"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Salon... Italy/Switzerland Vacation Highlights

Highlights from our Italy and Switzerland Vacation

St. Peter's Basilica in the background
Rome: We flew into Rome and spent four days in this marvelous city. Since we were there two years ago we didn't go back to the Colosseum or the Vatican but we did go back to the Borghese Museum. They require reservations to avoid unpleasant overcrowding. We were unable to get a reservation but we went anyway hoping to go standby in case some people didn't show up for their time slot and we got in. This museum is famous for housing several marvelous Bernini sculptures, my favorite being Apollo and Daphne.

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne in the Borghese Museum, Rome
Sorrento/Capri/Pompeii: We spent four days in this lovely part of Italy on the Amalfi Coast. My favorite experience was the day we went to the Island of Capri. While there we took a chair lift to the top of the island for spectacular views of the region. We also hired a small boat that took us around the island and allowed us a short swim in the Mediterranean. It was heavenly. Our visit to Pompeii was so interesting. We downloaded Rick Steves' audio-tour onto our devices so we all spent the visit with headphones which directed us to see many of the highlights.
Don and I atop the Island of Capri with spectacular views

Onboard Luigi's boat off the Island of Capri
Orvieto/Siena, Italy: both of these cities have old-towns which have retained much of the old charm and character of yesteryear. They also have spectacular cathedrals and museums. In Orvieto we learned a bit about Etruscan history and had the best meal of our trip at a tiny little restaurant recommended by Rick Steves in his Italy book. We had a green salad, mushroom/garlic homemade pasta, curried veal, regional wine, and tiramisu for dessert. The view from the unfinished portion of the cathedral in Siena was spectacular.

Town square and cathedral in Orvieto, Italy.
Old town cityscape and cathedral, Siena, Italy. 

Orta San Giulio, Italy: set on the eastern side of Lake Orta (the westernmost of the lakes in the lake region of Italy.) We had two spiritual-centered experiences. First we toured around Isola San Giulio, the small island in the center of the lake which has a Benedictine monastery on it. Next we climbed to the top of the peninsula to a UNESCO site, Sacre Montre of Orta, that has been a pilgrimage site for christians for centuries. It has a series of twenty chapels created in the 1600s to tell the story of St. Francis. My favorite gelato of the trip was consumed in Orta San Giulio. The owner of the gelateria makes his own gelato with fresh ingredients. I had an odd combination- rum raisin and plum- but still very delizioso.

Carly on Sacre Montre with Isole San Giulio in the background.

Mürren, Switzerland: a small village in the Swiss Alps that is unreachable by a road. We had to take a series of train, tram, cable cars to reach it and then had to wait a day and a half to see the spectacular site of these three mountains in the Alps- Eiger - Mönch - Jungfrau- that were obscured by clouds up until then. But the wait was worth the view!

Don taking a photo of Jungfrau on our stopover from the tram to the gondola.

Basel, Switzerland: We visited friends in this this last stop on our vacation tour but got to spend a half day in Basel, home of the oldest university on the planet and the cultural heart of the country. The architecture was so different than what we had seen in Italy and I was entranced by the style and colors of the old city hall. We lunched along the Rhine river where we watched the freight traffic up and down this big river and watched many people floating down it hanging onto inflatable, waterproof bags, known as Wickelfisch, containing their clothes. Next trip to Switzerland, I am doing this!
Architecture of City Hall, Basel, Switzerland
Home: Our flight home took over thirteen hours. We left Basel at 7 AM Central European time and arrived in Seattle at 11:30 AM Pacific Daylight time. It was strange to be in transit for a half day and arrive home in the same morning of the day we left. We did one load of laundry, watered plants, washed our dog, and shopped for dinner ingredients before falling in to bed at 7 PM, nearly 24 hours after we got up in Switzerland. Right now it is early in the morning, we couldn't sleep in. Our daughter couldn't sleep and got up at 3:30 AM, but is now napping on the couch surrounded by the family pets. I'm watching the championship round of Wimbledon on TV. Go Federer!

Books read on the trip:

  • Vintage Munro by Alice Munro. This collection of short stories from this Pulitzer-prize winning author were selected from throughout her career. All the stories were superbly written but most had a very depressing theme. I left this book in the lending library at our hotel in Sorrento.
  • Speaking with the Angel edited by Nick Hornby. A short story collection from well-known UK authors. Many were quirky ("Nipple Jesus" topping that list) and funny.  My favorite story, "The Department of Nothing" was written by the actor, Colin Firth. I left this book in the lending library in our hotel in Siena.
  • Close Range by Annie Proulx. All stories set in her beloved Wyoming, Proulx is fabulous writer but all of the stories were about sad or pathetic characters, mostly cowboys or ranchers. I passed this book off to my husband who was raised in cattle country in Eastern Oregon.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.  It was a reread for me. It is about a young autistic boy, Christopher, who sets out to solve the mystery of who killed the neighbor's dog. It is an insightful book about what it is like to be autistic in today's world. I borrowed this book from my daughter after she finished it. I didn't have a chance to pass it on, since I was still reading it on the airplane ride home. I'll donate it to a student at school since it is one of our summer reading selections.
Currently reading:

  • Looking for Alaska by John Green. I started this book on the flight home after finishing The Curious Incident. It was the first John Green book I ever read and it started my love-affair with this author's books. I am forty pages from the ending of this reread. We found it on the lending library shelf at our hotel in Siena. Carly reread it before me.

Time for a shower and more laundry. Bye!


  1. Adventures and travel in gorgeous scenery with family--it can't get any better! Your photos make me want to go back! However, it is exhausting and I bet part of you is glad to be home. xoxo

  2. Sounds like you had a wonderful time on your trip. And sounds like you were able to get some reading in while you were gone. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Sounds like a fabulous vacation!

  4. You are quite the world traveler! I would love to take a vacation like that. Getting time off to do that is definitely a perk of teaching! Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. What a fabulous trip, and I love your photos and descriptions! Makes me want to visit Italy and Switzerland.

  6. Love the photos.Keep up the good work :)


I look forward to your comments and interactions! Join in the conversation.