Switzerland & Italy May-June 2007

Europe Travel Blog

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Well, here it is! The final journal from my trip. It's long, and probably super-boring to everyone but me. But here it is in all it's gory - I mean glory!

Day 1 (Mon, 5/21/07)
Mom dropped Chris & I off at BNA airport for our flight to JFK. Uneventful flight, took cab to Steve's house in Manhattan (it's gorgeous!), went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Chris and Steve and went to bed.

Day 2 (Tues, 5/22/07)
Walked around NYC, grabbed brunch at a bakery around the corner, took (several) buses to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – they had a great display on weapons and armor that we checked out for a few hours. Did you know that the fee is a "recommended donation" only? I thought that was interesting. Walked through Central Park, went back to gather our bags and jumped on the train to JFK. Barely made it to the airport on time to catch the flight, had the WORST experience with a desk attendant checking us in from British Airways. He wasted our time and then didn't validate my flight ticket (which we found out after waiting in the long security line, causing me to have to run back to his line, wasting even more of our precious little time). We did make it onto the plane (just in time!), but there were phone calls I had hoped to make while waiting at the gate before I left the US that I wasn't able to make, and I had hoped to pick up some Nyquil to knock me out on the flights to Heathrow & Zurich!

Day 3 (Wed, 5/23/07)
Well, the flights were mostly uneventful – except for this rowdy drunk guy getting off at Heathrow. He was talking very loudly and complaining about losing his glasses. He was a complete D-bag, and it cracked me up when the BA flight attendant didn't take any of his crap and verbally put him back into place. I wish I could remember exactly what the guy said to the drunk passenger, but it was priceless! We got into Zurich around 12:20 this afternoon. We walked around town, tried to do a self-guided walking tour, but we didn't get much sleep on the plane, and I don't think our brains were in optimal condition for this because we were unable to find any of the landmarks! We had lunch at Casa Mia – it was a 65 Franc lunch consisting of only pizza and water! Ouch! It was good, though. Then we walked around a little more and had a delicious ice cream dessert before heading back for the train station. We jumped on trains headed toward Interlaken Ost, then Lauterbrunnen. At Interlaken, we met a nice couple that told us that they LOVED Lauterbrunnen, but we shouldn't waste our time in Gimmelwald (which is where we were headed). Since it was around 7:30pm at this point and we were thoroughly exhausted, we decided it would be a good idea to stay the night in Lauterbrunnen. They recommended the Hotel Staubach, which has amazingly close views to the majestic Staubach Falls. (Lauterbrunnen is known for its many waterfalls, it's a valley in the Berner Oberland tucked between mountains on all side. Mountains like the Jungfrau, Monch, and the notorious Eiger. Everywhere you look, you see waterfalls coming down the mountains.) We got a GORGEOUS room! It was a corner room facing the Falls with a wrap around deck on the first floor. We had a completely unobstructed view of the Falls from our little deck. We decided to stay there for 2 nights, since it was so pretty. We went down to the local pub for dinner and a few drinks after we got situated.

