Italy: Day 5 Venice

Today we let ourselves sleep in a bit. We have been squeezing a lot of vacation into this week! Once we checked out of the hotel, we made our way to the train station and boarded our train to Venice. Another two hour ride and Chiara loved this one. She made friends with the Japanese teenager sitting across from her. They played with his go-pro, making short videos and immediately watching them.

Chiara and her new friend

Once we arrived in Venice, we made our way to the hotel. Well, we tried. Google maps struggles to find you in this city. The narrow alleys, the canals, and frustration briefly took over. Especially with the heat, everyone was getting hungry, so it was a bad hour and a half! We found a restaurant to have some lunch, and that helped immensely. Especially as there was a guy playing accordion. After lunch it took another hour to get to our hotel, but we were all in a much better mood!

We let ourselves take a short break, with some of us napping in the air conditioning. Then it was off to wander the city. It was really nice not to have any specific plans. We wandered the shops, picking out some souvenirs. Chiara found a shirt, very bohemian, that she wanted for the first day of school. Arthur got himself a gondola in a bottle. Mom was very excited about some of the beads she found for her Pandora bracelet.

Daily dose of gelato

Arthur had a bad moment in one of the shops that upset him a lot. He accidentally dropped a plastic rubik’s cube with scenes of Venice on the sides. Two of the pieces popped off and the shop keeper absolutely flipped out. It was only $25, so we bought the thing, at her insistence. Tony was able to pop the pieces back on as soon as they left the shop. Now we just say that Arthur accidentally picked out a souvenir.

Spidermen at the Rialto bridge

Since we had only seen the trailers of the new Spiderman: Far From Home, the kids were really excited about seeing the Rialto bridge. So of course, Josh and Arthur wore their Spiderman shirts, they brought them just for this photo op!

Gorgeous views

We ate a late dinner at a restaurant just down the alley from our hotel. We were all still adjusting to the slow pace of Italian meals, but the food, as always, was delicious.

We went back to the hotel for the night, I needed to be up at a decent hour the next day. It was no hardship to spend a relaxing evening there, as our room was essentially a small apartment. Aside from the frustration of finding the hotel, it was an excellentfirst day in Venice!

Italy: Day 4 Pisa

We let ourselves sleep in a bit this morning. Around 8am we were up, showered, and made our way down to have breakfast. I had my first Italian cappuccino, which was amazing. I ended up having two of them before we left for the train station.

We were on our own schedule today. Nothing pre-booked, just plans to go to Pisa. Mom and Josh went to the post office to mail home some souveirs, while the rest of us wandered the shops near the train station. We met up at the station and managed the ticket machine, then found our way onto the train around 10. Bit of a bummer for this hour ride, as we were standing or sitting on the stairs until just before we got there.

We ate a lunch at McDonald’s when we arrived, then made the 20 minute walk to the tower. Seeing it for the first time, I felt a bit like a kid. Here is something I’ve always seen in pictures, seen the goofy tourist photos, and have always wanted to see for myself! We bought our tickets to climb the tower, and had a few hours before our time slot.

Josh had a picture idea using his gelato

Somehow we got separated from Tony and Josh, so I left mom and the kids sitting in the shade while I looked around the grounds for them. This was the only awkward part of vacation, only mom and I had set our phones up for international. Josh did after this, but I did find them near the cathedral. We got mom and the kids, then took a tour through the cathedral. I didn’t see one ugly church in Italy. Some overly decorated ones yes, but nothing ugly! We found another angle to take some more pictures too!

Tony’s idea for a picture was my favorite

Our turn to climb the tower came, so we stored all our stuff in lockers, no extras can go with you, and we started climbing. This was a head trip! Walking up didn’t always feel like up. When going in to the lean, it actually felt like going down, and out of the lean was like the steepest stairs of your life!

Mom and Chiara at the top

Chiara was hilarious. Once we got to the top, a bit ahead of mom, Chiara was waiting for Nana to get there. An older Chinese lady came around the last turn, and Chiara put both hands in the air and said loudly, “Welcome to the top!” The lady started smiling and laughing, asking while pointing at Chiara, “I take picture?” So Chiara is in someone else’s vacation pictures, and I’m sure she’s referenced as “the sweet, funny American girl”

Down the stairs was another experience. Downstairs should always be fairly easy, yes? No! While walking out of the lean, downstairs felt like you were falling backwards and going up. Tony was last coming down, mainly because we were both staying with Chiara. She had hands on both walls and was taking her time. A fun experience for all of us!

Souvenir shopping of course, and Tony was very happy with his leaning shot glass. Chiara found herself a hat she loves, it has leaning towers all over it. We slowly made our way back to the train station, bought tickets, and luckily had seats for the return trip. Our legs were done after the stairs!

