Gondolas and Water Buses in Venice

Venice - nightlife along the Grand Canal

By Judy Berman

At times, the Grand Canal in Venice looks like a typical congested interstate highway.

Vaporettos (water buses) – Venice’s public transit system, gondolas and water taxis all jockey for position to and from the island.

After dodging Vespas and Smart Cars in Rome, it is a relief to go on shore to a car-less destination.

Our overnight stay at Hotel Ai Do Mori was just minutes from St. Mark’s Square, and our room had a view of the street and the bell tower. Except for the church bell ringing early the next morning, we didn’t hear any of the street noise while we were in our rooms. Lovely.

We got around the city “streets” on foot via narrow pedestrian walkways and bridges. Right after we checked in, we went out for lunch. Then, we were in search of a gondola ride.

We passed street vendors hawking their wares.

Suddenly, a vendor ran past us, talking excitedly on his cell phone. Apparently, he was alerting the other vendors that police were patrolling the area.

One vendor hid behind a cart near us and watched as police entered and then left the square. Within minutes, all vendors were back, and it was business as usual.

There were several gondoliers hanging out by the docks. We hopped aboard along with our youngest daughter and her husband. Our oldest daughter, her husband and their two children rode in a separate gondola.

During the day, a 40-minute ride cost 80 euros. You could divide the cost with another willing couple if you’re on your own. The ride is more scenic and romantic at night, but the price jumps to 100 euro.

Singing and music would be extra. Please ask for a Venetian song. Rick Steves’ Venice guidebook suggests “Venezia La Luna e Tu” (Venice, the moon and you)

“Asking to hear “O Sole Mio” (which comes from Naples) is like asking a Chicago lounge singer to sing “Swanee River,” Steves jokes.

Here’s some sights we saw on shore and off:

Venice - gondoliers and vaporetto on the Grand Canal

Gondoliers navigate their boats on the Grand Canal. A vaporetto (water bus) – Venice’s public transit system – is in the background.

Venice - St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Square – Music, tourists and pigeons fill the square. St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) was built in the 11th century, replacing an earlier church. The saint’s bones have been buried here since about 830 A.D..

Venice - restaurant

A delightful surprise – either a shop or a restaurant – can be found just around any corner on the narrow “streets.”

Venice - restaurant display window

A close-up of the restaurant’s display window.

Venice - gondola and bridge

A gondola glides under one of the many bridges on one of the quieter, small canals. Our guide pointed out many interesting and historic sites along the way.

Venice - early morning

As there are no cars on Venice streets, produce and products are hauled on carts from the boats to the stores and restaurants. Early this particular morning, we saw one shop-keeper wash down the street in front of her business.

Buon viaggio! Happy travels!

Travel tip suggestions:

We took a train from Rome to Venice – about a four-hour ride. Seats fill up quickly. So it’s a good idea to reserve them ahead of time. We did so before we left the States.

Gondola rides: Rick Steves says prices are standard and listed on the gondoliers’ association website at www.gondolavenezia.it

Is Venice on your list of travel destinations? If not, where would you like to go?  

All photos were taken by me (Judy Berman) during June in Venice. The main photo is of nightlife along the Grand Canal in Venice.

If you wish to borrow any of my photos or my post, please ask first. See copyright on About page and on the side.







Roman Holiday – Part 2

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (209) - The Spanish Steps

By Judy Berman

Gladiators and emperors first come to mind when I think of Rome. But, centuries later, the Eternal City also drew artists and writers – such as English Romantic poet John Keats.

Keats came to Rome to recover from consumption. He lived in a home at the foot of the Spanish Steps and also died there at the age of 25 in 1821. The Keats-Shelley Memorial House showcases his works along with Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and many others.

The Spanish Steps, a Roman Baroque structure, were built in 1723-1725. You climb a “steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinita dei Monti, dominated by the Trinita dei Monti church at the top.” (Wikipedia) The Via dei Condotti, facing the Spanish Steps, is lined with shops carrying the names of Rome’s high-end Italian fashion designers -– Prada, Valentino and Gucci.

