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New Orleans ~ like coming home

September 2nd, 2011

phpivm73qpmTravel has a way of broadening your horizons and making you feel small at the same time. I’m amazed at how our big world becomes small every time I step out of my surroundings to travel. Our trip to Italy opened my eyes to a big world, learning to get along with a foreign language and the customs of a different culture. When a destination grabs your heart and becomes like home, the world doesn’t seem so big. Our annual pilgrimage to New Orleans feels like coming home and somehow makes the world smaller every year.

Our 6TH Annual trip to New Orleans to celebrate Paul Helm’s birthday was just as fun as always. It’s a tradition that feels like coming home for a holiday. We get to see friends and family that we only see during the last weekend of August. Much like a growing family, we add new friends to the reunion every year. It is so much fun to witness friends experiencing New Orleans for the first time.

This year we mixed it up a little.

We stayed at the Bienville House for the first time this year, a sister hotel of the Hotel Monteleone. We have such a great relationship with the staff at the Hotel Monteleone. Their recommendation to stay at The Bienville House turned out to be great advice. I found being on Decatur St. very convenient, an easily walk to Bourbon St, Jackson Square and the French Market. All the guests loved their rooms, with each room having unique features.  Historically, the location of the Bienville House had transformed into several different businesses.  Originally housing the Planter’s Rice Mill, the newly renovated boutique hotel feels like staying at an intimate guest house with breakfast served daily. The party officially kicked off on Friday when the whole gang had a drink at Iris, the hotel’s beautiful restaurant. Throughout the weekend, several of us enjoyed relaxing in the beautiful quart yard with a salt water pool.

This year I had the privilege to meet with Angela Anthaume of The Bienville House and Noelle Cantarno of FSC inter@ctive. These young women have exciting careers in sales and marketing and were so much fun to get to know. I was honored that they took a few minutes to chat about the Bienville House, marketing, social media, Weekend ReTweat and best of all recommendations to get off the beaten path. I loved talking to them about life in New Orleans, which offers so much more than Bourbon Street and is constantly changing! Among many suggestions, they recommended Frenchman Street. That advice turned out to be golden! Thanks again Angela and Noelle for meeting with me. You inspired me in many ways.

The Music

php6bzanypmI love Zydeco music! We always head to Bourbon to hear our favorite Cajuns. Our tradition is playing the washboard with Waylon and Timmy at Tropical Isle and dancing to the Bonoffs at The Olde Opera House. After a few hours of Bourbon, a few of us headed to Frenchman Street to check it out.

Frenchman Street, lined with nightlife, restaurants and shopping, is where the “locals” enjoy a hip young bohemian culture. Live music with jazz, Latin, and blues influence fills the streets at night. I spent three nights in a row soaking in all kinds of music and watching couples swing dancing with 40′s style outfits. One couple seemed to have a unique style, with their upper body calm while their feet were moving double time. I later learned that style is called West Coast Balboa. The dancing was fun to watch and tempting to try! Experiencing Frenchman confirms my belief that getting off the beaten path is always the best direction to go. My only fear is that tourist will one day discover Frenchman and ruin it.

The Food

phpofahofpmFood always plays a big part of our annual party! We usually hit the landmarks and have our favorite restaurants. We can’t go to New Orleans without visiting JoAnn at the famous Desires Oyster Bar or getting a Lucky Dog on Bourbon Street. However, this year I was excited to add Coop’s Place and El Gato Negro to our list. Coop is traditional Cajun, while El Gato Negro is Mexican. You wouldn’t necessarily think Mexican food on a trip where crawfish, oysters and gumbo are to die for. However, I am here to tell you… El Gato Negro was the best Mexican cuisine I’ve ever put in my mouth! We also changed the big birthday dinner from Pascale’s Manale to a river boat cruise. The Creole Queen proved to be a relaxing dinner and stroll down the Mississippi. Returning to the dock gave us a breath taking night view of New Orleans lit up over the water.

Getting off the beaten path

Among the list of firsts, I enjoyed shopping “junk” stores on Frenchman Street. Thankfully Jeff and Jason were patient with me. I am so excited to have met business owners that encouraged me to pursue a few ideas with Flown The Coop. I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate my passion for travel, New Orleans, social media and junking. Stayed tuned for that one…

phpirnhn1pmIn the midst of all the fun and enjoyment, a few of us took a somber journey through The National WWII Museum. Jeff and I have wanted to tour it for years and finally made the time. In my opinion, the WWII museum is a “Must See!” I felt ashamed at how I easily forget and take for granted the sacrifices so many people made for our freedom. Words just don’t do this experience justice. I highly recommend the incredible 4D movie Beyond All Boundaries to complete the experience.

