Friday, December 11, 2009

Garmisch on Thanksgiving I know I'm almost a holiday behind...I don't know how you blogger friends can update your blogs every day???? This Thanksgiving we thought we would try something new....well not completly new. We still wanted to eat a yummy Thanksgiving dinner, but wanted to do something different for the weekend. We heard about these rustic cabins for rent in Garmisch, Germany (Bavaria...which is in the Alps...for anyone who doesn't know). I called about 2 weeks before we were to leave to get a reservation..hopefully. When I called, they said we would be taking the last one...and lucky we did, because one of Thom's co-workers called a few hours after I did, and they did not have anything left. So we were a bit nervous about rustic cabins...they have heat, microwave, fridge, TV and enough beds for everyone to have their own (well, except Matthew), BUT NO water!!! We would have to go to the "wash closet" across the street to use the bathroom...but Thom said.."let's give it a shot!!"
We were just about ready to leave on our 5 hour drive. We were making last minute potty breaks, turning lights off, and double checking everything when Emilee came skipping through the living room, tripped on the carpet, and hit her head on the coffee table...and wouldn't you know it...she ended up having to go to the ER and getting 3 stitches....never a dull moment in our household!!! The trip there was very construction, no traffic jams, and we only had to stop once to use the bathroom, eat, and feed Matthew!! We got there about 11pm. And finally made it to bed at midnight, after unloading the car, and finding the bathroom in the dark...we didn't want to have to get up in the middle of the night to go potty (and luckily every night we were there, we didn't have to...woo-hoo!!)
The kids loved the cabin. It was quite cozy. Thom and I felt like we were living "Little House on the Prairie" style with the loft!!! But it was very nice. And Emilee was thrilled to be a big girl and sleep on the top bunk.

Enough about the cabin now!! One of our goals was to make it to Newschwanstein castle. This was one of Ludwig II's castles. This is also the one that inspired Walt Disney to design his "princess" castle. It was quite maginificent. We had the choice to take a 45 minute walk up hill to the castle, or take a bus ride we chose the bus...are you kidding me...with 2 toddlers and a baby...that 45 minutes would have turned into 3 hours!!! Once we arrived to the top we had about 1 1/2 hours before our tour was to start. We decided to walk to a bridge to get a beautiful view. This bridge was built before the castle...and boy did it show....every other step was wobbly and the boards buckled some. It was a bit intense...especially with 2 little ones. But the view was amazing!!! Once we left the "deadly" bridge we started to head for our tour. We had a hill to walk up after all...and it took about 45 minutes to walk up it. We still had 30minutes before our tour started, so I took that time to nurse Matthew. While we were waiting, we became celebrities. A group of Japanese tourists were amazed that all 6 kids were ours, and they started taking our pictures. At one point we were surrounded by 6 of them taking our pictures. We thought it was funny.
We were unable to take any pictures inside the castle. The tour was short. It was elegant and huge inside. There are 120 rooms, but only 16 were completed, and what we were able to see. King Ludwig was in the castle for 2 days before he was taken to the insane asylum. After the tour we caught our bus down the hill. It was starting to get dark already. There was actually another castle across the street, but it was already closed. We walked around the perimeter of it. This castle was around when Ludwig was a child. He loved it and wanted to make a castle bigger and better...hence he built Neuschwanstein on the hill in front of it. Here's a picture of that castle ( the gold one in the back on top of the hill)
We found a cute little restaurant to eat it for dinner. The kids had schnitzel and fried potatoes. I had some german meatloaf (reminded me of spam, but better tasting) and Thom had a potatoe and beef hash. The food was all good.
The next day everyone was up and ready to go again around 7...amazing that these kids aren't wore out.We were going to go sledding, but the only place to go was on Zugspitze (highest mountain peak in Germany) and that was going cost to $170.It was also extra cold (high of 38...and that wasn't even on the mountain). So too cold. So instead, we went to Reisse See. We walked around the lake and took some family pictures. We relized we haven't taken a family picture yet with Matthew. So we got the tripod out and started shooting. This was also the site of the bobsled track and lake used for hockey for the 1936 winter Olympics.The actual track was still there ~made from built up dirt mounds which was neat to see. It was really extra cold by the lake.

