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2007 July, Italy & England Archives

June 1, 2007

One trip ends and another one begins

Our summer 2007 trip is now less than four weeks away, so most of planning has already been done, but I’m starting off my blog with some notes on how the plan progressed. I’m new to this blogging business so please be patient with me while I get my sea legs.

March 2006 was my first trip overseas with my mother and sister. Barely off the plane, I’m already plotting my return. Somehow, someway and soon, I must return to these wonderful lands so drenched in culture, art and history. My husband and daughters will disown me if I attempt to travel without them again, so this next trip will be a nuclear family affair.

June 2, 2007

Decisions, decisions…

Decision 1: can we afford this??
After much discussion about the state of our finances, Dave and I decide to take our daughters to Europe. (Retirement savings...bah, who needs 'em?!)

Decision 2: when should we go?
With two kids in school, summer is our only option for a family trip of any length. Yikes, that means we'll be battling the heat, the crowds, the sky-high season prices - this last causes us to rethink the "can we afford this" question - but by now, there's no turning back no matter the hurdles.

Decision 3: where in the world shall we travel?

Continue reading "Decisions, decisions…" »

June 3, 2007

A funny thing happened on my way to get my vacation dates approved...

Since my father lives in England, I figured we should fit a visit in with him too, seeing that we'll already be across the pond anyway. So I decide what the heck, why not ask for FOUR weeks off? To my delight, my Director says no problem. So, the four of us will travel to Italy for two weeks, then the girls and I will head to England for two weeks. (Alas, Dave can take only two weeks off so must head home from Italy.) How fortunate we are to have the chance to spend a month overseas. My excitement is dampened somewhat by the fact that Dave cannot join us in England. (Of course that just plants the seed for a return visit with him!)

June 4, 2007

Kayak, expedia, and airfares, oh my!

Now comes the hunt for airfares that don't completely obliterate our travel budget. This proves to be a challenge since we do not live near a large hub like Toronto or JFK, however Halifax does offer several reasonable options. Zoom and Canadian Affair have some decently priced charter flights direct from Halifax to London (decently priced for high season, that is) but the timing isn't good (Thursday to Thursday, or Tuesday to Monday). Since Dave only has two weeks, I want to try for two full weeks sandwiched between weekends to maximize his stay, and also to allow us to take advantage of weeklong apartment rentals in each city.

Continue reading "Kayak, expedia, and airfares, oh my!" »

June 5, 2007

Ok, we have dates, we have flights, we have...no place to stay!

Vacation rental research hits full stride. Wow, there is a lot to think about. We again discuss location, but since we're not renting a car, the countryside is ruled out again.

I send request after request, with no response or “sorry, not available”. I keep trying...

Continue reading "Ok, we have dates, we have flights, we have...no place to stay!" »

June 6, 2007

Passes...are they worth it or not??

After getting our flights and accomodations settled, I then move on to sightseeing, not so much a day by day itinerary as researching different things to do in each location. We'd rather play it by ear after we arrive instead of having to follow a set schedule. So, with this in mind, I look into various passes that will give us the freedom to visit sites as we please and not be tied to reservation times, at least as far as that's possible.

Continue reading "Passes...are they worth it or not??" »

June 7, 2007

Places to go, things to see

I've been trying for the past couple months to get the girls to give me some specific thoughts on what they want to do in Florence, Venice and England. Eventually I just took to leaving my guidebooks laying around and commenting that one can open to any page and find something amazing...try it, I say, try and you'll see, I say...

This week, they finally looked through the books and here are some of the things that caught their eye.

Continue reading "Places to go, things to see" »

June 9, 2007

Which church to choose?!?

It would be lovely to attend a church service or two while we're in Italy. Mind you, I'm not Catholic nor do I speak Italian, so odds are I won't have a clue what's going on during the service, still the idea appeals to me. But there are so very many churches in Italy, how on earth does a passerby choose?

The two that pull at me most are:

Continue reading "Which church to choose?!?" »

June 12, 2007

Firenze on my mind

For the most part, I don't want to pin down our days to a set schedule, but instead be free to wander around and look at whatever appeals to us. Of course, we have to decide on a framework (eek, did I just use the word "framework" outside of the office?!?!)

