Monday, December 31, 2007

Venice Day 1 - New Year's Eve!

Ah, overnight trains there is nothing like that experience! We had the two top bunks in a 4 bunk room with two Italian men. I have to say that I slept pretty good, not having to get up at all. I was a little freaked we'd miss our stop in Bologna where we had to switch trains, but luckily the conductor knocked on our door to let us know we were arriving. So at 6:00 AM we switched trains at Bologna and were finally on our way to Venice.

Ah, Venice....I mean can you really find another city more beautiful? (OK, well I'm sure everyone has there most beautiful city, but for me it's definitely Venice!) We checked into our hostel, found our room in an apartment a couple of blocks and bridges away, discovered we had a private bathroom even though we paid for a shared bathroom room (woot!) and then headed out for lunch.

We knew that if we wanted to do anything particular in Venice we had to do it today because with it being New Year's Eve and New Year's the two days we were in Venice we weren't sure what was going to be open. So we went to Frari Church first and then walked over to St. Mark's Square and visited the Basilica. After that we went to the Florian Cafe, the most famous Venetian Cafe, a place where Casanova, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens and Woody Allen have all grabbed drinks. We got a seat right in the window overlooking St. Mark's square and each had a glass of red wine. It was divine!

We took a little catnap because we knew we'd be out late and then headed out to dinner, a dinner in a very touristy but good restaurant. Then with our champagne and red wine in my purse we made our way to St. Mark's Square for the New Year's Eve festivities! It was so great - we got there around 9PM and found a spot on the stairs on the one side of the square. The concert started around 10PM and funny enough they played all american music - go figure. We listened, talked, drank our champagne and just enjoyed the show and watching everyone in the square. The place was PACKED - to the point that as it got closer to midnight - there really was nowhere to move around at all. But we counted down at midnight, shared a kiss (2008 according to the Venetians is the Year of Love after all!) Then watched the fireworks over the square. We had such a great night - usually we back away from these kind of New Year's celebrations but we really just embraced it.

Of course when we tried to leave it was another story - think about it - all these people emptying out into the tiny alleys of Venice. I thought I was going to get crushed a bunch of times! But we made it out and back to our hostel. All in all it was a great day in Venice!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rome Day 4 - Vatican Museum

OK, so even though I'm back in the US - I'm going to finish blogging about our time in Italy just to get it all down. I hope you will all humor me!

Our 4th day in Rome and our final day in Rome before heading off to Venice we woke up early and headed back to Vatican City. As you remember we hadn't been able to get to the Vatican Museum before it closed at 1:45 (???? does this seem early to anyone else!) We got in line about 1 hour and 15 minutes before it opened and of course this was the coldest of all the mornings in Italy! We entertained ourselves playing Guess Who and watching all the people walking up to the line shocked by how long it was:) We ended up getting into the museum around 9:30ish about 30 minutes after it opened.

It is an overwhelming museum - it's so large! Thankfully it's a very easy lay out, start at the beginning and just follow the rooms until they empty out into the Sistine Chapel. The only thing about that is that you really have to be in the mood to see "everything" because you're going to whether you want to our not. We started at the beginning with the Eygyptians and Etruscans and worked our way slowly through history.

We saw Raphael's rooms (which were beautiful), the Map Room (possibly Jon's favorite place in Italy!), among other amazing art! Then we emptied into the room that we were there to see - The Sistine Chapel. You know what I found most amazing - the amount of visitors that just blantantly ignore the guards that are there. They are continually repeating - No Pictures and No Talking and people just act as if they're completely deaf!!! The Sistine Chapel is something - we spent a good 20 minutes in there just staring up and all around us. It's sad when you leave a place like that - I kept sneaking one more look back, because I mean who knows if we'll ever really be back, how do you preserve that memory in your head forever.

We spent about 2 1/2 - 3 hours in the Vatican Museum, which is about our limit before we become museumed out. We went back to the hostel and had lunch around there, before grabbing our luggage and stowing it at Termini Station.

