Monday, March 13, 2006

Home Safe & Sound

Hello all,
We're finally back home, safe and sound. I just wanted to apologize - we only found out today that the "allow anonymous comments" feature was disabled on our blog the whole time (which probably explains why we got so few comments!)... We had figured it was on by default and never thought to check.



Thanks for reading!
Brad

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Day 13 - Back in Nice

Hello again!

We had a fabulous day yesterday in Florence. 1600 stairsteps later (800 up and 800 down!), we saw some truly amazing Italian Renaissance treasures. Brad and I climbed Giotto's Campanile in the Piazza San Lorenzo in Florence - had a great view from the top, andi then realized that the Duomo (The Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral) was actually higher.



So of course we had to climb it. The Duomo was completed in the mid 1400s, and is an amazing feat of Renaissance engineering. Brunelesschi (the architect/designer) managed to design a system of two domes, one inside the other. When you climb up to the top, you actually climb almost 100 metres BETWEEN the two stone domes. Kinda scary, but really really cool. Brad has some great pictures - it was pretty open at the top, and I was too scared to look over the edge.



In the afternoon, we did a little shopping (I found my awesome Italian purse!) and visited both the Baptistery and Santa Maria Novella. There were more sights that we would have liked to have seen, but we ran out of both time and energy to continue exploring.

Dinner last night (the last in Italy!) was phenomenal. We happened upon the cutest little restaurant called La Martinicca da "Pino" ( Web Site!) and ate disgusting amounts of amazing food. Then we slowly waddled back to the hotel to prepare for an early start today.



You're reading what will likely be our last blog entry for the honeymoon. We took a couple of trains today that eventually got us from Florence, Italy back to Nice, France. We had a brief stop in Genova (Genoa) Italy, but now we are back in Nice, at the Hotel Rex.

And that is it for this wee blog entry - we are off in search of wonderful French food (our last dinner in Europe, sniff sniff....) and then up for an early start tomorrow as well.

Take care! See you all soon! :)

- Leslie

PS from Brad - BOLDstreet guys, I don't know if you've been reading, but Chris, the closest we came to Monaco was today, and it was through the window of our train. Sorry I let you down.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Day 11 - Florence

Hello everyone!

We spent the morning in Siena today - we had a fantastic time wandering around the city. It is a medieval city, and as such, the streets are organized in a circular manner around a central square. Very easy to get turned around!!!!!



We climbed up to the top of the Campanile (400 steps) and Brad took some great pictures of the big cathedral there.

After lunch, we hopped on a train to Florence. So far, we haven't seen too much of the city, but we are looking forward to doing some more exploring tomorrow.



We wandered around a bit and found a very friendly English-speaking wine seller. They happily guided us into buying a bottle of Chianti for the evening, and then were able to point us in the direction of a cute little trattoria (family-run restaurant) for dinner.

We had a yummy dinner at the trattoria, and there were many (female) students who were also enjoying a dinner there....I think Brad quite enjoyed his meal.

Thanks for reading! Dad - very happy to hear the bunnies are being well looked after, and Mom, I will email you pronto with the times of the flights. :) Ciao!

Leslie.

Day 10 - Siena

Bon giorno again from Italy!

It's Thursday morning here in Siena... we thought we were going to check in on the blog last night, but it seems a lot of places here close early and open late (including internet cafes). :)

Our train trip yesterday from Rome to Siena was very pleasant; we had great weather and got a good look at the Italian countryside, including lots of farms and vinyards. Our hotel here was nice (we just left it), and although they didn't speak a word of english we were able to get along without any problems. Leslie even managed a few full sentences in Italian, when asking if it would be ok to leave our bags there for a few hours until our train to Florence at 3:45. She's quite the catch.



Our hotel is situated at the base of a huge hill, atop of which sits the old part of the city. Thankfully they have a system of five long escalators to bring footsore tourists up to the top, as it would be quite a climb otherwise. After wandering for a while (and snapping a few more photos) we got hungry and stumbled upon a great place for lunch called Medio Evo (www.medioevosiena.com). I had probably the best pasta dish I've ever had, and made Leslie jot the name of it down ("Reginette al Norcino") in the hopes that she may be able to find a recipe and reproduce it. I gave her a couple of bites and she enjoyed it so much that we agreed we had to come back for dinner that night, which we did. :)



All in all, Siena is a very scenic town and a pleasure to stroll through - a nice change of pace after the busy streets of Rome. It's only *occasionally* that we almost get run over here, instead of every 30 seconds or so. :)



On a sad note, Leslie broke her purse (although I suspect sabotage) so she will be forced to find a nice leather one when we arrive in Florence.



