Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Italy: Venice for Carnevale

I am not a fan of crowds, so I don't know exactly why I agreed to this.  Venice at Carnevale (AKA Mardi Gras in the states or Facshing if you're in Germany) is just crazy and insanely crowded.  The streets of Venice are narrow and more like alleys so the crowds can get pretty thick.  They even had a few places with police directing the foot traffic to keep things from getting clogged up.  This is the first time I have been a little nervous about keeping up with the kids.  The older kids are pros at this traveling around Europe thing now though and they did great.  We don't let go of the younger ones when things get this hairy anyhow.

Several of the children picked out masks to wear for the day.  Genna picked one to match her black velvet dress.
We had to take a train from Padua to Venice.  We first walked about 20 minutes to the train station.  These children are going to be so tough after all this walking we have them do on such a regular basis.  When we got off the train and walked out the front of the station, there were the canals!

Fresh off the train!


First Look at the Canals

Drew was not happy because we wouldn't let him go down anymore steps towards the water.

Isaac found his mask and surprised me by wanting the elephant nosed kind.  He specifically had his eye on one with musical notes on it.  He normally is embarrassed to wear dress up clothes now, so I was shocked that he kept it on all day, sans lunch and the cathedral.


I was searching for blue agate cameo earrings and so we were window shopping a bit to see if there were any that caught my eye.  I ended up going back to one of the first places we looked at for dangling Madonna and Child earrings that I've barely taken off since.  I love them.  They were not cheap, but at all the stores I looked at that was about the price they ran.

This lion statue is a famous landmark in Venice.
It was really a very nice day, but there was a chilly wind that got you in the shade.  Mostly I was comfortable in my thin sweater.  Hannah was kind of cold, so I ended up giving her my outer thick sweater.  The line to get into the cathedral was pretty long, but it went quickly.  They checked some bags and things so it slowed the steady flow a bit.  The cathedral was free to get into, but the chapels on the sides nearly all cost money to enter.

Entrance to the Cathedral

Amazing Gold Mosaic Ceilings

Picture in the main square of the cathedral and showing the crowd

Here's Drew in his mask that he, surprisingly, wore most of the day.

Hannah did end up buying a mask at the end, but she got a blank one with the intent to bring it home and design and decorate it herself.  My artist!

I love this candid shot of these two eight year olds.

The most fascinating part of it all was all the people who dressed up just to be photographed.  It was a little bit egocentric, but I participated in the photographing nonetheless.

Sitting on the dock of the bay, watching tide roll away...

Best Buddies, the five year olds
We had to wing it for a restaurant and since we had a big party it was tricky.  We found a good restaurant.  Brian got Cuttlefish pasta which had squid ink sauce.  I was forced to taste it, but did not like the flavor even though it didn't taste seafood-ish.  I had a Caprese salad and pasta Amatriciana.  The kids had pizzas again.  Before this trip, they had been whining about not having pizza in so long because I have been on a diet.  They definitely got their fill in Italy.

The Bridge of Sighs

When I set out Drew's clothes in the morning, he told me he thought he looked like a robber.  He was very surprised to see one of the Gondaliers dressed to match in a striped navy/white sweater.  We asked to take a picture of the twins.

One pizza place was making dough look like masks for Carnevale.

On the other side of this bridge was my jewelry shop where I purchased my earrings.

It was a long day and dark by the time the train pulled in.

An Evening Parade
Ciao, Venecia!  (I wrote my post on Carnevale just in the nick of time.  Lent begins tomorrow!)

I present Bat Baby...

...for your Fasching pleasure!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Italy Again: Padua

 Day one and day three of our latest trip to Italy were spent in Padua.  This is where we stayed as well.  We rented an apartment with our best travel buddies ever again.

We arrived first and were waiting for our friends to arrive.  
We had dinner at an Indian food restaurant that night because it was the only thing that opened before 8pm.  Italians eat late dinners and restaurants do not even open until at least 7pm.  Then we tried to get the kids to bed at a reasonable time to be rested for our first day on the town.

First we took a bus into the city and saw the Prato della Valle with its thirty statues surrounding a water fountain.  It was a very misty, cloudy day as reflected in the photos here.

I really like this picture, but a sunnier day might have made it better.

We passed a statue of Giotto on our way to the next site.
Next up was the Basilica of St. Anthony's, in Italian it is Basilica Pontificia di Saint'Antonio di Padova.  Photographs of any kind are forbidden inside this church.  So you will have to go with my description or Google it.  The tomb of St. Anthony was pretty splendid and done up.  We've seen some pretty humble tombs in churches and this was not one of them.  It had the life of St. Anthony depicted on the walls in marble reliefs and hundreds of photographs had been donated and put on display around the tomb.  The photographs were of people who were healed due to the intercession of St. Anthony of Padua.

