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Showing posts from 2004

On Popes and Artists

We are in Rome because of my mother's long standing dream to see the Pope. Her parish priest has arranged for us to attend an audience with John Paul II. We pick up our tickets at the North American College near the Trevi Fountain on  Tuesday afternoon for the papal audience the following day at which approximately 15,000 people are expected. On Wednesday morning, we get up early and dress in our Sunday best. There are people already queued up to enter the temporarily enclosed square when we arrive at St. Peter's. We have to pass through a detector machine since the current pope was the target of an assassination attempt. It's early so we find good seats and while waiting, we let our eyes roam and admire the beautiful colonnades by Bernini, the dome of St. Peter's originally designed by Michaelangelo and the Swiss Guards in their striped uniform and beret. Gian Lorenzo Bernini's symmetrical colonnades consists of four rows of 300 Doric columns. Built during the papa

Finding Amore in Cinque Terre

A trail with a name like Via dell'Amore is an overt invitation to savor the pleasures that amore promises. So without trepidation, I plunged headlong to discover what so many visitors to the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) have been exclaiming about. But before I could set out, a couple asked me to take their photo at the entrance to the trail. I happily obliged and as I clicked away, I caught them kissing each other on film. What a romantic beginning! The Via dell'Amore starts at the hilltop village of Riomagiorre. All is peaceful in autumn primarily because the summer crowds have come and gone and this town, which sits at the southern tip of the Cinque Terre, is often skipped by day-trippers in favor of Vernazza to the north. The trail hugs the cliff as it meanders along the coast. The walkway is wide and well paved and there are benches for those who wish to pause and gaze at views of multi-hued waters and pastel painted villages peeking through the hills. Like a stolen kiss, the

Niagara-on-the-Lake is on the river

Horseshoe Falls* As luck would have it, it was raining all the way from Toronto to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Heavy rains and strong winds bent my umbrella out of shape as we stopped to enjoy some of the many attractions, leaving me drenched but exhilarated by the beauty of the region. Niagara-on-the-Lake is situated on the mouth of Niagara River as it rambles on its way to Lake Ontario. The temperate climate and soil condition have given birth to a thriving wine industry. This is how we found ourselves in a wine cellar being educated in the fine art of wine tasting. Following the example of our guide, we raised our wine glasses, peered through the crystal to check for color and clarity, gently swirled the goblet to let the wine breath, brought the glass to the tips of our noses to inhale the bouquet of the wine before finally sipping it, tossing it around in our palates as we savored its body. Last but not least, we were told to spit out the wine (for which spittoons were provided), but I o

Toronto, The World within a City

Taking tentative steps into the center of town, I was greeted by a cacophony of tongues, some familiar, some not, all proclaiming that Toronto is indeed "the world within a city". Toronto lies on the northern banks of Lake Ontario, the smallest of the Great Lakes. The visitor is at once drawn to the lake and Toronto Islands, a short ferry hop from Harbourfront. Standing on the bow of the ferry, I watch some ducks waddling along, like a chorus line of some sort, directly ahead of us. When the boat blew its horn, they broke ranks and flew in all directions only to return shortly thereafter, oblivious of danger. Suddenly I saw lighting strike in the distant skies and I moved to safety. From my new vintage point, I could see CN Tower punctuating the Toronto skyline. Sky Dome, home of the Blue Jays, looked like a perfectly inflated balloon. It was quiet in the islands and the park was nearly empty this early in the summer season. I would have loved to walk from one island to the o

Beautiful Bali

Batu Bolong As our Combi van coughed its way up to Kintamani on the northern side of the island, the sky suddenly gave way to torrential rain quickly inundating the narrow mountain road.  The Combi sputtered then died.  Our driver started and restarted the engine in vain while our guide tried to reassure us that this rain would be short-lived as they always are in this part of the world.  The heavy downpour was now threatening to carry our van downhill with it.  Speeding vehicles were passing us, splashing muddy water on our van as they sped away.  After what seemed like an eternity, the engine sprang back to life and we slowly edged our way to Penelokan for lunch and front center row view of Gunung Batur (Mt. Batur) volcano and Lake Batur.  We sat impatiently through lunch waiting for the veil of mist that shrouded the volcano to lift.  A faint hint of sunlight and we finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Batur with its perforated peak surrounded by the lush valley floor and lake. All t

Santa Fe - The City Different

San Miguel Mission Church* For years I’ve followed the Top 10 list of favorite travel destinations in North America and have noted that Santa Fe has consistently made the grade. I could no longer contain my curiosity so I packed my bag and headed to this Southwest town. I was eager to check the veracity of this rating. Situated on the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains, Santa Fe sits high and dry at 7000ft. The stark desert landscape deceived my eyes. It gave me the impression that the ocean was just beyond the horizon. Punctuating the flat terrain are mountains ascending to 12,000 feet. This landscape has been the inspiration for many artists who have made Santa Fe their home. Among these was Georgia O’Keeffe who settled in Abiquiu, a few miles north of the city. The O’Keeffe Museum has a fine collection of the artist’s New Mexican landscapes and startling floral paintings. Much controversy has revolved around O’Keeffe’s larger-than-life flowers. But once yo

Surprising Portugal

Surprising Portugal is an old article I wrote prior to 2005. *****