Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy, Pt. 4: What I Learned

If you have been reading my posts over the last three weeks, you know that I went to Italy in May - specifically, Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Positano and the Amalfi Coast.

(If you need to get caught up, here are Part I, Part II and Part III).

Those posts show where we went, what we did and what we thought of the sights, but they didn't really go into some of the INsights I gained while traveling. 

I thought I would wrap up the trip with some things that I learned.

  • I learned that I love European style yogurt (the really runny kind), cappuccino in the morning and there is nothing more thirst- quenching after a day of sightseeing than a bottle of "frizzante" water (fizzy) - followed by some wine, of course. 

Trader Joe's is the only place where I could find the European style yogurt here in the U.S. (do you have some other suggestions?). I bought Hubby a cappuccino maker for Father's Day and sparkling water is a daily thing so I can continue to enjoy those little perks.

  • If you want to fly the "Friendly skies," it helps if you are friendly.
I mentioned this in one of my earlier posts but I can't stress enough the importance of being friendly to the flight attendants when you fly.  Remember, you are going to be sharing a flight with them for the next 10 hours or so (if you are flying overseas), and they can add to or detract from the experience depending on YOU. 

I make a point when I walk on board to flash a big smile, offer a greeting and say something fun or complimentary. The sad thing is that few people who fly do that, so you are remembered.  I'm not trying to get anything from them, though sometimes they do reward you for your good nature.  What I  am trying to do is make my own experience better by relating to those who are also sharing my experience.  For that short time, I and my fellow humans are having this experience together and it helps to relate to each person's humanity.  And you do that by just being nice.

  • I learned how to use a bidet (they are everywhere).
Well, sort of.  I learned that you are not supposed to wash your feet in it, store your underwear there or use it as a place to cool the wine.  Apart from that, I'm still at a loss.

  • May has become a  terrible time to travel.
We had always thought that May was the best time to travel, especially to Europe. The kids were still in school so you didn't have to deal with kids running up and down the aisles on airplanes or families adding to the crowds.  It's still not summer, so many people have not started their summer vacations yet and you can enjoy those long evenings of daylight. 

Well, I have this little saying that I say.  If I have discovered something, so has everyone else.  And this year it seemed like everyone had discovered May as the time to travel.  The crowds in Rome at the Colisseum and the Vatican were horrific.  However, this year the dollar is very strong so I guess that explains why there were a lot of Americans in Italy.  I had never encountered so many Americans in Europe before, but I can't blame it all on the exchange rate.  Remember when I said I thought we would avoid school children?  Well, for some reason the Europeans like to take whole classes of kids to see the sights in May.  So much for that.  It's going to be April or September from now on.

  • Only being able to speak English is embarrassing.
More and more as I travel to Europe, I feel embarrassed that "my hosts," the locals of whatever country I happen to be traveling in, must speak English in order for me to communicate with them.  Yes, I try not to be an "Ugly American" and I do attempt to say what few words in the local language I know, but when the person I am talking to realizes he or she can speak better English than I can Italian or French and they start speaking English because I am so pathetic, I realize that I really am an "Ugly American." Hubby always tries to reassure me by saying that English is the universal language, and I guess he is right, but I still feel bad.

We have had some interesting experiences witnessing that whole English as a universal language thing, though.  One time, we were in a bar in Stockholm in the Sodermalm neighborhood ("The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" fans will recognize that) and the bartender was Swedish but at the bar there was also a French guy and a Turkish guy.  When the bartender realized that, he started speaking English and the other two did likewise and they had a lively discussion.  I was so impressed with that. 

But at the same time, I still feel very inadequate that I can only muster a minimum of words in the language of the country I am visiting.  I studied some French in school but without the practice, I am still not very good.  I wish our country cared more about this and required that students become fluent in at least one other language.

  • Taking pictures is a pain but they serve as your memories, especially as you get older and remembering stuff gets harder!
I remember complaining to myself about having to haul out my IPhone every time a photo op came along.  I wanted to take the picture, but I also thought always having to pull out my phone to take a picture detracted from my enjoyment of the moment.  However, when I got home, I couldn't remember all of the details of the trip, but as soon as I looked at the pictures they all came back.

