The pros and cons of Napoli

We wanted to see Pompeii and I wanted to taste a pizza from the place where it was born. To me a short trip from Rome to Naples seemed like the natural thing to do. We would eat some of the "best pizza in the world"...take a look around, you know..."see Naples and die" (a phrase apparently coined from the city's golden age in the later part of the 1700's). From there, a short skip and jump and you are in Pompeii. In theory, a great idea. Sure, there were those who said it was dirty, full of thieves, and that you put your life into the uncertain hands of crazy scooter drivers when crossing the street. They were overreacting, surely. Welllll... the pizza was awesome, ummm... actually... I think that the critics were not too far off the mark...

OH! there was a lot of contempory art in the new metro stations
and... yep that's all I got. However, you still gotta go. Aside from the pizza and subway art that don't quite make up for Naples shortcomings you must go to see Pompeii. If chaotic, kinda dirty, and a little rough around the edges isn't your thing...go to Naples eat a pizza and catch the first train to the Amalfi coast or a ferry to Capri, then go to Pompeii. I don't see how you would regret this. I'm sorry Naples but 1790 it ain't.

Panoramic view near the main entrance.

"The culprit"

Pompeii was what I call a sock remover. At the base of the still active Vesuvius lie some of the best preserved roman ruines ever. This
did make up for a less than stellar performance from Naples. We gave ourselves 5 hours to do the grand tour. We used up every minute and missed tonnes I am sure. You get a nice panorama of the ruines as you enter threw the main gate. Layed out before you, a true roman city begging to be explored. How could we refuse?

Another view of the surroundings.

The first stop the temple of Apollo. Fluted Roman columns, the altar space, and even (replica) statues that somehow withstood the temperature and time, waited to be explored. Cobbled streets with ruts where the chariots rode acted as the best way to get from one sight to the next.

Narrow street, unfortunately the chariot ruts don't show that much.

Wall mosaics on one of hundreds of dwellings.

As fast and furious as we could walk was as fast as the sights to see came up. So much stuff, in fact, there is no way I can keep track of it all. The most bang for our buck, so far, I'd say. More Roman columns than you can shake a stick at. Nicely preserved mosaic tiled floors, frescos, relief
carvings and even an ampitheater.

Don't hold me to it, but this is perhaps a tepidarium. (warm bath)

We saw about 1000 baths and an ancient fountain where cool water flowed for the bathers to drink in the hot bath. Not so ancient dogs made themselves at home where ever a cool surface could be found. We saw ancient bakeries, large clay pots, dwellings, tombs, and even kitchens! The sight was brimming with as much history as it had tourists. I felt a connection to the past and could imagine bustling village life.

Dog in one of the ample caldariums. (hot baths)

Relief carvings in a bath.


We went to see the villa of the mysteries, a large estate on the outskirts of town, where the most viberant of the fresco paintings are found. Sprinkled throughout the site were plaster casts of victims of the eruption. Apparently, during the excavation process cavities formed where bodies once lay and archaeologists were able to cast the human forms that once lay buried under layers of solidified volcanic ash.

Villa of the Mysteries fresco

All in all, both Corina and I had our metephoric socks blown off with a force similar to that of Vesuvious. Why metephoric, you ask? Well, it seems we visited wearing our sandals and you all know how Corina feels about socks and sandals. So come to Italy and go to Pompeii, just make sure to bring an extra pair of socks...regardless if you are wearing sandals or not.


where in the world are the flat people?

we haven't heard from the flat penners and flat petroffs in awhile so we thought we grace you with an update from them. they'd like to tell you that the view of the world from a camera bag kinda sucks. but, once in awhile they are let loose to enjoy the sights along side their uber cool auntie corina and uncle jason. here's a look at their adventures since their peace protest on the berlin wall...
flat hannah, ellie, & sasha testing out the speaker tube at rietveld-shroderhuis in utrecht, netherlands - no one answered but we got to go inside anyway...its a museum now.
oui, oui c'est paris! the flat penners take it all in stride...just chilling in front of the eiffel tower without a care in the world.
look behind you flat jane and owen! you may have heard of this place before...it's le tour eiffel!
no matter how many times we tell our flat companions that they are too young to partake in a drink with us, they still seem to hang around like here in st. emilion, france.
this is more like it. we are imparting our love of architecture and culture to these moldable youngsters with a visit to the guggenheim bilbao.
the flat petroffs & flat penners beat the heat in parc guell and have a seat on the famous gaudi benches that were number 1 on auntie corina's must see list.
the flat penners head back to nature in croatia's plitvice lakes national park where its lush and green and the water is so clear you can the fishes.
the flat petroffs check out one of the many plitvice waterfalls, which are the star attraction of the UNESCO protected park.
do vidjenja,
flat jane, flat hannah, flat ellie, flat sasha, flat owen

rome - a pictorial

the roman coliseum

i don't have much to say about rome since we weren't there very long...except it was hot (even in september), expensive, and the public transportation sucks. so instead of dwelling on the negative...

coliseum detail

coliseum - duh!

arch of constantine

roman forum - with you know what behind it

forum ruins

the view from piazza venezia looked beautiful so we took a photo -
anyone know this building?

pantheon facade

pantheon dome

roman cobblestone streets

trevi fountain

trevi fountain dude

so those are the sights we saw but we are missing our photos from the vatican as we have sent our photo card home and forgot to make copies....eek. we wish we could have seen more of rome. it was beautiful but our dwindling budget couldn't take much more than the 2 1/2 days we were there. if you plan on visiting rome...come in spring or late autumn and bring lots of cash.



i`ll be back...

one day...to barcelona that is.

