Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Italy day 1

Some pictures from our first day in Italy:

(Hi, Wendy here... I'm going to add some commentary to David's post in purple so you can tell who's typing what...

Overall, Daisy did AMAZING again with the travel. But we did change elevations during our drive to Italy, and I did not know this was going to happen. Therefore, I didn't wait to feed her until we were climbing and instead she ate and then we changed elevations and I didn't have any milk to give her and she wasn't hungry. So she cried some on the way to Italy and eventually just lost it completely. We pulled off in a small town to settle her down. While I walked around on the street with her, David and Hilary explored a cathedral.
Daddy here, adding my few thoughts to the post. The town in Italy that we stopped in to calm Daisy down was Ventimiglia. The cathedral was St. Augustine I believe. Neither Hilary nor I could find how old it was, but it was a beautiful cathedral with amazing ceilings and attention to detail as typical for the century old cathedrals. If anyone wants to google the cathedral and try to find when it was built, you'll receive a free pan au chocolait...we can vacuum seal one and bring it back when we leave!

Daddy and Daisy once Daisy was settled can tell she'd been crying.
Finally, we made it to Dolceaqua for lunch. For an appetizer, we had bruschetta. Yum. (
We ordered the two shown above, but after the four of us devoured them, we ordered another. It was really really good.)
Hilary holding Daisy while waiting for the pizza to come out.
Our two pizzas -- our first real Italian pizzas! (I didn't notice this when I took the picture or even when I originally posted this, but if you ever wanted to know if Daisy is in fact my daughter, check out the little paw trying to sneak a piece of the pizza before the blessing. Occassionally I have been known to do so!)
For dessert, David ordered Tiramasu...One of my dad's favorite deserts. This was the best I have ever had. was really good, and I don't even like coffee (espresso) flavored things. Seriously, the best I have ever had. Check out that cream soft yummy goodness. It was light and airy, but rich and tasty. Super yummy. By the way, notice that there are two spoons shown. I was the only one that ordered desert, and for some reason it came out with four spoons... and suddenly, you plop down perhaps the best tiramsu in the world, and suddenly everyone wants some!
Daisy liked pulling on the curtains.
Street-level view of some old buildings. Doesn't this look like something out of a movie set?
A castle which we were told was built in 1100. In the foreground, you'll notice a really cool bridge. We design and build things at Virginia Tech to last somewhere between 50 and 100 years....this bridge has lasted 900+ years.
After lunch, we jumped back in the car to continue our journey to Pisa. Here are a few views from the car while driving. This road wasn't exactly the pacific coast highway, but it was close. I guess you could call it the Mediterranean coast highway. We hugged the shoreline most of the way to Pisa which allowed for some awesome views of some old cities and some port cities with huge cranes and shipyards. The water was beautiful, even if we were passing by it at speeds over 130.

Getting to Pisa was a challenge -- we got lost several times and when we did finally find Pisa, we could not find the hotel we were looking for which was right next to the tower. I'm not joking when I say we drove around Pisa for well over an hour looking for the leaning tower.
I love Chevy Chase. I'm somewhat into 'Community', that is I've seen two epsiodes, but Fletch, Caddyshack, the sequels... I love. But most of all, the Vacation movies. Christmas is my favorite, but I couldn't help but relate our trip to Pisa with European. I hope this link works: Wendy is 100% correct in that we drove around Pisa for over an hour. You would think, since this engineering error is the only tourist attraction and source of income to the town that they would better identify how to get there. We asked a french woman who gave hilary her map, and italian police officer who didn't speak french or english, and of course, none of us italian, and hilary asked a woman walking her bike across the street where the leaning tower was using the universal hand motions of a tower by sticking her forearm up vertically and then moving it down to 'lean'... the woman had no idea what we were asking!

We stopped for directions twice and there were a few roundabouts that we went through at least four or five times as we kept trying to find the right way to go. Eventually, we ended up at the little hotel which was clean, cheap, safe, and really close (two blocks) from the tower.