The Michael Jackson impersonator in the square in Rome.

The little dog in Naples playing with a plastic cup while we waited for our boat to Sorrento.

What the Amalfi Coast looked like from the boat coming back from the town of Amalfi.

In the old days, I used a regular camera (or remember those disposable ones?), got the pictures developed when I went home and then painstakingly put them in little albums.  We may no longer put our photos in albums but we create another form of album with our phones, our blogs and our postings on Instagram and Facebook.  Remember when we used to dread people inviting us over to see their travel movies and pictures?  Well now we are those people and have captive audiences!

  • Sharing the experience expands the experience.
As I reported last week, my Swedish cousin and her husband joined us for the Positano/Amalfi Coast portion of our trip.  And as I said in that post, choosing traveling companions who are generous, considerate, up for anything, and positive no matter what happens is very important.  My cousin and her husband are all of those things and more.  You don't want to get your knickers in a twist if your traveling companions are always late meeting up with you or are party poopers or complaining all of the time.  That would ruin your trip. 

But when you are traveling with friends and loved ones who are on the same page as you, it makes the experience that much more special.

  • You will enjoy yourself more if you try to look like a local
I have found that if you keep your mouth shut and try to blend in, you will really get a wonderful experience.  For the short time you are traveling, you can pretend to be a local. 

When we stayed in a small village in England, I went to the laundromat (or as they call it over there the launderette).  Many of them have attendants.  When I arrived, I noticed a sign on the door that said they only had cold water that day.  Many of the little old ladies there were miffed about that and stalked off.  The attendant tried to tell them that "In America, they use cold water all of the time."  They made some remark like "We're not Americans, thank god."  I enjoyed that little local interchange.  He eventually asked me a question and my American accent gave me away, and when he asked me if I was American, that resulted in a fun conversation too, but the less you give that part away, the more you will experience. So avoid looking like a tourist. 

Baseball caps with American sports team logos on them are a sure giveaway, likewise a jacket with same, even shorts can be a giveaway but all together?  And carrying a map as well, you don't have a prayer of blending in.

Picture of typical American tourist.

This is more like it.  This smart young lady could pass for a local!

  • In the same vein, the more you ACT like a local, the better experience you will have. 
Unless you are staying in a hotel that caters to Americans or you are in the UK, bacon and eggs for breakfast are rare.  Europeans eat small breakfasts, which could be why they are so slim.  Complaining about the Internet connection or the wimpy air-conditioner or the lack of ice in your soda will get you nowhere and just ruin your trip by the reactions you will get from the locals, not to mention the bad reputation you will give Americans. 

When we were heading home and in line to board our plane, we talked with some other Americans in line. The gentleman shared that he did not like Italians and had not enjoyed his trip.  He said they were rude, etc. etc. etc.  That was not our experience and I think you get what you sow.  This guy seemed to have an entitled chip on his shoulder and if you come after people, complain about things, especially on their turf, yes, the response might be one you would think was rude.  So the answer to that?  Realize you are not in the U.S. and enjoy the ride...and shut the you-know-what-up.

  • Being cheap will not only ruin your own trip but that of your companion
I have come to the conclusion that those who have bad trips (and I don't mean of the acid variety) are people who care more about how much something is costing than anything else.  And even if they enjoy themselves because they are "getting a deal" or their penny-pinching is part of the fun, I guarantee you, their companions are not enjoying it.  

If the almighty dollar is your guide as to whether you have fun or not or how you get along with the locals, then I see why you have crappy trips. 

Complaining about prices to the waiter, always trying to get a better deal from the locals or staying in really low-cost accommodation without a view because it's cheaper, will guarantee you a less than stellar vacation.  Penny pinch when you are at home but when you travel, you don't want to be complaining about how much it costs to buy a Roma Pass (which enables you to skip lines) or get gleeful when you save $10 to travel 2nd class on a crowded train when you can enjoy some amenities by upgrading to Premium Second class or deny yourself a view because it's $20 more. 

