Rome: What can we see in one day? Aventine Hill

If you liked the first post, “What can we see in one day?” which centered around some of the most popular sights & sites featured in the movie Roman Holiday, you might want to venture to another of the 7 hills in Rome, Aventino, just a stop or two past the Colosseum stop on the Blue or ‘B’ line of the metro.

Note: Don’t be afraid of taking the metro or bus.

Let’s assume you are staying somewhere near the main train station, Termini; if you aren’t, you will want to know how to get there for your other train rides. Rome only seems to have two main train lines, the ‘A’ or the ‘B’. It’s really simple and easy to use.

Take the ‘B’  towards Laurentina. This ‘B’ line or Blueline heads towards a great little shopping neighborhood, Cavour, then on to the Colosseo (Roman Colosseum), then Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). Get off here at Circo Massimo for a lovely walk around this ancient chariot track.

Circus Maximus
Just to the left you see Flavian Palace ruins.

Look up at the ancient ruins of the Flavian palace, which was destroyed by fire, flood, and demolition. I highly recommend taking the time to imagine chariots racing around the track 7 times while an emperor looks down from his lavish viewing area — the palace, on Palatine hill, was very grand in its day and is simply huge. Circus Maximus is in the valley, then there is Aventino hill.

Flavian Palace Ruins
Not impressive in my photo, but absolutely HUGE in person.

On the opposite side of Circo Massimo is the monument, Roseto di Roma Capitale. There you will find a street that will take you up into the Aventino neighborhood, look for Via di Valle Murcia, and head up the hill. You will walk near the walls on your right and find the Giardino Degli Aranci, a quiet small park with an incredible view. We happened on an open-air piano performance here, with families and their children relaxing on a Sunday afternoon. This has medieval architecture and is leading to the next building, the Basilica of Saint Sabina, the mother church of the Dominicans. This church is unique because of its simplicity and selenite windows (as opposed to stained glass).

Next to the Basilica of Saint Sabina, is a Basilica that is closed to the public, and owned by the Priory of the Knights of Malta. Did you know that the Knights of Malta are the oldest surviving chivalric order? Read more at https://theculturetrip.com/europe/italy/articles/the-story-behind-the-aventine-keyhole/

Now next to that is… the Keyhole of the Knights of Malta — a small viewing portal in a gate in the wall that aligns perfectly with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Read up on the Knights of Malta, the crusading knights founded in Jerusalem in the 11th century while you are waiting in line. Expect to wait in a line, donate a little, and spend a couple of minutes enjoying the view. For some, it’s underwhelming, for others, it feels like being transported back in time. For your wait, there is a snack vendor and your fellow folks waiting in line — interesting case studies in modern culture.

Take the Via di Porta Lavernale, all of the way down the hill to catch the tram, the number 8, heading across the river over into Trastevere. Since I can’t tell what time you began this day, I am hoping that it’s lunchtime — so here is one of my tips for a great restaurant for lunch in Trastevere. It opens at noon and it doesn’t have an Italian name, but it is great for those who love Carbonara done several different ways, and done better than anything you can get near the Spanish steps.

The restaurant is called ‘Eggs’ and you will have to use your map to find it — it’s close to the Trastevere Mastai stop (first stop across the river).

Have lunch, wander around, then head back on the tram and get off at Marmoratta and walk toward the ancient Pyramid of Caius Cestius. There is also an old protestant cemetery if you are in the mood for wandering around, looking at headstones. This is right in the walls of Rome. After exploring, head to the metro station. This is the Pyramide stop, which is the stop just after the Circo Massimo stop you got off to see Circus Maximus. Keep heading towards Laurentina for two stops and get off at the San Paolo stop. Cross a street or two to get to the Basilica Papale San Paolo Fuori le Mura, the Papal Basilica of St Paul outside the walls. This church burned down and has been restored. Some of the most amazing alabaster windows can be found here as well as a stunning mosaic. Part of the old, original doors are still there, inside and the folk art feeling of the ornamentation is informative of the period.

Head back to the station and decide if you are ready to go back to your room for some rest before a late Italian dinner. Now that you know how to get to Travetere you can make reservations or add a little more to this itinerary to stay over on this side of town.

Back near the tram is the Testaccio neighborhood, with a farmers market, two piazzas that are mostly used by locals and a church that isn’t always open, Santa Maria Liberatrice.

IMG_20200118_152153_172_Side mosaic
Just one of the beautiful representations in this “small” church on the Aventine Hill in Testaccio.

