Day 25-Rome

We slept till 9:00 this morning, but I guess 25 days into this vacation that was still not enough sleep because this happened at breakfast…IMG_0818

We took a taxi to the Colosseum as our hotel was on the other side of Rome from it.  Massive.  Pretty much the only word to describe the thing! This morning was cloudy and overcast and just as we were almost to the entrance it started to rain.  We made it inside and under the covered part of the Colosseum during the worst of it.  There was a line for security to get it, but it wasn’t bad at all. Just after we got in, they closed it for a bit because they only let 3000 people in at once.  Once we got inside you couldn’t even tell there were that many people there though.  IMG_0826IMG_0832IMG_0834IMG_0835IMG_0837

My guys absolutely loved it.  Of course, Scott had wanted to name Grace Maximus if she’d been a boy because Gladiator had just come out!  It’s been structurally secured, but that’s about it.  There are columns laying about and the tops of the columns…IMG_0839

The floor of the arena was wood.  It has rotted away and you can see all the rooms and passageways underneath, but there is one section they have recreated so you can tell what it would have been like…IMG_0845

See the white looking steps to the right in the pic below?  Those are what’s left of the seating…IMG_0847

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After we had had our fill of exploring the colosseum, we went to the Roman Forum.  This was the government offices and marketplace of ancient Rome.  It’s mainly ruins, but really neat to walk through.IMG_0854IMG_0855IMG_0852IMG_0862IMG_0866

Just about the time we were done with this, it started to pour!  We quickly found a little cafe and sat inside and had lunch.  By the time we were finished it was bright and sunshiny again.  We hit a few souvenir stores by the cafe.  Mandy bought a snow globe to add to her collection and Thomas bought a plastic sword and Gladiator helmet.  Then asked if we could walk back over to the front of the colosseum for this…IMG_0896

They took a ton of pics with it!  There were people cracking up and stopping to take HIS picture while they did their little photo shoot!  Even the guy in the military uniform on guard duty was laughing!!

Scott continued to use the umbrella even after the rain stopped because it kept the sun off of him!IMG_0897IMG_0885IMG_0890

Your never too old for a plastic sword and gladiator helmet..  He then proceeded to wear it down the street..

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These calendars are sold everywhere.  I finally realized instead of the Sexy Fireman calendars they have the Sexy Priest version here in Rome…IMG_0872IMG_0873

And, this is what a gas station looks like inside the city of Rome.  There is literally a restaurant on the backside and a very busy street on the other. You just whip right in off the street!IMG_0871

Also, there are these guys.  At every single. thing. we have been to for the last 25 days! They accost you the second you walk up wanting to sell you a selfie stick, a pig that goes splat and oinks, a keychain, a fidget spinner,sunglasses, today it was rain ponchos and umbrellas.  They are so obnoxious and will not get out of your face until you yell at them.  IMG_0913

For dinner tonight we went back to our favorite place down the street!  Vito was excited to see us again.  He kept telling us what a beautiful family we have and wished us many blessings when we left.  Afterwards, we went back to the Trevi fountain, which I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at, because Aunt Robyn told them on Facebook to throw a coin in the fountain with their back to it and by the next time they visit the fountain again they will have found their true love!  So we had to do it!!IMG_0910

Thomas did it too, but he went so fast I didn’t get a picture of him!  We bought some last  souvenirs and then came back to the hotel to pack up.  Sweet mercy the packing up.  Say a little prayer that all Mandy’s 700 snow globes she’s bought make it home.

A little sad that our big adventure is over, but so ready to be home in our own beds.  We are leaving at 6:20 in the morning for the airport.  Our flight home leaves at 9:15 and lands in Dallas at 2:20 tomorrow afternoon.  We are gonna work on one last blog post on the plane of some of the random funny stuff that’s happened to us on the trip and some of the things we’ve learned while being abroad.

Texas here we come!!!

Day 24- Roma!

Prepare yourselves for a mini history lesson and a massive photo dump!!

