Arrival Into Venice

Looking east along the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

Looking east along the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

We arrived in Venice to bright blue skies and perfect temperatures.  It has been over 18 years since I was last here in April of 1996.  As we stepped out of the train station  and saw the Grand Canal I remembered why I loved it so much back then.  There is no city as breathtaking as Venice when you first see it.

Our meeting with Victoria to pick up the key to the apartment went without a hitch.  We are staying in another property found on VRBO.  It’s gorgeous,  a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment located near the Accademia Bridge.

Our first order of business was to find the Super Marche and purchase provisions.  It’s hard to walk a steady pace as you pass one photo op after another.

DSC_5272

It was blue skies with no hint of rain as we walked along the Canale della Giudecca towards the grocery store.

Looking west along the Canale della Giudecca as we walked to the Super Marche for groceries

Looking west along the Canale della Giudecca as we walked to the Super Marche for groceries

As we exited the market with bags of food and wine, an ominous dark cloud was rolling over the top of the city.  We didn’t get far before lightning was flashing and the first drops of rain and hail stones began to fall.

The same view looking west as the storm clouds rolled over Venice

The same view looking west as the storm clouds rolled over Venice

As we hurried along Fond Zattere Ponte Lungo with bags of food, the hail stones increased to the size of marbles.  It was necessary to take shelter in the portico of a bank teller machine as the deluge came and darkness fell.

Storm clouds rolling over Venice

Storm clouds rolling over Venice

Teresa captured the lightning strikes

Teresa captured the lightning strikes

Deluge

Deluge

rain + umbrella

On our return from the super marche we stopped in the same spot and took another photo looking east along the Grand Canal as lightning illuminated the clouds

On our return from the super marche we stopped in the same spot and took another photo looking east along the Grand Canal as lightning illuminated the clouds

After the rain slowed to a light drizzle we continued back to the apartment for dinner.  The storm picked up again and was pretty steady all evening.

 

Posted in Italy | Leave a comment

Thoughts on Camogli and Modes of Transportation

The port of Camogli

The port of Camogli

CAMOGLI

 

We were very happy with the decision to stay in Camogli.  It is a quieter and less crowded town than any of the Cinque Terre villages, smaller and more manageable than Santa Margherita, and much less expensive than Portofino.  It’s convenient to all by train.  The apartment we rented through VRBO.com was exactly as described and a beautiful location.

http://www.vrbo.com/138322

A painted building in Camogli

A painted building in Camogli

The little towns here in Italy are charming due to the beautiful colors on the buildings and the trompe l’oeil detailing.  Without that, they would just look like buildings, but the painting really makes it attractive.

A boat in the Camogli harbor

A boat in the Camogli harbor

Camogli at night

Camogli at night

MODES OF TRANSPORTATION

Previously, I have had good luck with trains and prefer to ride rather than fight traffic in a rental car.  We had a discussion today on whether it is better to travel by car or train, and I usually think the train is better if you are staying somewhere with a station and train service.  Unfortunately, this time we have had bad luck with the trains.

Our first train from Milan to Camogli was 40 minutes late, causing us to miss our connection in Genova and arrive late into Camogli.  Then we had to deal with the rail workers’ strike, which was only mildly inconvenient for us, but I’m sure disrupted many travelers’ plans that Sunday.  Our train from Camogli to Milan was also late, requiring us to literally run to catch the train from Milan to Venice, only barely climbing aboard before it pulled out of the station.  (We were dragging our luggage at the time too).

However, I have had numerous troubles with rental cars including double billings in Sicily, lack of signs in Spain, frustration with returning a car in an unfamiliar city (Barcelona and Florence), parking issues, and in one instance actually having to park outside the city and take a cab into Taormina to our hotel.  (We had traversed the city half a dozen times before giving up and getting a cab.  We could not find the hotel and never would have, as the cab backed down a pedestrian mall to our hotel, something that did not cross our minds).  So I think it is an even split on car versus train.