Day 4 (Thurs, 5/24/07)
JUNGFAUJOCH! We got up early this morning to get to the top of Europe. We took the trains up to Jungfraujoch (pronounced: young frow yock – or something like that) which is right below the peaks of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau (interesting tidbit – in the stories, the Ogre is being kept away from the young maiden by a monk, hence their names). Now this was amazing! We went up to several observation points, including the Sphinx Observatory, and then did a 2 hour hike across the snow (bless the little sales girl who sold us our sunglasses, but damn her to hell for not upselling the sunscreen!!!!) to a hut that had a mini restaurant (12,000 feet) where we got a chocolate bar, but didn't eat much bc we had a picnic lunch packed in the backpack Then we did some sledding, which was fantasticly fun (after I chastised some Indian tourists for their ridiculously constant line-cutting in front of these little German kids). Then we went to see the Ice Palace which was really neat, it was an ice cave with a lot of ice sculptures and the floors were ice, so you had to be very careful not to fall. Well … there was a really cute little place to take a picture, so Chris was going to take a picture of me in this one ice sculpture that was kind of set up like a tunnel with a window looking out of it. So I carefully made my way over to it and got into position for the picture while he carefully made his way around to take the picture. Then this Indian father and son came over and told me to get out of the way, and confused, I said no (of course!) and then the 12 year old son actually pushed me out of the way! I was so shocked at this that I stood out of the way as they got their picture taken, now, on the other side of them had formed about a 10 person long line of their family or friends who were next for the picture. At this point I was really ticked off as the father and son tried to move me backwards away from the area so they could get out (which would mean that I'd then have to go back to the end of the line!) So I stood my ground as they were trying to usher me out of their way and firmly said "No! You go that way! And I made them turn around and make all their friends and relatives move out of the tiny cave so they could get out and I could get my picture. I was really flaming mad. I know it's a different culture, and I THINK I'm prepared to handle it when I'm in their country at the end of the summer, but I will not be treated like a second class citizen by them outside of their country. It's just F-ing ridiculous! But what really ticked me off is that the boy put his hands on me and pushed me out of the way, bc I know that he wouldn't have done that to an Indian woman. Grrrrr…. Ok, just had to vent! After we had finished with Jungfraujoch, we took the train back down to Kleine Scheidegg (which is the first stop you can get off on) Elevation: 2,061 meters. Then we hiked from KS down to Wengen, Elevation 1,274 meters. We ate our picnic lunch on the way down next to a beautiful pond full of newts. With the mountains on one side of us and the train running on top of a hill on the other side with beautiful hills of rolling farmland and happy Swiss cows beyond it. We did get a little lost at one point, when our trail went faint and then turned into 2 trails. I think we took the wrong one and may have been trespassing on a farmer's land (which we found out later often results in being chased off with a shotgun), but we eventually made our way down to Wengen 7 hours after starting the hike. At this point we'd hiked 9 hours today, and were pretty tired, so we took a train back down to Lauterbrunnen. We walked around town, had dinner at the pub, and then back to Hotel Staubbach. Oh yeah, we uh, got just a little bit burnt out there today …

Day 5 (Fri, 5/25/07)
Well, we definitely have bad sunburns, but Chris's is a lot worse than mine. We've been lathering cheap hand lotion (that I happened to bring with me) on our faces since last night, but our faces absorb the lotion completely after 5-10 minutes, no matter how much we put on. We are heading to Gimmelwald this morning, but after checkout, we hit the doctor's office, and they gave Chris a gel to put on his face a few times a day. Hopefully that'll do the trick…. So we grabbed our backpacks and took the funicular to grutschalp, then the scenic train to Murren, walked 20 minutes across Murren, took the gondola down to Gimmelwald, then hiked back up the incredibly steep town stairs (about 15 minutes with our bags) to the Hotel Mittaghorn and checked in. Gimmelwald is gorgeous!!! It's like being sucked right into heaven! Then we went on a little self guided walking tour of the town. Later that afternoon, we watched a large thunderstorm majestically roll in over the alps. We went up to the second floor deck and watched the storm until the rain started coming in sideways. We had a few beers in the hotel pub and met some TN kids staying at the hostel and Tim, who's a fantastic British guy helping out at the hotel and an expert paraglider. Then we had a great dinner that Walter (the owner of the hotel) made. We met the other guests at dinner, had some wine, then afterwards, we walked down the incredibly steep steps to the hostel bar. We had a few beers there, shot some pool, met some locals, and headed back to the hotel.

Day 6 (Sat, 5/26/07)

