A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: KandA2TT

Last Day in Europe

sunny 70 °F

By K: Tapestries, paintings, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, and a mint chocolate chip, mango, and lemon flavored ice gelato. These are all things that represent our last day in Rome, last day in Europe, and the last day in our trip. Once we got up and got washed, we went down to the lobby of our hotel, where we called for a taxi (like always). We took the taxi to a church near the Vatican walls, where we were supposed to meet our tour guide, and walked from there to a cafe for breakfast. After our breakfast, we finally met our tour guide. She took us to the Vatican entrance, where we were first in the tour guide line. There was a special line for tour groups; groups got a special entry time. We got to go in at 8:00 AM, whereas other people that weren't tour groups went in at 9:00. We went inside and through security. Then we rushed to get inside the Sistine Chapel. We wanted to get there early because later, as we were told, it gets very crowded. We walked around the chapel a bit, and then we went to the photo gallery. We were trying to get to Caravaggio's artrwork, but we saw some other tapestries and Raphael Rooms. We even saw a long hall with busts of gods and goddesses and human beings. One of the busts even had the color of its eyes still painted on there! (which is very rare for a bust/sculpture) After visiting the pieces of artwork and getting a bite to eat, we went to Saint Peter's Basilica. The paintings and sculptures are amazing, and we also saw where St. Peter was burried, along with many Popes.
After eating lunch, we set of for the Roman Forum. It had worn down buildings and what looked like brand new stone roads (even though they were made in as early as 7th century B.C.). Then we went to the Colosseum. We had three tour guides for that. The first told us about the gladiators, their training school, and more. He also told us the scedule at the Colosseum back then:

Morning-gladiator(s) fight animals
Noon-Lunch (bought, brought, or distributed by the Emperor)
Afternoon-gladiators fight each other and/or animals

The second tour guide took us down to a place where special entry is permitted-where the animals and gladiatos were lifted on the 'arena'. She showed us the one-way path they took the animals through and told us that they didn't feed the animals for two or three days so that they were starved and hungry when they went out to the arena. It made the show much more 'action-packed' to the Romans.
The third guide, our guide, took us up to the third level of the Colosseum, where, again, special entry is permitted, to look at where the seats used to be.
After going to the Colosseum, our guide took us to the Pantheon . The Pantheon is a Roman temple dedicated to their twelve gods. There is a giant hole on the ceiling to let sunlight in and to tell time (like a sun dial). And if it rains, like it did today, the floor gets wet, but the floor does have drains for the water. We concluded our last day in Europe by eating gelato (3 scoops!) and having dinner (yes, we did have gelato before dinner). As our time in Eurpoe is ending, just as everything in the world must, we thank God for a wonderful trip and hope for a safe flight home. Bye Europe!
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Posted by KandA2TT 05:18 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Home Sweet Home

semi-overcast 70 °F

By K and A: Well, we're back home now and we do miss Europe, but now, being back at home, we're glad to be back. We're starting to think that maybe a two month vacation wouldn't be very fun after all. We still have a lot to go through and loads of clothes to wash. We really enjoyed the trip though. We learned a lot about Greek & Roman history and Christianity from its early days through the Renaissance, and we got to see a lot of churches, houses, castles, and many more. What was really enjoyable was learning about the Statue of David and how it's more than just a man standing. Our guide told us that Michaelangelo was trying to say something when he made the statue and now we get it. Overall, we think this was definitely a tiring, long trip, but at the same time, a remarkable, memorable summer vacation.

