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Travel 2017: An American in Europe

Académie de musique de Paris.

What an adventure!

It’s hard to believe it’s over. A year of planning, researching, and of course, the hardest part– counting down the days. Before you know it– it’s come and gone.

Four days after returning home and I’m a bit jet lagged, my senses are still a little overwhelmed; but most of all, I’m happily content with having completed another whirlwind adventure.

The Basilica in Lyon, France.

In nineteen days, Michael and I managed to visit 16 cities in 3 countries, halfway around the world. We walked over 124 miles, sailed some of Europe’s most famous rivers, experienced the speed of the EuroRail and saw first hand, many historical landmarks that many Americans have only read about in books.

I thought I’d lead off my day-to-day blogging of our adventure with a brief overview.

What can you expect to glean from our adventures? Aside from our personal impressions of the experience itself– I might be able to dispel some of the myths, mysteries and misconceptions about travel and the places we visited.

What do Europeans think of America? Are Parisians really rude? How easy is it to get around a foreign city? How different is the European culture from that in America? What’s different about a river cruise compared with an ocean excursion? Are travel and sightseeing difficult abroad?

Visiting the windmills in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands.

I invite you to join us as we explore London, Paris, Amsterdam and many places in between.

Tours and exploring on our own… food and wine… museums and parks… transportation… the locals… so much to see and do.

You might pick up some travel tips or benefit from our experiences. You might enjoy just going along for the ride. Curious?

Travel with us.

 

A view of London from Trafalgar Square.

 

Dreaming of Versailles and a Sunday in THE Park

We considered it, dismissed it, then couldn’t ignore it. I was dreaming about it.

Beautifully sculpted gardens, manicured lawns and bubbling fountains– surrounding an expansive, palatial wonderland full of historic, architectural  detail and dusted with gold gilding.

This is the Château de Versailles.

Dreaming about a place is one thing– actually visiting and experiencing it is something else entirely. There’s nothing as magical as feeling an undeniable connection to a place.

First Visit

We’ll only be in Paris a few short days and it’s the first visit for both Michael and I. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Paris. Where do we begin? In the initial planning stage for our visit, we did our research, made lists and talked to friends. With so many options, we finally made what we decided was the best decision for us: Experience the city itself and find our own connection– feel it’s vibe. Our visit will be less about the individual attractions and more about the overall ambience the city has to offer.

Dreaming of Versailles

A few months ago, Michael and I watched the first season of the Netflix series, Versailles.

Louis XIV’s love and nurturing of art, elegance, beauty and architecture inspired the world. Versailles was his dream. A stunning palace that stands as a tribute and glowing example of 18th century French art. At 28 years old, Louis set out to build the greatest palace in the world.

Suddenly, it became all too clear that we had to visit Versailles. I was dreaming about it. This was the type of connection I was looking for– and it made the rest of our Paris planning more clear.

Instead of seeing a lot of historic places because, well, we had to; make the experience personal to us. Enjoying it rather than rushing to see everything we possible can. Granted, we will still see more than most people probably would in three days time– it’s just our own approach completely changed.

A Sunday in the Park

Going all the way back to my childhood, Georges Seurat’s painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884) has influenced my life. The musical Sunday in the Park with George, later became one of my all time favorites. But long before the musical, I spent hours in a classroom, staring up at that painting– wondering who those people were.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Georges Seurat, 1884. (Photographed: August 2014)

Flash forward– years later– In my college art classes, I spent a lot of time focused on Seurat and his work. Then in my senior year, I drove overnight to Chicago to see Goodman Theatre’s production of Sunday in the Park with George. I had a profound connection to the piece. After college, I had the opportunity to play George in an ill-fated theatre company’s production, that ended up being cancelled, with the demise of the company. Sadly, a near miss.

And one last connection– my biggest audition as an actor– for the second national touring company of Into the Woods— I sang George’s song Finishing the Hat from Sunday. I didn’t get cast but the director had me sing way beyond my chosen 16 bars– so I must have done something right.

