- Fizzy Thoughts: October 2007

Another slow Halloween in MB

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We've gotten four trick or treaters in two hours. A ladybug, a Buzz(ette) Lightyear, what appeared to be Luke Skywalker, and a princess. The bowl of candy is still full, even after I told young Luke to take a handful.

Ooops, spoke too soon. The teenagers just showed up. At least these were teenagers in full costume, not the typical Halloween teens in street clothes carrying pillowcases. There were a few vampires and a nerd (plaid shorts and knee high socks!). They were stoked about the Reese's peanut butter cups and I was happy to see some teenagers who weren't too cool to have a fun time.

But now it's getting close to bedtime, so the porch light is out and there is still a big bowl of candy on the counter.


A Very Long Book

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Brothers K

by David James Duncan


656 pages (ouch!)

This is a book about brothers and family and religion and love and acceptance. It begins in the 1950s and ends in the 1970s. The Chance brothers (yes, I know, Chance doesn't start with a K...I'll get to that) are all very different individuals. This book explores those differences and how they (and baseball) affect the lives of the entire family.

First, the bad parts. This book is long. At 656 pages, it screams for an editor. There were parts of the book that were totally unnecessary, like the rambling aside about Roger Maris. Baseball is key to the book, but at times it felt like the author was wanting to write a book of baseball history. I much preferred the parts of the story about the brothers, and felt like I was wading through baseball crap to get to the good parts. There is also a bit too much back story. It's good back story, but this book did not need to be 656 pages. 356 would have sufficed.

Another thing that bugs me is the title. The brothers K. The family's last name is Chance. Do you see a K in there? I'm sure there's some deep meaning because it's referring to The Brothers Karamazov, but to be honest, I've never read that, so I wouldn't know. The K thing bugged me for half the book, when the baseball reference was finally given. Even with the explanation, I still don't like the title.

And the cover (I'm picky about covers). They live in a town, by a freeway, with neighbors. Not off a dirt road in the country. I'm sure the author had to argue to keep some of those 656 pages...why didn't he argue about the cover art?

Now that I've gotten all that off my chest...it's a good book. I loved the characters (okay, I have a few issues with the mom, but that's okay). They are all unique and quirky, which is why I found the baseball parts so darn distracting...I just wanted to get back to the brothers and what was going to happen. Honestly, I'm surprised I made it through the whole thing. It's not a book I would recommend to many people, which is a shame.


I say, you think...

  1. Inaugural :: Address
  2. Pledge :: Dust
  3. String :: Cheese
  4. Trot :: Hot to
  5. Fitness :: Works (our local gym)
  6. Cinder :: Block
  7. Edge :: some commercial for shaving cream. I think.
  8. 31 :: bottles of beer on the wall...
  9. Blue :: Velvet
  10. Leather :: Jacket


Booking Through Thursday - Read With Abandon

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I would enjoy reading a meme about people’s abandoned books. The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?

I am always abandoning books, not so much because I don't like them, but because something that looks even better comes along and snags my attention. Usually, I end up returning to the abandoned book. However, here are a few that I've either tried not once, but twice, or loathed so much I couldn't stand it:

  • Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder - a two time loser. Love the premise, but I get bogged down in the philosophy and can't handle it any more. Sorry Sophie.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - I notice this is on a few lists. I've started it twice and never made it past the first chapter.

  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - someday, I will finish this book. Oh, who am I kidding. Maybe someday I'll finish this book. But everytime I pick it back up it's easily replaced by something else.

  • Piazzas and Pizzas by Jan Kubik - self-published with so many typos and such bland writing that I almost chucked this one across the room. Quickly sold to Powell's so I didn't have to look at it anymore.

  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond - Umm, yeah. Boring.


