Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mediterranean Cruise (Part 6)

Buon giorno (good day)!! Hope you have enough energy today...because we are off to explore Sicily and Mount. Etna!
  (photo credit: Dr. John)
We arrived at the seaport Messina in Sicily. This was the famous statue at the harbor...This photo was taken by my daughter Stephanie in the early morning.
 First off, we went to explore the town of Taormina. It is a delightful medieval town, perched on the terrace overlooking the sea. From here you can see Mt. Etna!
We did some strolling in the town and discovered this chocolate museum shop! Can you believe that the displays were made with chocolate! I couldn't quite believe it even though I saw these art works (see that chocolate "dress"?) with my own eyes! I was so inspired by these intricate designs and patterns at the time that I missed stamping (LOL)! 
 The chef/owner proudly smiled for us!
 Taormina is very popular with tourists all year around. This little town has inspired photographer   such as Wilhem von Gloeden. Taormina's first important tourist was Johann Wolfgang Goethe who dedicated exalting pages to the city in his book entitled Italian Journey. Starting from the 19th century Taormina became a popular tourist resort in the whole of Europe: people who visited Taormina include Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia, Nietzsche (who here wrote his Also sprach Zarathustra), Richard Wagner and many others.  
(The Duomo dates back from 13th century-photo credit: Dr. John)
During the early 20th century the town became a colony of expatriate artists, writers, and intellectuals. I only wish we had more time to explore Taormina ... one and half hour was not enough do do its justice!
 And of course, during that short period of time of visit, we had to do some food shopping and sampling...I ended up buying some Oregano,  mixed Italian herbs and pasta! The kids were happy to get some Gelato! The chocolate hazelnut treat (see below in the middle) was so yummy!
After this lovely visit, we started our 1/1/2 hour bus ride to Mount. Etna--Europe's largest active volcano. We saw the remnants of the eruptions in 2002.
 It got colder as we went higher to the mountain....
After we reached the destination stop, it's time for a small lunch :)
 This was our scrumptious lunch-- Italian Rice Ball (Fried Risotto) and pizza!
 After that, we roamed around the rim of the craters.
 We arrived at Silvertri Spent Craters, almost 6,400 feet above sea level.
I felt so blessed to be able to be on top of Mt. Etna with my family. Life is good!

 Thanks so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mediterranean Cruise (Part 5)

Ready to tour Pompeii with me and my family? When we reached Pompeii, as part of the bus tour package, we were invited to visit a handicrafts shop. And that's where we started the Pompeii visit---how convenient!! I think they were trying to sell us tourists something...
These intricate and details Cameos are made with sea shells. It is quite an amazing process!
( work tools for crafting the cameos)
 These intricate silhouette pendants look absolutely stunning! Want one? It's only $4,450 Euros ( $ 6000 US)! Dr. John decided to take a photo and asked me to admire instead!

Well, let's go to Pompeii and explore the ruins....
The following photo shows Mount Vesuvius in the background.
 Pompeii was lost for nearly 1700 years before its rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the time.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year. And of course, the following photos reminded us how horrific it was when Mount Vesuvius erupted on its last day...
Plaster cast of one of the victims
 There were the stoves! I didn't feel like cooking that day...
My two kids and I walked on the paved streets
 And before there were Legos, there was this.... (Dr. John's observation). Alexia posed with the BRICK!
 My family stood in front of a house.
Alert------>we came across the brothel in one of the streets! Thank goodness, my kids are all over 18! No need to explain (insert a bashful face)
You can click on it for larger view ;)
 Finally we came to the half-circle theater!
  It was quite impressive!
(photo credit: Stephanie Lu)
 With this spectacular photo (yup, that sky is THAT blue), we now conclude our tour to Pompeii! We will be off to Sicily NEXT! Ciao!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mediterranean Cruise (Part 4)

How perfect is it to share my travel post with you on a Sunday! This is my later part of the day in Rome. After touring the Colosseum, we then visited the Vatican City.
(photos from top--clockwise: tickets to the Vatican Museum, museum sign, the Swiss Guard outside the St. Peter's Square, introduction/map/guides of the Sistine Chapel's )

Starting from the outside of the Vatican Museum...
 Once we stepped inside, we couldn't help being marveled at the floors, ceilings and displays....
 The Vatican Library and the collections of the Vatican Museums are of the highest historical, scientific and cultural importance.
After a really fast walk-through, before you know it, we were outside the museum. A glance from the St. Peter's Square.
 Next stop is the famous Sistine Chapel
Inside the chapel, it was dark and very crowded...we were also advised to keep very quiet because it is a holy place . Therefore, we were in a room full of hundreds of quiet tourists....I must admit, it was not that pleasant! 

Here is a virtual tour of the chapel , allowing visitors a close-up view of figures in the frescoes. Apart from the sweat and steam the tourists (like me) bring into the chapel, the sheer number of visitors has been criticized for giving the space the feel of a busy train station, complete with pickpockets (watch out!)!

The Creation of Adam is the most well-known of the Sistine Chapel fresco panels, and its fame as a piece of art is rivaled only by the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become one of the single most iconic images of humanity and has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies. So.very. awe-inspiring....
After the Chapel, we were scurried off to the majestic St. Peter's Basilica. I was speechless as I entered the Basilica as it is absolutely massive!
In the following photo, the balcony (above the door) is where Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowds and gives his speeches. Alas, Pope was not there that day...
 The Holy Door or 'Porta Sancta' is only open during a Holy Year (Jubilee), which occur every 25 years (the last one in 2000).
 The Pieta by Michelanglo in the north aisle
 A glace outside the St. Peter's Square
Are you amazed?
I didn't know how much I could take in one afternoon after seeing such these magnificent buildings, paintings, sculptures. It was definitely an afternoon to remember.

Have a blessed Sunday!