The Adventure Starts Here: September 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Our Honeymoon - Amalfi Coast

This is the last post of our honeymoon. On Wednesday we took the train from Rome to Naples. We had arranged it so that our train left Rome at 9am and got to Naples at 10:10. We had a driver picking us up at the train station to take us on a chauffeured trip of the Amalfi Coast. We had heard the roads were ridiculously narrow and windy, so we decided it would be safer and more enjoyable to hire someone to drive us around to the coastal cities. Of course, the one day the trains are delayed was that day. We were about 15-20 minutes late and at first we couldn't find our driver. Since the train was delayed he had to move his car from temporary parking to permanent, so when we got there he was in the process of moving his car. He was a young guy who spoke perfect English! Chris was impressed he was driving a grey Mercedes-Benz S320 sedan.

He first took us to Sorrento. It was a very cute town full of shops on the main street. We sat down for a drink and bought Chris' mom some seeds to plant some veggies and herbs. I also found a little wood-carved elephant magnet. It started to rain while we were there... thank goodness we had an umbrella. It was a shame that the one day it rained was when we were on a drive of the coast with amazing views of the water :( But at least we had a car to pick us up and take us to each town.

The next city was Positano. We knew we'd be arriving there around lunchtime, so we asked the driver to recommend a good place to eat. He suggested we go to this family restaurant that is located in the hills of Positano rather than the actual town. We went there and it was super cool. It's completely family run and there are no menus. They basically just bring you out a ton of food. When we sat down she asked what kind of water we wanted, flat or fizzy, and then I said I'd have wine, and Chris said beer. Well out comes a huge bottle of water, a whole bottle of wine, and a huge beer! Good thing the wine was pretty weak or else I would have been passed out in the back seat the rest of the afternoon! They would describe all the food they brought out and one of the dishes he said, "It's what they call in english, a meat-a-ball". Then the pasta they actually had one that was simply described as "Mama's pasta", which was actually a manicotti type dish... it was my favorite! The restaurant also had really cool views of the water and cliffs! After lunch our driver took us to the town of Positano and we walked around and had desert at a fancy hotel on the water. It was nice to sit by the water despite the rain :)

The next 2 towns probably would have been more fun if it wasn't raining, but by that point it was raining harder and we really weren't in the mood to explore much. I wish that we could have enjoyed Amalfi and Ravello more. A couple we met on the cruise last year had raved about Ravello, so that was disappointing :(

That night we just ate at the hotel restaurant because the driver told us that the city of Naples wasn't very safe and it would be best to take a taxi wherever we went for dinner for safety reasons. We figured it wasn't really worth it and just stayed in. The hotel wasn't very nice so we ended up upgrading our room. Chris nicknamed the front desk guys "Tweedle Dee and Dum" because they could barely speak English and were of no help. We decided that since the train from Rome was only an hour and ten minutes long that we should have probably just stayed in Rome and taken 2 day trips to Naples to do the tours we had planned. But what can you do... traveling is about experimenting and learning.

Thursday we took a day tour that went to Pompeii and then to Mt. Vesuvius. We were getting picked up at 10:45 so we actually got to sleep in until 9! It may not seem late, but after that last few days, it felt luxurious! Pompeii was a lot of fun, but the pizza lunch that was included was not good. It was very hard to cut with the extremely dull butter knife they gave us, so after a while I gave up and just picked up the whole thing and ate it. Then we went to Mt. Vesuvius... the drive just to get there was ridiculously windy and I was almost getting car sick! Then we started the hike up. I got maybe half way up when my ears started really hurting because of the altitude. Chris was nice and didn't want to leave me alone so he could go to the top... instead he came back down the mountain with me. You would think that the last night of our honeymoon would have been a super romantic dinner, but since we were exhausted and scared to go out around town, we hit up the hotel restaurant again. It was really good that night... I had this great pasta with ricotta cheese and sauce (YUMMM!). We just packed and went to bed super early since we had to get up at 4am the next morning for our flight.

