Monday, May 30, 2022

Sicily and mosaics

A beautiful view from our B&B at Piazza Armerina. We were originally booked for the Casa Rosa, but Luciano met us at the driveway and explained that there was a wedding party taking over much of Casa Rosa house that night and it may be more peacefule at his place next door.
OK - here's the view!

We got there in the early afternoon, so had time to visit the town and go to dinner where Luciano recommended.
Jim even posted this photo on Facebook because it was SO good, and SO cheap!

The whole meal, for 2, including wine was 45 euros - about $50 and, no tipping

Then, here is breakfast the next morning.

Breakfast on a room overlooking an ancient city duomo. 
Then a visit to ancient Roman Villa with renowned mosaics artwork. Vila Romana del Casale is a world heritage UNESCO site. These are ancient works of art done in tiny mosaic tiles

Then a drive thru Sicily to the southern coast and a place called la Scala dei Turchi - the Turkish steps. We found our enchanting resort, got settled, then walked up the road to view the Turkish steps, had a delightful dinner and retired for the night.

My italian attitude

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Ferries, trains, rental cars

All night on the bus and when the sun comes up, we're at the water's edge of mainland Italy.

Yes, the bus ride was brutal, but we finally made it to the end of mainland Italy and then a ferry to the island of Sicily.

After a short ferry ride, we're at the train station in Sicily.

I hate the process of renting a car. I never know if I should get the extra insurance or refuse. Since we pay with Chase credit card they say to refuse and they’ll cover us. But the agent at the counter says that doesn’t cover incidentals like scratches. She pushes hard. Also we are early to pick up the car and it’s not available. She says we can upgrade to a BMW (which is available) usually it’s $80 a day but she has a special offer at $30 a day 120 total well… OK we really wanted to get a car now.

We just got off the train after an all night bus ride where we didn’t sleep at all the last thing we wanted to do was sit around an airport for six more hours. There were four people in line behind us. WTF is she talking about? Asking what we’re going to eat for breakfast?

It felt like she was trying to distract us while she signed us up for everything she wanted to sell. We did say No to the full insurance. We just wanted to get out of there. She gave us a slip of paper with how to get to our car. Only after we picked up the car  (a really nice car) did I realize that we had no paperwork. Jim had reserved the car through Expedia and paid $11 a day extra for Insurance. I have no idea if she understood us when we declined the insurance here and we signed nothing. God knows what we will be charged with when we turn it back in. 
Lesson learned don’t be rushed when renting a car, get paperwork.

Post trip note: at one point it looked like we were charged with thousands of dollars, but that's just what gets put on hold till the actual charges are determined. The final charge was $620 for 5 days of driving around Sicily. It was a nice car! Sure glad we didn't scratch or dent it.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Coastal Train Ride

The train station at Rimini

 The train ride down the Adriatic coast was right on the coast. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the view go by, and we notice lots of RVs. Some just parked, some in nice looking RV parks.

26 hours of travel. Train from Rimini to Bari, overnight bus from Bari to Ferry and Messina, train to Catania where we picked up rental car for the last leg. Too much!

We can sleep on the train - he said.  We can sleep on the bus - she said. 

Nope - don't count on it. The overnight bus ride was a bit brutal. We expected it and took it on anyway. But - for future reference ... Don't do that again!

We had several hours to kill in Bari. Found a nice place for dinner, then hung out at the bus station waiting for our midnight bus. People watching at the bus/train station was really quite entertaining and the fountain was beautiful

That shot is also a great example at how good our phones are at night photography. Here's a shot without the night-shot option.

It was a great place to hang out

Friday, May 27, 2022

Oh no señor, no air conditioning

Why did we go to Rimini? Because as I perused Google Maps for Italy, I noticed a marker at Rimini. I put markers down any time I learn something about a place that I think is interesting. I opened the marker and it said that Rimini is a Sister City to Fort Lauderdale. Cool! Let's go.

Here we are in Rimini. You can tell why it is a Sister City to Fort Lauderdale

t the hotel imperial in Torre Pedreira Remini. It's right at the beach and there's a cool breeze coming in from the Adriatic Sea so we didn't feel the need for air conditioning it first, we had the doors to our balcony wide open. Once we closed up and get ready for bed it's starting to get warm Jim fiddled with the air conditioning controls but we never felt any cool air. In the middle of the night we reopen the doors to the balcony to let and some cool air. I told him 
"oh no señor, no air-conditioning." 
This was recalling a time in Mexico when we rented a car and couldn't get the air-conditioning to work. When we turned in the car and reported the problem with the AC we were told that the car did not come with air-conditioning the controls were there but there was nothing behind it.

I thought I was kidding by suggesting that the same thing was happening at this hotel but when we reported the problem in the morning we were told, I'm sorry we are not allowed to turn on air-conditioning until June 1. Oh OK that's interesting today was May 26--

May 25 on train to Rimini

I'm still thinking about whether we should completely retire. Or should we do another RV rally? The one in Nebraska in August? Being on this Italy trip is so nice I think I could do this all the time. I think.

