Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rome again, Rome again, jiggity jig

So on Thursday Dan came home from work and said, "Hey, do you want to go to Rome this weekend?"

How could I say no? And so off we went to Rome again!

Meet Matt and Courtney.Oh, sorry. Here they are a little bigger...although slightly blurry. I apparently didn't take any quality pictures of them all weekend long. Oops!Matt and Courtney were our weekend road trip warriors who joined us for this impromptu trip to ancient Roma. It was their first time so we acted as tour guide at the Vatican Museum and Colosseum. (Sorry for the disgraceful lack of historical info, Matt and Courtney!)

This "Rome: Take 2" trip was a much more relaxing and easy-going experience when compared to our whirlwind "See Everything Famous in One Day" trip that we had done when we first arrived in Italy.

We booked a great hotel that turned out to be just down the street from the US Embassy and...the Hard Rock Cafe! It also happened to be just 2 doors down from the bookstore that sells books IN ENGLISH!!! We basically had an all-American weekend in Rome. We spoke English, ate Hard Rock burgers and Burger King french fries, and bought books that don't require translation. It was fabulously luxurious!
This is our hotel, the Hotel Imperiale. It was on a fun , not-too-busy street that reminded me of Paris.We decided against a tour guide this time around at the Vatican Museum and it proved to be a lot more fun sans guide.Here is some of Dan's before and after work at the museum.
Dan was especially pleased to find this mummy since we didn't see it the last time around.I broke the rules again inside of the Sistine Chapel and took a few more clandestine photos while the guards screamed "No photo!" every five seconds. Naughty me. Excuse the underside of my chin, but this is what happens when you don't exactly know what you're shooting at.This time around, on this very hot summer day...Dan and I took Jackson up, up, up all 554 steps to the top of the cupola (dome) of St. Peter's Basilica.Part-way up the stairs, you get to walk out into the inside of the dome and get a bird's eye view down into St. Peter's. Jackson admired the mosaic work on the dome walls.The view from the top was truly amazing. Did I mention it was hot and that there were 554 stairs?Here is some video from the top.

We tried to take Jackson's 15 month Watch Me Grow photo out in front of the Vatican but Jackson kept running away from his giraffe and toward everything else. He had a lot of energy after being carried up 554 steps. We, on the other hand, did not.At the Colosseum we were happy to get a family picture with Jackson AWAKE this time!And for the first time, we got to tour the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. (Last time it had closed early and so we had to miss out.)Some other "firsts" for us on this trip were things like taking the Roman metro.Seeing the Spanish Steps (and carrying Jackson in his stroller up those steps).Seeing Rome and the Colosseum at night...Jackson kept trying to sneak into the Roman Forum after hours. Dan had to run after him a couple of times as he sprinted toward the Arch of Titus.We also had never seen the Trevi Fountain before and were shocked to see the mob of people surrounding the striking landmark.We squeezed through the mob to get this photo of "the two of us." It was the best we could do.Ah, it was a wonderful time of American-ness and Roman-ness blended perfectly together!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Today we decided to check out Zoosafari in nearby Fasano. The amusement park proved to be one-of-a-kind and that's an understatement. What is Zoosafari, you're wondering? Well, it's an amusement park complete with log ride and ferris wheel plus a zoo and a safari all in one. And since it's in Italy you have to factor The Italian Way into the equation too. We were not at all disappointed with our experience!Jackson wore his little safari outfit just for the occasion.The first thing we did upon arrival at the park was the safari part. The strikingly un-American part of this safari is that you drive YOUR OWN CAR into and through the animal enclosures, including the lions, tigers, and bears cages! Yea. Seriously.Our first up close and personal encounter was with some less dangerous four-legged friends. A few feet inside the main gate and we had rams, antelope and some very nosy deer sniffing at our open windows.WARNING: the following video might make you feel a little seasick. Sorry about that.

My dear and a deer.If you ever travel to Zoosafari, pay close attention to the signs...even if they are in Italian and are posted a little out of the way. Reparto leoni tenere chiusi i finestrini means "keep your windows closed in the lions' den!"Look, Jackson...there's a hungry lion next to our car.What does the hungry lion say, Jackson? "ROOOOOOAAAAARRRR!!!!!"We had a few minutes of open window time driving by the elephants and ostrich (which by the way are the ugliest birds on earth).We even let Jackson have a little driving time. Or at least, he thought he did.
Next stop: tigers and bears! Oh my!This time the close your windows warning was in German and English too.To say that the tigers came close to our car would be an understatement.Jackson was very nonchalant about having a 450-pound predator just a few feet away.And the bears were equally as nonchalant about the cars driving around their den.
Apparently monkeys and bears coexist happily.The giraffes were conducting a vehicle check-point and were taking samples of all cooler contents and crunchy snacks.Giraffes apparently like gluten free crackers. Who knew? And again, Jackson was totally chill about a 20-inch-long tongue within an inch of his face. Our kid is tough stuff.
Beware of bison crossings - they really slow traffic down.Mr. Ed popped his incredibly large head with gigantic mouth full of huge teeth through my window for a quick visit but didn't stay long since we had neither apples nor hay.We soon realized that we had not brought nearly enough snacks for both Jackson and all of the long-necked animals who nosed their way into our vehicle.I think the animal that impressed me the most was the zebra. All of those black and white stripes are pretty striking when they're that close to your face.The camel checkpoint went pretty smoothly. A simple cracker satisfied the dromedary.So why did the camel cross the road?...
To stick his huge face in my window and scare me to death!This zebra thought it was funny so he tried it too.Staying true to form, Jackson's favorite part of the safari were the birds near the end. Even I have to admit that this bird in particular was pretty fancy.
Finished with our safari, we parked the car and boarded the tiny passenger car of the Metro Zoo train.Jackson "ooohed" and "aaaahed" as we chugged along over snoozing leopards and sinister-looking panthers on our way to the old school cement animal enclosures that reminded us of a zoo from the 1950's.The poor polar bears had to be content with painted murals of icy glaciers in their tiny cement den on this 100-degree summer day.What does the polar bear say Jackson? "ROOOOOOAAAAAARRRRR!!!!"We saw hungry hippos with their babies.
And we saw even hungrier bears. This guy stood up big and tall for his mid-day snack.We saw creatures big and small.
This little guy reminded us of being back home in the Pacific Northwest.Jackson paused from roaring like a lion to indulge in one of his current favorite past-times, pointing out dada's and mama's noses.Our metro train car passed through the monkey area on our way toward the exit and the overhead view served to validate our fears of the infamous "Monkey Train," an optional exhibit where you get inside a cage-enclosed train car and drive through the monkey paddock while bearded baboons and other screaming primates leap onto your windows and expect to be fed handfuls of peanuts.
The idea of being the caged human inside a free-roaming monkey's world did not appeal to us and seemed likely to induce nightmares. The guard posted with a rifle at the edge of the exhibit was another clue that we were better off opting out of the monkey train.As we were headed out to our car, we saw that one of the ostrich had escaped from the safari area. Nobody from the park seemed to be coming after it - a fact when coupled with the 2 escapee lemurs we'd seen earlier in the metro zoo made us wonder how many other animals are roaming free outside the park. We cautiously posed with the jailbird who was pecking furiously at car windows.It was a great end to a great adventure.