Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cinque Terre

An early morning train ride from Florence brought us to La Spezia, where we connected to a train taking us to Monterosso. On the train we sat near a couple who upon overhearing our American English asked us where we were from. Houston was our reply and they said they were from Dallas. He said that he had a sister in Katy. We replied that we actually were from Katy and asked the name of his sister. We immediately responded that we knew her and all her family as they had been patient's of ours for many years. Another feeling of living in a small world. He wanted a picture with Ron in the background so he could show his sister he had travelled in Florence with her dentist.

The Cinque is North of Florence along the coast overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. There are 5 (cinque) villages along the coast. each with a very Italian look with buildings constructed on the hillside and painted in several pastel colors which has a charmig effect. After three days of museums and churches it was time for a break. We had anticipated this and so had planned the next two days for the beach and hiking. We were all pretty tired from early morning travel and worn down from touring so a relaxing day at the beach was just what the doctor ordered. Colby stayed in the room and slept for 3 hours before he came to the beach. The rest of us got under the rented beach umbrellas and dozed for most of the day. The beach is mostly small pebbles rather than sand so it can be rough on your feet. The water is refreshing and Colby and I (Ron) swam out to a gigantic boulder we could jump off, it was the only activity we could do in the water as there are no waves to ride.

Lauren and Kristy found the best pesto they have ever eaten, so we had pesto on foccacio for lunch it was very good. We are now carrying 6 jars of pesto home. After our day on the beach we headed to the old part of town and had pretty good meal at Il Casello where we had pesto on pasta with shrimp and salmon. We mis-judged the portions so we were a little hungry after the meal. which necessitated two servings of gelato that night. We have gelato each day trying new flavors each time evaluating which flavor is the best. We did a little shopping that night. Kristy acquired a marcasite ring and Lauren a scarf. Both at the shop of an Indian woman whom we met on the train coming in the day. She was transporting her baby in a stroller and Colby had given her assistance in getting it of the train. We saw her in the shop and enjoyed visiting with her for a couple of minutes.

The next day we took the famous 7 mile hike from Monteresso to Riomaggiore visiting each of the five villages along the way. The hike is fairly strenuous with some pretty good uphills and downhills along the way. The temperature was pretty warm but most of the trail was covered by trees offering shade along the way, though each of us worked up a pretty good sweat. We would stop in each town to cool down. In Veranazzaa we tried a fresh squeezed lemonade (the area is famous for lemons) however that only means lemons and no sugar, we had to add our own sugar to make it drinkable. Sidebar: Their lemons are enormous .. about as big as a medium-large organge only in the shape of a lemon. One section of the trail was closed due to a landslide. Rather than walk 3 hours around the landslide we took the train to the next village. The train station was beyond the village and so we didn't enter it. Instead we picked up a paved pathway called the dell Amore. Along the way is a chain link fence where people have attached padlocks to the fence. It a symbol of love and locking your love together. Lauren had a luggage lock so she scratched in our 6 initials and we locked it on the fence 4th panel from the end closest to the sea. This symbolized the union (or future as in the case of Colby and Talyn) of our individual families and also our Crabtree family....which by August will have increased in size by 50%. We felt as if we had left a little of ourselves in the Cinque Terre. At the end of the hike we took the boat back to Montoresso after a quick lunch of foccacia and fruit though we were mostly too hot to eat very much. We had dinner at a very nice place called Miky. The food was very good, we had a Sea Bass with potates and couple of baked pasta dishes with a very thin bread crust used to cover the pan - more like a cross between flour tortilla and thin crust pizza. It was used as a covering for the dishes which were baked. The food was exquisite . . the sea bass so fresh your imagined it had been caught the moment before it went in the bakeware. The service was unusual with all the food arriving at the same time. Salads and pasta and Lauren's and Colby's main dishes and all but one dish for Kristy and I and then we got that dish at the conclusion of the meal just when we thought they had forgotten about it. Again we went out for Gelato rather than have dessert there.

We discovered trofie pasta at one of the seaside restaurants we dined at .. . this pasta is designed to be served with pesto. It is made with a little bit of potatoe and this enables the pesto to cling to it. Delicious! Both pesto and foccacia originated in this region of Italy. We are now also carrying home a few bags of trofie pasta.


