Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Minnesota enjoyed a White Christmas this year. We've had a couple of fairly big snowfalls. Now that we are retired and don't have to drive in it every day at 6 AM, it really is beautiful! Since Christmas day, we've had some very warm temperatures and have lost about 5 or 6 inches of snow already. Not to worry - it's Minnesota and we know we'll get plenty more.
Our holiday festivities included several family gatherings. Of course, having the grandkids around brings lots excitement and this year we had some big announcements as well --
Sarah and Pete will be adding a new little one to our crew of grandkids in July!! Yipee -
Jill (my niece) and Jake will be getting married! Yahoo -
As we look into the new year, these two events will be highlights & we will continue to use our new found time to explore the countryside!
This week we are heading to Mille Lacs Lake to visit our good friends John and Grace. Lowell and John will do some ice fishing for sure, although the reports from the lake have been slow. In mid-January, which is right around the corner, we will hit the road and travel south to visit friends and family in Florida, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Right now our schedule is pretty loose - we plan to be home for the High School Hockey Tournament in early March.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cancun Adventures

Our week in Cancun with the Theissens went so quickly! What a beautiful spot - even with windy, cloudy "winter" weather, we were able to get a little bit of color. Between a tour booked through the resort and the public transportation system we were able to get around the area and enjoy the local culture, food and shopping.
On Tuesday, we traveled south of Playa Del Carmen to the Mayan ruins at Tulum. Tulum was a walled city on a bluff overlooking the Caribbean. It was an active trade center from about 1200 AD to the early 1500's. The people of this area were obsessed with astronomy and calendars. The main building, El Castillo, was built with a small window that directed the suns rays into the Temple of the Frescos on the days of the solstice and equinox. The rays then illuminate beautiful fresco art on the walls. The Mayan civilization is noted for the only known, fully developed, written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as its art, architecture and mathematical and astronomical systems. The city was abandoned when the European explorers brought new diseases into the indigenous people. It wasn't discovered again until the mid-1800's, when it had been overgrown by jungle. Most of the artifacts are in museums in England and France. At the end of our visit to the ruins, we walked along the wall and found lots of 2 to 2 1/2 foot iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks.
After Tulum, the bus took us a few kilometers north to Xel-Ha' - a huge water park on a lagoon. The park centers around a big salt water lagoon. There are 3 or 4 restaurants and a few more bars and snack shops. Your entrance fee includes all you can eat or drink at the restaurants, snorkeling, hiking and a large hammock area for resting! We spent most of our time snorkeling - it was Diane's first experience and she did great! We saw lots of fish - striped fish, yellow fish, blue fish, big fish, little fish! Jeanie & Joel loaned us an waterproof camera so we can share a few pictures.
We took advantage of our time in Mexico to sample lots of local food and restaurants as well. In addition to great margaritas and cervesas just about everywhere we went, three restaurants really stood out - the Captain's Cove, where an alligator named "Willy" cruises the side of the dining deck and gets fed by the waiters - rib bones, fish leftovers and more! Willy is about 7 feet long - and he eats really fast!!!
Another evening we went with Rick's brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Marlene, to Locanda Paolo, an Italian restaurant in downtown Cancun. We had everything from shrimp and conch to fresh clams and linguine, calamari and fresh Italian sausage. A great meal and great atmosphere - Paolo, the owner and chef was so nice and visited our table a couple of times to be sure we enjoyed our dinner. Perico's was the other great restaurant. It was a fun evening - one of those places with "participatory" entertainment - dancing and singing and balloon art! The appetizer was called Molecajete - beef tips in sauce and cheese served in a stone pot! It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious - esta rico! Then we shared an order of chicken fajitas - and brought home leftovers! Diane and Rick have more pictures to add to this group - I'll share them in the next few weeks. And again - a great big GRATIAS to Rick and Diane for inviting us to share the week with them.
It was a wonderful week and I know we both want to visit those warm Caribbean waters again some day! Feliz Navidad!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hola Amigos!

We've arrived in Cancun Saturday afternoon and were greeted by 80+ degrees. Since it
was about 15 degrees and snowing when we left MN we had a bit of adjusting to do - not to worry though! A couple of margharitas and nachos grande put us in a vacation frame of mind quickly!

