Leave the City Behind

Just got back from a great camping adventure up in the Adirondacks. Michelle went back up to school on Friday, and less than hour later Jeannie and lit out for Saranac Lake.  We met up with our friends Mark and Kelly.  The plan was to go camping on Fern Island in Lower Saranac Lake. The site is accessible only by boat, so we were going to paddle out there on canoes, bringing everything we need with us.  This is a whole level more compact and lightweight than car camping, so apart from our tent, sleeping bags and warm clothes, we only brought a minimal amount of cooking stuff and food.  

Unfortunately, it was raining most of the drive up, and after looking like it was clearing up, began raining again on our arrival.  So we decided to bag it the first night and instead went to Lake Placid to see a movie.  The Barbie Movie was the best thing playing, so that was our choice.  It was fun and entertaining, especially the part where Ken gets all patriarchy happy.  I think it completes a trilogy with Toy Story and The Lego Movie, although I’m not sure what the higher level meta-point is of three of them take together.

Saturday morning the weather started to clear up, so we decided to go for it.  Mark and Kelly have a pair of small, lightweight canoes, almost like open-top kayaks.  In addition, we borrowed a larger two-man canoe from Mark’s friend and neighbor Morgan, who had been our D&D party over the winter.  It was a super nice canoe, made of kevlar, light enough to lift with one hand.  We loaded up all three boats with our camping kit and a big load of firewood, and were off. Mark and paddled the bigger boat with most of the stuff.  It was about two miles to the island, about forty-five minutes of paddling.  We started in a small bay but the last part was in open water, and the wind started to come up, the rain clouds blowing by overhead and even a few drops of rain.

But by the time we got to the island the rain had basically stopped. We unloaded and set up out stuff. There was a fireplace and a picnic table and a latrine there.  The island was hilly and rocky, so it was a bit of a challenge to find two relatively flat places to set up our tents.  Mark and Kelly had really compact folding chairs and and generally everything about their kit was a bit more efficient then ours, being optimized for canoe rather than car camping.

After that it was peaceful and beautiful.  We took a hike to the other side of the island (we were the only people there) and looked the lake and more islands over there.  We built a fire and cooked dinner and sat around watching the fire and the water, talking about life the universe and everything well into the night.  The next day it was basically the same thing, and the sun even came out!  We spotted some wildlife on the island including a giant toad, some newts, a loon up close, and heard an eagle in the trees.

Mid afternoon it was time to go, since Jeannie and I had to drive back to New York City.  So we packed down our stuff and loaded it onto the big canoe.  Mark came along with us in one of the smaller boats so he could restock the firewood supply; he and Kelly were staying another two nights.  Jeannie was a little nervous in the big canoe with all our stuff, because a couple summers ago we were canoeing up there and we capsized after a power boat passed us and swamped us with its wake.  But she did fine, and I generally steered our bow into the wake of any passing boat to avoid side-to-side rocking, and she got more comfortable handling the waves and being out in the water with motorboats around.

We stopped for dinner on the way home at Lake George, at a restaurant overlooking the lake and the marina.  Nice end to a great weekend.

Truth and Soul

We saw Fishbone open for Parliament Funkadelic at the Capital Theater in Port Chester just the other day.  I’ve been a big Fishbone fan since the 1980’s and seen them a few times before, most notably at the Lollapalooza Festival of 1993, when I was working at MTV’s Electronic Carnival.  Their sound is a bit hard to describe, but I guess they came up as part of that L.A. ska punk scene, combined with deep funk and melodic vocals with great harmony.  And of course great songwriting that shows of all their strengths.  It looks like they still have their original bassist, singers and horn players, but the guitarist, keyboardist and drummer were younger looking guys.  They put on a fantastic show.  The lead singer also played a variety or saxophones, including an impressive black and gold baritone. He seemed to suffer some kind of wardrobe malfunction while crowd surfing; I’m not sure if it was part of the act or not.

Parliament Funkadelic were great too.  George Clinton is still out there doing his thing in his eighties, although he mostly sat in his chair, sang now and then, and conducted the band from time to time.  I could mention that I met George Clinton once in the ’90s when I was working at MTV doing music video games, and he wanted license his whole catalog to us to sample and use in a game. I thought that was a great idea, and worked on a bunch treatments and prototypes for a game in which you go around doing funk jams, and set up different beacons on different levels to ultimately call the mothership, and at the end a bug UFO comes down and the P Funk band jams with you. It would’ve been amazing! But alas, that game never got made.

