Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On the Road Again

The bags are packed, and we are off again.

Friday, September 4 2009 – Studley, VA 8:30 pm

Clear cool (72°) perfect evening relaxing in a very quiet, peaceful night. Back with my old friend my journal. It’s been a good summer, made all the better with visits by grandson Zachary for about 3 weeks, sister Gloria and her husband Paul for a week, and Ed, Alicia and Taylor who didn’t stay long enough. Kat has taken up painting and is remarkable. One of her latest is now hanging in the foyer. To think she started with four blank canvases.

Sometime in June or July, Rich called and said he and Lu were trading houses with a couple who had an apartment near the Sorbonne in Paris. They asked if we were interested in joining them for 4-5 days in September. After a stout 5 seconds of thinking about it we said – absolutely. Rich and Lu are a pleasure to travel with and we can’t get enough of Paris. The deal was made and we forgot about it because September was a long way off. It lingered out there as a pleasant thought for the future.

Sometime in August Rich called again and said he and Lu were swapping houses with a couple in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland (about an hour north of Belfast), the week following Paris. Interested? Sign us up.

We read and learned about the area and it seems fascinating.

Kat and I had talked about going back to Firenze (just the two of us) for quite a while. We had both read Irving Stone’s Agony and the Ecstasy (again) and wondered if we could locate and see all Firenze-based works of Michelangelo. We are going to try.

Another major figure from the same period (and this is not to disparage DaVinci and Galileo) that fascinates us is Savonarola. Talk about charisma. How this professor turned monk was able to have such a dramatic influence on the Florentine people is beyond comprehension. Reading about his famous “Bonfires of the Vanities” really makes one wonder what books and art (it is said that Botticelli threw some of his own paintings onto the pyre) were lost for eternity. We want to stand on the spot where "Old Savy" came to his inglorious end.

Well the future is now, and in a (relatively) short amount of time we made all the flight, car rental and hotel arrangements. Our plans look like this:

Richmond to Paris followed by 4 easy days acting like Parisians.

Paris to Belfast with 2 days in No. Ireland and 2 in the Republic (with a Vermeer sighting at the National Gallery in Dublin). This is a picture or our B&B (another first) called the Highland House in Trim, just outside Dublin.

Belfast to Nice, France where we rent a car and drive to Lucca then Firenze for 3 days.

Assisi, Paestum, Herculaneum, Pompeii (lifetime desire), and San Gimignano round out the Southern Italy and Tuscan part.

We drive back to Nice through Bologna (our last Michelangelo), fly back to Paris, and then to Richmond the next day.

It seems like a lot when written like that but with the exception of a few days in Ireland there is a lot of down time and pleasant drives. We have only a few “must sees” each day. That’s the plan and we’ll see how well it works.

Sunday, Sept 6th another 72° day.

Gorgeous quiet morning, with a clear blue Virginia sky. We found Agony and the Ecstasy upstairs in our “unfinished library” and I’ve begun re-reading. It is a very easy read, thought provoking and highly recommended. I particularly like the passages about sculpting and finding the beauty in stone. Wood turning (and carving no doubt) have a lot in common with sculpting. Just removing the excess to leave the essence.I most enjoy turning something when I know to whom I am giving it. My thoughts are filled with pleasant memories as I turn the piece. I’m currently working on something new for Kat’s birthday, and every moment spent on it is a pleasure. There is more of us in the piece than I can describe.

Sept 16th – Studley 11:00 am

Relaxing for the first time today, outside with the birds. It’s been a busy 10 days since I last wrote. We refined our plans and added Bologna as a stop on the way back to Nice. I spent an interesting morning at our local family dentist having a temporary crown put on a tooth that cracked yesterday afternoon. There I was just sitting and reading, munching on some Wasabi mix when I realized that I was biting on something that was very, very hard. I had that sinking feeling when my tongue found the huge crater where half my tooth had previously been. That knowledge was quickly followed by the real fear of the excruciating pain that was sure to follow a few milliseconds later (like when you stub your toe, and you just know it is coming).

Well, it never came. I was filled with joy and happiness.

Which takes me back (mentally) to a fascinating point made during a sport radio talk show the other day. The broadcaster posited that the state of mind we call “HAPPY” is oftentimes a function of expectation. Let’s say Kathy expects the Patriots to win 8 games and lose 8 games this year. I expect them to win 12 games and lose 4. The team wins 10 games and loses 6. I’m unhappy, dejected, and disappointed because they didn’t meet my expectations. Kathy is happy (maybe even very happy because they might make the playoffs), and feels great. The team won 10 games and one of us is happy and other unhappy – Whoa! Life Lesson.

So, I expected pain, got none and I was happy; even though I had just cracked a tooth 2 days before our trip. This whole expectation thing is a trap.

I did spend 2 pleasant hours this morning yakking with our dentist and his assistant and am now sporting a brand new temporary crown that looks better than my original tooth. Life is good. And I'm happy.

Next stop – Paris.

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