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Posts Tagged ‘marble’

After we left the Great Pyramids of Giza we drove across the Nile into the heart of Cairo. Since I already told you about the traffic, I won’t bring it all up again, but I am so thankful for our wonderful bus driver and his ability that got us safely to the Egyptian Museum.

The current museum is only large enough to display about 1/3 of its total antiquities collection. We saw the location and construction in process for a new museum that will be large enough to display everything. It is hoped that it will be completed in three years.

Of course the most celebrated collection in the museum is the artifacts of King Tutankhamun. The amount of gold in the collection was astounding. His coffin alone was made of solid gold and weighs 243 lbs. There were thousands of statues, busts, sarcophagi and other artifacts throughout the entire museum. We also saw Canopic jars that the internal organs were removed and placed into during the mummification process. Pictures were not allowed inside of the museum, so I have attached some from other sites so you can get a sense of what the place was like.

The museum for the most part was completely accessible. The one thing that was not accessible was the restroom. And of course, just my luck, the clock told me it was time that I use a restroom. This was a definite experience. I’m not sure why, but in the design of the building, the restroom was located between the first and second floor. The elevator did not make a stop on the restroom mezzanine. So in order to get to the restroom a person had to hike up a very large stairway from the first floor, or hike down a very large stairway from the second floor. And I might add that the stairs are not carpeted but are made from fairly slick marble. Looking at this situation, I was more than willing to look elsewhere for a restroom. But my guide was determined. So from the second floor he grabbed a museum worker and they lifted my wheelchair down the very long slippery stairway to the restroom. Wendy just walked beside of us ready to make a grab for me if anyone slipped. And of course once I got to the restroom, it was not wheelchair accessible! But I have learned to make do and this was no exception. Then they lifted me again to carry me down to the ground floor. I could tell from the face of the poor museum worker that this was a first for him. Lol

After leaving the museum my guide lifted me into our van and off we headed back to the ship in Alexandria. I enjoyed the drive and scenery and asked many questions of things I saw along the way. We also had an interesting experience of needing to get some diesel fuel. Evidently diesel is difficult to come by at the moment and even though I could not understand anything of the exchange between the throngs of people at the pumps, I gathered that the price is not set, but is rather bartered for in very heated exchange. But our guide got us right to the front of the lines, we got the diesel, and continued on our way to Alexandria.

So many wonderful and amazing memories of everything we saw in Cairo. Truly a land of wonders.

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Our second day in Italy did not start out quite like Wendy and I planned. We were both exhausted when we finally hit the bed, so we should have known better, but we did not set our alarm. We were not leaving the hotel until 8:00 AM. so we thought we would be fine. I woke up to look at the clock and it was 7:15 AM!! Now if you want me in a panic mode, being late for anything will do it. But Wendy and I got ready, packed, had our luggage downstairs, ate breakfast and did all of that in 45 minutes. Let’s just say I did not let any grass grow under my wheels that morning.  Lol

Wendy and I boarded our mini bus and set out for the Colosseum. We enjoyed the many sites along the way of shops, cafes, people and lots of traffic.  As we approached the Colosseum it definitely was the major presence in the area. Once again, seeing a picture of something in a book versus real life is totally different. In its day, the Colosseum must have been amazing, but it now gave me the impression of something that needed to be treated with great delicacy. I guess I had never thought of it that way before. Monumental in size and history it was spectacular. But thousands of years of wear and tear, as well as being scavenged by people to build other structures, have taken its toll. In the pictures you can see holes covering the entire structure. The holes are where materials – iron and marble – were removed for other building projects. Of course it is now being preserved and protected, and there are reconstruction efforts going on as you can see from the many scaffolds.

The Colosseum itself was approximately 160 feet high, could hold 55,000 spectators and had over 80 entrances. It took about 8 years to finish the structure and was built on the site of an artificial lake that was originally part of Nero’s gardens in the center of Rome. It consisted of four stories above ground and one story below ground where the animals were kept. There were also mechanical devices that were used to raise the animals to the center of the arena.  There was also a canopy, made from sails to shield the spectators from the sun, which could be pulled over the structure in a matter of minutes. This was accomplished with giant poles, ropes and about 1000 men.

The interior of the Colosseum was very accessible. Entering at the ground level the floors were mostly flat stone and ramps. At one end there is an elevator that can be used to access all floors. As with most ancient sites that I have been to, I just take my time and bounce my wheelchair over the rough spots. Even though the surface may be flat, there are cracks between the stones and lots of holes that love to catch my front wheels. So I strongly advise the slow and easy approach to getting around. That is much better than taking a nose dive from my chair.

