2010
Dec 
1

Moulay Bousselham

Filed under: Morocco — Russell @ 6:04 am  

After the excitement of Marrakech we went looking for a calmer place to hang out.  We spent 3 days outside of Rabat.  The view from the terrace was fantastic but the beach looked like the surface of the moon.  So we went to Moulay Bousselham.

Moulay Bousselham is a small seaside town with a beautiful sandy beach.  It is a popular vacation spot for Moroccan although at 22 degrees it was too cold to attract anyone but us hardy Canadians.

The trip was our first experience with Grand Taxis.  In Morocco there are two kinds of taxis.  Petit taxis only operate within a city.  If you want to travel between cities you can use the excellent trains or take a grand taxi.  To do this you go to the taxi stop and tell the gathering of drivers where you want to go.  Once the taxi is full the trip begins.  The cars are fairly large Mercedes but are not full until there are 6 paying passengers.  So it is a very cramped trip.

We rented an apartment on the roof of the Driftwood guesthouse.  This is a medium sized home right on the beach.  We had a fantastic view of the ocean and spectacular sunsets.  Driftwood is run by Driss and Christine who live on the main floor.  They took very good care of us, picking us up at the taxi stand and preparing delicious, inexpensive meals.  After a few days we felt more like house guests than customers.

One of the big attractions is to go bird watching.  The most popular guide is a man named Hassan.  His English is pretty good and he pointed out the various birds as we navigated through the shallow waterways between MB and the nature reserve.  Just before sunset he brought the boat ashore and we snuck up on a flock of flamingo.  They saw us coming and moved away from shore but didn’t take flight.

The army has stationed soldiers every 300 meters along the coastline.  This is to prevent smuggling.  This was requested and paid for by the EU.

In every Moroccan town there is a mosque and minaret.  Several times a day, including sunrise and sunset, the call to prayer is sung from the minaret.  At first it sounds like a horn being blown but after a while it becomes a voice.  In some towns the call is a recording but here the Imam performs the call each time through a loudspeaker system.  It is quite haunting and reminds me that I am far from home.

2010
Nov 
19

Telecommunications in Morocco

Filed under: Morocco — Tags: — Russell @ 8:27 am  

We had a good experience in Italy using a Vodaphone cellular modem.  The one challenge was that we couldn’t share the connection between our three devices (laptop, Ipod Touch, BlackBerry).  So I bought an unlocked Huawei E585 on Ebay.  This is a cellular modem that retransmits the signal as WiFi so it can be shared by up to 5 devices.  The common name for such a device is MiFi.  It arrived while in Rome but I couldn’t get this to work using the Italian Vodaphone data SIM.

In Morocco, we had better luck.  We bought a data SIM from MarocTel.  For 200 DH (about 20 Euros) we got one month of unlimited 3G service.  We hooked it up to the MiFi with the following settings:

Connection Number: *99#
User Name: <none>
Password: <none>
Authentication: NONE
APN: Dynamic
IP Address: Dynamic

It worked well in Marrakech and Rabat.  I would pop in into my bag when we heading out of the day.  As we walked around we were surrounded in our own cloud of private WiFi.  It would last for about 5 hours and could be recharged using a USB cable either from the laptop or the Blackberry charger.  This made it easier to navigate or check restaurant reviews while out for the day.  We also got very good Skype performance and were able to make good quality phone calls.

Unfortunately, the Blackberry doesn’t work very well when you don’t have data services.  I had hoped that the combination of a voice SIM and WiFI would make the Blackberry a good travel device but it was not to be.  Without a cellular data plan, email, facebook, podcasting and the app store stopped working.  The browser, Twitter and BlackBerry maps continued to work.  Some third party apps like the Globe and Mail are fine.  Surprisingly, Google’s email app won’t work without a cellular data plan.  This is not to say that these application won’t use WiFi if it is available, just that they check for a valid wireless SIM and refuse to operate if you don’t have a data plan.  BlackBerry also doesn’t support Skype which is the best way to make calls when traveling internationally.

Has anyone tried travelling with an iPhone or Android phone using a combination of a voice plan and WiFi?  I’d be interested in knowing if this works.  The alternative seems to be carrying multiple devices like a cheap Nokia phone, an iPod touch and perhaps a MiFi.

When we got to Moulay Bousselham the cellular data coverage was not good.  There was a slow connection in the center of the town that fell off as we moved to the edge where we were staying.  After a few days we found a nice café with an expresso machine and a terrace that had a good view both of the coast and the local cell tower.

