After 22 hours of traveling from Athens, Greece to Denver, Colorado, USA, the navigation through the Denver Airport presented a challenge to the body and mind. US Customs and Immigration area presented its’ usual test of patience. Continue reading
Beautiful Santorini provided the most amazing vistas to calm the mind and spirit, and prepare the body and soul for returning home to the USA.
White is the color of the Greek Isles– furniture, clothing, waiters and tourists dressed in white, walls, ceilings, and roofs, path ways painted grey but outlined in white. Continue reading
Bougainvillea bushes, blue shutters, white houses, azure sea, clear waters, sand and pebble beaches, hidden coves, coastal trails, fresh grilled calamari, friendly people, narrow roads, flowers in bloom….ah-h-h-h-h……Paros Island, Greece.
The day trip from Amman, Jordan to Jerusalem started with a taxi ride to the Jordanian border followed by: passport stamped, fee paid, shuttle bus from Jordanian border to Israeli border, 2 checkpoints(1 Jordanian and 1 Israeli), Israeli immigration, 3 more security checks with x-rays and passports checked each time, military patrols carrying machine guns throughout the buildings and another bus to another Israeli checkpoint. After officially entering Israel, I found a taxi driver who showed us(met a woman who worked for a NGO in Amman and she joined me on this excursion) the sites of Palestine, Jerusalem and Jericho. Continue reading
Desert crossing sign
Ciao, Italy — loved you but decided to leave you…. inexpensive flights, tourist bargains in the Middle East and time to go before anything else happens led me to Amman, Jordan. I visited all the four compass points and places in between– crusader and Arab castles, deserts, Jordan River, Dead and Red Sea, Petra and Little Petra, Roman ruins, Hadrian’s Arch, towns whose names I can’t spell or pronounce…..
I only spent 24 hours in Bologna which is comprised of universities, industries, and food! Just when I thought it was impossible to have bigger or more ornate or more something buildings/churches, another city comes along, and outshines the previous one — Bologna was no exception.
I had lunch at a locals’ restaurant on a side street. The all in one mâitre’d-waiter-bartender-cashier greeted me like his long-lost friend, took my order after many “prego’s, prego’s”(please, please)never said only once, and “si, si’s(yes, yes) same applies — all one word acknowledgements must be said at least twice, but preferably three times. The regular lunch crowd arrived around 12:30ish and re-emphasized the importance of community in daily Italian life. Everyone knew one another and was greeted warmly by the all-in-one only employee(!), some received their usual drink, others heard the daily special and ordered as they walked to their table. Everyone spoke at the same time, gesticulated with their hands and forks constantly, nodded and never stopped eating. Noise level reached new heights as 1:15pm approached and started to taper off around 1:45pm — I learned weeks ago lunch is a 2 hour affair – enjoy the food, appreciate the ambiance, savor the flavors, and absorb the sights/aromas that make up one of the main components of Italian life – FOOD. Continue reading
The 2006 Winter Olympics were held in Turin –??? “Might have been your first clue, Lisa, with regards to climate.” People dressed in full length down filled coats might have been another CLUE…not to mention the kids getting on the train with snowboards…oh, and , THOSE are the ALPS in the background there…. Trenitalia rumbled thru tunnels, snow-covered valleys, stopped at every little village ever known to mankind, and arrived in Turin, northern Italy which happened to be snow-free – THANK YOU!!! But, it was a bit on the chilly side!
Sta. Margherita/Portofino — the Italian Riviera — very cool. Cobblestone streets, centuries old villas, — wonder if it was like a “villa competition” in the 17th & 18th C. – who could design the most ornate villa w/the sumptuous gardens? — a centuries’ old version of: Jackson Hole, Wyoming & dueling architects I.M. Pei /Frank Gehry /A. Predock — but in 1687, it would have been Sr. ??? No idea! These “small little summer getaways” for the family and 20 staff members are gorgeous. Currently, they are in all stages of renovation. Little trattorias tucked in here and there .. the main road along the coast introduces one to the ever-present Hermés Store signifying that the town is “hip”, Yachting Days = here-come-the-$200-blue-and-white-striped-cotton-t-shirts, and Il Bambino shops selling mommy-daddy-look-a-likes for 200 euros. Walk 1 block off the main street and there is the local town with the hardware store, outlet shop, shoe repair shop.. the locals are welcoming and there is an air of “whatever” here – where your Levi’s into the white linen tablecloth restaurant, it’s ok – wonder what it is like during the summer? Probably a zoo.. the train station is close to town, easy access..buses run from Sta. Margherita to other coastal towns… the touristica boats operate from April thru October taking tourists to the coastal towns … seasonal living on the Mediterranean. Not crowded here now, and what a treat for me! Walked from Sta. Margherita to Portofino(5 KM) along the Mediterranean Coast and thru the hills on a designated pedestrian path…had a cappuccino, thinly sliced dried beef with chunks of parmesan cheese and watercress, and bread in Portofino before I headed back. The waiter rolled his eyes and nodded when I said “April – lots of tourists?” But now, life doesn’t get much better than this — I feel so lucky to spend 2 or 3 days in these places – and see not only the tourist sites, but watch local life.
