Nice, France – Tour de France

We have been watching the Tour de France and remembering our trip to Nice, France last year to view one of the legs of the Tour. France was never on my radar – I know – weird. I’m so happy we went because it didn’t disappoint and we find ourselves longing to go back. Our primary purpose was to experience the Tour de France – a bucket list experience for my husband.

Now when we watch we have an idea of what is going on behind the scene. Frankly, I’m not thrilled with watching hours of bike riding and commentators (we dvr – best invention), but having been to a leg of the Tour, it puts everything into perspective. I still find it nuts how close fans are to the riders – it is just insane. These riders are going so darn fast and literally people can ruin a riders stage. I couldn’t believe how close some of the spectators were to the riders this year in London – yikes – too close for comfort. I covered my eyes a few times.

And the spectators turning their backs on the riders to get a selfie – oh my goodness, INSANE! Just not safe! We took pictures, of course while we were there, but I’m pretty certain we would not have turned our back on a peloton going over 45 mph. Yikes!

At any rate, it truly is an amazing sport and the production behind the scenes to get this event up and running is spectacular. It will always be remembered fondly. I even hear from my son and husband they’d like to do it again. We shall see…I enjoyed it for sure, but there is a lot more world to see.

I have to say we loved the people in this region, very warm and helpful. Every night we stopped at this café for pastries and treats and answered questions from the locals. This one young lady was particularly lovely and I hope one day she can visit America to fulfill one of her bucket list items. And the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful.

The one single thing I will always remember is the Mediterranean Sea – it was glass like while we were there, so calm and blue. The beaches were rocks, no sand unless a resort brought it in for a private beach. So next time we go we will bring our Teva sandals. The rocks were not sharp, but if you are not use to walking on rocks it can be slow going.

We loved our short time in Nice.

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All the best,
Christine

Instagrammers I Love

I am a huge instagram fan and user. I have mostly just posted pics of my dogs because I think they are just adorable and bring me so much joy. However, recently I have been inspired by the creativity that I stumble upon daily on instagram. I’m finding myself wanting to join in creative challenges and I do from time to time. I think January 1, 2015, I will embark on the 365 photo challenge which scares me and excites me. For now, I join in challenges from time to time.

I’m a big fan of the jj community. I have discovered some really talented and creative people. Each day there is a new theme with a hashtag and you post a picture or go back in your feed and post the hashtag in the comments. Every image you post, you must like 3 photos and actually comment on one. It’s been a great way to connect with other users. I have no idea how to get featured, but to me that is not the point. The idea to challenge yourself with the theme and connect with other people to me is the appeal. Give it a try. Follow @joshjohnson for the daily themes.

Another create to connect site is @its_my_week each week there is a theme.

Some of my favorite users I enjoy.
@runnerkimhill – her creativity is brilliant. I look forward to viewing her feed daily.
@bulldog_dad – bulldog that carries his food bowl around – adorable and hilarious
@merakoh - genuine and inspirational. I’m excited for her families TV series Adventure Family
@thewandering_eye English girl living in Chicago – enjoy her take on living in Chicago
@mommasgonecity – adorable dog and toddler
@littlecoal – creative and inspiring

The image below is from my very proud harvest of my peony plant that took THREE year to bloom! I was happy to get a single bouquet and I posted to instagram with the #chiquesnourtemo and it was chosen as feature image on @chiquesnourtemo

All the best,
Christine

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Our St. Peter’s and Vatican Experience

Another bucket list destination to cross off our list. This truly was a dream come true. I have wanted to visit St. Peter’s Square, The Sistine Chapel and The Vatican since I was a young girl.

These particular sites were so important to me, we hired a personal guide and we are so happy we did. It was the best money and time spent. We were given information; information I had honestly forgotten about – the history and what to look for in the Sistine Chapel, and that you are not actually in the sovereign Vatican City State, until you walk out the door that is not accessible to the general public. St. Peter’s Square is actually in Rome, not in the sovereign Vatican City State.

We felt very honored to be able to stand on Vatican grounds. Our tour included a visit to the Vatican gardens. Both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict walk these gardens, but we did not run into them during our visit. I suspect they visit when the public is not allowed in, but we did walk within arms length of where Pope Benedict now resides and pet his cat. The gardens are large and beautiful. We were surprised how quiet it was inside the walls of the Vatican given how close the city streets of Rome are.

While we strolled the gardens, we witnessed an event being set up by the waterfall, this we were told is a big deal, must be somebody important visiting.

My husband saw both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict when we up top of the Duomo, getting out of a car – they were the size of ants, but still, he SAW them. My son and I were on the other side, by the time we made our way around, they were gone. I think he felt lucky!

Our tour guide was Sylvia Di Salvo and her email is sylvia.online@gmx.de We secured her through our concierge at Rome Cavalieri, but she is available to hire by contacting her directly. We highly recommend her, she was friendly with humor and extremely knowledgeable. The requirements to be a Vatican tour guide are stringent, so you can be assured your time and money will be well spent by hiring her.

We walked and taxied by St. Peter’s Basilica a few times during our stay in Rome. Each time we would stop and take it all in. There is literally people there in the square around the clock. One night we grabbed some gelato and just hung out in the square, people watching and taking in the grandeur. We did not attend Mass; however, we did see all the chairs being taken down afterwards. If you want to attend Mass, the public Mass is on Wednesday mornings. We arrived on a Wednesday and left before the next Wednesday, so remember that when planning your trip.

Also, do dress appropriately. We did see a few people wearing shorts, but literally only a few (maybe 5 at best). It was hot, so my son and husband were not thrilled with wearing pants, but not only is it respectful to dress appropriately, you could be turned away after waiting literally hours in a queue – that would be such a waste of time. It is such a special place, that wearing pants for a few hours on a hot day is not a bad sacrifice to make. Ladies be sure your knees and shoulders are covered. I wore a maxi skirt and a t-shirt.

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Tip: Do not rush this part of your trip. We took two half days to experience St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Gardens and even came back just to sit in the square, people watch and eat gelato. Even though we split this on our itinerary you could get it all in one very full day. Be prepared for crowds and long queues (lines).

All the best,
Christine

Our travels to the Eternal City – Part 3

As the busy season approaches, I wanted to finish out part 3 of our Rome travels. We will be back in Europe this summer and we dream of going back to Rome, but we resisted the temptation and are visiting Germany and Switzerland this summer. We are excited about both, but honestly, the thought of being so close to Italy and not to be visiting…it makes us a tad bit sad. So, we will have to plan a return trip to Italy and put some other places on the itinerary, such as Cinque Terre, Postiano, Capri. The pull is much too strong not to plan a return visit in the future.

Overall, we loved our time in Italy, Rome in particular made a lasting impression. Our son loved Italy too, who wouldn’t when everyone speaks to you first and calls you Boss! Italy in general is a great place to travel with children.

We are in awe at how accessible ancient history is to everyone. I will admit, I was a sad to see all the graffiti on most of the monuments, but still amazed that these structures still stand and that people can still walk and touch these sites. The church steeple horizon is amazing, instead of mountains you see steeple after steeple.

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The Spanish Steps
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Our hotel in Rome – Rome Cavalieri. It was such a treat to stay at this Waldorf Astoria property. The views, the amenities, the AC, the service – all outstanding.
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All the best,
Christine