Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Last Wednesday, we visited Venice, which is an absolutely beautiful city. I learned how to ride the vaparetto (the water bus) and it was fun to experience a city entirely devoid of cars. The only forms of transportation are walking and boats.

The first day (Wednesday) we explored Venice and watched a glass-blowing demonstration where a maestro glass-blower made a pitcher and a glass horse for us. This is the Murano glass that Venice is famous for and it takes years and years of practice and experience for a person to become a maestro.

Here is a picture of me in Venice!

Here are a couple pictures of the glass horse which the maestro made for us in under 5 minutes, which was amazing to watch!

Then we visited the Doge's Palace and went on a special tour of the secret rooms above the palace, where the documents of state were stored and we visited the torture room--where prisoners arms were tied behind their backs and then they hauled off the ground by their wrists. They even hired other people to scream (in addition to the person being tortured) to scare the other prisoners (who couldn't see what was happening from their cells) into confessing everything. I even got to visit the actual cell where Casanova was imprisoned!

Here is a picture of part of the famous ceiling inside the Doge's Palace.

After Venice, we spent a day back in Florence and then on Saturday it was off to a small hill town named Chiusi where we visited an Etruscan Museum. After that, we took off for Montepulciano--a wine town in Tuscany. There was some beautiful countryside views despite the fact that it was cold and rainy. For any Twilight fans, Montepulciano is the town where the end of New Moon was filmed. It is the square Bella runs across to stop Edward from committing suicide.

Here is the square from Twilight (apparently minus a fountain and much smaller than it appeared in the movie).

And here is a picture of the countryside, taken shortly before it began to hail on us!

Sunday we went on a tour of the wineries in Tuscany and did some wine tasting and some cheese tasting. We visited a cheese farm and were able to eat fresh ricotta cheese made right in front of us.

Here is a picture of me holding a goat at the cheese farm.

And here is some more gorgeous countrysides in Tuscany.

By the way, the third picture is of the region where scenes from Gladiator were shot!

And finally, today I visited Milan. We took a bullet train and traveled at about 180 mph. We saw all kinds of interesting stores from Dolce & Gabbana to Gucci, to high-end furniture stores where a single chair could cost over 6,000 euros. And, of course, Milan's famous Duomo.

Here is a picture of the Duomo in Milan.

And Milan's castle.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Flying south in the morning

The problem with winning the "rat race" is your still a rat! 

I am content with retiring from the "race" this summer; that started last week in Colorado! What what! 9,500 ft above sea level in the heart of Rocky Mountains. So, I came back to work for 3days and got my feet wet in the trivial stresses of the day in the life and I'm gone once again. Yes, it does feel good to be me. You know you're traveling well when you feel layered contempt from every person at work. Muhahahaa. Have fun guys!

The packing begins.....

Noooooo, I am not taking the cat. And yes my Mom bought the first aid kit. 

I'll arrive at Hancock Airport early 4am and hopefully join a coupe fellow travelers; miss Donna and Lisa.

Excited to meet great people and welcome new experience. 
Labels: 3 comments | | edit post

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's been awhile since my last post because I've been so busy seeing the sights in Italy. I've been here two weeks now and have seen so many amazing places.

To start off, here are some pictures from our trip to Siena, over a week ago, including its famous Duomo.

And here are some pictures from Cinque Terre, a group of five towns along the coast, famous for the bright colors of the buildings.

This past weekend, we spent a few days along the Amalfi Coast. The first day we spent on the Island of Capri, and visited the famous Blue Grotto, which is entered through a very small opening. Because the opening is so small, the grotto is closed during bad weather or choppy seas. It was closed when we first boarded the ferry to take us from Sorrento to Capri, but luckily it opened once we arrived! Entering the Blue Grotto involves sitting on the bottom of a rowboat and lying flat in order to fit through the cavity. Once inside, the water glows a gorgeous shade of blue.

The next day we visited Positano and its beach for a glorious day of lying on the beach, swimming, and relaxing.

Finally, Sunday, we visited the ancient ruins of Pompeii and saw the remains of buildings that had been excavated from the volcanic rock and ash of Vesuvius's explosion. Apparently there was no lava involved in the destruction of Pompeii, but because Vesuvius literally exploded, the town was buried in rock and ash. It was mostly the poisonous gases that killed the people of Pompeii.

On a sadder note, while Pompeii was being excavated, empty pockets were discovered in the layers of rock and ash, which had solidified. To discover what had occupied these spaces, the cavities were filled with plaster and then excavated. The results were human casts showing the positions of several people of Pompeii as they died. After death, their bodies decayed, leaving the empty pockets that preserved their shape. Below is a cast of a young boy, covering his mouth to try to prevent breathing in the poisonous gases.

Our trip ended with us climbing Mount Vesuvius and peering into one of its craters.

There are still two weeks left here in Italy and so much to see. Tomorrow we are off to Venice for a couple of days.


Monday, May 20, 2013

This is my third time in Florence and it is my favorite of all the European cities I've ever visited (admittedly there are MANY I've not visited).  I love coming here and hope to be able to teach more study abroad classes here in the future.  This time I'm teaching a course on Machiavelli because Florence was his home and he is entombed here in the Basilica of Santa Croce (though he was not given a proper tomb and monument for 250 years because they assumed he was an atheist!). Here are a few random observations from my first ten days:
* Flying is uncomfortable but because of it we get to visit some real cool places. If you fear flying you should really get over it because you miss so much.
* Riding in Italian taxis (and buses) is terrifying anyway, but you realize your fear is probably justified when your taxi rear ends someone (no real damage but lots of gesticulating and verbal expression)
* I'm not sure about the proper reaction when an Italian fellow walks up and salutes you and says something like "Grazie America". I hope a big smile is adequate.
* Florence has what may be the best food in the solar system. It just seems wrong to see frozen pizza in a "supermarket". Ditto for seeing McDonalds, Burger King, and Subway.

