Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween every one. Remember, always walk around in pairs and carry a flashlight in the dark.

And do look out for the things that go bump in the night. They're only out there having some fun.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rejection... It's What's For Dinner

There's nothing like a, 'thank you, you're a fantastic candidate, but no thank you,' to make you feel fan-fecking-tabulous. Blech. At least I got to run all my errands and did most of the things I wanted to get to today before getting that e-mail. I would have otherwise just felt too blech to get to any of them and then would have felt worse.

I really hate job hunting. I think I may have mentioned it before, but I wanted to make sure I got that out there.

Ah well, one more hour of the pitty party, then right back to hitting the job sites. Well, no. Dinner first, then the job sites, yes, that sounds better. Nothing like a rejection from a really good sounding prospect to motivate you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Quick note. Living Dead Nurse has one of the best renditions of "This is Halloween" on her blog. It's a version done by Marilyn Manson (Her music player is at the bottom). As if I couldn't possibly like that song more... Loves it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mike The Headless Chicken

I forgot who it was that I mentioned this to but I promised I would give them the link to the story. I forgot. But I heard someone talk about it today so it popped back into my head. *snicker* I told you I wasn't kidding!

This is the story of Mike the headless chicken.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Photos From Europe (at last)

Dinner in Venice on our first night.

Aaron and I at the Coloseum.

I really can't believe someone out there sells Duff Beer. Oh yeah!

This is one of the really beautiful fountains at the beautiful mountain-top town of Tivoli.

Aaron and I at Trevi fountain just before tossing our coins into the water.

The view from the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

I loved this shop, but everything was just way too expensive here. Cool shop though.

Us at one of the sections of the Berlin Wall right by the Brandenberg Gate.

Aaron and I with Stella's mom, her sister Muna, Batiste and Munchkin #6.

"Find The Fish"

Just about anyone that knows me, knows that I have been a Monty Python fan since I was about, oh... fetal. And if you didn't know it, my cell phone's ringtone is a dead giveaway. It's the "Liberty Bell March," a.k.a. the theme song from Flying Circus. I'm always surprised by how often people actually start smiling, giggling or start quoting Python, rather than get annoyed when my cell phone goes off.

But I digress. So I was pissed that I missed the whole Python-A-Thon on the IFC channel. Sadly, we don't have it. Boo... BUT I did get somewhat of a fix when I went up to my brother's place and on the way back home on satellite radio (we caught a broadcast of the 40th reunion special). So yes, it got me in the mood to want to watch Monty Python when I got home. The last thing I heard in the car was the Galaxy Song so naturally, I watched "Meaning of Life."

Sure Grail is the one most people think of when they think of the Python movies, but there is quite a lot to be said for this little gem. I mean where else are you going to find a group of 60 children singing, "every sperm is sacred" and the sublimely bizarre "find the fish," bit?

Now, I have never watched any movie with the director's commentary setting until tonight. It really made me appreciate the movie that much more. Who knew? I think I may have to hit my collection of Flying Circus and see if those have commentary to them.

So, since it's still one of my favorite songs from Monty Python and because it's been stuck in my head for most of the night, I've attached the Galaxy Song.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Scares Us

I just finished rewatching Salem's Lot. I haven't watched this in years but I distinctly remember this kinda scaring me when I was little. Looking at it now, I have no idea why.

I always thought the "new" vampires were scarier than "the master" since I always thought he was kind of goofy looking and I always got a kick out of seeing where the makeup ended on his neck and hands. But I digress. As far as the newer vampires in the movie. They kind of now look, I don't know... I suppose it's not a good thing when I can see their makeup and know that I could have done a better job at making them look dead or undead. Eh, perhaps it's just me.

But yeah, I've noticed over the years that there isn't much that scares me any more. Well, outside of freaky clowns. Those will always scare the piss out of me. Ever since IT. Damn you Tim Curry! I love him but damn it he was scary as hell as Pennywise. Certain clowns wont scare me. The ones with the makeup actually done well will usually be okay still. The streaky, cracky, blotchy makeup with the big red nose (kind of like Pennywise), however... yeah not so much. Gimme a gooey, half eaten fecked up looking zombie or a nasty-ass vampire any day. If it has any kind of resemblance to Pennywise, however, you can just go ef yourself.

So now I'm watching a decent undead movie, Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

"One, Two, Freddie's Coming For You..."

Living Dead Nurse has a nifty game up on her blog. Test your horror movie knowledge, name the creepy kids, just remember, don't post the answers in the comment section, e-mail them to her if you wanna play.

Creepy Kids Game

Anyhoo, I think I did pretty well on her game and so I wanted to add to the list of creepy-ass kids. No Guessing required, just my two cents. :)

Toshio Saeki- a.k.a. the screaming Asian kid from The Grudge
The Grudge Icon Pictures, Images and Photos

All the kids from the original Village of The Damned

Karen Cooper- The Zombie girl from the original Night of The Living Dead

The singing little girls from Nightmare on Elm Street... yeah, try not singing the jumprope song. Couldn't find an image, but I got the soundbite.

Steve, Debbie and Curtis- Bloody Birthday

The neighbor girl from Dawn of The Dead (2004) I unfotunately can't find a photo of her but if you've seen the movie you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch...Again!"

*Singing* God, I hope I get it.
I hope I get it.
How many people does he need?

Look at all the people!
At all the people.
How many people does he need?
How many boys, how many girls?
How many people does he...?

I really need this job.
Please God, I need this job.
I've got to get this job.

God, I really blew it!
I really blew it!
How could I do a thing like that?


Sorry it's another one of those days... I woke up with a random song in my head. For some reason today's was, "I hope I get it" from A Chorus Line. Yeah I woke up with the, "Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch... again" bit, from the very beginning. Mind you, I haven't seen or thought of this show in ages. Probably since high school. I wish I could explain these things.

*Inhale* I have the strong suspicion that this has something to do with feeling like I'm doing the same thing over and over every day and just hoping. I know there are others out there who have been sans job much longer than I have, but still I hate the feeling on not working. I know it's not true at all, but from time to time, I just to feel useless. Like I said, I know that's the furthest thing from the truth but I'm just used to working. I'm used to having deadlines and multiple tasks, phones ringing and the kind of hectic pace that makes the day fly by.

The other day I actually considered just getting a job at Barnes and Nobel just for the hell of it. Then realized they weren't hiring at that particular branch. Not to mention, I think I'd make less working there than what I'm getting for unemployment. Blast.

Ah well, at least I've made some progress in other areas. I've been pushing Evan (Aaron's brother) to get his driver's license. If he has that he can actually try to go for a few city jobs that would be infinitely better for him all around. I've encouraged, prodded and pushed but he's finally gotten through the whole driver's manual and is ready to take his written test on Friday. Huzzah!

Lord help me when it comes to the driving part.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who You Gonna Call?

I just had to throw this up here. I saw a clip on Mitch's blog and it made me want to hear the song. Besides, I don't know a single person who doesn't remember their childhood when they hear this song. Well, provided they were born in the 70's and grew up during the 80's. But you know what I mean.

