A Few Things I Learned In Rome:

Things I learned in Rome:

_ A large camera is awesome. I enjoy my professional cameras. But after hours of walking in the hot sun, and I do mean hours, it gets heavy and cumbersome. It is actually cumbersome during the 28 hours it we spent in airports and on flights all the way back home as well. It seemed that in Rome all you needed was a wide angle lens and I found that in Florence and Venice I never took my large camera and all of my lenses out at all. I used a point and shoot and was thrilled.

Roman Colosseum, Jody Lee Smith, Life is an Adventure

Take the time for the guided tour. We learned more in 45 minutes than in years in history class. It was amazing.

-Bidets are something you have to try at least once. Enough said.

-If you are away for more than a few days something crazy will happen at home. We had a minor, yet stressful, family event occur. In most places there is at least some internet available and you can check for local internet cafes. I had to just relax and realize that I could only do what I could do while I was away.

Piazza della Rotonda, Rome, Italy, Jody Lee Smith -Life is an Adventure

In the Piazza della Rotonda after an incredible meal. Life is Molto Bene .

-Wear pants with pockets. I brought several cute pants that didn’t have pockets and regretted it. I realized that I did not always want to drag a purse or a backpack around to carry my things. Pants with deep front pockets were perfect. I could carry a lipstick and Euros or Pounds with no worries. I also kept a printed copy of my passport on me at all times. I was only ever asked for it in Rome when I was exchanging money or in the airport trying to buy postcards…but you just never know. I know that some people advise you to carry a money pouch around your waist. We actually saw a woman with a backpack on and the backpack made her shirt ride up and the zipper of her money pouch was right there for everyone to see. They don’t seem comfortable and you are not used to it so why put yourself through it when you can just put it in your front pockets.

-Rules are different. In Italy I was never asked for ID except for exchanging money. Your lost/stolen credit card could easily be used against you so keep it close. I saw a small child playing in the back window of a fast moving small car and almost choked on my water. Rules are different now but I remember having done that as a child and survived perfect fine…well, pretty dang good anyways.

Pantheon, Jody Lee Smith

We walked around Rome without a care in the world, we turned a corner and there was the incredible Pantheon. More beautiful than a photograph could capture.

-Wine is less expensive than water in Italy. It is wonderful and rich and delicious but sometimes you just need to hydrate and pay for the water. Water at a restaurant will never be free. Some bottles of water will come carbonated (with gas) so be careful what you ask for. I wanted to try one with gas and it was way too carbonated for me. To each his own.

-Soda is unpredictable in Italy. Not exactly in the flavor, as Coca Cola products have a strong hold on the market, but how it is served and how much you will pay. At a restaurant I had paid anywhere from 3.50 Euros to 6.50 Euros for a Coke. The serving sizes vary. Once I got a glass of less than fully carbonated Coke (which still tasted fine) and was of a decent size and the next time I would get a tiny can and a glass. It is very different from the US in that you will not get free refills and you most likely will need to ask for ice if you want it….however there were very few overweight people in Italy.

-Italian meals are large, incredibly large and sumptuous. Rome had the best food I had ever had in my over 40 years. The pasta was melt in your mouth. The sauces were incredible. I contemplated leaving all of my clothing and smuggling back pasta sauce. The pizza was amazing and crisp, the best crust I have ever had. I said that a lot. “The best (pizza, lasagna, grapefruit juice..) I have ever had” and I meant it every time. I heard that meals there take hours.  It is very true. You get to really enjoy your food and company. There is no big tipping there as most places have service charges or sitting fees and so an extra Euro or so is ok. No one is pushing you out so that they can fill your table and get the next tip. You have to flag people down, pretend that you are a mime writing a check and they will understand and bring your bill.

Most of the service charges and sitting fees have to do with sitting outside. There are different costs depending on where you sit. If you get the food at the bar and stand it is one price, much lower than outside.  But tourists generally want to sit outside in the piazza. You can watch the people go by, look at the incredible architecture, see the vendors try to entice you with their goods, and be entertained by the street performers. Al and I saw many according players, an opera singer, a violinist, and saxophone player…incredible talent on the streets of Italy hoping for your loose coins. They are very good and will entertain you then walk up to your table with a small empty cigar box hoping that you will fill it.

May 11, 2013 – London Is Amazing

Oh my goodness,,.what a wonderful time. British keypads are a bit different when you are trying to type. LOL. Yesterday was wonderful. Walk through Hide Park, went off to watch the changing of the guards. …which they really should call ‘how many people can you fit into one square meter’. 

Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

May we come in?
Fun at Buckingham Palace.

Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

Having fun with the Constables at Buckingham Palace

I met some Constables. I offered one of them a patch for a patch but he didn’t have a police patch…so he gave me his name tape in exchange, then I asked if I could wear his cover …and he let me and laughed. 🙂 We saw the London Tower Bridge, and London Bridge is Falling Down kept repeating in my head. LOL.  We walked to Westminster Abbey and it was magnificent. Big Ben is much bigger and even more beautiful and grand than you can imagine. We took a ride on the London Eye. They may try to sell you tickets for the fast track but don’t do it. Regular tickets are much cheaper and even though the line was incredibly long…I barely had time to jump out of line to snap a group photo and jump back in before we were almost at our turn. The cars hold approx 25 people at a time. We spent quite a bit of time on the Underground. I have been on the Metro in New York and this is far more crowded. But everyone in London was very respectful. In fact, London was one of the most respectful places I have been. (I realized how quiet it was when we got to Rome.)  

Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace

Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

 

 
View from the London Eye

Al and Mark went to watch Wigan play a “football” game at the pub while Pam and I went shopping. One of my very favorite places was Camden Lock Village markets. So much to see, you can’t begin to drink it all in. I bought Al his favorite team ‘Manchester United’ jersey in LONDON! We met the boys at a pub and had some pints. What a brilliant day.  We ended out night on Brick street where we had some wonderful Curry. Then we were out on the town for more fun in Piccadilly Circus.

Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

London Fun

May 9th, 2013…We Arrive in London :)

After a Very long trip we arrived in England.Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

Al and Jody at Stonehenge. 🙂

We visited Stonehenge. I was hoping to find some magical, emotional connection to the stars..but realized that it was beautifully situated in the rolling hills surrounded by a calm beauty. It does cost you a few pounds to enter the site but there are free audiotour (not guided – a audio player that you use at your own pace). It was very wonderful.

Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

The wonderful lavenham, England.

We later visited Lavenham, a small country side town with tons of swaying buildings…it was hard to believe they were still standing. I hear that Lavenham is quite a tourist attraction during the tourist season but I chose the month of May because we miss that season in both England and Italy by just a little bit. We had a pint at a very nice pub, “The Swan”. It was old and elegant. Quite a proper pub..and always, the girl’s room is in the basement.  Jody Lee Guillaume Smith

Me and the Queen? LOL

 We visited Windsor. I saw the Windsor Castle ..and the Queen was in! She didn’t pop out to say hello or anything…but they were flying the flag for her. The food is AMAZING. My Irish friend Pam made us roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for our first proper English dinner. Why didn’t someone ever tell me that 1) it is not actually pudding & 2) it is amazing!! I had beans on toast for breakfast and it was just wonderful.

Tomorrow we are off to London to stay in a fabulous hotel and enjoy the sights.

 

We leave tomorrow!!

Image courtesy of : http://www.flickr.com/photos/ender112/3900690839/

Our first stop.
😀

We leave tomorrow!! I am packing while trying to eat leftovers because that is less work when I start cleaning out the refrigerator.

I am nervous about the long flight. I am trying to pack enough to keep me busy enough to fly half way around the world.  Yet, I don’t want to take too much. I am trying to pack layers but I want to be very, very cute when I am there so I am going to try not to look so bulky.  Al and I are each taking one suitcase and then we are bringing an empty sea bag (a big old military issued bad that folds up small). We will fill the sea bag with our clothes and then put all of the wonderful goodies we find on our trip into our protective suitcases.

Don’t be worried about bringing everyone something. Everyone has been asking for something. I don’t mind bringing my close friends something but really this trip is about our fun and adventure, not us hurrying to find stuff for others.

I went with some friends to the Toby Keith concert last night and my super small camera broke. That stinks because it was a really good camera for the times that I didn’t want to lug my wonderfully large camera around. I think I do need to run out and grab another. I guess, better it cr@pped out last night then during the trip. I have Tina Fey’s book to keep me laughing on the plane along with snacks and a pharmacy of lotions, aspirin, eye patch, ear plugs, and small pre-pasted teeth brushes.

Well, I had best finish packing….

Jody Lee

Looking for hotels in some of the wrong places…

Oh my gJody Lee Smithoodness, time is getting close. We leave in 15 days. So I feel badly that we spent so much time planning London and Rome and had yet to get a hotel in Venice. So yesterday Al and I worked hard to remedy that issue.

First of all, when I attempted to contact hotels they were almost all booked for our days. That was nerve racking and I felt bad for putting things off. But I stuck with it and found a wonderful Bed and Breakfast. They would not do reservations over the phone; we had to communicate through email. I found this common with several of the B&Bs. So I emailed back and forth and was given banking information for a wire transfer. We are having a bit of difficulty as our bank charges a $25 fee for bank transfers and if any of the information is wrong then the transfer does not go through but you are still charged that fee. So maybe we should have stuck with a travel agent or an on-line booking agent. Lessons learned.