In the Chapel of the Relics, were many relics, but the most notable ones were St. Anthony's tongue and vocal cords, because he was a great orator.  There was a side chapel with a monk giving blessing to any who desired one, so we stopped in there too.  At the end, we went into the gift shop where my children proceeded to beg me for everything they saw.  Mainly Isaac and Drew.  Drew ended up buying a wooden crucifix necklace for a couple of Euro and Isaac bought a tiny statue of Mary for one Euro (and I mean tiny) with their own money.  They both claimed to need it to hold while they pray to stay focused.  How could I resist that!

Statue by Donatello, there were more statues inside the church by him as well.

We went to lunch and had the best pizza EVER at Pago Pago.  It was really, really good.  So good, in fact, that we went back to eat lunch there the third day of our trip as well.  The restaurant was not huge, but it had plenty of room for us both times.  The prices were excellent and the staff was very accommodating. They also serve fagotinnis, which are pizzas similar to a calzone, but it is slightly different and oh-so-much better.  Everything we had there was delicious both times!

The day before this, we had bought our tickets for the Scorvegni Chapel (Kapelle) because the websites we saw all said that it would be impossible to get a tour without day ahead tickets.  Our start time was supposed to be 5pm, but in the end when we went to pick up our tickets at the counter (a little more than an hour before hand as prescribed) they said we could go early.  

Apparently, the temperature, pressure, and humidity for this small chapel is very closely regulated and there are only so many people allowed in at one time, they only open the door once for people to go in after waiting in a holding chamber for 45 minutes, and then you can only stay for 20 minutes exactly.  It is all in the name of preserving Giotto's frescoes, of course.  And I suppose that if you had seen the Giotto frescoes in Assisi where they have no regulations and the doors are left open in the spring you could see the difference this careful treatment of the climate makes.  Assisi's frescoes were really ancient looking, but these have really been taken care of.

I'm surrounded by greatness!

You can take pictures in here, but without a flash.

I particularly loved the way he had Mary Magdalene holding Jesus' feet here after his crucifixion when she had been the one to wash his feet with her hair.

I love the way Jesus and Judas seem to be all alone in this private betrayal among the fighting.  There was another fresco in the Baptistry at the Duomo in Padua (where you couldn't take pictures) where Giotto showed Peter cutting the ear off the soldier with his saint halo.  I guess I like to be reminded of the humanness of the saints.

My favorite part of this fresco is Mary's arms outstretched for her baby, the Savior of the world.  I can feel her motherly love through this painting of her arms, giving up and yet receiving at the same time.

Judah was a real trooper in the backpack with Daddy.
After the chapel, we went to get the kids gelato and then stopped at a highly recommended place for appetizers and drinks, Caffe Pedrocchi.  It was a little fancier than we were expecting, but they squeezed us into a booth and were super sweet about the kids.  They even brought extra appetizers (all appetizers were on the house with purchase of drinks) for the kids  The food included olives, chips, nuts, and a small savory pastry.

So ends day one.  The next day we went to Venice for Carnevale, but that will be in the next post.  The third and final day of our trip, before heading back over the Alps to our home, we returned to Padua.  Verona had been a possibility, but it just didn't seem like there was much to do there, so we chose to go back to Padua and see the Duomo and Baptistery.  Since it was Sunday, we made sure we made it to the Duomo when Mass started.  After Mass, we looked around the chapel which was fairly undecorated and then paid to go into the Baptistery.  The Baptistery had more Giotto frescoes, in better condition than the Assisi ones, but not as well maintained as the Scorvegni ones.  Just like in the Scorvegni Chapel, the small space did not stop Giotto from telling his stories.  He filled every inch of space on the walls, and the walls were high.

My Pew!

After eating again at Pago Pago, we returned to the Prato della Valle since it was a much sunnier day.  There was a flea market going on all around the fountain where the statues were located.  After three days of walking and eating, we were all pretty exhausted and headed back to the apartment early.  I barely made it to the couch where I collapsed and took an easy nap in the midst of the ten kids playing.  The dads picked up sandwiches and more Indian food for dinner, but I ate very little since I was still stuffed from Pago Pago.

Family Photo
Judah hugs him every chance he gets.  Who am I kidding?  Everyone does!

Look at that sky!

The next morning, Bobby woke us earlier than we had planned on getting up, and, for the first time in his whole (I'm not lying here!) life, he actually went back to sleep with us in our bed.  I know he was tired from having such tiny naps on the go.  He only took one a day and it was less than 45 minutes long.  Our alarms went off, and we had to get up.  He stayed asleep for a little bit longer, all sprawled out.  Every time I see this picture I think it is Isaac.  They look a lot alike, minus Isaac's chubbiness.