A Travellerspoint blog

Florence

**WARNING*** READ something before you travel!!

My first visit to Florence underscores the reason to read about where you are going before you go there. I was traveling by train from Venice to Siena, and decided to hop off the train ramble through Florence for a few hours, then take a later train on to Siena. I checked my backpack at the station, and with only my day pack in hand, I hit the street. I made my way to the great cathedral that I spotted from the train station literally dodging the swarms (yeah, that's the best way to describe it, swarms) of motor scooters that were as thick as mosquitoes during breeding season! The crowds were murder. Coming straight from Venice where there are no motorized vehicles, I was overwhelmed by the traffic and crowds. I had no heart to be in such a crowd... I decided to retreat back to the train station, find a quiet place somewhere in Siena to hole up for a bit of rest. I left, but not before noticing a handful of artists... sketching a big fat octagonal building in front of the cathedral. What stands out in my mind was the last cursive glance I gave that strange looking building.

Now anyone with at least a 10% knowledge of Florence knows I am referring to the Baptistery of San Giovanni that that dates back to the 12th century. Unfortunately, my knowledge was less than 10%... and my cursive glance, which was to haunt me for four years, was about the same as the way a chimpanzee looks at a roll of hundred dollar bills. If you cannot eat it, it is of no use.

Immediately that cursive glance began to eat away at me, but it wasn't until long after I returned home did I pick up a few books, and realized that I had almost committed a sacrilege... as I learned that gave such a casual, cursive glance at a work of art that took Lorenzo Ghiberti a life time to complete. Through my self guided study, I actually felt I owed this great artist of centuries ago a return trip to Florence, to give his life's work the homage and appreciation it deserves.

Besides 'The Agony and Ecstasy, by Irving Stone, another great book that helped me greatly was 'Michelangelo', by Howard Hibbard, and 'The House of Medici: Its Rise and Fall,' by Christopher Hibbert.

Posted by terrav 00:42 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Marsaille

... a fish story, of sorts...

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No way could I ever remember the name of the restaurant (much less pronounce it!) but never will I forget the experience. I walked all over Marseilles, from Notre Dame de la Garde to Palais Longchamps. Coming down from the cathedral, I passed a small restaurant/fish market, that had its seafood tantalizing displayed outside. I was booking it soo fast down the hill that the sight registered in my brain after I had passed it. I back up for a second look. The prawns were three feet long and a foot wide... well, maybe not that large. They seemed to me to be though. Let's just say they were HUGE. They were soooo artfully displayed... It was too much... the magnetic pull was worse than someone grabbing me by my collar. I recall a caricature of a fat woman being pulled into a doughnut shop like iron to a magnet..
I am shown to a table facing a lit fire. Hmmm.. I can build my own lunch... what would I wish? Prawns, of course. And, is time to have some oysters. Half dozen of those killers outside. Sooo.. six and six. Mind you, these suckers were huge. Some house wine and lotsa bread. Niiice lunch. Twenty bucks... A bit more than I wish to pay for lunch, but after all, who cares right now.

I gazed about me at the other patrons as I watch this wonderful fire in front of me, half way aware of one of the cooks. He was black as the ace of spades... with an air of the domicile about him. I mean, although he was just a helper I could imagine the kitchen would be incomplete without him. A servant to be sure, but with a satisfied look about him that he is as happy to serve as those he served are happy to have him.

Ohh.. here it comes. My eyes bug out... I expected large prawns, but I wasn't prepared for them standing straight up... partly stuck on a mound of ice, elegantly decorated, with the six oysters delicately placed between the prawns. What a lunch! Haaaaaappy happy camper am I. What could be better?

Sheeeeeze. The next part was rigged, sure as the devil.

