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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Orlando and Atlanta

We went to the Gaylord Palms resort in Orlando for the weekend before the sales meeting started. It was so nice to hang with the kids and Mike at the resort. We hunted for guitars in the hotel (a gimmick they are doing) in the atrium, hung at the pool, played putt putt, and hung out. The kids also did the scavenger hunt through the hotel where they collected things like microphones (inflatable), stickers, tattoos, and a cute little bag.

The sales meeting was Sunday to Tuesday, and it was fun. Ironically, the Allscripts ACE conference was next to us. I saw a few people from the Misys days that I hadn't seen in a long time.

Tuesday, I flew out of the Orlando airport to Atlanta for a meeting. I got back late Wednesday night, and I was so proud that I actually found my car. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Back Home

This week, I flew to Boston for a work meeting, and while I was there I got to see Bill. We had lobsters at No Name, and then we walked around Faneuil Hall Market. We saw Durgin Park which is where PM officially began as we met Bill and Steve for dinner and they were up for a challenge. Seems like so long ago.

On Thursday, I flew to Atlanta for a different meeting. My flight was delayed from Boston to Atlanta, but Caron was nice and waited for me anyway. I didn't get to the hotel until after midnight, and then I had to be up at the crack of dawn. The morning didn't start off so well, and then I dropped the bag in the elevator, the banana fell into my cheerios splashing milk all over me, and THEN, the hook fell off my jacket forcing me to sew so early.

The meeting was over early, and I actually got to fly home early. :) Whew...TGIF is all I have to say about this week. Glad to be home and look forward to a fun weekend.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Change is Hard

I generally don't mind change, and in fact I often crave it. However, some change is just hard to wrap your head around. I am trying to focus the stress and frustration I have on getting back into shape. I am amazed at how much better I feel after working out. The body is an amazing thing.

Somehow, Morgan has talked me into taking her to the new Harry Potter movie that is at midnight (yes, that said Midnight). Since I haven't read any of the books and I have early meetings tomorrow, you can imagine how thrilled I am. Guilt over leaving tomorrow is probably the main reason I gave in. Guilt, stress, Guilt, stress...those seem to be the main things i feel...Nothing a good, hard workout can't make better (was that me who said that?).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mediterranean Cruise Pictures

For ease of access, I have been asked to put links to the pictures in one place. So, here they are...

Trip to Venice - June 22nd, 2009
Venice Day 1 - June 23rd, 2009
Venice Days 2 and 3 (Boarding the Ship) - June 24th, 25th, 2009
Dubrovnik, Croatia - June 26th, 2009
Corfu, Greece - June 27th, 2009
Argostoli, Greece - June 28th, 2009
Santorini (Oia, Fira), Greece - June 29th, 2009
At Sea Day - June 30th, 2009
Catania, Sicily - July 1st, 2009
Naples, Italy - July 2nd, 2009
Rome, Italy - July 3rd, 2009
Florence, Italy - July 4th, 2009
At Sea - July 5th, 2009
Barcelona, Spain - July 6th, 2009
Trip Home - July 7th, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Saturday, Hanging Out

Today was a pretty great day. I started the day with step class, and I ended the day at a party at Travis' house. In the middle, I took a nap (a short one but a nap still the same), and I went to a movie with Morgan and her friend Erica.



Step class rocks! I wish I could go to more of them. I might try to hit the Thursday one this week as well. They are fun, and they burn a LOT of calories. :)



We saw the Ice Age 3D movie. It was cute. I love 3D. There was a cute weasel named Buck, and the baby mammoth. There were lots of cute lines in the movie. Morgan had fun seeing her friend Erica.



We had a small gathering at Travis and Lisa's house last night. It was fun to hang with the Bond family (extended family of course). We had some good laughs remembering the early days of Clinician. It was nice to get in the hot tub and the pool with the kids. Morgan even got to swim in her waterproof cast. 3 weeks - 1 day remaining of cast drama.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yet another cast


Today, Morgan saw the orthopaedic doc for her foot. He said that it is a common place to fracture, and they put her in a cast. I was very impressed with the office. It was Pediatric Orthopaedics in St. Petersburg. Within minutes of sitting in the room, they had taken off her splint, x-rayed it, and the doc had seen her. They immediately took her to the casting room and applied a waterproof cast. At least she can go in the water swimming and can shower. Also, it is only 3 more weeks since she already had it on for 10 days.


Here is a picture of Morgan in her cast - shocker, it is pink.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Trip to Iowa


12 hours after getting home from the cruise, i left again for Iowa. It is difficult to be the location that follows Barcelona, so Iowa definitely was just not able to compare to Barcelona. :) After getting home, I unloaded suitcases in my room and did ONE load of laundry. My room looks like a bomb went off. Lots of work to do.

I was delayed on the way to lovely Des Moines (sorry, WEST Des Moines), but I arrived around 7. We went to dinner and had a great time joking and laughing around. Of course, this was after Travis backed up on the Interstate and scared Liz and I to death.

I am guessing that I should use some restraint and not talk about the happenings in Iowa, so I will just say that it was a very long day. I landed back in Tampa around midnight.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

HOME

This morning, we got up at the crack of dawn to head to the Barcelona Aiport. I thought Mom and Dad were being a bit cautious to suggest leaving at 7am. However, it turned out to be great timing. The Delta agent was pretty slow checking us in (although, we did have 7 bags!). Then, they brought a wheelchair to help Morgan through the airport.

