Back in the USA

The Olvis missed us.
The Olvis missed us.

We’ve been back stateside for almost a month and I am finally done recounting our journey. The trip home was arduous. It began with a header off a flight of stairs by me. I was carrying Burt’s guitar and bidding farewell to Matt and I missed a step. I went head first and threw Burt’s guitar. I landed on my right knee and mangled two fingers. It was very dramatic. Adrenaline carried me through the airport. The next day everything hurt but I thought I had escaped serious injury. The finger swelling was gone in a week but now I am not so sure if I didn’t hurt myself. I have lingering hip pain but it seems to be getting better. I am not certain if it’s a serious injury or not. Time will tell.

Our first job back was building some camping platforms in Oregon. The few hours of kneeling really irritated my hip. That job is done and now I am leading a life of writerly sloth. Burt is transforming a garage into a painter’s studio. I take daily walks with the dogs. The easy walking and no kneeling might be allowing my hip to heal. We are parked in Baja friends’ driveway in Seattle.

It’s almost time to do taxes. I have no excuse now that the travel blog is done.

Elevator shaft and stairs
Elevator shaft and stairs. These are the stairs I fell down in Rome.

 

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I spoke Italian

Family time.
Family time.

One day while we were walking I tried to buy some local sweets. A shop employee asked me what I was looking for and I asked for the local specialty. I used Spanish without thought. The next thing I knew I was chatting with an Italian. I was thrilled and told her I had no idea Italian would be easy to understand. Then she told me were speaking Spanish. Uh. Duh.

We left Amalfi via the scenic shore side road. This two lane highway snaked around the cliffs of Amalfi and was packed with drivers. My bother did a great job of staying calm and being assertive enough to get the job done. The scenery is fun but I passed the time watching the faces of the oncoming drivers. A lot is revealed behind the wheel in a high stress situation. I wondered about the professional drivers here. They would need a rare combination of bravado and calm to do the job every day, all day. This LINK shows a spectacular but not common event. One guide book said the road is super safe because every one is so scared they pay better attention. I couldn’t find data on the actual number of crashes. In general Italy is known for its horrible drivers and dangerous roads so maybe Amalfi doesn’t stand out.

So now we are back in Rome. It wasn’t planned but that’s where we wound up. There’s lots more to see so let’s go.

Grilled shrimp ala Sra. Pina
Grilled shrimp in lemon leaves ala Sra. Pina
Kid in grotto
Kid in grotto
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Pompeii and Vesuvius

Vesuvius' crater. We saw a steam plume.
Vesuvius’ crater. We saw a steam plume.

The day after my pleasant birthday hike was blocked out for a family adventure. Parental prerogative was invoked and all humans of all ages were forced to leave their beds and be in the car at 8 AM for an excursion to Vesuvius and Pompeii. This is no small feat for any group. Throw in teenagers with zero interest and a patriarch that had already been to said sights and there is substantial inertia to overcome. Somehow the objective of reaching the vehicle at the designated hour was achieved. There must have been a talking to somewhere.

Spain, Italy, Mexico. In my experience all are lacking effective signage. Are Americans abnormal in our use of large, readable signs? Or have I picked places to visit where traveling under a cloud of anxiety is part of the romance? Everybody reading this blog has heard of Vesuvius and Pompeii. Italy wants you to visit Vesuvius and Pompeii. You’d think they’d make them easier to find and make sure Google Maps has them in the right place. An inter-generational family of 8 with 6 so-called smart phones had 3 1/2 different ideas on how to arrive at Pompeii. I finally asserted my version after reading two travel blogs and a wikipedia post on the fly while monitoring our progress on the GPS. From the backseat. Unsurprisingly we had to turn around once and retrace our steps when we found ourselves in a back alley.

Somewhere in here car sickness was taking hold. Most of the Zazzalis are susceptible to the merest shaking of their equilibrium. Are you surprised? Here we were crammed in a long narrow van hip to elbow, heads swaying, staring at tiny glowing maps of bad information traveling a mountain road. The shouted instructions and debate were accompanied by low end moaning from several locations. We arrived intact and gurgling to more mental troubles. Our hosts had a team of people to keep us from proceeding to where the maps indicated parking could be found. We were waved off but uniformed of where to go. No sense having an explanatory sign. More wandering. Another turn around. Finally a passenger leaning over the wall in agony.