On Sunday we took the ferry to Isla Mujeres, a small island just northwest of Cancun. There we rented a golf cart and toured the island! Golf carts share the road with cars and trucks and motorcycles. We spend a couple of hours in a Garrafon, a natural reef park on the very end of the island. The restaurant there was closed because they were hosting a wedding, so we saw the guests arriving and even saw the bride on the road after we left - she and her Mom and Dad were making their entrance in --- a golf cart!!! Yup. She was gorgeous and I'm guessing that it was a spectacular wedding. The park is the eastern most land of Mexico - the place where the sun first touches Mexico every morning! Wonderful views.

As we continued on our way, we stopped at a little bar that boasted "Beer so cold it'll make your teeth hurt". Well, none of us suffered, but the beer was very good. We sat at a table next to a sign telling us we were 89 miles from Cuba! Then we had nachos and margharitas at a little bar on the beach in the downtown area. Isla Mujares is a really great little spot - less busy and less fancy than Cancun.

Today we spent most of the day by the pool, everyone is now recovering from all the sun. Later we'll probably head out to a little bit of shopping and dinner on the marina. Our villa is wonderful! We have great views of the ocean from our bedroom windows and the deck. The ocean is that amazing turquoise color.
Tomorrow we are heading down to the Mayan ruins at Tulum and to a park name Xal-Ha (I think!). Just wanted to try to upload a few pictures and share some of this wonderful adventure with you. I'm not sure how many pictures I'll get uploaded right now, but it'll give you a taste and we'll share more when we get home.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

We hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving weekend!
We certainly have much to be thankful for - our family, friends and a healthy retirement top the list, and there certainly is much, much more. We are blessed.
We've had a nice week with visitors from California and Tennessee. Last week several of Lowell's cousins came to Minnesota for the internment of their mother, Aunt Eunice. She was buried with her husband in North St. Paul. While these occasions are sad and difficult, it was good time for healing, sharing and reconnecting - and we made the most of our time together! We shared Thanksgiving dinner at Kim and Tom's house and then had a fish fry at our house on Friday night. Dawn, Alex and I participated in the shopping craziness of Black Friday at the Mall of America, and the card games were plentiful at 15th Avenue!
Today the California group heads for the west coast - it's been a very nice visit.

One week from today, we head to Cancun with Rick and Diane. Wow, gotta start planning for that! and then when we get home there's less than 2 weeks until Christmas... whew, this retired road is a busy one!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First Snow

Saturday, November 8th, the MN deer opener, marked the first snow in Hackensack for the 2008 season. The last snow here was on May 10th - the fishing opener and the day we put the dock in!
We arrived on Wednesday, the 6th, to prepare for the deer hunting season and get the cabin cozied up for winter. It’s very quiet here in lake country at this time of the year.
We’ve had a trail camera out behind the cabin along with salt and mineral blocks and some corn. There is a doe and her two young ones who have been visiting us periodically all summer. They have been here several times a day in the Fall, but when the snow and colder weather arrived they are not as frequent. We also have plenty of birds around – the big ol’ “pillyheaded woodpeckers” in addition to red-bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers, goldfinches, “nutch-hats”, blue jays, purple finches and pine siskins to name a few. The squirrels are still busy too. I decided I’ve gone over the edge – when we arrived Lowell got busy turning the water on and I filled all the bird feeders…before I even started to unload the car!!! Geez---
Lowell, Joel and Al went hunting on Saturday and Sunday – in the cold and wind and snow! They saw deer, but didn’t shoot anything. Al stayed until Tuesday, so he and Lowell went out again on Monday and Tuesday – the weather was much nicer, but the results were the same. Lowell worked on getting the rest of the loft sheetrocked - it looks so much better. We also did some driving on the Woodtick Trail in the Chippewa National Forest - Lowell is exploring other hunting areas for next year. I'd love to do some hiking there in the spring.
So, what do I do all day? Well, I’ve read 5 books, taken walks with my camera, done some clean up on the laptop (I have lots of digital pictures that need sorting and labeling), some Christmas craft projects and a little local shopping.
Now we're home for a few weeks. We'll celebrate Thanksgiving with the Schumacher cousins and then on December 6th we leave for a week in Cancun with the Theissens - Retirement is beginning to feel real –

