71 Days

What I did during my summer vacation…

Archive for the month “June, 2016”

Vatican Here We Come

We did a Vatican Museum tour and St. Peter’s today and WOW! Wando chorus sings there tonight…. I have my grandmother’s handkerchief with me. I know there will ever tears. Plane ride home tomorrow.



The World Is Big…

And I just keep getting smaller and smaller as I see more of it. Not only by traveling. But in nature, in our children…It seems the lesson is always that I am a small part of the world and history of this place. Spent some time in Rome and the Coliseum today and WOW – again, there are’t enough words to describe it!

My biggest lesson in this is that thousands of years of history (American brain locks up at that number already) and the coliseums, churches, cathedrals, pagan buildings are literally built on top of each other. All of those pictures we’ve seen of Roman ruins are literally spitting distance from each other… Crazy and fantastic! 

Around every corner in the city is another ancient monument, sculpture or ruin. And there is also this modern capital of Italy where people go to work (on danger scooters – yikes), take their kids to the park and pick up groceries while a zillion tourists invade and they pass ancient ruins on the way. Just fantastic!


Lucca is a walled city (the only walled city left in Italy) because it was never invaded by everyone and not hit by bombimg during WWII. Ten thousand people still live there. It is lovely and charming and we had a great day with the kids performing at a beautiful cathedral there.  

Katie found some Birkenstocks (cheaper here) and we had a great lunch in a beautiful square that was a coliseum where lions and tigers fought (not gladiators according to our guide.)

It is the home place of Pavarati and we had a tour of the town and Pav’s home — amazing what small towns produce! 

Missing my own small town a bit – but Roma and the Papal City await!


Firenze Day Due (sounds like doo-eh)

Lovely sculptures EVERYWHERE today. Thousands of years of art, music and some more art (forget science, government, etc.) cannot be absorbed in a week — but I’m trying. Starting with Goliath’s butt. Correction – not Goliath — it’s Hercules!

Sorry guys – bringing all of this beauty down to a butt joke, but I’d always heard of Michaelangelo’s David, but didn’t know he’s looking at Goliath on the other side of a set of stairs.  And I still think David’s looking at Hercules like he’s going to throw the rock at him.

It’s late and our day started at 6:00 a.m. And ended at 10:30. Tomorrow is Lucca which might be slightly more laid back – hope springs eternal. 

Photographs Can’t Capture…..

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Better Than I Ever Imagined!

For the past two days, we’ve been busing, flying, waiting, train-riding, boating and walking, walking, walking…….in the most fantastic city I’ve ever seen. I can’t explain the giant magnificence, charm and beauty of Venice. 

When we got off the train from a Venice suburb which looked like a lot of American cities, we spilled out of the station (all 100 of us) onto a football-field sized set of stairs and saw this canal teaming with beautiful boats and fairy-tale, fantastic bridges. Every hinge, stone, mildewed wall and door is a work of art. Then you walk into a museum, cathedral or square and see the actual artwork and your eyeballs nearly drown with the beauty. Which is fitting since the whole city is built on water, and there are no cars, scooters or even bikes. Everyone boats or walks – my nirvana (although I’d miss my bike if I lived here.) It is so overwhelming that I spent a lot of time giggling like a maniac or tearing up again, a revolving door of happy emotions. 

And then my daughter and her chorus performed in Chiesa di San Salvador in Venice and the tears kept coming. She also had a small group song as part of the performance and it was fantastic. One-hundred-feet tall domed ceilings cannot be underestimated in the area of acoustics. The students sounded like bells from Heaven, and I am feeling the Catholic church’s powerful pull in these beautiful places.

It will really take me months and years to digest all of what I saw today. Two days in Italy, and I feel transformed. On to Florence, or as the Italians say Firenze!

Who knew Fran Lebowitz was so wise?

Well said! from http://www.relatably.com/q/venice-quotes. 

Tiny wonderful moments

I will continue to add to this, but in the midst of this giant trip, I am truly enjoying these tiny, wonderful moments wash over me:

Katie’s head on my shoulder when we took off to Milan.

Sitting 3-across with Jeff, Katie and me 

Breakfast with Katie and her Nutella-drenched  croissant

Jeff brings me a bottle of water (many times.)

A group of Bologna region chorus (of 50 plus year-old singers) who cheered like crazy for our “Bella,” singers today at their performance in Chianti Greve Music Festival. Such nice people! 


