The Amazing Race Meets National Lampoon’s Vacation

Archive for April, 2008

Andrew’s Final Trip Post

Posted by madtrippin on April 21, 2008

I got home yesterday at mid-morning.  On Saturday we flew from Rome to NYC in a plane surrounded by a bunch of high-school kids who would not stop talking. 

I actually had to spend the night in New York, as my flight to Minneapolis wasn’t until Sunday morning.  Gabe and I caught the shuttle over to my hotel to check in and then hopped on the subway to meet his girlfriend in Manhatten.  The hotel shuttle driver actually drove us over to the subway line rather than the airport for a few bucks.  It saved us about 30-45 minutes and some cash, if we’d taken a cab.  I saw my first New York rat while waiting for the train.  Gabe made sure to point it out as a major milestone in the trip.

He gave me a quick tour of Times Square, as I’d never been to New York, except on a flight layover.  That place was crazy.  I bought some I Love NY tees for the family.  They were like 7 for $10.

We met his girlfriend at a rib joint.  It was great to meet her after having heard so much about her for the past year and a half.  He’s been talking about since before they started dating and it was non-stop while we were on the trip.  Everything he’s said is true – she seems very sweet.  Plus… she likes cracking on Gabe every once in a while, so that makes her good people in my book.

After that I headed back to the hotel, slept a couple hours and got up to head back over to the airport to catch an 8am flight to Minneapolis.  I slept through the entire flight… At least I think it was sleep, but it could have been that I passed out from the armpit odor of the guy sitting in front of me.

It was great to see my family, although I don’t think I was that much fun for the rest of the day.  I played with the kids at the park for a little while, but crashed on the couch after dinner, as I was a bit jet-lagged and I seem to have picked up a bug – most likely from the rats on the subway.

I’ll be posting a full trip re-cap some things I’ve learned over the course of the next couple weeks.  As this was my first overseas trip, I’ve learned quite a bit.

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Final post for the trip…Gabe

Posted by glovin33 on April 20, 2008

We flew across the atlantic and made it to NYC.  Last night my brother and I got to hang in NYC a bit.  I got to show him my city a little bit.  But more important, he got to meet Malika.  Andy and I met her in Time Square and had a bite to eat.  It was nice, and i think he approves.  I got to show him the soup man’s store (from seinfeld), the nyc library (from ghostbusters), the empire state building (james and the giant peach).  It was good for only having 2 hours or so.  We got ribs.  Mmmm….ribs….  it was a good way to end the trip, got to see Jeruselm (oldest), Rome (middle) and NYC (the baby).   

All’s said and done….

What a great trip!  It started with my brother and I at JFK alone, and ended with my brother and I at JFK alone.  Couldn’t be more fitting. I learned and grew, made some important decisions in my life and I couldn’t be happier…

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Andrew’s Day 11

Posted by madtrippin on April 18, 2008

This is it… the final day of fun. Tomorrow we check out of our hotel here in Rome and fly to New York. I’ll be spending the night in the city and then flying to Minneapolis in the morning. It will be great to see my family.

Today was a free day. We all took a couple of vans out to Frascatti (built around crazy giant villa) – a little town outside of Rome in wine country. We had lunch there and wandered the streets a little. We ran across a very strange icon of the town that you have to read Gabe’s post. He called it and if you read it, you’ll know why. This symbol is everywhere, not like like some secret.

This is also where we found out that Italians (at least in smaller towns) take lunch time off.  It appears as though they close up about every shop – aside from eateries and bars – close from about 12 until 3 in the afternoon.  They go home or to get food and wine/beer at the local bars.  In one of the towns we walked the streets for about 30 minutes and found everyone in the town crammed into one bar.  We also found out you may not want to ask people which soccer team is their favorite – Roma o Lazio.  Lazio is the region Rome is within, but it seems the fans of the 2 teams HATE each other and people get pretty fired up about it.

We then went to 2 small towns around a volcanic crater lake called Naemi (sp?).  They were exactly as you’d expect an old world Italian town to look like.  To the left is a picture of Gabe leaning over the edge of a bridge they call the suicide bridge.  One of the two towns was where the pope’s summer palace is located.

