Places to Go

European Farm Life…Finale

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We passed our final days in Europe with visits from friends and relatives as our children cemented their status as real locals.

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They participated in the tomato sauce making process (sugo, fatto in casa!) so for dinner we had a roast and pasta, accompanied by sauce from tomatoes which, that morning, were just growing on the vines in the fields. Amazing. The children spent the best part of their time “helping” with the canning in the yard, and ferrying the various parts of the process in and out of the cantina during sudden spurts of rain. One other highlight: a visit to the pumpkin patch, and then the required scrubbing of two very dirty farm children!

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Our final beach excursion was to Zambrattia – a very family oriented beach with an easy lagoon for the children to play… Perfect weather as it was not too hot. We finally had a chance to bake the cold and damp of our northern adventures out of our Canadian bones!

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We were back in Matterada in time to freshen up and head out for dinner in Petrovia at Kantina Melon. All thirteen of us this time – a great family send off.

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I had to have the truffles.  The ravioli was perfect: stuffed with soft cheese and covered in shaved truffles. I soaked up the sauce with crusty bread to savor every mouthful… I could eat this meal every day and never be tired of it!

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Still, I coveted Matteo’s volcano pizza. Next time!  The other options – especially  the meat platter – were incredibly well received all around the table…

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We finished the day back in Matterada for grappa (gooseberry?) and evening conversation… this really is the good life.

Another day meant more cousins coming to visit, and then a special trip to the cemetery and a candlelight mass.  I hope my children never forget how much love was poured out for them in that tiny church…

After mass and a farewell visit with the priest we ran into more cousins again just outside. We said more goodbyes before walking home to find another festa underway – the sampling of the latest pride of Matterada: sour cherry liquor.  It was a bittersweet ending for our last night in the village…

On our very last day Nonna and Zia were outdoing each other in the kitchen. We ate all day. Pancakes and thick crispy bacon for breakfast, then a packing marathon to make all of our gifts and souvenirs fit. (Mr. Martini is the champion of the luggage scale, and eventually it all worked out although we have to leave some things behind… )

For lunch we had the last of the homemade food: pasta with homemade sauce and sandwiches with prosciutto, cheese and olives… More visiting friends and then a last minute visit to Cranzetti – I can’t believe we only made it here at the very end! Renata and Ferruccio’s garden was as beautiful as always.

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For our last meal:  fried potatoes, chicken cutlets, bean salad, muscato… Apple hazelnut struccolo for dessert with ice cream from Trieste (my favourites: hazelnut and pistachio… ) and then one last festa out front with everyone gathered together and prosecco to toast…

Then – the saddest part of every trip – the long goodbye.

Our village-to-Vancouver journey had countless incidents and anecdotes too, but the most meaningful one for me was this – a quote I noticed in the movie I watched on the long flight home:

“To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain.  Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.” (Celine, Journey to the Edge of Night) (Quoted in the movie “La Grand Bellezza”… great film!)

This was the trip of a lifetime in many ways, and it is hard to accept that we are back home again with life “as usual” unfolding around us.  There were life changing moments every single day, and writing them out here has only made me more nostalgic for them – I am really counting the days before we get a chance to go back…

Something I am grateful for, although it wasn’t anticipated: the effect of Europe on my children.  The chance to see and live in a different place, with different languages, different money and different culture has changed the way they look at and experience their regular every day world.  It has opened their eyes and hearts and minds to the wide world beyond their own front step.  It has created questions and conflicts, it has intrigued and inspired, and most of all it has created a kind of curious empathy that is impossible to teach without real life experience…  They will never be the same, and for that above all else, I am so incredibly overjoyed, in awe, and overwhelmingly grateful!

Every voyage has a story – this was the story of one family on one voyage, and I hope that this is only the beginning of a lifetime of stories from all of us…

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Places to Go

Trieste…San Giusto

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Our last big European city exploration was another visit to Trieste, this time in search of the San Giusto cathedral and castle.

