Friday, November 25, 2016

Happy Black Friday USA

I guess I missed the Thanksgiving post but I was busy!  My wife and I decided that we ought to do somthing for others this year.  Our town has a Community Dinner and we decided to volunteer.  I guess there are others who volunteer sooner  because we were assigned as drivers to take meals to the home-bound.  Actually it was great.  The people knew someone was coming around and were looking forward to their meals.  My three deliveries were to an older guy who wasn't moving around very well, a very old lady who was using a walker and a guy who was caring for another two people.  It was a great experience and I'm sure we will do it again.

Then we came home and started on our own Thanksgiving dinner.  Well, that worked really well even if it was after 15:00 when we ate.
Yes, pretty conventional but definitely good.  And my wife found a reciepe for a coffee-chocolate hazelnut pie that was really amazing.  The whole day was a 10.  And we can definitely recommend the 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau. 

Otherwise we are back in our groove.  It is 26F this a.m. (that's -3 to the rest of the world).  Brrr!  But it will warm up later and we will be able to take our walk.  We bought a couple extra things at the store so we don't have to go out; this Black Friday shit is just crazy!  Neither of us is much of a shopper so braving a crowd of people looking for bargains just doesn't work for us.  If I get all wild and crazy maybe I'll check out Amazon later.  How busy could it be?  LOL

Now that Italy is but a memory we are talking about Australia.  Now we just have to figure out what we want to see and how to manage it.  Of course NZ will be included.  Neither of us is all that hot on the island nations of the South Pacific so that will probably be it.  Ntext spring, fall for them, is the general target but we all know that shit happens!  Some day there will be photos but there is absolutely no guarantee!

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a good one!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Final thoughts

We've been home about a month and a half now and things are returning to whatever normal is.  Well, except for the election.  That was disappointing!  But that's another story.  I do have faith that this country can survive even The Donald.

Italy was really great.  It was horribly crowded but if that's my worst problem it's just another thing to 'get over'.  It occurred to me that I haven't posted any photos of our hotel rooms.  My wife is a great supporter of Trip Advisor because of that we would ordinarily find a hotel and make a reservation for the next day.  She mostly used the phone app but used the tablet on occasion.  This room in Siena is typical for us.
She ordinarily looked for free wifi and free parking.  That got us into the $120-$150 range room.  We did have smaller rooms a couple times but this is quite representative.  The parking usually kept us out of the city center which is both good and bad.  In Siena we drove to public parking so we could walk in the city.  In larger cities, we planned it so as to not have the car.

The bathroom is also quite typical:  sink, shower, toilet and bidet.  We had a couple showers that had a problem; most notably the one in Venice where the hot water would disappear for a few moments in the middle of the shower.  However Venice was it's own special place.

It was an old apartment and probably typical of Venice.  U.S. building codes definitely weren't in effect.  There was an inset in the hall floor that said 1863 F B; perhaps that is the year it was built.  The bed was a queen size but it worked and we enjoyed the apartment aspect of the place.  It was about 400 sq. ft. comprising living room, kitchen, bath and two bedrooms.  I posted a picture earlier of the 'street' which was certainly less that six feet wide.
Much of the furniture was old.  That's not bad just different.
The eat-in kitchen was certainly adequate and had a basic selection of pots, pans, etc.  The white cabinet on the upper right contains the instant-on water heater that also went instant-off during our showers.  We did make a traditional meal here once.  Otherwise it was used for breakfasts mostly.

For two weeks we rented a car drove about in the country and in smaller cities.  We had a Renault Captur.
Frankly we thought it was rather odd looking with it's two-tone look.  In this country I'd expect it to be a used police car but, no, it was nice and new.  We did see two or three other cars with the same paint scheme but I guess it's an acquired taste.  It was a six speed manual with a rather small, frugal engine.  We found it quite comfortable.  On the back roads we mostly used we would seldom exceed 90 kph.  Once we found the Italian version of Gas Buddy life got better.  Not just because we found cheaper gas but also we could find the station which was a problem once or twice. 

