Sunday, August 28, 2016

Michelangelo's David

If someone one asked me the most beautiful man made thing I've seen in real life, the David is probably number one.

That is a big statement.

It's crazy, there are a few duplicates of the David, one in Forest Lawn in Los Angeles, and two around Florence.  It doesn't make sense but they do not even come close to the beautify of the original.

I wish I could say I was moved as much the second time I saw it as the first... but it wasn't like that.  It was still impressive, absolutely amazing, but I will always remember the first time I saw it.  I have a never ending battle of my thoughts of photography.  Especially with the invention of digital photos, traveling has become more about taking pictures than anything else.  For the good and for the bad, that is how it is.  It's wonderful to be able to remember the memories better but worse because anywhere and everywhere you go there are so many pictures being taken it's almost impossible to not get in someone's picture.

I bring this up at the David because the first time I saw the David, pictures were not allowed.  This time, I guess they changed their policy and hence, we have some great pictures!  So for good and for bad, here's the David!

Here's what I had to say about the David back in 2012 when I saw him the first time.

Our next stop was at the Academy, the museum of the David. Yes, we did not mess around. We went straight for the good stuff. Now before I go on any further, I get it. I completely recognized there was a chance that I was going to be extremely disappointed. I have experienced that disappointment many times as the art snob that I have become. I remember standing in line for hours, wandering around the huge building and finally getting to the Mona Lisa and saying, “Are you kidding me? That is it? It's so small! You can't even get close to it! It looks so much better in the pictures.” So as we were entering the Academy I tried to brace myself. I mean I pretty much was willing to sell my kidney in the end just to see this statue.... am I making it too big of a deal? And then I turned the corner and there he was. Now you can argue that it was because I built it up so much in my mind... but when I saw it, tears came flowing down my cheeks. (Don't worry I hurried away from my group and even Danielle because clearly this was kinda pathetic) I'm sitting here trying to think of how I could put into words what I saw and felt. Majesty. It was so much more spectacular that I even imagined. I just sat in a chair and stared.

I was reminded of the essay The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. (I am going straight from memory since I can not look it up) But he talks about different things that God gives us to remind us of heaven. He talks about beauty and particularly art. When I saw the David today it made me long for heaven.

Our tour guide told us all sorts of things I already knew but one thing I had forgotten was how most other statues of David have Goliath's head under his foot or in his hand or something. Where this David is before he went to kill Goliath. I just sat and thought of how scary that would be. Going to slay a giant. But what faith David had. How often we have Goliath's we know we are supposed to slay... we need faith like David. If only we all had his rockin' body too! ;)

Anyway, point is.... unreal. I'm sitting here thinking of other things that we saw in Florence, but really the cathedral with the green, pink, and white marble was pretty amazing. The door of St. John the Baptist's baptistery was unreal. But nothing could compete with the David.

A few things I learned about the David I didn't know:
1. It was created to be put on top of the Duomo hence the kinda weird proportions.  Michelangelo created it for the viewing point to be from hundreds of feet below.
2.  It was created out of a horrible piece of marble that no one wanted.
3. The significance of David was David was Florence's mascot always facing the Goliath, Rome. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Sorry this is a little out of order, but oh well.  You see, we went to Monaco.  And the entire drive to Monaco and through Monaco every few minutes we would see a red blurr coming up through the rear view window and with a burst of loudness we would see yet another Ferrari zip by us.  Jason could not believe how many Ferraris we saw.  And then it hit him!  THE FERRARI FACTORY!  And there was no turning back.  After our huge road trip to France and Monaco and back the day before we decided to make the 2.5 hour trip up to Marenello to have all Jason's dreams come true.

Jason training Brad while he's young.....

So while we were parking to go into the Museum some guys came up to us advertising for the "real" Ferrari experience.  An experience that most grown men dream of but never get to experience, driving a brand new $250,000 Ferrari.  10 minutes of driving for $100.  Once Jason heard that, there was no going back.   The crazy thing is, I think Jason would put that 10 minutes as one of the highlights of his life.  For 3 nights after driving the Ferrari he couldn't sleep because he just kept trying to figure out how in the world he was going to get one.  I don't get it.  I don't.  But I am so so so glad he got to experience it.
Of course they took professional pictures.  But of course they cost and arm and a leg so here are my lame iphone pictures.... but it explains why baby was looking at the camera guy rather than me.  But still.... that baby's smile. Ah I love him.
After we went to a cheapest, highest recommended resturant in all of Marenello.  We got the "Ferrarri Burger"  and it was DELICIOUS!  Possibly one of the most delicious things we had in all of Europe!
And then we started the trek home.... I thought it would be no big deal.  It was only 2.5 hours, like 120 miles away..... Never under estimate Italian traffic.  It was horrible.  Insane.  It's one thing to be stopped in traffic.  It's another thing to be stuck in a 10 mile long tunnel for over an hour.  The drive took us over 5 hours to get home so we didn't get our rental car back to the rental car company on time and we missed the last shuttle back to Florence.  So after some very very frustrating times and taxi rides later.... we were so excited to be home and leaving Florence for good.

