Monday, March 3, 2014

Rome If She Wants To...Part 1

My first full day in Rome was a Friday, and I was on my own.  Will had to work, so like a good little tourist, I planned out my route, summoned my courage, and boarded the metro in Rome, ALL ON MY OWN!  I was pretty proud of myself, I successfully navigated public transportation in a foreign country all on my own.  Of course, as soon as I walked off the metro, the strap on my purse broke, so before I could do anything else, I had to find a store and buy a new purse.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find one I was really in love with, so I ended up with a cheap one to just get the job done.  I was upset because I really liked the purse I bought just for Rome, and planned my outfits around that specific purse.  Will laughed when he saw the purse I bought and said, "We come all the way to Rome, and that's the purse you buy?!?"   

After purchasing a new purse and transferring everything over, I headed back to the streets and on to my destination of the day, the Vatican!  Will and I discussed going to the Vatican on Saturday, as he wanted to see it as well, but I knew that I would want to spend more time in St. Peter's than he would, and I wanted to make sure I saw everything I wanted to see.  Will and I only had limited time together, so we really had to plan out what he wanted to see and manage our time wisely.  My schedule while he was at work was much more open.  Plus, I got to impress him with my knowledge of the metro system, including changing trains! 

When I was on my own, I didn't want to have my nice DSLR camera out, so I left that in the hotel safe, and just used my little point and shoot camera.  I haven't downloaded those pictures yet (still), but I do have my pictures from my DSLR! 

The Saturday we were there was our first full day together.  We woke up early and headed down for breakfast at our hotel, then we hopped on the metro to arrive at the Vatican!  Once we go through security, we headed to the top of St. Peter's, then up more to the very top of the dome!  The views of Rome from the top of St. Peter's were breathtaking!  It was a perfectly clear day, we could literally see the entire city of Rome! 

After decending back down to Earth (it was a LONG way down), we explored the inside of St. Peter's, including sending post cards to our family!   

We headed to the Vatican museums to see the Sistine Chapel.  The only way to get to the Chapel is to go through the museum, and you have to go all the way through.  It took us nearly 2 hours to just get inside the Sistine Chapel!  Since it was a Saturday during the summer, there were lots of tourists and you could only move as fast as the group was moving.  Many tourists were with tour guides, who wanted to share everything about every piece of art, and while some of it was interesting, most of it I could have skipped.  Once you get in the Sistine Chapel, you cannot take pictures, and they yell at you if you try, so I wasn't able to get pictures. 

Just outside of the Vatican, there is a "fort" called Castel Sant' Angelo, which was once used to defend the Vatican from attacks.  There was a passage from St. Peter's to the castel where the Pope and others could escape.  A few previous popes actually lived there as well, so we were able to see their living quarters. 

After the Castel, we headed to the Colosseum and the Forum, then Mamertine Prison (where Saints Peter and Paul were imprisoned), and finally to St. Peter in Chains church (where the chains that held St. Peter are held). 

All that walking and sightseeing was exhausting, and I have to admit, I was a little cranky, so we headed back to the hotel to rest for a bit before going to dinner.  After a nap and a shower, I felt so much better.  Trevi Fountain was in walking distance from our hotel, so we headed in that direction to find somewhere to eat before going to Trevi for the first time.  Trevi is beautiful during the day, but stunning at night!  It's incredibly hard to get good pictures because there are people everywhere, but I think I managed to get a few good shots! Of course we had to finish our evening with gelato!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Soo...I haven't written in a long time, and no one will probably read this, but I'm blogging anyway! I just went back and re-read my last post and it was about our last day in Costa Rica, so I'll pick up right where I left off!

Will and I came back from Costa Rica to some very exciting news, Will was being sent to Rome, Italy on a work trip, and Lockheed said I could go as well!  Rome has always been my #1 place I wanted to travel, not only because of the beauty of the city, but because of all of the Catholic history that can be found there!  Since Will would be there for work, the room was paid for, and he was on a very generous per diem for food each day, so other than my flight and our spending money, we got away with a trip to Rome for an amazing price.  Since the trip was last minute ( 2 weeks notice), Will and his co-workers flew to Rome first class.  By the time I could book a flight, a first class flight for me was a bit out of our price comfort zone, although looking back now, it might have been worth it!

I really almost couldn't believe my "luck", I got married, honeymooned in Costa Rica, and went to Rome in a matter of 5 weeks.  I went from having no stamps in my passport to have two, on two different continents!

