Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween in Romania

Instead of regular language lessons last night, Maria was invited to go for Halloween with Alexa and Florin. Mihaela came and picked her up around 4:30pm and they headed back to her house. Maria said they played some games, got costumes on, and practiced their poems.

After they were ready they went to the parents' houses, the grandparents' and other relatives' houses. When they were there, they recited poems in English and Romanian. They received "sweets" for their hard work.

When they came to our house, one boy was very pleased to "show off" his command of the English language. As soon as he came in, he turned to me and asked in English, "you do not speak Romanian?" I said, "no, do you speak English?". He said, with a slight lift of his chin, "yes, I do." I said, "I like your red hair". He just smiled!

At the end, the last boy stepped forward and said, "This is an American classic...(long dramatic pause)...Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat" Steve and I laughed out loud. He looked at us and someone asked, "it is American, yes" Steve replied, "yes, I've used it myself quite a few times!"

Maria had a wonderful time and we were grateful that the Bucurs took the time to include her in their plans. Here is a picture of the kids and the "sweets"!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Times have changed...

Warning: This post contains a high level of geekiness. You should already know which one of us put it together.

Ok, I'm just posting about daylight savings time. We just changed our clocks today and started wondering about the length of daylight here in Bucharest compared to our relatives in Greenville, SC and Schenectady, NY. Thanks to the internet, we didn't have to wonder very long.

Greenville, SC
Schenectady, NY

As you can see, the length of our days here in Bucharest is pretty similar to my hometown of Schenectady. Greenville, however, has a much longer day throughout the year. In December, Greenville will have nearly 1 extra hour of sunlight! You can get more data here for practically any city in the world. Each city has a cool graph to accompany the table.

So for you South Carolinians, are your making good use of all that extra daylight?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

In Home Massages

When I woke up Thursday morning with a slight crick in my neck I asked Mihaela if she knew a good massage therapist. She said one of her good friends was a massage therapist. She called her right then and we booked two massages for this weekend.

Aurelia came to our house this afternoon and gave each of us an hour long massage. She was great! I could tell that she really knew what she was doing and we both were delighted with the massage. Modesty is not as crucial here as in the states but Steve agreed with me that he was comfortable the entire time.

The kicker is the price! For two hours of massage, in our home, the cost was $20 USD Total and that includes a tip. Steve was ready to book her for next weekend. We needed to see when the competition is then I'm sure we'll be giving her a call.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Hand-Knit Rhythmic Toe Shoes

We have had a pair of rhythmic toe shoes hand knit for Maria here in Romania. All the girls on her team wear this kind. Even the National Team girls, who work out in the same gym, practice in the hand knit shoes. Maria says they are more comfortable than our leather ones. They move easier and I would imagine feel more like socks. Of course we took pictures of Maria's feet after I sewed the elastic on them!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Paying Bills

We are still in the process of learning how and where we pay bills here. Let me go through all the bills we have:

Phone Bill - We get an actual bill in the mail and then I can go to the phone company which is at the end of our road or I can pay this at most post offices. This one has become easy since I just carry the bill with me and run in a post office when I have a minute. This is what I imagine most Romanians do also, since the bill does not come with the return envelope enclosed, as it is in the states.

Cable - This bill comes about 1-2 days before it is due. We thought this required a long trip to the company which is several bus stops away and then a long walk. We discovered, however, that they have a satellite office in the Cora (like Walmart). So when this bill comes, Maria and I get to go eat lunch at KFC...I mean go to Cora and pay it!

Electric - The lady actually hand delivers our bill in the evening and we can choose to pay her on the spot. If we aren't home, she leaves it in our mailslot and we then have to walk to the electric company. Not too far or, once again, pay it at the post office.

Hot Water and Heat - Our next door neighbor reads the meters and takes up the money at various times downstairs in the lobby. We still don't understand when these times are scheduled. Tonight, as we came in from language lessons, they were downstairs. So we quickly came up, got extra cash, and the camera and headed downstairs. The picture is of her "office" downstairs and our receipt - stamped of course!

