Friday, October 31, 2008

Venice - We arrive at last!

We arrived in Venice on the 30th of October by train from Florence. The two hour ride was good except Michael got sick all over us in the train so you can imagine the mess trying to clean up and not stink the place out! Let's just say we could not wait to get there so we could get the clothes washed and change.

Anyway, after leaving the train station we came outside onto the Grand Canal to be greeted by sunshine for the first time in days. So far so good.

We then noticed that to get to the landing we had a flight of stairs to go down with all our suitcases and bags. As Trevor said,"Not a good place for a staircase when you come off a train with luggage". We tried carefully to hold on to Michael (we could just see the headlines, Australian couple loses 4 year old son in the Grand Canal - LOL but not so funny when you think about it!) and get all the luggage down the stairs.

We then walked to what was a taxi stand to get ripped off for a 5 minute water taxi ride to our apartment for 50EU (that is $100), we are sure that cannot be the price even if Venice is extremely expensive. But at that point we did not care, we just had to get there.

Video: Grand Canal Taxi Ride and View from our Apartment

The apartment called "Ai Carmini Residence" was the best we have had. ADSL internet, big rooms, breakfast supplies, good shower, and lots of space. We intend to leave a good review for this one.

Photos below:

For lunch we took a walk to the closest Piazza to find a bunch of Al fresco eateries. We chose the best looking menu and took a load off. Trevor and Michael took the opportunity to try yet another pasta dish. Trevor is on a roll and wants to try the "Penne all'Arrabbiata" in each city to find the best.

Michael chose pasketi again (translation from 4 year old "spaghetti"). The photo below shows Michael very intent on eating a good lunch, after a few mouthfuls, he of course""had had enough" and left most of it on the plate. A similar story at each of our mealtimes.

Tomorrow we visit Murano, where they will demonstrate how they blow glass and St Mark's Square (assuming it is not under water as sometimes occurs at this time of year). Stay tuned!

Roving Travel Reporter Michael Daley posts videos to this blog!

Your roving reporter Michael Daley with his signature sign off line "hurrah" brings you a series of short travel videos of each of the sights in our trip.
It is really funny how many people watch when he does his commentary. They stop to listen and clap afterwards!

We have added these to the Florence post so check them out. Videos are added in red bold text to each post so you can easily identify them.
Each post will probably include a video. The videos are posted to YouTube but can be seen directly on the blog! Happy viewing....Let me know if you think Getaway will be head hunting Michael any time soon!!!

Ambulance Alert!

As you do if you are a Paramedic, you look for ambulances wherever you go. Trevor has been interested in looking at the different ambulances in Italy. We managed to photograph one. We will update this post with more as we photograph them!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Firenze (Florence) - The City of Art and the Renaissance

After staying in Rome for a few days we took a high speed train to Florence (or Firenze as it is really called in Italy).

Florence is the city of the Renaissance, the city of art, fine leather, fine jewellery and of the big names both of today and of the past. Galileo Galilei did much of his work in this region as did Michelangelo who is said to have tested his theory of the first flying machine in the hills near the city. I suppose he got bored just carving statues and painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome!!

The big Italian fashion names all reside here too. Around every corner you see a designer store, Chanel, Trussardi, Valentino, Enrico Coveri, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Gucci and many more. Of course I stayed away from those stores, I need a pay rise even to be able to afford to step in to those stores. I did however have a look in the Guess shop. I am mad about Guess bags and accessories and the store had some good prices. Some bags were only 100 EU ($200) but I managed to hold back and avoid buying "yet another bag".

After arriving in the city, we took a taxi to our apartment "Stella Firenze". I have not posted photos because of poor lighting. The place was nice enough but at 190EU a night, we expected a little more. Newly renovated, it probably was not more than 20 square metres in total as are most apartments in the cities here (I can't believe people actually live in these all the time! - we are so lucky in Australia to have the amount of space we have.). It was quite dark (lacking in natural light) and little air flow. However being a stone's throw from the Duomo we saved a lot in taxis because we have walked everywhere.

We brought the rain with us from Sardinia too so despite being wet alot, we walked everywhere, got lost alot and found a lot of great places away from the main tourist drag. It is hard to explain the crowds over here. Thousands of people everywhere. We found it more crowded than Rome.