A Must

When it hit me, I was surprised I hadn’t already considered it. Just recently, it dawned on me that of all the places I really would connect with in Paris– I had to at least try and visit Île de la Grande Jatte. It’s very different from Seurat’s time. There’s very little park there now. It’s mostly a developed suburb, part of an upscale commune at the gates of Paris. And, (I had decided) if I was going to do it– it had to be on Sunday. It might be possible but that Sunday morning is the day we leave for our Rhone river cruise. I think it’s doable, though we haven’t been given the departure schedule yet. The island could take up to 45 minutes to reach. So if we’re up early and on our way, we should be able to make it, even if it’s a very short visit. Our friends George and Mary said they’d be up for the adventure. That makes it perfect because then it can truly be ‘A Sunday in THE Park… with George’.

Hopefully the stars will align. Dreams happen. Weather and time permitting… I’ll be there.

 

The Arresting Rise of the Social Media Police

You type a few sentences, add a link or post a picture and hit SEND. Then the sirens start. WARNING! WARNING! The social media police are stalking you, ready to take you down.

Watch Out!

It was a pretty simple joke. I updated my status on Facebook with what was meant to be a humorous comment, referencing a current event. Tainted, of course, with a little sarcasm. I thought it was harmless and was surprised when a dear old friend took offense to it.

Is there anything at all that isn’t offensive to someone these days?

Social Media is a way for us to connect. We share our thoughts, what we’re doing, our hopes and dreams– we may reach out for support, ask opinions or look for some healthy debate. It’s called sharing. It’s called communication. We use it to keep touch and stay informed — maybe even learn a thing or two.

I’ve found that most posts in social media fall into three categories: I felt this, I did this, and I saw this (and I want to share it).

How is that a bad thing?

Even if you post something that might not be a popular opinion– it’s nothing more than an expression of who you are at that given moment. Doesn’t freedom of speech give you that right?

Is there such a thing as inappropriate content? Of course there is….. BUT Politics, religion, entertainment, current events, family– your life– is completely within your rights to share.

My Opinion

I seriously think there are a lot of people that should not be connected to social media. They aren’t capable of accepting what they find there– or allowing others to exercise their right to free speech. They don’t want to discuss or debate an issue they may disagree with– but they will judge you for posting it.

Do I read, like or comment on everything posted on social media? No, of course not. I do, however, respect the right of people to post it. If I want to engage with people about it, then I will. Most of the time though, people just want to get something off their chest, share a story or state their point of view. They aren’t really looking to have a conversation. That’s okay, too.

On topics I’m not interested in or disagree with — I just scroll on by. If it’s ‘fake news’ or something I feel strongly about, I’ll try to use it as a ‘teaching moment’ and comment. What I will not do, is criticize or state an opposing view that I am not prepared to back up. What would be the point?

That is where the social media police come in.

So exactly who are they?

They are the people that troll online, criticizing people and trying to regulate what they want to see. Don’t even try to please them because they will always find something wrong with your posts.

They are the people that don’t like a specific thing– sports, politics, religion, even cuteness– and issue ultimatums. Usually, that will include the threat that they will delete you or stop following you, if you don’t submit to their demands. They think it is their right to control you.

It becomes difficult when the attacks come from someone you respect, love, work with, or from family. The bottom line is: maybe you (and they) need to stick to other ways to connect. Avoid the rush and get off social media if you can’t handle it.

I’m a political person. Even so, after the above mentioned friend threatened to delete me for my politics, I did a quick look back. Of my past 50+ posts on Facebook, only 10 (20%) had anything to do with current events (not counting entertainment industry posts) and not all of those were even political. For the ‘average’ person– is that too much if that’s what interests them?

