11 September 2017

2016 ITALY Tivoli 19 - Villa d'Este

It was about an hour's drive to the town of Tivoli. We drove through hillside and dale, pastures with sheep, and quaint little Italian villages. So beautiful. We passed a multitude of shrines wherever we traveled in Italy. Some modest, some elaborate. This one seemed sweet.

Other common sights were the Italian cypress (tall and skinny) and Italian stone pine (tall with umbrella tops). Neither is trimmed or trained. These are in their natural growing state and native to the Mediterranean region.

Also lots of time-worn art, statues, fountains, etc. around. Once in a while you see a piece of modern art as well. I really liked this one...well, maybe not the urn part, but it might be integral to the water system!
Daily life in the charming town of Tivoli.

Our next destination today was the Villa d'Este with its Greek influence and Renaissance gardens. It was created in the 16th century by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este. Construction began in 1560 and the villa mostly was completed by 1572, when the Cardinal died. Completion of the gardens continued for many years after that through various guardians and owners.

Now it is a museum and a UNESCO world heritage site. The beautiful tile work announced its name and was just a preview of things to come.

We met in the central courtyard and heard the story of the villa. Ippolito, as a second son, was destined to have a career in the church. By age ten he was named Archbishop of Milan!!!.

Through his connections with the church and also the French royal family, he amassed a fortune and became an enthusiastic patron of the arts. He tried a number of times to become pope, but his extravagant lifestyle held him back. Finally he was appointed a lifetime governorship of Tivoli.

Tivoli had always been a summer resort for Roman citizens because of its beauty and good water supply. The location of Hadrian's summer villa and gardens (2nd century) was located there. It encompassed 300 acres and upon Ippolito's arrival it was being excavated. He decided it was the perfect spot for his villa as well. Plus there was great opportunity for him to treasure hunt and collect marble slabs and statues from the Hadriana ruins to help decorate his new complex.

Much, much more at: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villa_d%27Este. Here is a rendering of Villa d'Este and its gardens.

The villa is stunning. Painted walls and ceilings are so colorful and in beautiful condition. Frescoes throughout were designed to mimic tapestries. This is the Hall of Noah and represents him bargaining with God as he lands on Mount Ararat. The white eagle at the lower right of Noah (and other places throughout the villa) is the symbol of the d'Este family.

This depicts a version of the Birth of Venus. How modest!
Our tour guide, Sabrina, is pointing out an important (but forgotten) fact!!
A glass cut-out in the floor shows some of the original Hadriana ruins.

Mosaics were wonderful, showing off colors of marble resourced from various locations.
Here's some gorgeous 3-D tile detail. Again, the white eagle symbol.

Interspersed in the original art and architecture were displays of more modern art. In this interesting juxtaposition are full-size horse statues strutting among autumn trees in this interior space.
Some rooms had a few extra "doors" and "windows" presenting lovely, painted landscapes. A man and his monkey seem to be entering here. It appears to be a likeness of Cardinal Ippolito.
An old press for making wine or olive oil.
Once through the huge villa, we exited to an expansive outdoor terrace, the width of the villa. See the white area below the building in the diagram above. It had spectacular views overlooking the valley and ruins of an old church (love that telescopic lens).

The best was yet to be enjoyed...

04 September 2017

Aug 2017 KENTUCKY Henderson 5 - Downtown, Dining, and Driving

In downtown, we parked near the restaurant and took a walk along the riverside park before dinner. There was a wide boat ramp sloping down to the Ohio River. On one side was a big splash pad for kids and a train bridge crossing over the river. As we watched, a very long train crossed over it. Didn't get to see the end before we left.
On the other side was green space. People picnicked under tall shade trees and a nice walkway meandered along the riverfront with signs recapping local history.

There were statues of John James Audubon (bird artist) and a few birds, such as osprey and pelican (my fave bird).

A current day "bird man" showed off his three white cockatoos. He answered questions about them and even let folks hold them. The birds were yakking away, although I could not hear what they were saying from where we were. (Reminded me of Spooky, Mike's sister's cockatoo. That bird had a huge human vocabulary. Sorry to say he passed away some time ago.)

OK, off to dinner. We turned around and headed back up the hill toward the business area. Dark clouds loomed.
Ron had researched the restaurants in downtown Henderson and chose Commonwealth Kitchen and Bar. He made advanced reservations, which was a good thing, because it was packed. We got a nice window table. It was 5-star in our opinion.

Dixie had the chipotle black bean burger with jalapeƱo, corn, and guac. I had a huge salad with candied pecans, feta, and blackened shrimp. The guys both ordered polenta ravioli with sage infused tomato sauce. Sounds like a strange combo, but the ravs were the hit of the night.That would have been my first choice after a taste of Mike's. But everything was soooooo yum!  

