Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Photo Hunt - Loud

Can anyone else hear this chocolate calling to me? It's really, really loud.....don't know how much longer I can resist......

la Boqueria - chocolates

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Photo Hunt - Point

Once again, you have to use your imagination!  These gorgeous, and I'm sure delicious!, goodies have points, right?  These were in the window at Sandri's in Perugia.....

Perugia - Sandri's_ 001

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Photo Hunt - Heart

Not surprisingly, the theme of this week's photo hunt is 'heart'.  I wish I had a photo of rock formations in the shape of a heart, or ANYTHING in the shape of a heart, but as usual, this challenge is just too challenging for me, so I'll default to this photo and simply say I ♥ Art!

Art

Friday, February 10, 2012

SHHHHHH!!!

We went to the movies today to see "Star Wars - Episode 1" in 3D.  Yeah, I'm a geek.   Not surprisingly there were kids there - at the noon showing.  Guess they're home-schooled, or had the day off, or their moms are bigger geeks than I am and thought it was more important for their kids to see "Star Wars" than go to school, who knows.  Whatever the reason, there were kids there, and I know kids will be kids, but honestly, if your kids can't sit still and be quiet during a movie, then perhaps you should just rent the DVD and let them watch it at home.   Unfortunately sometimes the problem seems to be more with the parents than with the children.   Even more unfortunately, they always seem to sit by us. 

Today we had two families with kids sitting behind us, one on my side, the other on Art's side.  The kids in the family behind me were little - probably not older than 4, and yes, they talked throughout the film, and yes, it was a little annoying, but they didn't talk that much, and the parents did a good job of keeping them quiet, and before the end of the movie, when I can only presume the kids were getting too fidgety, the parents left early - and quietly.  In the end I'd recommend that these parents get a sitter and leave the kids at home  the next time they want to go to the movies - I really don't hink they got that much out of the theater/3D experience, and the parents probably didn't enjoy it to the fullest either.   And in the case of this movie you don't even have to wait for the DVD, it's already out! 

The family that was sitting behind Art was a little different.  The kids were older and fairly well behaved - no kicking seats or talking.  The problem started about an hour into the movie.  Remember than:  an HOUR into the movie.  All of a sudden we hear popcorn being rattled around.  And again.  And again.  Art turned around to see what was going on.  When it happened again he turned around a second time, not wanting to say anything, but hoping that the simple act of turning around would alert whoever was rattling their popcorn around to the fact that it was distracting.  And after turning around again the mom hissed to Art:  "Turn around and stop looking at my kids!"  What?  Really????  Then she said "And they sell this popcorn in the theater!"  When Art started to respond her reply was "Stop talking, now you're the one creating a disturbance."  

Now, just so I'm clear - the mere fact that the theater sells popcorn makes it acceptable to disturb everyone around you?  What about slurping the last drop out of my drink?  Or rattling the ice in my cup?  I think the rattling sound was the MOM dividing up the popcorn among the kids, but why couldn't she have done this earlier, like BEFORE the movie started?  Perhaps in order to keep peace among the kids she really DID have to do this in the middle of the movie, but don't you think she'd be aware of the noise, and might have even apologized for her disturbance?   Where has common courtesy gone?  Have we all been sitting in our living rooms watching DVDs too long?  Unfortunately there's no 'pause' button at the theater so we can get up to make a snack or go to the bathroom - or even discuss that last scene.  I say if you want to talk through the movie, crunch through your snacks, slurp your drink, talk on your cellphone or discuss what's going to happen next you should just wait for the movie to come out on DVD.  If you want that full-on movie experience, the feeling of being IN the scene, surrounded by the sounds of the movie and sometimes even forgetting that you're in a theater, then go, but please, be considerate of others around you!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Saturday Photo Hunt - Flat

Half the time I can't come up with photos to meet the criteria, but for this week's challenge I decided to just go through some of my photos on our Flickr page.   When I found this shot of dried tomatoes at a market in Rome, I thought "flat tomatoes!"

