Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Going to the Opera: La Traviata: Rome

To be in Italy is to experience -- food, wine and art. The opera of course is an art form that originate from 16th century Florence.
I have gone to see a production of La Traviata at All Saint's Church close to the Spanish Steps. La Traviata (Fallen One) has been the inspiration for the Hollywood movies, Moulin Rouge (with Nicole Kidman) and Pretty Woman.

This production being in a church, is very intimate,unlike being in an opera house. It still is very professionally done, though. Some people were dressed up, but most were very casual. The best thing about it is that it only cost 20 euro.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Il Papiro: Florence & Rome

I love this store so much, I went to the one in Florence and the one in Rome. They sell all stuff to do with writing - papers, calligraphy pens, leather bound journals, etc. I bought a seal with my initial and a few Murano glass pens for friends. The owner is friendly and even gave me extra discount (always ask -- even in stores).

Ponte Vechio: Florence

The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is one of the touristy places to see in Florence, Italy. As the name says, it is an old bridge, it dates back from the Medieval Period and it crosses the Arno River (Hitler apparently spared it from bombing during the war).

The street leading to it is one jewelry shop after another (Italian gold of course are known to be of good quality), occasionally interspersed with gellateria and shops selling leather goods which are also good buys especially in Florence, vendors selling tacky tourist souvenirs such as aprons with David and Birth of Venus images (all of the above - gold, leather, gelato, tacky aprons) I am guilty of purchasing -- told you it's touristy.

If you are going with your significant other, bring a padlock. In the middle of the bridge is a place where lovers would declare their undying love by locking their padlock and throwing away the key (in the river).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Santa Maria della Vittoria: Rome

Santa Maria della Vittoria is probably mostly visited for its "orgasm statue" -- the Ecstacy of St. Teresa by Bernini in the Cornaro Chapel. It's funny that this baroque masterpiece is in a church. Bernini, unlike Michelangelo or Donatello who both made beautiful statues of men, obviously had personal interest/experience in women to portray such an honest expression.

I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart  (notice that the angel's arrow is not exactly pointing to her heart), and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying. --Chapter XXIX; Part 17, Teresa's Autobiography

This is a MUST SEE -- Bernini = Genius!

Cripta dei Cappuccini (Crypt): Rome

This is a different and macabre way to display and see art -- human bones and skulls formed into intricate design patterns. 

“One of the most horrifying images in all of Christendom…” -Frommer's

There are bones and skulls everywhere - chandeliers, picture frames, wall art, etc.

Perfumerie - Santa Maria Novella : Florence

Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

This is a treasure of a find, it's so beautiful and oh so old world -- it is potions and lotions. This perfumerie is connected to Santa Maria Novella from the monastery side and very unassuming. This is the world's oldest pharmacy dating back from the 13th century of Giotto and Dante's time. Quite intimidating at first because it seems so fancy shmancy, but the staff are actually very helpful in letting you sample their products. Perfect place to get a gift ( for yourself) to bring back home. Oh, and their honey are also divine.

I don't think they have a website, but here are  links for info about this very beautiful (and oh so girly) place:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Santa Maria Novella: Florence

In Florence, of course, it is a given that everyone goes to see The Duomo and Santa Croce (where Michelangelo, Galileo and almost everyone who was anyone was entombed). Santa Maria Novella is often bypassed; because it is close to the main railway station of the same name, it's a bit on the seedy side.

Florence back then is all about the powerful and the ridiculously rich families; they have financed this first great basilica to house their family's funerary chapels.  It is amazingly chock-full of frescoes by the masters of the Gothic and the Renaissance (such as Ghirlandaio, Michelangelo's teacher) era.

The most important art work here is,
The Holy Trinity by Massacio or "Trinita"
 "The first great painter of the Italian Renaissance, whose application of scientific perspective and depiction of natural lighting represent an important step in the development of modern painting.

... his work embodies some of the most important advances in Western realistic art. His paintings inspired Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, and his artistic innovations contributed to a new way of looking at the world that gave birth to the Scientific Revolution."

