• Archive for November 2008

    Italy Final: Rome

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    From Florence to Rome was a beautiful three-hour drive through the country. The girls were fabulous, Roger and I were armed and ready with FOOD (which they ate the whole three hours!), gidgets and gadgets that whirl, twill and keep any toddler occupied for five minutes or so and MUSIC. My parents sent us not one but two CD’s from my child hood called HIDE’EM in your heart…a scripture singing CD by Steve Green. Well we have listened to those two albums all over Italy! And Marion and Davina can sing almost all of the songs! That CD saved us from a crying trip a few times!

    It was a bit wild driving downtown Rome, on our google maps directions there were 54 steps to take from the out side of Rome to our hotel downtown. But of course Roger did not take even one wrong turn! Once again Roger found a lovely hotel for us. The balcony view was of ancient Roman ruins! We called Dad and Mom and they met us pronto...what a nice reunion! We heard all about their adventures down south. Their pictures boasted of many more wonderful places to see in Italy. We were glad they had a wonderful time but I was determined to keep them close the next day as I was aware that good-bye was just around the corner. That evening we walked around the city had dinner and just took in Rome at night. The following morning Roger, bright eyed, woke me with excited kisses. He was in Rome and eager to explore! We met Dad and Mom at 10:00 am sharp! It was a brilliantly sunny day! We headed down the main ‘ancient’ road with the Colosseum ahead of us and the ancient Roman Forum on the right. Massive ancient buildings were scattered every way the eye looked. Arriving at the colosseum was spectacular. It was thrilling to walk through a building that was so old and held so much historic significance. Roger loved looking at the building through an engineer’s eye! How did the Romans possibly build such a building that was very used….and continues to stand. For me, who has a very active imagination, the place was rather eerie. To try to grasp and understand that so many people lost their lives based on a sport. To walk and see that the stories we hear about gladiators, slain slaves and captives, martyred Christians are all true. I could feel the weight of this place! It was amazing to go see and experience the great coliseum. From there we walked through the Forum and the ancient ruins of the Emperors castles. Again we were stunned by the grandeur of the buildings still standing! We spent a few good hours roaming through ruins, it was very beautiful. It was not hard imagining what it might have been like two thousand years ago.

    That evening we went for a ‘fancy’ dinner as it was our last with Dad and Mom. Marion wanted to wear her new skirt and get all dressed up for her grandparents. Our dinner was perfect. We talked and laughed and reminisced about the two weeks we had together. We each said our favourite part of the trip. I think we all felt deep grateful for how wonderful the trip went. We each got captured by the beauty and culture (and of course the food) of Italy. We laughed a lot and shared from our hearts. We lingered as long as we could over the meal, as no one wanted it to end. Good-byes were sad and very teary.

    As soon as the door clicked behind Dad and Mom Marion all of a sudden realised that she had just said good-bye for good. I think it was her first time realising that it would be a long time until she saw her family again, it hit her how far we lived away from her family! She burst into sobbing tears crying and calling for Grandpa and Grandma. It was very hard for Roger and I to see Marion missing her family, her home, her Canada. Grandpa and Grandma had brought the girls a teddy bear when they came. The only way we were able to calm Marion down was when I used the teddy as a puppet and made the puppet ‘talk’ to Marion. The puppet said that she used to live at Grandpa and Grandpa’s house in Victoria, that her grandparents brought the teddy so Marion would be able to have a little piece of them with her at all times. The teddy went on to explain all about their house and how much they filled the teddy bear up with hugs and kisses so anytime Marion needed one she could get it from the teddy. After a half-hour of this Marion calmed down, but she has clung to that teddy since!

    That night as I laid in bed with my husbands arm around me, my little girls all tucked in tight, I thought about how hard us living in Africa must be for our parents. For now my little children can be kept close but one day they will be grown and maybe leave for the far corners of the world and my heart will break. I am grateful that we have parents who have been so supportive of us, who have cared and loved us with every step we have taken farther from the safety of their homes. We loved the time we had with Dad and Mom. Building so many beautiful memories, I believe, has knit our hearts closer together. We will always treasure the time we had in Italy with our dear parents! We love you both so much. Thank you for being our parents, for loving us, for caring for us as parents only can! You are so dear to us and we think of you as our closest of friends! Thank you for being the BEST TRAVEL BUDDIES! Again next year, right!?