Sad to say good bye

Every year I am a little sad to say good bye. This year was wonderfully full of first time experiences, as well as experiencing our favorite traditions. I look forward to coming “home” again next year. However, I am hoping that I don’t have to wait a year. I am confident New Orleans will welcome me back like family at anytime of the year.

Enjoy a little video montage of our trip….

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Travel prints have a new home

May 24th, 2011

When I decided to explore my passion for travel I never imagined these turn of events.

logo-from-pagesDeciding to sell my travel prints was just my way of promoting travel.  I enlisted the help of Michele Savoldi of Columbus ImPRessions to create marketing materials and set up an Etsy store with no idea of how successful this venture would be.  I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of creatively pressing into my dreams.  Sharing my view of the world seemed like a natural step.

phpote3lpamAt the beginning of the month I had the privilege of exhibiting my bicycle prints from my travels at the Green Owl in Urbana.  I had so much fun at the open house and at my first experience of showing off my prints, even selling a few.  It was exhilarating.

Jeff and I have been exited about the recent opening of a new restaurant in Urbana. Fusion 40.83 is our kind of dining experience with excellent food, a variety of craft beers on tap and a contemporary atmosphere.  In passing I mentioned my travel photography to Mark Bloemhard, one of the owners.  Mark was looking for local artists with an International flare to furnish Fusion 40.83 with art and photography.  He agreed to preview my Italy prints.  To my surprise, he thought my prints were “disgustingly good” and was interested in three prints.  Mark has a background in photography, art history and marketing.  His opinion meant the world to me.

It was my pleasure and privilege to donate three prints to Fusion 40.83.  Stop in to Fusion to check them out!  I can’t wait to see them on the walls and am thrilled that my travel prints found a new home.

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Love that Jeff is in the mirror taking the pic!  I wouldn’t be able to do any of my ventures without him.  :)

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3 things I’ve learned from my focus board

May 9th, 2011

I have created focus boards for years … you know the corny imagery that motivational gurus love to encourage?

Call me corny or a hopeless dreamer… I’m here to report that focus boards work!  For over ten years, my focus boards have pointed me in the direction of my dreams.  Recently I decided to create a new focus board, which inspired me to take a look at all my past boards to reminisce.  My corny motivational projects are now proof to me that dreams come true!

The Fall of 2000

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When Jeff and I were home educating our children,  we were hoping to inspire our children to dream big, have a thirst for learning and instill a wander lust for our big world.  Looking at this focus board makes me giggle.  I always thought the big house and fancy cars would make me happy.  Turns out that the trips we took and the memories created were more precious than any home we were working hard to provide.  I am grateful that we took the kids to the Caribbean, Washington DC, New York City, camping trips, trips to Texas and just about every museum in the state of Ohio.  Our daughter spent a summer in Panama.  Our son spent a summer in Italy and Spain.  These are unforgettable experiences for them!

Focus for a successful career

phpj16bgmpmWhen I was a Realtor, I had big dreams of building a team and being top in sales.  I loved looking at a picture of Stilletos propped up on a fancy desk and imagined a highly powerful career in real estate.  I did have some professional accomplishments to be proud of.  However, I am most thrilled about the experiences that my focus board motivated me to try.  Jeff and I had so much fun on a Harley Davidson we bought, putting 32,000 miles on the Harley in about a year!  I got in the best shape of my life and was running.  (that didn’t last)  For the first time I allowed myself to dream of traveling the world, with no idea how these journeys would ever take shape.  I just kept looking at images of all the exotic places I had in mind.  It’s amazing how many dreams have been realized from this one board.

Finding my “muse”

phpvbfwpmamWhen I left my career as a Realtor, I definitely needed motivation.  I read a lot of travel blogs at the time and knew I had to set out on an adventure.  One day I came across a quote by Rolf Potts, “travel isn’t expensive, maintaining stuff is.”   So I listed my car on Craig’s list and sold it within a week.  Using the money from my car, I started to plan an adventure.  I chose to go to Costa Rica on a RealGap trip to learn Spanish and live with a host family.  If you look closely at my real estate focus board, you’ll see a montage of pictures of a girl having an adventure in Costa Rica.  Funny!  This wasn’t planned when I did my focus board for my real estate office. Now I have a wonderful family in Costa Rica that I keep in touch with on Facebook.  I will always cherish that adventure!

What I needed most after returning from Costa Rica was quotes to assist in “Finding My Muse.”

“In every real person, the will for life is also the will for joy” ~ Kari Barth.

And one of my favorites:

“Figure out which direction you want to go, but don’t be afraid to be creative with that direction… you have to go with the flow because you never know where it will take you.  Just don’t expect things to happen overnight” ~ Anne Marie Craig.