Once we got through security, we waited for Grams, Papa, and Mark who were doing the VAT process(you can get the taxes back on things you buy if it is 120 Euros or more). We didn't see any shopping, so we went on through passport control. We got a bit to eat (and I got a tshirt), and then we went to the gate. Morgan got to board early, and it was great to get her settled, get the crutches put away, get her to the restroom, etc before everyone boarded.

This plane had the little TVs so we were excited. There were several people from the cruise on the flight. Morgan fell asleep right away, and I hated to wake her when they brought the food out. The TVs were having issues, and they had to reboot many times. Finally, they worked well.

We landed in Atlanta at 2:30 after having to circle 3 times due to storms in the area. We flew out of Atlanta at on a 4:25 flight that was about a half hour late. Morgan's foot was propped on my leg with her sleeping, so I crossed on leg to help balance myself. The lady in front of me insisted on leaning the seat all the way back. When she hit my knee as resistance, she just pushed harder. It hurt and was tacky, so I pushed back. She kept pushing back and I kept pushing with my knee. She called the flight attendant who told her not to lean back and told me not to kick the seat. I don't get why people feel they need to lean the seat back into your lap on an hour and a half flight - especially when there is a cast behind you and you are obviously causing issues behind you.

The service we used to take us and pick us up wasn't there, but they got there VERY fast. Props to Vereran's Limo service for getting the huge white van there so quickly. The cats seemed glad to see us. We get Sophie back early in the morning. Good night! Glad to be home!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday, July 6th, Barcelona, Spain














































Monday, July 6th, Barcelona, Spain









Pictures are HERE.





We were in the brown 4 group to get off the plane, so we met at 8:30 at Grams and Papa’s room. We had to leave the ship between 8:45 and 9:00, and we were right on time. It was a bit of a long walk to the baggage, and it had some uphill parts but Morgan did it all by herself.
Everyone got their baggage fairly quickly, but one of my bags didn’t come out for another 10 minutes. I was getting nervous, but then it came. We had a private tour today, and we met the guide outside of the baggage area. We were shocked to see that we had our own minibus – not a minivan, but a minibus. It had seats for around 30 people. J The funny thing was that we filled up the back with our luggage and had to put all the carry on stuff up front. J It was quite a sight.
We did a driving tour around Barcelona, and we stopped at a garden that had a beautiful view of Barcelona. Our guide, whose name I never did quite get, told us that the port area was a pretty icky place before the Olympics in 1992. When they hosted the Olympics, they refurbished and built all around the area to make it nice. Now, it is a popular spot for tourists and locals. We saw the twin towers like the ones that are in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, some strange but interesting pipe art, and a building that used to host bull fighting but is being redone as a mall. The bull fighting building was a beautiful red brick building with white stones offsetting the red brick. Very cool. We also saw some cool statues.

In the refurbished center area, the corners have buildings that slant in. It appears that the architect thought that every family would have a cable car to use and that having the slant would help others see oncoming traffic better. Over 150 years ago, he made a decision that is fantastic for cars without even knowing that cars existed. We also saw the balconies of the apartment buildings that were nicer on the 2nd level than the rest. The owners lived on that level and had a nicer balcony to show everyone where they lived. Also, they could sit outside and people watch or show off their new dress at that level. If they were high up, they couldn’t be seen. I had never really thought about the high floors of buildings being the best as a modern thing. The guide did a great job of painting the picture.

Next, we went to the Gaudi church. It was amazing to hear the story of this church that will end up taking between 120 and 140 years to build total. The story goes like this…A church was planned and designed. Then, they asked Gaudi if he would be the architect for the project. He said that he would on one condition. That condition was that he could completely change the plans and do exactly what he wanted. He also said that it would take 150 - 200 years to build his church. Even though they thought he was a bit crazy, they gave him the job. Knowing that he wouldn’t be alive for 200 years to oversee the project, he knew he had to be smart about the planning. He made plaster models of every part of the church. He did not worry about all of the statues and such as those were artistic pieces to him. He did describe the stories that he wanted told and gave guidelines such as 12 columns – one for each disciple and that the stained glass should help the church look like shelter in a forest with the top blue for the sky, the middle yellow and green for the leaves, and the bottom red and brown for the trunks. He left the details above that level of duty to the artists.

The outside of the church where we entered has fruit on poles on the left side, a Christmas Tree in the middle, and Four columns. It also has statues of many things that all have meaning. For example, there are two turtles out front that at first glance look the same. Then, you notice that one has short arms and one has longer arms and that the shells are different. The one is a land turtle and is on the part of Barcelona by land. The other is a swimming turtle that is on the side of Barcelona by the sea. Incredible details and stories everywhere.

Once we went inside, the columns on the inside look like trees made in stone. The have a long column that is based on geometry. The base of the column has 8 points in the structure, then it doubles to 16, then 32, then 64. By using “maths” as the guide said, the plaster could be built once and reproduced. Even if part of the plaster was missing, the math would give the proportions. In fact, there was a fire during a war that destroyed much of the planning done by Gaudi, but the project didn’t miss a beat when he was hit by a cable car crossing the street. Instead, they pieced together the plaster and could fill in the gaps. It is a long, painstaking process, but it has been possible. If the plans had been on paper only, they would have been eliminated.