Would you tell a mother not to post pictures or stories about their child? Would you tell an actor or musician not to share their work? How about someone fighting cancer or a sports enthusiast? Should they stop posting specific things because you say so? It’s ridiculous.

Sure, I’ve unfollowed some people and even deleted a couple. I’ve never bullied them. At the same time, some of my most favorite people (on social media) are those with whom I have diametrically opposing views on certain issues. Because — we can talk about it, maybe debate it and also even sometimes joke about it. We show respect for one another. I think we enrich each other’s lives because we are open-minded enough to want to learn and understand each other. We’re better people because of it.

Advice to the Would Be Social Media Police

Get off social media!

It’s that simple.

No one has the right to try and control another person. Stop being a bully. You are not the center of the universe. If you don’t like what you see on Facebook or Twitter? Close your account. Shut down your computer. Take a walk. Breathe.

I think if you’re the type of person that just wants to see pictures or cute posts of puppies and food– there are still probably email lists you can sign up for to get your daily dose.

Don’t like what you’re seeing? Your misery and controlling nature doesn’t need to be forced on the rest of us who might actually appreciate the diversity of the world.

Knowledge is power. Acceptance is the key.

If you really don’t like what your friends are posting, maybe you’re just too afraid of learning something new. Or maybe, you really just don’t like your friends.

You decide.

Relearning How to Read in the Internet Age

There’s the old joke: “I know it’s true because I read it on the interweb.” Now– it’s not even funny. For most of us, the Internet has become our main source for news and information.

How can you know if what you are reading is true?

Fact, Fake or Spin?

One thing I learned how to do over the past year was how to tell the difference between fact based news, ‘spin’ or biased news… and of course, fake news.

We used to be able to depend on news sources to report the facts of a story without adding ‘color’, their opinions, spinning it a specific direction… or reporting ‘gossip’ as truth. Sure, the news has always been used as a propaganda machine to some extent. For the most part though, we were allowed to come to our own conclusions based on the facts we read. That’s all changed. Today, we are most often told exactly what we are supposed to think, believe or feel about a story. True or not.

You can’t believe everything you read. Can you believe anything?

The first things I look for in any article are quotes and source links. This doesn’t make it completely reliable but it lends some support for accuracy. If the subject is of true interest or importance to me, I will click on at least one link (for sources) while I’m reading. If the article is suspect, don’t be surprised if the link takes you to advertising or some totally unrelated website. I found, on more than one occasion, linked sources that were cited in an article were not what they claimed to be. Some were dead links or “page not found”. This should make you doubt any validity in what you are reading.

May, Could, Might…

Whether you’re reading or watching a news story on television, you can be sure you’ll see or hear words that should immediately send up red flags.

When a reporter asks someone what they think— they are asking for an opinion or an assessment. Neither of these constitutes fact, even if it supports what you want to believe.

When you read, “The Constitution is the framework of the United States Government.” This is a statement of fact. If you read, “The Constitution may have inspired the governing documents of Latin American countries.” This statement is conjecture. It might be true but would require further research to find whether or not it is a fact.

On the other hand, you could also read, “John Doe is a racist.” (A statement of “fact”.) If this is true, where are the documented sources that back this up? If there are none, or the supporting information is a conclusion based on interpretation– don’t accept it as truth. Look for other sources that will either support or disprove that accusation.

Here’s another example: It seems that every day there’s a new article about some food or diet supplement that may cause cancer. These are all highly suspect. The word may is the key. What other information is provided to back this up?

We should never be afraid to question the validity of what we read. More important, never accept something as fact just because you read it somewhere.

Studies, Polls and Findings…

For every topic, you can find studies, polls and findings in the search of answers to important questions. You have to look at a) who sponsored it, b) how many people participated in it and c) under what condition was the data collected.

Can you trust them?

