January 8th, 2018 – Montreal – Canada

We started the day at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal (pictures 1 – 3).  In 1904, Saint Andre Bessette began the construction of St. Joseph, a small chapel on the slopes of Mont Royal near Notre Dame College.  In 1924, the construction of the basilica was started.  It was completed in 1967 and is now Canada’s largest church.  The basilica is dedicated to Saint Joseph, to whom Brother André credited all his reported miracles. These were mostly related to some kind of healing power, and many pilgrims (handicapped, blind, ill, etc.) poured into his Basilica, including numerous non-Catholics. On display in the basilica is a wall covered with thousands of crutches from those who came to the basilica and were purportedly healed. Pope John Paul II deemed the miracles to be authentic and beatified Brother André in 1982. In October 2010, Pope Benedict XVI  canonized the saint.  We were lucky, someone was practicing the organ when we visited so we got to hear the beautiful music.

Our visit there was cut short by a call from doggy day care.  It seems that they felt Merlin was missing us too much and we had to come pick him up.  Luckily, our plans for the day were to walk around Old Town Montreal so Merlin could come with us.  We had lunch at the Atwater Market (pictures 4 – 6) and then visited Notre-Dame Basilica (pictures 14 – 18).Built in the Gothic Revival style, the church is highly decorated. The vaults are coloured deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuary  is decorated in blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues. Unusual for a church, the stained glass windows along the walls of the sanctuary do not depict biblical scenes, but rather scenes from the religious history of Montreal. After the church visit, we spent the rest of the afternoon taking in the sites of the historical district on a beautiful afternoon.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

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June 7th, 2018 – Montreal – Canada

We met up with our friends Steve and Laurie in New York and crossed the border into Canada today.  It is a good thing it is light so long up here because we were able to make the most of our time today.  We spent some time in the Botanical Gardens enjoying the beautiful flowers.  It did take us over an hour to figure out the map, but we finally did and were able to find some of the specific gardens we wanted to see.

We stopped by the Jean Talon Market which we ultimately did not really see much of because we stopped at Juliette et Chocolat first.   We had delicious crepes and the girls indulged in dessert while the boys ran and bought vegetables from the market before it closed.  Leslie had sort of a sundae made up of homemade caramel sauce, whipped cream and brownies.  It came with a cup of dark hot chocolate which was unbelievably rich.  Laurie had layers of dark chocolate mousse, cocoa ganache and caramel sauce covered with dark chocolate brownie chunks.  Totally delicious.  We are liking Canada so far.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

  

 

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June 1st – 3rd – Kansas City, Missouri

We stopped in Kansas City to spend the weekend with our son Matthew and his girlfriend Nora.  Don taught them how to make spaetzle and Chicken Paprikash  (one of Matthew’s favorite childhood meals). A little wine and beer helped the cooks out.  We took a very nice hike in a park near their house.  Matthew took one for the team by going first and clearing out all the spider webs.  We spent a lot of time playing cards and games which is one of our favorite things to do.  We had another cooking experience, figuring out how to grill salmon on a plank.  It was fantastic so we must have done it right!  After church we went to Donutology, a place where you can create your own mini donuts.  They were delicious and only little donuts so they were not too much since we split them (we will not mention the larger donuts we ate while we were waiting for them to make the baby ones.)

 

   

  

 

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May 30th, 2018 – Oracle, Arizona to Bernaillo, New Mexico

We started our trip to the Canadian Maritimes today.  Going north from  our house we drive through the beautiful White Mountains.  These pictures were taken on our phone while we were moving so they are not the normal quality, but they still show how beautiful the drive was.  We had planned on eating in the camper tonight, but when we got to the RV park for the night, there was a brewery right next door.  It was fate.  It had 4.7 on Trip Advisor, so we decided to go.  Good beer and Don liked their Frito Bison Bowl with green chiles.

  

  

  

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May 3rd, 2018 – Italy – Amalfi Coast

Our last day of the trip was a drive up the Amalfi Coast.  The weather was not wonderful, but considering the forecast called for rain, we were pleased that it was just cloudy for our drive.  The 4th picture is Positano.  We did not get to stop there, but the views of it were very nice.  We stopped in Amalfi for a bit.  The boys went to the Amalfi Cathedral (8th – 16th pictures) while the girls went shopping.  The ceramics here are beautiful.  We just got a taste of the area, but enough that we have decided we want to come back and rent a villa here.

One thing about the Amalfi Coast is there is a lot of traffic on the one main road and the busses make it even more interesting around the curves.  As a matter of fact, one of the busses got caught in a tunnel.  Lucky for us, our bus driver heard about it before we started back and we went back another way.  It was longer, but better than the 4 -6 hour wait that was forecasted.  We did run into a road block the other way though, a dog was herding some goats who felt that walking on the road was a good thing to do.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

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May 2nd, 2018 – Italy – Capri

Capri, an island in Italy’s Bay of Naples, is famed for its rugged landscape, upscale hotels and shopping, from designer fashions to limoncello and handmade leather sandals.  It is a beautiful island and full of stores that we could not afford.  We spent a leisurely afternoon walking around the main city and had the best gelato of the trip.  Leslie would have gone back for more, but it meant walking down and then back up a pretty steep hill.  Also we stumbled upon a Murano glass shop and Bill and Linda decided to buy a vase.  This was far more interesting than more gelato.  The 5th picture shows Don giving photography advice to the person that was taking the picture.  He needs to remember to smile when he is on the other side of the camera.

