adventures


22
Jan 19

We’re back and it is cold and frozen

So since everything, included the roads, are frozen here, still*, let’s talk about some place warmer. Here are a few pictures I took yesterday just before we left Savannah. (Truly, we toted our luggage inside.)

This is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. It’s a lovely building, and it marks the local Catholic diocese.

The diocese was installed by Pope Pius IX in 1850. At the time, it covered all of Georgia and part of Florida, totaling about 5,500 Catholics. Another Pope Pius, the XII, split the territory in 1956. So now this covers south Georgia. Much of what was the original church at this location was destroyed in an 1898 fire. The outside walls and two spires were saved.

There was a big renovation project in the middle of the 20th century and a massive repair project in the 1980s put the high altar in the background. Then there was another round of renovation in the late Nineties. So the pews aren’t that old.

Indeed, much of everything here is new compared to some of the beautiful church buildings we have seen over the years, but this one is still lovely, and as impressive to me as the first time I saw it 14 years ago.

The stained glass windows went in around 1904:

Many, if not all of them, were removed, cleaned and re-leaded during the last restoration project.

I didn’t realize you had to do that to windows.

Now, about that organ …

The first recorded organ at the cathedral was installed in 1837. (They held a fundraiser in 1836.) That original organ is now on display, but not in use, at the First African Baptist Church a few blocks away. Organs came and went, one was rebuilt after a hurricane, but lost in the fire. At the turn of the century an organ builder in Delaware installed a new one. That one was removed after 1938, and some of the pipes wound up in local classrooms. During the reconstruction in the 1980s a Massachusetts firm, Noack Company, was selected to build the new organ. A protestant, a Lutheran even, helped bring the organ project to life. The cathedral’s website says that was a first. And that man’s church choir, from the local St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, was the first Protestant concert in the cathedral in 1991.

*The snow was Saturday. You could barely drive around downtown today for the ice in the roads. They have some kind of plan, I’m sure. You’d like to see it activated. You’d like to see warmer temperatures, too. They’ve got about 13 degrees on us today.


21
Jan 19

Traveling again

We’re traveling back into the barren and cold northlands today, after a fine weekend that was capped off by a fourth visit to Clary’s, a little time in the park, a massage and watching Savannah’s Martin Luther King Day parade. (It was two hours long and still going when we had to leave.)

It was a great visit to a lovely city that we enjoy a great deal. We discovered a fine little Mexican restaurant out of necessity today for our late lunch-on-the-go. Today’s Uber driver had just moved to the low country from the Smokies. She’s still getting used to the entirely different weather patterns, which is funny considering she’s only about 300 miles from home, but that’s an important 300 miles. That was a retirement 300 miles for her and her husband, she said. Our Uber driver on Thursday night had a similar story, but for a lifetime in the Navy and then retiring to coastal Georgia. Neither of them looked old enough to be even semi-retired. Maybe that’s the autobiographical aging process, or maybe its just the latitude.

Anyway, I mentioned Our Tree. Here it is now:

That’s The Yankee reading under Our Tree on Saturday. The weather was so perfect that day we spent most of the day in that spot. Coincidentally, that is about the same view I had in December of 2008 just before I proposed. We’d been sitting under that tree and I was waiting for The Sign. You know, the one you sometimes find yourself asking for. Eventually a leaf fell on me and I took that as the requested sign. My plan involved me leaving, so that I could come back. I excused myself to visit the restroom and, right about where I’m standing to take that photograph above, a man intercepted me and we started talking about families and marriage and biblical passages and I said, “OK, fine, that is my sign.”

So I went back to the tree, hung her engagement ring on some of the bark and called her over to scratch our initials into it. And there was her ring. She was there, I was there, it was Savannah, there was a ring and I didn’t even think up a speech. Which is odd, because this is me. I asked her if she would like to keep having adventures with me, and then another guy came up and “What’d she say? What’d she say?” as he offered to make us one of the little bamboo flowers they sell to tourists here.

I knew he’d want to be paid for that, and he should. It was ornate and involved and quite nice. We had eight dollars between us. He was disappointed, but gave us the flower and she finally said yes. Now here we are. I have at least nine dollars in my pocket today.

Anyway, we enjoyed our Saturday beneath Our Tree. It was bracketed by breakfast and a nice run, but that was pretty much the day, and it was perfect. That night we also went out for crabs on Tybee Island:

We also saw some birds:

And from the It’s Been Too Long Department, we saw Wendy!

Something like 17 years I’ve known her now. She’s even more wonderful today than she ever was.

Sunday the weather was a bit dank and I was tired and sore and still trying to overcome a few days of fun with my sinuses, so it was a low key thing. Today the parade, a spa trip and then the car ride to the airport. We made one other stop, but I’m saving those pictures for tomorrow. Be sure to stop by for those. It’ll be lovely.

More on Twitter and check me out on Instagram as well.


18
Jan 19

We skipped town for the weekend

There’s going to be snow at our house. But we are not there. It is several degrees warmer here. And we will see the soon and clear skies for a few days. It is a glorious thing.

Guess where we are. This is your clue:

Any further visual clues would give it away.

We’ve been here many times. It was the first trip The Yankee took together, in fact, as a grad school bit of tourism. We were going to go elsewhere on our second trip, but the chosen place was under threat of a hurricane. So we came back to this place, and had another great time. And then, for a long time, we visited once or twice a year.

