Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hawaii Superferry

Here is some info on the new Ferry system the state of Hawaii is backing. It's a private company and looks like the first ferry should start to operate in July 2007. There currently is no ferry service in Hawaii, so this will be a first. I hope it works out. It will keep help keep prices down for travel between the island. But the Ferries will also travel over some pretty rough water, lots of sea sick tourists and more tour buses. Yuck.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Well, here is my annual update. I don’t have a lot to say that’s new, but 2006 has been a pretty good year. Mom & dad are still in Soldotna, so I get to see them a couple of times a month. Patty is here in Homer and has a new job at the Seldovia Tribal Heath Clinic that she really likes. Mary & her family are busy in PA. Matt started college this fall and Katie is about ½ way through her college studies. Shari & Mark are living in DC. Mark is close to retiring from the Army and we’re hoping they’ll be moving back to AK this coming summer. Gio is also a freshman & college so Vince is the only one left in high school.

Shari Gio Mary Vince Mark

I started 2006 out right with a trip to Kauai, still one of my very favorite places. Penny went with me and we stayed at Ed’s B&B.
http://www.waterfallbnb.com It was a very relaxing trip. We didn’t feel the need to rush around and see all the sites, so pretty much just hung out and had a good time. We even had great sunny weather. Though not long after we left, Kauai was hit with some of the worst rains in many years and experienced quite a horrible flood & dam break.
Lori & Penny Napali Trail

In March I bought a 2-acre lot here in Homer. I want to build a house sometime in the next couple of years. I’ve been collecting ideas and pictures. My next step is to find a good architect who can put it all together for me in a house plan.
View from my eventual front porch

In April I went to Washington DC and stayed with Shari & and it was washed out before the rains.
Mark for 2 weeks. We also drove to PA and spent a weekend with Mary & Bill. I really had a good time, but I’m glad I went before the weather got too hot. Mom & dad went back east in June (both Matt and Gio graduated from high school). They had a good time but said it was very hot.

We had a very rainy summer here in Homer. I worked a couple of extra weeks, so this past summer seems to have gone by in a flash. I did some painting around Patty’s place but didn’t accomplish much else all summer. I’d planned to do a couple of AK trips, but never got around to them. Next summer I’m definitely going to take a road trip around AK. I’d like to drive the Denali Highway, and maybe even the Dalton. Do any of you want to along?

In October I went to Italy for 17 days with a group of friends. I starting blogging, mostly about trips, so most of you have already seen all the pictures and heard the stories. We had a great time. If you missed out and are interested, here is the address: http://www.loristravel.blogspot.com

Work is work, I’m staying busy and still working 2 weeks on & 2 weeks off. I’m losing interest in trying to go to Russia. The politics over there are a mess. Besides if I’m going to be building a house I need to stay home and get that done, then I’m going to want to live in it instead of taking off right away.

I hope all of you had a wonderful year. I wish you and your families a great 2007. I love to get your Christmas cards and notes, so check in and let me know how you’ve been and what you’ve been up to this past year.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Week 3 – Perugia, Assisi and back to Milan

Saturday morning we needed head back north. Our taxi driver arrived on time at 9 am, we loaded up and were off. Got into Naples about 10:30 am and had approx. 1 hour to wait for our train north. We got tickets using the automatic machines. They’re very easy to use and have an English Language mode. The only trouble we had was getting seats together, but that was partly because we didn’t reserve in advance. The trains were 99% full, which was a little surprising. Anyway, we had time for a cappuccino and pastry while we waited for our train to Rome. It was part of our ritual, a cappuccino every morning, if not 2. Even I was getting into the cappuccino mode and gave up drinking tea.

The train trip to Rome was uneventful and very comfortable. Did I already say how much more comfortable train travel is, than being packed into an airplane? Anyway, we changed trains in Rome and continued north. As we left Rome I noticed it was pretty cloudy, and not far out of Rome the rain started. We were headed north through Umbria. The countryside turned hilly, lots of small towns & farms. It’s very pretty, even in the rain. We got into Perugia about 4pm. It was pouring, so we took 2 taxis out to the farm house/hostel that we’d reserved. We got in earlier than we’d planned and the guy who ran the place was not around. But I called him on my cell and our taxi driver talked to him and got him headed our way. The taxi drivers in Perugia were great. They waited for us to get checked in (with good humor no less) and then drove us up to the old town so we could wander around the EuroChocolate Festival. After our dealings with taxi drivers in Sorrento (who were horrible rip-off’s) I was very pleasantly surprised

EuroChocolate Festival in Perguia

Pictures taken in Perugia (12), titled 0071 Perugia

The Eurochocolate Festival is a huge yearly event. It runs for 10 days, we were there on the last Saturday night. The old town of Perugia is up on top of a hill, it’s a medieval walled town but with fairly wide streets. By the time we arrived, it was getting dark. The town was all fogged in, and a little light rain fell on & off. We missed most of what was going on, but we wandered through the booths selling all sorts of chocolate for several hours. I bought a cup of hot chocolate that was almost too thick to drink. It was very good with a little chili pepper in it to spice it up.



