Saturday, January 29, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun...

I've never seen the movie, but I now share the love people have for Tuscany (...and it's sun).

As part of this New Year, we have decided to take advantage of holiday weekends. The CO (Commanding Officer) of the hospital James works for is rather sweet and gives them a "96" (96 hrs off = 4 days off) for almost every holiday weekend, so it'd be pretty lame to them go to waste! After all, we only have 2 1/2 years left (sounds like a lot, but it's really not...)!

January's "96" was Martin Luther King Jr Day, and since we didn't have flights previously book, a nice six hour drive to Florence was in order!

Giorno uno!
Was mostly spent on the road. It was a six hour drive, plus some minor detours. We lodged in a hotel on another base about an hour outside of Florence and 20 minutes from Pisa! So once we checked into our place, we freshened up and headed out to do the touristy thing at Pisa!

This part of the city has a wall around it, and unfortunately by the time we got there the sun was setting behind it, so we agreed we'd have to try again another day before the sun was setting...

But not before trying to sneak her into the back pack of course...

Now to the top!

After paying about 15 Euro per person (Sigh...), we climbed some crooked winding stairs...

To a romantically fabulous view at the top... well, this was almost at the top, but still romantically fabulous!

Ciao for now Leaning Tower!

Toscana Giorno due!

We drove to the Pisa train station to ride into Florence. We bought one ticket for the group, which was about 30 Euro, only to forget to validate our ticket and ended up with a 40 Euro fine! Grrrr! But we all chipped in money and called it a learning experience. At least we bought one ticket, because if we would have had five individual tickets and wouldn't have validated any of them, that would have been 40 Euro times 5 tickets- which is a whole lot more Euro than I care to think about losing! Needless to say, we are all now compulsive ticket validators... with the exception of maybe Chris who slept through the whole incident and thought we were messing with him when we told him what happened...
Hmm, maybe I should sleep on the next train ride...

An un-budgeted 20 Euro later, alas, we were in the wonderful city of Florence.

We found out that some friends of ours were going to be in Florence as well, so we gave them a call, met up at the local McDonalds (so American right), and headed to the Accedemia, which hosts the statue of David.

*Sidenote: We were told the Accedemia is expensive and that the line can be hours long, so you will want to buy tickets in advance online. Right before we left Naples, we went online to reserve tickets, which were totaling to 17 Euro a person. However, when we went to purchase them, the site wouldn't let us because you have to order them 48 hours in advance, and we were outside of that window. Bummer.

To get to the Accedemia, we followed our guide Matt (our friend equipped with a map) who lead us to a door that we thought might be wrong, walked up to a ticket window that we thought had to be in the wrong museum, and bought tickets for less than 7 Euro, which too seemed wrong. Turns out, we were not there in peak season, so it was a good thing we procrastinated and the website didn't let us buy tickets on line- we were there, and for less money! Strong work Matt.

Inside there are tons of paintings and sculptures, but like most tourists, we went strait for the David!

...Where you aren't allowed to take pics...


From this far back you can kind of see how his upper body seems to get a little bigger. This is because he was meant to be placed high up, and they wanted him to appear all one size, so they were trying to account for the high distance up that he would be, however, as you can see... Well, it was a good thought Michaelangelo.

After much walking around and naked-sculpture viewing, we headed to lunch. They put us outside under a canopy, and those of us who were more easy to please were in awe of the birds above:

After lunch we headed on to the Duomo.

A better look at beautiful the Duomo.

Next we enjoyed a leisurely walk through the city as we headed to Ponte Vecchio.

This is a bridge said to be built in the Roman times, as it first appears in writing dated back to 996. There are shops all across the bridge, mostly jewelry shops, and previously butchers occupied it.

But mostly, I think it's just really old and beautiful with a great view!

To end day two, we headed to a lookout point, were you can look over the city.

On the walk there, we saw some sites that we can safely assume are only legit in Italy.

Park however and where ever you fit...

Do not enter when carrying a large table...

And of course, what would site seeing in Italy be without a bunch of stairs to climb?

But, as always, it was well worth it.

Shout out to the Japanese group who took this pic and gave us a Polaroid of it from their camera... all with a language barrier. Love it.

Finally we headed back to the train and then car, got some Chinese (Asian, in honor of our new friends- totally kidding), and called it a night.

Giorno Tre!

After the hassle of the ticket and the parking garage, we decided it would be more worth it to drive into Florence instead of taking the train. Aside from not calculating the tolls, I think it was a success.

We parked outside of the Florence stadium, which was one train stop away from the major downtown area where we started on day two.

We stopped by Giotto's (bell) tower

and the baptistry, but chose not to pay to go inside on this trip (as we expect there will be plenty more opportunities for that). Then we attempted to hunt down other chapel that Michelangelo painted the ceiling, but it was closed. We did some shopping in the leather market (forgot to take pics), where I bought a gorgeous long brown leather jacket, yay! This was all in route to Santa Croce,

the resting place for the bodies of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.

Here is Michelangelo's tomb, each statue represents each of the different artistic things he did (ie, painting, sculpting and architecture), but I can't remember which is which.

Here lies Galileo, but I completely forgot all significance of his tomb, whoops.

That was all for day three. We grabbed dinner just around the corner from Santa Croce, made our way back to the stadium and headed out for the night.

Giorno quattro

At this point, the time off was dwindling, so we had to head back south. But not without a revisit to Pisa, a green Tuscan drive, and a true Tuscan-town pit stop!

I was trying to wiggle it out, but it's just wouldn't budge...

"Chris, move a little to the left, here... I'll why don't I just move you..."

It was falling so I tried to shift it ;-)

Ahhh, don't fall on us!