2010
Nov 
14

Marrakech

Filed under: Morocco — Russell @ 11:22 am  

Travel via RyanAir

We flew from Rome to Marrakech on RyanAir.  The flight was very cheap but the cabin was chaotic.  You definitely want to pay the extra 4 Euros for priority boarding since there are no reserved seats.  The cabin crew are like teachers taking unruly kids on a field trip.  “Sir, please sit down.  Please don’t smoke.  Sir, you bag is too big to fit in the overhead compartment no matter how hard you push.”.  At RyanAir, the ticket is cheap (we paid 40 Euros each) but everything costs extra.  Checking a bag? Extra.  Getting on early to get a seat?  Extra.  Oxygen during the flight?  Thankfully included.

The Riad

We stayed at a riad which is a large private house with a courtyard.  Our host had arranged a private taxi so getting from the airport to our accommodations was very easy.  Arriving at the door, the Riad didn’t look promising, but like many things in Marrakesh, appearances are deceiving.  Life on the street is hot and chaotic.  The sun beats down and the air is hot.  Entering the Riad is like entering another world.  There are fountains, trees in the central courtyard and comfortable nooks to relax and have a drink.  Our room was strewn with rose petals and smelled of sweet fragrances.

Breakfast was served on the rooftop terrace. The sky was flawless without a single cloud.  After breakfast our host briefed us on how to handle beggars, merchants and taxi drivers.  She gave us a map, a compass and wished us luck.  This seemed strange since the walk to the central square is only a couple of miles.

We exited out of the Riad into the medina – the old walled city – and kept to the right of the narrow alleyway to avoid being run down by the ubiquitous motor scooters.  Fifteen minutes later we were lost.  After wandering for a while we found a gate and left the medina.  We walked to the new town which is more European in style.

Majorelle Garden

It was easier to navigate outside the old city and using the map we made our way to the Majorelle Garden which was donated to the city by Yves Saint-Laurent.  Even in the heat of the day, the garden is cool and calm.  In the center is a long narrow pool leading to a building.  The entire garden is shaded by palm trees and bamboo groves.  People walked quietly along the paths and some slept on the benches.

Beautiful Dining

We had several excellent dinners in Marrakech.  The food was good but the decor was spectacular.  We went to an Asian restaurant called Narwama.  The main space was once an open air courtyard now covered with a permanent fabric covering.  The walls, ceilings and columns were ornately carved.  In the center was a fountain that combined fire and water.  The other patrons were young and hip.  In fact on the way into the restaurant are pictures of the prince posing with the owner.

The Medina

On the map the medina looks small. Given that it is surrounded by a high stone wall, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find your way out by just walking in a straight line.  A great theory but there are no straight lines.  There is an old computer game that used the phrase, “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”.  This pretty much sums up the medina.  Though not very big, the streets are narrow and winding, sometimes joining other streets, sometimes leading through covered passageways.  As you walk, it is easy to get disoriented but someone will usually come along offering to help.  What they want is money and they will sometimes redirect you to shops that pay them to deliver befuddled tourists.  If you ignore them, they will often follow you for a while insisting that the way you are going is closed.  While the streets often look like they might lead nowhere, we never hit a dead end.

The Square (Djemaa el Fna)

In the middle of the medina is the main square.  This is the largest square in the Arab world and a Unesco world heritage site.  This designation is not about the architecture, but about the ongoing circus of performers, vendors, musicians and food.  We first entered the square at night and the combination of smoke, drumming, lights and crowds reminded me of a post-apocalyptic scene from a science fiction movie.

The first night we watched some drummers for a while but left because someone with a tambourine (who didn’t seem to be playing) demanded we pay to watch.  That ended as so many of our encounters in the Medina with someone following us, begging, wheedling and finally cursing us when it was clear we weren’t handing out money.

At our riad we had breakfast every morning at the table next to a nice Irish couple.  The woman had taken a local cooking course and her instructor had said that many kids stop going to school when they realize how much money can be made through begging.  She also had a stone thrown at her for leaving a shop without purchasing a tablecloth she had been looking at.  This assumption that showing any interest constitutes a commitment to buy makes it difficult to casually browse  the shops.

