~ Venice ~

After four days in Holland, we traveled from Amsterdam (sometimes called "the Venice of the north") to Venice, Italy another beautiful canal city and spent four days there. Both cities are amazing and similar in many ways...the canals of course, but also the wealth of history, the abundance of art, and the charm of European people and places.

Scott always takes shots from the plane as we take off and land. Above is the island of Venice with the train causeway link to the mainland. It's impossible to believe if you don't see it, but there are NO cars or trucks in Venice. No motorcycles, no bikes, no wagons. We did see baby buggies and two-wheeled dollies to haul boxes. Oh, and thousands of souvenir carts on wheels with all kinds of goods to sell to tourists like postcards, snacks, and trinkets. But the vast majority of transportation is by boat.
Of course, there are the traditional gondolas which are "classic Venice" and a riding in a gondola is a must-do for tourists. But Venetian families also use their gondolas to go places or just to enjoy a Sunday drive. There are also motor boats called vaporettos. They are water buses that have regular routes and move people and goods around the city. There are so many shops and restaurants, and it was mind-boggling to me to think that every single item is delivered into the city by boat.
Yes, everything is shipped in...even the "Coke Light" which I bought every morning from this cute vendor near where our hotel boat docked. I wish I had a better shot of him. He was so pleasant and cheerful. We saw this guy early early in the morning and then late at night - like after midnight - selling his sodas and chips with a smile on his face. I think he must work 18 hours every day. On our last day, I noticed he was sitting on a stool looking at an iPad. It made me happy that his hard work had bought him something special. 
So, for my birthday, which was our first full day in Venice, we took the grand tour by gondola. This is the Rialto Bridge which spans the Grand Canal and is the oldest bridge across the canal (one of about 400 bridges in the city). The bridge is lined with shops on both sides where you can buy anything a visitor would want... including cool, delicious gelato in dozens of flavors.
Everywhere are clotheslines with laundry hanging out to dry - often very high on the buildings and literally hanging over the canals. I marveled at the sight of it and wondered if they ever lose a shirt or sheet and have to run to the water below to retrieve the lost item. 
 Happy Birthday to me! It was a very nice birthday, though weird to not be with family and hear my mom and dad tell the funny story of my birth which they do every year with great delight. Our gondolier, Alberto, took our picture. He is a fifth generation gondolier and had to train for six months before he could actually do the job. Navigating the canals with so much traffic can be tricky - so it takes a lot of training. He was very handsome, but didn't sing.
Venice is built upon 117 small islands connected by canals - about 160 of them.  Along the canals are shops and residences. Many homes have the canal as their front yard and their front porch is a small dock for their family boat.
Scott had his guide book in his hand most of the time and navigated the city like a pro. We saw almost every highlight in that book. (And laughed at the commentary by the author/expert Rick Steves.) We walked and walked, but it was never tiring because around every corner was something delightful to see. And you couldn't walk 500 steps without coming to another outdoor cafe with a waiter out front inviting you to sit and eat. 
If you know Scott, you know that getting him to sit and eat is hard, and I had to stomp my foot a few times to get my pizza or spaghetti. This canal-side cafe was my favorite for the ambience. The food was good no matter where we ate. 

Venice is a city filled with Catholic churches - amazing, old cathedrals. This is San Zaccaria, a church dedicated to Zacharias, father of John the Baptist and supposedly contains his remains. It was built between 1444 and 1515 (yeah, we're talking OLD here) and is filled with amazing statues and HUGE, colorful, beautiful paintings.
This church is the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari or Frari. We had our most amazing stroke of luck here. We had walked all day and because of there was so much to see (and my constant pleas to pause and look at purses and jewelry), we arrived at the Frari after closing time. But that evening, there was a special piano recital in the basilica, and the doors were open slightly. We think they were just practicing because there was no audience - just a huge Steinway on a carpet in the middle of the main corridor. We slipped in and not only saw the incredible art and architecture inside but heard wonderful piano music as we wandered about. I was close to tears at the beauty of it all. 
I loved walking the narrow alleyways between rows of houses and shops. Everything is old - they can't really build new things because of expense. If they do, there are strict building codes that require a certain "old" look. The window box flowers and shutters are always charming to me and require a stop for a photo.
 Scott sketched several times on our trip. One scene was this one from the Rialto bridge. He stood on the bridge for about two hours and drew in his sketch book (he has such endurance). I wandered around the area while I waited, but I was a little nervous to be alone, so I didn't go far.

