Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Piazza del Popolo

Musei Vaticani - Art

Downtown domicile in Rome

The Final Blog

To paraphrase a quote from a book I'm reading: "It's never too late to discover the person you longed to be." And so it was, that at the advanced age of almost 80, I found the girl who always dreamed of going to Europe.

I found her as I sat at a little table at a sidewalk cafe watching the citizens of Rome amble down the narrow cobblestone streets; laughing, gesturing, involved in the most spirited of conversations, even when to recipient was a cell phone. She reveled in the spirit of that great city--vibrant, relaxed (the city shuts down from 2:00-4:00), chic. I was literally immersed in beauty all around me from the enormous cathedrals to the tiniest balcony overflowing with geraniums and greenery. Italy is an overload for all 5 of the senses.

The girl, in her wildest dreams. could not have imagined to majesty, vastness, splendor of the Vatican. Miles of magnificent art by the world's masters--Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Donatello--icons, sculptures, paintings, jewelry. A panoply of color: gilts, rich reds, deep blues, lush greens meet the eye. Each section in the acres of art merits careful study, but there is not time.
In spite of its brevity, a visit to that great artistic feast uplifts the soul, and feeds the spirit, however.

Coming from a culture which considers 1900 ancient history, I am stunned by the antiquity of my surroundings. Castles and walled cities date to the year 1000, the Colosseum to the year 7; I walk down a tree- lined street which lies on the Appian Way where triumphant Roman Legions marched. The girl who longed to visit Europe should have paid closer attention in history class.

For the girl desired to experience other cultures, Italy teaches that people everywhere are much alike. She meets kind, caring, helpful people in shops, inns, restaurants. A group of 8 women of my age board the train at Milan, headed home to Florence, after a day at a spa. They are laughing, giddy, obvious friends. A conversation with them reveals that they are clones of my friends, the Dorks; we could blend together seamlessly. In fact the only rude, boorish person we met on the entire trip was a fellow American.

What did the girl who longed to see Europe and her elderly self learn from this journey? That dreams do come true. That age should not be a barrier to adventure. That it's never too late to follow your heart. Oh yes, and that it IS too late to become a Blogger. This is my last attempt. As we world travelers say: "au Wiedersehen","au revoir", "ARRIVEDERCI". Love to all, Mom, Barb/G/GG

Always meeting new friends......

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

It should be illegal to attempt to describe the wonders of The Vatican on paper. How can the words of a mere mortal capture the color, the richness, the splendor of such an eddifice? Looking down what seemed like miles of corridor, I was stunned by the beauty of the scene. There are dozens of separate spaces, each with an ornately decorated ceiling, every inch of which is filled with a miniature masterpiece of some sort: here the Angel Gabriel with Mary, there Moses, in the corner a Roman centurian, finally a Pope blessing the children—all in gilts, bright blues, and rich maroons. And this stretches before us forever. And on the walls artifacts of every kind, jeweled silver crosses, papal rings, seats and capes, jeweled scripture covers, even an American flag from Richard Nixon. And there is still the Sistine Chapel. I’ve just done what I said should be illegal, and done a poor job. Suffice to say I, cried when I entered that famous room.

For those of you who have made this pilgrimage, I did NOT walk all of those miles. Even my wonder tennis shoes couldn’t have managed that; no, Jackie and Craig had a wheelchair for me and magic tickets that whisked us past long lines and straight into the Vatican. I was treated so royally by the staff that Craig began muttering, “no pictures, no autographs, please. She is on a private tour.” Well, it did feel like I was a Rock Star.