Then we headed back towards our hostel to visit the Basilica of San Giovanni. We had walked past it so many times, Jon really wanted to go back and see the inside. After that we took my sister's advice and visited the Church of San Clemente. It was pretty neat, we paid and went in, it's three churches built on top of each other essentially and you can go down one level and see the 4th Century Church and then below that a church from like 64AD! It was a neat way to end our day of sightseeing - climbing those layers. It must be amazing to be an archeologist in Rome finding everything hidden underneath its streets.

After that we walked over to Campo de Fiori (passing the place where Ceasar was assisinated ont he way!) Campo de Fiori is a very popular place to eat and grab a drink, seeing as it was one of the few neighborhoods we hadn't visited on our trip, we decided to have dinner here. We had a nice meal sitting out on the square (yes, in December! We were near a heater, but seriously I don't think that the Italians mind sitting outside in the cold because the whole time we were in Italy everywhere we went, people would just be having dinner outside regardless of the temperature. It became a running joke between Jon and I!) After dinner we headed over to the Pantheon neighborhood to our favorite little wine bar! We got a table inside and had a few glasses of wine and hung out before our train to Venice left. It was such a great way to end our time in Rome, but of course it made us not want to leave! On our way to Termini we got gelato and cappachino and then walked by the Trevi Fountain. Good-bye Rome we'll be back for one more night!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rome Day 3 - Vatican City

Boy oh Boy did day 3 start out a little stressful - think of that scene in home alone where the parents yell "we overslept", cue the music! Well that's what happened with us, the one day we actually had to get up to go somewhere at a specific time, we set the alarm wrong. We had a 9:30AM tour for the excavations under the Vatican and woke up at 8:52AM - YIKES! Needless to say we were out the door and on a metro in 10 minutes (looking a little worse for wear). We got to the Vatican stop with 10 mintues to go, sprinted about half a mile to St. Peter's Square (keep in mind that I was wearing my huge blue puffy jacket!) and then across the square past two swiss guards and a cabineiri. We got to the ticket office with about 10 seconds to spare - yes, we were those people - the whole tour was waiting for us - oops!) I will say though, that today was the first day I felt completely rested:)

The Scavi Tour was a tour underneath St. Peter's Basillica, of the area where St. Peter was originally buried. It was a really interesting tour. We started out in this room where our tour guide explained what we were going to see. It doesn't really prepare you though for the feeling you get when you go under St. Peter's. It's like a city of the dead (except the dead aren't really there anymore).

What happened was that the area that we were visiting was originally the Circus Maximus in Rome. St. Peter was cruxified upside down in the Circus Maximus and then they buried him there. All of these people wanted to be buried by St. Peter so families started building Mausoleums around the area and burying their dead. However, when Constantine was emperor of Rome (the First Christian Emperor), he decided he wanted to build a church for St. Peter on the site. So he raised the roofs off the mausoleums and filled them in with dirt until the ground level was higher and flat, and then he built the first St. Peter's Church there, which has now been replaced by St. Peter's Basilica.

When you go underground, it's kind of crazy, it's literally like your walking through a city, because you're walking among the walls that made up the Mausoleums. They are in great condition, you can still see frescoes as well as objects (like urns) that were found inside. Then you walk to this one part where they have the place where they found St. Peter's burial plot and it is lit up so you can see it. It's wild because at one point you're underneath the Vatican and there is a grate where you can see into St. Peter's Basilica and we could hear the choir practicing. We really enjoyed the tour and were happy that we took the time to do it, it was certainly unique.

After that we went in to St. Peter's and visited there for awhile, saw Michelangelo's Pieta and Donatello's bronze altar. It is a beautiful church and it is HUGE! After touring inside we got in line to climb to the top of the Dome, while in line we realized that the Vatican Museum closed at 1:45 so we were going to have to return to do that another day. The line to the top of the Dome was the largest line we had waited on so far this trip, but we spent the time talking so it went by pretty fast. We had the option to take the elevator and then climb 332 steps or climb the whole 500+. We decided to take the elevator because 500+ seemed like a lot, but after we got to the top we had wished we had just climbed them all (and saved the euros!) Although, I'm sure our legs were glad for a little break. It was a little frightening being at the top of the Dome because the metal railing isn't that high, but the views really are stunning! They do however let too many people up top at one time, and it made me very nervous!

