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MARBLEHEAD HARBOR—Friday the 13th

November 13th, 2009 No comments

A winter sky hung over Marblehead Harbor on the morning of November 13th as the remnants of tropical storm Ida began pounding the New England coast.

Marblehead Light from Fort Sewall

Marblehead Light from Fort Sewall

Although the worst weather is at least 24 hours away, waves crashed along the shore as a precursor of what was to come.

Being on the waterfront has some disadvantages

Being on the waterfront has some disadvantages

Fort Sewall

Fort Sewall

Immense power is released by the waves

Immense power is released by the waves

As the wind builds overnight, so will the seas.  By tomorrow Front Street will be covered in rocks cast ashore by the waves.  Today just some spray.

Spray drenches Front Street

Spray drenches Front Street

The Barnacle Restaurant will filled with patrons tomorrow for the food and the show– as the waves crash into the large plate glass windows. 

Barnacle 2

Although most of the boats are out of the harbor by this time, and most of the fishing boats have moved up harbor for protection, there are a couple boats riding out this storm in harm’s way.

Friday 13th 017

On a day like today, it is nice to be on shore. 

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CULTURE SHOCK—BACK ON LAND!

November 5th, 2009 No comments

With Destiny put to bed for the winter we transitioned to life on terra firma by taking a boat trip—no kidding!  

Jolie is not about to be left behind

Jolie is not about to be left behind

We left Zadar, Croatia for Ancona, Italy by overnight ferry.  The ferry left at 10 p.m. and we had a sleeping cabin–Kent got the top bunk and Jolie and I shared the bottom.

Getting up there was the hard part

Getting up there was the hard part

Our cabin was small but cozy--even had a shower

Our cabin was small but cozy--even had a shower

Big Yawn--time for bed

Big Yawn--time for bed

We arrived in Ancona at the crack of dawn

We arrived in Ancona at the crack of dawn

Arriving in Ancona at 7 a.m. after a less than restful night—Jolie didn’t like the engine noise and let us know it with her nocturnal wanderings about the cabin—to pick up a rental car at the Ancona Airport.  After paying 50 euros for a cab to the airport we realized that there was a Hertz office in Ancona about 3 km from the ferry terminal.  To make matters worse, we had to pay over 30 euros in airport taxes because we picked the car up there instead of the downtown office.  Travel hint:  Avoid drop off and pickup at airports if at all possible.  We have learned our lesson.

Having some time to kill before our flight to the US on November 2nd, we planned a “leisurely” road trip from Ancona to Venice.  Of course, you know us too well to believe that anything we do is leisurely—but we did have a fun few days getting back into the swing of heavy traffic traveling at outrageous speeds on the Autostrada and winding our way through Medieval villages while avoiding pedestrians.

Having been at sea level for months, we opted for a stop on top of a mountain in the town and Republic of San Marino.  San Marino is the oldest republic in Europe and tiny—61 sq. km mostly hillside of Mount Titano.  The town sits on the very top of Mount Titano with sweeping views.  Unfortunately, in October there is a lot of fog and we saw only glimpses of the mountain vista. 

Bell Tower at Dusk

Bell Tower at Dusk

Kent & Jolie explore Old Town

Kent & Jolie explore Old Town

There is a monastery, church and castle dating back to the Middle Ages and San Marino has been an independent, democratic and neutral free country (within the borders of Italy) since its inception.  It and has its own 1,000 person army, a postal system and no VAT tax—making it a great place to spend your hard earned euros.  As we wound our way up the mountain from switch back to switch back we saw many high end stores selling everything from cars to electronics and proclaiming “NO TAX”.

Gates to the City

Gates to the City

We stayed in Hotel Joli, just outside the walls of the town, a lovely three star hotel that didn’t charge extra for our Jolie–and the jacuzzi tub made Carol very happy.  From there we walked to the very top of the mountain where Guaita Fortress the oldest castle, built in the 11th Century stands.

