Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011-07-14 Roma Day 3

Another amazing day in Rome -- After another amazing Bible study by Hannah, had breakfast together at the hotel (they put us together in an "upper room" today!), then set off on foot to shop and stop and tour the area. We all split up in groups today. Walked down Via de Corsa and stopped at several stores and piazzas. Then met up with everyone at 2 at Trevi Fountain, and went to lunch at an amazing spighetti place. Went back to the hotel for a minute, then left again and went over the water to an area where not much was happening, so back to Via de Corsa. Met everyone at the Spanish Steps at 7, where we had an amazing dinner and goodbye celebration at a restaurant where they actually remembered Gary, me, Christa and Daniel from a few years ago!!! We then went back to Piazza Navone where the action was, and walked up and down and soaked in the amazing sights, sounds, and smells! Back to pack, to try to get ready for an early morning departure towards home!

2011-07-13 Roma Day 2

Our second day in Rome! Had an amazing breakfast at our hotel, and then the excitement began. We waited and waited for our tour bus to come, but it couldn't get through our street because of the pedestrian area. After several phone calls and walking back and forth three blocks to find the tour bus, we finally connected an hour after the tour was supposed to start, only to find out our tour guide was MIA!!! We contacted the tour agency and after some sketchy Italian and English communications, we finally got a guide scheduled for after our Vatican tour. Off to the Vatican on our own to tour. Went to the Sistine Chapel. Went to St. Peter's, grabbed a panini at a roadside stand, and connected with Emmanuale, a FANTASTIC GUIDE, who took us through St. Peter's. We then went to the Colosseum and the Forum and through a large part of the city. Parted at 6:30 p.m., and then walked to a great spighettaria where we had dinner. Then walked the rest of the way back to our hotel, stopping at Piazza Navone on the way. Hung out there awhile, then went to the rooftop of the hotel to go over the amazing day...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Roma Day 1

Went to the train station via water taxi and waited there awhile for our train. It was a little crazy when we got on the wrong car of the train and had to move quickly to go to the other side of the train, but we all got on the train in the end! We got to our amazing hotel in Rome right by the Pantheon -- then we walked to Trevi Fountain, where we had an amazing lunch panini at a great place there, followed by a gelato and a LOT of granitas (lemon slushes!)... it was about 95 degrees!!! Then we walked over by the water, where we shopped and took a ton of pictures. Then to Navone Piazza for a great dinner and then back to our hotel. We walked so much we were all exhausted!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Venezia Day Three

We started out with an early Bible study by Gary, followed by breakfast at the hotel. Then off to Doge's Palace tour. It was amazing; we spent about 1.5 hours wandering around reading signs and exploring rooms. Then we went and caught a boat to Lido Island, where we ate lunch at a really good pizzeria there. After several slushes and waters, we made it to the beach. Mostly everyone went swimming, and a few people rented a boat with a slide to go in the sea with. Caught a boat back to Venezia, then a few people went shopping and others went to get ready for our gondola ride. Gary and I went and scoped out where we needed to check in. Went for the gondola ride, with Channel 2 catching up with us to take photos. The ride was so fun! Our music was incredible; the accordion playing and our comical singer almost falling out of the boat twice and getting hit in the head when he forgot to duck at a bridge (whether it was a joke or not is still up for debate! haha). Went to dinner at an amazing trattoria, then walked around as long as we could stay awake. Sat and listened to the bands playing in St. Mark's Square and drank a de-caf cappuccino. Came back and packed up to leave tomorrow...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2011-07-10 Venezia, Day Two

Today we had a GREAT start with a pretty nice European-style breakfast at the hotel. We then went on a half day walking tour of Venice and learned a LOT about the city. We walked everywhere, rode a gondola across the canal, and ended our tour at the Jewish Ghetto here. We got a wonderful lunch at another Italian restaurant! complete with Tiramisu then walked back to the hotel and split up and every one did some shopping, napping, island hopping and whatever struck their fancy. Got back together for dinner, gelato and some fun, dancing, and walking around St. Mark's Square.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2011-07-09 Venezia!!!!

Venice is AMAZING. Took the train first thing this morning from Torontola-Cortona train station, then took a second train from Florence to Venice. When we landed, coming by water taxi to our hotel was so impressive. It is a sight you just never forget. We walked until we were all ready to drop. Took loads of pictures. We shopped and looked around for awhile then headed back to the hotel to get things together for tomorrow!

Friday, July 8, 2011

2011-07-08 Ballooning and Bicycling in Tuscany!

We got up soooooo early and made it to our hot air balloon ride! It was AMAZING to soar above the beautiful cities in Tuscany. We landed right near a huge sunflower field! We had an amazing lunch there after winding up the balloon, and then drove right back to be picked up for the bicycle tour! Everyone was EXHAUSTED and was SLEEPING trying to get l/2 hour rest in before the tour! We were SOOO tired, but the bicycle ride was AMAZING until Daniel got stung in the inside of his LIP by a WASP while riding his bike! Since he had previously had an allergic reaction to a wasp bite, we were really concerned (PLUS his growing lip wasn't looking good), but we thank GOD that it went down pretty fast and all we had was a benadryl. We had an amazing lunch overlooking the fields of Montisi, then learned about olive oil making and had an olive oil tasting! Back to Villa Scopetello to catch up and then out for an amazing dinner at DiFornello in Sinalunga. Then everyone packed and got ready for ANOTHER early start tomorrow to head to Venezia!