Travel full time?

php5gar6uam1-150x1501The next focus board reflected a shift to pursuing travel full-time.  While travel is not a new pursuit, I decided to pursue a business in the travel industry.  Deep down I just knew it was the direction that I needed to point myself.  While I was pressing into the various travel related projects and working with social media, I looked at my focus board for inspiration.   I am very proud of the direction Weekend ReTweat is taking!  I believe success will eventually come from focusing on the direction I want to go and pressing into various opportunities that present themselves.

phptlytgdam1When I created my focus board for my real estate office, I couldn’t imagine ever realizing a dream trip to Italy.  After saving my money for a long time, Jeff and I finally took that dream trip!   I used to daydream about Europe while looking at a picture of a lady standing on a balcony overlooking an European city.  I had cut her out of a magazine and posted it to my focus board in the real estate office.  While in Naples, Jeff shot this picture me, yet another image of my focus board came to life… YEARS LATER.

Living the dream….

php80n6boam1Every once in a while I need a fresh outlook.  I decided to create a new focus board with a slight shift in focus.  I will inevitably be traveling.  I need to look and feel good for all my future travel adventures!  I have made several attempts at conquering my fitness without much success.  However, I’ve learned that if I keep focusing on my dreams I will eventually realize them.  Day in and day out I will be reminded of all the great adventures that lie ahead and the need to be fit while experiencing the joys of life!

Here’s a quote from my new board:

“Her favorite story is the one she’s living right now”

Lessons from the focus board….

  1. Dreams Come True!
  2. Images from a focus board come to life &  focusing on them gives direction to press into
  3. Don’t expect them to happen overnight… just keep pressing into opportunities that come your way!

Trust me!  Dreams do come true!!!  What’s on your focus board?  If you are inspired to create one… I’d love to see it when your done.  Please share a picture with me on my Facebook page and leave a comment here!!!!  Let’s inspire each other.

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My muddy music fest tradition

May 3rd, 2011

Beale Street Music Festival ~ a tradition

php2nxzxypmOur fourth annual trip to Memphis in May for the Beale Street Music Fest felt like going home. This year Jeff and I were excited to share our muddy music tradition with our daughter Emily and her boyfriend Jacob. I love the South and keeping traditions!

The best part of our annual pilgrimage is staying with our fun loving friend Erin Lee, who first opened her home to my family in West Point, MS, and now opens her home in Memphis anytime Jeff and I want to visit. Erin is like family to us and is truly a non judgmental friend no matter what we are weathering in life.

php0nw7kkamThe weather was the big new this year for the Beale Street Music Fest! Friday and Saturday we stayed dry for the first time in four years. It was wonderful! However, Sunday did not disappoint those who bought a new pair of Memphis in May boots, another tradition for the fashion divas at mud fest.

Enjoying the festival

We didn’t last long on Friday night. The sunset was amazing over the Mississippi! We heard a little Manchester Orchestra and Cake, but missed Jason Maraz. We just couldn’t hold up after a long day of traveling.

phpl9ykwvamThe weather and lineup was perfect on Saturday!

  • I saw Amy Lavere for the first time. Amy is a spunky little gypsy jazz chick who plays a double base and writes beautifully witty songs. She sang a couple songs that really resonated with me, and a few that Jimbo Mathus wrote for her.
  • Jimbo Mathis is another Americana, gypsy jazz, blues musician who is known as a folklorist. Jeff and I heard Jimbo last year at Ground Zero in Clarksdale preforming Mosquitoville, a tale based on local Quitman County history. We were looking forward to hearing him again and was not disappointed. His show rocked the Blues tent!
  • Jeff and I had to see Jerry Lee Lewis, wanting to see how the “mean old man” was holding up. This year Jerry Lee’s sister Linda Gail Lewis, accompanied by her daughter, hit the stage to preform a couple of Jerry’s songs, obviously inheriting his talent. Jerry Lee Lewis looked great and seemed to be really into it this year.
  • I lucked out with an awesome spot to see Mumford and Sons. Saturday night sold out with a truly electrifying crowd, a sea of people on the banks of the muddy Mississippi stretching out from the Budweiser stage to the front gates. Mumford and Sons were the highlight of my trip! We had planned to see Ludacris and John Mellencamp, but went back to Erin’s because the crowd was just too much (even for me).

phpmo9fh7pmNot really ready to call it a night, Jeff, Erin and I hit Beale Street which was just as packed as the festival. To escape the crowds, we ducked into the juke joint attached to the Rum Boogie and were extremely fortunate to hear Patrick Dodd, who rocked his faded blue Fender with a mixture of blues and some old school Jimmy Hendrix! I absolutely love the local talent in Memphis! A few musicians showed up to the juke joint with their instruments. Patrick invited a sax, trumpet and an electric guitar musician to join him for an impromptu performance. Wow, another highlight to my trip!

php34f1tmpmSevere weather on Sunday prevented us from heading to the festival until it was safe. The mud fest must go on! I had a blast dancing in the mud, shuffling between Ziggy Marley, Saving Abel and Al Kapone. CeeLo Green was worth all the mud dancing! His voice didn’t carry as well, but he still rocked Crazy

“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind…there was something so pleasant about that place” Love that song!

and then finally “F” You. Despite the horrible weather delays, it was another great day!

