"" Writer's Wanderings

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Siena, Italy - The Palio

One of our planned trips for this year is to Tuscany where we will spend a few days in Siena before we cruise the Mediterranean. I've been doing a little exploring on the internet to see what we might want to take a look at while we are there. I discovered that there is a horse race that is run twice a year that is quite historical wrapped in lots of tradition and custom.

The event takes place on August 2 and July 16. The center of the city, the Piazza del Campo, is prepared by spreading a tuff clay on the ring around the main square. The city is divided into 17 contrade, 10 of which participate in any given race. Around the city you can see which section belongs to which contrade because there are signs with the emblems and colors that signify the contrade on various signs: eagle, she-wolf, snail, goose, etc.

The Palio takes place over a four day period with the ultimate race being run on the last day. The prize is called Drappellone or drape. It is a large canvas painted by a local artist each year and is hung in the museum of the contrada that wins.

The course can be treacherous and some horses have crashed into a barrier or each other at particularly difficult point. No matter if the horse has a rider or not (did I mention they ride bareback?),the first to cross the finish line wins.

With all the energy and passion of the Italians, this must be quite an event to experience. Unfortunately our dates do not fall when either race is run but I'm sure we will see all kinds of evidence of the event and hear all sorts of tales.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Cleveland's Countdown to RNC - Sprucing Up The Zoo

Sporting a new set of antlers.
On our visit to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo last week we checked up on all the projects that were going on over our warm winter. We thought the new tiger exhibit would be done. It's close but still has a ways to go.

The Rosebrough Tiger Passage will be home to the Zoo's two Amur tigers, Dasha and Klechka. Their species of tigers is found in the Amur River region of Russia and sometimes in nearby China. The new exhibit which replaces the old 1960's one will more than double the space the tigers had. It will also allow for vertical space-areas where the tigers can climb. The vertical spaces are designed to allow the tigers to actually pass over the heads of the visitors below. Heated rocks and pools of water will provide a respite in winter although the tigers are a breed that survive the cold Russian winters. Dasha and Klechka however were born in captivity so perhaps they need a little extra pampering. Opening of the exhibit should be an exciting event for both animal and visitor. Projected finish date is in June.

The seals have a refurbished habitat with clear windows for viewing. There is a main pool and a smaller one. A hot tub? Who knows. They did look quite comfortable but then they usually do gliding through the water and turning somersaults.

One of the greenhouses has been removed and in it's place is a small 4-D theater which according to the zoo volunteer will be an immersion into the movie that will be shown. I'm guessing it will be something like an IMAX only on a much smaller scale. There will be an extra charge for it as there is for some of the other special features in the park.

Also new to the Zoo is Doc. No, he's not a new veterinarian in the animal hospital. He's a new addition to our lion pride. I thought when I looked at him he was just a teenager and the article I found in my Cleveland Zoological Society magazine confirmed it. He is a two year old male African lion which explains why his mane is not full yet. We saw several male adolescents in the pride that we followed on our Safari in 2015. He comes to Cleveland from Texas where he needed to be moved away from any conflict with his father.

The Sarah Allen Steffe Center for Zoological Medicine is always an interesting place. We have watched several procedures on animals large and small through the observation windows--even a root canal on a Mandrill monkey. This day they were set up for something and when we asked, it turned out they were offering some sort of free testing to volunteers and zoo personnel. There is always an animal or two out and about for you to get a closer look and we made friends with a kookabura. He was in the hospital to try to get his beak straightened and the point fixed. Don't know what he ran into but it had to hurt.

Amid the smell of fresh mulch, flowers and trees were blooming and budding out. When it comes time for the RNC in July it will provide a nice retreat from all the activity downtown. And if what we saw on our visit is any indication, there will be some new hatchlings and the promise of a few new animal babies in the months to come.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Through My Lens - Springtime at CleMet Zoo

Last week we had a beautiful sunny spring day and decided to take our morning walk at one of my favorite places, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Most people go just to look at the animals but I enjoy the garden spots as well. I especially like seeing the tulips in spring. I have given up on tulips in my yard since they seem to be quite a delicacy in the local deer diet. Here's some of what we found.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Missing the Boat

First of all when you are cruising it's a ship not a boat. Recently there was an incident reported of a woman who missed the ship's sailing time. The media played on the fact that her children were still on board the ship. As you can see in the Inside Edition report the children were just fine. It was decided when the woman did not show up at sailing time that the husband would leave the kids with an uncle and go ashore with passports in hand and try to find the woman who apparently was shopping. The ship waited a half hour past departure time and then left with the woman and her husband frantically running down the dock.

