Monday, April 29, 2013

The Thin Red Line Ball

We are not British.  Nor are we army.  But on April 18, Joe and I went to the British Army Ball, or the Thin Red Line Ball.
The "Thin Red Line" was the name given to this famous picture by the artist Robert Gibb.  It depicts the Battle of Balaclavia, in 1854.  This battle was between the Highlanders and the Russians.

The dress code was Dinner Jacket or National Dress.  Let's just say that is something I never saw on an invitation in the US!

This ball is unique in receiving the support of the Commander of the Royal Army of Oman.  He gave his permission for the Foorsan Squadron to provide the Guard of Honor at the entrance.  He also gave his permission for the Band of the Royal Army of Oman to perform.

My husband, Joe, and three of our table mates.

Bagpipes are a prominent part of the Band of the Royal Army of Oman, since Sultan Qaboos studied in the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.  After his studies, the Sultan served in the British Army.

The band played for us as we walked into the ballroom.

Some of these pictures are not great, but it is hard to fit a 35mm SLR camera in an evening bag!

Our place mats.  They were won by the only British lady at the table.

Our dinner entertainment.  This is the only event outside of Omani events where the Royal Army Band performs.

Can't get much more British than Beef Wellington.  It was delicious!

By the way, did I mention that this was the first formal I have attended since my senior prom??  This is a far cry from lavender chiffon ruffles and baby's breath in my hair.  If I hadn't left my pictures behind in storage, I would have posted it!  :)
Good thing we took this picture before the dancing started!  It was a lot of fun.  But Joe and I had to leave the ball early, to take Savannah to the aiport for her school trip to Turkey.  Look for those details in my next blog post.

Monday, April 22, 2013

ITALY-- 3 of 3-- Venice

The trip to Italy ended with two full days in Venice.  Day one was chilly and rainy.  Venice floods about 100 days a year, and you can tell by the raised sidewalks put out so we could walk into St. Mark's Basilica.

The water was up to a foot deep in places, but most of it had receded by the afternoon.

The mosaic on top of the main entrance to the basilica.  I could not take pictures inside, but imagine the ceilings of this magnificent cathedral covered in these vibrant mosaics.  The basilica was built in the 11th century, and was decorated with booty from returning sea captains.
I wonder how many bridges we crossed in Venice.

The Grand Canal

The view from our lunch table
The famous Rialto Bridge
Do you notice the heater above our table?  It was very appreciated!

Oh, what a difference a day makes!  This was our last day in Italy and we were greeted by blue skies and sunshine.

We took a boat tour along the Grand canal.  I was fascinated by the old buildings along the canals.  Can you tell how there are some steps below the surface of the water?  Venice has sunk 9 inches in the last century and it is very evident all around you.
The view from our gondola

Savannah's souvenir of choice?  A carneval mask.
This was the terrace in the back of our apartment.  We could see cruise ships go by.
No, my picture is not crooked.  The tower is!

We wanted a picture with the carneval characters.  But Charlie Chaplin really wanted in!
There are no cars allowed in Venice.  This is how goods are delivered.
The Bridge of Sighs

Some of the colorful souvenirs
We went to the top of the campanile in St. Mark's square.  This tower replaced the original tower, which crumbled a thousand years after it was built.  The beauty of this tower?  An elevator!  :)

St. Mark's basilica on the right

We walked through many streets around Venice.  I was always amazed at the pieces of great art or architecture tucked into unexpected places.
This are not public boats, but private ones, docked outside residences.
Austin and I prove there is more to Italy than gelato.
A sunny grand canal picture
Look closely inside the gondola, and you can see the bride and groom.
I told my son Jared that he made one good-looking tourist!  :)
I absolutely loved listening to the live classical music outside the Florian.  This cafe opened its doors in this spot in 1720!
Our last night all together.  Makes me a little sad to look at this picture.

Our last picture and last meal in Italy!  We ended up eating pizza just about every day.  Most of the pizza crust was flat and crispy but this pizza was thick and gooey.  My favorite!

