Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

My European Trip, Part 13, Monaco

Hello ! Renxkyoko Iglesias here.


My schedule  has been quite hectic since November . Fall semester is going to end soon, and that means, final exams, and submissions of all school projects. Also, I now work longer hours at my  two part time jobs.  I come home at 11 PM almost everyday. So, my apologies for  not visiting your blogsites . Believe it or not, I have, to date , 5,137 unread emails.


So, anyway, this is my 13th post and it’s  about my trip to Monaco.

Okay, to us, peons, Monaco is definitely out of our league.  It  is the recreation center for the rich and famous.

Monaco is officially called The Principality of Monaco.  It is a sovereign city -state and is located on the French Riviera. It’s just 16 km. from Italy and 13 km. from Nice, France. We stayed overnight at Nice, by the way. I assume the tour company couldn’t afford the hotels in Monaco. One thing, parking there is like , 125 Euro /hour.( $165 ).  Yep.


.Monaco has an area of just 1.98  sq. km. ( .76 sq. m. ), with a population of a little over 36,000, making it one of the  smallest countries in the world, second only to The Vatican , and  the most densely populated place in the world. It’s a constitutional monarchy, headed by Prince Albert II , the son of Prince Rainier, and Princess Grace ( American actress Grace Kelly ), both deceased.  The House of Grimaldi have ruled Monaco since 1297.


.Above is the Mediterranean Sea.


.Do you know why the rich come to Monaco and take up residence there? It has no income tax, and  has very low business taxes. In other words, a tax haven.


.Monaco’s official language is French, and official religion is Roman Catholicism.  I guess there’s no separation of church and state in their Constitution.  Although it is independent and has  full voting rights at the U.N. , France is responsible for Monaco’s defence.


Look at all those yatchs  that are  docked  at Port of Hercules. Do you have any idea how much it costs to park a yatch  at the port? Our tour manager gave a figure but I couldn’t believe it. I won’t tell. You wouldn’t believe it, either.


.Monaco’s only natural resource is fishing. There’s no  agriculture whatsoever. Most of the state’s income comes from tourism,  services , banking, and yes, the Casinos at Monte Carlo.  Monaco is subdivided into 3 municipalities ;  Monte  Carlo,  La Condamine, and Monaco-Ville.


.We arrived in Nice,  at our hotel,, dressed up for our Monaco tour that included a $ 75 a person optional dinner , and  drinks and some gambling  at  Le  Cafe de Paris.  We took  a walking tour of Monte Carlo.


.Monaco has the world’s  highest GDP nominal per capita at $ 154,000, with unemployment rate at 0% ( yes, zero ! ),  and check out those residential buildings above…….. the real estate market as of 2011 is $66,000 per square meter., the world’s highest. And do you notice how clean the streets are? I swear I can eat food off that street. The place is just too clinical.


.Monaco also has the lowest poverty rate in the world, and has the most number of millionaires and billionaires per capita.



.I really find that statue of a baby a bit odd, considering that it’s in front of the Oceanographic Museum.



Above is the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Princess Grace got married.



.Sorry  but I  feel I have relegated myself to posting some old royal wedding picture stuck on one random street post. Monaco is a place fo the rich and famous, but not for me who gets excited to see ancient ruins and piles of rock the ancients had used at one time.




Above is where we had dinner.



Our  $75 .00 dinner.


.Tuna, anchovies, olives, greens, half boiled egg, cucumber, and tomatoes.  I liked the salad… and to be honest, the anchovies made it really delicious.


.Chicken didn’t taste good….. the tomato sauce tasted like rust, fries were very limp, the beans were overcooked.


.Egg custard dessert……. I make a better custard than that. I call it leche flan. I could tell they included the egg whites to save on the cost, I guess. The texture of the custard is different if it’s pure yolk.  I expected  we’d get at least a spoonful of caviar.

Next photos were our night out at Monte Carlo Grand Casino. No, we didn’t go inside. hahaha….. We went to the  side casino, the one on the left,…. that was the one  for  common folks.








.These next 2 photos are the only ones I have of Nice, France.  We didn’t  have time to walk around and take pictures.DSCN1176.DSCN1122

.So, that’s it for Monaco.  To be honest, I’m not into Monaco. Yes, it’s a beautiful place. It’s very clean,  everything ‘s spic and span, nothing is out of place. It’s like a fairy tale land.  But I think it’s too clinical. There’s nothing spontaneous about the place.  It’s like coming from an amusement center, and then stepping into a hospital.  Ah, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me.  I should have got down on my knees  and  licked  a street .  That would a nice tale to tell my future kids, ahaha.

OMgosh, it’s almost  here.  Christmas, my most favorite holiday.

To Christians, Happy Christmas .

To Jews, Happy Hannuka ! ( Hanukka? )

To all the rest, Happy Holidays and Peace to you all ! !

Avignon, Carcassone and maybe Barcelona is next.  PEACE !

My European Tour Pt. 12 Florence, Italy

Come, Ren , say Hi !



My 12th post is about my visit to the city of Florence , the capital city  of  the region of Tuscany.  Florence is a city that sparked The Renaissance and  is also the birthplace of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli,  Dante , Machiavelli, Florence Nightingale, the powerhouse Medici family, and  * cough * Gucci, and Ferragamo.  It  was a rich medieval city , the centre of trade and finance during the Middle Ages,  the centre of music ( Florence was where Opera started ) and  was considered the wealthiest city at that time, and today, has been ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The Italian language used to be just a Florentine dialect,  but was adopted as the language of choice for the whole of “united ” Italy.

We did the city tour on foot. We were happy  we had a   Florentine tour guide  that had a sense of humour v and was  most passionate about the city.  ( Well, he always compared Florence to Rome, Venice, etc.,  )  He was very effusive, lively, and  very demonstrative of his feelings .   Perhaps he was  just being very  Italian.

On the way to Florence…. Behold ! Tuscan countryside !


City of Florence under the Tuscan sun.


.Below was our tour guide. Look at his right hand… he was really emoting, and almost singing his description of the beauty of his city.


.Just to let you know I was at Via Torta…. Hmmm, torta is what I have for breakfast  almost everyday.



.The buildings  look shabby and run-down, but actually , they are just gloriously old..  They are well-preserved 600 year old medieval buildings. DSCN0982

.Above is my group…. Huh ?  My back looks fat ! ! =_=”   ( That’s me in white hat and striped shirt )

Below is the Piazza della Signoria.  On the left side is Michaelangelo’s statue of David, in front of Palazzo Vecchio.


Palazzo Vecchio



455. Michaelangelo’s David. That’s a copy. The real thing is in the museum, which is where it should be.




Behind me is the Fountain of  Neptune. This statue was made in 1565, commissioned for the wedding  of one of the  Medici sons. The fountain itself was the terminal of an ancient Roman aqueduct ( like The Trevi Fountain in Rome ) and is still functioning  today.  The  Medici family were the most prominent in Florence. Two Popes came from their clan, but the more famous son, Lorenzo de Medici, was a great patron of the arts. He was an accomplished musician himself, and commissioned works by Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticceli, all Florentines by birth.  Then and to this day, he was known as Lorenzo, the Magnificent.  The most famous political  writing of Niccolo Machiavelli, ” The Prince“, was dedicated to Lorenzo.