Thankfully, Hubby and I are on the same page with this, but we ran into some people who were having a bad time and I could tell they were not enjoying themselves because they were cheap complainers.  Often people who are cheap about money are cheap with good will.

  • Toilets are not easy to find.
One thing you will notice about Europe is that finding a toilet is not easy and even when you do find one, be sure to have some local currency handy because the toilet often costs money, even at train stations.  However, you can save yourself some grief by just popping into a restaurant or bar, order something and use the toilet!  It is not good form to try to sneak in without buying something and the locals will bust you so once again, don't be cheap! 

In Rome we were out on one of Hubby's marathon walks and I couldn't make it back to the hotel.  We spotted a little outdoor café that was still open and ordered a glass of wine.  It was a sort of art gallery cum wine bar so when I headed to the toilet I was treated by a little art show on the way.  And when the wine arrived, they also brought us some little cicchetti (snacks).  Well worth the toilet stop.  And by the way, they don't say "bathroom" or "restroom" over there.  Might as well bite the bullet and start saying "toilet."  It's not a dirty word, it's a universal one.  So like I said, don't be cheap.  A toilet and wine pit stop can be fun!

  • If you don't do your homework before you leave, you will miss out on things you should see and tips that would make your trip more fun.

If we hadn't done our homework, we would not have known about the "secret" door at the back of the Sistine Chapel that allows you to skip the outside lines to get into St. Peter's Basilica to see the Michelangelo's incredible Pieta.

If we hadn't done our homework we would not have figured out that it was a better option to go to Pompeii from Sorrento, rather than Naples to Pompeii. 

I was astounded to run into people who didn't even know some of the basic must-sees at their destination.  Flying by the seat of your pants might be fun up to a point, but I guarantee you will not only miss some important attractions, you will look dumb to the locals.  So don't be lazy.  Do your homework before you go.

Final wrap-up on that? 

Don't be cheap and don't be lazy.

Apart from all of the fantastic wisdom and insight I have gained from getting older (there has to be SOME upside to that), which I extol from time to time on this blog, on this trip I learned something else that surprised me:  that I don't have the stamina or desire to get up and go that I once had even two years ago.  If you are in Rome, you need to keep moving but on some days, the idea of the four hour walk was daunting.  I did it, but I have to admit part of me wanted to be home watching a movie with the wine guzzling poodle on my lap.  That was a scary feeling from someone who all of her life couldn't wait to set foot on European soil every year or so.

Maybe I am not the world traveler I thought I was.  Scary thought.

So what's different now?

Probably 20+ too many extra pounds and the fact that retirement is somewhat like a long vacation - a long vacation of your own making.  Kind of like "The Hotel California."  "You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Yes, I volunteer, yes I still have some things I must do because I have made commitments but in general, if I want to lounge around all day I can.

When I was working a 40+ hour week, the thought of leaving work to go on an adventure in Europe was liberating.  I didn't think about long delays in airports or getting shin splints from too much stair climbing or a room so small I could touch both walls by reaching out my arms.  I looked forward to all of that, because it was a chance to get away from the worries and problems of my work day.

But now that I don't have those worries or problems anymore, I see that I have embraced a "me attitude," and doing something I don't want to do anymore has become the problem.  I get up when I want, I eat when I want, I take on commitments or I don't.  So there are now some things about a vacation that smack of commitments and walking around in the rain to see a sight because it's my only chance to do it started to feel like something I didn't want to do.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not going to let that rule me.  I am still going to travel.  I am just sharing that I had this insight about myself.  But thankfully self awareness is the first step to the road back.  Hopefully, this self-awareness will help me conquer not becoming a retired person who only wants to stay home and watch TV.

That's not how I want to think of myself. 

This is how I want to think of myself!


Traveling can be fun.  It can be educational.  But it can also be insightful.  When you travel, you are not only getting to know the world, but you are getting to know yourself better too.  You find out what you are made of and how you interact in that big wide world.

As for that "Hotel California State of Mind?" I don't want to "check out." I want to leave!

Now I know what I need to work on. 

...until that next trip!

See you Friday

for my review of the new movie 
"Inside Out" 

The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

and the latest on

My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
 I Die Project."


