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We arose later than usual, read the paper over breakfast and then finished packing for our trip. As we entered the brand new Buffalo and Niagara International Airport Terminal, I was impressed with the gracefulness of the sweeping lines of the building.
We had a last cup of coffee with Joanne and Jack and then checked into the Continental counter with our bags. We had some time to kill,so we strolled the terminal wondering as always at the many stories evident around us. Ironically, I was reading a book on the early years of the Italian mafia, titled a€?Capoa€?.
On the way into Italy, we could look down and see the hard granite peaks of the French and Italian Alps.They were snow covered and uninviting, a reef of sky-born peaks waiting to hull out the careless and low flying aircraft.
We were gathered up by Lucio Levi, our tour guide, and escorted to the Central Holidays bus for the I hour ride up into the Lake Lugano region of Switzerland. The Alpine scenery is pleasant and interesting.Everything seemed well ordered and in its place. Lake Lugano hove into view as the sun came out and we were impressed at the well ordered splendor. The Sun was shining and we could see diverse Alpine landscapes reflected in the depths of the Lake.It was an impressive start to the tour.
Lucio brought us to the Hotel Admiral where we checked in to room #415, unpacked and took a short nap.We were tired from the flight. After our conference with Ozzie Nelson(nap),Mary and I walked along the pedestrian shopping mall, thea€?Via Nassa,a€? to watch the crowds.It was sunny, cool and in the 50a€™s. Next, we sat in an open square overlooking the lake and had a panini and cappuccino at the Ristorante Vanini. We sat frequently , at various stops along the lake side, to admire the Alpine visage.It is picture postcard pretty. The dinner and company were very nice but we were tiring.The bus took us for a brief night ride around the lake and then returned us to the hotel. The bus let us off near the venerable a€? La Scalaa€? Opera House, named after the daughter of the powerful Scala Family in nearby Verona.
From LaScala, we walked to the a€?Galleriaa€? shopping complex, the fore runner of our covered malls. The Cathedral was the first for us in a series of such masterful granite and marble epiphanies throughout Italia.
It was rainy and cool .We reboarded our bus and crawled for 45 minutes through heavy traffic to the expressway East to Verona. For the next hour we drove through the Po river valley and admired the vineyards and verdant agriculture of the region. From Verona, we drove Eastward for an hour to the Adriatic Coast and the fabled Republic of the Doges, Venice. We walked the narrow pedestrian alley ways and delighted in the architecture and charm of this magical city.
The immense square is populated by throngs of tourists and locals feeding an enormous army of the aerial rats that we call pigeons.
On the corner of the square, near the Church, sits the former seat of the Venetian Republic, The Palazza Ducale. As we walked along the polished marble looking floors, our guide explained their unique construction. Next, we walked the path of the condemned over the famous a€?Bridge of Sighsa€? and down into the dungeons of the palace. From the Palazza Ducale, we walked a few streets away and toured the showroom for the a€?Muranoa€? glass works. We strolled the streets and alleys of Venice buying some postcards and stamps for friends and window shopping. After our gondola ride we strolled the Piazza San Marco and bought some Panini vegetarian and Mineral water from a small stand (14k).We ate our lunch in the square, like the Venetians, and dodged the dive bombing aerial rats that were the delight of squealing children. Next, we entered the charming Correr Museo, a repository of Venetian art and history from 1300 onward.
After this wonderful dinner we walked back towards the hotel, stopping briefly at the Piazza San Marco. We returned to the hotel, packed our bags for tomorrowa€™s departure and read for a while before sleep took us.
At 8:30, a water taxi picked us up from the rear door of the hotel and we had a last twenty minute ride along the canals of Venice.
We entered the church and again appreciated the statuary and art work that these churches are a repository for. We stopped for a cappuccino (36k), at a nearby cafe with the Meads, and admired the church and its surroundings. We reboarded our motor chariot and drove for 90 minutes into the foothills of the Appenines towards Bologna.The Po River valley here is lush and grows abundant quantities of sugar beets, corn, wheat and rice. We walked into the venerable courtyard of the University of Bologna School of Medicine, founded in 1088. We settled in for some antipasto, pasta with mushrooms, salad, omelet & potato(for me), and peach torte all washed down with sparkling Lambrusco wine and mineral water. After lunch Mary & I briefly strolled the area looking in on the pricey shops like Gucci and Fratelli Rosetti.
We rejoined our bus and set out over the Appenines towards the Toscanna region of Italy and the cradle of the European Renaissance , Florence.
At 8:30, we called for a taxi and rode across town to the a€?Alle Muratea€? restaurant on the Via Ghibellini. After dinner Arthur and Reneea€™ gave us a ride back to the hotel negotiating the winding and narrow streets of Florence.
We met up with a€?Nedoa€? our guide and stood in line for forty minutes to get inside the Museum.
There are works by Michelangelo and others in the building, but the focus of the shrine is correctly placed upon a€?David.a€? Michelangelo had carved this 20 ft statue from a single block of marble when he was only 27.
The guide told us that David, as well as depicting the biblical slaying of goliath, was sculpted as a metaphor for the Venetian republic that had recently thrown off the shackles of the ruling Medicia€™s. As I viewed this majestic work, I admired the graceful lines of the physically powerful man depicted. Next, Nedo led us through the winding and narrow streets to the Piazza Signorini, the original site of David. From the Piazza Signorini, we walked more winding alleys to the most famous church in Florence, Santa Croce or Church of the Holy Cross. Started in 1300, this Romanesque beauty hold the tombs of Nicolo Machiavelli, Rosinni and Galileo with memorials to Dante and DaVinci (who is buried in Ravenna). We admired as before the artwork, religious icons and soaring vaulted beauty of these churches, repositories of art and culture and learning. The high water mark, from the horrendous flooding of the mid 1960a€™s , is still visible on the walls.
We waited in line for 45 minutes and then, for a 12K Lire entrance fee, we ascended the three flights of stone stairs to the famous gallery. Tiring, we stopped for cappuccino at the small cafe (12K) and watched the swirl of tourists and art lovers drifting by. As with most Galleries after a few hours, the a€?glaze a€? descends upon us and we know it is time to leave. We left the Uffizzi and walked along the Arno to another fabled site in Florence, The Ponte Veccio. We stopped at a stand on the far side of the river for pizza and watched the scene as if in a movie.
Most of the gang was mildly lit from the eveninga€™s revels and the bus ride back to the hotel was happily raucous and enjoyable. We ambled along the narrow lanes and found and stopped in another old Church, that of St.Rita.
Next, we found the a€?Nuovo Mercadoa€? a pedestrian area of exclusive shops and wandering tourists. From the new market, we walked along the Arno to the Uffizzi Gallery and mingled with the throngs that gathered there daily in the small square next to the gallery. Further along the Arno we stopped at a small cafea€™ and bought spinach and cheese panini and mineral water for 15K.We stood in the sun along the Arno and ate our lunch while watching the daily drama played out on the Ponte Veccio. The Arno valley here is lush and green.Scores of nurseries and tree farms furnish Italy and much of Europe with trees and shrubs.
Finally, we approached the Romanesque complex of the Church of Santa Maria.The Duomo, or main church, had been built in 1063 and the adjacent Bell tower in 1173. We reboarded our bus and set off through the Tuscan hills for Florence, passing by the small town of Vinci from whence Leonardo came. At 7:30, we joined the Meads and the Martenisa€™s for dinner in the hotel dining room of the Anglo American. We were heading through rural Umbria to the historic mountaintop village of Asissi, home of St Francis.
The massive bulk of a 50,000 man Roman Legion had been deployed in the wide valley just behind us. After Mass and communion, we met a€? Marcellaa€? our guide.She began a brief explanation of the significance of the church and the history of St. We wandered up the curved and winding alleys of the upper town admiring the substantial brown, fieldstone structures with red-tile roofs. After lunch, we walked around for a brief time admiring the valley scape and the well ordered Town of St.Francis of Asissi.
We boarded our bus and continued on through the hills near Perugia, stopping at the small mountain town of TORGIANO, noted for its vineyards and wine making .
Tiring with the day, we climbed aboard our motorized chariot and drove the final 100 miles along the Po river valley to the Eternal City, Roma There are flocks of sheep, vineyards and villas on every hilltop along the way to Roma.We were expectant and chatty with anticipation at arriving in so fabled a city. The sun was still with us and we were in Rome, so we set out with the Meads for a walk to Navona Square across the Tiber River. The two grand series of steps surround a wonderful floral garden .At the top of the very long steps stands the outline of the Villa Medici with its twin Byzantine towers. Interestingly, the stadium had a canvas awning that could be erected over the entire structure by a team of 400 sailors using nautical ropes and pulleys. Hydraulic engineers could also flood the first level and stage mock sea battles for the entertainment of the nobility. And now here it stood, a heap of interesting rubble stripped by scavengers for centuries of all its former beauty. From the Arch of Constantine, we walked along the narrow a€?Via Sacraa€? over the same cobblestones trod upon by the Romans. The Forum itself was entered through the smaller Arch of Titus, built to commemorate the subjugation of Judea in 70 A.D. Still, standing there beneath the quiet blue sky of a Roman afternoon, one could imagine the triumphs and intrigues of a powerful empire that must have played out here daily.
As we left the forum and walked back over the Via Sacra, we passed by the grassy and treed remains of the Palatine hill where Rome was founded, in the 8th century B.C,. The ruins of the Palace of the Flavian Emperors stands forlornly on the hill overlooking an empty oval of grass that had once been the Circus Maximus. From the Palatine and Capitol Hills, our bus took us for a brief ride across the Tiber to the living and breathing heart of Rome, Vatican City. We stopped first at a religious store for rosaries, icons and all such necessary souvenirs. Next, we marched across the street to stand in what is perhaps one of the three most noted squares in the world, that of St.Petera€™s. We made our way past the fountains and chairs, with thousands of others, to the very center of world wide Catholicism, the Church of St.Peter. Words are poor descriptors for the tiled mosaic friezes, bronze castings of various popes and shrines to many of the saints and holy family. A tour of the catacombs and the Appian Way was scheduled for the afternoon, but Mary & I decided we had toured enough for the day.