Snake Charmer

During the day the square has less music and more animal performers.  There are lots of snake charmers and monkeys on leashes.  We got lured into watching a snake charmer but every time he played the <musical instrument> the cobra moved sideways towards us.  I got up to leave and he slung a snake around my neck to prevent me from leaving.  This quickly ended with me giving him 10 DH and walking away as he cursed me.  Lesson learned, don’t stop to admire the scenery.

Gelato on the Terrace

One way to get a view of the square is to eat at one of the terraces.  The view is still pretty good and you can enjoy some ice cream relatively unmolested.

Food (pick a number) 97!

Because the square is a historical site, there are strong restrictions on selling in the market.  Each legitimate business has a registration number prominently displayed.  You can identify the unregistered businesses – the owners pick up and run whenever the police cruise by. There are many outdoor eateries that appear to be temporary, but due to the strict licencing have actually been in business for years.  They aren’t allowed to change their menu so the result is a couple of dozen restaurants selling essentially the same food.  So how do they differentiate themselves?  By the come-ons.  Each restaurant has a bunch of young guys whose job it is to get you to sit down.  These barkers have refined their technique.  First, they quickly figure out which language you speak.  I was particularly impressed with the guy in booth number 81 who said his restaurant had 7.5 Michellin stars.  When we told him we were from Canada, he said “We are like Eatons!” and then corrected himself saying, “But they are gone, so we are like the Bay”.  We didn’t sit but he was good natured when we walked on.  At booth 97 they claimed 4 Michelin stars and said 97 will send you to heaven.  We walked around a bit more and finally settled on booth 97.  The food was delicious and cheap.

The Souk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Souk
Inside the medina is the souk.  These markets sell everything from livestock, spices, artwork, clothing and of course carpets.  Here, the buildings are very close together here and many of the roads are roofed.  Most shops are tiny, only a few feet across, and completely filled with brightly coloured goods.  The attempts to get you into the shop are persistent.

Carpet buying

The most aggressively flogged products are the locally made carpets.  In fact there are stories of people being strong armed into buying carpets they don’t want.  We briefly entered the carpet souk but we had no intention of buying and the vendors are too pushy to allow casual browsing.  There are government sanctioned shops which in theory provide a set price and send a fairer shared of the profits to the craftsmen.  We went to one of these place to buy some clothing and were invited upstairs to see the carpets being made.  Even though we have no place to put a carpet we accepted.

Upstairs were three women gathered around a frame, handing weaving a white carpet.  After about 15 seconds our host invited us to tea.  This is the formal beginning of negotiations but we were warned that it is tremendously insulting to refuse.  After a short conversation the carpets started coming out.

Each carpet was laid out on the floor and our host described the region, the style and the artist.  After a dozen carpets had been stacked up, the selling began.  There was no mention of price and we were assured that fixed prices were far too expensive and it was better to make an offer.  The assistants would hold up a carpet and we were look and reject it.  Eventually, we got fed up and left.

Contrasts

Overall, Marrakech is worth a visit, but you have to be on your guard when walking the streets of the Medina.  Try to get off the street as often as you can to enjoy the fantastic private spaces that Marrakech offers.

2010
Nov 
13

Hanging out in Morocco

Filed under: Morocco — Russell @ 12:56 pm  

Having trouble getting Internet access.  We should be back online in a few days.

2010
Nov 
4

Ostia Antica

Filed under: Italy — Russell @ 6:43 am  

We spent a day in Ostia.  This is a 2000 year old city that was preserved after being covered by river silt.  Not as dramatic as Pompeii but only half an hour away from Rome by subway.

The site is huge, over 30 hectares with the walls of many buildings still somewhat intact.  There has been some restoration and it is relatively safe to walk through the ruins.  It looks like a brickwork maze and many children climb the walls like it was a jungle gym.

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Ostia is at the mouth of the Tiber, the main river which runs through Rome.  As such is was both a major trading center and responsible for the defence of Rome against naval assault.  The remains of the market can still be seen in the mosaics.  Each guild had a place on the main market square with a mosaic depicting their trade.  My favourite was the elephant.  Exotic animals from North Africa passed through this port on their way to the Colosseum.

A lot of statuary was also found relatively intact including Minerva as winged victory and Hercules.

The town was quite advanced in 100 AD with water brought in from another town via an aqueduct.  Fountains were placed in public areas throughout the town to provide fresh water.  There were also many public baths, each with a series of heated rooms and a large central room with a mosaic floor and drainage.  There was even a public toilet with channels for washing away the waste.

