Monday, 25 April 2011

March 23rd, last day in Venice.

The hotel was a great place, and Venice was one of the most agreeable places in Italy, so we didn't want to leave, but had to.

Red clay tile is the "normal" roof in Italy.

Since Bob was feeling better, we headed back to the Piazza San Marco and went to the top of the bell tower. It was quite an impressive view of the city.
We took the water bus back to the termini, and boarded our train for Florence.
Alden was waiting at the station for us and we went back to our apartment, our base of operations, to talk and eat.

Alden and rachel at the "Termini"
Later that evening we went to a club on the west side of the Arno River to see our boy sit in with a great jazz group. We got to see an amazing jazz show.

 The music was the best I've heard in a long time. It was truly jazz. The guys were improvising most of the time, and doing it better than I have heard it done before.

Patrick Sargent is a very empathic and flow-oriented sax player.

I was impressed. The "Boys of Borgo Pinti" are a truly awesome group of musicians. The drummer, Jaime, is the best drummer I have heard in my 59+ years on this planet.
jaime, doing his thing on drums.

It is a very satisfying thing to see our son pouring his soul into his music, and to hear it coming out so beautifully.
We headed back to our apartment feeling very good about how Alden is doing in Italy.

It was a very good night.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

March 22, 2011

We got u, got ready and ate breakfast, then headed out to see more of Venice.
We took the river bus over to the San Marco area. There is a huge, ornate old church there, and a tall bell tower, and many restaurants and shops.

Bob in front of the ornate church at Piazza San Marco.
(restaurant chairs behind him)
We walked around the piazza and looked at the ornate architecture and the crowds of tourists. This was a great place to people watch. Bob was feeling kind of punky, so Rachel scouted out the area and reported back on activities and restaurants. The restaurants were very expensive, so we decided to leave them to the other tourists and spend our time in other pursuits.
We sat on a walkway that looked like a looooong table, but is actually one of many walkways that allow you to walk around with dry feet when there is a higher-than-usual tide.

People sitting on the unused walkway.

 We met a man who had pigeons landing on him who offered to take our picture with pigeons on us, for a price. We said "yes" and he poured some grain in our hands and snapped a shot while the pigeons went for the grain.

A picture of the picture......

We headed back to the hotel because Bob was not feeling good, and he took a nap while Rachel headed off on her own to explore the Jewish Ghetto on the Northeast side of Venice.

Our 35th wedding Anniversary

This was a truly wonderful day. We woke at our wonderful hotel overlooking the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge. The sun was shining as we opened the shutter and let the daylight in.

View out or window on our anniversary morning.

We got ready and had an excellent breakfast. This hotel knows how to cater to American traditional tastes, and there was everything from cereal to meat. We ate our fill, and talked about what to do with the day. Since Bob only had three pairs of pants (we left the rest in Florence) we decided to seek out a coin-op laundry and do some clothes.
We had to carry our laundry and cross several bridges, and walk a goodly distance, but eventually we found the laundromat. Bob urged Rachel to go and shop and have fun while he did the laundry, but she went and purchased some really good beer and came back to drop it off before she went shopping. Bob waited and guarded the laundry while Rachel went out and purchased some needed groceries. She returned within a half-hour or so, saying she would rather spend the time with Bob than run around Venice shopping.  It reminded her of when we were first together and even made going to the laundromat fun.  35 years later and half-way around the world, we still made it fun.

We finished the laundry and went back to the hotel to drop it off.
We then headed over to the Rialto Bridge. It was an amazing feat for Rachel, with Bob's help, to make it up the steep stairs of the bridge but it was worth it!

Rachel on the Rialto Bridge.

Towards the afternoon we headed  over to the gondola docks to see about a ride. They told us that gondolas were not out after dark and we should get a ride soon. We asked about a song or two and they said that would cost an extra 150 euros. They said the gondoliers no longer sang and they would have to arrange for a singer. Apparently there is a separate union for musicians. They introduced us to a young gondolier named Alesandro, who could sing.

Rachel and Bob in our first gondola.

Alesandro was a good-looking young man with a quick wit and quicker smile. He seemed very bright and happy. He reminded both of us of  Antonio Banderas.

An Over-the-shoulder shot of Alesandro

He got us comfortable in the gondola and then explained that most gondoliers can't sing. he can, but he tries not to do it around other gondolas because then their passengers demand a song and the gondolier probably can't sing.

He took us to some out-of-the-way canals and sang quietly. He had a wonderful voice and sang beautifully.

Off to the side of the side canal.

He paused sometimes to point out famous churches and other sights, and at one point said that a particular house was that of his ancestor Don Juan. We'll never know if he was kidding.

