Monday, June 29, 2009

Safe in Spain

Safe in Spain
We have more to share on our last day in Rome/first day in Spain, but
I'll share now that we are comfortable in Cartaya, Spain. We met up
with Jenny and Jane, had our first taxi experience, first driving in
Europe experience, and some beach time already. More details to come.

Genova and cleaning - Saturday

We went to Genova again for shopping and internet access. L got the
special exotic Americans' treatment when the Chinese girls at the
dollar store showed her the secret WC behind the wall of purses. While
she was on the web, I walked toward a mountain lake below Genova. I
really like the ocean, but there's something majestic about the deep
blue, calm waters in the lakes in the area.

We did a decent job of cleaning the apartment, but with a bachelor's
place, you worry a little less because the standards are different
(meaning lower - I bet this is an international thing and not just an
American thing).


Florence Day 1&2 - Thursday/Friday

We took the three hour train to Florence Thursday morning (half the
price for a trade off of twice the time of the express train). The
scenery was beautiful. After an hour outside of Rome, it was very
rural with lots of sunflowers, grapes, and wheat. Even a shepherd
with his flock near the tracks. Which brings us back to toilets. It's
a three hour trip, and as Gilligan experienced, it could be much more.
So we checked around on the train. There are gas station quality
lavatories WITH seats. But looking through those seats, you could
actually, visually, non metaphorically see the train tracks. This
sounds like a public health disaster. But not having a bathroom on a
three hour train is another disaster. At the very least, there should
be a sign in several languages saying, "Don't use while in the
station." Avoiding open sewers is one of the hallmarks of a
developed nation. The smell of some tracks in the station defies this
Once in Florence, we proceeded to the bus stops that I had looked up
on Google. We even bought a bus map this time. It's not a simple
process because not all buses leave from the front of the station.
They leave on all sides with a several block radius. We got on the
right bus. We pushed the stop button at the right stop. We stepped
toward the front door to exit. Then only the back doors opened. By the
time we shuffled toward the back doors, which closed as we approached
them. It turns out you can ask the driver to open the doors, but he
does not intuit that need when you approach the door. So the bus
crossed the river, and we ended up a mile away after exiting from the
back doors. Nov we had started 0.8 miles away. We could have walked,
but the bag was heavy and buses are easy, right? Then we got on the
right bus going in the wrong direction, ending up two miles from the
hotel. Many minutes later, we found the right bus in the right
direction. The right direction is not necessarily just across the
street because of the weird routing. The bus wins again.

Being defeated left me grumpy.
We arrived at the Garden Hotel, and it was nice and also affordable. I
started feeling better. The front desk lady knew some English, and
told us, "you walk-uh down the river-uh, it look-uh real nice-uh." She
was right-uh. We toured the center of the city. We had seen the
American consulate on the way over. By the time we were done, it
seemed like there should be an Italian consulate. Americans were
everywhere. So were shops for Italian leather. The city was beautiful,
but the tourists seemed to overwhelm it. I suppose we were part of the

The Duome Cathedral is a gigantic church with a gigantic dome. We
walked around it after the interior had closed. We had a nice dinner
at a sidewalk café with a view of the dome. The lasagna was
wonderful. They had all you can eat olive oil, vinegar, and parmesan
cheese but no free refills on Coke or even water. I guess Italians
have different priorities and a lot of olives.

The next day we dropped off our bag at the train station. Getting to
the train station on the bus was very easy. Every bus heading in that
direction is labeled on the front. Going the other direction is not as
easy; the buses are not labeled D+L's hotel. From the train station,
we walked to the bus stop that headed to the gardens. After two
missed scheduled times, we and several others decided to walk. It
started to sprinkle a little, so we headed to the covered Old Bridge,
the only bridge the Nazis didn't mine on their retreat from Italy. We
know this fact because we were crowded next to a tour group as we
huddled under the covering against the driving rain. One skinny girl
next to us could not stop shivering. L commented to me, "That's what
you get with no body fat." The rain subsided a bit still looked a bit
threatening, so we decided to head back to the dome. It was also
beautiful on the inside, but I think we have hit the wall and are
experiencing church touring fatigue. A McD €1 menu balanced out the
nice meal from last night.

While we waited on the Albano train in Rome, I scored an economic
victory. I found a cheap €1.70 1.5 L Coke vs €3-4 around the station
for a 500 ml from a black man in a Chinese block of Rome. Truly an
international experience in the eternal city.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Getting in Touch with my Feminine Side

I have been very domestic in Italy. I haven't really cooked
consistently in a while, much to D & S's chagrin, I'm sure. It's been
mostly heating up prepared meal type things from Costco. However,
here we've been eating at home mostly, so I've been making dinner and
packing lunches to take with us into the city. D's gotten a lot of
home cooked meals-gnocchi with tomato cream sauce, baked rigatoni with
sausage, cannelloni, calamari, roasted eggplant, etc. Have no fear,
we have eaten well in Italy J Plus, I've been wanting to make
chocolate chip cookies for Andrea, so I did a trial run today with D
as my willing guinea pig.

It was interesting. First of all, I don't have any measuring cups or
spoons (I think our host mostly uses his oven to store extra dishes),
no cookie sheet, and no mixer. Then, I had to go to two stores before
I found flour. I never found brown sugar, so I settled for Sugar in
the Raw. I also never found chocolate chips, so I bought a big
chocolate bar and chopped it into chunks. I couldn't find vanilla
extract, but I did find some sort of ultra concentrated vanilla
flavoring, and I just plum forgot the baking soda. Not to mention
even if I wanted to get it now, I doubt they have it, as baking is
something I've decided they just don't do here. Using a mixing bowl
and a wooden spoon, I managed to get the batter together (boy did I
miss my Kitchen-Aid) and I put the cookies on a broiler pan (the
closest he has to a cookie sheet). They baked okay, and even look
pretty normal, just a little lighter without the brown sugar.
Unfortunately, I realized he does not have a spatula, either. I tried
transferring the cookies to a plate with two forks with mixed results.
After my first batch of 9 cookies, I decided that I'd make cookie
bars instead and dumped the rest of the dough in his one Pyrex type
dish. This actually turned out really well, so I think he'll be
getting cookie bars. Plus, if the cookies are a complete flop we got
him a soccer shirt of his favorite team as back up.