After this refreshing stop we followed the winding streets and the conveniently posted signs to another Roman tourist favorite, Berninia€™s a€?Trevi Fountain.a€? Dutifully, we threw coins over our shoulders into the fountain and hoped it meant we would return to Rome again. We stood for a while watching many others, young and old, throw coins into the fountain and take pictures of each other.Everyone seemed festive and happy to be here, perhaps reflective of the legendary sunny Roman temperament. From the Trevi Fountain, we retraced our path to the Spanish Steps and then up the Via Condotti and across the Tiber to our hotel to take a breather before dinner. We crowded all 45 of us into a small back room and were served family style by sweating waiters. As we walked the length of the ornately decorated hallways of the Vatican Museum, Nora pointed out the array of wall-sized painted arras completed by Raphael and his students. Next, we entered the quiet precincts of the Sala Immaculata Conceptione,an intimate little chapel adorned with grand murals honoring the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a primary tenet of church dogma. The third level is an evenly spaced depiction of a series of Popes, perhaps a sop to the financiers of the chapel.Lastly, in small triangles and created in a special paint by Michelangelo that is a collage of vivid oranges, blues,reds and peaches,are the prophets of the old testament like Daniel and Ezekiel. Finally, we come to the most prized of artworks, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.Starting in 1508, under the stern direction of Pope Julius II,Michelangelo painted, in four years, a series of ceiling wide panels depicting Goda€™s creation of the universe ,the original sin in the garden of eden,Noah and the flood. We left the chapel appreciative of the experience and sat for a while in an outdoor alcove, near the Vatican post office and in view of the high relief of the Vatican Dome of St.Petera€™s. The group had the option to stay and visit the many thousands of exhibits, but we werea€? museumed out.a€? We elected to take the bus back to the hotel.
From the hotel, we walked with the Meads across the Tiber and wandered the back streets, on our way to the Pantheon.
From the Pantheon we traversed the narrow streets to the Piazza Navona and again admired Berninia€™s fountain of the four rivers.
We walked along the narrow lanes to the Tiber River and past the massive fortification of Castle San Angelo with its wide moat.
Tonight was to be the last evening in Italy for about half of our tour group,so a special dinner was planned.They were being replaced by 12 new arrivals who had joined us in Rome two days previously. Upon arrival, we descended a flight of masonry stairs into the ancient cellar of a very old restaurant. Mary and I decide to take a 15 minute walk to the Piazza Cavour to clear our heads before retiring. We retired to our room, finished packing for the morning departure and slept like the dead.
As we negotiated the morning traffic out of Rome, Lucio pointed out to us the remaining lengths of the old city wall.Stretching for some eleven miles, it rises over 20 feet in height. The ride South was uneventful.We were driving through the narrow valley that stretches from Rome to Naples. The Allies drew heavy casualties here in their advance.The New Zealand Commander, attached to the British Eight Army, insisted that the Abbe be bombed.
To the East, the Appenines were snow covered.The mountains here are tall and can reach over 14,000 feet in height. At the Southern end of the valley, sitting along the beautiful bay of Naples like a large and tiered amphi-theater, sits the City of Naples. The traffic was heavy and a small demonstration of some sort was closing the downtown area.Our capable wheel man Fabrizio reversed course in the crowded street and threaded our way along the waterfront heading south along the coast. Our next destination was the small town of Torre Del Greco, where we stopped at a small company of artisans(Giovanni Apa) who carve cameo broaches from sea shells.
Our guide for the day, a€?Enzoa€?, met us outside the ristorante and shepherded us through the turnstiles and up the stairs and hill to the fabled ruins of Pompei.
Some few a€?bodiesa€? were discovered in the ash, completely encased in volcanic material, yet retaining their human shape.
Enzo took us to the towna€™s central forum where we viewed the remains of the curia, basilica,which served as a financial center at the time, and other municipal buildings.Most had been constructed of brick and faced with marble. We viewed a remarkably well preserved public bath with its steam rooms and lounging areas.It gave you a sense of the ancients as not so different from us.
We were up early, wakened by the thunder and lightning flashing across the surface of the bay. We showered,dressed and had breakfast with the Lynches in the upper dining room, a€?Re Artua€?(King Arthur). We boarded the jet foil and for twenty five minutes had a ride worthy of Disney.The boat slalomed through the four foot rollers like a hog in a wallow.
We wandered by the quaint shops to the scenic overlook park named a€?Giardino Augusta,a€? after the emperor Augustus.It had been financed and constructed by the Krupp armaments family. Mary and I wandered the alleys admiring the shops and stopped at a small cafe for panini and cappuccino. There,we wandered for a time the upscale shops on the narrow pedestrian lanes and admired the even better view, of the bay, from the top of the mountain that is the Isle of Capri. While the girls were in browsing a shop, I noticed that Bill and I were left standing on a street corner.
We walked slowly through town and up the hill to the Sorrento Palace where we sat on the terrace and admired for a time the lovely view as the sun set over the Bay of Naples. After dinner, we stopped by the lobby and listened to some music and chatted with each other for a while.
First ,we stopped in town at the a€?Lucky Cuomo Store.a€? It is a display show room for an industry that provides work for a large portion of the town,wood working and furniture construction. As we approached the small tourist town of Amalfi, the traffic thickened like molasses in January. It started to sprinkle soon after we arrived, so most of us took Lucioa€™s advice and stopped for lunch at the a€?Pizzeria Di Marie.a€? We had wonderful Minestrone soup and vegetable pizzas, with panne and mineral water, as we watched Mama Maria and her family work the old fashioned pizza ovens,smiling at the sudden onrush of business form the crazy Americans. After lunch,we walked along the narrow and crowded main street and stopped for a cappuccino at the a€?Cafe Royal.a€? (5k) Then, as the splatter of rain began, we stopped into the lovely Chiesa San Andrea perched at the head of a precipitous flight of steps.
We waited until all of the soggy stragglers had made it back aboard and then slowly inched our way out of town through the tangled snarl of traffic.Frabizio, our sunny tempered wheel man was at his best along these narrow and crowded lanes . We were served tomatoes and Mozzarella cheese on toast, vegetables(for me) bruscetta for the others, salad, pasta crepes with cheese and the house specialty for desert, the a€?Deliciouso Limonea€?, a lemon angel-food cake that is wonderful. The bus returned us to the hotel, where we sat again in the lobby listening to music and chatting with each other.We were leaving these gentle surroundings tomorrow morning and heading North to Rome. We were up early, enjoying the scent of lemons and oranges and the sounds of birds chirping happily in the hotel garden.It seemed like every available patch of green space in the area has its own lemon or sour orange grove along this narrow coast. A light rain fell as we motored Northward along the scenic coastline.Our fellow passengers on the bus were subdued and thoughtful, perhaps mindful of their imminent departure and the real life that lay waiting for us just beyond the ocean. We stopped for cappuccino and a break at a roadside rest stop.Lucio warned us about being approached by Gypsies with bogus items for sale. Another hour up the road and we approached the towering spur of Mt.Cairo that holds the hilltop Abbe of Monte Cassino.
As the wind swirled around us we passed into the first of the a€?four open courtsa€? of the monastery. The next level and open stone courtyard features another statue of St.Benedict and one of his twin sister Scholastica, a rather interesting woman who had helped found the order.
The next court, at the head of a small stairs and open to the sky, is the a€?court of the protectors.a€? Displayed in it, is a series of figures and small monuments to the lay members of the order who had become Kings and Popes.
Lucio had told us to look for one of the twenty remaining elderly monks, survivors of the WWII bombing. We left the Abbe amidst the splatter of rain.One of our group, an elderly woman, was experiencing a brief reunion with local residents that she had not seen in fifty years.
Descending the winding roads from the Abbe, we could see off in the distance the floral cross and quiet grounds of the Polish Military Cemetery A 1200 man Battalion of these gallant lads had been attached to the British Eight Army during the final siege and storming of the MonteCassino.These brave men had led the charge and been virtually annihilated to a man by the superior German forces entrenched in the rubble of the Abbe high above them.
Lucio narrated for us a tale of the many daily practices that the life of so important an Abbe had influenced among the local populace.
A Benedictine monk, by the name of a€?Fra Guidoa€?, had also given us our system of musical notes and scales. We stopped again, about an hour along the highway North, for some excellent Minestrone zuppe, panne and mineral water at a a€?RistoAgipa€? stop.The food was both good and welcome, but the waiter skinned us with a bogus tale of included charges.
As we approached the Eternal City , we could see many bright yellow mustard fields, flocks of sheep and abundant agriculture in the rolling hills outside of Rome.We threaded our way through the city traffic and arrived again at the Visconti Palace for our last night in Rome. The walk along the Tiber and past the massive old and circular fortress of Castle San Angelo was pleasant.
The area around the Vatican was a swirl of people as we again admired St.Petera€™s square. A curate was singing mass near the main altar and the multi lingual confessionals all had lines of the faithful waiting penitently, signs of an older and different church from the one that we now know in America.
We gazed, interested, upon the many marble statues and tile frescoes along the various walls of the enormous church. I was rather taken with a small and innocuous bronze plaque on a wall near a museum, at the side of the church. Glazing over form the impressive reliquary and art treasures, we left St.Petera€™s, a mental portrait fixed forever in our minds of so fascinating a place of worship, power and beauty.
We walked back along the Tiber River to our hotel and ` relaxed before dinner, our last one in Rome and Italy.
The staff of the restaurant was inordinately gracious, even when one character in our group pulled the Maitrea€™D aside and began to offer him suggestions on how to better run the place. We watched, for a last time, the walls of the ancient city pass by us and thought wistfully of the many people and places that we had seen in these last two weeks.
We had a last Cappuccino, changed over some lire at larcenous rates and sat waiting for our flight.
We boarded Alitalia flight #640 and had a pleasant, if long , nine-hour, marathon flight back to Newark International Airport.We passed through customs and rechecked our bags with Continental Airlines for the flight to Buffalo.
Newark was fast becoming a madhouse as teeming thousands were returning from everywhere on their Easter Vacations. This Might Be One Of The Coolest Pregancy Announcements I've Ever Seen And They Are From Wausau! While it is not clear where the video has come from, a British voice can be heard in the background.
What makes it worse is when I told the guy at the end of the ride he stated that he knew that had happened sometimes!!
One of the main reasons why I choose the place I work out at is because my wife and I have the option of dropping off our children at an on-site "daycare" for kids while we work out.
Over the years, I have purchased countless items from the exhibition hall, from the Shark Cut II Professional Knives - powerful enough to cut the muffler off your car and still slice effortlessly through a ripe tomato - to Perma-Seal, The Lazy Mana€™s Wax a€“ clean, shine and protect in a single application. In 1998 I picked up a product for which I had no legitimate use, at least by its name, but it has proven to be one of my best infomercial purchases evera€¦well, the concept, that isa€¦I no longer have the Pet Brush (and at the time I had no pets), but I still employ its science in my home, just with a new tool.
For decades, Pang Xiaowei has been shooting black-and-white portraits for thousands of celebrities in China. The 60-year-old photographer has captured the likenesses of all the Olympic gold medal holders in China up to 2012 and more than 1,000 celebrities, from singers to film-industry figures, including famed directors, performers and producers. He started to snap celebrities in the film industry in 2002 to honor the 100th anniversary of China's film industry.
The difficulty of photographing an actor or actress is that they don't know how to be themselves in front of a camera when they don't have to play a role, says Pang.
