So I was reviewing some posts while working on my blog/travel journal for our recent sailing trip to the BVI (under "Travel USA", although it's technically not...anyway...), and discovered/was reminded that I never completed the entries on this trip. Arrrrghhhh!!!
It's the bane of my blogger existence; I try to give live-blogging a go and am waylaid by lack of internet or time or both, then begin the entries piecemeal at home. And alas...they seem to never find full life!!!
So once I'm finished with the sailing story, I am going to attempt to get back and finish this sucker. Before the next trip. :)
First world problems.
I am so blessed...and I never forget to realize that AND be grateful.
Marty had a good idea. "Why don't you put a picture of a map with your blog posts?" Hmmmm. Yep, a good idea!
So for your geographical edification, this shows where, precisely, we are on the European continent.
*pardon the google map ad...
So as you can see, Cividale is quite to the north and very close to other Eastern European countries that I would love to set foot in. Unfortunately, we can't take the rental car across country borders or we would at least say a howdy to Slovenia. Next time!
Our sweet friend Stefania, born and raised in Cividale, met us in the small piazza just outside our hotel - jokingly called by us "The Tomato" because "Pomo d'Oro" actually means golden apple, but said together in our lack of appropriate accent sounds like pomodoro! 🍅
The tomato hotel is to the right of this beautiful old church, which unfortunately was locked to curious tourists like me.
How best to launch a days escapades than with a late morning cappuccino in an Austrian bakery in northern Italy? Just another day.
Oh, the delights of the flesh!
Fortified and ready, Stefania lead is out into a brilliant sunlit day. From the rock patterned pavement under our feet to the mossy fallen-domino clay roof tops, there was a tangible sense of spring - yay! that permeated the crisp air.
The road through the borgo took us to one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in this area, the Longobard Tempio, an exquisite example of the Longobardo reign in the 700 - 800s AD. I was sadly unfamiliar with this Germanic tribe and the mark they left, but got up to snuff a tad more here... http://www.italia.it/en/travel-ideas/unesco-world-heritage-sites/the-longobards-and-their-places-of-power.html
Looks like maybe some of that 30% Italian DNA of mine might have some roots with King Alboin???
What a marvel to stand upon ancient stone, caress the cooled marble surface of a stoic column, and be surrounded by this place where monks worshiped so long ago.
The grounds and other buildings encompassing the Tempio are stunning in their own ancient right with views befitting the best Italian postcards.
Cristian joined us for Adventure 2 -- a scenic drive up the mountain to Monestero Santa Maria in Valle, a beautifully situated monestary overlooking Cividale and points beyond. A clear view allowed the snow capped peaks of the alps to offer a cheery salute. Pretty grand way to spend a little time, I'd say!
A small trattoria lunch, then some time to rest before Stefania and Cristian returned for Adventure 2. We managed a brief pisilino (nap) before setting out to join up with the holiday atmosphere that was burbling to life in the historic town center. Oh, I just love being in the middle of it all; so easily coil I live the Italian lifestyle!
This old church, built in the 1200's, is now used to store flour. Italian style Tupperware??
On to Udine (oo-di-ney), Cristian's hometown of about 100k. Beholder of a respected university and a medieval government seat, Udine wears a cloak of old world elegance. Extremely clean, well preserved, and pulsing with confidence, this city is a proud one and for good reason.
Good thing a lungo passagiata creates a big kid appetite; an authentic Sardenian dinner awaited our sidewalk weary party of 4.
And.... despite my best blogger person attempts to "live and in person " with posts, I'm thinking these may be reverting to a few Facebook posts with future full discorse. The day runs long, and once again I find myself under covers like a kid with comic books and flashlight, determinedly fighting to prop lids heavy as Tuscan cheese boards up long enough to complete the post
C vediamo presto, bello reader!
Only half the day under Damask cover on this Venetian Friday - brava!!! By 11:40am I'd dragged myself up, dressed, and determinedly went out for a last encounter with Venezia.
Wow - where'd the plethora of people come from?? By oh yes - today begins the holiday season of Easter than extends through Monday, a day they call Pasquetta. And by all counts, it's as big a day of family togetherness as Christmas.
