Thursday, May 25, 2017


Our bags finally arrived in Riga on Monday afternoon just in time for us to change into clean clothes and fly back to Amsterdam on Tuesday morning. Fortunately there were no problems with that flight and Josh and Peter and I arrived at the Marriott Hotel in the afternoon with no problems. We had a wonderful meal here at the hotel and then took a walk around the town to orient ourselves and then had some cocktails and finally went to bed.
Sunflowers at the van Gogh Museum


Wednesday was a big day here in Amsterdam because that evening Amsterdam was playing Manchester United for the European Cup title. So we made sure to plan our day so that we were nowhere near the field where all the fans would be gathering that evening to watch the game, which was just two blocks away from our hotel.
Almond Blossoms
Painted for his nephew's birth

We toured the van Gogh Museum and it was really out of this world. All of his works are arranged chronologically with detailed explanations of his life his experiences and his work. Really a tremendous homage to the master.

With Skipper Mark

Train station

Pension Homeland

It got a little chilly during dinner

Liga had given us the phone number of someone that runs a small Canal tour boat named Mark so I called him and we arranged for a private Canal tour at 5 p.m. Skipper Mark was quite a character and he had a nice electric boat and took us all around the Old Town through the canals and gave us a great history of the city of Amsterdam. We asked him for a suggestion for dinner and he took us to a place called pension Homeland far away from the city centre and the crowds of crazy football fans. We sat on the porch for several hours and had a really wonderful meal. By the time we were finished dinner the game was on and so the streets had cleared and we were able to take a cab right back to our hotel. We went into the bar to watch the end of the game and unfortunately Amsterdam lost. As the game was coming to a close we looked out our window and we saw Vans of police arrived blocking off our street we saw police on Horseback managing the crowd. As far as we know nothing bad happened but it was interesting to see that this was all being controlled.

Today we are off to the has been a great way to celebrate Peter's birthday and I can't tell you how grateful I am to be a part of his life and his family's.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Welcome to Latvia!

To get to Riga we had to fly through Amsterdam so it was a long day of traveling to make our destination. Our first hurdle was just getting on the plane as Peter and Josh both had overweight bags. This weekend was also the first weekend for all of the foreign students flying back home so the airport was a mob scene. Peter was instructed by the agent that we had to go get in line to pay for the overweight bags but that line was at least an hour and a half long. If you've ever traveled with Peter you know that when Peter want something done it gets done! Needless to say we didn't have to wait in the long line.

Our flight to Amsterdam was uneventful and gave us plenty of time to make our airbaltic flight to Riga. The flight to Riga was great because Peter had ordered us food ahead of time so we had a nice meal on the plane while everyone else was offered a cheese sandwich. When we went to baggage claim we waited and we waited and we waited. The only bags that made it through were the two car seats. Nine other bags we're lost in Amsterdam.

So we made a claim for lost bags and Lauma's sister Liga drove us to our hotel.

We are staying at hotel Bergs. This is a wonderful luxury hotel very near the old section of Riga. As we checked in the agent smiled and said did you know you receive a complimentary upgrade to one of our executive Penthouse suites? Well, no, we didn't know but we were certainly happy to accept the offer!

Our room is like a luxury two-story apartment the bottom floor is a full kitchen a lovely living room a balcony and then a spiral staircase up to the second floor which has a master bath a beautiful walk in closet a large bedroom and another balcony looking over the city.
Dinner at Biblioteka

The Orthodox Church

We have spent several days here having dinner with Laumas family and seeing the sights of Riga.  It is really a beautiful city. And the cuisine has been out of this world. But most of all it has been such a pleasure to receive the hospitality of Liga Jānis and Sandra here in their home. I am really looking forward to returning to Riga and for an extended stay.
Art neuveau district


Cruising the canal

Dipping sauce for our bread

Our tour guide Liga
Jānis, Gabriela and Liga

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Pisa and Lucca

On Thursday Peter,  Josh, Lauma and the girls went to Banfi south of Siena. Chase Dylan and I rented a car and drove to Pisa and Luca.

Dylan is a great Navigator so we had no problem finding our way through the little streets of Pisa and finding a place to park. At one point i almost took out an entire tour group but thats another story! We walked to the giant Square and it was mobbed with people. The funniest thing we saw was all of the people taking the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa picture.

We did not go up the tower because we would have to wait too long for an appointment but we did go into the baptistery which is noted for its acoustics and we toured the cathedral itself. The Grandeur of these buildings is really something to see.

The Baptistry in Pisa

 A thoughtful lunch selection

Central Market in Luca.

A typical home

For just walking the streets and enjoying the feel of an old city I much prefer Lucca to Pisa so after we saw the tower we got in the car and drove through the countryside Toluca.

Luca was once a very powerful city of artists and was an independent city-state for nearly 500 years. The old walls around the city are intact and the best part is there are very few tourists that take the time to come here. In Venice and Siena there are literally thousands of people walking the street with you everywhere you go. But in Lucca you can wander the streets, peek into the shops and not be constantly accosted.

