La Traviata in St. Paul’s Within the Walls, Rome

Day 78, Tuesday November 21, 2017

We went for a little walk this afternoon and we see this fellow trying to make a few euros by juggling in the street. He didn’t seem to be having much luck so I gave him a small contribution.
We had a quiet day as we were going out tonight to see a performance of La Traviata, accompanied with some ballet in a church built in 1873. St. Paul’s Within the Walls was the first non-Catholic Church to be built inside the walls of Rome. It is an Anglican church that is often used by classical music performers and singers because of its acoustics. We got the ‘cheap seats’ at the back of the church, only €20 each.

I tried taking some photos but it was dark and they are rather blurry.  I took my small sketchbook and sketched during the performance. It was quite dark so not the easiest. The light in our apartment isn’t very good for taking photos so these aren’t the best either. This page also has some drawings from the metro on the way home.There was even live music. We both enjoyed the performance and it wasn’t nearly as cold in the church as we had thought it would be. I brought a blanket to cover my lap but didn’t even need it. Bob says it is a better opera than the one we saw in Barcelona as the heroine only took two hours to die!

The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and The Pantheon in Rome

Day 73, Thursday November 16, 2017

The Spanish Steps are first on the agenda today.  They were built in 1723 for King Louis XV and they are a favourite spot for tourists and locals.
This is an image from 1752. The same buildings are still on either side of the steps. The one on the right is the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, where the poet Keats died in 1821.
We climb the steps all the way to the Trinità Dei Monti Church where we find this beautiful statue inside and an Egyptian Obleisk outside. The city of Rome has the most obelisks in the world. There are eight ancient Egyptian and five ancient Roman obelisks in Rome, together with a number of more modern obelisks;

Of course I need my photo on the steps…  but I am not quite as acrobatic as this guy. He stayed in this pose for almost two minutes while his wife fiddled with the camera!This is the view of the street below the steps with the fountain of a sinking ship.The Colonna dell’Immacolata is near the Spanish Steps. Ever since 1854, the firefighters of Rome place a wreath of flowers on the Virgin every December 8th.  We can see the old wreath on her arm but we won’t be in Rome on the 8th to see it being replaced.Next stop, Trevi Fountain.We made our wishes and tossed coins into the fountain over our shoulders, to ensure that we will return to Rome for another visit. This fountain is one of the most familiar sights of Rome, and is often seen in movies. It is also very crowded.While walking  along the streets I peek into a foyer and see these old printing presses. Check out the ‘legs’ that are used to move the press bed.Rome isn’t all beautiful buildings and fountains. It has its share of tacky too.There are lots of stands selling roasted chestnuts. We tried roasting them one Christmas and they weren’t very good. Maybe we should try these to see if they are any better? The Galleria Alberto Sordi is an Art Deco building with incredible stained glass ceilings and lots of shops. In front of the Galleria is the Column of Marcus Aurelius. It is 42 meter high with reliefs  wrapped around it. The bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius was replaced in 1589, with a bronze Statue of St. Paul. The column is hollow with stairs that wind up to the top but it is not open to the public.Just around the corner from this column is another Egyptian Obelisk in front of the Parliament Buildings. I wonder if we will see all the obelisks in Rome during our visit? Maybe we will have to see if we can find them all.We stop at another church on our way to the Pantheon, but the inside is so dark that we can barely see anything.

The sun is setting as we approach the Pantheon and we are treated to this beautiful sunset. The Pantheon used to be a pagan temple, but it became a Christian church in 608 AD.It is very difficult to take a photo to show how huge the Pantheon’s dome is. It is a very impressive building. The dome is the widest masonry dome in Europe and it is exactly as wide as it is high, 43.3 meters (142 feet). The oculus in the centre is 27 foot hole that provides light and the tension around the ring helps support the weight of the dome.The walls are 20 feet thick and the tombs of two of Italy’s kings are inside this Church…and this is the tomb of the artist Raphael.The view from the entrance of the Pantheon, showing the Portico with its16 enormous pink and grey granite columns.The Ramses II Egyptian Obelisk is on the centre of a fountain facing the Pantheon. We sat on the fountain steps and had tea and cookies, people watching and listening to a violinist who was playing In the square. Just before we left he played Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which I found very moving.

As we wandered towards the metro several blocks away, I looked up and saw this lovely little dragon.