We had a very early small group tour of the Vatican this morning.  We had to be there at 8:30 and the teenagers were not pleased.IMG_0636

The Vatican is surrounded by a wall except for the entrance to St. Peter’s Square and through the Vatican museums. It provided a nice bit of shade this morning as we waited in the security line to enter. You can only enter the Vatican with a ticket to the museum, for mass or, if you live in Italy and have a prescription!  Our tour guide said that the pharmacy in the Vatican is much, much cheaper so lots of people go there to have their medicines filled!  IMG_0637The Vatican Museum is the 3rd largest in the world behind the Louvre and The Met.  The first three galleries we walked through were crowded, but the artwork was beautiful.  The building that houses the museum is the old Papal palace, so the building itself is a work of art.  This particular gallery was 120 meters long…IMG_0665IMG_0666

This isn’t a good view of the tapestry, but I was trying to get a picture of just how large some of them are.  This particular one took 9 years to complete.  Just for reference, the Roman Colosseum took 9 years to build. IMG_0660

There are thousands of statues as well.  Some are completely naked and some are wearing fig leaves.  At some point one of the Popes decided there was too much “naked” and ordered that they be covered with the fig leaves.  MIMG_0661any of the statues were damaged when this was done and now they cannot be removed.

Next was the old papal apartment.  Even the floors and shutters are beautiful….

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Then she took us into the rooms painted by Raffella.  I have never been so claustrophobic in all my life.  They just kept packing people in whether there was room or not.  It was 7000 degrees and everyone was sweaty and stinky…

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I’m certain we were in violation of every fire code ever.  I very nearly lost it.  Thankfully after that it was time for the Sistine Chapel.  This is the stairway up to the chapel entrance…IMG_0687

You aren’t supposed to take any pictures inside the Sistine Chapel.  The reason has absolutely nothing to do with art preservation, but with money.  The paintings are copyrighted.  When you enter there are guards everywhere checking your attire, no shorts, no exposed knees or shoulders, telling you where to stand, and loudly shushing everyone, and then occasionally yelling, “NO PICTURES!”  I snuck one of the massive painting at the alter, Last Judgement and Scott took a selfie with the ceiling. IMG_0805

It’s gorgeous.  The chapel is small, as it was designed to be the private chapel of the Pope. What I thought was really cool was simply standing in the room where conclave happens.  When they choose a new pope they literally lock the College of Cardinals in the chapel until a new pope is chosen.

After the Sistine Chapel we went outside into St. Peter’s Square. We saw the balcony where the Pope blesses the masses.  The Vatican is closed to tourists tomorrow as it is the Feast of St. Peter and Paul, so the square was set up for that.IMG_0806

Then, we entered the largest basilica in the world.  It takes your breath away…

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St. Peter is buried beneath that large canopy structure.  Our tour guide explained how Peter had been persecuted and crucified upside down in this area and then buried.   Constantine then had the basilica built over his burial place.  In the late 60’s they excavated the underground crypt and discovered a very low wall with the words “Here lies Peter” on it and bones nearby.  Scientists proved the bones to be that of a man in his 70’s or 80’s, who lived during the time of Christ and ultimately ruled that they were indeed the bones of Simon Peter.  Catholics believe that Jesus ordained Peter in Matthew when he called on him to “build my church upon this rock.”  Making him the first bishop or leader of the Christian church.  Every pope since has been a successor of Peter.IMG_0719IMG_0810

This is the tomb of St. Pius X.

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And, this is Michelangelo’s sculpture Pieta.  It is the only sculpture he ever signed as he was a fairly young and unknown artist when it was commissioned.IMG_0809

It now sits behind bullet proof glass because in 1972 some deranged geologist came into the basilica with a hammer and started screaming and hitting Mary.  It was severely damaged and had to be restored.IMG_0812

I absolutely LOVED visiting Vatican City and would go back again in a heartbeat….in October or April.  When it’s cooler and there are fewer people!

After our tour and some wandering around in St. Peter’s Square we took a taxi back to our hotel so the guys could put on some shorts.  Then, we walked to the restaurant where we had dinner last night for some lunch!  Vito, the owner, recognized us immediately and so happy we came back.  He kept bringing us plates of things for us to try.  I didn’t get a pic until we had eaten most of it, but the best thing we tried was homemade cheese and traditional hard salami.  The cheese had some type of honey and marmalade on the top with toasted walnuts.  Amazing.IMG_0731

After a huge lunch and all that wonderful pasta plus the heat and massive crowds that morning we were done! Scott took this as we were waiting for the check!IMG_0813

We went back to the hotel and all took a long nap!  About 6:00, once it was cooler, we headed back out.  Our first stop was the Spanish Steps…IMG_0736

Then on to the Trevi Fountain!IMG_0745IMG_0747IMG_0764

Scott and Thomas are really good about finding good spots to take pictures without the massive sea of humanity, but just so you can see how crowded spots like this are…IMG_0814

We didn’t even attempt to walk down into all that!  Right across from the Trevi Fountain we found the best gelato place yet…and believe me we’ve tried lots of them!