i had incredibly high expectations of barcelona. it was my #1 place to go on this trip. i'm happy to report that it lives up to the hype i built up in my head.

my main goal was to experience the architecture of antoni gaudi. he's a genius btw. some people don't get it and just see the ornate facades and think wow...that's alot of stuff. but seriously people! can you even comprehend the brain power required to think like this guy? what you see on the outside is just the icing. the structural elements of many of gaudi's buildings were ground breaking. i wanted to explore every place he'd ever designed but our budget and time frame forced me to pick a precious few.

sagrada familia nativity facade above the entrance

the expiatory church of la sagrada familia is still under construction. the foundation stone was laid in 1882 and the completion of the third facade is scheduled for 2030. it is regarded as gaudi's most extensive and elaborate project. he dedicated 43 years of his life to it!

before his death the nativity facade was completed as gaudi wanted those who would continue to work on the church to be aware of it's importance and scale. the nativity facade represents the birth of jesus.

detail on nativity facade

the current public entry is through the passion facade. this side represents the passion, death and resurrection of jesus.

the passion facade

the third facade, yet to be built, will refer to the glory of jesus resurrected. even if you have no religious bone in your body you have to be impressed with the magnitude of this project. it is surreal, awe inspiring and structurally mind boggling!

the interior is still largely blocked off to the public due to construction. you can still get a few peeks at the jaw-dropping ceilings and columns. his inspiration of nature is seen in every detail.

sunlight casting flower patterns on the interior walls of sagrada familia

we were a bit disappointed that to go up into the towers you had to pay an extra 2€50. the entry fee was 11€ per person and there is no mention of having to pay for a lift ticket at the main gate. there are 2 lifts, one near the public entry (passion facade) and one at the 'back' (nativity facade). the line at the passion facade was huge so we opted to wander through the interior, which has limited access, and down through the museum. we didn't know about the second lift and discovered it by accident. the line was much shorter so i'm sure not many people are aware there is a second lift. we paid the lift fee begrudgingly but soon forgot about it as the views of the facade and the city are spectacular from the towers.

stained glass window seen from tower

view of barcelona from sagrada familia

parc guell started out as a park and housing development for the barcelona aristocracy as commissioned by some dude named guell. only 2 houses were ever built (none designed by gaudi) and it was turned into a public park. this place is massive, full of people and free! we went on an exceptionally hot day and while there is shade available there are also hills to climb. we didn't see the whole park. there is a museum on site but i wouldn't bother paying 5€ to see it. if you go to la pedrera you will have access to an exhibition that covers most of the same stuff.

mosaic lizard that jay nicknamed 'chompy'

jay on wavy bench

la pedrera roof terrace

for my final gaudi experience i chose la pedrera. known to me from design classes as casa mila but locally referred to as la pedrera. the dwelling was commissioned by an industrialist, pere mila in 1906. gaudi designed two apartment blocks with interlocking patios in order to illuminate all the apartment units. the nickname 'la pedrera' refers to the way it's wavy facade appears to be carved out of rock. la pedrera means stone quarry.

la pedrera...aka. casa mila

with the 10€ entry fee we were given access to an apartment (people still live in the other ones...must cost a bundle!), an exhibit, and the roof terrace. the roof terrace was the most exciting part as there are architectural, sculptural pieces in unusual shapes, some covered in trencadis (broken ceramic pieces) and others left plain. while these elements look cool they are also provide three different functions: staircases, ventilation towers and chimneys. wow! the decorative ones can be seen from the street.

a vent or a chimney...you decide

corina standing beside the staircase enclosure

we saw the exterior of casa batllo but with the steep entry fee of 16€50 we decided to pass. the exterior is pretty sweet though but the lighting wasn't great for photos.

with all this gaudi on the brain i completely forgot to go see mies van der rohe's german pavilion. we walked within steps of the building on our last few hours in the city but i didn't know it was there. gah! there's always next time, i guess...



The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain... not

San Sebastian view from the hill

Like the song in My fair lady...(sigh...no I did not have to look this up. I did, in fact, all ready know this...Thanks mom.) The rain in spain may indeed fall mainly on the plain but as we stayed in the shadows of the Pyrenees for all our trip we would not know this for a fact. But what we can state is that here in the hills we did see a lot of rain...especially in the north.
Jay on the beach...note the hilltop behind him

Corina on the vacant beach...the waves are constant no matter the weather

When we arrived, however, San Sebastian was very warm, very sunny and the beaches were packed. Tourists and locals alike searching for a small piece of real estate to spread the towels and "Basque" in the warm sun =) (my apologies for the pun.) We had 2 days of lovely, sunny, hot, almost too hot weather. We went to the beach for both of them and caught a few rays ourselves. Then as we decide to head out to Bilbao to see Frank Gehry's Guggenheim (but I'll save that for Corina) the rain clouds roll in and kinda parked themselves overhead. Mind you, Bilbao itself was sunny.

The view from the beach on a gorgeous sunny day

We had 7 days of mostly relaxing, not too much walking...we explored the city, we went for a walk in Monte Urgull Mendia park and climbed to the top of a large hill where an old monestary and a large statue of Christ reside. This was quite a hike and the day could not quite decide if it wanted to rain or not but it was at least cooler so physical activity seemed like an O.K. idea. We spend some time in the park and started to decend to find some lunch. As we decended a nice spanish couple asks us a question (in spanish) "No hablo espaƱol" Corina says with some regret. The couple ask again in broken english... "Is this the way to Jesus on the Monte?" As we had just come from there we said yes keep following the path up and you will find it...after the plod ever upward I think about it and remarked "All roads lead to Jesus!"

Jesus on Monte Urgull Mendia


...just running out to catch our flight to Rome in minutes!