Thursday, September 20, 2018

40th Birthday European Celebration!

I’ve had the “travel bug” for some time now, and have desprately wanted to get out to see more of the world, and in particular, Europe. With my 40th birthday looming over me in November, Brian thought it would be a wonderful idea to take our dream trip a few months early! So, after only about 2 months of planning, we headed off for a weeks’ vacation in London, Paris and Rome! We explored, walked our feet off, enjoyed the tour buses around town, ate at many restaurants “off the beaten path”, saw many iconic sites, and thouroughly enjoyed our time together! Thank you Brian, for a lifetime of memories in this one short week! –Love, Karin

If you want to check out the blog in the order of our trip, here are the links. Enjoy!





European Birthday trip: Rome

After a harrowing trip through the Paris airport, and a crazy line in customs in Italy, we finally made it to Rome!



Our travel agent did an amazing job picking hotels for us on our whole trip… Once again, I didn’t get great shots of it myself, but we stayed at the Westin Excelsior in the heart of the action again!


The Westin Excelsior, Rome-entrance

We had an awesome balcony where we enjoyed drinks at night and reading in the mornings!


We were right across the street from the US Embassy, so the consierge said no one would mess with us Smile I wan’t aware anyone might do that, so it made me a little worried, but I suppose it was comforting knowing we were a hand wave away from US help!


The streets in Rome were narrow and crazy busy! Evidently, EVERYONE wants to go to Rome!


We found some awesome restaurants throughout the streets, and they all served free appetizers! We definitely had our fill of olives, potato chips, pasteries and peanuts!


One of our favorite dinners was at a little restaurant Brian found, called “Sophia”.  I had the best pasta of my life!


IMG_6330  IMG_6331

On our way back to the hotel that night, we had a few after-dinner drinks outside at a bar with awesome Cosmopolitans and Old-Fashioneds. Brian bought me a beautiful rose from a street vendor, but without a vase back in the room, we put the bidet to work for us… It didn’t work very well…


The next morning, we headed back to a hop-on-hop-off bus to see the sights of Rome! I wish I had known a little more about Roman history before we went, so I’ll share a little of what we learned along the way!


We drove by some beautiful churches, including the Basilica Di Santa Maria Maggiore, which is the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome and was built in 435 AD!


IMG_6343 IMG_6345

The grandiose, slow rising staircase that leads from the bottom of the Capotoline Hill to the piazza (famous square behind us) is known as the Cordonata, Italian for 'graded ramp'. It was designed by Michaelangelo in the 1500’s!


The Romans REALLY liked their stairs! They were EVERYWHERE! Santa Maria in Aracoeli is a basilica that sits at the top of the Capitoline Hill at the site where Tiburtine Sybil was said to have announced the coming of Christ. They call it the “Stairway to Heaven”.


Lunch was another awesome “back-alley” restaurant! I don’t know how we found this little wine bar & pizza shop, but it was a true authentic winner!





After lunch, we headed out on foot to find a couple of famous sites, and first, we found the Pantheon. It is a beautiful Roman temple that was built in about 125 AD. The inside of it was beautiful, and we learned that the top dome is open, so there are drainage holes throughout the floor to drain the rain when it comes in.





Our next find was the famous Trevi fountain… It is one of the oldest water sources in Rome. The fountain dates back to ancient Roman times, since the construction of the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct in 19 B.C. that provided water to the Roman baths and the fountains of central Rome. Legend claims that you should throw three coins into the fountain from your right hand over your left shoulder. The first coin guarantees your return to Rome, the second will ensure a new romance, and the third will ensure marriage.



A quick stop for some gelato…



Our next stop for the day was to see historically famous colesseum! It is the largest ampitheatre ever built, and it dates back to 70 AD! it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles (for only a short time as the hypogeum was soon filled in with mechanisms to support the other activities), animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. There is a lot of history in this old building!








After an exhausting day of sightseeing, we headed back for an early evening, and headed right back out the next morning to get back on the big bus to see a few more things on our last day…


The streets in Rome are absolutely crazy, and honestly, even scary to walk on, let alone drive, so it’s no wonder that half the vehicles are tiny smart cars or scooters!


We rode by the famous Circus Maximus, which was an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. It was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. It was occasionally used for events such as processions or gladiator combats, but on most days only chariot races with quadrigaes, pulled by four horses, were held here. Believe it or not, you are looking at ruins from the 6th century BC!!!


We loved finding the big rivers that ran through the cities… there was always so much to stop and look at! The River Tiber runs right by the Vatican City, which was our stop for the day!




The Vatican museums were VERY busy, but they still had some breathtaking art to see… Even the Sistene Chapel was beautiful, even though our experience there was not quite what we expected!






Our hot and crowded Vatican visit lent itself perfectly to another gelato stop on the way out!



Dinner on our last night started with some Prosecco and free appetizers again, and ended in the most amazing restaurant we found on our whole trip!


Brian found a little outdoor place called Osteria 44 to wrap up our amazing trip! The menu was completely in Italian, so we weren’t quite sure what we were going to order until the owner came out to translate a few of his favorites for us. We took his recommendations, and it was the most amazing meal we’ve ever had! To top it off, we devoured an amazing tiramasu that was absolutely divine!




Thank you to Brian, for such a wonderful time, and a VERY special 40th birthday present! It was an amazing, beautiful, fun, exhausting, 100,00-step-trip of a lifetime, and I loved every single memory we have from our special time together! I love you!



Abby's summer is off to a pretty sweet start!

Abby's summer is off to a great start this year! She spent a great evening out with good friends at the Chappelle Roan concert, and then...