Arc De Triomphe (as promised)

As promised I have finally figured out how to get the video our of my camera!  Here is the drive around the Arc De Triomphe as viewed from the top of a Double Decker bus.  The bicycles and the scooters are BRAVE!

 

Things I Wish People Would Stop Saying;

Bucket List is first on my…well…list. It seems kind of glass half empty. I prefer wish list or dream list. Why does it have to relate to death? Bucket list seems kinda whiney – “I didn’t get to do what I wanted”. Yes we did! We made our own choices, lived the way we chose. If one wants to do something, why not figure out how to do it NOW? Wasn’t that the point of the movie?

… “and so forth”. What are we in the 17th century? Who says forth anymore? (Well unless one is reading from a King James Bible…also written in the 17th century)

“I have a bone to pick with you” The visual is disgusting. Well there is Thanksgiving when my sister and I strip the turkey together but we always have a lot  of fun so the meaning of the phrase is lost.

Which leads me to “I have too much on my plate”. Again with the visual of an empty plate at the beginning of the buffet and the heaping plate at the end. Why did you take so much you greedy bastard? (Unless it’s chocolate cake. There’s always room for chocolate cake on a plate).

“Devil’s advocate”. Why would one want to be an advocate for evil? I once met an ex atheist who became a preacher who actually said “let me play the devil’s advocate” all the while discounting everything I believed. To this day I think she DID have a personal relationship with the devil as she took down an entire church. Personally there are a lot of other entities/people/causes for which I AM and would love to be an advocate.

Thinking outside the box. Overused. Wish I found this box because the box seems like a very comfortable place. I could curl up in a soft blanket and sleep in that box for a while. Someone please get me a box. I am a very tired. (It must have been all the thinking when I was outside the box).

Yep, This Happened

It’s not what you think.  All we did was ask directions.

 

imageTraveling like we are teenagers it’s easy to overdo it. Venice is a walking city. We logged in average 10.2 miles a day (according to my health app).  Therefore on the 2nd day G’s back froze up.  We needed a doctor so naturally we asked a pharmacist.

Back to WHY we were being perp walked. (Yes, perp walked. Five abreast very slowly as in I didn’t think a human could walk so slowly). We continued along the sidewalk between all the busy shops and the busy café.  The 3 police men were packing rapid fire machine guns held diagonally across their chest and wearing oh-so-cute little monkey hats.  Their eyes scanned the perimeter as they joked in Italian (surely at our expense). Perhaps we should have been embarrassed by the full on police escort but we ate it up and played right into it as people stared and then looked away quickly when we made eye contact.  ANYway, they dropped us off at the doctor which was (in true Italian signage) at the complete opposite end of the square from where the sign with the arrow and a blue cross that said clinic.

The doctors asked a few questions, observed him and then just gave him a shot in the back. We wish that we knew what it was because it cured him.  The entire visit including the shot cost six euro.  All around the best $6.76 we ever spent.

Are You Scared American?

One of the French Border Patrol agents asked me why he doesn’t see many Americans traveling.  He said “are they scared?” Feeling instantly defensive and panicky and that SOMEhow I am now a representative of the United States.  (My brain flashes to Bruce Springsteen’s jeans, red bandanna and   “Born in the USA”  playing in my head) I answer too quickly. “NO, not scared. Well maybe it’s the economy.”  He scoffs and says “zee econoMEE is bad all over” as he pounds my passport with his stamp.

I leave his station quickly as we are running to catch a flight.  We are not running because we didn’t leave enough time (We were 4 hours early) but because the French make their airport rules up as they go along, change them at will, and take as many breaks as possible.

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Once on the plane I processed the incident, got a little mad, and thought of all sorts of things I could have said to defend my fellow Americans.jodi (2)  Unfortunately he is right.  Americans were few and far between with the majority encountered in England. I am wondering, are we scared?  I think about how many people are shocked that we travel to Mexico even with the warnings.  (I always tell them that statistically you have more chance being shot in Tucson than in Rocky Point).Then I think about a radio newscast we heard in London where they said “gun violence is double what it was last year” as they went on to describe 4 shootings to date in London. Yep, FOUR. Double last year, so two.