  

  

  

  

  

 

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May 1st, 2018 – Italy – Pompei

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples.  Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 ft of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Archaeologists believe that the town was founded in the 7th or 6th century BC by the Oscans.  It came under the domination of Rome in the 4th century BC, and was conquered and became a Roman colony in 80 BC after it joined an unsuccessful rebellion against the Roman Republic. By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, its population was estimated at 11,000 people, and the city had a complex water system, an amphitheater, a gymnasium, and a port.

The eruption destroyed the city, killing its inhabitants and burying it under tons of ash. Evidence for the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance. The site was lost for about 1,500 years until its initial rediscovery in 1599 and broader rediscovery almost 150 years later.  The objects that lay beneath the city have been preserved for more than a millennium because of the long lack of air and moisture. These artefacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana. During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allowed archaeologists to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died.

The site is huge.  It was very cool to walk around and see how a Roman city actually was.  The tile in some of the homes was still in tact and some of the frescos still had amazing color.  We ended the tour in the amphitheater and took a group picture.  After the picture, we talked Bill into a performance of a little Shakespeare.  It was very short, but long enough that we lost sight of the tour group.  We got in a teeny bit of trouble because the tour guide had to come back and get us.  It was worth it though because we caught the performance on video.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

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April 30th, 2018 – Italy – Otranto and Sorrento

We went to Otranto today which is a historic seaside town and port on the Adriatic Sea.  The town is in the province of Lecce, and is close to the easternmost point of Italy.  It is within the area known as the Salento, the tip of the peninsula which is the heel of Italy’s boot.  On a clear day it is possible to see over the Strait of Otranto to Albania.  Like much of Puglia, Otranto has a colourful and mixed past. It was important as a Greek and then Roman port, called Hydruntum. Later it was ruled by the Byzantines, the Normans and the Aragonese. In 1480 the town was invaded by Turks.

We returned to Sorrento for lunch.  Don had his best meal of the trip, a mixed seafood grill.  The octopus and squid are so good here.  He also had prawns, swordfish and a whitefish.  There is something about seafood from the Mediterranean Sea.

We had to work for our dinner tonight.  We had a cooking class.  We made a lemon tart and potato gnocchi for dinner.  The hardest part was rolling each individual gnocchi on the fork to give it grooves to pick up the sauce.  It took a while, but we got it.  Linda and Leslie were having so much fun, they had to be dragged from the counter to stop the rolling on the fork.  It was delicious.  They did not teach us how to make the wonderful tomato sauce, so we cannot totally repeat the meal when we get home, but Don will probably get close.

  

  

  

 

  

  

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April 29th, 2018 – Italy – Polignano a Mare

Today we went to Polignano a Mare which is located on the Adriatic Sea.  It is built on the edge of a craggy ravine, pockmarked with caves. The town is thought to be one of the most important ancient settlements in Puglia and was later inhabited by successive invaders ranging from the Huns to the Normans.

When we arrived we loaded onto a train and rode through the town.  The people that saw us thought we were crazy Americans because we were waving and saying “Bonjourno”.   Famous singer Domenico Modugno is from the city and the train had some videos of him singing songs.  When he sang “Volare”, we sang the chorus, which is the only part we knew (it is 2 Italian words and a bunch of oh-oh-ohs), at the top our our lungs.  Twenty Americans being led by our Italian guide Andrea (12th picture).  They probably will not invite us back.

We did a little shopping and Linda bought a new hat.  It looked MAH-velous.  It is made of paper, so it was a good thing it was sunny.  We had one of the best meals on the trip here.  The seafood was so fresh – smoked tuna, smoked swordfish and a white fish that was wonderful.

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

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April 28th, 2018 – Italy – Lecce

It has been a while, but I am sure you can tell that we published the last post before we were finished with it.  That is what happens when you try to hurry.  

Lecce is a historic city (over 2,000 years old) located on the Salentine Peninsula, a sub-peninsula at the heel of the Italian Peninsula.  Because of the rich Baroque architectural monuments found in the city, Lecce is commonly nicknamed “The Florence of the South”.  The city also has a long traditional affinity with Greek culture going back to its foundation.

We had a walking tour this morning.  We got a history lesson, saw some Baroque churches, and the remains of a Roman amphitheater.  We also got a paper mache demonstration (11th picture).  Lecce is famous for its paper mache.  Many of the large statues in the churches are made of paper mache.  They look like they are carved wood that has been painted.  It is truly amazing.  The symbol of the city (15th picture) came from the Romans who named the city “Lupiae” because of the she-wolf found under an oak tree at the site chosen for their city.  Obviously the name has been changed, but the symbol remains.

We split up after the walking tour.  Bill and Don went to a market and Leslie and Linda went in search of the gelato place the guide recommended.  Leslie gave her phone to Don so the boys had a way to communicate.  After walking about a 1/2 mile one way, the girls realized they had gone the wrong way.  Returning to the starting point (McDonald’s) they found the right street.  After walking a mile on that street, they received a text from the boys that they were by the gelato place.  So back up the street and they found the gelato place which was a 1/2 block from the McDonalds.  The good news is they had walked 3 miles, so they deserved the gelato.  Moral of the story – do not give up the phone with Google maps when in a foreign country.

Bill was spot on with his restaurant choice for lunch (again).  The food was delicious.  The pictures in order – a smoked salmon croissant with ricotta cheese, a chicken sandwich with goat cheese and tuna bruschetta.  Yummy.

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

 

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