Misty rainy day accompanied me while I rode TRENITALIA, the regional train, to Pisa. The words “trundle” or “plugs along” seem to fit these trains as they lurch along. The conductor hole punched my ticket, all the while leaning on a chair seat for balance. The seats are smaller than the French trains as are the steps to board. God help you if you have a large piece of luggage, because from the station platform to the first step on the train makes you want to discard any unnecessary items and start doing lunges at the gym to build up those thigh muscles for that initial “umph”.
There is so much more to this town that just the Tower. One can see the town in a day, but there are museums, churches, a pretty park, great river walk, good restaurants, a 30 minute train ride to Lucca, a one and half hour ride to Florence. So, Pisa can be a less expensive base to see the surrounding area. I was surprised, because all I have ever heard was “don’t bother” & “not much there”. They had a Miró exhibit in a gallery, also, that I missed! So, it isn’t just the Tower!
Remember reading about and seeing pictures of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the 5th grade? I do, and when I saw it, it was a “I truly cannot believe that I am here” moment. Next to the Tower, was a gorgeous cathedral that received little publicity and was spectacular – have to say, it is becoming sort of the norm now – gold leaf, huge paintings, carved statues, marble alters, fresco painted ceilings, mosaic floors and of course, HUGE.
Art students sat on the grass in groups sketching, vendors of every Italian kitschy item ever produced in Asia selling their wares, and tourists from all over the world with local guides giving the spiel, all gave the area a theme park feeling. Several people told me “pass on Pisa”.. well, I am glad I did not take their advice– it was worth that one moment of “wow”. It is an old old town, well, aren’t they all, but.. this one really felt old in parts. 55% of Pisa was bombed during WWII and maybe it was the stark contrast between new and 11 & 12th century buildings with 12th century religious icons preserved in small provincial museums and little churches trying to raise funds to help w/restoration – a feeling of “don’t forget the rest of the town – we are worthwhile, also.”
The museums and churches filled with relics and religious icons were beautiful, but, the thing that really made Pisa worthwhile was lunch at a 10 table indoor restaurant. My pasta with olive oil and fresh herbs NEVER turned out like that, and the thinly sliced beef with just a smidgen of balsamic vinegar reduction sauce required minimal mastication because it was so tender that it essentially dissolved in my mouth. And, then the desert — semi-orgasmic experience! It was chocolate cake, and of course NO FLOUR, with thinly sliced cooked pears baked on top, drizzled with hot chocolate sauce –just a little to compliment it and not overwhelm it. Fork in hand, cutting off a bit, one feels guilty if this cake is bitten because you might hurt it. But, that decision was already made because as soon as the piece of cake descended upon my tongue — it automatically started to melt, the chocolate and fruit flavor slowly seeped into the roof of the mouth, the flavors started percolating in the most wonderful sense my body had at that moment – taste. All the cathedrals just took a back seat – that was my religious experience. That cake with the cappuccino gave me incentive to always be good for the rest of my life, so I too, could join all those good people in heaven!!! Lordy, Lordy!
ok.. back to reality — before I left Pisa, stopped at MacDonalds’s at the train station and had a big MAC — what can I say.
And off to a very small village 2 hours south of Pisa … to do a volunteer/work exchange – modern-day indentured servant clad in “culture exchange” – work for food & accommodation – at a German woman’s house. She moved to Italy many years ago and worked at a high-end hotel. German TV on, German friends, German paper — just seem to transfer life from the home country to another place. Would I do the same? And, if so, to what degree? I don’t know. But, another glimpse into ex-pat life abroad. The Exchange didn’t work out for us — it was one of those instances when it was an instantaneous “Nope, this isn’t going to work..” and it didn’t– we live and learn — and life goes on — so — and back to the train station, once again …on the train and push the re-play button back to Pisa!
Oh, BTW, the regional trains cost zippo – 2.50 € to 6.50€ seems to be the average — of course, the train ride isn’t exactly high-speed air lifting Asian technology, and one has to wonder when you hear the conductors saying frantically to the train engineers “move, move, the next train is coming” and everyone backs up a bit – not that it would do you any good if two trains collide, but.. details…
It is all good…how can it not be when the scene is this at 4:00pm…
Heading to Cinque Terre, Turin, Milan…