 

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I CAN tell you that I appreciated the optimism and polite manners of the British, the “enjoy life” attitude I felt in France, and the pride and sense of  family I felt in Italy.  We were soaking in thousands of years of culture and identity.

flagWhat is the American identity?

We were told before we left not to stand out as American so not to make yourself a target for those who hate us.  We couldn’t have been more obvious with G’s big black hat, dinner plate belt buckle and boots.  A lot of people even guessed Arizona.

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We had good luck with many helpful citizens of all nationalities and were beginning to think the warnings were just our government/media or both trying to put fear in us again. Only one time I felt uncomfortable at the waiting room of Ciampino airport in Rome.

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There were two very long lines for passport checks. Many women had head wraps and long gowns but their faces were exposed. G always plays with the children in line everywhere we go.  These children did not smile at him and mommas quickly reprimanded the kids for looking/peeking at G. Simultaneously in front of me, an older woman was holding a place for her family in the our line while the rest of her family spread out between our line and the line next to us. She would wander over to the family and then when our line was shorter, back to our line. I let her back in and smiled.  Dead eyes.  No smile.  She did it several more times and each time I conceded.   I noticed a rich rust color on the tips of her fingers and marveled at the intricacy of her scarf as I nodded, smiled warmly, and stepped back to give her and a gigantic suitcase enough room. We all made it through just fine and all flights gathered in a hot secured waiting room that was lacking in seating.  G was breaking the code of the children and soon a few were smiling and playing with him per usual.  A flight was called and the families lined up to board. One little boy, who had been allowed to shake G’s hand, waved goodbye and his father smiled.  I saw my old woman from the line again, we locked eyes and I smiled.   She ALMOST smiled back as the corners of her mouth started to turn up, caught herself and looked away.  Who knows from where the hate I saw came from.  It could be well deserved for all I know.   I do know I am a proud American now more than ever.  Proud that G wore his hat, boots and Harley shirts.  G who isn’t ever afraid of anything and knew this BEFORE we left. Smart man that G.

Rome

Fast paced Rome for a few days.  We found a sanctuary in our tiny boutique hotel located off of the Moses Fountain.  It was very hard to find. Faded flat sign and this is the door.  image.jpeg

It turned out great!  Only a few rooms and a patio where we ate breakfast.

Here is the breakfast view as of a beautiful church facade as  the city woke up. Moses Fountain Hotel.

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Because the church was right across the street and not famous at all,  we didn’t think of it as a destination. We meandered over  and  saw this…

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WOW Rome is full of surprises. The marble door was about 8″ thick rose colored and streaked with white an  about 10 feet tall. It was carved out of a single piece of marble.

Cooled off and ready to wander down to the main attractions. Time to explore.  Lots to see today.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guarded 24/7

 

imageimagePaletine hill was my favorite place on the planet.  The place where Alexander built his mansion-palace. Now just ruin of terra cotta, once covered with white marble.

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Imagining the white fortress on the hill and the power it exhaulted wasn’t hard.  Just walking up to it was challenging.

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We spent quiet time Imagining what this area looked like during Alexander’s time. We discussed  the monumental amount of human beings that worked on these structures creating layers and layers of architecture.

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Water from the original aquifer still flows and is potable.  Actually it is sweet and cold.  We filled our bottles up many times from these free springs around Rome.

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I was very disappointed with the Vatican museum. Well I think it was  just because of the thousands of people moving through at once, like cattle.  St Peter’s Basilica was jam packed and hot.  However, the art the Catholic Church owns is magnificent and worth enough to feed the world several times over.  Of course  many thousands of people still pay  to see the treasures so they are still profiting.  The commercialism of the religion really annoyed me.

It took around two hours to complete the walk through the museum.  Art, map rooms,mosaic flooring, gardens, painted and gilded ceilings,  and Egyptian carvings,mummies and art to rival the Louvre.  It is a wonder to see…

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Oh and you can’t take a picture of Michelangelo’s “God and Adam” on the ceiling at all. There is a guard at the door yelling “NO PICTURES” in several languages as only the outer  river of people (about 3 or 4 abreast) are moving in a circle around  at least a thousand people standing in the center of the Basilica. Everyone is  looking up, not moving, TAKING PICTURES and selfies with their I Phones.

