May 2010

Once again I’m a tad behind. We’ve had Sarah here visiting and now our friend Jan. On top of that Hannah is working very hard to finish up all of her grade 10 course work before May 31 and so I studying for exams and working hard, keeping us all busy.  I’ll be caught up with pictures very soon.

Monday, May 31: Hannah’s final exam is done and so she is almost completely finished with her grade 10 program; just a couple more PE assignments to get submitted and one last English essay. But the exams in other subjects are finished!  We spent the morning waiting while she did her math final and then went out in the afternoon to celebrate. Unfortunately when I went in for my final swim, not knowing it would be my “final swim”, I swam right over top of a jellyfish. The jellyfish didn’t seem to like that much and so gave my arm a nice sting.  I have new sympathy for both Kim and Robert who were stung last fall.  Of course the result of it all is that I now know much more about jellyfish than I did.  Apparently we can all expect to find them in our swimming areas more and more because of global warming and overfishing of tuna, one of their main predators.

Nursing my sore arm, we went out for a lovely pizza lunch. Then we dropped Hannah off to visit with a couple of her friends from the Son Ferrar soccer team. Other than the jelly fish thing, it was a great last day in Bendinat.  We’re going to miss it here. Tomorrow we head to Barcelona and I’ll be posting to http://bgilgoff.edublogs.org/photos/june-2010 — Month 10!

Sunday, May 30: We spent the afternoon hiking with Kim and Rafa, followed by drinks on the beach and then a lovely late, late lunch which spilled over into supper until 11:00 at night.

Saturday, May 29: We left Hannah at home studying this morning and took Jan out to the Soller market. She loved that this was a more quiet market. The town, of course, is beautiful and it wasn’t too crowded. We started off with coffee at an outside table in the main square where for just three euros each we got a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a cafe con leche and the best croissant any of us had ever tasted.

From Soller we did the drive up to Deia, then back home through Valldemossa. This time we didn’t stop in Valldemossa though and just headed straight home to catch Kim’s delicious lunch of linguine with clams.  Later in the day I helped Hannah with math while Robert and Jan walked over to the beach for a swim.

Friday, May 28: Everything today centered around planning for our dinner party in the evening.  We were thrilled to have Marta, Victor, James, Rafa, Kim and Pacha all show up for dinner which we managed to do appropriately and fashionably into the late hours of the evening.  We are truly getting into this spanish routine.  We included Terry at the dinner party and so got to introduce him all around.  It was all great fun.

In the morning we went into the market in Palma in search of fresh fish, but got sidetracked by the clothing stalls and back street stores.  After loading up for dinner and all buying an article or two of clothing,  we headed for the cathedral. Just as we arrived the skies opened up so after hiding out under a tree for a bit, we decided to just head back to the car and home.  Although Jan missed the interior of the cathedral I think she felt that she has at least had a good second look at Palma.

Thursday, May 27: Hannah wrote her Social Studies midterm in the morning, we did a few errands around and about, squeezed in some power walking for exercise and then went into Palma for the evening.  The highlight was our crepe dinner where we introduced Terry to the waitress.  We think that at first she thought that we had a cardboard cutout of Terry with us because maybe he had recently died.  She seemed a bit horrified at the whole idea of it. Whether or not she still believed that when she let us take a picture of her with Terry, we’re not sure but she did seem to eventually get into the spirit of it all.  The food was excellent.

Wednesday, May 26: Back to the market in Sineu but Hannah didn’t even bring her camera this time because she’s starting to feel that she’s been there, done that. We came in from a different angle though and so managed to catch some artisans we hadn’t seen before.  All four of us bought clothes, even Robert.

In the afternoon Jan and I went for a swim at the stretch of beach below the church in Portal Nous. It is a little farther to walk to from home but the sandy beach and protected swimming area make it one of the nicer places to swim from.

May 26: Dr. Sarah Saunders

May 26: Dr. Sarah Saunders

The wonders of technology allowed us to watch one of Sarah’s graduation ceremonies from afar.  Not quite the same as being there but better than nothing.