Lunchtime!! We found Biete Cafe Max.When we walked in, there was a bar (but other seatting areas too) and a bunch of men drinking beer and they all stared at us. Our waiter (also the bartender) had a handlebar mustache which the kids got a kick out of. The kids all had white hot chocolate (they all loved),Thom had a Frankinskaner hell beer and I had a Pina Collada.The kids then had noodles w/cream sauce,and then Thom and I had locally made white brawtwarst with their own mustard and a fresh pretzel. The kids also got some ice cream. And Thom and I were treated to a blood orange vodka shot...we were told it was to fight off the swine was yummy. Haven't had a shot of anything since college!!

Our next stop was the Eibsee. This lake is at the foot of the Zugspitze. This was a very huge lake. Our intent was to walk the perimeter of it, but that didn't happen. We probably walked a mile out (and took almost an hour) when we decided it was still s long way to go and it was really cold. So we let the kids throw rocks into the lake. Thom was trying to teach the kids how to skip the rocks on the water, but they couldn't do it. It is actually challenging...I tried it too....and couldn't do it. After about 5 minutes of that fun, we started heading back. It took us only 30 minutes to get back ~ probably b/c I carried Dominick most of the way. Thom had Matthew.

After getting our "winter gear"off, we started heading back to the cabin. We made one pit-stop at a was my birthday and we needed some cake. We got a variety of cakes. We went back to the cabin, and everyone sang Happy Birthday to me. While eatting our cake we watched Twilight...for the first time...I know, I know...we're behind...especially since New Moon just came out. But was a great birthday.
The next day was check-out....and our long drive back home....which was uneventful. We were
told that Garmisch ended up getting a "dump-load" of snow on Monday!!! Oh well, there's a reason we missed it. But we are planning a week long ski trip in Feb/March in Austria!!!
Next event in the Christkindlemarket in Nurnberg...December 17th...see you then.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bitche, France November 14, 2009

So it's been a while since we have taken any trips anywhere. In the time since our last trip (Belgium August 7-8) Matthew Isaac was born (Sept 21), Thom was in the field for 2 weeks (Oct 9-23) and I had surgery for 2 lacerated tendons in my ring finger(Nov 6). So as you can see, taking trips was not a priority for us. We did attend some fests locally (Medieval fest, potatoe fest and a pumpkin fest). They were a lot of fun, and very yummy to experience the local food.

So today we decided to go to Bitche (pronounced Bee-shay) France. It is only 45 minutes from the house. The day started off with an overcast and held up for a few hours. We went to Citadel de Bitche first. This use to be a huge fortress built in the 17th century that has underground kitchens, dormitories and even a hospital. Unfortunately it was closed (not sure why), so we couldn't tour the inside. We walked the perimeter and got some pretty good pictures. It took us about an hour to walk around it...but take into consideration we have Emilee and Dominick with their small legs.

As you can see, it was very, very windy. This was near the end of our walk, and by this time Dominick was not wanting to walk anymore, so it was a good time to head for the car. Oh, before we were able to get into the car we had to clean off the dog poop from Gabi's shoes. Let me tell you...that is not only gross, but disrespectful. I can't stand it when people leave their dogs excrements "out" for others to find!!! And that is a smell that I do not want "stuck" in my brand new car carpets.

After we left the fortress, it was time to try some of the French cuisine. We drove around "downtown" and found a cute little restaurant on a lake named Auberge du Lac. We, unfortunately, forgot our French phrase book at home, so we had to wing it. We knew we were in trouble when we walked in, and they greeted us in French, and sat us. They told us the specials in French, and the only word we were able to decipher was PIZZA. So we knew that was a safe bet for the kids. Thom and I were going to be brave and explore the menu, and hope for the best. Thom ordered Grillee maitre de hotel, which was a very good and tender steak. He had mixed vegetables sauteed in butter and spices, and french fries. I ordered La Bouchee a la Reine riz-frites. This too was very good. It looked like a Hungry Jack biscuit, filled with mushrooms, chicken and gravy. It reminded me of a pot-pie. I also had french fries. The kids enjoyed there pizzas....but it takes a lot to mess up pizza. They did say that they liked the pizza in Rome funny...our little food critiques!!! This picture was taken outside the restaurant.

