All you long time readers surely know about the whole 50 States project that I had been working on for god knows how long...well, I'm finally 100% done with it and wanted to offer the print here in case anyone would like to purchase a copy.
I'll be offering the print in 2 sizes:
16"x24" for $150. and 24"x36" for $250. Shipping of approx $15.00 not included.
Both sizes will be printed by a high quality printing company onto a canvas wrap that is stretched over a 1.5" deep wood frame and will be shipped directly to your doorstep.
For a few extra dollars I can ship it to myself first and sign and # your copy. Each print will be numbered in the sequence they are ordered. These make a great addition to any home or office and #001 already hangs in an office and has received many compliments. It's a print that everyone has to look over at least once.
If you're interested please shoot me an email at knowak31 at gmail.com and we can make all the arrangements in a jiffy!
This post picks up after Trip Recap 03: Florence., so be sure to read that first.
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We arrived into Lucca around 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday the 15th of May and had a decent walk ahead of us to reach the bed and breakfast we'd be staying at. Lucca is an old fortified town with a massive wall that encloses the main section of town. The train station is outside the wall and not many cars are allowed inside, thus the walk. It wouldn't have been too bad if we didn't have our packs and it wasn't 80 degrees out! After about 25 minutes we arrived at the Residence Santa Chiara in the heart of the city. What a great place it was. Clean, large room and they fed us a tasty breakfast the following morning. All that and the price was right!
We had about 25 hours in Lucca before we had to be back on a train that left from Florence to Milan so we wanted to make the most of our time in Lucca.
After we settled in and cleaned up we took a stroll down the main street, Via Fillungo, where all the shops and restaurants are located. By now we were hungry so we had dinner in the old Roman amphitheater that is now an ellipse flanked by restaurants and homes.
We of course stopped for a scoop of gelato afterwards and then stumbled across a tiny little wine bar called Vinarkia for a few glasses before turning in.
Found this cool bike leaning up against a wall on our walk back to the B+B.
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Speaking of bikes, after perusing the local Saturday flea market, we decided to rent some bikes as a good way to get around. Remember that wall I was telling you about, well it turns out you can actually ride on top of the wall. We got some rations for lunch and ended up making a picnic of it. The wall is about 5km around and we did several laps throughout the day, so that certainly counts for some PMC training, right?
After returning our bikes we walked around town some more and then climbed up the top of Torre Guinigi for a fantastic view of the city. Another 230 steps!
How crazy is that tree going out of the top of the tower?
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The photo below clearly wasn't taken by me since hiring a chopper was way out of our budget, but I did buy the postcard and wanted to share it here since it really shows how cool this town looks from above.
Next up is Trip Recap 05: Milan. Stay tuned!
This story picks up after Trip Recap 02: Venice.
After our feast on the train from Venice we arrived into Florence around 9pm-ish. We tossed on our packs and made our way to the lovely PLUS Florence hostel. My folks had seen something on Good Morning America about it a while back and so we decided to check it out. We would be in Florence for 4 nights, but we could only get a room there for 3. [more about what we did on that 4th night later on in the post]. After about a 15 minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station we arrived at the hostel and just chilled for a while before calling it a day. We were exhausted!
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On Wednesday the 13th of May, our first full day in Florence, we got an early start so that we could be near the front of the line to get into the Accadamia gallery and see the David!
You hear so much about this sculpture by Michelangelo but until you actually see it in person you have no idea how impressive it really is. I took the second photo and included the people below David just to give you a sense of scale. [note: no photos were allowed to be taken so I had to covertly sneak these ones in...shhh, don't tell anyone]
A quick aside here: Italy must be the motor scooter mecca of the world and by far the city of Florence has the most of them. They zip in and out of traffic and breakneck speed and you constantly have to be on the lookout for them when you cross the street. They come in all shapes and sizes and everyone from college students to business women ride them. Here are a few of them as well as a few other forms of transport we thought were interesting!
After the David it was on to see the Florence Cathedral otherwise known as the Duomo! Our first stop was actually the bell tower and all 400+ steps of said tower. It was well worth the climb though because it affords you a great view of the city and of course the Duomo.