Posted by KandA2TT 05:16 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Rolling with the Punches... Again

By A: Today we had to get up at 5:15! I'm starting to think that once we get back home, since we've been waking up at 5:15 every day, I won't be able to sleep until everyone wakes up at 6:00 because I'm so use to waking up early. After we got ready for the day, we had to go down to the lobby to catch a taxi to get to the train station. Once we got off the train, we had to walk to the place where we were to meet our tour guide. Our mom had to ask her if K and I could sit in the front because, as you probably remember from one of the other entries, "Drive Everywhere", I thew up because I was in the back seat and the roads were really curvy. Our first stop was Sienna where we met the tour guide, Adele, that spoke English. After everyone introduced themselves, we started walking down the streets to get to the oldest banking business in Italy from the 13th century that is still in business. Next, we went to the Piazza Salimbien palace from the 15th century that is decorated with busts of famous men like Leonardo da Vinci, Michaleangelo, etc. Then, we had to walk a little bit but eventually we made to the community church. Downstairs, they have the "Museum of Victories" where they display all the trophies, tapestries, armor, weapons, and more that they get from horse races and other things. After that, we went to the cathedral. It's so big because they kept on expanding. The Baptistry was located on a slope of one of the city's main hills. However, when cathedral was expanded, they covered over the Baptistry so that it is part of the cathedral. In 1348, the Black Death spread through Europe killing almost 2/3 of population. That's when the Cathedral expansion stopped. Next, our tour guide told us that a long time ago, Sienna had more than 100 towers built by rich families to show their wealth, but now there is only one left. When we were walking to the square where we were supposed to meet the other groups to get onto the bus to go eat lunch, Adele told us that in Sienna there are 17 districts and in each one they all have to take care of local roads, elderly, churches, etc. Each person gets put into a group. Sons of "mixed" marriage adhere to their father's district while daughters follow their mother. Once our tour with Adele was over, we had an hour and a half to get lunch and shop for souvenirs. After that, we had to load the bus and we headed off for San Gimignano. Once we arrived at San Gimignano, we had another hour and a half to walk around the village and enjoy the scenes. Then it stated to pour down rain on us so we had our umbrellas up the whole time. It gets worse though. Mommy and Daddy were talking with the guide and found out the tour ended at 7:00 instead of 5:30. The problem was that we had already bought tickets to ride first class on a train back to Rome at 7:04. So, we tried calling the train station, but couldn't get through. We eventually decided that if we didn't make it on time we would just have to buy tickets for the next train to Rome. We had to get back on the bus to go back to Florence. On the way there, we had to stop by a shop to do some wine tasting, but my family stayed in the car with a couple of others, too. They were taking forever to get back, but eventually they did and we were on our way to the train station. I was so happy when we made it there with 15 minutes to spare, so we bought some pizza for dinner. Once we got onto the train, we got settled in our seats. I have to say, the bathrooms were pretty nice for a train and thay were very spacious, too. When our train arrived in Rome, I was a little sad because that was the last train we were going to take for a long time. Then we took a taxi back to our hotel. Tomorrow is our last full day here in Europe. Still, I'm ready to get back home!

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Posted by KandA2TT 11:07 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Italy All Along

sunny 75 °F

By K: Waking up at 5:15 has become less difficult since we do it a lot. Today, after getting dressed, we went to the lobby of our hotel and called for a taxi. The taxi took us to the train station where we got on our train to Pisa. When we got there, we met our tour guide. She took us to see churches, shops, streets, and old buildings. Then she took us to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We took some pictures of us 'holding' up the tower (which is much harder than it seems) and put our bags in a locker room. We finally got in the line to go up to the top. The steps are not as steep as they seem, and the walk is much shorter than expected. Once we made it to the second floor, we had to come right back down. Unfortunately, we couldn't go to the very top because we had a train to catch. We walked back down and went to the taxi stop, where there were no taxis! We ended up walking for 30 minutes all the way back to the train station. We missed our train ride to Florence, but, fortunately, we were able to ride the next train. We made it to Florence, where we met our other tour guide. He took us to see more churches, shops, and Micheal Angelo's sculpture, the Statue of David. He told us that the statue represented 3 things: balance, physical beauty, and moral beauty. Then we went back to the train station. On our way back to the station, we saw the abandoned building where they believe Mona Lisa was buried. This building used to be a church where Mona Lisa's daughter became a nun. They also found 6 other bodies and began trying to figure out which bones were Mona Lisa's bones. This project has been going on for a year and a half. Hopefully they will find out soon!