She mentioned that since Romania will be joining the EU in January that all the heating costs had gone up. We paid around $70 USD for the month of hot water and heat. This is higher than last year but not outrageous. Many of the people here are not very excited about what the EU will mean for their day-to-day lives.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gymnastics Attire

These are the clothes that Maria's coaches want her to practice in until the heat is turned on in the gym! They are very concerned that the girls will get sick from being cold. This culture has yet to embrace the idea that illness comes from germs and not the temperature of the air.

Maria has on: A long sleeve unitard, two long sleeve t-shirts, long tights, ear muffs, thick socks, and gloves.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Losing Streak Has Ended!

It's official, my losing streak at Monopoly has ended. I have won the past two nights in a row. I know my blogging audience has been very concerned over my lack of Monopoly skills so now you can sleep better tonight!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Husband ROCKS!

Steve called from work and told me to go get the remote for the air conditioning. I got it and he said to look and see if there was a "sunshine" next to the "snowflake". I said, "Yes, there is, does that mean what I think it means?"

It did!!!!

We now have heat in the den. The bedrooms are still chilly but we can add blankets to the beds to sleep. Just the sound of the heater running is warm. :) I am so thankful since it is supposed to get down to 36 degrees tonight!

Maria and I did bake cookies yesterday. Mimi, Steve's friend from work, had given us 38 Hershey Kisses. Someone gave them to her from the American Embassy. So I made one of my favorite cookies. Peanut Butter Blossoms with a kiss on top. Yummy! Steve took some to work to share with the Romanians.

I'm a much more content woman since the tip of my nose has returned to normal!

Monday, October 16, 2006

I am freezing!

I am freezing. I have no idea what the temperature is inside our apartment but it is dipping to the upper 30s at night and the low 50s in the day. In the states, this would be when I walk over to our thermostat and, REGARDLESS of the reading, I would "bump it up". This is the problem in Bucharest. First, there is no thermostat, there is a dial on each radiator with a vague numbering of 1-5. Second, even when I turn the little dial there is no heat because the government turns off the heat in the summer. And I am still freezing.

I learned last night at language lessons that they will turn on our heat when it is less than 10 degree Celsius (50 degree Fahrenheit) for three days straight. They'll also turn it off again if it warms up for a couple of days! But there is tons of discussion about when to turn it on and off each year. I have a novel idea, even though my brain is partially frozen. Let the individual people decide for themselves when it is "too hot for heat" and "too cold for no heat". Wow!!! I have met quite a few Romanians now and I am completely confident that they could handle this concept! This would be one less responsibility for the government to concern itself over. Call me an American (and a freezing one too!) but, I believe that if I can pay for heat, and I'm cold (which I am), then I should be able to turn up my heat. Even if it's the middle of August, and its 105 outside. It really is my business! Do I sound as much like my Daddy as I think I do?!? Man, even the tip of my nose is cold.

So anyway this is what Maria and I looked like yesterday. She went to her bed in the afternoon, in her jacket, to read and be warm. I piled up in a chair in THREE shirts and a blanket to do sudoku! I am freezing. I think we'll bake cookies today, just to heat up the house!

We thought they would turn on the heat during the night and set our "dials" with hope that in the morning we would have heat. No luck, I'm still freezing! I think we'll be going through some of the brown sugar we brought back with us. Did I mention that I'm freezing?


On Saturday morning we headed out around 9:00am to travel by Metro, the underground subway, to the train station. We changed Metro lines and arrived at the train station without any problem. Once at the train station we located our line and only had to wait around 20 minutes before the train pulled in. We were soon on our way to Timişoara, in a first class car. We were sitting in a private car with three other people. This was great since it cut down on most of the noise and through traffic. It was an eight hour train trip and the countryside was great! Here are a few pictures from the train window.