 

A local Roman has recommended a restaurant in the Testaccio neighborhood, Felice, as having the best Caccio e Pepe — the Roman pasta dish that is simple and eponymous.

I hope you enjoy this sample itinerary of seeing some other Roman spots!

 

 

Rome: What can we see in one day?

 

Perhaps you are traveling to Rome and only have a couple of days to wander around. Perhaps you don’t want to rush, plan too much, and stand in too many lines.

Here is one walk that is relaxed and very easy to accomplish in one day, an evening if you don’t go inside the Pantheon [go inside the Pantheon though, really].

Take a hotel room on Via Veneto. Walk to Via Vittorio Veneto past the Hard Rock cafe and down to Piazza Barberini — where you will see a beautiful, but smallish by Roman standards, fountain, Fontana del Tritone.

20191106_124837 Barberini
Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini

Wind your way to Via Sistina, just the street further off the front of the fountain. Turn towards a tall Obelisk, Via Sistina and walk through the charming street, along with 57 other people to see the view, the Roman-made obelisk, the beautiful church. If you head towards the other Obelisk, you will be on Via delle Quattro Fontane which goes up a hill, then you see an intersection with a small fountain on each corner. Head back the other way.

Next, walk into the beautiful church. Then after you say a prayer for world peace, head back to the view, then down the Spanish Steps and see the fountain at the base, look up in awe at the steps themselves. When it is raining, you might have most of the steps to yourself, except for those guys who sell umbrellas, self sticks, etc.

Spanish Steps at night
Looking back up towards the obelisk and church.

Once you have taken lots of pictures of yourself near the fountain — be sure you don’t get into the fountain, the police will blow whistles at you and admonish you in Italian. Continue forward [West] on Via dei Condotti past several luxury shops and when you get to the Fendi flagship store, look around for another column — this one is an intricately carved memorial to Marco Aurelio [Marcus Aurelius] commemorating his victories. Continue on around the bend to see another obelisk, Obelisk of Montecitorio. Then wind your way around — following the crowd to the Pantheon, where there is another fountain, a Salumeria, and restaurants with outdoor seating.

In front of the Pantheon
Fontana del Pantheon

Enjoy the Pantheon, then take a side street back, winding past the Trevi Fountain, then back up to Barberini then up to Via Veneto. Use Maps to ease some of your anxiety about getting to Trevi fountain, although most likely, you will follow the crowd past Hadrian’s columns from his temple, Il Tempio di Adriano in the Piazza di Pietra …

Hadrians Columns
Il Tempio di Adriano in the Piazza di Pietra

and right over to Fontana di Trevi [Trevi Fountain of movie fame]. The scene over at Trevi fountain is amazing and there is a lot of police whistles going on to keep the crowd under control. Trevi is beautiful by day and beautifully lit by night, and worth seeing under both conditions.

How to Use the ICE train

When I first moved to Frankfurt, Germany, I wanted to see everything in Europe on a budget! The best way to travel is by train. There are the local trams, the Regional trains, and the ICE or Inter City Express high-speed trains. Each train has a very well-organized process and it helps to have it quickly explained. For instance, once you purchase your ICE ticket, how do you know where to get on the train to find your seat?

This short video below shows you how to quickly find out!

 

 

20190619_080537 ICE Train in Binz

Traveling While Sick: Tips & Observations

The morning of my flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Frankfurt, Germany I started an earnest sinus infection/summer cold. Here’s what I did right and what I would change if I had to do it all over again…

This is what worked well:

  • Scheduled 24-hour layover in new hotel
  • Hall’s cough drops in a carry-on bag
  • Advil in a carry-on bag
  • Z-pack antibiotics (proactively prescribed from fantastic nurse practitioner)
  • Giant bottle of water to take on the plane
  • Best carry-on bag design
  • Cash
  • Shopping in airport
  • Very-close-to-airport hotel

What I would change:

  • Type of hotel
  • Should have been located near some restaurants

So, I stayed at a sister brand hotel– it was really new, and really cute. Hip. Trendy. Lower cost. Here’s why:

  • No in-room coffee
  • No executive lounge
  • No room service
  • No restaurant
  • No wi-fi in room

I learned on this trip just how spoiled I am with a full-service hotel, meaning the big, full service with a restaurant, a snack room, an executive lounge, room service, coffee-at-will in my room. In these big hotels, I can work in the room, in the lounge, in the lobby, but in these trendy scaled down hotels, it is designed for a different crowd. Folks who have kids, don’t work from their room, are not spending any time in their room except to shower and to sleep.

