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Old 06-14-2009, 07:45 AM   #1
mwebsite
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Viva Italia June 4, 2009 Trip Report

This is the first two days of our trip. I'll post more later, if there is an interest. Day 1 is our preday, Day 2 the start of the trip.
Viva Italia!
June 2-13, 2009

Day 1
We arrived in Rome a day early to begin our adventure. After a scare at the airport, with my luggage coming in at the latest moment, an agent met us at baggage claim and walked us to our awaiting van. We were able to see the ruins as we drove in, passing the coliseum was surreal. Though my husband had slept a few hours the plane, my daughter and I had not, but we were determined to stay awake. Rooms were ready on check in, about 10:30, but we wanted to get to the Vatican to see the Papal Blessing on Wednesday morning, which would be completed around noon. We figured out the Metro quite easily, located next to the Bernini Bristol, and bought tickets at the newsstand, since the machines in the station wouldn’t give us enough euros in change. Made sure we were headed in the right direction, and we took a 10 minute ride to the Ottoviano Station and got the Vatican in time to see the Pope give his blessing in Italian. Despite jet lag, it was quite emotional to be in St. Peter’s Square, the center of our faith, with the Pope and the masses.
We lunched near the Vatican, at DaVitoe e Dina, and had our first pasta of the trip, with a simple meat sauce, which was very good. I think the waiter was disappointed I didn’t order any wine (Wine for Mama? He said) but I was afraid I would fall asleep.
Back on the metro to the Bernini, then we walked to the Borghese Gardens. At this point, I think my daughter and I would have benefited from a short nap, but were afraid it would turn into a long sleep, so onward we went. The Borghese Gardens were a short nice walk up the Via Venuto and were a beautiful oasis in the center of Rome. We rented bikes for E 4 and rode to the lake area with statues and fountains. Gelato in the gardens, then it was off to our first trip to Trevi Fountain. We loved it there and returned several times. It was crowded but peaceful, and the sculptures and the fact the fountain is not powered, were fascinating. Take out pizza and my daughter and I were sleeping by 6:30PM.

Day 2
The first day of our Adventures by Disney itinerary. The Bernini Bristol is beautiful, and the breakfast is extensive and delicious. Eggs, Meats, Cheese, Fruits, and the first of my daily cappuccino. We met Marco, one of tour guides this morning, and were given a hop on hop off bus pass, which we used later in our trip. Today we took the Metro to Termini Station. We had trouble getting to Termini and ended up climbing the stairs out of the Metro and walking outside to Termini. We used the machines to purchase tickets to Nettuno, a small town south of Rome that had a beach. It was an hour ride to Nettuno, and the beach was a short walk straight from station. We turned left at the beach and found Le Sirene Beach, where we rented chairs and an umbrella. Husband and Daughter loved the waves, and she did not want to leave. Beach Clubs in Italy have showers and lunches which included salads and paninis, though my daughter enjoyed the chicken nuggets.
Back to the hotel for our first Adventures Dinner. We played a game to get to know the adventurers, then enjoyed a nice meal. I would recommend ordering the seafood, it was grouper and salmon with tomato and zucchini. We were able to meet our fellow adventurers and our other tour guide, Mandrake. I was a bit worried that my daughter might not find other teens her age to spend time with, but I would later find that she would develop friendships with the other teenagers. Marco and Mandrake sat with us at dinner, and we knew then we were in great hands.
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Old 06-14-2009, 08:01 AM   #2
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mwebsite,

You packed a lot into your first day! How fortunate for you that the Pope was in residence. The area the Bernini is located is so convenient to public transportation with beautiful sites nearby.

Mandrake was one of tour guides too and we loved his sense of humor.

The breakfast buffet was great at the Bernini! I loved the little packets of Nutella. I told myself it was just like having the protein from peanut butter on my toast plus chocolate as a treat! Hey, it's the little things that make us happy.

