February 17, 2015 – Occasio Wine Maker Dinner at Posada

A few weeks ago I got an email from Occasio Winery in Livermore. We joined their Wine Club last year. The gist of the email was that they were going to have a wine maker’s dinner hosted at Posada, a restaurant serving contemporary southwestern cuisine. The menu looked really good and the price was outstanding so John said go ahead and book it. That’s what I tried to do. However, even though it was only the day after I had gotten the email, it was completely sold out. They took my name and said maybe they would host another one on the following Tuesday. Luckily for us they did have a second dinner.

Posada on Murietta Blvd., Livermore

Posada on Murietta Blvd., Livermore

We arrive and are a little nervous since we know no one there. We are ushered to a table for two in the back. It is sort of like we are not the diners they want to be seen. But we are totally okay with this because now we can chat with each other and not have the pressure of talking to strangers. We are poured a glass of welcoming Chardonnay. Soon the chef comes over to chat with us and then, right before dinner starts, the chef’s wife moves us to a table towards the front with another couple. He is a web designer and she is a school teacher originally from Mexico. They are pleasant and interesting dinner companions.

Since there are other people I don’t know at the table I don’t take pictures of the food. Here is the menu –
Steamed PEI mussels with chorizo, tarragon and pasta paired with their 2013 Chardonnay
Braised beef cheeks with pickled beets, arugula in blue cheese dressing and apple dressing paired with a 2011 Merlot

Beef cheeks and Occasio wine

Beef cheeks and Occasio wine


Churrasco lamb ribs and huitlacoche taco with esquites with a 2012 Syrah
Blackened Prime rib cubes with grilled vegetables and Dijon balsamic reduction plus a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon
Lemon crepes and citrus ricotta with blueberry chutney with the Occasio port

Everything is very tasty. The winemaker explains the wines and tells humorous anecdotes and Eduardo Posada, the chef, talks about why he decided on the food pairing for each course.

My favorites are the sauce from the mussel dish, the wonderfully tender beef cheeks, the terrific pickled beets, and the fabulous sauce accompanying the lamb ribs. But really it is all very delicious and I know we will be calling right away for the next wine dinner!

February 9, 2015 – A Visit with the Kendalls

Today we drive over to Corte Madera in Marin for a visit with Eileen and Jim, Ali and Eli and Vea. Eileen and Jim have rented a small house right on the bay with views of San Quentin and the Richmond bridge. It is pretty idyllic. Of course Eli and Vea occupy most of our attention as they are super cute. We’ve brought over a truck and some books that Nathan and Sam have outgrown and Eli really enjoys them and plays with the truck for quite a while. He also enjoys the little book with the different textures. He tries to show to Vea. It is sweet.

Eileen prepares a delicious lunch of various meats and salads. One thing she has is Affi’s aubergine spread. It is so delicious. I shall have to find it some place closer to home. (Later I buy it at Whole Foods) We have a little wine and do a little talking. Later we head down to Tiburon to see Ali and Van’s new place. The view is outstanding. They can see the San Francisco skyline and Angel Island from their kitchen and Van can ride his bike down to the commuter ferry to San Francisco. What a commute!

Time flies by and we have to beat the rush hour traffic so we leave mid-afternoon. They will be back in May in their little house by the bay but I am hoping that some day they will make the move permanently.

Adorable Eli

Adorable Eli


More Eli

More Eli


Ali and Vea

Ali and Vea

January, 2015

While it might seem like we did not do anything during January, it’s not true. I have just been procrastinating about writing my blog.

Sam turns 6 on January 11! We go to his after party party. His first party has been with his friends at the Legos store. Auntie Leigh makes him another incredible cake. This time it is of an Enderman from the Minecraft game. He opens our presents and we all eat cake!

Sam with his Enderman cake

Sam with his Enderman cake


The eatable cake is behind the Enderman

The eatable cake is behind the Enderman


Sam with Auntie Leigh looking pretty tired

Sam with Auntie Leigh looking pretty tired


Sam playing with his kinetic sand from Aunt Peg and Uncle Ted

Sam playing with his kinetic sand from Aunt Peg and Uncle Ted

On January 16 we host a dinner for our friends, Diana and Peter. I make some pretty killer hors d’ouevres, potatoes, and green beans and John seares some scallops. We have sherbet and strawberries for dessert. I think the dinner is a success!

Salmon on rye and egg salad on carrot and radish rounds

Salmon on rye and egg salad on carrot and radish rounds


Diana, Peter and John

Diana, Peter and John

Later this weekend, Jonathan, Nathan, and Sam come over. In addition to playing tennis all together and going out to lunch, we take Nathan and Sam for haircuts. The kids seem pleased by their new shorter locks!

