Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Being a groupie…

In preparation for our trip to Rome, we researched blogs that might give us hints on how to navigate the “big city”. We found Parla’s Rome and also got Katie Parla’s app that recommends restaurants for our phones. On one of our first days here we stopped for lunch at one of her suggested restaurants in the Ghetto.

We had been visiting the museum and Temple and then she walked in the restaurant. We knew what she looked like because we had watched a podcast she did after recently visiting the headquarters of Google to give a talk on Roman food. this day, Terry started gesturing and saying to me “There she is!” He was kind of animated (if you know him that is kind of unusual…) She came over and said “hi” to us and then after lunch I asked her for a picture. Highlight!

Evidently, Anthony Bourdain likes the restaurant, too. Look up Nonna Betta if you are ever there.

I am a Pete Souza groupie, too. He has an Instagram feed that I follow. He is not only a terrific photographer, but he has a sense of humor that makes me laugh out loud some days. He has been official photographer to two Presidents and a photojournalist. He also shares his knowledge often explaining the type of camera, lens, and processing he uses. Last week he mentioned that he shot a beautiful picture he posted of a desert chollo cactus. He said it was taken with an iPhone 8+ using a filter (vivid warm). I had no idea you could shoot with filters with an iPhone and even though I only have a 7, I made a mental note to try it sometime. So there I was standing in front of the Roman Coliseum as the sun set and I finally remembered to give it a try.

Pete Souza is also a friend of Brandi Carlile and I am definitely a groupie of hers! Sometimes he posts pictures of her, too. It is nice to know that is is never too late to be a groupie. Don’t know why I waited until now.


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Angels, Colossus, and a Poet

Terry and I arrived in Rome Wednesday for a two week stay after which we will go to Venice for two more. We have an apartment in Trastevere close to the Tiber River.

We walked across the bridge to Castle Sant’Angelo with the other Untours participants for our event on the first day. I felt all eyes were upon me…not real eyes but these eyes…

Even lovelocks!

And inside was a big colossus.

Almost to the top of the castle was an angel by Raffaello da Montelupo that had been at the very top until it got hit by lightening and was moved down. It had my favorite wings.

Then at the very top is the bronze Michael the Archangel by von Veuschaffelt done in 1753.

As we left we used our eyes to view the Vatican in a display.

As luck would have it, each time we take the bus we are watched by this neighborhood poet. (Belli)

And sometimes, just random guys….


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Where have…

Where have you been? Sorry, blog, traveling again, but with weak access to the internet, so my plans to blog were scuttled when the iPad wouldn’t save and I only managed a few flics on Facebook the whole time.

We went to Italy (not a big surprise) and for eight days we were in an agriturismo in the Chianti region of Tuscany near Florence. After that we took the train to Venice and stayed for two weeks in an Untours apartment. This was the general outline…

The People…

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From the left: Marcie (also known as Marcella when in Italy), I have known since our thirty-year-old sons were in third grade. Around ten years ago she left Northern California and moved to Florence. She now lives in Toronto, but she still has masses of friends in Italy and she was the spark behind the first eight days of the trip. Next to her is Carol who has been on the same shift at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital with Terry for years and years. (Carol’s husband is not retired, yet, so he did not join us.) Giovanni who owns the agriturismo where we stayed, (also, he drove the van). Bill and M’Liss are on the far side of the table. M’Liss I have known since the thirty-year-olds were three and we were in a baby-sitting co-op together.

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Giovanni by the van (maybe the greatest host ever!)

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The agriturismo had skies like you wouldn’t believe and we were supplied with olive oil and wine from the fields surrounding our farmhouse.

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Nobody actually went in the pool. (No time, we were off seeing the sights!)

The places…

First morning (we got there on Monday and our first full day was Tuesday)…some went horseback riding at the Vecchio Texas Horseranch in the direction of Sting’s property and vineyards. (If you pay Sting enough money you can harvest his grapes for him!) The rest of us went to the market in Figline.

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That afternoon, (after a great lunch that included pici pasta (long and thick) and cinghiale ragu over tagliarini) we headed to the Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm. Three hundred goats are guarded against wolves by twelve Pyrenees-like dogs.)

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Great sky there, too…and then a quick stop in a lovely little town called Radda in Chianti.

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Then on Wednesday, there was wine tasting in Panzano and a cooking class in Greve.

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Oh, yes, there was a lot of eating, too…

On Thursday, we drove to a nature preserve at Montepulciano and then spent late afternoon walking through the hill town of Montepulciano.

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There was a group that went off on a bike ride (or maybe it should be admitted that they got lost on a bike ride…)

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The clock tower in Montepulciano.

Friday was our first day in Florence with a hike up to Fiesole where Leonardo is thought to have tested his flying machines and then while most of the group toured the Uffizi with Marci’s friend Anna, Terry and I visited the Brancacci Chapel in search of frescoes. That evening we had aperitivos with more of Marci’s friends (Christina and Luca) in two different places. One a converted prison and the other the top of a hotel with a 360° view of Florence.