In the photo above of Scott sketching as the sun goes down, you can see a bit of red on the left side of the bridge about halfway up - that's where I wrote in Scott on the photo, so you'd know where he is. Scott always has people stop and look over his shoulder as he draws or paints and compliment his work or otherwise converse. It's also funny to see people crane their necks as they walk by to see what he's doing. I'll take pictures of his sketches and post them because they are very detailed and good. 


- Amsterdam -

I'm aware of the irony that my last post was about the mundane things in life and the next few posts are about our trip to Amsterdam and Venice. I guess if I "scheduled my blog posts with an editorial calendar" that wouldn't happen. Oh, well - here's the beginning of my travel log. We have planned this trip for a few months. Initially, we were just traveling to Venice using Hilton Hotel Honor points and American Express sky miles. Then we realized that all flights to Italy went through the Delta hub in Amsterdam, so we decided to stop for a few days in Holland on the way and experience two European canal cities. 

Eating breakfast on the run is typical of this trip to Amsterdam and Venice. Scott has a packed itinerary for us and eating isn't on it, so I have to grab a bite when I can. On this pretty morning I had a chocolate croissant and orange juice as I watched the morning boat traffic on the canal in front of me.

There are over 50 miles of canals in Amsterdam - every main street is also lined with a canal. The population in the city is very dense and people are packed into small apartments and homes. The houseboats are fascinating to see and hard to imagine how those people live on the water all the time. Often having a houseboat spot is handed down from generation to generation, and the residents have special privileges hooking up to water and electricity.  

We climbed five stories of steep spiral steps and ladders to get halfway up the Westerkerk (West Church) and see the incredible city views. Westserkerk is the church that was near the home of Anne Frank - she could hear the bells ring as she and her family were in hiding. 

We paused for an hour while Scott made a sketch of a canal bridge with the church in the background. As I sat on a bench nearby, I decided to count the traffic. Bicycles are the main form of transportation in Amsterdam. It is astonishing how many bikes there are and how many different people are riding bikes. Young and old - with kids and with shopping bags - in suits and dresses and mini skirts - and, I'm not kidding, everyone is thin. Seriously, I got depressed because every person I saw (except some German tourists) was lean and blond and gorgeous. Back to the traffic...in one half hour I counted 110 bicycles cross the bridge, 12 cars, 1 truck and 9 scooters. 

Scott is amazing at finding places in a city. He knows how to use a map and he's not afraid to jump on public transportation and GO. I went online and found that there is only one LDS ward in Amsterdam.
On Sunday morning, we boarded the tram (like Trax in SLC) and headed for the suburbs. It took waaaayyyy longer than I expected to get there. Scott figured out exactly what tram to take and where to get off. It was about a two-block walk from the tram stop to the corner where the church was. I could not believe it as we went around the corner and saw the steeple of the church tucked into a little neighborhood of schools and a park. We went inside and felt that familiar comfort of being with fellow church members. After the meeting, we were greeted by several people and invited to have a cup of Pero (like Postum). We met a wonderful man who had served his mission in Cache Valley, Utah. He had a darling eight-year-old daughter by his side. He kept saying, "Small world, isn't it?" and we certainly agreed.

The canals and streets by night. The city is lit up and very beautiful at night. We stayed out walking and enjoying the street scenes every night until almost midnight. The only negative was that it was COLD and I didn't pack for the weather. I needed a down-filled parka. But that's easily forgotten and the memories are of great dinners (yes, Scott did slow down enough for some wonderful pasta, gnocchi, and fish and chips), friendly people, beautiful sights, and the joy of discovering all of it together. 