It was cold outside and it started raining. We were told to go visit St Catherines church, because it has a really big organ inside. After finding the church I ran inside to check it out and see if it was worth pulling the kids out of the car in the rain. It was a nice church, and the organ was big (not huge), but it looked like mass was going to start, so we didn't pull everyone out of the car.

We wanted to see if there was anything else we could do since it was early afternoon, and had less than an hour to get home. We did a search on our GPS for attractions, and randomly chose a park and museum. Unfortunately the park was an archaelogical excavation site...hhmm who knew that is what the name of the park was on the GPS. So off to the museum....but that was closed. The weather was getting worse, so we decided to head home. It was an interesting day. Oh I forgot to mention, we brought our passports just in case....well Matthew doesn't have his yet, and they took Thom's and my passports to process Matthew's, so we were technically in France illegally....but no one has to know...and its not like there was a checkpoint!!! So that is the story for our first trip to France. We will be returning, because Thom is running a marathon in Paris in stay tuned.

Our next adventure is over the Thanksgiving break....renting a cabin in the Alps in Garmisch Germany....doing some sledding, and going to visit Neuschwanstein castle (the "princess" castle where Walt Disney got the idea for his castle at Disney World). Should be a good time!!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Brussels Belgium, August 7-8, 2009

This was a kind of "spur of the moment" trip. We knew we wanted to go to Brussles (to say that we have been), but couldn't really plan too much. For some reason, Thom's schedule has been like a revolving door..constantly changing this month!!! It was a 3 1/2 hour drive, we had no real plans, and no hotel we'll see!!! Boy did we have an "adventure."

We missed our hotel exit and ended up seeing "down~town" Brussels. When we finally got to the hotel, we were discriminated against..not once but twice!! We were told at one place they had room for us, but as soon as I said we had 5 kids..."oh, I'm sorry we are completly booked tonight." The other one just said "forget it." We finally found a Holiday Inn (which you don't find very much here in Europe), and they allowed us to all stay. Once we checked in, we decided we would try and do some sightseeing. We got a map, put Emi and Dominick into the strollers and started walking. Our intention was to go to the "Grand Place", which was suppose to be 1 1/2-2 miles away (a 30 min walk). After walking 45+ minutes and didn't see anything that resembled the Grand Place we turned around and started looking for something to eat. We discovered a few things on this walk:

*the French and Dutch language barrier sucks ~ it was hard to read the street signs and restaurant menus.

*the cobblestone walkways are torture on the stroller (to include Emi and Dominick) and on our ankles.

*the restaurant selection is limited ~ instead we saw a lot of beauty salons, fitness centers and stores and chocolate and lace stores. AND the restaurants didn't open till 6:30 for dinner.

*cars don't care about other cars (they will make a one lane road into a 2 lane) or about pedestrians ~ so watch very carefully when crossing. We were told that it wasn't until about 15 years ago that it was required to have a licence here...and most of the drivers were grand-fathered in, without being required to take a test...yikes!!!!
So we finally settled on a restaurant that spoke universally ~ PIZZA!!!! It was ok...but it was going to be hard to top the authentic Italian pizza we had just 2 weeks ago. We passed some chocolate and torte bakeries, and we were going to pick one up for Thom's birthday, but they were closed by the time we finished dinner. As a matter of fact, most things that were family oriented were closing, so we went back to the hotel, and called it a night (at 8pm).

The next morning we checked out, and were on a mission to find Belgian waffles for breakfast...something we thought should be easy enough to do...NOT!! We left the hotel around 8:30, but none of the vendors or bakeries opened till 10. We finally found this little "hole-in-the-wall" place back at the Grand Place area. OH, by the way we were completly lost the day before when we were walking and trying to find this area.

