November 29, 2008

Italy Pictures

I pretty much gave up on making a Flickr album for our Italy trip. I was able to make an album on Shutterfly.

If you are interested in our vacation photos, you can see them here.

November 26, 2008

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch . . .

We arrived late Monday night after a spectacularly long day of travel about which I have no right to complain. But it was a long, long day.

Our connecting flight from London was great because we had a row of five seats to ourselves.

Anyway, we're back and it's 5 in the morning and I've been up for an hour. I'm obsessed with getting every single last one of our vacation photos uploaded to Shutterfly, so I can share our pictures with my in-laws later today when we get up to Cortland.

Did I mention we are going upstate for the holiday weekend? We are leaving the house at 6 am, so we can be at our bus at 6:30 - a full hour before departure. We were advised that today is a big travel day and that the buses would be crowded. Hopefully, an hour will be enough time to get us on that early bus.

It's taken me hours to get the photos loaded - all 818 of them, but I'm almost finished.

I tried loading them up to Flickr, but Flickr kept telling me that my photos weren't loading and I kept having to reload my batches, so I only got so far. Eventually I'll get the photos onto my Flickr page but that's going to involve some more serious editing than I was capable of doing on Tuesday.

Anyway, I'll post some pictures as soon as I can. There are some really great shots and then there are some really incredibly average touristy shots.

November 23, 2008

Our Final Days in Florence

Yesterday morning, after my early rise due to insomnia, I got Jon up and we started out on a long day of walking and exploring. The first thing we did Saturday morning was walk up a hill side, past the Ponte Vecchio to the Piazzale Michelangelo where we (and many other tourists) took in the most spectacular view of Florence you can imagine. We then walked further up the hill to the San Miniato church. It is a 10th century church with old frescoes and wonderful old statues and great murals - you know, the usual.

We then walked to the Basilica of Santa Croce which had even more amazing, wonderful religious art and the tombs of Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo to name a few. Within the church was an amazing museum with lots of frescoes and DellaRobias. There is so much in that church, I had trouble absorbing it all, which is probably why I took so many pictures. I will have to go back and look over everything.

Then, as if that was not enough, we went to the museum that houses the great works from the Duomo. There were works by DellaRobia, Donatello among others. But the best piece has to be Michelangelo's last sculpture, The Pieta which he sculpted for his tomb but then destroyed because he didn't think it was good enough. Fortunately for all of us, one his students put it back together. His face is on one of the figures holding up Christ. It's moving.

That was a lot for one day and we had a nice rest before going to dinner. We wanted to be well rested for our final push today. We saved the best for last. Today we went to the Uffizi gallery and I am glad we were well rested. They have the absolute best examples of Renaissance artwork in the world. The Botticellis were breathtaking. Michelangelo's only free standing painting was there. Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation was beautiful. There was a whole exhibit dedicated to Giotto and his followers. The Metropolitan Museum of Art would love to have any of the pieces we saw today. Caravaggio, Hans Holbein, Memling, Raphael, Titian. A super collection.

This trip has been great, just superb.

Tomorrow morning it is finished. We start our long trek back. Florence to Rome by train. Then Rome to the airport by train. Rome to London and then London to New York.

I will be sad to leave. But when I get back, I'll start the daunting task of editing the hundreds and hundreds of photos we took this week so I can share our trip with you. But be warned. There is going to be a lot of art.

November 22, 2008

Florence is Lovely

Friday morning Jon and I hopped a train for Florence. It was a quick ride. But a long walk to the hotel when we got out. But that's okay because it was a long walk in Florence. We walked past the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore with the landmark dome for which Florence is famous, mostly.

Our hotel is great, even nicer than the one we stayed in Rome. Every room has a computer. There is a jacuzzi and a sauna. And it's right around the block from the Dome.

We hit the ground running. The first site we saw was the Basilica. That Dome is remarkable. The painting on the underside is almost as amazing as Michelangelo's Last Judgement at the Sistine Chapel. The scene is also of the Last Judgement by two painters named Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari. You ever hear of them? Me neither. But Vasari did a lot of work here. And I'm sure I'll always know his name now - I might even be able to recognize his work after our visit to the Uffizi gallery. I tried to take pictures in the Basilica but it was next to impossible. My flash renders everything reddish brown in a dimly lit room and I had trouble capturing non-blurry images in that light.

After we saw the interior of the main building, we visited the separate and totally amazing baptistry building. I was able to make many pictures in there. The baptistry also has a dome with scenes from the bible and scenes from Christ's life. Among those scenes is another amazing Last Judgement on the main panel. Those painting were remarkable.

After being awed by the Baptistry, we walked over the Academy Gallery. Their most famous piece of art is the Statue of David by Michelangelo. It is as amazing as you think. Taking pictures is forbidden in that museum, yet quite a few people were able to get off a shot. There were two guards watching the statue, but they were engaged in quite a lively discussion. I also took advantage of the situation.

But the Academy had other great pieces as well. Mostly altar pieces from the 14th to 16th centuries and quite a few amazing paintings. The subjects of most of the artwork are Saints and the lives of Saints. I saw more than one painting and/or altar piece that depicted the Coronation of Mary. For the first time, I am seeing Christ represented as the Man of Sorrows. Those paintings are interesting because they show the tools the Romans used to torture him.

There was also a special exhibit on a 14th century painter whose name escapes me now. His work was remarkably well preserved considering most of it was oil on wood. Wood doesn't always keep that well.

