Sunday, August 28, 2011

Progress - Celebrate!

There is an upcoming birthday party that is going to be held in my home.  The cleaning and organizing is continuing, but as I said before, the WIPs/UFOs are haunting me.  I have one quilt that is especially made for celebrations, so I decided to try to finish it in time for the party.  It has been languishing long enough.  The top was made, and it languished because of some problems I had in executing the center.  Then I had a hard time figuring out what applique I wanted to add to it. I just knew that I wanted applique for the wide border.

I was hoping for applique that would work year around - for all the birthday celebrations and graduations and holidays, etc. whenever they occurred. I thought balloons would be nice, but they require pretty specific shapes, and I wasn't sure they would look like balloons when I was done with them. And balloons might be boring.

I finally realized that the flower theme that was in my mind the first time I saw the quilt was the theme I really wanted. No matter how much I tried to think of something else, this quilt needed flowers. So what if it feels more like summer than the rest of the year. I had already cut out the flower and leaf shapes so it was just a matter of pressing them down, and then moving on to quilting.  The photo was taken before pressing - some of the shapes have been rearranged.

After all, if I bring out this same quilt for every celebration, some of my family members would never see another quilt besides this one, and this one wouldn't seem so special to them.

And those flowers on the quilt go really well with my garden this year. This is the first year I have really bought annuals, and I think I need to invest in them in future years as well.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I have run out of vacation topics, but I have tried my best to keep up the tourist pace. I have been working on several things.

First of all, I have caught up with the blocks of the month I have been working on. I was several months behind. The quilt shop put these blocks in a star setting, which I liked, but I chose not to buy the fabric on a monthly basis. I added a star around one block, and it reminds me of the Shakespeare in the Park block. I think I am going to continue with the straight setting, but the SITP is awfully tempting.

Next, the weather has been cooling, and my nesting instinct has kicked in. I have been cleaning and organizing various neglected parts of my house, especially my sewing storage / bedroom. It is very difficult to not to get distracted by the WIPs / UFOs. I am going to try very hard to stay the course and finish the cleanup first. Then I can get to those WIPs and UFOs. I recently looked at my 2010 finishes, which seemed rather meager at the time and it looks like I am going to really have to finish some things for my 2011 finishes to at least match the 2010 finishes.

Then, I bought the newest version of Family Tree Maker. I have been using one that is at least a decade old. It comes with a 30 day trial of I have been trying to gather as much information as I can get during my trial. This time, I want to stay focused on the direct ancestors of the people I am searching, instead of getting sidetracked by other interesting family members. I decided to keep adding the information to my old FTM file, because I want to take full advantage of my 30 days, and I can learn the completely revamped system another time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Wilds

We took our Japanese guest to one other place besides Amish country, and that is the Wilds in southeast Ohio. When I tried to explain to her that she would see animals from a bus, she asked if it was like a safari. Well yes, it is exactly like a safari, and I'm not sure why I didn't think to use that word in the first place. I told her you could open the windows and take pictures. She said that there is a safari close to her home in Tokyo. They put meat on the bus, so the animals get really close to the bus. She wouldn't dare open the window.

The Wilds

It turns out that we didn't get a choice on opening or closing the windows, because our vehicle did not have windows! There are different kinds of trips you can take - you could take a bus, but we chose this one. We went with the extended family, which made it even more fun.  There was a shade above us and the breeze while we were driving kept us cool.  It is unfortunate that it was really hot the whole time Takako was visiting with us, but this day was a little bit cooler than the rest and was much more comfortable.  When she left, she took the heat with her. Hopefully, she dropped some of it off along the ocean instead of taking it all home.

We managed to get really up close and personal with some of the animals. We all got lots of beautiful pictures of a large variety of animals.

