Friday, August 16, 2013

Day 20 - Tuesday July 9th, 2013 - All good Things must come to an end

-My final thoughts on my amazing trip-

It's always hard to believe it when a vacation you have looked forward to comes and goes. I remember booking this trip in January and thinking it will never come. Now here it is come and gone and I'm on the plane back to the US. I really LOVED my trip. I sincerely enjoyed all the time I got to spend with my mom and my sister, Katie. Since I don't live at home I think it's good when we get that type of time with one another. It's fun getting to know her on a more grown up level. I admire my mom's sacrifice to let me drag her around and love that I got to experience some of my travels with her. I also enjoyed spending time with Mandy and her family. They are so wonderful to have hosted us. I loved watching Mandy and George interact, they are so good together. I love how they can play off of one another, that makes a good marriage. They also are such great parents to their sweet little girl. I really loved my time with Mike. we don't get time like that at home so it was great going on fun dates with him every day. I always give him a hard time about being a bad driver. I learned on this trip he is actually a fantastic driver. He's only a bad driver when he has a cell phone to distract him. However, given our current car situation (my car in the impound for 10 days) I don't think I'll have to worry about that too much anymore. I think he's learned his lesson.

Anyways after being away from home and traveling for three weeks I've made some great memories, seen a lot of beautiful places and enjoyed fantastic company. But I must say I am incredible happy to be going home. I am soo glad to live in American. I know a lot of that is because it's what is familiar to me, but regardless of the reasons why here are some things I won't miss about Europe

Paying for water
No ice
Worrying about pick pockets
People trying to con you out of money
Everything being more expensive because the € and £ are worth more than the $.
Disregard for personal space
Lack of personal hygiene
poor labeled streets
Streets with names like ss263
Ridiculously high gas prices and road tolls
Having "service" added to you bill rather than paying based on performance of service
Ketchup that taste like BBQ sauce
No lines or organization, people just jump in front of you if you seem to be in a line.
No signs or stop lights in intersections, just make space for your car then floor it.
Salads being served with only oil and lemon

All that being said, I really did enjoy my trip. And here are some things I will miss to prove it.

Lemon soda
Peach yogurt
European chocolate
French baguettes
The rich history of the area
the magic that comes in discovering a new place
Fresh orange juice (I promise it's better there)
Learning about other cultures
Making memories with my favorite people

And here are my top 5 favorite things I did over the whole trip

Drive on the Amalfi Coast
Beach day in Cinque Terra
Disneyland Paris
Les Miserable on West End
Fireworks over Sorrento

