Sunday, May 25, 2008

Athens

The Parthenon

Reini is soaking up a view of the Parthenon in her sweet 6 euro sunglasses.

The Temple of Hephaestus
Cine Paris movie theater
Tomb of the Unknown Warrior (sweet outfits!)

The first Olympic stadium

After a week relaxing in the islands, we had two busy days sightseeing in Athens. We have seen Ancient Agora, the Parthenon, Mars Hill, The National Archaeological Museum, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the original Olympic stadium, and we even made it out to the beach. All of these sights were amazing! It was breathtaking to stand at these monuments that were made over 2500 years ago. It is awe inspiring to think that the Parthenon has stood over the city of Athens through countless generations. From almost any street, we could see the Acropolis looking down over the city.
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Saturday night we decided to take a break from sightseeing and shopping to watch the new Indiana Jones movie (in English with Greek subtitles). The theater was outdoors on the roof of a building with a fantastic view of the Acropolis. It was a date night we will never forget!
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Sadly, the never-ending trip is coming to an end. We spent our final evening in Greece sitting on the top of Mars Hill with a view of Athens and the Acropolis. Tomorrow night we will find ourselves back at home with memories that will last forever.

Skiathos



Floating dock that broke.

After five days of sailing, we had Thursday and Friday to explore the island of Skiathos on our own. (This island is were the movie Mama Mia was filmed).
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Thursday morning we were rudely awakened by the sound of the neighboring sailboat crashing into our boat. We jumped out of bed and found that the chains holding the two piers together broke. The other boat was tied to the floating pier and it had began to drift away, swinging its bow into the side of our boat. The damage was minimal, but the workers had to spend several hours repairing the dock.
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After our early morning, we spent the rest of the day resting on the beach. It was very relaxing.
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The following day we rented a Jeep and explored the island. About half of the roads on the island are unpaved and lead to little beaches with only a few people on them. It was great to venture through this beautiful island.
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Over the last week on little Greek islands, we have grown to love the Greek people. They are so kind and hospitable. Two workers at a restaurant on Skiathos would always yell out to us as we walked by, "Hey Americans!" We love it here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ahoy!

Skipper Jared!
Dolphin!

We're official.... we're skippers!
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We flew to the island of Skiathos to take a sailing course through the neighboring Greek Isles. The course was designed to give us the skills and abilities we need to handle a boat on our own. We were often reminded by our British instructor, "You are on a course, not a holiday." His words rang true each day as we were focused on learning from sun up to sundown. Nonetheless, we still had a marvelous time laughing with our three British classmates. After 5 intense days, we can now charter a sailboat in any part of the world!
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On our last day of sailing, several dolphins swam right next to our boat. Two of them followed us for a while and even came right up to the bow of the boat to check us out. They would swim from side to side on the bow of the boat and were about 3 feet from the side of the boat at one point. It was amazing!
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Sorry about the lack of pictures. The Greek Islands are absolutely beautiful, but the great pictures are on the other camera...

Friday, May 16, 2008

A YUMMY taste of Greece!

The first gyro...
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We are in Greece! We have only spent a few hours here, but we quickly fell in love with the people, food, and way of life. We are esctatic for our sailing portion of our trip! We most likely will not be able to keep you updated for the next week, seeing that we will be going from island to island, but when we get back to Athens, we will give you the full report!
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Hope all is going well back at home! Thanks for the comments, they are a lot of fun to read! Mom- I can't wait to see the guinea pig... what a great Mother's Day present! Ev is so thoughtful!

Tivoli


The "Hundred Fountains."







Today we went to Tivoli, which is right outside of Rome. It was a lot of fun and a great way to end this portion of our trip. We visited Villa D' Este. It once was a mansion owned by a cardinal, who installed water fountains throughout his gardens. These fountains were created in the 1500's and are all run by natural water pressure. They were absolutely breathtaking! We felt like royalty walking around...



When in Rome...


In front of the Colosseum.

The Trevi Fountains.


Before I get started, let me tell you all that this is coming from Jared.
We had 3 crazy days in Rome. We came into Rome late Monday night. Tuesday morning we had to get up and return the rental car to the train station in central Rome. The traffic was a nightmare and we were more than ready to give the car back and get back on our feet.
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We spent Tuesday seeing the Colosseum, The Forum, Capital Hill Museum, and the Parthenon. The Colosseum wall was visible from the exit to the subway before we even walked out the door. It was incredible to finally see it! It is such an icon of Rome. How many history books is it on the cover of? And we were there! Similar feelings of awe followed us through the other sites we visited that day.
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When we went to tour the Capital Hill Museum, we were told that I needed to check my camera bag. And no, I could not carry the camera with me. So, I handed over the bag with $4,000 worth of Mike's camera equipment and we entered into the museum. Within the first room it was soon obvious that I was the only one touring the museum that day who was not allowed to carry his bag. Everywhere we looked people had bags larger than mine and people not only had cameras out, but they were taking pictures! I began to worry about the security of the camera. Also, it was rather annoying because the museum exit was in a different location than the entrance, so we would have to walk all the way back to the entrance at the end of the tour to gather the bag. I decided that I wanted my bag back. We returned to the bag check. When I requested my bag back, I was asked if I was finished touring. I said no, but that I wanted my bag back. They said, "Impossible!" I said, "Have you ever walked through this museum? EVERYONE has bags and cameras!" The guy grabbed my bag off the shelf and said, "FINE!" and slammed the camera bag back on the counter. Then, we continued our tour.
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While we were touring the museum, we found a room that was closed, but you could still see inside. We looked inside and saw two armed police with automatic riffles on tripods. In one synchronized motion, they both picked up the guns, placed the tripods on the window seal and aimed the guns out the windows. We were panicked! None of the friendly museum staff would tell us what was going on. Finally, we decided there must be someone special coming and this was the added security. We exited just in time to watch the President (or whatever the number one guy in Italy is called) of Italy pull up and enter the museum. So, it turns out that I very aggressively demanded to take my large heavy bag into the museum at the same time the president was scheduled to arrive. And they LET ME!
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Day two in Rome:

