When in Rome

When in Rome…..

Do as the Romans do…..

You strike a pose!

By the way, the last above photo is at the Vatican, and is not the Star Wars’ Death Star.

I think my modeling was kind of boring. Maybe I should have assumed a more gallant stance like this…..

Or perhaps I should have taken a more dramatic pose like this…..

On second thought, I don’t suppose I should shed off my clothes, so I’ll pass.

Posing from Rome,

Pinoytransplant

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(*All photos taken with an iPhone; credits to my unofficial photographer.)

Flying the Roads of Tuscany

When we talk about Italy’s countryside what comes to mind are the picturesque rolling hills and bountiful vineyards of Tuscany.

And there’s no better way to tour this scenic place than the iconic Italian way – riding the Vespa or the Fiat. Well, you could do it too with a Ferrari convertible but that would cost you an arm and a leg.

During our visit to Italy we did the Tuscany Vespa Tour. (This is not a sponsored article though I would gladly accept even a free pizza if they offer.) Some of us rode the Vespa scooter while some of us rode the classic small Fiat car. I did the Vespa.

We picked up the Vespa and the Fiat from the tour’s office parking lot. After a brief tutorial, as I have not ridden a motorcycle since more than 25 years ago, I became more comfortable of riding it. I was at least confident that I would still be alive after the tour.

Then off we go!

Our first stop was at a local vineyard.

After parking our motorcycles and cars, we toured the place which includes wine tasting. I am not really into wine, but they had prepared free pasta lunch too, so I was more than happy. Plus I don’t think indulging in wine and riding a motorcycle afterwards was a good idea.

I even saw a black cat at the winery. Was it a bad omen? Should we not continue on our trip? Nah!

After the vineyard tour, we were back on the road again.

Our next stop was a quaint town. We parked our vehicles and walked around the small town. Here we tasted free samples of truffle spreads, different kinds of cheese, and balsalmic vinegar offered in the local stores. Their balsalmic vinegar tastes good that it rivals the sukang Iloco (being a half-bred Ilocano, I’m still biased for the sukang Iloco).

After hitting the road again, our last stop was an old fortress. Its medieval courtyard was transformed into shops and eateries. There were no sword-wielding knights nor jousting tournament though. The closest we had to a battle were tourists jostling to buy the ever popular Italian gelato. Of course we had some too.

Overall, it was a really fun ride. You may think that this small scooter is under power, but it is not. Yes it is not as muscular as the Harley-Davidson, but this Vespa Sprint model with its 125 cc cylinder can still fly through the Tuscan hills.

It was a swell experience to fly the Tuscan roads with the sunlight on my eyes, wind on my hair (even though I don’t have much) and bugs in my face. Wait…..what?

Actually “flying” has a double meaning here, as this includes the flying insects that may hit your face as you zoom through the hills. I must be in a state of exhilaration with my mouth wide open that one insect hit my teeth. Good thing I was able to spit it out.

Italian bug tasting? Not included in this tour.

From the roads of Tuscany,

Pinoytransplant

(*All photos taken with an iPhone. Thanks to my unofficial photographers who took some of the pictures. A shout out to JDC Private Tours, who made our tour of Italy such a pleasant experience.)

Kanal, Eskinita at Sinampay

Kahit na bumibisita sa isang banyagang lugar, bakit kaya mga pamilyar na bagay pa rin gaya ng aking kinagisnan sa Pilipinas ang tumatawag sa aking pansin?

Noong isang araw ako’y natuwang maglakad sa tabi ng mga estero o ng malalaking kanal…….

Naglagalag at sumuot sa mga maliliit na eskinita…….

At tumanaw sa mga pinapatuyong sinampay (ngunit hindi ko naman ito sinungkit).

Pero may pagkakaiba rin naman sa bansang ito. Dahil dito, kahit sa kanal ay may mga namamangka.

Kahit na tabing-kanal ay maari palang maging romantikong lugar.

May mahuhuli kaya kaming dalag?

(*photos taken with an iPhone in Venice, Italy)

A Passenger

Would you like to be a driver or a passenger?

Many of us would probably choose to be the driver, for we want to be in control. However, there are certain journeys in life where being a passenger is more delightful.  And just enjoy the ride.

Eight years ago, I was a passenger to my son’s playful dream (see original post here).

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Today, I am really his passenger.

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Even though it can be uneasy, I will savor this passage.

Who knows what’s next on this journey, but I am looking forward to it.

(*photos taken by the passenger)

Steel Magnolia

Silo|ˈsīlō|: a tower or pit on a farm to store grain.

Silos are a common sight here in Iowa. Since Iowa is mostly farm fields, they are part of our landscape. Yet, when we went to Texas, we toured a silo. What we visited was not an ordinary silo though. In fact it was a popular destination.

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As you already know, we went to Texas two weeks ago for a medical mission (see previous post). But we were still able to squeeze some time for a side trip.

After we landed in Fort Worth, Texas and were on our way to our hotel, we saw many road signs that lead to Waco, Texas. My wife asked our Uber driver how far Waco was from Fort Worth, and he told us that it was about an hour and fifteen minutes drive. My wife got excited.

Waco, Texas has been known in the past for some disturbing events. Some even correlate Waco to Wacko, which means Psycho. If you don’t know the history, it was about a cult led by David Koresh who had his followers live on a ranch in Waco. However, it was later put under siege by the government authorities in 1993. The compound was set ablaze, leading to several deaths.

My wife was not excited to see Waco for that. Fortunately, Waco is now known in a more positive light thanks to the popularity of Chip and Joanna Gaines. This couple became famous due to their HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” where they converted many rundown houses in Waco into beautiful dream homes.

