Sunday, February 22, 2015

Too Warm

Echo Bend of Eagle River
 The day we got back from Italy it was cold in Anchorage (single digits) but then it rapidly warmed up and the little snow we had has been melting away and the trails have turned into ice. Today in particular it was absurdly warm. Anchorage set a high record today at 47F. I went hiking in a long sleeve shirt with no jacket and no hat and I was hot.

At our house there is still a little snow on the ground, but out on the Eagle River Nature Center Trails there isn't a speck. Plenty of ice on the trail, but no snow.

I keep thinking that it looks and feels a lot more like a Kodiak winter than an Anchorage one, but Kodiak is even warmer this year.

Ann Marie and I at Echo Bend
*only hikeable with ice cleats!

Not a speck of snow

Echo Lake - lots of water on top of the ice

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Italy in Photos

The Amalfi Coast
This was our first big trip on which we did not take a dedicated camera; we only took our iPhones. With technology merging so much recently, it seemed silly to carry around our point-and-shoot camera when we both have fairly decent cameras on our phones, especially my iPhone 6. And, without a laptop or tablet, the only way we could upload photos to the blog or facebook was from our phones anyway. And what good is a vacation without a barrage of facebook photos??? Just kidding. Sort of.

I definitely do not like to take our DSLR camera (and all the lenses) on vacations unless photography is one of the main focuses of the trip. Besides being heavy and bulky, I don't like to have to worry about it being stolen.

I was surprised at how many tourists we did see in Italy using DSLR cameras. Most people were using their phones, but I actually saw a few with point-and-shoot cameras as well. That's what surprised me the most!

There are some things the iPhone camera is not great for, like distant scenery. On the other hand, I use the panorama feature frequently and love that it can give you a quasi-wide angle shot. The iPhone also does quite well in low-light settings (for a point-and-shoot type camera) and it takes nice silhouettes. These are my favorite [mostly] non-people photos from our trip:

I know I messed the Panorama up a bit, but I like the dramatic lighting of the Colloseum on this gloomy morning right before it hailed

Palatine Hill with a storm rolling in
A window into the past in Verona
Sunny Florence
Venitian Glass Chandelier
Matera - I know it's not in focus, but the photo still captures the feel

The Amalfi Coast

And, just for fun:

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

More High Tide Photos

Venice is a city that has adapted to life surrounded by water. With no cars within the city everything comes and goes by boat. It's been interesting to see the various types of boats transporting everything from ice cream to construction debris. Equally impressive are the skilled hand truck divers who cart material down the city walk ways. These folks have to navigate narrow and crowded walk ways and bridges that infrequently have ramps. Adding a high tide probably just makes it that job even more challenging.

High tide in Venice

San Marco Piazza

Flooded shoreline


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The Grand Canal

We are in Venice and just happened to be here during some extreme high tides - when parts of the city flood. Yesterday morning it was high when we left our hotel but we weren't going far and we managed to get there without getting our feet wet by just taking a longer route. This morning though it was even higher and we only got a few minutes down the streets before we realized we weren't going anywhere without rubber boots. There are street vendors selling rubber over-boots everywhere, but we really didn't want to buy something we'd only be using for about 20 minutes to get where we were going (by the time we'd be done the tide would be going out). We are staying in a fairly nice hotel so we thought there was a chance the hotel might provide boots. We were right - they had a big box full of cheap rubber boots in a variety of sizes. Some didn't match; Ryan ended up with one green and one black boot, but they were the same size. But they were the right price and we didn't want to wait until the tide went down because the museum we were going to is only open in the morning.

On the busier streets they put up raised walkways during the high tides, but the problem was just getting from our hotel to the walkways. It's crazy to see water on city streets, in squares and even inside businesses. But they all just seem to have adapted to dealing with it.

Other highlights in Venice include enjoying the amazing glasswork (even though the glass museum is sadly closed this week), enjoying hot mulled wine and sangria where open container laws don't exist and window shopping.

Enjoying hot Sangria

Glass chandelier at the Correr Museum

High tide

Ryan on a raised walkway at the entrance to San Marco basilica

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Sunday, February 1, 2015


Today we checked the Colloseum off our list of things you don't go to Italy and not see. I am really glad we got there early (20 min before it opened), because the line was absurd by the time we left. Coincidentally, all archaeological sites and national museums are free on the last Sunday of the month, so maybe it was particularly crazy because of that. Or maybe it's always a zoo.

The Colloseum certainly did not disappoint, but I'd say the best way to describe it was spot-on. It's one of those places that is so famous you can't not know what it's about or what it looks like before you arrive. It is certainly an impressive structure but the only real surprise for me was how deep the underground portion is.

We also toured the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, also impressive but the real highlight for me was seeing Livia's house. I'm reading a biography right now of Livia Drusilla, wife of Augustus Caesar. One of the houses at Palatine Hill was supposedly hers and is quite well-preserved (although not exactly photogenic). It's always nice to connect a specific bit of history (and a person) to some actually archaeology, especially over 2000 years!

The real highlight of our day was a visit to the baths of Caracalla. Our guidebook called these some of the most impressive ruins in Rome but other than that I did not know what to expect.

The guidebook did not lie. We were completely blown away by the scale of the baths and how much of the structure is still standing. They were built in about AD 200 and about 6000-8000 people used them per day when they were in use.

Best of all there was almost no one there. Another (free on first Sunday) off-the-beaten-path find!

Palatine Hill

Baths of Caracalla

Baths of Caracalla

Olympics sized swimming pool at the baths of Caracalla

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