After the gelato, and possibly some shoe shopping for new Birkenstocks, we decided we needed some real food.  Everyone was missing home so we had Cokes, pizza and french fries at a sidewalk cafe!IMG_0770

 

 

 

We walked through an open area that was filled with artists.  This guy was just starting on a painting using spray paint so we stopped to watch.  We ended up watching him paint the entire thing.  All five of us were fascinated by how he painted.  As soon as he was done, Thomas stepped up to him and bought the painting!

Those are the unexpected moments that I love most about traveling!  We slowly made our way over to the Pantheon.  This is the best preserved and only structure of Ancient Rome still in use.  It was built between 118-128 AD.  It was built as a Roman Temple and today is a Catholic Church.IMG_0789

Just chatting about one of the oldest buildings in Rome….IMG_0785

Sweet sisters enjoying the beautiful Rome evening….IMG_0795

We had a fantastic day in Rome.  The history here is just crazy.  Tomorrow we are seeing the Colosseum.  I can’t believe tomorrow is our last day in Europe!  This has been the most amazing month!!

Day 23-Florence to Pisa to Rome!

We got up this morning and left our Florence hotel and drove to Pisa.  It was about an hour drive and a bit out of the way, but we are here…

When we took the exit for Pisa it was a steady line of cars all the way through the town, all heading to the tower. IMG_0590Ok, so I thought from all the pictures I’d seen taken of the tower over the years that it was in a field somewhere.  It’s so not.  It’s in the middle of town, behind this wall that you can’t drive through. IMG_0592 So, after we drove around the wall several times we saw a paid parking lot. We pulled in parked and as soon as we were out of the car got accosted by men wanting to sell us fake RayBans.  We walked across the street through the wall and finally saw our first glimpse of the leaning tower.  There behind this massive church….IMG_0595

I had no idea there were even other buildings near the thing!  You can’t walk on any of the grass.  It’s chained off.  So, there is a sea of humanity all trying to take the same cheesy pictures by standing on the posts on the edge of the grass.IMG_0598

So we tried to do it too.  It’s harder than it looks to get the right pic.  I had Grace in the right spot when this Chinese man came and stood right in front of my camera…IMG_0597

Seriously dude?!  We did manage to get a few fun ones.IMG_0610IMG_0614IMG_0618IMG_0620

IMG_0633.JPGThe tower is so tall it’s hard to get it all in the picture so you have to find just the right angle…IMG_0624

I swear there were 70 million people there and it was in the blazing sun.  You can walk the stairs to the top, but they were sold out until July 3. (Thank you Jesus!)  All the tourist attractions here in Italy are very heavily guarded by the Carabinari (Italian State Police) or Italian military.IMG_0602

After 45 minutes of enduring the massive crowd and heat, we made our way back to the car and headed to Rome.  We arrived here about 6:30.  Scott dropped us and all our baggage at the hotel and went to the train station to return the rental car.  No need for a car here.  It’s too crowded to park and the driving here is insane.

We went to a restaurant here by our hotel for dinner.  It was insanely good.  Homemade pasta.  As you can see Grace’s lasagna was terrible!

We have an 8:30 am small group tour of the Vatican in the morning.  It’s early, but that will be good as it won’t be so hot.  Your knees and shoulders must be covered in order to enter the basilica.  The guys are upset they have to wear pants and no shorts!  I personally cannot wait to see the spot where Peter built the Lord’s church “upon this rock!”  And, the Sistine Chapel.  And, where the white smoke comes out when a new pope is chosen!

