Italy-Sorrento


It takes approximately four hours to travel by road from Rome to Sorrento.  To get in and out of Sorrento, the highway goes through three tunnels, one of which is more than three miles long.  Like all cities along this area of coastline, Sorrento is a city where many of the buildings hang off the edge of cliffs above the water.

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This part of the primary street off the main square is full of shops and pedestrian only.  Christmas decorations were already being installed.  From the time we arrived until we left, the giant metal tree in the middle of the main square went from just metal to covered with greenery to the installation of lights.

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A typical side street off the main street seen in the first photo.  Sorrento is the perfect place for those who like shopping in all sorts of little shops or enjoy hanging out in restaurants, many of which are open air along the street, sipping cappuccino.

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From the main street, we walked out to a cliff park overlooking the sea.

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This photo, taken from the same spot as the previous photo, shows Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.  Cities below the mountain include Naples and Pompeii.  Several thousand people also live on the slopes of Vesuvius.

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Again taken from the same spot, looking in the opposite direction, this photo shows the steepness of the cliffs around Sorrento. Houses, vineyards, businesses, olive and lemon groves hang off the edges.  The volcanic soil here is very rich and conducive to intense, successful farming. This is lemon country where limoncello is very popular.

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A few feet from the overlook, we visited a very old church courtyard.  Very old is relative everywhere in Italy.  New can be several hundreds of years old.  I kept thinking about the US and question whether anything we have built now or even at the beginning of the country will last as long as much of what I saw in Italy.

Italy–Rome


Where have I been?  Italy, on a trip planned for months, a trip with friends and family centered around a group of women writers with The Story Circle Network, a group focused on women telling their stories.  Yes, we had classes and wrote every day.  When we were not writing, we discovered a little part of Italy.  The first half day we strolled through ancient Rome, starting with the Coliseum.

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To the left of the Coliseum stands this arch–see a bit of the Coliseum on the right side of this photo.

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The Coliseum is so large that it is impossible to take of photo of all of it at once.  We were there on a holiday.  There was a long line of people waiting to get inside.  We did not go inside.

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The arch in the first photo seen from the side.

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On the other side of the Coliseum facing down a wide pedestrian only boulevard.  Many of the following photos were taken along this boulevard.  The trees in these photos are umbrella pines.  They are everywhere in Rome and other parts of Italy south of Rome.

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My daughter and grandson strolling along with friends in the background.

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One of the things I found most enjoyable strolling along were the street musicians:  One played classical guitar music, farther down the boulevard another was playing popular music while another man danced to it. I wanted to stop and dance along but everyone was walking fast away from me.  Getting lost in Rome did not seem to be a great idea.

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While sauntering along, I turned around and took a photo of the Coliseum in the distance.

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In one short walk in Rome, I saw so many things from thousands of years of history, it was hard to fathom.

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Away from the boulevard and walking toward Trevi Fountain, we saw this memorial.  It was a rainy, stormy day.  I kept thinking it is going to rain but it didn’t. In many places, the ancient, the not so ancient, and the new could all be seen in one place.

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And, of course, one of the most famous places in Rome.  We found a little restaurant near here.  I had my first Italian cappuccino and a delectable desert which I tried to find everywhere else we went but did not. It was in a little cup, 2/3 was a creamy bottom, 1/3 was berries on top.

 

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Walking along another route.  I seem to have a little problem taking photos, walking, and keeping my fingers away from the iPAD mini frame while taking some of these photos.  So much seen in a mere half day in Rome.  Shortly after lunch, visiting the Trivi Fountain, and passing by the above monument, we headed on the four hour road trip to Sorrento.

I could not resist taking a video of the lush emerald Italian countryside south of Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Gonna Eat That?!


This is the title of my newest book which currently resides at the designers for formatting, placing the photos in the correct place and position, making sure everything is just right.  The subtitle is:  Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.  It includes family and travel stories, adventures, poems, and recipes. Here are a couple of food photos which will be in the book with recipes.

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Every Sunday until publication, I will post an update as to progress.  My goal is to have it available for purchase for Christmas presents for those who love food adventures.

 

Argentinian Adventure–Cafayate in the Calchaqui Valley


One of the highest wine growing regions in the world exists in northern Argentina in the Calchaqui Valley.  This lovely hotel where we spent the night reminded me of New Mexico.

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The hotel garden.

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The ceiling above the walkway.