We also ate very well here. Trevor continued to try pasta dishes whilst Michael ate his favourites "round pasketi"or translated for those of you who no longer speak 4 year old "round spaghetti". He calls it round as opposed to "flat pasketi" which he uses to refer to linguine or fettuccine. The photos show Michael tucking in at a restaurant. Trevor liked the Pasta Amatriciana which he likened more to Mum's Arrabbiata as it had bacon and onion in it. We enjoyed Tuscan wine and lovely food, all in all, not a bad way to live!!

We took the Hop on Hop Off bus which I had pre booked and got a trip around town and to a town nearby called Fiesole. It took us up into the mountains to see a wonderful scenery of autumn green, gold and auburns. Pity it rained...... we did not last long in the open top section of the double decker bus much to Michael's disgust.

We went to visit the Duomo (the Cathedral). It is hard to explain how massive this thing is. The sheer size is overwhelming. It is made of Italian (Tuscan) marble and painted with exquisite detail. We decided to attempt another one of the long lines to get in to see the dome. The dome, designed and built by Italian architect "Brunelleschi". The dome itself took 15 years to build. It is 91 metres high and 45 metres wide. After lining up we realised that the line up was actually to climb to the top of the dome. 463 steps later in a narrow winding concrete staircase with a 4 year old, we made it to the top. Great to see the painted dome so close but I was happy to get back down and out of the enclosed space of the staircase. Michael fared reasonably well considering!! We still have sore muscles from that climb. The Cathedral shown below is in two photos, I have tried to show its grandeur but I am sure it does not do it justice.

Below is a photo of the dome itself. Unbelievable!

Video: Michael Daley Street Talk - The Duomo of Florence

Video footage of the Duomo with Michael giving commentary.

We decided to try our luck and head down to the "Galleria dell'Accademmia" which is a museum that houses the famous statue of David carved by Michelangelo himself. We were a little worried after reading that sometimes you have to wait up to 3 hours in line but we only waited 40 minutes so thank goodness for small miracles! Michael whinged the whole time...... No photos allowed however.

We then walked down to the "Ponte Vecchio" the most famous bridge in Florence. Ponte Vecchio is famous for its design (there are shops built on the bridge) and its jewelery. The finest jewelers in all of Florence showcase their award winning pieces. I managed to buy a few trinkets but for the most part we just looked in amazement both at their beauty and the prices. The photos below show the bridge and shots of us on it.

Video: Michael Daley's Street Talk in Florence in the Piazza del Duomo and introduces the Baptistry

Michael introduces the Florence Baptistry, it is a religious monument dedicated to Baptisms. He tries to explain its 4 year old of course!

We took a day trip to Pisa which was Michael's favourite to see the Leaning Tower. Again the rain followed us but it soon cleared up except it would have been nice to see it in the sunshine!

Video: Michael Daley presents the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Baptistry and the Ancient City Walls

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

When in Rome...

Well, after a week with relatives, we headed off to Rome from Sardinia. Sardinia is part of Italy as you may know but it is not on the mainland so we went by plane. A 50 minute plane ride and we were in the big smoke. Lots of smoke actually or more like smog! We forget how lucky we are in Australia to have clear skies...
I had pre booked all our transfers and transportation in Rome with RomeCabs who had come highly recommended via the Internet forums. In essence, we found out they are also a driver service so we found ourselves being chauffeured around in posh cars with suited drivers!! How fancy, not something we are used to but we liked it!

Anyway, after our driver met us at the airport (I never thought I would be the one to have their name on the driver's card but this time the driver's card did have our name on it so we looked for a driver carrying a card called DALEY and we were off). Our driver, Luca, spoke English as do most people in the industry in Rome and the other major cities in Italy. He took us to our apartment and we were officially in Rome. We could not get over the fact that our apartment was probably only 100 metres from the Colosseum.

This is us in front of our Rome apartment.

You can see Michael here getting comfortable in the apartment!

You can see in the photo above that the mobile multimedia came in handy. The portable DVD was a godsend and has been very useful keeping Michael entertained.