Throngs of people and vendors crowd the steps. We avoid the hassle of threading our way to the top by taking a side street to the Spanish Steps. Two already are at the top waiting for us. (Photo above)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (216)

There are 138 steps in the Spanish Steps -–  “la scalinata” (the staircase). At the bottom is the Fontana delia Barcaccia -– the “fountain of the leaky boat” which is spouting water as it sinks.  The fountain was built in 1598 as a monument to the great flood of the river Tiber that same year. It was commissioned by Pope Urban VII and is the work of Pietro Bernini and his son, Gian Lorenzo.

The climb is worth the trip, especially if you get there just before sunset.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (222)

The next day, we head to the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere near our hotel. There’s no need to bring bottled water. Public fountains provide liquid refreshment for man and dog alike.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (239)

The piazza features many delights. We saw a man painted in silver remain motionless like a statue, and an Invisible Woman – or, at least, I think we did.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (76) - invisible woman with Judy, Jenn, Kaitlyn & Connor

We definitely saw a marionette paint with a little help from his friend in a blue dress. (Valentina Balduzzi – il fiore e la luna). Very impressive. Occasionally, the puppet  peeked into the tin hat to see if anyone left a tip. He made his point – many did so.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (246)

Of course, we had to refuel. For lunch, we returned to Dar Poeta. They serve both thin crust and a thick crust (alta). We got the latter, and used a fork and knife to eat it. That’s the Italian way!

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (258)

Then it was back to dodge the traffic in the narrow cobblestoned corridor from the piazza. It’s best to keep one eye out for darting Vespas and Smart Cars.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (263)

The neighborhood our hotel is in has many wonderful shops, restaurants and bakeries. Innocenti’s had some mouth-watering cookies that we just couldn’t pass up.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (234) - bakery - Innocenti

The area’s ochre and terra-cotta painted buildings are picturesque.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (276)

For our last night, we returned to Ristoranti I Vascellari. Our waiter brought a small bottle of Limoncello to our table. Limoncello is the generic name for an Italian citrus-based lemon liqueur that is served well-chilled in the summer months. Some consider it the national drink of Italy.

After we left, we walked over to the Tiber River. The lights are from a festival. We’d seen the white tents set up days before. Now, there were people dining along the river, buying art, and having a great time.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (311)

On our travels, we also visited the Vatican and Venice. I’ll posts stories about those places in coming weeks. Unless, you’re the Griswolds (Chevy Chase’s family in the movie, “European Vacation”), vacations always end too soon.

“Roma, non basta una vita.” (Rome, a lifetime is not enough.)

It was an amazing journey and I’d love to return to Rome and Venice. Buon viaggio! Happy travels!

What favorite spot do you want to return to?

My next post will be about our visit to The Vatican.

Part 1 of our Rome trip – Roaming the Streets of Rome – can be found here.

All photos taken by me (except the one with the Invisible Woman): Photographer – Judy Berman. My husband, Dave Berman, took the photo of us with the Invisible Woman.

Copyright. Please ask for permission to use any of my photos or comments from this story. Thank you.

Roaming the Streets of Rome

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (72)

By Judy Berman

Narrow crooked cobblestone alleyways in Rome beckon you to venture around the next corner, where there could be a street festival, musicians or shops.

The enticing smells of basil, tomato sauce, cheese and freshly baked bread float out onto the streets from the restaurants. Or a gelati shop pops up right in your path, and is calling you to pause for a refreshing Italian sherbet.

The slow pace along this corridor contrasts sharply with the Vespas zipping in and out of the traffic. It’s best to walk with one eye over your shoulder to avoid a too-close-for-comfort encounter.

In early June, we stayed in Trastevere, a Rome neighborhood that’s frozen in time, or so it seems. During the day, it’s peaceful and has the right touches of the Old World. At night, it comes alive. Party-goers and others flock to its many excellent restaurants.

Ristoranti I Vascellari, for example, near our hotel is warm, welcoming and serves a wide variety of excellent food: spaghetti alla carbonara, Tagliolini al tartufo, mussels, pasta, lasagna, breaded lamb cutlets and much more.

