Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Favorite Pictures from Portugal and Spain

Waterfalls at Quinta dos TrĂªs Rios

I thought it would be easy to throw together a few picture blogs, but when you've taken thousands of pictures, selecting just a handful of favorites is a challenge! But here are a few of our favorites from our time in Portugal and Spain...

University Students at Coimbra, Portugal

Duoro River Valley, Portugal: Port Wine Country

Mercado San Miquel Market, Madrid

Flamenco, Valencia, Spain

Bullfight, Valencia, Spain

Hard At Work on New Novel & Cuban Cigar, Valencia, Spain

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Lori!

But is Lori's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is.

I lied: she's 49. I've noticed that it's only "old people" who don't like to admit their age, so my small way of fighting age is to not hesitate to admit our own. Besides, I'm only a month and a couple of days behind her, so if there's a problem with being 49, well at least we'll suffer through it together. And we can always say, "At least we're not 50," but of course that will very soon catch up to us.

If you're wondering, we're celebrating today on a sailboat somewhere in the Aegean sea off the coast of Southwestern Turkey. It was what she wanted for her birthday. Blogs and pictures are, of course, forthcoming.

Here are a few of my favorite "Lori Pictures" from the last year, most of which (naturally) are from the last few months in Europe.

Lori, you are the love of my life. I am so very fortunate to be sharing this adventure with you; and by adventure I mean the last 28+ years together, not just our recent travels. Happy birthday. I love you!

Monday, September 29, 2014

At The Halfway Mark

In York, England back in August
In the last week or so, we passed the halfway point in our 6 month trip through Europe. It seems immeasurably quaint that back in June we blogged about our observations of full time travel after only 1 week. Now, staying only for a week in a single place seems like barely a stopover.

We've learned quite a few things the past few months. All the things we learn about the destinations we see we blog about, so you're already familiar with them. But we've also learned a lot about sustained, long-term travel and about ourselves.

On the travel topic, we've learned that it's best for long term travelers to stay put for longer periods, i.e. it's expensive to move around frequently. We think the optimum is a minimum of 3 weeks. When we were settled into Valencia, Spain and Manchester, UK, not only did we get better value from lodging by staying longer, we also developed routines, and routines are cost-effective. We knew where to shop, what to buy without breaking the bank, and we had opportunity to cook and eat in. But we also came to know the places to go out to eat and get great food at a good price...and become temporary regulars: you can't put a price on the smile of recognition, sometimes hugs, you get when you return to a restaurant and they know you, even if they don't speak English.

On the ourselves topic, we've learned that the full time travel lifestyle is definitely the lifestyle for us. We're already making plans for this to become a permanent thing. As we've proven to ourselves this trip, and as dozens (perhaps hundreds) of other couples have proven already, it's possible with sheer will power. We could write a book (and might one day) on sustained travel and budgeting and getting great deals and travel philosophies and all that junk, but the most important thing is that we just can't imagine going back to separated lives again.

One of the questions our friends, family, and followers most frequently ask us is: don't you ever get tired of being on the road? Or, don't you ever miss just being in your own bed? The answer is "sometimes". It might sound cliche, but home is truly wherever the two of us are.

Some people call this travel lifestyle "vagabonding", and we really, really like the "bonding" part of vagabonding.

Dancing At A Festival in Italy
Blog note: the day I write this, we are in Bodrum, Turkey. The morning after next we get on a sailboat for a week, which means I either have to forego blogging for a week, or before we go I queue up a handful of short blogs or blogs simply with a picture. I'm opting for the latter, so for the next few days I'll give you mostly some brief "reminiscing" blogs and some of our "favorite picture" blogs. We'll "see you" when we get back from our sailing cruise!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Anonymous Church Art in Bologna

It's nice, of course, to go into a church in Europe and gaze upon the work of one of the great masters like Michelangelo (as Lori blogged about a couple of days ago) or Bellini or Da Vinci. But it's also nice to gaze upon the work of the lesser known artists, or even unknown artists, that grace these places of worship.

The fact that their names haven't persisted into our modern daily vocabulary doesn't lessen their impact, the quality of their work, or the devotion they were displaying to their faith and creator by creating these works. Not that they are unknown: most of these works are probably very well known in either the art world or by their custodians at the various churches and cathedrals. I mean that they aren't the works that attract guidebook-toting tourists who are only in search of the works of the "famous guys".

Where there are churches, there are likely works of art. And as we've pointed out, Bologna has no shortage of churches. Putting two and two together, and we saw quite a bit of art the few days we were in Bologna, a sampling of which we offer to you in this blog. Though with a few of the churches we passed deconsecrated, converted to lecture halls, or simply padlocked due to declining church attendance, we wonder what art is hidden away and no longer available for appreciation? And we pray that no more churches--and their precious works of art, anonymous or famous--suffer a similar fate.

A Saint and her Savior

A Woman Anguishing Over the Crucified Jesus

Another Piece to Add to our "Unusual Depictions of Christ" Collection:
This One Showing Christ During or After the Flogging

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bologna: The Ultimate College Town

Teatro Anatomica - Anatomy Theatre

Bologna is a college town, but not like any other college town you've visited. There are clusters of the university spread all around the city, and the university has taken over giant churches and converted them to lecture halls. Can you imagine taking a class like freshman English Comp in a former cathedral?

One of the things that makes the University of Bologna fundamentally unique is its age: it was founded in 1088. That's not a typo, which makes it the oldest university in the world. There are a couple of caveats, the first being that it's described as the oldest "continuously operating" university in the world, implying (I guess) that there are some reformed and restarted universities that might be older. The other caveat is that its age is compared against the university model of education, which is a concept of the western world. There are almost certainly some Asian schools (of some sort) that are older, perhaps also some western schools, just not universities.

We enjoy touring schools and universities, like the University of Glasgow we blogged about a few weeks ago. The sprawling University of Bologna (85,000 students in 23 different schools) offers a couple of very cool sites for visitors to see. The first is the Teatro Anatomico, the Anatomy Theatre. In this room, cadavers were dissected on the marble slab while medical students watched, took notes, and shot spitballs and made wisecracks to one another (we like to thing college students were the same in the 16th century as they are today). Interesting note: dissections were only conducted during the winter quarter because they lacked ready supplies of Febreze.

On the day we visited the anatomy theatre, included in the price of admission was a visit to a nearby lecture hall that was the site of a debut performance of a chamber piece by Rossini. Or maybe it was Verdi. Still, was your college the site of a debut performance for a baroque masterpiece? I didn't think so. Today the hall is an operating lecture hall, and students sit surrounded by centuries-old texts of the ways we used to think of our world.

Unfortunately much of what you see in these two rooms is reconstructed: the building sustained a direct hit by allied bombing during World War II. It's still worth the €4 admission, especially knowing that it was perfectly restored to the original uniquely Bolognese architecture of the rooms, with many of the original fixtures and art returned to their exact locations.

A few notable graduates of the University of Bologna include Popes Innocent IX, Alexander VI, and Gregory XV; Dante Alighieri (of Dante's "Inferno" fame); astronomer Giovanni Cassini; Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the modern radio; and modern author Umberto Eco, one of Chuck's favorite authors.