Sore Feet and a Home Made Dinner in Rome

05 Nov.


Brendan’s feet were sore after we took the subway/ metro to Vatican City, Galoppatolo ( a big park), and Villa Medici.


When I bought the tickets for the Metro I was warned about pickpockets on the trains. We waited for a train-it was packed- no room for us, waited for a second train and it was jam packed as well, so we walked to the main station -Termini- and caught a less busy train to go visit the Pope.


We did drink out of a fountain at the Vatican and the boys hung upside down on a fence in front of the Basilica S Pietro. We did wave to the Pope, but we did not see a response.


You seem to walk for miles underground when taking the Roma Metro.

I found a grocery store and bought groceries for a home made pasta and chicken dinner.

Rome Here We Come In 30 Minutes

04 Nov.


This morning we we had a nice breakfast at Hotel Genesio. Arrived at the train station early to be greeted with a delayed train. We sat, the boys fought- they do that when they get bored- and we people watched.


On the train 9705, car 3, seats 41, 42, 44.


Passing through the Tuscan countryside on a beautifully sunny day.


Be in Roma in 30 minutes.



Back Again.

Arrived And went to the rental place. Picked up the keys and went for a Rome 10 minute walk. 1/2 hour later we were at our place/ apt. Got in the front door and try and try and try to open up the door I failed. The boys tried and failed. A cell phone call later and Roman 10 minutes later someone showed up with an alternative key. (think  30-45 min later). They unlocked the door 4 times to the left then 4  times to the righT and 4 times to the left and 4 times to the right and 4 times to the left  and 4 times to the right and 4 times to the left and 4 times to the right with an extra twist and the door opened! Boy oh boy do Rome doors have extra security…


We entered a very nice quaint apartment with a small living room/dining room holding a couch and dining table. The rest of the place had a small kitchen with gas cooktop, bedroom, and bathroom with washer.


In the afternoon we went to the Coliseum, the boys really wanted to see it. Just as amazing as the last time I saw it. We explored the place for a couple of hours, then headed back to the apartment. We bought some groceries from the corner store and had dinner at home.


Autumn day at the Coliseum

Went for an evening stroll in the neighbourhood.

Venice Hotel, The Water Taxi, and Onwards to Florence (Firenze)

03 Nov.


Breakfast was great at the Hotel Ateneo, we had ordered a water taxi the night before, great driver, and arrived at the train station in 10-15 minutes.


Now on the train almost to Firenze / Florence, Italy.


Arrived and went to the Hotel booking place. They found us a room for €70 –  I think it was a little high. Nice hotel, Hotel Genesio.


The room was a nice size in a corner overlooking courtyards, a window on each corner with shutters. Outside one window was an apricot tree filled with ripe apricots, a beautiful splash of colour in an otherwise green view. Of course you saw other apartments and the usual hanging laundry and little flower gardens on the occasional balcony. We did see a church steeple in the direction of the train station.


We left and turned right outside the hotel doors and wandered down the street. We came upon a Square/piazza and had a very good lunch at an outdoor café. Liam had the pasta salad with egg, Brendan had a ham omelette served with fried eggplant, zuchini, and asparagus. I had a wrapped ham scallopini stuffed with cheese, fried potatoes and veggies.


We headed down the street saw the Duomo and headed towards it. We paid the €8 entry fee (the gate keeper only charged us for 2) total €16. Up we climbed the 424 steps. Up and up and up with twists and turns and forever up until we came to the upper inner dome. Nice view,snapped a couple of pics, then up we went again and again in narrow paths meeting people going down and squeezing by people with backpacks. At one point the boys wanted me to be a monster and chase them, I … Agreed and started to chase them up the stairs roaring like a monster. I came around a corner going up the stairs at breakneck speed, chasing the boys, when a guard was in front of me and told me to be quiet because we were in a church. I obliged and fell silent until we emerged upon the roof of the Basilica. The boys were impressed with the view, as was I. This was my third time up there. A little different view when you are older, that’s fer sure. We descended quickly onto the square and continued on our adventures.


Next stop after meandering down the streets was a little square, one of many, and we sat down to find out where we were on the map. I didn’t have a clue, ah but who cares we are on holidays. So up we got and walked, looking down a street I saw what appeared to be a large building and piazza. We followed the road and ended up in another famous square… With a palace and an outdoor sculpture gallery. We looked and continued down the street through a narrow road, due to construction and passed sculptures of Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilee, and more. We went through an arch and were confronted by a river. To the right sat the Ponte Vecchio.


