Wednesday, November 27, 2013

12 Tags of 2013 - November

Hi everyone! You all probably think I've fallen off the Earth, and really I have...creatively speaking that is. I haven't crafted a thing since Italy...YIKES!!! The family and the approaching holidays have kept me EXTREMELY busy! I haven't even been able to visit blogs, which you all know I love to do. I am deeply sorry that I haven't been around, and will try try try as soon as Thanksgiving is over. 
I stole away an hour though last night between pies a bak'n to make my November tag to play along with Tim's 12 Tags of 2013.
I followed all of Tim's steps for the tag, and then found some leaves in my yard that needed a new life.
I wish each of you that celebrate Thanksgiving, a marvelous time with family and friends, filled with fabulous food and drink! I am incredibly THANKFUL for all of you as well!


I hope your hands get creatively dirty soon!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Italy Was Fabulous!!! -Part 5, The End

Here it is...the last post, and it's quite lengthy as well, but at least you won't have to hear from me for awhile. Again, thank you for hanging on and accompanying me on the best creative trip ever!
Day 9: Assisi
We had to say our final good-byes to the friends that were leaving us, and then we boarded the bus for Assisi
The views of the upper part of the city from the lower part were amazing! The castle is a fort called Rocca Maggiore, built by the Romans to intimidate enemies.
This is the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, on the lower part of Assisi, that our tour guide Alessandro took us to first. It was built around a tiny church that was already established called the  PorziuncolaSt. Francis, who was born here, and who also started the Franciscan Order and founded the first Franciscan church, received a vision from God while he was in the tiny Porziuncola Church praying, and from then on, he made his life's work to bring people to Christ, no matter their sin. The Porziuncola is still inside the massive church, and people come from near and far to worship in this very sacred spot. It is a very spiritual and moving place.
A beautiful golden statue of Mary was at the top.
An image of the Porziuncola
St. Francis was famous for preaching to birds and other animals. He cared about the animals and the environment.
From here, we left to trek up the mountain to see the picturesque Roman walled city of the upper part of Assisi.
These are the walls of the Piazza del Comune and the Basilica of St. Francis behind it.
This is the gate to enter the city walls.
A distant view of the Basilica di Santa Chiara, built in honor of St. Clare. She was one of St. Francis's first followers, and founded the Order of the Poor Ladies, to help women take more of a role in the church and in their own lives.
It was so neat to walk the main roadway to the city beyond the gate.
We were all snapping photos like crazy.
The buttresses of the Basilica of St. Clare were massive.
St. Clare's Basilica
After we left St. Clare's, we walked up and down steep hills, past gorgeous buildings with remarkable architecture, around gorgeous shops with fabulous window displays, and past residences down narrow roadways, to reach St. Francis Basilica. This town is just breathtaking.
I love this photo...quintessential Italy!
The was the end of the road that lead to the Basilica.
This is the Basilica of San Francesco, built for St. Francis.
The views were just gorgeous from here.

The yard in front of the Basilica.

After leaving the church, we headed to the bus to get our things, and then headed up a very steep hill to the Giotto Hotel and Spa. Half way up the hill though, my left knee did something it has never done. It pressured up and felt like it was about to explode, and then gave out. This hill was at least at a 40 degree angle, and there was nothing but the bricks of a residence's wall to hang on to. No one was behind me to help out, so I just stood as best as I could on one leg and rested for about five minutes. I was worried about the next step I would take, but my knee knew I was desperate, and it held me up while I hobbled to the hotel. Needless to say, as everyone else was getting to shop at all those fabulous stores with their marvelous displays of goods, I was on the balcony of the hotel bar with my leg propped up, albeit with a glass of red wine though! I took some great shots from there though, and managed to soak up some gorgeous scenery.

We had an amazing dinner that night, and the company at the table was perfect. We laughed and laughed, so much so that I was told to quiet down. Go figure! It was a glorious day, despite the knee and no shopping. Assisi...I highly recommend it!