I assume we all know of Machiavelli?  His name has become synonymous with opportunism, scheming, deceit, cunning, etc. . In his book, The Prince, Machiavelli emphasized the use of deceit, brute force, elimination of rivals,  etc. to achieve political stability and power . The end justifies the means  neatly sums up the theme of his book.   




430.Above is the Basilica di Santa Croce ( Basilica of the Holy Cross ), built in 1294..  It is a Franciscan Church, and  is the burial place of  Michaelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Rossini, and other notable Italians. On the left, you can see the statue of Dante. The designer of the church’s facade was Jewish. Take note The Star of David  at the top.  He also wanted to be buried there, but since he wasn’t Catholic, he was buried under the porch, and not within the walls of the church.


.The dormitory of the Franciscan friars is now a Leather School. We toured the place and watched how they crafted the purses, bags, etc. We also bought purses. I bought 2 bags. Florence is also known for their leather crafts.


Having lunch. Do you see that small bowl on the table ? That was a bowl of pasta  ( with just white sauce) and it cost $15. The small pizza was $14.  Very expensive.  Below was the open air restaurant where we had lunch.  Oh, by the way, do you see the lady taking a picture?  She kind of looks like a zombie.



.Do you see the yellow middle building? That was Michaelangelo’s workshop.


.Above is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, also called the Duomo, was built in 1296, and completed in 1436. The design was Gothic. The cathedral complex  , just like in Pisa, includes the the Cathedral, the Campanille ( freestanding belltower) and the Baptistery. ( where people are baptized). Below is the picture of the facade, courtesy of Wikipedia.



DSCN0990.The Belltower ( Campanille)





.I’ve said before that the beauty of Europe is man-made, haven’t I ? This is why I want to show intricate details of  these amazings buildings. They are  so breathtakingly beautiful.  Can you imagine if these structures were destroyed by numerous wars , or  by  natural elements ?


.The cathedral ‘s exterior walls are made of white, green and red marbles.


That dome is made of bricks and is the first  octagonal dome that was built with no external buttresses to keep the structure from spreading and  falling.  Lifting over 4 million bricks was an engineering feat by the engineer who built the dome,  Brunelleschi.  He invented the machines to hoist the bricks up to the top.


Above is the statue of  Brunelleschi  outside a palace, just across from the cathedral,  looking up towards  his achievement, which is still the largest masonry dome in the world.


.I  managed to take a picture of an open doorway of a private residence.   That’s a beautiful indoor courtyard.



Above is another church. On a walking tour, we passed by several more churches like the one above. It’s amazing. These churches are a mere walking distance from each other.  One Aussie guy in our group called it ABC.  Another Bloody Church.  Oy ! o_O”

Walking from 8 to 5 was really tiring. But it didn’t  stop us from taking another walk –  around  at the hotel.


.And relaxing , while waiting for dinner .


The view from our hotel room.


This is it for now. Monaco, Avignon, and Carcassone are next.

Good day to all, and PEACE !  Oh, and it’s December now . Wow !  Happy Holidays to all ! ( I hope I’m first to greet my dear readers )



Here I am again. Hi !

So, I’m now in Pisa. Pisa is a city in Tuscany and the capital of the province of Pisa.  Although Pisa has several places of interest and history going back  at least thirteen centuries B.C. , it is famous for the freestanding belltower of the Cathedral. . Though there’s an ancient city in Greece called Pisa, historians are not clear whether this area ‘s civilization is  of Etruscan or Greek  in origin. Italy’s history is complicated because it used to consist of  so many kingdoms that were entirely separate from Rome.  Italy that we know today did not exist then. Venice, Florence, Rome…. they each had their own thing going on.   Pisa is also the birthplace of Galileo Galilei. If you have not heard of Galileo, then you’re an alien.

I was , naturally, very excited to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and it didn’t disappoint me. It was  awesome.  Actually , the belltower is just one of the  4 buildings at Piazza dei Miracoli, or Field of Miracles. But images of  it  give the impression that the tower stands alone. Well, it doesn’t. Just a few steps from it  are  the  beautiful Cathedral, the Baptistry, and the Camposanto. ( cemetery )

Below is a pic of  our tour group ( and me ) at a pit stop. We were all ready to go, quite refreshed and perky.


There’s the Baptistry the Cathedral, and the Belltower. They are all made of white marble, and yes, they are all  sinking. The fact is, there are also at least 2  other towers in Pisa that are leaning.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise beacuse Pisa, after all, got its name from the Greek word Pisa, which means marshy lands.

.Construction of the tower began in  1173 and was completed in  1399. The tower tilted during construction due to the soft soil and inadequate foundation. Construction was halted for almost 100 years. This allowed for the soil to settle and compress , making it a bit stable. However,  the tilting continued prompting the Italian government  to seek help from engineers and mathematicians from all over the world.

.Over hundreds of years,  it became clear that the tower was not only leaning, it was actually falling, at the rate of 2 millimeters a year, and at one point, was in danger of toppling over.


.Today, the tower is about  3.9 degrees off perpendicular  or about 5 meters off.  Nonetheless, the tower has been declared stabilized and will remain so for the next 200 years.


.The Baptistry above was where Galileo was baptized.  We wanted to see the Cathedral’s interior but we were not properly dressed. Dress code : no shorts. Well we didn’t know  we were going to visit a church..  So, my cousin and I just goofed around outside while the rest of the tour group were inside the church.  Not fair.  But, we had plenty of time to shop for souvenirs. There was  a row of  colorful souvenir stalls  just across from the piazza. I wish I had taken a pic  of that. Very touristy.

.A nap after a tiring day.

Next day, we went to Assisi,  a medieval town and the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, whose members vow to a life of poverty.  Together with St. Clare, St. Francis is the patron saint of Italy.

Pastoral scene on the way to Assisi.

.It was the Romans that built the town of Assisi  on a series of terraces. The population is about 25,000.



.It may not look it, but that was quite a steep climb to the top.  I was out of breath when I reached the top.

A souvenir shop along the way

.There’s the church of St. Francis. He is also buried there.  It’s a pity we couldn’t take photos of the interior. But, there was a Mass going on, and  it was Sunday, so we decided to attend it . So now I can brag say we heard Mass in Assisi.


Above is the main door of the church. That’s the only part  that has elaborate designs. The church is simple, inside and outside. It was, after all,  built in honor of a saint who lived a simple and humble life.  Right above are 2 Franciscan monks.  Or are they friars ? Priests maybe? I wonder what the difference is between a friar and a monk. * googles *………. Friars are those who can get out of monasteries , and some are ordained into priesthood, and therefore can say Mass. Monks are those who are cloistered in monasteries and abbeys and brew beer. Kidding !  But beer afficionados swear they brew the best beer in the world.  I suspect monasteries don’t have heaters, so alcohol trumps hot coffee to keep one’s body warm and toasty on cold , winter nights.   However, I’ve seen Benedictine monks  who go outside, and even seen them smoking, he he he. Okay, let’s not go there.  * ponders *   I wonder why we Catholics  use the word ” hear ” instead of attend the Mass ( we hear Mass ) and the priest who celebrates the Mass ,  we say  he  ” says” the Mass. It makes sense though.  I mean, say and hear  go together, right?  Just musing.