One of the more famous ‘false claims’ (findings) in recent years is that diet soda causes obesity. You can find many articles that will provide studies and polls to back up that claim. Sort of. What they don’t tell you is that the respondents also may consume a half gallon of ice cream, two bags of chips and a candy bar in between their meals. Diet soda, itself, doesn’t cause obesity. If a person drinking it assumes they can eat more of everything else because they are reducing their sugar intake by not drinking regular soda… guess what? They aren’t going to lose weight or can just as easily gain weight. This should be common sense.  So what those articles are really inferring is that obese people who drink diet soda, are often likely to justify replacing those missing sugars with something else… furthering their high sugar intake.

Polls. Many polls aren’t very reliable. Often the sampling of people surveyed might not be large enough or broad enough. Polls are also highly susceptible to emotion. An individual’s feelings (opinion) can change based on many factors; changing the result of what the poll was supposed to measure.  Because of this, they aren’t always an adequate predictor of future behavior or actions– even when every effort is made to interview a broad cross-section of respondents. The 2016 election is a perfect example of how inaccurate polling can be.

Breaking News…

News as it happens.  Breaking News is now a daily event. We can’t always know the who, what, when, where and how as it is unfolding. Jumping to conclusions is the worst thing we can do. The fact that the media, and often our leaders do it — is just irresponsible.

Three recent acts of violence– Las Vegas, Cincinnati and London were all immediately speculated as ISIS attacks. Terrorism. Those accusations in all three cases were later proved to be unfounded.

We have to be careful of the narrative we’re fed as news is happening. Things aren’t always what they initially seem.

Misleading Headlines…

It’s hard to go online, especially on social media and not see shocking or sensationalized headlines. Some you can immediately identify as fake news. Others, you can’t be sure. The art of writing the headline is what sells advertising and makes readers click and read.

A quick way I’ve found to test the reliability of a headline, can be found in the first paragraph. Real news will usually state facts about the subject at the top of the article. (This isn’t always the case with an expose or human interest story, though.) If the first paragraph launches into something totally unrelated to the headline, you’re best bet is to find a different source.

Ridiculous? Yes.

Many headlines for articles posted online are geared towards getting you to click– then be subjected to tons of advertising and pop up spam. I’ve found some articles that amount to nothing more than a couple of meaningless paragraphs surrounded by dozens of advertisements. There are many ‘news sources’ that do this and many that are just plain fake news sites. As you identify these, you’re better off avoiding them in the future. The headline may be enticing– but why waste your time?

Whatever you do : Don’t accept a headline as truth, or a statement of fact without reading the article. Most definitely, don’t share the link to something you haven’t read. This is how fake news became so prominent.

Memes…

True or false? Did he say it? This meme is FALSE.

They can be funny or cute, provide an inspiring quote of the day, or a list of fast facts to make you think. Are they true? A meme is just a picture (usually) with some words, meant to grab your attention. What harm can they cause? The answers are: they aren’t always true and just like fake news– they can cause damage.

I’m sharing a pretty harmless one here: Winston Churchill and the Arts. It doesn’t hurt anyone– but the fact is: there’s no evidence that he said it. It has, and continues to be shared frequently because it supports a narrative that favors the arts.

Search for the Truth…

So how can we know if what we are reading is true? The answer isn’t a very satisfactory one. The only way you can be fairly confident something is true– is to research it. Are there multiple unbiased sources that report the same facts? If it involves a person, are there actual quotes (preferably video) backing up the claims?

People have busy lives. Researching everything you read (to find if it’s true) is not something most people can, or want to do.

I will regularly use sites like snopes.com and factcheck.org to see if a trending story has already been researched.

Wikipedia can be a great launching point for finding quick information but it should never be your final source. Anyone can update, post or change the information on Wikipedia. Fact or fiction. Check the sources.

As a rule, if I can’t find documentation to back up a claim, I won’t accept it as truth. Through the Internet, we have immediate access to so much information. The real challenge is deciding whether we can really believe it of not.

We have to be vigilant in our search for the truth and not be afraid to question everything. It’s always better to be safe now than to be sorry later.