I do want to have a good idea of which sights are where in the various areas of the city so that I don't inadvertantly make reservations for say, the Accademia and the Capella Brancacci before noon on the same day! (Fat chance, but one never knows...)

Continue reading "Firenze on my mind" »

June 14, 2007

Two weeks to go...It's checklist time!

I can't believe we leave in two weeks! Our trip seemed so far away and now suddenly it's almost on top of us and I'm starting to get that "oh my gosh, what have I forgotten to do in advance?!?!" feeling. At least I got my exam over with last night, so no more studying to worry about (for me anyway...The Ginger has exams right through next Friday).

Time for a recap to see if I've missed anything major...the following checklist probably won't make for very interesting reading, just so you know!

Continue reading "Two weeks to go...It's checklist time!" »

June 15, 2007

Books, books and more books

Hi, my name is Anne and I'm a book-a-holic!

Naturally my newfound passion for Italy has infiltrated my reading habits. My list of already consumed novels grows longer nearly every week. At the moment, I'm engrossed in Jacqueline Park's "The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi". It's a novel of a Jewish woman living in Renaissance Firenze (and Mantova). Grazia's character is given depth, intelligence and imperfections. And the historical aspects seem to be well researched, although I am far from an expert on the subject. In any event, I'm quite enjoying this very readable novel.

On the non-fiction side, I've been reading "Italia, the recipes and customs of the regions" by Antonio Carluccio. My mother gave this to me for Christmas (thanks Mom!) This is a beautiful hard cover book chock full of recipes, gorgeous photos of people, places and food, reflections on the culture of the various regions, information on the food and/or beverage specialities of each region. It's a culinary odyssey from Fruili-Venezia-Giulia to Sardegna to Abruzzi to Sicily and all parts in between. I'm so glad to have it...and one of these days, it might even make its way back to the kitchen and actually be used as a cookbook!!


Other books I've read, partially read, or intend to read:

Continue reading "Books, books and more books" »

June 17, 2007

A Suffolk state of mind...

Here I sit enjoying my coffee, Suffolk Souvenir Picture Guide and my GBHP Guidebook in front of me. Come to think of it, I should probably be sipping tea whilst contemplating jolly old England, but no, I must have my morning coffee. And NOT from Tim Hortons either...the stuff has reached iconic status in Canada, but personally I think it's misleading to even call that swill coffee!

Wow, there is a lot to see and do in the Suffolk and East Anglia area! I knew there was much to see in England in general, but hadn't realized what wealth of natural and historic sites there are in and near Suffolk until browsing through my books. I've been getting the quick glimpse of the attractions from the two guidebooks, then looking them up in my Treasures of Britain tome for more detail.

We are staying the Southwold area to visit with Dad and Maggie, and meet some of their friends (dad's planning a combo retirement party for Maggie/meet and greet the Canucks, complete with cases of that yummy Spanish champagne-like beverage that can't be called champagne because wasn't made in the Champagne region of France...sounds like a hoot!) But honestly, I hadn't known Suffolk and surrounds were so loaded with wonders that one could happily spend a lot of time there even without the added bonus of a family connection.

Continue reading "A Suffolk state of mind..." »

June 19, 2007

"Only 9 more sleeps, mommy...EEEEeeeee!!!!!!!"

That's how I was greeted by The Ginger when I came down to the kitchen first thing this morning...I know she's really excited when she calls me mommy. I can hardly believe our departure date is getting so close. I should really say 8 sleeps since what odds I'll actually be able to sleep the night before we leave! I just know I'll be awake all night with visions of canals and cathedrals, towers and museums, winding Renaissance streets and hushed calli, statues, bronze horses and the David...sigh...

Continue reading ""Only 9 more sleeps, mommy...EEEEeeeee!!!!!!!"" »

June 21, 2007

One short week from this very minute...

We'll be flying high - literally and figuratively from the rush of adrenaline as we set out on our month long vacation next Thursday. Our flight is scheduled to leave at 7:30 pm (I pray there will be no delays like getting socked in with an evil Atlantic fog or something equally horrid!)

