Sunday, May 30, 2010

Three days back, now

When I woke up the last few mornings I was still hearing the sea, and the breeze whispering in from my window in my half-awake state was the ocean breeze.

I swear when I stand still I feel the gentle motion of the waves.

When Rob and I decided to do a Mediterranean Cruise, it was mainly because we couldn't settle on the destination.   The sampler would allow a taste: Barcelona, Cannes, Liverno, Civitevvechia, Naples, Venice, Dubrovnich, Corfu.

Before, this was a list of place names. Now it is a list of places.

The world is suddenly so much bigger, yet more accessible.

The weather was amazing.  Everywhere we stopped, guides mentioned this being the first rain-free day in weeks.  Only one night with a storm at sea, watching lightning strike at a distance. 

This is such stuff that dreams are made of;  I am happy to be dreaming, still.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mediterranean Moon - May

This was the view from my window last night.  Rob, Alex and I were hypnotized by the moonlight dazzling the Mediterranean sea.

I couldn't believe my good fortune as the moonbeams worked their alchemy,  turning the water to white gold and diamonds.  I watched transfixed for at least an hour. 

Earlier in the day I heard the song Moon River.  This is a song my mom used to sing me to sleep when I was a kid, and the song we danced together at my wedding party.  Amazing synchronicity.

Now I am at home again, amazed by how long and simultaneously short a twelve day vacation can be...

I'm looking forward to sorting through my photos and posting some memories.

For now, I am enjoying the lyrics and reliving some great moments.

Moon River, wider than a mile.
I'm crossing you in style
Some day
Oh dream maker
You heart breaker
Wherever you're going, I'm going your way
Two drifters.  Off to see the world.  There's such a lot of world to see......

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Opening


All the poppies look about to burst, with the peonies and tree peonies close behind.

I planted some natives today - a big red trillium and some baneberry.

There is a slight pang for me as I leave my spring garden behind on my travels,  but I'm so looking forward to discovering new plants in the Mediterranean.  I feel like a kid, with so many butterflies tickling me on the inside all I can do is giggle....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Corfu

Something tells me Corfu just might be one of my most favourite ports of call.  Lush scenery, beautiful gardens, a Byzantine monastary, and crystal-clear turquoise bays...

Sites I hope to see in Corfu:

Achilleion Palace
Empress Elizabeth "Sissy" of Austria built her homage to Achillies in 1891, and sited it with a spectacular view of the Ionian sea.  Then she went about filling the gardens with exotic plants and trees collected on her trips around the world.  Statuary of Achilles is everywhere, but her hardscaping also includes a 'Terrace of the Muses' decorated with statues of all Nine.
photo credit

Venetians controlled this area for many centuries and traces of their influence can be still be seen, along with the Norman, French, Roman and British.   Unfortunately, a large portion of the city was destroyed in World War II blitzes and reconstructed in the 60's and 70's, so only glimpses remain. 
photo credit

Paleokastritsa is known as the 'Capri of Greece', because of its crystaline water and rocky shores.  The Byzantine Monastery of the Virgin is nestled here somewhere,  their garden overlooking this amazing bay.

photo credit

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Pompeii

Pompeii is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year.  This year Rob,  Alex and I will be among them.  Good thing everyone doesn't descend on this UNESCO World Heritage Site all on the same day.

The eruption has captured peoples' imaginations since the site was rediscovered in 1594.  The painting to the right is by the English romantic artist Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797).

The Last Day in Pompeii is a BBC production that dramatizes the day, two millennia ago, that Mount Vesuvius erupted. Arguably the worst natural disaster of the ancient world,  the lava preserved bodies and remnants of culture that create a doorway into the ancient past. This docudrama imagines what that last day must have been like, and takes us into the lives of gladiators, citizens and slaves as they face the momentous decision to flee or stay. 5,000 people perished that day.  3 million people now live at the foot of Mount Vesuvius.

