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

Time to go

Posted from Wallisellen, Zurich, Switzerland.

Well unbelievably it time for me to leave Switzerland.  It would seem that after spending  one month in the Lauterbrunnen valley I would have done about everything there is to do.  Not even close.  I still have a long list of activities, oh well next time.  There were also many things that I didn’t have a chance to post on the blog.  Here are a few of those items.

Trip to Lucerne

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Cruise on the Brienz Lake

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Steam train ride up into the alps on the Brienz Rothorn Bahn.

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Enjoying my chalet.

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Visit to Basel.

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Cruise on the Thun Lake to the Oberhofen Castle

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Joining Andreas and Irrani for a cheese fondue

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Visiting Ballenberg an open air museum of Swiss farm homes

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My final walk down the Lauterbrunnen Valley

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Enjoying my last beer at the chalet

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My final trip down the cable car from Gimmelwald.

A great trip.  Now off to Jordan!!

A steep road home

Posted from Holzhäusern, Canton of Zug, Switzerland.

So as I look at the cable car full of tourists coming up I start thinking maybe I should hike down.  There was a sign saying Gimmelwald 4 hours 30 minutes.  It was early, I had the time.

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I start down the path (I think some Asian tourists took my picture).  Here is the first sign that I see.

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Okay, they are warning about high heels, how terrible could this trail down be.  I look at my feet, not wearing high heels, I’ll be fine. Looking back up I could see the restaurant, rotating around serving a delicious breakfast, not too late to go back.

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I look down I can see the trail for a ways but it seems to disappear into a bit of snow.

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I look up, the restaurant seems far away.  I don’t really like walking up hill at nearly 10,000 feet (I think I see tourist taking more pictures of me).

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I go a bit further.  The trail is gone, the snow is there.  I take a few steps.  Oops, this isn’t snow it’s ice.  But hey, there is a rope to hold onto. I very slowly continue.  It is most treacherous.  I pull out my gloves, not heavy duty rock climbing gloves but nice leather driving gloves.  I grab hold of the rope, I turn around backward and slowly let myself down the icy path.  I try not to think what would happen if I slipped and started to slide.  Yes best not to think about that.

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After a 20 minute decent I look back up.  Maybe this wasn’t some of my best thinking.

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Finally I make it to the bottom of the snow field.  I’m glad I wasn’t wearing high heels.  I think I might have a few suggestions for the sign maker at the top of the mountain.  I am much relieved.  500 feet decent so far, 4500 feet to go!!

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I look up and see the cable car gliding across the sky, I think I can see tourists taking my picture.

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I go a bit further and come to this monument to poor Alice Charlotte.  She didn’t make it to the bottom, she was probably wearing high heels.  Maybe they should place this monument at the top of the mountain to help people make good decisions.

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But I look around and the views are spectacular.

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The path is very steep and rocky.  It goes around a glacial lake with great reflections.

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There is just no end to the views.

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The path  continues down across the barren mountain.

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Occasionally crossing a rock slide area.

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Ahead I can see the path as it gets to a ridge and follows along the ridge.

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Here the path is easy and not too steep.

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But alas the ridge gets skinnier and skinnier.  The drop offs on each side are quiet steep.

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Finally I get to the end of the ridge.  There is a side path climbing up to the top with an inviting bench for a rest.

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From here there is a view down to the sleepy village of Gimmelwald, my home.  This is the point that I can see from my front door.  It is high high up and I wanted very much to get to it.  Mission accomplished.

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I sit and enjoy the alps.

I continue on my way.  5.5 hours later and 5000 feet lower I reach home.  I turn around and can see the point of land with the bench (it’s called Bryndli).  An amazing, terrifying, exciting trail.  My legs will hurt for days to come from the amazingly steep decent.  But worth every bit of pain.

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