We really did go through one roundabout for our five times. Granted, it had four or five roads converging but we came from each direction and left through a different one! We were all laughing hysterically. I was crying I was laughing so hard and thankfully daisy was being an angel throughout or 'tour' of Pisa. We did see about the whole city... With regard to the hotel, it is the offseason, but the cute little room that we had for I think 50 or 60 Euros, was no further than 50-75 meters from the base of the tower. I might have been able to throw a football from our room and hit it...back in the day.

By this point, it was after 9:00pm and we needed to get dinner. Eventually, after getting lost on foot looking for a specific restaurant, we stumbled into a really neat restaurant. It was 10:15 and we sat down for a very late (and very Italian) dinner. Here was our appetizer dish, which had artichoke and onions in it. It was like a quiche. The picture doesn't look like much, but it was divine. The tomato based sauce served with it had a little spice/kick to it, and combined it was very good (albeit somewhat expensive, too). The service at this place was extroadoridnary. For one, unlike the french waitstaff, the italians actually talk with you, are glad you are there and enjoy serving you. The waiter and waitress both interacted with us, translated the menu as best they could, played with daisy, and always served the ladies first, whether the menu, water, appetizers, etc. They also put their appetizer dishes down at about a thirty degree angle. Maybe it was intentional, maybe not?
Hilary and I got the same dish, canneloni filled with spinach and cheese. Very tasty!
Dom got a meat ravioli
David got a pasta with duck. He loved it and said it was so much tastier than the description sounds! The duck wasn't quite as good honestly as I had hoped/anticipated, but the pasta itself exceeded my expectation. I think I expected the duck to be more like pieces of duck from a rotisserie in stead it was almost more like ground 'beef' consistency.
We then ordered several desserts. Hilary and Dom split a white chocolate mousse type dessert which was very rich and creamy. It had some small berries in it. It was very moist and sweet.
I ordered a chocolate cake, which was dense, rich, and very moist. Also very delicious. This was quite good. If maybe you could add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or gelato, watch out. That would make it almost as good as...
David ordered the best dessert of the night, though. He got the ice cream which topped with pistachios. The ice cream tasted like egg nog to me -- which I love. It was so creamy, and the crunchy crust of pistachios added just the right flavor. All four of us decided it was the best dessert, although all of them were very tasty. Have you ever eaten just one pistachio? or just one pistachio desert? I was ready for a second after this one.

That's it for my commentary -- back to David's original post.)

I know most of the pictures of Italy are food...but that's why I wanted to go to Italy. If you think some engineering blunder from a thousand years ago was the reason... Well you're wrong. But we did see that on day two... Which you can see picts from tomorrow but for now daisy and mommy are sleeping so I'm going to bed, too. Sad to think this time next week I'll be back at work.

Back in Aix en Pce

David is going to post Italy pics in a bit... We'll add commentary tomorrow when we can borrow a computer.

We made it safely back today around 2pm (or 8am EDT). For now, here's a pic of Daisy from the car:
And one more:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quick Hi from Eze

Last night we stayed in Pisa, Italy... Tonight we headed back towards Aix en Provence and we decided to stay in Eze, a coastal town just into France between Monaco and Nice.

Our hotel is cute and has a fantastic Italian restaurant attached. It also has free wi-fi! :)

Well it's getting late -- more tomorrow from our trip!

For now, a video of Daisy from the car today.

Bon soir!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time to get the rental!

Dom and I (David) are off to get the rental for our excursion to Italy. This will likely end our Internet access for a couple days. If you need to reach us please call/email dom. Before we run out, some quick photos from my phone...
Green beans from the market that I cooked up, ground up and will give daisy in Italy! I did not French cut them before I ground them up...
Palms being sold outside the cathedral...

Dom baptizing a girl on palm Sunday! What an occasion!

No I don't miss it at all...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday, etc.

1) Happy 40th anniversary to my parents! David and I appreciate the example you set.

