2012 will be remembered by me for many reasons. Certainly the travel I did in 2012 ranks up there as do the many fun memories with family and friends. But another memorable aspect of 2012 will be the food and wine! Here is a small tour of the most memorable ones… mostly food…
At Salt Lick, outside of Austin, Texas, the year started with some phenomenal BBQ!
Wine, wine, wine
A few wine tastings with friends and some touring allowed me to cover a lot of ground here! Virginia and Moldova stand out as unexpected wine places for me. While I was not able to bring a lot of wine from Moldova, Virginia was a different story!
All but one of the bottles I bought in VA! The state can thank me later.
Deliciousness from Moldavia
As far as I understand, northeastern Romania and Moldova are known as Moldavia. The region was an independent/autonomous state between the 14th century and the 19th. I could see quite a few similarities between the two modern areas when I visited Iasi (Romania) and Moldova. One of the similarities I saw was in the food. My favorite dish was pork and mamaliga (a sort of polenta). And my favorite dessert papanași (papanash; a fried pastry stuffed with jam and soft cheese). I could eat these every day (an almost did!).
Mamaliga (polenta) and pork – typical food dish
A homestyle wine tasting
One of my favorite events is the quarterly wine tasting with friends. Our Frog’s Leap wine tasting (normally, we do not focus on one winery in these tastings) was outstanding and the food was a large part of that. After looking at the following pictures, could you disagree?
Cheese and crackers couldn’t be absent!
Lobster dip served in cucumbers
Chocolate bomb anyone?
I got to try one mean chocolate dessert at The Oval Room, across Lafayette Square from the White House (which I also got to tour this year!). This picture -no- no picture, can ever do this magnificent monument to desserts justice…
Chocolate S’more Bomb with cookie crumble and salted caramel
Mofongo from Puerto Rico – in Tampa!
I have written about having great Cuban food in Tampa but over Thanksgiving weekend, I went for my favorite Puerto Rican dish: mofongo with fried pork chunks!! MMM!!!
Paris, oh, Paris
Forget the fancy restaurants and all that frou-frou stuff. Paris has awesome small “mere-et-pere” type of places with deliciousness galore. I am lucky to be an eternal Paris visitor and past resident. This allows me and my friends to enjoy these little-known places whenever I visit. However, I still enjoy discovering a new unpolished jewel, like the place in Montmartre where I had this delicious potato-and-egg-topped salad (along with a mini carafe of red wine!).
Of course, Paris’ chocolate houses are a must – and a tour of them should be de rigeur unless you are allergic to the stuff! I always stop by to enjoy some of Paris’ finest chocolate crafts.
Italy. What can I say?
No words are needed when it comes to Italy and food. Here are some of the images from my visit there in April (discovering new and re-visiting old places).
Suppli fried rice ball – mmm!!
I love how the Campo de Fiore is reflected in this glass of wine
Coffee the AM I arrived… dropped our luggage at the apt and went out for breakfast. SO. GOOD.
My plate full of our appetizers on our first night in Roma
Year end: always a time for food!
For Christmas eve (Nochebuena), I cook the traditional Cuban meal. Instead of showing a beautiful serving plate or bowl with the end result, I decided to leave the end result to the imagination and show you the work in progress. I love making my black beans and Cuban pernil!
Now good food didn’t end on Nochebuena. On our day trip to the charming southern towns of Newnan and Senoia, we had some really good southern food (always comfort food!) right at the square in Newnan. Those sweet potatoes were outstanding!
The year ends
The year went away like the dessert from this plate – it leaves me wanting more. What a year it was!
Well, today is the day the apocalypse was to happen. I guess a few hours are still left so maybe I shouldn’t count my eggs just yet. BUT, if the end did happen, guess what? I can still blog from purgatory and you KNOW that would be an incredible travel story. Just hope it is not one of being stuck there forever, like when I was stuck in Europe because of the Icelandic volcano (which did turn out well) or someone else’s horrible travel story. Also, if the world did end, purgatory looks a lot like my house (and if the world did NOT end, I need to make some minor changes at home…).
So the end of anything usually calls for some reflection and be it the end of the world or the end of the year, I feel like reflecting on my very busy 2012…
A Texas tweetup in January
January saw me taking what felt like a bold step – to travel somewhere to meet people I met online. At first that has an almost dirty sound to it, doesn’t it? But I had been talking on Twitter with these three folks for many months and they were clearly people I would enjoy meeting in person and exploring with. So off to awesome Austin, Texas for the Texas tweetup! There I met in person @kirkcole, @L_e_a_h, and @LolaDiMarco. Unfortunately, a severe cold hit me on the day I traveled so I was not able to partake in all the activities but enjoyed a good day’s worth of laughing and eating in Austin!
Can you find the Austin tweetup fab 5 in the picture?
Normal in February – and other months
Traveling to DC for work permeates every month this year so my normal continued in February. Recovered from the Austin tweetup and post-Christmas parties in January, February was time to relax and be home (or in DC). Over the year, I got to check new things in DC that I had not explored yet in the last year. Doing the White House tour was a long-time bucket list item that I finally made happen. I continued exploring and enjoying many of the DC’s finest hotels like The Mayflower, the Sofitel Lafayette, and the Renaissance on 9th St. DC is a wonderful town if you get out and explore. Its many beautiful brownstones and local eateries are a joy to explore.