This is our last night here; it has been an incredible outing, one I never thought I would make. I could not begin to choose from among the myriad of things I have seen which one is my favorite. However, a favorite memory will be the Italian people themselves: warm, happy, friendly, and helpful. The hundreds of outdoor cafes in Rome are filled with people laughing, talking with hands flying and faces registering every emotion. I will hate to leave them and their beautiful country behind in the morning. Love Mom/Barb/G/GG

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spanish Steps (after buying a red purse on the street)


Fontana Di Trevi


Thursday, October 21, 2010 - ROMA

If I should happen to expire in Rome (probably from overeating) encase me in a casket filled with bleu cheese from the Hotel Lancelot; it is the most heavenly thing I’ve found on earth. Breakfast here is crusty breads, various cheeses, some Italian meats and fruits. The hot chocolate is rather like heating up a bottle of chocolate syrup. I love it.

Oh, right—the famous sights of Rome. This morning we walked to the Colosseum; although you may have seen hundreds of pictures of it, there is no way to convey the immensity of that structure, or the antiquity. An inscription over an entrance reads “Anno VII” That’s right: 7! It makes the mideval ruins in Switzerland seem modern. We took a Hop On and Hop Off bus tour of the city and I was overwhelmed by the things we saw. Turn a corner and there is the site of the Circus Maximus, or a gigantic cathedral that looks like a movie set; it is adorned with not one massive statue, but fifty. There are Roman fortifications and villas, cathedrals on every block, and astounding plazas and fountains. At the huge arch on the main entrance to the city you can almost hear the throngs cheering triumphant Roman legions. We walked from the Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps. Yes, Marlene, I did toss in a coin—I remember “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

In the morning we will go to the Vatican and the Vatican Museum. I have loved every minute in Rome; it is visually breathtaking, a bustling, people friendly place, full of energy. Tonight, in a little candlelit cafĂ©.with a full moon in the sky and soft jazz music wafting on the warm night air I thought, “this is my kind of place” Love, Mom, Barb/G/ /GG

Hotel Casolare Le Terre Rosse Loc. S. Donato 53037 San Gimignano

Driveway to our villa in Tuscany......

Just another villa in Tuscany

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The best of Tuscany.....

San Gimignano

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How great is a day that begins with brownies for breakfast in Tuscany and ends with chocolate gelato in the evening in Rome? Yes, we’re in the Eternal City, a place older even than Culdesac. Two blocks to our left is the Colossium (no, Chad, not the Rose Bowl) and to the right an old Roman garrison. It is still amazing to me that I am actually here.

We began Monday morning in Ferenza with a visit to the Academe where Michaelangelo’s David is showcased. It is a stunning piece, but right beside it is his Pieta, which I was drawn to—a grieving Mary cradling her lifeless son. Every room housed paintings by the most famous classical painters: a feast for the eye and soul.

We then hopped in a rental car and headed for Tuscany, a different kind of feast for the eye—rolling hills not unlike the Palouse, tiered with grape arbors and fields of beans, pumkins and other produce. The leaves are turning, so the whole panorama was breathtaking. We ran upon a mideval walled city, San Gimigano, a refuge for pilgrims journeying to Rome. Three watchtowers guarded the city’s winding, narrow streets and the high walls must have looked impenetrable to intruders. We spent the night in a charming villa with a world class restaurant—I should have had the wild boar and truffles.

Two days to explore the wonders of Rome (including shopping) and then Cinderella returns to the real world. The memories should keep, me warm all winter. Love, Mom/Barb/G/GG

PS If there are pictures with this blog, thank the Miracle of the Camera—as we were pulling out of the train station in Florence, Jackie remembered she had left her very expensive camera on the counter at the bank in the train station. When we reached Rome we called the bank—miracle of miracles—it was still there. Craig rode the train back
To Florence, and to the applause and tears of bank staff and customers, retrieved his wife’s camera. Then he rode the train back to Rome, thus traversing Italy 3 times in one day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Florence in the Fall 2010

Monday, September 18, 2010

Monday - Florence, or Firenza as we world travellers call it---Names are swirling around in my head after a day of touring this cultural
mecca beside the Arno river. I have seen, in the great cathedral of Santa Maria literally acres of breathtaking paintings. The main chapel is so immense that I couldn’t help but wonder what the ordinary man of mideval times felt upon entering it. Nowhere is the power of The Church (a friend used to remind me that Catholics had been saying that centuries before Mormons took it up) on more vivid display than in the awe inspiring European cathedrals. There are wonderful sculptures on buildings, in plazas, on street corners. History is in the very air you breathe in Florence. In the morning we will view Michelangelo’s David, and then set out for the country villages (and cusine) of this part of Italy.