Day 19 - Monday June 8th, 2013 - Capri/Rome Airport area

We slept in as long as we could then went to breakfast. Sick of eggs and bacon we stuck to fruit and cereal. Then we packed up and caught the ferry back to Sorrento. We were able to catch the hotel shuttle back to the hotel where our car was. Upon returning to the hotel the first thing I did was run to the car and check my suitcase. The first thing I saw when I opened it was my cellphone! I was so excited to see it, I have no recollection of putting it in there. Could this be my first sign of pregnancy brain? If I hadn't had so many pictures from my trip on my phone I actually could have been ok with loosing it. I'm due for an upgrade but Mike wants me to use the thing till it stops working. Anyways, we looked up the address for the Rome temple construction site and put it in our GPS then once again hit the road. We drove the three hours to the construction site. Before arriving we had to stop at a toll booth. There was a man standing there, he was not dressed in any official outfit but seemed to be assisting people at the booth. I remembered this specific toll had cost €2 on the way there. I got out my €2 coin and gave it to Mike. the guy at the booth said only bills no coins. he was very admit about it. I was very hesitant, not really trusting anyone but not being able to think fast enough to connect the dots on the spot. Luckily I had a €5 bill and gave that to him. When he gave me my change I quickly counted it to see if he had given me the right amount, but Mike had already driven through the stop when I realized the dirt bag had taken some of our change. I was only given €1.50 in change instead of the €3 I was due. I was furious. I quickly explained to Mike that the scum bag probably didn't work there and just prayed off of people like us, I'm sure the coin machine worked just fine but had we given perfect change the dude could not have stolen any money from us. I was seriously fuming. When we arrived at the temple site it was all boarded up so we really couldn't see to much, but saw enough to get a good idea for what it will look like. It was still pretty cool to see. Then we went to the hotel to check in and get rid of all of our bags before dropping off the car. On our way to the hotel we had to find a place to get gas so we could return the car on a full tank. When we got to the gas station a guy came up to our pump and started helping us. I thought it was kind of odd since the sign said self service, but we had stopped at another gas station where someone who worked there had helped up. When you buy gas at places in Italy you have to give a € amount first then pump your gas, so trying to fill a tank completely is tricky. We started at €40  and we got pretty close. I suggested seeing where €5 would get us but the guy peeked over Mikes shoulder and said €5 was not enough we would need more. So before I could protest Mike told me to give him €10. Not wanting to make a scene I just gave it to him. When the tank signaled full after only €6.50 Mike asked for his change. This is when the dude told us he couldn't give us change because he didn't work for the company then asked for a tip. I was again furious that some scum bag, trying to make a buck, had lost me money. Mike had to rip the coin for his "tip" out of my clutched fist. I could rant about these type of people all day but as my blood pressure is already rising just thinking about it I know it's probably not healthy. Lol. We checked into the hotel at about 4pm. We hadn't had anything to eat or drink since breakfast and were about to pass out. We went to the hotel bar to get a snack but they weren't selling food till 7! Even though Mike had a terrible headache coming on we decided we needed food. Not knowing where to go for something we would like we reverted to an American classic, McDonalds. We searched for it in the GPS and set it to take us to the closest one. However, when we "arrived" at the destination there wasn't one anywhere to be seen. We quickly picked another and were happy when it was a real McDonalds. I generally don't get fast food but after a week of pizza and pasta nothing sounded better. I ordered a feast large enough to clog every artery in my body. I ordered a deluxe quarter pounder, side salad (they had dressing!), chicken nuggets, strawberry milk shake and I shared a large fry and fanta with Mike. And I'll tell you what, McDonalds has never tasted so good! I think I had eaten my whole meal in 15 min. After we ate we took the car back to the airport. We checked it in, which was a little confusing, then searched for the shuttle back to the hotel. It was the longest shuttle ride ever. It took about a half a hour but it was in a hot van with no ac, we were in the back and the driver was jerking all over the place. I was so sick and Mike was even worse than me because he was getting a full blown migraine. I've never been so happy to get to a hotel and lay down. The rest of the night was pretty boring. We didn't really leave the room. Mike tried to kick his migraine and I just hung out and packed to leave the next day. Of course we spent a good amount of time trying to finish our book. After a few hours mike decided to use our spare change at the vending machine. He got a couple sodas and some wafer cookies. The wafers were pretty good so he ended up going back to get more. That was the excitement of the night. I feel asleep fairly early. When I woke up at 3am I felt terribly sick. I think it was a combination of morning sickness and my body yelling at me for the McDonalds meal. My mom happened to text me so I ended up Facetiming with her and my sister for over an hour. Lol. Then I went back to bed. I guess you could say I was trying to get back on USA time.

