Sep 17, 2006
For our last full day in Europe we first went to the Louvre in Paris. The Louvre contains some of the most famous pieces of art in the world; the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and one of Greg's hand tracings that looks like a turkey. OK, maybe one of those was not in there, but there were plenty other ones to make up for it. Nicolle got chills as we walked up and looked at the Mona Lisa. The face on the Mona Lisa looks so real, and the details look so accurate. We also looked for the chalk outline of the guy who died in the Da Vinchi Code, but the police must have cleaned it up, because it was nowhere to be found.
We made our way over to the Notre Dame and saw the inside of it. We have seen so many churches, one would think these buildings would become commonplace, but it is amazing to see the detail and grandness of these cathedrals. Nicolle also was terrified that the Gargoyles were going to come alive and attack her. Does anyone know why the churches have those scary creatures on them?
We took a river tour to see all the famous sites in Paris, and it ended up at the Eiffil Tower. We went to the park next to the tower, and took a nap. It is a huge structure and we had to walk a quarter mile just to get the whole thing into our camera lense.
It has been a great trip, and we hope you enjoyed hearing about it. If you see us when we get back, we are sorry in advace if we talk about it all the time. It has been a once in a life time experience and are grateful that we had the chance to do it.
Sep 16, 2006
Today, we were able to make one of Gregs wishes come true. No, Arizona State did not win the National Championship in football. We were able to go to the D-Day beaches in Normandy France.
This had been the one thing that Greg was looking forward to the most, and it didn't disappoint. It was very powerful to see the distance at Omaha Beach that the soldiers had to run while being shot at with no cover. While looking at the ocean, one could just imagine the 6,939 Ships and landing craft ready to strike at Hitler's fortress Europe. Sorry, I forgot that this is a blog not the History Channel or a Stephen Ambrose book.
Anyway, to say the least, it was great. The American cemetery that overlooked Omaha Beach was also a site to behold. Just looking at all the white crosses and Star's of David and knowing that they represented the people(there were 4 women who died) who gave their life to provide freedom made me grateful for the country that we live.
We drove back to Paris and realized that rush hour in Paris is not a place you want to be, unless you are driving a moped or motorcycle. It took us over 2 hours to get from one end to the other. It reminded me of Driving in Phoenix or LA.
Sep 13, 2006
Bonjour! We are now in Lyon, France. Greg is working for a few days, so I (Nicolle) will be writing a post or two while he is busy. (Sorry, you'll have to do without any Ninja Turtle jokes for a little bit ).
Our trip from Italy to Lyon was quite hectic... our first train out of Italy was delayed 45 minutes, which made us miss our connecting train from Nice to Lyon. Because there were no more trains to Lyon that day, and because Greg had to be at work the next morning, we ended up renting a car and driving, instead. Luckily, the route was pretty straightforward, so we didn't get lost. We saw lots of beautiful scenery from the train and car (until it got dark). We stopped at a French truck stop... very different than in the U.S... a fancy buffet with no paper plates (so you couldn't take anything to go), wine along-side the soda fountain, and - sadly for Greg- no beef jerky.
Last night I was invited to join Greg and his colleagues (from Sweden, France, and Brazil) for dinner. It was fun to get to visit with people from so many different places at once.
I have been exploring the city while Greg has been working- Lyon is a very nice city. Although I have run into a couple of people with the stereotypical French attitude..."I speak French only!" most everyone is very helpful and friendly. In fact, at dinner tonight the waiters did not speak English, so they went to the trouble of finding a chef at a restaurant down the street who came to translate the menu for me! I was very glad he did, because there were a few scary-sounding sausages containing tripe that I was glad to be able to avoid.
The food here is delicious- the croissants melt in your mouth and everything is very fresh. What I like most about the food, though, is that it is always served with such beauty and style. The china, food, and restaurant decor all compliment each other, creating a great atmosphere.
My belly is getting bigger every day! The baby is starting to kick harder... today I was holding a book on my lap and reading and she kicked so hard that she shook the book! Being pregnant is fun and I feel so fortunate to be able to have the experience.
Sep 12, 2006
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here is a 3,000 word essay. This is in Cinque Terre, the most relaxing spot we've ever seen. It is made up of 5 small towns, connected by a train or hiking trails. We spent the first of our two days there at the beach- beautiful, blue-green water right against the mountains. On the second day, we hiked between the first three towns. Cinque Terre is a national park, with rules against large developments, so, although it has been discovered by tourists, it has still retained its small-town charm. We could walk through the town we stayed in, Vernazza, in less than 5 minutes. We rented a room from a nice older Italian lady named Theresa, who spoke no English. Two of Nicolle's favorite foods- focaccia bread and pesto- originated here, and we enjoyed them several times.