Tomorrow Gabe and I are talking about running down to the Vatican to see if security found his camera.  Apparently, they won’t tell us over the phone if they’ve found his camera.  We may take a cab out there early in the morning and try to get back before 11am when our shuttle is supposed to take us to the airport for our 2:00pm flight to NY.  Gabe hasn’t decided if he wants to go or not.

Tomorrow night I’ll be staying in New York and catching my flight early Sunday morning.  Gabe and I are going to hang out a bit in the city before I head to the hotel for the night.

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Day 11…gabe…

Posted by glovin33 on April 18, 2008

We had a relaxing day today.  We rented two vans and drove around in the hills and villages around the outskirts of Rome.  It was really nice to see some real life and since there were villages, some things turned out kind of funny.  For instance….

The town of Frascatti. Notice the three breasts.  We saw these pastries all over town. They had ceramics too.  I was laugh so hard I couldn’t stand it. So I asked this girl selling them and here is the story…The town makes wine.  They drink a lot of wine.  So the women have three breasts.  Two for milk, one for wine.  And no, I’m not making this up no matter how bad I wish I did….


We also passed a bridge called the suicide bridge.  It was the tallest bridge in the area and apparently the favorite place of the area to kill yourself, so much so that they netted off the entire bridge.  Here is me taking my turn…





Ok, for the faithful blog readers….i promised a series of phallic pics…however, as you know my camera got stolen.  So I don’t have these pics anymore.  We took one today so you got an idea of how great these pics were….

There are a lot of columns and poles in israel. There were some really great ones at churches and a perfect one on the boat at the sea of Galilee.  This ones not the best but hopefully if will spark your imagination on how funny the prior ones were.  Me looking sad with a broken colunm.  Me with a short really thick colunm.  Me, giant smile, huge colunm.  Oh, and remember that we were in a muslim area….minarets everywhere…hehe.

Lastly…we were at the Papal summer home.  Andy and I wandered off and found this little hidden square….can you read the sign?  The word looks suspiciously like another word that I really appreciate. So I titled this pic, this in that.  It’s funny…so laugh.

That was my last day in Rome…we leave tomorrow and I’ll be home tomorrow night.  I’ll give one more rundown at the end of tomorrow when I’m sitting in my house. Chow Bella.

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Andrew’s Day 10

Posted by madtrippin on April 17, 2008

Today was our first full day in Rome.  We’ve found the food here in the Rome hotel to be considerably better than the ones in Israel.  It’s just croissants, meats, cheeses, fruit and strong coffee vs. the weird tomato-based hash and peanut-flavored scrambled eggs in Israel.


We headed off to Vatican City, which took about 30 minutes.  Traffic in Rome is insane.  There are just as many scooters as cars and there appear to be no rules for them in regards to lanes, speed or general safety.  There are scooters parked just about everywhere – even today when there was an 80% chance of rain.


The Vatican museum was awesome from an artistic standpoint, but it started off poorly.  Gabe got his camera stolen at the security check-point.  That’s right… AT the security check-point.  You can read his account of the whole ordeal in his day 10 entry – I haven’t read his post yet, but I’m guessing there may be some cursing.   He didn’t care as much about the camera, as the hundreds of pictures he lost.  Needless to say, I offloaded all my pictures to the computer as soon as we got back to the hotel.  Here’s a shot of Gabe with one of his Italian friends and a shot of the ceiling of one of the galleries.


Here’s a pic of the streets just outside of Vatican City:

I got busted at the Sistine chapel taking pictures.  For those of you who don’t know this, there are no pics allowed in the chapel because a company owns the rights to the images.  I knew this, but saw tons of people taking pictures, including some from my group.  I snapped a few shots discretely from waste level that were all really blurry, so I took one from above my head like everyone else.  Apparently, the picture police saw me, tapped me on the shoulder and made me erase the shots while he watched me erase them… seriously. 


After the Sistine chapel you snake over to St. Peter’s Basilica.  That place is gigantic and filled with different colored marble surfaces, statues, gold, mosaics and several dead popes in glass coffins, whose bodies appear to have been miraculously preserved.  I’m not Catholic and I’m not into the icon worship, but the artwork was amazing.  There was a mosaic reproduction of Rafael’s Resurrection of Christ.  You’d never know it wasn’t a painting unless got right up on it.

