Showing posts from September, 2018

Vatican Museum

After we were in St.  Peter’s Basilica, we ran over to the Vatican Museum.  While you may think Vatican City isn’t that big, it is about a 15-18 minute walk to the entrance of the Vatican museum. 
We did buy tickets in advance.  It guaranteed us entrance without having to wait in line.  We bought tickets for right at opening since we had the crypt tour tickets for 11:30 AM.  What a mass of people.  All of the tours seem to get there right at 9 AM too.  We did push our way towards the front, which was allowed, but getting through the museum was crazy.  If I were to do it over again, I would have gotten them for after opening e.g., 10 AM or something like that.  While still a long queue if you had not pre-bought tickets, it seemed like the lobby was at least under control when we left.
I knew we did not have a ton of time to dawdle in the museum even though we had about two hours in the  museum.  It sure did take a long time to navigate the tour groups.  We (more or less) followed the ma…

St. Peter's Basilica

We planned a pretty elaborate day around Vatican City.  We arrived at St. Peter's Basilica promptly at 8 AM -- we should have considered arriving even a little earlier.  We did not have much of a line though (it was a Monday).  The basilica is free to get into, but does require a security screen.  Also, it is best to have covered shoulders.  

As you arrive, it is hard to understand the scale of the basilica.  

Jason had never been in it before.  Inside their are a number of vignettes to consider and look at.  Hard to know where to start.  Getting into the Basilica so early meant that a few of the naves were still closed for mass.  

I am not going to belabor this particular visit -- nothing I can say is going to do this justice!  Must visit while in Rome.

Times visited: 3
Time in Basilica: 1.5 hrs
Overall: A

The Forum

After we visited the Colosseum, we headed over to The Forum.  Honestly, I did not really know what we were walking into.  Our ticket was included in our Colosseum ticket.  I do not know if that is the typical way it works.

I will also note that it was hotter than heck out.  And the last thing I want to do when it is hot out is wander through rocks absorbing heat.  

The Roman Forum is where the major government buildings of ancient Rome were.  It has been called "the most celebrated meeting place in the world and in all of history" (wikipedia).  It was truly the hub of civilization.  It is crazy to think about who has walked through this space like Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Sulla.  

The forum would be great to visit with children.  There was limited security, limited lines and lots of space!  

The view from the Palatine Hill was beautiful too.  We went up the steps the hill.  

It is amazing to me that these monuments and buildings are still standing.  It was probably one of the…


One of the items I made sure to book in advance was a visit to Colosseum.  We decided to get there early and I booked through tiquets.   I found the ticket situation frustrating/difficult/opaque for a few reasons:

It required checking a number of different tourist sites for ticketsIt seemed like there wasn't an official site for Colosseum -- I couldn't confirm or figure out where the tourist sites were getting the ticketsSome of the sites released tickets months in advance; others less than a couple of weeks.  Each site had different times.I basically ended up checking for tickets for every weekend across multiple sites.  That being said, you must book tickets in advance.  The queue was out of control when we left around 10:30 AM.  
We arrived awkwardly early since the ticket was not clearly marked e.g., ticket said 8:35, arrive 15 minutes early.  It turned out we got in at 8:50, so 8:35 was early. 
The tickets we purchased got us into the floor, a tour of the second floor, and t…


One of our ports was a stop in Naples.  We got on the train and headed to Pompeii.  

We did not buy tickets to Pompeii in advance, but we probably should have.  We got there later than I expected, but it turned out that it was opening later than expected.  When the gate finally opened, it was a crush to the ticket office.  Have no fear; I am a great walker.  I won (if there was a competition) and was first in line to buy tickets.  

We came in on the less developed side.  The park has good signage.  We quickly walked through those pieces to the more extensively excavated portion of Pompeii.  

Is not amazing that these were recovered?  The houses feel so structured and to a certain extent, so modern.  They remind me a lot of the buildings and houses that are still being built in the warm areas of the world: open centers, commune living rooms and separate bedrooms.  

Side note: we finally found out who Pliny the Elder and Younger are!   Jason has been lying and saying they are greek gods.  H…

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Jason really wanted to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  He did not feel the need to go up the tower -- that completely surprised me!  Jason loves to go up things.  

We ended up renting a car to get to Pisa.  We found parking pretty easily a few blocks from the tower and the square it is in.  We walked into the walls of Pisa and there was the tower!  

It is definitely a wonderful photo op.  

We bought a ticket to go into the baptistery, which also got us into the cathedral without waiting for a timed entry ticket.  We did buy our tickets on site.  

The Cathedral was really beautiful.  It is almost too bad that the tower is so close to it as I think it gets the short end of the stick.  

The Baptistery was beautiful too.  Much more sterile and stoic inside.  

We really enjoyed our visit, but I don't think we need to go back.  

Time in Pisa: 2 hrs
Times visited: 1
Overall: A-

Park Guell

At the last minute, we decided to go to Park Guell on the north side of Barcelona.  

The park limits the number of people who can go in so I definitely recommend buying tickets in advance.  It also appears that a number of tours buy blocks of them for the "normal" times.  We booked tickets for 8:30 AM to 9 AM slot.  

We really enjoyed it.  We arrived around 8:45 AM. 

The Park was supposed to be a residential compound.  

We didn't get a chance to go into this building on the grounds.  If we were to do it again, I would consider bee-lining to this.  They do not let a lot of people in it once.

We then headed up to the terrace.  

These are some of the most famous images in Barcelona.  

We really enjoyed visiting the park!

Times visited: 1
Time in garden: 2 hrs
Overall: A-

La Pedrera

After we wrapped up in Casa Batllo, we headed over to La Pedrera or Casa Mila.  Jason had bought two tickets to La Pedrera, one for a day time tour and one for a guided night time tour.  
I’ll start with the day time tour.  We again bought a specific entry time for this.  We were there late afternoon and it was relatively quiet.  For this apartment complex, you start in the top floor, move out to the roof, and head down to an example apartment. 
The family that owned this building lived on the second floor (1 floor in Spain) since this ensured that they did not have to rely on elevators.  Penthouses were not popular in the 1910s!  Jason’s favorite fun fact is that they had the first underground parking structure in Spain!  Gaudi was moving towards the combination of nature and Catholic religion in his designs. 

You have the option to take the stairs up, but we definitely rode up the elevator! The upstairs looked a lot like the Casa Batllo.  It was where the servants would do a lot of th…