Day 22-Florence

Thomas and Grace asked to sleep till they woke up this morning so we let them.  Scott, Mandy and I had breakfast and then went to see where Galileo lived.  It’s across the Arno river on the top of a very steep hill.  This is where he was placed on house arrest.IMG_0509

The house was a short walk from the Ponte Vecchio bridge.  The current bridge was built in 1325.  This was the only bridge across the river for many years.  The Medici’s had gold and jewelry traders put shops in the buildings and it became a center of trade. All the shops are still jewelry stores.  They say that the concept of bankruptcy originated here: when a money-changer could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the “banco”) was physically broken (“rotto”) by soldiers, and this practice was called “bancorotto”.  Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.  IMG_0557IMG_0512IMG_0561

We spent the rest of the day just enjoying Florence.  Thomas and Grace both had calzones for lunch that were HUGE!IMG_0537

At one point when I suggested we take a tour of the Duomo, Thomas yelled, “NO MO DUOMOS!”  I think they may be tired of all the massive churches.  IMG_0551

Grace sometimes causes a bit of stir if there are groups of young men around.  At one point while we were in Piazza Something or Other, I hear Scott yell Grace’s name.  Then I turn to see him giving some man the evil eye and giving him the international symbol for “I’m watching you.”  Evidently the guy was about to approach Grace and Scott wasn’t having it!!

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Then, at 5:30 we went for a cooking class!  Nathan and Melissa had done it and recommended it to us and it was so FUN!!  We made pizza and gelato.  The chef was excellent and funny and we all had a great time.  He kept having to help Grace and kept telling her, “No touch it more!”  We had a blast!  IMG_0567

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Our ice cream loving girl got to help whisk up the gelato.IMG_0569

And of course, Scott was friends with everyone in the class by the end!  Thomas made friends with a young guy from The Netherlands who was there with his wife.  They had been to Thailand last year on vacation and he now has Thomas convinced he needs to visit!  They exchanged contact info.  They are headed to NYC in August and we gave them lots of suggestions.

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Grace declared it the best pizza she’d ever eaten!IMG_0574IMG_0576

We all passed our pizza class!IMG_0577

Tomorrow we leave Florence and head to Rome.  We are going to drive a little bit out of the way so that we can stop in Pisa and take the obligatory pics with the leaning tower!

 

 

 

Day 21-Florence

We slept late this morning and had a late breakfast at the hotel.  Most every hotel we have stayed at has had breakfast included, so it’s been nice to not have to search for a place or spend extra money on a 3rd meal out everyday.  Today is a holiday in Florence, Genoa and Turin.  It’s the Feast of St. John the Baptist.  So lots of places were closed for the day.  But, the hotel desk clerk told us to check out the market, so that was what we did first.  IMG_0484We bought a ton of stuff there! Leather gloves, wallets, purses, tapestries, jewelry.  The kids had a blast spending their souvenir money here.IMG_0501

IMG_0493IMG_0500After lunch we came back to the hotel for a little bit.  It’s so hot here that the heat zaps you quick.  After we were cooled off and rested we headed for the Santa Croce monastery where the leather school is located.  The holiday had half the city in that area closed off for some sort of parade, but we finally made it. IMG_0499 It was really cool to see all the handmade leather goods.  Scott and Thomas both bought wallets and this super sweet guy hand stamped their initials on the inside of them. IMG_0497 His leather tools and techniques were seriously old school and amazing to watch.IMG_0496  The monks have been making leather goods here for centuries, but in 1950 they created the leather school to help the orphans of WWII.  Many of them were brought to the monastery and trained under the master craftsmen so they would have a way to support themselves.  Today, that continues.  The monastery recruits it’s apprentices from the local city jails, and at risk student programs in Florence.  There was a wall of celebrity photographs of dignitaries, and Hollywood actors that have toured the leather school and/or commissioned custom works.

This is a copy of the desk set that General Eisenhower commissioned from the school for his desk in the Oval Office.IMG_0463

The things they make out of leather here are serious works of art.

After this we just wandered in and out of shops and made our way back to the hotel to cool off and get ready for dinner.IMG_0480

There is this really large church right across the street from our hotel.  So while Scott was talking to the front desk guy about something I wandered over to take a peek inside.  Just your average church, built by the Medici family in the 13th century or so.IMG_0441

Tomorrow the big kids are going to sleep in while Scott and I take Mandy to tour Galileo’s house and see the Ponte Vecchio.IMG_0474

 

 

Day 20- Venice to Florence

 

This was the view we woke up to this morning! Our room had a tiny little balcony that over looked the street and the “lagoon.”IMG_0392