There were probably twenty musicians on stage including horns, multiple singers, two bass players, several guitarists and just one guy on keys.  The whole thing was one continuous stream of songs, jams, segues and solos.  At one point, when they just finished playing Give Up the Funk, it looked as if they might end the set, but instead they moved into a slow, sparse bass pattern.  The one by one half the guys in the band took an extended solo: trombone, synthesizer, bass, alto sax, guitar, it went on for like a half an hour on the same minimalist groove, and it was amazing.  The alto player in particular had that searing wailing altissimo sound, and cut above everyone else.  The band brought it up after that and did two more songs, another half hour at least.  

Last week was the one and only five-day work week in August for me.  Over the weekend I took the Mustang out, caught up on the yardwork again, this time mainly the north side of the house, plus the neighbor’s willow tree and weeding under the hedges.  We got back into going on bike rides on Sunday morning.  I did fifteen miles this time.  Went out to Long Island for a visit before Michelle goes back to school.  That’s it.

Fire and Rain

We went for a camping trip this weekend up in Mongaup Pond in the Catskills, with Martin and his family.  We haven’t really done a camping trip since before the pandemic, so it felt really good to be back.  We went up on Friday.  The whole packing and loading in went smoothly, except that we forgot to pack lawn chairs, so we stopped at a Target on the way.  And traffic was really heavy. What’s normally a two-hour trip took almost four hours. Anyway we got there and got set up and the weather was fine.  Grilled some meat and drinks some beers and stayed up talking around the fire into the night.

Martin’s kids are at and age where they’re lots of fun to hang out with.  They were into pulling a prank where they’d jump out of the woods and attempt to scare you and tell you you’re being mugged. First time they tried it, Alley and Matthew set it up with a story about how the woods were full of robbers and muggers, and we were walking on the sketchy trail.  I was confused, but when they sprung the trap it was hilarious.  The second time they actually got me, and I hollered out in shock and surprise. They’re also pretty helpful and can build a campfire and keep it going.

In the morning we hung out and had coffee and Martin and I played guitars.  Surprisingly, we don’t know that many of the same songs, so mostly we were showing each other different tunes. Today I put more time and focus into my guitar practice than I usually do.  In the afternoon we went down to the pond and the kids swam, and later went for some walks or maybe light hikes.  We felt a drop of rain in the afternoon and so set up the shelter just in case.

In the evening, when were just about the start making supper, the skies turned dark and ominous, the thunder began to rumble. Soon it began to rain.  Right at the start, I made a good fire, put on alot of wood, and Jeannie put tinfoil on the grate to keep it dry.  It poured for a good hour, and we sat under the shelter and played an epic game of Fluxx.  The rain finally subsided, and we started thinking about cooking again, and that it would be getting dark soon. But the respite didn’t last and soon it was pouring once more. We had heard from the park rangers it was going to continue rain much of the night. Kathleen and Martin decided it would be better to break camp, and Jeannie agreed.  We did our best to stay dry as we packed down, but finally we had to take down the tent and the shelter, and it became futile.  Ah well, at least the car was fairly organized with the wet stuff all being in one place.  And we could run the heat together with the air conditioning on the drive home to dry out. 

Amazingly, the fire was still burning strong as we finally pulled out of the campsite.  It was probably the worst rains storm I can remember on a camping trip, which was a bit funny, because before we left the forecast was for a thirty percent chance of scattered thundershowers.  When we got out of the park and had cel phone service, we learned there was a tornado warning for the sight that night, so it’s just as well we didn’t try and ride it out.  It rained most of the way home too.  We got home Saturday night and Michelle was surprised to see us and that we threw in the towel.  “I wasn’t even aware it was an option,” she said.

We got what we wanted out of the trip.  It was a great time despite the rain. It would have been nice if it lasted longer, but we would’ve just gotten up Sunday morning and packed in the rain then. Sunday we put all the wet stuff out in the driveway, the shelter, the tent and the tarps. Also we didn’t cook alot of the food we brought so we had steak yesterday for dinner and we’ll have burgers tomorrow.

A Trip to Italy, Part IV – Venice

Venice is of course the legendary city on the water that we’ve all seen in countless movies.  This one was a pretty short train ride and we arrived mid-morning. The train into the city goes over a long bridge, and in most of the city there’s no cars, so there’s a big parking lot on the island next to the train station.  The station lets out into the Grand Canal.  Coming into the plaza, we all just stood there for a while taking it all in, trying to grok that this was indeed a real place.