We had been told that there was a diner car and we had been anticipating eating a late lunch there. Nope. No dining car. Thank goodness I had brought "snacks" with us. With my family this means I had packed: 8 homemade biscuits with country ham, homemade chocolate chip cookies, 3 bananas, grapes, cheese popcorn, cheese sticks (kinda like cheese-its, only long and skinny), and chocolate. The bad thing was we only had two water bottles with us. YIKES! We had to do a little water rationing but we made it.

We arrived in Timişoara around 7:30pm and jumped in a cab to the hotel. Cost of the cab was 5 euros. Remember this price. This is around $6.00 USD. The hotel was clean and the room great. We went back downstairs and had a fantastic supper in the hotel restaurant. They brought us menus in English, then when Steve started talking the waiter asked him if he needed a Romanian menu. He's such a "show-off"! ;) I'm so PROUD of him too! After supper we headed back up to the room and got everything ready for the race and went to bed!

Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and Steve and Maria walked over to "check out" the starting line while I showered. He was able to sign in and get his number. He also found out the race was going to start at 10:00 instead of 10:30! They came back to the hotel and Steve changed and we headed out to the finish line where everyone was gathering.

In the square, where the finish line was, they had music playing and the entire atmosphere was festive! The range of runners was a wide one with both elderly and people turning out in jeans and casual tennis shoes. Maria helped Daddy to warm up by chasing pigeons and racing back to me.

After a slight delay we headed over to the start line. For full coverage of the actual race go to Steve's Running Blog. (You can left click on the colored words) It'll be amusing since they didn't STOP TRAFFIC for the runners unless you were one the first three!

After seeing him off, Maria and I walked to the 5k mark to cheer as the runners passed. When Daddy passed he was looking good and happy to see his "girls". Afterwards Maria and I headed back to the finish line to see the first place runners come in!

Steve came in at 1 hour and 47 minutes. I like to say he was the top "American" finisher! :) He received a medal, a goodie bag and a certificate at the finish line. He was pleased with his time and overall we all enjoyed the morning at the race.

We headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and a late checkout. Then lunch and some sight seeing. We just wandered the streets and looked at the old churches and buildings. It really is a beautiful city.

After supper we went and "hung out" in the lobby of the hotel, doing sudoku puzzles, until time for the train. We headed out of the hotel around 9pm and caught a cab. Steve was talking to the man in Romanian and he asked how much the trip would cost. The driver said 5 lei which is less than $2 USD! Then the driver just starting making conversation with Steve...in Romanian. I realized that he thought we were Romanian and that's why we got the lower cab fare. It took about 4 sentences before Steve broke down and told him we are Americans. He was still speaking in Romanian though! We still got the "good" fare too! Go Daddy - You're the MAN!

The train was already at the station and we went ahead and boarded and found our sleeper car. It was only two bunks and they were narrow, so we made Maria a pallet on the floor and climbed in bed. We were asleep by the time the train started moving. I like sleeping while traveling anyway, and to do so in an actual bed with my PJs on is outstanding!

We arrived in Bucharest around 7:30am and took the public back to the apartment. Steve went into work so he wouldn't "waste" a vacation day. Maria and I skipped gymnastics but we have finished school. She is working on her language lesson homework for tonight!

I think we may be in for some future train travel to some of the surrounding Romanian cities or even to some nearby countries. We'll see!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Steve’s Lukewarm Soda Rant

Allow me to apologize to my European audience in advance. Overall, I am having a great time adjusting to the culture here. However, it is time for this spoiled American to climb back on the soapbox.

There is one thing that I just totally dislike about Europeans. They just do not appreciate how important it is to drink your soda cold! Just because a bottle soda is a few degrees below room temperature doesn't mean its cold. When I say cold, I mean 1-2 degrees above freezing cold. People let their soda bottles sit out here all day long and drink it at room temperature. Blasphemy!! Restaurants are just as bad. They usually serve lukewarm soda also. Not only that, even if the soda is cold when they serve it, you don't get ice. So guess what happens halfway through your meal, that's right, you're drinking lukewarm soda again!