I remember when I took off by myself in the middle of law school. I wrote then that it took a full month to relax into the rhythm of not having anything that needed to be done. We've been gone for three weeks now and I'm starting to feel relaxed. We did one YouTube show from Le Santucci that kept that kept some stress going!

I sure do like train travel, the only stress is at the station wondering if you're going to get on the right train ha ha there's a Blog Post is this the right train

Restaurants here are closed from 3 to 630 that's when Jim and I like to eat. We hunted until we found one open.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

In Florence

The first time we were in Florence in 2017 I had my eyes on a leather bag but I didn't buy it. I did today! Just a little one a purse for evenings out. And I bought a notebook a nice soft leather notebook it almost lays flat I bought it from the Leonardo museum what a cool place--

Yesterday we did 14,000 steps and the David! We weren't originally going to visit Florence because number one it's north of Castiglion Florentino and number two we were here before.
But, I read the book oil and marble it was recommended by one of our Geeks On Tour members and I am so glad. I loved that book, and I learned so much about Michelangelo and his carving of the David that I wanted to see the real thing. We didn't bother last time we were here

As long as we were there, Jim said let's go to the Leonardo museum too! I'm so glad! It was an interactive museum of all of Leonardo's inventions I was particularly enamored at the bridge building exhibit where you could build a bridge simply by laying logs with notches no ropes nails or other method of connecting.  Just by positioning the logs in an over under pattern the bridge was sturdy. You can buy a kit on Amazon.

In Florence we stayed at another hostel two blocks from the train station close to everything else and it even had a Spa we made a reservation one afternoon we had a sauna a shower and a big hot tub all to ourselves with a window viewing over the Duomo in Florence Italy wow 

The Spa at our Hostel - window overlooking Florence

Breakfast at our hostel in Florence. Hostel Archi Rossi

So, why did we go to Florence when we had limited time, and we'd already been there in 2017? Because I read the book Oil and Marble and I just had to see the real deal - Michelangelo's David. You have to make reservations for a tour in order to get it. We didn't bother last time.

Monday, May 23, 2022

That’s a wrap

During the writing workshop I wrote about mom and learned that books about dementia are popular these days. hmmm - maybe I should actually write this? In the process I also write about old Florida, Dania j'ai alai etc. And learned that books about old Florida are popular. I need to read Swamplandia.

Here's what I wrote when Cary gave the prompt to describe the book you might write:

Marilyn’s shrinking world

I had a special relationship with my Mom. I thought everyone was as close to their mother as I was, but I learned that isn’t true. So, when she started to get confused, when she forgot how to do simple tasks, I was acutely aware that she was suffering from dementia. I didn’t live nearby, this happened in the years that I lived in an RV and traveled all the time. Maybe that heightened my awareness because seeing her after 3 months away made the change more abrupt to me. 

Mom was living alone at this time, and I am an only child, so it was up to me to take care of her. 

All this is to say that I am in a unique position to understand what was going on with her and explain it to others. As her memory left her, I filled the void. I became her.

This book starts with some background, the reader needs to know a little about Marilyn’s life before dementia. Then it catalogs the warning signs of the disease.

There are many personal stories of how I managed to take care of her. Some sad, some quite funny. And, finally, it tells the story of the years in assisted living and memory care, ending with hospice and how Covid provided the final relief.

The purpose of the book is to tell Marilyn’s story, the one she couldn’t tell herself, and to give some insight into the wants and needs of someone in her position. The wants and needs that all too many people today are having to navigate. Finally, it is a book about love.

Why it matters

Why you’re qualified to write it

Who is the intended audience

Keep my own voice

Maybe start with Mom coming with us in the RV, then flashbacks and flash forwards from there.

When mom fell out of the cab over bed

My grandparents business in the 1940-50s - on the IntraCoastal near the Dania cutoff canal
Part of the Florida Sea Life Aquarium was alligator wrestling! My uncles (the twins at the left in the photo above) did the wrestling, Mom did the announcing, and we raised baby alligators at home!
That's me with a live baby alligator

I'm getting to know my fellow writers.  A wonderful, mixed bunch. I think I should write a book, even if I have to return to Castiglion Fiorentino for this writer's workshop 2-3-4 more times!

They talked about travels and places that are good to live. I learned that Portugal needs to be higher on our list of places to go. I also learned more about crypto. Set up a meta mask wallet for ethereum and signed up for a proof of humanity account. Two of the attendees were Herb and Sandra. Herb is a cofounder of I also got a .eth address - chrisguld.eth - by going thru the process at, making a new wallet at my Metamask account, and registered my name. Whew! On to the next level of blockchain!

One evening, the group had happy hour in Herb and Sandra's suite, and they introduced me to what has become my favorite Italian food!!

I'm not kidding - this is my favorite Italian food!

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Cooking class

One evening, during the writer's workshop, Cary arranged for our group to visit a Giuseppina who teaches cooking classes. We all fit into 2 cars and drove just about 5 miles to her house. 

It was a beautiful place. Giuseppina greeted us outside with a glass of Proseco, and we wandered around her garden for a while before going inside.