More gelato...we also found some type of gelato that they serve on top of a waffle. That became known as the waffle-ato. It really wasn't that good though...
Here are a few shots of city hall and Santa Maria Novella church.
Later that day we decided to buy a bottle of wine and head up to Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset over the city. On our way across the river we of course used the Ponta Vecchio and checked out its many jewlery shops. Sunset over the city with a bottle of wine was a great way to spend the evening...and we weren't the only ones who had this idea.
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On Thursday morning we walked around town a bit more before taking a little excursion to the countryside. We saw the Duomo again and a really cool sculpture shop as well as SS. Annuziata Bascillica.
So, for our little sidetrip we decided to take a ride out to wine country. Heck, we're in Italy right? Just south of Florence is the region of Chianti where they make that oh-so-delicious chianti wine! We signed up for a bus ride/tour out there that would take us to a winery and give us some time out there to explore one of the towns. We hoped aboard our little mine-bus with about 8 other people and set off to Castello Vicchiomaggio, about 40 minutes away. The castle is now a very nice hotel but they still make wine there which you can get here in the US. So, if you see it in your local store be sure to pick up a bottle, it's well worth it. So we got a tour of the facilty and then got down to business in the tasting room. Come on...we all know how wine is made...let's just see how it tastes, right?
We did learn about Chianti Classico and the strict standards the wine needs to meet to get the little red lable with the rooster on it, so that was interesting. After our tour and tasting we took a short ride to the town of Greve in Chianti where we got about an hour to walk around and explore some of the local shops. By far our favorite was a great little butcher we came across. You should have seen all the meats and cheeses! I think we spent the entire hour in there!
After a great day out in the country we got on the bus back to Florence. I wish I could tell you we had a wild and crazy night, but that's not the case. After a week of travel it was finally time to do laundry! Oh well...it had to be done. We did however, find our way up to the roofdeck of our hostel where they conviently had a bar which was having a wine special that night. Hmmmm...right up our alley. And check out this view from the roof?
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On our final morning in Florence we went to the Uffizi Gallery. We had pre-purchased tickets so we didn't have to wait in line, big time saver! The Uffizi can be a bit overwhelming, but it's worth a stroll through it's maze of rooms.
I took these pictures on the way in...before they really started to enforce the "no photo" rule. How about those two busts...ugliest two guys I've ever seen!
So, as I mentioned above, since we couldn't get a 4th night at our hostel there in Florence we decided against moving to another hostel and figured why not just head out of town for the night. Que the 3pm train out to Lucca...
Be sure to read Trip Recap 04: Lucca. in a few days.
Back in April, before we packed up and made our move down here to NJ, I had the pleasure of taking some engagement photos for Andy and Jill. We went over to a local historic park called Elm Bank, not far from where the live, and got some great shots. They even used one of them for thier "save the dates". They were both real easy to work with and really went with the flow as we just walked around the entire park from place to place grabbing different shots. After a quick "costume change" we drove over to a little river for a few more casual shots.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Let me know what you think...
If you haven't read Trip Recap 01: Rome, you should check it out before reading this.
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Let's see, where did we leave off? Oh right, we were up bright and early on Monday the 11th to catch a 6:45am train up to Venice. It was one of those Eurostar trains so it moved pretty quickly and after a quick stop in Florence we arrived into Venice just after 11am.
Stepping out of the station is like stepping into another world. Like Nicky C said after he and Jules visited a few years back, "How can a city exist without roads?". Well, it does! Instead of roads it's all water...with the main drag through the center of town called the Grand Canal. It's really no different than a regular road. People drive crazy, taxi's cut you off to pick up passangers, and sometimes you have to wait for a minute cause things get backed up!