Today, we saw the Pope! This event was just as unplanned. We walked into the Vatican and there were thousands of people standing at the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. Within minutes the Pope-Mobile arrived. It was neat to see him give his speech to the crowd. While this was a pilgrimage for many, it turned in to long lines for us. Oh well, how often do you get to see the Pope?
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After the Pope, we saw the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. Both were amazing! We climbed to the top of the Basilica and had a fantastic view of the city.
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Tonight, we did a night walk through Rome as recommended by Rick Steves. It took us past various squares, the Trevi Fountain, The Pantheon, and the Spanish Steps. While we were at the Trevi Fountain, we realized that we were going to miss the train back to our hostel. We tried to return via bus, but after being driven all over Rome (including some very scary neighborhoods) we found ourselves back at the exact bus stop we started from. Yes, we had taken 45 minutes to go nowhere! It was now past 1:00am. We finally gave up and caught a taxi for $40.
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Our third day will be covered in a separate post by Reini. Thanks for listening!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cinque Terre and Pisa

The City of Vernazza.
The view from the hiking trail above Vernazza.
Entering the city of Monterosso Al Mare.
In front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I just love this picture, so I had to post it...

We spent yesterday at Cinque Terre, located on the Mediterranean. What a beautiful place! Cinque Terre means "5 cities," each city can be reached by foot, train, or ferry. We stayed in Vernazza and took a two hour hike to the neighboring city, Monterosso. We fell in love with the quaint town and incredible views. We felt right at home because we were by the ocean...

Today we saw Pisa. It was fun watching everyone taking the classic picture of holding the tower up. Of course, we took that picture too, but it is on the other camera. Afterwards, we drove to a secluded city, where we were the only tourists. It was nice to see what Italian life is really like. AND when you visit a place not populated by tourists, the gelato is DIVINE!!! They topped the ice cream off with a heavy cream.... it really was a little piece of heaven. You would have loved it mom!

Sad News

"The Butterfield Babies," (our fish) as Asha calls them, have passed away. Only 7 out of 18 are living. We found out the news this evening. We are really sad, seeing that they have been with us for a few years. They were just as much a part of our family as our cat is. Our much loved Gordon (the big blue one that stole everyone"s heart), was also included. We will sure miss them...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bon Journo Florence!

Standing outside of the Duomo.

As close to "David" as we could get with a camera, seeing that we could not take pictures in the Accademia of the real "David."


Jared enjoying the beautiful view after our picnic.



The stunning view from the city overlook.




Today was wonderful! We started our day early and ended it late. We saw "David" this morning; I loved watching Jared. He was overwhelmed by the masterpiece. We then visited the Duomo, baptistery, and the Orsanmichele Church. After our walk through the city, we grabbed a yummy Italian sandwich and gelato and were on our way to the Ufizzi gallery and the Palazzo Vecchio.
Tonight we went to a local grocery store and made our way to the city overlook, the Piazzale Michelangelo. What stunning views! Jared was in his element being the photographer with the "nice" lens, thanks to Mike. I enjoyed watching the locals and taking in the scenery. We watched the sunset on the steps of a monastery overlooking the city, while holding hands and falling more in love!

Friday, May 9, 2008

More from Venice!



View from the Rialto Bridge.





Beautiful flowers found in the Rialto Market.








One of the many times we stopped for delicious gelato!

Gondolas.

Attempt #2 at the blog... last night was rough seeing that it was late and we were being charged per minute. The trip thus far has been incredible! The first half of the morning was spent feeding the pigeons in the square and wondering the streets, looking for the perfect painting.

It was difficult leaving Venice. Both Jared and I fell in love with the magic and charm that is felt while walking through the streets of Venice. It was romantic being in this city with the one I love the most.

This afternoon, we took the train to Florence. We are staying in our first hostel.... what a fun experience! The rooms are darling, the internet is free, the manager is hilarious, and there is even a washing machine! We are looking forward to seeing David tomorrow and the other tourist sites.

We love and miss you all!





Thursday, May 8, 2008

CiaĆ² from Venice!


After a long 16 hrs, we finally made it to Venice! It has been wonderful roaming the streets with Jared, having more gelatos in a day than we should, and having tired feet at the end of the day. Wednesday, we took a boat down the grand canal and explored the streets of Venice. Today, we visited all of the tourist sites: St. Mark's Basilica, Bridge of Sighs, The Doge's Palace, The Frari Church, and Correr Museum. Tonight, we had dinner and were placed at a table in between two couples that spoke French. They were sitting only inches on each side of us and spent the night speaking French across our meal.... it was an experience we will never forget!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Arrivederci!


Jared and I thought this would be a perfect time to enter into the world of blogging, as we are leaving the country for three weeks. Tomorrow we are leaving to backpack through Italy and learn how to sail through the Greek Islands. We are estactic for this new adventure... we have talked about this trip since we met!


We will try to keep everyone updated as we explore the treasures of Italy and the beautiful beaches of Greece!