Pang understands it well because he had been a theater actor for 10 years before taking up photography at age 30. After the film celebrity series, Pang was touched by Beijing's excitement to hold the Olympic Games in 2008, and he began his Chinese Olympic champion series, which included 186 Chinese gold medal winners.
That seemed like an impossible task, because many champions then lived in various countries and out of the public eye.
For his latest show, which just closed on Tuesday at the National Art Museum, he aimed his lens at craftsmen, local residents and even the boys of a visiting chorus from Saxony in Germany, a cultural project initiated by A.
Fan Di'an, head of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, says Pang's photos represent a process of using film to reveal a person's inner self.
Pang is now working on a Peking Opera series, and for the first time in his life, he will create portraits of the well-known performers in color - but he will also produce a black-and-white edition of the series. He adds that Spanish tenor Placido Domingo loved the Peking Opera photos Pang gave him as a gift when the two met in Beijing last year. Her country-and-western covers album Detour, which was out on Friday, brings another unexpected twist to a career that has included music, theater, television, movies and wrestling. A musical chameleon, she's won two Grammys, an Emmy and a Tony, but despite all the success, she says she's not as savvy at the art of business. Her meandering path took her from Broadway where she wrote music for Kinky Boots, which won six Tony Awards, to Music City where the pink-haired 62-year-old singer recorded her latest album with guest vocals from Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris.
Together with producer Tony Brown, she worked with some of the city's best session musicians to craft a live sound that wasn't polished to perfection.
The songs are from a different era of country music, as far back as the '40s, when country was heavily influenced by early rock 'n' roll and blues, or as Lauper says her record label head Seymour Stein put it, "before Elvis kicked the door down". She covers songs made famous by Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, George Jones, Dolly Parton and Marty Robbins. At four hours long (not counting two intermissions), the play does not contain much dramatic conflict. The hero of the play, Professor Josef Schuster, jumped to his death shortly before the curtain rose. Heroes' Square is one of the foreign productions presented during the Tianjin theater festival.
As an alter ego of the playwright Thomas Bernhard, Josef vents his anger and frustration onto Vienna, or the world at large. When his brother, Robert Schuster, rants on about the state of affairs of the city, they obviously share political inclinations, but we are told Robert is much nicer in disposition.
It may be an irony that the more the brothers, or the playwright, take on Vienna as the hotbed of evil, the more sympathy audience members in the Tianjin Grand Theater showed for the Austrian capital. As for the possible relevance for the audience, I don't think Bernhard or director Krystian Lupa had China in mind when they first broached the topic.
The pessimistic streak that underpins his worldview also runs through his relationships with those closest to him, not unlike Hamlet's with Ophelia. The crowd noise from the titular square acts as the oppression of the populace, who are deemed stupid and blind. Heroes' Square is one of many imported theatrical productions the audacious Tianjin festival is presenting this season. Others include Richard III directed by Thomas Ostermeier and (A) pollonia by Nowy Teatr of Poland. Situated on a mountain top and approachable only after more than an hour's drive along zigzagging mountain roads from the nearest town, Muyang village is a favorite destination for visitors. A natural environment, refreshing air, picturesque mountain views and the clear water of its famous Muyang Brook draw people to experience life in this village, which lies near Sandouping town, in Yichang in Central China's Hubei province. Top: A local woman in red rides a covered boat on Longjing Brook in Sandouping town, known for the Three Gorges Dam project and the Tribe of the Three Gorges. The village is home to more than 2,000 people, who live in settlements in the mountainous area, which varies in altitude from 300 to 850 meters. The villagers traditionally depended on farming and silkworm breeding for their livelihoods, according to Liu Ping, the Party secretary of the village. Ai Shihua, 83, a villager who has spent his entire life in the village, says he has seen big changes in the lives of the villagers in the past decade thanks to tourism. Now living with his son in a home that is equipped with modern appliances like a TV and a refrigerator, Ai helps the family run a farmhouse restaurant that they started in 2009.
During the peak season, which runs from May to October, the family can earn up to 800 yuan a day just by providing food.
Ai's son is now building a better-equipped farmhouse inn so they can expand their business to cover both dining and accommodation.
Even his grandson is trying to promote the family's business using WeChat, a popular app in China. The family owns less than 0.3 hectare of land, on which they grow corn, potatoes or rapeseed. As more visitors come to their village, products such as rapeseed oil have become popular with tourists and bring them income.
Ai adds that earlier the family used to depend solely on farming and earn about 10,000 yuan per year before they turned to tourism. Meanwhile, according to Liu, many families are now operating farmhouse restaurants, inns and parking lots in the village. He adds that the village also plans to add a mulberry plantation of 67 hectares for fruit picking to its current tourist assets.
Separately, the village will introduce more farm crops that can be used to make products which can be sold to tourists.
Rural tourism has now become a critical part of the local tourist industry and will be the main focus of the town's tourism promotion in the future, says Wang Hua, the head of the town's government. In 2015, the town's scenic areas and rural tourist destinations welcomed more than 4.73 million people, bringing in 4 billion yuan of consolidated revenue for a town that has a population of 35,000.
In recent years, the local tourism industry has also put a large number of local farmers on the road to a better life, she says. In 2015, the Tribe of the Three Gorges, an area with the highest ranking under China's tourist-attraction rating system - 5A - developed from a previously poverty-stricken village, drew 2.8 million visitors, contributing about 12 million yuan of taxes to the local government. To encourage rural tourism, the local government also offers training to poor families who are willing to enter the tourism trade. The families are then provided with a "green pass", which simplifies the approval process and provides them with easier access to loans. In recent years, the government has also tried to further integrate its well-known tourist spots, such as the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River and Tribe of the Three Gorges, with its rural tourist destinations nearby by developing more tourist routes. Thanks to the Three Gorges Dam, Sandouping receives about 350,000 Chinese and overseas visitors annually. Situated along the midsection of the Yangtze River, the town boasts two areas with the highest grade under China's tourist attraction rating system.
The two areas with the 5A ratings are the Three Gorges Dam, the largest water project in the world, and the Tribe of the Three Gorges area, a picturesque landscape corridor. Thanks to its unique location, the town is an important stop along the Three Gorges section of the river.
The town's only main street extends along the Yangtze, and we stayed in a guesthouse on the street, which offered a nice view of the river.
In contrast to the turbid water in the lower reaches of the Yangtze, the section here is clear and quiet. After breakfast, we set out for the Tribe of the Three Gorges area, which turned out to be a good place to appreciate the quiet valley and local culture. Visitors typically take a ferry boat from the opposite bank of the Yangtze River to the valley entrance, which is connected to the river. Trackers toiling along the river while singing work songs were a common sight in the region in the old days. On the brook, a covered boat moves slowly amid soft ripples with a young girl in a striking red traditional costume standing on it holding an umbrella. For a moment, we feel as if we are in a painting, until we are awakened by a folk song that suddenly starts to resonate in the valley.
We follow the sound and the scenes change as we walk along: A fisherman mends his net on a boat, girls in traditional blue outfits wash clothes along the edge of the brook in front of their wooden houses on stilts, and young couples stand on the mossy stone bridge in the village. Performances though they are, they create an engaging atmosphere by naturally melting into the peaceful environment. Then we hear a noise coming from a crowd of tourists amid the sound of a gong in front of large wooden building.
The performers, most of whom are local villagers, interact with the tourists and invite one of them to act the groom. The sightseeing route leads all the way to the mountain top, where the villagers still reside. The giant dam rises 185 meters, creating a reservoir that spans more than 600 kilometers in the middle of Yangtze River. Local people tell us that the best way to enjoy a panoramic view of the dam and the reservoir is from the mountain nearby.
They say that if you are lucky to see water being released from the dam you can feel the ground shaking.
Jia Pingwa's new novel, Ji Hua, tells the story of a woman who is freed after three years after being kidnapped.
The author, who won the Mao Dun Literature Prize, China's top literary award, for his earlier novel Qin Qiang (Qinqiang Opera), has named his latest book after an imaginary flower, which has later found to be the Chinese caterpillar fungus.
Ji Hua is the tale of Hu Die, a girl from a poor rural family who accompanies her single mother to the city. Jia is among China's most influential contemporary writers, and his books have been translated into many languages, including English, French, German, Russian, Japanese and Korean. Ji Hua was written based on a real-life story that Jia had heard from a resident of Xi'an, in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, a decade ago.


Jia, who also comes from a rural family, then began to focus on population thinning in rural areas of China.
Several years ago, in many remote villages in Shaanxi, the number of residents fell so much that the villages were merged into one.
Many women who go to the cities with their husbands either divorce or abandon them, fearing the prospect of returning to the poor villages. The situation reminded Jia of the story about the abducted girl, and resulted in the new novel of around 200 pages - his shortest - using a concept he borrowed from Chinese ink painting, an art form in which he also excels.
Instead of depicting pure good and evil, his book creates an organic image of a remote village in his home province, where challenging living conditions present many complexities.
Chinese author Liang Hong, who is known for her works about the Chinese countryside, says for her, Ji Hua isn't about an abducted woman, but more about how to communicate with the land. According to Chen Xiaoming, a professor of Chinese literature at Peking University, Jia's writing is both about wronged women of rural China and the living conditions there. The author writes about the villages that have been deserted for the cities - villages with history, beauty and vitality. The novel is a mix of realism, magical realism and many other avant-garde writing techniques. Since the novel was first published, it has set a record as a contemporary literary work, with about 2 million copies sold in China, according to People's Literature Publishing House.
In 2010, the novel was adapted into a film of the same name directed by Wang Quan'an and starring Zhang Fengyi, Zhang Yuqi and Duan Yihong. Feng Jicai, another highly accomplished writer, says in a message of condolence: "Chen scaled the highest peak of Chinese contemporary literature. Chang Zhenjia, 72, an editor at People's Literature Publishing House for more than 30 years, read the first edition of White Deer Plain and published the first review of the novel.
Karl Schlecht, the 83-year-old sponsor of the China Center at Germany's Tubingen University. Wide-eyed students flocked around Karl Schlecht as he prepared to tuck into spring rolls and steamed buns after speaking at the opening of Tubingen University's China Center in Germany. The food went untouched until the 83-year-old had finished chatting and posing for pictures with his wellwishers.
Sporting a bright-red tie, white shirt and double-breasted navy-blue suit, and wearing thin-rimmed glasses, he looked and sounded more like the students' favorite grandpa than a benefactor who once ruled a construction machinery empire that helped build the world's tallest skyscrapers.
Born in a small Swabian town near Stuttgart in 1932, Schlecht learned to mix and lay mortar and concrete from his father, a master plasterer.