[side note: the Giro Italia bike race started here in Venice a few days before we arrived...it started on the island of Lido, which has cars and roads on it. We would catch up with the month-long Giro later in Milan]
After a quick water taxi ride from the train station to the Rialto Bridge stop we walked to our hotel room for the night. It was exactly halfway between the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark's Square, the two major landmarks in Venice. Perfect. We would only be in Venice for one night since the rooms there cost so much and remember, we were on a budget! We did have two full days to explore which was just enough time to see all the major sites and spend some time relaxing at the cafes and restaurants. Here are a few shots of our hotel, the Alla Fava
It ended up to be a perfect spot for us and even though it cost more than our entire daily budget, it was one of the cheaper places we could find! Once we got settled in we decided to start exploring around St. Mark's. But first we stopped at a little corner shop for lunch...
That last photo with the pigeons should be called "Kelly's worst nightmare". Every meal we ate outside [which was pretty much all of them] she would be on full alert pigeon patrol. Who knew she was so afraid of them!
At every turn in Venice there is another picture postcard view in front of you. The place is just remarkable. Narrow walkways between buildings with tiny bridges that cross over skinny canals. Getting lost in this maze is part of the charm.
The rest of the time we were there we pretty much just explored the city. We walked a lot and even took the water taxi around the whole city. It's a much cheaper way to see things than paying 60 euros for a 25 minute gondola ride! Kelly even managed time to sneak in some work as we sat along the banks of the grand canal and watched the sun set and drank some persecco.
One of the cool things that happens in Venice are the orchestras that play in St. Mark's at night. There are 3 different cafes that line the square and each one has an orchestra that plays for its customers, and everyone else who gathers around. Each orchestra takes turns playing a few songs and then they take a break and another one picks up. Kel and I got a little more persecco the night we were there and just sat back and took it all in.
How cool is this little alley we came along on our walk back to the hotel?
The next day we hit up a few galleries, rode the water taxi, and got lunch at a great little place before taking a late train to Florence.
Turns out that even without cars you do need repair shops...just for gondolas!
Here's that great lunch spot I was telling you about...
After some more walking around in the afternoon it was time to hop a water taxi back to the train station and catch our ride to Florence. Being on a tight budget we didn't want to spend money on expensive [and crappy] food at the station, so we decided to get some meat, cheese and bread at a local shop beforehand and had ourselves a little feast on board.
Okay...up next will be Trip Recap 03: Florence. Stay tuned!
So, I'm sure you've all been waiting to see some photos from the trip and I apologize for not getting them up here sooner. Things have been a bit hectic since we've been back and I've also been trying to spend a good 2-4 hours each day out on the bike to get my legs back in order. That all being said, the wait is over. I've edited the first few cities we visited and will post them all here in the order we saw them [well I won't post all the photos, just a few selected ones from each place]. If you haven't read the Trip Recap: Summary yet, do that. It's a great starting point to hear about our adventures. I should also let you know that after doing some final balancing of our debit and credit cards we did end up going over our allotted budget by around about $500 dollars. That's not too bad with all things considered.
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After an overnight flight from Philly we arrived into London's new Terminal 5 at the crack of dawn the following morning. I decided to check it out a bit while Kelly decided to catch a few zzz's on a bench.
The building is the largest free standing structure in the entire UK and was designed by Richard Rogers. Sorry, Sir Richard Rogers. After a few hours on the ground we were off to Rome for a 12noon arrival on Thursday, May 7th.
We took the Leonardo Express train into the city from the airport and hiked our bags to our hostal which was only about 5 blocks from the Termini train station. Below are a few shots. This was by far the worst place we stayed on the entire trip, but Rome is an expensive place and we had to stick to our budget. Here we had a "shared bathroom" which we quickly discovered was NOT the way to go. For a few more Euro's each night we could get a private en-suite bath. That's how we rolled for the remainder of the trip.
After we got settled in a took a much needed shower we went out to check out the area we were in and to get some dinner. Our first stop was just on the other side of the train station at Santa Maria Maggiore church.
This would of course be the first of many, many churches that we would visit on this trip.
By now we were starting to feel the effects of the travel and were in need of some caffeine! What better than a few cappuccinos to get us back on our feet?