    The next day brought a lot of sadness travelling without our parents. The Vatican Museum and St. Peters Cathedral were on the list for the day. Once again we were mesmerised by art! The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking. We could have spent hours just looking at the roof! Roger, Marion and I identified each bible story painting on the roof and walls while Davina yelled ‘bampa’ (grandpa) at any man older then thirty! St. Peters was….well…rich, wealthy! I think the apostle Peter would turn in his grave if he knew all the fuss the ‘church’ has made over him. Once again I was saddened by religion. The building it self looked at through the perspective of art was amazing…

    In the morning we packed the bags and headed to the airport hotel. We needed a day to gather supplies for Nigeria. But we did make one stop at IKEA! Oh it was so familiar and nice to walk through a store that had so many nice things. It felt like home! With our shopping done and each of us wearing new shoes we had one last dinner in Italy! Three thirty the next morning we were on our way back to Nigeria. We were on a flight from Rome to Holland with two age 50+ tour groups so you can imagine how the girls were the centre of attention! And my, did they put on a ‘cute’ show! During our four-hour delay in Holland we took in as much ‘civilization’ as we could knowing it was our last chance in six months! I bought ten dozen tulips to bring home with me to help me ease back into Nigerian living! The flight home went so well, the girls were AMAZING! Once in the Nigerian airport we had to deal with no electricity and baggage being delayed, then we waited on the bus for one more person who never showed so by the time we got home it had been a twenty hour day! But at least we did not have to deal with jet lag.

    The trip to Italy was more then I could have dreamt for! Everything was perfect. We have no regrets. We had a wonderful time building memories with each other and with our parents. We soaked in the countryside and the old city streets. We saw ancient buildings and paintings that have left their mark on history. I am a richer, smarter and very blessed person to be able to experience Italy. Thank you my dear Roger for whisking me away to romantic Italy! I will always treasure the time you gave me…where are you taking me next?

    The Colosseum.

    The one and only picture of all of us!

    Inside the Colosseum.

    Beneath the floor where the lions and gladiators waited.

    On the causeway where little girls now smile to have their picture taken!

    Palatine Hill opposite the Colosseum.

    Entrance to the Roman Forum to the right of Palatine Hill.

    A wing of Augustus Caesar's palace on Palatine Hill.

    Courtyard inside the palace.

    Marion with St. Peter's Basilica in the background.

    Ruins in the Roman Forum.

    More ruins (in the foreground).

    Over 2000 year old Corinthian columns and what's left of Julius Caesar's palace.

    Mom and Dad inside the Roman Forum.

    Notice the door to this Baroque church is 8m off the ground. This is because in the 1600's when this church was built, the area of the Roman Forum had completely filled in with 1000 years of sediment from the flooding Tevere River. Excavation in the last century has brought the land back to the level it was in 30BC re-revealing the treasures of the Forum.

    Unbelievably, this entire structure is just a monument not a building.

    The Vatican Museum.

    There is literally 8km of art in the Vatican Museum and besides the amazing sculptures, paintings, and textiles, every ceiling is frescoed.

    St. Peter's Square.

    Artwork at St. Peter's Basilica.

    St. Peter's tomb. When you see this it is hard to picture the rugged fisherman from Galilee.

    Trevi Fountain.

    Casting in our coins so we shall return!

    Interview with Marion:
    What was the best part of your trip to Italy? The gondola ride!

    What was the second best part? Leaning Tower

    What was the most beautiful thing you saw? Castles

    Did you like the villa in the country? Yes
    Why? Because we had a swing, ummm and I liked hunting every morning.
    What did you hunt for? Olives, rocks, and flowers that is all I did.

    Did someone special come from Canada? Grandpa and Grandma….. Peter and Grandma.
    Marion do you know Grandma’s name? No…oh um Kathy!

    What was the best part of having Grandpa and Grandma with you? Reading gold-bug (Richard Scary books)…eating gellato…

    Marion can you tell me all the fun things you did? I liked eating breakfast at the olive farm, swinging on the swing, going driving, castles, hunting, that is all I did! I liked the art like the statues because they are carved by hand.
    What was your favourite statue? My favourite carving was by Michaelangela! (<-that br="" how="" it="" s="" said="" she="">
    Did you learn any Italian words? Gellato, ciao (pronounced chow),

    What shape is the country of Italy? A BOOT!

    So Marion you liked your trip to Italy? Uhhuh,
    Are you happy we went? Yep!

    One word to sum up the trip? Leaning Tower!