The grounds around the Colosseum were very beautiful with lots of trees, flowers and other ancient monuments. The pine trees around here were beautiful. They are Italian Stone Pines and are very different from the White Pines that I am familiar with in Maine that grow straight and tall. They are referred to as Umbrella Pines and branch out to create a lush looking canopy. There is also the triumphal Arch of Constantine, which is a towering 69 ft high, just outside the Colosseum. We also saw the base of Nero’s statue that has been excavated. It is approximately 75 square feet and was originally covered with marble. Nero commissioned the 120 ft. Colossus of himself to be made from bronze and placed outside of his private palace. After the death of Nero, the head of the statue went through several changes depending on who was emperor at the time. It was later moved to the Colosseum area around 128 A.D., but there is no trace of the statue today.

After leaving the Colosseum we went on a small trek to the Roman Forum. On this walk we saw many beautiful and ancient buildings all around us. And of course what would a tour to the Colosseum be without seeing some Gladiators! Going into the excavated Forum was very “interesting” for a wheelchair. It was a flat paved surface but the incline was extremely steep. My guide had my wheelchair and backed me all the way down.

For centuries the Forum was the heartbeat of Roman public life. Everything important that happened in Rome happened at the Forum: processions, speeches, commercial activity, Roman Senate meetings and elections all took place here. The Forum also was the home of the ancient city shrines and temples. Much is still in the process of excavation and restoration but the temple complex of the Vestal Virgins is very well preserved along with many other monuments, arches and shrines.

When it was time to leave the Forum I thought, “Oh great, mountain climbing time.” My guide then grabbed my wheelchair and told me to hold on. He then started running to get up some speed and up the mountain we went! He was shouting in English and Italian all the way – “Excuse me! Pardon me! Look out! Get out of the way!” I’m still laughing about it remembering the people diving to the sides so they wouldn’t get mowed down by us. When we got to the top he was completely out of breath and I felt like I had just got off a rollercoaster. Got to love it! Lol

All of us then boarded the busses and headed to Civitavecchia where we would meet our new home for the next 14 days, Mariner of The Seas.

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Vatican City, the smallest independent state in the world, is approximately 110 acres in size – a country within a country. Surrounded by high walls, security check points checking passports and many policia, it was very clear we were going into another country. Our tour guide was great, and once again, he was Wendy’s and my personal guide so I had every opportunity to ask as many questions as I wanted to (and I tend to ask a lot).  He took us everywhere using ramps and elevators while he pushed my wheelchair along. I felt extremely spoiled (which was nice for both Wendy and me). The central palace courtyard was beautiful and filled with well maintained gardens and sculptures. The original courtyard is now bisected by the Vatican Library. One modern and interesting sculpture we saw in the upper courtyard was a piece done by Arnaldo Pomodoro which consists of two concentric spheres, one inside of the other. The inner sphere represents the earth and the outer sphere represents Christianity. The picture I took doesn’t do it justice but you can at least see it. We also went all the way to Rome to see a Maine pinecone!  The Pigna, a large Roman bronze pinecone (originally part of a fountain).

Leaving the courtyard we started down the very long Vatican Library. This walk led us through the many centuries of Popes, the summer palace, and ended by entering the Sistine Chapel. The very long walk down through the summer palace main corridor, known as the Library, was filled with beautiful paintings, sculptures, artifacts, marble columns and walls that can no longer be made because the red and yellow marbles have been quarried out, and even Moon rocks donated to the Vatican from President Richard Nixon. The surrounding gardens were beautiful and also contained centuries of history. And exiting the end of the summer palace, we entered the Sistine Chapel. Pictures in school history books certainly do it no justice. And the two pictures that Wendy took (before we were told not to), shows none of the splendor we saw. Michelangelo, the most famous of artists that worked on the chapel, painted the 12,000 sq ft ceiling between 1508 and 1512. The ceiling, and especially the entire back wall which depicts The Last Judgment, painted between 1535 and 1541, is considered by many to be Michelangelo’s crowning achievement. Describing everything in detail is impossible, but all four walls and the ceiling work together to create an account of man from creation to God’s final judgment. Now for all of you art scholars out there that may know this, I did not, if you look at the famous fresco of The Creation Of Adam which dominates the center of the 65 ft. high ceiling, you will see behind the image of God a banner in the shape of a bisected human brain. At that time any dissection of the human body was taboo. Our guide told us that Michelangelo did that intentionally which represented the mind of God put into His creation of Adam.

Retracing our steps back through the summer palace we saw an incredible spiral staircase. It is designed with two spirals, one for going up and the other down. This use to be the primary entrance from the street so I was very glad when our guide brought us to an elaborate elevator complete with seats in it! Although the “down” aspect of the spiral could have been great fun in my wheelchair!