Firenze Day 3

This morning we slept in . . .not leaving our hotel rooms until 10:00am. After having breakfast in our hotel we decided to take the Rick Steve's renaissance walk. Using a combination of Iphone, Itouch and Kindle Fire we followed the guided walk. Much of it we had already seen . ...except that we did get to see the Triumphal Arch in the Piazza Della Repubblica. We also went to the Orsan Michelle. This church was unique in many ways, but a unique item of interest was the fact that it was originally built as a loggia (covered courtyard) home of a market for selling grain. It was later closed in to make a church. You could see the grain chutes and the rings used to hoist the product up into the storage areas. Ron enjoyed the statues in the niches outside. His favorite was a bronze statue of doubting Thomas touching the wound in the side of Christ. One of his feet was clearly inside the niche with another foot outside of the niche in our world . . symbolizing how Thomas was one of us.

We had a 2pm appointment with a guide for a 5 hour tour so we stopped into a self serve spot for lunch. Worst meal of our trip. Not to be repeated we hope.

Before we left the U.S. we had contracted with Simone Gaddini founder of We had asked for a guide that could give us a greater appreciation for and understanding of the renaissance period, with a special focus on Michelangelo. He arranged for a custom private tour with Olivera as our able guide. Our tour was to focus on the social, political, economic and cultural context of the Renaissance in which Michelangelo was able to flourish. Olivera had a degree in art history and had spent 22 years enjoying and working in Florence surrounded by world class art. She reminded everyone of my dear friend Gwen Anderson in her mannerisms . We met her at the Medici chapel an extension of the Church of San Lorenzo. (Whenever meeting someone we can be quckly identified by explaining that our son is extremely tall. Once spotted... our guide instantly knew she had found us.) We marvelled at the inlaid marble work in this building. Precious and semi precious stones inlaid in marble to create beautiful art. This chapel was designed to house the tombs of one of Florence's great ruling families. This building also includes the Crypt and the all-Michelangelo Sacristy. This was a wonderful treat as I was able to see the Day and Night, Dawn and Dusk statues that he had created for this tomb. Michelangelo had a great love for the Medici family who had housed him during his teen years. He was especially influenced by Lorenzo Medici also known as "Il Magnifico". It was a good history lesson to learn more about this Medici family (the same family that Catherine Medici the Queen of France was to come from) The family line died out I believe by the 17th century. The interior of the chapel was never finished an most of them were not buried there .. . but it is a monument to their family influence just the same.

Next stop Palazzo (palace) Medici-Riccardi. This was the home of Lorenzo the Magnificent built in the 1400's. In the 1700's it became home to the Riccardi family.

Olivera took us through the streets of Florence pointing out the ancient walls and the House of Dante (which wasn't really his house) on our way to Casa Buonarroti which really was the home of Michelangelo. She was delighted that we had chosen to go here as she says that most visitors do not come to see it. His grand nephew (Michelangelo the Younger - more of an art dealer than an artist) had turned the house into a memorial honoring his Great uncle. What a memorial it was . . after viewing all the rooms we all declared of the Younger . . . "mission accomplished". This site only got a two triangle rating from Rick Steve's. . . it deserved a three.

Next stop . . Santa Croce . . the church where Michelangelo's tomb is. His tomb symbolized the marriage of the arts of painting, sculptor, architecture and poetry. There was some controversy over his tomb because the section of the sarcophogus symbolizing sculpture was not front and center. I thought to myself that I would not want to have been the one to sculpt this master's tomb! Galileo is also buried here . . and there is an empty tomb for Dante. Dante was actually in exile the last years of his life . . .so he is not even buried in Italy. Still a magnificent tomb was built to honor their native son.


Our final stop was Palazzo Vecchio. This old palace and city hall is a Florentine landmark. It is home to the current Mayor of Florence. This structure is another monument to the Medici influence. It was built for the first Medici . . Cosimo, the father of the Magnificent Lorenzo. While we were touring it there was a function going on in the grand hall. Museum visitors just quietly worked around it. Apparently they were opening some new rooms to the Uffizzi and distinguished guests were listening to the head of the Uffizi introduce them. Following their gathering they all went through the Vasari corridor from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Uffizi Gallery to see the new rooms. We did not . . but our guide did show us the corridor and explained that it took the Medici from the Uffizi (wich means offices - and was the business area for the Medici) to their palace.

Olivera recommended the Trattoria 4 Loni ( for dinner. This was to be a delightful dining experience. Ron had a pear stuffed cheese pasta that was simply divine. She had described it as a "charming" spot full of ambience and it was. A place where the locals eat off the beaten tourist path.

A couple of side notes . .We have been using the "Crumpled city" maps to find our way around. They are designed in such a way that you can pull them out full size and then screw them up in a ball and stuff them in your pocket. They are designed with English explanations .. but all the streets names and landmarks are in Italian. We also like and have used the Map Easy maps . . but the crumpled city maps help you get around better. We discovered the crumpled city map of Rome in Barnes and Noble and then went to their website to order Florence and Venice maps. Interesting to note that the creator of the maps is based in Florence.