Thankfully, we didn’t hear any of that clamor in our hotel. Casa di Santa Francesca Romana is a former monastery, a perfect retreat.

After a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we head out to visit the open-air museum near us. That would be Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (10)

From a distance, the Colosseum might be mistaken for a multi-story garage. Completed in 80 A.D., this is the largest amphitheater ever built.  It can hold about 50,000 spectators in its giant arena. Here, gladiators fought for the right to live another day. (Some believe, however, that Christians met their fate in nearby Circus Maximus.)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (20) - Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill was the birthplace of Rome, established about 753 B.C. by Romulus after he killed his twin, Remus, in a fit of rage. Later, it became the lavish residence for several emperors, including Augustus. It is near the Roman Forum.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (26) - St. Cecilia's

The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is down the road from our hotel. It was built above the Roman house of this martyr.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (27) - St. Cecilia - statue

Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of music. When her sarcophagus was found in 1599, her body was intact. Sculptor Stefano Maderno sketched her body, and made a haunting sculpture of her out of white marble.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (88)

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. For us, the search is on for food.  (But this photo makes those of us in front look H-U-G-E.)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (161) - Casa di Santa Francesca Romana - our hotel's patio

Back at the hotel, we relax in the hotel’s ochre-colored courtyard lined with orange trees. The staff at Casa di Santa Francesca Romana speaks several languages. Thankfully, their English is far superior to my meager Italian.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (284) - Dave standing in shower in our hotel room

In our rooms, Dave steps into the shower fully clothed to demonstrate what a slim compartment it is. On the plus side, the hot and cold running shower is very refreshing after a long day of hiking around the Eternal City.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (127)

Hollywood has captured several icons in Rome. One is the Mouth of Truth, or Bocca della Verita, found in one of Rome’s oldest churches, Santa Maria in Cosmodin, Trestevere. It is in the movie “Roman Holiday,” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Legend has it that people suspected of telling lies are forced to put their hand in the mouth of this massive stone – once a common ancient street drain cover. It’s said that, if you’re lying, the teeth will clamp down on the hand and you risk losing your hand.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (175)

Trevi Fountain was built in 1732. This fountain was immortalized in the movies “Three Coins in a Fountain” and in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” Sad to say, it’s under repair. So there will be no splashing about in the fountain. When it was open, it was under guard for such foolishness. While you can still toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, it’s just not the same with Plexiglas between you and the fountain. Legend has it that by throwing the coin in, you are assured of a return trip to Rome.

Buon viaggio! (Happy travels!) What place would you like to travel to or to revisit? 

Part 2 of our Rome trip will be posted July 4, 2015.

Roman Holiday – Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s characters test the Mouth of Truth

All photos – except the one in the restaurant and at Boca della Verita (the Mouth of Truth) – were taken by me: Photographer – Judy Berman

If you wish to use any part of this post or any of the photos, please ask. Copyright.

A Grand Weekend

Connor and Kaitlyn at the McLarty Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Fl

By Judy Berman

Gold was within our reach. But we walked away empty-handed.

To some, that would be mighty disappointing. For the grands, Kaitlyn and Connor, it was just one of the adventures we had during their visit in October.

All great excursions involve food. Right? We stopped for lunch at Capt. Hiram’s Restaurant in Sebastian, Florida. While we ate, we sat on an open deck and watched plovers and sea gulls scurry back and forth hunting down their meal.

Mel Fisher Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida

Then we went down the street to Mel Fisher’s Treasures Museum.

After searching for 16 years, “a salvage team led by Mel Fisher recovered the mother lode of the Atocha” in 1985. The Atocha, which sank in 1622, met a similar fate as the eleven Spanish vessels that sank in 1715 in a storm near present-day Sebastian.

gold bar at Mel Fisher's Museum, Sebastian, Fl

Seven hundred lives were lost and more than 14 million pesos worth of treasure went down with the eleven Spanish Galleons. No wonder this area is referred to as the Treasure Coast

It’s typical to take the sites and attractions for granted. In our role as tour guides, we discovered the many treasures close to us.