Nathan before

Nathan before


Nathan after

Nathan after


Sam before

Sam before


Sam after

Sam after


The next weekend, January 24, Sarah moves back home. Jonathan, John, and I help with the move. Before long she is looking pretty settled in her upstaris apartment although there are still pictures to be hung and John and I need to finish clearing out one of the closets. This move is good for us too as we are forced to deal with a lot of accumulated junk.
Sarah's living room

Sarah’s living room


Sarah's bedroom

Sarah’s bedroom


Finally after quite a long time due to John’s hip surgery, we make it back to Utah. Mostly I want to get the house clean and ready for my sisters’ visit at the end of February. We have a couple of rainy days but the temperatures are springlike and we visit Zion while there.
Rainy day out our back window

Rainy day out our back window


Beautiful Zion

Beautiful Zion


On a trip to the ABC store to buy some wine we notice a new sign!

On a trip to the ABC store to buy some wine we notice a new sign!


In addition to all these activities John pays his last visit to the doctor and gets the go ahead to resume normal activities, we have a lot of workers in to take care of plumbing, cable and gutters, I take Jonathan shopping for his birthday, and we have dinner out with Karen and George.

At first I was going to write that January was a slow month – but I guess it wasn’t!!

January 7, 2015 – A belated Happy New Year

I have finally caught up with my December blog entries and now it is time to move on to 2015. We celebrated New Year’s Eve pretty quietly with our friends, Karen and George. We made a dinner which could have been a lot more successful and wished each other happy new year at 9:30. We finished by cleaning up the kitchen and going to bed by 10:30 PM. Woo hoo.

John and I are in the midst of trying to lose weight AGAIN!!! Our injuries and surgeries led to a pretty couch-potato-ish existence in 2014. I know we’ve done the diet thing before and I know we can do it again. Towards that end along with eating correctly and doing some exercise, I’ve started writing in my Dining Lite blog - https://dininglite.wordpress.com/

Here’s to a healthier 2015!

December 25, 2014 – Christmas Day

This morning is pretty low-key. Sarah, John and I get up late. First thing, we prepare our traditional Christmas breakfast. Our breakfast of bagels and lox is long standing but having a breakfast beer with it is fairly new but has quickly become part of the Christmas routine.

Christmas breakfast

Christmas breakfast


During breakfast we unwrap the presents we have given to each other.
Sarah attempts to figure out a Christmas clue

Sarah attempts to figure out a Christmas clue


Sarah has given us a beautiful book of early California photography

Sarah has given us a beautiful book of early California photography


After breakfast and present opening, we prepare the dishes we will bring to Jonathan’s for Christmas dinner. Then we are on our way to Palo Alto.

Jonathan has prepared a wonderful Christms dinner of prime rib, mashed potatoes and green beans. John has brought the gravy and I’ve brought along some smoked salmon spread and Indian pudding for dessert. The kids are mostly engrossed in their gifts. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures.

December 24, 2014 – Pilat Eve

Although John is still a little shaky on his feet, we decide to go ahead and host Pilat Eve (known to other folks as Christmas Eve.) When I was teenager Christmas Eve was always celebrated by my friends at our house. There would be tree decorating and lots of munchies. When we got older there were also adult beverages. And so the tradition continues.

This year we have pigs in blankets, chicken liver mousse, bean and cheese dip with tortilla chips, vegetables with dip, salmon spread on bagel chips, egg nog, mini-cupcakes, cookies, wine, and rum cake. Rose, John and Leigh Henderson and the Pilat contingent are here.

We exchange some presents. We eat a bunch and drink a bunch. John lights the Hanukkah candles. Sarah has made up a YouTube play list of “follow the bouncing ball” Christmas songs and we sing to the best of our abilities. It is a really nice evening.

Living room awaits Pilat Eve guests

Living room awaits Pilat Eve guests


Hard to believe but I made a dessert that everyone likes

Hard to believe but I made a dessert that everyone likes


Jonathan gathering up some hors d'oeuvres

Jonathan gathering up some hors d’oeuvres


John lights the Hanukkah candles

John lights the Hanukkah candles


Nathan unwraps a Lego treat from us with Ryan's help

Nathan unwraps a Lego treat from us with Ryan’s help


Ryan and Sam look at his new book

Ryan and Sam look at his new book


Nathan loves his new Spooner from Aunt Peggy and Uncle Ted

Nathan loves his new Spooner from Aunt Peggy and Uncle Ted

So does Sam!

So does Sam!

Nathan looks through "The New How Things Work"

Nathan looks through “The New How Things Work”

Nathan and Sam help Zayde unwrap a new blender

Nathan and Sam help Zayde unwrap a new blender

Santa has not forgotten Jonathan

Santa has not forgotten Jonathan

or Ryan!

or Ryan!