If cooking and baking were not enough, I have even done some good
old-fashioned sewing. D managed to rip a couple of holes in a pair of
cargo shorts (absolutely essential because of all the pocket space),
so we had to hunt down a needle and thread and figure out how to
communicate at the Singer store that we wanted a regular needle not a
sewing machine needle. The Singer Store only sold machine needles, so
we went to a couple more stores before eventually finding what we
needed. Aside from a couple of stuffed owls I made recently for two
of my favorite kids (I miss you!), I haven't sewed since I was about
13 in 4-H and even then the only thing I did by hand was
whip-stitching a hem. D's shorts definitely look like someone with
very little sewing prowess fixed them, but they should hold for the
trip. We actually went to a couple of clothing stores and looked for
shorts. D didn't really care for the European style. Did you know
that they have men's capris over here? I've even seen men wearing

I am also the one who figured out how to use the washing machine. I
tried to explain to D how it was a matter of figuring out the
different sections of the dial and how they corresponded to the same
sections at home, but he got that same glazed look in his eyes that I
get when he talks about COBOL or the beauty of electron orbits. It
made sense to me.

In addition to bringing out my domestic side, I've never been more
aware of how female I am in Italy. I had heard that in Argentina
random men will come up and hit on you, but I didn't realize they did
it in Italy. I have been hit on in public a total of two times my
entire life in the US. I had men say stuff to me and whistle four
times in just the first day we went to Rome. At first I wasn't sure
if that was what was happening, but it became a pattern. I think the
funniest time was when an entire truck full (about 5 guys) whistled
and made comments while making direct eye contact with me a couple of
days ago while waiting for he bus. They totally even looked like
construction workers. It's been a bit surreal, and D's presence
doesn't seem to make a bit of difference. Ignoring them seems to be
enough for them to not pursue anything further, but I have to say it's
been a bit of an ego boost!


The Beach again - Wednesday

The Beach again - Wednesday
It's supposed to be our rest day, but I decided to rest on the beach.
All of this walking around has made me feel good but restless. L is
taking it easy.
It's a weekday and knowing the system made the trip a little faster.
On the subway, a woman sung with a portable karaoke machine. We've
also seen bands with accordions on the subway. They work for seemingly
meager tips. It's a captive audience but not an especially receptive
one. I'm thinking of doing some standup comedy on the metro: "What is
up with those toilets? Insert punchline here ... Please come back and
remember my metro A line material is completely different from my B
line stuff."
The beach was beautiful and less crowded and maybe a little cooler
than Sunday. There was a lot of wind surfers today.
On the way back, I picked up a discarded paper, Metro. On the front, a
picture that took up half the page showed a collision on the
Washington metro. I couldn't understand most of the caption, but I did
pick up "Takoma
e Fort Totten," two DC metro stops, so it's not Washington, Italy. Why
would they care here? I saw the same thing ten years ago in Prague,
with a big picture of a Conrail train overturned in the Midwest on the
front page. Maybe a good disaster picture works anywhere. I don't know
if it's specia because it's an American disaster. In Prague, a person
commented that he could never live in America, with all of the
hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires. I guess all of the
coverage convinced him America was all disaster, all the time, like
General Motors or the NC Global Transpark* (cheap shots but they

I thought this was too much detail, but L said to put it in. It
reflects on the differences in our food strategies. We had no sandwich
fixins when I left, so I thought maybe I'd get a couple of
cheeseburgers at the Termini station, much less than lunch bought from
a beach vendor. But on my way, I saw a sandwich vending machine. It
reported a temperature of 4° C (about 40 real degrees). So I grabbed a
salmon sandwich and put it in my backpack. An hour or two, I ate it on
the beach. They even cut the crusts off for me. Italian crust can be
quite crusty. To some readers, this was obviously stupid. Vending
machine + fish + time = gastronomic disaster. At T+10 hours, no
disaster yet. All I can say is my life's creed: It seemed like a good
idea at the time.
*A multimillion dollar boondoggle/ state attempt to build an airport
in the middle of rural eastern North Carolina to capture air cargo
business. Unfortunately most shippers don't ship much to rural eastern
North Carolina, and they don't need a hub there. You can't build a new
Research Triangle Park just by throwing a lot of government money at a
project. My attempts to build the Global Danpark with government
grants have so far failed, even though it's shovel ready.
The Danpark would consist of several McDonalds close to my house to
culinarily revive North Northeast Durham. There would a main McDonalds
and several backups. And Chilis, Krispy Kreme, and Chik-fil-A. That's
just the beginning. For irony, a really large gym would be in the
middle of the complex. Bowflexes will sculpt the neighborhood with
only 20 minutes 3 times a week. Government spending likes irony. We
could call it the gym to nowhere.


Rome Day 3 -Tuesday: Vatican

We started out our subway trip with €6 in coins lost to a ticket
machine after carefully saving coins up for buying day passes. An old
lady kept gesturing and getting louder and louder, trying to help us.
She was helpful in that she pounded on the ticket window to get one of
the five employees, busy in conversation among themselves, to help us.
If I were in a fight, I would want an old Italian women to be on mb
side. We filled out a form and they will mail a check for €6 to our
house. The Vegas odds are 271:5 on us ever seeing that money again.

Today is Vatican day. For an entrance fee of €12 each, there is a lot
to see. The guidebook says you can stay until closing or until
exhaustion hits you. It was exhaustion for us. There's just so much
historical art. We saw 20 and 30 foot by 20 foot tapestries, many many
statues and paintings, the Sistine chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica.
The painting were especially interesting as they reflect the time of
painting as well their subject -receding hairline on baby Jesus, how
covered Jesus is, reflecting or hiding the humiliation of the cross.
St. Peter's was huge. It was big enough for several churches to fit
inside. It was so expensive that the church decided to finance it with
indulgences, the Visa debit card for sin. This practice are one of the
things that led to Martin Luther's revolt.

After a while, the shear number of items makes each individual item
seem less worthwhile. They were beautiful but overwhelming. For
example, we saw a guy sitting with his backpack directly touching a
2500 year old Egyptian stone sarcophagus. He must have figured it was
just another stone. The number of tourists is also overwhelming. No
priests or nuns were visible - just tourists.

When you claim to be "the Universal Church," and have your own
country, you can set an example by all you do:
-The Church serves Pepsi.
-The Church sees toilet seats as unholy
-The Church does not like shorts or bare shoulders and prefers
whispers to loud talking. We tried to dress respectfully, but there
were too many people for these policies to be enforced.
-The Church has a limited endorsement for air conditioning. It's more
for the types of art that require it.

