May 25 2009

Road Trip

May 24 2009

Surprise show

I just heard what could have been gunfire – and yet, I still went out to look. Forgot about the weddings here at the hotel today…

May 24 2009

Detour to Rome

As with most of our travels, this trip has defined our flexibility, taken unexpected detours and revealed more of southern Italy than I could have planned or hoped for. Needless to say, thinking I would be spending most of my time along the Riviera in Alassio, I packed completely wrong, but have managed just fine.

First detour, 2.5 days in Rome. We picked a hotel just outside the city center, something with secure parking – as our rental agent in Naples suggested that the new diesel Punto would be just the car thieves are after. Well, and besides, Italian traffic is crazy. In the cities its hard to find a car without some evidence of collision. Not interested. I’d much rather walk .25 mile to the train station any day. There is a rush associated with train travel that I rather enjoy. Figuring out how to buy the biglietto (ticket), fighting the impulse to jump on a newly arrived train before knowing which direction it’s headed, making sure to acknowledge where I’m leaving from – so when things are said and done, I know where I’m supposed to return. The overall accomplished feeling of a successful days travel by train is one I never get tired of. Should I mention here that I grew up in a town that had no public transportation of any sort? Walk, bike, drive or hitch…to this day.

The enormity of things in Rome are on a scale of which is truly hard to define. I expected the Colosseum to be grand, and it is, but the size, space and design of the rest of the city took me by surprise. Even with people in the photos, it’s hard to show just how gigantic the monuments, parks, churches, museums, etc., really are.

This is the Victor Emmanuel Monument, inaugurated in 1911 in honor of the first king of unified Italy. Or, should I say, a piece of it – the whole thing doesn’t fit in the camera frame. This area, the Capitol, citadel of ancient Rome, was designed by Michaelangelo in the 16th century.


Another astounding building, near impossible to interpret the size, is St. Peter’s Basilica. The dome itself is 448 ft high, designed by Michaelangelo but not completed in his lifetime, and can be seen from just about any vantage point in Rome. From the inside of the Basilica, looking up towards the dome there are Latin letters interspersed on a band along the base of the dome. These letters are each approx. 9 ft. tall. Look above the letters, there is a ledge with people on it. Even with the people, it is hard to grasp the size. A continuing theme during my brief visit of this amazing city.


We toured Vatican City, the museums and the Sistine Chapel. You will not see a photo here of my visit to the famous Chapel. Those naughty visitors who attempted the strictly prohibited photography, were double clapped at severely by security. There was a lot of clapping going on. The other advisement that went practically unnoticed was the request to keep silent. Oh, ya, right. I may have been the only one observing that rule. Certainly the guides were the worst about it. At one point a ding-dong came from a loudspeaker above, with a reminder in Italian first, then English, to keep silent. I was staring at God and the Creation at the time, immediately the Wizard of Oz yelling “Silence!” came to mind and the whole thing became a big private joke. Don’t misinterpret, I loved viewing the fresco, it was certainly a highlight of highlights for my day. That Michaelangleo left an impressive legacy in this city that I surely enjoyed glimpsing.

We enjoyed a gorgeous walk along Tevere river. Should I point out that there are small children sitting along the bank of this river? And still, you can not grasp the scale, I’m sure of it.


I think we did pretty good to get the sights in, and not totally wear ourselves out (to the point of not remembering what we’d seen, always a risk with quick trips!). Explored the Colosseum, cruised the Forum, taking in the ancient site from up above on the Palatine Hill to get our bearings. Refreshed ourselves with gelato while sitting on the steps of the Pantheon. Ooooooh’d and awwww’d at the Trevi Fountain.


Climbed the Spanish Steps to make our way to the Villa Borghese and enjoyed a Sunday afternoon hanging with the locals in the park, one of the first of it’s kind in Rome. Watched inline skaters zip through obstacle cones with incredible accuracy and unheard of speed, hung around a group of probably lifelong friends, now old timers playing Bocce ball. I love the historically significant sights, but I equally love the chance to embrace real time life when I travel.

Fueled by good food, nice wine, plenty of cafe, and our share of gelato, our wandering around was coming to an end as the sun set on our second full and perfect day.