One the way down we bought stamps and an ornament in the gift shop and then headed to a late lunch (really late especially considering we hadn't eaten any breakfast!) After lunch we decided to walk to Castelo San Angelo and walk through there. The inside isn't much but again we went out to the top and the views of St. Peter's and Vatican City from there were beautiful. We spent sometime outside just enjoying the views and then we headed out across the Bridge of Angels back into Rome.

We wandered the streets, just loving the feel of Rome. Some parts of it are really just so quaint and quiet when you wander down the back roads in and out of piazzas! It's so beautiful! We walking to the Capucin Crypt right near the metro stop we wanted to take back to our hostel. The Capuchin Crypt is beneath Santa Maria della Concezione. It is donation requested and no photos (click on the link above to see some pics). There are 5 chapels and you walk through them, each chapel is decorated with bones from the Capuchin monks of years ago. At first you are like this is kind of cool, but towards the end it starts to seem creepy. In the last chapel there is a stone engraved with "What you are now we were, what we are you will be". Even the chandeliers are made of bones! It was pretty wild.

After a quick rest & refresh we headed out on the bus to Trastevere a very young, Roman, artsy kind of neighborhood. I loved loved loved it! It was so cute, you can sense that it's very medieval, tons of windy streets (you WILL get lost!), with people spilling out from restaurants and bars. First we visited the Church in the main square. Mass was going on so we couldn't really roam freely, but the mosaics above the altar were incredible! We lit a candle and then headed out to find a restaurant. We found a little restaurant and had a great dinner before heading back over the river to the rest of Rome. It was a neighborhood we only visited once, but when we go back to live there I know we'll get to know this neighborhood intimately!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Rome Day 2 - "Old Rome"

So I am trying to blog now when we take breaks because the hostel we are staying at has 24 hour free internet - woot!

Today was all about "Old Rome". We woke up early and after a deliciously light breakfast at our hostel we walked over to the Coloseum. I love the Coloseum, it is so beautiful and awe-inspiring when you see it in person. We bypassed the line with our great Roma Pass tickets and got an audio guide to give us some insight on the Coloseum. I have to say the audioguide was definitely worth it, learning about the history of the Coloseum while standing in it was pretty remarkable. It was one of my favorite parts of the day.

After the Coloseum we walked over to The Forum. Our Rick Steves book (sorry I cannot figure out the apostrophe key on this computer so bare with me!) gave a great overview of the Forum and brief histories on many of the ruins. Again, awe-inspiring is the word to describe. To just imagine the Forum at its height - well I cannot even imagine. Jon and I were talking today about Rome and our initial thoughts and he said if he could use one word to describe Rome he would say "magnificent". I did not remember how truly LARGE many of the structures are and they are not even fully intact most of them. After a couple of hours wondering the Forum, we found a cute little place for lunch (Panini sandwiches - my fave).

After lunch we ventured over to the Palatine Hill. This is where all of the emperors lived when Rome ruled the world. The views from up top the hill are pretty spectacular and it's just a neat place to wander (just accidentally found the apostrophe button - yay!) We agreed that if we had it to do over we would have gotten lunch to go and picnicked up there - many people were doing just that. It definitely gives you a feel for the "granduer" of Rome.

Then we headed over to the Mamertime Prison, which is where St. Peter was held prisoner before his execution. They actually still have the column he was chained to there in the prison. It was a pretty depressing place.

After that we climbed the steps to the Capitoline Museum, saw the famour foot, hand and head of the Constatine statue and other incredible pieces of sculpture. It's a beautiful museum, although museums at the end of a long day do not agree with me, I got tired pretty quick. However, from the Capitoline Museum is one of the best views of the Forum. We hit it right as the sun was setting, so we took some time and stood on the balcony and watched the sun set over The Forum, one of those "WOW" moments. It was so peaceful, as The Forum was closed so there wasn't a soul walking through it. Ahhhh.....

