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Monday, March 24, 2014

I could live in Rome...

I think one of the coolest parts of this blog post, is that I am writing it on a train ride to Venice.

We left Orlando on St. Patrick's Day to head towards Europe. Our final destination? Rome, Italy. It would just take a while to get us there.

Out first flight was out of Orlando, FL and to Boston. We scored cheap first class tickets and were super excited. Our FIRST first-class! Overall, first class was a disappointment when traveling domestically. Definitely fancier on international flights.



When we arrived in Boston, we had a 5 hour layover, so I HAD to have some New England seafood. Legal Seafood has two restaurants in Logan Airport, so after we checked into our flight and checked our bags, we headed to the location in Terminal B.

I was so please to get my hands on some steamer clams. Can't hardly find them in Orlando. They were delicious! But I think they earned me a "pat-down" at security!

Apparently I alerted with the security and they had to swipe my hands for analysis. THEN, it alarmed, and I was escorted to the "private room" for inspection. Overall, the feel-up was not as exciting as I had hoped, but I was cleared to travel.

Our next flight was with Aer Lingus to Dublin. I tried to upgrade my flight to a higher class, but it would have cost me an ADDITIONAL $2500 per ticket. OUCH! I wasn't spending that money for a 5 hour flight!



I was regretting the entire flight choice as I tried too squeeze my plus-size self into the smallest airplane seats to date. I usually don't have a problem with seats, but this was RIDICULOUS! Chris couldn't move. Even  Sierra was uncomfortably cramped. Luckily, Chris and I were able to spread out so there were seats empty around us. The hard, plastic, unlovable armrest did not give us any leeway.

We arrived in Dublin and then we had an hour before we boarded our flight to Rome. This Aer Lingus flight was quite better with armrests that moved up and a very nice, thin, stranger sitting with Cici and myself.

We arrived in Rome at 11:00 a.m. their time. So it took us almost 24 hours to get to Rome. I need to stop being a cheapskate and get the quicker, more expensive tickets...

When we arrived in Rome, we were able to hop a train (hop is figurative with this much luggage) to Termini Station. Our hotel was a short distance away, and after going in a couple circles, we finally found it.

Domus Liberius is a bed and breakfast near the Santa Maria Maggoria, a big basilica in the northern part of the city. We had two nice rooms on  the fourth floor of a townhome on the piazza. The view was great!




We took a nice nap and then  headed out for our first Italian meal!!!! So exciting!

The thing about food in Rome, is, that even the bad meals are good. We went to a restaurant each night, and I can't really complain about the food anywhere. Some places were better than others. Some waiters were better than others. Overall, everything was delicious and I never got sick of the food.



The next few days were spent seeing the sights.

Coliseum? Check!








Roman Forum? We walked past it...


Vatican Museum? Check!









St. Peter's Basilica? Check! My favorite!



Pantheon? Searched and couldn't find it...


Trevi Fountain? Check!




Spanish Steps? Check!



We could have spent more time in Rome, but at the same time, we saw lots and lots of old buildings, ruins, and churches. Everything was beautiful and a bit overwhelming.

As a happy coincidence, my cousin Bill happened to be in Rome on business. He really lives in Boston, but travels throughout Europe for much of the year. We were able to meet up for dinner with him and share some gelato. I loved the fact that we met up while over here! I hoped for France or Belgium perhaps crossing paths, but it was even better that he found us in our first stop.






Next stop: Venezia (Venice!!!)


Waiting for dinner to start. Isabel's feet were killing her!

I found then a stoop to sit on while we waited.

Quick Panini in the park

Quick Panini in the park

Rome overlook from the Victor Emmanuel monument.

Hunger Games in Italian!



Fountains, fountain everywhere... Gotta stop and get a drink!
Fountain 1

Fountain 1

Fountain 2

Fountain 3

Fountain 4


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Last Legs of Asia: Koh Samui and Singapore

Our last two stops of our trip were amazing!

I has lucked out by booking a group outing on CruiseCritic.com with another group on the ship. At first I feared that we would be the "odd ones" in the group, because we were the youngest with kids. I even prepped the kids to be on their best behavior. They behaved impeccably!

We had to take a boat to the island.


