Tuesday, 24 November 2015


A few months ago, after finding myself in "new mommy" rut, I set some goals for myself. I wanted to lose some weight and get healthy, I wanted to create an easy to pull off look and I needed to figure out what I was going to do when my maternity leave ended. 

Pregnancy may have changed my shape but was not responsible for the pounds I accumulated since we got married. A friend was running an 8 week healthy lifestyle challenge so I signed up. It was really good for me and I lost 18lb. I am going to run another challenge group in January and try to get back to a better weight.

I share this only because I really wasn't happy with my body here. 

I cleaned my closet out of things I wasn't wearing due to size or style. I added a few basic pieces from my beloved Costco and tried to have things that I could easily put together in an outfit that wasn't sloppy and looked cute. I even try to get dressed most days rather than chilling in sweats. 

My hair was a real problem. Since having 
Jack my hair had become very dry. It felt like straw and about month four the shedding began. I wore my hair in a bun for months. I hated the feel of it and it didn't look nice. At the end of September a friend introduced me to MONAT and in a few weeks my hair was super soft again and I wanted to wear it down again. 

I started putting makeup on again regularly, but wanted a simple look that was easy. I was using up what I had in my makeup drawer but was missing some of my favourite quick look pieces. Lip liner or lip stain are musts for me since Lyle really dislikes "goopy lip stuff" that comes off. I had tried Younique mascara in the past, I only thought it was ok. My friend Steph introduced me to the lip products that have staying power. That was the hook for me! I ordered a bunch of products from her and then later decided maybe I wanted a discount on future purchases.

So the short end to the story is I signed up as a representative for both companies. Yes you will probably see me post about them. I love both product lines and they have allowed me to look more put together on a much shorter time budget. I would love to be able to stay home with Jack and any potential siblings for the first few years. If this happens to provide that potential all the better. I may invite you to events or to a group. I won't be offended if you don't accept or leave. If you are interested I would love to help you. I have found something that is working to help me achieve my goals, and I am happy about that!

Feeling much cuter :)

Monday, 23 November 2015

One Blog

I have been meaning to write for months now. Jack's birth story, new milestones, life happenings, so much has gone on that I should be recording. I kept procrastinating, not sure which blog I should post in, and I never posted. This morning that is changing. I am coming back to our original blog because I want to just keep one record. 

I Choose You was a phrase Lyle and I used a lot while we were dating and engaged. It meant an active choice and commitment to each other and our relationship. It also now reflects my commitment to myself, to be the best person I can be in all my roles. There are moments I choose to spend time on myself, to be who I want and need to be so that I don't look back and wonder where I went. I also choose my son. Jack has changed my life for the better, he is an absolute delight and he teaches me every day. There are things in my life that have and will change because he is present. Things I will give up because they pull me away from precious time with my family, things that take too much of me and leave me less capable of putting energy in to bettering the life of my family.

I choose to write because I find it therapeutic. I choose to write because I want to be able to look back on these times and remember them. I choose to write because I want my family to know what's going on even if we are spread apart. I choose to write because I am a social being and love engagement, I want our friends to be involved in our lives. I choose to write because I am learning so much, and if sharing that can help someone else even to just feel like someone else is in a similar boat then it is worth it. I choose to write because I need to write and be grateful for all of my life experiences. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

Come explore ancient Rome

The time had come for us to leave Pisa and take the last train trip of our journey. Checkout was at 10:30 so we packed up our bags and headed out, though our train wasn't until almost 2. We checked out the last bit of souvenir places and headed to find bus tickets so we could get back to the station. Luckily there was a machine right at our corner so we paid for our tickets and crossed the street to catch the bus. We arrived at the station long before we needed to be there so we set up camp at the McDonalds, we had some lunch and played cards to occupy our time.