I’d like to go back sometime and walk through their Archeological Museum, it looked very interesting. But by the time we found it, it was just closing. So we went to dinner and caught another cab and went back to the farm house. We sat around in the dining room and drank a glass of wine and visited with some collage students from California who were also staying there. They’re studying in Rome for a semester and were having a really good time. I think it’s great they can come to Europe for a semester, it’s a great experience.

View from the farm house in Perugia

Sunday morning we’d had grand plans to get up really early and be in Assisi for a 6:30 am Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. We were lucky to be moving by 9am. At least the rain had stopped, so we walked out to the main road and caught the bus to the train station (and then had a cappuccino while waiting for the next train to Assisi). The trains coming in to Perugia from Rome for the Chocolate Festival were PACKED. Standing room only, that had to have been a long trip.

While waiting at the Assisi train station for a bus into the old town, Penny started talking to an odd fellow dressed in a blue denim robe. I think he wanted to be a monk, but maybe of his own church. He sort of tried to follow us but we ditched him when we got into the old town. And told Penny she wasn’t allowed to talk to any more strangers!

View of St. Francis Basilica from the old Fortress at the top of Assisi

Assisi was very interesting. The old fortress at the very top had wonderful views of the countryside. My pictures are a little dark, it was actually much more sunny than they make it look. I think I could actually live here, or in the surrounding area; beautiful farms & little windy roads. And the Basilica of St. Francis is huge, contains 2 churches and a crypt. The frescos inside are amazing, though I’m not sure St. Francis would approve if he came back and saw what was built in his name. And it was very crowded. There must be 50+ bus tours every day, plus all the people who drive themselves or come by train. It’s quite the commercial operation in many ways.

Pictures taken in Assisi (35), titled 0072 Assisi

Assisi is another World Heritage site. It was an important town in Romans times and it’s amazing that people still live and work in the buildings that were built in 2000 or more years ago. In particular Assisi was hit by quite an earthquake in Sept. 1997. A lot of the town has been rebuilt and it’s very beautiful. They’ve been very careful to use the same building materials and other than the repairs building look very clean, they don’t look any different from the others around them. It really made me think about how many times some of these building have been renovated & repairs or just changed around in the past 2000 years. Wow, I wonder if anything we’re building today will still be around that long.



Several of the churches have had major restoration projects. Their interiors where all frescoed. Some of the frescos were repaired, but some were total losses.

Repaired houses and a new street.

This is my favorite Assisi picture, taken at sunset from the train station looking back up at the old town. You can see the fortress at the very top, and the old town all along the hill below it.

Monday was finally here. We were all flying out of Milan on Tuesday, so we got and got going. The older couple who we think owned the old farm house, and didn’t speak much English) helped with all our bags. Penny got to ride in the little 3 wheeled truck (which you see all over Italy) with the luggage to the bus stop. They’re actually more like a motorcycle with a cab then a truck. Then we were off to the train station for more cappuccino and a long train ride back to Milan.

We got into Milan late in the afternoon, still raining so we took taxi’s to our Hotel Trentina. We’d stayed there the night we all arrived and the folks who ran it were so nice and helpful we wanted to return. (PS, they also serve a wonderful breakfast which is included in the room price.) We went out of a last dinner and drank some more great local wine, it was a nice ending to our trip.


The next day was a taxi ride to the airport, and 24 hours of traveling to get back to Anchorage. The flights were fine, though long, security in London is very tight, but that’s actually OK too.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

More Photos: Pompeii, Naples, Herculeanum, Positano

This one was taken after we arrived at the house in Massa Lubrense. It was a little overcast or hazy this day. We were having a snack while dinner cooked.

I have more photos downloaded and then uploaded to Yahoo. Here are the links if you're interested: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorijmurray/collections/72157600719053430/

Pictures taken in Massa Lubrense (19). The album is titled 0066 Massa Lubrense

This one is taken in Pompeii. Tito the Tour Guide hard at work.

Pictures taken in Pompeii (67). The album is titled 0067 Pompeii

This one is also Pompeii, just a house with no roof and mosaic floors. You can also see some of the color left on the walls.

