Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Coliseum and The Roman Forum

Date: August 11th, 2012
Itinerary: Rome, Italy
Hotel:  Hotel Lancelot 

Happy 5th Anniversary to us!  This was a day we were very much looking forward to...what better way to spend a special anniversary than touring the famous Colloseum and the Roman Forum!  We spent the extra money on the upgraded tour with access to the underground area and the upper tiers.  It was well worth the cost and the tour was very interesting.

We learned that the Colosseum was actually called The Flavian Amphitheatre and it used to have a covering.  This made us consider Regina's potential new stadium.  If the Romans could do it thousands of years ago, then we should be able to do it now!  We also learned about the various entrances and the rules for seating.  For example, women were allowed to attend but had to stand in the upper tiers.  The wealthy entered through one particular gate number and had prime seating (of course).

We REALLY enjoyed this tour and managed to take some interesting photos.  We also enjoyed the Roman Forum and all the buildings that still remain after thousands of years.  It's hard to comprehend how old everything is even as you stand amongst the ruins.  We were in awe and took a lot of photos.  With that said, here are several and I'll try providing some captions to describe everything

On the main floor of the Coliseum overlooking the underground areas that are now exposed.
At some point in history, a Pope decided that the Colosseum had religious significance.
Roman Numerals denoting the gate number.  These are only readable on a small section that is cleaned.  The rest of the building is covered in a layer of pollution and you can not read these numbers.

Underground - This is where gladiators and animals were housed until they fought.  They were lifted up via trap doors into the arena. 
A recent addition - A replication of what the main floor would have looked like.

The underground maze of rooms and hallways.

Picture from the Roman Forum looking towards the Colosseum.
More ancient ruins at the Roman Forum

At The Roman Forum

That's a big pizza pie!

At the Pantheon

Monday, September 17, 2012

Vatican City and The Sistine Chapel

Date: August 10, 2012
Itinerary: Vatican City and Sistine Chapel Tour

Our first full day in Rome was our tour of Vatican City including The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.  We did a tour for this particular sightseeing and it was well worth the money for a couple of reasons.  First, the line was VERY long and it was extremely hot outside.  Second, there was so much to see and we wouldn't have had a clue what we were actually looking at without a guide.

By the way, to get to our meeting point, we took the Rome subway and were quite proud of ourselves for making it there on time.  Of course, there were some slight navigational bumps along the way as I am sure many of you can relate to if you've every traveled with your significant other.

Our tour guide was an American Art History major named Michael..who knows..maybe he'll read this someday!  If he does, thanks for guiding us through the crazed crowds of Vatican fanatics.  It was a very busy time to see the Vatican and Micheal did a great job of showing us around amongst the large crowds.

It has only been a month or so and I can barely remember everything we saw at the Vatican.  I do recall a great amount of amazing art pieces and paintings including the most fantastic tapestries I am sure I will see in all of my life.  St. Peter's Basilica was an astoundingly beautiful church with dozens of statues including the Statue of St. Peter.  Apparently if you touch his foot, you will be forgiven of all your sins.  Let's just say that I have a clean slate as of last month!

The best part of the tour was seeing the Sistine Chapel and unfortunately photos are not allowed due to copyright issues.  I thought they weren't allowed because of possibly damage to the paintings but that wasn't the reason at all!  The chapel itself was smaller than I expected and it was mostly empty except for the droves of people who snuck photos and chatted like school children and were told to "Be Quiet" and shushed repeatedly.

Harry Wong (author of First Days of School) wouldn't have been impressed with the lack of discipline in that chapel!  Regardless of all the external disturbances, I certainly enjoyed craning my neck upwards for a good 15 minutes and checking out the impressive works of Michelangelo.  After learning about the art when I was in high school and seeing photos and videos over the years, it was so amazing to see the frescoes in person.  That was kind of a theme for our trip to Italy in fact.  It was simply awesome to see all of these famous places in person and we were not at all disappointed.

Photos depicting the paintings in the Sistine Chapel.  Photos are not allowed inside.
One of dozens of paintings inside Raphael's Rooms

One of the amazing tapestries..look at the detail and vivid colour!
The Swiss Guard wearing their uniforms designed by Michelangelo
St. Peter's Basilica

Next up on our trip was the tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.  We took the upgraded tour to see the underground and top floors so we managed to get some excellent photos.  I haven't had much time to even check them out myself so I am looking forward to that blog post too!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Our Trip to Italia: Roma, Italy

Date: August 8th, 2012
Itinerary: Fly from Regina to Toronto to Rome

Date: August 9th, 2012
Itinerary: Arrive in Roma, Italy
Hotel:  Hotel Lancelot

It's time to start writing about our trip to Italy before I forget everything!  In writing these blog posts, I already know that I'll need to google some additional information and do a bit of research to recall everything we saw, learned, and experienced.  I didn't feel like we were overwhelmed by the pace of our tours or activities but we definitely saw a lot and did a lot!  I am going to try writing a post for each day or two because we took tons of pictures and there is a lot to share.   Here we go!