By now we were hungry for some dinner so we put a call into Jule'sparents who were in town for a final night of their vacation. They weren't staying far from us so we met them at the hotel and walked down to a great little restaurant with a hilarious waiter. He referred to us as Mommy, Poppy, Brudder and Sister. It was really funny. Jule's parents are great and it was nice to catch up with them over some great food and a few glasses of vino.
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Our first full day in Rome started at the Vatican Museums and of course the Sistine Chapel. The museums can be a bit overwhelming as they have so much stuff to see, but if you spend a few hours there you'll definitely get the gist of it. The final goal is reaching the Sistine and seeing Michelangelo's ceiling. Below are a few shots from the museum with the Sistine Chapel at the end. The girl pictured with Kelly is a young actress named Anna Lynne McCord. Kelly spotted her all by herself in one of the galleries and then stalked her for a while like a hunter in the woods tracking an elk. She finally mustered up the courage to say hello and ask for a photo. They actually had a nice chat and she turned out to be a very pleasant person.
How about that guy repairing the floor...the sure didn't give him much room to work in! And anyone know what the deal is with those hats that one dude is wearing? We saw them all over Rome. They travel in packs and all the men have them on. I tried to ask one guy, but he didn't speak English and I didn't speak whatever language he was speaking.
After the Vatican Museums it was time to see the actual Basilica. St. Peter's is HUGE. There's really no other way to describe it. It's the largest church in the world and can hold over 60,000 people inside! Even if you're not Catholic this is a must see in Rome.
After checking out the inside it was time to head upwards for a view of the city. An elevator takes you about halfway up, but 320 steep and twisting steps lead you the rest of the way. Let's just say your quads are burning when you reach the top, but the view is well worth it.
A day in and around the Vatican will wipe you out quickly...so it was back to the casa to rest up before getting some dinner.
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On Saturday morning we slept in a bit but then wanted to head over to the Campo de Fiori to check out the market. We were able to hop on a city bus to get there and actually rode over for free since no one really collects/checks tickets! I actually stayed in the Campo back in 2001 when I visited MWPand a few others who were living there for the semester. It's one of the most lively spots in the entire city. You have the market during the day and then at night there are a bunch of bars that line the square. We checked out the market and got some breakfast before heading out. Before reaching the Campo though our first stop was at the Chiesa Nuova church a few blocks away.
Sloppy Sam's is actually an American bar there in the Campo and MWP used to spin the turntables there to earn a few extra bucks!
After a few hours in the Campo it was on to Piazza Navona, one of the coolest plazas in Rome and home to the Fontana dei Quattro.
The good thing about Rome is that all the big sites are only a short walk away from each other. Literally around the corner from Navona is the Pantheon. This thing is really indescribable so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
Isn't it so beautiful how the sun just streams in like that? The top is wide open to the elements and I'm sure it's pretty cool when it rains out! That last photo is of the back side of the Pantheon...not quite as pretty, ha?
Next stop was the Trevi Fountain. We actually went here twice, once during the day and then again at night when we were in the area to grab dinner. I'll just put all the photos here. And yes, we did throw some coins in!
After the fountain it was on to the Spanish Steps, which, frankly, I'm not that crazy about. I mean, there's nothing really special there if you ask me. But...it's one of those things you have to see [for me a second time!] so we went anyway.
By now we were beat but we did want to swing by Piazza de Popolo real quick. But, to get our energy back we had to stop for a few gelatos on the way. If you've never had gelato before it's worth going to Italy for that reason alone! Ice cream doesn't stand a chance to this stuff.
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Our last full day in Rome was all about the oldest parts of the city. The Palentine Hill, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum before heading across the Tiber river for mass and dinner in the Trastevere neighborhood.
After a great dinner there in Trestevere it was early to bed for us as we had a 6:45am train to Venice the next morning.
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One thing I will mention about Rome, and all of Italy for that matter, is that it was very hot while we were there. They were in the middle of a little heat wave and temps were up as high as 85. We certainly weren't expecting temps like that til we got to Spain. It made walking around town a sweaty and sticky experience, but it did give us an excuse to eat more gelato to cool off!]
Up next: Trip Recap 02: Venice.