The photo below is really funny. We were accosted by these roman gladiators near the Colosseum who were offering to have photos taken. Once we took the photos, they politely asked for 20 Euro. This is $40 in our money! We were suckered in and to rub salt in the wound, I read later in my Rick Steve's Italy guide not to get caught in this trap. Oh well, part of the experience I guess. Michael enjoyed it. He now thinks that all Romans dress like that.

That same afternoon we walked around Rome and got lost. We had our mobile phone with Google Maps which was useless because of satellite coverage so there we were going around in circles. Lots of fun though cause we got to see lots of little areas you would not normally go to.

Michael decided that mummy and daddy need help so he got his very own map and we ended up doing it the old fashioned way, with a paper map! Technology is not all its cracked up to be!!

The next day we visited the Colosseum inside with a guided English speaking tour. That was really good for Trevor and Michael. The lines to get in to these places are massive, sometimes people wait up to 3 hours! Michael was already whinging so I knew this was not going to be easy. With a booked tour, you skip the line up and go straight through to the security check point. They screen you like at the airport then you are inside the majestic ruins of the Colosseum.

The Colosseum was as we all know used in the Roman empire as an theatre where brave gladiators fought the world's fiercest animals who were kept beneath the Colosseum for up to 3 weeks prior to a fight with no food, this made the show more interesting. The emperor would bring animals from all over the world to feature in the shows. Most never made it over the long trip and those that did got to fight and be slain in front of roaring crowds. Incidentally, women were not allowed to sit with men in the theatre, women sat alone in the very top rows unless they were the vestal virgins who had privilege. Gladiators fought and if they were good, after 7 years they could buy their freedom. The floors do not exist any more but they were made of wood, a particular type that was good for soaking up the blood, how lovely!

Well, that's the history lesson over but what a spectacle this monument is, it is absolutely massive and awesome to see.

In the photo below, you can see Michael wearing his tour commentary radio. It has been a long time for me between tours, the guides now give you these portable radios so that you can hear them better. In my day running tours, we had to shout!

We ate well in Rome, Trevor tried his favourite dish "Penne all'Arrabbiata" and he still says mum's is better!! Good one MUM!!
Michael has learned to read Gelato everywhere maybe because there is a Gelateria everywhere!!
The weather in Rome was warm so it made for good sightseeing.
Next post.....The City of the Renaissance, Florence!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Trip Away!

We finally made it to the day of our departure for our trip.

The day prior to leaving was full of checking lists, packing and re-packing! Being an obsessive compulsive organiser, it was hilarious to get to the moment we were meant to walk out the door to go to the airport, suitcases and various smaller bags in hand, child packed, husband packed, house all secured and I find that I was leaving the house in my slippers!

Just goes to show that despite the OCD, you can never be too organised or too stupid! Not sure which one applies to me.....

Michael and Trevor settled in well on the plane although within a very short time of being on the jumbo, Michael asked "Are we there yet?". This was a continuing saga from this point on.....

8 hours later, we arrived in Singapore which was a relief.

We had the Transit Hotel booked so we could get washed up and rested before attempting the dreaded 12 hour flight to Rome. We got some dinner at Burger King then headed off to bed for a 3 hour nap before getting the wake up call which we all knew meant that the merry go round was about to begin again.

12 hours to Rome were really tough. Michael slept very little, was sick and did not like the food so you can imagine that we were also counting down the hours to our arrival in Rome.

We arrived in Rome finally and made it to our next departure gate without too much fuss which is very unusual!

After arriving in Cagliari to stay with the relatives, we spent a few days pottering around town and also spent a day in Alghero, a small beachside town in the north of Sardinia. On the way we stopped in a forest to look at the sceneary.

Alghero - It is the place to be apparently if you are a hollywood star or very wealthy person. We went by ferry to the very famous "Neputes Grottos"or in italian "Grotte di Nettuno". By foot, the grottos took nearly one hour to visit and were spectacular.

Michael enjoyed his gelato in a small gelateria which made the best ice cream locally!!

More coming soon including photos with relatives, our trip to Rome and visit to the Colosseum!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Welcome to our travel Blog for our upcoming European Holiday.

To keep you all up to date with our adventures with lots of photos, log in regularly and leave us comments.

We look forward to sharing our experiences with you.