Then there were the "adult" beverages. Dix and I shared a bottle of Alamos malbec--mellow and tasty. Mike drank refreshing ice tea due to a little dehydration. But Ron was in his element. He is a bourbon connoisseur (a Maker's Mark ambassador) and this is bourbon country. Tim was our waiter and an expert bourbon-ite. He was way gracious to show off his stock which included 75 bourbons.

Ron was up for the challenge as a seasoned taste tester. He started with Angel's Envy suggested by Tim. Then Tim invited us to the back bar to view the various bourbons on hand. When it came down to it, Ron couldn't pass on his favorite Maker's Mark Cask Strength for the next round.

Then Tim brought a complimentary taste of Rhetoric 23. Next he offered a taste of Old Ripy, but found he was out of that. Not to disappoint, he brought Ron just a swallow of a very expensive Willett Pot Still Bourbon (pix below). Ron was thoroughly impressed by this exceptional Southern hospitality.
We loved the highball glassware, too. Hard to tell in this photo but it was a regular glass from bottom to rim. The rim, however, was at a pitched angle. You drank from the high side. Very cool. We need some of these!
We shared dessert. It was basically 4 mini cannoli, but they named it desert egg rolls. That size was just right as we were totally stuffed before we even ordered this last course.
On the menu it suggested you could buy a "round" for the restaurant staff for $15, if you felt they did a great job. We decided to do that and added an extra $5 just for Tim. That's how much we loved the place and especially Tim.

After dinner we had planned to walk around downtown, but it had started raining and lightning during our desert. So we hopped in the car to head home. Traffic had finally died down a bit and it was a quick cruise back to the hotel. All were stuffed and tired, so headed to our respective rooms.

We met about 8:30am for breakfast, packed the car, and started for home. We worried a bit about traffic, but it was smooth sailing all the way except for the construction area.

Some interesting things we saw on the road home:
- a Sinclair gas station with a Dino, the dinosaur statue looking onto the highway (haven't seen that brand in a millennium!)
- a motorcycle with side car (but the lady friend was riding behind her man, while the side car went empty...maybe luggage in there!!)
-  and a long section of wind turbine tower being transported in a way we had not seen before. Hard to describe but nothing supporting the section underneath, just hanging from equipment at front and back. Sorry you cannot see the whole rig, but hopefully you get the idea.

To pass the time we listened to tunes on Sirius. Fave channels were "classic vinyl" (our era with Joe Cocker, Jackson Brown, Moody Blues, Steely Dan, Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, etc.) and "deep tracks" (other than the top songs on hit albums). Picture four near oldie but goldie folks singing along to Teenage Wasteland while traveling down the highway.

We hit home about 4:30p on Tues. Bella met us at the door, as usual. Yay! What a fabulous short but sweet trip. Thanks, R&D for all the planning and transportation. Don't think we would have done it without you. xx00xx

Parting shot. See that darkest spot in upper middle of this photo? That's where we were.

Aug 2017 KENTUCKY Henderson 4 - Back to Home Base

We had decided to stay in Henderson an extra night to avoid "the biggest traffic jam in American history," with everyone bolting out of the 100% zone in order to get to work the next day. On our way back to the hotel, we again followed along the Trail of Tears National Historic road. This was the route that peoples of the Cherokee Nation were forced to walk from their tribal home east of the Mississippi River to lands in Oklahoma.

This was a spot along the road where a group of more serious eclipsers had set up to watch the event. They had huge telescopes for maximum viewing. I heard one person say though that the small telescopes were actually better for viewing, because the larger ones let in too much light.
We didn't wander down the pathway, but I looked up Mantle Rock when I got home. Dang! We missed a good one. Doubt we will get that way again, but if we do, we will definitely hike back to this majestic display of nature. Here's what we missed: https://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/kentucky/placesweprotect/mantle-rock-preserve.xml. That must be the Cherokee language on the sign above Trail of Tears, but I am still curious about details.
We also saw these interesting structures and wondered about their use. Once home, I researched. Info is a little sketchy, but I think this is right. This is a conveyor system (or beltline as they say in Kentucky) used to transport coal from the Highland Company mines to the Ohio River for further transport.

This is the Peabody belt and is thought to be the longest conveyor in the US, stretching for approximately five miles. It goes over highways and across crop fields, meandering high and low at various points. I wonder how much it is used today.

We encountered no back-up until we got just outside of Henderson. Then it was stop-n-go and bumper-to-bumper. At the hotel, the receptionist said what normally takes her six minutes from home to work, took her 45 minutes today. 

We all freshened up and met in R&D's room for cocktails to celebrate the day. The gals had Tempo Vino chocolate-raspberry wine (umm good, you could really taste both flavors) and the guys had Maker's Mark bourbon. From there we motored to downtown Henderson (a few miles away) for a walk-around before dinner. Traffic going our way was smooth sailing, while the other side of the road was still bumper-to-bumper.