We asked the hotel for a late checkout so we could stay in Venice as long as possible.  We wandered the tiny passageways and took pictures and did lots of shopping!IMG_0400IMG_0426IMG_0427IMG_0428IMG_0429At 1:00 we left our hotel.  At 2:30 we arrived at the car.  Venice is beautiful, and I want to go back and explore to my hearts content, but it is a pain in the butt to get to!  Thank goodness we packed one overnight bag for the 5 of us, if we had drug those big suitcases over all those bridges, off and on the boat and then the half mile to the car, they would have had to leave me in Venice.  I wouldn’t have made it.  After some confusion and a little frustration, we figured out how to exit the parking garage and were on our way to Florence.  Then we realized Scott’s phone no longer had data, which meant no map.  We rented a mobile hotspot for the kids and I so we would have wifi and wouldn’t need the international plans on our phones.  But, since Scott’s company is international, he called and added it to his phone for the month.  He called and they coldn’t see any reason why is data roaming shouldn’t be working.  Ever so helpful that AT&T.  So we used the spotty wifi to map our way to Florence.  Traffic was horrible, and the wifi couldn’t keep up, so we made several missed or wrong exits.  IMG_0419It was a slow, painful ride.  Even the kids were struggling.  Several comments made from the back seat today:

“Grace you have GOT to stop playing the Jonas Brothers.”

“I wish High School Musical was never invented.”

“You have got to be the most annoying person ever born.”

“If I were to end up in hell, my punishment for all eternity would be riding in this backseat.”

Very pleasant journey.  We finally made it to Florence about 8:00 and checked into the hotel. I’ve pretty much decided if you choose an Italian restaurant here you can’t go wrong.  They asked us if we wanted wine with dinner  I said yes. Scott said no.  Then the waiter looked at Thomas, so he said yes and they brought him wine! Turns out they can drink at 17 here! IMG_0420

We are in Florence for three nights! 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 We are sleeping in and EVERYONE is super excited about that!!

 

Day 19-Venice

We left Milan this morning and drove to Venice.  You can’t actually drive into Venice, so they have this massive parking garage called the Tronchetto, it’s like 4000 parking places. You pay to park your car there ($21) while you take a boat over to Venice.  We knew that dragging all our big suitcases was probably not going to be very easy, so we packed one overnight bag for the 5 of us with our pj’s and a change of clothes.  I am so glad we did!  Once you park your car to you head the the dock and buy a ticket for the Vaporetto.  Think city bus, but a boat instead.  It has it’s various stops all around Venice.  The boat ride was fun, but hot!IMG_0338

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We got off at San Marco square and our hotel was just a short block over. We were about to melt when we got here!

One of my favorite friends from high school, Nathan Taylor, lives not far from Venice.  He and his beautiful family met us here and showed us the sights this afternoon. We’ve known each other since we were 14 and Freshmen at Lakeview Centennial! LOVED getting to spend the day with him and his precious wife and kids.  So fun!!IMG_4153

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This is St. Mark’s Basilica.  We didn’t go inside, but the outside was a complete work of art.IMG_0346

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We walked the tiny narrow streets, lined with shops.  I was really glad we were with people who knew their way around because I’m not sure I would have found my way back to the hotel! It’s really like a maze through the streets and around and over the canals.

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We took a gondola ride too!  We all loved it, it was beautiful and relaxing and made for the perfect Venice experience!IMG_4131

Grace was very relaxed and spent the time reclined into my lap snapchatting her friends from a gondola.

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The canals are narrow and you really get to see the buildings close up on the gondola.  You can also see the water line in some of the pics that Scott took.  There is high tide here and if the water is rough, things flood quickly.IMG_4137IMG_4138IMG_0377IMG_0353IMG_0357IMG_0371

Next we went to the Rialto Bridge.  It goes over the Grand Canal and has shops on bridge…IMG_4149

We walked to the top and took pics…

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You can’t believe how picture perfect this place is.  Thomas kept saying it felt like a movie set, and he’s right.  It’s just like out of a movie. We ate lunch, had gelato, saw Venice and caught up with old friends.  The day could not have been any more perfect!

We will stay here and explore until we have to check out of the hotel and head back to the parking garage.  Then, we are headed to Florence!

