Friday, December 24, 2010

Oh, and one more thing . . .

Merry Christmas!

I am so happy that today is today!  I am SO excited for tomorrow!  (I almost feel like my kids!) : )

I LOVE Christmas, and I love my decorations, my trees (first year with a kids' tree and a "real" tree (aka, Mommy's tree)--I LOVE having all the decorations the kids made or picked out on one, and the fragile, pictures-through-the-years on the other!), the food, the snow (or lack thereof--very sad this year!), the lights, the secrets, hanging out with all of the family we love, the mysterious packages under the tree, but especially the Reason.

I hope you all have an incredible Christmas Season--enjoy every little moment!

Much Love!

Favorite Shopping Moment

Granted, this happened a few weeks ago, but it was funny then.

Still is.

So here you go:

Me: "Do these boots come in half sizes?"

Sales clerk: "What size are you looking for?"

Me: "9 1/2"

Sales clerk:  "I'm sorry, those don't come in halfs."


Thanks for the laugh, Random Sales Girl.  You've made my day lighter!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On our way home!

We had a few hours in the morning before our flight back to Barcelona (and then home), so we visited our favorite graffiti site:

The Colosseum again, of course (another good part about not being on the cruise!  Our excursion from the cruise would have given us a good fifteen minutes here.  On our own, we got four different visits, a complete tour, multiple angled pictures . . . . totally worth it!)

One more lunch at a sidewalk cafe, one more gelato eaten on the steps of Piazza della Republica, . . .

And it was arrivederci a Roma!

(ok, so this picture is really northeastern Canada, but I forgot to take pictures earlier!)

A totally incredible, amazing adventure that we will never forget!

Last Full Day in Rome!

On our first night here, after seeing the Colosseum, we headed off down a wrong road.  We saw this monument and wanted to document it in the daylight : )  It's a memorial for 9/11, which completely surprised and amazed me.  How incredibly cool of Rome to create a memorial for the Twin Towers, Roman style, of course!  The plaque in the middle reads (roughly translated):  

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  
Pro Memoria
In memory of the victims of the tragedy at 
New York and Washington 
on September 11, 2001.  
The city of Rome 
for the peace against every form of terrorism.

Cool, huh?

As this was our last full day in Rome, there were a couple little things on the list of major to-do's that we hadn't done yet.  We went across the street from the 9/11 Memorial to Circus Maximus.  Seriously cool.  To be walking on that ground, where 2000+ years ago were chariot races . . . awesome!!!  We went to La Boca Della Verita, to see if we got to keep our hands, back to our favorite gelato stop at the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain again, the Spanish Steps again . . . all beautiful and romantic and SO AMAZING!!!!  BAH!!!  Still couldn't believe we were in Rome.  ROME, BABY!!!!  awesome.

Roma (Day 6)

Today we took a tour of St. Peter's cathedral, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Square. (not in that order) : )  This was a very disappointing tour, but the Sistine Chapel was so emotionally overpowering for me that it all worked out!  We were actually in line for the Vatican Museum when we discovered (via on Dave's phone!) that President Monson was in town, presiding over the groundbreaking ceremony for the Rome Temple.  Had we known where the temple site was, we definitely would have wandered over there.  As it was, we had no idea except for a general direction, and Rome being the sprawling metropolis that it is, didn't want to ask a cab to wander with us. : )

So, after entering the Vatican (who had a staircase that looked like the exterior of the Guggenheim--go figure!), we saw some cool views of St. Peter's, the Court of the Pinecone (including a larger-than-life-size pinecone! Ha!), some amazing original sculptures--Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa, Laocoon and His Sons, a room built around a swan bathtub (for Nero's Palace, of course), tapestries from the 1600s--seriously?  Can you believe they're still intact?  Let alone hanging? That's some seriously fine craftsmanship!

After eternity (albeit an awe-inspiring one!) we finally descended the stairs to the Sistine Chapel.  Words simply cannot express what it was like to be in that room.  It's smaller than I had imagined, even though the benches are taken out and it's completely open.  To be there, looking at The Creation, The Judgement; knowing that Michelangelo himself had been in that very room for hours on end, stretching his imagination and creativity to the breaking point, the ancient technology that had gotten him there, on the scaffolding . . . the concept, ideas, and philosophies behind why he painted what he did . . . it was truly incredible.  We were there for a mere fifteen minutes, and I was brought to tears three different times.  [Now, for future travelers:  ditch your tour guide here.  Stay as long as you want, they're not going to show you anything else of interest.  (ie, what we should have done!) : )  Oh well, it was wonderful!]

Our tour ended in front of St. Peter's, and we went inside to wander around.  I didn't realize that Michelangelo's Pieta was in the cathedral, so was taken aback when we turned right inside the entrance and there it was!  Absolutely incredible in person.  Beautiful and emotional in a picture, a hundred times that face to face!

St. Peter's was overwhelming again, and probably more to the size and sheer monstrosity of it.  The tombs of the Popes, the shrines dedicated to them, the altar . . . the absolute volume of it all.  Wow.

