Friday, May 30, 2008


Dead Alien Babies, RamRods and Bad Hairpieces
May 9, 2008

Ah, the beautiful Island of Mykonos. We went ashore and fell in love immediately. Ok, seriously this time, this is the place we want to move to. First we thought it was the Tuscan countryside, then we thought it was Santorini, but there is just something about this place that is so serene and beautiful that made us not want to leave. There is water everywhere you look (I know, duh, it’s an island), but this water is the clearest and the most beautiful blue I’ve ever seen. It made me want to dive in with my clothes on and not even care.

So we walk around on the seaside dock area with fishing boats everywhere and happen to see one boat in particular with what looked like dead alien babies hanging off the masts. After closer inspection, (and spotting a sign on the restaurant behind us that advertised ‘dried octopus’), we deduced that they were actually octopuses hanging out to dry. Yeah, I know pretty clever of us right? Anyway, not something you see every day in Tampa. I thought it was kinda creepy, but kinda cool too.

Then we decide to go find all these windmills we kept hearing about on the brochures and such from the cruise ship. We can see them in the distance, so it couldn’t be too hard to get to right? Hey, here’s a alleyway, wonder if it leads towards them. So we’re walking down the passageway that leads into the town itself, and we turn a corner and come across one of the strangest and funniest signs I’ve seen in a while. It’s a sign for the Scandinavian Bar and Disco!! Of course it is. What else would you expect to see on a remote Greek island? (As a side note, I just looked up Mykonos on Wikipedia and it says Mykonos is known for its “cosmopolitan character and its intense nightlife.” I’m not sure what ‘intense nightlife’ means, but it sounds frightening. Anyway, we were there during the daytime, so we didn’t get a chance to experience that particular side of the island, may have been a good thing considering what we found when we turned the next corner. We may have been a little our of our element.

“Hey honey, am I seeing things or is that a gay nightclub… called… RamRod?” Why yes it is. Hahaha. That may be a little too descriptive. We haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Maybe that’s what they meant by ‘intense nightlife’.

So we keep walking and realize we have no clue where we are or if we’ll ever find these windmills, and it’s getting around lunchtime, so we turn another corner and find this great outside Greek restaurant right on the water. Perfect. Lori orders another delicious Greek salad, or as they call it in Greece, ‘a salad’. I order the spaghetti, because if I can order weiner-schnitzel in Rome, why wouldn’t I be able to get spaghetti in Greece? But seriously, if you’ve never had Greek spaghetti, I suggest you try it. They put their own flair on it with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon in the sauce. Yummy and yummy! I hate to disappoint you, but this time instead of the homemade wine, we opted for good old fashioned American Cokes (well, they didn’t have Coke, so we ended up with Pepsi).

So after the awesome lunch by the relaxing seashore, we head up a hill and… The Windmills!! There are several huge old windmills on the side of a small cliff that were formerly used to grind grain, but have since been retired. Some have been converted into houses which is kinda cool. So Lori immediately went to the edge of the cliff and seeing a patch of grassy land informed me that this is where we were going to build our new house. Hey I’m cool with that. So we climbed down the hill and stood by the crystal clear water and just took in the atmosphere. We probably could have stayed there forever, but we had to get back to the boat before it left us there. (Which Lori informed me was ok by her.)

So as we are walking back through the winding narrow streets, we happen by a shop window and I about snapped my neck doing a double take. Without going into too much detail about it… the picture I’m sure says enough, we spot this statue. What the…? People actually buy this? Well, I guess it would definitely be a conversation piece. “So Mabel, I was at knitting club this week and… uh, Mabel, you want to tell me about that thing pleasuring itself on your coffee table?”

We make it back to the boat (after some more Gelati, of course) and reluctantly get on board. We immediately change into our swimwear and go up on the sundeck to watch the view of the island in the distance as we depart our beloved Mykonos. Yes, Pope Snappy started taking several random pics of Lori and I guess I got carried away when I told her, “Yeah that’s a good pose… now look forlorn… now act like a cat, meow…” which is how I ended up with this shot.

Oh, I’ve just gotta tell you one more thing before I close. We went to see the doppelganger band play on the ship tonight and this guy sitting in front of us had the worst, and I mean the worst toupee you’ve ever seen. Oh geez, if I had only had my camera. This thing was BARELY hanging on his head. Then he got up to dance. Holy crap, we laughed our asses off just hoping the piece would fall off, which somehow never did. I told Lori that the band should bust out with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re gonna rock your hair off!!” Maybe another one of those, had to be there moments, but it makes me laugh. Anyway, enough for one day. See you tomorrow!!

Parthenon, Greek Einstein, and Creepy Egyptian Dude
May 10, 2008

Well today starts off with another excursion, and a guide with a very thick Greek accent. And she literally said “ah” after every word for some reason!! Could-ah you-ah imagine-ah if-ah I-ah wrote-ah like-ah this-ah the whole-ah diary-ah? Yeah, now you feel our pain. (Hah! I just realized that last word would be pronounced ‘diarrhea’. Yeah, apparently I still have the humor of a 12-year-old). Anyway, at least I could understand her, unlike our tour guide in the Amalfi Coast. She was just annoying, but I can deal with that.

We get to Athens and walk all the way up to the top of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is. The Parthenon was a temple built for the Greek goddess Athena. When we were walking up to it, we just saw the front pillars, and not that it looked small by any means, but I guess I had pictured it bigger than it looked. But then we walked around to the side of it. That’s when you can really tell the size of it. It was pretty impressive, mostly because of how much they’ve been able to reconstruct of it.

The view from the top of the mountain was great too, and it didn’t hurt that it was a beautiful, sunny day out with a great breeze. Actually, now that I think of it, we’ve been extremely fortunate that every day we’ve been over here has been like this. After wandering around some more, we headed back to the bus to see the Panathanaic Stadium.

The Panathanaic Stadium was built to host the 1896 Summer Olympics, which were the first Olympics of the modern times. I thought it was pretty cool to see that it was in such great shape. It was actually used for a couple of events in the 2004 summer Olympics, and was built on the spot of the original arena, which was functioning around 300 B.C. I was also able to get this panorama if it, which really shows the enormity of it.

Then we got back on the bus and went to the Athens museum and saw a lot of artifacts and statues and such. Afterwards the bus drops us off on a corner block of downtown (next to a McDonalds, of all places. And no we didn’t eat at McDonalds. We try to avoid it at home, so why would we want to eat it overseas). Anyway, the street we walked down was extremely busy and extremely active. We walked a little ways, and we heard this beautiful, calming music coming from some street performers up the way. So we get up to them, and we listen and watch them for a while, when Lori says, “Do you notice anything odd about this?” Huh? It didn’t hit us for a while, but they were clearly Native Americans playing Native American music. It was just kind of an odd site to see in the middle of a busy downtown street in Athens, Greece. Or is it just us? Oh well, either way, we keep walking, and come across this creepy guy. I guess he was supposed to be a mime or something, and I couldn’t figure out why he was dressed like an Egyptian Pharaoh, but he was creepy either way. We walk on a little more, and I spot "Greek Einstein". I don’t know if this picture does him justice, but man did this guy look like Einstein, relatively speaking. It’s hard to take a direct picture of someone without being totally obvious that you’re doing it, so this picture was taken from far away with the zoom all the way in. Anyway, that pretty much concluded our excursion. Can’t say anything really exciting happened on the boat tonight (that I can talk about *wink wink*), so I’m going to close this and say goodnight. Tomorrow should be pretty cool, we’ll be in Olympia.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Much Needed Update

No, we haven't abandoned you.
We're still around, just incredibly busy.

We are working on our next update on the Honeymoon (and possibly final update) which we hope to have up sometime this week.

I am back in Virginia. In fact, I came back 2 days after we got back from Europe and went back to work the day after that. Nothing like hectic. The worst part - Matt came home with some type of stomach virus from Venice (loads of fun on a 16 hour flight) and the day I left for Virginia, guess who had a fever and one heck of a stomach ache. Yep. Me. (Thanks Honey.)
That turned hectic into just plain miserable. In fact, Matt (still not feeling well) had to pack me for my flight back. I just laid in bed and pointed at the laundry he had just done. By the time I landed here, I had no clue what was in the suitcases. I apparently had some sense about me and pointed to most of the right stuff. Thankfully, it never turned into anything ugly, I just had a stomach ache and felt weak for a week. Could have been worse.

