Thursday, 29 January 2015

The London Free Press: Bad Journalism, Follow-up to "Stranded by the LPD"

I woke up this morning to see my father's daily subscription to the LFP (London Free Press, the local newspaper), and, as I do every day, stole the "Today" section for the puzzles. As I looked at the front page, the headliner GLARED out at me: "Distracted Driving: Even worse. Way worse. Again." (http://www.lfpress.com/2015/01/28/london-police-release-list-of-most-cash-prone-intersections-in-the-city-in-2014). I read the article as it articulated the spike in tickets issued in London, Ontario, up 30% in 2014 from 2013. It cited that distracted driving can be fatal, as quoted by a London police sergeant. My frustration at the ridiculous journalism spiked as well.

 OH, NOOOO! Garbage journalism at its best: The London Free Press.
Even worse? Waaaaaay worse?? AGAIN???

I was one of those supposed 2,187 people ticketed for distracted driving using my "phone". This number is inflated and utterly deceiving. The article doesn't even pretend that it's about using handheld mobile devices and chooses to focus solely on cell phones, which the article inaccurately reports. I was touching, not even USING my iPod. The article spouts that "texting and driving" are the issues. I wasn't doing either since it's an iPod mini and has neither of these features. The article cites that at pauses in driving-at stop lights-people utilize this time to use their handheld devices and therefore cause accidents. How do STATIONARY vehicles cause accidents exactly? Maybe THAT should be looked into?!? Sorry, now I'm just talking CRAZY talk!

I know how being distracted can cause accidents. I was almost hit by a senior citizen as I walked home from Cherryhill Village Mall yesterday. The driver wasn't even looking in the direction she was turning while in motion. Maybe it was because she was USING A HANDHELD DEVICE! Yes, yet more sarcasm. At least the writer of the LFP article notes that distraction can come in varying forms, such as eating...Great job, writer, for NOT noting another serious distraction: those HUGE screens built into the dashboards of vehicles so that you don't even have to move your body and LOOK behind you (both left and right) before backing out of a parking spot, or the 5 hanging television screens that drop from the ceiling of a car so that people can watch t.v. or movies (what an unnecessary feature) making noise as a distraction inconsequential. Let's also not mention the fact that simply turning on/off the heat, radio, A/C, etc., can also be distracting. Pulling down your visor and looking in the mirror (to check your make-up, perhaps?), well who ever gets ticketed for that??? Yet distracted driving it is!

Most people I know don't care for the LFP because it's never been known for it's cutting-edge journalism or even good journalism for that matter, but this front-cover report was just TERRIBLE. Collisions are on the rise! Okay, but did the article take ANY OTHER factors into account, such as weather and driving conditions? No. How about people not driving considerately? We all know that Londoners are famous for being bad drivers (SO RUDE!), so being inconsiderate could never be an issue. Poorly done, LFP. Very poorly done. My father's subscription will eventually end and I will be having a serious discussion about him returning to either the National Post or The Globe and Mail.

I'd also like to note that police vehicles are equipped with HUGE monitors that they are allowed to type data into WHILE they are driving, or at least that's what I'm assuming since they're always typing and driving. The screen is level with their waist/seat, so they need to look down, but hey, that's not distracted driving either! My point is distraction is not only in the way of phones-texting and/or talking while driving-and this new implementation of plainclothes officers sitting on a corner idly watching for people idle at a light and simply TOUCHING a mobile handheld device and then ticketing them isn't really going to solve the problem. Shocker. Catch people WHILE they are texting/talking AND driving. Is that too difficult for officers to do? Is this why these traps are being set-up?

 You've been warned, Londoners!
"Top 10 Spots for Crashes"...They forgot to add, "Which are ALL a Result of Cell Phone Use While Idle". Seriously? Are people buying this??? Let's hope not!!!

Once again an example of LFP journalism AND London law enforcement completely missing the mark. Are we surprised?

