Showing posts from 2008

The Vatican and The Pope

For the audience with the Pope, Bill wore a dark suit and tie and I wore a long skirt and long sleeved blouse in dark colors as suggested in our information packet. Dark colors on hot days add up to a bit of discomfort. Many either didn't know or had discarded the bit of information about dark colors, and had come more wisely dressed in light shirts and slacks but from the absence of color in this photo one might think I'm exaggerating.
Many of us arrived early enough to find seats and waited patiently as the crowd swelled. It seemed to take forever for anything to begin happening.
We thought the audience was beginning, when a monsignor got up to announce his group from Germany; but no, this prelate went on and on, introducing every school, college, seminary, and church there. And then, alas, we had another long wait.

When a great surge of clapping and cheering broke out, we knew the Holy Father had arrived. We could follow his progress via the large TV screens located throu…

Walking Rome at Night

We spent most of our first full day in Rome either walking or standing. Having spent hours waiting on line for our tickets to the Papal audience, and flying through the Vatican museum before it closed, we stopped for some refreshments at a small cafe at the base of a long flight of stairs leading to the Metro. As Bill had never eaten gelato before, we ordered cups of mocha/chocolate gelato. Bill was so smitten that gelato in different flavors became an afternoon tradition for the rest of our journey. Photo of a Roman Soldier out of his elementConcerning Gelato: “Let’s Go: Italy,” one of the most helpful of the tourist guides we’d brought along, described the difference between homemade or factory produced gelato. Gelato served from plastic containers is factory produced. Stainless-steel means homemade. Checking the color of the banana gelato is also a good clue. If it is bright yellow, it is factory produced. Slightly grayish banana gelato means homemade. Same …

The Vatican and a surprise encounter

Along the stairway leading to Piazza del Popolo from the Borghese Gardens
We woke late on Tuesday, the morning after our arrival -- though considering the time difference of six hours it was not late but quite early: nine a.m. in Rome equals 3 a.m. in Minnesota. It didn’t take Bill long to figure out how to make a great cup of coffee in the small espresso maker at the apartment and the butter, peach jam, and dry tostinis, (what we think of as Melba Toast), comprised the balance of our breakfast. Then we were off to the Borghese Gardens and Piazzo del Popolo for a two hour morning walk.
Piazzo del Popolo as seen from above in the Borghese Gardens.

The Pizzeria on Via Babuino where we had lunch of 4 plates of different roasted vegetables.Our parish priest from Grand Marais, had written a letter to the Vatican recommending us for an audience with the Holy Father for Wednesday. We had been subsequently notified that we were to pick up our tickets at the “Bronze Doors” between two and 4 p.m. …

We arrive in Rome

My husband Bill and I have just returned from a three week journey to Italy. During that time, we traveled through Rome, the AmalfiCoast, the Italian Riviera, the Italian Alps, Tuscany and Umbria. We met with 24 of my deceased husband Vittorio’s family members and network of friends, got hopelessly lost, made innumerable mistakes, encountered several unexpected acts of kindness, ate incredible meals, and everywhere were surrounded with scenes of great historic and artistic resonance and of unutterable beauty.

Our first four days were spent in Rome in an adorable apartment (Casa di Stella on Via Mario Fiori) only a block away from the famed Spanish Steps. From there it was an easy jaunt to most of the important sites in the city, and the Metro and bus lines were nearby for longer trips within and without the city.
We encountered our first challenge at the luggage pick up. We could not rent a luggage dolly which cost 50 centavos because our lowest denomination euro was € 100 bill. Lesson …

Ciao Italia!

We're off to the land of popes, pilgrimages, wine, and euphoria. Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi, Foligno, Assisi, Florence, Italian Riviera, Trento, Lago di Garda, Venice, Siena . . . and more.

Back sometime in late October or early November (we leave for Florida two days after we arrive home.) Depends on when I've got a free moment to check in.

Meanwhile, enjoy fall!!!

Before leaving

For several weeks now, I've been mostly living in earphones, attempting to learn enough Italian to communicate with my deceased husband's family in Italy. Besides CD's Buongiorno Italia also provides a reading supplement. I've completed all the exercises in the book but find myself strangely tongue-tied when asked to "say something in Italian."

Do I treat the listener to an "ordering a meal" dialog (lots of meal-ordering, and direction-asking in this little book) or do I describe the house that Geraldine wants to buy near Orvieto?

Sometimes I create imaginary conversations as I busy myself with other things. Inevitably, however, I lurch off into Spanish. I don't know a lot of Spanish, just enough to confuse others.

The dialogs on Buongiorno Italia, however, aside from the repetitiveness of their topics, are marvelous aids in determining where to use "da" or "di, " or "ci" and "si," and the like. Hear a phras…

The Pyramids at Teotichuacan

Mario Perez has been driving taxis since he was fourteen. The chauffeur assigned responsibility for the safety of Bill’s consulting team, Mario works eighteen- and twenty-hour days. As he cannot afford a car of his own, he must take some other form of transport to and from work, which means his day starts at 4 AM and ends after 11 PM. He never complains. Such hours are just a fact of life.I met Mario in May 2000 on a whirlwind trip to Mexico City. This trip included a day spent with my husband Bill at work—attending meetings, touring site facilities, meeting fellow consultants and team members, a day alone spent touring the awesome National Museum of Anthropology, and two days of compressed sightseeing in which we visited various ancient sections of the city, shrines, pyramids, and a day trip to the distant mountain city of Taxco. But over-riding the experience of such wondrous and memorable sights was getting to know the Perez family.
Mario’s broad face beamed next to Bill’s from th…

Ely flaunts its bears, wolves, and root-beer

Though I usually focus on away-from-home travel stories, travel stories from one’s home state are worth the telling. Ely Minnesota is one of those places. Since taking my grandson there last year, I returned again this summer, this time with two grandchildren in tow. Here’s a story from that first trip in August 2007.