As for work, they haven't wasted any time throwing me into the fire. Which, really, is the only real way to get up to speed, if you ask me. I have lots going on and am a bit frustrated with being the new girl - just because I don't know all the processes, procedures and people yet. I'll get there. Thankfully, they know I'm new at this and expect me to have lots of questions and maybe fall a little. I'm looking at this as one fantastic challenge and a good chance to become a valuable team member. So, go ahead guys, throw it at me! BRING IT!

It's Memorial Day weekend and Matt has come up to visit me (YAH!). Sarah's in-laws gave us 4 "fancy" tickets to the Washington Nationals game today and offered to babysit their twins. The 4 of us had a really good time. We had fantastic seats and the tickets even included $35 worth of food/beer and a waiter in our seating area - so we didn't have to get off our lazy duffs to get beer. Woot! Now, I'm not a huge baseball fan but, who am I to turn down a day out with good friends. I can even say I enjoyed the game. I'm glad Matt came up, I've missed him. It's really weird living in two states as a married couple. I can't wait until we finally get settled here.

Besides the next and last honeymoon installation, my posting may be slowed a bit. Not only is work and looking for housing for us keeping me busy, but my laptop died. (moment of silence please) It was a good laptop, and well loved. That poor piece of equipment was dragged around college, work, home, traveling...everywhere. It took a beating and never gave me an ounce of trouble in the four years I had it. I guess it was time. I'm going to look into fixing it, for a short term solution. Buying a new one just isn't in the budget right now and I don't NEED it. I will just miss it terribly.

Oh, and to add a touch of drama to this whole seemingly perfect wedding/honeymoon saga. I got my new Social Security card the other day. Actually, I got two. One in my current name, one in my married name. HUH? NOW I don't know who I am. Sigh. I knew that visit to the SS office went way too smooth. Looks like I'm going to be on the phone tomorrow. Lets all hope they don't make me come back in - that place was not pleasant.

Stay tuned. Matt should be putting up Part 3 of the Honeymoon this week. Enjoy!

Monday, May 19, 2008


DAY 6 - NAPLES (Amalfi Coast and Pompeii)
May 4, 2008

Want to know how we started this morning? Yep, we were up again at dawn-thirty. Way too early for two young newly weds who like to have a few drinks in the evening and sleep late in the morning. But, alas, up we were and away we went. Yesterday, we had a wonderful tour guide from Australia who moved to Italy 10 years ago because of the food and language. Yep, he wanted to learn to cook and speak Italian - so he moved here. I can follow that line of thought. Todays guide, well, he was probably very good, we think. He spoke English (we think), but with a very thick Italian accent and Wow! did that man speak fast! I would catch only one of two words every other paragraph or so. So Matt and I ignored him and started making up our own stories and picking on people. Really - you shouldn't leave the two of us up to our own devices. We're baaaaad!

We drove through Naples which was, hmph, how do I put this lightly? Um. Dirty and ugly and EW! Gladly, we were only driving through Naples
and not actually stopping there. Our tour was of the Amalfi coast and you definitely know when you get there - let me tell you! One minute you're looking out the bus window at a nasty town and the next you're looking down a sheer cliff over the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea. And you go up and up and up and up on a street made for two motorcycles (barely) - not an enormous tour bus. Then suddenly you've got two tour buses, a couple of scooters, a truck on three wheels and a few pedestrians in one spot on this street made for 2 motorcycles. YOWZA!! The bus driver is my hero - that man missed some obstacles that scared the be-jeesus out of me - like the side of the mountain or other tour buses. Anyway, we maneuvered up this mountain with the stunning views over the Mediterranean sea and looked in amazement at the houses and farms (yes, I mean real farms - growing veggies and lemons and olives and such. No, I do not mean a garden). I have no idea how these people plant and harvest their crops but its very obvious that they are good at it and have been doing it on the side of a mountain for years. And no, I don't mean a slow/steady/slight incline up the side - I mean steep, way up there side of a mountain. A rocky mountain. Just check out the pictures, hopefully, we've done it some justice.

We stopped in a small town for an hour or so for a quick bre
ak (Sarrento, I think) where Matt and I bought some creamy Lemoncella. (For those of you who have not tried it, party at our house when we come back. Bring sleeping bags.) We also decided to get some ice cream....surprised, right? You shouldn't be if you know me at all. Anyway we went into a gelati shop and I ordered a scoop of cioccolato (Chocolate. Again, surprised?) and Nocciola (Hazelnut). Apparently, the Gelati Nazi behind the counter didn't think I knew what I wanted and informed me very harshly that I was ordering HAZEL NUT!..... DUDE! Just scoop the ice cream and if you don't like your job, get another one and leave me alone with my ice cream! Stupid Gelati Nazi. We took a picture of where he works for future reference in case anyway is visiting and wants to avoid him.

We stopped for lunch a bit later up
the coast at a hotel where we had some yummy chicken and equally yummy wine. OH! And the flan - I like flan too. Yummy, yummy stuff.

After lunch, we headed to Pompeii. I've always wanted to see Pompeii. The stories have always fascinated me greatly and to see the casts of the bodies - Wow! (Yes, I know, call it morbid curiosity). I was not disappointed. Pompeii was astounding. To walk through the streets, still intact and see the buildings that are still standing was just too cool. We also got to go into the red-light district. Apparently, women weren't allowed in this area until 1977 because of the, um, well, porn on the walls. Or to put it more lightly - they had a "McDonalds menu" in frescos of what you could "order". Yes, we've got pictures. I opened my fat mouth and asked if a shake came with item #1 and how much was it to super-size #2. HA! I make me laugh. We also bought a 2009 "Erotic Pompeii" calendar because ancient porn is some funny stuff.

On the way out of Pompeii, I stopped for a potty break at the WC. I paid my 0.50 Euros and proceeded to go about my business when I noticed a sign above the sink that said (and I'm not making this up) - "ABSOLUTELY NO FEET WASHING"! Damn. I thought I'd take a quick bath in the public restroom sink outside Pompeii. Seriously people, do these things really need to be said - or posted? Who does these things? And how often do you come across this washing of feet in the public restroom sink phenomenon? Never mind - forget I asked.

As a side note:

We haven't mentioned it before but it is now very obvious that this is the cruise of dopplegangers (look a-likes). We have seen John Voight as a woman, Will Farrell playing lead guitar, Steve Vahn on bass, Kato Kalin as a lead singer, Sean Connery (in Medicine Man), Eric Estrada, Greek Einstein, Teddy Kennedy.... I'm sure we'll find more before the cruise is over. We'll let you know.

It is also the cruise where Matt has randomly started lying to older people. (This cruise is mainly an older crowd. Which makes sense, they are the ones that can afford it for the most part.) We've had a LOT of people ask Matt if he plays or played ball. He just started saying yes and leaving it at that. He also told me the next time someone asks him if he plays ball because of his height, he is going to start asking them if they play miniature golf because they are so short. HA! I dare

Anyway, tomorrow we have a much needed day at sea. Then the next day, we're off to Santorini, Greece!!

May 6 & 7, 2008

So here we are on day 7. A full day at sea with no stops, and we are actually thankful for this, as we are worn out with all the walking up and down hills and long long days touring ruins and such. Someone should have told us that we needed 6 months of strength training before we left. No, it's not really that bad, but it is nice to have a day off. I need to tell you about Gonzalo. He is our cabin steward. This man is really good at his job (and extremely quick). We would literally walk out of our cabin to get breakfast, get info at the purser's desk, or just go upstairs to check the weather outside, and he would somehow have our bed made, room straightened, and bathroom totally cleaned and restocked by the time we got back. I swear, sometimes we were only gone for a few minutes!! His new nickname is "Speedy Gonzalo". Oh, and the real reason we love him is our first day on board, we had a camera bag with little padlocks on it, and a little key to open them, and our nice new camera inside. Yeah, well we lost the key on the taxi ride to the boat. Uh oh. We tried and tried to get the lock off to no avail. We found him in the hallway, and asked for a screwdriver or hammer or something to pop the lock (this lock must have been manufactured by NASA because there was no way we were getting this thing open. He sits down, and in a matter of minutes he has the lock open. Gonzalo, our hero!!

