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Archive for July, 2007

Life has a way of slowing us down if we too fast…..you see, I’m a firm believer that one can only travel as fast their feet will let them.  But I seem to travel as fast as my mind allows, and sometimes I end up getting “disconnected”. When this happens usually the only cure is to find nature, in it’s own state.

Sunday was a day of recovery.  A spiritual reconnection to the world of nature, to allow time for myself to SLOW down.  Sometimes I know I have too much on my plate, and not enough time to enjoy my life.  That is why travel is such a therapeutic expedition for me.   Time to relax, time to smell the flowers…..literally!

So in my car I drug my weary body and drove off into the wilderness for an afternoon of photography.  Deep in the Maine woods I drove, until I came upon some familiar sights, I had lost track of during the last 10 years or so.  The road less traveled, indeed it is the route I chose.

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost 

Frost’s poem says a lot in a few words. Sometimes we are all held hostage by ourselves, and feel as though we have no where to turn.  I often find myself caught up in life’s daily problems.  Human beings have the natural urge to distance themselves from others when they feel certain overwhelming emotions approaching. This can include crying, laughing, mourning, or just deep thinking. One’s personal desires for isolation in these instances are, of course, largely dependent on the type of personality one has. An individual that is more extroverted may not mind others seeing their emotional side and therefore would not seek isolation. On the other hand, a more introverted person might be more self-conscious about their showing of emotion, and seek an out-of-the-way retreat.  That’s what I did on Sunday…..  🙂

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A Handsome Lad

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A beautiful lad named Liam…..my 1 year old grandson! I miss him greatly….I haven’t seen him since March…growing way too fast!

Love Nonna!

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No, No Regrets!

Well, last evening I had the sheer pleasure of enjoying the Film “La Vie En Rose”, the story of the life of the Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf. I have waited many months for the arrival of this tribute; however, I had not known the impact of this film of me. I was absolutely whowed with the performance of Marion Cottilard (“A Good Year”), who played Edith. There is no doubt that Edith lived a horrific life, but it made her what her song are. Fierce determination kept her soul alive, during her brief life on earth. The pain and suffering that she endured is beyond belief. The Film is a must-see. A must experience. She lived her life like no other….filled with passion and no looking back, with no regrets….. To the “The Sparrow”

Non ! Rien de rien
Non ! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal tout ça m’est bien égal !

Non ! Rien de rien
Non ! Je ne regrette rien
C’est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé !

Avec mes souvenirs
J’ai allumé le feu
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs
Je n’ai plus besoin d’eux !

Balayées les amours
Et tous leurs trémolos
Balayés pour toujours
Je repars à zéro

Non ! Rien de rien
Non ! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien, qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m’est bien égal !

Non ! Rien de rien
Non ! Je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie, car mes joies
Aujourd’hui, ça commence avec toi !

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The Zen of Travel

A Sunday drive to Montepulciano and Pienza Italy turns out to be a magnificent adventure into the eyes of the locals.

During last month’s travel to Italy, we decided to spend a Sunday out in the countryside. As drove further out into the serene countryside, Florence vanished behind us. The countryside turned shades of green from the olive trees an vineyards; yellows and browns from the wheat fields. The Sunflowers off in the distance danced to the tunes on the radio. All was right with the world.

Driving through the beautiful countryside in the Jag was an adventure and soon we descended upon the village of Pienza. “What were the locals like?” I imagined. Pienza itself seemed to hold little in the way of a Tuscan traveler’s dream, which is made up more than ancient stones and farmers going about their rural life. But where was it? We usually have based our journey’s in one or another of these seductive hilltop towns. Arriving in Pienza gave us a bit of uncertainty on the Sunday morning. A sense of tranquility surrounded me as we got out of the car. We looked up to our surprised and saw a group of local women staring at us and chatting about the day’s events. I nodded and waved, as we started to walk towards the main piazza. All was right with the world.

There was beauty on every doorstep and narrow alleyways that we encountered. There were children and families playing in the park. It was a Sunday lost in time. The way life used to be; the way life should be.

