Saturday, November 26, 2011


For Thanksgiving this year we decided to go up to the mountains and spend a few days in Breckenridge, CO. It is only 2 hours from our house but we hadn't been up there yet. We had Thanksgiving dinner a day early on Wednesday and then headed out on Thursday morning.
As soon as we arrived we strapped on some skates to go ice skating. They tried to rent Kyle some skates with toe picks, which hurt his Canadian pride. He had to ask specifically for 'hockey' skates. He insists he doesn't look like a figure skater...
This was the first time skating for Brooklyn and only the second time for the big girls but they all did great and had a fun time.
These sisters are so cute together.

Of course, hot chocolate is a necessity when skating.

Our hotel had a staircase in it with a loft up top. The girls thought it was the coolest to have stairs in a hotel room.
After skating we explored the town. It has a really cute main street with shops and restaurants. The ski hill is right beside town. You can see it behind us in this picture.

The next day we went swimming, shopping and eating. We had a little trouble with some altitude sickness as Breckenridge is at 9600 feet but other than that, had a really great Thanksgiving. weekend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Italy 2011!!

In September we were fortunate enough to be able to go to Italy with our good friends and Europe buddies Quinn and Mekell Lybbert. I am late blogging about this trip because I have been waiting for their pictures to add to mine but I decided to blog a little now and a little later. We left Denver at 11:00 am, arrived in Rome at 9:30 the next morning, met each other, picked up the car and got right to sightseeing. Quinn was our brave chauffeur and got us safely through Rome to our hotel.Our first stop was the Colosseum. We were part of a tour that gave us the history of the building.

After the Colosseum we walked around the Roman Forum and other ruins. This was the political, spiritual and economic center of Ancient Rome with temples, government buildings and shops. I am standing in the house of the vestal virgins with the temple of the vestal virgins behind me.

It is now a tradition that when on a trip with the Lybberts we do a segway tour. This is a great way to cover a lot of ground and get an overview of a city, not to mention it is FUN!
Overlooking the forum.
Behind Kyle is Trajan's forum which is essentially a shopping mall.
The next day we started at the Vatican. Mekell had set up a private tour for us so we had a guide all to ourselves. This is the ceiling of the gallery leading up to the Sistene Chapel.
I am looking up in to the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.
This is the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica.

After the Vatican tour, some lunch and one of our two daily gelatos, our next stop was the Pantheon.
Here is a view from the top of the Spanish steps. It was very busy that day. We climbed to the top and had a rest people watching.
The next day we began our drive to Siena. Kyle insisted that we stop in this little town called Civita. I have to admit that at first I was a little grumpy about it. I thought that we were running around seeing too many places and I just wanted to get to Siena. Once arriving though, I had to eat my words. Civita was amazing. Just look at it. You cannot drive to it. The only way to get to it is to walk across a pedestrian bridge.

Once we got to the town it was picture perfect. Every street was like a postcard.
This wall was part of a building but the other side is now nothing as the rest of the building fell off the cliff.

We wondered around enjoying this treasure we found and then we had a wonderful lunch in a small cave-like restaurant.
After our wonderful Civita experience came our trial. On our way to Siena our car broke down. We were on the busy highway and didn't know what to do. Mekell made dozens of calls trying to get us to Siena and get us another car. Nobody seemed to speak any English and everyone we talked to would tell us to call someone else.
Some police came up behind us and they called a tow-truck. The tow-truck operator did not speak one word of English. He had us get in the car on top of the truck bed and started driving. We had no idea where he was taking us. We finally stopped in some small town where he had his shop and ended up sitting there, calling more people for a couple of hour until finally he called us a taxi who took us into Siena.
By the time we arrived in Siena it was dark. We were not able to go in the church as it was closed.
We walked around a little and had a nice dinner. Siena is a beautiful city. I guess I will need to return to Italy so I can see it in the daylight.
This is from our hotel window. The bells in the tower were my wake-up call. (Best way to wake up).
After going to the Florence airport and getting another car (it sounds easier than it was), we began a tour of Tuscan towns. Our first stop was San Gamignano. Fourteen years ago Mekell and I saw this town on our European tour and we said then that we wanted to bring our husbands back one day. Little did we know that we actually would and that we would do it together.

Next was Volterra. Anyone Twilight fans?
We stayed at a pretty villa in the countryside close to the town of Lucca.
After we checked in we went in to Lucca and drove this cart along the top of the walls that surround the whole town.
Cathedral in Lucca
The gardens of our hotel.

Next we were on to the Cinque Terre. These are 5 small remote towns that hang on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean.
We stayed in the northern most village called Monterosso Al Mare. The villages are connected with a path that you can hike. We hiked from Monterooso Al Mare to Vernazza. It took a couple of hours but was well worth it. This is the view coming in to Vernazza.
Sadly, a couple of weeks after we were there the region had torrential rains and mud slides. Monterosso and Vernazza were hit the hardest. Most of the two villages were covered in mud, rocks and debris. We hope the people there can rebuild their lives and their beautiful villages.
After lunch in Vernazza we took a boat to the southern most village of Riomaggiore. This is what one of the villages looks like from the water.
From Riomaggiore we took the path back one village to Manorola. This path is the easiest and is called the Via d'Amore as it is a beautiful and romantic stroll.
I loved this scene of the old Italian grandpas sitting on a bench shooting the breeze.

The Cinque Terre is a unique and beautiful place. Definitely need to return here.
On to Bologna we went. Bologna has miles of covered porticos. Some are more plain and some are ornate.
Bologna is considered the culinary center of Italy. We took a cooking course where we made three different kinds of fresh pasta and then sat down to feast on what we made. We were in the home of Italians making their family recipes. It was a great experience and the food was amazing.
We made tortelloni, tortellini and fettuccini which they call tagliatelle in Bologna.
Luciana was our teacher. We grew to love her in the few hours we were together.
Next day, Venice!
We all loved Venice. It is so different than any other city we have been to.
Of course, you can't go to Venice without going on a gondola ride.
Rialto bridge from the Grande Canal.

St. Mark's cathedral.
We took a tour of the Doge's Palace. The Doge was the ruler of Venice.
This was part of the palace.
In the lagoon by Venice there are a few islands. We went to two of them. Murano is famous for glass blowing and we saw a short glass blowing demonstration. Then we went to Burano and fell in love.
Burano is famous for lace making. It was a small fishing village. All the houses were brightly painted for the men could see their houses from the lagoon.

On our return trip to Rome we decided to take a detour to San Marino. This is an independent city state inside of Italy. It was a gorgeous drive to this city on the top of a hill. There are three castles there and we explored them all.

I am looking at the third castle from the second.
Italy was absolutely amazing. We had such a wonderful time and are very grateful that we had the opportunity to go and wonderful friends to go with.