Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Post Travel Depression Syndrome

As it is the day before Thanksgiving, I will start by saying that despite what I write here, I am unbelievably grateful for all that I have in life and the opportunity to do what I do. So take all below with a grain of salt...maybe a shaker of salt.

I'm sure I've written these words before, but coming home after one of trips is like you've been involved with this incredibly intense competition involving full focus and effort and then the competition is over. Our days when we travel are so full! There is no routine. Each day you are planning what you will do and how you will do it. No brain dead get in the car and drive to some appointment using the same roads you've used a thousand times before. Eating, shopping, transport all become exercises. At home they are routine. And we go out of our way to ensure we are in that state. We purposely limit how long we stay any one place because the excitement is in the discovery.

We are usually physically very tired and it doesn't end with the days activities because once we are wherever home is that night, we need to look at all our pictures and try to get a blog post up. Yes, yes, yes, we don't have to do that. But we LOVE doing it.

So each day is filled to the brim with activity.  Once home, there is nowhere near that requirement of mental focus. Wife truly loves her home routine and misses it when we travel. So she is always much happier to be home. For me it is transition that is more difficult. But the more travel we do, the easier it becomes. I think this is because I am confident that I will be off traveling again.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Italia 2017 - Homeward Bound

We're doing our now time tested method of breaking our return trip into two segments. Flew from Amsterdam to Chicago today. The flight was completely uneventful. United has made this big to do about their 'new' Polaris brand business and first class service. We didn't see any difference in the seats but I have to say the quality of the food was up substantially.

We napped on the plane ride and took a second nap in our hotel. So hopefully we will be staying up until normal go to sleep time. Then tomorrow morning we will be flying back to Albuquerque and will be back around Noon time. I will be going through my posts tonight and coming up with the post-trip retrospective and analysis.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Italia 2017 - Finale in Amsterdam

It has become somewhat of a tradition in our European trips to finish up visiting the #3 family in Amsterdam. As we got together with them in Umbria in October we had in our early planning decided to not go to Amsterdam but return directly from Rome. However, for some unknown reason, the airline I have permanent status on, United, only has seasonal flights out of Rome directly to the US hubs. That meant I was going to have to fly to another European city to get the routing home I wanted. And to do it with the timing I wanted it meant either getting up terribly early to account for the extra flight or going to the other city and staying overnight. Once I decided that getting up super early was not a good idea for us and going to another city the night before was the preferred option, going to Amsterdam where we could see family and not have to pick up another hotel was the attractive option.

If you've followed the blog for any period of time, you are more than aware that our visits to Amsterdam include a repertoire of mandatory required street food along with an equally mandatory number of grandchildren pictures. Despite cold weather, we threw ourselves into it.

We were in full grandparenting mode. You may remember from our day with 3.1 and 3.2 and the massively popular stories made surrounding the picture I took of 3.2 with an orange in her mouth, there was desire to do something similar today.

We are in Amsterdam during a short period of time when olliebollen - fried dough with powdered sugar - is available.
3.2 announces that olliebollen and some other breakfast cake will be served
The announcement is greeted enthusiastically
Coffee is brewed
However, it is important to guard one's olliebollen from the inevitable predators that will seek it out
"Grandpa, are you ready for the fun to start?"
What could be more fun than pictures of orange in the mount?

Olliebollen in the mouth of course. 
But wait there is more!

I would like to point out that certain children, son-in-law, and spouse feel that I may not be the best influence on said grandchildren. 
Meanwhile 3.1 was plotting out our strategy for further street food eatery.

You will recognize our destination from prior posts

YES, it is Frites

It is hard to get into the 'food in the mouth' when it is cold

Wife looks like she's taking a picture
She's actually covering the bare spot on her face with her camera from the wind
Displeasure was shown to certain grandparents enabling grandchildren 
They were told they could eat ater with a fork
I was able to avoid his prohibition and earn some herring
And one can't forget the best doner kebab we've had outside of Turkey (though I hear Berlin is even better)
Our time with our family is too short
We will be winging our way back to the US tomorrow
A seagull contemplates our departing Europe yet again.

Italia 2017 - Roma Antica, Finding the Truth About the Arena

On our last day in Rome we were totally immersed into Ancient Rome. Going to the Coliseum is considered another of those 'A' list items when visiting Rome and as with the Vatican one is advised to use a tour as tours have priority access for entry and you can avoid the long lines. And as a bona fide Roman history nut, I convinced Wife we should do a tour that included both the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum.

