friends, of course.
#9 - Sushi. Apparently there is a sushi restaurant in Venice, but somehow it seemed sacreligious to eat Japanese food in Italy. Normally, I come home from a trip and I am craving pizza, but not this time. I got my fix at Seiyo in the super-trendy South End. In typical South End fashion, it can't just be a sushi place, but must also be a high-end wine boutique. Those things don't even go together! But I'm not complaining - we bypassed the wine and went straight for sushi and saki, which hit the spot.
#8 - Service with a smile. I can't deny it. As an American, I appreciate it when a waiter or checkout person smiles and pretends that they like me. I figure it's the least they can do as they are taking my money. Of course it does not happen all the time, but it is something we expect from our service sector in the United States. Not so in other countries. Certainly not in Venice, where service is usually polite, sometimes efficient but rarely friendly. Sounds like another place that I sometimes travel.
#7 - High-speed Internet. We did have wireless access in our apartment in Venice. But the receiver was two floors up, in the landlady's flat, which meant a sketchy connection for us. Not to mention that it only worked in the kitchen. Not to mention that it was sometimes shut off at random, for indeterminate periods of time. We comforted ourselves with the reminder that we were living in a 15th-century townhouse and, really, what did we expect? The internet probaby didn't work very well back then. Anyway, nice to be back in the pink house, where the internet conncection is strong in every room, as well as the backyard, where I happen to be working now.
#6 - Lilacs. What luck, I arrived home just in time to witness the lilacs bursting out in all their blossom-filled, aromatic glory. The downside, I learned, is that if the lilacs are blooming it means it's too late to put down pre-emergent crabgrass control. So... looks like we will have a crabby lawn again this year. Apparently I did not inherit the grassy green gene from my father. But I did inherit his appreciation for a sweet-smelling flower, which I am enjoying right now in the shade of the lilac tree.
#5 - Gardening. Speaking of my backyard, I spent my first week pulling up weeds, planting herbs and annuals, transplanting perennials. I came home just in time to catch the tale end of the tulips, and my azaleas were also ablaze. Now my bearded irises are emerging, as is the rhododendron. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy and satisfaction I get from my little private plot. The appearance of new buds makes my heart sing. Eating homegrown tomatoes makes my mouth water. And as an antidote to sitting in front of the computer, there is nothing better than going out in the sun and digging in the dirt.
#4 - Massage. After all that digging and weeding, my muscles were screaming. Lucky for me, my friend and massage therapist, Katrina, has moved back up to Boston.
#3 - Birds. There are no birds in Venice. I guess it's not surprising, as there are no trees in Venice. There are the pigeons, of course, whom I have nothing against. But that's about it. The pink house is also in an urban area, but we do have a few trees, which attract a surprising variety of birdlife. Of course there is the constant host of sparrows. But other more interesting species are also regular visitors at my feeder, including cardinals, grey mocking birds, house finch and downy woodpeckers. A few days ago, for the first time ever, I spotted a female ruby-throated hummingbird (I think) in the lilac bush. Looks like I might have to invest in one of those fancy hummingbird feeders to see if I can get her back.
#2 - Baseball. With all the drama surrounding the Celtics and Pats, I forgot that the Red Sox are still world champions. The Hometown Team has not forgotten, though. The boys are leading the AL-East (and the Yanks are bringing up the rear!). And Jon Lester pitched a no-hitter last week - that got everybody's attention.
#1 - Fritty. Fritty the Kitty was very well taken care of in our absence. But that doesn't mean that she didn't miss me. I can tell by the way that she spends the night sleeping on my chest and purring in my face.
By the way, Fritty turned 19 while we were in Venice. People often ask me what that really means. Is it true that one human year equals seven cat years, which would make her a remarkable 133 years old? Not exactly.
Experts estimate that a cat reaches sexual maturity after one year, so the first year of the animal's life is equivalent to about 15 years in human terms. Somehow, they determined that after the second year, the cat has a maturity level equivalent to a 25-year-old person. Again, I suppose we are talking about reproduction here, not getting a masters degree or holding down a job (although if Fritty was given the same opportunities as everyone else, I'm sure she could have done it when she was two). After that, the cat's aging process evens out to about four cat years for every one human year. So do the math: apparently Fritty is 93. And quite spry considering.
My apologies to those of you who thought this was a travel blog. I promise to return to our regularly scheduled programming in the next post. But after all, among the greatest joys of travel, who wouldn't include homecoming?