The passages of civilizations are clearly imprinted on the town of Pienza, though it is the medieval that remains most conspicuous. Tuscany is tender, filled with memories and watercolors. A place of wine and olives, of people and beauty that live in harmony.

I dined on Pienza’s beautiful but simple food, drank a primitivo from the Tuscan hills, and enjoyed the beauty of the day, in our hidden gemstone we had discovered! We each drew our own sentimental map of this new town, marked our route on “Scanducci” and made our way back home to Florence. Meanwhile, I ask “Why can’t we live here?” 🙂

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Photo of the Day

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Bella Fiori

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While in Italy one can enjoy the beauty of flowers all around. Sunflowers happen to be one of my favorite flowers of all time. Hydrangeas are a quick second favorite of mine. I have a collection of photos that I have taken over last several summers of my favorite fiori in Italy. The beauty of flowers is that they tell a story….they are a painting that mother nature provides us that can heal a hurt, bring a smile to one’s face, express one’s love, and brighten a rainy day.

I photograph flowers as a way to preserve their memory and beauty. Although they can be difficult to capture on camera, their effects can last forever. I have archived hundreds of digital photos of flowers, all shapes, sizes, colors and types. My dream is to sell my photos matted and framed. My husband encourages me to follow my dreams and I have began to do so. I have already given my photos as gifts to family members, and they have enjoyed them. I am now thinking of taking this a step further and preparing a batch for a show. My subject will be, of course flowers! Most of them from Italy!

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In Victorian times, certain flowers had specific meanings because the flower selection was limited and people used more symbols and gestures to communicate than words. Oddly enough, Hydrangeas = Perseverance! 🙂

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Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am an extreme shopper. Always the first in line for the day after Thanksgiving shopping, so when I travel shopping is often at the top of list of “things to do.” Italy is no exception, in fact I consider it as a shopping destination.

Shopping can be considered an art. To me I have fined tuned it, into a skill that I am happy to expound upon. On our recent trip to Italy , I was compelled to visit the San Lorenzo Market and the Mercato Centrale again. Shopping at it’s finest. For those with a culinary appetite, appetite’s can be whetted at Florence’s famous Mercato Centrale in the San Lorenzo district. The inside market contains food stalls, as well as meat markets, seafood, flowers, frest fruit and veggies, cheese and other meat products. In another section, finds include spices, dried fruit, pasta both fresh and dried, coffee and teas. I love to stroll through these stalls with an open mind, afterall strange items are often found here.

Outside the Central market one can enjoy the sights and sounds of beautiful San Lorenzo’s marketplace. Located on both sides of the Mercato Centrale, this market offers extreme shopping. Clothing, purses, shoes, souvenirs, leather wallets and belts, jewelry and numerous other momentos from travel. What I love about this place is the bargains, one can find by haggling for price reduction. I find it to be one my travel delights. I have had the opportunity to shop like this in other locations in the world such as the Caribbean countries, but non compare to the markets in Italy. Most shop vendors are extremely proud of the wares and most are willing to negotiate the price down. Afterall I do consider myself a professional shopper and with that said, wouldn’t even a bad day of shopping be better than a great day at work? 🙂

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Well being back from Italy for a couple weeks now, makes me think about the culinary treasures that we indulged in while away. Whenever we travel to foreign lands we always wonder about the food. What will it taste like? Well we can honestly say the only place we have ever been disappointed in, is England. Yes, I think one has to acquire a taste from the Brits. During the summer of 2001, when we traveled to England we lived on “The Flake 99”, as a form of main course. Or we perused the food court of Harrod’s in search of something else to eat.  We did find many delicacies in Harrods including chocolate…..yum! The temperatures were scorching outside and we could not find food to our tolerance.  So instead we ate ice cream.