Oh!  We did find out the mystery of the padlocks--seems that if you are truly in love, and want to prove it, you write your names (or something romantic if you wish) on a padlock (or don't write anything, apparently it doesn't matter!), attach it onto something at a romantic location (such as the Ponte Sant' Angelo (Bridge of Angels), or a statue, or the fence at Fiesole overlooking Florence), and throw the key into the river (or olive grove at Fiesole), thus proving you are "locked" together for eternity . . . or the padlocks get cut off by local authorities . . . or whatever.  Google it if you want to see some serious dedication! : )

So after lunch outside St. Peter's, we found Castel San'Angelo.  A medieval castle with replicas of the battle armor, swords and weaponry, state rooms, and incredible views of St. Peter's and the Tiber River.  (For those Angels and Demons fans out there, yes, this is the secret lair for the Hassassin, and there is indeed a secret passageway to the Vatican from here.  It isn't underground, however--it's on top of a wall!  Not very sneaky, but I guess it served its purpose!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Finalmente, arriviamo a Roma!  Arriving early in the evening, around 5:30-ish, we decided to hit a cathedral just for fun, accidentally joined a mass, found my bookstore (who knew!?!) and had some delicious dinner (my favorite appetizer every--focaccia and a salad of arugula, baby mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes . . . yummmmmm!), were serenaded by an accordion player, then decided to walk towards the Colosseum.

Down one street, across to another, and as it rounds the corner, our collective breath was taken away!  Words simply cannot describe how incredibly AWESOME the Colosseum is.  And I mean that in EVERY sense of the word!  It is overpowering, amazing, and . . . WOW.  Honestly, I couldn't speak.  I was doing pretty well to just breathe.  Dave and I were both so astounded at the sheer magnitude . . . not to mention that it was all lit up and there was a full moon--AMAZING!!!  We wouldn't have seen it this way on the cruise!  We had a tour the next morning that went inside and around the Roman Forum.  We couldn't wait!

So, next morning we set off, find our tour, and head around and into the Colosseum.   And we thought you couldn't add any more superlatives to describing this amazing structure, we found more.  From seeing the senate seats, the second story, the animal cages, the spot where the Emporer's throne was . . . Ho. Lee. Cow.  It was SO INCREDIBLE!!!!  Definitely top ten of our favorite parts of this trip!

I know, we look super-giddy and not-a-little dorky, but please bear with us--we were a little excited. : )  So after the Colosseum, we went to Constantine's Arch (did you know most of the sculptures on that arch were stolen from other monuments around the city?  Apparently not having any sculptors you like living nearby allows you to "borrow" sculptures you liked for your archway . . . hmmmmm)  Palantine Hill was another incredible spot--the place where the Emporer's Palace once stood.  (Yeah, I live next door to the Colosseum.  The monstrous castle?  yeah, that's mine.  Want to come watch chariots race in my private rotunda?  We could hang out at my personal spa after . . . ) The Roman Forum was next, topped by a visit (and picture, of course!) of the alter where Caesar was cremated.

Yeah, we were there.

Non-stop amazement!!!

For those of you who want to hear the nitty-grittys, I'll tell you about my fountain obsession in Rome--not the big ones, mind you, although those are pretty famous too.  They have THE COOLEST drinking fountains!  I only took a couple hundred pictures of them, according to Dave.  They'll have their own spread in the photo book, just in case you're curious. ; )

Back to Rome:  There are some 20-odd obelisks made at this time period, and Rome has 13 of them.  Each is in front of a majorly important cathedral (Demons and Angels-style), or piazza.  I think we saw nine of them!  Not going to bore you with an obelisk collage, just know they are cool and some of them have hieroglyphics on them.  However, they don't say anything, just pretty pictures.  Funny, I know.  Welcome to ancient architecture!  Kind of like us, where if it looks cool, we don't care if it means anything. : )  We walked to the Piazza del Popolo to meet our afternoon tour.  (Note to future Rome-visitors:  This is the group to go with!  Both of our tours from this company were fantastic.  The other company we used was VERY disappointing.  Do not use "When In Rome."  blech. blech. blech.)  Our second tour was just six of us--sweet!  We went down the Street of the Baboon, so named for this hideous sculpture (also named, The Baboon):

Gross, huh?  Yeah, I think so too.  It's funny, though, because all the shops along this street are part of a Baboon Association, committed to preserving the legacy.  They even have signs:

So anyway, to make a long story shorter, we went on to see the Spanish Stairs (funny, because they were built by a Frenchman, made famous by Englishmen (authors like Byron and Shelly, Keats, and such--double bonus for us English majors!), yet somehow are called Spanish . . . go figure!), the palace of Barberini, the Trevi Fountain (yaay!!!), the Piazza Navona and Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), and last but definitely not least, the Pantheon.  Another amazingly incredible building--current architects still cannot figure out how it stands.  They have entered the data and measurements of the Pantheon into the AutoCad system (which as I understand it, is designed for structures and figuring out how to build buildings of certain proportions--you architects out there may correct me!) and this state-of-the-art, modern computer system says that a building of this proportions cannot stand.  The center of it is empty, the only support being the exterior walls.  The concrete that makes up the ceiling grows lighter and more porous as it reaches the top of the building, until the part right around the oculus is pumice.  It is exactly the same height as it is wide (142 ft), and Raphael is buried there.  Not surprisingly, there is a piazza outside with an obelisk.  : )