Thursday, May 21, 2015

La Dolce Vita!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Roma, The Eternal City! As a Catholic, Rome is the epicenter of our faith; our "Graceland" as it were (thanks to Laura for that one), so it definitely was on my bucket list. I love cities, and this one is at the top of my list: Romans are friendly and nicely-dressed (I liked that!), nuns and priests are commonplace on the streets (naturally), and the city oozes culture and history from every nook and cranny. The streets teem with visitors and residents alike, and I loved every minute of it.

This was one busy day for us, here we go!

Guy taking a picture with the Arch of Constantine (below) in the background...I wonder how it came out?!

I'M AT THE COLOSSEUM! IN ROME!!! Check out Carolyn laughing in the bomber! (or maybe she was laughing at my white socks with my shoes...still didn't have our luggage...)

The triumphal Arch of Constantine, built in 315 AD, sits between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill.

One of my first views of the Colosseum. We looked up. A lot. 

The amphitheater held over 50,000 spectators. Our guide reminded us that nothing good ever happened here; only combat and death. Since the floor is missing, you can see rooms and tunnels clearly. 

A panoramic view.

The Arch of Titus, looking towards the Forum. The inside reliefs show the "Spoils of Jerusalem". 

I'm not sure which of this is the remains of the Forum and/or Circus Maximus...they're difficult to picture when so much is brain and imagination were on overload! 

Ruins of a large home off the Via Sacra (Sacred Way), the main street in ancient Rome.

Continuing our walking tour...

The Altar of the Fatherland, the largest national monument in Italy.

Galleria Sciarra, an art nouveau hotel, near Trevi Fountain. We stopped here to regroup and get some history from Gloria (and we needed a few minutes rest as well!) 

Trevi Fountain was under construction, but we still got to throw our 3 coins in the (smaller) fountain!
Coin in the right hand, aim over the left shoulder, then wish and throw! We all did it, and it was good fun!

Moving toward the Piazza di Spagna...

Column of the Immaculate Conception, with statues of Isaiah and King David on this side. With the help of a crane, a fireman places a wreath of flowers at the top, on December 8.

Looking toward the Spanish Steps...yep...that is one crowded piazza! 

Now HERE'S a photo bomb I really enjoyed! Me and a couple young Italian guys, hamming it up (how'd I get so lucky?!)

Bernini's Fountain of the Ugly Boat, at the base of the Spanish Steps. Some young guys from Slovakia (I think?) struck up a conversation with us here, and they couldn't believe we didn't know their most famous athlete, who's featured on a euro. He kept saying (in a thick accent) "Are you kidding?" "You're joking, right?" Awkward. 

Laura bought some hot roasted chestnuts, and we shared. They were pretty darn good...weird consistency (like a firm potato), but interesting!

We took a walk down the Via Condotti, housing shops like Gucci, Bulgari and Prada. Check out all the flowers on the Steps in the background. 

All I could afford on the Via Condotti was a coffee! Coffee in Italy was fabulous, and I was determined to be a part of the "afternoon espresso scene"...locals purchase an espresso, down it in 3.25 seconds, and go! (there are no seats in a coffee bar, you're not supposed to stay that long) I had a cappuccino, which takes quite a bit longer to down, so I awkwardly stood there drinking as quickly as I could! (and the baristas were wearing tuxes!) 

Ok, whew, time for the hotel...for about an hour, then we were out to dinner!

A flower stand on the way "home"

Dinner on this night was with the Tenors; delicious and so entertaining!
Our bellies were full of food and drink, so there was only one thing we could do....
drink some more! (HEY, gimme a break, we're in Italy for cryin' out loud!)

We ended up in Robin & Carolyn's room (they always got the big rooms!) I'm using my new selfie stick that I bought by the Colosseum; the selfie-stick-sellers are relentless, even when I had one in my hand, they'd try to sell me another one, ugh!

I can't wait till my next entry, we're going to the VATICAN! 
I'm headed to North Dakota this weekend for a quick getaway with the hubby, but I'll see ya next week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Review of Pompeii (Not the Movie)

April 20, 2015

Before I start another installment, this is Gloria. We met Gloria at 1:30 in the morning in Sorrento, wearing her large, flower-framed glasses; she was relieved to see us smiling (she told us so), given the 48 hours that it took us to get there, and we were ecstatic to put the rest of the trip into someone else's hands. She was our expert tour guide, who gave us that "trip of a lifetime"; she was adorable, funny, giving, extremely knowledgeable, compassionate and kind. She taught us Italian and Greek, and that it's a mortal sin to cut spaghetti; she told us where to shop for the best quality and price, and took us to wonderful restaurants that were happy to cater to 37 people; she said things like (read this with an Italian accent) "Am I bein' cheeky? I don' care!" "Let me put this in brackets" and "The way we call it this way" (meaning the reason for something is...) She loves coffee and books and halloumi. She made me feel like I was living "I Love Lucy" when Lucy went to Italy, and we all fell in love with our new Italian friend.