While studying at the Technical University of Stuttgart in the late 1950s, the young Schlecht answered his father by designing an automated mortar machine, which he assembled in his garage. Before graduating college, Schlecht started a company that would help change the face of civil engineering, riding on the crest of Europe's post-war construction boom. In 2012, Schlecht astonished the world by selling the empire he had built single-handedly to a Chinese rival, Sany Heavy Industries, for a reported 560 million euros ($643 million). Schlecht insists it was the right deal, and all the proceeds went to his charitable foundation. In addition to his charitable causes, Schlecht now serves as an adviser to Sany's chairman, once China's richest man. One of the first tips the German offered to Putzmeister's new owner came from an unexpected source: Confucius. According to the German businessman, Confucius underlines essential elements of true entrepreneurship: trust, honesty, tolerance, love and responsibility. After the takeover, Schlecht persuaded Liang to become a joint patron of the World Ethics Institute at Peking University. He now devotes most of his time to his charitable foundation, KSG, which has a long list of projects, including clean energy research and good leadership. Schlecht says the China Center at Tubingen, which is 30 minutes' drive from where he assembled his first mortar machine, was founded with an ideal: to make students aware of each other's history and of the forces that propelled China to become the world's second-largest economy within a generation. A voracious reader, he goes to bed to re-read Erich Fromm's The Art of Love or maybe a John Rockefeller biography.
The 29-year-old, who moved to the UK at age 15 to pursue his snooker dream, narrowly missed out on unseating Mark Selby from his world No 1 spot in a gripping final of the World Championship at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.
It was another landmark in a career in which Ding has served as China's standard-bearer in a sport that has undergone a rapid growth of interest and participation.
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, says snooker was already huge in China. In addition to Ding, players such as Zhou Yuelong, Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong are likely to become a lot more familiar over the next decade, as will others competing in a sport that attracts 100 million TV viewers at home. During this year's final it was announced that the World Snooker Championship will stay in Sheffield until at least 2027. Ding, whose record at the World Championship was poor before this year, says: "Five years ago I reached the semifinals, and this year I made it one step further. Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry applauded Ding, saying he is at a different level from most others. Nowhere else in the world has one single humble bean given rise to such a large range of different foods, from juices, pickles, preserves, seasonings, custard to cakes of different textures, and finally, fertilizer.
According to legend, it was indeed alchemy that led to the discovery of bean curd, more commonly known as tofu.
Throughout Chinese history, those who ruled often were afraid of death, losing all they had gathered, or of having to leave all that power and glory.
In their attempts, they drew water from the region's natural springs and cooked ground up soybeans to create a base for that elusive pill.
That was more than 2,000 years ago, and in the interim, bean curd has become one of the most important ingredients China has contributed to the world. As the Chinese ventured out, they brought the culture of bean curd with them, so much so that it took on a life of its own, adapting to the cuisines of various countries from Japan and Korea in the north to the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos to the south. Various forms of bean curd and its derivatives, too, have become the backbone of vegetarian cuisine in the global meatless movement. Soybean products are a good source of vegetable protein, and after being processed, most no longer have that embarrassing side effect that made the bean itself so unpopular - flatulence.
One of the best breakfasts you can have in China is a piping hot bowl of soft bean curd, called doufunao in the north and doufuhua in the south. The northerners prefer a savory version, dousing their soft bean curd with a brown sauce often laced with strips of mushrooms and a few dried daylily buds. No one cooks tofu better than the chefs who specialize in Huainan cuisine, right from the region where it was first invented. Here, tender blocks of tofu challenge the knife skills of chefs who float strands as thin as hair in rich chicken stock. Soft blocks of tofu are also steamed to retain their original bean flavor, and may be drizzled with soy sauce or oyster sauce and garnished with a sprinkle of chopped spring onions.
Cubes of a harder version may be deep-fried into puffs and then stuffed with a fish paste to create a dish popular with the Hakka community - niangdoufu.
Or the curds may be aged and fermented to create that notorious snack that has the uninitiated holding their noses. In the Jiangsu-Zhejiang region, stinky tofu is legendary, having made it into literary classics such as native son Lu Xun's works.
Across the Straits, Taiwan's famous night markets must have at least one or two stinky tofu stalls. Back in my Yunnan, slightly fermented tofu is sold at breakfast stalls, sprinkled with chopped peanuts, chili sauce and cilantro. Tender tofu and soft fish paste in custard translate to a dish suitable for both grandparents and grandchildren. This is a dish that contrasts the simple texture of the silken tofu with the stronger flavors of the spicy mince. Spread mince and sauce mix evenly over block of tofu and steam for 15 minutes on high heat. They are white, chubby and have sprigs on their heads - and Chinese social media can't get enough of them. Roughly half the population has conveyed some kind of emotion with a Budding Pop emoji on WeChat, the instant-messaging app, making them one of the most popular in the world. Many of them hope this fame will lead to financial rewards, too, as it means they can potentially produce books for fans to buy as well as sell the rights for their characters to companies for marketing purposes. He says the way his team works is similar to the Japanese cartoon industry: artists design an original image and others contribute ideas to update the series. Zhong Wei in the northeast city of Shenyang has been drawing cartoons since 2014 and has published two picture books.
Zhong has released three collections of the emoji via the instant-messaging app since August last year. China's emoji craze is rooted in Japan's kawaii (cute) and otaku (outsider) movements, he explains.
Shi Donglin, 23, creator of the Freezing Gal emoji, believes the ultra-short animations can also help bring light relief at tense or embarrassing moments.
Freezing Gal, which has dark skin and a ponytail, is based on her experiences in college and is popular among students. Unlike traditional cartoonists, who generally created characters before selling stories to magazines or publishing houses, Shi launched her career via social media. She says she will continue to make emojis and has now started on a series of picture books featuring Freezing Gal.
Cashing in while a character is hot is important, according to Xu Han, the artist behind Ali the red fox, another popular character.
Wang at 12 Buildings agrees that it is hard to guarantee longevity, but he believes the internet provides opportunities for budding Chinese illustrators to work with major brands that would previously have opted for foreign talent. Budding Pop is now featured in promotions by Procter & Gamble, the multinational consumer goods company, while smartphone maker Xiaomi is using Freezing Gal to reach new buyers. Xu is a good model for any modern Chinese illustrator: first came the character, then picture books and emojis, and then online shops selling merchandise. Ali originally appeared online and in magazines in 2006, but only after making his debut on instant-messaging app WeChat last year did the character gain mass appeal. The fourth installment, Carrousel Garden, published in March, sees Ali encounter characters from Western fairy tales, such as the Little Prince, Pinocchio and the Ugly Duckling.
Even if Chinese artists can gain exposure through the internet and social media, he says building a brand is not easy.
During his six years in the job, he says there has been a noticeable increase in men in kindergarten classrooms, but there are still hurdles to attracting more. Chen Yilang and a student strike a kung fu pose at the China Welfare Institute Kindergarten in Shanghai.
So are education officials, who have moved to act in recent years in the fear that Chinese schools are producing effeminate boys. Despite relaxing the college admission requirements for men seeking to study preschool education, as well as offering scholarships that come with a guarantee of full-time employment, the number of men entering the field has remained low. In Shanghai, for example, just 200 of the more than 53,000 teachers at 2,000 kindergartens were men in 2014, according to the city's education commission. Industry insiders say the biggest hurdles are the general perception that teaching preschool is for women and the relatively low salaries that are offered to educators. Chen Yilang, who works at the same kindergarten as Gao, says most people in his job earn about 55,000 yuan ($8,400; 7,500 euros) a year, which is roughly 10,000 yuan lower than the city average in 2014. Education experts believe the gender imbalance at preschools could have a serious social impact, as this stage of education can be critical to the forming of a young person's character. Feng Wei, the principal of the China Welfare Institute Kindergarten, argues that the shortage of male teachers has led to an increase in boys who are shy and timid.
The typical family environment in China has also played a role, she says, as mothers are expected to raise the children while fathers bring home the bacon. To address the problem, authorities need to focus on promoting respect, says Shi Bin, director of the Fundamental Education Development Center at Shanghai Normal University. Parents are noticing, too, and some are already taking action to "toughen up" their sons by enrolling them in team sports and activities. China Welfare Institute Kindergarten has been recruiting male teachers since the late 1990s. The distinct teaching methods employed by the male and female teachers "are a perfect complement" and help to provide children with a holistic learning experience, according to Feng. Gao, for example, says he tries to reinforce "masculine qualities" through physical activities such as making students climb orange trees to pick the fruit.
Wang Jiaming, another male teacher at the school, agrees that it is important to have a mix of male and female educators involved in a child's education. Chen adds that male teachers prefer to let children obtain physical knowledge and abilities through frequent sporting activities. Strange as it may seem, carving fruit pits - or drupes, pips, seeds, and nuts if you prefer - goes back centuries. Crafting peach and apricot pits walnut shells, and even olive seeds into Buddha figurines, jewelry and landscapes has been practiced at least since the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC).
Yun's most famous pieces express a sense of active realism, often are praised for the sense of life he gives to his subjects, which sometimes are celebrities. Located in the heart of the city and well known for its labyrinth of alleys, Tianzifang was built where abandoned factories from the 1940s and historical Shikumen residential buildings from the 1920s once stood.
Yu Hai, a professor of sociology at Fudan University who has studied Tianzifang since its inception nearly 20 years ago, says it is a shame that the true charm of the area has been lost in the modernization process. This used to be a place where people can savor the essence of old Shanghai, and one that was slated to become a community for people from the creative industries.
Zheng Rongfa, the former administrative head of the Dapuqiao area which Taikang Road is under, recalls how Tianzifang used to be a vibrant place filled with the sounds and smells coming from the homes of Shanghainese families.
In 1998, Zheng kicked off the project to turn the area into a hub for the cultural industry.
In 1999, Chen Yifei, a world-renowned Chinese painter, and several other artists set up studios in the old factories on Lane 210 along Taikang Road, creating a cluster of more than 200 culture and art venues. One year later, the sub-district government leased the remaining spaces to a sole proprietor named Wu Meisheng. Fortunately, thanks to the intervention of Zheng and a group of his supporters, Tianzifang emerged unscathed.
According to statistics provided by Yu, 100 million square meters of old buildings in Shanghai were torn down between the early 1990s and 2008 to make way for modern ones.
However, the Shanghai government has also been striving to preserve traditional architecture, turning many old estates into zones for creative industries. According to statistics from the municipal government, there were 87 zones hosting creative industries and 52 parks for cultural industries at the end of 2013. Following this incident, Zheng realized that the residents from neighboring lanes needed to band together to help expand the size of Tianzifang in order to boost the significance of the area.
However, he says that he had done so only because the 3,500 yuan ($540) he charged for rent would go a long way in helping with his living expenses - he was only getting 300 yuan every month from his retirement pension.
In the past decade, more than 500 households have followed in Zhou's footsteps to convert their houses to non-residential units. While the interiors of many of the buildings have since been renovated and given a new coat of paint, the old brick facades from which Tianzifang gets its charm, are still very much intact.