We got back to the hotel and got dressed for bed. Tomorrow, we will be back to Florence... again!

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Posted by KandA2TT 10:45 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Drive Everywhere!

By A: Yesterday was our first full day in Rome (or as the Romans call it "Roma"). We had to wake up at 6:15 and catch our car to drive to Pompeii. The car ride was about 2 and a half hours long. Once we got there, we met our tour guide, Alessandra, and started our 3 hour tour of Pompeii and the lost city they found.
We started our tour on the roads that led to the city center. Once we got there, our guide told us about the gymnasium where the gladiators were trained to fight and where they were chained to the walls so they couldn't escape. In case you didn't know, gladiators were slaves who fought with other gladiators for wealthy peoples entertainment and slaves were not even considered people; they were considered to be "talking tools". Archaeologists know that the gladiators were chained to the walls because they found the skeleton of one (he had a chain belt around him) whose master fled and forgot about unlocking him when Mount Vesuvius exploded. After that, we went to the merchant street where we saw how they made their bars and the lines in the ground where they would put their newly made wooden sliding doors. We got to se the crosswalks of their time which were big stones that were put across the street so you could cross without getting your feet wet. After Alessandra showed us the street, we went to look at a rich merchants house. You would think that a big house back then (and we're talking 60 AD) would be about the size of a normal house today, but let me tell you this house was by far bigger than most houses today. Inside we got to see the bedrooms, Roman bath, dining room, the impluvium which collects rain water to wash things with, and more. When we were looking in one of the rooms, there was a glass case filled with skulls, pelvises, and bones of skeletons! Our guide told us that these were the bones of 7 thieves who wanted to find the treasure in the house, so in a 3 to 4 hour pause during the explosion, they made a hole in the wall to get inside. What they didn't know was that there were all those poisonous gasses and things in the air that once they went inside, they died. Alessandra told us that the owners of the house were very lucky because at the time of the explosion, the house was under reconstruction. In about 62 AD, 17 years before the explosion, there was a big earthquake that damaged the house so they had to fix it up. Fortunately, the owners were not living there at that time. Once we were done looking at the house, we set off again to look at more places. One of them was the public gym where there was a pool with cold water, a big field for spots like volley ball or track, and a steam room. The steam room was interesting because it was clever the way they made it work. There were holes in the walls for the steam to come through, and the floor was built higher than the rest of the ground to keep it hotter. Inside the gym, we saw the casts of two men dying from suffocation. After that we walked around a little and saw more casts of bodies like the man with his donkey, and a pregnant woman. Once we made our way back to the car, we bought some souvenirs and lunch. Then we had to drive to a little medieval village with cute little shops and restaurants. It started raining when we were walking around, but that didn't stop us from seeing the big stair cases going up and down so many times and in so many different places. We had to get back in the car after that, and I was starting to feel sick. My head was pounding and my stomach felt like it could explode. So we pulled over in front of a little hotel. Once I got out, I couldn't help it, I threw up on the side walk three times! The owner of the hotel was really nice and he gave us a plastic bag and napkins. After that, we got back to the car and drove back to Pompeii. There, we had to say goodbye to Alessandra and set off again for our hotel. Once we got back, I was so happy because I still felt sick. Then we went to our room and got ready for bed. I can't wait because our next stop is Pisa!
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Posted by KandA2TT 22:06 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Surprises, Surprises

