Archive | November, 2014

Day 10 European Vacation: The End

19 Nov

On the last day of vacation we spent most of our day in Venice. We slept in a bit and headed down to the concierge to hold our luggage. We had originally planned to go out to the island of Burano where the lace factory was located. We soon found out that a trip out to Burano could turn into an all day affair, which we weren’t really up for.

So instead we headed to the main island and decided to hit up Doge’s Palace and browse around the city again to soak up as much of the sites as we could.  The word Doge actually translates to Duke.  Venice was a hub for politics and trade in 10th century to the 16th century and the palace was like our modern day white house.  Doge’s Palace was both a residence for their leader and the place where all government took place.  Since we had purchased that museum pass the day before we got to skip a long line out front!

The Venetians lived an extravagant lifestyle and they spared to expense on building and decorating the Doge’s Palace.  It was remarkable.

Main Square

Main Square

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This is just the CEILING!

This is just the CEILING!

DSC_1048 DSC_1070DSC_1076 The palace is also the place of the largest room in all of Europe.  From floor to ceiling, it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  And it overlooked the main canals of Venice with made it even cooler!

DSC_1088DSC_1090 DSC_1091The Palace was also the place where the military met and the prison was located down below.  We walked the entire Palace from the beautiful residence of the Doge to the depths of the prisons.  It was remarkable.

DSC_1087 DSC_1095Once we were done with the palace we took a few more photo opportunities outside the Palace and found a quaint place to eat our last official venetian meal before heading on to Milan.

DSC_1096After a late lunch we headed back towards the hotel to grab out stuff and get to the train station.  We definitely had some trouble getting tickets for the water bus (Vaporetto) as it was the first time we had used it the whole trip.  For starters there are not a lot of these ticket booths like one might expect.  There are Vaporetto stops all over the islands but not every stop has a ticket counter.  And it was a Sunday so we found few counters that actually had people at them.

Once we finally found a ticket machine we were off and running to get all of our stuff and on to the Vaporetto.  We really didn’t think this plan through.  We were heading to the train station at the peak hour for all of the native Italians to also be heading to various spots like the actual bus stop or even home.  We were crammed on a bus style boat with all of our luggage (3 bags a piece albeit small but still 3 bags).  And let me just say, the Venetians were not too pleased or friendly as we piled in with all of our stuff.  If it hadn’t been so expensive to get a water taxi we would have after seeing the crowd on the Vaporetto.

Once we made it to the station we hopped on our train to Milan and made the 2.5 hour trek back.  We had a screaming child and their annoying mother behind us which made for a longer trip than we had hoped.  We tried to stay busy and played a lot of rummy!  When we made it to Milano Centrale we had to rush to the ticket counter to get another ticket over to the airport.  We were staying at a Hilton Garden Inn close to the airport to make for an easier morning the next day.

On the ride to the airport stop we made friends with a lovely Italian man that works as a tour guide for a large International company.  He had lived in the States for a few years when he was younger and knew a lot about our country and even Iowa!  It was great to have him sitting across from us as he loaned us his cell phone to call our hotel to get them to pick us up from the station.  He even called them back to speak to them in Italian to get more information about where we should go!

That night we said goodbye to an amazing vacation and an amazing country.  If ever given the chance, I would go back to Italy in a heartbeat.  Ciao!

Days 8 & 9 European Vacation: Aboard our Ship and Venice Round Two

12 Nov

Back to our beautiful vacation 🙂

The last day aboard Splendour of the Seas we were out to Sea for the day.  And unlucky for us, the weather was pretty crummy and Britton was hitting a wall with his own cold situation.  We had hoped to spend the day warming up in the sunlight on the deck but instead we were confined to the interior of the ship.

We started the morning with a  language class to get us prepared for the Italian language once we landed back in Venice.  Most of what we learned were refreshers for us from before we left the states.  We had done a little prep with Duolingo!

