Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Give me Gay Paree!

Our third day was not pleasant. It was to rain all day but we were scheduled to tour the Vatican. A Vatican tour guide boarded our bus to take us to meet up with our guide who had purchased our tickets "in advance."

We arrived at the entrance after walking past massive lines waiting in the rain. To make a long story short, our guide, in an attempt to save herself a lot of money I guess, went in the early morning and bought 33 general admission tickets, the kind all those people waiting would eventually purchase.

When we tried to go to the entrance to meet her, we were stopped and told we had to go back to the end of that l-o-n-g line to use our general admission tickets. Those cost 15 euros, the "don't stand in line" tickets cost 33 euros and is what we told our guide long ago were what we wanted. Her little scheme didn't work. I was fit to be tied but Ted said we were in Rome and he wanted to see the Vatican so we stood in the rain for about an hour and a half before getting in.

It was the 500th anniversary of the opening of the Sistine Chapel so the museums were closing at 1 pm for a Papal Mass that would be said in the Sistine Chapel in the afternoon. We had a whirlwind tour of a scant part that included the Sistine Chapel and we were out the door.

The really sad thing is people were still standing in those long lines. I saw one small sign advising people they were closing at 1:00 pm but no one bothered to bring it to their attention. The attendants were "snarly and snarky" and most unhelpful and unpleasant. I doubt I will ever return.

We next had lunch at a place different than what was listed in our itinerary but it was fine. Our next stop was the Capuchin Crypts where bones of all the monks have been decoratively displayed. It was a great place to spend Halloween. I am not sure many in our group understood the artifacts displayed in the museum because they all pertained to this Catholic order of monks.

Last, in a driving rain, we visited the Trevi Fountain which is beautiful and impressive. Legend has it if you turn around, place your right hand over your heart and toss a coin with your left hand over your left shoulder, you will return to Rome. Obviously I was in no mood to even contemplate that so I gave my friend Jacque's coin to Ted and had him throw it. He will have to come back without me!

We all gathered in the hotel bar and after a bit of letting off steam and unwinding, we had a fun night. Instead of visiting Tivoli today we joined ranks and requested we spend the day in Rome to see more of the famous sites. I'll let you know how that goes!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


The time change caused us to be awake very early but it gave us time to have a leisurely breakfast and meet the rest of our traveling companions.

After breakfast we boarded a bus to spend time in the hilltop city of Orvieto. Our first adventure was to ride the funicular, an incline car, up to the top of the city. We walked to St. Patrick's Well commissioned by Pope Clement VII in 1527. It is an example of perfect integration of engineering audacity and architectural decor.

Not completed until 1537, the well is a vast cylinder 53 meters deep and 13 meters wide. It consists of two spiral staircases down, one for descending, the other for ascending, totally independent of each other. There are 248 steps large enough to accommodate donkeys used to carry the water. Seventy windows cut into the wall light the stairs from the central shaft.

Several of us braved the challenge of the total 496 steps to see the well at the bottom. I am unable to post pictures but when I return home I will post them in sequence with a bit of a reminder for you all.

Next we toured two of the thousands of caves under the city. For over 3000 years, a labyrinth of caves and cavities were dug by the inhabitants.

There are artifacts indicating these were used as work areas to make olive oil, walls with niches where pigeons roosted and were used as food and to barter. Another area connected to the "hospital" indicating it was used as a safe escape place for those unable to leave in a time of siege. Two caves were opened to the public in the 1970s and the rest remain privately owned by the homeowners who live above them.

We had a typical Italian mid-day meal that was a total of five courses accompanied by wine and water. Water is purchased here in bottles served at the table. No free glass of water as you are seated. It also comes still or sparkling.

Our next stop was to visit the Duomo (cathedral) of Orvieto. The first stone was blessed by Pope Nicholas IV in 1290. It was completed in 1619. It is beautifully decorated outside and inside but without a tour guide we were left to our own devices to use the brochure to identify the importance of individual artwork.

A bus ride home found most of our 30 companions sleeping but I stayed awake so I could sleep at bedtime which turned out to be 8:30!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Travel Day

Dave and Jody took us to the airport Sunday afternoon. There was a big crowd at check-in so I asked Ted if his Delta status would work for the Elite line ... and it did! His boarding pass for both flights was stamped Elite so we used it at security, when boarding and in the special line at Passport inspection. We had no waiting. Our flights were on time and we were the first to arrive at the hotel in Rome though the big group left 10 hours before us. But they arrived about an hour after us and all was OK.

That night we had dinner with Richard, a Seminarian at the National American College. Our pastor spent time here with him on sabbatical and put us in touch so we could get together.

