Gatti Italiani

This weekend I was searching through some old photos from my travels in Italy, and I realized that I took a good bunch of cat pictures over there. (Which is not at all unusual, if you know my regular photography subjects.)

Figured I would put them all together in a little collection. Let’s see how this goes…

This is the first Italian kitty that I encountered in Lucca. This was probably my second night in Italy, after I finally slept off the jet lag from the trip over.

He was skinny and cute. I wanted to play with him, but he had an already scheduled agenda that didn’t include hanging out with la pazza Americana, or, the crazy American girl.

This cute little tuxedo kitty was hanging out near my hotel in Montecatini Terme. He looks like he carries some pretty substantial street cred among the cats there. Kitty gave me this smarty pants look like he really had better stuff to do than pose for me to take his portrait. Sorry, dude. Just being a tourist.


These little guys were snoozing on a car outside of a movie theater in Montecatini Terme. They were pretty comfy, and not at all disturbed by the flash of my cheapo camera. 🙂 Get back to sleep, fellas.

…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………

While wandering around Siena, I found this fuzzball staring at me from a second-story window. Of course, there are no screens on windows in Italy, so I was afraid he might fall out. But then again, he sorta looks like an old pro at this window perch thing. I’m sure he was just fine.

Surprisingly, in the tiny hill-top town of Montecatini Alto, I ran into all sorts of furry wonders. This is the first one.

I don’t think grey tabby was too excited about me taking his picture. He looks pretty ticked off about the whole idea. 😦

I snuck in another picture of him just for good measure.

And then I came upon this kitty, who seemed to own the whole neighborhood.

He was too busy to be bothered by me, but before he ran off, he did give me a pose.

And then, after he trotted down the lane, I noticed this sign at the front door of the house where he had been standing:

ATTENTI AL GATTO: Beware of the cat!

Not sure what’s happening with this little grey fella.

Makes me a little dizzy to look.

And finally,

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What day is this, anyway?

I‘m not sure what’s even going on. Isn’t this Tuesday? I keep thinking it’s Thursday for some reason, which is just nutty. But I’m really happy it’s not Thursday, since that would mean that I haven’t completed all of the preparations that I need to make before my sweet nephew comes on Friday for a visit. Can’t wait to see that kid!

For today, however, I need to catch up on some blogging. I have really slacked in the blog department, and I can’t even figure out why. Jut need a little inspiration, I suppose. Our fur babies are certainly a great source of inspiration, so here they are!!

These nerds make the house a lot of fun. Except for during the afternoons, when you will find them totally zonked out between the hours of 10am and about 4pm. Sometimes they wake up just in time for bed. What a life!

They love each other! 🙂 How sweet.

Anytime that I had the thought that I might get to do some work on the computer, one of the three fuzzballs usually has alternative plans. You can see that here. This is not an uncommon sight in our office.

Their little faces follow us all over the house. Even if I go outside to water the plants or feed the birds, they’re right there watching intently.

Dobby fell asleep this day after reading the new issues of Oprah and Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazines.
It can be very exhausting turning all of those pages with a paw!

NAP TIME!!!

A few new pics:

away for too long!

Geez, I guess I sorta fell into a slump, and I have completely ignored my blog. That wasn’t very nice of me, was it? On the other hand, I have taken lots of new photos that I can put up for ya, so I suppose it all works out in the end.

Lately I have played around with some of my old faves using the Topaz Adjust 4 software. So, some of the images that have always made me smile, now make me smile a whole lot more! I love that software. It does just a tiny bit of manipulation to make a print pop, or it totally changes the feel of the original image. Depends on my mood as to the adjustments, which is how I like it.

While I am waiting for a response from my business card printers as to where my order is, I will post a few pics. Here we go!

Seravalle, PT, Italia

This image of Seravalle is seriously one of my favorites that I ever shot. I was just in the right place at the perfect time. This church, which dates back to the 1500’s or something, is right across from the ruins of an old castle. There are some great old homes nearby, too. One was vacant, but had openings where the windows should have been. You could see the inside of the home, which was probably about as old as the church (maybe!) and it gave me a great sense of wonder as to who had lived there eons ago, and how was their life.