So, I dragged myself around the coffee bar/check-in a few times during the day, looking so pathetic, the guest manager/clerk helped me microwave my soup, find the spoons, and made me coffee. I ended up sleeping throughout the day and night, recovering from the crud that had ushered me out of Africa.

Moxy Hotel, Frankfurt, Germany
Welcome to the 2nd Floor!

Note: I have found incredible hospitality at the hotels that I have stayed at — caring people, ready to help. Because I have been a road warrior, I have had several instances of being quite ill during my stays throughout the United States and Europe. Here’s a shout out to every room service person who helped me with hot water and lemon, disinfecting the bathroom [don’t ask], the folks in the restaurant who prescribed lime juice with salt for my throat so I could deliver training to a crowd, and proceeded to procure it for me from the kitchen, and I could go on…Everyone at these places deserves to be treated kindly and with respect. I love you all in the hospitality industry!!!!

 

Shout out to the room decor designers! This is what I was waking up to when I was so sick in Frankfurt, Germany at the Moxy Hotel.

cute boy mural

South Africa: Simon’s Town Penguins

Beach with Penguins Milling About_July2018Certainly one of the highlights of my visit to South Africa was the morning before our flight. We decided to book a private car to Simon’s town. Yes, this was an additional and unexpected cost, however, in the big scheme, we already spent the time and money to get down here. And sometimes, the best way to maximize your time and your trip is to be flexible.

I would never have thought about using this private driver option in the past. I haven’t been accustomed to traveling other than for work. But when hubby and I were in Macedonia, the only way to get to Kokino was to hire a private car (one that was referred to us by friends at the local U.S. Consulate). This turned out to be a fantastic experience — as those of you who are used to doing such a thing probably already know.

So, we booked Jeremy, our driver from the African Pride Hotel, now a Marriott Autograph Hotel, to drive us through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood (another thing we wanted to do but due to my dumb foot injury couldn’t do on our own), then drive us to Simon’s Town, to see the penguins, then straight to the airport.

You might think this sounds rushed, but you wouldn’t be right. We had a great breakfast, met Jeremy at 8:00 a.m. and drove through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, with it’s brightly colored buildings, with a running dialogue. As it turns out, Jeremy was born and raised in Cape Town. We heard about the real estate issues, the cultural differences, etc. from an on-the-ground POV.

We had a lovely drive out to Simon’s Town, a naval base town, with more local history about a fire, the devastation to the local snakes –Cape Cobra and others– and how the college students studying geology, botany, and zoology hike along the trails. We drove past some of wine country, and then to the home of the African Penguins, formerly known as Jackass Penguins.

We walked the short walk from the parking lot, through a neighborhood street, to the Penguin beach. We paid, went through the turnstile and headed to the walkway. I thought that we would — wait!!! Wait!! There they are!!! Penguins!!!

I couldn’t believe it — right there. Not 10 steps from the start of the walkway — it keeps people off of the penguin’s beach—there were penguins. Not one or two penguins, but at least 10 penguins and the further down the walk we went, the more penguins we saw, until we arrived at the end of the walkway, viewing the beach, the Indian Ocean, large rocks, black Commorants with orange beaks and claws, and a hundred penguins.

My husband and I were delighted. I have to say that the light earlier in the day is absolutely magical. The African Penguins shimmered and their inimitable shadows waddled towards the water. Soon, the sound we were hearing was becoming clearer.

One penguin would point his beak straight up to the sky and start the sound, then another, and another. It sounded like donkeys braying. Ah. Now I am reading the sign. That’s how the name Jackass Penguin was first assigned to these birds. I am a little slow when it comes to connections.

Bottom line: This was one of the top highlights of our trip to Cape Town.

 

 

 

South Africa: Capetown Table Mountain

Table Mountain Gondola
The view from the tip of Africa.

Table Mountain: You want to take the gondola (at least we wanted to take the gondola up the mountain) so keep your eyes on which line you are in — but no matter how long the line is,  it will move quickly and the view is worth the wait. You can pre-purchase tickets using a QR code, so check that out! As you snake your way around and up to the gondola, don’t miss out on the photo op! Plan a fun pose and strike it with your fellow adventurer! Inside the gondola car, the floor slowly turns so that you can get a 365-degree view. Be aware, they pack the car full!

Wrong way little buddy!
Dassie in line on Table Top Mountain, South Africa.