On the way home, we found an Internet café for only €2.50/hour. There
was another café across the street-thank you competition for lowering
prices! We did some research for our Thursday - Friday trip to
Florence. We now know to look up bus routes in advance. Google maps
shows stops and times for today (it directs you to an Italian site for
future times). I'm also still trying to understand the timing of
getting to the airport. The Cotral buses are not good at publishing
schedules. I downloaded a 26 page document in Italian that might help.
I'll peruse it at home. I have figured out the airport train from the
Ponte Lunge metro is half the cost of the cost of the trip from the
Termini metro. The difference in distance is minimal, so I don't
understand the huge price difference and why all of the guidebooks
point people toward Termini. Anyway we can save about $15 and maybe
walk a little less because a single platform in Termini can be
hundreds of meters long. Lara also looked up some cheap apartment
options for Paris. Our house swap person had previously accepted the
swap but has been in communicado for the past few weeks.

That night, we ate again at the pizza place from our first night. L
calls it the best place we've been so far here.

By now, you realize this blog is about watches, internet, and toilets.
Everyday concerns often trump history and beauty. Nevertheless we are
enjoying the history and the city. The differences and exploring make
the trip worthwhile. Except the toilet seat shortage - that's just
wrong. We'll be contacting the European Court of Human Rights on that

Anagnina - Monday

The window Internet is working well today, so we can post.

We decided to explore Angina, where I saw the saw the Ikea. It is
right across the interstate highway from the bus station. The most
direct route would be under the interstate while crossing a clover
leaf interchange. The diesel fuel coming off the highway smelled of
elderberries and death trap. So we went away from the doomed
interchange toward a bridge that looked less complicated on the GPS.
!There has to be an easier way, I think! However:
1.That doesn't mean, as a far-n-r, you are going to find it.
2.You have no moral obligation to find the absolutely cheapest and
mind-blowingly efficient option. NASA will not call for suggestions
(if you do call, please mark the voice-mail urgent so I don't miss
it). (This is what I deduce to be the truth - my obsession with
efficiency makes my actions communicate otherwise).
3. Unintentionally indirect routes (what Obama~ would say instead of
"getting lost" even when it's as bad as a blind man with a limp loses
his guide dog) are not always bad. UIR's produce new experiences* and
you find new things.
4. Getting yourself killed while pursuing the direct route is its own
form of inefficiency.

So we went on a 2 mile hike to actually travel 0.5 miles. Along the
way, we discovered a shopping mall. Air conditioned, with free
bathrooms with toilet seats(!), and escalators, it was a for real
mall. Noticeably absent were teenagers. They seem to be in every
shopping district. Their volume makes them hard to miss (I just got 5
years older by saying that).
We proceeded to the next stop+. Ikea was big as always. We had the
cheap snack bar hot dogs that came with a coffee and cola. The
fountain was outside the register, so I assumed free refills. There
were some instructions that may have been refill restrictive, but they
were in Italian; ignorance is bliss.

Then we found a sign:
Qui Internet veloce senza fili
Which translates to Fast Internet without wires

I got a very strong signal. But I couldn't connect. I tried to ask an
employee how to connect, but he didn't understand English. No luck.
Ikea was next to another mall, but this one was somewhat outside. It
had a McDonalds with free internet. This was ideal: uncrowded, air
conditioned, and with power outlets for the battery-challenged laptop.
But Italian terrorism laws require internet places to gather
information on users. So the registration process asks all sorts of
questions, like passport number and tax ID. In the US, this would be a
social security number. I tried every length possible. It was still
not possible. When I got home, I stuck the laptop out the window and
looked up Italian tax IDs, which are very complicated.
More info at:
The next day, on the way back from the Vatican. I tried using an
example I found. This corresponds to name, birth day, and other
JLT RSS 68A41 Z114A

This time I just got a generic server failure message. Another dead
end, after a lot of work.

We took a bus just to get back across the Interstate. There we found
a bunch of vendors hawking cheap goods. I like my €5 watch, but it
fits too snuggly (It doesn't look like a woman's watch, but it seems
to be made to fit them better. Strong enough for a man, PH balanced
for a woman?) So I got a €3 watch that fits better. The vendor even
set the time for me. He tried to make small talk with about 20 words
of English.

~As an American, I am required to state that I deeply respect Obama
and his eloquence. Even when his choice of words is vague and
confusing, they arc still eloquent and inspiring.

+Did you get the Vanilla Ice reference? If so, mail in to get a €0.05
coin. Offer expires 1/1/09. Voided by time travel or other quantum
mechanics manipulation.
Nervous people don't read these footnotes:
*except when they result in bodily injury, cancer, and, in some cases,
death (notice required by the California Bureau of Overwrought Safety,
Squaresville, CA 90318, (888) CANCER!! Leave out the last ! for shear
terror )

Monday, June 22, 2009

More Pics from Rome,Genzano


The BEACH! - Sunday

We finally got Internetworking tonight after several days in which the network dissapeared. We're still at the window.
-D on Monday

I really wanted to get to the beach. It's been a couple of years since I've been to any beach. My swimming trunks have almost regained that new car smell. I came across Ostia ruins in Rick Steve's guide book and noticed it was close to a beach. There is a train that goes that way, and it is the closest beach to Rome.

I woke up before the alarm, ate a quick breakfast, packed a super quick lunch, and ran out the door to catch the 7:39 train. When I got to the station, it said 8:20 for the train (we can't find any documentation of the weekend schedules at the station). So I headed into Albano and tried the Cotral bus. It came at 8 am. When it says Rome, it really means the closest subway stop to us, Angina. I noticed that Angina has an Ikea (not exactly American but it inspires good feelings) and a McDonalds - definitely worth checking out later (Yes we will somehow drag a new bookcase across the Atlantic because they pack those things so tight). So the trip worked out to be: Walk to Albano Center - Bus to Angina - Subway to Termini - Transfer to Subway to Pyramide - Transfer to train to Ostia - Catch number 7 bus to beach. I left the house at 7:30 am. I saw the Mediterranean at 11 am. But it's the beach so it's worth it.

I walked for several miles; the beach keeps going, with people and vendors along the way. There are substantial dunes with trees and a strip of sand along the sea. The water was not North Carolina August warm, but it still nice for a short swim. I like to walk at home, maybe a couple of times a week, but here I'm been walking like ... a guy who walks a lot (or like a guy after his second DWI conviction - is that appropriate?).

