Friday, May 25, 2018


Sweet Abbie loves art and is an incredible artist herself. We got skunked out of the Vatican museum while we were in Roma, as we couldn't get our phones to order tickets (we don't all have wifi and if one of us does, it's tricky, except for where we stay at night, hence the strange post hours and lack of editing as I am blogging from my tiny phone very late).
So when we got to Florence I promised we'd buy her tickets to the Academia which houses David and other famous paintings by Michaelangelo and his confreres. We made a special stop yesterday to buy tickets in advance so we could visit today with no lines. It was a perfect plan. Of course every where you visit here is so full of famous beauty you cannot easily escape it. Still Abbie had her heart set on seeing the real deal, and who could blame her.

This morning at breakfast Abbie was cooking Fred and Peter eggs and Fred asked "how is it decided that one sculpture is so much better than another? I mean, what kind of standard is applied?" He said he could see how that would be pretty easy to ser with a painter, but not so easy with a sculptor.He was totally being  honest and just really curious. Abbie expained alot about sculpturing and we listened, and then she and Pete headed out by bike to buy sneakers (her feet have been aching her from the 10 mile days) and meet us at 1 for our tour.

We walked into the first room of the museum and looked at some really magnificent paintings and a few sculptures.
The rest of the beauty!
I loved these paintings!
This whole room was filled with these depictions

 Then we turned the corner of the next room and...there he was.
Look at the people to gain perspective on size
Up close

In a single instant, all the questions were gone. He is a breathtaking sight to behold. In fact we all seperated and found different spots to sit and stare for as long as we possibly could without being rude. After about a half hour of gazing at David, I said to Abbie "would you like to finish the tour so we can see the other statues and paintings?" She smiled and said "sure, but what's the point?" She summed up all our feelings perfectly. Fred said as we left the building, "all my questions were answered in a single glance". What an incredible day for her, and us all.
I love watching her watching David

For the rest of the afternoon Pete and Abbie rode bikes around Florence (I wonder where they got that idea?) and Fred and I visited any church we hadn't yet seen. There are quite alot, so we have fallen into a form. We enter (we don't pay, we are pilgrims not tourists and I remind Peter and Abbie each time they gaze in awe that this is their church, by right and they are not visitors). We then pray for the Holy Father and his intentions, we see if one of the name saints is that of someone in our family or friends close to us, we light alot of candles. A whole lot of candles. At every church. I knew we couldn't possibly afford to pay for gifts for all my dear friends back home, but you can be assured I have lit a candle for you and remembered you before God in some really special places. To finish our intentions, we ask God to bless anyone we are forgetting and to watch over their intentions and give them special graces. All of these prayers have been my very favorite part of our travels, especially because almost every church simply asks a donation for a real candle and so I am free to light so many!
Candle trees
Our children, grandchildren, and godchildren
I love how the candles are standing in sand

Tonight I decided to cook for the 4 of us on our last night in Florence. I bought pancetta and fettucinni and fresh Romano cheese plus tomato and chicken and we had a lovely dinner together. There is a romantic place to watch the sunset so Pete and Abbie biked there after we ate and Fred and I are laying low til we feel it's time to get gelato. Speaking of gelato, Fred has decide it's good, but that he still prefers ice cream. Since I don't like even ice cream I'm a terrible judge. I had salted caramel gelato and it was nice, but I'd take tiramisu any day over it (and in fact I have most days here).
Home made dinner

I don't know how this got here, but it's too much work to remove now, sorry.
Dad made me pose like this statue while we were getting gelato

Bonus post-the restroom situation

Ok girls and boys, there's only been one rather difficult part of our trip, lest you think we've visited paradise. I will politely say that restrooms in Italy are not quite up to American standards. I mean that literally as we have toilettes named 'American Standard'. Anywhere you go in the US bathrooms are standardized and there are no surprises. Some are lovelier than others of course, but they all follow the same format, which turns out to be genius.

In Italy, sometimes you actually have to pay money to use the restroom. This is not like at a store, where you might be loitering (think starbucks). Public bathrooms cost you about a buck to use. You also don't know what you'll find when you go in. I don't necessarily mean dirtiness or filth, I mean maybe they won't have a lid or seat at all. Some bathrooms don't have even a toilet and instead a porcelain hole in the floor (which I promptly left so I wouldn't have to figure out how it was used). The toilet is seperated by another door for the sink, so the whole process is a bit disorienting. Mainly I have found I think far too much about restrooms since I've been here, and have had to plan my days around my best chances at a respectable one.

Since I didn't want to post anything gross, I decided instead to take pictures of the handles or flushing device on each one. You see, none are the same. You basically have to do a where's Waldo to figure out how to flush the toilet in every restroom. Sometimes its a button on a wall, sometimes its a lever on top, other times you push at something at the floor (this goes for sinks too-it can take 2 minutes to get a sink to actually work), still other times its a panel not connected to the toilet or tank. I will be grateful for an American bathroom when we get home. Let me prove it:

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Hi kiddos! We tried to call home, but I think you may not be catching us on skype, and JP is out of commission with those wisdom teeth being pulled,  so we may have to wait a day to catch up. We did talk to Matty and are so happy he loves his cool new job!