That's all the news for now... we're going to eat some pizza and wander around for a couple more hours before heading to the train station for our 2-hour trip to Florence this afternoon.

Thanks for reading!

Brad

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Day 8 - Prego

Hello again! It's our last night in Rome... we just finished a delicious dinner at the same place we ate at two nights ago - althoght tonight we ordered 'a-la-carte' instead of getting pizza. :)

So before I get into the events of day, I'd like to share some of our recently-acquired-knowledge of the Italian language. It seems that the word "prego" has many uses... it can mean "ready" in the sense of "hey, wake up, your hotel room is ready." It can also mean "finished" as in when your server asks "are you finished with that?" (usually after Leslie has licked her plate clean). In addition to this, it can also mean "no problem" or "don't mention it" as when you say "grazie". But we're not done yet... it can also be used for things like "sit over here" or "right this way" when your server brings you to your table. Who knew!


Today was our 'Colosseum' day... and I have to say, I was utterly speechless from the sights we saw today. In a word, it was breathtaking. I can't enumerate all of the sights we hit today in our several-kilometre stroll between 10am and 6pm, but the Colosseum and surrounding buildings/ruins were definitely a high point amongst many, many amazing stops. It's one thing to see photos, but quite another to walk around the site and experience the grandeur of it first-hand. Leslie was kind enough to indulge in my photo-frenzy (I have nearly a Gigabyte of photos already, and we still have Siena and Florence ahead of us) and follow me around on endless whims of "hey, what's that up ahead?". :) Rome is a tough place to play tourist because the interesting attractions are literally a stone's throw away from each other... it's quite easy to go from one to the other, and eventually consult your map to find that you're a LONG way from home. :)



I know we've been been pretty faithful so far at updating the blog more or less once a day, but we leave for Siena tomorrow morning and I'm not sure how easy it will be to find an internet cafe there, so you may not hear from us until Florence (the day after).

Leslie would like me to point out that Frank (our wedding photographer) has once again updated his site and posted a couple more photos. Check it out at gilfenn.com.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Post a comment! We like hearing from you guys.

Ciao,
Brad

Monday, March 6, 2006

La vita e bella

Hello from Rome again!

Brad and I have just finished thoroughly enjoying our first full day in Rome. Initially, we thought we would head to the Coloseum today, but we had second thoughts once we felt the chilly breeze (hehe....I doubt youll feel sorry for us though....it was 8C today...). Instead, we altered our plans and headed for the Vatican.


We arrived at about 920AM, and saw a line. We followed the line around the corner. And then around the next corner. And the next corner. We did queue up, but figured we would probably be there for the day. As we were discussing whether to stay or go, the nice (English-speaking) tourist in front of us let us know that the line moved pretty quickly. And it did - after only 35 minutes, we had advanced about 500m (and two corners!) of line, and were in the Vatican.

The splendour was both so impressive and extensive that it was hard to take it all in....every surface was either tiled, painted or sculpted and it was truly breathtaking in every respect.

The restored Sistine chapel was incredible....I wanted to just lie on the floor and take it all in, but since I figured this would only garner me a trampling, I satisfied myself with leaning on Brad and just looking up. Signs at the entrance to the chapel clearly stated that there were to be no photographs nor any video. You will all be able to check out Brads pictures when we get back (sorry for the poor grammar there....I just cant find the hyphen!). There was pretty much a camera flash every second, so Brad surreptitiously took some NON'FLASH pictures before the guards came around to yell at everyone. ;)

We meandered across the Tiber to the old part of Rome to enjoy a lunch of pizza, pasta and beer (we will be rolling out of this country, I swear!). The afternoon was spent wandering through the oldest part of Rome. There isnt a block of this city that is without its own special charm or marvel.

I do have to wonder though....after the phenomenal amounts of marble we saw today, could there possibly be any marble left in Italy??????? Every surface of every church is covered invarious shades of marble.....you will all have to see Brads 400 pictures (at this point....we may need another memory card for the shutterbug), but I dont see how a picture could possibly capture the magnificence of this city.



We also saw the Pantheon, Santa Maria Minerva and the Trevi Fountain. And after doing all of this wandering, we promptly headed back to the hotel for mutual foot rubs!

Dinner was very enjoyable - Italiano style, with pasta as an appetizer, and then a main course (and of course I had dessert, and Brad repeated his newfound enamourment with capuccino).