.I didn’t capture the beauty of the scenery, and the place  really looked  so serene.

.This is  it for Pisa and Assisi.

It feels weird that while I’m gushing over Pisa and Assisi, and talking about serenity, I’m watching the news about the Israel and Palestinian conflict. I’m not going to say what I think about this. I won’t even say something stupid like Why can’t they get along . They’ll never get along, but can’t they just leave it alone? Who are we to say that, anyway ? Heck,  our own Democrat and Republican politicians can’t get along. That said,   I wish the US would leave Afghanistan , NOW , not in 2014. We spend 6 billion dollars a month for  the people of a country  whose hearts and minds  we can never win.  Just leave them alone  and let them do what they want . If they want to kill little  girls who want to go to school, so be it.  Can I say freely,” Frankly, my dear,  I don’t give a damn.  ?  Would they  be happy with that?  We need that money here in the US.  Can you imagine what that $ 6 B can do here in the US ?  Sentido comun.  Spend it on us, on the people of Staten Island, the homeless, on education,  renewable energy, so we won’t be hostage of  foreign oil.  Here;s the thing though. I have a co-worker  who is an Afghan woman. She married a US born Afghan -American soldier who was deployed in Afghanistan.  Her family in Afghanistan was so happy, especially her dad, that at least one of his children would have a better life here in the US. The problem is, her relatives in Afghanistan are harassing her family, especially her mother and sister.   She sends half her salary to her family there, and she’s so afraid what will happen to them when the Americans leave.  Oh, and she cried and cried when she was promoted as manager, the keyholder,  at our store. She said this would never happen  to women in her country.  * sigh * I don;t know. I’m so conflicted.

Here I go again, speaking my mind.  This is supposed to be a travelogue, ahaha.  Oh, well.  * shrugs *  I guess I’m like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna read here. he he he.

Alright, this is all for now.  Florence is next…. and Monaco ( maybe ) G’day to all, and PEACE !


Hi, there !

* sigh of relief * Finally, Rome , The Eternal City. So, how do I start this ?  With statistics, and history ? With over 3000 years of  Roman history, it would take at least one volume of Encyclopedia Britanica  to present in detail  Rome’s influence on the history of the world.  At this moment, I feel stupid to even dare contemplate doing that when I know next to nothing  about ancient  Rome , except of course a few interesting trivia such as Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned (  some say he actually sang as he had a good singing voice , and even went to Greece to join singing contests , lol ). And who doesn’t know about Mark Anthony  and Julius Caesar ?   Yes, you got it. Both men were Cleopatra’s lovers.  And who was Cleopatra? Cleopatra was Egypt’s last Pharaoh. Cleopatra , by the way, wasn’;t even Egyptian. She was Greek who only spoke Greek, not the language of the country she ruled.  And,  she must have been so beautiful she snagged two of Rome’s most important citizens. Or,  maybe she wasn’t even pretty….. but she was a Pharaoh, and I guess, that alone would attract the best of Rome.  Okay, enough of gossip.

Below is where we went after The Vatican tour.  At the end of the road is the Coliseum.  The sight of that from the coach made my heart beat fast. I mean, heck,  that’s the Roman Coliseum,  the real McCoy…

.The Coliseum was built in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and  finished by his son, Emperor Titus. It has 80 arched entrances to accomodate  about 50 ,000 spectators.  They were spectators of mayhem and carnage , slaughter of wild animals, and fight to the death between criminals, prisoners of  war, and  slaves  they called gladiators.






.Above is the interior. Just look at those massive columns.




.You’d expect the middle space to be an open space arena,  unlike the above photo where  you can see walls and tunnels. Actually, there was  originally a wooden floor that covered these tunnels, and the wooden floor was covered with sand, sand is “arena ” in Latin. The animals and gladiators ( later, the early Christians ) were held under the floor, in the tunnels to await their fate. Pulleys  were raised to bring the animals or humans to the surface.  The spectacle was usually a one-day event, and there were so much killing the ground would be soaked with blood,  so they had to cover the area with fresh sand, after which , the slaughter continued on.



..Panoramic view of the arena.  Uhm, the design actually confuses me. How did spectators at the top ( what we call the nosebleed section, the bleachers ) manage to get a good view of the spectacle  down at the arena? Those massive walls originally were covered with awnings.

.The Coleseum at night, courtesy of Wikipedia.

.Above is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The arch on the right is the Arch of Constantine.



Next photos are those of The Forum.

The ruins of the Roman Coliseum and The Forum are in stark contrast to the grandeur of The Vatican. That they are almost next to each other makes the contrast even more stunning. To a person who absolutely knows nothing about  Rome and its history ( yes, there’s a person like that ), The Forum would look like just a pile of bricks and slabs of stones with a few posts and columns scattered  here and there.

It’s hard to imagine  that these ruins were once the center of trade and politics in Rome for about 1000 years. Where the market goes, so go the politicians. I can imagine politicians standing on platforms , orating and speaking to anyone who cared to listen, while common folks went around doing their business. . ” Can you defend your  politics  at The Forum?”  This was  also the place where the Senate met, and triumphant marches and elections were held.  It was at the Rostra where Marc Anthony  addressed his famous eulogy  for Julius Caesar ( who was assassinated by  some Senators led by Brutus ).  “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar ”                     That is of course William Shakespeare’s version.  I actually stood in front of the platform and imagined the whole scene. ( Aaaargh, I’m such a geek ! )

Below is the Rostra.



.Above is the Temple of Romulus. The door is original, and it’s bronze.  Hmmm, no wonder Kratos can’t destroy that. ( Kratos from video game God of War, he he )


I’m trying to visualize how the place must have looked during their time.  It does look small and compact, but you know, it isn’t , really.  The columns still standing  are  tall , massive, and impressive.

I have tons of photos of this place that  I’d love to post here, but I’m sure not all  share my enthusiasm for old stuff.  I think I want to be an archaelogist. But I doubt  this career will put food on my table.  I’ll content myself watching National Geographic Channel and The Naked Archeologist and dreaming of going to Greece, Egypt , Turkey, and  Israel. Oh, and back to Italy again. I want to see Pompeii.

So, anyway, I’m done with Colloseum and The Forum, but not Rome yet.  Our tour of The Vatican and the Colloseum and Forum was done in one , HOT sunny day. It was almost 100F, and no lunch time. We were told to eat a very heavy breakfast, warned there wouldn’t be time for lunch, then headed out at  730 H. The photos below are my morning breakfast, times 2, and how my li’l cousin and I looked after a tiring day.

.We finished off the day by getting an Optional Dinner that cost  $65 each person. Add the $ 65 for The Vatican Museum  Tour, it was not only hectic, it was quite an expensive day too. Optional means the fees were not included in the pre-paid packaged tour.  To be honest, the Museum tour was totally worth it, but the dinner wasn’t. The only good thing about dinners in Europe were the ” drink all you can ” part.  One bottle of wine in Europe is cheaper than one glass of wine here in the US.  3 bottles per table of 6 persons, always.