While crossing the bridge I asked the boys if they knew what the stores were selling. They, being astute, said Jewellery stores. We crossed over and tried a gelato on the other side and came upon yet another square with another big building…A gallery!


Back we headed to the hotel, of course getting lost again- my ongoing joke with the boys. We visited the Piazza de Republique and went into a hardware store to look for clothes pins/ pegs. They didn’t have any, wonder where you buy them in Italy. Also stopped at a wine shop to get a cork screw for the wine I had bought.


Back at the hotel I sampled the white wine, Sassaia del Virginio (2009) – Chardonnay-Sauvigion, Toscana. Really enjoyed the flavour, texture and quality of it, green, fruity, and wonderful finish.


Dinner time! Entered a small café around the corner from the Hotel and had cannelloni with a lettuce and tomato salad, Brendan had tortiglione with meat sauce, Liam had Bruschetti with ham. Good food at a good price….name restaurant….

Early Morning in Venice, Best Cell Phone Pay-As-You-Go Sim Card Plan Yet

02 Nov.


Arrived in Venezia S Lucia station on a warm drizzly morning. Exited the train, bought a map to find the hotel I had booked the previous day online. We arrived at 08:30 and I decided to walk to the hotel, since I knew check-in might be after 12:00. What a wonderful sight first thing in the morning. Everyone was waking up, going to the coffee shops for a morning shot of macchiato, and a bun or croissant. The street vendors were accepting deliveries and opening shop. The store keepers were sweeping up the sidewalks and opening. It was a city coming to life in the morning. People were chatting and laughing, carrying umbrellas. Boats were delivering goods to docks, where the goods were transferred to carts, then wheeled to the proper location for delivery, barges/ boats were carrying toilet paper, laundry, beer, fruits, vegetables, wine, etc. The delivery men (I only saw men delivering) had modified carts to help them climb stairs over the many bridges. Everyone we asked for directions was very friendly and open hearted.


We arrived at our hotel after a relaxing stroll with several wrong turns- great way to discover a city- by 11:30. The hotel Ateneo let us store our luggage until 14:00 check- in.


We went to explore and have lunch. We bought a couple of small umbrellas and walked in the on again off again drizzle. We found a small cafe in a square and had panini sandwiches. I ordered a beer and ended up with a litre- a little too large for me.


Venice /Venezia is a window shoppers paradise. There are so many stores that sell so many items that it is truly amazing. Brightly coloured leather gloves, masks, antiques, high end clothing, breads, pastries, ahh just like other European cities- except there are no cars.


Liam had stepped in a Muddy smelly puddle in the woods in Sweden, and his shoes were stinky. So we went shoe shopping. After searching for childrens shoes we found a Bata shoe store. I bought a pair of shoes for Liam and Brendan. Socks were a different matter. I had washed their socks several times and they still smelled, so we bought new socks from a department store.


Back at the Hotel Ateneo the boys washed their feet, put on new socks and shoes, then Liam took his shoes placed them in a plastic bag and he trashed them at the first opportunity.


Dinner was very good at one of the many restaurants littering Venice. I had a scampi salad with red sauce, a pasta…name with a mushroom sauce, and a salad, complemented with Valpolicella wine. The boys each had a pizza which was very, very good…name of restaurant.


Oh ya, I picked up a sim card from Wind mobile when we arrived and it was finally activates last might for free mobile Internet service. Why is it I had no problem finding a contract free sim card in Italy while the Germanic countries are so strict?


London- just picked up a regular sim card for the phone.


Sweden- finally found sim card from a small store-major phone companies said they had no pay as you go 3G cards. This little shop took a regular 3G card and cut it on the spot for me.


Denmark -Was told I needed contract micro sim hard to get


Germany -most wanted a contract, but I was told that you ask specifically and say they have it in a drawer, and they will give you one – you need to ask the correct question.


Czech republic – quite easy to get a 3G micro sim card. Plan was good, however did not work in Austria.


Austria – sort of like Germany. Told you cannot get one without a plan. We were there one day so I did not look too hard. The boys were getting tired of me going to different stores in different countries and asking the same question over and over again.


Italy – 10 minutes after arrival I had a micro 3G sim card with phone service with Wind Mobile, which is good throughout Italy.