The REAL Problems with Healthcare in America

Political Mayhem

The attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare (ACA) failed. I don’t think there is one person that can confidently say they even know what was in the last revision of the proposed American Health Care Act. Politicians were so desperate to pass the bill, changes were being made faster than it could be revised on paper. What was certain was that the bill did not meet all the Trump administration mandates: that it provided “Affordable coverage for everyone; lower deductibles and healthcare costs; better care; and zero cuts to Medicaid.” Even though the various revisions of the bill failed to meet any of these mandates, the administration supported it.

This was purely political. It failed because it was wrong. It failed because after seven years of complaining about Obamacare, the Republican congressmen STILL had no plan to replace it and threw something together last minute. It failed because enough Republican congressmen refused to be bullied (to vote for it) and pledged to vote their conscious, in favor of what was best for their constituents.

Nothing about this congressional effort focused on the good of the American people. It was never about quality healthcare. It was ALL about repealing Obamacare- destroying Barrack Obama’s legacy. That was the single goal.

Bad, Better, Worse?

In order to discuss the cost and accessibility of healthcare, here are some thing you might want to consider:

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the failed bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) are/were both flawed. The combination of coverage, cost control and availability do not work in favor of the American people under either plan. Still, had the ACA been replaced with the AHCA, 24 million Americans would have lost coverage. A big problem with the ACA is that the model (ratio of insured) hasn’t been reached, driving premium costs up.
  • Without regulation, healthcare providers are at liberty to charge uninsured patients whatever they want. Insurance companies have a stringent table of fees it will pay for services, yet it can vary from provider to provider, affecting individual premium costs.
  • Healthcare insurance policies vary so greatly that it’s nearly impossible for the average American to decipher. This leads to confusion, inadequate coverage and unnecessary higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • Healthcare coverage is more a subsidy than it is an insurance policy. Most Americans would not be able to afford quality care, especially in the situation of an emergency or long-term illness without some sort of assistance. Paying out-of-pocket is simply not an option.
  • Half (or more) of individual American bankruptcies are attributed to debt from medical expenses.
  • Public and private hospitals alike are prohibited by law from denying a patient care in an emergency. The Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act (EMTLA) passed by Congress in 1986 explicitly forbids the denial of care to indigent or uninsured patients based on a lack of ability to pay. (from Google)

Taking the above issues into consideration, if we are guaranteed treatment, with or without coverage– who pays? We all do. Whether through higher taxes, bankruptcies, rising premiums or out-of-pocket. We will all pay for healthcare for everyone.

As long as healthcare is for-profit in America, any efforts to make it affordable are likely to fail.

Here’s one example of a for-profit problem: Mark Bertolini, Chairman and CEO of AETNA received  $27.9 million in compensation in 2015, up from 15 million in 2014. The combined compensation of four other top AETNA executives was $18.7 million, not including $17.4 million in restricted stock and stock options. In spite of a huge profit margin and exorbitant compensations for top level executives, AETNA withdrew from the ACA marketplace in eleven states this past year, to assure their financial gains. From 2015 to 2016 their net profits rose 8% to $603.9 million dollars.

We are told they can’t sustain services because Obamacare doesn’t work. In reality, it’s about greed.

Life, Death… Corporate Greed?

When the actual healthcare professionals that you and I are likely to come in contact with– such as EMTs, nurses, doctors and medical office staff– have problems affording adequate health coverage– there is a serious problem with the system.

Solution?

There are really only three possible options, I can think of, to bring costs under control and make healthcare in America affordable:

  1. Heavy government regulation of all healthcare in America.
  2. Make all healthcare nonprofit.
  3. Establish a single payer national healthcare system.

None of these are easily fixes. What other solutions can you think of?

Washington may be willing to push this issue to the side (for now) but the problem isn’t going to go away.

Life Through My Eyes

Eyes wide open.