Everyone say, "Hi Gloria!"

We departed Sorrento, headed for Rome, and made our scheduled stop in Pompeii. It was beautiful and haunting. 

Entering the city.

Marble columns of a temple (I forget which temple, there were so many!)

Temple of Jupiter, the main center of religious life in Pompeii, with Mt. Vesuvius looming in the background, 5 miles away.

No biggie. Just me & Foozer in a 2600 year old city ☺

So much has been discovered, so well-preserved!

Plaster body cast of a refugee. That's the haunting part.

An expectant mother, trying to shield her baby.
Excavating and labeling goes on continuously; we saw a young worker carrying some bones pieces out from one of the houses when we were there.  

Pretty sure this was a wine store in the marketplace. I'm serious!

A main city street. (ummm, that cafeteria looks newer, though, don't ya think?!)

A house? A store in the market? Sure! (when I took the photos, I was sure I would remember what every one was...)

The Forum baths. There were many bath houses, some with changing areas, latrines, pools and gymnasiums! 

How relaxing would this have been?! Beautiful!

The "frigidarium", for cold baths; the tepidarium was for warm baths, and the caldarium for hot ones. Makes sense!
And this is Roberto, our local guide in Pompeii. He's, smooth and in-shape! Must be wine contributing to his health! 

Bronze letters on the frigidarium's circular tub.

The caldarium, for a hot water plunge. (but I bet that marble was cold!)

The ruins were amazing, what an advanced civilization! The city was filled with houses, temples, roads, markets, government buildings, sculptures...and we only saw a fraction of it.

Just steps away, is modern Pompeii, but we enjoyed that, too. A beautiful hotel, restaurants, and shopping. 

We watched a cameo artisan working at Cellini Gallery, and I bought myself a little souvenir there! 

Sorry, this just cracked me up! It was in the shop among all the handcrafted jewelry!

Huge, luscious lemons everywhere! I had to buy some cold waters from the store owner before he'd let me take a picture! He's gotta make a living, eh?  

Next up, my favorite...Rome!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Trip of a Lifetime

If you'd been following our gang on Facebook, you know this trip had a rocky start. Our "Italy/Greece Gang 2015" started in Orlando whoopin' it up at the airport, ready for our big adventure. But it wasn't to be without incident: our flight from Orlando was detained 3 hours (they had to get a blow-dryer to dry the glue for the new part, no joke!), so we missed our connecting flight in Jersey, headed to Munich, by about 40 minutes. United Airlines told us that we had to book our own flight, even though there were 11 of us (no joke again!), and we still had another connection to make. Sooo...a stress-filled 90 minutes later we caught a flight: had no idea what would happen to our luggage, our layover in Munich was now going to be THIRTEEN hours, and we'd miss the first day of our tour. We sucked it up, made some calls, did some complaining, and prayed for luggage and a safe trip to our final destination of Naples. That didn't go so smoothly either...arriving in Naples at midnight, almost 48 hours after we started, there was no sign of our luggage. Sigh...we knew that was going to happen! When our luggage caught up 4 full days later, we were convinced the worst was behind us. But God, and maybe even the Greek gods, had a different plan. Our dear friend Brian, my friend through every life event for 34 years, passed away in Greece, 10 days into our tour. To say his that his death was devastating, especially so far from home, is an understatement; but his razor-sharp, acerbic wit stayed with us, and eventually allowed us to see the slightest bit of humor through our grief. He and I competed for attention is most everything we did (hard to imagine me being competitive, right?!), and he ultimately won; I'll forever remember that this trip was all about him ♥

So here we go!

The first day of our tour - at the Munich Airport! At least we got some fresh air in that 13 hours! But to be fair, there was tons of shopping and SO many places to eat! 

I have to share this...we finally landed in Naples, boarded a bus, and ended up at the airport, where I snapped this picture. WE BOARDED A BUS THAT DROVE US ABOUT 300 FEET! We were exhausted, exhilarated and hysterical when we got off that 4 second bus ride!

We were driven to our hotel in Sorrento, on cliffside roads with amazing night views! After a restful 4 hours sleep for all of us, we hit the ground running! (in the same clothes we'd been wearing since Friday...)

First stop, Capri! We boated around the island, peering in the caves and grottos. 

See the littler fisherman?

The water colors were amazing!

We took a funicular ride to the top of the island for this view! 

Thankful we didn't have to walk this...

We all snapped this same shot, it was breathtaking!

We left Capri, and ran around Sorrento to buy some clothes for our dinner at an Italian farmhouse that evening. Not the best idea...clothes were either touristy t-shirts or very expensive local clothing. We settled for touristy!

Our walk down a longggg stone staircase, carved into the side of the mountain, headed for dinner. 

We were not disappointed; apperitivos, appetizers, pastas, salads, main course, and dessert! And best of all...a warm, knowledgeable sommelier who filled (and refilled!) our glasses with organic wines made on the farm! Heaven!

I'll be back with more on Italy later this week!

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