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On my first trip I was given a beautiful framed pewter engraving of the church and have wanted to see it for myself ever since.  I am so glad we got the chance!  Even though it is a huge hike (or twisty drive) to get there it is definitely worth the effort – the church is beautiful and sits on so much history, plus the view is lovely. We could see clearly out to the Adriatic…IMG_3832

…as well as to Castello Miramare (the subject of my other pewter engraving…)

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…and beyond to the lighthouse – Il Faro di Vittoria…

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As always I was mesmerized by the architecture.  The church is filled with beautiful sculptures, reliefs, mosaics, chandeliers and the most lovely (and simple) rose window… (These architectural shots are for Tia – no windows with flowers today, but something a little bit older…)

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…of course there is a lion…

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…or two…

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…or three!

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After spending some time exploring the castle we drove back down to town and wandered through Trieste for the last time. (So sad!) We found the tram to Opicina at Piazza Oberdan and added that to our “prossima volta” list – Nonno talks about it often.

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For “lunch” we bought some pastries at a tiny bakery, ate them again on the church steps looking out at the canal grande, and then walked back to Piazza Unita for gelato. (Pera, dark chocolate, pesce and mandarinetta…)

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Trieste is a lovely place to get lost for awhile, as many artists, writers and thinkers have known well before me.  I am already dreaming about my wandering time there, and looking forward to another visit sooner than later…

My favourite thing about Trieste on this trip: the chance to share my love with the greatest loves I have ever known… and discovering that the very best thing about the gorgeous old statues is that they provide the perfect shade for an afternoon gelato… my happiness is complete!

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“In Trieste, with its many sadnesses,
its beauties of sky and district,
there is a steep hill called Via del Monte.
It begins with a synagogue and closes with a cloister; midway
up the street is a chapel; there from a meadow
you can scope out the dark energy of life,
and the sea with its ships, the promontory,
the crowds and the awnings of the market…

Via del Monte is the street of holy affection,
but the street of delight and love
is always Via Domenico Rossetti.
This green suburban byway, which loses,
day by day, its color, and is always
more city, less countryside, still keeps
the fascination of its best years,
its first scattered villas
and sparse rows of saplings. Whoever
strolls by in these last evenings
of summer—when every window is open
on a far vista,
where someone waits, knitting, or reading—
thinks that perhaps his beloved
might flourish again, in the old pleasure
of living, of loving him, him only;
and her little son, too, rosy with health.”

(Umberto Saba)

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Places to Go

Buie…

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We have been in Matterada for over a week, and in to Umago several times, but we haven`t really stopped to visit the small city of Buie which is actually closer to home …

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I have been in the town many times (this is where we found emergency antibiotics on our last trip for Miss G.`s sudden ear infection…) but I have never really explored.  We make the most of our discovered time today and take a walk – bottom to top, including the old church where Nonno Benedetto had his confirmation so many years ago, and discovered some amazing history along the way.

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The first place we found was the old cemetery, fallen into ruins but incredibly beautiful and with panoramic views out to the Adriatic…

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…framed by fragments of windows and wall from centuries ago:

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Our next visit was to the Church of St. Mary of Mercy, built about 500 years ago…

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…and then we took the longest, windiest route we could find to the main square at the highest point of the town…

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…with a beautiful medieval campanile…

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(a venetian lion, of course…)

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…and then the phenomenal church – St. Servelus, built in 1272, on the remains of a Roman temple.

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Here is St. Servelus himself – and one of his great friends (St. Sebastian…)

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…fragments of roman history…

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After investigating every inch of the main square we wound our way down the hill again in search of shade and a place to play…

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…stopping to photograph the windows along the way..

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…and maybe an antique car or two – another family scavenger hunt item…

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…until we found the perfect park to pass some time!

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At the bottom of the hill below Buie there are acres of sunflower fields – I can never take enough photos of them…

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We stop to visit cousin Maria only long enough to take a picture or two in her front garden – it is beautiful enough to feel like a park.  (Really!  This is her yard!)

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To end our day we drive through Carsete – the bells from their campanile can be heard in Matterada and add an extra layer to the ringing of the hours.  (This is one of the things I miss the most now that we are home…)

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Our very last stop is the tiny but perfectly formed town of Verteneglio – it has everything you would want in a perfect getaway: restaurants, shops, quiet places to pass the time…

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Verteneglio is also the home of G. Junior`s favourite church – it is his favourite colour!