We live in a small world....whilst walking outside the Dumo and in the streets of Florence we have run several times into a family that have been our patients for many years. Who would think that we would run into them in Florence. Lauren has also identified a friend that she went to school with.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Firenze Day 2

After our early night the last night, Colby and I had a hard time sleeping in. Since we went to sleep around 7 or 8, Colby woke up around 3 and I woke up around 4. So we hung out in our rooms for awhile. Around 5:30-6:00am, we decided to knock on Mom and Dad's door, because Colby swore that Dad, at least, would be up. He wasn't. So we went out on walk/jog by ourselves. It was a quite a contrast to the crowded Florence streets we had encountered the day before. We got to enjoy sights like the Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace, Plaza della Republica, and Piazza Della Signoria without having to dodge people everywhere. It was also nice to see the city start to wake up with trash collectors and street cleaners. We made it back to the hotel around 7 and got ready for the day and had breakfast with Mom and Dad around 8:30am.

Our first stop in the morning was the Uffizi. The Uffizi is home to many famous works of art by Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo daVinci, Raphael, Titian among other famous Renaissance artists. We walked through the museum using Rick Steve's audio guide who led us through the highlights. It was quite a collection. However, after our early morning, I was a little tired. I took a quick nap on Colby's lap while Mom and Dad walked through the museum in a little more detail. It was a perfect power nap. After the Uffizi, we went to the Bargello, which used to be a prison. It is now home to many famous sculptures.

After the museums, we had a lunch at a great little place called Trattoria Pallottino. We all had great pasta, especially Dad, who ordered fresh pasta with a pomodoro sauce, and I had some really great Gnocchi. We had some gelato at a place next door, Il Gelato.

Next we headed inside of the Duomo and the Baptistry. The Duomo was just as incredible inside as it was outside. For 1600 years the Duomo has been the center of the religious life in Florence. I have been reading The Passion of Artemisia, about Artemisia Gentileschi, the first female painter to be a member of the Academy. She crosses the Ponte Vecchio, frequently visits the Pitti Palace, and receives inspiration from the Mary Magdalen by Donatello in the Baptistry. I have loved seeing the sights while reading about them and their actual place in history.

We took a quick rest at the hotel before we headed to the Pitti Palace. The outside appeared fortress-like, but inside we were blown away by the incredible opulence of the Medici family. The resided at Palazzo Vecchio before moving into the much grander Palazzo Pitti. Mom and I compared it to Versailles in France. It was room after room full of fabulous decoration and art covering nearly every inch of the walls. It was clear how much the Medici family truly valued art. We also wanted to visit the Boboli Gardens, which weren't supposed to close until 730, however, we didn't realize that the last entrance was at 630, right when the palazzo rooms closed, so we missed it by 5 minutes. We were really disappointed


We had dinner in a piazza near the Santo Spiritu church. We were enjoying our dinner at a place called Borgo Antico, when a crowd chanting and cheering came walking up. Today was St John the Baptist Day so the town celebrates by playing a game - a team sport played by men, described to as a mixture between football and soccer. It has been played since medieval times. Apparently the team from the Santo Spiritu area won and they had returned to the steps of the local church to celebrate. We enjoyed watching their celebrations and capturing some of it.

We knew there would be fireworks later as well because of the holiday. However, these had been slightly delayed because of the Italy/England Eurocup soccer game. So we headed over to the gelato place we enjoyed earlier and played Phase 10 while we waited. We headed and caught some of the soccer game as well before watching the fireworks. We started watching near a bridge, but we moved to the piazza in front of Santa Croce church, where the medieval game had been played, and were able to enjoy the fireworks right next to the church on the bleachers. The Italians did a first class job on the fireworks . . it would rival most fireworks displays in the U.S.. Afterwards, we heard celebrations from the Italy/England game as Italy won the game 4-2 in overtime.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Firenze: Day 1

We left! We finally left! I have been waiting to go to Italy since I read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown when I was in high school. The descriptions of all the churches and religious history fascinated me and enticed me to come to explore the sites from the book, among other things. It also helped my desire to visit even more because I just took a history class last semester. We took off on Friday afternoon after seeing patients for half of the day for the airport. I actually can say, I didn't mind the flight. Usually, I have to struggle with the lack of leg room and it is a terrible experiece. However, this time i was on the front row of economy and I got as much leg room as I wanted. It made the 8 hour flight manageable and I didn't want to kill myself the whole time. We landed in Amsterdam and then caught a 2 hour flight to Florence (or as the Italians call it Firenze) which didn't have leg room. We all survived and landed in Florence. It was a very small airport with only 3 baggage claims. We grabbed our bags and took off down the street in a cab headed for the Hotel Morandi. It is a quaint, converted convent that definitly had some character. It was a great place of refuge especially because it wan't near all the touristy sites, which gave us peace, solitude and the ability to sleep at night. After dropping our bags off in the hotel room at 1 pm, we assesed what activities we could squeeze in before we fell asleep due to a severe lack of sleep. We chose a visit to the Academia musem (where the famous statue of David is housed) and walked in. I was in awe of the majesty of the sculptures in the room. It starts with "The Prisoners", which were early works of Michelangelo. They are deemed as such because these men are stuck in the stone, unable to be fully uncovered. These sculptures line the corridor on both sides and the end of the corridor is where David is standing.

