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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paestum




We have been having a great time in Paestum (PASTE-oom). Paestum is a resort town in southern Italy with incredible Greek ruins - and the tourist haven't shown up yet, but the weather is awesome. We found a great little resort, Oleandri Resort, which is a across from the Sea, has pool, and breakfast is included. It was a great rest from the hard-core sightseeing in Rome, so we are hopefully reenergized for our next leg which will be a bit tougher. We are off to Pompeii for a day and then catch a train which gets us to the Rome airport at 11:30 PM for our 6:40 AM flight to Greece. We had originally planned to travel to Bari on Italy's west coast and then take a Ferry, but the logisitics proved too challenging and we found a inexpensive flight on EasyJet, so we are doing this Amazing Race style.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shath

As you can see, we've invented a new word called "shath". The definition of this word is: A bath and shower all in one. You would turn on the faucet, close the drain and lay down in the bathtub.
You have to lay down because the shower head is at waist height. When the bath has about 2" of water in it, you put the shower head into the water, turn the shower head on and the faucet off, then like a shower, but you hold the showerhead over you and wash your hair. You then place the showerhead back in the water and clean your body, praying you don't lose the soap bar in the mucky water! When the shath is done, turn off the showerhead like a shower and drain the bathtub as if you were in the bath, but you weren't you were taking a shath.
Again, photos aren't working tonight, so will hopefully add photo later.
Hunter (very clean)

Naples

Naples was not what I expected, until yesterday I didn't that one third of Naples was unemployed. When we steped into the Naples terminal it was the cleanest one we had ever been in and there were five cleaning vehicles being driven around. Outside was extremely different piles of trash lined the streets, it was nasty. There were shoes, fabric, cans, bottles, and simply garbage. The pizza place da michele was different than its city. It was organized and fairly clean
with the best pizza in the World!
Trying to send picture of Hunter and I eating on a street corner, but images are not working tonight, so You'll j

just have to invision it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Life in Roma

We have been extremely busy seeing the sites and spending time doing as the Romans do. When in Rome...



We continue to be blessed by short lines and great travel tips. We have seen many important sites - Trevi Fountain (better at night), the Colosseam, the Pantheon, St. Peters. Yesterday we saw the Pope's address and even attended mass at St. Peter's - an amazing experience.

The Boys were excited to see Raphael's "School of Athens" in person and learn more about the work. The Sistine Chapel was amazing but the crowd was crazy. I couldn't imagine being here in the summer.

Our apartment has been noisy and there has been some adjustment to the bathroom situation - Hunter promises to include more on this later.

After finding plentiful WiFi in Milan, Venice, Bologna and Firenze, the public WiFi has disappeared and our apartment has no Internet. The whole team is looking forward to getting better connected at the next stop.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Galileo museum

Today we saw art, sculpures, culture all priceless but most interesting, the Galileo museum. They had contraptions that would calcutate your location would shoot a cannonball at 12:00, would show when planets will be visible,telescopes as big as a cannon and all sorts of things. but the most interesting, Galileo's thumb fore finger and middle all from the right hand.There was even a tooth! How did they get these you might ask? After dying under house arrest Galileo's followers came to his body and got what they could then encased them in jars.

WOW

Wow our last day in Venice was not the best, while we were packing up our bags in our apartment to leave for the train my mom said,"Its drizzling out there." but when we got outside it wasn't drizzling, it was raining hard, luckly I have a bag cover. Still after a long walk wich was more of a run we were at the train station drenched when we were at Bolognia the only thing not dry were our shoes thank you fast dry clothes!

Florence

Staying in a 13th Century building and you can hear everything happening in the streets! Florence is beautiful, by far the most beautiful so far. We saw Michaelangelo's "David" yesterday and thousands of other men with rippling muscles-but the question I really need answered is, "Did the warriors really go into battle nude?" If so, I keep waiting to see the statue with his thing cut off- they always have swords in hand!
Seriously, the history, buildings, and churches are amazing. A little burned out on Renissance art today, so we went to see Galileo's thumb, fore finger and middle finger preserved in a jar! Oh yeah, and all the science stuff he did.
Fortunately I was readying the boys 7th grade history book before we left for the trip so I can keep up with them on all the things we are seeing. We were walking in a church with a marble floor from the 12th century-it is beautiful.
Still trying to decide if we are going to Pisa or Siena for one day tomorrow before going to Rome on Sunday for a week.
Joanne

