Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Italy Part 6 - The Finale

After my last post, we spent the evening doing a walk recommended by Rick Steves. It starts in the north side of Rome at Piazza Popelo. It is a large square of an excellent view of the original north entrance to Rome. This is one of the few parts of Rome where the old city wall still exists. The road follows Via Corso, which is 3/4 of mile long and straight as an arrow. Quite an achievement for a road which was built during the empire. There are a few sights to see off the road. Most of street is lined with shops and restaurants.

The first shops we came across were very high end and provided great window shopping for the girls. They close off traffic to this road in the evening as it very popular with tourists and locals. We located a great restaurant 2 blocks off the main road. Dinner was traditional Italian Cuisine with a 1 liter carafe of wine costing 8 euro. We crossed over the main road to see the two historical sights along the walk. The Arch of Piece and Augustus' Tomb are right next to each, but were closed as it was later in the evening. We crossed over the road again to pass the Spanish Steps and then back to the main road. The walk terminates at the quite large Victorio Emanuel Monument.

We had to get up a little early the next morning as we had reservations. Beth, my dad, and I had booked a tour with a group for Vatican City. Julie, with a little persuasion from our walk the night before decided she wanted to do some shopping. We were picked up by a bus, then transferred to another, and headed towards Vatican City. Our tour guide provided a tour on the way pointing various sites. One in particular is the American Embassy. It is a beautiful compound which belonged to a queen and then inhabited by the US after WWII. It is the largest US Embassy in the world.

For those you that don't know, The Vatican is actually a country, the smallest country in the world. We arrived to find possibly the largest tourist attraction we encountered in Italy. There were people everywhere. The tour consisted of 3 parts with our guide.

The Vatican Museum - This museum contains 3 separate halls. The first hall was filled with various busts and statues. It was not air conditioned and our guide hustled us through here and into the 2nd hall which was thankfully air conditioned. This hall contained tapestries/quilts. Most of them were 15 feet x 10 feet intricately depicting various religious and historical events. They take anywhere from 10 to 15 years to complete. The final hallway is the map room. Each distinct region of Italy was broken down in a map. Most every town, including small hill towns can be found on these maps.

Sistine Chapel - From the Museum we entered the Sistine Chapel. Guides are not a lot talk to groups in the Chapel, so we provided information in a courtyard where replicas of the frescoes are displayed outside. We had 15 minutes to gaze upward and at the surrounding walls. I was surprised at how many people were inside the chapel, please see three paragraphs below for my feelings on this.

St. Peter's Basilica - After leaving the Sistine Chapel, you walk down a set of stairs, past the Pope's Apartment and down into the basilica. It is the largest church in the world and quite amazing inside. Our tour started with Michaelangelo's Pieta Sculpture. One of the many pieces he did for this compounded. His work in the Sistine Chapel has a fabulous story. We were shown various important parts of the basilica. There are plaques on the floors marking how big other churches compared to St. Peters. For instance, St. Patricks in New York would fit twice end to end in St. Peters.

The tour ended in The Vatican Courtyard. It is a large courtyard complete with big screen jumbotrons. They are used for special ceremonies and major holidays. Our guide told us a great story of when she lead a group to the courtyard for the election of the new pope a couple years ago. Hard to imagine nearly 100,000 people in this courtyard. We then had time to wander through the gift shops and then back on to the bus.

Time for my rant - I absolutely enjoyed my time at the Vatican. However, I would have to classify the experience as bittersweet. Granted, I am a tourist, but there were just so many of them there. There are very explicit rules when going to The Vatican. There is no flash photography allowed there. You must be silent and take no pictures in The Sistine Chapel. It was disappointing to see how many people show such a sacred place, such disrespect and not follow the rules. They are were so focused on taking pictures that they weren't able to enjoy the space let alone impact the experience of other visitors. For those of you wondering, we did not even bring our cameras. Looking at the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel was a mix of an amazing work of art with the constant flicker of flashes and people talking very loudly. I felt some sadness that people felt they were better than the rules. When one is a tourist, you must respect the places your are visiting.

Off Soapbox, sorry, but it had to put that in.