Sunday night a new tradition was born! We ended a perfect festival weekend at Itta Bena’s, a fine dining restaurant above BB King’s. Closing down the joint, we ordered Crab Bisque, hot rolls and Southern Pecan Beer. MMM! Erin and I danced at BB Kings to some soul music and ended the night with a walk around downtown Memphis to see what all the locals were up to.

No trip to Memphis is complete without breakfast at The Blue Plate, one of our favorite traditions. We toasted to another fun trip and a wonderful breakfast.

Beale Street Festival Observations

Social Media was in the house! This year we used the Beale Street Festival Facebook page to stay on top of the developments, even though we didn’t trust their weather announcements on Sunday.  It was fun to hear what people were saying about their experiences at the festival.  My favorite snark….

Kim Walker
‎…all because “Memphis in June” doesn’t have a ring to it…
Sunday at 4:06pm · Like ·
4 people like this.

While most people were positive, some complained about the lineup and the lack of AT&T coverage. I hope they will utilize their Facebook page even more next year, posting more updates. I also enjoyed the pics and videos posted, although I was a bit envious of the press pass holders. I really think bloggers should be considered for press passes next year.

6_2011_bsmf_poster-72dpi1John Henshall, a friend from Australia, has attended past Beale Street Music Festivals. John observed the evolution of the Beale Street Music Festival in the posters by George Hunt, which clearly illustrates how the festival’s roots are in Blues musicians and now features a lineup that he wasn’t familiar with. I had to admit that I didn’t know many of names either. We wondered if the target audience has shifted to a younger audience?

Plans for next year ~ the tradition continues

Next year Jeff and I will be even more prepared for the mud fest. Jeff, the original cat herder is always thinking logistics. We came prepared with our boots, rain gear, etc. This year we were given a little back pack from Nationwide, which inspired Jeff to create a “survival kit” for the festival that will fit into this little nap sack.

Jeff’s Memphis In May ~ Beale Street Music Fest Survival Kit

  • Large piece of plastic to sit on
  • Ponchos (rain gear) & umbrellas
  • Little plastic bags for phone & wallet
  • Travel tissues for the Port-O-Potties / maybe even a few wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Beer coozie
  • Little light weight over the shoulders nap sack

Regardless of the weather or an unfamiliar lineup, I thoroughly enjoyed the diverse music, discovered a few new bands that I will follow, had a blast with Memphis friends and heard some fantastic Blues on Beale Street. We’ll be back next year, It feels like coming home and is a cherished tradition!

Do you have a favorite music festival or a yearly pilgrimage that has become a tradition?  Please share your stories with me!

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Lucca, Italy… oh how I love you!

March 23rd, 2011

One of the best days of my life!

Jeff and I spent our last days in Italy in the little country town of Lucca in Tuscany.  As we got off the train and strolled toward our hotel, I looked at Jeff and proclaimed, “Lucca is our kind of town!”  He didn’t know how I could tell that from the train station.  It just felt right.

Don’t get me wrong… I loved everywhere we went.  We loved the art in Florence, the medieval town of Siena, the grand monuments and fountains in Rome, and ocean views of Naples and Capri.  I would be hard pressed to pick one favorite place, restaurant, experience or sight.

187116_1118870860_1567811_n1Lucca is famous for the medieval wall that surrounds the historic center.  Life seems to take place outdoors in this beautiful little town with people walking, running and riding their bikes.  This lovely town seemed to be family oriented with young families in parks spending time with their children and socializing.  It was sweet to see how people interacted with their children.  I was even welcomed by returned smiles as I passed people around town.  Most people rode a bicycles equipped to carry groceries and a passenger.  I was impressed with many of the women’s ability to maneuver their bicycles with passengers and groceries while looking incredible and very well dressed.

Jeff wisely recommended that we use our day in that area to explore Lucca instead of trying to see Pisa as well.  We were both in need of a casual day without trying to figure out a bus schedule and another map.  I am so thankful we did just that!  It ended up being one of my happiest days, a treasure I’ll keep forever.