.The pasta was okay, but the meat was chewy. The steak we had in Venice was quite chewy too.  What’s with the hard meat, anyway? The lasagne was too watery. Perhaps that’s how Italians make lasagna, but I like it better the way we make it at home. It has form and we can actually cut through it.

Below is a blurry picture of the lasagna.

.Bottomline is , the food could have been better for $65 . Oh, and the serenaders got at least  $40 from our table.  ^__^

Well, this is all for now.  Rome again next post.  Good day and PEACE !


European Trip Part 7, part b, The Vatican and Rome

Hello, there !  Renxkyoko Iglesias here !

How many times have I started a post  with these words? According to WP, more than 274 times.  With just 1 or 2 posts a month, I don;t know where WP got that figure. Okay, I think  I know…. it’s from where I first started blogging here, in October , 2010.  And  I did post almost everyday back then…… mindless, stupid posts, like so…. ” Hi, Renxkyoko Iglesias here ! It’s 2 AM right now and guess what I’m doing ? Doing the laundry , that’s what. So, how’s your day ?  Tut, tut, goodbye ! ”   And the one below is the worst…. by the way, it’s dated June 2010…. that was written on another blogsite that was transferred , lock, stock and barrel to WP.

Posted June 28, 2010 by renxkyoko in Uncategorized. 2 Comments | Edit


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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by pHiO_cHaN on June 28, 2010 at 5:12 am  edit

    and this too! what entry is this? @___@


  2. Posted by renxkyoko on June 28, 2010 at 5:54 am  edit

    (^__^)”;;  Don’t know.

No wonder  that for a loooong time, I only had  2 or 3 loyal and captured readers, lol. Who would read such crap ? The first time I saw another commenter  on my blog, aside from my loyalists, of course,  I was like, ” Waaaaa ! They can read my blog ? ” All the while, I thought that was my private space .  I was such a dumb-belle…. still one, though, he he he.

Well, then, consider the above   my anniversary post.

Moving on……

This is the second part of my Part 7 tour of Rome and The Vatican.  There’s just no way I can convey the richness of  Rome’s and  The Vatican’s history  with just one post.  Rome ruled for 3,500 years after all. Also, The Vatican Museum contains the biggest collection of  the antiquities.   Don’t worry though, I won’t overload you with images, which  some of you might even  find boring.

.As I wrote before, the Vatican Museum has numerous  rooms, about 55 ,  one of which is the photo above, The Chariot Room.

.That’s Isis , Goddess of Fertility, and those protuberances  are not fruits hanging on her chest… those are breasts.  Ah, gravity has taken its toll.

.I hope this is the last nude statue that I’m going to post here, but I assure you there’s no shortage of nude statues in my cache……..Above  photo is a sweet sculpture of father and son, isn’t it? Actually, no. The title of the sculpture is Temptation of the Grapes, and somehow, temptation connotes something  ominous.


.There’s only one word that can describe the photos above. …. MAJESTIC.


Above is the Gallery of Maps . Check out the frescoes on the ceiling. They are flat paintings but look 3 D. This is also the hallway that leads to the Sistine Channel.

A bit blurry, but I’m in the photo, he he he. Gotta be  in the photo, y’ know.

Old topography of Italy showing  the Vatican’s territories.  Nothing in the maps are accurate for obvious reasons, but Pope Gregory Xlll did introduce the Gregorian Calendar, the calendar that we use today. That’s pretty accurate.

Can we just look and admire ? I’ve run out of words to describe the magnificence of this Museum.  The place is simply overwhelming.

.That;s the Gallery of Tapestries. Check out the 3 D frescoes on the ceiling. They are actually flat paintings. Do you notice the room is dark?  Sunlight will damage the delicate tapestries, so we were requested to minimize the use of flash in our cameras.

.I secretly took this photo.  In fact, we were requested not to use our cameras, at all. Anyway, about the photo….. This is obviously a tapestry of The Last Supper. Do you notice the food on the table? There’s fish, and bread, but what do you see in front of  Jesus? Doesn’t it look like a pig?  Jews don’t eat pork, and Jesus was a Jew. So, what message  was the tapestry  maker trying to convey here?  Was he trying to deny the Jewishness of Jesus ? Is there a subliminal messaging that went  on here ?  Years after His death, there was a split among His followers and disciples on whether to retain the Jewish laws and traditions, or to separate from them and form a new religion that centers on the teachings of Christ. This is ironic because Jesus Himself never left his Jewish Religion.  Well, I’m not going into this. Suffice it to say that, St. Peter ( to whom Jesus has entrusted the building of the Church….. ” Simon, you are Peter, and on this rock, you will build my Church…..”) is considered the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, declared  just 30 years after the death of  Jesus. His successor was Pope Linus, ensuring that succession of Popes should be constant, and should always reconize  St. Peter, one of the 12 Apostles, as the first.


.I’m not sure but I think above photo is the official emblem of  The Vatican.

The photo above is the exit , out of the Vatican Museum . Next is St. Peter’s Basilica. Okay, here’s the truth. The Vatican Museum  has 55 rooms. The truth is, I don’t really know how many rooms I’ve visited.  One thing I’m sure of, we didn’t get  to see the famous Raphael Rooms, also called Stanze di Raphael, which are actually papal rooms, the private living quarters of the Popes. . There are 4 smaller rooms in the Stanze.  Raphael painted the walls of these 4 rooms. What is amazing is that , Pope Julius ll commissioned Raphael to paint the walls the same time he ” commanded” Michaelangelo to paint  the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It’s mindboggling to imagine 2 of the greatest artists , Michaelangelo and Raphael working  almost side by side.. Also, I say ” commanded ” because Michaelangelo resisted  and had to remind the Pope again and again that   he was not a painter, but  a sculptor, and   thus, wouldn’t do a good job of it. He was also worried that the dome of the Sistine Chapel (  that he himself designed ) which was then simultaneously being constructed, would  fall on him.  These 2 artists’  works mark the peak of the Rennaisance art in Europe. By the way, the difference between the two as far as their work at the Vatican was concerned was that, Raphael relied heavily on his assistants ( in fact Raphael died prematurely and it was his assistants who finished the job ) whereas M did it all by himself, alone. Not to mention the fact that M painted lying flat  on his back, while Raphael painted normally, standing on his feet.

I don’t have photos of  Raphael wall frescoes, so apologies to Wikipedia for copying some of theirs and posting them here.

.The title of this fresco  is The School of Athens. Heraclitus ( which is actually a portrait of Michaelangelo) is the one seated on the stairs, in front, and leaning  on a block of marble. The two men standing prominently in the middle of the painting are  Plato and Aristotle. Pythagoras is on the left  writing on something , Euclid is the man on the right teaching a few students, Ptolemy is holding some kind of a sphere, the one lying in the middle of the stairs is Diogenes.

The Optional tour of The Vatican Museums which cost $ 65 per person included entry to the Sistine Chapel.  We were resquested again not to take any photos, and this time, there were quite a number of guards who saw to it the rule was being followed. I even saw a Japanese tourist who was secretly shooting a video being reprimanded by a rude guard . According to our tour guide, taking photos and videos are banned because Nippon  Television Network of Japan has sole copyright or exclusive  TV, video and photo rights to the Sistine Chapel. NTV financed the restoration of the chapel in 1990. The restoration took 20 years to finish.