Oh dear. It's a bad idea to drink when you've got a bad sunburn. Chris dehydrated himself pretty badly, and can barely move his face this morning. I got breakfast and planned my day of paragliding, Chris was supposed to go with me, but when I brought his breakfast upstairs, he didn't think he'd be able to go. So I rode the gondola up to Murren and met up with Bennie. Paragliding was the most AMAZING experience! It was 25 minutes of just soaring with the birds – literally! At one point there was a hawk flying below me. We went over 2 waterfalls that fell into Stechelberg, then we were flying over the Weisse Lutschine River, then back next to the waterfalls. Once it seemed like we might crash right into the waterfall, but we didn't – we were very close to it, though! Near the end of the flight, Bennie asked me if I liked roller coasters. I answered yes before really thinking about the question, and the next thing I knew, he had kind of "collapsed" the wings so that we seemed to shoot straight down for several seconds, then he reopened them and it felt like we flew way back up into the air! It was really fantastic! Bennie gave me the roll of pictures for free, and said that I had a flawless take off and landing. I can tell that I'm already addicted to this sport. I'm going to have to get certified so I can do it on my own. Tim said that there are people who will come to that area and make a vacation out of the 8 day certification course… sounds like a good time to me! I can't wait to jump off of some of the mountains in India next! After I got back to the hotel, Chris was still hurting, so I walked around Gimmelwald a little and enjoyed the adrenaline rush I was still flying on. Then Chris & I had lunch in Lauterbrunnen and hiked Staubbach Falls and then Trummelbach Falls. Staubbach was good exercise, but nothing special. Trummelbach was awesome! You hike inside the actual waterfall! It's the only glacier waterfall in Europe that's inside a mountain and still accessible. It was a stunning experience. Then we went back to the hotel and had another wonderful dinner cooked by Walter, then hung out with some of the other guests at Walter's bar.

Day 7 (Sun, 5/27)
Had Breakfast at Hotel Mittaghorn, said goodbye to other hotel guests from Chicago and Nashville. Jumped on the numerous lifts and trains and headed towards Riggisberg. Went to R-berg in search of Chris's long lost relations. It was a very cute little town, but there wasn't too much going on, especially bc it's Sunday. But we were able to find a café that was open. Then we found a museum (Chris's grandfather's family was supposedly featured in an exhibit in a local museum, but it wasn't this one). We thought this was the museum we'd been looking for… unfortunately, it was just the local textile museum – which WAS very nice in itself, but there was no reference to the Bohlen family. We headed back towards Gimmelwald and stopped for dinner in Murren at the Stagerstubli and had fondue. Then we decided to do the walk down to Gimmelwald in the complete darkness! It was kind of misty-raining, and it was chilly, but it was a fun walk. We had to use our cell phones to light the pathway… probably not our brightest idea ever, but it was fun!

Day 8 (Mon, 5/28)
(it's our 2 year anniversary today!) Woke up to 6+ inches of snow! And it was still snowing very hard. After breakfast we decided to walk back up to Murren (the steep stairs to the gondola didn't look safe with all the ice and snow covering them). That 20 minute hike ended up taking us 1 ½ hours through the snow! Not to mention we didn't have the appropriate clothing for this kind of weather, what a surprise! Although we had mentioned a few days ago that we'd love to see the area in the winter, covered in snow! Ha ha ha! We grabbed lunch in Murren and bought hats and gloves. We decided to take the gondola down from Murren to the bottom of Gimmelwald to see if there was anything going on at the hostel. There wasn't. BUT, the stairs had been cleared off, so we walked up the stairs to Hotel Mittaghorn (now through about 1 ½ feet of snow) We had dinner at the Hotel (Walter only makes 2 different meals that he rotates each night, but they're both fantastic, a pasta and a chicken dish), then we stayed up drinking wine and playing cards with a couple of other guests.

Day 9 (Tues, 5/29)
Well, we had planned to go to the Matterhorn and Luzern, but with this snow, the visibility is bad and it's raining in the lower areas, so it doesn't make much sense to do either, so we've extended our stay in Gimmelwald. Today we went into Interlaken (means "between the lakes) and then to Brienz where we did a brief visit of Ballenberg open-air museum – unfortunately brief, because it looked like a really neat place! Then we jumped on the ferry in Brienz and did a nice little cruise around the lake for a couple hours that took us back to Interlaken. Did some shopping in Lauterbrunnen, and then dinner at Walter's.

Day 10 (Wed, 5/30)
We were finally able to sleep in! Go figure, on our last day in Switzerland! We said goodbye to Walter and Tim, and checked out and caught trains through Interlaken, Spiez, Brig, Milan, and finally to Venice. We arrived and took the water bus to where we thought our hostel was, but it was very difficult to find. About 2 hours later, we found it and checked in. It was an adorable place called the Locanda Poste Vecie. We had dinner that night outside next to the Grand Canal, grabbed a couple beers and went for a nice night walk around Venice.