Our next stop is Venice, where we won’t have to deal with either, only boats.

Posted in Italy | Leave a comment

Portofino and Santa Margherita

Portofino

Portofino

Portofino.  The name conjures up images of romance, gorgeous scenery and a boat filled harbor.  It did not disappoint (at least on the gorgeous scenery and boats) but it was crowded even in September, not the busiest season.  On this day of our vacation we celebrated Augie’s birthday with a day trip to that famous port that was on all our “must see” lists.

Because this was the day of the train worker strike, we took the bus from Camogli to Santa Margherita.  This would have been a short 4 minute train ride, but the bus trip was slightly longer at about 25 minutes.  The views however, from the ridgeline above both Camogli and Santa Margherita were wonderful. We would have missed that if we had taken the train.  At 1.80 Euros it was a good deal.

 

Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita is quite a bit larger than Camogli.  The waterfront area is lined with beautifully painted buildings, statues, parks and piers, with a feeling of hustle and bustle as cars, buses and pedestrians all compete for the same stretch of concrete.  Meanwhile, Christoforo Colombo towers over it all, pointing towards the west?  We walked the waterfront before boarding a ferry for the 15 minute cruise to Portofino.

Christoforo Columbo guarding the Santa Margherita waterfront

Christoforo Columbo guarding the Santa Margherita waterfront

Boats in the Santa Margherita harbor

Boats in the Santa Margherita harbor

The beach at Santa Margherita

The beach at Santa Margherita

Cruising into Portofino is indeed lovely with private mansions clinging to the cliffs, sailboats bobbing on the sparkling water and the colorful harbor looking just as you expect it.  The crowds were a bit much, but after disembarking from the ferry, we followed Teresa’s rule of finding a lunch spot off the beaten path and ended up at a quiet pizzeria on a side street.  Lunch was very good and we had a chance to rest and relax.

The view from the ferry dock, Portofino

The view from the ferry dock, Portofino

Lunch down a side street in Portofino

Lunch down a side street in Portofino

After our lunch we walked along the backside of the port and found the spiaggia pubblica (public beach).  Back again to the harbor and we started the climb to the Castle Brown for the best and classic view of Portofino.  It is a spectacular view, and the castle was beautiful. What a lovely spot for a private home.

Teresa  beach combs at the public beach in Portofino

Teresa beach combs at the public beach in Portofino

portofino homes

portofino house

Having walked the entire area, and not wanting to shop at the expensive boutiques, we hopped the 4 pm ferry back to Santa Margherita.  As we waited for the bus back to Camogli, we watched a medieval show on the waterfront.  Bagpipers played, maidens danced and knights dueled in front of a delighted crowd.

A few of Portofino as taken from the best viewpoint, the Brown Castle

A few of Portofino as taken from the best viewpoint, the Brown Castle

Me at the high viewpoint

Me at the high viewpoint, Portofino in the background

Castillo Brown from the Portofino harbor

Castillo Brown from the Portofino harbor

portofino boat watercolor

Back on the standing room only bus and separated from my travel companions, my nearest neighbor (a friendly elderly Italian man) tried to communicate with me.  One of the few phrases I have down pat is “non capisco”.  He laughed and smiled at my response and asked “Duetsche?”  That is the second time someone’s first guess at my country of origin was Germany.  I smiled and said “Svenska.”  (I thought “what the hell, I’m not talking with anyone so who’s going to know?”)  He nodded, smiled and said “Si, bella, bella” and laughed again.  All the people we have met have been good-natured and helpful.

A duel on the waterfront in Santa Margherita

A duel on the waterfront in Santa Margherita

We spent our last evening in Camogli strolling the waterfront and enjoying a birthday pasta dinner.  The waitress brought a chocolate cupcake with a single burning candle to celebrate the occasion.

 

Camogli just after sunset

Camogli just after sunset

Posted in Italy | Leave a comment

Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore.  This is the eastern most town of the Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore. This is the eastern most town of the Cinque Terre

As is sometimes the case when you travel, our well thought out plans for the day got shot to hell.

