24 October 2006

'member when we went to Rome?

We will go
Nowhere we know
We don’t have to talk at all.

We’re sitting here, in our apartment in New Brighton, MN, looking at pictures of the adventure we had in Rome, Italy, Europe. We’re working on labeling pictures in chronological order, which snaps us back to our first few days in Rome.

It’s funny looking at pictures from the beginning because it causes us to feel how we felt at the time; uncertain, overwhelmed. To see again our first views of the Roman chaos, our teeny hotel room, the iconic Spanish Steps. Recalling the disgust I felt the first time we sat in a restaurant with a curing ham hanging above our table, and then how commonplace it began to feel. And that’s why it’s interesting to look at these pictures. Those scenes that - when first experienced - evoked such awe or a sense of novelty, now feel familiar.

A week after returning home, we’ve reached a conclusion: it isn’t possible to pick a favorite thing. Our favorite part of the trip was just the whole experience in general, and the fact that we shared the adventure with each other. It was so good to be so…uncomfortable like that, together. Experiencing entirely new settings, trying things we wouldn’t otherwise have gotten a chance to try.

And I think we saw each other in a different light. I loved how, in the midst of all of those “we’ll laugh about this later” moments, Ryan was able to laugh right then and there. I was constantly amazed by how he navigated us to where we were trying to go, and duly impressed by his knowledge of, and genuine excitement about, the story of the “old stuff” we were looking at. And more than once, he expressed his delight at my bartering skills and instinctive knowledge of “how we’re supposed to do this”, particularly in regard to new foods. We amazed ourselves with how we problem-solved together. But more than anything, we thought it was noteworthy that we didn’t get sick of each other. We genuinely had a lot of fun together! And we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

A lot happened in the last few days of our trip and we thought we would take few minutes to recap the last days and close out our blog (until our next trip!)

Thursday was an incredibly busy day. We hit the street market and then the supermercati a few blocks from our hotel to pick up a few items and enjoy the bartering game. Amy was impressive when it came to haggling with the locals.

Then it was off to Ancient Rome. We bought an Archeologia Pass, which got us into the Palatine Hill (the emperor’s palace overlooking the Roman Forum and what was then the city) and would later get us into a few other sites. We immediately got lost on Palatine Hill. We walked around with the map trying figure out which direction we were facing, what we were looking at. And then we happened upon the Stadium of Domitian – what was once an indoor stadium built personally for the emperor Domitian and his invited guests to watch any kind of match they desired. The sheer immensity was overwhelming. Luckily, we also bumped into a (free) tour guide who explained some other sites along the way, while we eavesdropped.

We then used our Roma Pass to bypass the long lines to get into the legendary Colosseum. We were told to watch out for the gypsy kids, the professional pickpockets that work in and around the Colosseum, but we encountered nothing of the sort, for which we were thankful. It’s amazing to think that all of our stadiums are based off of this structure that was built over 2000 years ago: structured to allow the crowds to get in and seated within 10 minutes, the first retractable-roofed stadium, and an elevator system to get animals and gladiators up through the floor. And the arches! We could go on forever about this extraordinary engineering accomplishment. (But Amy didn’t love the Colosseum, because she was rather disturbed by its history.)

We then walked in awe through the Forum again, eavesdropped on another tour guide, and then made our way to the Capitol Hill Museum where we saw the enormous remnants of a towering Constantine, tomb inscriptions, busts, and other historical pieces, and even got to use our Latin-language skills! We took a tonno (tuna) and a Margherita pizza back to our room and watched Scrubs and the British version of The Office, both of which were in Italian, both of which were on MTV.

Friday morning we took the metro to the Vatican Museum and met up with the tour guide, Andrew, on whom we had eavesdropped in the Palatine (but we paid for this one). The tour was a short 3 ½ hours - short considering that it would take you 12 years to walk through there if you wanted to see each piece of art for only a minute. It was overwhelming: the museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Needless to say, the Vatican is unfathomably rich.

