European Vacation Fall 2013 – Rome

European Dream Vacation

Deb and I took a dream vacation to Europe this in late September 2013. After our fabulous experience, we will be returning soon. This post is just one of five posts sharing the stories and images from our trip.

Rome, Italy – Saturday, September 28

Its Saturday 10:00PM Rome time and we finally arrived. We lost a day because we started on Friday mid-day. Even if we account for the 7 hour difference, it shouldn’t take 25+ hours to get to Rome from Peoria. Some of that is my fault because we flew through Heathrow before flying into Rome. The other part is on Alitalia. I was warned that Alitalia was notoriously late. True to form our 4:25 PM departure from London became 6:30 PM. Our driver must have been frustrated by the 2 hour delay too because he drove 100-110 km/h into Rome. Here we are in the back of a Mercedes racing through the busy streets of Rome at a high rate of speed. I thought I was going to die like Diana. But hey, we are here in Rome. Deb has returned to the mother land. Continue reading European Vacation Fall 2013 – Rome

European Vacation Fall 2013 – Vatican City

This is post two of five from our European Vacation in Fall 2013. This page is from our day in Vatican City and the trip to Florence.

Vatican City – Monday, September 30

People, people, people every where. What a genius move it was to sign up in advance for a skip the line tour of the Vatican. As we stepped out of the cab in the front entrance of Vatican City, we noticed what had to be over 10,000 people lined up outside the gates. We asked for directions to our tour starting point and learned we had to be on the other side of the city at the museum entrance. The atmosphere was like a World Series pregame where you had to dodge scalpers hocking their skip the line tickets every 50 yards or so. “No thanks. I’m good. No. I have tickets.” Well, I sure hoped our tickets will get us around all these people. As we maneuvered to the rear entrance, even more people waited in a line completely encircling the tall walls of the city state. We found our tour group in time and happily slid through the awaiting humanity into the Vatican. Thanks! Continue reading European Vacation Fall 2013 – Vatican City

European Vacation Fall 2013 – Tuscany

Tuscany Tuesday, October 1

The third of five posts from our fall vacation to Europe, this entry captures our wonderful day in Tuscany. We could not have dreamed of a better day to explore the Tuscan country side. On Tuesday, we took in the Tuscan cities of San Gimignano, Chianti, Siena, and Moneriggiani from our base in Florence. set us up on a full-day bus tour of the Tuscan countryside and these historic cities. Continue reading European Vacation Fall 2013 – Tuscany

European Vacation Fall 2013 – Florence

Florence – Wednesday, October 2

This is the fourth of five posts from our fall vacation to Europe. This entry captures our last day in Italy, exploring the historic city of Florence.

Wednesday turned out to be a day Dickens would appreciate because it was one of those best of times, worst of times days. OK, that might be a bit dramatic but we certainly went through an unexpected set of emotions.

We started the morning with a walking tour of Florence where we were given an art history lesson of Medieval and Renaissance art. No, that wasn’t what I thought we were getting but, hey, go with it. Right? Our guide, Mario, must be an art history teacher. Within minutes, he was calling out our names and quizzing us on the lessons he had imparted upon us. Kidding aside, his lessons made the sights of Florence more meaningful and a richer experience. We have all heard that the Renaissance was born in Florence but probably couldn’t explain or identify the differences, or understand what precipitated the change. Apparently it was the Black Plague that  is believed to have influenced the change in art. Continue reading European Vacation Fall 2013 – Florence

European Vacation Fall 2013 – London

London – Thursday, October 3

London Hilton Tower Bridge
This is the view from the executive lounge of the Hilton London Tower Bridge. Toto, we’re not in Italy any more.

This is the last of five posts from our trip to Europe in the fall of 2013. I already mentioned how long we stood in London customs. What a contrast to entering Italy. Italy was like, “come on in. Stay a while. Spend your money.” We had already been through London customs on Saturday, so we knew it wasn’t that loose but today was special. The line halted when we reached the mid point. Suddenly, there were only two agents checking people through and one guy was clearly struggling with his answers. Almost an hour later, more agents were active but that guy was still ineffectively trying to gain UK access with the customs agent next to ours. As our agent passed us through, I heard the disheartened agent say in her English understated tone “Trap door, trap door, where is my trap door.” Once we emerged from customs, we found our driver who informed us he was going to give us just another 10 minutes before leaving. Knowing we were tourists, he gave us a mini tour around Hyde Park, by Buckingham Palace, through Trafalgar Square, then up the River Thames by the IBM building, the Tower of London, over Tower Bridge, and finally our fifth hotel of the week, the Hilton Tower Bridge. After checking in, London weather gave us a London welcome. We had been on the go for nearly a week, so we decided to stay in and rest up for our final marathon day. Continue reading European Vacation Fall 2013 – London