For our last full day in Italy, we had decided to take it easy. Our friends were able to join us for the whole day, because it was the weekend. They showed us around the city.
First, we went to get pizza for lunch. Dash had a diaper explosion, so we came back home to take care of that. Then off we went to explore the city.
We visited several different ruins. I cannot remember the names. But there are ruins everywhere in that part of Rome, even unnamed ones.
The line to get in the Pantheon was around a block. We did not go inside.
After a fun day walking around the city, we came back home and our friends threw a dinner party and had invited their friends. I had so much fun getting to know their friends. What an awesome, fun, and exciting way to live to be an expat in a great city. I hope that one day, Care Bear and I get to be an expat, even for a short period of time, in a great city somewhere outside the U.S.
The next day, our flight was at the crack of dawn. The flight was smooth.
That’s a wrap for Italy posts! Dash’s first international trip and second time on a flight (the first one was to Miami in the winter when he was two months old). Thank goodness for maternity leave. Dash’s next trip involving flights will be to Colorado at the end of the summer!
This is my first post in about three months. I was able to write and post every few days during my maternity leave, and even after I went back to work when my husband went on his paternity leave. But when we both started working, after his paternity leave was over, it got pretty difficult to juggle work, caring for the baby, and indulging in hobbies. I found that I had little time to work on my website. I finally found time today while Dash naps to work on my website again.
On our fifth day in Italy, which was a Friday, we walked to a few tourist sites in Rome, then took a cab to the Vatican City. We had purchased tickets to the Vatican City a few days earlier.
First, we went back to the Trevi Fountain, after seeing it lit up the night before. As expected, there was a large crowd already, even though it was early in the morning.
I showed Care Bear how to do the custom Trevi coin throw. Because there was no space right in front of the fountain, he threw from the side walk, a few feet above the fountain. And he made it!
Then we walked to the Spanish Steps and took a few snaps.
Because we had reserved tickets, we skipped the very long line to get into the Vatican City. It only took about 5 min for us to get inside, instead of what would’ve been 2+ hours without those reserved tickets.
Once inside, we did the free walking tour of the Vatican Museum, which ends in the highlight of the Sistine Chapel. Care Bear and the parents-in-law rented the audio tour players. I remember doing this same tour when I was a teenager. It was so fun to reminisce and enjoy the art work all over again.
Once we finished the Vatican Museum walking tour, we ate some pizza and salad at the Vatican Museum Cafe. Then we exited the Vatican Museum and walked around the big wall to get to St. Peter’s Basilica. The line was about 15-20 minutes to get into the Basilica. They did not allow strollers inside, so we checked it in.
Breast feeding Dash in famous tourist sites all around Italy continued. On this day, I fed him inside the Vatican Museum, outside the Vatican Museum in the gardens, and in St. Peter’s Square.
After that, we hopped on a cab to get back to our friends’ place and rested a bit. Then hopped back on a cab to go to a restaurant called Pecorino, where we met my friend from middle/high school. It was so good to see her, her husband, and her precious son. Hope to see her again!
On our fourth day in Italy, we wanted a slow, relaxing day. We wanted to take a day trip outside of Rome. Our friends Adam and Stacey recommended that we check out Sperlonga.
I actually had in mind that we would go to the famous town of Positano while we are in Italy. Positano is where colorful houses sit atop a coastal hill and is a hot (insta) “gram” spot. But it was a 3+ hour drive from Rome, at best, so it was not meant to be. Sperlonga it is! We drove.
Sperlonga is a relatively unknown beach town, an hour drive south of Rome. It looks like Positano, except that the hilltop houses are white instead of colorful and it is a smaller town. It is apparently one of the best kept secrets of Italy.
We had heard that food outside of Rome could be even more amazing than inside Rome. And that was right! We went to a Michelin star restaurant called Gli Archi and we had such good food. And not that expensive. We had two types of pasta, a plate of grilled vegetables, a whole fish with white wine sauce, and wine. The waiter rolled out a cart with a plate of real, whole fresh fish before he took our order. I think we chose dorado, which served 2-3 portions. The waiter was wearing a tux and had great service, making jokes with us. Amazing food at a coastal Italian town, CHECK.
