Monday, July 30, 2012

Europe Trip- Day 8: July 5, 2012

FLORENCE
By Kristin

We went to our hotel for breakfast today and realized that the Grand Hotel Mediterraneo is on a whole other level from the other two hotels we stayed at...SO busy!

Our group did a walking tour of Florence at 8:00am seeing many sights we saw yesterday on our own, but adding a few new stops:  Museum of Science, the Duomo, and Dante's church and home.  Then we did some shopping, gelato eating (Vivoli Vivoli: supposed to be the best in Florence) and saw Santissima Annunziata.  At Santissima Annuziata, we lit candles for Eric, and our two miscarriages: Baby Champ and Baby Poggie.  Then, we met up with our group again to do a Wine Tasting.  It was great! 


Shot along the Arno River with the Ponte Vecchio

Duomo
Candles for my brother Eric, Baby Champ, and Baby Poggie.
All three are in our thoughts every single day...
At the wine tasting we got to sample olive oils and balsamic vinegars and olive spreads.  My favorite was a 20 year aged balsamic and Josh's favorite was the regular balsamic. 

Different Extra Virgin Olive Oils and Balsamic Vinegars
Wine Tasting
We got more free time and we went and ate at O'Vesuvio where the Jersey Shore cast worked and had a great pizza!  Then we saw six other sights:  San Lorenzo Market, Santa Maria Novela, Santa Trinata, Santa Maria Carmine, Sato Spirito, and Pitti Palace.  Our walk back to the hotel was horrible for me and I totally over heated!  :)

We took a little nap then got ready for the "Be Our Guest" dinner with our group.  We went to a private family owned castle which makes their own wine, EVOO, rents apartments, has a restaurant, sees groups like ours, and does weddings.  Our guide told us of an amazing history.  It is 900 years old and used to be owned by the Pazzi family, the second most powerful family in Italy.  It was bought by a husband and wife as a summer house, but became so much more.  It is now owned by a daughter, her husband, and their three kids.  We got to learn a lot about wine and EVOO too.  Then we ate! The food was great! 

The castle is up in the hills so the views were awesome too.  We even bought some wine from them.  Amazing night!!!
Ciao Florence!
Castle: "Be My Guest" dinner

Wine Cellar
AMAZING food.  That sauce in the bottom right is a "soup" of sorts.  They mix a tomato sauce with  pieces of bread and drizzle EVOO on top.  The best part was that it tasted like my family's spaghetti sauce :)

Us with views in the Tuscan Hills


Josh's Favorite Part of the Day:
Everything about the "Be Our Guest" dinner at the castle.

Kristin's Favorite Part of the Day:
Every single thing about the "Be Our Guest" dinner at the castle.

Josh's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
That the pizza I had a O'Vesuvio was the best so far on the trip.

Kristin's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
That we went to every single place on our spreadsheet.

Gelato Count:
Josh: 1 (chocolate with nut and mixed berry)
Kristin: 1 (chocolate mouse and raspberry)

Europe Trip- Day 7: July 4, 2012

FLORENCE
By KMH

Josh and I tried to dress a little American today.  I wore a red long sleeved shirt and Josh wore his captain American T-Shirt.  Later, he changed into a red polo. 


Even the views from off the highway are beautiful in Italy.
This is a field of sunflowers!

We woke up at the Hotel San Pietro and left for Florence.  Our drive was about 7.5 hours with stops.  Once getting to Florence, we went walking to find San Miniatro al Monte.  In true Kristin Hundt fashion, I probably picked the hardest place to get to.  Our walk was basically entirely up hill and we got lost/confused several times. 
San Miniatro al Monte

Once we got close though, we realized we found a hidden gem of amazing views of Florence!  Wow!!

:)



Us with the city of Florence behind us. 

We then went to Piazza Michelangelo for more great views and photos.  After, we walked a long the Arno River and saw: Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi, Piazza Signoria, Piazza Vecchio, Piazza Santa Croche, Orsa Michele, and Santa Croche Church.

We also stumbled upon the place where the Jersey Shore cast worked while living in Florence. 
We ate at the Piazza Signoria or Piazza Vecchio and I'm sorry to report that the food wasn't great :/  Josh got a steak, a staple of Florence, but he said it tasted like Finley's.  I got Tortellini and only the sauce, a rose one, was good.  I need a break from procuttio I decided.  I of course was hard on myself for selecting a bad meal.  Boo!  We wanted good gelato on the way home, but we didn't get it when we saw it and then never say any again.  Boo! 

Kristin's Favorite Part of the Day:
Views from San Miniatro and Piazza Michelangelo

Josh's Favorite Part of the Day:
Views from San Miniatro and Piazza Michelangelo

Kristin's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
I can, in fact, select bad Italian food...who knew?!

