Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lido Beach

After sightseeing in Venice, we spent a terrific afternoon on Lido Beach. We went there thanks to hometown friend, Dawn and her suggestion. We rented a beach chair for Mom and the kids made a mad dash for the surf. Ever my critter-loving girl, Cameron caught two small hermit crabs (that ended up visiting five additional countries with us) and Caroline played in the sand and water. It was such a relaxing afternoon and a welcome break from the mad dash of sightseeing.

I had just settled down with my glass of white wine when a group of obviously American girls grabbed a spot next to us. Who would have guessed we would be next to Missourians on an Adriatic beach? Yep, that's right - the girls from Villa Duchesne in St. Louis were our sandside neighbors for the day. Fearless as they were, they enthusiastically joined a group of Italian guys in a game of beach soccer. I encouraged them to get in there and show them what Missouri girls were made of - and they did! Like all good moms, stand-in or otherwise, I enjoyed watching from the sidelines while guarding their stuff.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the "Iron Curtain." As much as I've tried to explain what it was like to Cameron and Caroline, I'm finding it difficult to describe the political climate of my childhood - where it was the "commies" instead of the terrorists trying to take away our freedom; where the Cold War dominated the TV news and yellow and black fallout shelter signs still decorated the halls of most public buildings.

As much as I love eastern Europe (more on that love in later posts) the physical remains of communism still dominate parts of the landscape and certain sections of most cities. The stark and ugly concrete apartment buildings, like monolithic, proletariat ghosts appear in every population center as well as in unexpected places. We were driving through a small, rural town in Poland and suddenly they appeared. Cameron shot this image while we were driving. Many windows were gone and they looked deserted. Being well away from any large city, I wondered if they had been built for farm workers.
We made our way into Bratislava, partly by accident and partly by "oh well, might as well." No doubt due to the lack of planning we drove around in a section of the city that was less than attractive. "Urban blight" came to mind and being a child of the 60's, I must admit the memory of "KGB" did as well. For a second or two I was sucked back in time to one of those Communist places Walter Cronkite had warned us of - where people went, never to be seen again.
When we finally found our hotel, unpacked, showered and sat down to have dinner, Cameron glanced out the window and said, "Hey, isn't that our seal?" I thought she was referring to a zoo animal and gave her a "are you nuts?" kind of look. When we later walked out onto the square I broke into a huge smile and thought of T.J. Greaney's June 5th article in the Columbia Tribune
that I had read online from Italy only the week before. The stars and stripes were indeed flying over the square. It was the American Embassy and thus began the evenings civic lesson. I explained that if there were some horrible disaster, either natural or man-made, the Embassy would be the first place we would go. Caroline smiled and seemed very proud to know that as an American citizen, the Marines at the embassy would protect her - even whisk her away in a helicopter if necessary. I'm sure it sounded very adventuresome and romantic to an eleven year old. To tell the truth, there was something very comforting to an old Mom about having them there even with the KGB 20 years gone. ;)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Misc Images from Florence

The layout is giving me fits and the connection is ultra-slow but we couldn't go without posting the pic of the Florence slug; my favorite painting; the old empty building I want to buy to turn into a glorious hotel and Florence at night.

Medici Unplugged

Florence is a great city to walk; even at night the girls and I felt perfectly safe. Of course we did not venture too far beyond tourist areas but what an opportunity to fall in love with the jewels of the Renaissance. My only complaint (well perhaps there were a few) was the museums were so small, they require reservations (yes, you read that correctly) on busy days. Perhaps that was something I overlooked in the guidebooks. You simply will not get in without a reservation if there are crowds. Period.
The Galleria dell'Accademia is one of the best known museums in Florence, because it houses famous sculptures by Michelangelo, including the "David", "The Foil Porcospino ur Prisoners" and the "Pieta of Palestina". This Museum is way too small. If someone begins a fund to improve it, I will happily contribute.

The restoration and construction work (which I know is so neccessary to preserve the grand architecture) really detracted from the Florence experience in some locations. It's hard to imagine and get the "feel" of some of the buildings when they're draped and covered with scaffolding.

I took the photo on the left at The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross). Santa Croce is the principal Franciscan church in Florence and was one of our favorite places. It is also known as the Temple of Italian Glories because Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini, and Marconi are entombed there. I particularily like how the Franciscan monks hid Galileos remains in the wall - defying the Pope and his orders that the evil Galileo, with his scientific ideas, could not be interred in a holy place.

The hilarious and entertaining Franco welcomed us to il Porcospino; once for lunch and again the following night for dinner. Franco is obviously legendary and everyone seems to know and love him. If you don't get him started on Italian politics (he's not keen on the idea of a diverse Italy) he'll sing American pop songs for you. Be sure to visit there for good food at reasonable prices in Florence.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

MIsc Ramblings on Traveling, Internet and Blogs

I read an article and a discussion before I left on how advanced Europe had become over the US with wireless and being connected. Sadly, at least for travelers, its simply not true. I had depended on this and have found myself unable to upload photos, share info from the road or email.
In larger cities and better hotels, they have WiFi but it is extremely undependable. I have found throughout Italy, the slighest rainstorm seems to take it out for days. There are internet points and cafes, but who wants to spend hours sitting in one when you are suppose to be on vacation? When using their computers, you have no way to upload photos, especially with restrictions on attaching outside devices. So while I imagined relaxing after a long day of sightseeing, glass of vino beside my laptop as I recorded the days events - well it just did not turn out that way.
In addition, when it comes to getting on line nobody rides for free - at least not in Europe. In the US, mid-priced hotels often have WiFi or a business center for their customers at no charge. Here, even four and five star hotels charge for internet access. In London at the Kensington Holiday Inn you can expect to pay about twelve to thirteen US dollars per hour for access. In Italy and France, it is averaging around seven US dollars per hour. Granted the exchange rate does not help, but it remains cyber-highway robbery.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Pics for Wineauxs to Love

These hands are about 20 ft tall and not far from Gigondas. They were showcased in a roundabout. There were several places in the Cote du Rhone that had grapevines in the roundabout. So cool - I'm wondering if they'd do that on Chapel Hill Road??? :)
The other photos above are Gigondas and Saint Cosme.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Photos of Saint Cosme & the village of Gigondas

AS y6oiu can see the Barroul family dog was so happy we visited, it escourted us to town!