Sunday, October 3, 2010

What I Liked About Yesterday

Yesterday was one of those perfect autumn weekend days.  Sunny, warm, and breezy.  Here's what I liked about it.  I just wish I had a photograph to accompany each part of my day.

  • my morning physiotherapy session with the amazing and wonderful Sue Shalanski.  She worked her magic on my injured ribs.
  • going to the Squamish Farmer's market to meet Melissa and her mom Beatrice.  We sat in the sun and drank coffee, ate almond croissants, chatted, and people watched.
  • picking up my boyfriend Kai (the McClements' golden retriever) to dogsit him for the weekend.
  • laying in my zero-gravity lounger in my garden reading 'Nikolski' while basking in the afternoon sun.
  • walking to and from Alice Lake with Kai and the Moberg's dog Palmer.
  • having a glass of wine with Dan.
  • picking up Chinese food to take home and eat while watching Project Runway.
  • going to bed early.

Back Home

Rosa Dortmund growing on my back fence.

(This post was written on August 30th.  I had forgotten to publish it until yesterday.)

We are back home.  We arrived late Saturday night.  Without a house key.  Had to go and wake up a friend and her entire family to get our spare key.  Great.

I woke up very early the next morning and didn't even recognize my own bedroom.  It took me a minute to figure out where I was in the world.  "Oh, yeah.  I'm in Brackendale."  Great.

I spent the next day doing mounds of laundry, sorting through a stack of unpaid bills, scooping poop out of the cats' litter boxes, and generally feeling sorry for myself.  Great.


Even though I didn't miss them AT ALL while I was gone, it has been nice to see Fud and Pud (aka Spirit and Daisy).  I actually think they missed us!  The two felines have spent the past few days purring non-stop, curling up on our laps, and sleeping on top of us in bed.  GREAT!

Molly is continuing on with the Sotham World Tour and has already been to Venice, Italy; Ljubljana, Slovenia; and Zagreb, Croatia.  Not bad seeing as we only dropped her off at the Rome train station a mere 6 days ago.  She is now on her way to Strasbourg, France to meet up with her dear German friend from high school.  GREAT!

Now I'm preparing myself mentally and physically to begin another school year.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Europe By The Numbers

The number of days spent in Europe: 56

The number of countries visited: 3

The number of kilometres we put on our car: 7,119

The number of photographs we took: 5,698

The number of trips to a doctor: 4

The number of bottles of wine we drank: I can't remember......

The number of pizzas devoured in Italy: 17

The number of sprained knees in Spain: 1

The number of migraines suffered in Naples: 2

The number of calories consumed: 4,859,034,150,873,354,286,912,119,386

The number of pairs of shoes thrown out: 4

The number of pairs of shoes purchased: 7

The number of times someone had their bum grabbed in Rome: 3

The number of times someone's iPod went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea: 1

The number of days we spent on a beach: 4

The number of times someone ironed: 1

The number of times I drove the car:  0

The number of times someone accidentally broke a window pane in an antique door: 1

The number of times someone broke a door knob and locked everyone out of the house for the evening: 1

The number of blog posts:  85

The number of comments on my blog: 141

The number of books read: 17

The number of times someone ate an octopus: 1

The number of new European friends: Many

The cost of this vacation: PRICELESS!


Graffiti in Rome.

This is how I feel about travelling in Europe.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ciao Roma!

Graffiti on the banks of the Tiber River

We are leaving Rome this morning. Not only are we leaving Rome, we are leaving Europe.

Thank you Rome for your art, history, food, wine and people.

We can never thank you enough, Europe, for the fabulous trip we have had with our children. It has been an experience none of us will ever forget.

We have been blessed to spend 2 months in Spain, France and Italy.

See you again.

Italian Food

Tomatoes, olive oil, bread, cheese and olives. And wine. That's all one needs to survive. Period.

Vatican Museum

A series of colourful frescoes from the 1400s rescued from a condemned church.

'The Transfiguration' by Raphael was painted just before he died in 1520. He was buried in the Pantheon. This painting accompanied his funeral.

A 3,000 year old mummy.

The 'Belvedere Torso'.
This is all that remains of an ancient statue of Hercules.
It is said that Michelangelo loved this piece of rock. He'd caress the statue lovingly and tell people, "I am a pupil of the Torso."

This hall of ancient statues, urns, friezes, tapestries and maps is one quarter of a mile long!

Paintings and statuary abound.

The Sistine Chapel. (Photo taken from a postcard.)

We went to the Vatican Museum on Thursday. That place is overwhelming. It is FULL of incredible art, but there is much too much to look at! It is art overload for sure.