Josh's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
Mapmakers have not figured out how to show the height of locations above sea level. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Europe Trip- Day 6: July 3, 2012

AMALFI COAST
By Kristin

We went to Capri!!! We drove through Maiori, Minori, and Amalfi Town to catch the boat to Capri.  The boat ride was about an hour long, but had the most amazing views; Josh picked a great spot to sit on the boat!  We saw Sorento and Pasitano and then arrived to the Island of Capri. 


Before getting on the boat

Amalfi Town

While on the boat to Capri

On the boat

On the boat

Pasitano

Pasitano

We did an optional boat tour seeing Capri and also saw a little too much of an Italian 'model.'  We saw the choral grotto, green grotto, and white grotto.  We also saw the 'Tunnel of Love!'



Tunnel of Love

Capri
After we went sightseeing for a bit and took a funicular train higher up, we then did another optional tour of Ana Capri.  In order to get to the top of Ana Capri, we had to ride a ski lift 1,900 feet to Monte Solaro.  I'm sure you can imagine the amount of photos that were taken :)  Luckily part of the day was cloudy because it was hot, hot, hot!!

Josh on the lift to Monte Solaro
On top of the world!
On top of the world!
Locally grown lemons and lemoncello ;)
Amalfi Town
We took the boat back to Amalfi Town and did some sightseeing and shopping there and then came back to the hotel.  Dinner was supposed to be provided, but it looked like two dishes had anchovies so we went to La Vela and had another spectacular dinner.  We got two drinks and had an amazing appetizer all 'on the house'.  Ciao Amalfi :(

Personally might be my favorite meal we had: penne vodka. 
I love it at home, I LOVE it even more in Italy :)
Kristin's Favorite Part of the Day:
Monte Solaro...views, views, views.  I also liked the ski lift on the way up because it was quiet, gorgeous, and I was able to have some quiet time to pray and stare at God's greatness.

Josh's Favorite Part of the Day:
Monte Solaro

Kristin's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
The hotel's awful food choices

Josh's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
Getting to Monte Solaro...only had to ride a swing!

Gelato Count:
Josh: 0
Kristin: 1 (Kit Kat...favorite! and guianua or something like that)

Europe Trip- Day 5: July 2, 2012

AMALFI COAST
By Kristin Marie

Today was our first day of literally having nothing planned from Trafalgar.  We 'slept in' today waking up around 8:00am.  After getting ready for the day and eating breakfast, we walked to the beach.  I think we were hoping to stay there for most of the day, but the beach was hot and rocky.  We also were cheap and didn't want to pay for a spot with an umbrella. 


Beach

It was important to both of us that we swam in the Mediterranean Sea so we did that (the water was warm) and then claimed a spot at our hotel pool where we swam, napped, and read.  We had a sandwich for lunch and took a much needed nap before spending a little more time at the pool. 


Pool at our hotel!

Both of us were a bit worried about dinner because Maiori is small and seemed to have touristy food.  I happened to google about restaurants in Maiori and we went to a place called DeDalo which was the #1 rated on trip advisor. 


At sunset before we ate dinner

Pier

It was important to be around the water at sunset so we did that first and then had a phenomenal dinner.  Randomly that #1 rated restaurant was the one were were going to go to anyway.  We are excited to go to bed before midnight tonight :)  God is the Amalfi Coast GORGEOUS! 

P.S.  You could order a pizza at DeDalo's that had hot dogs and french fries on it! 

Josh's Favorite Thing of the Day:
Sitting by the pool nearly all day and being the only adults to go down what turned out to be a kids only water slide. 

Kristin's Favorite Thing of the Day:
Having nothing to do.

Josh's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
How good the food at dinner was

Kristin's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
That the restaurant w were going to pick was also #1 rated in Maiori.

Gelato Count:
J: 1 (lemon)
K: 1 (squibb...AMAZING!)






Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Europe Trip- Day 4: July 1, 2012

AMALFI COAST
By Joshua

Today began with a ride from Rome to Pompeii.  En route to Pompeii, we saw the World War II cemetery of Monte Cassino.

Monte Cassino
 Pompeii followed on the heels of Rome and was 35 degrees Celcius.  The tour of Pompeii was great and the tour guide's name was Genaro.  Genaro was about 70 and was excited to brag to us about the Sicilian Style Macaroni and Mozzarella his wife was making him for dinner.

Outside the uncovered city of Pompeii
Among the highlights were seeing the people that died during the eruption, the shock about how perverted the Pompeiians were, and the Roman style bath. 

Genaro showing us a street in Pompeii.  
It was a lovely little street with a school, stores, bakeries, brothels, and "quicky" rooms.
I see dead people!