196154_1846501518478_1118870860_32214839_1180887_n1We got up early on a Sunday rented bycles from our Guest House on a sunny but cool Sunday.  Perfect day to explore Lucca!  Spring was in the air as we rode down a beautiful cobble stone street lined with Japanese Magnolias in bloom.  A bike ride on top of the city the wall with great views of both sides of the city gave us a better idea of the lay of the land and another glimpse of Lucca’s lifestyle.  There were old men playing some kind of competitive checkers game making very animated hand gestures and plenty of locals walking, running or riding their bikes.  We were surprised by the number of people we saw at the hour of the morning.  Life in every other Italian town doesn’t get moving until after noon.

199962_1846510398700_1118870860_32214870_5199408_nJeff and I anticipated a quite day of riding down all the streets and soaking in all the sun and architecture, not thinking much would be open on a Sunday.  We were pleasantly surprised!  That Sunday the historic center of Lucca was lined with a Flea Market.  I couldn’t believe that I could be that lucky and found a couple of treasures to purchase.  The squares were packed with people strolling through the market negotiating pricing in Italian.  A marching band came through one of the squares, making the atmosphere even more festive.  We had our picnic lunch in the square and watched the amusing children chase pigeons.  After a Gelato, we headed back to the Guest House to participate in the afternoon siesta and rested before another ride around the wall to soak in this picturesque town before sunset.

We learned early on in our trip that dinner doesn’t happen until around 7pm in Italy, so we took a walk before dinner.  Surprised by the number of families and friends out walking, we made our way through the crowded cobble stone streets to window shop in the mixture of Mom & Pop shops and Benetton department stores.  We decided on a restaurant that had a group of young people hanging out front of it earlier, thinking it was probably good if the locals like it.  Jeff ordered pizza with Wurstel thinking it was some kind sausage, but was served a hotdog pizza.  We had a good laugh over that one!  To end a perfect day, we took another long walk and said good night to Lucca!  It is really sad to have to say good bye especially with reality looming around the corner.

I wish I could adequately put in words just how much I loved my day in Lucca!  I am blessed with some incredible memories, along with pictures and a couple treasures to remind me of that day.

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Feste Nazionale – Loving Naples and all things Italian

March 18th, 2011

rjrbhys2bj8jIt has rained off and on the past two days in Naples.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not complaining.  The weather has forced me to slow down and enjoy the neighborhood we are living in this week, not sure why that is so hard for me.

I love Naples!  We have a great apartment and have soaked in the neighborhood and learning more about Italia!  I love strolling the cobble 188868_1840637611884_1118870860_32204368_6523471_n1stoned streets with all the bustling noise of the scooters and tiny cars that race past the pedestrians.  I love watching people interact at the markets, cafes, butcher shops and walking down the streets.  We read mixed reviews on Naples, some say it is seedy and dangerous while others love it.  Jeff and I have not felt endangered the whole time we’ve been here.  The roughest part of the city we’ve seen is by the train station and in the Porta Nolana known as the market Fuori le mura where the streets are lined with vendors selling everything from socks to octopus.  Jeff and I agree that we did not feel threatened even in these parts of the city.  Our neighborhood is a shopping paradise, everything you need within a few blocks!  (It is a good thing for us because it would take some practice to be able to drive to the market in Italy.  Their driving is hair raising!)  I wish America cities still had butchers and markets within walking distance from home.  People seem to know their butcher and are known at the cafes.  I also love the guys walking around with covered trays who carry espresso orders to people.  You wouldn’t see that back home.  The streets are alive with activity all hours of the day and night.  I wish I spoke Italian so that I could join in their lifestyle or have conversations with the people I see.

Italy as a whole is a great example of historic and modern coexisting.  I love the ancient architecture, the rich history and the H&M store located in the midst of it all.  I love that there is a butcher and a technology store in the same historic building.

Yesterday was the 150th celebration of the unity of Italy.  Most of the stores were closed in the middle of the day.  We took a walk 199984_1840874017794_1118870860_32204685_252858_n1and enjoyed watching families walk together carrying flags, couples strolling the cobble stone paths arm in arm.  It seemed to be a relaxing day to just be together.  I was looking for a parade or festival, but apparently there is a national holiday celebrating liberation day in Italy on April 25.  That festival is celebrated much like July 4 in America.

Jeff and I stopped to talk to a group of college students who were collecting signatures to make 17 Marzo a national holiday.  They seemed to want to make a difference, remember the heros of their country and restore a sense of pride in their country for future generations.  I visited their website www.generazionefuturo.it and their Facebook page.  I do not understand the debate, but admire the patriotism of these young people.

I have a quirky habit of attempting to make people smile back as I pass them.  I’ve done this for years and have made it a game of sorts.  Generally, people will smile back.  In Naples I have been challenged by the lack of smiles I get back.  Initially I thought these people might distrust my tourist appearance.  Reading some of the comments on the Generazione Futuro Facebook page, I am beginning to realize there is a sense of melancholy in Italy.  I came across this YouTube video that addresses the issue….

