Tuesday, September 28, 2010

24ish Hours with Chrissy and Ayesha

Chrissy and Ayesha (friends from back home) came to Italy for their annual vacation this year. They are going to be all over the place but they came down to see us, Naples, and Capri for a day... and of course, pizza was on the itinerary too. Can't come to where it all began and not have a taste!!! They got here late last Sunday night (09/26), we picked them up from the train station, said our hellos, figured out our Monday game plan and then headed to bed. On Monday we woke up at about 8:30am, drank Heather-made smoothies for breakfast, got ready and then headed out to Capri via Naples. We took the metro and got off at the closest stop to the port to get to Capri, but this Metro stop is not actually close to the port so we had a fun walk down. If we weren't running behind schedule it would have taken us longer to get to the port, as you have to walk through a market area and down some streets with good shopping! Well, it looked good from the sidewalk anyway! *Sidenote* I SO need a female friend who doesn't work so we can take adventures to these places and shop our hearts out while our husbands work!! So many cute stores! Moving on- the only pit stop with did make was so that I could get a delicious doughnut! It was a sugar doughnut filed with Nutella. Well worth the stop! Here the pastries are warm, fresh, and pretty much melt in your mouth if you get them in the morning... Sorry Krispy Kreme- your donuts will probably no longer do it for me like they once did!
Anyway, the weather was a little cloudy and we had a few raindrops on us but we continued our stroll to the port. Chrissy and Ayesha snapped pics of random things that got their attention and of course, the random castle, Castle Nuovo (I believe). I say random because there is tons of traffic, along with all these restaurants and cafes, etc, and then you have a huge beautiful castle right in the middle. Sweet. Regardless, to me, the castle means we were just around the corner from the port! We bought tickets and were shortly on our way to the wonderful Isle di Capri.
The first thing we did once we got to Capri is get on a boat tour of the Island so they could be sure to see the famous Love Arch... MUAH!

The boat only took us around half of the Island because they said that the other side was too rough and we were lucky to even be able to get a boat tour that day. I did notice there were very few other boats out, so we took their word for it, but that did mean no Blue Grotto. *tear*
After the boat tour we rode the Funicalore (cable car thing) up to the town center.

There we checked out the stores, hunted for the shoe store that some celebrities go to for their custom shoes (i.e. Julia Roberts...), and of course, admired the views and took pictures that could make people jealous!

After Capri, we headed back to our place, they packed up, bought Eiffel Tower tickets in advance for their short visit to Paris the next day, and then we headed out to dinner! We revisited Country House because they had a not-so-good experience with pizza in Rome and we knew Country House wouldn't disappoint! We just couldn't allow them to leave Italy without at least one Napoli-good pizza experience! It wouldn't be right! Then after dinner they were off- back to Rome! It was good to hang out with friends from home, even if just for a day!
Til next time...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

We'll always have Paris...

I have never actually seen Casablanca, but whenever I think of Paris, I think of that line from that movie...

In case you missed my blog about this trip- James planned it as a surprise for us to celebrate our one year anniversary! I LOVE HIM! I really could just say "Paris, was amazing, you have to see it..." and stop at that- but where's the fun in that?

We arrived in Paris at around 10am and were on our way to figure out the metro system and head to our hotel! Figuring out the metro system wasn't hard (and the ticket machines had English options). So, we were on our way- ready to buy a "carnet" (set of 10) of metro tickets at a time, which we read is the way to go, rather than one at a time (the cost is 12 Euro VS 1.70 Euro per ticket, saving us .50 per ticket). The machine wouldn't take our card or bills so we had to get out of line and hunt down some change! Mind you, we had been in line for like 20 mins before realizing we couldn't pay, sighhh! So we went around the corner and found a pastry shop and got our first French pastries! We got two bread stick things, one with chocolate chips all over it and one with fruity chunks- both were incredible, and this got us more excited for our next 4 days in Paris! When we paid we asked that cashier for our change in coins and we headed back to the line at the ticket machine. We found that the lines aren't always that long but I guess we weren't the only ones who just got in from the airport at that time... oh and did I mention we had enough Euro change to buy two full price tickets but were so set on buying the carnet that we got out of line without thinking about it, only to wait another 20 mins in line for the same machine... well, yeah, that's what happened... it was early ok ;-)
After finally purchasing our Carnet we made it to the metro stop close to our hotel, only to then realize we left the hotel address at home- and in Paris, all the streets and buildings look the same! After about 15 mins of walking in circles we found our cute hotel Ares!