We didn't stop at the Academy. We continued our stroll through Florence. Jon took me to the Ponte Vecchio - a beautiful bridge. It was romantic. It was raining. The cobble street was slick and shiny. The Arno river provided beautiful photographs. But the rain started to fall too hard yesterday and the temperature was dropping so we headed back to the hotel where we watched a movie before we went out to dinner.

Today, we're going to hit the free churches. I specifically used the word free because some of the churches here are also museums and they are not all free. And Florence really seems to want our money.

Tomorrow, we'll visit the Uffizi gallery and then Monday we come home. Sigh.

November 19, 2008

Rome Today

This morning we took an early morning stroll around the Forum. Then we went to the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains and saw Michelangelo's statue of Moses with horns. I have learned that when you are presented with a FREE opportunity to see great works of art, you should go see them. That is the case here because churches are FREEEEEEEE!!!!

Then later in the day, we saw the Piazza Navona. The great Bernini fountain that we went to see was blocked off for restoration. Still a beautiful place to visit.

Then we saw the Pantheon. That was super, duper amazing.

I left Jon while he went to the Capitolene museum and took a nice long nap. I definitely have to go there tomorrow because it has really amazing pieces that must be seen.

We did our laundry and while it was washing we went to see the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, where we finally got to see Bernini's extremely modest tomb.

Now we are contemplating dinner.

November 18, 2008

The Vatican Museum

Jon and I just finished our four and a half hour exploration of the Vatican museum. They have the most spectacular collection of art - seriously.

All the art was incredible but there were some standout pieces.

There was the Transfiguration by Raphael. This was his last painting before he died at the tragically young age of 37.

There was the Entombment of Christ by Caravaggio - which is masterful, brilliant and genius.

There was the School of Athens also by Raphael.

Finally, the exclamation point to the whole collection was the Sistine Chapel - which was mostly painted by Michelangelo but also featured paintings by great masters like Botticelli and Perugino.

I am resting now, drinking a Coke and typing this account. I am trying to gather the intellectual energy to see St. Peter's Basilica. We were already in St. Peter's square earlier this morning, before we went into the Vatican museum. And now it's time to see Michelangelo's Pieta.

Rome never ceases to be interesting.

November 17, 2008

Valerie Does Rome

Jon and I arrived in Rome on Saturday morning and we have been on the go seeing all that we can see. The first thing we did was walk over to see the Coliseum although we did not go inside until today. Then we walked over and saw the church where Bernini the sculptor is buried. And Saturday night, we walked all the way to the Trevi fountain. I must be a big wuss, but I got a little weepy looking at the fountain. It is a lot bigger than I thought it would be and there were all these people there enjoying the fountain. It was a completely uncynical experience.

Yesterday morning, we had a scheduled visit for the Galleria Borghese. That collection was breathtaking. They boast 5 Caravaggio paintings and lots of Bernini sculptures. Oh and then there were the two Rubens. But the Caravaggio. He was a really, really good painter and I got to see a painting I had only before seen in books which is of St. Jerome writing at a table next to a skull. It was lovely.

In the afternoon, we visited something I never even knew existed - the Basilica of St. John Lateran. That is by far the most amazing religious structure that I have seen - to date. Seriously Rome is lousy with art. Last night, we took the metro to the Spanish steps which was another nice communal experience.

Today, we visited the Forum which covers the Sacred Way and the Palatine. That took about three hours. Then we visited the Coliseum. The Coliseum might be the least interesting thing in Rome. And now we are feeling a little beat up.

So tonight we are resting because tomorrow we are visiting the Vatican and we want to be fully rested to see one of the world's best art collections and who knows - maybe we'll get to meet the Pope.

November 05, 2008

Atlantic City

Jon and I went to Atlantic City this past weekend. We found a great deal at Resorts Int'l. When we got there we signed up for a TRUMP ONE card and each received a free night's stay at the Taj Mahal for doing so. I also signed up for a comp card at Resorts.

I did not know about these comp cards. I told some ushers at the Barrymore theater where I was working last week that I was going to Atlantic City and they taught me a lot. You see, this trip was only my third one there, so I have a lot to learn. Apparently, when you sign up for a comp card, you get all sorts of offers in the mail from the hotel/casinos enticing you to come down. They also told me that they serve free booze and other drinks while you are gambling. This might seem like something I should have know - but I had no idea. Sunday night, I had two free apple martinis that practically knocked me out. They were good. Monday night, I drank free soda and water.

I played the slot machines. I LOVE SLOT MACHINES. Oh my gosh!! They are so much fun. Well. They were so much fun on Monday night when I won back the money I lost on Sunday night and then some. Did you know there were slot machines that offer bonuses if you get the right combinations of stuff and junk. So, I played this one slot machine where I got 100 free spins and ended up winning oodles of money as a result.

I still don't have the guts to play Black Jack even though we found $5.00 tables at the Showboat hotel and casino on Monday night. I'm pretty good at Black Jack but I still feel a little intimidated. Next time, I'm going to play Black Jack.

The other thing we discovered were the outlet stores. There were stores selling clothes at deep, deep discounts and by deep I mean 70%. That is probably the most fun I've ever had buying clothes.


We had a great time. We took the 8:30 bus back up on Tuesday morning and I was sad to say good bye to Atlantic City.

Why didn't anyone ever tell me before how much fun drinking and gambling could be? I spent so much of my life being a goody two shoes. But that's it. I'm cutting loose now.

I've made a decision to have as much fun as I possibly can.

Congratulations President Obama