A Travellerspoint blog

Misc. update


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Sorry for the onslaught of blog entries all at once. We recommend a slow drip. There was so much to do in Rome it was hard to slow down to take the time to write each day, so we posted 4 blog entries all at once (5 including this one). Check them out at your leisure.

We are shipping my laptop back to the states tomorrow and heading to Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast for a long weekend before heading to Athens. We will post again as soon as we can, although I anticipate having internet will become less frequent as we hit the smaller towns.

We love the blog comments - they make us laugh and feel loved. So keep 'em coming.

Love, Erin and Devin

Posted by Erin.Devin 15:47 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Le Due Maria - our B&B in Rome


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Well - this a complicated entry. Our stay here has been a little weird to say the least. It is a Bed and Breakfast with not so much breakfast - more like, I left food around - make it yourself. Which would probably not be note worthy, if Maria herself wasn't so special. For the first week, we had no idea when she would actually be here so every time we heard the smallest noise we thought it was her. There are also a lot of Catholics around here so we weren't so sure what she would think (or feel about us). Then when she finally came home one night and we were here - she started flipping out on us about a bunch of stuff that only added up to a lot of mis-communicating. Her English isn't great and our Italian is non-existent so that made for an interesting argument/conversation. It all ended fine but in our final analysis - she has a screw loose. It has certainly been an interesting experience. She also forgot to mention the major construction happening across the street (also outside of our window). So we spent many a morning serenaded by jack hammers. It is quite hysterical when you step back and take it all in (I think all the flower prints would make anyone crazy - please take note in all the pictures).

Front_door.jpg Maria's industrial lock (even the paranoid would think it too much)

Bathroom1.jpg Worlds smallest shower (we know the Europeans do it up small but even this shower takes it too a whole new level - it is really hard to tell by the pics). It was hard to get a good angle but the white box in the middle of the room is the shower.

Bathroom2.jpg The inside of the shower. The shower head was hand held so sitting during your showering was the way to go (although if you are over 5'5" your knees hit the door (Devin was fine - me not so much).

Kitchen.jpg Great kitchen and awesome stove. It served us well.

Ktichen_table.jpg Our "figure out your own damn breakfast table."

Bedroom.jpg Devin furiously working away on the Sight Seeing blog entry.

We will try to grad some snap shots of the outside on our last day and post them later...

Le Due Maria was definitely a unique experience to say the least.

Posted by Erin.Devin 15:39 Archived in Italy Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

For Erin's Mom


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The Cat Sanctuaries of Rome (Seriously)

Hey Mom,

This entry is dedicated to you and your love of cats (especially since you are actually as Bean's adopted mom for the time being).

Apparently there is an issue in Rome with stray cats and to deal with this issue Cat Sanctuaries (small and large) are a central part of Roman life. Most parks have a corner where they have set up 10 - 15 litter boxes and beds for cats to do their business and to sleep. People bring by food and if the cats are into it, people hang out and pet them. The idea is to get the cat to like their little corner of the park and to stay there instead of wandering the city streets. They also neuter them to help stop over-population. They take this so seriously that one of the ancient ruins has been dedicated to cats. It is home to over 280 cats. It is a completely volunteer run site. They take the cats to get their shots, they play doctor for cats with cancer, neurological diseases, and other illnesses. They give the cats food, love and do fundraising. The cats stay there too. They don't run away. Although they did say sometimes they try to cross the street (although they acted like this was unusual) and accidents do happen. This huge sanctuary is right in the middle of Rome. They also do adopt from a distance programs. Where if you send them money you can adopt one of their cats but not actually bring it home. It just pays to help with vet care and then they send you pictures of the cats and stuff (I don't actually think you should do this Mom - I just thought you would think it was interesting).

When we went in it kind of felt like a creepy Hitchcock Film because there were so many cats (just a side note).

Love you - hope you think this is cool.

Cat_sanctuary_small.jpg This is the first one I saw in a small park - this was before I realized they had dedicated a whole ancient ruin site to cats.

Cat_Sanctuary_huge.jpg The entry way to the big one - yes that is a picture of a gigantic cat on the side of a main street in Rome.

