I am putting a few shots I took in Newfoundland. This is a few years after the fact, but the memory is still very clear.
I am putting a few shots I took in Newfoundland. This is a few years after the fact, but the memory is still very clear.
It had originally been our intention to stay a few days right on the Islands. In my previous visit I stayed in Lipari and I had good memories. Besides, Lipari can be used as a good base for visiting the other islands. However, after some further thought we decided to simply visit the islands to get an overview. In this way if we decided in the future to come back we would know where to stay. And so it was that on July 15th we boarded a small boat for a 1 day tour of the islands, taking in Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli with cruiseby’s of Panarea, Alicudi and Filicudi. It was hot and sunny and being on the boat was the perfect way to go.
Our first stop was Vulcano, an active island that I remember first visiting in 1980. What stuck most in my mind at that time is the mud baths and the fact that you could venture into the ocean and find your own “fumarole” spewing out hot gas and giving you the effect of a jacuzzi right in the Ocean. I had been telling my wife to expect a fantastic experience in the sea. I had forgotten to mention that the Island is still going through growth spasms and that there are many fumaroles spewing out hot gas throughout the Island and that the prevalent smell is of sulphur i.e. rotten eggs. The smell is like hitting a wall as you step off the boat and onto the pier. The strong smell of rotting eggs everywhere. Its pervasive but after a short while you get used to it and it is no longer an issue until you happen to come in proximity of a fissure in the ground spewing out this hot smelly gas.
After a few hours on Vulcano we boarded our boat and headed for the main island in the archipelago, Lipari. This is where I had stayed my first visit. Lipari town is just the right size. It has hotels, restaurants and all kinds of interesting things to do. One of the main exports of the Aeolian Islands is capers and some great Malvasia wine. We took a tour of the island stopping at several locations to enjoy the scenery and the views. We drove through fields where they harvested capers and other crops. At one stop, someone had set up a stall selling local Malvasia wine which we were able to sample and then of course we bought. From the west side you had a great view of the Islands of Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi. Back in port we wandered around the pretty town of Lipari and its interesting little side streets. I didn’t visit the imposing castle in the centre of town. Maybe next time.
After Lipari our schedule took us to the higly active island of Stromboli. This island erupts a few times an hour. It is most spectacular at night and I can attest to this because I saw it at night the last time I visited. In fact today there are night excursions to Stromboli that take you around the Island just to witness the eruptions and red lava flows. Its still impressive during the day as you can see from the photos.
Stromboli is also a vacation destination of the very wealthy. Dolce and Gabbana have a summer villa here as do a number of prominent Italians and non-Italians. When we were there we saw a number of outstanding yachts, including the Athena, one of the longest sailing yachts in the world as well as the Regina D’Italia, the yacht belonging to Dolce and Gabbana.
There is not much on the Island per se. Even the towns are quite small and some are accessible only by water. The dock we landed at had a dark volcanic beach nearby and we spent some time there in the shadow of the Volcano. The beach was not of fine sand but more small rocks of volcanic stone. But the water was exceptional. It was warm but more importantly it was crystal clear. I wish I had brought my snorkel but even without it visibility was phenomenal. It was at least as good as Grand Cayman and other Carribbean dive places I have been.
After a while on the beach it was time to board the boat for the return back to the mainland – about 2 hours. It was a good time to just relax and be lulled to sleep by the movement of the ship. We returned to Capo Vaticano to drop off some of the passengers then headed back out to sea, past the lighthouse at Capo Vaticano and back to Tropea for a fabulous meal and evening wandering around town. What a great way to spend the day!!
Another day in Tropea and then it was off the Rome.
We hadn’t been to Calabria in years and Marsha had never been to the Aeolian Islands. It was time to go back. We decided on Tropea as our destination. Tropea is a beautifully located up and coming resort town near the tip of Italy on the Tyrrhenian Coast. The town sits high atop sheer cliffs with views out over the sea towards the Aeolian Islands and in particular Stromboli which can be seen at sunset.