Sep 9, 2006
On the morning of our last day in Florence, we took a bus to a spot that you could look over all of Florence. It was a very popular spot and many tour groups were there. We positioned ourselves to listen to the tour guides and we were able to hear many interesting things about the city.
After viewing the city we traveled by Bus, Foot, and Taxi (and proved to ourselves that we should never be on “The Amazing Race”) to the Ponte Vecchio. Ponte Vecchio is only one of two major bridges in the entire country that made it through WWII without being blow up by either German or Allied troops (Yes, we did get that information from one of the tour guides we listened to). The bridge is now lined with gold and silver jewelry shops.
We also went to the Uffizi Art Gallery which featured works by Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo and a couple of the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The most famous work there is “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli. There were quiet a few brilliant pieces of art, but the one that we enjoyed the most was a painting showing Mary playing with the baby Jesus.
Greg’s sister, who lived in Italy for a year and a half, recommended that we go into someone’s house who had just cooked Lasagna and eat it. Since we are not familiar with the unlawful entry laws of Italy we chose to get one at a restaurant, instead. (Kindy, you were right… the lasagna was delicious!)
Tonight, we went to the Duomo (The church where the guys didn’t know how to finish the Dome) and attended a Baroque Performance of an oratorio about San Giovanni Baptista or Saint John the Baptist. It was great to hear the performance, and as a side bonus, if we got bored at all, we could look up and see the inside of the Dome (see yesterdays photo).
Sep 7, 2006
Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, and all of the great artists studied in Florence. We were able to see the most famous sculpture today, Michelangelo’s David. It is about 20 feet tall, and when Nicolle first saw it she taken back at its size and grandeur. Since the museum did not allow photos to be taken of The David, and I am not as sneaky with my camera as my Uncle Wayne, there will be no photo’s attached of The David. This is OK; because from what I am learning on this trip, no photo does justice to most of the things we have seen. It really was amazing to see the detail in the sculpture.
In addition to the David, we went to the Duomo Cathedral. It was this massive church that boasts the first Renaissance Dome. This building must have been designed by a man because, when it was originally built, they did not know how they were going to build a dome. But that did not stop them; they built it anyway and waited for someone to figure out how to build a dome.
The rest of the day was set aside for shopping. Florence is known for markets that sell everything made in Italy. There were lots of leather jackets, scarf’s, and many many other great deals.
One side note, someone thing that I have noticed is how kind and accommodating the Italian people are. Whenever I try to speak their language, they always smile and then save me by speaking enough English that I can accomplish whatever task I am trying to perform. I think too often, American’s tend to think that communicating with in a foreign language means to speak slower and louder. The Italian’s don’t follow that practice, and I am grateful for it.
Anyways, it is dinner time, which means we will be eating Pizza, Pasta and/or Gelato. Have a great day and please add your comments. We love to read them, and if you have any thing you want to hear about just let us know.
I now have the answer. Yes, the Pope is Catholic.
We were able to go to St Peters Square today and see Pope Benedict II. It was a spectacle to behold. On Wednesdays he appears and blesses the crowd. About an hour before the service starts, the announcer lets everyone know what "Pilgrims" have attended this service. It is just like a baseball game when the announcer says that "The following groups are in attendance at the game." When each group is named, they all cheer and wave their national flag. This goes on for about 30 minutes. Then a band plays and the Pope rides into the square in a white jeep, like the ones they have on MASH. It was cool to see the excitement in the eyes of the people, after they had gotten close to the Pope.
After seeing the Pope, we went to the Vatican Museum. We saw over a 100,000 works of art there. I was taking pictures left and right, and after the first 30 minutes, I almost ran out of memory on my camera. So we walked for an additional hour looking at priceless peaces of Art. Greg’s favorite was a tapestry that detailed Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem, The Last Supper and Christ’s Betrayal by Judas. Nicolle’s favorite was the Sistine Chapel. She came very close to marking her place in history… has anyone ever vomited in the Sistine Chapel? Do not worry, this was the only time Nicolle has felt like vomiting on the whole trip and it passed quickly.
Due to a medical issue that one of us is blessed to have, we were not able to stand in line for 3 hours in the midday sun to go inside St Peters Basilica. It is OK, though, because we got to go into St Marks in Venice, and I always like the Book of Mark better than 1 or 2 Peter.
We then got on a train and went to Florence, where our trip will continue on.
Sep 5, 2006
Today all of our History Channel watching was rewarded. We were able to go to most of the Roman Sites.
We first went to Capital Hill and saw the ruins of the palaces where the roman rulers lived, along with the temples that were built and the halls of justice. We had our trusty guide book with us and we would read about each site as we looked at them. I don’t want to bore you with details; it is sufficient to say that the sites were great. I have attached a photo of a man on a horse and if you are able to properly identify the man, you will win free lodging at our house whenever you need it.
