The Sites of Rome

No matter how many times I go to Rome I still love to go to all of the main sites.  Rome is busy with tourists in mid-May but I still enjoyed each of these places.  There are lots of good memories in each.

The Pantheon.  Always great for people watching.

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The inside always is so large and the dome is amazing.  The light from the oculus causes the inside to change all during the day.

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Campo Fiori used to be a big farmers market every day now it is more for tourists but it is still a fun place to spend a morning.

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One of my favorite monuments has always been the Castel St. Angelo and the bridge lined with angels designed by Bernini.

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Of course St. Peters Square is amazing.  I didn’t take the time to go inside this time.

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What seems like the most crowded place in all of Rome is the Trevi Fountain.  I learned from Sadie to get a gelato and find a seat to watch the craziness.  A return late at night allows for a more normal viewing of the fountain.

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My favorite scene is the night time view over the Forum from the Capitaline Hill.  Matthew and I stayed very near here on my first trip to Rome many years ago.  I always come back for a quiet nighttime view.

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And nighttime at the Colosseum is a great time to see this beautiful ruin without the mobs.

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Of course the daytime views are spectacular.  It looks like I’m alone but far from it.

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The beautiful gardens for the Vestal Virgins in the forum.  Of course they had to commit to 30 years of celibacy and the punishment for a slip up was a gruesome death.

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The forum looking down from the Palentine Hill.

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There was a new area of the forum open this time.  It was a 4th century church that had been partially restored.  It was located inside of the Palentine Hill.  Very interesting to get to walk around inside the hill.

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Back in Rome

I’ve made it to Rome on the final legs of my trip (Rome, Florence and London). I’ve followed in Sadie’s shoe steps and select an apartment smack in the middle of the tourist district(I actually used her same company). It is a fifth floor apartment in Piazza de Pietra right between the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. 

The place is bustling with people but the apartment is very quiet. The Piazza is pedestrian only and is fronted by huge columns on an old building. 

From one of my windows I can see the columns. 

In another direction I can see the huge column topped by Saint Peter. 

It is a very odd apartment  built into the attic of the building. And much like my place in the Alps much of the ceiling and beams are very low. 

It has a very funky shower that looks trendy but seems a but impractical. At least I can stand up straight in the window and have a great view while I shower.  

From the couch I have a great view over the roof tops to enjoy while I sip a wind. 

Thanks to Sadie for the great recommendation.  It’s good to be back in Rome. 

Ponferrada Old Town

Posted from Seville, Andalusia, Spain.

My time in Ponferrada has been great.  It is a beautiful old town with a great view of snow capped mountains in the distance.  It is peaceful, lovely and always offers a nice free pincho when ordering a beer or wine.  The town has a great old castle on the edge of the river.  Free on Wednesday’s it made for a nice stroll.

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In addition the old town is pedestrian only with a wonderful old buildings.

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As I head out to the big city of Rome I suspect I will miss the quiet solitude of Ponferrada and the small villages nearby.

Cacabelos

Posted from Seville, Andalusia, Spain.

I decided to take a side trip to the small village of Cacabelos. I read about a small inn that was very nice. So I  decided to give it a try. The Hotel Mancloa was very large but had only 8 rooms. It had a famous restaurant that was a stopping place for people headed to Madrid. 
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There were great gardens and tables set out for a quiet wine in the afternoon. 

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The village was very nice. Old homes and several churches. 
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The restaurant was a little pricy so I opted for dinner in a small cafe. A pulperia (octopus). Sliced octopus tentacles cook tender with spices. Delicious. 

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Day out

Posted from Seville, Andalusia, Spain.

On Saturday, Bruno invited me to go with him, his brother-in-law David and niece Henar to a small village a few kilometers away.  We drove thought the country side catching occassional glimpses of pilgrims along the road.  We drove up a small road to a hill with a commanding view over the countryside.

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The hillsides were covered with grapevines that were just beginning to show this seasons growth.

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It turns out this hill was actually an old Roman fortress.  It was obviously chosen because it had views in 360 degrees.  Now all that is left is the old wall that surrounded the fortress.  Apparently most of the stones from the fortress have been removed to build the churches and buildings in the surrounding villages.

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We walked around the old wall.

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Afterward we went to a nearby town and had a drink and pinchos.

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The pincho was a seafood rice.  Delicious.