The Cinque Terre, a pretty string of five small towns on the Italian Riviera with a walking path linking all towns, has been on my list of “things to do” for a while.  We set out from where we are staying in Camogli (an hour train ride to the NW) in the morning, with plans to start the walk in Riomaggiore, the eastern most town, and walk the two easiest portions of the trail through Manarola and Corniglia, then take a train or ferry to the other towns, avoiding the longer and more strenuous walks.

Manarola as seen from the ferry as we sailed past

The clouds hang low over Manarola as seen from the ferry as we sailed past

When we arrived in Riomaggiore, we discovered (along with many other tourists) that the two eastern most trails were closed due to landslides.  So we had to modify our plans.  A sign in the information office also warned of a 24 hour train strike beginning at 9 pm that evening.

The landslide blocking a portion of The Cinque Terre trail, as seen from the ferry

The landslide blocking a portion of The Cinque Terre trail, as seen from the ferry

With the rest of the disappointed tourists, we made our way to the Riomaggiore port and purchased tickets on the ferry.  We would sail past Manarola and Corniglia, and be dropped off in Vernazza.  The day was overcast and warm, with the clouds hanging low in the mountains above the villages.  The ferry ride was pleasant and the town of Vernazza was pretty as we walked off the ferry.   It was crowded too, with tourists taking in the sights and locals gathering for a swimming competition in the harbor.

Vernazza harbor

Vernazza harbor

We pressed our way through the throngs of tourists and walked up and down the small town, looking into shop windows.  Lunch in the harbor people-watching had us entertained until about 1 pm, with the sun breaking through as the clouds burned off.

Me on the main street of Vernazza

Me on the main street of Vernazza

Cinque Terre olive oil for sale in a shop in Vernazza

Cinque Terre olive oil for sale in a shop in Vernazza

After lunch and now fueled with pasta we started the hike, beginning in Vernazza and walking eastbound.  This portion of the trail, from Vernazza to Corniglia, is 3.450 km and mostly ups and downs.  There were very few flat stretches as we were to find out.  It was like being on a stair machine for 1 1/2 hours, and this trail wasn’t even the most demanding.  We had read that the western most trail from Monterosso to Vernazza was the most difficult.

My friend Teresa overlooking Vernazza, in the early part of the hike

My friend Teresa overlooking Vernazza, in the early part of the hike

We started out with enthusiasm.  The town of Vernazza fell away as we climbed the stone steps on the edge of town, which turned into a trail.   Our enthusiasm slowly waned as the sun came out, the humidity rose and the climb got steeper.  It was only just over 2 miles and we had some great views,  but it did feel like a workout.  We ended in Corniglia with a gelato, having completed only one of the four segments.   The following photos are from the stretch of the trail that we hiked, in sequence from west to east.

Augie on the trail just after leaving Vernazza

Augie on the trail just after leaving Vernazza

Me and Teresa on one of the few flat portions of the trail,

Me and Teresa on one of the few flat portions of the trail,

More stairs

More stairs

A short flat segment

A short flat segment

Augie taking a breather, with our destination of Corniglia in the background.

Augie taking a breather, with our destination of Corniglia in the background.

The trail wound through some groves of olive trees towards the end near Corniglia.

The trail wound through some groves of olive trees towards the end near Corniglia.

Looking west back from where we came from.

Looking west back from where we came from.

A map of the trail coming into Corniglia

A map of the trail coming into Corniglia

Walking through vineyards as we came into Corniglia

Walking through vineyards as we came into Corniglia

vineyards 2

The church in Corniglia, at the end of the portion of trail we hiked.

The church in Corniglia, at the end of the portion of trail we hiked.

Corniglia church interior

Corniglia church interior

When we reached Corniglia, we stopped to catch our breath in the courtyard of the church.  We also stood in line at the most popular shop in town (for gelato) and enjoyed a well earned treat.  Corniglia is perched on a cliff 500 feet above the Ligurian Sea, affording spectacular views.

