Monday, March 26, 2007

Ponte Vecchio

One of the most charming bridges in all of Italy lies across the Arno river in Firenze. The Ponte Vecchio, built in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi, replaced a wooden crossing that had been washed away by a flood twelve years earlier. The overhanging shops in pale pastel colours add to the bridge’s enduring appeal.

Shop owners first set up businesses on the Ponte in the 12th century. Rumour has it that a tax exemption on the bridge played a large role in the creation of these premises. For centuries food stores monopolized the bridge until Ferdinando I de’ Medici had Giogio Vasari construct a corridor along the top of the bridge to link the Palazzo Veccio with his home. He couldn’t stand the smell of rancid meat emanating from the butcher shops below so he thus promptly expelled all such businesses along with any businesses deemed lower-class. Goldsmiths and jewelers promptly took their places and are still prominent along the bridge today.

The far bank across the bridge is bordered by the backs of picturesque houses, their foundations lightly bathed by the river. Beautiful views are seen looking both up and down the river in part of the oldest area of town.

During the German retreat at the end of World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence not destroyed. This was apparently because of an express order by Hitler. As a result, this bridge is not only the oldest segmental arch bridge in Florence, but in all of Europe.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Love rests on no foundation.
It is an endless ocean,
with no beginning or end.
a suspended ocean,
riding on a cushion of ancient secrets.
All souls have drowned in it,
and now dwell there.
One drop of that ocean is hope,
and the rest is fear.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Random Acts of Kindness

And Why I love Nelson...

While waiting in line at the grocery store today, I struck up a conversation with the person in front of me. Once she had paid, she grabbed her bags and left. The teller was in the midst of scanning my items when this person came back and handed me a bouquet of sunny daffodils just because. I am not quite sure how I touched her life, or if I even did, but her random act of kindness certainly touched mine. This has got me thinking how even a simple gesture, especially from a stranger can make one's day. Perhaps these small random acts of kindness won't have life altering effects of the same magnitude as in the movie "Pay it Forward," but this simple act certainly put a smile on my face. And isn't giving someone smiles and moments of happiness truly a precious gift?

Saturday, March 17, 2007


From when I first set eyes upon her, I felt especially drawn to this melancholic beauty. Her wistful glance of yearning for that which never quite is in some meaningful way spoke to me as I understood that she was looking for some small measure of peace that we all seek, but never quite find. She surrounds herself with political messages which have thus far fallen on deaf ears and seek yet a captive audience. She speaks volumes in her silence. When we met again this last time in December, she seemed even more pensive as she held a snow white rose close to her heart in her barren surroundings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who's Your Twin?

If you'd like a little bit of vacuous entertainment check out this link that Cheryl over at Free Range Living posted the other day. Basically you upload a photo of yourself and it runs some kind of facial recognition software to tell you which celebrities you most resemble. It's sort of fun, although I'm still questioning its accuracy. Each photo I plugged in brought up a different slew of celebrities. I think the resemblance was more in the way my head was tilted or eyebrow cocked rather than any deeper similarity, although a few celebrities popped up for more than one picture. Apparently I look somewhere in between a Caprice Bourret, Kristin Cavallari, Elle MacPherson and Luciana Salazar. Aside from not knowing who some of these "celebrities" were, the whole experience was good for a few laughs. Let me know who you look like.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Losing One's Mind

"Those whom the Gods want to destroy, they first make crazy."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Basilica de Sant Antonio

I am staying in Fratte, not far from Venice and even closer to Padua. Today I will stop in Padua. Although often overlooked by most tourists in favour of the far more famous Venice, I decide to make trek. Padua is famous as the city of San Antonio and also boasts one of the oldest universities in all of Europe. My first stop is the Basilica di Sant Antonio.

Saint Anthony is apparently one of the most famous of all Catholic Saints and is often called upon to help find lost possessions, but he is also the patron saint of the poor and of travelers. Thus it seems all the more appropriate in the midst of this voyage that I stop.