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Afterward David treated us all to a wonderful Sunday dinner at a local restaurant.  An unbelievable selection of food.  Soup,  pork, potatoes, wine and desert.

Staying in Quatro Vientos

Posted from Seville, Andalusia, Spain.

After my short jet lag rest in Leon I headed west to a small town on the outskirts of Ponferrada.  The town is Quatro Vientos (four winds).  I found a nice room on Airbnb.  This is a room rental as opposed to an apartment rental.  However, I had actually met the man that lived there.  When on the camino a fellow pelligrino knew him and we had drinks in the old town near the albergue.  His name is Bruno Santin and he is an artist.  He has a relatively large apartment.  He will be in the apartment for a couple of days then will be off to an art exhibit so I’ll have the place to myself.

The apartment has a nice terrace overlooking a square with a nice view of the mountains in the distance.

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The apartment has two bedrooms, a living room and a studio for his drawings.

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Bruno has his art spread around the apartment.IMG_2897

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On the day of my arrival he had a great empanada and salad for dinner.IMG_2867

Delicious!!

Technology is Still Amazing

Posted from Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain.

Today I am headed to Europe for 6 weeks.  No specific plans but to spend some time in northern Spain, Italy (Rome and Florence) and London.

Normally when it is time to depart I have someone take me to the airport.  But in an effort to be a bit more self supporting I thought I would utilize technology to help get me to the airport.  At 1:00 p.m. I turned on my iPhone and brought up my Uber app.  It knew where I lived and I told it where I wanted to go (the corner of Center and Border).  My app said ok, Emmanuel would be there in 7 minutes to pick me up.  It showed me a map of where Emmanuel currently was located (somewhere along Cooper street).  As I gathered my things I watched on my phone as the map showed Emmanuel getting close enough.  then 1:07 my phone made a sound and gave me a message that Emmanuel was outside of my home.  I looked out the window and sure enough there he was.  I went out, loaded my things in the car and off we went.  In no time I was at my destination.  I got out, thanked Emmanuel, took my things and he left.  No dollars changed hand, no tip was expected or offered.  How easy.  As Emmanuel drove away my phone sent me a message with a receipt and a map of my journey.  How easy.

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As I sat and waited for my next leg of the journey to begin.  Again, I pulled out my phone and started a different app.  I said that I wanted to go from the Arlington bus stop to the TRE train station.  I selected my ticket type.  A ticket appeared on my phone just as the but pulled up.  I picked up my things, go on board and showed my iPhone to the driver.  He smiled and waved me on.  Again without any dollars changing hands I was on my way to the airport.

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I often feel that technology is passing me by.  These technologies have been around for several years so it was nice to know that I could still master them and put them to use to make my travels easier.

At the airport I boarded a plane to Spain (fortunately in Business Class) and took the 10 hour to Madrid.  I didn’t spend any time in Madrid but made my way to Leon on the train to recover from jet lag before continuing on my journey

Petra

I spent 3 days and 2 nights in Petra.  It was a great place.  The the magnitude of the buildings and the size of the site was a bit overwhelming.  I certainly got a fair amount of hiking in.

The first day I arrived at about noon after a 3.5 hour bus ride from Amman.  I walked down the Siq (the narrow canyon) in relative quiet (the following days in the morning there were more people, though certainly not crowded).  The arrival at the first building is wonderful.  The Siq is about 6 feet wide and winding, you can see parts of the huge Treasury as you approach, then you enter an opening and can see the huge building carved out of the rock.  Each time I saw it I just stopped and admired it for several minutes.  In reality it was a tomb as were many of the carved buildings in Petra.  So while they are huge elaborate facades, they actually are very small inside and rather bare.

The first day I walked on from the Treasury through the valley floor.  As I looked at the high cliffs I could see endless buildings carved into the cliffs, hundreds of them.  On the valley floor was a huge city that is now of course just ruins.

I was tired from a short night and a long bus ride so I checked out the valley then headed back out of the valley.  Probably about 6 miles round trip (this place is huge).  I returned to my hotel at around 5:00.  All buildings in Jordan look old and a bit run down.  They are made of white cinder blocks.  The hotel was no different.  It is run by a lady from New Zealand that is always looking a bit frazzled.  The great thing about this place is it is up on the hill looking down over the town (Wadi Musa – Valley of Moses) and desert.  The top floor is a big room decorated like a Bedouin tent with a balcony looking over the magnificent view. I enjoyed the sunset and went down to my room for a rest.  I signed up for the dinner meal (single option served upstairs).  At 7:30 I headed up, walked in to an empty room.  I was the only guest.  I had a great meal of three salads, lentil soup, Kofta (meat balls) and rice.  It was delicious.