Tuesday, May 25: Sarah left us this morning to fly for 20 hours back to Vancouver for her med school graduation. While Robert and I drove Sarah to the airport, Jan invigilated Hannah’s  second math midterm.  Then in the afternoon, we left Hannah at home working on Social Studies assignments while we went off exploring with Jan.  We decided that Valldamosa is a must see and as we’d never been to the Port of Valldemossa, we’d add that in as a new part of the adventure for Robert and I.  It turned out to be quite the adventure.  From the junction on the road out of Valldemossa, the narrow winding one lane road to the port drops directly to the sea through a series of hairpin turns over a span of six kilometers.  There are breath taking views that you hardly have time to enjoy as you hope and pray that you won’t meet any other vehicles coming the other direction. It was quite the driving feat on Robert’s behalf.  Not much at the bottom except a few sleepy little houses, a small protected boat dock and one little restaurant.  We were hot and only considered swimming before we noticed the gorgeously displayed pockets of jelly fish fanned out in the crystal clear water.

From the port we drove back down the coast and home via Andraxt, forgetting until we were too committed, how winding and long that stretch of the road is.  The view along the coast is absolutely amazing though and still takes my breath away every time I see it. I’m glad that Jan got a chance to see it all.

Monday, May 24: With Sarah and Jan both here for just one full day, we decided to do the Alaró hike today not realizing that the restaurant on the mountain which we’ve been going on and on about, would be closed.  We had a great day anyways and still were able to get drinks and treats in the bar at the top of the mountain.

Sunday, May 23: Jan arrived today which rounded out a rather perfect day.  Marta invited us for lunch so after letting Hannah spend the morning at her school work,  we headed to Bunyola for a swim and a wonderful long catalan lunch.  Marta lives in such a beautiful spot with a mountain in her backyard and a gorgeous, comfortable inviting house.  The afternoon there was so relaxing and pleasant.

Saturday, May 22: Hannah and Sarah took the train to Soller while Robert and I drove up to meet them. We browsed through the market and then had lunch in the Port.

Friday, May 21: Palma in the evening. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of wandering the alleyways here.

May 19: In Palma for the evening.

May 21: In Palma for the evening.

Thursday, May 20: Today we had a wonderful indian food lunch and a nice relaxing day in “the compound.”

May 20: Our girls!

May 20: Our girls!

Wednesday, May 19: We drove out to the Sineu market, browsed through the stalls and then had lunch in the main plaça. It is such a colorful, busy market. We didn’t buy much of anything but thoroughly enjoyed all of the activity, the music and the hustle and bustle that this market brings.

May 19: Who wouldn't love all the colors and displays?

May 19: Who wouldn't love all the colors and displays?

Tuesday, May 18: I wasn’t feeling very well today with a bit of a lingering flu but thought I could handle biking along the water by Palma. It was a gorgeous day for it so after Hannah’s morning of school work we headed out.  I did a pretty good job of keeping up, all things considered but everyone thought this picture captured their impression of me throughout the day.

May 18: Trying to keep up.

May 18: Trying to keep up.

Personally I like this picture from earlier in the day just a bit better.

May 17: Purchases at the Palma market

May 17: Happy with our purchases from the Palma market

Monday, May 17: Calvia market

May 17: Sarah bought a purse at the market

May 17: Sarah bought a purse at the market

After the market we drove on to Valdemosa and had a lovely pizza lunch before wandering the streets of the town.

May 17: The countryside around Valdemosa

May 17: In the countryside around Valdemosa

Sunday, May 16: Wonderful to wake up here to a sunny day on beautiful Mallorca. It feels like coming home.

May 16: Yay, we can swim again!

May 16: Yay, we can swim again!

We showed Sarah around a bit.

Saturday, May 15: Moving day today as we traveled on to Mallorca. Luckily the airport was open and the trip fairly uneventful. We’re ready for some sunshine and warm weather. It was almost warm on Mallorca when we arrived and certainly the warmth of our welcome “home” back with Pacha, Kim and Rafa has made up for any lack of hot weather. They greeted us with a delicious spanish lunch that flowed into an evening, late night barbeque around an open fire. Marta and Victor joined us as well as Alex, a friend from the US staying here for a week or so.

Friday, May 14: Today we took a walking tour of the Gothic district in old Barcelona. It was intriguing and fun, even in the pouring rain. For once I set aside my map and just blindly followed our tour guide Chris as he wound his way through the ancient alleyways of Barcelona.

May 14: Our tour of the Gothic area in the rain.

May 14: Our tour of the Gothic area in the rain.

Thursday, May 13: Hannah, Robert and Sarah agreed to celebrate a late Mother’s Day by accompanying me on one of the “city tours” around to all the sights of Barcelona. This city is so spread out with so many interesting sites, that it was a good way to explore this city and get the lay of the land.

