Reflections and Tips

Now that I am home Safe and Sound….I feel the need to slowly acclimate to my own culture again. I guess I basically just want to sit here and continue to let the reality of my experience seep in.
You know how something in the future can feel like such a dream….like it will never really happen, the time will never actually come. It is a bit frightening to me that something in the very recent past can also feel like a dream….did it actually happen….was that really me?

This dream of mine could have never become a reality without the support and understanding of my family. My parents fed it, my husband accepted it, my children were I think kind of proud of me. My sister-in-law, probably unknowingly gave me a last minute pep-talk that I needed at the time. And my friends humored me by letting me share.

I began this blog, truly not knowing what a blog was. I always thought they were self-indulgent and pretentious. And I guess they are, but being able to put my thoughts and experiences down each day was such a needed outlet for me; both then and for the future. Without this daily account, I fear my days would have rushed together into a beautiful, overlapping blur. With this, the tangled knot of words that tumble constantly in my head, became an account. An account that can transport me at will… sort of time travel. Allowing me to revisit places, people, moments. In the future, I will probably be able to see aspects more clearly than I did in the moment. This is pretty special.

I am glad to be home. I am thankful for the 2 nights I just had with my family of four under the same roof. When I would wake up in the night, unsure of where I was, that realization was wonderful.

I started a list (many actually) during the trip of things to do when I return home.
*Low-key entertain more….someone else arrives, go in, grab another table and chairs
*Find a recipe for coccolo, make, eat, repeat
*Keep the ingredients for Aperol Spritz on hand and embrace the Aperitif!
*Write Franco & Grazia
*Seek and enjoy some of the same things I loved in Italy at home
*Contact woman I met that teaches Italian lessons via skype and continue to learn the language
*Make my own pasta…fatta in casa

As promised, here is a shot of all the ephemera I packed out of Italia.

My dad said it looks like the only paper I left behind were euro. And he’s about right. Remember, I needed a carry on bag for only this.
oh, and these…

I do think carrying a collapsable, smallish bag is a good travel tip…..

Here are are few more I jotted down.

These are things I always had in my purse….it may seem like a lot, but I can substantiate everything in here.

Here is my black borsa I referred to often. The brand is Co-Lab by Christopher Kon and it was perfect!! The ONLY thing I would want to change about it is give it a zipper closure instead of a magnet one. But it withstood a lot and still looks brand new.
Inside you will find; Sunglasses, an extra pair of readers, a collapsable water bottle, wipes, tissues, wallet with passport inside, fan (love it), hand sanitizer, lotion stick, Chapstick (albeit Dior), phone, camera, extra charged battery, phone case that is charger in one, small journal, pen, sharpie, gum, advil (not easy to find over there), shout, bandaids, earphones (for audio tours…thanks JP), baggie (don’t laugh…you have some extra yummy bread from somewhere….ya take it with you for later), hair tie, fingernail file and pashmina (visiting churches, cooler evenings, dress you bought that stretches out too low when you sweat…..multi use!)

Here is what I carried in my overnight bag.

Lovie from Avery, clear folder with files (hotels, tours, trains, etc.), zipper pouch with all chargers and adapters, scissors, extra pair of under garments, go to dress, socks (just incase a room gets cold and you do not have enough covers), deodorant, comb, brush, bath gel, moisturizer (I highly suggest visiting Sephora a couple of times and getting a few samples a sample or two of perfume is a must as well) toothbrush & paste and make-up.

Here is what I slimmed down my makeup regimen to-

20130728-183406.jpg The glasses are there just to show you the size.

That is all. I researched and bought these in December, never opened them, just tucked them away until the trip.

Other essentials-

Although all but one of my B&Bs had “hairdryers”, I played it safe and packed my own.


Here are a few more tips from me regarding packing…
*First and foremost….invest in a good, lightweight suitcase with rubber wheels. The wheels are key, especially on the streets of Italy…investing now will save you grief later.
*Pack early and often. I truly started packing a good 6 months ahead of my trip. I would revisit it every few weeks, add to , take away…I still made mistakes, but they are fewer I am sure due to this.
*If traveling alone, make sure you can handle what you have and still “look” in control.
* As far as clothes go….my main tip is pack and wear what makes you feel good (inside) and fairly comfortable outside. I have always heeded the advice of Billy Crystal’s SNL character Fernando, “It is better to look good than to feel good.” And in Europe, what matters is that YOU think you look good. Because I am here to tell you, ANYTHING GOES!! ANYTHING.
But….here is my 2euros….
*an outfit you wear there, pack away and then wear home is great
* anything too big, will get bigger
* dark and tight show sweat
*dark, sleeveless shows deodorant and if that LBD MVP gets white all under the arms, it loses its appeal.
*light, flowy, prints are best
*Maxis are great day and night
*breezy is good but being caught up by the breeze is not (at least for me)
*although heels are worn, (and Lord knows I love my wedges) I only brought sandals….walking on those uneven, cobblestone streets is a challenge.

I only wore the fold up flats on the plane to and fro, but it was nice to know I had pair of comfy shoes in reserve. The flip flops are a must for beach and bathrooms. The little white pumas were worn (reluctantly) three times; both bike rides and my aborted hike in Cinque Terre. Thank goodness I did not go with my mental image of the girl on a bike cruising along with flowing skirt and scarf…especially on the 18 mile Tour de Apian Way.
The two pair of sandals were workhorses. Again I suggest investing in good, leather sandals. The Tory Burch pair have rubber soles which was great for hilly towns. The nude pair I probably wore the most. Their thin straps allowed for swelling without discomfort.
*I may have already mentioned this but 1 purse is best. Cross body is essential.
*bring your nail-polish for toenail touchups
*White and flowy is very chic….don’t know if you can have too much white
*I think I have touted the merits of a “Travel Pant” enough
*1-2 mix match swimsuits
*wash cloth….not white
*socks and foot lotion
*packable hat (fedoras look the sharpest)
*packable umbrella
*If you are staying several days someplace and you have room, a couple of plastic hangers…never enough
*a mailing tube for posters, art, etc.
* a couple of sharp, white v-neck t’s
and as for my must have…a polar fleece blanket….forget it….we cut a throw in half for this trip and I will tell you, a 1/2 of a blanket does not a blanket make….and it is a pain to pack.
* if traveling with others (husband, kids) EVERYONE needs to carry their own things…guys should not be timid about man bags….Mom should not be in charge of anyone else’s anything…

Much of this might sound silly but I did a lot of research on line for packing tips and could not find much more than “Be sure to bring athletic or walking shoes”…I don’t think so…..
So some of these tips would have helped me.

Later on this week, I hope to post a Best Of list and photos, but for now I need to go make good on some of those promises I made to myself…




Buon Appetito Ya’ll!

Roam’n Home

When I would leave each town that I had thoroughly enjoyed; Roma, Capri, Monterosso, Firenze, each departure would be bitter sweet. Each visit gave me more than I had anticipated. Each brought sites and experiences that delighted and surprised me. Yet each time, unless I was ready to take up residence, I was ready for the next step.
With the ending of this trip, I feel the same. I am not sick of travel. I am not lonely. I am not aching for the USA. But I am ready. Ready to hold my family. Ready to share. Ready to hear what was experienced in my absence.
So I walk out of Le2 with no regrets.

I had asked Gilles, my cab driver, to pick me up at 8:00am. With my flight out of Nice scheduled for 10:55, Gilles assured me 8:30 would get me to the airport with plenty of time for shopping there. I think that was his way of telling me to push it back even further. However, early arrival has been my mode during this trip. I would rather sit where I am to be than sit waiting to get there.


I roll myself right outside the city walls and wait. I have no qualms about spending the extra euro on a cab this morning. The walk, bus, train, bus to the airport with a flight to catch makes my stomach tight even after the fact. Too many opportunities for issues there.

Gilles arrives right on time.
We talk a bit during the drive. He shares his opinion of visiting the US. He says he did once for a stop over heading to Hawaii when he was young. He says that now, when he travels, he wants to experience not necessarily an “adventure” but another culture and he feels like the US does not offer that. I think he has a point.

Check in at the airport goes easy. My United flight is being taken by Lufthansa.
We board on time and the first leg is a quick flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

I will tell you that I am sad at this point that German and French are the last two languages ringing through my head. In retrospect, switching my arrival to Vence and flying out of Roma….might have been better…..but……research…..a lot of this was about research.

Remember, my original intent 5 years ago was to “live” in Italy for the entire summer. But when it came down to making a choice of location, I simply did not have the background to make that choice. So, the trip changed. I roamed the areas I thought I would like thinking that would help me cross cities off and or highlight some.

This trip has definitely done that for me.
Cross off Albenga.


Cross off in the Tuscan countryside with no wheels.


Cross off France.

Did I enjoy Vence? Absolutely. But did it surpass Italy? No. Did I think it might? I wondered…

Put another, darker line through Napoli.

Do I still want to make a kamikaze run (with someone else) in searching for their best pizza? Yes. Do I think it can top the one I had in Sorrento? I challenge them….but don’t tell them that….they scare me.

Highlight Roma. Put a star by Trastevere.


Highlight Capri. Know I would ONLY ever want to stay in Anacapri.


Re highlight with stars and exclamation marks Monterosso!!**!!

Now that I have visited all cinque of the terras, Monterosso reigns uno to me. I did like Riomaggiore too.

Firenze might move to the top of the list as far as a place I would want to “set-up house”.

Loved the neighborhood I was in.
Love the size and accessibility of the town.
Love the art.

Question mark by Sorrento/Amalfi Coast.

I enjoyed my time there very much. Probably would not stay in Sorrento proper again, but might want to investigate some of the smaller hotels along the coast for a place for pure relaxation. A perfect place to hole up and not do much exploring.