Plinian eruptions of this magnitude only happen once every 2,000 or so years.  The next eruption is overdue. 

Amazing footage of the volcono erupting lets you have a first-hand view of the disaster as you sit safely at your computer screen:

Interesting trivia

The eruption was documented by contemporary historians and is generally accepted as having started on 24 August 79, relying on one version of the text of Pliny's letter... However the archeological excavations of Pompeii suggest that the city was buried about two months later;[12] this is supported by another version of the letter[13] which gives the date of the eruption as November 23.[14] People buried in the ash appear to be wearing warmer clothing than the light summer clothes that would be expected in August. The fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops are typical of October, and conversely the summer fruit that would have been typical of August was already being sold in dried, or conserved form. Wine fermenting jars had been sealed over, and this would have happened around the end of October. The coins found in the purse of a woman buried in the ash include a commemorative coin that should have been minted at the end of September. So far there is no definitive theory as to why there should be such an apparent discrepancy Wikipedia

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Dubrovnik

Cavtat is becoming a destination for sailors, and I want to check it out.

I wonder how difficult it would be to navigate these waters, and the different languages you'd hear spoken on the radio.  Would English be one of them?  What about charts?  Maybe the best thing would be to just hire a skipper.  But boats get small real fast.  

While Alex and Rob are four-wheeling ATVs, I'll be soaking up the sun and checking out Old Town in the Croatian Riviera:  Onofrio's fountain, St. Blaise's Church and the Rector's Palace.

The prosperity of  Dubrovnik has relied on maritime trade.  That may change though, with wildly positive reviews from travelers about how affordable and beautiful a spot this is, tourism is fast becoming a profitable industry.  

Artifacts from the 8th century trace roots back to Greece, and there are strong ties to Byzantium and Venice (1205–1358) as well.
George Bernard Shaw was enchanted by this beautiful city, about which he said "those who seek paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik and see Dubrovnik", as well as, famously, describing it as "the pearl of the Adriatic". Dubrovnik truly is a stunning city with its amazing Old Town, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.

 Cavtat photo credit:

Rector's Palace, a Venetian-Gothic building:
photo credit

Onofrio's fountain, photo credit:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Venice

Two nights in Venice!

Murano glassworks + St. Mark's Square + San Giorgio Maggiore Basilica + maze of hidden, winding pathways + Grand Canal + water, water everywhere + gliding gondolas + ancient intrigue
= sensory overload

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Packing it all in

After reading, I was inspired to pack everything I need for the trip in a carry-on.  Which I've done!  Okay, except for a few extra pairs of shoes.

I actually crammed quite a bit in:
- 2 cocktail dresses
- 2 bathing suits
- 2 boleros
- 3 skirts
- 2 long-sleeved tops
- 4 sleeveless tops
- 1 pair of leggings
- 1 kimono
- 1 long-sleeved wrap
- 1 pashmina
- underwear (6 pair)
- socks (3 pair)
- bras  (2 pair)

I admit I am using the 'wrong' type of carry-on (One Bag says to steer clear of the wheely bags with handles because they waste so much space, but it's hard to find anything else these days).

One of the most versatile things I found for the trip was a strapless reversible dress that could also be worn as a long or short skirt.   Also picked up a black long-sleeved top that could be maneuvered into a short sleeve halter or strapless top.  So basically, 18+ 'outfits' from two garments.  The fabric is the same type used for bathing suits, so it doesn't wrinkle very easily.  Hopefully they aren't too hot... but then it probably isn't sweltering in the Mediterranean right now, anyway.  These pieces will be perfect for sailing season, too.

.... and of course, most essential, a nice big floppy-brimmed rattan hat!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Amalfi Coast

Rob and Alex have been racing along the Amalfi Coast and in Salerno for a couple years now, enjoying the rugged scenery and high cliffs.  Those video games are one way to learn about geography!

