Friday, November 28, 2008

Italian for Thanksgiving

In celebration of Thanksgiving, I present the greatest steak known to man. The Bistecca alla Fiorentina starts with a large T-bone steak from local breeds of cattle. You then grill it, seasoned only with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Serve the huge slab of beef rare, and dig in! It may not be turkey and gravy, but it was the best meal we had in Italy!

We had plenty of other good meals too, including a delicious calzone at this restaurant just down the street from our convent lodgings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Piazzale Michaelangiolo

We started our second day in Florence with a visit to the Galleria dell'Accademia. The best part of the Galleria was of course Michelangelo's David. Like most great works of art, there is some electricity to seeing it "in the flesh." As usual, there was tons of excellent art, both statue and paintings, filling the museum. One series that I particularly enjoyed was another set of Michelangelo sculptures, the unfinished Prisoners. These sculptures were almost MORE interesting than finished pieces of art, as you could see the work that must be done to free a human shape from a block of marble.

That evening, after a full day tromping about the city, Nick and I decided to head up to the Piazzale Michaelangiolo to get the best views the city has to offer. Like being at the top of the Duomo, it was almost impossible to come back. The view was so spectacular that both words and photographs don't do it justice. We weren't the only ones who thought so, there were a fair number of tour buses up there too!

I highly recommend clicking on the above photograph as it really captures Florence, but at this size much of the detail is lost!

Friday, November 21, 2008

U.S.S. Arizona

I started my visit to Pearl Harbor at the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. You first come to a Museum dedicated to the Arizona and the story of the attack on December 7th. You see a movie detailing the attack, and the fate of many of the Pacific Fleet ships that were sunk that day. You then board a ferry boat and ride out to the memorial.

I've long been fascinated by the story of December 7th, enough so that my primary complaint with the awful Ben Affleck movie wasn't the horrible love story or the wooden acting, it was that I could tell that little effort had been made to conform film to the real events of the attack. As I watched, I kept waiting for the U.S.S. Nevada to break for the ocean, and the U.S.S. Shaw to explode, but these and other major events of the battle were never dramatized.

However, actually traveling to battleship row, and seeing the shattered remains of the Arizona rusting at the bottom of the harbor was a sobering thing. Seeing the wreck made that day real in ways that history books and movies can never match. Standing on the memorial you can look down and see oil leaking from wreck, over 60 years after the explosion of her forward magazine doomed 1,177 of the 1,400 men aboard. The survivors say that the oil will stop leaking when the last of them dies.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Daily life in Florence


After the submarine, we kicked around Waikiki a bit, drinking some delicious beer and skimming through the Army Museum. The Museum was housed in an old coastal defense battery. After the war it had be slated for demolition, but due to its massive construction, was too hard to destroy! So they decided to make a museum out of it instead.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Under the Deep Blue Sea

My Aunt has a huge stash of fliers and brochures, basically covering anything you can do on Oahu. Flipping through them, we happened upon the Oahu Submarine Rides. Now, I've been fascinated by submarines for AGES, and throw in shipwrecks and I really get excited. This hour sub trip not only involved a real submarine (unlike the admittedly cool Disneyland ride that's just on rails) but offered a look at two ships sunk as artificial reefs.

We made the trip out to Waikiki and motored out through the chop to the surfaced sub. They gave a talk about seasickness before we left, and I think the power of suggestion had more impact on my stomach than the wave motion did. We all filed into the sub, our little party being the last to board! This actually proved a boon, as we got to sit right at the very front, right behind the pilot.

The hatches closed, permission to dive was given, and suddenly the floor was slanting rather seriously downwards. We were going under! This landlubber got quite the rush, even more so when schools of fish started swimming over to check this big noisy thing out.

The dive takes the passengers around several different sorts of artificial reefs. First you swing by some structures that were developed by various oceanographic schools and agencies, but for me the really interesting one were of course the two ships. The first is an old navy support ship that was surplussed out and sunk by the submarine company.

There are also a couple of airliners from a defunct inter-island airline that were acquired and sunk. As our oh so punny guide broadcast, "We liquidated their assets!" Har har har!

The second of the ship based artificial reefs was a Korean fishing ship. Some years back there was a bad fire on board, and the vessel was abandoned by it's owners.

And then our ride was over, and it was time to surface. In our hour underwater I had seen some very cool sights, including three reef sharks (small, but still- SHARKS!) an eagle ray, tons of fish, two sunken ships, artificial reefs and two sunken airplanes. How cool is that?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Around Honolulu

The next morning saw us finding out the truth of rain and convertibles. If you drive fast enough with the top down, you won't get wet. Woe betide he who slows down! With the rather dreary weather, we headed to lunch first, to the world's greatest food court in Ala Moana shopping center. I of course made a bee-line to the okonomiyaki stall, a dish you just can't get in Colorado. (For those who don't know, Okonomiyaki is rather like a cabbage pancake/ pizza ish dish. You grill up the pancake, and put toppings like beef, fish, shrimp or even cheese on it. I absolutely fell in love with okonomiyaki in Japan.)

After lunch the weather had cleared a bit, so we went to the number one tourist attraction in Honolulu, The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater. The area was very sobering, with rows of graves, as well as a memorial with the many Pacific war dead whose bodies where never recovered. Among those interred in the cemetery are Ernie Pyle, who died on an island near Okinawa, and one of the astronauts on the Challenger.

From the rim of the crater we could look out on great views of downtown Honolulu.

Leaving Punchbowl, we drove up the Mt. Tantalus/ Round Top road, a panoramic jungle drive into the volcanic hills above Honolulu. Both Mt. Tantalus and Round Top are both younger volcanoes, like Punch Bowl and Diamond Head, that erupted after Oahu had left the Hawaiian Hot Spot on the floor of the Pacific.

Looking down from a state park overlook we has great, if dark, views of Honolulu, Diamond Head, and Punchbowl, seen here.

Coming down from the hills, we took a quick drive through central Honolulu, scoping out the old Palace (the only royal palace on American soil!) as well as the King Kamehameha statue that I just had to get a quick photo of!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Window Seat

I was lucky enough to snag a window seat on my direct flight from Denver to Honolulu. We flew a different flight path than I am used to, right down I-70, so I got to gaze down at high Colorado peaks like Torrey's, Mt. Bierstadt, and more. I figured my trip was off to a great start, and I wasn't even half way yet!

As we got closer in, I got views of inter-island ferries, and a glimpse of the Big Island off in the distance.

Upon arrival, I was met my Island Auntie (TM) and we made a quick stop at the last original tiki bar for some island fair and a fruity cocktail! The Mai Tai's were delicious, as was the food.

We then went to her house on Eva Beach, enjoyed the (shockingly early) sunset, and chatted away. Soon enough I was ready for bed, and my next day's adventuring.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Taste of Lava

A hastily processed photo of one of Kilauea's two currently active vents. More will of course be forthcoming, when I get home.