I haven’t blogged in a few weeks, but in my defence, I have been busy undergoing rites of passage. First and best, Doug and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Verona.
Verona is a gorgeous place. We stayed in a hotel just outside the old walls of the city, near the Basilica di San Zeno. While not the grandest of Verona’s many churches, this is the loveliest. It was originally constructed in the 8th century and was damaged first by the Magyar invasion in the 10th century, and then in an earthquake on January 3rd, 1117 which destroyed much of Verona. It was re-built in the 12th-14th centuries. I love this older style of church architecture much more than those that developed during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Tradition has it that the crypt of San Zeno is the site of the marriage of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Doug took some lovely photos of the Basilica:
I especially loved the variety of columns, sporting whimsical carvings:
(Doug informs me that these were probably not considered whimsical at the time. I stand by my description.) As the edifice is so old, and has been re-built a number of times, you can see many layers; here is a fresco painted over an older one.
The Basilica has a lovely cloisters:
In a nod to the fact that this is a knitting blog and not really a travel blog (it’s hard to tell sometimes, is it not?), here is a single knitting photo for this post. This is me taking a small break to knit in the very peaceful cloisters.
When in Verona one seemingly must visit the famous balcony of Juliet. It is really a mad crush of tourists which I found peculiarly comic and boisterous. I wonder what Shakespeare would have made of it. The small courtyard surrounding the balcony is packed with people.
The souvenir industry is in full swing.
A never ending string of “Juliets”come out on the balcony for an expensive photo opportunity.
The security guards look bored.
Leading into the courtyard is a small tunnel on which visitors and lovers have graffiti-ed their names. Those who don’t have paint have left their names in nail polish, or on post-it notes, or – my favourite – on plasters (band-aids). I wonder if these last have a morbid sense of foreboding to them; it seems like bad karma to leave a symbol of your love and togetherness on a plaster.
We had fun in Verona. We walked and ate. Here is Doug at a cafe where we enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine and talked to a table of young British Indian women with families in Edmonton and Vancouver.
I include this next photo specifically for Leah. Grom is her all-time favourite Gelateria; yes, Leah, here we are standing in line at Grom. We went there twice.
The old town itself is very beautiful and surreal. The shopping is first-class, the cafe culture is vibrant, and everywhere you look there are pockets of antiquity. Here is the Arena, a Roman amphitheatre built in the 1st century. It is still used to this day. In the summer, you can see open-air opera. While we were there, Zucchero was performing and the square was filled with music.
The Porta Borsari, an ancient Roman gate in the middle of the old town, also dates to the 1st century AD. I find it astonishing to casually walk through a 2,000 year old gate. Millions of people, tourists and natives, pass under it every year. Verona is like a living museum, but with ice cream and Gucci.
On our wanderings, we encountered quite by accident the Chiesa di Sant’Eufemia, a gorgeous, peaceful church tucked into a corner of the old city. There were no signs, no ticket booths, no tourists, just an open door and some hidden majesty.
The ceilings were spectacular and, here and there, you could see the older layers of murals from beneath the newer ones:
I loved this from the wall of one of the chapels:
We stumbled, by complete accident, onto an art exhibit by Paolo Masi installed only the day before, in which a round mirror has been placed on the floor so as to interact with the space around it, giving amazing juxtapositions and views of the Chapel Spolverini-Dal Verme, within the Chiesa di Sant’Eufemio. It is truly spectacular, but ephemeral – it will only be there till mid-October.
I said that the last few weeks have marked many rites of passage. This next one may not be a rite, but it sure marks a passage. Also in Verona were my three house-mates and lovely friends from graduate school. Itziar, Hamida, Lisa and I shared a house in Cambridge, Mass. when we were PhD students at MIT in the 1980s. This was the first time that we had all been together since 1988.
It was totally fantastic to meet up again in Verona. The five of us (with Doug of course) had a great time reminiscing about the past.
Last but not least, this week also marked my graduation from business school, with an Exec MBA. It was a gorgeous day to graduate. Here is a photo of the back lawn of the Henley Business School (the prettiest business school on earth) after the ceremony.
In the background of the above photo, you see a bunch of graduates posing for a photo. This is the graduating members of my class (or most of us).
We wanted to take a photo of us all throwing our mortarboards in the air. The photographer refused. He said that Health & Safety rules prevented him from taking such a shot. I kid you not. Doug compensated for this by taking many photos of mortarboards not flying through the air:
Finally, here I am receiving my degree, about to shake hands with the Chancellor, Sir John Madejski:
As you can see, I have had a busy few weeks. I now have the weekend to re-coup and then next week will be in Beirut. My new life seems rather hectic. I promise to bring some knitting news soon.