We got settled in then went out for some food at a little cafe we found while in search of our hotel. While there, we learned that entree is actually the word for appetizers not the main course like we use it back home, and bottled waters can cost 7 Euro!!! (Note to future Paris travelers, you can drink the tap water in Paris... and for free!). Here we had our first French Creme Brulee!

After our long and delicious meal (meals in Europe are quite the process!), we walked by the Eiffel tower (just because)and then went to Notre Dame. We were hooked. That place is ridiculously awesome! Lots of detail and history in that place! By the time we got there the bell towers were closed so we just walked around the inside. Mass was going on at the time which was cool but awkward- oh well, I'm sure they're used to it!

We ended the day at Musee d'Orsay. Tons of famous (and not so famous) paintings, which we really didn't know much about. It was enjoyable but we're not quite in to art (especially nude art), so the only reason I would go back is for another chance to take in the ball room! We weren't allowed to take pictures or I'd have taken far too many! It's like a palace's version of the Sistine chapel- on steroids. A must see... again!

First things first- food. We found a pastry shop around the corner, got some breakfast pastries and were on our way to a full day of Paris tourism!

We heard about bus #69 (one of their public transportation buses), which goes by lots of the popular sights so we rode that bus to the end just to get a little drive by of some of what Paris has to offer. While on our way back we found a Harley Davidson store so we stopped in to get James dad some Paris H.D. memorabilia! Such thoughtful kids we are! Then we hopped back on and back off close to the Lourve.
As we were walking, we decided we should probably eat before going to this huge museum. We passed a department store on our walk and I had noticed that whenever they talk about shopping they say "department store" and never mall, so we went to check it out. come to find out, their department stores are kind of like malls. In this one in particular (I forget the name), there were 7 stories and each one was something different. The bottom was like Home Depot, the next floor was clothing and accessories, one was electronics, one was a book and gifts type store, one had home goods, etc, very neat! We decided to eat in the cafe on the 7th floor with a cute little view over part of the city.
Finally off to the Louvre! It was yet another work of amazing French architecture. We admired the outside and as we worked our way to the entrance we decided to have some fun with the pyramid (entrance).

It's quite possible we spent more time on the outside of the Louvre than the inside...

Once finally inside we decided to rent the audio-guide to walk us through the "masterpieces" at the museum. We saw many incredible works of art including the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa. So cool. That place is huge, we probably only covered .05 of it that day. Oh and there is a Starbucks under the museum which I am proud to say I did not indulge in!
After the Lourve we tried to stop by the Rodin Museum (Rodin is the guy who made "the thinker") but it had already closed for the day. At that point we were ready to head back to the hotel for a break... but not before another snack of course. We stopped at a stand for some hotdogs and crepes! Their hotdogs were pretty cool. They used baguettes, poked a hole down the center, dropped some mustard inside, dipped the hotdog in ketchup then put the hotdog inside and viola! So not messy. So smart. And then we finished off our snacking with a strawberry jam and Nutella filled crepe! Magnific!
We got back to the hotel, rested up (I slept for about 20 mins), then headed out for more exploration. We tracked down Lady Liberty,

admired the Arc De Triompe and her wonderful views, and of course, marveled at the Eiffel Tower- who sparkled for us :-)
This would be me realizing there would be no turning back on our climb up the Arc...

Then we were super American and grabbed some McDonald's to go, grubbed it down and passed out :-)

Pastries for breakfast! Then we hopped on the metro, changed to the R.E.R. (their train system) then we arrived at Versailles!!!

Gorgeous and huge! Everything was matching on the inside -bed spread, walls, furiture...
(I want the queen's room!)

...and intricately kept on the outside.

The yard was miles long and all beautiful. I wish I could live there! It's like a community but it's just one palace!