Naval Museum, La Spezia, Italy

Day 59, Thursday November 2, 2017

This is the view from the little balcony at the back of our apartment. Take a look at the long stairway covered with grape vines up to the yellow house. Imagine climbing those stairs every day!The view from the balcony in the front of our apartment looking down the hill and…this is looking up the hill.  The town of La Spezia is built on hills and it is the closest bigger town to Cinque Terre. The trains leave frequently for the short trip to the ‘Five lands.’I stayed home today for some much needed rest after our two days of hiking the trails in Cinque Terre. I didn’t accomplish much, photographed my sketches of people on the bus and metro and did our laundry.

I never know how long I will have to draw before a person leaves. I drew the fellow playing the violin standing in front of me on the Milano metro, and had less than a minute before he moved on.Bob went for a long walk today to the Naval Museum by the harbour. He took these great photos of some mast heads. He knows how much I like dragons.More mast heads.They are also known as figureheads.This model of the Santa Maria, the ship that Columbus sailed to North America is about three feet long.

Yesterday’s photos of the netting in the trees shows how olives are harvested. The trees are shaken and the olives drop onto the netting. The strange little machine is how they move the harvest down the mountains and steep hills. It is loaded with olives, and runs on cogs, kind of like a roller coaster for olives!

Bike Ride

Day 50, Tuesday October 24, 2017

Our Airbnb has bikes so today Bob went for a 34 km bike ride along this river.  It only took him 3 1/2 hours, including his lunch break. Much better time than if I was along for the ride! You can see the mountains way in the distance in this one.I had a much-needed quiet day. I did all our laundry and a bit in my journal. I finally was able to take photos of the finished pages. Usually by the time get home it is too dark to get decent pictures. 
I drew this page in the car on the way to Dubrovnik.When we were in Venice I finally started to draw while I was on the bus or waiting for the vaporettos. I took a hardcover Stillman and Birn Alpha Sketchbook for this trip instead of my own handmade signatures. It is nice having everything already bound in a book but it is much heavier to carry around. The 9″x6″ landscape format is a bit awkward when I draw standing and a bit too big and obvious when I try to draw people without them noticing that I am doing so. I think I will go back to my old system of carrying a signature at a time in a folder and then binding them all together when I get home for any other trips.

I started to draw in a little notebook that is maybe about 3″x5″ and that is working for those times when my bigger book isn’t. I showed the lady in the last drawing her portrait as she walked by on the bus, and she was quite pleased. She told her friends so I held it up for them to see, and lots of other people saw it and were smiling at me about it.  Kind of nice. 
I had a chance to sit and draw the Karaka on location which was fun and challenging.This ‘steam punky’ fish was interesting to draw . I used my favourite Bic pen for this one. I have bits and pieces done on other journal pages, but really I am quite behind. I am trying to draw more on location whenever possible.

Venice Museums

Day 47, Saturday October 21, 2017

Today was a museum day. We visited the Correr Museum, the National Archaeological Museum and the Monumental Rooms Biblioteca Marciana.   These museums are in the building that is on three sides of San Marco Square. On the way there I stop for another picture of the Bridge of Sighs.The Correr Museum is in a sumptuous building that once was the residence of the sovereign when Venice was under Austrian rule. Its many rooms are ornately decorated.I love the cabinets of this time. Just imagine all the treasures that were tucked into these many drawers and compartments.This library room has floor to ceiling shelves of old and rare books. This one with vellum pages is open for display..One of the many rooms filled with sculptures.

Have you ever seen toes this big?This room was once a library, with an amazing ceiling, but today it holds an exhibition of very expensive jewelry and jewelled objects. I only discover tonight that there is in fact a library we could have visited that sounds wonderful only it wasn’t open today, and isn’t open tomorrow. Some of tourist information here is a bit difficult to find. I am quite disappointed that we won’t be able to visit this library of ancient books and manuscripts.I walked in support of an exhibit about a young woman named Ashra who walked   11,146,312 meters to reach Italy from Sub-Saharan Africa, like many before her and many after her. Visitors to the gallery walk and their steps are recorded to reach the same number of meters.

There are many rooms of medieval paintings. I particularly liked this one.This exhibit had the stories of each of the people photographed written in Farsi over their hands and faces.  Bob was trying to figure out how to get to the second story of books in this library room.I took this photo from the second floor window at the opposite end of San Marco Square. There are more people today than we have seen on the other days we were here…and lots of people were feeding the pigeons even though there are signs saying not to.These big cruise ships are part of the reason that Venice is so polluted. One ship creates as much pollution in a day as one million cars!The sun tried to peek out but couldn’t quite manage it.  Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.We sat beside the Doge’s Palace to eat our lunch and watch the people walking by. It is one of the few places where there is a place to sit. I think that Venice has so many visitors that the city doesn’t want people to sit for a while unless you are in a restaurant.

