Orvieto- Day 1

I don’t know whether it was yesterday’s back to back yoga sessions or the glasses of red wine, maybe both, but all of the normal air travel irritants fazed me not one bit. I would just “breathe into it, take another sip” and contemplate how mellow I was feeling as I floated across the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of this traveling thing.

It took us a while to reach our hotel today and a bit longer to get into our rooms. I was definitely “runnin’ on empty” by the time I collapsed onto my bed for a one hour nap.

My room is lovely, on the first floor, which, by the way, us Yankees would consider the 2nd floor. It’s in an old building with all of the conveniences: air conditioning, little refrigerator, or as I like to think of it “wine cooler”, a bidet, located within spitting distance of the cathedral (the hotel, not the bidet–although technically, i suppose it is both). Not that I would ever spit. But if I did, I could probably score a bull’s eye.

W

Okay. It is official. My connection with the Internet is a lot like my high school dating experiences–on, again, off again. So, I will quickly get some photos up before the Internet breaks up with me.

The Duomo


No, that was not the interior of the Duomo. You can’t take pictures inside. Well, you aren’t supposed to, but i noticed some tourists boldly ignoring the rules. Didn’t they see that fresco of Jesus passing judgement? Didn’t they see what happens to the rule breakers? I did. And let me tell you, I wasn’t taking any chances.

The second photo is actually the staircase in one of Orvieto’s little shops. If I had 120 euros that I didn’t know what do do with, I would definitely have bought one of their Miss Piggy tee shirts. I may return, just to take a photo of one of those suckers–they are quite unique! Something to anticipate in future posts.

I wandered around town by myself, then later with Sally, while we waited for our fellow companions to awaken and for the restaurants to start serving dinner. 7:30 is the earliest, and is an accommodation to those of us from across the pond. Italians dine later.

This is such a lovely little town, full of interesting alleys, with shops, restaurants, wine stores, museums. Sally and I ducked into a wine store and had our own private tasting. We determined that white was the way to go, after tasting three reds, en chose our favorite from among four whites. Time to weave our way back to join the others for a fantastic dinner and a good night’s sleep.

 

 

Versatile Blogger Award

Being still in the learning phase of blogging, I was surprised and grateful to get an email from my newly acquired blogging buddy Marion, informing me that she had nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award.  At the time, I was getting ready for my cross-country road trip, so was way behind on my electronic media: the blogs I follow, Facebook etc.  I was honored, delighted, pleased, flattered–but clueless, in that I thought there was another step after nomination.  What, was I confusing this with the academy awards, thinking there was an election process?  Hey, I already admitted to being clueless.

I have since had the time to recover from the last trip, catch up, and read Marion’s  nominating post.  Thank you, sweet Marion, for the kind words.  Although a little late, I now know what I am supposed to do.

1. Add the picture of the award to this post .

2. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.  (See above–click on the blue “Marion”)
3. Share 7 things about yourself.

  • I love, love, love traveling–going to new places, learning about the culture, the geography, the history, the people, the food,  the wine (oh yes, the wine…)
  • I have no sense of direction, which makes traveling with me even more of an adventure, especially when I am driving–or navigating–either is sometimes harrowing.  Probability would suggest that, when presented with a left and a right, 50% of the time, I’d choose the right option.  Probability theory, in my case, would be dead wrong.
  • the best thing I have ever done in my life is give birth to my son.  He continues to delight us on a regular basis.  (Considering he didn’t sleep through the night till he was 18 months old, he damn well should!  Kid, you still owe us.   )
  • Even after 36 years, I still think my husband is the most interesting man I know.  (Cute too, and very patient, at least most of the time.  Work on that, will ya, cute boy? )
  • If my sisters (including mi hermana preferida) and my cousins weren’t related to me, I’d choose them as friends.  They are all very different, and all very wonderful,  in unique and special ways.  Marion is correct.  Initially my blog was created so that my family could be a part of my travels. I didn’t think any one else would be interested, so I’m delighted that others are following and commenting.
  • I’m passionate about reading–and am convinced the greatest gift you can give any child is instilling in them a love for books.  I’ll admit, however, that now that I’ve become a member of the blog-o-sphere, I’m spending more time reading blogs, which has somewhat reduced my book time.
  • I have a very casual relationship with calendars.  Now that I’m retired and no longer have Microsoft office reminding me of the date and time, I’ve gotten even less in tune with the days of the week.  (These days, it always feels like Saturday!)

4. Pass the award along to your 15 favorite bloggers.  

One of the nice things about this step is I was able to discover several bloggers from Marion’s list that I am now enjoying (Senile Denial, sharansblog.) I won’t repeat her list, but will share other bloggers that I find interesting, inspiring, fun.

Photography

I love looking at beautiful photos.  I have accepted the fact that I will never be as good as any of the following photographers, but even if I can pick up one tenth of their techniques and skill, I will greatly improve my picture-taking abilities.