Well the seminar I was on today ended a little early, so while waiting for Dave to get off work, I grabbed the opportunity to pick up a few items. Inflatable neck pillows for The Ginger and Miss Ninja (to be referred to as TG and MN when I'm feeling lazy), money belts, tiny locks and a handful of luggage tags. For the tags, I had my choice of Spongebob, Dora the Explorer or plastic Canada flags...unfortunately there was only the one Spongebob tag so I got the flags to avoid a household skirmish over who got to play the part of Spongegirl Squaretraveller. (Sniff...I really wanted that tag!!!) I had though about making SlowTrav luggage tags, but doubt I'll have time before we leave. I still plan to look for something else with a bit more flair than the ole maple leaf though (not that there's anything wrong with that...) Oh and I just realized that I still need to get eye masks...

Continue reading "One short week from this very minute..." »

June 22, 2007

Coin rolls and hair foils

Not much planning went on today, although I did lug a verrrrrry heavy bag of rolled coins to the bank for deposit. $102Cdn worth, to be exact. We've been saving them since we decided to take this trip, so finally time to cash 'em in. Miss Ninja counted out the piles and then she and I rolled them. I didn't weigh them, but let's just say I was seriously worried about the handles on my (double) bag breaking and causing me to chase rolling coin rolls down the streets of Halifax (some of which are quite steep!) My friend/coworker Jane accompanied me to the bank (hey, those Brinks guys always travel in pairs, shouldn't I do the same?!)

We reach the bank and wind our way around the strange things going on...in the lobby is a camera setup with a big F_RST sign as a backdrop. We think they are interviewing customers so we turn away and go around the back entrance (turns out they are just photographing people). In the main banking area is one of those indoor putting greens, with people trying their hand (or club as it were) at a hole in one. There's no way to go around, so we zip through, heads down in a "don't bug us" kind of way. In the lineup, I meet my friend Doug (for the second time in a week - hadn't seen him for 5 years prior to that and then twice in a week...odd coincidences go on in this world). We'd reconnected and exchanged new email addresses etc a few days ago (and discovered that we work only a block away from each other), so this time just chatted for a moment until a teller was free and I hauled my sack of coin over for deposit.

Continue reading "Coin rolls and hair foils" »

June 23, 2007

I think I'm officially all planned out...

Whew, today was "the" last minute details day. I finished my lists...I checked them twice...uh oh, I seem to be missing several key items, such as spare contacts, extreme SPF sunscreen for my two redheads, Afterbite, a Tide stick, etc.

I zip up to my eye clinic. My particular contacts are only sold by the box. I don't want a box, I want a pair. (I'm due for an appointment in August so darned if I want to buy a six month supply, only to have my prescription changed after using only one pair.) I politely decline the box and sigh oh well, I'll just have to stretch the time on the ones I have (a big no-no in disposable contact-land). My not so subtle tactic works - I'm offered a free trial pair to tide me over until I return from my trip. Seems they could give me a pair, but they couldn't sell me a pair...

Continue reading "I think I'm officially all planned out..." »

June 26, 2007

Pre-trip miscellany

We have only two days to get through before our journey begins!

I repacked last night, and again this evening...my aim being to have as few clothes as possible but still have at least a few different outfits (in case I don't feel like doing laundry every day). Hard to say if I'll revisit my choices again tomorrow before closing the zipper on the case for good! Of course Dave packed once and that's that. I'm feeling pretty good though. All I have left to pack are the things I use every day such as my contact solution, glasses, drivers licence etc.

I noticed that the Foreign Affairs Canada website recommends that travellers bring their birth certificate with them in order to facilitate a replacement passport if that document is lost, but I'm just not comfortable lugging that along. I don't worry overly about identity theft, but a birth certificate is not something I'd want to lose or have stolen! I'll take my chances with a photocopy of the passport and the fact that mom knows where our original certificates are kept in the event of an emergency.

Continue reading "Pre-trip miscellany" »

June 28, 2007

We're off and running

...but hopefully not running late! I can't believe this day is finally here, even though Dave laughs at me and says how can you not believe it, you've been counting down now for months! I say counting down is one thing, reality another.

I've been up since 4:46am...didn't get much sleep, mainly because of the heat. My bedroom was 27C (and humid so feels hotter) when I went to bed, which is a degree or three higher than the past few nights. I haven't been opening the windows at night in an attempt to climatize myself to our A/C-less apartment in Florence...I think my plan has backfired though since ideally I would have begun our journey well rested instead of hot and tired from lack of sleep. Well on the bright side, I might be tired enough to sleep on the plane this time! This was the first night that the heat kept me from sleeping though, so I guess I'll be ok as long as we can keep our apartment at least 26C or cooler at night!!