The drive down took about 6 1/2 hours but was beautiful with scenery changing around every corner. I never appreciated how truly mountainous Italy is. Even when maps don’t show the area as having mountains, they are there. The autostrada was good although there was quite a bit of construction going on in the south half and that slowed us down a bit but at least it didn’t cost anything south of Salerno. Eventually we made it to Tropea. Found our hotel on a quiet side street and checked in. It was quite a place. Only 14 rooms and with a marvellous terrace with uninteruped views to the sea.
After we settled into our room we went out to explore Tropea. The sun was just about to set and I managed to get some interesting sunsets. The following evening photos were taken on different days throughout our stay.
Walking around Tropea was enjoyable. So many stores selling local produce. It seemed that every store had baskets full of the famous red Tropea onions on display outside. They seemed to find their way into many of the typical local dishes offered in restaurants. They are very mild compared to the red Spanish onions that they resemble. There was so much to choose from but because of custom restrictions or luggage restrictions, we only purchased a few samples. Saturday is market day in Tropea. Markets are always fun to go through. Here the market was quite large and parking was difficult to come by. Fortunately our hotel was a one minute walk from one of the gateways to the market.
The following photos represent a small sampling of the stores and their products. We also had some great meals at different restaurants around town and on our final night we ate on the terrace of our hotel taking in the sunset over the Tyrrhenian Sea and Stromboli beyond.
Tropea is a pretty town and walking around is a pleasure. There are at least three main “balconies” with overlooks to the sea or mountains. There are several pretty churces. Side streets are picturesque. Much of the town is substantially car free or at least limited. This makes for pleasant strolls and there are many outdoor spots to take an aperitivo, gelato or snack throughout the day. The beaches are beautiful and the water clear, fun and warm. Renting beach umbrellas and beach lounge chairs is quite inexpensive compared to other beaches in central and northern Italy. We rented ours for 10 euro for the full day.
We arrived in Rome early, about 11:15 AM. I thought that would give me a bit of a head start to the holiday. It wasn’t to be. At baggage claim the luggage started to come out slowly, in dribs and drabs and in no apparent order. I thought we’d be there forever when all of a sudden my bag trickled out and I pulled it off the conveyor. A few more minutes, I thought, and Marsha’s would appear and we’d be off to get our car. I don’t know what happened! What I do know is that at 1:30 a small handfull of us were still standing in baggage claim watching 7 very familiar, battered and orphaned suitcases carouselling around the conveyor. After what seemed an eternity of non activity, a new batch of suitcases began to tumble down the hatch – and yes Marsha’s was in this little elite group.
We now proceeded to the car rental floor to get our car. I took my number and waited as some Swedes or Danes tried to cirumvent what I am quite sure were insanely bureacratic requirements that the attendant was unwilling to forgo and the Swedes/Danes were unable or unwilling to provide. In any event another hour passed watching this little drama but at last we got our car. I had prebooked a small “Ford Fiesta” type car because we were intending to use it very sparingly. We got a small sized Mercedes instead – nice little surprise. And more importantly, it ran on diesel (something I always specify).
We loaded the luggage and were soon off to Sperlonga, a seaside resort about an hour and a half south of Rome. I had arranged for us to be in Sperlonga for a couple of days to relax and overcome the jet lag effect. Rather than take the autostrada, we took a Strada Nazionale in the direction of the town of Latina to get there. As soon as we got away from the airport, we began to feel the “Italian” experience – the clear blue sky, colourful vegetation comprising Mediterranean Pines, oleander shrubs the size of trees, bougainvillea, small cars, old country homes, a countryside sprinkled with ancient ruins and the many fabulous small eateries along the way.