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dock Out

Another chapter in "cabin life" closed today. We have taken the dock out of the water, stacked the firewood, and put away the pontoon, boat, kayaks, lawn chairs and lawn mower. This is always a bittersweet weekend. It's sad to pull the dock out and know that the next fishing will be through the ice!
We spent the past 6 days up there getting things ready - we owe a big Thank You to Sarah, Pete and Al for helping with the dock and lift. Now we get ready for the colder season, including a couple of deer hunting weekends, some ice fishing and then maybe some other winter activities - cross country skiing, sledding and maybe snowmobiling.
The critters were busy getting ready for winter too - the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and deer all seemed to be really, really hungry. We put the "Trail Camera" on a tree out by the driveway and got pictures of deer feeding out there every night.
Once again we are reminded how lucky we are, not only to have the cabin, but to be able to stay up there for several days at a time and enjoy the peace and quite of the north country!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Colors of Fall

After a couple of very quick days at home, we headed up to Hackensack to spend 5 days at the cabin with our good friends Karen and Doug.
October in the north country is absolutely awesome! The colors of the leaves actually changed while we were there - to a brilliant riot of yellows, reds and golds all around us. The temperatures were cool but we still were able to have coffee on the deck most mornings. Doug and Lowell did a little fishing, we took a boat ride, played cards, and took several long walks. We even met up with a grouchy porcupine on the Hiram Hiking Trail!
We are so lucky to be able to enjoy this beautiful time of the year at the cabin. The next trip will be to take the dock out and get ready for deer hunting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Planes, trains and automobiles

One of the many highlights of this journey was using different kinds of public transportation and mass transit in Europe. That, and the "interesting" roads, should one choose to drive a car!
Airplanes - This was pretty easy - planes are the same the world over. Airports, however, are another story. We flew from MSP to Heathrow in London. Heathrow has few, if any, signs to direct us to the bus stops, thank goodness Dan knew the we, or we'd probably still be looking for a bus! The Amsterdam airport is HUGE. Once our plane landed, it taxied for 15 to 20 minutes - over freeways and rivers - and finally dropped us off at a bus outside the cargo terminal. Then we took the bus for another 10 minutes to get to the passenger terminal.
Trains - The Eurail Pass is a great way to travel. Trains vary in age and amenities, but we were comfortable and got to see lots of the countryside. The overnight train between Florence and Munich was a new train. We had sleeping cabins with bunk beds and even had a small toilet and shower in ours. Obviously you didn't see much and sleeping was a little rough going through the mountains. The train from Luxembourg to Paris was a "fast" train, the kind you see in the movies. After a couple of stops at the beginning of the trip it started really moving - Lowell figured it was probably going 160 mph or more. Didn't gaze out the window much with that one!
Subways/Underground trains - every city we were in had them and they were great. You just need to be sure that you get on the train traveling in the right direction! Some trains were really crowded - like going to Oktoberfest! But it was an easy and efficient way to get places.
Streets in the cities are narrow!! I mean really, really narrow! I couldn't believe that you could drive 2 cars on some of these streets - but they do. And usually there are pedestrians, bikes and motorcycles on the street too! I really didn't get very many pictures of traffic - I guess when we were walking we had to pay attention to staying out of the way! The autobahns are busy and much like our freeways, except faster. Thanks to Dan, Tom and Laura for their wonderful driving skills.
Buses are usually crowded but another pretty quick way to get through the traffic and to your destination.
Everyone - young and old - rides bikes! We saw 70 or 80 year old men & women, young kids, women in business suits, pedaling down the streets with a basket of groceries, wine, books, etc. In France (and Italy and Germany too, I think) there are bike stands on every other block where you check out a bike and return it to another bike rack somewhere else in the city. The only problem is, you have to have the courage to share the narrow streets with French drivers!
We never got into a boat or used horse carts - both were options at one point or another.
Driving was truly an adventure. Both Dan and Tom had Garmin navigators which we used when while driving and sometimes walking. If you've followed Luara's blog, you'll know her as Miss B. We usually listened to her directions and always ended up where we wanted to be. Do you know that Miss B can find a Pizza Hut in Luxembourg? And if you follow her directions for pedestrians, well, we found a really cute little area with no street lights! She also guided us through some wonderful French vineyard areas, there we shared the roads with the tractors.