Finally, we got engaged here. Well, not right there at that sign. I’ve always wondered what made steps historic. Did something happen at these steps? Did they play a role? Or are they just old, and un-square? Solid, but unevenly spaced? We got engaged a mile up the road, in a historic park, where things did happen, which is square and old and evenly spaced, as laid out in the town’s grid system and carefully delineated in its modern incarnation by surveyors. It was 10 acres when it was first created in the 1840s, and became 30 acres in the next few decades. Today you’d see it as a rectangle on a map. It’s an easy mile around the perimeter, 1.3 million square feet. Just across the street was where we got married.

In the middle of that park, on the spot where this picture was taken, that’s where we got engaged:

That picture was from three years ago, which was the last time we’d been there, which was another great trip, but it’s obviously been too long in between visits.

Do you know where we are yet?

We’re in Savannah, Georgia.

We are staying at an AirBnB right across the street from our favorite little breakfast cafe. We walked down to the touristy area for a few things, then just sat in a park, enjoying the weather and the views. And I sat beside this note:

We went for a jog around the park this evening. A quick three laps make for a quick three miles before dinner. Here’s a wide and long shot of the big fountain in Forsyth Park:

And later in the evening, we tried this:

View this post on Instagram

Status.

A post shared by Kenny Smith (@kennydsmith) on

So, yes, it was a good day.


3
Sep 18

The best thing

The best thing about today could have been sleeping in. The best thing about today could have been about last night, camping out on an air mattress in the living room for no reason in particular. It could have been that it was an off day, a three-day weekend, and prior to a four-day workweek. (That’s a solid contender, no doubt.)

The best thing could have been a hot lunch date, a truly hot lunch date because the restaurant lost its air conditioning last week. On a normal day the best thing could have been the groceries we picked up, or that my car cranked dependably after I replaced the battery this weekend. Those are all good things.

The best thing could be that I made a bunch of slides for an upcoming class. The best thing might have been that I watched football, and I’m talking about that in class tomorrow. The best thing could have been any number of those regular things, or the dozens of tiny things that really make up the details of any of our days.

The best thing could have been some of the text messages I received, or an email that came in late, or the fish we had for dinner.

But, in fact, the best thing was sitting in the recliner, trying to decide what to do about lunch. The Yankee set me up for a joke, and she started laughing at it before I’d even really finished formulating the punchline, because she knew what it was going to be.

That was the best thing.


16
May 18

We went flying over the Tuscan countryside

We woke up so early this morning that I actually demonstrated how upset I was. On any other day, this would be strange. But this was a vacation day, of course, and so there’s a layer. And I’m terrible at time zone adjustments, so there’s another layer. And it was obscenely earlier, friends. Had it been any regular day, then, this would be the thing that was remembered, the bit that was etched into family lore, the part of the tale never untold.

But, we did this, and this is a way better story:

Now, I don’t know about you, but occasionally I see a hot air balloon and I think, “Oh, how neat.” But it has never really occurred to me to be a thing I should pursue. I’ve always thought I’d enjoy it. But it always seemed like it belonged in a different world than mine, maybe. I’ll just blame all of the places I saw it on television as a child. It was always an extravagance, or an incredibly low-speed getaway. Well, no one chases me, thankfully, and I’m not an extravagant person, so the hot air balloon ride was someone else’s achievement, some other person’s signal.

And to do it in Italy? Well, friend, that just seems right out, doesn’t it?

But, of course, if you’re going to enjoy a hot air balloon ride — and how we did enjoy it! — you probably ought to start in Tuscany. So we did. And there it is. So much fun, so beautiful it all was, that I really struggled cutting this footage down. But if you’re going to glide over Tuscany, you want to record a lot of it. And you may as well show it off, so people can see, and you can remember.

And if you’re going to glide over Tuscany in a hot air balloon, make sure you get the pilot that struggles coordinating the landing zone with the proper speed and gas variables, so your flight is longer.

These things are very weather-dependent, as you might imagine. We shared our balloon with a very fidgety couple down from Rome. They’d been trying to take this trip for some time and had their flights canceled four times because of one kind of weather or another. They both worked the overnight shift at the da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport and had come down at the last minute to finally get this in. We were fortunate to get our balloon ride on our first try, despite unseasonably gray skies.

And after you do that, make sure you stand around in a Tuscan field and eat meats and cheeses and drink heavy drinks because it is barely 9 a.m. and you’re on vacation and you were just up there, using physics and the wind and basic aeronautical design that started carrying people more than 300 years ago. Also, you’re in Italy and it’s beautiful and wonderful and perfect.

Then you go back to your 17th century farmhouse and take a nap, because this is going to be a beautiful and wonderful and perfect trip — it already is … — but you need your rest.

When you wake up, your rental bikes have arrived. And so we’ll spend a week going up and down the hills of Tuscany on a pair of nice, 10-year-old-or-so Motobecanes. We took our first ride this afternoon, a simple shake out ride, but I didn’t take my phone because it looked gray and rainy and I was too tired to remember it anyway. We road up and down the Via di Botanaccio, a perfectly unremarkable country road suitable for bicycles. Except we’re in Tuscany and there’s vineyards over there and olive groves over here and that’s just everything. Oh, and there are two 15-degree ascent climbs on the road. We’re going to be trying to get over the top of those a lot in the next few days, too.

Tomorrow, we’re going into Siena.