May 13: Hannah and Sarah in Guell Park

May 13: Hannah and Sarah in Guell Park

Wednesday, May 12: The highlight of the day, even here in Barcelona was definitely picking up Sarah at the airport.

May 12: We were happy to have Sarah arrive.

May 12: We were happy to have Sarah arrive.

Tuesday, May 11: This was definitely a high adventure day. We were up at 5:00 am to catch our 7 am flight from Florence to Barcelona. Fabrizio, our very gentlemanly landlord for the last few day, picked us up and transported us to the airport where we checked in, and went through security only to have our flight canceled because the airport in Barcelona was closed due to volcanic ash. At that point we weren’t too impressed with Meridiana Air for leaving us stranded completely on our own. None of the ticket agents at the airport would let us rebook onto the later flight to Madrid. No other flights to Barcelona for two days. No options. Period. The ticket sales lady was downright rude. Finally another agent took pity on us and at least tried to give us information about trains and ferries to Barcelona. Nothing looked very promising but we decided to give the train station a try anyways. Long story shorter, in the end we trained to Milan where we were finally able to book ourselves onto a Vueling flight to Barcelona later in the evening so that we arrived at our prebooked Barcelona apartment at 8:40 in the evening. After a getting settled there we went out to wander the streets and have dinner in a lovely little Spanish restaurant. Dinner at midnight, who would believe it?

May 11: An unexpected turn in our plans.

May 11: An unexpected turn in our plans.

Monday, May 10: On Mondays the main museums in Florence, the Uffitizi and the Academia Museums, are closed not that it would mattered as we hear that you need to reserve spots a week or so before you arrive. We hadn’t done that and the line ups to try to get reservations are slow and long. Instead we retraced Robert’s walk from the day before across the bridges and up the hill to enjoy the view from Piazzale Michelangelo. We watched an interesting photo shoot and had a great walk, again away from the crowds. Florence apparently has seven tourists for every resident at any one time. It is definitely not our favorite city.

May 10: Happening onto a professional photo shoot in Piazzale Michelangelo.

May 10: Happening onto a professional photo shoot in Piazzale Michelangelo.

Sunday, May 9: Today I’ll remember only by the crowds of people, although walking in front of the Pallazo Vecchio and seeing police organizing as if for someone important, made us wonder what special event was underway so that Robert and Hannah were reminded that it was Mother’s Day. To celebrate, they had gelato. The event the police were clearing up from was the Florence marathon.
We did our own little walking tour through the city before Hannah and I collapsed into an internet stop and refused to leave. Being disconnected from the internet sadly gives us an odd sense of being disconnected from the Borg. Robert was horrified so went off for a walk to the other side of the river, away from the crowds.

May 9: Mother's Day in Florence

May 9: Mother's Day in Florence

Saturday, May 8: We said goodbye to James and Mary and moved on to Florence today. We were met at the car rental office by Fabrizio who drove us to our next apartment, a lovely little two bedroom place in a 13th Century building on Via della Burella. I love the opportunity to see the insides of these buildings, with their courtyards and old bricks. This building has steps up to the first floor of the apartment that are worn to a slant after years of use. The bannister on our floor has the remains of the statue of a head. Unfortunately the internet that we were promised doesn’t work, other than that, we’d be very happy here.
We went out for the afternoon to explore Florence and get our bearings. This city is more crowded than any place we’ve been, even Rome. The old city where we are staying has limited vehicle access but the hordes of people fill the streets, often in groups with tour guides. Clearly walking tours of the city is big business. The Duomo is impressive much more so than Seina’s. The statues, pretty much all copies of statues we’re told, are everywhere.

May 8: Leaving the villa.

May 8: Leaving the villa.

Friday, May 7: Today we took a rest day and just hung about the house. Hannah wrote a math exam in the morning and then needed some time to work on other schoolwork although without internet she’s limited as to what she can work on.

May 7: Math exam number 1, Done!

May 7: Math exam number 1, Done!

Thursday, May 6: Sienna today. What a lovely town. We parked at the bottom and climbed ~ 215 steps up to the old town. Most intriguing was the striped marble Duomo Cathedral which was as impressive inside as outside, described in Insight Guides – Tuscany as “creativity run riot” or “oriental abstraction”. The construction of it started in 1220 as a Romanesque church but morphed into a Gothic façade complete with statues and sculptures by Gioanni Pisano.  Robert, Hannah and I took some time to do an audio tour which was well worth it inside the Duomo. The old manuscripts and frescos inside the library are particularly fascinating although the whole Duomo is unbelievably rich with color, art, and chaos, including some Michelangelo sculptures and a myriad of amazing floor mosaics.