We found a restaurant in Florence, on our way back to the hotel. Probably the priciest place we ate the whole trip. Very good, and I was proud that I was able to order my meal speaking Italian. Mom on the other hand told the waiter “merci” when he brought her food. They did have my favorite wine the whole trip though!

Back to the hotel, where we packed as much as we could. We wanted to sleep in as long as possible before our train to Venice the next day.

Italy: Day 3 Florence

Up fairly early on our third day in Italy. Packed our bags and went to the station to catch our train to Florence. It was a two hour ride, and we all enjoyed ourselves playing Phase 10, reading, and playing our game systems.

On our walk to the hotel, we were stymied by a political protest going on near the Duomo. The only street to our hotel was blocked by the crowds, so we sat down and enjoyed a drink with a view. We packed light, but a backpack and carryon per person makes all walks feel a little longer. When our way cleared, it was still too early for check in, but the hotel allowed us to store our bags until later.

Once we were back out on the streets, Josh wanted to go climb the bell tower. Our group split up; Josh, Arthur, and I to the bell tower, and mom, Tony, and Chiara went to Hard Rock Cafe Florence.

Proof that I’m always right

Josh insisted on the bell tower, claiming it was taller. I tried telling him the Duomo was taller, but he wouldn’t listen. It worked out for us anyway, as there were no more tickets available to climb the Duomo. 49 less steps, and an amazing view from the top, so I call it a win!

View from the top of the bell tower

The three of us made good time to the top, enjoyed the view and the breezes for about 15 minutes, before making ou way down. Narrow staircases, and people traveling up and down, means you get very close to other people!

Back on the ground

After the tower, we made our way to HRC to meet up with the others. We got some more drinks, climbing towers is thirsty work, then made our way to Ponte Vecchio. It’s a city street that is entirely built on a bridge.

Ponte Vecchio

We got our daily dose of gelato on our stroll too. We basically stumbled on the Uffizi, but mom and I were the only ones interested in more museums. Tony and Josh made their way back to the hotel with the kids, while mom and I conquered even more stairs in the Uffizi.

Niobe trying to protect her youngest daughter

This was my favorite piece in the museum, although about halfway through, I began wondering where the David was. You would think, with all the research I did for this trip, I would’ve known the David is at the Accademia. Nope! We saw many amazing pieces, but neither of us were up for the walk to another museum, or another walk through. Mom bought me a puzzle piece magnet of David, so there is that.

After getting the kids and the guys, we enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner by the Duomo and some souvenir shopping. You can’t go to Florence and not get something leather. I ended up with a small leather bag in red, and I also picked up an Italian copy of Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare. Tony and I broke away to try and get a nearby geocache. All of the others we had logged were virtual, and I wanted to sign at least on physical log. Success was ours!

Returned to the hotel, the kids were so excited because mom had taken them on the carousel on their way back. Arthur and Tony fell almost right to sleep. Chiara and I had some energy still to burn, so we went for a late night walk around the Duomo. I’m glad we did because it is beautiful at night! It reflects all of the light from surrounding buildings and looks like its glowing.

The Duomo at night

We spent some time watching a young man play on a recorder. Talent doesn’t care what instrument you are playing, it will make itself known! Its aways amazing to see what someone can do with simple instruments.

Once we got back to the hotel, we both fell asleep easily. Good thing too, since we had plans for the next day.

Bumblebee

I had a date night with this handsome kid last night, and we went and saw Bumblebee. He’s been a huge Transformers fan since he was three years old, but somehow this one is the first we’ve seen in theaters! After a yummy meal at Subway, his favorite place to eat, it was off to the theater.

The movie opens on Cybertron, in the middle of the war. Arthur especially loved watching that battle rage, seeing the fall of Cybertron happen instead of the brief flashbacks we’ve seen in past movies. Bumblebee is sent to Earth by Optimus, as a sort of scout, to pave the way for the rest of the Autobots.

His arrival on Earth is not a peaceful one, but we do see how he loses his voice and it was a sad scene for me. He is my favorite Transformer after all. Things get better when Charlie comes along, and there are some very funny moments, with only a little heartbreak thrown in.

I won’t spoil the movie, but I did tear up a few times. Apparently I’m a soft touch and a bit of a sap with books and movies, but I am standing by my emotional rating!

There was a scene during the credits that makes me question if they will be doing at least one more of these prequel movies. Otherwise the timeline will be a little skewed and that will bother me forever!

Have you seen the movie? What did you think of it?

Wreck it Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Finally got out to see the new Wreck It Ralph last night and it was amazing! I laughed through most of it and gasped at a lot of scenes, but I’ve been told I’m too easily entertained at movies. On the other hand, my husband and brother, along with my kids, all loved the movie too!

It’s been six years since the events of the first movie, Ralph and Vanellope are still friends, playing their games all day and hanging out all night. Ralph thinks this is the greatest life possible, but Vanellope is getting bored. All the races are predictable, all the tracks have been unlocked, nothing new ever happens. Ralph tries to help, but the Sugar Rush game console ends up broken.