*I feel it imperative to note that I once caused a fender bender because I was distracted while driving: my mother was trying to put her prescription in the visor above me and at the same time the car in front of me started to move (we had been stationary at a traffic light). When my mother's hand/arm got in my way, I tried to swat her arm away and looked over at her long enough NOT to see the woman in front of me stop. I hit the woman in front of me (although I was going less than 15km/hr) and ruined my hood; her car had no damages, nor did she have any health problems at that moment. I reported the accident, took full responsibility and was sued almost 2 years to the date of the accident (people who are rear-ended can show signs of back problems up to two years following an accident). She reported that I was talking on my phone (I wasn't), and when Rogers submitted my call log, it recorded that I hadn't used my phone for over an hour before and after the accident. Distracted driving isn't solely about using phones while driving...Your mother can be driving with you and that can be distraction enough, hehehe ;)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Christmas in Canada...FINALLY!!!

I know I'm now a month late, but I want to write an itsy bitsy Christmas post-never itsy bitsy in reality. I will try though! It's mostly pictures, but I think that's what most readers like ;)

My first Christmas home in two years was, sadly, green. However, that didn't prevent me from baking up a storm or getting into the Christmas spirit! I didn't bake a lot, but I LOVED what I baked:

I've mentioned these all before, but I made Italian genettis, kaka cookies and my waistline killer shortbread (my absolute favourite!). Baking this year was a bit sad as my mustard-coloured, handheld mixer (35 years old and a wedding gift to my parents), broke. The plastic, where the beaters are inserted, cracked, so that one of the beaters could, potentially, fly out of the socket :(  It was a tough moment because we all know that today electronics aren't built to last and this was a small representation of my parents' marriage. That mixer has made countless cheesecakes, birthday cakes, cookies and even some creamy mashed potatoes! I reluctantly put it away, not ready to actually throw it in the garbage.

Genettis: I would like to state that my mother's recipe is...Interesting. I found her original copy and it made me laugh so hard that I cried! Afterwards, I didn't know whether I was crying because it was that funny or it just made me miss her that much more. Read the line which starts, "small or you'll end up with cookies..."

The original recipe I found in my mom's own writing :)
The batter: all sticky!
 Fresh out of the oven! These have a hard outer covering and soft, flaky insides!
 Pastel blue frosting for this batch (I make blue, green and pink).
 This batch of icing was much thicker. The pink batch going into one of my grandmother's Christmas tins. I was channeling my mother's family that day!

Kaka cookies:

 These drop cookies are SO EASY to make and they're always a hit!
Not even a THIRD of what I made overall, hehehe!

With the exception of the shortbread in the pan just prior to baking it, I'm lacking pictures of the finished product-a thousand apologies :(

The before shot. The after is golden brown and makes your WHOLE home smell like sweet, buttery goodness!!!

Now our Christmas tree was my mother's pride and joy. When we could finally afford an artificial tree that looked real, my mother decided that it was also time to give it a Martha-Stewart-inspired look. Choosing wine, gold and cream as her colours the palette (which barely won over blue, silver and white), this is what our tree traditionally looks like:

 We think that from the battle of Christmas tree vs. our cats (who have since passed away); Christmas tree vs. our dog (who has since passed away); and lastly Christmas tree vs. kids (who always seem to play with it or run into it or something, lol!), our tree has survived, but leans a bit, hahaha!
A shot from of the side when I hadn't yet put the vacuum cleaner away OR cleaned up the cords :S
My sister on Christmas morning with the gifts :) I'm not trying to show off or boast. We actually have a budget that we established and must stick to for EVERYONE in our family. We are quite conservative, and actually these are presents for our ENTIRE family (nine people) from me, my sister and father (this does not include their gifts to us).