I'm So Proud

I just heard one of the greatest things ever. Munchkin #1 is a Harry Potter fan.
My brother and sister-in-law introduced her to the Harry Potter movies and now she's all about Harry Potter. Her favorite characters are Hermione and Ron. For Halloween she's going as Hermione. How great is that?

I love it. She's not up on the books yet since I'm not sure her parents have all of them, but it's all good. Aaron and I are going up to see her this weekend and she's dying to watch the first movie with us. *Sniff* The baby girl is already geeking out and she's only six. I love it. I'm getting all choked up.

AND she lost her first tooth last week. She has the cutie-pie gap in front and from what she tells me she has, "another tooth that's wiggling." Teehee. That's so cute, I can't stand it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm All Messed Up

The other day we had friends over for dinner. Wait, let me correct that... they were supposed to come over for dinner. I spent the day cleaning and tidying up and made a great dinner. They were supposed to come over a little later (about 9:00) in the night so we were expecting to eat lateish.

Aaron and I gave up waiting at 10:00ish and ate. They didn't get here till after midnight. I didn't exactly mind I just wish they had bothered to say something a little sooner. It's all good though, they ended up just picking at some stuff, so we got the bulk of the leftovers, which made Aaron happy.

Gallons of coffee and hours of Guitar Hero later, they finally left. The problem was, this messed up my internal clock something fierce. I called my Mom yesterday to wish her a happy birthday. The only problem was that it wasn't yesterday, it's today. Yeah. So now we have to go over and I have to explain to my Mom why I got her birthday wrong. Nice.

Ah well at least I'm sort of getting sleepy the right time of the night. I just hate feeling all out of wack like this. Hell, I didn't feel this wacky when I got to Europe or when I got back. Blech.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A New Project

I think I may want to take on a new project for myself. Well, really it's for Aaron. See, my family, although they haven't been great at it, has been able to maintain a decent family history. For example, we know where in Spain the family came from prior to arriving in Puerto Rico. We know the accomplishments of our ancestors once they got to the island and if we put our heads together we can even put all the names together in order. Hell, some of my Dad's siblings even have photos that go back to before my grandfather was born (1900). Aaron on the other hand, can't.

While we were at the Holocaust Museum, we tried looking up his family name at one of the database computers. The problem was, he wasn't exactly sure where they would have been from and didn't know any names. We typed in his last name and searched under Poland and a huge list of names came up. He got angry and walked away. He kind of snapped at me to delete our search. He said he was angry because his grandparents never spoke about their family. They never spoke about where exactly the family is from and never spoke about any relatives that may have remained behind. So even if we were looking at their names he wouldn't know. His grandparents just never spoke about what they remember from the war.

This has been bothering me quite a bit. I know these people aren't directly related to ME, but they will be related to our children and haveing them know as little as Aaron knows about this part of the family is a pattern I don't like. I've always believed that it is important to know where you are from or at least have a good understanding about one's family. I know our children will be regaled with stories about my grandparents (on both sides) but they'll also get to hear the stories about how one of our ancestors on the Velez side was a Conquistador and how our relatives founded the city of Lajas on the Western coast of the island and that we're from the Southernmost tip of Spain, Malaga, or less commonly known as Velez-Malaga.

It would also be nice to be able to share some kind of information about his family with them. Even if it's just that they were once from this or that country. Not just what Aaron says when someone asks him where he's from. He usually rattles off a list that includes Russia, Austria, Poland but usually stops there. As far as they've been able to figure these are the primary countries. But that's all they can say. I think I'm going to start working on his family tree. I know their two grandparents names so I should be able to work backwards from there through records. They were from New York City so that part shouldn't be too hard. It'll get a bit tougher once I get into Europe. I think I'll keep this project under wraps until I get a good amount of information to be able to give him. I don't know how he'll react to it, but at least I'll know how to access it and will be able to share it with future generations.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Our Trip in a Nutshell- Part VII


We got to the airport really early. Our flight took off a few minutes late but it's all good. We found a luggage scale and realized we were okayish but still shuffled a few items in our bags to make sure we were under the weight limit.

When we got to Berlin it was kinda rainy but luckily my sister-in-law's soon to be brother-in-law, Batiste was there to pick us up. We got to their place and rested. It just so happens that we got there on Germany's reunification day. The city was in party mode for a few days and even treated to a parade of Giants. A French artist made these giant marionettes and used them to tell the story of a little girl and her father. The little girl woke up in the West and the father emerged from the river in the East. The father is a pearl diver and while he was out one day he and the daughter got separated. For two days the two marionettes walked through the city streets searching for each other. On the 3rd, they were reunited at the Brandenberg Gate (where the two countries came together). They hugged, played and walked the city together. It's a lot cooler than I'm making it sound. We didn't get a chance to even get close to them until the 4th day. They were toured around the city on a riverboat. They were asleep together :) Even like that they still moved (their chests rose and fell like they were breathing and made sleeping sounds).

They're a little freaky to look at at first, but their movements and the effort to make them so articulate is actually beautiful.

We got a great walking tour of Potsdamerplatz, the city's western center and got to see parts of the Berlin Wall and the permanent line showing where the wall used to be. It's hard to believe there used to be something like that there. Looking around from this side of the city you really can't tell the area we were in was once pretty dangerous.

We passed by the city's big casino, Spielbank and Aaron immediately got the urge to take Euros from the Germans. I told him we could go back at a later point in our stay. Later on that evening we met up with Batiste's brother Julian and his adorable girlfriend Julia (yeah, I thought the same thing you're likely thinking). We went to a really nice restaurant and had dinner and beer. We ate so much I felt sick afterwards. But this didn't stop us from drinking more beer.

The following day we got together with Stella, Munchkin #5, Stella's Mom, Batiste and Stella's sister Muna. We saw the marionettes and took a boat tour around the city. From the river we got to see Museum Island, which was once in the East, their government buildings around the Unter den Linden, the Reichstag, the new train hub, and a few of their performing arts centers. During the tour Stella and I had a Weisbier (white beer), the stuff is flavored with syrups. I had a raspberry one. Holy cow was it ever yummy. It was nice seeing the city this way. It gave us a pretty good idea of where things were. The entire time there were took the U and S-Bahn, their super easy train systems. Really. Their train system is pretty large and will take you to just about every part of the city and beyond, but they are really easy to follow and very punctual. When the train schedule says the thing is coming in a minute, you better believe that un under a minute, the thing WILL be there. Awesome.

We went to the site that was once Checkpoint Charle and got to see what is left of the infamous gate. Along the streets leading there there are permanent billboards that tell the history of the site and the biographies of the successful escapes and the stories of those that didn't make it through. Some of these really made me want to cry. I saw this photo of an East German soldier Conrad Schumann jumping over the Berlin Wall and loved it.

