Saturday, October 30, 2010

The first several days of Italy

Italy Day 1
October 23-24

Our trip starts with delays in Dallas. Strong storms across the area cause our inbound plane to divert to Houston instead of coming to Dallas. We do eventually leave, but at 7:30 Pm instead of 4:20. You can already see the problems that we are destine to encounter with connections in Frankfurt Germany, but we were optimistic that they would be able to make up some of the time in the air. They did not make up enough time and we had the pleasure of spending a bit of extra time in Germany before going on to Venice.

We flew on Lufthansa. This was a first for us. The flight crew was very nice. The seats uncomfortable and a bit smaller than Continental. In flight entertainment not as good as Continental. The food, not so good. The great point was that we were in a row with 4 seats and there were only 3 of us, but that does not mean that we got much rest on the flight, but I was grateful for the extra leg room.

International Airports are very interesting to me. We complain so much in the US about needing nice and new, but in Europe it is about making do with what you have. The Frankfurt Airport is torn up in a variety of areas. It is very gray and ugly with no bright pieces of artwork around. They also have these glass smoking rooms every so often that do not keep in the smoke very well. We also used air stairs in Germany, and a shuttle to the terminal. I think this was a first for Brighton. The great thing about that airport was the comfortable chairs. Both Brighton and Kelly were able to stretch out across three and get a several hour nap.

Our plane ride to Venice was uneventful, a bit late (it was on time landing, they are just not in a big hurry in Germany to get the planes loaded) and the pilot really liked the brakes when we landed. The new Airport in Venice is very nice and we were so pleased to see that both of the bags that we checked made the trip with us.

When we finally did arrive in Venice, it was a bit after 6PM, raining and getting dark. We headed for the waterbus (not wanting to spend the extra money on a water taxi – mistake) and were off to the island. Once we finally made it to our stop we had quite the adventure finding our hotel in the rain, walking on back streets that were poorly labeled. We did finally make it there by about 7:45 after being worried that we would spend the night out in the rain. After settling into our nice tiny room, we found the energy to go out and get a bit to eat. We all had Pizza and Gelato, walked about an hour and then went back to the hotel and had wonderful showers! We were all glad to be in bed, even if we had not seen as much as we had planned for day 1.

Italy Day 2
October 25, 2010

We are up and out early after a quick breakfast of pastries at the hotel. We start by taking a ride down the Canal from the Rialto Bridge to San Marco. We head to St. Mark’s square, take a few pictures and then to the Doge Palace. After we are done with this, we come out to a flooded square and a very long line to St. Mark’s Basilicas. We decide to ride awhile on the canal and end up back at the Rialto Bridge after a short walk and adventure in the rain (yes, a cold rainy day in Venice). We end up having pizza again by our hotel. It is safe and we will all eat it. After this we are tired of maps and decide to just try and get lost going back to St Mark’s square. We have a great time shopping and winding down street after street. Many of the streets are very narrow and crowded. I am glad I live where there are wide open spaces. After seeing the grand church we do spend the day walking and shopping. We end up finding a street side eatery that has crepes, so it is ham and cheese crepes for dinner. More shopping, a trip on the canal to the train station to see where it is and then a nice walk back to the hotel. Only problem with our evening walk was the heavy rain that soaked us all to our underwear before we had more gelato and got back to the hotel.

Weather today – cold with rain, should have packs a warmer shirt and I am glad to have my gloves!

Day 3
October 26, 2010

We are at the train station early to get on the 0827 train to Rome. We leave a cold, wet Venice on time without any problems. It is sure much easier to get to the train station than the Airport.

We arrive in Rome about 1230, head to the TI and grab our Roma Pass and a map. Then take a taxi to the hotel. It was a short trip but the traffic is crazy. No one follows any rules and sometimes there are 2 lanes and sometimes 3. We are glad to make it alive to our hotel which is close to a Metro station. After getting checked in and unpacked again we are off to explore and find a bit of food. We find a Pizza place that looks good and enjoy more Pizza. I know that you are all surprised by our selection in food. We will not starve as long as we can find a pizza place, but Kelly really wants to try the pasta too. After a late lunch, we head back to the train station. We went on the Metro for the first time, which was bit, confusing and harder than the Metro in Paris to figure out, but we now have it down. At the train station, we found a double decker bus tour to go on and get a quick orientation to the city. It was fun, but cold and of course we were sprinkled on a bit. I have decided that I really did not pack enough warm clothes. The high today in Rome was only 63 and down to about 50 by the time we made it back to the hotel. We took the suggestion from the doorman at the hotel and tried a restaurant around the corner. Traditional Roma food – Brighton and Kelly both liked their dishes, I should have ordered the Pizza.