March Madness: Mile High Skiing
The traveling continued in March – this time a great ski trip with dear friends to Vail and Breckendridge, two places I had been dying to try for many years. The trip did not disappoint and neither did my skiing, not having skied since Valle Nevado, Chile in the Andes in 2010. Vail and Breck WILL be in a future ski trip for me, I can tell. The bowls of Vail where incredible: one bowl, then another one behind it, then another. It seemed to never end!
How thoughtful! Vail had a statue of me at the base of one of the slopes!
Amicci en Italia and diving into eastern Europe in April
April finally brought about the “long”-planned trip to Italy with two sets of great friends. Though mainly focused on Rome (a city I love re-visiting), a side trip to finally see Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast was built into the itinerary. It did not disappoint, especially our guide in Pompeii, one of the preeminent experts on Pompeii!.
But I took advantage of being on the other side of the pond to add another iconic destination I had never explored: Dubrovnik, Croatia. Its tiled roofs and architecture combined with the natural setting of its location made it a magical place for me. Of course, ever eager to see more, I decided to get further into eastern Europe while in Dubrovnik by doing day trips into Bosnia & Herzegovina (Mostar) and into the beautiful mountains and bays of Montenegro! These day trips were short, obviously, but they definitely opened the appetite to see more of these countries and this part of Europe.
One of the ridges that divides Kotor Bay into 2 bays in Montenegro
Re-charging, re-connecting, and exploring Chicago
May saw a second tweetup, this time in the Windy City since we were eager to connect with other travel bloggers we had been chatting with for awhile. The Windy City tweetup had a little bit of everything: from French goodness (courtesy of the Sofitel Water Tower), Charlie’s Angels, boat tour, fallen traffic lights (not our fault!), doughnuts, cold coffee, good food, drinks (repeat), and the mob. It was a very fun weekend indeed meeting @workmomtravels, @travelingted, @jettingaround, and @elatlboy in person.
Being tourists at The Bean
More fun with fellow travelers and good learnings
In June, TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, held its North America conference in Keystone, Colorado (very close to Breckenridge where I’d just been 3 months before; who knew I would be returning to the area so soon!). Besides the interesting learnings, the reception at the mountaintop on Friday night and the ensuing party at the pub at base (free!) really made the weekend a lot of fun and a good time to meet others who share the travel bug and re-connect with others. Among the great folks I met (too many to list all!): @BlBrtravel, @stayadventurous, @captainandclark, @lazytravelers, @budgettravelsac, and @travelrinserept.
A trek with a purpose in Romania and a true relic of the USSR
Romania had been a mysterious place that I had always dreamed of seeing. Not because I knew I would love it but it just called to me. A wonderful opportunity came my way to do a hike in the Transylvanian Alps with Trekking for Kids, a non-profit seeking to bring improved lives to orphaned/at-risk children around the world. We worked with the orphanage and just “were” with the kids before and after a hike through some beautiful landscapes around Brasov – we even saw castles other than Dracula’s! An experience I will never forget every which way, including it was my first multi-day hike ever!
Who knew there was a Sphinx atop the Transylvanian Alps (near Omu Peak)??
Since I was headed that way, I decided Romania (more precisely, the town of Iasi, Romania’s cultural capital) would be a great springboard to explore Moldova. So with my great guide, I explored churches, monasteries, towns (including the capital, Chisinau), and wineries in this little known former Soviet socialist republic still working to undo decades of horrible communist dictatorship. I am SO glad I made the time for this unpolished gem at the edge of eastern Europe!
The trip ended with a one-day, two-night in awesome Paris, my home away from home in Europe. Always love re-visiting my favorite areas and still finding new things to enjoy!
Time with Family in Tampa on my sister’s birthday in August
August also included a trip to Tampa where my family lives – always good to be with them, and enjoy good Cuban food and TLC! I had just been there in June (when I visited the impressively set-up Dali museum) but my Mom turned 70 while I was in Romania and my sister was hitting a milestone birthday of her own in August so I just HAD to go and celebrate with them!
Rest in September
In September, I took a break from travel. Well, non-business travel… But read on, the year of travel is not over!
Architecture and Wine: Tuscany or Bordeaux, you say? No, Virginia in October!
I finally succumbed to friends’ suggestion that I explore Virginia wine country with them. I had been wanting to do this for a long time but other travel got in the way. I took advantage of being in the DC area for work to go ahead and spend a weekend with them in wine country. And got out RIGHT BEFORE Sandy passed by! As you can read in my writings about this central part of Virginia, Monticello, Charlottesville and the countryside are filled with early colonial history and architecture as well as delicious wines. And there are close to 200 other wineries in the state to be found and explored! I was glad to have this opportunity to see more of my own country and other places will be in my sights in 2013 (like Michigan and Wisconsin thanks to friends from Chicago who write about these places!).
Cemetery where Thomas Jefferson is buried in Monticello on a fall day
OK, now I rest ‘xcept for Thanksgiving in November
So, my fun travels wrap up for the year save for visiting family again in Tampa where I discover yet another new place for good Cuban food! Someone STOP the madness!
I reflect back on the year and I am amazed at how much I have been able to see of places I have always wanted to see. And this is setting aside the twenty-something weeks of work travel to DC! The bucket list shrinks and yet I add new places I learn about. I consider THAT my most important key performance indicator – a never-ending travel bucket list!
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and the best in 2013 for you and yours!
