Saturday, July 30, 2011

Space Invaders!

Having a few spare minutes before my next trip, this one to Chicago tomorrow, I wanted to catch up reporting on our recent family vacation to Italy; Rome in particular. While visiting the Spanish Steps, Pierce noticed a tile mosaic stuck to the wall of a building adjoining the steps. He immediately recognized it as street art by Invader, a French street artist. We first saw Invader's work in the entertaining and provocative documentary, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," by the English street artist, Banksy. Invader has peppered his little space invaders throughout the world and it was a thrill to see his work "in the wild." Amazingly, the next day on our visit to the Vatican, Pierce espied another invader, on a building close the Vatican museums entrance. Coincidently, a friend ours, who recently moved from Hoboken to Paris, noticed the invaders in his neighborhood and wrote about them on his blog earlier this year.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Too Little Time in Tel Aviv

Having returned from Italy for only 5 days, I found myself back on a plane again, this time headed to Tel Aviv for a 6 day business trip with two of my colleagues, Tom and Eric. Our Israeli colleagues work very hard, so we had very little time to see anything but the office complex and our hotel rooms. We did, however, manage to see a few things.

The highlight of the trip for me was an evening visit to Jerusalem's old city, and the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter. Our hosts for the trip to Jerusalem were three colleagues from the Tel Aviv office, who conveyed to us the very long and turbulent history of the area. I expect I'll be returning to Tel Aviv again not too long from now. Hopefully, the next time I'll have a bit more time to devote to seeing more of the country.

Click on the picture below to see some pictures from the trip.

From Israel July 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Italy Vacation

A vacation I've always wanted to take: a visit to Italy! We made the most of it, visiting three cities, with shorter visits to two more, in just over two weeks, from June 30 through July 16: six days in Rome; high speed train to Florence; six days in Florence; day trip from Florence to Pisa; high speed train to Venice; four days in Venice; inter-city train to Milan; overnight in Milan and then back home.

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Pierce was a real trooper as we poked our noses into an endless number of churches, museums and art galleries. The weather was fantastic the entire time, but uncomfortably hot (as is apparent in a number of the photos). Our next visit will be in the Spring or Fall.

Typically, we'd eat breakfast and one other light meal at our flat, and another, bigger meal, at a restaurant. The food ranged from good to great, even at the most modest of restaurants (which we tended to frequent).

Deirdre did a great job of arranging lodgings for us. In Rome, we stayed at the IQ Hotel, near the train station. The hotel had a roof garden which we took advantage of on a number of occasions for an evening picnic. In Florence we stayed at a charming flat near the Duomo. In Venice we stayed at the the beautifully restored Residenza Ca'Foscolo apartment hotel. You can see pictures of the latter two locations in the photo albums.

We set out with two ebook travel guides: one by Lonely Planet and one by Rick Steves. The clear winner was the Rick Steve's book. It provided lots of practical, detailed advice about getting acquainted with each city. And, more importantly, it provided us with a bunch of invaluable tips for avoiding hot, long, lineups: buying a Roma Pass for the Coliseum, booking tickets online for the Vatican Museums, the secret door in the Sistine Chapel, not bothering with the Uffizi Gallery online tickets, and the bag-check trick for getting into St. Mark's Basilica.

We took over 1000 photos, which we've culled to about 150 in the three albums below. Unfortunately these don't convey the heat, the sounds, or the tastes, but you'll certainly appreciate some of the sights we saw. Click on a picture below to see the slideshow.