Ryan and Nathan look through Sam's "Book with No Words"

Ryan and Nathan look through Sam’s “Book with No Words”

December 10, 2014 – John is just so hip

Today is John’s left hip replacement surgery. Having had his right one done in June, he is eager to complete his set. The surgery is scheduled for early in the morning and we and then I are staying at the Hampton Inn in Brentwood.

John’s surgery goes smoothly except for the spinal block which for some reason does not take effect. So unfortunately he has to have general anesthesia and the whole procedure takes a little longer. I am somewhat concerned as I sit and wait. It is taking longer than the doctor said it would. Finally his doctor appears and says that everything has gone well and explains about the anesthesia problem. I am relieved.

After what seems like forever in Recovery, John is taken to his room. He looks pale but is in pretty good spirits probably due to the abundance of painkillers in his system. He’ll have two nights in the hospital and then we will go home for rest and recovery.

John after his surgery

John after his surgery

Update: After almost 4 weeks John is doing well with his recovery. He can walk about unassisted although often brings his cane along for extra stability. Although I promised I would be nice during his recovery, I had some breaks in composure probably due to lack of sleep. I guess I am just not cut out for being a TLC nurse. My bad!

December 6-7, 2014 The Birthdays

Gosh, we are getting old! But that means a lot of birthdays and a lot of birthday celebrations. This year George and I decide to indulge in some wine tasting in Sonoma Valley and then dinner and overnight in Guerneville at the Applewood Inn and Restaurant. As usual we let John and Karen come along.

The best wine tasting of the day is at Chateau St. Jean. Since it is too chilly and wet to sit outside on the porch, we are ushered into their Vineyard Room and served many, many fine wines by a knowledgeable employee.

Chateau St. Jean

Chateau St. Jean


After fumbling around trying to find some place open for lunch on Sunday, we opt for some fast food, try tasting at a couple more wineries and make our way up to Guerneville for our stay at the Applewood Inn. We take a little rest until it is time for dinner.
Applewood Inn

Applewood Inn

Our room

Our room


We decide on the tasting menu at the restaurant. It is all really excellent. The picture is of the lamb chop which is almost always on the menu.
Lamb chop at the Applewood Inn Restaurant

Lamb chop at the Applewood Inn Restaurant


After a fine breakfast which is included in the room rate, we head for home. Another year behind us, we begin talking about what to do next year.

November 27, 2014 – Thanksgiving

John has come down with a bad cold and I have banned him from the kitchen. Sarah and I will man all the stations today. It is very helpful that everyone is bringing something. Our Thanksgiving dinner consists of Autumn soup (Sarah), deconstucted turkey with stuffed thighs (M & J), stuffing (Mary), gravy (John), chipotle sweet potatoes (Sarah), mashed potatoes (Jonathan), Brussels sprouts (Mary), roasted creamed cipollini onions (Mary), green beans (Jonathan), cranberry relish (Ryan), crescent rolls (Leigh, Nathan and Sam) and three pies for dessert made by Rose. The pies are cranberry-apple, mincemeat, and pumpkin.

Dinner is delicious and everyone leaves full and happy. Now there’s just the billions of dishes and glasses to clean up.

The table is set

The table is set


Everyone gathered around the table

Everyone gathered around the table


This time including me!

This time including me!


Everyone looking good in this picture

Everyone looking good in this picture


Jonathan and Sarah zonk out after dinner

Jonathan and Sarah zonk out after dinner

November 23, 2014 – A visit with Nathan and Sam

It is so wonderful to see Nathan and Sam (and Jonathan, too!) after our long trip. We stop over after I have my haircut and all go out to lunch and then to Target for some Legos. Nathan suggests we watch Strip this City. They have recorded an episode about Venice. It is really interesting and we learn many new facts. Nathan and Sam watch the episode while putting together their Legos. Jonathan takes a little nap.

Next family gathering – Thanksgiving!

Sam works intently on his Lego creation

Sam works intently on his Lego creation

Nathan and Zayde

Nathan and Zayde

November 16-17, 2014 – The return trip

Upon waking in Udine we find a beautiful day with the sun shining. We decide to find something to see and an interesting place to eat on our way to our hotel near the Marco Polo airport.

Our first stop is at Castello Sassoldo not too far from Aquileia. It is a fortified town from the 11th century founded by a Lombard family. It has been turned in to a B & B and event center. Although everything seems locked up tight, it is a pretty walk through a charming village.

Castello Sassoldo

Castello Sassoldo

Working water wheel at Castello Sassoldo

Working water wheel at Castello Sassoldo


After our drive and walk we stop for lunch. I have found a place near Treviso that serves regional food, Ponte Ottavi Trattoria. It looks like an unassuming family place and has its own parking lot, always a plus.
Ponte Ottavi Trattoria

Ponte Ottavi Trattoria


We walk in and ask in our best Italian for Pranzo per due? Mostly everything we say is a question because then they can answer si or no and we will understand them. Some consternation ensues. What’s this? English speaking people? What are they doing here? Who can wait on them? A charming, smiling lady comes to help us. She apologizes for her English which is tons better than our Italian. They have also helpfully set us down next to a local who speaks English that he learned listening to British TV and radio.