Know that Milena’s B&B in Chiusi is a wonderful location to use as a home-base for exploring Toscana and Umbria. There are still towns in these regions I would put on my list for next time.


See….headway was made!

On the plane, I am happy that I brought my own stash.

Going from the food I have been eating to airplane food is almost cruel.

I will say the flight attendance on Lufthansa were probably the cheeriest I have ever had. It is almost like they have told them, “Just this once, go out there and be the epitome of an old school flight attendant. Be super helpful and chipper…..just this once.”
They made me laugh they were so nice. So Lufthansa earned their wings with me.

By the way, those beautiful muffins I bought in Vence…so, so yummy!

Arriving in the US made me laugh too…

Uuuhhhmmmm…I don’t think so Denver Airport foodcourt……

At the end of my flight from Denver to Austin is when I about had enough of sitting on a plane. I can never figure out how people sleep during flights….I just can’t do it.
This flight was delayed a bit but we finally arrived in Austin around10:00 pm. That makes about 22 hours of travel from Gilles to Austin.

I was SO HAPPY to see Dalton waiting for me at baggage claim (even if the Ferrari wasn’t….it made it to my doorstep the next afternoon though).

Blaine and I took Dalton back to his Austin digs and headed home. Of course I had to show Mom and Daddy that I had made it HOME safe and sound then it was off to bed.

I am sure that most of you have had enough of my stories by now.
But I do want to close this journey with one more post tomorrow.
Just seeing the “trash” I brought back will be worth it!!

See you then!

Dernier Jour

Embracing the idea of returning home tomorrow, I wake up and begin packing.


The only thing I do differently this time, is take out the bag that has been lying flat and dormant the entire trip and stuff it will all the ephemera I have collected; train tickets, every single receipt, empty sugar packets, an espresso spoon from here and there (ssshhhhh), map after map, corks, labels, pamphlets, flyers, menus….I have an affection for remembrances like these.
The plan is to create a piece of art or two with them….better in my opinion than anything one can buy.


Removing this amount from the Ferrari makes it much easier to zip and a bit lighter as well. Only needing to make it from the cab to the airport checkin with 3 bags, I think it is doable. I will also pack my black borsa into the Ferrari putting all important items into my “overnight” bag.

As I pack, I consider what to do with my last day.
I could take the bus again into Nice and hangout at the beach…but I have to tell ya, after the waters of Cinque Terre and Capri…these waters/beaches do nothing for me. The only upside would be being able to say “yeah, I spent a day lying in the sun on beaches of Nice”…..I decide I have enough stories….stories that I love. So I cross that off my list.

I decide I will walk through Vence again and then take a short bus ride to Saint Paul. Saint-Paul-de-Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns on the French RIviera. It is well known for its modern and contemporary art museums and galleries. Plus I already know how to get there….

When I walk out of the B&B I notice that Wednesday must be Vence’s “market” day.

These are basically the same in most towns. A market where you can buy a bra, a pair of harem pants and a skillet from the same vendor…
After I pass through the area of the gypsy vendors, I come across the food market….this, I like.

I buy some more cherries; a bag for today and a bag for the plane.

I buy two of those little muffin things….both for the plane….

As you can tell, by 9:30 they are almost already sold out.

Are these the cutest little bags ever!? After I step away, I put both muffins in 1 bag to save the other for my growing pile of treasures.




20130726-132026.jpg Another crepe place I would love to squeeze in…

20130726-132056.jpg Love their mosaic tables.

I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something different between Italian vegetables and fruits and French ones….I think one seems a bit more rustic and the other a bit more polished.

20130726-135744.jpg Baby olive trees!!!

20130726-135814.jpg Complete with baby olives!!




20130726-135953.jpg Another item for the “road”.

After walking through the market, I decided I needed to go back to Le2 to rid me of my haul before going on to Saint Paul.
When I arrived Caroline was pulling this out of the oven.

20130726-140208.jpg tarte aux pommes…que c’est beau!

She told me they were having a dinner tonight and did I want to be included? Since this place was advertised as a “Bed and Bistro” and I had yet to see them cook….it was now or never.

Before leaving town, I visited Our Lady of the Nativity. One of the pieces of art there is a mosaic by the artist Marc Chagall.


In the balcony area of the church, there are also wood carvings depicting Christ’s Crucifixion.


After this, it was on to Saint Paul. Oh…..but wait….another street vendor selling something that looked good to eat….I had to stop and try.

He would ladle a liquid onto a large, round pan he had just prepped with olive oil.


He would place it in the wood fire oven and slowly turn it, allowing it to bubble and brown.

This is when he asked me how many pictures I was taking. “A lot” I replied. He then told me how much he would charge me for them…..he was joking….I think.

After about 5 minutes, he takes it out of the oven and

20130726-141612.jpg viola!

At this point I still have no idea what I am waiting in line for (kinda like the people at the Duomo). Is it savory? Is it sweet? I think it is sweet.
I ask him what is in the mixture.
Chickpeas ground, olive oil and water….that’s all. Ok…I think it is savory.

He then takes a little spatula and begins to quickly scrap up pieces adding them to the plates that number however many people are waiting.
He then asked me if I wanted the seasoning on mine. I told him I wanted it however he thought best.


20130726-141930.jpg Salty and Crunchy on the outside, a bit gooey on the inside….my kind of cheap eats!!

OK…NOW off to Saint Paul…


In Saint Paul, I am greeted with these wonderful mosaics in the streets. Saint Paul is another precious little medieval town, definitely worth a visit.




I head back to Vence, clean up and I still have a couple of hours before dinner at Le2. So I roam a bit more then light at a cafe for a glass of the rose and some time to reflect. I am starting to fill in my “Best Of” list.

20130726-151906.jpg Oh yeah, and some french sweets for the plane.

When it is time to find my spot at a dinner table, I say au revoir to the streets of Vence and head back to Le2.
Again I think the gathering is that of friends. I am totally confused by the “bistro” title in their name. When I arrive, another table has to be set for me, which feels a bit awkward at first but what the heck. They throw out another red and white gingham checked table cloth and we are set.
One of Caroline’s friends (they send whomever speaks the best english my way) comes over and asks what I would like for dinner. I am thrown because there is no menu, nothing posted…
she asks, “plat d jour?” “Sure” I respond.


20130726-154323.jpg My last glass of wine….

After a while the area is pretty crowded. People hover not knowing whether it is a restaurant or a party. I still don’t know because at times, they would go in, return holding a table and a few more chairs and more people would join in.
I forgot to mention that there is music as well. Really nice guitar and saxophone. They said it was “bassa nova”.


Later in the evening, they ask if it is ok to sit somebody else with me. I get a Sammy Hagar looking frenchman. He speaks a little english so we talk a bit. At one point he tells me in a hushed tone that he is an “actor”. When he says this, he holds his hand to his face as if to say, “Please don’t tell anyone else….I am trying for incognito”. Secret is safe with me buddy.

Before I turn in, I ask for a piece of Caroline’s dessert and cannot be understood. I whip out my phone and show the photo of it I took earlier…Like Napoleon said, “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours.”


I return to my room enjoying the sounds from the party below before saying bonne nuit one last time.

Matisse in Nice

OK…Have ya missed me? I have not been able to post. The internet in my room at Le2 is super spotty. If I go out in the hall, stand on 1 leg by the window, it seems to connect, but when I turn to go back in the room….I lose it again.

So let’s catch up….

Another item on my list while in Vence was to visit the Matisse Museum in Nice. The tourist office had given me a flyer highlighting the museum.

In reading it last evening, accompanied by a glass of the area’s Provence Rose, I learned it was closed on Tuesdays. So Monday was my only choice…that makes it easy.

While I enjoyed my typical French breakfast,

I created a couple of “flash cards” to aid me in my travels.



That ought to about do it right?

I knew there were 2 buses that would take me into Nice. One, the 400, I rode to Vence when I arrived. The other, the 94, I believe, was supposedly a more direct bus into Nice. I chose that one.

When I made it to the bus circle in the new area of Vence, the 94 was there and waiting. Perfect.
I boarded and told the driver I wanted to go to the Musee Matisse…..I get a stare I am all too familiar with….but this time it is in French….
I repeat….nothing….so I whip out my iphone flashcard….still nullite…
I show him the map illustration in the Matisse flyer and say, “Nice”….
“Ah…oui, oui…Nice”
But this is not said in a friendly way, this is said like, “sure lady, whatever, move on and sit.”
Loud and Clear….so I did….but as customary, I sit CLOSE to the driver….
My first choice in seats, a bit behind the entry door but the first to the driver’s right was taken….by a young girl who seemed to be “involved” with the driver. So I had to take my 2nd choice, directly behind the driver….and the barrier behind his seat.

We are on our way as I follow the scheduled stops on my bus route/schedule handout.
These are VERY helpful….I suggest grabbing any and all while visiting a city. HOWEVER, the stop the Matisse flyer said to get off at was not on the list.
We pass through Cagne Sur Mer….my old stomp’n grounds, so I know Nice is coming up….
Long bus ride short, I could not get any help from the driver, his girlfriend (they were in some sort of tiff… The ENTIRE drive, he would look back at here….while driving….whisper….look apologetically, and she in return would whisper…..and look down.
Give me Italians that yell everything and ya know where you stand!!
At one point, feeling a bit desperate, I got her attention and asked, “Do you speak ANY english?”
I received a curt “No” with nullite eye contact….she wouldn’t even entertain the international pointing and gesturing….
ANYWAY, an hour later, we are at a stop with lots of other buses. I notice everyone is getting off here. I reluctantly try the driver one more time, showing him, once again, the map in the flyer. I get a parting point and “tourist office”. I exit sharing my best French glare….. (later I spotted the two under a tree making out).