It had been a while since we had gone, and this was really nice. We chose to save the zip line and the horse back riding for another trip.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Zeus on Quilts

My dog is still new enough to me that we still follow the "no pet on quilts" rule, but when I saw the Pets on Quilts show, I didn't want him to feel left out.  Mostly I didn't want to feel left out.  So I put him on some quilts, and he posed nicely for me, and got off the quilt as soon as he was done posing.

But after this photo shoot, I think I need to do two things.

Teach him some new poses.

And think about changing his name to Vanna.

We're too late to actually enter the contest, but I did it for the pictures and not for the prizes anyway.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Amish Country

Berlin, Ohio

Takako, the tour guide we were hosting for the student exchange program, had been to Amish country during one of her previous visits, but she had not had a chance to do much there. I suggested we go again, and this time, go on one of the tours so we could learn a bit about the area. The tours are expensive, but they drive around the area, and stop at two artisans along the way, and we thought we would get a lot out of it.

Unfortunately, she had been invited to a party that she wanted to attend, so we were going to have to limit our trip so she could go to the party in the evening. We woke up early, much to my daughter's dismay, and left for a two hour trip to Berlin, Ohio. Most of Ohio is flat, so a lot of the journey was just fine. Then we got to the hilly side, and it was quite interesting to drive on. The speed limit is 55 on the hilly roads, which is a little scary especially going around curves and up and down hills where you can't see where you are going, and then all of a sudden, there is a curve that you are supposed to slow down to 25 to navigate. And there is the danger of coming up to a buggy and having to slow down suddenly for that. I got an even better appreciation for the bus drivers in Italy after that trip.

The tour starts at the flea market. We had a chance to look around the flea market before the tour. We wound up being the only people on the tour. We told her we wanted to see what the inside of an Amish house looks like. She said she had several trips, and one would take us to a quilt shop that requires you to go through the Amish house. The lady had hand sewn and hand quilted all of the quilts t. And they were quite reasonable prices for all that hand work. I didn't buy anything though. The tour was interesting - she told us a lot about what the Amish are like, and we were able to get our questions answered. In case you were wondering, no, the Amish in Ohio do not deliberately put mistakes in their quilts, but she thinks that Amish in other states might. The other "artisan" stop was a grocery store that was frequented by the Amish. We bought lots of spices, which were much cheaper there than at home.

After the tour, we spent more time looking at the booths at the flea market. We were going to go to a restaurant, but we were hungry, and decided that eating at the food place at the flea market would be just fine. There was live music, so it was an enjoyable time.

Then we went to another shop that also had lots of booths of hand made and other unique things. There were some purses made out of jeans - but Takako and my daughter were saying that the stylish jeans made purses that were too small, and the bigger purses had mom jeans. I thought to myself that I could make a purse like that pretty easily, but when I got home, I realized I would have the same problem. Stylish jeans are too small, and the bigger jeans are mom jeans. I bought a couple of wooden plaques.

It would have been nice to have been able to spend some more time there, but we had to get going. Of course, it started thunderstorming and pouring down rain. Going around those curves when you couldn't even see the street is even more interesting than when you can. I could only hope that the car in front of me knew the road, which they did seem to. We took a different way home than the way there, and once it stopped raining, it was nice to be able to see different parts of Ohio.

And just like in Italy, we left enough things unseen that we want to go back again another time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Welcome Home

On my last post, we had returned from our trip to Italy.  The way our schedule worked out, the very next day, we would have to return to the airport to pick up our Japanese guest who was going to be staying with us for three weeks.  Since this was expected, I had been cleaning and generally getting things ready for her visit.  Since I am allergic to dust, I was starting to get severe allergies from cleaning behind cabinets, under the bed, and going to places in my house I don't normally visit, and moving things around. I did not want to have allergy problems on the plane, and worry all the other passengers about some awful airborne disease, not to mention being more uncomfortable than normal on a plane.  My ears already hurt on planes.