That’s one of the best parts of Europe. It’s amazing to me to walk into so many ancient homes and buildings, and have that feeling of hundreds of years of history. We just don’t have anything like that here, and it is such a shame that things are destroyed so readily and easily, with no thought to history.

Here’s the inside of the house. Cool, huh?

Took this next one in Ste. Maxime, France. Can I just say, everything looks more fantastic in the South of France? And the baguettes and pain au chocolat taste more amazing, too! Ste. Maxime is just down the road from St. Tropez. I highly recommend a trip there if offered the chance. Ste. Maxime also has a dog toilet park. haha!

Here’s one from Siena, Italy. I LOVE SIENA!! It’s the neatest little town!

The best thing about altering this image with Topaz, is that for the first time in the 5 years since I took this one, I realize that there are palm trees in there! Crazy! I never noticed them in the original print, as it was very dark in the shadows.

Billy the Kid, Part II

So, I left off at Billy the Kid’s grave, or what they want us to believe is his grave anyway. It’s located in a small cemetery behind the Fort Sumner Museum.

There are some other grave sites there, too. Most of them are really old and deteriorating.

Stones and markers are scattered throughout the little enclosed cemetery.  There was one baby named Christian who died in 1902. People are still leaving him little toys on his grave.

Here are a few of the other grave stones and markers found in the cemetery.

This lock was attached to a chain link gated fence/cage surrounding another grave. They really don’t want you getting too close to some of these folks!

After we left the cemetery, we went just down the street to the Navajo Long Walk Memorial. It is called the Bosque Redondo. There is a lovely museum and walk way, appropriately placed. We didn’t go to the museum, but did enjoy the beauty of the surroundings and the walk way.

This building is striking and has a real presence. Plus, it’s in the middle of nowhere, so it’s even more impressive than if it were in town.

I left out a few images from the last posting that I want to share. This is as good a place as any! This old Ford was parked in front of the Billy the Kid Museum in Ft. Sumner. I love it!

And this old rail work car was placed in front of the museum, too. I don’t know what it was, but my husband could probably tell me! 🙂

And finally, this image of the sky over the Bosque Redondo was too beautiful to pass up!

Here are a few fun images of me and the crew:

Billy the Kid, Part I

I have been so distant with my blog lately! Not really because I haven’t wanted to catch-up, but I have had a few things going on. My mom was in town for a while, so I was busy shopping and messing around. Mom’s visit did take me on an outing, though, where I was able to photograph some sites I don’t normally get to check out.

Tom, my husband, and I, took mom to a lovely made-to-order eggy breakfast at El Rancho here in Clovis. We had amazing omelets with green chiles that I could happily eat every morning of my life. Yum! Then Tom came up with the idea that we should take a drive down highway 60 toward Ft. Sumner, where Billy the Kid is buried. It was a beautiful Saturday morning after all, so why not?

So down the highway we head. Where we live in Clovis it’s so flat! But just 30 minutes down the road the plains go from forever flat to some beautiful mesas and breaks in the ground that look like tiny grand canyons.Mesas - Topaz Portrait SmoothIn the very far distance you can see those monstrously huge windmills. Those things fascinate me! Unfortunately, I didn’t capture any pics of those, but I am hoping soon to get close enough to some that I can get some good prints. Perhaps on our next trip in a few weeks.

So, we were almost to Ft. Sumner when my hubby tells me he’s going to pull into this side road up ahead because from there we can see where Billy the Kid was shot and captured. (Supposedly, anyway) So we stopped. The place is called Stinking Springs, which just makes me laugh.

I made my way out of the car and to the middle of the road. Mind you, there is nobody for miles, so I could have spent all day in the middle of the road and it wouldn’t have been a problem. In fact, closer to the Kid’s grave site, there are dogs actually sunning themselves in the road, paying no mind to the occasional car passing by. Including our car. They didn’t even look up from their nap. Anyway, from my middle-of-the-road perspective, this is what I saw.

