Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tenuta Moreno

Ok so let me just talk about the drive from Rome to Brindisi for a second. Um…can I say GORGEOUS!? The Italian countryside is even more beautiful in person than it is in all the movies and photos I’ve seen. There are more vineyards here than there are espresso stands in Seattle or Walgreens pharmacies in Orlando! But you have to look kind of quickly at them as you zoom past them at a LOT of kilometers per hour! The posted signs said 90 to 110 km per hour and I don’t know how many miles per hour that converts to but on these windy mountain highways with Italian drivers driving at any speed they please, it feels like you’re playing with death…in my humble opinion. Let’s just say I’m not disappointed that our rental car is manual and I won’t be able to drive here because I don’t know how to drive manual.

So anyway we got to our hotel, the Tenuta Moreno, late at night when we were completely exhausted and hungry and in need of a bathroom and I have to admit that on the drive in I was scared to death of the place. It was pitch black when we followed the Garmin’s heeding and exited the highway at 130 km per hr or whatever crazy speed limit it was. And I mean pitch BLACK! We turned left and right and left again and then right again and eventually we drove out of the inky darkness into what I’m pretty sure is the real Romeo and Juliet hangout. This place is amazing!

All of the things you envision when you think of an Italian villa…they’re here. The architecture, the wine cellar, the unbelievably beautiful pool...the list goes on. My favorite spot is the breakfast area. Each morning we get to sip coffee and nibble on yummy seasonal fruit and delicious pastries, fresh meats & cheeses out on a covered veranda surrounded by rock walls and a small grove of citrus trees while a chef makes fresh omelettes right there outside in the courtyard. Oh, and there’s a nook in the rock wall where the little birds have made their nest and they put on quite a show for Jackson while we eat.And so the Tenuta Moreno Spa Resort is our home in Mesagne (between Grottaglie where Dan works and the beach town of Brindisi) for the next week or so. Not too shabby! I think we can rough it living out of our suitcases for awhile under these conditions.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jet Lag

Traveling forward 9 time zones is not exactly easy. We’re doing pretty well with the new schedule but we’re definitely neck deep in an adjustment period. On our first day in Rome we woke up before 6 and surprised ourselves by not only staying awake all day but also walking approximately 12 miles up, down, in, out, and around the various parts of the city. Well…at least Dan and I were awake while Jackson took 2-hour naps at every major site in Rome (I took pictures of him, of course), waking only to eat, chase birds, or flirt with the ladies. The two of us abruptly hit a wall though as soon as we boarded our hotel’s shuttle bus at the end of the day and realized that while neither one of us could keep our eyes open, a very active and alert Jackson was sitting between us and would happily explore the bus and its patrons whether we were awake to monitor (a.k.a. restrain) him or not. Despite our efforts to take turns being awake on the short drive to the hotel, I was more than once abruptly awakened by Jackson yanking my sunglasses from atop my head or by my own head bobbing forward when the bus hit a dip in the city streets. Thankfully, we all arrived at the hotel without tales of a toddler gone wild.

Our next day was another roller coaster of energy levels. We went strong up until mid-way through our drive from Rome to Southern Italy when Dan was getting groggy and needed a nap. We made a pit stop in Pompeii and Dan slept in the car while Jackson and I literally chased birds around the ruins for nearly an hour. Don't worry - Dan didn't miss out on the ruins. We went back for seconds with him and there's a blog about it if you want details.

The remainder of the drive south to our hotel just outside of Brindisi was fragmented for me as it was my turn to be overcome with exhaustion (from jet lag and chasing birds and Jackson!). I struggled to stay awake and keep Dan company – or more accurately, I was out cold except when awakened by crazy curves in the road that threatened whiplash.

Day 3 was yesterday and it was the day we crashed hard. After breakfast here at our hotel (which is incredibly awesome by the way!), all three of us went straight back to our room, drew the black-out drapes closed, and slept like a family of hibernating bears for most of the day. It seemed to work for Dan and me but for Jackson it might not have been the best idea considering that last night he woke up and was ready to chat and play long before the sun was up.
Today Dan started his first day at work here at Alenia Aeronautica (Boeing’s partner here in Italy) and hopefully he can stay awake during meetings. On the other hand, Jackson and I plan to snooze as often as we fancy…poolside!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Well we hadn’t necessarily planned to stop at Pompeii today but we did and it was definitely a worthy side trip on our drive from Rome to Brindisi. We got lost on our way there since crazy Garmin took us on a bit of a wild goose chase but we did eventually find the ruins. Dan was beat from jet lag and the intensity of driving on Italian roads with the very crazy Italian drivers so he napped in the car while I took Jackson to the ruins to stretch his restless little baby legs and look for birdies. We found lots and lots of birdies and Jackson was delighted to say the least. We saw mostly the little sparrow-size birds that I like and a few crazy black birds that did some super cirque du soleil moves in mid-air. Jackson yelled “bir” (he says bird with a thick British accent) so many times that I overheard a pair of tourists who we passed several times say “Look, there’s birdie boy!”I think Pompeii was Jackson’s favorite site so far. Not only did he get to see tons of birds but he also had the complete attention and adoration of an entire tour bus group of mostly women/teen girls who took a break from their tour of the ruins to take their picture with him, touch his hand, kiss his cheek or just gush over him. He soaked up every ounce of the attention.
On our way back out to the car to wake Dan, I realized I’d accidentally gone in through the exit (or uscita) and completely skipped the entry fee. Oops! Don’t worry…on round two with Dan we paid our dues and again Jackson was on the look-out for birds while Dan and I got severely lost as we tried to follow the Rick Steves’ self-guided tour of the expansive ruins.It really was incredible to see how well-preserved the ruins are considering their age and the fact that a huge volcanic eruption wiped out the thriving city all those years ago. We were pretty amazed the frescos painted on the walls are still clearly visible and the plaster casts archeologists made of the victims of the volcanic eruption were pretty freaky in a cool, historic kind of way. Jackson missed those though because by then he had fallen asleep in my arms and was happily dreaming of birds. In keeping with our collection of “Photos of Jackson Sleeping in Front of Famous Places” photos which we started in Rome, we got a picture of Jackson sleeping in front of the infamous Mt. Vesuvius.