--- short pause while I go fetch a second cup of coffee ---

Continue reading "We're off and running" »

June 30, 2007

Hello

we have arrived in italy. forgive the syntax and grammatical errors, i am on an internet train computer with a ten min time limit and an italian keyboard...oh dear

we had a great time our first night in pisa. our room at the hotel verdi was quite spacious and also very clean and comfy. we spent our first evening just wandering around, eating pizza and gelato (of course!! oh I just discovered how to make caps woohoo) The streets of Pisa are quite lovely, winding around and so many buildings of that gorgeous shade of yellowish orange with green shutters that one sees often in Tuscan photos.

This morning we climbed the Tower, before all the crowds arrived. Spectacular view, but my best view was of MN s face when she saw it for the first time...priceless!! The Duomo and Baptistry were also beautiful and we got to hear a man sing a few notes in the Baptistry and hear those wonderful acoustics.

We took the train to Florence and met the lovely Elena, owner of the apt we are renting. Great apartment and we will be very comfy there. As an added bonus, it now has air cond, which will be great because it is SO humid here.

only 23 seconds left so will write more later....gelato....MMMMMMMMM...more gelato

Hi again

Well, I forgot about having to hit the save button so my time ran out and I sat here thinking OH no I did not publish...but apparently my applications stay open for 5 mins after time runs out so that I had time to quickly buy another 10 min card. Next time I will just get the 30 min card since clearly it takes me much more time on this keyboard than would have at home! The good news for any readers is that my typing can only improve (surely can not get worse, and who knows maybe I will even figure out how to do contractions!)

As I ended with last time, we have been loving the gelato...limone, limotta, chocolate, pistacio, cassata (still not sure what that means but MN found it tasty). Elena sent us over the bridge to the Oltrarno to what she thinks is THE best gelato in Firenze...Gelateria Carraia (or something like that.) It certainly was yummy.

We had a good dinner at Al Spado (again, forget the exact name but not to worry, I will have better details for my trip report, it is all in my journal.

MN and TG were thrilled with their first plane rides by the way. Our flights were blessedly uneventful, although the Ryanair landing in Pisa was a bit of a drop from the sky onto the tarmack...thump bump thud...whew. Condor seats were very very cramped but otherwise a decent flight. MN preferred the Condor seats to Ryanair. The Alps were thrilling (again)

Running out of time again!

I think we will check out the Uffizi tomorrow, and maybe a couple churches. Monday we go to the Cezanne exhibit. I will post more as we go, now that I am getting the hang of this internet train thing!

Ciao!!!!
Anne

July 2, 2007

Buona Sera from the Oltrarno!

Finally managed to mix free time with an empty internet cafe so will bring you up to date since...when did I last post? Oh yes, Saturday.

Let me first say that our apartment is fantastic! It is very centrally located but on a narrow street with little traffic. Close by is a GREAT restaurant, corner store, gelato just across the bridge (forget the name but is the next one down from Ponte Vecchio after Santa Trinita). As I mentioned it now has A\C, which is much appreciated during the day although we've been turning it off at night and sleeping fine. Loads of room in the apartment and I've really enjoyed eating meals at "home"! I also love waking up, throwing open the window (kept closed for quiet) and enjoying the morning noises of our neighbourhood. Unexpected was the sound of birdsong, not sure what type of bird though but was lovely to listen to this morning.

I got up before the girls so climbed to the loft and peeked at them asleep. They are sharing the fold out couch (which is VERY comfy) and it was so cute to see them together. Miss N was sprawled in the middle, limbs akimbo, and The G was tucked up on one side nearly off the edge. When they woke up I could hear them giggling and TG giving MN a hard time (teasingly) about hogging the covers and the bed, and even sitting on her at one point during the night! They are getting along fabulously so far. Any crankiness has been directed at mom or dad, and has been very mild, mostly due to tiredness or just being too hot.

So far the weather has been wonderful...except for yesterday which was incredibly hot...meltingly, steamy hot...thank heavens we're used to humidity in NS or I don't know how we would have managed. As it was, we tried to stick to the shady side of the street, refilled our water bottles and soaked our kerchiefs in every fountain we came across. (Must remember to thank John for that tip - what a relief from the heat to wet down with a soaking hanky!)