Eventually we figured out the system to get to the Vesuvius crater. I write it here in case some other lost traveler is quickly googling “Where is Vesuvius parking lot” while brother, father, nephew, niece, sister in law, other brother, husband all offer opinions or lip or, in case of husband, gentle support.

Get to the mountain road that leads to the Vesuvius National Park. Google will get you there. Follow the road. When the team of arm wavers stops you and directs you down a side road grab the closest spot you can find. Walk back to the arm wavers and give them 2 Euros each to catch a shuttle up to the next obstacle. Wait for shuttle. Try not to leave half your group. We did thinking we were being efficient. We didn’t see them for two hours. Ride the shuttle and get dumped off at a building with no bathrooms and no explanatory signs. There is a sign but it doesn’t tell you how to get there.

Deep breathe. I pee behind the building. Half of Europe has peed behind this building. Wait for the rest of the family. Someone in our media-grupa figures out we buy entry tickets at this building. There are no signs and the ticket box was down a long hallway and around a bend. No signs. I’m not saying no signs in English. I’m saying no signs. Well. There were signs. They just didn’t explain how to get anywhere.

We watch two more shuttle busses come up up from the parking area. No family. In the meantime enormous tour buses are driving past us and going up, up, up. We try to get on one. We are on a different system of touring Vesuvius. A man in a chauffeured Jaguar goes by. Eventually we realize we have bought the cheap shuttle and nobody is coming to get us. It is time to walk. We abandon the remaining family because we figure they are sitting with the car sick human. After 15 minutes of uphill walking on a road with enormous tour buses passing by we reach the gated entry to the park. Good thing we managed to buy our entry tickets down below. If we hadn’t figured out that nonsense we’d be adding another 2 km of walking to our expedition. Or someone would have while I waited for them to go and get me a ticket because you cannot buy a ticket at the actual entry to the park.

So now, finally, we are obviously and happily walking up Vesuvius. It is a volcano. It an active volcano. Vesuvius is the volcano that buried Pompeii. I know all this prior to arrival. There are no interpretive signs. I learned nothing about Vesuvius or its geologic or human history at Vesuvius. Still it was a thrill. I have never climbed an active volcano. We found a steam vent and tried to pick out a view of Pompeii. We oohed and aahed over the views. We left dad halfway up resting at the souvenir shack with most of the rest of the crowds. They say most people don’t even reach the crater. It’s a half hour walk from the gate. Matt and Burt and I made it all the way to the top and found Jaguar man and his illegal drone. Boy do those things piss me off. Loud. In the view shed. Potentially injurious to me and certainly an invasion of my space.  Just as Burt pulled me back from shoving the drone pilot into the crater (I thought this was the only honorable thing to do) the officials yelled at him to land his illegal aircraft. That’s when Burt and I actually joined in the social shaming. I yelled ANNOYING and Burt yelled ASSHOLE. Classic pile on. The rich man was accustomed to the dirty masses heaping scorn and did not even notice us. It was fun for us but not fulfilling. The guy deserved a ticket or at least the sacrifice of his footage. There were signs saying drones were prohibited.

Finally my brother and SIL arrived. We intersected near the top. They had walked the entire way because they thought we had. While dealing with logistics for their immediate family they did not see us get on the bus that took us halfway. Oh well. They’re fitter than us.

In conclusion. Vesuvius is a fun landmark but study up in advance if you want to know why or how to get there.

Naples or Napoli from Vesuvius.
Naples or Napoli from Vesuvius.
Matt captures our thumb-heads at Vesuvius.
Matt captures our thumb-heads at Vesuvius.
Brother Matt taking in the sites/sights.
Brother Matt taking in the sites/sights.
Shrine on Vesuvius.
Shrine on Vesuvius.
Burt on top.
Burt on top.
A photo of a postcard with the drone's view of the crater.
A photo of a postcard with the drone’s view of the crater. Our villa is just over that first ridge.
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Then where?

Leonard Cohen lives.
Leonard Cohen lives.

Here are some random shots from the rest of our 10 1/5 mile walk around Madrid.