Aaron preferred another image. It's one of an It's a photo of another East German soldier along the barbed wire barricades. Instead of leaping to his own freedom, he's reaching down to help a small boy over the wire. The soldier is young, and his eyes, looking warily over his shoulder, are full of fear. And yet, he persisted. Apparently, the boy escaped but the soldier didn't. He was seen helping the boy and, moments later, was taken away. I couldn't find the photo anywhere and the one I saw was a poster but couldn't take a photo of it. I did find the image on this link for the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (Click on the "Exhibitions" tab).

In Aaron's opinion, Schumann, although brave for saying, 'Feck it' and jumping over the border, the braver one was the soldier helping the boy. He knew he'd be screwed if he got caught but still decided to do the right thing for the boy.

On our way back to Muna and Batiste's place we had one of the best snack foods I have ever encountered, Currywurst! Holy crap this stuff is delicious. I mean I could honestly eat platefuls of this stuff till I popped. All it is, is a great sausage smothered with a tomato-based sauce with a good sprinkling of curry. Not too much, just enough to give it all a good swift kick. Holy crap, I'm drooling just thinking about it. They so need to bring this stuff to NYC. I think it would give the dirty water dogs a run for their money.

The next day we got an unexpected surprise, Julian, who is a limo driver had a day off and offered to take us on a driving tour of the city to check out some of the lesser known areas of the city and sights that aren't exactly mentioned in tourist books. He took us to the East and we really got to see the big difference between the two halves. The parts that remained the way they were prior to the reunification look very drab and look like they were just thrown together (which they were). It's pretty spartan looking. This side of the city also has the largest, complete stretch of the Wall. Artists who once had murals have been invited to go back and recreate or touch up their works. It's pretty cool to see actually. We got to see some of the smaller streets of the East and got to see how far behind some sections of the city still are. Julian also drove us by the Holocaust Museum right next to the Brandenberg Gate, the New Synagogue (the remains of the last Synagogue in Berlin which got hit when the allied forces bombed Berlin) and the Kudam, an old church that was partially destroyed during WWII and was left untouched to serve as a reminder.

Once again we had currywurst. Aaron got a delicious chicken wrap that needs to be given its proper dues. This thing was drool worthy also. It had veggies galore, freshly grilled chicken strips and some kind of sauce that I would consider bathing any kind of sandwich in. I mean damn! And of course, there was beer. Ah beer.

Later that night Aaron and I hit the casino. He was feeling pretty damn lucky and after being reminded of the past, he was ready to, "take some money back for the Jews." Sigh... I swear it was him who said it. He went in with 200 Euros and about three hours later, he walked out with 460. I lost 20 Euros on the slot machines. I sat down at a 1 and 2 cent machines, so I was there for a while on each machine. I also got currywurst and a beer while he wrapped up his game. We cut out early because the train going in our direction stop running at 1:00am. We ended up missing the train and had to cab it back. This was an adventure because I had learn to say the street name. They live on Schlangenbader Strasse. Luckily, my brother was still in Jersey. I called him and learned how to pronounce where we wanted to go rather than call Muna and Batiste at that time. The cab driver didn't understand a word I was saying. Luckily he spoke English.

The following say we spent the day in the city on our own. We hit the Bode Museum. The work there was nice. But to be honest, after having spent over a week seeing some of the best works of art the world has ever known, other museums kind of fall short. We skipped the other museums and checked out the New Synagogue. We didn't realize it till we got to it that they had an exhibit there. We went through a security system the rivals the airport but got to go into what's left of the Synagogue and got to see some of the items that were left. Considering that Berlin once had a huge Jewish population, the shockingly few items in the place was beyond sad.

But wait, the sadness continues. Aaron and I went to the Holocaust museum. I won't go into the details. I can't do it justice. The memorial on the street level takes a moment to understand, but it is powerful. The museum below is... I can't even find a word. The exhibits give a timeline of the persecution but primarily focus on the people affected. One room in particular, is dark and empty except for benches that face the walls. Every minute or two a name is projected on the four walls. The names are of those who died a narrator says a little something about who they were, their age and where they died. If I remember correctly, if played nonstop, it'll take over nine years to get through all names of those who were killed.

The following day we were going to go to Sachenhousen, the concentration camp right outside Berlin, where most of the city's Jews were taken after the Kristal Nacht raids. After seeing that memorial, I didn't really have it in me to go. I really wanted to, but emotionally I was pretty fucked up. I think we need to go there the next time we're in Germany.

That night we had a more laid back diner. We still had beer and tons of food, but we just hit a small traditional German restaurant/pub with Stella. We were joined by a friend of hers and had a really nice dinner. Her friend swiped a stein for Aaron. :)

The following say we spent repacking our bags then shopping with Stella at KaDeWe. This was once the biggest shopping mall in Europe. It's still massive and super expensive, but the 6th floor has one of the best food sections I've ever seen. The place has every conceivable kind of gourmet food you can think of and then some. I love it. We had lunch there and of course, beer. The place has its own brand of beer. I meant it when I said it has one of the best food sections ever.

That last night we had a lovely dinner with the family and spent a good portion of the night chatting away. And drank beer.

So there you have it. That is our trip in one of the biggest nutshells I have ever seen. I hope you've enjoyed reading about our trip. Don't worry, I'll have more travel stories in April. Aaron's putting together a friends cruise to Bermuda. Given the people who I know will be there, this will definitely turn out a lot of funny-ass stories. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Once Again I'm Covered in Glitter

Teehee... If I walk into a dark room I'll glow.

I've been making a new centerpiece for my living room table. It's made of four little paper mache skulls and I covered them in two shades of green glitter and just for the hell of it, I also used glow-in-the-dark glitter (thank you Martha). Once I finish I'll be putting black and red candles on top of them and ta-dah, instant centerpiece.

The downside, I've got glitter all over the place and myself. I think I may have to give my vacuum another workout. But once I get this thing finished it should look pretty cool. Love it.

Now if I could only make up my mind about what I want to dress as for Halloween. I'm still torn between dressing as a witch or dressing as a zombie. Both costumes are fun and easy to do, but I just can't make up my mind. I've done the vampire route for ages already and I can put that together with my eyes closed. I want to do something a little different this year. Sigh... I suppose I'll try to make a decision some time this week.

Our Trip in a Nutshell-Part VI


We bid farewell to Wayne and Michelle after breakfast and all filed into the bus to Assisi. The bus ride was kinda long but it gave us time to chat with people, fall asleep and in Aaron and Sam's case, challenge each other on brickbreaker. I forgot when but fairly early on, Sam saw Aaron playing brickbreaker. He told Aaron that he's been playing a bit. Aaron showed him how obsessed he is with the game and so it went. Actually, a lot of the men's conversations centered around football, video games, baseball and UFC (I jumped into these once in a while). It's true that regardless of where you're from, you can always find something in common with people.

So yes, we got to Assisi around mid morning and got a really wonderful view from the city walls. The morning fog still hadn't fully dissipated yet so you'd get these buildings jutting out of the light fog and fantastic beams of sunlight streaming through. It was kind of surreal. I loved it.

