Posts Categorized: Travel

Jun 14 2012
0

Rome – Day 2 #blogjune

Our first full day in Rome was a Saturday – we had a great breakfast, which I will post more about soon. We got out early enough to start our day. Our planned stops were the Colosseum and Galleria Borghese. Everything else was at our leisure.

To get to the Colosseum we had to get the train from the stop near our accommodation. While walking down to it, we came across a church and decided to go in. This was Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. To show how looks can deceive in Rome, this is the church exterior –

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

This is the interior –

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Some of the original church –

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

It was stunning and again, so breathtaking. Imagine this being your local parish?!

This fountain outside the church provided a lovely breeze!

Fountain

The trains were great… here is their subway!

Rome - Trains

Rome - Trains

When we got to the Colosseum it was PACKED. The line snaked around but our saving grace was in the distance we saw a sign that read ‘Roma Pass’. So we walked towards it and past all of those people! It is such a great feeling – especially since we knew the Roma Pass would get us in but I didn’t envisage us not having to line up at all. We didn’t opt to do a tour or anything like that… instead just using the time to be on our own and take it in.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

We spent a while there after walking up to the top level and back down and by this time it was nearly lunchtime so from the Colosseum we jumped on a bus as we wanted to check out the San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica and also get some lunch. Across from San Giovanni in Laterano was a little pizza place that sold pizza by the pound. It was just an everyday neighbourhood place but wow the pizza was absolutely amazing… and so cheap!

Beautiful potato pizza –

Pizza!

Pizza!

I look definitely look like I am possessed by pizza –

Pizza!

Then we really, really needed some gelato… 😉

Gelato

Gelato

Tabacchi machines are everywhere –

Tabbachi

Mailbox –

Post box

So then, it was time to check out San Giovanni in Laterano. Not a lot of people realize but St Peter’s Basilica is not the ‘home church’ of the Pope. San Giovanni in Laterano is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and within the church it is actually ‘ranked’ higher than St Peter’s. Although it is located outside the Vatican walls, it is actually
classed as a Vatican property. This church is very, very special – this IS the mother church of the Catholic church and yet, so many people don’t think to visit it! San Giovanni in Laterano was overwhelmingly beautiful and serene and a wonderful place for contemplation. If you are in Rome, do NOT miss it!

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

Near San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

Confession time!

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

After spending longer than we thought at San Giovanni in Laterano, we got on a tiny little bus to get to Galleria Borghese. There are normal sized buses in Rome and also mini buses that get down the tiny side streets. They are awesome and the perfect way to travel as you can see even more of the city while resting your feet!

Rome Bus

Rome Bus

Rome Bus

Bus - Ticket machine

Little streets in Rome

Little streets in Rome

Near San Giovanni in Laterano

Near San Giovanni in Laterano

On the bus I thought we missed our stop for the Villa Borghese and we ended up alighting a few stops before we should have. This meant we had a avery hilly walk to the park but we were able to sit down and relax and watch the world go buy on one of the park benches. The weather was very humid and warm but we got a spot in the shade and it was beautiful!

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Galleria Borghese requires a reservation before you go and you are limited to a strict two hour time limit only. As we wanted to use our Roma Pass, I actually had to call them two months before we left to ask them to reserve a Roma Pass spot for both of us. I must say, leaving it until 5pm was not the best idea just because by this time our feet were tired and it was so warm – we were both pretty tired. I don’t think either of us fully appreciated to collection. Also, just as baffling was that a majority of the museums do not have air conditioning. So inside it was hot and stuffy and packed with people – we just couldn’t really enjoy it but, we were glad we stuck it out. After an hour, we found ourselves back outside in the garden enjoying the breeze that was coming off a fountain and provided us with some refreshing air!

Villa Borghese

I chose Galleria Borghese as our last visit for the day because it was close to our accommodation so we could walk straight back afterwards.

For dinner we wanted to go to Santopadre, a great restaurant that I had read about. Unfortunately, they were closed for a private function. We were so disappointed because when we got to see what it was like inside, we wanted to just stay there! In the end, we were so hungry, we chose the next restaurant we saw. It seemed to have a mix of tourists and locals eating there so we went for it. Il Sorrisio ended up being a great choice. In fact, I think I had the greatest gnocchi of my life here! Everyone was so nice, it is a lovely little neighbourhood restaurant and everyone there was having a great time watching soccer and drinking wine.

Untitled

Starters –

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Dinner –

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Dessert –

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

Il Sorriso, Rome

We needed to have an early night because our alarm was set to wake up at 5.30am… it was time to spend some time with Pope Benedict!

