Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Quick Detour

Here's a quick detour from my vacay photos. My sweet friend, Robyn, just came to visit for four days. Emma loves Robyn as much as I do! Here they are at our favorite local restaurant, Chloe's.
 Emma invited Robyn to a tea party in her bedroom. Check out how fancy schmancy Emma looks~Mommy had just given her a "makeover."
Rick had just enough points for us to spend one night at the Marriott on Atlantic Ave in Boston. Talk about having a princess weekend! Here's the hotel...
and the views from our room.
We walked over to the Quincy Market shopping area and ate lunch at Cheers.
Here's Robyn with her new man, Norm! LOL Trust me, her real man, Justin, is wwwaaaaaayyyyyyy better.
After shopping for awhile, we walked back towards our hotel. We were supposed to be hit with some bad storms, but we really only had some light rain and stormy skies. Here's the skyline view across from our hotel.
We ate dinner at Joe's on Atlantic Ave. After ordering, we were sooo busy chatting away that we didn't realize an hour had passed and we still hadn't received our meals. Our server was super sweet and kept apologizing, but still no meals. We were nice and didn't fuss, saying that we were doing fine with our bread and wine. Our server was so cute: "Well, bread and wine worked for Jesus. And he did pretty well for himself!" We knew we liked her! Anyway, the manager comped us for our dinner and our server thanked us for being so nice. 
We were so happy to have had a free dinner that we celebrated with cannolis from Mike's Pastry. Just let me say that Robyn discovered that she LOVES chocolate cream cannolis. She also discovered that they aren't just for dessert, but they make a perfect breakfast as well. Just one of the many reasons I love her!

The next day we headed into downtown Boston. As usual, I took yet more photos of steeples LOL.
Robyn's read the book Make Way for Ducklings a kazillion times to her students (she's a 3rd grade teacher), so she was excited to see the little duck island which inspired the book. 
 We tried to get s good self-portrait on the bridge but concluded that neither of us has arms long enough to do so, so this was as good as it got. Robyn looks great but me not so much. Oh well.
 We met Rick for dinner in Boston's North End (aka Little Italy). In addition to a fabulous dinner, we enjoyed one of the traditional Saint Festivals which occur every weekend during the summer. The photos aren't too clear because I had my camera raised above my head and couldn't tell if things were in focus or not. But you'll get the gist. 
This is a statue of a saint, though I haven't any idea which one. There are a multitude of long ribbons hanging around the statue. Every so often the parade comes to a stand still so that shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and spectators can pin money to the ribbons. I haven't the slightest clue what it all means but it sure was a big deal.
And then Robyn had to go home. I know she has a life outside of me, but boo hoo. I already miss her. :(

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rome Day 1, Part 2

In my last post I left you at the Pantheon. After Emma enjoyed the fountain mouse, we decided to head back to our apartment. We passed the Temple of Hadrian along the way. Built in AD 145, this temple was a monument to the emperor Hadrian, lifting his status to that of a god. (In a country that is staunchly Catholic, it's interesting to find so many relics dedicated to pagan gods.) Only this section remains from the original temple. A newer building incorporated this section of the remains, and the old/new building served as a papal customs house before becoming the current Roman stock exchange.
This photo gives you an idea of how tall the columns are.
Throughout Rome, we found the coolest water fountains to fill water bottles. Much to my delight, people didn't drink directly from them. Like Emma, they cupped the water in their hands. (Okay, I'd be lying if I said that these water fountains didn't kind of sort of bug me. I refer to water fountains as "flu swamps" because I always see people putting their mouths directly on them. Needless to say, I never use them. But I watched people at several of these fountains and didn't see anyone turning them into flu swamps. It actually would be difficult to do so since the faucets aren't positioned well for drinking.) The best part is that the water was cold, which was wonderful because it was nearly 100 degrees the whole time we were there. 
We finally came upon the Trevi Fountain. I've seen it before, but that did not make it any less beautiful to me the second time around. It's quite young by Roman standards, only 250 years old. 
 I took quite a few zoomed in photos to see some of the details.
Neptune is in the center. In Greek mythology, Poseidon (god of the sea) had a son named Triton who became Poseidon's messenger. Both of them carried tridents, but Triton used a special conch shell to calm the sea. Do you remember King Triton in The Little Mermaid? Now you know where his name originated. Anyway, there is a Triton on either side of Neptune. One represents the calmness of the sea while the other represents the power of the sea. So what does all of this have to do with Rome? Well the Trevi Fountain marks the spot of an aqueduct built in 1762. According to legend, Trevi was the young virgin who first identified the spring which supplies the water to this spot. 
Then it was time to head back to our apartment. We were exhausted! We hadn't expected to walk so much or see so much in just a few hours. 