There is another crew member on board that I've just got to tell you about. He works in the dining room clearing plates, and boy does this guy love his job. I've never seen someone soooo excited to pick up a dirty plate in my life!! I call him Gunther (because he looks like a Gunther to me), but apparently his real name is Drako and he's from Serbia, we found out later. Lori just finished her plate of food, and he seriously comes running up, and says in a weird accent and a huge smile on his face, "I get to take your plate? Ooooooh!!" He left, and we both started dying laughing. This may be one of those 'you had to be there moments, but I know when Lori and I read this diary 20 years from now, it will still make us laug

Anyway, on our day at sea, we ate, relaxed, laid out on the deck and got suntanned, er... sunburned (ahem! Matt and his tender norwegian skin burned, I already have a pretty good tan so I just got a little pink), and just had a grand old time. The perfect day if you ask me. Then after we showered, we went to a wine tasting on the ship. This probably would have been okay, had it not been for the fact that we'd been in Italy for the last week with the best wine we'd ever had. Most of the wine they served us was from California, and call us spoiled, but it didn't even come close to the wine we had been drinking all week. Geez, I guess we are spoiled now that I think about it. So after the wine tasting, we walk around on the ship for a while.

We stopped off at one of the many lounges on board, and decide we would like some drinks. So Lori and I order a "Singapore Sling". The waitress asks if we want a small or large. Well large, of course, we're not driving. Holy cow! This was probably the biggest drink I've ever had. And very tasty. So we're sitting there drinking our alcoholic Big Gulps, and the waitress comes by and asks if we would like some pretzels or peanuts to chew on with our drinks. I say peanuts and Lori says pretzels, so she says she'll bring both. As we're enjoying our snacks and drinks - along comes Julie, our assistant cruise director. Let me tell you about this character. If Grace Jones and Brigitte Neilson had a love child, Julie would be the offspring. Super tall with short, spiky, bleach blonde hair, and a British accent. She walks up and spots our peanuts and pretzels, and shouts out the phrase, "Oooh, I'm going to get me some nipply bits too!!!" It was all Lori and I could do to hold back the laughter until she was out of earshot, then we were almost rolling on the floor. (There was some debate over whether she said 'nibbly bits' or 'nipply bits'. I heard nipply bits, probably because I thought it was funnier, but either way, it was damn funny). As a side note, apparently Julie (Brigitte Neilson) is dating the lead singer of the lounge band (Kato Kailin). After our drinks, Lori decided she was drunk tired and went back to the room. I decide that this is my chance to head to the casino.

I put my $20 in the nickel slot machine called Jackpot Party and receive 400 credits. So I'm playing for about five minutes, and I hit the jackpot (1000 credits, $50). I was excited until I hit the change button... This is when the machine decides it would be funny to make a lot of noise while it loudly drops 1300 nickels into the metal coin holder.... at the same time blasting out "Macho Man" by the Village People*. Yeah, I had about 10 people gathered around me. I couldn't have felt less manly at this moment if I was wearing a dress. "Macho macho man.. I want to be a macho man..." Humiliation ensues. I cash in my nickels and slink back to our cabin. Enough fun for one day.

* In a weird coincidence(?), seen in the picture, the Village People slot machine says "Watch Out For Poopers".

We wake up the next day, go to get breakfast, and through the giant picture windows, see the beautiful view of the Island of Santorini, Greece. Lush green hills interspersed with bone-white buildings with bright blue shutters and roofs, overlooking the clear blue water of the Mediterranean, a beautiful sight. Trust me, the pictures you've seen don't do it justice. After breakfast, we leave the cruise ship, take a small boat to the island and wait in line for a cable car to take us to the top of the island. There are three ways to get to the top: by cable car, walking up the steep ramps about an hour climb, or riding a donkey up the ramps. We spared the donkey much grief, and opted for the cable car. The cable car doors open, Lori gets on and I follow. I'm literally halfway in and the doors start closing rapidly. I see this, and with cat-like reflexes, (HA!! I love this guy but "cat-like reflexes" he does not possess. It's pretty much "bull in china shop" all the time with Matt. Yet, I will admit, this time, he may have a bit quicker than usual.) pull the rest of my body inside. I was about a half second away from having my arm severed, which would have made the rest of the trip quite awkward. Anyway, we made it to the top, and took a stroll through the narrow streets. Lori and I immediately fell in love with Santorini. When we were touring Livorno and the Tuscan countryside, we were convinced we would have to move there someday, until we saw Santorini, and changed our minds. (Unfortunately, there is probably not a great need for a chemical engineer and a video editor here).

We kept saying to each other that it's impossible to take a bad picture in Santorini. Every corner you turn is more beautiful and photogenic than the last. I don't think we even remotely did this island any justice but we tried. It was truly and fantastically beautiful place. So, what do we do in this fantastically beautiful place? We find a small, family owned restaurant over looking the Mediterranean Sea and have ourselves a yummy lunch. We split a greek salad (which, btw, is made of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, green bell peppers and feta with Olive oil and vinegar. There is none of this lettuce and potato salad business that we have in the US) - Matt orders spaghetti and I have one of my favorites, Mousaka. We also ordered half a carafe of their homemade red wine. OH! MY! WORD! I was a very happy little girl. Everything was so good. The problem with going to all these family owned restaurants is they make their own wine which they don't sell bottled only within the restaurant. Sigh. Honestly, that's been some of the best wine we've had so far.

After lunch we continued strolling around the island, Matt playing Pope Snappy and I playing Princess Snappy (as Matt has named me). Eventually, and sadly, it came time to head back to the ship. We decided this time to take the stairs down (or ramp as Matt called it - we're actually both right) - ON FOOT, again sparing the donkeys. So off we go, being harrassed by the men pushing donkey rides on us, threatening us with a long, horrible trek down - then we get to the horde of donkeys.
They're all just mulling around blocking the way down the steps - all stomping and grunting and tail swishing and it's a just a touch intimidating when you're surrounded by no less then 25 asses. (This is also the time that Matt takes a picture and yells from behind me - still clear of the donkeys - "At least this time I'm not the only Ass with you!"....HMPH!). Lori didn't mention the part about her walking ahead of me and scaring the donkey just as I was behind him. The donkey flinched, and I nearly needed some new Huggies. But I digress. Anyhoo - I bravely made it through the donkeys and realized that the steps are covered with donkey pooh all the way down - and it smells lovery!, I swear. Anyway, on I press. About half way down, approx. 30 minutes, Matt decides to almost bite it down the steps and scares the bah-jeeesus out of me. (Yeah, but with my ninja-like balance, I managed to stay on two feet. Hwwaaaaaahhhh!) Then we decide that whoever had the bright idea to walk down the steps should be shot. But, since it was a mutual decision, we were screwed. Heads hung, we continued our trek. FINALLY! We make it all the way down the 580 steps with shaky legs and are grateful to be met by the tender boat to take us back "home" for a much needed shower and nap.

We take a nap, then hit the buffet for dinner. Much to my happiness, they have "German night", which consists of about 10 different types of weiners and sausages, and I tried them all because lord knows how much I like weiners and sausages... (Go ahead and make your own jokes, Lori did. Just make sure you post it in the comments section, thanks.) : - ) They were all different sizes and types, but they were all delicious. (Oh grow up already). Seriously they were good., but I was a little confused because they also had "weiner schnitzel' which we all know is clearly homemade Italian fare (see 'DAY 2 - ROME and giggle along with us now). I think that just about wraps up our day in the Santorini port, tomorrow we will be in Kusadasi, Turkey.

May 8, 2008

This is the day we realize that we signed up to see waaaaaaaay too many ruins on these excursions. They are all starting to look the same. Don't get me wrong. They are all very neat and it is truly amazing that they have survived in such conditions for thousands of years. This place, Ephesus, was no different. It was all very OOOOOoooooh-y and AAAAaaaaaa-y but this trip will best be remembered by the amount of stupidity that surrounded us. It is known to be 40 square miles in size and only 6 miles has been excavated. It is in fantastic shape with many of the buildings able to be reassembled with original pieces to look as they did when they were originally standing. It is probably one of the best sites to really get a good feel for what these ancient cities looked like - as opposed to see just a bunch of rubble on the ground and what could be the foundation of a long lost structure. ANYWAY.....