Staring at the world

Taking it all in

Enjoying the good things

Surviving the bad

Questioning it all.

 

I started this blog several years ago to share my thoughts. I think I often have an interesting perspective on life and wanted to share that with others. I have a voice and I wanted to be heard.

Everyone has a story. A tale to tell.

For whatever reason, I’ve often felt like I’m on the outside looking in. Even when I’m in the middle of it, part of me is watching from a distance.

I’ve started dozens of posts over the past year and a half– with a hundred more ideas locked in my brain. Aside from my travel posts and those about my furry children– most have gone unpublished. Unread. Silenced or self-censored.

I became completely obsessed with Presidential election, cable news and the expansive concerns that have divided America. At times, it could be so overwhelming that it was paralyzing. It seemed to invade every waking moment of my day.

The lines between broadcast news, journalism, social media, advertising and ‘fake news’ have become so blurred many people don’t know what to believe. Unfortunately, to the detriment of society, too many people will believe anything they hear. Anything they want to believe, that is.

Well, I’m over it. My silence is about to be broken. If I can help or at least entertain with my words, so be it. I may hurt or anger a few people. If I can educate or open a few people’s minds along the way, then I’ll be achieving my goal.

I may not be an expert on some topics but I also won’t post blindly. I believe that even posting an opinion requires some research and justification. We can’t help who we are or what we believe; though helping others understand the backstory can make the picture more clear. Truth? Fantasy or fiction? In today’s burgeoning mecca of information it’s often difficult to tell.

I don’t want to write about just one topic because that’s not who I am. Theatre, Film, Animal-Lover, Writer…. Nature, Politics, Travel, Equality… History, Restoration, Photography, Reading, Cooking and Gardening… the Human Experience… these are the things that contribute to my psyche and make me a whole person. In daily life, my mind can jump from topic to topic in an instant. I want to share just some of what I see and what I feel. We may not agree– but by communicating there is a place where we can connect. We all have a common ground though many are afraid to approach it.

I’m going to write about it. I’ve been guilty of posting things on Facebook that require more than a one sentence proclamation or allegation. People have become too sensitive and judgemental and often aren’t willing to accept other people’s right to self expression. They aren’t afraid to tell you, you are wrong– yet refuse to defend or debate in a respectful manner.

Some of my posts may be short and hopefully, to the point. I think this blog may be a better platform to express myself. Besides, more than likely, those people that want their Facebook feed to be nothing but ‘cute’ memes and puppy dogs won’t bother to read it anyway.

I just don’t get it. It is easier than ever to communicate with the world. So why are so few people willing to listen?

Travel 2016: Day Eight -Sorrento, Italy and Ancient Pompeii

Hazy Sunrise over Sorrento.

Hazy Sunrise over Sorrento.

Sorrento, Italy. is our port of call today. It was a hazy morning as the sun rose, revealing more and more detail on shore. We couldn’t dock so we had to be tendered on and off the ship to the port.

Booking Excursions. We’ve had good experiences with most of the tours we’ve taken in the past. The success most often depends on the guide. Some are terrific, humorous and informative, some have great English while others struggle a little more; and some just talk way too much.

Some of the Broadway performers go out on the excursions with the guests and sometimes they do their own private tours. Today, Kate Baldwin and her friend (BFF) Amber were on ours.

We had a number of interesting choices for shore excursions from Sorrento. Way back when we booked the trip, I only had one in mind….. Visiting the ancient ruins of Pompeii.

The Dog of Pompeii. My fascination with Pompeii goes back to childhood and the short story, The Dog of Pompeii by Louis Untermeyer. It’s the tale of a young blind boy named Tito and his beloved dog, Bimbo. Bimbo stole raisin bread from the street vendors of Pompeii and that’s how he and Tito ate to stay alive. When the Volcano errupted, Tito was saved only because of Bimbo. Tito was frightened but not able to tell what was going on. It was up to Bimbo to save him. Bimbo nipped at Tito’s feet, keeping him moving away from the city to the ships in the harbor and to safety. With not enough room, Bimbo, sadly– was left behind. Eighteen hundred years later, when excavating the city, the skeletal remains of a dog were found. In his mouth was a petrified piece of raisin bread.