Pompeii was a normal town in ancient Rome. Lots of good business due to its place by the sea on the way to Rome. Fast and fun place for the sailors who enjoyed the pleasures it offered. Until that fateful day that destroyed the town and created history…
As I entered Pompeii from where the old shoreline used to be (it’s further away now) and walked up the ramp, I wondered how many people had been running down this main entrance to the city, hoping to make it to a boat, hoping to save their lives on that day…
I came to Rome in a barrel. Ready to see the eternal city. It was dark all the way. I was in good company. Then we felt a tapping sound. Just twice. Then it went quiet. A day later, I felt pulled away. I saw light!!! I decided to sit and bask in the light. Since I was in Rome, I HAD to have my picture taken. Hope I looked alright after all that travel. I didn’t feel refreshed but I felt refreshing, if that makes sense.
(Picture taken with Canon EOS Rebel T1I)
Rome has an endless amount of sights to see, places to visit, and walks to take – it is near impossible, lest you are a travel guide company, to document all that there is to see and almost just as impossible to cover all the ground. At least not when part of your goals for the trip are to chill some as well. That was me. Here are two places I enjoyed in Rome: a mix of must-sees and places where I just sat and relaxed. Hopefully, this will give you ideas or validate what you have read in the travel guide!
Do you have places in Rome that you like to and relax in? Please share!
Campo de Fiore
I had not seen the Campo de Fiore (field of flowers) before. It was not as great a piazza as I expected but it certainly allowed for two of my favorite things when I am in Europe: sitting in an outdoor café sipping my favorite beverage (house red wine in this case) and watching life go by (read: people watching). The flower and other stands were mostly still there though they began coming down as we were there. The buildings in the piazza and the surrounding streets definitely had character and a walkabout the area is well worth it.
The crowds taking in the sun & sights
A table waiting for users and a rose waiting for admirers…
Bread waiting for its consumers…
Some of the goods in the stands
It was at Campo de Fiore where I met the golden beer who told its story…
The Trastevere Area
This part of town, across the Tiber from old Rome, as the name suggests, is trendy, charming, and chock-full of places to eat, drink, and walk around. The southern part of it has some really neat alleys and buildings. We ate at a place called Caccio e Pepe in a pedestrian part of the area (http://www.osteriacacioepepe.it/). We called ahead since there were 6 of us and our table was ready and waiting. We enjoyed the food and the casual atmosphere of the Osteria. The Trastevere also has a couple of churches worth visiting.
Crossing the Tiber on the Ponte Cestio
Doorway in the Trastevere
Typical alley in the Trastevere
Santa Cecilia in the Trastevere, a very old church in Rome!
Of course, this walk around the Trastevere ended up in food… There is always good food in Rome to be found whether on your own or with a food tour!
(Picture taken with Canon EOS Rebel T1I)
In Rome, once again, we enjoyed Italian cuisine (carbonara, mi amore!), wine, gelato, architecture, history, and watching people (tourists and locals alike). It seems like those are reason ENOUGH to go to Roma! Nothing like Rome to appreciate cultural diversity and food delights!
When I travel with friends, I don’t just travel with anyone. I travel with folks who love wine, food, exploring, and chilling – like me. One of my friend’s is a personal chef and she and her husband are big foodies (and so will be their baby one day!). Before the trip, they looked for opportunities to sample food beyond lunch/dinner. They found an awesome food tour in the Testaccio area of Rome, an area I had not explored or had even heard of before. The tour is organized by Eating Italy Food Tours, founded by a native from Philly. Domenico, also from Philly, was our tour guide that day and he was definitely the right guy to show us around! (Check them out at http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/ .)
We arrived to the Testaccio area after passing a pyramid by a cemetery. Rome’s city walls seem to have been built around it. I had no idea there was a pyramid in Rome! It is called the Pyramid of Cestius as it was built as a tomb for a guy with that name. What was incredible to me is that it was built 10-20 yrs BEFORE Christ. It is incredible!
The food tour took us to the cemetery on the side of the pyramid which used to be where foreigners were interred in Rome in the not so distant past. It is referred to as the Protestants’ or the Englishmen’s cemetery. One of its most famous “eternal residents” is the poet Keats who died very young (I did learn something, see??). You must be wondering when am I getting to the food. So am I. So let me get back on track.
The route and targets of the tour
We started at the old local market which is marked for demolition in the very near future as they have built a brand new place for these folks. Sounded wonderful until our tour guide told us the vendors’ rent will be doubled which will likely put a few of them out of business. Yes, the old market wasn’t a beacon of perfection but it definitely had charm! Among the things we sampled was real mozzarella di bufala made by a lady named Lina - now I know how real mozzarella di bufala is supposed to taste like!! Here are some of the sights at the market:
This fish guy has been there for decades and his son and grandson now work with him.
Whose legs are those? It’s rude to put your feet out the window!
All sorts of goodness! (Where’s the chocolate??)