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We ended our day of exploration at home with dinner barbecued by the talented Mr.Martini… Does the meat taste better here or are our appetites inspired by the air and activity? We are lucky to have crostille and conversation with the talented baker Ciana – (where does Mr.M. put all that food?) And then before bed: Ciana’s homemade palacinke (with nutella!) and MORE ice cream. The kids are in heaven.  We all are in heaven – and so grateful that our trip has only just begun.  Tomorrow: Venice!

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Places to Go

Trieste…

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Trieste…  So much prettier than I remembered…

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The Piazza Unita has been washed and sparkles like new – the buildings are stately and just the right amount of fancy.

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Of all the Italian cities I have visited, this is the one I have seen most often, and I still think it is lovely.  To my amazement it is relatively unknown outside of Europe, and consequently gets tourists mainly from “the continent”.  Its’ location at the very north east tip of Italy connects it easily to central and eastern Europe, and its’ potential as a port on the Adriatic sea has made it a sought after “possession” with a turbulent history.

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So much history and culture have paraded through and yet it is still Trieste

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One of the highlights of our first day in Trieste was eating handmade pastries from here:

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On the steps of this church:

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Looking at this view:

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And I couldn’t resist a quick visit inside…

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(Saint Veronica, always my favourite…)

After a tiny bit of shopping (we are travelling with small children!) we found the perfect lunch place for a family of hot, thirsty, tired travelers:

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The only trouble was choosing – 73 pizzas on one menu. Wow!  We ended up with the Inverno (spicy, Mr.Martinis favourite), Quattro Stagione (classic, the kids always like it) and the Triestina (because when in Trieste…)

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Favourite moments:  G. Junior conversing with the cameriere, in spite of the language barrier (our boy can talk to anyone!) and then dazzling the restaurant staff with our Tide To Go laundry stick.  (They are the best!)  It seems pizza restaurants take stain removal seriously.  Next trip: laundry sticks for everyone!

My favourite thing to do in any city is “treasure hunt” for interesting sculptures, statues, art… This photo (taken in Trieste on our last visit) has hung in my dining room every since:

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This time I managed a decent picture of one of her lovely companions:

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We found the ruins of the old roman theatre…

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Some lovely architecture…

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(Photo by Miss G.!)

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…a lighthouse (il faro della vittoria…)

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…a lion (in the restaurant!)

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…and a big anchor.  A pair of crazy statues…

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…and a trio of windows too:

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We walked for hours – no time to stand around when you’re getting the most out of a holiday, unless you’re this guy:

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(Italo Svevo – “Life is neither ugly nor beautiful, but it’s original!”)

 

On this visit we travelled home by way of Lazzaretto and loved seeing the Italian beach culture in full form. The golfo di Trieste is full of sights, especially on hot summer evenings…

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We will definitely return to Trieste later in our holiday – there is more than you can see on one visit!  My father-in-law, who spent many of his teenage years living in the city, is still shocked that we haven’t done all of his favourite things…  For us that inspires the hope that we will be back there one day sooner than later…

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Madonna Della Neve – Cinque D’Agosto!

Our first Sunday in Europe is filled with light as we wake up to the chorus of roosters and church bells and prepare for mass with the familia.

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La Madonna Della Neve is a beautiful little church, attended to religiously by our beloved Zia. Under her incredibly watchful eye the flowers are all perfectly placed and the linens are pressed to impeccable standards…

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Our children manage incredibly well to attend to a mass in two languages, both of which we barely understand…

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This is helped by the fact that there are so many beautiful things to look at!

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(My favourite as always – Saint Veronica at the Sixth Station…)

 

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Just two days after our first Sunday mass comes Cinque d’Agosto!  To mark the feast of Madonna Della Neve – Our Lady of the Snow – on the fifth of August there is a grand celebration. It has been twelve years since I celebrated this feast in Matterada and I was very much looking forward to it – the greatest part was seeing how much joy it brought for Zia just in having her family with her at a festive time.

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In spite of torrential rain (thunder!  lightning!) 150 people gathered at the church – inside, in the aisle, on the altar, out in the rain – for a mass with choir and full entourage.

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Afterwards there is usually a procession with the statue but the rain would not allow it…

Instead we feasted on meats and sweets as platters were passed around inside the church, and met with distant cousins and old friends while we shared.

Our evening became an extension of the feast and celebration.  We passed on going to the local party in favour of dinner with neighbours/cousins…  (Lorella – you are a kitchen master!  Big points to Ivo for his great work as sous chef/support staff!)