The next day, we were transported from visions of gold, silver and jewels hauled from the depths of the sea to a ride up a seven-story tower overlooking Port Canaveral on the Space Coast in Brevard County.

Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral - Oct. 2014 (24)

What is it like to navigate a boat? The “pilots” made it looks easy, but I bet it’s harder to do than parallel-parking a car.

On the fifth floor, Connor, and then Kaitlyn, safely steered their vessel via a simulator through Canaveral Harbor to greet a cruise ship. Not a dent or a scratch on either boat.

We shifted our course from the present to the past. It was all just a touch screen away.

Where did early native populations live? Where did the first European settlers land? We discovered this and more thru an interactive map.

Exploration Tower, Port Canaveral - Oct. 2014 (44)

When you enter the Exploration Tower, and when you leave, visitors are reminded of our fragile environment via the exhibit, “Embrace,” by Sayaka Ganz.

Vivid blue and white right whales, red jellyfish and stingrays can be seen from the lobby and second floor. It’s remarkable not just by its size, but from the elements used to create it. Ganz recycled items that people toss away: kitchen utensils, plastic toys and bottle caps.

From trash to treasure. That, too, is worth more than gold.

What attraction near your home do you want to see or return to?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Video clip: Wallace & Gromit’s “A Grand Day Out” – ‘We Forgot the Crackers.’ (No, we didn’t forget the crackers, but we did have a Wallace & Gromit video marathon … and we had a grand time.)  http://www.spike.com/video-clips/czwml1/wallace-gromit-a-grand-day-out-we-forgot-the-crackers

Music Video: Jimmy Buffet singing “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (with apologies to our vegetarian granddaughter) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBsPZV14I-k 

1.Main Photo: Connor and Kaitlyn outside the McLarty Treasure Museum which is part of the Sebastian Inlet State Park in Florida.

2.Photo: Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum, Sebastian, Florida – photo taken by Ebyabe on April 25, 2011 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/67/Sebastian_FL_Fisher_msm04.jpg/640px-Sebastian_FL_Fisher_msm04.jpg

3.Photo: Gold bar from Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum

4.Photo: Exploration Tower – Port Canaveral, Florida – Connor and Kaitlyn piloting and navigating a boat using a simulator thru Canaveral Harbor to greet a cruise ship.

5.Photo: Exploration Tower – “Embrace” exhibit by Sayaka Ganz. She captures the movement of right whales, rays and jellies out of discarded objects such as kitchen utensils, plastic toys and bottle caps.

Links to sites:

Mel Fisher’s Treasures in Sebastian, Florida http://www.melfisher.com/Sebastian/Sebastian_Museum.asp

McLarty Treasure Museum at Sebastian Inlet State Park – http://www.floridastateparks.org/sebastianinlet/activities.cfm

Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral – http://www.explorationtower.com/


Ghost Tour in New Orleans

Misty Graves

By Judy Berman

Fog enveloped Bourbon Street. We stepped inside a dimly lit gift shop in New Orleans where we spotted a book on ghosts.

That inspired us to book a walking ghost tour that weekend. Our guide, Richard, looked like he stepped out of Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles.”

Like Lestat, he was an imposing figure – tall, dressed in black, and blond. But Richard’s hair was long and braided.

He could have passed for an outlaw, but he was a very entertaining storyteller.

Our tour was briefly interrupted outside voodoo Queen Marie LeVeau’s home. I doubt she was resting in peace as a heckler chose that moment to hassle Richard.

Several paying customers urged Richard to move on and continue with his stories. He did. Our next stop was at a voodoo woman’s home.

Except for a huge snake curled up in a cage, lit candles, burnt offering and dolls with pins in them (OK, I made that last part up), the voodoo woman’s home was like any other.

She gave us a quick tour. Then, we gathered in the backyard. The woman asked Richard if he wanted his future told. Perhaps, thinking of the unpleasant encounter, he just shook his head sadly.