So that's the odds-n-ends of the Italy trip.  Since then life has slowed to it's usual pace.  We did go spend the night in Las Vegas a few days ago.  We stayed at one of the smaller strip hotels, Casino Royale, but I got a kick out of the view from our window.  
It seemed appropriate to be where we could see the Las Vegas version of the Rialto Bridge at the Venetian next door.  Thanks for stopping by.  Take care.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

End of the trip in Venice

When we left Lake Garda we went north and down through the mountains towards a city called Vicenza.  This was for practical reasons only.  We needed to do some laundry and we needed to be close to the Venice airport so we could return our rental car the next morning.  The city had all we needed.  The hotel we stayed at was close to the motorway so it was really a business person's hotel.  We did have a small balcony though so spent part of the afternoon out there.  The view is mostly of the apartment buildings nearby but you can see the mountains.  You can also see our little rental Renault (black with a white roof) in the parking lot.
We decided to take the car on one last mission and went up to a small town called Bassano di Grappa.  They claim to be where the grappa liquor was invented.  It was simply a small but busy city.  We had lunch at a little 'British Pub' by the side of the river.  They had pretty good food, English beer and a nice view of the river, the ancient covered bridge and the Alps.  Not a bad stop at all!
The next morning we were off to the Venice airport.  That was kind of an experience.  There are three parking garages all with the same first number; I don't remember exactly but they were like 5A, 5B and 5C.  It wasn't clear to us which one housed the rental car return so we ended up going up and down 5A and 5B before finding the return at the very top of 5C.  Well, we made it anyway! 

So now we got the bus into town, which leaves you at the railway station, and went looking for our hotel.  The hotel advertised itself as being close to the railway station and sure enough, it wasn't hard to find.  My wife had opted for what they called an 'apartment' so we were eager to find out what we'd rented.  The folks at the hotel were very nice giving us a cool drink while they hunted up someone who could take us to our new digs.  This little gal grabbed my wife's bag and off we went.  I was expecting the 'apartment' to be two or three buildings away.  Well, it was more like half a mile!  We actually measured it using my wife's pedometer!  We went along across a couple canals across a couple small piazzas and finally down this narrow passageway.
In the end it was fine but it sure wasn't where we had assumed it would be!  It was a 2 bedroom apartment with a small eat-in kitchen, living room and bath.  The bath was sketchy but it was kind of fun living there.  And, what did we do in Venice?  We walked! 

My wife and I both love boating and have owned several.  I always assumed that we'd use boats to get around Venice but we never got on board a single one.  There are plenty of boats though.  Work boats are used to carry goods all around town.

Most tourists will be using the vapparetto which is basically a boating bus or a boating taxi.  In this photo you see both.  This vaparetto isn't very crowded but most of the ones we saw were packed!  The water taxi's looked pretty cool.
Even the police use boats.  These two cops seemed to be having a fairly nice ride.

However, as I said we walked everywhere.  Did I mention that Venice is a car-free zone?  Not a car in sight when you are talking about the interior of the city.  It's just not possible.  There isn't anywhere to drive them much less park!  Delivery of things is via boat until you have to carry whatever on the 'street'.  Then you use a specialized wheel barrow.  The front forks extend a couple feet and have little steel wheels.  You then tip the barrow back so the wheels are on the next step then slide forwards until the main wheels have support then repeat until you are on top of the bridge.  Going down is just going slowly!  Those guys earn their pay for sure.

Of course everyone wants to visit St. Mark's Basilica on the Piazza San Marco.  We wandered on over there in quite a round-about manner but here's what we found.
Talk about people!  My wife and I aren't ones for crowds and this huge Piazza was filled to the brim.  As we walked along we were just weaving between tour groups each with their guide.  Some of the guides had little radios that transmitted to their group only but lots of them just yelled.  Then we saw the lines for the Basilica and the Doge's Palace.  Suddenly finding our way OUT of the Piazza sounded like a great idea.  I did take a photo of San Giorgio Maggiore church across the water.
So what we did for the remainder of our three days in Venice was to just love the city and avoid all the tourist highlights.  If we ever decide we absolutely MUST see St. Mark's, we'll go in February or sometime.  We did cross the famous Rialto Bridge.  The interior walkway was being redone and was kind of a mess but the outside is still very beautiful.  It is also very crowded both inside and out!
On the Grand Canal is where the grandest homes were built.  They are still pretty grand.  This was across from a restaraunt where we had lunch.
That lunch was kind of a special one just because the place was on the canal.  When I say special, I mean expensive.  But it wasn't too bad and every once in a while it's good to try something new. 