Us, ready for the soccer game tonight
and also hoping Mt. Vesuvius is not going to erupt while we're here.
(see it in the background?) "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when"

From Pompeii we traveled to Ravello.  Sitting 1,000 feet up above the Amalfi Coast, this offered the most amazing views we have ever seen of both the coast and the surrounding mountains. 
It is NOT safe for a tour bus to drive up 3,000 feet. 
These cars are going to opposite direction of us and trying to squeeze through.  YIKES! 


What do you even say here?

Only God can create something this spectacular!

During the time at Ravello, we went to an Arab style villa build during the 8th century BC and saw a wedding take place in the town's church. 

Dear bride: Sorry 40 people snuck into a church before your wedding. Thank you for being so nice about it and still smiling and thanking us when we clapped for you.  Love, Trafalgar Italian Concerto Tour Group
The entrance to a restaurant...this place is just ridiculous. 
After Ravello, we went to our hotel on the Amalfi Coast.  Unfortunately, our hotel is different from, and presumed to be not as good as, the hotel we were supposed to stay at.  We are not at the hotel San Pietro instead of the Panaorma Hotel. 

We ate dinner at the hotel and then watched the soccer game at the hotel pool bar with people from our group.  Unfortunately Italy lost to Spain in the Euro Cup championship in a massacre 4-0.

Literally, the whole country of Italy shut down to watch this game. 
SIDEBAR FROM KRISTIN:  Since we've been in Italy, I've been asked for directions THREE times.  I hope it's because I looked Italian :)

Kristin's Favorite Thing of the Day:
Ravello...views, views, views

Josh's Favorite Thing of the Day:
Ravello

Kristin's Biggest Surprise of the Day:
views were even more beautiful than any picture could show and the Pompeiians were perverts...who knew?!

Josh's Surprise of the Day:
We didn't stay at the Panerama

Gelato Count:
Josh: 2
Kristin: 2
Triple chocolate and chocolate cream
pistachio and some vanilla that had raisins or maybe apricots in it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Europe Trip- Day 3: June 30, 2012

ROME
By J. Earl Hundt

We are just learning how to get around Rome and it is time to leave! 

Our day started with difficulty waking up for our self proclaimed 6:15am wake up call when the hotel called us at 7:15 for the wake up call sponsored by Trafalgar I said one of Tony Soprano's favorite words and slept for an extra 20 minutes. 

After a hearty breakfast we went to the Termini for what we thought would be an easy entrance onto the Metro with our "24 hour" pass to go to see the pyramid.  It turns out that 24 hours actually runs out at 11:59pm of the night you bought the ticket.  After that shock, the shock of some random girl cutting us in lane, and the shock of the machine not taking our money/ticket for the first 23 attempts, we FINALLY made it onto the Metro.

Once on the Metro, things were looking up for us!  We went directly tot he Pyramid of Caius Cestius.  After that we re-entered the Metro for a trip to the Capuchin Crypt.  This museum was awesome and quite bizarre at the same time. 
Pyramid of Caius Cestius

We then went back and did a little souvenir shopping and then had a quick lunch of pizza and relaxation at our hotel. 

With Trafalgar we went to the Vatican.  We skipped the long tine, but still had to wait.  They say today was the busiest or second busiest day of the entire year.  It was amazing to see the center of the Catholic Church, but the rudeness and sheer amount of people downplayed the fun it should have been.  Kristin found the Sistine Chapel to be most enjoyable and Josh found the St. Peter's Basilica to be most enjoyable. 

Part of a Giant Rug at the Vatican Museum

Painted ceiling in the Vatican Museum


Sistine Chapel

St. Peter's Basilica: Vatican



Vatican







When the tour ended, we stayed on our own, grabbed gelato (we really tried to find your Gelato place Patrick!) and then began a walk to PIazza Navona.  From Piazza Navona Kristin artfully directed us to one of Romes hidden treasures the "Arco Degli Acetari." 


Arco Degli Acetari

After the Arco, we met Ashley and Luis for a wonderful free tour of the Pantheon and then had a fantastic dinner near the Piazza Navona. 


Pantheon
 Finally, we had a nighttime view of the Columns of Marcus Aurelius and Trevi Fountain before one more astounding ride on the Metro.  Ciao Roma!!!


Trevi Fountain at night

Kristin's Favorite Thing of the Day:
Successfully finding the Arco degli Acetari.  It was super secluded.

Josh's Favorite Thing of the Day:
Pantheon

Kristin's Surprise of the Day:
How unholy the Vatican felt.  I wanted to pray, meditate in silence; really feel close to God.  Instead I felt rushed, hot, and frustrated.

Josh's Surprise of the Day:
Being able to find the Arco degli Acetari.  He was impressed with us :)

Gelato Count:
Josh: 1 (pistachio)
Kristin: 1 (pistachio and cherry)