Day 11 (Thurs, 5/31)
Today we went to the Basilica of San Marco. We went into each area and did an audio tour. We walked around the Plaza a bit, got a bit disgusted by the people letting the pigeons walk all over them (haven't they ever heard of bird flu?!? LOL!) Grabbed a glass of wine at a little café,. I thought I lost my tour book, but Chris was able to find it where I'd left it in the Basilica. Met up with Liz, Jim, Andy, and Kristinat Ferrovia train station and guided them back to the hostel. Had dinner with them (our waiter was extremely overly-flirty to the point of ridiculous!) Jim and Chris each bought a bottle of absinthe, some wine and beer, and we all headed for the water bus for what we thought would be a nice pleasant cruise around town. Well, we got separated: Chris, Jim, and Kristin on one and Me, Liz and Andy on the other, and then it turned into an outrageous slapstick comedy from that point where people were jumping off at one stop and the next boat wouldn't stop there, and it was hours before we all met up again. When we did finally meet up, we were all ready for gelato.

Day 12 (Fri, 6/1)
Had breakfast at the Chinese deli, went to San Marco and saw the Doge's Palace. Got the rest of the group to the water bus, but I guess they jumped on the wrong train on their way out of Venice. Went shopping, bought my cameo, got stuck in the rain, window shopping, hopped into Chinese restaurant for a bottle of wine and hot & sour soup. Went to dinner at a really cute restaurant with an Italian musician covering Ricky Martin songs (kinda random, huh?) The food was excellent, but they tried to rip us off, and that was a little upsetting. Then we walked around a bit more, got gelato, and called it a night.

Day 13 (Sat, 6/2)
Checked out, got breakfast at the Chinese bakery, took the traghetto across the Grand Canal, took water bus to Ferrovia and bought Murano glass chess set and leather/ceramic wall mask (wasn't what I wanted but oh well). Gave our extra museum passes to a Canadian couple and to a 2 hour train to Bologna. Very rude woman at the TI in Bologna, went to internet café and booked hotel Paradise, walked to hotel, checked in. Saw Fountain of Neptune, went up their leaning tower, ran into Steve & Arthur while walking the square. Grabbed a snack with them, walked around Bologna. Got dinner with them, then gelato at their favorite place. Then went on another walk before heading back to hotel.

Day 14 (Sun, 6/3)
Checked out, walked to train, had 5 minutes to find train and get on – 1st class to Pisa. Tough transfer. Got to Pisa, found hotel, took bus to Field of Miracles, walked around, had gelato and slushee. Went in Duomo. Went in Baptistery – really neat how it makes music when you sing in the center! Went in the cemetery and saw the Triumph of Death. Met up with Liz, Jim, Andy & Kristin. Had dinner at Galileo's. Chris, Jim, and Andy went to a pub and lost my travel book *grrrrrrrr!* and then on to the field of Miracles. Liz, Kris, and I went home.

Day 15 (Mon, 6/4)
Kris had to get to the airport early in the am. We had breakfast at the airport, shopping with Liz. Chris tried to get the book back but the pub wasn't open. We took the train to Luca. Luca is sooo cute! And our B&B is amazing (The B&B La Torre)! It's the cheapest place we've stayed so far, and it's so adorable and it's a great location! And such friendly owners! We had lunch in Piazza Anfiteatro and gelato, and then a quick thunderstorm rolled in and we relaxed in my siblings' "penthouse suite" for an hour till the storm passed. Then we walked around town, walked around the ancient walls, which was great! Then me and Liz and Andy went to dinner while Jim and Chris ran back to Pisa to stop by that pub, but it was closed. At our dinner, we ordered the house wine, and they wouldn't give us wine glasses – we had to drink it out of these rocks glasses, and it was the most disgusting wine ever! It was kind of embarrassing, but funny! But the meal was fantastic!

