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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Now what?

Well, that about wraps up our honeymoon recaps.  I was hoping that by the time I finished with those, we'd have our professional photos back so that I could start actual wedding recaps.  No such luck.  

At the wedding, our photographer said it would be four weeks until we had our photos.  Four weeks was on Saturday.  Being the incredibly patient person that I am, I waited until Monday to email him.  ;)  He told me that he's been super swamped (which I've seen on his Facebook page!) and that they probably wouldn't be done until next week.  
Next week!?  What will I do with myself until then?!  Okay, so I'll probably survive.  I don't know how other brides do it when their pro pics take months to be finished!  

Anywho, Howie (the photographer) gave me a few of our thank you parasol shots to use so that I can actually get our thank you cards ordered.  And since you've all patiently waited with me for pro pics, I'll share these with you.  :)  

I had originally planned to do the top photo in the middle of several other pro photos (not thank you parasol photos), but since it's going to be even longer before the pro photos are done, I think I'm just going to do the top photo by itself.  Thoughts?

Hotel Sant'Angelo Review

We stayed at Hotel Sant'Angelo for two nights.  We actually booked through  It was in a great location near Vatican City but not too far away from the Colosseum/Forum area.  The staff was incredibly helpful and friendly.  The room was clean and actually really nice.  It was decorated with antiques and had kind of a castle vibe.  They had free breakfast but we had to leave really early both days we were there so I can't say how that is.  

There is honestly actually only one bad thing I can say about this hotel.  The shower in our bathroom was tiny.  I'm only 5'3 and 110 pounds.  I could barely move in the shower.  I had to do some impressive acrobatics just to be able to shave my legs.  And some SUPER impressive acrobatics when I accidentally dropped my razor!  I have no idea how Philip was even able to wash himself in that shower (he's 6'0 and 175 pounds).

Pros: Clean, Great Location, Friendly Staff, Good Vibe, Free Breakfast

Cons: Tiny Shower

Even though showering in the morning was a hassle, I still give this hotel a 4 out of 5.  I'd definitely recommend it.  Just keep that tiny shower in mind if you're a large person! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hotel H2C Review

We stayed at the H2C Hotel Napoli for two nights.  It was probably one of my favorite parts of Naples!  The hotel was CLEAN, unlike the rest of the city.  It's actually a four star hotel, but I'm not really sure why.  Yes, it was clean and modern, but it was the same size or even smaller than some of the rooms we stayed in.  

One issue I had was with the cleaning lady walking in on us at about 5:00pm.  No knocking or anything.  She just walked in like it was her room.  She got a good look at Philip's bare bottom.  We had checked in hours earlier, so I don't know what she thought she was doing.  It irritated me a bit.  

Pros:  Clean, Modern, Good Breakfast, Nice Restaurant

Cons:  It's in Naples, Security?

I'd give the hotel a 3.5 out of 5.  It was clean and relatively comfortable.  The staff was mediocre at best.  The food was good.  If you absolutely have to stay overnight in Naples, I'd recommend this hotel.  However, I really recommend that you choose a different city to stay in!

The honeymoon is over... time for some hell.

We woke up early the next morning.  We had to catch our shuttle bus to the airport at 7:00.  We were assured that we didn't need cash.  We walked the few blocks to the bus stop (while dragging 5 pieces of luggage -- 2 large pieces, 2 carry-ons, and 1 new duffle since we'd bought so much stuff!).  When we arrived, the driver was the only person to be paid and he only took cash.  There wasn't an ATM nearby, so we had to wait for the next bus.  I waited with our luggage while Philip went to find an ATM.  

The next bus was scheduled to arrive at 8am.  It didn't arrive until 8:35am.  Then there was traffic and we arrived at the airport about 45 minutes later than we were supposed to.  Not only that, but we were dropped off at arrivals instead of departures.  So, we then had to figure out where to go.  Then we had to take another shuttle to a different terminal.