Ah, this concludes our trip to Italy.  We are already thinking ahead to our next vacation.  Maybe Thailand!

Friday, April 12, 2013

ITALY- 2 of 3-- Tuscany and Florence

We spent the first three days of our Italy trip in Rome.  It was great and we saw so many cool things, but it was nice to travel out of Rome and slow down the pace.  We had scheduled a "Tuscany Region" tour, and I didn't really know where exactly we were going.  Our first stop was this small fishing village. 

Talamone was used in the filming of James Bond's Quantum of Solace.

Talamone's other claim to fame?  To the right of Jared's mouth, just under the water, lies the Costa Concordia, the cruise ship that sank last year. 

Savannah's goal is to not be photographed with her mouth open while she is wearing braces.  I got a couple of pictures of shiny metal, though.  But I must get her approval before publicly posting.

The most amazing thing about driving through the Tuscany region is that is looks just like it did in my head.  Rolling hills, vineyards, and tall cypress trees.

Our next stop was the town of Siena.  We were only there a couple of hours, but next time I would like to stay a couple of days.  Siena seems mostly suspended in time, a great medieval town.

We started off with a great lunch.  Papa Joe is enjoying being around all his kids at the same time.

I thought this restaurant looked like it came right out of a movie set.

My daughter Amanda, who did most of the trip planning, checks her trusty Rick Steve's guide, to find  what we most want to see in Siena in the short time we have.

We did manage a few minutes to take pictures in Il Campo, the best town square in Italy.

I think they were tired of boring poses.

Seth and Amanda

Gelato picture #93.  I did not partake, however.  I had Riva Reno gelato in Rome and it spoiled me for any other gelato.  Best frozen stuff I have ever eaten!  And my flavor of choice?  Nutella.  Duh.
Joe and me in front of the Duomo (or cathedral).  It houses statues by Michelangelo and sculptures by Bernini, but we had no time to go inside.  We had to choose between more statues or wine.

After we left Siena, we saw a little more sun and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, on our way to a wine-tasting.
Olive trees

This is the winery we visited.  This part of Tuscany is famous for Chianti wines.  We enjoyed talking to the great-great-granddaughter of the winery's founder.

A peek at the vineyard through the window in the old stables.

Enjoying the good wine 

After Siena, our tour of Tuscany ended in Florence.  Although we were in Florence for less than 24 hours, we put those hours to full use.  We began the next morning with a tour of the highlights of the Heart of Florence.  Our tour began at this tower, the oldest building in Florence.  I think it  was built around the 11th century (I really have to start taking notes of these tour guides' lectures) and used as a woman's prison.  Next, we saw Michelangelo's David.  Most impressive!  But, no pictures allowed.
Amanda and Seth in front of the Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore).  There are 463 steps to the top of the dome, for amazing views.  We chose to climb the Campinile Tower, with 50 fewer steps and shorter lines.

These are the doors that lead to the Baptistery.  Our tour guide was baptized here, but now it is much more difficult to be baptized here.  Michelangelo thought these bronze doors were fit to be the gates of paradise.  In the squares are different scenes from the Old Testament. 

This particular square was a breakthrough in 'modern' art.  It was the first time perspective was used to create the illusion of receding distance.

The view from the top of the Camanile.  Over 400 steps.  I have to say, this was probably the only time in Italy when I was grateful it was not warmer.

There is a LOT of open space underneath Savannah.

Florence's famous bridge-- Ponte Vecchio.  This bridge has been lined with gold and silver shops for hundreds of years.  Now that is my kind of bridge!

You want to know what Joe is thinking in this picture?  He is thinking, "Yes!  I got her to walk away from the diamonds."

These pictures were taken from the center of the bridge.

Really, the jewelry stores were like none I have ever seen.  This is a fabulous store that sells costume jewelry.  I went back to buy a necklace I had admired the day before, but stores in Florence shut down for siesta.  Just like Oman!

This concludes your tour of Tuscany.  Next stop-- Venice!