Friday, August 26, 2016

How to do Rome in 1 Day

If you suggest you want to go to Rome for a day, people will laugh at you.  Rome is huge.  Rome has so much.  As I suggested from my first experience in Rome back in 2012, Rome is too much.  But probably one of the most shocking things of my entire European Adventure this summer.... Rome is SUPER easy!!!  And it's awesome.  It was way less intimidating than I imagined after my first Roman experience where I spent 14 hours in a tour group.  After going to Rome twice this summer, I think you can do Rome in a day.  Honestly... I don't even know what I would do if I had more than one day in Rome.  We easily fit in all the major highlights of Rome in one day.  So when Jason came to town he and I went back to Rome and I think we had a pretty perfect Roman Day.... the only thing that could possible have made it better would have been a hair cut and a scooter ride so I could have called it my Roman Holiday. :)

**Disclaimer.  Despite being a history teacher, I am not a history buff at all.  I do not get excited about a lot of history things.  I teach Roman history.  I know the basics but I don't care that much about a lot of details.  So that is probably why I say you can easily do Rome in a day.  If history is your thing.... maybe it would be different.

We arrived in Rome around 9 AM......oops back up....... You see the day we went to Rome was the fourth crazy crazy marathon day in a row for Jason and me.  First day we drove out to the Italian Riviera and slept in our car.  Second day we drove all the way to France and Monaco and back to Florence, third day we drove up to the Ferrari Museum and factory and got stuck in 5 hours of traffic on the way home so by the time the day for Rome came along we were EXHAUSTED.  Our train left Florence at 5:45 am. Jason was in charge of setting the alarm clock.  Long story short it never went off, we woke up at 5:20, we threw on our clothes, and ran the mile to the train station and made it on the train.  Anyway, after that fiasco we were on the train for the next 3 hours.  (We could have gotten to Rome in an hour but we are cheap and so we took the slow train)  Anyway we arrived at the train station in Rome where we bought our public transportation pass for 7 euros.  The metro in Rome is awesome and super easy to use.  The buses are also great although we didn't use them as much because I wanted to walk around and see more.  Anyway,  right when we got there (after a second breakfast snack at McDonald's in the train station of course) we headed straight to the Colosseum.  We started at the Colosseum because it was going to be a very hot day.  And the Colosseum area is extremely hot.  Little vegetation and no shade.  This is literally the view when you walk out of the Metro station.  Welcome to Rome.


Because honestly I didn't see the value of it.... we didn't pay to go in the Colosseum.  Maybe someday I'll go inside and be blown away.... but honestly, I've seen the pictures and I don't think it's that cool.  Especially in the crowds of people and super long lines in the heat of July.  But really I don't know if I will ever think going inside is that cool.  I think the outside is pretty darn impressive.

After walking around the Colosseum and reading everything our homeboy Rick Steves has to say about it we walked up through and around The Forum.  Once again we didn't pay to go inside.  When I say inside... what that means with the Roman Forum is we walked above it where you get an over view of the whole Forum.  So we sat on a bench in the shade and read Rick Steves walking tour through the Forum.  We could pick out all the buildings he was talking about, see everything, we just couldn't walk through it.  Once again, I didn't think the price was worth it.  We got to see everything.  The one thing we missed out on that kinda bummed me out was the fresh flowers put on Caesar's grave every day.  Kinda weird if you ask me.... but would have liked to see it.
But because we walked above it rather than through it we got to see all the cool statues of all the Emperors along the road.  Me and Julius.

Then we walked through Capitoline Hill and Victor Emmanuel Monument.  Super cool.

We decided to walk to the Trevi Fountain rather than go back to the Metro so we could enjoy Roma!  I actually love love loved the streets of Rome compared to Florence.  They were wide enough for pedestrians, there was a great variety of architecture, and there was vegetation everywhere!

We stopped for delicious pizzaish... sandwichish.... thing along the way that was delicious and just wandered through the streets enjoying all the variety of shops.  I loved it.  I love Rome.