Since everyone is being so nice and trying so hard, we decide on their specialties for lunch. They have made an onion soup which they say is just like French onion soup. (Except it’s not) Their real specialty is grilled meats and tripe (guts). I order the meat and John eats the guts.


So I eat my very not cooked enough onions in the onion soup and John loves his snails (of course). My plate of grilled meat seems like it has been boiled first and then grilled. I give a lot of to John. He loves his tripe. Everyone is so happy that the American likes snails and guts. We are a great success.

Here’s distrubing picture that they have over the bar.

Breast spigots?!

Breast spigots?!


We say our arrividercis and make our way to the agriturismo where we are staying for the night. It is highly rated on Booking.com. Who writes these reviews? At 9.6 I expect something pretty terrific. This is not but it’s only one night.

The next morning we make our way to the airport a short distance away. We fly from Venice to Frankfurt to Toronto to San Francisco. I would write more about these flights but I don’t want to relive them.

Although the weather did not cooperate we have had a wonderful trip. It is always so much fun to visit old and new places and always such a pleasure to come home.

November 15, 2014 – Udine

The people at the Astoria Hotel have upgraded us to a suite for some unknown reason. It’s nice to have the extra room but the windows, which have to be open since it is too hot in the room otherwise (the A/C doesn’t work this time of year), is right on the market square. At least until past 2 AM there are drunken louts yelling in the street and cars with yelling occupants blowing their horns plus shortly before 6 AM the city recycling truck picks up the bin of empty bottles which sounds even louder than when our recyclables are dumped at home. Add to this the crying baby across the hall and you have a bad night’s sleep.

It’s raining today but we have places to go and things to see. We start at the Udine Duomo, the Cathedral of St. Mary. Construction of the building started in 1236 and if you look hard you can still see vestiges of the early church.

The church of St. Mary (Udine Duomo) stock photo

The church of St. Mary (Udine Duomo) stock photo


Above the door is a carving from the 1300's of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ

Above the door a is carving from the 1300’s of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ


The interior shows much of the fashionable update from the 18th century. Old frescoes have a been covered with romantic visions and even some of the things that still exist have been gussied up.
Perfectly good Madonna and Child now wear crowns and jewelry

Perfectly good Madonna and Child now wear crowns and jewelry


Next door at the Museo del Duomo there are still some of the early works including wonderful frescoes and paintings of St. Nicholas and a sarcophagus of Blessed Bertrand, a bishop who died at the age of 90 in 1350. The sarcophagus carvings do not leave out the grisly details.
The bodies of Sts. Ermagora and Fortunatus without their heads. A man holds the two heads in a drape.

The bodies of Sts. Ermagora and Fortunatus without their heads. A man holds the two heads in a drape.


There is a lady docent here who follows us around. She is very nice but she doesn’t speak any English and doesn’t really know much about any of the artworks. She does, however, keep me from taking pictures.

Next stop, the Patriarchal Palace which now functions as an art museum. We have only 45 minutes to see this as we are reminded that the blessed Italian lunch must be observed for three hours. We get the audio tour and start with woodcarvings from the Middle Ages. The lady from downstairs comes rushing up to us. “No,no, time is short! Tiepolo upstairs!” Seriously, I would much rather look at the woodcarvings but we follow her upstairs since trying to explain would be pointless. We look at the Tiepolos. Yes, very nice. Then we hurry downstairs again to see the woodcarvings.


Then there is a great altarpiece with 10 carvings. The upper tier are all lady saints. It seems like there was only one model.
Altarpiece

Altarpiece


Here are close-ups of the lady saints –

These are the Stepford wives of the New Testament.

Obviously we have seen a lot of stuff so far today. Our plan for the rest of the day is to have a late lunch, stop at the store to buy something to eat later in the room, and watch the ATP Tour World Finals.

One last picture to epitomize much of our vacation.

Old churches and rain

Old churches and rain

November 14, 2014 – Cividale del Friuli

Today is the long awaited day of no rain. We pack up and get on the road from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Udine, Italy. Along the way we plan to stop at Cividale del Friuli, a town known for its Roman and Longobardo artifacts.

First we stop for some gas. Our diesel Peugeot has been getting really great mileage. Mostly I take this picture to show that there is actually blue sky.

Blue skies as John fills up the car

Blue skies as John fills up the car


We make our way across the border into Italy. There are no stern-looking crossing guards here. Just an EU Italia sign. Cividale del Friuli is not far over the border and we plan to see three sites – Tempietto Longobardo, the National Archaeological Museum and the Museo Cristiano. First up, the Tempietto Longobardo.

