Administrative Note: Today I make a rookie mistake while working on my blog and accidentally clicked the blue “Publish” button instead of the white “preview” button. I’ve been very careful up until this point to not do that and it annoys me that I made this mistake! So, sorry to those who “follow” this and got blog post Italy: 14 early! I hadn’t even proofed it! Anyway, just wanted to explain what happened.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program:
We used Camp Darby as our base camp for the first five days of our trip. We chose to stay in a cabin rather than the hotel-like place because cabins are much more fun. We had the campgrounds to ourselves and enjoyed our home away from home.
Here are a few pictures of our cabin. The only downside was that they didn’t have a coffee pot, so Matt went to the PX every morning to grab some black coffee. We had brought along plenty of creamer to last the entire trip. (See the cooler by the door? Yep. On our drive down it was full of creamers and we just kept the ice packs frozen so that when we traveled from one “home” to another, the creamer was kept cold.)
During our studies we learned that Florence was the birthplace of many famous people, including Leonardo, Michelangelo, and the Medici family. On our third morning in Italy we drove to Florence to see the amazing David by Michelangelo, the dome, and the beautiful old bridge.
Originally the David was designed to be placed on top of the dome you see in the photo below. Some neat facts: Michelangelo selected the chunk of marble from a quarry in Carrara. As we drove from Germany we actually passed a dozen of these quarries and were very excited as we had watched a few videos of tour guides taking art students through them, walking the very paths that Michelangelo walked.
The chunk of marble he selected was oddly shaped and huge, and had been rejected by many other top artists of the day. It had stood untouched for years and the master saw David inside. He said he was just releasing what was already inside it.
In the collage below, you’ll see some street vendors scooping up their artwork and running away. We were standing nearby when we heard a very obvious commotion. When we turned to look about 10 guys who had set up shop on the ground were feverishly grabbing their paintings and doing their best to look like they were not, in fact, selling on the street. Apparently they didn’t have permits to sell and had been tipped that police were coming. They tried to look all cool and casual after they got everything picked up, as if walking around with a pile of paintings was perfectly normal and not at all out-of-place.
I had seen pictures of this bridge and really wanted to see it for myself. It was only about a five-minute walk from the dome but the wait to have our pictures taken with the bridge was longer than that!
We didn’t get to eat at Hard Rock but we made sure to stop by and let Matt shop. We also bought a few jerseys at a stand on the corner.
The parking garage was very different from any we’d used before. We pulled in, drove down underground, spoke with an attendant, and signed a form. We nervously handed the keys to a valet guy and he parked our car in a lot that was bumper to bumper, like a tetris game. No lines and when the owner of a car in the back row arrived, the parking garage attendants put the cars into neutral and pushed them around until they were able to get the car they needed. It was an experience, for sure.
When it was time to leave Florence we walked back toward this garage and passed a massive street market. We shopped for about an hour looking for good deals on jerseys.
What I think we’re doing today:
Today Matt and his best friend growing up are going to Chapel Hill to enjoy a basketball game. Matt has been looking forward to this for years and is about as excited about this as he is returning to the states. We’re raising the kids to be true Carolina fans!
Tonight I get to eat my dad’s steaks. He’s grilling for us tonight and I say this in all honestly: I have never had a steak at a restaurant or anywhere else, for that matter, that even comes close to my dad’s. I’ve pretty much quit ordering them at restaurants for that reason. Matt and I have gotten pretty good at recreating these steaks, but still… I can’t wait to let my dad do the cooking!
Jetlag is wearing off, with Parker making it until 5:40 or so, and the bigs until 6:30. Our time here has been fantastic and we feel so comfortable. There are some culture shock things that we’ve experienced but for the most part, we are home and it feels like it.