Today, we woke up late and split up so we could spend time exploring different parts of Florence. It's been really easy to travel with Abbie and Peter as we are all giving each other space to just do what we like and then meeting up together to eat or sightsee.

Dad and I went walking towards the duomo and I soon realized I left home without my phone. I've only been using it to take pics and blog when we get home as I have no internet access on the streets. It's so freeing. In any case, the pictures from today are from Dads perspective as I didn't have a camera.

We visited the duomo (St Marys basilica of Florence). It us easily the most beautiful church exterior I have ever seen. It's an architectural masterpiece. Because the exterior is so beautiful, we decided to have lunch at a cafe outside it, looking up at it (and I ordered the tuscany bean soup-it didn't let me down). While we ate lunch this woman in a beautiful gown sat and played the Ave Maria and various other beautiful songs on her violin for street money. It was like something out of a dream.

Afterwards, we decided against the 'tour' of the church (which cost money)and instead went inside (the Catholic entrance) and sat and prayed for a while and lit candles for JP and a few other special intentions.

Peter and Abbie headed to San Maria Novella where the relics of the crown of thorns and the cloak put on Christ while he was being mocked was kept. They said it was beautiful. It also had a special altar for St Thomas Aquinas and they lit candles for Tommy today. Then we met up and walked the streets which is just great fun. We also saw a mime on the streets that made us stop and laugh for 20 minutes. We could barely walk away he was so immensely talented.

Dad had gotten it into his head that he wanted to ride bikes around Florence today. Sure enough, he found an incredible app for the phone and so late this afternoon Dad and I took 2 bicycles all thru Florence. I haven't ridden a bike in years, but it turns out to be true that riding a bike, is like riding a bike, and is not a skill easily lost.
Since Florence is small but rich with history and art, you can get all over the city pretty easily. Seeing it by bike was a great experience.

Tonight, we had another great dinner on a restaurant street. The weather has been truly perfect. At dinner, Pete decided he wanted to try a "lost space" adventure. This is the equivalent of our escape the room. We all said yes. Of course as we got closer I had a few misgiving-see my kids and family know I suffer from anxiety, but maybe not all my readers do because I manage it really well. I began to question the prudence of  allowing myself to be locked inside a prison cell, in a foreign country, with a language barrier to boot. But in for a penny, in for a pound. We were blindfolded, our phones taken away, and locked in 3 seperate prison cells- Peter was handcuffed in his. It took us 35 minutes to free Peter from his cell using chopsticks we found and 2 tiny pieces of rope to hit a switch in the ceiling. He never got out of his handcuffs and we remained locked up entirely. I was glad to see I wasn't the only one who had doubts as Abbie kept repeating "we're all gonna die in here!" Until I politely told her that wasn't helpful. After an hour,we were released and walked home dejected but happy for the fun of the night. It's almost one here now, so I'll sign off. Tomorrow, we head to some beautiful art museums which Abbie has been waiting to see!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Apostolic Blessings

When we picked up our tickets yesterday for the papal audience, they told us to arribe at St Peters at 7:15am. This meant we would have to have another early day, and none of our feet could really take that. So we decided to roll the dice and leave on a later train and hope for the best.

God must have known we were really dog tired as He worked out the plans for us. We got a 8 am bus and made it to St Peters square by 8:45. We were actually in our seats by this time (I assumed we'd lose them  and have to stand). Within a half hour the Holy Father was in the pope mobile making the rounds of the crowd!dad got good video of it, I hope you can play it all right.

It's amazing to be in a crowd from all over the world with people you know share your faith. It really touches the heart. Hearing the pope proclaim the days gospel then listening to it in a dozen more languages drives the universality of the church home.the Pope granted his Apostolic blessing to the crowd as he finished and extended it to our families at home. Be assured that I took that seriously and brought to mind all those I love for the graces. What a perfect way to leave Rome and head off to Florence!
Arriving at the square

Huge crowds and we got seats! (Thanks JP!)
Peter and Abbie waiting for the blessing

We took the bullet train from Rome to Florence (it goes 180 miles per hour!). It was really cool, we got there in an hour and a half.

I'll post more about Florence tomorrow, but let me tell you we all LOVE the apartment we rented here! Try to picture an Italian villa in your mind, complete with tall windows (wooden frames of course), tall doors, a courtyard with both roses and honey suckle growing,plus a rooftop terrace,  and you'll picture our flat. Abbie and I both gasped with happiness as it was precisely what we both pictured it would be like in Florence! We split up after we unpacked to explore, then met back up for dinner and walked along the Ponte Vecchio.

Dining room

Hall/living room
Abbies room
Honeysuckle on the terrace outside our room

Ponte Vecchio with my main squeeze!