Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rome, Personally...

As some of you may know, I went to Italy in August to do volunteer work for Pueblo Ingles, in the rolling hills of Umbria. I flew into Rome and spent a few days in the Eternal City exploring the vespa-lined streets and getting over my jetlag. I also went shopping - as I do.

On the busy via nazionale which was a short skip from my hotel, I stopped at a Bata shoe store because I saw the most gorgeous pair of boots in the window. Like I was being sucked in by some force, I went through the store like a whirlwind, checking out all their offerings like some boot-crazed maniac. After all, Italy is famous for its shoes, its leather and its boots and I felt I should pay respect to the country by buying a pair. Also, I had just been fired from my job a few days before, and well, I was kind of down in the dumps. Could I really afford the 119Euro pair? No. But my spirit could use it.

Of course, now that I had the boots, I needed a dress to go with it. I popped into a delightful store where a very attentive (and non-English speaking) saleswoman picked out a wonderful (and very autumn-ish) dress to match. A week later, during our "party night" in the volunteer program, I wore both of them and got many rave reviews.

I'm the one in the boots, lol

Sadly, this is where my love affair with my lovely boots came to an end. On the way back home, I stowed my boots in the overhead compartment. It was a confusing bus journey with our bus making unscheduled stops to the airport to let people off and entering Rome from another direction in which we had to pay another fee, so I don't blame myself for forgetting them. But I did, and even though I realized it moments after the bus left, it was too late. Though the Pueblo Ingles people did what they could - though it wasnt much since they are a Spanish company and dont speak Italian - the boots were gone forever. Yes, the finally got a hold of the bus company but the driver insisted there never was any boots..I hope his daughter or wife is enjoying them as much as I did!

Months went by and then, spurred by lack of suitable boot offerings here at home, I got determined to find my boots. Offerings of help from overseas friends yielded nothing, as the boots were only to be found in the Italian branches of Bata. So, I looked through the net, googling "personal shopper in Rome."

And that's when I found Barbara Lessona.

Barbara is an enthusiastic and extremely knowledegable personal shopper in Rome. If you are ever in the city, please do yourself a favour and give her a call. For the reasonable price of 100Euros an hour, she will take you to the stores that suit YOU best. Not the mass chains like Zara or Benetton, but the hidden gems. Whether you want a bargain or a unique, statement making dress, she knows Rome and its stores like the back of her hand. An added bonus is you will get a sightseeing tour of sorts, exploring neighbourhoods that Rick Steeves doesn't talk about. Barbara is also savvy with dining experiences, and can point out the best places for Italian steak, the best places for local wine and, of course, the best gelato.

Barbara went beyond (way beyond) the call of duty in helping me locate my boots (no easy task since she went to every single Bata store in Rome before she found them, and they were only in my size too) and ship my boots (wanting to save me money on a courier, she had her pilot friend fly them to New York City where I arranged for UPS to ship them to our vacation place in California).

Anyhoo, as you all know, I have been happily reunited with my boots in sunny Palm Springs, but I had to post about the wonderful Barbara so that any of you Rome travelers can benefit from her outstanding help.

Wanderlusting Recommends:
Barbara Lessona, personal shopper and guide
Rates: from 100Euros an hour to a full day at 850Euros
Contact:, 39-333-798-2702
Reviews: click here, click here, click here

Hell, you're in Rome, shopping capital of the world (to some). Why not go all out and get the most of it?!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Where I would love to go this week....

Taken from the Lovely Karina XOXO's suggestion, here is a wee post about a place I would love to go to...this week.

Aix en Provence.

This small city in the...province...of Provence is currently captivating my attention. And it all has to do with the status of one of my friend's on Facebook.

She is currently in love with the Aix en Provence Christmas market.

Now, I have never been to Aix en Provence, although when I was backpacking in France, I came awfully close. I even reserved a hotel room there but instead decided to extend my stay in Menton and in Nice. As much as I wanted the REAL experience of the Provencal lifetstyle and countryside, it was June, I was sweating buckets and the sea was beckoning me.

But there is something about the cold winter months that make me turn my attention to Europe. Yes, a lot of me is kind of "bored" of the continent, but when I imagine snow-dusted cobblestone streets, street vendors selling hot wine, and traditional festive merriment that coats the city, I long to be in a quaint European city. Perhaps because I've spent many an Xmas in Helsinki or Oslo or because I was fortunate enough to spend a few wintery weeks in Edinburgh, Lyon and Paris last year this time. Or perhaps it's because I just don't feel the REAL Christmas cheer here on the West Coast of Canada. The non-stop rain doesn't help either.

Regardless, I remember perusing the open market in Nice when I was there and a postcard caught my eye. A beautiful picture of the Nice market at Xmas time. Well, if you want the top dog of them all, you go to Aix en Provence.

The Christmas Market sells everything from Ham to Handsoap and is packed with all the sights and sounds that bring the real, tangible Christmas spirit home. I can just imagine strolling among the stalls, the crispness of the air mingling with a mug of hot wine, the tasteful Christmas tunes floating above the chatter, the sparkling lights on all the trees.

Sigh. If I could go anywhere this week, that's where I would be....