Saturday, July 4th 2009, 11:54pm (Rome Time)
Today we arrived in Rome. The airplane was mostly uneventful, although the girl sitting behind us fainted on the way to the bathroom and had to be given oxygen. While we were flying over France we were able to see the Alps, and some of the mountains were sticking up above the clouds. As we flew into Italy we could see the countryside...it mostly looked like the midwest, a bunch of farms, but huge- not broken up by small roads the way the farms in the midwest are.
When we got to the hotel B and I slept for about 5 hours until we were woken up by my MIL calling us about meeting them for dinner. Our hotel has a rooftop terrace restaurant with beautiful flowers and a great view of the rooftops of Rome.
After dinner B and I wandered around the neighborhood for a bit. We walked down to a public square where we saw a really old stone fountain with a fish-legged guy blowing a conch, and we passed the American embassy. We had some gelato at the gelateria across the street from our hotel.
Rome doesn't look as different as I thought it would be. If all the signs and graffiti weren't in Italian, we could be in Boston (especially given the narrow streets and cute restaurants everywhere). There are a few differences though- for one, everyone here drives either a really tiny car or a moped, which I think is great. I think if I lived in a place like this (where there are no scary SUVs bearing down on you on the highway) I would totally rock the moped. There are some unusual trees around that look like trees you would find in a Dr. Suess book, and the bathroom has a bidet in it. Other then that, the city is just old- there are ancient buildings and churches all over the place, and we passed a few ruins of old buildings. I wish I could read a bit of Italian, so I knew what I was looking at, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.
After we walked around for a couple of hours we went back to our room, where B promptly fell asleep again and I read for a couple of hours. The restaurant under our window had an accordion player, and at one point he started playing that song from the godfather, which was hilarious.
Tomorrow we do a tour of Ancient Rome (Colosseum, the Forum, etc) with a private guide, and we start off by going to Mass at a church that Michelangelo designed. I've never been to a mass before (or even inside a church) so it should be an interesting experience, even though I won't understand anything they say (B says he will explain it to me).
Friday, July 10th, 1:32pm (Croatia Time)
Well it's been almost a week since I've written, so I guess I have a lot to talk about. On Sunday we did a tour of ancient rome starting with Mass in a church. The mass we went to was actually in english. There was a lot of songs and singing and the priest gave a speech...honestly, I don't really see what people get out of going to church, it was mostly boring and singing along with songs about god. There was also some kneeling involved, but I just sat in my chair. The church was pretty awesome, and had great paintings all over the inside which I looked at while my mind was wandering.
Then we had an awesome tour of most of Rome with my in-laws, and a private car and tour guide. I can't even remember all we saw, so I guess i'll have to wait for the pictures to get everything...but we definitely saw the colosseum, the forum, circus maximus, the Trevi fountain, a bunch of other fountains, some churches, a bunch of Egyptian obelisks- I didn't know this, but something like 15 out of the 18 surviving Egyptian obelisks are in Rome, and I think we saw at least 8 of them while we were there. After napping for a few hours we went to dinner at a great italian restaurant and B and I split linguini with a veal sauce and another pasta dish with pesto. We had the most amazing Italian food throughout Italy...although I guess they would just call it “food.”
After dinner Sunday B and I decided to walk to all the tourist attractions that we deemed within walking distance of our hotel (which was the Marcella on Via Flavia). We walked for about 3 hours in total, and saw a Bernini fountain of Tritan, the Spanish steps, a big carved column that depicted the victory of some ancient roman emperor over some other place, the Trevi fountain again (This time at night so it was all lit up), the four seasons fountain and another big fountain.
Monday we did a Vatican tour with the in-laws. We saw one of the museums that had depictions of jesus from many different eras of art, a bunch of status that the church stole from Rome and Greece, and the Sistine chapel and st. peter's basilica. At St. Peter's they have a door that they only open every 25 years and then they seal up for the next 25 years, because if you walk through it you are supposedly washed clean of all your sins (kinda like in Dogma). I guess they wouldn't want people to be cleaned of their sins more often then that.... The Sistine chapel was awesome to see in person, but insanely crowded. The hallway there had a bunch of ancient roman maps of different areas of Italy and the rest of the roman empire, which were pretty neat. Our tour guide at the Vatican kinda sucked- my father in law is on oxygen and can't walk really fast, so I kept hanging back to make sure he didn't get lost in the crowd, but the tour guide would just talk to whomever could keep up with him, so I missed about half of what he said.
