Publishing stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver - author, editor, and publisher of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan. We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also publish genres of healing and wellness, humour, children's fiction, and rural poetry. Visit our website to learn more about our books.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Never Leave Your Wingman's Excellent European Adventure - Part 4 - Italy

You're back! Great! Thank you for following along with me, the Never Leave Your Wingman book, as I share my photos from my wonderful summer adventure in Europe!
(If you didn't read Part 1 , Part 2, or Part 3, these are the links for those posts.)

This kind of feels like you and I are in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Book club together. Pretty neat, huh? And speaking of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants movie - the parts of it that were filmed in Greece, anyway - well... hang on for a few minutes. I'll come back to that.

So the last time I blogged, my publishers and I were in Pisa, Italy and I was holding up the Leaning Tower, remember? Well, there was one other interesting place that we discovered in Pisa. And you'll probably be surprised to see what it was.

That's right - a McDonalds restaurant!  'And Here's The Party!' says the sign.

The folks at this restaurant had a hilarious sense of humour, and we had quite a few chuckles while eating our nutritious fast-food lunch. (Oh come on, somebody had a salad there some day.) 
Anyway, here are some of the signs we saw inside this McDonalds restaurant:

In case you can't quite make out this sign leading to the washrooms, here it is close up:

Hilarious, right? I wanted to cut that part of the door out and bring it home to share with my friends... but it wouldn't have fit in my travel bag and the airline would have charged me for extra baggage, so this photo will have to do.

While we were driving from Pisa to our next stop on our trip, we saw some really pretty fields. While Saskatchewan and Canada's other Prairie provinces often have bright yellow fields of canola in the late summer, here in Italy and other parts of Europe, we enjoyed this scene of bright yellow sunflowers.

My author Deana snapped a whole pile of photos of these fields. This is one of my favourites.

Did you know that in Europe, the semi trucks don't have solid side panels like our trucks do here in Canada? We found it strange to watch the canvas sides of the big trucks flapping with the wind. That can't be too aerodynamic, can it?

Here's Publisher Al driving us (himself, me and my author Deana, of course) to our next destination. 
Psst... that's the Mediterranean Sea in the background.
OH MY GOSH! I am SOOOO excited that we can see it!!

But wait. Before we could get into our next accommodation that afternoon, we had to park our rental vehicle... at the top of the huge hill leading into that town that you saw in the above photo. So this was the home for our VW vehicle - in a tiny (by Canadian standards) parking stall with its own pull-down door in a parking garage. Let's just say we've had more fun parking in other places.

Then we began the walk downhill....

...and further downhill....

...and still further downhilll....

...for about 20 minutes - not including the rests to catch our breath .... get to our room (up on the right-hand middle level of those buildings), at the seaside edge of the village of Riomaggiore. This is a working fishing village and is one of five towns close together in the Cinque Terre region of Italy which are popular with young tourists - "because young tourists still have good, strong legs that can handle the 45-degree hills," my publishers said. (Can you tell that my publishers are old and were a little cranky after going up and down this main-street hill that goes from one end of town to the other a couple times? Plus, it was only the day after they had climbed the 395,000 steps (or something like that) up to the top of the Duomo in Florence, too - so maybe they had a tiny reason to be a little tired and unhappy about more climbing.
 Anyway, my publishers and I took it fairly easy in Riomaggiore for the rest of the day. We just relaxed and enjoyed the views. 
Here are some photos of what we saw...

The view from our front walkway.

This village really reminded me of the rocky Greek village in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants movie - except we didn't have a donkey to take us up the hills. Oh, wait. I hear my author calling out to me. "A donkey! That would have been perfect!" (As if she just thought of this herself. 
Silly author. Where would they have parked the donkeys?) 

These pretty flowers were blooming from a vine growing on the rock wall in front of our room.
Cool, huh?

In front and below our room, a bunch of Italian men noisily worked together to build this.... this... I don't even know what it was. A pier perhaps? Anyway, they had a little trouble deciding who would give the orders and who would follow them, and we thoroughly enjoyed watching this process. We also giggled a little when the group took a break to share some bubbly. Only in Europe. 

This very secure (not) closure on the gas cupboard was a little unsettling for us. Our room was just behind this wall. Yeah, a little unsettling.

Now this photo... this is a different story. What? Were you actually looking at the big red boaty thing. Pshaw. The legs. Check out the legs under the red thing! Well worth watching as they rounded the corner and wandered up the stairs. Wooeeee! I LIKE ITALY!!! (And don't get me started on his teeny tiny swimsuit...)

This cracked me up. When you gotta go, the Mediterranean Sea is as good a place as any, I guess.

The sea offers many pretty sights... In daylight...

...And the early evening.

So goodnight for now ... from the northwest corner of Italy. 
I'll see you soon for my next update. It's going to be awesome... just you wait!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Never Leave Your Wingman's Excellent European Adventure - Part 3 - Florence & Pisa

Hello there! Are you ready for another adventure? I sure was this summer when my publishers took me to Europe with them. After visiting Austria (read my blog - Part 1), then Venice and Rome (here's my blog - Part 2), I couldn't imagine what my publishers had in store for me next.