* I understand Starbucks is opening in Florence.  That means there will be one coffee shop (out of literally hundreds) selling bad coffee.
* Having a landlord who speaks no English (and me no Italian) results in lots of grunts, arm waving, and smiles when you are trying to connect to wifi and he has the code (which, by the way, is 24 characters).
* Visiting Sienna for the first time (with the students) was really fun.  I'd never been to that city and it is filled with beautiful architecture and history.  The Snickers Gelato is to die for!
* My gosh, Italians know how to cook!
* FYI: Netflix does not work outside the United States.
* Italian heavy metal bands are no better than American ones.
* I wear a t-shirt and shorts when I go for a morning run. Apparently I don't understand the dress code (the other runners look much nicer than I).
* People really are the same everywhere; almost all are generous, helpful, and kind.
* Technology is awesome. I have used Facetime to talk with Adam and Dylan (my sons) and Lynette (my wife). I understand why people love Skype. I also have had great Facebook conversations with Jessica (my daughter) and cell phone conversations (somewhat expensive) with my Mom. . 

* The little old lady selling umbrellas really loves it when you buy one. Her smile is worth much more than 5 euros. I NEEDED an umbrella so 5 euros was very little to pay (its the cost of a typical panini) and it kept me mostly dry from the waist up. 
* I love being American but in my next life I want to be Italian. Italian babies seem really happy. 
* You won't gain weight in Florence regardless of how much you eat. No matter how many times I visit here I get lost after meals and walk off the calories anyway. The city's designers were unfamiliar with the notion of right angles.
* I sometimes eat in unfamiliar restaurants in unfamiliar areas of the city (see above).
* Some students find Machiavelli fascinating; others not so much. Weird!
* Visiting other countries would be much easier if they would all adopt American Central Daylight Time.
* I apparently pronounce the few Italian words I know with a Southern accent. My undergraduate Russian language professor said the same thing about my Russian pronunciation. I do speak Southern American fluently, however.

* Last Friday I visited Montepulciano with new faculty friends here.  It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited (Google it for photos).  On Saturday my friends and I visited Lucca, another cool town surrounded by a three mile wall which is about fifty feet wide (dirt with stone on the outside) built for protection in about the 13th century.  

                                                This is a photo of me with Lucca in the background

My wife arrives in three days (yay!!).  


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Destruction in Belize!

Howdy, all.

As we get ready to journey to Belize, this web-link from Patti, about the destruction of one of the ancient Mayan pyramids:  Mayan Nohmul Pyramid In Belize Destroyed By Bulldozer

This isn't one of the sites we are scheduled to visit, but it gives an idea of what's going on, and why international attention to these sites is important.

later, bob

Friday, May 10, 2013

Buon giono! I'm still in Florence, but I thought I'd give an update on what I'm doing in case my parents aren't the only ones reading this. Yesterday we visited the Accademia, home of Michelangelo's David. And last night I went for a hike with some of our study abroad group and we wound our way across the Ponte Vecchio to the south side of the river, where the wealthy Italians live. We walked up past the Piazzale Michelangelo to the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte.

Here is a picture of the Ponte Vecchio. Although it doesn't look like it, we are walking across Florence's most famous bridge--famous for its gold and silver.

While walking, we passed the house where Galileo lived when he was in Florence.

One of the views on our walk.

The Basilica di San Miniato al Monte.

We stopped by the Piazzale Michelangelo on our way down. Here's me pinching the Duomo!

And this morning we climbed up all 463 steps of the Duomo. This picture gives you an idea of what that was like: steep and cramped.

But this view made it all worth it.

 After the Duomo, I visited the Laurentian Library, next to the Basilica di San Lorenzo, which I visited yesterday (sorry, no photos allowed).

Here's a close up of one of the old books in the library.

And some of the materials that were used to print books.

And, on a side note, here's a picture of a bracelet I bought in the market. The price started out at 24 euros, but I bartered it down to 7. Bartering is an interesting part of the market in Florence and one that I was uncomfortable with at first, since I'm used to shopping in stores where all prices are fixed. But here, bartering is expected. Just don't offend them by offering too little!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Maya Cosmos Madness!

My head is spinning trying to comprehend the myriad beliefs held by the Maya! Just get me to Belize already! I am currently studying Maya Cosmos: Art and Architecture in lieu of this trip. I am excited to see how I can apply some of the things learned in this class on the trip. Hopefully Professor Stanton speaks Spanish! Rosseta stone anyone?!?

I'll try and be on good behavior....I hear sacrificing is a common thing down there:/
Labels: 2 comments | | edit post

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Florence, Italy

This is my first time blogging, so we'll see how it goes! I am studying abroad in Florence this summer. I arrived on Monday and will be here until the end of May. I've been getting settled into my apartment, which I share with three girls from Maryville University in St. Louis.

Below are some pictures of our apartment.

And here is the view from my bedroom windows.

Last night (Tuesday) we hiked up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It was quite an uphill walk, but the view was definitely worth it. Here are some pictures of the view (and me), including a panorama.

And here is my first glance at the Duomo, which we will be climbing to the top of on Friday. That's 463 steps give or take a few.

Here is the most famous bridge in Florence: Ponte Vecchio.

And, of course, this post about Italy could never be complete without...Gelato! The first flavor I tried was chocolate hazelnut and it was fabulous. In this picture the flavor is passion fruit. It was absolutely amazing! But then, is it even possible to have bad gelato? I think not.

Subscribe to our feed