Jun 13 2012
0

Our first afternoon in Rome #blogjune

Here are some shots Bill took out of the taxi window as we were getting to to our accomodation –

On the way to Domus

On the way to Domus

As we were so fortunate to have our room ready so early, we decided to have our showers and have small nap before we headed out into the warm sun.

We only had a few things on our task list for the afternoon. We had to walk to Termini, get a Roma pass and then from there, hop on a bus and go to St Peter’s to pick up our Mass tickets. That was all!

When we got to Termini, we got our Roma Passes right away (best money we ever spent!) and grabbed a bite to eat.

The Roma Pass gave us 3 days of unlimited public transport and also you can choose two out of a whole lot of attractions to visit that have your entrance included. We used ours for the visit to the Colosseum and also Galleria Borghese. It saved us an easy 2hr+ wait time at the Colleseum – we just walked straight in! For this, the pass was worth every cent.

For lunch we got two arancini (rice balls) and some pizza to share.

Lunch at Termini

This was the only ‘expensive for what you get’ meal we had, but we didn’t mind as we were starving and had to stick to our plan! We got to look over our Roma Passes and double check our maps and plans.

It was them time to board the very hot bus to St Peter’s. The bonus of hopping on at Termini was that we got a seat and could sit back and just look out the window thinking “Oh my gosh we are HERE!” We got off the bus and walked down the narrow streets to St Peter’s Square. In our confirmation letter from the Prefecture of the Papal Household, we were instructed to go to the Bronze Doors to the right of St Peter’s so that is what we were going to be looking for.

View of St Peter's

Through some of the rooftops we could see the dome and then we were in the Square but our problem was that we had to find the ‘Bronze Doors’ and we had no idea where to find them! We then came across a security guard who pointed in the direction of a queue of people… so we jumped in the queue and went through security. We were then able to ask another security guard about the doors and he pointed us to an area where two Swiss Guards stood. I started to get nervous – we were going to have to talk to them! We crept around a barricade and up the staircase where one guard came over to us – they were so friendly and welcoming!

Here are the Bronze Doors.. it was amazing!!

The Bronze Doors

The Bronze Doors

We showed them our letter and we were ushered inside the lobby area – I wish we could have taken a photo! Then, in a box full of envelopes there was one marked Blevins. They handed it to us and we were so thankful and excited – they probably thought we were a little loony!

I then suggested to Bill as we were leaving that seeing as we were here, why don’t we go into St Peter’s for a visit?

With that we nearly ran inside with excitement.. it was everything I remembered it to be and to turn around and see Bill’s face when we made it to a darkened corner and looked up at the ceiling… it made the whole trip worthwhile. We were home! Well.. that was how it felt.

St Peter's Basilica

Being a Friday afternoon there wasn’t that many people or groups there so we got to spend some time wandering around our basilica. After a while, we made it into a far corner and through a doorway and found a gift shop and small museum dedicated to various artifacts from the church through the ages. We bought all of our rosaries, medals and cards here and also a beautiful crucifix for our bedroom. It was beautiful and so exciting and I think it was standing there, near the cupola, that we fell in love with Rome in an instant.

St Peter's Basilica

We spent a long time at St Peters and before we knew it, it was then time for dinner. We headed to Abruzzi so this meant getting back on the bus and away from the Vatican area. We had heard about Abruzzi after listening to Lino Rulli (aka the Catholic Guy) on Sirius XM radio and they would always rave about the carbonara (and green sambuca) at Abruzzi. After going around in circles and down tiny streets, we found Abruzzi right at Piazza dei Santi Apostoli.

Here are some views along the way –

Rome

Untitled

I walked up a small alley and at the bottom of some apartments there was a doorway. I walked up and there were ten people in this tiny chapel all praying the rosary. It was so small but it looked like it had been there a long time. It was just gorgeous!

Little Chapel

At Abruzzi we sat in a corner and as typical tourists we were eating way too early. We shared a starter of mozzarella and prosciutto and both ordered the carbonara and sat in this tiny restaurant, in awe of what we had just saw and full of anticipation for the coming days.

Abruzzi

Our starter –

Abruzzi

The famous Carbonara… it was even better than it looks!

Abruzzi

Woops –

Abruzzi

We tried to linger in Abruzzi after dinner, but our lack of sleep was getting the better of us. Now the lingering is something we had to work on. As visitors, you tend to eat how you are used to. In America that means sit down, order within 5 minutes, food is on your table after another 10 minutes, you eat, order dessert and as soon as you have had your last spoonful of dessert the bill is on your table and you are being ushered out the door. In Italy it is the complete opposite… sit around for one, two, three hours – the table is yours!