I loved the raised rail crossing guards that lead into the great unknown up ahead. It’s as if they were inviting the viewer to come check out what’s up there. We didn’t proceed in that direction, but got back on the highway and headed further toward Ft. Sumner.

But not without taking a few more photos before I left.

And a little further down the highway:

And finally, onto the little town of Ft. Sumner. Right inside of town you’ll find the Billy the Kid Museum, which has been in operation since the early 1950’s. This place started out as a one-building museum opened by Ed and Jewel Sweet. Today the multi-building museum is operated by their son, Don and his wife. It’s got everything you can imagine relating to Billy the Kid, plus a great gift shop.

Don’s a retired railroader, so he and my husband Tom hit it off right away. My husband has been working with the railroad for 20+ years, and he always loves meeting a fellow railroader!  Don had lots of train history to share with Tom, so Mom and I shopped in the gift shop while they visited.

 

 

 

After we left the museum, we headed down to see the grave, or what is supposed to be the grave, of Billy. Depends on who you ask as to whether or not it is really his final resting place. Lots of controversy surrounding it, but we wanted to see it nonetheless.

And here it is!

Apparently, this is the second or third stone they have placed here for him. Due to theft, his stone is held down by iron plates and the whole grave is surrounded by a huge cage.

Now, considering I still have 10 more images from this trip, I think I will post them in a second entry. Don’t want to overwhelm anyone with too much nonsense in one entry. 🙂 See part II next time!

Presidential Blogidential

Here it is, Presidents’ Day. So, in honor of our country’s leaders, I thought it might be fun to post some images from my trip to DC last year.

Having grown up in the United States, I have always been somewhat curious about what goes on in Washington, DC. But I never really thought much about going there. Seemed unreachable, like a place you just read about in history books, but not a place where a girl could actually go.
Well, surprisingly, it’s a great place to visit!

My husband and I were trying to figure out where to go on vacation last year. Somehow, we settled on DC. After we began making travel plans, I started getting excited about seeing our nation’s capitol, and venturing into our history. Not just the history of our great land, but my own history. I mean, this is where all the big decisions are made for America, and I couldn’t wait to wrap my mind around some of it.

Believe me, it cannot be done in one week.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Our Nation's Capitol

Seeing the White House, and the Capitol Building and all of the Smithsonian Museum buildings was great fun. I could finally put a true visual with all of these places that I had heard about my whole life.

Washington Memorial through the pillars at Lincoln Memorial

It was overwhelming to stand inside of the Lincoln Memorial at the base of this giant version of a man who I had admired, but never really saw as a real person. And suddenly, here he is.

Mr. Lincoln

OK, so maybe it’s not the real Abe Lincoln, but surely I felt as though he was more tangible, more within my own reality.

MUSEUM FUN!!

Air & Space Museum

We did hit a ton of museums in DC. It’s really impossible to visit them all in one week. At least, if you want to get anything out of the visit. Sure, you could probably walk through each one. But to really appreciate what you’re seeing, you have to dedicate more time.

We went to the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum, and I was lucky enough to be in the middle of a full-blown migraine. The throngs of screaming kids and neon lights certainly didn’t help my situation. But I was able to fire off a few good shots anyway, working through the pain.

Buzz Aldrin's NASA Spacesuit

I was able to capture a pretty neat view of Buzz Aldrin’s NASA Spacesuit. I was pleased with the way this turned out.

Considering I had my camera lens against the glass and was squished in between a bunch of people pushing and shoving, it looks pretty good. My favorite part of the image is the hint of an American flag in the background.

There was so much to see in this place, that it is really overwhelming. Migraine or not, this place will make your head spin.

Space Traveler

Aircraft

Another place that is totally worth catching is Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Some of those figures look so amazingly true-to-life, that you don’t know if you’re standing in front of a real person or a dummy.

JFK

You can sit in the presidential balcony box with Abe Lincoln. My husband had to drag me into it, as he looked so real that it just freaked me out. But once I was ok with sitting next to a dead president, it was fun.

