Saturday, June 14, 2003

A new look

I'm sure you were all tired of all that scrolling...with love...

Honeymoon Day Five- I can't feel my legs

Finally, a day of productive siteseeing. While still coughing a bit, I managed to pick my bleary self out of bed and feel good today. Ha, take that fever! Shake a leg, snot!

We started our day late as usual and finally got a free (read: fixed into the price of room) breakfast at the hotel. The rolls were decent, but the important things were excellent coffee and a nice, talkative couple from North Carolina on their 25th wedding anniversary trip. They talked us all over the map, but gave us some postive advice for art museums in town. Today was their last day in Florence because they were being picked up to go to a cooking school where they live with the chef and go on local food field trips before cooking dinner. Sounded pricey, but good.

We left our luggage at hotel 1 because checkin was not for several more hours at hotel 2, and headed for Il Duomo which is the big cathedral with a fancy dome in town. We didn't climb the stairs to the top. Who wants to pay to climb over 200 stairs? The stained glass was pretty spectacular though. The sun was hitting it right when we got there.

From Il Duomo, we went in search of Vivoli's. Now Jane has developed an addiction to Gelato which causes this one concern considering the prices in Los Gatos, but this Vivoli's place is touted by Steve McFarland's MapEasy map as the "best ice cream in the world" (a real publication, not Steve's crude rendering of Florence). When you've had the best, it's really hard to say it's the best. I'd say it is stellar, breathtaking, refreshingly brilliant and brilliantly refreshing, but "best in the world" is pretty high. When I was in Israel, one of the Muslim men who worked in our hotel took me and two others to Ramallah (which was a bustling city of 200,000+ at the time, a week or so later, Israel started sending missiles into various buildings there). There we ate an ice cream that was exceptional and unique. It was so rich that it would stretch like taffy...but it was ice cream. If that place no longer stands, than I'd tell you that this Vivoli's coffee ice cream is the best ice cream you could currently purchase within NATO.

Enough about that. It happened that I was interested in leather goods, and as Florence is known as "the leather city," we searched out the leather craft school, hoping for a bargain. We stumbled upon the largest Franciscan church in the world, Santa Croce, and went inside to get out of the sun. Santa Croce, as it happens, has a lot of famous dead people buried within it, and even though the place is dedicated to the ministry of St. Francis and his order, dead people monuments abound. What sort of famous people you ask? Well, how about Machiavelli? Maybe, Dante? Michelangelo, good enough? My favorite? Galileo. The guy gets labeled a heretic and he's buried in a church. Those were such crazy times!

Following the famous dead fest, I bought a wallet from the leather school. I'm currently using a Mark "Burnsie" Burnham hand me down that Charlotte gave me because she was sick of seeing my old wallet and she just took her dad's old one. This new one is nice. It's brown.

Lunch was another of Stevie Mac's suggestions. A little pricier than necessary, but definitely good. Note to the reader: when you order a stew, expect just to get meat. I had a plate full of meat for lunch. Jane had a delightful homemade tortellini in a killer cheese sauce.

It was time to check into hotel 2, so we hiked back to take our luggage over. We then headed back in the same direction that we'd been all day to the Pitti Palace, now a renaissance art museum. The place was built by a rival of the Medici family (who were like the Rockefellers of the renaissance), but then the Medici's bought it a century later. They ran Florence from there and housed their massive art collection inside. In the 18th century, the last Medici bequeathed the collection to the city of Florence and stipulated that the art could never leave town. And that's where the tour ends because Steve's legs and back ached so much in this place that we was not able to pay attention beyond the first four rooms. Our friends from this morning had given us a guidebook to this museum and we read about the paintings it highlighted. Rapheal was highly represented in this musuem, and in many cases, you could see why he was so much better than everyone else.

But as I said, my back was killing me and my legs began to lose their feeling. Fortunately, just at the point where I was going to say to Jane, "You can read about these paintings later, baby, let's go", the tour ended. Woo.

But the walk back to the new hotel was not really short, so we stopped at Vivoli's again. It was conveniently located several blocks out of the way.