OK…time to access….I do not want to turn on my phone. ( that thing has made me nervous the entire trip…next trip I will definitely get an Italian SIM card put in upon arrival…that way you pay up front and when you use it up….you can pay more…. )
I have zero idea where I am. I have zero idea where the musee is located in reference to where I am….so I walk a bit, looking for the allege “tourist office” always keeping the location of the “bus circle” in the front of my mind….
I see no tourist office…so my last resort is a taxi…..
As you know by now, I hate paying for this, but it is the only means I can find to my end.
I get in the air conditioned Mercedes and say, “Musee Matisse s’il vous plaît” and we are quickly on our way.

The good news is I COULD NOT have walked to it, it was a bit of a drive up from the main part of the city.


I am excited about this visit for a couple of reasons. Number one, I love Matisse. Number two, I love visiting WHERE an artist worked and Number three, from the flyer, I learned that there is a special exhibit now through September celebrating the 50th year of the museum….again, perfect timing. There will be pieces on loan from other museums that are not part of the housed collection.


I need to tell you this before “we” enter…once again there are no photographs allowed inside the musee, so you will just have to take my word about some things…

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Matisse Museum presents the exhibition “Matisse. The Music at Work”. The exhibition is divided into two parts; The Silence of Music and The Sound of Colour.

As I have mentioned, I have always admired Matisse’s use of line. Much like Picasso, his friendly rival, Matisse’s use of line looks fluid, effortless. During this exhibit and reading his words, I am encouraged to learn that this “ease” came with study and practice.
In one narrative, Matisse likens drawing with a “crayon” to that of playing the violin with a bow. He explains that the smallest distraction during the execution of a line can involuntarily bring with it slight pressing and can influence a line adversely much like that of the wrong pressure on the bow brings an off note to the music.

“Accuracy, clarity, harmony- the movement in which the hand sings”. Henri Matisse

Also being able to see his work close up, noticing the draftsman like marks on a piece that you once felt were pure inspiration.

At one point in his life, Matisse took up playing the violin seriously. When his wife inquired as to why, Matisse shared that he had a fear of going blind. He explained that a blind man must give up painting but not music. I found this touching.

One of my favorite displays was a collection of scraps in the middle of a room. Each individual piece of cut out, painted paper was mounted in the center of a large piece of white paper and set in a gold frame. These frames were then hung on kind of a “poster” display mounting…where you could flip through each one. I loved seeing these discarded pieces. The pin holes, and in some the pins, were still evident where Matisse would pin to a wall to consider their placement in his overall design. Can you imagine just owning this small treasure? Something he had held, used his large scissors to create those beautiful organic shapes and then thought…”No, not this one”.

I love that his family kept them and that they want the viewer to understand his process….and my students wonder why I never want their “scraps” thrown away….

20130725-192400.jpg (from internet)

Blue Nude was a popular piece my students chose to replicate in their painted paper collages. Seeing it in person, with its imperfect cuts, overlapping shapes and pencil marks made me understand the process better.

Matisse’s use of line, color and pattern earn him a special place in my heart. I am thrilled to have visited the town that meant so much to him.

“I decided never to leave Nice, and remained there nearly my entire existence.” Henri Matisse

After I left the museum, I wanted to visit Matisse’s tomb. I was finding entry to the cemetery difficult, there was construction going on around it with tarps and scaffolding concealing the entrance.
I did however see an open gate, so I went to it. It was being blocked by a van, its doors open by the gardeners that were working inside. I entered tentatively. The woman working inside was no help when I asked, “Matisse’s Tomb?”



I walked through the pictured area, not seeing what I thought I was looking for. Each time I would follow a short walkway, it would dead-end. Quickly I decided to leave before the gardener closed the gate. Spending the night locked in here did not give me a warm feeling.

Finding a bus back to the center of town proved difficult as well. The one I did find, parked close to the museum, was in the driver’s words “caput”. As I walked considering my options, one of those double decker buses stopped near. You know the type….the ones “tourist” ride while listening to commentary….
This is usually NOT an option to me, but remembering how difficult getting to the museum proved, I stuck my head in and asked the driver, “Do you speak english.” “Yeah, sometimes,”he said with a drawl…. At this point, I welcomed an english speaking smart A….

He told me that for 20euro I could ride the bus and get off at the bus center when I wanted. He did advise me that he thought it was not a very good deal thought. However, the taxi to the museum cost the same and this guy I could communicate with, so I hopped on.

At the center of Nice, I got off and walked around a bit..

At night, the “people” on top of those poles illuminate in different colors.

To me Nice is a busy, tourist packed town. I walked a little along the promenade that defines the “French Rivera”…… I’ll take Monterosso….

Back at the bus circle, I hopped on the 400 and headed back to Vence.
When I arrived, hungry, I found a sidewalk bistro that offered crepes.


With only one day left, I enjoyed an evening stroll then went back to the room to research and read.

Monsieur Matisse

So why Vence? Why come to France after a month plus in Italy?
Let’s go back to the planning stage(s) again.

By January 2013, the outline of the trip was pretty much nailed down and it was tutta Italia.
And then inspiration came from someone else. Henri Matisse.
Early in the fall semester, we began studying Henri Matisse in Art III.
Matisse had long been a favorite of mine.

I was visiting Washington D.C. with Mom and Dad in, I will guess and say, 1986? One day while Daddy attended a no doubt thrilling auditing conference, Mom and I sought refuge from the oppressive heat in the National Gallery.
I have a strong memory of seeing a Matisse for what I remember as the first time. You would think I would remember the exact painting, although I think it was “Still Life with Woman Sleeping”, I cannot be certain.
What I do remember are the colors, the unmistakable use of black line simply, yet fluidly rendered to create the feminine form. I remember being able to see the cloth of the canvas where the paint on the brush had run thin. I remember staring at his signature.
I remember the mood; the mood in the painting and the mood it evoked.
I did not feel sad or melancholy as I do when in the presence of a Van Gogh. When I looked at a Matisse, I felt happy, content. At that moment, Matisse leap-frogged Monet as one of my favorite artists. (Monet is no longer even in the top few, although I love and admire his work.)

I was excited to introduce my students to Monsieur Matisse. In preparation for this introduction, I viewed a documentary, A Model for Matisse. The film highlights a little known and tender relationship between Henri Matisse and a Dominican nun, Sister Jacque-Marie.

“The unlikely pair worked together from conception to completion of Matisse’s tour de force, the Chapelle du Rosaire (Chapel of the Rosary) in the French village of Vence” (Carnegie Mellon News)

After I viewed this, I felt as if I had spent an evening with Grandma Guidry. Sister Jacque-Marie reminded me so much of her. I bought the dvd, shared it with my students and mom and dad.

I was aware of the chapel of course, but the film was the inspiration for my visit to Vence.

So fast forward to Sunday morning. Last night, I was reading a bit about the area, noted the limited hours of the chapelle for tours but also noticed mass on Sundays at 10:00 am.
I did not want to get my hopes up, but I thought how wonderful that would be.
I assumed it would be a short bus ride over to the chapelle, having spied it on the opposite hill last night. But at breakfast, I was told it was a short 15 minute walk (he later added 15, 30 an hour? to his declaration).
I like the idea of walking. I feel more in control that way.

As I followed my hand drawn map, stopped every once in a while for support. There was one woman that actually looked at my information and tried to listen to me. After a moment she said, “Aaaahhhh Matisse.” It was as if she knew him….listening to her say his name was beautiful. She continued on in French, but smiled and nodded making me feel I was heading in the correct direction.

20130722-201320.jpg OK…Looking good.

20130722-201447.jpg bon bon

20130722-201626.jpg And Voila!
While I walked, I still had no idea regarding the protocol of attending mass….I continued to keep my hopes at bay. But RIGHT when I arrived, a woman came from the chapelle, unlocked the gate and welcomed the few waiting in….I just followed.

Photographs in the chapelle are strictly forbidden…that means that the people that just entered a church, made the Sign of the Cross and prayed and prayed….disregarded that commandment…..however, I could not bring myself to do so in the chapelle proper. I took a couple of photos before entering, in the foyer, and one of my feet as I stood. The other photos I have are poor ones from the internet, but I wanted you to be a little familiar if you were not.

Entering, I was prepared for the stark design and lighting. What I was not prepared for was the size of the chapelle. It it tiny! I would say it is a bit larger than our living room and kitchen put together, a bit wider, but that is it.

20130722-202358.jpg Above the entrance.

20130722-202422.jpg In the foyer.

20130722-202455.jpg A photo without the chairs for mass.

The tile walls with Matisse’s drawings of Mary and Jesus and on the back wall, the Stations of the Cross simply drawn in his unmistakable style.

20130722-202702.jpg The alter and tabernacle with the sun from the stained glass shining in.

20130722-202905.jpg Me in awe.

I was struck by the appropriateness of ending my visit of cathedrals and attendance at several masses in stunning, grand surroundings at this simple, beautiful chapelle. From Papa Francesco to this very personable French priest. It made me smile.

It was still early, about 9:40. I secured a spot and then walked back to the door of the confessional. I think of all the aspects of the chapelle, the door is my favorite. So simple, patterned of course and white.
As the chapelle began to fill, an older man walked through greeting everyone. He would shake hands, ask where they were from (in french) and then speak briefly to them, myself included. When we spoke, he said, “oohhh la la people from United States, Spain, England, France….oooohhhh la la”. As I suspected it was the priest.

This was a wonderful way to end my trip. The surroundings, the intimacy…
And if that was not enough…..He made sure I heard the message. They passed out the readings in each language needed.

Martha, Martha,
you worry and fret about so many things,
and yet few are needed, indeed only one.”
(Luke 10:41-42a)

Did He choose this for me!!??!!

As the mass began, I could tell although I could not understand a word, this man was speaking to his parish….in such a small, intimate setting, he would speak, ask questions (even thought EVERYTHING in French sounds like a question to me) and people in the church would answer…there was interaction going on…it was wonderful. He would laugh, they would laugh. He would ask, they would respond. He would ponder, they would nod their heads….

EVERY aspect of the chapelle was a collaborative effort between Matisse and Sister Jacque-Marie, including this cross, the chalice and candle sticks on the altar and the vestments.


Even if you are not into Matisse and art, I recommend seeing “A Model for Matisse”. I am happy to lend you my copy or you can rent it on Netflix.

After mass, I returned to the historic center of Vence, walked around a bit (again, A LOT of things are closed on Sundays) and decided to “visit” another artist, Marc Chagall. I do not know much at all about Chagall, but everything I have seen on his personality point to a very happy, playful man.


And when there is a special exhibit in your own “backyard” why not right?

The rest of the day did not bring much. I did a bit of research regarding my plans for tomorrow, followed another one of Nicolai’s restaurant recommendations


Walked home


Got in bed with a new good book and listened to the church bells ring all night (that is not a bad thing).

Arrivederci Italia ** Bonjour France

As I wait for (what I think to be) my last train in Italia. I consider what is all behind me.

The trip/dream that seemed so far in the future is now slipping through my fingers. A trip that was proposed five years ago, now only has about five days remaining. Time is a funny thing isn’t it.

Many people did not understand me (or anyone I guess) doing this trip on my own. One person even responded, “Oh how awful!” when I first told her about it.
But it was something I thought I wanted to do. “Thought” because you really cannot know. Planning something on paper becomes something quite different when other people/places/events get thrown in the ring.
I do not know if the correct word is “adventure”. I think for me it was more about being independent…my way…no ties….no worries that I might screw something up or make someone else mad or disappointed. Or a much stronger possibility, I get my feelings hurt.
Go, See, Turn Left, Turn Right, In, Out, Sleep, Eat, Sit, Walk, Wait……it was all up to me.

I do not think a person can chase their dreams from place to place, but I think you can walk through a lot of them.

I kinda thought this trip would change me…if good happened, if bad happened…I’d be a better person for it. And to tell you the truth…I do not think that has happened. I remember asking my mom, during a walk several years ago, “How does someone FIND themselves?” and she quickly responded, “I do not think it is about FINDING but about DEFINING.” So, with this, I get to add another little number to the definition of Me.

As I sit on platform 3 of the Albenga stazione, I begin to once again get nervous regarding boarding the correct train. The announcements keep saying something about a retarded train and the people around me got off the last one that stopped here and are still standing around waiting.
My train to Ventimiglia is to depart at 10:38, but “people” are telling me to board the one here now and it is a bit early….even the attendant says, “Si, si , sisis…Ventimiglia” When I show her my ticket. The part that confuses me is that this time I actually have a PRIMO class with assigned carriage and seat….and I have been in Italia long enough to know a 2nd class train when I see one….but as has been my philosophy…there’s ALWAYS another train going somewhere…so I hop on.

Who needs PRIMO class and air conditioning anyway….not me in the past 24 hours…and YES, these are the same clothes I traveled in yesterday….I told you I did not unpack ANYTHING…more on that when my travel tips come out on another post…..

Anyway, I have this beautiful fan that I painstakingly picked out in Firenze…and they DO come in handy…
So we chug along….every so often I ask someone, “Ventimiglia?” By the way the “g” is silent…..
and 6 out of 7 give me a “Si, si, sisisi.”
The deal is now that I am on a train that left at a different time, and it is a 2nd class one, I have no reference of when we should arrive. My last schedule made it look like it was about an hour trip…on a 2nd class train, considering the stops….that could make it 3 days for all I know…

We are traveling along the coast. The water is not as pretty as it was behind me…nor the towns as picturesque.

We arrive in Ventimiglia and at this point, all prearranged travel is over. At this stop, I have to wait at the long information/ticket booth housing a real person. As I wait, I survey the options on the destination board. Nice ville is where I think I need to go in order to catch a bus to Vence, my final destination.

So 6,80euro later, I have a ticket to Nice ville in hand….the train is to depart in minutes…great timing…

This train has no air either, so I stand near a window a lot of the time. As we are leaving Italia, there is a big, dark cloud over the mountain behind us….awww…I think-a she eees-a crying-a for me-a.

We pick up speed, traveling through many a L O N G tunnel. I can’t help but get kinda spooked in them. They seem lawless to me…during an especially long one, I notice the clock on my iPhone slips back an hour….creepy!!!

And also, at some point, the language around me has gone from Italian to French….
At least with the Italian language, I could understand every 10th word or so. The andiamos, ciaos, adessos, echos, quas, alloras and bravas sprinkled about comforted me. Now all I hear is “blah, blah, blahblahblah, oui.” Not good.

Arrivederci Italia! Grazie di tutto!

The train makes a stop but it is not mine. As the doors open, I hear the unmistakable sound of the announcement system in the stations. This makes me SMILE!! During the trip with the kids and mom, we laughed so much at that little “jingle”. I can still picture the kids doing this little jig when they would hear it…I am laughing now and that feels good.

20130721-150342.jpg Bienvenue en France!


20130721-150556.jpg The Nice ville station.

I enter the train station and size things up….in French… clue….so I just look for lines.
I am assuming at this point that I need to get a bus to Vence. From the itty bitty amount of research I did, I think I am about 20 miles away or so.
The first woman says, “Blah, blah, blah, blahblahblahblah, no.” Gotcha…But luckily she points in english. So I go there.
Here I find out I need to board another train to Cagnes Sur Mer and THEN a bus to Vence.
I can do trains.
At first I get a bit nervous when she says, “Blah, blahblahblah” while shaking her head. She seems disappointed to tell me the next train does not leave for over an hour.
No problem…I can do waiting as well.


20130721-151416.jpg THIS is the last one…I guess…

This train is PACKED!!! Anticipating my stop coming fairly quickly, I do not push and shove to get on, I instead squeeeeeeze on at the end, securing a spotish by the door. I do not know HOW one would exit if they were actually seated with luggage somewhere.
I know I am on the right train, but I can NOT understand the perky little French girl that is announcing the stations….
Standing by the door is an attendant. I casually hold my ticket where he can see my stop, thinking he will either make a face that we have already passed it or alert me when we are getting near.
My slick technique worked!! Before we stopped, he started moving people out of the way, because at the station the opposite door was the exit door. He took my bag and placed it on the platform for moi. Merci monsieur…

So NOW I look for a bus right? OK, I find a window…the two people behind it speak very little english. I speak ZERO french…but again the pointing gets me from one “point” to the next.

I remember on my first trip to Europe with Mom and Jim. When we left Italy, I had this thought (I wish I had italics there) that French would come easy to me…I actually thought that! Instead, I was a nervous wreck each time someone would speak to me…here we go again.
I think the encounters I had with people in Italy, were more casual. I felt they were willing and kind of enjoyed the exchange.

OK, so the guy behind the glass points me to the street….I think he said something that sounded like “collage”….but as he said it he looked around for help….none came.
So I exit and hang a right….I walk along with my worldly possessions….and a line from Hope Floats comes to mind, “You stink Justin Matisse.”

A bus, there’s a bus… I runish, stick my head in and say, “Vence?” He shakes his head no and points…got it…..So I keep walking….across a freeway….again, Daddy would have loved that. But I just could not pay for a cab not knowing how far or close, hard or easy something else would be….lesson learned.

20130721-152854.jpg I find a bus stop….and I look and look at these…..I have to just call them letters….they are not even words to me….

20130721-152953.jpg Then I stare at this one long enough and start making something out. I THINK I might be in the right place. About 10 minutes goes by, bus 200 passes….I think it is the 400 I need, and then it arrives.
I board and pay.
I will be honest…at this point, I am near crumbling. I am tired (thank The Lord for the overnight in Albenga….a day from Poggibonsi would have never worked), I am hot, I am sweaty, I stink AND you guessed it, I AM HUNGRY!! The cappuccino and croissant at the Hotel Magnolia are long gone.
AND to top it off….I really don’t have a clear idea of where I am headed….I know WHY I am going to Vence, but where it is is not how it seemed on paper.
When I see a beautiful town perched on a hill, I tap the woman next to me and point trying to convey that that point is a question. She looks at me blankly and says “Saint Paul”.
I do not even know enough to know whether Saint Paul and Vence or one in the same and this woman is not interested in the promotion of world peace.

I will cut to the chase…Vence comes after Saint Paul. In Vence, you will be let out at a little bus circle. At that point you need to once again choose a direction to walk.
I again could not contact my B&B before arriving, so I fire up the cellular and follow the blinking, blue dot to the labyrinth of Vence…
then I resort to the international pointing method again.
Near tears I arrive to my B&B, Le2 (Le Deux….don’t make yourself look REALLY silly and call it Le Two…) which is closed. Locked, closed, lights out….
In my fog, I figure out that I am suppose to call if they are closed. Which I do and Nicolai comes to let me in.
There is an additional funny story about a family that is also waiting, saying they have rented the entire place and have the key, but I cannot convey Nicolai’s “frenchness” in dealing with her…

Nicolai is very sweet and helpful as he shows me to my room, turns on my AIR CONDITIONING and makes me a reservation for dinner tonight at a bonne restaurant and not a touristy one. Nicolai…my hero!!!

And Voila….my room…





I am SO pleased with the room and get downright giddy when I feel how comfortable the bed is!!

I take my time cleaning up. There is a concert in the square tonight, but since I have reservations, I do not need to worry about the crowd.

My quick walk through Vence tells me that this is just about the cutest little French town ever! I look forward to exploring it more.

I throw on one of my MVPs. A Rachel Pally maxi. I have worn this dress to dinner in every town I have been in.
I find the restaurant easy enough and happy to sit enjoying a view that is not rushing past me.

If you look closely, at the center left, you will see a white building. I believe that is the Chapelle Du Rosaire, the reason for my stop in Vence.

