Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer Travel, Part Thirteen

Our hotel in Rome was small, with only thirty-five rooms. It boasted a beautiful breakfast room as well as a rooftop garden.

One morning we went up to the garden and looked out at Rome from that vantage point. I was interested in the assortment of rooftops.

We were only about a block from Piazza del Popolo, a location Joe had requested because of his fondness for the twin churches there. We did go into the one on the left, but the one on the right was closed for repairs. We ate all of our dinners in our "neighborhood," enjoying traditional Italian fare.

I'm a huge fan of risotto and had looked forward to eating pretty much of it in Italy. However, at every restaurant we visited in Venice, the only risotto came with shellfish, and I am allergic. Sadly, we found the same to be the case in Rome, until the very last day when we stopped for lunch at a cafe on Piazza Navona, where I enjoyed some absolutely delicious mushroom risotto!

Friends have asked me about the food on the ship and ashore. Knowing that this trip was a one-time thing, I abandoned my Weight Watcher program for 16 days during which time I enjoyed everything I wanted. The food on the ship was excellent, and the local calamari, pasta, bellinis, gelati, were superb. In 16 days I gained 1/4 pound! This, of course, is attributed to the tremendous amount of walking and climbing that we did on the trip. I had begun my walking program in May, starting with a daily goal of 7000 steps and gradually increasing until I was at 10,000 steps when we arrived in Venice. Most nights when I checked in with my FitBit, I was surprised to find I had walked far more than 12,000 steps!

Our last day in Rome arrived. Having been in the city some thirteen years before, we had already visited the Spanish Steps, the Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum (ya, Honna, it looks just like the pictures!), the baths, and all of the other important sites and sights in Rome. On Helen's behalf, we had checked in at the Trevi Fountain and couldn't get within touching distance due to the crowds. We decided that the best use of our morning was to go to St. Peter's. We hadn't heard from the Pope that he wanted to get together, but we thought we would take the chance of running into him and perhaps get a gelato and solve world problems together.

When we got to St. Peter's, there was the long line we had expected. What we had not expected was how quickly it would move! We were just ahead of a large group with a guide and just behind a young Asian woman (seemed like high school age to us, but what do we know?) with a camera. Not speaking each others' languages was no obstacle as we made a pleasant connection with her, mutually pointing out things of interest and taking photographs of each other. We fantasized that when she got home she may have told her family, "I met the nicest older couple at St. Peter's . . . ."

St. Peter's wasn't as crowded inside as it had been in 2000 when we visited, which was surprising. We wandered around at leisure, discovering a panel inscribed with the names of all of the Popes, photographing statues and ceilings. There was a mass going on in a side chapel and we slipped in to sit in a back pew to rest our feet for a bit. It didn't matter that we were Lutheran and the service was Catholic nor did it matter that we spoke English and they were speaking Italian. We understood what was going on. After the sharing of the Peace, out came the usher with his long-handled basket; he didn't care either that we were English-speaking Lutherans, and passed it in front of us. We were happy to put some Euros inside.

Of course we did not run into the Holy Father but reminded ourselves that two days earlier we had climbed and climbed and climbed our way to Hadrian's Villa, and he wasn't home either!

Piazza Novona, our final destination, was a fair distance away. We walked for a while, passing yet another of those wonderful street artist-performers, stopping in a cafe for a cold drink.

We carried water bottles with us everywhere throughout our trip, but foot tiredness and biological issues necessitated that we stop at cafes periodically. In Italy the first time we requested a lemonade, we were offered a lemon soda and liked it so much! Far less sweet than 7-Up, lemon soda was almost like a carbonated lemonade, and it became one of our standard beverages. We are also big consumers of iced tea, and were surprised that everywhere we went on our trip, iced tea wasn't brewed fresh but came in 8-ounce bottles and in two flavors: lemon and peach.

So we come to the end of a wonderful trip, arriving home tired but content, laden with receipts, Christmas gifts and a few trinkets for our neighbors.

There may be one more post on the trip. Joe will scan some of his sketches into the computer for me to share with anyone interested.

Arrividerci, Roma!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Summer Travel, Part Twelve

Our second day in Rome was one of my favorites of our whole trip. Long ago Joe had heard about Chiesa di Dio Padre Misericordioso (Italian for Church of God the Merciful Father), commissioned in 2000 by Pope John Paul II as part of the Jubilee. The Pope wanted this magnificent church to be built in a rather poor neighborhood, Tor Tre Teste; it includes a large community center and serves 8000 residents. Designed to resemble a boat, in particular the apostle Peter's boat, it somehow connected with the five-masted tall ship that had been our home for ten days. This church, of course, is very different from the many, many other churches we had visited on our trip.