When we arrived at that terminal, we had to wait over half an hour in line so that we could have our passports checked.  Then we had to wait in line to get our tickets and check our luggage.  Then we had to go through security.  Then we had to take another shuttle to another terminal.  Then we had to go up two flights of stairs.  Finally, we were at our gate.  It was only about 15 minutes until we were supposed to take off.  We waited in line to have our tickets scanned.  Then we walked another 10 feet and someone else checked our passports and tickets.  Then we walked down two flights of stairs and got on another shuttle.  It took us to our airplane.  Then we boarded the plane.  All of that happened in just over an hour and a half!  It was exhausting!

You'd think that would be the end of the adventure, but not so much.  When everyone was finally seated, we were running behind (obviously!  How that airport functions on a daily basis, I have no idea!).  We got in line at the runway and waited our turn.  Well, when our turn came, the brakes on the plane were too hot for us to take off so then we had to wait another half an hour for them to cool before we could take off!  Phew!  It's a long day already!

Finally, we began our 10 hour flight.  We didn't allow ourselves to sleep because we wanted to be on the right schedule when we arrived in the U.S.  We watched some movies and I read a book.  

When we landed, we had just over an hour to get through customs, go back through security, and board our plane.  Customs in Charlotte is just awful.  They had 3 tellers open for an enormous amount of people.  It took far longer than it should have.  But, we made it through.  We found our luggage and re-checked it for our flight to Indianapolis.  Then, we went back through security.  Again, it took way longer than it should have.  We arrived at our gate with about 10 minutes to spare.  Unfortunately, they still weren't even boarding.  

Let me tell you something about me and flying.  I cannot remember the last time I was on a plane that took off and landed at the time it was supposed to.  It just doesn't happen for me. 

Anyway, we took off I think about half an hour late.  When we finally arrived in Indianapolis, I was exhausted.  It must've been around 8pm.  So, at that point, we had been up for over 20 hours.  We met my parents at the baggage claim and then started our two hour drive to their house.  We spent the time talking about our trip and the drive actually went quickly.  

When we arrived, I was so excited to see our pups.  It had been a long time since I'd seen them last!  We said our goodnights and then Philip and I went to bed with all four of our pups on the bed with us.  I enjoyed our honeymoon, but boy was I glad to be back in the U.S.!

Our last day in Italy...

[I took a bunch of photos.  Only my favorites are shown here.  To see more, go HERE.] 

When we left Vatican City, we decided to head towards the Trevi fountain.  Unfortunately, we took the scenic route and made a wrong turn somewhere along the way.  We ended up way South of where we were supposed to.  

That was okay with us though.  We got to see a lot of things that we otherwise wouldn't have.  Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I'm sure of it.  There is just so much to see.  I mean, just look at some of these absolutely beautiful buildings and bridges:


I just love it.  :)  Anyway, we wandered and wandered and wandered.  We finished up our shopping (some olive oil, some souvenirs, some pasta, etc.) and then decided that we needed to go back down to the forum and the Colosseum to say goodbye.  Mind you, this was quite a ways and it was getting late.  But, it was our last night in Italy, so we did it. 

As beautiful as Rome is during the day, I think it's even more breathtaking at night.  

Especially the Colosseum.  It just doesn't get any better.  :)

Finally, we headed back towards our hotel.  I snapped a few shots of the bridge as we crossed back over the river.  It's just a simple bridge, but even it is beautiful. 

When we got back to our hotel, I packed everything back up carefully in our luggage.  I had to wrap bottles in clothing to make sure they wouldn't break.  And then I hoped really hard that they'd all make it safely back to the U.S.! 

Pristine Sistine Tour

[Again, I took a ton of photos.  Only the best are on the blog.  If you want to see the rest, please go HERE.]