After a tour of the lovely facility, including a breathtaking view of Rome from the rooftop, we joined the 250 seminarians and staff for Vespers. After that we walked to a local restaurant for dinner. Our route included crossing a bridge over the Tiber River!

The five of us enjoyed a terrific meal, topped off by a nightcap of Limoncello compliments of the restaurant. Fact: lemons grown in Italy must be used to make Limoncello though a lemon you might buy in the market here probably came from Spain.

We took a taxi back to our hotel and went right to bed. The six hour time change was catching up to us.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Arrivederci !!

We will see you after Italy, France, Spain, Canary Islands, Bahamas and then home. There are 34 in our group. Six are already in Europe, 19 depart Texas at 7:00 am tomorrow and meet four more at JFK, we leave tomorrow afternoon and will meet everyone in Rome and two more arrive the next day. The last one meets us on Friday. Lots of planning went into managing a group this size from all over.

We have dinner plans with Seminarians from Texas in Rome Monday night before we start our tours on Tuesday.

After 3.5 days of tours we will board our ship for 16 days cruising along the southern coasts of France and Spain before venturing across the Atlantic.

Let's hope Hurricane Sandy doesn't cause any delays. This is a carefully orchestrated event!

Bon Voyage to my fellow travelers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Last Friday we met Gerre and Barry for dinner before we went to see The Odd Couple. It was our first play of the season since we had given away our tickets to The King and I. It was very good and the fellow playing Felix Unger was sensational.

We had a quiet weekend at home attending church on Saturday and meeting the Dining Out group for dinner on Sunday. One of the couples at our table is new and were so interesting. They have lived in 33 countries and had wonderful stories. I had met my friend Jody on Sunday afternoon for shopping and lunch. We had such a fun time and I bought several things. She will make a shopper out of me yet.

I didn't get the Christmas cards I was making finished last week at Merry's so I went back on Tuesday to finish up. Walking home I stopped to visit Wanda who is starting another round of radiation. She is a wonderful neighbor and I hope this ends her problems.

I worked at the Northwest Assistance Ministry senior luncheon on Wednesday. I have worked 23 hours so far this fiscal year. I hope to have 37 hours in by the time we leave for Mission. That will leave me 13 to finish up my 50 hours by the end of May.

As soon as I got home I left again to get my nails done then came home and made pumpkin squares because I was hosting Canasta Thursday afternoon.

Today I played Shang Hai and then we met Tommy and Susan for dinner and a visit before we leave. Tomorrow is the hairdresser. We are going out for dinner after church and will zip that luggage up on Sunday and hit the road!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Two Weeks And Counting

We had a tremendous visit with Gus and Melissa. After our dinner we walked around Market Street and then headed to the waterway to see the dancing fountains and lights. We sat outside eating gelato, catching up on friends and family. It was late when they headed back into town and we came home.

Saturday when we went to church it appeared that Hawaii had exploded inside. A wedding was scheduled for after our service and the entire altar was bathed in real orchids. By the time we were leaving, flowers for the aisles were being brought in and a Pierce Arrow was parked out front. A well known, very philanthropic family had a member getting married. We learned later the reception was at an exclusive country club and included fireworks. Those from our area would recognize the "mattress" connection.

We had a bite with Terry & Carol then headed over to Dave & Mary Ann's to play Canasta. Ted came in first! That has never happened before and he was pleased.

Another skeet league ended and Ted prepared his BBQ for their lunch on Sunday. He brought all the leftovers home and Rick and Brenda were here to help us finish them off. They are workamping at Lake Livingston and had been visiting family for the weekend in the area.

We taught them Shang Hai and Ted got his very first Shang Hai. He had a good card weekend.

When we finished, I started getting the tables ready for Monday's bunco and Brenda helped. Lora lives in an apartment so was just using my space. She brought all the food and drinks so it was easy for me.

I worked at Lakewood Seniors on Tuesday and had to get up in the dark to get there by 8:30 with Suzy and Judy. We had a nice turnout but we were all tired afterwards.

Ted had left for Dallas by the time I got home and I was due at Merry's for a Christmas card making party. We were to make 20 cards but we only got 10 finished so I am going back on Monday.

I stayed home yesterday and today will resume juggling my clothes as I decide what to pack for our trip. I am also getting some cooking done so when we return there are a few dinners in the freezer.

Things are winding down but I will still be busy until we go "up, up and away."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Whirlwind Week

I am going to be so ready for our next trip. I am meeting myself coming and going.

