Monday, September 13, 2010

Europe recap

As I sit on my lunch break eating a New York Italian sandwich from Thundercloud, I reminisce about our recent European vacation and can taste the salami and ham sandwiches we ate in Florence and Rome -- Thundercloud doesn't exactly measure up.  All I need is a glass of white wine and some olives and cheeses to complete my lunch.  Don't think I'll find any of that in the church office!

Yes, it's taken me a bit to post a recap, but I've slowly been getting back into my routine since our return and feel I'm (almost!) there.

Where do I begin?!  Europe was just fabulous!  Food?  Good.  People?  Friendly (mostly).  Weather?  Superb.  Didn't even rain in London, really! 

We started out in Rome, which provided the highlight of the trip for me: we were 20 feet away from the pope!  We were worried that we wouldn't be able to see him at all since he was supposed to be staying at his summer home, Castel Gondolfo, 30 minutes outside of Rome.  Thankfully for us, we'd booked a tour for the Papal Audience, and since we'd done this, the tour took us on a bus to the summer home where Mark and I were probably in the last 100 people of about 400 who got into the small courtyard of the home to see the pope for his Wednesday audience.  We debated even booking the tour since you don't need tickets to go to a papal audience, but with tickets, you supposedly can sit closer so we went with it, and I'm so glad we did!  We wouldn't have had another way to get out to the summer home or as close as we did without having done so.

Mark and I as we waited (in the stifling heat) in the courtyard for Pope Benedict XVI, August 2010

Many folks were left outside the home; you had to be pretty fierce to get in.  There were quite a few feisty little Italian ladies who were determined to make it in there!  Being in front of them, they pushed Mark and I right on through, ha.

Pope Benedict XVI, August 2010

Unfortunately, he didn't give his message in English, so we have no idea what he said, but we're sure it was very holy. ;-)  We do know that he gave us all a blessing and that it extended to our families at home, so that was very special.  Therefore, family, considered yourselves personally blessed by the pope!

The next stop was Florence, which was mine and Mark's favorite city we visited.  It was a cinch cooler than Rome (though not by much) and was our ticket to wine country!  We toured the wine country two different days -- one visit to Chianti and another visit to Montalcino and Montepulciano.  We made it home with seven bottles of wine (one 5L), all intact!  

Chianti region, Italy; August 2010

We enjoyed the many squares in the city we could just sit in and people watch.  One night we made ourselves a picnic dinner and played "Pick out the Americans."  So many interesting people!  Thankfully, it wasn't a problem we spoke little to no Italian.  The Italians were the nicest of everyone on our trip!

Next stop was Paris.  Since I'd been before and seen all the major sites and Mark didn't really care to sight-see too much, Paris was where we tried to catch up on some sleep!  We slept in the two days we were there, which was heavenly.  One thing I did want to make sure to do was to go up the Eiffel Tower at night since that was supposed to be the best time to see the city, and, boy, it was.  When I'd gone up before in the daytime, all you see is a bunch of concrete, aka the city of Paris.  Nighttime, though, was just beautiful!  The City of Lights, indeed.

 View of the Seine River, Paris, September 2010

Paris was also where it started to get much cooler, most especially at night.  A welcome change!

Atop the Eiffel Tower, September 2010

Classic Eiffel Tower photo, September 2010

Last stop was London, where the weather was significantly cooler.  We toured Bath, Salisbury and Stonehenge one day while there.  We loved visiting Bath as it was modeled after many of the little Italian cities we'd just visited!  London was clean, and it was great speaking English again.

Stonehenge, September 2010

At Wicked!  The Musical, September 2010

While our trip was amazing and memories that we'll forever treasure, it was good to come back to Texas, too!  Two weeks, I've found, is a good amount of time to be away from home, as I'm usually ready to come back to the place I fondly call home.

But, if you know me at all, you'll know I was already planning our next trip abroad mid-vacation!  Mark had to remind me to just enjoy where we were.  The planner in me. :)

I feel so blessed that we had the opportunity to travel to Europe and I know we'll be rehashing the precious memories for the rest of our marriage.  God is good!

* To view all of our photos, visit here.

Paris, September 2010

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