I decided to leave time to get home, so I headed back around 3 pm. Shortly before I left, there was a min-cyclone - a tornado looking spiral out in the sea. It was unusual enough that everybody was grabbing his cell phone to take pictures. That was followed by very dark clouds. People streamed off the beaches. I noticed something very un-European. A few people went to the bus stops. But a flood of cars headed out of the many small parking lots. A lot of cars. A lot of motorcycles. It hit me: Italians don't like public transportation any more than Americans do. Europeans are supposed to be environmental and maybe their incredibly tiny cars (do tall people just not drive here?) make them more so than Americans. But they still like to drive many kilometers. They want to go to the beach in 40 minutes, not 180 minutes. And when America spends billions more on public transportation, people will still prefer to drive. Going to a city center may be easier with a subway, but moving around the city can be slow, very slow. Some times the trains just stop on the tracks for ten minutes. Then when they go, they travel at around 30 miles an hour.

And on the bus ride home, there were cars everywhere. Most things are closed on Sunday nights, so I don't know where they are going. I also noticed the two lane each way divided highway was almost an interstate, but it had crosswalks - no lights or anything, just frogger-style crossing.

The way home was also slow; this time I tried a different bus that was supposed to go directly to the Eur Fermini station. However it went in a loop and then proceeded back to the stop and then onto many other stops before getting to the subway station. We are learning these buses the hard way. I think the time was similar to the train. Then a subway, a transfer to another subway, and the bus. So around 4 hours of beach for 7 hours of traveling. I really like the beach; I might try again tomorrow. 5 hours to Wilmington, NC for some beach time and sea food has always been a good day trip.

Genzano Try 2 - Saturday

In our previous episode, yesterday was a walking marathon to and from Genzano. I wanted to show L the big city, at least the bigger city. I had paid attention to the buses coming in and out of town, so she could go with me without the two hour walk. So we went to the tobacco shop and got tickets for E1 (the tobacco shop has tickets in addition to stamps and I guess tobacco is in there though vending machines seem to supply a lot of that). We went to the bus stop by the Blockbuster Video. The buses don't usually announce the stops as they come. It's sometimes hard to tell one villa or square or fountation from the other, so something like a big tacky blue and yellow sign can be helpful as a landmark. Anyway, we waited dutifully at the stop for the CE bus. And waited. From the sign, it seemed like it ran that day and that time. We gave up after half an hour and started walking. So it was a long trek, but L got to see the beautiful bridges and churches in Arrici on the way. We went to the supermarket and "dollar" store. We tried to find some cargo shorts to replace my torn ones. (How were they torn? Street fighting in my sleep? When something goes down on the street, I'm not leaving until it's done). Or at least a thread and needle. No luck. I know CVS would have something like that, but the pharmacies here are not that comprehensive.

We started noticing a lot of Cotral buses running, so we took one of those back home. These are more like charter buses instead of city buses. We discovered they went to Rome also, a little cheaper and more frequently than the train. On the way back to the bus stop, I made one last ditch try to find a wireless signal. An hour later I found an Internet cafe and a wireless signal in front of an apartment at a side street off the top of a steep hill. I posted my last blog entry sitting on a flower planter beside the apartment. The laptop battery lasts less than three minutes, but my pocket PC lasts much longer but has a very small screen and slow data entry. But it works and is easy to carry. At some point an old lady came out of the building and sat a few feet away from me. It's not that uncommon for people to sit out in front of their homes, but it was a little strange. She was looking toward me but didn't say anything. I just ignored her for a while and then left with an Arrivederci. L made a reservation for a hotel in Florence. It was just $4 an hour for Internet access, but that's still hard to take when we pay $1.50 a day at home.

L's Musing about Italy

I am beginning to realize that traveling in another country means a lot of trial and error and getting lost. Well, technically, D & I get lost a lot in North Carolina, but we know the language and the main basic roads, so we don't stay lost for too long. Plus, since we retired Shea (our old Magellan GPS that led us astray a lot) for Mags (our British-accented Garmin), we hardly get lost at all. Well, we brought Mags, but she's about as reliable as Shea in Rome. Daniel tells me the problem is urban canyons where he can't pick up the signal, so we wander a bit until Mags rejoins us. This is not a big deal if we are not on a schedule, which is usually the case. However, we had to make reservations for the Borghese Gallery. The have a very strict reservation policy and you can only stay for two hours and then they give you the boot. You are supposed to arrive a half hour early to get your tickets. Well, we had spent the morning being lost, er, exploring Travastere. We were actually looking for a couple of different guide book recommended restaurants for lunch. Mags was confused again, the first place we tried didn't exist anymore, and Rick Steves' "homey" restaurant wasn't quite ready to serve yet. Side note: restaurants and shops post hours of operations, but they are really suggestions. They might open twenty or thirty minutes later, take siesta (a three-four hour period in the afternoon when all the shops close), or just decide to call it a day at 1pm on Saturday. I remember Rob saying once that he didn't like Denmark because he couldn't buy milk on Sunday. I remember thinking, "What's the big deal? Just buy it on Saturday." Now I understand the aggression. You probably tried to get milk for the last two days but were too early, too late, or came during siesta. Plus they sell the milk in such tiny containers that are clearly not for cereal eating (also suggested by the all of four cereal choices at the store).

Sorry. Got a bit off topic. Travastere was indeed very beautiful and did look like the Italy they show in movies all the time. I even got a picture of someone's wash on the line on a narrow street. There were beautiful flowerboxes in windows everywhere and the buildings were all painted in cheerful hues made a little less brilliant by age and dust. The objective of going there was to walk around and see it, not go to any particular site, so getting lost served our purpose nicely. We saw a great deal more of Travestere that we probably would have otherwise. We eventually just picked a restaurant that looked good and it was. It was still more trial and error, though. Once again I tried to order gnocchi. The first time was our first day in Rome. I was told I couldn't have it because it was only served on Tuesday. As it was Tuesday, I was a bit confused, but ordered the lasagna anyway. This time I ordered the gnocchitta in tomato cream sauce, thinking this just meant small gnocchi (it was listed with two other gnocchi dishes). It turns out that gnocchitta is the little shell pasta like you get in the Velveeta shells and cheese box. It was still good, though. Likewise, Daniel ordered the calzone with mushrooms and got instead the calzone with proscuitto. Again, still good, put not quite what we were expecting. I will say they make fabulous pizza/calzone crust here and many wonderful cheeses.

