Saturday, August 27, 2011


Our original trip plans included only one stop in Italy...Venice. We instead spent our last week in Italy, and for two fantastic days, we experienced this unique city.

One little story before I begin the photos: We got to the busy train station, had directions to get a vaparetto, or public water bus to get to the apartment we were renting. We were shocked to find out it cost $6.50 each just to ride to the stop we needed. The boat was packed, we were hot and sticky, we tried to have someone text our host to let them know we were on our way so they could meet us at our stop. In all of the stress, we got off the taxi at a stop on the opposite side of the island, no one was there to meet us, and then Danny realized he left his backpack on the boat that just pulled away. (Danny has been SO careful about his backpack with our passports, all our money, eurail passes, and laptop. AND Venice is crawling with pickpockets). I started to freak out, he stayed calm on the outside, but was panicked on the inside.
The next vaparetto that stopped, we told them what happened, described the bag, and Danny jumped onto that boat as they called to the boat ahead of them. Meanwhile, I have a cell phone number (but no cell phone) for the guy that is supposed to meet us, but the address is in the backpack, no one will let me use their phone, no one speaks enough english to help me, I am feeling stranded and desperate. Tania and I huddled the kids together and we said a quick prayer. Then I left them on the dock to go find someone to help. Finally a sweet, kind lady tried to dial the number, but it was the wrong number, so I needed the internet, but there is NOTHING around us but homes. She speaks NO english, but understood internet and she motioned me to follow her to her home (what an ANGEL!!!). Finally, I look up the number on her computer, and call Pietro to let him know we are at the dock, and he said he would send someone right over. I quickly run back to the dock (after kissing my angel, Marina) and find Danny (and his backpack) safe and sound with the kids!
That was the worst hour of our whole trip, and I am grateful we were watched over and protected. We quickly prayed to thank Heavenly Father for sending helping hands our way.

And now, I present: Venice, City of Bridges, Floating City and "one of Europes most romantic cities"!

We were so happy to be in a wonderful, clean new apartment with AIR CONDITIONING! That saved us, since it was in the high 90s with humidity while we were there. We wandered around the first night and found a great little place to eat dinner. The next day, we were off to walk the 1/2 mile to Piazza San Marco.

The thing about this city is...there are NO cars, no streets, no street names. 3 story buildings built hodge podge and helter skelter. You wander and wander through the MAZE. the 1/2 mile to the square actually was 1 1/2 miles because there is no straight shot to anywhere!We found a little butcher shop that made delish salami sandwiches and had a bit of picnic on a bridge.

We were back in the residential area, and felt like we were the only tourists. It was so neat to see this part of the island before getting to the "touristy" places. That is my favorite part of travelling.
We took in the sights as we wandered. It really was incredible to think of people living here and especially running a business. Any supplies or goods has to be brought in by a delivery man with a hand truck. Even that is a feat to take that dolly up and down stairs through narrow alleys!
The locals don't have cars or bikes...there would be no where to drive them. They have boats, or good walking shoes.

About every 5 minutes of wandering, we crossed a canal like this.

We finally ended up with lots of other tourists in Piazza San Marco and St Marks Basillica. The history of this city is amazing and has stood the test of time. Slowly, though, the city is sinking and when the tide is higher in the winter, this square is sometimes covered by water!The church was neat inside. One thing that was interesting (that we found only here and at the Vatican) was that you had to be dressed modestly to enter the cathedral. You could not wear tank tops or short shorts or miniskirts. Here, they would hand you a piece of material to wrap around your shoulders or your waist to cover your immodesty!

The kids had a great time feeding the pigeons, while the adults ran for shade. We felt like we were melting in the humid heat!
Tania was SO excited to be in line for the gelato!

While we found this city unique and interesting, it is kind of decaying and old. It adds to its charm, but I wouldn't say it was beautiful.

After a short siesta in the air conditioned apartment, we went back out to watch the sunset and get some food.

I was glad our apartment was on the outskirts of the island so we were so close to the ocean (not that you are ever very far from it) but we were on the quiet back side to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
The next morning, we found a man with a private boat offering tours and we asked him how much to take us around the island to the train station. We would have had to pay 40 euro for all of us to take the public water taxi, and he only charged us 15 euro! Plus, we weren't stuck with tons of people in a vaparetto stopping at all of the stops along the way.

This was a FANTASTIC way to see the last sights of Venice and to say Ciao to the "Floating City".Coming back around to the main port by the train station.

I am so glad we got to come to Venice!ARRIVEDERCI!

