Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dear Family & Friends,

Our next stop was Rome… One day and Rome, what to see? Is it possible to see Rome in a day? Hardly.. a month would be a good start, and a life time to see it all!
We took a compressed tour of Rome. The usual stops, a few minutes at the Coliseum, the Parthanon, a few fountains, and then to the Vatican City. 
Our first stop was the Coliseum.. Some sites are just sites.. I have seen so many photos of the Coliseum I knew exactly what it looked liked. I expected it to be big and it was.  So basically there was no new surprises or enlightenments so on we went..

After a few more stops of the predictable fountains and churches we arrived at the  Vatican City where we had a couple of hours, still not nearly enough… I am not a religious person but certainly from a historical and artistic point of view I thought it might be worth seeing. All I can say was it is STUNNING!! One of the sites along our trip that far exceeded my expectations.. 
A greater collection of artwork would be impossible to find. IF the Vatican City was destroyed tomorrow there is not a nation on earth with a enough wealth to build anything like it again. It is certainly one of the greatest mankind treasures of all time..
First we went to the Vatican museum. Hall after hall of fabulous art work,,, paintings, statues, frescos, and tapestries…
Since most of it was donated or collected over time there was really no rime or reason to it all. Just room after room of amazing artwork.

From there we went to the Sistine Chapel. This is the private chapel of the Pope. What most people know is the ceiling fresco painted by Michael Angelo. This is the one that features God reaching down to touch Adam. What surprised me was I excepted it to be much bigger and cover the whole sealing. In reality it is only one panel of many illustrating the bible on the ceiling. It is just the one that gets the most attention. The panels tell the story of religion from Judaism and how it evolves into Christianity.. What was funny is the biblical characters such as Moses painted in a scene in Medieval Europe talking to Knights.. I am pretty sure that never happened……
They require you to be very quiet  and no photos so you will have to take my word for it.

From there we walked down the Pope’s private hall way and stairs… I guess nothing is that private if you pay your entry fee.. 
Finally we went into St.Peter’s Basilica, this is the world’s largest church. To give you an idea of the scale it is measured in acres, not square feet!
The sheer size and beauty takes your breath away. Here I was able to take lots of photos that are in my blog… There is area after area with various chapels and displays with the most unimaginable artwork. Your look around and every wall has scenes that are framed and look like oil paintings but they are ultra fine mosaics! There is no paint used anywhere.
The statues have beautiful flowing robes all carved from Marble that look like real flowing cloth.. 
Around the ceiling there are latin words carved into the marble. At some points the ceiling is 300 ft.+ high but you can easily read the words because the lettering is 7 feet high.
The other thing that struck me was what perfect condition it is in. The chapel looks like it was built yesterday even though if has been around for centuries and  millions of people walk through it every year…
As an interesting side note over 150 popes are buried in the floor.. I thought you needed to know that.
At the entrance to the chapel there are huge beautifully decorated doors. One is called the Jubilee door. It is only opened every 25 years for the Jubilee Celebration (don’t ask me what that is, I don’t know) but they are so adamant about it only being used every 25 years that they cement up the back side so the door cannot be opened and then every 25 years they chisel out the cement, use the door, and cement it up again.. That is dedication…
I have posted lots of photos of the inside of the Basilica on my blog but it is hard to do it justice. It is so big you cannot get back far enough to see it all..
We then walked outside to St. Peters Square.. We saw the balcony where the Pope addresses the public, we saw the chimney where the black smoke signals a new Pope, and we saw the Pope’s palace… As a sign of the new Pope’s modesty is he refuses to live in the palace and lives in a single room in the Vatican hotel on the grounds of the Vatican City. Amazing a really moral man as the Pope. Good show Cardinals, you picked a good man.
Overall the Vatican City is quite an amazing and beautiful place. Quite inspiring if not a bit overwhelming in the amount of wealth stored there..
After a productive day we headed back to the ship and sailed off to our next adventure… 
The following day we woke up and headed into Florence.. I had been there last year on my motorcycle trip but due to timing never got to see much of it. Bonnie had been there 35+ years ago and had fallen in love with the city then.
We decided not to take a tour but just go the the old part of the city and walk around. I could immediately see why Bonnie loves Florence so much. The old part of town had little or no cars, the grander of the old buildings is magnificent, and the shopping terrific. After a day of site seeing and shopping our home will definitely have a new flavor of Florence to it… :)
In the center of town there is a beautiful church square and there was a large open air market with all sorts of foods and arts and crafts for sale. We walked around a while and noticed a lot of young people with American accents. So we asked them what they were doing there and they said they were attending the local University there. What a wonderful experience! I asked one young woman what she was studying and she said economics, I said what a coincidence, we were studying economics too with a specialization in purchasing.. Small world.
One thing I have learned about traveling is to never eat near tourist attractions.. The food tends to be average at best. We asked a local who directed us down an alley to a remote cafe but it was booked solid for lunch (with all Italians, a good sign) so he directed us to another hidden cafe. When we got to the address it appeared to be just a coffee bar but luckily we looked in the back and there was a narrow hall way that went in the back to a cafe. Again hidden, small, and full of Italians. It was the best Italian food we had the whole trip! So my motto is  when traveling get lost and find great food.. 
So after Florence we sailed one more night and woke up in Toulon, France. A small seaside town. Will do a bit of exploring there and then sail one more night to Barcelona, Spain. There the cruise is done but not the adventure. We get off and spend four days in Barcelona exploring a whole new city and country and then off for a fews days in my favorite city in the world, LONDON!! There is only so much art and culture one can take. Bonnie says I have behaved well so we will do some car and motorcycle activities and visit some of our oldest, dearest friends.
Next report will be after a few days in Barcelona…
Again go to by blog for lots of photos…