Pictures taken in the Naples Museum (38). The album is titled 0068 Naples Archaeological Museaum

This one is a mosaic recovered from one of the houses in Pompeii. Look at how small the pieces are and at the detail. It's very well preserved.

This is Herculaneum. Part of the main throughfare, with temples all along the left side. The right side has not be excavated.

Pictures taken in Herculaneum (34). The album is titled 0069 Herculaneum

This is the remains of a 'fast food' (Thermopolium) restaurant in Herculaneum. The food was put in pots and set into the openings on the counter. It's where most people ate their meals. Unless you had a lot of money, you lived in a room or 2. Most houses in Pompeii and Herculaneum did not have kitchens.

Pompeii had a lot of these fast food bars too.

Pictures taken in Positano (20). The album is titled 0070 Positano

And here is a picture I took of Positano from the beach looking up. The clouds threatended all day but we didn't get any rain.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Update: Siena & The Tuscany Hill Towns

After 3 days in Florence, Penny, Virginia & I headed out on a 2 day excursion through Tuscany (Linda & Kristen went to Rome on Tue afternoon). We saw a lot, but it went way too fast. Tuscany is very beautiful. I’d love to go back sometime and rent a house for a month and just hang out.

Anyway, we splurged and for 2 days we had a guide with a van. We set this up with Luca at Hill’s & Roads.
http://www.hillsandroads.com/ He runs a small tour outfit and set up a customized tour for us. The first day Carrado picked us up in Florence at our hotel at 9:30 am. I’m surprised he found us; those alley ways they call streets are pretty narrow. It took a little round about driving to get out of Florence, I’m really glad that I wasn’t driving.

Here is a picture of the view from Montefioralle. It is typical Central Tuscany Scenery.

We headed south through the Chianti Hills, our first stop Montefioralle. This was just a quick stop to see some of the country side, as you can see from the pictures, it’s very green. Lots of grapes, lots of olives, lots of small farms. Then we drove down to Greve in Chianti. We stopped for a cappuccino and then walked up to see the views from the church. A bit more driving around and sightseeing (Radda in Chianti), there are towns or walled estates on the tops of most of the hills. Though the farther south we got, the farther apart the hills are. We stopped for lunch at a hill top Osteria, sat outside under the trees and had a great lunch, and of course a carafe of the local wine. In fact the restaurant is located on a working vineyard; they were just harvesting the last of their grapes so the place was very busy. I wish I remembered the name of it. I’d love to go back for lunch again.

Pictures taken in Tuscany (24)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorijmurray/collections/72157600719053430/ It is titled 0063 Tuscany Hill Towns.

After lunch it was time for a time for a wine tasting. Way out in the hills someplace is a large estate, Dievole. We got the grand tour and tasted several of their wines. They make some award winning wines. I’m not a huge fan of Chianti style wines but I really enjoyed the tour. Dievole has been in operation since 1090. That’s a long time. The story is on their website, it’s pretty interesting and they have some really nice photos.

2 Towers in San Gimignano

Then we were off to San Gimignano for sunset. Of course San Gimigano (
http://www.asangimignano.com/ ) is off to the west a way, so we had a bit of a drive. Again, way up on the top of a hill is this walled town with quite a few towers. There used to be many more, it seems every family had to have their own tower and they all competed to see who could build the tallest. San Gimigano is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it was very crowded with tourists. It looked to me like most of them came & went on bus tours, so it would be much quieter at night. We didn’t have a lot of time, but we walked around and took pictures for a bit. Again, just a taste, when I get my month or more in Tuscany, I’ll come back and visit and spend an evening or 2.

Pictures taken in San Gimignano (9) http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorijmurray/sets/72157600718377173/ It is titled 0064 San Gimignano

Well we’d had quite a long day by this point, so it was time to get to Siena. In evening traffic it was about a 45 min trip. Corrado got us up into the old town and dropped us off at our hotel. What a relief it was not to haul luggage on and off the train. Though train travel is much more comfortable than airplane travel, luggage is really a pain. Especially since most train stations DON’T have elevators. So it’s down the steps, into the tunnel and back up the other side to get to the trains’ departure spot.

Anyway, I digress. We arrived in Siena about 7 pm. We stayed at the Hotel Cannon d’Oro (which I found on line, but also in Rick Steves’ guide to Italy 2006, referred to on this trip as our bible).
http://www.cannondoro.com/index_i.htm It’s in the old town and the building is over 800 years old. Think about how many times it’s been renovated! We checked in, it was a nice room with private bath, dropped off our luggage and went out to see the sites and have some dinner. Walking through Siena is interesting. In most of the walled towns, the buildings are 3 or 4 stories tall. In Siena they’re all 5 or 6. This makes the roads/alleys seem narrower to me. I couple of times I though, I don’t want to be here around all these brick & stone buildings in an earthquake.

