Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Second Last Day in Florence

Warning: cement nudity and meat carving photos ahead!

I headed off first thing this morning in search of flea markets, having been told of two locations by one of the tour guides the other day. Alas, there were none to be found. In the suggested location, there was a place that looked like it might be the spot but all the stalls were empty and closed up. Maybe they are only open on weekdays?

I did find a fruit and vegetable market nearby with a boar's head being sliced up in one booth (insert shudder here) but alas, nothing of the sort of vintage and antique type of goodies I was seeking.

Although this covered up stash of books and things looked like it might have been of interest, if the owner had been present.

So too this pretty store, also closed.

So I went off on a walkabout, checked out an area of the city that I hadn't been to yet, found more interesting architecture to photograph and even more churches. Also found a little paper shop tucked in a side street behind the Palazza Vecchio where I bought several papers for future journaling endeavours.

The PV itself was emptier than it had been all week, which meant I finally had a chance to get close to the Neptune fountain for a good look.

Neptune was quite a handsome fellow
Spent a few hours happily putting things in my journal after lunch (and tasting the chocolate version of the lemon donut I had enjoyed the first day in Florence, which was even better!),

Donut and Diet Coke - yum!
then headed out to see a photo exhibit about Marilyn Monroe at the Salvatore Ferragamo museum, which also featured, naturally, a number of pairs of shoes that Mr. Ferragamo had made for her. It was quite an interesting presentation, especially since I had watched the Michelle Williams movie, My Week With Marilyn, on the plane coming over here.

I like the way the architectural elements of the building
across the street reflects in this picture of Marilyn
in the window of Ferragamo.

Found out yesterday my debit card is now "not operational" (what?? I just used it a few days ago!) so I've been stretching out my last 50 euros and using my credit card instead. Which meant I had dinner at the Hard Rock again tonight, since I knew they would take Visa (lots of places here prefer cash). The cute waiter I had met the first night I was here came over to chat, gave me his number and suggested we meet later for coffee. Not going to happen but still flattering!

Looking forward to tomorrow, when I shall be meeting up with Taylor Shapiro, whom I met last year on the Portugal trip with Teesha and Tracy Moore. As luck would have it, our Italian itineraries coincide for one day here in Florence, so we're going to hang out, maybe visit the Pitti Palace where they have the 2nd best collection of art and statues in town, so they say in the guidebooks, then probably have dinner and like everyone else in town, watch the soccer final against Spain. Viva Italia!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Uffizi Friday

It's only 7:45 pm and yet I am sooo tired, I'm not sure I can stay awake much longer. Spent this afternoon at the Uffizi Gallery, looking at Renaissance paintings. Two hours on a guided tour and another hour on my own. Had debated about going, really glad I did and especially glad I booked the guided tour.  Elisabeth from Artviva Tours was very informative and entertaining and it made all the difference to my visit.

Now officially in brain overload. Going to find some flea markets tomorrow morning and then plan to spend the rest of the day in relaxing mode. But first, I have to take the garbage downstairs which will be a good excuse to get either a gelato or a Granita limone (a lemon slushie) before turning in...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday in Florence

Another hot and sunny day in Italy. Doesn't seem to ever rain here, even when the forecast says thunderstorms.

3 hour walking tour in the morning, learning the history, seeing the sights.  Ended inside the Duomo, where the mosaics on the marble floor are incredible.  The you look up, way up, to those frescoes painted on the ceiling of the dome.  Oh my.

Lunch at the apartment was pizza from a little place around the corner. Saving the leftovers for tomorrow.

 Played in my journal, hung my washed socks out on the line outside the kitchen window, wrote postcards until it was time to go out for more exploring. Sampled some strawberry gelato, walked up and down various streets, found a fancy paper store and a dusty old basement book store, both of which held a few treasures with my name on them.

Met 4 of my Fabriano friends for dinner at a cafeteria style place recommended by Rick Steves. Not fancy but very good food and very reasonable prices. Said our final goodbyes as they head to Rome tomorrow and then home to the States.