The stained glass construction is just beginning, and only a few windows have been filled in. They are beautiful, and you can definitely see how the colors will help it look like a forest. With the stained glass and the tree like structures, the church was meant to represent a shelter to the congregation. It will seat 5,000 people and 800 choir or musical members. The inside of the church is slated to be finished this year and mass could actually be held there.

We saw where the front door will be once the buildings next to it are destroyed. There are still people living there now, but the buildings were built there AFTER the church was started when the people knew they would be eventually destroyed. The back of the church is amazing. It has been finished for a while, and Gaudi almost got to see it completely finished before he died. It has the story of Jesus depicted, and the artist really tried to pay a tribute to Gaudi when he did it. There is a statue that has a head modeled after a picture of Gaudi right before he died. Also, the heads on the horsemen look like the chimneys of an apartment he designed. He also did a puzzle where all the numbers add up to 33 which was Gaudi’s age when he started the church. No matter how you add in a diagonal, horizontal, vertical, corners, you will always get 33. Also, by each of the statues depicting a bible story, the verses are noted by the statues so that you can relate them. Simply amazing and beautiful. I can definitely say it is the most unique church I have ever seen, and it won’t be finished for 20 – 40 more years! I definitely would like to go back and see it once it is completed.

Another interesting note was that Gaudi used human models when working on the statues and structures he did make. For example, the trumpet players on the back were from a band, and he had them standing there with their trumpets for hours until he was satisfied.

Next, we went through the museum where you could see the original building sketch, some of the original plans and plaster models, and other such items. It was very interesting to see how it was all designed. There is also a picture of what the final building will look like. They still build everything in plaster multiple times increasing the size each time until the plaster is actual size. They don’t build it in stone until the plaster is an exact replica of what will be built.

After the church, we went the park that Gaudi designed. It was an amazing place that Morgan would have loved a lot more without crutches. Grams, Papa, Mike, Morgan, and I stayed in the middle level, but the lower level looked really neat too. The middle level has the world’s largest bench, and it is all made in tile. It was designed to be ergonomic, and it is very comfortable to sit on. Also, the benches are curved to enhance conversation instead of straight where you can’t see and talk to the person next to you easily.

Gaudi lived in a pink building in the park, but we didn’t go inside it. It was supposed to become a residential area, but it never caught on because it was too far from the city center. Mikeo, Tracy, Mark, and the guide went down to the lower portion and went back to where we started. We didn’t understand the plan, and we were waiting by the pink house. Finally, Mikeo came to get us, and we rushed to the bus as we were almost out of time. Morgan wanted ice cream (shocker!), and I rushed at got her the Cornetto (like the one we saw in Oia). However, she couldn’t eat it on the bus so she had three or four huge bites and then it was thrown away. L
To end the tour, we went back into the downtown area to see the two apartments that Gaudi did. You can spot them right away. His style is definitely interesting. Mike wondered if that is where the word Gaudy started…interesting.

The driver dropped us at our hotel – the Renaissance by the airport. We checked into our rooms, put on our bathing suits, and headed to the pool. It was quite a unique pool. It had lounge chairs that blew bubbles like a Jacuzzi, water massage jets that poured down, and shower sprays. The rotated through each one every 5 minutes or so. Morgan, Mike and I swam while Mark basked in the sun, and then Mike and Mark left and Mikeo and Tracy arrived. Morgan enjoyed being in the water without the splint, but I had to be her motor so that she didn’t hurt it. Mikeo and I raced to the end of the pool, but Mikeo cheated and grabbed my legs so that I wouldn’t kick his butt.

We planned to take the hotel shuttle into town, but apparently you have to leave at 6 to do that. Bummer. Grams and Papa decided to stay back, but the rest of us took a cab van into Barcelona for dinner at the 7 doors restaurant. It was really good. We had Iberian Ham and Cannelloni for appetizers, and paella for dessert. The Cannelloni was the best I have ever had, and I was wishing I had ordered it for dinner like Tracy did. The paella was good, but Papa’s is better.
After dinner, we packed and got ready for the next day, and then we pestered Grams and Papa in their room. Poor Papa was in bed wanting to go to sleep, but we laughed and told stories for a while. I don’t think any of us wanted the time to end. The vacation was fantastic, but spending time like that with my family was something we haven’t been able to do in a long time. I will cherish it forever. It was definitely the vacation of a lifetime. I am so thankful that Grams and Papa gave us such a tremendous gift.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday, July 05, 2009 – Sea and then Dock in Barcelona











Sunday, July 05, 2009 – Sea and then Dock in Barcelona








Pictures are HERE.

Today was basically an at sea day. We were sailing until 5pm when we docked in Barcelona. You could get off and go onshore today, but we decided to just stay on the ship for our last day and relax. We are staying in Barcelona tomorrow night, so we will see Barcelona tomorrow.