As I mentioned before, this cruise population is primarily an older crowd - which to me, I think wisdom, right? Yeh, not so much with this crowd. All day long, Matt and I were shaking our heads at the comments or questions that were being shot at the tour guide. I will give you a few examples that stand out:

Scenario #1:

Guide: (explaining how all the pieces/parts of the library building were found and have been reassembled in it's original form)
Questioner #1: What's holding it up?
(Matt said that he saw one of my eyes shoot out of my head in an awkward angle when this lady asked this question. Trust me. It was not her first or her last stupid question. What was running through my head was, "Equal and opposite forces and maybe a few pieces of rebar")

Scenario #2:
Questioner #1: Do you have snakes here?
Guide: Yes, we have snakes in Turkey.
Questioner #1: (in a very frantic tone) HERE?! RIGHT NOW?!
Me: (under my breath to Matt) Yes, dumbass, there are snakes all over the world, even in your pretty little privileged neighborhood.

Scenario #3:

Guide: (explaining where the Brothel was and showing us the "signs" in the walkway that pointed to the brothel)
Questioner #1: Now, what is this? Oh, this is pointing to Pompeii (which also has a Brothel)? Right? Pompeii?
Guide: (pointing to the brothel we just walked through) No, this brothel.
Questioner #1: Pompeii?
(the guide gave up at this point in time)
Questioner #2: The wives had to know about this. Why didn't they do anything about it? They should have done something about it!
Me: (under my breath to Matt) And what do you propose? It's the same "oldest profession in the world" that you aren't doing anything about now either! Huff....head starting to hurt.

Scenario #4:

Guide: (explaining all the sarcophagi that have been found and are displayed in a field)
Questioner #2: Were there any remains that can be identified?
Me: So we can match them to their pictures or are we going the DNA route?
(Yes, I know this is could be a valid question but I was SO over these people at this point in time that everything they said irritated me.)

There were so many more questions that could have made this list. It was just one of those days. Matt and I decided that they were taking turns pissing us off. Either by standing in the picture we were trying to take, even after we politely asked them to move or by asking stupid questions. As you can tell, we have two individuals here that were spear heading the effort. As an added bonus, Questioner #2 and her husband got separated from the group (due to lack of attention) and gave the guide holy hell about it when they caught up. Now, maybe I'm wrong but, when you're the only two to get lost out of the 30+ others who have managed to stay together, maybe you need to pay attention and quit wandering off. (I actually saw these two get left behind and no, I didn't realize that they didn't know where we were going next but honestly, I was so fed up with them and their combined rudeness that I can't say I cared. This is where Matt and I started saying "NMP" which equals NOT MY PROBLEM!)

The rest of the day went on and on the same. Matt and I becoming increasingly bitter. We visited what is expected to be the last residence of the Virgin Mary and walked through it. We also walked past the wishing wall which is very very hard to miss. Seriously, big huge stone wall with white pieces of paper stuck to it by the thousands where people have written their greatest wishes - at least 10 feet high and 15 feet long.

Husband of Questioner #2: Where is the wishing wall?
Guide: (pointing) Right here
Husband: Where?
(he is standing in front of it - dead center)
Guide: (still pointing) right there
Husband: (Turning) Oh! What's that stuff all over it.
(this was the guy looking forward to seeing the wishing wall and all the wishes all over it)

From here, we moved on to St. John's Basilica. I didn't realize that this place was another set of ruins but this one was particularly neat for a number of reasons.
#1. It still has the marble slab placed over the grave of St. John by Emperor Justinian and it looked in greatshape.
#2. I really got a feel for what it looked like which is hard to do with ruins sometimes.
#3. It's on a cliff over looking the city - even cooler.
#4. There were some very cute little black kitties hanging out there. Which leads me to my next tale...

I was wandering around the basilica when I came upon this cute little black kitty just begging for a scratch. Matt sat on the step in front of me to take pictures of me scratching this cutie when he got up, walked over to Matt, then ONTO Matt, curled up and laid his little head on Matt's chest and went to sleep. It was the absolute cutest thing! We sat there for a few minutes before moving on but, the kitty didn't take too lightly to Matt moving because he screamed at Matt as he tried to move him - which caused Matt to toss this poor kitty.

On our way back to the boat, we stopped at a Turkish carpet store where they showed how these carpets are hand-made and explained how to tell the difference between wool on wool or wool on cotton, etc. In fact, there was one carpet that Matt and I liked that was silk on silk and we were told it took 2 girls 3.5 years to make. Because of the way these are made and no two girls do it the same way, one rug is made by one girl for the most part. This was all very neat and the rugs were absolutely beautiful. Matt and I found several we would have loved to have, if we knew where we would be living, weren't planning on kids and had a large random amount of money running around. As the group started to disperse from the carpet shop, it started to get an eeeery high pressure sales group feel. Seriously, one couple told us that they were eyeing the silk on silk carpet that was approximately 5x8 and was told $28K!! By time the talked their way out of it, they had gotten "pushed" into an enclosed room with several men and the final offer was $9K on the carpet. WOW!

Back on the boat, we napped and cleaned up for dinner but, we were feeling a bit, um, nutty. What do two people do, locked up in their cabin, on board a large ship after being around way too many rude stupid people all day? Well, let me tell you...make a towel bunny**. Yep. That's right. We made our very own, somewhat crude towel bunny which we named "Mr. NASTY", dressed him, took lots of pictures of him and then left him for our cabin steward. It was obviously time for a drink - or two or three...

We made our way to the Martini bar where the drink menu said "Tee Many Martoonies" which made me want one. I've never been much of a Martini drinker but then again, I'm not a gin or a vodka fan but on occasion, I get a wild hair. So I started drinking Martini's (eh, they're a bit much for me) and Matt inquired about the beer selection. This is where we noticed that Dos Equis (a mexican beer) is CHEAPER than Budweiser on this cruise. HA? So, guess what Matt was drinking? Dos Equis. We don't usually buy Dos Equis or Corona because of that whole pinching penny thing I keep fussing about. I might have to make an exception on beer though, right after we pay off what this cruise is costing us. Anyway, back to the drinking. After a few Martini's I looked at Matt and informed him that I really need to eat on food. What I meant was I should drink with food in my stomach. Suddenly, the "TEE MANY MARTOONIES" made complete sense! Off we went to put food in me and prepare for the next day.

** On Carnival Cruises the Stewards will make cute little critters out of towels, sometimes accessorized with sunglasses and such then leave them on your bed at night. Princess doesn't do this and we kind of missed it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


DAY 1 - Rome
Wed. April 30, 2008

Well, here I sit writing this from our hotel in Rome. It's 4:30 in the morning, and I can't sleep. After a very long journey in more ways than one, we are finally here, celebrating our honeymoon. This is truly amazing to me. I am so lucky to be in one of the greatest cities in the world, with the greatest woman in the world, who just agreed to be with me for the rest of my life. It's all so surreal. By the way, when you see italics in this diary, that's Lori interjecting her thoughts along the way.

We started off yesterday morning for the airport, with my mom and dad and aunt Sharon, kindly giving us a ride to the airport, thereby saving us about $400 in parking fees (yipes)! We got in line for ticketing and both looked at each other and said "Well, we made it. We're actually going to Italy for three weeks." I think that's when it really hit me how fortunate we were to be able to get away for so long to places we'd only dreamed about going. We boarded the plane from Tampa to JFK. When we arrived in New York, we walked to our terminal. Why it's called a 'terminal' just before you get on an airplane is beyond me. It should be called a 'you're more that likely gonna arrive in one piece station'. Airports really do need a new PR person. We found a couple of seats to wait for our flight to begin boarding. While we were waiting, we were joined by a city chicken hanging out inside the airport. You might know a city chicken by it's other less descriptive name, pigeon. It seemed to have made it's home in the JFK airport, fearless of people, coming right up to anyone and everyone as if to say, "Hey, let me get a bite off that sammich there." I think that set the tone for how interesting this trip was going to be.