May 6: Gelato stop in Siena.

May 6: Gelato stop in Siena.

Wednesday, May 5: More galavanting about in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Today we followed James and Mary first to Peinza and then on to Multepulciano all through beautiful winding roads. The weather hasn’t cooperated very well, but being cooler makes if easy to wander the streets. On our way home we tried finding a grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner but everything here closes from at least 1:00 to 4:30 or so and instead we ended up in a small family restaurant in Chiusure, which we suspect was really closed but opened for us. As we walked in the cook was just bringing ricotta pies and custard pies out of the oven. The sweet smell was intoxicating. Instead of a menu we were simply told what we would be served pretty much all in Italian and so without understanding much we all nodded in agreement. Two large platters of antipasto were laid out in front of us, followed by two dishes of delicious pastas. Of course we had to try the pie and the cook insisted on us trying one of each type. We obliged and then she served us an herbal apertif that in my opinion tasted like some kind of fermented chinese herbal medicine, awful.

May 5: Too bad the picture doesn't provide the aroma too of the fresh, hot ricotta pie.

May 5: Too bad the picture doesn't provide the aroma too of the fresh, hot ricotta pie.

Tuesday, May 4: We had the quietest sleep here in the pitch black that only the countryside offers. Then after a relaxing morning of great coffee and helping Hannah with math, we were off to explore. Mary is the best tour guide as she not only is interested in reading about the places she visits before she travels, but she then actually plans and remembers what she reads. Today we went to two small towns, first San Buonoconvento and then Montalcino. The first was small with really only a small bit of an old historic town, mostly a large imposing wall, a good tourist information and a small free museum where we had free internet access, a highlight out here where we seem so far from the world. Next we drove to Montalcino which was impressive. The town is built up on the top of a hill around a large, imposing five sided medieval castle. The castle has impressive ramparts with steep steps and ladders up to the towers, two of which tourists can still climb into. This is a real hands on castle with a lovely wine bar below. From the castle we meandered down through the cobblestone streets of the town, toured the museum with its collection of not too impressive Renaissance Art and then made our way back through the winding coutryside to home.

May 3: Exploring the Montalcino castle with James.

May 3: Exploring the Montalcino castle with James.

Monday, May 3: Moving day! Goodbye Venice! We love you!
We’ve had a relaxing day of travel by train and car to land in beautiful Tuscany, south east of Sienna near the little town of Aciano where we’re perched on the hilltop doorstep of Mary and James. Here we are in the middle of nowhere with a 360 degree view of everywhere all at the same time. The famous rolling hills of Tuscany are in their springtime glory dressed in hundreds of varying shades of greens. It looks surreal even with cloudy grey skies.

May 3: Arriving at the villa.

May 3: Arriving at the villa.

May 2: With only one day left in Venice we decided to get out onto the water and take in Murano and Burano. Murano was interesting but not really worth the time on the vaporettos, in my opinion. We took a wrong turn getting off the boat and wandered through the back side of the island which was not really very pretty at all, before stumbling on to the main street. After a snack alongside the canal, we headed for Burano which we loved. Burano is a beautiful little island with a history of lace making. The houses are beautifully painted, the shops inviting and intriguing and in general, it is just a really gorgeous island town well worth the long ride.

May 2: Burano is a photographer's delight.

May 2: Burano is a photographer's delight.

May 1: We had the best intentions this morning to tour the doges’ palace but didn’t make it once we found a lovely sidewalk market in Campo d’ S. Margarita that was almost all antiques. From there we headed off to another Saturday market on the other side of Venice but I got lost over and over again trying to stay off the main tourist routes. By 2:00 we figured we had probably missed the market so we returned home instead.  Of course we didn’t have any pressure to do anything very impressive today as by 9:00 in the morning we’d already been filmed with celebrities.  Sitting in Campo d’ S. Frari we noticed a well dressed asian fellow waving to a camera crew across the canal. So in my most subtle, refined way, as Robert started to engage him in conversation, I said “So are you famous?” “No” he insisted. “So why the big camera?” I asked. Turns out he and his partner are the hosts of some big on-the-road cooking show in Taiwan  called Super Taste and they are indeed quite famous, at least in Taiwan.

May 1: Meeting the hosts from "Super Taste"

May 1: Meeting the hosts from "Super Taste"

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