Koh Samui is an island that is owned by Thailand and is beautiful! We got off the ship and immediately were greeted by the tour guide/driver. We took off into the town of Nathon and wended our way through the tiny streets. Our first stop: The Na Muang Waterfall.

Inside the tour van


The first thing we see is a baby elephant. Isabel, of course, is not going anywhere near this horrifying monstrosity, but CICI!! "I NEED TO FEED THE BABY ELEPHANT!!! Lol.



Afterwards we tromped up the hill to the decline to the waterfall. I was hoping we would be able to swim here, but the water looked...questionable. The view was gorgeous though.







The best part of this stop was a little grass hut that housed a soup lady. YES! A SOUP LADY! For the cost of $2.50, we each had a bowl of undetermined meat/noodles/foliage soup. It was delicious and EXACTLY what I wanted to experience in Southeast Asia.

Then we got back into the van and headed towards the Mummified Monk. I didn't wear sleeves, so I did not go inside out of respect,  but Isabel was entranced by the monk. He apparently never decomposed and is now the man of the house at this temple. Chris and I questioned the sunglasses, but we think that they are in place because his eyes look freaky.








We then headed towards Grandmother and Grandfather Rock. I knew, going there, what it was. If you want to see, you can click here. Cici was able to quickly discern what we were looking at, but Isabel never figured it out. It was a beautiful seascape.





Our last stop was lunch on top of the mountain. We drove to a long upwards driveway and were asked to get out?!? Then a jeep vehicle arrived with a bed of benches to drive us up the steep incline. Somehow I ended up with the front seat.




When we arrived at the top, we found a gorgeous view, a lovely restaurant, The Jungle Club, full of plush couches and chairs, and A FIRE! There was actually a hillside fire taking off below the restaurant. The entire staff was at the edge creating a bucket brigade to put it out. Eeek!

I almost insisted that they take us back down the mountain, but we waited and they put it out. Whew! We ate a lovely lunch overlooking the harbor below. Afterwards we headed back to the ship and headed off towards Singapore.







Singapore:

Out last stop was Singapore, which I was very much looking forward to. I was excited about the food and the hotel we had booked, The Marina Bay Sands.

Immigration went much easier than expected and there was no delay getting out of the port. After a short line for a taxi, we were off!

Sad to leave our ship!

Happy to be in Singapore!


I was impressed the whole time in Singapore on how Western-friendly it was. The skyscrapers are unique in architecture. The streets are clean and beautiful!




We were dropped off at our amazing hotel and had to await check in. So off we went to the nearest food center.



In Singapore, they are well know for creating Food Centers instead of random street food vendors. Imagine a food court at the mall. Now multiply it by 10. THAT is a food center. It is all government regulated and inspected and has all of the local foods at extremely inexpensive prices.

My first food must: Hainanese Chicken Rice

The chicken heads indicate how "fresh" it is.



On TV, it looks like  boiled chicken and rice. I'm like "what's the big deal?"

Well, you miss out on the sauce. They douse everything in the sauce and drain it off. It is delicious. Cici couldn't get enough of it! We also tried some "carrot cake" which does not have carrot, and is not cake...

Check! One food down!

When we arrived at the hotel, we got to check into our rooms, on the 38th floor. The girls were very impressed with their first express elevators. Up to our room in 15 seconds!

Our view was gorgeous! Our rooms were gorgeous! What a great score! These rooms were still cheaper than our NYC accommodations!






Then the pool... No words are needed.



Photobomber!






I was able to hit a few other food musts. I got to try the chili crabs. eh... The Sup Tulang. Awesome! And we also were able to hit the Mario Batali restaurant in the adjacent mall. Mazzo. Wonderful! Got to try Lardo for the first time. Like meat butter! Apparently all I cared about was food.

We also went to a night safari and an aviary with the girls. I felt that it was kinda stupid to go to these since we like in ORLANDO!!! HELLO!!!???







I think if you every have the chance to check our Singapore, you should take the chance. It is not all "law and order" like they show you on TV. Just don't so any drugs there.

Chris' drink down in the main floor bar. Fancy!

Chili Crab

Year of the Horse!

I was mightily impressed to see my first Asian Pizza tosser!

Gotta hit the fish spa!


Chicken!

Took 15 minutes to get her feet in!