Looking east from Corniglia

Looking east from Corniglia

My friend and travel companion Augie also blogs and wrote a more entertaining review of our hike.  Here is a link to his site:

https://augieblog.wordpress.com/

 

 

Posted in Italy | 1 Comment

Images of Camogli

The day started out with  a few clouds, and then the sun came out.   The colors of the buildings really popped when the sun came out.  We walked around the little town, beach combed for pretty rocks and “sea tiles” (just like sea glass but bits of tile smoothed by wave action)  and enjoyed a fantastic pasta dinner.  The water was clear and pleasantly refreshing, not cold.

color sketch

Italians on the beach

tree

Teresa at the port

house

dusk

color

harbor

Laura

lemon tree

port with fish nets

Camogli beach (2)

rocks

wine

flowqers

A and T

 

night time camogli

Posted in Italy | Leave a comment

Milan to Camogli

The Milan Duomo in the light of day.

The Milan Duomo in the light of day.

With just a few hours to spend exploring Milan before I planned to meet friends at the train station and head south, I again boarded the metro to the Duomo.  In the light of day I was able to see the many statues and carvings on the exterior of the Duomo that I had missed the previous night.  Entrance to the Duomo is free, but the wrist band for photos was 2 eruos, which I paid.  There was a service in progress, as well as tourists milling about.

Detail from the front door of the Duomo

Detail from the front door of the Duomo

Duomo interior

Duomo interior

interior

Lighting candles for Madonna con bambino

Lighting candles for Madonna con bambino

I also made my way to the rooftop, using the stairs for 7 euros instead of the lift for 12 euros.  Great views as you wander through hundreds of spires and statues.

The Piazza del Duomo from the rooftop

The Piazza del Duomo from the rooftop

DSC_4236

Detail of rooftop decoration

Detail of rooftop decoration

Retouched detail photo, using the Nikon "color outline" feature.

Retouched detail photo, using the Nikon “color outline” feature.

Street performer outside the Duomo

Street performer outside the Duomo

I walked up the Via Dante to the Sforza Castle, but didn’t have the time to visit the museums.  Fashion week included an exhibit of Italian student creations.  The next Versace???

Italian fashion academy student creations on display

Italian fashion academy student creations on display

 

Time enough for a quick lunch at the Cafe Milan and I headed back to the Milan Central train station to meet my travel companions Augie and Teresa, just arriving from the states.

Milan central train station

Milan central train station

Me at the train station ready to board the train to Camogli

Me at the train station ready to board the train to Camogli

Our train to Camogli was late, but we finally arrived at our next stop around 830 pm, and in the dark.  We have an apartment rented in Camogli (found on VRBO.com) for four nights.  It is a perfect location and just as described on the website.  Perfect.

View from our apartment window.  Camogli

View from our apartment window. Camogli

A cafe in Camogli

A cafe in Camogli

The Port of Camogli

The Port of Camogli

The same port photo using the Nikon "color sketch" feature.  OK, the camera is new to me and I am still figuring out all the features.  It's fun.

The same port photo using the Nikon “color sketch” feature. OK, the camera is new to me and I am still figuring out all the features. It’s fun.

 

Posted in Italy | Leave a comment

Milano

Milan's Duomo

Milan’s Duomo

After 24 hours on the road, I made it to Milan.  My travel companions and I had planned to meet in Milan, not knowing that it is Fashion Week this week.  Why does that make a difference to me, not a fashion maven myself?  My plan was to jumpseat (travel using a pilot ID and uniform but no ticket) to Milan.  To jumpseat, there must be an open seat, and all the flights to Milan were overbooked due to Fashion Week.  So instead US Airways was kind enough to give me a ride to Rome, where I took a high speed train (at times reaching speeds over 150 mph) to Milan.  The three hour ride was through some very scenic countryside, unfortunately lost on me due to lack of sleep.