Ah, the Arena, the Coliseum
It is a commonly thought that the games of  the Coliseum were focused on such things as gladiator fights and fighting of wild animals or letting prisoners be killed by animals. In fact recent scholarship has found that ancient Rome much like its modern rendition was overrun with tourists from over the Empire. To get this plague of tourists under control, the Emperors solutions was having various tour groups duel with each other in the Coliseum. Our tour was designed to give us this very experience in real life

We fight the masses to get to into the arena
Our tour guide shows us
"There. You will achieve glory for our tour company and defeat the groups from Korea and China today
We will have a mock up of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. See we are putting out the floor as we speak.
Including trap doors for the organizers might have a group from cruise ship pop up without notice
The Leaders of the city will watch you with interest from there
And the crowd will cheer you on as you force yourself over the mangled bodies of other tour groups that try to get in your way!
The exploits of the great ancient tour groups victories in the arena were honored by massive triumphal arches

Scenes of these victories were carved on the triumphal arches
The Victory of the Celtic chariot tour over the Illyrian cruise shippers
The Greek philosopher tour's mastery of the Egyptian temple tour
The controversial victory of the Judean food tourists over the Dacian art tour 
(Evidently the use of the Menorah to push the other group out of the way was considered to be a questionable tactic)
There is something something about being surrounded the magnitude of these ruins, of a city that at its peak was over a million in population two thousand years ago that makes one contemplative
A tour guide contemplates the glory that was Rome
A seagull contemplates what monument it will poop upon
After the Colosseum we went up to the Palatine Hill and then into the Forum
The ruins of Imperial Palaces don't give one a feel of what was really there and as Wife has said, "There are only so many pictures of broken buildings one can post"

On the other hand, when you look at the Forum, center of civic life for hundreds of years in Rome, from above, you really can I think imagine just what an incredible city Rome was in its ancient time.

 Here are a building that have the original bronze doors and one that has porphyry pillars
And a temple that had a church built inside it

One last historical note
This is the Via Sacra, the main road running through the Roman Forum and according to our guide it is the original
Any major personage on ever read about in Roman history probably stepped on this very path
Kind of gives me a sense of awe of the scope and breath of history
And one last gastronomic experience
We had our last meal at a restaurant right next to our apartment
Sigh, one last wonderful pasta carbonara
A last grilled fish
And one more wonderful osso bucco 
All with a half liter of house wine
I will miss eating in Italy so much

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Italia 2017 - Chilling In Trastevere

Trastevere is a section of central Rome that is on the west side of the Tiber River. One of the few sections of Old (as opposed to Ancient) Rome that was on the west side of the River, it is quite a bit less frequented by the tourist hordes. (Note - I don't suppose any of you are slightly bemused that Wife and I NEVER consider ourselves as part of the 'Tourist Hordes'. Perish the though. We are 'Travelers'.  A far more refined group I must say.) After enduring the crowds at the Vatican on Tuesday, spending a quiet day wandering the banks of the Tiber and the Medieval streets of Trastevere indulging in photography at our own pace and without pressure.

Moseying to and along the Tiber
More opportunities to see 'old stuff'
These are the oldest temples still standing in their original state dating to the second century BCE

I put these ruins in because they date from the late Republican period about 100 BCE
Another juxtaposition of Ancient and Medieval

Stuff along the streets
As our Airbnb host told us
"If you just walk, you can't help but see art in Rome."

A company in Rome is promoting Wolves' Milk
One of their advertisements 
No one is so great that they can be a resting place for a seagull
Scenes along the Tiber

Villa Farnesina
A palazzo of yet another of the powerful Roman families, the Farenese, the draw here is an incredible trove of frescoes painted by Raphael and his workshop. Originally we had not planned to go to another museum after getting our fill at the Vatican. But the weather was not cooperating so we ducked into here. We were glad we did. There was practically no one there, you were way closer to the art, and you had the time to study it. Plus it had a good handheld audio program. 

Can I start off by saying the patron Farenese evidently knew what he liked and made sure their was a lot of it in this. The fact that Raphael shared his tastes probably helped make this a mutually enjoyable commission. 
To get the full idea of what one of the rooms looked like, a panoramic video

Now the detail

Next we headed to Santa Maria in Trastevere
This is the oldest active church in Rome dating to the 4th century
It is noted by for some spectacular mosaics that are dated to the 12th century
They have a decidedly Byzantine look to them if you ask me

Wandering in Trastevere

Getting cell signal in old buildings can be a challenge

This is an ideal environment for doing in environment shots of the elusive photographer in her natural habitat

Ah, I think I have found one
Must not let her shake me
Quietly now. She's sizing up her quarry. Can't spook her
Darn! She's so fast
Ah. Again she sizes up her prey
And that moment when she makes the kill

Yet again hunger and fatigue have us go to a place that I fear is touristy but again we are rewarded with a great meal plus our waitress was such dear. I was crabby from hunger and communication issues but she powered through with sweetness and patience. I put a great review on TripAdvisor extolling her praises
Some lovely grilled vegetables (a favorite of ours on this trip and very good chicory sauteed in oil and garlic
An excellent Cacio e Pepe
(And I know how to make it now ha ha)
And what might be the best single dish of pasta we had on this trip, this places version of Lasagna Bolognese

And Finally Last but not Least
Let's see:
No Cell phones
No tennis outfits
No Huskies
No male hats with full brims
Don't eat gelato and drink wine at the same time
Don't yell at people with a megaphone