Chris loved that there was a car in Italy called "MEGANE". So he had me stand in front of it covering the "E" so that it was the MEGAN car (even though I have an "H" in my name)

Our flight home was from Naples to Rome, and then Rome to Newark. We got a cab at the ungodly hour of 5am and got to the airport before it was even open. We waited a lot and the whole experience was comical. As sitting at the gate we see what we thought was our plane right in front of the gate. Since it's a small airport we figured we'd be walking to the plane. Instead they had us all squeeze onto a shuttle bus where there was only standing room. The bus would move a few feet, stop, and the doors would open. Then we'd just wait... in total we probably waited for 15 minutes. Finally the bus drives in a circle and stops on the other side of our plane. The plane was closer to the gate than to wear the shuttle bus dropped us off. I really didn't get the point of the shuttle! At the gate we also saw a guy in a wheelchair who just randomly stood up, walked over to the trash bags, found the one that looked the emptiest, took it out of the bin, and used it as his carry-on! As he brought it on the plane Chris could see his almond wrapper that he had just previously thrown out in this guy's "carry-on"! The things we saw in Italy! The flight to Rome was only 35 minutes long... I fell asleep and the only reason I woke up is cause I felt the landing... I've never been that out of it! We had a pretty seamless flight back to Newark except for a little turbulence while circling the Newark airport, but nothing too bad.

While we had some interesting encounters while in Italy, the trip was amazing! It was so nice to get away and explore these amazing cities with my new husband! Now we are back in NJ settling into the apartment as a married couple. So far it's a lot of fun!

Again... if you want to see ALL the pictures, they are all on Facebook.

Our Honeymoon- Rome

Sunday we left Florence to go to Rome. When I bought all the train tickets I just selected the cities from drop down menus. So when we went to the Florence train station that we had arrived in 3 days prior we thought everything would go smoothly. But when we couldn't find our train number on the board, we got a little worried. Chris went and asked customer service and we were told that our ticket was for a train that went from the OTHER Florence train station! Who knew there were 2 train stations in Florence. Fortunately since we got there super early we were able to catch the local train (that left at most 5 minutes later) that took us to the correct Florence train station and they let us get on it for no charge thank goodness. So while it was a little crazy for a while we were able to catch our correct train in the end. Good thing the train wasn't full because our bags had gotten a lot heavier and Chris was having a hard time fitting my massive suitcase above our seats. So instead we switched seats and were able to put the suitcase in the empty seat next to us :)

In Rome we had planned to drop our luggage off at the hotel and hop on a bus tour right away. But fortunately when we got to the hotel our room was ready super early so we were able to check in. We had some problems with the bus tour and had to wait 2 hours before we could get a spot on it (the Rome one was way more popular than the Florence one). So in the meantime we went and grabbed lunch. That night we decided to go over to the Barberini area and have dinner at a restaurant one of Chris' coworkers had recommended. It was on a random street and there was no way we would have found it unless we were looking for it. Before we actually ate, we walked over to the Trevi fountain and made a wish in the fountain. It was very crowded, so not romantic like you hope. At dinner they had this guitar player singing to some of the guests. At first we thought it was a party or something, but it just turned out to be a tour group. It was very entertaining getting to listen to him play and his songs were pretty funny since he would sing a song based on where the tourist was from. One was from South Africa and he actually started singing "In the Jungle"!!!

The Trevi Fountain

Making a wish in the fountain

My turn now

Chris thought the exit signs in Italy were absolutely hilarious. So in our Rome hotel he decided to get a picture of himself imitating the sign. Pretty funny if you ask me :)

Monday morning we woke up early and headed over to the Vatican for our tour. Our tour guide was great and I got a lot out of it even though it was my 3rd time there :) That afternoon we headed over to the Coliseum and took a tour there as well. While walking down to the Coliseum we stopped to get gelato and found the BEST caramel gelato and they even offered us whip cream (not common at the gelato places we went to). It was Chris' favorite gelato of the trip by far! By the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted from our day full of sight seeing. Chris however is the energizer bunny and never got tired! But I kept going and that night we went for a drink at Hard Rock before dinner and walked over to the Spanish Steps. Chris was so cute and bought me some roses at the steps and then we went to a nice dinner outside :)