Well, it was pretty neat. Come along... you'll see.

Florence, Italy was the next destination during our European adventure of a lifetime. 

This was some of the furniture in our room in Florence. Talk about old-school. Actually, it was probably 100 years old or more. (Oh, not the TV. That is definitely newer than 100 years, silly.) 

Florence is where we first started seeing a lot of bicycles during our European adventure. I am having a little rest here on a window ledge as we walked toward the main downtown area. See that light-coloured dome way back there in the centre of photo? I'll tell you about that in a minute.

So I looked to my left and this is what I saw... a Canadian flag. In Florence, Italy! Cool. The building is a Four Seasons Hotel. Who would have guessed that? Certainly not me.

So here it is... the biggest deal in the historic centre of Florence.

The Duomo of Florence (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore) is the main church of Florence. This impressive Gothic-style church with the red brick dome was built starting in the 13th century and the dome was added in the 15th century. The Duomo offers a stunning view of the entire city... if you're brave enough to climb the 463 steps up to the top of the dome.

Yes, I said 463 steps. Uphill. All the way.

Well, my publishers are not exactly what I'd call 'brave' all the time, and they weren't planning on climbing the 463 steps up to the top of the dome. They tell me they aren't particularly fond of closed-in stairwells that have very little air flow and even less head room (my publisher Al is tall) ... But my publishers aren't very bright sometimes. 

On this particular day in Florence, they went ahead and bought a ticket for the 'cupola' of the Duomo without realizing that the word 'cupola' actually means 'dome'. Duh. I repeat - Not very bright.
So you should have seen their faces when they rounded the corner going into the church and were told to keep on moving... and they found themselves having to immediately climb stairs instead of just walking around to look at the interior of the church from the ground floorYikes!

They climbed and climbed... and stopped for a few seconds about a third of the way up to catch their breath at a small landing. Then they climbed some more. At what felt like 3,000 steps already (it was only about halfway up, but no one was actually counting) they arrived at a walkway along the interior of the dome and saw this...

...the incredible artwork inside the dome, painted in 1572-1579.
Absolutely beautiful.

Then some more climbing, and they finally arrived at what's called the 'lantern' that wraps around on the outside of the top of the dome.

This was the view when they reached the top outside of the dome. Worth the climb. In every way. 

Going down the stairs was way easier than climbing up... 
...but still creepy in tight quarters, and Al still had to watch his head. He's much taller than this guy who was ahead of my publishers as they went down the steps - all 463 of them - or did I say that already?

So that was an adventure that made us laugh and laugh....

Oh, I almost forgot... 


Outside the Duomo, this young man picked up a ginormous bug. A locust, we're guessing, 'cause that's what hangs around those parts of the world. And we thought our Saskatchewan grasshoppers were big. Ha! Not even close.

This little angel was just too cute to ignore. We love angels because... well, we do. 
And they remind us of all the Earth Angels who pray for, love and support our special eight-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner. We love those wings.

This was the first and best gelato we had in Europe. Homemade and super tasty. The servings were awesomely huge, too.

Europe isn't all fun and tourism, you know. These were some of the sights we enjoyed on our walk back to our room one evening. Interesting statues in a garden and beautiful flowers.

So how do you like this statue of Michelangelo's David? We were pretty excited to see it. We couldn't show you all of David ... because I'm a family book, you know. Gotta keep it PG.

This isn't the real statue of David. It's a beautiful replica, in the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence. The real statue is in a museum in Florence, but this one is sitting where the real statue originally sat, and we were impressed. 

This isn't the real Mona Lisa painting either, but it's also pretty cool. Created by this artist right in front of our eyes... with chalk... on the sidewalk. I wonder how long his artwork lasts before it gets wiped away. I'm glad I'm made of something more long-lasting than chalk. So people can read me for years and years to come.
Now here's a sight we don't see every day (or any day) in Saskatchewan. A wild boar's head hanging on a hook in a downtown restaurant. We kind of had to cover our eyes while we ate this European-style pizza...

This public telephone was not only a sight we haven't seen for years in Saskatchewan but the design was cool, too. We had to take a photo and show you.

We really liked Florence, but it was time to move on, so we travelled west to this place...
...Pisa, Italy!
Oh my gosh! It was so cool to hold up this Leaning Tower.
I am just a little book, so it was hard work to do all that holding - with a little help from Publisher Al, of course.

Oh, there you go. That's more like it. And if you look way into the background at the base of the tower, you'll see how tall this eight-storey leaning tower really is. It's quite the engineering marvel.

So that's it for this part of our journey. Stay tuned for our next stop...
Hint: It involves some beautiful blue water.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Never Leave Your Wingman's Excellent European Adventure - Part 2 - Venice & Rome

Hello! It's me again, the Never Leave Your Wingman book. What a fun summer I've had. First, my publishers took me to Austria (my first blog) on my Excellent European Adventure. Then we headed to Italy.

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...

The Pantheon. 
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...
Pretty lady.

 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.