Friday, December 6, 2013


We've had a request to do gift exchange with siblings this year, so I drew names for everyone, hopefully this is satisfactory to you all.

Ron-Michael H.
Jen- Amy
Michael H.-Evan
Mike B.-Melanie
Jon-Mike B.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Final days in Rome

The next morning we took a bus to the Villa Borghese park that has a famous sculpture museum we toured. We weren't permitted to take pictures, but the museum contained various famous Bernini sculptures. I don't know much about sculpture, but you see the works of Bernini all over Rome and they are surreal. You think you are looking at live humans holding a pose, but it is all stone. (picture from online):

From there, we walked about a mile south to the top of the Spanish Steps and then down.

You are in the middle of Rome at the bottom of the steps. Walking through this part of the city, the roads are narrow and lined with shops and restaurants and closed off to traffic. We made our way to the Trevi Fountain.

And then over to the Pantheon, which was incredible. It's clearly been around for a long time.

The next morning we walked back to St. Peters and got in line to get to the top of the cathedral. You walk up windy stairs and come out inside one of the domes and can look down into the cathedral:

The inside walls of the domes are ornate with broken tile murals:

And you can walk around the top of the dome and get a panoramic view of St. Peter's Square below:

And all of Rome:

Inside St. Peters, it is a gigantic space:

And houses many shrines, sculpture, and this famous Michelangelo sculpture, depicting Mary holding the crucified Jesus:

That afternoon we made our way to ancient Rome and toured the ruins. You can see how advanced the city must have been. Here are some shots of the Coliseum:

And ancient city ruins:

We knew we were touring something awesome, but neither of us really knows much about ancient Rome.

That night we connected up with a couple from our ward here in Denver who just happened to take a trip to Rome at the same time as us. We got together for dinner near the Pantheon and got some gelato. The Pantheon and the piazza in front of it was lit up very nicely and busy with a lot of night life.

Our final full day in Rome, we took a bus to Piazza Novana and walked through other portions of Rome.

We toured the Trastavere neighborhood, which is a little removed from the city center, and grabbed some good pizza and fresh mozzarella with herbs and olives.

 Beck decided he wanted to walk through Piazza St. Ignazio:

 The next morning, we took a cab to the Rome airport and flew home. It was about 18 hours from door-to-door. Luckily, Beck slept more on the flight home. We got back around 7:00 on a Sunday night and we crashed. The next morning, we were pretty much adjusted to the time because we had slept well that night. We will never forget our european adventure, but we were glad to be home.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rome (part 1)

We flew to Rome on Tuesday morning. Beck took his first walking steps while we were waiting to board the flight in Paris.

We got to our apartment rental around the middle of the afternoon. Our place was located about a quarter of a mile south of St. Peter's square. It just so happened that we were also just a few blocks from where Melanie lived when she came to Rome for her study abroad during college. That was a pleasant, unplanned surprised. She recognized the neighborhood and knew how to get around places, which was helpful because Rome is not laid out in an orderly way. It is an ancient city, constantly being added upon, rebuilt, etc... And it wasn't built around a grid or any discernable order. I constantly felt disoriented.

This was a beautiful city and the weather and air felt comfortable the entire time. We got some delicious pizzas and bruschetta that evening, walked around Mel's neighborhood where she stayed for two months in college, and then went to bed.

The next morning, a Wednesday, we walked to the Vatican and through St. Peter's Square to get to the Vatican Museum entrance. But the Pope was in town and he makes a public appearance in St. Peter's Square on Wednesdays. So the Square was crowded with thousands of people. There are a lot of Catholics out there.

We walked along the walls of Vatican City to get to the museum:

We toured the Vatican Museum, which is massive. It contains ancient artifacts of Rome, Christian relics, sculpture, and a lot of works of art. The highlight was the Sistine Chapel, which we were not permitted to photograph. It was surreal to look at. Many of the fresco paintings appear three dimensional. I was surprised at how well you could see details and how much human genius and ability can accomplish.