I order and relax.

Before what I ordered arrives, the waitress brings this to me and says, “Blah, blah, blahblah a glah, marscapone”.

20130721-160218.jpg We are not in Kansas anymore!



et pour le dessert

20130721-160556.jpg Are those cute or what!?

I walk past the craziness of the concert….happy not to pay 30euro to mix with that


And I roam home…





20130721-161434.jpg It’s not like me to miss a wedding…


20130721-161514.jpg My street, rue des Portiques

20130721-161625.jpg See the 3rd floor (they do not count the street level) to the left? Those are my windows.

20130721-161758.jpg My flash ruined the feel of this…the first flight was lit with candles…

20130721-161838.jpg 2nd and 3rd flight, motion detector lights…and then ma chambre and mon point de vue

Bonne nuit!


I know you are starting not to trust me when I say this, but this post is going to be a short one…AND I am going to put 2 days together.
But for this….I really need to think…
OK..let’s see, Thursday morning I woke up at the farm, wondering what to do with my day. I have asked for tours of the farm, I am told they will tell me when they give one. I asked about cooking classes in nearby towns, I am told classes are suspended due to the festivals.
Like Zsa Zsa…maybe farm living is not the life for me….
OK…that being said though….give a a scooter, and the lay of the land, a house with a kitchen, a small town 5 of km away….and I think I would love it.
But, as Blaine would say, “It is what it is” and I is off to lay at the pool.

As I walk down to the pool, I am asked if I will be joining the dinner tonight. I decide one again to use that 35 euro and perhaps go into San Gimignano….so , “No grazie.”
I try to strategically place my time for lunch….I decide 1:00ish is good.
I enjoy another fabulous, “light lunch” which I think just means no PAAsta. Instead I ask for caprese, bruschetta, salami and prosciutto e un bicchiere di vino bianco. It was ALL wonderful.

When I return to my chaise at the pool…I am relieved to see it is still “mine”.
At this point I roll around my options for the remainder of the day. Then the clouds start rolling in. This time a bit heavier than yesterday. I sit at the pool until the wind and rain drives me to cover.

I feel my decision is made for me and I sit and enjoy the view and watch the rain (again, much like being at Meeker…and when I embrace this, I am good).



**side note** I do not know if you can see it in these last images or not, but the spot on my camera lens seems to be getting worse. I am not sure how this happened since the lens only opens when you are taking a shot…but it is getting on my nerves….so I am packing up the canon and going from here on out with the iphone camera**

As evening comes, I begin to get a bit hungry….problem…I declined dinner and morning is when they take the headcount…Lucky for me, I wrapped up a small piece of pecorino and a slice of bread in a napkin….that will have to do.

Time to start planning tomorrow’s exit. Sonia is to pick me up at 9:15, but I think if I could get her to come earlier I might be able to catch an earlier train. I am a bit concerned about a 7 minute gap in one of my transfers tomorrow.

However, the next morning, Sonia is unable to come early. So I worry and continue on.


These poor traveling pants…I hope I have not worn a hole in the seat that I am unaware of. By the way, above is the validation machine….with my ticket punched I head to the listed platform.

Once here, I am reminded that you can do anything at a train station in Italy; change clothes, make out,

20130720-090947.jpg Workout. I will say, this guy did get a few stares….even here!

I board the crowded train to my first scheduled destination; Empoli. I decide to sit with the luggage to help me with my exit.

The next connection is the tight one, but I am up for the practice.

As I am sitting on a jump seat amidst the luggage, the mint green one rolls from one door to the opposite on a turn. Now, I did not tell you this earlier, but in Cinque Terre I got yelled at for touching someone else’s luggage. It bothered me for a good part of that morning….and I worked hard to let it go, so trust me without any further explanation…
So, I am sitting there as we bump along, not sure what to do. Then we come to a stop….the doors open, out falls the mint bag, onto the platform….I still sit….I DO NOT want to get yelled at again, in any language. One guy that saw it happen, simply stepped over as he exited…still it sat. Finally, and this is all in 1 minute or so. A girl, looks at it….looks at me….asks something…..I shrug….she shrugs….looks around, then tosses it back on as the doors shut.
CAN YOU IMAGINE….your luggage just falling out a train door and you never realizing it!!?? I can now.
A couple of stops down, as things thinned a bit…for just a bit….the owner of the bag came to retrieve and store with her. I SO wanted to ask, “Do you speak english?” and tell her the story…but as has been one of my goals here….I just deal with me.

I make the next connection without issue. Then in La Spezia, I board with the rest of Italia.

This is a 4 hour 2nd class journey to Albenga, so I do my best to jockey for a seat and eventually I get one….in an actual chair.

During the next 4 hours, I finish the book I have been reading, look through an instyle, get hungry, enjoy a few sips of water (impossible to go to the wc on a 2nd class train with all my stuff) and watch the countryside go by.
During a portion of this leg, some 19-20ish American students are seated within earshot….gee how I have enjoyed NOT understanding the language…..

After La Spezia, we travel through Cinque Terre. Oh how I would love to hop off the train and go grab a frittto misto cone in Riomaggiore!!

Also, by the way, Genova has molto, molto, molto stops. That is one of the reasons this 2nd class train takes 4 hours….it stops everywhere!!!

And I arrive Albenga.
A little background as to why I am stopping here…..basically all I have there is I thought I would break up this longer travel day, and we had heard it was pretty….research.

So I arrive Albenga again with no clue where to head. Last night I tried to contact the hotel but could not find an email for them. So at the station, I had to turn on the cellular data for my phone. I have only done this a couple of times….but no way around this one.

I find the hotel on maps, follow the blinking, blue dot and viola….

Let me choose one word to describe my hotel… about “basic”.

20130720-093126.jpg Yes the lighting this THAT giallo.

20130720-093234.jpg “Air Conditioner”
The lady at the desk understood my english perfectly until I asked if there was air conditioning in the room. “I-a no understand-a english-a well-a. speak-a slowly-a.”

20130720-093407.jpg Won’t be needing extra blankets…that’s for sure.

20130720-093444.jpg The all in one Garden, Terrace, Laundry Room.


20130720-093546.jpg And the bathroom….lest you think I am getting spoiled…

It is almost 7:00 pm by this time, so I decide to not unpack….anything….leave my bags in the room and go for a walk.
Albenga is right on the coast…much like Cinque Terra…only…not much like Cinque Terre. But all in all still very pretty.
It looks as if another FESTIVAL is starting tonight….the vendors are setting up along the beach walk…let’s see, there were vegetable peelers, and hair adornments and lamps made out of coconut shells, cell phone covers…this is not Certaldo either I guess.

My hotel is a block away from the beach in the New part of town, so before the sun goes down, I decide to head to the old part of town.

20130720-094103.jpg Really old….Yep…another festival.

Truly though…these are so well done. It seemed the entire town (Vecchio) was involved and in costume. I did enjoy walking through and watching the preparations. I just did not want to get stuck here after the crowds hit, plus my walk back to the hotel was through a not so scenic part of Albenga.
So I will share some quick highlights.


20130720-094353.jpg Loved this Medieval stroller!

20130720-094429.jpg Not too sure about me.

20130720-094447.jpg Not a care at all.

20130720-094507.jpg Really admire the details in preparation.

20130720-094551.jpg The town Baptistry.


20130720-094633.jpg Now this was really cool, to walk up on a piazza and see these beautiful, fierce looking birds on their perches. It was just so fitting. I am sure the exhibition later would be interesting.




Not sure if this guy is in costume….I think not and I also think he will be the one telling the festival goers to repent shortly….

As the crowd begins to swell, I decide I better head back and find a spot for dinner.
I chose a little place that I am sure is a chain of sorts, La Dolce Vita….fitting no?



Although the food was good, another face to face encounter was what made the evening.
My waitress, Grazia, first was very patient as I decided which side of the restaurant I wanted to eat in;the pizza side or the fancier side. She let me sit down and look at both menus, coming by every now and then to give me her 2cents.
I chose the pizza side. Each time she would come by, she would want to chat a bit, advising about things to do, told me about the festival, etc.
Finally she asked where I was from. When I responded Texas…you would have thought I said Hollywood or something. She leaned back with her hands together saying “Takkk-sas! TTakkk-sasss! Oh my gosh-a…theeese-a eeesss-a fantastic-a I thheeenk-a.”
I just kinda sat there laughing and said, “Really?” She said, “What-a are-a you-a doing-a a HERE!??” Like this was the backwoods of Italy.
Anyway, we talked a bit more and before I left, I told her about Austin. She could not understand me well, so I wrote it down and told her to check it out.
When I got up to leave, she gifted me with one of their wine glasses, and a bunch of paper placemats….she also asked me to “Pleeez-a send-a me-a just-a one-a post-a card-a from Takkk-sass!” And she gave me her address.
With her hands together in a praying position, she told me she will hope and wait for my card.
Of course, the kiss/kiss followed and laughing, I went on my way.


Slowing It Down….un po

As I wake Tuesday morning, I know there were several things on my Firenze List that I failed to accomplish, but I have to also say, there were things NOT on my list I experience….
Let’s see…well, looking back…there are actually just two items that I have not gotten to check off and that is eating at Osteria de Benci….it could never have surpassed my sandwich experience, so I am ok with that, and visiting the gallery down the street that Roberto suggested.

Those of you who are comparing notes might say, “Wait Paj, what about the schiacciata? You wanted to try that saltier, crunchier, oilier stuff.” And you are indeed correct, but I did and just forgot to tell you. I stopped by a different Pugi locaction (later found out the one I went to that was closed is NOT the original…when the person was trying to explain that to me, I tried to assist and added the work “Fake?”….they laughed and said “Yes-a…eeeta eees-a a fake-a Pugi”. Come to find out it seems to be a franchise…
Anyway, I got a slab of schiacciata and packed it up to my sunset point. Picnic Tip….molto buono with champagne!

