Monday, July 5, 2010

First Trip to Italy -- Rome

In the summer of 2004 I went from Asuncion, Paraguay to London, England. It was so amazing -- a dream come true really. My sister Deej and I planned our first trip to Europe. That is what these pictures represent. The first day we went to the Forum and Colosseum. We had one of Rick Steves walking tours torn from a friends book and used it to walk around the Forum. I bought one of a book from one of the ubiquitous vendors around there that had photos of the ruins, with a sheet of plastic that went over it to show you what it would've looked like before its destruction. It was amazing. Between the two books we got a real idea of how the Forum was during its heyday. We got a gelato and just wandered around -- my imagination was put on fire.

The we went over to the Colosseum. Wow! It's huge, the Steves book explained to us what it was used for, it's dimensions and all that stuff. The hot guys dressed as legionnaires were out and about try to make a few lira (this was before the Euro), were out in force. Sorry no pictures of that -- we're way to cheap. We wandered all about the Colosseum, I think you can wander about a bit more then, than now. It was certainly more regulated when I visited in 2003. I do remember having to cross the street from the subway stop and it was so busy and intimidating.

One thing Rome has, which amazed us really was the wealth of statuary, bas reliefs, fountains and decorative arts -- everywhere!

Here is Deej tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure her return to Rome and the fountain. It was a long-standing tradition in Rome to build a beautiful fountain at the end of an acquaduct. You see them everywhere and they are generally very beautiful, whether large or small.

This is the Piazza del Popolo. It is one of the largest squares in Rome. We bought a drink from a vendor and sat at the Egyptian obelisk and looked at that. Twin churches, they are the Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the Santa Maria en Montesanto.

Here is the Pantheon. It was a beautiful day! The Pantheon was originally built as a temple to the gods of ancient Rome. I thought it was just one god, but according to Wikipedia -- the aribter of all things, it was built to honor all the gods. I know that at some point it was either taken down or destroyed and was rebuilt. With the advent of Christianity it was made into a church. I remember that there is a opening in the ceiling and that the floor is very gently inverted so that the water which comes in when it rains, drains away. The decoration inside is quite pretty. Apparently over the years, the marble which decorated the outside was taken away and reused in other places. The same was done with furnishing and decorations in the interior too.

The final picture is of the people in a cafe drinking coffee, looking at their guidebooks and generally relaxing. Nowadays, they'd be talking on their mobile phones or texting!
At the end of this day we went back to our pensione and rested before dinner. When we got hungry, I got off the bed to put my shoes on and my feet hurt so bad from walking around Rome that I couldn't bear the idea of walking. Deej was really nice and went to pick up some pizza for us to eat in the room. Thank you again!!
When I was in London I had read about a new mystery writer, Lindsay Davis and picked up her first two books, Silver Pigs and Shadows in Bronze. They were about the informer "private detective," Marcus Didius Falco and took place in ancient Rome. I just couldn't get into them though so I brought them to Italy, hoping I would be able to make them last a while. Well, that certainly didn't happen. I was so intrigued by what I had experienced at the Forum and Colosseum (which is where the books take place), that I just sped through them. The guidebook I had listed English language books stores and second-hand bookstores. We looked at these stores across Italy so I could feed my addiction and read more about Falco, his spouse and assistant Helena Justina, and their adventures. I'm still reading them to this day!
Over the next couple days we saw more of Italy, including the Vatican.

I had always thought the uniform of the Swiss Guard came from Michaelangelo, when he was creating the Sistine Chapel, but no. It is from the early 1900's.

This is the view from St. Peter's Basilica. Gosh, it's awfully high up, but what bothered me was the really tight, twisting staircase. It was almost not as bad going up, as going down.

Well, this was Rome, the next installment is Florence, the Cinque Terra and Venice.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Multimedia Player's or For the Love of iPOD

One of the things I like to do when I'm talking to people about music is for both of us to take out our iPod's and list the first five songs that come up on Shuffle.

My list for Today, Friday, May 29

1. Christmas Is by Johnny Mathis.
Well, slightly off season, but enjoyable.

2. All at Once by Whitney Houston.
Got her first album, before she became WHITNEY HOUSTON. She had a guest role on Silver Spoons, which was part of the publicity for her album.

