I know! Exciting, huh?
So here's our look at the Italian Alps.
Just about as beautiful as the Austrian Alps, but we did not see them up close. We kept on driving to get to that beautiful city of more than 100 islands separated by canals - Venice (Venezia).
The closer we got, the more vineyards and orchards we saw. A unique feast for our eyes.
There it is! Venice! Oh my gosh! We just had to go over a long, long bridge and....
...hop on a vaporetti (water taxi)....
...then admire all the wonderful old buildings along the water's edge as we made our way ...
...into the heart of the city.
This was the view from our bed and breakfast room. In the morning, we woke up to hear the animated voice of an Italian grandma (we're guessing) across the alley from our room giving animated, correct instructions (we're guessing) to the younger woman who also lives in the apartment.
Ah, breakfast is served - Italian style. Yogurt, croissants, jellies, dry rye bread, fruit punch, strong coffee and hot chocolate (my publishers' beverages of choice for Day One in Italy).
This is my version of taking a gondola ride. Beautiful, isn't it?
Gondolas, gondolas everywhere. What a pretty sight.
My publishers took a 'selfie' in front of this mirror along the Grand Canal.
Selfies. What a strange word. In the old days, those would have been called 'creative self-portraits'. HUGE mirror, though, huh?
One of the many interesting shops I saw in Venice was this one, with very original, handcrafted books that were being purchased for use as diaries and journals. I just liked the pretty colours.
Too soon, it was time to say goodnight to beautiful Venice.
Then it was on to Rome!
Here I am, on my first train ride in Europe. This was a pretty interesting drive. I had a seat all to myself...
...and I even got to look out the window as the train drove through hills, valleys and tunnels to get us into Rome. I should explain that my publishers were told that it would be smarter to park their rental car in a town about an hour away from Rome, then take a train rather than drive in to Rome, so that's what they did. So we added train travel to our list of European experiences.
The Trevi Fountain, completed in the 1700s, is one of the prettiest sites in Rome.
Especially at night... as these tourists would all agree.
Then we rounded a corner some time later, we came upon this magnificent building...
Are you kidding me? It felt like we'd walked into a movie set where this giant structure had been plunked down in the middle of modern-day Rome. It was a spectacular sight at night. The Pantheon was built between 27 and 25 B.C. as a temple to all gods and it stands where the founder of Rome died. Check out its many records here.
(Oh, that's my publisher Al, posing for a picture, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.)
I had a front-row seat (for a book, of course), enjoying the view of this enormous building from the edge of a fountain in that square.
On our walk back along the streets of Rome, we came upon this unique restaurant entrance. Upon entering, you walk over this floor panel that holds a number of wine bottles and corks. Fascinating.
Rome reminded me of my subject, seven-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner. Dionne loved her trips to Italy before she met Graham and then again after they were married. Here she is in Italy in 1994...
Oh, and just a reminder of Dionne with Graham... here they are in July 2010, all dressed up to go into Dionne's chemo treatment as she fought Stage IV liver, lung and bone cancer.
The theme that day?
'Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy' of course.
Now, back to Rome this summer...
We visited the courtyard at Vatican City. No sighting of the Pope, but we did enjoy the buildings and people-watching.
Guess what this is.
It's one of the world's biggest and fanciest McDonald's restaurants. My publishers fluked into finding this extravagant building as they were looking for a quick supper. They just had to take some photos of the inside. Would you like fries with that?
Oh, here's me with my author. We're going underground in Rome. Literally.
We got a kick out of this sign on the inside of the subway car door. You'd better not get caught in the door or your private parts - and your back - are really going to hurt! Ouch!
Sadly, we watched helplessly one night as a man getting onto the subway car had his wallet stolen by a pickpocket at the last second before the doors closed. Sigh. Real-life in Europe.
We couldn't help but feel the drama and the history of 2,000 years ago when we visited the Colosseum.
It was easy to imagine the roaring fans as the gladiators did battle in the Colosseum. Pretty incredible site.
I'll be back soon with the next part of my summer vacation.