Day 16 (Tues, 6/5)
We had the most wonderful breakfast at the B&B. Checked out and walked to the TI. Checked our bags and rented bikes. We biked around Luca on the wall and through the city while taking pictures. Then we caught the train to Florence. We were the first ones there, so we found the hotel and checked in (Hotel Argentina), then walked to get lunch, happened to find a book store that sold the one I'd lost! Saw the Duomo, went back to hotel to meet up with mom, dad, and gramma. Had dinner at restaurant near the Duomo – very good! Had gelato, walked around. Went home.

Day 17 (Wed, 6/6)
Woke up early, had breakfast, made 3:30pm Accademia reservations. Bought tickets for hop on, hop off bus tour. Walked to bus stop by train with Chris, mom, and gramma. Got off at Duomo, saw Duomo museum, back on bus to Fiesole – pretty views of the city. Then to Pitti Palace. Then we took a taxi to get to the Accademia on time. Saw the David and the Prisoners and the rest of the artwork – it was really amazing. Then we walked to Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. Then back to the hotel for a nap, the other relatives had arrived, then off to dinner with all 17 of us! Then we walked to the Duomo and Uffizi with the newcomers.

Day 18 (Thurs, 6/7)
Breakfast, packed, checked out, walked around with Chris, Liz, Jim, and Andy – shopping, lunch, caught train to Siena with Liz and Chris (Jim and Andy hopped an earlier train). Mom and Dad picked us up at station, and took us to the hotel. Which was FANTASTIC! I mean, wow! This place had amazing views! It was such a romantic spot, I wish we'd had more than one night there. We walked around Siena, got dinner at a great fancy little restaurant, where dad got a phone call from the rest of the relatives who were lost – this was probably the most embarrassing moment of the trip, as he talked really loudly into the cell phone in an intimate little restaurant of only 6 tables and everyone glared at us. It was so ridiculous that I started laughing so hard that I was crying by the end of it (and by "it" I mean a 20 minute long conversation including maps being pulled out and put on the table and detailed directions given!) Then we walked around Siena a little more before heading home and grabbing a few beers at the pub.

Day 19 (Fri, 6/8)
Went into Siena, walked around Il Campo again, bought bus tickets to Cupra – this was the longest bus ride ever! I really wish we'd taken the train. Then we checked into the Calypso campground apartment and passed out.

Day 20 (Sat, 6/9)
Decided to change from the apartment room to the bungalow room that had a kitchen, and was just a cute little hut with 2 bedrooms and a porch. Went to the beach, went swimming in the Adriatic. We swam out to the breaker rocks and hung out there for a while. Around 5 we went to see great-grandma Allesiani's old house, met our relatives, went back to Alfredo & Doriana's house, saw their huge garden and picked cherries. Went to dinner at Francesco's restaurant for an amazingly long dinner of: prosciutto & melon, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, French fries, fried fish (all kinds, kinda scary), pannforte & cherry pie Italian style – which was 10 or 5 course, depending on how you look at it. Went home and passed out!

Day 21 (Sun, 6/10)
Rode bikes with Chris to my parents' apartment in Cupra, Chris and Jim went running and Liz and I rode the bikes to San Benedetto, got gelato, and then rode all the way back to the Calypso (at which point, our butts would hurt for the next 2 days!). Went to the pool, swam and laid out. Went down to the beach to look for sea glass, shells, and pretty rocks for jewelry making. Watched the sunset, went grocery shopping and helped make the huge dinner for all 17 of us (watermelon was going for 11 euro!) Went to the "game night" at the campground, saw Collin get his shirt ripped off! I kicked some major butt at the balloon popping game, Andy has 2 admirers, and Julia has some chick really pissed off at her for dancing with a guy she likes. Andy crashed at our place tonight.

Day 22 (Mon, 6/11)
Spent the day at the beach, went to Murano and walked around the old town, went into some abandoned cave-like homes. Had coffee at their local restaurant, saw the sun set over Cupra from way up on the hill above it. Came back to Calypso, they were doing the salsa dancing and we drank a lot of Peroni. Andy ran off with the 2 Italian girls and Lauren and Julia have crushes on sleezy Italian boys who shave their legs! Jim and Andy stayed the night, we passed out around 3am, I guess they were out until 5:30.