We were all eager to see the statue of David. Ron had taken a sculpting class in college and had done a report on the statue. He recollected his experience in the class and we were able to discuss his experience in working with clay and marble. Kristy had just read "The Agony and the Ecstasy" by Irving Stone. This was a biographical novel, close to 800 pages in length and gave her a more intimate view of the artist Michaelangelo. Lauren was eager to see it because it was famous. The picture shown here was captured by her camera before she learned tht photography was prohibited. We visited the market to look for fresh produce, and also stopped in at Santa Maria Novella. While there we took the crucifixes of Brunelleschi and Giotto, Massaccio's "Trinity" and Ghirlandaio's frescoes. We could not find a place to eat dinner . .. so we settled for Gelatto. We retired to our rooms at Hotel Morandi Alla Crocetta about 7pm...exhausted and in need of sleep! Our hotel used to be a Dominican convent.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Snow in late May?

The weather here in Utah is really starting to get downright awesome. It’s sunny and not too hot which is making me antsy to get out as much as possible. I have been waiting to get a fishing license because we had been planning to go to Idaho over memorial day weekend and I didn’t want to buy 2 since I am not a resident of either of those states. I picked up my grandpa, who flew into town to be there for the summer, and Talyn on Wednesday evening. We drove there and we greeted by small flurries that night.


We then woke up the next morning and we greeted by heavy clouds and some rain. Later in the day there was a break in clouds, and we got to shoot around.



Then Daniel and Andrew showed up and we continued our enjoyment but the snow and wind picked up even more.




These are the highlights of the times we were actually outside enduring the cold. After awhile I couldn’t take it, I had to go to the park and do a hike.





It was awesome and the weather even cleared up just enough to go on the hike and get back in the car. It started to snow right when we got in the parking lot. It was a cool feeling.

We then went to Boondocks to celebrate Larry’s birthday and Father’s day a little early.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Halfway Point of the Semester

Surprisingly, the semester is going by very fast and it feels very close to the end. We had our first tests and I was worried because of the accelerated curriculum that I wasn’t going to do as well. I was dead wrong. I got high A’s on both of the tests and felt very over-prepared looking back, which bodes well for finals. We also had our engagement pictures taken on Saturday. I don’t have them, because they are being edited by our photographer, Kiara, but once I do I will post some of them. I couldn’t stay serious for long in these pictures, so there are a ton of funny pictures. We then went shopping for Talyn to get some outdoor gear (she didn’t have any). We both felt like we robbed Park City with the amount of good stuff that we got due to the huge sales they were having. She even got an Arc’teryx down jacket, which both my dad and I are super jealous of.


Basically, this trip got us super excited to hike (I mean walk), so we drove with both her parents to Battle Creek Falls near their house. It was awesome (better than I expected) and the temperature was perfect.



Now we have a three day week and then we head Island Park, Idaho with my grandpa Larry to enjoy the plethora of activities to there. It is supposed to be pretty cold (in the 30’s at night, with rain/snow) so it will be even more of an adventure.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Adventures of a lifetime

I have had a busy couple of weeks and now I am in school again and don’t feel like catching up a whole bunch but I will submit pictures and tell the stories through them.


My dad, uncle, a couple of buddies and I did the subway hike in Zion’s National park.


It was an A for Awesome! The water was a lot higher than the last time I did it, and a lot colder.


My dad was shaking so much he needed a “walrus” hug to warm him back up again.


I absolutely had a blast and want to do it again.



I also did a pretty important thing that same weekend…


I went on a hot air balloon…


And got engaged! It was an amazing experience and I am so glad that Talyn said yes. We will be getting married on August 10 in the Mount Timpanogos temple in Pleasant Grove, UT.

Then we left the women…



and went golfing. Here is me with my hole-in-one!


Then last weekend I went to Las Vegas to visit family, have family meet Talyn, and go to my uncle’s memorial service. Of course I don’t have any pictures from this trip, but we did have a great time. We really appreciated my Grandpa Ron for letting us stay with him and spend so much time with him.