2016 – The Good Times

To misquote Charles Dickens, “It was the worst of times, but with many goods times.” It has been a crazy, difficult year, but we had some wonderful travels. I share them with you on this day, December 31, 2016.

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Welcome to the new year said the Mama otter.

We enjoyed the first two months of the year in Carmel. Walked the beach, watched the birds,

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And gazed at the clouds.img_2167

We love to walk in the spring and enjoy nature.

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And our garden in the summer.IMG_2350.jpg

In June we traveled to London, York and Edinburgh with family. We have been to London many times for work and meetings. This time we were summer tourists.

We toured the Tower,

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Watched the changing of the guard.dsc03718

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We met cousins for a family tea and friends for dinner. We rode the Tube and walked and walked and walked! We also happened to be in London for the Brexit vote and sat in a Pub in York to watch England lose to Iceland in the World Cup. Hmm, we broke Britain.

We traveled to Edinburgh and what a beautiful city it is.

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The view form our bedroom

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We walked up the. hill to the Castle

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The views were beautiful.DSC03748.JPG

And joined hundreds of others.

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Toured Holyrood Palace and missed the Queen by a week or so.

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Had a fun experience in the Palace. The last part of the tour is climbing up a circular staircase to a room, where it is believed a murder took place and then exiting. As I could not climb the stairs, a guide opened a door and told me to walk down the corridor. As I did, the door at the end of the corridor opened and another guide waited for me. I felt like royalty going down the hidden corridors and rooms to the secret exit. These are the guides who led me out.IMG_2427.JPG

I love ruins and Holyrood Abbey is a beautiful ruin. This is what it looked like

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And now

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IMG_2420.JPGWe took the train from Edinburgh to York and stayed in a B and B in the Shambles, which is an ancient cobblestone road, free of traffic.

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And with shops like this

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The market still in the same place through the centuries

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A must visit is to York Minster

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And take a walk around the outside and visit the perfectly “framed” gardens.

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Our family love trains, so the train museum was a must. It was definitely a highlight of our stay.

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We bid farewell to the United Kingdom and flew home, but wait, there is more. We spent two days in Reykjavik, Iceland. It is really worth putting on your bucket list. Here are some pictures of the town and its environs. I will dedicate a whole blog post to this lovely place.

Colorful buildings

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Interesting shops

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Bike and pedestrian streets

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Culture is everywhere. Bookstores abound and a beautiful music hall for those long winter nights.

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A stunning church

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Geysers, waterfalls and horses are worth taking the drive to experience.

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There she blows

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Horses on the road

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Beautiful countryside

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If you travel for any length of time, especially with kids, you know that finding a laundromat is essential This is what we found in Reykjavik.

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We took  our pile of laundry there and after depositing it in the machines downstairs

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We ate breakfast!

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It is also a bookstore, be still my beating heart, what could be more perfect. Love that they are arranged by color.

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The only downside to the trip is that the airport is small and has difficulty handling the traffic. But it is a wonderful place to visit.

In 2017 I will do a blog post about our trip to Prague, another bucket list trip.

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Back in Carmel we are enjoying walks on the beach and around town. The tourists are here too but the next month should be quiet. We will visit with friends at the coffee shop and sit in our backyard reading and watching the birds chase the squirrels.

I wish all a year of fluffy clouds in blue skiesIMG_2908.JPG

And wonderful sunsets,

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Most of all I wish you good health, a safe planet and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Waves and beaches in Carmel-by the Sea

IMG_1715It is already April and in Minnesota it is cloudy, rainy and chilly. So if anyone else longs for the ocean you can join me in enjoying these pictures we took in February.

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I love the gray ghost in this one.

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Monochromatic

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Sunning on the white sand beach in winter.

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Views of Pebble Beach and the golf course.

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The ultimate wave

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One afternoon while walking on the path with a friend from home, I looked down onto the beach and saw this beautiful family. We thought it looked like a shoot for magazine cover. On our way back on the path we bumped into the mother and the two boys coming up the stairs. Given the plusses of social media, we immediately texted the picture to her. Never got her name, will never see her again but will enjoy this image.  Now you too are part of that connection.

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Musings while Traveling – 3/24/16

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On this windy, snowy, Minnesota day I am tidying up my loft writing room. I am quiet and sorrowful about the horrors of yesterday, in Brussels and in Turkey over the weekend. I move objects on my shelves and discover things I have not looked at for a while.

I have a large collection of notebooks I use to write on a  variety of topics. I opened the one  called Small Stones. They are things I notice when I sit quietly and just observe.

