Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Ragazzi Italiani

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Italy, School, Travel

Much like the trip that Josh made to Spain a couple of years back, our high school this year organized a trip to to Italy! This time, both Joshua and Jacob joined the crowd!

After an early morning luggage inspection, they piled on a bus into the city. They flew out of Boston via New York arriving in Milan the next morning for a brief tour.

After a bit of a stroll in the city, they’d board a luxury coach (bus) for travel to Venice where they’d complete their long first day.

The next day in Venice, they’d take a guided tour of the city including the Dodge’s Palace and the famous canals. They’d see a demonstration of the making of Murano Glass and Jake would crush St Mark’s Campanile.

The following day they’d move on to Florence where they’d see the Chiesa di Santa Croce and Ponte Vechio.

On the next day, they’d visit the mountain village of San Gimignano in the hills outside Florence.

It also happened to be Josh’s birthday!! We were thrilled to see that it was suitably celebrated and documented in the picture below we found on the principle’s blog.

The next day was on to Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis under azure skies.


And then into Rome itself for The Vatican and St. Peter’s,  and then the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.


Here’s Josh and his pal Cristina at the top of the Spanish Steps.

The group would later enjoy a nighttime tour of Rome under the lights!

When they headed home at the end of their trip, they were tired but enriched by a great trip!

Spring Break Punta Cana

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Travel, Vacation

Once the boys were signed up to participate in their spring school trip to Italy, the next question became, what should Shawn and John do? Of course! Punta Cana!!!

So… Off they went for a week in the sun at the Riu Palace Bavaro. A new hotel just opened this past December, the place was much to their liking.

Their room had a view across the pool to the ocean – even from the shower!

Bavaro is on the Atlantic (north) side of Hispanola and, as such, is exposed to wind and sea. The first couple of days were a bit rough at the beach but all smooth at the pool. Particularly at the swim-up bar.

The pool was the center of focus most days. Lots of sipping and dipping, many books read and people watched!

John did some scuba diving – both in the Atlantic off the beach and then, on an “excursion” day while Shawn sipped champagne on the beach, on the Caribbean side of the island from the resorts at Bayahibe.

All in all, it was a decadent and relaxing week!  What fun!

Out of Florida

Posted: March 23, 2012 in Family, Grampa, Home, Travel

Though he’d relocated to Massachusetts, at least seasonally, last year, John’s dad this spring sold off his house in Sarasota and was ready to make things permanent. So, in mid-March, John flew down on a Friday night to help Ralph get things squared away.

Saturday was spent on visits to the bank, calls to the utilities, identifying some of the overstocked items, and even a little time at the pool.

Sunday was Ralph’s farewell visit to St. Boniface where many of his friends wished him luck in his travels. On Sunday evening, Ralph’s little red Hyundai was picked up by the car carrier for its trip north.

On Monday morning, packers from the local moving office arrived and the fun really began. John had three standard questions he asked repeatedly:

  1. When did you last use that?
  2. What are you going to use that for?
  3. Why do you need 6 or 8 or 12 of those?

John’s favorite exchange… “Pop, why do you need two kitchen timers?”  Ralph’s reply: “Well, one doesn’t work!” Many compromises were made and in the end, the (three) machetes were packed along with the busted antique tape dispenser, and the power saws were left behind for the safety of all. There was a bit of damage along the way – it was a tough day for the ceiling fan…

Ralph treated John to a nice dinner that night at the outdoor sidewalk tables of Sam Snead’s. They enjoyed the gorgeous Florida weather even though Ralph felt a few pangs for the city he’d soon leave behind.

Tuesday began with breakfast at the Hob Nob Drive In – a place John had been driving by since Ralph moved to Sarasota and always said he was going to go to!

A little after 9:00 AM, the big rig arrived and the loading began. The movers were good sports as we kept adding things to the load and, about three hours later, the truck was loaded and headed north.

As the furniture rolled away, Ralph and John did a little final clean-up, took naps, and then headed to see Ralph’s niece, Virginia, and her husband Jack, who live just south of the city. They were treated to first class accommodations and a lovely dinner at Ophelia’s where they sat by the side of the Intracoastal Waterway and again enjoyed the gorgeous weather – despite a few sprinkles.

We even had a little celebration of Ralph’s upcoming birthday as he blew out the candle on his birthday salad!

Bright and early Wednesday morning, they were off to Sarasota Airport for the flight home. By the time they arrived at the Parker House, Ralph’s car had already been delivered and he quickly began to settle in!