Foggy Sunset View from Hotel Joli balcony

Foggy Sunset View from Hotel Joli balcony

A cable car brings tourists to Old Town from lower parking lots

A cable car brings tourists to Old Town from lower parking lots

San Marino Street Scene

San Marino Street Scene

San Marino Square is site of changing of guard in summer months

San Marino Square is site of changing of guard in summer months

If you get tired of seeing ancient buildings you can visit the Ferrari Museum, the Museum of Curiosity, and the Torture Museum.  There are also numerous nature walks and foot paths.

San Marino is a little gem, but best enjoyed in the off season.  We were glad to have experienced it.

Next stop some 280 km to the north took us back to a water venue—this time the southern end of Lake Garda the largest lake on the southern side of the Alps.  While looking at the map for possible stops between San Marino and Venice we spotted Lake Garda which is located about mid-way between Milan and Venice.  A little on-line research brought us to Sirmione a town situated on a peninsula that extends into Lake Garda and is the location of a magnificent water front castle and one of the most renowned Roman ruins in the country.

We booked a hotel, Albergo delgi Orleandri, on line based on its location within the town walls.  Car access to the Sirmione is restricted and we had to pass through a guard gate and confirm that we had a reservation before being allowed to drive across the bridge over the moat—yes an actual water filled moat—and through the arched gate to the town.

You drive through Scalinger Castle Gate to enter the Old Town

Scalinger Castle Gate is the entrance to Sirmione

From there Kent sweat bullets as he tried to avoid hitting either pedestrians or the buildings encroaching on the narrow passages that served as streets.  After missing our street and making a u-turn in a small square we finally arrived at the hotel.

The location was perfect and our room overlooked the lake.  We liked it so much we actually stayed two nights.  The only downside to our stay was Carol discovering that she had left the charger for her camera on the boat in Croatia.  There were so many amazing sights that would not be captured—like the sunrise over the lake or the view of a 12th Century church from the roof deck at the hotel. 

The day was saved by a chance meeting with American visitors, Bill and Jill Powers and their three children.  Carol heard the familiar sound of American voices (not all English sounds the same) while touring the Roman ruins at Grotte di Catullo on the very tip of the peninsula.  The Powers family was on holiday from Germany where they are living and working and taking lots of digital pictures.  When Carol approached them with the tale of the forgotten charger and asked whether they would share some of their pictures, they quickly agreed.  So thanks to them, we have pictures to share with you of Grotte di Catullo and Sirmione.

Carol visits Grotte di Catulla

Carol visits Grotte di Catulla

Construction is believed to have begun in early 1 AD

Construction is believed to have begun in early 1 AD

Ruins overlook sweeping views of Lake Garda

Ruins overlook sweeping views of Lake Garda

Hard to imagine the labor required to erect it

Hard to imagine the labor required to erect it

Reported to be the largest Roman villa in N. Italy

Reported to be the largest Roman villa in N. Italy

Villa arches and columns reveal its former majesty

Villa arches and columns reveal its former majesty

While the Grotte di Catullo represents one of the earliest presences on the peninsula with its prominent position on the very tip, Scaliger Castle is an excellent  example of a Medieval fortress and is totally surrounded by water–the lake and an moat fed by the lake.  It even has a walled harbor into which boats could be brought for protection.  Construction of the castle began in 1259 and it was expanded over the centuries.  Set against the backdrop of Lake Garda, the castle is imposing, rising as it does from sea level to the top of its several towers. 

Scaliger Castle dominates the Old Town

Scaliger Castle dominates the Old Town

After two very relaxing days in Sirmione, we left for Venice.  But we highly recommend Lake Garda as a destination–we can’t stay away from water.

Sirmione Sunset

Sirmione Sunset

After an overnight at a hotel near Marco Polo Airport we left on November 2nd for Boston–feeling a little better prepared for our re-entry into life on land.  It is a little sad to leave Destiny, and now Italy, but seeing family and friends will make up for it–at least for a while.
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