Atlantis Alumni

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Arrival! Meet Loki

We drove down to Jarrettsville, Maryland yesterday to pick up our new Burmese kitten. Here he is!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Passing Of A Remarkable Man

I'm not much of a sports fan, but over the years there have been a few professional athletes who impressed me greatly. Football player George Blanda, most notably a quarterback and kicker for the Oakland Raiders, who has just died, is one. In 1970, I watched a series of games in which Blanda, already old for a professional football player, came in to win the contests for the Oakland Raiders in an heroic fashion. It was an unforgettable series of performances. He was the type of inspirational sports figure that we see so few examples of today.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Diminishing Hours

Photo: This photo taken at Masada, Israel captures the stark beauty of the place.

This time of year things are winding down out here on Fire Island. One of our merchants, the grocery store in the Pines, posts a notice at about this time each year. The notice reads: “Note: Diminishing Hours.” It always makes me sad to see this notice. Summer is over, only the memories remain. Meanwhile autumn brings with it all too many reminders of our own personal diminishing hours.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Last Summery Day

Photo: The terrain is very striking around Masada, Israel

It's shaping up to be a fine beach day. The water is too rough for swimming, however. It's supposed to cool down tonight.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Howdy Doody last episode / Original NBC Peacock

‎50 years ago today, September 24, 1960, I was 11 years old and, sadly, I watched the very last episode of one of my favorite kids shows: Howdy Doody. I remember the last moments of the show vividly. The show ended and so did my childhood, as my teen years were not far behind. You can watch a condensed version of that hour long episiode in this video.

So Many Of Us Had High Hopes...

Photo: Masada, Israel. You can take the cable car, or you can walk up to the top.

Blogger John Avarosis sums up the way many of us feel about Obama, who allows the Department of Justice, which is under his direct authority, to continue to defend unconstitutional anti-gay laws in the courts:

So many of us had such high hopes that an African-American president, because of his own life experience, would be more tuned into, more sympathetic with, the civil rights struggle of others. We believed him when he said he'd be our "fierce advocate." And now he's undercutting our entire civil rights legal strategy before our eyes.

Yes, I'm sure the Republicans would be worse. And if that's the best thing you can say about Barack Obama and the Democratic party, that the Republicans would be worse, then it's no wonder we're having such a hard time in the polls.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


It seems as if most of our gay friendly politicians, as well as the "leaders" of the gay rights organizations that are supposed to work for us have failed miserably.

Mixner: Anger At Obama On DADT

"...even if you adore President Obama, the inescapable fact is that he was totally missing in action during this debate. No speeches to the nation about DADT like President Eisenhower, President Kennedy and President Johnson did in the middle of another historic struggle for freedom. Bland press releases and even more tepid statements were all that came from the White House. No calls to the Senate were made by the President. No Senators were called to the White House for a chat with the President. Simply put, this is clearly not a priority issue for the President. He simply doesn't care that much about our struggle. Like it or not, that much is clear. We should expect very little from him voluntarily and know that he will only respond to tough pressure from us."

- David Mixner

Obana Deserves To Be Heckled

Photo: "Autumn Altar" traditional secular celebration of the Autumnal Equinox...followed by a warm vegetarian Indian dinner.

Last night Obama was heckled at a public appearance by demonstrators unhappy about his cuts in AIDS funding and the inaction on "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" repeal. His response was to tell the demonstrators that "We're working on DADT Repeal" and the "other guys" (Republicans) would be worse on AIDS funding. Mr. President, these answers don't cut it two years into your administration. Those people who supported you as candidate Obama are now sending you a message. They are disappointed in your presidency so far...more business as usual than change we can believe in. You had better heed them and if you continue to berate your liberal critics you do so at your own political peril. Mr. Obama, you will face increased pressure from those who had hoped for better from you. Get used to the heckling from your former supporters if you plan to continue your tenure as president as you have so far.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Political Games With Gay Lives