May 23 2009

Two kinds of pizza…

…Italian pizza and the pizza of the rest of the world. With origins in Naples, Italy there was no way I was going to tour the city for the day and not eat an entire pizza. Each pie is a one person serving – and I’ve seen some pretty tiny Italian woman put one away, so I wasn’t worried :)

May 19 2009

Frantoio Armato

Last year I bought a 3 liter canister of olive oil made locally in the Liguria region, from a charming little shop called Frantoio Armato. This year I bought 3, one liter bottles – as I just don’t think I am consuming it fast enough to keep the quality and freshness. Thankfully a man arrived to fill his 5 liter can so you can see the process.

May 11 2009

May 12th, 2009

I am touring one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions. A city destroyed, and completely buried, during a long catastrophic eruption of a volcano spanning two days in AD 79. Although it was discovered in the 16th century, serious excavation began only in 1748, revealing a city petrified in time. In some buildings paintings and sculpture have survived, and graffiti is still visible on the walls – this I gotta see!

Where am I? What is the name of the volcano?


The correct answers are Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius. What a chunk of the top of that mountain is missing, huh? The guidebook said to allow a full day to explore, and as usual, it was right on the money. Of course, I spent 6 hours and only explored the very perimeter of the site. I have it on my plan to return this Sunday, and get over to Naples to see the museum, you know, where all the “good” stuff is, what antiquities survived the looting in the 16th Century.

Thanks for playing. This game is now closed

May 11 2009

Landing in Italy

May 11 2009

Getting my bearings

Ahhh, how quickly I am reminded of the stares a female receives walking the streets in Italy alone. Flashing a smile in mute reply does nothing to help, seems my dimples only confuse the starer even further. No matter what I pack to wear, my clothes just scream foreigner, the stares are just something I have to ignore. I regretted my choice of footwear today almost instantly, not that I brought any fancy shoes, but my pink and white Ron Jon sandals seem to almost offend. Twice I’ve been stopped from entering a room, once by a woman on the hotel staff who’d just mopped the lobby floor, and a second time by a woman in a tiny produce store down the road. Both times all eyes were on my sandals, hands held out and downward in what I interpreted to mean “Stop!” as in “Don’t you dare walk in here, on my ‘floor so clean you could eat off it’, in THOSE abominations, those filthy HOUSE SLIPPERS!” Coming to a complete halt each time, I later understood the statement to be merely a warning, “Be careful you’ll fall on your ass in those awful things!” I nod my head and make gestures that I will be careful, very careful.

To the woman in the produce store I made my apology for not speaking Italian very good (said in Italian) and she pantomimed her meaning about slipping, then left me alone. I chose several bunches of cherry tomatoes on the vine, a good bit of arugula and a couple brown speckled plump pears. She weighed and rang everything up, tearing the receipt from the machine. She started to hand it to me, but then it was as if she decided to see how “good” I really did speak her language, turning the receipt away from view at the last she said “Cinque, vente cinque.” If she cared that I came up with $5.25 without help, she didn’t show it. I was pretty darn tickled. My comprehension is definitely up this year.

So, here I am again – faced with discomfort at being stared at for walking alone and nervous if I can eek out a few words that make sense enough to get what I need. All the while I’m smiling away, because I know once I get the first day of getting my bearings behind me the reality sinks in…I’m in Italy…Baby!

May 6 2009

May, 6th 2009

I am in a city that lies in the heart of the deepest valley in North America. Half-way between two National Parks, a 2.5 hour drive to either one. An hour south is the highest peak in the contiguous United States, a couple hours south-east is the lowest point in the United States. Three hours east is the area that is home to the oldest living organism in earth’s history.

Where am I? Optional – What are the National Parks? The highest peak? Lowest point? Oldest organism?

Sorry about the delay in finishing this game – the laptop DIED and, well, you must know the sort of spin that puts a person into. Thankfully we didn’t loose much data. Going computer shopping today.

The answer is the incorporated City of Bishop California. And boy, wasn’t it nice to be “home” even if it was for less than 48 hours.

Other answers, Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks. Mt. Whitney, Badwater & Bristlecone Pines.

Thanks for playing. This game is now closed.

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