My decision was to clean up as much of the clutter and arrange things as I wanted, and clean and wipe counters, sinks, etc., but to avoid the dusty things, like sweeping and dusting and lawn mowing until we came back.  This meant that I would have to get over any jet lag quickly.  I had a little over 24 hours to do this, so I was not worried.

My family was worried, however, so during my absence, they all converged to my house and took care of those things which I had not.  It was very sweet, and a little demeaning that they thought I would welcome a guest in the dusty house. And you know they were talking about me while they were cleaning. I'm sure it was all good.

I have already provided a summary about our experience with our Japanese guest.  We went to two places that I want to talk about in separate posts, and then I will be back to providing current events stuff.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Italy - Sorrento and home

Sorrento Marina

I have been telling you about our week long adventures in Italy, which are nearing the end.  We have one last full day, and have to leave early in the morning for the plane.

I didn't create an itinerary for this day.  I had saved the day to do whatever we felt we missed, or found out about after the fact.  We could have gone to see the other small towns that were destroyed by the volcano.  We could have tried the Phlegraean Fields again. We could have gone south to visit Paestum (more ruins) and the resort town of Positano.  But the laziness serenity of Amalfi was still in our system, and we opted to have a slow day in Sorrento. We were planning to do souvenir shopping, but a lot of that had been done in Amalfi, and since we walked by the souvenir shops everyday, we pretty much knew what we wanted anyway, so the shopping was done relatively quickly. We went back to the hotel to nap, and then went out to dinner. It was a nice relaxing day.

Sorrento cloister

Nightlife in Sorrento consists of dressing up and walking up and down the main street, to see and be seen. We were generally dressed in our rumpled tourist clothes, walking back to the hotel.

Sorrento "statues"

These pictures were taken on various days.

Sorrento gelatto shop

The next morning we headed to the airport.  There is a shuttle that can take us to the airport, but it leaves at 6:30 which is cutting it close for our 8:50 o'clock departure, if we try to get to the airport two hours before, and it takes an hour to get there.  And I would think it would take longer to load than unload, since tickets would have to be bought, etc.  No one is willing to tell us if the airport requires us to get there two hours early for international flights.  We hired a private shuttle to take us.  It had been cheaper to stay an extra night than the leave the day before, but the shuttle ate all the savings.  But it was good that we had one full day with which to do as we pleased.


So we left at 6:00 with the shuttle, but he drove very fast, and we wound up at the airport very early. We had coffee and pastries at a lounge in the airport, then the steps of going home was pretty much the same as the process of getting here, except that it was reversed, and took a little bit longer.

Ciao Italy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Italy - Amalfi Coast

Amalfi coast
With the days quickly slipping away, we wanted to go down the beautiful Amalfi coast and spend time at the beach, and recover from all our sightseeing.  We were planning to go to Rome on the following day. So this day was all about rest and relaxation.  We slept in, and took the bus south along the coastline.

curvy roads - Amalfi coast

There was a man sitting in the front seat who was telling everyone how to stamp their ticket, and telling them to go to the back, etc. He had a musty smelling sweater even though it was really hot. He was irritated when the bus driver told him to let me sit beside him, but he did eventually move his legs so I could get through. I guess I can thank him for saving me a front seat view. I thought he might be the Italian equivalent of a Walmart greeter, but when he got off the bus, I decided he was just a crotchety old man. My daughter wound up somewhere in the back.  I'm glad we had discussed where we were getting off before we got on the bus. We skipped Positano and went to Amalfi.

Road - Amalfi coastline

There were cliffs and a steep hill down to the water that the bus had to navigate. Lots of times he had to drive blind, because there was no way to tell if someone was coming from the other side. I think I figured out his code, honk once to say "anyone coming?", honk twice to say "Watch out, I'm coming through!"  There was only one place that had a light to make sure traffic only came from one direction at a time.  It must be manually operated, because there was a man standing there with his walkie-talkie beside it.The traffic light was on the ground, and someone passing the bus missed seeing it.   They somehow managed to work it out by the time the light turned green for us.

narrow lanes with parked cars

The lanes were very narrow, and yet people parked there to take photos of the view, etc. A lot of the drivers are tourists and don't know where the narrow spots are, and the locals are pushing the tourists to drive faster. Sometimes the bus driver had to drive backwards to let cars through, yes even around curves, but our driver drove carefully and only had to go backwards a short distance once.