Nicolle had a very big day today, for the first time, a stranger recognized that she is pregnant. In fact, it happened twice today. She was very excited.
This is a short one, because there is just too much to tell. One hint, when we get back, if you ask us about the trip, it might be similar to trying to get a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Please stop us if we go on too long about this place. We just love it so much.
p.s. the photo of nicolles profile is for her mom, who wanted to see her belly at 5 and one half months pregnant.
After having a great night in Venice, we did not know how things could get any better. Then we toured the St Marks basilica. It was amazing!! There were painting of Christ's life on the walls and Ceilings. There were Statues of 14 men and Christ on a cross in the middle. There were mosaic's on the floors and walls. Needless to say, it was a breathtaking experience. Unfortunately there were no camera's allowed in so I was not able to photograph any of this.
Because it is a church, there were guards at the entrance of the church strictly enforcing the dress code. If you had shorts or bare shoulders, you were either have to find some way to cover your shoulders or not go in at all. These guards were tougher than any church dance chaperones that I ever had.
After St Mark's, we went to the Market in Venice where vendors had setup their shops and were selling the basic tourist stuff: plates, teeshirts and other authentic Venice artifacts that were made in China.
We also took a water bus around all of Venice, and got to see all the island.
In the afternoon, we left for Rome, and when our plane landed, there was clapping again. I think I will start doing that whenever I fly now.
When we were taking the bus into Rome, we saw an Ikea and both commented that this ancient city reminded us more of Phoenix than it did of the most ancient city in the world. When we got to our hotel, it was of the modern style as well.
Sep 4, 2006
Well, we enjoyed our day in Paris and flew to Italy on Sunday morning. If you know anything about flying in Europe or Italian customs please help. When we landed, all the passengers clapped their hands. Perhaps they made an announcement, in Italian, about the engine dying or something, but I thought that the clapping was strange. If that is common, will someone please let me know.
We took the train to Venice. And all I can say is WOW. Venice was the place that I was looking forward to the least and it blew me away. I got off the train and it looked fake, because I didn't think that anything could look like that. Of any picture I have ever seen of Venice, none have done it justice. If you ever need about 100 photos of Venice, just ask, we've got them.
Our little hotel was just a few steps away from St Marks Square. If you ever have the chance, go there at night time. There were 3 "dueling orchestras" playing Italian opera at different areas in the square. It was great.
We also were able to go on a gondola ride. For the women, it is as romantic as they say it is. For the men, it is a cool ride, and I even found a soccer ball floating in the canal.
We had delicious risotto, pasta, and pizza - and lots of gilato. Nicolle is confident that she will gain the needed weight to have a baby.
It was the gondolas regatta on Sunday. Basically, it was like NASCAR for the Gondola community, and they had tons of people there to watch it. It was fun to see the different people there to cheer on the race- kind of like the annual canoe race at boy scout camp... they are all paddling and not very many of them have showered in the last week.
Sep 2, 2006
We arrived safe and sound Paris, and have had our first french kiss. You know, when you kiss someone is France it is a french kiss.
We visited the Champs Elysees today and saw the Arch De Triomph, which is one of history's great ironies. Napoleon commisioned that it be built to celibrate his victories, but by the time it was completed, Napoleon was defeated and he had less power than Napoleon Dynomite.
Nicolle wanted to eat in a quiet cafe for dinner and we thought we found one. After being seated the waiter asked what we would like. I spent five minutes trying to explian that I wanted tap water not minieral water, which if anyone can tell me how to ask that in French and Italian, I would be grateful. Anyway, Nicolle solved it by asking for a Coke Light(Diet Coke's name in Europe). I then said I would like a Coke Light also. So the Waiter then brought us our drinks and then brought us our check. It was 7.4 Euros or like 10 bucks. After trying to ask for a menu so we could eat, we found out that thier Kitchen was closed, and nothing but a $10 Coke light was avaible. It was a good joke and we will alway remember our $10 cokes in Paris. We were able to find a great outdoor resturant and have a great meal. Nicolle got some real French Onion Soup and real French Dressing (kindof like a creamy Italian, not tomato based). Speaking of tomatos, I got a pizza and it was great. It was made with fresh tomato's and great bread. It was a great first day.
The first leg of our trip consisted of a flight out of Greensboro to Boston, and then to Paris. That was supposed to be how it worked. Instead, the flight to Boston got delayed 2 hours, causing us to miss our connecting flight to Paris. But the good people of Delta assured us that
they could fix the problem and send us through Atlanta and we would arrive at noon on Saturday, "no problem."
Then we arrived in Atlanta to find out that they had put us on standby on the FULL Paris flight. We waited in suspense for about an hour and a half, not knowing if there would be room for us on the flight. Nicolle vowed (for the second time) to never again fly Delta.
Luckily we got on and even got to sit next to each other. Away we go.