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Sunday, August 28, 2011

ITALIA


Ok, so I am finally getting around to writing about my make a wish trip!! We started started things off on a good note, when I was totally surprised by getting upgraded to business class. Let me tell you, I now know how the other half lives. As we first walked in we had the choice of champagne or orange juice....after much debate I chose the orange juice. Don't let me forget to add that they were in fancy drinking glasses, that were in fact, glass. None of that plastic business you get in the back of the plane. The seats were big and as comfy as airplane seats can get, and most importantly, they had plenty of leg room. So then we took off and were handed a menu that included an appetizer, a salad, a main course, and a dessert. I had the beef short ribs.....on an airplane. No big deal. And we had a ton of movies to choose from, on demand! I better get writing about the rest of the trip before I use up all my energy on writing about the plane ride over! haha
Me and Tanner Livin it UP!
The Main Course

DAY ONE

We arrived in Rome at 10 am, where Adam and Emily had been waiting for us for 2 hours due to their flight arriving earlier that morning. We took a taxi to our hotel, where apparently we were not allowed to check in until 2:00. So we stored our bags there and decided to go look around. Rome is a huge city. A lot of it is big and dirty, but at the same time every corner you turn there is something else to see. A huge monument, a cool fountain, and all the buildings make you feel like you are in a fairy tale. There are very few modern buildings there. We walked around in and out of souvenir shops, (which they have a lot of, by the way.) There are also restaurants EVERYWHERE. Filled with yummy Italian food. We went and got our first gelato, and then headed back to the hotel to take a nap. We were still adjusting to the time and Tanner was very tired and grumpy due to the fact that he didn't sleep at all on the plane, he stayed up watching all the movies instead. After taking a nap it was very, very hard to wake up, but after 2 hours we got up and decided to go get dinner. We found a restaurant on the roof across the street from our hotel. After dinner we watched the sunset on the roof, took lots of pictures, and then went and got some more gelato. Then we walked to the Republic fountain, which was all lit up at night. After dipping our feet in the water we went back to the hotel and crashed in our beds.

The Family at Dinner

The Republic Fountain
DAY 2

We woke up and had breakfast at 7:30, and then walked to meet our tour bus for our "Eternal Rome" tour. The bus drove us around some of the landmarks, and stopped at St. Peter's Basilica. Emily and I were not allowed to go in the Vatican because we were wearing shorts, and Adam was eventually kicked out for looking too European and wearing a tank top. We all thought it was pretty funny that the Mormon family from Utah got kicked out for being immodest. After that our tour group walked to the Trevi Fountain, which was amazing, but extremely crowded. Then we walked to the Spanish Steps, where Emily was conned into buying a 3 euro rose. It was a long walk back to our hotel, but we picked up sandwiches along the way. Adam got the award for most delicious, he had black truffles in his sandwich and it tasted amazing! By the time we made it back to our hotel we are all in much need of a nap. After struggling to wake up, we walked to the Colosseum. It was exactly as it was described: so amazing. It was so cool to see something so ancient, and to imagine what it was like back then. We also toured around the Forum, which was like the capital of ancient Rome. Our tour guide was very interesting and informative and it was a lot of fun to hear about how Rome used to be. We then walked the long walk back to our hotel (we did a lot of walking). We got what we were all looking forward to-- dinner, and then gelato.