So with 2 hours before my train is scheduled to depart, I decided to walk down the street (literally) 4 or so doors down and check out Roberto’s suggestion.

I walk in, two little, old italians are sitting there, they ask you to sign in and that’s it…no fee, no warnings, just an intimate, impressive collection.
I know you are probably tired of art by now, but this is a good example of the caliber you can find off the beaten path….as I have said before, there is so much art in this country just lying around.


20130718-173352.jpg Lorenzo di Credi, Firenze 1459-1537


20130718-173655.jpg Ridolfo di Ghirlandaio, Firenze, 1483-1561

20130718-173938.jpg And more by Credi.

When I return to the B, Roberto seems pleased that I took his advice. Many locals get frustrated by the fact that tourist come in and just want to check the major sights off their lists. Much like the major cities. One person mentioned that all Americans want to do when they visit Toscana (TOOskana) is come to Florence then San Gimignano. I lowered my head at this because my next stop is right outside San Gimignano….Next trip, I will research more…

Now with the hood on the Ferrari zipped and ready to roll…I am off.


20130718-174512.jpg Time to Uscita Firenze…
addio, ci vedremo presto…

This was a very short train ride, right about an hour. My station is at Poggibonsi…fun to say, not so much to visit. My train departed 10ish minutes late so I had called my taxi, Sonia, to let her know.
When I exited the station, there was Sonia ready to take me to the farm. 30 euro later, we arrive.

As I gazed at San Gimignano in the distance, I felt like I was looking at OZ.

Allora, my room…


Adesso, a bit of the grounds…



Let me give you a quick background of how it was decided I would visit Fattoria Poggio Alloro. Sarah, whose family owns the farm, visits Texas often. She has written a book/cookbook about her family’s farm and does guest appearance and classes at Central Market and the like. As friends heard about my future plans, several mentioned Sarah, her book and the farm to me. A couple of friends even gifted the book to me (her publisher is out of Fredericksburg). Mom, having read the book, thought it might be a place they would want to visit on a future trip. I imagined it as a place where I could again take some in depth, personal cooking/wine classes….so, I cut Firenze a bit shorter and made reservations here for 3 nights.

Up until my arrival, I would email Sarah, reminding her that if there were any cooking classes scheduled during my visit, I would love to attend. Each time I was politely told that unfortunately none were scheduled. When I arrived and paid the 30 euros for the taxi, I worried what I would do for the next couple of days. With no car and transportation being expensive, I felt kinda stuck.
I know most of you are rolling your eyes and saying “Sure!! Poor Paj. I would LOVE to be stuck in a place like that.”

I understand where you are coming from, but there is something that I have learned about myself over the past 12 years or so….I do better with a purpose. I love my down time, do not get me wrong, but true relaxing is difficult for me…I am better with a goal.
I think my “ah-ha” moment on that was having the honor and sheer pleasure of being part of the amazing group of people behind the FRED party. The planning I LOVED. The set up I LOVED….the party itself….I felt lost, without purpose.

I, of course, was hungry when I arrived. They were in the middle of the tour bus groups that stop daily for lunch, but after their frenzy died down, was seated on the patio.
The food just kept coming!!

20130718-181628.jpg Bruschetta…so good with a bit of garlic rubbed on the toast…and of course the house-made olive oil.

20130718-181738.jpg PAAsta with ragu

20130718-181811.jpg salad, a meat and cheese board….THE BEST salami (made here) I have ever had!
And then when asked if I liked the tomatoes, I said yes….and got another….with the 12 year old balsamic!
Remember…this is LUNCH and it is 2:30 or so. Dinner is at 8:00 and before this I had told them to count me in!!!
Needless to say, the food here is abundant and good!
Truly, in no time, the sun was setting along with the table for dinner.

I will give you a brief rundown…
Red and White wine…I stuck with Red at dinner.


To start, figs (my first ever….are you proud of me Daddy?), bruschetta, polenta fritto with ragu, meat trays (yes….I said to start….I could have/would have/should have stopped here.

Then salad, a wonderful sautéed zucchini and beef with mushrooms. And for dessert, an apple tart of sorts. The pink icing on it was to celebrate a little girl’s birthday here….as it was Blaine’s as well, I toasted him…

Vino Santo and biscotti….but wait, there was coffee after that…..
This was about a 2.5-3 hour event.
Although the food was good and the setting picturesque, it was my most lonely night yet.
It is a family style dinner, most of the people are families, only one other family spoke english. The couple I was seated with spoke italian only and were not interested in trying to open their conversation to me…it was an awkward night.

The next morning at breakfast when asked if I would be attending the dinner, I declined. I thought with the 35euro saved there, a taxi to a nearby town might be an option.

So now we are to Wednesday…stay with me, I can make this kinda short.

Spent the morning at the pool.


I enjoyed watching the butterflies flit here and there. They looked like rose petals dancing in the wind. I took quite a few photos trying to catch them in the frame.

I tried to schedule my lunch as late as possible, if worse came to worse, I could make it the only meal of the day. Around 2:00, I left my belongings on my pool chaise and headed up.
During this meal I was fortunate enough to be seated near a group from Texas. Now you know I did not come here to seek out my own, but having some nice, 2 sided conversation, I welcomed. There was a couple from Austin, one from Houston and one from Louisiana.
One of the men turned to me and asked if I spoke english, “Yep.” I said.
Anyway, it was fun to compare notes. They were traveling together in a “bus”. They had rented a villa and were doing dayish trips. Tomorrow they were headed to Florence. They asked if I had any suggestions. I inquired as to how long they would be there…about 6 hours….hhhhmmmmm…..that’s a toughie.
They chose to visit the farm because a dear friend had recently passed away. Although he had traveled with his family extensively, this spot was his favorite. They came to Poggio Alloro to toast his life and memory.

During our conversation; Texas, Austin, Houston, Louisiana, Bama, MSU, LSU…I mentioned my mother’s side of the family is from Abbeville, Louisiana. “Abbeville! Boudreaux?! Guidry!?” It was decided at the end we were probably all family. piccolo mondo!

After lunch, I headed back to the pool…but wait, my stuff had been relegated to a small chair. Strange…of course no one around gives a hoot or a help…no, no, no…is about all I got. The other woman from the US, the same one that at dinner last night informed the family from Belgium that Californians are are more sophisticated than Texans…just turned away. So…what to do…back to the room I guess.
After that turn of events, I did decide to call a cab and head to Certaldo (Chairtaldo). Word from workers here at the farm is that a Medieval Festival is starting there tonight…that might be fun.

The good news here is that Sonia, the cab driver, asked if I wanted to be let off sopra o sotto. Above was the old town, below the new. Sonia’s english is so-so, so instead of inquiring of which she thought best, I figured the festival would be in the above, historic part…so I said, “Sopra”.
We arrive and streets leading sopra are closed off. Sonia turns to me and says she had forgotten there was a festival. Again, our communication is not that good, so I can’t just say, “oh, don’t worry about it. I am sure I can figure out how to get from sotto to sopra”. So I just sit back as she talks our way up the hill. People would stop her, and she would go into some explanation involving “la signora” this would prompt them to put their head in the window and look at me….I just sat and smiled….they’d wait a second then wave us on. This happened all the way up the hill.
Works for me….I got let off right in the middle of things. Problem is…Sonia says for me to call her 20 minutes before I want to come home and she will meet me at the bottom. And with these beautiful surroundings and not much of a crowd, I say, “Sure” as I take her card.

I guess it is about 7:15, 7:20 when I arrive. It really was beautiful.





It was obvious that I was a bit early. Vendors, artists, musicians were just setting up. Acting Troupe’s were rehearsing in partial costume.
I roamed about admiring the level of offerings. This was no Country Peddler or Trade Days. This was like going back in time and seeing artist creating their wares.
Forming hats for individuals, weaving cane around bottles, throwing pottery, it truly was impressive.





20130718-192652.jpg I loved these simple benches…Daddy could whip these out easy!! He has a passion for rebar.
As a few more people trickle in, I decide I might want to get a bite to eat. My kind of festival that has coccoli in a paper cone AND an aperol spritz!! (BTW, this is going to be what I serve at our next “festival”)



This wood worker creates beautiful chairs. I loved the way the evening sun played with his display.




The threat of rain was in the air throughout the evening. The breeze on this ivy made it look like it was choreographed.

To add to the old world charm, there were little vignettes sprinkled about.

20130718-194623.jpg This was a woman, all in white. She would appear in the castle window in different poses.

20130718-194722.jpg I think this guy was advising us to repent, but I am not sure (see the moon up there).

20130718-194828.jpg This was like something from the movie Chocolat.

20130718-194938.jpg Loved this box to set your secrets free!

And about now…the flood gates were opened! It went from being able to walk and look to not being able to see a thing in NO TIME!! At this point it was about 10:00 or so and I think it is time for me to leave….easier said than done.

From about 10:00-10:45 I walk in circles….I CANNOT find out how to get out of here. Sonia mentioned there was a funicular to take you to the lower part of town….I look and look for signs. Earlier I thought I would just observe the flow of people to figure out where the entrance was…but now, there is no flow….we are wall to wall people. And I think they are mostly locals…I hear zero english.

Another funny thing I did hear/see during my search for the uscita, was this…

20130718-195452.jpg I took the photo from a balcony looking down…but it confused me when I hear “On the Bayou” coming from this “one man band”….how on earth did he choose this song…..and what are the odds after just talking to my Louisiana kin, cher! It really made me laugh…His english/cajun wasn’t that great…but at least he pronounce pirogue kinda right.

So long story short, the search continued. I finally found an information booth…but she spoke no english. So I started with, “uscita and andiamo and funicular” FINALLY, something clicked. What I could get from her was “castello…inoltrare, inoltrare, inoltrare e destra.”
Good enough. I’ll head to the castle and hang a right….