The waiter didn't understand us well, and that made for interesting process to order our food (since the menu was in French too). We wanted basic waffles (with one topping on them)...well, the kids lucked out b/c of our "great" French speaking abilities....they ended up getting waffles that had strawberries, chocolate and whip cream on them. Thom and I ended up getting our one topping (I had chocolate..yum) and Thom had powdered sugar, though he wanted whip cream. We also had Latte Machiattos (3 layered coffee)....this breakfast was VERY, VERY good!!!!

Because none of the things we wanted to do were quite open yet, Thom pulled out our tourist book, and gave us a history lesson of the Grand Place. It use to be a market place and where the dukes and king use to live. They had all kinds of shops....carpenters, seamstresses, breweries, and order for the marketplace to function for the town. Each building had a different animal "symbol" to name the building. It was very breezy, and we were all in shorts, and just about froze. When we looked around, we were just about the only people wearing shorts..who would have thought in August that this would be an issue????

After figuring out the correct opening times and correct locations for the museums, we finally were able to visit them (the book was wrong). We first went to the brewery museum, where we learned how they made beer in the 1800's and also today. With the entrance fee, there was also a sample of beer...Thom got to drink his and mine, and said it was very good. Some of our friends actually gave Thom some Belgian beer for his birthday...thanks Alicia and Nick!!

We also went to the chocolate museum...once again we saw how chocolate is made, and we even saw a demonstration. But the best part were the samples that were given to us. They made the mistake of leaving samples of chocolate chips (4 different kinds) out...and Emilee and Dominick found them, and definitely got their fair share of them.

If you visit Brussels, you are "suppose" to visit the Manneken~Pis. There are a couple of different stories on the origin of the statue..I won't bore you with the details. The only reason why we found the statue, was because we saw a huge group of tourists standing by it. The statue is hidden in a corner in between 3 chocolate stores, and is a whopping 3 feet tall (maybe). So we got our picture, and then headed over to a chocolate store for some more free samples, and then we actually bought some too!!! The chocolate is good, but very, very sweet.
Our day was starting to wrap up, but we promised the kids we would take them to Autoworld. This was another museum that had over 400 cars ranging from the 1900's until today. They even had some bikes (motorized and not) from the 1890's and even some stagecoaches. The kids (esp the boys) were in awe over all the cars there. We told the kids to pick out their favorite ones, and we'll take a picture of them in front of it.

Overall Brussles is a place that we can say we have seen. It is not very family friendly though. We thought it was just us because of the 5 kids and me waddleing around...but we talked to some friends and co-workers, and they said they got the same treatment. We have concluded that Brussels is for single people or those without is definitely a night-atmosphere kind of town. But we were also told that Bruge' Belgium (about an 1 1/2 hrs north of Brussels) is a lot friendlier and nicer to we are going to give Bruge a try later on.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

*Rome* July 17-22, 2009

There are a few points I need to make about this trip before I get into details. First, there was so much to see and do, that we could not get everything done. We stayed busy every day, and still couldn't get it done. Therefore to save you from boredom, and reading for hours, I am only going to hit the hightlights. Two, I took over 250 pictures, and therefore am not able to (obviously) put every picture on here. I am going to put some pictures here, and different ones on facebook. Throughout this entry I will give out if you ever make it here (which I highly recommend), then you will have a "heads-up."

We THOUROUGHLY enjoyed Rome. We are so happy that we were able to make it here and experience everything we did. We arrived around 10am after a 1 1/2 hour plane ride. We decided to jump right in and experience some authentic Italian food because we couldn't check into our hotel, and our tour did not start for a few more hours. Overall the food was outstanding every place we went. Unfortunately one day we went to a place that the food arrived 10 minutes after we sat down, was luke-warm, and we believe we heard a microwave ding...hhhmm!!! Needless to say that was not the best.

