Travel

Pasta with the Grandmas: An Airbnb Online Experience

“Making Pasta with the Grandmas” offers virtual cooking classes for various types of pasta. Each Zoom meeting is hosted by one of five Italian grandma/granddaughter duos. My lasagna class began with lively Italian music and was lead by Nonna Angela and her granddaughter Mariana. The event started at 5:00 PM Philadelphia time. Palombara Sabina was six hours ahead, but the time difference didn’t show on the presenters’ faces. Nonna Angela was an attentive instructor, and Mariana translated the directions for the nine guests in an upbeat manner.

In an effort to bring Italy to their students, the hosts played a video montage containing footage from the in-person version of the experience and scenes from the town. I imagined that the stunning Lazio landscape was right outside my window. We rolled dough by hand, made sauce from scratch, and, an hour and a half later, finally put our creations in the oven. The guests thanked Nonna Angela and Mariana for the delightful evening, releasing them from their teaching duties. My husband and I enjoyed our lasagna with salad, Chianti Classico, and S.Pellegrino. Dinner was straight from Italy.

I’ve spent a bit of time researching Palombara Sabina. Here are a few sights that piqued my interest:

Works Sighted: Antimo Caputo 00 flour; eggs; Corelle bowl; Anchor Hocking measuring cup; Trader Joe’s Tunisian fouta towel

Packing for Palombara Sabina

I’ll be making lasagne with Italian nonnas next month. Yes, I’m leaving Lisbon and heading (by virtual means) to Palombara Sabina, a commune located in the Metropolitan City of Rome (about a 60-minute drive from the capital city of Rome). Pasta with the Grandmas was started by Nonna Nerina and her granddaughter Chiara. As I’ve previously mentioned, prior to the current situation, Airbnb Experiences were only conducted in person.

Although I bypass many formalities of traditional travel during my virtual ventures, I like to pretend that I’ll be boarding a flight. This means packing my virtual suitcase, listening to music by artists from my destination country, and establishing a list of places that interest me. (Lately, I’ve been expanding my Italian playlist beyond Pavarotti.) Although I’ve been to the capital city of Rome before, I haven’t visited other areas within the Metropolitan City of Rome. Visiting Nonna seemed like the perfect place to start.

Here are a few online sources that helped me visualize this medieval town and the people I’ll soon be meeting:

  • This stunning visual compilation.
  • An aerial view of the hilltop town. (The older part of town is located on the top of the hill, and the newer part of town is situated farther down the hill.)
  • The municipality’s history as stated on its official website.
  • A video by travel vlogger Christine Kaaloa documenting her visit to Palombara Sabina and her experience cooking with Nonna Nerina.
  • An American mom’s commentary on her family’s experience cooking with Nonna Nerina (2:06; previously aired on TV2000).
  • An Italian talk show segment featuring Nonna Nerina and Chiara (previously aired on TV2000).

Works Sighted

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (white); 3.1 Phillip Lim + Space for Giants belted asymmetric pleated cotton-twill skirt; Margaux Demi flats (black)

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (French blue); Officine Générale Kendall belted pleated wool skirt; Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Navy

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (navy); Gucci houndstooth wool-blend tweed wrap skirt; Gucci Marmont logo-embellished leather loafers

J.Crew 2011 icon coat; Cuyana alpaca scarf (heather light grey); Italic Annie mini trunk bag; Longchamp le pliage shoulder bag L (black)

Italic boxy cropped cashmere sweater (ivory); Grace Karin vintage pleated A-line midi skirt (navy); Margaux Demi flats (platinum)

J.Crew slim perfect shirt in Baird McNutt Irish linen (French blue); Loewe pleated linen and cotton-blend midi skirt; Margaux Demi flats (cerulean)

7 Wonders of Lisbon: An Airbnb Online Experience

I signed up for “7 Wonders of Lisbon” and spent the week preparing for my virtual journey to Portugal. After visiting Fine Wine & Good Spirits, placing an order on Amazon, and swinging by Trader Joe’s, I declared myself officially ready with a bottle of vinho verde, a can of sardines, and the ingredients to make pastéis de nata. I followed this recipe for Portugal’s famous custard tart but had to convert the measurements from metric to USCS. It took me two days to bring the tart to fruition, but the effort was worthwhile. The description of the experience instructed participants to bring a bottle of their favorite wine, a tin of fish, and something sweet to eat, but I took this a step further by acquiring authentic Portuguese products. I wanted to get as close to Lisbon as possible.

When the time came (5:00 PM EDT / 10:00 PM GMT+1) to join the virtual session, I picked out an outfit (long navy skirt, white button-up shirt, and sandals) that would have been suitable for Lisbon’s temperature (66 °F) that night. As the Zoom session loaded on my computer’s screen, I imagined my husband and I leaving our nonexistent Lisbon accommodation to meet up with the group in person. Maybe I’d bring my pashmina, I thought.