Unconscious Mutterings

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

  1. Las Vegas :: Baby

  2. Linus :: Peanuts

  3. Struck :: Out

  4. Movie :: Elizabeth

  5. Anxious :: Worry

  6. Bandit :: Raccoon

  7. Picks :: Guitar

  8. Lasso :: Rope

  9. Dinner :: What's for...

  10. Bargain :: Bin


Unconscious Mutterings

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

  1. Illicit :: affair
  2. Go :: fish
  3. Jacket :: yellow
  4. Blow :: torch
  5. Coach :: bag
  6. Effort :: less
  7. Leadership :: ugh
  8. Snore :: hamburger
  9. Fearless :: leader
  10. Network :: computers


Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
Alexandra Fuller
301 pages

This is my final book for the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge. Woo-hoo! And it’s also our November read over at the Slow Travel Concentric Reading Circle Book Club. And it’s been sitting in my TBR pile for over a year. So it’s with a great sense of accomplishment that I post this review.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight is Alexandra Fuller’s memoir of her African childhood. It is both a brutally frank and loving reflection on a harsh upbringing in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. Fuller’s parents are farmers, descended from a family of white Englishmen who have been in Africa for three generations. They are African, but still stuck in a white colonial mindset. Unashamedly racist, they are in search of a place where that colonial mindset still prevails, and a remote farm on which they can make a living. This explains their continuous moves through Africa, as formerly white ruled colonies gain independence, and finally majority rule.

This is a hard book to review. Despite the author’s casual references to bouts of malaria, living with bugs and rats, drinking beer and being drunk with her family at an early age, getting dreadfully sick from river water, and many other difficult circumstances, it is hard not to be appalled at the conditions she endured. However, since the author is not feeling sorry for herself, and obviously loves her family and Africa, I ended up feeling like a spoiled American. To be honest, Africa is one place I have never wanted to visit. And after reading this book, that opinion hasn’t changed one bit. If that makes me shallow and addicted to my comforts, so be it.

Despite all of the uncomfortableness (for both the narrator and the reader), it is still a great book. Fuller tells it like it was, and her frankness and child-like candor make it an easy and interesting book to read. And the family pictures scattered throughout help with visualizing the family. I would suggest reading the back of the book first. The author wrote a short essay, My Africa, explaining why she loves Africa and what ties her to the land. She also explains her motivation for writing the book and admits upfront that her parents are racist and not the best of parents. With those revelations in mind, it is easier to digest the book.


Further proof I avoid the "classics"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

This is a meme I found over at Between the Covers. The books on the list are the top 106 books most often tagged as being unread by LibraryThing users, as of 3 October.

The titles in bold I’ve read. Those in italics I tried to read and failed. The ones in green are in the house waiting to be read...someday. And a question mark (?) means I’ve never heard of it.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
Quicksilver ?
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse ?
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections ?
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-Present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake: A Novel
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion ?
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

I've read a grand total of 25 and I've abandoned 8.


Booking Through Thursday - Live and In-Person

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Have you ever met one of your favorite authors? Gotten their autograph?
How about an author you felt only so-so about, but got their autograph anyway? Like, say, at a book-signing a friend dragged you to?
How about stumbling across a book signing or reading and being so captivated, you bought the book?

Earlier this year I went to a Book Group Expo. In fact, that reminds me I started a blog entry about the experience. Maybe I'll just go find it and paste it into this entry.

Here it is, from way back in June...

Saturday, I left the house at 6:30 (yes, am) to drive to San Jose. Once I had made it just north of Paso Robles I set the cruise control and didn't touch either the gas or the brake until Gonzales. When suddenly all of the semis seemed to speed up and pass me. Including one that had this gem painted on the rear doors:

We don't haul chickens
We haul ASS!

Lovely. And no, I didn't embellish the font. That is exactly how it appeared. I had plenty of time to stare at it in disbelief as the trucker pulled in front of me.

However, that is not the point of this entry. I drove to San Jose to attend Book Group 2007. And it was totally worth the drive. The expo was modeled after the salons of the 18th century, when people would gather to discuss literature and ideas. There was a variety of salons, and a variety of authors at each salon. And, in between, there were plenty of vendors to check out in the marketplace. Including some who gave away free books. Score!

