Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Heading Home

It's a bit sad to be at the end of such a grand adventure. We are however looking forward to our family and friends and even Washington. Each of the areas we've visited have been such different experiences. First to blitz around Rome and pack in the main sites we had to include, then on the the Ahhh Cruise ship. We kept an extremely busy schedule but were taken care of all along the way and it was so nice to head back to our ship home and be pampered. We saw so many grand places in such a short amout of time and the cruise is the only way to accomplish that. It was a bit hard to get off the boat and haul all of our stuff around, much we didn't need any longer (dressy bits) and all the trinkets we bought along the way. We were just plain spoiled and a suggestion to any thinking about something like this, do it the other way around. We did get into the swing of things after a few days and enjoyed the different pace, one we set. We managed to plan out where to go and what to see all by ourselves. You may think thats a no-brainer but it's difficult after the cruise, as these people really have this down and make it so simple. We loved Italy, but were ready to leave. I couldn't look at another cold cut & cheese breakfast and finally had my fill of panini and pasta. London was a nice change. Great morning breakfasts, cooler temps and I could actually understand what was being said, however I hear lots of languages spoken all the time. We spent one day racing from attraction to attraction, then another at a more relaxed pace. Our hotel is in a very "posh" neighborhood or so our driver said. It' is very conveniently located and we were able to take the "tube" all over the city. For all you Food TV fans, we throughly enjoyed Jamie Oliver's restaurant, FIFTEEN. Everything was delicious and new to us. Last night we wandered the streets made famous by "Jack the Ripper". Unfortunately many of the buildings are no longer there but we stood on the places where the girls were murdered and saw horrific pictures of the bodies taken at the morgue - very disturbing. Time to head off the airport, we'll see ya soon.

Tom & Heidi

Monday, August 07, 2006

london, england

I hauled Heidi all over London today. We purchased a day pass and went to Parliment/Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Tower of London. I am here working on the blog when Heidi is Off to Harrods to inspect the local purchasing power of the US dollar, or lack thereof.

We are off to Jaime Oliver's resturaunt for dinner tonight. It should be fun.

Here are some pics of merry old England.

Will post more later.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Montilacano pics and Cortona

I am trying to post some pics that we could not get to go through in Montilacano. We are currently in Merry Old England. We have high speed here at the hotel. Heidi and I got in about 3pm local time and got to the hotel around 4pm. We went to a pub and had a couple of pints and some good pub food. We then took the tube to Hyde park and walked over the Buckingham Palace. Tomorrow we will purchase an all day pass to the Tube and look at all kinds of places, ie: the London Tower, the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Parliament and Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, etc...

Oh, by the way the top right picture is of a specialty dish I had in Tuscany. It was displayed on the Menu as a Fiasco.

I later found out that it was Boars Testicles. Wow, was I surprised.

Will update you more later.



Saturday, August 05, 2006

Last night in Italy

How sad, this is it for Italy and tomorrow early am we head to Rome for our flight to England and some different adventures. Today we had breakfast at our lovely hotel. It's a little like a castle at the entrance to Montalcino which is like all these other hilltop towns, stone forts. It must have been a home at one time but converted into lovely rooms. I have fallen in love with the windows and will hopefully someday have them in our home. The front desk lady reminds Tom of some of the sisters he had back in the days of Catholic school, but I'll let him tell you about that.

After a quick bite this morning, we got on the road to Cortona, made famous by "Under the Tuscan Sun". Actually it is very like most of the other hilltop towns. There was an outdoor market going on so we enjoyed shopping for some special Tuscan treasures and enjoyed a delicious lunch on the piazza. We're certainly enjoying the cuisine. The drive back to Montachino was so beautiful. There are miles of sunflowers as far as you can see. I've tried to capture on a photo but I'm sure it doesn't do it justice. Back in Montachino and we find it's a ghost town. Even the grocery store outside of the village is closed. They take this siesta thing seriously. We were forced to do the same. After a nap, something we're getting pretty used to, we tried to find some dinner. The opening times after siesta seem to be mearly suggestions. Eventually we found an open establishment and enjoyed our last meal here. We're now at a cute internet cafe enjoying a cappuchino.

Tom here:

I find it very difficult to leave Italy. It seems to have everything a person could want. However, I don't think I could work here. Lets just say their work times seem a little lax. Anyway, not my style.

Sister Basil seems a little terse at the front desk. The real Sister Basil was a fairly strict disciplinarian. This lady is like Sister Basil on a bad day. We were at breakfast this morning when a family from California came down to the breakfast room and requested that they have their breakfast on the patio. "Sister Basil" was somewhat annoyed by this request and made several gutteral noises to express her lack of enthusiasm. We walked in at 8:20 AM and found her just getting the breakfast out. She looked at us and told us to move from the table we were sitting at to another table. We complied, begrudgingly. She then told the next people walking in behind us that it would be another 5 minutes prior to breakfast. Please keep in mind that Breakfast is advertised as 8AM.