Vienna and the Overnight Train Ride with Triple Bunk to Venice

01 Nov.


Had the room till 14:00. In the morning we visited the Schönbrunn Palace. We also visited the Royal Zoo. Probably the most impressive zoo I have ever been to. The boys got scared when we went into the bat cave. The bats flew around your head in the dark room and touched my hair several times. The spaces for the animals were very roomy and very well designed habitats. Gave the animals many things to do and hide. Not just open spaces like some other zoos. In some parts you had to trek as if you were on safari. Up dirt paths to enter the Amazon area, down hills- very impressive. The Palace/ castle grounds are extensive/ massive and looks to be larger than Versaille. The boys and I went through a maze. High hedges blocking your view, it was fun.


Checked out at 14:00 and went to look at a flea market. however, most places were closed because it was a public holiday.


Went to the train station early, place the bags in a locker and went for dinner at a cafe near the train station.


Dinner was really, really salty, boys could not eat it, I definitely would not recommend Cafe… They serve you some bread at the beginning and charge you for what you eat. The menu is very extensive 20 pages, and you do not have time to read the whole thing. I am sure somewhere in the menu they tell you about the charge for buns.


Since we had  first class tickets and a sleeping cabin we could visit the First Class lounge at the train station- I only learned about this the previous night when I read about the Eurail pass in the Eurail handout.


We had our first and only overnight train trip. The boys were enthralled by the triple layer bunk bed in the cabin. I had an ok sleep the boys were out like a light.

Quick on to Vienna

31 Oct.


Caught the 08:39 train to Wien (Vienna) this morning and will arrive shortly- trip and scenery have been wonderful. Lots of construction entering Vienna. Must log off and pack up.


Whew I was lucky, the train arrived 22 minutes early, we left the train to go into Wien Meidling Station. €0.50 euros to pee at the station. Bought a train/subway ticket, boys are free on Sundays and Mondays. Took train to the nearest station and walked out the door up the street, and to the Hotel. Easiest one yet! Checked in at. 13:45, went to the room and the key did not work. Found out the key would not work until 15:00. Went for lunch suitcases in tow. Cafe Weidinger, Lernchenfelder Gurtel 1, 1160 Wien, 492 09 06. All they had were snacks available at the time. We had Frankfurters with buns and mustard-hotdog anyone- as with the rest of Europe the bread is stupendous!!!


Boys found a pool table-sort of- 3 balls 2 white,1 red, and you use 1 marked white ball to hit both other balls to get a one point. Keeps them busy for a bit.


A variation of German is spoken in Austria- never knew that. By the way, I am flying by the seat of my pants on this trip to find things out and am having a blast!, I don’t mind being lost every so often- the boys get worried- but I always find our way back to the Hotel regardless of their complaints of me being lost. I do have a great sense of direction, however I find the tourist maps given at Hotels very wanting in information, and they have very poor scaling of distances.


Time to pay up and go back to the Hotel.


I really have to post pics.

Prague, Castles, Salvador Dali Exhibit, and Liam’s Dance with a Violin

30 Oct.


Had breakfast in the basement. Spiral stone staircase going down with hand carved stone for the steps, and above our heads they had also carved the ceiling above the staircase. The bar/cafeteria in the basement had brick arches with brick arch chambers in the ceiling above. Breakfast was cold cuts, cheeses, bread, yogurt, cocoa puffs ( I refer to them as rabbit poo)’ and other assorted drinks.


We took the #12 tram from the station to a downtown bridge and walked into the old town. Beautiful is the one word which aptly describes this part of Prague. We visited a Salvadore Dali exhibit, a private collection of prints and sculptures, great to look at and the boys enjoyed it.


We visited Wensceles Square (yes, King Wensceles, aka Santa) and had lunch- the priciest lunch yet at 1200 Czech crowns. The food was very good but pricey, being in a tourist area one has to expect it.


Visited Prague Castle. Very impressive on top of the hill, great church and castle town.


Walked down the castle hill back to the tram and went back to the hotel.


Dinner was at the same restaurant as yesterday and just as good. The waiter remembered us and asked if we wanted the same drinks. Dinner was just as good even though we ordered different items.


After dinner Liam wanted a violin and asked to go to the pawn shop. We went, it was closed and they had 5 violins visible in the window. He is sad, and we will look in the next few locations for a violin.