DAY 3

Today was the day that we took an in depth tour of the Vatican. (Don't worry, we were appropriately dressed this time) All in all it was breath taking. So many intricate tapestries, sculptures, things that words cannot describe. I will let the pictures do most of the talking. We visited the infamous Sistine Chapel, where we looked up at the amazing work of Michelangelo and basked in the crowded room of tourists and the occasional "NO PHOTO!" shouted by the guards. After the tour we had delicious pizza for lunch (I think the pizza was my favorite food there). And then, just so we wouldn't break tradition, we took our nap :) After waking up we visited a crypt of Capuchin Monks which was very....interesting. It was basically different designs and art work made with the bones and skulls of the Monks. It was considered a sacred place so we were not allowed to take pictures. Then we continued walking to Villa Borghese, which was an incredible park. It was just like in the movies! Little pathways that went everywhere, winding around trees, hills, fountains. It was really cool. We rented a little four person bike thing, which allowed us to see even more of the park. Emily and my mom were not able to peddle so well, as they were wearing skirts haha. We found out that there was a place where you could rent Segways, but much to my dismay there were none available at the time. Then it was dinner time! One thing I forgot to mention is that in Italy, everything is very highly priced. They don't give you free water. In fact, alcoholic beverages are in most cases cheaper than water. So every meal we would have to splurge and buy one, maybe two, liters of water. Just to make sure we had enough water for everyone we would sneak in our own water bottles, and hand Dad our glasses where he would refill them under the table. It was sort of a fun little game to hurry and do it while the waiter wasn't watching. But, I will say that the price of water was almost made up for by all the aqueducts, or little mini fountains that would just flow with cold drinking water along the streets. We were able to fill up our water bottles with fresh water when we needed.








This was a Mosaic... meaning it was made out of tiny pieces of stone!



DAY 4

We were able to sleep in for the first time today! After breakfast at 9:00 we shopped around for a little bit, looking for last minute souvenirs from Rome, and then hauled our family of 6, with 6 suitcases, 6 carry-ons  through the crowded cobblestone streets to the train station. We arrived in Florence around 2:20. Florence was smaller than Rome, but still so beautiful. The architecture just makes you feel as though you have gone back in time. We got settled, and then headed to the Accademia museum to see Michelangelo's "David".  All of the sculptures were so crazy! I have no idea how they can chisel it so smooth and so lifelike. With no modern tools, just a hammer and chisel. It blows my mind. And the David was huge! A lot bigger than I had pictured it. On the way back to the hotel we got some delicious gelato, probably my favorite of the whole trip, that was peach flavored. So so good! As Tanner went to throw his cup away he tripped, spun around, and fell flat on his back. All the tourists couldn't help but look at the boy who just totally biffed it. And I couldn't help but laugh out loud (After making sure he was ok, of course :P) For dinner we ate at one of the many delicious restaurants, but also were introduced to the 10% service charge to eat there. They also generously added a 2.50 euro cover charge per person. Now you know what I mean when I say Italy is very highly priced! I think my dad experienced a bit of indigestion as he looked at the bill. (In the restaurant's defense I loved the food).
The family crammed in the elevator of the hotel 











DAY 5

We found out that there were mosquitos in Italy. We also found out that I am a little more sensitive to bug bites for whatever reason. One bite in particular  actually blistered up about 3/8 " high and 1/2 " in diameter. It was huge. We lanced it and put a bandaid on it and went on our way. We went to the  Duomo, which was so cool. Adam, EMily, Tanner, and I climbed the belfry tower next to the Duomo...422 steps! It was crazy, and I thought I would die, but I told myself that I would just count it was my work out for the two weeks I would be gone haha. The view at the top was most definitely worth it! We looked across all of florence, endless clay rooftops, magnificent churches, and rolling green hills. I really couldn't believe we were actually in Italy. It is such a beautiful country. We then headed back to our hotel for a quick rest, and then got on our tour bus to Pisa. We drove through the Tuscan countryside, as I once again couldn't believe we were in Italy. We drove past lots of grape fields, sunflower fields, and cottages. We visited the leaning tower, and the church there. There were a lot of shops there as well. It was really funny to look around the whole square and see people taking pictures of the leaning tower with them "holding it up". We drove back to Florence, and got back around 7 pm. We found a great restaurant, and then walked down to Ponte Vecchia, which was an amazing bridge! I will let the picture speak for itself. Then we just wondered around the streets of Florence, picked up some gelato, and listened to a concert in the square.
The view from the bell Tower









