Saturday, March 22, 2014

Headed Home - review of must have travel items

It's a 4am wake-up (10pm back home) call to meet the private car that is taking us to the airport. I am tired, but this has been an amazing journey and we have met some amazing people along the way.

We went through security in Rome, London, and Chicago today. We also went through customs in London and Chicago. At the end of today we will have spent almost 23 hours traveling through airports and in planes. Popped doesn't even begin to describe our current level of exhaustion, but it was a life changing experience for both of us.

I wanted to list a few of my favorite things that went along with us in our trip to Europe.

Will Not Travel Abroad Without these Items:

1) More than one universal adapter. We managed to blow a fuse in Paris and I ended up without a hair dryer and adapter the remainder of the trip. Most hotels have adapters you can borrow but one hotel they were out so we finally bought another one in Italy. My travel hair dryer is a goner. :(

2) Man purse for the hubby! I can't even begin to describe how spectacular it was that both of us had purses.

3) Travel power strip with 4 plugs. This was great because we could plug in one adapter, then the power strip and then plug up all of our kindles, phones, and camera batteries at the same time.

4) Extra rechargeable camera batteries. I had three that charged up and I used two per day on long days of picture taking.

5) Portable chargers. These plug in to charge and then you can hook up items via USB along the way to recharge on the go.

6) Wifi Camera. My camera will transfer via wifi images directly to my phone. I was able to this multiple times a day and make notes and edit. This way I do not have a 1,000 pictures to look through when I get home and can't remember why I took a picture of that random building etc.

Leave it at Home:
1) Some of my clothes. I probably could have taken fewer clothes and been fine. I had a few things I didn't wear at all or only once. I was glad I took three pairs of shoes.

2) Jewelry. I used the same two or three pieces at night. During the day it got caught in my camera and purse straps.

3) I didn't pack any shampoo, conditioner, or body wash. Not a problem at all.

I quickly approaching the 20 hour mark for the day so I am not sure what else to talk about. I am on my iphone so please excuse all of the typos etc. I will clean it up when I get home.

;) best anniversary trip E-V-E-R!!! 10 amazing years with my hubby. We can't wait for our next adventure.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rome - Day 10

Off to the Vatican for a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel this morning. Everything here is amazing. We passed the Palace of Caesar below. We also pass the Baths of Caracalla.

We also passed a stone bridge still in use today that is over 2,100 years old. People still walk across the bridge with no renovations needed so far. We crossed a bridge with Bernini statues and looked up to a round building called the Castel Sant'Angelo or the Castle of Angels. The bridge with the white statues is the Angel Bridge.

We started in the galleries and then to the Cappella Sistina or the Sistine Chapel. There are no pictures in the chapel and no talking. They are very strict about these rules. There is also a dress code that everyone must follow to enter. No hats or shorts for men or women. Women's shoulders must be covered and dresses or pants must cover the knee.

The Sistine Chapel is breathtaking. We spent about 25 minutes viewing the ceiling. Our guide shared some interesting stories prior to entering the chapel. We entered Vatican city at 8am prior to the general public at 9. The lines were massive as we were entering and we got to just walk on by.

We were able to see several galleries with paintings and tapestries along our walk through the Vatican from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter's Basilica.

This guy is tucked away in the back part of a room. He was the first statue done in motion.

The above is actually a painting on a ceiling.

This beautiful ceiling is not even the focus of this room. The tapestries hanging on the wall are the important features.

We have special permission to enter St. Peter's Basilica directly from the Sistine Chapel. This is one of the courtyards we pass through along the way.

These are the Jubilee doors. The Pope opens them every 25 years and they stay open for one year. It is said that all your sins are forgiven when you pass through these doors. The last time 30 millions pilgrims traveled to the Vatican to pass through these doors.

The Basilica is one of the biggest churches in the world. Inside are many works of art.

The Pieta by Michelangelo

The Baldaquin and the Cupola.

Bernini is main artist of St. Peter's all of the images are mosaics not paintings.

There is also a mummified pope with a bronze mask here.

St. Peter's square is a work of art itself.

2nd window from the right is where the new pope waves when appointed.

The view from the square.

