Viaggiamo a Milano

I woke up early this morning because I was hot. The house we rented in Varenna does not have air conditioning. While laying in bed, all I could think about was why didn’t I let Albert sleep in the room with the bunk beds. It was not a big deal. He asked about it while we were orientating to the house, but our hostess suggested the bedroom he slept in and I didn’t think it was a big deal. So why am I laying in bed, wondering why I didn’t let him sleep in the bunk beds? He never mentioned it again. I don’t think he has ever slept in bunk beds before. I’m sure he would have found it fun. I regret that I didn’t tune in or that it didn’t occur to me until the last day here. I brought him all the way to Italy to have new experiences and I may have missed letting him have the simple experience of sleeping in a bunk bed. Parenting is always fun.

We left the house about 9:10. Since we were early, we went to the restaurant at the train station and ate a second breakfast. Well Shari and Albert did, I just had coffee. The train arrived a little later than scheduled. The cars were already mostly full. Shari, Albert and I were not able to sit together.

Once we arrived at Milan-Centrale train station we easily maneuvered thought the station to the Metro station. We maneuvered the Metro and got off at the Duomo station. I had a little trouble navigating with Google maps once we were out of the Metro station. We found a shady spot to figure things out and were quickly on our way.

We register at the hotel, but our room was not ready, so we checked the luggage and went out to explore and get some lunch. After lunch we walked by the Duomo to see what all the particulars were about tickets and waiting in line. We were concerned if the shorts that Albert and I were wearing and the skort that Shari was wearing would be allowed in. Shari approached and attendant who said our dress was fine and encouraged us to go to the normal ticket counter, not the Skip the Line ticket counter. So We walked across the street where we purchased three tickets and three audio guides.

We walked back across the street to get to the entrance and wait in line. As we entered the line we walked past an attendant who said we were in the wrong line. He directed us to the “skip the line”, line. We can only guess it was because he saw Albert with us that he moved us. That was a blessing because it save us 30 minutes of standing in the hot sun waiting to get in.

We walked around the Duomo for an hour listening to the audio tour. The interior is amazing with 52 sequoia size columns. After finishing the interior tour. We took the elevator to the terraces (roof). We had to go through security again and the guard kept Albert’s Guy Fawkes mask. He told us we could pick it up after we finished. The terraces are very interesting. The details that are carved into the marble is amazing. We walked all the way up to the very top of the Duomo. It was an awesome experience.

After riding the elevator back down, we stopped by the security check point and retrieved Albert’s Guy Fawkes mask and the walked over to the ticket office to return the audio guides and retrieve my passport.

We walked to the hotel and finally check into our room. It was after 6:00 when we entered the cool comfort of the room. We “chilled” in the room for a while and then decided to go get a gelato. We walked over the the Galleria Victor Emanuel and found a gelatoria. Afterward we strolled around and went outside where the Leonardo Da Vinci statue is. We sat on a bench near the statue and ate our gelato. When we finished we took a couple of pictures with the statue and then strolled along the street back towards the Duomo. After wandering around for another 30 minutes we walked back to the hotel. We all took showers and freshened up before going to bed.

Ultimo giorno al Lago di Como

This morning we took the ferry across the lake to Menaggio. Once there we wandered around the square looking for a tourist office. We never found anything, but enjoyed the walk around the lake front. We decided to walk to the Villa Carlotta. Google maps said it was a 3km walk and it would take us about an hour. Shari and Albert were game, so we started walking. Most of the walk had sidewalks, but there were a few places we had to walk on the road. At one point we walked through a tunnel, which Albert thought was a pretty neat experience. He asked me later if we were going to walk through it again.

The Villa Carlotta is an old estate and botanical garden. When we arrived we approached the ticket window and asked for three adult tickets. The tickets are €10 each. The woman at the ticket window asked how old Albert was and I told her he is an adult. Then she said in broken English, he doesn’t pay. I said, Thank you. She handed me back my card and three tickets. We all said thank you and began to walk into the gardens. It occurred to me that she didn’t have me sign anything for the charge. Then I looked at the tickets and all three were no charge. This is not the first time, in Italy, Albert has not been charged an entrance fee. The first time was when we were in Rome at Castle San Angelo. However, this is the first time the someone let all three of us in for free.