This morning, Mike and I participated in the “Deck for the Cure” walk which is Holland America’s spin on Race for the Cure. It was a 5K walk, but we went a little early and did the first 2 miles as a walk/run and then just walked the last 3.1 laps with the deck for the cure group. We got a cool shirt and pink bracelet to wear, and we got to exercise and do good at the same time.
After the Deck for the Cure, we raced upstairs to shower. We then raced to breakfast where I shoveled in some cheerios. We had a 10:30 appointment for a “Ladies and Gents” couples package. It included a scalp massage, a neck and shoulder massage, an express facial, a collagen eye treatment, a foot and ankle massage, and then time to relax in the thermal suite and hydro pool. It was advertised as 2 hours of pure pampering. J This was my anniversary present to Mike, but we didn’t get to use it until today as we have been rather busy. :)

The spa somehow had Mike booked in the morning and me booked in the afternoon for our couples event. Hmmmm……after some discussion, they fixed it. However, we ended up still being in different rooms. We did get to be in the thermal suite and the hydro pool together though. I hadn’t had a facial in over 10 years, and I have to say that I loved it. The massages were great, and the scalp massage was also wonderful. I loved the thermal bed (a bed with tiles on it that heat up). The hydro pool was kind of cold, so it wasn’t so great.

After the couples deal, I had Ionthermie. I heard about this on our first day, and I was intrigued. I decided “what the heck?” The idea is that when you are losing weight, your body only picks the healthy fat cells because they are easier to access and burn than fat cells that have “toxins” around them and a bunch of water. Vickie explained it as the analogy of trying to get to the peanut in an M&M without cracking the outside coating or the chocolate underneath. So, supposedly, this ionthermie stuff gets the toxins out which causes the fluid to go too. Then, the fat cells are “healthy” and can be used easily for fuel.

Having said all that, the procedure was ODD. I had it only on the abdomen as I didn’t do three treatments to hit all the areas. She measured about 6 measurements before hand and wrote them down. Then, she got this horse brush and rubbed it all over to get the circulation going. That kind of hurt (and it was really weird). Then, she put some other stuff that is supposed to help transport the stuff they are putting on into the skin or something like that. Finally, she prepared the bed and put this rectangular box on the bed. She then mixed algae, clay, and some other stuff together to make a paste. She spread that all in the rectangular thing on the bed, and she put these electrodes on top of the clay/algae mix and covered them in the same goop. She had me lie down on my back so that that icky stuff was touching my butt to my upper back. Then, she spread that same stuff all over my abdomen. Odd. Next, she put those same electrodes covered in mush on my abdomen. As I feared, she then turned on the electric stimulus. Wow, was that weird. I have used a TENS unit and other such things, but this was wild. It contracted all the abs and the back at the same time, held it briefly, and then relaxed before repeating many times over the next 30 minutes.

After, she measured again, and she said that it was 3 inches difference. Of course, that was the total of adding up all the places. The most in a single spot was an inch, and I was pretty happy with that. However, I suspect that it was very temporary, but we will see.

After my ionthermie, I had an appointment to get my teeth cleaned. She put this awful thing in my mouth that held it all open (my dad said it must be how a bass fish feels) so that she could brush the nasty stuff all over my teeth. Then, she put the yellow glasses on and she turned on the light to whiten the teeth.

After the teeth whitening, I made the mistake of getting Morgan to go shopping with me in the ship stores. We ended up with all kinds of crap that wasn’t needed, but we had fun. We also looked at the ship pictures. After the shopping event, we all hung out at grams and Papa’s balcony while we tried to kill off the drink cards we had gotten in the beginning of the cruise (basically pre-purchased drinks). We also had a little cheese and crackers delivered by room service (I am going to miss this ship).

We had dinner in the main dining room, and I had a spinach, mushroom and feta cheese pastry. It was fantastic. I also had a brie appetizer, and lobster bisque. Mikeo, Grams, Papa, and I all had our teeth whitening and can’t have anything red. We were cracking up as we tried to find things that weren’t red to eat or drink (can’t have any of that stuff OR DIET COKE) for 24 hours.

Finally, we packed. Nice, relaxing day before hitting our final spot.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Florence, Italy - July 4th!












Saturday, July 04, 2009
Pictures are HERE.

Happy July 4th from Italy! I have to admit that it is rather odd spending July 4th in Italy. I did wear my red, white, and blue outfit today though, and the ship decorated for the event.

We left for our tour at 8:30 this morning, and we met our driver for the day, Alexandro. He was fantastic and helped Morgan a lot. Mikeo had arranged today, and he had already gotten a wheelchair for Morgan. When we met the Alexandro, he already had the wheelchair in the back of the van. He said that his English wasn’t good, but I thought he was great and easy to understand. He also had great tidbits of information as we went along, such as where the leather is made and how to spot the traffic boxes that take your picture if you are speeding.

We arrived in Florence around 10:00am. We met our local guide, Daniella, in the center of the city, Market Square. The square was beautiful, and it even had a carrousel! We did notice immediately that there were several people walking around asking for money in a plastic cup. Mike said that he saw one lady asking over and over again, and the tourist poured water in her glass. She drank it and walked away.

Daniella was great about explaining that Florence began BC (I think 59BC) and was established by Julius Ceasar. It was a Roman colony. It grew to around 120,000 people when the plague hit, and after the plague it had only around 50,000. That doesn’t sound like much, but then she said that most cities were small then. I think she said Rome had 35,000 pre-plague. She also said that the river flows to Pisa, so it gave them a “street” for commerce.