The two go to the internet to find the piece they need on Ebay. The bidding war is hilarious, ending with the two shocked to find they need actual money. Luckily some of the spammers gave them the idea to play games to win money. This leads them to Slaughter Race, with the amazing Shank, voiced by Gal Gadot.

Vanellope falls in love with Slaughter Race, the excitement, the newness of every race. Ralph becomes a BuzzTube darling, earning money by making an idiot of himself in videos. You know, true American fashion!

The bit with the Disney Princesses was entertaining. I liked seeing the Princesses fall in love with casual clothes. Every woman can relate to that scene!

Ralph earns the money for the part, but freaks out when he realizes Vanellope doesn’t want to return to the arcade.

The weird thing about this movie, something happening more and more in kid films, is that there is no definable bad guy. There are shady characters, bad elements, but the line of “good” and “bad” is getting blurred. That sends an important message to kids because “bad” people, aren’t always bad. We all are capable of making bad calls and doing the wrong thing.

The side story about what’s going on with Felix and Calhoun is hilarious, especially to parents. Tony and I were cracking up all through that bit!

There are post credit scenes that are worth staying for. Tony had just mentioned that the scene with the kitty and bunny wasn’t in the movie, and not two seconds later, it showed up in the credits. Watching it in the theater I’ve decided that it was baby Moana playing that game, and I loved it all the more for that fact.

Family recommendation: go see it, laugh your butt off, be scared and relieved, take the amazing advice from a character named Shank. The advice given was that you can still be friends without being in each others pockets all the time. As an army brat, constantly moving, I thought it was great to have that in a kids movie!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald

I loved this movie! I know there have been some sketchy reviews, and I think I know why, but this movie was brilliant.

The panel of judges in my group include:

•Myself, an avid reader and lover of all things HP, Gryffindor through and through

•My husband, has seen all the movies and is happy to discuss, devious Slytherin

•My brother, also has read the books and seen the movies, proud Gryffindor

•My son, 11, who loves the Fantastic Beast world more than the original movies, a sweet Hufflepuff

•My daughter, 8, likes the movies ok, and is a proud Slytherin

Spoiler Free: The movie begins with Grindlewald breaking free during transport to London. We see Thestrals, a Chupacabra, and a light show of wand attacks.

We learn very early in the movie that Creedence survived his assault in New York, and the Ministry wants Newt to help track and capture him. Newt’s brother shows up, and I can’t help but question how he’s related to the oh-so-sweet Newt!

Jacob and Queenie show up in London, Jacob acting strangely, even for him. The reason why is a bit odd, and extreme, but it plays in to a choice made at the end of the movie.

********* SPOILERS*********

Queenie had an enchantment on Jacob so he would marry her. Why would he need an enchantment when he’s so gone over her? He won’t marry her because she could be locked up for marrying a No-Mag and he won’t let that happen.

When Queenie leaves abruptly, they follow her to France, to Tina. Grindlewald is also in France, seeking Creedence. There are several other players involved, so pay close attention!

*********END SPOILERS*********

I felt Jude Law did a brilliant job playing a young Albus Dumbledoor. The right mix of silly, and insightful, you can completely believe he grows in to a batty but powerful wizard. The LGBT community should be happy too, as there is a scene that makes his sexuality more apparent. Don’t worry though, completely family friendly, and probably to subtle for kids to get. Mine didn’t.

Dumbledore family history is brought up, alongside the Lestrange family tree. I feel there will be many more answers in the last movie, as I still have questions.

Phoenixes, nifflers, kelpies, zouwu, and many more, there are also enough creatures in this movie to make everyone happy. The only thing I’m upset about now is that the chupacabra got a Pop! figure and the zouwu didn’t! Its adorable and I want one!

I hope you love this movie as much as I did. I love Eddie Redmayns in his roll as Newt Scamander and am looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy!

Bohemian Rhapsody

I went in to this movie knowing nothing about Queen, other than the most popular songs. I couldn’t have even told you the name Freddy Mercury!

My husband is a big fan of classic music, I love Rami Malek, so it was a perfect date night choice. It felt even more perfect as we watched the movie!

The movie starts with how Freddy met his band mates, met the “love of his life”. It bounces quickly to their success and how Freddy Mercury is apparently out of his mind, but you love every minute of it.

As with any of these movies, you know the bad has to come, and it does. I learned things about Freddy and the band that I had no idea about. Even my husband, who knows a lot of music trivia was surprised by some of it. The movie pulls through! For those of you that know what happened to Freddy, you still leave the theater feeling happy and mostly optimistic.

I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone that has ever happily stomped along with “we will, we will, rock you” or screamed the lyrics to “we are the champions”. You will absolutely enjoy it!