Tomorrow, we plan to see the Colosseum, and we really are having a tremendous time. We could not have asked for a more amazing honeymoon, and everything is going great. :)

Thanks for reading and commenting - good to know that the bunnies are holding up (though Im sure they REALLY miss me....hehe), and Mom, glad to know you go home safe, if not quickly.

Take care!!!!!!!

Our photographer, Frank, has also updated his site....I loved this picture, so thought I would share!!!! For more, check out www.gilfenn.com!

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Day 6 - Hello from Roma!

Hello everyone - we are in Rome!

The overnight train from Nice was a bit of an adventure....I decided to upgrade us to first class at the last minute. We ended up having a TINY little cabin with bunk beds, a sink, and this scary, smelly bedpan thing. We avoided that. :) It was nice to have a quiet-ish place to sleep where we were not surrounded by strangers and fearing for our luggage. Everything left on time and we arrived in Rome this morning at approximately 6:35AM.



From the Tiburtina train station, we took the metro to Termini station (where our hotel was located). It was easy to find our hotel, but when we arrived, they told us that their hotel was under renovations, but that they had another hotel "100 m" away and they would have us stay there.

Brad and I are pretty sure that Italian standards of measurement may somewhat differ from our own....after nearly 10 minutes of walking, we arrived at the other hotel - the Hotel de Galles. It is a very nice hotel, but as we arrived so early in the morning, no rooms were yet made up. We left our bags there and proceeded to wander about the city for the morning.

We did not wander terribly quickly, however; all the walking in Nice left our feet a bit tender, so we slowly made our way up to Reppublica, and Villa Borghesa. At that point, my feet were throbbing a bit, so we eventually found a Cafe (the Cafe de Paris) to sit down and refresh a little. 22€ later (for two coffees and two small sandwiches!), we set out again. We walked to the Villa Medici and descended the Spanish steps into an older part of the city. We found a fabulous shopping street, complete with Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Dolce and Gabbana stores. Fun. :) I did not buy anything though.

At noon, we headed back to our hotel and dozed in the lobby until our room was ready at 1PM. We are thinking that since we said it was our honeymoon we received an upgrade - the room is quite large and is complete with a jacuzzi tub! :) Brad says I am the queen of online booking, as the regular price for the room is 268€ and we are paying a mere 69€.

For dinner, we did not venture terribly far from the hotel (aching feet and all that), but we found a nice little pizzeria where we enjoyed bruschetta, pizza, fruit salad, wine and beer. At the end oif the meal, our server patted Brad's shoulder a couple times and said something that sounded like "amoré" - and pointed back and forth between us and gave Brad the "thumbs up". :)



This place where we're writing from isn't far from the hotel, so we'll probably check in again tomorrow night... we're thinking of taking the Metro over to the many attractions near the Coliseum.

Arrivederci!

Leslie

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Hello from Nice

Hey guys,
It's about 5pm here in Nice, France. We're writing to you from the second floor (or 1st floor if you're from Europe) above a little cafe in the old part of the city, several blocks from our hotel. We thought it would be a good idea to drop you guys a line now, before we board our train to Rome later tonight.



After only a short delay flying out of Amsterdam we arrived at approximately 4pm here yesterday. We're still having a great time... our one-star hotel is a cute little place where most of the adjoining rooms are people's apartments. After checking in we went hunting for dinner and found a great little place where we enjoyed some seafood.



Which reminds me - I forgot to recount a good story from a couple of days ago in Amsterdam. When we were out to dinner Leslie was about to be brave and order the "special of the day" even though she didn't recognize the Dutch words. I decided to ask... and we were told it was rabbit. :) Leslie decided to change her mind, and wouldn't let me try it either. :) The look on her face was priceless.

Anyways, we spent most of today walking around and exploring "Vieux Nice" with all of its old stucco charm. We walked all over the place, including up a huge hill where the old castle used to be hundreds of years ago - now it's an incredible vantage point of the entire city and coastline in every direction - I got lots of photos. :) The weather here is verging on tropical for our Canadian standards... we probably got up to 15 or so today - it's funny to see the locals walking around covering their ears or faces from the "cold" while we barely need our coats.



Mom and Dad - thanks for the email, I was wondering why I hadn't heard from you. :) We picked up something today for you guys that we hope will match your new paint colour in the dining room. ;)

So that's about all the news for now - as mentioned, we're going to catch the overnight train to Rome tonight after some dinner. We'll drop a line when we get the chance!

Brad

Friday, March 3, 2006

Day 4 - Amsterdam Airport

Hello from the Schiphol Airport! Brad here. We made it to our gate and terminal with plenty of time to spare (it's about noon here and we're not flying until 1:25.

