Sunday, October 25, 2009

Y3W22 - Tinkerbell & Fall

I think it was early August when Bryn first started asking when her birthday party was going to be. Especially when Avery's birthday rolled around, she seemed much more interested in when her party would happen. When her birthday finally got here and it was essentially a sing song in the Termini Train Station in Rome, I think it lacked a little something for her. However, when we returned at 1:30am we decided it might be a good idea to take a day off before the birthday celebration began. So, Thursday was the big day. She dressed up like Tinkerbell the entire day and I'm sure it seemed like forever until Dad got home so we could celebrate. We made homemade pizzas (below Bryn is making hers) and had cake and ice cream of course. It must be really hard when you are four and everyone elses birthday in the family is before yours. Hopefully it lived up to her expectations.

By Saturday, the girls were still in "I'm resting" mode. They really didn't want to do much at all. But when it came time to do the yard work, they were all about "helping" Greg rake the leaves. By Sunday after Church they were ready to get out of the house a bit so we stopped at Rheinaue Park on the way home and tried to get some Fall pictures with all of the beautiful colors. This week has been sunny and all the leaves are in full color. It is really something to see. I tried to take some pictures of our garden because I love the view but I'm not sure the pictures really capture the brightness of the colors.

This was the best of the pictures we took:

Here are a couple pics of the garden:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Y3W21 - When in Rome...

The week started out with a bang as we celebrated Bailey's 9th birthday. She wanted a Pferdefreunde Geburtstag party which is so nice because we can get all the party stuff here. The cake was a bit tricky because I wanted to stick as close to the theme as possible but still keep it simple. After a few tries at making flowers with frosting, I decided it was much easier to walk to the store an buy some of those candy flowers to ornament the cake. Good decision as I have decided making frosting flowers is definitely not my forté. It was a lovely party. I'm liking these small family parties. Here are a few pics of the festivities.

Bryn had her kindergarten assembly in front of the whole school on Wednesday. They did several dances and sang songs. Very cute!

On Friday after school, we headed to the airport for our much anticipated trip to Rome. I had heard horror stories about taking kids to Rome - that it is a nightmare for strollers, that it is too crowded, restaurants are not family friendly, etc. I am happy to say that we found Rome to be quite the contrary. We felt very safe walking around the area of our hotel, even at night. We took the metro everywhere, and though it was crowded during rush hour, the people were very nice and tried to give us as much room as possible. We took the stroller everywhere and never had a problem except maybe in the Roman Forum on the ancient roads. While there are always a few stressful moments when traveling with four kids in a new city, we found it to be a delightful place. We had four days and we tried very hard to make the most of them - Carpe Diem. A short disclaimer - this will be quite travel loggish.

Day 1 - Getting our bearings and seeing a few things along the way

We started the day at the Yellow Bar almost every morning. Our hotel gave us vouchers for breakfast there each morning. Excellent start to the day. We walked to the central train station,
got our metro passes and we were off. Bailey said we had to start at the Colosseum. You walk out of the train station and Bam! There it is. It is massive and unbelievable that they were able to build something of this mass before heavy machinery. However, we didn't go in just yet. We walked past the Roman Forum to Circus Maximas where they used to hold chariot races and 300,000 spectators. Now it is just a field but the girls ran up and down the hills anyhow. We decided to begin at the Baths of Caracalla mainly because it was on Bailey's "must do" list. I really thought it would not be much different than the other Roman baths we've seen, but here again the ruins were massive in size. And, we walked through a cool local market on the way. We love doing the non-touristy things when we can.

We walked a long way to the San Giovanni in Laterno, and were pleasantly surprised to find such a gem of a cathedral. The walk being well worth it. This church and the adjoining Lateran Palace was the Papal residence before they moved to Avignon in 1309. The pictures do not do it justice. However, Greg's close ups of the pillars in the Cloisters are quite nice.

Next, we trained over to the Spanish steps where we learned the hard way that you are not supposed to eat on the steps. From there we walked over to the best gelato place in Rome - San Crispino and had some scrumptious gelato. After lunch we took in the Trevi Fountain. It is amazing. And, the girls threw in some coins so they are certain to return. We had the pleasure of walking by the Marcus Aurelius column erected in AD 180 on the way to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was really quite remarkable. ( I am not giving it a worthy description but I don't know what else to say except it was amazing.) We walked a short couple of blocks to Piazza Navona to get a glimpse of some classic Baroque fountains.