Again, I digress. Food always distracts me. Anyway, after lunch we realized we really needed to book it to get to the gallery on time. Ha, Ha. We got lost for over two hours. All those winding streets I had praised for their beauty suddenly became my worst enemy. My bad foot that still has the pinched nerve actually went numb at one point because we walked for so long. We finally made it to the gallery not 30 minutes early as they recommended, but twenty minutes after our reservation. We told the ticket lady we had reservations at 3pm and she said, "It is impossible! You must now wait to 5!" So, I gratefully sat on a bench for over an hour until 5pm when they would let us in. D, who has been Mr. Boundless Energy over here, decided to walk through the large park that connects with the gallery instead. We finally got in and found that the gallery was pretty small. They did have a lot of nice pieces, including some stunning sculptures and paintings done by Raphael, but we were still done in an hour. I'm not sure why they wouldn't just let us in at 3:20. Thankfully, in D's exploring the park he found a bus that got us back to Termini, where we take the train home. It was late and we were in a rush to catch the train, so we got McDonalds and ate it on the train. The fries aren't really the same, but I took great comfort in the fact that the Big Mac tasted just like the Roxboro Durham's, and they even had the mix on the Coke right.

I'm reading Bill Bryson's I'm a Stranger Here Myself while I am here. It's a book that compiles about two years worth of a weekly column he wrote after returning to the US after living in the UK for 20+ years. It is especially funny to me right now. I've never considered myself an America hater by any means, but I always kind of imagined us as inferior to Europe for some reason. I have to say, though, I love air conditioning and showers larger than a postage stamp, and hot water, and TOLIET SEATS!, and customer service. We may lack old world charm, but gosh darn it, we have convenience. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying my time here, but I am appreciating home more than I thought I would.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Albano Rest Day 2

After a lot of walking yesterday, we took it easy today. I'm
unfortunately moving back toward getting up late. It's not terribly
hot in the apartment, but we miss air conditioning.
I started Scary Movie 4. It turned out to be in Italian only. The
beginning with Dr. Phil and Shaq was amusing - you could tell what
they must have been saying. Then came Charlie Sheen; gross and not
funny aren't a good combination. Then I watched the end of Gioruo Di
Ordinaria Follia (Falling Down) with Michael Douglas. It's a classic
in any language, but they had English, so even better. "I'm obsolete.
I'm economically unviable," so I am going to blow lots of stuff up,
and, in the process, learn a little something about myself. "I'm the
bad guy? How did that happen? I did everything they told me to." Then
a brief piece on the making of Bourne Ultimatum. I didn't realize Matt
Damon did some of the stunts, including laying a motorcycle down and
jumping from a train - things to try while we're here.

After taking easy for half the day, I noticed my watch wasn't working
right. In the GPS I looked what looked like an electronics shop (the
names were in Italian). I couldn't do more than that because we've a
lot of trouble gettting an internet signal(more on that later-I'm
sitting on a flower planter in front of an apartment building to get a
signal right now. The store was in the next town over, Genzano, about
2.5 miles away. This seemed like a simple enough walk. The GPS didn't
that it was 200 feet higher than Albano. It took me up a beautiful but
grueling tiny road that forced most of the elevation in half a mile.
The road was so narrow that I had to turn to the side to let cars
pass. On the way, I discovered humidity inside my watch, so I needed a
new watch, not just a battery. Next to the electronics store was the
closest thing I have seen here to a Super Target. A very refreshing
Coke later, I went to the closest thing to a Best Buy. The cheapest
watch was $50. Everything seems more expensive here.
Strolling through town, I found the closest thing to a Dollar Tree and
got a watch for $5.
That evening I spent a lot of time hanging out of the window on the
roof, trying to set an Internet signal. No luck. I got about 4 pages
loaded and the signal died.
Old Italian man in only boxer shorts on his balcony count: 1
Thankfulness count he was wearing boxers: infinity
Articles of clothing dropped from drying racks attached to windows
onto sidewalk while drying count: 2 (no electric dryer, but lots of
sun, so it works well)

An old lady has sat down
10 feet away from me and is staring me down, so I should go.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rome Day 2

What does it really take to make a bathroom?
Enter your bathroom. Turn to your toilet. Right in front of the tank, at the back of the seat, there are two screws. Undo those screws. Remove the toilet seat. Now sit down anyway. You've now gone winky-tinky*(see foot note), Italian style. Public or private restroom-it doesn't matter. I've never thought of a toilet seat as optional or luxurious. The most disgusting/I-95 South Carolina/haven't been maintained or cleaned in 20 years (not that it would help much because the stains are permanent) bathrooms have seats. They even have the holes for the seat screws. The plus side is there are no marital arguemnts about leaving the seat up+. When in Rome,...
My million dollar idea of the hour is to make portable, lightweight, fold-out seats for Americans. Or even disposable ones that could be sold in a vending machine in the bathroom (patents pending, watch channel 50 at 4 am for an infomercial for investors - I promise consistent returns of 87% annually)^.

Crossing the Via
Walking into traffic is a different way of crossing the road for me. I really don't like jaywalking, but that's the way it's done here. Most roads don't have signals, and many have a continuos stream of cars. So you just step out and the driver hurtling in your direction slams to a stop. Any sign of hesitation, which is natural to me as a car plows toward me, and he won't stop. I almost got in trouble when there was a red light, which I didn't notice, and I stepped out anyway.

We crossed the river and looked around for a while. We didn’t find the restaurant we were looking for from a web site (got to the address and it was empty), but we found a decent one. One we found didn't open up until 2 for lunch! After lunch we needed to cross back over the river to get to the museum.

Bus to nowhere
Finding Plaza S. Pietro (In Motorio) is very different from Plaza S. Pietro. The latter is a transit stop while the former is atop a big hill with only the terminal bus. "Terminal" is very different from "termini" when it's on the front of a bus. The terminal bus went around in a loop and never went closer than a mile from the metro. Termini would have taken us to main metro station. Now we know. Lara asked, "Why did you get on a bus when you didn't know where it was going?" Some people ask Why? and I ask Why Not? I had a delusion that buses would hit some metro stop, and the Terminal label fed that delusion. Seeing the same sights in a loop broke the delusion.