Dassies: part rat, part marmot, all rodent — our driver says beware, they can carry rabies! We noticed a fair number of these critters on top of Table Mountain. Especially near the cafe. No dassies were foaming at the mouth when we were there.

View at the bottom of the earth!
On top of Tabletop Mountain, Capetown, South Africa.

Atlantic Ocean: Beautiful views of the Atlantic ocean, rivaling the views of Diamond Head in the Pacific Ocean on Oahu. Also, when you are looking at the ocean, a simple quarter turn reveals beautiful mountain ranges with fog and clouds. This view reminds me of Kokino in Macedonia. Either way, getting up to the top of Table Mountain is worth the line.

 

South Africa: Card Reader Issues

SimonsTownView_20180706

In this beautiful place at the tip of Africa, it is a piece of heaven for little penguins. The Indian Ocean and it’s hypnotic mists along with the quiet town, Simon’s Town, make for a peaceful retreat. However, the magical ingredients for a peaceful retreat don’t always include effective credit card readers. In fact, throughout Africa, card readers and the handling of them in shops can be a little bit of a problem.IPENGUINYEAFRIKA_20180706

At this adorable souvenir shop we had the following experience with the card reader. The line was not reliable, and so the communication between the card reader and the authorizing computer was taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r…so, the clerk took the card to another reader, BEFORE receiving a “not authorized” code, and started trying to authorize it through that reader. At that point, literally the sale of over $200 (I fell in love with a silver penguin charm) could have been approved twice, creating a double charge to my account. In fact, this has happened to my husband once.

Now, my husband stops the clerk, and patiently waits for the “not authorized” receipt and keeps it in his wallet, and in cases where he can, he doesn’t make the purchase. Which is what we did. No cute little silver penguin charm. But, we did wait for two not authorized receipts and my credit card did not receive duplicate charges.

Those in the know, know!

 

 

 

 

Bullet Wardrobe: Pyeongchang (As if…)

Pyeongchange style

If I were traveling to the Olympics or just to see Korea, this is what I would pack based on the weather I have been seeing on the news and based on today, St. Valentine’s Day, because I would definitely be wearing my beloved’s gift of white hiking boots! And we would be trying out as much of the street food as we could eat!

So, at the risk of looking like a Canadian sympathizer…Here’s my bullet packing list!

  • White silk warm layer
  • White cotton turtleneck
  • Off-white cashmere turtleneck
  • White down vest
  • Really warm hat
  • Cashmere knit hat
  • Two really warm scarves
  • Best wool socks, one pair from Deutschland and one pair from here in Colorado!
  • New White Hiking Boots!!!
  • American Blue Jeans
  • Wellensteyn Schneezauber (snow wizard) coat

SchneeZauber.jpg

Travel: Trip to Phoenix, AZ

_DSC0065.jpgThe American Southwest is a beautiful place reminiscent of western movies and alien desert landscapes. It is also a backdrop for other photo shoots and international travelers. I am lucky enough to have family in Phoenix, Arizona, so here is the bullet list for a short weekend trip in the “winter”–this trip was to put on Thanksgiving dinner for my dear mama.

Short plane ride from Denver to Phoenix:

  • Nice black leggings
  • Kenzo Paris Sweatshirt
  • Yak yarn sweater
  • Silk Scarf
  • Black and white running shoes

In my favorite carry-on suitcase:

  • Laboratory grade gravy separator
  • Travel sized cleanser, moisturizer
  • Less than 3 oz. CC+ cream with SPF 50
  • Gift with purchase mascara
  • Lipstick, lip gloss, and lip balm (all with SPF)
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Brush
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 3 pairs of skivvs
  • Knit Pjs
  • Skinny Jeans
  • Cotton dress shirt
  • Apron
  • T-shirt
  • Belt
  • Meds
  • Thanksgiving Recipe Binder
  • Rosemary

Tote

  • Nikon Camera
  • Tripod
  • HD Video Camera (forgot that there was video built-in to Nikon)
  • Wallet
  • e-Reader

So the trip was beautiful and our gift of cooking Thanksgiving for the family was gratefully received. Here are some of our restaurant reviews:

Lindy’s on 4th (whaa, whaa, whaa, whaa)

First of all, I can’t blame Lindy’s for this review. Believe me, there are several things that set us up for a disastrous experience. 1) this is not the burger bar I thought it was, 2) one person in our party, always orders THE WORST ITEM ON THE MENU, from the time he was 16 and in Paris, he couldn’t catch a break–if there is one item on the menu that shouldn’t be there, he will order it, and it will be lackluster at best, hideous at worst, 3) same person was in great pain, 4) other person was feeling ill, like he had the flu. So, sorry Lindy’s, even with the darling waitperson, it just wasn’t good for us. I had the “special” a burger with the philly cheesesteak on top, with horseradish sauce. It was okay, and only okay due to the actual burger patty texture, kind of processed and spongy.