Photo: Cable car station at the base of Masada in Israel

One wonders just how many times the gay communuty has to be disappointed by Obama? The Democratic POTUS was by ALL accounts missing in action on yesterday's DADT repeal debacle. It's time for gays and lesbians to grasp the fact that equality will only come when we forge a movement independent of both Democrats and Republicans, and when we are willing to do the hard work of serious demonstrations and non violent civil disobedience. Look at the civil rights struggle of the 50s and 60s. Dr. King forced the government to take action with marches, sit-ins and demonstrations. That's what we've got to do. Obama has proven that he won't help us, and after the mid terms Congress will be MORE hostile, not less. The clock is ticking. When will the gay community withold support an our votes from Obama and company, and start the hard work that we have to do?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jupiter And The Senate Dog & Pony Show

Photo: On board the Celebrity Equinox leaving Piraeus. A view of the Martini Bar looking out to starboard as we pass a small lighthouse. I miss being on board.

Last night just before bedtime I went outside on our top deck with my binoculars to have a look at Jupiter, which is as close as it has been to earth since 1963. It was a spectacular sight indeed. I was even able to see several of the planet's roughly three dozen moons.

Today, that millionaires club we refer to as the US Senate will vote on the rights of gay men and lesbians to serve their country. It's likely we'll lose at this point. Fearless leader Obama has been missing in action when it comes to gay rights, his campaign promises to us not withstanding. But he is not the only one to blame. The Democratic Party has let us down, and Republicans are as hostile as ever. Politics in this country stink. About the only thing I can see happening with any promise at all is that the Republicans take over once again, including the White House, as soon as possible, so that we can endure their next reign of terror. Maybe then we'll have another chance to elect a president who is better than merely another Washington hack. We might as well get it over with. Bring on the Republicans yet again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is Obama An Ideological Liberal?

Andrew Sullivan doesn't think so (and neither do I...he's turned out to be more like a Bush clone:)

I think the notion that this administration is ideological is bizarre. Did it nationalize the banks when it could have? Nope. Did it withdraw troops immediately from Iraq and Afghanistan? Nope. It followed Bush's timetable on Iraq and has massively - and foolishly - doubled down on counter-insurgency in Afghanistan. Did it prosecute the war criminals of the last administration? Nope; it has covered for them. Has it raised taxes on anyone? Nope. It merely wants the already-sunsetted Bush tax cuts on the wealthy to expire on schedule. Did it provide a Krugman-style stimulus? Ask Krugman. Is Obama a peacenik? I suppose we have forgotten that he used the Nobel ceremony to defend Reinhold Niebuhr, has retained extraordinary rendition, and ramped up the troop-levels in Afghanistan to far beyond anything Bush ever contemplated. Has the president publicly backed marriage equality or pot-decriminalization? Au contraire. Has he even risked an iota of political capital to end the ban on gays in the military? No. In fact, it is now more likely than not that gays will still be persecuted by their own country by the end of Obama's first term. Compare that to Clinton's early efforts - in a climate far more conservative on the issue.

Images From Matty & Bobby's Record-Breaking Kiss, 9/18/10 - 9/19/10

Two young gay college kids at the College of New Jersey decided it was high time that the Guiness Book Of World Records had something gay in it. So they decided to break the wor;d's record for a kiss, which was about 32 hours. Over the weekend they made their attempt on the campus and the entire event went viral on the internet, with people from all over the workd watching the live stream. The students, Matty and Bobby, successfully broke the record at about 8 PM Sunday evening. Watch the video to see the touching final moments. These kids and their friends did more to advance glbt equality than most politicians do in a lifetime!

A message from Lady Gaga to the Senate Sept 16 2010

The gay community does have a "fierce advocate," but it's not Barak Obama, rather Lady Gaga who is working full time to get DADT repealed while Obama is silent!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rose Levine Puttin' On The Rose

The incomparable Rose Levine performing in a Cherry Grove Community Association Fundraiser last evening. The songs are: I Got Lost In His Arms," and "I Am What I Am."

