Thursday, December 31, 2009

Florence and Rome, Italy

Jessica joined me to the Duomo Museum. It holds all the art that used to be in and decorating the exterior of the Duomo. We got to see Ghiberti’s Bronze Panels from the Baptistery Doors and sculptures by Michelangelo and Donatello.
I went across the river to go to the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine. I got lost but found some interesting shops on the way. The chapel is filled with fresco’s by Masaccio, Masolino, and Filippino Lippi that are very beautiful.
I spent my last few minutes in the markets near San Lorenzo. I picked up a few more souvenirs and then met Sam back at our hotel to pack up. We checked out and then got pizza and canollis to eat in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
In the train station we ran into the LDS missionaries who explained to us how to validate our train ticket. We took the train to Rome passing the beautiful countryside. I have no idea how fast we were going, but I think a lot faster than cars travel.
When we got to Rom we walked to our hotel, B&B Angela. We were supposed to stay in another hotel, but we got an email the night before telling us that we were moved. When we got there and checked in the Chinese teenager receptionist walked us several blocks away to another building, giving us four keys, and leading us to the smallest hotel room I have ever seen. The king size bed barely fits in the room. We are in Rome, have our own bathroom, and it is clean, so whatever.
After we got settled we walked across town to the Pantheon, by the time we got there it we closed on the inside, but we got to see in through the door. Our plan is to go back to tour the interior. We found the gelato place that Jeremiah told us about, so we had to get some, even though we had just had gelato an hour before.
We strolled through Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona, which felt a little like a carnival. There were street vendors everywhere and little shops lined the narrow streets. We ate dinner in a little restaurant near Piazza Navona. We had fried vegetables as our appetizer, tortellini in cream sauce, and I had crème caramel for desert.
The first part of the night was dry but it started raining more and more as the night when on. We pressed on because it was New Years Eve and we are in Rome. We walked past Capitol Hill and a bunch of Roman ruins. They are everywhere. You will be walking along and then next to you is a ruin surrounded by a fence in the middle of the city. They don’t seem to tear things down here, they just use the building and turn it into something they want.
We walked past Circus Maximus were they did the chariot races and then just followed the crowds to the Coliseum. The Colloseum is incredible, especially at night. For New Years Eve they had a band playing that the crowd seemed to love. The only problem was that it was pouring down rain. After an hour of that Sam and I gave up and headed for our hotel. There must not be any regulations for fireworks because people were setting them off in the streets and throwing them out their windows. We kissed to bring in the new year amidst loud booms of everyone’s fireworks. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Florence, Italy

I started my day with the Church of Santa Maria Novella. I tried to pay with a 50 E but the church refused to give me change, so I had to get change and come back. The church’s claim to fame is Masaccio’s The Trinity (1425-1427). It is a huge fresco. I was so used to seeing it as a three inch picture in a book. Seeing the 3D image in actually size was pretty cool. The church also displays a Giotto Crucifixion, a Orcagna Brothers fresco, Brunelieschi’s Crucifixion, and Ghirlandaio’a fresco of Mary and John the Baptist (which 13 year old Michelangelo may have worked on), and Filippino Lippi’s St Philip at the Temple of Mars.
My next stop was the Bargello Museum which is a sculpture museum that holds several Donatello and Michelangelos. I met up with Sam and some of our friends from his MBA class and we ate together at a pizzeria. I had a pizza with ham, olives, and artichokes on it. It was very good, but they didn’t spread the toppings around. They just lumped them in sections.
We climbed the Duomo. It was pretty grueling to get to the top but the view was incredible. You get to walk around the bottom of the dome getting a close look at the fresco and seeing a grand view of the interior of the church. The stairs were steep and weren’t very wide, especially when people had to pass us on their way down.
We had reservations for the Uffizi gallery, which is a must unless you want to stand in line forever. It has the greatest overall collection anywhere of Italian painting. You start with Medieval alter pieces of the Madonna and Child. Then on to the Early Renaissance, featuring Botticell’s Allegory of Spring and The Birth of Venus. They have Leonardo’s Annunciation. From the High Renaissance we saw Michelangelo’s Holy Family, Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch, and Titian’s Venus of Urbino. Parmigianion’s Madonna with the Long Neck is from the time just after the Rennissance. The rest of the Uffizi is filled with Roman sculptures some Caravaggios and Rembrants.
That night we had dinner with the MBA group and had a five course meal with the best tiramisu I have ever had. It was a really nice night and so we strolled down to the Arno and back to the hotel.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Florence, Italy

This morning I was on my own in the city, which was a challenge because I can’t seem to follow a map while in the city. I did find my way to the Museum of San Marco. It had the best collection anywhere of artwork by Fra Angelico. The museum was a monastery that Fra Angelico lived in. There is an impressive collection downstairs, but upstairs I got to see the monk cells and Fra Angelico had painted a fresco in each of the cells. I love seeing art where the artist intended. I also went to the Medici Chapels where I got to see tombs of the great ruling family of Florence. It was designed and carved by Michelangelo. I spent a long time in the last room just marveling over Michelangelo’s sculptures.

