Saturday, June 13, 2015

Week #1 Recap

Hubby continues to do an amazing job of daily recaps with loads of pictures. So for the pretty stuff, that's where you will want to head first.

I'm sitting here in the carriage house,(or is it barn house?) of a restored country estate outside of Modena, reflecting on our first week in Europe. It's been a great trip thus far...sure some little hiccups along the way but nothing we can't sort out in some way.

 Speaking of sorting out, we were able to locate a power cord for Thing 1. It happened in a rather unplanned fashion. Both Hubby and I did a quick search of the Internet and found the cord to be product specific, so we had agreed to just let Thing 1 adapt. But then on Wednesday, we were headed towards the metro to go visit a museum (pushing the limits of being out in the heat of the day). We were greeted by a closed down metro line and it wasn't clear when they would re-open. Not sure how that worked in Italy, neither Hubby nor I were eager to wait around and discover the metro line either never reopened or broke down again once we were stuck on it with thousands of other tourists, locals and pick pockets (if there is such a thing in a big city she says with a sarcastic snicker).

As we headed back to the hotel, I spotted a computer store. Looked more like what a repair shop looks like in the US, but Hubby was able to ask if they stocked such an item. Sure enough, they did! Still not convinced it was the right product, I wanted to keep Thing 1 in the dark until we were sure we had a surprise for him. Thing 2 caught on rather quickly to what Hubby and I were looking for, and we all said that Dad was shopping for a tripod (another item left back home). I swear it wasn't until we handed the kid the bag with the cord in it, did he realize that he had his most precious souvenir...a source of power for his laptop.
See what I mean about things sorting themselves out?

Eating: Yes, we've enjoyed some fine meals and some less than fine meals. We all agreed our first meal in Italy was a bit of a bust. We broke those cardinal travel rules of picking a place close to the tourist attractions, we were caught off guard by a waiter hovering in the side walk area, looking for that look of fatigue followed by hunger and after all was said and done, we can now tell you where to find probably Roma's toughest pizza crust near the Vatican!

As for the best meal, well, that depends on who ate what, where and when. My best of the week was at a small osteria in Pompeii (Osteria da Peppino)I had the most delicious seafood pasta. Thing 2 fell in love with the pizza and tiariamasu at a restaurant near our hotel at the Vatican (Borgo Nuovo). OK maybe it wasn't the food he fell in love with but rather the flirty Italian waitress, but hey it is often the setting that makes the meal memorable, right? Thing 1 has discovered the Pizza Diablo is spicy like a pepperoni and he tends to order this when given a chance. But his favorite I'd say was the discovery of fries at a take-away store not far from our hotel in Pompeii. As for Hubby, he's certain tonight's meal will be the best...when our friend Max, a native to this area, picks the restaurant.

Sleeping: So far, we've stayed in 3 types of lodging all with their own unique qualities. For the record, I used to book all of our stays. I really liked the platform they use for searching and reading reviews and their prices all seemed competitive with other sites. It is super convenient to have all our reservations located on one site, complete with maps and directions to each particular property type.
First place we stayed was the Borgo Pio apartment style hotel. In the heart of the Vatican area, we enjoyed a 2 bedroom apartment style room with a small kitchen area. The beds were comfortable, we all had plenty of space and I loved the proximity to the Vatican. The only thing missing was a sitting area to enjoy the outdoor space. But then again, it was rather warm so I doubt I would have used it. This complex was very popular with student study groups: I saw many American college coeds in the building, coming and going with their instructors. Wherever they were from, their mamas would be pleased to know how well behaved they were, and kind to their instructors. My guess and assumption is they were studying something to do with either religion or Renaissance art, probably with a steep price tag, and not your typical "party-hardy" college crowd given the location and the fact they called their teacher "Father". I later overheard two of the instructors talking. The father had been a professor at Gonzaga but this summer is with a "group of Presbyterian" students and the female professor was from University of North Florida (or something in that combination). That's about all this nosey neighbor was able to pick up on (Yes, Mrs. Kravitz has gone international!)
When we visited Pompeii, we stayed at a lovely hotel called Hotel Diana. Backing up a bit, finding lodging in Pompeii was tricky. Almost all the guide books suggest making Pompeii a day trip and staying in nearby Naples or even just taking a day trip from Rome. Given it's proximity to the Amalfi coast, yes, it was easy to see how nobody really spends the night in Pompeii.