Friday, September 17, 2010

Obama To Blame If DADT Fails

Photo: Sunset in Piraeus Greece taken from the top deck of the Celebrity Equinox

Those in the know in the blogosphere are warning that even the weak compromise DADT repeal bill may not pass the senate. If this happens the blame will squarly fall on Obama, who has done virtually nothing to fulfill the major campaign promises he made to the glbt community - on DADT, ENDA, and DOMA. The "fierce advocate" has turned into a fierce nothing as far as GLBT issues are concerned. No wonder there is an enthusiasm gap between the rabid Republicans and Democrats. The elections in November are coming. I think a lot of GLBT people will just stay home. They may stay home in 2012 too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our New Feline May Look Like This

THis photo comes from the web site of the Burmese cat breeder that we're purchasing our new kitten from.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beautiful Late Summer Day!

It really doesn't get any better than this out here in Cherry Grove. The lime green warm water (warmer than the air temperature!) the blue skies, the Monarchs, and the beautiful beach are never prettier that in extreme late summer/early fall. Plus, we got some good news today: we've put a deposit down on a Burmese sable male kitten from a breeder in Maryland! I celebrated with my "new Burm" soft boiled egg. The photo shows one of the Burmese owned by the breeder we're using. The photo of the Monarch butterfly was taken today on our deck where we have Canna lillies.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Professor Art Leonard Has A Question For Obama

Law professor Art Leonard is losing patience with Obama...

"Mr. President, you used to be a Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago. Over the past few months, federal judges have ruled that a state ban on same-sex marriage violates the federal constitution, that a federal law forbidding recognition of same-sex marriages violates the constitution, and that a federal law mandating dismissal of any military service member who indicates by word or deed that she is lesbian or he is gay violates the federal constitution. In all of these cases, the judges found that government justifications for these discriminatory policies were insufficient to overcome the dictates of the federal constitution. Do you disagree, and why?"

It's past time to put him on the spot. When he was a state legislative candidate in the 1990s, he said he favored same-sex marriage. Now he has "evolved" away from that position. When he ran for president, he called DOMA and DADT discriminatory and said they should be repealed. Now his Justice Department is defending both of those statutes in court. He's spoken up for their repeal but there is a widespread perception that he is not really putting the political muscle of the White House behind either repeal effort. It's time to hold him to account. His election depended, among other things, on massive support from LGBT voters - in money, volunteerism, and votes. We are part of his constituency, and it's time to answer on the defining issues that face us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Sunny Memory On A Gloomy Day

Photo: Looking our through our cabin doors on board the Celebrity Equinox in the harbor at Piraeus, Greece.

It's a bit overcast and gloomy this morning here in Cherry Grove. So I thought this photo taken at the start of our great cruise in August would brighten things up a bit.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Remembering Ken

We just learned that our friend and Fire Island neighbor Ken Todt died unexpectedly on August 26th.

Dan and I enjoyed many good times with our friends and neighbors Stephen and Ken. Some of the nicest memories I have of times shared with them include the wonderful holiday dinners we attended at their home in Newtown, Pennsylvania. We also entertained Stephen and Ken at our home here on Fire Island, and we were their guests at “Heaven Knows,” their Fire Island home on Surf Walk. We got to know Stephen and Ken as good and kind people and we consider ourselves lucky to be among their friends.

Stephen is a dedicated teacher and a musician. Deeply religious, his kindness and goodness are apparent to everyone who knows him. One could know Ken’s heart through his love of life. I remember how happy and animated he would become while discussing his favorite performer, Lisa Minnelli. He loved Fire Island and his home in Cherry Grove passionately. I think Ken found occasional peace and solace here on the island. He and I shared a love of the beach and the water. Many a day we would sit together on the beach in the late afternoon sun, chatting and simply enjoying the waves lapping at the shore. One time I coaxed Ken to join me in a midnight swim under a full moon. It was probably the first such swim for both of us and we enjoyed it immensely. It’s a fond image of Ken that I will never forget.