“Knowing how bad my past was, I don’t want to know what my future will be,” he said.

The voodoo woman chided him, “If you know your future, your past may look good.”

We laughed and Richard joined in.

After we left her home, we continued our stroll through the French Quarter.

Each block appeared to harbor spirits. Richard stopped at one building, the Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street, and told us about suspicions that it was connected to vampires.

Old Ursuline Convent, French Quarter - Chartres side balcony above entrance

In the mid-1700s, young women were brought over from France to be married off to men who settled in Louisiana. The nuns at the convent gave the girls shelter and an education.

While there were women in New Orleans already, some were plying the world’s oldest trade. Definitely not marriage material.

As the legend goes, 50 girls were sent here along with 50 “casquettes” or “caskets.” They were mockingly referred to as ‘casket girls.” (The number varies according to the storyteller.)

Odd! Many were dying in France at the time. So, there should have been a shortage of coffins – not chests – for their clothes and personal effects.

Their chests, containing a dowry, were locked in on the convent’s third floor. They would be opened when the girls married. But Richard said the chests were empty.

The shuttered gable windows on the convent’s third floor are nailed shut, he said. Superstitious residents say that was done to prevent any vampires – believed to be in the coffins – from escaping.

We hastened out steps as we left the sidewalk outside the convent. Would a light from the moon reveal that one of the windows was open?

Far from being repelled by holy things, Richard believes vampires are drawn to them. He said that’s why the vampires were sent to the convent. (I’m sure the church is delighted with this theory.)

Mysteriously, there is no record of what happened to the 50 coffins.

He wrapped up his story by telling us that in Rice’s “Interview with the Vampire,” the vampire has beignets (a pastry with powdered sugar) at Café du Monde.

Cafe du Monde - Cafe au Lait and Beignets, New Orleans

The truly spooky thing is that lighter-than-air beignets do vanish into thin air along with the coffee.

Richard’s stories, however, have stuck with us for many years.


Do you have a non-gory spooky tale to share?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music Video: Bobby Bare singing Marie Laveau, voodoo queen from Louisiana    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpZzehuWdM4 


1.Main Photo: Misty Graves – Easton Maudit churchyard, taken by R. Neil Marshman http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b0/MistyGraves.jpg/536px-MistyGraves.jpg

2.Photo: Old Ursuline Convent – French Quarter – taken March 1, 2010 by Infrogmation of New Orleans http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/44/UrsulinesFQExtChartresSideBalconyAboveEntrance.JPG/640px-UrsulinesFQExtChartresSideBalconyAboveEntrance.JPG

3.Photo: Café du Monde – café au lait and beignets – taken Jan. 12, 2013 by Ed Johnson http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b6/Cafe_au_Lait_and_Beignets_New_Orleans.jpg/640px-Cafe_au_Lait_and_Beignets_New_Orleans.jpg

A Trip to Yesterday

Liverpool - Onondaga Lake Park -  July 2014  (3)

By Judy Berman

Nothing has changed and everything has changed.

During a trip to Central New York in mid-July, my husband, Dave, and I visit our old stomping grounds, and we return to a spot that was the scene of one sweet gesture many years ago.

We stand at the edge of a driveway staring at the home we had lived in until 1999. It is for sale.

What would it be like to live here again, to be among old friends with a shared history and memories?

Like an old family movie, scenes of our girls growing up here flash before me.

Then, as quickly as that thought crosses my mind, I dismiss it.

Nah! We’d have to re-do the landscaping, and get rid of the in-ground pool the new owners put in – which is only useful about two months a year in Central New York. Then, who knows what the owners changed inside the home we had built for us?

Plus, there’s the matter of our girls, our sons-in-law, our grandchildren, grandpuppy, kitties, grandkitties and our jobs. We couldn’t leave them in Florida to move back here.

You can’t really go back. You can’t occupy two worlds – unless you’re Bill Gates or a Rockefeller.

Beaver Lake Nature Center - Baldwinsville - July 2014  (36)

So we make the most of our visit. We meet friends at lunch and dinner to catch up on old times. Stunned to realize how much their kids have grown, just as ours have, and the changes in their lives – new jobs, etc.