Thanks for posting and yes we would like to 'see' more of your trip.
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Old 06-14-2009, 08:13 AM   #3
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Redzinner,
I loved reading your posts before our trip, too! I will post more of our trip. My husband and daughter loved the Nutella so much, that we went to the grocery this morning (just got home last night) and bought some to put on our pancakes. We are still waiting for our luggage to arrive to our house, but wanted to get started on the report while my mind is still fresh from our wonderful trip.
Monica
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Old 06-14-2009, 08:28 AM   #4
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Smile RE: Viva Italy

Thanks so much for posting the first two days of your trip. We are going in 53 days and can't wait.

I had not thought of renting a bike, but that will be an option that I will discuss with my family. We are arriving on Sunday morning, and our tour starts on Monday, so we also have some time and I also don't want to spend it sleeping.

Keep the posts coming, you are supplying me with a world of info. Thanks, can't wait and some looking forward to it.

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Old 06-14-2009, 08:39 AM   #5
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Day 3
The true start to our Adventure, a walking tour of Rome. We met Christina, who would be our local guide in Rome. She was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Rome and its history. We begin at the Forum, exploring the Ruins of Rome’s political center. We saw the cremation site of Julius Caesar, adorned with fresh flowers, which are there every day. Her descriptions of the Colosseum can take you back to the scene of the gladiators and the crowds. It was fascinating how the animals were brought out, and the different types of animals, lions, bears, etc. Junior Adventurers had their own tour, where they pretended they had different roles for the day. Since our daughter is 13, we had our choice as to which tour for her to take this day, she could have done either, and both would be appropriate. Today she joined the Junior Adventurers, and her role was as a senator’s wife. A much better view than where the slaves would have been seated. On to the Spanish Steps, which were just hot, the Pantheon, which was the only completely preserved ancient structure (breathtaking!), Piazza Navona, and Trevi Fountain. We took pictures throwing coins in the fountain so we would ensure a return trip to Rome. There was a group lunch, 4 different types of pizza, my favorite was margherita, husband’s was vegetarian, daughter’s was quattto formaggio, four cheeses without tomato sauce, we loved it!
Dinner was on our own, and we ate at Picollo Arancia, near the Trevi Fountain. I had the specialty they are named for, a ravioli with an orange crème sauce, it was delicious.

Day 4
On to the Vatican Museums. The Museums are extensive, and we only saw a short piece, but it was enough. We saw incredible tapestries, the hall of maps, and sculptures. Christina gave us a wonderful education on the painting of the Sistine Chapel and an explanation of the Bible Stories we would find there. My daughter was so excited to see the panel of the creation of man, which is with God’s finger touching mans. It was crowded, but peaceful, and amazing. St. Peter’s Basillica is huge, Christina helped us grasp the sheer size of it. The Pieta is moving, wish it hadn’t been behind glass, but it needed protection after someone had tried to damage it years ago. There are tombs of many Popes, including Pope John Paul II and St. Peter under the Basillica. The altars and mosaics were stunning. We all had time to get to the gift shop, we bought a family rosary, and cross necklaces for my daughter and myself. These had been blessed by the Pope at the Wednesday morning blessings.
We had another group lunch after the Vatican, my favorite part of this was the antipasto plate. A variety of meats, cheeses, mushrooms, and olive bruschetta. Afternoon was on our own, and we did the open tour bus, with the passes Marco had given us. It was nice just to ride on the top. We got off twice, once to see the Castel San Angelo (but decided to just walk around the building, instead of going inside) and once to shop on the Via Corso. We had dinner near the hotel at Hosteria Romano, I had veal saltimbocca. We had gelato on the walk home, and my daughter discovered she loved pistachio.
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Old 06-14-2009, 08:51 AM   #6
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KayGuidance,
They had different types of bikes for rental, also, I believe one was something you pedal with seating for several and a canopy on the top. We only saw a tip of the Gardens, we did not have the endurance for the hills, and stayed mainly on the more flat routes. It was nice.
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Old 06-14-2009, 01:26 PM   #7
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thank-you for the trip reports. looking forward to seeing more. my family is taking this trip next month and all the trip reports have been great!!!!!
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Old 06-14-2009, 03:18 PM   #8
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I'm really enjoying you trip report! Each report I read moves this trip higher & higher on my list of "next trip"'s ....