We didn't have a lot of time to spend in Assisi, only about an hour. We basically had just about enough time to check out the basilica. The basilica itself is really pretty. I like that they let you down to where the brothers of the order are buried including St. Francis for free. The basilica's artwork is really pretty. Although it's all Byzantine art which we're not so fond of, the fact that it's almost all still there and in really great shape is amazing. It looks like they did the whole thing in frescoes. The upper basilica has a bit more damage to the artwork I missed what another tour guide said happened to cause the damage but it's still very well kept. It chronicles the life of St. Francis.

Outside we got another gorgeous view of the area below, took some photos and then we wandered a bit around the small shopping area in front of the basilica. In one of the shops I found these mugs that offered prayers for different occupations. I found one for La Polizia. The man at the shop asked if Aaron was a cop. When Aaron told him he's NYPD the guys eyes lit up, he shook his hand and told him that he was an MP while he was in the military. He gave Aaron a free souvenir. It was really sweet.

The drive back to Rome went the same way as the ride to Assisi. People were kinda quiet. I got to catch up on my journal entries, I got to do a bit of drawing in my sketchbook and the brickbreaker war raged on. It took most of the day to get back but by the time we did, we were all pretty hungry. We settled into the hotel room and almost cheered at the fact that we could actually extend our arms inside the bathroom. The shower, however, was the smallest shower we have had in the whole trip. To think, they had all that space in the bathroom itself, but they couldn't extend the shower box by a few inches. Sigh.

So yes, we got together with Shane, Samone, Sam and Nicole and went out for dinner. Jason and Laura were going to join us but I think she was feeling under the weather so they got some paninis and went back to the hotel. Dinner was very nice. We made sure we all had each other's information and chatted away. It was kind of bittersweet. On the way back we hit a pastry shop and picked up a small selection of goodies for after we repacked everything.

We really had to get creative. We had to make sure the suitcases weighed under 50 lbs or 23-ish kilos. I ended up packing most of the souvenirs in my backpack and threw a few of the lighter items under the mask which remained with me in a shopping bag. I was so not taking any chances with that thing. I spent too much money and too much time making sure I got the right one to let anything happen to it. Half way through we noticed the room was really frickin' hot. The AC wasn't on. I played with the dials and nothing. I called down to the front desk to ask if there is anything going on with the AC. The guy picks up and tells me, "Yes, we normally have air conditioning, but tonight, it is very cool. Prego." and hangs up. In other words, open your damn window. We opened the window but the problem was that our window faced another building and didn't get much more than a hint of a breeze. We finished packing, enjoyed our snacks and tried getting some sleep since we had a 5:15 am wake up call. About 1:00 am we woke up sweating. We decided to go out for a stroll to the gelateria to get drinks. All the way to the place we heard chanting and partying. Apparently one of the Italian teams won. It was kind of fun. There were even a few groups of people partying in the street in front of the gelateria.

The drinks helped quite a bit and we eventually got back to sleep. A few hours later we got right back up. Blech.

Tomorrow: Berlin, Beer, Beer, Food and oh yeah, more beer.


Last night Aaron and I caught a showing of Zombieland. Aaron is not a fan of horror movies. He's just a big chicken like that. Well, that's not fair, he doesn't get scared of the things shown, he just really dislikes the usual gore that comes with the genre. But this he really wanted to see. He loves Woody and it looked pretty funny. It is!

I highly recommend this movie. It satisfies everything anyone could want in a good non dramatic movie. It has tense moments, great acting, quotable lines galore, great FX makeup and a great dose of humor sprinkled all around. The movie even has a completely unexpected cameo which I will so not spoil for you. There are a few jump moments but my biggest jump moment had nothing to do with a zombie but a clown. Fecking, freaky-ass clowns.

Ask Aaron and he will tell you he enjoyed the movie immensely.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Trip in a Nutshell-Part V


Pisa. Well, there isn't much of the actual town to speak of. The Tower, the Baptistery and the Duomo are about it. There is an old Jewish cemetery but we couldn't get in to see it. Don't get me wrong, the work on the three structures is amazing but the place itself was small.

We did get to climb the leaning tower, which is something I still can't believe we did. I still remember when I was in the second grade, I had to do a report on a famous location, I got Pisa. My brother helped me make a model of the three structures so it was really kind of surreal being there and actually climbing the thing. We did get lucky though. The day was pretty hot but the temperature inside the tower is actually very cool. It was nice. The only odd part about it is the actual climb. It's a narrowish spiral staircase that really tilts. You can't really appreciate how much of an angle it's on until you're in it. It kind of feels a little scary when you get to the window about half way up and see everything outside off kilter. At the top you get a pretty great view of the surrounding town and the hills in the distance, but the very top level is better. I took our video camera and filmed over the leaning side to get a better idea of how messed up it feels. I believe Pony got his second photo with one of the Australian couples in our group.

We had yet another pizza lunch. Sadly this was not as good as all the other places. But it's all good we didn't have a lot of time there anyway. We got caught up looking at a few things at the shops and almost got left behind. We missed the tram that takes you to the parking lot. Our tour guide waited for us but knew the street it would drive on to get back, so she stopped it mid-ride. Phew!


If I could, right now, I would hop on a plane and head out to Venice. Although it's a little dirtier (really, the buildings look a little dingier here than they do in other cities) the place is just so damn charming, despite the occasional waft of funk from the canal on some of the smaller streets. Before I go on, we didn't go on a gondola ride because I never really liked the idea of taking a boat ride in their sewer system (I don't know, maybe it's just me).

So we got to the Venice area in the late afternoon. We got our hotel rooms and got on the bus for a night out in the city. The hotel again was a little bit outside of the city so we had to drive a bit to get to the dock where we'd take a boat onto San Marco. It was about 6:00 pm-ish when we started out. On the drive, I noticed a kind of odd thing. A woman was sitting in a white plastic lawn chair in the middle of an island at the highway exit/ entrance. I thought, how odd. The a little bit down further I noticed a woman dressed in very little just standing off the sidewalk in the middle of the street in front of a shop called "Sexy Shop." I thought "what?!" and now tapped Aaron's arm. Another girl appeared in the middle of the other sidewalk, not at any discernible bus stop and this one only had tall grass behind her so it wasn't like there was a shop she could have been coming out of. Aaron confirmed that yep, those were indeed hookers. Other people on the bus noticed too. Sam started laughing. I was confused because I thought the only place where it's that open was in Holland, where it's actually legal.

The boat ride to San Marco was lovely, we got some pretty evening photos of the islands. The group had dinner at a really smallish restaurant that I would never be able to find again even if you paid me. After dinner we got back to Piazza San Marco. By this time it was already dark and whole place was lit up in little lights The place looked spectacular. The best part was there were four bands scattered around the piazza playing classical music. They actually compete to draw the crowd so they don't play over each other. One of the bands got the bulk of the crowd (about 300-ish) to zip over then they began playing "Funiculì, Funiculà" they all started clapping along, singing and dancing. Loved it! But with the beautiful buildings at night, the pretty light and the music you couldn't help but get swept up in the moment and start dancing and some people did. Venice at night is by far the prettiest city I've ever seen. I swear, if the atmosphere doesn't get you, there's seriously something wrong with you. Aaron and I agreed that we could have stayed there all night just going from band stand to band stand, sipping cappuccinos and espressos and perhaps dancing. Sadly we only had about an hour.