Church tower

On return to the docks he refused to take any money for his singing, saying it was a gift for our 35th wedding anniversary. We argued, and finally settled with him to take 50 euros.

We headed back to our hotel and on walking in we had a wonderful surprise.

Surprised Bob!!


      There was a huge bouquet of white roses and purple flowers

                                                             along with a tray of treats.

 A knock on the door brought chilled sparkling wine and limoncello, a powerful new favorite!!

                                                 Grazia Milo AngelaMaria and Salvatore!!!

The Ovidius Hotel clerk had recommended a particular restaurant for our dinner, and that's where we went.
It was called the Trattoria alla Madonna.
We had quite a nice dinner there, and got to eat some things we had never seen before. It was wonderful. Afterwards we awalked around the area looking at some of the night life and noting shops we might want to visit before leaving. Then back to the hotel for soem wine, and to bed.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Off to Venice

March 20, 2011

We jumped out of bed and had a fabulous breakfast. We then checked out of our hotel and went to the termini. The train to Venice was standing room only, so we booked the next one. On the train we met a  woman from Venice named Lola who was very kind and helpful.

A man and a young girl came by and left a bag next to us. he said they were looking for seating together and wanted to mark that seat. they then left and other folks came through and moved the package. Only later did it occur to me that they could be terrorists looking to bomb the train. Turned out they weren't, but it made me much more securiy concious after that.

When we pulled into Venice, the train was on a track in the middle of a huge amount of water. We were crossing water for quite  while before we finally arived at the Venice Termini.
Water bus, the boat with ACTV on the side.
We figured out how to, use the water bus. Got to our hotel, the Ovidious. Our room Overlooked the Grand Canal at the Rialto bridge.
View out our window in Venice

David at the front desk made us welcome right away. The view was spectacular. We skyped with Joan and Alden. Showed them the view out our window.
We did wash because we needed clean clothes. Rachel did laundry in tub, and hung the clothes up to dry in the shower.
by this time it was getting dark, so we took a water bus ride. The moon was a harvest-ype moon, huge and orange, but in spring.

We had pizza for dinner on the waterfront, where they had a heater to stave off the cold.
News flash!! Bob took a bath!!!

Snore time.

Exploring Rome

March 19, 2011
They have a great breakfast bar at Hotel Turner. We ate a hearty breakfast and then headed for the tour bus.
The arch of Constantine is not that impressive due to the fact that it is right next to the Coliseum. it would be much more impressive if it were in your back yard with nothing huge to dwarf it.
                                    Arch of Constantine as seen from 2nd story of the Coliseum
The Coliseum, on the other hand, is quite impressive. We waited in a fairly long line for tickets, and finally got them and rented walking tour players, which come with maps. You walk to the first number on the map and press the corresponding key on the tour player, and it tells you what you are looking at. We found we could use the earphones from the tour bus with these and it made it easier to hear.

Rachel and Alden walking around in the Coliseum
There was a lot of info on the Coliseum that I won't take the time and energy to put on here.
The most impressive thing about it to me was the sheer size of the structure and the system of underground tunnels and elevators used to put on the shows there.

rachel and Alden sitting on a column in the Coliseum

After the Coliseum we hopped back onto our tour bus and jumped off again at a jewish ghetto. We wanted to visit the synagogue there, but it was shabbot and there was a bar Mitzvah occurring.They wouldn't let us in. There were a great many people inside celebrating, and it looked quite festive.

We hopped back on and off the tour bus and we were at Trevi Fountain. This is supposedly one of the most photographed places in the world. It was also the site where the movie "Three Coins in the Fountain" was filmed. The legend is that if you throw a coin in the fountain you have a two out of three chance of finding true love, and a one in three chance of getting either married or divorced. 
Bob and Alden at theTrevi Fountain
We left the Trevi Fountain and wandered around a bit and stumbled upon an anti-nuclear rally. Lots of folks there being enthusiastically anti-nuclear. A great rock band playing good music (no doubt also anti-nuclear).
it was also a protest rally against the president of Italy because he was caught hiring 16 year-old hookers.

We then got on the wrong bus and went way off in the wrong direction. Some folks put us on the metro so we could get back to our hotel. Alden missed his train to Florence. He had to convince the ticket agents to trade his old ticket for a new one on the next train.  Rachel and Bob went to the Vatican to see the Sistine Chapel. When we got there we found that it had closed at 4:00, and we arrived around 6:00.
Oh, well.
We jumped back on the tour bus and rode it around the circuit to see the city lit up at night.
 We went to the "supermarcato" at Termini and bought groceries. Went home and had fabulous dinner for cheap in our room.

