Friday, June 23, 2017

Missions/Churches in Santa Fe

Two weeks ago, I was in Italy seeing beautiful churches.  This week I got to see some old, lovely churches that are in the U.S.

Santa Fe is known for the churches.  The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the downtown area.  It was built between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, built in 1626 and destroyed in a revolt in 1680.

The Cathedral was designed in the Romanesque Revival Style.  It features round arches separated by columns and towers.  The large rose window was imported from France.  In the upper facade is a small, round window featuring a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.  This is a stained glass replica of the translucent alabaster window designed in the 17th century by the Italian artist Bernini for St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

After sitting in the church and observing the beautiful architecture, I headed down several blocks, which is the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail, to see the Loretto Chapel.

This is a former Roman Catholic church that is now used as a museum and wedding chapel.  It is known for its unusual helix-shaped spiral staircase.  This church started as a school in 1853.  The legend is that the staircase was constructed by St. Joseph, the Carpenter, and was built between 1877 and 1881.  It has two 360 degree turns with no visible means of support.

Leaving the Loretto Chapel, I headed south a few blocks to see San Miguel Mission, the oldest church structure in the U.S.A.  It was built approximately between 1610 and 1626.  The original adobe walls are still intact.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is still offered at the chapel on Sundays.

There were many more churches in the area, but I wasn't able to visit them.  As you can see, there is a lot to see in the U.S.A.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Lorreto Chapel

San Miguel Mission



New Mexico State Capitol

As I walked along the streets of Santa Fe to the State Capitol, I passed many restaurants and shops. It is such a unique town with it's Indian/Mexican/Spanish culture.

I passed the Santa River river where young boys and their fathers were fishing for trout.  One family had caught several fish, which I assumed they would be eating for dinner.

It was still early in the morning and the temperature was nice.  Santa Fe is located at 7,200 feet and the climate is warm days and cool evenings.

Visiting all 50 capitols is on my bucket list and I wanted to make sure that I explored New Mexico's State Capitol.  The Santa Fe capitol is unique, in that, it is the only Round State Capitol. The Capitol is known informally as "the Roundhouse".  The Roundhouse is the fourth Capitol building of New Mexico. The Palace of the Governors, which now houses the state's history museum, used to be the house of government in Santa Fe for nearly three centuries.

The Roundhouse was dedicated on December 8, 1966.

I got to the Capitol just as the doors were opening for the day.  A young man greeted me as I walked in and asked me to sign the visitor's sheet.  He explained the building and the four levels.

The first level houses the house and senate chambers.  They were not in session.

The second level is the floor that visitors enter.  The Rotunda in the center of the building is inlaid with a turquoise and brass mosaic of the great seal.  The seal is New Mexico's Zia sun symbol, which is associated with the Land of Enchantment.  It is inspired by a design found on a 19th century water jar from Zia Pueblo.  The design is a circular sun with linear rays extending in four directions.  Four is a significant number, as it is embodied in the four directions of the earth, the four seasons of the year; the four times of the day(sunrise, noon, evening and night); and life's four divisions of childhood, youth, adulthood and old age.

From the Rotunda, you can look up and see the skylight, which is 60 feet from the floor.  It represents an Indian basket weave; the blue represents the sky and the pale pink the earth.

Also on the second floor, various artwork was exhibited.  There were beautiful, colorful quilts that local artists had weaved, which were displayed.

The third level houses committee rooms and offices and also features a lot of the Capitol Art Collection.  This collection features contemporary masterworks by artists who live and work in New Mexico.

The fourth level houses the offices of the governor, the lieutenant governor and the Legislative Council Service.

If you are ever in Santa Fe, make sure you go by the Capitol.  There are select times for a tour guide or you can do your own self-guided tour.








Sunday, June 18, 2017

Reminiscing!

This morning as I sat outside snuggled up in a blanket drinking my coffee, I reflected on the past week.  Had it only been a week since I flew back from Italy!  All week long, I have been replaying my time and the many adventures that I had on my trip.  It was such a great trip.  New memories were made.

It has taken me the week to adjust to the time change!  I have been up every morning around 5 a.m. The joy of getting up early is seeing the sunrise.  The sunrise has taken my breath away as I look out onto the sky to see the beautiful colors of different blues and the different pinks, as they swirl across the sky.  Within seconds, the colors change.  I am in awe!

While I was gone, the wetlands got greener and the yellow flowers popped up.  It seems like the birds have multiplied, as well. The rabbits definitely have multiplied.  The red wing blackbirds have a slurred whistle as the sun rises from the east.  The swallows are soaring from one house to the next.

