Austria, Munich, and Christmas Markets

Ciao,

It has been a busy weekend. Back in America I know everyone was gorging themselves on too much food followed by too much dessert, followed by days of leftovers and which way to eat turkey tonight! Will and I decided against the too much food route, partially because I am unsure if my European oven can fit a turkey and partially because we took time to travel. Hey, it’s what we do!

Where did we go you ask?

We grabbed a friend and headed up to Innsbruck Austria to visit the closest Weihnachtsmarkt (German for Christmas Market) that was already open. While in the German/Austria region we did eat a lot of good food.

My father will disagree with the next statement but I quickly get tired of Italian food. Which isn’t completely fair. I need to expand my Italian repertoire beyond pasta dishes and pizza and it would probably open up a new love for Italian. Then again, maybe not. German/Austrian food is so hearty, it sticks to your ribs in a warm you up on a fall/winter day kind of way that Italian just can’t match.

But on to the weekend…

Innsbruck is a beautiful town with history that dates back to pre-Roman, plus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart also lived there for part of his childhood. But honestly we didn’t go for history we went for Gluhwein (mulled wine) chestnuts, street food, shopping, ambience and friends.

The Christmas market did not disappoint, as always, when I walk into a Christmas market be it big or small something just makes my mood lighter.

On the not light side of moods, Friday morning we made the drive into Germany and went to Dachau, it was the first and last concentration camp set up in Germany. It was around quite a while before World War II. It was created in 1933 to hold political prisoners as Hitler took control and the war began the camp was expanded into a forced labor camp. It eventually became a place to house prisoners from other religions and nationalities. Dachau was a training ground for the SS and the plans for Dachau were used in almost all other camps. Dachau was not a death camp per se but that didn’t stop tens of thousands of prisoners from dying there from starvation, disease, torment, and medical experiments. In fact, so many died there (over 32,000 documented and many more that were not) that they built additional ovens to burn the bodies of the dead. As with Auschwitz and Theresienstadt the prisoners entered through a gate with the saying “Arbeit macht frei” which translates into “Work will set you free”. Today visitors to the camp walk through an exact recreation of the gate, stepping onto the area used for roll call. From there one passes two monuments dedicated to the those that lost their lives and those that survived. The museum is housed in what was part of the prisoner intake area and the audio guide lets speakers tell their story in their own ways in their own languages. The museum leads you through the entire history of Dachau and then one can visit a recreation of the barracks as the evolved over the years for the prisoners of the camp.

Set towards the back are five different religious chapels or memorials, and next to them are the crematoriums. The place is a sobering reminder of the atrocities that can visited on another human being. It is hard to walk the grounds, one feels the darkness and despair that must have been part of daily life, the whispers of those that lost their lives and those that suffered because of another’s hatred. The visit to Dachau was not the best part of our trip but a reminder, a lesson in history so that we as a race will hopefully never repeat those atrocities.

Not to take away from the grimness that our morning held but to lighten the feeling in our hearts we headed into Munich to wander through town. We missed the Munich Christmas market (it started today) but we enjoyed the lively crowds as they set up their stalls and had a good lunch before heading back to Innsbruck. (Oh, and Will and D found a guitar store, of course they did!)

The next day we were joined by another friend and the four of us went up the mountain on the Hungerburg Funicular. A train that goes up but the cars are on pivots so the passengers stay level. At the top of the train in Hungerburg we got out and visited a small section of the Christmas market that had opened up that morning. We did not take the cable cars to the top of the mountain (it was roughly 35 euro per person). That will have to be another adventure. We (maybe me, maybe someone else, I am not saying) got the brilliant idea to walk down the mountain, you know instead of take the train.

It turned out to be a beautiful walk and took us on the back side of the Alpen Zoo, where we saw a buffalo and some boars hanging out enjoying the cool weather. A couple of covered bridges later we made it down and back into town for some late lunch.

Then we took a small siesta before heading back up the mountain, it was dark by this time and the view was as spectacular as before but all aglow with lights.