Mazzarella Photo  Chris takes awe-inspiring photos of wildlife.  His narrative about the various shots is always interesting.

Jeffrey’s most recent photos of eagles on his Photo Nature Blog are truly incredible.  How did he manage to get those shots?

David, a fellow retiree, can make the ordinary look special.

I don’t know anything about this young blogger, other than I really like her compositions.

Travel

I hope to get to Asia some day.  in the meantime, I can visit and dream by clicking on  Ken Pham’s blog.

Retirement

As Marion indicated,there are loads of blogs on retirement that are actually financial advisor sites, but finding blogs about retiree life is a bit harder.  Here are two (in addition to Marion’s list) that I discovered.

Bob is a prolific blogger, plus his site is a great source for other retirement bloggers.  It was through his site that I found Barb‘s blog.  I love her positive attitude, insights and creativity.

Inspiration

I “met” Michelle through Global Volunteers.  She had served on St. Lucia’s “Team One” and was kind enough to spend time on the phone with me prior to my joining “Team Two”.  She will be returning to St. Lucia in November (would that be Team Five?), so I can look forward to joining her vicariously via her blog “A Well Lived Day”.

In 2008, I discovered  the wonderful book “Your Money or Your Life by Joe Domingues and Vicki Robin.  It changed the way I thought about money, financial security and retirement.  Definitely a book worth reading, especially during these challenging economic times.   Vicki is now blogging about sustainability, farming, food, Brazil, community issues.

Although Eva could fit under the photography heading, I’m putting her under “inspiring” for her work with Alzheimer’s patients.  I particularly love the photos of her son.

Young Women in a Category All Their Own

Elena’s photos are gorgeous (both the ones she takes and the photos taken of her), her adventures are exciting and her writing is beautiful.  I love her spirit of adventure!

Crazy train to Tinky Town is another one that is hard to categorize.  It is funny, has great photos, is a travel blog–yet another young woman with a wonderful spirit of adventure!
5. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

I assume the way that is done is to comment on their blog, so off I go to finish the job.

“There’s no place like home” Dorothy Gale

Okay, so you may have figured out that I am moving faster than my blog.  In fact, I arrived home on Wednesday, June 6th, at midnight.  While on the road, I was having internet issue, it is true.  What is also true is that I was having so bloody much fun, I didn’t have a lot of time or energy to mess with my iPad.  Blogging on the road just isn’t easy–so I must say that I’m totally impressed by my fellow bloggers that do it so well.  (Marion, you know who I’m talking about.)

Guess who got a window seat for the ride home?  Of course, I had a window seat on the way there too.  The view was spectacular for most of the Albuquerque to Denver flight.  I won’t bore you with the many other photos that I took of the terrain.  I found it fascinating, but realize that not everyone else would be as easily entertained as I am.

It kept getting better and better.  I scored an upgrade for the Denver to Newark segment.  Oh, I’m so going to miss my “elite” status when it goes away next year.  Without all those business trips to get me points, I’ll be back in steerage with the rest of the regular folks.  (On balance, I’d say it’s the better deal–free time vs elite status–no contest.)

First class also was a window seat, but I was quite busy during this segment.  Ruby slippers didn’t get me home, but some ruby colored liquid sure made that yellow brick road roll along more smoothly.  (Can you tell The Wizard of Oz is an all time favorite of mine?)  It was just as well, because we were heading into darkness.  Sure did look pretty with all the lights, though.  By the time I took this shot of Newark at night, the photo wasn’t the only thing that was fuzzy and out of focus!

For anyone wondering what happened between the road trip and the plane trip, the rest of the blog is for you.

Once we hit Albuquerque, our road trip was finished.  The one hour drive to Santa Fe was nothing after the 2,000+ miles we had logged during the prior 8 days.

Our last “on the road” breakfast at the Nativo Hotel was truly memorable because brought me back to my post college days.  Back then, I was working for Harper & Row, covering parts of the Midwest as a “college traveler”, which meant I spent my days talking to professors about textbooks.  In the late 70’s there weren’t many women in sales, especially in jobs requiring overnight travel, so I was frequently the only woman eating breakfast in a crowded hotel restaurant.  How weird that it was happening again, almost 35 years later, but with a few major differences.  Back then, the men were in the 30-50 age range, wearing business suits, and felt it was their right (and duty) to stare at any unaccompanied female, which, I can assure you, felt quite uncomfortable.  One of the greatest advantages to getting older is that no one ogles me any more, so that wasn’t the difference. It was the men’s ages and attire .  They looked like escapees from the nearest nursing home.  Except few nursing homes have a 30 to 1 male to female ratio. More the other way around.  This place was a little old lady’s dream…sort of.

