31 January 2008

ahhhh Paris

by Chris

Florida friends Bobbie & Mike"Bingo"Reid have been visiting us in Dublin, so we all decided to take a side trip. When picking a destination for first time visitors to Europe, we had to go to


I haven't been to Paris since 1989, but Kelly just went recently with Alli. We were all very excited! We were greeted by mild weather (45 degrees) and clear skies...and the Arc de Triomphe !

We stayed in an area of town called Montparnasse, which is a great central location to use as home base when seeing the sites of Paris.

Unlike Dublin, Paris is gigantic...so although we walked alot, we also took the Metro.

Taking the Metro still involves alot of walking through the underground maze of tunnels connecting different lines. In the picture above Bingo is demonstrating moves he learned watching the Matrix.

We walked through the Luxembourg Gardens (jardins de luxembourg) and the Latin Quarter on day one...on our way to

Notre Dame

Visiting in the low season is always a great way to avoid the crowds. We walked right in and spent some time checking out the amazing interior.


Afterwards we had some refreshments at one of the cafe's overlooking the cathedral.

On day two of our trip we encountered some small problems.

After having some difficulty finding the entrance to the Catacombs, we discovered that they are closed until March for renovations. So off we went to the Louvre museum.

Turns out the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays...we were stunned. Luckily, many people will say that the Louvre (although the largest museum in the world & home of the Mona Lisa) is not the best museum in Paris. That title belongs to the Musee d'Orsay which is just across the river from the Louvre AND is open on Tuesdays. So off we went !

Although much smaller, the Musee d'Orsay houses an impressive collection of mostly French art. It is most famous for holding the worlds greatest collection of impressionist masterpieces.

All the big names are here : Degas, Manet, Matisse, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh to name a few.

Starry Night over the Rhone - Van Gogh

Japanese bridge and water lillies - Claude Monet

Whistler's mother - James Abbot McNeil Whistler

But of course...the highlight of anyone's trip is when you first see the great lady of Paris.

After a day of small mishaps with closings and renovations, it comes at no suprise that the top of the Eiffel Tower is CLOSED during the week in the winter for renovations !

Luckily a trip up to the first and second levels is still quite amazing, and gives you a great backdrop for pictures.

The view from the first level looking down the center of the tower.

Chris & Kelly on the second level.

Bobbie & Bingo in Paris....ahhh Paris.

More B-I-N-G-O in Paris


25 January 2008

The Most Serene Republic

"Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go"
Truman Capote
Venice was a dream come true.

It was every bit as charming and shabby as I had hoped.

"In the winter, Venice is like an abandoned theater. The play is finished, but the echoes remain."
Arbit Blatas

Visiting Italy in winter made me a little wistful for sunshine and warmth but it also helped us avoid massive crowds and see things at our own pace.

Frankly I think Venice's winter mantle of fog and mist made her even more alluring.
The Grand Canal in the winter haze. Doesn't it seem delightfully mysterious?

"Venice - A city for beavers."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I couldn't disagree with R.W.E. more. Like many other before us, Chris and I fell in love with narrow canals and teeny tiny bridges.

The greatest pleasure we got in Venice was getting lost among the narrow streets and alleys. Even when that meant hitting dead ends.
Especially when that meant hitting dead ends!!

"If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined.
Venice is -- Venice is better
Fran Lebowitz

The Rialto Bridge at night.

A Squero is a workshop dedicated to the art of building gondolas. While there may be many kinds of boats traveling Venice's waterways, the gondola is a true icon of the city.

Some of the finished product.

"Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors."
Henry James
As I said before, a winter visit allowed us to glimpse what real life in Venice might be like.

Example A: these boys carrying an ENTIRE roasted pig (yes, head, tail - the whole works.) Along with a third friend they went from door to door, laughing and shouting. I am pretty sure they were trying to sell hunks of their roasted pig. People answering their knocks greeted them affectionately, "Ciao Bruno! Ciao Nicko! Ciao Gianni!"

I'm pretty sure we would have missed these precious moments in the press of summer tourists.

"But love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit."
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Act II sce. 6

Did I mention Venice is verrrrry romantic?

"A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him."
Arthur Symons

"Venice would be a fine city if it were only drained
Ulysses S. Grant

Oh Hogwash!!!!
Though the canals get all the glory, this city is about more than just water.