Old tiles on the floor of a living quarters of an ancient Pope:

We walked towards the river that runs through Rome and to this castle, St. Angelo that is outside of the Vatican, but connected via underground tunnels in case papal leadership ever needed to escape attack (like in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons):

That night we grabbed a meal near our place. All the food we had there was very good.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


We made our way back to Paris by car with Melanie's parents. The traffic getting into the city was horrible even on a Sunday. But we eventually got to our apartment rental in the evening. We had a nice view out the window:

We woke up on Monday and took the metro to the base of Montmarte and hiked up the steps to the highest point in Paris. We toured Sacre Coeur, the church pictured below.

And here's us up at the top of Montmarte with Paris in the background:

We then took the metro to Arc d'Triumph

Then grabbed some food as it rained. It didn't stop raining so we went back through the Orangerie museum that Melanie and I had been through a few days before but were more than happy to see again. We went back to our apartment rental and Melanie's parents watched Beck for the evening as Melanie and I went out, went to a cool fondue restaurant in the Montmarte area, went to the Eifel Tower, and then walked the Champs Elyses.

Paris was pretty incredible. The next morning we flew to Rome.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


We woke up early in Heidelberg to catch a train to Paris for a day trip and then, after our day tour of the center of Paris, we would catch a train to Cherbourg, where Melanie's parents are currently living and serving as missionaries.

As we were dropping our rental car off, I got stung by a bee/wasp for the first time in my life. All my life I had feared being stung by a bee, but I was disappointed in how little it hurt. Luckily, I am not allergic. It remains a mystery of what bit/stung me (or what I ate) and caused my upper lip to swell up while we were at the Oregon coast after Jason and Julie's wedding.

The train from Heidelberg to Paris was fast and smooth. It would've taken five hours plus tolls in a car and then the hassle of parking, but it only took three hours and no tolls by train. We arrived at Paris East train station, locked up our luggage and then got around using the subway system.

We got out at one end of the Tuilleries Garden (too lazy to look up spellings) and went to the l'Orangerie Museum to view Monet's Water Lilies exhibit. We weren't permitted to take pictures of it, but it was beautiful. The canvases are long and seemingly continuous and wrap around the walls in a figure eight shape. It was very peaceful and settling to observe and sit. On the lower floor, there is a large collection of impressionist and modernist painters that we enjoyed viewing.

Then we walked through the long garden Tuilleries towards the Louvre

From there we made our way to the left bank via Pont Neuf...

To check out Notre Dame.

That was our day tour of the main part of Paris. We got back to the station and caught a train to Cherbourg where we would stay with Melanie's parents for a couple of days.

Cherbourg is a port town on the English Channel. It was a major sight for the allied invaders during WWII and is not far from many of the D-Day landings. It is a small town with a lot of fresh ocean air. That Friday, we woke up and took a drive along the coast to a small town called Bar Fleur to get tour and get some good sea food. I got a big bowl of steamed mussels. They were meaty and tender. Very delicious. Melanie ordered fish and they sat the whole thing in front of her.

And then we walked around the small town for a little. We got back to Cherbourg and took it easy for the rest of the day, which was nice.

The following day, we went into the center of Cherbourg and toured around the market, picked up some baked items (in my view were the best baked items we had in our entire stay).

In the afternoon, we went to the Cherbourg Aqua Museum, which had an aquarium that Beck loved and a nuclear submarine to tour:

The next day we attended the LDS Branch in Cherbourg and then packed up the car for a drive back to Paris with Melanie's parents.

Along the way, we stopped at some WWII sights. Cherbourg is in the French state of Normandy where much of the D-Day invasion occurred. Driving east back to Paris, you pass by and through towns that you read about in WWII history books. I have always wanted to visit this region. It is green pasture land as far as the eye can see. Parachuters dropped into the fields and marshes throughout the region amid heavy German fire. And troops stormed beaches by the thousands, pressing the Germans into retreat and submission. Here is a picture of Omaha beach:

And some of the monuments and cemetery located on the bluff above the beach.

These were incredible sights. We made our way back to Paris to an apartment rental we would stay in. We'd tour some other parts of Paris with Melanie's parents the next day, then fly to Rome the following morning.