We walked down through the main ‘square’ (in Siena it’s much more oval than square). the Campo and found an outdoor restaurant behind the civic museum. Good food and we got to talking to a couple who sat at the next table. He was originally from Lebanon and she is from Turkey. They were very nice but we ended up talking politics. It is rather amazing how little attention most of us pay to what our governments’ policies mean for other people.

The next day we we’re getting picked up at 2:30 pm, so we had the morning to explore Siena. We didn’t get to see much, mostly the Campo and the Dumo (main cathedral), but both are pretty spectacular. Siena really needs another few days of exploration, so I’ve added that to my travel list :-).

Frescoed Ceiling from the Library in the Dumo in Siena.

The Campo is huge, and the home of 2 famous horse races each summer. I’m not sure I’d like to be there with thousand of other people all packed in, but I’m sure the races are spectacular to see. The Dumo is pretty spectacular too. It’s floor is all carved & inlayed marble. Some very complex scenes, built into the floor, and took about 400 years to complete. We were very lucky, most of the year the floor is covered to protect it from wear & tear. It is only uncovered in Aug through late Oct every year, I’m glad I got to see it. The interior is pretty complex. We could take photo’s but only with the flash off, so some of my photo’s are a bit blurry. But the 3D inlayed wood in the choir seats was impressive. So are all the frescos. And I really liked the library. The walls & ceilings are all frescoed and they exhibit some old illuminated books. These line the 2 long walls, they’re pretty bit. Probably 3 feet tall, the pages are beautifully decorated.

Pictures taken in Siena (25) http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorijmurray/sets/72157600718365474/ It is titled 0065 Siena.
Our 2nd day of touring started at 2:30 pm when Aliosha was our driver. He had a degree in Political Science and has gone back to school for one in Art History. He really loves the art works and knows a lot. Too bad he had such a bad cold and felt horrible the whole day.

He started by driving us through the Crete Senesi Hills, very different from what we’d already seen. The soil in this area is all clay; some wine & olives are grown but mostly wheat. The harvest was over and the fields had all been turned, waiting to be planted, so it was a very dry and rather desolate looking. Then we stopped at the Mt. Oliveto Abby.
It was founded in 1313 and has some very famous frescos. Aliosha knew all about their history and the 2 painters (who didn’t like each other) who created them. He was great to listen too. And it was very quiet and beautiful on the Abby grounds. I guess they have a very nice restaurant, so here is another place to go back to when I have more time.

Then we made a stop in Pienza, what a wonderful sunset view from up on top of the hill looking down over the wide valley. And finally off to Montepulciano. We drove up to the top of the hill and walked around the square. Montepulciano has a very old Dumo too, but they never got around to facing it in marble. It’s still all brick & stone. It’s interesting to see what these other churches look like under their marble facades. Anyway, we walked down through the town after sunset. We stopped in this little copper shop where everything is hand made. It was all very nice.
http://www.rameria.com/inglese/tradition.html Penny broke down and purchased a wine chiller and had it shipped back to Anchorage. Then we walked on down through town closer to the parking lot and stopped for dinner. After dinner and some more local wine, Aliosha drove us to Chiusi where we had a hotel booked. We got in pretty late, around 11 pm if I remember correctly. The Hotel La Sfinge was great, (http://en.venere.com/hotels_chiusi/hotel_la_sfinge.html ) another very old building. We had a big room with a nice tile floor. The ceiling was old dark beams with whitewashed brick. Though it was quite a hike up the stairs with all of our luggage. Very few of the older buildings have had elevators added. I left the window open and in the morning we woke up to the smell of fresh bread. There is a bakery next door! I’d like to go back for a few days and check out the National Archeological Etruscan Museum. The owner was very nice and drove us to the train station the next morning. We we’re headed to Rome to meet up with everyone else.

PS, we had a very nice tour in Florence; we set it up with Walks in Florence. I forgot to put their web site address on my previous note. Here it is if you want to set up your own tour, or check out their information about Florence:

PPS, a note about our bible. It was a bit of a joke with all of us, but we did carry our Rick Steves’ guide book everywhere. W saw it carried by a lot of other people, and they weren’t usually the backpacker type. In fact we’d compare notes with people we saw carrying all over Italy. It’s very well laid out, and the info is easy to use and pretty timely. Occasionally we find a small error, but it really is a great reference guide. Since Penny is retiring in Jan, we decided a perfect job for her would be as a fact checker for Rick Steves. Then she could travel around and try out all the hotels & restaurants, etc. Sounds like a great way to spend a year or 2, too me :-)

Updates: Milan and Florence

Hi all,

We'll I'm finally back home and getting my pictures all downloaded and organized. We really had a great trip. Good weather, good food and good company. What a combo :-). As I was downloading my pictures, I decided I needed to post a few more here on the blog, just to whet your appetite. Then I'll post links to the photo albums, they're on my yahoo site.