Here are the few notes I took about the class:
Fresh local ingredients. Chicken from down the road, tomato sauce made from her tomatoes, pork from local pigs. Sliced thin, cured like salami, added salt and fresh herbs. Served on bread
Batter for eggplant or any veg: flour and seltzer water salt and pepper - like Tempura. She battered giant sage leaves then deep fried in sunflower oil. 

Then, we all sat down in her exquisite dining room and ate our handiwork.

Here is a little movie that I made with Google Photos about the evening:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Cary Tennis writer's workshop in Tuscany

I like to write, and I love how Cary Tennis is able to create the environment where I write, and write, and write. And it helps that it's in Italy!  A beautiful little ancient walled city called Castiglion Fiorentino. We were there for a previous workshop in 2017. Here are photos from both times. The town is behind us on the hill.

Same for me and Cary:
Our small group would sit down to write and Cary would first ask us to be quiet and meditate for a moment. I could hear birds singing, feel the sun, and listen to the voices in my head. One of them was my mother's. I ended up writing quite a bit about her.

Since I'm actually writing this long after we've been home, I can refer you to a speech I did for my Toastmaster's club about Italy and the writing class. It starts at the 20 minute point.

Drag the timeline to the 20 minute point to hear my speech
or click this link to go to YouTube at the exact right spot

And, here's the piece I wrote about Mom that I reference in the speech:

Don't fence me in
It wasn't all writing and seriousness, we had plenty of social time during the afternoons and at meals. At one dinner, Cary brought his guitar and entertained us. I couldn't believe it when he started playing Don't Fence Me In. That was my moms theme song when she was 8 years old and bed ridden with polio in 1940. She taught it to me and I adopted it as our theme song for RVing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Touring a city like Rome without a guide

 If you really want to tour some place in Europe and do it right, you should get a guide. So many people have told us that. But we did not follow their advice. It's OK with us if we "didn't do it right", we just wanted to do it ourselves and it's so amazing that Google maps makes it possible to do so. 

There was one place - the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel - where you couldn't get in without a guide. So Jim used his trusty website - - to book a guided tour, 2 days away. 
A hastily snapped picture looking up at the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo

Think about it, if you traveled to Rome 25 years ago, you'd have to do it without the Internet. I guess you'd use a paper map. It might be possible, but figuring out where you are is next to impossible when there are no dependable street signs. And, believe me, there are no dependable street signs anywhere in Italy!
With Google Maps, we could just ask for walking directions to the Colosseum from wherever we were and it would tell us where to go. We can even use the feature called Live View to see the real world around us and follow big blue arrows. The background is seen live thru your camera, then Google Maps uses Augmented Reality (AR) to superimpose the big blue arrows and instructions. It was very helpful. To see how it's done - here's my video:

And, did we ever walk. For the 4 days we were in Rome, my Apple Watch recorded 8,500 16,000 13,500 and 16,300 steps. Whew! At home we're lucky to get 3,000 in a day. We didn't go out at night though - too bad, I'm sure the sights with the lights on at night are really beautiful. But, we've gotten used to early bed times and we are quite exhausted by then.

I was so happy with the technique I worked out with Google Maps that we did one of our "What Does This Button Do?" shows on it. See Episode 234:

We made a list in Google Maps of all the places we wanted to go. Then we saved it and sent the link to an email.  Here is the link: If you click it, you will get a google map with all our stops.

I know we would have learned a lot more about the places we visited if we had a guide, but I'm just so happy that we got to see these places at all. Then, later, we can watch YouTube videos about the place and learn more. Having been there gives us the foundation. For example we visited the Pantheon - and it was impressive. Huge columns - Greek Temple-like - in a very rectangular formation is the front of the very round - Roman - building that houses statues and artwork representing all the religions of the time. Pan = all  Theon = religion. Loved it. Then, once we're back in our room with computer and internet, we can watch this video: and learn so much more. You can watch the video too - but if you haven't experienced it, it's just not the same. 

Here's Jim's 360 panorama of the Pantheon - you need to click on it to see it right, then you can scroll around to see the full 360 degrees.

I liked Rome a lot. I had always thought of it as just a BIG city - and I'm not a fan of big cities. But, I also love history and, I can't imagine a city with more history than this one. And it's the history of the western world - our history. Before we left, one of our Geeks on Tour members recommended the book "Oil and Marble." If you're going to Rome, you gotta read Oil and Marble. I immediately purchased the Kindle version so I could read it on my phone any chance I got - great train ride reading! I put it at one of the top 10 books of my life. I LOVED it. And, it gave me a foundation for looking at the art. It's about Leonardo Da Vinci (Oil) and Michelangelo (Marble.) I've heard of them! This book, although using accurate historical references was written as a novel - there were conversations between Leonardo and Michelangelo. You learn about Michelangelo's father's attempt to prevent him from being a sculptor - he wanted Michelangelo to get a respectable government job! Did you know that Michelangelo did not paint the Sistine chapel while lying on his back? That's what I had always understood, but think about it, that's a big ceiling - how would he get into position? By wriggling like a snake? No, the scaffolding was at a height that allowed him to stand and he painted by raising his hand.