After leisurely lunch, we took a leisurely stroll around town and had some gelato. We had strawberry, pistachio, and coffee flavors. Breezy, slow-paced, charming Italian coastal town with whitewashed houses atop a hill overlooking blue sea, white curvy stair cases, white walkways, CHECK CHECK CHECK.
We drove about 10 minutes to go see a famous cave, or grotto, at Villa of Tiberius. It is an ancient ruin of a fishing settlement. It was part of a museum. The museum was hard to find. There was no sign to speak of. We went into three different streets or parking areas before we decided we found it. We had to ask the person at the museum to learn that it was in fact the museum, because there was no clear English sign. It was a nice walk around the cave and the grounds.
We drove back to Rome before dinner time and had dinner with Adam and Stacey at Le Tavernelle, near their apartment. It was a home-style trattoria. We had cacio e pepe, which was a dish Care Bear and I were obsessed over in Italy and had ordered several times in Italy at different restaurants. It literally means “cheese and pepper” and it’s a simple white spaghetti dish with just black pepper and peccorino cheese. I don’t like cheese and I don’t like black pepper, but I like this dish. We even had it after we came back from Italy to the bay area, at an Italian restaurant in SF.
We also had a dish of cooked greens I never had before, salmon ravioli, pesto pasta, grilled shrimp, baked artichokes, and others. I ate my heart out. I ate like there was no tomorrow. I was so happy to be in Italy. I took pieces of bread and soaked up the sauce from the bottom of the dishes. I did not want to leave any bit of Italian goodness behind.
After dinner, we went to the Trevi fountain, just the most famous tourist spot in Rome. I was so happy to be back here, 20 years after I was here the first time. My life had changed since that time. I became an adult, I got married, I had a baby, and I was a full-blown lawyer. I am thankful for my parents who showed me the world and took me around famous places in Europe while I was still only a teenager. And I am thankful that I was able to be back here as a happier person. I found happiness in those 20 years, hooray!
Trevi fountain was built around the same time the American White House was built, in the late 1700s. It gets its water from, or at least it used to, an aqueduct nearby. And, as far as I can tell, it is famous because it was in the movies a lot. It was nice to visit it during night because there was less people and the lights were pretty.
A note about Dash’s stroller: Dash’s car seat stroller and car seat had not made it to Rome when we arrived in Rome from California. I think they got lost in the Heathrow airport, where we had a layover, because the Heathrow airport has a weird rule that does not allow gate-checking. (Our stroller and car seat were gate-checked in California.) Thankfully, out of luck, British Airways somehow found them, when they had initially said they were lost, and the stroller and the car seat arrived to our friends’ place on our third day.
But it turns out we did not, or could not, really use the stroller much in Rome or Venice because of the hills and the cobblestones. We got good use out of the hipseat baby carrier every day instead.
The only times we used the stroller was to walk to the Trevi fountain from our friends’ place, which was a 10 minute walk, to go to lunch in Sperlonga, and on our fifth day, when we spent the whole day in Vatican City. Thank you Care Bear for carrying Dash around in the baby carrier for so long almost every day. ❤
Our second and last day in Venice was one of my favorite days during our Italy trip because we did a lot of sight seeing, it was a gloriously sunny day, we bought great souvenirs, we had good local food, and Venice is simply beautiful with its canals, colorful and quaint buildings, and narrow, bustling streets filled with life. I got to have so many pictures taken of me and our family in the fantastical backdrop. What more can a girl ask for?!
We were there on off-season, so we thankfully did not experience the mad crowd that Venice is internationally famous for. There are no cars in Venice, so that makes walking around so much fun, like in Disney World (sorry Venice for the awfully frightening analogy, but accept it).
Another reason it was my favorite day is that I got to buy Dash some clothes for the first time ever, the moment I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little girl. More than you want to know about that below . . . .
We had amazing breakfast at our hotel Friendly Venice Suites. It was a big European-style spread with croissants and other pastries, cured meat, cheese, olives, tomatoes, nuts, dried fruits, cereal, waffles, juices, and hot food items. I had scrambled eggs, sausages, a waffle, cereal, and tasted almost everything in the spread, including blood orange juice and orange juice. I loaded up. = D I also had two cups of cappuccino, to continue my one-cappuccino-a-day in the mornings in Italy.
Then we made our way slowly towards St. Mark’s Plaza, which was about a 10 minute direct walk from our hotel. We went passed a designer shopping street and many, many canals.