We ate lunch and then made our way to Castel Sant’Angelo: the emergency fortress of the popes. There wasn’t much there to see, but the views from the top are amazing (and strategic if you were the pope).

That evening we ate a lovely dinner with 14 raucous American congressmen and -women who bought us champagne and toasted Italia, America, and amore. A traveling troupe also happened by, and found a better-than-usual audience in those jet-lagged Americans. They tipped the guitar player and opera-singer and made song requests, including “That’s Amore” in Italian! It was very cliché and romantical.

Saturday was another busy day. We took the train to Ostia Antica, Rome’s old port city, which used to be situated on the mouth of the Tiber, at the Mediterranean, but since then the river’s course has dramatically changed. Ostia was essential to the Empire for over four hundred years, and offered a great snapshot of real life in the Roman Empire. It was quiet and beautiful. The city is as preserved in time as Pompei (albeit not as instantly: a malaria endemic forced a fairly rapid exodus), but not nearly as touristy. We wished we could spend the whole day there, but we decided to get back to Rome to scope out the Catacombs of San Callisto. Another unbelievable experience.

After the Catacombs, we went back to our hotel to pack a bit. We finished the evening at a restaurant we’d stumbled upon near our hotel. It turned out to be one of our favorite meals there. Our waiter was quite charming and didn’t speak a lick of English; Amy enjoyed impressing and delighting him with her minimal Italian vocabulary. We spent the meal reliving our favorite experiences and talking about the spots in the city that really touched us.

Sunday morning, we gathered our luggage and dragged it back across the cobblestones to the train station. When we got to the airport, we checked our bags, got on the plane, and mourned our departure. We were really sad to leave – it had been so perfect! But once we were in the air to Frankfurt, we couldn’t wait to just get home. But then, of course, our landing was delayed due to wind(?!) and we missed our connecting flight to D.C. So, Lufthansa Airlines put us up in an airport hotel and we left the next morning, returning to Minneapolis 24 hours after we had expected to. What an ending, huh?

And so, until the next time we travel, thanks for following us and sharing this experience with us. It’s been a blast, and we can’t wait to do it again!

11 October 2006

india house

there are beautiful churches everywhere.
piazza della repubblica at night.

this is what we look like a lot, here: eating by a fountain.

so...sounds like it's pretty cold there. and SNOW, we hear?! we've been sweating in t-shirts here; don't be too surprised if we never come back there!

no balloon ride yesterday - apparently they're closed for the season. bummer. we did wander around the park, though. and we went to the borghese gallery. lovely art, big names, a great experience. it's AMAZING what those guys could do with a big hunk of marble! then we had dinner, wandered over to the spanish steps and had roasted chestnuts. sorry, they were not impressive. we tossed most of them.

tonight, after a long day of sightseeing, we ran across, of all things, an INDIAN restaurant. we stepped in and it smelled like home (which, of course, doesn't seem to make a lot of sense)! but it was so great to eat some spicy food, with all the different flavors we've been missing! yay!

mom, i'm sorry the commenting didn't work out so well for you! i'm glad you came and checked it out, though - and i was so excited to tell you about eating the indian in italy! ;)


Being in Rome and communicating with the people (or trying to) has made us really truly appreciate the "Minnesota niceness" - or maybe it's American niceness, as Amy pointed out.


10 October 2006

cheeseburgers & french fries

that´s right, folks: we gave in and went to the Hard Rock Cafe, Roma. don´t get us wrong; the food here is amazing. but we needed some different flavors - we don´t eat the same cuisine at home for a week straight! we were looking for an indian, chinese or mexican restaurant. and what we found was an american restaurant. and they were the best dang burgers we´ve ever eaten. the end.

we´re in rome now, and glad to be back. we think we like rome better than florence, though we haven´t quite pinpointed why. the city just seems...livelier. we went to pisa yesterday. (we´d love to upload pictures of us holding up the leaning tower, but we´ve found ourselves at yet another internet point whose computers don´t recognize their own USB ports.) the tower is still there, and it´s still leaning. we´re glad we went, but the place is a real tourist trap - there´s nothing else there, just tourists and souvenir junk everywhere. and the whole city smells like poo. unless you have a day to waste (which we did - it was either pisa or hanging out at our campground), avoid this tourist trap.