Pisa ain't got nothing on Venice.
And OY! You want churches? How about this Byzantine number? Saint Mark's Basilica is a gilded confection of worship. No cameras were allowed inside so you'll just have to use your imagination. If the outside is this fanciful you can guess what lies in store for you through the doors.

And San Marco sits on the Piazza San Marco making it all the more impressive.

Unless of course you don't like pigeons.

To sum up....well, truth is, I can't really sum up more eloquently than Byron....
Take it away, Sir.

"I loved her from my boyhood; she to me
Was as a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn, and of wealth the mart;
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare's art,
Had stamp'd her image in me."

Lord Byron


24 January 2008

Just Thursday

Hiya Folks. We figured we'd give the Italy posts a rest for a bit, but rest assured, there's more to come. Chris and I each have at least one more Italian post in us. :)

Also look for an I, Keano review by guest blogger MK coming soon.

See how I tease and tantalize with tidbits of info? Like it or not, Dear Reader, you are putty in my hands. Think on it.

In the meantime, here's just a little bit of what's happening here today.

Last night Chris went to a lacrosse meeting and I was lucky enough to reconnect with my friend Rebecca. She brought the wine and dessert while I slaved over a hot stove for about 10 minutes cooking up some yummy Marks & Spencer prepared meals. We both came armed with lots of catching up since we haven't seen each other since before Christmas. Becca is one of my new favorite people since moving to Dublin. She is sharp, sweet, sassy and smart. She's got more energy than any one person has a right to have and cracks me up with her antics and adventures. Every time we hang out I feel rejuvenated and upbeat afterwards and that's a real gift.
Anyway, I mention her enough in e-mails and phone calls back home so I figured it was about time I posted a picture so there can be a face to go with the name. We didn't take any last night but here's one from the softball team's annual meeting / Christmas party.

Oh yeah, did I mention she's a knockout??
Rebecca will be trying out for the women's Irish national team this weekend...after only four months since picking up a stick. Wish her luck!
Go go Sporty Spice!!!

Speaking of Irish National Team tryouts...that occurs this weekend and Christian has his hands full organizing and planning along with the other Dublin lacrosse fellas (plus a couple of the coaches from the States flying over.) Needless to say, all the Irish lads are stoked to have the opportunity to play for their country and Chris is thrilled to be part of it all. He has officially been invited to be part of the coaching staff and personally I think they couldn't have made a better choice.

The games themselves will be in Finland in August and the whole Irish lacrosse community is looking forward to it. They've all been training and working out in preparation for the tryouts. Apparently one of the rigors of tryouts is "fitness testing" which includes a "fat test" using those fat measuring caliper thinga-ma-bobs they use on you when you join a gym. Ha!!! As if I didn't already have multiple reason for not playing lacrosse myself that little morsel of info just sealed the deal. I WILL NOT have my fat content measured in a public forum.

Speaking of working out...while I haven't been exactly exercising I have been trying to take a nice long, brisk walk each day since coming home from Italy. I think I've managed to shed the extra pounds I packed on while there, now I just need to work on the extra few I brought with me from Dublin. Today was a gorgeous day and I got out there for a good solid hour before moving on to my tasks for the day. It was a cold and clear Thursday. The sky was blue!! The sun was visible!! I even had sunglasses on!! Not that I technically needed them but donning them made me feel better

So I may have lost one of the two food babies I was carrying (Luigi, the Italian one) but I still have food baby number one to shed (Declan, the Irish one...duh).
Those that know me know I'd rather be curled up with a good book than breaking a sweat. Sigh.

Speaking of good books...ok, I don't really have anything to contribute on that topic at the moment. But in other news we are excited to be expecting more guests from St. Petersburg. Mike and Bobbi will arrive tomorrow morning and we are totally excited for their visit. I believe it'll be the first European vacation for both of them and since they expressed interest in seeing another city as well as Dublin we took advantage of cheap flights and the four of us will spend a few days in Paris. And you know that makes me happy!!! So, fun with guests in Ireland, then a few days in France and mixed in with all that - lots of lacrosse.

Life is good.


23 January 2008

An Oldie but a Goodie

After you have watched the clip, you can press play on the mp3 player on the right if you would like music while you read the blog


20 January 2008

Holy Ceilings Batman!!