I don’t want  to be melodramatic, but I was totally in awe. The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling  was one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, made by one of the greatest artist on the planet.  To be there and absorbing everything that I saw was quite a unique experience for me.  Just imagine,   surrounding  me were paintings by some of the greatest painters  in the world… Michaelangelo, Boticelli,  Roselli, among others.  The feeling was simply indescribable. Well, I guess it  was just me.  You know, I saw this Asian tourist ( pardon me, I’m Asian too ) having her photo taken in front of  Michaelangelo’s Pieta. She had a wide smile on her face, standing at an angle that was typical, and making a V – sign. O_O  I thought that V-sign was  an  inappropriate and  disrespectful gesture to make in a church, and in front of one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.  Darn, lady, this is not an amusement park.

About The Sistine Chapel……………..

The Chapel was originally built as a private chapel of  Pope Sixtus lV. He was also the one that commissioned Botticelli, Perugeni, et al, to do the wall frescoes that depicted the lives of Moses and Jesus. He died, and was succeeded by Pope Julius lV who urged Michaelangelo to do the ceiling. It was said that another painter recommended Michaengelo to Pope Juluis. The truth was, this painter was a relative of Raphael, who at that time was M’s arch rival and enemy. He knew that M was not a painter, and if, by chance, he accepted Pope Juluis’ job offer, he   wished M would fail, and he and his cousin Raphael could then  happily gloat over M’s failure. As expected, Michaelangelo resisted at first, but the Pope insisted and in fact dangled several  future  sculpturing  commissions as a kind of bribe.  Thanks to that painter’s malicious suggestion, the world got one of the greatest materpiece art of all time.  Michaelangelo was of course worried his work wouldn’t be that good. So what he did was to start painting on the ceiling closest to the main entrance. His rationale was , that area would be amateurish,  because  he knew his foray into  painting wouldn’t be that good at first, so to cover that up, he first  started painting on the  ceiling above the main entrance.  He figured that people entering the chapel would look first at the paintings in front, and  not above their heads where they would  have to crane their necks or tilt their heads  uncomfortably.  The last painting he did was on the wall behind the altar, The Last Judgement, which he thought was the best, and the first that people would see as they entered the chapel.

.Jesus is in the middle of the painting, and check out the man seated on a rock that is directly underneath Jesus’ image, the one on the right, and holding a soul that he’s about to drop into hell.  On my previous post, I wrote that Michaelangelo admired the Belevedere torso . That man’s image above is almost an imitation of the Belvedere torso.


.Michaelangelo painted almost all of  the images nude.  Some Cardinals complained to the Pope… said it was immoral and   appropriate to be placed only in taverns and bath houses , and not in  such a sacred place. The Pope ignored their complaints. But later, when   Michaelangelo died, the private parts of the nude figures were painted over with some cloth. Check out  the photo above, and the main painting.  During the restoration process though, the restorers were charged to remove the paint -overs without damaging the original painting. So, what people see now are  nude human figures as originally painted.  The covers have been washed away. Too bad I couldn’t find any of the restored image.

* I suddenly have a vision of myself holding a pointer and  giving a lecture to a nearly empty hall *

* taps table with  pointer ” The picture below shows The Creation of Adam, one of the two most famous paintings in the world, rivaled only by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

.It depicts God giving life to Adam, the life force of which emanates from his fingers. It contradicts the Biblical narrative of God breathing life into Adam. Michaengelo of course got away with so many things. In fact, he was commissioned to paint only 12 figures, those of the 12 apostles. M was appaled there would be such a lot of empty space on the ceiling, so the Pope gave him carte blanche on what he wanted to do. M decided to paint Biblical scenes since most of Jesus ‘ life had already been painted on the walls. He ended up painting 300 human figures.

Actually, the chapel is really small. It’s the Pope’s private chapel, where he meditates and prays in private, I guess. But nowadays, it’s the place where Cardinals gather to elect a new Pope., and where tourists can gawk and marvel at the paintings.


.It’;s kind of dark in there, to be honest. But they’re just trying to protect the paintings from harsh light.

Well, I guess this is it . I’d like to inform you that I need a part C of  The Vatican and Rome. There are just so many things I  want to show and tell you.  Please pardon me . I need to show you St, Peter’s Basilica, and  Rome, so bear with me, okay. If you’re bored, it’;s okay, but I have to post my stuff here.

Good day to all, and PAX !

My European Trip 7 Rome, Italy & The Vatican

Heus  ! Here I am again, Renxkyoko Iglesias !

I’m  on the 7th post of my European trip.  I’m now in the great city of Rome and The Vatican.  But first, an introduction to The Vatican.  Very few of us know that The Vatican is a country that issues its own passports, is also  a city-state  ( like Singapore) and is considered the smallest country in the world, with a population of 1,000 ( about 100 of whom are Swiss   Guards ) that are mostly members of the Catholic clergy and a few non-clergy staff.  It is a walled city within the city of Rome, with a zero birthrate ( not surprising,  what with majority of the population practicing celibacy ), and area just 80 hectares. ( 198 acres)

My  photos of Rome and The Vatican   consist mostly of  art objects and religious statues.  The Vatican Museum is a treasure trove of ancient art, what we call the Antiquities. ( statues and paintings ). They are simply amazing . You know, when I saw Michaelangelo’s PIETA, my heart stopped for a second, literally. I mean, it  just…….. ” took my breath away. ”    Pardon me for  being melodramatic but  I really felt that way..

.There we are queieng to enter the Vatican Museum.

.There’s our Italian tour guide, the one who said I had a Roman nose.  Ha ha ha ! Look, she’s speaking to a recorder. Everyone was given this thing  that we hook ed around our ear so we could hear her even from  a distance and most importantly, if we got lost. That came in handy because I actually got lost at Versailles in France.

.That’s the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. That dome was designed by Michaelangelo.   I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants.  Anyone wearing a sleeveless shirt or a dress that shows the knees is banned from entering a Catholic Church in Italy …. oh,  and in Spain too. No shorts. They have a very strict dress code.


.That golden globe looks so out of place. I have no idea why it’s there and what’s it for. I was so  busy taking photos of the area, I didn’t listen to the guide’s lecture.

. It looks like something that has been left behind by  aliens. Actually, the globe is called Sfera con Sfera. ( A Sphere within a sphere )

The Pope is the head of  The Vatican and of more than 1 billion Catholics,  myself included.  Furthermore,  he is considered the Vicar of Christ,  the human messenger of God here on earth, and therefore , whatever comes out of his mouth cannot be disputed. In other words,  he is infallible…….  So, as a Catholic, do I believe in the Pope’s infallibility ?  I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m a practicing Catholic.  I go to Mass every Sunday, without fail,  listen to the priest’s sermon attentively, even go to church on holidays of obligation,  but I think believing in the Pope’s infallibility is kind of a stretch. Okay, I digress.


.Mom should have let the lady behind pass before she took the picture.  That’s  a beautiful photo, don’t you think so ?