We plan on touring both land and sea, taking a motor launch and  checking out the towering cliffs along the shore. The destination would be Amalfi's main square and its century cathedral.  The site has ancient origins, with the cathedral being totally rebuilt in the 13th century and embellished throughout the centuries.   The doors were cast in Constantinople in 1066, and you can see Gothic arches and Moorish influences in the architecture as well:

Complicated, grand, delicate, and dominating, the 9th-century Amalfi cathedral has been remodeled over the years with Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, and Baroque elements, but retains a predominantly Arab-Norman style. Cross and crescent seem to be wed here: the campanile looks like a minaret wearing a Scheherazadian turban, the facade conjures up a striped burnoose, and its Paradise Cloister is an Arab-Sicilian spectacular. 

Amalfi is situated at the mouth of a deep gorge along the coast, and it's not hard to imagine how it built a reputation as a major shipping port in the Middle Ages.  But in 1343 a disastrous earthquake caused a large part of the city to slide right into the sea.  Prior to the earthquake, about 70,000 people lived here.  Nowadays, the population is 6,000 - not counting the tourists traipsing through.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hot Docs - Waste Land

"The Moment when one thing turns into another is the most beautiful moment."
 - Vik Muniz in Waste Land.

The film Waste Land was my favourite from this weekend's binge at the Hot Docs festival.  Shot over three years in Brazil, it follows artist Vik Muniz as he turns his subjects into collaborators and into astounding works of art. 

The subjects are garbage workers who sort through piles of refuse to find scraps that can be recycled and sold.  Muniz' concept is to take photos of his subjects based on old world master paintings;  project those images and then use them as a foundation to build huge collages composed of garbage and recycled materials; and then photograph the finished pieces. 

Money raised through the sale of the works was all returned to the community. 

A deeply moving film about the power of art to transform the lives of individuals and communities:

Mediterranean Cruise - Vatican City - St. Peter's Basilica

After touring some ancient Roman sites, and stopping by the Trevi, we hope to be able to spend a few hours at St. Peter's Basilica.  Not nearly enough time to really see all the treasures.  The interior is huge - it can house 60,000 people.

Built between 1506 and 1626, the basilica is a mix of Baroque and Renaissance styles.  Michaelangelo designed the dome.  St. Peter is said to be buried here, along with hundreds of other Saints.

Some other  interesting facts about St. Peter's Basilica from Mental Floss:

There’s a bronze statue of St. Peter thought to have been made by Arnolfo di Cambio in the 13th century, ...  it’s tradition for people to kiss or rub his foot when they pass by. You can tell just how many people have done it by the fact that his right toes have worn into a completely smooth surface, whereas his left toes are still individual digits.

Michelangelo’s Pietà is located at St. Peter’s and has been the source of much abuse over the years. First of all, four of her fingers broke off sometime in the 1700s as the statue was moved throughout the Basilica. They were repaired in 1736. But the worst incident was in 1972 when a geologist named Laszlo Toth ran into the Basilica and attacked the nearly 500-year-old statue with a geologist’s hammer. Yelling “I am Jesus Christ,” he took Mary’s arm completely off from the elbow down, chipped a chunk out of her nose and damaged one of her eyelids. Since its restoration from the attack, the Pietà has been housed in a case of bulletproof acrylic glass. You can still see where she was damaged if you look closely. The Pietà is also the only work Michelangelo ever signed – the story is that he heard someone talking about this great statue that Cristoforo Solari had created. It was Michelangelo’s statue, of course, and in a fit of pride, he went and added his signature to Mary’s sash. He later regretted it and said he would never sign anything ever again.

Bernini finished the 96-foot-tall baldacchino (the canopy-like thing over the altar) in 1633 and it’s the epitome of opulence, which it was heavily criticized for at the time. It’s said that the bronze that makes up the baldacchino was taken from the roof of the Pantheon, which is another thing Italians weren’t too thrilled about.

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