Sam met me at the Accadamia and we got to see Michelangelo’s David! What a fulfillment to actually be standing in front of it. I only wish I could have taken a picture with him. I had to settle for the fake David that stands where the real David used to stand. The Accadamia also has some of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures. It was really interesting to see his process. I was disappointed that I couldn’t see his Pieta. It is being restored.

We had lunch at a little restaurant called Paticceria Robiglio. I had Risotto that was mouth watering. They also served flat bread that I really enjoyed. After lunch we went to the Duomo. We listed to the Rick Steves Audio Tour and went inside. Brunelleschi’s dome is the most impressive thing about the cathedral. It towers about the city and is so beautiful in the cityscape. We walked around the baptistery and saw the reproductions of Ghiberti’s bronze doors.

We continued down Calzaiuoli (street) on another Rick Steves audio tour, the Rennissance Walk. The pedestrian only street is filled with shops and there are Chirstmas lights strung across the street. It is a really fun place to stroll. We stopped at Orsanmichele Church which used to be a granary. Sam and I were impressed that they made a granary so beautiful that it could one day become a church. The exterior of the church was lined with niches filled with sculptures. They were all copies but I enjoyed seeing works by Donatello, Ghiberti, and Verrochio in their intended environments.

Next we found ourselves in Piazza Della Signoria, the town’s main square. There is a covered porch area called Loggia that is filled with statues Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna and Perseus by Benvenuto are incredible to see. The back of the Loggia is lined with Roman originals. All of the Roman art I see in US art museums is broken. I was so impressed with the statues that were on display here in a public square. There was only one missing arm. Being in a country where there is so much art that you stick your Roman originals outside amazes me. Palazzo Vecchio was the government building that looks like a fortress. The David stood by it’s door originally, but now there is a replica in it’s place. We walked by the Uffizi courtyard and looked at statues of all the great Florentines. That led us to the Arno River and on to Ponte Vecchio, the bridge that is lined with jewelry shops.

On our way back to our hotel we strolled through the streets and went to the market in front of San Lorenzo. We did relax in our room for an hour before heading out for dinner with Jason and Jessica. We ate dinner at La Lamhara. I had Moccoli del Granduca di Toscana, a homemade ravioli filled with cheese and spinach in a cream and tomato sauce. It was fantastic! While eating we saw the server bring out a flaming desert to another table and we had to have one so we ordered Crème Catalina, which I am sure is spelled wrong, but it was an egg custard like desert that was similar to crème brule, but not exactly right. After Jessica tasted ours, she ordered one for her and Jason.

After talking for awhile in the hotel lobby we headed to bed exhausted but so thrilled to be in Florence.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Florence and Siena, Italy

I started my day early and met my friend Jessica for breakfast a little after 7am. Breakfast was really good. It was provided by our hotel and topped any continental breakfast I have ever had. We even had desert with breakfast, gosh I love Italy. Jessica and I tried to take at bus but ended up on the wrong one, so we just walked to Piazzale Michelangelo. It is a viewing point with a big replica of the David. It was quite the climb up there but the view was worth it. Our next stop was at San Miniato Church. Legend has it that when St. Minias was beheaded on the banks of the Arno in 250 A.D., he picked up his head and walked to what became the first Christian cemetery. Kind of weird, but the church was beautiful with a facade covered in green and white marble and an interior filled with frescoes and a golden mosaic. We wandered back down to the river, stopping in another church on the way. Any church I have stopped in has had incredible art in it. After crossing the river, we went to Santa Croce Church, which was massive. It houses the tombs of Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante, and many other famous Florentines. I especially loved the frescoes dating from the 1300s painted by Giotto. The church also has a small museum that we strolled through.

Sam got out of class at noon so I met him back at the hotel. We got sandwiches and desserts from a café and walked around taking in the city. We took a bus to Siena, which took about an hour and 10 minutes. Siena is such a beautiful city. There is nothing like it. The old town is a jumble of paved pedestrian only street lined with shops. I loved it there. We visted II Campo, the best square in Italy. Then we climbed the city tower. It was a 330 foot climb that felt never ending, but the view was well worth it. We toured the Civic Museum, which was filled with art. Then we went to the Duomo, an art packed cathedral with mosaic floors and statues by Michelangelo and Bernini. It also had a museum that displayed what used to be it’s cathedral’s art. We ran into some Missionaries that were happy to speak English for a few minutes. On our way out of the city we stopped to buy some panforte, which is the local delicacy. It was kind of like fruit cake, but a whole lot better.

We got back to Florence a little after 8 and went out for dinner. We went to this little place where the service was incredibly slow but the food was well worth the wait. I had gnocci with a four cheese cream sauce. It was wonderful. I have never had a cream sauce that good. We didn’t get out of the restaurant until 10pm but we had to have gelatos. Today I had mint chocolate chip and nutella.