Do you know how it feels walking down this great hallway ?  And that is just the hallway leading to the Museum proper.  * speechless*  * jaw drop *  * totally overwhelmed *






I’m not an expert on male bodies but I think these Roman men really look buffed and fit. Well, a bit on the effeminate side, but   spectacular, nonetheless.    Oh, and the men must have spent a lot of time curling their hair.

.Do you notice the guys always have some cloth  draped on  their shoulder, but they’re naked down there ?   * sweat*  What’s up with that ?  I’m not being perverted here , I just find  fashion in their time awkward.  O_Oa  I mean, did they walk around town dressed like that ?  ” Good morning, Octavius. * looks down * Oooops, you’re quite perky today, I see “  Oh, well, I guess it didn’t matter if everyone was dressed  that way. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.   To this day, there are, in fact,  places where women are topless and men wear a loincloth that’s  just enough to cover their privates.

From the hallway , then upstairs to the museum proper.  Hey, that’s my Mom, the one wearing a hat. .


.Jaw- dropping  art.  For such a small country, The Vatican packs a punch.  If you can visit just one country, go to The Vatican ( and of course Italy. The Roman ruins are just in the neighborhood. ) To us Roman Catholics, this is a religious pilgrimage.

Everything in the country is spectacularly rich. ( But I highly doubt Jesus would  approve.  Well, we all know what Jesus thought of the rich and powerful……… and the Romans, . Are you listening, Mitt Romney ?  )  Anyways, the photo above is the courtyard inside the Vatican Museum.


.Perfect  human specimen !

I guess the statues we see  lining the hallway  are the minions, and the guy above is a VIP, a member of the elite,  with his own niche.  As far as quality of the sculptures is concerned, I don’t see any difference. So, how come those guys at the hallway don’t have their own niches?  Elitism rearing it’s ugly head again. …………..

Oh, wait! The guy above is Apollo . Okay, he is the sun god, god of beauty,  also the god of music , intellectual pursuits, etc.  and archery.  That sculpture is supposed to show him shooting an arrow, but bow and arrow are gone.  Oh, well, I guess it can’t be helped. He’s a god, after all and the son of Zeus, to boot.  He deserves a niche.

The photo above is that of Venus Felix, and her son Cupid.  What can I say ?  Every female wants to be a   Venus, the  goddess of beauty, and Cupid,  he;s my man of the moment …… shoot that arrow straight into my heart, Cupid !

.That one is that of Laocoon and His Sons. Laocoon is the Trojan who uttered the famous words, ” Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, ” referring to the wooden horse given as gift to the Trojans. I assume you know the story  ILIAD ?  Because of that, Poseidon took revenge and sent sea serpents to kill him and his 2 sons.  The discovery of this sculpture is significant because for the first time , the faces of the sculpture show emotions. ( in this sculpture, it’s emotion of great pain ) Take note that most of the faces of the sculptures before this was discovered  do not show any emotions. The Pope back then sent Michaelangelo himself to examine the sculpture, after which, it influenced his later works. Also, check out the other sculptures. You can see that the body parts ( limbs, etc ) are smooth . Laocoon’s shows rippling muscles that depict his struggles againts the serpents. There are lots of movements in this  sculpture that are absent in others.

Another significant thing about Laocoon is that its discovery  and acquisition by the Vatican started the creation of  The Vatican Museum.  From then on,  The Vatican had acquired almost all of the art objects that could be found in Italy and from all over the world, more specifically from Greece.  Most of the Greek objects were found in Italy though.  Well,  the Romans conquered most of Europe , and the Middle east. To the victors belong the spoils.  ( although I didn’t see anything from Asia, but who knows? Maybe they have a Room of Requirement, a place where they stash all the stuff they have deemed  not important enough to be displayed at the museum. Sorry, I made this up., he he he )

.That is Meleager, a figure in Greek mythology. He is  a boar hunter.  I don’t know his importance in Greek mytholgy , but he must be, because he has a niche in the Museum.

By the way, do you notice the  leaf that covers the private part of some of the sculptures in the Museum ?……… A Pope back then thought it inappropriate to have nude sculptures at the Vatican so he had some of the private parts covered with a  leaf.  That’s unfortunate. That pesky leaf distracts me from fully appreciating the human body.

,Above is Apoxyomenos. He’s some guy  that represents a Greek athlete. His stance is always as if he’s dusting dirt off his arms.

.A bas relief

.The Vatican Museum is not one big space that  houses all these antiquities. It  actually  consists of numerous rooms , and each room has a theme, like the room House of Pompey that houses sculptures of Greek mythological gods. The one above contains mostly  sculptures of animals.


.Can you imagine how it feels to be underneath that  magnificent dome , and looking up to see those breathtakingly beautiful frescoes?  To be honest, I’ve run out of adjectives to describe them.

.Check out the frescoes on the dome.  Believe  it or not, they are one dimensional paintings, totally flat, but they look 3 dimensional, don’t they? This kind of painting is repeated all throughout.  And I’m not sure, but this room is the Room of Pompey or The Round Room,  or Sala Rotonda ( sala means living room ) that houses sculptures of Greek gods.   There’s a huge  basin in the middle of the room and an ancient mosaic on the floor.  It felt weird when I was there, because , I swear, this room looks exactly like the ones   on one of my most favorite video games… God of War, 1,2,3 ! Standing there, I felt I was Kratos, and had a sudden urge to  smash the sculptures to get a life force, or move the sculptures around to solve a puzzle. It’s not surprising  though because this is the replica of  the Greek Pantheon.

Guess who !      HERCULES ! I’m glad that he’s not depicted as one with huge muscles, which, to be honest, I find gross.  His body is perfect. And that one is not made of marble. It’s bronze.

.That’s Queen Helena’s sarcophagus ( stone coffin ). St. Helena was the mother of  Constantine. The one below is the sarcophagus of Constantina, the daughter of  Constantine. Both are housed in the Greek-east Room, and in the middle is a 3rd century mosaic floor.



So far, I’ve only shown photos of The Vatican and none of Rome.  Actually, what I’ve posted here  are  only  1/10 of all the photos I’ve taken of The Vatican.  The Vatican has an immense collection of the Antiquities, one of the world’s greatest museums in the world.  The building where this massive collections are housed can even stand alone as one huge art object, every square inch of it.  I wish I could share all the photos  I had managed to take despite the limited time we were allowed to  see this magnificent place,  although  I’m aware not all share my enthusiasm and passion for the antiquities.   I only hope you won;t be bored to tears, because I’m going to show more  from hereon.  Oh, I wanna use ” Doubling down “, famous 2 words in US politics nowadays.  So, yeah, I’m doubling down.

.That is the Belvedere Torso, the only sculpture that had been signed by the sculptor himself.  ” Appolonius, son of  Nestor “.  He was a Greek sculptor from Athens.

.As you can see, this fragment of a nude male is displayed prominently in the middle of the Room of the Muses.  The Pope  back then wanted Michaelangelo to add limbs to the torso, but M declined several times, and said the torso was perfect. M, in fact, loved it so much that it became his inspiration for his male figures when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. You know, when I saw those etched Greek letters, I was like, ” Oh, my , is that a signature? ” and took a picture of it . I was right. That was important.

