Saturday, July 14, 2012

We have now been home from our vacation for 1 week and I finally have some time to sit down, go through our trip pictures and hopefully make a nice series of blog entries.

Today we are going to start from the beginning. After Noel's academic year ended in the beginning of June, Amber's mother and sister joined us for a great weekend of warm weather, horses and good food.

On the following Monday the two boys - Greg and Brighton - headed to Idaho for some quality extended family time. Saying goodbye to the boys for 3 weeks was a little hard for both of us, but we were excited to have time alone and most importantly, time to recoup several years of lost sleep.

With the boys away on vacation, we decided to take a trip to Mammoth Caves and do a "rigorous" tour of the caves. So on Monday night we drove the 2.5 hours to Cave City, Kentucky and spent an interesting night in a Days Inn. The only nice part of the hotel was the air conditioning. I was very nice to Amber and took the cigarette burn part of the couch at night while we watched TV. 

On Tuesday we took the "Great Cave Tour" which was described as "strenuous." Unfortunately, or I guess fortunate for some, the tour wasn't very strenuous. In fact, we decided that we could still do the tour if I had recently had open-heart surgery. The tour lasted about 6 hours and was truly amazing.

We were tired by the end of the day, but the tour was well worth the trip and price. Our only regret was not stopping at Big Al’s Rock Shop. When we go again with the boys we will have to make it part of our itinerary for Brighton as he is obsessed with rocks.

Wednesday was recuperation day, which really means lots of housework and errands before we left the country. Amber made a huge checklist of things to accomplish before we left for Cleveland on Thursday. Both of us were surprised that by 2pm we had finished the list. We forgot what it was like to “Married singles” aka married without kids or empty nestors. We also felt guilty for all the times we complained when we didn’t have kids about not having enough time…we apparently had lots of time!

Thursday morning we left for Cleveland. In Cleveland we toured the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I had been there as a teenager, but it was Amber’s first trip to the hall. The weather was beautiful and unlike most of Cleveland, the museum is in a really nice and picturesque part of town. There was a lot to Rock n’ Roll that neither Amber nor I knew, and we had a lot of fun looking at all of the crazy rock memorabilia.

Our stay in Cleveland also coincided with Marine week (which just so happened to be outside the museum) and President Obama’s political stop. We had fun looking at the exhibits. I especially liked that sign in front of the Abrams tank that said the road was closed…as if that was ever in doubt. Amber had me take some pictures of her in front of a “Sarge” jeep for Greg.

Part of the Marine exhibit was the mobile memorial wall and flag memorial. We only had our point and shoot with us, but I took a real nice picture of the flags.

On our way to the hotel we ran into heavy traffic that didn’t seem to be moving. Plus, there were about a billion police officers hanging around. I was losing my patience when a motorcade came barreling down the street. We didn’t find out until the next morning that the President was in town. 

That night we stayed at the Residence Inn next to baseball stadium and had a great time eating at a place called Zocalo’s. Apparently Zocalo means town square in Spanish (must be the other Spanish that I don’t know). Compared to our Days Inn experience in Cave City, our night in Cleveland felt like we had gone from Afghanistan to Monte Carlo. 

Friday morning we spent touring Church sites in Kirkland. The Church has done a wonderful job reconstructing and maintaining its properties and historic sites. We enjoyed our tours and were especially lucky to have a personal tour of the Morley farm and home. I have visited Kirkland many times, but on this trip I felt especially touched as to the divinity of the restoration of the gospel and the many blessings Amber and I have in our lives because of the efforts and dedication of early Church members. 

That evening we finished our car trip in Rochester, NY were we stayed with my parents and also Christian and Hayley. That weekend we had a great time visiting my parents and goofing around as if we were newlyweds.

After a great weekend, on Tuesday we headed up to Toronto to catch our flight to Rome. My favorite part of the drive was being stopped at the border to declare our intentions for entering Canada. The border patrol agent couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of driving from Kentucky to fly out of Toronto for Rome…and to be honest it probably did sound crazy. That night we flew out of Toronto and arrived in Rome the following day. Our flight was relatively empty and so Amber and I shared a whole row to ourselves…AWESOME!

This is where the majority of the pictures begin, so bear with me. From the airport my father had scheduled a taxi to the hotel (Hotel Preatoria). It took us a while to find the driver, but after a little bit of walking around in circles we were happy to be heading for the hotel. Meeting our driver felt as if I had been placed in some comical travel movie; he was short, with grayish thick hair, in a suit that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned or ironed since it was purchased, and he barely spoke English nor Spanish for that matter. His taxi was more like a van that had been to Iraq and back with barely functioning air conditioning, a collapsed side door, and crazy club music. The only thing I was looking for was some form of religious adoration like a rosary or virgin mary picture, but nope, our driver was an uninspired maniac who somehow managed to drop us off at our hotel without incident. 

Hotel Praetoria was a nice family owned hotel with clean rooms, warm water and mankind’s greatest invention…AIR CONDITIONING. Waiting for us at the hotel was the first half of our touring group – Gordie, Skinny Lynnie, Picture Aficionado Hayley, and Prison Chin. Oddly enough Prison Chin was by far the calmest of us all.

After dropping our stuff off in our room, Amber and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at little shop around the corner from the hotel. Our first stop of the afternoon was at the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Mignanell. To Americans these piazzas are commonly referred to as the Spanish Steps.

Lots of people, crazy tourists, heat, and fun times. In all honesty, they were pretty but probably best visited later in the afternoon or around sunset (at least for pictures).

Prison Chin served as our guide and he took us to our next stop, the Fontana di Trevi. Hayley had scouted this large fountain out ahead of time.

Once again, lots of people and some really funny pictures. As a late afternoon snack we grabbed some gelatos…YAHOO for gelato.

My mother’s coconut gelato was amazing, but since I was so hot my gelato felt like Olympian nectar, very rejuvenating. After the Fontana di Trevi we made our way to the Pantheon and stopped for some amazingly nice Roman public water…luckily no one got sick.

The Pantheon was one of my favorite places to visit that afternoon. First off, it was massive. Second, the architectural feat of its design was incredible. Third, it was the first peaceful place we visited as its core serves as a Roman Catholic chapel. Very cool!

Lastly we stopped at the Piazza Navona: one of the most picturesque places in Rome.

From this piazza we enjoyed a more traditional tourist experience.

Hayley had pinpointed a place to eat for dinner, but it took us lots of missed turns, communication gaffes, tired feet, and a public bus ride before we gave up on our Ristorante pipe-dream (although we finally found the place – it was just closed) and headed back to another recommended locale called the Hostaria Bruno.

Two large Italian plates later (and best lasagna ever!) and we were ready for bed. 

Day 1 in Rome = Awesome! and Tiring!

1 comment:

angela said...

So jealous! Can't wait for the second installment. :)