Last night Kel and I dipped over to Citizens Bank Park to watch the 2nd game of the Sox-Phillies weekend series. We went with some friends from Boston who were in town and showed them around Philly a bit before the game. Of course we swung by Geno'sfor a quick cheesesteak beforehand as well. [we had them flip a coin to pick either Pat's or Geno's]
Thanks to another good friend we were able to snag a few choice tickets to the game. We actually had to pick them up from the players will call window which was pretty funny, especially when the guy asked me which ball club I was with.
Our seats were great, just back from home plate and even better because we were two rows back underneath the overhang. So, after the first inning when the torrential rains started to fall we got to sit pretty and stay dry while everyone else had to run for the hills.
It was a great game, especially from a Sox fans perspective since they won 11-5 and ended up taking 2 out of 3 in the series.
If you get a chance, try and catch a game there at CBP, it really is a great venue to be at.
Let me tell you how nice it was to be able to get breakfast this morning without having to consult my pocket English to -insert foreign language-
While it is good to be "home" it did stink that the trip we had been planning for so long had to come to an end. Overall it was one hell of an experience and we're both so grateful that we got the chance to do something like this. We got to see so much and be exposed to so many different cultures. It's really hard to pick our favorite place on the trip because they were all different and special in their own unique way. If you ever get the chance to do a trip like this...GO.
Speaking of "home"...we got that question a lot when we met people along the way. "Where are you guys from?" they'd ask. Kelly and I would just look at each other and kind of roll our eyes. Do we tell them we're homeless? Do we say Boston or do we say Philly? We decided to go with Boston since it was just easier and didn't involve a lengthy explanation.
As for the logistics of the trip...that could be a separate post itself. A lot of folks have said that they wish they could have done a trip like this but that they'd be nervous of the language barrier or how to get around and all of that other logistical stuff. To be honest though, it wasn't really that hard. We don't speak any of the languages where we went but most folks know enough English and you'd be amazed at how much you can get across with pointing and hand-signals! As long as you can read a map, figure out a train timetable, and have a bit of common sense you'll do just fine. Oh, and make sure you have a dictionary with you. We had to bring 4 different ones!
I won't get into all of our budget stuff here, but certainly if you have any questions please ask. I will say that we did stick to our budget. We always made sure we wrote down what we spent so we'd have a running tally of where we stood. We knew exactly how much we could spend each day and made sure we stuck to it. Sure there were a few days when we went WAY over, but there were also others when we spent hardly anything. I'd say we did the whole thing on a "moderate" budget. We could have spent less if we did more dorm/bunk type hostals, but we always went for a private room with an ensuite bath. They were essentially 1 or 2 star hotels.
I won't list them all here, but I did a count and we ended up taking 26 different trains. That's 26 on's and 26 off's. No wonder my shoulder is shot from lifting that backpack up! By my rudimentary calculations, I figured we traveled about 3,800 miles on the trains. That's some serious distance!
We also took a few other means of transportation to get around: Plane, train, high speed train, tram, light rail, taxi, water taxi, rental car, city bus, subway, cable car [aerial and street], subway, bike, boat, hotel train, motor coach, large elevator with seats [no joke], and by far we put the most mileage on our 2 feet. Not sure what we would have done with out those!
As you might imagine, I have some photos to share. Actually, about 2,667 of them. Of course I need to edit them all first and that could take a little time. My plan is to do a post a few times each week covering all the cities we visited and post the photos of that particular city during that post. This way I can take my time sifting through them all. So stay tuned in the coming weeks for all that.
For now I'll leave you with photo #1.
[taken at Philadelphia airport just before we shoved off on May 6th. My pack weight 30lbs and Kelly's was about 24-25]
Hard to believe that the trip has come to and end....but after a long day and many flight delays we made it home from Portugal. Man did it feel good to take that damn backpack off for the final time!
I'll be spending a few hours tomorrow morning getting reaquainted with my bike saddle...but after that I'll try to get in a quick little summary of the trip. Oh, and I have to start downloading and editing all the photos.
As for now, we've been up for 22 hours straight so it's time to get some sleep.