Anyway, I was thinking of asking her to haul down our bags to the car this evening. We only have 6 of them and it is only 30-40 steps down to the car. She seems to have a strong back, I think she can handle it.

Here's Heidi:

We miss you all and look forward to a special "Italy" night to share pictures, video food and the wine we hope they'll let us cart home. We really are having a good time sharing this time together and hope you enjoy our attempt at keeping in touch.

Tom & Heidi

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cinque Terre Pics, Pt. 2

These photos are clockwise from the top are as follows:

The first photo is the first Cinque Terre town we visited, (something Al Mare), sorry I don't have it here in front of me. The second photo is of Christopher Colombus in Santa Margherita. He is from that area, we think he's from Portofino, which is right around the corner. If you don't already know, Chris was the second European to discover America after Leif Erickson.

The third photo is on the Amore walk from the first Cinque Terre town to the second. As you can see, we are getting a little burned out on the actual names of these places. For instance, we are writing this in an internet cafe in Montalicino, Italy. We are staying here tonight and tomorrow night. We are going to Cortona tomorrow to visit the town where "Under the Tuscan Sun" was made famous.

We drove from Cinque Terre today to Montalicino and only got lost once. My Italian is improving by the minute. Everyone I speak to has waited at least 1-2 minutes before laughing at me. This is better than the 30 seconds it took when I first arrived.

Heidi's Italian is stupendous. I am thinking of hiring her out as a translator. Her Grazia is right on the money. She uses it often and in the right circumstances.

I however, was using Prego too much and in all the WRONG CIRCUMSTANCES. Hence the quizzical looks and laughter. I am really cracking them up over here.

We will post a couple of pics from beautiful Montalicino and Cortona tomorrow.

Heidi and Tom(world traveller).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cinque Terre

We had to leave Florence and head to Santa Margherita Ligure, a beautiful little town on a harbor. It’s just north of Cinque Terre and a lovely spot to serve as a base for visiting the 5 towns. We took the train to the first one and actually walked from it to the second. Not a difficult hike and well worth the views out over the ocean, breathtaking actually. We were lucky as its been unbearably hot here as well as all of Europe, however today the weather changed and we were blessed with a slightly cool breezy day. The sea was churning so no boats to ferry between the towns, but that wasn’t a problem as we could take the connector train if we didn’t want the hike. I’ll try to download a few of the pictures we took along the way. Tonight’s our last night here and we head to southern Tuscany where we’ll venture to a couple of other hill towns like Cortona. We had dinner at a little restaurant amidst a lightning storm. One bolt hit very near us, I’ve never been that close to a hit before. There was a water spout swirling in the bay as well so we got quite a show with our dinner. We miss everyone and enjoy hearing from you when we get a chance to connect. We never know what the next hotel’s capabilities will be. We’re enjoying all the new places we get to see, however hopping from hotel to hotel is not nearly as nice as plopping ourselves on that fabulous cruise ship to be taken all over and catered to. We really suggest doing the reverse if any of you plan a combo trip in the future.

Love to all,

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

tuscany tour

Today in Florence was an exhausting yet marvelous day. We started early, about 8:30 a.m. when we met our guide and one other couple for a small group tour of Tuscany. The five of us were a bit packed in a small car, mostly what they have here. We were off on the scenic route to San Gimignano. They promised spectacular views of Tuscany and a delicious lunch, both were correct. The winding curves took us up to the charming town. San Gimignano shouldn’t be missed if coming to this area. After a stroll with our guide we had about an hour to shop and look around. We were then taken to a wine estate/villa which has been in this family’s ownership for 70+ years and is still producing several wines and olive oil. Here we enjoyed a relaxing few hours eating and drinking some incredibly delicious dishes. We’ll try to post a picture of the table. We took pictures and video so hopefully we can try to re-create the feast at home. We were given a lesson on tasting wine and enjoyed the families own varieties of White, Chianti, Vino da Tavola – wine made from raisins and served with a special dessert biscotti and of course a shot of Grappa after that. After a bit of conversation and relaxation, we continued onward to Sienna, another hilltop town but much larger. This is where the annual horse and flag competition his held, the Palio. There are 17 districts – Contradas, which compete each year to be the best. We had another hour here to enjoy the shops and surroundings. We made it back to Florence at around 6:00 p.m. and were ready for a rest. These towns are build on hills so it’s a lot of climbing up and down just walking around the cobblestone streets. We are having some difficulty posting pictures. Not sure if we’ve exceeded our limit on the blog or just this hotels internet connection. We’ll keep writing and enjoy reading your comments along the way.

Love to all,