The AMOUNT of presents, as I mentioned, is quite minimal. Our budget is small because we don't EVER want to go in debt in order to splurge on things we don't even really need. Funny enough, most of the time we buy the most practical gifts, or gifts that we really want, but can't imagine spending money on ourselves. Now I LOVE to wrap presents and my grandmother, mother and even one of my uncles are INCREDIBLE gift wrappers! I took the time to enjoy wrapping each and every gift I gave this year. I threw on Christmas movies (which maybe included A Christmas Story, Meet Me in St. Louis, Elf, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas...The animated version, and so on), and took over our dining room:

 I'm just a little obsessed with popcorn, so please excuse my "breakfast" on the table there!
Forgive my carpets! I was making a mess!!!

Now, I spend a lot of time wrapping and decorating gifts and even making homemade tags, so this is a tame version of my presents:

A sample of something I wrapped for the Irish chef ;)

My sister, on the other hand, wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit (not having snow made a lot of people not feel the Christmas spirit *sighs*), and she's been in charge of doing the wrapping for the past two years, so her gifts looked a little less...Done up and perhaps looked a bit uniform:

Papa-san is our nickname for our father.
Look familiar?
Notice a theme???

Some of the presents I got (from immediate and extended family):

 Some wine from my uncle J and my friend Jessie J (my friend's alias, not the singer)!
 My sister bought me this CHI straightener at Winners, but there was a problem with the cord, so I had to return it, but look at that design!
 NO Winners in London had ANY CHI straighteners (I was given a full refund), and so I just popped into a hair salon (beside Target) in Masonville Mall and found this CHI (GOT AN AMAZING DEAL: $120CAD).
 Another uncle gave me a gift certificate to a consignment store here that I LOVE (Style 360 on Springbank Drive: http://www.style360.ca/index.html ), and they had this Stella & Dot ring that I've been eyeing for awhile!!!
The scarf I'm wearing was a gift from my aunt and it's GORGEOUS! [P.S. I'm related to that kiddle in the foreground of the shot; she's my cousin who once asked her mother (my mother's younger sister) how she was Japanese when she was four or five! How cute!!!]
SO GORGEOUS that I actually may have stolen the one my aunt gave to my sister :S

Gifts I gave: obviously this is NOT everything I got for my family. However, I LOVE giving books as gifts and this one I purchased for my male, 15-year old cousin who has a hilarious, odd and even a bit twisted sense of humor:

 This kinda thing is awesomely hilarious AND practical!
 I think if he ever becomes a stunt man then this manoeuvre will come in handy :) 
 For those times when you never know.
 The most likely "worst-case-scenario"?
I bought this for my 19-year old female cousin (above). This made me laugh out loud IN Chapters (Indigo, bookstore). I promptly bought it and even read it quite a bit before wrapping it up, BAD MIKI! My favourite? Pickup lines for women to use on men which included, "Hi," "Hello," and "Excuse me." Hilarious.

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas full of love and laughter!!! I'm so sorry that I didn't manage shots of our Christmas dinner (turkey and the works) OR our Boxing Day dinner (a national holiday in Canada and the UK, I think?!? Although I feel like it's a holiday in former British colonies...I'm not sure. Sorry! It's on December 26th). Our Boxing day dinner is a Japanese sushi dinner with miso soup, gyoza and Japanese-style egg rolls. P.S. My uncle J and I perfected spicy mayo a few years back, so spicy salmon with tempura bits is ALWAYS on the menu now!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Stranded by the LPD

Finding winter tires has been a nightmare. None of the stores or mechanics who sell used tires-including my mechanic who used to be my mother's client-answer their phones. So, I had to wait until the snow had melted before driving to a variety of places and since many locations aren't open on Sunday, I chose early Monday morning to make a go of it. Now, it's definitely my fault for waiting until now to purchase snow tires, so really, this is on me, but the ridiculous overpricing of tires, rims and the service fee has got me wondering if I should even bother. I don't even like to drive. Sometimes I feel guilty for being fortunate enough to own such a beautiful vehicle when I don't even like cars. I appreciate that they make life convenient. However, they also make life unnecessarily expensive. So, I'm faced with the question: purchase tires or take the bus during winter. For four tires with basic rims (because I don't want to ruin the BMW rims) and the service fee, it comes up to just under $1000.00 CAD (around 260KWD/$885USD). Not terrible if that was the cost for NEW tires, but gently USED winter tires??? I swear the gentleman at the store was overcharging me because of my gender and because he can. I NEED winter tires, and he knew it: he looked at the tires on my car now and he'd have known that they won't get me anywhere with the snowfall we get. I can't even drive in a few centimetres of snow without fishtailing. My consensus? Well, I don't have much positive feedback about gently used tires available for 2003 BMW 325CIS, and after my run-in with the police, I'm seriously considering the bus.