The story is more heartbreaking to me now than I remembered it. Still, pieces of that story have stayed with me my whole life.

So, yes. Pompeii was a must.

A little hitch at the start of the day– our coach bus had mechanical issues. We were able to squeeze on the second bus without too much overcrowding and proceeded on the hour drive to our destination. Since we joined that bus, the other tour guide had control of the intercom. She never- stopped- talking. More than one person commented, wondering how and if she ever to took a breath.

When we arrived at Pompeii, we stopped briefly at a small hotel and street market at the entrance. We split up into our two original groups and we were on our way. Our guide was also pretty talky but made up for it by being very witty and keeping our group moving.

Ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii

Ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii.

Discovering Ancient Pompeii. It is believed that Pompeii was settled around 7 BC. It is also believed that there were approximately 11,000 inhabitants at the time that Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying it under as much as 20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice. Approximately 2,000 people died as Pompeii was buried. The city was lost for 1,500 years until portions started to be uncovered in the 1599. Actual excavation began in 1748.

The ancient ruins of Pompeii are one of the highly valued, UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Plaster Cast of one of the victims.

Plaster Cast of one of the victims.

As excavation advanced, it was discovered that much of the city was preserved having been sealed from air and moisture all those years. Scientists found that they were able to make castings of victims by carefully pouring Plaster of Paris into the voids as they were discovered. This resulted in capturing the exact poses of victims when they died.

The excavation of Pompeii is much larger than I’d thought it would be. Because of its massive size, it’s probably best to tour it with a guide; or at least, a map designating the highlights. There are some incredibly well-preserved rooms, complete with frescos and tile flooring.  There are many, many streets; most with just the suggestion of the original shape of the foundations surviving.

At the time of our visit, there was an incredible display of bronze sculptures by artist Igor Mitoraj that are a beautiful addition to the archaeological site. They are set to be displayed only through January 2017. In my opinion, they should stay as a permanent exhibition.

 

One of the larger bronze sculptures by Igor Mitoraj on exhibition throughout Pompeii.

One of the larger bronze sculptures by Igor Mitoraj on exhibition throughout Pompeii.

 

We each had ear piece devices for the tour. It was especially handy for me when I’d get sidetracked, or veer away from the group to take pictures.

 

Standing among the massive ruins of Pompeii.

Standing among the massive ruins of Pompeii.

 

A portion of one of the amphitheatres in Pompeii.

A portion of one of the amphitheatres in Pompeii.

 

Close of of surviving wall art.

Close up of surviving wall art.

 

One of the more complete, excavated rooms in Pompeii.

One of the more complete, excavated rooms in Pompeii.

 

Ruins of one of the streets in Pompeii.

Ruins of one of the streets in Pompeii.

 

Ruins of Pompeii.

Ruins of Pompeii.

 

Mitoraj's art exhibition compliments the landscape.

Mitoraj’s art exhibition compliments the landscape.

 

Standing guard over the ruins of Pompeii.

Standing guard over the ruins of Pompeii.

 

We reached a point in the tour where, having visited the main highlights, our guide gave us the option to head back to the market or continue on with her. At the end of the tour there was to be some time for shopping or a bite to eat before heading back to the ship.

Michael and I opted to head back and had our first (delicious) slice of pizza (in Italy) from one of the vendors. Shortly after, we saw one of our new friends, Paul, who said the group was making its way back our direction. We also saw Kate and Amber strolling through the marketplace. Since we were told we’d have time for shopping, Michael and I got gelato and proceeded to walk through the rows of market vendors.

