Monday, December 19, 2016

Italy Travel Journal - Day 1

When you live in Europe, it seems like a good idea to take advantage of the proximity of the different history and cultures that are so close by. 

Unfortunately, our children don't agree. They would rather stay home.  In spite of this, we took them to Italy for Christmas break. 

Previous Italy Trips

Dan and I have been to Italy before. For our first trip, back in 2003, we did the Rome-Florence-Venice route where we flew in and out of Rome, then took the train to the other cities. We saw tons of things!  The Trevi Fountain and Coliseum in Rome. The Ufizi and Baptistery in Florence. St. Mark's Square and Murano in Venice.

Dan at the Trevi Fountain (with Speedy)

Speedy was my cousin Simon's stuffed green dog.  Like the "Flat Stanley" projects that kids are doing, Speedy was on a mission to get pictures of himself in different parts of the world.  So Dan and I took him to Italy.  We also took some pictures without him, as seen here...

Angela and Dan in the Colisium

Before "selfies" were popular, people still took pictures of themselves.  They just didn't do it from arm's length.  We set our cameras up at a reasonable distance and set the timer.  Viola!  Pictures of us, taken by us, without ridiculous perspectives.  The Uffizi didn't really allow photographs, so we didn't get any inside, but the cafe on the second level had a cafe where photos were allowed.

Uffizi Cafe

Florence Baptistry

St. Mark's Venice

Glass on Murano

The second time we went to Italy, in 2005, we flew into Venice, then took the train out of Italy up to Austria.

Bridge of Sighs In Venice
My sighs were primarily due to being pregnant, and therefore hungry on this, the second Venice trip.  

Playing in a Sculpture Garden in Austria

Vienna View

More pics from this trip are on a previous blog post from January 2006.

And now, for Italy Trip Number 3, we take the kids!  You may notice that I have more hair and Dan has less size.  

Preparation, step 1: Minimalist Travel

First order of business is packing. Each of us has a backpack. Each of us is required to carry their own backpack. Each of the kids has packed books, clothes, and a blanket. Alex's blanket is huge. It makes his backpack super awkward and he tends to turn too quickly and wack other people with it. Will brought multiple hard cover books after I told him to bring one paperback. His complaint is that we should check his backpack so he doesn't have to carry it.  We explained that while that might work for the airplane, we will be traveling around Italy primarily by train where you don't get to check a bag.  Also, the part where we would need to travel from the train station to where we were staying, in each of the four cities we planned to visit.  Ultimately, I think they may have learned the lesson to pack more lightly.  We will see for our next trip.  

Backpacking Boys

Preparation, step 2: Handle Arriving Mail 

We are waiting for some packages to arrive that people have recently mailed to us for Christmas. So the idea is that we give our friend Leila our mailbox key so she can stop by and empty our mailbox in a few days. I mentioned this to her last time we got together. And the night before we left for the trip, I texted her to meet up at Starbucks in the morning before she had class and before we needed to head out to the airport. She seemed a little confused, but I reminded her that it was so I could give her the key for the mailbox so my mail doesn't stack up.   So, the morning of the trip departure, we are doing last minute things. I need to get all of the pictures off my phone, so I set it to download to the computer, then I leave to go have coffee. I get to Starbucks, but she isn't there yet. So I wait. Then I text Dan (with Will's phone) to ask him if Leila texted my phone that has the pictures and could he send me her contact to Will's phone. No reply. Then, as I'm about to give up on the mail box key plan, Leah, our babysitter, shows up at Starbucks. I thought she just happened to be there, but no, I had actually texted her instead of Leila. So I apologized profusely, bought her a coffee, then continued back home where everyone was ready to go.  I then made sure to change my phone to make it obvious that Leah is the babysitter by putting an emoji next to her name to represent kids.

Getting to Rome

Fortunately the tram to airport and airport check in and passport control went smoothly. Except for the kids complaining about their heavy backpacks. 

Our arrival in Rome was super smooth.  It was interesting taking the bus to our air bnb. We drove by stores that are clearly European chain stores. Clothing, food, restaurants. But now, instead of being foreign to us, we recognize them as the same ones that are in France. There is even a Carrefour Express grocery store across from our Rome apartment!  The kids and I went to get snacks while Dan got the briefing of how to use the apartment keys from our host. 

Waiting for the key briefing to finish

Elevator Trap

Then, the next bump in the trip... for the second time in 2016, we get trapped in an elevator!  It's the kind of elevator that has the doors you close manually and you can see the elevator shaft from inside the elevator. 

Our apartment is on the fifth floor, so we all get into the elevator, which starts to move at an amusingly slow pace. Amusing until it stops. It seems the Kroboth family and backpacks weigh more than the small elevator weight limit of 225kg. Fortunately, the kids calmly accept that we are stuck. Dan and I try pushing buttons, holding buttons down, openings the inside door of the elevator, trying to move the levers just outside the elevator, considering forcing the outside door open, and finally, we notice some people taking the stairs and call out for assistance. Perhaps they can call the elevator from the outside. They push some buttons to no avail, then advise we ring the emergency call button. 

We are skeptical. It's not like a call button that is connected to a phone where someone may answer the line and talk to us about our situation (in Italian, of course). It's just a bell. So we try it. After releasing the button, the people not trapped in the elevator tell us to do it more strongly (forte!). So we hold it down for quite a while. Somehow, this summons the person in the building, who happens to be home, who has magical elevator unsticking skills. There is some activity down below us. And finally, the elevator starts moving again!

After this, we limit the number of Kroboths in the elevator to one adult and one or two children at a time. Dan took a lot of stairs. :) we call it cross-training for his upcoming Paris spring marathon.

After establishing ourselves in the apartment, we head out for adventure!  We pass by the Pantheon and go to the Trevi fountain where the kids throw a bunch of coins in. 

Not the Trevi Fountain

Actually the Trevi Fountain

We found dinner at a neat restaurant just across the street from our apartment. Will ordered margarita pizza, Dan got the special, Alex ordered pasta, I selected chicken. Alex saw my chicken and decides that he is not really interested in pasta anymore, so I do the nice thing and switch dishes with him.  The pasta, despite it's lack of sauce, was delicious and hot. The bruschetta and wine are both great, and most importantly, reasonably priced.  A lovely end to a slightly crazy travel day.