Day 10: Roma
We boarded the bus the next morning at headed to the capital city of Rome! We drove around looking at all the sites, and stopped to take a few pictures of some special places.
It was exciting to see the Coliseum from a distance.
The National Monument of the Altare della Patria, where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is, in memorial to World War II.
St. Peter's Basilica was in the distance.
This crazy selfie while we were walking was fun!
The twin churches,  Santa Maria in Montesanto and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, in the Piazza de Popolo, were interesting to see.
Rome's City Hall at the Piazza de Campidoglio, which was designed by Michelangelo.
Ancient ruins among the newness of the city were so cool just to see.
We made our way to the Trevi Fountain to throw our coins in to ensure we would return to Rome someday.
After all the excitement of day's sights, we headed to our hotel, the Star Hotel Michelangelo, to unpack, rest up, and finish the night with a big supper at an entertaining restaurant.

Day 11: More of Roma and Tivoli Garden
After breakfast, we were off to the Vatican City to see the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica.
We stood in line along the Vatican City wall, waiting for our tour guide so we could go in.
Might as well take a selfie while we waited.
Renovations were going on at a few places, but I love this eagle.
We had to go through a security process, and then we were led outside to the Square Garden by the Pinacotheca, to hear the shpiel by our tour guide about what we were about to see. The garden was so large and just perfectly manicured. It was constructed over 500 years ago, at the request of the same Pope who asked Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
After the talk, we finally headed inside. Gorgeous statues, tapestries, paintings, frescoes, and architecture greeted us. The crowd was so heavy though, that it was hard to see everything, and you couldn't stop to really stare and photograph properly...they kept you moving or you would be trampled...well, probably not, but sometimes it felt that way. I'm not real good in a tight confined space, and it was getting warm too, so I hurried through much too quick.
I was in awe at the frescoes on the ceilings. My neck was so sore by all the looking up, but really these were my favorite part of the whole tour. I wish I could have just laid down to really see them all.
They don't let you take photos inside the Sistine Chapel, but my neck ache mattered not as I stared up at all the Bible stories that were laid out in perfect detail, like a picture book, but only on the ceiling and walls. And then there it MOST FAVORITE painting and part of the ceiling...The Creation of Adam. There is just something so special about that almost touch of the fingers of Adam and God that just move me so. Looking through glassy eyes at the people around me staring up up up, several had tears streaming down. It is a very moving and spiritual place. Michelangelo was a genius, pure and simple.
Then we all met outside by this fountain, which we could drink at, and everyone was so quiet. I think they were all reflecting on what they had just seen...very cool! We all went our own way after that for lunch, but me and a few others went to St. Peter's Basilica instead.
To get in, you had to walk down the long and richly decorated Portico of the Basilica. The famous Holy Doors, only opened by the Pope every 25 years, were gleaming from the bronze inlaid in them. The scenes in each panel were gorgeous. There were actual bricks behind it, so no one could open them.
I wasn't able to get a picture of the Doors of Death (funeral doors) or the other two of the five doors on the portico of the Basilica due to the crowd, but I did get one of the oldest set, the Filarete Doors.
The ceiling of the Portico.
And then I walked through the main central doors and into the most massive place I think I have ever been in. At first glance, you are not sure of the height and scale of the place, until you try to zoom in with your camera on the glorious frescoes and paintings on the walls, and your zoom goes all the way to the max, and then is when your jaw just drops. This is the most elaborate church I have ever been in...pure luxury and everything perfect floor to ceiling.
The Pieta, from a distance due to the crowd, was so intricately much detail. If I could go back and time and talk to an artist, it would be Michelangelo.
The alter with Bernini's bronze Baldacchino, was so wonderfully designed and just massive.
It was hard to leave from inside, but the scene outside of the Basilica and of St. Peter's Square was wonderful too.
This might be my favorite photo from the whole trip...perfectly Roman!