After the Trevi fountain I was excited to try the best gelato "in all of Italy" according to Trip Advisor.  Since I had become quite the connoisseur of gelato I was stinkin' excited.  We walked at least a half a mile out of the way to go to the best gelato shop in all of Italy............ in the heat of the day.......... to see this sign.  Closed.  So so so disappointing.

So we continued on to the Pantheon.  Once again we read Rick Steves description of the Pantheon as we were sitting in the shade outside the beautiful building in complete awe.  Sometimes I wonder about education.  Why oh why does it matter so much.  But to me, the Pantheon is the perfect example of why it should matter.  The fact that they built this amazing building in 27 BC.  And then the technology, the engineering, the knowledge, was forgotten.  It was lost.  The Dark Ages was real.  If there was one thing I learned this trip to Europe it was how real the Dark Ages were.  And how scary that is when you think about it.  How a civilization can go from so advanced to so archaic.  Crazy.  What was amazing is how the dome worked on the Pantheon.  How it is 23 ft thick at the base and then by the time you get to the top it is less than 5 ft thick.

After the Pantheon we wanted to hurry to the Vatican because my number one priority about going to the Vatican again was to climb to the top of St. Peter's Basilica.  We had skip the line tickets into the Vatican Museum.  (Highly highly recommend these tickets.  Like 4 euro extra but save you a TON of time)  There are always a bunch of tour guides everywhere around Rome (super annoying) but always helpful if you ask them questions.... I'm sure they expected a tip but oh well :)  Anyway, I had a tour guide explain to me how to get to the line to climb to the top of the Basilica because when I went with my family a few weeks previous I couldn't find it!  I didn't know how to get there.  So I will explain in the post just in case anyone is curious.

But because we understood how to get to the line to climb to the top of the Dome within our time in the Museum we had some time to kill again until we could get into the Museum.  So we got a sandwich and sat in the shade against the HUGE wall of the Vatican and waited for our time.  Just people watching.  Always my favorite thing.

The crappy thing about going to the Vatican Museum in July in the middle of the day is the crowds.  They are just nuts.  And it sucks.  And there is pretty much nothing you can do about it.  Nick, my brother, went later in the evening, which would be cool.... but wasn't really an option for us.  So it's kinda hard to even enjoy the Vatican Museum with all the crowds.  And after a while of seeing so much opulence.... it just gets old.  I mean how many Greek Statues can you stare at.  Something that I hadn't taken the time to see before that was super cool was the whole wing of the museum of Egyptian artifacts.  It's a curious thing why the Catholic church collected so much Egyptian stuff.
Anyway of course we spent a good portion of time in the Sistine Chapel.  Although once again, more than anything, it just makes me feel so so so bad for Michelangelo.  Poor guy.  My dad told me a quote of what Michelangelo supposedly said at the end of his life.  (I have searched the internets to make sure it was true, I have found enough a trail that I think he said something like this) "Art has been the ruin of me.  I would have rather made sulfur matches."  Talk about depressing.

So here is where my homeboy Rick came in really handy.  And this is very important for anyone ever visiting the Vatican that doesn't take a tour.  I guess they really want you to take a tour.  Maybe to make more money or maybe to keep the crowds in check.... but here is what's really important.  The Sistine Chapel is the end of the museum but the important thing is there are two exits in the Sistine Chapel.  Supposedly it is the "self guided exit" to the left and the "tour groups" exit to the right.  If you exit to the left you leave the Vatican Museum and have to go get in the stinkin' long line to enter the FREE part of the Vatican... and the most impressive part in my opinion, the Basilica.  BUT if you exit left (pretend you are just with a tour group) you go straight down to the Basilica.  No line.  BUT as you turn right to go into the Basilica you will see a roped off area that says "Cupula" Problem for me before was.... of course I didn't know what Cupula meant.  SO I missed it.  Anyway, I don't know if Jason and I just had a stroke of good luck or if it is always like this, but there was absolutely no line to get up to climb the Dome and very little crowds at the top.  And it was AMAZING!

Here is a view of the "cupula" or Dome half way up.  I never would have known from just going into the Basilica what we saw on our hike to the top.

The whole thing is a freaking gigantic mosaic!!!  INSANE!  It is HUGE!  The whole Basilica is a mosaic!  EVERY SINGLE THING!!!! (I know you probably think I am being a bit dramatic about it, but seriously.  It is nuts.  Absolutely nuts.  It makes the Sistine Chapel look like a piece of cake.  The entire ceiling and walls of the whole Basilica are covered in tiny stones or tiles making a huge mosaic.  

