I have just returned from a dream come true! Italy! I can not begin to described the awe inspiring beauty of that place. I was truly amazed at things that I had seen in books, pictures and tv to be bigger and better than you could ever realize. Our (Logan and I) journey began Saturday March 24, 2007 at the Little Rock National Airport where we met up with the other 43 travelers. We made a short flight to Memphis with a short lay over before heading to Detroit where we had a rather lengthy lay over. We boarded a huge plane around 7:50 Saturday night and headed to Frankfurt, Germany. Logan had downloaded me several books on tape so I settled into the seat for an eight hour flight.
Passing over the international date line we arrived in Germany Sunday (March 25) morning. We made our way through another airport to wait for our final flight to Nice, France. Upon arrival in France we met Stephanie, our tour guide, we boarded a bus for a tour of the French Riviera. We stopped at the Cathedral Orthodox Russe De Nice (Russian Orthodox Church), then on to an old monastery and Architectural Gardens of Nice where the locals were celebrating the Festival of the Gourds. We had supper at La Coupole' Restaurant. We checked into the Comfort Hotel Nice Vieux Port and then walked around Nice to see the French Riviera by moonlight.
Monday March 26 we visited a perfume factory Fragonard Parfume - history of perfume is botanticals infused to mask or cover smells of the King of France and his people because they didn't take baths. They believed it was harmful or not healthy to bath. We then traveled to Monte Carlo, Monaco where we spent the better part of the day walking around and shopping.
We left Monaco and headed down the coast to the Cinque Terre (five lands) region. We stayed at the Vilaggio Albergo dei Gallo, a wonderful hotel atop a mountain in the Italian countryside. In our room you could open the french doors, push back the wooden shutters and step out on the balcony to a gorgeous view of the hills and countryside.
Tuesday March 27 we woke early in the mountains and ate a quick roll and cup of coffee before heading to the town of Levanto where we caught the train to visit five villages. The first village was Monterosso, a quiet little fishing village; then Vernazza, a colorful and bright little village; the Corniglia, where to reach the village you had to climb 365 stairs; next was Manarola where we grabbed a bit to eat, some bread, cheese and a bottle of wine, we ate on some steps as we watched the locals peddle their wares. The last village of our trek was Riamaggiore. We caught the train back to Florence where we began a walking tour. We saw the last medieval bridge still standing and the walls that surrounded the city so many hundreds of years ago.
It is here that I fell, literally, I was either tripped our stumbled over the cobblestones, either way I found myself hitting the ground and could not catch my breath, neither in our out and the pain in my side was like I had gone several rounds with a prize fighter. After several seconds my first breath caught up with me and things started to get better. With help I was able to get up and with my determination I was carrying on as if nothing happened.
We then walked toward the center of town where the duomo and historical buildings stood that had been there since the 1100's. We were given time to shop and look around before meeting for supper. After supper we headed to our hotel which just happened to be an old convent! Yes, I actually stayed in a convent. My room had a huge patio with table and chairs so we invited the other ladies of the group to join us for wine and conversation before bed.
"The Italian Shirt!"
Wednesday March 28, 2007 we began the day back in the square where we waited 2 hours in line to see the David. It was awesome! The statue of David is so much bigger than I thought and the detail is amazing. Logan and I shopped around a bit and we purchased him an authentic Italian silk shirt! The shop we bought it from is called The End and is an exclusive and very well known Italian shop. It is two shades of gray and looks very good on him.
We loaded up at 1pm and headed to Pisa; Pisa is surrounded by an ancient wall and outside this wall is lined with street vendors. We meet Uranus (like the planet) an adorable Italian man with a wonderful personality and spirit. He should us around the cathedral, tower, and the baptistery. He was full of information and told us interesting facts about Michelangelo, Galileo and all the famous men who discovered great things and made history. My favorite here was the baptistery. While inside everyone was asked to be quiet and a lady began to sing in perfect pitch, each note at a time echoed and reverberated through out the baptistery as if a full choir was singing. The clarity and beauty of it made chills go up my back and tears come to my eyes. We were then allowed to shop the vendors before boarding the bus back to Florence.Thursday March 29, 2007 we packed up and grabbed a quick bite before boarding the bus. Today we traveled across Italy to Venice. We stopped at what Americans would call a truck stop, called the Autogrill for lunch. Finally arriving in Venice we checked into our hotel; the Hotel Amalfi, before exploring the beach. We took pictures and collected seashells before wondering into some shops for a little wine for the evening.
Friday March 30, 2007 we awoke this morning to cold drizzling rain, not to dampen our spirits we were headed to the center of Venice. We wondered around the square shopping and look around before gathering for a demonstration of glass blowing. I purchased two beautiful red hand blown wine glasses. We stopped at a little cafe for lunch before touring the palace, prison and art museum. Since it was raining we didn't get to ride the gondolas but had coffee and rolls in a little cafe instead. We then took a boat back to the mainland for supper and then to bed since we were near exhaustion.
Saturday March 31, 2007 On the road again! Back on the bus we traveled to Lake Como. The weather was beautiful as we cruised the lake before visiting Bellagio, my favorite spot in all of Italy. This little village is what I had imagined before actually visiting Italy. Several of us sat at a lakeside cafe and enjoyed coffee, hot chocolate, and mocha's. After our drinks we boarded the bus to head to our hotel. We traveled for several miles straight up the mountains almost to the boarder of Switzerland. We stayed at the Hotel Belvedere, our rooms again had beautiful views of the country side and Swiss Alps. After supper we enjoyed a glass of wine around the fireplace before retiring for the night.Sunday April 1, 2007 up by 5am to head to Milano to catch the train to Rome. Upon arrival in Rome we immediately went to the Catacombs where over 3000 graves of Christians and Jews are. They built this impressive maze to hide their loved one from vandals and evil ones.
Traveling again we toured the city by bus making note of sites that we would see in detail the next day. We stopped for supper and then to our hotel The Siracusa.
Monday April 2, 2007 we began our tours of Rome. Starting with the Colosseum and making our way through every spot in Rome including the Vatican City. We threw coins into Trevi Fountain, and of course shopped and I had Logan's portrait drawn by a street artist. And we saw some many sights that I can't even begin to name them all. Totally amazed by the sights and exhausted we stopped for supper before some headed to the Hard Rock Cafe and then to the rooms to pack and begin our journey home.Tossing a coin into Trevi Fountain!
Tuesday April 3, 2007 we boarded our bus for the last time to take us to the airport. We flew to Amsterdam. Where we had hoped to at least purchase a post card to say we had been there but we literally ran through the airport to the next plane that they were holding for us. This had to be the longest flight in history or at least to me. I was able to watch 4 movies, play video games and even catch a nap before landing in Memphis. Once in Memphis everyone ran to the nearest AMERICAN hamburger stand, not that we didn't like Italian food but home is home! We finally boarded our last flight and landed in Little Rock at 8:45 where Greg picked us up and took us home.
I can't wait for the next trip!!!