Our hotel shower and bed feels great again.

Day 4
October 27, 2010

Today was a very busy day. We started with a great American breakfast at our hotel. I am already sad that we will miss breakfast both Saturday and Sunday. We decide to try to navigate the streets on our own and instead of taking the Metro to the stop across from the Colosseum. I think that it would be great to go and see the Peter in Chains church on our way, but the streets beat us (they do not label well in Venice or in Rome) and we just end up at the Colosseum to start the day. Brighton says this is his favorite site so far. It really is amazing. Our next stop is Palatine hill and the Forum. Then up to Capitol Hill and walk all around the Victor Emmanuel Monument and enjoy the 360 degree views of the city. It is then the walk to the Pantheon and finding lunch. I bet you can guess what we had, yes Pizza. It is safe and reliable. After the Pantheon we head to the Trevi Fountain. On the way there we see all the sites that Rick Steve’s is kind enough to point out on his guided walk. We continue our adventure to the Spanish Steps. This is a site that Brighton is completely bored with and finds no pleasure. We give into his begging and head back to our hotel via Metro for a break. After a bit of rest we are ready to head to the Nation Museum of Rome to see the greatest collection of Roman sculpture anywhere, along with the largest coin collection in the world. You can guess that we were through the Museum in record time and finally to see St Peter-in-chains. It looks like an easy walk on the map, but it was long and our feet are tired. We do finally find this well hidden site. It has Moses by Michelangelo and was worth the hunt. We then catch the Metro at rush hour over to the Hard Rock cafĂ©. We all had wonderful and expensive hamburgers. I do miss my Texas food! We are back to the hotel fairly early, with our feet propped up!

Day 5
October 28, 2010

We started out a bit later today, having to be at the Vatican Museum for a guided tour by 11Am. The 3 hour tour was wonderful, looking at faith and the role it played in the artwork at the Vatican. We of course visited the Sistine Chapel and finished the tour at the St. Peter’s Basilica. The tour was lead by a nun and her mother superior, dressed in green robes. We then found time for lunch, Pizza again at a little place around the corner and on the way to Castel Sant’Angelo. It was a stairmaster workout for sure, but offered some great views of the city. We went back to our hotel to prop up our feet for a bit, and are ready for a night walk across the city to see the sites lit up. We start our walk at the Coloseum, then to the Pantheon, were we had a nice dinner of pasta and true Italian food. We then found some gelato before heading to the Trevi fountain a bit of shopping and back to the metro. We made it back to the hotel by 11pm and are off to bed after another exhausting day.

Day 6
October 29, 2010

We got off to a late start with no specific plans; just enjoy some of the minor sites. We start out at the Circo Massimo, where great chariot races were once held. Today they are doing some sort of Army display and it heavily guarded with a number of army vehicles. There are huge trucks, helicopters and giant generators. It does help one to realize the true scale of the place and that the track was pretty long for those races. We then head across the river to see the area known as the Trastevere. There is a fabulous church in this area call Santa Maria in Trastevere. The art work is amazing; they know how to build churches in Europe for sure. We then see a place call the Villa Farnesina. It is an amazing Renaissance villa decorated with Raphael paintings. We take time out to eat Pizza at a Rick Steve’s suggested hole in the wall. It was very good! We spend part of the afternoon just wondering around getting lost in this area and then went on our first public bus in the city. It was very nice and easy to navigate. We took it part way and then got on the Metro, were we were able to see real pickpockets in action, but they did not get us! We walked from the Piazza Del Popolo down to the Spanish Steps, seeing the expensive shopping area of town and noticing that everyone seems to smoke here. It does seem to be worse than the other days and we are more on guard for thieves today in general. We continue to wonder the streets until Brighton is about to bust and we have to find a restroom. We stop in and have some very good and very expensive gelato. We wonder a bit more before making it back to the hotel where we are glad to put our feet up and start organizing our stuff to prepare for our trip home. Brighton is really missing his bed, but is glad to be here.

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