Person ordered the Philly cheesesteak (we are in Arizona at a burger bar for crying out loud) on a cheese roll. Other person split that with him. All I can say was the roll was cold and somewhat stale tasting, the meat somewhat dry. I can only have Philly Cheesesteak from a few places and those place are indeed in Philly! Yes, I am spoiled, and now I miss you Philadelphia!

Bella Luna (Bellisimo!)

This family-owned Italian restaurant charmed our socks off! The elderly man with the distinctly Italian accent made us overlook the location slightly dirty water glasses (who needs to drink tap water anyway?) The pasta we ordered, to a dish, was perfection. We thought that there must be someone making the pasta from scratch back in the kitchen. The sauces were authentic and were perfection. I have never had a better plate of butternut squash ravioli, and the person who always orders poorly? He ordered the alfredo, and we all agreed that it was superb! In fact, I want to eat some of that Pasta Alfredo everyday for the rest of my life!

Joe’s Farm Grill (I’m Proud to be an American!)

I had only been to Joe’s Farm Grill for dinner, and due to horrible traffic, we weren’t able to make it for dinner after our long drive down to San Xavier and back. So, we went for breakfast. It was the kind of breakfast that makes you feel proud to be an American. Proud to be a farmer, or descended from farmers, and reminds you of goodness in the world.

I had the waffles and ribs, which were fall off the bone perfection, even though this was the morning after Thanksgiving, and one person had the sausage and egg tacos, breaking his record of ordering poorly, (you can’t count Bella Luna, since I don’t believe that they have one bad item on the menu), and the other person decided on a waffle with a fresh strawberry shake. Heaven!!!

Oh, and for a some quirky fun, trust me on this, use the restroom. Just saying.

This was the perfect send off before we went to Sky Harbor airport to return to Denver via Los Angeles.

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These photos were taken just south of Tuscon, AZ at the Mission at San Xavier.

 

Travel: Road Trip to Munich, Neuschwanstein, & Zugspitze

Bullet wardrobe for road trip and light hiking
Travel: Munich, Neuschwanstein, & Zugspitze

Sometimes you want to take a whirlwind trip–it’s just time to hit several priority spots and you don’t have time to leisurely explore. That’s okay! You can accomplish the list below in three days–drive Friday from Frankfurt to Munich, walk around, eat dinner at the Hofbrau Haus. Go back to the hotel and enjoy the hot shower! Saturday, drive to Neuschwanstein and hike up to the castle! Eat lunch while enjoying an incredible view and pick up some souvenirs. Hop back into the car and drive to Garmisch. Drive through a 15 minute section of road that is in Austria, and pop back into Germany. Breathe in the incredible beauty of the alps and the alpine air. Check into the hotel and eat dinner out! Next morning, go up to Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany, and wear your hiking shoes! Buy a pretzel, cross over into Austria again, feed the birds, hike some more, and buy souvenirs. Get a stamp (in your passport if you have it with you) of Zugspitze! End the active morning with a lunch at Berggasthof Almhutte with a comforting potato soup with vegetables and then have the Kirschbeutel (which you have to wait for–they don’t serve sweets until after 2:00 p.m. on Sunday). Oh, and the four cups of whipped cream are not sweetened.

The priority spots for us were:

  • Altstadt Munich
  • Hofbrau Haus
  • Neuschwanstein
  • Zugspitze
  • Almhutte at the Berggasthof

20170723_141147

Here’s the bullet wardrobe list that plans for temps from 58 – 80 degrees F. with sun, clouds, rain, wind:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Black cushy walking tennis shoes
  • Birkenstocks to wear in the car
  • Stretchy comfortable easy-to-hike-in jeans
  • Three scarves–black, cotton print, Edelweiss print neckerchief (must look touristy)
  • Rain layer — very lightweight, leopard print to up my game in Munich
  • Wear linen dress/tunic over knee covering leggings
  • Sweatshirt or sweater
  • White button down shirt
  • Off white peasant shirt

And that fits in a small suitcase with beauty and Rx necessities.