You should be able to click the link and right to yahoo to see the rest of the pictures. You should also be able to download copies of the ones you want. If you have trouble downloading, let me know and I'll just e-mail you copies of the ones you want. I've been using a bit more resolution lately, so each picture file will run 600+ KB.

Here we are in Milan, standing in front of their Natural History Museum.

Kristen, Virgina, Penny & Linda

Pictures take in Milan (9) http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorijmurray/sets/72157600718376783/
It is titled 0061 Milan and should be right at the top.

Pictures taken in Florence (40) http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorijmurray/sets/72157600718376859/
It is titled 0062 Florence.

This is a picture I took from the top of the Dumo looking back at Santa Croce. You can see the scaffolding around the bell tower, and if you look closely a little of the Arno River.

I do have to say that I like Florence better each time I visit. And there is so much to see, I’ll need to go back a few more times :-). I can’t believe that the first time I visited; I passed by the Bargello Sculpture Museum several times a day, and didn’t stop in. It really is wonderful. We could only take pictures in the courtyard, none in the galleries. But we spent several hours there, and I could have spent more time just looking.

I also really liked the Museo di Pallazo Davanzati. The walls are all painted, much like we’d wallpaper today. And I do mean painted (or fresco’d). In most rooms there isn’t a square inch not covered. The color is still vibrant, though it must have been much more amazing when it was all new. Take look at the ceiling detail picture I took. I know it’s not very clear, but most of the wood in the ceilings is painted with intricate designs. What an amazing amount of work they put into decorating. As I contemplate having a house built, the thought of all of this kind of detail is over whelming. Needless to say my house is going to be decorated quite bit plainer! Though I really loved the brick floors, hmm that's an idea... I’ll have more to follow the next couple of days.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Week 2 - Massa Lubrense

Capri at sunrise, from the little balcony at the front of our house. Marina Del Lobra, the little port is below us, still in the dark.

Here we are in Massa Lubrense, which is about 6 miles south of Sorrento. What a great day. It rained a bit last night and was cloudy when we got up, but sunny and warm by 10 am. We’ve had great weather all week, actually all of this trip.

Where to start. Italy, where the street are narrow so everyone parks on the sidewalk & you have to walk in the street. Italy, where much of the economy is dependent on the tourists, but no one wants to bother to explain bus schedules, or opening & closing times. It really is an interesting country.

This is our 2nd full week. We left Tuscany on Saturday morning, on a train to Naples. As we pulled into the Termini station in Rome, everyone else was waiting for us. It was great that we all arrive in Naples at the same time. We caught the Cirucumvesuviana Train, which is actually a very uncomfortable and crowded metro train to Sorrento. Lots of stops in between, about a 70 minute trip. We had a lot of luggage and had to stand most of the way. We got into Sorrento about 3:30 pm and were expected at the house at 5:30 pm so Linda, Penny & Kristen stayed with the luggage and the rest of us went grocery shopping. Of course most of the stores close between 1 pm and 5 pm, so it was a while before we had much luck. Finally loaded down with lots of grocery bags we walked backed to the train station and got 2 cabs to take us the 6 miles to Massa Lubrense. Of course the drivers couldn’t find our rental house, they were both pretty excitable but spoke OK English. We ended up in the parking lot of a church about ½ way between Massa Lubrense and Marina Del Lobra. Massa is on the top of the hill and Marina Del Lobra is at the bottom. We called the lady who was to check us in, but she didn’t speak English. She thought we were at the church at the top of the hill and kept telling us to go down. So we walked all the way down to the port, no house. Then Virginia flagged down a passer-by who talked to the owner on the phone and explained we needed to walk back up the hill, past the church, about ¾ of the way up to the top. So we did, hauling all that damn luggage. At least we all got our exercise for the day, and no one fell over, but it was close. We got checked in and Vic & Tito started dinner. The owner came back with a few bottles of local wine so we drank lots of wine and ate and talked and relaxed. The house is great, perched on the hill overlooking the sea, with Capri out in front. The view at night with all the lights is amazing. The view during the day is really wonderful too.
Dinner at 'home' :-)

Sunday we had rather hazy day, not really cloudy but the sun didn’t shine through very well. We pretty much hung out at home, though we did walk up the hill into town to check the bus schedule and find out almost everything was closed. We did pick up 5 or 6 bottles of wine, that were supposed to last all week, but only lasted the one evening J. Monday we all went to Pompeii. We took the bus to Sorrento and then the Metro/Train to Pompeii with hoards of other tourists. It was pretty crowded but was really a great day. At one point we thought we’d only spend a couple of hours but ended up there all day. There is so much to see and Pompeii was a big city. Though at least 40% of it is still under the ash and still needed to be excavated. I took a lot of pictures, so those will all get downloaded and titled and put on my Yahoo photo album site sometime next week. I’ll add a link to them so check back if you want to see them. If you ever get the chance to see Pompeii, it’s definitely worth the trip. Tito acted as our tour guide, reading to all of us from the tour book, we had a good time.