So I find the funicular, figure out how to buy a biglietto, make the car after the next and arrive at the bottom…..that is when I started to get REAL nervous!!

It is PACKED down there as well. I have never been here before so I have no clue which direction to head. I cannot get my phone to dial the number Sonia gave me (I tried at least 8 times).
I kept telling myself, “It’s going to be fine, it’s going to be fine.” Then my other self would say, “And how’s that? You can’t call Sonia, you don’t know where you are, you don’t even know the REAL name of the farm (I know….that was stupid…Io stupido!)
So I choose a direction and start walking….through tents, around performers, crowds of festival goers (and you know the later it gets…the scarier festival goers get).
I finally make it a few blocks to the end of most of the hoop-la. I go in a little cafe, decent crowd. I ask a woman for help, she helps me dial Sonia…..please pick up, please pick up….Sonia picks up….asks me where I am…..HOW IN THE HE………I look around and as luck would have it….ta–dah….I am in front of the train station……Sonia says she is on her way.
Suffice it to say, I was SUPER relieved when she pulled up and I was safely inside her silver van.

I gladly paid her to and fro fee which ended up being about a wash between me not having the 35euro dinner at the farm and not having to pay the 25euro entrance fee to the festival.

Another one for the books!!

La mia bella città, Firenze

I will try to get through writing about my last day in Firenze without tears soaking the keyboard. I am over exaggerating of course, but it is sad to say arrivederci, even though all signs say it is time to move on.
The first on my list this morning was to enjoy a bistecca a la fiorentina for lunch. It seems that all the restaurants only offer this for two, but I have decided I would take that challenge. Katti at Trattoria Katti said they do a smaller version which is the filet, but I wanna go traditional. One of my books, The Food Lover’s Guide to Florence, said Trattoria Mario was one of the best places in town to experience this. When I was there the other day, the couple at the table next to me went on and on about how good it was. Plus I thought a heavy steak like that would be better at lunch (which Mario’s is only open for) than at dinner (which Katti’s is only open for).

Trattoria Mario’s opens at 12:00, but as I learned from my last visit, the line starts forming at about 11:30. So I head over early. 20130716-231937.jpg

When I arrive, Luca is once again outside talking with a friend. We do the “Ciao Luca” “Ciao Paj” Kiss/Kiss thing….he asks if I am here to get in line for lunch. During the next 15 minutes or so, several people start to congregate. Luca is already inside. At about 11:50, Fabio, Mario’s son, once again lets people come in but tells us they do not serve until 12:00. When I enter, he says, “Ciao Signora. Please-a…sit-a at-a your-a place-a.” as he motions to the table I had last time. Tourist to the sinistra, tourist to the destra…locals sprinkled in. It is funny to watch everyone’s reaction to the seating…some are open to it, some…not so much.
Lucca sits at “my” table again…this is obviously his usual. I am informed that Roberto only comes two times a week.

I share my plan of the bistecca a la fiorentina…Luca asks Stefano, the waiter, to allow me to have a small one, but first he insists I try the pappa al pomodor, a meta order. I tell him that I have had it at Trattoria Katti and that I loved it. “Katti? Katti? I-a do-a not-a know-a theesa Katti.” So I agree to try here.20130716-232414.jpg
Although it was very good….between you and mean, I like Katti’s better.
Stefano comes over and Luca does the ordering. I just look back and forth like I am watching a tennis match. Lucca lets me know that the steaks take a bit longer. I assure him I am in no hurry.

While I am looking around, I notice a little purple square with some words and a silhouette with devil horns.20130716-232712.jpg
I read aloud, “Io sto con Fabio…I am with Fabio” . Luca starts laughing and Fabio shoots him a look. I ask what does that mean. Lucca chooses his words carefully.
Basically, at last year’s football match between Firenze and Milano, Fabio….got a bit out of hand yelling at Milano’s coach… I asked, “He got in trouble for just yelling?” Lucca kinda laughs and then says, “He-a, he-a was-a using…come si dice….offensive language. And-a now-a,” Luca is trying hard not to laugh, “Now-a Fabio….can-a not-a go-a to the stadium-a for one-a year-a.”
I tell him that my brother also got in trouble one time for “shouting school slogans”. He laughs-a and says, “We-a are-a crazy-a for our-a foot-a ball-a.”
He adds that tonight at their stadium, there is a welcoming for one of their new players, Mario Gomez. He starts singing some kind of chant and a few others join in….
About that time, he sees some guy out the window, says something, jumps up and runs out. I watch through the window, and from the other guy’s reaction, I can tell they are not exactly friends…the guy turns and says something, but that is about it.
He comes back in all excited. He says that is another one of their players Massimo or something like that. I said, “What did you say I LOVE YOU man!!!” He laughed and said, “No, no, when I was-a a kid-a…yes-a….but-a now-a I just told him Viola Firenze!”
(Later that night, I could see viola smoke….Firenze’s colors….coming up from the stadium.)

During our wait, I ask Luca what their thoughts are about all the tourist. I ask if he can tell one nationality from another just by looking. “Oh-a sure-a sure-a…..” he looks out the window to illustrate, “That-a one-a….I think-a they-a are-a Russian….she-a might be-a Swedish, but-a he-a is-a definitely Russian.” I try my hand at identifying later and fail.

I inquire what it is that gives Americans away. He laughs again…trying to choose words. “The-a shoes-as, and the hat-a…definitely the hat-a….” He points to a guy in the trattoria and nods. I say, “Oh, cap?” “Yes-a the capp-a.”
Then he goes off on a McDonanld’s rant…that Italians believe Americans cannot know what good food is, they cannot wait for it and enjoy it. He also eludes to the Americans’ weight. Although I agree, I tell him wait a minute and I point to an older Italian man walking by outside with what appears to be a barrel under his shirt. Luca just shrugs and smiles.

About fifteen minutes into our wait for the bistecca, although I am showing no signs of distress, Luca looks at me and says, “You-a wish-a to-a go to-a McDonald’s?” No grazie!

The bistecca arrives…with le patate fritte….I was hoping those were on the order.20130716-234841.jpg20130716-234852.jpg Molto Buono!
And of course…a glass of rosso (and this time, I got a fancy glass!)
20130716-235050.jpg Fabio before the exile…

I say my ciaos to all, trying to express my gratitude the best I can…I know I fell short.

After lunch, I head for the Pitti Palace…luckily for me, it is on the other side of the Arno, so there is some walking involved.20130716-235217.jpg
Roaming the gardens reminded me of walking the gardens at Versailles.  I am sure this is not the best season to visit, it was still beautiful. 20130716-235550.jpg I can imagine this would be an awesome venue for a concert.20130716-235629.jpg20130716-235643.jpg20130716-235922.jpg
Although there were many people visiting, the grounds are so vast, you could easily walk alone for hours. I enjoyed imagining the Medici women in their dresses, roaming about using this as an opportunity to slip away and think.20130717-000136.jpg20130717-000149.jpg20130717-000203.jpg20130717-000223.jpg20130717-000234.jpg
I loved this little building. It has quite a view20130717-000312.jpg
And the inside is painted to give the illusion you are in a gazebo. 20130717-000356.jpg20130717-114832.jpg I do not know much about this statue, but it is depicted all over Firenze. I do know the tartaruga was Cosimo de Medici’s symbol.
With the impressive gardens, I will say the bagni were a letdown…


The water fountains did not disappoint.20130717-115330.jpg





After the heat and humidity of the gardens, I find a cooler (in many ways) museo to visit.

If you remember, we had passed this museo during the bike ride day one. I decided to push open the shiney, guarded doors and visit. Again, AudioGuide recommended!
This is an extremely well done museo housed in an amazing venue.

They only allowed photos in a couple of spots. But I loved the entire exhibit. It of course revolves around the life and legendary artistry of Salvatore Ferragamo; from childhood to signature pieces (like the Rainbow Wedge created for Judy Garland) to how he has inspired others.
There are several installations by other artists the theme being “Shoes and Fairytales”…pretty magical!
In the last of the 8 or so rooms, there is a viewing of the short film, WhiteShoe by Ferragamo, based on Salvatore’s life.
I would really put visiting this museo at the top of any list.

20130717-121101.jpg New wallet for Dalton…check…
Let me take another opportunity to say that even though speaking Italian is out of my ability range, attempting to speak it during this trip has been met every time with appreciation and kindness. While buying Dalton’s wallet, Fabio (un altro!) loved it when I would try something. He even wrote down a couple of verbs that would help me know more…
I think Americans coming over, expecting everyone to speak our language has given us a bad rep. (He also harped on McDonald’s…)

As evening begins, I clean up and contemplate my very last evening here….this trip…
At the suggestion of several, I take a little brown bus to Fiesole, FEE-e-sol-E to catch a view of Firenze from the other side. Again, another amazing vista.


Then before the colors fade entirely, I make it to the other side of town, returning to Piazzale Michelangelo. This time, I find a spot not in the center of the Piazzale, but on one of the bench lined paths. Although there are still admirers…they seem mostly local. I think I am the only one with my camera out.

For this last sunset,while being serenaded by the cicada, I even enjoy a few sips of Champagne…from the bottle no less, sold by vendors in the piazzale.
Before I share this, you know I thought the last sunset from here was amazing….I took a bazillion photos of it. When I returned to the room and to view the photos, I was overwhelmed…I could not decide which was when, which was best, etc. It became more about the photographs than the moment.

This evening I decided to enjoy through my eyes and heart, instead of the lens.
However, overcome by the colors after the sun had set and transported by the layers of pink in the sky, I broke down and took 2 photos…only 2.

Che Bello!! no!?