On the bus ride back to the hotel Sam and Nicole, Jason, his wife Laura (a couple actually not from Australia. They're from Toronto) Wayne, Aaron and I decided to play a game; count the hookers. On a four-ish mile stretch of road we counted 33 hookers (ah, ah, ah. Yes, we threw in the Count's laugh now and then). A group of them actually had a Winnebago parked on the side of the road! Yeah. Kind of funny and sad. We also drove by a mechanic shop called Ass Auto. I kid you not. That was the name of the place. Somehow, I don't think I would trust the place with my car.

The next morning we hit the dock early and went back to Venice. We noticed one of the freakiest things ever. It seems like all of Australia was on vacation. The tour group that shared our boat out were all Aussies. Apparently there were around 40 people on that tour. I think all but four were from Australia and two of those were from New Zealand. I asked Shane if there was anyone left back home. He said he wasn't sure anymore.

We checked out a glass blowing demonstration where the maestro made a vase and a little sculpture of a horse using pretty much a pair of pliers and a heavy duty set of tweezers in about three minutes. Impressive. I would pretty much burn myself and those around me horribly if I tried that. We didn't buy anything. Basically, most of the stuff, pretty as it was, was over price and too damn fragile to take home. After that we walked around the city and explored. We took the Rialto Bridge and went mask shopping on Santa Croce. I had a hell of a time finding just one. If money and space weren't an issue I would have gone completely insane. I settled on one at a shop where the woman actually paid close attention to what I was looking for. She made recommendations based on my skin tone, hair color and the shape of my eyes. She was awesome! Most workers at other shops kind of just pointed to the kind of masks I was looking for, if they paid attention at all.

Wandering and taking in the city was such a great experience. We hit the less crowded streets and found some of the prettiest sights tucked away down the smaller streets. We even found one of the prettiest churches we've seen. The place was tiny as heck but was decorated so beautifully. Most churches we had seen till this point had been these monster churches that kind of overwhelm you. This place, small as it was, had beautiful paintings a gorgeous altar, but not overwhelming at all. It felt warm and beautiful. It just felt loving and welcoming. Even Aaron felt it and he isn't very religious at all. I actually lit a candle and left a donation. I would have jotted the name down, but it didn't have it posted anywhere where I could see it. All I know is that it was on Santa Croce.

We had lunch at a little place called Cavatappi on San Marco. If you're ever there, I highly recommend finding this place. The food was delicious and the tiramisu is to die for. We ordered one to share. The waitress looked at us funny then asked if we were sure about that. She gave us one anyway. She laughed when we HAD to order another one. It all made sense.

After lunch we took a boat ride out to the small but beautiful lagoon island of Burano, the lace making island. The place is simply cute. It looks like they let a little kid go around to paint the buildings. They are all really adorably bright colored. Apparently the buildings are all painted that way because back in the day, this is where a lot of sailors lived and a lot of times they would come home at night and possibly drunk, so they had to do something to make sure they could find their way back to the right house. This is also why most women took up lace making. It was a way for them to make extra money while their husbands were away at sea.

I picked up a few items there. I got a Christmas table runner and a bread basket. I also got a handkerchief and an infant bib for the future.

At the end of the day, we didn't want to leave. There was so much more we wanted to check out but didn't have time. We didn't go into the Duomo because we were pretty much churched out and the line was enormous. But we decided when we do come back, and we are so going to go back, we HAD to explore ALL the islands thoroughly and make sure we have enough space in our luggage for more souvenirs.

That evening dinner was at the hotel. It was a much better dinner but the best part of the night was afterwards. We got a group of people together and hit the patio behind the hotel for a last night of drinking and to wish Wayne and Michelle adieu. They were heading off to Bolonia the next morning instead of heading back to Assisi and Rome with us.

We couldn't find the lights for the patio so we sat around in the quasi dark and swapped contact information. We magically made about eight bottles of wine and proseco disappear. It was great. We kind of got eaten alive by mosquito's but it's all good. The group eventually dwindled down to Sam, Nicole, Wayne, Michelle, Aaron and myself. We were up till about 1:00 am-ish, chatting about random things and trying to speak in each other's accents. Aaron can't do the Australian accent for crap, he did get Sam's Alabama accent pretty well. I got to hear Wayne speak at full speed and didn't understand a word. We said we should have practiced sooner and freaked everyone out by going around speaking with a different accent, just for fun. Sam told us about an issue he ran into on their plane ride over. When the flight attendant came around to get drink orders he asked for a Pepsi. She didn't understand so she asked him a few times to repeat his order. He kept saying it in a slower, clearer voice, "I. Would. Like. A. Pep-si." The flight attendant was from the States. She eventually brought a drink over to his wife and then asked her what he wanted to drink. He said, "You know I'm right here. I can hear you. I'd like a PEP-SI!" I think he eventually gave up and asked for a Coke. The thing is, of all Southern accents I've ever heard, his was probably one of the easiest I've come across. On the flight home, when the flight attendant came by, I almost asked for a Pepsi just to see what would happen.

Tomorrow: Assisi and back to Rome.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Smell is Afoot (bad play on words)

The hallway outside smells like a foot. Well really, it smells like a beat up old shoe that's been left to rot. That's the best I can come up with. When Aaron came in this morning he smelled it and had me go out and smell for myself. It was bad. I popped my head out earlier and it didn't smell as strongly, but I also didn't go out fully. I just popped my head out and I think the cross breeze from inside my apartment moved the stink.

I just stepped out into the hallway fully and there it was. I would love to know what the hell it is. I have a feeling it's coming from the apartment down the hall where an Asian family lives. They usually have some funky-ass smelling food odors wafting out of there. Occasionally it's okay but most of the time, it's pretty bad. I swear we constantly have competing smells in the hallway. I've heard Evan say he can always tell who's cooking all the way from the elevator. He's told me that if it smells good, it's a sure bet that I'm cooking. A few others have told me the same thing.

But yeah, this smell out there today, can not possibly be food. There is no way in hell anything that has that kind of odor is edible.

Our Trip in a Nutshell- Part IV


As much as I love Florence and the history of the city, I think I prefer it in the evening and night when it isn't teaming with tourists. Even still, the city is great.

We started the day off at a tannery. The place had really great leather products, but the only thing we got form them were two trash bins with leather exterior. Nifty, lightweight, flat and easily packable and on the cheap side. Everything else was kind of out of our price range or we just didn't need it. We had a tour guide walking us around to show us the major sites and tell us a little bit of history. For example, I knew that the Duomo was still unfinished but I never knew just how temperamental Michelangelo was and that he even told the Medici to piss off when he said he didn't want to work on a pigeon coop (referring to the top of the Duomo). Funny. WE got a view of the Duomo from one of the side streets so the view was pretty much unobstructed by other tourists and we came in on the finished section. I still think it's funny that powerful as the Medici were, and despite the promises to the city that the Duomo would be completed, it still stands unfinished and no one, to this day, wants to take the job on.

