Traveling: The Power, the Beauty, and the Glory, or Three Churches and How Their Architecture and Design Tells a Story

During our 2010 trip to Europe, we visited a few churches. Being raised Catholic is one reason why we made sure we visited them; being history majors was another reason. Churches of the Middle Ages are more than just places of worship. They were landmarks most of the cities were built around. They were the meeting places of the masses. Since most of those masses were uneducated during this time, the Churches served another purpose. They told the story of Christ through their windows and their art. They also told a story through their architecture.

We are not experts in architecture. Yet, when we visited Notre Dame in Paris, The Duomo in Florence, and St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City we came away with different feelings about the Church.

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Eating: Beet and Lime Gelato at La Divina Gelateria

La Divina Gelateria

La Divina Gelateria (Photo credit: nerdling)

I am all about eating healthy as often as I can. I know I should eat more vegetables. This why I couldn’t pass up the Beet and Lime gelato from La Divina Gelateria on Magazine Street the other night.

Let’s not quibble about what form the vegetables took.

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Traveling: The Accademia! The Uffizi! and More!

Our second full day in Florence was a museum day specifically dealing with the Accademia and the Uffizi. We hadn’t planned on going to either one and the lines are terribly long to get into both of them. I convinced Cristina we needed to find tickets by any means necessary. Using Viator.com, we were able to buy a package, an expensive one, which included guided tours to both.

Due to the inconsistent bus pick up times, we actually got to Florence proper extremely early. We decided to kill time by getting breakfast which for me consisted of a prosciutto, mozzarella and egg sandwich which was great way to start the day. Boiled eggs and Tuscan ham are a great combination.

Still having time to kill before our visit to the Accademia, we toured the San Marco Museum. A great little museum with a fascinating collection of paintings from Fra Angelico. In fact, the Museum is a former monastery with the cells containing many of the paintings. We were both glad we had the extra time to take in this museum.

We then went wait outside the Accademia. We noticed how much graffiti was on the wall. One piece of graffiti really caught our attention. Right next door to the main entrance was written the words that identify anyone from our little corner of the world: “Who Dat!” We looked at each other incredulously.  Today was really shaping up to be a great day.

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Traveling: We Have a Favorite and it’s Florence

Piazza della Signoria with Palazzo Vecchio

Piazza della Signoria with Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

Without a doubt, Florence was my favorite city of our grand Europe tour. If you offered me a job in Florence tomorrow and had already worked out the living arrangements, I would contact a realtor on my way to the airport.

We arrived late in the afternoon exhausted from riding the trains all day. The hotel was actually outside the city – not a mistake I would make a again – so we had to take a taxi. Riding in a car in Italy is, by the way, very close to riding a thrill ride. We traveled a lot by car in Italy and all drivers were the same: fast and furious. Once we arrived at the hotel, we decided to stay in. We also had an extra day in our Italian itinerary, so, fraught with worry that I wouldn’t see everything, I convinced Cristina to spend the extra day here. Florence didn’t let my faith down.
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Traveling: Mistakes Were Made

So, our Europe trip was an amazing success. We did our research on everything from what to visit to what shoes to wear. It was almost a perfect trip. Almost.

Mistakes were made. Words were flown. Tears were shed. In other words, it wasn’t a perfect trip.

Mistake number one came in London. We forgot our ticket for a bus excursion trip to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. I decided to go back and get it. Cristina decided to stay near the Victoria Station and get some breakfast. Well, somewhere along the way, Cristina lost her jacket. It was a nice little jacket that zipped inside itself. She had it tied to her purse and it just fell. She retraced her steps to no avail. Somewhere, someone is walking the streets of London in the rain wearing her jacket. To make it worse, we didn’t need the tickets.

Luggage for Our Europe Trip

While it doesn’t look like much, our luggage was quite heavy if you are walking city blocks

My memory and directions that I wrote failed me in Paris. When we emerged from the Metro, we took a wrong turn. We walked about four blocks before I noticed. Carrying the luggage made this a bad experience. The next morning, we had a nice little fight in the rain in front of a breakfast café near the Eiffel Tower. We were both tired and grumpy. We both have no idea what the fight was about (even though I would bet it is somewhere in Cristina’s journal). We did end up having breakfast in that café, albeit a quiet one. Finally, the one museum I wanted to see in Paris besides the Louvre was the Musée d’Orsay. I forgot to find out what days it was open. Turns out the day we planned to go there was not one of them. Disneyland was a mistake, but it wasn’t the park’s fault. We were just too exhausted to enjoy it. We should have gone there straight from London and then toured Paris.

Zurich, however, was a mistake. This is the one time my MetrO app let me down. I knew what tram to take but had no idea how to catch it. Plus, the tickets were coin only at the stop we were at and we didn’t have change. We walked, and walked, and walked. We then went to look for a bite to eat, but we forgot to mortgage our house. We found a sandwich shop that made decent sandwiches at twenty francs a piece. Our sandwiches weren’t much higher class than a Subway sandwich.  The franc at the time was roughly equal to the dollar. The next morning, we had the hotel call for a taxi. A Lexus pulled up and charged  us another twenty francs to drive us to the train station. Now, I said we walked a lot, but it wasn’t that far away. We just had our luggage with us. Let’s just say, that would have been a cheaper cab ride in most American cities. In fact, we took much longer taxi trips in Florence and Rome that cost much less. I’m sure Zurich is beautiful. We have already decided that when we do it again, Switzerland might be its own trip.

Florence was beautiful, but our hotel was not actually in Florence. There was a bus that took is into the city, and the ladies behind the desk explained to us how the bus system worked and where to buy tickets.  While, I have no problems with the hotel at all, next time I would shill out the extra money to stay in Florence especially since that is a walking city.

We hadn’t planned on going to Pescara. I had no research on it. We booked a room in the Best Western while we were in Florence. We printed out walking directions according to Google. We arrived at Pescara and there is no one that can speak English.  We walked for about a half hour before we found someone to help us. We still had trouble finding it. Come to find out, it was across the street from the train station and then about two blocks. Google did warn me the directions were in Beta. The directions are now a lot simpler.

In Rome, I think I got swindled by a cab driver. I gave them a twenty and he said I gave him a ten. I don’t have proof, but I swear I’m right.

Cristina’s cousin had told her he lived next to Milan and was a short train ride away from the fashion capital. In the grand size of Europe this is correct. In practical terms, it was too great of a distance to do any sightseeing in Milan. This hurt since we had to eat the tickets we bought to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper. However, they were gracious hosts and treated us to some great homemade lasagna and pizza.

The rest of the trip was mostly smooth sailing with a few glitches. I wouldn’t go straight from Innsbruck to Prague again. That was an eight-hour train ride which almost didn’t happen due to late trains. In Amsterdam, eating outside caused me to come down with heat exhaustion.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe

However, errors can lead to wonders.  Due to the d’Orsay being closed, we got to stroll down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées at a nice leisurely pace.  I even sat on a park bench that was older than my country.  The bus ride in Florence allowed us to see parts of Florence we wouldn’t have plus we had a great view of the mountains from the hotel.  Getting lost in Pescara allowed us to see a football celebration and a wedding party emerge from a church.  Sometimes, mistakes are the best thing that could happen.