 

Day 18-Milan

What a day!!  We had scheduled a half day tour through our tour guide to see Milan and the Last Supper.  We got there at 9:30 and they loaded us on a bus.  They drove us around for a bit looking at the old castle and castle walls that once surrounded Milan.  The we unloaded at the Duomo. The Duomo is the third largest cathedral in the world and Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Italy there.  It took 6 centuries to complete. IMG_4109 IMG_0243

All marble floors done in this intricate pattern….IMG_0247

Holy water…IMG_0253See that tiny red light in the picture below?  That is at the highest point above the alter.  Inside it is believed to be one of the nails from the crucifixion.  They hold a ceremony once a year where they take it out for viewing.IMG_0257

This is one of the most famous sculptures in the Duomo.  It is St. Bartholomew Flayed carved in 1562 and depicts the cruel execution of Bartholomew who was skinned alive by the Syrians.IMG_0265

We didn’t know that the Duomo was included on our tour.  When we got on the bus our tour guide started asking the women if they had anything with them to cover their knees or shoulders.  I had worn a dress and my knees were covered, however the girls had on shorts.  We had to buy these paper-ish cover ups for the girls to tie around their waists to get in the church.  No bare shoulders and no bare knees.  Security checks your bag, wands you AND makes sure you are attired properly.  And by security, I mean uniformed Italian soldiers.  Once we got inside and were following the tour guide, Grace’s had come untied.  There was literally “knee police” inside.  A guy in plain clothes, with a badge around his neck came over and told her to cover up!  Evidently the backs of your knees are ok, just not the front.  Knees are too sexy for church. (But boobs on all the art…ok.) Very different philosophy than Lake Pointe…Jesus doesn’t care what you wear, he just wants you there.

Next was the Galleria.  NOT like the Galleria in Dallas.  At. All.  This one is a work of art.  It’s covered, but open air and has the original flagship Prada store that just celebrated its 100th birthday.  Louis Vuitton, Armani etc…IMG_0272IMG_0277

Again, the floors are amazing.  Marble and mosaic.  This bull is supposed to bring you good luck if you put your heel on his balls and spin around.  Weird, but lots of people doing it…IMG_0276

Then was The Last Supper.  So incredible to see this in person.  Waaaaay better than the Mona Lisa.  They only allow you inside the room at the monastery in groups of 25 at a time for 15 minutes.  The room is big.  When it was painted it was the dining hall for the monks.  The painting is huge.  HUGE.  During WWII they built scaffolding over the paintings in this room.  Then packed them with sandbags.  A bomb exploded in the courtyard right outside and leveled most of the original monastery, but this room and the paintings survived. IMG_4098IMG_4101

Our tour guide was excellent at explaining who was who.  I also never realized that the man 2nd to the end on the right, is a self portrait of Da Vinci himself…IMG_0282

At the other end of the room is a painting, just as large, of the crucifixion.  It was not painted by DaVinci, but is equally as amazing….IMG_0292

They really did the viewing this well.  It was fast, efficient and no mobs of people with selfie sticks…in fact they aren’t allowed in the room!

After the tour we stopped for lunch.  Food here….no words.  Best.  Ever.

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We have gorged ourselves today on pasta and gelato.  After lunch we went back to the Galleria.  Scott, Mandy and Thomas went in the Louis Vuitton store, Grace and I wandered around a bit.  We thought they had come out and we lost them so we headed back to the hotel.  Turns out my guy was inside buying me the purse I’d been mooning over for months and months!  He came back to the room with this….IMG_0320

“Vacation Scott” is my favorite!!  I was blown away!! They even embossed my initials into the leather.

We took a little rest at the hotel and then went back out for more pasta and gelato.  I feel like that may be our two main food groups until we leave!!  Tomorrow morning we are going to get up and head to Venice.  You have to park in a big parking garage just outside the city as there are no cars in Venice.  That should be an adventure in itself so stay tuned!

 

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Day 17-Lucern & Milan

This morning we got up and dressed and drove to Mt. Pilatus.  We took the gondola up the mountain into the Alps.  The views were amazing. IMG_0193 We got off halfway up where they have a restaurant, ropes course and Alpine slide.  Mandy and Thomas did the slide while Grace and I had tea on the patio. IMG_0198

IMG_0197 The weather was absolutely perfect.  Not too hot, not too cold, just the right amount of breeze. Perfection.  Then we took a bigger gondola up to the peak.