Left behind? We never saw the rest of our group and also lost track of Paul. We just figured they still weren’t back yet. I put my ear piece back in and after a moment, could hear the guide saying something about getting on the new bus and then she turned off the audio system!

Wait, what?

Michael and I shifted into high gear but had no idea where the bus was parked. We left the market square went out to the street. We looked left and right and couldn’t figure out which way to go. I happened to see the other bus from our cruise leaving and we flagged it down. The guide said ours– was looking for us– so we headed to where that bus had pulled out. We found our bus– only our guide had gone back to the market to look for us. Oops!

We apologized to everyone as we got on, found empty seats near Kate and Amber, who seemed to be enjoying the humor of the situation. Eventually our guide came back, told us she was going to kill us, everyone laughed– and we drove off.

We got back to the port and had just missed the tender to our ship, meaning a 40-minute wait until the next one. (I guess this was our fault!) So some members of our group stood in line waiting, some shopped and others grabbed a snack.

At the port in Sorrento.

At the port in Sorrento.

 

While we waited for the tender, Michael kept wandering off, out of sight, going in and out of the shops. He was making me nervous because I saw the tender coming and didn’t want to miss the next one. He reappeared and we made it on with no problem. I joked that ‘we made it‘ to Amber and Kate– and Amber said they were keeping an eye on us so we didn’t get left behind. (This became our running joke.)

 

Sorrento from our ship.

Sorrento from our ship.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to miss that tender was because it was getting close to time for the late afternoon BOTHS activity, a talkback with playwrights Charles Busch and Douglas Carter Beane.

Charles Busch is an actor, playwright, screenwriter and female impersonator known for his high-camp style. He is an iconic figure in the New York Off Broadway scene and beyond. Charles is responsible for the cult classics Die Mommie Die! and Psycho Beach Party, both of which were also made into films. His best know work is The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, that played Broadway in 2000.

Douglas Carter Beane is a prolific writer for the stage, having worked on many familiar productions you may not realize he had a hand in. He was Tony-nominated for his wonderful play, The Little Dog Laughed and more recently, his play The Nance appeared on Broadway. Douglas wrote the book for the musicals Xanadu, Lysistrata Jones and the new adaptation of Cinderella. Many probably don’t realize he also wrote the screenplay for the cult hit, Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar.

I found their stories and experiences fascinating and enlightening.

 

Douglas Carter Beane discusses his writing process.

Douglas Carter Beane discusses his writing process.

 

Charles Busch sharing stories of acting and performing in his own work.

Charles Busch sharing stories of acting and performing in his own work.

 

We had a large group for dinner (as we did most every night) at The Restaurant (that’s actually the name) followed by one of the best sunsets of the trip.

 

Stunning Sunset as we sailed from Sorrento.

Stunning Sunset as we sailed from Sorrento.

 

A gorgeous view as Sunset framed this rock formation jutting out of the sea.

A gorgeous view as Sunset framed this rock formation jutting out of the sea.

 

Laura Osnes in Concert. The main event onboard was a concert featuring Laura Osnes, accompanied by Seth Rudetsky on piano.

I started following Laura’s career when she appeared on Broadway in Bonnie and Clyde (with Jeremy Jordan) receiving high praise from the critics.

She is probably best known as the winner of Grease: You’re the One That I Want!, giving her a starring role as Sandy in the 2007 Broadway revival of Grease. I had failed to make this connection until the cruise.

Among her many credits, Laura recently starred on Broadway in Cinderella, in the title role.

It was a great concert. One of the fun highlights of the evening was bringing her high school sweetheart– now husband, Nathan Johnson on stage for a sweet duet.

 

Laura Osnes with husband Nathan Johnson.

Laura Osnes with husband Nathan Johnson.

 

Laura Osnes.

Laura Osnes.

 

Laura Osnes in Concert.

Laura Osnes in Concert.

 

Tomorrow– Sicily!