3. I've Done Everything for You by Rick Springfield. I was so in love with him, still really enjoy his music.

4. Look What You Done For Me by Al Green. Was part of a greatest hits album. Not a bad song, but...

5. Only the Lonely by Roy Orbison. Love me some Roy Orbison, probably because my parents listened to it, so I heard it alot. But he was pretty awesome.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Paraguayan Artistry

One of the things few things to do in Paraguay on a weekend was to go shopping in the artesian towns, this picture was taken in Tobati. The man is Senor Zenon Paez, it's his shop. See this link to read more about his life and work. The lovely lady next between us is Vida Martinez, a very good friend, with whom I've sadly lost touch. Senor Paez was lovely and I bought a copy of the tall thin wood carving next to him. I love it and Senor Paez was such a nice man. Under the photo of Senor Paez's family is a photo of him gifting Pope John Paul II with a special present. He pointed it out every time we visited him -- it was one of his proudest moments, I think.

Here is a sample of his work. Mostly saints, but on the bottom row are masks and peasant and his ox cart, which seemed to be a big "thing" in Paraguay at the time.

Here is the wood he saved for his carvings. I can't recall the name of the wood, but it had a very special scent.
My first big art purchase. It's a lapacho tree (otherwise known as a jacaranda). They are everywhere in Paraguay. They line one of the main avenue's in Asuncion and when the petals fall off the tree into the tram rails you would look down the Avenue and see two lines of purple, it was very picturesque -- I wish I had taken one. I bought this painting in particular because it was very representative to me of the Paraguayan countryside.

I don't remember where I took this one, it was one of the little artesian towns. That is not water in the background though.

This church is on the other side of the street. Very pretty, yes?

Don't recall where this was, but thought it was the weirdest rock I have every seen.

This is the "la Residencia" statue commemorating Paraguayn independence.

Typical "modern" village street in Paraguay.

Even more typical with the cow in the road!

Me shaking hads with President Carter! He monitored the first "democratic" election in Paraguay. Corruption in this, like in everything there was rampant. But at the end of the day people voted for the Colorado Party because it was the party they knew. I think they would've won even without the corruption. Carter's Secret Service team were a lot of fun!
Me and my date, Larry, before my first Marine Ball.

Me and the Marine Security Guards at the ball. This was the best group I've ever had the opportunity to work with -- a lovely group of men.
I had a GREAT time at the event.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Iguazu Falls

There wasn't a whole lot to do in my first posting in Asuncion, Paraguay. The only place cheap and close was Iguazu Falls in the tri-border area of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. It was a relatively short drive and the hotel rates were very reasonable. We saw wildlife, strange billboards and lots and lots of waterfalls.
These are toucan's I'm sorry you can't see them very well. I need to get Photoshop so I can enlarge and stuff. I was very excited to see the toucans though.

These are coati's, they were everywhere and very aggressive as they were used to people feeding them, as you see these people doing.

This was at least my third visit to Iguazu Falls. I'm afraid I don't remember all their names. The girl on the left was our summer intern, then there is Stephanie Gonzalez, Karen Williams, another woman whose name I don't remember -- but I remember hearing she married a Marine guard. Then there I am -- note the long hair. Then there is Carlos -- he was one of our Marine's, a really nice, funny guy.

That's Stephanie and Carlos in front of me, we decided to see the falls from the bottom up close and person. It was wet. It was fun.

You go to see the Falls, expect to get WET. This wasn't the wettest part, but you could guarantee getting a bit damp.

This was one of the strange billboards. I couldn't resist. I was told they're advertising bull semen. Strange and weird, but amusing.

One of the many views of Iguazu Falls.

And Another.

And another. One of my favorite shots. I have a lot more in my scrapbook.
But I won't bore you, it's just more of the same.
More Paraguay Pictures Coming Soon! I love my new scanner.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sunsets at Cape Conran.




Bendigo and the Dandenong Ranges

The Imperial Dragon - Bendigo. It's one of the parade ones --
which we missed by a matter of hours.
Bendigo was very pretty. Lots of nice architecture.
Courtesy of all the gold mined in the area.

After the gold mine tour.
We were dirty and I had a headache from the helmut.

Deej drilling for gold -- didn't find any though.

Part of the mine.

The Puffing Billy Steam Train in the Dandenong Ranges.
But because of fire danger we had a regular engine.
Still cool though.

Another view of Puffing Billy.

A view from Puffing Billy.