Retiro Park. The Central Park of Madrid.
Retiro Park. The Central Park of Madrid.
Home decorating and style street fair.
Home decorating and style street fair.
Burt shoppin.g
Burt shoppin.g
More home decor.
Need a water buffalo?
Pretty store.
Pretty store. Tiles.
bear and Madrone in Plaza Mayor.
Bear and Strawberry Tree in Plaza Mayor. Symbol from the Coat of Arms of Madrid. I read that the strawberry tree is a madrone tree.
Ducks at Retiro Park.
Ducks at Retiro Park.
More street veggies.
More street veggies.
Eye model for sale. Tempting but no room.
Eye model for sale. Tempting but no room.
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Crabby Continued

Typical street sign
Typical street sign

Out of sorts and with now specific agenda we walked to the Plaza Mayor. This massive central plaza in Madrid was just how I remembered it. As a kid I thought what? why? Big boring brick lined square. Pretty much thought the same this time. There were some lame cutouts of matadors and flamenco dancers to stand behind. There was a tinsel covered dancing dog. Two actually. There was a statue. I read and learned that a lot of government hearings and trials and such happened here in the past. Now it is bus tour central and tourist shops. Pretty boring.

We left. I found a chocolate and churro shop. This was a mood booster. Spanish churros are less sweet than Mexican churros. Fortified we walked to the Royal Palace and the adjacent cathedral. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal family but they don’t live there. We skipped the tour and opted to explore the cathedral. A guy was playing accordion out front. Besame Mucho and Quizas are the most popular songs in Spain and Italy. We heard them everywhere. Next up the Almudena Cathedral.

Note sure what this act was supposed to be...
Note sure what this act was supposed to be…
This is vandalism if you ask me. These love locks. Whatever.
This is vandalism if you ask me. These love locks. Whatever.
Another scene I took when I was a kid.
Another scene I took when I was a kid.
Chachkas
Chachkas
I took this picture 37 years ago too.
I took this picture 37 years ago too.
Rock in shoe
Rock in shoe
Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor
Door detail. Love the star shaped nails.
Door detail. Love the star shaped nails.

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Bird prints
Bird prints
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Chocolate and churros
Plaza Mayor
Plaza Mayor
The layers of history.
The layers of history.
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Day 3: Crabby

La Doñina in the reflection.
La Doñina in the reflection.

Madrid has a scene, a vibe, like I’ve read about but rarely experienced. The city is compact enough a pedestrian can cover swaths of it in a day. There are small cafes and stores everywhere. Interspersed are the remains of more than a millennia of history. Add to this world class art museums and a diversity of people. It’s happening. Good, affordable food everywhere. Nice people. Cleaner and more energetic than I remember. I really wanted to see the city again because I always felt like I just didn’t get it as a 14 year old. I didn’t get it but Madrid has also changed as much as I have in 37 years. Madrid in 1980 was just throwing off Franco. It was empty and I remember it feeling dirty and abandoned. You could only eat at certain hours and the place was filled with cheesy Lladro and little else to buy. We toured cathedrals and castles. For some reason we missed the Prado.It may have been closed. I recall my teacher being disappointed. Now it’s a free-for-all of cuisine, shops, flavor, and music. The mid-afternoon siesta is noticeable but you can still find a place to eat. Yesterday we learned the biggest Pride celebration in the world is in Madrid. We were not surprised.

So despite how much I loved it the lack of sleep was making me crabby. I couldn’t navigate our neighborhood without GPS, my feet hurt, I had decision fatigue. So much to do and so little time. Burt and I squabbled some but managed to head off in a direction and catch some more sights. We planned to take a bus to Toledo the next day.

Here are some scenes from our neighborhood. Next up the big cathedral tour.

The park outside our studio.
The park outside our studio.
Paintings of food staples dotted our neighborhood.
Paintings of food staples dotted our neighborhood.
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Madrid is filled with sidewalk cafes. I don’t think we ate inside one time.
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I need an idea

So the interwebz all hinky again. I can’t play a game of online Bridge and I can’t upload a photo. Phooey. I’d have been out here sooner if I had anything interesting to report. Mostly it’s the same old, same old life in Baja California Sur. The foggy and cool spring air is holding. We have yet to break 90 since our arrival in January. Our noses are starting to turn northward. In three weeks we’ll shut up the rumpus room and hitch the gNash. We have to get to a kennel in Jackson, California by June 3. That’s when Elvis and Olive go to boring boarding camp and we head to Europe. Europe should be good for the blog ideas but I won’t be bring my laptop so there will be a three week hiatus in posts. Sorry. It’s just too much. Maybe I can figure something out on Burt’s iPad. No promises.