Thought I'd go home for any early night but was drawn instead to an exhibit of American painters who visited or lived in Florence, such as John Singer Sargent. Finished in time to sit outside the gallery and watch the end of the soccer game via the big screen in a nearby bar. Italy won, leading to much celebration amongst the locals and a date with Spain in the final on Sunday. And now, to bed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

From Fabriano to Firenze

Our workshop in Fabriano has officially ended and this morning we went our separate ways, 5 of us to Florence for more adventures and 2 to Rome to fly home to the U.S. We took the train this morning, a 3.5 hour journey that included switching trains in Foligno (not that we are only visiting places that start with an "F", it just seems that way).

Florence is beautiful but unbelievably crowded with tourists.  Yes, I'm one of them but it's still annoying, especially after the small town experience we had in Fabriano, for which I am most grateful to Diana, Maggie and Georgio for arranging, we had such a marvellous time.

 I have rented an apartment for my stay here, only 2 blocks from the Duomo, that rounded church dome that is the most famous of Florentine landmarks (not counting the naked statue of David). It is a lovely place, on the 3rd floor of a very old building. It faces an inner courtyard so it is very quiet except when the church bells chime the hour, which I love.
 I had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, which is half a block down the street. I know, I know, I'm in Italy, the food choices are numerous but after the stupendous meal we had last night at the Marchese del Grillo ristorante - hotel, everything else from now on will seem pale by comparison (more about that in a later post) so a big, juicy cheeseburger and some rock and roll seemed necessary to cleanse my palate. Then I strolled down to the river Arno to see the sunset on the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge. Tomorrow morning, a 3 hour walking tour to get an introduction to the city and its history.

Monday, June 25, 2012

We're Learning

If you can't log in to the hotel's internet system, try shutting down your device completely for a while.

When it's 35 degrees Celsius, it's cooler to walk on the shady side of the street.

If you can't get money out of the bank machine using your debit card, try using the machine at the post office.

We're having a wonderful time, the days are full of interesting and entertaining activities, everyone is getting along, it's all good.  Hard to believe we only have one day left in Fabriano, which would be sad if I didn't have several days in Florence\Firenze to look forward to!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Papermaking in Fabriano

That's what we did today, we made our own paper.  It took about 3 hours from start to finish and apparently it is too thin to use with watercolours but that's okay.  It was quite interesting but I definitely have a new appreciation for this paper.  I can now tell you with no question that it is worth paying extra for this quality paper, there is a lot involved in the process.

We're going to make journals with our paper on Friday. Not tomorrow because we're going to the beach. Don't ask me which coastal town on the eastern side of Italy on the Adriatic Sea because our itinerary is somewhat fluid at the moment.  Our Fabriano hosts want us to have the best possible experience so destinations and timetables are subject to change if someone comes up with a better idea of what we should be doing.  Luckily, none of us have a problem with that.

We are also in the middle of a weeklong medieval celebration in town.  Last night, while we sampled one of the local gelato establishments (I had a mix of cherry ans chocolate flavours, mmm), we watched the four local teams compete in rolling barrels, sack races, etc. Tonight, we had dinner at the green team's headquarters and watched strolling musicians playing drums, wind instruments such as flutes and bagpipes, and mandolins.  Many people were dressed in medieval costumes and there were also people demonstrating things like blacksmithing and leather tanning.  All very interesting and lots of photo ops that I regret I cannot share at this time.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Remembering Portugal

A year ago at this time, I was arriving in Portugal to meet this fabulous group of people, most of them for the first time.
Add caption
(minus Morag, who arrived later).  I'm so glad I went on that trip and got a chance to make some lifelong friends, some of whom I had the pleasure of spending time with as recently as this past January, some of whom I will be seeing in just a few short weeks (one in Florence, one in Toronto).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Arrivaderci Roma!

Autospeller on this tablet turned goodbye in Italian into "barricaded" - whaaat?