To be completely honest, the train journeys have started to run together and I am having a hard time remembering specific details. I do remember parts of the coast and coming through the new port of Rome before actually hitting the city. Our stop was the central terminal in Rome so we got to see parts of the city before we got off the train. I had the directions from the terminal to the campground so we at least had some idea of where we were heading. The first step was to transfer from the train section to the metro. The station seemed well labeled so we followed the signs, they did lead us in the right direction but it took us almost 20 minutes to get there; not exactly a short distance between the two stations. We got on the correct metro and made our way to the appropriate stop where we then had to find the correct exit and bus stop for the last leg of our journey.

There was a stop just outside the exit that had our bus number on it so we waited here... for a really long time. I have become accustomed to good transportation in large cities... Rome does not really offer that, at least when it comes to their buses. We waited about 20 minutes before the bus came.  We boarded and the bus and travelled about two blocks before it turned around and stopped in a bus station, where we waited for another 15 minutes or so. Eventually the bus moved again and we headed back past the original stop on the other side of the street.  Lesson learned; when we needed to head home make sure we were on the right side of the street.  Because we got on the bus at the very beginning (or before the beginning ;) of the route we were able to sit down and take our packs off.  After the second stop the bus was crazy packed and I have gotten used to the rude looks we get for taking up so much space.  However, when you are young and perfectly capable of standing, suck it up princess!  This lady asked if we could move all our stuff so she could sit down (because she needed to text, some girls can't text and stand apparently).  So we both now have to balance our heavy bags on our laps in the very hot bus.  Miss Princess then gets off in about 3 minutes.  Seriously, we both wanted to kick her.  We got off at the correct stop and walked the last few minutes to the campground.

When we got there a tour bus had just arrived so check in was swamped. I sat and guarded the packs while Lyle hung out in line. Eventually we got our package and made our way to the tent. Now here in Rome they really packed the tents in, there was maybe 6 inches of space between the tents, this would be our demise as the girls next to us came back really late, really drunk and really loud each night. The campground was nice though and quite large. We settled in a bit and then headed to the restaurant onsite for some dinner. After dinner we grabbed a few supplies from the market and called it a night.

Our adventures in Rome begin!!  We decided we would start at one side of the city and walk through and see the things we wanted to see this day.  Of course, a day in Rome wouldn't be a day in Rome without some frustration and poor local transit.  Before I get into that I will describe our campground.  We are on the western edge of the city right next to a highway.  The campground is at the top of an embankment that takes a switchback by car to get to the top.  Reception, lock boxes, and the internet shack are at the bottom and everything else is at the top.  It is very similar to our Venice camp ground except a little older and dense.  This campsite is very much the party campsite as each night there is a theme for a dance and the restaurant has several TVs to watch the Euro Cup (of which we have become addicted to).

So we begin the day with getting on a bus that should take us to a metro stop.  We didn't have to wait too long for this one (a rare occasion indeed in Rome) and so we thought we were doing well.  We were all on the lookout for the Metro Sign when the area of town showed up on the bus stops.  We passed under an elevated railway track and thought that would be the Metro stop, but no signs were in sight.  After going several more stops and finally leaving the section of stops that the Metro was suppost to be located in, we got off with the rest of the puzzled tourists from the campground and started walking back towards the elevated railway.  Once we got there, we saw a Metro sign hidden down and around the corner (impossible to see from our road).  We were thinking the metro would be underground, but couldn't find any entrance or signs (later in the week we end up coming out of this metro station that was impossibly hidden and no signs anywhere).  So instead we go up.  That took us to another set of rail lines that were above ground and only went to certain big stations.  Our tiny map showed us that we could get there using this railing and needed to get off in 3 stops.

When 3 stops came up, it was definitely a different station than the one our map showed.  We got off and decided to get a real map after all the frustration we had already encountered in less than 24 hours.  Ours new map showed that there were two stops extra stops that were conveniently left out on our other map (this sparked a conversation about the difference between and incomplete and incorrect map).  All said and done, we FINALLY get to where we wanted to be.  First order of business was to get food, so we stopped at a sandwich place that would best be described as a bamboo hut plopped on a large median on a main internal road.  It was the first one we saw and didn't feel like looking any further.  The food was ok and reasonably priced.