I was gearing myself to go down this road, but we didn't go there.  We got to the beach which has volcano rock instead of sand.  We got some lounge chairs and umbrella, got out our books and read.  I thought it was sweet when my daughter told me I should move my chair since the shade had moved, but she really wanted the sun since she was trying to get a tan.  We did get into the water which was very cold. I finally convinced her to go up to the shopping area.  An Italian souvenir grocery store had colorful beautifully shaped pasta, Italian spice mixes, candy, limoncello alcohol, and we wound up buying a lot of our little gifts for our family members here.

We could have gone to Positano as well, but my daughter told me that people generally go on vacations to simply relax and do nothing, and going to another town felt like doing something.  And since we had seen it on our way there, and we would see it on the way back, it didn't feel like we missed anything.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Italy - Herculaneum


Everything that went wrong during our trip, went wrong on this day, but it all turned out to be in good ways. The plan was to go to see the Herculaneum in the morning, hop on a tour bus to see the Phlegraean Fields in the afternoon, and take the ferry back to Sorrento in time to see the sunset.

We stopped having buffet breakfasts and opted to go to a "bar" for breakfast. Finally, a filling breakfast. One thing about staying at a resort - everything is so expensive - a tiny cup of coffee is three euros, which is about $4.50.

Herculaneum floor

We got to the train fine, and the train got us to Herculaneum fine as well. There were people standing at the train station asking us if we wanted a ride to Ercolano, which was momentarily confusing, because I thought it was the name of the town, but it is also what the Italians call Herculaneum. Why we don't also call it Ercolano, I don't know. It is a great site - it is much smaller than Pompeii, partly because it was a smaller town, and partly because less is excavated because a lot of it is underneath the current city. There is more shade, since some of the second floors survived the volcano. It isn't as crowded. You can rent headphones here as well, but we opted to use our book. And best of all, I had finally solved my foot problems. I think the trouble was that my feet were getting sweaty in the athletic shoes. Even though I switched to flat shoes with little cushioning, and cheap flip flops for the remainder of our vacation, my feet were much more comfortable from then on.


The first problem happened when we tried to buy train tickets to go to our next site.  The ticket booth was closed. When we had told the ticket booth lady in Sorrento our plans, she had told us to buy our next ticket at Ercolano.  We asked people what to do, and they just shrugged their shoulders and said closed.  We didn't want to wait until 6 o'clock, when it reopens, to get a ticket.  We went back to the shuttle driver to see what we could do, and somehow my daughter understood from "its ok" that we could get on the train without a ticket.  I guess it makes sense if the cost of the transport for a few people is less than the cost of the hiring a ticket taker, then you might as well let the people go free, but it was still scary anyway. We were happy to save a little bit of money on the train.

We sat at the platform to wait for the train, and there were two tourists who had visited the site, so we talked to them.  They were really winging their vacation, and were thinking of staying in Sorrento next, and were asking about hotel information.  The train came, and it was very crowded.  Unfortunately, the two men managed to wind up at different doors of the train, and they were confused about how to get the doors to open. (You have to push the green button.), and making sure that both of them got on.  By the time they figured it out, the doors closed, and my daughter and I were left outside.