The Museum
We saw many, many paintings, sculptures, and painted ceilings at Galleria Borghese. The transit made us late. The reservation was at 3 and we got there at 3:30. It would have been plenty of time, but we were told "That is impossible," so we rescheduled for 5:00 PM. It only took us an hour, so 3:30 would have worked. This is strange because Italians' conception time seems to be ish-based, like I'll meet you at 4ish or so. The pizza shop we went to on the first day reopened at 5ish, which was 5:20. The video shop down the street post hours end at 9:30, but I saw them close at 8.
The McRib lives
Afterward, we even found the right bus, hidden a few blocks away, to the metro/train station. Time demanded McDonalds for dinner, to go for eating on the train. There are three McDonalds in or directly across the street from the station. I chose downstairs because it seemed more familiar. They had a Barbeque sauce that tasted like McRib%. After ordering, I figured out we should be ordering cheeseburgers and fries off the 1 Euro menu and get a meal for €2-€5 instead of the combo price of €6 ($8.25, yikes). Coke seems to be especially expensive everywhere here. My gut reaction is to blame European farm policies (blaming socialism and the EU is so obvious I shouldn't have to say it). Again, no free refills, not even on water. There are several free fountains arond the city with continously running potable water. The restaurants can't seem to figure this out.

Nun and monk count is up to 17+.
Black people count notched up to 4. Update: Lara saw 15 people in the train terminal.

*Winky Tinky is the international word for the restroom, according to Mr. Favaza, health teacher at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in the health double-wide, Alexandria, Va (1993).

+For the record, I consistently put the seat down, when one is available.

^Forward-looking financial statements may have been made in this prospectus under the safe harbor rule. The state of California requires this message: this investment scheme is a complete ripoff, known to cause cancer, and you should run know. Instead invest in California municipal bonds, which we promise we'll repay eventually.

%By some estimates, bringing back the McRib was Bill Clinton's biggest achievement. A sauce to bring McRibiality to every food increases his legacy substantially.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Photos Uploaded

I rigged a stand for the laptop by the window, so we could upload all of the pictures we have taken.

Castel Gandolfo

Rome Day 1

Around Albano

Wednesday - the female perspective

Well, I thought I should probably put in my two cents worth. Daniel spends most of the evening either typing for the blog or doing window acrobatics to post the blog, plus I'm usually falling asleep on the couch, so I thought I'd try the morning shift while Daniel is still in bed. It is if Carolina is with me in spirit, because even though we have gone through a time change, I still wake up every morning at 6am when she normally wakes me up to come watch her eat breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, Daniel is currently in Nutella heaven. There's not much in the way of cereal around here, although we do have a box of cornflakes. Still, seemed like a good idea to embrace the bread and nutella for breakfast habit. Apparently it's popular because Nutella comes in like 5 sizes here, including one made of glass with cartoon characters on it, so you can save it as a drinking glass. I have drunk out of one such Pink Panther glass that our host had in the cabinet. Making coffee has been more difficult that I thought. I was sure I was set bringing a grinder, my favorite beans, and a press. Unfortunately, I forgot that the coffeegrinder is 120v, and so I can't actually use it. I've been trying various methods of crushing and cutting the beans on my own. It sort of works, but creates weak coffee resembling coffee flavored tea. It's better than nothing, I suppose. I did have a strong but drinkable Cafe Americano at McDonald's yesterday. I still can't bring myself to try the sludge-like espresso that is everywhere.

We are already going to the market daily, if nothing else, to get bread. They have giant loaves of fresh bread with a very hard crust (read-crack a tooth crusty), and they are nice and slice off as much of the loaf as you want and charge you by weight. We've discovered it's stale after 24 hours, and can maybe stretch it 48 hours if you plan to toast it (in the oven, no toaster here). Actually, no microwave either, so we are back to Daniel's hamburger helper college days of make the baked pasta, put the dish in the fridge, and then put it back in the oven each night. Cooking has been interesting, but not too difficult. We arrived to find a giant bowl full of the real deal link sausage defrosting in the fridge for us. Andrea assured us "is good." It was good, and surprisingly lean. I've been trying to incorporate it into our meals, but I don't think I really can eat that much sausage. He also left us a hunk of spicy salami that smells like pepperoni, but I admit I'm a little afraid of that. I was told that Southern Italian cooking is less about spice and more about fresh ingredients. That has held true so far. The pizza is simple but good, and most things are not seasoned with much more than salt. I had lasagna in a restaurant yesterday. The pasta and cheese were very fresh and delicious, but the sauce was basically just tomato sauce. Even our host only had two spices in his house--salt and rosemary. He's got pepper now,too. I have this urge to load my pockets up with little spice jar and "kick it up a notch" as Emeril would say. We've had gelato a couple of times, but I think I've decided again, that while the ingredients are fresh, it's a bit too creamy for me and the flavor is not intense enough. It's possible I just haven't had good gelato yet, as I am told there can be a big difference between places, but I think it's a texture thing for me. Now I'm on the hunt for Italian ice. I read there were little carts selling it in Rome, but I haven't seen any yet. I am looking forward to the rich flavors of French cooking.

We came home last night and reevaluated what we still wanted to see and dicovered we were way too efficient the first day without meaning to. It looks like we have a day for Vatican touring (next Tuesday) and Wednesday we are going to see the Borghese Gallery (where they will only let you in for two hours), Jewish Ghetto, and Travstevere, and a couple of churches. However, this will mean we will have seen everything on our to do list and more in only three days. We could keep going in, but it would be for things like the museum that traces the history of Latin Language (I can hear Sarah H. getting excited) or one of the many "this is what's left of our sculpture" museums. I love sculpture, so I was a little sad to discover that aside from the Borghese and the Vatican, most of the art and sculpture museums resemble the Forum. "Here's a half a column that used to be a Temple," only at the art museums its more like, "While missing both arms, a chunck out of the hip, and half her face, this is clearly a fine example of an ancient statute of Venus." Daniel and I decided we just can't get too excited about ruins that are mostly just rubble. My imagination only goes so far. I was particularly disgusted reading this huge plaque in the Forum about this amazing equestrian statute that was supposed to be right in front of us. I kept asking Daniel, "Am I blind, I just don't see it?" Finally, D discovered in the fine print that all that was left of the statue was a line of square blocks in the grass. I guess if Harrison Ford, a hat, and a whip aren't involved, archeology doesn't hold our attention for long. It reminded me of when I took a summer archeology class with Mr. McGrew. He was actually disappointed with me. "You really don't like this, do you?" I think my reply had something do do with extreme boredom.