overcast 63 °F

By:K and A: Well, today was an interesting day. When we got up, we had to pack up our things and meet our driver, who took us to the train station. Once we got to the station, we went to the McDonald's and had breakfast. When we were done eating, we sat at our table for a while, because we had about one hour before our train to Rome would leave. While we were sitting, we decided to look at our train tickets. After looking at them, our dad realized that our tickets said that our train left at 7:39 AM, when the conformation email said that our train was supposed to leave at 8:35 AM! We then realized that the 7:39 train had left 30 minutes ago. To get things straight, we went to the information desk. But, to make things worse, when we were in the information line, one of our big plastic bags broke, and all of our food came out. Luckily, most of our food was in containers, so we just picked them up. The only problem was that our giant water bottle spilled, and all of the water got on the floor! We didn't have time to wipe it up, so we just left the mess there. When we got to the information stand, our mom was so frustrated that she was about to cry. The information guy was so kind and gave us new tickets for free in the first class cabin, where we originaly had our seats, for the 8:35 AM train. We thanked him dearly and made our way to our platform and waited for our train. Then we found out that our train was going to be delayed for 15 minutes. We decided to make ourselves useful and went to ask a guy where the first class cabin was going to be. He said it was at one end of the platform, so we went there. We wanted to make sure that we were able to get onto the train and into our cabin as soon as possible, because the train was only going to stop for about three minutes. Then it would leave. We said that in the worst case, we would get on through the closest door and walk through the carts to our section, which is what we had to do. When the train arrived, we realized the man that told us where the first class cabin was, was wrong. The train came in, and we started running with our bags to get as close to the other end as possible. We ended up getting on the train in one of the second class cabin doors. Then we had to walk through the carts to get to our cabbin. Many times, we ran into people that were going the oppisite direction, and we would have to move to the side, which is very difficult on a train. Once we finally got to our seats, we sat back and enjoyed our three hour ride from Venice to Rome, Italy.

Once we made it to our hotel and put our things down, we took a taxi to the Spanish Steps, where we met our private tour guide, Mario. He was really funny and took us to see Piazza di Spagna, Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and Bernini's Four Rivers fountain. He wven taught us how to drink fresh water from the Roman Aqueducts and how to cross the street when there are no traffic signs for pedestrians. We had so much fun learning about the history of Rome and getting to answer some questions. After the tour, we were supposed to meet some friends, but we never did. Maybe next time. Tomorrow, we will be off for Pompeii. Who knows what's in store for us!

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Posted by KandA2TT 12:36 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Celebration!!!

I'm 10 now!!!

rain

By: A Today I turned 10 in Venice! How cool is that? We had a two hour tour and it was really cool to walk around the plaza and see all the churches, palaces, shops, restaurants, and many more. During the tour, we went to look at a couple of cool places like Marco Polo's house, the Royal Gardens, the Rialto Bridge, the San Marco Square, the prisons of the Doge's Palace, and more, as well. When we were walking around Venice, we had to walk through these narrow passageways, alleys, and on the shore of many canals where we got to see a funeral boat. After our walking tour was over, we had about 3 hours and 30 minutes to enjoy free time to eat lunch and to shop in the plaza before we started the water taxi part of the tour. While we were shopping, K and I got these really cute Mardi Gras masks that we can hang on the wall or put on a refrigerator. For lunch we had pasta and for dessert we had gelato. When we were eating our dessert, it started pouring rain on us! The worst part was that to get back to the Royal Gardens (where we had to meet our guide for the water taxi tour) you had to walk around the whole entire plaza which seems like a mile! I was wrong, it gets worse: while we where on the way back, we sort of got lost! So basically, it took about an hour to find our way back on track and to walk back to the Royal Garden. After that, we got on a water taxi to get back to the bus stop so we could get to our hotel. Before we got on the bus, we stopped by a cafè to get our dinner so we could eat it in our hotel room. Mommy said we can get a slice of cake or something tomorrow in Rome. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, tomorrow we have to get on a train to go to Rome. I can't wait to get to my dream city!