As I was driving to look for tires, I was stopped at a traffic light on King Street and Wellington Road. Not wishing to listen to the song that began to play, I flipped my iPod around. This required me to take the iPod out of the cup holder, turn it and put it back down. This 5-second hand touching cost me $280.00 (about 70KWD/$250USD). I was told to pull over after the light and an officer would meet me there. That he did. Unaware that this movement was illegal, I explained to the police officer I had been in the Middle East for the past two years, and that I hadn't driven a car in the two years prior to that (because I couldn't afford one) and so I didn't break the law on purpose. That is the truth.

Taking an extremely long time to return to my vehicle, I waited patiently until the officer returned with a pamphlet and $280 ticket. I wasn't upset about the ticket. I'm not stupid. At the end of the month, it's common knowledge that the LPD (London Police Department) make their monthly "quota" by ticketing anyone who breathes the wrong way. Take that as a warning, drivers. I broke the law (ridiculous as it is), unintentional or not, so I deserved the ticket and I will pay it.

I will pay the ticket, but not without saying publicly how disappointed I am with the LPD. What actually bothers me was that my car wouldn't start once the officer had given me the ticket and he was well aware of it (the car battery had died). Not only did he not check on me to see if I needed help, but when I asked him for help, he refused it, asked if I had a handheld mobile device to call someone and when I answered affirmatively, I was effectively dismissed with the assumption that I can help myself. Between the heavy rainfall and wind, I must have looked hilarious to him, soaking wet, running around the street looking for someone with booster cables...No one had any. Sitting in his warm car, dry, I wouldn't have been surprised if he was laughing at me.

I was parked along the road, illegally, and had no idea who to call since everyone I knew would be at work. I sucked it up and called the only person who I knew wouldn't mind assisting me: my sister (she doesn't work too far away from where I'd been stopped). She had to get approval to leave work for an early lunch and help me. As I sat, fogging up the windows in my car (alone, sadly...because there are other good reason for foggy windows *wink-wink*), I started to feel chilly since the rain had soaked through my clothes and I had no heat in my car.

The officer finally drove away, but not before telling me that if I needed help he'd be a block away. Seriously?!?!? To be fair to him, I honestly got the sense that he'd wanted to help more, and that he may have even felt guilty for not doing so, but because of ridiculous rules and regulations he likely wasn't allowed to (this is what I was told anyhow). However, if police do not help those who are in need, what exactly is their function? Ticketing people for traffic violations that are useless? Yes, I did something illegal, but I wasn't ignoring what was happening behind me, or in front of me. I constantly move my eyes around while I'm driving (as I was told to do so by my mother who taught me defensive driving AND by my professional driving instructor).

I can remember with perfect clarity that the hand sign was flashing and between the countdown (there is a countdown under the flashing hand sign for pedestrians) and my speed, I would need to stop at the light, which I did. As soon as I stopped, I checked to make sure the car behind me wasn't going to rear-end me, and then grabbed the iPod, checked the pedestrian signal (it was the white person walking), glanced at it, hit the arrow, put it down and noticed a figure walking (a police officer) towards my car to the left. I rolled down my window and having that conversation was more distracting than my indiscretion. By the way, if you're not aware, the LPD places traps all over the city. If you want to know a few, let me know ;)