In recent years, we watched as Ken fought a battle against his personal demons. During this difficult time it was not possible for us to be as close to Ken and Stephen as we would have preferred. However, Ken was extremely fortunate to have Stephen as his partner. Stephen stood by Ken throughout some very tough times. He was there for Ken and did everything he could to help Ken. He was more steadfast than many others would have been under the circumstances. No one could have done more than Stephen did to help Ken; no one. It’s sad and ironic that Stephen’s efforts to help Ken finally paid off as Ken was doing so much better in the weeks prior to his untimely death.

I do not believe in gods and I’m not religious, but it comforts me to think that, when we lose loved ones, dear friends, and beloved pets, their life force continues on, strengthened especially as we remember them and cherish them in our hearts. I know that in future days when I sit on the beach during sunny summer late afternoons, I will often think of my friend and beach mate Ken. In my mind he’ll be attending a matinee in some great cosmic theater enjoying a Lisa performance. Afterward, he’ll make his way down to the local beach with his chair. Dearest Ken, please save a spot on that beach for me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2001 Remembered

Photo: another view of the Parthenon, Athens.

September 11, 2001. I was at our home on Fire Island, checking my morning email, when I got a message from a friend in Washington, DC about the attacks. From that point on, life changed for all Americans, mostly not for better. My thoughts are for those who perished that day, and for America's future. I'm not convinced that we are on the right track to prevent another 911. Our dependence on foreign oil, our refusal to be responsible about energy, our engagement in unnecessary wars, and on and on leads me to fear for our future as a nation. Ultimately it is the American people who bear the responsibility for the course we have charted as a nation. What will it take to awaken the population of our country to the fact that we can no longer be the world's bully, the world's policeman, and the only nation that can do whatever it wants without responsibility and without repercussions from our actions?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Obama's Problems With The Gay Community Intensify

Now that a federal judge has ruled DADT unconstitutional...Obama will be in the completely wrong place on DADT, as he is on marriage equality, if the DOJ appeals the ruling.

Andrew Sullivan writes:

"... we have the Obama administration now actually battling Republicans to prevent gay servicemembers from serving openly...How the Obama administration has found itself to the right of even many conservatives on marriage equality and now military service is one of the more spectacular backfires of political expediency in our time. I have no sympathy for them. End the ban now."

Of Democratic Values, Mosques And Book Burnings

Photo: At the new Acropolis Museum in Athens. They are excavating underneath. The floor of the museum is partially glass so that visitors can see the excavations.

In a democracy with constitutional protections such as freedom of expression and religion, Muslims must be able to build their mosque on private property and people are free to burn books. The media is also free to make a circus out of these sorts of events. This is the form of society that we have. If officials and the media are not responsible, then public opinion can become inflamed. Nevertheless, constitutional freedoms are not subject to public opinion. Gay people, above all others should know this.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An Early Taste Of Autumn

This morning we had a beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic as seen from Cherry Grove.

Last night it got really cool and it was a great night for sleeping. I slept for about nine hours, probably the best night's sleep I've had in weeks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Petraeus: Out Of Line On A Power Trip

Photo: View of the Parthenon (Athens)

Another nutcase right wing religious fanatic (there are so many) is now threatening to publicly burn a copy of the Koran. It seems that General Petraeus felt it necessary to issue a statement warning against the book burning. It makes me uncomfortable that any military man goes on the public record opposing a form of freedom of expression, even an act as vile as a book burning. It sets a bad precedent. In our democracy the military has no role as arbiter of constitutionally protected rights. It seems like the general can't wait to get into politics. I think he's a dangerous egomaniac.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Obama's Lack Of Moral Principles

Judge Vaughn Walker's moving opinion provided an occasion for Obama to embrace the extension of equal rights to gay people. Instead, he slunk mumbling in the other direction. How dismal that America's first black president will be remembered as shirking the last great civil-rights struggle.
- Jacob Weisberg writing in Newsweek

Alan Grayson For President

I look forward to a Labor Day where every worker has a job, every worker has a pension, every worker has paid vacations, and every worker has the health care to enjoy life.
...Representative Alan Grayson, D-Fla.