Sometimes we forget about the beauty within our on home.  As much as I love to travel, to meet new people and to discover new surroundings, I always remember the words that Dorothy said in "The Wizard of Oz", "There is no place like home."

Enjoy today!


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Alba, Italy

My last day in Italy was spent in Alba. Alba was once known as the "city with 100 towers". Today, it is famous for it's white truffles, peach and wine production.

In the area of Alba, there are 290 wineries that cultivate an area of 1,700 acres of land.  There are four distinct wine producing regions, but only two(Langhe and Monferrato) of these are dominate.  The vineyards are rich with soil, with history and with family tradition in wine-making that dates back centuries.

The town itself had a medieval flavor with it's cobblestone walks, narrow streets and the decor of the stores.  Just like Turin, there are cafes all along the streets.  Fashion is displayed in the windows and the merchants have their tables outside, selling their truffles, nuts, chocolates and displays of Alba's wines.

As I walked along the streets, there was a merchant demonstrating soap bubbles to the children. These soap bubbles were beautiful colors(almost like a rainbow) that were various shapes.  The children were fascinated with these bubbles.

After enjoying a cappuccino, the group was met by an archaeologist, who took us underground, a few feet beneath the streets and pavements, to discover the Roman Roots.  We saw the remains of the Roman Forum and remains of the Medieval towers and houses.

Some other sights to visit are the impressive Cathedral of San Lorenzo is in the heart of Alba; Gothic Church of San Domenico(which has triple arch within a pointed arch) and the Baroque of St. John the Baptist.

After sightseeing in Alba, we had a 3 course-lunch at a restaurant overlooking the beautiful vineyards.  We enjoyed veal, ravioli and a chocolate pastry, as well as different wines, prosecco and limoncello.

Our last stop was at the Paitin Winery.  This winery has been in the family since 1796.  From their 17 acres, they produce Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Arneis, Barbera and Dolcetto.

What a great day to end my tour of Northern Italy!  I will always treasure the memories that were made.




Monday, June 12, 2017

Exploring Turin, Italy

As I walked out onto the cobblestone street, I was in awe of the sunrise and the silence surrounding me.  I wanted to explore Turin from sunrise to sunset.  

This was a new city for me.  I was enjoying the quietness before the city awoke.  There is something about walking the streets and thinking back to the Renaissance period and the people that strolled along this same path.

Turin, which is pronounced Turino, is a city that is located in the northern part of Italy and is the capital of the Piedmont region.  It is located on the Po River and surrounded by the western Alpine arch.  The population of the city proper is approximately 900,000.

The city has a rich culture and history.  With all the restaurants, churches, universities, theaters, libraries, museums, parks and other venues, there is always something to do.  Turin is well-known for its Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-classical and Art Nouveau architecture.

Our guide gave us some interesting facts about Turin:

1.  It is home of the FIAT auto plants.  FIAT is Italy's largest automobile manufacturer.  The acronyms stands for "Fabric, Italy, Automobile, Turin".
2.  The "Shroud of Turin" is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin.  The Shroud of Turin is a centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man.  A man that millions believe to be Jesus of Nazareth.
3. EATALY - opened in 2007 in Turin.  It was built for the 2006 winter Olympic Games, and is basically a gourmet grocery store offering all foods Italian.  There are about three of them in the United States(NYC, Chicago & Boston).
4.  The movie "The Italian Job" was filmed in Turin in 1969.  Michael Caine was the main actor. This is a movie about a plan to steal a gold shipment from the streets of Turin by creating a traffic jam.
5.  The Egyptian Musuem in Turin is the only museum other than the Cairo Museum that is dedicated solely to Egyptian art and culture.
6.  Cafes - There are at least 2 cafes on every block.  The historic cafes have remained favorite among politicians, intellectuals and artists.  One of the popular drinks that is served is "bicerin".  This drink has hot chocolate at the bottom, espresso coffee and milk, froth on top.
7.  Piazza San Carlo - This is Turin's most beautiful square.  It is the city's outdoor living room, surrounded by arcaded sidewalks that house the terraces of the cafes for which Turin is famous.
8.  Martini & Rossi, which was founded in Turin in 1863, is an Italian multinational alcoholic beverage company primarily associated with the Martini brand of vermouth and is also with sparkling wine(such as Asti).
9. and so many more other venues.

While walking along, be careful, as you could get run over by a bicycle.  Everywhere I looked, people were riding their bikes.