Our map had 10 things you had to see in Rome, and with most of them being of interest to us, we used that as our guide.  Our first stop was right across the street.  It was a pyramid of stone.  Yes.  That’s all we know.  No explanation.  So, moving on . . .

We walked towards Circus Maximus.  Before we got there we noticed a very large and imposing building with heavy security and government style architecture.  We wondered what it was.  On the map it just said 'FAO', which meant nothing to me.  Heather just stopped and gawked, which made me wonder what kind of Asian building named Fao would Heather know about.  She then explained that FAO was the 'Food and Agriculture Organization', a department of the United Nations, and the internationally agency that was the source of a lot Heather's undergrad research work when she was in Edmonton with PHAC.  Their headquarters are apparently in Rome.  It was a really neat coincidence!

Right across from the FAO is the remains of the Circus Maximus.  Back in the day the chariot racing track was awe inspiring and spectacular in every way.  It was enormous, with seating for nearly 400 000 people.  Most ancient cities couldn't grow that big because of civil infrastructure limitations, by the Romans engineering aqueducts and roads and made it possible for Rome to grow to over a million people, so having a chariot track that could fit nearly half the city was unlike anything you would have seen back then.  Today however, all that remains is the dirt embankments that give the viewer only the outline of what the Circus would have looked like.  They are doing some restoration work to possibly reconstruct one end of the track to showcase what it was like when in use.  The Circus Maximus is at the base of the Palatine Hill, which features the remains of roman buildings dating back to before Christ.

Heather wasn't really in the mood for a race around the track (thank goodness, cause we both would have fainted halfway around from the heat), so we just ran across it and made our way along the Paletine Hill towards the Coliseum.  This incredible structure is still one of my most favourite buildings in the world.  Seeing something nearing 2000 years old still standing and still awe inspiring is amazing to me.  Before we could reach the entrance we had to parade through the traditional onslaught of hockers and street vendors selling hats, umbrellas, and toys.  Last time I was here I took a guided tour and wasn't overly impressed, so Heather and I thought we would try our luck with the audio guide.  The guy trying to sell us a guided tour said that if we didn't take the tour then we would have to wait in the queue for at least 45 minutes and that there was no explanations or anything like that on the inside.  Tourist beware, we waited in line 5 minutes, had a great audio guide with more than enough information, English text in their artifact area, and we avoided paying over double the price to be herded like cattle through the Coliseum.

We were happily inside and starting our audio guide tour, a simple handheld device you hold up to your ear and press a button at a certain spot along your walk for a pre-recorded message.  Great system, but following the map to the first commentary was a bit confusing (only in Rome can you make going in a circle confusing!).  We also had a very friendly tourist with the same problem that ended up following us around and bumping into us everywhere, despite taking breaks and other directions.  That’s always fun when you've got someone checking in over your shoulder in a place where they used to kill people ;)

The Coliseum really is amazing.  As the pictures show, the engineering and construction was otherworldly for that era.  From our guide we learnt that the Coliseum was actually names after a statue that stood out front that was called 'The Neronis Colossus' and was 106 roman feet in height.  So it was actually a statue that is the root of our modern day word 'colossus'.  We learned that the games in the Coliseum were always free, but you had to get a ticket beforehand and were seated in very strict areas depending on your social status.  The higher up in society you were, the closer to the pit you were seated.  There were all kinds of trapped doors and gangways that open directly into the pit and you can see the tunnels that remain from these engineering marvels.  We also learnt that the Roman word for sand is 'Arenus', and the pit was covered in sand.  We now use Arena for the area where a sporting event occurs, but it came from the sand that gladiators fought on.  After Christianity finally had a stronghold on the Roman world, then Coliseum fell into abandonment and ruin.  Earthquakes, lack of maintenance, plundering, and destroying sections for building materials all contributed to its current state.  They have stabilized the outer walls and are beginning to restore the stone that still remains.  They have also rebuilt a portion of the 'Arenus' to show what it would have looked like.