The plane ride from JFK to Rome was fairly uneventful, unless you count someone randomly leaving their in-flight meal outside the restroom door for some odd reason, eventually seeing salad, tomatoes, brownies, and a dinner roll spread up and down the aisle. Trying to figure out why you would possibly feel the need to leave your half eaten tray on the floor outside the bathroom made both of our heads hurt. We tried several unsuccessful times to fall asleep on the plane. I really can't complain, having secured the exit row with extra leg room ahead of time... well I guess i can complain a little bit. Why do they feel the need to put a solid barrier between the exit row seats instead of the fold up armrests everyone else on the plane has? I think it would've been easier for us to sleep if we could've curled up together, but the "no-snuggle" barrier prevented that. I'm convinced it was invented by some evil person who received very little human contact as a child. So needless to say, we were more than a little tired getting off the plane in Rome.

We landed in Rome and went to pick up our luggage. The sign said our luggage was coming in on conveyer belt number 9. Lori, looking around, then turning to me slightly perplexed said, "Do you think that nine is really the second eight?" Er??? I thought I was either overly tired or I must've heard her wrong, but imagine my surprise when I look up and see the numbers of the luggage carousels in this order: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8..... Er??? We both started laughing pretty hard, no doubt looking like the crazy Americans that we are. it turns out conveyor belt number 8 is twice as large as the rest and took up 2 spaces, and no, nine was not the second eight. We kept walking and eventually found our luggage at carousel 9.

Then comes looking for a taxi to take us to our hotel in Rome. We saw the row of white taxis lined up and headed towards it. Then a man came up in a suit and asked if we needed a taxi. We said yes, and pointed to the address of the hotel from our itinerary. He says, "No problem, follow me. That's a nice hotel." So we follow him.... to a brand new black Mercedes?!? I thought uh-oh this is going to be expensive, as he started to load the luggage into the trunk, but my mind hadn't quite caught up with my mouth from lack of sleep, so I didn't say anything. He told us it would be 85 Euros (which is about $130 USD) because it was "really far to Rome". Later, we found out that the regular taxis were between 30 and 40 Euros, so we actually paid about double, but whatever.... It's our honeymoon, if we want to ride to Rome in the back of a Mercedes, then dammit, we're gonna ride to Rome in the back of a Mercedes!! It was actually probably better for us anyway, because we have a ridiculous amount of luggage, having packed for 3 weeks worth of vacation. The little white taxis, and I mean LITTLE, - he means minuscule- having almost no trunk space, probably wouldn't have held all of our luggage anyway - actually, they wouldn't fit Matt alone much less our luggage and me!

So we start off towards Rome which actually was "pretty far", at least farther than I actually thought it would be from the airport, and looked around at the scenery. Man, it really was like nothing we'd ever seen before. Just really gorgeous views of old buildings and beautiful trees and.....holy crap those are the smallest cars I've ever seen!! Apparently no one in Europe is over 4'5". I couldn't get one of my legs up past the knee in one of those things!!. And almost 95 percent of the cars were that small. And man, they swerve in and out of each other like bees. Not only that, but they also have to avoid the scooters they share the road with. It's actually about half scooters and half clown cars on the streets here. It's like watching an extremely dangerous ballet of metal and rubber, the way they weave in and out of each other. I was convinced we would see a 30 car/scooter pileup. I kept telling Lori I was surprised we didn't see the road littered with dead scooterists (is that what they're called?). And the brake shops must make a killing, the way the cars stop within inches of each other at the last second. So we finally get into Rome, and it's very narrow winding streets. I thought we were nervous before, until you add pedestrians to the mix of the crazy ballet. I must've squeezed Lori's leg about a hundred times, each time I thought we were going to hit something. We came so close several times to having a human hood ornament. It made me even more nervous thinking of how much walking we were about to be doing all around Rome. Looking up at all the Colosseum while crossing the street after a couple of glasses of wine, would be about all it would take to send us to that great vineyard in the sky.

So we finally arrive at our hotel, the Prime Hotel Villa Patrizi, (which is only a few miles from the Colosseum) and I say "Grazzi" to our driver about a dozen times, more than likely with horrible pronunciation, then he takes off somehow managing to avoid the scooter that just pulled out in front of him. The hotel has very pretty exterior with a small porch with a couch and chairs. Very quaint and nice. We go inside and wait our turn to talk to the woman working at the desk. At this point our plan is to sleep for a couple hours and then take off to tour the Colosseum. But of course, that would be too easy. We finally talk to the woman at the front desk, and she informs me that we can't check in until noon. It was 10:30 at this point, and instead of waiting around for another hour and a half, we get the bright idea to go tour the Colosseum. So we walk to the Metro and take the train to the nearest tour bus station, because that way we can get off and on the bus at any particular station all day long. And although Rome wasn't built in a day, apparently we had planned on seeing it all in one. We get on the bus, which has two levels; the top, where you can sit outside and enjoy the view and the beautiful breeze, and the bottom, where you can sit with the windows up and apparently no air conditioning. Guess which one we sat in.... that's correct, all the top level seats were taken. So we finally get to the Colosseum, and it really was as awesome as the pictures we've seen of it. But the pictures just can't convey the sheer size of it, which is truly amazing! And to think that they built it not only to hold gladiator fights, but that it also filled up with water to hold mock navel battles is pretty incredible!

So now it's about three in the afternoon, and we are ready to crash. So we hop back on the bus and head towards the top level. Not so fast you two... of course it's still full. We tried unsuccessfully two more stops in a row, but no one got off the bus at all, even at the Vatican stop, which I thought at least one person would want to see. Anyway, they had headphones on the bus that you could plug in and listen to commentary about the various stops and the attractions they contained. The problem with this, is that between the commentary sections, they played very light classical music. I was out like a light after about a minute of the music, and poor Lori, bless her heart, somehow stayed awake, not only so we wouldn't miss our stop, but also to hold my neck up and keep my head from slamming into the window as I was sleeping sitting up. Do you see why I married this woman now? She's so good to me. So after what seemed like about three days, we were finally able to check in to our room. Yeah, not so fast again you two... the young man at the front desk smiled and said in broken English, "I have to be honest with you..." Uh Oh... "Your room, the bathroom has a smelling problem." A smelling problem? Not a good sign, go on... apparently he was trying to tell us that the toilets were backed up or something. We didn't really want to know nor did we care. All we wanted was a queen bed to crash on for a few hours until dinner (by this point we'd been up for over 30 hours straight, Lori especially not having rested on the bus). Then he told us the good news. We will be staying in a room on the basement level just for the night. He said it was "a little smaller" than the room we requested, but it was just for the night, then we would move to our original room. Yeah.... remember when I told you about the clown cars? This was the equivalent in hotel rooms. A full size bed in a room that was smaller than our bathroom at home that smelled like mildew (the hotel room, not our bathroom). I can barely fit on a full size bed myself, and I couldn't imagine the two of us trying it. But that wasn't all that bad really, we probably could have somehow made it work as long as the air conditioning was running and not blowing out hot air... Once again, not so fast you two.... So a room that was "a little warm" before we turned on the air, became a virtual sauna afterwards. At this point, I laid down on the bed and almost fell asleep anyway, and Lori almost let me, but then came to her senses and decided, no, this was our honeymoon, and while we don't expect everything to go perfectly, we can at least be comfortable. So we ask the kind young man at the desk to see if they could fix the air. Long story short, after about an hour of checking on it, he informs us that the maintenance has all the air conditioning units set to blow out hot air because it is not the summer yet... Er??? It turns out that you can only use the unit as an air conditioner in the summer and as a heater in the winter, and we just happened to still be in the winter, even though it was 75 degrees outside. Please God, just get us a room!! After some back and forth, he was kind enough to find us a room at their company's other much nicer hotel a few blocks away for no additional fee. He really was a nice kid, and I kinda felt bad for him, because we might have been a little snippety from lack of sleep and almost being baked alive in our room, so I apologized and told him I realized it wasn't his fault and Grazzi, very much Grazzi. So we grabbed our belongings and headed to the Prime Hotel Via Torlonia.