Chris at the Vatican

Me at the Vatican

after the tour we mailed some postcards from Vatican City

at the Coliseum

the roses Chris got me :)

at dinner

Tuesday we had another early morning tour... the Angels and Demons tour. We had seen the movie and was excited to see all the sites that were in the movie. It was very interesting and our tour guide, Massimo, was very enthusiastic, but by the end we were exhausted and hungry! We stopped by the Forum and Palatine Hill on the way home, but Chris could tell I was extremely tired so we headed back to the hotel early. That night we just stayed close by for dinner and watched some US Open. This whole trip we've been making sure to watch tennis while getting ready for dinner (because of the time difference we could watch the day matches at 6pm every day).

Chris loved this little car we saw... he said it looked like a toy!

Chris made us go back to the Coliseum so he could get this shot... it's from the Gladiator

We loved our time in Rome, but it was very busy and we barely had any time just to relax like we were able to in Venice and Florence. Next stop is the Amalfi Coast!

Our Honeymoon - Florence

I know I'm taking a while to blog about the honeymoon, but there are so many fun stories that I wanted to break it up by city and take my time.

So anyway... on Thursday we took the vaporetto from our hotel to the train station. The train station was a little confusing but we got there early and were able to get on the right train and had plenty of time for Chris to get our huge luggage above our seats. Once in Florence we had planned on walking to the hotel with our luggage. As we were standing on the corner looking lost, 2 young guys came over to ask if we needed help. They were obviously American and so Chris asked where they were from. One was from Ohio, we told them we were from NJ. The second guy asked where since he was also from NJ. We said that now we live in Morristown, and he said he was from Watchung! What a small world... we of course then said we graduated from Watchung Hills and so did he! He had graduated in 2008 and was no studying abroad for the semester. It's amazing who you'll meet when in a different country! They told us that our hotel was close enough to walk to but could be tough on the cobblestone streets with our luggage. We started to walk it but with the heat we gave up and got a cab in the end. Our hotel was gorgeous (which it should be since it was our splurge hotel of the trip). It was only 1pm when we got there and our room wouldn't be ready until 3. So they held our luggage and got us a table outside at the hotel restaurant. It was a little pricey but the food was amazing! I had spaghetti with clams and Chris had an asparagus risotto. We then walked up to the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo to take some pictures. We just relaxed in the hotel room before dinner that night. So far we really love Florence :)

At lunch

On the Ponte Vecchio

Our hotel room :)

View from our room

Chris loved this little couch in the hotel hallway

at dinner

Friday morning we had tickets to the Ufizzi gallery from our hotel. It was interesting to go to, but nothing spectacular. After lunch I wasn't feeling great, but I tried to be a trooper and we went on a bus tour in the afternoon. It wasn't really worth the money since the bus isn't able to go deep into the city where most of the important sites are. We did get some cool pictures though. That night we had planned to go to this fancy restaurant that the hotel had recommended, but since I wasn't feeling great we decided to stay close by and just ate at a restaurant in the Piazza where our hotel was. After dinner we took a walk to get gelato and saw this crazy mime guy who you could tell wanted to be Charlie Chaplin. He was funny at first but when he started grabbing girls out of the audience and doing creepy tricks with going under their skirts we got out of there.