Continue reading "Buona Sera from the Oltrarno!" »

July 3, 2007

Art...can be overwhelming!

Today was the day - the Uffizi and Accademia day, that is!

We got up bright and early, had a piece of fruit and espresso (Dave and I, the girls had juice) and headed off to the Uffizi for opening time of 8:15. We got into what we thought was the reservation line, but I had a feeling it was not where we should be so went up to check with the security man. As turns out, we were in the tour group gathering line, but in any case the museum was closed for some reason until 10:15...museum hours in Florence...who can sort those out?!?! But I did get one gem of a tidbit from the guard - we didn't have to wait in line at all "just go to door no. 2, no line" he told me. Woohoo, imagine our thrill at bypassing even the line for reservation holders!! That alone made our Friends of Uffizi membership passes worth the price and more.

We strolled around to the Loggia della Signoria and sat there for a while, admiring the striking statues. I had loved Giambologna's Ratto della Sabine on my first visit to Florence and was just as taken with it this time. The figures seem ready to burst into motion at any second. It was so lovely just sitting in the Loggia, soaking up the atmosphere without huge crowds. In fact, aside from an older gentleman reading his paper, we were the only ones sitting there. A few other tourists wandered through, but nobody else sat down. Then back to the apt for breakfast before returning to the Uffizi.

Continue reading "Art...can be overwhelming!" »

July 5, 2007

Siena and more of Florence

Yesterday we went to Siena. The Siena Rapide bus ride is 75 mins from Florence to Siena, and costs 6.50 euro per person one way.

TG was so thrilled, but unfortunately she had not gotten a good sleep the night before so was too tired to fully appreciate the city's beauty.

We wandered around the VERY steep streets - holy cow, some of them are so steep, I can't believe cars are able to drive on them! One in particular looked nearly vertical - the girls and I walked partway down, but Dave didn't take up the challenge, instead he stayed at the top and recorded our foolishness. I was puffing coming back up, for sure!

The Duomo, and especially the Picolomini (sp?) Library, were gorgeous. Dave didn't come in since he likes neither religious art, nor the multicoloured marble of the architecture (party pooper!) The Baptistry was hushed and intimate feeling, even though very spacious. Alas some men were repairing a bit of floor so we couldn't linger due to the epoxy, or whatever they were using...bad fumes.

MN thought the crypt was very cool, and discovered a great fascination with transparent floors! Very cool to stand on the plexiglass and look down a couple stories to the floor below - she said she's finally found something she's scared of. Nonetheless she wanted to stand on every single piece of "glass floor" we came across!

We grabbed a quick piece of pizza near Piazza San Pietro and sat on the steps of that old church. Next door was a frutteria, so we had peaches, apples and a pear for dessert (ok, first dessert...we also had gelato later on our ramblings). We wandered from there down around the old walls. There are some beautiful vistas from various parts of Siena, and a couple lovely little parks with shady trees, benches and "normal" daily life happening. Very cool.

Today we went to the Bargello...I LOVE the statues, especially Michelangelo's drunken Bacchus. Donatello's David was being restored and MN was very fascinated with that process (as were the rest of us.)

We also checked out Santa Croce and really loved the cloister and museum. TG was thrilled with the tribute to Dante, and MN was taken with a stunningly colourful painting in the museum. She hasn't been at all happy with all the gory crucified Christ paintings, so was nice to find one that was a happier scene.

TG, MN and I also climbed the Dome this morning - spectacular view.

Ooops out of time - ciao!

July 10, 2007

Enjoying La Serenissima!

We are having a great time in Venice!!!

Our apartment is very very basic - reminds me of going to the camp or cottage - but it suits us just fine. The girls each have a single bed in the tiny entry hall. There's also a small kitchen (well equipped), a dining room, bathroom (sitdown shower only) and a large bedroom for Dave and I. I was worried that the Jazz Bar on the floor below would be too noisy, but with the windows closed (we have A\C) at night we barely hear a thing. The people in the apt next door had a row last night though - woke Ginger and I up with all the yelling and sobbing and the older lady from the apt on the other side coming along to tell them to shush...quite the scene, somehow the uninhibited expression of emotions seemed very Italian!