This time we took the train back down and headed into the main part of the Christmas market for some Gluhwein and just to be. Ending the evening with a Kiachln (which is a lot like fry bread but covered in sauerkraut or if you want it sweet preiselbeeren and powdered sugar). Then we walked our friend L to the train station and walked back to our Airbnb for some sleep. Sunday we ran back to the market to pick up the things I had decided I wanted. After that we took the long drive home (really it was not quite four hours). It was a great weekend, some sobering reminders, but friends and laughter too.

This next weekend I am going to set up Christmas, if you read last weeks blog you know how excited I am about that. I need to finish wrapping presents and get them shipped out too. So that is what is on my agenda, I hope you are all happily preparing for your holiday season in whatever way you celebrate the holidays.

Until we meet again

Ciao miei Amici

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Ciao,

It seemed appropriate to use a quote from Harry Potter about adventure since we spent the last weekend in London. My wonderful husband turned 50 and I wanted to give him a birthday to remember. Even though he has visited London in the past we had a fantastic adventure filled weekend.

As so often happens when we have these monumental weekends I am going to have to give you all the highlights.

A quick note of full disclosure, Will’s sister sent him a rubber chicken for his birthday. Will named him Charlie and we took Charlie to London with us. Charlie had a wonderful time!

Some of you may know that I have a degree in history, which means a couple of things, first I love to research, mostly anything but I do have specific times in history I like more than others. Secondly, when we go on vacation I tend to bring back books as my souvenirs. Admittedly not the lightest souvenir but I do like bikes an awful lot. If you are wondering what this has to do with the people who read my blog, let me tell you. It has occurred to me that because I give such quick highlights on many of our adventures some people might want to know more about a specific place or adventure. If so, just comment below my link (or photo, depending how you are getting to my blog) and I will see if I can write a blog about your interest. I have not opened up my blog site for comments yet due to some issues in the past but maybe in the future it will be available for comment right on the blog.

Now… on to London (with Will and Charlie)

We flew in Thursday evening and back home late Sunday night. We had roughly three full days to poke around London and we only pre-purchased tickets to The Tower of London and the Hop on and off bus. We knew that we wanted to see the changing of the Queen’s Guards on Friday, I wanted to go to the National Gallery, and Will wanted to stop by Denmark Street. Other than that, which already seems like a lot, we played everything by ear.

Friday we were up early as often happens when you are sleeping away from home. We ate breakfast at the hotel because when they offer breakfast and you are traveling you eat it, one less meal to buy. The coffee was beyond horrible but by the time we left I had embraced having baked beans with my eggs.

Then we set off by tube to Buckingham Palace to get a good spot for the Changing of the Queen’s Guard!

We were there roughly two hours before the pomp and circumstance began but that was a good thing, within a half hour of us deciding where the best place to be was the area around us filled, and filled, and filled. Until there seemed to be a sea of people all waiting for the pageantry. (Charlie spent the waiting time talking to all the city chickens he could find.)

The guards were all very regal and marched with much aplomb. We were too far away to see the passing of responsibilities as it was and should I go again I would position myself differently. However, it was a very memorable experience and I tip my hat in respect to the men and women who have given so much to guard the Queen.

From Buckingham Palace we wandered down The Mall towards Trafalgar Square. We found a great pub restaurant to have lunch called The Admiralty. Our waiter was in love with Charlie and patted him on the head as he would walk by. After my first real taste of English pie and pint of cider I was fortified to make my mad dash through the National Gallery.

I have specific artists that I like very much and others that I will bother to see if I have the time and then, honestly, I don’t much give a rat’s rear end about the rest. That being said the list of those I will pop my head in to look at does get updated from time to time, I learn about an artist or see a piece of work in passing and take a fascination to it but again, if I don’t care I have other things to do besides wander around looking at someone I don’t know about. That all said Caravaggio is always at the top of my list and I plan all museum visits (The National Gallery has a great app, Charlie concurs) with him in mind.

Will is pretty indulgent of my mad museum dashes and has mostly similar taste in artwork so we make a good team. After the Caravaggio room we moved to see Monet, Van Gogh,  and Degas in the impressionist room. Hopped over to see a Vermeer or two and then dropped in on Seurat. Due to time I left off there and we made our way over to the British Museum for a quick view of the Rosetta Stone and the Egyptian wing. The British Museum artifacts are housed by beautiful architecture and the building itself is well worth a visit.