Laundry would hang from balconies as new-age music spilled through windows of boutique shops on the ground floor. In 2008, the government took over Tianzifang and shifted the focus from developing the place into an art and culture hub to commercialization, security and property management. As one of the first shop owners to arrive on Lane 274 in 2007, Yan Hongliang, who sells ceramic art designed and produced in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, has witnessed the tremendous changes that have taken place since.
Having already struggled to break even in the first few years of his business, the exorbitant rent now has made doing business in Tianzifang unrealistic. Unsurprisingly, Yu's survey reveals that many shop owners have cited the rising rent - it has increased at least ten-fold in 20 years - as the primary reason for relocating.
Fabienne Wallenwein, a German PhD student who is enrolled in a one-year exchange program at Fudan University, shares the same sentiment.
In the meantime, Zheng Rongfa, the former administrative head, says he can only hope that the government thinks the same way about the future direction of Tianzifang's development. They range from cotton drawers worn by the mother of Queen Victoria (the V&A museum is named for the 19th-century monarch and her husband), to a Swarovski crystal-studded bra and thong. But there are men's unmentionables, too, including 18th-century shirts, which were considered underwear because they were worn next to the skin - only the collars and cuffs could decently be shown.
Curators of the show have emphasized the contribution of female designers and innovators such as Roxey Ann Caplin, whose "health corset" - designed to shape the body without crushing the internal organs - won a medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Waist-constricting corsets run through the exhibition, in versions that range from functional to fetishistic. Edwina Ehrman, the exhibition's curator, says Lycra was "a fabulous breakthrough" - and a reminder that the evolution of underwear is a story of technology as well as creativity. The exhibition reveals that the line between underwear and outerwear has long been blurred. Recent years have seen the line blur even further, as tracksuits, onesies and other loungewear moved from the living room onto the streets.
But French lingerie designer Fifi Chachnil - whose signature Babyloo playsuit is on display in the exhibition - thinks we will always want to show off our skivvies. A full scale replica of Dumont's legendary airplane called "14 Bis" sits outside the museum, which is the centerpiece of a revamping of the Rio port area ahead of the Olympic Games starting in 100 days. The Flying Poet is a big exhibit, the first of its kind dedicated to a man who while weighing a mere 50 kilograms was a giant of aviation. Although perhaps less well known than the Wright brothers in the United States, Dumont is celebrated in Brazil as no less than the true first pilot.
Although this was three years after the Wright brothers' historic flight in North Carolina, his fans argue that only his exploit met the definition of a certified, independently powered flight.
It's a polemic rich with nationalism, but what's sure is that Dumont, who has Rio's domestic airport named after him, remains a fascinating figure.
The Franco-Brazilian Dumont, who lived from 1873 to 1932, had a reputation for eccentricity and imagination. Before his feat in the "14 Bis" he was already famed for flights in balloons and dirigibles, including one he used to moor outside his house in Paris and used to fly to join friends across town. He can also claim to having been one of the first to wear a wrist watch, having asked his friend - none other than the even more famous Louis Cartier - to make him something more practical for telling the time in the air than the traditional pocket watch.
The pop-up drone cafe will be serving up all weekend as part of celebrations for the "Dream and Dare" festival marking the 60th anniversary of the Eindhoven University of Technology. The 20 students behind the project, who spent nine months developing and building the autonomous drone, aim to show how such small inside craft could become an essential part of modern daily life. The drone, nicknamed Blue Jay, which resembles a small white flying saucer with a luminescent strip for eyes, flies to a table and hovers as it takes a client's order, who points to the list to signal what they would like.
The drinks are picked up and carried by a set of pinchers underneath the drone, in a bid to show that these aerial machines could be used to carry out delicate missions such as delivering medicines or even helping to track down burglars. Each drone has cost about 2,000 euros ($2,293) to build, in a project funded by the university which the students say aims "to give a glimpse of the future". Thanks to sensors and a long battery life they can fly inside buildings and navigate crowded interiors, unlike other drones, which rely on a GPS system. They believe the drone's applications could be endless: as extinguishers to put out fires, alarm systems to warn of intruders or mini-servants which would respond to commands such as "fetch me an apple". Marya€™s sister Joanne and husband Jack were going to take us to the airport at Noon.We had a definite sense of anticipation for our long awaited Italian adventure.
We read our books and passed the time as well as we could for the 7 hours that it took us to reach Milana€™s Malpensa Airport.
Next, we set out in search of the Central Holidays Tour guide who was scheduled to meet us. Off in the distance you could see the snow covered Alps.Garlands of dirty gray clouds, pregnant with rain, ringed the mountain peaks like ringers tossed in a carnival game.
From the towering mountains nature had gouged out , like the four fingers of a hand, a deep and scenic glacial lake. We stopped by the famous Swiss Jeweler Bucherer and admired their pricey wares.The jeweler gave us a silver spoon as a memento.
We noticed a sign for the pool(Piscina) and headed down to the basement for a relaxing swim.The water was heated and we luxuriated in its warmth. Night had fallen and the lake shore was atwinkle with illumination beneath the ponderous shadows of the towering mountains around us.
Inside, Emmanuella our guide gave us a narrated tour of the opera house and accompanying museum. The shops lined a cross shaped and tiled arcade that was covered high above by a peaked glass roof.The four corners of the cross were open to the air and a fountain gurgled at the join of the cross arms. The roof line is a series of spires each topped by a small statue, perhaps a wealthy patron or friend of the Viscontia€™s. Along the way, we stopped at an a€?Autogrilla€? for Zuppe, panne and mineral water (26K-L).
He had apparently formed a rather strong dislike for the famous Operatic Tenor Pavarotti and referred to him often as a€?The barking dog.a€? The Streets of Verona are narrow and picturesque.
You must first cross a paved causeway, stretching from the mainland for a mile, to reach this island city. Mahogany bannisters and woodwork, Venetian glass fixtures and fabric print wall paper give the hotel an ambiance of quiet elegance. Like most tours and cruises, meals are the less harried periods of the day and the time to share impressions and experiences of the day before. Arched pedestrian bridges crossed the many small canals as we made our way to the center of Venice,The Piazza San Marco. This building and all of Venice is built upon pilings sunk into the bottom of the lagoon.Minor tremors and other earth movements often shift the surface below.
After a brief demonstration in glass blowing, an army of sales people descended upon us to show us the many colored and world famous Venetian glassware. At 12 Noon, we met up with our group for a Gondola ride down the many small canals of Venice.
Later that afternoon we set out along the narrow alleyways to find the Academia Art Museum. We had eggplant with grilled tomato and vegetables, pasta with clams, sole, insalata, and tiramisu all washed down with Soave Bolla and Mineral Water.
Then, we had a quick breakfast with the Meads and browsed the streets near the hotel one last time. The taxi dropped us off at the head of the causeway where we boarded our Central Holidays bus and set off for the one hour drive to Padua. The School was hundreds of years ahead of the rest of Europe in dissecting cadavers for research purposes. Groves of olive trees are clustered everywhere along the hillsides.No arable land appears to be wasted. The brick buildings here are more of an a€?ochera€? color.Each city appears to have a distinct and uniform a€?colora€? to the brick buildings in its area We skirted the city center and drove past many splendid Tuscan villas to reach a€?Michelangelo Squarea€?. Allora, we did our a€?Chevy Chasea€? look and remounted the bus for the ride into Florence. The streets were impossibly narrow and lined with cars and the ever present and annoying motor bikes. There stood another wonderfully sculpted water fountain, a casting of David and a few other Greco Roman figures and a covered portico of sorts with a large array of statuary including the famous a€?Rape of the Sabine Women.a€?.
We learned later that hundreds of international volunteers, affectionately dubbed a€?mud peoplea€? by the locals, had come to Italy after the flood to help restore the frescos and objects da€™art.
The windows are open to the light and you can look out, from one end of the upper gallery, to the Arno River below.
The Europeans seem to consciously expose their children to art and literature and culture on a much greater scale than we do.
We ordered(16K) and chatted with the bar tender in our best Italian and enjoyed the ambiance of the place. The Villa is a pale- yellow, two -story Italianate mansion sitting amidst sculpted floral gardens and overlooking the Tuscan countryside. The waiters served us courses of Insalata, Risotto, pasta con mushrooms, Potatoes with cheese and peas and a lemon torte for desert.
It always seemed like a carnival and it was enjoyable just to stop and watch the swirl of people and events.
After a quick shower, we met the Meads and the Lyncha€™s in the hotel dining room for breakfast, before our 8 A.M. As we passed the beautiful shore of Lake Trebbiano, Lucio explained the significance of this sight in Roman History. Hannibal and his Carthaginian invaders sat undiscovered at the head of the narrow defile along the lake that we now traversed. Two mighty armies and peoples had pounded upon the granite slate of history with waxen mallets,their impressions all too soon faded and worn by the fibrous and scouring sands of time.
We and hundreds of others listened to the Mass in Italian and sat respectfully in this historic old church.
We saw Berninia€™s famous a€?four riversa€? fountain and the many swirls of tourists that gather here nightly. We sought Cena(dinner) at a place nearby that Lucio had recommended .It was one of the few restaurants open on Easter Night. As we wandered around and tried to imagine the cheering throngs that once sat here, I could hear in my minda€™s ear the savage cries and the roar of the crowd. It was here that the victorious Roman Generals marched in triumph to the Forum, to receives accolades from the Roman Senate. The store offered various packages of reliquary that could be sent over to the Vatican to be blessed and delivered later to your hotel room. Hundreds of times I have seen this square on television, as a Papal address was given or more dramatically, when a new pope is elected. Mass was being said at the main altar and priests from many nations were giving confession in a dozen languages.
You could feel the hurt in her eyes and sense the forlorn helplessness of a mother whose child had been taken from her. We walked from the hotel, across the Tiber, up the Via Corso and across the Via Condotti to the Spanish Steps. Most seemed to be Italian families out for the day on a€? Pasquitaa€? or a€?little Eastera€? holiday. Built by Pope Sixtus IV as a private Chapel, the church was divided into an inner and outer chapel, separated by a 12 foot, ornate, wrought-iron screen. The first fifteen feet are painted as purple velvet curtains.The texture of the work leads you, from a distance, to watch the curtains lest they move. Marie saw a nice leather coat in a small store and bought it The shop owner formerly had a girl friend that lived in Buffalo.He had even visited once,small world. Pagan, Christian or other, it is a place designed for quiet contemplation and harmony with the elements of nature.
It had been at various times the tomb of an emperor, a fortification,a prison and is now a museum.
As we sat in anticipation, the strolling minstrels played the Mandolin,.picollo, and folk guitar in nostalgic Italian folk songs. It was pleasant to walk amidst the Roman night and remember all that we had seen and done in one of the most ancient of European capitols. It is the avenue North from Naples and the major reason the Allies had landed at Sorrento in WW II.
It is named for the Spanish Ambassador at a time when the Kingdom of Naples was a part of Spain.