A Long Anecdote About Poo and French Baby Clothes (*Warning: TMI*)
Dash had his first “poop explosion”, “diaper blowout”, “poopy accident”–whatever you want to call it–in no other place than Venice. I did not know what that phrase meant and was wondering whether if we were going to experience it. And we did. Multiple times in a row, for the last four days in Italy.
I instantly knew what that phrase meant when I (finally) experienced it. It means there is so much poo in the diaper that the content erupts out of the confines of the diaper onto the back, belly, and thighs and through multiple layers of clothing.
Dash’s jet lag in Italy threw off his biological rhythm. He had not pooped for over 30 hours. That got us increasingly worried. And rightfully so, because when he finally went, it was as if he pooped three or four times worth all at once in one go, and his diaper could not contain it all, or anywhere close to all.
The poo party happened on a bench by Grand Canal, near St Mark’s ferry terminal. Care Bear frantically wiped him down with whatever cloth was available to us, carefully removed his soiled layers of clothes, and wrapped him in a blanket. We had run out of his spare clothes. I ran out of spare plastic bags to put soiled things in, so . . . I did what I could–use my purse as a bin. : ( After having Dash, my precious purse often turns into a receptacle for wet bibs/clothes/burp clothes and dirty diapers.
We found ourselves suddenly on an urgent mission to find baby clothing for Dash. In the middle of touristy Venice. Google Map was not showing any still-open baby clothing store. So I parted from our group and ran down the aisles of Venice on a mad dash to find clothes for our baby. I found a short sleeve onesie from Hard Rock Cafe, but I wanted something better.
As luck would have it, after about 20 minutes on the sweaty mission, I found a high-end Parisian children clothing store called Jacadi Paris. And there I found the cutest (and warm) pair of navy “slacks”, a navy cardigan-blazer, and a pair of navy, white “business stripes” socks.
The price tag hurt me inside a little, but I was happy to dress Dash like a miniature adult, which is how I always envisioned dressing my kids in. Dash looked like a Goldman Sachs associate, or like that baby from Baby Boss, the movie with Alec Baldwin. He looked so cute. I was ecstatic that my first clothing gift to Dash was in Italy, from a French luxury brand, in a style that I wanted. I was glad to have saved up this “first” until now. I will cherish these clothes and the memories from them forever.
— END OF ESSAY ABOUT POO —
After the diaper incident, we were back on our sight-seeing schedule and we made our way to St. Mark’s Plaza.
We got in line at the St. Mark’s Tower, which was about 20 minutes long. I fed Leo, first sitting down, then standing and moving with the line until when it was our turn to get on the elevator. We enjoyed great views at the top.
Next we went to see the inside of St. Mark’s Cathedral.
It was built in the 800s. It was built to house the corpse of St. Mark, which the Venetians had smuggled out of Egypt, hiding it in a pork fat barrel to evade Muslim inspection.
I had seen that corpse inside the Cathedral when I was a teenager. It was exciting and fulfilling for me to be back in Italy, re-tracing my steps, learning things I had not known before or forgotten, and viewing things with a more mature, knowledgeable perspective.
This time around, our group had gotten in line to see the corpse, and it was only a few minute line, but I was not interested in seeing it again and so the whole group decided not to see it.
On to our next destination, Rialto Bridge.
For pre-lunch snack, we went to get some cichetti, which are small snacks. We went to a small, local bar called Bar All’Arco. We had toast topped with various kinds of seasoned fish and vegetables. The wine was about $2 a glass. We also had Spritz Veneziano, which is a cocktail made with soda water, prosecco, and Aperol, a mandarin orange flavored Italian spritz.
We went to see the bridge. For late lunch, we ate on the street some delicious thin-crusted pizza. Then we went back to our hotel to gather our luggage, got on the ferry for a 25-min ride back to the train station.
There was a Guggenheim art museum I wanted to see but we did not have time. I think I want to do a art-only Europe trip at one point in my life, where I can hop from museum to museum, eat at where artists ate or worked at, and indulge and satisfy my desire to do all things art and painting.
We had about 20 minutes to spare before our train time, so we went exploring the streets near the train station and got some last minute shopping done. Look at the amount of stuff I was carrying around in the above picture! The baby, the baby’s baby carrier, my purse which was also the baby’s diaper bag, a backpack, and a blanket. Motherhood adrenaline is POWERFUL.