The first hour I spent listening to Sara Davidson, Po Bronson and Elizabeth Gilbert talk about "Finding Our Passions, Finding Ourselves." Sara was kind of unrealistic, Po was down to earth and Elizabeth Gilbert was downright funny. She totally stole the show, although it wasn't intentional. At one point, there was a mysterious beeping noise that interrupted her answer to a question. Without missing a beat she said, "I'm sorry, that's the mother ship, I have to go." The three authors were to respond to a question about changing your life. Sara Davidson started by saying you have to follow your passion and do what you love, blah, blah, blah. Po Bronson disagreed, saying that "it's not what you do, it's what you are working toward." There was more to it than that, but he made a hell of a lot more sense than she did. They certainly weren't arguing, but they were coming from different perspectives. Elizabeth Gilbert agreed more with Po, but admitted as the youngest child, she felt the need to resolve the conflict. She added that you can't just jump into something without being prepared, especially if you have responsibilities. And she told the joke that is in her book, the one about the man who prays to win the lottery. At a different point in the discussion, she talked about her sister's Platinum Rule, "Don't be a turkey." And how she tried to follow that when writing her book, because she didn't want to come across as dogmatic or pious.

Afterwards the three authors were available for signings, and there was a mad rush of people buying Eat Pray Love. I bought one of her books I hadn't read, and she smiled when I handed it to her and said here's one I haven't seen today. I spoke to her briefly when she signed it. I actually told her she was so not a turkey, and she laughed. Laughed, not chuckled. She is definitely a cool person, and comes across as someone who would be fun to go to lunch with.

Next, I went to a salon on speculative fiction, featuring Carolyn See and Jean Hegland, neither of whom I've read. Although Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (an awesome book, by the way) was written by Carolyn's daughter, Lisa See. This was an interesting discussion, although I don't know that I'll ever read their books (both are about post-apocalyptic near futures).

The third salon I attended had Marisa de los Santos, Jennie Shortridge and
Carolyn Jourdan. All three have written books featuring reluctant caregivers. The only author I had heard of was Marisa, whose book Love Walked In I read a few months ago. Once again, the funny one stole the show. Carolyn Jourdan is from Tennessee, has a thick southern accent, and loves to laugh at herself. Everyone bought her book. Except maybe me. I was trying really hard to limit my book purchases, and I had brought my copy of Love Walked In. So while everyone was in line to have Carolyn sign, I walked right up to Marisa and told her I really enjoyed her book and she looked happy that I had actually read it and then she wrote (not just signed, but wrote!) in it. And when I told her I was excited to hear she was writing another book, she told me it should be out early next year and it was a follow up to Love Walked In. Woo-hoo!

And that's all I wrote before I totally flaked and forgot all about finishing it. There was more to the Expo, but it's all a blur and the last salon wasn't that memorable.

So to make a long story short, yes, I have met both Elizabeth Gilbert and Marisa de los Santos, two authors I very much enjoyed. It was totally worth the drive.


A Year in the World

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Year in the World
Frances Mayes
417 pages

Let me first start with a confession. I never read Under the Tuscan Sun. Or any of Mayes' other books. But the title of this book grabbed me, so I decided to give her a try.

I love her writing style. Beautifully descriptive. But...

  • I don't know how they get away with calling it "A Year in the World." A "year in mostly Europe, with detours to Turkey and Morocco" is more like it. And it's not even a year. It's trips here and there over a few years. Picky, picky. But I like truth in a title.
  • This may be jealousy speaking, but everything is just a bit too lovely. Yes, she has a few things she doesn't like, but overall the book reads like a pleasant dream. Not that I want bad things to happen, but really, stop talking about your house in Cortona, Italy and your house in the Bay Area, California.
  • At the end, I was left with the feeling that this book was written to cash in on her name and fame.
Having said all that, I still liked the writing style and reading about the places Mayes and her husband visited.

This is book #5 in the Armchair Traveler Challenge. Next up is Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight.


Unconscious Mutterings

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

  • Cluster :: Fuck

  • Announcement :: Wedding

  • Respect :: Aretha Franklin

  • Incident :: Command

  • Accordion :: Folder

  • Drunk :: Driver

  • If :: Only

  • Dexter :: Point

  • Wedding :: Dress

  • Gambling :: Addiction
    1.

      My car needs a hug

      Monday, October 08, 2007

      My wonderful, adorable car was the victim of a hit and run on Saturday. It now has a cracked bumper, a smashed and dented tail light, and a dented-in panel below the tail light. I'm very sad for my car, and very, very pissed at the person who ran into it, and then drove off without leaving a note. Can you freakin' believe that?!?!? Asshole driver.