On our way to the British Museum we stopped on Denmark Street. When I say we stopped I mean we went into every store on Denmark Street. (Charlie even found a couple friendly faces.) Will is learning to play the guitar. I think he is much better than he thinks he is, I mean he hardly ever sends me screaming from our house, unlike my singing, which sends everything with ears on a dead run far away from me. (Even Charlie and all he can do is squawk.)

Will received a Boss Katana amp for his birthday and was interested in a couple of pedals to go with it. He hemmed and hawed but on the way back from the British Museum he finally found a couple he was looking for and I encouraged him to get them. You only turn fifty once. Which, is also true of every age but somehow milestones should be celebrated with a few extra perks.

Our good friend J is a lifelong Londoner but was unable to meet with us this visit. We will definitely hook up next trip. She did send us a snippet letting us know that they had created and lit the wands from Harry Potter to celebrate the release of the new Fantastic Beasts movie coming out this winter.

So we took a side trip to St. Pauls Cathedral and walked the Millennium Bridge to get a good view of the wands and the city at night.

On the other side we stopped to admire the Globe Theater, found some dinner and headed back to the hotel.

The next day, Saturday, feet already sore we headed out again to take in The Tower of London. I will pause here to apologize for every time I have called it the London Tower, totally an oversight and no offense intended.

We were early enough that there was no line at the Crown Jewels and we popped on through to see them. From there we walked part of the wall, took in the information on the Royal Menagerie (Charlie thought i was going to leave him with the Royal Menagerie and was happy to learn that other than the Royal Ravens, and a couple of city chickens) there are no beasts left at the Tower) and then walked through the actual Tower of London. They have turned it into an armory museum though you can wander through and see some of the areas where prisoners were kept.

We met up with our Yeomen Warder for his informational guidance. Though he acted as a guide, he is in fact a Royal Guard, his job is to guard the Tower of London. (It is an elite group of men and women, deserving of respect. More people have been to space than have been admitted to this job.) He explained more of the history of the grounds and the Tower. He explained that only ten people were executed within the walls of the Tower. Three were shot and seven were beheaded; of those beheaded three were Queens. Their remains were interred in unmarked graves beneath the floors of St. Peter ad Vincula Chapel. As our Yeomen pointed out, whatever history has made of these people today they died traitors to the crown and were undeserving of a better burial.

After we parted ways from our Yeomen we stopped in Beauchamp Tower and looked at the intricate carvings, or graffiti, left behind by some of the prisoners of the Tower.

It was almost noon and the tourists were out in force so we left the Tower of London and headed over towards Winston Churchill’s War Rooms. We stopped for lunch and when we walked out, we found ourselves in the midst of a very large number of people protesting Brexit. We have heard various reports but some said there were as many as a quarter of a million people protesting. It was a little overwhelming but we pushed through to the other side and made our way to the underground bunkers of Churchill.

It was a great tour, a side of the war that can only be felt by walking through the bunker and listening to audio narration. The bunkers also house a large collection of Churchill’s life that they have organized into a museum. The information was overwhelming but there is no doubt he was a great man and exactly what Britain needed to see them through World War II.

After we came back above grounds we wandered a bit and debated what to do but eventually decided we were tired and headed back to the hotel. We ate dinner at great restaurant named The Narrows where they served a phenomenal burger. Then it was time to get some sleep before Sunday came.

Sunday was supposed to be a Hop on Hop off kind of day but we had decided the previous evening that we wanted to make a quick run to Baker Street to check out the Sherlock Holmes museum. Now if you are like me and haven’t read the original stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but have only watched the movies and tv shows produced in the last 15 or so years than some of the museum will be lost on you. However, if you are a true Sherlock enthusiast then you will appreciate the detail they have gone to recreating the 221B Baker Street. (Charlie was very impressed with the museum and wanted to hang out a bit longer ut we rushed him on)

We did eventually get on the Hop On Hop Off bus but I quickly found it not to my liking. (Though Charlie enjoyed a birds eye view.) It was a great way to see the city and I might have enjoyed it if we had done it the first day but I had already tubed all over the city, popping up here and there and taken in most of the sights which we seemed to zoom past on the bus. We made it down to the London Eye (which I did not ride but I will try and do next time) and I had enough; the final blow being when we realized that Big Ben was under repair until 2021. So, we hopped off, never to return to the bus again. Lesson learned I suppose. From there we popped over to a restaurant called the Duck and Waffle, yes, I had duck and waffle. (No, Charlie was not impressed that we were eating his cousins.)