    Interview with Roger:
    What was the best parts of the trip for you? Taking a gondola ride at dusk then going on a date with my beautiful wife in the grand plaza.

    What was the most beautiful thing you saw? You…. ahhhh…(followed by a smooch), and the city of Pienza perched on top of a hill in the Tuscan countryside

    If there is one lasting memory what will it be? Wandering the streets of Venice when we came upon a little cafĂ©…we all sat on the bench, drank cappuccino and just took it all in. I also loved exploring Palatine Hill in Rome where the Emperors lived…so many of the ruins are still intact.

    What was your favourite place? That is so tough…the first place I would go back to would be those hill top towns in the Tuscan countryside

    Your favourite meal? Easily the guinea pheasant with olives fried in olive oil that I had in Pienza

    What was the most impressive piece of art you saw? Definitely the David, I didn't realize how enormous it was.

    Was it nice to see your parents? I loved doing this vacation with my parents! It was so fun for the girls to have their grandparents and so fun for us just to be together.

    What is your favourite family memory? Just relaxing at the villa, having breakfast with all of us, watching the girls on the swing.

    Do you know that you were the hottest thing in Italy? Yes, but the David came close.

    If you were to do the trip again would you do anything different? Nope.

    Will you return to Italy? Oh ya.

    Are you bringing me with you? Oh ya!!!

    Can you sum up the trip in one word? Beautiful.

    Interview with Davina:

    What was your favourite part of the trip, Davina? Bampa!

    Italy 5: Florence

    The final days in Florence were rich in art and history. We took in the dramatic art of the Ufizzi Gallery. Some art pieces dated back to the 1200’s! It was amazing to see the progression and ability in art as it transpires through each new century. Renaissance art is often very gory and at times quite explicit with weird ‘religious’ interpretation. Not my favourite in style but worth seeing. To be able to see some of the ‘masters’ of art, knowing their influence on the development of art, seeing their pictures and sculptures come alive it is moving even if it is not my ‘style’. We also got to see the great ‘David’ statue by Michaelangelo. Roger and I were both speechless due to the size of this statue. How could someone carve this out of a block of marble? To see up close the delicate details the artist was able to carve such as vanes in the arm and emotion in his eyes. Stunning!

    Florence gave the girls and I the chance to get caught up…like on laundry, we got Davina all caught up with sleep, ate some good home prepared food, and I got a hair cut! Marion watched movies (which is a great treat in our home) Marion said after one of her movies “Mom I love holidays, I even get to watch movies”! We did some more shopping, finding lots of fun things to send home to family. I bought myself a wonderful leather bag…ohhhhhhhhhhh…it is so nice! Perfect for hauling all the blankies and books and baby things we need when we fly! Honestly, I love the bag! One morning as the girls and I walked we unexpectedly came upon the ‘flower market’ I guess once a week all the flower sellers come into the town and sell the fresh flowers…now that’s art! The girls and I decided on the red roses! If any of you visited my home in Calgary you will remember that my home was never absent of roses……the flower, that is. Well I have not had roses on my table since Malaysia. We three girls raced home filled the wine urn with water and all fussed over the arrangement. We then just stood back and stared….. Marion kept sighing this content little sigh ever time she looked at them…. I sighed also!

    Much to the girls delight there was a carousel right in the centre square. It was all lit up at night and every evening we were sure to make the trek to the carousel for a fairy-tale ride.

    Roger’s course was wonderful. He was very excited to learn that the turbine engines he is responsible for in Nigeria (to process oil and gas) are the same engines that are used on the Stealth Bomber and Boeing 747! He came home with a binder thicker then a textbook full of charts and numbers and all things that make engineers really excited!

    Florence was wonderful. But we missed Dad and Mom so early Saturday morning Rome bound we were!

    We were too busy shopping and looking at art to take pictures of the city! Actually the bests parts of Florence are the art gallery's where you can't take pictures anyway. Here are just a couple shots.

    Rosaleen's flowers.

    Davina's boots.

    Watching movies on the IPod.

    Italy 4: Pisa and Venice

    I have a few days to catch up on, as we have been so busy taking in the wonders of this country, it just did not seem right to sit behind a computer! Thursday morning had us heading in the direction of one of Marion’s top things to see in the world! Here is her list in right order.