      No note, no witnesses, no idea how and when it happened, other than in a parking lot in SLO on Saturday afternoon. I'd post a picture, but it makes me sad to look at the damage

      So far, the insurance company has been remarkably easy-going about me making a claim without any idea of how it happened. Well, besides the obvious someone backed into me. So tomorrow I'll be taking my car into the auto body shop to get an estimate. I do have a $500 deductible (which is another reason to be pissed at the above-mentioned asshole driver), but hopefully it will all work out okay and my car will be back to it's normal, perky self in no time.


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty-seven and the trip home

      Sunday, October 07, 2007

      I never did write in my travel journal for the last day we were in Verona. Probably because we didn't do much. We walked around, but it was the same places we had been the day before. The old part of Verona is entirely doable in one full day. We had an excellent dinner at a place that served both horse and donkey meat. Once again, we stuck to pasta. Honestly, I'm not a big meat eater, so I'm really not adventurous when it comes to trying different meats.

      The trip home got off to a rocky start when the Verona airport got confused about our tickets. Our paper tickets (issued almost a year ago) didn't match our itinerary, because the flight had been changed by United at some point. So we had to claim our baggage in Frankfurt and check in again at the United counter there. They understood our tickets perfectly, but it was so busy we didn't get our seat assignments until we checked in to board. And for some mysterious reason, we were upgraded to business class. Oh my. That is how to fly. Lots of alcohol, lots of food, lots of water, lots of attention, lots of leg and reclining room...too bad we had to change planes in Chicago. Due to a lightning storm, the luggage was delayed in coming off the plane. But all of the flights were delayed and we had a long layover, so it wasn't a problem.

      Chicago to LAX was Economy Plus, also better than regular coach, and I'm not sure how we landed there, either. By the time we flew into San Luis Obispo we had been up for 24 hours, with only a few cat naps on the planes. My mom's luggage showed up in SLO, but mine didn't. Luckily, it arrived the next day. I think it was scared of the lightening and hid in Chicago for awhile.

      So that's the trip. The jet lag took a few days to get over. Unfortunately, I'm back to work and the trip is only a memory now. But oh, what a memory.


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty-six


      We went to Piazza Bra
      for breakfast, our first breakfast out this trip. We ordered a Continentale and a Europea, both with cappuccinos. This way were able to get a combo of fruit, toast and cornetto. We also got a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with one of the orders...it was all quite good, and about the same price as our hotel breakfast would have been. And that looked like just coffee with bread and jam. And cereal.

      After breakfast we went into the Arena, which still had the stage set up from last night's concert. Zucchero is on tour...no, we didn't get tickets. The marble steps/seats of the arena are tall and quite a challenge to climb (it's even worse going down). The arena is a Roman theatre and has been in use for over 2000 years. How cool is that?
      Next, we set off to loosely follow the walking tour from Rick Steves' book. We started at Piazza Erbe, site of the old Roman forum. There is a lion atop a column (sign of Venice's dominion), a small marble pavilion where the merchant's scales once were, and a fountain. And lots of people. Then we went under the whale's rib (1000 years hanging - legend says if someone who has never lied passes underneath it, it will fall) into the Piazza dei Signori. Dante's statue is in the middle, as he was granted asylum here after Florence kicked him out. The della Scala residence is on this square. Behind Dante, the yellow building is the Loggia del Consiglio, a Renaissance style council chamber. Palazzo della Ragione (Palace of Reason) is opposite Dante. We climbed the 13th century Torre dei Lamberti(almost 300 steps, not that I was counting...there is an elevator, but we were being healthy) to see some great views of the city.

      We passed by the Gothic looking tombs of the Scaligeri family. Their name comes from the word for ladder, and you can see ladders on the fencing. From there we walked by Sant' Anastasia church, the largest in the city. Then to the Ponte Pietra. After it was bombed in WWII the locals fished the Roman marble stones from the river and rebuilt the bridge. The bridge is now two-toned, with the old Roman marble being white and the newer brick being red. We crossed the bridge to the Roman theater, excavated from beneath medieval buildings. The museum is in an old Jesuit monastery built into the hillside. There are great views overlooking the city, so it is worth the hike up the hill.
      Back over the bridge we walked by the Duomo and then headed off for lunch on Via Viviani at Caffe Coloniale. Then more walking back to Piazza Bra and along the old wall that runs to the river. Finally, we headed back to the hotel to rest before returning to Liston for dinner.