The problem was solved very quickly, because the next train came just a few minutes later, and it was empty, so we had plenty of seats.  We got to Naples, and already knew how to get to Pozzouli where the guidebook said the tours started.  We got there fine, and got off the train.  The book said the tours start at a particular piazza - municipio I think, but didn't give us directions for that piazza.  The book also told us they were open that day.  We walked around a bit, and saw some ruins pictured above.  The tourist office was closed.  We found the ferry ticket office, and asked them about the tour bus.  They said the tour bus was closed today. The guidebook had said it was open on Sundays.  Then we asked about a ferry to Sorrento, and they said there wasn't a ferry to Sorrento, but they could take us to Naples.  Since we were early, we decided to walk back and take the train back to Naples.  I'm still not sure why we made that decision instead of taking the ferry to Naples, except that it was our original plan, and we were too early to see a sunset.

We got back to Naples just fine, and proceeded to walk to the ferry, and walk and walk.  It's a good thing my feet weren't giving me trouble.  It was longer than we anticipated, and there were several marinas, one for cruises, etc, so we were lost.  We went to one that looked like the wrong one, but we didn't know which way we needed to go to find the right one.  A police car pulled up, so we asked them.  They were very nice, and didn't know anything about ferries to Sorrento, but they told us the ferries were that way.  We were ready to walk that way, when they asked if we wanted a ride.  The nice policemen gave us a ride to the correct marina.  One of them was born in the states, so he enjoyed telling his story.  The ticket booth for Sorrento was closed, of course, considering our problems of the day.   We checked all of the ticket booths to be sure there wasn't another one going to Sorrento, but no. No ferries to Sorrento on Sundays, even though the guidebook said there were.

We decided to take a taxi to the train station instead of walking.  You know those roped lines, well there is one of those for the taxi.  You wind around and around the ropes, and when you get to the front, you catch the next taxi that pulls up.  People cheer when more than two people get on a taxi, and boo when only one person gets on.  Okay, only a couple of people did that, but it was funny to see.  We were probably the only ones without luggage.  The line took a long time, and we probably could have walked it in that time

We wait for the train to Sorrento. There are several trains on this line, so we have to make sure we go on the one going to Sorrento.  The announcer mentions something about Sorrento, but people stay sitting.  A train pulls up, and we ask a lady who doesn't speak English if this is the train to Sorrento.  She says no, and told me in sign language for another train.  The next train comes, and I hear a lady asking the conductor about Sorrento.  She gets on the train, so we follow suit.  We sat down, and there is an Italian who starts talking to us about Italy.  He says that the pizza is the best in Naples - which is true, because they use real cheese.  He tells us that the people in southern Italy are poor because the northerners have stolen all the riches.  He states that most employers require you to work under the table so they don't have to pay taxes, and that good jobs are hard to find. He tells us to be careful of pickpockets.  Some people who tell you to be careful are actually crooks trying to win your trust, so I hold my bag tighter.   And finally, after we tell him we are staying in Sorrento, he tells us that we are on the wrong train.  He says to stay on this train for eight stops after he gets off, and transfer to another train.  We speak to the conductor, and apparently, the train is going on the same route as Sorrento, but eventually makes a turn.  I'm not sure why we have to wait until the eighth stop, but we stand by the conductor for directions.

Graffiti on train to Naples

The lady who had asked the initial question talked to the conductor, and we ask her what she was told.  She also speaks English, and she told us we could get off with her, that the eighth stop isn't in a good area, that the seventh was better.  We got off with her and her son.  She told us that someone had set fire to a train, which was the reason for the delay of our train.  She is from Rome, and she tells us that the southerners are selfish, and can't or aren't willing to do things for the common good.  We get on the next train and head on our way.

The trip to Sorrento was fine, but just as we were about to get off the train, about a million people crowd to get on the train.  Most of them are young adults.  We almost didn't get off the train in time - we had to push and shove our way out. But we managed just fine, we were happy that we were able to talk to locals and get a real flavor of what living in Italy is like.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Quilting and Eating

As I have been telling you about our Italy trip, I feel like I should limit blog worthy things I am doing, since I can't keep up with telling you about current events and our trip.  I thought I would give a break to those of you who are tired of hearing about our vacation, to give you a quilting update.

