Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chiavari~Old Stomping Grounds for the Franchini Family

We were so excited to visit Chiavari in northern Italy. Jim's mom's was born there 81 years ago and it is where Grandma Marge grew up. Grandma Marge always spoke of Chiavari and it was so great to finally get to see it. Chiavari is just outside the southern part of Genova. This little town is right on the Mediterranean and enters into the foothills of the Swiss Alps. The area is filled with beautiful tunnels, I think we counted over 60 of them going into this area and they are nicer than any tunnels we had seen in the US. It was a couple hours drive from Camp Darby and well worth the efforts to get there. The countryside we drove through was just beautiful.

Everything is so green!

This is a beautiful little neighborhood in Chiavari. The real estate has a big price tag for many of the places, well over a million euros. This would be a fantastic place for a relaxing , B&B type of resort vacation.

Chiavari is so pristine! I don't remember seeing
any graffiti which is nearly everywhere else.

The train station in Chiavari where I am not sure how
many generations of Ross & Spencie's ancestors have stood.
Six for sure!

~Jim at the harbor~
He felt a strange sense of "home" here.

This beautiful beach area is a favorite for moms and little kids with their bikes scooters, and skates. Also lots of people were out here just enjoying the beach, fresh air and amazing views. The fountain was beautiful~Italy's own dancing waters!

The boardwalk along the beach ~ It was so awesome!

Sunset was gorgeous!

The colors were spectacular at dusk
I love the photos Jim took.

~This was an amazing moment~
Love this picture!

Driving home in the dark with our trusty Tom-Tom
What a lifesaver!

We just did not want to leave so we stayed most of the afternoon, had dinner and then drove back to the base. Isn't it of the best kept secrets in Italy!

Reflections of Christ

Mandy sent this to Barb and then I got it. I thought you would all enjoy a beautiful and inspiring 5 minutes of peace today.

You can watch this presentation on a full screen by clicking on the button just after the time elapsed indicator on the tool bar. This can be escaped with the ESC button. Turn on the speakers also. Enjoy. Thanks for sharing Barb and Mandy!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weird/Funny Photos~Vote for Your Favorite

As I was looking through all the pictures of Italy there were some that were either funny, weird, or unusual so I wanted to just post some of them for fun.

Little Bo Peep and her Little Lost Sheep?

Yes, Rossie another train ride!

Munich Airport Restroom. Jim saw the fly and then realized it was tattooed into the porcelain. Every urinal had one. I have heard of weird places for tattoos but this beats all. Lowell, is this German humor? I am clueless.

Funny little car~no wonder they think we Americans are so
wasteful with our big gas guzzling SUVs, etc.

I thought these funny shaped trees @ Camp Darby looked like tilted umbrellas!

Weird modern sculpture of a skull made from large tin cans and old coffee pots, etc. This is found in Venice on the Grand Canal and seems entirely out of context??

Bride and Groom strolling along the Grand Canal in Venice.
Heading towards a romantic walk over Rialto Bridge.

This weird face on Ross appears to be for real. I wonder what is causing this expression? He looks like he is gagging and about to throw up??

Spencie's idea of funny! A deacon in training, no?

This bird has found his own personal throne!
I wonder how this poor dead guy would feel about that!
A strange choice for a bird brain but it does seem a little better than
some human choices we ran into and away from.

Yes, Missy, Shades of China!

Napping on the rocks in Chiavari

Rossie lost his jacket on the Vaporetto.
Grampa's vest will do.

My Latin Lover Boy!

Hi Spencer!

A decorator's nightmare~A little overkill on the rooftop of Saint Mark's in Venice.
Rick Steves calls it "Early Pillage"
They would steal relics from other cities and put them on the roof
so no one else could get them. Hello, on the church! Yeah!

Jim on the rocks~not a cocktail!

Like Father /Like Daughter
This girl is not going to feel the pea under her mattress, but she is a princess nonetheless!

We came to this rest stop out in the middle of nowhere and decided to eat our sack lunches here. We sat right by this full blown chapel for the weary traveler. Right next door is a very posh shoe store. Think~ the rest stops that we have ~with these two lovely additions for your spiritual and shopping convenience. With the bathroom they seem to have covered all the bases, I guess!

There is nothing so sweet as snuggle time with the kids
and reading a story together.
This is just great but I need an extra arm
to hold the book now! Wait a minute.....

Laura's supernumerary arm!
She conceals it well while out and about, don't you think?
And now a moment of silence for the photo that never was....

~Laura covered in dirty white flour in the Uffizi Museum~
Truly a slap stick, Lucille Ball (Rosemary Clooney) moment~never to be forgotten.

Ciao...don't forget to vote in the comment section!
If you are resistant to commenting on the blog
send me an e-mail and I'll post your vote for you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Aldo & Buster

I bet you really got your hopes up with this title that it would be about something other than Italy, right? Sorry to disappoint you, but truly I am soon coming to the end of our Italian Tales and then you will see more variety on here. Remember, this is my journal so I want to include a lot of stuff about the trip for those times when we cannot remember much in the years to come! That way it will be new all over again! And free too!

This is not an aerial view this is from the bus!