If a true progressive runs against Obama in 2012, there will be great gnashing of teeth in the Democratic Party!

Back From Vacation

Photo: The countryside in Greece in the outskirts of Athens

It's good to be home after our great romp through the Mediterraneran. Catching up at the house there is lots to do: unpacking, laundry, etc. We also bought a new wireless DSL modem/router which we hope will cure our broadband woes. Today it's get the cart inspected time (hopefully.)

Will He Be The One?

The little guy from yesterday found a home somewhere else. We're trying for this guy next.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Will This Kitty Join Our Family?

Burmese are not exactly easy to find, but this one might be headed our way. I'm a fatalist and so we'll see just how this one works out.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Goodbye Barcelona

Photo 1: Barcelona Aquarium

Photos 2-5: Casa Batllo by Gaudi

Friday afternoon we walked all the way to the new port area of Barcelona, along a modern bridge and into a highly populated seaside area of quays. All of this part of the town was only built since we were last in this great city, probably constructed before the Olympics took place here. Jim wanted to visit the Aquarium, which specialized in fish and other sea creatures from the Mediterranean. A few of our favorite small tanks included the beautiful and exotic sea horses and sea dragons (equally small), the sea lions (a poisonous fish) and the highly intelligent octopi. None of these animals are easily seen by divers or snorklers. There was also an enormous tank that surrounded visitors, full of large fish like sharks and tuna. We ate at a nice brasserie above the Cataluna Square.
Yesterday, September 4th, was our last day in the Catalunian capital. After having difficulty finding the Francesco Godia Museum (newly established in 1998) Dan enjoyed seeing paintings there by Sorolla and other painters, as well as some magnificent wooden altarpieces from the Barcelonan Romanesque and Gothic eras. Jim then found the section of the Paseo de Gracia famous for three magnificent Art Nouveau houses. The most famous is the Casa Batllo, a late masterpiece by Gaudi. We took the self-guided tour with headphones, which let us hear all about the master architect’s goals and how he used materials and symbols in his vibrant architecture. Gaudi’s use of stained glass for certain windows, stucco for ceiling decorations and tile mosaic for others, all created a house that seemed to pulse with life, a combination of the nearby sea with other organic forms. The arches in the attic under the roof are parabolas in shape, very innovative for the early 20th century. And on the roof Gaudi built a skyline resembling a dragon’s back, made of colored ceramic tiles and pots that shine vibrantly in the sun. Gaudi’s imagination was unlimited, and his patrons indulged his fantasies, luckily. He directed craftsman who worked in wood, tile, glass and cement, and combined all the elements into a stunning entity. Jim thought the tour of the house, and the fact one could take un-restricted photos, the best sight in the entire city. Truly, it was one remarkable way to end our stay in Barcelona. Another will be a performance at the famed Teatre Liceu, the city’s world-class opera house. Tonight we will see the season’s opening performance of Gluck’s 18th century work “Ifigenie en Tauride.” The production was choreographed for dancers by Germany’s Pina Bausch before her death this past year, and the lead will be sung by the fine Portugese soprano Elisabete Matos. This will be our last event in Barcelona before we fly home to Philadelphia tomorrow. So for now we say ‘adios’ to this colorful, remarkable city.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Barcelona - Modernismo