Domenica a Firenze

As I was approaching the bus stop to take me into Assisi proper, the bus to the stazione was just pulling off. When I arrived at the stazione yesterday, I glanced at the departures for Firenze and noticed there were several. At the time, I thought the one at 9:30 would be a bit early, but as it was around nine when I arrived at the bus stop, I thought it was possible. I waited for quite a while on my own, a little while later a woman, then a man…of course they knew each other and began solving the world’s problems. I did not want to interrupt, but after one bus passed, I thought I had better verify (hhhmmmm….”verify” makes it sound like there was an initial understanding….the understanding was that there was a ” fermata dell’autobus” sign and I was standing under it) that a bus eventually could get me to the stazione. The taxis that continued to pass (slowly…looking at me) were starting to be a consideration.
So I asked…”autobus per la stazione?”…..stares…..wait……ah ha moment…..”stazione? aaahhhh Si si” and the guy gives me tilt of the head like, latch onto me…. So, when he gets on, I get on.

When we arrived at the stazione, it was 9:26. I look at the posting and it indicates platform 3. Into the tunnel, punch ticket, up to the track….there are only about 5 of us there and when a train pulls up at 9:29 at track 1….everyone runs back into the tunnel…..quick decision time……
So I too run back into the tunnel (so thankful the ferrari is back in Firenze)…before I board, I ask, “Firenze?” Si, si , si…
As we pull away, I think “please give me a town that looks familiar…please give me a town that looks familiar…” then we pass the sunflower field….that I know, so I sit back and relax.

Side Note: Punching your ticket in Italia-
Each time you purchase a card ticket, before you board, you must punch it in one of the little machines mounted in various places in the staziones and platforms. I had read that if you do not you risk being fined. During my first long trip, I only boarded with a computer print out of my itinerary…. no card ticket. Two of the attendants that day told me, nicely, that during the next trip, I needed to use the PNR# and print my tickets out. So I did all my tickets in Monterosso and did as I was told.
In one city, I do not remember where, I actually got off the train leaving my bags…..I KNOW I KNOW….and ran to punch because I had forgotten…I told a young American couple, “I am about to do something stupid. I am going to leave my bags right here while I RUN to that little machine over there and validate my ticket. Will you please watch my bags.”
“Validate ticket?” was there only reply….and the husband followed me… Livin’ on the edge in Italia!
Anyway, yesterday, on the way to Assisi (aahhh…Azizi you-a mean-a) the attendant came around to check tickets, there was an Asian couple behind me and I overheard them say, “but nobody tell us” this was repeated several times while the attendant was writing them a ticket to pay a fine. The guy asked “What happen if I not pay?” and the price went up….to that the guy replied, “Stupid!”……I am slouching in my seat now, afraid to turn around….I hear the attendant say, “Io stupido? sei uno stupido!!”
And the tourist paid…..
Moral of the story….do not get over confident that it is not going to happen….it depends on the attendant and their mood…..

You know how I have fussed about luggage, and how I tried to pack wisely? I glance over at two Poor Clares/nuns/sisters, I am struck by the amount of luggage they have. Each has a suitcase a tad bit smaller than mine (just a tad….and maybe the same size, it’s just that the Ferrari has such a commanding presence) and then 2 stuffed grocery bags each….I figure if I have pared down my worldly goods to a similar amount as a nun…. I am doing pretty good.

I get a bit nervous when at the next stop a guy enters wearing a t-shirt that declares “Jesus died for HIS sins NOT MINE” Why…..why here?

Then, here comes the attendant…..hold your breath….hhhmmmm….he’s telling person after person that they need to move…..looks at my ticket…ahhhh, primo classe…I get to stay put.

During the rest of the trip, I glance back at my books (via ipad) and notes on Firenze. I make a list on what I still need to accomplish in the next day and a half…..I am pretty sure I will not regret leaving Assisi early.

So let’s see-
* Pugi, Piazza San Marco, try schiacciata
* Lunch or dinner at Osteria de Benci, per Tuscany food book
* Pitti-Gola Enoteca, try Chianti wine flight
* Boboli Gardens, Pitti Palace, Jim & Luca suggested this
* Eat a Bistecca ala Fiorentina @ Trattoria Mario
* Look for Dalton a wallet….he loves his Italian leather!
* Sunset, capture one more, small sunset tour in surrounding area?
* See the small gallery that Roberto suggested (limited days and hours)

I had better hit the ground running.

I quickly go to the B (such a great location to the train station), ditch my overnight bag and hit the via.
Again, I am hungry, so I head to Pugi to try their schiacciata. Supposedly schiacciata is like focaccia only maybe saltier, crunchier and oilier…..again, TRIFECTA!
I make my way over to Piazza San Marco….easy enough… sinistra, destra, sinistra, destra…

chiuso….LOTS of places are chiuso on domenica….good for them. Not a problem….I have a back up plan. So I walk, stand in the shade, check my map…repeat….repeat…this 2nd place is over by the Accademia .

20130716-163510.jpg Chiuso!!
I’m getting kinda weak and delirious now…remember I did not eat last night either. My last meal was the insalata de osteria…
I toy with the idea of just walking in a place….but I cannot make myself….the places that are open look so touristy….so I keep going…not sure where to head….and then, like a mirage, I see a crowd of people in the street….a line leading into a teeniney panino place….is it just that these people are hungry like me? Hungry and desperate? Doubtful…the places around that are open are empty…it is obvious that these people know something that I do not…so I get in line. As I assume my position at the end, a guy comes out of a door across the street carrying slabs of cibatta/focaccia/schiacciata (for all I know) 4 loaves high….I decide I’m going where he came from. Come to find out, it is all part of the same place, it is just that one side has the ovens (and air conditioning). So I assume my position at the end there.

This is what I am greeted with. I apologize that my photos in here are not very good…it is elbow to elbow people, a counter strewn with meats, cheeses, spreads, bread stacked up right under our noses and these hard and fast working people behind the counter.

I start to get nervous….I don’t know what to order, there is no menu, I cannot get a bird’seye view to know my options, I don’t want to make anyone mad…..what to do? Then it is my turn, “vi! Vi!”. I have heard this enough to know it means some sort of “go”. So….I just point at everything and say. “You choose.” Without missing a beat, the young guy grabs a new loaf, warm and dripping with oil, cuts a 5×5 piece, slathers a couple of spreads on it (one was artichoke, one not sure) pompodoro, Prosciutto Toscana, mozzarella, and honestly I neither know nor care what else….he wraps it in a paper and says, “for you momma”. I add a glass of wine and it is 7 euro!! Not the wine, the whole meal. I elbow my way to part of a seat along the wall, directly behind the line and just sit and admire for a moment.

I am once again, so darn happy. So happy that I did not succumb to my hunger…I once again stuck with my vision. I use to think some of the sandwiches we have gotten, freshly made at Central Market were good. And ya know, they were good, but this…this was amazing.

I actually think I napped somewhere during the middle, but I awoke to finish….

20130716-165520.jpg Last bit!

No wait….I lost some in the process….

20130716-165556.jpg I think a little prayer of thanks goes to Santo Lorenzo.

On the way out, I snapped a few more “action ” photos.


I walk outside to see a line still forming both here and across the street.

Lesson Learned!! When you see crowds like this…



And next door…at the “Food Station”….you see this…

20130716-170231.jpg Listen to the masses!

Before I start to roam, I take a quasi bath…


Feeling full and refreshed…I am off.
For a while, I roam from street sign to street sign…more on that in a dedicated post.

I later find myself again near the Accademia and Uffizi. In the courtyard between the galleries you will find artist after artist. This guy caught my eye. His caricatures remind me of ones done by Monet when he was younger.

I watch him for a bit.

I decide for 5 euros and 5 minutes…perché no?

I wait in line along with 3 young girls, I think he assumes they are with me and when I sit, he has them sit in front of me to keep my attention in one place. Here is what entertained me while he worked.

It was so cute watching their reactions as he worked. Sometimes they were pleased and would nod approvingly. Sometimes they were confused and would look like, “huh?”…and other times they would say “aaawww” or clap their hands.
And then I was revealed.

Drawing something coming from the mouth must be a signature of sorts. The family in front of me all had flowers coming out of theirs. I am assuming the chick means I am not spring chicken….not sure about that symbol, but he says he draws the body as he wants….at least he added my necklaces. But 5 euro to have your “portrait” drawn at the Uffizi….perché no!
And then it was their turn…

On my way past other artists, one creating some assemblage/collage work caught my eye. Although he did not allow photos of the front, I asked if I could take a photo of his name.

Francesca Piagentini….Perfecto!

I can’t pass up seeing what the street artists are creating each day.


Those are the two artists back there on the curb chatting it up. It is so funny, they do not “work” the crowd…they just create…


I took a close-up of this wing to illustrate to my students (and myself) that “white” is not white.


Dalton is currently into vinyl…but again chiuso…

I decide to check one more thing off my list before heading back to the B.

20130716-172419.jpg Wine Tasting
This place has been mention by several people as where to come to get a fabulous range of vino by the glass.

20130716-172526.jpg It is something I forget to write about, but I love the choice of old music played in many of the establishments. Old, classic American and Italian music..20s, 30s, 40s, it just sets the right mood. There was a restaurant in Anacapri that every time I would turn the corner coming into the piazza, it would make me smile.

I chose to taste a trio flight of local Chianti. And boy, was I a disappointment to my sommelier.
He chose for me a 2009, a 2007 and a 1968 (although the bottle says 1975).
I swear I thought this was some kind of a test….that because he had touted the 68….it was a trap. I did not like it at all…I kept trying it…not liking it….trying it….making a face….so I just left it and finished the others. When he came by and notice the 68 still there….he picked it up, stuck his nose in it, breathed deeply, made a sound reserved for intimate moments…shook his head at me, and said something in Italian followed by “I will get you something else.”
It was no doubt the oldest and most expensive wine I have ever had, ma non era per me.