And then the view from the top.  Oh Michelangelo.  You did it again.  I'm sure glad you didn't waste your life just making matches.

Don't mind that we look like a little haggard.... remember, we didn't have time to shower, or do our hair or anything that morning. 

Then we went down and went inside the Basilica.  And of course La Pieta.... speaking of Michelangelo.

Pictures can't describe the beauty.  And ALL of that is mosaic.

From the outside...
After we saw the Vatican and everything the Catholic church had to offer...... we were exhausted.  We had done Rome.  So we took the metro back to the train station.... ate at McDonalds again.  And enjoyed our cheap 3 hour train........ that took 4 hours :( back to Florence and our baby.

The first thing my mom said when I walked in was, "I think Brad caught a cold."  But sure enough..... Jason checked, Brad's two bottom teeth popped through in our absence.  So it was quite the eventful day for all of us!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Expectations vs. Reality.

(I started writing this in Florence so it's mostly in present tense.  But clearly am just finishing it.... a month later...)

One of the most genius scenes of any film made, in my humble opinion, is a split screen in (500) Days of Summer.  On one side of the screen is what the main character thinks will happen at a party vs. the other side is what really happens.  He thinks he's going to a party and going to flirt with his ex-girlfriend and in the end leave with her.... What really happens ****spoiler alert**** he goes to the party and finds out she is engaged to someone else.  Expectation vs. reality. Best scene ever.

We all have ideas of what we think an experience is going to be like.  Luckily in life, and what makes life so exciting, is sometimes it ends up being better than we expected.  Obviously sometimes it's not.  Kinda like when my cousin moved to Hawaii.  I remember being so unbelievably jealous.  Sunshine.  Beaches.  Tropical fruit.  I mean what more could you ask for out of life than living in paradise?  I remember her kinda complaining about it after she had been there for a while.  I was absolutely shocked.  And then I went to visit her.  Sure there is sunshine but especially on that side of the island there is a ton of rain.  Sure there are beaches but that means never ending sand.  Sure there is tropical fruit but shockingly very little fresh produce.  Anyway point is expectations and reality are often different.

So I thought it would be fun to make a list of my Expectations of living in Florence vs. Reality.

1. I thought all day every day I would be staring at something like this:


In reality, unless I go completely out of my way I could spend every waking moment of the entire month looks at streets that look exactly the same.  Exactly the same.  Always partially in shadow (thank goodness because this Tuscan sun is a beast when it's 100 degrees outside).  The streets look exactly the same.

And we are in the middle of these streets that look exactly the same so unless we walk about a mile everywhere we go it looks like this:

No vegetation.  No unique architecture(Down a typical historic Florence street).  No different streets sizes.  It all looks like this.  All narrow sidewalks.  All 4 story tall buildings.  It's like a concrete jungle.... well more like 14th century cobble stone jungle, but it's all the same.  It makes sense why the Medici's wanted to create a palace outside the city on the other side of the river so they could have a garden and some breathing room.  In comes the Pitti Palace.  But then it was really funny because they needed to get across the river to town.  They didn't want to have to walk with all the commoners so they built a walk way above the streets and bridge from their palace to the Uffizi.
The second story of Ponte Vecchio was Medicis' walkway
 THEN it gets even better.  At the same bridge was the meat market.  It was super convenient for the butchers to be able to throw any animal waste into the river.  But when the Medicis' would walk across their special walk away above the butcher shops they would smell the rotting meat.... so they had the shops changed to jewelry shops on the bridge.  Because the Medicis' seemed to always get their way.... unless they were killed.  Whole point of this story.... historic Florence isn't as picturesque and delightful as I imagined... especially in July.

2. Food.

I think I expected much more variety than what I am eating all the time.  (That being said I have never spent more than 10 euro on a meal so that is probably why....)  But all day every day at home or at a restaurant I eat tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, bread, and olive oil.   OH and gelato and hazelnut flavored sweets.  But seriously, that is it.  All day. Every Day.  The entire time in Italy.  The mozzarella is insanely delicious.  But I don't really like their meats at all so all I eat all day every day are those few things.  Not that I mind.... but I haven't seen much variety.

Some surprises with food. No salad dressing. Only oil and vinegar. No sauces on sandwiches or paninis.  OH and no salt in their breads.  Super weird.

