Sunday, November 8, 2015

Visits to Florence and Milan

The final segment of our Northern Italy adventure began early with another train ride to Florence from La Sepzia.

Our hotel in Florence was right on the Arno River's edge.
This was the view across the river from the balcony for our room.

We arrived at our hotel, Plaza Hotel Lucchesi just in time to catch a short downpour. Instead of taking our architectural tour that afternoon we quickly changed it to the next morning.  So we wandered around the city just enjoying the cool damp air.

Coming from Bahrain, the damp rain was a treat.

D is in the blue poncho and ES is in the green poncho. The dome for the cathedral is at the end of the street.

At sunset we went to the roof of the hotel to see if they had a view. I had heard the roof had a good view but I was still surprised.  One of the best views in Florence was on the roof of our hotel.  AMAZING!!!

Our first sunset in Florence.
That's a pool with a view!

The hotel had set up a frame for the perfect "Postcard" photo. I had fun shooting from all angles. 
I have to admit, it was a great idea to have the frame set up so you could take your own postcard shot.

After some great photos and wine, we ventured to the other side of the Arno River and had a wonderful meal in a local tavern. There was a taxi strike going on so we walked over and walked home again. 

Wandering around the old stone streets at night was great fun.
Check out the eyelashes on this little car.
Once again, our meal was fantastico!
I knew the morning sun would give us a perfect view of Florence from the roof of the hotel, so early the next morning we all met on the roof terrace for some pictures.  

It was my mom’s birthday so we took a photo of the rooftops holding a birthday greeting. The only problem was alerting her to check her email. She does not check email very often and I did not want to miss the opportunity to wish her a wonderful birthday.

Our architectural tour was again amazing. We wandered the streets of Florence looking up at the towers and stonework. Gothic architecture abounded.

Our guide, Aniko was wonderful.
Seems like I always take photos when everyone is looking up. 

One interesting fact that Aniko shared with us was the use of small openings in the walls of homes to sell wine.  These were called wine tabernacles or wine holes.  Here is a great article about the little doors and how they came in to being.  We saw them all over the place and kept hoping to find one that had some wine.  LOL

The small curved opening to the left of the door is the wine tabernacle.
Here is a wine tabernacle below a religious shrine.

When we reached the end of our tour in the plaza at the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo’s David resides, I started to think Florence had almost as much charm as Venice. The architecture was impressive. The statues and fountains were unbelievable.

Our selfie with Michelangelo's David. 

Leather roses - the leather shops were abundant.

After a day of visiting the sites in Florence, my legs were worn out (still EXTREMELY sore from the long trek along the Cinque Terre). 

Doug wanted to climb to the top of the Il Duomo di Firenze (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers) but the rest of us begged off.  He headed up the 800+ stairs while the three of us sat and drank wine at a café in the piazza.

At the top of the cathedral is one of the Renaissance's great masterpieces, the Duomo's cupola. It was built between 1420 and 1436. 

Over four million bricks were used to construct the dome, all of them laid in consecutive rings according to a vertical herringbone pattern. The final product is 91m high and 45.5m wide. 

It is the largest brick dome in the world. I could certainly understand why my dear structural engineer husband wanted to see it up close.

We could see the brick dome from the roof of our hotel. It was extremely impressive.

Inside the dome.
The climb up the spiral staircase is relatively steep, and should not be attempted if you are claustrophobic. 

As you climb, snapshots of Florence can be spied through small windows. 

The final leg – a straight, somewhat hazardous flight up the curve of the inner dome – rewards with an unforgettable 360-degree panorama of one of Europe's most beautiful cities.

Hubby D took several photos at the top and I almost wish I had gone.
Read more:

That evening we enjoyed sunset on the roof again then ventured back to the old section of town. We ate one of the best meals of the trip at a local restaurant. It was over-the-top expensive, but fabulous.

Sunset with wine on the gorgeous roof of our hotel.
Fried zucchini flowers for an appetizer.

Very early the next morning, Hubby D and I left for Milan and our return flight to Bahrain. ES and NS were off to drive through Tuscany.

After we arrived in Milan and checked into our hotel, Uptown Palace Hotel we wandered around a bit. Finding ourselves at the Piazza del Duomo of Milan ("Cathedral Square"), we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon there. 

According to Wikipedia, this square is the main piazza (city square) of Milan, Italy. It is named after, and dominated by, the Milan Cathedral (the Duomo). 

The piazza marks the center of the city, both in a geographic sense and because of its importance from an artistic, cultural, and social point of view. Rectangular in shape, with an overall area of about 183,000 sq ft, the piazza includes some of the most important buildings of Milan (and Italy in general), as well some of the most prestigious commercial activities.

A photo taken of the piazza in 1909.

The Milan Duomo was built over nearly 600 hundred years in a number of contrasting styles and the quality of the workmanship varies markedly. Reactions to it have ranged from admiration to disfavour.

It is the 5th-largest church in the world and the second largest in Italy.

When Hubby D and I first saw it, we both said, “Fourteen Century Architect Gone Wild.”

We ended our evening on a roof-top bar overlooking the piazzo sipping cocktails as the sun slipped behind the ancient buildings. The evening shadow crept up the side of the Duomo and daylight finally bid us farewell.  