On the way to the Vatican we stopped at a church that supposedly has st. peter's chains, and also Michelangelo's famous status of Moses! The one that used to have rays of light coming out of the head, but then the rays broke off and were filed down to horns..this status is probably the reason a whole bunch of people think jews have horns. I was really excited to see that statue, since I didn't even know it was in Rome and it's one of my favorite statues (yes, I have favorite statues, what of it!). I got a little replica of it outside at a souvenir cart. All over Rome, the souvenir carts have little replicas of statues in some kind of stone, which are pretty cool.
Tuesday B and I took a solo trip to Naples and Pompeii. In Naples we drove around and saw some old castles and fortresses (and our cruise ship which was docked there). Then we stopped at a cameo factory where we saw a demonstration of how cameos are made and an artisan working on a cameo. The area by Naples and Pompeii is known for making cameos. I didn't get any of the jewelry cameos because they were all like $60 euro minimum, but we got a seashell that had a turtle carved into it that was less expensive (and I also collect turtles, so yay)
Pompeii was great. I knew it was a city but I guess I didn't expect it to look as much as a city as it did- all the buildings were attached to each other in long rows down the street, and very well preserved. We saw a temple of isis, the place where the gladiators trained, an auditorium, some shops, a few well preserved houses, a laundry, a whorehouse, the big public square, a public bathhouse, and the “Cave Canum” (beware of dog) mosaic. Speaking of dogs, there were stray dogs all over pompeii which were really cute, and a lot of them were just hanging out inside of the old buildings. We also saw a few of those petrified plaster bodies of course, including the dog one.
The trip was great but exhausting, and it was hot as balls outside for the 3 hours we were walking around. I kept refilling my water bottle from all the old fountains they have there that they have restored into working order, so that was cool- I drank from the same fountains as the citizens of pompeii did!
Wednesday we boarded our cruise, and yesterday we were at sea all day. Our balcony is farkin awesome. We are on the back of the boat, so we have a great view of all the stuff we pass, and we've spent several hours sitting out there and reading- so much that i've already gone through all my books, but awesomely there's a library on board with some good stuff. The food is also amazing. Last night was one of the formal nights, so they had extra fancy food- and I got to try Quail (with apricot stuffing, yum), and prawns (eh).
Yesterday morning we also passed a volcano- Stromboli- which has about 300 people living on it, which we found out when we went up to the observatory where there was a tour guide guy talking about it. We also passed through the straights of messina yesterday. We spent the day hanging around the ship- we went to a cooking class where they showed us how to make tomato sauce and mushroom sauce, and how to make homemade pasta, and we spent some time in the hottub, and ended up renting a movie at night (Finding Nemo). Our first night here we saw the movie Doubt in the movie theater on board, which we both really liked.
This morning we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where B and I went on another one of our solo trips- a kayaking tour around the edge of the city. We “tendered” to the pier, which means we anchored out at sea and took these little boats to the pier. When we were kyaking out in the sea,we saw some old fortresses and stopped at a cave with a beach, where I totally failed at my first attempt at snorkeling- the waves kept going over my snorkel and I kept breathing seawater. The two times I actually was down there for a bit I saw a couple of fish, which was awesome...I think the mouth piece was too big for my mouth which didn't help. But the kayaking was great, even though I was bumping up against my physical limits. I think we were some of the least in-shape people on that tour- we kept ending up near the back of the group with the young kids, and my arms were killing me by the end, even though we took frequent stops. We saw some people jumping off the cliffs, but did not attempt to do so.
Anyway, now we're back on the boat and we're about to go up to the front of the boat to take some pictures of Dubrovnik since we didn't take our cameras with us on shore. Tomorrow we will be in Corfu, Greece and Saturday we visit Olympia. I'll try to update more often now that we have internet access, since I don't think ya'll want to read long-ass entries like this one. :)