We were staying out on Lido island, which separates the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea and is known for its beaches.  To get there one takes a water bus or water taxi.  Jeannie, being a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker with a fondness of public transportation in all it’s forms, had this all worked out and had us get 48-hour water bus passes.  Lido is only five minutes away from the main part of the city, but the bus took a circuitous route thru the Grand Canal and three-quarters of the way around on the north side before it crossed the lagoon, so the trip was more like forty-five minutes. Very scenic tour of the city.

The boat landing at Lido was like an extension of the main part of Venice, with canals penetrating the island.  However, here there were also cars.  It was a five-minute cab ride to our hotel on the beach side of the island.  It was lovely small hotel, the best one yet, right at the edge of the beach.  Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we walked down along the beach until we found an “American style” outdoor beach bar for lunch.  I had the “big American” burger, which had prosciutto and an egg on it, a distinctly non-American twist.

The music here was American rock.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers seem particularly popular in Italy; we heard them several places.  Interestingly, when we were in South America last year, pretty much all the music was some kind of salsa, with a clave instead of a backbeat, even the remixes of rock music were salsified.  The main exception was some songs had a reggae beat. In Europe there were some dance remixes but alot of it was straight up rock and pop like we have at home.  It wasn’t until we got to Venice and saw pseudo-classical/folk/gypsy ensembles playing at the tourist cafes that we heard anything distinctly European.  More on that soon.

After lunch we checked into the hotel, and our room was on the fourth (top) floor, with a view of the Adriatic Sea, all blue and beautiful.  It was a ten-minute walk back to the water bus station, and then fifteen minute boat ride halfway around the island to St. Mark’s plaza, the epicenter of downtown Venice.  

The scene there was fantastic, with a glorious palace right past the boat landing, then an equally impressive and ornate cathedral, a great big bell tower, and big fancy renaissance architecture on all sides.  The square itself was full of kiosks and restaurants and live music.  Going under an archway in the back of the plaza led to a maze of narrow twisting streets with frequent footbridges over the canals.  The streets were lined with shops, restaurants, hotels and churches.  The whole thing had a dreamlike quality, and it was something to try and imagine how this place came into being, and now hundreds of years after it’s peak of power and influence remains a world famous tourist destination.

Just as Florence was famous for its leather shops, so Venice has lot of glassworks.  I saw lots of glasses, vases, bowls, ashtrays, etc., plus alot of handblown sculptures ranging from kitschy knickknacks to works of art as large and expensive as you want to go.  There were dragons and devils, and cuttlefish and octopi and all kinds of things.  Some of the animal figures reminded of origami in that the artist was following a known pattern, with variations in the finishing to give each model its own expressiveness.  I bought a nice glass dish, azure like the Adriatic, perfect for putting guitar picks in.  And I set my mind to find a nice, handblown octopus sculpture.

We did the classic gondola ride, which give you another, unique perspective on the city and its architecture.  We wandered as far as the Rialto, a big fancy bridge over the Grand Canal, lined with shops. We found a place along the canal for dinner, another long lingering affair with appetizers, pasta and wine.  By this time the kids were telling us every evening that this was the best family vacation ever.  I really can’t disagree.

At the end of the night we made our way back to St. Mark’s square.  The tide was now high, and when a police boat sped by it’s wake splashed up onto the plaza.  The water bus ride was breezy and refreshing and on the walk back the hotel we passed some really nice villas.  Ended the night up at the hotel listening the the sound of the ocean and the distant strains of American pop music.

I now have a new quest, a bit more in depth than finding the right glass octopus sculpture.  In a few years when I retire, I want to spend a few months as an artist-in-residence at some cool and picturesque place in Europe, and spend the weekends traveling and sightseeing as much as I can.  

Next morning it was another beach day.  Lizzy and I were the most enthused about this.  I like swimming in the ocean, and she mainly wanted to work on her tan.  Jeannie was happy to sit on the beach but didn’t go in the water.  Michelle came out to the beach but then decided she’d rather go back to the hotel and rest inside in the cool. Anyway, it was super nice for swimming.  The water was clear and blue and warm, and the waves were gentle.  No big breakers like you get in Long Island.  The second time I went out for a swim Lizzy came out with me.  At one point I was just enjoying how amazing everything was and I said to her “I feel completely relaxed.  I mean I just can’t get any more relaxed than this.”  And so we hung out in the water and the sunshine.  Came back in and laid on the beach, and went back out for yet another swim.  

