Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 3, Vatican "It's the Vatican...

"It's the Vatican, not the Vatican't"---Cory, Dec 2008

Day 3--Merry Christmas! :)

I am very glad I'm putting all this together b/c some of the days are starting to run together. ;) We started the day w/ our buffet...lots of croissants. Yum! We then headed to the Vatican for Mass and the Papal Blessing. I really thought there were going to be so many people and lines to get in for Mass. But St Peter's Square was relatively quiet.

Nativity in St Peter's Square

We then went through the detectors to go into the Basilica. Just going into the Basilica was so surreal...the actual Michelangelo's Pieta. How to even comprehend that? I'm going to post most of the Vatican/Basilica pics later b/c we did go on the official tour.

Swiss Guard at the Basilica

First view upon walking in the Basilica

Next picture is approximately where I spent most of Mass, standing, except there were no benches or chairs like in that picture (which is another borrowed one from story: David was having gastro problems and he and Cory headed to the bathroom right before we were let in to go and sit down for Mass. Charlie and I saved seats for them, but they never showed up. I was worried and kept looking for them. Finally, after the Gospel, Charlie and I left to go and look for David and Cory. I was worried that David was really sick. So, we ened up standing here for the rest of Mass when we couldn't find them. Didn't even go to Communion. When Mass was over, guess who comes walking out? Of course, David and Cory. And THEY went to Communion. *rolling my eyes*

Altar...we were actually closer during Mass, um, before we left. LOL

Nativity in the Basilica

I did sneak some video in. Eek. ;)

After Mass we walked right outside and ended up almost under the window where Pope Benedict was going to give his Papal Blessing. No matter what the pics look like (LOL) we were actually very close. If you look at the next picture (which was actually taken 2 days later during our tour), you'll see the window w/ the burgundy curtains where Pope Benedict came out. We were actually on the ground to the left of that window, about 10-15 ft behind that statue.

The next video is of when the Pope came out. It was like being at a concert!

Receiving the official Christmas blessing, Urbi et Orbi, or "to the City of Rome and to the World". If you'd like to read what he said, please visit :The Vatican's Website. I can't really explain what being there wasn't so much a religious experience as a community one. On my list for the whole trip in Italy, being there for the Papal Blessing ranks #1. For Cory, also. He also picked going to Mass.

After leaving Vatican Square we grabbed some lunch. We had
paninis. The grilled bread is really good. We also had espressos, which came out of Milan. The tour guide stressed how smooth and wonderful they were. Um, us it was shot of very stiff and dark coffee. Personally, I like a big ol' cup of coffee that I can savor over a good 15 min or more. LOL

Can you believe all this happened b/w breakfast and lunch? I'll have to blog about the rest of the day tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Italy, Day Due...that's 2 in Italian ;)

Be prepared for a boatload of pictures!!

We had a wonderful buffet breakfast at the hotel. But b/c of the late sun rising we could only go to the beach after our breakfast...well, if we wanted to actually see the sea, that is. ;) Which left us a grand total of about 20 minutes before the bus left. We ran down to the beach which is on the Ligurian Sea which is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea.

Then we headed into Pisa, the birthplace of Galileo Galilei, "Father of Science". Pisa is an ancient port-town at the mouth of the Arno River in the region of Tuscany. Of course, we were headed to see the famous La Torre di Pisa. Construction on the tower began in 1173 and started to sink in 1178...only 5 years later! If you notice in the pics, you can see how the base began sinking before construction of the tower was finished. The next level was attempted to be straight on a crooked base. The tower took approx 200 years to be completed. It was closed in 1990 and attempts were made to the foundation to keep the tower from leaning any more. When it was reopened in 2001 it was claimed that the tower was safe from toppling for another 300 years. Currently, the top of the tower is 12ft, 10in from being center. Anyway, the tower is actually the bell tower for the cathedral of Pisa. In the square there is the cathedral, baptistry and tower. When we first got there it was just after 8am and very foggy.