Tuesday was a shopping day. We took the bus into Sorrento and shopped and shopped. I spent a bit of time reading, but had a good time. Downtown Sorrento, the old part of the town is built on high cliffs over looking the bay. Lots of narrow ally ways winding around and all full of shops. Sorrento is very definitely a tourist town these days.
These pillers are covered with glass tiles, all in a mosaic pattern and match the panels behind them. They were found in the house of the faun in Pompeii.

Wednesday we decided we needed to see the Archaeological Museum in Naples. People have been digging stuff out of Pompeii since the 1700’s. A lot has been destroyed or ended up in private collections, but a lot has been put on display in Naples. The Museum is great, we had a good time and I’m glad we saw it all. Some of the mosaics are amazing. Great color and perspective. There were some really wonderful artists decorating Pompeii and some people with plenty of money to keep them employed. Some of the frescos were recovered too. These are painted directly on to the wet plaster. Pompeii was destroyed in 79 AD, so most of this artwork is close to 2000 years old. That it still is so colourful is pretty amazing.

Unfortunately we decided to take the bus up to the museum instead of walking and I got pick pocketed. Lost my wallet but only lost some cash. I’m very glad I had most of my money, my passport & credit cards in my money belt.

Then we decided we needed to see Herulaneum too. It was a much smaller town, right on the ocean that was destroyed in the same eruption as Pompeii. It was first hit by a title wave, then covered in 60 feet of boiling mud. What an effort it has been to excavate. When you walk into the site you walk over a bridge that’s on the same level as the current city. In fact to the left is a big commercial flower growing operation. To the right is this huge hole, with a city at the bottom. I don’t think any of my pictures really show how deep it is, but you walk down into the excavation and look up and it really is apparent then. Again, like Pompeii a lot is very well preserved. It was a very interesting afternoon.

A chaple preserved by the volcanic mud at Herculaneum. The stone walls around it would have been plastered with 3 or 4 inches of plaster and then painted, but that had a tendancy to crumble off when the town was excavated.
Penny & Virginia with Positano in the back ground. It's a steep climb up and down.

Thursday we decided to see the Amalfi Coast. It’s just around the corner, but the bus schedule sucks, so we had to go back into Sorrento, hang out at the bus station and literally fight a big crowd of tourists to eventually get on a standing room only bus. At first we were going to go all the way to Amalfi but the coast was winding and very high up. The bus really swayed around the corners, I couldn’t look out the windows most of the time. So we got off in Positano, and had a very wonderful lunch. Then we walked around the town a bit and tried to take a boat back to Sorrento. Too bad for us they were only going to Capri so we had to hike back up to the top of the town and try the bus again. It was fight to get on it. I’m pretty sick of the buses, that’s for sure. In fact we hired a taxi to come get us tomorrow and deliver us to the train station in Naples. We don’t want to schlep our luggage on the bus and metro, through 3 stations in order to get to our train in Naples.

Week 2 is over, we’re headed back north. Tomorrow we go to Assisi and then Monday afternoon back to Milan.

Lunch in Positano, about 1/2 way down the hill. It's a bit over exposed but I can't get this computer to open Microsoft Picture Editor:

Monday, October 16, 2006

Week One - Part 1, Milan & Florence

Here is a picture of the Dumo in Milan.

The weather has been great and we are having a good time. We stayed the first day in Milan because Penny's luggage was lost. It showed up about 4 pm. But this let us walk around Milan for most of a day. The Dumo there is pretty amazing. There
is a lot of work going on, but we still really enjoyed it. We also walked through the fortress, it has a great park & garden around it.

Then we went on to Florence, got in about 8:30 pm, walked to the hotel which had closed at 8. The assistant thought we were coming in at 10:30 pm so he did come back to check us in. It's a good thing I had the local phone. It saved us a bunch of worry. Anyway we left the luggage at the desk and went to dinner. Florence is great to walk around. We spent the next day seeing the major sights. We had a 2.5 hour guided tour which got us started. The Uffizi Gallery was spectacular.