Wow, this room really was much nicer. The air still didn't blow cold air, but the window, which had a beautiful view, opened to let a nice cool breeze in. After a few hours sleep, we went to find some dinner. At the suggestion of the desk clerk, we went to a nice ristorante called Stella Maris. Very excellent food. I had the pasta carbonara and Lori had the pizza with sausage and mushrooms. As has become custom for us to do, we split everything we order so we can have a taste of everything. We also had the Bruschetta Miste, which was a bruschetta sampler topped with tomatoes, olive paste and thinly sliced Salmon, and a bottle of their house red wine. And of course, you can't spend your first night in Italy without some delicious homemade Tiramisu. Mmmmmmmm. I imagine we'll be hitting this place again before leaving for the cruise on Friday. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and slept like babies.... until I suddenly woke up at 3:00 am. and couldn't go back to sleep, which leads me to the present moment.

I know it may sound like I'm complaining a lot, and that we're not having that much fun, but we really have been having a blast and laughing and enjoying every minute of each other's company. I just didn't want you to get that impression. It's just more interesting to laugh at life's imperfections, rather than make it sound like everything is absolutely perfect. (Actually, we're both really cranky when we're really tired which could explain the complaining-ness)

Anyway, I think I've told you enough about our day, and you're more than likely sick of reading about it anyway, so I'm going to try and get a few more hours sleep before we hit Vatican City tomorrow.

Ciao & Buena Sera!!

DAY 2 - Rome
Thurs. May 1, 2008

Ok... let me just start of with a funny story I like to call: Large Bull in a Tiny China Shop. Imagine me... all 6'6" 270 something pounds of me trying to maneuver in a 3' x 3' glass shower. Yeah, it's pretty much like you're imagining it (and sorry for the visual). I couldn't even get my elbows up far enough to reach my head with the shampoo. My head had to come down to my hands. Every time I would try to move, I would slam some part of me into glass with a loud BANG. This sent me into a laughing fit and even more loud BANGS, followed by more laughter, more BANGS, etc. Not to mention every time I moved even slightly my back would rub on the nozzle turning it from extreme hot to extreme cold water and back. I'm surprised Lori slept through it all, because I'm sure the neighbors didn't. Then, my new soapy wedding ring slipped off my finger and onto the shower floor. I wasn't even going to bother trying to pick that up, I just prayed it stayed away from the drain. Eventually, after a call to the paramedics, some Crisco, and a few shoe horns later, I emerged from the shower... (Just kidding... they don't have Crisco over here).

After the whole shower fiasco and my ring recovered safely, I was waiting for Lori to get ready, and decided to flip on the television. Much to my chagrin, there wasn't one station in English. Not that I expect them to cater to English speaking people (which they really do in every other facet, luckily for us), but even Israel had CNN when I traveled there. I did learn one thing though... Will & Grace, even in Italian... still not that funny.

So it's time to check out of this beautiful hotel, and pray they fixed the "smelling problem" in our real hotel. We made the trek, suitcases in tow, crossing the few streets we had to cross in a Frogger-like fashion, trying to avoid the clown cars and scooterists. When we got there, we were informed that yes, indeed our room was ready and the plumbing fixed. YAY!! And while the air still blows hot, we now have a Queen size bed and our windows open to let in a cool breeze. Again, YAY!! Since today is Vatican Day, we waste no time and hurry off to lunch.

Lunch is at a place that for some reason I have a hard time remembering the name of (I Butteri), so I've just been calling it "Butters". It is across the street from Stella Maris, the place we had dinner last night, but unlike Stella's, Butters menu is all in Italian. Wow, this should be interesting. It went something like this:
Matt: "What are you going to get to eat?"
Lori: "You just order for both of us."
Matt: "Um, oh boy. Don't blame me if it comes out and it's a bowl of anchovies and whale eggs."
So I end up ordering... geez I still have no idea the names of the dishes, but basically I had the steak and pork ka-babs and Lori had what we think was steak skewers, but they might have been lamb, not really sure. Either way they really were delicious and filling. We also thought we were ordering water, but ended up with mineral water, which if you're not expecting it, can really give your tongue a kick! After we ate, we looked around and everyone else in the restaurant had these ridiculous sized ribeye steaks that they were mowing down for lunch. You probably could have rolled me to the Vatican if I'd eaten all that, but it sure did look good. After we left the restaurant Lori informed me that she still smelled like a steak, and no, even though it was our honeymoon, I shouldn't even think about taking her back to the hotel room because of the enticing aroma of her new found perfume. Very hard to resist my two favorite things, but alas, onto the Metro to Vatican City we go.

We get to the Vatican and it really was more ornate and beautiful than the pictures we've seen of it. It's just something you have to see in person, you can't really describe it. But there was a really long line, so we almost decided to skip it, being it was already 2:30 in the afternoon at this point. (This is where I start calling Matt "Pope Snappy". From the moment we walk into The Square at the Vatican, he immediately begins taking a ridiculous amount of pictures. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but when we are trying to get into a very long line in which hundreds of other tour groups are beating us to because of his snappiness, well, i was getting a touch cranky. He would stop, take 10-12 pictures of the same thing and then proceed to check them out, delete and re-take. WHY? We have a line to get into and we can do all that from the back of the line. COME ON! I finally convince him to follow me, without stopping, to the end of the line. This is where I gave up. We would be standing still for 3 minutes and he wouldn't take one picture until the line actually started moving again and then he turned into Pope Snappy again and held back the rest of the line. Sigh, at least he's cute! ) But luckily we convinced each other to stick it out, and the line ended up moving really quickly. We got up to the front in almost no time, and saw a huge Panasonic HD Screen. Did I say huge? I meant gi-normous!! Lori says that the next time the Catholic Church complains about money issues, she's just going to point at that screen and laugh at them. Anyway, there's this giant stage towards the entrance, and me being the perpetual smart ass and not Catholic, by the way, tell Lori, "That must be the Pope's stage where he plays to the audience. I wonder who opens for him?" And Lori, not skipping a beat, says "Andrew Dice Clay". We both started cracking up, convinced that before this day was through, we'd end up getting kicked out of the Vatican. I could go on and on all day about all the really cool things to see in the Vatican, but the one thing I can't go on and on about is the one thing we really wanted to see there, which was the Sistine Chapel. For some reason it was closed. We imagine it is for renovations, but we never really found out why. Anyway, the rest was really cool, and no, we didn't get to see His Creepiness. I guess I should explain that, Lori and I both agree that we really liked John Paul II, because he was like a nice old grandfather figure, but the new pope... kinda creepy. Sorry if we offended anyone, we just calls it like we sees it. Anyway we were hungry, and since we hadn't gotten kicked out yet, decided to quit while we were ahead, and went looking for a local restaurant, the Cantina Tirolese, that we read about in our guide book..

After many wrong turns, we finally find the place and look at the menu out front. The reason we went there was because the guide book talked up their homemade local Italian fare. Boy, we looked at that menu and couldn't wait to try the traditional Italian dishes like baked rigatoni and meatballs, capellini in white wine cream sauce, and... Weiner Schnitzel?!? Er??? I can't make this stuff up, folks. It was right there on the menu. While we fixed our brains from leaking out our ears from concentrating way too long on that one, we went in to sit down. It was 6:45 at the time, and we were informed that they didn't re-open until 7:30. Damn, you mean no Weiner Shnitzel? And I was really hoping for some Baklava for desert, too!! Anyway, we ended up going back to a little pizza place that we had spotted on the way to the "Italian Festhaus", and decided to give it a try. BIG mistake. We sat down outside and tried to order the tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and basil that was on the menu. We were informed by our waiter that they were out of those, but they did have a salad that had those two ingredients in it. Fine, whatever. So the salad was good, which we ate while we waited for the Fettuccine Bolongnase I ordered, and the Tortellini Ragu that Lori ordered. And we waited, and waited, and... about a half hour later the waiter comes out and says "one more minute" to me. I said OK, and like he said mine came out a minute later. And Lori waited, and waited, and waited, and... yeah, hers never came. Finally after our waiter decided to get off his cell phone and actually acknowledge that I'd been trying to wave him down for 15 minutes, and we discovered that he never put her order in. We end up paying for the meal, minus Lori's invisible entree, and leave. Worst service ever. The one cool thing about that dinner is that we got to see a East Indian version of Eric Estrada walking by. Hilarious, but you probably had to be there, and unfortunately I wasn't that quick with my camera. By the way, Lori did end up getting dinner at a walk-in pizza place on the way to our next destination; The Spanish Stairs.