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty-five


      Off to Verona. We made the drive in a little more than one hour. We even filled up the car (and with diesel this time!). Despite lousy directions and a few unidentified streets we managed to find Avis and return the car. Sue and Lance left for the train station to leave for Milan and mom and I took a taxi to the Hotel Torcolo, just off the Piazza Bra in the old part of town. We checked in and then headed for lunch at one of the places recommended by the hotel owner, Liston (that's the name of the restaurant, not the hotel owner). I had risotto with red chicory and wine - it was a beautiful purple color and delicious. Mom had an equally delicious Gorgonzola pizza. It was one of our better lunches.

      After lunch we set off with a map to walk the old city. Almost the same walk we did the next day, so I'll skip the details. The only exception was Juliet's balcony (as in Romeo and Juliet), which we took lots of pictures of for my Auntie Frankie. Juliet's house is the actual site of a house owned by the Capello family, and where Shakespeare supposedly took the name Capulet from. The balcony was added in the 1920s for tourist purposes, but that doesn't stop everyone. The place was full of tourists, tourists on the balcony, tourists groping Juliet's breast (see how shiny it is? it's supposed to bring you a lover if you rub it),and tourists leaving love notes in the form of graffiti. We pretty much just took our pictures and beat a quick retreat.

      Later, we went to dinner at Greppia. The tables were all booked for reservations, so it's quite a popular place. We didn't order the regional specialty, horse meat. We stuck to pasta, instead. And oh, was it good. I had spinach and cheese ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce. Mom had a plate with three different pastas, the ravioli, pesto and gnocchi. We shared caramel cake for dessert...it was good, too, but very sweet. There were two older men next to us. One asked if we were from the US...when I said yes, he said they were from Sicily. Then he added mafia and cracked himself up. He kept chatting to me in Italian and English and I couldn't figure out what he was trying to say. Maybe that's a good thing.


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty-four


      Up early to catch the train for one last day in Venice. The plan - St. Mark's and the Doge's Palace. We'll see if we can beat the people.

      Doge's Palace yes. St. Mark's no. We took the #1 vaporetto from Ferrovia (the train station) to San Marco and got in line for the Doge's Palace. The line was mercifully short and we were in the palace within 10 minutes. First we saw the courtyard and the Grand Staircase with Moses and NOT Paul Newman (there are two statues...Rick Steves says they are Moses and Paul Newman...Rick Steves is a dork). Then we went up the Golden Staircase (the ceiling is decorated with paintings and gilt, so you have to look up to understand the name) into the Doge's apartments. Then into the Council and Senate rooms and the armory. Then into the huge room where they met to elect the doge, then over the Bridge of Sighs

      view from the Bridge of Sighs...look at all those tourists!

      and down into the prison. What a contrast. All of the rooms in the palace are heavily decorated, either with silk wallpaper or panelling, and paintings. Lots of dark oils, especially in the Senate Room and Hall of the Grand Council with Tintoretto's paintings. The prison was stark stone, damp and cold with short little doors. The prison was supposed to be modern, with light and airy cells and wood panelled walls. This is only true on the cells with windows. The further inside you go, the darker and colder it gets. The palace is where the doge lived and all the government stuff happened. The doge was elected, but ruled for life. It sounds like the Senate and Council did most of the work and made most of the decisions, though. Especially the Council of 10. But the doge was like the pope in that when he died everything came to a screeching halt until the Grand Council convened and elected the next guy.

      After we wandered through the palace we decided to skip the very very very long line into the basilica. We stopped to eat at a place behind St Mark's that wasn't that impressive and had bad service, even taking into account the fact that there really is no such thing as customer service in Italy. After lunch we started randomly walking down streets and came across the Arsenale, where the old shipyards used to be. It now belongs to the Navy and is off limits. But we took pictures of the gateway with its stone lions standing guard.

      From there we walked to the Giardini Pubblici (Public Gardens), then hopped on a vaporetto back to San Toma so Sue and Lance could check out Frari Church with it's Titians. Mom and I skipped the church to look at the beautiful carnivale masks in the nearby shops. Then we wandered back to the train station and headed home for leftovers and packing. Some last shots of the canals:

      doorknob in Venice


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty-three


      We decided to hunt down the sights of Monselice, which is about 5 miles from where we are staying. It turned out to be easier than we thought. We walked right to the castle, as it's lower on the rock than we thought. We paid 5.50 euros entry, and ended up getting a guided tour from Federica, who claimed not to speak very good English, but did a damn good job describing all the weapons they have on display in the armory. The castle was built in three sections - the oldest, the fortress part.