The “Fixer Upper” show ended, but this couple has engaged in some other business of their own. They had bought a property in Waco that has a rundown silo, and they turn it into their own store, making it their most notable project to date. It is officially known as the “Magnolia Market at the Silos.” It is rustic, yet chic. Like a blend of steel and flowers. This property is now a tourist destination.

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It was not in our initial plan to go to Waco, but my wife, who is an avid fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines, could not resist the chance to see this place. In order to visit Waco from Fort Worth, we had to rent a car. Going by taxi or Uber would have been impractical as it would be too costly, and riding a bus would take us several hours – a time that we didn’t have.

When we went to the car rental, we were told that the only vehicle available since we did not have a reservation, was a large pick-up truck. That did not stop us. We drove that big truck to Waco and readily blended-in as Texans. Everything is big in Texas!

My wife could not contain her excitement when we reached the Magnolia Market. Needless to say, we did not leave that store empty-handed.

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Besides the home décor store, they also have a garden, a seed supply store, and several food trucks selling gourmet sandwiches, interestingly flavored ice cream, freshly squeezed lemonade and much more.

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In that market, they also have a bakery that sells some rather tasty cupcakes. The bakery was so popular, that the line snaked long outside the building. A sign in that bakery states: “A balanced diet is a cupcake in each hand.” Of course we tried some of those bake goods too.

Even though we were there for only a little more than an hour, we felt gratified. We spent more time driving than the actual time we stayed there, but it was still worth the effort. For one thing, it made my wife happy. And that was more than enough for me.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

A Place Somewhere In Time

Nestled between the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan is a place where time stood still. The Mackinac Island, located in Lake Huron, is a popular tourist attraction due to its certain appeal. This place has undergone extensive historical preservation and restoration and is considered a National Historic Landmark.

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I have heard of this place from a partner of mine when we moved to the Midwest more than a decade ago, but it was only recently that we were able to check this place out.

Mackinac Island is only reachable by a ferry from either Mackinac City or St. Ignace. These are fast hydro-jet ferries and only takes less than 20 minutes to get into the island.

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As winter can be brutal in this part of Michigan, most businesses on the island, hotels included, are only open from May to October. Though there are residents that stayed on the island even through the winter.

Visiting Mackinac Island is like walking back in time, as houses and buildings are mostly built from the glorious era of the past, or at least they are made to look that way.

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The island is not only for history fans but also attract nature lovers. There are lots of beautiful sights to enjoy, either cultivated or natural.

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Tourists who visit Mackinac Island are called “fudgies.” I believe the reason for this is that the island has several fudge stores, and all of them offer free samples. So the tourists definitely take advantage of this, us included. But we also brought some home, as we felt obliged to buy after sampling a lot of them.

One of the most unique feature of the island is that there are no cars here. All motorized vehicles are banned on the entire island since 1898. There are only three motorized vehicles in the island: an ambulance, 1 police car, and a fire truck. So to get around, you either walk, bike, or take a taxi. Of course the taxis are horse-drawn carriages.

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When you’re on the island, time is not an essence. People here take their time leisurely. And even if you are in a rush, you cannot hurry the horses. The horses rarely trot, and most of the time they walk. They don’t gallop. If you’re a fast walker, it may be even faster than riding the carriage. As I said, time here stand still.

Horses rule the island. They have only one physician in the whole island, but they have three veterinarians available here. So you know where their priority lies in this place.

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One of the down-side of having many horses walking the streets, is that the roads are littered with their manure.

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The smell is undeniable and sometimes can be overwhelming. But there are many people employed here as a “pooper-scooper.” They even have a mechanized street sweeper or cleaner. Of course it is also horse-drawn (photo below).

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Beside the horse-drawn carriage tour, another faster way than walking, to tour the island is to go biking. And that’s what my family and I did. The whole island is only 8 miles around, though there are some steep hills that may be challenging to ride up.

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One of the most iconic place in the island is the Grand Hotel which opened its doors way back in 1887. As the name implies, it really is grand. It even has its signature horse-drawn carriages available for their patrons.

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This hotel has hosted many presidents, dignitaries, and famous people in its existence. Even if you don’t stay in this hotel (as it is a little pricey) you can still tour it for a minimal fee. It remains one of the most visited place in the island.

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The hotel is also known in the popular culture as this is where the classic movie “Somewhere in Time,” starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour, was filmed. The film is about a time traveler who fell in love with someone in the past. They chose this location for the obvious reason that the hotel have not changed much even in the passing of time.

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Overall, we really enjoyed our trip to Mackinac Island. Even though we are not time travelers, perhaps we can be considered as such, as we felt like we visited the “past.” And we definitely fell in love too from something in the “past.”

From Mackinac Island,

Pinoy Transplant

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(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

No Uber

I have used Uber several times before to get around in places we visited. I have used this ride in cities like Chicago, Boston and New York City.

However in our recent trip to this certain place, there was no Uber. In fact, this was their equivalent of Uber:

It is not only Uber that is banned in this place, but all motorized vehicles for that matter. It is like being stuck in the 19th century.

I guess we just have to use our legs to get around.

(*photos taken in Mackinac Island, Michigan)

Under The Presidents’ Nose

That’s where I was last week.

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We have been to the Blackhills, South Dakota twice before, but this was the first time we hiked the Presidential trail, and thus got a closer view of the Presidents’ faces. We were really right under their noses.

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(*photos taken during our recent trip to Mount Rushmore with our visitors from the Philippines)