Saturday, July 26, 2014

Parma, Italy

In early April, I went on a work trip to Parma, Italy and presented a talk at this conference. It was a really nice trip, but I wish Ed could have come, too. He was getting ready to switch jobs around that time, so he couldn't go. But I did get to meet up with three of my co-workers from Raleigh.

Because I was an invited speaker, I got to fly business class, which is obviously really nice for several reasons, including racking up frequent flyer miles. The view of the mountains from the plane was beautiful as we were about to land in Milan (Linate airport), but I was on the aisle, so I couldn't get a photo without reaching over people. I did get a few photos on the way out of Milan (Malpensa airport), though. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy, but you can still see some.

Taking off from Milan Malpensa airport
The conference coordinators arranged for a driver to pick me up and take me to the hotel. It was a nice drive. It took about an hour and a half to get to Parma. The weather was perfect, and I could see the mountains in the distance almost the whole way. The hotel was very nice and just down the street from where the conference was held. It was also directly across the street from a grocery store, which was convenient, and there was a large park behind it. Here's what my room looked like:

Yes, there was a bidet.
I met up with a couple of co-workers, Heather and Mike, who got there around the same time (Heike, one of my bosses, came into town the next day). We walked around town for a while. It's a university town, so lots of students were around.

Ducal Palace, just behind the hotel
We ate dinner at a small cafe where the owners didn't speak English (don't recall the name of the place, but it was in town), but they were very nice and accommodating. I was glad I had started learning Italian before the trip, though. It really helped! I had mezzaluna pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and mushrooms in a white sauce and some shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (which is made in Parma) on top. We each got something different and let each other taste each dish. They were all excellent. Sorry, I'm bad at taking photos when eating. I should probably work on that.

But I did get a photo of the chocolate gelato I got from Gelateria la Pilotta. I got mine in a waffle cone, but Heather and Mike both tried theirs on top of a waffle. They said it was really good, but it didn't look like they had as much gelato on theirs, so I was okay with my choice. Maybe I'll try it on a waffle some other time.

Gelato al cioccolato
The next day, the conference was supposed to start after lunch, so Heather and I went to see a few things in town in the morning.

View from the Parma River (See the high mountains in the distance?)
We went to the Palazzo della Pilotta, which is a complex of museums. We didn't have time to see all of the museums, but we did see the National Archaeological Museum, Farnese Theater, and the national art gallery of Parma.

Teatro Farnese

View from stage

Galleria Nazionale di Parma

They used some nice lighting techniques in the darker areas of the gallery.
When we were about to leave to grab some lunch before the conference, a docent came by and said she could show us some more paintings that weren't on display in the main gallery and could only be seen at certain times of the day. We were glad we stayed, because we got to see this:

Leonardo da Vinci's La Scapiliata (it's actually quite small)
The art gallery web site has photos of lots of the artwork on this page, if you're interested in seeing what they have there. It's kind of like a virtual, free visit to the museum.

The conference was very nice, and our presentation was well-received. It was nice to meet people and see that our work is used and valued internationally, as well as to get a better idea of what they do.

Left to right: Heike, me, Heather, and Mike
The food was also excellent every time we ate. The hotel breakfast had a wide variety of options and it was very good, and I usually don't even like eating breakfast that much. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and prosciutto di Parma were offered at nearly every meal. The conference hosted a nice dinner at Antica Cereria, and it included bread, antipasti, asparagus lasagna, veal and potatoes, a dessert, and espresso. I didn't really have to buy that many meals, thanks to the conference providing food a few times and the breakfasts being included in the hotel stay.

There was more to see in Parma than I expected (it's not that big of a city) and had time for (due to being at the conference most of the time I was there). It would have been nice to go on a free dairy tour (the timing didn't work out for that week), go to the opera, and see the cathedral and the Palatine Library, but I'm glad I got to see what I did.

In my next post, I'll talk about an excursion Heather and I took to Bologna on our last day there.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Last summer, one of Ed's former co-workers invited us to pick cherries from her cherry tree, so we did. We filled three buckets with sour cherries.

We made and canned some cherry pie filling. It tasted great, and the consistency was just like you'd get from the store. We used Mrs. Wages Fruit Pie Filling Mix. It yielded three quarts, but we canned them in pint jars instead of quart jars. We made two pies and a cobbler with them.

We also used our dehydrator and added the dehydrated cherries to cereal and homemade granola bars. I think we may have let them go a little too long in the dehydrator, so next time we'll have to keep an eye on them a bit more. They were too dry, but they still tasted good.

We froze what was left after canning and dehydrating. Thanks for letting us pick cherries, Becky!