The sense of melancholy is not unique to Italy.  I see it in Americans and the growing sense of entitlement within all walks of life.  I admire people who stand up and fight for their heritage and have pride in their homeland.  We all have something to be thankful for and can make a difference.

I could see myself living in Italy.  I could learn Italian and how to drive in the crazy cities.  I don’t know the full extent of the debate between Italians about their heritage or their future.  As a tourist looking in, I see a vibrant country rich in history and blessed with youth willing to fight for it.  I agree with the Generazione Futoro slogan:

Vogliamo un’Italia libera, forte, vincente!  We want an Italy free, strong, winning!

Goodbye Malinconia!

Please let me know what you think or if you can explain the debate further to me! I also love learning about the issues!

Promoting My favorite places , , , , , ,

Naples – Italia intensified!

March 15th, 2011

Leaving Rome a seasoned Roman

The day we had to leave Rome, we felt like seasoned Romans.  We had the city and the bus system figured out.  We walked with purpose and started to feel at home.  When you travel, give yourself some time to get acclimated and then enjoy!

197002_1833758919921_1118870860_32195910_6077255_nWe needed to tour the Vatican Museum before we left.  I wasn’t leaving Rome without seeing the Sistine Chapel.  It was so worth it.  We stood and looked at the ceiling for a long time.  I highly recommend renting the audio tour or downloading Rick Steve’s app on your smart phone.  There is so much to be explained with the master piece.  After all the reading I did on the subject, it was so cool to be standing underneath it.  I didn’t cry, but felt extremely thankful.  I didn’t bring my camera, but it turns out that I could have taken pictures everywhere except the Sistine Chapel.  Another piece of advice, arrive early to the museum.  We arrived at about early and only had to wait about thirty minutes.  Once we exited the museum the line was around the building.  I felt sorry for those people.  There are plenty of people wanting to help you avoid the lines at a price, but it isn’t necessary if you arrive early.

We arrived to Naples with minimal struggle.  The lack of signage is still frustrating.  I would learn more Italian if I returned to Italy!  We took another cab to our apartment.  EEKS!  The driving is unbelievably scary.  It driving is bad in Rome, Naples is even worse.  Jeff took a video that he’ll post to Facebook eventually.  Naples does seem to be Italia intensified!

198370_1834616101350_1118870860_32197326_231257_nOur apartment has more room than we’ll ever need, but is so convenient for us.  I love having a kitchen, washing machine and a terrace.  We are located in an upper class neighborhood in Naples, just outside Naples Central with fabulous shopping.  We arrived around 5pm and were a little frustrated without a map.  There was no way to communicate with the locals to find a grocery store.  Today we learned that we are closer to a good market than we thought.  I love the energy of the neighborhood.  There is a constant stream of scooters and people talking outside our apartment.  While some travelers don’t like the noise, I love the sound of people enjoying life!  Not many people speak English, but we manage to communicate, although some Italians seemed annoyed with us.  When we travel we always try to avoid the real tourist spots and favor the local hang outs.  Renting an apartment in a residential neighborhood has allowed me to feel the pulse of the city and what life is like in Naples.  I love feeling like a local.

195920_1837189005671_1118870860_32200627_4740117_nWe sailed for Capri today, pronounced “Caaapri.”  I fell in love.  Just when I thought I saw the best of Europe, I see something even better.  It is a fabulous little island with wonderful little walk ways.  We attacked Capri like we did Rome and walked for ever!  We took a scenic path that got us a little lost, but saw amazing scenery!  We had a picnic lunch along the path and enjoyed nature.  The maps weren’t helpful and signage was a problem again.  Please check out my Facebook page for the unbelievable shots we took of Capri.  We didn’t get a chance to sail into the Grotto.  Renting a scooter looked like fun on the island as well.  I may need to return to Capri, stay on the island and wear hiking shoes.

Tonight we are relaxing in our apartment and enjoying our trendy crash pad.  We did some shopping in the markets on our way “home” today and cooked another meal for ourselves in our kitchen.  It was a simple pasta meal with salad and fresh mozzarella.  We realized today that we haven’t eaten meat the whole time we’ve been in Italy, although we’ve seen some butchers and seafood markets with unidentified selections of meats and fish.  We were able to buy some eggs for breakfast.  I am missing eggs for breakfast.  The Italians aren’t much on breakfast.  Today we stopped at the Cafe Tourista.  We almost pasted it up because of the name.  We ordered a cafe latte, espresso doppio, and two pastries for 3.80 Euros.  I couldn’t believe it, great price!  I walked away from there wondering how they maintain their slim figures.  I am feeling the weight of my “no carbs left behind” trip to Italy.  Tomorrow night we will make pork chops or fish.