What I want to know is why the elderly woman STOPPED at a green light on a major intersection (Wonderland Road and Springbank Drive) who almost caused a major accident was never charged? How about the impatient drivers who swerve out from behind cars, NEVER signal and then cut vehicles off?? What about the drivers who tailgate??? They're rarely ticketed. But hey, drive 5 kilometres over the speed limit and you should be fined because that's extremely dangerous. Why not actually fine people who are causing road rage like those who drive under the speed limit? What??? Actually do something that might improve traffic conditions? No way! Good job, LPD. I commend you for the wonderful job you're doing, and YES, that is sarcasm.

I thought that maybe I'd been acting like an entitled suck and I was. I wasn't hurt. I had a (car) roof over my head and even a cell phone, so I can understand why I didn't need help, and let's face it, my situation wasn't half as bad as my sister's co-worker: my sister's co-worker, let's call her Z, had been driving with her partner. Z's partner was driving the car and was arrested while Z and their baby were in the vehicle. Z's partner drives a manual, which Z didn't know how to drive. When Z told the police this, they told her it wasn't their problem and left her and the baby alone on the side of a quiet country road at night with few lights, no sidewalks, stores or houses around. This situation is deplorable. How could you ever put trust or faith in the law after an event like that??? Z had to walk with her baby before coming across a phone she could use to call her parents, although I have no idea as to how long she walked.

What happened to me isn't a "woe-is-me entitlement" account that's gotten me thinking. I don't want anyone's pity. It's just that when people are so heavily taxed, you hope your money is going towards a strong policing system that is effective and efficient. Yet this event has served as a painful reminder that I haven't had any faith in the LPD for most of my life because it's terrible. My mother used to work across the street from the police headquarters. One evening a man came in and threatened her and others in the building. The police were called and didn't show up for over 45 minutes. What would have happened if someone had been wounded??? Hearing about Z's incident made me thankful that I'd been stranded in a city and in possession of a cell phone. However, it also made my disappointment more severe.

If I could ever give any advice, I would advise this: never trust or rely on law enforcement in Canada...Not simply in London, or even in Ontario. I think the LPD is one of the worst I've ever encountered. In fact, if I'm ever in danger or in fear of my safety here, the LPD would be the last place I'd contact. Between corruption and bureaucracy, I believe that the police create more problems instead of solving them; they have to stay in business, too, right?

As police brutality continues to escalate in the US (the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri and the recent case in Cleveland, Ohio where an officer shot and killed 12-year old Tamir Rice are only two of numerous incidents), it seems that law enforcement is on edge. Why? Are they are truly scared of people challenging their authority? Do they think people are out to get them? It's terribly disheartening to know that officers would rather treat you like a criminal and shoot you then treat you with respect and talk to you. Am I oversimplifying matters? Heck yeah, but it is that simple in certain instances. Can they not leave their ego at their desk? Can they not bully people? Can they not give warnings instead of jumping the gun? If the officer I met this morning had called a tow truck or even my sister for me, how would that have seriously put him out or injured him? I had no intention of hurting him, wasting his time or even treating him rudely. I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt because he has a job to do: help people in need, keep people safe, keep our city safe. How does deserting innocent people in need of assistance help? It doesn't and if someone says to me, "It's not their job," I'll get really angry because it IS their job, just like it's a doctor's job to help someone who is hurt without discrimination. That's what our tax money pays for. It's a basic right.

By the way, I LOVE those ridiculous promos on Facebook with the police singing and goofing around (yes, more sarcasm). It's a useless publicity stunt and I condone it all. Let's see now, after this post goes up, how much trouble I have with the LPD. Although I wrote this post in November originally, I've added to it since (and have since gotten winter tires), but let's just see if I'm hassled by London law enforcement.