There were so many more tourists in Venice today…and we had to laugh at this group of women who had tied their scarves together and were all holding on, just like little kids in daycare.We wanted to see Venice by night so we stayed out late. We took a vaporetto ride down the main canal to San Marco Square that took much longer than we expected. The boat went very slowly, perhaps because none of the boats on the canals have navigational lights!  They only have very small lights, usually a white one on the front and a red one on the side. It is almost impossible to see the boats and I have no idea how they manage to navigate in the dark!The gondolas often didn’t have any lights at all! It seemed rather dangerous to me.The Rialto Bridge at night is quite beautiful. Notice no lights on the boats.We finally arrived at San Marco Square, expecting all sorts of activity and there is almost no one there!  We were pretty disappointed. I took a picture of the Basilica and we took another very slow boat ride back to the bus and then home. It was a long day today, we were out and about for twelve hours!.

The Doge’s Palace, Venice

Day 45, Thursday October 19, 2017

We take the bus into Venice this morning instead of the train, which is a better choice. It is only a short walk to the bus from our apartment in Mestre instead of a 20 minute walk to the train station. Our walk to the Doge’s Palace was interesting. Some of the narrow canals have mirrors to avoid collisions. Check out our reflections.

It is a ‘misty’ morning again.We stumbled across this art show and we were delighted to discover that several  St. Albert artists I know have their work in this exhibit. There is also some interesting modern art on display in gallery windows.One of the churches on our path to the palace had a show of musical instruments. Some were very old and there was also this ancient music book, hand written on vellum.It wouldn’t be Venice without gondoliers on the canals.I saw some marbled paper for sale, but it wasn’t anything exceptional.  My marbled papered and the paper my friends make is at least as nice and take a look at these prices!
While we were having our lunch we saw this bride and groom hurrying by.  It doesn’t look very romantic to me, and the bride had to hold her skirt up so it wouldn’t get dirty.The Doge’s Palace was the official residence of Venice’s rulers and was founded in the 9th Century. This is the interior courtyard. It is a very impressive building but we were not prepared for the over the top magnificence of the interior.  


We start our tour by climbing the Golden Staircase, which is named for all the gold on its ceiling.We walked from room to room, each more ornate than the one before.The painting on the end wall is Paradise by Tintoretto and there are more than 500 figures represented. It is in the Sal del Maggior Consiglio, which is the largest room in Europe with a ceiling that is not supported by pillars.Can you see me?  This is a very big room!There is a museum here with over 2,000 weapons. I have a bit of a hard time with these displays. I wonder how many innocent people were killed with these swords and other weapons?
This is a weird view of the courtyard through the very old hand blown glass in the windows.We cross the bridge which connects the palace to the prison in the building beside it. There are two windows here where the prisoner’s would have their last views of the outside world. They were said to have sighed in despair and so the bridge was named the Bridge of Sighs.  This was their view, and mine today.

The prison cells are dark, cold and cramped with small heavy barred doors. Most of the cells have no outside light at all. Some of the cells still have the prisoner’s graffiti on the walls. I can only imagine the despair they felt being locked up in such a place.Back to the palace and our tour is almost over.  Just a few more photos.I like the whimsical lion over the doorway at the head of these stairs.On our way back to the bus I can’t resist taking a more pictures the canals.  I so hope the sun comes out at least for a day so I can get pictures with more light. The buildings are so old, with their patina of age, rust and peeling paint but somehow it just makes them even more appealing.



 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 38, Thursday October 12, 2017

After a leisurely morning we return to Old Town Dubrovnik for some more exploring. First we visit Marin Držiç House which is a memorial museum for one of Croatia’s greatest playwrights. I decide to have a little one on one conversation with this interesting fellow.The Ethnographic Museum is next, and it is located in a very interesting building that was the town granary in the 16th Century. Reserves of grain were kept in 15 very large wells carved in stone. The dark grates in the floor of the main floor open into these wells.These little stone trap doors on the second floor were used to drop the grain down into the wells below.There are many exhibits of traditional handmade textiles, clothing, household items and traditional handicrafts. I would love to have a stove like this!
There are some interesting drawings on some of the pillars.
The streets here are so old.We stop for ice cream and some people watching. Men and women are rappelling down the city walls…and getting their photos taken with these exotic birds.The Friars Franciscan Monastery Museum has the oldest operating pharmacy in Europe and a beautiful garden cloister.

They also have an amazing library but unfortunately it is not open to the public because it is upstairs where the priests live. At least there are a few books on display. 

There are also some vestments with incredible embroidery.

The Franciscan church beside the museum is beautiful but it has a couple unusual features.

The paintings here are certainly different, and…

notice the hand holding the crucifix.  

