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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rome, Italy: First walk around the city

Blogging about our honeymoon in Rome feels a little silly since we were just barely there two weeks ago, but our second trip to the Eternal City doesn't make much sense unless you know about the first. ("You didn't see the Vatican?!" "No, we did. That was last time." See?) So I'm going to stick with chronological order and blast through the rest of our honeymoon before sharing our latest vacation. Just so you know what to expect, that means Rome, Florence, Pisa and Paris from our honeymoon and then London, the Amalfi Coast, the Island of Capri and Rome again from our early anniversary trip. I think I have enough Europe pictures to last me a lifetime! (And yet, you can never get enough!)

I left off in Venice. From there, we took a nice, long train to Rome. Our honeymoon required many, many trains. We passed the time enjoying the scenery, reading, napping and playing cards. I usually won.
Once we arrived at the "Roma Termini," we lugged our bags through the streets, checked into our hotel on Via Cavour, and then set out to explore the city. It was late afternoon at that point so we figured we'd just enjoy the ambiance and get a feel for Rome's layout, and then hit it hard the next day.
A few points of interest on that walk were the Piazza della Republica and the adjoining Basilica Santa Maria:
The Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:
And, of course, the lovely Trevi Fountain:
The Trevi is swarming with people, day or night. Most of them are tourists, but there is a fairly large group of these guys (like the one with the arrow pointing at him) who are neither tourists nor Italians. They walk around pestering tourists to take their picture for them and then demand compensation for doing so. Some have also just run off with the tourists' cameras, apparently. (We didn't take our chances either way and just had a nice-looking American snap a quick shot of us.) Crowded areas like this can also be hotspots for pickpockets. Moral of the story? Be careful.
Matt and I left the Trevi and started heading toward our hotel. When we made it to our street, we were greeted by this view of the Colosseum at the intersection. We weren't expecting to see it just yet and it really takes your breath away--such a magnificent building with so much intriguing history.
We were starving at that point so we ducked into a hole-in-the-wall pizza place and were thrilled to find a little air conditioner by our table. Did I mention before that it was 95 degrees and insanely humid that day? Yeah, that little air conditioner was like a slice of heaven. And so was the pizza! Sometimes those tiny little restaurants can be gems.
Even if the pizza hadn't been delicious, we would have been satisfied by the entertaining pizza box. Matt tried to imitate the lady but our pizza was still so piping hot that the cheese started sliding down and through the corner of the box. It was one of those "you had to be there" funny moments at good ol' Pizza Flu Flu.
At that point, the sun was beginning to set (at 9:30 p.m. I love summer!) and we were exhausted so we took our pizza back to our room and dozed off for the night. The next morning, we were up bright and early to tour the Colosseum!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Catching up

I got a text from one of my favorite people this morning asking me why I haven't blogged for a week, especially when I have so much to blog about. Truth is, we've still been busy getting caught up on life around these parts. Matt and I finally got home from Europe/Denver/LA last Monday. Since we bookended our trip with weekends in LA, we were gone for a full 18 days and as it turns out, it takes awhile to catch up on 18 days away from home! The first thing I tackled was our fridge, which was looking quite sad upon our arrival:
(Yeah, those are two mandarin oranges that escaped our pre-trip cleaning. And yes, three-week-old oranges in the fridge are really nasty and I made Matt do the dirt removal work.)

Of course, we also had to unpack and deal with three weeks' worth of laundry, three weeks' worth of mail to sort, e-mails to go through, etc. ... all while working and writing papers and trying to recover from jet lag. Matt and I finally found our groove again last weekend, though: our fridge was stocked, laundry folded, mail sorted, inboxes emptied, bank accounts balanced and sleeping/eating schedules adjusted to Pacific Daylight Time. We even had time for some spring cleaning, a little cupcake baking, and a whole lot of basketball watching.

Speaking of basketball, I'm happy to report that with the Final Four approaching, my ESPN bracket is currently sitting pretty in the 98th percentile in the country.
The only trouble is my predicted winner didn't quite make it past the Elite Eight. (But come on, whose did?!) So I'll just relish in this moment for now and cheer on a few underdogs this weekend because really, who wants to see UConn win the national championship? Not I.

Oh, and in the meantime, I'll buckle down and sort through a few hundred Europe pictures to share some tidbits of Rome. Good deal?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Everybody loves Jimmer

The world of college basketball is in love with Jimmer Fredette. And rightfully so! After all, BYU's all-time leading scorer wasn't named the Sports Illustrated Player of the Year for no reason. BYU fans are particularly obsessed with Jimmer, and I'm pleased to announce that my Air Force Academy graduate is, too.

It warmed my heart to have Matt happily cheering on Jimmer and the Cougs in Denver last weekend. I was beyond jealous that Matt got to attend the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in person, in Colorado, without me. My jealousy got even worse once Selection Sunday hit and we found out BYU would be there. However, this picture of Matt smiling so proudly next to a stretch Y helped heal the wound:
(You'll have to excuse his lack of BYU blue. Matt flew to Denver right after landing from
our Italy trip and the poor boy had no time to properly prepare for BYU fandom.)