Given this sophistication, it must have been a shock to be conquered by barbarians with poor hygiene.

2010
Nov 
2

Vatican

Filed under: Italy — Russell @ 1:37 pm  

Museum

We spent an entire day in the Vatican Museum.  This is an immense collection of art spanning 500 years of church history.  The line ups to get in are huge but you can skip the line by signing up with a tour group.  We chose one that walks you in, gives you an audio guide and then leaves you to wander on your own.

Parts of the museum were originally the Pope’s private apartment.  Some of the greatest artists have decorated these apartment.  There are a large number of frescoes by Raphael.  These are impressive not just due to their scale and artistry but the fact that they were painted on fresh plaster and had to be completed before it dried.

The hall of maps is something of a time-line of Europe’s knowledge of geography.  Early maps only show areas of European influence with nothing beyond the borders.  As you walk down the hall the view of the world clears to included details drawings of Asia, South America and the East coast of North America.

Collection of Profane Statues

There are two statue collections, one is a collection of medieval Christian works and the other much earlier works from the Greek and Roman periods.  The difference is surprising, the new Christian works look like they were done by a child whereas the early classical statues are lifelike and beautiful.  The pope who started the non Christian (profane) collection felt a need to justify all of this marble nudity and said that god was present in any expression of beauty.

Sistine Chapel

When I visited Rome in 1989 the Sistine Chapel was closed for renovations.  That work took years so I was excited to see the results.  Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed in the chapel so I can’t show you the cleaned up paintings but they are very impressive.  The ceiling is one of Michaelangelo’s masterworks.

While the artwork was amazing the experience was unpleasant.  The space is jammed full of tourists all talking.  There are several security guards who’s thankless job it is to get people to be quiet and stop picture takers.  All the shushing and “No Picture!” yelling detracts from an otherwise beautiful space.  Even with the restoration the paintings are still fragile and there is talk of closing the chapel to the public permanently.  I suspect the reason has more to do with keeping the space sacred than the official story which is that the humidity from all the breathing is damaging the work.

Secret Vatican Archive

Like many people, I’ve read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” so I know that any boring historical art or architecture can be spiced up by adding a conspiracy theory.  The Vatican is a centuries old institution surrounded by high walls and mysterious ceremonies.  So I decided to find out the truth about the Secret Vatican Archive.

From the bathroom on the second floor of the museum it is possible to lean out the window and see a large obelisk.  This is not part of the public display and for good reason.  A liberal interpretation of the markings on this ancient stone reveals the shocking truth.  There is a Secret Vatican Archive and incredibly, it has a website!  (Google will also return this information in .02 seconds)

The word secret, according to the site, has an older meaning similar to the word personal.  This is the pope’s personal archive.  It is not open to the public but researchers can view documents if they explicitly ask for them.  It is sort of like the Catholic version of the Freedom of information act.  You have to guess what they might know.  Imagine the questions they must get:

Do you have an early version of the gospels that says the bold will inherit the earth?  No.
Do you have a letter from Henry the VIII asking for a marriage annulment?  Yes
Do you have minutes from the Pope’s meeting with a delegation of visitors from space?  No
Do you have the account of the trial of Galileo?  Yes
An admission that the earth really is round?  No
A pardon for Galileo?  Yes
Pictures of Jesus’s bar mitzvah?  No!

2010
Oct 
31

Roman Forum and Colosseum

Filed under: Italy — Russell @ 12:56 pm  

The Forum comprises two main areas, the Palatine Hill over looking the city and the actual forum where the remains of many temples can be found.  Legend has it that Rome was founded here by Romulus.  He and his brother Remus were abandoned by their uncle and rescued by a she wolf who kept them alive by allowing them to suckle at her teat.  Recent archaeological evidence suggests that there were settlements on the hill at about the right era.  The story about being raised by wolves is still unsubstantiated.

Augustus, son of Cesar, made his home on these hills but his political life  happened down the hill at the Forum.  It was here that the Roman senators met to discuss the business of the empire.  The forum today contains the remains of many temples including the place where the remains of Julius Caesar were cremated.  It was subsequently called the Temple of Caesar.  There is also an early Christian Basilica.  Leaving the forum and going up the hill you pass through the arch of Titus on your way to the Colosseum.