We walk to the Art Gallery Dubrovnik which is located in a former palace of a Dubrovnik ship owner. There are several portraits I really like. 

We make our way back through the old town, stopping for tea and some more people watching before catching our bus home. There were street performers and…happy children chasing pigeons.

Hvar and Stari Grad, Croatia

Day 31, Thursday October 5, 2017

This morning we were up at 5:30 to drive into Split and catch the 7:40 ferry to the island of Hvar. It isn’t very often that I am up before the sun!The ferry ride is just over an hour and I work a bit on my journal on the way, while Bob manages to get a bit more sleep. We hike up to the Španjola Fortress high above the town of Hvar, chatting with a family from Kamloops, B.C. They are the first Canadians we have met this trip.These are only a few of the steps we climbed to get to the fortress, can you see the tiny people way at the bottom?We are rewarded with a great view of the town and nearby islands. There are water taxis that take people out to the beaches on these islands.

Checking out the jail in the dungeon. I wouldn’t want to have been dragged down those steps and into one of the tiny cells far below the fortress!The sun is shining and there is a little café with very comfortable lounge chairs so we have mint tea and relax while I draw this cannon.

Bob decides to take some pictures of me… and this shadow selfie.

The walls of this fortress are more than two meters thick!On the walk down from the fortress we see this little church and finally I get a chance for a close up look at some of the old stone walls.  I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but these walls were first built 2,400 years ago by early Greek settlers in Croatia. The walls protected crops from the winds as well as from the heat and they were used to contain animals as well.  We see these ancient walls almost everywhere we drive, sometimes in the valleys but often high on the hills and mountainsides. We read about Stari Grad, which is one of the oldest towns in Europe and a grid system used to divide the land. The field layout, using these stone walls is still mostly intact so we catch a local bus to go see this World Heritage site. We see these walls from the bus on the way and unfortunately they are the only ones we see. We didn’t realize that the Start Grad Plains are quite a ways from the town of Stari Grad and we would have needed to organize a tour or rent bikes to go see the walls and grid system of land division.So, we walk about town instead.
This is Srinjo Kola, or Middle Street, it used to be the main street and trading centre of Stari Grad in the 14th Century. It is so narrow that we wonder how it could have been a main street where lots of activity once took place.There are lots of trees in bloom and flowering plants in pots and tiny gardens along the streets.This was a particularly colourful fruit market. Just look at the piles of grapes.We see many of these tiny doorways, and I wonder why they were made so low?There are some great views of the Adriatic Sea on the bus ride back to the town of Hvar, for those who stay awake.We walk the streets of old town Hvar, but this town is built on hills!  Every road seems to lead up and then up some more, so we finally decide it is time to go down!We have seen several of these little shrines built into the walls of houses. I feel like they are little gifts to be discovered.Perhaps it is the early start to our day, or the 19,000 steps and 55 flights of stairs my Fitbit has logged today, but I am done!  I just can’t walk another step and there is still three hours until we catch the ferry back to Split…so we find a cafe with very comfortable lounge chairs facing the water and I settle in with some mint tea and my journal. After a while Bob goes for another walk but I don’t have the energy to go with him so I sit right where I am, enjoying the view and some great people watching.

The harbour is very busy and as it gets closer to 6:00 the tour boats start returning.  These nine boats lined up side by side made us laugh. It reminded us of our cruise on the Nile in Egypt. The boats parked like this and we had to walk through all the boats between us and the dock to disembark just as they were doing here.  I think they need more dock space!The deep sea fishing boats arrived soon after the cruise boats. JUst look at all the fishing rods.We go for one more little walk before we leave. I think this is a happening place in the evening. People were gathering in the cafés and restaurants, and a stage was being set up near this main square.Soon the sun sets and the ferry arrives for our 7:40 departure back to Split.By the time disembark and walk to our car it is after 9:00 and we still have a 45 minute drive home.  Good thing Bob knows the road by now because I fell asleep on the way home. I was too tired to even think about blogging. 

Day 32, Friday October 6, 2017

Today is a quiet day, making soup, a bit of grocery shopping, blogging, and then packing and tidying up so that we are ready to leave tomorrow morning for Dubrovnik. That is the last Croatian town we will be staying in before we fly to Rome in nine days.

 

Krka National Park, Croatia

Day 28, Monday, October 2, 2017

Krka National Park covers 109 square km. so we only see a small portion of it today. We visit the Skradinski buk which is the longest and most visited waterfall on the Krka River and is one of Croatia’s natural wonders. This link has more information and a couple arial photos of this 800 meter long series of waterfalls. Why don’t you follow along with us as we visit the park?