After that long (but amazing!) day we headed back to the hostel for a nap before heading out (I know so unlike us, but we had both run ourselves ragged prior to arriving here and new that if we didn't rest up for a little bit we wouldn't enjoy the whole trip.

For dinner we walked over to the Piazza Navona, one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome. There was a Christmas fair going on so we walked around before finding the perfect restaurant for dinner (thanks Rick Steve's). It was located right outside the Piazza Navona and we had a delightful meal there, great wine, amazing bruchetta (I'm telling you it gets better each day!), and I had gnocchi (melt in your mouth kind of gnocchi and Jon had parpadelle with Wild Boar sauce (spicy but delish!)

After dinner we headed back towards the Pantheon to go to this wine bar we had seen the night before - it is too cool to describe. Old barrels for tables, wine bottles lining the walls, really Italian (we were the only Americans in there!) We sipped our wine slowly and vowed to return before our trip was over - I can't wait!

Last but not least before the night was over - Jon stopped for a Cappuchino and I had gelato at the BEST gelato place - Giotti's! (Amy I'm not sure if you remember it from the time we were here 8 years ago?) So good...then we walked to the bus stop to catch our bus back to the hostel as the metro stops running here at 9PM (bizzare!) We learned all this last night so tonight it was smooth sailing.

Well, I'm a day behind blogging so I'll write about our adventure to the Vatican tomorrow (and boy was it an adventure!) But it's time to shower before heading out to Trastvere for dinner.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Hello All and Greetings from Italia! I apologize for any typos but the Italian keyboard is a little different from the American one (it took me about a minute to find the @ sign!)

So we arrived safely in Rome on Thursday, December 27th and have been having a really wonderful time. When we first arrived the hostel we are staying at was not ready for us to check in so we decided to check out some sites. We first visited the Trevi Fountain, which personally is my fave place in the world, but it was being cleaned so it looked less than stellar. We then strolled over to the Pantheon and took our time exploring. I am sorry but I do not remember the Pantheon ever looking so beautiful (especially at night!) Rick Steves recommended some churches in the neighborhood so we went and visited two of them. One had a Michaelangelo statue and the other had a beautiful Carravaggio altar. We then stopped for some lunch (pizza and a coke light - love those!) Afterwards we headed back over to the Trevi Fountain and it was looking much better but still nothing like what it can look like at night.

We came back and checked in to our hostel and took a little nap (I was exhausted from not sleeping at all on the flight, the stories of that plane ride are for another post!) Our hostel is amazing - it is like a bed and breakfast in Rome. The guy Maxissimo, who runs it is so sweet.

After our nap we went and walked around the Coloseum and the Forum and then went to see St. Peter in Chains Church. I have to say while the church was not really that much to look at and it took us awhile to get there (we went "the long way") there is this statue of Moses that is incredibly powerful. And the chains that held St. Peter while he was in prison are in a case above the altar.

We decided to head over to the Spanish steps and people watch for a little bit. They look much more beautiful in spring with the flowers but decorated for Christmas they were not that bad either. From there we walked back towards the Pantheon for dinner. We went to this wine bar (I am not remembering the name right now) and had a half bottle with some bruchetta mixta which was delicious (and get this I ate things I did not know what they were!) Then we went to this mom and pop type Italian restaurant near the Pantheon for dinner. While not out of this world, it was hearty and good, which was all we were expecting.

After dinner we walked past the Trevi Fountain again:) This time all lit up at night it was in its glory and we sat and appreciated it for awhile before heading back to the hostel.

Today we had the BEST day exploring the Coloseum, Forum, Capitaline Hill, Palatine Hill etc but I will write about it later as it is late and I should head to bed to get ready for tomorrow!