Fashion Week sign Milan

Fashion Week sign Milan

My travel companions are due in tomorrow, so after a short nap, I rode the metro from the central station in Milan to the Duomo, only four stops, to take advantage of my only solo night in Milan.   The metro was quick and easy, the ATMs for the tickets having English instructions.  For 1.50 Euro I got downtown right at dusk.

Milan's Galleria

Milan’s Galleria

Window shopping

Window shopping

I liked the windows in this hsop next to La Scala Opera House.  All the windows had photos of greyhounds.

I liked the windows in this shop next to La Scala Opera House. All the windows had photos of greyhounds.

Teatro La Scala exterior at night

Teatro La Scala exterior at night

A statue of Leonardo in the piazza across from La Scala

A statue of Leonardo in the piazza across from La Scala

Lots of people were at the Duomo and on the streets.  Signs advertising Fashion Week are everywhere.  Most shops at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II were closed, but the restaurants were open and busy, and the window shopping was great.  Big names here;  Prada, Louis Vuitton, etc.  Window shopping is probably the best option, as the prices are not discount by any means.

Louis Vitton window

Louis Vuitton window

???????????????????????????????

3,000 Euro purses in the window

I walked around the area surrounding the Duomo and had a pizza and pinot grigio (14 euros) with a view of the lighted facade.  I felt completely safe, but to be perfectly honest, I did not carry my new Nikon camera downtown.  I like to think I learned something from my Buenos Aires experience, so thought I’d get a feel for the area first before tempting fate.

???????????????????????????????

Duomo

 

Posted in Italy | Leave a comment

Buon Viaggio!

Venice water color

It has been quite a few years since my last visit to Italy (12 years actually), so that is where I am headed this September.  Stay tuned for posts from Milano, Portofino and Camogli, the Cinque Terre, Venice and Verona.

Posted in Italy | Leave a comment

A Day On The Mountain

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood, taken from Highway 35

One of the great things about Oregon is that it has wonderful beaches, and mountains too.

Oregon Scenic Byway

Oregon Scenic Byway

scenic byway

My sister, my dad, and I drove the Oregon Scenic Byway loop from Portland east on Highway 26 to Mt. Hood, circling the mountain to the east, then heading north on Highway 35 to Hood River, and back westbound into Portland on I-84.

Little Crater Lake on Mt Hood

Little Crater Lake on Mt Hood

little crater lake

Little crater lake sign

Our first stop was Little Crater Lake, a spot on Mt Hood that I had not seen before.  We had packed a picnic, and ate at the Bear Springs Campground.

The very well constructed picnic shelter at Bear Springs on Mt. Hood

The very well constructed picnic shelter at Bear Springs on Mt. Hood

We saw the Barlow Road marker (one of the last legs of the Oregon Trail) and made another stop at Frog Lake.  Frog Lake features prominently in my childhood memories.  We would go swimming in the lake in the summer when I was little.

Barlow Road sign

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barlow_Road

Me and my dad at Frog Lake on Mt Hood

Me and my dad at Frog Lake on Mt Hood

On highway 35, traveling north from the mountain, you end up in Hood River. Hood River used to mean apples, but now it is known more as a windsurfing destination.

Entering Hood River County

Entering Hood River County

Entering Hood River from the south on Highway 35, you see this sign.

Mt. Hood, taken from Hood River with orchards in the foreground.

Mt. Hood, taken from Hood River with orchards in the foreground.

Welcome to Hood River, the windsurfing destination of choice in Oregon

Welcome to Hood River, the windsurfing destination of choice in Oregon

We didn’t get to Timberline Lodge this time, or the Columbia Gorge Hotel.  I’ll have to save those for another trip.

 

Mt. Hood Scenic Loop

Mt. Hood Scenic Loop

Posted in Family, Oregon | Leave a comment

A Day At The Beach

Indian Beach at Ecola State Park, Oregon

Indian Beach at Ecola State Park, Oregon

You can never count on the weather to be good in Oregon, but the closest you can get to an almost guarantee for sunny weather is August.  Having taken a week off from work in Florida to visit family in Oregon, and my penchant for picnics, we naturally ended up on the Oregon Coast one lovely weekend day in August.