It was especially interesting to hear throughout the day how the plague interrupted so many works in progress whether it was churches or other buildings, and many times the original architect, painter, sculpter, etc was dead and the project had to start again. She emphasized that the Renaissance wasn’t just a “new birth” period but it was also a return to the Roman ways but improving them. I loved hearing how the city was a political, scientific, and artistic center. It is amazing to realize that Leonardo da Vinci and Michealangelo were in the same place at the same time. Also, Galileo was born in the same year Michaelangelo died. Dante of the Divine Comedy was also from Florence. What a fantastic area and what rich culture!

Today, Florence is around 500,000 people. It is a very pretty city, and we passed many sunflowers and rolling hills on the way there. We started with the dome church built by Boccaccio in the 1200’s (I think). There was an older church built next to where the dome was built. It has the Paradise Door on it which is an amazing piece of work (it is actually a reproduction and the real one is in a museum now). It has 10 panels of gold pictures carved into it. There are stories from the Bible represented such as the story of David and Goliath and Joseph and the Ten Commandments. There are amazing doors on all the sides, but the Paradise Door is especially breathtaking. The dome on the enormous cathedral next to it was used for baptized attendees, and the older building was used for those who had not been baptized. It was built in 1443. Everyone thought Boccaccio was crazy when he wanted to build the dome without scaffolding that would reach the top. He proposed that they build a dome and then another dome on top of it. He also designed it with bricks because they are lighter than stone and they can be made in any size or shape needed. It is still standing, so he must have done something right! In between the domes are the stairs going to the top. Also, across the top of the cathedral building, the 12 disciples are in statues and the virgin Mary was in the middle.

We walked down the street to where we saw the house that Michaelangelo trained in. The Medici (sp?) family took Michaelangelo in when he was 12. Michaelangelo’s mother died when he was a baby, and he father gave him to a stone mason and his wife who already had many kids to raise him. Michaelangelo apparently talked about drinking from the stone mason’s milk is what made him a sculptor. When he was 12, his father wanted him to go to school, so he went to a painting school and then he went to live with the Medici family (wealthy). He had the same tudors that their own kids had, and everyone realized how talented he was very quickly.
Next, we went to see David. Daniella explained the story of how Michaelangelo left Florence and went to Rome when the Medici family was in trouble and was about to be banished. Michaelangelo sculpted a masterpiece of Mary holding the dead Jesus. It was in Rome, and he returned to Florence later. He wanted to scult something new, but they told him that they didn’t have much money to commission him. However, they did have one large piece of marble that had been started by someone else before he died, and they said if he could use that then he could be commissioned. Michaelangelo said yes, and he worked in secrecy for two years. He didn’t even let his friends see what he was working on. Finally, he unveiled the David statue. It was on display in the political square OUTSIDE in the public for around 300 years before it was put in the Academy which was a school for the arts where they copied famous works to learn. It was in the Academy where we saw it today.

First, the size of the statue is MUCH bigger than I thought it would be, and Daniella was explaining how the town was so shocked when they first saw it. They had dismissed him as crazy and had said that he couldn’t make anything from the marble and that was the reason for all the secrecy. They were expecting something very small instead of this giant. Secondly, David was a 12 year old boy, and this statue is not of a 12 year old boy. His anatomy is matured although some have said that his big hands and feet represent a child who is not quite grown. Third, the detail in this statue that was sculpted with no model and IN MARBLE is just amazing. The veins are so clear in the tensed David who is about to attack Goliath. His legs even look hairy. The muscles in his neck and abdomen are tensed. Of course, he is naked which raised some interesting discussions with Morgan. :) He has the slingshot in his left hand and the stone in the right hand.

It is amazing the shape that he is in after being outside in a public place for so long. He has had two accidents – one that cracked his left hand and one crazy guy who knocked off his toe. Those two things have been repaired.

The rest of the Academy was also amazing with fantastic paintings and other sculptures. There are several unfinished Michaelangelo sculptures as well. Apparently, Michaelangelo felt that the schultures were in the marble all along and they were just needing someone to knock off the rest so that they can emerge. I thought that was pretty cool.

We went in the gift shop which gave Mikeo heartburn (he doesn’t like gift shops), and then we went to the political square. We saw the replica of the David statue there, and it looks so tiny outside next to other large statues and buildings. We also saw the medusa statue, Zeus, and more. The medusa statue was a bronze, and it was made in one cast. It took ten years for him to accomplish it in one casting (one continuous pour of the bronze instead of individual pieces melded together). At one point, it was taking so long that they told him that he had no more time and they would give no more money. If he didn’t finish the statue, they would behead him. His friends all pitched in their forks, knives, and any other items that could be melted and used to pour the statue and to keep him from getting his head removed. :)

Next, we saw the castle (120 rooms I think), that the Spanish wife thought was too small. She moved from Spain with 500 attendants. WOW. They also built this ultra-cool pathway that connected all the main buildings in the square so that they could walk around town without having to actually mingle with the people. It is pretty incredible to see the passageways up above once you know what they are.

After the tour, we went near the straw market and had lunch. We had fantastic lasagna and caprese salad. We had a little red wine, and it was a fantastic lunch. After lunch, we went shopping at the straw market (picture Mikeo twitching). It was mainly t-shirts, leather goods, and morano glass. J Next, we went to the leather store that Grams and Papa knew about for Mike to shop for a leather jacket.