When we left Vatican City, we met up with the rest of our group and headed to our hotel for the night. By now we had been awake for about 30 hours and needless to say all of us were getting sleepy. We ate a delicious dinner in a large banquet room at the hotel and then gladly retreated to our rooms for much needed rest. But even then, eager for the next day when we would see the Roman Coliseum.

 

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Where does one start to tell of an adventure? My latest adventure actually started about five weeks ago when Wendy started packing. For me, the “feeling” of being on an adventure started the night of October 17th before our flight to Italy. I was unable to drift off to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. Sleeplessness happens to me before all trips, and this one proved to be no exception.

The last time I looked at the bedroom clock that night it was 1:37 am. Then it seemed like I immediately woke up to Wendy getting up for her shower which was at 5:00 am. The morning was nice and relaxed and we got to enjoy a cup of coffee and finish up last minute details before it was time to head to the airport. Our daughter Kara drove my van which blessed us with curbside service. Things went very smoothly through the check-in process and the staff was very helpful with our luggage.

For those of you that may be in a wheelchair like I am, flying does create a challenge. Most things are “accessible” right up to entering the plane. Just remember that “accessible” is not the same as “convenient.” There will be elevators, gaps to pop over and portable ramps that I have to wait for. Then the last obstacle, the skywalk from the terminal to the plane door, where I have to transfer into what is known as an aisle chair. If you use your imagination, an aisle chair would be my idea of medieval torture for the disabled. It is very narrow, hard and comes complete with straps to tie me to the chair. Once in the chair I am tipped backwards while an attendant pulls me down the plane aisle to my seat. My own wheelchair is tagged and put down under with the luggage. If there is a plus side to this, I get to be the first one on the plane. The down side is that I am also the last one to get off the plane.

And of course what is any trip without at least one speed bump? Because our domestic and international flights were booked at separate times (my fault), we were told that we would have to claim our luggage at Philadelphia and check in again for our international leg of our journey to Italy. When we arrived in Philadelphia, we were told by personnel at terminal F, that our bags were checked straight through to Italy and that we could just take the shuttle bus to terminal A. After attempting to inquire further into the change of plans with little success, we just went with the flow, rolled 12.2 miles to the shuttle bus, was taken to terminal A at gate one, then rolled 14.8 miles to our gate A23. Checking in with customer service, we were told that we did indeed have to claim our bags personally back at terminal F. At this point I became very thankful that I had on my “Indiana Jones” hat for this delightful trek we were on. Wendy and I repeated the process in reverse back to baggage claim in terminal F. Of course that also meant we had to exit security. At baggage claim we discovered that our bags were all tagged and on their way to terminal A. Wendy and I just thanked everyone for their help and proceeded to go through security again to get back into terminal F. Frisked twice in one day! Now how wonderful is that?! We said hello to our many new airport staff friends along the way and just enjoyed the scenery this time.

Remember when I said to leave plenty of time between flights? Now you know why.

The flight from Philadelphia to Rome was a little on the squishy side, but outside of some “interesting” neighbors, uneventful. I managed to catch some cat-naps which were not very comfortable, but did serve the purpose. We arrived in Rome around 9:00 a.m. their time and hit the ground running (or rolling in my case). The rest of our group started the tour at some Roman Catacombs. Since this particular tour was not possible for me, Wendy and I were taken in our private mini-bus (very nice) to downtown Roma! We had almost two hours on our own and were just “let loose” to explore as we wanted. We started out with the Basilica, St. Peter’s Cathedral, which was incredible to say the least. Once again, most of it was accessible though not the most convenient. But, being in a wheelchair, we were able to bypass the very long lines and the security detail took us to locked elevators that brought us up to the main floor. It is the largest Basilica in the world and is built from many types of beautiful marble, some of which can no longer be found. Massive columns, artworks, carvings, etc., it was all beautiful. The circular St. Peter’s Square with the large Obelisk in the center was very impressive and certainly made for one very grand entrance to the Basilica.

From there we wandered the streets and shops, and I of course talked with anyone that would be willing to talk back. I even had opportunities to use my extremely poor Italian phrases that I know. And I do mean poor. We made friends with a couple of dogs, a Chihuahua and a Dachshund, at a shop where Wendy bought a couple of gifts for our daughters. We enjoyed getting a bite to eat at a Bistro which even had live violin music while we ate. Then walking by the Tevere (Tiber) River, palace and gardens, we met back with our private guide who would take us to our next destination, Vatican City.

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