In the afternoon we went to Murano Island, where the glass blowing shops are, as well as a famous glass museum.  We first took the water taxi to St. Marks, then crossed by foot over the Grand Canal to the north side of the island, to catch another water bus to Murano.  Along the way we grabbed a quick lunch of panini from a food stand.  Murano was alot like the main island with more canals and shops and restaurants.  The museum was was cool, and had alot of historical Venetian glass as well as some modern stuff. Afterwards we checked out the glass shops, but I did not find what I as looking for.  Then it was was drinks and appetizers at a place on the waterfront.

We took the water bus back to the main island for more wandering around looking at the shops. I finally found the perfect souvenir, a glass octopus maybe 8″ across, with a good heft, and a really cool pattern of white and blue inside the glass.  I named him Otto, which means eight.  

After dinner at yet another quaint and charming place we lingered in St. Mark’s plaza listening to various musical groups playing in different quarters of the square.  The ensembles seemed to be a variation on a basic setup.  Piano and standup bass, no drums. The frontline was some combination of one or two violins, an accordion, a clarinet and sometimes a saxophone.  Some of the groups leaned more classical and traditional, some were more euro-pseudo-jazz renditions of pop songs.  Mostly it was about setting the right mood. All were very good.  My favorite thing that I heard was an interpretation of Billie Jean by Michael Jackson.

The last day I woke up early and watched the sun rise over the Adriatic from my hotel room. The beach was empty and I was tempted to dash out for one last swim before it was time to go.  As it was, we left Lido pretty early, for a marathon relay of eight different vehicles for the journey home.  It started with a cab from the hotel the the water bus dock, then the water bus into downtown Venice.  This time it went the other way around the island so in the end we circumnavigated it all and then some. From Venice we took the bullet train back to Rome, and then the express train to the airport.  In the airport there was a little tram the went from the main concourse out the the gate.  Then of course the plane itself.  We were back in New York City sometime after nightfall. Then it was the shuttle bus back the the car parking service, and finally the drive home.  Whew.  What a great trip.

It took us a few days to catch up on things like laundry, mowing the lawn, and getting back into our routine.  It was in the mid-seventies here the day after we returned, and it felt downright cold.  The weekend was hot again, and I spent most of it doing yardwork, edging the driveway, walkway and patio, and trimming the hedges.  All caught up now.  Even got on my bike once or twice, and took the mustang out for a ride.

Italy, Part III – Florence

Maybe it’s a good time to circle back and mention the hotels.  We stayed at smallish, European-style hotels. The place in Rome was well over a hundred years old, as was the whole neighborhood, on a narrow one-way street paved in flagstones, with a sharp right turn halfway down the block and a steep slope down to the main street.  Our room had a little courtyard garden. And as I mentioned it had a lovely rooftop bar.  

The place in Naples was a similar building, but the lobby was in a modern style with a lemon theme, and the bar was in the lobby. The air conditioning was a little stronger, or maybe the heat wave had subsided to normal hot summer weather. It was about a block off the main plaza where the train was, and again the whole area was older buildings, with narrow streets paved in flagstones.

All the hotels we stayed had breakfast, and it was pretty similar everywhere. There was usually scrambled eggs and Italian style bacon, a.k.a. prosciutto which had been pan-fried, and various local cheeses. Also fresh cantaloupe, and peaches and pears in syrup (and in one place even plums) like I used to have as a kid. Also various pastries and croissants, juices and coffee. Some places would put a pot of coffee on the table, others had advanced coffee machines that would do espresso, cappuccino, etc. if you could figure out what buttons to press.

Anyway, the last night in Naples was the halfway point of the trip. We checked out, wheeled our luggage back to the station, and got on the train to Florence. This was a trip of over 300 miles, but the train was really fast and we got there by lunchtime. The hotel and the neighborhood were similar to the others, but this time we were on edge of the old renaissance-era downtown, which is now a high-class district of shopping, restaurants, churches and museums. Our first stop of the day was the Uffuzi gallery, home to lots of great renaissance paintings and sculptures including many renditions of the Madonna and child with assorted saints, which this kids dubbed “ugly baby” paintings, and they weren’t far from wrong. Also featured were a myriad of Greek and Roman mythological gods and heroes including Botticelli’s famous Venus on the halfshell. Impressive stuff. I think my favorite painter of that ilk is Donatello.