Photos 1 & 2: Palau de la Musica, photos 3,4, & 5: Gaudi's Sagrada Familia


One of the strong impressions one takes away from Barcelona centers on the development of ‘modern architecture’ during the last years of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century. In the rest of Europe the style is often called ‘Art Nouveau’, but here in Catalonia it’s known as ‘Modernismo.’ The most famous practitioner was Antoni Gaudi, the man responsible for fantastic designs in cement, mosaic and pure exuberance. On previous trips we have visited his Casa Mila, a big apartment house with sentry-like warriors’ heads on the roof. The ‘warriors’ are actually chimneys. Also his Casa Battlo is famed for its dragon-back roof, made of bright green tiles. Dragons, symbolic of Catalonia’s devotion to St. George the dragon-slayer, also decorate slopes in the quirky Parque Guell. This trip we decided to re-visit his last masterpiece, the unfinished cathedral of the Sagrada Familia, or Holy Family. Jim had never seen the interior, and he was surprised at the unique organic columns and windows, all cast in flowing cement, rounded and elegant. Stone sculptures of the saints and wondrous plants decorate both outside and inside. A contemporary glass artist has fashioned marvelous multi-colored windows, flooding the insides with blue, green and red light. Like many of the ‘Modernismo’ architects, Gaudi was fascinated by light and natural forms. In the morning we visited, for the first time, the amazing Palau de la Musica Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music), a concert hall by one of Gaudi’s brilliant contemporaries, Domenech I Montaner. This master worked in ceramic, stucco and bright colored glass. Roses, other flowers, peacock feathers, knights and ladies jostled together in enormous profusion in the hall itself, though visitors are not allowed to take photographs. The outside, however, is similar, and there Jim was able to photograph some of its wonders. After World War I ‘Modernismo’ was mostly over, which is a pity. It is some of the most original of all modern architecture, and if it had developed further, it might have been a more dominant influence. Rich in fantasy, ecological awareness and invention, there is nothing to compare anywhere else. After enjoying such treats, we had a leisurely lunch at the Barcelonetta, a seaport part of the great city.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Photo 1: Santa Maria del Mar, 2: Cathedral, 3: interior Santa Maria, 4 to 6: Cathedral interior and exterior and cloister with noisy geese.

After disembarking from the Celebrity Equinox we made our way into Barcelona, a city we last visited almost 20 years ago. Our hotel, Le Meridian, is located on the famous Ramblas, the long street teeming with tapas cafes, shops and people. Luckily, we have a quiet room in the back of our hotel. We spent the afternoon on our own walking tour of the Gothic quarter (Barrio Gotico) and La Ribera. We discovered many Gothic buildings we had not see on previous visits, such as the Placa del Rei. The church of Santa Maria del Mar in La Ribera is an impressive Gothic church, one of the most beautiful in Barcelona, with a simple interior, a tall nave and hundreds of lit, red glass candles throughout the building. Of course, a visit to the massive Barcelona cathedral is a must. It is full of magnificent and huge gilt altarpieces, containing religious statues and paintings. They range in time from the 14th through the 18th century. The simplicity of the late Medieval paintings contrasts powerfully to the ornate Baroque altars, with fervid saints and angels posed between twisting Salamanca columns. There is a lovely Gothic cloister in back of the cathedral, with side chapels surrounding a grassy area of palm trees, fountains and pools. There were noisy, big white geese honking and swimming alongside goldfish in the ponds, a bizarre and amusing addition to an urban cathedral. We were astonished at the beauty and scale of the cathedral’s massive interior, and delighted by its soft yellow lights that infused the building with a spiritual quality, despite the throng of tourists walking on its ancient floors. While Jim waited in the hotel lobby for the room, glued to his laptop, Dan explored some music shops on the Ramblas. He was lucky to find and buy some music scores for delightful Spanish zarzuelas. Zarzuelas are like operettas, with spoken dialogue and sung musical numbers, but are often more serious in subject matter. Today we will be on a reserved tour to the Palau del la Musica Catalana, with its ornate art nouveau interior. The hop-on-hop-off city tour bus also beckons.
--Jim and Dan

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Our Return To Provence

The first three photos are Les Baux...the last two are Arles.