We watched the trained artisans etch and carve the medallions, rings and various pieces of jewelry from the shells. The weight of the ash had collapsed all of the ceilings and the effect looked like a scene from a WWII movie after an aerial bombardment. They and the mural in the vestibule, with the outsized priasmic phallus, drew the most snickers from the tourists. Soon we came to the small coastal town of Sorrento, where we were to stay for the next three nights. The bus carried us back to the hotel where we read ,caught up with journal entries and surrendered to a conversation with ozzie nelson. The lemon and orange trees were swaying gently and the birds were singing happily in the rain.
The topic of conversation was whether or not the jet foil trip to Capri was still a go for today. We rolled side to side and jumped the occasional roller.If you werena€™t holding on tight, you would go rolling down the aisle of the sleek jet-boat like a tumbleweed in the wind. Roberta shepherded us to the funicular that would take us up the hillside to the lower village of Capri. We gazed out across the deep blue Mediterranean, admiring the two massive rock formations in the harbor. The sun was shining and we had a gorgeous view of the bay and mountains along the shoreline. We stopped for ice cream at a small stand and watched the shoppers come and go.It was one of those sunny Mediterranean afternoons that give the area its magic and allure. After a shower and breakfast in a€?Re Artu.a€? we boarded our bus for the daya€™s excursion, the main feature of which was to be a drive along the scenic Amalfi Coast. The sales rep gave us a demo of the various types of woods used and the process involved in making the elaborately in-laid and finely crafted furniture. Mussolini had first built the original stretch in the 1930a€™s.It had since been widened but is still a narrow two lanes, traversed by a monstrous crush of tour buses and traffic.
We were lucky too have so able a pilot steering us safely over roads as potenially treacherous as these.
Tour buses were only allowed in the Southbound direction along the Amalfi drive, because of the hairpin turns and narrow passageways.
We followed a series of five miles of winding and heart stopping switch backs, rising some 1200 feet from the valley floor,.to this magnificently reconstructed white limestone edifice.
Here, a central green space is dominated by statuary depicting the dying St.Benedict, upheld by two monks supporting the sainta€™s lifeless form.
It was she who had started the custom, followed to date, of including a library and chapel in every Benedictine monastery. Each in his own way had looked after the interests of the order, perhaps in a time of great need for the brothers. It is covered with lustrous marble and trimmed in gold.The bronze candelabra sparkled in the dim light and I could feel one of those time-warping mind blinks forming.
They were the last twenty or so remaining monks in the complex, an unbroken monastic chain stretching from antiquity. Like most Monestaries during the dark ages , the Abbes were centers of learning and repositories for artwork .Perhaps it explains why they were so often sacked by the marauding barbarians.
It was sunny, cool and in the 50a€™s out.The Via Condotti and environs were as crowded as usual, with their weekend visitors. We ran into Bill and Marie Mead along the way and decided o take a last look at St .Petera€™s and the Vatican. It seemed like we had the known the Meads for a very long time and were casually comfortable in their presence. We stopped for a time and said a prayer at one of the small altars, thinking ourselves privileged to do so. Inscribed upon it is the lineal array of the Popes form Peter, in the upper left hand corner, to Jean Paulus I in the lower right hand corner.It is an unbroken chain of some of the most important and powerful men in History. The room was circular with a high and vaulted ceiling Fluted doric columns supported the walls and the large floor to ceiling windows gave the aura of a private garden in a Roman Villa. At times like these, you can only pretend not to know the person involved and run for the door.
Unlike many other peoples in the world, the Italians rarely boast of their nationa€™s many accomplishments in Literature, the arts, sciences and a dozen other fields of study. Most of the stuff has been fantastica€¦or at least good enough for me not to declare it a bust.
It was dynamite to watch this dude go along all the surfaces in my home, from hard wood to tile to carpet and grab a hold of all that dog hair, human hair, gerbil haira€¦he could even pick up the hairs from a hairless cat. In addition to celebrities, he also focuses on ordinary people, as seen in the works in his latest show (below) in Beijing.
It took him nearly four years to frame more than 1,000 famed faces, including actresses like Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, and directors Zhang Yimou and Jiang Wen. For instance, he took the photo of Zhang Ziyi when she rested while performing the leading role for the film Purple Butterfly in 2003. After visiting a solo show of the late American photographer Ansel Adams, famed for his charming black-and-white photography, Pang felt the power and beauty of the simple colors.


The first act, which lasts 90 minutes, has the memorable action of ironing and folding a shirt, as some in the audience joked.
He made his only appearance when he was lit from behind a screen at the end of Act I, doing nothing but folding a shirt. He is the subject of this measured and calculated character study - of a character who is mostly absent from the stage yet increasingly comes into relief as each onstage character reminisces about him. The freedom to express such views, no matter how biased, does not equal artistic ingenuity.
The only sliver of compassion he displayed was for his housekeeper, who seemed to sing his eulogy with clenched teeth. The way he listed the evils of the world before his suicide is a reminder of "the whips and scorns of time, the oppressors' wrong, the proud man's contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law's delay, the insolence of office", etc, when the prince of Denmark contemplated "making his quietus with a bare bodkin".
Within the cloistered space of the stage, the balance is often tipped by actors' movements that are concentrated in one corner. When the historical recording of Hitler's speech and mass cheering shattered the Schusters' window glasses, the message came loud and clear.
But in recent years, the village's well-preserved environment has become its greatest selling point. Now the area has more than 10,000 people who work directly or indirectly in the tourism industry.
On our second morning there, a light haze hung over the river, obscuring the view of buildings on the other bank. Before entering the valley, we were able to enjoy a show that recreated a scene of boat trackers on the bank pulling a traditional sailboat with ropes. It extends along the Longjing Brook, whose mirror of light-indigo-blue water is half hidden under thick clumps of bamboo. As we walk closer, we see it is the enactment of a traditional wedding ceremony by the local Tu ethnic group. There, tourists can enjoy a view of the peaks, the rocks and also a spectacular 1,500-meter-long karst cave. It's a great experience to see it," Australian Stave Sloan says after viewing it as part of a 15-day cruise tour along the river. But her urban dreams are soon shattered as she is abducted by a group of people, taken to a village and sold to a family. She returns to the same village to reunite with her baby boy, whose biological father is her former captor. Through the abducted woman's perspective, readers not only see the problems of the rural areas, but also the different aspects of village life. So all the characters in the novel are part of the village, and each person has his or her position on issues," says Liang. They try to find ways to communicate with the outside world such as by doing business, and even with Hu Die to reach a reconciliation," she says.
He started writing prose in 1965, and in 1992, he completed White Deer Plain, a novel based on the county annals of his hometown, Bailuyuan in Shaanxi. Half a century later, Putzmeister has become not only a global leader in concrete pump makers, but also the embodiment of the mittelstadt - Germany's small or medium-sized family-owned businesses with time-honored traditions, values and management practices (think Bosch and Trumpf). The German businessman was lambasted for "selling the German soul to the Chinese", while Sany was mocked as "a snake that swallowed an elephant". It would have been unreasonable for Putzmeister, which had been China's market leader since 1979, to compete with a new dominant force in the world's biggest market, he says.
They saw eye to eye on a key issue - trust - and he empathizes with the humble roots of Liang Wengen, the founder of Sany, a backyard soldering stick maker turned billionaire entrepreneur. When you are successful at home, you want to go abroad to grow your businesses," Schlecht says, punching the air with his fist. Years before the Sany deal, Schlecht, a self-taught philosopher, became fascinated with Confucianism, especially the notion of "Confucian entrepreneurship", which calls for applying ancient Chinese wisdom to business practice. These are values he describes as the nuts and bolts of a global ethic for success, which he has championed. If old friends visit, he puts down his gardening tools to collect them at the airport in his black Mercedes. He has inspired a new wave of young players who aim to match his career haul of 11 ranking titles. From Emperor Qinshihuang of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) onward, they have tried to uncover the recipe for immortality.
In that beautiful land full of springs, streams and picturesque mountains, Liu An gathered the best Taoist masters - eight of them - and started his search. They didn't succeed, but what was left in the tripod was a pure, white jelly-like substance.
Doufunao literally means tofu brains while doufuhua is definitely more lyrical, translating as tofu flowers.
In the south, the tender jelly is sweetened with syrups made from plain or brown sugar and flavored with ginger juice. Or they deep-fry bean curd so that its texture changes and then braise the entire block in a gravy made with soy sauce and sweet spices. It's deep-fried, served with pickled cabbage and sweet chili sauce, boldly advertising its presence through its lovely pungency. She is now a second-year art student in Shanxi province and works part time for 12 Buildings, a studio in Beijing. Among the 32-year-old's creations is a white cat, which he has since turned into a popular emoji. To express various levels of anguish, for example, WeChat users can share an animation of the white cat crying while laughing, sobbing in a pool of tears, or wailing while clapping its hands. In just a short while, she was producing work for instant-messaging tools like QQ and WeChat.
The fox, which Xu created in high school, was among the first emojis made available on the QQ messenger in 2012.
During the Chinese New Year holiday in February, he topped the emoji charts as users rushed to send friends and relatives seasonal greetings. However, he says China's animation industry lags behind those in the West and Japan, which have worldwide appeal. They hope a more masculine presence can have an effect, but it appears there is still some way to go. Plus, because of the one-child policy, many children have grown up without siblings and tend to lead sheltered lives.
A post-80s generation artist, Yun graduated from the art department of Shenyang University, majoring in murals and frescoes, woodcarving and clay sculpture. Yun can lay claim to creating the split-carving technique, which allows him to compose a piece at scale while keeping the realistic details intact.
He feels proud of what he has done but says it is far from enough, with hopes that such a precious cultural relic will be recognized and loved by more and more people. Now home to the iconic Tianzifang, the area is filled with numerous retail outlets, small snack shops, bars and cafes, most of which are occupied by tourists from other Chinese cities and abroad.
Today, it is just another tourist attraction, albeit a very famous one, that only has a faint glimpse of its artistic core.
Those who are in the area now are also planning to move out," says Yu, who recently led a team of students from Fudan University and Tongji University to conduct an in-depth survey on the current situation of Tianzifang, which is quickly losing its artistic soul to commercialization. Many men would smoke cigarettes and play poker on tables in the courtyard in the afternoon," says Zheng, who is widely regarded as "the father of Tianzifang".
He leased out the 10,000-square-meter space occupied by the idle factories on a 20-year contract and moved the street market indoors. This was also the time when Huang Yongyu, another well-known painter, named the area "Tianzifang" as a tribute to an ancient Chinese painter of the same name. Galleries, cafes and boutiques have since opened like clockwork alongside old Shanghai homes, imbuing the area with a unique charm not seen before in the city.