We used all kinds of transportation, but our most frequent and most reliable was walking! It was a great way to see and feel the cities. We walked and climbed to the top of domes, mountains, castles, & hills. We used a pedometer for a couple of days (until we lost it on a bus!). One day we clocked over 27,000 steps - that was not our biggest day of walking either. Figuring about 2000 steps per mile......

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Home, Safe and Sound!

After 3 weeks on the road, Lowell, Mickey and I got home this evening. Dan is in Singapore for a couple more days and of course Laura and Tom are in Toulouse for a few more months!

This was our last European sunset - from the deck at Tom and Laura's flat.
We got up about 8 this morning, packed and walked to the bakery down the street for croissants. Then Laura gave us a ride to the airport. We left Toulouse at noon, flew to Amsterdam and caught a 3:20 PM flight to MSP. All of our connections went very well - including negotiating the huge Amsterdam airport. The plane taxied for 20 minutes before letting us off - at the cargo terminal! Then we took a bus to the main terminal, went through a passport check and another security check, and onto the plane. We landed in Minneapolis at 5:30 MN time (12:30 AM Toulouse time!) It's now about 4 AM in Touloluse - time for us to crash. Can't wait to look at pictures and share a few more adventures with you - but not tonight!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's been a crazy week - we left Garmisch last Tuesday, spent 2 days in Munich, one day traveling to Luxembourg via Primstal, and one day traveling to Toulouse by train via Paris! Check Laura's blog for our Oktoberfest pictures.
Since we've been to Toulouse we have been walking around the city quite a lot - great open air markets and lots to see here. We also spent an afternoon in Lourdes. The churches and monuments there are wonderful - the town is another story! Yesterday we drove to the Mediterranian - Tom, Lowell and I braved the chilly water. After lunch at a little seaside cafe, we drove to the city of Carcassone - a fascinating medival castle.

I'll try to post more about those places after we get home - we are heading out to walk to Laura's favorite park in Toulouse and then this afternoon we'll drive somewhere. Tom went back to work today, so we'll meet him for Happy Hour this evening. Tomorrow we leave - first a flight from Toulouse to Amsterdam - then Amsterdam to MSP. We have so many great stories and memories, I could probably blog everyday for the next month! I won't do that, but I will try to fill in some of the pieces - food, transportation, etc.
It's been a wonderful 3 weeks - I can't thank Dan & Mickey and Laura & Tom enough for all their guiding and hospitality. See you all stateside soon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Home Sweet Apartments!

Guten Tag! Well, get yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or a bottle of beer - I'm thinking this blog might be a long one! The slide show is a loooong one - I think 70+ pictures range!

The last couple of days here in Garmisch-Partenkirchen have been wonderful - we got here on Friday morning and Laura talked about our trips that day. On Saturday we headed to Bercthesgaden and the Eagle's Nest - check Laura's blog for a few more details about that day. On Sunday morning, we we headed to Schloss Neuschawnstein - a beautiful castle built by that Crazy Kind Ludwig II! (Before we got to the castle, we stopped at a beautiful lake called Plansee). The castle was only partially completed at the time of Ludwig's mysterious drowning in Lake Starnberg. This castle was Walt Disney's inspiration for the Disneyland castles. We walked up to the castle - despite the option of taking a horse cart or bus - and then walked to a bridge behind the castle to get a great view of the castle and a waterfall behind it. Dan, Lowell, Tom and Mickey hiked a little farther up the hill - Laura and I waited at the bridge and took pictures - the bridge was a little shakey!! The castle was beautiful - you can just imagine Cinderella dancing through the hallways. After the castle we went to see Weiskirche - a really beautiful little spot right in the middle of a farmer's field - another very beautiful church with wonderful pictures and big windows so that it was bright and beautiful inside! For dinner we headed out to a little restaurant here in Garmisch - Dan and Lowell feasted on Leberknoedelsuppe (liver ball soup!!!!) All of us had great German entree's and finished off the meal with apple strudel, vanilla ice cream & whipped cream - aahhhhhhhh!
Today is Monday - we went to the Zugsptize, the tallest mountain peak in Germany at 2962 meters. We took the gondola up and the cogwheel train back down. It was darn chilly up there at 19 degrees!!!! But the view was absolutely spectacular! Even with a bit of cloud cover you could see for miles and miles. We will all have many, many pictures to share when we get home. It was hard to choose just a few pictures to share with you.
This afternoon Laura and I walked in through Garmisch, window shopping and taking in the "local" culture. The rest of the crew headed out to Ettal for a "hike" into the mountains. Their afternoon was cut short by a rain/hail storm! After they all got back and warmed up, we went to the grocery store and bought some wine, chicken, bread and salad for dinner.