We had a great time walking around and learning so much.  We left the Coliseum and headed along our way to other places to visit.  On the way we bought some grapes from a fruit stand.  These grapes was gigantic, each the size of a . . . walNUT!  In the extremely hot and windless weather we enjoyed all the moisture and refreshment we could get.

We passed by one of the buildings that most impressed me on my last trip.  It’s called the Monument of Victor Emmanuel.  It’s being used as a museum, and it is ginormous.  It’s one of the biggest buildings in Rome and is only a few centimeters lower that St. Peter's Cathedral (which is the highest building in Rome by law).  It faces the older part of modern Rome where the high-end shops line both sides of the street.  No matter what city we end up in, we always manage to find ourselves in the ritzee quarters.  A few more blocks and we turned towards our next point of interest, the Trevi Fountain.

When we arrived, we turned the corner and my first thought was a rock concert was playing at the fountain.  The number of people packed into the small steps around the fountain and the noise from loud foreign tourists and the water was overwhelming.  I actually lost Heather for a good long minute as she scouted out a place to sit and admire the fountain.  Designed by Nicholas Salvi, it was a beautiful display of travertine sculpture.  We enjoyed some time there, threw coins over our shoulder as everyone seemed to do.  We then read in our map that if you threw a coin in and drank the water it would ensure your return to Rome.  In hindsight, I'm glad we didn't drink the water! 

Moving on we came next to the Spanish Steps.  When I was here last time at night, there were actual Spanish boys serenading the girls with their guitars and hockers trying to sell roses to every couple in sight.  Just so no one thinks I’m a jerk because I didn't buy Heather flowers, we both agreed that having a flower thrust into your face is all the excuse you need to say no.  We found some shade by the central fountain and just sat there for some time, enjoying our time people watching. 

Trying to stand up after a long day walking is not something that should be attempted nearly slippery steps in confined space.  Nevertheless, we managed to not fall into the water and only receive mild looks of laughter from onlookers.  From there we went for supper at the nearby restaurants that line the alleyways.  The place we finally decided on looked kind of sketchy (not sure why we chose it then), but it some of the best pasta we have had so far.  Heather had local pasta with a broccoli sauce that she loved.  I had three different types, all were amazing, but the absolute best was tortellini with Roquefort and truffle cream sauce.  Sooooo good!!  You can see a little of the placemat from the picture, it was indeed a battleship placemat.  We were going to take them home with us, where we had a pen, but we forgot in the end.

After supper we walked a bit more, getting some ice cream and a nutella crepe for dessert, and eventually (that’s a very long eventually) the bus arrived to bring us home.

Day two in Rome... The city of eternal heat. Seriously Rome is an infernal pit of heat, even today when it was 39 here in Hersonissos it's better than when we were in Rome. So day two we headed to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill since our combo passes from the Colosseum had to be used within 24 hours. There was a line up for the audio guides but it wasn't too long. We decided to save money we would share an audio guide... In hindsight it is worth the money to have your own, just in case you were wondering.

The entrance brings you in between the two areas and number one on the audio guide is at the far north west corner so we hiked in that direction to begin our tour. This area of the old city is very cool and interesting though I recommend that you that you choose a cooler month to explore since it really is a good half to full day experience and there wasn't much in the way of shade.

There was a lot to see in this area and even though our tour of Palatine hill was condensed because we were hot and tired we were still there for hours. Now I am not the history buff if you want a full history lesson you would be better of seeing my friend Brett, but I can tell you very basics of what we saw. Now for clarification there is a lot of archeological and restoration work going on still so some of what we were supposed to see was really difficult to catch.