Had a great time in Rome, hopping on a train tomorrow morning to head to Fabriano. (or "Davidson" in tablet speak. It's like it has it's own language!)

Not sure if I will schlep (that word was no problem) my suitcases to the subway or take a cab.  The 20 minute walk to the train station is all uphill, so that is not an option.

Saw most of the major sights of the city today on the hop on, hop off bus, only I didn't hop, I rode the whole route. Then went back and did parts on foot.  Ended the afternoon with a visit to the Pantheon and the Pizzas Navona. No, not pizzas, Piazza! Geez, where do I turn that off?

522 photos to date, wish I could share some of them.  I could use the camera on the tablet, should have thought of that before I spread the contents of my suitcase all over this tiny apartment!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday = Subway

It was 31 degrees C by 10:30 this morning here in Rome. HOT and sunny. I got up early to go to the big flea market but puttered around and didn't get going until 8:30. Stefano, the cute guy who welcomed me yesterday at my rental apartment, recommended using the subway in this heat and boy, was that good advice!

Cool gaffiti on the subway cars.

Flea market was disappointing in that it was not antiques and vintage treasures but mostly new stuff - clothes, purses, shoes, motorcycle helmets, housewares. Crammed with people and shouting vendors, as was the subway station which worried me until I realized the hordes weren't also going to the flea market, they were going to the bus to go to the beach!
Following the hordes up off the subway platform
I walked and walked and towards the end, I found maybe a dozen stalls scattered amongst the rest that had the sort of stuff I was looking for. Picked up a few bits of Italian ephemera, receipts and postcards, that sort of thing but didn't spend more than 20 bucks.

Then I walked back towards the subway while looking for the Protestant cemetery.  Luckily, I had Googled my route before I left home so I found it pretty easily. Fabulous statues and headstones. Keats and Shelley are both buried there.

It's right next to a huge pyramid where there is also a sanctuary for stray cats.

Now I'm going to eat the other half of last night's dinner, pizza from a lovely little restaurant near the Trevi fountain, where I walked last night after showering and getting settled in my apartment. I threw in another coin.  Obviously the one I tossed in in 2004 worked because here I am again  in Rome.

Then I will need to decide what to do with my afternoon and my subway ticket, which is good until midnight.

Addendum:  I spent some time after lunch writing in my journal and just generally relaxing, enjoying the air-conditioning, listening to the birds and the sounds of the street outside my window.  When I ventured out into the heat of the late afternoon, I went first to visit the Spanish Steps, taking the subway there. 

Of course, I had to climb them, just to say I had.  Here's the view from the top:

The street above leads to the Borghese Gardens, a lovely treed park which was full of people enjoying the summer afternoon, which I discovered as I walked along.  There were amazing views of the city of Rome from this vantage point, including several domes and church spires, all the more enjoyable when the church bells all began to ring at once to mark the hour.

After enjoying time in the park, including sitting on a bench listening to a woman playing classical music on an portable electric organ, near to this statue upon which someone had bestowed a token of their affection:

I made my way down to the Piazza del Popolo ("People's Square")

for a look around and then travelled back to the apartment via subway (the coolness of the tunnel such a welcome relief after the heat of the late afternoon!).  I had dinner at a little bistro down the street, a delicious mushroom risotto, and then tucked myself into bed.  It had been a tiring day, between the jetlag and all that walking (about 12,500 steps worth), but quite a lovely one!

Friday, June 15, 2012

What Time Is It?!

Vacation time!

(Believe it or not, I got this pocket watch at the Christie outdoor antique market a few weeks ago.  You can't tell from the photo but the hands are irridescent blue in colour.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Travelling Art

Packing art supplies is always fun but it's a challenge to decide what stays and what goes.  Having a supply list from the teacher always helps (thanks, Diana!).  Will try to stick to that as much as possible.

Now I just have to figure out how to fit all this into my suitcase with the rest of my stuff!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pre-Trip Panic

Today was the day I felt the traditional pre-trip panic.  I'm running out of time! Am I forgetting anything? How am I going to fit everything into my suitcase??  One suitcase or two?  Where did I put that ___(fill in the blank, there have been several items that have mysteriously gone into hiding that I could swear I just saw the other day!)