The Basilica built immediately after the death of this Franciscan monk in 1231 is large and imposing. It has a unique blend of both Romantic and Gothic elements. Inside the Basilica you can visit St Anthony's tomb. It has been said that when the vault in which his body had laid for thirty years was opened, his flesh was found reduced to dust, however, his tongue was seen to be uninjured, fresh, and of a lively red colour. St Bonaventure beholding this wonder, took the tongue affectionately in his hands and kissed it. Although no longer the red colour originally described, the tongue has been kept as a relic on display.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Excerpt from "The Divine Weeks"

(La Semaine ou Création du Monde)

The rav'ning Kite, whose traine doth well supplie
A Rudders place; the Falcon mounting high,
The Marline, Lanar, and the gentle - Tercell,
Th'Ospray, and Saker, with a nimble Sarcell
Follow the Phoenix, from the Clouds (almost)
At once discovering many an unknowne Coast:
In the swift Ranke of these fell Rovers, flies
The Indian Griffin with the glistring eyes,
Beake Eagle-like, backe sable, Sanguine brest,
White (Swan-like) wings, fierce tallents, alwaies prest
For bloody Battailes; for, with these he teares
Boares, Lyons, Horses, Tigres, Bulls, and Beares:
With these, our Grandames fruitfull panch he pulls,
Whence many an Ingot of pure Gold he culls,
To floore his proud nest, builded strong and steepe
On a high Rock better his thefts to keepe:
With these, he guards against an Armie bold,
The hollow Mines where first he findeth gold,
As wroath, that men upon his right should rove.
Or theevish hands usurp his Tresor-trove.
O! ever may'st thou fight so (valiant Foule)
For this dire bane of our seduced soule,
And (with thee) may the Dardane ants, so ward
The Gold committed to their carefull Guard,
That hence-forth hope-less, mans fraile mind may rest-her
From seeking that, which doth it's Maisters maister..."

Guillaume de Sallust du Bartas ~ 1578

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cinque Terre

Today it's not raining, but there is a light mist. It's humid, but not cold. I must be off early. I am visiting Cinque Terre, on the Riviera di Levante in Liguria. The trip will be quick as I am expected to arrive in Zurich this evening on the 9 pm train. I could easily forgo this out of the way stop, but that would be to miss what I am told is breathtaking scenery that has inspired many a poet. I must go. I make my way out of town following yet another narrow road that snakes its way up the mountain side. I hope I am going in the right direction.

I stop at the crest of the hill to ask an elderly man for directions. The exchange is short as neither of us is quite sure what the other is saying. However, after a series of jests and pointing at the map, I'm pretty sure I am on the right track. I sneak one last peek at La Spezia before continuing on.

As I get further and further off the beaten path, the fog thickens. I wonder if I'm perhaps wasting my time. But I'm hoping the fog will burn off by the time I arrive. I travel through dense forest mastering one hairpin turn after another. Tiny, sleepy villages cling to the mountain side. I can't but wonder how people first came to such remote out of the way places. It's hard enough to get here by car...

I can feel the coast approach, the smell of salt in the air. The forest abruptly breaks open and the sky opens up above me. Then suddenly I see it. Nestled on the coast, where steep cliffs and hills drop precipitously into the Mediterranean, is the first of the five villages. It is stunning and I take a few minutes to breathe it all in: the terraced hillsides, the vineyards, the rocky cliffs, and the colourful houses.

I continue to make my way down the mountain side until I reach the city gates. There is no car traffic in the villages and all vehicles must be parked at the entrance. The village is tiny but bustling with a flurry of activity as the locals make their way through the narrow streets, or greet each other from the front of their shops. There are few tourists at this time of year so I am a noticable oddity. The locals, however, are quick to say hello and show their wares.

When I reach the coast, I realize that I can look in both directions and see all five of the villages. It's supposed to be a nice walk from one to the next, but I only have time to take a brisk walk to the one neighbouring village on this trip. Unfortunately my time is short. I will have to come back on another trip to more throroughly explore the coast that links these five charming villages. But right now, I have a train to catch.

Cinque Terre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lazy Day

I really don't have much of interest to report today. I've been fighting off a nasty bug which I thought was gone, but yesterday it returned with a vengeance. So the truth of the matter is the brain is feeling rather dull. That coupled with the weather being uncooperative made it a perfect day to curl up with a good book and a pot of tea. I picked up these jasmine tea balls at the local health food store (Kootenay Coop for those familiar with the region) the other day.

I’d seen these mysterious walnut sized balls of tea in shops before and knew they were special, but it took some serious raving from a friend to convince me that they were worth buying. Basically, they are long green tea leaves, hand rolled and hand tied, dried with fresh jasmine flowers giving them a deliciously delicate scent.

But the magical pleasure comes when hot water is added to the ball. Almost like conjuring a trick, the ball unfolds into a spiky green starburst and a flower in the centre emerges and spontaneously comes to life and grows before your very eyes. Very clever and a joy for all the senses.

The chrysanthemum like flower that emerges is supposed to symbolize tranquility, beauty, longevity and health.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


"Rome is yet the capital of the world. It is a city of palaces and temples, more glorious than those which any other city contains, and of ruins more glorious than they."

Percy Bysshe Shelley to Thomas Love Peacock.
March 23, 1819