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Cheers!

We ate for hours.  Five full courses, some with multiple dishes… We started with soup, and then salad (with fish)…

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Next course: Homemade gnocchi with cream sauce and wild asparagus, picked fresh that day from the fields.  According to Mr.Martini this was the best gnocchi he has ever eaten, and it is not likely to be beaten until we get back to Matterada…

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Gnocchi was followed by the meat platter…

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…the vegetable platter (also with meat, just because…)

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…peppers…

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…and tomatoes…

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It was a delicious meal (to see and to eat!) which we will remember for all time…

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As good as you would wish for your last… Abundance, fellowship, joy, amazing!

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Stella Maris…

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(This picture is for Tia…)

Beach! After a few busy days of touring around we took a break and found our old spot at Stella Maris – we settled in for a few hours of splashing around in the salt water and gazing out at the Adriatic sea. (So lovely!) The salty water is easy to float in and the kids had tons of fun playing “shipwreck” – they have recently been heavily influenced by Gilligan’s Island…

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The rocky coast of Istria is a gorgeous place to enjoy the sea – there are so many beaches to choose from, but this one, near Monterol,  is one we have returned to over and over again because the crowds from the resort gather around the lagoon and leave the stretch along the open sea almost empty; just the way we like it…

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Once we were all splashed out we wandered down the boardwalk in search of lunch…

You don’t have to go far in this part of the world as it caters to hungry travelers and has so much to offer.

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Sadly, we were too early again for the house specialty, so we turned to a regular favourite – pizza! – and ordered a Quattro Stagione with another favourite: schweppes bitter lemon. (Why can’t we buy this in Canada? It is deliciously addictive.  Side note: we also discovered a new favourite – San Pellegrino Aranciata Amara.  One more reason to return to Europe very soon.)

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The Quattro Stagione pizza is sometimes served with the four “seasons” mixed like you see here, and sometimes with the “seasons” separate on four quarters of the pizza.  This one was definitely my favourite.  I am getting hungry just looking at the picture.  (Is your mouth watering just a little?)  No local pizza comes close to this.  How is that possible?  What makes it even more amazing is the fact that this is the view from our table:

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Following lunch (as per our habit…) gelato!

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Today’s selection: banana, stracciatella, lemon, hazelnut. As always, yummy!

All that’s left for a perfect day is a sunset drive, and the dream of another beautiful day tomorrow…

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Pola…

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Mr. Martini has a wonderful cousin who lives in the city of Pola, at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula.  We always make the time to visit her, and her family is always so warm and welcoming to us.  We love to spend a few hours in her lovely garden, listening to the cicadas, searching for her pet turtle, talking, laughing and most of all, eating…

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On this visit, more than any other, there was talk of politics – in the world, in Europe, in Croatia and beyond…  Things are not perfect anywhere, but there are many things that we take for granted which are amazing luxuries when viewed on a global scale.  I was grateful many times over the course of our travels to expose my children to things that were different enough to stretch their comfort zone – that stretching for all of us has lead to new ideas and new understandings.

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After a great visit (and more food than you could possibly imagine) we said our goodbyes.  We couldn’t leave Pola without a quick look around though, as it has been several years since we have been here and there is so much to see!

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(Photo by Miss G.!)

The same cousin we were visiting sent me a history book years ago detailing the wild and varied history of her town.  Pola is the largest city centre on the Istrian peninsula and because of its amazing location it has been desired by many over the centuries… Greek, Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Frank, Slavic, Venetian – and that is only up to the middle ages!

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(Roman Amphitheatre)

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The evening light was amazing for our short visit…

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(Temple of Augustus on the Pola Forum)

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(Sergievian triumphal arch – 1st century BC!)

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(Cathedral of Our Lady of the Ascension and its campanile…)

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(Photo by Miss G.!)

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We found a big anchor…

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…and then discovered someone familiar performing in the Arena for a summer concert!

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After strolling back to the car…

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we ended the day with a sunset drive home and some beautiful views from the Mirna bridge…

 

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Right on cue my camera battery light came on – apparently my photo taking habit has earned me “daily charger” status. (How could you be here for once-in-a-lifetime and not take photo after photo?! Every step leads to another amazing view or discovery – I go to sleep wondering where tomorrow will take us.)

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