So after finding our way back to our bus we squeezed in and made it back to Domus just before our eyes fully closed on us. With all of our ‘have to do’ tasks completed it meant that tomorrow, the city was ours!

Jun 11 2012
0

NYC – Rome #blogjune

Ahh this Europe vacation was just fabulous. It was the best vacation I have ever had. Out of all of my travels over all of the years… this trip was IT! I loved every minute! It wasn’t the longest or the most adventurous… it was just wonderful to be able to see and experience so much with Bill. I have always loved travelling on my own but this trip, OUR trip, changed all of that!

Departure day! Hooray! Our preflight routine went perfectly. Bill stayed home and I worked half a day and got in the door just after 12. We had a quick lunch and after having showers we were ready to leave by 2.30. We have a check list to work off so we are not having any ‘Home Alone’ moments on the plane where we think we have forgotten something. I am one of those people that needs to have everything spotless before we leave so the days leading up to any vacation are crazily busy. On our day of travel, Bill got a final load of laundry done, powered down anything we could, vacuumed and set our light timers. Everything felt clean and sparkly so we knew we would return to some kind of tranquility!

Our journey started on a rainy afternoon. Our car service picked us up at 3pm and we headed straight to JFK. I always have trouble with the self service check in because I am not a US Citizen but I am also not returning to the USA as a visitor – so after some back and forth we were finally checked in. I was worried Bill and I would be split up because we acutally had two separate bookings as Bill used AA points and I used Qantas points. Thank goodness, our seat request was honored and we were beside each other. We then braved the long security line and got to the Admirals Club with two hours to spare.

Here we go!

AA0236 JFK - FCO

Unfortunately, being used to flying to Australia means I always get to have lots of excess luggage. On this trip we were limited to one suitcase each so we actually bought on a small carry on case. I hate travelling with any carry on luggage and always have only minimal stuff on board. We used our carry on case for toiletries and a spare outfit in case our bags were lost. The case was essentially empty but I wanted to use this for any purchases we made.

We chowed down on pizza (it actually wasn’t bad for lounge food) and I had a lovely big Shirley Temple. We were so excited, the time seemed to fly and it was time to board. After last minute goodbye phone calls to Australia and Albany we were on our way!

They do an awesome Shirley Temple in the lounge –

Admirals Club Lounge - JFK

Our charging setup –

Admirals Club Lounge - JFK

Here was our view before leaving –

Leaving JFK -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

The plane was old with no individual in flight entertainment unit. This was a bonus as we HAD to sleep on this flight – leaving at 7.30pm, we would be arriving in Rome at 10am and it was important that we stay awake for our first day in Rome. Unforutnately, the plane was full of very annoying passengers who were going on a cruise. They made the biggest deal out of everything. But even worse was the couple in front of us. The plane had only JUST taken off… as in the wheels had JUST lifted when the guy in front of me moved his seat back.. and then the girl in front did exactly the same. WHAT PLANET ARE THESE PEOPLE ON?! I shoved the chair back but no good… it was about an hour into the flight until our dinner got served and I requested that our attendant tell them to move their seat forward. They did, but before the trays were even collected, they moved them back again. The person in front of them hadn’t reclined – they just wanted more room. In all of my flights and all of my travel experiences these seat recliners are my pet peeve. What makes it worse? HE WASN’T EVEN TRYING TO SLEEP! It is SO RUDE to not even turn around and say “Do you mind if I recline my seat?” It never ceases to amaze me how inconsiderate people are… and it only seems to be getting worse.

After dinner, we got about four hours sleep and before we knew it, we were having breakfast and prepping for landing. Here is my view when I was waking up –

En Route to Italy -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

Here is the usual.. plane food pics!

Our first snack –

Snack -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

Dinner –

Bill’s stir fry –

Dinner 2 -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

My curried tortellini –

Dinner 1 - AA0236 JFK - FCO

Breakfast… thrown on the tray.

Breakfast -  AA0236 JFK - FCO

We got off the plane and walked through the terminal and onto the train that connects the terminals so we could go through passport control. Passport control in Italy was interesting. We had to line up, get out our passports, hold them up to the man sitting behind a glass screen and walk through. SERIOUSLY. No forms, no passport swiping, no stamps – nothing. Trying to be ‘Mrs experienced traveler’ I explained to Bill how they will probably get some kind of documentation off us at customs. We collected our bags and… walked straight out of the airport. That was it. No-one knew we were there! No-one checked who we were. No-one knew where we were staying. We were in a cab within five minutes and zipping around Rome in no time and arrived at our accomodation before noon. It was so exciting… ROMA!!!!! ITALIA!!!!!

