Coming attractions

Summer Projects: add collections including one on the streets of Italy (codename Strada Italia) and another featuring a variety of nature photos (wolves, fox, deer, otter, raptors, etc – but no ducks – they’ll stick to the pond).

“Strada” will be portrait orientation, the nature could end up as 2 – one landscape, one portrait. I might host some guest photographers as well (or feature them in the photoblog).

I will also add more photos to the Duck Pond and clean up some of the photos in the Gallery section.

I also need to finish the Italian journals…

And I will continue to get the site going and hopefully get it listed on Google sooner than later.

Planned Summer Excursions: Old Montreal, wildlife park on Ile Bizard, Lachine Canal blue herons.

Fall Projects: Foliage Season! Hopefully an outing to Vermont as well. Eco will be nice as well.

Winter: Wolves at the Eco for sure and hopefully Omega Park. I prefer to shoot wolves in the winter with their beautiful coats.

Ancient Rome

I just added a few more photos in a new gallery – Ancient Rome – shot in Pompeii and Rome – specifically in the Roman Forum. Both sites are “must see” if you go to Italy.

Speaking of Forums, I’ve also started working the Sleeping Wolves Forum – and it will be very different from most of the nature/wildlife photograhpy forums i’ve seen.

Refreshingly, it will not have 1000 rules telling you that you can’t post this and you can’t do that and all that other BS. Sure it will have size limits for posting photos to avoid crashing browsers, but that’s about it.

Coyote Pretty

Last year two local dogs got in the refuge and killed the female caribou and injured the male. This year, unfortunately the lone coyote died (of natural causes) as did the female arctic fox.

Two new coyotes, a male and a female, were recently added. I got to shoot them for the first time today. I was able to get pretty close to them with the telephoto.

Changes with the raptors: a new bald eagle has been acquired but I wasn’t able to get any photos. The American Eagle and the smaller Great Horned Owl were injured, both were temporarily relocated.

The sleeping wolves were uncooperative today – no photos. They have lost their winter coats as has the arctic fox (I did get to shoot him though).

The Lynx and Bear were active today. The otters were hyperactive, unable to get a good shot!

A Site is Born

I guess this is the official opening day for the site although the actual domain purchase was on June 10th.

I finally have everything setup and working – as well as some sample content.

In all, I shot over 1,000 photos in Italy in June/July. The best ones will be posted over the next few weeks.

Similarly, I have over 3,000 wildlife and nature photos – many to be published for the first time, again over the next few weeks.

The site is live but still not listed with any search engines. I’ll start to work on that this month.

Arrivederci Roma

Farewell
Day 19 – Time to go home! Another long travel day.

Not much too say or write today. We taxi it to Rome’s Fiumicino airport for return flight to Canada. We need to stop in Toronto first (no direct flight again) then double back to Montreal.

Arrivederci Roma, until the next time.

The Basilica

St. Peter’s
Day 18 – Winding down.
We have had a great vacation, the trip of a life time, but we are also happy to be going home. We all agree that we are definitely coming back, hopefully sooner than later.



We spend a quiet morning in the Vatican (it is so close to our Hotel) visiting the Basilica one more time. It’s our last chance to pick up some souvenirs for family, but the prices are high and the items are so tacky (mostly religious icons).

In sharp contrast to the beauty and richness of St.Peter’s and the Holy City are the poor gypsies – they are everywhere in Italy not just here. Old women stricken with palsy (or faking it ?), overdressed in the 40C+ temperature, younger woman with babies or infants (lethargic from heat), cripples – all having one thing in common – begging for Euros.

Apparently these gypsies come from Romania, so says one of our taxi drivers, and the locals can’t stand them. Nuns and priests walk right by as if they weren’t even there.



The afternoon is spent in the shade, a relaxing quiet time poolside. The lifeguards are humming the music from The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army. Oddly I had just seen the video on the Italian tube in the room. Now whenever I hear this song (I’m listening to it as I write this) I think of Italy and this awesome trip.

Our last supper is spent in the Villa’s dining room.

We leave Rome for Montreal tomorrow.