From the newest church in Rome, we went back downtown and visited the oldest place of worship, the Pantheon! Initially built in 31 B.C. to honor all of the gods of ancient Rome, it was rebuilt in 126 A.D. by them Emperor Hadrian (remember him and his villa from yesterday's post?). In Medieval times, the building was saved from certain destruction by the Roman Catholic church who modified it into a Christian place of worship.

It is one of my favorite buildings in Rome.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Travel, Part Eleven (Nearly Done!)

Royal Clipper docked at Citavecchia, the port of Rome, early on Saturday morning, and after sharing a ride with some of our fellow passengers, we arrived at Hotel Piranesi to find our room ready and waiting for us. The kind man at the desk said he hoped that we didn't mind: They had given us an upgrade! The room was beautiful and spacious, and we took time to unpack before going down the street to nearby Piazza del Popolo for lunch in an outdoor cafe. We didn't have a lot of time to loiter because we had booked an excursion!

Joe needed to see Hadrian's Villa and nearby Villa d'Este, and soon our bus picked us up and we were off, with a delightful guide who spoke many languages. We arrived at Hadrian's Villa at about three o'clock in the afternoon, and it was very hot. Our guide told us to begin to walk up to the villa and she would meet us there. I looked to see the longest, steepest hill ever. Firmly planting one foot in front of the other, upwards we surged, with frequent stops to sip from our water bottles. I can't begin to tell you the scope of the place; the ruins were intriguing and abundant. Hadrian, an extremely wealthy man, had served as emperor of Rome for twenty years, and ordered many, many building projects, including the rebuilding of the Pantheon at some point. I walked around and viewed some of the ruins, but was tired and well aware that a walk down a steep hill needed to be approached with care, so I headed back to the coach a little before Joe.

The bus ride to Villa d'Este wasn't very long, and when we arrived our guide indicated that we would be on our own in the gardens and showed us where to meet at the end of the excursion. The church adjacent to Villa d'Este was very pretty and I wondered if Joe would decide he needed to see the inside before we left the site.

We stopped to purchase new water bottles, having finished the ones we had taken to Hadrian's. Then we went in through the villa to the gardens. They are spectacular, and contain literally hundreds of fountains, water jets, pools, and other water features.
The best way to explore the gardens is to walk down flights and flights of terrace steps to the bottom. I believe I got about half-way. It is hard to describe the opulence and the beauty, especially considering that it was all created in the fifteenth century.

One of more than 500 water features at Villa d'Este.

The inside of the church! Joe didn't need to see it, but since I finished my tour of the Villa before him, I waited for a while in the back of the church. The fact that there was a wedding going on did not deter me.

This bizarre sculpture was in the back of the church. Quite the juxtaposition to the lovely wedding occurring in the front!
I want you to get an idea of the scope of Hadrian's Villa and Villa d'Este. I had been wearing my FitBit and logging about 10,000 steps and 15-20 flights of stairs (or equivalent in hills) each day, despite the temperatures being at or about 100 degrees. On this particular Saturday, at the end of the day, my FitBit showed 16,547 steps and 88 flights of stairs.

I slept well that night.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Summer Travel, Part Ten

As our time aboard Royal Clipper drew to a close, we came to the southern part of Italy where we visited three ports. First was Taormina; from there we could see Mt. Etna.

Taormina was a relatively quiet place with some beautiful buildings and not a lot of activity. We liked it. We visited two churches and at one point I watched a gorgeously dressed young girl posing for photographers against the scenic town. My guess was that these pictures would appear in an Italian magazine.

Downtown Taormina; the fountain water emerges from animal mouths!

A church in Taormina; while we were there an artist was at work and was selling his paintings.

The second church in Taormina.

Next came a place we'd heard about since about for ever: Capri. We learned that the correct pronunciation is actually KA-pri and as we drew near we could see how lovely it was, with all of the pastel buildings climbing up the hillside. To get up to the top, we had to take a tram.

Once there, I found that Capri was my least favorite port on our trip. There were more people there than we had encountered anywhere else. The streets were crowded to the point of sometimes being impassible. Everywhere were ultra expensive shops with very famous names: Prada, Ferragamo, Armani, for example; stores I had no interest in and certainly no budget for.

We had a late sailing that evening, and some of our shipmates stayed ashore and had dinner high up in Capri; they said that once the crowds had dissipated and the sun had gone down, it was actually very, very lovely.

We did discover some beautiful flowers growing in Capri; they came in pink . . .
. . . and yellow and white (not pictured).