We did a little bit of shopping, stopped back at the Admiralty for a cider and apparently made this guy’s day. (He loved Charlie, his wife said it was the first time he had ever smiled for a photo.) Found a bookstore or two and then finally it was time to make our way back to grab our luggage and head to the airport. I have no idea how three days went so fast, I also have no idea how we did so much. I do know we walked a lot (10 miles a day) and I became quite proficient at navigating the tube. (Charlie popped up now and then to make people smile or freak them out, whatever worked.)

We had a great weekend and I fell in love with London!

I know this was the down and dirty of our trip but I have a couple of slow weeks coming up (I mean I could find some adventures but Will needs to recover from his birthday) so if there is something you want to know more about just let me know and I will do my best to write about it.

Until next time, thanks for sharing my adventures,

Ciao miei Amici

Reality can be a Real Downer

Ciao,

After the craziness of September I have had two weeks before Will and I leave to celebrate his birthday. We are headed to London and it is going to be a lot of fun. We have already made plans but not too many so we can sit back and enjoy just being in London. Don’t worry I will tell you all about it next week.

Recovering from our September house guests and preparing to leave didn’t leave a lot of time for fun activities and honestly, we were kind of tired. Plus the house needed so much work, which happens when you neglect it for two plus weeks while you have guests.

So after many days of cleaning and trying to re-normalize our schedules we feel good to leave again.

In between two things of semi noteworthiness happened.

First I had to go to the dentist for some, sort of, major mouth stuff; secondly we went to the Italian version of British Days with R & C.

First let’s talk about what it feels like to go to the dentist, or you could even apply some of this to going to the doctor, in a foreign country. I mean that’s really where my angst is so let me get it all out!

I think it is safe to say nobody, except maybe hypochondriacs, like going to any sort of medical professional. This is not to say that medical professionals are bad people. Nope, one of my favorite cycling friends is a fantastic dentist and if I still lived in Maryland I would be using his services. However, he is a little far away with a small thing like an ocean between us. And, let’s be frank, even though I enjoy cycling with my friend I still hate going to the dentist.

I take pretty good care of my mouth, brushing twice a day (mostly), flossing, using mouthwash, regular cleanings, blah, blah, blah. But I was gifted genetically with crappy teeth (thanks mom and dad!) So I have been visiting the dentist for dental work for most of my teenage into adult life and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop anytime soon.

I admit I get ridiculously nervous anytime I have to go to the dentist, it ranks right up there with other anxiety inducing fears, which I don’t have many of but the ones I do; Oofta! Seriously, one could just threaten to do dental work on me and I would give away any secrets I had (lucky for me I don’t have any and my life is pretty much an open book, you all know this since I write about it.)

So my crown has broken off at the gum line, and I have to get the tooth pulled and two implants put in.

Enter Italian dentist,

I sit as comfortable as I can manage in the chair, my heart rate has already begun to elevate. My eyes dart around the room taking in the “normal” looking dental equipment (I mean, I am in a foreign country for all I know they still use rusty pincer pliers to pull teeth.)

The dentist, a nice normal looking, older gentleman with a soft smile, starts conversing in Italian with his dental assistant. She hasn’t looked at me yet but she doesn’t have the same comforting smile, not a bad smile, just not as comforting. I realize that they are speaking too fast for me to make out any words with my limited, slow paced, elementary Italian. And honestly for all I know they are speaking words that I will never know because unless it is milk, cat, please and thank you it is way out of my realm. (Oh, I probably know how to say bread too.) They glance at me, converse some more, my palms start to sweat and he turns and says in heavily accented english, “we ready to start”

Gulp!

I have had an implant put in before and I understand the rudimentary process, you cut open the gum line, drill into the jaw, screw in a little metal post and then sort of sew the gum line around the post. Then you wait for it to heal before adding the crown. I just have never had it done when the dentist and I speak a different language (not that an english speaking dentist would have made me less anxiety ridden.)