Still, I love the feel of Rome and all of the beautiful winding streets. They are so narrow you think they are pedestrian walkways, but in fact traffic goes down them both ways--thankfully they seem to be both understanding and patient with pedestrians. There are flowers everywhere, especially in the countryside, where red poppies grow wild. It's a lovely city to just absorb and take in. We are about 30 km from the center of Rome in Albano Laizle, not Castel Gandolfo as we originally thought, although it is only about a mile away. Where we are staying is more a working man's town, where Castel Gandolofo appears to be all lake houses for the rich. That means where we are staying is a normal town with a grocery store, cheap places to eat, etc., which is actually better for us. I also really like being out where it is smaller and quieter to recoop at night. Since it appears we will have some extra time when we are not in Rome, I'm trying to explore options in the countryside since it has been so pretty. I think we might go to Trivoli where there is a large estate that is similiar to Versailles. I would also like to take the train up through Tuscany to Florence, but I have yet to have good enough Internet to see how much that would cost. Plus, we seem to need a recoop day of not doing much for every day like yesterday. I think our goals today are sleep, see a bit more of Albano Laizle and do some laundry.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday-the first big day in Rome

We posted earlier in from the McDonald’s to celebrate the free wifi. Here’s more info.

We got up early again and caught the train into Rome, about a 50 minute ride into the central terminal. Lara found out about Roma Pass, which gets us into 2 major attractions and comes with a 3 day subway card. At the station, we thought we'd be prepared by going to the bathroom. Then we saw the gate that charged $1 for the privilege. Dry clean only means it's dirty, and a dollar pee fee means hold it. If I paid €2 for a train ticket and €2 for a Coke, then I've paid about $1 in tax. That should pay for a bathroom in the train station so I can dispose of the Coke. The fee wasn't a pattern throughout the city, but still it's one of those US suburban amenities that is hard to go without.
First we went to the Coliseum. The Roma Pass got us through with no wait in the long ticket line. What can you say-it's the Coliseum. It's big, old, impressive. It's a little scary - in its inaugural week 2,000 people died while fighting for show. We panic when 2,000 people die over multiple years in a war (though not when 40,000+ people die in car wrecks each year so we aren’t consistent). I digress. We then went to the Forum and Palatine Hill. L got sick of seeing ruins and rocks. Trigger suggested the Arch of Titus, which was impressive in denoting how much 50,000 enslaved Jews had done to build the Coliseum and the rest of Rome. The GPS was very helpful in finding a nice restaurant. I had calamari and shrimp. The shrimp were the whole shrimp, head, eyes and all. Even at Virginia Beach, I don’t think I saw that.

We hopped on the subway and then walked a half a mile to the Pantheon. We walked and winded our way through urban canyons, which the GPS severely dislikes. So when we got there, I wasn’t entirely sure. It didn’t actually say “Pantheon” on the front, but it was too impressive to be much else. It is an actual church, so they’re rules of decorum to maintain a respectful atmosphere. There were too many tourists there for this to work. It wasn’t just loud Americans making the noise. The whole international community contributed. The GPS led us on a wild goose chase to find the post office, but we got the goose anyway (stamps). Tobacco shops sell stamps – weird but true. McDonald’s came to the rescue with €1 milk shakes on a hot day. We then walked to the Trevi Fountain. Fountain brings up images of a big bird bath in my mind. This thing was closer to a water park. I expected a dolphin to leap of the water. Lara through a coin backward into the pool, meaning she’ll return to Rome. We saw more people dressed up as Roman soldiers. They make a friendly offer to take your picture with them and then demand €5. A lot of people want to “help” you in Rome and then charge you for their love. I’ve taken to saying Nein, Danke, because everyone knows the Germans don’t mince words or violence when traveling the continent.

Nun and monk count is up to 14+. We might stop counting at the Vatican, where they might count lay people.

Right now (9:30 Tuesday), we are listening the sounds of the neighborhood. No air conditioning means open windows. Tall building in apartment rows means proximity. So you hear what’s happening around you. It’s nice but very different from what I am used to.

Monday – Hills and Lakes

It turns out exhaustion really helps with adjusting to a new time zone. We were up early. We went to the market for food. There was a lot of unhealthy food. I thought Europeans were healthier than us. If it's up to grocery store aisle population, chips, cookies, and soda are very popular. We also bought toilet paper. The apartment had a bidet , but it holds no interest for us. Maybe useful as a flower pot?

We took the train to Castel Gandolfo, where there is a summer home for the Pope. We did a lot of uphill walking, but the lake on edge of town made it very beautiful. The GPS helped a lot with the winding roads. There was a working pay phone next to a beautiful church. We tried using three calling cards, so we ended up using a credit card at about 1 Euro/minute to call Dad. We also tried to send an e-mail from the payphone for 0.20 Euro to update the blog. It never posted. It took two tries. The instructions were in Italian, so the first time I entered the e-mail address as the body of the message and vice versa. The ATMs are very friendly with multiple languages, so the phones monolinguality was disappointing. We bought some post cards, but we couldn't quite figure out the post office.

Afterward, L made a great dinner - Italian of course. I traveled to the center of town and randomly found an electronics shop for the adapter that will let us plug American plugs into Europlugs. Again no language connection, but I brought an American plug and looked desperate. I thought I had brought an adapter, but it only works the GPS. On the way back, I got lost and the GPS couldn't get a signal. It turns out there are several busy streets when I thought there was one, and I lost track. I wandered down hill and found the train station near the house.

In the evening, we watched TV - American TV. Fortunately, there are multiple audio channels on the TV, so we can watch American shows in English. Today there was Star Trek and the Big Bang Theory. The same works with some Italian DVDs.

I spent a lot of time hunting wifi signals. On the roof I finally got an open signal. I then discovered if I put the laptop out of the window on its side, I can get the signal. Move it in too far or rotate it and the signal dies. But it's better than nothing.

McDonalds at the Pantheon

A quick post while we have wifi:
We found a McDonalds for a cheap cold snack and rare free wifi. L is
feeding pidgeons. boo! We've seen lots of ruins/rubble around the
Coliseum and a lot of pretty buildings. It is hot, and cold water at
fountains has been great. We also had a good Italian lunch. Hopefully,
we can post pictures later.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Saturday-Sunday: Traveling to JFK to GTW to Rome

Quick Summary

We got here okay by Sunday afternoon and enjoy the city.

Check-in and JFK

We changed airlines in JFK, so we had to shuttle around bags. JFK is huge. I read that some people pay for a taxi to get between terminals, but I didn't believe until today. We arrived at terminal 8 and walked what seemed like a mile to get our bags. We were very fortunate to find a free cart right at the gate. We then went to terminal 1 to hold our carry-on bags while we were in Manhattan . Then it was off to terminal 7 to check our big bags with British Air.