Cat_sanctuary2.jpg This is their home/play ground (not bad - just a few hundred centuries old - hopefully they have had their tetanus shots)

Cats1.jpg If you look closely you can see 4 cats in this shot

Cats2.jpg This is a volunteer giving love to the cats wandering in the ruins

Posted by Erin.Devin 15:24 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

The Sights in Rome - big, old and so much more

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So after six years of Latin and a lifetime of nerdy ancient Rome obsession, it should be pretty obvious that sightseeing in Rome would be and was one of the high-points of my life. There are enough ruins, monuments and churches in Rome to occupy someone for a lifetime, or at least us for two weeks. Being the teacher types that we are, we spend our days sightseeing while I spouted random historical facts, Erin read everything she could get her hands and gave impromptu walking tours based on her learnings, and Brenna alternated between acting like she was embarrassed to be on vacation with her way-uncool parents (not our actual ones, they are cool, more like the Griswalds) and geeking out with us with her incredible depth of knowledge on ancient Greece (post studying abroad there). Here's our overview of the majors we hit along the way:

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The Vatican
The pope is seriously working in some nice digs. We started out by wandering through St. Peter's for about an hour. The building was originally designed by Michaelangelo, although they expanded after his death against his wishes (he thought the church was trying to be too gaudy and really didn't like it - I guess selling forgiveness for sins wasn't his cup of tea). It's an amazingly gorgeous church, overflowing with marble statues, gilded everything, a beautiful dome, (and lots of other dorky things we could tell you about but will spare you).

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getting luck from a statue in St. Peter's

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Erin outside St. Peter's

Next, we ventured into the Vatican museum and re-emerged 3 hours later. Seriously. I know, you're thinking, "Devin hyperbole," but just ask Brenna and Erin, we did. The catch is this, the Sistine Chapel is in the Vatican museum, but in order to get there they have you wander through an endless number of halls of some not so great and some great art collected over centuries by the Vatican (they are basically the major holding tank for all of Roman history), all of which are insanely crowded and not air-conditioned. When you finally reach the Sistine Chapel, it is not only stunning beautiful, but you feel like you really earned getting there to see it.

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A picture of the Sistine Chapel that Brenna snuck when the guards weren't looking

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Devin and Brenna finally making it out of the Vatican museum. At total of 5 hours at the Vatican for the day. If you at all questioned the 5 hours, just look at Brenna's face.

The Colosseum
This was by far the highlight for me. The Colosseum, spanning centuries of gory entertainment for millions of Romans, looked as good as ever. While the wooden benches that people once watched the games from are long gone, you can still see the elaborate underground catacombs in the center used for transported and holding slaves and animals that took part in the games.

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I SERIOUSLY could not be more excited.

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Can you even imagine being down there, with the floor of the stadium intact and tens of thousands of people above screaming for blood?

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Brenna taking in the scene

The Roman Forum
Next to the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, which today looks like a giant junkyard of ancient ruins. In ancient Rome it used to be a city center, particularly where wealth Romans lived and did business. We spent a number of hours just wandering around, hanging out next to 2 thousand year old columns and taking pictures.

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Me, doing just that.

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where did Erin go?

The Trevi Fountain
While it's mostly just a huge tourist site, the Trevi Fountain is amazing and it used to the main aqueduct for Rome. The Romans like to make the functional look fancy. Water gushing everywhere, smell so fresh it's like a swimming pool you really want to jump into in the 95 degree Roman heat, beautifully lights at night, sculptures of a million different sea creatures and gods and goddesses.... The legend is (although it is based on a book not really a legend) that if you throw a coin over your shoulder and into the fountain it guarantees you a return trip to Rome, so of course we did it.

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Devin tossing coin, not at all fakely

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Spanish Steps
The steps are THE place to hang out at night, especially with the tourists and and teenage crowd. They go up real high and you get a great view of the city from the top. Ironically, the steps were built with money from the French government. Why not the French Steps you ask? It doesn't have the same ring, and they're also right next to the Spanish embassy. They've also got a sweet little fountain (another fancy looking aqueduct) in front that you can fill up your water bottle from (parents, breath easy, the water is clean, and mom, I don't think this qualifies as street food).

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Those would be the steps behind her

Jewish Quarter
This my friends, is home to the best restaurant in the world, Sora Margherita (see Erin's food in Rome post). The Jewish population in Rome is straight from the Holy Land (thank you for the informative walking tour Rick Steves), descended from individuals who came to Rome as respected merchants who were then were turned into slaves, and were forced to live under strict rules and scrutiny in their own village. Over time they developed their own dialect and some earth-shakingly good food that might just blow chopped liver out of the water, if that's even possible.

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Pantheon
Part ancient temple, part church, and plundered by the Vatican in order to steal some bronze for St. Peter's, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved sights in Rome (do I sound like a guide book yet?) It has huge columns in front that were made from single pieces of granite, and an oculus in the middle of the domed ceiling that lets in a stunning and moving pillar of light depending on the time of day.