Lost in Prague, GPS isn’t any good if you don’t know how to use it

29 Oct.


Took the train to Prague, got off a stop early to be closer to the A&O hotel/Hostel. Got lost looking for it, as it was up a staircase by the road. Asked for directions several times – someone pulled out their cell phone and googled a map for us – still got lost, enjoyed the scenery. Found the Hotel, more like a Hostel this time. Signed into our private suite, had 6 beds to choose from ( 3 bunks) and a bathroom. Realized I needed to rent towels and sheets. Walked around the area for a bit and went to dinner at a restaurace (restaurant) down the hill from the Hotel. Restaurace Na Kovarne, Partyzanska 5, Praha 25 13 84 30. Had a great meal at a reasonable cost of 512 Czech crowns for all three of us.


After our fill, we wandered up the street to the local exhibition grounds- they were blaring music and looked like they had rides for the boys. Free entry, and we were asked in Czech if we wanted to go on the bumper cars. We walked a bit further when the boys convinced me to go on the cars- they can be persuasive at times. That was the longest time I have ever been on bumper cars- and it was fun.


We discovered a pawn shop closing down,called a Bazar, Liam wanted to go in but we could not. Liam wants a violin now.


Back to the Hotel we bypassed an outdoor car lot filled with luxury autos. They had 2 Ferraris (white and red) for sale. The sign said something about %50 and I jokingly told the boys it was %50 off the Ferraris and I would buy one.

Copenhagen to Berlin with a Ferry Delay

28 Oct.


Woke up early, had breakfast, grabbed a cab for a 2 minute drive to the train station to catch the 07:45 train to Berlin. Problems at the ferry meant we had to be shuttled to the ferry terminal, where we walked onto a ferry suitcases in tow. Took a 45 minute ferry ride to Germany, then walked to the train platform where our train had not arrived. 5 minutes later the train arrived and we climbed on board. Not being familiar with the trains in Europe we sat in the wrong seats- I knew they were pre-booked but the train from Copenhagen was scramble seating. We found our seats eventually, squeezing by people going in the opposite direction. We sat in our comfy first class seats and utilized the power outlet to charge the iphone and ipods. and write this. We are delayed by 20 minutes to Berlin where upon arrival we shall find a hotel.


So far this trip has been great. We are all a bit tired- jetlag and lack of sleep do not help, but we are getting into the swing of things.


The Train Engineer let us look in his driving booth and gave us an explanation of the controls we are now travelling at 200 kph.


Travelling by train you notice the several hundred year old buildings and churches in the foreground with wind generators in the background… Quite the juxtaposition.



Disembarked in Berlin’s main train station… … And proceeded to get our eurail passes stamped/validated – the person at the counter in Copenhagen did not know what to do.


We used the train station service to find a wonderful Hostel. A&O Berlin Hauptbahnhoff on Lehrter Strasse. The price quoted at the train station was €74. When we got to the Hostel they charged us €44 for 2 rooms with inter-room door. The Hostel was so nice I booked rooms with the chain in Prague and Wien (Vienna). Total cost for all of us for 4 nights was € 120 with a late check out in Wien.


Berlin- well we wandered around all day taking in the sights and found a wonderful restaurant called Traube. We walked into this restaurant, looked quite nice, and were greeted with attractive, soft jazz playing in the background…lunch was spanish ok…the server asked if we had reservations- oops, wrong place?-  I replied no, we were just looking for a good German meal. She replied “Ok you are the last booking for the night, we are fully booked”. -Whew! We sat at a table with linen table cloths, linen serviettes folded into little boats, the boys tried them on their head’s. Yes, the table had wine glasses and 3 sets of knives and forks per setting. We ordered the daily special and an appetizer … The wine was paired with the meal, a special 2007 Bordeaux. We were given a small appetizer consisting of a thinly sliced piece of roast beef curled onto the plate with succulent gently marinated cucumber and…. The daily special was a large rondelle of pork tenderloin served with small potatoes, thinly sliced curls of beet fried and a mild sauerkraut. The meal was delicious, the service exquisite and I would highly recommend this restaurant, a good idea would be to make a reservation- so it seems.


We had lunch at a Spanish restaurant where the food seemed very salty and the premises had seen better days.

Copenhagen in the Rain

27 Oct.


The hotel had quite a spread of food for breakfast, similar to Malmö, but more extensive- I did find the Danishes to be quite sweet.

We rested in the morning and wandered down the streets of Copenhagen, in the rain. It did rain quite a bit, but the Hotel loaned us an umbrella.

We had lunch at a Spanish restaurant where the food seemed very salty and the premises had seen better days.


Had wonderful roast beef sandwiches later.