My fellow canucks, do yourself a favour: if you need help, don't call 9-1-1.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Italia: Napoli & Pompeii

In Canada, as I packed my Italian dictionary and phrasebook, Naples guide books and Christmas presents for the Irish chef, I snuck in some reading. I was well-informed about Naples because, if you're only travelling there for aesthetic purposes, then you may not be impressed with it. Naples is the 3rd largest city in Italy, but due to the economy, it's very poor. There are pockets that are rundown, but there are also areas that are extremely beautiful and looked no worse than some streets in Paris. I also read that it's a dirty city due to the obscene amount of garbage everywhere. Surprisingly, I didn't feel bothered by any of this information and there were areas where the amount of garbage was excessive and others where you couldn't see any litter at all. What does bother me is that I don't understand why people litter. Is it laziness? Is it lack of pride in the community? This was something that irked me in Kuwait, too. In Kuwait, there was garbage EVERYWHERE and it wasn't an issue of aestheticism so much as it was me being disgusted walking around in filth since I'm not used to it. Back to Italy!

Another bit of information I learned is that the unemployment rate is quite high (among youth, according to Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-27/euro-jobless-record-seen-in-legacy-of-italians-giving-up.html). In 2012, the unemployment rate was 53.6%. Although, I also read online that in 2013 it was 43% (overall). Either way, such statistics were shocking to me. Sadly, I could relate. In my town it also seems that the unemployment rate is high. We won't get started on that one as it is one of my biggest criticisms about my province (Ontario). Again, back to Italy!

When I came home and tried to think of how to write about Naples and what I'd experienced, I struggled to find the words and my reasons for loving it there! I know many people may not share my sentiments which is why I found this blog post so aptly doing what I haven't been able to do: describe the Naples the way I experienced it: http://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/food-and-wine/why-visit-naples-rome-day-trip-campania-italy.

As I'm sure you know by now, I'm not a fan of hitting every single tourist spot, but since there weren't too many tourists, I felt compelled to do a bit more than I usually do. We walked a lot and along the way, found some treasures:

#1: Castel Nuovo

 This castle is HUGE! Seriously. The first day we went out exploring I said to the Irish chef, "Wow! This castle is gigantic. I wonder if it's anything special." Duh.
 Perspective: The palm trees were larger than me
I stared at it in awe and thought, "It's built so well, defensively!"
This was the view of the rear of Castel Nuovo just from the sidewalk. Crazy, eh? No security guards or patrol on this end. You'd almost think it was nothing important, and yet it is.

#2: Gallerie DItalia, Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, Napoli

 I LOVED this gallery because it showcases Neapolitan art specifically! This little gem was our own find, reasonably priced (€5/person) and the architecture was absolutely stunning!
Location: Via Toledo 185, Napoli
 Raffaele Belliazzi's Putto vendemmiatore (Allegoria dell'autunno) [Putto harvesting Grapes (Allegory of Autumn)], 1870s
 Baldassarre De Caro's Vaso con fiori [Vase with Flowers], 1715
 For some reason, I didn't record who painted this. I'm sorry! It's titled, Veduta di Napoli con Largo di Palazzo [View of Naples with Largo di Palazzo], first quarter of the 18th century
This room was beautifully decorated. It held portraits and sculptures of people.
This was a small room, but had these four paintings and-again-for some reason I don't have any of the artists' information :(
 This is the architecture of the gallery. It was beautiful! I'm not into weddings, but the ambiance was quite romantic and perfect for a wedding if anyone is looking for places to marry in Naples ;)
Oh, yeah! Guess what we saw?!? A Michelangelo Merisi, or more commonly known as CARAVAGGIO!!! This is supposedly his last known painting. What a moment! I stood looking at the painting in...awe. It was an incredible moment. I have seen a lot of famous artwork, but with no one even watching me while I was in the small room that housed this painting, I took a moment to drink it in. No one hovered over me! No one was even there except for the Irish chef. It was stunning. I sat down for a moment. There is something profound about being around work completed by such a prolific artist. I felt privileged, blessed and inspired.