Continue reading "Enjoying La Serenissima!" »

July 12, 2007

Palazzos, chiesi (?) and parks

We finally made it to the Doge's Palace and thought it was very grand indeed! MN's favourite part was the section of the golden staircase dedicated to Venus (I think I mentioned before that she's been "collecting" Venuses during our trip). However she was disappointed in the dungeons - they were not what she was hoping for (dark, dank, damp spooky places are up her alley...these were too light and airy, relatively speaking, of course!) TG loved it all, especially the BIG room (memory failure and can't recall its real name, famous though it may be.)

Continue reading "Palazzos, chiesi (?) and parks" »

July 16, 2007

'ello from East Anglia!

The girls and I have now said ciao ciao to Dave and moved on to England. Dave spent one final night in a small hotel in Mestre (mainland near Venice) and then flew home. We called him last night to make sure he arrived safe and sound, and to let him know that I still have his driver's licence...oops!

We had a decent flight on EasyJet - no problems at all getting a seat, as I had feared. I'd read reports of mass stampedes for seats so purchased the speedy boarding option (only an extra 11.25 euro). We were first on and off the bus and got three seats together at the front of the plane. Our flight was running 20 mins or so late, but was smooth. Dad was waiting for us at Gatwick, so we were quickly on our way.

Continue reading "'ello from East Anglia!" »

July 21, 2007

Stonehenge

I haven't had much time to blog this week, we've been on the go quite a bit. And even now I fear I'm too tired to write very much.

We were up early and went to Stonehenge at 6:15 this morning. We saw the end of a dawn Druid ceremony and got to walk amongst the giant stones ourselves. At the end of our timeslot, I took one last stroll around the outside of the circle. As I walked around, I realized everyone else had started back toward the parking lot, so I stepped back in the circle, closed my eyes and stood there. Entirely alone in the middle of Stonehenge. It was so incredible, magical, mystical I can hardly believe it happened.

Continue reading "Stonehenge" »

July 25, 2007

Warning, this is a long one!

We've slowed down this week so I finally have time to bring you up to date. Last week was quite a rush (in both senses - thrilling and zoom-zoom!)

As I mentioned, the weather has not been as glorious as Italy, but instead is rather on-off. We hardly know what to wear each day! One minute hot and sunny, the next is a rain shower. And the air cools suddenly when the sun is covered by a cloud (unlike in Nova Scotia where the air temp remains fairly stable in the summer whether sunny or not - although I know some would argue with me on that!) Fortunately we missed the torrential rains in the Southwest. When I say fortunate, I mean it quite literally! I may have mentioned this last post, but after we returned from our overnight trip to Stonehenge/Bath, we learned of people stranded in their cars for 20+ hours on the motorways very near where we'd been! Actually the road we took home had been closed due to flooding on the previous day. But somehow we manouvered our way through with relatively few delays. And no signs of flooding in the Suffolk area, thank heavens.

Continue reading "Warning, this is a long one!" »

July 27, 2007

Taking it a bit slower...

As mentioned, we are taking it a bit slower this week, although still did a fair bit of driving yesterday. We went to Framlingham and Orford Castles - both fantastic although if I had to pick only one, it would be Orford. Both for the amazingly well preserved castle keep itself and for the lovely town of Orford.

Framlingham is a big ring of towers connected by walls, upon which you can walk around looking down on the courtyard below. There is a great footpath running around to the "mere" (pond, formerly a marsh) but unfortunately we didn't stay long enough to walk it. Another visit, I could spend my entire two weeks in Suffolk and not run out of things to do...the small, often most interesting things are encountered quite by chance when one is ambling around, taking it slow. (However, it was our first trip to England and we did have a couple "must sees" like Stonehenge and London so I am not complaining, just musing that we could have stayed much closer to home and had just a great an experience.)

Continue reading "Taking it a bit slower..." »

August 4, 2007

End of the road...at least for now

The end of our trip has arrived. TG is definitely ready to go home, she has been quite homesick the past couple days. MN and I are less homesick, but feeling that we've been away long enough and wanting to see Dave and other family and friends.