I started a new quilt, or technically two.  It is so much easier to start a new quilt than to finish one.  What you see are two backgrounds for an applique quilt I am making.  They will be small, about 12 inches square.  A friend of mine asked me to make a lily quilt for her when she saw the pictures from the quilt show, just as I was working overtime, getting ready for the Italy trip and our Japanese guest, etc.  I decided making two would be just as easy as one, and I wouldn't feel bad about giving one away if I still had one.  Plus, she might want two, who knows? 

I have been catching up on my Buck a Block quilt blocks.  Apparently I am very behind on them.  No pictures yet - I need to relearn how to sew, so that each HST and the final blocks come out to be the expected size.

Our Japanese guest came and went.  This seemed like a very short program, although I think it was the same length as the previous years.  We hosted the tour guide instead of a student this year, and she had rented a car.  Usually the tour guide stays in a hotel, but since we had more host families this year than students, she and the teacher were able to stay with host families. She doesn't know how to cook, and gets tired of eating out, so she was looking forward to staying with a family.  She had a lot of work to do - filling out paperwork,  helping students, taking the teacher to a Major League baseball game in Cleveland, filling out paperwork, so we didn't get to spend as much time with her as we do with students.  We did take a couple of trips which I will tell you about when I get done with telling you about Italy.

I was very good about cooking everyday - on different days,  I made spaghetti with real Italian spices (it was very peppery hot), french onion soup, chicken nuggets made out of Chex (honey nut), chicken stir fry, roast beef, chicken thighs with Indian spices with fragrant rice, beef chilli with cheese sandwiches.  I didn't get tired of cooking until a couple of days before she left when we had spaghetti again. She said I was a good cook - she even told someone else that, so it must be true!  She wanted to learn to cook, so we made the Indian dish together. She is going to France next.

I finished all the candy I got from Italy - it was so good, it was hard to make it last.  They had this wonderful limoncello candy - it is a hard candy with a soft filling of limoncello liqueur.  Also you know the chocolate covered almonds that sometimes get served at weddings? They had those in so many different varieties - lemon, licorice, orange, cocoa, etc.  If I had known they were that good, I would have gotten a lot more!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Italy - Naples

Quilt Idea

We had heard lots of things about Napoli.  That there was a lot of crime there - especially pickpockets.  On the plane from Venice to Naples, I met an Italian student who went to school in Naples, and returning from his visit with his parents who lived in Venice.  He said to be careful.  The guidebooks say don't stay in Naples, and hold on to your belongings very carefully.  The other tourists in Sorrento said, "What, you're going to Naples?" like we were out of our minds. Poor people live in Naples.

We live in a city, and people may even say things like that about our neighborhood, so we were not afraid.  We took the proper precautions - limit how much money we were carrying, and left the purse in the hotel.  I was worried about having to stand on the train for an hour, but the train wasn't too crowded, and we were able to sit.  We were able to give some pointers to some tourists who were going to Pompeii, and received some advice about going to Amalfi.

There is an information booth in the train station at Naples.  The lady was very unfriendly.  She expected us to have a map (but she didn't sell any), before she could provide information.  She did not even have her own map to show the way.  We went and got a map, and went back to the info booth.  Luckily, there was another person at the counter the second time, and he was able to give us good directions.  We took a local train to the museum. A nice train rider showed us the way out of the train station and to the museum.

The museum was very nice, it had a lot of marble statues, an Egyptian exhibition, Italian paintings, and of course, treasures from Pompeii and the other towns devastated by the volcano.  I'm afraid I wasn't a very good companion to my daughter, because my feet were still itching and hurting.  The shoes and athletic socks I had brought were very comfortable, but were not breathable. Also, I had forgotten to recharge my camera battery so I couldn't take any pictures.  I wound up looking at the exhibits from the benches most of the time.

I even convinced my daughter to go through the Secret Room, just so she could say that she had seen it.