There are also mini get-a-way palaces and little gardens within the yard- all so beautiful!
After Versailles we went back to the room to freshen up (and nap again... hi...) then headed out to see what was going on at the Eiffel tower, before going up!
How romantic! ;-)

There was a lot going on under the tower. Lots of people selling odds and ends- I got suckered into buying five Eiffel Tower key chains for 1 Euro. I am using one- now what to do with the other four? There was also this no-name American wrapper with a huge crowd around her, and some soccer guys showing off their skills. Around 7:15 we got in line (James pre-bought tickets online for us, which was way smart if I do say so myself) we made it to the top around 7:45pm and didn't come down until about 9pm. We decided to walk down the last two "sommets" to get a different, and more inside view of the structure. It was a lot to take in. It was breathtaking, romantic and really quite an amazing piece of work. After that we walked around and took pics, grabbed some food (I had my first truly French French Onion Soup- delicious!), then we crashed for the night...

Day four already? Oh well... HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Yay! One year of marriage, can't believe we're already here! To start the day we, of course, visited our daily breakfast pastry shop and got some more goodies and headed out to squeeze in some last minute stuff. First we headed to Notre Dame to go up the Bell tower.

Which took forever

but was well worth it!

Especially because I had a new found obsession with gargoyles

Next we stopped for lunch where I had French Onion Soup again
(this one was even better than the first! I melted in bliss...)

followed by boeuf bourguignon and a cappuccino! The perfect last day lunch!
Then as we walked along, we found the cutest book store!!!

The books were in English, they had cute seating (couches, day bed style seating, etc- too cute), a little typewriter room- I really can't describe it and do it justice, but we spent about an hour in there- Loved it!
Next we hit up Sainte Chapelle. It was built to hold the crown of thorns... yes, THE crown of thorns, and it's basically just an old style French chapel with ridiculous amounts of stain glass windows which pretty much sum up the Bible- Genesis to Revelation... AWEsome! (a sneak peak of the front half...)

After that we went home to get all pretty-ed up for our Anniversary dinner cruise on the Seine River. While getting ready I accidentally knocked James' ring in the toilet... whoops!

But we got it out safe and sound... and by we, I mean James. What a sweetie! There was a live band which sang fun songs- oldies AND goodies! The cruise was about two hours, our "entrees" weren't that great but the meal and sides more than made up for it! Mmmm!

After the cruise we took one last walk to say "au revoir" to the lovely sparkling Eiffel Tower before heading back to the hotel.

From Paris With Love...

Friday, September 17, 2010


I had never heard of Ischia before moving here, but, then again I had also barely heard of Capri. Ischia is like a less commercialized version of Capri, and thus, less expensive. Which is part of the reason we decided to take a day trip here. Island, gorgeous, a little closer and not as expensive as Capri- why wouldn't we want to take a day trip. Ischia is known more for its natural thermal spas then just for being a beautiful island off the Almafi Coast. I personally think that it's just as pretty. Maybe Capri is cooler because it has the Blue Grotto and rock beaches... or, I guess it's more like boulder beaches (which are very cool btw)...

So we decided to get up early on Labor day, (drop our car off at the shop,) catch the metro to Naples, and then the hydrofoil (ferry) to the island. We got there 5 minutes before the next hydrofoil and the ticket counter guy looked at us like we were crazy... but we ran, only to stand in line for like 15 mins anyway. Oh Italia...
We went with two of our single sailor friends , Chris and David. By the time we got there the breakfast-less guys were quite famished, so first things first- food! We wandered around until we found a cute little restaurant and ate brunch(?). We walked around some more and decided we should go to a spa. Only once we found one, we realized we didn't feel like spending the money... so it was off to explore the island! We decided the fun and fast way to do so would be to rent vespas, which we've really been wanting to do. However, much to our demise you have to have a motorcycle license to rent one. Though I must admit my eyes probably sparkled at this news- just another reason I need a motorcycle license, James ;-) Convincing him has been a work well in progress ;-) Anyway, the guy offered us this car (?) rental which we decided was almost as cool... but you can judge for yourselves...