 

IMG_0215We were waaaay up, almost to the very top when we passed over this tiny church with a cross on the very peak.  While Thomas climbed around at the peak, they girls needed a snack.  Scott came back with the Swiss version of a hot dog.  They squirt ketchup inside a hollowed out baguette and then drop in the hot dog!  It was actually very good!IMG_0216

This is Lake Lucern from up in the gondola…IMG_0221

I don’t mean to be disparaging of any group of people, I mean, I’m a relatively nice lady and all.  But, the Chinese tour groups.  They were all over the street in front of our car today when we were trying to leave Lucerne.  There are sooooo many of them!  They run you down, they stop right in the doorways and won’t move, don’t wait in line.  They are HUGE groups everywhere we go. IMG_0225 I was reading a tourism blog that said that the Chinese government is now publishing handbooks for them on how to act when they leave China because other countries have complained that they are hurting tourism worldwide.  After this trip, I believe it.  the restrooms at Mt. Pilatus had these signs above every toilet…IMG_0224

We drove through the Alps to Milan this afternoon/evening.  I bet we drove thru 40+ tunnels through the mountains on the way.  When you go through a city that is on the highway, there are barriers like this to buffer the road noise for the residents and businesses.  We’ve seen them in every city since we rented the car.  Pretty smart.IMG_0229

We arrived at our hotel in Milan about 7:00. Lots of tiny twisty streets.  We checked in and then headed out for dinner.  We found a local place just across from the hotel.  Our waiter didn’t speak any English, but Scott, Thomas and Grace spoke enough Spanish, which is very similar to Italian, to communicate.  The waiter loved Thomas.  After dinner, after we paid the bill and were headed out he made us stop at the bar and have the bartender give us limoncello.  He asked us if he could give Thomas one too!  Since they are teeny tiny glasses, Scott told him yes. It was soooo yummy!!  I wish I’d gotten a picture of Thomas’ drinking it!

Tomorrow morning we are doing a 3 hour tour of Milan and seeing the Last Supper.  Wifi here is sketchy.  It’s super slow.  I’m not even sure that todays pics are going to ever upload with this post.  And, if you’ve texted me and I haven’t responded that’s why.  If you need us text Scott!

Day 16-Zurich & Lucerne

We spent the morning in Zurich & the afternoon in Lucerne. Exploring the narrow streets and shopping.  IMG_0114

The hotel we stayed in opened up onto one of those small walkways and had cafes and stores right below us.  Grace and I went to one of the stores and came back to Thomas and Scott hollering down to us from our rooms above.IMG_0127

At noon we checked out of that hotel and drove about an hour or so to Lucerne.  Thomas took this as we were loading the car.IMG_0131

Once we got to Lucerne we ate a quick lunch.  There was big excitement when we got BIG glasses of water with ice cubes and a whole pitcher of water for our table.  The people of Europe are dehydrated.  If you order water with your meal they bring you a tiny juice glass and one carafe of water for 5 people. We ration it like it’s liquid gold. So everyone was super excited over todays large water allotment. However, it was $12 for this pitcher of tap water.IMG_0129

Then we walked down to the edge of Lake Lucerne.  Breathtakingly beautiful with the Alps in the background.IMG_0140IMG_0146IMG_0139IMG_0137IMG_0135

We did quite a bit of knife shopping at the various Victorinox stores.  Since they are made here in Switzerland they are quite a bit cheaper here than at home.  Thomas has bought a couple of knives and I bought a sleek new laptop backpack for work.  This whole sculpture this is made of tiny swiss army knives….IMG_0116

We’ve bought and eaten lots of Swiss Chocolate.  This shop had a chocolate waterfall wall.IMG_0149

This clock was just on the side of some random clothing store on a street corner.  We happened to beside it on the hour and it began playing and all the little people came out to dance and spin!IMG_0118

After all that shopping and chocolate sampling we went to the hotel for a little rest before dinner.  Afterwards, we strolled along the water and across the lake on the oldest wooden bridge in Europe…IMG_0157IMG_0166IMG_0169

IMG_0162Everything is very expensive here in Switzerland.  We stopped for ice cream on the way back to the hotel for the night and it was $56 for the 5 of us to have ice cream!  Our waitress said that taxes are low, but it’s the most expensive place to live in Europe.

Tomorrow morning we are taking a gondola ride up to the Alps and then we will head to Milan.  Italy is our last country and we are more than halfway through with our trip. Everyone was a little tired and missing home today even though we enjoyed Zurich and Lucern.  But, we are all looking forward to Italy tomorrow!