our hotel for the next 5 nights is great - we even have a real bathroom, and the cost includes breakfast in the hotel´s ¨bar¨. i don´t know what i´ll do without a caffe latte and brioche every single morning.

today we are checking out the capuchin crypt and some other ancient stuff (ryan´s better with these things - he´ll write the next one), and tonight we have reservations at the borghese gallery. we´re considering another tourist trap this afternoon, in the form of a balloon ride over galoppatoio park. and i think i´ll have spaghetti aglio olio for lunch...

we´re sore and tired of wearing all the same clothes, and i have shin splints from a 2 mile uphill walk in the dark to our campground after we missed the single evening shuttle. and something about a german shepherd - but we´ll save that story for later.

p.s. again, thank for the comments - it´s fun to get updates from you guys, too! CONGRATULATIONS, kevin and brooke! harrison is an adorable name! we´re very excited for you, and to meet him!

07 October 2006

on top of spaghetti...

is it terrible if we think we might be getting tired of italian food already? we just feel like all we ever do is eat, walk, eat, sleep, eat some more, and then look at some ruins. and eat again. we're not complaining, of course(!), but we just don't think we'll be hitting up the olive garden anytime soon after we get back. ;)

we didn't go to the bathroom at the mcdonald's at the pantheon, but we did go to one in florence yesterday. and i gotta tellya: one of the oddest things we have experienced to date. it was like a night club inside! bumping music, black lights, dark wood and chrome furniture...and a mcdollar menu, or whatever they call it. pretty funny. the bathroom was not amazing. but better than a lot of them...

after we blogged yesterday in florence, we ate lunch and spent the majority of the afternoon - you guessed it - walking around. and looking at old buildings. we saw an amazing church, huge with beautiful stained glass. can't remember what it was called. we mostly wandered around the whole afternoon until we ended up at the Galleria Academia: the home of Michelangelo's David. (Stephie and Mom: i saw a Strataverius!) Honestly, it was pretty breathtaking to see the thing for real, in person. it's enormous and detailed and beautiful. and incredible that someone spent two years working on that one project.

after the david, we decided to look for a hotel. we'd gleened a recommendation in passing from a couple of aussies, and headed toward that hotel. it was booked. we decided to try the hostel; it was also full. so then we wandered from hotel to motel, asking, "rooms available?" and getting turned away. beginning to feel a bit anxious (we both pictured us huddling on the dirty floor of the smoking train station all night), we stopped and offered up a pleading prayer. the next hotel we entered was the hotel paris. it was old, and our room was tiny, but they gave us a deal on their last room, because it was so late in the night. and it included breakfast!

we spent most of today walking around florence with no goal in mind, just enjoying the city. and now we're back at our, um, compound, enjoying a peroni (thanks, steve hanson), and watching italia vs. ucraina. fun, fun.

please continue to leave comments on our posts! it's such fun, and it's the first thing we look at after we drop our euros for the internet access! :)

06 October 2006

under the tuscan sun

PART 1: update

well, here we are, in firenze! gotta tellya: it's beautiful here. we took the train here from roma yesterday, and got to see a bit of the countryside - tobacco fields and vineyards, villas and mountains. we might not want to leave here...

our, um, accomodations are not quite what we expected. turns out it's, like, the italian version of a koa. think: "dirty dancing" meets Bible camp meets [insert name of local mall arcade here] meets gorgeous mountainous views and amazing coffee in the middle of nowhere. pretty bizarre. and our "room"? half a pop-up camper with twin-size bunkbeds and a bathroom in the closet. last night, it was so cold we squeezed together onto one teeny bed for warmth. :) very romantical.

it was also quite a trek out to our place. the travel agent gave the impression that it was just a shuttle ride away from florence. in reality, it's a shuttle ride (one at 8,40am and one at 6,40pm) and a 20-minute train ride/ticket purchase from florence. we're a bit frustrated at the lack of convenience, but we are getting to experience more of the toscana countryside than we expected to see! we are considering booking a hotel in the city tonight and not going back to our camper until tomorrow night. we'll see how much fun we're having here.