Crowds and all, I enjoyed a roam around while Marty finished a morning of classes.
The two on the bridge were taking a picture while the figure on the other side-right was taking a picture while I was taking a picture. Hope we all said "cheese" at the right time!
You could literally snap a shoot with a bag over your head and voilà- it'd be gorgeous. Bella Venezia!
I indulged myself with one of the huge billowy puffs of merenge style sweet that must be a specialty here - ciccolatte, per favore. After all, they'd been whispering my name, those cloud shaped sirens, from every pastacerria we'd passed since arrival. I nibbled on the crumbly confection seated at the base of an ancient well as pigeons (& one lone seagull) scuttled up to this now interesting donna. They rather enjoyed the treat, too, and as we dined together I couldn't help but think how many others had found brief respite alongside this very well over untold centuries passed.
A quick pizza lunch, zip up the bags, bid farewells to out hosts, and andiamo to the vaporetto for a ride to the car rental building by the train station. What a lovely way to go versus our entry of dragging bags over never ending bridges!
Such an intersection of old and new!
Look, Ma - the ice cream boat!!
See the boat far - right? That's how ya transport il vino!
Rental car secured, we let Ms. GPS have her bossy but mostly appreciated way, and set course for Cividale, about an hour and 45 to the east- northeast. We waved ciao-ciao to the region of Veneto, and greeted a region new to our travels (Italy's furthest north) called Friuli-Guilia. Flat and agrarian, the ruins and current abodes gracing this land presented much more angular and practical than, say, those in Tuscany or Lazio. Mountains, the shared Italian and Austrian Alps began to come into hazy, cloud-laced view, deep gray and mysterious as almost if trying sneak from view.
Arriving in Cividale, the "Gee Toto, we're not in Toscana anymore!" feeling continued. Ancient yet almost pristine in restoration, cleanliness your Nonna would be proud of, and distinct architecture was more of Switzerland or Austria. But think again how close we are to both. And Slovenia is just 20 minutes down the road!
We met up with our sweet friend Stefania and breathed fresh mountain air while enjoying a passagiata before an aperativo of local white wine. Enjoy a few photos taken in low light -- but there's always tomorrow!
Siccome (a new word gathered from the few lessons I was able to attend - ack!), the day was spent tucked under under a powdery blue duvee and ornate damask cover surrounded by walls of Michelangelo morning sky walls that played out about 15 feet above me with lower portions decked in Venetian style ornate golden mirrors and lights, not to mention the antique prints and beautiful old furniture encircling me.
So I'll not have much to share beyond these 4 walls. Meh.
(These cherubs!! I'm in love...)
But if one must have the flu, what lovelier place than Venice! The lady of the house, Mariagrazie, has been nothing but kind, as have all out friends here, old and new. Even as far away as Voghera, our friends Angelina and Fabrizio have called to check ... "We'll come get you if needed." And we know they mean it. ❤️
So yes - many positives amongst the sickness; we've not been on the road, it's a passing illness, we found Tamiflu, and this bed is way softer than an average Italian bed. Yay!!
Mariagrazie even made me fresh squeezed juice. Can I come back here next time I'm sick?
Fortunately, Marty rallied early afternoon and was able to set off for some sightseeing to include a meal I'd enjoyed the previous day, of which the photo caused great culinary envy.
Yep, that Parmagiana di Melanzane (which was utterly amazing) made that boy jeeeaalous!! So he did find it equally as rapturous & satisfied that urge successfully.
Marty was also able to meet our friends Nuck and Esterita for drinks and typical Venetian appetizers, which although sad not to join them, I was very happy he could! We'd planned a long excursion with them to Sirmione, but .... Alas!
They sent back with Marty a lovely box of Venetian cookies, and one was enjoyed after my in-room meal of a caprese sandwich in Egytian style bread from a nearby shop owned by an 18 year resident fro Egypt. It was pretty darn good.
And to close off this day, a few more shots of my Venetian sick room surroundings...
So..... all my witty-isms, etc. just *blipped* into never-never land with some kind of crash (whazzup Weebly??) and alas...all is lost.