The boys:
Random Jimmer groupies:

Ah, it's the most wonderful time of the year.
We are so excited to watch BYU in the Sweet 16 on Thursday! The last time BYU made it that far in the Big Dance, neither of us were alive, so it's kind of a big deal. Go Cougs!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Matt and I just barely returned from an incredible vacation in London, Rome and the Amalfi Coast! It was an early anniversary trip of sorts, squeezed in right before things get crazy with my school and Matt's work. After months of limited quality time because of my work schedule, it was nice to simply be together. The fact that our little getaway was in one of the world's most romantic places was just icing on the cake.
(Both of these pictures were taken in Positano on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. We stayed in the big white villa on top of the hill in the picture below.)
Sorry for my total and complete lack of communication over the past couple weeks, but I've been out of the country! As for my sporadic presence in the two weeks leading up to it, I was busy juggling normal life with prep for grad school and planning a very last-minute international vacation. We booked the whole thing a whopping two weeks before our departure date! So crazy. And so amazing.

It was especially nice to land in warm, sunny Southern California just before sunset yesterday (hooray for Daylight Savings!). We love traveling, but nothing beats America and home. Matt turned right around just four hours later and caught a flight to Denver to meet up with his brothers for the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, I barely got my ESPN bracket in on time and am catching a whole lot of March Madness on TV while recovering in LA this weekend. Oh yeah, and diving headfirst into graduate school. I hope to get caught up with my own life and all of yours' soon!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Acceptance Letter

In my 2010 By the Numbers post, I mentioned a letter that carried some of the best news of the year:
I had been accepted into graduate school!
Grad school was always on the agenda. I earned my associate's degree while I was in high school and therefore graduated with my bachelor's from BYU just after turning 20. The plan was to get a few years of good work experience and then return to the classroom to earn a master's degree, but Matt's base assignment made that a more difficult goal than previously anticipated. Then last fall, after months and months of research, I finally found the perfect program for both my academic goals and our current situation.

Fast forward through a mountain of application paperwork in the fall to one late night in December, when the fateful envelope arrived. I ripped it open to find the best news--that I was one of only 20 students accepted into the cohort! Dollar signs aside, I was thrilled. And to make it even better, Matt was thrilled for me, too.

Since my school schedule conflicted with my work schedule, I've officially quit my job and swapped my salary for student loans. Last week, I stepped onto a college campus as a student for the first time in three-and-a-half years and it felt amazing!
That was just orientation, though. The real deal begins next week and will end in two years with me walking across a stage to receive my Masters in Public Administration. It'll be a long road, but I'm so excited for the journey!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Venice, Italy: On the islands

Venice was built on a group of more than 100 tiny islands inside the Venetian Lagoon. The historic part of Venice has no roads or cars. Rather, the canals act as streets and boats replace cars (many homes' front doors open to canals and can be accessed only by boat!), and the land can only be traveled by foot. There's something magical about a city full of rich history that hasn't been overrun by technology and traffic. Venice is so unique and beautiful.

It's enchanting, to say the least.
The water taxi dropped us off just steps from our hotel. Matt and I checked in and spent a few minutes resting in our luxurious, air conditioned room and enjoying the view before we headed back out into the July heat.
Though Venice is an expensive city, somehow it feels so worth it. Hotel Paganelli definitely didn't disappoint. This was the view of the lagoon from our room--taken through our window (later on in the day). Gorgeous, isn't it?
Okay, enough with the hotel. We didn't want to waste too much daylight inside since we were covering an entire city in one day, so it wasn't long before we headed out the door and walked one block over to Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square). The piazza's beautiful architecture and rich history make it one of Venice's major attractions.
You know you're in a big city when you're surrounded by pigeons!
After checking out the piazza, we began exploring the footpaths and bridges through the city. It definitely wouldn't hurt to get lost in a city like this!
Along the way, we grabbed the first of many--and I mean many--gelatos during our time in Italy.
While we were commenting on how the Venetians didn't let one foot of land go to waste (see how the buildings were built just right up next to each other in the picture below), a very persistent purse salesman approached us. He wanted me to buy a fake (I think) white Prada for thirty Euro. I told him no thanks and the man wouldn't let it go. This wasn't all bad, since I actually really liked the purse. Three minutes later, I walked away with it for just 5 Euro, which is roughly $7. Not too shabby for any purse, really.
Other mentionable items on our stroll were the countless ornate Venetian masks in window shops around the city. 
As mentioned in the previous post, our walk around Venice led us to the Rialto Bridge, where we went on a romantic gondola ride through the canals.
The Grand Canal, as seen from the top of the Rialto Bridge:
After our gondola ride, we ate dinner at a pretty little restaurant along the Grand Canal with the Rialto as our backdrop. It was lovely.
I'll avoid the long story detailing the picture below and just give you the moral of the story: don't feed the birds.
After dinner, we meandered along the canal a bit more before heading back through the footpaths to Piazza San Marco and the lagoon.
And we bought a beautiful oil painting from an artist by the Rialto Bridge. It will hang in our living room probably forever.
The piazza was impressive during the day but it was even more beautiful when it was all lit up at dusk.
The lagoon and canals were equally magical as the sunlight faded away.
Matt and I made it back to the hotel but weren't quite ready to say goodnight to Venice. Two minutes later, we were back outside taking a final leisurely stroll along the lagoon.
Once it was good and dark, we finally retired to our room, where we enjoyed the best night's sleep of our entire vacation.
The next morning, Matt and I were on our way to Rome!
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