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Baden-Powell Trail: Northshore

Baden Powell entrance to the hike in Deep Cove

Despite all the news lately about bears in the North Shore, I embarked on my very first overnight hiking expedition. The Baden-Powell trail is not meant to be done as one continuous hike but as a series of smaller ones. It is 42 km/ 25 miles, some trails are easy to moderate, but there are areas that are considered advance. I would have really liked to finish the entire thing, but due to time constraints, it is just not possible. We parked our car in Deep Cove, and loaded with our overnight gear of tent, sleeping bags, food and change of clothes, we begin. It's a pretty easy/moderate beginning. It must have started to rain about 3-4 hours into the hike, initially we put on our plastic ponchos, but it got so hot because you are sweating so much, so we were wet from the rain, and we were wet from the inside of our ponchos from sweat. I figured I couldn't be wetter anyways, so I just took off the plastic poncho and just wrapped my pack with it (it would be nice to have dry tent and sleeping bags). Our first stop was Lynn Canyon, it's only 12 km from Deep Cove, but it takes about 5 hours because of the difficulty of the terrain.We continued our hike for 3 more hours after that. The one thing I really disliked about this particular trail are the neighbourhood areas, I felt like a derelict with my wet hair and my huge backpack walking through the neighbourhood of Lynn Valley. We soon found our trail in the bushes again but I just didn't have much energy to go on, we set up camp. It was pretty early in the evening, but I was just exhausted plus there are mosquitoes a plenty -- so we went to bed early after eating our yummy jerky and boiled eggs. It was really nice of mother nature to entertain us with a show of thunder and lightning.

The next day, we woke up thankfully sans rain. We were grateful to have change of dry clothes. Our destination was Grouse Mountain. Wow, this day started out hard right away. Continuously and endlessly uphill. Ugghhh!! Some of the areas were just rocks and ravines, with logs to cross over. Up down, up down with our heavy backpacks. The scariest part for me is being thrown off balance with my pack, I'm just not used to it yet. I just didn't want to end up toppling back like a turtle on the steep areas. It was just before noon when we got to Grouse Mountain. Thank God for the Starbucks there.

We then walked to Cleveland Damn after and decided to end our hike there. This is where we will start our next hike in order to finish the entire thing. The trail here will take us to Cypress, through the Black Mountain area, then to Horseshoe bay. This part of the hike is supposed to be the hardest and steepest! Yikes, can't wait.

We then take the bus back to Deep Cove to get our car. We reward ourselves with fish and chips and a very cold one each.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Colour of My Dreams at The Vancouver Art Gallery

Surrealists are an interesting bunch! We wonder what the heck are they thinking (sex, desire) in creating what they create. The Vancouver Art Gallery has an excellent exhibition right now. If you are able to make it to their free tours (with entrance fee) on the exhibition - attend it, you will get so much more. It may not explain everything, but it will give you a glimpse of their artist minds. 

FYI: Tuesdays after 5pm admission by donation.

Dali's Lobster Phone: DalĂ­ created this object with the specific intention of aligning the lobster's genitalia with the end of the phone into which one would speak, thus aligning the speaker's mouth with the lobster's genitalia. These were an example of sexual references through art, but represented through food items.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The little things: Montana

Lumberjack Saloon, Lolo Montana
Ok, I admit, I indulged (but not on this sundae, just a regular melt in your mouth donut).

What genius! Drive-thru Liquor (and junk food) Store!!!

This is the corner store in Lolo - you can get yourself a stuffed animal, seriously!

Lolo Peak: Montana

Not an attractive look - it was rainy and snowy.
Lolo Peak: We managed to have our wine and cheese somewhere close-ish to the peak, however, I am ashamed to say, that we did not make it to the top. I went in early June but it was still snowy, and I just was not equipped with my fair weather hiking shoes (ventilated and not water proof). I think the other people ahead of us brought skis. But nonetheless, it was a beautiful ascent.

Spring Hopping: Montana & Idaho

Magnificent rocks in front of the campsite
If you plan on doing this activity, I warn you now, that you cannot be the timid type. There may or may not be nudity.

The first one we went to was in Montana, called Lolo Hot Springs, it's adjacent to a campsite. It hasn't been upgraded in a few years, so it's quite old school. They have an outdoor and indoor pool, a restaurant, a bar and snowmobiling in winter.

Second one is in Idaho (a short drive from Lolo) called the Jerry Johnson Hot Spring. It's free but there is a short and easy hike to get there. There are two springs, they're a bit muddy when somebody gets up or gets in the pools, but otherwise, its a nice soak. 

The third one is my favourite, it's also in Idaho, Weir Hot Spring. This place is one of those places that you have to be in the know to find, it is unmarked outside. The trek is NOT easy - we even had to put our feet in very cold water to cross in a couple of the areas, but... so worth it. It was lucky that when we finally got to the spring, there was nobody else there, it added to the feeling of finding your personal secret paradise.