I am going to spare everyone all the details, but Morgan wanted her third gelato of the day. I had promised her that if she ate well and if she was well behaved at lunch that I would get her one. Well, it is now HOT. Really HOT. So, we get the ice cream, but it is melting before Morgan can even sit in the chair. I am begging her to eat it quickly which of course frustrates her. Meanwhile, big mess is happening. Instead of trying to eat faste, Morgan is insisting that we can sit inside. I keep telling her that there are no seats. Mike gets mad and pushes her to the shade=. They get into a fight, and then I am drug into the middle. Finally, that ice cream goes into the garbage without it being finished. We get more later to try to help and we get it in a cup. However, the man filled it up too full so it is also melting everywhere. What a mess! I was so happy to get out of that area and to have the ice cream finished.

After the leather shop, we headed back to meet the guide. He says that he thinks we have time to go to the leaning tower of Pisa, so we head there. Alexandro takes us up right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and it was amazing. We took some pictures, and then we headed to the ship.

Once on board, Morgan hauled to the room on the crutches and beat the rest of the family. We all decided that we wouldn’t do formal night since it was optiona. We went to the dining room and got a weird table. I had a crab and artichoke appetizer, French onion soup, and some beef medaillions. Morgan had salmon and Mike had the beef. Bananas Foster was on the desert menu, so I had to try it (it is a rule). It wasn’t that great though, so I didn’t eat much of it. Whew.

We headed to the room and hung out on the balcony for our last “moving” night as the ship docks tomorrow night and we get off the next day. We were going soooo fast tonight, and the moon was absolutely amazing at almost full. I cannot believe that tomorrow is the last day. L
Today, on the other hand, was fantastic! I loved Florence. I wasn’t expecting to be so amazed at David since I had seen pictures, etc, but I was blown away. Amazing stuff.

video

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday, Rome, Italy

Friday, July 3rd, Rome

Pictures are HERE.

We had to meet at 6:50 am for our tour (yes, that is am as in morning). We were blue 5, and Morgan did pretty well getting there on crutches and to the bus. We had about an hour drive over the Rome, and we left a little late so we arrived around 8:30. We did make a pit stop at a little gas station where we went to the Restroom and Morgan got some M&M’s. She was happy. Morgan sat next to Papa, Mark and Grams sat together, and Mike and I sat together. I was amazed during the drive at how much it looked like Tennessee. The rolling green hills were so nice. Of course, the trees were a little different and there were palm trees here which you don’t see in Tennessee, but it still reminded me of home.

When we got into Rome, the first thing that struck me was the graffiti. It was everywhere – on cars, walls, doors, anything you could imagine. It was sad as there were many old beautiful buildings that were disgraced.

We first drove around a bit and saw the where Caesar lived, where Mussolini gave his speeches, the wedding cake building, the old senate where Caesar worked, and many churches and other buildings. We then got out of the bus and walked for a LONGGGGGG way to see the same things in more detail. We had to carry Morgan most of this way, and this took about 3 or so hours. It was hot too, so you can imagine how fun it was to walk and carry Morgan while trying to listen to a difficult to understand guide (we didn’t care for this guide as much but the one who came with us from the port was incredible to us – Luigi). Despite the difficult circumstances, the sights were simply amazing. It is truly like seeing the history books open right in front of you. I thought we would get to go inside the Coliseum, but you only could see the outside. We started with the Trivedi Fountain. They say if you throw a coin into it that you will come back to Rome. We also saw where Michangelo lived even though the building has been torn down. We saw where he was originally buried until he was moved. Such a rich and amazing history. The guide also said that 70% of the workers in Rome are government workers. I wonder how that compares to Washington DC. I will have to look it up.

After the exhausting but fabulous morning, we went to eat lunch at Ristorant da Arturo. We had this salad that I didn’t eat (it had tuna fish on it and I don’t like tuna fish) and then we had amazing, melt in your mouth, lasagna. It was sooooo good. We decided that the fresh pasta makes all the difference. We also had some local wine and some tiramisu for dessert. Even Grams liked the tiramisu and she doesn’t usually like it. We got Morgan some butter noodles, and she was happy. When I first asked the waiter who didn’t speak much English, he brought out a bowl of butter. It was kind of funny. Next, he brought pasta with tomato sauce. Finally, he understood that we wanted plain noodles for butter. :)

After lunch, we went to the Vatican. We started with the museum, and ended in the Sistine Chapel. Thankfully, Luigi said we could get a wheelchair for Morgan, and we were SOOOOOO excited. She didn’t even complain, so that was a bonus. Our guide explained what we could see in the museum, and she explained the panels in the Sistine Chapel. Morgan and I had to do some elevators and ramps, but we kept up for a while. The statuses from the Roman times are amazing, and there were pictures made out of cloth that looked like paintings but they were not. Also, many of the ceilings had flat paint, but it was made to look like carvings and were 3D. We giggled a bit that they removed all of the genitals off the men and put fig leafs in their place. How would you like to have THAT job?