Carne Equina – an interesting stand…
After the local market, we meandered towards Volpetti which, as soon as I saw the sign, I recognized from an Anthony Bourdain episode I had recently watched! Volpetti is this piece of heaven on Via Marmorata, near the Pyramid. All sorts of cheeses, balsamic vinergars, cured and dried meats like prosciutto, etc. We got to sample (as we did everywhere in this tour) and my favorite was the San Daniele prosciutto (vs. Parma prosciutto – which was still good!). The San Daniele had a certain tinge of sweetness that I enjoyed. Needless to say, we loaded up on some goodies for that evening’s dinner (we decided there were too many good things not to devote one dinner in the apartment to them!). Prosciutto is worth reading about and sampling – here is a quick overview of this delicious piece of ham: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosciutto. An another that covers the difference between pancetta (bacon) and prosciutto (ham): http://italianalmanac.org/06may/ham.htm
Goodness at Volpetti
Right after Volpetti and further down Marmorata, we stopped at Barberini’s were the pastries all were calling my name, winking at me. Not being a cultural chauvinist, I understood they were tempting me. Of course I accepted the morsels we were given to sample including tiramisu in a tiny cup made of chocolate (modeled here by my friend Chris):
A nice array of pastries at Barberini
On our way to further destinations in the tour, we passed a hill called Monte Testaccio. If you don’t know any better, you walk right past it. It has vegetation and was behind a fence when we hit upon it. However, our tour guide stopped to tell us about it. Folks, it is not a real hill that mother nature (or Mother Nature, lest lightning strike me) created. In the old days, and I mean, the OLD days, people used amphoras to store and carry things. However, when they were used for olive oil, the amphoras were not really re-usable for long. So, they would break them up and pile them on what became a hill over time. Vegetation grew and the hill – someone discovered – would offer in its innards a great place to store wine at the perfect temperature! So in old days (not OLD days), small caves were built for this purpose. It no longer seems to be used for this but remains a great witness to how the old Romans did things. The area has become trendy with nightclubs while still hosting traditional trades like butchers.
After a little meandering, we next came to 00100 Pizza where we were in for a real treat: suppli – a cheesy fried rice ball that was a foodie’s dream.
As our mouths continued to water, we made it to the place, Da Bucatino, where we would have a traditional Italian lunch centered around bucatini, a thick and hollow spaghetti-like pasta (not common here in the States) in amatriciana sauce (my favorite red sauce). I did my best to clean the plate though all the sampling along the way was competing for space in my stomach!
Finally, after the day of sampling great cheeses, meats, pasta, and the like we ended up at a neighborhood gelato place called Giolitti. It has been there since the early 20th century. A place where the gelato and the panna are all homemade – true artisans! What a difference a homemade makes.
So, a little more off the beaten path than the Rome that most tourists see (including me in my first 2 trips there), yet a stone’s throw away from all those places, the Testaccio area offers not only great food but a different scene with history and charm to along with it. Don’t miss it next time in Rome!
Other things I enjoyed in Rome:
What other lesser known areas of Rome have you seen and would you recommend them to others?
(Photos taken with Canon EOS Rebel T1I)
When my friends and I decided upon a trip to Italy focused on Rome, I was really pumped to go back, see some familiar places and get to check off some that, though very important, I had failed to visit in my 2 prior trips to Rome (to my credit, they had been like 3-day stays each).
Lodging in Rome
All of us had prior experience with renting apartments while abroad as a way to get much cheaper lodging with the perks of a real kitchen, washer/dryer, and living room space so we could hang out late at night. www.vrbo.com is my starting point for any search like this. We found an apartment in Prati but, unfortunately, soon after booking, the building had some sewer problems so the agency that VRBO had connected us to, contacted us to offer other options. We took another apartment, very close to the U.S. Embassy (not for that reason) and paid the differential since it was a better apartment though it was beyond what we had hoped to spend. However, getting close to the date of travel and with not as many options for 3-bedroom apartments that we had liked when we first searched, we went for it. The agency that arranged the rental in Rome was very professional and helpful along the way with special requests; check them out next time you are headed to Italy: www.italyperfect.com. Our apartment’s owner was a marquesa, if that impresses you at all!
Living/Dining room was very spacious
So What Was the Plan?
Our individual goals in this vacations coincided a good bit. One set of friends had not been to Rome so they would have to cover some of the basics we already had. Pompeii and the Sistine Chapel were top of my list but more on those in other entries…
As soon as we decided on the trip, we “discovered” that there were 3 other basilicas outside of what is known as the Vatican. They are elsewhere in Rome but technically you are in the Vatican when you are in these basilicas. We decided that these would be a great item for our arrival day due to all the walking and metroing required to see them – hence, we would not be tempted by naps! We ended up leaving Sta. M. Maggiore for another day but we found these basilicas, though not as massive as St. Peter’s, impressive in their own right. The basilicas are:
- St. John Lateran (former home of the Popes until not long ago at all – who knew)
- St. Paul Outside the Walls (the clarification is needed: there is one INSIDE the walls; and yes, Rome still has segments of wall around it; again, who knew… oh, and St. Paul is buried here under the chains that held him captive)
- Santa Maria Maggiore (near the Termini station).
Rome has some fan-TAS-tic ceilings – check them out!
One of the main things for me to see in Rome (what an unfair thing to type… Rome has SO much that is a must-see!) was the Pantheon. Folks, it is a 100 years and change away from being TWO THOUSAND years old! Can you wrap your mind around that??? I can’t! And it is STILL the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome. I should have seen this on my first visit! Oh, and I had NO idea the hole at the top was open! Cleverly positioned and hidden drains take care of that water when it rains!
The oculus (giggle, giggle) “reflected” on the dome
We hit the Pantheon the day we went to the Papal Audience when we left the Vatican and started meandering streets. It was my 3rd Papal Audience with the last one having been WAY CLOSER to the Pope (check out my friend Chris’ account of that audience. As usual, the people watching sometimes is even better than the event itself!
Sweet looking but who knows if she is really a meanie!
Not sure who looks sillier but thanks for your service!