Day 23 (Tues, 6/12)
Went to Frassassi Caves! Beautiful! Walked back down the hill. Karaoke that night at Calypso, I was pulled up on stage to sing No Woman, No Cry with Lauren and Julia's sleazy boys because they had no idea how it goes. Then I sang One Love with Chris because they pulled me onstage (again!) to help him out. Andy sang Bohemian Rhapsody with Ambra, and the girls got upset because they had to miss dinner with their sleazy boys and then weren't allowed to go off with them at night. I had dinner with Chris and Andy at the Calypso restaurant. Dad, Liz, Jim, and Andy almost got locked in the campgrounds that night, and Ambra gave Andy a bracelet (how adorable!)

Day 24 (Wed, 6/13)
Slept in today. Went to beach, looked for sea glass, had sandwiches and watermelon at Calypso. Went to have gelato with the Allesiani's on the beach. There was a weird dance thing at the Calypso night party, so we skipped it.

Day 25 (Thurs, 6/14)
Got up and went to beach with Andy. Found LOTS of seaglass (I'm going to decorate a mirror with it, I think). Had lunch at Calypso, went to pool, saved a bee from drowning, then another bee (or maybe just 1 dumb bee). Shared a bottle of white wine with Liz, Jim, Andy, and Chris on the piazza, found out I could talk to staff if I spoke Spanish to 2 who actually hailed from South America, and were invited to a beach party tonight. Then we all went to a private viewing of the local Archeological Museum with our private archeologist guide and translator, and then he took us to several dig sites: walled fortress, temple with arcs, and roman baths. Then we went to dinner with 40 other people (all of our Italian relatives). When we got back to Calypso, we hit up the beach party with the "Okay" staff and Liz, Jim, and Andy. We ran out of beer, and remembered we had some absinthe left, which the Italians were really excited about. Jim and Andy were playing kissing games with the Italian girls while the rest of us were sharing music with Well from Brazil and Nikolaus. So Jim finally got his first Italian kiss and Andy made out with an 18 year old (he'd earned the nickname "Danger Andy" from Well by the time we left).

Day 26 (Fri, 6/15)
Well, we barely slept last night. We checked out, and Jim's in a foul mood for having such a good night! We bought our tickets to Rome and hopped on the 9am train. We'll get into Termini station around 2:30pm. Well, we got in, bought the Roma pass, hopped on the metro, got off 3 blocks from hotel (Anfiteatro Flavio), checked in, and went to Colosseum. We did the 1 hour guided tour the Colosseum – pretty fantastic place! Then we went through the Eros display and headed for the Forum. What a powerful place! It brought tears to my eyes on several different moments. I felt like I could be happy standing there forever. This may be the most awed I have ever felt. It was very intense. We did the Rick Steves self-guided walking tour of the forum (which was excellent!) and we saw: The Arch of Titus, the Basilica of Constantine, the Forum's Main Square, the Temple of Julius Caesar, the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, the Basilica Aemilia, Caligula's Palace, the Temple of Vesta, the House of the Vestal Virgins, the Curia, the Rostrum, the Arch of Septimus Severus, the Temple of Saturn, and the Column of Phocas. Then we headed to the Campo de' Fiori for dinner at the Ristorante La Carbonara (where the food is great and the waiters are excessively rude, snot-faced little pricks). We also realized that Chris lost our camera bag somewhere during the day (we thought it was the WC by the Unification of Italy monument, but discovered it the next day at the security gate for the Colosseum). Then we went on a night walk of Rome, where we saw where Giordano Bruno was burnt as an intellectual heretic, the Theater of Pompey (where Caesar was killed), the Piazza Navona (puppet shows, artists, and break dancers), the Four Rivers Fountain (sadly under construction), the Pantheon, the Egyptian Obelisk taken as a prize after the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra, had a gelato at Giolitti's (rumored to be Rome's most famous gelateria), Piazza Colonna and the column honoring Marcus Aurelius, the Via del Corso (famous for its horse races), and the Trevi Fountain. We called it a night here, because we just couldn't walk much further! What a day!

