Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday in the Park

If there has ever been a perfect spring day . . . today was it.

So after church, we skipped over to the park.

Charlotte explores.

Audrey inspects.

Ava builds sand castles.

Miss dickens

Miss mischief

Playing together.

That spring sunshine will do you in.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


The magnificent Duomo in Milan. Our last stop in Italy.

We managed to find a ward in Milan, so we went to sacrament meeting, and then to the Duomo. (I really enjoyed singing Easter hymns in Italian). We got lost trying to find the church with The Last Supper, and ended up eating lunch at another church that was having a fundraiser . . . it was fun 'crashing' this Italian parish, eating homemade lasagna and risotto with the locals.

Audrey tests the bed at the Westin in Milano . . . what a beautiful, classy hotel (and the only hotel we had in Italy that provided washcloths--not even the Hilton in Venice had them). Schatzi has mastered the art of researching online to find out the exact hotel hotwire will give you in its 4/5 star category . . . he's scored some ridiculously cheap accommodation this trip.

The girls love hotels . . . all the free pens and stationary, multiple phones, t.v.s . . . it's the perfect play place and they waste no time setting up their offices. Daddy brought us some fabulous take out including pasta fagiole that was "just like Nana Doc's". Charlotte loved it!

One last gelato for the road. On the way to the airport, we had to stop at one of Schatzi's approved artigianale gelato shops. The nerve-wracking race to the airport afterward was totally worth it. Oh Italy, we're missing you already!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Venezia - Venice

Venice! We really loved our two days exploring this amazing city on the water.

Venetian "streets", full of water taxis, water buses, gondolas, etc.

Being goofy.

Daddy's romantic gondola ride.

St. Mark's square

The view from the bell tower (campanile) at Piazza San Marco.

It finally happened . . . a bad meal in Italy. We knew it was coming in Venice, which is notorious for tourist-trap food. Photo compliments of Ava.

Charlotte watches intently as mommy adopts local custom and talks with her hands.

Detail of the Doge's Palace.

Audrey's reaction when asked to step away from the water. I was relieved to learn that the canals are quite shallow, so I was all set to jump in feet first should occasion arise.

And Venetian masks for souvenirs (Audrey's is purple, mine is blue, and a little baby one for Charlotte, too).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Soave and Padua

Castello di Soave - cinta muraria by Richie Gekko.

After Lake Como, we headed east towards Padua and spotted Castello di Scaligero on a little hilltop and just had to stop. (Besides, it was time for a gelato break anyway.)

After storming the castle, the muskateers had their gelato while mommy did a tv interview with the Armed Forces Network that was there in Soave doing a series on travel in the region (so random!)

On the outskirts of Padua, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant housed in a former terracotta tile factory. Ava rejoices as she realizes "Every night is Friday pizza night in Italy!" (We usually have pizza Fridays in Bucharest.)

Pure enjoyment.

Luckily, we didn't get kicked out of our hotel in Padua due to Audrey's over-tired screaming-before-crashing-to-sleep fit. When the manager called, I offered to leave, but he was very good about it, and spoke with Audrey on the phone at which point she realized the gravity of the situation, promised not to scream in the hotel, and went peacefully to sleep. The next morning, Audrey apologized to the manager in person and I think she's a changed woman--that little brush with the hotel "police" really impressed her. After checking out of the hotel, we checked out Padua and the famed Scrovegni Chapel with its colorful frescoes by the Italian master Giotto.

"Touch me not"

Schatzi has quickly become a gelato connoiseur, seeking out gelaterias that are "artigianale" or artisanal/housemade. The one in Padua was superb!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lago Di Como

We spent the past two days exploring around beautiful Lake Como. I've always wanted to visit the Italian lake district--at last! It had rained the night before we arrived, dusting the mountain caps with snow--picture perfect!

Flawless beauty.

The town of Varenna.

Staying at the Hotel Olivedo was like a trip back in time . . . not much has changed in this place.

A room with a view.

Red sauce heaven.

Self-portrait in the gardens of Villa del Balbianello

Playing on the shore.

There's something really lovely with how an Italian villa ages . . . somehow there's beauty in that decay.

Ava seriously studies the menu: will it be a panino or pasta with red sauce?

Audrey discovered her favorite gelato combination: chocolate and pistachio. Ava prefers fior di latte and strawberry or coconut. I have a hard time resisting the lemon paired with strawberry or coconut.

In the gardens of the lovely hotel Villa D'este in the town of Cernobbio.

Daddy-daughter stroll along the promenade in the town of Bellagio.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Our first stop in our Italian adventure: Bergamo. We spent Easter Monday exploring the citta alta, which was packed with like-minded Italians doing the same (today's a major holiday). The old city is perched atop a hill, and we rode the funicular train to get to the top.

Italy is just so darn tasty . . . we're trying hard not to gorge ourselves, but it's difficult, even for the girls. Ava ate so much pizza last night, she complained that her tummy hurt.

I mean, look at what we're up against. The line was out the door for this place. We enjoyed our take-out in the main piazza.

And then of course, we had our gelato.

Naturally, we'd need a snack later, so we bought a delicious polenta e osei (polenta and bird) cake--a Bergamo specialty. Not actually made from polenta, just made to look like it, with little molded marzipan birdies atop. The center of the cake is a creamy hazelnut concoction. We loved it! We'll have to track down a recipe.

Bergamo rooftops

Ava insisted on her photo with the lion.

We took an elevator ride up the tower to gain this nice perspective.