The chef's helper comes out with a fish, and places it on a plate on a side board next to the fire and very leisurely starts basting it. It must've been one of the fish at the market down at Veux Port that I had seen earlier that day. "Hmmm... maybe I should have had fish", I thought. Then he takes it and places it on a grill in the fireplace. He walks away, and I am left watching it cook. He returns every few minutes to baste it. My prawns... however succulent they were, all of a sudden become secondary to this spectacle in front of me. I am aware of another overseer... this time the chef, comes out, and eyes this tantalizing specimen of the sea. Finally it is lifted off of the grill, and placed upon a platter and disappears into the kitchen. The waiter disappears behind him, and emerges again, with the poisson.... so artfully garnished, and brings it to one of the patrons sitting near me.

That was all I could stand. I call the waiter over, and ask for the menu. I am to have poisson, sure as ever. Never mind that it cost another twenty dollars. Never mind that I had already spent twenty dollars on these puny little prawns on my plate.

Posted by terrav 00:31 Comments (0)

Salzburg

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We spent a night and a day in Salzburg on our way to Vienna from Interlaken. Arriving at the train station, I called and made a reservation at local zimmer that was in Rick Steve's book. The woman on the phone gave me directions, telling me which bus line to take, which stop to get off at, etc. Don't ask me how this happened, but we headed in the exact OPPOSITE direction, finding ourselves totally lost... like geese in a hail storm. After another phone call we finally got back on the track, found the zimmer and checked in, and took the bus to the old town.

Salzburg was nice... yet I wouldn't want to live there... it certainly wasn't Paris or Rome, although the old town part was nice. Paraded back and forth until I felt like a teeney bopper hanging around a mall. Enough was enough. Saw Mozart's house, and ya de ya de ya.

Decided that attending a concert featuring music of Mozart would be in order, we learned of the nightly concerts at the Hohensalzburg Fortress. That evening, we wended our way up to the great fortress. Now THAT was impressive.

Joined about 75 or 100 people... as an ensemble, cello, violin, piano and viola played the standard repertoire, 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik'. Yeah, that was nice. Oh... but you never know when destiny is going to etch something upon your soul that you will never ever forget. Cello and viola disappeared... leaving violin and piano. A duet arrangement of something I had never heard before. Camille Saint-Saƫns... 'Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso', completely blew me away. I sat there in awe. The magic, the majesty of the ages transcended to the moment. It was perfect. Looking out the fortress window at the moon shining upon Salzburg, was a sight I will never forget.. (if you don't hear music yet, keep listening.... maybe turn up volume...)

A Message in Music
As words, or a tender touch,
A caress or kiss,
Music can touch the soul...
There is a message,
If you can hear it,
A story being told...

Posted by terrav 00:03 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

and so I begin.....

Places and Faces

Upon cleaning out my parent's house several years ago I came across a box of neatly stored maps and city guides of places my folks had visited over the years. I pondered it with great thought, as I knew what they represented; more than souveneers, these were really evidence of their travels. A living legacy to places where they had traveled. I wish I had a place to keep everything in the world, I would have stuck these in a vault somewhere. But I did eventually toss them out. When I did, I thought of all the memories that would be forgotten. Places and faces laid to rest.

And so I too, now have boxes of maps and city guides from a lifetime of travel. For a guy that has ADHD I will do my darndest to sort out my travel experiences.

I don't know how I got the wandering spirit that I have... at the age of 16 years old (circa 1966) all I could do was dream about being on my own, and wandering like a rolling stone. So with $40.00 safely stashed away, in the dead of night, I snuck out the back door, and hit the highway. Hitch hiked through the state of California. After 2 weeks I was ready to come back home. I did so, with the same $40.00 still safely tucked away in my pocket.

Well, 40 years later, there are still many places I haven't been. My priority of travel was Europe (Italy, France and Spain) and I tend to want to return to places I have been to rather than to travel to countries I have never been to before. Am the same way with ice cream. Every time, same flavor. Boring, ehhh??? Pistashio nut and Jamoca Almond fudge. Why mess with anything else? So I repeat myself. Rome, Paris. Sicily. Paris, Sicily. Guess it just takes more times to be able to travel.

Right now, am a bit stuck. I am just about to break ground on a house up in the California foothills. A dream house so to speak. Yes, a large project. Once I reach a certain stage in building (or complete it!) I hope to hit the road again, and continue my treks.

Posted by terrav 01:03 Comments (0)

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