Suzanne mentioned food—we are doing our best to sample LOTS of it. My personal favorite, unfortunately, is Italian pastry. There is a shop on the corner by this hotel which has a window full of flakey confections I would defy anyone to pass by.

Hannah, Katherine and all other fashion gurus—there is a MUST wear chic look in Europe—black leggings or pencil slim jeans, high heeled boots, a short flared coat, and always-a long scarf. We are hard pressed to meet the competition.

There is an advantage to blogging—I can’t imagine anyone actually listening to me tell about my great adventure, but here I can hurl my thoughts into cyberspace and assume an audience. Love to all. Mom/Barb/G/GG

Window box at the castle.....fabulous!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday evening and I am happily ensconced in a deluxe hotel room in Florence, Italy eating dark Swiss chocolate. What a day this has been: it began in Geneva, included 3 countries, and 3 different trains, a crossing of the Alps, and spectacular rural scenery. Inirtially we followed Lake Lucerne where the hillsides are tiered grape arbors and an occasional castle or manor house catches our attention. The train (I am wild about European trains) then plunged into a long tunnel which bored through the Alps and burst into a corner of France. Back to Switzerland, then on to Italy. Matt’s Milan boasts the most aesthetically pleasing and most immense train station on the planet.

To date my favorite thing has been yesterday’s visit to a mideval castle on the shores of the lake; it was made famous by Lord Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon”. Built nearly 1000 years ago it is a stone monument to every book or movie I loved as a girl: a moat, long ramparts where narrow slits allowed archers to defend the castle, flags flying from the turrets, a cobblestone courtyard and a dungeon with a pillory. Of course. The great dining hall with a fireplace a man could stand in, my imagination peopled with Lords and Ladies, knights, minstrels and jesters, jugglers and dancing bears. Grandma Norma would have loved the etiquette: the long table cloths served as a communal napkin for greasy fingers since forks did not enter the scene until around 1300 and all refuse was thrown to the ever present dogs on the floor.

Jackie and Craig are a hoot to travel with and I am forever indebted to them for this trip; at 78 I am living a dream come true. Love, Mom/Barb/G/GG

Friday, October 15, 2010

Our pioneer ancestors would have never even imagined that a person could begin one morning in Las Vegas, Nevada and see a brilliant red dawn over Europe the next…but that’s exactly what has happened to me with a lot of wonderful experiences in between. The trip across the US was highlighted by our close proximiety to Dan at our International flight site of Newark, N.J.

We flew over “the pond” in darkness, crossed Ireland as the sky began to lighten, the Channel in time to see the first lights of Paris come on and as thesunrise turned the sky to crimson, the Alps loomed on the horizon and we drifted through a cloud bank into Geneva.

Of course—food: what would you have for lunch in Switzerland if not Fondue??? We ate in a lovely spot in Oldtown, the ancient walled section of the city. Geneva sprang to life some 500 years before America was even discovered. The center of that section is a massive cathedral, and right next to it is the auditorium where John Calvin delivered his proclamations as part of the Reformation.The streets are winding and cobblestone, picture postcard stuff. Next up: a boat tour of the lake and its lovely scenery and lakeside estates. Not quite Hidden Lake standards—think Sound of Music.

And to think I worried about this trip: would I be able to get Cocoa Puffs here? Will they let me drink Diet Coke with my breakfast croissant? Can I find out if Bristol Palin lumbered to the next round of Dancing With the Stars??Forget all that—I’m loving it!!!! Mom/Barb/G/GG