The Swiss Guard have worn the same uniforms for 500 years and they are the official army of the Pope.

After a quick lunch outside the Vatican we headed to the Coliseum. We pass by a monument done in 1921. Our guide seemed to think it somewhat unimportant.

The aqueduct of Rome is just outside of where we parked the bus to get to the Colosseum.

The Arco Di Costantino

Afterward we headed back to the hotel for a much needed rest. We then set out for our farewell dinner in Rome.

Day in Rome
Night with my new Italian Leather Jacket

Florence - Rome Day 9

We went to bed "early" last night and got almost 7 hours sleep. I slept like a rock and I am ready to explore Florence.

We are headed to a viewing of the  David sculpture. The museum or Acadamia (art school) where the David is located does not allow for pictures inside. It is hard to describe how beautiful and perfect the David statue is in person. The attention to detail and the precision used is amazing. We learned from our guide that the David statue has had a hard life. He was carved from a poor grade of marble and them he has endured many terrible things like an acid bath and a crazy man with a hammer. He has been struck by lightning, spent 12 years without his left arm, vandalized with initials carved into his leg, and he had rocks thrown at him while moving him indoors. Despite all of these hard times David is beautiful and breathtaking.

He actually has wires hooked up to him and they have been testing the cracks to determine if the David statue needs to be moved from his current location. There is a lot of heavy traffic nearby and because of the poor marble he is slowly turning to powder.

The David statue was originally located outside and he was moved indoors in the early 1800s. I have a picture of the alcove  in the church in which he was suppose to stand originally. There is also a copy of the David in Florence that was done in the early 1900s from a plaster of the original. He doesn't even come close to having the same awe inspiring effect, but  he is located on a square and you can take pictures of the copy.

A short walk down from the Acadamia where David is housed is the Duomo church. When it was built it was the largest church in the world and still is the 3rd largest now. It has an extravagant exterior and a very plain interior. The center of the three alcoves in the picture above is where David was originally to be housed. The Duomo has the 4th largest dome in the world.

The front of the church has the twelve apostles and Mary on the front.

As we walk through Florence we see the Ponte Vecchio bridge on the Arno River.

As we walked through town we saw lots of interesting sights and then went shopping. My husband and I both bought beautiful leather jackets. Leather, gold, and silver are the "big buys" in Florence.

Below is the copy of the David statue.

We finished our morning in the Piazza Di Santa Croce. Below is the Santa Croce church located in that square.

We ate lunch around the square and then hopped on the bus for the short drive to Rome. 

We enter Rome and see orange trees along the streets.

We pass under a bridge that is 1,700 years old and then we pass a 2,000 year old basilica. It is amazing to see the old ruins and newer buildings together.

We met our local guide and walked the streets of Rome. Our first stop was the Piazza Di Trevi where the Trevi fountain is located. Alan and I threw in our coin - one coin means we will come back to  Rome.

The Roman column below is over 2,000 years old.

2000 yr old columns on newer building are common here. The Romans repurpose everything. 

Rome has also been destroyed and rebuilt on its ruins many times over the centuries. Below is an example of the many levels of Rome.

From here we walked to the Church of Saint Ignazio Di Loyola.

This church has a beautiful painted ceiling inside.

Then they ran out of money and just painted a dome inside too.

Next we saw the Pantheon which is over 2000 years old. It is the largest unsupported dome in the world. Pillars support the dome around the edge and they are carved of single pieces of marble brought over from Egypt on flat boats.  The craftsman started with the ring and pillars then scaffolding was built and the walls and ceiling were built lighter and thinner towards the top. The top was covered originally with gold and bronze and the dome is still in perfect condition.

Artist Raphael is buried here inside the Pantheon.

The bronze door is original and is over 2,000 years old.

3500 yr old obelisk sits in the square in front of the Pantheon.

Piazza Navona was previously a stadium and this explains it's elongated square shape. This square is home to Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers and St. Agnes church. 

We ate dinner at Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navona and it was wonderful. We then walked a little ways to see St. Peter's basicilla at night along the Tiber River.

Palace of Justice below was just ahead of the bridge where we hopped into the bus and off to our hotel for the night. A full day of Rome tomorrow and I can't wait!!!

Day in Florence and Rome