      Then a separate addition in the middle ages, then a later addition in the Venetian style that connected the two. When Count Cini bought the castle he furnished the whole thing with his collection of weapons and armor and furniture. Federica showed us the armory, the bedrooms, the courtyard and chapel,

      the "party room," and the kitchen. The chimneys are unusual with their rounded, painted hoods. (Sorry, no pictures allowed inside.) It was a simpler, more realistic Hearst Castle like experience.

      After the castle we continued up the hill, past a villa with statues of dwarfs (the family name means dwarf), then past 7 little identical chapels,

      and then to the Villa Duodo.

      Access to the rest of the rock (the hike to the top) was prohibited until 3pm (plus it cost 4 euros), so we walked back down and had lunch at what looked like the only place left open in town.

      Then it was home to nap and then cook our own dinner of rosemary chicken, roasted potatoes and veggies, and foccacia bread. Plus we had antipasti (olives, cheese and crackers) and dessert (tiramisu). Everything was so good.


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty-two


      Padova isn't much to look at from the outside, but the interiors are grand. In a way, it reminds me of Bologna. Both being busy college towns with lots of upscale shops.

      We arrived by train from Monselice, and first walked to the markets, which were a little disappointing. Mostly clothing stalls. It's entirely possible that we walked around one portion and missed part of the market. Next was the Duomo, very plain and old looking on the outside, yet incredibly modern on the inside. Lots of modern sculpture at the altar, including a pretty hip looking Jesus on the cross...he looked like a college student. There was also a strange window inside a crypt lighting a dressed body, or statue of a body.

      After the Duomo we walked to Basilica di Sant' Antonio. This is where St. Anthony spent his last years and the site of his tomb - not to mention his tongue, his vocal chords and lower teeth. All preserved and on display. This is a major pilgrimage site. St. Anthony being the patron saint of travelers, donkeys, stewardesses and pig farmers. And lost things. His tomb was surrounded by pictures and letters praying for help.

      Next we walked back towards the train station to the Scrovegni Chapel. I had called the day before to make reservations for 2pm. When we arrived to pick up our tickets, they had openings right then, so we were able to join the 12:15 group. This turned out great, as it was a small group. First, we watched a 15 minute video on the chapel, then they let our group of about 10 into the chapel. Everything is climate controlled to preserve the frescoes, and they really limit the people in the chapel. The poor chapel has had a rough last 100 years. It was built in the early 1300s - Enrico Scrovegni was trying to buy forgiveness for his father's sin of usury. He hired Giotto to paint the frescoes. Giotto was ahead of his time, since the paintings show emotion and perspective and vivid color. The frescoes illustrate the life of Mary and Jesus. There is a bit of damage to the inside walls caused from the demolition of the attached palace in the late 1800s and the stripping of the plaster from the facade. What I wasn't expecting to see, and what was just as fascinating as the frescoes, were the original and very worn pews, and the original private door into the chapel used by the Scrovegni family.
      After the chapel, we went and had lunch (pizza) at La Cova, then back to the museum to look at Roman artifacts (some cool mosaics), bronze stuff (cute little horsemen), an Egyptian room, Etruscan urns and a lot of paintings Veneto painters. A lot. Mostly of people - madonna and child, saints, Salome, and church people (as in Popes and cardinals).
      Next we stopped for gelato (of course) before heading to the university. The University of Padova was founded in 1222, the second oldest in Italy. It has over 60,000 students (!) and is famous for its schools of law and medicine. Galileo taught here for 18 years. We took a short (but well worth it) tour and saw the famous anatomy theatre, which was much smaller than we all imagined. When the theatre was in use, there would be 300-350 students packed (standing) into that small room with no windows and a body being dissected. Ewwww. The river ran directly below the room, so if the church came investigating they could quickly dump the body in the river and replace it with an animal body. On the way out of the university we saw the statue of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the first female college graduate (Philosophy 1678).
      On the way home from the train station we stopped in Monselice for a fairly forgettable dinner. Lance had a shrimp antipasti that was drowning in 1000 Island dressing, which seemed an odd thing.
      Note: Not very many pictures from Padova, since most places did not allow pictures.