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she's looking up....

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at this

So those are the major highlights of what we saw. We also hit up some churches, some more ruins and more Egyptian obelisks than we could have imagined.

Posted by Erin.Devin 12:53 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Fun with food in Rome


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With the dollar doing poorly against the Euro we have tried to focus our spending more on sight seeing instead of food. However, one certainly can not travel and deny their palette the divine pleasures that their eyes receive. Since we are staying in a flat with a full kitchen I made it my duty when Brenna and Devin were gone to scope out the open market scene here in Rome and to figure out where the locals buy their food (I can't be supermarketing up in Rome - that would be like wearing an American flag t-shirt). In my open market adventures, I learned that the markets open early and close early. Even though the Romans don't eat dinner until 9pm (I can't say that totally makes sense to me but I had to get hip with it), their markets close around 5pm and the really good produce is gone by 3pm. You need to plan ahead about these things. Even the supermarkets close early and there are definitely no 24 hour stores (can't rely on a Wegmans, even in the ancient city of Rome, which makes you wonder if a civilization that has been flourishing for thousands of years sees no value in 24 hour supermarkets and food stores then is it really necessary?)

We are lucky to be close to 2 open markets that carried all the goodies we needed to experiment with fresh Italian edibles. One of which was across the street from my Latin school, so I had the good fortune of picking up fresh fruit everyday and fresh paninis for lunch (usually Prosciutto and mozzarella). And only a few blocks away was an even bigger market that also carried fresh fish (which on one occasion was fun for tormenting Brenna and Devin with). With a little olive oil and some seasonings we dabbled in our own Italian fare.

Fresh_food_market.jpg The fresh food markets were outside on the streets and sidewalks

Below is a photo of the fresh Shrimp I bought and made for us one night. As a direct descendant of Lobster loving ancestors, I am much more comfortable in the ways of tearing apart fresh shelled catches from the sea. However, Devin and Brenna, as mid-westerners, were a bit more timid about such things. I cooked these guys up and then immediately freaked out both Devin and Brenna as they walked in the kitchen to eat dinner and found friends with claws, eyes and antenna on their plate. I had to immediately take them off the table peel them underneath the table (and out of eye sight) and then give them only the meat from the shrimp. It was worth it though. The shrimp was some of the best I have ever tasted (sorry Jimmy). It was tied for first with Royal Red Gulf Shrimp. It was sweet, juicy and tender...very hard to describe but absolutely delicious.

Shrimp.jpg The remains of the shrimp

After dinner, I decided to help one of the shrimp come alive and talk to Devin (at which point she jumped up and ran into the bathroom to hide). Brenna decided to call Devin a wimp, but it turns out Brenna didn't really like the shrimp talking to her either. Brenna ended up shutting herself in the bedroom (Devin was still in the bathroom), as my new friend and I laughed hysterically in the hallway (sorry Mr. and Mrs. Krugman).

Attacking_.._shrimp1.jpg Shrimp and I trying to talk to Devin through the bathroom door

Attacking_.._shrimp.jpg Shrimp and I trying to talk to Brenna at the dinner table

Attacking_shrimp.jpg Shrimp and I feeling rejected (and laughing) in the hallway.

Needless to say, even after such torment, Brenna took Devin and I out to an amazing dinner as a thank you for staying with us. We headed to Trastevere (see below) for amazing pasta, salmon and Brenna's first Tiramisu.

After the shrimp, I gave squid a try. I have to admit, even the squid grossed me out a little. It was my first time trying my hand at cooking squid and I thought it was interesting that the heads just came off when I boiled them (I probably should have cut them off ahead of time but I am learning). Once you get past the heads floating around separate from the body, it was actually pretty good (don't worry we didn't eat the heads and I didn't share that information with Devin until after we ate).

Squid_heads.jpg The squid heads

Squid_pasta.jpg The squid pasta with roasted tomatoes and olive oil (much more appetizing looking than the heads)

Don't worry though, we didn't just rely on my cooking alone. We also had two absolutely to die for meals in Rome (we ate out more than twice but we don't want to mention the other times because it was embarrassingly bad food and it is hard to take me out because I knock over things - like the menu signs onto people sitting at the tables behind them).

