Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Day 3: Drive to Tuscany

We woke up to poor Ellie screaming as she had rolled off the mattress and onto the tile floor. The girls were not fans of sleeping in the other room so they ended up on mattresses on the floor next to our bed! It was 6am, hardly enough sleep after the day before. We had a nice breakfast and chatted with an old woman, whom we assume is the owner. She assumed we were English (most do in Europe). The kids ran all over the yard with the dogs while we sipped our cappucinos. I have decided that I love cappucino and dislike shots of espresso.

I noticed a sunflower field behind the farmhouse as well as some beautiful hydrangeas. These are special to us as we had pale green ones such as these as the main flower in our wedding!

We packed up and hit the road. For lunch we stopped at an Autogrill/gas station on the road. (You see, American's.. there are no drive thru's here or any road side restaurants. You walk up to a bar and order a ham sandwich or a slice of pizza. Those are your options. Everywhere.) The panini's and pizza were pretty fresh though at this one!

The drive to Tuscany was about 3 hours and very easy. Once in the San Gimignano area, the scenary was simply breathtaking. I felt like I was inside one of those precious post cards I used to stare at. I was a little sad as there were fields of sunflowers everywhere that would have been gorgeous about a week earlier. They were finished blooming and ready for harvest.

We arrived to our B&B - the Il Vicario- which is in Sant Andrea and overlooks San Gimignano. I was at first a little disappointed because the building connects with a couple others and was not out by itself. The others looked a little more upscale as well. The pool area was in need of some updates and was a bit cheap with plastic chairs and unstable umbrellas. However, the scenary around this place was amazing. It is honestly the most beautiful area.

Katia- one of our hosts, was very sweet and gracious. She's about my age. Her boyfriend is from Sicily and she's been working there for 5 years. She told us that the farmhouse is 15th century- the priest lived there. The connecting building was the church.

Our room was tastefully decorated and we had a pretty view. It wasn't a/c which I somehow missed when booking but it was okay with a fan. The evenings really cool off up there. We took the girls for a swim in the pool and Katia brought out wine and bruschetta. We napped for a few hours and went down to dinner. Katia's shift was over and Fulvio greeted us. He is a middle aged man with long curly hair and the most charming eyes you'll ever see. He is the warmest, sweetest man. He'd dance with the girls every night. He served us an amazing 4 course meal on the patio and by the time we'd finished it was 10pm! We went for a quick stroll down the dirt road since it was such a beautiful night. It was pitch black and so quiet. All you could hear were crickets. I looked up and saw a shooting star! (Seriously!! I am not making this up) It was just incredibly romantic.. even with 2 kids in a stroller. haha. We were so glad we chose to come here and had a relaxing day.

The next day we'd explore Sienna and San Gimignano before we headed up to Germany for a week!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 2: Rome Cont'd..

This is the longest post ever.. but probably the longest of the trip also.

We drove to the tiny town about 5km away from the farmhouse to take the train into the city. One of the perks of staying out in the country was avoiding driving into Rome. However we parked the car in the lot and started walking into the station. We realized there was broken glass everywhere, probably indicating that we'd likely find our windows punched out when we got back. There was graffiti everywhere and no signs of anywhere to buy a ticket. I just had a horrible feeling in my gut so we left. Using our gps, we found the nearest metro station (avoiding the train altogether and hopping on the subway farther into Rome). This worked out perfectly as it was still relatively easy driving (aka a minivan can park there) and we were 5 stops to the Spanish Steps! Note: Last year we took a cruise as most of you know and spent one full day in Rome, having seen the Vatican and that area. This trip was just to finish up the historical side.

As you can see, D and the girls could care less about the Spanish Steps. It's part of the Piazza di Spagna and has been here for over 300 years. It has been a place for romantics to meet. It's a bunch of stairs. Just one of those things you have to say you saw in Rome.

Val being a goonie. This sinking boat fountain is at the base of the Spanish Steps. It's still powered by an aqueduct (as are all of Rome's fountains).We enjoyed a slice of pizza here before making our way to the Trevi Fountain. As the story goes, if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain it ensures you a return trip to Rome. To say it was swarmed with people would be an understatement. You can find it by listening for the crowd. It's an amazingly beautiful fountain though and I can imagine it to be romantic at night. It was completed in 1762, a project the pope created to celebrate the reopening of the aqueduct.