The Spanish Stairs are a gigantic staircase in the middle of the city that I believe used to run up to a palace there. Anyway, I'm not a paid tour guide, so all I can tell you is they were very impressive and they had bunches of really beautiful flowers on them all the way up. it was a really fun time except all the guys trying to sucker you into buying roses from them. They come up to the women and "give" them some roses because they "are just being nice". Then they follow you around and demand money for them. Needless to say, we forced him to take the flowers back, and the rest of the night, said a firm "NO" to everyone else who came up to us with roses. We got some really cool night shots with the camera of the stairs and the city from there though, including a really nice picture of the two of us overlooking the staircase and the city. Speaking of nice pictures, next we visited the Trevi Fountain.

Trevi Fountain is a giant fountain, the largest one in Rome, I believe (yet again, I'm not a tour guide). It is really beautiful and packed at night, as it is a very romantic and recognizable spot made popular by a couple movies (don't ask me which ones). We got some great pictures there and sat and ate some gelato, Italian ice cream, and enjoyed the fountain and each other. Speaking of gelato, did I tell you there are at least 2 gelato stands on every block? I'm only half kidding, there really are A LOT!! Bad news for Lori and I being huge fans of gelato and trying not to become our own zip code when we get back to the states.

So after a wonderful day, we arrive back at the hotel, for what I hoped would just be a quick change and out again for a bottle of red wine and maybe some cheese and crackers to end the day perfectly. That's what I get for hoping. It's 10:30 and Lori asks me to see at the front desk if there are any restaurants still open this late. The kid at the desk, the same poor young kid from yesterday's adventures, informs me that "Sorry, all the wine bars are closed." I was quite satisfied with this answer and walking back to my room when he says something that still hurts my brain. He says, "They're closed. It's May 1st." Wh-wh-wh-WHAT?? What the hell does that mean? I didn't bother to ask, I just went to my room holding my brain in place.

I'm taking that as my cue that I should really go to bed and not think or talk to anyone else today. See you tomorrow, sleep good.

Ciao & Buena Sera!!

May 2, 2008

So it's the third day on our trip and our last day in Rome. Luckily, we found the free breakfast in our hotel this morning. It was a great spread with fresh fruit, delicious cheeses, yogurts, italian meats, and several different breads. And I was happy to see that they had milk, one of my breakfast staples at home. So I pour myself a nice tall glass and start gulping it. Yeah... you know those little containers of 1/2 and 1/2 you get at Denny's that you open and drink just one? Don't lie, you know you do. Yeah, well try to imagine gulping down a tall glass of it before you realize it's heavy cream. It said 'Milk'. WOW!! My arteries will never forgive me for that one! They really should advertise that they keep a live cow in their kitchen. Nevertheless, breakfast was great. Now it's off to see the Roman Forum.

it's about nine something, we're on our way to the Forum, and Lori is more than a little bit nervous that we won't be back to the hotel in time to check out by noon. I calmly assure her that I won't allow us be late and will keep track of the time myself. If you know me, you can figure that my assurance on punctuality and timekeeping did not put her much at ease. : - ) But, you'll be happy to know this story does not end with her being let down. We had three hours to catch the Metro, get to the Forum, visit the Forum and then get back to the hotel by noon. Luckily for us, the Metro was fairly empty that day.

The Forum is pretty amazing. It is also something you should see with your own eyes, as pictures don't really do it justice. It is mostly ruins, but much of it is so intact, so you can really picture what it must have been like to live there in it's prime. We followed tour guides around (not ours, mind you) for a bit, listening to them talk about the different areas, then splitting off before they could say anything about us not being on the tour. Then we would switch to a different tour group. This is a great way to learn a lot without paying anything, but you didn't hear that from me. We got some great pictures while we were there. We walked around some more, and there it was... The Perfect Shot!!! This was the photo that would win awards, the one that would make me famous! Well it would have... but unfortunately, all the tourists knew it too and I could tell they were a bit jealous of me, because they proceeded one by one to walk through my perfect shot. Fine, I'll wait it out. Soon the tourists will grow weary and give in. It is a battle of wills. A battle to the death, and I shall reign supreme!!! (Apparently having the Colosseum next door is rubbing off on me). Then, like mighty Rome itself, i fell. At the hand of Lorius Maximus! "Honey... honey... POPE SNAPPY!! We're going to miss our checkout!" Fine. I'll live to fight again, and next time I shall be victorious!!!

So we're back at the hotel with plenty of time to spare. We ask the lady at the front desk to call us a cab to get to the port in Civitavecchia, where our ship awaits. She does, and the taxi arrives shortly. The driver doesn't speak any English, and the only two phrases we know in Italian a "grazzi" and "bon giorno". Well, three phrases, if you count "Bon Jovi". But that last one wouldn't come in too handy unless you're having a conversation about 80's hair bands. But I digress. The cab driver is asking us where we want to go, and I tell him 'the port - cruise ship', and he says something that sounds like it could be Italian for port. So I say si, sure. He then says "40 Euros", which is about what I was expecting. Luckily, by this time Lori comes out of the hotel, along with the lady from the front desk. Lori asks me if I told him we were going to the port and I said I think so, but I wasn't totally convinced that he wasn't taking us somewhere else. So the desk lady talks to the cab driver, and it turns out we were not going to the port, but instead the airport. The driver and I had a laugh out of it. Well ok, he had a laugh out of it, I was just relieved to not be going to the wrong place. Then he stops laughing and turns to me and says, port in Civitavecchia cost higher - farther. "How much higher?", I ask. He shrugs and says "meter", pointing to his dashboard. Uh oh... So in my head, I'm thinking 70-80 Euros tops. After all, wasn't it all the cruise books and guide books that told us that Civitavecchia was "just down the road from Rome"?

So about 45 minutes later the meter is just flipping over 69.99 to 70.00 and I can feel the first drop of sweat leave my brow. I look at Lori, and she says, "What?" I quietly ask her to count our Euros, as it had been a while since we had been to a bank. We counted 77 Euros, just about the time that same number read on the meter. And at this point we're not even sure our bank card still works because the last time we tried it, we weren't allowed to take any money out. So we come over a hill and we can start to see the Mediterranean. Yay! It can't be far now. Just as I thought this, I saw a road sign reading: Civitaveccia 40 Km. Oh, good Lord, help us now! 100 Euros...120 Euros...140 Euros... Sweat, gulp, sigh... Street sign: Civitavecchia 2 Km... sigh of relief. Next street sign: Civitavecchia Port 14 Km... WHAT?!?... Gulp, sweat, gulp... Final grand total in cab fare: 167.80 Euros = roughly $252 USD!!! Yeah, since when is over 100 miles "just down the road from Rome"? That's like saying Fort Meyers is "just down the road from Tampa". Whatever. Anyway, we have the driver find a bank and kept all our appendages crossed that we can get the money. And... YES!!! There is a God! We take the money back to the cab and profusely thank the driver, who I think was secretly praying himself, after we told him quite desperately that we needed "il banca". (Oh, that's the one other phrase we learned, Italian for bank). So all turned out well, and we were heading for the cruise ship.

Holy crap is this thing big!! This is a giant cruise ship. It is the Grand Princess, or the "Love Boat" boat as our cab driver exclaimed when we told him Princess Cruiselines. Turns out he was right, because when I was reading about Princess on the ship, I found out they were the cruiseline used in filming the late 70's- early 80's TV series "The Love Boat". I'm pretty sure he only knew that because they are about 10-20 years behind in everything pop culture over here, and they are probably just now getting first-run showings of The Love Boat. Well, we are pretty much just getting settled in now, and don't have too much to say about the cruise so far. Oh, by the way, while we were mustering at the muster station, we learned that apparently if you fall overboard, they will throw you a "Life Boy" according to the voice on the overhead speaker. We're hoping he means, "Lifebuoy", but we've been wrong before, and that's a funny visual anyway. That's all for now. We will be sure to keep you all informed as details arise.