We walked by the other historical buildings and piazzas, pet the Florentine Boar adn bropped a coin from it's mouth and snout into the well below it (I dunno, it's supposed to bring you money and fertility) before splitting off. Some went to the Galleria dell'Accademia and to the other side of the river to check out some of the sights there. We, however, went to the Ufizzi Gallery. I liked the Ufizzi Gallery. The only bad thing about it is that our tour guide was very thorough. I mean VERY thorough. It took her about an hour and a half to get through four rooms. I did appreciate the lessons in history and art. For example, did you know that the woman in the Birth of Venus painting is the likeness of Giuliano Medici's girlfriend, before he got killed? And that a few years later, Botticelli used the same woman in the Primavera painting along with Giuliano (he's the man on the far left). And that Botticelli won out over DaVinci for commissions from the Medici by putting family members and friends such as the former girlfriend and even using Lorenzo Medici in prominent positions in his paintings. This is the kind of stuff she would fill us in on. Facinating, but it took a very long time. Then we realized that we ended up paying something like 35 Euro each and the entrance to the Ufizzi was 10 Euro. It wouldn't have been so bad, but we only got to see four of the rooms. By the time she finished with the tour, we could have explored the place on our own, but we were too damn tired.

After the Ufizzi, Aaron and I hit a little restaurant directly across the street from the Ufizzi's back entrance. We had more yummy pizza. He was feeling miserable. This was his horrible day in the cold cycle. I had him get a big cup of tea and pene ala arabiata (I really had to keep myself from giggling or going into the bit), "This is wet, this is wet, and this is wet, what? Did you dry these in a rain forest?" He started feeling a touch better so we went on a stroll over the ponte veccio to see if that would help loosen things up and allow him to breathe a bit. I'm really glad we got to see the thing at night. I would have hated it and wouldn't have gotten a real appreciation of it otherwise. I felt like a sardine trying to walk across it. We wandered back to the Piazza della Signoria, stopping now and then to check out very serious looking artists in the streets and stopping for more gelatto. By the time we got to the Piazza, Aaron just wanted to sit. So we sat inside the Loggia dei Lanzi Right behind the sculpture of Perseus killing Medusa. We sat there for a good long while, I wrote in my journal. He just rested a bit and watched people. It was another one of those moments where doing nothing was the best thing we could have done to enjoy the city. We sat there for about an hour or so. Aaron felt better again, so we went to join our group. We met back at the piazza in front of Basilica di Santa Croce (Aaron loves this Basilica. The architect put his own stamp on it by putting a giant star of David at the very top. The architect was Jewish).

While waiting for the whole group to gather we noticed a bunch of military police standing around. Not really on high alert (not until pretty girls walked by) they were kind of just standing around in a very Italian way, occasionally smoking. It turns out they were there because Florence was playing one of the other Italian teams on soccer that night. In case they won or lost, they heavily duty police were there to quell the riots. Funny.

Dinner that night was kind of terrible. We had a group dinner at the hotel. our choices were chicken, pork or fish. They didn't give us a choice in dish mind you, just chicken, pork or fish. The dinner was as exciting as it sounds. Blech.

Later that night a group of us got together to have coffee and snacks. Aaron ended up electrocuting himself. When we got to the hotel, we noticed that the electrical outlets were different from the ones we were used to using. The converters we had, had a different prong setup. We were told these would work the same way. I had my doubts. I plugged a few things into the outlets in the hallway. Aaron tried to use the one in the room. He ended up jamming the outlet into the wall. Luckily he bought a utility knife in San Gimignano. He told me to go downstairs and wait for him there. While I waited I told our group what happened. Steve said that I may want to call to tell him to forget tyring to fix the things since their electrical currents are twice as strong as ours. I called the room to relay the message. He said he was heading down and that it was too late. He already zapped himself about three times. The good news was that his congestion broke up in the process.

Tomorrow: Pisa, Venice and the hookers (I kid you not)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Our Trip in a Nutshell- Part III

I should say at this point, that most of the kids (us and the group that kind of formed) on the tour bus were sitting in the back. We started off sitting anywhere we wanted but then we were told to keep switching seats. Apparently some people complained that they weren't seeing enough of the front and blah, blah, blah. So all the young couples migrated to the back of the bus, like the bad kids.

Also, remember how I wasn't feeling so hot right before we left? Well, it would seem that it was a cold. By Florence Aaron felt like death. I was still coughing a bit but feeling better by the day.

San Gimignano:

The second Etruscan city we hit and I totally geeked out because we were 25 Kilometers from Voltera! I so took a photo. I have to pull it off the camera though. (Note: The only photos I can really get till I get the wire from my brother are the ones I took from my video camera.) This place was really beautiful. It's easy to see why so many people are inspired by the region. The city was once known as the city of 100 towers. It now has 14.

The Gellato from this place was as Stewie Griffin would say, "Oh my G-Oh my... God. That's better than sex." The only problem is that it left a hell of a tickle in my throat. But all was well, I ate it all anyway. The vistas from the mountain were outstanding but the views from the Palazzo Comunale were even better. We actually climbed the thing. Some the steps were kind of warped and kind of tilted , but the best part was the very top. We had to climb a metal ladder. I kid you not. The view was worth it though. The group we were with took a big photo at the top. I believe Wayne has it on his camera.

The bottom section of the Palazzo is a museum. It has mostly Gothic artwork and a few more saint remnants that kind of creep the hell out of me. (Note: Here's the thing, I have no issues with the old dead or the creepier side of life. Goodness knows I kind of thrive on that. I just have an issue seeing the old dead and the creepier side of life. Yes, I used to work with the old dead all the time as an archaeologist during college. But that was different. There was a reason why I was getting that close and touching them. I was actually searching for their pieces, in the case of 100-year-old and older unmarked then disturbed graves, and then had to figure out how to put them back together.) But yes, Aaron and I came to the agreement that we're all for Renaissance art. Aaron, God bless him, made everyone almost get thrown out when we entered a room with a gigantic cross with a really, really sad looking Gothic-style Jesus on it. He said, "Jesus Christ!" the moment he saw it. We started laughing our asses off. The guard didn't seem to be so pleased with us.

I tell ya, you can't take us anywhere. During one of the bus rides I almost made a few people choke while discussing the minuscule bathrooms. I said that one of the hotels had bathrooms so small, you kind of feel like T-Rex (arms all tucked into your body) in the shower box. But I digress.

Once outside we all took photos by the city's well and threw coins in. I think I must have gone through at least 5 Euro in fountain coins, starting with Trevi.


We stopped at a vineyard here, in the heart of Chianti for a tour of a winery and a wine tasting. The wine was great, but we didn't get a bottle. We already had two and we weren't sure when we'd get a chance to drink again. The hotel didn't have a back deck or allow people to hang out and drink. Boo...