The rest of the day has passed lazily in air-conditioned-ness. And it's 9 o'clock and I want dinner!

Hope your weekend rocks!

Oh, a post script to Joey Freda. Yes, Joey, we are staying in too much contact with home for being on our honeymoon, but guess what? Internet cafe's are air-conditioned. And Jane can't leave you people alone.

I'm running out of time...buh-bye.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Honeymoon Day Four- The sweatiest man in the world

Hello, my name is Steve. I have the honor of informing you that I am the sweatiest man in the world. I can walk approximately 5 steps with my backpack on and lose a liter of water. This morning's trek to the train station in Rome was ridiculous. Not only was my nose running like the Tiber river, but I was dripping everywhere. Not like the pleasant, "Oh Steve's eating spicy foods again, haha, watch him sweat!" No, it was fever and badness.

That was gross, sorry. So we made it on the train and enjoyed the ride through fine Italian countryside. So pretty. Of course, I took a good nap. But when I was awake something interesting had occured in trains since my last visit. When going through a tunnel, the pressure in the train changes so your ears do that weird pluggin up thing. Now this is all fine and good for one tunnel, but when your train is barreling through hills and every 10 seconds you come across a new tunnel, this can be quite an experience. Especially when your wife is sitting across from you and making funny faces so as to keep her ears from popping. At one point, Jane shouted out, "Stop it!" She was talking to the train and telling it to stop its tunneling.

After three hours of air conditioned train, Florence immediately reheated us to a slow roast. It might actually be hotter than Rome. We found some fever meds for me, but then I was stupid and went looking for a hotel by myself. Here's the thing: when you can't remember the names of hotels recommended by the guidebook, you're hot, you have a fever, and you don't like shopping around in general, looking for a hotel in busy, busy Florence is not a good idea. So I took the first hotel that looked good and had a room available (only one night, so once we're done at the internet cafe we're looking for tomorrow night's accomodations).

Then we fell asleep. For too long. I won't even tell you. But since waking up, we headed over to see Michelangelo's David, which is my favorite piece of art in the whole world. When you see it in real life, it is stunning. Jane agrees with me on this one. Unfortunately, right now he is being restored so his skin is not clean, hiding the most remarkable thing about him. When he's clean, you can see veins on his arms that are under the surface of the marble- I don't know how this was done, but it is incredible.

Dinner was a touristy pizza cafe and the biggest financial mistake of our marriage so far. We were hot. As I've repeatedly said. And a nice cold coke sounded especially fantastic. Jane first, and then myself thinking, "Ok, if she's this nuts, I can be too" ordered grande sized cokes. For 6 euros a piece. Currently, the Euro is stronger than the dollar so we're talking about a 7 dollar coke. And how big were they? A healthy 22 ounces, with ice! One must admit, however, they were dang good and they cooled me off better than anything else all day. Was it worth 14 dollars? No, but sometimes, you just gotta be stupid.

And that...was today!

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Honeymoon Day Three -- Walking, Walking and More Walking

Well, today was our last day in Rome, so we decided to take the city by storm... and we did just that. We started early (or at least what has been early for us this trip) and headed out for Ancient Rome. We toured through the Colisseum, then into the Ancient Ruins and over to the Pantheon. All of this is quite a site, and really quite amazing. At the Pantheon we still hadn't eaten all day, so we waited around for a while for a nice restaurant (suggested by our good friend Steve McFarland) to open for lunch. And it was indeed worth the wait. Both of us shared their appetizer of the house (assorted Italian foods) and then we both had the funghi (mushroom) pasta and Steve finished off with Roasted Lamb and potatoes. We both walked out quite satisfied.

From there we headed over to a Gelato place that came highly recommended from one of our tour books. The heat in Rome was still going quite strong (and even at 11:20 at night with the windows open, I am sweating as I type -- not so tight). The ice cream cooled us down quite a bit and we headed off to the Spanish Steps. Because we were not able to make it up them the other day, we decided to try again... and today succeeded. But let me tell you, it was hot. And just so you know, there are 138 Spanish Steps, which still doesn't beat the 146 steps up to our hostel.

