Thursday, September 30, 2010

When in Rome...Visit the Vatican

Today we got up and had a wonderful breakfast here at the Hotel Italia and then headed out to the Vatican.

Terrie and I were outside awaiting our friend Celeste and so I got the chance to take a few pictures - as promised here are a few pictures with the hotel and street it is as well as Terrie.

This first one is looking toward our hotel (you can see the sign near the top of the picture off to the right). Terrie is giving me a pose between all of the many motorcycles and scooters. The street is lined with them here.

This is a picture I took looking the other direction from where I was standing in the above picture. I love the Italian archictecture!

After Celeste caught up with us, we took off towards the Vatican. We ended up walking towards the subway to take a 10 minute ride to near the Vatican.

On the way to the subway, I took a few pictures of the surrounding area (Stupid American Touristy stuff). ;-)

And yes, they also have things like McDonalds and Burger King (Note the red arrows in the below picture) - although we didn't stop in them to see if they served things like the "Big Mac" or "Whopper". My guess is probably not - or at least, not under the same name.

Coming up on the Vatican, we were presented with the large Vatican walls, as well as the large Vatican crowds. Fortunately, we had reservations and were early enough to enjoy the scenery outdoors. So first we stopped and got a couple of waters...(you can see Terrie at the "Night and Day Gelateria" street vendor stand and Celeste in the foreground meandering - the arrows point them out).

After getting waters, we decided to spend the remainder of our time before our tour reservation drinking Cappuccinos, Espressos, and munching on a few cookies.

Our friend, Celeste.


While we waited and enjoyed our coffees (no, Terrie didn't have a coffee), we watched the 1000's of Smart cars and other small cars and motorcycles go by. On a side note, here in Rome the painted lines, the road signs, and the traffic signals are all just suggestions for the road and not really rules to drive by. :-o So watch out if driving, because you may suddenly have someone driving headlong towards you!

We also watched the crowds, and crowds of people - and the many tours going by. A tip for anyone traveling to Rome in the future - Make Reservations! Many people don't know how places such as the Vatican and other locations do take reservations. Note, the half-mile long line in the background next to the wall.

Inside the Vatican, it was simply amazing! Rather than show all the pictures we took (they do get a bit monotonous after awhile), I figured I would choose a few to show here.

We lucked out even more on our tour as our Vatican guide was not just any old guide - but the "Instructor of Guides". He was very long winded but also very thorough and educational (he's only been there 25+ years). It was a bit humorous as he would get quite offended when someone made the mistake of asking how much longer or something of the sort.

But, back to how amazing the Vatican arts and history are, as our guide said, "The Vatican is not just 'a museum' - It is 'The Museum'!"

And he wasn't kidding either.

From everything such as the many thousands of years old hand carved statues....

...and including the amazingly preserved thousands of years old tapestries...

...and the exquisitely done paintings...

...and the absolutely stunning room designs such as the wall and ceiling paintings by artists such as Michael Angelo...

...and the incredulously intricate floor mosaics (which we were walking on)... the the St. Petersburg Basilica building architecture itself (bet you didn't know it's not classified as a cathedral)!

So, all-in-all a pretty amazing day (my feet are sore)!

And when in Rome, do as the Romans do....and visit the Vatican.

Ciao for now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Are Here (in Rome, Italy that is)!

We are here!

We landed a couple of hours ago and have just settled into our quaint hotel room (the "Hotel Italia").

Note: Since it's dark out right now, I cheated and pulled the street view above from Google Maps (via my iPad). Thanks to Google for this image. As soon as I get a picture of my own, I'll post it.

It took nearly 18 hours of traveling - including flying from Seattle, through London, to Rome, with a couple hour layover in London's Heathrow International Airport and the time in Rome's rush hour traffic from the airport (on the outskirts of the city) to the hotel - which, as you can see in the iPad screenshot, is in the heart of the city.

Since it's nearly 9pm as I type this (Italy is 9 hours ahead of Seattle), I'm chilling out in the room while Terrie and Celeste (friend of ours) take a stroll around the block and are looking for a mini-mart to grab a few essentials.

Ciao for now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Heathrow Airport

Well, we just landed in Heathrow (actually about an hour ago now - took a bit getting through customs and security again).

They stared at me funny at the Starbucks here in Heathrow International when I rattled off my normal Starbucks drink. I had to substitute an iced 8-shot espresso for my usual iced coffee as they didn't have iced coffee.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Flight from SEATAC to Heathrow

So, we just took off from Seattle-Tacoma (SEATAC) airport on our non-stop British Airways flight to London, England (Heathrow). Let me just say, flying Business Class is pretty sweet!

Check out the pods we can completely lay down flat in!

All the creature comforts such as a ton of movies and TV shows individually on-demand, games, a phone, footrest, and, of course, the 8-way adjustable seat and foot rest.

My seat faces backwards, so my view out the Window during take off from Seattle was very neat.

Here's a (somewhat blurry) side view. As you can see, one seat faces forward while the one next to it faces backwards.

As I write this, we are preparing to be served dinner:

For starters, we have a choice of...

-Duck salad with beet, endive, and a walnut vinaigrette with popcorn shoots.

-An heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella, basil and creamy garlic dressing.

Terrie chose the former and I chose the later. The Duck was served more in the fashion of a pate and was pretty tasty. The mozzarella, cucumber, and tomato salad was very tasty and the garlic sauce was also very good and provided a good blend of flavors.

The main course is a choice of...

-Filet of beaf with black truffle butter, roast potato wedges, and sautéed chanterelles.

-Pan-roasted scallops with warm vinaigrette, saffron potatoes au gratin, and green beans.

-Smoked mozzarella gnocchi with peperonata sauce.

-Chilled main course Indonesian-style chicken salad.

Terrie and I both chose the scallops. These were pleasantly good - not overcooked and evenly seasoned in the vinaigrette sauce. The potatoes au gratin was good but the "gratin" had more of consistency nearer to a scrambled egg versus that of a creamy cheese. Still, good flavor. The green beans were, surprisingly, done just right (remember, this is airline food - even if we're in business class pods) and very well seasoned and a good balance to the potatoes and scallops.

And for desert, the choices are...

-Cherry frangipane with vanilla sauce.

-Sweet Marion blue and Krystal Pure Cheddar.


They will also serve breakfast but I'll leave that for another post.

Ciao for now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Weekend - More Pics

Thought these old cabins were neat photos.

Local scenery in the area just behind the "dream houses" shown above.

Mom was showing her form at the paper, plastic, and metal targets we had setup.

Casey came to hang with me...and watch everyone.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Day Weekend - 1st Post

This weekend we headed over the Cascade Mountains to my brother's cabin to meet up with him and his family as well as our parents.

Here is a snapshot from the drive over Hwy 20's Washington Pass.

My brother's cabin - a work in progress which is coming along nicely.

My parents mansion on wheels.

Local scenery.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad