Saturday, June 19, 2010

What a rockin' band!

Takin time to stop and smell the flowers in Como! There are flowers everywhere!

Wow, two blogs in one day! We decided to take a walk along the waterfront and look for dinner this evening. Not an easy task since they like to eat their dinner at 7:30 and later! We did find a nice little restaurant and had some delicious lasagna and gelato. Yum. It is about 56* here this evening after the rain so scarves are not just a fashion statement but a necessity now! I should have brought more clothes! I think it's funny how I have seen people and their dogs go into restaurants and markets here. They love their dogs and just about all of them are purebreads. We have seen Chihuahuas ( I know I probably spelled that wrong!), chows, pit bulls, yorkies, big shaggy dogs that were really cute, and poodles, of course! There are little shops for them too! We took a walk through the center of town and stopped to get a snack and try some of their wine. This IS wine country after all! The restaurant had plates of appetizers set up and you just go in and get a plate and fill it up. They had french fries, olives, little weenies, bruschetta with ham, rice, pasta and cheese with little cherry tomatoes. Those tomatoes are delicious here and taste sweet, unlike the tasteless blobs you get at home! We also got to hear a band play on the piazza. Milan's answer to the Alumni Band. They came in on a bus and played all these marches for a big crowd. They were the Alpine Orobico something or other. So fun! Lake Como has a real big time on Saturday night! Lots of people who look like they walked off the pages of Euro fashion magazine. Yeah, we kinda' stand out. hahaha Dennis said " how come they always say "hello" to us first?" We look like all the other tired American tourists?
haha We love Como. It's not nearly as crazy as Florence and Rome. Half the tourists though and quite expensive. This is where the rich people of Italy come for vacation! It's getting late! Ciao! ( I would load more pics but it take forever with this connection at the hotel!!!)

Day 2 in Como - good day to paddle????!

One of the many beautiful villas along the shore of Lake Como...

Dennis paddling past George Clooney's villa??? He's got one here somewhere!

Me sooooo happy to finally get to the end of the paddle!

Dennis at the front door of the rental shop............

On the way to the shop, we crossed a really neat little bridge....
and I was dry...........!

So we decided to paddle Lake Como this afternoon and had a beautiful day - or so we thought! I kept seeing this bank of dark clouds coming our way and I said "Dennis, it's going to rain" He kept insisting that it would pass and that I should be more positive. So I then said, "OK, I'm POSITIVE it's going to rain on us!" We paddled on, looking at all the fabulous villas, enjoying the experience. We paddled out for 2 hours which included time to stop and snap lots of photos. We decided it was time to turn around as our rental was for only 4 hours. On the return trip, we heard thunder in the distance. Great, I thought! Then there was lightening. Dennis said not to worry, we were in plastic boats and had carbon fiber paddles. (but not after I uttered "I told you so" under my breath.) So we are paddling like maniacs trying to beat the storm and here comes the wind gusts. We make our way to the side, next to someone's little boat dock, in the wind and 2 foot swells, water splashing over our boat hulls and into our laps. We get our spray skirts on and rain jackets and try to plow ahead in the wind and rain, all the while seeing myself as the next main character in that show "I Shouldn't Be Alive". My hands and arms were like wet noodles but we had to keep going because there was no place to take shelter and it would have been a long wait anyway. We finally arrived back in half the time (1 hour!) just from continuously paddling and not giving up. I could have kissed that shoreline. Our rental people were there waiting on us, probably thought that we were out there floating dead somewhere. They helped us get the boats up on the bank and gave us a ride back to their shop. We actually got a 5 euro discount! She said it was because of the weather but I think she was impressed with our survival skills...or she thought these people are idiots and need a break. Anyway, there's always an adventure around every corner when the Blevins' go on vacation! Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings! Caio!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Como is sooooo pretty!

Our friends from the train.............
This is the view from our patio/balcony area...Sweet!

Me being surprised that we actually don't have a view of the dumpsters!

The sitting area in our Junior Suite at the Termius. Niiiiice.....

The huge train station at Milan. Lots and lots of people from all over the world.

The last things we saw as we left Il Castelluccio, our room in the Tuscany area.
Their little barn was below our room....coool.

Such a busy, busy day! We have traveled by train, rental car, taxi, and bus! During our train ride from Florence, we sat across from a girl from Iran and her friend from Dubai. They really liked talking to us because we speak "English so slowly!" She told me how she hated Iran and a women would be sent to prison for wearing makeup (I would be in jail ALOT!) and they regulate everything they hear and see. They even come into their homes and will smash their satellite dishes if they find one! The internet is filtered and the women have to cover their whole bodies in black. She said my passport was "like jewelry". She let me see hers with her traditional clothes on. So weird. She said everywhere she traveled she was considered suspicious. She said she could move but the US and Britain would not issue her a Visa. So she travels alot. The government is always asking how she travels and why she even got a divorce! I certainly have much to be thankful for living in the US!!! Very interesting talking to them. They were so much like us. People are all pretty much the same, no matter!

We are getting ready to go dinner in the restaurant here this evening. I am so hungry as we have only snacked some today. No time to eat a real meal!! Gotta' run!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rome rocks!

AAAAH, Trevi Fountain. Would love to have jumped in! It was hot!

Crazy Americano's on the double decker tour bus...on top of course!

Dennis outside a big ol' building in the Forum area.

We thought the Colosseum was really neat. (Even though
the stories about it's past are so brutal....those Romans were
a seriously crazy bunch of people to enjoy animals and
people killing each other! )
This blog is going to have to be short and sweet! It's 10:30 pm and boy, are we tired! Had a wonderful day seeing the sights of Rome. Saw Trevi Fountain, the colosseum, the forum, and sooo many other things. There must have been about 2 million other tourists in Rome which made for a crazy day. We actually had a guy ask US where the pantheon was! I guess we actually looked like we knew what we were doing! We got up at 4:30am to get the car to the airport just to park it, get the train station bus shuttle, get on the train to get to Rome! Crazy,crazy day! Ate lots of pizza and gelato and so far on this trip, we have probably walked 20 miles. Saw a lot more Indian dudes selling cheesy umbrellas and crap today to try to earn a euro. Lots of beggars too. We just kept saying "no, grazia" and walked on. Anyway, looks like another early morning for us. Have to return the rental car, get to train station and go to Como with a train change in Milan. I think I may have to stock up on Red Bulls or something to keep from passing out! haha And hey, no muggings! Sweet life! I am constantly watching Dennis' back when he's distracted or taking pictures, and visa versa. Everyone's actually been really nice to us. And I am even getting to try out my Italian that I have learned although I think they like speaking English with us. Time to get a quick shower and get to bed! Arrivaderci!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yay! We have conquered the mad driving in Florence!

Me at the top of the Duomo checkin' out the sights...

Pretty fountain of Poseidon outside of Uffizi Gallery...

Dennis climbing up the many steps to the Duomo top!

For a bit of change, Cupid will give you a hug and kiss on the cheek!

What a wonderful day! It started out rainy but then cleared up and was beautiful and breezy. We also figured out that dreaded A1 toll system and got our passes, paid our tolls and went merrily about our way. We did stop and ask a guy who was pulled over to the side of the road before we went through the first one, just to make sure!! We have also decided that us driving in Florence is much like rally driving. I am the navigator, Dennis the driver. We are figuring it out but it is still driving hell and we can get to our destinations without too much trouble. We saw the Uffizi Gallery, the Academia Gallery, and climbed to the top of the Duomo (the huge red roofed dome famous in Florence). I think we climbed about 500 steps but it was soooo worth it! We saw Botticeli's "The Birth of Venus", the real statue of Michaelangelo's "David", and several da Vinci pic's as well. It was amazing to see them for real. Sat and just people watched for awhile which was fun too! So many people! We leave EARLY for Rome tomorrow and that should be very interesting! Gotta' go to sleep now! Ciao! and remember you can click on a picture and enlarge it!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No stress here.........RIGHT!

Downtown Florence....beautiful, beautiful city - driver hell......

Gelato makes the world a brighter place........

These little cars get lots of stares and pictures. Toooo fun!!!!

This is me in the formal garden at the villa. I could live there for 16 million!

Alex, our guide, telling us about our little car...........

Happy 23rd anniversary to us!
We started out the day with a delicious buffet breakfast here at the resort. Lots of yummy pastries, hot tea, and croissants with cheese and ham. There were also three little kitties begging and of course, we had to toss them some of our breakfast. (We were eating on their patio) Then we left around 10:30am for an 11:30 eta at the Fiat Tour garage. Thinking this would be PLENTY of time but no. The traffic in Florence is absolutely unreal. It actually took us an hour and a half and thank goodness I had the foresight to rent a phone because I must have called them 5 times! I told her, we are in Florence but we are stuck in traffic! We had no idea what street we were on and she said they would wait until 12 - there was another family there. It was 11:45 and there was absolutely no place to park. People on scooters whiz past and go down the center lines between cars, they think lines on the road are there for decorative purposes only, and the people will just walk out in front of you. They will stick the nose of the car into your front fender trying to squeeze into a bumper to bumper lane full of cars. Never have we seen this insanity before and between the two of us, I think every curse word was used at least a dozen times!! All the while the clock was ticking and we were trying to find a place to park the car. Dennis threatened to leave it on the sidewalk at one point! Finally, I called her back and she said to go to a parking garage, we found it and were so happy then it said FULL. I thought we were going to cry. We fought our way back around the block to the next one and got in. It was 12. We called her running down the street, sweaty, and exhausted and she said they would wait. We met her at the Santa Croce church and made it in 5 minutes after 12! It was sooo amazing race. She couldn't believe we had driven in! And the sad part is we have to go back tomorrow! On the bright side, the Fiat 500 tour was awesome! We met a family from Chicago and had a wonderful dinner in a Tuscan villa, complete with a pool and winery. We got to sample their wines and see some of the Florence sights. Afterward, we walked to a shop to get some gelato and it was great. I just wished there was a bus from Il Castelluccio (where we are staying) to Florence! The main highway is a toll road and we had trouble figuring out which lane gives you the ticket. At the end, you are supposed to put your ticket into the machine and pay, the gate goes up and you go on. We managed to screw this up twice! The gate wouldn't go up and some dude behind us got out of his car to see if we were dead or what. He spoke no English but managed to retrieve the fine slip from the machine for us. 47,00 euros! We are rackin' em up! The second one was actually the Garmins fault because it led us straight through an EZPass lane with no ticket option! Hopefully, tomorrow's driving will be improved from the lessons we learned today. All part of the different culture experience! Let's just hope we just get those darn tickets tomorrow!!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The way these people EAT!!!!!!!!!!!

It is now 9:45pm here and we just finished dinner. Yes, dinner! They start dinner at 8:00pm (and those of you who know me, I am in bed by 9!...but that is no concern of the Italians, I'm guessin') We started off with a plate of thin strips of ham with creamy cheese and fried bread balls. All very delicious as you wrap the dough ball in cheese, wrap it up in the ham and chow down. We thought, how yummy and ate about 2 each. THEN, comes little pizza squares, sausage cheese on bread slices (like bruschetta) and we had a few of those. If only there had been a sign that read "pace yourself, Americano's". Then out she comes with a huge plate of tiny dough balls in melted cheese and spinach sauce. That was all well and good then here she comes with another huge plate of roast beef and thinly sliced chicken with a side plate of diced squash and zucchini with carrots. By that time, I'm like, listen, we can't keep eating all this food! She said Americans didn't eat enough and I thought , just ask Jaime Oliver. He thinks we eat plenty. She said "you no like??", and I say "oh, we like plenty but we just can't eat all this food!" What she do? She asks us what we want for desert! Of course, we have to try the chocolate mousse with strawberries. It was soooo goood. All of the food was unbelievable. My taste buds were just in awe. These were all typical Tuscan foods and I would be the size of a whale if I lived here! But oh my goodness, it was all so delicious I am glad we ate it. They had the Italy/Paraguay football (also known as soccer) game on and everyone was seriously into that. So fun. Must go die now...... later!

Yay! WE made it to Italy! Finally!

Yes, we are here in Florence finally but what a trip to get here! First the three hour drive to Cinci in a Cube (smurf Car) and that was tiring. Then we got on our flight to Paris and it was delayed which meant that we would likely miss the connection in Paris to Florence. I always get the wand or pat down at every airport and this time was no different. Finally got on the plane to Paris and slept some of the 8 hours. Got to Paris and there was a HUGE line to get into the customs area so I told Dennis not to sweat. Just smile and go on. We miss the flight, there will be another one. We hurried and hurried. Found some chick at an Air France window to issue another ticket for a later flight and she stopped and said " you might still make it. It's running late!" We ran and ran through the airport which is absolutely the biggest airport we've ever seen. Sure enough - an HOUR later they were boarding. Turns out there really is a God and the original flight had some technical issues and they had to get another airplane to replace it! Some body must have felt sorry for us! So we get to Florence get our rental car and here we are at Castelluccio Resort. My battery is low on the computer and the adapter is the right shape but wrong spacing for Italy! So I will keep this short. The weather is beautiful and the people are very confused by us. Their English is as good as my Italian!haha More later!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Today's the day...look out Italy, here we come!

So...everything's ready to go and we get an automated call from our dear friends at Delta informing us of a delay out of Cinci! Now we leave at 6:55 instead of 3:50. Oh the joys of flying...Actually this was probably a good thing since Dennis and I have weighed our luggage and backpacks at least 17 times trying to stay below the magic 26.5 lbs limit!!! I had to sacrifice a couple of items of clothing and my hot rollers and blow dryer. Tragic. (sigh) I am just hoping that all of the places we are staying at have them - I think they do- or else we'll have to rent a scooter and go really fast to dry my hair. haha Or maybe I'll just never wash my hair! pretty.....It's crazy how difficult it is to pack light but we seem to have done it. I am at 26.3 lbs and Dennis is 24 something, I think. I just know I will be happy when I don't need a dolly to drag my suitcase around Milan! 'til next time, which hopefully will be soon!