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy, Pt 3: Positano, Capri and the Amalfi Coast

Now comes the really picturesque part of our Italian trip.

(If you need to get caught up, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of "Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy").

Now don't get me wrong.  Sorrento was lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

But Positano and the Amalfi Coast are something special. 

The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of Mediterranean coastline in Southern Italy that is known as a playground for the rich and famous, especially in the 1970's.

Peter O'Toole was a frequent visitor to Positano after falling in love with it while filming the remake of "Goodbye Mr. Chips" in 1969.  Gore Vidal left the U.S. to live full time in Ravello.  And even today, I just finished Andy Cohen's "diary" and he has a long entry about a recent trip to Positano.

There is a reason why the Amalfi Coast attracts the rich and famous.

It's a magical place.

But it's not an easy place to get to for those of us who are not the rich and famous.  I can imagine those folks going in on their yachts but for us regular folks, it's bus or taxi or renting a car. 

Good old travel writer Rick Steves had put the fear in us about driving the winding road with the sheer cliffs between Sorrento and Positano ourselves.  Even if we wanted to drive it, one of us would have to watch the road (Hubby) and so would miss the views.  We could have taken the bus, but the staff at our hotel said if we didn't want to stand the whole way, we should catch the bus at the train station. The train station was a long haul from our hotel and with our luggage?  No way.  So, the bus did not appeal and we thought a taxi would cost too much.  If you remember from last week's post, we paid 23 euro for a taxi to just take us up a hill in Sorrento.

So Hubby had the bright idea of hiring a private car. 

We inquired at the hotel and yes, such an option was available through them for 70 euro.  Since it cost us 23 euro to ride up that hill in a taxi in Sorrento, we thought this was a deal.  So we arranged to be met at 10am the next morning.

Right at 10am a lovely Mercedes awaited us with a driver who spoke some English. 

Tip #1:  Don't be cheap.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of this tip.  When traveling abroad, often a trip you may never do again, counting your pennies is not recommended.  If it's the difference between sitting in comfort and seeing the gorgeous coastline or navigating a treacherous road yourself and missing most of it, money should not be the first priority.  And then there's the whole issue of your wife bitching about how cheap you are the whole ride.  But that's a different story. 

We sat in luxurious comfort in the back of the Mercedes sedan.  Hubby even remarked later how much fun it was for him to just sit and relax while being driven around.  I told him to not get any ideas.

Our driver asked if we wanted the "panoramico" drive?  "Si."

Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating with "panoramico."  Coastlines and fog go together like a horse and carriage.  Living on the Central Coast of California for over 30 years, we were used to the unpredictability of coastal fog so accepted the fact that the Italian coastline must deal with it as well.

But all was not lost.  As we neared Positano, it cleared somewhat and we could still enjoy the vistas. 


We also planned to go on to the town of Amalfi in a few days which would take us further along the coastline and afford us another opportunity.

Tip #2:  Try to be positive, even when the weather is not cooperating and your wife is sighing deeply and saying "Why us?"

As we neared Positano, our driver asked for the phone number of the hotel.  We were not sure why he wanted that, but when we arrived, someone from the hotel was waiting for us on the road to carry our luggage to the hotel. 

Why was that important?

Did I mention the stairs?

Positano is a town built into a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.  The entire town is nothing but stairs except for one street that winds it's way through town. 


If your hotel happens to be down at the beach or far from the road, you would have to carry your luggage up and down stairs for a long, long way.  We didn't even think about that or that someone would meet us to carry our bags.

Tip #3: Hiring a local driver has its perks.

We were happy to have a member of the hotel staff meet us and carry our luggage because, as usual, I was wearing unsuitable shoes and we might have had problems finding our hotel within the rabbit warren of paths.

Our room was ready when we arrived and it was a lovely room with a large terrace overlooking the Mediterranean.

The room also had those lovely Italian tiles I have come to enjoy.

And breakfast served on the terrace.
I can SO get used to this!

The Italian breakfast:  assorted roles and cappuccino, and if requested, a hard boiled egg and some yogurt. Perfetto!

We had made plans to meet my Swedish cousin, Jane, and her husband, Lars.