An art history major once told me that if you stood in front of every piece of art in the Vatican Museum for only 12 seconds, you'd be in the museum for 3 years.

I believe it.

The best is saved for last, that's for sure. The Sistine Chapel is mind-boggling to say the least. But it's too bad the guards ruin the experience by shushing the crowd every minute or so. The people aren't loud. They are just excited to talk about what they are seeing with their family and friends.

For Pete's sake, let the tourists whisper in the Sistine Chapel!

Gallery Borghese

This palace belonged to the non-religious Cardinal Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V. Cardinal Borghese had this villa built in the 16oos to showcase his fantastic collection of ancient works.

'Apollo and Daphne', by Bernini. 1625.

A detail of 'The Rape of Persephone', by Bernini. 1622.

'Two Babies Milking A Goat' by Bernini.

On Wednesday we went to the Gallery Borghese in the Borghese Villa Gardens. I think this is my favourite art gallery in Rome. The Bernini sculptures are like nothing I've ever seen before. Pure genius. Pure, pure genius.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spanish Steps

Looking down the Spanish Steps.

Looking up the Spanish Steps.

Piazza di Spagna is a very popular hang-out spot for locals and tourists alike.

Trevi Fountain

Sothams at the Trevi Fountain.

We threw coins into the fountain to ensure a return trip to Roma.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Pantheon

The oculus in the dome.

The outside of the Pantheon.

The Pantheon was built by Emperor Hadrian in 120 A.D. It looks like a pretty typical temple from the outside, but wait until you get inside!

The Pantheon's interior.

The base of the dome is 23 feet thick and made from heavy concrete (the Romans invented concrete) mixed with travertine. Near the top it's less than 5 feet thick and made with pumice mixed in.

At the top the 'oculus', or eye-in-the-sky, is the building's only light source and is almost 30 feet across.

The 1,800 year old floor has holes in it and slants towards the edges to let the rain water drain.

Hands down, my favourite building in Rome.

Roman Fun Facts

Via Sacra

Fun Fact: This was the main street of the Forum. Conquering generals returned to Rome down this road. The Via Sacra would be lined with screaming citizens waving branches and carrying torches. First would come a line of porters carrying chests full of stolen gold and jewels. Then a parade of exotic animals from the conquered lands (elephants, giraffes, hippos). Next came the prisoners in chains, with the captive king on a wheeled platform so the people could jeer and spit at him. Finally the conquering hero would ride in on his 4 horse chariot with rose petals strewn in his path.

House of the Vestal Virgins

Fun Fact: Vestal Virgins were chosen from noble families before they reached the age of 10 and served a 30 year term. A Vestal took a vow of chastity. If she served her term faithfully (abstaining for 30 years) she was given a huge dowry and allowed to marry. But if the Romans found any Virgin who wasn't, she was strapped to a funeral car, paraded through the streets of the Forum, taken to a crypt, given a loaf of bread and a lamp....then buried alive. Many women suffered the latter fate.

The marble floor of the Senate.

Fun Fact: The Senate was the most important political building in the Forum.

A cobblestone road in the Forum.

Fun Fact: It is mind-boggling when you think that Julius Caesar walked on these exact same basalt stones 2,000 years ago.

Arch of Titus

Fun Fact: The Romans loved to build these towering arches to commemorate their crushing victories.

Temple of Antonius Pius and Faustina.

Fun Fact: In medieval times, this temple was pillaged. Note the horizontal cuts high on the marble columns....a failed attempt by scavengers to cut through the pillars to pull them down for the precious stone. A church was built inside the temple in 1550.

Temple of Julius Caesar

Fun Fact: Julius Caesar's body was burned on this spot after his assassination. To this day, people put fresh flowers on the mound of dirt to remember a man who personified the greatness of Rome.

Ruined building.

Fun Fact: This is the only building with its original bronze doors still swinging on its ancient hinges.

Temple of Saturn.

Fun Fact: These columns framed the entrance to the forum's oldest temple. It was built in 497 B.C.

The cats of Rome.

Fun Fact: It has been said that Cleopatra introduced cats to Rome when she brought them from Egypt to give as a gift to Julius Caesar. But Julius was allergic to their fur and turned the cats out onto the streets. The cats have lived on these streets ever since those ancient times. There are thousands of homeless cats roaming the back alleys of Rome.

The Colosseum.

Fun Fact: It took 200 ox-drawn wagons shuttling back and forth every day for four years just to bring the marble stones to this site from Tivoli. It took 50,000 slaves to build it. Only a third of the Colosseum remains. Earthquakes destroyed some of it, but most was carted off as easy pre-cut stones for other buildings during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

A Dream Come True

Pope John Paul II 'Pope-ener'

Pope Benedict XVI Bobble Head.