But seriously, they can be scary.

The Kennedy figure wasn’t as realistic as some of the other past leaders. But he was cool nonetheless.

Wax Abe

Wax Truman

Naturally, being in DC, there’s a plethora of presidents everywhere you go. But Tussaud’s has the best collection you’re gonna find anywhere.

Believe me, you don’t want to sit through the tons of photos from our trip to DC.

It’s kind of like when folks used to break out the slide show to show off their vacation pics to their friends and then wondered why those same friends never came back to visit.

But there are a few more pics to share. These from the subway are some of my favorites.

DC Subway

Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter

I Heart Topaz, or, My Crush On A Software Plug-in

Let me start out by saying, in no way has Topaz Labs compensated me for what I am about to write. This is truly just me and my new-found love for one of their products.

So, yesterday I was messing around online and somehow came across a plug-in that works with my photo editing software, Paint Shop Pro X3. It’s called Topaz Adjust 4, and I downloaded the free 30-day trial for kicks. I figured I would see what it was all about, and the reviews were pretty awesome, so I thought I couldn’t really go wrong.

I got it installed, added it to the filter section of PSPX3,  put in the generating key and off I went. Let me tell ya, all it took was one image being altered, and I was all over it!

In fact, I decided in the first 30 seconds that I had to own this plug-in. No ifs, ands or buts, it would be mine. (I’ll get around to actually purchasing it soon, but right now I am too busy seeing all the fun stuff it does.) For now, until I get around to paying for the darn thing, let me show you some of the changes it has made to a few of my images.

The alterations you will see were done using only the factory presets. There are, like, 25 preset options. I have a few favorites already, but they are all great.

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Fiat at Lucca, Italy car repair shop

Topaz Adjust 4 - Crisp Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Crisp Preset

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Piazza della Repubblica - Firenze

altered with Topaz Adjust 4 Dramatic Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Dramatic Preset

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Farmacia - Firenze

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Dramatic Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Dramatic Preset

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Chiesa di San Frediano - Lucca

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Spicify Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Spicify Preset

The Spicify Preset option is by far, my favorite. I could use it on a lot of my images and enjoy them ten times more! But it wouldn’t be a fair representation of the product if I didn’t show some of the other options. I swear they didn’t pay me.

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il Treno - Lucca

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Psychedelic Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Psychedelic Preset

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Siena - Toscana

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Spicify Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Spicify Preset

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Neptune - Firenze

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - HDR Sketch Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - HDR Sketch Preset

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Firenze - Boboli Giardini

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Painting Venice Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Painting Venice Preset

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San Gimignano

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Spicify Preset

Altered with Topaz Adjust 4 - Spicify Preset

Signage, It’s All Around Us

ChicagoAs a photographer, I tend to see the world differently than some folks. I am always framing (sometimes subconsciously) the image in my mind, and looking for different angles. It can be frustrating at times, but it can also be really entertaining.

Now, pair this with my love of grammar and language, and we have a sign party! I love signs and words, and together they can make for some amazing art, even unintentionally. Signs can be huge, electric glowing monsters, or they can be simple graffiti painted on the side of a building. Either way, the visual still draws me in!

The online map service, Schmap.com, asked to use my image of the Italian Village Ristorante in Chicago for their Chicago map. Uh, sure! Just make sure I get a credit!! They did, and I got my credit.

Europa!!

Brussels AirportYou really must love the Europeans. Anything goes in Europe!

This one to the left needs no explanation. Hysterical, isn’t it? Gotta love Brussels, where this was taken.  Part of the fun of traveling is all the different signage you encounter along the way.

It’s even better when you can’t figure out what you’re looking at. Saw some of those in Paris. Not sure what I was reading, but it sure looked neat! And with the style of the Parisians, you KNOW the colors were gorgeous!

Siena, ItalyNow, just in case you need to make a phone call before you head to the Crypt. This fun one is from Siena, Italy. I took this picture back in 2004 or something, and it still makes me laugh when I see it. Good Lord, I love Siena, crypt and all.

