New Travel Mates

We met our expanded family this afternoon.  The travel group we’ll be hauling
around Europe with for the next 2 weeks. 
Always an interesting time when you toss a diverse group of people
together.  I’m of the opinion that
in these situations you should adopt what I call the ‘Survivor’ rule, based a
bit on the TV series.  Everyone
meets, we all observe each other for a couple of hours, and then hold a vote to
remove the person or people you know are going to be a pain.  No questions asked, no arguments,
you’re just gone.  “Thanks for
coming out, but we believe you’ll be asking far too many questions. Here’s your
money back”.

(yes, I’m sure there have been times when I would be the one
tossed overboard!)

Much to my delight we’re joined by a bunch of nice families
from across the U.S.

Enough kids Liam and Laura’s age to make long art museums
tolerable.  We’ll play the role of

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杭州楼凤

the token Canucks and be helpful when it comes to metric conversions.

Our main tour guide Daniella has endless enthusiasm and is a
wealth of knowledge when it comes to history and art.   Her wingman Keith is a really nice guy who does his
best to keep things moving along–  
kind of like herding cats.

Here’s a condensed version of the first 3 days.

We hit Rome running with a start at the Colesseum and a new
‘local’ guide, Francesca.  
Visually, it’s absolutely incredible to see up close.  If you did nothing but wander around without
any context – you’d still be in awe. 
But hire a guide and take it to a whole new level.  Many are available outside the ticket
area and based on our experience it is well worth the extra cost.  Francesca was outstanding—enough
background to really get it— but not a history lesson with dates and facts
you’ll never remember.  Of course,
history is always more fun when you’re walking in the middle of it.   On to the Forum and Pantheon…..
and we relived some of the greatest moments in time.  Big thumbs up from the kids.

Funniest sight? 
Outside the Colesseum you can have your picture taken with a Roman
Centurion.  Beefy looking guys with
the classic outfits, ready to put you in the gladiator headlock for a couple of
Euro.  But one guy was wearing
cowboy boots! He’d cut them up and dyed them to sort of look like 2000 year old
sandals.  He’d have looked more
believable in lime green crocs!

Next tour: The Vatican, St. Peters Basilica and the Sistine
Chapel.  A must see whether you’re
Catholic or not.  Well, the
faithful were out in abundance. 
The lineups were unbelievable wrapping around the Vatican for blocks and
blocks.  The tour cut into those
delays big time by sliding in a different entrance, but once inside you’re just
like everyone else.  It makes for some
interesting collisions because most of the time you’re looking ‘up’ going
wow—not looking “out”.  Our
‘local’ guide (Laura) hailed from Ireland but has been living in Italy for the
past 13 years.  It was quite a
contrast learning about one of the world’s most important religious
locations,  through a razor sharp
Irish sense of humour and delivery. 
For the adults – another tour filled with history and for some
obviously, much much more.  A neat,
but ‘long’ day for many of the kids.

Observations…..

Prior to the visit I believed the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel was dominated by Michelangelo’s masterpiece where  ‘God reaches out to touch the hand
man’.  Not so at all. That is just
one small section of a ceiling filled with many incredible scenes.  Michelangelo was touched by God.  Wow.

Travel tip: 
Wednesday morning is apparently the best time to see the Sistine chapel
because thousands of Catholics are in St. Peters Square seeing the Pope in his
weekly address.

Michelangelo’s “David” and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Have to admit….. things started to get a little sleepy for
me here.  After two days of
absorbing so much of the greatest achievements, works of art, sculptures and
stories of the world…  my ‘mailbox
was full’.  I knew I was drifting
when the guide was talking about Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael….  And I’m thinking—‘hey, those are the
Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles”.  
Forgive me!  I really did
try.

For the record, here’s what I remember:

“David” is incredible. 
Michelangelo was as eccentric as they come.

Raphael was quite the ladies man.

Da Vinci was brilliant at whatever he did.

Travel tip for me next time:  take a day off between incredible sights.