I'm too tired, this iPhone screen is too tiny, it's too late, and I'm starting to get a cold (quick! call a waaaaaambulance!!) and just can't rewrite it tonight, so only pics for now from today's Marty-has-the-flu-we-need-tamaflu-but-I-did-do-some-exploring-on-my-own day!
Enjoy the photos; this place just oozes beauty!!
views along the Grand Canal from a vaporetto
just another thoroughfare in Venice!
delish sea bass dinner
Not that great, but I really tried to get a full moon over Venice shot! We'd planned a gondola ride under the moon light tonight ( be still my ❤️), but Mr. Flu Virus had other plans for us! 😢
As promised, take a look at this table. Certainly not what my normal breakfast of hastily-shoveled-yogurt-while-I-put-on-my-make-up looks like. I could get used to this....
The morning "rush hour" in Venice is a different creature; we become part of a pedestrian parade of the morning variety found in any developed country. Business people already haggling by phone, mothers scooting reluctant children towards school, teenagers giggling between bites of brioche as they huddle-walk, a few tourists, and maybe those just enjoying the vibrant start of the day. The narrow cattle-chute passageways make for a fair amount of weaving and dodging, not unlike the freeways of non-Venice cities. The Ferrari types scurry by at lightening speed, abruptly overtaking the plodders, while the majority clip-clip along in efficient fashion.
So how does FedEx get its packages delivered; how is the garbage collected; how does the construction crew get goods on site; how is fresh bread delivered?? There are no motorized vehicles, nor even the bzzzzzz of Vespas, and maybe we've seen but a few bikes. Ah, Venezia...by water, of course!!
And mass transportation follows suite.... the metro taxis, the traghetto, and certamente.... Una gondola! That is, if you don't have your personal barca ready and waiting outside your door.
The morning's lesson begain once again with Andrea, and we enjoyed a bit of chat about the previous evening's activities. Connective words became the focus of study, and I managed to probably earn a B were grades given. However, by the end of the morning, I felt more like a C- student as we verbally constructed complex sentences using different types of past tense conjugation, as well as connecting words. Whew. My now-feeling-jet lagged brain (I know...it did catch up with us today!) was really struggling to keep up, despite the dose of fortified caffeine delivered via un macchiato during our pausa. Thank goodness for kind and patient teachers!
Lunch with a friend is always a dandy thing, but lunch with a friend...and a new friend....alongside a canal in Venice at a local cafe ups the delight ten-fold. We met our friend Esterita, who lives and works in Venice with her husband Nick, and a colleague of Ester's, and were shown to a fine little place called Casa Bonita.
Sometimes not being in charge is a wonderful thing, especially when in another country and having lunch with locals who know the real-deal for regional food. We gladly allowed our friends to choose for us, and we were presented with authentic Venitian cuisine washed down with a light bubbly Prosecco that was most enjoyable!
Parting ways, Marty and I decided to pay a visit to the nearby Jewish Ghetto, the oldest in the world. During the height of Venice's Midas touch years, Jewish families were allowed to establish a protected residence because the bankers and money exchange businesses were critical to the rich commerce that was the life blood of Venice. The ghetto remains active to this day, and offers kosher eateries, pastry shops, and various stores. We stepped into a few, including an amazing little antique store. Marty remarked that it appeared to be more a museum; the grandmotherly proprietoress chuckled in disagreement, but to our history poor eyes, it certainly seemed as such!
A remembrance of a very special friend....
This is a departure from the sights and events of the day here in Venice; this is far more important and worthy. I heard the news today that a very special lady and friend had passed on to her Heavenly Father, the remarkable Esther Lehmann. Esther's niece and also my friend, Betty, let me know a day or two before we left that Esther was seemingly preparing to leave this world. She told to go on and not worry, and despite my heart hurting, I did. I told Betty that Esther always loved our travels and would implore, "Go while you can!" She enjoyed hearing our stories, and I tried to bring her a small remembrance from wherever we'd visited as a way to share it with her.