This small chapel from the 6th century has a few frescoes but is mostly known for the six enigmatic female figures high above the altar surrounding a window. The figures, slightly taller than life size, all have halos. The two next to the window point to it, a reference to Christ being the light. The other four hold the crown of martyrdom and the cross in their hands.

Tempietto Longobardo

Tempietto Longobardo


Female figures in the Tempietto Longobardo

Female figures in the Tempietto Longobardo

Moving along we visit the Christian Museum and Treasury of the Duomo. Here we see the striking altar of Ratchis built in the mid 8th century by the Lombard king to commemorate his father. The bas-relief carving is amazing.

Ratchis altar

Ratchis altar


Detail of Mary (with cross on her forehead) visitng Elizabeth

Detail of Mary (with cross on her forehead) visitng Elizabeth


Lunchtime!

Thus fortified we tackle the National Archaeological Museum. This museum features mostly Roman grave goods and relics.

We’ve had a good visit to Cividale del Friuli and now make our way to Udine where we will spend the next two nights.

November 13, 2014 – Walking tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

We don’t have a big agenda today. There are no old churches with frescoes or even much in the way of Roman ruins in Ljubljana so we decide to do a walking tour of the city. It’s a very pretty city with lots of 18th and 19th century buildings.

At the tourist information office we are able to rent iPhones with a tour loaded on them. All we have to do is following the walking directions from the guides and we will see it all. As it turns out, following the directions in real time is nearly impossible as the narrators assume that you are an Olympic race walker. So we have to keep stopping to figure out where we are, but in the end, we see most of the old part of the city.

Here’s some of what we saw –


I have to give a shout out to a place we stopped for cappucini. It is the best cappucino that I have ever had. Anyone who reads this and goes to Ljubljana should definitely stop there.
Cafe 13 - best cappucino ever!

Cafe 13 – best cappucino ever!

On the rampart wall of the castle we meet a young man from Turkmenistan named Guy who is living in Ukraine and visiting Ljubljana. He has visited New York and is going back. He asks us to take his picture. He has an iPad and a fancy camera. We oblige. He takes our picture. It’s all so “it’s a small world.”

Mary and John in Ljubljana (Picture taken by Guy of Turkmenistan)

Mary and John in Ljubljana (Picture taken by Guy of Turkmenistan)


It’s past 2 PM so we find a restaurant and have our usually main meal lunch.

We walk around a little more. It’s not actively raining. We stop at a store and buy some bread and salami for tonight’s dinner and head back to the hotel as it begins to get dark.
Ironic sign seen in a store window

Ironic sign seen in a store window

November 12, 2014 – Visiting the Pilato Winery on the way to Ljubljana

The question in the morning is no longer, Is it raining? It’s, How hard is it raining today? Today the rain is coming down in sheets. It’s also thundering and streaks of pitchforked lightning are visible from our window. It’s like a bad Hollywood set. We manage the luggage down the stairs and I hide in an overhang while John runs it over to the car. It’s hard to carry an umbrella and luggage at the same time.

The weather is finally getting to me. We’ve done a good job over the last week+ keeping a happy face and dodging the raindrops. We’ve seem most of things we’ve wanted to see but we are getting tired of the rain and gloom. There’s been more rain in the last week than California has had in the last two years. But we soldier on.

On Wednesday when we arrived in Croatia, the waiter got all excited when he saw our name on the credit card. Pilat? Are you related to the Pilato Winery Pilats? There’s a whole town filled with nothing but Pilato and Pilat families. Then last night at the hotel, Pilato wine was on the menu. We had to try some.

John with namesake wine

John with namesake wine


We usually try to find something to do on our way from one place to the next. Today it will be to stop in at the Pilato Winery. After leaving the big highway we travel down winding country roads. We are really not sure where this winery is but we trust Jack, our GPS, to find it. Rounding a bend in a small town, there it is.
Pilato Winery

Pilato Winery

Cool logo

Cool logo

John and logo

John and logo


Unfortunately it looks pretty much closed up. We go to all the doors we can find and knock. We go next door. Finally a car with a delivery comes up. John runs after them. He explains he is a Pilat from the U.S. and he is trying to meet the Pilato’s of the winery. They oblige by calling the Pilatos up. A charming young lady comes out to meet us and open up the winery for some tasting.
Pilato Winery tasting room

Pilato Winery tasting room


John with wine boxes

John with wine boxes


We find out that everyone in town is basically a Pilat. Some append the final “o” and some do not. We chat and try their wine. The chardonnay and the malvasia are good. The cabernet sauvignon not so much. The winemaker and John exchange business cards. What a great experience it has been all around.

We travel on. After passing through the passport checkpoint into Slovenia we start looking for a place for lunch. Jack directs us to a restaurant off the main route, Gostilna Cah in Rizana.

