Archive | May, 2014

Sunday May 25, 2014

25 May

Hello All,

We had good intentions of making blog entries everyday on the bike tour, but now the tour is over and we are making the first entry since day 1. It was a great tour with terrific scenery,  steep climbs, and lots of history to soak up. So honestly there was no time for writting a blog when there was so much to see and we may never be back to these places again.

As I said the scenery was great from lush  valleys,  to hill sides planted with grapes and olives orchards,  to mountian passes. In the middle ages the towns of Italy where built on hill/mountain tops for protection from invading neighbors and malaria which was common in the river valleys.  For a bicycle tour that means a steep and long climb at the end of every day. Thankfully by day 3 we had the tandem we expected at the beginning of the tour which gave Marsha a boost of confidence and kept us moving up the hills with no troubles. Each hill or mountain climbed afforded us wonderful visits of the valley below and the surrounding hills. A few pictures below, but most of our pictures are on Marsha’s phone and will have to wait until we get home to post.

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Each town we visited was full of history dating back to the 1st century.  Some of the towns were first built up by the Etruscians (pre Roman times), then the Romans came along and built on top, followed by further building and demolition in the dark and middle ages. Although some Christian churches were built from the first century thru 1200, the number of  churches built in the following middle ages was enormous. The smallest of towns had at least 3 churches filled with paintings and sculpture. We have never seen anything like this in a church. We are not really art enthusiasts,  but the extent of paintings in these churches is quite impressive. Although they are like art museums for today’s tourists,  the churches also still function as a house of worship with a full  schedule of  Masses. We visited one church built in the 1st century in a very rural setting on Saturday morning and there was a baptism going on inside. We quitely stepped in the back to have a look. Again most of the pictures are on Marsha’s phone but here are a few from the tablet.
St Francisco in Assisi

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St Claire’s in Assisi

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St Catherine in Siena

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It is also amazing that so many of these buildings are still standing and in use after hundreds of years. Certainly they have been repaired and remodeled many times, but today inside the ancient walls are very  modern hotels, restaurants,  and homes. I find this really amazing when back home we at Good Works struggle to repair homes which are less than 100 or even 50 years old. The streets in the towns are very narrow and generally paved with slate stones. Some are in very good shape and others show their age. I am glad that I was riding a bicycle through these streets as I would not want to navigate these streets with a car.

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One of the highlights of the tour was an Italian cooking lesson. We did more watching than cooking, but the host showed us how to make a very good roast of pork and we got a hands on lesson in how to make ravioli.  This we will try again when we get home!

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We finished the tour today with a loop ride from Assisi. We visited the church where St Francis first heard Jesus speak to him from the cross. It was pretty much in ruins at the time and Jesus asked Francis to “Rebuild My Church” which as history knows he did both physically and spiritually. Lastly we finished the tour with an olive oil tasting. This was very interesting and started with a short walk through the orchard, then to the pressing room, and finally the tasting. Marsha and I really did not think we would be able to tell the difference between the oils or the oil we use at home. Oh were we wrong! This was a small operation and they only had two types of oil left from last season, but they were like nothing we have had before even here in Italy. We purchased 6 bottles to be shipped home. If in the area when we get home, you’ll have to stop by for some home made ravioli and Italian olive oil.

Tomorrow we travel back to Florence and northern Italy for the balance of our trip.

God Bless

Manny and Marsha

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Monday, May 19th

19 May

Hi Everyone,
We are resting at our hotel,Il Giglio, in Montalcino after our 30 mile bike ride today. Dinner in Italy is usually at 8pm, so I have some time now to make an entry for this blog. I am typing this as Manny and I sit on a very comfortable sofa in the lobby of our hotel. It feels good to be on a cushy piece of furniture after the ride today.
This bike tour company was unable to obtain a tandem so we are each on our own bikes. A little unsettling for me initially as I haven’ t riden a long tour on my own in 2 years! But after today, I am quite encouraged as it was a 6 mile climb to reach Montalcino today. It was the hardest climb of the day which was also at the end of our ride today. I only walked for a tenth of a mile at a particularly steep part of the climb. Reaching the top at our hotel was a relief and a joy.
Our hotel is beautiful and so is this Tuscan town. We will eat dinner here at this hotel this evening. The Italian food is delightful with a first plate of pasta, second plate of a meat dish, then a side of salad or vegetable, followed by dessert. Of course all accompanied by the recommended wine!

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This is a picture from our bedroom window of the town.
Time for dinner!
Until I write again!
Manny and Marsha

Sunday May 18, 2014

19 May

Hello All,

Marsha and I have had a busy and varied life over the last few days!