After taking our time looking at all of the exhibits, we had Napoli pizza in Naples.  It was very good, and at better prices than the ones in Sorrento.  Unfortunately, going through a museum doesn't make you very hungry, so each of us only ate half of our individual pizzas, and the chef was disappointed.  And since we were not done sight seeing, we couldn't take it with us.

We then went to see Naples Underground.  While we were waiting, I took off my socks, which helped a little bit with my feet.  The city is built upwards.  Instead of tearing down the ruins and starting over, most people just built a new layer on top of the old one.  The archeologists discovered remains of the old buildings underneath the current ones. We went underneath several buildings to see streets, a theater, and an aquaduct. It was nice and cool underground, and the tour guide was very personable.

We walked to the train station, stopping at some shops and street vendors along the way. The train ride was fine, and we walked from the train to the hotel, stopping at the little streets in Sorrento along the main walk for a restaurant.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Italy - Mount Vesuvius

walking up the mountain

After walking around Pompeii, we ate at the only restaurant there.  The reviews talked down the food, but we didn't think it was bad, but the staff was brusque.  There were several different stands of different types of foods to eat, and it was already awkward to figure out where to order the food and where to pay, etc.  The cashier wanted to limit the amount of change to return.  I'm used to credit cards, and when I use cash, I use bills, and keep the change for parking meters and emergencies. I had a teacher who used all his change for a vacation fund.  The more change the better.  I'm not used having to deal with one dollar (euro) coins, and having to withdraw money from a money belt, and having to keep track of limiting the amount of change I receive.

don't wear black shoes
I thought we had more sights to see, but we were done with Pompeii, so we headed out to see Mount Vesuvius.  There is a bus that takes us to the mountain, then we transfer to another bus to take us up the mountain.  The cliffside view down the mountain from the bus is incredible. I am in awe of Italian bus drivers and their ability to maneuver the huge bus around the narrow steep blind curves.  We are to walk to the top.  There, we will find a souvenir shop, and a guide who will take us to the crater and tell us about what we are seeing.  It was organized very well.

view from the top of the mountain

It is only a 30 minute walk to the top.  The young people sprinted up with no problems.  It wasn't a clear day, but the view was still spectacular. There are beautiful yellow flowers growing on the mountain, and below that, you can see the cities and the water and beyond that the resort towns. Except that there is high altitude, and and dust, and we had to walk up hill on slippery volcano rock.  My feet were itching and hurting.  My lungs weren't getting enough air.  My heart was racing.  I found the best way for me to go was to go a few steps, take a rest, go a few more steps, etc.  People kept passing us.  My only consolation was that there were some other people who were also having difficulty.  I asked someone on their way down how much farther, and they said we were about halfway up.  Yikes! After a while, I told my daughter to just go without me.   I would wait for her.  There was already a beautiful view from where I was, and I didn't think it would get better higher.  So she left.  I didn't have anything to do from where I was, so I decided to keep going up slowly.  I took my time and took lots of breaks, figuring I would meet my daughter and the group on their way down. I didn't want to tell you that I wimped out.  I wanted to say I made it to the top or at least made the effort.

Mount Vesuvius crater

All of a sudden, I was the souvenir stand.  I had managed to make it all the way up.  We had been more than  halfway up.  When I got up there, the tour guide asked me if there was anyone else in the group.  Apparently, he had waited for me to start the tour!  My daughter didn't know he was waiting, so she hadn't told him to start without me.  This is the most dangerous volcano in the world, because it is still active and so many people live around it, and it would be impossible for all of them to evacuate in time.  We went to the crater, and he said people could climb up some more if they wanted but to come back down because we would be picked up where we were dropped off. The way down was much easier, and the bus was very comfortable. The bus took us down the mountain, and another bus took us back to Pompeii.  From there we caught the train back.   On the way back, we were able to sit down on the train. From the train station, most of the entire shopping and restaurant area is on the way to the hotel, so we have our choice.   We ate dinner in Sorrento.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 4 of Italy Trip - Pompeii

On Friday, we went to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius.  Since this was the main attraction of the trip, we wanted to spend 4 or 5 hours in Pompeii, and then if we had time, we would take the bus up the mountain where it would be cooler in the hot afternoon sun.  We had a continental breakfast, and walked down the main street to the train station (10-20 minutes).  We were able to catch a train right away, but it must have been late, and / or it was also carrying commuters going to work, because it was crowded, and we had to stand the whole way (20-30 minutes).  Ah, this is why the hotel did not recommend the train as a way to get to Sorrento.