The baptistry is in the foreground, then the cathedral and then the tower:

The Baptistry:

As the morning wore on we got better views:

Unfortunately, we couldn't go into the tower, cathedral or baptistry (we heard it has great acoustics)...they were all opening up as we were leaving. Boo. So, we then shopped around. We did get the requisite plastic tower...that was David's purchase. :) Charlie purchased a pen that has a map of Pisa wound up in the inside. So he can pull it out (in a scroll fashion). Cory ended up w/ a marble statue of St Michael for only 5E. No, we don't believe it's marble. ;) And I couldn't pass up the leaning cup of Pisa.

So, we hopped back on the bus for the drive to Roma. We drove straight to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, Official Website. The catacombs are the underground burial places of Christians (and Jews) during the time of ancient Rome. There are no longer any bodies there. ;)

Inside the basilica (the next few pics are from Lawrence OP on motto for this trip was if my pics don't come out or I didn't get the pic, I'm sure I can find it on photobucket or flickr):

Saint Sebastian for whom the catacombs/basilica are named. He actually did not die from the arrows, though that is how he is always portrayed.

The ceiling is wooden

My pics:

David and Cory lighting a candle to Saint Sebastian

We then headed to our hotel to check in. The thing about hotels in Europe, in my limited experience of course, is that the rooms are small, at least in our price range. We had to get 2 rooms, one w/ a king bed for Cory and David, and Charlie and I had a room w/ 2 twin beds. I wish we could have had connecting rooms, but we didn't. So, Cory and I had to each take a boy. LOL Our room But we did have nice views:

B/c David was not feeling well, we opted to stay at the hotel that evening. Unfortunately, the hotel was in an area of town that there were no restaurants or cafes. If we had gone anywhere we would have had to take a cab, so we went to the bar in the hotel. Our tour guide, Stefan, had told us it was expensive, but we had no idea!! David had a hamburger/fries, Cory a club sandwich/chips, I had a salmon sandwich/chips, Charlie had fries and we all had a soda. Can you guess how much that cost us? 72 euros which is approx $105 dollars. I am not kidding. So, that was our Christmas Eve dinner! LOL But we were together in Rome...not a bad gig overall. ;)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Trip to Italy, Day 1

Well, it's sort of hard to start this b/c the trip was so huge. I guess the beginning...

We got on our super duper tour bus at 6am Tuesday morning. The bus was nice. Our guide's name was Stefan and the driver, Benny. Cory and David sat on one side of the aisle while Charlie and I sat on the other. It was a nice quiet ride. Since it doesn't get light til about 8, we dozed until then. We had stops every couple of hours for either a break or a meal (breakfast, lunch). We had an amazing view of the Alps while driving through Switzerland. Since the area is so mountainous we spent about half the time driving through tunnels, but this was the view when coming out of one of the tunnels...everyone on the bus woke up and there were a lot of "oooooooohs" and "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahs" and "wows!" Which seemed to last about 10 minutes or so and then everyone got used to the view. LOL We also passed through Lake Como and no George Clooney. Oh well, his loss. ;)

The "truck stops" or "autogrills" that we stopped for breaks/meal were very nice and clean. Not like most in the states. In Switzerland we stopped at Marche. The food was good, but some of it was very expensive. We waited in line and got a bowl of pasta, creamy sauce w/ carrots. The bowl was about the size of a regular cereal bowl and it ended up being 13 euros! Holy crap. That's about $20!

They also had a small store where we picked up a couple bars of Swiss chocolate for the road. I mean, we have to sample the chocolate, right? We got on the bus and David said, "It tastes like chocolate." LOL Everyone around us started laughing.

We arrived in Pisa at about 5pm. We actually stayed right on the coast...too bad it was so cold! Pisa is on the Liguarian Sea which is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea.

Nativity right in front of the boardwalk area:

So, not much of this day as we spent most of it on the bus, but the views were spectacular and we were so excited w/ the promise of what was to come.

More of Pisa tomorrow...

OH! If you have to comment as "Anonymous" I'd love if you typed your name in the box before publishing your comment. I'd love to know who is commenting. LOL Thanks! ;)