Trevi Fountain

Marcus Aurelius Column

The Pantheon

Piazza Navona

The faux 3D ceiling of the the Sant'Ignazio di Loyola was next and it was also well worth the trip. Then we made our way to Trajan's column and Trajan's market where there was an anti-racism demonstration going on in the city. Originally, we planned on staying out until dark to see the Colosseum lit up after dark but with the mob of people walking around, we thought it best to make our way back to the hotel. As you can see, I'm having a hard time narrowing down the highlights. Everything was just so old and so cool.

Day 2 - Pompeii and Naples

Due to some issues booking a train online, we had to skip the Yellow Bar and go straight to the train station to see about getting some tickets to Pompeii. This trip was on Bailey's must do list and mine as well. Where else can you see Roman life from 79AD stand still, preserved due to the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. It was so vast. I studied the art from Pompeii and Herculaneum in my Art History classes at BYU but had no idea how much was excavated until I got there. While much of the art has been removed from the villas in Pompeii and placed in museums, it gave us a real sense of the layout of an ancient Roman town. We hit Naples on the way back and detoured to the Archaeological Museum which housed many of the frescoes and statuary from Pompeii. I thought this would be a relaxing day with having an hour and a half train ride both ways, but when we returned back to Rome, all of us were very tired. We did however grab an ice cream in Termini train station to celebrate Bryn's birthday. We sang to her right there in the middle of the train station. That will be one I certainly will not forget for some time.

Day 3 - St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican
I was stressing about this day. I did so much research that said that the queues were very long and I was very worried about our family having to wait. We got to St. Peter's Basilica around 10:30 and saw a very long line, found out that was the line we needed to be in, and waited. The line went so quick that I had to call Greg who was casing the area to find out where we had to go to get to the Vatican later, because I was afraid we were going to have to go through security without him. He made it there just in time. Once inside we were pretty much sectioned into two lines, one for the Cupula or one for the tombs. We chose the Cupula not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into. Soon it was clear we were climbing to the top of the Dome. We could take the elevator/stairs route or just the 530 stairs. We chose option A but I was getting nervous about the time. It ended up being a good decision. Close up view of the Dome, plus the mosaics up there are amazing, plus an outside view of Piazza San Pietro. We had only about 20 minutes inside when we got back down to the bottom but it truly was enough. What a beautiful place. The majesty of the Bernini's Baldacchino. Wow. We purchased our Vatican tickets online hoping to skip the line, and I'm happy to say we walked right in with five minutes to spare of our reservation time. I was so nervous about taking our kids there but we were truly welcomed, congratulated, and made to feel comfortable by all of the workers there. They went out of their way to help us with elevator access, helpful information, etc. We knew that we couldn't do the whole museum so our objectives were fairly reasonable - try to see some of the more famous pieces. For me, the must sees included the Sistine Chapel of course and the School of Athens in the Raphael rooms. We saw those and more and had a very pleasant visit. We walked past the Castel Sant Angelo which houses Hadrian's tomb but we decided to skip the tour and just admire it from the outside. We walked back to the Piazza San Pietro and took a couple more pictures while eating yet another gelato before we decided to call it a day.

St. Peter's Basilica

The Vatican

Day 4 - Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Bocca della Verità, and Aventine Hill

Another full day. We started at the Palatine Hill, which included the tour of the Roman Forum. The girls loved this. We took a ton of pictures here. Everywhere I looked, there was an awesome photo op. The girls played house on 2000 year old ruins for hours. Priceless. We saw the Roman Curia where the Senate met and where Julius Caesar was assassinated. We went from there to the Colosseum. Here again, you look at this massive structure and wonder how they were able to construct such things with limited resources. Once inside you can see the caverns that were under the floor that consisted of lifts and cages. We took a bit of a walk over to the Santa Maria in Cosmedin which houses a medieval drain cover (the Bocca della Verità) which legend states that if you are a liar and you stick your hand in the mouth, your hand will be snapped off. It was made famous in the movie "Roman Holiday," when Gregory Peck pretended to be hurt after sticking his hand in. When we arrived, there was a little line we had to wait in to have our turn. The more surprising thing about this trip was the church. It was a quaint and surprisingly unique church. Not to mention the added bonus of the Temples of the Forum Boarium from the Roman Republican era, which sat across the street. This was Lleyton's favorite part as we let him out of the stroller/baby carrier to run around for a while. We proceeded to walk up the Aventine Hill to see a view of St. Peter's Basilica from a distance. It was a glorius park where we enjoyed sitting in the sun and resting for a while. It was a pleasant way to end our time in Rome.

Four days, four kids, 2000+ years of history to cover...the bottom line is, we would do it again in a heartbeat. We covered a lot of ground in four days and I'm so happy we had the opportunity to go.