Day 27 (Sat, 6/16)
Slept in a bit, found the missing camera bag at the Colosseum, decided to hit up Vatican City. Couldn't get into the museum, but went to St Peter's Basilica (Chris couldn't get in with his pocket knife, so I went in by myself). Afterward we grabbed some food from a street vendor and hopped on the metro to the Spanish Steps. From there we walked to the Pantheon, there was a mass going on, so we visited the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva church which was nearby and saw the Michelangelo statue, Christ Bearing the Cross. Then we went back to the Pantheon and went inside. What an amazing dome!!! Then we headed towards Mamertine Prison and met up with Jim there. Then we sat around looking down on the Forum for a while before walking past Trajan's Column in Piazza Venezia. Then the 3 of us made a nice long walk down the banks of the Tiber river before heading to the Campo de' Fiori for dinner. Then it was off to the Trevi Fountain where we bought beer from a street vendor throughout the night while reclining on the steps in front of the fountain. What a gorgeous fountain! I wanted to take a billion pictures of it! We met a great couple from England who were there for a long weekend, and then a big group of 16 year old Spanish students found out we spoke English and were thrilled to practice their language skills on us – they were really good, and shared some new Spanish music with us.

Day 28 (Sun, 6/17)
Well, it's the last full day we have in Rome, and I can't believe how quickly this vacation has flown past! I wish I had a few more days in Rome. I tried to convince Chris to let me put the flight back to the US off for another week so we could explore some of southern Italy, but he has too much preparation for his new job. I know he's ready to get back to the states, but I think I could travel forever! Well, I woke up early this morning in the hopes of getting to the Porta Portese Flea Market in the Trastevere. Chris was still sleeping and Jim had a breakfast date with a 46 year old woman who was singing in the choir at St Peter's, so I went off on my own to hunt down some fantastic antiques. Unfortunately, I have no sense of direction and I ended up getting hopelessly lost! So, I just enjoyed walking around Rome lost for about 3 hours. Then I found the Tiber and walked along it until I came to the Isola Tiberina, where I stopped for a gelato. I was on my way to see the Castel Sant' Angelo, but I got side tracked trying to find a restroom, and wasn't able to make my way back to the Tiber (yeah, I'm directionally challenged, I know). After that I got in touch with Chris and I met him at the Mamertine Prison. Then we took the metro from the Colosseum to the Spanish Steps, then we caught a cab to the Catacombs of Priscilla, which was very interesting. Then we tried to get to the Capuccin Crypt, but it closed before we could find it (unfortunately! I was really looking forward to seeing artistically arranged bones!) Then we headed to Capitol Hill Museum, which was great! We saw the original Capitoline Wolf (from 500 BC) and the random pieces from the giant statue of Constantine, among others. Then we walked down to the Circus Maximus where Liz, Andy, and my dad were walking around and we met up with them before walking back to the hotel to meet up with the rest of the family for dinner. Chris and I went to an (Italian) restaurant that was covered in climbing roses in a cute little square next to a fountain, the rest of my family decided to eat Indian food for their last dinner in Rome (I figured I'd be eating more than my share of Indian in a few weeks, so I passed!)

Day 29 (Mon, 6/18)
We woke up and checked out and caught a cab to the airport. I hate rushing to the airport, like we did on our way into Europe, and luckily this time we were able to do things at a more relaxed pace. We had a fairly uneventful flight back to JFK, although Chris's luggage was lost (and as of 6/22, there's still no trace of it). Our flight from Heathrow to JFK was delayed about an hour, so we gave up on the idea of trying to bump our jetblue flight up to this evening. So we got a hotel in Jamaica, NY, ordered a pizza, and fell asleep, exhausted.

Day 30 (Tues, 6/19)
I woke up at 1am this morning and freaked out because I thought it was 1 in the afternoon. Damned jetlag! Then I went back to sleep and woke up totally refreshed around 3:30, so I started reading a book I'd picked up at JFK on the way into Europe (Labyrinth). Today was great because we didn't have to check out of the hotel until noon, which perfectly coincided with our flight to Nashville. We spent a great leisurely day munching on the continental breakfast and lazing around in bed enjoying really bad court TV shows. Then we jumped on our plane and headed home. I do have to mention that Chris's walking stick from Switzerland always looked incredibly funny when it was coming down the luggage belt with the rest of the bags!

That was one hell of a good trip!

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