We often stand and watch as the ship departs the port. There is always someone running at the last minute to catch their ride before the gangway is pulled in. We have even seen some captains go above and beyond. One pulled back the few feet that the ship had moved. Another dropped one of the small boats the crew uses to paint and repair around the ship's exterior and picked up a passenger. Her name was mentioned every day for the rest of the cruise when the captain or cruise director reminded people of departure time. We suspect she was charged for the extra service.

Another time we watched two men run for the ship. Their passports had been pulled and sent ashore with shore authorities and as we pulled away we could see the authorities hand them the passports. They threw their hands in the air in despair as they were told to meet us in the next port.

Unless you like to live on the edge, you need to be aware of the time all passengers are expected back on board. It is always a half hour before departure. A ship will usually wait a short period of time for a missing passenger but they have a schedule to keep and I suspect they get charged for being at the pier longer than scheduled. After all, the dock workers have to be paid for extra time, port authorities have to hang around, etc.

Be sure to check your watch against local time. Make sure you are operating in the same time zone as the ship which is always the local time on shore.

Anyone on a ship's excursion is guaranteed to make it back to the ship before it sails. The ship will wait for a delayed ship's excursion. But if you are off on your own excursion, better be sure that you allow for time to return. Some ports like Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas have horrendous traffic jams made more difficult when there are several ships in port and everyone is trying to get back at the same time.

Plan wisely Grasshopper and don't be like the White Rabbit--Late!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cleveland's Countdown to RNC - Words and Phrases to Know

Pop not soda.
People used to claim my father had a Cleveland accent. I never could figure that out but there are some unique to Cleveland and Ohio words and phrases that might be helpful to the visitor.

Let's start with "Wait 30 minutes and the weather will change." We are located on the shores of Lake Erie. It does strange things to our weather sometimes. In winter we get the "lake effect snow" which usually means that open water on the lake in winter will insure that the eastern suburbs get an extra measure of snow. Of course if the wind direction changes a bit all of the rest of us will be under its influence. In July you won't have to worry about snow but weather can get very cool or very hot. It will be a different temperature along the shore than further inland--usually cooler. If it starts to rain, well, wait 30 minutes. It will likely change.

One of the more distinctive differences in our language is the term "pop" when we mean soda. If you ask for a soda someone will want to know what kind of ice cream you want in it. A soda to us is ice cream, chocolate (or other flavoring) syrup, and carbonated water with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

All of the action for the main part of the convention will take place at the Q. That's short for Quicken Loans Arena where King James reigns (Lebron James). When the Cavaliers aren't playing, the Monsters (our hockey team) or the Gladiators (our indoor football team) play. We used to call the ballpark the Jake (Jacobs Field) but Progressive Insurance bought naming rights and no one has been able to come up with a clever nickname since. The Tribe is the nickname for the Indians baseball team.

If you are wearing Nikes, Adidas, New Balance, or any other brand for that matter, someone may compliment you on your tennis shoes rather than sneakers.

A sweeper is another name for vacuum cleaner.

The RTA usually refers to a bus. If someone says take the Rapid, it means one of the east-west Rapid Transit trains that run into town and end at the Terminal Tower which was originally called the Cleveland Union Terminal. Don't ask for the subway. It's a sore subject.

The Mall
There's the Flats, an area down by the river with restaurants and bars and the Mall, which is a big outdoor area centered around the Fountain of Eternal Life which is supposed to be a memorial to veterans and a sculpture to celebrate peace.

The Emerald Necklace refers to our MetroParks system, park land that surrounds the city.

While some may call it the burning river, the name Cuyahoga actually means crooked river. Just behind the Tower City complex is Collision Bend. Have a look and try to image (if there are none there at the time) large ore freighters making that turn.

Another bend that's a bit dangerous is Dead Man's Curve on I-90 on the east side of town. No worries. It's much more dangerous in the winter than in July.

There's no mistaking this city on the lake. It is oddly wonderful.

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