Monday, December 13, 2010

It’s already almost Christmas?

So, while I was taking you on a two month long blogocation, we enjoyed fall here in DC. In a place with as many trees it’s not hard to find some beautiful foliage. The fall weather was amazing, it last until like 2 weeks or so ago, and now it is all the sudden insanely cold. Anyway, how about those leaves.

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My favorite thing about DC is the architecture. I particularly like Capitol Hill. I never get bored of just walking around and taking pictures. It is especially beautiful in the fall.

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In October, Julie’s sister and her family came to town. It was fun to hang out with all of them and host all seven of them in our apartment for a couple of nights. That was a new record for most people sleeping here. It was awesome. We went with them (along with some friends in the picture below (the two in the middle that aren’t kids)) to a pumpkin patch.

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That included a corn maze, apple launchers, a huge inflatable bubble jumpy thing, pig races, you name it.

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We went to see Abe and walk around the monuments. Another place I never tire of taking photos of.

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The highlight of the night was our nephew Ezra. He was his typical hyper-self running around from place to place. He was running along the reflecting pool (the one that runs between Washington and Lincoln) and we kept telling him to be careful. He made it past that pool, and headed up toward the WWII Memorial. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice where the sidewalk turned into water, and went face first into the water. Cory (his dad) did the right thing and whipped out his video camera to film Ezra’s reaction). Poor Ezra was cold, but ran back to the car to get warmed up and was laughing about it later.

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We finished up October with Julie having to work on Halloween. She was one amazing nurse ninja. She knows some pretty cool moves and she is pretty good with a bow-staff.

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I was gonna finish right there, but I know you want a little more, so what the heck. Time has really flown, we’ve now lived in DC for 16 months. There is so much cool stuff in this city. So much stuff that even though we’ve been here for a while now, we haven’t seen yet. This is the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, it looks out over the city. These huge metal things (3 of them) jut up into the air 100 feet or so.

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We went to the Pentagon Memorial – really beautiful and solemn. Each of those benches represent one of the lives that was lost there on September 11.  

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We also found our way out to Roosevelt Island one day. It is a little island on the Potomac a few miles out of DC. In the center is a big circular area with the big old statue of Teddy and surrounding it are some of his most famous quotes.

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Noah and Kristi came through DC in the RV on their way across the country as they moved from NYC to Southern California. It was a nice piece. It was also Noah’s bday so we had a fun breakfast and got to hang out with the kids while before they jetted off in their 5 mpg beauty. McKay was pretty excited to show us around his “house car”.

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We’ve been cooking up storm. Julie is quite the cook. On this particular night however, my friend  and I had to cook our wives dinner because they regulated us in little bowling wager. We cooked up some tasty Chicken Katsu Curry.

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I won’t lie, the finished product was a culinary masterpiece complete with spritzed fresh strawberry lemonade. These guys are awesome. They were also crazy enough to go to the midnight showing of Harry Potter with us. We have been blessed with some great friends out here, the definitely fill the void of not having family super close by. There are so many interesting people out here doing so many interesting things; makes for plenty of great conversations.

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Julie had to work the two days after Thanksgiving, so we stuck around here for the Holiday. We decided (well, I decided) that we’d be crazy if we didn’t cook a turkey. So, although I was dry heaving as I was pulling the neck and giblets out of that turkey as I was prepping it, it turned out quite tasty.

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That brought in the official Christmas season! I love this time of year so so much. We headed out and got a beauty of a Christmas tree, and the music has rarely turned off since then.

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I hope you are having the best Christmas season ever. Remember Him. Let’s share His light.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Have you been to Amsterdam?

I know this was a couple months ago, but looking through the pictures and writing about it on here is reminding me how awesome Amsterdam is. On our way back to DC from Rome, we purposely scheduled a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam. Julie’s brother and his wife lived there a few years ago and we were dumb enough not to go see them. After being there, we wish we could fire up the flux capacitor and go back in time to see them. Anyway, they were nice enough enough to give us some advice and things to see. Their best advice was to just rent a bike and ride around along the canals. I’ve been lucky enough travel quite a bit in my life, and Amsterdam had a feel unlike any city I have been in. Granted, we were only actually in the city for a few hours, but we were both very impressed. The city is laced with beautiful tree-lined canals and beautiful buildings. Oh, and I am pretty sure there are more bicycles than people.