Sometimes the Pope waves to people from this balcony.
I grabbed some quick lunch with a group of great people, and then we headed for the coach to go see the Tivoli Gardens at the Villa d'Este in Tivoli. I have to tell you that I was not looking forward to this part of the day, as I thought we were just going to go see some flowers. I had no idea what was in store at this place...I knew nothing about it. BUT, after being there, I can tell you that it is a MUST see if you go to Italy. It should go near the top of the list. Jim West really knows his stuff when he plans these trips out. 
The town of Tivoli itself is picturesque. It is not touristy like so many others. There were only a few souvenir shops instead of many.
A modern yet still ancient looking sculpture in front of the villa.
A Governor of Tivoli in the 1500's, Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este, had the estate built after a Pope gifted it to him.
As I stepped inside what I thought was 'just a villa', I was met with rooms and rooms and even more rooms with gorgeous frescoes on the ceilings and walls. Strangely, there was no furniture, only large beautiful Persian like rugs, and more importantly and to my surprise there were NO PEOPLE! Everyone had gone their own way from our group, and there were no other tourists around. I had this whole place, this make that 'palace' myself. I could walk anywhere I wanted and nobody told me not to. I could open doors and windows, and even dance around if I wanted to. I felt as if I owned the place...I was the QUEEN of this castle!
Each room had at least two windows in it. I opened the some of the windows, and was treated to amazing views.
Jim, the Gentleman Crafter, happened to come onto the balcony and was behind me, and he sneakily took this shot of me as I was staring in gaping awe at the place I was not too keen about going to. I think I stood here for over 10 minutes 'enjoying the now'!
Then it was down the stairs to the garden.
The balcony up there is where I was taking it all in. This place is on a steep incline, and there was about 4 stories of steps to go down to get to the very bottom garden. There was many different ways to do a giant maze.
Everywhere you went there were water features, either hidden or out in the open, with statues and wonderful architecture second to none.
This was called the Hundred Fountains.
The Oval Fountain was the first large fountain I came upon. I was there alone, and then all of a sudden a tour bus of people showed up. I had to start hurrying then to get in front of their group, but the knee sometimes screamed at me.
The largest fountain could be seen through the trees, The Organ Fountain.

The Fishponds
The top part of the Organ Fountain
You could walk behind the Neptune Fountain, which is at the base of the Organ Fountain, and see the Fishponds directly in front.
At the bottom of the garden, the Villa looks to be so far away. That is how big this place is.
The Fountain of the Dragons is in the central part of garden below the Villa.
The Fishponds make a perfect mirrored image of the Organ and Neptune Fountains. This was so gorgeous!
The Fountain of the Owl
My favorite fountain was the Rommeta's Fountain. There was so much to see here, and I loved the way water shot up from the boat in front, that you can see in the next photo.
This one was under renovation, but still very beautiful.
I am thrilled beyond words that I went on this journey that afternoon, or I would have missed out on one of the most beautiful places in Italy. It was a time of immense peace and reflection...a very spiritual filled experience. I would love it if my daughter could get married there some day...perfect venue. I hope I can go back there and bring my loved ones.
That night brought us to the Piazza Navona, a former arena many years ago, and now where many artists sell their wares, small shops are filled with wonderful items to buy, and outdoor cafes line the square. In the middle of the long rectangle are fountains and an obelisk, that was moved from the Circus Maximus a long long time ago. It's a wonderful area, and was super close to the Pantheon, so we walked over and had a see. The pillars on this, the oldest church in Rome, were so grandiose...a real wow! It was a great night!