Final location of the day was the Catacombs of San Callisto – Very cool, but no pics, as it wasn’t allowed and I didn’t want to get in trouble again.  This is the largest of the 60 known locations in Italy – 20 kilometers of tunnels.


Because of the goof up with the itinerary, we now have a full free day in Rome, so I guess we’re going to some area that has shopping and wine tasting.  Gabe and I are also talking about doing a night walk through the heart of Rome we saw in a book by Rick Steves (thanks for the book Megan).  No one else in the groups seems to be as keen on it as us.  I think they’re just afraid of public transit.

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day 10 gabe…

Posted by glovin33 on April 17, 2008

OK.  so i hate people.  people suck…..And italians don’t want me to take pictures.  So today we did the Vatican thing.  As we are going into the Vatican we have to pass metal detectors.  It’s announced that all cameras have to go through.  I stepped behind a man, set my camera on the scanner and walked through.  His wife snuck in with me and the it beeped. I was pulled aside and sent back through.  Didn’t beep and was sent on my way.  I went to get my camera and it was gone.  The couple stole it.  There is the possibility that it was an accident, but no one turned it in, even at the end of the day.  So they stole my camera.  Older people.  Who would have guessed?  So I losted every picture i took in israel and on this trip.  It sucks! I’m pissed!

Anyway, on to the day….The vatican was cool but I think you could have spent a week in there and not seen half of it and we just ran through.  I didn’t really get to spend the time I would have liked in there as it is just a giant museum.  There were these purple marble sarcafigus’ that were undescribable. Also some new modern paintings that were very impresive.  Wish i had more time. We got to see the Sistine Chapel. It wasn’t at all like I thought.  It’s like 1,000 paintings in one.  I can’t imagine how that was accomplished by one person.  St. Peter’s Basilica was the biggest spectical ever.  It was HUGE.  I tried to imagine the amount of money that it would take to build it, and my brain couldn’t handle it and you know how smart I am.  This was crazy.  Gold, marble, and even dead popes.  Insane.  That money could have done so much good in the world.  Don’t get me wrong, it was one of the most beautiful things i’ve seen.  It just seemed like way too much.  St. Peter’s square was exactly the way I imagined it.  I’ve seen it on tv, so not too hard to imagine.

One of the neatest things we did today was the catacombs.  The early christians dug out of valconic dirt that hardens after air touches it.  It goes 10 stories down into the earth and covers an area of 20 kilometers.  There are over 500,000 bodies buried in the one we went to.  It was cool and so humid that moisture built up on any smooth surface.  If you’ve ever played diablo…it was cool.

I wish we had free time.  I would like to do this city on my own.  Israel was great as a group, but the big city is where I thrive, and I’ve love my chance to just be me.  Go find a good bar or restraunt.  And I miss sandwiches.  We keep seeing places that sell them and they look so good.  But we are with a group and the food is together, so i don’t get to eat at the delis.  Italian meat and cheese.  Italian bread.  Mmmm……I WANT A SANDWICH!!!  I also want my camera back…

OK…we’ll talk tomorrow.  Rome is cool. 

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Andrew’s Day 9

Posted by madtrippin on April 16, 2008

Today we checked out of the hotel in Jerusalem at 2 am and flew over to Rome.  Based on news coming out of Gaza, we left at a good time.  Somehow, 3 of our group of 12 had been scheduled for 6pm flights, rather than 6am.  It got fixed and we were on our way.

When we arrived in Italy, our guide picked us up at the air port at drove us into Rome.  We were supposed to have the afternoon off, but wound up seeing a bunch of the big sites.  We first saw the colleseum.  I took tons of pics, but will only post a few here.

We saw a few of the old ruins that dated all the way back to 100+ AD.  There were several Arches of triumph and temples.  It was all really interesting.  In fact, several of the sites had been repurposed by churches, thus preserving them. 

We also saw several of the locations made famous by Mussolini.  One of those was the location that you see him making several speeches from the 2nd story balcony (center) on archival footage, including a speech announcing Italy’s entrance into WWII.  Every one of them show a massive crowd cheering him on. 

We finished the day with a trip to the famous Trevi Fountain.  That place was crazy and, apparently, one of the best places to get pick-pocketed.  When you’re there, it’s not too hard to imagine how easy it would be for thieves to do their business.  I tossed a pic of our parents at the fountain.  What do you think… Adam?