A couple has joined the Boomers and realized from the roster that we lived about a mile apart. They wanted to meet us so I invited them over Saturday evening after church for pizza. Cynthia is still working so their camping will be limited to weekends but Boomers will give them many opportunities. Right now we are not signed up for any upcoming outings with the Boomers. It was a pleasure meeting them and we look forward to a camping trip including them "down the road."

Both Terry and Ted were scheduled to play cards this week so we set up practice time. We met Terry and Carol and John and Irene Sunday at the country club for a bite and then went back to their house to play some Shang Hai.

I hosted afternoon Canasta at my house on Monday and that evening Terry and Carol came over to practice Canasta. Both fellows know both games but needed refresher courses.

Tuesday I rode with Cathy and Suzy to "Operation Independence." This is a non-profit that sends goodie bags with encouraging messages to the military. We packed 19 boxes containing almost a thousand bags. We were putting Christmas cards with greetings that are written by people from pre-school to adults in each bag . I turned one over from a boy named Mike and on the back he had written "kick some butt."  We all laughed at that one. I am sure the soldier receiving it will too.

With my "funeral deviled eggs" in hand I made my way to church on Wednesday for the funeral of Rose, our own funeral luncheon director. She was 5 days shy of her 62nd birthday when she died of brain cancer. It was only six weeks from beginning to end. I have only seen one other lay person given the pomp and circumstance that Rose was given and that was Ted's uncle who worked at the Cathedral in Chicago. What a wonderful tribute to a life well spent.

I met my neighbors for our monthly birthday luncheon on Thursday. We discussed the election, the water bills, the flyover scheduled for construction and some new info on a commuter train. We are all in agreement that we don't want to become a city. We are fine as a township. Jeanette brought birthday cupcakes for Gracie and me and I was able to celebrate one more time!

Just to be sure I didn't starve, we were off to Macaroni Grill to play Shang Hai. I ate my salad and one piece of my chicken parmesan. Ted ate another piece and I brought the rest home.

No one can sit with their spouse when playing cards but Irene said Ted did fine at her table. We had two fellows that were really slow at my table and we ended up playing only 5 of the 6 games in more time than it took all four other tables to play all 6. We chose not to play the last game. We only were subbing so it will be up to Irene to figure out how to correct this.

Tonight we are meeting the fellow I worked for at Celanese and his wife for dinner. They are in town from Michigan visiting their son. If my week hadn't been so busy I would have cooked dinner but they want to try the New Orleans Kitchen restaurant.  Works for me!

We have plans for the weekend and it includes cards, food and church. This is all sounding repetitious.  We need a change of scenery.  My November blogs will be way better as we do our five days in Rome, visit the ports along the southern coasts of France and Spain and throw in the Canary Islands and Bahamas.  There should be lots of pictures too.

It is sad when someone you know becomes someone you knew ~ Henry Rollins

Rest in peace, Rose.  You will be missed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My 67th Birthday

Ted worked Friday and Sunday at the gun club and then left for San Antonio on Monday for The World Skeet Shoot so I had a lot of time to myself ... and that ain't all bad!

I took the opportunity to evaluate what I was taking on our trip. We will go from cool/cold, possible rain in Rome to hopefully the sunshine and balmy breezes of the Bahamas and everything in between. With no self-service laundry available and 22 days staring at me, I figured a little pre-emptive planning was in order.

On Tuesday I played cards and Shang Hai'd. That is laying your whole hand down in the proper configuration using all cards with no discard.  It is only the second time I have done that this year. I was ahead for five games but got caught with several face cards on the last hand and ended up in second place.

My friend Gerre's birthday is the day before mine so we went out to dinner since both husbands were out of town. It is so much fun stretching celebrations out over several days.

I spent the morning of my birthday working at Regent Care Nursing Home. A mother and her six children are a performing group and they entertained everyone. It is so much fun to watch the residents join in singing lyrics of songs from way back when. I took Jacqueline's hand and swung it to the Tennessee Waltz and she didn't want to let go. I sing terrible but she was loving every minute. And I played Name That Tune with another lady who "knew that song" but just couldn't place most of them. She was delighted when I would identify tunes such as Bye Bye Blues and Simple Melody. After the performance the children were so polite and went around and greeted all the folks before they left. What fine young people.  David, a gentleman at my table played his harmonica during the performance.  The children complimented and thanked him when I'm sure they would just as soon he hadn't done it. 

From there I picked up Carol and she treated me to a wonderful lunch at the new New Orleans Kitchen restaurant. Then we shopped for a bit before I took her home.

Ted offered to take me to dinner but I wasn't hungry. I so enjoyed all the birthday greetings sent to me from far and wide. All in all, it was a great day.