Driving through the Oregon rain forest, the road leading to Ecola State Park and Indian Beach

Driving through the Oregon rain forest, the road leading to Ecola State Park and Indian Beach

DSC_3700

 

We started early that day so we could get to one of my favorite spots, Indian Beach at Ecola State Park, at a reasonably early hour and actually get a parking spot and picnic table.  Indian Beach is a favorite for surfers and dog people too.  It is a day use area only, with a small parking lot.  In the afternoon, a ranger is positioned at the entrance and cars are only allowed up the road if someone else drives out.  We got there early, and snagged both a parking spot and one of the best picnic tables with a view.

Our picnic spot at Indian Beach

Our picnic spot at Indian Beach

DSC_3806

http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=136

As we drove out to the coast there was a thick fog hanging low over the Columbia River and Astoria, which didn’t lift until nearly right at the beach.  The fog hung just off the coast over the water, and gave us a gorgeous sunny day with little wind.  A rare treat for a beach-goer in Oregon.

 

On the rocks at Indian Beach

On the rocks at Indian Beach

DSC_3755

Indian Beach has some good tide pools with anemones and star fish.  The water is ice cold.  Surfers wear dry suits and I can only go in as far as my knees, if it’s hot.

DSC_3722

DSC_3721

DSC_3767

DSC_3786

DSC_3790

 

This was a well planned picnic with all the traditional picnic foods, but of course substituting “smart dogs” (soy) for hot dogs.  A picnic is not a picnic without my mothers potato salad and at least one dog dropped into the fire.

DSC_3813

DSC_3695

"Smart Dog" soy hot dog, potato salad, and vegetarian baked beans.  Yum.

“Smart Dog” soy hot dog, potato salad, and vegetarian baked beans. Yum.

DSC_3834

After Indian Beach, we stopped at the Ecola State Park for photos of the view along the beach and Haystack Rock.  We saw a sign warning about cougars, but sightings are a rare occurrence.  In all the years I lived in Oregon, I was never lucky enough to see one.  My sister, who spent many years driving over Mount Hood on a daily basis only saw one or two.   A park ranger we stopped and spoke with said someone had reported a sighting last month at Indian Springs, but it wasn’t a ranger and he sounded skeptical.

A Cougar warning sign at Ecola State Park

A Cougar warning sign at Ecola State Park

 

Ecola State Park

Ecola State Park, looking south towards Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock

DSC_3872DSC_3873DSC_3877

Indian beach map 002

We also drove through cute and trendy Cannon Beach, but didn’t stop as it was so crowded we did not see any parking spaces.  Not surprising for a warm, sunny August weekend.

What remains of the wreck of the Peter Iredale from the dunes.

What remains of the wreck of the Peter Iredale from the dunes.

Driving back towards Astoria from the coast, we stopped at Fort Stevens State Park to see the Peter Iredale.  This beach was another frequent childhood haunt, and the location of one of my all time favorite family photos.

Family photo taken in 1967.  The wreck of the Peter Iredale is in the background.

Family photo taken in 1967. The wreck of the Peter Iredale is in the background.  That’s me, second from the right, at four years old.

I hadn’t been in quite some time and I wanted to see how much of the old shipwreck was left.  The Peter Iredale wrecked here on the beach on Oct. 25.6th, 1906.  We’ve been coming here for years as the ship deteriorated and the dunes reshaped themselves.  It is always very windy here, as it was when we stopped.

DSC_3922

DSC_3930

DSC_3934

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Iredale

Peter Iredale photo from the website

Peter Iredale photo from the website

Another photo from the website

Another photo from the website

 

Our last nostalgia stop was the Astoria Column.  One sister spent a high school summer break working at the column and one cousin lived in the caretakers house for several years.

DSC_3946

Posted in Family, Oregon | 2 Comments