DAY 6

We woke up and breakfast, and then Adam, Emily, and I rushed to the H&M when it opened and shopped for a little bit before we had to get on the train to Venice. As we got to the train station we realized that our train had been canceled. But there was one leaving right that second. So we asked if we could take that one instead, and one of the "train men" said no. Adam went off to look for some more info while my dad decided to get a second opinion. He asked another "train man" if we could jump on that train and he told us we could. So we rushed to get all our baggage on before it left, while Emily ran off to find Adam. We waited for Adam and Emily to come back and were worried they wouldn't make it. It turns out that they very nearly got on the wrong train but made it just in the nick of time. It just so happened that others who were supposed to be on the original train to Venice that was canceled, were in the same boat (or train) as us. We walked up and down the crowded train trying to find an open seat. My mom found one, and the rest of us sat on top of garbage cans, or on the floor for the first leg of the trip. As we made a few stops some seats opened up, luckily, and we were able to have a seat meant for sitting in.  When we arrived in Venice we took a Vaporetto (water bus) and rode to San Marco's Square. It was so cool to go along the grande canal and see all the different building along the water. Bridges connected the pieces of land... now it truly felt like we were in a fairy tale!  When we got to the square we drug our luggage through the very crowded, cobblestone square, and through crowded narrow alley ways until we found our hotel. The hotel was a nice, and was furnished like a cottage. Apparently there were some issues with Mom and Dad's bathroom though, because mom got locked in the bathroom for about 5 minutes. We wandered around venice, looking at all of the cool glass shops, costume shops, etc. It was so beautiful! Then for the moment I had been waiting for... We took a gondola ride! It was amazing. We wound through the canal, and under bridges. It felt like a dream. I really couldn't believe that I had actually made it to Italy. It had felt so far off, and as though I would never reach it.

Our seats in the train


Getting ready for a Gondola ride!




DAY 7

This was our last day in Italy. We took the complimentary tour that our hotel offered and took a taxi over to the island of Murano, to see the glass blowing factory. It was so interesting. It really is amazing the things that they can make with glass. We got to watch them blow the glass, and then got to see their gallery of very expensive glass items. I can tell you now that I walked with my arms folded through the gallery, so nervous that I would trip and break a 500,000 dollar sculpture. We headed back to the hotel and got our things packed up, and took another vaporetto to the port where are cruise ship was to leave.

The trip was better than I had imagined, and Italy is even better than it seems in the movies. I really couldn't believe I had actually made it that far, and I loved every minute of it. Although it was nice to get back to an english speaking society, I had an amazing time. I would like to say THANK YOU to the make a wish foundation, and to my wish granters Leslie and Liz. Thank you for making my dreams come true and for giving me a wonderful experience.  I am so grateful that I was healthy enough to walk all over Italy, and most importantly enjoy all of the food!







Rachel

7 comments:

  1. I've been waiting for this blog post!! I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm going to right now. Love the pics and can't wait to hear how fabulous Italy was. We even had a missionary speak in our ward today who recently returned from Italy so he got me all warmed up to hear your trip review. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Make-A-Wish is amazing. There are no words. It looks like you had a wonderful time. Florence is my favorite. I still crave their pizza and it's been years since I have been there. You and your family all deserved this trip and I am so glad you were able to go. You look beautiful by the way, I love your hair.

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  3. What an amazing trip! You really packed in a lot over a week! What a wonderful experience for your whole family, God Bless Make a Wish!

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  4. Wow...what a fabulous trip for you and your family! I have to admit that I am a little bit jealous. If I could travel anywhere in the world, it would be to Italy. You deserved a wonderful trip after everything you have gone through in the past year. Make a Wish is a phenomenal organization!

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  5. Rachel, I am so happy for you and for your family. I am so glad that you were able to walk all over Italy...just a year ago I would never have imagined that! You and our little Erin have come a long way. I am thrilled that you are doing so well. We love you guys so much!

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  6. Rachel.... AMAZING. Just amazing! I love Make A Wish and I'm so glad you guys got to have such an amazing experience - you totally deserved it. Everything looks and sounds like something out of a dream. Thanks for sharing - this post makes me really happy!

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  7. WOW! What a great trip! Your pictures are fantastic, although I'm sure they never do the view much justice from what you saw in person. What a great backdrop for your next writing adventure...!
    I'm so very glad you got to spend some quality time with your family ENJOYING an experience together. The Gelato seems like it might be one of the great indulgences of Italy!
    Thank you for sharing your joy; and I'm sooo glad you were able to walk to all those amazing heights. You go, girl!

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