We’re so glad to have Grampa close to us so we can keep him out of trouble! Well, maybe.

February in Europe

Posted: February 18, 2012 in Travel, Work

In February, John took a twelve day trip to Europe for work. Though there was a fair amount of actual “work” involved, he did manage to have some fun too.

The first stop was Newcastle on Tyne, England. John stayed in a hotel just across the street from St. James Park, the home of Newcastle United FC.

There was an opportunity on the first day, the “recovery day”, to tour the city a bit and John and his colleagues did just that. Their tour started with a trip down Grey Street – the heart of Grainger Town, once voted by the BBC to be the best street in Britain!

They took off on a search for the Vampire Rabbit and found it near the St. Nicholas Cathedral before strolling to the river past the Castle Keep and the Black Gate and grabbing a bite to eat at the Slug & Lettuce pub – sadly, the slugs were out of season but they did have some lettuce! From the pub, they had beautiful views of the Tyne waterfront and The Sage performance hall.

They strolled a few bridges before returning to their hotel to meet up with additional colleagues for a pint at Rosie’s Bar and a great dinner in the oldest dining room in the U.K. – Blackfriars. The intriguing foods included wood partridge and “Medieval Meats” along with blood pudding and quail eggs.

After meetings at the lovely Vermont Hotel, they took business tours to Darlington and Wooler before moving on to Porto, Portugal.

In Porto, they’d arrive at their very dark hotel, El Teatro. They’d pass through theatrical curtains and motion-activated stage lights to find their similarly dark rooms. The décor took a bit of getting used to, but the hotel proved quite comfortable and accommodating. A Friday of meetings was concluded with an excellent dinner at Restaurante Escondidinho.

Saturday would be a play day. John was up early for a walking tour of the city before being joined by a colleague for a trip to the beachfront village of Matosinhos and a lunch of barbeque fish at O Valentim near the ocean shore. Here John picked the Black Scabbard fish to try and saw it prepared on the front sidewalk grill before being finished in the kitchen. Just great.

From there, they traveled to Vila Nova de Gaia on the south side of the river where they’d ride the gondola down to the river’s shore for some strolling and a stop at the Ferreira Cellars for a tasting of port. Tawny indeed!

Later that evening they had a chance to see up-and-coming violinist Alexandra Soumm together with the Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música at the Casa de Música. The modern musical hall was beautiful and, although the performance started with the premier of a modern piece commissioned specifically for it, the dissonant chords soon gave way to enjoyable pieces by Bartók, Paganini, and Blacher.

On Sunday morning, they departed Porto for Madrid, arriving late in the morning for early check-in at their hotel. John headed out immediately for a tour. He began at the Museo Reina Sofía where he enjoyed the abstract pieces by Picasso, Dali, Miró and others.

A walk through the Parque del Retiro was followed by a visit to the Museo del Prado which, although it has a highly respected collection of European masterpieces, John found less enjoyable than the Reina Sofia.

A quick rest and then dinner of cerveza and paella was followed by a visit to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu to see Real Madrid FC take on Levante UD in a La Liga game. Levante scored first followed by three Real Madrid goals from their star player Cristiano Ronaldo. Real would go on to win 4-2 making the crowd of 75,000 quite happy.

After meetings the next day and with the arrival of more colleagues from Rome and Madeira, a nice dinner was had at Restaurante Ferreiro.  If there’s any question in your mind, Spain truly is the Land of Ham.

They enjoyed a nice lunch with their customer the following day at Araceli – another classic northern Spanish restaurant with more ham!  And some awesome fish too!

The next day would be a trip on the high speed AVE Renfe trains to Sevilla and back. Great views of the Spanish countryside on the glass smooth 2-1/2 hour trip. Not only did we clock the train via GPS at 170+ mph, but we also got to see the aftereffects of when a high speed train meets a low speed bird!

There was a quick tour of Carmona’s back roads and fields before a late return to Madrid and dinner at the Real Café – cool place with views into the stadium at night. Looks like a lot of work to get that grass to grow!

On Friday, John was up early for one last tour of Madrid’s Centro area before heading home. He squeezed in the Puerta del Sol, the Plaza Mayor, the Almudena Cathedral, the Royal Palace, and a few other spots before somewhat reluctantly returning to his hotel to begin the trip home.

Though the return was threatened by a strike by the Iberia Airlines pilots, John got home on time and settled back into the home routine. Back to work!  Now, for the strong of heart, many more pictures here!