Having a great time so far. All in all Amsterdam was a great city... plenty of scenery and atmosphere, friendly people (and English-speaking - bonus), and decent food. We wandered around last night in search of a restaurant, but it seems there are two types of places to eat here - those that are winding down and almost empty by 8pm, and those that are just warming up. We ended up walking past a few of the former before giving up and trying another area. On the way back we went past a nice looking restaurant in the lobby of a Best Western, and hesistate, but then thought "What are we thinking? We can't go to Amsterdam and then eat in a hotel restaurant with a bunch of other tourists..." :)

So we ended up going back to the same spot we were at the night before... not sure how to pronounce it, but it's called "Szmulewicz" (www.szmulewicz.nl). It was a great balance between good food, atmosphere, and affordability... and the best part was that I'm pretty sure we were the only "tourists" there both nights. My rule of thumb is that if the locals are eating there it must be decent. :)

Anyways Leslie just grabbed us a couple of sandwiches so I'll sign off for now. Not sure how regularly we'll be able to keep in touch once we're in France or Italy - I doubt our hotels there will have a public computer with internet like this last one did - but we'll try to hunt down an internet cafe here and there to touch base.

P.S. - I would love to include some photos but
a) we can't find a USB cable to fit the camera (it's an odd-ball size)
b) even if we could, I'm not ready to spend 45 euros on something that would cost me $25 CAD back home. :)

Thanks for reading!

Brad

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Day 3 - Out and about in Amsterdam

Hey everyone!

Despite having dragged all the snow across the Atlantic with us, we are having a fantastic time. :D We slept in a bit today and went to the red light district for a massive brekkie of pancakes.

This morning, we visited Anne Frank House. It was really interesting and also touching to read and see all about her experiences there.

Of course, after that, we had to deke back to the hotel because *someone* forgot they were married and left their white gold wedding ring on the bathroom sink. ;) No worries though - it was still there and is now residing in its proper place.

Later, we strolled down to the Van Gogh museum - this was also cool, though our two favourite paintings (Starry Night and Cafe Terrasse) were nowhere to be seen. The gift shop was super tempting too....

After this, we went for Brad's favourite part of the trip thus far....the Heineken experience. The old Heineken factory downtown Amsterdam was closed down in the 80s, and has since been turned into a shrine/mecca for all Heineken lovers. ;) For 10 euros, you got a tour, two rides, lots of eye candy, three beers and a heineken glass. We both agree it's the least ripped off we've felt in three days. ;) We quite enjoyed the Heineken experience, and hopefully those of you whom we were able to send a video greeting can get a wee taste. We're not sure if the sound was working, but we basically said "Hi guys. We're here on the Heineken experience, having a beer for you. Miss you and see you in a couple weeks."



On our walk back, we were nearly run over by a speeding police car...apparently, when they need to go through a light here, they neither slow down nor turn on their sirens. They just wave and race on through.

Also....next time we come to Amsterdam (someday when we are filthy rich), we are TOTALLY staying at the Amstel Hotel. We deked in because the beer worked its way through my system rather quickly. The hotel is phenomenal - the bathroom stall had more elaborate crown moulding than our living room, and both the walls and floor were entirely of pink marble. Not to mention the nicely folded handtowels (no paper here) and gold plated faucets. Swish. :D

If you don't hear from us tomorrow, it's because we are jaunting off to Nice and we're not sure when we'll next find an internet cafe.

And now we are off for dinner - thanks for reading! And mom...I am NOT leaking the nature of the prezzie. ;)

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Day 2 - Grand Holland Bus tour

So today my new hubby and I discovered once again that we quite simply are not the "organized-tour| type of people. We took the Grand Holland tour today (courtesy of Lindbergh Excursions and 38euros apiece), which was nice, but not exactly the best bus tour ever (although it definitely beats that 13-hour overnight bus we took to Madrid last trip...).

We wandered around the city for a while this morning at 7AM until finally stumbling across a place actually OPEN... we enjoyed a nice filling breakfast at the Jolly Hotel. It seems as though the nighttime hubbub of Amsterdam does not carry over through to the wee hours of the morning. :) The city appears to sleep until at least 9AM. Jet-lagged travellers...not so much.



Back to the tour. The Grand Holland tour started at the Allsmere flower auction - which is apparently the "largest commerical auction/market" in the world, covering an area the size of something like 250 soccer fields. We then continue to a bus tour of the modern city of Rotterdam. After this (and before lunch, I might add), we visited the Delft Blue pottery factory. It was interesting to see just how this pottery is made, and mom, we even found a little something for you. :D What remains to be seen is whether or not the remainder of our travels allow us to deliver it to you in one or many pieces. :o

One of our lovely co-tourists was a full ten minutes late departing the factory. This in turn delayed ALL of us for lunch (as it was past 2, I was starting to get a bit peeved).