I did not take a picture of the ceiling. This is me being good:

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Lots of tiny cars and thousands of scooters fly by on every road.  Crossing the cobbled streets is a challenge and feels like running through the ribbon at the end of a race when one reaches the opposite sidewalk.

We took the hop on hop off bus to the sights and were amazed how such large vehicles get around on the narrow  streets.

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The old and the new reside together. The cute little truck below opens turns into a snack bar.

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I did find the picture of what our archaeologist guide called her  “baby” .  It is part of a horse statue she discovered and then  uncovered below the Colosseum.  She described the excitement and awe she felt as she brushed dirt away from the marble, revealing the statue’s parts, a leg, a rear flank of  a horse.

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We meandered down too the Trevi Fountain and had a gelato.  Per tradition, we threw in our coin  ensuring a return to Roma someday.

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Sometimes It’s Just Funny When

After reading the description of thousands of statues and art we just started making up our own .

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Laughed my ass off…

imageKaraoke bar on the way home from a beheading.

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image.jpegThen there was the priest in the wine cabinet.

Then there was this light bulb saving energy.  I’m sure it makes a difference.

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San Samuele – Our Venice Home

image.jpegLocated just off of a small but active piazza  is this  charming little boutique hotel San Samuele.  The first thing to notice is the unusual entry.  Once an open courtyard, the antique well stands center.  The entry is charming and artistic and smells delicious.

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The friendly staff serve coffee every morning and answer our many questions with charm, humor and expertise.  We enjoyed our week here so much it was difficult to leave.

Hotel San Samuele!

Our room had very Venician touches like a Murano Glass Chandelier

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A Pink and gold feature wall behind the bed.

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A mosaic floor wood windows and shutters.

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Located in a very quiet neighborhood in a convenient location to walk and explore.  A great place to hang one’s hat for a while.

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Roma Backwards Is Amor

Venice to Roma on a speed train through the beautiful Italian countryside (even at 200 MPH)

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Why not start with a tour of the Colleso at night complete with an entrance to the underground where the animals were kept and Gladiators walked.

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Sunset over Roma

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We are standing on the reconstructed stage.  There are only about 20 of us and it is quiet.  No other tourists can get in until we leave.  Our guide is an archeologist who is still digging below and she shows us with fresh excitement!  Looking up at the stands one can hear the roar of the crowd, see the blood on the stage that seeps through the wood to the waiting Gladiators below, hear the roar of the lions… Well maybe after the guy next to me takes his selfie… OK back to the Romans (in my mind). Time to go underground…

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The wood above is the new stage platform finished this year.  It is still easy to imagine the terror of this dark place as a Gladiator (the real story not the movie version).   Our guide was extremely descriptive as she had personally unearthed many relics below where we are standing.  She told us of 50 lions against just a few men, the blood of the kills dripping through the wood floor, the smell of the animals, humans, death.  We saw where the water was flooded in and drained out for live ship battles.  She also explained that they have been trying to add another metro line for 30 years but every time they dig  they find more artifacts!  A lot of the exhibitions and museums have been revealed since 1998.image

Grand palaces with their marble facades pillaged long ago have been excavated.  For the past 30 years Rome has been trying to put in the 3rd Metro line.  Each shovel full reveals more treasures to our delight as tourists.

The Thing At bout Venice…

  • The thing about Venice is creativity.  When Atilla the Hun drove the people off of the mainland, they found a way to make do in the swamp. Then they made the most unique and beautiful city in the world.Below is a map of Venetia.  The thing about Venice is that the map looks like a fish.

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The thing about Venice is you might see a pirate. On an I phone.

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Or signs that make me laugh. “Dogana, I fell down.”

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Or wonder why there aren’t any cats since there are so many birds and then find them in a creepy alley late at night.

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The thing about Venice is that   they perfected rainwater collection centuries ago.

The wells are located in courtyards of buildings and are cisterns to collect rainwater.  They are still used in some places and are not part of the waterway system

The thing about Venice is there are stories that Venice is sinking.  However there has always been flooding during high tides.  This is the beginning of high tide at Plazzo San Marco.   Later in the darkness we saw it actually running like a river.