All of the equipment comes out of the usual sterilized sealed packages and I am already covered in one of those weird paper cloth bib things that are supposed to catch your spit or…blood

Another assistant hands me a small plastic cup with pink liquid “rinse 10 seconds and spit” she tells me, I recognize her before as one of the better english speakers in the office and find comfort in having a language ally.

Then they clip a heart monitor on my finger – well I already know my heart is racing but it seems to still be at an acceptable level to them because they continue.

The dentist, who does speak english when he isn’t in a hurry (when he is distracted he only has a couple words, “open, close, relax”) pulls the most dreaded item ever off the tray in front of me. The hated syringe full of anesthesia. I swear to all that is holy fewer things inspire more terror than that long needle with the giant thumb depressor heading towards my already whimpering mouth.

“Relax and open”

I opened my mouth and worked on relaxing it while simultaneously my sphincter tightened, my hands shook and my saliva glands went into overdrive. So out comes the little mouth vacuum to get rid of the pooling, throat choking, extra liquid, produced by my own body, inspired by anxiety, spit. There seemed to be some annoyance about having to suck out my mouth so early in the game but the assistant was mostly capable, only letting me choke a little bit.

OMG! The pink mouth stuff worked. I never felt a thing, well, as far as the shots go.

I need to now mention that America is all about the patient comforts, this applies to doctors and dentists. Somewhere along the line American professionals have begun treating patients with kid gloves. Don’t make them uncomfortable by accidentally touching their face while actually poking around in their mouth doing a dental procedure is the one that comes to mind. (I have other opinions about doctors visits but that is for another day.) I can safely say that dentists in Italy, at least mine, don’t worry too much about the kid gloves; they worry about getting the job done. At one point the assistant was leaning her whole hand on my cheek and the dentists elbow was in my eye while he tried to screw in the metal implant. I realized that despite the anxiety I felt while having my mouth worked on, which was not really a symptom of being in a foreign country but more a symptom of not liking the dentist, I actually had no problem with the fact that they felt they had to touch my face and even use my head for leverage to get the job done.

Hmmmm, score a point for the Italian dentist.

“Open, close, relax…” and on it went but finally we were done and I was mostly not in bad shape.   I mean, other than having metal posts sticking out of my jaw and watching him stitch up my gums.

Ick, having your skin stitched is bad enough but watching that little curved needle with the thread attached going in and out of your mouth is just painful. Even if you can’t really feel it.

It took way less time than I thought it would and my sphincter finally relaxed though I am not sure my gut did. When he was finished he said he didn’t want to give me antibiotics unless it was necessary; to call him if my mouth became inflamed or I had a fever. Thank goodness because I had no idea how to tell him which antibiotics I can take, none of them would have to be my answer. FYI, most antibiotics give me a bad reactions and I try to never take them. Another thing that Europeans seem to do differently than Americans is pain pills, he didn’t offer me any, and I didn’t expect him too. I remember having a conversation with a lady in Germany where she told me that 800 ibuprofen was too much medicine for her.

Wow, most of us can’t live without our tylenol or advil.

Anyway, I am not any fonder of dentistry than I was before and having your dental staff speak in a foreign language does nothing to alleviate those fears. However, they seem to have done a great job, six days after the fact I have been eating whatever I wanted since the procedure. Using salt water rinses regularly and my mouth gets tired and sore from eating or having food poke into the gum line but it could be worse. I was actually hoping to have a painful mouth as an excuse for not eating fish and chips while I am in London this week but I will just skip the fish, yuck, and eat the chips like I always do.

A quick note about Italian British Days (it is almost like a theme), it was what I would call steampunk days more than British Days. Though maybe my UK friends can drop me a note and let me know if the whole Steampunk thing is really a big deal there. I like steampunk, I have steampunk costumes but it was not what I was expecting. They also had a tightrope walker, a car show, a dog show, and a lot of food that was not British. Barely any fish and chips. And no tea! What the heck Italy, you can’t have a British days without tea, what would the Queen say?!

Regardless we had a nice afternoon and evening with R & C.

I will work to get some more authentic “British” pictures this weekend!

Until next week, I hope your adventures are as glorious as mine,

Ciao miei Amici

Time Goes by so Fast

Ciao,

I know it has been a couple of weeks but I did warn you that with my daughter and her family in town I was going to be ultra busy.