We wandered around the Villa Carlotta’s gardens for about an hour. They were spectacular in both the variety of plants and how beautifully the flowers were maintained and arranged. After touring the gardens we entered the house. It was also spectacular with the first floor having greco-roman plaster reliefs all along the walls. It contained several greco-roman statues. It also contained a collection of paintings. www.villacarlotta.it

After walking around the Villa Carlotta, Albert was starving. We walked south to Tremezzo and found a restaurant with shaded outdoor seating and ate lunch. After lunch we walked about 1/4 of a mile to the ferry launch on the lake in front of the Villa Carlotta. We found a shady spot under a tree and waited about 15 minutes for the ferry. We rode the ferry across the lake to San Geovani, then to Bellagio, Menaggio, and then to Varenna. Shari wanted to sit on the front of the ferry in the open air and sun. After a while Albert and I couldn’t handle the heat anymore and went into the main cabin. This turned out to be a good move. The normally stuffy cabin was breezy and not in the sun.

After arriving in Varenna, we walked along the water to the gelatoria where everyone got gelato, and then we walked up the the Varenna town square and found a shady spot to sit and eat our gelato. I went to fill up the water bottle at a spring outside the church and noticed the church was open. Shari and Albert walked over and we all went into the church. This was our first time inside the church in Varenna. After touring the church and saying a prayer we went back to the square and sat on a bench under a tree. Albert asked if we could leave a couple of times and I told him no. He was bored sitting in the shade. I told him we would leave once the church bells rang six o’clock.

After the church bells rang we walked back to the ferry terminal. We decided to see if we could just ride the ferry around the lake for a while. We rode a car ferry from Varenna to Menaggio. At Menaggio I realized that this would be the only ferry for 40 minutes, so we quickly got back on the ferry. We thought it was headed to Bellagio, but Varenna was it’s first stop. Once back in Varenna, we decided to get off the ferry and go up to the house and clean up. Since this is our last night in Varenna, we decided to go out to dinner.

After we all showered and dressed, we walked back down the hill to a restaurant that overlooks the ferry terminal and the lake. The restaurant specializes in lake seafood, so we all ordered seafood for dinner. Everyone enjoyed their meals and we had dessert. It looked like a thunderstorm was rolling in, so we finished up and paid so we could get back to the house before it rained.

Once back at the house, we watched the thunderstorm from the patio. The lightening flashed across the lake, but the storm moved South and away from us. Shari and I sat outside and finished off the last of the red wine and watching the lightening show across the lake.

Secondo giorno al Lago di Como

Today we explored Varenna. We are moving slow this morning and it will be a nice day to stay close to the house and see what is nearby.

We started exploring Varenna by walking down to the ferry terminal and then along the sidewalk that winds around the water front. We continued past the town center and up an alley way that brought us south of the main town square. The Tourist information center is nearby, so we went in to get a map. After reviewing the map we continued to walk south along the road past the monastery We walk along via Roma until we reached the top of the hill and steps to continue to Castle of Vezio. The climb to the castle was very steep and rocky. Albert has some difficulty. Mostly he was uncomfortable with the rocky trail and worried about loosing his footing. So he moved slow. It took us 30 minutes from the stairs to get to the castle. The castle is mostly ruins and was built by either the Romans or the Lombards depending on what historical reference you believe. The view of the lake was spectacular.

We took the ferry trail back to Varenna. It was steep and rocky and we moved slow. As we reached the end, we realized we were at the gate to our house. So we took a break and went inside for a few minutes. Next, we walked back down to the ferry terminal and along the water front. We wanted to get a gelato, but it was sunny and hot and Shari wanted to find some shade. All the gelaterias were down around the waterfront, where at this time of day it is sunny and hot. Fortunately, we found a shaded place along the sidewalk to eat our gelato. Afterward we walked back up to the shade of the town square.

While filling the water bottle near the town square, Shari notice another grocery store. So after sitting in the shade for a while, we walked over to the store. I bought a bottle of wine and a little cheese. Afterwards we walked along the road toward the house.

After the sun was low, we went outside on the patio and ate dinner. We had the meat, olives, and cheese we bought and of course, the wine. We played Uno on the patio as we watched the sun go down over the mountain.