Esther was the last living offspring of an Indian captive....her father Willie Lehmann. More well-known is her uncle Herman Lehmann, who lived 9 years as a captive of the Apache then Comanche. But more importantly, Esther was a lively, lovable, vivacious, funny, intelligent, tough, and spunky little gal who'd charm the socks off anyone she met. Over our 12 year friendship, I took anyone who had any interest out to the homestead for a visit with Esther and her "museum". What a thrill every time for me, and oh the number of folks who were gifted with her stories and presence.
I spent some time in a church today as way to honor Esther from afar. I lit a candle for her, fittingly one with two wicks to symbolize our friendship, as well as symbolize the lives of so many that were touched by her. By chance, there was music in this grand church today. I smiled as I thought of how much Esther would've gotten a kick out of that. More than once, I introduced her to musician friends who gave her the joy of a personal concert. Today's were all for her as far as I was concerned.
Unfortunately, I will miss her memorial service, as well as time with her family and friends I came to know and love. . And I will miss her sorely.
photos from the day
Unfortunately, Marty seems to feel a bad cold coming on. Oh dear. Our wandering, therefore, ended early; however, it offered me the opportunity to sit quietly in this elegant sala, sipping hot tea while I'm surrounded in old world elegance. My desk an old table upon which sit elegant dried flowers, faded but still beautiful and grand -- like this room, like this house, like this city. A rich damask cloth drapes the table top, subduing the sounds of my clattering keyboard while the soft light of a Venetian blown glass chandelier caresses the scene. Periodically, the kind housekeeper, properly attired in her formal dress and apron, enters removing, replacing, restocking this or that -- what all, I'm not sure, but I enjoy her stealthy interuptions. Maybe she's added a few more chocolate eggs to the silver bowl I discovered last night.
So while Marty sleeps, I'll remain entertained while I write, complete my homework, and possibly just sit in the quiet with another cup of tea as I reflect on this day. As I reflect on my sweet friend's life well-lived. As I reflect on what precious gifts each day of breath holds. I heard late of the tragedy in Brussels today. My heart is heavy for this, as well. Yet my heart is also full; a strange juxtaposition.
* I've posted the videos of a bit of the music on my Facebook page if you'd care to take a listen.
I found these "Tex" vintage comics in an old bookstore run by a crusty old fellow who did restorative work. When I went to pay for the smaller one, he asked if I liked Tex. I replied (all in Italian, of course) that certainly I did -- I was a Texan! He got quite a kick out of that and found the second book for me. Total spent = 4 euro; the experience = priceless!
This clock mechanism was in "Esther's church" and was built in 1500. Yes, it's still ticking.
Ohhh, the divine treat of sleep when jet-lagged! And we were gifted with a solid eight hours -- bravissimo!! Funny, but the jet lag has tallied up to nothing more than an accumulated pooped at the end of yesterday and niente today. The secret?? No idea! Maybe just mind over matter - chissa (who know)?? - but we'll take it!
After a full breakfast served in elegant Venetian style (table pics tomorrow - promise) with the pleasant company of Marley, a fellow student from Brazil, it was time to scurry back through narrow passageways to the innocuous front door of the Cattaneo home, aka The Venice Language School.
We we were met with a warm welcome from Lucia, one of the two siblings who run the school, then spent a little time visiting with the warm and friendly patriarch of the family.
Our classroom is the reinvented dining room of this comfortable Venetian home, and we quickly settled in with Andrea, teacher number one. Lively get-to-know you conversation pursued and any preoccupation with anxiety quickly evaporated like salt spray on a gondola.
A 20 minute break for caffe was followed by a second round of lessons with teacher number two, Alessandra. Essentially private lessons, we enjoyed lively rounds of patter laced with correction and instruction that ended more quickly than one would predict.
The remainder of the day was spent tourist appropriate; we walked sans destination amongst the antiquity of Venice, semi-mindful of direction but not terribly focused on any particular destination. You see, Venice is an island, so getting lost is possible but never hopelessly so.
If it's true that a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll try to post a selection worth a few million; truly there is not any one direction one can turn in Venice and not emit at least one "Wow!" and several photos.
Enjoy today's exploration from just a few views that this playful, elegant, worn but vibrant old town atop a marsh lovingly offers up with dignified expectation of generous and sincere appreciation-- which is strikingly easy to manage!
So many photos, such little time! Here come sa few slide show or two!