The tour guide Jennifer, who had a unique way of pronouncing words (every time she said "ancients" she sounded like she was saying "Asians." Aaron and I had a running joke that my people were responsible for Rome) began suggesting photo ops for Pony. I got one of him passed out at the bottom of a wine barrel spout. Teehee.


Well, Florence-ish. Our hotel was just outside of Florence. Two train stops away actually and the train station was right across the street from us. So we got a small group together and hit the city in the evening. Aaron, Arti and a guy named Steve went out for Dinner. We were in the mood for Florentine steak. We got a recommendation for a great steak place just off the Piazza della Signoria, where the David used to be until they moved it to the Academia. We must have circled the whole area for a good hour until we found the place. We asked a waiter in one of the restaurants. He said it was down the street right before we get to the statues in the covered gallery. We went by it, I saw a gap and mentioned that I thought that's what he meant. Upon closer inspection, we all decided that couldn't have been it. It looked like an alley between two buildings. The thing was about six feet wide and dark. We walked around the gallery, past the Ufizzi and found a tiny-ass street. On a whim we walked in. We found the damn place. Turns out the gap we saw, opens up to a slightly wider street, we just entered from the opposite end. The great thing about wandering around is that we got a great idea of the layout of the city and got to see some of the artworks without the crowds. We even walked the Ponte Veccio and there were only about six other people on it, other than us.

Dinner was great but Aaron couldn't taste it. After that we didn't quite feel like going back to the hotel so we hit a little wine bar that Arti's friend recommended. This girl has the ins to just about every good restaurant and bar there are in Italy, I swear it. We wandered around some more before finding Le Volpi e L'uva (the Foxes and the grape). WE got there just after closing, but Arti worked her magic and we each got a glass of a wine. I don't remember what I got but I want to bathe in it, it was so good.

We missed our train back. We were in the train station, we just didn't know which train we needed. By the time we figured it out, it was pulling away. So we walked back to the piazza by the Basilica Santa Maria Novella and had some pastries and coffees. A pan flute band was playing and Aaron and I stated laughing. I suppose they're trying to keep the Guinea Pigs away from all the art (South Park reference). Although nothing was really open at that time, we just sat back and watched the people and took in the atmosphere. It's odd, just sitting there at the edge of the piazza, right next to the Basilica, we felt welcome. For that hour doing nothing, we felt like we were home. It was almost magical. I loved it.

Tomorrow: day two of Florence.

OMG Awesome!

OMG! This is really awesome. The Connors Family Farm in Danvers, Mass., has a Family Guy Corn Maze. How "friggin' sweet" is that? I just had to share. I don't even want to know how long it took to carve that thing out like that.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shopping... But Not That Kind of Shopping

I just finished restocking my kitchen. It took $258 but luckily it was less than I initially thought it would take. I caught a lot of good sales and was armed with a stack of coupons and my store cards. I ended up saving $55 and change. Not too shabby.

What hurts is that while we were away, I believe we shelled out about 600 Euro in food alone. With the conversion, it's about oh, say, somewhere in the make you vomit range. Blech. And in one trip to the supermarket I can feed a household of three with under $300 for a week and a half and then some, if I get very creative. See, makes you vomit. Still, it was nice having someone else doing the cooking for a while. Sigh.

I have to wonder how our travel buddies are adjusting to being home. I've sent out
e-mails to say hello but I know a lot of them aren't home yet. Personally I feel like these last few days have been the longest ever. I've been trying to stay asleep longer, but I keep waking up at 3:00 am. This morning I forced myself back to sleep but was completely awake by 6:30 am so I just got up and started doing stuff. All I kept thinking was that the time feck would be great if I were working. Feck.

Our Trip in a Nutshell- Part II

The Etruscan City of Orvieto:

I should mention this before I go any further. My favorite parts of the Italy trip really were the small towns/walled cities. Venice and Florence (in that order) were my favorite large cities, but the little ones: Orvieto, Siena, San Gimignano, and Assisi were, in my opinion, far prettier than the big places. I came up with a lottery scenario. Should we ever win the lottery and have millions to burn, I'd get a home on one of these towns. But I digress.

Orvieto is an ancient Etruscan walled city at the top of a mountain. From a distance it looks like someone carved the top of a mountain into buildings. It's really cool. You had to take a little tram to the top. I love it. The town had these adorable narrow streets and it looks like something right out of a Medieval era movie, but really clean and tidy. We walked with the Australian couple around this little place and had a really great time, we popped into little shops and took tons of photos. We got there just as the little city was waking up so the only eatery open was a little coffee shop. I have to admit, I hated the coffee in most place. Unless I asked for a cafe latte, it was a strong-ass, bitter little shot of rocket fuel that I really couldn't drink no matter how much sugar I used. Aaron loved it. This place had really delicious stuff. I don't know how they made their rocket fuel shots but I could actually stand to drink it and dare I say, even loved it.

So yes, after two shots of fuel, we really started exploring. We walked into a tiny church in the Piazza della Repubblica and walked out a few minutes later. The place really was a Medieval era church, all dark wood detail but pretty stark. The other problem was that it kind of smelled like a Medieval era church. It smelled super musty and dusty. It was still being used, just not very tourist friendly. Tons of photos later and we finally got back to the Duomo. Now that the rest of the tour group was out exploring other stuff, we decided to go in.

Now, if you think this exterior is gorgeous, you to see the inside. I mostly took video since it was just easier. The whole interior of the church has the beautiful black and white stripes that you see along the side of the church. The place is much smaller than most other Duomos we saw but quite possibly one of the prettiest. It also holds a miracle item. A traveling priest once found a host that was bleeding and stained an altar cloth. The cloth is now stored inside the Duomo. We didn't find where it was because before we got to finish walking around a mass started and we felt funny about looking around while a mass was taking place.

We decided to go and climb the clock tower which is supposed to give you a fantastic view of the are but they closed it for lunch hours. Note: Most places in Italy will close between 1:00-ish and 2:00-ish, some later. They're no joke about it either, 1:oo comes along and they are shoving you out the door. So we did as the rest of the town, ate lunch. I had a lovely salad with some of the freshest yummiest cheese I have ever tasted and another shot of fuel. I think we introduced the Australians to gnocchi. After lunch we wandered over to one of the city walls and lookout point and I fell in love. The view from this place really made me want to stay there. The view looks like something out of a painting and even has the ruins of what looks like an old lookout post or an old castle in the distance. How cool is that?! But alas we had to move on.


Walking into Siena was completely different from Orvieto. We walked into the city walls and into a dark narrowish street at the bottom of some pretty imposing looking, old stone buildings. The streets pretty much go up and down hills which make the walk into the center of the city kind of... well... you find yourself asking, "where the hell are we going?!" Then you turn down a small street, down a staircase and enter into the city's center, the Piazza del Campo. This piazza is huge! Twice a year they have a horse race around of the edges... yep, got a Pony photo. They day we were there they happened to have the awards ceremony for the best performing group to win the horse race, so we got to see a band march through and guys in costume doing a flag tossing thing. If want a better idea of what I'm talking about, check out "Under the Tuscan Sun" parts of it were filmed here. WE walked around on our own here. We hit the Duomo, the Baptistery, Sanctuary of Santa Caterina and the Basilica of San Domenico, or Basilica Cateriniana. The Basilica Cateriniana is where they have St. Catherine's head and finger on display. Kind of messed up, but there you have it, she's right the in the middle of the right wall as you walk in (back to front).