Primo giorno sul lago di Como

This morning I learned something new. How to make coffee in an Italian stove-top espresso maker. I made one pot and it did not turn out very well. So I watched a video on YouTube and realized what I did wrong. I was using too much heat on the first batch. I used a lower heat on the second and it turned out much better.

This morning we rode the ferry over to Bellagio. Today we don’t have an agenda, we are just explored. The ferry terminal in Bellagio is right outside a promenade with shops. We strolled down the promenade until we reached the end and then crossed the street and walked along the sea wall. At one point we stopped and walked down a few steps to the water’s edge. Shari stuck her feet in the water and said it was cold. We continued to walk along the sea wall until we reached the entrance to the Villa Melzi gardens.

After pizza for lunch, we walked down Via Eugenio Vitali to Parchetto della Punta, a beautiful park on the tip of Bellagio. It has a spectacular view of the lake and a green lawn with plenty of shade. People were lounging in the grass enjoying the spectacular view of the lake. Watching the people around us, it occurred to me that what everyone wants is someone to love, maybe a family, and if you have that family, to enjoy the time together with them and to experience the world together.

Since we were all running out of gas, we walked back down to the ferry terminal to catch a boat back to Varenna. We stopped at a Gelateria along the way and each got a gelato. We boarded a ferry and sat at the front and ate our gelato as we rode back to Varenna.

After the sun went down, we went outside on the patio. I opened a bottle of wine and plated some of the meats, cheese, and olives we bought. We sat on the patio eating, drinking wine and playing Uno. We also discovered that the house came with an affectionate cat.

Ultimo giorno a Venezia

Today is our last day in Venice and a travel day. We slept in this morning and packed up for the train ride to Varenna. We left the hotel around noon and took a vaporetto to the train station. We arrived a little early, so we stood outside the train station in the shade people watching.

The train trip to Milan took a little over two hours, but we saw a lot of beautiful Italian countryside. Once in the Milan Centrale station, we waited for our train to Varenna-Esino to be assigned a platform. Our train was delayed 30 minutes, but that was not a major inconvenience.

I was having trouble finding a triple hotel room in Varenna, so I used AirBNB to find a great house. It has an awesome patio that overlooks the town an Lake Como. Here is the view.

After settling in, we walked to town to get something for dinner before the stores closed. We walked on a narrow sidewalk along the main road until we came to a set of steps. The steps led to an alley were we walked along the outside dining for several restaurants. Eventually, we came to an open area. It was the town center where the church was located. At the south end of the square, we found a shop the sold a few groceries. We bought wine, cheese, prosciutto, and salami. They were out of bread for the day. With our dinner in the bag we walked back to the house.

Once the sun went behind a cloud we sat outside and enjoyed the lake view. Shari and I sat outside on the patio watching the sun go down and the stars come out until 10:30, when we went inside to go to bed.

Terzo giorno a Venezia

This morning we stood in line for about 40 minutes to get inside the Basilica of San Marco. Once inside we toured the ground floor in a few minutes. It was dark and hard to make out much detail of the mosaics. Afterwards we went up a steep flight of stairs to reach the San Marco Museum. We toured the museum which was interesting, but what I really wanted to do was to go outside and look over Piazza San Marco.

In the afternoon, we wandered the alley ways of Venice eventually arriving at the far end of Piazza San Marco. We took a right and headed toward the Accademia. We were just strolling with no real destination or time to get there. We came to the Santa Maria De Giglio square. At one end of the square was the Ristorante Al Giglio. They had a nice shaded outdoor eating area, so stopped there for a late lunch/early dinner.

After dinner we walked to the Grand Canal and hired a gondola to take us on a tour. The tour lasted 30 minutes and it costed €100 including the tip. It was pricey, but definitely one of those things you need to experience in Venice.

After the gondola ride we continued walking toward the Accademia. We crossed the Accademia bridge across the Grand Canal. We walked along Rio Tera Foscarini until we reached the waters of the Guidecca Canal. Right then a tug boat was pulling a huge cruise ship through the canal. I’ve never been on a cruise, so it looked like a huge ship to me.

We walked back to Piazza San Marco and went to 6:45 mass in the Basilica. For mass they had the lights on which made it much easier to see the gold mosaics above the altar. We also had a choir visiting from somewhere which added beautiful a capella music to the mass. The mass was in Italian, of course. I kept up with it a little bit, but I was too slow at some place to get the responses right.