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We could go for a walk tonight, but are so tired of walking.  We’ll just soak in our little home away from home!

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A festival in Rome – A nice surprise!

March 14th, 2011

Rain, Rain go away!

phpmbuvyapmAnother packed day of sight seeing in Rome.  We saw just about everything on our list.  Tomorrow we will get up and see the Sistine Chapel.  It is the only thing not open on Sundays.

I am so thankful we did all our walking yesterday.  It rained the most part of the day.  We went straight to the Vatican City on bus 64 early enough to avoid the lines.  I was moved to tears as I walked into St. Peter’s Basilica.  The beauty and majesty of the interior really does point to the creativity and wonder of God.  The statutes coming out of from the walls were larger than life, with natural life beaming down from the cupolas.  There was a service in process, but did not understand what I was witnessing.  The man singing added to the sense of wonder while I walked through the building.  We saw several processions with what looked to be Cardinals.  I can’t imagine what the Sixteenth Chapel will look like when we see it tomorrow.  It can’t possibly be any grandeur.

As we were exiting the Basilica, we heard the thunder of a group of motorcycles.  I love to hear that sound!  We spent some time looking at all the motorcycles and started to meander down the main street and started to realize there was some kind of festival preparing to begin.   A marching band, men in Roman soldier gear and Catholic nuns and priests were beginning to gather.  I love a parade!  We finally found out they were about to unveil the Vie Della Conciliazione, a line of bronze statutes representing the path Jesus took to the cross.  This explained why the motorcycle group made the organized ride.  The festival excited me for several reasons.  I loved standing amongst the locals and getting a glimpse of how they interact together.  I have some great memories of that moment, despite the rain.

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For lunch we entered the first restaurant we saw without looking at a menu.  We picked one of the most expensive restaurants.  Since we were seated at a table, we decided to make the most of it.  The food was excellent.  I could get used to the Italian custom of enjoying a meal without rushing.  This meal I especially wanted to savor.

Next we toured the Castel Sant’Angelo.  I love touring historic buildings.  Jeff enjoyed seeing all the ancient guns, swords and armor.  Touring this building you follow a circular path up to the top.  It was a really cool way to see the Vatican City.  If it wasn’t raining, we might of enjoyed a cafe latte from the bar at the top of the Castel.  There was seating along the corridor with little cubby holes that overlooked the bridge leading to the Vatican City.

By this time the rain, wind and cold had become miserable.  We decided to take a tour bus around the city.  This is only ten Euros a piece and well worth getting out of the rain to just sit.  We were able to see some of the city we didn’t walk yesterday and hear more about the history.  I was reminded just how far we had walked and was thankful to be taking in the city sitting down.  I couldn’t tell you what my favorite part of the city is, just too many to choose from.

We finally found free Internet at the Bulldog Pub.  We were hoping to get out of the rain again and enjoy a pint.  It was packed.  There were two games, a soccer and a rugby game being televised.  It was fun to see the enthusiasm for both games.  It didn’t seem to matter that it was packed.  We were dry.

phpnvu6zcpmThe past two nights we were able to meet cousins from Texas for dinner.  We ate at a restaurant called Wanted both nights located not far from our hotel.  Wanted could easily be my favorite restaurant so far, with great prices, food and service.  I will write a review on Trip Advisor for them and highly recommend it.  After dinner we walked to the fountain Trevi to see it all lit up at night.  It was the perfect ending to our last full day in Rome.

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Walking Rome

March 13th, 2011

Walking

phpr476p6pmToday we left our hotel around 10 am and walked a good eight hours.  We managed to see the majority of the sights on my list, but still have so much more to see.

First stop today was the Coliseum.  This trip hasn’t been well planned, but I felt as if I had won a major travel when we walked right into the Coliseum.  We pre payed for the Roma pass before we left and picked up the passes yesterday at the Termini station.  As you enter the Coliseum area many Visitor guides ask to walk you into the Coliseum and give you a tour for an extra 12 Euro each.  I had read somewhere that you could enter without waiting in line with the Roma Pass.  With determination, I went to the tour entrance and asked where to enter with the Roma pass.  It wasn’t marked very clearly.  The guy waved me through and we waited less than 20 seconds to get right in.  Regardless, it was well worth the effort.  The Coliseum was incredible.