One thing that strikes you about Italy is that the people are amazingly good looking and stylish. This was our guide for two days... Bonnie had and exceedingly large amount of questions for him... :(

Italians do love their graffiti !!

Welcome to Rome.. How many times have you seen this photo??

It is hard to show any part of the Coliseum you haven't see a hundred times before..

Now for some general sites and view of Rome...

Rome and Italy have style and beauty where ever you look..

Does it get anymore Italian than this??? I cam going to try and bring one of these home in my suit case...

Oh boy!! Another church!! I think after this trip if I don't see a church, cruxification, or a Roman ruin for a while I will be good..

Until recently this was the largest man made dome every built but it is hundreds of years older than the current largest one.

Always a great collection of street entertainment..

Where ever you look in Italy there is beauty and style..

Small cars make perfect sense here..

What is Rome without dozens of fountains...

Welcome to the Vatican...

I was so surprised when the Pope came out and personally welcomed us... very friendly guy.

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The Pope's pine cone.. don't ask me what the significance of this is but I am told it is important..

Interesting sculpture. So modern and out of this world looking. Not sure what is means..

Welcome to the Vatican Art Museum..

These were paintings done so detailed you would swear they are three dimensional panels..

Tapestries beyond compare..

The Vatican Gardens and where the Vatican hotel is and where the Pope lives.

The Pope's "Private" stairs... It's good to be the Pope..

Now I understand the hats they wear. Notice the bird on tap? Well when it poops on you the hat hides it..

The Pope's Palace which the current Pope refuses to live it.. Imagine an actual holy and moral man is now the Pope..

Welcome to St. Peters Basillica..

As hard as I tried my photos don't do this place justice but I hope you enjoy them..

To give you an idea of scale those letters are 7 feet tall!

These are not paintings, but mosaics done in stone!

That is a 300+ foot ceiling!

One of my better photos?? :)

Looking straight up 300+ feet at the dome of St. Peters.

The Swiss Guard looking out for the Pope.

The balcony where the Pope first addresses the public.. " I WON!!"

The roof on the right has the pipe that lets out the black smoke announcing a new Pope.

Palace of the Pope.
Welcome to Florence!

In Florence wherever you look there are stunning views.!

Style in everything they do.

It used to be that street signs were carven into the building with beautiful details but if you were not rich you might have it painted on like this.. They call this style of sign.... "GRAFFITI".. now you know the rest of the story..

Bonnie said I could bring home a hot Italian sports car in yellow I thought she meant a new Ferrari, but she meant Pherrari... :(

Are you tired of church photos yet??

Did I mention this is a college town??

Nothing sounds more appetizing that a plate full of Krapfen..

Now this is what I call a plate full of Paella!! :)

Bonnie and I decided to have a stature of us made for our front yard... Amazingly how accurate they got us. Captured our essence.. Do you think it might be a bit to much??

Even ice cream is beautiful here.

Even the police have style and do not look threatening.... :)

In Florence there is an ancient stone bridge that is completely lined with shops overlooking the river below.. Shopping with style!

People ask me if I enjoy shopping, no, but I enjoy watching my wife enjoy herself. She works hard and is a loving and supporting wife so I really enjoy her enjoyment.!

OK I have two groups of friends.... One group will look at this photo and say what a beautiful city Florence is, the other group will say WOW look at all those motorcycles!! I like a diverse group of friends... :)

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