The Forum's up next. Bueno serĂ¡! (Goodnight!) 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rome Day 1, Part 1

On July 1st, we set off on our European adventure! Miss Emma is a superb little traveler. She loves, loves, LOVES, to fly!
Every time a plane takes off or lands, Emma raises her hands as if she's on a roller coaster. 
And, of course, she and mommy love to make silly faces for GIffy. :)
We rented an apartment in a very nice part of Rome, literally next to the American embassy. We loved this apartment! Its location is perfect, its decor is beautiful, and it comes with housekeeping services. We would definitely rent this again. Anyway, here's the master bedroom.
This is the room Brittany and Emma occupied.
Brennan and Keaton shared this room.
This is the tiny but efficient kitchen.
Here are the living and dining rooms.
We had taken an overnight flight from DC to Rome. I can't sleep on planes, so I ended up with a migraine as I had anticipated. So the fam dropped me off at the apartment to nap while they grocery shopped and puttered for awhile. Several hours later, I was good to go. Our first stop was the Spanish Steps. 

When I travel, I always carry a small notebook in my purse so I can make notes, write things we said and did, capture some background about the places we go, etc. Boo for the fact that I lost my little notebook. So I am going to paraphrase some tour book descriptions to fill you in on what we did just in case you care. Here's the skinny on the Spanish Steps. The French owned the church at the top of a steep hill. The Italians owned the plaza at the bottom of the hill. The French decided to build a spectacular set of stairs connecting the two. That was cool with the Italians until they caught wind of France's little secret: the French intended to erect a statue of King Louis the XVI at the top of the stairs. The pope at the time was so not happy. After a long standstill, an Italian architect saved the day by appeasing both sides. Anyway, the 138 steps are a popular tourist stop. This is the church at the top of the steps.
Here's the view of Rome from the church.
A few photos into our trip, I realized that it was nearly impossible to avoid capturing strangers in my photos. (Makes me wonder how many strangers' photos I am in. Hopefully just the back of my head and not my rear. I realize I will never see any of those people again, but still I don't like the thought of random photos of my rear appearing somewhere on the internet. Ha ha.) Anyway, here are Rick, Brennan, Brittany, and Emma sitting on the steps. Plus one stranger just behind Rick. 
And here are just the girls plus the same stranger.
This cute photo is of the girls relaxing at the fountain at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.
Then we decided to head over to the Pantheon. On the way, we passed a store with this adorable apron. I meant to go back and get it, but then I became distracted and forgot. Boo for having a grandma's old-lady memory. :(
Along the way to the Pantheon, we passed the Column of Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor) in Piazza Colonna. It was erected sometime between AD 180 and AD 193 to honor his wartime victories against the Danube.
Then we passed the Obelisk of Montecitorio. As you know, the early Romans relied on sundials. In 10 BC, Emperor Augustus erected this obelisk to be used with a sundial. Its hieroglyphs bear testimony to its Egyptian origin. Some sources claim that Emperor Augustus procured it in Egypt. Nine or ten centuries later, the obelisk disappeared. In the 1500s, it was discovered beneath medieval houses, but it's excavation wasn't ordered until the 1700s when a pope took interest in it. It has stood in its current place since 1792.
Now for the Pantheon, which is an architectural masterpiece designed by the emperor Hadrian. It's name means "all the gods." Hence, it was built as a temple to the many gods worshipped in early Rome. It later became a church. It's diameter and height are equivalent (142 feet). It's dome, which you can barely see in this photo, is remarkable. Here are a few exterior shots.
The exterior's beauty is rivaled only by that of the interior. 
And then there's the dome. It's difficult to fathom that this was built without any modern engineering or technology yet it is perfect. It provides the only light. Flash photography was prohibited, so it was difficult to get a good photo, but here's a glimpse.
One last interesting factoid: the Pantheon houses the tomb of Raphael, the famous Italian painter.
After exploring the Pantheon, we spied a great restaurant in it's courtyard. If you are aware of my lovely GI issues, you know that among the things I cannot eat are tomatoes and onions, I am allergic to seafood, and I don't eat chicken. Sometimes eating out is a challenge, especially in a country in which tomatoes, onions, seafood and chicken are considered to be staple items. But this restaurant served the most delicious white pizza ever. (Don't ask me how many white pizzas I ate in Italy. Don't ask about gelato, either. Ha ha.) Anyway, we sat down for lunch and this was our view. Pretty cool, huh?
After lunch, Emma wanted to play by the fountain.
This little mouse lives beneath the fountain. We saw him/her sneak in and out of its little mousey hole. It's a brave little mouse, not the least bit intimidated by people. That's probably because everybody throws crumbs to him/her. Emma declared, "Ohhhh! That's the cutest mouse I've ever seen!" I guess they are cute as long as they're not in my house.
We saw quite a few Pinocchio stores as we meandered. The girls couldn't resist the silly photo op.
And that's all she wrote for today. Off to work on more photos. Welcome to Rome!