We’ve been looking forward to this trip to Italy for little over a year, and our friends and family are almost as excited for it as we are. Some special Grazies for them…..

Danny, my favorite cousin in New Jersey works for a fantastic publisher and has shared his bounty of Italian language and travel guides over the past year. We’ve amassed quite a nice collection of Italia books. OOPS update – lost my phrase book in Venice. Kind of excited that some other traveler will learn some phrases from it.

Carol, my book club buddy who took a fantastic trip last year to Australia and let us borrow from her collection of travel-tested (and ginormous) bags.

Jake, my most favorite son, who is not joining us on this trip (but has another European trip planned in August). He is staying home taking care of our small pack of dogs who are medium to high maintenance. He’s also working at the dock for my parents and filling in for Jeff in the technology troubleshooting department. Without him, I’m not sure how we could do this.

My parents who will be managing the dock on their own for the next 10 days. Jeff has taken time off before, but was always a phone call or a few miles away. This was a leap of faith for them and it helps to work for two people who love you — makes it so much harder to say no. 

And finally Linda..How can I ever thank her enough? Much of this fantasy trip was paid for by this dear woman, friend, grandma and mom and I am still shocked and a little teary-eyed when I remember the phone call. Last year, Jeff, Katie and I went to a meeting at school about a performance trip (rumors were Italy or somewhere else in Europe.) When photos of my dream city, Venice, were shown on the smartboard, I was really excited. Oh, and by the way, the chorus will perform at the VATICAN. I was vibrating with anticipation. And then bang! crash! the price information came up and I replaced my selfish, personal excitement with some nice motherly excitement for Katie and determination that we’d add the Italy payment to our budget for the next year, but there was no way to pay for two trips.

So back to the phone call. I called Linda and told her all about the trip, this great opportunity, etc. Linda asked if Jeff and I were going. I told her that we’d start making payments but it would just be Katie. And she said, “Oh, you’re going.” I really felt all of the blood leave my body, started crying and grinning (an odd combination I know) and told Linda I’d call her back. She didn’t come to her senses and we met for Chinese food the next week, and started making 3 payments — but mostly Linda did. And that is the end of how we got to go to Italy, or rather the beginning of this adventure.

That was about a year ago, and I’m still amazed at her generosity. We are so truly blessed and I hope and pray that I’ve expressed that to her enough. 

I hope all of my friends and family feel well-thanked when I make them look at the zillions of photographs and tell them all about it over the next decade!

Two days ’til Ciao! 

Grandma Good on trip to Egypt with her sister Kathleen. They paid for the trip with their share of their mother’s home sale after she passed away.

I  recently acquired a passport. I am a world traveler who happens to have never left the country (cruise ship stop-offs pre-passport requirements not included). And how, you may ask, did I become so well-traveled without leaving the good old US of A?

Ask my lovely parents, my traveling grandmother, my wonderful husband and a few other friends and family who have been supporters of my traveling dreams. Here are some of the ways I’ve been a traveler in my own home:

  1. I have worshipped at the yellow-bordered National Geographic alter all of my life! My parents subscribed as did I adding NG Budget Traveler to my reading list in recent years.
  2. My parents also watched mass quantities of PBS when I was a kid. That was met by many groans when I just wanted to watch The Brady Bunch, but like so many things, I appreciate it much more now. I’m still a fan of nature and travel shows.
  3. Grandma Good, my traveling hero. She was a widow at my age and when she retired, she took to the road and skies at the drop of a hat. She loved traveling and would come visit us with her suitcase laden with treats from afar and we adored the goodies and the stories. Mostly I remember the “stuff!” And it was then that I equated travel with fun.

In two days though, my wanderlust is being sated (that sounded kind of sexy, didn’t it?!) as we are traveling to Italy! To Venice, Florence and Rome. I am overcome with the emotions of my traveling dreams coming true, and am alternating between manic, giggly excitement and stomach-turning anxiety. The most fun part of these competing feelings is the speed of the switch. Cry, giggle, laugh, freak out — the complete cycle takes about 8 seconds.

So I’m distracting myself a little by writing between packing and list-making bursts. Ready or not, here we come. I am hopeful, nervous, giddy and slightly terrified, but overall I am grateful to my family who not only inspired my love of travel but also have made this trip possible. Ciao and Grazie!

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