In Fair Verona

A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
This is the courtyard originally owned by the Capulet family. This statue of Juliette is a popular place for photos. I couldn't figure out why people, men and women kept touching her breast while they were taking pictures...I thought it was a bit crude. Even one family had their little boy put his hand there. Then I found out that their is a saying that if you touch her right breast, you will have the love of your life, if you touch the left, you will have money, but you cannot touch both! I decided I would just touch her hand instead of jinxing myself!
Here is the balcony that legend says Juliette stood and said,
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

Another thing for which Verona is famous is the "Arena" which was originally built in 30 AD. It is only about 1/2 the size of the Colliseum in Rome, but this one is actually still in use today. We were there for the famous Verona Opera season. The arena holds 25,000 people, and I think it must have been full for the Opera the night we were there.

We went inside the next day and it is impressive that it is still standing!The lower portion has modern seats, but up above is still old marble benches.
Here are a few things I thought were beautiful.

There was lots of shopping in the center of town. All of the streets in this area are paved with old pink marble. It is a pretty impressive sight.

This Roman Soldier didn't let us cross this bridge without having the girls take a photo with him.

It was SO hot for sight seeing, that this was probably the best part of the day. This water was so cold, and we wished we could jump in.

We had a great view from the balcony of our Bed and Breakfast "Ai Leoni".
Look at me, blogging away in a warm room without AC. A fan made it bearable.
We were excited to get back in a train the next day to drive through the alps. This was the first class cabin that the Danny, Tania and I shared. The three kids were back in 2nd class, and were happy to have some independence.
The Alps were beautiful, but we were on a high speed train, and the pictures don't do it justice.

The Hills are Alive!!!

Our last day with Christl, Marita and Volker started with a lovely train ride to Salzburg, Austria.

I will get to the "Sound of Music" later, I loaded my photos in the wrong order since I thought those sights were the most exciting parts to see, but there were tons of things to see in Salzburg before we got to those sights!
(Tania's Aunt Christl, and cousin Volker)
We stayed in an unassuming hotel, which actually was pretty nice inside, and a great breakfast the next morning.
This is Getreidegasse, a famous street for shopping. One person told us it wasn't very crowded this day, but we would disagree! The Salzberger Festspiele is going on right now, and that means every theater in town has huge productions at all hours of the day. We even went to part of a free opera that the kids actually really enjoyed. The performers were american college students and we were all impressed with their talent. We couldn't understand the Italian lyrics, and it was a warm afternoon which made us start nodding off!
The gelato was a definite must, as it got a bit warm!

This is the fanciest golden arches we have ever seen. Even the ornate sign couldn't draw us in!
This is a great view of part of the city and in the background, those famous "Hills". All along the river, there was an outdoor market of craft and goods stalls. All three kids were so excited to look at all the various tents. There was a lot of beautiful hand made jewelry, and artwork. Taylor was so excited to find a wooden cross bow, but he was too tired to have a photo taken!Tania and I were pooped from the shopping, if you can believe it!
We didn't go up to this fortress, but it was an imposing structure overlooking the city.
It was definitely time for some food. We discovered a new favorite drink in Bavaria "Spezi" which Josephine has here. It is a mixture of cola and lemonade. It is quite good, and we will have to tamper with the mixture at home to figure out how to make it.
There is a mountain the cuts right through the city. Here, we are walking through the tunnel from one side to the other.

There is a strip of buildings built right into the rock. I am not sure if it just butts up against the rock or if it goes further back, but you would not have to have windows in the back of your house!

Isabelle: "Josephine and I watched The Sound of Music" on the train before we went to Austria. When we walked around, we saw a lot of the things that were on the movie, like the fountain with the horses, and the statues of the men facing each other with their arms up, and the stairs and bushes at the park. My mom made us sing "do re mi" when we ran around the fountains. Tania wanted us all to sing "Eldeweiss" as we were getting off the train. We watched the movie again after we left Austria."

In these photos, just picture the children skipping around in clothes made from flowered curtains!
Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do!!!
The thing that Salzburg is most famous for is it is the birthplace of Mozart. There are pictures of him everywhere. On candy, jewelry, clothing, any souvenir you could want.There were many people in typical bavarian clothing. I really loved seeing the different styles.
Isabelle: " The park was really fun, there were a lot of things at the park that I like to do. One thing I've seen in Europe a lot was this weird swing that is shaped like a circular net. You can go really high on it and it's scary because you can't hold on to anything."

"There are also a few spinny things, and a really big slide that is hard to climb up, but you go really fast down. The kids made the adults go on the slide, and I thought it was funny."

The kids wanted to keep playing, but all of the adults were worn out!

After all this togetherness time, they are still friends! Danny and I have loved spending so much time with them. They are really great kids, and are growing up so quickly. I feel so blessed to have this experience.


Danny and Friends Mountain Biking