For our stay in Paris, the Pompidou Centre stood out quite a bit. The modern art museum captivated Edie on first sight with it’s crazy exterior. With it’s colorful open look, the building is quite a sight. On display were fantastic works of art, some strange and some beautiful. This piece in particular grabbed my attention more than others.
This video was shown on a huge projection screen in a sealed off room. My mom processed the video to no conclusion but I thought of the video as instructions to teach you parrot to speak.
People repeatedly cautioned us that a couple of days in Venice would be more than sufficient. We spent five days in Venice and left wishing we had more.
To walk in Venice is truly enjoyable. What a contrast to the cities we had been visiting along our route through Italy. In Napoli, every step you take – whether crossing a street or walking along a sidewalk – carries with it a sense of possible doom. It could be a collision with a scooter, an overly aggressive taxi cab driver, or just a step into a freshly delivered pile of recycled dog food. There is no strolling in Napoli. In Rome, the scene is grand, and so are the crowds. In Florence it was the assault by the street vendors along with more scooters. In Lucca, beautiful narrow cobbled streets full of shops are shared with cars and no sidewalks. None of these distractions loom in Venice. There are no cars, no bicycles, and, best of all, NO SCOOTERS! You can walk out of your door without looking both ways. You can cross any intersection or bridge without fear of collision. You can stroll and enjoy the magnificent scenes that abound in every direction. It was really striking how much we noticed this lack of competition for our senses. There is a calm and sense of tranquility this creates that needs to be experienced to be understood. If you have seen the movie Big Fish , there is a scene where the main character comes across a town in the woods named Spreckels. The town has streets paved with grass, no exit route, and nobody wears shoes. The once famous poet that resides there has lost his entire muse upon his arrival to the town, since all of his desires had been satisfied beyond his own imagination. Venice could easily be the Spreckels of travel destinations in Italy.
During the day, we strolled through San Marcos Square, a scene almost too surreal to believe. Over a thousand years of history and architecture beautifully organized. There is a constant flight of gulls overhead as you stand in this immense Piazza lined with café after café, the Basilica and the Moors’ tower. There is a large opening to the original port that has been used for trade for hundreds of years. The water is now packed with Gondoliers rowing awestruck tourists towards the narrow canals. The fleets of Galleons and Napoleonic vessels are long gone, but their aura remains. Every view here is a painter’s inspiration and a romantic’s delight
A highlight of our whole trip thus far was the Venetian Opera we attended at La Fenice (The Phoenix). This is a magnificent theatre that has burned down and been rebuilt three times over its lifetime (hence the appropriate name), but still maintains its original 500 year old design and charisma. There were a total of 1,000 seats in a very compact and traditional design consisting of the floor gallery seating at stage level and surrounded by vertical seating in boxes of four people rising to the high ceiling. We splurged and sat in the Royal Box about mid-way up the wall directly centered to the stage. In front of the stage sat a full orchestra. The show was Mozart’s La Clemenza de Tito (the Clemency of Titus). The whole performance was magnificent. It was nearly three hours long and I was disappointed that it ended so soon. A day earlier, we had spent considerable time trying to convince Edie that she would enjoy an opera. Such persuasion will not be necessary again. She has already asked about other operas.
Our last day in Venice saw a high tide and lots of rain. The flood sirens rang through the city early in the morning. Portable elevated sidewalks that are stacked near low spots throughout the city were placed in their “usual” locations. As we walked to the train station, the shops adjacent the canal were flushing out the overflow of water from inside their stores. Furniture and wares were stacked systematically in a well-rehearsed dance with nature.
Leaving Venice on our way to Genoa, Susie and I both expressed our desire to return again in the near future. It is a city where time has stopped and reality moves aside to let your senses soak in this magnificent homage to man’s ability to create beauty and art.
Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD in Italy. This dangerous volcano buried two Roman towns. The names of the towns were Herculaneum and Pompeii. Herculaneum and Pompeii have some differences and some similarities. Here are a few. Both of the towns are coastal towns, and they were both buried by the same volcano. Additionally, they were in the Roman Empire.
Here are a few differences of the two towns. Pompeii is a much bigger city while little Herculaneum stands aside like a little mouse because it is so small. Pompeii had a population of 20,000 people, while Herculaneum had only 4,000.
When Vesuvius erupted, it covered Pompeii in hot ash, while Herculaneum was buried the next day by a pyroclastic flow. Archeologists have excavated both towns. What you can see now is all that they have uncovered. Today, anyone can walk through the streets as if the markets were still alive.
[If you get the chance, go see them!]
After Naples, we were a bit worried about Rome and whether or not it would be so gritty… well, it wasn’t. Rome was the grandest city we had ever been to. All of the buildings were wonderfully decorated and regal. The city makes you actually feel like you’re somewhere special. We stayed in a nice apartment with a kitchen so small, it felt like you were in a closet with a sink, a stove, and an oven. After we arrived to Rome in our first speed train (it was super cool, it goes 186 mph), we walked around the city to try and get our bearings. We ended up walking to the front of the ancient forum, and going into the capitoline hill monument. The building was flanked by two soldiers who stand at attention twenty four-seven guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier.
On our second day it rained, but that didn’t stop us from getting outside. We visited the Vatican City. We self-toured the papal collection in the Vatican Museum, which was full of beautiful statues and ancient Egyptian mummies. One passage way has a ceiling so lavish with gold, King Midas himself would have been as breath taken as we were. We tunneled around the beautiful courtyards and vast hallways until we finally came to what we were hoping to find; the Sistine Chapel. We entered the room full of tour groups and security officers. Some of the surrounding people were crying from the beauty. We looked up and mom couldn’t answer my history questions. She was speechless. Above us was a ceiling painted with what is considered the most beautiful frescos in all of history. Amazing paintings decorated the chapel, and in the center of the ceiling was The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo.
After our visit to the chapel, we exited the building and headed into the magnificent St. Peters Square and into St. Peters Basilica. Michelangelo’s cathedral is definitely one of the grandest and extravagant churches in the world. In the center of the basilica is an enormous bronze canopy supported by unique twisting pillars. Underneath the church is a crypt full of the tombs of past popes which is entered by a stairway underneath a statue of St. Peter.
On our third and final day in the Roman metropolis, we headed to the Colosseum. The Gladiator stadium was erected in 75 ad and took only eight years to build… but the history of Rome is much different from the history of the Catholic Church, hence the third day in Rome deserves its own post.
Here in Catalonia, the locals have an ongoing tradition a bit different from old Santa Claus. They have inherited Saint Nicholas, don’t get me wrong, but their original tradition is way weirder than a fat man climbing down your chimney in the middle of the night. Tío de Nadal, aka Caga Tío (sh**ing log) is a hilarious tradition that Catalonia celebrates. We were lucky enough to acquire one in our apartment. The story starts by buying a log and, as they do nowadays, decorating it. Throughout the week, you feed him citrus, such as mandarins and orange peels until he needs to relieve himself of all the fruits. On the 5th of January, we beat Tío with a stick while singing this traditional song: (translated from Catalán for your enjoyment)
hazelnuts and cottage cheese,
if you don’t poop well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
At the end of the song, we hit him once super hard and check under the blanket covering his butt, to find candy, dried fruit, and small presents, all supposedly all shat from his behind. We could not possibly make this stuff up! After our hilarious and delicious experience with Caga Tió’s poop, we realised that this is one tradition we would like to continue from now on in the US.