They were driving to Positano from Rome and wouldn't be coming in until the evening so we decided to take a walk and do some exploring.

Did I mention there were stairs?

And views?

And a beach? 

After all of those stairs, time to get some lunch at the Café Positano.

And some wine.
Did I mention how cheap wine is in Italy?  In most of Europe the wine and beer are cheap and cocktails expensive.  Wine was cheaper than the bottled water!
Tip #4: Drink lots of wine.

We struck up a conversation with a young couple who were sitting near us.  They were on their honeymoon.

Tip #5:  Don't be afraid to start conversations with strangers.  You can share travel tips and you might just make some new friends (more on them later).
Jane and Lars had booked their hotel before us and when Hubby tried to get a room where they were staying, the hotel was already booked.

Tip #6:  For popular destinations, book your hotel as early as you can, especially if you are using guidebook recommendations.

But Hubby is a resourceful fellow and using Google Earth found a hotel only a few steps from theirs.  And as it turned out, their hotel put them in an annex -- and the annex was right next door to us!


We have started a tradition of sorts, of meeting up with Jane and Lars every couple of years when we travel to Europe.  The last time we met them was in Amsterdam two years ago and we had a great time.

Jane and Lars are wonderful traveling companions.  They are generous, considerate, up for anything, and positive no matter what happens.

Tip #7:  Choose traveling companions who are generous, considerate, up for anything, and positive no matter what happens!

After getting caught up at dinner, we sat out on our terrace  planning our next couple of days together.

We planned to sail to the island of Capri the next day and take the bus to Ravello and Amalfi the day after that.

Here is the first thing you need to know about Capri:  it's pronounced KAH-pree.  Second thing:  it's crowded as hell even in May.  Did I already say that May is no longer a particularly good time to travel?

It was very convenient that boats traveled to Capri right from Positano. That was the good news.  The bad news was I found the ride rather harrowing.  Huge storm clouds were gathering overhead and the boat captain must have been in a hurry because he didn't seem to think that heading straight into the waves was a bad idea. We crashed into the waves like a lead basketball.  Where's that cheap wine when you need it?

Capri is a small island - only four miles by two miles - with two small towns:  Capri and Anacapri, both up the hill from the boat dock. To get to Capri you can take a taxi or the funicular and Anacapri is even farther up the hill. 

But the big draw is the famous Blue Grotto.

The guidebooks recommend that you do the Blue Grotto as soon as you arrive, because it requires that you take a boat to the other side of the island and then you have to get into a little rowboat to be taken into the grotto.  And weather is an issue.

And it was for us that day.  It was closed.  Boo.  Disappointment #1.

So we headed across the square for the funicular along with a thousand other folks.

The funicular could only hold 70 people at a time so it was a long wait.  And you had to stand in line at another location to buy tickets.

When we eventually made our way up the hill to Capri, it was time for lunch. We stopped for lunch and then explored the town.

Since I feel strongly about keeping a low profile when I am traveling and trying to blend in as a local, I am not sure what I am doing here, but it appears to amuse Jane and Lars.

One of the streets is nicknamed "Rodeo Drive," because of it's many high-end shops.  Hubby kept me moving.

And the views were to die for
(speaking of "to die," I thought I was going to die on that damn boat trip to get here)! 

It is also a very romantic place.

We could have spent more time in Capri, but decided to catch the 3 o'clock boat back to Positano and beat those storm clouds.

This time there were some young men passing out shots of Limoncello on the boat.  Hubby in his ever trusting and naïve way thought the shots were free but I was already pulling the euros out of my purse before he discovered they were NOT free.

Tip #8:  Nothing is ever free.

However, I needed that shot for the journey back so well worth the 3 euros each.

When we arrived back at Positano, we all went back to our respective hotels to freshen up.

Tip #9:  When traveling, take some breaks back at your hotel from time to time to regroup.  That way you can maintain your energy throughout the evening and enjoy that hotel room you are paying for.

Remember that young couple we met the day before at lunch?  They had recommended a restaurant to us so that's where we headed for dinner:   Ristorante Bruno, known for its seafood. 