    #1: Great Wall of China
    #2: Leaning Tower of Pisa
    #3: Venice
    #4: Eiffel Tower
    #5: Mount Kilaminjoro
    #6: Disney Land

    Well you can imagine the thrill for her to see this tilting tower of Pisa! We have heard from other travellers that it is ‘just a leaning tower’ but let me debunk that notion as it is an incredible leaning tower! It is amazing to see just how shear the tilt is and to try to grasp how old this tower is. Realising the great Galileo himself was their experimenting. There are three buildings on this sight and all three are tilting in different directions, it is quite the sight! Marion kept walking around the tower asking why this and why that? Most of her questions I could not answer so off to her smart engineer/history buff father she trotted to receive the intellectual answers she needed ahhh the mind of a four year old! I must say it is nice to have such a ‘smoking hot’ ‘history smart’ tour guide that I get to kiss all over Italy! Friday brought about the end of our stay at the villa. Refreshed and relaxed we had thankful hearts for the quiet and beauty that wrapped itself around us all week. Roger and I both commented on the healing power of Gods living art displayed through nature.

    My handsome tour guide then drove us up to the magical city of Venice. We checked into a charming hotel just around the corner and over a bridge from Saint Marks square. We then wandered around finding ‘just the right place' to eat dinner. Small bands played classical music throughout the city and little white lights filled the square and walkways with romance and history. The following morning we enjoyed a walk through the palace and explored the windy back roadways of the city. The whole city was built on an island of sand. A thousand years ago the fastest way of transportation was boating so the roads were built as canals, the water going right up to the front doors of a house. Now with the combination of time and rising sea levels the city is sinking. The city floods due to the tide. So when we emerged from the palace every person walking the city was jammed onto these make shift, above water, sidewalks! Venice is rich with history, once the wealthiest city in Europe its art and political and religious significance are aired obviously throughout the city. The home of Vivaldi, Mozart and Lord Byron along with many others (like the rebel Casanova.) As we were exploring the back ways of the city we came across this wonderful little square with a tasty smelling bistro, when something smells that good you must check it out. In the square was a cute little church. We poked our heads in and were greeted with Vivaldi’s music playing; we had stumbled upon the oldest church in Venice and the very church that Antoine Vavaldi was baptised in. It gave me chills just thinking my favourite musical artist was in this very building!

    In the afternoon we walked through Saint Marks cathedral, a grand old church. We then took a magical gondola ride just as dusk was settling around the city. Mom said that she had a moment on the gondola where she was overwhelmed because never in her life did she ever think she would be taking a gondola ride at dusk in magical Venice. I think she spoke for each of us. Dad and Mom offered to baby-sit that evening so Roger and I could go on a date……Of course we said yes! My love bought me roses as we walked and then we sat, sipping a warm drink in the grand square being captured under the spell of the music, lights, and magic of Venice! Oh Venice! Please do not sink!

    We are now in Florence where Roger is taking a course with General Electric. We said good-bye for just a few days to Dad and Mom as they headed south for their anniversary week! I hope they are having a very romantic time but we are sure missing them. Davina is walking around saying “bampa” at every corner! Marion even said to me today with a pout lip, that it is not as fun having gelatto without Grandpa and Grandma.

    So far Florence has been relaxing. We are staying in an amazing hotel a block from the Duomo and centre square. But it has been raining so it is a bit hard getting around with the girls. Today I managed in-spite of the rain to do some wonderful European shopping and what delightful useless to Africa leather boots I got for Davina. They are ever so sweet and I could not pass them up!

    Tonight We are going to the world famous Uffizi Art Gallery and tomorrow we go to see Michaelangelo’s sculpture ‘The David”. I must go and put on some rouge for my tour guide will soon be here to fetch me!

    Breakfast before heading out for the day!

    My gorgeous wife!!!

    Look what we found at the end of the rainbow!

    The lesser known "leaning babtistry of Pisa" on the left.

    We arrived in Venice at night time. This is St. Mark's square at the heart of the city.

    Looking out of the "bridge of sighs".

    To see how high the water level rose was absolutley unbelievable. The entire main piazza of Venice was under water. Tourists scrambled to get up on these make shift walkways. I had no idea it was this bad. Venice is truly sinking.

    As the water levels rose Venetians simply moved to the second floor.

    The best part about Venice was just wandering through the streets...dead ends are common though!

    On the Rialto Bridge

    Rialto Bridge from the tronchetta (ferry).

    Dogge's Palace.

    St. Mark's Square.

    Our gondola ride!

    Music, coffee and cake in the square.

    Bye-bye Venice.