Restaurant Gostilna Cah

Restaurant Gostilna Cah


The proprietor is definitely not friendly. In fact he seems a little scary. He tells us to sit anywhere and gives us a multilingual menu. None of the languages are English. There’s Italian, though, and we muddle through.

As we leave our somewhat unpleasant lunch experience, we give a glance at the macabre woodcutting on the wall – a group of animals carrying a coffin. It’s been kind of an Alfred Hitchcock lunch.
Doomsday plaque

Doomsday plaque


We drive the rest of the way to Ljubljana in the pouring rain an check into our digs, the Hotel Cubo. It’s very near the old center and everything should be walkable.

We have our usual breadstick dinner and settle down to watch the ATP World Tour Finals.

November 11, 2014 – Romans, rain, and beer in Pula

This morning we get up and look out the window. It seems to be missing something. Ah, rain. It’s not sunny but it’s not raining.

Our hotel is in the town of Uvala where it is not raining at the moment

Our hotel is in the town of Uvala where it is not raining at the moment


The man at the desk suggests that we park quite far away from the Roman arena as the downtown is too crowded. We drive down and find a parking space across from the Roman arena. I think crowded in Croatia and crowded in California mean two different things.
We find a parking space just across the street from the Roman arena

We find a parking space just across the street from the Roman arena


The arena is immense and I strike a pose quoting Marc Antony’s eulogy of Caesar. We are the only people in the arena.
Roman arena in Pula, Croatia

Roman arena in Pula, Croatia

"Amici, Romani, Cives..."

“Amici, Romani, Cives…”


There is an exhibit in the spaces under the arena where they used to keep the wild animals and gladiators. It is about trade during the Roman era in the Adriatic. They have a photograph of a map from the 4th century A.D.
Who doesn’t love a map! It shows Roman roads and cities. The top strip is includes the Istrian peninsula, then there’s the Adriatic Sea. Below that is Italy which has mountains running down the middle, then the Mediterranean Sea and at the bottom Africa. Aquileia which we visited is very prominent.
Ancient map

Ancient map

Aquileia on the map

Aquileia on the map


We continue with a walk around the harbor area. There is a touching memorial to the partisans of WWII. These anti-fascists died very young, some not even 20. A bust of Tito is among them.
Partisan memorial

Partisan memorial


We are headed toward a Roman temple when it begins to rain. We hurry back to the car getting there just ahead of a heavy downpour. We decide just to do a driveby.

It is well after lunchtime so we make our way back Uvala and look for somewhere to have a light lunch. I am still not 100% but would like a little something. It turns out that Uvala is something of an upscale ghost town. Most of the houses are just for the summer or for rent. All the restaurants are closed. In our wanderings we have come across a billboard for the Beer Club. Maybe we can find it. We do! It is really pouring now and by the time we walk from the car to the pub we are pretty soaked. John finds an old favorite from when we were in Montenegro on a cruise. “Make mine a Niksicko,” he says. Then he follows up with a Croatian brew. We share a ham and cheese panini.

John and Niksicko

John and Niksicko


A local brew

A local brew


We head back to the hotel. We are tired of being wet. We catch up on mail and blogging. I take a nap. Later we go down to hotel restaurant for dinner. We feel sorry for the family running it. It’s not summer and it’s not sunny and no one is visiting Uvala. Here’s our dinner -
We are really, really hoping for no rain tomorrow!

November 10, 2014 – Touring Porec on the way to Pula, Croatia

It’s November 11 today and I have been feeling pretty under the weather since yesterday at lunchtime. But if I don’t write down what we saw, I will forget it. I am abbreviating this by just putting the commentary on the pictures.

Although we've driven into Slovenia before it's still kind of new to us

Although we’ve driven into Slovenia before it’s still kind of new to us


The border to Slovenia and the one into Croatia aren't total open like the rest of the EU

The border to Slovenia and the one into Croatia aren’t total open like the rest of the EU


Welcome to Croatia!

Welcome to Croatia!


Before we head to Pula, we stop in Porec. Our goal here is to see a 6th century church.

After lunch in Porec we walk down a pretty street

After lunch in Porec we walk down a pretty street


The town is all built up around the church complex so it isn’t possible to get a clear shot of the building. First we go into the Baptistry.
Baptistry

Baptistry


At this point I am feeling bad and can only sit in the church while John takes pictures.
Interior of the Euphrasian Basilica founded by Bishop Euphrasius in the mid 6th century

Interior of the Euphrasian Basilica founded by Bishop Euphrasius in the mid 6th century


Over the altar is the stunning altarpiece with the first depiction ever of Mary as mother of Jesus

Over the altar is the stunning altarpiece with the first depiction ever of Mary as mother of Jesus


In the picture above St.Euphrasius is shown on the left side of Mary holding his church.
Above the mosaic of the Madonna is Christ and the 12 Apostles

Above the mosaic of the Madonna is Christ and the 12 Apostles


Other mosaics include an Annunciation

Other mosaics include an Annunciation


and Mary visiting Elizabeth

and Mary visiting Elizabeth


There's also an arch dedicated to female martyrs. This is the mosaic of St. Justina

There’s also an arch dedicated to female martyrs. This is the mosaic of St. Justina


At this point I need to get to the hotel in Pula. We manage to get ourselves back to the car and get to the hotel. In our room is a cruise ship display of towels.
Towels as swans

Towels as swans


A bad night’s sleep ensues.