Hope everyone had a very Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway

Last night was the night! I finally got to see Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway. I bought these tickets months ago, and then with the strike, was unsure whether or not we'd really get to go. Jon had to bail at the last minute because of work, so my mom came in from NJ and we had dinner with my brother before the show.

I had been lucky enough to score REALLY affordable seats so unfortunately my mother had to adjust herself to sitting way up in the boonies. But hey, I was getting to see my girl J. Garner on Broadway. I couldn't believe I got tickets, especially considering it was only a 10-week engagement!

I knew nothing about the play at all. I've never read the book or seen the movie for that matter. It had gotten rave reviews in the New York Times, so I knew it was going to be good.

I loved it! Usually I don't like dramas too much. I'm much prefer musicals when it comes to plays, but I really loved this play. I loved the lyricism of it, the way it rhymed, it was incredibly funny (which I was not expecting at all!), and even though it was long (2 hours and 45 minutes) it captured my attention the whole time.

I have to say that I went there purely to see Jennifer Garner and she was great, but Kevin Kline BLEW ME AWAY. It was a pure treat to be able to see him on the stage. He was a natural: comfortable, commanding, funny and I have to say kudos to him because he really is the whole play. It must be exhausting for him night after night. It is a very demanding role.

I'm thrilled that I got to see it and I can't wait to read the book now! It is a play that captured my heart.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Siddartha - 4 Stars

Now, I know you must be wondering about my reading hiatus. I have to say that I moved offices for work in November and now that we're located in midtown and I walk to work, I have found that I have to make time for reading! It's been tough given the time of year, but have no fear I am reading. Just a very long book that you'll hear about soon.

In the meantime I took a break from that book to read....

Siddartha, Herman Hesse

This was our December book group and I have to say I was very excited to read it because I had never read Herman Hesse before, and I love trying new authors and new books!

Siddartha is really considered an Indic Poem. It is short, only 118 pages and it follows the life of the main character, Siddartha.

When the book/poem begins Siddartha is a boy and is being brought up in a very religious family. He is seeking the "path of the paths" as he refers to it, so he leaves home to go live in the forest with monks/priests. After three years he decides to find and follow the "exalted one" and after meeting him realizes that he has to follow his gut and experience life for himself as opposed to learning about it through others teachings. Thus, he heads out on his own and has many different experiences, all the while looking for the "path of the paths".

It is one of those books that discusses the meaning of ones life, the way in which one lives ones life and the true purpose of it all.

The book group felt lukewarm about it. I personally found it to be a very peaceful read that gave me perspective during this time of year. It did however provide a good discussion, which when it comes to book group is just as imporant as perhaps enjoying the book itself. The impression I've gotten from the reader reviews is that it is something you read at different points in your life, because depending on where you are you might take different lessons from it. However, if these kind of books aren't your thing I would probably just pass on it!

I'll probably read it again some years down the road. I'd also like to pick up other books by Herman Hesse just to compare.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Away From Her - 4 Stars

I have been neglecting my Netflix subscription this month, I'm sorry but there is just too much to do. Before I left for the Holidays though I wanted to watch and return at least one of the two movies I had been harboring in my apartment for a month. So I finally watched Away From Her.

Away from Her is the story of Grant and Fiona, a couple that has been married for 44 years and has been through life's ups and downs. One day Fiona goes out cross country skiing and gets lost forcing the couple to face the reality that she has Alzheimer's Disease. They ultimately decide that Fiona must enter a facility. The facility has a no-visitor for 30 days policy and thus Grant is left to fill his days and wait until he can see Fiona again. When he first visits Fiona he finds that not only does she not know who he is but she has a "boyfriend."

I know, I know, this sounds incredibly depressing and you're wondering why I even rented it in the first place. I have a soft spot in my heart for movies about married couples that have to face difficulties. They give you a different perspective and appreciation of marriage, relationships and the life that you have now and make you realize that they may not always be so. I saw a preview for this during another movie and decided on the spot I had to see it. Plus, it stars Julie Christie!