We did lots of souvenir buying here and then finally headed back to Florence.

Dinner was at ZaZa's. It was a great place that meandered through several buildings. We ened up in a private niche where we could relax and talk about all the fun we were having. We also learned that Peter loves an Aperol spritz!


On Wednesday we all got up early, which was a miracle in itself, and walk to the train station to head out to Venice. We were standing on the platform wondering when we were supposed to get on. Finally someone ask the conductor and he said we had one minute left and we may even miss the train! We hurry down the platform got on the train just as it started to pull out of the station.

2 hours later we were at the end of the line in Venice, we met our guide Martino and took a water taxi to the island of Murano.

It was fascinating to tour a glass factory and watch the artists at work as they created glass flowers for a huge glass Chandelier.
Chase and Dylan

Peter was really looking forward to seeing the glass and as we went through the showroom we found a beautiful glass bowl to put in our new home in San Diego.

After touring The Foundry, we saw old Murano and then hand a long wonderful lunch in town. The soft-shelled crabs from the Venice Lagoon we're in season and we had two large plates of that and then some seafood risotto and two long eel.

When we finally made it to the Piazza San Marco at about 3:30. Martino give us a tour of the Piazza and some tips on what we may want to see. We stopped for coffee and realized that we needed to get back to the Grand Canal for our Water Taxi to the Rail station. As we were getting in the boat Chase suddenly noticed that I did not have my backpack with me. So I jumped out of the boat and told them I would meet them at the train station and I ran to the coffee shop. It took a little bit of hunting to trace my way back but I found it. Then I walked to the Rialto Bridge and got my own water taxi and had a wonderful private ride up the Grand Canal to the rail station. It was quite a day!

 We saw lots of teams practicing for an upcoming rowing contest

A wonderful week

On Tuesday we rented a large Mercedes van and the nine of us drove to Siena. The weather was perfect and the driving wasn't that difficult.

We had lunch at Il Campo, and then toured the city. Old Siena still has an early Renaissance feel to it and the cathedral is beautiful.

The residents that built the cathedral wanted to honor their new devotion to science and reason and also let the church know that they were controlling their own destiny

They had planned a much larger Cathedral that would have cantilever over the city on a hill but the Black Death killed nearly 60% of the population. Siena economy never really recovered from that and Florence took over as the giant power in the region.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Touring Firenze

On Saturday we moved in to our villa on Via degli Alfani, 34. From the street you only see a door, but once you meander through some halls you walk into a 5 bedroom villa. 3 bedrooms on the main house and two in the annex at the other end of the private garden (pictured above.) Peter and I chose the annex and the kids are in the main house.
We are only blocks away from all the main attractions.
Saturday night after we settled in we had a chef prepare us dinner at the villa. Paté, rack of lamb, a tart, lots of wine.

Sunday was a walking tour of Florence.  We started at the Uffizi which was PACKED. Saw lots of Renaissance art including Lippi's Madonna.
And Medusa by Caravaggio. Fun fact: it is a self portrait.
As the story goes, he spent time watching decapitations so he could capture the moment the subject is aware they have been separated from their bodies.
After lunch we walked to Santa Maria Novella.  The facade is beautiful.
This recently restored crucifix dominates the interior.  It was painted by Giotto in the 1300's.
The side altars annd the main are all about 20 feet above the church floor. The Arno floods about once every 100 years and covers the main floor of the church.
Finally we made our way to "il Duomo". Silvia our guide spent lots of time describing its architecture and construction. Started in 1295 it took nearly 200 years to complete.
It is still counted among one of the largest churches in the world.

Dinner was at La Giostra. Set in a old storage room it is very romantic with a lively staff. We ate wonderful antipasti, primi piatti, and main courses of beef and veal. Of course every meal is finished with lemoncello!
Tomorrow we are off to Siena and the Chiantigianni!!

Friday, May 12, 2017

First Day in Firenze!!

We started  from 3 separate  Cities: Rochester NY, San Diego CA and San Francisco, CA but we all made it to Florence by 6 p.m. on Friday. We gathered downstairs and had a wonderful meal on the patio in the garden of the Villa Medici where we stayed for the nite. We are moving to our own villa, La Limonaia today. It is in the heart of the city and we'll be here for a week!

It is Saturday morning here, Peter and I were awake by 5 a.m. .. .so we went to the garden, had breakfast and we're waiting for the kids to all get up. We have Josh & Lauma and the girls, Gabriela and Isabela. We also have Dylan and Chase. Looking forward to a lot of fun and exploration here in Tuscany. We'll see the sights here, drive the Chiatigiani, take a train to Venezia, and just have a relaxed wonderful  time while we're here!
Dinner at Villa Medici

 Chase and Dylan enjoying business class
 Josh managing the girls!

Many more pictures and stories to come!!