We woke up bright and early for our Vatican City tour.  We chose the Pristine Sistine - The Chapel at its Best tour through Walks of Italy.  We had to meet by 7:30am.  It was a bit of a walk to get there, so we had to leave before 7am.  We stopped by a Pasticeria to get a quick breakfast and then we were on our way.  

When we arrived, we were herded into a group (there were 3 groups leaving that morning).  We had 10 people in our group (remember, there is a maximum of 12).  We walked up to the Vatican and got in line.  At first I was disappointed.  There were already tons of people in line.  We got to get in an hour early because we were with a tour group, but so did every other tour group there.  I was a bit miffed at the misleading description on the tour website.

However, when we got inside, we immediately got our headphones and went straight to the Sistine Chapel.  We skipped over a ton of stuff to get there before everyone else.  When we arrived at the Sistine Chapel, we were the only group inside.  We sat down on benches and our tour guide told us everything about the chapel.  How it was painted, when it was, how long it took, etc, and a ton of other info on Popes and Michelangelo.  We probably spent almost an hour in there.  
This was a big deal for me.  The last time I saw the Sistine Chapel, we were allowed only a few minutes inside.  It was REALLY crowded and the guards wouldn't let us talk.  So, this time, I actually enjoyed the Sistine Chapel (sorry, no photos allowed).  

When we finished there, we walked through the rest of Vatican City.  There is so much to see!  The guide told us that if we spent just one minute looking at every item inside, we'd spend over 12 years straight inside!  Phew!  That's a lot of stuff.  So, obviously we didn't see everything or spend a ton of time looking at stuff (besides the chapel).  

However, we did see a lot.  Here's a peek:

One of my favorite items (besides the chapel) was Michelangelo's Pieta.  It's beautifully done (just as everything Michelangelo did is!).  

Look at all the detail!  Can you imagine carving this from a block of stone??  It's absolutely amazing!  They say that when Michelangelo finished, there was lots of talk about who had done work and rumors flew.  Well, Michelangelo wanted credit for it, so he snuck into St. Peter's Basilica several nights in a row to carve his name into Mary's sash.  He was in such a hurry that he actually spelled his name wrong the first time and had to correct it!
Michelangelo's name on the Pieta.
Soon after, we finished up our tour.  Then we stopped at the Vatican City Post Office to buy stamps to send out our postcards.  

Philip was super thrilled about it.  lol
Then we went on a short journey to find a Vatican City shot glass (Philip thought it would be amusing).  We eventually found one and then it was time to go back to exploring Roma!

Back to Roma!

[Only my favorite photos are posted on this blog.  You can see the rest HERE.]

When we finished with Pompeii, we rode the train back to Naples.  We were in a much crappier train this time.  It kept stopping and couldn't get going again.  I don't know what that was about.  On our way, we passed a giant trash city.  Houses made out of garbage.  At least that garbage was being used for something.

When we actually got back to Naples, we got our tickets for the next morning's train ride.  We made sure we were booked in first class that time!  Then we wandered around the city some more.  I beg you, if you are considering a trip to Naples, RECONSIDER.  The place is disgusting.  I had to watch the sidewalk as we walked down the street to make sure I wasn't going to step on dog poo.  The city smelled like a city dump in the middle of summer.  Which, with the heat wave, it pretty much was.  I don't know how people live like that.  Someone said that they were under a garbage strike.  So what!  That doesn't mean you just throw trash everywhere and let your dog crap wherever it likes!  

It turns out that everything is closed on Sundays, so we went back to our hotel to eat.  The service was terrible (we had to wait forever despite being the ONLY people in the restaurant), but the food was very good.  Then we went upstairs and reorganized our luggage and got ready for our trip to Rome.  

The next morning, we paid the hotel driver to take us to the train station so that we wouldn't have to drag it there.  It was a good thing we left early because there was a protest going on that held us up for about half an hour.  But, we eventually arrived and boarded our train.  Then we headed back to Roma!