This post is about the Amalfi Coast. This trip was arranged for Jim and me by Robert and was a military tour group. Our guide was Aldo. A very vivacious and cute Italian who could really talk up a storm and told us so much about Naples, The Bay of Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi and the Isle of Capri. When he got done with that he told us about the customs and cultures of each of these places, and all about the topography, the vegetation, etc. etc. This guy could talk..let me tell you. He also had an uncle and a story for every hairpin turn of the jagged coastal mountain range we were attempting to "do" in a big tour bus. It was a pretty cool experience except for the fact that I was petrified most of the way. Several times when the turns were very sharp and steep Aldo would say, "It is so quiet in here, you are all praying aren't you?" How did he guess?

Across the aisle from us sat a gentleman and his family from Texas who took a particular liking to Jim. He also talked our ears off the entire time, in and out of the bus~ there was no escaping this guy. Meet Buster! This is a 70 year old guy, not a little boy and yes, that was his real name!!

We learned two things~maybe we really do prefer going on our own even though we would not have wanted to drive this coast line. More than 2,000 curves between Sorrento and Amalfi taking two painful hours pretty much settled that. We had gotten accustomed to driving with the kids' trusty Tom-Tom and we just preferred the quieter approach to touring. The tours can be fantastic but you just never know who will be sitting across the aisle from you. We were thankful the tour ended at 4:00 pm and not 10 days later.

Here are some of our pictures from the Amalfi Coast.

This is a little nativity scene that the people of Amalfi have constructed and it has a miniature of each building and home in the town. It is right along the very narrow road next to the cliff. What were they thinking? Who can dare to take their eyes off the road?

On the top of this crest is where we had to drive to go down the other side of this mountain. The roads are so narrow that tour buses can only go one way. They have areas where you sit on this cantilevered balcony waiting for your turn to go. All the tour buses that come here had beat up mirrors where they scrape other vehicles passing. City buses, delivery trucks, etc., are allowed in both directions. Baaaad idea! They have traffic people that radio ahead when it is safe to come up or down the hill. I am using the term "hill" very loosely.

Note the white castles up in the sky here. The natives say that when they die and go to heaven it will be just like another day in Amalfi's paradise. There are stairways from the top all the way down to the sea and people make the trek down and back up again everyday all their lives~even the very old ones! Impressive~but no desire to move here!

Can you say...scary? Think single wide trailer~that was us!

These places are built right into the cliff sidesSt. Andrea's Church in Amlafi
Oscar Wilde's Mrs. Windermere's Fan has been adapted into a movie starring
Scarlet Johansson, and Helen Hunt, A Good Woman, that was filmed here.
It came out in 2005 and is very good.

The Patron Saint of Amalfi is St. Andrew and he carries an X shaped cross
as his unique identity.

We made it safe and soundly back to the base and I was exhausted from stress. But it was one of those things that once it was over, it was awesome. I will liken it to jumping out of a plane, which incidently, I NEVER plan to do. So as far as I am concerned we have "done" Amalfi! It was great but ...I ain't goin' back!

Florence~Birth Place of the Renaissance

I had already decided that Florence was my favorite city but unfortunately that was before we went to Venice, Chiavari, and also before we toured the Amalfi Coast. Hmmm, it is so hard to choose just one. I have learned that all these cities have their own personalities, their own uniqueness, their own endearing qualities. And because there must needs be opposition in all things~they all have some annoying quirks too.

Florence is the most like cities in the US, I think, with a lot of added charm and antiquity. The reason I feel that way is because we took a two hour bus tour of the city and the surrounding areas and so we got to see the big picture. I wish we could have done that everywhere we went. Sometimes when you just plop yourself down in the middle of a city and go from spot to spot it is difficult and harder to get your bearings.

Restorante on a Piazza

~Grampa & Spencie in the Piazza near the Uffizi~
I am not sure why they are both leaning to the right but it may have something to do with Ross taking the picture??

The golden doors to the Baptistery~You guessed it, The Patron Saint of Florence
is John The Baptist!

The boys near Ponte Vecchio,
one of the the oldest bridges in Italy.
Build in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century.

Ponte Vecchio is over the Arno River and is noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers.

The Duomo (or church) where Michelangelo and Galileo are buried ~
along with many others whose names you would recognize.

In Florence we got to see the inner city, the posh shopping areas, the relics, the museums, the statuary, the river, the bridges, the vista points and the surrounding mountains. And best of all we got to see the residential areas. Florence is such a clean, orderly, and romantic city. I just can't think that there is anything you could want for in a city that isn't there. I am sure there are areas of poverty but we didn't see them.

One of the neighborhood scenes. We were all so ready for something besides marble and stones, it was fantastic to just be outside claiming a little of your own personal space for awhile.

Is there such a thing as quaint opulence? If so, that is what we saw. These homes are owned by wealthy people and the houses have been in families for generations.

Getting to see all the posh areas and the homes and gardens was so great. It was a treat to see big trees too. Much of Italy is treeless. It was a real example of not conserving natural resources, as centuries ago timber became very hard to come by!

Hillside ascending up to a vista point above the City.

Everything was so lush and green, flowers everywhere, bright blue skies and no smog. Maybe we were just there at the perfect time but I don't see how it could have been better. However, Spencer would have disputed that!

Spencer and Ross were bored to tears on the bus ride...we should have brought lots of activities for them. Poor kids, they were so good with all the public transportation to places they didn't even really care to see.

Rossie was pretty happy on the city buses if he could sit down. In Italy kids get booted right off the seats if an adult comes on the bus. He was not liking that too much! Spencer was more resigned to it.

Overlooking the city from Michelangelo Piazza in the late afternoon.
It was so much fun for us to be there with Laura and the boys.