Jan 28, 2010

Death of a Car

My dad offered to let me drive his car around while I am here...a '72 Buick station wagon, complete with wood paneling on the side. As you can imagine, I just couldn't wait....the words "This is my ride!!" were bursting forth from my lips. But, hey, wheels are wheels and I took it on the road.

And then this!!

It had a good run though, happily playing amongst the younger generation on the highway and feeling quite sprightly as it maxed out at 75mph. I played music from the Carpenters to make it feel even happier (yes, I know their songs).

We were on our way home when its little heart gave out, just 5 short miles from home. The prognosis was not good with no chance for revival so, the good ole' Buick was laid to rest today.

RIP old man.

Jan 25, 2010

Afternoon at Briones Regional Park

One of my favorite parks in the East Bay is the Briones Regional Park. I've spent many hours on its hills alone and with friends, animal and human. This past weekend, I got to spend a few precious moments amongst the oaks and the wide open spaces.

It was the day between storms and perfect for a stroll in my old playground to break in a new pair of hiking shoes I bought.

I give rave reviews for comfort...the shoes didn't pinch, my arches didn't hurt and the waterproofing also amazingly repels mud as well.

I swear I dusted her back off before I got on. In future rides, I will not wear black fleece on a white horse. But boy, did I have fun.

We looked back over the hill behind us and saw this amazing cloud. 

Keepsake. She was kind enough to take a fly on her back.

This is the princesses mom, who has an itchy trigger finger.

That itchy finger took this awesome photo. I love, love, LOVE it. The light, the composition. Purty.

A labyrinth...to walk your way to tranquility or whatever.

On the way home.

Jan 23, 2010

Italian Music: Ti Vorrei Sollevare

Only a week in "sunny" California and I am really missing Italy and A. Never mind that it is frickin' freezin' there right now. Here's a couple photos he sent recently of a morning when it didn't rain...it just turned the trees into an electrified white.

Bare fruit trees at the side of the house and my azalea plant.It's supposed to have PINK blooms

Here in Cal, I've been holed up indoors thanks to the torrential downpour that lasted for days, took out our electricity and had us bundled up inside in layers. My consolation is listening to the music that pulls me nearer where my heart is...Italy and A who is there.

A popular song (Ti Vorrei Sollevare by Elisa) that I love came with me on my travels and I'll share it with you here. Maybe it's the video that makes me think of wild, jagged mountains, of winds that blow, not just as a caress, but as if to sweep away troubles and cares, and giving a sense of freedom.

Hope you like it, even if you may not understand the words.


Jan 20, 2010

Fisherman's Wharf in January 2010

It seems right that I would spend my first few days in San Francisco and with my good friends. 'Course the thunderstorms that waited for this very week to pound the California coast prevented me from really going out to see old places.

BUT, we managed a short walk down to Fisherman's Wharf...a little less crowded for the weather.

One of the unique sights in San Francisco are their cable cars. What is that in the window?

Marina view. And the chapel is a constant reminder of the danger and a source of comfort for those that risk their lives in the open sea. The chapel contains more than 200 names of the men and women who have lost their lives at sea.

I was looking off into the distance when Valerie asked me if I saw the pelicans. I then searched the skies for this large bird, but didn't see them. She noticed my head was facing in the wrong direction and pointed to the edge of the sidewalk. There were two of these watching us and ready to take flight. I liked this one for the light yellow head. How did I miss these huge birds perched so close to me?...I blame it on jet lag.


Jan 18, 2010

Leaving...On a Jet Plane....

Okay, so I've already left and am now on California soil, and I do know when I'll be back to Italy again....

After last year's hellish trip, I was prepared for the worst but I am pleased to say that this trip was vastly different...all flights left as scheduled and the barely filled domestic leg into SF actually arrived EARLY - a whole 45 minutes. I was able to sleep like a log.

What did I note from this trip?

Pre body-scanner security
Security was increased at Milan's Malpensa and officers with their machine guns were notably visible in the check-in area where flights were heading to the States. In addition to the regular security check point with the scanner and metal detector, there was an additional pat down just before entering the plane. Other than that, I didn't even have to open my checked in suitcase at my change over in New York.

Baggage claim regulations

Didn't know it but I, you, no-one is allowed to open their luggage in the baggage claim area. I was politely told to close it up right away. At least he called me "Miss".

Service at a price...

I didn't need carts for my luggage but I was curious about them at the US airports because:
  • in Italy:  insert your coin to release the lock and at the end of use, return to parking area, insert lock and get your change back.
  • in America: Pay for cart and at end of use leave it anywhere you like on airport grounds for some poor worker to scout out and collect. Naturally you pay well for this luxury, or laziness. $5.00 at JFK; $4.00 at SFO. Don't worry if you don't have US currency, the machines are equipped to take all credit cards.

Taxi vs. shuttle fare from SFO to Downtown San Francisco

The shuttle costs less than a taxi. About $44 in a taxi (plus tip) to North Beach area from the airport; $17 with the shuttle (Quake City Shuttle). I was lucky there were no other passengers on my shuttle, but sometimes there are a few stops along the way. Not a bad alternative though if you are on vacation and not in a hurry. Reservations can be made from the Departures lounge.