After mass we walked back to the hotel and got a gelato along the way. We ate our gelato and did a little window shopping as we walked.

Secondo giorno a Venezia

After breakfast we began walking towards the Piazza San Marco. We started at the Rialto bridge which is close to our hotel. Once we reached the Piazza we continued walking until we reached the water. A cool breeze was blowing in off the Grand Canal. We walked along the Grand Canal away from the Piazza. It was a nice stroll and we occasionally encountered large waves of fellow tourist headed toward the Piazza. We walked almost to the end before turning around and returning to the Piazza. We walked through the streets and stopped in at the Church of St Giuliano and the church of St Salvador.

This evening we ate dinner while a thunderstorm blew through. Afterwards, we walked back to Piazza San Marco and rode the elevator up to the top of the Campanile. A view of Venice from the Campanile of St. Mark’s..

Primo giorno a Venezia

Today was a travel day. We flew from Atlanta to Milan. Took the train from Milan to Venice. Then a Vaporetta from the train station to the Rialto launch which is near our hotel. We are staying at Hotel a La Commedia in Venice. It took us 17 hours of travel to get here. After freshening up, we went up to the hotel’s rooftop bar for cocktails and snacks.

Through the eyes of CNN

During my travels in Europe, I’ve noticed that most hotels have a TV somewhere in the lobby. In my experience, that TV is tuned into CNN. If most Europeans get their impression of America and Americans from CNN, they are receiving a very distorted picture.

Ant-man and the Wasp

This afternoon I took my son and a friend to see Ant-man and the Wasp. It was a really fun movie. It was extra special for my son, because he visit the set of the movie while they were filming in Atlanta. He was allowed to watch the filming of a few scenes and had the pleasure of meeting Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly on the set.

The studio visit was arrange by my nieces boyfriend, Daniele who was working on the movie. He was such a great guy and photographer. Later he presented Albert with framed copies of the photos that were autographed by Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly. What a special gift to remember a special day.

Tomato sandwiches

For lunch today I had the first tomato sandwiches of 2018. The tomatoes were some of the first, that the birds didn’t get, from my garden.

I make my tomato sandwiches with fresh soft white bread. Sunbeam “King Thin” is my favorite. I slather each side of the bread with a generous portion of Duke’s mayonnaise. Then I slice as much tomato as will fit on the bread without falling out when I pick it up to eat. Then a little salt and pepper to finish. Bon appetit, y’all. I have so many tomatoes, I had to have two sandwiches today, before the tomatoes go bad. I finished the meal with a moon pie.

In my humble opinion, that is a classic southern lunch.

Quote of the Day

“Socialism is the Axe Body Spray of political ideologies: It never does what it claims to do, but people too young to know better keep buying it anyway.” Via Instapundit

Morning Thunderstorm

This morning a thunderstorm rolled in. You could hear it coming from far away. When it reached us, It poured down rain and the lightning flashed for about fifteen minutes. There was a flash of lightning and a very loud clap of thunder and then, almost immediately, the rain stopped. The storm reminded me of the ones that would roll in off the Gulf of Mexico on a summer morning when I was growing up in Pensacola.

On Being a Gentleman

Cultivate the virtues of the soul, strong principle, incorruptible integrity, usefulness, refined intellect, and fidelity in seeking for truth. A man in proportion as he has these virtues will be honored and welcomed everywhere.

Hartley, Cecil B.. The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman’s Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society (p. 96). . Kindle Edition.

Guiltless Pleasure

Normally, I’m not a groupie or a fan boy, but after reading an interview with her in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, I consider myself a fan of Nigella Lawson. She has been a culinary sensation for some time in the UK. Shocking, because I don’t normally think of the British when I think good food.

I enjoyed the entire article, but what endeared me to her was how she replied when asked a question about what food trend she was totally over. Her reply echoed my own feelings, but she said it more eloquently.

“A food trend I am totally over is: this tendency to venerate or demonize foods. I have nothing against people wanting to eat in a way that makes them feel healthy and well; that seems eminently wise. But I feel that any form of eating that involves self-persecution can only do long-term damage, however essentially healthy a certain food trend might be. When there are so many land mines and rules, you kill the sense of kinship with the body. It makes eating something fear-filled rather than joyful.”