.I imagine Kratos walking those stairs  and smashing the urn. And about the stairs below…. We climbed up and down these stairs but I didn’t realize it was  this beautiful seen from the top.

.By the way, before I forget, the tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel  was an Optional Tour and cost $ 65 each per person.

And I think  I have to stop here. At this point, this post ‘s word count is now 2014 words, and  contains 60 photos.  I have to admit that;s too much for anyone to digest.  So, I say,  Valete, Pax,  and see you soon !

I wish my brother was at home. He can write an essay in Latin.

My European Trip Part 6 Lugano, Switzerland / Verona, ITALY

Hi, there ! Renxkyoko Iglesias here ! !


I can say Venice is a hard act to follow.  Venice is  like a Hollywwod set, a movie backdrop  pre- created in the 10th century.  The place is simply amazing, a sight to behold. The downside though of  going to a beautiful place like Venice is that there are million others that share the same sentiment. And that means, we walked  shoulder to shoulder,  elbow to elbow with thousand other tourists on the  narrow streets of  Venice……. which made me just a tad uncomfortable, by the way. Well, in my neck of the woods, there are literally no pedestrians walking on the streets.

As I said on my previous post, I couldn’t recall the timeline. Did we go first to Venice, or to Lugano and Verona. Then I realized Lugano is in Switzerland,  an Italian -speaking city in Switzerland that borders Italy .  I’m sure now that  Verona was the first Italian city that we visited after Switzerland.  Well, I don’t think it matters which came first. So, anyway,  we stopped by Lugano  for a few hours, took a stroll along the beautiful lakeside promenade, then crossed into Italy and drove to Verona, medieval setting of William Shakespeare’s ” Romeo and Juliet, “, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.


. That is Lake Lugano. Yep, the scenery  did  look like we were   still in Switzerland.


As always, it’s all about me.  tee hee   Oh my gosh…. the classic Ren pose. * palmface*

.I didn’t buy  burger at McDonald’s…… had a cup of iced tea so I could use the WC. The iced tea was in a champagne glass ! !


.We stayed just 3 hours in Lugano. I really don’t know what Lugano is famous for, but then almost all of these places  in Switzerland  and Italy , large and small, are somehow famous for something.  Although here in Lugano, it seemed we were the only tourists around.

We left Lugano  , Switzerland for Verano, Italy.  As I mentioned above, Verano is the medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Taming of the Shrew.  Shakespeare must have been impressed by Verona, and I’m not surprised.  It has both ancient and medieval atmosphere, and for some reason, I  prefer Verona over Venice.  Maybe Venice  is too touristy ?  Shops all over and thousands of people walking around…. in other words, too commercialized.  That’s what happened  at Boracay Island in the Philippines. It’s listed as one of the best beach in the world. Mom saw it when it was pristine and unexplored.  My own family even have a piece of property there. Our great grandma used to own the whole island, but then her children started selling off the property to big cor[orate hotels and businessmen. Now, my Mom rues the day  when relatives got too greedy.  It is still beautiful, but too commercialized. My parents had to fence off our property when  a big named hotel  conglomerate started building a hotel, ( Hyatt ), literally our  backyard neighbor. They might just  encroach on our property intentionally, then  say “Woops” and pressure us  to  sell  our  property , then we’d be left with nothing.  I can see that happening.  But I digress.

Above photo is the private beach at Boracay Island, Philippines….. At least there’s still a part of the island  that has not been sold off….

.That arch that you see at the end of the street is Porta Borsari, an ancient  remnant  Roman  structure and is now the entrance to the medieval market square Piazza delle Erbe.


.An ancient Roman bathtub, discovered right in the middle of the road.

.The market square, Piazza delle Erbe


.That’s Juliet’s designated balcony.  Romeo’s house is at # 4, a few houses down the road, and there’s a family  currently  living there. We do know they’re fictional characters, don’t we ?  The photo below is the statue of Juliet. There’s a legend that if you rub her breast, you’ll get lucky in love. So, I jumped up to the statue and rubbed her boobsie and wished  I’d soon meet my Fated One and  I wouldn’t turn into an old maiden. ( ^___^ )


.That’s the wall of the entrance to Juliet’s courtyard. I wrote something there too. You know, I noticed another thing in Europe… graffiti is all over, like you won’t believe it.  ha ha ha….   I also wrote my name somewhere in Rome and  Madrid.  ” Ren was here, 7/11/2012 * hearts*  Grafitti writing is, I guess, cultural in Italy.  Even the ancient Romans  did it… Liunidus was here xx1x


.I don’t know what’s with Italy and masks. It reminds me of  some period movies  where the characters wear elaborate gowns and masks and wigs.  Mom bought one too. I don’t really like stuff like this. I find them scary and creepy. Nor do I like clowns and dolls. ( although I did have a collection of  Barbie dolls and tons of Barbie dresses and outfits and I  remember  I  could  play the whole day alone dressing the dolls up )

.Creepy, huh.  Mom can’t decide whether to hang and display this somewhere or just keep it in the attic. …. the attic, Mom.

.The statue above is that of Dante Aleghieri, author of a great book Divine Comedy . He called Verona home, although he was born in Florence. He’s also the father of the Italian language. Why father of the Italian language. ? Well, writers then used Latin, instead of the language of the common people in Italy. Divine Comedy was the first  great book  written in Italian . Latin was the lingua franca of  the Roman citizens, but the rest of the country was Italian.   Maybe that’s the reason why Latin became a  dead language.  I wonder how different Italian is from Latin. It’s like Mandarin, the language of the Chinese royalty. In China, there are so many dialects, and believe it or not, even if they sound similar, they are actually different. My Mom had a Chinese friend who spoke Cantonese only , and couldn’t understand Mandarin.  Mandarin didn’t die because the study of this language became mandatory in China.    By the way, this area of Verona is also on the list of Living World Heritage.  That means, building of modern structure is not allowed. So, what we saw here was exactly what the Veronese saw hundreds of years ago. That’s really cool.



.There’s a corpse there.

.There are 2 dead ones here too


.Above is the Roman Arena. It is still functional… well, not for people to be eaten by lions,, but for operas and such.


.The photo below is what they call The Wall. It’s a remnant of  an ancient  Roman walled city.  Eh. I made that up. I’m sure that’s like a fort to protect the inhabitants from invaders.

.The history of Italy is really  rich. We saw beautiful , well-preserved medieval buildings  and I can tell they were more beautiful back then.  But , to be honest,  I don’t think I ‘d want to live during medieval times. One word…… hygiene.  What did they use to brush their teeth? I’m sure majority of them had rotten teeth.  And I’m sure too they suffered so much  from toothache. Ugh.  Did they use soap?  How  often did they take a bath? In the morning, where did they go for their morning rituals? What did they use to clean up their butts? Paper? I highly doubt they had that much paper  to use. O_O ”  And for women with their monthlies……@__@ ”   I wonder what they used.  I read they didn’t wear underwears. ( I don’t  want to think about that. )   And childbirth……. Women were  just ripped apart giving birth.  Ugh !   It’s unbelievable what people had to go through for things we now take for granted.  I guess I’m over-thinking.

This is all for now. ROME is next.  Good day to all and PEACE.


My European Trip Part 5 ,Venice, Italy

Hello, there ! !