Drinking luke warm soda is such a letdown. It's like making it to the Superbowl - and losing by 30 pts. Like winning the lottery - and only getting half the money. Like looking at your paycheck and counting the money - before taxes. You get the idea.

Today's Soda Purchase Ordeal

Ok, I had to run an errand outside the gate at work today. On my way back, I was craving a soda (coke to be exact). What kind of soda did I want? Yes, a COLD one. There are several small stores right outside the gate, so I entered the first one. I went to the "refrigerator" where the drinks are kept and put my hands on a .5 liter coke (price 2 Lei, or 75 cents US). It was totally warm - room temperature. Ok, fine. I figured they had just restocked it, so I put it back and went to another store about 2-3 doors down. This store is actually a bakery, but they had a refrigerator with sodas. I was excited to find a .5 liter coke that was almost cold - the best you will find in Romania, probably about 50 degrees F. It was 2.60 Lei, or about 90 cents US. I had three 1 Lei bills in my hand to pay when I reached the counter. When I tried to pay, the lady informed me that she had NO coins. I thought "How can a store have no coins?" I then remembered I was in Romania.

Despite that fact that 3 Lei is only about 1.10 US, and she only owed me about 15 cents in change, I refused to buy this soda and put it back. I then with to a 4th store (sort of a deli) and they had no regular .5 liter cokes at all. With my options beginning to dwindle, I hiked about 1 city block to a 5th store, looking for the elusive .5 liter bottle of coke. With luck, this 5th store had the .5 liter bottles for 2.20 lei (about 75 cents). Of course it wasn't cold, with a temperature somewhere in between the first 2 stores. I made the purchase and enjoyed about 2 sips of my lukewarm soda, before I couldn't take it anymore. How depressing. I decided to close it up and put in the refrigerator here at work and drink it later - hopefully cold. I should have expected this - when I returned to work and opened the fridge, it was set at the highest possible temperature, barely colder than the room it is in. Why have a fridge if you're only going to set it on level 1 anyway? I can't win!

Steve's solution: Invade Romania!

Dear President Bush,
I understand our military is a little busy right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I request at least 2 Army divisions to be sent to Romania for a "humanitarian mission". The purpose will be to free the people from the shackles of lukewarm sodas. Immediate funding will be needed to procure 500,000 ICE CUBE MAKING MACHINES and install them at every restaurant and street market in the city of Bucharest. Do not delay - the people (read Steve) need you.

Pictures of our friends

I finally remembered to take my camera to language lessons last night. This is a picture during the class. Our teacher's name is Anca. She is a young lady that knows English very well. She is very tolerant of Steve quizzing her about how to say certain words and phrases.

This is quick picture of the family that has so graciously opened their home and their lives to us while we are here in Bucharest. There is Gabi - Daddy, Mihaela - Mom, Florin - son, and Alexa - daughter (we call her Guliana at the gym) This is the family that Maria slept over with last month. I'm sorry if I misspelled your families' names Mihaela! Please correct me if I did.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bad Mama, Happy Daughter

This has been an intense week of gymnastics. They have been running anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour past time. They have done some hard conditioning and "coach assisted" stretching. As we leave the gym we change from the trolley to the bus right in front of a gogoshi stand. These are homemade doughnuts that are made fresh right there all day long - you can imagine the aroma on the streets.

So everyday we walk past this aroma and comment on how yummy it smells.

Today we were both hungry, practice was late, the trolley was late and it was already around 11am when we stepped off the trolley. As we walked by the stand Maria said, as usual, "that smells so good". I looked down at her and said, "Let's have a doughnut for lunch!". She laughed until I got in line and she realized I was serious. I comforted her by saying we would have a sandwich for our afternoon snack! So we bought two chocolate filled doughnuts still hot and carried them home.

We ate them up and licked the sugar off our fingers then started our school day with Bible reading. Onto Math, History, Literature, and Logic.