Oh, here are some things we learned about Italy we thought you should know:

1. Notes on Bathrooms in Italy:

- Get used to fully bathing in the smallest corner of your bathroom.

- You'll never again bitch that your bathtub is too small.

- When you see the size of these showers, you'll realize why European Women don't shave their legs.

- You must be a member of Cirque du Soleil contortionist division to even attempt a full body wash.

- Don't bother pulling the string hanging from the wall in the shower, it does nothing (we think).

- If you're tall, learn to duck. There's a bar right above eye level in the shower.

- Bring your own washcloth, they apparently don't use them.

- Bidet = My new best friend

- Don't mistake the Bidet for the toilet in the middle of the night.

- Don't laugh, it's not nearly as funny as it sounds.

2. Driving in Italy

- Lines in the road are apparently optional, as a car can be in one lane one second, another the next, then back in the first one then next. Or right down the middle the whole way.

- Drivers in Italy are either the best drivers or the worst drivers in the world, depending on how you look at it. I've seen a million 'almost wrecks' since I've been here. I mean inches away. Yet, I haven't seen one actual wreck yet. Hmmmmm. Pretty amazing.

3. The Worst Thing About Traveling to Italy

- We can never go back to drinking wine from the United States. We are totally spoiled with the wines with no preservatives here. Sooooooo gooood. I've never been much of a wine drinker, and I can't even stay away!!!

Ciao, and Buena Sera!!

May 3, 2008

So we wake up this morning and the ship is obviously docked, so we decide to go up to the buffet for some breakfast. Now I knew we were going to be docked in a port this morning, but when we got to the top of the ship for breakfast, I really wasn't prepared for the sites that we saw out the side of the ship. Monte Carlo... WOW, SO BEAUTIFUL!! It's so grand. The whole country of Monaco is pretty much built onto the side of a mountain, and only 3/4 square mile in area!!! But let me tell you, they pack quite a lot in that square mile. When you look out, all you see are gorgeous buildings, beautiful trees and flowers, and in the bay are the biggest most expensive yachts I've ever seen.

We found our way over to the boats tendering us to shore and hopped on, excited for the day of exploring. We first found our way to the casino. Matt was very excited to see it and what a site it was. From the outside, it looked like a grand palace/cathedral and the inside was no less elegant. We made our way in and found that it was 10 Euros to even go into the main casino. I think not! We went over to the little slot machine area and Matt played a couple of 'rounds' just so he could say he played in the Monte Carlo Casino. From what we saw, it was very evident that this was a very upscale casino - far from the type of casino that we have seen in Las Vegas. Not so much glitter, bells and whistles - just elegant.

After the casino, we decided to head off to find the real palace and cathedral. What a trek that was! HOLY! We were lost, even with a map. Mainly because they were setting up for the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and had all sorts of roads blocked or redirected. Eventually we found our way to the stairs - up the side of a mountain - that led to our objective. We thought, that's not too bad of a climb. HA! That was rough! But, we made it and enjoyed fantastic views of the mediterranean as well as the beautiful coastline. And yes, we found our way to the cathedral, the burial place of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier, and palace which were both beautiful in their own rights.

Tonight was also the first formal night on the Cruise. There are a total of 3 formal nights on this particular cruise schedule. So after a nice nap, we cleaned up and got all fancied for a night out on the...., um, boat. We had formal pictures taken which neither of us liked but, hey! It was something to do. We were seated at a table with 4 other people and had a nice time chatting the evening away. Matt and I ordered a bottle of Italian wine, Del Gavi Comune Di Gavi and MAN! that was some good stuff. Needless to say, if you haven't already noticed, I've gotten into Italian wine - A LOT! It is so so so much better than anything we can afford to get at home. Anyway....After dinner, we went to one of the show rooms to see a comedian perform, drank more wine and ended the evening wandering around the boat and talking.

Upon coming back to our room, we were happy to see the Steward had left us a couple of bath robes. Matt immediately tried his on and we learned a very valuable lesson. One size does not fit all. Enough said. Sorry for the visual.

Tomorrow is Livorno, Italy and the Tuscan Countryside.

Au Revoir!
Bon Soir!

May 3, 2008

Wow! 6am comes quickly when you are "out on the boat" the night before - especially after a couple of glasses bottles of wine. Yeh, I know, that's awful early when we're on vacation. But, alas, we chose to do an excursion of Livorno, Italy which includes traveling through the Tuscany countryside. Can I just tell you now how fabulously gorgeous Tuscany is? You know all those postcards you see of rolling lush green hills? Yep - it looks just like that! No kidding. It was fabulously beautiful.

That's not all we did though. We stopped in a little medieval town that is still a thriving bustling town, San Gimignano. This town is known as "Medieval Manhattan because as you are driving up to the town, the skyline looks somewhat similar to the Manhattan skyline. This town is so small in area that they built up instead of out. For a moment, you almost think there are sky scrapers in the distance. Anyway, we walked around this town for an hour or so, enjoying the views of the Tuscan hillside and the "4 years in a row World Famous" Gelati. MMMMmmmmm....Gelati......On the way back to the bus, Matt and I were discussing his size and how he doesn't realize how big he is sometimes and gets frustrated when I remind him to duck or watch his elbows so he doesn't knock some poor old lady out by way of elbow to head or the fact that he just doesn't realize that there are other objects down there on the ground somewhere. Right about this time is when i heard (I was a couple of steps ahead of him) a bang and profanities from Matt. I start laughing because, I know what has happened. He wasn't paying attention to that stuff down there on the ground and walked his shin right into a bench. It was a pretty bad hit as he had what looked like an egg under his skin within seconds.
Man that hurt like hell!!! I was looking up and gazing at the really cool towers and then BAM!! My shin slammed right into a metal bench, and it turned all purple and hurty and stuff. Not cool, man. Not cool at all.

We stopped at a family farm for lunch known as San Donato Fattoria. A real italian style lunch. This place made me want to move in as hired help. They make or grow most everything they serve there - Prosciutto, Olives, Wine, Cheeses, honey, olive oil, veggies, bread, biscotti and so on. Lunch was a buffet style of prosciutto, salami, cheeses, honey, olives, barley salad, eggplant salad, mushroom artichoke salad, pasta and homemade wines. It was delicious! We learned a bit of trivia here too 1). The whole dipping bread in olive oil and herbs is NOT an italian tradition. They don't do that here. 2). Biscotti is not called biscotti (I have no idea what it's called but Biscotti is not it - if you order Biscotti, you'll get a good old fashioned biscuit. Not the cookie) and it is not served with anything but a desert wine (similar to sherry) in which it is dipped into. Lunch was served inside this family's home at one very long table. After lunch, we were able to wander around and explore this particular site. They have apartments to rent, a swimming pool and a small store where they sell the things that they make - it was such a neat and relaxing place. Yes, I got their card to order some wine and such.

After lunch, we continued our drive farther into the countryside. Our final stop was another thriving and bustling medieval town called, Volterra. This town is built on the largest plateau in the hillside and dates back to the time of the Etruscans, pre-Roman era. Most of the buildings were from the 12th century and are still being used. In fact, the town hall was built in the 1100's and is still and always has been the Town Hall. The same is true for the Bishops palace and the military house (which now houses the police department). The entire town, a lot like San Gimignano, is as it was 1000 years ago. The buildings have only been upgraded but structurally are original. This towns economy is based on the alabaster trade as well as tourism. We saw some outstanding pieces of carved alabaster here - some of which I really liked but could not afford. The quality, skill and artistry is amazing.

Volterra is also where Matt and I noticed the City Chickens (Pigeons) were different. They seemed to be various colors - pretty even. I'm not sure if that has always been the case and I had never really noticed or if these City Chickens were different. Either way, Matt informed me that he wants to be reincarnated as a City Chicken in the Tuscan Hillside. That's some ambition he's got going there.
Really, who wouldn't want to be reincarnated as a city chicken in Tuscany? They get to fly all over a spectacular scenic countryside and land wherever they feel like. Sounds like a great life (or second life) to me.

Anyway, off to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii!!

Ciao & Buena Sera!!