In that meandering, we happened upon the Gelateria del Teatro, a well-known gelateria due to the quality and uniqueness of the flavors of the gelato. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD! Take a look at this!!
We also walked around Piazza Navona always full of life and tourists and peddlers… That area is even more interesting and full of locals in the evening. Meander the side streets and find restaurants and other gelaterias (when in Rome, you are required to have gelato no less than 2 times per day!). There is a lot in that area of town just around the corner on a side street!
As we headed back to the apartment, we decided to take a short detour and go to the Trevi Fountain so one set of friends could see it for the first time but, more importantly, so we could throw our coin to ensure a return to Roma! Again, the people watching is superb. I loved taking a couple of pictures of this couple as they examined the fountain.
After recovering from all that walking, we headed to Hostaria Il Mozzicone in Via Borgo Pio right outside the Vatican, a place I had visited in my two prior trips. As usual the food was awesome (the carbonara is their specialty and the ONLY thing I eat there) and the service cold – but never mind the service; as long as you go in up front not expecting friendly, you will be OK. Below my carbonara!
Food has AWESOME food and a food tour is a great way to discover. We did a great food tour and highlight recommend that.
Finally, to help us walk off some of the food coma, we walked over to St. Peter’s for a great night time view of this majestic place, something I had not done before (the go at night part!). A great way to cap our day!
In this trip, I also discovered why Rome IS the eternal city -> http://ilivetotravel.me/2012/04/22/why-rome-is-the-eternal-city/
My seven super photos below show the some of the things that amazed me and the memories I cherish from my many travels. I think I was tagged for this a few months ago. I can tell because I had begun placing candidate photos in a special folder but I couldn’t find a post… Thanks to Lola (@LolaDiMarco) for tagging me. I will need to think about who to tag since she probably hit some people I would have hit and I also don’t want to hit the person who tagged me months ago! (and I can’t remember who that is… my apologies, I was trying to get it done!)
Here it goes!
a photo that takes my breath away
Crossing the majestic Andes…
a photo that makes me laugh or smile
Walking like Egyptians… In Egypt.
a photo that makes me dream
I dream of returning to Mykonos…
a photo that makes me think
Village savings and loan members posing near Mwanza, Tanzania: not begging for help, but taking control of their livelihoods. How we have lost that in our own country…
a photo that makes my mouth water
The grapes that yield a delicious Bordeaux…
a photo that tells a story
Hated taking this pic but it was very moving to see this in Pompeii…
a photo that i’m most proud of (aka, my NationalGeographic shot)
Overlooking Queenstown and The Remarkables in glorious New Zealand
Not being keen on lines and much less crowds, I instantly mentally said “yes” when I saw there was a tour of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum before the crowds got in. I was quite willing to pay for the privilege of going before the SC and VM opened – which is rather an inaccurate concept as the moment you go in, the museum IS open – but this “before it opens” thing is about beating the crowds who did not want to wake up earlier, who did not want to (or could) pay the extra cost, or who did not know/think about it ahead of time. Plus with a tour guide to be sure nothing noteworthy was missed in the eagerness to see the SC.
Sample art at the Vatican Museum
Dark Rome (www.darkrome.com) provided one of those tours. (I found them via my ultimate authority for local tours, Viator.) Their tour guide, an archaelogist from Ireland named Rachel (cute!) was engaging and well prepared. But beyond not missing any key artifacts, the value was getting background knowledge about the great pieces I was going to see.
I have to say that while there were other tour groups (I didn’t pay THAT much money!), there was space to move around and stop without getting crashed into or pushed. Lots of interesting art (Rafael’s masterpiece right before the SC being one of them) and architecture. The crown jewel, though, really blew me away. Having heard SO MUCH about it, I was expecting to be impressed but not blown away. One of those things were the expectations are made so big that by the time you get there, it is not the same as what it had been built to be.
NOT this time! I have to say that having learned how frescoes are made in the tour, having been explained Michelangelo’s design and process, etc. really made a big difference in the appreciation for those drawings up in a ceiling. Just thinking about how high he had to climb every day to do the job was quite impressive. (I did wonder if he took bathroom breaks and, if so, did he do it in a bucket and lowered it when done… or was he SO engrossed in his masterpiece that he could hold it however many hours?? The things that churn in my head…)
Soapbox break. The one shameful thing I observed was fellow tourists who did not seem to get the concept of no pictures allowed. First of all, these fools don’t realize those drawings are so far up that their pictures will do them no justice. Just buy a freaking post card or, even better, the book. But most importantly for me is the lack of respect they show for a place of worship. If you cannot respect the sites you visit, then why are you really going there anyway? I treat other faiths’ places of worship with the same respect I pay my own. Soapbox break over.
It is neat to understand where Michelangelo started the ceiling and how his technique evolved during the project. I didn’t realize he was rather inexperienced in frescoes when he got the commission (that he didn’t want to do but Julius II forced to accept). I will not get into it here as I am not an art connossieur nor is that the purpose of this blog. But it is really interesting to see how he learned about how to do the frescoes once he came down and admired one of the earliest panels finished – the ceiling was too far up and the figures were too small: he had to paint them bigger! I am surprised though that he didn’t re-do that first panel. Or maybe he did and I didn’t catch that…
The Sistine Chapel frescoes on the ceiling are matched by an imposing altarpiece fresco where Michelangelo gets back at a “foe” using his face as the face of someone being walked into hell. I think Michelangelo won that little feud of theirs… And remember Rome is eternal… Lots of good ceilings in the Vatican (and Rome)!