Getting to some of these places, though was a workout and a half. Holy crap, the hills in this place make horesebarn hill in Storrs, Ct. look like a bump. On our way back to the dinner meeting place, Aaron and I hit a wine shop another new friend, Arti from the tour recommended. A group of us planned on getting together to drink wine and have snacks since we had an early night. This shop was awesome and they ship! We got two bottles of delicious wine, I got truffle oil really cheap and a small bottle of 15-year-old balsamic vinegar that I will only share with Aaron. This stuff is beyond good. I'm talking, I contemplated holding the lady up (just for a second), just to take the barrel of the stuff. No one got held up and we walked away with only one bottle, I will however be ordering more, eventually.

Back at the Piazza, we had our first pizza in Italy. Yum! We also had our first Gellato. Double yum! Back at the hotel, we met up with people from the tour, got to make more friends, this time with a couple from Alabama, Sam and Nicole (Awesome people). We stayed up drinking and chatting with everyone till about 1:00 am-ish. I swear I think I was channeling Vizma with the chatting. Even Aaron got a little of it. It was different but we went along with it anyway.

Tomorrow: San Gimignano and the first night of Florence. I'll add in more photos, I swear. I'm still sifting through the hundreds.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our Trip in a Nutshell (minus my photos) Part I


The flight: Yay, air travel upholds it's negative image. Our flight was delayed by about 3 hours. Thank goodness we got to the airport early!

Rome: We got to Rome and were disappointed. Rome's Fiumicino Airport looks pretty much the same way Newark does on the outside. Our first words were "Are we back in Jersey?" It kind of smelled the same way too.

We eventually got to the Hotel Flemming, somewhere on the northern side of the city. We were told northeast then northwest, I believe it is in the northwest. Anyhoo, we hit a little place to ear called Cafe Flemming and learned about a little thing called a coperto. This, in case you do not know is a cover charge to sit at a table. The charge can be anywhere from 1 Euro up to 25 Euro in some of the fancier, bigger, more touristy areas. Some places use a "No Coperto" sign as a draw to their restaurant. In the early evening we finally saw the Rome that we've been looking forward to. We started with a walking tour at the top of the Spanish Steps then made our way down to the Trevi Fountain. The Spanish Steps were over crowded but very pretty. I kind of like watching the chaos and crush of people milling around from the top. At the bottom, not so much. It kind of felt like NYC at 5:05 pm. Everyone has somewhere to go and you're in their way. The Trevi Fountain was actually really impressive. I adore the way the thing looks. I really felt like I could spend a few hours there taking it all in. This was the first time Aaron threatened to rub Pony out. I had already taken a few photos of Pony and he couldn't believe I was serious when I said I was going to make sure I got fun photos of him around Europe.

After the walking tour we boarded the tour bus to a restaurant with our tour group and we ended up making our first friends. Two Australians, Michelle and her husband Wayne. These two really rank up there with some of the nicest people we have ever met. We chatted on the bus to the restaurant and ended up sitting with them. They're a few years younger. They had been living in Toronto for the last two or three months (she was working there and he took a break from his job and went with her) and were taking a long deserved vacation before heading back home to Melbourne. On the drive back to the hotel we drove by some of the many fountains, the Angel's Castle, Santa Maria Maggiore, Basilica of St John Lateran, Piazza Navona as well as the Colosseum, all lit up. Beautiful.

Day Two- Rome: Our wake up call was at 6:00. We left the hotel at 7:15am. Mind you, we're still pretty jet-lagged at this point so we were hurting a bit. We started off at Vatican City. Spectacular and a bit disturbing. The place is really marvelous, but we couldn't help but notice all the missing male parts on the sculptures. Apparently, back in the day a Cardinal hacked them all off to discourage thoughts of lust. Why he aimed for the penises is beyond me (that was the disturbing part). You can't help but feel pretty minuscule while walking through the Vatican museum to get to the Sistine Chapel. In a matter of minutes you are up close to some of the most priceless works of art in history and I'm talking about the sculptures they have in some of the open spaces. I lost count of how many sculptures I've only admired in art books and here they were, right in front of my eyes. It's really overwhelming. Then you get into the corridors. Good Lord! The place is bursting with priceless works of art. It's actually difficult to take in one thing at a time. What hurts is that even the borders around the frescoes, ceiling paintings and normal paintings are spectacular. I kind of broke the law a bit when we got to the Sistine Chapel.
I video tapped inside. I got tsked at by a guard, but I just played dumb. I got most of it on video though. Yay me the rebel. I couldn't help it. I really couldn't it was too amazing. I think our favorite part of the chapel, however, is Michelangelo's "The Last Judgement" painting on the far wall. At the opposite side there are a set of large wooden doors to a throne room. This is where the Pope holds private audiences. Wayne, Michelle and I were standing right at the doors when we heard a rattling. A priest came out of the doors, and gave the three of us enough of an opportunity to look inside. I saw the very corner of the Pope's throne room. Awesome. I immediately drew what I saw.

St. Peter's Basilica: What can I say, the Catholics KNOW how to make a friggin church. I never knew that this is where Michelangelo's Pieta was. Seeing it in person almost made me tear up.

I was astounded that it's tucked away in a corner, on the right-hand side of the Basilica as you enter. AS for the rest of it, I can't even describe it. You really need to spend days to get a full appreciation of the place.

The Colosseum: I really wish we could have spent more time here. Sure my feet were throbbing by this point, but we only spent about an hour here. I would have liked to climb to the upper parts but we just didn't have the time. Aaron threatened to throw Pony into the pit. Still, he was a good sport and held pony for me. By this point others in the tour group started asking about Pony. I explained. They laughed. The Australian's took a photo with Pony which will eventually be posted on Facebook. FYI, they want to befriend Pony on FB.

The Forum: This was really cool. I really wish I had come here when I was in high school. Although I did very well in history, I think being there would have made learning everything much easier. Still, it's a humbling experience standing in the areas where so much history occurred.

Villa d'Este, Tivoli: This was really cool. The Villa used to be a home for a Cardinal who later became a Governor of the area. But the fountains in this place are really outstanding. Later in the evening we had dinner at a restaurant at the very top of a mountain and got a beautiful view of the city below. We met our second Australian couple and a father with his two sons (also Australian.) The father (Paul?) took the sons (Alex and David) out for a three week-long vacation in Italy and the couple, Shane and Samone are on vacation for about three monts!

Tomorrow: Orivieto and Siena

"There and Back Again"

I'm home. I promise I will put together full recap of the vacation and even post photos. There are many, many of new Pony photos to share. I just wanted to let yall know I'm back and happy to be home.