#3: Orto Botanico di Napoli (Botanical Garden of Naples), Via Foria 223, Napoli
*Just an FYI: We went during the week in the early morning since it closed at 2pm (apparently. It actually was never open after noon). Also, this is a guarded and locked area, so you have to buzz to be let in (at least in early December, hehehe). We were greeted by security, who were AWESOME, but spoke little English. They did manage to find a pamphlet in English for us though :)  Not sure what it's like during high tourist season, but we had the whole place to ourselves, or at least that's what I assume since we didn't see ANYONE ELSE-YAY! *NO entree fee*

The entrance. Although it wasn't sunny, it didn't rain and it was still warm and absolutely stunning!
 A map constructed of painted tiles, soooo cool!
 A fish pond. I LOVE the reflection of the palm trees in the water!
The area designated as "The desert"...I wonder if Arabs who live in the desert laugh at this...They might if they're from Kuwait and/or certain parts of Saudi Arabia!
 The citrus grove was awesome! I love citrus fruit and it's a BIG part of Napoli's culture and food!
 Honestly, this citrus fruit was BIGGER than my head! I HAD to take a picture as proof!
 The warm greenhouses. We were only able to enter the glass greenhouse. WARNING: I wasn't aware of how explicit some plants' names are! The plants were stunning and the names a bit shocking.
 It was here that I was reminded of how sexual plants and flowers can be and I thought of Paula Cole's song, Feelin' Lovehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X79NuiuTPc0. GREAT song! By the way, I did study plants and eroticism in university, so I'm not just conjoining ideas or behaving in a perverted nature, promise!
 Hmmm, see the difference is I know what "erectus" (Latin) means, but not "clitoria". Need to look it up.
 It was sooo warm in here and it smelled so fragrant! I LOVED this little dome full of unique plants, most I'd never seen before!
 The greenhouse was like a little piece of paradise in paradise!
 Leaving the greenhouse: bamboo to the right and MASSIVE trees to the left
 This was one of the massive trees to my left. Look at those ROOTS!
Heading down the walkway to the entrance/exit. Does it remind anyone else of Hollywood a bit??

#4: Chiesa Cattedrale Di Napoli, Via Duomo 149, Napoli
*Roman Catholic Church, NO entree fee*

 The outside was so majestic! This was an extraordinarily CLEAN area ;)
I know you can't see, but there were white Christmas lights strung up...Not lit up, but there nonetheless!
 I LOVED the designs of the buildings on this part of Via Duomo!
 Not crowded at all. Happy day :)
The ceiling
 I've never been in a church this large, so it was a pretty jaw-dropping sight to me!
 Even if you're not affiliated with any Christian/Catholic religion, this building was so beautiful that it's worth a visit just to feel the grandeur, majesty and aesthetics/art/architecture!

Look at that ORGAN! It was like FIVE times as tall as me...Although maybe that's not very big since I'm pretty short, lol!
 What little sun there was streamed strongly through the windows, casting a divine glow.
 Seriously, you saw the pictures taken outside; it was overcast, but look at that light coming in!
 This is an actual picture I took WITHOUT the flash! I LOVE how it turned out! Gothic feeling! It looks like an illustration, not a photograph.
I think my mother's family (devout Roman Catholics), would have been happy I visited.
I studied European history and I remember learning about why churches were built to be tall, beautiful (painting, design, etc.), stunning and whatnot. To see it in real-life, however, puts it all into perspective.
It was like I'd stepped into my undergraduate European history textbooks...It was living history for me!