Finally, as a Catholic, picturing a conclave (where Popes are elected) taking place in the SC while standing there was priceless. I couldn’t quite picture all these cardinals in there but, I take it by faith.
I think in some future visit, perhaps I will explore more of the VM themselves. Lots of important artifacts and art that I may not really be prepared to explore. But something will be learned, something will probably impress me and… I can get to see the awesome work in the Sistine Chapel one more time!
My post on the ceilings from The Hermitage in St. Petersburg seems to have received a good level of interest so I thought I’d do another from my recent trip to Rome. Enjoy!
St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs (Rome, near Piazza della Republicca)
St. Paul Outside the Walls (Holy See outside of the Vatican)
St. John Lateran (Holy See outside of the Vatican)
Vatican Museums (Vatican)
Rome is eternal, the Eternal City! That much has been said before about it. But it keeps proving true over and over for me…
I just went for my third time, this time for the longest visit yet (about 6 days). I never seem to get to a spot anywhere near “I feel like I know this place”. I keep discovering new areas of town, new “must see’s”, new dishes, etc. It will take me an eternity to master Rome – and the money that goes along with that eternity! (Funding, anyone? Angel investor, I like to go to the Vatican in case that sways you.) Rome is eternal indeed…
Rome Has History and I Have History with Rome
Though I had been there twice before, each visit had been for about 3 days each. Both included Papal audiences as the Pope had changed inter-visit and I had to check out the new guy. Oh, and when I mean check out, I mean up close. I was not down with the masses that time. I was up by the stage. But I digress. This is about my 2012 visit, not my 2006 visit.
In any case, I had seen some of the key sights of Rome (the Forum, the Colosseum, St. Peter‘s all the way to the top and all the way to the bottom at the Scavi, etc.). But I STILL knew I had some key sites and sights I had not been able to get to. Most shocking of all the missing sites was the Sistine Chapel. It became my number one target for this trip (and I saw it!).
Laser-Focused Objective. Make that “Objectives”
Laser-like focus on the Sistine Chapel became a little less focused when friends coming on the trip raised the idea of getting to Pompeii. Scope creep! What I warn my clients about in my day job. But, heck I had been to Italy now 2 times and I had never made it south of Rome. And Pompeii… Images from all the history classes in school flashing like a neon sign in my head… Well, how could that be left out… But surely these two plus maybe a couple of churches and, of course, the Pantheon – how could I forget, I had never seen it either. OK, so now I had a definitive focused list of places I did want to see this time. The rest of the visit open for whatever…
And so the trip began on my way to reducing time-to-eternal, ETC (estimate to completion), shortening of the list of things to still do in Rome… and the trip ended with enough left over to ensure another return. A fourth…
A set of questions about my approach to travel – fascinating set! Posted by Leah (check out her post: http://leahtravels.com/site/things/how-i-roll-the-abcs-of-travel) who in turn received it from someone else who got it from someone else, … you get the pic. Thanks, Leah! And in turn, I will say other important “thanks” as I respond. Here it goes!
A. Age you went on your first international trip
Technically going to PR from Miami as a toddler doesn’t count since it is U.S. territory… My first trip abroad was when I was eleven. I went to visit my aunt and her family in Panama. I went with my grandmother and my sister. It was SO cool. We flew to Miami and then to Panama. We either flew Eastern or Pan Am to Miami but it must have been the latter since we then flew Pan Am to our final destination. I remember my grandmother was a little nervous. I? I was on an adventure! I remember that on the Pan Am flight to Panama (that’s an alliteration!) each passenger was given a small bottle of wine (not the mini ones but maybe a 0.5L bottle) – and that included, apparently, 11 yr olds too! My grandmother made me give it to my uncle once I arrived in Panama since I clearly couldn’t drink it. I knew she was right but I sorta felt cheated… Thanks, Abuela!
B. Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
A Belgian Trappist beer called Chimay. The blue label one. It then became my goal to get a Chimay glass (way before they started selling them). I got one but to hear the story, well, I will have to tell you in person because I am not typing how I got it Just want to say, thanks Joy!
I first tasted it when I lived in France in 1999. Upon my return to the wonderful state of Georgia, I discovered that it was not sold here because of its higher alcohol content. Ridiculous! A co-worker who commuted every week to Atlanta from DC would bring me a batch every so often in her carry-on (this was in 2000). Now THAT is a friend. We are still friends today, needless to say – thanks, Laura! (P.S. – A few years ago Georgia left the Middle Ages and I can get Chimay here any time I want. Thanks, legislators.)
C. Cuisine – favorite
Well, duh, Cuban! All that garlic, pork, fried stuff, and black beans. I am working myself into hunger as I type… Italian is a good runner up for sure. And could I turn down Peruvian?? But Cuban it is. My Mom cooks it VERY well. She must have learned from her grandmother, whom we called Doña as kids for some reason. I remember her cooking still. For teaching her granddaughters to cook well so I could enjoy Cuban food, thanks Doña!
D. Destinations: favorite, least favorite, and why
Favorite: Chilean Patagonia followed closely by the southern island of New Zealand. Why? Breathtaking examples of God’s work. A+! Check the pix out! Thanks, God.