Yes, this movie was sad, and I cried through a good portion of it, imagining myself having to face the facts they were facing or making the decisions they were making, it was heart-wrenching at times. But it was also a sweet portrayl of love and how no relationship is picture perfect, but non-perfect love is truly something special. I thought the whole movie well done, and while many people my age probably won't be running out to rent this movie anytime soon, maybe someday they will.

4 Stars!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Atonement - 4 Stars

I go through spurts - lots of movie reviews and periods of long droughts! This week Jon and I were not on the same schedule. The nights that he was home early and in for the night, I was out late and vice versa. Thus we scheduled a date night for Friday night so we could spend some time together. We worked out, had dinner and then went to go see Atonement.

Atonement is based on the book of the same title by Ian McEwan. It is the story of Cecilia, a wealthy young girl and Robbie, the housekeepers son. They grew up together as close friends and are just discovering that they love each other. Cecilia's sister, Briony, however harbors a girlhood crush on Robbie and at one point in the movie makes a crucial misjudgement altering the course of all their lives forever.

I was skeptical about this movie because I had heard mixed reviews about the book, and having read McEwan I could understand why. However, being nominated for so many Golden Globes, I thought maybe it'll be good. I have to say I was very impressed. It's not a movie that's going to blow you away, its a nice slow and steady romantic drama. It is shot in such a way that it reminded me of an old romantic classic. I thought that the acting was very good, the way the the movie was shot (with the attention to detail and music) was superb, and the story was actually interesting. Overall we both walked out of the theater pleasantly surprised and I have to say I may be rooting for this movie to win at least one of it's many Golden Globe categories.

4 Stars

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rockwood Music Hall

Last night I met up with my friend Jen for a fun night of music. One of my favorite things to do is go listen to new music and/or music I already know and love, but most importantly just being around music. When I lived in Boston, Jon and I would go see shows a lot - in Boston, Providence, Northhampton, you name it!

Jen brought me to one of her favorite venues, The Rockwood Music Hall and we had so much fun! It is this tiny, tiny little place. The decor is very elegant, classy, comfortable. We drank red wine and listened to music for 4 hours! It was such a fun night. I'm definitely going to go back.

The music was acoustic rock, country/folk, a little bit of everything. We went specifically to see Mieka Pauley, who hails from Cambridge. Jen had seen her before. She was great - she played a 30 minute set (time flies when you're having fun!) Then we stayed in the main room and watched Amy Speace. I really enjoyed her music as well, especially because she was a little country. At one point she was singing a new song and you could tell that it was something that she personally had gone through and she couldn't sing the last couple of lines because she started crying, and this man, who obviously is a big fan of hers, sang the words for her. It was so precious! When you see stuff like that, especially in New York City, it reminds you about how good people can be or are and that people do care about other people. I might have shed a tear - OK, I definitely did!

The music was good, the wine was delicious, and the conversation was great! I can't wait to go again...Thank you Jen for introducing me to such a cool place!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Enchanted - 5 stars

I love Disney movies and Enchanted is no exception. My girlfriends and I went last week for a fun girls night out and it was such a pick me up! I was looking forward to seeing it, although wary that all the funny parts had already been given away in the previews, but I was not disappointed at all.

Enchanted, is about Giselle, a princess looking for her prince. When she meets Edward, they know that they are meant to share "true love's kiss". On their wedding day Edward's wicked stepmother shoves Giselle to none other than New York City. Stranded, without a friend or an understanding of the place she has landed she begins her search for Andalasia (her homeland). Patrick Dempsey's character befriends her, unexpetedly and thus the story unfolds. Edward, his steward, his mother and Giselle's chipmunk friend Pip come to NYC and try to find her, as Patrick Dempsey's character tries to make sure she gets by while she's here.

It is such a heart warming, laugh out loud, funny movie that will have you believing anything is possible when the credits start rolling! A movie I definitely hope to own once it comes out on DVD, you can't help but smile! There's not a little girl out there who won't love it! (*Warning: Excessive Cheesiness does take place during the movie, in true disney fashion, but c'mon people lighten up a little!)

Overall: Highly Recommended!