Another interesting, yet shocking event happened as I attempted to make reservations on-line. I emailed one B&B and they emailed back. The name sounded familiar but I really could not place the hotel, so I clicked on their link. My computer blew up with viruses. I am still doing college and all I could think about was my homework that was done, saved on my computer,  yet not turned in. LOL. At that moment I realized that my virus protection was over a month out of date and I was in a bit of trouble. The virus would not let me back onto the internet so that I could renew my virus protection. It let me see the website for it but advised me that I did not have permissions to use the internet on my own computer.  I was a wee bit scared now. It would not let me restore to an earlier date. I could not find the source of the virus on my C drive to remove it and found nothing to uninstall. My computer would have pop-ups yelling at me, stating that I had a virus and it wanted me to push yes so that some strange antivirus software (which I knew that I did not have) to “correct” it for me. NO WAY buddy. I don’t know you. If I say yes it may grant it access to much more of my computer.

I jumped into my computers “safe mode” and plugged in the Ethernet cord. One of the times that I was attempting to get onto the internet there was a weird statement saying that I didn’t have permissions and it had “Rebecca” as the file extension. I took a wild guess that this was my virus and in safe mode searched for Rebecca. I found three places it showed up. Two looked like red life rafts and one had a picture of a female whom I had never met. I deleted all three, restarted my computer, and mentally calculated the cost of taking my computer in for repairs….mostly to save my homework and family photos. Well, what do you know….it WORKED. I was able to get on the computer and internet. I just re-upped my antivirus and it is now scanning (only finding one more virus). I AM SO LUCKY.

I am not sure that the B&B website was bad or when my computer asked if it could run something I didn’t actually say yes (I have been working long hours and had not had my coffee yet). But I am so thankful that it worked out. So words of wisdom…please be careful!  And, now off to upload my college homework :).

Well, in 15 days we leave for London. I am sure everything else will go perfectly as planned 😉

Jody Lee

Life’s Large Adventures-Tips and Tricks I have learned so far

This trip to London, Rome and Venice is the first major trip I have ever taken… anywhere. I wasn’t sure how to start but I am a researcher at heart so here are some things that I have learned so far.

Tips and Tricks:

Al and Jody Lee

Life’s Large Adventures. Having a partner to share your trip with is fun….he can also help with all of your luggage 😀

1. Even if you have a passport..make sure your boyfriend has an up to date passport. 🙂 We knew he had a passport but for international travel it must be valid for 6 months AFTER your expected time of return. We had to send his passport in and get another one. It is scary to send a valid document away when we will need it very soon. The post office was actually really fast and it took less than two weeks.

2. I love looking online for airfare deals!! It is like a challenge for me. I try to figure out what the best time of the week/of the day is to buy tickets, and many times I get good deals. But for this trip of my lifetime….I wondered if I should ask for some help. My boyfriend Al and I went to a small travel agency in Chinatown. It appeared to be in a quite seedy part of town and he was unsure but I was adamant. While I believed that they could never get us a better deal, I figured we could check it out and use them to help us get an idea of what airlines and travel path would be the best. I WAS WRONG!! The man who helped us, Fransisco, was AMAZING. He listened to what I wanted, asked questions, and was able to look up a deal that was hundreds less per ticket! I could not believe it. He sent me an email with two itineraries and hotel suggestions. I then attempted to find those flights and schedules on line and was unable to find them at that price. We went back to the travel agency and bought out tickets. A few days later Francisco sent me an email saying that the hotel in Rome was having a discount (although on non-refundable rooms) and we saved hundreds on our upcoming 8 day stay there. Wow, he was just wonderful. It may not always work out this way for every one/every trip…but it doesn’t hurt to check it out.

3. Plan your trip. I am currently in the process of picking out what places I MUST see. While in London, Al, would love to see Stonehenge. I remember Prince Charles and Princes Diana’s wedding (I was quite young at the time mind you) and want to see Westminster Abbey. I want to go to the local flea market as well. I love deals. 🙂  While doing my research I found that the train from London to Paris (via the Chunnel) is only 2.5 hrs. Unfortunately we will not be able to make Paris this trip.  Al has a friend we will be staying with “in the country” the first night. For our other two night we all have a hotel in London proper as they agreed to show us around. So we shall make the Paris trip another time. But it is always good to know what is available.

This is long and you are probably tired of reading so I will write more soon. Have a great day. 🙂

Jody Lee