The Colosseum is the most iconic image of Rome.  In the days of the empire it was used for public entertainment.  Seating over 50 thousand spectators displays included battles with gladiators, slaves and animals.  It was capable of being flooded to allow mock sea battles.  It was also a place of execution with the crowd screaming for blood and the emperor making the final judgment, usually death.  Saint Telemachus once jumped into the ring to plead with the crowd to stop a brutal gladiatorial fight.  He was promptly stoned to death.  Legend has it that the mob was so shamed at their blood lust that they demanded an end to such entertainment.  Perhaps the same thing will happen in our time with reality TV but it will take a very telegenic saint to achieve this victory.

After the fall of the empire, the Colosseum was use as a quarry to supply materials for other buildings in Rome.  Even with this pillage, it is an impressive sight with most of the superstructure still intact.

2010
Oct 
25

Siena, San Gimigniano and Pisa

Filed under: Italy — Russell @ 10:14 am  

Well a lot has happened since Florence.  On our last full day we took a bus trip to Siena and Pisa.  I liked Siena a lot.  Our tour guide talked about how historically, Siena was neither a religious government or a aristocracy.  Instead, the government of the nine, created a secular rule.  They overcame Siena’s lack of a port by building a modern (at the time) banking center.  The money from this paid for the maintenance of the public spaces, infrastructure and defence of the city.  This difference in government is reflected in the city architecture.  They built a large central public square.  This was a vote of confidence in the populous since often squares were kept small to avoid large public gatherings that could turn into revolutionary mobs.  They also build a town hall with a tower that was the same height as the cathedral.  The message was clear, we are acknowledge your authority but we don’t bow to it.  This Republic of Siena lasted about 500 years until the city fell to the Spanish in 1555.

The cathedral in Siena is beautiful.  The floor is inlaid with beautiful murals.  At the side of the main chapel is an entrance to a room that had been sealed for many years.  There were tapestries that hadn’t been exposed to candle smoke and were fresh and vibrant without having to be restored.

After Siena we had lunch at a family farm.  Tuscan farms are smaller than commercial farms in North America.  This may be the reason the food tastes so good here.  The Italians have opted for quality over efficiency.   This farm was less than 200 acres and family run.  The food was excellent and we sampled many wines from the local vineyard.

After lunch we went to San Gimignano.  As we approached we could see several tall towers on top of the hill.  They looked more like monuments than buildings with a real function.  The town was so clean and well ordered it felt like we were at Disneyland.  I suspect that all of the residents live outside the old walls to avoid cluttering up the streets with signs of life.  Each morning they open the gates and go to work selling trinkets, good food and excellent ice cream to the tourists.

Our final stop was Pisa.  We met some Australians on the trip who nicely summed up seeing the leaning tower of Pisa.  Check!  Another item of the tourist itinerary completed.  It took about half an hour to see the tower, take a few pictures and wander back to the bus.  It was in better shape than I expected.  It was recently cleaned and restored.  Engineers arrested the increase in the angle but declined to straighten it up.  You can imagine the original architect looking at the tower and thinking, well, I’ll never work again but at least it will fall over soon so I won’t be reminded of this failure.  Unfortunately, the tower has stood for over 500 years as a testament to good enough engineering.  Several architects have tackled the problem over the centuries.

2010
Oct 
19

100 posts

Filed under: Italy — Russell @ 2:30 am  

According to WordPress, this is the 100th post for this blog.  This seems like a good time to take stock.  It has been over 7 months since I quit my job and 4 months since we handed over the keys to our house to the new owners.  On August 26th we left Canada with a one way ticket to Paris, via Iceland.  Right now we are renting an apartment in Rome for two weeks.  After that, we have no plans although as it gets colder, North Africa is looking more appealing, as is Thailand.  Even if the cold doesn’t get drive us out we need to either make a commitment to stay in Europe or leave before Carol’s visa expires.

I’m surprised that I’ve kept up with the blogging so consistently.  Previous attempts to keep a blog have followed the typical pattern:

April 2007 - Hey!  I have a blog!  Stay tuned!
Nov 2008 - Really should update this sometime.

Of course if I had blogged about my daily life it wouldn’t have been very compelling.

Feb 15 - Flew to Ottawa for two days of meetings.
Feb 16 - Too tired to go to gym as planned.  Steak dinner instead.
Feb 17 - Huge snowstorm, stranded in Ottawa
Feb 18 - No new snow today.  Hope I get home.
Feb 20 - Crisis in Ottawa.  Perhaps I'll drive.
Feb 22 - Stranded in Belleville.  On the plus side, Starbucks has WiFi!