Italy has some of my favorites. Maybe just because I spent so much time there, I dunno. These are all pretty old images from my collection. Old or not, they are still really fun to see!

Anyone who knows me knows my adoration of Snoopy. I have a 38-year-old stuffed Snoopy, who holds a prominent place in my home. My sister sent me a sweet floppy Snoopy from Japan. And I have a Snoopy tattoo, that somehow I have never regretted getting. Now, my Star Wars tat is another story. I love SW and all, but really?…I was young.

Anyhow, getting back to the Snoopster, to put it simply, I love him!

So when I saw this sign for Pizzeria Snoopy in Italy, I nearly flipped! Who wouldn’t want to eat here? I mean, if you love Snoopy, and clearly we all love pizza, so how can it ever be wrong?

I am sad to say that I never actually ate there. I have no excuse. Seems like such a shame.

Speaking of cute animals…PesciaI just love this! Someone had kittens to find homes for in Pescia. I could have taken the whole lot, but no such luck.

Some other fun displays in Italy are these: There’s this awesome painting at the entrance to the Pinocchio Park in Collodi. Then these fun political posters slapped on a wall in Lucca. And finally, this great poster inside of a parking garage in Florence.Collodi, ItalyLucca, ItalyFlorence, Italy

I was surprised at the amount of graffiti in Italy, and even Paris.

But particularly in Italy, there is some good stuff! I saw a lot of drawings on the streets of Florence, and some in Pisa. Some of it is pretty catchy and artistic. Some of it is simply someone’s point of view strewn across the side of a church or business office. I wasn’t able to shoot the massive amounts of street art I saw on the way to the heart of Paris, as I was nearly dead from jet lag and straight up exhaustion.

But I did capture some fun stuff in Italy.Florence These are a few of my favorites.  Not sure exactly what this little face is on a building in Florence, but I like its hair.

In Viareggio one day I came across this awesome painting of Big Brother. It says “Big Brother is always watching.”  Yay, good fun!

Viareggio, Italy

Then there is this one from Pisa. Someone, clearly, wasn’t on President B’s side in regards to the War. Hey, we’re all entitled to our opinion. But the fact that it is scrawled on the side of an ancient church in Pisa is another story.Pisa, Italy The thing I like most about this one is that is painted under the church’s alms deposit box. What a nice donation. I wonder why they felt the need to write it in English. I have a feeling that the American tourists probably would have gotten the point in Italian.

Uzzano, ItalylSometimes the simplest form is just fine. You can draw an arrow on it, and no matter what language the reader speaks, the sign makes perfect sense.Siena, Italy


canisette

I don’t know about you, but I totally think that dog toilets are a necessity. Here we have a sign for a dog W.C. in St. Tropez, France.

The French totally have a handle on what makes a good sign. I mean, look at this. There is literally a dog sitting on a toilet. Super!

Then in Paris they have the big, colorful, pretty stuff. I took a picture of this awesome indoor billboard inside of the Louvre. I loved it! I didn’t even know what it was all about, but I knew it made me happy to see it.
I have some great finds from the States, too, which I will save for another entry.

Just remember when you’re out walking around and don’t see anything interesting, you can always find art and beauty, and lots of humor in the signs and posters displayed around you! 🙂 Don’t let them go by unnoticed.

Firenze, Florence, Fiorentina

Palazzo Vecchio-Firenze

FirenzeListen, as far as I’m concerned, I could go to Florence once or twice a year for the rest of my life and never get tired of being there.

That’s not to say that I love the exhausting day-long trip, but it’s worth it when you see the beauty of the city. Plus, once you make that trip a few times it’s no big deal.

I don’t think I could ever see all there is to see in Florence, so it may take me a few lifetimes to get all the way through it. That’s just fine with me!

GALLERIA DEGLI UFFIZI

FirenzeThe Uffizi Gallery is one of those places that you really have to do over a few visits. It’s just too darn big to see everything in one visit. Believe me, I tried. It will wipe you out!