That brings us to the apartments!!! We have had 3 wonderful apartments to call "home" while we have been on this trip. In Rome, we had a nice 2 bedroom place in a courtyard. The kitchen was very small, but the living room/dining room area was spacious and the neighborhood was lovely! It was a tree lined street lined with little sidewalk cafes. We were able to make a few meals, wash clothes and still walk to Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the subway station! Rome has a very urban, busy feel to it and the apartment felt quite sophisticated.

When we got to Florence, Elise met us at the apartment and we walked into an Ikea advertisement! Everything from the refrigerator to the stove to the cabinets to the dishes, pots and pans and beds were from Ikea. The most unique part of that apartment was the second bathroom. There was a shower curtain just inside the door - when you need to use the shower in that room, a lever diverted the water from the sink to the shower head and the room turned into a shower stall - with a toilet and sink in it. Forence was more of an artsy town - much more relaxed than Rome and easy to get around. There was a cute little bar/deli across the street from us - it only got obnoxiously noisy one night!

Here in Garmisch we have 2 apartments that have a door between them. This is a relaxed little farm community. In fact they walk the cows through the city streets every morning and evening!! Seriously - and the cows all wear those big ol' cow bells!! The town is relaxed and VERY Bavarian. Our apartments are comfortable and spacious - from the deck we see the mountains and the cows walking through the streets! Two other bits of local information - homes and businesses often have beautiful paintings on the outside walls and in the country the barns are connected right to the houses! It's all very quaint! We have all decided that we love Bavaria!!
So, get yourself another beverage and watch this very long slide show - we have enjoyed seeing and doing so much and we want to share all the beautiful sites with all of you!!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Giovedi en Italia/Freitag im Deustchland

What a crazy couple of days!! Yesterday (Thursday) we checked out of our flat on Via Toscanella in Florence. (One of these nights I'll need to write about all of our accomodations-we have stayed in apartments in Rome, Florence and now in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. All of them have been wonderful, all were booked online, so we have been pleasantly surprised each time we checked in.) At 10 AM we took the bus to the train station with our luggage and checked it into storage at the station. We checked a few schedules and decided to use our Eurail passes to take a train to Siena for a day trip!
Siena is a quaint little town with a very medieval look and history. There is a great central square called Piazza Del Campo, with tiny little streets radiating off the center. We went to The Cathedral, it was beautiful, but different than the churches and cathedrals in Florence - the inside was darker and seemed colder. Seina deserves a couple of days of exploring on it's own! We grabbed sandwiches at a little bakery, ate and took the train back to Florence. Then with a couple of hours to kill before our night train left for Munich, we walked around the city again and got our last taste of Italian gelati. At 9:30 we boarded our train to Germany. We had sleeper cars - they were really quite comfortable but it was a little difficult to sleep while bumping through the mountains, but we all got some sleep and we arrived in München Friday morning at 6:30 AM.

So today has been all about the culture change - danke not gazie; ya not si; castles instead of churches, beer and schwieneschnitzel instead of wine and pizza!!