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty-one

      Saturday, October 06, 2007


      Today we set off to look for local villas. Our first stop was planned - Valsanzibio's baroque gardens. Entrance to the gardens is 8.50 euros and they give you a guided walk to follow. The garden/villa was built in 1669 by Barbirigo and Bernini drew the plans. The walk through the garden is supposed to be an allegory of man's progress and salvation. We weren't exactly up for such deep thought, but we did enjoy the walk and the fountains. We checked out the maze, the hermit's pond (no pond, but there was a hobbit house), the swans in the fish ponds (the black swans were quite chatty and kept following us), Rabbit's Island (with lots of little bunnies hippity hopping around), and the Fountain of Water Jokes (where the fountains start up as you walk by, potentially soaking those sitting on the benches). We eventually made it to the villa, which is still occupied and not open to visitors.
      We drove north looking for another villa, but it was closed and for sale. So we stopped for lunch instead. After lunch we headed south of Monselice to look for two other villas. We passed through teensy towns with old men walking down the driveway in their underpants. Okay, it was just one guy. We stopped in Sant' Elena only to discover that villa was closed too. So onward to Villa Estense, to the palazzo there that was supposedly declared a national monument in 1924. Yup, also closed. So we gave up and went to the grocery store for more wine.

      Later we went across the street for dinner at Gero. It was fancy, but cheap. And the waitress spoke very little English, so we were amusing each other in our attempts to communicate. I actually baa'ed to make sure something was lamb, which totally cracked her up before she said "Exactly!" Thank god she had a sense of humor. For dinner I had chicken ravioli in a mushroom sauce, and for dessert limoncello gelato in a chocolate shell with a fennel sauce and blood orange slices. It was soooo good. And it was gelato!


      Italy Trip: Day Twenty


      Since the train to Venice leaves from Monselice (or nearest “real” town) once per hour, we got up fairly early and were at the station at 9am. The train takes 20 minutes to Padova and one hour to reach Venice. Once in Venice we walked out of the station and bought tickets for the vaporetto. 13 euro for a twelve hour ticket. We took the short way (out into the lagoon) to Piazza San Marco, where we started an iPod tour in front of the equestrian statue of good ole Vittorio Emanuele II. We walked past the Bridge of Sighs (and every time he said Bridge of Sighs the cheesy narrator had to sigh dramatically)

      and then towards the columns marking the official entrance to the city. The Piazza was absolutely packed with people. And pigeons. It was a zoo, the worst I’ve seen in Italy. And long lines to get into everything. We listened to the iPods and looked at the outside of the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s, the bell tower (that fell down in the early 1900s and was rebuilt) and the piazza. And the pigeons. And the people. And the people feeding the pigeons. Yuck! Then we started to walk to the Rialto Bridge and it started to sprinkle. Then thunder. Then rain. Really hard. We took refuge in a shop selling glass and stood there for a ½ hour watching the street turn into a river. Finally it lightened up and Sue found a restaurant right around the corner for lunch. I had pasta e fagioli soup. It was good, but holy cow our lunch was expensive. We ordered fairly light and the total for the four of us came to 104 euros. I’m glad I decided not to stay in Venice for the week!

      After lunch we finally made our way to the Rialto, which was also mobbed with tourists, including two girls from Cal Poly (we saw their sweatshirts and asked if they were really from SLO). After a few pictures from the bridge we just started wandering the streets. We eventually got back on a vaporetto to take us back to the train station, where we got on another vaporetto to go to Murano, the island where all the glass makers are. They were basically exiled there many moons ago when people were afraid they’d burn the city down with their furnaces. We never did get to see anyone blowing glass, but we went into lots of shops. Some pretty stuff, but a lot of repetition. After about two hours on Murano we took the vaporetto back to the train station and then the train back to Monselice. We stopped at our local pizza place for dinner before going home. We’re torn on whether we’ll go back to Venice…I don’t think anyone expected it to be that crowded.

      In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

      The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
      ~St. Augustine

      Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
      ~Mark Twain

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