The angels were looking after us because when we checked in… our room was ready!

Molto bene!!!

Jun 01 2012
3

Memorial Day Weekend 2012 #blogjune

Brooklyn Borough Hall

This Memorial Day weekend was just fabulous. Humid, but fabulous! The photo above is our Brooklyn Borough Hall all decorated for the day!

The weekend got off to a great start on Saturday morning by Collingwood winning against Adelaide. This is how we listened to the end of the game –

Our BMW

We picked up our Zipcar (a gorgeous BMW that was just beautiful!) and hit the road.

Our BMW

The traffic was not bad at all and we made it Upstate in great time. It seems traffic to or from Albany works in two ways – super fast or super slow.

We went to vigil Mass at Holy Spirit in the afternoon and then later that night, Bill was going out to dinner with the guys and to check out The Avengers at the Cinemaplex at Colonie. This was his third time seeing it in three weeks. Locations of viewing – London, Brooklyn and Albany!

I caught up with Colette for dinner at the Cracker Barrell and then she introduced me to the yummiest soft serve at one of East Greenbush’s most happening places on a Saturday night – Lickity Split!

Lickity Split

I had never seen so many varieties of ice-cream in one place – Froyo, Soft Serve (in stacks of flavours), sundaes, little cups, super cones – it was ice-cream heaven and a really nice place to hang out on a warm night.

Lickity Split

I had an amazing sleep in until sometime after 9 and before we knew it Sunday morning was in full swing. This was the view from our room at the Fairfield Inn. We never get sick of this place. We stay there so much and it is always dependable.

View from the Fairfield Inn

We spent all day at the Family Homestead spending quality time with Bill’s mom and dad. Bill made us French Toast for breakfast and then I got a head start on going through my recent findings with the genealogy research I have been doing. Bill was busy preparing lunch for us all. Everyone gets together EVERY Sunday for lunch without fail and over the past couple of years we have been doing cooking throwdown challenges. This time the choice was pizza and Bill was going against niece Rebecca. Bill decided to make a deep dish Chicago style pie while Rebecca did a whole wheat crust with chicken and bacon. Bill won and he was SO happy about it! Here is a photo Rebecca posted to Twitter with her face being all sad and Bill’s jubliation. Yes, we have a champion cup and everything.

We then went off to do some shopping before it was time to head over to the Johnson’s for a bonfire. I have never been to a bonfire and had never had S’mores before so this was very exciting for me!

Check out the sunset from their backyard. It is like this every night!

Our Bonfire

Here was the bonfire just getting started –

Our Bonfire

It started to take hold –

Our Bonfire

Then it got so huge none of us could stand the heat by sitting so close to the flame!

Our Bonfire

Then it started to settle down and feel less like an inferno –

Our Bonfire

This was Bill’s first attempt at getting my mashmallows toasted… the fire was still too active!

Our Bonfire

Here we are assembling our S’mores – they are awesome! The gooey marshmallow, solid chocolate and almost savoury graham crackers mesh so well together. Oh they were SO yummy!

Our Bonfire

My mouth is watering just looking at this picture!

Our Bonfire

A funny thing happened during the bonfire – we managed to get a good wifi signal so we were able to FaceTime mum and dad back in Melbourne while we were sitting outside. It was such a treat!!

We didn’t get back to the Fairfield Inn until way after midnight and we had to be up super early on Monday to check out and get back to the Johnson’s for the Memorial Day parade in Castleton.

This was how the bonfire looked 14 hours after it was ablaze –

Untitled

We got a great postion out the front of the Elementary school and near where the judging panel sits so we got a great view of each of the groups participating. Getting there early was the key!

The parade is a big deal. Here is one of the local policeman directing traffic –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

View from our spot –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The early birds –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

This miniature collie was TOO CUTE. I need one now!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

Here I am… one more Memorial Day to go and then I’ll be Citizen Jenelle Blevins. I cannot wait!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

Everything is so green.. and how cute is the Castleton Elementary school? LOVE!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

Rebecca and Emily were on awesome niece duty and bought everyone iced coffees and muffins!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The patriotic couple with Bill wearing his Aussie bush hat that we happened to get at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. We finally found one that fits!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The parade started and here are the veterans!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

Kids decorate their bikes –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The girl guides were adorable!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The volunteer fire brigade –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The preschoolers –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The local Republicans –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The local Democrats –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The Friends of the Library didn’t let anyone down – check out their amazing float!