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Old 06-14-2009, 03:45 PM   #9
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Day 5
Travel to Orvieto by bus. Our biggest surprise on the trip was how much we loved Orvieto. It in an ancient city built on a hill which offered protection from their enemies. We rode a funicular car up the mountainside. Orvieto is quaint and rustic, and offers a beautiful view of a Tuscan City, that looked like a painting. Some adventurers did a guided tour of the underground there, we did a smaller self guided cave known as Pozza Della Cava. We had a map, and there were signs directing us there. The Pope at the time built these caves and wells to hide from the enemy. There were different ancient artifacts found there. It was here that my daughter found herself locked in a bathroom for the first time in Italy. The elderly man had to unlock the door when my husband explained to him “Mi figlia bagno”. Apparently, this is not uncommon in Italy with the old locks. He then had her follow him into the restaurant, and had her look down to the floor. She gasped when she saw she was standing on a glass window over the caves. He then invited us all over to the glass window and had us jump up and down. He didn’t seem to speak any English, but we all somehow communicated and it was so fun. It was then off to climb the Bell Tower, and we happened to be at the top when the bells rang for 12:15. It wasn’t as loud as you would have expected, I suppose because we were above the bell with the sound echoing downward. It was nice view of the City. Shopping was next, and the shopkeepers were very friendly. We bought Truffle Infused Olive Oil and Truffles at a very reasonable price at Delizie di Orvieto and took pictures with the owner. We bought a plate painted locally with olives at Bellocci. The owner directed us to lunch at a family run restaurant “Trattoria del Moro.” I had the recommended Orvieto cuisine, Pasta with Truffle Oil and Mushrooms. The older woman who served us directed my hand away from the parmigiano when I reached for it for this pasta. It was incredible, but I couldn’t finish it. I think the family restaurants can be offended when you don’t finish the meal, so I learned to say “Ottimo” (excellent) when they removed the plates. Later I learned “Sono sazio” meaning “I’m full”. I also learned not to panic when you order a glass of wine and they bring out the bottle, it is just to show you the vintage when the pour the glass at your table. We had just enough time to wander into the Duomo at Orvieto. Since it was Sunday, we said a short prayer there.
Back to the bus for the drive to Artimino. I was quite nervous on the drive up the winding hillside, but it was worth the drive. We all had large villas, my daughter had her own room. We were surrounded with the view of the hills and the olive trees. The adult adventurers had a wine tasting of a rose and red wine produced in Artimino. We enjoyed both wines. The Junior Adventurers played bocce ball and had their own dinner and a movie while we enjoyed rice, salad, pasta, beans, potatoes, roast beef and pork. There is a lot of food served at these dinners. It was all good.


Day 6
We made pasta upstairs at the Artimino restaurant. It was so much fun. We made spinach linguini and fettuccini, as well as bow tie and tortellini pasta. My husband and daughter were better than I was. I broke the egg on the edge of the table. You needed two people to make the pasta in the machine, one to turn and feed the sheet, and another to make sure it remained separated as it came out. I’m sure the Italian chefs don’t need this much help but we all helped each other. We enjoyed a group pasta lunch, spinach linguini with mushrooms and bowtie with veggies. Thank goodness it was not the pasta we all had made. We then had the afternoon to enjoy to ourselves, though some took the optional tour of the winery. We decided on putting on our bathing suits and sit by the pool at the main hotel. The view of Tuscany here was the best part. The kids liked jumping off the diving board into the cold water, and this is where my daughter made friends and they had fun in the water and taking pictures. We decided to try the pool back at the villas also, since it was smaller, but not much warmer. There is a laundry by this pool, with one washer and dryer and I did use this opportunity to wash some clothes. The kids just liked running around the villas. This is where we had our second bathroom lock in. One of the other teenagers locked herself in the bathroom by the pool but my husband was able to rescue her. Later than evening he again helped one of our fellow adventurers out when he was locked in, it was starting to be quite funny! Dinner this evening was the Tuscan barbeque with lamb, turkey, beef and chicken and a wonderful array of salads. After dinner we enjoyed the walk back to the villas and stopped for gelato in Artimino. Nutella and watermelon were the flavors of the day!