Looks like we’ll be hitting the Vatican tomorrow.

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day 9 gabe…

Posted by glovin33 on April 16, 2008

Hey everyone….We left Israel at about 2 am.  The travel company messed up the tickets and after some pain in the butt, we were on our way and made it to Rome.  We got to see a bunch of fun stuff, however my camera batteries died, so Andy got all the pics today.  The coliseum  was really amazing to see live.  The shear masiveness of the complex and pure advanced technologies used are really mind boggling.  It’s so much fun to be here and get to use my imagination to rebuild all the is around me.  I also really liked the Tivoli fountain. Rumor has it that if you throw 2 coins into the fountain over your left sholder with you right hand, you’ll get married soon.  Hmmm….superstitious?  We’ll see….I had some really good gelato too.  Tirimsu and Peach.  I know they don’t go together, but I was feeling saucy and they were tasting good. The food in Italy has already been better. Malika would love it.  Italian bread.  That’s all I have to say.  Andy’s actually sleeping and I have to wake him, but this will be a short one, cause we’re tired.  But, it’s great. 

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Andrew’s Day 8

Posted by madtrippin on April 15, 2008

We got something of a late start today – 9:00am.  We’ve been leaving the hotel at 8:30.  We headed over the Garden Tomb today.  This is also a possible location of Jesus’ tomb – the other being at the Russian Orthodox church both Gabe and I complained about a few days ago.


Historical records and the bible both seem to point to the Garden Tomb as a more likely location.  It’s actually an interesting site.  It’s owned and operated by a non-denominational, non-profit group.  It’s a one-acre site just outside the old city walls and is brilliantly landscaped.


We then headed to another church that was just above the garden of Gethsemane – the name escapes me at the moment.  This is where Jesus is said to have been tried by the Jews before going before Pontius Pilot.  The mosaics were crazy.  I would have posted some photos, but I had already packed my camera cord for the trip we’ll be taking to Rome in the morning (we leave at 2:00 am for the airport in Tel Aviv).  Gabe has some good shots on his last post (read at your own risk).


Then we headed back to the hotel with a half-day free.  We all took a short rest and then we (Gabe and our parents) went out to the old city to walk the crazy labyrinth and do some last minute shopping.  We’ve really got this haggling thing down to a science.  The key is to be prepared to walk away, even if you really want the item.


I wanted one item and the vendor started out at $40, which was a joke.  I just started walking.  He then went down to $20 (“because business was slow today” he said).  I turned and told him it wasn’t even close and started walking again.  He then went down to $15 and just before I got out of earshot, he went down to $10.  Man I’m good.  I learned from the best – my mom.


Here are some shots of my kids I downloaded from the camera before the trip, just to have some images in my post.  The first is of Emma (She’s 8 years old) and the second is Noah (5)

 with our neighbor’s dog Lenny.







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Day 8 for Gabe…

Posted by glovin33 on April 15, 2008

It was definitely a good day.  We started with the garden tomb, which is the logical place of Jesus’ tomb.  The bible tells us that Jesus was crucified at Golgatha or the skull.  Look here at this pic…looks like a skull yes?


 Then you can track a bunch of stuff in the bible and point to a wealthy mans tomb in a garden.  Check out this pic…..this was Jesus’ tomb. 


The garden was beautiful and I got a lot of wonderful pics and can wait to share more with you when I get home.   But for now, that’s it of the garden.  We had a service in the garden and then went to the place Jesus was arrested, tortured and tried.  Here is a pic of the stairs they brought Jesus up after being arrested. 


The church that sits on this site was one of the most beautiful we’ve seen.  The entire interior was covered with mosaic tiles depicting everything from the last supper to Jesus being tortured.  To find it we had to follow all these pics of cocks and there was a giant cock weather vain on the top of the cross.  I have no need to tell you how hard I laughed, so I got pics to share with you….I present…the cock top church.


Last pic, we were in the jewish quarter today and the cross walk sign was funny.  Look closely at his hat….hehe.  I almost fell over.  If you don’t get why it’s funny, you need to come visit me in New York. 


My time in Israel is done.  It will take me some time to truly process it all, but it’s been significant.  Tonight, we go to Rome…

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