November 9, 2014 – Trieste

Our days have fallen into a pattern. Breakfast, sightseeing until 1PM or 2PM, late lunch, more sightseeing, crash in room, and have breadsticks for dinner. Today is no exception.

Our hotel, Palace Suites, an adjunct of the Continentale Hotel, is centrally located and most things are easily walked to. The one exception would be the cathedral complex which is located on a high bluff. We decide to do the lower part of the city in the morning. First up, the Roman amphitheater.

Roman amphitheater in Trieste built at the end of the 1st century A.D.

Roman amphitheater in Trieste built at the end of the 1st century A.D.


Amazingly this amphitheater used to be outside the city walls on the seashore. Due to the silting up of the harbor it now sits in the middle of the city.

Next we wander down by the waterfront. The Piazza del Unita d’Italia is the largest piazza on a waterfront in the world. Important, I guess, if you are into being placed in the Guiness Book of World Records for something. (Much like Baker, CA’s largest thermometer) It’s an impressive space celebrating Trieste’s reunification with the rest of Italy after WWII.

John in front of the Piazza del Unita d' Italia

John in front of the Piazza del Unita d’ Italia


The Fountain of the Four Continents  - The fountain was built to represent Trieste as a city of prosperity, thanks to its establishment as a Free Port by Charles VI and Maria Theresa of Austria's policy for developing the city.

The Fountain of the Four Continents – The fountain was built to represent Trieste as a city of prosperity, thanks to its establishment as a Free Port by Charles VI and Maria Theresa of Austria’s policy for developing the city.


Close up of the statue depicting the Americas

Close up of the statue depicting the Americas


Looking out into Trieste harbor

Looking out into Trieste harbor

Statue, harborside, of two girls sewing an Italian flag.  Installed in 2004 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Trieste to Italy

Statue, harborside, of two girls sewing an Italian flag. Installed in 2004 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Trieste to Italy


Even with its ancient Roman ruins, the city of Trieste mostly looks like a prosperous late 19th century city.
Buildings along the main street next to the harbor

Buildings along the main street next to the harbor


We’ve been walking around looking at things for quite a while now. We stop in at the Tourist Information center and find out that the cathedral is closed for the sacred Italian lunch until 3:30PM. So we figure it’s time for a little lunch and a little siesta for ourselves.

The obligatory food pictures –

After lunch and a little rest we decide to go up to the cathedral. It is really up high and we decide to take a taxi due to my bad knee and John’s unoperated hip. We get up to the Cathedral of St. Justus and there are a lot of cars there. We go in and there are a lot of people and kids in some sort of scouting get-up. So we go to sit down to see what’s up. Then the Bishop arrives and we sit through a mass with singing and celebrated in both Slovenian and Italian.

Cathedral of St. Justus

Cathedral of St. Justus


Blurry shot of the bishop after mass

Blurry shot of the bishop after mass


The Bishop seems very sweet and at offertory time the kids bring up baskets and baskets of local produce. He examines each basket and smiles and talks to the kids.

Luckily for us, all the lights are on in the cathedral highlighting the fabulous mosaics from the 11th century. When mass is over and everyone heads for the door John and I hot foot it up to the front to take a look and snap some photos before anyone can turn out the lights and yell NO FOTO at us.

Mosaic of Christ flanked by St. Justus on the left and St. Servilo on the right

Mosaic of Christ flanked by St. Justus on the left and St. Servilo on the right


Madonna and Child with twelve apostles

Madonna and Child with twelve apostles

Behind the central apse are more modern mosaics

Behind the central apse are more modern mosaics


Now here’s a thing we didn’t quite think through. How are we going to get back down to the hotel? It’s dark out now and we are not going to be able to find a taxi. Luckily we strike out (down) in the right direction and slowly make our way down the steep streets to the lower part of the city.

November 8, 2014 – A leisurely drive to Trieste

There are two routes one can choose between when driving from Aquileia to Trieste, the fast one on Autostrada A-4 or the slower one on state road 14 which winds its way along the coastline. We decide on the slow route and pull off the road a few times to look at the views.

View along the Adriatic coast

View along the Adriatic coast


We decide to break up the short trip with a stop at Castello di Miramare. Just north of Trieste on a promontory it was built in the second half of the 19th century by the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg as a residence for himself and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium.
Castello di Miramare

Castello di Miramare


We walk around the beautiful grounds for a while and stop to have an espresso. We even sit outside as the rain has held off today. Then we head back up the coast towards Trieste.