At the Airport

Voices over intercoms, i-Pads on tables, people drinking at the circular bar. I sit across from a woman who has one hand over her heart, the other holds beads, her head lowered, her eyes closed. A red hair scarf, red top, jeans and red socks. The beads are white with flecks of blue. She counts. An oasis in the middle of chaos, in prayer.

At Carmel Beach

Pelicans soaring in a broken line, skim the water. Soar, dip, flap and dive. A three-month-old dressed in a leopard skin, long sleeved top with brown pants. A big pink rose on her sleeve and another on her head band. What all the babies are wearing this season. The water sparkles in the sun. The wind is chilly but the air is clear. Another day in paradise. Today the sky is gray. The snow is white. The trees are brown. I am quiet.

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Winter in Carmel-by-the-Sea – Clouds, Birds and Nature

As we take small steps into spring we end our stay in Carmel. What we saw this winter  was the sky filled with clouds that looked like an artist’s sketch. We watched huge waves break on the shore, sucking the sandy beach back into the ocean. We noticed a myriad of birds in the trees in the back yard, in the sea and in the sky. We took so many pictures I will do two posts. In this one come journey with me and enjoy the clouds, birds and nature of winter in Carmel-by -the-Sea.

Clouds and water

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This one with a Z

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A fish?

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IMG_476303965                     A wisp in a blue sky.

DSC03680The artists sky at sunset.

There are always birds at the ocean, but this trip they seemed to perform for me. On a visit to Point Lobos state park we watched these hawks. They came so close I felt I could touch them.

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IMG_1744IMG_1741IMG_1739This one was so close I put out my hand to him. Breathtaking.

On a rainy day the sea outside the Aquarium  was awash with birds.IMG_1717 One morning we were walking along the path below the houses on Ribera Road. We watched a blue Heron stalking its prey. Apparently when the sea is too rough they come on land to catch small animals.

 

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A few days later we watched an Egret swallow a mouse whole. We could see it working its way down the long throat of the beautiful bird.

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One afternoon we dropped of laundry at the shopping center. I watched this gull pecking at the window of New York Life office.IMG_1779As I watched I saw the window open and he was fed.

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So help me when we went to pick up our laundry I saw that he had brought a friend.

IMG_1791On a walk along Carmel Point I spotted this bird sitting stock still on the cliffs below one of the houses. Couldn’t get any closer and don’t know what it is, but I added it to my collection.IMG_1772I posted my favorite bird, the Pelican in my previous post but here I go again.

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And on a different day.

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Don’t even think of going past me.

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Crows are everywhere. This is in a tree in a shopping center parking lot.

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These seabirds are on Carmel Beach. A little boy watched them flying, circling and landing and said, “Look at all the chickens”

IMG_2162The bird sanctuary is created by the Carmel River and part of Carmel River Beach. One afternoon we were walking along the beach and suddenly there was a flash mob. It starts with a few, like flash mobs do and then they were wheeling and flying all around us. All the dots are birds.

Flash mob birds

To change a quote from the movie, Love Actually – “Nature is all around us”. Of course the clouds and the birds and the beach all fit into the nature category, but I also discovered smaller examples.

This tree is on Scenic Ave.IMG_1628I have called this the Elf House. I would love to put a wooden door on it but would probably have to get a permit from the Carmel planning commission!

IMG_1763A tree heart

IMG_1844Art on the beach

IMG_1722The painted beach

IMG_1833Our back yard has about five California Live Oaks.

IMG_2186Steven Colbert has a segment on the late show where he pretends to lie under the starry sky and pose philosophical questions to his guest. When I lie on my recliner under the oaks I ponder what makes them grow such twisted winding branches.

DSC03696Spiders are the artists of the insect world.

IMG_476305952IMG_476305978Sitting on my patio I noticed something staring at me from the trunk of the oak tree. Nature took bark, spider web and a leaf and created this three and a half inch face. It has been there our entire stay.

IMG_2174And so we bid farewell to Carmel-by-the-sea.

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Sights on the Monterey Peninsula

Happy 2016. I am lucky enough to spend the end of each year in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA. Here are some of the sights I have enjoyed.

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One morning we we went for our usual walk on Scenic Drive to find it closed to traffic. A huge cement mixer stood in the middle of the road, pouring cement into the foundation of a new house.