2011-07-07 Hiking in Cinque Terra

We were up at the crack of dawn again to catch an early morning tour leaving from Florence. Got on the tour bus and headed to Cinque Terra, where we did the amazing hikes to the different villages there. The hike was pretty demanding and it was very hot, but the views made it all worthwhile! Swam in the Mediterranean Sea and had lunch there, and walked around and toured the area. Took a boat ride back, caught a train, jumped on the bus, and back to Florence. We had dinner at a cute little streetside trattoria, and then a few gelatos and back to Villa Scopetello at about 1 a.m.!!! Had to get to bed quickly because we had to get up at 4:30 a.m. the next day for the rescheduled balloon ride!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011-07-06 Cancelled Balloon Ride and Cooking Lesson!

We got up VERY EARLY to get ready and get to the hot air balloon ride. We had quite a ride there, getting lost and going all over the place. Only to find out that the fog was too dense to go up in the air! A big disappointment, but we handled it well.

We went back to the Villa and back to bed! When we woke up we went to Sinalunga for lunch and found an amazing pizzeria. We finished lunch with a Nutella pizza! We then went back to the Villa to meet Elisa for our cooking lesson. The girls made an AMAZING dinner: summer minestrone soup, summer pepper soup with croutons, ricotta and spinach dumplings, homemade noodles tagliatelle and pesto, flourless chocolate cake and white chocolate mousse with peaches. The boys played tennis and hung out at the pool. They went and picked up a few groceries.

We got together and had an amazing dinner and fascinating discussion. It was unbelievable! Now we have to get some rest because tomorrow is going to be a long hiking day at Cinque Terra!~

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2011-07-05 Monteriggioni, San Gimignano & Siena

We had an amazing day. Started out with an INCREDIBLE family photo op now that Jesse and Amber are here. Great Bible study by Michael & Bethany on what God expects of US. Grabbed a fast breakfast here and then out the door to Monteriggioni. It was great to shop there, walk the wall a little, take some pictures and head out to San Gimignano. In San Gimignano we had lunch at an Osteria just inside the wall, split up and shopped and went to museums and then met back at the square. Then off to Siena. Siena was VERY challenging to find a parking space, and we ended up at the top of the hill driving into crowds on very narrow streets, and I have to say I was definitely riding the clutch with Gary's 9-passenger van behind me and the people and alley in front of me. We parked and enjoyed the entire rest of the day in Siena. Had a great dinner at a cute little Osteria, then back to our car to find TWO parking tickets each! We are going to work on getting off these, because we have NO IDEA why we have them!!! Came home and Hannah cut up a watermelon and we all hung out talking and eating watermelon, and now the boys are watching a movie!

Monday, July 4, 2011

2011-07-04 Fun in Montepulciano, Arezzo & Cortona

What fun we had -- started out with breakfast in Sinalunga, then grocery shopping, then back to Villa Scopetello. We then headed out to Montepulciano, an old walled town. We bought some pottery pieces there, had a good lunch and toured the town It was awesome to drive up the hill in our 15-passenger truck -- hard to even pass a car since the roads are so narrow. It was VERY interesting when we ended up in a PIAZZA (square) where there were no cars allowed! ha! Gary did well backing up and getting back on the road again. Went to Arezzo, where we shopped down a few streets and walked around. Then off to Cortona for dinner and gelato. We got home really late (about 11 p.m.) and AMBER AND JESSE were there -- joining us for the rest of the trip!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

2011-07-03 A Day in Florence

We got up early, had an amazing Bible study on Faith by Danny and Lizzy, and then we headed out for Florence, about 1.25 hours away. We piled into the same van and hit the streets. Did a lot of bargain shopping, wheeling and dealing on prices, ate gelato and pizza, drank cappuccino and espresso, and had an all around amazing day. We went to several piazzas, Ponte Vecchio, and Michaelangelo piazza. We saw the Santa Dominica Church and went to the Accademia Museo to see the statue of David. Cruised home in time for a few of the guys to jump into the pool and watch a movie, while others read.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Salve Italia!

After leaving at 7 p.m. July 1, at about 10 a.m. July 2 we landed in Roma, Italia! It is amazing here! We connected with Hannah and Gabriel at the airport and drove to get our rental cars. After an "authentic" Italian lunch, we drove to Villa Scopetello, our home for the week. It is an AMAZING place -- beautiful orchards of olive trees, flowers everywhere, grapevines, awesome outdoor pool (which Danny & Lizzy jumped right into WITH their clothes on IN the rain!!), beautiful arches, tennis court, and AMAZING spacious accommodations. We toured with the host, and then were treated to a wood-burned pizza party with SEVERAL different Italian pizzas. Drove into Lucignano for gelato and are now going to catch up on some sleep we missed in the plane! Buona notte!!!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hiking at Bryce; Rappelling at Zion

What an amazing few days we had hiking in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah. Bryce is amazing -- you can't even imagine ever seeing anything like it and photos can't even capture the beauty. I felt it was like Sedona on steroids (and I LOVE Sedona!). The longer you hiked, the more amazing the canyons and sculpted rocks opened up. I will never forget this place and can't wait to come back!

Rappelling was CRAZY AWESOME. I was SO SCARED to back up over the ledge of an over 80-foot canyon. By the time I reached the bottom, it was so exhilarating I was shaking like a leaf from the excitement! By the time we did the third cliff, I was pushing off the edges and felt so much more in control! I am SO GLAD I didn't chicken out!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

We went for a last minute trip to Las Vegas. It was so awesome that Pastors Jeff and Diana Budzinski invited Daniel to share his vision for Compassionate Touch International ( at their Church. Daniel had a great word for the congregation from Nehemiah and Ezra. It was a moving time at the altar making new commitments. Seeing Jeff and Daniel and Diana all ministering together was powerful.

We went to a very sad goodbye dinner for Gary given by a few of his HP friends and associates. It was very emotional for me to say goodbye to such wonderful people that have been such a huge and amazing part of our lives.

It was wonderful to be with Gary's parents and Jeff and Diana's family. We are so happy when we can see them and cherish any time we can spend with them!