Of course, we have to exercise to walk off all the meals. So we take a few strolls thru Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool. Since we left, 5 more miles of hiking trails have been added. We sit on the deck by the lake, and it still has that same calming affect on us.

We also return to Beaver Lake Nature Center and hike the 3-mile lake loop. Exhausting in the heat of the day, but also relaxing.

Then, we pour our tired bones into deck chairs at the center’s observatory. We chuckle as a little chipmunk outfoxes the bigger squirrels for the seeds that the birds kick out from the bird feeders.

Watkins Glen State Park - July 2014  (43)

A bigger hike looms ahead. We drive to Watkins Glen State Park, walk 1 ½ miles and climb 832 steps to view some of nature’s most gorgeous work – waterfalls and gorges carved out by ancient glaciers. Breathtaking.

Watkins Glen - Glenora Winery - July 2014

Seneca Lake is wine country. We stop at Glenora Wine Cellars to buy a bottle of wine for friends of ours when we return to Syracuse. As we look out over the fields, I am struck by how much it looks like a Monet painting. The wine cask resembles rolls of hay amid the greenest greens you can imagine.

That trip offers another treat as well – an overnight at the Showboat Motel along Seneca Lake. In August of 1993, it’s where one of the owners, Larry Jenkins, discovered we were celebrating our anniversary. See story here.

Watkins Glen - Showboat Motel - Judy Berman and Larry Jenkins - July 2014

That night, 21 years ago, Larry brought out two slices of Boston Cream Pie – with a lit candle on each one – and invited those at the restaurant to join in singing “Happy Anniversary” to Dave and me. I don’t think I ever told him then how special that one, small, sweet gesture made us feel.

But I did this trip. I re-introduce myself to him. Larry looks pleased when I tell him that his thoughtfulness capped the end of a perfect day and is a memory I still treasure.

Then we leave for Syracuse. On our last night there, we go to a cookout at the home of longtime friends of ours: Rick and Holly Moriarty. Dave and I have known them long before they married. They were witnesses when we renewed our wedding vows. Now,  their daughter is in college and their son is heading in that direction in a year or two.

Syracuse - Rick and Holly Moriarty - July 2014

It is a night I wish never had to end. This visit makes me nostalgic for Syracuse, for friends with a shared history and memories.

To paraphrase a woman interviewed by Humans of New York: As you get older, there are fewer of those people around who remember you in the various stages of your life.

“And they remind you who you are.”

Watkins Glen - Showboat Motel - Judy Berman reading

Is there a special time and/or place you yearn to return to – even if just for a visit?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thanks to all our friends in Central New York. We had a great time and we miss you already. We’re sorry that we couldn’t get to see everyone we wanted to.

1. Main Photo – Onondaga Lake Park, Liverpool, taken by Judy Berman, July 2014. http://onondagacountyparks.com/onondaga-lake-park/

2. Photo – Beaver Lake Nature Center, Baldwinsville – Dave Berman, Baldwinsville, taken by Judy Berman, July 2014. http://onondagacountyparks.com/beaver-lake-nature-center/

3. Photo – Watkins Glen State Park – taken by Judy Berman, July 2014. http://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/watkins-glen-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NY&parkId=254

4. Photo – Watkins Glen – Glenora Wine Cellars, Dundee – taken by Dave Berman, July 2014. http://www.glenora.com/

5. Photo – Showboat Motel and Restaurant, Himrod, NY – Larry Jenkins, co-owner, and Judy Berman, taken by Dave Berman, July 2014. http://www.showboat-motel.com/

6. Photo – Rick and Holly Moriarty, Liverpool, NY, taken by Dave Berman, July 2014

7. Photo – Showboat Motel overlooking Seneca Lake – Judy Berman relaxing and reading. Taken by Dave Berman, July 2014.

A Gathering of Friends

Syracuse - Mark Murphy, Dave, Judy, Mark and Karen Bialczak - July 2014

By Judy Berman

Our strategy was all mapped out. By comparison, the invasion of Normandy might have seemed less complicated.