Day 18 - Sunday July 7th, 2013- Capri

This morning we were sad to leave our wonderful Hotel Mediterraneo. We had such a wonderful stay there it was sad that it had to come to an end. After breakfast Mike enjoyed a final hour at the pool while I packed up the bags and got ready to go to Capri. We had planned to drive our rental car to the dock and try to find a parking garage to park for the 24+ hours we would be in Capri. We were a little concerned about finding reasonably priced parking and feeling like our large suitcases would be safe in the car. We packed up the car and before we left I decided I should ask the front desk if they had a place they would recommend parking. They told us we should just leave the car at their hotel, they would only charge €10 a day which was much more reasonable than the €30 a day I had seen online. We were super lucky that around the time they said we could leave the car there the hotel shuttle to Sorrento city center came. We quickly jumped on the shuttle and rode it down to the city center. We found our way to the ferry dock and bought our tickets to Capri. Just before they started boarding the ferry I looked at my ticket and realized it was for one person not two. I sent Mike literally running back to the ticket office (which was a good 500+ yards away) to see if we needed another ticket. Thankfully I did that because we had left one of the tickets at the ticket office. He returned just in time for us to board the ferry. The ride to Capri was much shorter than I had anticipated. It only took about 30 min once we were on the water. When we arrived at the pier we instantly spotted our hotel. We were off the ferry and checking in at our hotel within 3 min. Needless to say we had a fantastic location. Our room was very nice with a fantastic large balcony overlooking the waterfront. We even had 2 large sunbeds on the deck. We enjoyed the view for a while as we tried to figure out what we wanted to do. I wanted to take the bus to Anacapri and take the chairlift to the top, but it was so hot I figured we would be better off waiting until late afternoon when it had cooled off to do it. Instead we decided we would go to the beach area for a while. When we were walking to the beach area I went to take a picture with my phone when I noticed it wasn't in my purse. We checked the backpack we had with us and it wasn't in there either. I've been preaching to Mike that you need to put things away in the same place each time and I have done pretty good at following my own advice. I always keep my cell phone in my purse so when it wasn't in there I knew something had happened to it. We went back to the hotel to see if it had ended up in with Mikes things or if I had unconsciously taken it out of my purse and put it on the bed. When it wasn't there we decided to call the hotel to see if I had left it in the room. They told me nothing had been found and I mentioned that I may have possibly even put it in the car. They went as far as to even go to the car and check there for me, but it wasn't there either. I hoped I had unknowingly just packed it in my suitcase. Since there was nothing we could do about it right then we went back out to the beach. While the beach area did not lack beautiful blue water and breathtaking scenery, it did lack sand. Instead it was filled with rocks. Not my favorite thing in the world. I know I am a bit of a beach snob but I was not able to lay my towel on a pile of hot rocks and pretend I was nice and comfy. Not to mention the pain of actually walking to the water. It felt like walking over hot coals. Then when you finally reached the water there were still tons of rocks there. I lasted a whole 30 min on the "beach" before calling it quits. We went scouring for food, but after a week straight of pizza and pasta all I wanted was a hamburger and fries or something without tomatoes or motz. (Can u tell I am starting to get tired of vacation?) We finally found a place that sold hamburgers and fries and got some to go (as well as my new favorite, lemon soda.) We took our food back to our room and got there just in time to see the first set of the men's championship match at Wimbledon. After eating I took a power nap and Mike watched the tennis match. Around 4:30 we went down to catch the public bus to Anacapria. It was a tiny bus with only 7 seats. The rest was standing room only. The bust was packed like a can of sardines and we didn't make it on so we waited for the next one to come. The one we took was thankfully less crowded and we even managed to get a seat. When we got out it took us a while to actually find the chair lift. The stinky part was the weather had turned and it was very windy, and it looked like a storm might hit. Due to the weather they had shut the chair lift down. This meant we had gone all the way up there for nothing. We tried to make the best of it by walking around and looking at the shops. Due to the poor weather and that it was a Sunday a lot of the shops were closing up or had already closed. We saw a waffle station and ordered two waffles, but they were just ok. I think I was just tired of junk food and sweets. Anyways, then we went to the bus stop to catch a bus back to the Marina. While we waited I found a shop that sold bracelets and I bought my one and only souvenir from Italy, a bracelet made of glass beads. We waited, and waited, and waited for the bus to come. While several buses came and went for the town of Capri none came for the Marine. We waited for 45 till a crowded bus finally came. We squeezed on and barely made it. When we got back we watched a few of the highlights that were playing of the tennis match. Then we decided we should go find food. A lot of places along the marina had closed and only a few restaurants remained open for dinner. Luckily, one of them I saw on trip advisor and it had really good reviews so we decided to eat there. I really wanted the ceaser salad but when I asked if they had dressing they laughed and said only oil and lemon in Italy. I settled on the vegetable soup and Mike got another pizza. The food turned out to be very good, especially all the veggies in my soup. After dinner we took a big blanket out onto the balcony, pushed the sun beds together and cuddled while we listened to a few chapters of our book before bed.