When in Rome

Buon Giorno via Roma!

Well after cruising through the air in comfy first class style, we made it safe & sound to Rome Thursday night and spent the majority of our evening at the airport (which I dont think had air conditioning or at least not adequate air conditioning). The Boeing associate who made our rental car reservations made an error and between the fact that we dont speak Italian and didnt have a working phone or internet access, it took 4 hours to track down the issue and get a completely new rental. Four hours in the airport after a zillion hours of flying was not ideal but Jackson didnt seem to mind much. We built a fortress out of our luggage which allowed him a safe place to play and still ample opportunity to wave at everyone who passed by. You can make a lot of friends in 4 hours when youre 32 inches tall and cute as a button.

Room service and hot showers awaited us at Romes Marriott hotel and we were more than happy to partake. The hour was so late that our food choices were pretty limited so we opted for cokes & mini desserts. DE-licious! Its never a bad idea to kick off your stay in Italy with some tiramisu! The king size bed was duly occupied and the 3 of us slept for a few hours before the sunshine woke us and it was time for breakfast and our first day in Rome or Roma as they say here.

Yea, so about breakfast um, can we say amazing?! We ate out in the warmth of the sunshine on the terrace with a gorgeous panoramic view of the countryside and a faint outline of mountains in the distance. Incredible! Jackson, of course, is relieved and thrilled to see that there are indeed birds here in Rome, as promised.

We took the hotel shuttle into Rome and after seeing all of the crazy Italian drivers and even crazier parking options we were thanking Jesus for hotel shuttles. The shuttle dumped us out at the Piazza dei Tribunali and we spent the next 11 hours walking from site to site. We paid a tour company for a walking tour led by a very energetic, fast-speaking Italian woman who led us through the Vatican museum and into St. Peter’s Basilica. There was no siting of the pope but we did see some very cool stuff like the Sistine Chapel, that famous Jesus tapestry where it looks like his eyes follow you wherever you go, and Michelangelo’s Pieta. The size of Vatican Square and the majesty of St. Peter’s Basilica were definitely impressive. The Colosseum was a favorite site. It really does seem crazy to think of how old it is and what part of our history as Christians took place there.Winding our way through the city throughout the day was a bit surreal. There were times when I felt like I had to pinch myself to make sure this was really happening. It’s crazy to be sitting on your couch one day and then walking around Rome the next. Especially when 3 weeks ago we had no idea we’d EVER go to Rome! The city itself is beautiful and so rich with history and charming detail. It feels like walking around a movie set or stepping into a postcard at times when the lighting is just right and the outdoor cafes are picturesque against the backdrop of colorful, Italian architecture.Jackson and jet lag are synonymous right now. He slept during the shuttle ride, most of the Vatican museum tour, a good chunk of the Colosseum walk-through, and quite a bit of the 12-mile walk through downtown Roma. During his waking hours, he did enjoy chasing birds, charming the Italian ladies, eating snacks, and making friends with other pint-size kids from quite literally around the globe. We are so thankful to God for answering prayers and helping Jackson do so well in a new environment that’s 9 time zones away from home. He’s a trooper and such a fun bambino! And not too many kids can say they've taken a nap in the Sistine Chapel, right?Today we drive south and I can’t wait to see the countryside on our drive to Grottaglie where we’ll be staying in a hotel until our apartment is available sometime after July 1st. I’m hoping we find a few places to stop and visit on our way down. And I’m hoping for free internet at the next hotel.

Side notes: I’ll be fine without my Starbucks. The coffee here is yummy -- it doesn't even need cream or sugar! Although I won’t be drinking any past 7 a.m. – it is HOT here! Wow, we’re amazed at how warm it feels. We’re lathering on the sunscreen and welcoming any opportunity for shade or to drink some water.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

day one as told by our camera

in the SEATAC british airways first class lounge having fun with trash can drums.
first class seating. our seats fully reclined!!!!very fancy first class menu. yum!
tiny traveler with his Paddington Bear backpack (courtesy of British Airways).
corralled by luggage at the airport in Rome while we waited for our rental car. it was the only way to keep him happy and out of trouble.
our marriott hotel room in rome. our beautiful home for the next few days.
we have 2 different kinds of bathrooms in our room. one for showering...
...and one for bathing.
Jackson likes the giant bed. And so do we!
Room service for dinner. The rental car stuff took too long so this was our only option and it was yummy!
Sleepy travelers.
Passed out after a long day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Italy: the take-off

Well, Dan kept a secret from me. I'm writing this blogpost from the lounge at the airport...the FIRST CLASS lounge! We have our own fancy bathrooms, free fancy drinks, free fancy sandwiches, and super nice people waiting on us like we're British royals. I like this!

I can't wait to see the plane! We're flying business class in what are reported to be extra wide seats that recline and have their own individual TVs. This is the life! I'm not even in Italy yet and I'm already having the time of my life!

Jackson is too. He's been running about here in the lounge and has already converted a rubbish bin (that's British airways speak for trashcan) into a makeshift drum set.

Let the fun and flying begin!

ready to go

We have bags for the airplane.
And boxes to be shipped.
We've got all of our passports.
And we're ready for our trip!Ciao for now!