I must admit, I have felt for years that the kill joys in the media, government, and pop culture and been waging a food fight. Eat this, not that. You’re not healthy unless you run 5 miles per day and limit your saturated fat. On and on. The constant scolding took its toll on me.

It took my mother death to provide me some badly needed perspective. It was a stark reminder that life is short. A cliché, I know, but it helped me to prioritize my own life. I reflected on what I enjoyed and what brought meaning to my life. I realized how good food and the simple pleasure of cooking and eating with family and friends adds so much joy to my life.

Cooking has always been how I expressed my creative side. I love the traditional southern cooking of my youth, but I also love exploring different cultures through their food. Good food satisfies both my physical and intellectual hungers to explore the world and to learn. The guiltless pleasure of good food enriches my life every day.

I’m old and cynical enough to think the article was probable about getting me to buy her latest cookbook, “At My Table.” Well if that’s true, then it worked. After reviewing the table of contents, I placed my order. I look forward to sharing many wonderful meals with family and friends. Buon Appetito!

Sunday Supper

Traditionally in the South, Sunday Supper was the big meal of the day. After everyone get’s home from church, they would eat a big lunch and it would be the last meal of the day.

At my house we continue the tradition with a few changes. We eat around 2pm and I make sure I cook enough to have leftovers for later in the week.

Today’s menu was:

Pork chops, Mexi-corn Casserole, Sautéed green cabbage with bacon, Steamed Asparagus, and Arnold Palmers to drink. (After all it’s The Masters weekend)

For dessert there was Red Velvet cake with cream cheese icing.

It was all delicious.

Grief

One year ago today, my mother died. I wish a could write a lengthy tribute to her, but words fail me. I miss her all the time. Here is a picture of us together when I took her to a Blue Wahoos game. Fond memories.

Mission Statement

The purpose of this blog is to give me a forum where I can write about the people and places that make up my little corner of heaven, also known as “The South.”

I have lived all my days in the Southeastern United States. I have lived in 4 of the 12 states and visited all of them, except Arkansas. Currently, I live in one of the region’s largest metropolitan areas, Atlanta, but I have lived in one of its smallest, too. (Monroeville, AL pop. 6,500)

A few things I love about this region include sugar white sand beaches, crawfish boils, Mardi Gras, SEC football (Go Gators!), Mint Juleps, fried mullet, raw oysters, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, deviled eggs, pimento cheese sandwiches, Barq’s root beer in a bottle, wisteria, confederate jasmine, azaleas, pink dog wood trees, and bourbon.

When writing, I will select topics that make me smile and reflect warm light on the subject matter. I will only write about politics when provoked.

I named it “Classic Seersucker” because in my mind the quintessential Southern Gentleman is in a Seersucker suit.

The Success Sequence

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Wendy Wang of the Institute for Family Studies, writes about the idea that school, work, marriage, and childbearing form a sequence that leads to success. She claims that growing up in the Asian culture this sequence was common knowledge. She urges that we share this secret with poor and working-class communities here in the US. I heartily agree. Spread the word.

Steel Magnolias

Last night my wife and I watched Steel Magnolias (1989). I became interested in the movie after listening to a Garden & Gun podcast that featured it. The movie was released in 1989, but I can’t remember watching it. I always considered it a chick-flick. It was a cute movie. As a parent I found it sad, because your worst nightmare is always having one of your children die.

Sazerac at home

Last night I enhanced my bar tending skills by making my first Sazerac at home. I found a recipe for the quintessential Southern cocktail at Thirstysouth.com. I settled on this recipe after doing some research on the web and realizing that it was the best match for my bar tending abilities.

I spent an hour on Friday night at my local Total Wine store purchasing the ingredients. I chose a nice rye bourbon and splurged on the Lucid Absinthe because I read a good review about it.

Considering first attempts always leave room for improvement, I enjoyed the results. To me a Sazerac is a very aromatic drink. Every sip has a different flavor and smell than the previous. I enjoyed it and I look forwarded to enjoying many more in the future.

Learning

One of the reasons for setting up a blog again is to keep learning new things. I enjoy learning.

This blog is privately hosted, so I have to learn the host management software. I’ve had moderate success.

WordPress is also something I’m slowly learning. There is also a WordPress app for my phone which is a nice tool.

Stay tuned for more.