3. Smiles.

This has probably been the craziest thing.  No one smiles at each other around here.  Ever.  Unless it's at the baby.  The tourists.  The locals.  The pushy salesmen trying to get my money.  No one.  This is a completely walking community.  You pass hundreds of people on a walk around town.  No one looks at each other and no one smiles.  I knew NYC was like this but I didn't expect it here.  My dad walks almost a mile every day to his art class.  He says sometimes he goes out of his way to try and make eye contact with people and smile at them.  Just to try and get a reaction.  It's that foreign of an idea to acknowledge or smile at people.  Runners don't acknowledge one another.  It's like this whole town is trying to avoid each other.  (Kinda can't blame them because it's so crowded all day every day with tourists... but still) Even as we were walking into church yesterday!  A couple were walking in so I smiled at them and they just looked away.  Weird.

4. Brad is a celebrity.

 I am shocked at how much attention Brad gets. Babies are a novelty everywhere we go. I also thinks it helps that he totally hams it up with any old lady. But still. I'm surprised at how much attention he gets. (Granted I recognize part of the contrast is due to the fact I live in Utah where babies are anything but novel.)  but it has been so fun having Brad with us so we get to interact with more people.  My favorite is the Asian tourists.  It's been hilarious how many I've caught them sneaking a picture of him.  

5. Tradition trumps Commercialism.

This is one of the most shocking things I found throughout Europe.  There is probably good things about it but it was shocking.  We first experienced it in Rothenburg in Germany but it saw it all the time.  All the shops in Rothenburg (a 98% tourist town) closed at 5 pm.  FIVE.  In a tourist town.  It didn't matter than there were hundreds of tourists walking around with money in their pocket.  The locals pretty much kicked out customers to close their shops.  In Italy, it didn't matter, shops were closed whenever they wanted.  A very very popular pizza place that we visited numerous times, closed from 3-7 every day.  By the time they opened at 7 for dinner there was a line down the street.  Obviously they could make WAY more money if they stayed open all afternoon.  But no they didn't care.  It was break time.  Part of me wants to call it lazy.  Part of me thinks it's awesome.  Part of me thinks it's stupid.  But most important it was completely foreign.  The idea that making money is not always the number one priority of a business.  

6. Getting to know people.

I dreamed of getting to know people. I mean a month is a long time. I thought we'd meet our neighbors in our apartment or the market owner down the street or heck even some of the members at church. But reality is human nature is the same everywhere. And it takes time to actually make friends. So nope.... No Italian pen pal to stay in contact with for me.

I have been trying hard to think of something about Florence that is better than I imagined.  It was very different than I expected but the thing that surprised me the most is how much seeing the Duomo affected me.  Every Day.  Every Time.  It rocked my world.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Posts are coming... I promise.

To the 3 of you that I love so dearly that keep asking where I am.... I promise posts are coming!  I have been working my tail off trying to get my blog book for 2015-2016 finished before I start school (which is tomorrow so there's no way I going to finish it even though I've probably worked on it for 30 hours in the last week).  It is a ton of work and a slightly higher priority to me so.... the blog will have to wait.

But I have been thinking of lots of things I want to write about including:
My guide to Italy particularly Florence, Rome, and Cinque Terre.
Expectations vs. Reality of living in Florence.
An ode to European Food.
What I would pack for Europe.
My recommendation for a 2 week trip to Europe.
My tips and experience of traveling with a baby.
And of course the highlights and pictures of the rest of the trip.

Until then... ciao!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

French Riviera and Monaco

The rock climb that Jason had picked on the Italian Riviera was only 1.5 miles from Monaco. Now whether Jason really was dying to go there or he knew I'd love to add another country to my list we'll never know. But we made the beautiful drive through endless tunnels, bridges, and gorgeous views of sea scape towns into France to get to Monaco. 

It was very facinating to see the drastic difference in climate just 60 miles apart. Where we camped was very lush and green. By the time we got to France it was much more arid. More like Southern California. 

Monaco. Less than 1 square mile with almost 40,000 people and the most millionaires per capita in the world. (30% of the population)

It was everything you'd expect from a coastal resort town.... With more Firarris and Bentleys of course. Driving and parking was a little nuts. And it was pretty hot carrying baby around so we didn't stay long. We just wanted to experience it. 

Here are some pictures of the drive to Monaco. No sure which little beach town in Italy or France this was. 

Then we got there.
The view might have been my favorite part.

The architecture of the building was pretty fabulous too.
And the iconic Monte Carlo.
With its own helicopter pad out back. (Naturally.)
And our view from lunch at the harbor.

The yachts were a sight to see. Amazing.
And so were the rows and rows of expensive cars.

And this cool little park we walked through with a turtle!!!

And an example of the French architecture in one of the French towns. 

Over all impression: pretty cool but no intentions of returning unless I go in my own yacht or helicopter. :)