After a great sleep I returned to Petra in the morning.  I walked back down the Siq, enjoyed the Treasury then headed out for a new hike.  This hike climbed up a side canyon back to the top to a high altar with amazing views.  Then the hike went down the other side through many more tombs.  Like so many places once off the main road there are no people. and I mean no people.  The hike came back to the valley floor at the end of the valley.  From here I took another hike up back up to the Monestary (another tomb) that is huge and beautiful.  This hike was a bit more crowded.  At the end was a little shop selling drinks.  I had a coke and sat watching the view.  I hiked back down, up the valley, up the Siq to catch the shuttle home.  a 15 mile day.  I had the dinner again (only person) and headed to bed.

On day 3, I checked out of my motel and left my bags.  I returned for another hike.  This one up a side canyon then scrambled across the desert to a point where I could look down on the Treasury.  There was a small tent setup on the side of the cliff.  A young bedouin boy offered me tea.  I sat and watched the people below.  Again I saw no one on the hike.  I gave the boy a couple of dinar and headed back.  After seeing a few other buildings I took the final walk out the park.  It was a beautiful place.  It was hard to imagine how such massive structures could have been carved out of solid rock over 2000 years ago.

Pictures of the Treasury

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Tombs and buildings as I walked through the valley.

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The amphitheater carved out of solid rock!!

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The locals offered a variety of transportation (they’d say Taxi?), donkeys, horses and camels.

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The lounge in the motel.

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Watching the sunset

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Dinner

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with a great view

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Day two, hiking up out of the valley

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Two obelisks, not built but carved.  The information said the entire chiseled away leaving just the obelisks.

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The alter with huge views.

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More tombs on the hike down

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The monestary

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My motel

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Day three

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Looking down on the amphitheater

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The tent on the edge above the Treasury

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Looking down on the Treasury

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Back down in front of the Treasury looking up at the tent.  Look closely you can see it perched on the edge.

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I’m not in Kansas anymore

Posted from Amman, Jordan.

I flew from  Zurich to London then to Amman.  I arrived in Amman at about 9:00pm.  The airport was quiet and after just a few problems getting through immigration I was in a nice taxi headed into town to my hotel.  It was dark but I could see desert sands and signs in Arabic including one that said exit here for Iraq.  The hotel was very nice but all bags had to go through an Xray machine and I had to go through a medal detector to get inside.  I checked in and headed to bed.  My bus to Petra was scheduled for 7:30.

I grabbed breakfast and a taxi to the bus station.  I felt pretty good until the taxi driver asked if I already had my ticket to Petra.  I said no I had a reservation.  He said “no ticket?”  and shook his head.  He indicated that he didn’t think I could get on the bus.  My anxiety level increased.  When we go to the bus office he said he’d wait so he could take me back to the hotel.  But no worries, my reservation was in order, I got my ticket and went and said good by to my panic inducing taxi driver.  I sat in the bus office with the few other tourists waiting for the bus.

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Just like a Swiss bus it loaded and left on time.  The seats were unbelievably short in the leg space but luckily no one sat next to me.  After about 2 hours we had a rest stop.

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We arrive in Petra at about 11:30.  I caught a rogue taxi to the motel, the driver spent the entire trip trying to get me to commit to a  tour.  I repeatedly said no.  He seemed disappointed.  I dropped my bags and returned in the taxi to the gates of Petra.

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There were very few people.  It was a partly cloudy day and a nice wind so it was very comfortable.  The entrance starts sloping downhill.  There were many offers by young Jordanians to transport me by horse like Indian Jones to the beginning.  I passed.

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The path became narrower and the walls became higher

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This area is called the Siq and is the famous narrow entrance to the city of Petra.  There were hardly any people in the Siq so I had a nice 1 mile walk down to Petra

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Along the sides of the canyon were groves that held pipes to transport water into the city 2000 years ago.

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The Siq got narrower and higher.

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Finally the first outlines of the Treasury (the first building at the end of the Siq) came into view.

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That will be my teaser for tonight.  I’m exhausted and headed to bed.  More to come.