What I believe was the senate house had a number of cool artifacts from the era of the forum and there was much to be learned about how society functioned at that time. We saw the arches of Septimus Severus and for Hadrian. We saw the temples of Saturn and Vesta as well as the house of the Vestal Virgins. For me the highlight of the roman forum (other than getting an idea of what the ancient city looked like) was the final resting place of Julius Cesar, for some reason this struck me as really fascinating. 

So we spent the afternoon wandering in the heat, trying to find shady spots where we could huddle together to hear the audio guide information. By the time we reached Palatine hill we were losing interest but we saw a really cool pool/fountain and some old aviaries. We got a bit lost and I had trouble following where we were. We saw the area of old residences and the area where Augustus Cesar had lived, plus the side of the hill that contained the cave where apparently Romulus and Remus had been raised by the she wolf. 

We tried to check out the onsite museum but didn't have the attention spans so after checking out a cool garden we headed out of the historic site. Realizing how hot and tired we had become...not to mention hungry, we headed back towards the metro to begin what would be a long journey home. It didn't seem to matter when we caught the metro we would always have a 20+ minute wait for the bus back to the campground. 

When we got back we headed to the restaurant for dinner and thanks to iTunes movie rentals we have spent many a nights watching movies in tents and our other various accommodations since Netflix hasn't worked since we were in the UK.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

From Venice to Rome . . . almost

Alright everyone, the time had arrived for us to leave Venice. We booked our shuttle to the train station and the shuttle was to leave at 8:30 because I was sure our train was at 9:30... Well when we double checked our train wasn't until 10:30 so we ended up having a lot of time at the station but at least we didn't miss the train. The ride was uneventful and we arrived in Florence just after lunch.

We pulled out a map and Lyle directed our journey to the campground. It didn't appear to be more than a few km so we weren't concerned. I was hungry (what else is new) so we stopped at a local bakery and Lyle got a sandwich and I had a very delicious piece of pizza. We hadn't gotten lost at all so we figured this journey was going quite well. We knew we needed to go uphill we just didn't realize the size of the hill, by the time we reached the bottom of the hill we were already tired and sweating and as we looked up we knew it was not going to be fun. Lyle was angry with there's not being a bigger disclaimer from the campground that there was a large hill to climb and I was just exhausted. Somehow we survived the hike with our packs and were rewarded at the too with a fabulous view of the city, but we still we not in great moods. The campground was another half kilometer up the road and we finally arrived. Lyle proceeded to check in with reception where my grumpy husband told the lady under no circumstances was he leaving our passports because he didn't trust them. Now it's pretty laughable we were both so hot and tired at the time and I just stayed away from the interaction. Our campground was in the middle of an olive grove which was really cool but all in all the campground was a disappointment after the one in Venice.

 After some rest and cool down time we decided that we should go explore the city since we had less than 48 hours there. We walked back into town and crossed the river at Pont Vecchio which has shops onto sides of the bridge and is mostly filled with goldsmiths, it was pretty cool. We spent a few hours wandering through the permanent market areas where leather and linen products lined booth after booth. As the booths closed up for the evening we made our way toward a restaurant for which we were given a coupon in our checkin package.

The restaurant was completely empty when we got there (we were still having a hard time with the late European supper hour) but we were welcomed once we figured out that it was open. Our coupon entitled us to 3 courses from the daily menu for an amazing price. Lyle started with lasagna and I had gnocchi in a cheese sauce, which turned out to be a blue cheese but was still good. For our main courses Lyle had salmon which he claimed to be one of the best pieces of fish he has had in a long time (I actually liked the salmon so they must have done something right). I had a beef stew and it was delicious! For dessert we were brought a cream pie of sorts with real chocolate pieces...mmmm!

After dinner we headed toward the train station to figure out how to catch the bus back to the campground. We managed to buy tickets as well as a pass for the hop on hop off bus tour for the following day. We arrived without getting lost and without having to climb the ridiculous hill so I classify that as a win!