We left Regina on August 8th and I managed to hold back the tears as we boarded the airplane.  I was thrilled and excited about our trip to Italy but a bit heartbroken about leaving my little ones for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!  I mean, that's a long time when I hadn't been away for more than a couple of days before.  Now, onto the actual flight...I recovered from my sadness quickly and Jeremy and I synced our in-seat screens so we could watch the Hunger Games together.  We both enjoyed the books and hadn't had a chance to see the movie wasn't exactly the big screen and popcorn would have been nice but it was sort of like a date!

The flights were excellent although neither of us slept much while we watched others lounge in empty seats across the aisle from us.  We looked at them enviously and I tuned into a few movies while Jeremy tried to sleep without much success.

When we finally arrived in Rome, we were rushed through the passport check without a passport stamps in our passports..we were rather disappointed.  Italians just don't seem to have a filter on who they allow in their country.  We took a taxi to our hotel, Hotel Lancelot, and we were in total awe of the amazing structures we saw on the way!  It might be worth mentioning that neither of us had been to Europe before so we were very impressed by the ancient ruins we saw along the way.

Ancient Roman Ruins
The Colosseum or The Flavian Amphitheatre
Near the Colosseum - Arch of Constantine
Impressive Architecture
Vittorio Emanuele Monument aka The Wedding Cake
When we arrived at the hotel, it was late morning yet we were both exhausted.  We did what everyone says NOT to do and had a nap...we were almost two days without sleep and wouldn't have enjoyed wandering around Rome in hot temperatures with no sleep.  Besides, the hotel staff were excellent and allowed us to check in early so we were happy to have time to rest and to freshen up.  After a bit of sleep, we went for a walk past the Colosseum and to Trevi Fountain...we just wandered around and found ourselves in all sorts of famous places.  We were also amused to find vendors selling everything from mini-Colosseums to squeaky slime.  That's right!  Apparently squeaky slime is a big hit with tourists ...although those sellers weren't as aggressive as the man who gave me roses as a "gift" after shoving them in my hands and then asked Jeremy for money.  There are tons of non-Italians in Italy trying to make money off of the droves of tourists.  It was mostly amusing and only occasionally annoying.

At Trevi Fountain - A very impressive sight!
We must have walked several miles that day and eventually ended up at a lovely restaurant called That's Amore.  We both ordered pastas and it was excellent!  We also had dessert afterward and they were AMAZING...if you go to Rome, go to this restaurant for a meal and make sure to order dessert.  It was fantastic and ended up being the best dessert we had the whole time we were in Italy.  We also made a habit out of looking up each and every restaurant on other travelers' reviews is a great way to choose the best restaurants and avoid the poor ones.

That's amore Restaurant near the Trevi Fountain
After a lot of walking around (and gawking at everything), we headed back to our hotel for the evening as our next day would take us on a tour of the Vatican.  That post will be up next!

Vittorio Emanuele Monument - The Big White Wedding Cake
The Colosseum at Night

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Roughriders SGI Play It Safe Day!

Dear poor neglected blog...I'm back!  Well, at least for an occasional blog post as this fall is looking extremely busy.  However, I am determined to at least blog about our amazing summer and our fantastic trip to Italy in particular.  Yep..we managed to survive for two weeks without the kids..and them without us.  There were moments it was difficult on both sides but I truly believe it was good for all of us...couples need time to reconnect and kids need time with their grandparents.

Back to the topic of the day as there will be many posts and photos about Italy to come.  We attended the SGI Play it Safe Day yesterday.  If you aren't from Saskatchewan, it's a day where you can watch the Riders do a walkthrough, get autographs, eat some free food and check out various community services.  The kids had a fun time and were totally exhausted by the time we left..they both napped for 3 hours afterward which is pretty much unheard of these days.

We were impressed with all the great freebies and a bit surprised by how quiet things were yesterday compared to the past couple of years.  I guess the five game losing streak may have affected attendance..or possibly the change to starting school after Labour Day has kept people out of the city. Either way, it was kind of nice that things were less crazy although I am sure the organization would have preferred that!

Without further ado, here are some photos from the day!

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