At some point, Grams was pushing. Luigi said that we needed to go to the elevator. So, Grams took Morgan and they went. Next thing you know, we have to take a “detour” because it is crowded (according to a guard), and we wander for at least 30 minutes through many rooms with pictures, statues, and who knows what else because our guide had us practically running through the rooms. It was very difficult to keep up with her. We finally ended up in the Sistine Chapel. I have seen pictures of it, but they don’t do it justice. It is simply incredible. Of course, some man was hired to paint clothing on the naked bodies after Michaelangelo died. They called him the Underwear Artist. We learned that the left and right sides were painted by someone else, and the Judgment Day painting poked fun at the Cardinal by giving him donkey ears and having a snake bit his genitals in the picture. I guess that is what you did back them when you didn’t have a blog to air your opinions. :) It was also pretty cool to see his self portrait in the skin in the Judgment Day painting. Mike wanted to know how much the people get paid to "shh" people in the Sistine Chapel (you can't talk in there).

After the Sistine Chapel, we walked all the way around the Vatican Walls (our guide kept telling us that it is its own private country) to get St. Peter’s Bastion. Unfortunately, Morgan was on her last leg (no pun intended), and Grams and Papa waited with her since they had seen it before. I am not even going to try to explain how amazing this is, but I will say that I was truly shocked at how large it is and at how incredible all the status, paintings, and the tomb of St. Peter are. THEN, a mass started while we were there. It was really neat to hear it even though it was all in Latin and I had NO idea what they were saying. :)

We saw where the Pope’s office is (corner of gray building in the pictures – the light was on and Morgan wanted to know what “work” he would do”? We saw where the smoke is used to indicate if the pope has been elected or if he hasn’t.

To end the tour, we of course stopped in a gift shop for gifts and for restrooms. We got some drinks, and Mike and I got a couple of books. Then, we went toward the bus and headed to the ship. When we got back, we went to dinner in the Lido restaurant. They were having all Italian night for dinner, and I had cheese tortellini and sugar free chocolate ice cream (with some chocolate sauce on it that did have sugar in it). It was really good.

We sat on the deck for a bit chatting, and then we went to bed after a long day of touring. :) I cannot believe that the cruise is almost over. :(

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thursday - Naples - HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MIKE!











Thursday, July 2, 2009 – Naples – Happy Anniversary Mike!
See all the pictures HERE.

We docked in Naples, and Mike and I were a little bummed about not going to Pompeii. I have been interested in Pompeii since I was in 2nd grade. However, we were excited to do the tour with Morgan today anyway. I was a little nervous as to how she would do, but I was anxious to try it.

Mike surprised me by breaking the no gift for the anniversary since we are on a cruise rule. He gave me a beautiful blue morano glass necklace. I absolutely love it. I have gotten several new jewelry pieces on this trip, so that rounds out the collection! Thanks Mike!

We made it to the lounge where we check in for the tours around 9:20, and we got to get a head start to the bus. Morgan did pretty well making it to the bus, but then she was a bit mad when the bus drove back closer to where we left the ship to get the rest of the people. All that effort for nothing!

We first did a tour of Naples. It looks really pretty from a distance, but when you get into town, the buildings are peeling and aren’t so pretty. We drove around for a bit, and then we stopped to see the square. This was the square where the kings lived, and it was nice to see it. We also saw a beautiful church that is in the square, and we saw the old opera house as well as some other cool buildings. We shopped for a bit in our “free time” and then we went back to the bus. Mike and I had to carry Morgan for a bit on our backs, but it wasn’t too bad. She did a great job of getting around. We saw a protest that we later found out was because the health benefits are being reduced (National Healthcare). They will start having to pay for some things like blood tests, x-rays, etc, and they are MAD. Sounds like some other debates going on in the US. Imagine that – the government can’t afford to provide EVERYTHING? NO WAY. Hopefully, the US won’t go down the same path.

We then did a panoramic tour. We drove through the nice areas of Naples where the really expensive villas were that overlooked the sea. We saw where the president’s house was, and we saw the other side where the crater and the soccer field was. There was a HUGE street market going on where we turned around. The guide said that there are all Catholic churches in Naples – no synagogues, no mosques, nothing but Catholic churches. That was interesting to me.
We had a quick stop to take pictures at a beautiful scenic spot overlooking the water, and then we went back into town. We drove down the street where the consulate buildings are (the most protected street in Naples according to the guide), and we saw the US consulate, the French Consulate, and the British Consulate. We stopped and ate at ToTo’s Pizzaria. We got to watch them make the pizza. We learned the story of pizza and that it originated for Queen Margharita (spelling??) who wanted a restaurant to make her something different but that represented Naples. Pizza had always been for poor people because it only had 4 ingredients – water, yeast, flour, and salt. So, the restaurant put tomato, mozzarella, and basil on the dough. It had the colors of Italy on it, and the Queen loved it. Now, you can get many types of pizzas, but this is how it originated. This is the type of pizza that we ate. It was delicious.

We didn’t think that Morgan would like the pizza as it wasn’t light sauce and double pepperoni, but she ate over half of the HUGE pizza (that was a serving for one). We did learn later that pizza is usually not eaten for lunch but is more of an evening meal. We sat with three people from California, and they were really great to talk to and to share our table with. The pizza was very simple, and it didn’t have much on it. However, I thought it was fantastic and would love to have it again. J We had some weird fruit dessert, but Mike was nice and got Morgan a chocolate ice cream from around the corner. We also had a local beer that was included in the meal. It was rather tasty.