After our tour, we returned to our hotel to change. Vatican City has specific clothing requirements to enter St. Peters, but such clothing would overheat you quickly walking around Rome. Now, the only non-Italian meal we ate the entire was lunch on our last day in Rome. Walking past the Hard Rock, we were lured in by hamburgers and fries. It was a nice change as well as the fact they played excellent music while we dined. We spent the afternoon walking through Rome and visiting some of the shops we had seen the night before. We finished the afternoon with cold beers in a bar overlooking one of the busier piazzas.

That night, we did an abbreviated version of another walk Rick Steves had in his book. We started at Piazza Navona. It is one of the busiest piazzas in Rome. Filled with locals and tourists a like. There were street performers and local artists displaying there work. The piazza is line with great restaurants. We chose the one that provided complimentary drinks. After dinner, we watched a full street show of a performer and then head to the Colosseum. Julie and My dad had to see what it looked like all lit up at night. We headed north walking past the forum.

We walked past the Pantheon which had the front all lit up. The square around it was bustling with people. We were lured into an Italian Version of Baskin Robbins. This gelato shop had more flavors then any other shop we had seen during our time in Italy. With gelato in hand, we wandered through the streets towards the next spot. There are no roads leading towards Trevi Fountain. You walk around a corner and there it is. It was quite beautiful all lit up. We took pictures and tossed a coin over our left shoulder for good luck (a local tradition). We walked back to our hotel and called it a night. Rome after dark is perhaps one of my favorite parts about the trip.

The following morning, we packed our bags and had our last breakfast in Italy. We made our way to the airport and made sure to be early. Little did we know our plane would be late. It wasn't too bad though, we made it to Frankfurt. Our hotel was on the airport property, no cabs or trains, it was kind of nice. Although, we decided to venture into Frankfurt for dinner.

Now after coming from Italy where the train kiosks are very easy to use, I thought Frankfurt may be the same. Boy was I wrong, there system was so difficult to figure out. It took us 20 minutes just to get tickets to go 5 stops. We even had to change trains at the 3rd stop. Luckily, a local pointed us in the right direction. We got off at the correct stop and emerged from the station. Frankfurt is beautiful, very modern looking. It was quiet with little traffic in the downtown area. We walked the streets and found a place to eat. We returned to our hotel with ease, although it was a little difficult buying tickets again. We ended up in the hotel bar for one last drink, just to squeeze the last minute out of our vacation.

I woke up early to use the awesome gym our hotel had. Part of my plan was to get up early in the morning, so that I would be tired and sleep on the plane. We headed to the airport and got in line to check our bags. We were treated to a guy who left his bags unattended. Luckily, a ticket agent talked with him about 3o seconds before the police showed up. They were literally seconds from shutting down the entire terminal. Which brings me to another quick rant. I am absolutely amazed at how many people do not understand, you cannot take bottles of water or any other drink for that matter through the security check. Further, pleading with the security guards does not work either.

We got on our plane only to find out the flight would be 10 hours instead of 9 and the movies hadn't changed since our flight over. Oh and I didn't even sleep a wink. I was in the middle row aisle and the person two seats next to me wanted to sleep with the window shade open, so the sun was right in my eyes. Oh well, we made it home safe.

With over 1000 pictures to go through, we begin to reflect on what an amazing trip we had. Anthony Bourdain, writes, the more I travel, the more I begin to appreciate my own country. I couldn't agree more as I see this to be true.

Thanks to all who followed along on this journey. I will send out links soon to view our pictures and check back here every now and then as I may post some more thoughts about trip.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Italy Part 5

We were awakened multiple times through the night. While we enjoy the charm of an old hotel, we do not like the lack of insulation and thin walls. We heard people walking up the stairs and even kids screaming in the halls. We woke up and had breakfast at the hotel. At 10 am, we met in the lobby and waited for the boat to arrive. The hotel provides a complimentary trip out to Murano complete with a glass blowing demonstration. The boat was an old wooden type, think James Bond. It was 20 minute ride out to the island. We were blessed with nice weather, calm seas, and gracious views of Venice. Thankfully Beth did not get sea sick.

The tour guide escorted into a scorching hot warehouse. For 15 minutes we watched masters blow glass and make various vases and glassware. The gallery was next to the warehouse, where we were able to wander through and look and various glass items. We saw everything from chandeliers to small pieces of glass jewelry. Our Firemen and Teacher's Salaries did not allow us to purchase anything. We inquired about where to get the boat back to our hotel. We were pointed to the taxi stop on the island. We walked around Murano for a while and found less expensive glass. We went back to the gallery and were then showed the proper place to get our free ride back.

Lunch was the usual sandwich at an outdoor cafe. We managed to get all the seats with tables out in front our hotel along the canal. Beth, Julie, and Harry spent time people watching, drawing, and reading. I in my infinite wisdom went for a long run around the islands. I found the fire station and then got lost along the way. I managed to find my way and ran along the waterfront making my way back to the hotel. Beth and I walked to a wine shop while Harry and Julie guarded our seats.

After a quick shower, I joined the group out front. We shared two bottles of wine and snacks. The weather cooled a bit and the humidity was nearly tolerable. Julie displayed her drawings she had created throughout the afternoon. We went to dinner along the canal and followed up with gelato.

We made plans to meet early for breakfast, much to Julie's disliking. We wanted to beat the line at St. Marc's Basilica. Plus, it was muggy and hot and we did not want to be wearing the required long pants all morning. We luckily beat the line. The Basilica was beautiful. There was art, frescoes, and a beautiful painted ceiling. They had a treasury room with gold and silver artifacts owned by the church.

A quick clothing change and we headed back out. The Campinele Bell Tower is across from St. Marc's it is a quick elevator ride to the top. At the top, there is a 360 degree view of Venice. We were even lucky enough to be next to the bells for a 12 o'clock ringing. We headed back down and got lunch. We ventured to the southern island and walked out to the point where the Grand Canal empties into the lagoon. We made our way back towards our hotel and we walked past the fire station. We were looking inside and a fireman came to the door. He told me to come back after 330 and he would give me a tour.

The rest of the group headed back for wine and I went to the station. I was given a great tour seeing the boats. He showed me all their gear, which was very similiar to mine. He showed me the rest of the station and then we visited over coffee. I then got a shirt and a patch and he sent me on my way. I met back up with the group and helped finish a bottle of wine. Julie had made friends with a waiter at the restaraunt next to our hotel. He was a great waiter and we had a good dinner. We ventured out to see Venice at night all lit up and got more gelato.

Thursday morning, Beth and I got up to early, really early. We got up at 515 and headed into the streets of Venice. We were treated to see Venice, the real Venice. No tourists, just Venetians starting their days. Gabriel recommended we see the sunrise of St. Marc's Square. We found seats and enjoyed the warm, muggy morning air. We got great pictures and saw the sun rise over the square and the lagoon.

We took a taxi to the train station and caught our train to Rome. It took four and a half hours. Beth slept, Julie slept, I tried to sleep, and my dad just enjoyed the view. We arrive in Rome and were treated to a hair raising taxi ride to our hotel. We checked into Savoy Hotel, feeling very underdressed. The hotel is nice, very nice.

After the first good night's sleep we had since Florence, we woke up and went to an awesome breakfast. We took another cab to The Forum. Beth and I were excited to see revisit the sights we had seen earlier. We enjoyed telling my dad and sister what we had learned about the sights. We ventured up to Palatine Hill and then to The Colosseum. We ate lunch at Piazza Venezia and headed towards the river. We made a quick trip into the Jewish Ghetto and walked along the river. We took a cab back to the hotel. Each ride getting even scarier than the previous.

This may be the last post from Italy, I will try to blog in Frankfurt on our way home or when I get back to the states.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Italy Part 4

What a day we had, full of culture, and I am not talking about yogurt. The weather finally cooled to welcomed 82 degrees. Plus the wind was blowing, making it quite comfortable. We started the morning at Academia. It is a very unassuming, unimpressive building from the outside. Unless you count the tourists and the long lines going in the doors. We got tickets through a local service who also provided a tour guide. We had to do this because tickets to the Academia and Uffizi fill up weeks in advance. Our guide took a group of us in. We wore ear pieces hooked up to a small radio which received the signal from the tour guides mic.

Our tour guide was wonderful, knowledgeable, and very passionate about the works of Michelangelo. We were first shown some of the art in the museum. Then you turn a corner and there is David in all his splendor. It is an amazing piece of marble. It is even more impressive once you learn a few things and details about it. You are also treated to a variety of slabs started by Michelangelo, but never finished. It is quite an interesting story. You finish the tour by walking through a room filled with various busts and statues done by various Florentine Artists. Of course they have a large gift shop for you to walk through before you exit the building.

There was a grocery store next to Academia. We grabbed sandwiches and snacks. The park close by provided benches for a nice picnic. Other than the pigeons clamoring for your crumbs. The next few hours we walked around the local markets and perusing the items being sold by street vendors. It is pretty much a maze of tent like stalls. The same 5 stalls are repeated, meaning they all pretty much sell the same thing. Things like scarves, t shirts, leather goods, hats, and my favorite the guys selling knock off purses. Only to be seen by the cops selling knock off stuff and run with their stuff to the next location.

The piazza behind the Uffizi, has a nice courtyard and steps to sit on. We were treated to a street performer who tormented passer by's. He would walk up behind people scaring them or my favorite, fall down right in front of an unsuspecting victim. Similar to Academia, we met our tour guide out front and got our radios.

There is quite a security brigrade to enter the gallery. Then, you have a 3 story climb to get to the correct floor. The guide gave us all the background on the gallery and how it came to be. Then we were led through various rooms displaying wonderful pieces of art. Now I must say I have a long line of painters and artists in my family. Apparently the art appreciation gene or even the ability to see symbolism in art, skipped me completely. My wife on the other hand can hold her own. It was nice having the guide for his ability to explain these things to me. It was very cool to see The Birth of Venus, the most famous painting in the place. Our guide spent about an hour taking us through. He explained you could not possibly see all the art in such a short time, and to see it all in a day would be overwhelming.

My dad found a great outdoor cafe just north of our hotel where we could eat dinner. The wine was excellent and the staff very friendly. Then the highlight, Oreo Gelato. I was probably the best gelato I have ever had. Beth and Julie finally got some chocolate chip mint gelato. My dad gave into peer pressure and then got some as well.

On Sunday we decided to head out of town. We got tickets very cheap to take the train to two cities just outside of Florence. Our first stop, Pisa. We did the typical tourist thing and saw the leaning tower. It is quite a site, especially with the leaning duomo right next to it. We got on a bus and headed back to the train station. I have never been on a bus with the driver driving it like a taxi cab. It was a roller coaster ride.

The ride to Lucca was short and beautiful. Lucca is still completely surrounded by walls. You enter through one of the main gates. Lucca is a sleepy town, quiet and not full of tourists. The air is fresh and the streets clean. We found the closest piazza which had the start of the largest antique fair in Italy. It takes place every month here and wanders for many streets. We wander through and made our way to the old roman theater. It is now just a circlular piazza with a bunch of apartments around it. We sat at a cafe and had a drink pondering our day away from Florence. We hustled back to the train station to catch the train back to Florence. Little did we realize everyone coming back from a day at the beach would be on this train. We had to stand for the first couple stops. The view was wonderful though, winding through the hills of Tuscany while the sun was going down. We grabbed dinner right when we got back and then headed to bed.

Today was another travel day. We left Florence and head to Venice. The train ride is 3 hours on the high speed train. It makes minimal stops. We had a group of 4 seats with a table between us. The scenery was great through Tuscany and into northern Italy. I just wish the floor wouldn't have been caked with the dried pop of an early rider. The train stops on the Venice Mainland then heads on the bridge over to the islands. Stepping out of the train station, you see the buildings and the water. It is beautiful and possibly the coolest thing I have seen in Italy.

We went to the taxi stand to catch a taxi to the stop by our hotel. You wait on this platform for the vaparetto (water taxi) to pick you up. Beth and I got on and they closed the gate behind us, leaving Harry and Julie on the platform. They luckily got on the next taxi and weren't far behind. We crossed over the brigde on found our hotel. It is right on the canal. It is old school Italy. There is no elevator and decor matches the early 1900's.

Venice is muggy, obviously because of the water. We spent most of the afternoon walking around and getting our bearings. We walked through St. Mark's Square. I thought after being in Florence, I had seen the largest concentration of tourists. I was wrong, Venice is filled with tourists in a much smaller space. Tomorrow we are going to Murano Island to see where they make Venetian Glass.

Hope everyone is doing well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Italy Part 3

Time for travel day and head for Florence. We took the bus to the train station and waited for our train to arrive. When it did, we were on the opposite end of the platform and had to hustle. We got to our car only to find the doors locked. We jumped on another car and found the conductor. He informed us the car was broken and just find a place to sit. We sat across from a businessman who was trying to get the conductor to clean up a half dried spilled pop on the floor. Needless to say, it was on our shoes at that point.

We got to Padova Station to transfer to our connecting train. After it did not show up, I asked the worker where our train was. He advised it was 50 minutes late. We were then switched from Platform to Platform only to have the original train show up at the original platform. We took our seats, only to have a family of 10 sitting wherever they chose. They were not in our seats, but were fined for not being in the right seats and not having their tickets filled out appropriately.

We arrived in Florence where it was 90 degrees. Luckily, our hotel is across the street from the train station. We dropped off our bags and took our dirty clothes to a laundry mat. We had a nice chat with an English Teacher from Austrailia while we were doing our laundry. She also gave us a great recommendation for a restaraunt.

For dinner, we found a great restaraunt on a tiny street. Their Tuscan menu cost 15 euro a person and included wine, pasta, meat, and dessert. It was excellent. Plus in Tuscany, they make fried chicken.

I woke up this morning and went for a long run around Florence. It was beautiful to see the sun come up and get a good feel for the layout of the city. Beth slept in again, eventhough she brought her running clothes. We had breakfast at a cafe right outside our hotel. We headed off to the train station to meet up with my dad and sister who had just arrived from Rome, and will be with us the rest of the trip.

We spent part of the morning walking around and seeing some of the sights. Oh and Julie decided it was time to shop. We had a lunch of pizza, spaghetti, and paninis. We freshened up at the hotel and the girls had to put on clothes appropriate for the Duomo. Luckily, the Duomo had no line and we walked right in. We followed the guided brochure tour of the Duomo and then we climbed. It is 464 steps to the top of the dome of the Duomo. We emerged from a hatch to the outdoor top of the dome. You could walk around the top and have a 360 degree view of Florence and the surrounding hills of Tuscany.

After our climb down, we had some water and well deserved gelatto. We went back to the hotel and relaxed for a minute.

Tomorrow we are headed to The Uffizi and Academia. A fun filled day of seeing really old, really famous stuff.

Italy Part 2

Our full day in Verona was quite eventful. I started the morning with a nice run around the city and along the riverfront. Beth possibly the wiser, slept in. We had breakfast in our hotel and hit the ground running. We did a walking tour of Verona. It was about 12 sites in all. We saw the Roman Arena in Verona, Several Piazza's, and The Duoma. More exciting, were all the site related to Romeo and Juliet. Verona is the setting for Romeo and Juliet. We got to see where Juliet's House may have been and where her balcony is presumed to be. All the while Beth reminding it is not a real story. We also went up Torre Dei Lamberti. It is a tower in the middle of the city and one of the highest points in the city. You must be aware of the time though, because you may get caught at the top with the bells going off unexpectedly.

We spent the afternoon walking through the shopping district and Beth got a pair of Roman Birkenstocks. One of the piazzas had a great stand where you could buy a large cup full of fresh fruit. We stopped there many more times while in Verona.

Our dinner was at a nice place on Piazza Bra. We dined on Pizza and gnochi while watching loads of people pass by going to the arena for a concert. After dinner, we called it a night and went to bed. Only to be awaken again by the fire alarm across the street, twice that night!

The second full day in Verona was even busier. Well rested we had a breakfast and headed towards The Roman Theater. It was built in the first century and was built upon. Centuries later it was rediscovered and restored. Today they host concerts and plays at this location. They have a museum at the top accessable via elevator. We went upon to the museum and looked at the artifacts which had been found at the site.

Above the theater on the hill is a large fortress. We hiked up to the top which provided a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding hills. It got a little cloudy and rain could be seen in the distance. Normally rain would have been welcome as it was in the 80's at 10 in the morning. However, the rain did nothing more then raise the humidity signficantly, making the afternoon quite moist.

A quick lunch of panini's and we ventured to the few sights outside of the city walls. The most impressive being Juliet's Tomb. They were in the process of renovating, meaning there wasn't a whole lot to see.

We hiked back across town to The Castelvecchio. The family who made Verona a city lived in the castle. The tour through the castle had art, weaponry, and various views of the city. You could go up in the bell tower and enjoy the views as well. After the tour, we walked over the bridge which had multiple lookouts to see the city and the river.

We ate at an outdoor restaraunt and enjoyed a wonderful bottle of Chianti. This time watching patrons of the AIDA Opera pass by in their finest evening wear. Finally a night of sleep in Verona with no alarm going off across the street.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Italy Part 1

We boarded our flight for Lufthansa from Portland to PDX. I was delighted to see consoles in the back of the seats. These provided much entertainment for my short attention span. My goal was to sleep once we reached nighttime and the sun going down. However, the flight flew above the night zone, which meant the sun never went down. I got about a half hour of sleep along the way. Beth fared a little better and slept about 2 hours. I did manage to watch 3 movies and some tv shows. The movies will remain nameless as they are definitely of the chic genra. The food was surprisingly good for airplane food. One drawback of the flight were the two families with small children seated next to us. Needless to say the kids cried a lot more then they slept. Plus, one mom felt the aisle way was part of their seat and continously bumped into Beth. Lucky me she likes the aisle.

Landing in Frankfurt was beutiful from the air. The massive amount of trees brought a small comfort of home. The airport was huge, but really cool. We did have to change terminals, but it was easy and we found our gate with ease. We had enough time for lunch and coffee. We were nearly falling asleep in the chairs at the gate. We were lucky to have no kids around us this flight to Rome. Beth slept most of the way. I was to busy identifying cities from the air. The landing was a bit rough. The was a lot of crosswind and the pilot landed at a very steep angle. Beth was not a fan.

We waited at baggage claim for what felt like an eternity. We were relieved to find our luggage show up. Heavy backpacks in tow we made our way to the train station. Tickets were easy to buy at a kiosk and we boarded a train headed for downtown Rome. We were able to see mostly apartments, but none of the visible major sights could be seen. We decided to walk with our backpacks from the train station to our hotel. This wasn't the wisest decision as it was 90 degrees and very muggy. The walk was about a mile and we found our hotel located on a very busy street near The Colosseum and The Roman Forum.

The check in was easy and we found our room to be excellent. Exactly what two jet legged travelers needed. We decided to take a walk and get our bearings. We walked out of our hotel and the very next street led to The Colosseum. We were met with a glorious view of it in all its glory. We walked around it and headed back towards our hotel. There are many outdoor restaraunts to choose. We sat down for a nice dinner of Pizza and Chianti. We were both quite tired and headed back to the room to sleep and sleep we did. 9 1/2 hours total.

We woke up feeling fresh and ready for adventure. Our hotel had an awesome breakfast that would rival any hotel on the way to Death Valley. Wanting to beat the heat we headed directly to the forum. However, we were approached by a person dressed as a Roman Soldier. He offered to take pictures with us. I should have paid more attention to the euros he was holding in his hand as he asked for 40 euro for taking two pictures with us. We continued into the forum and followed Rick Steve's Guide for The Forum. It was awe inspiring to be somewhere 2000 years old. To walk were Caesar walked, to see where the senate met, and to see where Caesar was killed and burned. There is such a great story behind The Forum and linking it with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

Next to and above The Forum is Palatine Hill. There are various remnants of Emperors Palaces' and gardens. It was really hot up there with no shade. There was a great view of what used to be Circus Maximus, not much left of it. We walked down hill out of Palatine Hill and went to The Colosseum. The pass we bought to get into The Forum really paid off here. We got to skip the line to buy tickets which was a 45 minute wait. We walked right in and headed up to the upper rim. We walked the whole thing and took a ton of pictures. We then looked at an exhibit there. Heading down stairs, we walked the lower level taking more pictures. It is an amazing piece of architecture and building, considering it was built by hand with no tools. It was sort of special for me, being it was the first man made wonder of the world I had ever seen.