The famous Bridge of Sighs where convicted prisoners would take the last walk before meeting eternity or a lifetime of regret.
8:00am Italy time
My view as I peck peck peck this out on my iPhone. Pretty cool way to wake up from a slumber party consisting of about 450 others.
International flights are interesting things. Encased in a huge metal tube slicing through the sky perched atop two bus sized engines, roles reverse. From the stolen sleep one can be lucky enough to coup, the sweet dreams begin upon waking. Less than 24 hours ago, I was flitting about my house in a last minute check everything frenzy. And now --- well, you saw that view --- and feet on the ground in Rome in less than an hour. And caffe normale. Pretty durn remarkable.
With a little time to kill before arrival , Marty does what he does best while I ... Ummmm.... should be, too, but don't because I want to show and tell a little about the dark hours over the Atlantic.
Sunsets are always an event, but from 35k feet, they're ringed with a little more "special". This one put on a fleeting spettacolo before sliding below cloud level to thrill a passing crew or two cruising the Atlantic.
As I squirmed and twisted and tugged myself into as much upright comfort as I could manage, waiting impatiently for the Tylenol PM to coax my eyes shut, I looked out. What a gift awaited.
My eyes rested on a silvery blue gray scene of ethereal clouds lightly layered over an inky ocean. Just enough cool moon glow allowed me to share the view that only the stars and moon and any other lucky fool at that altitude were privy to on this one night amongst eternity. An occasional orangey island would drift by leaving me curious about the souls sharing a different angle of this view with me as they manned their rigs. Did they see me; a blinking orb high above, carving the night sky with the constellations? I'll never know, but I am beyond certain that those middle of the night moments shared from my tiny portal were priceless.
Can't wait to see ya, Italy!!! ❤️🇨🇮
Arrival was pretty flawless. We mozied through the cattle chute of passport clearance, hunted down luggage in circle-the-wagons style, then sought out a train for parts north.
Signage leads quite easily to the Davinci Express - the straight through train to the main station, Termini.
Once in Termini, we spent our 50 minute layover in a fruitless exercise trying to secure a new SIM card, but oh well ... what else would we do?? (Hmmm.... Drink caffe, find a bathroom, drink more caffe, grab a bite, drink more caffe.....)
Alllll aboard and off we went on the fast train, la Frecciarosa, that would fling us nonstop through Italy with Venice being out final stop. What a comfortable ride!
Lunch onboard train - pretty cool!
My eyes are fighting furiously to close as jet- lag is forcing itself upon me here at 9:30 italy time. Marty has been snoring luxuriously for some time, and the Venetian street below is quiet. I'll post what I've drafted thus far, along with random pics , and let this "raw blog" be what I birthed it to be!
Feet on the ground in Venice brought relief, but a challenge not for for the unfit! About 115 lbs. of luggage had to be lugged to our destination on this bella isla.
Venice is an incredible place oozing with worn elegance and fading grandeur. Her buildings rise proudly 3,4,5, even 6 floors high as they stand guard over watery passage ways. A few here and there are adorned in fresh washes of color, but many sport only a reminder of their once vibrant hues, struggling to keep a carved facade from crumbling further.
And amidst these watchful domestic towers lay a labrynth of maze-like streets making its traversers feel sympathetic towards lab rats.
About an hour of twists and turns hauling bags through the narrowest of passageways and over multiplicity of bridges, we arrived at la porta verde
And were taken into the B&B abode run by the kind Mariagrazie.
The place was Venetian elegant and left me dumbstruck. How thrilling to call this home for a week!
We unloaded a bit, then lit out to find the school. A nice 10 minute walk, and the unassuming door of the Venice Language School was found. We sampled some wine at a nearby bar, assessed how many of the close quartered others might be tourists, then exited with a beeline leading to the small pizzeria we'd passed.
Five euros and a really great pizza is yours here, and almost anywhere in Italy. Just look for where the locals and/or kids frequent, and you're pretty much guaranteed a delish meal of a light crust, fresh toppings, just enough cheese, and a heartily offered "Buon appetite" to determine the course.
Buona notte e chi vediamo domani!
day 1: And we're off!