She is now happily doing a review of a Science magazine article and looking forward to a peanut butter sandwich afterwhile!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Cleaning the Potty

One of my faithful friends and readers called and in the conversation she mentioned that she likes the everyday posts as well as the travel posts. She said, and I quote, "I need to know that you clean the pee-pee out of the potty too!"

Well, this one's for you Allison!

This morning I cleaned the bathroom! Now let me expound...there isn't just "normal" toilet yuck here. We frequently (read at least once a week) lose our hot water for a day or two. We once went a whole day without ANY running water! When the water returns it is a beautiful chocolate brown color, that is my favorite color you know. Now, before you germ-a-phobes totally freak out, I use bottled water in the kitchen! Keeping this brown water issue in mind you can imagine what my toilet generally looks like in the bottom. Even a day or two after a cleaning! This does not motivate me to clean more often, actually the opposite!

This lack of hot water issue does seem to dictate when you shower. I have broken down at the end of a three day cold water only stretch and showered in frigid water while screaming in a "semi" controlled manner! :) Since Steve runs frequently he has had to endure the cold shower more often than me. We have washed Maria's feet in cold water once (if you have ever done Rhythmic Gymnastics you understand what those toe shoes smell like!)

So for those of you that envy our ability to travel, it does come at a price. We think it's worth it and it makes the hotels seem simply luxurious by comparison! Have fun cleaning your potty today Allison!

Sunday, October 08, 2006


We bought a new game. It is Monopoly, the European Landmark Edition. Maria and I saw it and the tokens are famous landmarks. We have been to several of them in person so I decided it would be a great overall souvenir of our time in Europe. They use Euros and the properties are the countries of the European Union in the order they joined.

We are having a fun time playing, but there is just one problem. I can't seem to win. Steve and Maria are still "duking it out" while I sit here blogging! We have played, no joke, for two weeks and I have won ZERO games.

You'll notice in the picture that the spot on the sofa is surrounded by lots of mortgaged properties and little cash. Yeah, you guessed it, that's my place. This was made one roll before they booted me completely from the game.

Steve said it was really just luck. If that were true, I should win about 1/3 of the games. I hate statistics!

Saturday, October 07, 2006


This is a rambling blog post from my heart with no "real" news, happenings, pictures, or Romanian culture. Read on if you desire!

Since coming to Romania and starting a blog of my own, I have taken to reading lots of varying blogs from others. I think the reasons for this are multiple:

1 - There just isn't an abundance of reading material in English and in the states I average around 2-3 books a week!

2 - I am fascinated to see what others are putting on their blogs and what I find interesting.

3 - It is a way to connect with other homeschooling moms since I miss my support group.

I was reading a blog from a lady named Spunky. This Christian mom causes me to think outside my comfort zone and steps on my toes every once in a while. Anyway, I was reading her take on the school shootings this past week, especially the one in the Amish school house. I confess I am secretly enthralled with this lifestyle and read about them, fiction and non, quite a bit.

On this blog there was a comment from another reader wondering why the girls seem to be singled out. The response that stunned me the most was that since feminism and the goal of "equality" had taken away the respect and authority that the Lord has given the men, the men are lashing back. This made me pause. The post caused me to reflect on TV and the garbage that is there. In most families depicted, the husband is certainly not in authority. He is portrayed as another child for the wife to care for, along with all the other chores of the household.

The Lord then "two-stepped" me by way of an article in World Magazine entitled "The vanishing schoolboy" by Janie Cheaney. I think He has been nudging me to give Him the glory for what he has worked in my life and family.

In this article she states how our education system and I would add our public opinion in general has elevated girls above boys. Now don't get me wrong I don't believe women are inferior to men but we are certainly not equal. I, for one, do NOT wish to be. At one time I did. Thank you Lord for opening my eyes and heart to Your way!