*Pointer 1: Go out of your way to eat at little "hole in the wall" restaurants....and stay away from the major "chains." The food is 50 times better, and the hospitality is fantastic!!! You may pay a little more, but it is worth not hearing the ding.*
Our tour was at the Vatican Museum. So we had to take a bus to St Peters' Basillica. After our stay here we realized that driving here would have been a huge mistake. Italian drivers are careful and there aren't very many accidents here, but the roads are very, very narrow; there are vendors along the streets; restaurants have their cute little tables along the roadside; and the mopeds are everywhere. OK, now back to our tour. Once we arrived at St Peter's Basillica we were looking for our meeting spot for the tour. We looked everywhere, and I finally went with my great Italian (yeh right) to a cop and asked him where this cafe was. He gave us directions, and it took us 45 minutes to get there....up a huge coblestone hill, pregnant, and with 2 strollers, and heat that felt like 120 degrees, and wearing pants/capris and shirts to cover our shoulders (you will NOT be able to enter the Sistine Chapel or Basillica wearing shorts and tank-tops) Once we got there we treated ourselves to some yummy Gilato (Italian ice cream). We have not figured out why this is so good...I mean it comes from the same milk American ice cream comes from, but it is so extra creamy...and I don't know how else to describe it.

*Pointer 2: eat Gilato every chance you can get...especially in the heat. We ended up eatting it every day except for once (we splurged on another dessert). *

OK back to the tour. We actually did not take a tour...we bought "skip the lines" tickets...and well worth the money. Pointer 3: spend the extra money to skip the lines on as much as you will save yourself about 2-3 hours of wasted time waiting in lines in the heat.

Once we got into the museum, we were free to roam around ourselves, and do it at our own pace (priceless option with kids). We saw a lot of statues of women, men and animals. We saw a lot of architecture, paintings, artwork, and tapestries that are 100's of years old. One section of the museum even had an Egyptian piece to it. The kids were fascinated and disgusted with the real mummy that was on back to around 900 BC. We were able to take a lot of pictures here. They have the museum set up, where you have to go through everything before you can get to the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel was magnificent!!!! We were not allowed to take pictures, so we had to buy postcards. We all got emotional, because no matter how much I were to describe it, my words do no mercy for the spectactual view we had. We learned in school that Michaelangelo painted it all....well, here is a bit of history. He painted the middle part of the ceiling (the Genesis section and the prophets and ancestors) and the Last Judgement in the front, but everything else was painted by other artists. He even had a little bit of help over the 4 years it took to paint it. Also he did not want to originally paint the Sistine Chaplel because as he put it "I am a sculpter, not a painter." But the pope begged him to do it. It took us a little over 2 1/2 hours to go through the museum and the Sistine Chapel.

Our next stop was to visit inside St. Peters' Basillica. St Peter was the first Pope and it was here that Jesus told him to build the church. This is also where he was crucified (upside down) under the persecution of Emperor Nero. His body is buried here under the alter. This Basillica is huge and beautiful beyond words. The statue below is of Mary holding Jesus after he died. It was sculpted by Michaelangelo, and is the ONLY piece of art that he signed. It is now behind bullet proof glass because a few years ago, some crazy person started destroying it, but it was fixed. Let me show you some of the pictures..instead of my words.

This church is absolutely beautiful. There were so many people here all day long. We actually made it back here to go to mass on Sunday. Feliciti and Jakob were so happy to be able to go to communion here (as were Thom and I). The mass was offered in Italian, and we couldn't understand much of it, but still were happy to make it here. The choir sang absolutely wonderfully. There were probably about 400-500 people at mass. While mass was going on the rest of the public (who did not want to attend mass) had to wait outside of the area, and were not allowed to enter until 4pm.

The next day was our walking Rome tour. This time we actually took a guided tour. Our tour guide was very nice and "sympathetic" for the kids...therefore didn't make any of us rush around. I think the other people in our group appreciated that too, because again it was very hot. The only difference was today we had a bit of a breeze. She told us a lot of interesting facts about Rome (ie, 1. the city was orginally 20 feet below where it is today, and had to be built higher because it always flooded 2. there is always excavation going on, and therefore is very dusty). Our first stop was the Pantheon. It was the Roman temple of "all the gods" and later became a church. Raphael so loved the Pantheon that he was actually buried here in 1520. The dome became a symbol of Rome.

