Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pages That Someone Is Reading?

Apparently these are pages that someone is reading... I just passed 10,000 visits! Probably mostly family, but who cares! Stay tuned for our next few adventures. More hill towns, Vienna, Budapest, Palio, and Paris!

Monday, July 26, 2010


This past weekend we all drove up to Switzerland to visit some LGOs and see some sights. Thursday afternoon we drove up to Turgi, just north of Zurich, to stay with Karla. We arrived at about 1:30 at night. I was convinced the drive in was beautiful, but since I couldn't see a thing, I was kind of looking forward to the drive home.

Rhine Falls
Friday morning we got up and drove to the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen. They were decent size for America, but one of the largest for Europe. We snapped some pictures and walked closer (i.e. near the tourist area). Just as we decided to eat some food here, it started raining. So we ate while waiting out the rain, but it never stopped. So we ran to the car and started driving to Zurich.

Apparently our Garmin maps are corrupt or didn't load properly for Zurich because once we got downtown, the Garmin got real stupid. It had nothing. We drove for a bit, finally figured we were close enough to walk downtown, parked, and walked in. Luckily we were only a 5-10 minute walk from the main downtown area along the water. It was still raining a little, but we made due. We visited the Grossmünster church, which is much different from the churches we are used to seeing in Italy. No photos were allowed, but it seemed more like what a church should feel like; less ornate, less decorated. We didn't want to pay 5 chiefs (our term for franks, derived from the abbreviation CHF) to climb the tower as the view was probably minimal due to the weather. Once we stepped back outside the rain had finally subdued and we walked around a bit more. There were a lot of American shops, which was depressing. We wandered back down to the river to walk back toward the lake. We got back to the car for our drive to Basel, to visit some more LGOs and stay for the night.

The next day we drove down to Lucerne to see the sites of the mountains and lake. While the weather didn't quite cooperate, Lucerne is a nice little town. We saw the Blue Balls Festival, the Dying Lion Monument, the big catholic church, walked around town some, and took the Golden Ticket ride. This consists of a boat ride across Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad, then a ride up the world's steepest cogwheel railway to the top of Mount Pilatus, and a ride back down to Lucerne on the gondolas and aerial cableway. Now unfortunately the mountain was covered in thick fog at the top, so the view was absolutely gone. We took pictures anyway. Upon return to the bottom, we hit up the Blue Balls Festival for some food. It was nice, all types of food were represented so we could pick whatever we wanted! I really wanted more swiss food (rösti and a brat), but Kacey opted for the delicious green curry thai. After our dinner, we got back on the road to drive back to Basel for a free place to stay.

The next morning we got up and got on the road for home. The views were amazing and we tried to capture a few through the windows of the car as there were no places to stop for pictures. Once we reached the east side of Lake Lucerne, there was a pull-off, so we snapped some pictures.
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Pictures from Switzerland

The road system to drive from Siena to Basel is pretty good. You take the A1 through Italy, and a decent sized road in Switzerland. The swiss require you purchase one of their CHF40 road stickers for your car, which is ok considering the quality of their roads based on how hard they must be to build and maintain. And if you visit Switzerland, get ready for some expensive... everything!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Volterra, Monteriggioni and Montepulciano

This past weekend we did two days trips. Saturday we drove up to Volterra and on our way home stopped in Monteriggioni. Sunday we drove down to Montepulciano and to Lake Trasimeno.

Volterra is supposedly rated high for places to see, and Monteriggioni is a fortress on a hill we see each time we drive home from Florence (so it has piqued our interest for a while). Volterra was nice and situated high on a hill, but nothing too great. We walked around the duomo and baptistery first and then ventured to Piazza dei Priori. After realizing there was no opportunity to climb up anything for a better view, we decided to venture down to the Saturday morning market. After buying some fruit and basil plants, we decided to head back up for lunch. Along the way we found a scenic overlook of the valley and of the Roman Theatre. After lunch we found the famous Etruscan gate, Porta all'Arco. We found another scenic overlook on our way back to the car and then headed to Monteriggioni.

Pictures from Volterra

Monteriggioni was right on the way and always looked interested, so we set our course for this fortress on a hill. This town is small, but nice. There was a wedding going on so many people were mulling around the piazza. We walked in to a few shops, watched the wedding party come out, and headed home for dinner after a long day. We didn't take many photos as we expect to come back; and next time we visit I plan on viewing the hillside from their wall-top walkway.