Day 12: Roma on Our Own
Our last full day in Rome was spent however we wished. Gentleman Jim, Cesar, Barb, and I decided to trek together to the Coliseum, Forum, Circus Maximus, Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth), and Spanish Steps.
How lucky was I that this bird flew by as I was snapping a shot! Love this photo.
The Coliseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre, and has undergone many changes in it's time, and several higher ups have wanted to tear it done. It was the largest of it's kind and could seat almost 100,000 people. In this shot, it shows the underneath where the animals and gladiators were housed. The floor was wooden and was covered by sand. It is estimated that over 500,000 people have died there for various reasons, and even more animals.
The marble stone seats have been placed there to show people where the people of importance would have sat.
The Arch of Constantine is right next to the Coliseum, and between it and the ruins of the Forum.
The ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome
The central part of the Forum ruins. This was awesome to see the centuries old architecture, and some still in good shape. The Forum was the central hub of the earliest Roman people. Shops, games, and government activities took place in the main area. It was where everyone went to socialize and learn the news of the day. It has change look with each emperor and leader.

This was Emperor Domitian's Hippodrome Circus on Palentine Hill above the Forum, used for small foot games for his entertainment. Palentine Hill is where the emperors lived and built their monstrous palaces.
Some I didn't get any photos of the Circus Maximus, so I borrowed one from Jim here, where I photo bombed him! I did lay down on the grass of the slant of the wall, just like so many others were doing, and it was quite relaxing. Circus Maximus was the largest arena, able to seat 150,000 people, but many argue that is what more than 300,000. Crazy huge! It was dismantled, mainly for the marble, to build other things in Rome, just like the Coliseum was.
This is the alter of the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It's a small church, with a big spiritual feel. We went there because outside of the church in the portico, is the Bocca della Verita, that I first learned about in the movie Roman Holiday. The legend is that if you were lying about something and you stuck your hand in the mouth of the this round relic, it would bite your hand off. Thankfully, none of us had that happen.
Outside of the church were two epitaph looking blocks, written in Latin.

When we left here, we were pretty much exhausted and my knee was throbbing, so it was taxi time. We headed to the Spanish Steps, but the area was so congested with traffic and crowds, so we just snapped a pic of the steps, or rather only one of us did because we were jammed packed in the cab and couldn't all reach our cameras. I think Cesar got the shot, but I don't have it yet. It was cool to see, and the area where the 'widest staircase in Europe' is located was surrounded by many high end shops.
That night, we had our farewell dinner, and wonderful Tim presented us with yet another custom stamp set from Stamper's Anonymous...a Roman set! Squeals of delight were heard from everyone. It was a nice ending to the two greatest creative weeks, but it was also a bittersweet night though. I was going to miss this group, this place, the laughter, the food, and the adventures, but I was also anxious to see my family again. I treasure the new friendships I've made, and it's a trip that will forever live in my heart! Here is to "Enjoying and Remembering the Now!"

The Travel Journal:
Here is the Journal I put together of the trip, but please keep in mind that it is far from finished, in fact, nothing on the inside is completed. I still haven't even opened or used the new Roman stamps yet.
Here are the stamps and stamp pad that were custom designed from us by Tim. While he gave us so many things, the utensil set was my favorite item. They were all grunged up for us...perfection!
I had so many trinkets that I collected along the way, so on the spine they went. Notice the "remember the now" on the back cover.
Using the watercolor technique Tim taught us and the new stamps, I created this tag. Tim warned us of being careful not to misspell words, and there I went and used a 'u' instead of an 'o'.

This is my first attempt of the technique on the new Watercolor Paper from Ranger. I didn't like it at first, but it is growing on me. I might even frame it.
We made tab pages, and someone in the group had the idea of adding a pocket, so now all of mine do.

All of the items I collected along the way...postcards, business cards, maps, receipts, napkins, etc....are already in the book where I want them to go, but none of the pages or tabs are completed.

Tim should us how to put the plastic sheet protectors together to make pull out pages, as well as make pages that flip out like this one.

The last part of the journal is filled with all the trades I received from our group. I treasure them!
Many many thanks for letting me share this with you, and I do hope you can take an inspiring journey like this one day and then share it with me and the rest of blogland. AND of course, I hope your hands get creatively dirty soon!