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The waterways open to the tidal system and are “flushed” daily. The steps going down to the canals often disappear.

The thing about Venice, and perhaps most impressive to me, is how they perform the construction and renovation.  Below are men delivering drywall to a job site which is down a few alleys from their location.

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imageimageEverything is done by boat/foot/hand/cart.  No matter how large or small, construction workers push carts of materials through the narrow passageways to get to their projects.  We saw a lot of use of pullys and ropes.  We also marveled at how careful they are to preserve not only the detail of the buildings but also the flow of the tourists.  The picture above is on a busy shopping street.

The thing about Venice is the music. There are musicians playing everywhere. In restaurants, on the street.    The music museum was beautiful.   Some of the instruments they have on display below;

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The thing about Venice and my favorite, the FOOD!  I highly recommend to meander the back alleys to where we saw a lot of local people eating.  Didn’t have a bad meal the entire week.  There is an island across the Grand Canal that the locals call the Vegetable Island.  Most of their produce comes across the Grand Canal from there and is amazingly fresh.

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The thing about Venice is that the boats are works of art. Like human faces, similar but not the same.Below is a boat making shop we found. If you look closely you can see the different parts of gondolas.

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Parts of gondolas in the maiking
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More at the Gondola shop

This door was open so I went in and found where they store some of the boats.  Open any unlocked door (especially is no one is around!)

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Boat garage

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The thing about Venice is that living without cars, car sounds or smells for a week was relaxing.  Venice relies on the bells.  All night and until about  9am it is quiet.  Once the bells ring the town noise begin.  Footsteps, talking, clinking of dishes, children laughing, a town waking without mechanics. We walked at least 10 miles a day and LOVED IT!

The boats took us where we needed to go when we needed to cross.  Lots of selfie sticks and the boats usually looked like this:

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Murano & Burano Islands

Twenty minutes from Venice by water taxi lies Murano Island and just a short ride from Murano is Burano.  Murano is famous for it’s glass and Burano for lace making.

The trip did not disappoint.  Through the channel by the “fish tail” side of Venice we  bounced through the channel on a water taxi. Once there we were given a quick demonstration then we could explore the island.  We weren’t supposed to take pictures -so here are some pictures.  (I took these  before they stopped us). The shop we weren’t allowed to take pictures of was three floors of the most beautiful glass I have ever seen.

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Chandelier in a warehouse.

imageThere  was one piece I fell in love with.  It was 9,000 Euro so it is still on their shelf.  It was made by a 45 year old Maestro who is a decedent of a glass family tradition dating back to the 1600’s.   I would love to have shown you but NO Pictures. I will dream about it as I tried to memorize the color and how the light behaved through the glass. G  of course was ready to move on so on we went.

Down the walkway there was an interesting tall brick tower, oh and this big blue glass thing…

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I don’t like it but hey it’s big, blue  and all blown so there’s that.

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On to Burano.  WOW what a place. It once was a thriving fishing village and while the women waited for their fishermen to return, they perfected a lace making  technique.  It was beautiful but sadly a dying art.  The old woman giving the demonstration started making lace when she was 8 yrs. old.  The items weren’t my taste but I can see the attraction.  The real gem to me  was the village itself:

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The fishing and lacemaking industries are no longer so a lot of the village is up for sale.  Here is a real fixer-upper:

image.jpegSince fishing and lace making are both a dying profession, the islanders rely a lot on the tourists.  However,  we noticed that when the church bells rang at 6 pm EVERYBODY closes up shop as fast as they can.  G bought a coffee at 6:05 which apparently was very inconvenient to the 3 generation “tourist bar”located in  a small stand  that was next to the boat.  We thanked then heartily, well, then we saw it.

Yep, this is coffee served in what can only be described as a communion cup.  (He hasn’t taken a sip yet)

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OF COURSE they didn’t want to dirty up their machine for a teaspoon of coffee.  Made perfect sense.

Burano is also famous for their leaning tower, Not the famous tower of Pisa. Nope,  it’s the not so famous leaning tower of Burano. Since I forgot to take a picture of it, here are some pictures of their ambulance and police boats.

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Back across the choppy seas to our Venice home. Both islands are worth the trip and have their own personalities.  Well worth the visit.We used Viator to book.

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