The group was composed of six participants and an engaging host named Andrea, who waisted no time getting the session started. We began with a round of introductions and briefly discussed our personal experiences as they related to the current state of things. Then, we traveled virtually to the spot where the in-person version of the tour begins, Estação de Rossio. Andrea led us through the history, culture, and cuisine of the city she calls home in the seven segments of her presentation. Her personal stories and recommendations made me look forward to visiting Lisbon even more. Here’s a list of fifteen places that have piqued my interest during the course of my online exploration of Portugal’s capital city.

Shopping Destinations

  • LX Factory / An artsy village of sorts with shops and eateries. I’d especially like to browse the books at Livraria Ler Devagar. Here’s some footage of the complex.
  • Embaixada / A gallery of shops located in the architectural gem Palacete Ribeiro da Cunha. Take it all in (00:35).
  • Charcutaria Moy / A provisions store selling a wide variety of tea. They also carry chocolate, sauces, spices, coffee, and more. Have a look around.
  • Conserveira de Lisboa / I’ll be buying canned sardines from this shop that was founded in 1930 as a grocery store. Although canned fish was at the core of the company’s business from its inception, today it specializes solely in this type of product. It has three in-house brands: Tricana, Minor, and Prato do Mar. Here’s an interview with Tiago Ferreira, one of the shop’s partners.
  • Bettina & Niccolo Corallo / This family-run coffee and chocolate cafe doesn’t seem to have a website beyond its Facebook page. As you can see (11.16), the establishment is small…not somewhere you’d sit for an extended period of time. I’ve heard the chocolate here is the best in Lisbon.

Restaurants

Museums

Works Sighted: Nuri Portuguese Sardines in Olive Oil; Arca Nova Rose Vinho Verde; Pastel de Nata (made by me); Trader Joe’s Tunisian fouta towel

Packing for Lisbon

I signed up for my first Airbnb Online Experience: 7 Wonders of Lisbon. I bought a bottle of vinho verde, two tins of Nuri sardines, and all the ingredients to make pastéis de nata. Cue the fado! Thanks to a number of online resources, I’ve been able to introduce myself to the history, cuisine, and shopping establishments of Portugal’s capital city.

Whenever I am considering a new travel destination, I always start with Rick Steves (provided that he’s filmed an episode in the city I am interested in). I’ve seen every season of Rick Steves’ Europe (several times), and I never get tired of them.

Experiencing the local cuisine is one of travel’s many rewards. I began my research on Lisbon restaurants with a list curated by the blog Eater. I watched a video on Conservas Pinhais, the canning company that produced my Nuri sardines. Then I moved on to obsessing over the Portuguese custard/egg tart, pastel de nata. I browsed several recipes before setting on one from Buttermilk Pantry. Making this tart was laborious (I had to convert the measurements from the metric system to USCS), but I enjoyed the experience.

You can’t leave Lisbon without experiencing fado. I discovered the artist Camané and watched a documentary on Mariza and the history of this particular genre.

Perusing shops abroad is one of my favorite pastimes. I came across an informative article on Culture Trip, a helpful Lisbon-based blog named Lisboa Cool, and a few YouTube videos (by Air Transat) profiling shopping destinations in Chiado, Bairro Alto, and Príncipe Real.

When the time came for me to pack my virtual suitcase, I took two things into consideration: Lisbon is hot in the summer and has more than a few hills. You’ll find lightweight clothing and footwear made for walking in my carry-on along with a sunhat, sunglasses, and a straw tote.

Works Cited

Bondi Born belted linen midi dress; Cole Haan Anica sandal (sahara)

J.Crew tie-shoulder linen top; Le Kasha Gizeh belted linen midi skirt; Cole Haan Anica sandal (black)

Jason Wu Collection gathered cotton-sateen midi dress; Margaux Demi flats (platinum)

J.Crew tie-shoulder linen top; Grace Karin skirt; Superga 2790 Acotw (navy)

LL.Bean women’s signature poplin dress; Superga 2750 Cotu Classic (white)

Airbnb Online Experiences: The Europe List

Since a number of factors are preventing me from flying at present, I had to come up with an alternative method of travel. That’s when I discovered that Airbnb Experiences have gone virtual. Typically, experiences are hosted in person around a specific theme. In the not-so-distant past, you could only enjoy them if you were physically present in the cities in which they were taking place. But due to the state of things, some opportunities are available via Zoom.

Not all in-person experiences are available in a virtual version, but the selection of online options is extensive nonetheless. If you don’t already have an Airbnb account, I highly recommend that you create one so that you can build a proper wish list. I recently discovered that you can only have 30 items on a list; I’m due to start my second one. It’s a good idea to check the lineup periodically because new online experiences are added quite frequently.

Here are the top 15 experiences from my Europe wish list:

Works Sighted: Somewhere over the UK en route to London Heathrow (September 2018).