However, while traveling to Italy I can honestly say we have never had to tolerate, or even been served an inedible meal.   Gelato is on the top of our list. Gelato in any shape or form is the perfect food of the gods.  During this recent trip to Italy we made a point of enjoy at least 2 gelatos a day. No matter where we were we would seek out a local gelateria for our enjoyment.  We have tried them all. In fact every city of hilltop town we visited, I journaled about the gelato.  Every gelateria is a bit different, indeed some more “flashy” or touristy than others. You know, neon signage and the whole scene, while others are not boastful at all.  Some of our favorites remain in Florence. Afterall, one can eat and never be disappointed in their culinary excursions in Florence.  In fact I htink you would have the opportunity to eat at a different location in Florence both for lunch and dinner for a year and never eat at the same place twice.  There are pizzerias, enoteccas, osterias, trattorias, rotisseries, ristorantes, gelaterias, and take away carts.  But one must not forget the gelato.  Gelato does come with a price, and depending on where you purchase it, it can be a bit pricey. Especially, when compared to ice cream.  We are talking anywhere from 4-6 euros for a cup. The exchange rate today for a Euro is (1 Euro = 1.38 dollars)…….so what would you pay for a gelato?   For me it is priceless!

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 What’s your definition of bizarre foods?

Well on our recent trip to Italy we witnessed some bizarre foods in action.  For instance, at the Mercato Centrale one could partake in a feast of tripe, cows faces, cow nerves, and cow esophaguses….oh yeah. I have photos to prove it.  Sounds gross huh?  Well cultures create foods. There is often a history behind what one enjoys for delicacies.  In Maine we have fiddleheads, to some folks these would considered disgusting, to us they are a spring treat.  In most countries in fact there is a typical dish that is native to the region that others don’t often eat.  In Italy it happens to be many.

Bizarre food today, by far had a different definition, than it has in the past.  Cultures before us, used food as a necessity, so they had use all pieces of an animal. In some countries today, that is still true.   On the Travel Channel’s show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, one can only imagine what he will choke down with the next mouthful, but last night when I watched Samantha Brown, try to eat guinea pig and alpaca steaks, I cringed.  As a foodie, I enjoy watching these shows, but at the same time I am fascinated how one can sample these food items and not be totally disturbed. I guess my culinary desires are sometimes hindered by my conscience. heheheheh  🙂

nerves.jpg  Nerves in Italy.

windpipes.jpg  Windpipes in Florence!

tripe.jpg  Various forms of tripe.  The local  meat cutter told that a cow had three stomachs. Here they are!

I think I’m not quite ready try these delicacies just yet.  I know my husband isn’t!  Food is an integral part of any culture. No matter where one travels, an open mind is the key!  Try it and you might be surprised……did I mention pigs feet (trotters)?   😉

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The Magnifcient Dolomites

On our recent trip to Italy we had the pleasure of visiting the “mile high” Dolomites which are incredible mountains that surround Northern Italy. Well they are actually way over a mile high, in most spots they are upwards of 10,000 feet. According to Wikipedia they are defined as:

The Dolomites (Italian: Dolomiti; German: Dolomiten) are a section of the Alps. They are located in equal parts in the provinces of Belluno, Bolzano-Bozen, and Trento (all in northern Italy) and extend from the Adige river in the west to the Pieve valley (Pieve di Cadore) in the east. The northern and southern borders are defined by the Puster Valley (Val Pusteria) and the Sugana Valley (Val Sugana).

The region is commonly divided into the Western and Eastern Dolomites, separated by a line following the Val BadiaCampolongo passCordevole valley (Agordino) axis. The range includes more than forty glaciers.

A tourist mecca, the Dolomites are famous for skiing and mountain climbing. The main centres include Auronzo, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Arabba, Ortisei and San Martino di Castrozza.

During the First World War the line between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces ran through the Dolomites. There are open air war museums at 5 Torri and Mount Lagazuoi. Many people visit the Dolomites to climb the Via ferrata. These are protected paths which were first created in the Dolomites during the First World War. A number of long distance footpaths run across the Dolomites; including the Alta Via 1.

The name “Dolomites” is derived from the famous French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu who was the first to describe the rock, dolomite, a type of carbonate rock which is responsible for the characteristic shapes and color of these mountains.

Well after our visit to the Dolomites, I have wonder about these mountains. My research has indicated that these mountians played and itegral part of important footpaths during WWI and WWII. The Italians even built bunkers and trenches on these mountains during the war. The photo below shows some of these:

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The beauty that surrounds these mountains is incredible. The day we drove we had a difficult time to leave this vast beauty. Indeed, we will return someday.

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