So while It took some digging, I must that I did uncover quite the gem at the Hotel Diana. It has recently been refurbished and has so many nice little qualities that will result in me giving it a very high rating (once I get a chance). From the English speaking staff, to the adorable bunk beds that really made the room spacious enough to accommodate a family of 4 (for the record, European hotels are such that they don't usually feature the bed configuration we are used to in the states). There was a very pleasant garden courtyard with bar service (where yes, I enjoyed an evening glass of vino). The hotel included breakfast and had a good assortment of European style treats (bread, rolls, prosciutto, along with sweet snacks and fresh fruit). The cappuccino was perfect.

And now we are at our 3rd spot outside of Modena. In my searches for lodging, I had two consistent criteria: parking and free wi-fi. Parking as we have a rental car, and many places in historical centres are traffic restricted and the Internet is critical not only for us to stay connected, but more importantly, Hubby is expected to be working during the week day hours of 1600-2300. Telecommuting to the states requires internet access.

So with these two items being a priority, I was intentional in trying to find some diverse lodging. We've got hotels in the states, let's show the Things what other options are out there. I stumbled across an interesting place, and I'll be 100% honest when I say I was sold on the first picture they featured: vintage motorcycles. If you've ever met the Hubby, well, you know that's all it really took for me to make sure the other criteria were met and we were staying here at La Corte dei Sogni.
Bonus features are that we have the carriage house pretty much all to ourselves, with close proximity to the towns of Modena and Bologna. It is by far the biggest cultural experience for us as the hosts (?caretakers or owners, we are not sure) speak very little English. But hey, isn't that part of the experience?

Two things that we all have remarked one: Italian showers are a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Water pressure is strong, adjustable features, heck, this "farm house" shower has 3 different nozzles depending on whatever body party you want to target. And the beds: so firm that if we were Goldilocks, we'd be in search of something different, and yet, we get a great night's sleep on these ultra firm beds. Maybe the 6-12 miles I"m forcing the guys to walk each day may be a factor, but really, if I was shopping for a bed, I'd say the beds were too firm but now I"m re-thinking that line of logic.

Sights: I asked the gang at lunch today what was their favorite sight or event for Week 1. Thing 2 was the first to chime in with a smirk and a giggle. While wandering the shops in the Tuscan Hill town of Montepulciano, he founds some curiously shaped pasta. I'd like to say they were factor defect "dog bone" pasta, but alas, I fear I'd be just spinning a tale. Heavy sigh...but after all he is a teenage boy. Thing1 was less able to quickly identify one individual event or feature. He seems rather interested in a host of things, but he is also most appreciative of this custom called Siesta. In fact, my guess is he's sound asleep right now...the heat of the day, the best thing to do is to take a little nap. Hubby indicated he is pretty impressed with the churches, with the Basilica of St. Peter to be his favorite. Sistine Chapel didn't really do a lot for him thus far.

 For me, I was impressed with the Basilica as well. So impressive and ornate and to hear the choir singing during mass as I stood up on the dome, well, yes, that is indeed a highlight. Another favorite has been just sitting outside, sipping the vino and appreciating what a precious gift this trip is for me in have my family here, together, minimal bickering and maximum bonding time has indeed helped make this the trip of the lifetime.

1 comment:

Andy & Laura said...

Lovely recap. I'd agree, sharing this experience together as a family is priceless. I'm so happy for you all and the opportunity you have to take this grand adventure. I'm glad to know that you're making the most of it and are enjoying it all.