After the pizza, we headed back to the ship. We got to the room and found that the towel animals book that Morgan had been dying to get (they put a different towel animal on our bed each night) was waiting. We tried to make a duck, but it didn’t look very good. So, we made a cobra, and it wasn’t too bad for our first one. :)

Mike and I then went to do our 2 miles of walking/running. It was pretty hot out, but it was really nice to see the port area as we went. Mike said, “I haven’t ever run in Naples before.” I thought that was so cute. :)

Grams, Papa, Mike, Tracy, and Mark all had longer tours than us, so they didn’t get back until about 5:30 and we sailed at 6. We had drinks on the balcony before our 7:30 dinner reservation at the Pinnacle Grill which is the specialty restaurant on the ship. Our travel agent had given us that as a gift. It was nice to have it for our anniversary. Mike and I have been married for FIVE YEARS! Wow, how time flies. It was a nice way to celebrate at the very nice restaurant. I had lobster bisque and a filet with blue cheese. We also shared some mushrooms, asparagus, and spinach. Morgan and Mike also had the filet. Morgan got the chocolate soufflĂ© for dessert, but she didn’t eat but half of it. The ship was having a “dessert extravaganza” from 10:30 – midnight (Biko would not approve), and Morgan had been excited about it. However, she decided that she didn’t want to go, so we all called it a night to prepare for our 6:50 am tour to Rome the next day.

Neuvo Castle in Naples

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday in Sicily, Italy






















Wednesday, July 1st, 2009 – Catania, Sicily, Italy
See all of the pictures HERE.

We woke up this morning refreshed as the clocks were moved back an hour (Greece is an hour back from Italy), so we got an extra hour of sleep. I was GLAD to get that hour back. J Grams and Papa decided that they would stay with Morgan on the ship since they had seen Catania and Taormina last August. I had told Morgan that she was not allowed to entertain any suggestions by Grams and Papa to stay with them, but they were pretty convincing.
So, Mike, Mark, Mikeo, Tracy, and I went into Catania on our tour. We did a brief tour of Catania before heading to Taormina. The city of Catania was kind of icky as the buildings have not been well maintained. The buildings looked a bit dirty. There was an old Roman town that is under the streets of the current city, and they have part of the remains uncovered and available to see.

The landscape was pretty on the hour long ride to Taormina, and we saw plenty of pretty beaches. The architecture looks nice from a distance when you can’t see the dirty look. J When we got to Taormina, we walked down the main street and looked at several churches along the way. The road was very quaint, and we even saw an American flag outside of one of the buildings. Lots of cute shops. At the end of the road was a Greco-Roman theater that was incredible to see. It was not in very good shape, but even so it was an amazing site. It was very interesting that the people in the town didn’t value the theater much after the Greeks and Romans were gone, and they stole the bricks, stones, and even the columns to use in their architecture in the towns. You can look in the town and see what should belong in the theater that is instead in different buildings.

We did the three man version and did all the steps to the top. Some amazing sights were there and the scenery was amazing. After we saw that, we started walking back to meet the group. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time. However, Mike and I managed to buy some murano glass necklaces, some lava animal necklaces, and some other nice things for the kids. Loved it. We RUSHED back to the courtyard, and even with rushing we were 4 minutes late. Thankfully, there were others that weren’t there. Whew. Mikeo still videoed us coming back to the square. Mean Mike. Mean.

We took the hour long trip back into the town of Catania, and then we hung out at the ship for the afternoon. I changed our Pompeii tour to the Taste of Naples tour, and I was sad because I have been interested in Pompeii since I was a kid. However, Morgan just couldn’t do it with her crutches, and the taste of Naples one is a one man (sorry Biko).

We went back to the doctor to see if he could offer a sturdier contraption for her foot, but he said no. So, we are stuck with the temporary cast. Bummer.

We decided to eat in the Lido restaurant tonight as the menu didn’t look as good in the dining hall. Mike and Tracy were eating a wine tasting dinner, but Mike and I thought we would rather spend the $160 in the Casino. :)

Grams, Papa, Mark, Morgan, Mike, and I went to the Lido for dinner. I had Weiner Schnitzel, a salad, and some sugar free coffee ice cream. Morgan had slow roasted beef. I think everyone tried the Weiner Schnitzel and liked it.

After dinner, Mike and I went to check on Papa. Mike had signed us up for the Pub Crawl the reunion, but I really didn’t feel like going. Morgan was tired and falling apart. Mike and I went downstairs to check on Papa who was playing three card poker. We played a little roulette, but we weren’t doing well.

We decided to go upstairs and to bail on the Pub Crawl Reunion, but we ran into Mikeo and Tracy. Mikeo had enjoyed the wine dinner, and they were on their way to the Pub Crawl Reunion. They convinced us to go, so we did. This one started on deck 9 at the Crow’s nest and we had the fourth drink on the Lido deck. Stromboli was visible even though it was night time, and we saw the volcano erupt 4 times!!!!! It was amazing. I guess it averages an eruption every 20 minutes or so. We ended the pub crawl with a melon shooter in the Northern Lights dance bar. Mike and Tracy tried to get the dancing started, but it didn’t work. So, we all went to bed as we had an early arrival in Naples.