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Posted by KandA2TT 10:14 Archived in Italy Tagged venice Comments (1)

Trains to Venice

semi-overcast 69 °F

By K: Three-that's how many trains we had to get on and off to make it from Monte Carlo to Venice, Italy. We had to wake up at 4:00 AM to be downstairs in our hotel lobby by 5:00 AM because our chauffeur was there to take us to the train station. We got on our train and rode on it for about two and a half hours. Then we got off that train to get on our next train. We were on that train for about an hour and a half. After that, we got off and went to get on the last train. We rode on that train for about two and a half hours. When we arrived at the Venice train station, we met our driver. He took us to our hotel where we got settled in our room. Then we went to the bus stop and took a bus to Piazzale Roma, where we got a water-taxi. We took the water-taxi to the 'heart' of Venice and walked around the town. We went shopping, had gelato at Piazza San Marco, went on a gondola ride, and ate a pure Italian dinner to celebrate our parent's 20th anniversary. Then we took the water-taxi back to the bus stop and took the bus back to our hotel. We need a good night's rest because tomorrow, we will be walking and walking. We have a tour all day tomorrow, and there's so much to see. I keep telling my legs, "Prepare to be tired".
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Posted by KandA2TT 12:37 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Walk, Walk, Walk

overcast 60 °F

By K: Yay! My wish finally came true. Yesterday, at 9:30 AM, we were on the elevator heading to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. I've always wanted to go. Two years ago, we thought that we were, but we didn't. Last year, we were planning to go, but had to cancel because our mom got Breast Cancer. That was why we decided to wear pink today-to say that we made it and our mom was cancer-free. We walked around, took some pictures, and then took the elevator to the top floor of the tower. When we got up there, we saw our friends that had been waiting for us for about 30 minutes. We took some pictures up there and then went to the elevator to go to the bottom.
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After visiting the Eiffel Tower, we got on a train going to Versailles and met our private tour guide. He took us to grab a bite, and then we started walking to the Palace of Versailles. The Palace of Versailles (Chateau de Versailles) was built by King Louis XIV in the 17th century. He built it as a hunting lodge and to 'show-off' to his friends. We toured about 15 rooms. Each room had a painting with a Greek/Roman god or goddess on the ceiling, and we had fun trying to guess which god/goddess it was. Then we went to see the garden and Marie Antoinette's private house, called Petit Trianon. We also learned from the guide that Marie Antoinette was hated very much by the French people. During the Revolution, two of her best friends were beheaded before she was and she was shown the heads to make her suffer more prior to her execution. Overall, Versailles was bigger than I had expected, and we walked more than 4 miles!
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Posted by KandA2TT 12:24 Archived in France Comments (0)

All Day Tour

semi-overcast 65 °F

By K: Sleep...sleep...sleep. This word has been in my head all day long. We had to get up at 6:15 this morning, and even though that sounds like I would have gotten enough sleep, I didn't. We got dressed and went to the lobby of our hotel to eat breakfast. Then we met our tour guide, who took us to her van. We picked up another family and headed for a farmer's market where they had a cheese stand, olive stand, spice stand, meat stand, jam stand, honey and soap stand, vegetable stand, and many more. They even had a macaroon stand! After that, we went to Cannes where they were taking down things from the Cannes Film Festival and the premiere of "Despicable Me 2". The tour guide then led us to St. Paul-de-Vence (built in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 14th century). That was where we had lunch - Nutella crepes and a ham & cheese crepe followed by mint chocolate chip gelato (for me), bubble gum for my sister and melon for my parents. From there, we went to Eze where they had so many adorable shops in the old "walled" portion of the town. We also went to visit the perfume factory where they make their perfume with all types of flowers. Then we drove to Monte Carlo where we saw the Monte Carlo Casino and the Hotel de Paris. Hotel de Paris is where they filmed the movie "Monte Carlo", starring Selena Gomez. We ended our 10 hour tour by going to the Royal Palace of Monaco, where we saw the statue of Francis Grimaldi, the first ruler of Monaco in 1297 A.D. The flag on the palace was up, which meant that the prince was home. Unfortunately, we didn't see him because there were too many rooms in his palace (about 200) and we had to get back to the bus. However, we did see the royal guard patrolling the entrance. The bus dropped us back off at our hotel where we enjoyed dinner and talking about how much fun we had today! Next stop - Venice!
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Posted by KandA2TT 10:32 Archived in Monaco Tagged antibes cannes eze monte_carlo st_paul_de_vence Comments (1)

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