It was a very quick trip.  Then when we left the train station, we were going to try to get a taxi but the line was a mile long.  And, the taxi driver wanted to charge us 65 Euros to go about 3 miles.  I don't think so!  So, we came up with the brilliant plan to go to the next taxi stop to find a taxi.  It wasn't very far away.  

So we started dragging our luggage there.  By this point, both of the big bags only had one wheel left.  And, during this trek, one of the big bags lost the other wheel.  It wasn't pretty.  Anyway, when we got to the taxi stop, there were no taxis.  None.  We waited for a few minutes with no luck so we decided to keep going.  It kept going like that with no taxis.  Finally, when we got to the Piazza Bernini, we waited a few minutes and actually got a taxi.  That was after going a mile and a half.  The taxi took us the next mile and a half to the hotel for 6 Euros!  I still can't believe that taxi driver thought we'd pay 65 Euros to go 3 miles!

Anyway, when we got to the hotel, we checked in and relaxed for a few minutes before heading out again.  We mostly did a bunch of shopping.  Well, Philip did most of the shopping.  ;)  We went to the Ferarri store and Philip spent a ton of money (I only say that because he's embarrassed that he spent so much!  lol).  He bought himself a Ferrari t-shirt, Ferrari shoes, and Ferrari cologne.  He's quite the Ferrari man now.  ;)

We wandered around and around and finally made it back to the hotel about 8pm.  Then we asked for a good local restaurant and ended up just a block away at Vitos.  It was good, but REALLY salty.  I actually couldn't finish my meal because it was so salty.  

Then, it was back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.  We had to get up EARLY for the Vatican tour the next day.  

Hello! Vesuvius??

[I took a bunch of photos, but only my favorites are here.  If you'd like to see them all, please go HERE.]

I was so excited to leave Naples!  But first, we had breakfast at the hotel and then we wandered around the city a bit.  Then we headed off to the train station.  The train we took to Pompeii was actually really nice.  It was air conditioned and clean (it seemed to be new).  
The stone wall in the back of the photo (in front of the treeline) is actually where the sea used to start.  Then the volcano dumped 25 feet of ash onto the area.  The sea is actually now over 2km (~1.25 miles) away from where it used to start!
When we arrived in Pompeii, we still had time before the tour started.  So, we went to a little pizza place to get some lunch (the tour was scheduled to last several hours).  It was seriously overpriced, but what can you expect?  It's basically the only place to eat!  The food was mediocre at best.  The "salad" was just lettuce.  The pizza was dry and flavorless.  But, it was food.  And, it held us over until we got back to Naples.

Anyway, when we finished eating, we met our tour group.  While we waited, there was a guy who kept yelling, "Hello! Vesuvius? Would you like the bus to Vesuvius?"  He just wouldn't stop.  So, it became a big joke for Philip and I the rest of the trip.  Anytime we got bored, we'd just yell out, "Hello! Vesuvius?"  Seriously, after listening to that guy for half an hour, you'd be a little batty, too.  ;)  

Anyway, Our tour guide was actually an archeologist who works in Pompeii!  How fantastic is that??  First, she took us to a place that most tourists do not get to see.  It was a brothel on the edge of the city.  There were painted pictures on the walls of sex acts.  It was like a prostitution menu!  The city actually had over 35 brothels!  There were depictions of sex acts and phallic statues all over!  I guess Pompeii was like the Vegas of its time.  ;)

Then we moved onto the area that everyone gets to see.  When I used to think of Pompeii, I thought of a few buildings excavated from under the ash.  A small town possibly.  Not even close.  The city is enormous!  When it was destroyed, it was a city of over 20,000.  

I also used to wonder why the people chose to live so close to an active volcano.  It turns out, they had no idea.  The previous eruption had been hundreds of years prior and the current residents didn't remember (or have history of it).  They thought that there was a giant living in the mountain.  When they angered the giant, it caused earthquakes.  So, then they'd try to make the giant happy again.  

