Friday, March 31, 2017

Culture - Vegano, Vegans in Italy

They do exist. I was the token Vegan on the tour group

Italian food is easy for a vegan, taken in Venice

Seen at freeway stop in the middle of nowhere

And drawn on the tablecloth for the waiter

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Florence - Uffizi Gallery - Paintings by Tiziano Vecelli

These two painting by Titan (Tiziano Vecelli) are beside each. Our guide said,

"The first painting was commissioned by Guidobaldo II della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, a picture of his mistress Angela del Moro. I suspect the Duke's wife never saw this painting. Behind her are two servants rummaging for clothes, but she seems to be in no hurry to put them on. Next to her is a small dog, believed to belong to the painter, Titan. The same dog is in the second painting, a more buttoned-up affair."

Venus of Urbino (1538)

Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga Della Rovere (1536–1538)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Florence - Uffizi Gallery - The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

In the same room as Primavera, another Botticelli painting painted around the same time.

In the center stands a demure but off-balance Venus on a giant shell floating in the sea. The characters wrapped around each other to the left, are blowing her ashore. The woman to the right approaches to cover her.

Botticelli took liberties with gravity in this picture.

[professional image of this painting]

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Florence - View of the Arno and Ponte Vecchio

View of Ponte Vecchio. The river really does have a green cast.

Florence - Lunchtime snack between museum visits

One can OD on culture, but our guide planned the time well, and divided the indoor museum visits with two outdoor breaks.

Here outside the cafe Rivoire with view of the replacement statue of David in the Piazza della Signoria.

Florence - Uffizi Gallery - Primavera by Botticelli

I love this picture, painted by Botticelli between 1477 and 1482. It was commissioned for the Medici family. It is large, 2 x 3 meters. [professional image of this painting]

There are many ways to interpret the image, our guide described the characters from right to left.

All the women appear pregnant. The evil looking guy on the right is both the winds of March and also grabbing Cloris. Next to her dressed in flowers is Flora, the central character is Venus, followed by three graces, and Mercury with winged boots and a stick in the orange tree. The more you look the more you see.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Media - "To Walk Invisible"

An excellent movie by Sally Wainwright, on the crucial three years of the Brontë sisters, and their immediate family. The movie follows the lives of the three writers and their talented but troubled brother. The characterization was very believable, one related to all the main characters and the desolation of their environment.

There were six children, and all died before they were 40.

Picture from the UK National Portrait Gallery.

Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë, by their brother Branwell (c. 1834). He painted himself among his sisters, but later removed the image so as not to clutter the picture.

Texas - Sign of Summer, emerging Peacock Ginger

Texas - Warrenton

Perfect weather, a warm dry day in central Texas

Link to Pictures   Click the white Info circle.

Florence - Galleria dell'Accademia

This art museum contains Michelangelo's statue David. It is impressive, standing 5 m high and weighs around 5 tonnes.

The block of marble owned by the cathedral was partially worked 40 years before Michelangelo took possession. He completed the sculpture of  David in 1504. Originally designed to be one of a series of biblical figures to be mounted high on Florence Cathedral, it was to difficult to mount and was installed outside the town hall in the Palazzo Vecchio where it stood until 1873 when it was moved to the museum, and a replica made for the town square.

We had an excellent guide in Florence. She pointed out his hands and head were too large, perhaps as it was to be originally mounted on the cathedral and seen from a distance, and as a Jewish boy he had not been circumcised.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Florence - Arriving in the early evening

The sun was setting as we crossed the Arno river, the dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence cathedral) still catching the last rays.

Pisa - to Florence

The Apennine Mountains

Friday, March 24, 2017

Pisa - When failure is a tourist attraction

The weather was perfect with clear blue skies, the grass was green, the building were clean and white. Last time I was here I climbed the internal stairs in the tower, and it is the strangest feeling as the steps lean inwards and outwards, steeper, and less steep as you go around and around.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Venice - Murano Island

This is a place where people live, with a football pitch and running track and undeveloped land.

Bank, co-op, and bus service

Water taxis are expensive - a single trip costs about 70 Euro minimum

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Venice - Leaning towers

Pisa is famous, but there are many examples of leaning towers in Venice, everything is built on unconsolidated material

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Venice - Doge's Palace area

Police car

Seafront near the Doge's Palace. Man moving heavy crates of bottles.

Walking platforms for when the area is under water, there is a 3 hour warning before it floods

Doge's Palace

Saint Mark's Basilica next door, inside it is so pretty but photos are no longer allowed

Saint Mark's Basilica is below the level of the plaza that floods

Feedback slot, to report wrongdoing secretly, highly mutilated

And the other side where the suggestions are collected

Bridge of Sighs, the walkway from the palace to the prison. I would have put the prison on a remote island.

The prison

Monday, March 20, 2017

Texas - Bee update

Both hives made it through the winter and are very active right now with the warmer weather.

Texas - Bait and Switch

The speaking guest was a retired US Air force Lt. Colonel, and as he had a long drive home, he and his wife stayed overnight in our guest house for free.

The subject of his talk was about Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on 2001 Sept 11, he was there the next day while it was still burning. His talk started on subject but he was hazy about a few items, and then he swapped over to his real message.

He went on to talk about his christian chapel that was set up in the Pentagon, and how after 911 it was enlarged and covered other denominations. And then he played a 3 minute video clip of maybe 20 people, one after the other, giving affidavits on how wonderful his christian organization was. Weird.

It is hard to get speakers in the middle of nowhere for a small audience, and this is why this guy agreed to come.

Early Saturday morning they made coffee and left the guest house. The used towels and sheets were in the hamper.  No thank you note, just a key on the kitchen table.

Texas - Spring gardening

After the prolonged freeze in January, many plants are regrowing from their roots.

In the city:

And in the country:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Venice - The Rialto Bridge

The historical part of Venice is over one hundred islands all interconnected by small bridges, plus there are four larger bridges over the Grand Canal.

We walked from St Mark's Square to the our hotel near the train station. The convoluted path is marked with signs on buildings to the station, Alla Ferrovia, but is not for the unadventurous.

We stopped about halfway, at a cafe near the famous Rialto Bridge, and watched the people go by.

And then the city workers arrive in their boat, to load up the trash from the local stores. Everything is done by boat and by hand. There are no vehicles, or work animals.  On land the only non-human powered device I saw was a small electric powered street cleaner early one morning being guided by a man walking behind it.

When crossing the bridge, a huge ambulance boat passed underneath at great speed, much more than the sedate 5 km/hr.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Venice - Gondola Rides

Gondolas are quintessentially Venice.  They are controlled by the state, and all the boats are the same ornate style.

80 Euros for 30 minutes, for up to six people, less that it could be. Our gondolier sang a few bars, shouted to a few people, and skimmed close to the walls around corners. He had done this route a thousand times.

It took us to places you cannot see except from the water. For some buildings the waterside door was open, and you could see into the ground floor of a building. We were told most people do not use the ground floor as it gets flooded about four times a year. It is just an empty stone entrance from the canal and the alleyway on the other side.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Venice - "Street" scenes

The weather was sunny and cool, perfect light in the morning and evening: