Sunday, February 10, 2008

Arrivederci!


Tomorrow morning we leave for home. English is too proper a language to convey the depths of our despair, but an Italian opera might be up to the task. We must return. There are more people to meet. More weird soccer cheers to learn. More beers to drink, wines to sniff, and alleys to explore. Thanks everybody for following along and for all of your great comments!

Milan's Duomo


Another example of Gothic architecture. It's one of the world's largest churches, 2nd in Italy only to St. Peter's Basilica. Built in 1386 and then not really completed even now. Napoleon finished the facade in 1805, and playing to type, put a statue of himself on one of the spires. Totally gorgeous and impossible to take a bad picture of.

Is this heaven? Nope, it's Milan


Shopping, shopping, shopping, that's what Milan is mostly about. They have EVERY store and designer and everyone walking around on the street looks like a supermodel. Don't believe me? The picture to the left is their mall! It was the first building to use steel and glass as structural material instead of decorative. I have to admit, not a bad place to shop.

Perfect Convalescence

If a person has to be under the weather in sunny-even-in-winter Italy, they could do far worse than Antonella's beautiful home situated high in the Tuscan hills. I know Melissa has already commented on how great Antonella is, but we really can't say enough about her and her B&B. Not only were the views gorgeous, not only was our room (which consisted of dining area, kitchen, a large bedroom, and large bath) spotless and beautifully decorated, not only were the grounds landscaped meticulously, but Antonella was an amazing host! She baked me a cake, brought Melissa tea when she was sick, cooked me dinner, brought us homemade cookies, and would have likely made every other meal if only I'd allowed it, but gave us three bottles of wine as a gift upon our departure! Wow! Of all the places we've stayed, of which all were great, Mugello B&B was far and away my favorite. Thanks, Antonella. We'll be back, and next time we'll be healthy! Here's the link to her site (and here's the web address spelled out just in case, http://www.agriturismo.net/vicchio-1914/), if you need to book.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Our trip route...

Happy Birthday, John!


Today is John’s birthday and luckily, we’re both back to being healthy again… yea! Antonella brought him a homemade cake this morning (see, told you she was amazing). Today we’re off to Milan to spend the last couple of days before we come home.

Didn’t Siena much…


The next day we got up early and headed to Siena, which is in the heart of Tuscany (and about an hour away). I was feeling a little off in the morning, but decided I was fine so we headed out anyway. Through sheer force of will I made it all the way to Siena, got out of the car, and realized there was no way I could walk the 10 feet to the first site. Turns out, I came down with exactly what John just had. We turned immediately around and came back to our hotel and it was my turn to stay in bed for 24 hours. By the time I was feeling better, it was pretty much our last day in Tuscany, so we didn’t get to see much. Luckily we stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast where the owner, Antonella, was outrageously nice. She kept coming by and asking if I needed anything, brought me tea, and even made dinner for John one night.

Is this funny?


We sort of thought this joke had been done to death, but everyone (and I mean everyone) was lined up along the street taking pictures with this pose. We decided to do it and see what we were missing…

… we still don’t get it.

Pisa - a town built on shoddy craftsmanship


While not our favorite city (aside from the Field of Miracles, it's pretty much one long street vendor), we did enjoy the beautiful Duomo cathedral. It was built back in Pisa's hey day when Pisa was a superpower (around 1164 AD). The floor was inlaid with not only colored marble, but semi-precious stones. The nave was the longest in Christendom when it was built and the gray and white striped stones inside are made from recycled headstones. The Apse Mosaic shows Christ as the ruler of all - this is unique because it's influenced by Eastern Orthodox Christians with whom the Pisans traded. Pisa is also the home of Galileo Galilei who used to dangle things off the top of the tower as part of his experiments.

The bell tower is 200 ft tall, weights 14,000 tons, and currently leans at a 5 degree angle, 15 feet off the vertical axis. It was built over 200 years and started to lean almost immediately. During its construction 3 successive architects tried to correct the leaning problem. It leans because of the marshy, multi-layered, unstable soil and a shallow base to support it. 30 million dollars was spent in 1990 trying to stabilize it. As part of that attempt 600 tons of lead were sunk on the north side (the side opposite the lean) to act as a counterweight. It didn’t work.

The tower was neat, but the cathedral was much better.

Florence pics

Here's some pics of Florence I took while John was trying to stay hydrated. Wuss.





Flu-rence


So from Venice we headed off to Tuscany (this pic is us on the train). We were originally scheduled to arrive in Florence and then rent a car to drive the last 40 minutes outside of town. Alas... the Italian train strikes again. The rental car place closed at 7pm and we arrived at... 7:15. Oh well, no big deal. We got a hotel for the night in Florence with a plan to leave the next morning...

During the night John came down with a terrible case of the stomach flu. He literally didn't get out of bed for the next 24 hours. At the time we thought maybe it was food poisoning because it came on him all of the sudden and I was perfectly fine. The next morning he was feeling markedly better, so we finally got our car and headed out to Tuscany.

New postings! Yea!!

Hi everybody! There's no internet cafes anywhere in Tuscany, so we have a lot to make up for. Since it's been a while, I'll try to post things in the order they happened.

No Internet

Will post more in Milan

Monday, February 4, 2008

Off to Tuscany we go!

We're off to Tuscany today. We're not sure about internet access as it seems the further we get from London and Paris, the spottier technology gets. We'll try to post as much as we can though.

Only 8 days left... eeek! It feels so short compared to our trip so far. I keep having to remind myself that 8 days is usually how long our normal "big" vacations last. We've got 5 days in Tuscany, then it's off to Milan for the last couple of days. Good thing Milan is last... we've been doing so much walking my clothes don't fit anymore! Guess I'll have to buy some new stuff... sigh... tough problems...

Talk about enthusiasm!

I know you can't see his face very well because it's too dark, but I wanted to post this video of an Italian tourist who was walking along the street and just broke into song. After we finished taping him we continued walking and could hear him still blocks away!
video

More Carnivale Pics...





Everybody, move with the music....



Here's me striking my Vogue pose.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Back to Loire!

Because we haven't gotten to blog (much) about our new wonderful Aussie friends at Chateau du Guerinet, Dave and Corina, here are a couple quick photos. First, it's us on the porch. Second, it's us at dinner. Left to right, Rebecca, Peter (two other, very nice, Aussie guests, who were headed to Seattle this week), then Corina, then us. Unfortunately, you can't see Dave he's taking the pic! We'll write more about them in future blogs!

More random photos

It's impossible to take a bad photo in Italy, so here's some more I haven't uploaded yet. Note: our costumes have evolved.




Nacho Libre!


Here’s us with an Italian-Mexican wrestler. Or is it Mexican-Italian? Mucha-Lucha!

PIKACHUUUUUU!

We assume this video contains the cheer for an Italian futbol (i.e. soccer) team, but why half a dozen of them were dressed as pikachus, we’re not sure. It made us laugh nonetheless! video

It’s all very "Eyes Wide Shut".


Here’s a sampling of some of the costumes we’ve been seeing. There are varying levels, some are crazy elaborate, while others are just street clothes and a mask. However everyone walks around with something. The elaborate people just walk and stand around while everyone mobs them to take a photo. John and I even had people ask for photos twice, and we weren’t that dressed up! But everyone loves his nose. “Mate, that’s a big nose ye’ave!” was one of the first things said to him after we arrived.