Yesterday the Celebrity Equinox docked in Marseilles, where we took an excursion to a couple of really interesting towns in Provence: Les Baux and Arles. Les Baux is a wonderful little medieval fortress town perched on top of a hard limestone plateau. The streets are too narrow for vehicles therefore access is by foot only. The town is full of quaint little shops and restaurants. We enjoyed our best luncheon in Les Baux at a fine restaurant. Lunch included a tomato pie atop tapenade, the black olive concoction so popular in the area. That was followed by a boeuf Bourgignon with rice and salad, then a delicious soft-centered chocolate cake, served with ice cream and a red currant sauce, full of the berries. (Since Jim is a vegetarian, he was given a huge plate of cod, and vegetables with a large portion of aoli, the garlicky mayo.) The food in Provence is some of the best in the world. After our visit to Les Baux our tour took us to Arles, famous as the place where Van Gogh spent time painting scenes of Provence. While there is no longer much remaining evidence of Van Gogh in Arles, the town has significant Roman ruins including a large amphitheater still in use, unfortunately in part for bullfighting, a barbaric spectacle that is hopefully on its way out. We toured the arena, a theater and the beautiful Romanesque church before heading back to our ship. In the evening we enjoyed our final dinner on board the Equinox. However, before dinner Dan made arrangements for us return to the Equinox next year for another Mediterranean itinerary. Today we begin our stay in Barcelona. Our last visit here was fifteen or twenty years ago, so we’re looking forward to an enjoyable return visit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Orvieto in Umbria, Italy

The old fortress at Civitavecchia

The following are Orvieto

On Tuesday the Celebrity Equinox docked in Civitavecchia, an old port about an hour or so from Rome. Most of our fellow passengers who signed up for an excursion made their way into Rome. However, since we enjoyed a stay in Rome last year, we elected to take a somewhat longer excursion to the unique Umbrian hilltop town of Orvieto, about two hours away by motor coach. The weather for our trip was beautiful with clear skies and surprisingly cooler, less humid conditions. In Orvieto we met a local guide for a two hour tour of the town that culminated in a visit to the beautiful Gothic cathedral with its powerful frescos by Signorelli. The fa├žade of the Orvieto Cathedral is one of the most colorful and magnificent in all of Italy, full of sculpture, tracery and mosaics. In the Brixio Chapel the Renaissance artist Signorelli depicted the Last Judgement in several scenes. He started by depicting the anti-Christ preaching while being prompted by a devil who whispers in his ear. The anti-Christ in Signorelli’s fresco is actually a portrait of the fanatical monk Savonarola, who temporarily brought down the Medici power in Florence at the end of the Fifteenth Century. Having lived through that terrible time, Signorelli was lucky to receive a commission from the Duomo in Orvieto. Signorelli, a handsome young man in black, with long blond hair, included his self-portrait in the same fresco. In his other great frescoes in the Chapel he showed the dead rising from the earth, talking with each other or skeletons, also freshly awakened. Then there is a wall showing the blessed received into Paradise, and finally a scene of the damned descending into Hell. His painted versions of all these scenes include amazing nudes, in all sorts of foreshortened poses. Signorelli was a predecessor of Michelangelo, and there are many splendid faces, bodies and touches of humor in his great masterpiece at Orvieto. After seeing the Duomo we enjoyed walking around the town. Then, after, a three course lunch in a local restaurant, we returned by bus to our ship. The green scenery near Orvieto, studded with hilltops topped by Medieval and Renaissance villages, looked like stills from films or pictures from story-books. Today we will dock in Marseilles, where we will take a tour to the nearby towns of Arles and Le Beaux. Our stop in Southern France today will be the next to the last on our cruise. Tomorrow we will disembark in Barcelona.
Jim and Dan