Recently I’ve been forced to consider the nature of truth and fact as it relates to my life. We all have politically and personally. I’m not a fan of fantasy but like all humans I occasionally find myself up the river denial and believing a false narrative. I was sharing a story yesterday (a ripe, juicy bit of lore) where I realized I no longer knew which details were fact or fiction. Was the guy naked? Did he break his penis? Did it matter? Ahhh…You haven’t heard that story. Maybe, if you remind me, I’ll write it up and leave it to tide you over while I am in Europe. As I was considering this story and how I wish to tell it news came to me that the Eagles (yes, those Eagles) are suing a boutique hotel here called The Hotel California. A myth has grown up around our hotel that it was the inspiration for the 70’s era Eagle’s song Hotel California. It’s not. A quick Google search links to many, many interviews and direct quotes from the song writer about the meaning of the Hotel California. It is not a place. It is symbolism. It is art. It is social commentary. It is not a hotel in Baja California Sur. I knew this in high school. But people really want to believe the place exists in the real world so they perpetuate the falsehood. This belief benefits the hotel. Is that their fault? Have they fostered the fake news? I don’t know. Many people have an opinion regarding this lawsuit. The news has been out less than a day and hundreds are weighing in. What I find most interesting is most people are weighing in without reading past the headline. They don’t even know why the Eagles have decided to sue. They haven’t read the press release nor the court filing but they have an opinion. They aren’t lawyers but they have an opinion. They are not the Eagles, or the Hotel California owners but they have an opinion. Here’s the LINK. Decide for yourselves

I read the press release. I think it’s an interesting claim that might have merit. I also think it’s up to the courts to decide. Maybe it is frivolous. Maybe it’s not frivolous and the Eagles are being ripped off. I don’t know the law. I really, really don’t know how the law applies in Mexico. I do find the entire situation entertaining.  That’s unusual for me. I usually hate this kind of melee. Here’s a fact. The traffic in front of the hotel is awful. People by the scores line up for their photo while locals try to run errands and go about life. Selfie sticks block the sidewalks. You can’t even walk by without ruining somebody’s perfect shot. While I don’t have an opinion on the lawsuit I do wish people would stop walking into traffic for their photo ops.

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Fun in the Sun

The gang's all here
The gang’s all here

So much happening here. Dad is over in Todos Santos staying with his new friend. Jen and Robin are here in the rumpus room. We have a show to practice for. We’ve been to the beach. We went to the mountains. More later. Photos by Evely Cota and Sara Gay Dammon.

Germani and me check out the horses.
Germani and I check out the horses.
Lucero, Janexi, Frixia, Paola
Lucero, Janexi, Frixia, Paola
Dad and Sara Gay
Dad and Sara Gay
Frixia is a ham
Frixia is a ham
Maria Jose
Maria Jose
My vogue-ing teens.
My vogue-ing teens.
Run run run
Run run run
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Dad Arrives Tomorrow. Zoinks!

Art Class. I used curved lines.
Costco supplies for Dad

I’m pretty much better. The fever and its aftermath were ugly, very ugly, but yesterday I managed a 4 mile hike to Agua Para Los Cochis with Burt, Tom, and Evely. That’s Water for the Pigs. Agua Para Los Cochis is a palm oasis just a few miles from here. Our budding naturalist Evely had never been there but her nana lived there as a little girl. So we showed her all the ruins and Evely snapped a bunch of photo to show nana. Maybe nana can tell us why the place was abandoned. It looks like a sweet ranch and it’s not nearly as remote as so many we’ve visited.

Dad’s arrival has caused some to say, Is the stress making you sick? Possible. I think it was germs but maybe worry is making it worse. I really, really, really want him to enjoy himself here. He’s got some pretty heavy tennis matched set up during the tournament. Of course I hope he wins (we’re on the same team) but mostly I want them to be fun games. The personalities involved are nice. I’m playing one match with my buddy Anna as my partner. I think our opponents are pretty tough. Funny thing is I am about twice the size of everyone. I Might have to be the net monster. I’ll try to have fun. I get a little too serious out there.

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Art Class, I used curved lines.
Aqueduct and Evely
Aqueduct and Evely
Shade
Shade
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