Jan 8, 2010

Milan Duomo

I've visited the Duomo several times so yesterday's trip was not really to see one of the largest Gothic Cathedrals and second largest Catholic cathedral in the world.

I took photos anyway before heading off to see what Milan shopping is like during this heavily discounted period. This is the time of year for big, big sales in several European cities. I don't know if my friend Mary knew this before our trip to France years ago, but I'd say we were lucky to be in Paris during this period. I ended up chucking some ugly sweaters (at her insistent prompting) so I'd have space for French curtains I bought. (Mary I still want to steal those curtains from that cottage where we stayed)

Anyway here are photos from the front face...

...of stories told in stone...

...or metal...

...statues with a burden...

...and then one statue that I hadn't noticed before. Looks familiar...but I don't know the story behind it. Anyone?


Jan 6, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award

Sandy from Traveling Suitcase sent me the Kreativ Blogger award and ended my 2009 on a wonderful note. Thank you for thinking of me Sandy!! Just from the name of her site, you can guess what Sandy writes about. Check it out and travel all over with her.

The instructions for this award are as follows:

1)  Thank the person who sent the award.
       a)  Copy the award to my blog
       b)  Link to their blog

2)  List seven things people don't know about me

3)  Nominate seven bloggers for the award
      a)  Link to those blogs
      b)  Leave a comment to let them know of their award

Seven bloggers I'd like to nominate are:

Seven things you may not know about me:

  • I prefer salty desserts rather than sweet (so what am I doing in a country that absorbs pastries and all sorts of sweet stuff at the end of every meal?)
  • I actually enjoy work that involves physical labor (which makes me very adaptable to an old way of life)
  • I have a weakness for shoes with high heels (before coming to Italy, I joked I'd have to see how I manage on Italian cobblestones)
  • Up until Italy, I did most things alone even backpacking and traveling (being solo doesn't mean letting life pass you by)
  • As a girl, I chose three pictures for my bedroom wall - a cowgirl, a ballerina, a girl listening to pop music (kids may be more in tune with themselves than we give credit; today I love horses but don't ride well, I have great admiration for all dancers but don't do it well myself as my folk were against dancing and lessons were out of the question, I love music)
  • Friendships don't come easy for me, but those I have will last a lifetime.
  • I prefer all methods of communication over talking on the phone.

Jan 5, 2010

Frequent Entrecard December Visitors

A Special thank you to my visitors especially the following who came by even when I was so frequently absent. Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to the new year.

Humor Blog

Health Body

My Poem

New York Traveler


Freaky Frugalite

Mrs. Mecomber's Scrapbook


Neal and Rochelles OE

My Second Trial

Just My Two Cents

Jan 1, 2010

A Southern Italian New Year's Eve

2009's New Year's Eve celebration took place at the nearby Partenone hotel in Riace and I went with preconceived notions about ringing out the old year. What comes to mind at a NYE party? Usually champagne, music, noise-makers, little pointy hats, dancing and lots of glitter, sparkles and everything festive.

Last night we arrived at the party and found everyone (except four people, counting me, out of perhaps 250) dressed in black. I mean ALL black, and in serious suits as in pant suits or jacket and skirt.
Because it was a dinner and celebration, we were told to arrive at 8:30pm. A complained it was too early so we didn't hurry and set foot on their premises close to 9:00pm. We waited another 10 minutes before we were even allowed in the dining room. 

The appetizers were set out on a large table and the darkly clad crowd descended upon the goodies like vultures drawn to a carcass. Those coming late, like myself, (late being about 5 minutes after the doors opened) found plates stripped of their contents and now littered with toothpicks, discarded paper and the odd delicacy rejected for one reason or another.

We all settled at our prospective tables waiting for the meal to begin. The DJ decided to pep things up a bit and requested we all stand to sing....the National Anthem. Yes, I want to start a party with my hand solemnly across my chest.

Mr. DJ played music from generations ago (I learned later); thigh slapping, hand clapping Napolitan tunes. When I looked around the room, I realized he'd made the right choice and thought perhaps we'd come to the wrong party.

One old fellow refused to stop singing his own songs at the top of his lungs and ignored the DJ entirely. He was a true source of entertainment. He at least sang Ole Sole Mio which I know.

We were supplied with our noise makers, hats and champagne and were brought to our feet a good five minutes before midnight by our cautious DJ. Obviously we were not going to miss this moment. (The old man was still bellowing out his songs, now with friends.)

At the stroke of midnight, everything went wild, kisses and good wishes were exchanged, a human train made its way around the room. Suddenly those women who could be my twice my age threw off their jackets, showing lots of skin, and hit the dance floor with their men. They were ready to boogie.

I was ready to enjoy some good dance music but Mr. DJ decided to put on the Hey Macarena and other songs like it and the men disappeared in a flash from the floor. He lost me too as the floor became one monotonous mass movement...the shepherd and his flock...and we were home before 1am.

(FYI, I am told the north celebrates the New Year with much more glamour and sparkle. The black clothing was very much a southern thing)