If you are familiar with Rome, or a map of Rome at all, at this point you will realize we walked across all of Rome today. And unfortunately, at the end of it, Steve begun to sniffle pretty badly -- thus the reason I am writing the blog tonight. He is up in our room keeping a hanky close by, and using it quite a bit. And although we all know what boys are like when sick, he is being a good sport about it. I, thankfully, am doing much better, but Steve blames me for passing my cold onto him, and for that I feel bad. Let's hope he gets over his as quickly as I got over mine.

Rome has been wonderful, and I am excited to venture on to our next destination -- Florence! I'm sure you will hear more from us there.

Jane (and sickly Steve)

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Honeymoon Day Two- I think I Vatican, I think I Vatican

That's a stupid title I know.

Today we slept in like idiots until 10:30 am after sleeping all day yesterday too. We took forever to get going because of all the other peeps taking showers in the hostel. bathroom which we share. Once finally down the steps and in the train station we headed for the Vatican musuem continuing to sweat like cold coke cans experiencing condensation. By the time we arrived at the museum, we were so hot and tired, we needed to eat lunch just to keep going. So we ate our sandwiches, went in the museum and discovered, to our dismay, we were two Euros short of an entry fee. Cash only, baby. Relief came from the moneychangers in the temple and we got ourselves into a whirlwind tour of the Vatican's extremely rich art holdings. Of course, all signs lead to the Sistine Chapel while in the museum, but it takes at least 2 hours of walking to get there. And we whizzed through lots of cool and amazing rooms to get there. By the time we reached it however, a back ache was added to Jane's growing list of illnesses (the worst of which is healed folks...) and thus we needed to sit to admire the ceiling. I was happy to do this of course because who wants to be using their legs like a sucker when they can sit!

Exiting the Museum, I found that the exit had moved and we were dropped to the side of St. Peter's Basilica. Convenient. We went in, admired all that one can admire without being on a pligrimage or reading latin, and left. I got a good picture of the Pope's sexy swiss guards. They're dressed in the finest renaissance garb this side of the mississippi, so it's quite a treat to see them.

The rest of the afternoon was a lazy lay around fest, and thanks to the help of advil, Jane is walking and talking again.

Now it is almost cool in the 9 pm air...

One note of sadness: Jerusalem had another bombing today on Jaffa Street, another on the list of places I've walked which has been bombed. Our friend Shannon is still there working with victims of bombings like this. Jane is glad she said no to my initial plan of going to Jerusalem on the first leg of our honeymoon. I am too, but worried about Shannon.

Good night everyone!

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Honeymoon Day One- In sickness and in health

The first day of any transatlantic flight is always a sweaty mess of sleepyness, confusion, disorientation and runny noses. Unfortunately, Jane has got a few more issues than just a runny nose. We spent today worrying about what seemed to be an infection of the urinary tract variety. Eeew! But we got her some meds at the pharmacist (who is apparently allowed to prescribe anti-biotics without a doctor's order) and she's already doing much better after only 2 pills.

We cruised over to the Spanish Steps around noon once we'd made it to our hostel (146 steps from the street, hotchie motchie!) and spent a delusional hour looking for a restaraunt. We waited for places to open up and shaded ourselves from the evil Roman sun on the steps themselves. Finally, we ate at a relatively cheap little bar and pizze place. Outstanding pizza really.

But as we sat there eating, both Jane and my eyes were closing to a dangerous level so I decided we needed to get her back to a bed to rest off her sicknesses (sore throat, runny nose, infection and now leg cramps!) and violate the prime rule about getting over jet lag. We both slept forever and now we're ready for bed again honestly. It's barely 10 pm.

Jane seems to think Rome has it in for her. I think it's her German blood. Those Huns sacked Rome and the people never forgave the Germans for the fall of the empire. So the city takes it out on my new wife (that phrase "new wife" is becoming more familiar, but it's still pretty weird).

Tomorrow we take the Sistine Chapel challenge and probably some other stuff we'll play by ear. Thanks for checkin' the blog. Hope all is well on your part of the globe.