Italy 2014

Orvieto, Italy from the villa with acres of olive trees and grape vines.

Orvieto, Italy from the villa with acres of olive trees and grape vines.

We stayed over in Italy after our writing cruise this year. We rented a lovely villa with three other writers and toured around Umbria during the day, cooked wonderful Italian meals in the afternoon, and read to each other in the evenings.

Our residence during the stay in Umbria

Our residence during the stay in Umbria

Relaxing lunch in the afternoon at the villa

Relaxing lunch in the afternoon at the villa

You have to love a room like this

You have to love a room like this

View from Orvieto of the surrounding valley

View from Orvieto of the surrounding valley

Hill town in Umbria

Hill town in Umbria

Last night in Italy

Last night in Italy

Panorama of roof tops

Panorama of roof tops

Writing the Waves 2013

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Cynthia Whitcomb is hosting another Trans-Atlantic cruise this year and we have booked passage again for our fourth time. We will cruise on the Emerald Princess, leave Ft. Lauderdale, and stop in Bermuda, Ireland, England, France, Netherlands, and Denmark.

The highlight this year is we fly from Copenhagen to London for 10 plays in 7 days with Cynthia. The plays are: Peter and Alice, The Audience, Untold Stories, Book of Mormon, Once, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Relatively Speaking, Passion Play, War Horse, and Top Hat.

Cynthia's lastest play "Seven Wonders of Chipping" is a semi-finalist for the Eugene O'Neill. We are so excited for her. She wrote it last year on the cruise. We look forward to seeing what she creates this year.

 

Blue Rocks, Red Lobster

May 30, 2012 We are gratefully settled into our new seaside rental in a little fishing village called Blue Rocks.

A view from up here:

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We have plenty to tell you and show you about our third annual Writing the Waves cruise in the Mediterranean, but, first, a little tasty tease from home...

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We arrived home on the second last day of the season and bought them (live) from Captain Cecil--here, a 2 minute walk away:

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If you can't make out that sign, it says: LOBSTER $5.00 LB.

We tried two steamed and two boiled. The taste test says ... steamed, in salt (always!) water, and not for long:

1-1/4 lbs.  7-8 minutes 1-1/2 lb.  8-10 minutes 2 lbs.  11-12 minutes 2-1/2-3 lb.  12-14 minutes 5 lb.  20-22 minutes

Keep a lookout for travel photos from Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and Greece!

-P

iPad as travel computer replacemet

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This is the first time I have traveled without taking my laptop (MacBookPro) with me for writing, email, surfing, and photo storage. I decided to take only my iPad “3” and left my iPhone in airplane mode. I used Pamela iPhone 4gs for all my photos and she used the Leica D-Lux4. I am waiting for my Telus contract to shorted and am holding out for a new iPhone 5.

Therefore my technology for this trip was:

  • 1. iPad for READING, writing, email (wifi only), and photo storage,
  • 2. thumb drive for backup
  • 3.  Pamela’s iPhone for photography. No calls.

I was originally afraid I would had problems since the iPad limits what you can import or save to it through the browser. I was editing the play that will be performed October 11-13th with the new It’s Alive Theatre company in Lunenburg. Because Scrivener for iPad is still in development I used Storyist (an alternative to Scrivener) to edit in RTF format and converted it to Final Draft on return. Since I do all my writing in Scrivener this was the only really handicap and should be removed with the upcoming release. 

I loved the smaller size and portability. In my opinion, “this is the BEST reading platform I have ever experienced”. Kindle on the iPad is much better than my Kindle 3 reader. The resolution is extraordinary and its light weight allowed me to read for hours in bed with comfort. The on screen keyboard is easier to use than I expected. All in all it was a great experience and I will travel with it more often going forward.

NOTE: If Apple is listening, the best solution would be a MacBook Air with a removable display. When the display is attached it acts as a MacBook and when detached it becomes an iPad. This would be the best of all worlds. Just a suggestion.

Venice, Italy

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Entering Venice

23 May 2012

The Crown Princess glided into Venice just after noon. The view from our 15th floor balcony gave us a panoramic view of the city and sights. We stepped ashore around 1:00pm and caught a water shuttle to San Marco (St. Mark’s Square).

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San Marco Square

We enjoyed a club sandwich at the Cafe where Byron, Proust, and Dickens frequented, while listening to one of the two orchestras that play all day and into the evening.

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We walked the streets west of the square for couple of hours and ended at he Opera House that was restored after being destroyed by fire several years ago. The restoration is amazing. We stopped at Harry’s Bar for the most expensive cocktails we have ever drank (€14 each). This was Hemingway’s haunt.