Boarding the flight to New York was very nerve racking for me.  Even though I have flown by myself countless numbers of times, I've never flown internationally on my own.  I was nervous about going through customs in a country that I never visited and didn't speak the language.  Luckily, I found some very nice Americans that clearly knew what they were doing and followed their lead!

On both flights (DFW to New York and New York to Rome), I was assigned a middle seat, but again luckily, on both flights there were aisle seats that were available in the exit rows.  More room and aisle seats...yes please!!  Even with the extra room, I wasn't able to sleep on the trans-Atlantic flight, which made me even more anxious.  I knew when I left the airport, I would have to get in a cab and get to my hotel, all on my own, since Will would be at work.  He couldn't take off work, because work was the whole reason he was in Rome in the first place.

After I made it through customs, at about 7 am Roman time, I went outside to try to find a taxi.  Like most airports, taxis are not hard to find, but making sure I got in a legit taxi, with someone who spoke enough English to get me to my hotel was a different story.  I'm sure I looked like a lost tourist, since a man (who spoke very good English) came up to me, tried to take my bag and put me in a private taxi.  Will and I researched before I left the States and I knew that the "official" Roman taxis have the city crest on the side, and had a flat fee from the airport to any hotel in Rome.  When I asked about the flat fee, the man told me that was not what he was offering and walked away.  I found a cab with the crest on the side and felt a little better...that is until he started driving.  Let's just say I spent a lot of time looking down at my phone so I wouldn't freak out that we were about to crash!  Like many other drivers overseas, Roman drivers were a little "less cautious" than I would be.  The driver didn't appear to speak much English, so it was a pretty quiet ride, but thankfully he brought me to the right hotel!  I was able to check in without any issues and went up to my room to take a short nap.

I knew that I needed sleep, but I also knew that if I slept too long, I wouldn't sleep that night, which would make jet lag set in very quickly.  I set my alarm and let myself sleep for 2 hours, then got up, showered, and pulled out my map of Rome and book of sights.  I hate walking around with maps out (makes people look too touristy), so I tried to plan out my sights while still in the room.  I wrote the directions on small pieces of paper that I could take out much easier than a huge map.

Since I was on my own and was still tired, I stayed pretty close to our hotel on that first day.  We were a few blocks away from the Spanish Steps, so I spent a lot of time there, wandering in and out of shops and exploring that area.  I ate my first bowl of Roman gelato (which would be a daily treat for me while I was there) and tried to act like I didn't just get off a plane.  I was pretty proud of myself for not getting TOO lost.  I was able to find our hotel fairly easily.

I went back to our hotel to rest for a bit, and wait for Will to come home.  I don't think I had ever been so happy to see him as I was that night (ok, maybe on our wedding day), but I was so relieved to see a familiar person after being scared and on my own for 36 hours.  Will had been in Rome for a few days already, so he felt a little more comfortable navigating the streets.  While they had rental cars, no one really felt comfortable driving, especially in the city limits, where there are a lot of one-way streets, some streets are restricted, and most signs are in Italian.  We walked around, found the metro station (which I would use often) and had a traditional Italian dinner.  We both fell asleep early that night, since I was still tired and he was exhausted after working all day.

Stay tuned for more posts and pictures from Rome!!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day After Wedding

Will planned the perfect day after wedding for us!  
We spent our wedding night in a cute little bed and breakfast in Grapevine, about two blocks off main street!  It had cute little rooms, an awesome claw-foot soaker tub (which was the perfect thing for me after the wedding!), and beautiful gardens in the back. 

On Sunday, we slept in, then had breakfast with the other people at the inn. We packed up, headed home, went to mass in the afternoon (thank goodness for 4 pm mass), then headed to dinner. 

Will had made dinner reservations...on a sail boat! The boat is call the Black Watch, and we highly recommend it!  They can take up to 6 passengers, but this night, we were the only ones aboard, so we had a private dinner!  The food was great, but the whole experience is amazing!  You eat dinner while still in the marina, then head up to the deck of the boat for a 2 hour sunset cruise around Lake Grapevine!   The weather was absolutely perfect, the crew is wonderful, the sunset was beautiful, and I couldn't have asked for anything better!  I told Will this needs to be our anniversary spot!  You eat dessert on the deck and then head back to the marina at twilight.  It's definitely a unique dining experience!  