View from la Cueva del Milodón
Least favorite: I tend to find something I like about most places. It may not be pretty but the people make it likable, or the food, or who I was traveling with. But if I search for places that didn’t impress me (not that I did not like being there), Copenhagen was one. It had some nice things, it wasn’t unlikable. But it seemed bland (maybe I was comparing it to Stockholm and Oslo which did impress me). Beijing was an absolute disappointment with the terrible pollution. Of course, it had some sites that were worth seeing but overall as a city, my least favorite. San Marino seemed to be only a duty-free zone or a tourist trap zone, except for the church. Oh, I was the one in the group who wanted to drive through it – and I heard it a few times… Thanks, Me.
E. Event you experienced above that made you say “wow”
Several things come to mind. Seeing Holy Week processions and events in Malta was pretty awesome. Being in Chile during a historical year: first time in the World Cup in 40 odd years, a historical election seeing the right come to power for the first time since the dictatorship ended, the trapped miners, the massive and terrible earthquake, and there was a fifth one but it escapes me… Seeing the emotion of Chileans watching their national team with such joy was a wow. Seeing the very civilized behaviors between election winner and loser (which made me feel for my country…) was a wow. I wasn’t there on the day of the earthquake otherwise that would have won THE wow. But being there for the miners’ rescue was one of those moments that truly was a wow. Gracias, Chile!
F. Favorite mode of transportation
Well, a plane. I don’t totally enjoy the ride but when time is limited, nothing like getting there fast! First class preferred, of course. Thanks, Wright bros.
G. Greatest feeling when traveling
Discovering something new that blows me away. Like the landscapes of southern New Zealand. Or phenomenal hole-in-the-wall eateries like La Porta in Montecchiello in Tuscany. Thanks to my passport!
Osteria La Porta, Montecchiello
H. Hottest place you have traveled to
At the World Expo in Sevilla in 1992 it was over 40C (over 104F). That ranks up there though my hometown sometimes can feel hotter than hell. Well, really, it is because of the humidity. Thanks, H2O
I. Incredible service you have experienced and where
Quite a few but in my over 20 round trips to Chile a couple of years ago, I tended to coincide with a flight crew every other week or so. These flight attendants took GREAT care of me, even though I flew coach. Let’s just say, at some point, I no longer was served coach wine… Thanks, Delta for having flight attendants that know how to treat your valuable frequent flyers even when your rules prevent the Delta staff from doing the right thing…
J. Journey that took the longest
I would like to say going to Australia but that wasn’t the longest. Nor was it driving from Atlanta to Denver with my college roommate. My actual longest journey was when I went to Tanzania. I went with work, an international NGO, so I thought I had to absolutely get the cheapest possible itinerary. So I ended with a 2-stop (not awful per se) trip to get to Dar es Salaam (via London and Dubai; a 6 and 9 hr layover respectively). I learned later that policy was to get the cheapest flight with a reasonable duration which meant I could have gone for the cheapest 1-stop route… Overall the journey was over 30 hrs. and I was supremely beat though when I landed in Dar, the tiredness dissipated for a little bit as I soaked in everything around me! Thanks, former employer for laying out the rules clearly – grrrr….
K. Keepsake from your travels
I always bring back money from the countries I visit for me and for kids I know. I do it to perhaps stir curiosity of the world in them much as stamps did for me when I was a kid. I also mail post cards (though not many) to share a little of trip with people close to me. Other than that, photos, photos, and more photos! On occasion, if I find a particular item that grabs a hold of me, then I get it. But I am not a big shopper usually because it means I have to carry it all back! One of my prized acquisitions was a wood carving I bought at Los Dominicos in Santiago, Chile. Gracias, Señor Salazar.
L. Let-down sight, why and where
Stonehenge, hands down. A pile of big stones, yes, put up by people long ago for mystical/spiritual purposes when there wasn’t machinery to make things easy. But it wasn’t just that. The place is cordoned off so you watch them from a distance. Not that touching them would mean something but if I could have walked amongst them or at least get close enough to “feel” their size. It’s not like watching the Great Pyramids at a distance. It is watching large stones at a distance. It is not watching the giant heads in Easter Island. Those are carved. It is watching large stones at a distance. Get it? But, of course, I am glad I saw them so no one can tell about them. Thanks to my college roommate, Andreas, for driving us there and checking it off the list. One-and-done. No repeat visit. (P.S. – I am not sure if I have been clear on what I think about Stonehenge…)
M. Moment where you fell in love with travel
None. I was born loving travel as far as I can tell. The thrill of going somewhere new, exploring. Or of getting back to a place I really like (Paris, Chile, Venice). Now the wanderlust was created by my childhood hobby of stamp collecting. I wanted to know about all these places, I relished seeing new stamps that told me something about each country. I HAD to see them! Thanks to my Mom, Dad, tío Ernesto and all those who used to save stamps for me for supporting me in this hobby that stirred this passion! (Hence, the wallpaper on my Twitter page!)
N. Nicest hotel you have stayed in
I would say the Four Seasons in Dallas but it was an overnight stay for work and I arrived very late the night before. The Loew’s in Miami Beach for a work conference was very nice. But my favorite was the Boca Raton Beach Resort where we went a couple of years for work “retreats”. Thanks, Andersen Consulting!
O. Obsession, what are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling
In one trip to Italy, I was obsessed with capturing a nun in motion (her habits flowing as she walked). I didn’t take any great picture. That I knew of… When I got home and developed the film, a nun had crossed the street in one of my pix. You see, I must have missed the fact she was there because I was switching lenses to take a picture of the same view with and without zoom lens to see how the two pix would contrast. I probably was so engrossed in not dropping the lens I wasn’t using and in focusing on the arch far away that I missed what was in front of me: a nun in motion! Thanks, miracle nun!