Rome Pomodori Secchi

Friday, February 03, 2012

DAY BY DAY

For our trip to Italy this fall we've decided to visit some old favorites, Rome and Florence, with a stop in Orvieto, then we'll head 'home' to Umbria for a week or two. It's been a few years since we've spent time in Rome and Florence, and there's always something we we still need to see, or a special exhibit, or, most often, we revisit our favorite places again and again.

This trip will be a little different for us - we'll have a friend with us. The funny thing about our friend, let's just call her K, is that for years she was married to a man with Italian heritage, but try as we might we could never get them to visit us in Italy. "He" blamed it on his family, but I guess he just really wasn't that interested - in travel, in Italy, in us, who knows. Anyway, now that K is newly single, she's ready to see Italy and has signed on! We're excited to show her "our" Italy - yes, some 'big' sites for sure, but also lots of lesser known sites, things that will be new to all three of us, and the chance to just hang out with some of our friends, to see where we lived and what Italy's like if you live there, rather than just visiting for vacation.

The itinerary is still a work in progress, and we have the days numbered because we're still not sure what day of the week we'll arrive. If we leave here on Saturday we'll arrive in Italy on Sunday, which might be nice because it'll be less hectic. We might leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday if it's significantly cheaper, but we're too far out to know what the airfares will be - I'm still hoping they'll drop, but in this economy it's hard to know.

  • Day 1 - Leave the U.S. Fly to Rome
  • Day 2 -  Arrive Rome around 8:30 a.m. Leonardo Express to Termini. Check in at hotel (Beehive). Lunch. Wander - maybe take the metro to St Peter's, or walk to Santa Maria Maggiore. Early bed
  • Day 3 -  Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill.  I'm thinking the 3 hour tour, which includes the lower level of the Colosseum, plus the Forum, might be a good choice.
  • Day 4 -  Capitoline Museum.  Wander through Jewish Ghetto (lunch).  Campo dei Fiore.  Pantheon.  Pizza Navona (dinner).
  • Day 5 -  Borghese Gallery.  Vatican museum??
  • Day 6 -  Visit with friends who live in Rome. 
  • Day 7 -  Early train to Florence.  Check in hotel.  Lunch.  Wander.  Duomo.  Duomo museum
  • Day 8 -  Bargello.  Academia.   More wandering. 
  • Day 9 -  Mercato Centrale.  San Lorenzo mercato. 
  • Day 10 - Walk through the Boboli Gardens to Pz. Michelangleo.  Walk back via Santa Croce
  • Day 11 -  Morning train to Orvieto.  Spend the day in Orvieto
  • Day 12 -  Pick up rental car and drive to central Umbria
  • Day 13 -  Umbria
  • Day 14 -  Umbria
  • Day 15 -  Drive K back to Oriveto where she'll take the train to Rome
  • Day 16 -  K flies home. We stay in Umbria for an undetermined number of days.
  • Next to last day  -  Turn in rental car in Orvieto.  Train back to Rome.  Spend night in Rome
  • Last day - Fly home

The places I have listed are just some suggestions, and of course I don't know if we'll do 'X' on day three or day four, for example, but I find it helpful to list all the places I want to visit, then see how they might work out logistically with other things on my list.  For example, some places need to be visited in the morning, like markets, or in Florence, the Bargello.  Museums might be closed one day a week, so we need to plan for that.  I'm thinking that after viewing the Capitoline Museum it just makes sense to wander through the Jewish Ghetto and find someplace for lunch, then continue on towards Piazza Navona and surrounds, ending up back at Piazza Navona for an early dinner, and so we can see the artists and the fountains all lit up. 

