Silhouette – Roman Ruins

RomeThe three remaining columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollox dating back to ancient Rome, stand proudly among the ruins of the Roman Forum.

In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.


Travel Theme: Bridges

Even monkeys need a little help to get across the road.  A group of school children raised money to make rope bridges for the monkeys so that they could get safely across the roads in the Manuel Antonio beach area and the town of Quespos in Costa Rica.    monkey on rope bridge saving the rainforestThe rope bridges sharply contrast to the bridges that span the Tiber River in Rome.

Pont Sant"Angelo across the Tiber RiverIncredibly, this bridge, built in 134 AD and has stood the ravages of war, floods, and time.  It’s a beautiful bridge with a gruesome history.  For centuries, the bridge was used to expose the bodies of those people who were executed.  Currently, the bridge is only used for pedestrian traffic. It sits directly across from the Castel Sant’Angelo, a fortress historically used by the Popes and their families.

Ponte vittorio Emanuele II, RomeThe Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, built in the early 1900’s sits just down the river from the Ponte Sant’Angelo.

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack? for this theme.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination


Bernini's Chair of Peter This illuminated window sits above the altar in the apse at the end of the central nave in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. It is part of a larger sculpture, called the Cathedra Petri, by the artist Bernini designed to commemorate the chair that reportedly belonged to St. Peter.  The stained glass is divided into twelve sections as a tribute to the twelve apostles.

It is hard to image the size of this sculpture or the overwhelming size of the Basilica itself.  The Basilica is 186. 3 m (628 feet or about two football field lengths) from the front doors of the cathedral to the opposite end where this sculpture sits.  Bernini also sculpted the bronze canopy that stands at the entrance of the apse. The photograph below gives you some sense of the dimensions (although have I have to apologize for the poor quality of the photo).

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

The sheer size of the cathedral and the centuries of art work housed in this church was overwhelming but the illuminated Cathedra Petri dominated our attention.

Thanks to Cheri at WordPress for this week’s challenge.

Travel Theme – Multiples

Outdoor food markets with fresh produce piled high atop shelves and crates comes to mind when I think of this week’s travel theme. The Campo de Fiori (Courtyard of Flowers) is one of the oldest markets in Rome.  The stalls are set up in the midst of a cobblestone courtyard surrounded by medieval buildings. The market sells fresh produce as well as packaged foods (pasta), flowers, kitchen utensils.  Or you can people watch from one of the cafes.

artichokes    I loved the rows of artichokes.

chestnutsAnd who knew that multiple chestnuts grew in a larger hairy shell.

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack for this week’s travel theme.


As I was reflecting on my trip to Italy a year ago, I thought of this photo for this week’s WP weekly photo challenge.  I took thi photo in the Cortile della Pigna, the courtyard of the Vatican Museums.  Vatican Museum garden sculptureThe Vatican Museums are vast and overwhelming, especially for artistically ignorant folks like us so we hired a guide.  Our guide, Andrea from New Rome Free Tour was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and entertaining (using children’s picture books to explain the history and architecture).  We originally booked a three hour tour but Andrea generously spent five hours with us – well worth the 130 euros.

A shady bench in the courtyard provided MOO a perfect spot for a quick nap before entering the Sistine Chapel.   You can see MOO and I and Andrea reflected in the bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

It you are planning to visit the museums book your tickets on-line directly with the Vatican Museums to avoid the long queues and check out the free daily tour by New Rome Free Tours meets everyday at 5:30 at the Spanish Steps. It’s a wonderful way to get your bearings in this historic centre of this incredible city.


You know you’re in foreign country when…

When I travel, I want to feel like I’m in a new place and sometimes the best indicators of a new place are the signs.  Sara Rosso of WP highlighted this in her weekly photo challenge post.  I love taking photos of the signs I come across. They remind me of the places I’ve visited or the things that I’ve seen.  I’m not even sure what some of these signs mean but I do know they mean I’m no longer in Canada (or at least my neck of the woods).

Weekly Photo Challenge – Growth

Michelangelo's Renaissance PiazzaRenaissance Gardens overlooking the ruins of the Roman Forum

If you stand on the grounds of the Roman Forum, near the ruins of the House of the Vestal Virgins and look towards the Capitoline Hill, you can see the gardens of Michelangelo’s Renaissance Piazza atop ancient Roman ruins.  The excavations of these ruins has provided us an understanding of the growth of civilization.  The dilemma however that remains – to continue to excavate, the archeologist would have to risk destroying the history above.