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Saturday we harvested grapes for Giovanni and his family and they gave us a fabulous al fresco lunch.

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Dinner that night was Christina and Luca serving us venison and polenta…

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Sunday was a hike with another friend, Malo, who is a basket maker and artist. She led us over to her house where she gave us a “snack” under her grape arbor…

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That is a fabulous candle holder made out of two wine bottles…

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Dinner was in the local restaurant…

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Monday was the big day! We climbed the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo…Carol got her portrait done by Kelly the street artist…and we visited Piazzale Michelangelo for some great panoramic views of Florence (cold wind, though)…

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Our last day, in this part of Italy, we spent visiting another hill town, Volterra. That night there was a big BBQ cooked by Giovanni and attended by lots of Marci’s friends from different parts of the world. Much toasting to the great week.

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The next day (Wednesday) we were on the train to Venice for two more weeks of adventures, more great skies, and meet-ups with friends.

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This is the outline and I plan more posts with greater detail. If you want to see the week in Chianti from Marci’s perspective you can go here for her blog.


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Report from the field…

Anniversary dinner a success…

Not only a stroll through San Francisco but a very good approximation of tapas in Barcelona.

The restaurant…

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is located a half block from the Trans-America Pyramid…

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and the food was like this…

Pinxtos

Pintxos

Jambon and the bread!

Jamón and the bread with tomato!

Kale salad and pepitos

Kale salad and pepitas

Patato Bravo

Patatas Bravas

Shrimp with preserved lemon

Shrimp with preserved lemon

Espresso flan with salted caramel

Espresso flan with salted caramel

Goat cheese

Goat cheese custard

The walk back to BART was not too shabby either what with strolling through the Embarcadero Center…nice night!

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Now, we work on the next forty-one!


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Day trips from Barcelona…number one…

Girona

Girona, which is about 60 miles from Barcelona, is a short train trip away. It has an annual flower show in May. Our trip coincided with the last couple of days of the festival, and we decided to exercise our train skills and spend the Saturday in this picturesque town when it would be festooned with petals. The entire town has floral displays…shop window displays, entryways, nooks and crannies, empty vestibules…you name it they stick a flower in it…even the river has its displays. We wandered and wandered, up church steps, across cobblestones and bridges, peeking into entrances. It was a lovely day, but windy. Catalan flags (the election was a week away) were furiously flapping. After getting off the train we followed green stenciled foot prints on the sidewalk up to the old part of town, passing community created floral displays (kids art!) and gazing at the town from a picturesque bridge (one of many). The town even has a bridge built by Gustave Eiffel…in the famous color of the Golden Gate.

We started our morning in the train station…note: there are ham stores everywhere in Spain…

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This is Girona…

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A slide show of bridges, churches, flower displays and the highlights of the lovely town: (don’t forget to click the square in the lower right hand corner to play it full screen)

I know I said I would not post any more food pictures, but in Girona it was the only time we went to something as unusual (for us) as a gastrobar. So really I am compelled to share. (I have to admit that I have been known to watch the Food Network…you know, foam…)

The restaurant is called Bubbles…

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We started with Cava…

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Their “award-winning” tapa that included a poached egg, froie gras foam and thyme bread…

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This is coca bread, served and eaten at practically every meal in Catalona. Coca bread is spread with garlic, fresh tomato drizzled with olive oil, and lightly sprinkled with sea salt. So good!

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Croquettas, steak, flat bread with tuna, and quacamole…yes, we kept walking…trying to assuage our guilt…luckily, we had more of the city to see and it was a long way back to the train station for the trip home to BCN.

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A confection…3…

The inside of the Palau Musica Catalana…

Lobby and grande staircase.

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The marble balustrade with iron encased in glass railing…

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Possibly the most impressive and beautiful skylight. The Moderisme architects did assemble the best artists and support team available…stained glass by Antoni Rigalt…

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I’m including some music to entertain you…

A sculptural ode to Catalan folk music on the left of the stage…

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A sculptural ode to classical music on the right…(that is Beethoven)…

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Stage murals of eighteen muses with trencadís in the background, three-dimensional sculptures of heads and instruments by Eusebi Arnau, and mosaic bodies by Lluí Brú.

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A confection…2…

Stepping out onto the balcony of the Palau de la Musica Catalana with its double rows of pillars covered in mosaic was like stepping into fantasy-land. I think that if Salvador Dali and Walt Disney collaborated on a surrealist sci-fi movie with a setting in a birthday cake this would be where they filmed it, n’est-ce pas?

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The details, it is all in the details…(if you double click on these pictures they will get bigger so you can see the details!)

As coincidence would have it, if you live near San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum has an exhibit until January called Disney and Dali. They did collaborate! They made a short movie together and had plans for other projects.