Private messages and e-mails outlined our plans before my husband, Dave, and I flew into Syracuse, New York, in mid-July.

Some may scramble for tickets to concerts, plays and other entertainment. Our quest was laser-focused. We aimed to see as many of our old friends as we could at lunch and dinner before returning to Florida.

Up until Wednesday, everything was going according to plan. That night, we hit our first snag when we were getting ready for dinner with my blogging buddies: Mark Murphy, Mark Bialczak and his wife, Karen.

Syracuse - Mark Murphy, Judy and Dave - July 2014

Mark Murphy and I became friends after I met him where he worked with my husband, Dave, at the Syracuse Post-Standard. We have kept in touch thru phone calls, e-mail and Facebook ever since we left Syracuse in 1999 to work at Florida Today, a Gannett newspaper based in Melbourne.

Our strongest link, besides a warped sense of humor, is a love of writing.

Coincidentally, that is also the link I have forged with WordPress blogger, Mark Bialczak. He also used to work with Dave at The Post-Standard. Karen worked at the front desk at the same paper. I worked in radio and at a competing paper, The Observer-Dispatch, in Utica.

When we lived in Syracuse, we all often hung out after work at softball games. Sometimes, after a late night at work, we’d also close a local watering hole – Dinosaur Bar-B-Q or Riley’s – and then go to breakfast.

Mark Murphy now works at Pinckney-Hugo on West Genesee Street. He showed us around the advertising agency. It was only then that I suggested we call my favorite Italian restaurant in Syracuse – Angotti’s Family Restaurant – for reservations.

It was not to be. No one answered the phone. Mark Murphy checked on the web and found it was closed that night as they were on vacation. Arggh!

This is where we had arranged to meet Mark and Karen Bialczak. I called them at home. No answer. I called his cell phone. No answer. I left a message both places.

Now, I’m not a fussy eater. But my requirement for sustenance this particular night had to be Italian. That is my main comfort food.

My phone rang. Mark Bialczak had the perfect place: Rico’s Ristorante. We’d never been there, but it was a delightful choice. Outside the restaurant, I spotted a familiar smile. It was Mark Bialczak. Dave recognized Karen from their days at the daily newspaper.

Syracuse - Judy, Mark and Karen Bialczak - July 2014

The years just melted away as we talked about old times. Then we chatted about our experiences in blogging, which stories drew the most readers, and most mysteriously, why has the Freshly Pressed Award not smiled upon us.

We just shrugged. Our attention shifted back to the food and the great time we were having.

Before we parted, Mark Murphy gave me a book he knew I’d love: “Trust Me On This” by Donald E. Westlake. It’s about a reporter who left a respectable newspaper to work at a sleazy tabloid. It’s a wonderful blend “of mystery and hilarity,” so said a Boston Globe blurb on the book.

I devoured it on our return trip to Florida and laughed at the outlandish tactics those reporters used to get the story. The author kept me guessing – until near the end – on who had it in for Sara Joslyn, the main character.

As I sat the book down, I smiled. It’s wonderful to be with people who “get you.”

They are all greatly missed as is Syracuse, the place I still think of as home.

** On Saturday, August 2nd, I’ll have more on our travels in “A Trip to Yesterday.”

Have you met any of your blogger friends and had dinner together? Were you friends in real life first with any of your blogger friends? What would be your go-to dining choice when you get together?

For Mark Bialczak’s point of view on this story, here’s a link to his blog: http://markbialczak.com/2014/07/25/old-big-daily-friends-new-blogs-to-talk-about/

For a gander at Mark Murphy’s blog, Murphy’s Craw, here’s the link: http://murphyscraw.blogspot.com/

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1. Main Photo: Mark Murphy, Dave and Judy Berman, Mark and Karen Bialczak at Rico’s Ristorante.

2. Photo: Mark Murphy, Judy and Dave Berman outside Rico’s Ristorante.

3. Photo: Judy Berman, Mark and Karen Bialczak outside Rico’s Ristorante.