Costa Rican Honeymoon Day 5

Soo, I've been a bad blogger, I forgot to update my last day in Costa Rica!

We decided to take our last day in paradise easy.  We started with our normal breakfast buffet (with my favorite watermelon juice), then headed out into the Pacific for kayaking!  The views were breathtaking!  I love that we can go on adventures together!  We spent the rest of the morning laying by the pool sipping on colorful drinks!

After kayaking, we headed to the spa for massages and reflexology!  The spa was so nice and we went early to take advantage of the spa pools and hot tubs. It was the perfect way to end our week! 

After one final dinner, we headed back to our room for our last night in Costa Rica.  We finally were able to get reservations at the Asian Fusion restaurant on the resort!   As much as we loved our honeymoon, we were ready to come back home and back to the "real world". 

The next morning, we packed up, headed off to one more breakfast, then headed to the airport.  The airport in  Liberia,Costa Rica is a small, crowded little place.  They only have a few flights in and out each day, so it gets really crowded.  You also have to go through security when you get there, have your bags sniffed by the drug dogs, then go through another "mini-security" before boarding.  Luckily, we were in first class, so we were able to board first. 

We finally arrived home around 11:00 Saturday night, totally exhausted, but so glad to sleep in our own bed with our dogs!  One of the best things I did was change our sheets on the bed before we left.  It was so nice to crawl into clean sheets! 

We've adjusted back to real life/ married life really well.  Since we lived together before the wedding, not much has changed, which is kind of nice. 

We embark on our next adventure this week!  I am loving this marriage thing! 
More details on the adventure later (and no I'm not preggo...yet)!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Costa Rican Honeymoon- Day 4

After our excursion on day 3, we decided to just take it easy on Thursday.  We slept in, took our time going to breakfast, then headed back to our room to change into bathing suits.  We laid around by the pool for a bit, then headed to the beach to snorkel. 

Some friends of ours let us borrow their waterproof camera for our honeymoon, so we tried taking pictures of our snorkeling adventure.  Of the probably 50 pictures we took, only about 5 of them came out!  We have lots of half faces, blurry ocean pics, and one picture of just the top of my swimsuit (read- my boobs), I'm not sure if Will "accidentally" took that picture.  With the tide coming in and out, it was really hard to get clear pictures! 

As we were heading out, I felt a small sting on my finger, but figured that I just cut it on something and the salt water was bothering it.  After snorkeling for about 30 minutes, I felt a sting all over my left arm.  I swam up to the surface, pulled off my mask, and realized I had a jellyfish tentacle wrapped around my arm.  I haven't been stung by a jellyfish in probably 20 years, and I forgot how bad that sting can feel!  I unwrapped the tentacle, called out to Will, and started swimming back to shore.  Will took our gear back to the water activities desk, and I asked an employee how they treat jellyfish stings, he smiled and told me they used vinegar.  I headed to the nearest open restaurant (luckily only a few steps away) and asked for a cup of vinegar.  The waiters looked at me strangely, but brought me a cup.  He wouldn't actually give me the cup until I promised him I wouldn't drink it!  I poured the vinegar over my arm and luckily the sting started to ease.  We headed back to our room to shower and change. 

In the afternoon, we signed up for a couple's massage lesson.  Our honeymoon friends, Lauren and her husband Sunjay, were there as well!  Daniel, our favorite activities guy, lead us to a gazebo that was near one of the ponds on the resort.  A massage therapist met us there and we got lessons on how to properly give a massage!  Toward the end of our lesson, it started raining, and like any great resort, they had umbrellas for us, in case we got caught in the rain! 

After our massage, we were talking to Daniel and told him we hadn't seen monkeys since our first day on the resort, and he took us to an "employees only" area where the monkeys like to hang out.  Of course they weren't out in the rain, but when we went by later, we saw several monkeys in the trees!

We ended our day with another great dinner and watching the Spurs unfortunately lose to the Heat in a great Game 7 of the NBA finals.  I laughed throughout the commentary of the games because the commentary was in Spanish, but dubbed in English!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Costa Rican Honeymoon- Day 3

Day 3 in Costa Rica was the only day we ventured out of our resort.  We actually had to set an alarm to make sure we could get to breakfast and be in the lobby by 7:15! We boarded a bus to head to an extinct volcano!  About halfway to the volcano, it started raining, we didn't realize it was the rainy season in Costa Rica and it rained every day we were there.  This was the only day it rained more than an hour though.  Going up a volcano in a bus while it is raining is scary...I said several dozen Hail Marys going up that volcano. 