I have posted several videos from Florence and Milan on my blog. If you would like to see them, here is the link. Just click on "Video of Italy."  

It was a fitting end to a breathtaking trip to Italy.

Grazie to Italy and all the wonderful architecture. Grazie to our friends ES and NS for providing us the great information that made our trip the perfect adventure. Grazie to Hubby D for all the romance and beautiful memories I have of Northern Italy.

Molte Grazie for the adventure!


P.S. A very special GRAZIE to ES and NS for providing us with the motivation to go to Northern Italy, for taking us down the Cinque Terre trail and for making our trip the perfect adventure.

NS and ES at lunch in a wonderful outdoor restaurant in Florence.

Video of Italy

Here are some of the video I took in Italy.

My phone takes such great video that I could not resist.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

We Had a Flopping Good Time

When I first arrived in Bahrain I quickly identified some activities for my “must do” list.  

Pearl diving (done that)
Campfire in the desert (working on it)
Rug flop (attended one but wanted to organize one)

Last night we had a rug flop so I can check that one off my list.  And, it was great!

I know a lot of you are wondering, “What is a rug flop?”

I didn’t know what they were when I was first invited to one.  It was a hoot and I loved it.  So I decided I wanted to be more involved in planning and holding one.

A rug flop is where the “carpet” merchant brings a large number of rugs to you and shows (flops) them out for your review. Usually this is a party atmosphere with a group of your friends.  

Sort of like a jewelry party but with carpets and spouses included - perhaps a little wine and beer to go along with the party atmosphere.

When I goggled “rug flop” I was shocked at how many sites came up unique to Bahrain.  Perhaps we invented the rug flop in Bahrain. I know my friend Abdulla the carpet merchant has been doing them for sailors on the big ships for many years. Cool!

Here is how a rug flop happens. First the merchant goes through a large number of carpets, flopping them out one at a time -- placing the next one on top of the growing pile. He starts with the largest size continuing to the smallest and then runners. 

Here is a video from our rug flop. If you are reading this in an email, you will have to go to my blog page online to view the video.

Starting the "flop."
Our pile was growing.

As the merchant rolls out each carpet, he tells you where it was made, how it is constructed – fabric and blend of threads -- and how many knots it contains.  The more knots, the more expensive it is because of the skill and detail in the work required.

Here were some carpets with very large knot counts.  I think Abdullah said they were 1200 knots per inch. The back of the carpet looks almost as pretty as the front when the knot count is high.

After all the carpets are displayed, then the merchant will go back one by one through the big stack of carpets and quote prices. If you are interested in a carpet, it is pulled out and placed in front of you so you can review your choices making your final decision after all the carpets are priced.

Typically the merchant provides dinner as well. 

I forgot to get a photo before everyone started eating.  The food was really good.

This is a great way to enjoy picking out a carpet. You can see the carpets up close and personal in your own setting with plenty of time to discuss the right carpet for you.

When I told my friend JA about the first rug flop I attended, she chimed in with great enthusiasm, “I want to have a rug flop and I have the perfect space for it.”

So JA and I planned a rug flop with my favorite rug merchant, Abdulla from Oasis Handmade Carpets.

I have a confession, JA (and husband MA) did all the work. She was fantastic and made the event the success that it was.  THANKS JA!!!

It was great fun. Abdulla out did himself with fantastic food and beautiful carpets. Our friends came along for the fun and many carpets were purchased.  

JA and me on top of the big stack of carpets when they were all flopped out.

Much to my surprise, Abdulla brought a 50-year-old (antique according to Abdulla) Tabriz with a paisley design.  The first time he rolled it out, I was in love!  And, to my great surprise, Hubby D asked to have it set aside when it came up for review the second time.  

Love at first site when this carpet was flopped out.
Getting ready to "flop" with piles of carpets all around.

JW and KW are doing a "toe test" on a carpet.  

LW is feeling of a 100% silk carpet.  It was BEAUTIFUL!

LW is doing a toe test on one carpet. You have to sink your toes into the carpet to see how it feels.  OOOOO!

Abdullah's assistants were running all over the room helping people roll out their selections and look at them up close.

We ended the evening with 3 more carpets to take home.  I was thrilled.  

I know D had gotten used to having the carpet we purchased for daughter BHB under his chair at his computer so he actually picked one out to replace that one when we take it to her for Christmas. 

You will never guess!  The new carpet he picked out matches EXACTLY the original Tabriz we already owned.  It is the small version. It is perfect!

The far left is BHB's carpet, the new one is in the middle and our old one (purchased a year ago) is on the right.  Gorgeous!
So the RUG FLOP was a big success and our new carpets are wonderful.  I just have to get the maintance guys at our flat to come in and roll up the old living room rug and put down my new “antique” paisley Tabriz carpet.  

Our new carpet laying in the living room next to the old rug.

OMG!  Life is good.


By the way, for those of you who want to know, BHB chose carpet number two.  Here is a close up of the new carpet we will give her for Christmas. It is beautiful.

Hubby D is keeping BHB's carpet under his computer desk until we pack it up to take to Florida in December.
Here is a video of the "unrolling" of BHB's new carpet when we brought it home to our flat.  If you are reading this in an email, you will have to go to my blog page online to view the video.