Our check-in agent was like Dieter from Sprockets. "This interaction is cumbersome and bores me. This conversation is terminated," was his attitude.


Then we got back on the airport train to the Long Island Railroad transfer station. Then 20 minutes to Penn Station in Manhattan and another few on the subway to the Port Authority. We walked to the UN and took the M27 bus back. So we enjoyed almost every form of transportation today, from escalators to airplanes to trains(no ferries or rickshaws).

We walked around the UN visitor area for a little while. There were some cool photographs of animals from around the world. Showing my lack of refinement, I was thrilled to see the UN's support of ice cream technology with its ice cream vending machine, which is the kind that uses a vacuum hose to deliver the ice cream, in the basement.

We enjoyed the city, and it gave us a little trial run of navigating a busy city, albeit in English this time.

Back to JFK

Requirements for a good restaurant:

  • It has the name McDonalds
  • It has cheap chicken McNuggets
  • It has free wifi
  • It has CNN in high definition playing in the market
  • It has free refills

Helpful, but not absolutely essential:

  • It has a large table where ten old guys of various ethnicities sit around and argue for hours, in a way that you can hear what they are saying but not understand 90% of it. To be fair, only the Roxboro/I-85 McDonalds meets this requirement.

The JFK McDonalds fails on all but one requirement. Nevertheless, my last American McMeal was tasty and filling.

Flight to London Gattwick

We got an upgrade to World Traveler Plus from economy, right before we boarded the plane. We did not know why or even what it meant. It's one level up from "economy" or "commoners"-we couldn't tell with the accent of the stewardess and all. I quickly walked back to economy to see how much better we had it. We have a little more leg room. We get nicer headphones. I was a little surprised at that quick instinct to feel better than others.

We get a curtain. I've seen the first class curtain before, but I've always been behind it. We still are behind the black first class curtain, but a blue veil separates us from the truly unwashed masses. In reality, it just makes it hard to see when the loo is available.

Speaking of for-n-r speak (no offence meant to for-n-r's) , from the British paper, I deduce we are taking a break, not a vacation. Holiday seems to be okay as well, and it sounds less romanticaly disastrous. "We are taking a break" doesn't sound encouraging for a tenth anniversary trip.

The satellite phone in the seat cost $4 + $0.15/second. PER SECOND. So it might cost $10 to call and say, "Guess WHERE I am calling from? It is actually tempting. In fact, the phone also serves as the TV remote control. So it's always there, tempting you.

When I went to the WC in the economy section, I was afraid to cross the curtain. I went back around before realizing that my seat was beyond the great wall of blue.

Good conversation with my wife made the ride seem shorter!

Listened (accidentally) to Sunday, Bloody Sunday while approaching Ireland and heard Beautiful Day as the sun came up

London Gatwick to Albio Laziale

The 2 hours we spent on the runway waiting to take off at JFK almost led us to miss the connection to Rome. It took a lot of walking without much help from escalators, to do the rail transfers to get to our town, Albio Laziale. We asked some Nuns for their cell phone, when the pay phone wouldn't call. Without speaking their language, we gestured that the pay phone was kaput while they kept pointing us in that direction. They let us and refused a Euro as payment.

Our host picked us up at the train and delivered us to our apartment. We relaxed a little then hunted for food. A nearby pizza place closed when we initially passed. Very friendly people at a pharmacy helped us to find a restaurant after initially thinking we were looking for food in the pharmacy.

It turned out they had pointed us back to the pizza place, which was on siesta and would reopen at 5 pm. In the mean time we followed people to a neighborhood yard sale. Eight track tapes and George Michael records were available, and I was tempted. 100 year old antiques were next to 4 small animatronic feet that danced to "Unchained Melody." They had a lot of Italian books. I should have realized it earlier, really instantly, but the books drove it home that they really do speak a very different language here. Not just for fun between friends, but all the time.

At around 5, we went back for pizza. They were friendly but not in a hurry (it was really opening 5ish). After only snacks all day, we were very hungry and the pizza was good.

I was very tired by 9pm Sunday. From Thurs Noon to Sunday Noon EDT, I had about 6 hours of sleep.

You can tell I had a lot of time on the plane with the old pocket PC to write this all. I haven't written this much since writing VB code in 2005


Saturday, June 13, 2009

At UN in nyc. L called it a death march. Passed a resolution showing mild displeasure against death marches. -D

And we're off!

Our European adventure begins!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Starting Out

We will miss our friends and family, so we started this blog to share our experiences with y'all (despite my feeling that this whole Internets thing may be a fad). We know we'll be missed too, as Trigger blessed our trip and absence with the profound blessing, "Thanks for ruining my summer." That may be what the Europeans say when we arrive. Our divergent family traditions dictate that we must either conquer the continent or free it from the conquerors.

Tomorrow is RDU to JFK to London to Rome. We plan on going into Manhattan from JFK using the Long Island Railroad while we wait on the several hours between flights. The house is cleaned, ready for the people with whom we'll swap and most everything is packed. Ipods are charged, and extra batteries are stowed, for the expectation of the longest I have had to sit still in 12 years.

We have done a lot of planning, but not everything can be planned so far away. So far we're not sure how much Internet access we'll have, so we'll see how often we can post news.


The Schedule for the Summer

Tomorrow we leave for Europe. We fly into JFK in the morning and then have about 8 hours to kill in NYC before we take an overnight flight to Rome, with a stopover in London to change planes. We'll be in Castel Gandolfo (about 10 km outside of Rome) until June 27, when we fly to Sevilla, Spain. In Sevilla, we are meeting up with a friend from church, Jenny, and her sister Jane. The four of us are then heading to our beach house in Cartaya! We have a few days to become one with the sand until my sister Dana joins us and we will be doing a whirlwind tour of Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Morocco, and Lisbon! Jane leaves for London on the 10th, and then Dana leaves on the 13th. Jenny may stay a bit longer and we'll take in Madrid. After four wonderful weeks in Spain, we fly to Paris on July 26th and stay through August 9th, when we do the whole Paris, London, JFK, Raleigh bit again. We hope to keep you all updated on what we are doing and seeing throughout our trip.

So you can get an idea of where we are going, the pictures are of Castel Gandolfo, our first stop. Also, you can see multiple pictures of our place in Spain in this slideshow