We stopped at our first AutoGrill and had our first pannino. What a divinely simple pleasure. The sandwich consisted of prosciutto, tomato and mozzarella di Bufala, toasted just right. It wasn’t just the ingredients that made the sandwich so exceptional, it was the freshness of the ingredients and the perfection to which the sandwich was toasted. Something as simple as that tells so much about the eating habits and expectations of a nation. This was going to be a great “eating” holiday. We were so looking forward to our first serious sit down meal in Italy.
We arrived in Sperlonga in late afternoon and immediately headed to our hotel – Hotel Grazia. My reservation specified that ours was a larger room with balcony. It was nice but I’d hate to see a standard room. For example, the bathroom door rubbed the side of the sink in order to close. The balcony could comfortably accommodate two small dogs. But all things aside, the hotel was perfectly located, one block away from the beachfront on a quiet street with a nice breakfast included. Once we got our luggage into the room we headed off to the beach to catch the late afternoon rays on a “public beach”. The beach was wonderful and pristine and the water warm and clear.
After the beach we did a walk about the Town and made our way to the upper, older part of the city. We had a fabulous meal at one of the great restaurants along the main promenade between two large open squares. We started with mussels in wine and bruschetta, then I had linguine with vongole (clams) and Marsha had pesce mista (assortment of seafood), topped with great local white wine and an espresso/cappuccino. We then walked over to a gelateria to have a gelato. What a great evening. The meal totally lived up to our expectations.
The next day started off sunny so we rented an umbrella and beach lounge chairs at one of the nearby beaches. I decided to go for a nice tour of upper Sperlonga while Marsha relaxed at the beach. By mid morning it became overcast so I headed back to the beach and Marsha and I decided to visit a nearby Cistercial Monaastery called Fossanova. Beautiful location and great cloister. It is also the location of where St. Thomas Aquinas died. We then returned to our beach chairs and umbrella in Sperlonga to relax in the afternoon sun and refresh in the sea.
We then headed back up to old Sperlonga looking forward to another great meal. Boy were we in for a surprise. We sat at a restaurant for an aperitivo as we waited for supper time – after 8 PM. We lingered a bit too long and by the time we got up, the restaurants had started to fill. Marsha left her name with the waiter at one restaurant so that we could be seated once a table became available. I was getting impatient and so I went down the street to another restaurant who happened to have a table available. From a distance I managed to get Marsha’s attention and waved her to the new restaurant. As we sat down and started to look at the menu, we noticed a large party of about 20 people two tables away who had just put in their order. We thought we would not be served for a while and debated whether to stay or not but in the end we decided to stay. A few minutes later we heard a voice calling “Marsha?… Marsha?…. We looked around and suddenly Marsha identified the source of the call – it was a friend from work who happened to be in Rome taking a course with a group of other teachers. They had decided to spend the last few days of their time in Italy in Sperlonga. In no time, several other people from the large party came over to our table all of whom knew Marsha. Talk about a surprise and coincidence. Needless to say that was the highlight of our second evening in Sperlonga although the meal was pretty good too. It was not to be the last such surprise. Below are a few of the photos I took of Sperlonga and Fossanova that day as well as the photos of Marsha’s friends that we bumped into.
When I was first planning my trip to the US southwest, I intended to pay a short visit to Winslow and stand on the corner just like in the Eagles song “Take it Easy”. After all it was only 50 miles from Flagstaff where I was going to spend my first night. After more thought I decided to stay in a hotel on the famous Route 66. It worked out that my second last day took me to the Grand Canyon. I had heard of Williams Arizona – the last city on Route 66 in Arizona to be bypassed by the interstate highway. Williams is only 1 hour south of The Grand Canyon National Park and so I booked a room in the Williams Travelodge right on Route 66. Williams is a small, well preserved “Route 66” city with a lot of ties to what I always imagine to be the golden era of the US – 1950’s. I stayed at the Grand Canyon until well past dark to get some sunset photos so I didn’t get to see much of Williams by the time I got there at around 11 PM.
Next morning I woke up and looked out my window. I had been transported back to 1955. Directly across the street was “Goldies Route 66 diner”. Right out of the 50’s. I waited for a biker to drive by to take the photo. There were plenty to chose from.