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Harry’s Bar

I remember know how much I disliked Campari. We returned by water shuttle to the ship for our late meal with our writing group. The twelve writers averaged 54 pages each during the eleven days, with only four sea days. I finished a third revision of my play. Cynthia compressed her lectures to fit the four days available. She hopes to come to Lunenburg for the It’s Alive Theatre Company’s three nights of short plays on October 11-13. If she comes we will host a writing workshop with her.

Tonight the Venice Chamber Orchestra played on board. We disembark tomorrow morning and will stay over for the next three days to enjoy more of Venice.

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Night Time Gondola View

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Venice you will be missed…

Athens, Greece

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21 May 2012

An overcast sky muted the colors, but cooled our climb up the hill. We taxied into town with Molly and Callie from the Writing Group and meet Cynthia and others for a hike up to the top.

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The views in all directions were extraordinary. How amazing to enjoy a play in this setting.

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They are restoring the columns stone by stone and replacing all the missing cracks. A massive undertaking, being done with care. 

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After a gyro for lunch we walked through the market. I realized too late that we did not take a lot of photos of Athens. Pamela visited here before and I just enjoyed people watching.

Ephesus, Turkey

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20 May 2012

Ephesus is outstanding. The most accessible ruins we have ever visited. The views are grand and you are in the midst of history. Only 15% of the ruins are unearthed from the earthquake at destroyed the town. The sea has receded almost 10 km from old Ephesus over the last 2000 years from the river silting over. 240,000 people lived in Ephesus at its peak. Standing in the theatre with it's outstanding acoustics you are amazed by the size. This is a must see.

Istanbul, Turkey

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19 May 2012

We joined the excursion group to visit the Blue Mosque and St. Sophia. The tiled Mosque was once the largest dome in the world and is now the third largest behind the Doma in Florence and the Vatican's St. Paul's cathedral. We spent the afternoon in the Grand Bazaar. If you are looking for rugs, jewelry, leather goods, trinkets, Turkish Delight, scarfs, watches, t-shirts, jerseys, or souvenirs then you have found the right place. They are less aggressive than the Egyptians, but still irritating.

I did find a beautiful cotton scarf that will be great for cool evening at the theatre. We really liked Turkey. It is a secular country, rights and freedoms are not restricted by religious law.

Mykonos, Greece

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18 May 2012

We raced across the Med to be the first cruise ship in harbour so that we could tie up dockside rather than use tenders as the other ships had to do. The Marina was filled with colourful fishing boats and modern cruisers. The skies were overcast with the sun shining in the distance.

Because most of the shops were still opening when we arrived we stopped into Katerina's bar and restaurant for espressos and wifi. Posted photos from Rome and Egypt while overlooking the harbour and avoiding the early rains (hoping they would pass).

Donned my rain jacket and walked the narrow paths until we discovered Joanna's linen shop, where she designs and makes beautiful garments. Pamela found two lovely linen dresses and Joanna gave her a complementing scarf. Joanna shared with us her family's five generation history.

Stopped in Hibiscus bakery for feta pie and baklava...delicious.

The rain continued but walked all the streets we could before returning to the ship for an early departure. We look forward to returning here for an extended stay to wander the maze of streets.

Spinning at Sea

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I took my first of four spinning classes with almost a dozen other cyclists. It was my first time spinning seriously with an instructor. Each class is an hour long and includes intervals, sprints, hill climbing, and a few 60% pedaling rests.

I found it very realistic in imitating the climbs and descents of a real ride. Increasing the resistance and standing on the pedals really worked the quads. I really want to learn how to spin efficiently again. I still feel I am spinning a square rather than a circle.

Egypt: Pyramids and a Revolution

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15 May 2012

Egypt is a country in transition. The recent revolution has left the infrastructure in disarray. The first thing you notice is the trash. The previous waste management company was fired and the new one seems to be still negotiating terms, while the city of Alexandria is drowning in a sea of trash. Looks like the perfect recipe for a plague. Add to that the economic depression and you observe that virtually all new construction was abandoned for financial or tax reasons. There are so many vacant building the city looks more like a Third World country and many areas look like a war zone. What a shame for a country with such a long and honored history. It was sad to see.

In twelve hours we traveled from Alexandria to the Pyramids and the Sphinx, then to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Tourism is a leading industry and last year they had almost none. Though it has returned some this year (post-revolution) it is still significantly reduced. I see no reason for that to change, unless there is significant change internally. There is a level of desperation existing just below the surface that shows itself at times and could lead to significant chaos. Though the leadership and intellectuals try to suppress it with rhetoric like "Muslims + Christians equal Egypt" or future hope. With locals rejecting the low-grade fuel forced on them, the infrastructure in disarray, and an uncertain economic future, I am discouraged about the country's prospects and would not return.