And I was.

So busy I even neglected my house for two weeks, which, if you know me says a lot. I spent the last two weeks hanging out with my daughter (A), her other half (Z), Will, and the most adorable, and might I say, highly photogenic, grandson (Finnrito or F) anyone could ask for. It was a wonderful treat to have them here and it went by way too quickly.

We did so much I am just going to give you the highlight reel and it will still probably end up as a long post (Roll your eyes A!)

It took Finnrito about 2 days to shift his body clock to Italian time zone. It took A and Z a little longer. The first night after their flight we took them out for some excellent pizza with our local friends. Then we went for gelato at one of our favorite local places, Gelateria Rigoni. With that pizza and gelato as the ones to beat we began our adventures of sightseeing and lots of food.

On Saturday we took them to Malcesine Castle in Lake Garda. It was unfortunately hazy but we still had beautiful views and the kids enjoyed their first taste of Italian sightseeing. And F enjoyed dipping his toes in the lake!

I should have prefaced this with A has been to Italy before, in 2016 she came with Will and I on a 10 day whirlwind trip of sightseeing in Florence, Naples, and Rome. This was Z’s first time across the pond and also Finnrito (being only 9 months old) hasn’t made it over here before. Honestly, I am not sure how much F cares other than his new found love for gelato. However, I did try and take his picture in front of several notable places so he could say he has at least been there (even if he won’t remember it.)

We tried for several down days, as anyone who has done extensive traveling with a baby knows your time schedule is much different than when you are on a marathon “see all the sights, eat all the food, drink all the wine” trip. Your marathon days get pushed to nap time, which is okay. I also want to say that Finnrito is seriously the best, most laid back, easy going, happy baby I have ever dealt with. I have already told the kids not to have any more children as their next will most certainly been the devil’s spawn. Heck, even if he missed nap time his melt downs were nowhere near as bad as mine are when I am hangry.

I did try and make yummy treats on our down days, cinnamon rolls one day and fresh croissants another. Got to keep up that “I am a good mom” image!

Monday we went to Asiago, Z has an interest in WWI history and Asiago is home to a beautiful WWI memorial that is the final resting place for 50,000 soldiers. We managed to stop for some cheese but our plans to head up to Monte Zebio to walk the trenches was a bust because of road construction, then we tried to go to Fort Corbin but it was closed on Monday. (Totally my fault for not checking the open and closing times and dates) The same held true for the WWI memorial and I finally admitted defeat. The area of Asiago is beautiful and we did get to show them a little of the town so it wasn’t a total loss but I had made grandiose plans in my head of all the things I wanted to show Z, so my disappoint probably outweighed his.

Tuesday we went to Verona, I had promised A that we could go to Juliet’s wall. They have been doing some clean up of the area but it is still covered in colorful messages, bubblegum, and band-aids (which sounds much grosser than it really is.) I had Z & A rub Juliet’s breasts for luck, then while F slept they took a turn on Juliet’s balcony. They also explored the Verona Arena (much like the Coliseum but smaller, however, still used for performances. But not the gladiator or lion eating people type.)

Finnrito and I hung around outside and I got his picture in front of the Arena, just in case he had to prove his visit to Verona.

Thursday we took a trip up to Marostica and made the kids hike to the castle. It was a warm day but they made it to the top. (It is a pretty steep climb) This is the city with the giant chess board but Finnrito only hung out with chess pieces his own size.

On Friday we left for Cinque Terre. A drive to La Spezia to catch a train into Riomaggiore. We stayed at a great Airbnb in town (though a lot of stairs to get to it.) After a fantastic dinner we called it an early evening because we were going to try and go to a bunch of towns the next day.

A quick side note – Not only is Finnrito a good baby, completely photogenic, and a great adventure/traveler but he is also a ridiculous flirt!! Seriously, I think he makes it a mission to seek out every woman in a 2 mile vicinity and turn them into grinning idiots! We used this shamelessly to our advantage in every restaurant we visited.

Early-ish the next day we jumped on the train at Riomaggiore and took it to the top of Cinque Terre. The farthest town on the Cinque Terre tour is Monterosso al Mare. As suggested by the name it is a beach town and even at the end of September tourists and locals alike were baking themselves in the sun. Brightly colored beach umbrellas and beautiful scenery prevailed and there was nowhere to look that wasn’t gorgeous.