Our full day in Florence started early as we had decided to purchase tickets for the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus.  It was convenient because there a stop right by our campground, meaning we didn't have to walk down the mountain.  We were both very glad for that.  We have noticed the humidity to be very high here, so much so that we our closes never seemed to be dry.  It was kind of like taking an Oreo and putting it on the counter and coming back in a few minutes and it’s lost all of its crunchiness.  (Random note: this is the last place it has rained on our journey)

We had an early lunch at a little concession by the road.  We both had paninis that were so fresh and so tasty.  We definitely struck gold here after nearing our limit on tasteless sandwiches.  Heather had the "Londoner", which I ended up copying the next day.  The bread in Florence is so good and they make it without salt.  They also have some of the best meats and salami we have experienced so far.

So we hopped on our bus and did the tour around the city.  The commentary really focused on the romantic nature of the city rather than historical and interesting facts, but it was still worthwhile.  We were able to see a lot of the old buildings and portions of the ancient wall that surrounded the city.  It was neat to see the old Mint that doubled as a defense tower for ships that once crossed the Arno river.  Today, they river is no longer passable because they have dammed sections of it; I think in order to control flooding.  That was sad to see, it’s not as impressive a sight as the Thames or the Seine.

Our bus journey took us to a little village called Fiesole, located at the top of a mountain and giving an incredible view of the valley.  Fiesole was once a Roman rival city with Florence, but eventually with the fall of the Roman Empire, the city bowed out to Florence as the capital city of the region.  We got off and explored here for about an hour.  We were once again faced with Europe’s famous inclined pedestrian walkways in order to get to a vantage point to see the whole valley.  It was really worth it.  The Valley is so beautiful, it’s no wonder there is so much romanticism written about this place.  We explored some streets and saw what was discovered of the early Roman city that was destroyed.  The bell tower was my favourite part as it was the life size version of the rook in chess.

We headed back down to the city center and switched buses to see what the other line showed.  We eventually finished our tour and got off so we could walk along the bank of the Arno until we hit Ponte Vecchio.  Here we turned towards the city center for some sightseeing and to check out the famous leather shops that Florence is known for.  The shops are all over the place, a lot like Camden Market in London.  Each stall has amazing leather goods ranging from jackets to purses to wallets to belts to briefcases and more.  All the work is done locally, and what impressed me the most was the quality and colours of the leather.  They really had every colour under the rainbow and very classy colours and styles at that!  It’s definitely the place you want to go if you want anything to do with leather!

We were getting a little hungry and thought it was time for a snack to hold us over to supper.  Great story coming up . . . we noticed someone holding a giant cone of gelato that looked absolutely decadent.  We both decided we wanted one, so we headed to the store to check out their flavours.  They had every kind of fruit medley and savoury flavour possible.  We looked at the prices and the two scoops cost what we would normally spend.  So Heather ordered raspberry and chocolate, and the lady scooping it up was more than generous with her portions.  We were astonished at how much they gave you for two scoops.  I was so excited, so I ordered blackberry and chocolate.  So a pulled out a 10 Euro bill to pay at the till and to our shock, he said it cost 24 Euro.  Yup, we just go swindled!!  Apparently she didn't quite hear "two scoops" instead of the biggest cone you can get with two flavours.  We just looked at each other in wonder.  We both decided that it looked far too good to throw a fuss and paid the money and skipped supper that night.  Skipping supper wasn't very difficult after you down over a liter of Gelato and have food twins and a sugar high for the rest of the evening.

We sure did draw a lot of attention as we walked down the street and heard a lot of girls asking their boys if they could have one like ours.  We had a good time laughing it off and enjoying the best gelato we had eaten on our trip.  It did help curb our disappointment that for the quantity and quality, we didn't really overpay, we just didn't want to eat so much.  We eventually arrived at the famous Duomo cathedral and tried desperately to finish our gelato before it melted.  While we were waiting we were able to overhear a tour guide speak about the Duomo, which we learned is the third largest domed cathedral in the world.  It is a self supporting dome structure that was not finished until several years after the rest of the structure because they didn't have the technology or building practices to actually build the dome.  They ended up using a scaffolding system that was revolutionary at the time.