Our train ride back was peaceful. It was four hours. Dash slept for most of the ride. We were on the last car, car number 9, and the only bathroom with a changing table was in car number 1. So Care Bear, Dash, and I traveled through the whole length of the train there and back in a bumpy ride. So fun having a kid, and I mean it. =D
Once we got back to the Rome train station, we took a cab back to Adam and Stacey’s and ordered take-out ravioli, vegetarian meatballs, and tiramisu. They were amazing. Thank goodness for breastfeeding, which keeps the weight off and allows me to pig out without consequence.
On our first night, Dash woke up a few times at night demanding to be fed. Other than that, he was a good boy.
His jet lag while we were in Italy was not bad. (It was a whole different story post-Italy, back at home . . . .) His sleep and feeding patterns adjusted within a few days in Italy, probably because we were out and about all day every day during the day.
Our friends had a pack-and-play in our room for Dash to sleep in. We tried putting him in it for sleep. But he kept yelling whenever we put him in it. So, of course, Dash got his way and happily slept with us on our bed, between Care Bear and I, the entire week we were in Italy. Dash wins.
On our second day in Italy, we had train tickets to go to Venice for an overnight trip. Before we left for Venice, we squeezed in some sight-seeings, at the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Both were accessible with the same ticket we used to get into the Colosseum, which was good for two days.
First, we had breakfast from La Licata, a local cafe a few blocks from our friends’ place. Care Bear went there every morning to have breakfast with Adam, and every day he brought me back a pastry and a cappuccino. The pastries I had were decadent, like pistachio nutella croissant or chocolate twist.
Then we walked to Palatine Hill, or Palatino, which means palace in Italian. It is a five minute walk from the Colosseum.
The Palatine Hill is one of the oldest parts of Rome. It is considered where the Roman Empire started. It is believed to be where the cave of Romulus and Remus was before they were found by the wolf.
The Palatine Hill was very large and we had limited time, so we had to skip large parts of it. There were so much ruins and very little signs or posts explaining much of anything. I was shocked that there were marbles from floors that survived since around 500 B.C., but because there was so much of the marble that survived, some marbles were not roped off and you could step all over them. The same was true for a lot of the ruins. No signs, no explanation posters, and you could sit on them or walk on them.
The Palatine Hill was connected to the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum is a large plaza surrounded by important civic buildings. It is where public activities took place. Julius Caesar walked on those same stones that we walked on.
We took a cab back to the apartment to pick up our luggage, then went to the Rome train station. We had some spare time at the train station, so we picked up some sandwiches for lunch to eat on the train. We got on the train and enjoyed the view of rural Italy for four hours. The train was clean and modern. Dash slept on sabba’s shoulders for the entire four hours. Jet lag.
Once we arrived in Venice, we took a ferry shuttle to our hotel. It was a 25 minute ride and it was lovely. Dash demanded to be fed when we got on the ferry, so I fed him standing up, on a rocking ferry trying to balance, squeezed among many people. Gotta be efficient with precious time and feed him on the go whenever we have down time.
Our hotel was a short walk from the ferry station. It was a lovely hotel! We had the suite room, with two King size beds and a ginormous bathroom.
We rested in our hotel room for a little bit. Then we left to go sightsee. We walked to the San Marco Square. There were many people in extravagant costumes for Mardi Gras Tuesday.
I was so excited we made it to this beautiful, famous square, a second time around for me, with my husband and my baby! It was an unbelievable, surreal feeling being there, with my new family, reminiscing back to the last time I was there when I was a teenager.
We went into a cafe around the square, but it was so expensive, so we left. It was worth having gone inside though, because we got to see people in extravagant costumes, waiters in tuxedo, and awesome Parisian-style decorations.
Then we walked around the square. We stopped by a bakery to have a puff pastry. We went into shops and bought some souvenirs.
Then we went to get what would become my favorite meal in Italy, dinner at Osteria da Carla. It was a small place–it could seat about 20 people. We had an olive oil tasting, where they gave us three different types of olive oil from different local places, one of which had a spicy taste. We also had a cheese plate, which came with a sweet onion jam, which I never had before. I liked it. It had a spicy kick. Then I had black squid ink pasta, which is one of my favorite dishes in my life, which was served with salty roe. Amazing.
