Today’s free Italian listening, with comprehension task and transcript, is on ‘dreams’.
As in what you want to do in the future.
For me, that would be a hot shower and some cold beer. Holidays can be tiring, don’t you think?
If you’d like to get right on with studying Italian, rather than hearing about our Texas road trip, here’s the link:
Thanks to the various people who have written in saying they are enjoying hearing about our progress. Feedback is appreciated.
I’ll be back to flogging ebooks soon enough, but for the moment I’m enjoying writing about our travels.
So, let me tell you about an amazing coincidence!
Since yesterday, Sofia and I have been in San Antonio, Texas.
The conurbation has several million inhabitants, which makes it one of America’s largest cities.
According to Wikipedia, San Antonio was once the drive-by-shooting capital of America.
But we won’t dwell on that, so as not to alarm my mother.
It’s certainly a major tourist destination, with plenty of history and a picturesque downtown River Walk.
Think Amsterdam, with skyscrapers.
San Antonio is named after the San Antonio de Valero, a Spanish catholic mission, better known as the Alamo.
It was the site of a famous battle which, more or less, began the war with Mexico.
And it was that conflict which resulted in Texas becoming an independent country and then, eventually, part of the U.S.A.
What’s left of the mission is right in the heart of the city.
No tourist board could have arranged it better!
The founders of the mission called it San Antonio because they had first reached the area on the day the saint is celebrated.
But who was St. Anthony?
THAT’S the amazing coincidence!
Turns out he was a law professor at the University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe.
And Bologna, I surely need not mention, is where we have our Italian school!
Small world, huh?
While we were taking a look around the San Antonio Mission, I got chatting to a Texan granddad, who recommended we go take a look at one of the other missions (there are five in the area), San José.
That was good advice.
Mission San José has been reconstructed and so gives a much better idea of what a mission actually looked like and what its function was.
There’s a National Parks visitor centre, which is free to enter and has ample free parking, too.
I’d link to it, but their website is embarassingly bad. Nevertheless, do pay a visit if you’re ever in these parts.
And once inside, be sure to watch the film, which will keep the kids quiet for a bit and provide historical context.
Basically, the Spanish were conquering the New World but had no means of populating their new territory.
Before the industrial revolution and the advent of steam-powered ships, bringing Europeans across the Atlantic Ocean would have been impractical, expensive, risky and impossible to scale up, given the size of the territory to be populated.
I guess it would have been a bit like if we were to set up a colony on Mars today.
Even supposing you could get some astronauts there safely and set up a base, how would you get enough settlers out there to build a Martian city big enough for drive-by shootings?
A tough one.
The Spanish empire’s default solution to this problem was to attempt to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity.
Hence the missions, which were sort of fortified ranches, each with a church.
Missions were staffed by priests and solders, trained for the job back home in Spain.
The agricultural grunt work was then done by local indigenous peoples who were willing to become catholics and learn Spanish in exchange for food and protection from fierce Apache and Comanche raiders.
The first American cowboys were, therefore, mission indians, who tended the missions’ herds using riding techniques taught by the Spanish and equipment imported from Europe.
The mission system worked well for a while, but with the Napoleonic wars back home in Europe, Spain lost it’s global reach and things in the New World empire fell apart.
The San Antonio (Alamo) mission was eventually abandoned, and later became a Mexican military depot, known as Alamo.
Fast forward a decade or two and the Alamo base was captured by Texan settlers protesting against the Mexican government of the day.
Want to know what happened next?
What else can I tell you about San Antonio?
Well, I tried a famous Texan beer, a Shiner Bock, in a fake Irish pub on the river walk (it was hot outside…)
The pub was expensive, but the air-conditioning was a relief and there were peanuts in their shells to snack on.
Sofia couldn’t believe that you were supposed to throw the shells on the floor.
So that was fun.
Also, we were able to cross off another of the things on her ‘to do’ list when we had lunch at Lulu’s Bakery and Cafè, a few minutes walk from the downtown area.
They’re known for their 3.5 pound cinnamon rolls, apparently. Word has spread as far as Italy!
We watched as a lady and her four daughters tackled one of them, but even the five of them couldn’t finish it!
Other specialities of the house include the breaded chicken steak sandwiches (hand-breaded, ’cause it just tastes better that way!)
And if you order the largest breaded chicken steak option on the menu, and manage to finish it in just twelve minutes, you’ll win a free t-shirt.
I am not recommending this.
Emily, our ‘server’ was apologetic. The coke machine was broken, so they only had iced tea or water today.
Our of curiosity, I had the tortilla soup, which was surprisingly good.
It was based on chicken stock, further flavoured with carrots, celery and chilies.
With tortilla chips floating on the top, which explained the name.
Sofia had the veggie burger, which was also good, though too large for her to finish.
We washed it all down with bucket-sized plastic glasses of iced water.
Any Texans out there reading this?
Here’s a question for you.
Why are your burgers served with ‘chips’ (i.e. crisps)?
Rather than with ‘fries’ (a.k.a. chips), as in the rest of the world?
Do write in.