Day 17 -Saturday July 6th, 2013 - Amalfi Coast

This morning we woke up a little earlier so we could get an early start to the day. We had a fantastic breakfast on the balcony overlooking the water. We have had a lot of good breakfasts on our trip but this was by far the best. They even had fresh motz balls tomatoes you could slice yourself. To die for. After we ate we quickly got ready and went to catch the shuttle bus to Sorrento. We had been told that ferries from Sorrento to Amalfi and Positsno were €7 euro which didn't seem to bad. So we found our way to the ferry dock and asked about ferry tickets. It was €31.60 PER PERSON for just one stop the €20  per person for the stop at the second place. That is insane. We could spend that much money on transport when we had a car to drive ourselves. So we hiked back to the hotel (it took 30 min in the blazing heat.) We quickly looked up info online for driving to each town. The advice was not comforting and we were a little nervous about the unknown. Not to mention where we would park upon arrival and if we could find a beach area. But we didn't want to just hang around all day doing nothing so off we went. Surprisingly the drive wasn't horrible. It was tight in places and congested in other places but overall Mike thought it wasn't as bad as people made it out to be. Must be the Utah mountain driver in him. The views along the way were incredible and I doubt the camera will capture its true beauty. We stopped at several viewing points to take pictures and just stared at the beautiful scenery.  At one location there was a man with a fruit stand selling fresh fruits and fresh squeezed juice. We bought 2 cups of OJ and it was the best OJ we have had in our entire life. Words can't describe how amazing it really way! So delicious! We continued our drive into the town of Amalfi. We had read parking was hard to find and by the amount of cars parked on the street we believed it, but we figured we'd try anyway. So down we went toward the water. By some miracle (aka HF again looking out for us) we saw a sign for parking and followed it. We pulled right into a spot by the water and found out it was only €5 a hour which was really good for where we were. Giddy about our luck and the small price we had to pay to park
we set off the find a beach area. We quickly found one and rented two chairs, towels and an umbrella for the afternoon. We changed and settled in to our beautiful piece of heaven. Mike swam all the way to the barrier and enjoyed the water while I relaxed in the shade. Then he came back to sit with our stuff and I went and cooled off. We ordered a pizza and a lemon soda (my new favorite) for a late lunch on the beach. After a while we changed and walked into town to see what it was like. It was very much like a lot of the other beach towns. Buildings with vendors selling food and souvenirs. Mike really enjoyed looking around at all the things they sold. There was a lot of lemon things. They grow a lot of lemons in Italy and especially in this region. They are HUGE here as well, like the size of a small Mellon. There was lemon liqueur, soap, candy anything you could think off. We found a shop that sold lemon sorbetti. We stopped in and I got a lemon slush drink and Mike got the sorbetti in cream and iced lemon. It was fantastic. I stool some of his sorbetti and put it on top of slush. It was the perfect treat for a hot summer day. Once the sorbetti was gone, I ate my slush on its own. It was really strong, like it almost burnt a little going down. But I couldn't decide if it was because the lemon was bitter and they added a lot of sugar to it and that's what was  burning a bit OR if it was a liquor. Obviously I don't have a clue what that would eve taste like. I had Mike taste it to see what he thought, even though he's just as clueless about that stuff as I am. He decided that it just might have a little liquor in it and quickly confiscated it from me. Who knows if it really did, but better safe than sorry. After that our parking meter was up and sadly we had to leave. The drive back was much more congested and busy than the way over. Mike is seriously a driving champ. He drove those roads in his stick shift like a boss. We stopped again to see our friend at the fruit stand. We took some pictures and got some more OJ. It will seriously haunt me in my dreams. I will forever want that juice at home and I guarantee I will never be able to make it that good again. Once we got back to the hotel we learned we were just in time to catch the shuttle down to Sorrento to find somewhere to eat. We walked around trying to find something to eat. We hesitant to get tricked into eating at another tourist trap. We found a hotel restaurant off the beat and path tucked away into a little hillside area. We looked at the menu and I noticed it said homemade pasta. I was sold. We walked into the restaurant to find its tables over looked the Mediterranean. Once again we had a gorgeous view for dinner. I ordered the homemade ravioli stuffed with motz, rigatto cheese, basil and tomato and Mike ordered the gnocchi in homemade tomatoes, basil and motz sauce. When our food arrived I was so excited because it looked incredible. Once I took my first bit I thought I'd died and gone to pasta heaven. THE BEST ravioli ever, EVER! So amazing and Mikes was just as good. While he still claims he liked our meal in Verona better, I say this was my favorite meal. After dinner we had sometime before we needed to catch the shuttle back to the hotel so we walked around some more and explored the shops. We bought some postcards for the nieces and nephews and tried to find some good souvenirs. We made our way back to the bus stop and waited for the shuttle. I noticed at the bus stop they have, no joke, a pizza vending machine. It just made the pizza right there while you waited, dough and all. We were to full to try it, but it looked pretty cool. While we waited we of course listened to our book. Upon arriving back to the hotel, we caught the perfect sunset and took some pictures. Breathtaking sky. Amazing. We wanted to use our hotel credit so we went up to the dining room to order dessert. I got a divine chocolate soufflĂ© while Mike stuck with his Neapolitan gelato combo. It was of course perfect and to die for. After dessert we finally were able to go back to our room after a long day. We facetimed family and caught up on current events before bed. A relaxing ending to a wonderful day.  We didn't fall asleep till about 11:30. Then at about Midnight I heard a loud booming coming from outside. I knew immediately it was fireworks. I jumped straight out of bed, told mike to wake up and went on the balcony. I was surprised to see that just 25 yards away from us is where the fireworks were being let off. It was incredible! They were so close and the backdrop of the city of Sorrento behind them was perfect. It was beyond words. We both couldn't believe something so cool was happening. I think it just might have made today the best day of our trip.