We left home on Thursday the 15th traveling to College Station, TX. Arriving in late afternoon we meet up with Laura, Diggy, and Bill Pagels. We all stopped for a visit the the reception facility for the up coming wedding of Laura and Troy. It was fun to  see the facility which is very bright and cheerful with a wide open Texan view of a golf course and the surroundings. The next stop was dinner at Nappa Flats which is where we’ll have the wedding rehearsal dinner. Again it was fun to see the place and sample the rehearsal dinner food. It was also good to catch up with the Pagels, discuss bicycling adventures since our last ride with Bill in Dallas (last year about this time on our 2013 bicycle adventure), and congratulate Laura on her up coming graduation from nursing school.

Troy arrived late Thursday evening and Friday  morning we all attended Laura’s graduation. It was a nice personal ceremony with about 125 students and we were happy for Laura and her achievement. The keynote speaker was good and pointed out the service to Texas and the world they were expecting from the students. Who knows maybe someday we’ll get Laura to Haiti with us.

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Unfortunately Marsha and I had a tight schedule after graduation,  but we caught a picture of Laura with her parents (Bill and Diggy) and Troy before heading back to the Houston airport. From Houston we caught a flight to Italy via Paris. The fly over the Alps was pretty cool!

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The flight was good but long and did not afford much sleep over night. We arrived in Rome about noon on Saturday and took a train to Florence.

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It was a short walk from the train station to our hotel where we meet up with my sister Claire and her husband Dick. We caught Saturday evening Mass and then went for a walk around Florence and dinner. It was a very comfortable evening and we enjoyed the walk and good Italian dinner after all those hours traveling. Marsha and I were very tired by the end and hit the sack by 10 pm for a good nights sleep.

This morning we got up early to catch another train to Sienna which is where we will start our bike tour. We arrived early so Marsha myself and Dick took a walk around the historic section of town. The first stop was the church of St Catherine of Sienna.  This is a saint we here about often back home so it was very interesting to be in the place where she lived. It is a typical old medieval church with a high ceiling and lots of art work inside (no pictures allowed inside).

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Then we continued our walk around this very old town with many narrow streets and pizza restaurants.  We stopped at one place for lunch and can see that we may not loose weight on this bike tour!

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Now we are just relaxing and waiting for our bike tour guide to show up. Dick, Marsha and I will spend the next 7 days bike touring around the Tuscany region visiting many small towns, touring the sights, and sampling the Italian food!

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Untill next time – Arrivederci!

Manny and Marsha

Thursday,June 15

16 May

Dear Family and Friends,
Today starts our travels again. This time for 3 weeks but it feels familiar to be typing for the blog and on the road!

We headed out this am for our  flight to Houston via Atlanta.
Traffic was intense on I -95 this morning but we had plenny of time and relaxed with a breakfast  at the Philly airport.
New secruity as we did not need to take off our shoes nor remove our electrcal devices nor liquids from our suitcases.
Great but everyone in line including ourselves are so trained to have these items at the ready that we all had them out and were all putting them back in the suitcase as TSA wanted everything the new way. Who knew?
Now we are in sunny Houston, again in intense traffic, heading out on  Beltway 8 to reach College Station. It is a  mildly warm 88 degrees,the A /C  is on  as we let the music playing soothe the traffic away.
We have come to Texas for our daughter to be, Laura’s graduation from Texas A&M in nursing. She graduates tomorrow morning. Our son, Troy arrives in from Georgia late this evening.
We are having dinner at reheasal dinner restaurant, Napa Flats, tonight. I am sure it will be a great preview of the meal to come in only a month!
I am taking the opportunity to start this blog as we ride out of Houston.
After Laura’s graduation,we are heading to Italy tomorrow, first to Rome and then onto Florence.
Our nephew,Jacob, who lives in Germany ,is marrying Elisabetta who is from Como, Italy. We felt if we were traveling to the wedding we would make a longer vacation of the trip. Hence another bike trip. We will leave from Sienna on Sunday and ride for 8 days around Tuscany. We are joining a tour group  and renting a tandem. Dick , Jacob’s father is doing the bike trip with us! Ending in Asissi, we will travel to Milan,onto Como , then to Zurich and on June 3rd return home.
Looking foward to a new experience and to see more of this beautiful world that was created for us and placed in our care.
By this time tomorrow we will be in Paris awaiting our flight onto Rome. We do not have a long layover in Paris so no sightseeing for us there.
Now that we are actually on our first part of our journey, it is beginning to feel like vacation.
No picture on this entry as it is now dark here in College Station.
We will have some pictures tomorrow of Laura’s graduation. Time for some sleep since last night was minimal!
Love,
Manny and Marsha