But that was only for that trip. Generally, I like to take pictures of people doing nothing in particular. Just walking, sitting, being… But I have developed a little interest in taking pictures of people taking or posing for pictures for others when I go to very touristy areas. It is interesting to watch people touristing!
P. Passport stamps – how many and from where
In the current passport or in all my passports??!! I do not plan to count them, especially since one very full passport was stolen during a home break-in a dozen years ago. Plus I have more than one stamp of some countries. Which led to requiring new pages added to the passport… Thanks Chile for stamping my passport EACH AND EVERY time I entered and departed 26 times in 2010…
I have visited 49 countries and thanks to the breakup of Yugoslavia, in April I won’t just hit 50, I will get to 52! Thanks, Marshall Tito!
Q. Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where
I want to say somewhere in the middle of Kansas through one of my drives to/from Boulder. But nothing comes to mind. Or something in Central Florida. That sounds right, right? The Big Chicken in Marietta – is that an attraction or just a fast food place? Thanks to no one for quirky attractions.
R. Recommended sight, event, or experience
Leah said the Scavi tour under St. Peter’s Basilica and I would agree. I have done it twice but will pass on this next trip to Rome. Other things to see! The Great Pyramids are an obvious answer to this. In terms of views, seeing Rio from the Corcovado is tops. The view of Cape Town from Table Mountain is also outstanding. And experiencing the peacefulness and breathtaking landscapes of the Chilean Patagonia rounds up my answer. Thanks to these eyes for letting me soak it all in…
Outstanding views near the Cape of Good Hope! (Cape Point)
S. Splurge, something you have no problem forking over for while traveling
A great meal!! I don’t mean going to the Maxim’s or some other fancy-schmancy restaurant. I mean at a local place with great food like La Porta in Montecchielo or the restaurant in Venice we so enjoyed or at Cuero Vaca in Santiago. Once I am there, the price on the menu is ignored. Oh, that’s for the food part. You DO have to look at the price of a bottle of wine – don’t intend to fork $500 any time soon for a bottle of wine – plenty of good stuff out there for much less thanks to many great winemakers!
T. Touristy thing you’ve done
Throwing a coin over my shoulder in the Trevi Fountain in Rome to make sure I return! But it has worked twice already! Grazie, Trevi! Bella!
U. Unforgettable travel memory
A few for sure. Typically when standing in front of magnificent scenery many of which I have cited above and many that I have left out. Another is my first helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles near Melbourne and then my second ride to land on Franz Josef Glacier in NZ.
But one of the most unforgettable travel memories for me is when I walked into the room where the future John Paul II was born in Wadowice, Poland. There was a large picture of him as a toddler and I got goose bumps thinking who would have told that child, that family, those neighbors that this child would become a giant in the faith of millions and a giant in the battle against oppression in the Communist world, etc. It hit me that the potential of ANY child is about infinite. It only starts narrowing with every passing year, depending on circumstances, education, health, etc. Very unexpected moment for me.
V. Visas, how many and for where?
One, from CapitalOne. What’s in your wallet?
W. Wine, best glass of wine while traveling and where?
A glass or two of Sauternes at of Chateau Sahuc-Lestours. We randomly visited this winery and met the owners who sat down with us to sip Sauternes (they sipped, I almost gulped) in the garden of their home/winery. At the end of the visit, they corked the unlabelled bottle we had drunk, and gave it to us (plus the bottle we each had bought). Fast forward 8 yrs, and I return. The husband wasn’t there but the wife was. I recounted not only the visit but the things they had told us and she knew it was true that I had been there before. I don’t recall her name but we called her Margaret on that first visit for some reason. Merci beaucoup et au revoir, Margaret!
X. eXcellent view and from where?
So I mentioned earlier the views from Corcovado in Rio, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and any view in Chilean Patagonia. I will add:
- the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower which puts all of Paris at your footsteps
- the view from Pienza in Tuscany where you can see the rolling hills of the region and the neighboring mountain town
- the view as you fly over the Andes – endless mountain range (and I mean east-west, not just north-south!)
- the view from my apt building in Paris: the Arc d’Triomphe almost right across the street with the Eiffel Tower behind it in the distance
- the view from the executive lounge of the Santiago Marriott at sunset looking at the Andes
and I could keep on going… thanks for letting me list more than one!
Flying over the glorious Andes
Y. Years spent traveling
Since I was a toddler ilivetotravel! My first trip to Europe was when I was 25. Kids are spoiled today, they get to go younger, thanks to deregulation. Who says deregulation is bad???
Z. Zealous sports fans and where?
Have never been to a World Cup. Have been to a World Series game but, it is baseball. Have been to 2 Olympics. But the best memory is watching fans of many countries who made it to the 2010 World Cup work together and compare notes as the World Cup took place was fun. Unfortunately, my bragging rights ended on the earlier side so then it was fun to throw ambers on the fires around me Those Brazilians, Chileans, Spanish, Argentines, and Mexicans definitely showed zealotry and good spirit. Thanks to my client in Chile for installing flat screen TVs around the building so people could peek at matches during work hours.
Thanks for reading some or all of the above!!
Just as I was tagged, I get to tag others. So…
Pola at http://www.jettingaround.com
Tawny at http://www.captainandclark.com
Henie at http://www.HennArtOnline.com
Mark at http://www.twylah.com/marktravel
TAG, YOU ARE IT!