After walking around and taking pictures, we did some more market shopping, where Heather bought a beautiful white skirt that we had been eyeing for several weeks on the locals.  White clothing is definitely very fashionable over here, especially the closer you get to the sea.

(Can you see the hidden door?)

As we weren't feeling all that great from our gelato babies, we decided to head home.  We also decided (well, it was mostly me) to walk back up the mountainous hill in order to burn off some of the gelato.  It was much easier this time without our packs.  Once we got to the top we noticed that the boxing ring that had been set up the day before in the parking lot of the lookout had a lot of commotion around it.  We walked on over and yes indeed they were having a boxing match.  We came in at the beginning and watched all three bouts.  It was really neat to see since I had announced boxing in Edmonton and was eager to compare what a real match looked like.  They had about a hundred or more spectators and we learned it was a Boxing Italia match with what looked like three different age groups.  The top age group was very exciting to watch.  And need I mention the view . . . what a place for a bout!

We had a great time watching and afterwards returned to the campground for our final night in Florence.  It was a short stay but we really enjoyed it.  We would definitely stay somewhere else, but other than that, we had no complaints about our time there.

So today we bid farewell to Florence and travel to our next Italian city; Pisa.  We couldn’t resist getting another sandwich from our favourite vendor at the lookout point.  Still some of the best paninis I’ve ever had.  While we were waiting, we had put our bags down at our table and I stayed with them while Heather ordered.  At the table next to us a group of four girls did the same but all of them went to order in line.  Randomly, an old Italian just sat down at their table.  They looked a bit confused at why he was sitting there.  Eventually one of the girls went to him and through the hand talking (Italians love to hand talk we have discovered), he said because they weren’t sitting down they couldn’t save the seat.  They moved to a different table, but I thought that was pretty rude on his part.  That sparked a conversation about who the nicest people have been on our trip so far.  We both agreed it was the people from Stratford (though now it is Greece, nothing against Stratford but Greece as a whole has been so friendly and accommodating).

After we ate we caught the bus to the train station and ended up sitting across from another backpacker that was staying at Michelangelo Camping as well.  He was from Australia and when he heard we were from Canada, he full out guessed we were from Lethbridge.  We were astonished he got that right, but found out he had met 4 people from Canada on different occasions and all of them were from Lethbridge.  Small world eh!!  He told us about his adventures and how he was travelling most every country in Europe by himself over a period of 6 months.  He would do a city in a few days and then head on to the next place he felt like.  He was a really neat guy and made our train ride seem much shorter than it was.  He also commented on how Italians had to stand by the door to get off the train nearly 30 minutes before it arrived, something we had noticed as well.  Literally, with 30 minutes to go till we arrived in Pisa, there was a lineup of at least a dozen people at the door.

We bid farewell to our friend as we got off the train and followed the directions from the hotel to reach the hotel.  We bought tickets for the bus, but then it told us to get on a bus in front of a certain hotel right outside the train station, that was kind of hard because that hotel didn’t exist anymore.  We eventually found the right bus and got on it, but after riding it to the airport, stopping for 10 minutes there, then coming all the way back to the train station, we realized we should have caught it on the other side of the street.  No harm done, we were now going the right way.  Our directions said to get off at a certain stop, and so we were on the lookout for that stop.  After passing through the entire city and now heading out to the country side, we realized we had missed the stop.  Luckily the bus followed the same route back into town and we got off at what we thought was the right stop.  We discovered that the bus stop was named correctly, but they didn’t use that name when calling for the stop; a lot of good that did us.