Am I forgetting something?  Do you have any suggestions?  If so, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

PLANNING FOR ITALY 2012

We'll be in New Orleans during the first week in April and I really don't have a plan. Yes, I have the flights booked and the hotel reserved, but other than that I don't have a list of sights and must-sees, much less a rudimentary itinerary. It's not really like me to be so unprepared, but somehow travel within the United States just doesn't command the same attention to detail as a trip to Europe does. In the states you can do pretty much anything you want any time you want, so other than occasional irritations like a business deciding to work 'only' a set number of hours rather than be open 24/7, you're good to go whenever the spirit moves you.

When traveling in Italy, on the other hand, (and you were pretty sure that's where I was going with this, right?) timing is everything. We alwasy say that when we're on vacation our time is our most valuable asset, and sometimes it's worth it to pay extra to take the high-speed train if it gives you an extra hour or two in Rome or Florence. We always try to figure out where we'll be on Sunday - that can be a good day to travel because fewer cars (and trucks) are on the road. Most stores won't be open on Sundays, and some gas stations will be cash only because the credit card machine doesn't work without a human. Restaurants are likely to be busy for Sunday lunch, so plan to be there on the dot if you want a table at your favorite hosteria.

Even weekdays in Italy can pose problems. If you want or need to go to the local market when you're there, great. And if the market is there but you don't want to be, traffic may be slow-moving or even re-routed, so plan ahead. Many shops aren't open on Monday mornings because they were open on Saturday, but with the new, relaxed laws that just took affect, store hours may change dramtically.

That afternoon break may even be on its way out. As long as stores do close for the afternoon, the hours between one and four o'clock can drag on unless you have a plan. That plan might be as simple as having a three hour lunch, or it could be a three hour drive, but it just needs to be planned in advance, otherwise you might find yourself sitting on some ancient steps in some medieval town, finished with lunch and nothing is open - even whindow shopping opportunities disappear behind the roll-down corrugated doors.

And when you travel in Italy you not only have to think about holidays in general, but you also need to know about how these holidays will affect you. If you want to arrive at Rome's airport on November first, All Saint's Day, of course all the facilities are up and running, including car rentals. BUT - don't exepct that you could take the train to Perugia, or Chiusi or Foligno to pick up your rental car because chances are the only three places you can get a rental car on this holy/holiday are the airports in Rome, Milan and Venice.

Finding yourself in some cutesy town while they celebrate their patron saint can be a lot of fun - and could also be quite noisy if your room is near the main piazza! Oh, and I just remembered our friend who booked a great place in Perugia, just off the main piazza - the church! the steps! the fountain! the bells! What they didn't tell our friend was that the college kids party on the church steps until 3 or 4 every morning. And just when the kids leave the garbage trucks start their rounds, and when they're finished the morning delivery trucks are starting to arrive. and none of that mattered anyway because these church bells ran EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES ALL NIGHT LONG!!!! (Our friend miraculously got out of that place much sooner than planned!)

And then there are the strikes, convenieNtly posted so you'll be prepared, but you have to know where to find that information, and make sure you keep up with it - sometimes strikes are cancelled, or the hours are changed.

So it's for these reasons that all I can think about right now is our trip to Italy this fall. September or October? Which feste will be going on during those times, and which would we like to attend? Who among our friends will be in Italy in September and October, and what are their plans? We have friends who split their time between the U.S. and Italy, so quite often they'll take a vacation within their vacation and travel to another part of Italy (or Europe). I'd hate to miss someone because we didn't coordinate. We also have friends who bring groups of people over, so we want to make sure they'll have some free time to spend with us, and then there are our friends who still work in Italy. Seeing them is the most challenging of all sometimes, since the workday sometimes ends at eight o'clock, dinner can't possibly be before nine, and before you know it, it's midnight! I STILL need 8 hours sleep (I really want NINE hours sleep but am willing to give up one hour just because it's Italy), and we know that if you don't get going early in the morning you won't get anything done - or see any of those wonderful sites because at precisely one o'clock Italy will go to lunch. Planning a vacation is fun, but it's also really, really hard work. I just think that the more time I put into my planning now, the less time I'll waste in Italy. And when we're in Italy, our time IS our most valuable asset.