Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day 2: Vacation

Day 2 – Rome

I will codename this day Operation GELATO.

Thursday started out just like Wednesday ended…HOT! So, like any good tourist we planned our day in accordance with gelato pit stops. Guido from Cars would be very proud of our planning. 

Rough draft of day:

Morning – Coliseum, Roman Forum, Gelato
Afternoon – Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, Gelato
Evening – Piazza Novano (again), Ristorante Lagano, and of course Gelato

Here is what actually happened.

Breakfast consisted of rolls, croissants, and concentrated juice. I really mean concentrated. They forgot to tell me to dilute the juice with bottled water and so instead I had an Espresso version of blood orange juice. We all started the day with showers, which I can’t say happened everyday, and a lot of Nutella croissants. 

Our first stop on Prison Chin’s tour was the Coliseum. We had passed it the day before on our crazy taxi ride and I was super excited to get a close-up view. The few things I can say about the coliseum was that it was big, hot, incredibly gruesome, and one of the weirdest spots in Rome. Definitely worth the stop, but it has a very different feel from everything else. 

The second stop of the day was the Forum. Gordie had printed out a list of Top 10 things to see in Rome and the Forum was numero UNO. Unfortunately, none of us had done any research on it, so after walking around rocks, basically, for about an hour and almost taking naps in historic ruins, we left without knowing anything more than when we entered. The Foro as the locals call it did inspire one thing…a run at a Gelateria. Hayley had picked out a famous Gelateria in Rome, but had forgotten to look up where it was. By this time we were all hot (hot in body and in the head), and so we wandered around for some time before we ended up all crouched around an air conditioning unit in a tourism kiosk wishing we all spoke Italian. The cashier at the kiosk turned out to be a Roman Google and pointed us in the right direction. Unfortunately, we had run out of time for gelato so we decided to grab a little bite to eat.

Here begins the middle ages of our trip. In Rome there are about 1 billion ristorantes and of those 1 billion we just happened to pick the only one run by Ukranians. Amber enjoyed a warmed up microwave pizza, Noel had the 4 euro can of coke, and Prison Chin had a flashback to prison with his Italianized gruel. 70 euros later and we were ready to head back to the hotel to purge and get ready for a great afternoon.  

And it was a great afternoon. We spent nearly 3 hours touring the Vatican museum and being blown away by the depth and enormity of its collections. The self-guided tours start with the Egyptian collection and I should have known after seeing two real mummies that the Vatican was anything other than normal. I will let the pictures speak for me.


After the Vatican we walked along the Tiber on our way to Gelateria Giolitti, stopped to take pictures, bought some gummies from a street vendor, and realized how tired we were. 

The journey was well worth it and we thoroughly enjoyed our gelato.

After gelato we made our way back to Piazza Novano and eventually to Ristorante Lagano. Amber had a plate full of pasta and seafood (heads, eyes, and bums included) and Noel about blew out his esophagus with a spicy plate of pasta Arrabiatta. 

Following dinner we walked back through all the little streets between Piazza Novano and the Pantheon on our way to a bus stop. Eventually we found one, but it took us some time before we realized we were waiting for a bus that only ran on the weekends. With the crisis averted, we made our way back to the hotel.

Day 2 Rome – Awesome! and Hot! (mostly because of Noel’s hot body).

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!