All Roads lead to...

March 18 2011

Our cell phone alarm went off at 6:00 local time, and we dragged ourselves out of our comfortable beds to watch the sun rise. I woke Alden, but he was slow to rise, so I told him where we would be and Rachel and I went to the upper deck to se if we could determine which direction we were headed, and thus the position of the sunrise.
We walked around a bit and figured out which spot on the horizon was the brightest and figured that for the position of the sun.
Alden showed up in the nick of time and got to sit with us and watch the sun rise over the Mediterranean Sea. It was beautiful.

After sunrise we went back to out cabin and packed up for Rome. We arrived in Rome somewhat after 9:00. We then had to take a train into Rome proper, as we were on the outskirts.

On arrival at the train station we debarked and headed for the street. A man accosted us and asked if we needed a cab. We said "yes", and he hustled us into the street and loaded our luggage into our cab. Most train stations and airports have a cab line outside and usually and elderly gentleman at the head of the line pointing out the next available cab to the tourists. This guy was a rogue driver and a hustler who didn't abide by traditional methods. We gave him the address of the Hotel Turner, where we were going to stay. He swung out into traffic, and the next ten minutes made the pod race from Star Wars look like a kiddy ride. The guy was nuts and totally aggressive. He fought for every centimeter of space, wedging his bumper in front of other folks to crowd his way in and slamming us back into the seat with wild acceleration as he tried to gain an extra 20 meters or so that was unoccupied. We finally arrived at ur hotel miraculously unscathed with several more white hairs than we had started with. He charged us 25 euros, which was a ripoff, but I figured it was a cheap lesson in international travel, and didn't want to take up a bunch of vacation time in a police station. I gave him the 25 euros and we got our luggage out of the cab.
We checked into the Hotel. It is a wonderful place to stay in Rome and I would recommend it for anyone who plans to go to Rome. One odd thing about it was that the key had an accompanying stud that had to be inserted into a dock in the wall in order to turn on the lights. The hotel had a nice king-sized bed and a bath with a shower that had a line of jets to spray your whole body down at once. It was wonderful.
We walked to the "termini", which is the bus station, and found a tour bus. Tour buses brand you as a tourist, but many other things brand you as a tourist too. You really can't pass as an Italian without extensive study, so why try?? We paid our 20 euros, which granted us passage on the bus line for 48 hours.

Rachel and Alden on the tour bus
These are "hop-on-hop-off" buses that allow you to spend any amount of time at a particular site and then allow you to jump on the next available bus and proceed to the next place where you want to hop off and spend some time. We stayed on the bus for a tour of the city, made a list. The first was the Coliseum. We stayed on the bus and drove by the Coliseum and the Arch of Constantine. The arch was built by a guy named "Joe", but for some reason they call it the "Arch of Constantine".
Seriously, Constantine was the first christian emporer of Rome. He built the arch to commemorate his victories, and later converted to christianity. We figured it was too late to brave the crowds of tourists trying to get in, and decided to come back in the morning and actually have time enought to see things without a rush.

We got back to the hotel around 9:00 P.M., and watched some Roman tv. We saw "Celebrity Isolation" (Italian "Survivor") and French Idol.

We looked for a grocery store and a laundromat, but didn't find either.
We went to a restaurant around the corner, had dinner, and retired to the hotel so we could have a lot of daylight to nurn the next day.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Our Farewell to Alden and soon to Italy

I almost did it... I almost tried to figure out a way to get to and from a place an hour away from here so I could watch Alden play until 1 a.m. even though we have to be at the airport for the long trek home at 5 a.m. I figured we could sleep all we wanted on the plane. Bob brought me to my senses... not in the regular
way, but I knew it would be really hard on Bob and I didn't want to put him through that AND he was right; it would have been"nuts." I didn't care! I wanted to squeeze every second out of my time with Alden that was possible.

Instead, we made a quick pull off of the bandaid type of goodbye and Bob and I could comfort each other in private (or at least not in front of Alden.). No doubt we looked very odd to all the Florentines that saw us walking down the street with sunglasses on at dusk on a grey day to hide our crying eyes. We miss him already!

There is much I will miss of Italy & will miss this little apartment that's been such a wonderful home for us. I'll miss being a stranger in a strange land where I can't take anything for granted at all. I'll miss being dwarfed by history I can touch and be awe inspired by as part of my everyday life here. I'm re-reading The Agony and the Ecstasy which will help me hold on to some of this experience just a bit longer I hope.

I'm also ready to be home and not be a stranger and to hug my friends and my dog!!

Now off to finish packing.
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