I think we had too much fun with the gang in Pisa!
We hopped back into the car and were on to the tourist trap of San Gimignano!

An old and beautiful Tuscan town, that was way in the mountains,

And, we learned by experience, that it pretty much shuts down for the winter.

So we pretty much had the city to ourselves, kind of cool.

Of course, we did have to wait a few minutes to take over the well... but then we totally took it over...

View from the city...

I just thought this alley way looked cool.

And that was our "96" in Tuscany!
Love this pic of the drive home... the individual personalities...

Pocket Espresso anyone?

That's all for now... good lookin' out Dr. MLK!

And who knew Tuscany was a state, not a city?
Yeah, I totally knew that...




To welcome the New Year, we spent the evening with some friends playing games- more specifically Quelf!

Always an interesting night promised with this game!

Then rang in the new years with coffee, wine, and sparking juice (for the Keatons ;-p)

We almost missed it because we were all into our game

(and Kris Kross stopped by... or something to that effect)

I'm so thrilled about this New Year. I haven't made an actual "New Years Resolution" since I was an early teen or younger, I've never really believed in them. I agree that the New Year is time to look back and be thankful for what you had/have, move on from what you've lost, learn from both and adjust accordingly, but I prefer goals... people seem to alway drop off of their resolutions by Easter (or long before)... Maybe it's just word association, regardless... that's enough chatter... let's travel! Def on the goals/"resolution" list... travel, travel, travel! Waste less money on lame stuff and more on seeing the world, EU style ;-)

To start the year off, some of my fabulous German friends and their Dad came for a visit. They were vacationing in Rome and dropped in for a day of full Heather, James, and Neapolitan Pizza. My kind of day!

As soon as they arrived, we met them at the base's gate and headed off to the train station- only to find that we just barely missed a train and the next one would be about an hour wait. So, we collectively decided this was a great opportunity to get some cappuccino's, because what's a day out in the town without one?! After our caffeine fix, we would head to the metro instead of the train... which I would soon learn was a mistake!
As always, the capps were delicious and cute- hearts for the girls and a star for the gentleman, hah!

(No star pic, sorry)

The train disaster in a nutshell- it took us longer and was more complicated to ride the metro than to just wait on the train... Grrr... lesson learned!

But, we still managed to have fun!
(This is me teasing Julia and her fear of planes and trains ;-p)

We immediately made our way to the pizzeria, as by this time it was about 2pm and we were all starving. I had heard that you should get to L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele (Pizzeria in Eat Pray Love) earlier than the Italian lunch time or it's hectic, but I had not experienced it til now. We had to go to the cashier and get a number, and he told us that the wait was an hour. We were too hungry and there are way to many other pizza options in Naples to stand there for an hour!
So we had ourselves a little photo shoot and headed onward...

Across the street there is a pizzeria called Trianon:

It's L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele's competition. L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele has been there longer, but Trianon has much more seating and many more pizza options.
I thought the taste is pretty equivalent (and you can't really go wrong when ordering pizza in Naples!).

The slowing-fading-away-of-starvation group!

(Yummy-pizza-making Brick oven and pizza maker in the background)

I ordered the pizza caprese, because I love pizza and I love caprese, so why not combine the two? Makes sense to me!

It was a great success and I will definitely order it again!

Because it was a major Italian Holiday (Jan 6 - The Epiphany), pretty much everything was closed, so after lunch we just headed back to our place and I showed them our home, commissary (grocery store), and shopping area on base. After the tour, they headed back to finish out their vacation in Roma.

Arrivederci Kramer family! Can't wait to see you all in Deutschland!!!

The next day (evening actually), I was craving some sushi, which is really random for me considering I really don't care for seafood (and I'm in Italy for 3 years, I know, I know...), but we heard of a Japanese restaurant by the water called Tokyo, so we got a group together and-
Italian Japanese food here we come!

I ordered California rolls

James ordered some chicken and rice deliciousness... and impressively mastered eating with chopsticks...

Other friends we dragged out with us:

They are the ones we can thank for James' new found chopsticks expertise ;-)

And some hungry guy at our table...

(JK, I totally made him do that for the picture, he's really not that oinker-ish ;-p)

The food was SO good. Another food success.
I am really lovin the food in this country!
Good thing life in Italy requires much waking!

Ok, so not too many new sites this time, but... wait for ittt....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 fail... already...


Being the good housewife that I am, it was just another day washing dishes...

I had just finished washing some pans and heavy ceramic dishes and had only one thing left to wash before lunch- a vase.

Well, I guess since I was quite hungry, as I just got home from the gym, I must have been in Beast-mode because I snapped a piece of the vase right off... enter tons of blood...

I immediately covered it, then called James. He quickly came home, and we went to the ER. Here are the results;

Only my thumb dodged the massacre :-/

My pinky and pointer finger just got a small slice so they only got bandaids, but my ring finger got sliced pretty deep, but strait line, all the way to the nail;

So it got 3 stitches...

And then the worst of all... I sliced a nice chunk of my middle finger OFF of my middle finger!!!
This is it was the gauze stuff stuck to it :-/ No pre- bandaging pics, but when the gauze stuff works it was off I'll post pics if I think they're post-able ;-p

James has been a wonderful help and husband and is picking up for my lack! I love him!!!

Well... Hopefully this is the most traumatic event in my 2011!!!


Let the healing begin!
It's 2 weeks and 10 days after the fact, and for the most part I am down to one bandaid! Wahoo!

Here are pics to show my progress :-)

On Monday, 10 days after, James removed my stitches, yay!

So it then looked like this;

And now 16 days later this is what they all look like:


Middle (The only one I always have covered):



It's almost over, and then I'll have 4 sweet scars to brag about... jk... I would have preferred no battle wounds :-/