The Forum

Roma Antiqua
Day 17. When we checked in at the Villa Pamphili on July 6th I noticed a beautiful black and white photograph (wall size/mural) of the Roman Forum. I fell in love with this scene..not the photo itself..but rather the perspective. I promised myself I would not leave Rome without seeking the same vantage point and taking a similar photo.

Our day started outside the Vatican (hotel shuttle’s drop point). From there we went back to the Castle – but this time we visited the inside. The Castle has a long winding helical stairway, it’s a long way to the top and we cross an elderly American couple who are completely out of breath on the way up.

A great view from the top – where we saw that Rome was burning, centuries after Nero.

We continued to walk to the wedding cake – inside is a very interesting military museum. There are also lots of great views from this fascinating monument.

Finally we make it to the Roman Forum. We are exhausted by the heat so we enter a beautiful church just to cool off…no AC….just shade. I look around and identify the vantage point I was looking for…bad news, I will need to climb to get there…but nothing will stop me. Determined, I make it up and notice that the focusing ring on my lens is burning to the touch – that’s how damn hot it is this summer.

There is a fountain nearby, I dunk my baseball cap under the cold water and put it back on..soaking wet…I start the ascent….perfect…I get a about a dozen shots of the Temple of Saturn with the Coliseum in the background. I can rest now – I’m a happy camper.

After hours of walking we take a taxi back. The taxi rides in Rome are very affordable and they have AC – we do have one driver who takes for a long joy ride – but we don’t complain, we just consider it unplanned sightseeing.

Incidentally, we never get to try the Roman subway as one of our travel guides (books) describes it as a mobile sauna.

This extraordinary trip is almost over.

The Circus

Circus Maximus
Day 16 – Do I need to repeat that it’s damn hot in Italy this summer?

More walking, more pizza. We go back near the Trevi Fountain to buy leather gloves for the lady, a lovely little store the size of a broom closet with gloves stacked up to the ceiling, beautiful quality and reasonably priced (oh wait, those were Euros ?).

Later we go to the Circus Maximus which is being prepared for World Cup festivities and celebrations after Italy’s win over France. There must be 10,000 Johnny on the Spot Portable Toilets (JOTS) and they stink – we can just imagine what it will smell like tomorrow in the 40 degree (100 F) heat. Ewwww!

From the Circus, you can see the Flavian Palace, “also known as Domus Flavia, part of the vast residential complex of the Roman Emperors on the Palatine Hill in Rome. It was completed in 92 AD.

We try to have lunch at Da Giggetto in the old Jewish ghetto, highly recommended by both Italian family members who have eaten there and our Rome travel guides, but sadly it is closed today.

What about tomorrow? I’ve been waiting for a week to do this.

Italy Vs France

World Cup Final
Day 15 – I take a very rare photography break today..just too hot.

Once more we do lots of walking. The Hotel shuttle drops us off near the Vatican so we end up visiting the magnificent Basilica of Saint Peter many times: officially known in Italian as the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano and colloquially called Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Later it’s the fantastic Pantheon: “The Pantheon (meaning Temple of all the Gods) was originally built as a temple to the seven deities of the seven planets in the state religion of Ancient Rome, but it has been a Christian church since the 7th century. It is the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history.”

Finally we stroll the famous Piazza Navona (Angels and Demons again) with its famous fountains: “The main attraction of the Piazza Navona are the three fountains. The central and largest fountain is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (fountain of the four rivers). It was constructed between 1647 and 1651 on request of the Pope Innocent X. The design of the fountain was first commissioned to Borromini, but it was ultimately handed to Bernini”.

That evening we watch the World Cup Final (televised from Berlin). After a 1-1 draw in regulation time, Italy beat France 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out to win. Fabio Grosso scored the winning penalty after France’s David Trezeguet missed.

Great match, too bad it has to end in a shootout and too bad Zidane’s career had to end the way it did:

In the 110th minute of the 2006 World Cup final against Italy, Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest in an off the ball incident. The two players exchanged words before Zidane began to walk away from him. Materazzi then said something to Zidane, who turned around, made a run-up and head-butted Materazzi in the chest, sending him to the ground.

Next stop: I hate the Circus and I hate clowns (who doesn’t ?), but this Circus I like.