The first was Augusto (thanks to Sarah and Vanessa, as this restaurant was in the article they sent us). The restaurant was in Trastevere (a lot of hiply dressed young parents with designer strollers from Park Slope meets pseudo alternative art crowd from Williamsburg meets tourists who found their way off the main attraction path). There weren't that many tables, it was always full and there was no waiting list. You just stand outside of the restaurant until they come out and call out a number (referencing how many seats they have available). The tricky part here is if you don't know Italian then it is hard to know when to bully your way to the front to get your table (just imagine me with a confused and then sad face twice and people behind me made their way to tables and I stood there like an idiot AND then Devin came along put her pseudo Italian eye onto the hostess and has us sitting in 5 minutes). Then we made friends with the gentlemen who were sitting next to us. They helped us to guide our way through the menu and gave tips for our stay in Naples. I had incredible stewed lamb and Devin had "beef rolls" (it had a fancier name but we can't remember it). They also told us that tourists ask for menus but true Romans just ask what is being served. This paid off big time later at Sora Margherita.

Augusto.jpg Augusto in Trastevere


Sora Margherita = love in our belly.

Sora_Margherita.jpg Yup, this is it. No sign, no door and almost no way of knowing that there is life inside.

Once we were in, we sat down and immediately asked what they were serving today. The woman lit up and then made it her personal quest to make sure we ate everything that was worth eating.

Sora_Margh..tichoke.jpg Zucchini quiche (unlike any quiche you have had in your life), Roman-Jewish fried artichoke (need to learn how to make it immediately upon return), and the best mozzarella we have eaten so far.

Then she brought out our next round.

Sora_Margh..atballs1.jpg These meatballs were heaven. Just heaven. We just stopped eating after she brought them out and just sat there. We nibbled at them bit by bit now wanting them to go away.

Sora_Margh..atballs.jpg These were tasty but not our favorite thing she gave. They are fried mini-meatballs.

Sora_Margh..se_Cake.jpg The blueberries inside of this cheesecake were bigger than your thumb. They were still firm but warm and juicy....aaahhhh.....so, so, so good.

I am not sure it will be possible to top Sora Margherita but I sure hope we do since we have 3 and half more weeks left. I think we are going to hit up this place on our way out of Rome on Friday too. I don't think I can eat there just once in my life. It seems like a sin to do so and I don't think the Pope would approve.

Posted by Erin.Devin 10:33 Archived in Italy Tagged food Comments (1)

Some more thoughts...

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Posted by Erin.Devin 14:22 Archived in Italy Tagged educational Comments (3)

Capri

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As you may have guessed from Erin's last entry, Brenna and I have been in Capri for the past few days. First off, Capri is beautiful, like in the overwhelmingly gorgeous kind of way, so of course we took a lot of scenic pictures.

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Brenna just off the ferry

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Us at the highest point on the island

On the fist day that we were there, getting there late in the day, we hung around the town that our hotel was in, Anacapri. The island is made up of two towns, Capri and Anacapri. Anacapri is the smaller, more laid back of the two. Around sunset, we headed to Faro point, which is in a corner of the island and took our best cliff modeling shots.

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The second day that we were there we spend most of the day at Capri's biggest beach, Marina Piccola, which again was completely stunning.

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Brenna and I took turns jumping off that tallest rock, which they'll be amazing pictures of as soon as Brenna gets home to upload her shots.

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We were a little disappointed though, cause apparently when they say "sandy beach" in the Mediterranean, they mean rocky beach, lots and lots of rocks, painful rocks.

Later that night we headed to the town of Capri for dinner. While the view of the sunset was gorgeous.....

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we were sorely underdressed. Note to all, don't head to Capri, especially for dinner, without all of the necessary yachting gear; designer purse, freshly starched button down, sweater tied jauntily around the neck...you get the idea.

The last day we were there, Brenna somehow convinced me to take a "chairlift" (literally a single chair suspended above the island) up to the highest point in Capri. While the view was mindblowing, I should have brought a brown paper bag to hyperventilate into. Although at that point I should have been over it since the entire island is covered in roads on the sides of cliffs with basically no guard rail.

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those little chairs you can barely see? yea, we rode up a mountain on them.

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the yellow wheel is where we ended, the white houses are where we started.

After that we headed on the ferry to Naples, and on the train from Naples back to meet Erin in Rome.

Posted by Erin.Devin 13:20 Archived in Italy Tagged family_travel Comments (6)

Erin's new friends in Rome

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Devin and her sister Brenna headed off today to lay around on the beach in Capri. So I thought I would make use of the time to make some new friends. I met them waling through park Gianicolo. The park is situated on a hill and has amazing views of the city. These guys have been hanging around here for a long time thinking about life and watching over the city. We chatted, they gave me some tips on learning Latin (we even spoke a little -- yes I know it is a dead language but dead is really right up their alley). I didn't catch all their names (and they had a lot of friends too) but they were all big wigs in the military. They said they would stick around until Brenna and Devin came back so I could introduce them as well. Really sweet guys I tell ya.

