LONDON & FIRENZE (Dec. 2005)
 

Kathy and I spent the week before Christmas in Ascot at the Clements,
then returned for the first week in February. Here are some pix.

Just before we left for the trip, the cast of the television show Extreme Makeover came to Blacksburg to spend a week building a house for a deserving family. Naturally, the whole town was agog, especially when running across the star Ty Pennington in a local restaurant. We tried to go over to watch the action, but this is as close as we could get:

So, on to London!

This is Buddy, the Lab who is always seeking to be loved:

Zach and Nick both got bicycles for Christmas:

Of course, that's not all they got:

There were two trees in the house:

The dining-room table, ready for Christmas Eve dinner:

This is Jojo, the family friend who joined us for dinner one night. She and her husband also had us over for Christmas Day dinner, since the Clements flew to the Carribean that morning:

Katie's kitchen is where everybody hangs out:

Katie loves her antique(?) tub:

Lots of kids come to visit; some of them like to hang out on the stairs:

Kathy, Katie and I went into London one day, and checked out the toy department at Harrods (we ate down the street at Harvey Nichols). There were huge animals in the toy department, constructed of legos:

Nick with a friend:

Nick with another friend watching TV. Buddy is bored with the whole thing:

Taking it easy, Nick and Buddy:

The family friend, Patricia, brought her kids over to visit:

Buddy was all over me much of the time:

Nick waiting for the school bus, and thinking:

Nick comes home from school tired:

Tim opening the wine for dinner. That's Philip, Jojo's husband, with him:

Zach has friends of all ages who love video games:


 

Zach's guitar teacher says he's a natural.

Zach is also a natural soccer player:

We were in Firenze for the month of January as usual, enjoying the fabulous apartment right next to the Dante Church that we are lucky enough to be able to rent. Kathy sometimes thinks it's a little cold, however:

She is easily revived, however, by the five-minute walk to Gilli's, the world's greatest bar. (An Italian bar is different from an American bar, as it specializes in coffee, pastries and the like, although it still sells alcohol. And there are no bar stools.)

As it was Christmas season while we were there, there were lots of decorations up:

Obviously, the two pictures above were taken from opposite ends of the same street, Via del Corso. Our apartment is on a little alley just past the "Albergo" sign to the right. The "Presepio" in lights is an ad for  the manger scene in the church of Santa Maria dei Ricci on the left side of the street.
 

Below is Via Calzaiuoli, two blocks away. The name refers to the shoemakers, calzolaii in Italian, who once had their shops on this street. The name of Via del Corso, incidentally, comes from the fact that in Roman times the soldiers raced chariots along the street, the main east-west thoroughfare of the ancient city. The second picture below ia an outdoor Christmas tree in Piazza della Republica, a short hop away, with a carousel in the background


.

A better view of the carousel:


 

For reasons unknown to me, the city was filled with sculptures of cows when we were there. (We actually bought a replica, about a foot long, which can be seen in our kitchen.)


 

"I never saw a purple cow" Ogden Nash wrote. He'd never been in Firenze! (Well, it's not quite purple, but close enough.)

Here is a daytime view of Piazza della Repubblica from the intersection of Via del Corso and Via Calzaiuolo. Gilli's bar is to the right, just around the corner.

It is in this area, near Piazza del Repubblica, that the people selling knock-off purses and the like hang out. There are signs everywhere warning would-be purchases of the severe penalites for buying fake goods (15,000 euro fines, for example) but nobody seems to pay attention. The vendors keep their wares spread out on blankets, and when the police appear they can gather them up in the twinkling of an eye and vanish like a thief in the night.

The Feast of the Epiphany, or Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) marks the end of the Christmas season and the begnning of Carnivale. As usual we went to the parade of the three Kings, where flags were hurled high in the air:

Soldiers marched:


 

Nobility in medieval costume appeared:

And the Kings came by on horseback:

We were watching in Piazza della Signoria, at the foot of Via Calzaiuolo, and could admire the waxing moon high in the sky above the Palazzo Vecchio in the background:

We have many dear friends in Firenze, one of the reasons we go there every year, and they usually invite us to their homes for fabulous meals. Among them are Timothy Chaplin, his wife Diane:

Daughter Livia:

You can see below what a lovely home they have:

And here's Timothy, taking a break from the kitchen. (He is a fabulous amateur chef and does all the cooking when we come to visit.)

We were also invited to lunch at Horace Gibson's, another dear long-time friend whose partner of many years, Kevin McIntyre, died suddenly since our last visit to Firenze a year previous. Timothy, Horace and Kevin were the mainstay of he tenor section of my choir the year I served as choir director at St. James church in Firenze.  Sorry, no pictures of Horace or of Joan Yakkey, our other long-time friend whom we also saw.

I spent some time in the math department with Gianni Frosali, another old friend. He and I managd to get some important work done in the organization of the international transport theory meetings that Chuck Siewert and I began in Blacksburg in 1969, and which have continued biannually ever since. (For the 2005 meeting in Budapest, click here.) The next meeting will be in Russia, by the way.

As usual the Frosalis invited us to their lovely home for a fabulous meal of bistecca Fiorentina:

I made a quick day trip to Milan to vist my aunt, Maria Pia and my cousin Valeria. While waiting to meet them in the Galleria, I wandered across the street to La Scala:

We ate, as usual, at Prima Fila (the "First Row") a favorite of the opera crowd.
Here's my aunt:

And here are the three of us:

While we were eating, there was a huge hubub outside the restaurant where, it turned out, a crowd of young people had caught sight of a couple of rock stars. Sorry, I never saw them before:

That's one of them in the yellow jacket; anyone who can identify him, please email me.

The police showed up to keep order.

Well, ciao tutti. Let me know if you enjoyed this page.