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bologna

If you've read the book "Eat, Pray, Love" you'll know we are eating our weight a day in food in Italy! It's Crazy! You cannot walk enough to walk off the pasta, bread and Gelato! The food here is amazing, yet I look at the Italians and think "they are not eating what I am eating to look like that." Fashion is amazing here and Nathaniel summed it up best today, he said, "the shops look like musems" and so do the men and women. Tomorrow (Mark's birthday) we leave for Florence for three days.

We had an amazing dinner and need to fall asleep in a food coma.
The picture posted today is of the "red city", Bologna. They call it the red city because of the roofs of all the houses. It's not as hard to navigate as Venice, but still not easy.

Ciao!

Bologna



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Laundry Day in Venice


We're not in Kansas anymore! Apparently 3 changes of clothes needs to be washed frequently! Figured out buying the laundry soap, washing machine and drying rack! Here's a picture of our two bedroom apartment with the boys' in each window and the clothes drying around one of them.
Made our way in the rain from Venice to Bologna. We remembered to validate our train ticket and even had food for this leg of the trip! Going to kick back and try using the workout facilities here. We've been having pizza at least once a day. All the other meals consist of bread and cheese and possibly something else. Feeling full just thinking about it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Enjoying Venice

We had an interesting trip from Milan to Venice. We got shaken down by the Trenitalia train conductor because we hadn't validated our ticket - something you must do if you don't have a reserved seat. The inital ask was for 201 Euro. Finally we relented after our protests and asked for 20 Euro and proceeded to provide us a reciept for 10! He then made his way to the next group of tourists who had made the same mistake. Very interesting.

Our VRBO apartment in the Jewish Ghetto is awesome. We will provide a review when we check out, but so far have nothing but good things to report - other than the price, but what do you expect on an island dominated by tourists.

Another thing we learned is that the city of Venice offers a Web site that has discount if you book just a few days in advance. So far, I would definitely recommend the wireless pass if you are near any of the areas that it covers. It is much cheaper than the hotels and other providers I have checks. Also the Museum pass seems like a no brainer - not as much of a discount, but it is unlikely you would make it here and not visit these places.

We are off to Bologna on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Made it to Milan


After a frantic departure, we arrrived in Milan at about 3:00 local time. We were able to get out Spot GPS device working and you can now follow us here. The Spot device is pretty cool, but I just wonder what the user interface would be like if this product were made by Apple

Monday, May 9, 2011

T-1

The past week and a half has flown by. It is amazing how much we had to do without even planning the trip.One of my focuses has been making sure our finances are in order at home and away.

Finances at Home
Checking and setting up every vendor for automated electronic bill payment and electronic invoicing should be easy enough, but there is always the straggler. I was happy to learn that the City of Biwabik now allows electronic bill payment
Finances on the Road
Credit and Cash will be the primary means of commerce and we expect to find ATM machines readily available in this part of the world so we haven't made plans to bring any substantial amount of cash. As many of you know banks have decided that they need to charge fees approaching 4% to change your currency despite the fact that it costs them next to nothing. I believe this started with the credit card companies and then migrated to ATM withdrawals because it worked so well. I wonder if this is where the bank trading desks came up with the idea of overcharging their pension fund customers for currency trades? At any rate, I have been a long-time customer of Capital One because of its no foreign transaction fee policy. I has happy to learn that Capital One has a new Venture Card that for a $59 fee (first year waived) not only has no foreign transaction fees, but it also credits 2 points per dollar spent and they matched the American Airlines miles on the Citibank card I cut up. When you use the points to book or reimburse you for travel, they are worth 1 cent each. This is effectively a 2% cash rebate in a world where 1% cash-back is the gold standard.
For the ATM, after learning on our recent trip to Mexico that the banks had joined the foreign transaction fee game, I investigated the various banks in the area and found that all of them thought this fee was a great way to improve their bottom line - from even their best customers. I learned that I could get a debit card from my brokerage account that would only charge a 1% fee. Since we are staying at some VRBO properties that have requested cash payment at check in, this fee improvement will add up.