I will post more pictures when I get back but I wanted the kids to be able to see some.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Florence, Italy

Sam and I left the house at 8:30am on December 26th after dropping off our kids at the Angerbaughers. We met up with Jason (someone in Sam’s MBA class) and Jessica in the airport so we were able to figure out our travelling together. It wasn’t something we planned, but it made for a much more enjoyable travelling experience. We had a layover in New York and then an 8 hour flight to Milan. Sleeping on an airplane is not fun. I am not sure how much sleep I got, but it wasn’t enough. We arrived in Milan at 8am. We found the right bus without any trouble and arrived at the train station. The train station was tricky. We could not find Firenze in the automated ticket machine, so we got in a huge line to buy tickets from and attendant. Jason and Sam decided to try another machine and were able to buy our tickets but there were only four tickets left, so we ended up in first class. When boarding the train, we went to the wrong end and had to jog back to where we came from. It was present to watch the Italian countryside from the train but we were all so tired that we fell asleep during the 2 hour train ride.
I am already in love with Florence. After Sam and I checked into Hotel Albani Firenze, which is very nice, we went on the Oltrarno Walking tour. To get there we passed the Duomo, which is just incredible. There are open air markets and fashion shops everywhere. I can’t wait to buy some art. We did stop for gelatos and I had pistachio. It was very yummy and look forward to more gelatos, even in the cold. To start our tour we walked over the Ponte Vecchio that crosses the Arno River. It is lined with jewelry shops and street vendors. The view of the river and the city were breath taking. Sam and I loved walking around on the Oltrarno side of the river. You can find beauty in so many things around you. The architecture is so different from the USA. I love it and the details are amazing. I even took some pictures of some beautiful doors. We stopped by the Pitti Palace, a massive place that shows off Renaissance esthetics. It has a museum but we didn’t tour it because of our time constraints. We did get to go in three churches Piazza Santo Spirito, Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, and San Frediano. Piazza Santo Spirito was the largest, had the most art, was the best lit, and had a beautiful stone carved ceiling. I just marveled over the painting that the church had on display, works from the 1300 to the 1600s that I see in art history books. My only regret is that their Michelangelo crucifix in on lone to Naples, so I didn’t get to see it. Santa Maria del Carmine had a beautiful painted ceiling but it was very dark in there, so we couldn’t see very many of the paintings. San Frediano was small but was also had an impressive painted ceiling. Our walk back to the hotel in the dark was delightful. The streets still are decorated for Christmas and the city feels magical.
We had hot chocolate at a café with the professor of Sam’s MBA group and some of the other group members. The hot chocolate was semi-sweet and very rich. Very different from Swiss Miss Dinner was served at the hotel buffet style. We are going to bed early today after an exhausting two days of travelling. I can hardly wait to explore this beautiful city tomorrow.

Snow on Christmas Eve

Who would have thought we would have snow in Texas on Christmas Eve! We had a great time playing in it. Of course we couldn’t stay out long because we don’t have boots or any snow clothing. We had a snowball fight, Renée made a snow angle, and we went sledding on BYU dining trays. Jinx loved the snow and kept rolling around in it.
We also made sugar cookies and decorated them. I kept meaning to do it earlier but we never got around to. Carter ate more than he decorated, Renée added way to many decorations, and Gavin got it just right this year.
Our traditional Christmas Eve dinner is Chicken fried shrimp as and appetizer, cordon bleu, baked potatoes, and broccoli with cheese sauce. We do it by candlelight and the kids really get a kick out of it. Then we act out the nativity story and have headdresses for each part. The kids each got to open a present and it was new PJs. Sam read the kids The Night Before Christmas and then they all went to bed. Gavin and Renée decided to sleep together that night. It was really cute when I checked on them. They were sleeping on opposite sides of Gavin’s twin.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Our kids are at such fun ages for Christmas. Everyone believes and it is truly a magical time of year. It was especially fun that we had a white Christmas! Gavin and Renée decided to sleep together on Christmas Eve. I am not sure what their purpose was, but they were cute sleeping at opposite ends of Gavin’s twin bed. You would think that they would have decided to use Renée’s queen, but I guess Gavin didn’t want to sleep in a pink room. We told the kids they couldn’t come down stairs until 7am.
We were all up at 7 and I don’t think Carter really knew what was going on. He quickly caught on an joined in the fun. Gavin is always first to finish unwrapping all of his presents and then he helps Renée and Carter find the rest of their presents. It was fun to see what the kids chose to give to each of us. Alycia took my kids to the dollar store to do their shopping. I guess Carter wanted to get everyone screw drivers, but he ended up just giving a set to Sam. We had a great morning playing with all the new toys. Sam and Gavin built the Lego Star Wars space ship. We had Mundushen for breakfast, which has been passed down on my mom’s side for generations.
The Anderbauers had us over for dinner with the Rhoads family. They made a wonderful German dinner and not having to make Christmas dinner was the best present I received. We also played Cranium, which I am not particularly skilled at, but we still had a really fun time.