That probably wouldn’t be as interesting as our trip around the world.

Originally, I had intended this blog to be for friends and family only.  I’m savvy enough to realize that once you put something on the Internet, everyone can read it.  As I’m finding out, just because they can read it doesn’t mean they will.  Early on, I signed up for Google Analytics and I’ve been watching the readership numbers.  There seems to be a small core of regular readers which is gratifying.  Thanks for the encouragement.

At first, I didn’t allow comments from people who I didn’t know personally but this seemed unfriendly.  Recently, I opened up comments to anyone without requiring registration.  So far, most of the commenters are either spammers selling insurance or SEO companies trying to increase links to their customers’ sites.  I have had a few friends comment, which I really appreciate.

The other interesting aspect of Google is watching the countries of the readers.  There seems to be a lot of Australians reading this blog.  I’m not sure who you are but welcome!

I’ve also started reading other travel blogs.  The 800 pound gorilla of travel blogging is Gary Arndt at Everthing-Everywhere.com.  He’s being going for three years and has visited over 70 countries.  Many of the travel bloggers are turning their hobby into a business.  This is typically done by adding advertisements to the blog.  Once you decide to go down this road, you are no longer writing to friends and family.  Looking at the small number of regular readers my competitive nature does kick in.  I’d love to see the numbers climb but it requires drumming up more readership.  In order to do this I have to pick a strategy.  A common approach is to make the blog a useful resource for other travellers.  This involves lots of reviews of hotels, restaurants and travel gear which also is more likely to generate sponsorship/advertising.  But that’s way too much work.

Another way to drive traffic is to write a more personal blog with lots of drama and a touch of personal danger.  We aren’t really a high drama couple.  Most of the tension these days comes in trying to pick the next destination.  It’s not exactly the stuff of reality TV.  We try to avoid personal danger plus Carol’s parents read this blog and we don’t want to worry them.  Carol’s fine by the way, not even a cold.

So it seems I’ll just keep following my original plan which is to make friends working at office jobs jealous and perhaps inspire some travel in your life.  What do you think?  Are you enjoying your daily life?  Want to meet on the road somewhere?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

2010
Oct 
14

Hobbling Tour of Europe

Filed under: Italy — Russell @ 3:10 pm  

For about two weeks I’ve had a pain in my shin.  It increases during the day but is gone in the morning.  At first, it seemed like a simple sprain but it hasn’t been getting better and it is more likely shin splints.  This is not a good thing to have on a trip that involves a lot of walking, some of it with a heavy pack.  Today, I begged off the museum tour rested, albeit in a local café.  It if doesn’t get better before we leave Italy our next stop may be a beach somewhere for some R&R.

In Florence, we tried to reduce walking by signing up for a hop on/hop off bus.  This works well as it stops at many of the museums.  Hopping is now my preferred mode of transport.

Yesterday, we hopped over the Piazza San Marco to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia.  This is an art school with a top notch museum.  The place was busy, but we had become Amici Degli Uffizi, which let us skip the line.  The bulk of the collection is devoted to 14th century religious artwork.  Much of it was commissioned for display in various churches.

However, these pieces are over shadowed by the work that everyone is here to see, Michaelangelo’s David.  The Accademia doesn’t keep you in suspense.  As you enter the second room you turn right and there he is in all his splendour.  Standing 100 feet away beneath a domed window, David is perfectly proportioned and strikingly realistic.  The statue rises 17ft above the pedestal and dominates the room.

Approaching, you brush past several lesser works.  Each a masterpiece in its own right, now relegated to adorn the path to the greatest sculpture ever created.  It has been said that once you view David there is no need to see any other works.  They can only disappoint.

It does seem odd it to spend time with a horde of strangers in the contemplation of a huge naked guy.  In order to make light of this strange phenomenon I’ve decided to adopt a form of profanity based on the statue.  The next time I’m fed up with tourists shuffling down the street, gawking at the sights, I’ll yell, “By the stone scrotum of David, move aside!”.  It could be quite effective.

After the museum we had lunch at Ristorante Accademia on Piazza San Marco.  There we met an American couple visiting from California.  The restaurant is highly rated and at first I thought it was for the good food at a reasonable price but the owner seemed delighted to have us there.  We met his infant child, got good advice on where to buy gelato and were treated to a delicious after dinner lemon liquor.  Highly recommended.

After this we boarded the bus and headed home.  A lovely day only marred by the pain in my leg.