After that went to see the Duomo, which is a very elaborate cathedral skinned in ornately carved multicolor marble slabs. We were too late to go inside, so instead we sat in a cafe on the piazza and enjoyed more Italian food and drinks. Afterwards we went around shopping. Florence is famous for it’s leather goods, and it turns out the girls had their eyes on various wallets and handbags. I was really impressed at the variety of bags, purses, cases, etc., and even though the dictates of fashion prescribe that such things are not manly, started to devise various pretexts in which I might put to use a really awesome leather handbag. Baroque scientific instruments, material components for spellcasting and that kind of thing. In the end, Jeannie bought me a really nice leather jacket, which amazingly they had in my size. The shopkeeper called me Rambo, and I had to explain to him Stallone is actually a short guy.  It was way too hot to do more than try it on, but I look forward to wearing it in the fall. We ended the night on a medieval bridge over the river, full of gold and jewelry shops.

Next day we stopped by the Duomo again, but the line was way too long get in. We spent the morning at the Accademia Gallery, which featured more paintings and sculptures, and a cool collection of antique musical instruments, including the world’s first piano and a bunch of related instruments. The inventor lived in Florence. The centerpiece of the museum the famous David by Michelangelo. It was really impressive at about twelve feet high, and really beautiful, rightly renowned as a masterpiece. I was a bit disappointed there was no matching Goliath.

In the afternoon we went on a wine tasting tour in the Tuscan countryside. We went to two different places, the about and hour’s bus ride out of town. The first was a charming villa in the countryside that did smaller batches of bespoke wines in large wooden casks. The wines were excellent, served with salami and cheese and a backstory for each one, in a cool dining hall in the middle of the wine cellar. The star wine was a chianti, so we learned what made that special to Tuscany. They had several other varieties, including a great desert wine. The vibe of the place reminded me of what I’d seen in Hungary. In addition to grapes, they also had olive orchards and pressed olive oil. The second place was similar but bigger, and also did industrial scale winemaking with three-story high metal tanks. The tasting was out in a shaded patio, and again several different wines with meat and cheese and bread. It turned out the people sitting next to us were from our same home town in the States, and live only a mile or so away.

A Trip To Italy, Part II – Naples

Next day we got up early and took the train to Naples.  Italy has high-speed rail so the the trip was quick and easy, although our train was delayed leaving Rome so it took longer than expected. We got to Naples and checked into our hotel.  It was in the old town in a neighborhood near the train station.  Like Rome, Naples is a real, large city.

The main activity of the day was to check out the famous Roman ruins of the city of Pompeii, a short ride from the city on the commuter train. The Bay of Naples is dominated my Mount Vesuvius, with Naples to the north and Pompeii to the south. Pompeii was fascinating. Although not as rich and fancy as downtown Ancient Rome, it was much more expansive and much better preserved. You really could understand the architecture and the layout of the the town and get a feel for how people lived and worked.  Towards the back was the amphitheater where Pink Floyd filmed their famous concert movie over fifty years ago. There was a little exhibit about it underneath the grandstand.  The amphitheater was more intact than the one in Rome, and there was a feeling of intense energy standing in the middle of it.

We had thought about maybe taking a trip up to the top of Mount Vesuvius, but even though it was no longer 100 degrees, it was probably still about 90, and after several hours of wandering around we had had enough. It stays light really late in Italy in the summer, so back near the hotel we found a restaurant and had another long languid dinner of pasta and that sort of thing.  This place had wine for seven euros a bottle, so we had three of four before we finally left, and then another drink at the hotel bar.

Next day the goal was Sorrento.  We got up early and took the city subway to the harbor downtown, just a few stops away.  Jeannie was delighted to see a cruise ship she follows on the internet was in port.  We hopped a ferry across the bay, very beautiful. Sorrento is a charming seaside resort town atop some cliffs; down at the shore they have a series of little beach resort clubs where you can rent a beach chair, umbrella, towel, etc. for the day, and have drinks and food brought out to you.  The beach itself is pretty minimal and most of the place is built out over the water on piers and breakwalls, creating a semi-enclosed swimming area.  Still it was very nice; the water was calm and warm and blue and beautiful, and the whole vibe was very relaxed.  Beautiful views of scenic seashore and cliffs and mountains dotted with villages, with yachts and other boats crisscrossing out on the bay.  The music was euro dance remixes of American pop and rock hits, mainly from the 1980’s.  The food included things like octopus and tuna tartar.  

When we were done there we went up to the town and walked around and looked at the shops. We took the ferry back to Naples and had another great dinner the next restaurant down from the night before.