I'm going to have to write more late. This internet shop just closed. But here is a lion from the Scuplture Museum which is my favorite in Florence. More to follow about it when I get home.

Week One - Part 2, Tuscany & Pompeii

Hi everyone,
Well I'm having a bit of trouble with blogger, getting these photo's to load. So this is going to be a bit out of order. Here are the pictures for Siena, Tuscany & Pompeii. Once I get this posted I'm going to go back and add Milan and Florence, even though that's where we started!

I know promised to post pictures, but I've had a hard time finding internet spots that are open. In Siena the local spot was closed until noon and we needed to depart at 1pm. Anyway, here we are in Massa Lubrensse, just south of Sorrento. I'm going to post a few pictures but I've taken about 180 so those I'll down load when I get home...
Here is an illuminated book, there is a whole room of them on display in the Dumo in Siena.
This one is of the Camp in Siena. Also a beautiful morning there. Lots and lots of tourist and students. It's really a beautiful site. The old buildings are very tall, most old cities stop at 4 stories, but in Siena many were 6 stories.

The Crete Sensi Hill headed toward southern Tuscany. The wheat has been harvested and the fields turned over. It's dusty clay as far as you can see.

Here we are having lunch at the house we rented. It was a bit overcast or hazy on Sunday so we didn't do much but laundy and drink a lot of wine :-)

These are some fresco picturs I took in Pompeii today. We spent 6 hours there looking around. It really is pretty amazing.
And this is a shot of Vesuvius over a restored rooftop in Pompeii. It was beautiful today, warm & sunny with just a bit of breeze in the afternoon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Well, we arrived just fine and on time at 6pm on Sunday night. The flight was long but OK. Clearing security a second time in London was a pain, but we all got through in time to catch our next flight. Penny's bag didn't show up, so we stayed all day Monday in Milan. Her bag was delivered to our hotel about 4pm, so we caught the 5pm train to Florence. It's a 2 hour 45 min trip by train and is much more comfortable then flying. Though getting our tickets was interesting. The ticket lady was having a bad day. First she thought we wanted tickets for later in the evening, then she gave us tickets for the 11th. We finally got it straightened out, but actually got the last few seats on the train.

Milan was nice, the weather was sunny and in the low 70's. We had a great breakfast at our hotel, then walked through the whole old town, about 3 km or so up to the Cathedral. It's pretty amazing, especially on the outside. Part of the outside has been cleaned & restored, and part is under reconstruction. I have some nice pictures to share, but can't download them from this particular internet connection. I hope to get them down loaded on Friday morning, so check back on Saturday your time. We also walked up to the old main fortress/castle. It has a great park/garden around it which was very nice to walk through. The Chestnut trees were dripping huge chestnuts all over the trails.

Today we had a quick breakfast and then our guide met us a little before 10 am. We walked around the main points of Florence, and then ended up at the Uffizi Gallery. That took a couple of hours. I wish I could have taken some pictures of the the corridor ceilings. I know, I was supposed to be looking at the paintings (which were great) but it's always some other detail that catches my interest.

Tomorrow we're going to stop at another sculpture museum, then off to breakfast and THEN we plan to climb the 480+ steps to the top of the Dumo's dome and get pictures from up there. It should be sunny and warm again tomorrow, mid 70's. The sky has been totally clear, so the view should be great. I'll post those pictures on Friday too!

Anyway, I just wanted to leave a note saying all was well, we're having a great time. Plenty of wine to drink :-)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Weather Web Cams

Looking for local weather reports, I found a couple of web cams that seem to be working. I really like the first one that shows the Bay of Naples. 8am Alaska Daylight Time is 6pm in Naples, so remember the 10 hour time difference if you're checking the web cams. You might only get a night shot. Give them a try when you get a chance.



Here is a picture I took off the Naples Web Cam at 6:05 pm local time. According to the description one of those peaks in the distance is Mt Vesuvius. It looks like the moon is up too.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The weather in Italy

I'm starting to watch the weather reports to see what kind of weather we'll have next week. Yes, I've packed a rain jacket, but I'm really hoping for some nice sunny & warm weather. So far, it doesn't look too bad.

We get into Milan on Sunday night. Monday is supposed to be partly cloudy and 70. We'll take the train to Florence on Monday, we should get great scenery views along the way. Here's the long range forecast for Florence. :-)

It's cloudy & wet up here on the slope. It was about 30 this morning, but has warmed up a bit, maybe 34 by now. I'm really looking forward to some summer weather and getting away from this this wet, foggy weather we've been having.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Count Down to Italy...