I was very impressed with this city.  Next time you are a planning a trip to Italy, put Turin on your list.

Ciao! 







Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Italian Riveria

This afternoon as I strolled along the turquoise coastline of the Ligurian Sea, I reflected on the past several days.  With the waves crashing on the cliffs, motor boats humming along the shore, I had to pinch myself.  I was experiencing the Italian Riveria.

In the 1960's, the French Riveria(which is the Mediterranean coast of southeastern France) was where the movie stars and rich and famous would travel to.  Nowadays, the well-known celebrities travel to the Italian Riveria.  This lies on the northwestern corner of Italy, in the region of Liguria, which stretches along the Ligurian Sea from the Italian/French border to the Tuscany border.

The villages that I got to travel to were Portovenere, Le Cinque Terre and Santa Margherita & Portofino(the heart of the Italian Riveria.

What one experiences from each of these areas were the multi-colored pastel buildings; the fishing villages; tall rugged cliffs dropping down into the cobalt blue depths of the sea and the resort areas(beaches).

Portovenere is located on the Ligurian coast of Italy.  The very small quaint village has such beautiful panoramic views of the church, St. Peter, as well as the Doria Castle.  St. Peter's Church sits on top of the cliffs that looks out into the sea, and was constructed in 1198 A.D.  The church still holds services, as well as weddings.  The castle was built by the Genoese in 1261 for the very wealthy Doria family who were very instrumental to the political, military and economic life of the Republic of Genoa.

The rugged part of the Italian Riveria is Cinque Terre(five villages).  The five villages are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza & Monterosso.  Each of these have their own charm.  All five of these villages are connected by a trail.  Hikers love to travel to this area. The water and mountainside have been declared a National Park.

Riomaggiore is known for its historic character and it's wine.

Manarola is built on black rock.  The vineyards and olive trees are planted on the side of the steep cliffs.  The wine and olive oil from this area is expensive due to how these grapes & olives are picked and taken care of.

Corniglia is an ancient Roman village that is perched on a striking high bluff.  This is the only town without access from the sea.  To reach the town you ascend a long flight of brick steps known as "Lardarina" (33 flights with 377 stairs).

Vernazza is the most charming of the five villages.  It has the best access to the sea.

Monterosso is the largest of the Cinque Torres.  It has beautiful beaches, clear turquoise water and lots of hotels and restaurants.

As you travel north from Cinque Terre, you will approach Santa Margherita & Portifino.

Santa Margherita is one of the most important towns of the Levante Riviera.  It's special charm lies in the unusual mix of nautical & Belle Époque styles.  It is a beautiful old resort town favored by well-to/do Italians.  Santa Margherita Ligurie has everything a Riveria playground should have--plenty of palm trees, attractive hotels, cafes and a marina filled with yachts.

Portofino in the past, functioned primarily as a fishing village and occasionally, as a small naval port. Today, it is a classy resort village.  The waterfront is lined with multicolored pastel buildings and cafes.  There is a very panoramic view of Portofino from the church, St. George.  As you stroll through the piazza, you see many young lovers, as well as celebrities.

As you can see, the Italian Riveria has a lot to offer!





Lucca - home of Giacomo Puccini

Northwest of Florence is Lucca.  It is one of Italy's most impressive fortress.  It is encircled by a 2.5 mile wall that was used during the Renaissance to protect the people.  But today it is a wall that is enjoyed by bicyclists, runners & walkers.  The path is shaded with beautiful, tall trees.

The city is on the Serchio River in Italy's Tuscany region.  The cobblestone streets sends you back to when the Romans controlled Lucca.  There were approximately 160 towers within the city.  The towers showed the wealth of this town,

The amphitheater which sits inside the town used to be located outside the rectangular city walls.  Now shops & restaurants surround the amphitheater, which is used as a plaza for gathering of family and friends.

Of course, I can't forget two of the many churches, San Michele in Foro & Basilica of San Frediano. In it's heyday, there were 82 churches in this fortress.  Lucca was the first Mediterranean stop on the pilgrim route from Northern Europe and the Pope wanted to remind the pilgrims what awaited them in Rome.

So much to see in Lucca.  But if your time is limited make sure you see the Guinigi Tower, which has 227 steps to the top.  There is a beautiful view of the city among the five oak trees.

Also Lucca is home to the famous composer Giacomo Puccini.  He was born in 1858 into a family with a long history of music.  As you walk through the plaza to see his sculpture, you will here his music in the background.

Ciao!