She goes on to say that men are created to lead. I love this quote, "'Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand' (Proverbs 19:21). Be not deceived; God is not mocked, and nature is not thwarted. In government and in crime, at the box office and on the streets, in heroic rescues and in shooting sprees, men lead. And will continue to lead, one way or another." Basically we can train our boys to lead us to victory or to chaos. But either way it is the men that will lead. She refers to men as drivers and women as stablizers. I find this to be very true for our family.

I know this has absolutely NOTHING to do with Bucharest but this topic has been on my heart for about 2 weeks and I'm tired of hashing it out in my mind. While walking the streets and riding the public there is lots of time to think. I guess it started when a song was on the bus radio from a rough time in my life and I started thinking about how far the Lord has brought me.

I think this list sums it up:

Age 10, Parents had authority and I accepted it, blessings and contentment
Age 15, Parents had authority and I rejected it, anxiety and discontentment
Age 20, Parents had authority and I ignored it, worldly blessings and strife
Age 25, Husband had authority and neither of us acknowledged it, worldly blessings and stress
Age 30, Husband had authority and I tenitively accepted it, blessings from the Lord beginning to unfold in our lives, peace and happiness in our home
Age 35 (really 34.5), Husband has authority and I rejoice in it, blessings flow straight from my Lord through my husband to me, contentment in all things.

I grew up in the "equal partnership in marriage" age. I thought that was what I desired for my life. I was so wrong! My husband cherishes me and loves me as Christ loves the Church, and let me tell you some days that is a tall order. I respect and accept his authority. At one time I believed that would diminish my "standing" as an intelligent person. When I accept Stephen's leadership I also accept the perfect path that the Lord has ordained for me. What could be better?

Now I'm raising a daughter. We are teaching her about what the Word says about authority. It's not about power and control, its about lining up where the Lord has placed you! I pray that somewhere, someone is teaching her future husband about Biblical authority and how to effectively lead his family in their walk with the Lord.

I just wanted to take this "public" stand to thank my Lord for changing my view of authority. His way is always best and His will for our lives is always the right course for action!

For those of you that actually finished reading my ramblings, thank you. I'll get back on topic next time!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Language Lessons

My good friend Mihaela, who is one of the moms at gymnastics, asked me if we would like to come to her house for English lessons. I told her I already knew English! Ha - she's a little unsure of my "humor".

She speaks excellent English and is my main interpreter at gymnastics although, most of the adults and all the older students speak some. Gabi, her husband, speaks a little English as well. They have two children, a 9 year old son and a 5 year old daughter. She has hired a lady to come to their house for private English lessons.

She invited us so we will hear the Romanian and English together and to give them a couple of native English speakers. Stephen and Maria are very excited since they both learn new languages very quickly.

We went last night for the first class. It was fun and we learned quite a few vocabulary words. Well, Steve and Maria learned quite a few. I smiled a lot. Language just isn't my thing!

Steve is very good about making the other kids try it - lots of times. The little girl finally moved away from him since he kept making her say stuff in English! It was too funny.

We are going again tonight and my goal is to learn how to ask, "are you getting off at the next stop?". After almost getting stuck on a bus two days in a row, I am very motivated to learn this phrase! I'm not sure how I will work eyebrow (a word from last night) into conversation. ;)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Murano and Burano - Saturday

We spent the day on Murano and Burano, islands north of Venice. Murano is known for their glass work. We visited the museum there to see the ancient glass and learn a little about the process of glass blowing and creating. We also shopped some for souvenirs.

When it was time for lunch we headed to a grocery store and picked up a roasted chicken, chips, and apples. We headed off a side street and ended up in a small square. All the benches were taken but we just picked a quiet, shady corner and sat down to have our $10 lunch. This lady stopped and starting telling us something in Italian. I thought at first that she was fussing at me for feeding my family from the ground. Steve caught the word park and he said let's go with her. We followed her and she led us to a great park with picnic tables and a play ground.

After lunch we headed to the island of Burano, known for handmade lace and colorful houses.