We picked up a minivan, drove south to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and checked into the apartment by 9 AM. We drove to Schloss Linderhof - a hunting castle built by Crazy King Ludwig. The castle was smaller than we had imagined, but really ornate. Apparently Ludwig was kind of an odd duck - he didn't like to have anyone around when he ate, so his table was lowered into the kitchen one floor below his dinning room, the servants set the food out and sent it back up to him. The most unusual part was probably the Gotto - an artificial cave that Luwig had built into the mountain so that he could have Richard Wagner preform his operas privately. Ludwig had a throne as well as a shell shaped boat and artificial lake in the Grotto. Funny thing was - the acoustics were so bad in there that there was only one performance - ever!!

A quick trip down the highway brought us to Oberammergau and a great little restaurant called the Hasen-Bräu. Good beer & great meals all around! We did some window shopping and topped the day off with a visit to a monastery in Ettal -- another beautiful church built in the 1300's and this one has large windows so it was lighter inside. We had dinner here at the apartment tonight, there's a grocery store right across the street - you should see the 6 of us shopping without a list! Then we watched the broadcast of yesterdays Twins game on the internet.

A little hint for all of you - our brother Dan is a veritable font of historic knowledge! He's been a terrific guide, we usually know the best pieces of history about a particular place even before our guided tours begin. If you can't travel with Dan though, the Green Guides by Michelin are great!

While driving between all these places we were treated to beautiful countryside and spectacular mountain scenery. From the deck of our apartment you can see Zugspitze - the highest mountain peak in Germany at 2962 metres, just under 10,000 feet! Take care all - we are having a wonderful time and will have many more stories to share when we get home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We climbed to the top of the dome in the Duomo in Florence today! The climb was 464 steps from bottom to top. Along the way some of the passage got to be very narrow. Along one of the very narrow passages inside the church dome along the high wall of the church, where the curvature of the dome, meets the wall, a fairly large woman decided to go against traffic. We all had to squeeze tightly for her to get by. Tom took the brunt of the frontal attack, as he was leading our group. Lowell was unlucky to be on the corner and took a 270 degree swipe. Unfortunate, but neither was physically hurt in the awkward situation. Upon reaching the top, the views were spectacular.

With all the pictures taken, we headed back down and went into the church. The Duomo (St. Maria de Fioro) is a beautiful cathedral built in the 13 century.
We walked from there to the next church on the list of many to see. St. Maria Novella. A smaller church with a spectacular alter. The church was also built in the 13 century. The green and white marble alter is very high. Too bad we could not take pictures to include here. The churches, the designs, the architecture, the colors, the age, and the size of all of the churches have us all in awe.
The girls went shopping for a half hour today and came away with only some nice pictures of the goods for sale.

Florence is a walking town and we have done our share of walking. We have seen churches, panoramic views of the city, museums, sculptures, renaissance art, frescos, tombs and monuments. All within walking distance of our apartment. We stopped at our favorite bakery and made diner at the apartment again today and then went out for a gelati.

After dinner another night stroll around the town to see the night sights. Everything is picturesque and we all have our cameras working at night to search for the best shots. Most are erased, but every now and then we get one to keep.
Tomorrow is a travel day. We take a night train from Florence to Munich. It leaves at 10:00pm. We have to be out of the apartment by 10:00am, so it will be a busy morning, and by evening, the day will be dragging as we wait for the late train. But in between we will adventure into the city once again to enjoy the Tuscan day and find something new in the city.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Italian Nights