It was supposed to be a town of shopping and beach laying and though the beached people were very much in evidence the shopping was not so much. After taking in the views we called it and headed back to the train station to hit the next town on the list, Vernazza. This is a much more narrow town, nestled into a valley and pushing its way down to the ocean. The beach area is very small (though F managed to dip his toes in the water) the little stores and shopping were much better than in Monterosso. With a patient Will, Z, and F my daughter and I wandered in and out of many shops looking for treasures. We found just a few but it was fun to look. The views of the ocean were great, the rocky shore adding a dynamic that wasn’t the same as Monterosso. We enjoyed our time there but all too quickly we were hopping the train to the next town, Corniglia.

Before I talk about Corniglia I should mention two things, first F weighs roughly 22 pounds and secondly Corniglia sits on top of the bluff. It is 365 steps up to the town. I was the one carrying F in the back pack carrier at this point. I huffed my way up all those steps, F just enjoyed the ride. Corniglia was also spectacular but different than the first two towns. It sat away from the water so you looked down into the ocean. Made up of narrow winding streets that were really meant more for pedestrians than cars. Little shops and trattorias are everywhere. We stopped at one of these places at the last moment to get some lunch and they very kindly served us even though it was 3 in the afternoon. Will and I had pesto pasta with beans and potatoes. It was out of this world tasty! 

After eating we wandered around a bit but decided it was getting late so we headed back to the train and Riomaggiore to spend the evening in. (At this point F had only taken two micro naps, less than a half hour each time so he was also done for.)

Saturday evening we ate what might have been the worst takeout I have ever had in Italy (or ever.) Greasy and not heated all the way through,  none of us made it through our food, opting for yogurt from the fridge instead.

The next morning (as if to make up for the previous evening) we got a great takeout cappuccino, some donuts and muffins and headed to the train for La Spezia.

We had decided to take a detour on the way home and show the kids Pisa (courtesy of Z pointing out how close we were and some Google calculations that said it wasn’t really too far out of our way.) They enjoyed the sites and we all had a good time rolling our eyes at the tourists angling for the perfect picture “pushing” the tower back up. I gave them the Campo Santo tour (it was one of the main research points on my last college paper and holds a place near and dear to my heart). We took F up to the top of the Basilica but wouldn’t let him climb over the railing. 

The next two days were down days but then, as must happen in all visits, we went to Venezia (Venice.)

Z and A really enjoyed Venezia. I assume F did too by the waitress he made goo goo eyes at while we had lunch. The only disappointment of the day was the loss of the hands. A sculpture titled Support  was put in place on the Grand Canal by artist Lorenzo Quinn. Will and I were lucky enough to witness the sculpture first hand (haha pun intended) in February but it was removed, to A’s great disappointment, in May 2018.

Despite that heartbreak it was a great day and we returned home to prepare for the kids leaving.

How did the time go so fast??

On Thursday we drove back to Milan and got one last hurrah in before the trip was finally over. We were able to experience The Last Supper, a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 15th century. It has suffered much damage, starting with Leonardo’s own decision to paint it as a dry fresco using experimental paint and pigments. It was also damaged by the humidity of the kitchen it abutted and the decay of the church due to wars, Napoleon’s sanction against the churches, and its use of as an armory and then a prison. In WWII it was almost destroyed when bombs caused the collapse of walls around it. Through all of this the painting remains but in such poor condition that they only allow so many visitors in a day for a fifteen minute peek at the famous work.

As with many other pieces of art and architecture that we have gazed or stood upon in our European adventures I was awestruck and admittedly a little teary eyed to be in the presence of something that was created almost 500 years before I was born. These moments speak to the historian in my soul and I continue to treasure them.

After that phenomenal experience we had to get some food and sleep so the kids could fly out the next morning.

It was with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes that I hugged Z one last time, gave Finnrito last minute snuggles and wrapped my arms around my daughter not wanting to let go. Too quickly they turned and headed for their gate and Will and I took our leave to drive home.