We were able to see the famous Trevi Fountain. Honestly I never heard of the Trevi Fountain before this tour. There are a lot of fountains here, and we all enjoyed a bit of cool relief from them. But this fountain is probably the biggest and most "glamorous" of them all. We were finally ready to see some some Roman ruins. We had a long walk and half of it was through loose gravel. Our guide told us more interesting facts and pointed out certain the balconey where Mussoulini gave speeches from when he visited Rome. Once we got to the Roman Forum, the center of political, commercial and judicial life, we saw a lot of the original Roman buildings, but a lot of them were either destroyed or are still being excavated. Julius Caesar was buried here, and people still place flowers at his gravesite (which is just a pile of rocks). After climbing the "Triumphant Road" which was a steep hill with huge boulders embedded in the ground, we could see the Collisseum.

At the Collisseum, we were able to skip the lines again (woo-hoo!!). After a brief history, the tour guide left, and we explored the Collissum on our own. Actually the term Collisseum is incorrect. It is officially called the Amphitheater, but was "renamed" the Collisseum (not because of the size) but because it was close to a huge statue of Emperor Nero called Collosus. The statue was destroyed after Nero's death to "erase" all the memories of him. The Collisseum was finished in 80AD and only took 10 years to build. There are 80 arch entries that allowed the 80,000 people to be seated in 10 minutes, this was a place considered to be "after-work" entertainment. The columns were built with white limestone ~ and it has been said that the original seating was removed and used to help build St Peter's Basillica. There is a cross here that symbolizes the defeat the Christians had over the pagans, and since 1749 each year the popes do the Stations of the Cross along the walkway of the Collisseum on Good Friday. The steps to get to the uppermost level were very steep (like everything else here) and poor Dominick was literally crawling up them..we found the elevator when we came back down.

Our day was ending now, and we had about a 1 1/2 mile walk back to the hotel. We did a lot of walking today, and we probably drank about 8 liters of water between us all. This was the average on what we drank everyday.

The next three days we did not have any tours, or anything pressing that needed to be done. We bought a 48 hour bus pass...hop on-hop off.

*Pointer #4: because of the heat, this is another good investment....use the transportation to get you from place to place. *

We took the bus around for one complete rotation (about 2 hours), and then decided what we wanted to do. Over the next 2 days we went to a lot of "little" stops. I am going to summarize what we saw now. Piazza del Popolo. Here we saw another fountain (the same place where they had a Moby concert). Here is also where they have the "twin" churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto....two churches that look identical...except the tops are a bit different, one is more oval than the other.

We also walked through one of the many shopping district to get to the Spansh steps. Everyone counted the steps and we got 132-137. This was the Spanish area, and if you were caught in this area you could be drafted into the Spanish Army. Once we got to the top, we had to take a break because it seemed to be extra hot and sunny up there. We were a bit disappointed b/c the things we wanted to see were closed.

*Pointer #5: make sure to look in your tour book to check on opening and closing hours. A lot of places close for lunch which is between 1-4pm. *

There are also a lot of obelisk's...many of which came from Egypt...they are tall pointed of which we saw down in Spanish steps area. Many of them have statues or crosses on the tops. To waste some more time, since we had about 3 hours before anything reopened (at least in the area we were at) we walked up to the Pincio Gardens. This is not the typical gardens we are use to. There were no flowers...just a bunch of trees. But there was a small fountain (nothing extravagant) that the kids played in for about an hour. A little middle-eastern 2 year old girl was up there and her and Dominick played together...she even cried when we sweet!!!!

There are over 900 churches in Rome (most of which are Catholic)..we were only able to see about 10 of them, but passed many more. One of the churches we stopped at was Santa Maria was here in 356AD where Pope Liberius had a vision of Mother Mary ~ she told him to build a church at the spot he found snow. It was August 5th when it snowed and so he built this church ~ the church was completed in 440AD. Every year the church has a tradition to throw down white flower petals from the ceiling. The ceiling tiles were believed to be the gold that Columbus brought back from the Americas. Once again the artwork, detail and thought in this (and every church we visited) amazed us ~ it is so beautiful!! Many churches also hold tombs of saints, popes, archbishops, bishops and cardinals.