Calls were made for the place to be torn down to make way for high-rise shopping malls that were part of a real estate project by Taiwan's ASE Group. Formerly a slaughterhouse, the place is now home to several creative agencies and design studios. But as time passed, I began to realize the importance of protecting the origins of the place," says Zhou. Middle-aged housewives carrying bags of vegetables would squeeze past expats sipping cappuccino at outdoor cafes. Between 2004 and 2008, as many as 6,000 people would walk along Taikang Road's crowded lanes on weekends. He is now paying 40,000 yuan and said that the rent will exceed 60,000 yuan after his current contract expires in two years. The place is now filled with more tourism-related items instead of original art works," says Yan, adding that he plans to move out of Tianzifang after fulfilling his rental contract despite his attachment to the area.
It's no surprise that many talented artists are leaving the area," says Zhou Xinliang, the resident of Tianzifang.
Over the past five years, retail outlets have steadily replaced the art studios and galleries, which now account for just 2 percent of the shops in Tianzifang.
Though he said he does not think that this will lead to the demise of the place, he is concerned that it will eventually result in a change of appearance and the loss of its iconic architecture. This is getting lost in the process of commercialization," she says, adding that she is very impressed with how the buildings in Tianzifang are preserved. London's Victoria and Albert Museum has peeled back fashion's layers to expose everything from long johns to lingerie in Undressed, an exhibition tracing the hidden history of underwear. For centuries, people have worn undergarments for practical reasons of protection, hygiene and comfort - but there has always been an element of sexuality and drama as well. The show, which features more than 200 items made between 1750 and the present day, is dominated by women's undergarments: corsets and crinolines, stockings and shifts, chemises and stays. More recent items include David Beckham boxer shorts and crotch-enhancing Aussiebum briefs. There are 19th-century models with whalebone stays, a modern-day red and black rubber corset by House of Harlot, and one worn by burlesque artist Dita Von Teese with a wince-inducing 18-inch waist.
The exhibition traces the history of brassieres, from their development as "bust supporters" in the 1860s through their wide adoption in the early 20th century to the introduction of Lycra in the late 1950s.
Ehrman says people have been revealing their undergarments since at least the 16th century. In this exhibit, 110 years after the flight of '14 Bis', we want to show the young that using the imagination is a way of promoting discoveries," Gringo Caria, the curator of the exhibit, says. The world's first cafe using the tiny domestic unmanned aircraft as servers has opened in a Dutch university. The new European Community is in the process of dismantling all of the cumbersome customs checks between its member states. We walked along the Lake promenade and noted with interest the statues of George Washington and the Swiss hero, William Tell.
It was too high for me.The last few hundred yards of the journey looked almost vertical in its ascent. We settled in with Bill and Marie Mead for courses of pasta, salad, omelet(for me) and finally a Torte with cafea€™ for desert. We saw musical scores and various mementos from operas created by the Italian masters Puccini,Verdi and Donizetti. It was rebuilt according to original specifications, by the Italian Government, after the War.
The imposing Soave Castle could be seen far off in the distance, dominating a hilltop and commanding the region. We walked them and admired the architecture.Off one small lane we entered a courtyard,that of the Capuletti (small hat) family.
From the terminus of the causeway we boarded motor launches, for the 20 minute ride along the picturesque Grand Canal, to a landing area near our hotel, the 800 year old a€?Saturnia.a€? Another motor launch had been hired to carry our luggage to the hotel. Alessandro informed us that on 100 days of the year the square is entirely submerged in the waters of the nearby Adriatic. In this way, the Venetians insured a reasonable turnover in their chief executives.The average Doge ruled for 9 years. The Venetians had developed the techniques for making transparent glass in the 16th century and later the technique for making glass mirrors by adding silver to one side of transparent glass.
These vessels are sleek, ebony, highly -decorated canoe -like structures that operate with one large oar working off a stern mounted fulcrum and a hearty gondolier to propel them.
After some exploring, we came upon the Museum but did not want to fight the hordes of students and tourists already occupying the place.We continued walking along the quaint back alleys and passed by the renowned a€?Peggy Guggenheima€? Museum of Modern Art.
How were we going to get across without retracing our steps to the nearest bridge far behind us? Mariea€™s nephew Michael and girlfriend Jennifer were able to join us for dinner and we enjoyed their company. Around his altar and tomb are pictures, letters and mementos from people who had their prayers answered by St.
Many of its streets are lined with a colonade-type of walkway created by an overhanging second story of the buildings.
My own brother Mike had attended this Universitya€™s Perugia Campus, so we took a few pictures for him. It is a wonderful old trattoria that is a favorite of students and revelers.We descended into a basement that could well have been found in Bavaria. We checked into room # 334, unpacked, wrote some journal entries and tried to relax before dinner. It is faced with green marble and trimmed in both red and white marble.Next to it and somewhat asymmetrical is the Agiotto bell tower, faced in the same marble motif. Along the hallways, almost casually placed, are scores of Greco Roman statuary salvaged from private villas, public buildings and many other sources throughout the empire.
The Florentines had ordered all of the gold merchants to center here in the middle ages.They and many jewelers still plied their trades along this venerable bridge over the Arno. Even the rain could not dampen the splendor of the place.Three fire places were ablaze as we entered the cozy villa. We washed down this magnificent repast with both red and white wine and mineral water as a musical group played Italian folk songs. We had breakfast with Tom and Nancy Martenis, from Vermont , and then set off walking the narrow streets of Florence.
The Piazza Duomo was, as always, awash in tourists.We briefly admired the church, bell tower and Baptistry before continuing on.
The sidewalk vendors performed a continual ballet of cat and mouse with the Carabinieri who shooed them away whenever they came upon them.The Ponte Veccio was similarly awash in people. It stands 8 levels high and has that delightful a€?wedding cake a€? appearance so prominent in the Romanesque style. The baptistry is similarly styled and the three building are harmoniously attractive architecturally as a grouping.The a€?leana€? of the bell tower makes a delightful photograph against the granite solidity of the other two structures. The Romans, thinking perhaps to catch the Carthaginians unawares, started their march in the predawn hours into the narrow defile. Curiously, scores of tourists still filed down the side aisles headed for the tomb of St.Francis on the lower level, economics I suppose.
The storied and very expensive Hotel Hassler stands at the top of the stairs awaiting the well heeled. It was properly titled as a€?La Vigna dei Papia€? or the Vineyard of the Pope, but to us, it became the a€?Popea€™s Deli.a€? We had a wonderful minestrone zuppa, insalata, vegetables with desert, mineral water and several flagons of a tasty red wine, all for the modest sum of 75k Lire( for 2). Made of brown brick and originally faced with white marble, it now stands as a crumbling reminder to the glory that was Rome. Much like our own football and baseball stadia, the fans scurried to their seats cursing the traffic and hoping not to miss the thrill of the first contact and the approving roar of the mob. Nuns and priests from the far flung regions of the world wide church walked respectfully and purposefully amidst the sprawl of tourists from as many countries. Even were it not religious, this carved block of marble would inspire awe and appreciation.
It was sunny and warm out and the area was a throng of people.We sat by the fountain and watched the ebb and flow of the tourists as they took pictures, drank from the fountain(ugh) and milled about, not realizing that the principle activity was to sit and watch the others. A nice desert and all washed down with mineral water and liberal quantities of Abruzzi wine . We had an early 7:15 bus to see one of the worlda€™s most renowned masterpieces, The Sistine Chapel. She told us that the normal wait could be up to two hours with a line winding back a mile or so into St.Petera€™s square. Trump La€™oeil paintings along the ceiling gave us the impression of three dimensional sculptures hovering above us. It seems Michailangelo wasna€™t above a fit of pique ,depicting a troublesome Vatican secretary as a horned devil in hell.
It was windy and cool out as we returned to the hotel to pack for our departure tomorrow morning and prepare for dinner.
The area Commander, American Mark Clark, resisted at destroying an Italian National Monument. Italy long ago must have been a pyrotechnic land shaking with continuous earth tremors , the skies covered with ash from the erupting volcanoes. It certainly puts everyone on notice to consider well what others will find and view in your home after your passing. The mind blink was warping in and out as images of ancient people inter phased with the modern tourists walking the lanes. It faces the bay with two wings of four stories of rooms.Five outdoor pools empty into one another on a second and lower terrace A Grand central lobby, with bars and restaurant to the sides, faces out onto a broad patio that overlooks the Bay of Naples. Still who could complain?The lemon and sour orange trees abounded in the hotel garden, the sweeping bay was gorgeous and the warm air wafted over us with the scent of lemon and orange.It worked for me. Traversing roads that were higher and narrower than those around a€?Big Sur.a€? in California. We stopped for pictures at a scenic overlook and fruit stand in Positano, the birth place of Sophia Loren.
It was a delightful repast .The restauranta€™s hard earned reputation for great food and pleasant surroundings is well justified . We returned to our rooms to pack for departure and sleep, tired with the long and busy day. Finally, a massive earthquake had leveled the place in the 1300a€™s Now here it stood, pristine and formidable, a monument to the staying power of a remarkable and at times very powerful order of Monks.
The real estate here abouts is consecrated in the blood of many fine young men from lands far and near. On the whole we had found Italian merchants to be uniformly pleasant, inordinately honest and genuinely helpful and patient especially with the exasperating antics of the army of multi lingual tourists. We milled for a time amidst the crowd, enjoying as always people watching and the diversity of the crowd We did not know when we would walk this way again. We viewed and admired again Michaelangeloa€™s Pieta by ourselves and then walked slowly and respectfully around the floor of the most famous and spectacular church in Christendom. Then, we had a lighting 12 minute breakfast with the Meads and ran to catch the bus for the airport. And after this they continued to let people ride they just didn't let anyone in the back seat! For that reason, the exhibition hall at Wisconsina€™s Sate Fair is my most dangerous place. Raped by Hei Liang, a member of that family, she lives through her troubles until her mother rescues her with the help of police and a reporter. It tells of changes to the land over 50 years from the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Evenings find him helping his wife, Brigitte, make his favorite Swabian noodles or pizza before he retreats to his home office to "fantasize" about new projects. From behind the wheel, the silver-haired Swabian then doubles as an animated tour guide to the picturesque Neckar Valley, his childhood home.
Barry Hearn, the chairman of World Snooker, says the Chinese government is pouring investment into sport, which will help the country dominate not only snooker, but also other sports within 10 to 15 years.
In the face of increasing globalization, food is also one of the last strong visages of community and culture. A fresh collection of 16 Budding Pop emojis released on March 12 was downloaded 4 million times within 24 hours.
In 2005, Yun started his fruit pit carving career, and in 2007 he founded his workshop, Yiren Hequ, attracting many young artists to pit carving. As an artist, you need to devote your feelings, explore your innovative techniques, and commit, he says. Yun has done his part: creating the next generation of fruit pit carvers with the same dream.