Day 7
Travel to Florence by bus, approximately 1 hour. We walked from the bus stop to the city center. Our first stop was the Accademie Museum to see early Michelangelo sculptures, which were set in stone. It was hard to focus on these earlier works with “David” at the end of the hall. We were in awe. The detail of David looking to Goliath, with one hand up holding the sling, other holding the rock with the veins visible on the hand. The legs are positioned with the muscles accentuated supporting the weight of the body. It was also neat to see the back of David with the sling over his shoulder, something you never see in pictures. There were other sculptures and religious paintings of this time depicting Jesus life and death. The Renaissance art appears three dimensional. This contrasted with the Medieval religious paintings that appeared darker, flat, one dimensional. It was sad to say they looked dull compared to the other artwork.
Group lunch was at Raccondo, with a salad of greens, mozzarella, croutons, and a lemon olive oil dressing. My husband had wonderful eggplant parmiagana with potatoes, and though I liked my veal with a cream sauce and spinach, I wish I had ordered the eggplant. Our daughter could always order from the junior or adult adventurer’s selections, and she chose the chicken breast with plain pasta. Since, unfortunately, she does not like tomato sauce, our tour guides always made sure she had plain pasta. As we were ready to leave, I noticed our daughter hadn’t returned from the restrooms. I entered with here a lady with a British accent speaking to a locked door saying “Don’t worry sweetie, I have someone here from the staff to get you out”. As the lady said, “Thank goodness she spoke English”. So this was the start to Florence on our own. We headed straight to the Bell Tower to climb the 414 steps. We chose this over the Duomo because I understood the Duomo had one way up, and one way down, and you couldn’t change your mind mid climb. I am also a bit claustrophobic, and the Bell Tower had windows allowing light and a breeze with each flight, with areas to sit after every few flights. The view from the top looking down on Florence was incredible. It also allowed for a nice view of the dome of the Duomo. We were very proud of ourselves when we reached the top. We also toured the Baptistry, which is actually older than the Duomo. The doors are cast in bronze with a gold overlay and perfectly preserved. The domed ceiling inside was exquisite with paintings of Bible stories. Next stop was to Mercato Centrale (the food market) but it was closed by the time we got there. We did walk through San Lorenzo Marketplace which were stalls of souvenirs, jewelry, leather goods, etc. I was a bit wary of purchases here regarding the quality of the items, and many of the sellers did not appear Italian. It was interesting walking through the area though, and some in our group did find some good deals. Then as we were walking the streets of Florence an interesting red leather purse caught my eye in Barberini’s. The shape was quite different, and it was stamped that it was made in Italy. Without asking, they offered to lower the price to E 40. Sold! Our last bit of shopping was at Il Papiro, where they make paper products and stationery by hand. We only had time for paninis for dinner. The bartender was so pleased when we asked to take a picture of him. He posed in front of the cappuccino machine. We met our group in the square where Neptune’s fountain and a reproduction of David is located. There is a chocolate store here that had wonderful chocolate for the bus trip back to Artimino.
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Old 06-14-2009, 03:49 PM   #10
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I'm glad you are enjoying the trip reports. I'm so glad I took notes each night, and am going to keep my writings in some type of an album. I'm trying to type this right away before I forget the little things. Will post the Venice part of the trip tomorrow. Let me know if you have any questions.
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Old 06-14-2009, 07:06 PM   #11
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Enjoying your trip

Thank you again for the wonderful report and am looking forward to Venice report.