Afterwards there were a lot of sales on the ship so we bought a few gifts and also a set of playing cards.  Once the cards were in our hot little hands we spent the remainder of the day playing rummy.  Britton had never played before and it was one of my favorite past times with my family!  We literally wasted hours away playing rummy all over the ship!

For dinner we had our last reservations at Izumi and enjoyed a final meal of sushi before heading downstairs for a night of fun and games with the ship’s cruise director.

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Octopus and it was amazing!

DSC_0939On Saturday morning we were off the ship bright and early and headed straight to our next hotel.  We were staying at the Hilton Molino Stuckey and it was absolutely gorgeous.  Our room was not ready yet but we dropped off our bags and rested a bit before heading out to the main island of Venice again.  This hotel was located on a nearby island called Giudecca.  At the top of the hotel they have a pool that was not operational at this point during the season but the views from up there were just breath taking!

DSC_0941 DSC_0947DSC_0944The hotel had a shuttle service that would take us from Guidecca to the main island.  We headed over there after a quick breakfast in the lounge and began to take in the sites of a new part of the island that we hadn’t yet explored.  Right away we came across an old cathedral and a tiny shop where they made the gondolas!

DSC_0950 DSC_0954We decided that we wanted to see some of the historic museums while we were walking around that day so we got a museum pass that would get us into 15 different museums throughout the islands of Venice!  The picture below came from the Ca’Rezzonica Museo del Settececento which used to be someone’s home.  The paintings on the ceilings were just amazing!

DSC_0958We also stopped at the grand canal and were a bit disappointed with the line of shops across it.  We were much more enthralled by all the smaller bridges crossing over the canals.  But we did take the obligatory picture!

DSC_0978 DSC_0980We also stopped for some treats along the way.  Had a pizza on a pretzel for lunch and just could not resist a picture of these adorable marshmallows!  I mean come on!

DSC_0977 DSC_1011We also did some perusing through the iconic fish market.  We got there a little late though so most of the stands were already packed up.  But some cool stuff regardless!

DSC_0982 DSC_0986Man we walked around a lot that day!  We also made our way to the modern art museum and as you can see we came across the thinker and some Warhols.

DSC_0994The Thinker

The Thinker

Warhol

Warhol

We ended the evening at one of the restaurants at our hotel.  We were really struggling to find a place on the island of Guidecca and didn’t want to take the shuttle over to the main island.  But we walked a lot more that night looking at the restaurants before settling back at our hotel.  I should also mention, they upgraded us to a two bedroom suite so we were in heaven after being on the boat for a week!  Venice is good 🙂

It’s GO time!

6 Nov

Going to switch it up a bit and get this down before I finish my vacation posts 🙂

Back in August we did our house search down in Florida to get us ready for the big move.  We put an offer on the house back when we were down there and we were good to go on the sale of our house up here.  I wish I could say the process went smoothly but I am certain that is not possible with the purchase and sale of homes!

Thankfully, last Monday the sale of our home was finalized and by Tuesday we had a close date and time for our house in Florida.  Britton and his mom, Janet, started the drive to Florida with our cat Disco early Tuesday morning and planned to do the drive in just two days.  They stopped in Nashville along the way to stay with Grandpa George and then made the last leg of the drive on Wednesday.

IMG_0359[1]Thursday morning Britton and Janet were up early and heading out to our house in Winter Garden.  The plan was to stay at my dad’s house until our furniture arrived so as not to waste money on a hotel.  Just like every element of this process there were a few surprises on Thursday morning when they arrived at our soon to be home for the final walk through.  The previous owners removed from the walls every curtain rod and hanger which was specifically outlined in the contract to stay.  After some negotiation we got a few bucks out of the deal to make up for the mistake.

I arrived to the Orlando airport with just enough time to grab a quick lunch and head straight to close.  We got the keys but decided to wait until Friday to head over to the house.