Though I am always and eternally grateful for the adventures and experiences provided by the choices Will and I have made in our lives my heart breaks to be 5,000 miles away from my family and no matter how long we spend together it will never be enough time.

On the bright side, the kids have seen where we live and can picture our lives as we describe them and I will continue to taunt them with pictures of my gelato every time we have the tasty treat.

Until next time

Ciao miei Amici

C & A Adeventure part Deux

Ciao,

Last week I left you with the knowledge that two of us like heights just fine and two of us don’t. I am sure it is not surprising that I like heights just fine, mostly I worry about things much crazier than falling from great heights.

Like what, you ask?

You know silly stuff, like what happens if a tunnel collapses while our car is driving through or the idea that the top of the Duomo is really only a foot or two of concrete on the top. I am not claustrophobic and I don’t hate heights, I hate the idea of catastrophic failure.

Why would I worry about catastrophic failure at the Duomo?

Quick history lesson, the Duomo is the dome that finishes the Florence Cathedral, formerly known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Cathedral was begun in 1296 but couldn’t be consecrated or considered complete until the dome was in place. Construction on the dome didn’t being until 1420. That is over 100 years later. The Duomo was also the first dome constructed in the Renaissance without creating a scaffolding system for the concrete to sit on while it cured. This was an impossibility since the Duomo’s great height (374 feet or 114 meters). Filippo Brunelleschi was the main architect in the domes construction. He had spent many years in Rome studying the architecture of the ancient Romans. With those ideas in his mind he constructed a dome held together by the angle of its incline and bound by four sets of chains that encircled the entire dome like barrel hoops. These were then also enclosed in concrete. There is an inner and outer dome and the outer one is only 2 feet thick with concrete at the bottom, narrowing out to 1 foot of concrete at the top. Honestly, that’s not a lot of concrete to have withstood almost 600 years and millions of visitors. Do you see the potential for catastrophic failure?

When you are climbing the Duomo, which has 463 stairs, you actually climb between the outer dome and the inner dome and then make your way up the side of the final stretch of dome to peak out of a narrow hatch. From there you can take in panoramic views of all of Florence.

I am going to add some pictures of the four of us. You already know I don’t care about how high it is. See if you can pick out the two who do.

 

 

 

On Thursday we headed back towards Vicenza and our home. We stopped briefly in Bologne to see the leaning tower there. After having seen Pisa it was rather anticlimactic. The town didn’t seem to take care of their city very well and after the majesty of Florence we were all a little disappointed. One plus was we found an excellent vegetarian restaurant, which made A very happy. We finally made our way home and our cats were happy to see us.

Settled in we made Hugo’s and Aperol Spritz and then ventured downtown Vicenza for some gelato. I didn’t say more gelato because there is no such thing as too much gelato.

Friday we took A & C to Venezia (Venice) we walked and hit all the major highlights but as I have said before Venezia is a big place and you can walk a long time without covering the same tracks twice. Not Will and I, we have covered most of it at least once but we still have a bunch of outlying islands to get to. We ate, had gelato, ate more and then when it was dark out called it a night.

 

We went to Soave Castle the next day to see the castle and get some lunch. Will and I had been here before for a wine festival. I must say some of the best wines in the region come from this little area (in my opinion, of course). The construction of the castle was begun in the 10th century and from then until 19th century it changed hands many times. Since 1830 it has remained in the same family and they take care of the castle and the grounds. It is not a functioning castle, other than tourism but the ruins are still neat to wander through and it does maintain some of its frescoes and furnishings. It is a neat way to spend an hour or two exploring the rooms and turrets.  We stopped at our super market on the way home and bought cheese, olives, bread, etc for a light dinner meal which we ate out on (as Will likes to call it) the lanai.

All to quickly the next day it was time to say goodbye to C & A. We are already making plans with them for next year, maybe somewhere new!

This last week we had to recover from the adventure and some bug that I managed to pick up along the way.

The weekend was spent getting ready for my daughter, Z, and the Finnrito to visit us. (We pick them up at the airport Thursday!) You have no idea how un-baby proof your house is until you start looking at all the knick knacks that are at baby level. Yikes!!

Our next couple of weeks are going to be packed with family and adventures and if I don’t make it to the blogging table don’t despair, I will be back before you know it.

Until we talk again

Ciao miei Amici