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We were greeted by a sea of bikes when we go off the train. It was literally bikes for as long as you could see. This was my favorite part about the city. People just biked everywhere. It seemed like half of every road was dedicated to bikers, then cars and trams got the other half.

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We found these beauties and took off. Surprisingly we had a lot of energy after sleeping at the airport in Rome and getting on a flight at 6am.

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You got the tram, the cars, and then the big old bike lane. It was awesome. People were cruising along on their bikes talking on their cell phones, no big deal. I saw people doing it, so I thought I would whip out my phone and take a little video. I am not as skilled at one handed riding as the natives of that city. Let’s just say that.

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These canals are so beautiful. Oh ya, there’s the other mode of transport around the city, boats!

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Here I had the the tastiest pastry I have ever had in my life. Croissant, filled with some kind of cream, and fresh strawberries. If I lived there, that would be my breakfast everyday.

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And saw the smallest car I have ever seen.

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Amsterdam seems like a very international city, very livable, and just really beautiful. We are definitely going to need to go back and spend more time. I wanted to bike out to where we could see the windmills and fields, but time didn’t allow. This was a really fun way to squeeze a little extra out of an amazing trip to Europe. I know it has taken a while, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this blogocation that I have taken you on.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finally some Roma

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We were greeted in Rome by this. The craziest lines of all time to go into the Vatican Museums. We were advised by friends to get there early. We did. And we were greeted by a line that was 2 KM long. That is not an exaggeration. So after waiting in for an hour or so and moving about 50 yards (well, Julie was waiting while I was scoping out the situation), we finally took one of the gypsy ladies promising no wait in line and a guided tour up on her offer. She took us to a little tourguide shop and we met this awesome Italian guy that took us and a group to the front of the line, and into the Vatican Museums. This is something I had been anticipating doing my whole life, so it was so amazing to have the chance to get in there. There are going to be a lot of photos in this post, but see, that’s how a blogocation works.

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I love that this is a building across the street from the Vatican. Could that say Italy any louder?

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Our tour guide was actually very knowledgeable and really entertaining. He was a big fan of Michelangelo and so were we after all the amazing stuff we learned about him.

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Well. Just cause we had the guided tour didn’t mean we avoided the crowds. Holy cow that was the most tourists I have ever seen in one space. The picture below gives you an idea. It was a sea of people slowly moving through the halls. How beautiful is the architecture and artwork though?

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This hall was my favorite (up to this point) – the hall of Maps. First off, look at the ceiling, seriously, who the heck had time to do all of this? Anyway our guide was telling us (forgive me if this isn’t totally true, but it sounded good to me) that this is the hall that the Pope would walk down (back when the Pope was also the military leader and governor of the land) and look at all of these intricate maps in order to plan battles etc. All of these are done by hand and yet they look exactly like the images we have from satellites today. We were amazed by this. Who needs google earth when you have a hall of maps.

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Here is the map of the whole of Italy. Look at the precision.

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We worked our way through the halls and the various rooms of the museums, all of which were incredible. The climax of course being the walk through the door and then turning around/looking up to see this; The Sistine Chapel. No cameras allowed but I could not help myself.

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The story of Michelangelo and this chapel is amazing. The fact that he had no desire to paint this place as he was not a painter. And the fact that he was basically threatened/forced by the Pope to do it. We also got a kick out of the fact that he started out having people teach him how to do the Frescos. Once he got the hang of it, he kicked them out and did the entire thing by himself. What the what? That is amazing. You can visibly see where he took over and started the amazing work on his own.

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Another interesting fact. Michelangelo was mad at the Pope the whole time. Our guide pointed out to us the in the middle left side of the photo below, the painting of Michelangelo portraying God “mooning” the Pope as he was not happy about being forced into doing the Sistine Chapel.

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After looking at that ceiling until our necks hurt, we took the tunnel from there straight into St. Peter’s Basilica. I know I said the Vatican is somewhere I’ve always dreamed of going, but this here, is the place I was most excited to see. It lived up to every bit of the expectation. First, we took the long hike to the top of the dome. We came out in the rotunda first, before making our way all the way to the top.