I didn’t eat breakfast there but took a look inside. It was a Saturday and there was a display of classic, restored vehicles from all over the state. The cars were angle parked right on the Route 66 loup which goes through town. Blaring in the background was 1950’s music, little Richard, The Platters, Bill Halley, The Ronettes etc. etc. etc. It was great looking at all the vehicles and walking into the nearby souvenir shops.
From the car exhibit, I drove along Route 66 to downtown and parked my car. There were a lot of tourist shops selling Route 66 souvenirs. There were also Navajo Indian jewellery shops. I truly enjoyed some of the old style diners with authentic looking tables, counters, chairs, booths etc. etc. Some neat signs as well. I also liked the Texaco Service station and pumps. I wandered around for a few hours taking photos. Check them out below. Be sure to enlarge some of the photos of the signs – they are quite interesting.
I got into Kayenta, Arizona around mid-day and immediately took a drive to Monument Valley about 20 minutes or so away towards the Utah border. I decided to take the 17 mile drive around the Valley over the rough and tumble road which took me to some truly fantastic places. Among these was John Ford’s point named after the famous movie director who shot a number of westerns with that setting as a backdrop. I also drove to get a view of the “Totem Pole”. I once saw a spectacular photo of this landmark from a slightly different vantage point which had sand dunes in front of it. I didn’t go to that part of the valley. I learned that you need to go with a Navajo guide and it just didn’t work out for me especially since I wanted to go before sunrise. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the view from the spot that I got to and I took a few photos although none of them are anywhere near as beautiful as the one that first inspired me to go there. Check it out here.
The next morning I set out for Moab and Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. I had to drive by Monument Valley and then past it towards Mexican Hat to the north in Utah. I knew that the road would pass by the point where Forrest Gump stopped his cross country run with the iconic view of Monument Valley in the background. As I drove, I kept looking in the rear view mirror until I recognized the spot. I stopped the car and put my camera on a tripod in the middle of the road and took the photo. I attached a few photos of this area including my “Forrest Gump” moment. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them.
This was taken on June 21, 2008. I was in Saint Tropez at the weekly market. Its quite busy both at the market and along the harbour. The Market takes place Saturday mornings in the Place des Lices which is normally an area used for playing boules (bocce) and parking. Its so nice to be able to leave this area for a little bit and walk the streets of Saint Tropez which are quiet and pretty.
I love this scene. This could be on any one of a number of grand boulevards in Europe. But it isn’t. It’s in New York City. We were spending a few days there with our cousins who flew in from Italy for a week. And what a time it was. We had planned to go to the Met on Saturday because we heard that it would rain and it might be a good idea to be indoors. That’s exactly what happened. When we got out the rain had stopped and we went for a nice walk in Central Park. New York is a great city with lots to do. This photo was taken in April, 2010.
This is taken from the quayside of the Piazetta in Venice. It’s the only place where you can take a photo without people in it because it’s at the water’s edge and looks out across the lagoon to San Giorgio Island. I have a photo of this scene in black and white which I was going to post, but I felt the scene needed some colour to add interest. For me Venice never ceases to amaze even with the huge crowds of summer. This is a high dynamic range photo
Here are two very fortunate people looking out onto Lake Como in Northern Italy from the beautifully located city of Bellaggio. This is the real Bellaggio that the Vegas hotel was named after. The one in Vegas is nice but I think I like the setting of this Bellaggio better. It is located at the north end of a peninsula which runs up the middle of Lake Como with the result that both arms of the lake wrap around it. The city itself is quite attractive and as some might know, George Cluny purchased a villa nearby. The town is not only surrounded by the lake but by the majestic Alps. Boats ply the waters taking tourists and residents from one small town to the other. Because the mountains descend almost to the shoreline, the lake is protected and enjoys a very mild climate considering it is so far north and hardier species of palm trees are not uncommon. This was taken in August 2008.