It is a very big place, with very little shade and it was a hot day. We decided to get a guide book, and follow that instead of listening to a tape or using a live guide. We wanted to be able to go at our own pace. There is an option of the 2 hour tour, a 4 hour and a 6 hour tour. We chose the 4 hour, so we could see more than the basic sights. My daughter did a great job of navigating us through the sights, but the signage is based on research, and many of the individual buildings are not labeled, so there was a lot of "well this must be the...". It was helpful to see other tourists go into a building, because then we knew it was one of the more important ones. One of the first things to see is the little museum - the one that showed the forms of the bodies, and we couldn't find it. We wandered around the general area, and wound up exiting the ruins! I swear there was no exit sign. We were heading to the town. When we tried to come back, the security guide wanted to know what we were doing. We told him we had just started, and he told us that the museum was closed for restoration. It is good that we saw him though, because he told us that some of the bodies had been temporarily moved to other places, and he told us where.

We were able to find and go through most of the other sights pretty easily. The streets were not comfortable to walk on, and my feet were uncomfortable, even though I had purchased good shoes and given them lots of practice. It was a hot day and there is very little shade or greenery in Pompeii. But it does have running water, and we were able to refill our water bottles at this and another fountain.

I enjoyed seeing the storage areas where they held more treasures they had uncovered. It is amazing that these things have survived from so long ago, and to imagine the way people lived so very long ago. I couldn't help but think about the last moments for all of these people that lived here.

There was another building we were unable to find.  We asked someone who looked like a researcher, and he told us it was closed for restoration.  We decided to sit down to look at our guidebook for the next location, when he asked us if we wanted to see it.  So the two of us got our own private tour.  We had to pay him for his efforts, but it was worth seeing the building. I think these are enough pictures for one post, so I will put the rest of the day in another post.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Italy Day 3 - Capri


For our first whole day in Italy, we decided to take a boat to the island of Capri. The hotel suggested a package that included land transportation from the hotel to the dock, the water transportation to Capri, and the boat would circle around the whole island and include a tour guide who would explain what you were seeing. The price was just a little more than doing it on our own, and transportation from the hotel sounded really good. It was well worth it. After our continental breakfast at the hotel, we set off for Capri.

Blue Grotto

The boat took us to the place where the blue grotto was. This is where we could buy a 5-10 minute boat excursion to the blue grotto. I had heard good things about the place when I researched it, but the small library book I had chosen to bring to Italy said that the adults would not be impressed (probably because they had to duck down to get in). The people we shared the land transportation with also had heard it was not worth it. Plus, the boat tour included the green grotto and the white grotto. In addition, we had to wait for the boats for the grotto, and the whole boat had to wait for the people going to the grotto. So we opted out and waited. At first it seemed like nobody wanted to go, but it turned out that almost everyone went.

We got to Capri, and decided to have some lunch. We sat beside some American tourists who were on a cruise. They were tired of going to historic tours and had decided to take a relaxing day off.

The plan was to take the chair lift to the top of the mountain and see the fabulous view.  But since we had a leisurely lunch, and my daughter was worried about being finished in time for the pickup, we decided to wander through the narrow streets and go to the shops instead. We also wandered a little bit in the residential area to see the patio gardens.

We circled the other side of the island on the way back.  This is lover's rock, and if you kiss your lover while going through here, you will have a long relationship.