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Because there were no cars parked on the side of the road we saw these beautiful patterns made by trees, sand and sky.IMG_1625

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On a Saturday afternoon we drove south to Big Sur to the art studio of Erin Gafill. A world renowned painter, she was having artists do demonstrations. We watched Lilli-Anne Price copy a photo of Point Lobos.

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She paints in oils using a palette knife. It is beautiful.

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We watched Erin do a twenty minute demo.

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This still life

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became this painting. All in twenty minutes. Magic.

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On Christmas morning we woke to wet empty streets And a wonderful quiet.

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That was not the case later in the morning when we went for our walk. Scenic was crowded so we headed in the opposite direction towards Pebble Beach. There was a new trail that lead to a boardwalk and steps to the beach.

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I love clouds and on that day they were magical.

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On a walk in Pacific Grove we met my favorite bird, the Pelican. It was close enough to touch.

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Looks like Pelican and gull are having a chat.

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He turned to us. What are you looking at, he seemed to ask.

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After he posed to show off all his beauty, with a flutter of wings he flew off.

Sunset on the beach.DSC03680

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With these pictures of nature’s beauty, I wish you all Peace on Earth.

 

 

 

 

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Paris Memories – December

After the attack in Paris I, like many around the world, have been thinking of that city. This post describes our trip there, fifteen years ago. Part of this post previously appeared in http://www.europeupclose.com

 

On a cool, sunny winter solstice morning, my husband and I disembarked at the Place des Abbesses and gasped with delight. One of eighty-seven Art Nouveau métro entrances in Paris, consisting of lacy iron filigreed flowers and figures, ushered us onto the streets of Montmartre.

 

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Sacre-Coeur

The village, built on the side of a hill, is the highest point in Paris. The thing to do is to take the funicular up to Sacré-Coeur basilica (http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/) at dawn and watch the sunrise over Paris. We did not make it up there that early, but it was still a stunning view with Paris at our feet.This village, was the first home to many artists from around the world and where the Impressionist movement started. It had cheap rentals, cheap food and cheap wine, and was away from the restrictions of the art establishment in town. Picasso, Van Gogh, Manet, Renoir, Utrillo and many others lived, painted, ate and slept in Montmartre, yet few tourists visit this area. Instead, they visit the Louvre and think they have seen all the art there is to see in Paris. However, these and other artists have their work scattered like colorful confetti in museums and galleries around Paris.

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The Musée de Montmartre (http://www.museedemontmartre.fr/) is located in the heart of the village in a charming 17th century country home with a designated area known as the poets’ garden. From 1850, it was a gathering place for artists. It is now a historical museum for the Montmartre area. As we wandered through the rooms, we saw a model of the village, paintings, lithographs, drawings and a fine collection of posters. We read wonderful stories of scandal and misbehavior among the tenants and their friends. For example, who was the father of artist Suzanne Valadon’s son Maurice Utrillo? Valadon lived at 12 rue Cortot (now the Museum) and her neighbors were Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas, who encouraged her to become an artist. Renoir, who had a studio in the house, was rumored to be Maurice’s father. We enjoyed the paintings of Valadon’s nudes and I loved Maurice’s impressionistic watercolors of Montmartre scenes.

After taking in the view and watching tourists, lovers and mimes,

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we wandered outside to find somewhere to eat. Just around the corner and up the hill, at number 2 rue de l’Abreuvoir (which means “water trough” in French), we saw a pink building with green shutters, and colorful window boxes. It stood on a corner of two lanes and looked like a painting. Apparently, many artists thought so, too. Picasso painted a portrait of Germaine Gargallo, the woman who lived in the house for forty years. We went into La Maison Rose as it is now called and were as charmed by the inside as the outside, with its tiled floors and yellow walls.  We enjoyed a meal of foie gras, walnut and blue cheese salad, duck confit, and of course wine, while watching the waitress put up Christmas decorations. We ended the meal with crepes. Sitting in that bistro, one notices the light that brought artists to this village. Although I cannot paint it made me itch to pick up a paintbrush.

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After lunch, we strolled past the cabaret Lapin Agile— French for “the agile rabbit” (http://www.au-lapin-agile.com/). It started out as a coach inn in the 1800’s and took its name from a pun by a sign painter – the agile rabbit jumping out of the cook’s pot. Picasso and the other  young artists like Utrillo and Modigliani, joined local residents there for folk songs, poetry readings, cheap meals and wine, and raucous conversation.

