Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Yeah, it's been that kind of day where even B's toes are protesting... hehe!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rocky Start

Well, we're trying to get this school year off to a good start, but Mother Nature sure is making it difficult! Today was supposed to be the first day of school, but because of widespread power outages after Hurricane Irene, I spent the day at home. It was so weird to have the first day cancelled!

After work tomorrow, I'm hoping to come home and get started on my next sewing project: a head-band-wrap thingy. It's something I saw while in Southern France, and I've been dying to try my hand at copying the idea. Can't wait to get started!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Did you feel the earthquake, too?!

If you felt the earthquake (whose epicenter was identified near Richmond, Virginia) leave me a message saying where you were at the time!

This was my first-ever earthquake experience, and just think, it was the strongest in recent recorded history! I heard that the last "significant" earthquake in this area happened in 1885 and was 4-point-something on the Richter scale. And this one was a 5.8... yowzer!

I was in Ellicott City, Maryland, and felt it rumble through my whole body! At first I thought it was construction or someone working on the roof of the building.

When I got home, things seemed to be in good order: nothing broken or damaged. However, the earthquake obviously had its way with my house, too! Several things were knocked over, and some doors had "magically" opened. My poor little ceramic bride and groom did a belly flop off of the top shelf!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

165 miles (and no longer counting)

One hundred and sixty-five miles (aka: 330,978 steps) later, and here we are, back at home, safe and sound. It's incredible to think about how many steps we took over the duration of our trip. I'm so glad that I wore a pedometer and tracked our progress.

Just think, with 165 miles we could have walked from Baltimore to NYC or Virginia Beach!

How cool is that?!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Most Confusing Word


1] Spoken by a waiter with a grand sweeping gesture inviting us to sit and have lunch at his café.
2] Spoken by an angry museum curator, just before she shooes people who are standing too close to old statues.
3] Spoken by the hotel concierge in response to our “graztie.”

The last scenario actually made sense to us, because according to our little Italian phrase book, prego means you're welcome. But given all the other situations, we were left a bit befuddled.

So what, pray tell, does that word mean?!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Coliseum and Vatican City

Rome Days 2 & 3:

On Monday we woke up early enough to be at the Coliseum by 9:30 in the morning before it got too hot out. Good plan, except that it wasn’t early enough to off-set the heat at the Ruins, which we visited second. It was a scorcher and we were touring a dusty plot of land full of old stone, brick, and marble. Needless to say, it wasn't very forgiving in the noon sun. Nonetheless, we wandered around and got a feel for the lost Roman city.

Back to the Coliseum for a second. First, as you know I geek out a bit when I learn cool things about language. So, you can imagine I was very excited to find out that the floor of the Coliseum would be covered with sand before gladiator games and wild animal hunts, and that the word for sand in Italian is “arena,” so I’m guessing you can figure out the rest from there. Truly, the Coliseum was the world’s first arena—finished in the year 80 AD. Would you believe that the floor plan was nearly identical to the modern arenas I’ve been to for games and concerts? Unreal that the original plan has barely been improved upon!

We ended up eating dinner outside at a restaurant not far from the Coliseum. (The bruschetta was delish!) B kept mentioning how surreal it felt to be dining with the Coliseum peeking out at the end of the street like a stage backdrop or something. We tried to take a picture to capture it, but it was hard to do. That’s why I’m pointing!

The next day we took the exact opposite approach to our morning strategy. We lazed about and didn’t leave until 11am, leaving just enough time to travel to the Vatican and arrive in time for our reserved entrance time. Let me just say that it was well worth the extra money to reserve a time. The other folks (who didn’t have reservations) were stuck in a very, very long line that wound around in the sun. The Vatican Museum is the second largest in the world (second only to the Louvre in Paris), and like the Louvre, we found it a bit overwhelming and chaotic. However, it was worth the crowds to end the tour in the Sistine Chapel. Yup, we’ve been there, done that, and unlike the Mona Lisa, it did not disappoint.

We left the museum and walked around the block to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest Christian church in the world. The second largest is the Duomo in Milan, which we also visited on this trip! We waited in a 30-minute line (in the scorching sun) to be able to go inside, but it was worth it. There’s a reason this church won the award for biggest. It’s humongous! We enjoyed the gilded ceilings and extravagant decorations, we knelt in prayer, and we toured the crypts below. And that was it. It was about three hours since we had started in the Vatican and we were done.

For dinner, we ate at the Hard Rock Café—I know, I know, what were we thinking?! When B suggested we eat there, with that glow in his face, how could I possibly say ‘no’? Believe me, I didn’t suffer. That little bit of “home” tasted good. We’ll have more pasta tomorrow!

In case there's any doubt, yes, he's pointing at a Bruce Springsteen album. Of course!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rome by Bus

Today we toured Rome by bus. We figured it would be the best way to take in the city as a whole, without completely wearing out our feet (which by the way, are starting to fall apart on us… blisters!). Do I look much like a tourist?