Since it’s lunchtime we are in favor of finding a seaside restaurant where we will be assured to get great fish. We spy a restaurant and pull over. It’s a good omen, the restaurant’s name is California. Of course we take food pictures –


After a couple of false starts we reach our hotel in Trieste. Our room is actually a little apartment. I think we will be very comfortable at the Palace Suites for the next two days.
We are really looking forward to our two nights in Trieste.

November 7, 2014 – Aquileia

John is writing the first part of the blog today. Slow internet response makes the writing and uploading of pictures very time consuming. So he’s writing a bunch of stuff and then mailing it to me. All I have to do is paste it in and upload pictures. And, of course, write this lengthy explanantion.

John writes-
Ten years ago, we visited Aquilea. It was summer and really hot. Today it’s not hot but it’s threatening rain. We plan to see and do many of the same things we did ten years ago. If the rain holds off, that is.

First we go to the Patriarchal Basilica. It’s been built and rebuilt many times since its beginnings immediately after 313 AD, with significant parts remaining from each era. The main church is really all about the fourth-century mosaic floor. We walk on raised transparent walkways over portraits of men and women in Roman dress, all kinds of land sea creatures. and allegorical scenes.

Patriarchal church in Aquileia

Patriarchal church in Aquileia


Overview of interior

Overview of interior

There’s one of a rooster (symbol of Christianity, the “Light of the World”) battling a tortoise (symbol of Evil, name in Greek means “Lives in Darkness”).

Good and evil about to battle it out

Good and evil about to battle it out

Then there’s Christ as a young shepherd tending his Mystic Flock of all sorts of animals.

The good Shepherd

The good Shepherd

We also see a large fishing scene that includes episodes from the story of Jonah, symbolizing death, resurrection and ascent to heaven.

Fishing scene

Fishing scene

The altar area is blocked by scaffolding, but we can see off to the side a relief of Christ flanked by Peter and St. Thomas (presumably Becket) of Canterbury. (They all seem to have large ears.)

Manny, Moe and Jack

Manny, Moe and Jack

After the floor, we go down into the Crypt of Frescoes, which tells the story of the martyrs of Aquileia, most notably saints Fortunatus and Ermagora. These frescoes were painted in the 11th or 12th century, and include scenes of the crusades on the lower panels.

Into the crypt

Into the crypt

We’re able to go into another crypt, which includes excavations showing the floor of the original 1st-2nd century Roman house on which the church was built, the early 4th century floor one meter higher,a later 4th century floor a meter higher than that, and the foundation for the 11th century bell tower another meter or so above that.

An earlier rendition of the tortoise and the rooster in the excavation crypt

An earlier rendition of the tortoise and the rooster in the excavation crypt

We finish the complex with a visit to the baptistry which has been converted to a museum.

The peacock which symbolizes resurrection from the Baptistry

The peacock which symbolizes resurrection from the Baptistry


Mary writes –

After we finish at the cathedral we stop by the Paleo-Christian museum. We saw this the last time we were here but now we have ten years worth of knowledge about early Christian art. But it’s closed. Only open on Thursdays. Bummer.

Closed Paleo-Christian Museum

Closed Paleo-Christian Museum


Time for lunch anyway. We head over to All’Anfora, a pizzeria and restaurant that we ate in the last time we were here. Our last foray had us ordering a pepperoni pizza only to find out when it arrived at our table that pepperoni means peppers in Italian. It was a very delicious pizza with peppers but not what we were expecting at all.

I order a cheese pizza and John orders a pizza not listed on the menu. “Possible pizza con salsicci e cipollini?” he asks. “Oh, si, si.”

We are presented with two giant pizzas. Way too much. But the crust is so yeasty, so elastic, and has great char. It is hard to not to eat too much. This is like the pizza of my youth.

John and friends with a sausage and onion pizza

John and friends with a sausage and onion pizza


After lunch we spend some time in the National Archaeological Museum. Most of their exhibits come from the Roman funereal sites around Aquileia. Aquileia was the 7th largest city in the known Roman world. So there are lots of relics.
Funereal sculpted head looking a lot like a young Abe Lincoln

Funereal sculpted head looking a lot like a young Abe Lincoln


John didn't get the memo that toga was not optional

John didn’t get the memo that toga was not optional


John says the guy on the left is signalling slider while I think it's a Wall St. tip to buy two

John says the guy on the left is signalling slider while I think it’s a Wall St. tip to buy two

It is getting dark and time to go back to the hotel. There’s no chance that we are eating dinner tonight. In fact, I think we’ve only been out to dinner one or two times since we started our vacation. Lunch takes care of dinner too!