We returned to our hotel room and dropped off all of our camera stuff. We walked through Capitol Hill, an area that overlooks The Forum. Through there we went to Piazza Venezia. It sits in front of this massive goverment building being built there. We had lunch at an outdoor cafe and headed back to our hotel to escape the heat. Later when it cooled down, we headed a different direction from our hotel and found a wonderful place to eat. They also had the best chianti I have ever had. After our meal, we walked back down to The Colosseum, to see it the way it should be. A lit up at night with no one walking on it. It was truly beautiful.

What I really love about Rome was that it was nothing like home. It is this major bustling city with more ethnicities than you could count. Oh and not a Starbucks in sight.

Yesterday, July 13, was a travel day. We had breakfast at our hotel and wisely took a cab from the hotel to the train station. We walked the station figuring out how to get our passes validated. We boared the train and found great seats sitting across from each other. The ride from Rome to Verona was 4 hours. It was beautiful seeing the countryside and passing through Florence. We arrived in Verona to even more heat. We took a crowded bus to our hotel and then walked around.

Verona is absolutely beautiful. Try to imagine Portland in Italy. It is easy to walk around, very dog friendly, lots of people on Bikes and tons of Riverside. The people are very friendly and everyone seems to know everyone else. We walked around some and then got settled into our hotel. We have a great restaraunt right out the front doors of our hotel. It was a wonderful dinner and inexpensive. We went to bed, but didn't sleep for long. We were awoken to the store across street's fire alarm going off at 130 am. It was quite a jolt. Thankfully we both fell back asleep quickly.

Stay Tuned for more

We are having a blast and wish everyone could join us!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's just a T-Shirt

I never realized how a t shirt with a political message can evoke such reactions from people.  Last week, I bought a t shirt from the International Firefighter's website.  It is a plain yellow shirt with black lettering.  The front says, IAFF Firefighters for Obama Biden.  

When I first started wearing this shirt in Portland a few days ago, I immediately noticed how people would look at me.  Some people would remark, "hey I like your shirt."  However those were the minority.  Most of the looks I got were sneers and paralyzing looks of disbelief that someone would wear that in public.  I think it is fair to assume these people are fond of the dysfunctional regime that has ruined this country in the last 8 years.  

Traveling to Vegas today, which I have confirmed is filled with what I would categorize into 4 different groups:

1. The Republican loving baby boomers who would glare at me or even vocally discuss their disdain for my shirt with their group of cronies they happened to be with.  I was honestly shocked at how these people looked at me.  

2. The massive amount of Foreigners who travel to Vegas and are not really interested in our upcoming election.  My guess is they would thank Uncle GW for weakening the dollar so much that a trip to Vegas is comparable with a trip to the Oregon Coast in the winter.

3.  The young people.  Most prominent as a group of bleach blonde girls traveling in packs trying to find the miracle mile or the group of Frat Boy wannabes with their college t-shirts and half empty drinks desperately trying to find a place to get a refill.  The shirt got the least amount of response from this group.  Which to me means they don't know who Obama is or the elections means little to them.  It scares me to see a generation who doesn't care about what this election means and where this country is going.

4.  Those who liked the shirt.  The few who commented or gave me the thumbs up.  A firefighter stopped to ask me where I was from and expressed his like for the shirt.  There was a retired police officer who was going to check the police union's website to see if he could get a similar shirt.  Hopefully they can find their own shirt to display and help spread the word of the working class, union workers who support Barack Obama.  

I walked through many casinos with my time to kill.  Through my nomadic journey of scorching hot outdoors and nice air conditioning, it was The Bellagio I walked through towards the end.  It was here where I received the most response from Group 1.  

The shirt too me was just a way to show my support for Obama.  I never thought it would do much so much to create these responses.  I will wear it proudly, threatening my wife I will wear it everyday I am not at working until the election.  If you are McCain supporter, I hope you have a shirt you wear proudly because you are informed, not just because you say you are republican.  In conclusion, that goes for everyone, be proud of what you believe in, but please be informed.