We've been planning this trip to Italy for months, but today we're finally close enough to departure day to start a count down! 1 week to go and we'll be landing in Milan.

Here is our itinerary. Virginia, Linda and I are flying the same flights, Penny is about 2 hours behind us. Kristen is going to get into Milan a few hours earlier.

Our route is Alaska Airlines Anchorage/Seattle and then British Airways Seattle/London-Heathrow/Milan. We leave Anchorage on Saturday morning, 10/7 at 10:15 AM and arrive in Milan at 6:00 PM Sunday night, local time. It's a long flight, we have a 3 hour layover in Heathrow, but that's where Penny should join us.

Our return is the same route, just reversed. We leave Milan on Tuesday, 10/2 at noon, and arrive back in Anchorage on Tuesday night around 11:30 pm local time.

This is a list of the places we're going and the hotels or houses that we've rented.

Actually Linda & Kristen are going to deave us on 10/11 in Florence and go to Rome for a few days. We'll meet back up on 10/14 in Naples, then catch a train south to Sorrento and on to the house we've rented in Massa Lubrense. Tito & Vic are going to meet us in Naples too. Though maybe we'll all be on the same train out of Rome to Naples.

Anway, the long range weather forecast says Milan on Monday is supposed to be 80 and sunny. Partly cloudy in Florence and 77 when we get there on Monday afternoon. I'm really looking forward to some nice weather and lots of wine :-).

I'll try to add updates from our trip every few days from internet cafe's. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Or is this just a couple of new vents? USGS isn't sure, but they'll be waiting for the clouds to clear so they can fly up there and get a look. Either way, these new plumes (probably new vents) are fairly close to Augustine. Augustine hasn't been erupting ash lately, but the steam cloud the past week or so has really been visible, and voluminous. Here is picture from the AVO web site, it sure is a pretty sunset picture and both new plumes are distinct.
Here is part of their report, the link on the left will take you to the whole thing.
"On Sunday, September 17, AVO received several reports of two discrete plumes rising from the Cape Douglas area, about 200 miles (320 km) southwest of Anchorage, beginning at approximately 8:15 PM AKDT (0415 UTC, September 18) and continuing until darkness. Analysis of satellite images shows that the plumes originated in the area of Fourpeaked Glacier, located between Fourpeaked and Douglas volcanoes. Photographs of the plumes show that they reached up to approximately 20,000 ft (6,000 m) above sea level. Satellite images show a cloud originating from Fourpeaked glacier area and persisting throughout the night. The cloud does not show an ash signature. The cloud traveled up to 12 miles (20 km) to the northeast."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ginger People

Yep, it's happened. I found a new addiction. I found these candies in the Summit Spice store in Anchorage a couple of months ago. They were so good I went on line and ordered some more. Now I'm totaly addicted to these Ginger Chews. They're sweet & hot & spicy.

If you see a package in a store, think twice before you try them, you'll get addicted too!


Saturday, September 02, 2006


I have some friends (and friends of friends) that I met in McMurdo working at Toolik this summer. For those of you who are interested, Toolik is approx 120 miles south of Prudhoe Bay. It is a research station mostly operate but the University of Alaska - Fairbanks.

Anyhow, Shannon sent me this picture today. I wish you could see it full page. It's gorgeous. It's taken from the lake in front of the camp. You can see all the fall colors on the tundra, and fresh snow on the mountains in the background.

If you want more info about Toolik, take a look at these links.



Monday, August 14, 2006

Arctic Map

This is really an interesting map & web site. I found it looking for something else, but had to stop and play around a little bit. The link to the web site is: http://www.athropolis.com/map2.htm
Have a look when you have a minute to play around.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Blog Changes

Well, I'm trying to add a picture to my profile. I've actually printed out the instructions this time, instead of quickly reading them and believing I'll remember all of them. Anyhow, in order to post a picture in my profile, I have to already have it on line someplace, so here is as good as anywhere else. Wish me luck :-)
(This one was taken in Dubrovnik, late April 2004.)

Travel to Northstar - it's always an adventure

Bill Rochin, one of the Petroleum Engineers currently on the island sent me these pictures he took this morning. Normal (or maybe semi-regular is a better term) transportation to and from Northstar island is via hovercraft or helicopter in the summer. However it's been very foggy the past week so we've had a hard time getting flying minmums for the helicopter. Yesterday out hovercraft broke something or other, the repair guys are hoping it's just the clutch and have it torn apart to be fixed. But this has left us without a way to get our workers not living on the island, back & forth. So Alaska Clean Seas has come to our rescue today. We've chartered one of their Bay Boats for the day. Here are a couple of pictures. In the first one you can see the fog behind the boat, looking like mist in this picture, but it's pretty thick.