Yearly Archives: 2013

On our way home

So, it’s been a long trip and we fell behind a bit in blogging. We’re now on the plane (a story in itself) and reflecting on the past 11 days. It was a fast-paced trip, but we had an amazing director, and with only 22 people, we were able to make friends with pretty much everyone. We’ll be all connected on Facebook and sharing our pictures via Flickr, so the trip really doesn’t end today.

About to take off though. Later!

Interesting Signs from Tuscany

Of course any country with a different language and culture is going to have unique translations and messages. Rather than write about Tuscany, which Amanda did while half asleep last night and will maybe expound upon more tomorrow, I thought I’d share some of the interesting messages I’ve seen over the last couple of days… At least the ones I pulled out my phone camera for.

Chocolate, sweets and gadgets. How can you go wrong?

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Quite clear what this outlet is used for.

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I love that such a short title became so long in Italian.

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In this case, I prefer the Dutch version. Raphael? That’s me!

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Even in Italia, there are outspoken vegetarians.

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This secret betting house is not very well disguised.

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Free Willy!! Unfortunately, it was not an aquarium.

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And to end with a rare picture of Mr. Ben, yes pizza in Italia is amazing!

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Tuscany Treasures

Today we got to visit the towns of Siena and San Gimignano. Then more wine tasting and dinner at Verrazzano Castle. We are not used to all of this constant rushing about. It is interesting and fun, but also very exhausting. Tomorrow we get to see Florence and taste more great food.
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Lucca/Cinque Terre

Today we did a lot of traveling. We left Lucca by bus and got on a boat in La Spezia and saw the coastal area of Cinque Terre. There were several small coastal towns that had vineyards and olive groves planted on the steep mountain cliffs right on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It was quite the site to see. I was glad to get out of the choppy waters and put my un-seaworthy legs on solid ground again. We landed in Monterosso and had a quick lunch and then boarded a train to Rapallo. Our bus picked us up in Rapallo and brought us back to explore inside the city walls of Lucca. More gelato and espresso was the perfect way to end the busy afternoon.

Tonight we enjoyed supper with our tour group at the Grand Hotel Guinigi. Another great meal; we have been pleasantly surprised that even though Ben and I usually have very different tastes in food, we have both enjoyed the food very much – especially the large supper meals.

Tomorrow we head to Florence to discover more of Tuscany!

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(That last one is Ben spying on me in the ladies room!)

Everything leans in Pisa

We didn’t have too much time here, but it is definitely a different experience seeing the tower in person rather than only in pictures. Having said that, here’s a picture:

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Yes, we did the dorky “Ahh! She’s pushing the tower over on me!” but it’s on the camera, so you’ll have to wait. Oh, heck, here you go:

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Not lined up super well, and the shadows definitely spoil the illusion. But cute nonetheless.

As they didn’t want us walking on the grass (pay no attention to the photo above…), they had lined boards from the entrance to the first monument. Amanda said, “look! A boardwalk!”

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Yes, I do believe I’m rubbing off on her! The other fun part of the trip was riding the “choo choo train.” We thought our director was just being cute, but I guess my German was just a little rusty:

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Unfortunately, our driver didn’t sing to us (see the sign).

After surviving ordering lunch at an Italian-speaking-only autogrill, tonight we’re off to a Tuscan farm dinner where, once again, all our decisions are made for us. Except which of the five wines to drink, though that might be answered for us as well (all of them).

Lots of walking

Our excellent local guide said “we’re going to attempt the impossible today”, speaking of seeing as much of Rome as we could in a single day. Apart from avoiding the traffic (which we often have a front-row seat to the hilarity), we are SO glad we have this guided tour through a company that lets us skip many of the long lines we saw today. And the headsets, which seemed a bit of a gimmick at first, were amazing. We could hear everything our guide was saying even as she was several feet away leading the group through Vatican City, ancient Rome, and other sights. We were often told of places to avoid, which resulted in some excellent gelato (of course, it’s the first gelato we’ve had on the trip, so it’s hard to compare).

Archaeology buffs would’ve loved getting to walk around (not in, but around) an excavation in progress near the coliseum. There was a lot of restoration going on there, but our guide knew the best places for pictures where trees would hide the scaffolding.

Tonight we survived dining by ourselves and once again the food was excellent! It wouldn’t have been too expensive, either, if a certain someone hadn’t ordered a steak, but the romance is still alive in our marriage, so all is well.

We continue to take most of our pictures on the camera, but here are a few we pulled out the phone for.

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5 Star Dinner

I love food! And tonight we had a wonderful 5 course meal. Antipasta, 2 different pasta dishes, pork and potatoes, lettuce salad, and blackberry gelato for dessert. Along with wine, coffee and live music. What a treat! And the perfect way to start our Italy adventure.

Tomorrow we have a full day of seeing the sights in Rome – not nearly enough time, I know. But we are ready to make the most of it, and hopefully not get too tired.

Una Hotel

Wait, doesn’t “Una Hotel” literally mean “a hotel?” Great; and I thought we were staying at fancy places! Well, hey, it does have a bidet, and as a gadget freak, seeing this on each side of the bed warms my heart:

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Things were a little slow getting from the airport to the hotel, and then we couldn’t even check in! Poor Amanda was pretty tired, after not sleeping well on the plane. After seeing some crazy traffic (yes, I know, you globetrotters, Rome is probably mild compared to other places) we were ever more thankful that we booked a fully guided tour rather than trying to figure things out ourselves.

We did wander around Rome a bit, and my phone’s GPS, coupled with an Italy MiFi worked pretty well. We called the girls, took pictures of a few dozen basillicas (basillicae? basillicii?), and made it back to our hotel in time to catch a few zzz’s (well, Amanda is, anyway) before heading out to dinner. Good thing, too. I’m starving after two airplane meals (that weren’t too bad actually) and a small sandwich.

Sorry for odd, hotel-only pictures. We’re taking most of them with our good camera, and would you believe I didn’t bring along the right equipment to transfer photos!

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Landed in Italy

For the sake of the time change, we won’t text family members (what, it’s not 9am everywhere?). But we’ve landed after two pretty uneventful flights. We did have a little screamer on the flight, but when she wasn’t crying, she was an adorably cute 2-year old. She loved looking at pictures of our kids and sitting on our lap to see out the windows.

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