We start by walking 840 meters down a steep path near the parking lot to get to the main boardwalk. These beauties grow along the path.

These are some of our first views of the many water features here.A viewpoint along our walk gives a glimpse of the Skradinski buk waterfall below.We turn a corner and there is a profusion of purple flowers everywhere! These are wild cyclamen and they are stunning.There are the ruins of several old mills along the path.Every corner we turn present us with another beautiful sight.We arrive at the waterfall and stop to watch some of the people swimming. We brought our bathing suits, but decide that the water is much too cold for us.We find a little spot to sit and relax after we have our lunch and Bob gets his feet wet before he finds a spot to sit and read and have a little cat nap or two while I do some sketching.Just before we set off again I try out the water too. It is pretty cold and this is enough bathing for me. I really enjoyed sitting in the sunshine and sketching the waterfall. I don’t usually draw landscapes so it is a bit of a challenge. It was too dark to photograph my drawing when we got home, so I will include it in tomorrow’s postI am standing on the long boardwalk that was crowded with people earlier in the day but most of the crowds have left by 4:00.
We climb a bit on our way out of the park and get some different views of this magnificent waterfall which has 17 steps and we see most of them.The Krka Hydro-power Plant began opertions in 1895, just two days after Tesla’s hydroelectric plant at Niagra falls, which was the first in the world. The Krka plant  was decommissioned during the First World War. Not sure what this is but I think it is a turbine?This view is along the path to some cultural and historical displays, including…these huge stones which were used to grind corn and wheat.

We thought we would have to climb the very steep 840 metre path that we walked down to start our day, but there is a shuttle bus which cliimbs up to the parking lot for us. We drive home and arrive just as it is getting dark which is great timing as either of us want to drive on narrow winding roads in the dark.

Oh yes, the answer to yesterday’s question is…they are paint balls.  Someone had been using them around town and we found them all along our walk yesterday and then found this stash, which was rather curious.

Exploring Trogir

Day 27, Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trogir is known as one of the jewels of the Dalmation Coast and it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. It is only a ten minute walk from our apartment to the island where the old town is located.  Almost as soon as we pass through the town gate we arrive at the Cathedral of St. Lawrence which dominates the town square. I notice that there are people up in the bell tower so we decide we should do that too.  Little did I know what I was letting myself in for! I don’t think that many things really scare me but I have to admit that climbing the steps to this bell tower did that. There is a sign that says you climb the tower at your own risk and no one under the age of 14 is allowed to do so. I soon find out why. It starts out OK, with pretty solid stone stairs and a railing .This reminds me a bit of an Escher etching, the one with all the stairs. This is looking up, way up towards that little bluish green circular opening which is in the floor of the last landing. Please note that the stone steps change to black metal ones…which I can see through! I discover that I can not look down here or I just can’t keep climbing. Remember, this tower is 154 feet tall.This platform almost does me in but I am determined to get to the top, so, laughing rather nervously I continue.This is the last bit, up even narrower metal stairs and through a little hole in the floor above us. Those are the bells that you see through the hole in the floor.

We arrive at the top much to my relief and yes, the views are amazing. This is looking towards the more modern part of the town…and here is the view over the old town.

I forgot to take any pictures of us up here or even any pictures of the two enormous bells.  Does that give you some idea how rattled I felt after that climb? I did manage to peer over the hole in the floor and take a photo looking downwards. I didn’t even notice the guy climbing the stairs.   

I mustered up the courage to start down. Bob went first, as he was a bit braver than I was.Here he is laughing at me as I rather slowly make my way down, and down and down!

When we got to the bottom I did need a few minutes just to compose myself. I haven’t been bothered by heights before. I climbed Notre Dame Cathedral and the tall tower at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and I was just fine. I found this account of  another person’s experience climbing this tower and it was eerily similar to mine. Make sure you check it out.

The door to the Cathedral was built in 1240 and has been beautifully restored.I particularly liked the two lions guarding the entrance.

These ornate pillars were inside..and this chapel with the tomb of Ivan Troginski from the15th Century. Take a look at the interesting upside down sculpture in the ceiling.

We wandered up and down the narrow streets… and ended up outside the old town walls where we sat and had tea and cookies in the sunshine and I sketched a castle. It was nice having time to do that.There are palm trees, lots of big boats, and some good people watching too.This is the Kamerlengo Castle that I drew…from the bench where Bob is sitting.We figured out what these were, can you?A typical commercial street.The local old guys meet in the park for chess and cards.We pass this lady bringing home a couple fish.

On the walk home we pass a lot of grapes growing that were never picked and are now more like raisins than grapes,,,and this is what olives look on the tree. It has been quite the afternoon and we are both happy to be back home.