To get to our hotel we needed to walk right through the Field of Dreams (actually called the Campo de Miracioles, but Heather called it the Field of Dreams), the walled section that houses the church and the Leaning Tower.  There were thousands of people there and a huge row of souvenir shops we would check out later.  We checked into our hotel at another hotel that owned both of them.  Our room is not even a city block away from the Leaning Tower.  How cool is that!  We are on the third floor (which they like to call the second floor) and no elevator, which after hauling our packs around is never a fun thing to finish off the trip with.  Our room is quite nice with a window looking into a courtyard with the tallest cactus in Pisa climbing up the building.  We dumped off our stuff and decided to do some wondering around before supper.

We wandered through the Field of Dreams and checked out what it cost to climb the tower.  Since the restoration work to correct the angle of tilt and clean up and fix the deteriorating marble, they only allow guided tours of 30 people at a time to climb to the top.  Unfortunately, we didn’t feel like spending the money, nor climbing another very tall tower.  We enjoyed our view from down below.  One thing we really enjoyed was seeing everyone trying to take pictures with them either pushing the tower over or keeping it from falling down.  We decided we would try the same poses tomorrow when it was a bit lighter out.

We stopped at a restaurant nearby for supper and to watch the Euro Cup game.  The tournament has the same following in Europe as World Cup does for the world.  We watched England and Italy tie 1-1.  Our meal consisted of a sampling of the various types of salamis they make locally.  Heather ordered Gnocchi again, while I had fettuccini with mushrooms.  The food was very good!  We also managed to snatch a picture of a Tom Cruise look-alike that was having supper at the table across from us.

We finished off the day with a stroll down the streets of Pisa.  We got a picture with Heather next to these three wheeled, super tiny delivery carts that we had seen before.

Our full day in Pisa started off with us heading back to the Field of Miracles, greeted once again by thousands of tourists.  Even though we are tourists ourselves, they can really be annoying sometimes when they are in slow moving herds of 50 or so that block the entire walkway.  Anyway, we took the typical pictures of each of us trying to hold up the tower while seeing other watch us and think it’s an ingenious idea.  We perused the vendors’ stalls and eventually had some simple lunch while checking out some street entertainers all painted in metallic silver and stay perfectly still until someone paid them to take a picture.

We walked around the outside of the wall that encompasses the old city and just admired the sights and sounds of the city.  We eventually headed towards the centre of the city where the river Arno passes through.  The city is home to roughly 100 000 people, with 60 000 of them being students at the university.  The university is also spread out throughout the city with a faculty in this area but surrounded by residential or commerce.  We walked along the Arno (which was flowing much better than in Florence) and admired the buildings along its stone walled bank.  All the buildings have candle holders that trace the outline of the windows, doors, and trim.  Once a year the city has a celebration in which hundreds of thousands of candles are lit along both sides of the Arno to celebrate the patron saint of Pisa.  We were a bit too early for that, but it was neat to imagine what it would have looked like.

As we turned back in the direction of the tower, we took a route through the shopping section of the city.  Disappointingly and annoyingly, most shops close up for a few hours in the afternoon to go drink or something.  It’s like the afternoon siesta in which most of the city shuts down.  We were resigned to just window shop as we made our way back to the hotel.  Since we were both a bit tired for our journeys we decided to take a short nap before supper.

At supper we ate at another local restaurant and enjoyed another match of Euro Cup.  We both had spaghetti with meat sauce and steak.  The steak, however, was cooked very well but had no seasoning or flavor.  Heather was quite disappointed with it, but I was just happy for a traditional piece of meat!  For dessert we had panna cotta with caramel on top.  It was very delicious, being one of the best Heather has had.  Afterwards we spent the rest of the night watching a movie in bed.

So Pisa was a great place to visit, though it could easily be done in a day.  There were several museums and other tours that were available, but at this point we were museum and toured out.  We would definitely recommend Pisa to anyone who would love to see one of the world’s greatest construction ‘wups’!