Most of the Italians are very friendly. At one of the restaurants we ate it...Thom and I shared a Carbonara Calzone (which was very yummy) and the kids shared some pasta and pizza. As we were leaving, Emilee ran into a pole, and the owner ran over to her and picked her up and gave her a free ice cream. She told us that we are very blessed to have so many kids ~ and Thom and I both agreed. We have been told by many locals that our family is great because of the size, and they are not use to seeing so "many" kids in one family...the average is 1.5 kids per family.

We also visited Castel Sant' Angelo. The castle was built by Pope Gregory the Great because he had a vision of St. Michael (the archangel). The castel was a papal residence one time and also served as a prison at another time. It has an underground corridor that leads from the Vatican to the castle that would be used for the pope in case he was in danger ~ it was built in 1277 and has no public access. We went to the top of the castle and got some great overview pictures of Rome. There were some beautiful frescos (which we couldn't touch or take pictures of) along some of the walls.

We were needing to get some souvenirs before we left. The kids got to pick out a few things with the money they saved up. Between all of them they got snow-globes, t-shirts, hats, pens, rosaries, fans and postcards. Thom and I got some presents for family (for Christmas) and then a few things for ourselves (rosaries, scarves and postcards). But our biggest souvenir were the 2 oil paintings we bought from a local artist. One was a night-time picture of St Peter's, the Tiber River and Castel Angelo. The other one was a generic scene of Italian houses along the ocean side with beautiful flowers. I made a deal with the artist and actually saved about 50 Euros (about $80) for both of them ~ Not too shabby!!!

We saw a lot more of what I have actually written, but a promise is a promise...I didn't want to make it too unbearalbly long. I hit the hightlights...but just know, no matter what I could write and pictures we could share, seeing it first-hand is the best way to experience what we experienced. Visiting Rome is an experience we will all remember forever!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rhine Aflame July 4, 2009

4th of July

"German Style"

This was an event we were told that we could not miss out on. Every first Saturday of the month from April to about October, the Germans shoot off fireworks on the Rhine River, and a procession of about 50 boats all lit up drive down the river as the fireworks are going off. This year the 4th happened to fall on the first Saturday, so we thought...what an opportunity!!!

We only lived about an hour away, so we left the house about 6pm. We were not sure how bad the traffic or parking would be. We got there a little after 7 and were lucky enough to find parking right away!!! We were also lucky enough to find the only bench left that happened to be between the Rhine river and a park. I know hard to imagine, but it was an ideal spot!!! We let the kids play until they got hungry..which was about 1 1/2 hours. We ate our sandwiches and chips, and then they continued playing some more...they had a blast!!!

We decided since everyone was having such a good time and behaving, that we would all treat ourselves to some ice cream. The nearest ice cream stand on the "boardwalk" (like the NJ boardwalk) was about 1/4 mile down. So by the time Feliciti, Jakob and I returned with the ice cream cones they were half melted. But they still tasted yummy, and everyone enjoyed their flavors. I think Thom really enjoyed his since it was a combo of cherries, vanilla ice cream and alcohol.

The kids were beginning to wear down, so we told them to come take a break by us until the fireworks started. While we were waiting, Dominick was getting a bit bored, and started throwing shoes around...unfortunatly he threw Jakob's sandal right into the river. Emilee was worried about that thing for the rest of the night..."how are we going to get it back? what are the fish going to do with it? how is Jakob going to get home?"

It was finally time for the show to start. We were excited to see what all the hype was about. It seemed to take forever for the boats to come around the corner...but once they did, it was amazing. Imagine....50 big party boats all lit up going down the Rhine could hear the music and the people (drunk I am sure) having a fantastic time. If we didn't have the kids, and I were not pregnant, Thom and I decided that we would have been on one of those boats. In the background, along the mountain sides you could see the fireworks being shot off....this was nice. Dominick and Emilee are old enough to appreciate it, and that they did!! The fireworks in the states are more elaborate, but this was a unique experience. Here are a few of the pictures. One of them is of a castle along the mountain.