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The school band –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

Float from one of the locals –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

The boy scouts being awesome –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

Here is an original, fully restored ambulance –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

This one said it all – SOME GAVE ALL –

Memorial Day Parade, Castleton-On-Hudson

I have a lot more photos over on my Flickr account. It was a wonderful morning and it was a beautiful display of community spirit.

Pauline and Rob then had another big BBQ lunch at their place so we managed to get to spend more time with everyone. We decided to leave Albany at 8pm to try and avoid the usual traffic and this worked a treat as we were back in Brooklyn by 11.30!

Even though we left late, it did not dampen my enthusiasm for visiting the New Baltimore Thruway plaza for some drinks… here is a beautifully retro looking Roy Rogers –

New Baltimore Thruway Plaza

The New York State tourist information booth was closed –

New Baltimore Thruway Plaza

This was one Memorial Day weekend that was so jam packed but it was full of great memories and catching up with everyone… I wish every weekend could be like that one!

Sadly, our other tradition of watching he PBS Memorial Day Concert from Washington didn’t eventuate as it was cancelled not long after it started due to bad weather. So we watched what we could. That is one Memorial Day event I would love to go to… but then it would mean missing out on everything I have just posted about!

Looking back –
Memorial Day 2011
Memorial Day 2010

May 20 2012
0

Hatfields & McCoys on the History Channel

Anyone else counting down until the Hatfields & McCoys screens on the History Channel? Saw the promo for the first time yesterday – we cannot wait!!

It starts on Memorial Day weekend… woot woot!!

PS – Travel posts will start soon. We’ve just been getting back into the swing of things and have had a stack of odd jobs to do this weekend! Fun times indeed!

May 12 2012
0

Ugh

So here we are.

Grosvenor House, London. 11pm.

Our alarm is set for 5.30am

We are trying to consolidate our luggage and pack multiple tins of Queens Jubilee Biscuits, prayer books from Rome, housewares from Paris and piles of other things we have accumulated on our journey. We have way too much stuff but Bill has been tagged with the name The Consolidator for his fine skills in fitting way too much stuff into a way too small case and he is making this happen!

Hanging over this whole process is the feeling that we dread.

We don’t want this to end.

Here is a photo from yesterday at Paddington Station as we made our way to Windsor for the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant. It was brilliant!

20120512-230314.jpg
May 08 2012
1

‘Allo luv!

Rule Britannia!

We made it to London!

Our hotel, Grosvenor House, is out of this world unbelievable for this former backpacker! We had a great journey on the Eurostar and quickly checked in, did hand washing that we had to do, ordered a room service lunch and then made it to the Tower of London with time to spare.

We will wander around until 9.30 as we then have to return to the Tower for the Ceremony of the Keys! Woot woot!

Tomorrow, Parliament is opening so we are running to the Mall to see the Queen go past in the morning! It is so good to be back – I shouldn’t have left it so long!

In the meantime, we are sending you all a big hello from London!

20120508-180726.jpg
May 06 2012
1

Sarkozy out!

Today is the final presidential election for France. At the moment we are watching amazing scenes on TV. Bill can decipher about every tenth word and the election commentators are really arguing among each other… not just playing it up for the cameras!

At about 5.30 when we were starting to head back for an early night, there were police everywhere. Not just some cars, but whole conveys of trucks, vans and cars that were all full of officers. We are currently watching an OJ Simpson style chase of the cars carrying the candidates. It is mental out there! Here are the scenes right now from Place de la Bastille. Crazy!

20120506-212307.jpg
May 05 2012
2

Saturday night in Paris

We are tired!

Another full day today meant that by 6.30 tonight we have been laying in bed just relaxing.

Dinner tonight? Cheese puff chips from the supermarket in Venice that have been sitting in my suitcase, some fresh strawberries and other fruit from the fruit stand nearby and a chocolate chip baguette from the boulangerie down the road.

Not exactly glamorous, but our legs definitely need a good rest and.. this is supposed to be a holiday after all!

While we are having a great time, we are still missing Rome like crazy. London has some work to do to try and top Rome… we’ll see what happens!

20120505-211046.jpg
May 04 2012
1

Bonjour Paris!

We are in Paris!

Leaving Venice this morning was an adventure with a nearly 2 hour vaporetto trip to the airport. Definitely the most interesting airport commute I have done!

We got some lunch at the airport – best airport meal ever of pumpkin gnocchi with butter, cheese and poppy seeds. Delish!

We arrived at our accommodation safely on a wonderful train trip from the airport. We are staying out of the heart of Paris in a lovely neighbourhood near Cité Universitaire. Again, another amazing accommodation choice so with that we are three out of three! 🙂 Here is the view from our window –

20120504-192936.jpg