Amazing chocolate, marmalade, and boston creme filled croissants at breakfast :)

at the Ufizzi gallery

Chris loved the Ferrari store every city we went to

at lunch

on the bus tour

at dinner

In the morning I felt a lot better and we went on our Vespa tour. They took us outside the city of Florence where it was less crowded. They spent the beginning part showing us how to drive the vespa. I tried it out but was very shaky and knew I couldn't go out and drive it on the actual road with other drivers on it. So instead the tour guide said I could ride on the back of his as a passenger. Chris was able to do it, but as for me it was a great decision to go as a passenger. We went all over making crazy turns, going down steep hills, and having cars pass us constantly. So I was able to ride on the vespa with no stress and enjoy the Chianti countryside. On our tour were 2 other couples... one from Australia, and the other from Canada. They were really nice but made our trip seem so short. The Australians were on a 7 week honeymoon and the Canadians work online and are traveling all over for 8 months! We went to a winery and had a tour and then some lunch and wine tasting... it was a lot of fun. That night we went to the fancy dinner that we were supposed to go to the night before. It was a little outside of the touristy part of Florence, so the whole menu was only in Italian (most of the places we had been to so far were also in English). The waiter was nice enough to translate the whole thing to us... very helpful! I ordered the sea bass and first they brought it to me head and all so I could "approve it". Then they took it away and cleaned and deboned it. They put it on the biggest plate I've ever seen... so not necessary for the amount of food lol.

Chris driving the vespa

learning how to drive the vespa

Chris and I at a vineyard

all of the vespas

at our fancy dinner :)

my gigantic plate

So that was our time in Florence. Next stop is Rome!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Our Honeymoon - Venice

Chris' parents gave us our Honeymoon to Italy as our wedding gift... it was so generous of them! If you want to see ALL our pictures, they are on Facebook... but here are the highlights :)

We flew out of Newark on the Sunday night after the Wedding. We were tired but so excited to be going away for almost 2 weeks! We had a connecting flight in Germany, and everything went okay except that the flight from Germany to Venice had us sitting in completely different rows. When we booked the flight we picked seats next to each other, but apparently they just like to change those kind of things and seat people randomly! I was seated next to a family of 3, so they didn't want to move seats and Chris sat next to people who didn't speak English, so for the 2 hour flight we were on our own. We arrived in Venice around 1pm and took the Vaporetto from the airport to Venice Island where our hotel was. We were able to check in right away and since we were very jetlagged, we just unpacked and took a nap. We had an amazing dinner at the hotel restaurant and then we went out to explore San Marco Square. At night in the square they have live music. The first night we just stood and listened to it. We decided to come back another night and actually have dessert and a drink and sit down. In Italy (well at least the cities we went to) there is often an extra fee just for sitting down!

The next day, Tuesday, our plan was to get up, have breakfast at our hotel (included) and then explore the city and go on a free tour (provided by our hotel) to Murano to see a glass blowing factory. Well I guess I turned off the alarm, cause we didn't wake up til 11! I guess we were more tired than we thought! Instead we just wandered around the city and had lunch on the water. After lunch we went back to San Marco square and somehow snook into the basilica without really waiting in line or paying. Chris' amazing skills of sneaking in with a random tour group. We walked around the basilica and got some cool shots from the balcony that overlooked the square. We also took the vaporetto that is basically the bus (but on water) that takes you up the entire Grand Canal. It's really just public transportation but it's also a cool way to get some shots of the Canal.

That night after dinner we went back to San Marco Square and sat down and enjoyed dessert and drinks while listening to the music. The gelato dessert was massive... but don't worry, we still finished every bit!

At dinner we got the classic ring shot :)

Wednesday we actually did go to Murano to the glass blowing factory. It was interesting and nice to take a water taxi over to the island, but the glass was SOOO expensive. When I was there with Luke we were able to buy some reasonably priced souvenirs. We saw a vase we liked and it was 1,500 Euros!!! Umm, yeah right! Instead we decided to come back to Venice Island and look for some cheaper things made from Murano glass. After some serious searching we found a reasonably price teal colored glass vase. We also got Chris' parents and ourselves some Christmas tree ornaments. Since this was our last day in Venice, we were very adamant to go on a gondola ride. Chris, the master negotiator, played hard ball (we even walked away a few times) and in the end got a great ride for a good price.

Next city is Florence... stay tuned for that post :)
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