Note: If you have a wide angle lens, bring it. You can't get back far enough to get the full fountain in a photo! This will be a photoshop collage project.

We took a few photos and were off to the next thing. It was about 97 degrees out and we were extremely hot, the girls melting in the stroller. Poor things! I highly recommend waiting until fall/spring to do Rome!

We were on to the Pantheon and got majorly lost on the way. We took one wrong turn somewhere and were probably a block away but could not find it!! Walking through the narrow streets with wobbly cobblestones reminded me so much of walking in the historic area of Siracusa - Sicily. On the walk we walked through the Trajan's forum area and saw this magnificent column. It's 140ft. high and tells the story of Trajan's campaign, from building the army to victory. St. Peter is now at the top.

We used the Rick Steve's guide to guide us through this area, stopping for gelato of course at the famous gelato place just before the Pantheon. The Pantheon is so incredibly huge and strong.. tiny rows of building along either side as if it isn't even there.. it just creeps up on you. It's magnificent. The marble columns were shipped from Egypt and are the largest in Italy! As with the Colosseum, there are cheesy souvenir vendors out front selling statues, magnets, assorted candies, and "David" aprons. You could also have your photo snapped with a man dressed as a gladiator for a small fee. I passed.

candy stand.. little bars/cafe's sell cute little things near their doors to lure you inWe walked through the Roman Forum next and on to the Colosseum. It absolutely amazed us to think of the history here and where the Roman Empire began. To walk along the road just as Julius Ceasar once did is almost hard to comprehend.
Palatine Hill and the Temple of Julius Ceasar-

By the time we got through this area we basically said, "Yep.. there's the colosseum." Then high tailed it to the metro next door to head back to the hotel. We were all a bit dehydrated, exhausted, and done for the day. We drove back to the farmhouse, kids crying for the full 30 minutes. We showered, regrouped, and headed back out for dinner around 8:30 when the ristorante's are all open.

There is a small town near a lake on the north side of Rome-- It is something like Bracciare? Absolutely adorable town complete with a castle on the hill. We had a lovely outdoor dinner and gelato before calling it a night. I think we went to bed after midnight!! The next morning we would drive to Tuscany--

Pics are around the Rome farmhouse before we went to dinner-

.. to be cont'd.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Eleanor Lily.. the woodland fairy

I thought the pink tutu would be a cute contrast to the forest. I love photos of girls in tutus but prefer those that are out of character (like Jannelle's pics of Valerie in the grocery store). Obviously any little one in a tutu in a pretty garden would be gorgeous but I think it's interesting to show the contrast between the little girl in them and the independent strong (and in this case filthy) kiddo they are yearning to become. Anyway.. my hubby is passed out on the couch early so I figured I'd keep on bloggin' while I had time to myself!

p.s. I know the little collage in the next post is too small. I have no idea how to make it bigger. It'd be nice as I make those often for the girls' albums. arhgh! anyone?

I'll share this one of Val b/c she's got her arms in the right places. ha ha. (not that *I* care.. but you know. some do). At any rate it's a photography paradise.. logs, boulders.. all kinds of natural props!

a break from regularly scheduled programming...

I'm sorry I haven't finished the Rome pics yet. The post is written but the pics are on D's computer.. and well.. I'm still waiting for him to give me pics from his deployment. I will try this evening. ;)

So I thought I'd share our day today. It was really hot and humid out today and we weren't in the mood to do anything around here because of it. I suggested we go up to Mt. Etna where it's cooler. The north side of the hill has beautiful pine trees and it's about 15 degrees cooler up there! I decided to also bring the camera and we got a couple of decent shots. I just wanted to scope it out because I may try to get some xmas pics up there when the snow falls or it's atleast cold enough to wear cute hats. We had a fun time. We may go again soon and bring a picnic next time! (and obviously we don't hike in dresses.. that was just for pics!)

Derrick goes back to work on Monday and our schedule is filling up quickly with Val starting preschool, hopefully ballet; I'm leading a bible study and so forth! We should have news in the next couple days about our next move! It seems to be coming much sooner than planned!!!

I took a bunch of tutu pics but forgot a shirt for Val.. don't want to post her nudy on the internet with weirdos out there. I will post ellie's later and add Val's after we go back next week. They came out super cute.. sort of like a woodland fairy or something!