Our first stop here was the Lace Museum. They even had a couple of older ladies demonstrating the art. It was beautiful. We picked out a lace handkerchief with a "M"embroideredd on it. I told Maria we would put it in the cedar chest and she could carry it on her wedding day.

One more night of Italian food and we'll head home in the morning!

And yes, Maria made the picture of me and Steve on the street of Burano. I thought she did a great job!

Florence - Friday

We took a train to Florence today. This was a new and exciting experience for all of us! Our train left at 6:44am, so we had to get up and moving early and then had to figure out how train travel works in Europe. We made it on the train and enjoyed the trip quite a bit. We got to watch the sunrise while traveling through the Italian countryside.

After getting off the train we purchased day passes for all the city transportation. Then we hopped on a bus and went to the Piazzale Michelangelo. There is a great view of the city from here and we were able to get an overview and pick out all the sites we were going to attempt to see today.

Then we went to see the Santa Croce. We chose to just view this church from the outside.

While wandering around the area, we found a "pizza by the slice" shop with lots of locals inside. Steve decided this must be tasty and cheap! He was right. It was outstanding and very reasonable.

Next we paid to potty. Yes, you must pay to tinkle in Italy. This was around the time we agreed that anytime we saw a "free" potty everyone must try! I had to take a picture of my potty since it was what we have dubbed "a squatty potty" in our family. I actually like these since the only thing that touches the potty is the bottom of your shoes. They flush and everything. It seems much cleaner than sitting on the pottys at walmart in the states!

Next we headed over to a piazza that had lots of reproductions of famous artwork. Of course they had a copy of the famous David and many others.

Then we walked across the Ponte Vecchio. This is a famous bridge with shops all along it. It was the only bridge left standing after World War II. A couple from New York City made our picture for us and we made theirs.

We also toured inside the Santa Maria Del Fiore. This church is still active and very beautiful inside.

We had about 3 hours to burn before our 8pm train back to Venice so we rode around on a bus until we went to a late supper. I had the best lasagna that I have ever eaten! Steve enjoyed the other half instead of finishing his meal!

It was a late night. We walked back into our hotel room around 11:30pm but it was a fun day.

Venice - Thursday

This morning we took a bus over the bridge and into Venice. Our first stop was the Piazza San Marco. We went to the museum that has lots of antiques from the reign of the Doges. We enjoyed the museum and watching from the windows as tourists bought the bags of pigeon food and then were, no joke, attacked by pigeons!

In the museum there was this stone face with a mouth and of course the "Fowler" came out in Maria and she had to put her hand in it and then the "Fowler" jumped out of me and I had to scare her and make her jerk her hand back out and then she had to pose for a picture so we could put it all on the blog!

We spent a good deal of time just wandering and looking and getting lost and finding our way again. While wandering we found this great little shop where a gentleman was hand-making the famous Venetian masks. We went in and bought a couple and watched him work for a while. Maria played with their dog and laughed and tried out masks that the man handed her.

At one point while we were walking there was a man playing this romantic song on a guitar and Maria was looking in a store window. I leaned over to Steve and said, "if we were dancing when she turned around, she would FREAK". And Steve said, "let's see." So we started dancing and sure enough she turned around to find us and when she saw us dancing on the streets of Venice, she FREAKED. We are just so embarrassing. The guy playing the guitar was smiling and so were the other people sitting around!

We had discussed riding in a gondola. I mean it is Venice after all. But when we found out it cost around $100 for a 30 minute ride we just couldn't bring ourselves to do that. Then Steve, being the awesome provider that he is, went on the internet and found out that they use the retired gondolas to shuttle people across the canals at various locations. He found one of the locations and paid $2 for all three of us to ride in the gondola! Yeah!!!

We ended our day by walking across the Ponte di Rialto. It is the oldest of the main bridges in Venice. It was last rebuilt in the 1500s. After that we went back to the hotel and out to a late supper.

I'll end with a few random pictures of the streets of Venice.