Here’s the reality.  The night before I happened to catch a couple of the guys out of their civvies, in their full regalia, waist ropes, cowls and all.

Yup, we had managed to stumble into a hotel hosting a conference for Friars (or were they brothers?  I forget the correct terminology.)  It sure made for a quiet, peaceful stay!

But I digressed.  Back to the trip.  We couldn’t get into Greg’s apartment until 4PM, so we decided to make the most of our time in Albuquerque, by visiting the Botanical Garden and Aquarium.

I just couldn’t get enough of those blooming cacti.  (I just knew two years of Latin would be put to use one of these days ).

I wish the bee had been more cooperative, but she refused to pose for me.  Just when I thought she was perfectly framed, she moved faster than my shutter finger.  Oh well.  I was surprised to find so many water lilies in a desert botanical garden.

If I could only choose one, which shot would be preferable-the close up or wider angle?  I’m trying to be more discriminating in my shots, so would appreciate opinions — and I know there are lots of great photographers among my fellow bloggers.  I’ve seen the magic you create.  Plus I never tried out poll daddy before and am curious to see how it works.

The garden was not without wildlife. These fish were almost domesticated, gathering at the pond’s edge when they sensed a human was nearby.  They came close to leaping out of the water to get food, and their size attested to their success.

More wildlife.  Mom was close by, but I cropped her out.

As the late, great Harry Truman once said “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the garden and visit the aquarium”, or something to that effect.  So we did.

I wasn’t sure my Panasonic Lumix would be able to capture the jellyfish, given the low light, but hey, with digital, it doesn’t cost anything to give it a try.  So I did.

I loved the colors of this creature.

It ain’t snorkeling, but it almost as thrilling,  wandering among the tanks of tropical fish.

For the next couple of days, Greg and I hung out together, enjoying Santa Fe and his really cool apartment until I met up with my dear friend, Shirley.   How lucky that Greg got an internship in New Mexico, close to one of my favorite people to visit.  Not only did I  experience 10 memorable days with my son, but I also got a mini vacation with a great pal.  Her husband was out-of-town, so staying at her gorgeous home was like having a girl’s weekend at a five-star resort, with a very talented and creative activity director.  Two of the visit’s highlights were the  Petroglyph National Monument and Ojo Caliente Spa.

The park ranger suggested that we experience the more difficult trail.  She said “you girls will have no problem making that climb.”  I don’t know what tickled us more–her confidence in our athletic abilities (that assessment proved to be accurate), or calling us “girls”  (which clearly was not).

There are hundreds of these in the hills surrounding Albuquerque.  Here are a couple that I particularly liked.

The view alone was worth the climb.

Can you stand another poll?  What do you think–which shot is better?

“Us girl’s”, successfully recruited a fellow hiker to take our photo.  I think he was more skilled with a camera than my Oklahoma friend, Charles, don’t you?

Next day was the Ojo Caliente Spa. Who knew that sitting in a pool of arsenic was supposed to be good for your digestion?  If that particular pool doesn’t grab you, not to worry.  You can also go to the iron pool, the mud bath pool, the soda pool or a few others that we didn’t sample.

The surroundings were lovely, the treatments were heavenly.  I could quite easily become addicted to the spa life.  Only my lack of funds (plus other priorities) keeps me from a life of facials, mud baths and massages.  But it sure was a great finale for an amazing trip.

A couple more photos of New Mexico, taken from a moving car.  Why don’t all highways look like this?  Let’s hear it for the artists that make all our lives more beautiful!

Only 11 days till the next adventure–bike trip in Italy. Thanks for visiting, and please come along for the ride through Tuscany!

Family ties, reinforced with duct tape

What better way to celebrate the completion of five months of retirement than with a Cinco de Mayo (5/5) celebration with five of your favorite relatives.  And since we are on a roll with fives–after we all got together, it took my sisters, cousins and me approximately five minutes to get into the party mode.   For one weekend, we were carefree–no husbands, kids, grandchildren, parents to take care of, no work or responsibilities.  To paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, we were girls that “just want to have fu-un”.

Although my sisters and I have always been close, we cousins recently rediscovered how much we enjoy each others company.   I’m sure Grammy was looking down at her six granddaughters, watching us raise our glasses of Bloody Marys in a toast to her, the original “Proud Mary”, and wishing she was there with her flask of blackberry brandy.

The Wyndham Resort in Hancock, Ma. was the perfect setting for our weekend together.  It had it all–beautiful scenery, two bathrooms, not too many other guests, and just the right level of activities.   We managed to take full advantage of everything the resort had to offer:  Pool, sauna, hot tub, karaoke, exercise room.

But the activity that was the most fun, or at least produced the most laughs, was the duct tape wallet caper.

Even after seeing the craft room, and the bemused looks on the faces of the two (age appropriate) little boys in the class, we were NOT dissuaded.