PART 2: editorial
(Our pictures won't upload! Check out the Pantheon: http://i74.photobucket.com/albums/i247/amyandryangarv/IMG_0876.jpg
and us in front of Trevi Fountain, both at night: http://i74.photobucket.com/albums/i247/amyandryangarv/IMG_0889.jpg)

what pantheon?
turns out we were both really disappointed with the pantheon in rome. what it used to be: the name means "temple of all the gods", and the place was sort of like a religious food court. it was one-stop shopping for the romans; one location, altars to all the gods. knowing this, i was expecting, of course, to see lots of cool mythological stuff (my favorite stories that we read in our latin classes were the ones about the roman gods - what characters!).

what we found? reliefs of the holy mother and child, saints with halos. apparently, at the beginning of the middle ages, the christians came in and tore out all the "offensive" multiple gods and replaced them with multiple saints. ironic? so now, instead of it being called what it is, it's called the basilica of santa maria and the martyrs. disappointing. oh, and while we were there, some guy was vacuuming the carpet they put in for their church services.

the architecture, however, was still pretty amazing. and there's a mcdonald's straight in front of it. we didn't eat there.

thank you to all who have commented! it's been so fun to share this with you!

03 October 2006

do as the romans do.


our first italian meal: complete with bottled water.
because that's what they keep bringing us.

look! there's me, walking among ruins!

yup. those are gladiators. smoking gladiators.
i think they were waiting for a bus.

and this is what the romans do! :)

we slept until noon today. we were up late last night--walking around outside until about two, and then reading our guide books to figure out what we wanted to do today! so we ate breakfast for lunch, and i guess we're doing this instead of a siesta this afternoon, since we figure we already had one this morning!

we never know what time it is. neither of us owns a watch, and although we have my cell phone with (which is my primary timepiece!), it can't find service here! and so we wander around, always kind of wondering what time it is. it's a bit disorienting. we've entertained the idea of buying a watch here, or at least a clock, but then we wonder if it's maybe good for us to be so unscheduled...

it's also really hot here. i don't know what we were thinking, but we expected it to be - i don't know - fall here, i guess. and we definitely packed for a minnesota fall. but it's like minnesota july here. lovely weather, but not for most of the clothes we brought! and it seems that jeans and a t-shirt is quite an acceptable outfit here, contrary to what expected. so, needless to say, we're already recycling items in our suitcase!


02 October 2006

When in Rome...


here we are. whew. it was a good trip, it was a great flight.

the flight from minneapolis to dulles was lovely and short, and we were super-excited. the flight from there to frankfurt, which was about 8 hours, was also not bad. it was a bit confusing, though, because i wanted it to be afternoon, but it was later. and i took some nyquil...wasn't sure how to feel. i guess i did sleep for a while though--i didn't even realize that i missed a whole movie!

stepping off of the plane into frankfurt was a bit of a culture shock. first, because the first thing we smelled inside the terminal was cigarette smoke. it smelled like a rockshow before the ban on smoking. and people were smoking everywhere. also, the whole place was very industrial-looking--like a chipotle. and also confusing. what really drove it home: we ate lunch in the airport (which was really like a 6am breakfast to us) and ordered a beer (because it was germany!). the waitress didn't even think to card us. funny.