These photos don’t begin to capture the overwhelming awe that I felt standing where ancient Romans once walked and looking at the gardens that were later created by one of the greatest artists and thinkers.

Traveling to Italy – 20 years later

We’re going to Italy.  Seven more sleeps and we’re off. My last trip to Italy was 20 years ago.  It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago until I actual count the years.  20 years is a long time and a lot has changed.  20 years ago I was a young professional working in my first job.  My best friend and I managed to save up a month’s worth of vacation time for our great adventure in Europe.  It was a carefree adventure.  We had no responsibilities (aka mortgages, homes, pets, families)  and less expectations.  Although we quickly decided after two days of traveling that we were not cut out for “hosteling” with shared rooms and bathrooms.  We were Bed and Breakfast/Guest house or small hotel with private bath kinda girls.

BFF - Inner Courtyard, Palazzo Vecchio, Firenze, 1991

20 years later and I have managed to cobble 18 days away from my job to travel.  I’m traveling with my One and Only and although I have more responsibilities (house, family, pets) I’m leaving them behind to travel to Bella  Italia.  Abbey will be left in the capable hands of her “Zia M.” and Uncle C.  whom she loves.  The house will be secured and watched by ADT and  neighbours and our jobs and family will cope without us (we hope).

The differences between planning and traveling 20 years later are remarkable thanks to technology.  20 years later I am once again staying in Bed and Breakfasts, Guest Houses or small private hotels. The difference this time around – we booked everything on-line, checked out reviews on Trip Advisor, poured over websites and accompanying photos and used Google Earth to check on the locations of our preferred accommodations.  Granted, we are missing out on the fun (trepidation? angst?) of arriving in a city and finding a place to stay based on availability and the recommendations of the tourist information office in the local train station.  Instead, we have enjoyed countless hours planning our trip, extending the sense of anticipation and adventure for months.

Arc of Constantine, Rome, 1991

20 years ago, I kept a journal where I tried to carefully record our days.  I took 10 roles of film (360 photos) that I had to carefully protect and carry with me and hope that the photos I took captured the sights and experiences and feelings of our adventure.  I had to wait to develop my photos upon my return home and hope that I remembered the name of the churches, piazzas, fountains and landscapes in my photos.  Developing my photos was one of the first priorities upon returning home.  Organizing and examining the photos (that turned out and were worth keeping) and re-reading the journal provided my BFF and me an opportunity to relive the beauty and excitement, the laughter and joy and misadventures of our travels.

20 years later, I plan to journal my trip on my netbook (although I may also carry a paper journal with me).  I can take countless digital photos because I don’t have to worry about running out of film and developing costs.  I can re-take photos if an image isn’t quite right.  I can upload and blog about my adventures and share with friends and family more immediately.  And then, when I’m home, I can once again spend time organizing and examining photos, re-reading my journal and blog and reliving the beauty and excitement of our Italian vacation and of course any misadventures.

20 years later, I can take my e-reader rather than multiple novels, magazines etc. for the plane trip.  This technological advance is particularly cherished because a small e-reader takes up much less space than multiple books and gives me more room for clothes and shopping and shoes.  20 years ago I managed to carry home three new pairs of shoes as well as several pieces of new clothing and souvenirs (for friends and family) all  in a backpack.  Granted it was a large backpack but still smaller than a suitcase.  (I did ship home a shearling coat that I picked up in the Florence market that I couldn’t fit in my backpack but we won’t count that little extravagance).  20 years later, I should have room to bring back so much more (and maybe another shearling coat?).  We will still carry guidebooks with us. After all, I think it would look silly and it may be awkward walking around with an e-reader while we are sightseeing.

20 years later I will be able to stay in touch with family and friends via text messaging and email. (I haven’t quite mastered Skype).  I won’t have to worry about finding a phone and wondering how it works or communicating with an operator that doesn’t speak English.  I won’t have to worry about mistaking a red garbage receptacle for a mailbox when posting postcards although I may still send postcards.

Mercato di San Lorenzo, Firenze, 1991

20 years later, I will once again be able to sit in a piazza in Rome or Florence or Venice and enjoy a coffee and a cornetto, or pizza or pasta and a glass of wine while watching the people around me living their lives.  20 years later, I can once again enjoy the art and architecture that has been around for hundreds of years.  Seven more sleeps!