A Trip to Italy, Part I – Rome

Just got back from a long, long trip halfway around the world. We’ve had alot of pent-up energy from not being able to travel much for the last three years.  Around Xmastime Lizzy asked if we could do one more family vacation together this summer and Jeannie happily agreed.  We brainstormed some possibilities and decided to go to Italy. 

Our flight left NYC at midnight Saturday night and arrived in Rome Sunday afternoon in the middle of a heat wave.  We stayed in a hotel right in downtown Ancient Rome, walking distance from the Colosseum.  The first evening we took a short walk down, and seeing the Colosseum in real life just knocks you out.  We had dinner at a restaurant right across the way, wonderful Italian food, pasta and wine, and the girls started a long streak of drinking Aperol Spritzes. After walking around a while more, we went back to the hotel and cranked up the AC.  Let me tell you, European air conditioning is not up to American standards.

The main event the next day was a tour of the Vatican.  It was a hundred degrees out.  We were part of an organized tour that met outside the Vatican walls, so we arrived early had lunch nearby, drinks and desert.  The tour itself was quite interesting, first of all because the Vatican is somehow technically it’s own country, separated from the rest of Rome by a medieval castle wall, so there’s this customs and security checkpoint.  Our tour guide called it the world’s richest and weirdest country.  Inside of course it’s all about the renaissance artwork, numerous galleries of sculptures and paintings and artifacts, with a big focus on Michelangelo and his muscular nude men, languidly posed and casually yet precisely composed.  Honestly to modern eyes it looks pretty strange and festishistic, and not always exactly spiritual or uplifting.  Kinda made me want to hit the gym rather than contemplate God.  

Still there’s something impressive and admirable about the talent and vision behind it all, the scale and technique and craftsmanship, the dramatization of characters and scenes from the bible freely mixed with ancient mythology, and the whole renaissance project of revitalizing and connecting to the aesthetic of an civilization that’s been gone for a thousand years.  I studied art and architecture in college, and had seen alot of this in books.  Still, it’s something else seeing it up close and in context at real life scale. Everything is so visually busy, the art, architecture and sculpture all merge into one giant system.  The famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel looks kinda like a comic book, telling a story in a set of panels with bright primary colors.  That doesn’t really come across from the photographs.  I must say the Pieta was genuinely beautiful and moving.

The last thing on the tour was St. Peter’s Basilica, which is just absolutely massive and incredibly ornate, with probably thousands of statues and paintings and other ornamental items, all rendered in carved marble with a few mummified old popes as well.  My favorite thing there was the window behind the alter, which wasn’t stained glass, but rather different kinds of stone in different colors, cut so thin as to be translucent.

We took a cab back to our hotel.  Air conditioning never felt so good.  Later when the sun began to sink toward the west, we went up to the bar on the roof of the hotel and enjoyed some drinks and the view of city.  Then we went out to dinner on Tiber Island at a very charming restaurant.  Afterwards we walked along the river and checked out the shops and the whole scene.

Next day it was even hotter.  The main item of the day was a tour of ancient Rome, starting with an area containing the ruins of the Forum, the temples of Jupiter, Saturn, and other important temples and public buildings.  Next, up the hill was the former palace of the Emperor.  The guide gave us alot of interesting info about the history of the place, how it was built of over time, then fell to ruin, and later excavated and to some extent restored or at least made worthy for public display.  Alot of active archaeology still going on.

The last stop was the Colosseum, and we got to go inside.  This was truly impressive for its massive scale and its ancientness, but also how its conception and layout as a sports arena still feels very modern.  One side of it is standing relatively intact, while the other side partially collapsed in an earthquake centuries ago, and the stones were hauled across town to use in the construction of St. Peter’s.  So it was with alot of structures after the empire fell.  The floor of the arena had been excavated and partially restored, and we did epic battle with the sun god while our guide explained the history and various used of the place throughout the ages.

Afterwards we retreated to a nearby Irish pub, because Jeannie had read that the Irish pubs in Rome tend to have good air conditioning.  Well it was okay by European standard but not actually cool.  Still it was much better than outside, and the drinks were refreshing.  The food, nachos and chicken fingers, was pretty terrible, but we weren’t that hungry anyway.

We finally mustered the energy to walk back to the hotel and took another break.  That evening we went to the famous Trevi Fountain, which was wrought with statues of Neptune, very beautiful.  Lizzy posed for pictures.  Dinner at a nearby restaurant, then more checking out the shops.  Jeannie bought a bobble head of the pope.