 

In 1904, Picasso began a painting for and about the Lapin Agile. In the painting, he is dressed as a Harlequin standing next to a friend, Germaine Gargallo who incidentally lived in La Maiso Rose for forty years. Picasso gave it to the manager Frede, who is also in the painting playing his guitar. It was probably in exchange for food and wine. In 1912, as Picasso was becoming famous, Frede sold this painting. In 1987, the painting fetched forty million dollars in auction. It hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A quirky little fact-the only surviving vineyard in Paris is across the road from the Lapin Agile. It is about the size of a Minneapolis backyard.

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Our visit to Montmartre, an area so rich in history and culture, gave us a much wider appreciation and interest in the artists and their art. Paris, a vast city became smaller and more intimate by allowing us to go deeper into her treasures.

On another day we visited Sainte Chapelle which was built as a private chapel for Louis IX.  It is close to Notre Dame Cathedral which I found too large and crowded. I fell in love with this smaller rectangular building. The guide book describes it as “a marvel of the Gothic style, light and  radiant with wonderful stained glass.” This is a picture of the side windows.

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Sainte-Chapelle

The Rose window is over the alter.

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The Rose window

I sat there that day looking at the windows and the paintings on the upper walls depicting the old testament stories. I felt such a sense of peace and quiet. I hope it is serving that purpose now for the people of Paris.

 

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Going through the pictures we took on that trip I found this one, which is so relevant today.

Paris, the city of light is filled with even more light in December. The boulevards, restaurants, shops and monuments sparkle, creating warmth no matter the temperature.

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On our last evening we took a riverboat cruise on the Seine. It was a wonderfully quiet, peaceful and romantic way to enjoy the river and to see landmarks on the banks.

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The trip ended, where it started at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. As we glided up to it, the sun was setting and the bottom lights went on.

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As we watched from the deck, cuddled in the warmth of our coats we watched it light up and shine in the night sky.

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A memorable trip, in a memorable city.

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Peace in Paris. Peace in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Italian Travels – Two – Lucca

The town of Lucca is thought to be the most charming of the “art cities” of Tuscany, Italy. It is small enough to stroll around and although we only spent a few hours there, we got a taste of what it had to offer. It is known for its churches, a beautiful garden (Villa Reale di Marlia, which was closed when we were there) and as the home of the composer Puccini. A fun fact is that it is also Europe’s leading producer of toilet paper and tissues.

Here are some of the sights we saw. The old Roman wall remains intact around the city. This is the entrance

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It was hot and we were hungry and thirsty so headed for a table at one of the many small cafes.

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At the table next to us was a couple with a baby in her stroller and her three-year-old sister. Perfectly good little ones. Suddenly we heard a crash. My first thought was that a chandelier had fallen, but from where? No chandeliers outside in the square. One of the little ones had managed to pull the tablecloth off the table and broke plates, glasses and bottles. A few tears of fright but no one hurt and in no time everything was picked up. We continued to enjoy our pasta con fungi and mozzarella and tomato salad. When we left the father apologized for his children, but we assured him it was fine and we were grateful no one was hurt. I could not resist making this chicken that hung next to the tables, squawk.

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We strolled around town and joined others gazing at the buildings and the blooms.

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and came upon my favorite of all shops.

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They were doing renovations on the building in the square, hence the signs. I loved the stripes on the posters, reflections from somewhere. Happily I pottered around the stalls, pulling English books from the piles. I did not buy anything but add this Square of the Book to my list of bookstores around the world.

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We were so hot that we had to follow this little girl’s example. Not to ride bikes but to do what everyone does in Italy in the summer eat Gelato.

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Lucca is full of churches and they are seen around every corner and through every alley.DSC03142DSC03140Strolling down the street, finishing our gelato we saw this sign. It looked like a typical New England general store, and it was air conditioned so we took refuge. Of course I bought a few things too.

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Too tired and hot to continue to explore we went back to the Piazza. I found that there are very few benches in Italy so I joined many other tired people on the steps of Casa di Puccini – the home of the composer. In front of me was the beautiful cathedral of Lucca.  The Duomo of San Martino,  dates back to the 6 C, and was rebuilt in Romanesque style in the 11 C, consecrated by Alexander II (1070), and again restored in the quattrocento, when the beautiful columns of the upper arches were added. We just sat there and took pictures while the crowds wandered in front of and around us.

Notice the angel in the picture below

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and here is the angel facing the other way.

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The clouds were flecks of white against the blue so I simply pointed my camera up to the sky and shot.

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We had a lovely time in Lucca. We walked out of the walled city, down this avenue of ancient trees to our bus. We will return one day.

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Pictures and text, copywrited by EveryjourneyTraveled

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