This is Part 5 of  my European Trip.  ITALY !   Italy was definitely  a major destination. So, far, we ‘ve  stayed just 2 days in each country  ( England, Germany, Switzerland,  Holland, and one day in Belgium ) , but Italy was full 6 days.  I don’t know what that implies….. not that Italy  is  more beautiful or better  than the other countries we’ve already visited. . Not at all.  The reason is obviously the richness of Italy’s history that we can still see and appreciate to this day, from the ancient Roman Forum  and Coloseum to Medieval structures and  breathtaking architecture of  churches. Meanwhile……

The  scenery  from Switzerland  to Italy  was just  as  wonderful . We travelled  into mountain ranges  through numerous tunnels  that opened into more  breath-taking Alpine scenery as we descended from the cold  mountains to sunny Italy.  The change in topography  was even more stunning,   from undulating hills and  high mountain ranges of Switzerland to  beautiful valleys and green flatlands of Italy.

.I’m not sure but I think those are olive trees.

We arrived  in Venice  late afternoon, and checked in at Novotel Hotel,  but to be honest, I’m not sure about the timeline anymore. I go by the dresses I wear  in the pictures, but  they don’t coincide with the timeline.  Oh, well, it doesn’t matter, does it?  I guess I wore the same dress  in Venice and in Lugano/Florence.  O_O ”  Anyway,  we joined the Optional  Tour Venetian Night Out  + Dinner the night we arrived in Venice.  It was 65 Euro per person. (  $ 85 ).  The Venice that we know of and  are familiar with  is comprised of several small islands ( about a hundred ), the most famous of which is where the famous Piazza San Marco is situated.  Venice  is the only  car-less place in the world, and is also on the list of Living World Heritage.

.All dressed up and ready to go to dinner.

.We rode a ferry to go to the main island of San Marco.





Now on terra firma. The guy in black pants and shirt was our tour director. ” Ruben, wait up !

.That is Piazza San Marco ( St. Mark’s Square ). The buildings on the left  are the Doge Palace, and  the side entrance of St. Mark’s Basilica .

.That’s the building across from Doge Palace.  We had  coffee and pastries at the outdoor cafe the next day.

Basilica San Marco



Ugh ! I  just noticed I have only one style of posing.  Legs close together, one straight, and the other just a little bent at the knees.  What the heck ! Hahaha ! ” What’s up with the pose, Ren? ”  It’s too girly.   Next time I pose for a picture, I’ll rearrange myself and pose like this……..

.Architectural details

.That ‘s a really narrow street, isn’t it ? All the streets in Venice are that narrow.  The pic above is the street of the restaurant  where we had dinner.

That’s where we had dinner… Ristorante Antico Pignolu

.Moi, cousin, Thalin, and aunt… mom was taking the picture.

.Shrimp Alfredo

. Goat cheese


Steak that was a bit chewy

.Dessert was teramisu, then coffee after.  The steak was a disapoointment, but over-all , dinner was good. There were 3 bottles of wine on the table , and guess what, we drank the wine like it was water….  My aunt just had half a glass, so that was pretty much  like one bottle per person, lol.   I was careful not to fall into the water  as we boarded the ferry to take us back to the hotel.  We were happily tipsy. Thumbs up, Venice !

.The following day was  another tour of Venice for everyone. But, there was another Optional tour that we got…… GONDOLA SERENADE ! 40 Euro ( $52 ) By the way, I’ve been talking about Optional tours from the beginning, but have you ever wondered what the others who didn’t join were doing while the rest of us were on special tours?  For this one, the rest just  toured around on solid ground… maybe they enjoyed it more, I don’t know.  Well, we experienced that too in Switzerland.  While those who joined had fine typical Swiss dinner , we bought ours at the convenience store and hang out at the hotel’s outdoor cafe.

Anyways,  I expected the gondolier to sing a familiar Italian song,  * sings * “ O, Sole mio, la la la ….. ”  , but he didn’t sing that.  His booming voice  echoed through the narrow canals, and I wonder what the residents are thinking  everytime they hear a gondolier singing as he passes by… ” Damn tourists. ”

Boarding  area










.Oh, hi there, Paolo ! * waves and makes a V sign *

After the fun gondola ride, we went   to a glass  factory to watch a demo  on glass – blowing.   .  They also sell expensive glass stuff there. I bought a pair of  earrings for  32 E, the least expensive item on display.  Just like in Amsterdam at a diamond factory, I think we were brought there to shop. One of our group ( she’s from the Philippines too but lives in Australia ) bought an 800 Euro  (  $ 1,025 ) glass jar, free shipping to Australia.  She and my mom have become good buddies during the trip.

.To be honest, that was quite a boring activity.  My father went to a glass blowing factory in Murano, which he says is the more famous site than the one in Venice. I don’t think so. I think Venitian glass is more well-known. He brought home a Murano glass unicorn, with the etched signature of the maker.  My mother tells me I broke a lot of stuff  when I was a kid, including that unicorn. ( ^_^)”

We had pizza for lunch, the first of so many pizzas that we consumed in Italy.  Pizzarias  were everywhere, and pastas too, so much , it made  me wonder if these were the only foods Italians eat. It got me  climbing the walls by third day and dreaming of  barbecued baby back ribs, sushi  and mushu pork.

.I did say I was going to compare American pizza and pasta with authentic Italian , didn’t I ?  I hope my Italian readers won’t get offended .( I do have quite a few readers from Italy ), but , to be honest, the pizzas and pastas here in the US are so much better.  Chicago deep dish pizza, anyone?  Of course , each to his her own taste. But compare the pizza I’m eating in the photo to this ——->

Go to Wal-Mart , Ren, and check out the frozen pizzas  section there. I assure you, they taste better. And  I recommend DiGiorno. ”  \(^__^)/

Awwww, my cousin is sooo cute !

.My outfit  * smiles *  ….. White hat with polka dot trimmings, wide sunglasses, long dress…. for some reason, it reminds me of what  1950’s  Audrey Hepburn  type  ladies wore strolling on the scenic promenades  of  C’ote d’ Azur. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wore that. * whispers*  By the way, one of my tourmates was actually nursing a broken heart when she joined the tour. Her boyfriend , who was supposed to go with her on this tour, dumped her 2 weeks before the scheduled departure. I don’t know which is more preferable, getting dumped before , or after.  It would suck, either way.  Aaaargh, as far as men go, deal with them tongue in cheek.   Oh, but I digress.


.Above 2 photos are the entrances to the museum, I think.

Awesome architectural details…… It’s a pity we don’t do this stuff anymore. Modern sculpture is pure cr*p . What’s up with those pieces 0f iron welded together into an unrecognizable form and then call that art ?  I don’t appreciate what I don’t understamd. And,  there’s a reason why millions of people  travel across the  world to see Michaelangelo’s Pieta and David.

Do you know there’s no place in Venice where one can sit and rest, unless  you go to a restaurant and order something to eat ?


Sorry  if I bored you with the tons of photos I posted here.  But I hope you’ll stay with me ’til the end of my tour. We ‘ve been to so many places in Italy. Florence, Assissi, Lugano, Rome, Verona, and The Vatican.

This is all for now. Good day and PEACE.