The instructor, on the other hand, felt we should move to a larger table (and to larger chairs).  Was it because my sister laughed hysterically at the sight of me sitting with my knees touching my ears or was the instructor worried that SHE might have to  extract me from that seat?

Once we stopped laughing, we became intensely focused on the task at hand.  Who knew duct tape came in so many varieties?  This was clearly an educational weekend.

We were rightfully proud of our finished products!  What’s next?  Duct tape evening gowns? Duct tape sombreros?? Duct tape canoes???  The possibilities are endless.  Whether the folks back home will be equally impressed is questionable…

Not content to depend solely on the resort for activities, Lissy and Lindy created their own.  I don’t think the Wyndham expected pinatas to be suspended from their balcony.  Fortunately, we had that area all to ourselves.

You can see from the blur, that Lindy gave the pinata a mighty bash, but it STILL held together.  Doesn’t she remind you of Luke Skywalker wielding the light sword (or whatever it was called)?

But wait.  Look at Sue and Sandy in the photo below.  Could there have been some cheating going on?  I count two hands on that pinata stick…and one hand belongs to someone who is NOT wearing a blindfold!

“The Sombrero Sisters”, as we were affectionately dubbed by Paul, the Karaoke master, had worked up a powerful hunger with all that activity, so off we went to the local restaurant.   Looks like the seating plan was  blondes (Lindy, Kristy and Sue) on the left, brunettes (Lissy, me and Sandy) on the right.

Time for me to bid my sisters a fond farewell, as the Massachusetts contingent heads home on Sunday morning.  (How did Lindy manage to escape this photo-op?)

The Jersey girls were determined to make the most of what was left of the day, starting with a visit to a local winery, which was also a cider mill and an apple farm.

What goes with wine?  Why ice cream, of course.  Sundaes, to be exact, from Gardiner’s Ice Cream stand, coffee shop, miniature golf course and driving range.   Places in the Hancock area appear to be multifunctional. 

They didn’t have the kind of nuts that Lis wanted so our new friend made up for it with extra toppings.  Yikes.

The Hancock area is truly beautiful, and we were fortunate enough to have wonderful weather.  On a day like that, even dandelions looked amazing!

Kristy, the “baby” of the group, and mother of three, returned home, leaving me and Lis to experience one last activity–a property walk up the ski slopes with Paul, the karaoke master and snow board instructor.   Like the businesses, the people are also multifunctional up here.

What’s left to say, except:

What about you?  What do you do to reconnect with family and your childhood?

Travel, the gift that keeps on giving

I love traveling.  I love phase one: thinking about places to visit, planning the trip, learning the history and culture, and deluding myself into thinking that I might actually learn a little of the language.

I love phase two: experiencing the actual adventure, which is frequently different from what I had envisioned…not better, not worse, just different.

And I love phase three:  creating the photo book or slide show (or both) of the trip, so that I can relive the experiences over and over, whenever I want. If I’m lucky, in addition to the memories, I end the trip with some new friends

The VBT (Vermont Bike trip) was particularly noteworthy because our entire group was so  very compatible.  And I have been VERY lucky, because that trip was the beginning of several new friendships.

Recently Jim alerted us that Damjan, one of our guides, was in New York City.  Jim’s daughter not only showed Damjan around, but also lent him a bike.  As luck would have it, Diane was up from Boston visiting her daughter, so I made the trip from New Jersey and we all gathered for drinks at the Waldorf=Astoria (No, that is not a typo.  That’s the official name.  Don’t ask me why.)

Here we are, standing in front of the very famous clock, in the lobby.  Notice the white shawl I am carrying.  Before the night was over, I managed to spill a full glass of red wine on it, but that’s another story for another time.

The plaque on the base (quoted below) provides almost everything you need to know about the clock:

“The Waldorf Astoria Clock was executed by the Goldsmith Company of London for exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was purchased by the Waldorf Astoria and was the focal point outside the Rose Room of the original hotel at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. This clock weighs approximately two tons and stands nine feet tall. Around the eight sides of the base are likenesses of Cleveland, Harrison, Washington, Grant, Lincoln, Franklin, Jackson and Queen Victoria. Under these are bronze plaques depicting various sports and scenes. Westminster chimes ring on the quarter hour.”

It doesn’t mention what WE observed to be the most important feature.  But don’t worry, we captured it.

Tribute to bikers

After drinks,  we went to Tutuma social club, a restaurant with Peruvian-African jazz.  In keeping with our VBT tradition, I photographed the food, which every bit as good as it looked.

We ended the night with fond farewells to Damjan, who was wrapping up his whirlwind tour of the USA and heading to Paris for a VBT meeting with the other tour guides.

Our next VBT trip will be to Italy, next June.  So far, Diane, Karen, Sally and I have all signed up and Phase One for that trip is currently under way.