We ponder what would be the best plan for getting to the airport, since our flight leaves from Heathrow at 6:25am. Dad's house is roughly a three hour drive from the airport, plus rain is forecast so there is concern about roads flooding, or just plain old nasty driving conditions, since driving in heavy rain can be a harrowing experience, especially at night. Dad says we should have plenty of time if we leave at midnight...of course that will mean that he basically ends up driving all night since he'll have to turn around and drive home.

Continue reading "End of the road...at least for now" »

August 5, 2007

Missing La Bella Italia...

I haven't quite descended from the high of my trip, but...ooooh, I wish I was back in Italy already. I miss the orangy-gold sunlit glow of Pisa, the luminous light of Venice as dusk falls with the rain, wandering through winding Florentine streets, being drawn down Venetian calli that lead nowhere in particular, flowers popping up in the tiniest of gardens, gratefully stumbling across a gushing fountain in the heat of midday, the rhythm of the language, the warm reception as I struggled with my few Italian words, shopping for food in small fresh quantities instead of big bulk packages, finding unexpected beauty in the most modest of churches, clothes hanging to dry on every other building, the surge of the vaporetto across the lagoon...

"You may have the universe if I may have Italy"
~ Giuseppe Verdi

We had a fantastic time in England too, don't get me wrong. I definitely want to return to the UK for further exploration in the future, but I feel like I could pick up and move to Italy tomorrow and happily live out the rest of my days there!

August 6, 2007

Sorting through the pile...

Yikes, I'd forgotten how much time it takes after a trip to sort through the massive quantities of photos and souvenirs! (Ok, so maybe I didn't need to take nearly 1,000 photos on our vacation, but my children will thank me for that one day...at least that was my standard response to their whines of "argh, you're such a tourist, mom.")

I find it hard to decide which shots are "printworthy" when looking at them on the computer screen, but I have narrowed the list down to 550 already...so I'll soon be brandishing albums at everyone I meet!

Continue reading "Sorting through the pile..." »

August 12, 2007

4 photo albums and a rental review

I'm getting bug-eyed from endlessly viewing my photos. I am building my "to be printed" collection in one folder and my "Slow Travel album" collection in another folder. Maybe I'll just finish my ST album and print that collection.

I'm halfway there with the ST album, I have at least finished my albums for Italy and now need to create my England album. I put the Italy photos into four separate albums (Pisa, Florence, Siena, Venice), but am not sure I'll do the same with the England photos. Those might just end up in one gigantic album...well, hopefully not too gigantic (I'm trying to pare them down, really I am!)

As for writing up my trip report for ST, I haven't started that yet...although that's not entirely true since my blog and my journal are really my starting point.

Continue reading "4 photo albums and a rental review" »

May 16, 2008

Votive tree

Inspired by Maria's photos of votive trees, here is one of Miss Ninja lighting a candle in Chiesa di Ognissanti last summer:

HPIM2003.jpg

June 4, 2008

Piccolomini Library, Siena

In Sandra's recent entry about Spello, she mentioned the "Early Renaissance painter, Pinturicchio -- whose real name was Bernardino di Betto (ca. 1452-1513)."

Immediately my mind shifted back to my two visits to Siena, where I had the great pleasure of gazing upon the brilliant frescos by Pinturicchio (1502-07) depicting the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Bishop of Siena then Pope Pius II, in the Piccolomini Library.

Pinturicchio was commissioned to paint the library by Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini (aka Pope Pius III) in homage to his uncle Enea Silvio Piccolomini (aka Pope Pius II).

A quote from this website says it all:

The interior of the Library offers the observer an unforgettable spectacle. Many on entering the Library have tried to describe the room, permeated by such luminosity and richness of colour as to result unparalleled.
Indeed, Pintoricchio managed to describe the life and vicissitudes of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, portraying them with the colours of a beautiful and magic fairy tale.

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June 23, 2008

Pretend PhotoHunt

Well I haven't yet found time to figure out how to do the PhotoHunt thing, but Annie's post inspired me to post my own photo of Venetian water:

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August 26, 2008

Floating head...

Miss Ninja amongst the treasures of the Glass Museum on Murano...

