Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Hot, (not) flat, and crowded

I apologize for the delay in posting any comments and photos from Rome. I ran into a problem uploading photos to this blog so I decided to wait until I reached home.

Rome was a challenging experience. I understand the interest that many have in the ancient. It is challenging to consider how life then would have been so different and yet so similar. Beyond having this insight into the passage of time and the realization that Europe has so much more history than North America, I did not have the reaction of others when confronting the history present in Rome. I think I am more appreciative of the information than the experience. The experience itself is hot, dirty, and extremely crowded. It is difficult for me to be reflective in this setting. The following image may give you a sense of what I mean by crowded - this is a photo of the Spanish Steps. What you see here is nothing in comparison to Vatican City (which we did spend time viewing) and the Colosseum which we did not enter. This would have required several hours standing in line.

I process my travel experiences with a camera. This is a personal thing and I know some believe you just look and appreciate. This just does not work for me. I also prefer taking pictures of things other than people. Cindy always complains I take too few pictures of people. So Cindy - I did take a few pictures of you.

Here are a few more photos.

Vatican City

I liked the flare.

Swiss Guards (guys and women with automatic weapons were also very visible)

Not the Sistine Chapel (no photos allowed)

One of the Colosseum (as many people cropped out as possible)

A few others I like

I won't push any more pictures on you. If you are interested, all of my photos are public.  

This is all for now. We are resting and hope to hit the road (or water) again soon. Thanks for connecting.

Oh, the title? A derivation of the title from one of my favorite authors (Tom Friedman - Hot, flat and crowded). Friedman also writes about the connected world and the foolishness of those who believe we can isolate ourselves.  

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A latte is not always a latte

Things I find familiar are sometimes interpreted differently in other cultures.

I fancy myself a coffee expert. I have visited coffee plantations. I purchase my beans from roasters and have invested in several expensive coffee machines. I do understand that there are many ways to make coffee and some need no fancy gadgets.

I assumed Italy was a knowing coffee culture. I was a little taken aback when I encountered the press a button coffee machine used during breakfast at our hotel.

I like a latte with breakfast so I decided that the latte button would dispense my preferred drink. What the button generated was a glass full of warm milk. I am not a warm milk drinker. Then a solution occurred to me. I would dispense a second cup of coffee and mix the two producing a cafe au lait. I used to have this drink in a cafe near the University of Minnesota campus. You received coffee and milk in two glasses to be mixed to your preference so this was not my own idea.

The coffee button (actually caffe) produced what I think of as espresso. So mixing the two which is probably what is expected without the second cup is the anticipated behavior. This was not obvious to this tourist. I guess this is why the latte is technically a caffe latte.

Now that I have mastered Italian coffee I feel cultured.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Vatican City

I did miss posting yesterday. I was exhausted from the heat and the crowds and we have no wifi in our Rome hotel room. There is a sitting room near the front desk where they make wifi available, but I pretty much fell into bed and the post had to wait until today.

We are done with the ship and now spending a few days in Rome. In transition from the ship to our hotel, we took a tour that took us to Vatican City. I guess it is technically something other than a city, but it seems like a city to me. I found it difficult to take pictures because of the crowds. In many of the buildings, you are pretty much standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others and trying to move at a collective slow space. This is not a situation in which I am very good with my camera - big feet and clumsy as I am. There are several areas in which photography and talking are not allowed. I saw many violations, but good Minnesotan that I now am I resisted. Now, if I still lived in North Dakota, you might have a glimpse inside the Sistine Chapel.

Our guide was great and knew a great deal about Michael Angelo.

A couple of images from our visit. 

A shot from the exterior of the compound.

A shot from the interior where photography was allowed. I thought the light flair was inspired.

The Swiss Guard. Not to worry, there were military personnel with automatic weapons about as well. I assumed the heavily armed soldiers were Italian.

The famous balcony (in the middle) from which the Pope makes his first appearance and I also think appears on special occasions.  

One final photo - me in the elevator of our hotel. I call this one “Mr Tourist”. The elevator is small and I am not. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Tomorrow we arrive in Rome and reach the end of our time at sea. It has been a great trip. We will spend a few extra days in Rome and I expect to have more to say about our experiences there.

Today, the port was Ajjacio, Corsica. We took a trip to the Pernelli Gorges and the views will beautiful. I will probably post a few images at a later time.

Today, I decided to write about our ride on a tender. In some of my earlier images, you may have seen these orange boats hanging from the side of the cruise ship. You probably thought these were life boats and you would be correct. A couple of the smaller boats serve another purpose. When you will into a port, the ship is not always allowed to stay at the dock. Other ships may need access while those on board our ship do their things on shore. When this happens, the passengers and crew are ferried to shore and back on smaller boats called tenders. 

I had heard the term tender before and I assumed the use of this vessel was to bring needed supplies to a ship. I guess people are included. This was our only need for a tender and it was not an easy process to get everyone back to the ship. People had to stand for a significant amount of time in the sun and were upset. I admit I was hot. As the lines grew, more boats appeared to join the process. After spending all the time in line that was necessary to get a seat on a boat, I wanted very badly to ride back in one of the orange life boat/tenders. This worked out. I have included a couple of images of the experience. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Here's to the crazy ones

Today we visited Barcelona and toured the city with a focus on the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. This architect is responsible for several buildings throughout Barcelona.

Supposedly when he graduated with his architecture degree it was said "We have given this academic title either to a fool or a genius. Time will tell." He was a mediocre student as an academic, but, of course, Gaudi was a great success as a creative practitioner. Presently, it is fashionable to use similar examples (e.g., Einstein) as a complaint that our schools are inadequate. Some very creative individuals are not recognized for their talents while students. This is true. However, it is flawed to conclude from a short list of exceptional individuals that those students who do well under existing circumstances are somehow prepared in a manner that is deficient. Students recognized as outstanding by the present system do far better professionally than other students selected at random. This is what comes to my mind each time I hear the story of a genius unrecognized by his/her performance in public education.

Anyway, this statement about "fool or genius" reminded me of the Apple ad campaign - Here's to the crazy ones. Gaudi certainly did create buildings that are unique in their structure. Gaudi is best known for his Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. The facility is unique.

Gaudi designed this building in 1909 and the present plans are to complete the building by 2026 (Gaudi would have been 100). You can see the cranes now used in the construction.

Gaudi took his inspiration from nature and not what he learned (or tolerated) in the classroom. His designs avoid straight lines. His soaring towers are reminiscent of trees. Some areas have green metal decorations mimicking vegetation and containing an occasional bug. Pillars visible internally have rounded areas (I think a biologist would describe them as burls) when supporting other structures that branch rather than traditional structures I think are described as balustrades. 

Here are some additional images. I found myself taking a large portion of the images in portrait mode because this seemed best suited to the vertical nature of the structures.

Gaudi died when he absent-mindedly walked into traffic and was struck by a vehicle. His shabby clothing resulted in him being thought destitute and he died in a hospital for the poor.