We walked along the Palatino, but didn’t walk through it.  We saw a great deal of it from the streets.  Instead we headed for the Complesso del Vittoriano.  I had seen the statues on the top of this building from the rooftop terrace at the hotel.  We noticed that there were people at the very top walking around.  I had to see the view.  On the way up we toured a museum, climbed stairs to a terrace and had lunch at the fanciest cafeteria that I’ve ever seen.  A perfect lunch with an amazing view!  Then we took an elevator to the top of the building wasn’t included in the Roma Pass, but well worth the 7 Euro we had to pay.  Walking out of the elevator onto the roof was another breath taking sight.  Rome is amazing!  One question we just couldn’t answer, “How did they get the statues up there?”

phpapatanpmThe next stop was right out the back door of the Complesso del Vittoriano.  The Musei Capitolini boast being the most ancient museum in the world.  As impressive as that may sound, it was the statue I could see from the outside that intrigued me into using our Roma pass for the second time.  A tour of this museum is a combination of ancient statues and very impressive artwork dating back to the 1500s.  Amazing!  Here’s another question that came up, “Did they really walk around naked?”

Jeff loves being around water.  So, we decided to walk along the Tavere and see the Tibererina.  From there we walked to the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps.  Words are unable to adequately describe how magnificent all these sights are.  The area around the Spanish Steps is a high end shopping district.  I am on the hunt for boots, but only bought tights.  It was fun to walk through some of the stores.  Excitement was brewing at the Spanish Steps with Police in riot gear.   There was a planned demonstration of studetns.   We didn’t see any outbursts of trouble, but enjoyed sitting on the steps as the sun set.

php1uttx4pmOne thing is clear to me after a non-stop day of walking along the cobble stoned streets and walk ways.  My shoes are not made for walking.  “F” fashion!  I want to soak all of Rome in without pain.  Next time I will dress for comfort.

Signage continues to be a problem for us.  A benefit of the Roma Pass is to ride the city buses for no charge.  However we could not figure out which buses to take to the sights we wanted to see.  It is my opinion that a bus route map should come with the Roma Pass clearly marked with buses to take.  Tomorrow we plan to see the Vatican and the Castel Sant Angelo.  We will most likely see much more, but plan to use the buses.  I can’t take another eight hour day of walking.

We are meeting up with Jeff’s cousins from Texas for dinner tonight.  I still can’t believe we are in Rome at the same time.  It’s time for some excellent Italian food!  Oh, and some good vino.  Caio!

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Travel demands patience and flexiblitly

March 12th, 2011

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One thing is consistent, a true traveler must learn patience and be willing to be flexible.

We have spent a good bit of our trip lost and confused.  The streets and landmarks are not well marked.  The language barrier has been part of the problem as well.  Despite our detours and frustration, we have made it to Rome.

In the travel guides I read that Rome is famous for it’s strikes.  We finally arrived to Rome, only to get caught in a massive confusion at the bus station.  Jeff and I did not research directions to our hotel before we left, our first mistake.  After we figured out which bus to take into the city we stood at the platform over an hour.  It was amusing at first.  An older gentleman created quite a fuss yelling at the bus drivers, who were standing around not doing much.  We didn’t understand the language, but understood the hand gestures.  We gathered this guy was not happy.  One phrase we understood, “Shame.”   An hour after the fuss we realized that there was no bus coming.  They were on strike.  NO bus!  We hailed a cab driver,  who explained that he would take us as far as he could.  Apparently there was a demonstration.  The guide books recommends not driving in Rome.  That advice is right on!  I couldn’t watch this guy drive.  I really thought he was going to take out an old woman walking down a cobble stone path.  It was definitely hair raising.  I nearly kissed the ground when we got out of his cab.

So, after a long frustrating commute we finally arrived at Il’ Rosario, a Catholic convent in Rome.  Very basic and immaculately clean, this hotel is a peaceful retreat from a busy city.  I love it here.  We settled into our room and hit the streets walking.  We needed to get our Roma passes.  We picked them up at the train station, Termini.  While we were there we figured out the train pass we will need on Monday.  We finally learned our lesson.  From there we walked passed several landmarks on our way to the fountain Trevi.  I needed to toss a coin over my shoulder to insure my return visit to Rome.  Jeff gave me 21 cents (Euros) to toss in remembrance of our twenty-one years of marriage.  I will need more than three days to see this city.

Exhausted from traveling and a long walk, we returned to the Il’ Rosario, a special place!  We sat in the lobby for a while to plug into the Internet.  There is no wireless Internet access here.  This gave us the opportunity to talk to a Maria from New York who helped us understand the train station a little better.  We listened to the beautiful sounds coming from the nuns singing their prayers.  Maria told us about a rooftop terrace on the fourth floor.  You can see a great view of Rome from the roof.  We hiked up there and was in awe of the scenery.  I can’t wait to see in day light.

When a traveler remains flexible and patient, the rewards of travel never disappoint.  I love Rome already and have so much to see.  Three days may not be enough time.  I’ll have to return, good thing I tossed a coin in the fountain Trevi!

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