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From Chapter I of Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll:

'Now, if you'll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I'll tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there's the room you can see through the glass—that's just the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way. I can see all of it when I get upon a chair—all but the bit behind the fireplace. Oh! I do so wish I could see THAT bit! I want so much to know whether they've a fire in the winter: you never CAN tell, you know, unless our fire smokes, and then smoke comes up in that room too—but that may be only pretence, just to make it look as if they had a fire. Well then, the books are something like our books, only the words go the wrong way; I know that, because I've held up one of our books to the glass, and then they hold up one in the other room.

'How would you like to live in Looking-glass House, Kitty? I wonder if they'd give you milk in there? Perhaps Looking-glass milk isn't good to drink—But oh, Kitty! now we come to the passage. You can just see a little PEEP of the passage in Looking-glass House, if you leave the door of our drawing-room wide open: and it's very like our passage as far as you can see, only you know it may be quite different on beyond. Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I'm sure it's got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let's pretend there's a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it's turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It'll be easy enough to get through—' She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass WAS beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.

August 27, 2008

Bas relief in the Frari

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This lovely bas relief is in the Basilica Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. All I remember about it is that it's right below a blazingly lit reliquary case in a side chapel. Why I didn't make some notes on it, I've no idea...obviously I liked it enough to capture it in a photograph! The detail and finish are quite wonderful, I think. (Except I'm less fond of the cherub heads around the edges...I generally prefer my angelic figures to be full size with massive, graceful wings...)

Anyway, I wish I knew who sculpted this bas relief and when. It must be a very minor work that doesn't warrant much notice, because I cannot find any information about it online...I've googled high and I've googled low, but nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero.

I just surprised myself by realizing that I know what these scenes are, and who each of the figures is...at least I think I know these things. Hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong!

The scene on the left:
The Deposition of Jesus
Jesus, of course, is the central figure
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are the bearded men holding Jesus
Mary and Mary Magdalene are the two women bent over Jesus
The final figure puzzles me a bit...I first thought it was a woman, then decided it is a man since the head is not covered. Considering how most Renaissance artists portrayed John the Apostle, I'm guessing this is he. Of this I am unsure.

The scene on the right (which I assume is closely related, but a slightly different timeframe, as frequently seems to be the case in Italian religious art):
The Entombment (?)
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus again...again unsure.

February 26, 2009

February beach break...

This morning I sit sipping a cup of tea and looking out the window at the beautiful winter light and feeling blessed to live in this place of many seasons. I don't think I would trade it to live in a temperate climate, I honestly enjoy the full gamut of weather, from the snowy days of winter lit by pale blue light, to the lazy, hazy golden days of summer, from the hope and promise of spring to the glorious colours of autumn. There is something marvellous and uplifting about the cycle of the seasons, the awakening and emergence of new life each spring, the dormancy of the winter months when growth hasn't necessarily stopped but lies waiting beneath the surface...the whole circle of life.

However, a few folks from my choir were talking of their upcoming trip to Mexico and that got me thinking of warm sun and sandy beaches. Those definitely have their appeal, although I don't have a great desire to do the package sun destination or cruise style vacation. As winter drags on, though, the thought of a tropical beach escape sounds more and more tempting. I'd love to travel to a warmer place, but one where I could safely roam around and experience the culture and rhythm of the land and not be restricted to a resort.

I love playing in the waves and sand and soaking up the sun's rays...the warmth of the sun feels especially wonderful on a day when there is a bit of a breeze in the air. I love those pockets of time when the air stills and the heat of the sun seeps into your bones...and just as you start to grow too warm, the air moves again and you are cooled by the gentle wind across your skin...

Here are a few (sort of beachy) photos from when the girls and I visited dad in England last summer. These were taken in Southwold, on the pier, and in and around his beach hut...I know, it's stretching the tropical sun and surf theme a bit, but oh well!

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March 29, 2010

A stroll through Lavenham

My notes from July 25, 2007:
"Today, we drove to Lavenham and Bury St Edmunds. Oh my, those crooked medieval houses in Lavenham really are everything they're cracked up to be! How funny to see them all higgledy piggledy leaning this way and that, cantelevered out over the road even. We toured the Guildhall and learned about the town's history and the wool trade."

Per wikipedia: Lavenham is a village and civil parish in Suffolk, England. It is noted for its 15th century church, half-timbered medieval cottages and circular walk. In the medieval period it was among the 20 wealthiest settlements in England. We spent a few hours there one day when the girls and I were in England visiting my father.

Here are some photos I took of this funky old town...

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