I am going to reread your wonderful descriptions again, when I have more time to dwell on them. Thanks for being so agreeable about answering questions. I am looking forward to Rome, the center of our faith and all its awe. We are celebrating our 40th anniversary, one daughter's acceptance into graduate school and the other daughter's graduation from college. Lots to celebrate. Too bad the youngest doesn't have a job; she is among the 81% of 2009 college graduates without a position. We will have to enjoy our trip even more and pray for an upturn in our economy so that everyone can get employed.

Thank you again.

Kay

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Old 06-14-2009, 09:22 PM   #12
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Enjoying your TR...can't wait till my "junior adventurers" are old enough to appreciate an ABD tour. Till then I have to live vicariously through my fellow DIS'ers!

thanks!!
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Old 06-15-2009, 06:38 AM   #13
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It looks like your itinerary changed a bit after Rome compared to ours! It's interesting to read the differences!

We found Orvieto lovely also; picture postcard of an Italian village.

Did you ever get used to the wild bus ride up to Artimino? You're right about it being scary but breathtaking. You have to keep you eyes open. You just don't want to miss a thing!

Looking forward to reading about your Venice experiences ...
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Old 06-15-2009, 09:39 AM   #14
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I know they did change the itineray a bit from last year. I think one thing was we made the pasta in Artimino, rather than traveling, and I think we spent a longer time in Florence? In the end, we agreed we wouldn't have changed a thing, though one person wanted one more restful day in Tuscany. The economy is depressing, didn't realize how bad it is for recent college graduates, and I even wondered about spending the money this year. But the experience IS worth it, and you couldn't see and do everything we did on your own for less money. Exposing yourself and your children to another culture is such a rewarding and educational growth experience. But they do need to be old enough to appreciate it, and Disney has it right on the age recommendations.

Day 8
We have another nice breakfast outside on the patio with the view of the Tuscan countryside and get ready to leave Tuscany for the last time. I walked to the wall of the patio and tears started to flow as I viewed the hills and the olive trees. It was very hard for me to leave this beautiful place. We grabbed a bag lunch from Artimino and boarded the bus to take us to the Eurostar station. How the bus driver maneuvers the bus down the windy streets from Artimino is beyond me. The first class Eurostar is, well, first class. Nice big comfy seats with tables between most of them. Marco and Mandranke discussed the seating with us ahead of time as we are a family of three and weren’t seated in the same row, but our daughter was seated behind us next to her new friends, which she loved. The guides even consider the group dynamics. The ride was nice but the hills gave way to flat countryside with small towns spaced apart. On the train, one of our fellow adventurers facilitated coordinating the kids playing their Nintendo DS Mario game all together. It was a little hard to walk on the train and couldn’t figure out where to push to turn on the water in the bathroom, as did my daughter, but she did note the locks were easy to use!
As soon as you exit the train station, you see the canals of Venice. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. We just stared at the buildings, the bridges, and the water. We boarded gondolas directly from here. Again, the guides had planned who was in each gondola, and my daughter’s new friends were with us. My husband and I were the lucky ones to get the seat in the back. Six gondolas later we were all moving down the canals. The expertise of the gondoliers was amazing, steering the boats, and bending down as they cross under the bridges. We would later find there was only about a foot of water in the smallest canals, and if it gets too high, they can’t maneuver because they can’t bend down under the bridges.
We then started our walking tour of Venice. We learned about the wells which you still see all over Venice which were once used to obtain clean water. We met Franco Polo, the great x 7 grandson of Marco Polo. We toured St. Marks square, there were orchestras playing even at this time of the day on the square. Our local guide explained how the Venetians stole the body of St. Mark from Alexandria so that Venice would have a patron saint. The paintings on the front of the Basilica showed them smuggling the body into Venice. The church was in the Eastern style of architecture with Greek columns and gold decorations. We boarded water taxis from here to take to our hotel. The Dei Dogi is in a more residential part of Venice, and is extremely beautiful. Marco and Mandrake gave us maps of Venice and explained how to get around, which was easier than we thought it would be. We were starting to get a bit hungry, though it was early for dinner, especially by Italian standards, so we started to walk down the Strata Nova (main street) and look for a place for a glass of wine and appetizer. We found a cantina with little tables on the street so we sat outside and I had a glass of wine, while my husband enjoyed a beer. We also ordered an appetizer of bread and proscuitto and salami. Our guides had recommended Fiaschetteria Toscana for dinner, and we then proceeded there. I had a wonderful monk fish and my husband and daughter loved the sliced beef filets. We continued our walk towards St. Mark’s Square, because I wanted to be there at night to hear the dueling orchestras. When we arrived there were four different orchestras playing in front of the restaurants in St. Mark’s square. It was magical. I knew it was quite expensive to sit at these tables, and we were content to just walk from place to place to enjoy whatever piece they were playing at the time. We got something to drink and sat on some steps and enjoyed the pastries we had picked up along the way to the square. Our feet were tired, so we took the Vaporetto (public transportation, like a large bus on water) back to the Orto stop. The ticket agents were helpful in getting us on the right one, but the stops were hard to see at night, and no one announces which stop you are at. Luckily, I had my map and had noted the stops before us when we boarded and we found our way back to the hotel.