we got to rome, navigated the entirely unwelcoming airport and found the tren stazione, all by ourselves. when we got to termini station, we still had a couple of miles of cobblestone to our hotel, plus we were pretty sure we'd be mugged on the way there. hey, speaking of our hotel: have you checked out the pictures on their website? well, it's not at all like that. much more questionable. but, mom, there are lots of locks in between outside and the door to our room, so we're safe enough. :)

before we left, there were three things i was picturing myself doing in italy: drinking un cafe and eating a pastry at a streetside- or piazza-side cafe, scampering over ruins, and eating pasta and drinking wine at a little table. first thing this morning, we grumpily made our way to Piazza della Repubblica, where we stumbled across a cafe (which they call a bar) and enjoyed our first cups of real cappuccino--they were good, albeit small. and yummy pastries. then, we went to the forum and i got to walk on some large marble chunks! and we ate dinner tonight at a little table by the street, including gnocchi and the house red! (to be fair, i actually ordered a spinach and ricotta ravioli, but the gnocchi was what came out and and it was good!) and so, after just one day, the rest is icing.

in conclusion: i'm enjoying this!


I can't believe it's already been almost 3 days, but yet my body tells me there's no way it's only been 3! It's nice to finally be in Rome, though. The Roman people have been fairly gracious thus far, and that has been a relief considering our anxiety last night and this morning. Many of the people here are English speaking, so communication hasn't been too much of an issue. But it's always hard to ask questions. We've had to break out the Italian phrase book more than once.

We would be uploading pictures right now, but we found out, after we paid, that they don't allow that here - which we don't understand because there is a usb port directly in front of me as I'm typing this for you. So either he doesn't want to explain it or he's on a power trip. Whatever.

Anyway, so picture us doing a lot of walking. We didn't have a plan today, but we ended up walking about 5+ miles today. Our hotel is on the east side of Rome, just north and east of Termini. We, more or less accidentally, walked to the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Palatine Hill. We didn't spend a lot of time there as we are planning on going back for a full day maybe next week. We had a mozzerella and tomato panino and a gelato for lunch, walked back to our hotel room, took a siesta, and then went out for a 3 hour dinner, because when in Rome...

We love you all! ciao!

29 September 2006

itinerary stuff.

Below you can see all of our plans at this point. We leave tomorrow!

en route:
Sat, 30 Sept
- depart MSP at 12.40pm CST United Airlines 7536
- arrive D.C at 4.03pm (3.03 CST)
- depart D.C. at 5.18pm (4.18 CST) United Airlines 0916

Sun, 1 Oct:
- arrive Frankfurt at 7.10am (12.10am CST)
- depart Frankfurt at 3.20pm (8.20am CST)
Lufthansa Airlines 3846
- arrive Rome at 5.05pm (10.05 CST)
- catch train to Termini Station

- check in to Des Artistes Hotel (shared bathroom)

Thurs, 5 Oct
- figure out how to take train to Florence
- check in to Norcenni Girasole Club (permanent tented hostel/campsite outside Florence)

back in Rome:
Mon, 9 Oct
-take train back to Rome
-check in to Baltic Hotel (private bathroom!)

the return trip:
Sun, 15 Oct
-depart Rome at 10.30am (3.30am CST) Lufthansa Airlines 3841
-arrive Frankfurt at 12.30pm (5.30am CST)
-depart Frankfurt at 1.25pm (6.25am CST) United Airlines 8827
-arrive D.C. at 3.55pm (2.55pm CST)
-depart D.C. at 5.05pm (4.05 CST) United Airlines 7547
-arrive MSP at 6.49pm central time

25 September 2006

workaday week

so we broke in our new rome purchases this weekend: we wore our new shoes (freshly sprayed nubuck!) in the mud and rain of the renaissance festival. this was a good thing, because the spray can said, "spray, let dry. spray again. after wearing shoes in wet weather, spray again." so we got it all done in one day! when we got home, we wiped the mud and stray grass off our shoes and sprayed 'em down.

we also used our new camera to take some pictures of fire eaters, faerie [fairy] houses and jousting.

it was a good warm-up for europe: turkey legs and onion rings, steins (and plastic dixie cups) of beer, men in kilts getting cash from the atm, a knight in shining armor answering his cell phone. the old mingled with the new.

and we started packing our suitcases last night! yay!

22 September 2006

8 days!

We leave for Italy in eight days!! We got our shoes and our camera, so we're pretty much set.

We can't wait!