So we drove this jeep-ish thing around the island (I think it only took two hours to circle the whole island), we found some "must come back" scenic spots, beach spots and restaurants when we have more than just a day to enjoy. It was a gorgeous drive and a ton of fun. The guys took turns driving every time we took a scenic break. And on one of the breaks James and Chris decided they could lift the car... I got a video but no pics, sorry.
The funniest part was probably trying to get gas though. Here, when we need gas everything is full service, so we've never had to learn how their system works. Apparently we should have taken notes. There is this little machine to the side where you pay and tell the machine which pump you're at and then you pump and go. Only I wish it was that easy. And yes, there were English directions on the pump. We couldn't figure it out, so when another car pulled up on the other side we watched and waited to try and learn. We got this! 1. Deposit money 2. Click button 2 for side 2 3. Pump... Only #3 for us ended up as- nothing. Hm. When we first got there, we got behind someone else pumping gas so we knew that it worked, and we looked at the machine which said after 5 minutes it would reset, and we had already spent about 3 minutes messing with the buttons and pump... after probably another 2 minutes, just in time, we got it. And I still don't know how to work it, but we (or they) got it and we were on the road again, and I guess that's all that mattered in the moment. Success :-)

All and all it was fun and fabulous! And the car idea turned out to be a good one!
Hope you enjoyed our little day tour of Ischia... I'm sure we'll be back again :-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Catch up!

I just realized that I'm 3 days short of a month since I last blogged... so I apologize to my faithful readership...

So here is the past month in review:

OUR CAR is still giving us issues! We took it to the shop (for the 3rd time) and it was working great for a few days, and then last night- I made it home from bowling (Bible Study fellowship) just in time for the key light to start blinking letting me know that once I turned it off- it wasn't coming back on... so I went home, parked it, turned it off, tried to crank it on again (just to check)- nothing. So it's currently under construction right now :-/

WE TRIED a new restaurant, Country House, and yes, it is in English. The pizza, as always while in Naples, did not disappoint! When eating out we always start with a salad, that night it was Caprese (fresh mozzarella slices and tomato slices with lemon and olive oil- I think) followed by the pizza. I got pizza Margarita (Naples' original) and James got Diabola- the closed to our pepperoni pizza.

WE FINALLY found some of the hooks that will actually work on our walls so soon we can really start decorating and hanging thing. They only had one package of two hooks left, so we'll have to go back later and get more once they've restocked but at least now we know where they are! We've been searching for about a month!!!

Our LATEST travelling adventures: WE WENT to Ishchia, another island of the Coast, for Labor day! I will fill you in on that later. AND then our one year Anniversary just passed (Sept 12) and we celebrated in Paris! Can you get much more romantic than that??? I loved it! But I will go into this more later as well. One thing that was kinda neat was even though we were sad to leave Paris- we get to go home to Italy... how sweet! And finally James went to Spain for a week to help in the hospital there. He'll have to do that once a quarter and I can go with him but we have to pay for my flight. I didn't go this time because we didn't know what to expect. I missed him dearly! But he did bring me back olives stuffed with artichoke. They are oh so delicious!!! Apparently Spain is known for their olives. You get olives at restaurants like you'd get chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant. very cool.

MY LATEST hobby is cooking. No, it's not the local food but hey, I've enjoyed the recipes. I decided grocery shopping would probably be more of a success if I knew what I was going to cook. So I started planning out our weekly meals, goggling new recipes, making a grocery list and going shopping! It's been quite successful. We actually always have something to eat (rather than opening the refrigerator numerous time hoping that some new will magically appear) and I think our money has been going further. I can't say that I love cooking but I love the food I've been making so it's well worth it!

JAMES' LATEST hobby, I guess we'll call it that, is cutting his hair! The first cut was a semi-success. He wasn't afraid to go out of the house, but the send cut- well he kind of had to make a stop at the barber shop- which he wore a hat too! We've both enjoyed this learning process though :-) And of course, football season has commenced and he's in a Fantasy league... Need I elaborate? Sighhh....

I STARTED a 3 day Italian class offered on base! (it's held once a week for 3 weeks) Hopefully soon my Italian can be more functional!

SIDE STORY: One of our friends was going back to the states for training the same week we were going to Paris- everyone was more reactive with her going to the states. We are so travel-spoiled here! I found it was funny that going back to the states is such a big deal, hah! We were all kind of jealous of her. Weird huh?

That's all folks!