Turns out Rick Steves had also recommended it so it was crowded but after a short wait we shared a delicious meal, and later in the evening back at Jane and Lars' hotel room, we sat out on the terrace and listened to music.

The next day was a bit rainy but we walked up the hill to catch the bus to Amalfi and then on to Ravello.

I wanted to see Ravello because that is where Gore Vidal had lived and there was also a stair walk I wanted to do - to walk down the hill from Ravello to Amalfi.

But first we had to ride the bus.

Now let me just say there are bus rides and then there are bus rides.

The bus drivers who drive the Amalfi Coast are amazing and must have nerves of steel.  They maneuver their large buses around blind corners, squeezing by oncoming traffic in all kinds of original ways, all the while avoiding sliding off the side of the cliff.  Tour buses are only allowed to go in one direction, but the local SITA buses go in both directions so buses encounter each other at every turn.

And lest you think me a complete wimp, let me explain what is happening here

That bus you see in the picture.  We are NOT in that bus.  We are in a bus GOING THE OTHER WAY INCHES FROM IT!

The buses cling to the cliff and the riders cling to each other.


Because it's a long way down.

I found God many times on that bus ride.

We changed buses in Amalfi and made our way up to Ravello.

There is not a whole lot going on in Ravello.  There is a lovely little square with a church.

But there are also two villas with lovely gardens and views.

But just as we arrived at the Villa Cimbrone, it began to pour.  We tried to wait it out but it just continued to pour, dashing our hopes of not only seeing the gardens and its views, but of taking that stair walk down the hill that I wanted to take.  Boo!  Disappointment #2.

While waiting under a canopy for the rain to stop, we ran into that young couple again. They had just finished checking out the gardens before the rain started so we could find out what we missed!

Speaking of what we missed. We just missed the bus back down to Amalfi so what do you think we did to while away the time?

Right!  More wine!

We carefully watched the time and gave ourselves a 15-minute window to get up and get back to the bus and it's a good thing we did.  The next bus left early. We barely made it.

Tip #10:  The trains may run on time in Italy but it seems the buses arrive and leave whenever they feel like it so plan accordingly.

We spent a little time in Amalfi touring the Amalfi Cathedral,

when all of a sudden the front doors swung open, and a priest entered followed by a coffin carried by pall bearers. A funeral was in progress and we were now a part of village life.

We thought a boat ride back to Positano would be quicker and less frightening than the bus (even though I was still a bit boat shy since Capri), and it was.

That night we had a delightful dinner at another restaurant recommended by that young couple (see what striking up a conversation with you nearby dinner lunch companions can do?) - Next2Hubby was impressed that the restaurant had Knob Creek whiskey.

After dinner we took a stroll but decided because it was our last night together,  we wanted to hang out.  Hubby now had a taste for some good American whiskey and so we tried a couple of places, none of which had acceptable whiskey and none of which seemed to want our business so back to Next2 we went where we kept the poor waiters after hours.

The next day Lars and Jane drove us back to Naples via Sorrento where we had lunch under some lemon trees at the Café Latino.

Lars ably drove the winding roads from Positano and managed the crazy traffic that is Naples with Jane and the Swedish Garmin navigating from the back seat.

We said our goodbyes, vowing to meet up again in a couple of years - Ireland?  Scotland?  France?

The next day we took the fast train from Naples back to Rome, spent another night in Rome in the Trastevere and then flew home.

Why did we spend another night in Naples instead of heading back to Rome with Jane and Lars? Ask Hubby.

What I liked about Positano and the Amalfi Coast:

I could wax poetic about the quaint little lanes, breakfast on the terrace, the views, the lifestyle, but I will just say

I liked everything, especially sharing it with good friends, Jane and Lars.

What I didn't like about Positano and the Amalfi Coast:


And that my dear readers was our trip to Italy.

So to change it up a bit from how Rick Steves signs off from his shows,
"Until next time,
let's all keep on traveling."

(I learned a lot on this trip and if you are interested, see you next Tuesday for "Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy, Pt. 4:  What I Learned.") 


Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday

for my review of the new movie 
"Jurassic World" 

The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

and the latest on

My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
 I Die Project."


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at