Ely is more than the entry to the Boundary Waters. Ely is home to Ted, a local celebrity who could once shimmy up trees with the best of them. He could gambol in play and run faster than others. Ted can no longer do these things because he weighs 900 lbs.Before you gasp in disbelief, I’ll reveal his identity. Ted is a black bear – a VERY LARGE black bear. Most wild male black bears weigh between 125 and 500 lbs. But Ted cannot be called wild. He is now a main attraction at the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota which opened in the spring of 2007.900 lb. Ted Dines Daintily on Berries
When I left our North Shore home to drive 90 miles to Ely with my nine-year-old g…

Marching with Las Madres

In early December 1999, I flew to Buenos Airesto meet my husband Bill who was working in South America. I arrived to find the streets of the city blockaded by banks of police and their motorcycles. Helicopters stuttered overhead. The taxi driver told me it was inauguration day and Argentina's new president, Fernando de la Rua, was moving in ceremonial cavalcade toward to Plaza de Mayo. To get me to the hotel, the driver had to convince the police that we had authorization to enter. I sat very tall and tried to look important as he nervously talked us through.

I'd like to tell you that I immediately dashed into the crowds to watch the inauguration. I’d like to boast that my Spanish was fluent enough to allow me to understand the speech de la Rua made from the balcony at the Casa Rosada. But the reality was that I was fearful of going into the city alone. Then reason kicked in. I was going to be there for 10 days and Bill would be working most of that time. It was either head in…

The Argentinian and Brazilian views of Iguazu Falls

In December 1999, I had the opportunity to practice the special blend of insecurity and trust that seems be to the hallmark of an American tourist in South America. A good example concerns our trip to the northeasterly tip of Argentina to view one of the world's greatest wonders: the immense and mighty IguazuFalls located in the lush subtropical jungles of Brazil and Argentina. To get to Iguazu, which is in Misiones province, we had to fly over Corrientes, a province that had just erupted into armed violence and which lies directly south of Misiones. Would we need to detour or abort the flight because of the violence in the neighboring state? My worries dissolved as we flew without hitch into Iguazu, only to resurface as we boarded the tour bus that was to take us into the jungles. From there we would be able to view the Garganta del Diablo (the Throat of the Devil): the most fearsome of the falls, forming as it does a huge concave gorge over which the Iguazu river hurls, spewing …

Seattle by day and by night

In Seattle, that friendliest of cities, we did something we rarely do. Limited in time and anxious to see all that should be seen, we signed up for two tours, one of the city and one of the Boeing Manufacturing Plant in Everett. * View from Queen Anne's Hill with Mount Ranier in the distanceI’ve got mixed feelings about such tours because they give only the broadest overview of sights to be seen but it works when time in a particular spot is limited. Here is a running time-table of sites seen while on our tour.Seattle Center, the site of the 1962 World’s Fair, the space needle, and of the fancifully designed side by side museums of Space and of Rock (musical not geological) our driver gave us 20 minutes to see what we wanted and to take photos. One of our traveling companions -- a businessman from Taiwan -- took this shot of Bill and me under the space needle. The Center was strangely deserted when we arrived, perhaps it was the rather gloomy weather or maybe just too early in …

Canyon Lake AZ: Traveling with the departed

I hadn’t realized when we began our drive to Saguaro and Canyon Lake near Mesa AZ that we’d be heading to the mountain lake my daughter Francesca told me about during her brief sojourn working in Phoenix when she was 19, but as we climbed into those arid mountains her words came back to me.

“Oh, Mama. You’d love it. The lake is tucked right into the mountains. You can’t imagine the view from the rocks. Oh I do wish you’d see it.” Her excitement had bubbled over the phone lines from Arizona to Minnesota.

My husband and I had chosen the perfect time to spend a few days in Phoenix. Everything was blooming, including the desert. I was stunned by the wonderful colors of the arid heights – the rocky cliffs striated in ocher and burnt orange, the sweeping expanses of blue and lavender, red and yellow flowers spreading above and below us.

Since Francesca’s death in 2001, I’ve carried that beautiful child with me in my heart to all the places we’d traveled since then. I'd so wanted her to see…

Morning at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Phoenix

On a bright March 15 morning, we traveled east from Phoenix on Highway 60 to visit the Boyce Thompson Arboretum where desert plants from around the world are featured in landscapes reflecting other desert environments –

Africa, Australia, South America, the Canary Islands, and the Chihuahuan desert of Mexico, west Texas, and southern New Mexico. My husband Bill and I got so carried away that we took well over 100 photos. Don't run, I'm only posting a couple here!

My favorite landscape and hike was the High Trail through the Upper Sonoran Natural Area.

The rocks looked like they’d been poured in blobs from some heavenly sand bucket.

We saw no rattlesnakes but we didn’t go looking for them. Besides, from what I understand rattlesnakes don’t show themselves until it gets a bit warmer.

The photo to the left is of a Blue Elf Aloe (pretty big for an elf wouldn't you say?)

And, check out the bark on the Mount Atlas Mastic Tree to the right. Beautiful even if it resembles a…