This is what amazes me the most. Every bit of the ceiling is done in mosaic. You’ll remember from the post on London how much I love St. Paul’s in London, and this place was equally as amazing. Every single piece of rock or glass or whatever it is that makes up the mosaics. Can you believe that?

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The view from the middle of the rotunda, looking down onto the high altar. This place is HUGE.

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After quite a hike we made it all the way to the top. The literally breathtaking view of St. Peter’s Square and the city of Rome. How awesome is that?!?

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The tiny little staircase you have to take to get to get back down from the top. This one is actually bigger than the one on the way up.

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And at last, into the Basilica. I will let the photos do the speaking here. Just imagine the biggest cathedral/church you’ve been in, and then times in by 10.

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The throne of St. Peter. It was very interesting to learn more about the transfer of power to St. Peter and the history of Popes.

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Side note: notice Julie’s awesome shoes here. She left her flip flops in the hotel in London. Anyone that knows Julie knows that she is all about flip flops. So she was not super happy about the grandma look she was going for this day. Who cares though. LOOK AT THIS PLACE!

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The Swiss Guard. I can’t believe they actually wear those outfits.

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St. Peter’s Square.

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From there we wandered out of the Vatican city and roamed the streets of Rome. (sweet sentence there). Another one of those – holy cow – this is what you picture Italy to look like.

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Piazza Navanno. This one was probably one of our favorite piazzas. A huge oval as it used to be where they had chariot races. So cool though with all these amazing fountains, architecture, and cool little restaurants.

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Next. We found our way to the Pantheon. Yet another one of those, “I can’t believe I am standing here right now” moments.

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Trevi fountain. This sucker runs off of water from ancient aqueducts that still function.

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Had to throw in a coin to guarantee good fortune and a return to Rome. Julie threw it in before I was ready so she threw in another which I think means she’ll go back to Rome, but that she’ll fall in love with an Italian. Cripes.

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We ate dinner in a little back alley off of Piazza Navanno. Amazing food, and amazing atmosphere.

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We then headed back to our hotel exhausted after walking like 34 miles.

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We stayed in a really cool old hotel with this old school elevator.

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The next morning we got up and went to the Coliseum! Wow.

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It was so cool to see that place in person and hear the stories surrounding it. Did you know that originally, everything under the stage/floor was made of wood (where they’d raise animals up out of for the gladiators. They used to be able to flood the floor level to the point where they would stage Naval battles. Romans knew how to do it right.

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Julie’s favorite car. The Fiat 500. That thing makes a SmartCar look big.

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After a stop for some Pizza and Gelato; we lived off of those two things. That is all you need to be happy in Italy. We headed to next door to the Forum and other ruins.

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Then over to the Spanish Steps.

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Then to Piazza del Popolo.

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Then for some more Gelato. I had to put this one on cause it was the best we had. Mixed berry and Peach. Just off the hook.

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This was a crack up. This is our car we have (the VW) and next to it is the Fiat 500. That thing is so little. I wish we could have driven in one.

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Architecture is amazing. Anywhere you go. I had to limit the number of photos I took of just buildings that I didn’t know what they were.

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We then went to the Castel Sant’Angelo (probably spelled wrong) which was the mauloseum of Hadrian. Also the secret hiding place for the Pope in time of attack. The view from the roof of St. Peters and the rest of Rome was amazing.

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Angels and Demons?

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Then we wandered back into the city to find some dinner.

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Another charming little spot in an alleyway. No wonder people say Italians are so romantic. There is a romantic spot every 22 feet.

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We went back to see St. Peter’s Square at night. Pretty much deserted.

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Then sadly we went back to the hotel, got our last Gelato fix, and then got on this ghetto subway and another train out to the airport where we slept on a bench there for a few hours before catching our flight to Amsterdam and then on home to DC. I have some photos of Amsterdam that will be coming soon. All in all, Rome totally lives up to the hype. What an amazing place. What an amazing history! This world is pretty cool. And congratulations to you for making it all the way through this post!

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P.S. We are going to see Harry Potter at 12:01am tonight. I love Julie. She loves me almost as much as she loves Harry Potter.