Pictures from Monteriggioni

On Sunday we got up and drove down to Montepulciano. This was a nice little town high up on a hill. We made our way up to the piazza near the duomo. We saw that people were viewing the hillside from the tower so we quickly climbed up for some photos. While it didn't really get us that high, it was still some good views. The duomo here is pretty nice and luckily for us the organ was being played while we visited. After eating some lunch, we got on the road to head to the lake.
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Pictures from Montepulciano
Video #1 of the organ
Video #2 of the bells

Lake Trasimeno
This is the largest lake in Italy's peninsula. We drove to what is the nicest beach on the western edge of the lake, Castiglione del Lago. Of the beaches we have seen in Italy, this was probably the nicest so far. There was some real sand, surrounded by a large grassy area and the water was very warm. Although the edge of the lake is seaweed, mud and clay, once you venture out 20-30 feet, it becomes much more clean; this is where everyone hangs out. We played at the playground and in the water for a couple hours then ventured back home.

So I learned while in Montepulciano that both this town and Volterra were the setting for a recent, popular movie, T_wilight. While I was not real familiar with it, it seems many people are. We learned that while it is supposedly based in Volterra, it was actually partly filmed in Montepulciano. As small as this town is, I can't imagine what it was like filled with h_ollywood types.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nolan is Two Years Old!

Well, we made it! Our little boy turned two years old on Sunday. While we only officially entered the "terrible twos" on Sunday, I think we started venturing down that path toward the end of May. Don't get me wrong, Nolan is a wonderful little boy, but he is definitely entering a stage where he wants his way and he knows how to "work us over". He is counting to 6 (8 if you say seven for him). He is a super active little boy and loves to run, play, jump, and bounce on the bed. For a couple months now he can repeat just about any word we throw at him, and does a pretty good job remembering them too.

Nolan has done very well at adjusting to Italy. We teach him some Italian words and sometimes he uses those words, but in general he probably won't be speaking fluent Italian when we return. Most of this is probably due to the fact that Kacey and I don't know enough to really speak it around the house much (we do some).

As for Nolan's stats, we are unofficial at this point as he won't really get a check-up for the rest of the year. I am going to try to find a place to weigh him, but not sure where at this point. He still doesn't have a butt, but oh well.

Outside our Villa

At one of our two playgrounds
Update: Nolan is about 35 inches long!


This past weekend we traveled down to Orvieto, one of the coolest hill towns in Umbria. Every time you drive to Rome, you pass a town very high on a cliff right off of the A-1; this is Orvieto. The duomo here has quite the interesting facade. We also had some very delicious gelato here.

Pictures from Orvieto

We stayed the night just outside Orvieto and the next morning, drove to Lake Bolsena. We drove toward the water in Bolsena in hopes to play at the beach for a while. We thought for Nolan's birthday, he would like to do that. We played for about an hour before getting on the road for lunch and to get home. We didn't have a good chance to take some good pictures of the lake unfortunately (it was beautiful), but on our way back to the A-1, we captured this panorama of Orvieto.
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Monday, July 05, 2010

Roma: A Whirlwind Tour

Saturday my mom arrived into FCO airport on her first transatlantic flight ever. We got in the car around noon and headed in to our hotel near Termini. By time we got on the train to head to our Vatican tour, it was almost 2pm and our ticket was for 3pm. We grabbed a few pieces of pizza and got a move on. The combination of the heat (90's) and a late plane arrival, we didn't have much time for relaxing for a few minutes. When Kacey and I visited the Vatican 3.5 years ago, the line was huge so this time we booked tickets online. We arrived at a surprisingly line-less Vatican around 2:45 and prepared for our entry. We gave ourselves about an hour and a half to reach the Sistine Chapel. We had to start rushing at the end, but we still got to see quite a lot.

We took the back door exit to St. Peter's after the Sistine Chapel. I was looking forward to seeing my mom's reaction to the size of this church; I think she enjoyed it.

After the Basilica we took the subway to the Trevi Fountain area for dinner and a night viewing of the fountain. It was crowded as usual but mom was still able to throw her change in the fountain. I also attempted a panorama picture here. We then took the subway to see the Colosseum at night, which was pretty cool. By time we got back to our hotel and got the A/C working, it was after 11.

The morning we headed toward the Forum. This was pretty cool, but not as cool as Pompeii. Kacey and I didn't have time to see the Forum when we visited a few years back, so it was also nice from that aspect. While taking my shots for the panorama it struck noon and all the church bells started sounding! I took a video of the action, check out the link below. This was also my favorite panorama I got.
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Video from the Roman Forum

We exited the Forum and walked toward the Colosseum. We were very glad we had our Roma Passes; there was at least a 2 hour line in the heat! We walked right in and spent about 90 minutes walking around and taking pictures. I also took a few panorama shots here.

After a short walk to St. Peter in Chains we got back to the car for the 2 hour drive home. Although very hot and pretty busy, the trip was pretty successful.

Pictures from Rome