Friday morning we woke up ready to work on the new house but the universe had other plans.  Dealing with some last minute changes with closing the day before we finally got over to the house after noon but wanted to register our car with the homeowners association and then get some cleaning and painting supplies to start our projects on the house.  We finally got to work at around 2:30 pm!

IMG_0488[1]Britton’s aunt and uncle were traveling through Orlando on Friday so they stopped in to help us a bit with our projects and see the new area.  It was a delight to see them in our new home (too bad I was too distracted with projects to get a picture!)

IMG_0399[1]The biggest project we wanted to accomplish before our furniture arrived on Saturday was painting the master bedroom.  It was the only room in the house we felt HAD to be painted before all of our large furniture arrived.  So that was our task for Friday and it was finally done around 10 pm.

Saturday morning the moving company arrived bright and early at 8 am and began unloading the boxes.  We had 120+ boxes and another 100+ pieces of furniture that were unloaded in about 4 hours.  Once they were gone we went straight to work.  Mom and Janet got the front guest room ready as that’s where Janet and Greg would be sleeping that night.  Britton and I started to do a bit of organizing in our master bathroom and closet.  I’m just going to admit this.  It’s still a disaster! We have WAY too many bathroom items!

By Saturday night we had the guest room in order, the master bedroom and kitchen mostly in order and the living room was looking great.  We made plans to have fun on Sunday at the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot so Saturday really was the only day for organizing. I’m pretty happy with the progress

IMG_0411[1] IMG_0419[1]Sunday we rested (so to speak)! We thought it was VERY important to take a time out and have some fun!  So we headed to Epcot and drank, ate and walked our way around the world!  It was a much needed release from such a long and hard weekend!

Epcot Family Epcot PretzelsMonday I headed back up to Iowa with Janet and Greg and left BRitton with a lot of work to do on the house.  Luckily, I’ll be back down for Thanksgiving and it’s only 6 weeks before I moved to Florida again!

Day 7 European Vacation: Olympia and κρασί

5 Nov

Sorry its taken a while for day 7!  More to come on why (but mostly a BIG move!)

On the 7th day of our vacation we traveled to the city of Katakalo Greece which is located on the mainland of Greece in an area known as Elis.  The port of Katakalo was unimpressive and we were quickly whisked away on a bus to our first stop for the day, Olympia.  After seeing the ruins in Ephesus we were excited to see what lay in store for us at the site of the first Olympic games.

In Greece, much like many of the other places we visited, they had been devastated by earthquakes in 300 AD and many subsequent natural disasters thereafter.  Much of Olympia has been restored but there is still a lot of rubble.

DSC_0851 DSC_0853We saw the Temple of Hera, the great water basins they used during the ancient games and the place where they light the Olympic flame.  We also learned a lot of history! During the original Olympics there was no such thing as the Olympic flame, that started during the games in Amsterdam in 1928.

DSC_0856 DSC_0863We also learned that the original Olympics took place completely in the nude!  It was customary for gyms to be clothing free zones and that was one reason why women were not involved in athletics.  There was a little part of me that wanted to go out onto the field and run around (fully dressed of course)!

arches to the field

arches to the field

DSC_0879 DSC_0883During ancient times there was an ivory statue of Zeus that was stolen and later burned in a fire.  But it was originally in this temple which is pretty amazing!

DSC_0896 DSC_0909After Olympia we headed on to another winery which was WAY cooler than the last one in Santorini.  The winery is a family owned business and much of the original structures still stand.  It was also located sort of up on a hill so when we went outside to try the wines we were blessed with some amazing views of the ocean.  What a perfect way to end the day in Katakalo.

DSC_0912 DSC_0914 DSC_0928 DSC_0930 DSC_0934Katakalo was also our last stop on the cruise before heading back to Venice.  This winery really was a great ending to a great cruise.  We brought back two bottles of their red wine and would have probably filled a suitcase if we knew we could get it into the states upon our return!  More info on the winery here!