So that wound up our trip to Italy.  My wife's pedometer got a good workout and we saw more churches than I would have though possible.  We flew from Venice to London and London back to Las Vegas.  Where ever we have lived coming home always feels good.  Coming home to Las Vegas was no exception.  It's good to be back.  I'm sorry I've been so tardy about posting these.  I think I'm getting slower with every trip.  Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Lake Garda and the town of Malcesine

The three great mountain lakes in Northern Italy are Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and Lake Garda going from west to east.  We decided to visit Lake Garda simply because it was on our way to Venice.  It turned out to be a very interesting choice.  The lake is quite long and narrow and the town of Malcesine is about half way up on the eastern shore.

Our hotel was about 2 km from the town center but there was a lovely walkway along the lake shore that you could take to the center.  That was great.  You will note that the town is long and thin because the mountain is right there.  There is a gondola ride that goes up it and every afternoon we saw para-gliders.

Looking across the lake you can see the buildings from the little towns on the other side.

The town center itself was BUSY!  We had lunch there but didn't want to stay.  The thing we didn't realize before we came here was that many of the tourists visiting were from Germany or Austria.  I think there were three German networks and two Austrian on the television feed; we had BBC World News.  When we were downtown every other car had German license plates.  It was kind of different.  One of the other reasons the town center was so crowded is because there are ferries carrying people up and down the lake.  The tourists are let off in the center of town, they wander around a bit then go back to the town where they are staying.  

Our hotel was quiet, perhaps because we were on the back side and we had a balcony!  You can see also how the mountain raises up with little shore line for building.

Given that we had a balcony and given that there was a little grocery store right across the street we couldn't help but have a picnic dinner out on the balcony.  Tough life but someone has to do it!

There was one thing I'd never seen before in the little store across the street.  Taps where the customer could get a plastic container and help themselves to wine.  Not bad!
My kind of grocery store!  And it was only 1.80 euro a liter.  Somehow I don't think Safeway is going to pick up on this marketing ploy. 

We are almost back to Venice.  Another stop in the town of Vicenza then off to Venice.  Thanks for coming along.  Take care.

Poking along in Italy

After leaving the cities of Florence and Siena we wanted to spend a little time by the ocean.  So we worked our way up from Pisa towards Genoa.  In the end we turned back inland prior to reaching Genoa but it was fun none the less.

Going to the beach can be quite the production.  Here we walked out on a pier to look back at the beach.  It is late in the season and during the week so there isn't a lot going on!  This is in a little town called Forte dei Marmi.  It has mountains directly behind it so is protected from bad weather.  Unfortunately it was rather cloudy when we visited so the mountains were hiding.

Then we went up to the town of Chiavari.  Again the beach was remarkably uncrowded.  One day we drove up to Ste. Margherita Ligure for lunch and a little walk.  It was a lovely little town built around it's harbor.
Finally we needed to start making our way towards Venice but first....  I have been a sports car fan since my 1959 TR3 so a visit to Italy obviously called for a stop in Maranello at the Ferarri Museum.

They did have a few red cars on display!  I must admit that I was disappointed by the museum.  First it is quite small and secondly there were virtually no new model production cars.  The newest cars were 8 or 10 years old.  Granted it is a museum but I know they sell the darned things.  They also had a number of race cars including F1, road racing and some lesser known formulas but again they were all pretty old.

On the way over to Maranello we kept to the back roads avoiding the motorways as much as possible.  We wanted to see Italy and you see a lot more at 60 kph than at 120 kph.  The road were generally excellent.  Well paved, well marked and with guardrails where ever one might be needed.  There were also roundabouts; hundreds of roundabouts!  If one needs practice using roundabouts, Italy is the place to go.  There were a few villages where the houses were too close together for two way traffic but they were generally handled well also.  This is a typical bit of road.

There was this one road however that had switchbacks where you are going north, you turn the corner and you are going south.  It had 15 of them, each one with a sign!  I suppose it was for bicyclists.  There was also this signl
15% Downgrade!  I think the most I've seen before is 10%.  I'm happy to say the car's brakes worked really well! 

We did get to see lots of little towns off in the distance then we would gradually get to them.  It was fun!

So that was our trip through Central Italy.  Next we are headed for the north and west.  Thanks for stopping by!