Here is just a small selection of our Ceiling Photos. Trust me when I tell you that in the interest of keeping your attention, Dear Reader, I am sparing you all 35 different ceilings,
magnificent though they may be.

Yeah, the Vatican's got some fairly impressive stuff eh?

Is it any wonder I spent the whole vacation like this?

It was raining on the day we went inside the Pantheon. It was pretty cool to watch the rain come in through the ceiling. It was....funny to hear another American tourist talk about the two thousand year old building, this astounding feat of engineering, this, STILL the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome as having a DESIGN FLAW because of the opening in the ceiling.
We didn't set him straight.

from Wikipedia: The interior of the roof was possibly intended to symbolize the arched vault of the heavens. The Great Eye at the dome's apex is the source of all light. The oculus also serves as a cooling and ventilation method. As wind passes over the dome of the Pantheon, it is accelerated and creates a negative pressure zone called the Venturi effect. This pulls air out of the oculus at the top of the dome, drawing more air in from the portico entrance. During storms, a drainage system below the floor handles the rain that falls through the oculus.

Is it possible to overdose on beauty?
Talk about famous ceilings!!
Chris snapped this bootleg picture in the Sistine Chapel as we stepped through the door and before the guards yelled at us "No Pictures!!"
(We didn't intentionally break the law, we thought it was just no flash, hence the crappy quality.)

Even the ceilings that aren't there are pretty cool.

Our Venice pictures were more about the bridges and canals than ceilings...it was a nice change after Rome. We still managed to see a spectacular ceiling or two, but none on this post.

Florence pics from here down:

This room made me feel tiny.
I liked this room.

I like things that make me feel tiny.
Especially after 10 days eating pasta twice a day.

Did I mention we both came home with severely stiff necks?


18 January 2008

Twenty Five Things To Love About Italy

25) Spaces like this are EVERYWHERE.

24) Never getting lost, because...
All Roads Lead to Rome!! (sorry I couldn't resist)
Travelers' caveat...Rome is NOT for the faint of ankle.
23) Big doors.
22) Land of a thousand churches, each one more beautiful than the next.
21) It's got Venice.
20) Small dogs in sweaters.

19) The colors!!
It's all ochres and umbers, reds and russets, goldens, tangerines, tomatoes, siennas and ambers.....

18) Traveling with my lovely Hub.

17) The Area Sacra in Rome: home to remains of four ancient temples AND a cat sanctuary!! Roughly the size of a city block and sitting about 15 feet below street level...we must have seen at least 20 cats there, popping out of nooks and crannies, lounging on the grass, perched on the remains of two thousand year old walls. All fed, neutered and with shots.
What a happy happy place.

16) The ceilings!

15) Morning markets.
14) Life-sized Pinocchios.

13) Getting lost in the details.

12) Finally finding proof that break dancing was around long before the eighties.

Little Known Historical Fact:
It's a common misconception that all the white architecture and statuary were actually intended to be seen that way. Most building and statues were brightly colored with paint. For example, homeboy's parachute pants were originally painted on, though time has long since worn them away.

11) Sweets! Sweets! Sweets!

10) Tiny little three wheeled trucks zipping hell-bent-for-leather all over the place.
9) Architectural delights (even when it's just the remnants.)

8) Vespas!!

7) Lots of old marble bits and pieces laying about for the taking. They'll look so lovely in your garden at home - you can just grab one and take it with you!! Lot's of other people have done it.
6) The Bidet. Civilization at it's finest?
5) Shunning gypsies.
4) Traveling around with this tough guy, making my shunning redundant (but still quality entertainment.)

3) Public fountains running fresh water all over Rome (but also spotted in lesser concentrations in Venice and Florence.) Even better, but not captured on film, was seeing several city residents using them to slake their thirst, tame unruly hair, refresh the face, wash an apple, water the dog...
2) Marble Columns!

And the number one thing to love about Italy?
(drumroll please...also you might want to pause the music near top right)

Wait, wait, wait....I just have to make one more point before the grand finale. The ordering of this list, with the possible exception of Numero Uno below, is entirely arbitrary and was determined simply by the order I stumbled across each picture whilst scrolling amongst the thousands we took. For example, I definitely do NOT love traveling with my husband less than I love life-sized Pinocchio.

Okay, you can resume your drumroll.....
The Number One Thing To Love About Italy.....


p.s. Happy Birthday Daddy.