At least one important issue got decided today:

Pink is the colour I'm going with for my toes.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some packing to do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New Vintage Finds

Imagine my delight last Saturday to discover that there were not one but two antique stores open on the main street of my home town that I had yet to explore.

One of them was a regular antique store with many interesting furniture items, especially if you are into teak pieces, which are very much in retro fashion these days.  They also had a very cool way of sorting their record albums that I might have to copy:

I only spent $3.30 there, bought an assortment of postage stamps but they had lots of lovely things to look at.

The second store was much junky and smelled a little funky.  I went in anyway and much to my surprise and extreme excitement, discovered a treasure trove of vintage stationery supplies.  For the princely sum of $6.20 (inclusive of provincial sales tax at a rate of 13%, don't you know), I got:

labels (at 10 cents a package, I snapped up as many as I could find):

various packages of lettering (vinyl, Letraset):

stencils - 3 full alphabets (including numbers) in 2 sizes and a not quite complete set in a 3rd size:

a box of message pads for only a quarter:

and an assortment of other office supply paper,

including this time book which featured a chart that horrified my sister - the starting wage was $2.55 an hour and went all the way up for $3.20 an hour!

Then I told her about my first big time summer job, back in 1979, where I was paid a whopping $3.65 an hour (I still have the acceptance letter to prove it) and thought that was great money.  We've come a long way, baby!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Another Turtle Sighting!

My sister and I were driving into town last night from the cottage (town being only a five minute drive away, very convenient) and came across this turtle in the middle of the road. Of course, we had to stop the car and get out to have a visit with him, make sure he got to the side of the road without getting run over.

Thanks to the information on the "Species Guides" section of the Toronto Zoo's website (home of the Ontario Turtle Tally, where I duly reported this sighting), I am able to state quite confidently that this is a Blanding's turtle. You can see his size from this photo of him and my sister's foot. I would say he was about a quarter of the size of the snapping turtle I saw a few weeks ago.

I thought he was rather a handsome fellow.  The yellow under his chin was particularly striking.

After he crawled into the brush on the side of the road, we drove in to town and had a pizza from the new pizza place (which was quite delicious) while sitting on a bench beside the river, enjoying a perfect early summer evening.

Some poor soul had left three pretty glass rings near where we ate. I left them there, in case they came back for them.  Or maybe a water sprite will find them...

On the drive back to the cottage, we came across the turtle again.  He was maybe half a kilometer from where we had left him an hour before, this time walking on the side of the road, and he went into the brush without us having to get out of the car (don't think he liked the sound of the car engine as we parked beside him).  Pretty sure it was the same turtle but can't be 100 percent positive.  What do you think?


Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Pretty Poppy

My boss brought this poppy in from her garden.  Took the photo with my cell phone. I like how it turned out, with just a peek of keyboard, the stems in the water and the light from the windows behind.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Rainbow

I was riding home on the subway tonight just as the sun was setting. I'd been downtown to get my hair cut and underground for most of the time, so hadn't realized it had rained out in the west end of the city until the train was riding through the suburbs above ground and I could see the drying asphalt.  I looked up and saw a rainbow, just as the train was pulling into the next station, cutting off my view of the outdoors.  They are so rare, it is always so magical to see one.

When I got to the final station, I took this photo of the clouds that had formed the backdrop for the rainbow, which was all but invisible in this shot (at least as far as my cell phone camera was concerned!). But as you can see, somewhere in the middle of that formation, it was still raining.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Never A Dull Moment

When you're still a kitten at heart, everything is a toy.  Even a roll of paper towels.

Who needs a roll of masking tape to chase when there are paper towels to be unrolled?

First I walk casually past:

Next thing you know, it's a whirlwind of excitement!

Like I told you, I'm not just a pretty face. But I am pretty darned cute.