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The walkway from the garden to the front of the hotel.  Spanish colonial architecture and design seem much the same everywhere.

Cafayate is small and lovely.  Like every other city, it too has a square with a church on one side. We went there instead of Mendoza, the city most people in the US associate with Argentinian wine, because Hugo, Gaston’s dad, prefers the wine from there over that from Mendoza.

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The church on the square in Cafayate.

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Many trees were in bloom there.  Gaston’s mom and I collected some seeds from this one and I have two plants growing in pots at my house.

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More colonial architecture.

Although most of this valley is filled with vineyards from one mountain range to the other, I did see fields as well.

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Behind the hotel where we parked the truck, the guy was raising fighting cocks.  I never had the chance to take of photo of them.

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After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we needed to the oldest winery in the valley.

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–The Road to Wine Country


Late on a Monday morning, Gaston’s parents and I headed toward Cafayate, a relatively small town at the edge of the sierra which grows some of the best wine grapes in the world.  It is a long drive through incredibly varied landscapes.

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One of the first towns we drive through is Jesus Maria.  As in many Argentianian cities, trees line many streets.  Here acequias provide water for the trees.

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Except where cleared for farming–giant soybean and corn fields, much of the land through which we drove looks like this.

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Taken as we sped along, this photo show soybeans in the distance.  Since it seemed relatively dry here, I asked if they were irrigated.  Gaston’s father told me no, that they had developed a type of soybeans that require much less water.

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When I first saw this out my window, I thought maybe water, but no, this was the beginning of miles and miles of salt.

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Another photo taken looking through my window.

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And then we speed into the cloud forest. I was astonished my whole time here.  I had to idea there was such a thing in Argentina.

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We climbed higher and higher and stopped at a visitor’s area where displays explained the flora and fauna which live here.

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This area is a subtropical jungle.

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Often we drove through clouds or along the side of rushing mountain rivers. And then as suddenly as we arrived in these mountains, we were on the other side where it was dry.  The selva–jungle–stopped almost as suddenly as it began.  One side of the mountains lush and green with ocelots, all sorts of other wildlife, and on the other semi-arid country, equally beautiful but so astonishingly different only a few miles away.

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Argentinian Adventure–La Finca


After sitting in the airport in Iguazu for four hours because the plane was delayed over and over, we finally arrived in Cordoba around midnight and rushed to La Finca, the family place out in the country, for dinner.  Yes, dinner.  Gaston’s family, including his 92 year old grandfather, uncles, cousins, aunts, everyone had actually stayed up and waited to meet us.  I could hardly believe it.

I know Argentinians are the biggest consumers of beef in the world.  We did not have beef; we had leg of lamb grilled over the special grill his father and uncles had built–a separate house just for grilling and eating.  It was a warm night and we ate outside. It is a family ritual for everyone to congregate on weekends, but especially Sunday afternoons at La Finca to eat and socialize.  Gaston and I went there both Saturday and Sunday.

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It was the end of summer (Southern Hemisphere in March).  The crop in the distance beyond the trees is potatoes.  Gaston’s grandfather, who is 92 now,  bought this land, planted the trees, created this peaceful get away in the country.  Gaston’s uncle and aunt now live there with their college age children.

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The building in the background houses the grill–chimney on the left–and the dining area I mentioned earlier.  We ate inside once around the table that must sit at least twenty.  The rest of the time they hauled the tables outside and we ate under the trees.

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Gaston’s grandfather and I standing before the trees he planted decades ago.

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The same trees upclose.  Yes, those are very sharp protuberances sticking out all over the tree.  You see these trees in cities too, but there they have cut off all the sharp pieces so people cannot get hurt on them.  I could just imagine what would happen if a person pushed another person against one of these.

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The drive from the main road to La Finca.  Sunday afternoon Gaston’s mom and I strolled up and down this drive while Gaston with his dad and uncle and a cousin installed a drip line to water the bushes on each side.  Like here, they are suffering a drought.  They did not want years of work to die.

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The original house where Gaston’s uncle and his family live is on the left.  I loved it here and felt very privileged to spend a weekend with the family doing whatever they do on weekends.  On Saturday, the men all went to help someone move while I sat with Gaston’s aunt, her friend, some cousins.  We chit chatted, drank mate, took naps, ate pear tart and other desserts, and whiled away an afternoon.

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Occasionally the peace was disturbed by the raucous chatter of parakeets.  The huge nest in this tree is shared by many parakeets.  They do not build individual nests.  When they get going, they are really loud.