Roman Week

Roma
Day 14 – We play tourist in Rome – trying to beat the heat by finding shade wherever and whenever we can. We walk for hours. From the Vatican to the Castel: “The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant’Angelo, a towering cylindrical building in Rome, initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building, located in the rione of Borgo, spent over a thousand years as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum.”

Next we cross the Ponte Sant’Angelo or Bridge of Angels (featured in Dan’s Brown Angels and Demons). “It is the most beautiful and the most perfect of Rome’s bridges, never having been damaged by the river in flood. Up to the Middle Ages, it was the bridge most used by pilgrims going to St.Peter’s Basilica.”

After that we walk to the “Wedding Cake” – the Victor Emmanuel monument, also nicknamed the “Typewriter”.

A view from this “layered” building is just above. Across the street, is the brown building where Benito Mussolini gave his war time speeches (left of the flag on this photo).

Our final destination today is the Coliseum – this time we actually go inside and visit – lots of history here. Gladiators battled to the death and lions lunched on Christians within these walls. There is a great view from the top of the Coliseum and a refreshingly cool breeze as well.

     

We take a taxi back to the Villa – enjoy a good swim – and dine in the hotel that evening.

Tomorrow is the World Cup of Soccer Final match – between France and Italy. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Read More.

The Vatican

Holy City
Day 13 – When it rains it pours. We wait in a long line for the Vatican Museum and it is raining for the first time since leaving Montreal. We’re talking serious downfall and we are drenched by the time we get in. Wisely I had left my Nikon in the hotel safe – the Sistine Chapel does not allow photography so it was no big deal although I did feel separation anxiety (I want my camera!).

After a dozen days of viewing the most awesome churches, art, and architecture in Italy we are starting to feel saturated, it’s hard to express awe – we are “awed out”- let it suffice to say the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are fantastic – Michelangelo and company – WOOOOOOT! The rain has stopped by the time we get outside again.

The Pope wasn’t in, had he been in the Holy City I’m sure he would have granted us Canucks a private audience, well maybe next time (or did he sense we were sinners?).

Next it’s one of many unforgettable visit to St. Peter’s Basilica (over the next few days). Later we cross the Tiber to ancient Rome. We get our first looks at the Coliseum and Forum. We also view the Circus Maximus (as in the Ben Hur style chariot races).

We end the afternoon underground, visiting the Catacombs of Domitilla (these are not recommended for the claustrophobic) – very interesting even though you don’t see any skeletons (not on our tour). Our guide is quite entertaining – a German “kid” who spoke English with a German/Irish accent – too funny. Thankfully we avoid getting lost in the dark endless corridors.

Back to the hotel for a quick dip in that amazing Olympic-size pool – great way to beat the heat and finish off the day.

Our evening? The Trevi Fountain (I didn’t make a wish), the Spanish Steps, and supper in Rome. A very pleasant and good restaurant but they have the nerve to make us pay for the toilets. Those crazy Europeans.

The Roman week continues here.

Rome

The Villa
Day 12 – Continued
We check in to the Hotel Villa Pamphili a first class hotel. It is situated opposite Doria Pamphili Park, an exclusive residential area in Rome. The hotel has lovely gardens and an outstanding outdoor pool surrounded by Palm trees. A shuttle bus from the Hotel will bring you to the Vatican (just outside the city) in about 10 minutes or less.

That night we take the shuttle bus back to Rome. We walk around and find a restaurant where have a simple meal and spend a relaxing evening with our Australian friends Tania and Tony (and their 3 great kids). They are staying in Rome as well before going to Dubai and then back to Oz.

A cute kitten has adopted the Villa.

Tomorrow we explore the Vatican.

Pompeii

Vesuvius
Day 12 – This morning we leave the extraordinary Amalfi Coast – headed up North to our final destination, Rome. On the way we stop in Pompeii – the legendary petrified city of ancient Rome.

        

Pompeii is another highlight of this trip – a “must see” – the site is extensive, it would have taken a couple days or more to do it justice. There was no shade here though, and once more the sun and heat were brutal.



From here we continue past the Abbey of Monte Cassino to Rome, the city on the seven hills.

Tomorrow we finally see Rome.