The first thing we did was get suited up for zip lining!  They had 10 cables and since it was raining, they were all super fast and you couldn't brake at all!  Luckily, the workers had done this before and rigged up a way to stop us before we hit the trees! The zip lines went so fast, I didn't get a chance to get any pictures! 

After zip lining, we headed to a slide that was made to get you down the volcano.  It was 1/4 mile long and they had three speeds, slow, medium, and fast.  When it was my turn, I told the worker that I wanted medium, he rolled his eyes!  The slide was very narrow and there were several times I thought I was either going to be flipped out of the slide or I was going to be flipped over in the slide, but I did have time to take a selfie!

After the slide, it finally stopped raining, and we had a Costa Rican lunch, which was fabulous!  They had a vegetable soup that was amazing!  We kept asking what was in the soup and no one could really give us an answer, but it tasted really fresh!

After lunch, we had to choice of either a horseback ride down a trail or a tractor ride to get down to the hot springs.  Even though I am scared of horses, I decided to try horseback.  I asked for a "remote control" horse that I wouldn't have to do anything with.  They put me on a horse, and the horse did seem really calm and just stood there without moving.  We had a large group (almost 50 people), and the more horses they brought out, the more nervous I got.  Before we left, I asked to get off the horse and ride the tractor.  I just didn't think I could relax and enjoy the ride with all the other horses and people.  I hopped off the horse, and a few other people joined me on the tractor.  Even the tractor ride was scary!  We were going downhill on a wet trail with lots of rocks...many more Hail Marys were said!   When the horses met up with the tractor, Will told me that I chose wisely, as no one had control of their horses and one horse kicked another horse in the face on the trail! 

The last (and best) part of our excursion was the hot springs!  We changed into bathing suits and headed to the sauna.  After a few moments in the sauna to open up the pores, we covered ourselves with mud.  A quick rinse off of the mud (in really cold water), and then we were allowed in the hot springs!  They had three temp. pools, a hot, warm, and cool.  Of course I didn't set foot in the cool! They had a little bar at the hot springs, so we got to enjoy a drink while sitting in the pools.  It was beautiful scenery and a perfect way to end the day! 

After the ride back to the hotel, we were tired and hungry.  We were able to get a table at one of the restaurants, then we headed back to the room to take showers and crawl in bed!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Costa Rican Honeymoon- Day 2

We awoke bright and early on Day 2, ready to explore our resort more. 
Breakfast each morning was a buffet with traditional breakfast items(omelets, bacon, pancakes, fruit, cereal, etc), but also some Costa Rican foods (gallo pinto, pumpkin with honey, plantains, and tamales).  They also had fresh juices each morning- my favorite was the watermelon juice, so refreshing!

We started our activities with a bike tour around our resort.  We met another couple on their honeymoon, and we saw them at several activities throughout the week.  We joked that the guys were on the same honeymoon, as the girl's name was also Lauren! 

Will and I headed to the pool for some relaxation in the sun!  We also decided that 11:00 was the appropriate drinking hour, and hit the bar, trying several different drinks, some from the menu, some we just pointed to what someone else was drinking.  My favorite was the Pura Vida, a mix of orange juice, pineapple juice, Costa Rican vodka, and a splash of grenadine, I had too many of those to count!  Another favorite was a Costa Rican clue what was in it, but it was blue, yellow, and green and tasted amazing! 

After lunch, we went for another walk on the beach, had a splash fight/sand kicking fight in the ocean, laughed as we tried not to get swept away in the waves. 

We headed back to the room for a nap, then got ready for dinner.   We had a late reservation for dinner (9:15...that's what we got for waiting so long to make reservations), so we headed to the bar to watch the Spurs game. Many other guests joined us at the bar to watch the game, while the bar tenders and resort employees paid attention to the Costa Rican soccer game that was on the second TV. We had to head to dinner before the game was over, but we were able to catch the end of it.   The resort had several different restaurants to choose from each night, and all of them were delicious! 

After dinner, there was a "Circus Show", with an acrobatic girl, and two jugglers.  While it was entertaining, it wasn't my idea of a "circus".    After the show, we headed back to our room.  The nice thing about our resort was that bars closed between 10:30 and 11, so you got to head to your room early each night!