New_Friend__1.jpg He acted tougher than he was
New_Friend__9.jpg The brains of the operation
New_Friend__7.jpg I was a little sweet on him. (Look at that complexion - I couldn't resist)
New_Friend__6.jpg Pick your friends but not their nose
New_Friend__5.jpg I was kinda jealous of his hair to be honest
New_Friend__4.jpg He had a weird eye squint but they all liked him anyway

The view they are protecting
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Posted by Erin.Devin 14:29 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (6)

Things we have been thinking about...


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Posted by Erin.Devin 14:10 Archived in Italy Tagged educational Comments (5)

Florence/Firenze


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Florence was the perfect kickoff to our Mediterranean extravaganza. We met up there, after Erin flew into Rome and Devin flew into Milan, and hung out there for about three days before we headed on to Rome. After deliriously walking around the on our first after after an exhausting flight, we came upon what was the best meal we've had so far....ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta and topped with soft shredded goat cheese, vegetables and some kind of amazing olive oil.

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Here's Erin in a deep post-ravioli trance.

After flight recovery sleeping for 14 hours, we spent the next two days seeing the sights of Florence. Including....

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The Duomo, which you could see from our hotel window

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Michaelangelo's David, which is AMAZINGLY large in person, like 15-20 feet.

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and sampling more gelato places than either of us would like to admit.

We also saw Boticelli's "Birth of Venus" painting, lots and lots and lots of busts of famous Italians, and an overload of Renaissance art. On our last day in Florence, we took our friend Michael's (see comments from our first blog post) advice and snuck onto a bus without paying and heading to Fiesole, which is a town in the mountains overlooking Florence. It was possibly the most beautiful thing that we have ever seen, in case you can't tell from the pictures below.

Oh yeah and we had this crazy English breakfast (I can't help it -- I really like scrambled eggs) and they served us hot dogs and called it sausage (so funny and not very fun tasting with eggs and orange juice).

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Hot diggity dog

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Thanks to Miguel Del Tigre we have this pic

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After adventuring around Fiesole we jumped on the train to Rome.... and we have more scenic pics for you because Devin loves them...

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More to come from Rome....

Posted by Erin.Devin 15:01 Archived in Italy Tagged tourist_sites Comments (4)

On our way...


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Devin exhausted post subway ride

First things first, we saw Diana Ross at the airport, but that was only after Erin made me (Devin) take the subway to the airport. For anyone that knows me, this was an almost impossible task, and Erin sustained much whining in the process.

But then, the holy grail of traveling struck me, possibly as my karmic return for having taken the train. Here I am, on my flight to Milan, after I have already had to part ways with Erin at JFK, and my flight, not so full. Noticing that fewer and fewer people were trickling onto the plane, I looked across the aisle and what did I see.......a row of three seats, completely empty! Being my father's child, I seized the chance to upgrade and swooped in, laying my stuff out over all three seats, claiming my gloreous territory. I was ready to just head home after that, but Erin made me come to Florence.

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Erin eating McDonalds at the airport

I (Erin) wasn't so lucky on my flight but two seats to myself wasn't so bad either. However, I did manage to have a dream that I had arrived in Rome only to remember that I had 4 more hours of work to do and immediately got on a flight back to New York (the airport attendant gave me a voucher for a $79 flight back to Rome the next day). When I got home, which was Syracuse, Jim just looked at me and shook his head. After all that I realized that is was 9:30 pm and my flight left from JFK at 9:45pm and there was no way that I would make it in time and I had no way to tell Devin I wouldn't meet her in Florence. That is when I woke up panic stricken and thought - thank god I am finally on vacation.

Click on Florence on the map below to get a sneak peek of our Florence adventures...

Posted by Erin.Devin 06:46 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (6)

We set it up!

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We're still in NYC, and in preparation for our trip, Erin and I have decided to set up this travel blog that we will update throughout the trip with pictures, videos, maps, etc. We figured instead of assaulting you with mass e-mails every week, we'd make this and leave it up to your own convenience to check, and follow us on our map. So enjoy and comment away!

-Devin & Erin

Posted by Erin.Devin 22:21 Archived in USA Tagged preparation Comments (5)

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