After dinner, we slowly made our way back to the hotel, looking at different sights and stores. We rested a bit in our hotel room. Then we went to check out the nightlife in Venice.
We walked to a University area. And, what do you know, there was an EDM party in the open air going on in a plaza. There was a big crowd at the party and at the bars and restaurants in the streets surrounding the plaza. It was a fun sight to see. The DJ’s name was DJ Peter Pan.
It was such a fun night walking through the beautiful, narrow streets, laced with big and small canals, navigating the foggy labyrinth with loud, fun-seeking Venetian (or back-packing or tourist) party-goers. Day 1 in Venice a success.
Before the end of my 18 week maternity leave, we wanted to do a big trip. We had always planned to visit our good friends Adam and Stacey in Rome, Italy. (Check out their neat website about living in Italy: https://yupstersinrome.wordpress.com/) So we went to Italy for a week! We went with Dash and his grandparents.
We had a smooth experience flying with a baby. It was Dash’s first international trip. It was my second trip to Italy and Care Bear’s first. I was in Italy for about 10 days when I lived in Hungary when I was about 15 years old.
We stayed with Adam and Stacey in their gorgeous, awesome apartment in central Rome.
We flew British Airways, 10 hours from San Francisco to London, then 2.5 hours from London to Rome.
For international flights, airlines have baby bassinets. They pull out like a table from in front of the bulkhead seats. We had reserved beforehand the bulkhead seats and had requested the bassinet. Dash’s flight ticket was 10% of an adult ticket price.
Dash slept in the bassinet for six hours, without waking up, in the ten hour flight. It was a physical relief for both Care Bear and I to have Dash lie down in the bassinet, instead of us holding him in our laps.
I had been bidding my time since I was little when I saw those bassinets in international flights until I get to use them. And I finally did! It was awesome.
On our first day, we went to the Colosseum. The line was about 1.5 hours.
Traveler tip: We were choosing between two ticket lines, one at the Colosseum and one at Palatino, another tourist sight. The same exact ticket from either lets you enter both. The Palatino line is much shorter, so get in line there instead of at the Colosseum.
Inside the Colosseum, there was so much to see, in museum-style display and exhibits. They used to do Hunger Games-style survival-of-the-fittest group death matches inside the stadium, with animals. Oh have we come a long way to more civility. Or have we not?! Widening inequality gap? Worsening pollution of Earth?
In the afternoon, we walked to where Adam and Stacey both work, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN)! They live and work within walking distance to the Colosseum. So cool.
For dinner, we walked to a steakhouse in the Ghetto, where we had delicious Roman fare. It was a lovely stroll at night to and from the restaurant, through Rome’s ubiquitous and beautiful ancient ruins.
We stayed at a three-bedroom Airbnb in Carnelian Bay for two nights. Care Bear skied with his friends, at Homewood, while I (happily) stayed back at the Airbnb with Dash.
It snowed a lot. The drive to Tahoe took eight hours, when it normally takes four hours. We left at 8:30 pm on Friday night and arrived at 4:30 am on Saturday morning.
We put on snow chains when we got close to Tahoe. That’s what a lot of the cars were doing on the shoulder of the highway (near exit 146 on the 80). We paid a vendor on the shoulder $80 for cable chains and $30 for installing. Installing took about five minutes.
What sucked was, after the first snow chain check point, which we passed with our cable chains on, there was another snow chain check point later on the highway, but this time, the check point required link chains, which are apparently sturdier. So we were turned back (along with a few other cars that we saw), and had to take a detour, to get to the Airbnb.
On the day we were leaving, we went to walk around Squaw Valley.
On our way back, we went to a great vegan restaurant in Sacramento for dinner, where we had drum sticks, spicy noodles, and sizzling plate.
It snowed even harder on our way back. Our drive back was about seven hours. We (and a slew of other people) took our snow chains off too early. We almost hit a car when we slid on the highway for a few minutes. So we had to put our chains back on (then take them off again). This time, we did not use a vendor for installing or removing the chains. I did it myself. It took me about 40 minutes to get them on, and about 5 minutes to get them off.
I thought our trip was adventurous and fun! Plus we got to celebrate Dash’s 100th Day Birthday in Tahoe, in winter wonderland. We kept him alive for 100 days!!! We are blessed.