We arrived in Florence (Firenze in Italian!) this afternoon via train - another great day and another beautiful city. Each day we spend most of our time wandering/walking through the streets and looking at really, really big, beautiful churches and ancient buildings. There's is so much to see that I don't know what to write about in this blog - besides all of the spectacular sights, ther is the food, people, transportation, and on and on!
On Saturday evening we walked down to Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona. The piazza was a really busy place - there were lots of vendors, street mimes and actors, musicians and some kind of Ballroom Dancing exhibition. On the way home we had some wonderful gelati and met a couple of young priests from the States at the gelati stand - they are both here working on the doctorate degrees. These wonderful buildings become even more spectacular with the night lighting. We took lots of pictures - some turned out better than others, but we haven't had time to sort through, straighten and make corrections. We became adept at using the bus/subway system in Rome - really very easy and certainly preferable to driving on these crazy streets!!
Sunday morning we went to the Vatican and attended the Latin High Mass at the Basillica of St. Peter's - a truly beautiful and amazing experience. From there we went to the Baths of Caracalla -- the ruins of the ancient Roman bath house. Gotta tell you, Lifetime has nothing on them!!! They could handle 1600 people at a time in pools (hot, cold and warm pools in succession) in addition to cafes, libraries, exercise rooms and sunbathing platforms. The floors were covered with mosaic tiles in geometric designs as well as a variety of pictures.
In the evening we went back to the Colosseum and St. Peter's to see them in the night lighting, before another dinner at an interesting little sidewalk cafe.
It's getting late - after midnight here - and everyone else is asleep, so I'm going to try to get this posted and get to sleep - tomorrow will be another big day - Ciao!

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's All in the Details!

Everyone who travels to Rome has told us - it's amazing, it's overwhelming, it's awesome. They are absolutely right! We spent today exploring the Vatican, including the museums, the Sistine Chapel, & St. Peter's Bascilia. Then we walked to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon and then walked home - and there is just WAYYYY too much to tell you about, so I'm going to highlight a few details that stand out after spending 2 days here in Rome.

The gazillion fountains here in Rome are fed through an extensive aquaduct system. The first Fountain in the series is at the Spanish Steps. Every fountain has several spigots where you can fill your water bottles - which we've done a lot! It's been HOT here -- we walk all day. If you aren't careful, you can fall in a fountain - the polizio don't care for that much!

There are marble sculptures absolutely everywhere! Many are from more than 2000 years ago - they are in various stages of disrepair, but even when they find a part of a sculpture it gets put on display somewhere.

The dome of St. Peter's is spectacular - we hope to climb the 350 steps up into the cupola tomorrow!

The Swiss Guards at the Vatican are billed as the most freocious, well trained guards in the world -- you be the judge!

Apparently, even in ancient "Roma" young boys were known to terrorize chickens and geese - does anyone else remember the picture of Dan and the chicken???

A good gelati at the end of a long day walking through Roma is terrific!

Even apartments have painted ceilings - here is our living room!

We also followed up with a great dinner at a little place around the corner! Another great day - we've got many more stories - more will follow! Don't forget to check Laura's blog too - - we're trying to alternate days, we either don't have enough time or we're too tired to keep up 2 blogs!!


Jackie, Lowell, Laura, Tom, Dan and Mickey

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Today is Thursday - this must be Rome!

Wednesday we explored London via the trains/underground/open top bus and on foot.
We started the day in Slough. Took a train from Slough to Padington station and the underground to Victoria station. From there we got on the Big Bus and took the double decker bus tour of London. We saw all the major landmarks. Big Ben; Scotland yards; Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliment; the London Eye; the Tower Bridge. At about 2:00 in the afternoon, we met Dan at the Tower of London. We took a tour of the Tower of London and saw the Crown Jewels, the infamous torture chambers; White tower and all the other sights inside this massive medieval city. We took the underground from the Tower of London to Westminster and the walked through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace. From there we went to Harrods. We walked through many of the halls and took pictures of some of the outrageous things they sell like the Rib Eye Steaks for $150.00 per pound, the $3000.00 for couple ounces of Beluga caviar; $2500.00 for a piece of luggage; $20,000.00 (that’s not a mistake) bottle of Dom Perrignon champagne…. On and on…. Quite a store.

Tonight we are all together Rome – Laura and Tom arrived in Rome via train and Dan, Mickey, Lowell and I flew in from London early. Unbelievably we all met up at the train station at 11:15am and took a taxi to the apartment. We got settled into the apartment and took off to see Rome!
We started at the Spanish steps – walked to Trevi Fountain, and each made sure to throw 2 coins into the fountain, one to assure your return to Rome and the other for another wish. After a pizza and beer lunch, we walked to the Coliseum and the Forum. At the end of the day, we figured out the city bus system (sort of!) and headed back to the apartment. We bought some groceries and ate at the apartment. A big start to our Roman adventure and tomorrow we are starting out at 8:00am to go to the Vatican!