Lunch was had at a pub in Delft - a very quaint town that we would have loved to have enjoyed a bit more wandering around and exploring... but unfortunately we had to jump right back on the bus after our wienershnitzel and frites.

After lunch, we continue to the Hague. Brad tells me it was quite intersting, but I succumbed to an overwhelming wave of jet-lagged exhaustion, so I couldn't tell you.

When I woke (more accurately, when Brad prodded me awake) we were in Madurodam. Established in 1952, Madurodam is a miniature city containing all of Holland's most famous monuments. Even those of my own diminutive stature could feel big here. :)



---- Brad takes over the description here...

It was fun noting which travelers found the "snow" (it didn't even accumulate during the day) a novelty... while waiting for the bus some of them were running out into the parking lot and getting friends/family to take their picture. Leslie and I had to hide our grins. :)

Part of our trip through Madurodam was their Ice Sculpture exhibit (they had a fancier name for it but I can't remember). It was something like Ottawa's Winterlude, except Holland rarely has temperatures below zero so all of the sculptures were kept in a big refridgerated room. At the extrance they were handing out massive bright orange winter coats for everyone... we almost took one, then glanced ahead and saw the big digital readout, showing that the room was a whoppping -10 degrees. :) We declined the coats.

The weather unfortunately proved to be a bit of a delay, and we didn't end up arriving back in Amsterdam untikl 7:30ish (instead of 6pm as planned). Luckily we were able to find a nice cozy place for dinner around 8pm and had a great meal.

All in all we're having a fantastic time so far. Leslie is dragging me out to the van Gogh museum tomorrow, and we'll probably spend the majority of the day walking around and exploring some more.

Having a great time and miss you all!

P.S. Leslie hopes the rabbits are still alive :)

Brad

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

First day in Amsterdam!

We're here! After a decent flight (with some good food!) we made it to Amsterdam 25 minutes early, arriving around 7am local time, Tuesday morning. Brad was quite admiring of the lovely Dutch flight attendants on KLM, and we were both shocked to find out that none of the approximately 30 kids aboard wailed all night. :) Thankfully, we weren't near them anyway, but it was still pretty impressive.

Also impressive and enjoyable (take notes Air Canada!) was the on board entertainment on KLM. I (Leslie) watched two movies that Brad staunchly refused ot ever watch with me, and he had a good time watching a violent movie, the likes of which I refuse to watch. An excellent start to our marriage. :)

We took a short train from the airport to take us to central Amsterdam, in the "old city", where our hotel is located. We lucked out with our online booking - we're paying about 1/3 of the rack rate, and the location of the hotel is central, right on the Amstel river.

Also quaint is the slight slope to the entire building, and thus our room. The hotel dates from the 17th century and has some REALLY fun stairs of which I would not recommend the navigation after a visit to either an Amsterdam bar or coffee shop. Not that we've actually done either. ;)



We were able to drop our bags off early in the morning and then went out to explore the city. We even took an hour-long canal tour... everything is fantastic so far. It's a beautiful and truly unique city. Around 1pm we made our way back to the hotel and checked in. The room is nice, and after a quick power-nap (it still feels like Monday to us, not having slept on the flight!) it's about 5:40pm here, and we're headed out to dinner.

Big hello to all of you - take care, and since we have complimentary internet here in Amsterdam, we'll be able to update you over the next couple of days. The plan tomorrow is to take the Grand Holland tour to Rotterdam, the flower auction, the Hague, Madurodam and Schevinengen.

Also - let us know you're reading by posting a comment!

Monday, February 27, 2006

At the Toronto Airport

After a very pleasant surprise limousine trip to Pearson (conpliments of Brad's parents) we're now at the airport, waiting for our 6pm flight. We've got a couple good books to keep us company. :)

Talk to you soon!

Brad and Leslie

Off to the Airport!

Hope you all had a good time at the wedding! Leslie and I had a blast, and it was a real joy to see our friends and family there.

For those interested, our photoghrapher has already posted a few of his digital photos on his site, which can be seen here: gilfenn.com. There will likely be more coming as he scans some of the film he took. Thanks Frank!!

Well we're headed to the airport shortly... check back in a day or two for news!

Brad

Friday, February 17, 2006

So...

Y'all know when we leave. Check back for updates when the jet lag wears off....