When Joe and I were in Italy 4 years ago, he was on the hunt for a 'bobble head' religious figure.

When we were in Assissi (home of St. Francis and thousands of Catholic-themed souvenir shops) we found Christ-on-the-Cross snow globes, but no bobble heads. Sadly we didn't buy any snow globes. A regret of ours to this very day.

When we were in Rome in 2006, we found 'pope-eners'.

Instead of 'soap-on-a-rope' we saw 'pope-on-a-rope'. Again, another regret of ours. Why didn't we buy it then?????? We've looked for that soap on this trip and there are none to be found.

But Joe's dream came true this week. Outside of St. Peter's Square, he found a Pope Benedict XVI bobble head.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Vatican

Molly managed to haul us lapsed, collapsed and non-Catholics off to mass again on Sunday. And when you're in Rome, where do you go? To Saint Peter's Basilica of course!

Sunday morning saw us tromping the 2.5 kilometres alongside the Tiber River to the Vatican.

We stood in a long, but fast moving line to get into Saint Peter's. Once we were inside the basilica, it was a mad dash to the cordoned off area where we would eventually sit.

The ushers kept saying to people, "One hour. One hour. You must stay one hour." I don't think half of the tourists even understood what the ushers were saying. They just wanted to take part in the experience. Needless to say, most of them left after 15 minutes. Which was quite disruptive for the rest of us.

The young woman next to me put all of her camera equipment on the chair between us. Even while others had to stand. I looked at the chair, looked at her, and then at all the people standing behind us. The girl just stared at me blankly. She then proceeded to pick and chew on her fingernails throughout the entire mass, and left early.

Molly was disappointed with the experience. She said it wasn't very spiritual at all, more like a tourist trap.

Our Roman Digs

Our apartment building. We are about 1 block from the Tiber River and 2 blocks from Campo de' Fiori.

The kitchen.

Our bedroom.

The kids' bedroom is Brady Bunch style again. Molly has bailed from her siblings and is now sleeping under the air conditioning unit in the living room.

The biffy.

The eating area.

The living room.

We landed in Rome on Saturday. We are renting an apartment from friend of a friend.

It is in a great area of town. Close to everything.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ciao Bellas e Bellos!

Me with two of my newest BFFs.

The people of Naples have had a very deep and profound effect on me. Whether it's been a shop-keeper locking the doors of his establishment to personally walk us down the block and around the corner because 'there is a Carravaggio painting in this little church that you simply must see', or children smiling at us and waving shyly as we walk by, or hearing an enthusiastic "Buon Giorno!" from passersby. The people in this city are incredibly friendly.

This young girl was bombing all over the quarter on a motor-scooter. She couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 years old.

But the people who affected me the most, changed me actually, were the residents of the Quartieri Spagnoli. In particular the people who live on Vico San Sepolcro where we rented an apartment.

We didn't spend much time in our apartment. Only enough time to sleep, shower, eat and drink. And so we walked up and down Vico San Sepolcro many, many times a day.

People in this neighbourhood live out on the streets when it is warm. And because we passed them so many times every day, we got to know them a little bit. And they got to know us. And I learned that you don't need to speak the same language to understand another person.

Sometimes it felt as if we were walking through someone's living room when a dozen or more family members were sitting out on the street in chairs. Because the streets are so narrow we had to dodge in and around them, being careful not to step on their dog. Everyone took it in stride.

Maria (on the right) was the bossy ring-leader of this trio of giggling girls.

The evening before we left, people made a point of saying good-bye to us. The grandmas two doors down. The green grocer. The butcher. The lady 5 floors up who always called, "Bella!" and waved to us from her balcony when we stepped out onto the street. The grumpy looking man who would ask in his gravelly voice, "Everything okay?" as we passed by.

The green grocer says 'Arrivederci' to Joe. He was his best customer of the week.

The butcher came running out as we passed by. "Have a wonderful holiday in Rome!" she said in perfect English. We heard shouts of "Where are you from?" from the other butchers in the back of the shop.

This group of ladies got together after work every evening and sat in the street to visit. They were always laughing. Especially the gal in the blue shirt.

As we turned the corner to head down to the local pizza restaurant for dinner, I waved to the handsome Sri Lankan university student who worked 15 hours a day at the internet place we frequented on a daily basis. He saw me, dropped what he was doing and hurried out into the street. I said, "We are leaving tomorrow. Thank you for everything." He took my hands in his and gave me a kiss on both cheeks.

And that is when I lost it. Then I did what I do best. I cried.