The Leonardo Da Vinci room was great. I loved to see his hand-written notes and illustrations. You may even have one of those out-of-body experiences, or feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you are viewing these treasures.

It’s hard to explain, but this is a man who had a profound influence on the entire world. In fact, he still makes an impact today. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. I know I was.

This is the place where I first fell completely in love with the paintings of Sandro Botticelli.Botticelli

The Uffizi has a room dedicated to his work. Well, maybe it’s not only his work, but my eyes didn’t see anything else. I was totally enthralled in the magnificence of his paintings.

At one point I was a little too close to one of them, searching its detail for brush strokes, and I set off the invisible alarm. OOPS! I turned around and found a security guard giving me the evil eye, so I maintained my distance from there on.

I could have stayed in there all day, but for the bus-load of Chinese tourists who flocked in and took over every space in the room. So I took off down the hall to the next artistic wonder.

Uffizi Gallery

Just outside of the gallery, you can see lots of statues of important Italian artists sculpted into the building. I love that! You can see Dante, Michelangelo and lots of others who have impacted the art world from way back.

And then you might see this:Uffizi Gallery, FlorenceI wish I could explain this, but I really cannot. Just disturbing. I hope this guy has since gotten a real job.

Circa Firenze

Florence is a great place because it’s big enough to be a city, but not as psycho as Rome is purported to be. I still haven’t been there, but I hear it is nutso crazy and filled with people. I have also been told that the Coliseo smells like cat pee. mmmmmmmmm…

Here are some shots from my first trip to Florence. I have since taken much cooler ones with better cameras, but for now:

FirenzeFirenzePalazzo Vecchio, FirenzeFirenzeFirenzeFirenzeFirenzeFirenzeFirenze

This pretty much covers my initial meeting with Tuscany. After this first trip, I went back many times and I have the photos and passport stamps to prove it.

What should I post next time? Any requests?

Pisa: the city where I lost my watch

Pisa - Campo dei MiracoliIf you’re gonna lose you watch in any city in Italy, why not lose it in Pisa?

I have no idea how it came off, or where it landed, but it has to be someplace in the Campo dei Miracoli, or the Field of Miracles. Maybe it fell into one of those ancient holes in the ground where water runs down.

I stuck a banana peel into one of those holes. It was my birthday. I took certain liberties. Plus, a banana peel is biodegradable. Not like I was littering for real.

But still, don’t tell anyone.

working really hard

Pisa is a great little city. The Leaning Tower and Cathedral are located inside of the old city walls. Once you get past the huge line of vendors’ tents and street peddlers, there is a pretty old town there.

I can’t be there without constantly thinking of Galileo Galilei, who was born in Pisa. I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s just that such a great scientist and thinker who had an incredibly massive impact on history is from this little town. Sure makes Pisa seem bigger when you look at it like that.

The first time I visited Pisa, tourists were not allowed to climb the Tower. It was still closed off to the public so that it could be anchored to the ground and stabilized for future generations. They say it can stand another 100 years or so since it has been fixed. (Can you really fix it?)

I remember the Italian news media flipping out when it was finally finished. Everyone in the country was excited about the Tower being open again. However, only a certain number of people at a time/per day can climb to the top. I guess they want to make sure not to add too much unnecessary pressure to the building.

I love the fact that you can walk around this huge cathedral and find seemingly random decor in the marble. Some of the words you can find are upside down in marble blocks. Makes you wonder if someone messed up and put it in the wrong way, or if that holds some significant meaning.

Some of the decoration is simple, like a lone flower. Then again, some of it is more complex and harder to decipher. This photo I took shows a flower placed to the top left of what could be a tree design, or some sort of floral. What is it? What does it mean? Who put it there?

These grand little treasures surround the whole building. That part, to me, is more interesting than the cathedral as a whole. I want to know what all of the little things signify.PisaPisa, Italy

I still haven’t ventured up to the top of the Leaning Tower. For no other reason than the fact that I just didn’t feel like climbing 296 steps to reach the top floor. Call me lazy.

Now I wish I had trekked up there. Who knows when I will get the chance again.