The pyramids were impressive as you neared them. Surprisingly they are adjacent to town. The vendors are the most aggressive, rude, and persistent I have encountered anywhere. Most of which I attribute to the above circumstances.

The Egyptian Museum is in such disrepair and lack of maintanence that they decided to relocate it to a new facility somewhere rather than attempt to restore. I preferred the British Museum or the traveling exhibit, which is a shame for it was once one of the great museums of the world. What I thought would be a highlight of this trip, may be its greatest disappointment.

Cynthia Whitcomb, screenwriter and playwright, who is teaching our writing group during the cruise, checked off "ride a camel" from her bucket list.

Market Day at Campo de Flori

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12 May 2012

Market Day is special all over the world, but only in Rome will you find so many varieties if dried tomatoes or such wonderful meat stores.

The morning was ours to wander because we would not board the Crown Princess until 1:00 pm. After walking through the stalls we found a table at one of the cafes surrounding the piazza and woke up with an expresso and breakfast sandwich. Few times in life are more relaxing than a comfortable chair, a good cup of expresso, and observing unique people from a short disance.

Our cruise begins this evening.

Rome again...

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11 May 2012

We arrived in Rome around 10 am after an uneventful flight from Toronto. Our B&B was a lovely 3rd floor room only a few blocks from Piazza Navona. We walked to the Piazza and then stopped at a Sicilian restaurant for rissoto. Strolled by the Tiber River. Visited the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Ate roasted chestnuts from a street vendor. And savoured gelato.

Rome is special in so many ways, but our most special treat was dinner again at Palmiro Reno's restaurant Tucci with our dear friend Dennis Cigler. Dennis is an amazing artist and teacher who has lived in Rome for over forty years. Tennessee Williams gave him his Fiat Spider when he left Rome to return to America. Dennis taught English to Fellini and Bernardo Bertolucchi, among others. We always enjoy our visits with him and Reno fills the table with unique dishes of his own creation.

Crown Princess

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We are excited about our upcoming cruise on the Crown Princess. We fly to Rome in May for an evening with our dear friend Dennis Cigler, before boarding. You may remember our last visit with Dennis. We will have a few days to rest at sea before arriving in Alexandria, Egypt. We then travel to the island of Mykonos and on to Turkey to visit Istanbul and Ephesus (Kusadasi). Next we tour the ruins of Athens and then around to Venice, Italy where we will disembark and stay for a few days at a B&B beside one of the canals. We hope to take a lot of photos and get a little writing done.

Austin Film Festival

Hi All, We started our last day of the Austin Film Festival with brunch on the Driskill Hotel terrace. Austin is just our kind of place--a quirky mix of film, food, music, sights, and all things arty and alternative.

I'll post pics from the Fest soon. You will no doubt recognize a face or two or more...

Love, peace and best wishes to all.

P

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Cruise Photos Part 2 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

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Best Street Art

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Bicycles Everywhere [caption id="attachment_5490" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Smallest cars ever..."][/caption]

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Barges of every shape and size...

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Other Photos [caption id="attachment_5498" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="A Little Cheese?"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5499" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Rembrant's Studio"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5500" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Rembrant's paint stand"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5501" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="A parting slice of pie before we head home to Nova Scotia"][/caption]

Hope you enjoy this short photo tour. -L

A Few Cruise Photos

[caption id="attachment_5442" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Rotterdam at dock"][/caption][caption id="attachment_5443" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="At sea with our wrap around balcony"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5444" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Writing the Waves Group (Cynthia Whitcomb, our leader in red boa)"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5445" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Pamela in Cork, Ireland"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5447" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Dublin, Ireland street scene"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5448" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Dublin guitarist with home-made electric guitar and amp"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5449" align="alignnone" width="334" caption="Found a pub in Dublin, wonder how?"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5450" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="London and Big Ben"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5451" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Traffic jam on the Thames River in London"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5452" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Found a theatre bookstore and another pub."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5454" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Bayeux, France"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5455" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Bayeux, France museum"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5456" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Bayeux, France Cathedral"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5457" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Brugge, Belguim, out favorite medieval town"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5458" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="The famous Brugge canals"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5459" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Market Day in Brugge"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5460" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Spires everywhere"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5461" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Canal repose, Brugge."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5462" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Brugge is a historic swan sanctuary."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5464" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="The painted houses of Brugge reminded me of home in Lunenburg."][/caption]

Rotterdam, The Netherlands [caption id="attachment_5466" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Rotterdam a city of diminishing canals"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5467" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Our patio H2otel room beside the canal"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5468" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Boats seem to outnumber cars in Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5469" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Rotterdam, a modern city rebuilt after WWII"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5470" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Modern suspension bridge in Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5471" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Canal side cafes in old town Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5472" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Captain Pamela at the wheel in Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5473" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="A few of the classic sail boats and barges"][/caption]