Ancient Rome

In April we took the boys to Italy for spring break, thinking that they would have a marvelous time exploring all that history.  Seeing that history is their favorite subject, mixed with historical politics we also though ancient Rome would be a favorite spot.  When we got there, we were surprised to see bored faces, and unimpressed looks.

It seems we have Hollywood to blame for this.  When we made our way to the coliseum (and realizing we were losing our audience) we thought we’d wow them with the ancient structure.  Turns out, they were expecting a rebuilt version of it’s former glory, something akin to what they saw in Gladiator.  I guess we should have taken them on a formal tour to pike their interest.

In the end, they thought it was impressive.  But their favorite tour turned out to be Villa Adriana and Villa Deste, better known as Tivoli Gardens. Who knew?

Musée de l’Armée

The L’Hôtel national des Invalides is a group of buildings in Paris, France that house museums and monuments that relate to the military history of France.  The museums there are the Musée de’Histoire Contemporaine, Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and Musée de l’Armée.

The L’Hotel was opened originally by Louis IV to shelter and care for 7000 of the aged or informed soldiers, the building being constructed between 1671 and 1676.  There are a number of important tombs in the chapel, most notably Napoleon’s tomb.  Nine hearts are concealed in the vaults while their bodies have been put to rest in other places, a curious but not uncommon medieval practice.

It was quite and amazing complex, and when we entered, we didn’t know what we were getting into with respect to size.  It is massive, and in the end, we ended up missing some of it because we just couldn’t go on any longer.  It starts with weaponry of the middle ages, and goes through the second world war.  It is truly an astounding place to visit and see the progression of weapons over the history of civilization.

Rodin

August Rodin was born 12 November 1840, and died 17 November 1917.  He was a very progressive French artist who favored sculpture of the human body.  The Rodin Museum in Paris holds a great many of his pieces, and is such a joy to walk through.  Many of the pieces in there are his clay models he used to create the final product in some other medium such as bronze.

Below are some photographs of some of these pieces.

Bonaire

Bonaire is a small Dutch Island 55 miles off the coast of Venezuela.  The Leeward Islands, or the ABC Islands are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.  Bonaire is a desert Island, so the climate is dry and hot.  Salt mines are plentiful there, and you can see huge mountains of the white crystals from the airport when you fly in.

The first inhabitants were the Caiquetios, a group of Arawak Indians from Venezuela who inhabited the island from about 1000 B.C.  In 1499, Amerigo Vespucci and Alonso de Ojeda arrived from Spain, and they took the Island for themselves.  The Dutch took control in the late 17th century, during which time they brought slaves from Africa to work the Island.  Then from 1799-1816 politics in Europe caused ownership of the Island to be passed back and forth between various countries until it finally arrived back in the hands of the Dutch.

The Island itself is 24 miles long, and between 3-7 miles wide with an average year round temperature of 82 degrees and an average water temperature of 80 degrees.

The language spoken is Papiamento, of which there are two dialects.  Papiamento spoken on Aruba and Papiamentu spoken on Bonaire and Curacao.  It is a creole language that is derived from African and either Portuguese or Spanish with Amerindian, English and Dutch influences.  It was amazing to see them switch from Dutch to English to Papiamento with such ease.

We stayed at the Divi Dive resort in Kralendijk.  The room was meant for six, but with five of us, it was a bit cramped.  With so much dive gear, and only one tiny bathroom, it was rather a tight squeeze, and a challenge to the olfactory system once the wetsuits started to smell.

The town is very quaint and charming.  We walked in from our hotel one evening and ate dinner at an open air restaurant across the street from the ocean.  It was beautiful and relaxing.

Food however is incredibly expensive on the island.  No surprise since everything has to be brought in from other places.  The supermarkets were an interesting challenge, as most labels were in Dutch.  We had thought we would buy groceries since the room has a small stove and sink with refrigerator.  We ended up buying a loaf of bread and some peanut butter along with some snacks that we recognized.

At the end of the day, everyone would gather to eat at the outdoor dining facilities with a beautiful view of the ocean.  Not a bad way to top off the day.

Picture the World – Scotland

When I went to Scotland, I took over a thousand pictures, and that wasn’t nearly enough to convey the beauty of this country.  There is something so pleasing and soothing to the eyes in the lush green of their countryside.  However, it isn’t only the visual interest of the Scottish Countryside that I found appealing.  Scottish history is intriguing, complex, often violent and tremendously fascinating.  So when I learned from Madhu over at The Urge to Wander about the Picture the World Project on The Departure Board website,  I thought I’d have a look.

Since Scotland still seemed to be open, decided to send a picture for entry.

There are many things that are visually strong representatives of Scotland.  But my favorite is the Leanach Cottage on Culloden Moor.  This farmhouse stands on the edge of the site of the last battle of Scotland’s bid for independence that occurred on April 16, 1745.  The roof is simple thatched heather, the walls are stone and the floor is dirt.  There is a glimpse of the battlefield behind it where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s troops made their stand on a bitterly cold day and a moor sodden with rain.  A sobering experience to stand on this field, and imagine that day.

I nominate Travel Photography by Dmetrii Lezine for his wonderful photos of just about anywhere, and The Ego Tripper for the same reason.  Both well traveled, and great photos.  If you are interested in filling in some of the world pictures, just go to the link on the Departure Board in the first paragraph of this blog.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio means Old Bridge.  The original bridge was built by the Romans around 996 to cross the Arno River at it’s narrowest point, but was swept away in a flood nearly 100 years later.   It was rebuilt of stone and swept away in another flood in 1333, and rebuilt again in 1345.  The Upper portion was built in 1565 and is known today as the Vasariano Corridor which connects the Ufizzi Gallery and the Pitti Palace.

Bridge in Florence behind the Ponte Vecchio

Italian Countryside and Olive Oil

The Countryside of Florence is so very beautiful.  We drove from San Gimingnano to this little place that made Fattoria Olive Oil in San Donato where we had lunch, and got to taste Grappa.  It’s a good thing we weren’t driving.