2) Palm Sunday - this evening we attended a special church service at iccp. They celebrated baptisms and it was really neat to hear the stories of some of the participants.

This morning, we lounged around the house.

Tonight I'm watching bball late...

3)Tomorrow we leave for 2 days in Italy.

Will post again Wednesday! :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday picnics and such

Today, we slept in. And that was wonderful. Then, we got up and went to a picnic that ICCP, the church here that Dom is a pastor of, was hosting in a local park. There were Easter egg hunts for the kids and field day events for the youth. There were over 100 people there, total, and it was a great time to meet a lot of their friends.

We picked up sandwiches at a local bakery to take with us, and although it was overcast, Daisy had fun with her little Easter basket and a few eggs.
Daisy playing with her Easter eggs.

Dom and David got a game of American football going, teaching a group of guys the rules and how to throw the ball. They had a lot of fun.

On the way home (it was about a 30 minute walk from Dom and Hil's apartment), we stopped at a patisserie and enjoyed a few snacks.

When we got home we crashed... we were all so exhausted. Daisy had fun wearing mommy's hat while we relaxed on the bed.
For dinner, Dom and David went and picked up Vietnamese and Chinese food. We always eat Chinese food on March 27, in memory of David's father. He passed away 3 years ago today, and one way that we honor him is to eat Chinese food together as a family. We were surprised that the restaurant here actually had some authentic Chinese food, including Bao, Hac Cao, and Shu mi.

Now we are ending the night watching some basketball via the slingbox connected to our TV in Blacksburg. Isn't technology amazing? We're in France watching our own DirecTV signal... :)

Daisy likes to sit on daddy's lap and just chill.
Here are the two boys watching basketball with their "girls" on their laps: David & Daisy and Dom & Talli

Saturday has been fun. What will Sunday hold? Check back to find out!

Pasta Cosy

For dinner Friday night, we enjoyed an AMAZING meal at a local pasta restaurant called "Pasta Cosy." This restaurant is owned by Fabian and Cecile, who are friends of Dom and Hilary. It's located just a few blocks from their apartment, and it has a quaint little interior and a very unique menu (designed by Cecile).

We started off with tapas, which vary from day to day.

Then, we had the main course. Hilary and I each had the fiochetti, David had the "pasta cosy" and Dom had the gnocchi.
The fiochetti are little pasta dumplings filled with pear and gorgonzola.
It was so tasty. Yum!

The pasta cosy is a dish of pasta and parmesan, in which the pasta is stirred around inside a wheel of parmesan that's been lit on fire.

One of the perks of knowing the owner is getting to go to the kitchen to watch the house specialty be prepared. David took this video of a pasta cosy dish being made. It's dark, but you can see the cheese wheel lit on fire and being stirred around.

We ended the night with desserts -- and were they delicious! We had the chocolate crousti-coco, which was a dish of melted chocolate with shaved coconut on top.
It was so unbelievable. We also had chocolate nems which came with an orange ginger sauce.

We plan to go back again for desserts while we are here. The whole meal was fantastic, but the desserts were so tasty. If you ever find yourself in Aix en Provence, you HAVE to eat at this restaurant!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday in France

Today's been a lazy day. That's the point of our trip really -- to take a vacation and just relax. This picture of Daisy from this morning sums it all up. :)
You've seen pictures of the pain au chocolate from this morning... then we relaxed around the house. Daddy fed Daisy some carrots.
She got pretty messy!

Then, we went out to the park. The boys played football while Daisy and I relaxed on a bench.
Daisy then took a nap and I just enjoyed the scenary.

After leaving the park, we did a quick lunch from a corner stand and are back at the apartment relaxing. Hilary is working again, and Dom took a nap. Daisy played for a while in her playpen/bed.
David is also taking a quick nap.

Tonight we plan to go out to eat at a restaurant that a friend of theirs owns... I'm sure we'll post pics and details from that later! :)