When the volcano actually erupted, the people were taken by surprise.  There wasn't any lava; it was all ash and poisonous gas.  And the residents that weren't killed by the poisonous gas were killed by the ash.  And then their remains and the rest of the city were perfectly preserved by 25 feet of ash.  The eruption was so violent that ash from Vesuvius was found in Greece.  
The remains of a Pompeiian restaurant. 
After the eruption, the city was basically forgotten about.  The city wasn't rediscovered until the 1700s.  Can you imagine just forgetting about a city destroyed by a volcanic eruption?  I know that Pompeii wasn't a HUGE city, but it was a major port city in its time.  

We wandered around the city for a few hours but we still didn't see everything.  It's amazing how much is left of the city.  Even the remains of people.  There were plaster casts of people and dogs and buildings.  You see, when the city was buried by the ash, it left the people under it.  However, the people, dogs, wood, etc., eventually decomposed.  However, the pocket in the ash still remained.  So, if you fill that pocket with plaster, you get a cast of what was there when the volcano erupted.

You can still see some of the bones left behind in some of the plaster casts.  It's very strange.  These people never saw this coming.  Creepy.  

Anyway, we continued to wander and wander and wander.  After a few hours of wandering, the tour was over.  However, we still didn't see the whole city.  We would've had to explore for days to see everything.  

If you're in the area, definitely take a tour of Pompeii (just stay in Sorrento instead of Naples!).  It's absolutely amazing.  I just wish we would have had more time and then I would've taken the "Hello! Vesuvius?" guy up on his offer.  If we go back, I'll definitely tour Mount Vesuvius, too.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Naples: A Disappointment

[I took a bunch of photos, but only my favorites are here.  If you'd like to see them all, please go HERE and HERE.]

When I last left off, I described my initial disappointment in Naples. Unfortunately, it didn't really get better. We left the hotel in search of a better part of Naples. We walked a few miles and came to Castel dell'Ovo. It was actually pretty cool. And it was free.  

As it turns out, Naples doesn't look bad from afar.  ;)  Probably because you can't see all of the garbage everywhere.  

We wandered around the castel for a few hours.  I spent most of the time looking over the edge taking pictures.  It was really warm and I wished we could go swimming (sort of... I thought we might end up swimming in toxic waste or something... that beautiful blue water is surely hiding secrets).  

Meanwhile, Philip spent his time trying to be ridiculous.  

Also, remember that we hadn't gotten much sleep the night before.  So, Philip's silliness makes a tad bit more sense.  ;)  Maybe...

Look how pretty Naples looks from the Castle.  It's tricky.  If you could see up close, you'd see trash everywhere and graffiti covering just about everything.  

Even the beautiful rocky coast isn't safe from the graffiti "artists."  

And, yes, this is a guy just pissing on the rocks.  Mind you, there was a clubhouse type thing just a few feet away, but apparently this guy thought that was too much hassle.  

As you can probably tell, I did not like Naples.  I was ready to get the hell out of there.  Unfortunately, we had two nights there.  

I tried to make the best of it.  We went back to the hotel and took a nap.  At some point, someone actually opened the door to our room while we were sleeping.  She let out a little yelp and walked back out.  She got a good look at Philip's bare butt, I'm sure.  LOL  I have no idea what made her think she could just walk into our room.  It was about 5pm, and we checked in hours earlier.  There should have been no reason for her to be in our hotel room.  Oh, well.

We went out that night to a recommended pizza place: Trianon da Ciro.  It was pretty good.  Philip loved the Naples pizza.  I actually liked Rome pizza better.  The service was sub-par but we weren't in a hurry so it wasn't a huge deal.  

When we started to walk back, it was dark.  I didn't feel at all safe.  However, Philip still wanted to try to see the city.  So, we wandered.  I was so glad to get back to the hotel that night.  And, at least we had Pompeii to look forward to the following day.  :)
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