You choose and you program it like you want," student and project leader Tessie Hartjes says. The plane, a wide-bodied monster, was packed to the gunwales with passengers of all types.We spotted a few Central Holidays carry on bags and wondered if these folks would be on the tour with us. Lucio pointed out the a€?CHa€? designation on the license plates of the Swiss automobiles.It stands for Confederation Helveticorum, the Roman and official name of Switzerland. It has a wonderful pedestrian promenade lined with sycamores and Cherry trees that were just starting to bloom.
In the performance hall, the audience seating is constructed in a a€?Ua€? shape facing the enormous stage. Historians credit Marini for making popular the use of macadam for the roads surrounding the facility.The soft material quieted somewhat the noise made by the metal wheels of the many carriages passing by and enhanced the acoustical enjoyment of the house. There, on the second level, is what is thought to be the balcony featured so prominently in Shakespearea€™s a€?Romeo and Juliet.a€? If it isna€™t the real one, it should be.
The Gondoliers and their gondolas competed for space with the water taxis and work boats along the many narrow side canals.
Fettucini with Tuna, salad, Dover sole,risotto with cockles and shrimp,ice cream and coffee, accompanied by red wine and mineral water presented us with a memorable repast. The fourth side is the wonderful Byzantine Masterpiece,the Church of St.Mark , from which the area takes its name.
We had a new appreciation for the ornate glassware that we previously thought somewhat tacky. The effect is a vaulted and arched colonnade lined with shops, and safe form the elements. Off in the distance we could see the distinctive shapes of the Duomo with its majestic bell tower and the Chiesa Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross) Mark Twain was a frequent visitor to the area and once remarked that the Arno would a€?be a credible river if someone would pump some water into it .a€? It wasna€™t Twaina€™s Mississippi but it was scenic and pastoral. The hands are brutish and large and I wondered at the contrast to the graceful lines of the whole.The eyes look unfocused and stare off into the distance. Opposite both of these structures is the domelike a€?Baptistrya€? with its fabled 15 foot high doors of gold.The golden portals had been replaced by bronze ones, the originals placed in a museum.
A massive swirl of tourists, from everywhere, window-shopped for gold and jewelry along both sides of the the bridge.
We had Campari and soda and chatted with our fellow travelers while admiring the casual splendor of the formerly private Villa. We found the Via Turnabuoni and window-shopped the many pricey stores like Gucci, Bvlgari and Cartier. We walked by the a€?Church of the Medicia€™sa€?.It is now surrounded by what is called the a€?straw marketa€?, rows of vendors and merchants selling cheap leather goods and souvenirs. The tower leans about 14 feet off center and is now counter balanced with steel cables and 900 tons of concrete. We took a last walk to the Arno River sensing that it would be a long time before we walked this way again. As they marched into the rising sun they could see only the swirling lake and mountain mists above them.They marched confidently and unknowingly into the grinding maw of a killing machine waiting on the slopes above them. We sat for a time thawing out and awaiting the luncheon that the hotel was putting on for us.
We surveyed, for a time, the swarm of people walking and sitting along the length of the stairs and decided it was time to head back.
We laughed heartily about the two sets of Spanish steps and enjoyed the camaraderie and the enjoyment of being in the Eternal City.The heavens opened while we were inside and we felt grateful to the elements for holding off until we were undercover. I could look above to the Papal balcony, now draped in flowers for the Easter address in 48 languages.
Nora shepherded us through the entrance way and via the elegantly paneled elevators, to the second floor level of the Vatican Museum.
Three are the works of the master, Botticelli, the others by Perugino and his school, depicting biblical scenes and medieval Italy.
His Intelligence section had informed him that the Germans were not occupying the Abbe or using it as a defensive position.Churchill intervened with Eisenhower, who acceded to the New Zealandera€™s plea. One wonders, like Thornton Wildera€™s a€?Bridge of San Luis Reya€?, what quirk of fate brought these people to this unfortunate time and place. We read for a while and then, to the faint odor of lemon and orange blossoms, drifted off to sleep. Our tour company had been thoughtful enough to get one, so we inched into the sea side parking area where some forty other tour buses sat in rows awaiting their camera clicking occupants. The Moorish arches in the colonnade, along the front vestibule, were visually pleasing and a nice adaptation of another integrated architectural style.
There were 5 star resort hotels like the a€?Grotto Emeraldaa€? and the a€?Santa Caterinaa€? along the way, but they passed in a swirl of mist.Without so daring and capable a wheel man we may well have been sitting in a cafe someplace waiting for the weather to clear. There was even a sign, posted outside the rest stop in Italian, warning of shady characters offering items for sale, with cartoon like bad guys depicted. The Abbe, and the La Scala opera house in Milan, had been the two national monuments reconstructed by the Italian Government immediately following the war. There should be a novel in here some place.It was cold and windy out with a light rain spattering around us, as we approached the rising entrance of this fortesslike Abbe. A short hallway behind the main chapel leads to a grotto of sorts below the main altar.I could see light reflecting from a rather magnificent chamber tiled in deep blue and gold ceramic tiles. They too had hammered upon the granite slate of history, but with a more hardened mallet whose imprint still remains, alive and vital.Only time and winsome fate will determine the duration of its impression.
It was a meal worthy of a Roman Senator and a fitting finalea€™ to a gustatory onslaught that would be long remembered by all of us.
For hundreds of years they were a bellicose and fearsome people who dominated, civilized and even terrorized the known world. It declined in the mid-19th century, but the art is back in force in places like Suzhou, Weifang, Guangdong and Liaoning. It appeared to us that the majority of the flight was filled with Italian nationals returning home from a visit to the United States. The trees were first planted by the Romans and named a€?Cherrya€? after the Roman word a€?Cherazza.a€? The term is a truncation of a region in Turkey where the Romans had found the tree in abundance. It was delicious and set well the stage for the ensuing caloric tide that was to pleasantly engulf us over the next two weeks.The food here is wonderful. Private boxes rise six levels along the a€?U.a€? The interior floor level of the a€?Ua€? is filled with seating as well.
Regions like the Po river valley make up the remainder and are heavily involved in agriculture and grape production.
This marble covered and gilded apparition is an architectural delight.The soaring bell tower next to it dominates Venice. I had never experienced Varonese or Tintoretto on such a grand scale before and enjoyed immensely the sweeping saga in oil that lay before us. When dried,it is saturated with vegetable oil three times yearly and buffed to a high finish.The result is marble in appearance, yet vibrant and giving to the various strains of the building. How they manage to steer these fragile craft around the narrow turns and in and out of the crowded boat traffic is a mystery to me, but they did. We saw some energetic young men oaring a sleek black gondola across the choppy waters of the Grand Canal. We sat for a while in the Piazza to watch the crowds swirl and then Mary and I headed back to the Piazza Signorini to enter one of the worlda€™s more renowned art museums,The a€?Uffizzia€? Gallery.
The municipal workers were sweeping the sidewalks with old fashioned besom-style brooms.Then the modern street sweeper and sprinkler would come by and finish the process. I am not sure the haughty Medicis would have approved, but then maybe that was the point of it all. Unable to maneuver in the narrow valley and outmatched by superior cavalry, the Roman legion was ground to pieces against the Carthaginian phalanx. In a bright and high- windowed room, over looking the valley below,we were served Pasta, vegetables(for me) ,cream puffs, white wine, mineral water and cafea€™latte. We walked on in the night admiring the lighted splendor of the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument, through the Piazza Venezia and along the busy Via Corso to the upscale Via Condotti and finally to the most famous gathering point in Rome, The Spanish Steps , named after the former residence of the Spanish Ambassador.
It was a family outing in ancient Rome.The language had evolved to English for us, but the thirst for blood and the animal frenzy of the crowd remain with us even today. The victorious general, driven in an ornate and ceremonial chariot ,nodded approvingly at the tumultuous cheers from the Roman people. My minda€™s ear heard the cheer of the teeming throngs who often packed the square to hear the Papal address a€?il Papaa€? they chanted. Nora was taking us directly to the Sistine Chapel, bypassing the rest of the museum in order to give us time to better enjoy the chapel unhurriedly. There are more interior Corinthian columns, along the circular walls and supporting the circular and convex dome whose center is open to the elements. Toasts of a€?Arrivederci Romaa€? and a€?Salutea€? passed back and forth.It was a wonderful farewell party for those leaving Italy tomorrow. The Abbe was bombed and completely leveled, much to the anger of the Italians then and now. Outside, we got a delicious Italian treat from a small pushcart vendor,lemon ice(2k) .It was delicious. In front of the 5 star Hotel Quisianna, playground of the well heeled, Roberta cut us loose for a few hours to have lunch and do some shopping. Someone actually did approach me, but unknownst to him I hadna€™t a clue as to what he was saying in his staccato burst of Italian. Yet today, they are a gentle, good-hearted and decent nation who love family and the quiet enjoyments of food, wine and music. Generations of tourists had rubbed her right breast for luck and it sparkled in contrast to the dull sheen of bronze covering the rest of the statue. Similarly, the floor joists and timbers between floors are constructed all of wood so that thebuilding will give with the stress and strain of frequent movement. Ten panels on the bronze doors ,framed in black marble, depicted various biblical scenes.
As we left the Villa Viviani, the skies cleared and a full moon shined over the Tuscan hills.It was the stuff of which tourist brochures are made. Broken swords and bodies littered the scenic landscape for years afterwards.A few of the local village are named a€?pile of bonesa€? or a€?bloody fieldsa€? to memorialize the slaughter.
Behind him, in the chariot, stood a slave with a laurel wreath of gold , held over the generala€™s head, whispering in his ear an admonition, the phrase a€?Sic transit gloria.a€? Fame is fleeting.
A roseate marble glimmered in the filtered light from the polished walls.There are several small shrines to San Guiseppe and other saints. The irony of the situation is that the Germans took over the rubble of the abbe and made an excellent defensive position of it for the coming battle of Monte Cassino, which I will describe later when we visit the abbe.
We arrived uneventfully at the hotel around 4:30 and retired to our rooms to read and relax before dinner. We drove by the 600 year old Visconti Palace, with its imposing tower and battlements.The fortress had once had 132 drawbridges across its formidable moat.
The walls of the stone courtyard are covered with hundred of linked initials in heart shapes, a curious graffiti memorial to young love.
An enterprising photographer took snaps of us in the gondolas when we left and had them developed upon our return. In a mind blink I had traveled across the centuries and now sat looking at a beautiful lake scape where so much death had once occurred. In any case we much enjoyed our stay as guests in this beautiful land amidst a people that we found both warm and charming.We hope often to return and visit them.
Getting a ticket to a performance here is difficult at best,even though the place is enormous. We could well visualize a hearty rendition of a€?Carmena€? or a€?Aidaa€? performed before enthusiastic and cheering crowds.
For the first time, I could picture myself chanting a€?Bravoa€? during a performance and not looking pretentious.



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