Finally we come to Ponza! As unimpressed as I was with Capri, Ponza was simply delightful: a pretty seaside town on a hill.

We wandered around, seeing the sights, exploring the shops, and loitering for a long, long time at a hilltop cafe sipping iced tea and looking down at the water, the bustle of activity on the docks as huge ferry boats came and went, and gazing fondly at Royal Clipper at anchor.
Inside the church, Ponza.

Everywhere we went, Joe took his sketchbook, and has a wonderful visual diary of our trip.
Our time on Royal Clipper was growing very short indeed. All too soon we would bid farewell to the captain, the crew, our charming stateroom, and the wonderful friends we had made. We would be pulling into port the next morning, ready for the final phase of our adventure!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

And The Winner Is . . .

For the U-Turn pdf pattern, we have a winner, and it is Nemo, who thought the pattern would make up great in Halloween fabrics! I think so, too.

Several commenters asked about buying the pattern and guess what! Even though you didn't win, it is still your lucky day because the designer has put it "on sale"! Click here to get to Kristy's website and order yours.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Early in the summer I received an email from Kristy, asking if I was interested in being a pattern tester for her newest project. Well, d'oh! A new quilt pattern? A secret project? Why wouldn't I?

A little later the draft instructions arrived in my mailbox. Kristy asked me to follow the directions and "make a few blocks." I didn't know what I'd do with a few blocks and decided to go ahead and make a baby quilt. I was determined to do it from stash and scraps, and was delighted when that proved to be the case.

Kristy's instructions, as always, are clear and easy to follow. I'm spatially challenged, so I had some shaky moments orienting the blocks, but got it right and was pleased with my efforts.

I haven't quilted my U-Turn yet, but likely will this winter and then have it ready when a baby quilt is needed.

U-Turn is a great pattern. It has a masculine sense to it, IMNSHO, and masculine quilts aren't easy to find. I could see it made from homespuns. I could see it made from batiks for a stunning effect. I could even see it in Kaffes. Here's the one I made from scraps:

Oh, and in appreciation for my testing, Kristy has offered a pdf of U-Turn to one of my readers. Interested? Leave a comment telling what fabrics you think you would use, and you'll be entered in my drawing. Quick turn-around (U-Turnaround?) time on this, friends: We'll be drawing the winner late on Monday.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Summer Travel, Part Nine

After a very relaxing day at sea with no port stops, we came to the island of Corfu, Greece. We caught a cab from the harbor to the downtown area, and walked around.

It was a very pretty city, and more of a city than most of the other ports we had visited. Restaurants and shopping areas were abundant, and there was more variety in the stores. Olives, kumquats, soap, and ouzo are specialties of this island, and they were everywhere in the shops.

A lovely arch just inside the city area.

Colonnade in Corfu; there were tables and chairs for refreshments.

One of the main shopping streets in Corfu, where Joe saw a skilled thief at work.

While in Corfu, we had a great adventure! As we walked along the shopping street, some young girls beckoned us into their shop. It was a Fish Spa! We'd never heard of such a thing. Everywhere, on countertops, in the window, and on the floors, were tanks with small fish. The shop proprietors enticed us further. First they washed our hands with anti-bacterial soap and asked us to remove our jewelry (which we kept safe and close at hand). Then we each put our hands into a tank and tiny, toothless fish swarmed around and nibbled at our fingers and hands, helpfully removing all of the dead skin! It didn't feel creepy at all; in fact, it was relaxing. When the "treatment" was over, our hands felt smooth and lovely.

At dinner that evening with our British friends, we spoke of our incredible adventure and Kristina was dismissive. "Oh," she said, "We had those in Britain and they have all been closed down due to health hazard! People were getting infections!" We felt properly chastened. Fortunately, no signs of infection developed.

Goodbye, Corfu! Where are we off to next?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer Travel, Part Eight

The next day found us at Kotor, Montenegro. This town was heavily walled and one of the activities people engaged in was climbing and walking along the top of the wall.

I passed.

Kotor was probably the poorest port that we visited, and there were more beggars there than we had seen in other ports. We walked around for an hour or two, taking in the sights.

The gate to the walled city of Kotor, Montenegro.

Kotor Alleyway.

Kotor Home -- who's that handsome visitor?

A church in Kotor.

Another church, totally different in flavor, and showing damage to its frescoes.

Doors, Church Two.

Keep Kotor Clean!
No one seemed to know what this was, but deep down I knew it was a Quidditch disaster.

And then it was back to Royal Clipper, because we had another port in another country to visit the next day!