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Just as in New Mexico in the US, water comes through acequias.  The drive goes over this little bridge in the foreground.

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Near this acequia the family grows lemon trees, vegetables, flowers, and other delectables for family use.

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It was so lovely and peaceful here, I did not want to leave.

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Gaston’s aunt and mother love succulents and flowers.  This is only a tiny portion of the plant collection growing everywhere around Gaston’s aunt and uncle’s house. His aunt is very proud of her plant collection. Many of her plants were familiar.  Some even have the same names in English and Spanish probably due to their Latin origins.

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–Iguazu Falls, The Argentinian Side


The largest park is a national park on the Argentinian side.  There are upper and lower hiking trails with an ecologically friendly train that takes you to where the trails begin.  For those who want to hike more, you can forget the train and hike through the forest/jungle to where the main trails begin.  We took the train.

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On the upper trail you can cross a portion of the river, cross just above the top of several of the individual falls, and get wet.

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The trails on the Argentinian side are impressive feats of engineering.  I kept wondering how they built them in some of the very daunting places, e.g. over tops of large falls, over the rushing river.

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I am standing in the middle of the “bridge” with the same distance over the river in both directions.

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You cannot stay in this location very long without getting quite wet.  The falls are so huge and the spray so extensive, a fine mist floats everywhere.  Talking normally means no one can hear you because of the roar.

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The land to the left is an island.  Because it constantly receives a fine mist, the plants look lush, glistening with water droplets.  Gaston said it reminded him of the movie Avatar.

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After all this hiking we decided to go to the hotel near the falls for a drink.  A man and a woman were teaching people how to tango.  Before I knew it, the guy had me dancing.

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The next day we took the lower trail.  One of the first things we saw was a group of monkeys.  Although there are signs along the road to please watch out for jaguars because too many get killed at night on the road, we did not see any.  It occurred to me several times one could have been 50 feet from me near a trail and I would never have guessed–the jungle is too dense.

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As you can see to the right in this photo, in many places the trail is right at the edge of the falls and sometimes the trail goes over the top so you are walking over where the falls drop to the gorge below.

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The immensity of the falls, the roar and power of the water, the lush jungle–a magical place which filled us with wonder.

 

 

 

Note:  There are several ways to spell the name of the falls, depending on the language.  I have used two of the ways.  The river which makes the falls is the Parana with an accent over the last a.

 

Adventures in Argentina–Flora and Fauna Near Iguazu Falls


Across the highway from the helicopter business, we visited a surprisedly large bird sanctuary, recommended by our taxi driver/guide.  We did not expect anything as lovely as what we found. Most of the birds and flowers there are native to the area.  However, a few rarer species from other parts of the world exist there as well.

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Surprised, I recalled seeing these exact same flowers on my two trips to Costa Rica.  In fact, I found another photo on an older blog post from one of my Costa Rica trips.

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Endangered, many countries where these wonderful parrots live do everything they can to save them.  They pair for life–we found the evidence amusing and enchanting.

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Whenever we saw an uneven number together, we looked elsewhere and found the mate drinking or feeding.

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Of course, there has to be toucans.  Some even clowned for the tourists.  People clustered all around to watch their antics.

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Where you have flowers you have butterflies.

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Butterflies love Gaston.

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They landed on him, flew to his fingers, let him pick them up without flying away.  I tried, but no luck.

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A fabulous morning on the Brazilian side, starting with the helicopter ride and ending here with flowers, birds, and butterflies.

 

Adventure in Argentina–Iguazu Falls from a Helicopter


It became very clear to Gaston and me that we would not really get a true perspective of the falls unless we took the helicopter ride our taxi driver/tour guide recommend.  To do this we once again had to cross to Brazil.  The company that operates the helicopter rides is Argentinian.  However, Argentina decided no helicopters on their side because they disturb animals, the environment.  The ride is short and relatively expensive.  Gaston protested it cost too much.  I am conservative about money but thought about it and decided, “I may never be here again.  Gaston’s last trip here occurred when he was six, nearly two decades ago.  We are going to do this.”  This was Gaston’s first helicopter ride.

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Even from a helicopter it is nearly impossible to see all the falls at once.

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The left side is Brazil, the right Argentina.  The falls in Argentina continue to the right beyond this photo.  The immensity of this natural wonder never ceases to amaze.