Workouts with Greg

Scott has been working out with a trainer for 17 years this month! It all started when he turned 50 and felt old and flabby. (He's actually never been flabby because of his tall, slender body type, but like anyone who neglects exercise, he was sort of out of shape.) So he decided the only way he'd really get to the gym is to have a trainer there waiting for him. And having to pay the trainer whether he went or not was a great motivator too.

So in these 17 years Scott has had 11 different trainers at the Sports Academy. They work Scott like crazy then move on in life and another trainer steps in. Scott's current trainer is Greg Panfiloff. Scott thinks Greg is awesome. So awesome that Scott convinced me to join the workouts. Greg balances my need for easy exercise with Scott's need for difficult as he works us side by side. It's amazing.

Scott says that Greg is the most creative, inventive trainer ever. He has hardly ever done the same workout twice...in five years! Greg comes up with such interesting things to do that Scott looks forward to Monday nights and Thursday mornings. I look forward to seeing what kind of weirdness Greg can come up with for us to do on the treadmills. Things like walking sideways without the power on. It's hard.

Scott loves being challenged and pushed - but not with boring weight machines or workout equipment. Greg has him do these crazy workouts that involve climbing and rope waving (?) and jumping up on big steps and, well, it goes on forever. Greg has more ideas than hours in his life to implement them. He has us stretch and stretch in addition to the weight bearing and aerobic exercise we do. He knows 50 ways to do sit ups and push ups. He's constantly pushing us to work on our core strength. He's big on balance because we're old.
This was our workout right before our trip to Europe that Greg titled, "The Don't Forget Greg on Your Trip Workout." Sure enough, sore muscles on the plane constantly reminded me of Greg.
Scott does hard stuff and I do easy stuff. That medicine ball weighs a ton and Scott had to throw it until I got to the top of the wall. Well, I never got to the top, but took forever trying. Meantime poor Scott just kept tossing that ball and Greg kept smiling his "this is so great" smile. This workout also included miles and miles of different varieties of lunges up and down the sidewalk. Greg likes to be outside because it makes us sweat even more. If you know me, you know that it takes a lot to make me sweat. My girl cousins and I agree that, "Halls don't sweat." (Hall is my mother's maiden name.) Well, after Greg's workouts I actually have a wet spot on my back. I've never experienced such grossness. I know, too much info.
 Scott can climb mountains like a twenty year old, hike like a teenager, lift heavy stuff, and walk the streets of any big city we're visiting for 14 hours without resting. He loves it because he's in shape. And it's all because of the trainers.

I saw a poster once that perfectly explained Scott's philosophy about the time and expense of having a trainer. It said,

"Those who think they have not time or money for exercise will sooner or later have to find time and money for illness." 


+ the every day-ness of life +

Blogs are interesting. My blog is about recording memories and writing a few sentences of good words sometimes. Yesterday I drove to Salt Lake to do some last minute shopping for our trip and spend a few hours with Becky and Emmett. As I drove home, I had so many thoughts that surfaced, and I kept thinking, "I should write about that for my blog." But then, "Hmmm, I think it's already on my blog." For my Aunt Norma's birthday, I wrapped up a package of my favorite cocoa from the kitchen store and included a recipe for chocolate cookies with oatmeal and mini choco chips. Have I put that recipe on my blog? It's a good one. I can't remember. (Should label my posts better.) To create new blog content that is delightful and/or well-written can be time consuming, sometimes a bit contrived, and, well, boring. But if my blog is about my life, then it has to include the over and over-ness of the days, weeks, months and years. Life is made up of routines, seasons, traditions, annual events, and the mundane-ness of the morning, the dinner hour, the Wednesday afternoon. Blogs, journals, photographs, scrapbooks...even social media help us by recording these everyday things.

This poem by Mary Oliver expresses how I feel. "The song you heard singing in the leaf when you were a child is singing still."

What Can I Say

What can I say that I have not said before? 
So I'll say it again. 
The leaf has a song in it. 
Stone is the face of patience. 
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story 
and you are somewhere in it 
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the 
chamber of commerce 
but take it also to the forest. 
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you 
were a child 
is singing still. 
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four, 
and the leaf is singing still.

~ Mary Oliver ~