Day 9
Today we walked to Tragicomica, the mask making shop. We passed many postcard shots of canals and bridges. The facades of the buildings were all different with balconies and flower boxes. There were also many cats, which we loved. We stopped at the Rialto Market on the way there, which was quite an experience. All types of fresh exotic fish for sale. On one side of the market was all the fresh vegetables and fruits, offering a different aroma. My husband had a field day photographing the market stands. We bought sundried tomatoes for E1. I don’t know why we didn’t buy any fruit, but luckily the family from New York did and shared the tiny strawberries and raspberries with us. I loved the small strawberries. We took a Traghetto, a small boat that you stand in, to cross the canal to get to the mask shop, rather than walk to another bridge. Didn’t really like standing on the boat, or the unfriendly driver. Gondolas and water taxis are the best form of water transportation, I think.
At the mask shop, they explained how the masks were made from a mold with 3 layers of different types of papers. Masks were originally used to prevent the spread of disease, then later for balls so that the poor could attend as well as the rich. There is a Carnivale in February, but we made masks for our own celebration that night. It was so fun, we picked out the style and the color for the base and painted them ourselves. They could help with the decorative paints if you asked, or you could apply them yourselves. The Master painter applied the braiding and beading you picked out. The masks were all different and all beautiful.
Since we were halfway to St. Mark’s Square, we walked back there to experience it one last time. The sounds of the bells ringing while standing there was surreal. There were bells from different structures, one depicted the bells being rung by the statues surrounding it. We decided to tour Doge’s Palace, and it certainly is different without a tour guide. I know we missed so much, but we saw beautiful works of art, decorative ceilings, the senate chambers, and our favorite part, the prison dungeons. Our daughter was exhausted, but instead of taking the vaporetto back, we bribed her with gelato and a chance to buy earrings to wear at tonight’s farewell dinner on the walk back. She tried a new gelato flavor, Kinder, named after an Italian candy bar she loved. I had caffe.
Our exquisite finished masks were presented to us at our farewell dinner and it was fun to see them on everyone. The dinner was either beef, which though didn’t look so interesting, but everyone said was wonderful, or a fried fish plate with calamari, squid and whole baby shrimp, including their heads and tails, which could all be eaten. I felt like I was eating the fish I had seen at the fish market that morning. There was music, dancing, and a slide show. It was all over so quickly and time to say goodbye. But we had booked another day…
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Old 06-15-2009, 09:13 PM   #15
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I love your report! Takes me back to my trip many years ago.
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