#5-Pompeii

 This is the view we had of Pompeii when leaving the restaurant. It was such an idyllic spot.
 We wandered around the small area a bit and it was quite picturesque.
Yet another gorgeous church :)
 Walking to the ruins. You can begin to see the ruins from the street! Look: EMPTY streets!!!
Honestly, the street views were just as awesome as being INSIDE the actual ruins.
Okay, here's my two cents about the ruins: they are quite spectacular IF you know the history and what EXACTLY you're looking at. We knew the history (thank goodness!). HOWEVER, even with the map we were given along with an audio guide, we had NO IDEA what a lot of the ruins were. Sadly, NOTHING is labelled and we missed SO MANY of the highlights and I was really annoyed at this. After paying €22 for us to simply ENTER the ruins, imagine my surprise when there were NO signs, NO plaques, etc. My advice, if you're REALLY interested in knowing what the heck you're looking at, invest in a tour guide...A real human being, since the audio guides are useless at €6. OH, P.S. I didn't need to use the washroom, but I don't remember seeing one...I assume they're there, but...Double-check!
 Close to the entrance, this is what we encountered. Sorry for the lack of labels, but I was pretty clueless as to WHAT we saw :(

 We barely saw any tourists and this group was one of the biggest we saw!
 Can you see the church steeple in the distance? It was such a calm, cool day, in spite of the light, sporadic rain showers ( ^ - ^ )
 So, as we went deeper into the ruins we saw this...
Monstrosity (the restaurant, not the Irish chef!). That's his disappointed face at the ruins being destroyed to build a restaurant.
 Sun showers in this beautiful garden!
 So lovely! I felt like I was in part of the HBO series, 'Rome' set! So incredible!
Lewd graffiti, those dirty minded, Romans! Don't believe me? Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhP-OUt1Eos&feature=iv&src_vid=u81sSziTt4U&annotation_id=annotation_1721223709
I had no idea what this said when I took the picture, but I have recently discovered it's overtly sexual.
Look at that GORGEOUS rainbow! It was so quiet and peaceful in here. I wish we'd packed food so we could sit and enjoy the sights!
 We may have wandered pretty far around the perimeter at one point and stumbled across these views!
Breathtaking!
 Some artifacts were so well preserved it was shocking!
I admit I may have gotten a bit nauseous as I stood at the top of the stairs of the large theatre!
 The ampitheatre was a bit flooded.
Looking up at the (non-existent) audience in the ampitheatre.
I don't know what this area was called. We only saw this man as we walked back here. We were close to the street at this point (behind the buildings on the left).

*Again, I have to point out that while I did enjoy the ruins in Pompeii, we missed a lot and we walked around for about three hours, so it was a bit disappointing.

Here are some more shots of the architecture we saw on the days we wandered aimlessly :)

 I think this was on Via Foria...
 This was a small church on a side street that I don't know the name of because we were lost, lol!
 Via Foria?!?
 This statue was close to "Amnesia Kebab", hehehe! (refer to previous post for picture).
 While we were searching for Sorbillo Pizeria, we saw this little alcove. The only sign I could find read, "Piazza Cardinale Sisto Riario Sforza".
So incredible to see this random statue down a side street! It looked like nothing more than a residential area.
The view looking up!

The trip to Italy was only my third to a European country (Turkey being considered both European and Asian). I also feel blessed since I visited all three in the span of eight months. For 32 years I'd never managed to step foot in that continent!!! The more often I visit, the less I want to return to Canada. Italy wasn't perfect, we pretty much always got lost when we followed locals' directions, the volume of traffic/pedestrians was overwhelming (at times the crowds were even worse than parts of Tokyo, like Shibuya's famous intersection: http://travelingcanucks.com/2011/11/photo-tokyo-japan-shibuya/, not because of the volume, but because of the unorganized nature of how people walked), and people walked ALL OVER the place (I'm not used to this), drove me nuts a bit. The best parts: VERY reasonably priced and DELICIOUS local wine, amazing food, nature (the water, the vegetation, the garden and Pompeii!), and the vitality!!! I felt ALIVE there! I felt a similar liveliness in France!!! I really want to travel around Europe more! Next up: Greece for my best friend's wedding and hopefully we can squeeze in a visit to the Georgian lady IN Georgia!!!

A gracious note of thanks to our Airbnb host, Davide, and a tremendous amount of thanks to the Irish chef for taking me to Italy for Christmas!!!