Here’s a quick recap of what we saw:

Archaeological sites. There are a lot, so much so that the tour guide made a joke about them: it’s pretty much impossible for them to excavate any new/old construction site without hitting ancient Roman remains of some sort. It must be an archaeologist’s dream to work here!

Old, historic buildings, fountains, and obelisks.

PS: the Egyptian obelisk in the right-hand side of this picture is from the year 1,000 B.C. OMG!!

The Coliseum.

Vatican City.

In the coming days, we’ll be touring some of these sites up-close and personal. Can’t wait!

We finished the day off with sangria, meats, cheeses, and pizza. It was a relaxing change of pace from the “go, go, go” tourist pace. Loved the view, too (and how cool is that reflection on the window behind us?!)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Terrific Tuscany Tour

Today we took the “Best of Tuscany” tour through a company called Walkabout. We heard about the tour through my sister-in-law. I know this is a bit of an advertisement, but seriously, if you ever have the chance, take this tour. We loved every bit of it.

We started the day by getting in line at the bus station. This is important, because this is where we met Claire and Ryan. We hit it off with them right away and enjoyed their company for the rest of the day. They’re the same age as us, they’re both middle school counselors, and they’re taking a multi-country trip this summer that ends next week in Rome. Who knows, we might even bump into them again there!

That’s them, holding their alarm clock—the only thing they had with them on the trip to keep time! (That’s what happens when you depend solely on your cell phone for the time… and people said watches were out-dated).

Our first stop was Siena, an old town known for its 17 neighborhoods, the oldest bank in the world, and its annual Palio horse races. The entire city only has about 50,000 inhabitants, and the whole thing is small, cramped, and Medieval—so when I say “neighborhood” think “small boroughs.” Each one has its own mascot and my favorite was the caterpillar (represented by the colors yellow and green). Others included giraffe, turtle, she-wolf, goose, forest, and wave.

Now, on to the bank. Originally, the bank was just a bench/booth in the market square. The Italian word for bench is “banco.” You see where this is going? That’s how we got the word “bank!” Okay, but the really cool thing is that if you couldn’t pay your taxes, then the city would send someone out to break your bench with an ax because you had defaulted. So the Italian word for that is “banco rotta”… “bankrupt”!! Cool, right? Check out that old bank!

The Palio takes place twice a year in their central plaza (look them up on Youtube!). They line the buildings with mattresses and such so that the jockeys and/or horses don’t get too badly hurt if they have problems with the tight turns; they truck in loads of sand to cover the street where the horses run; and they pack the center of the track with people. It’s a big freakin’ deal for whoever’s neighborhood horse wins the race. Below is a picture of the plaza, which they call the "sea shell" because of its shape... it's not square.

Our next stop was lunch at an organic vineyard/farm. Nearly everything we ate was produced on-site, including: red wine, white wine, olive oil, fresh bread, pasta, beef, tomato sauce, ham, salami, and even biscoti. They treated us to a wine-tasting with our lunch, so we got to try four of their wines. Additionally, the view was breath-taking, so you can imagine that we didn’t want to leave!

However, we had to move on to our next stop: San Gimignano, sometimes referred to as the “Medieval Manhattan.” We had a direct view of this city the entire time we ate, so it was neat to get to visit in person, too. This place was steaming hot, and it was hard to believe that in the Medieval days, people opted to live there. At one time there were probably as many as 40 towers (although now there are only about 14). The taller the tower, the richer the person—as you can imagine, it was a way of showing off wealth. Imagine this though: these super tall towers were built with safety in mind as a first priority, so there weren’t any windows until the very top level. I can’t even imagine climbing all those stairs in all that stifling heat! We bought some hats to help us cope with the glaring sun.

We ended the day in Pisa. Here’s another thing for you to look up on Youtube: their yearly festival in honor of their patron saint. They call it Luminarius. Too bad we didn’t get to see that in person!

What we did get to see was the leaning tower. Yes! It was there, still leaning. I found it amazing though, that such a small town had such a huge domed church, baptistery (because you couldn’t enter the church until after you were baptized… bit of a conundrum back in the day), and bell tower (“leaning tower”). We learned that each of these small towns that we visited today were all booming cities in the 1000s, 1100s, and 1200s… up until the Black Plague. Two-thirds of their populations were wiped out, and none of these cities ever regained their status, power, or wealth. Fascinating that something that happened thousands of years ago still resonates.

So if you’ve stuck with me, thanks! That was our day in a nutshell. I tried to just make note of either the key points or the fascinating facts. Until next time… ciao!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Florence (Firenze)

Today we enjoyed Florence. Overall, we had more of the same: more churches, more castles, more cannolis, more gelato, more pizza, more sun, more sweat.

But this city has much more of an "old" feel to it than Milan, and we enjoyed that.

We likened it to Toledo, minus the Arabic influences, plus statues of naked Roman soldiers.

The best part? Sunset over the city as seen from the highest point.

PS: I think Pinocchio is from Florence...

Total steps: 17,540
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...