Monday, April 23, 2012

Daytripping: Springtime in Lake Tahoe

Yesterday was one of those days where, from the moment I woke up, I just knew that we had to get out of the house. I heard Lake Tahoe calling my name; I followed that call and was rewarded with a beautiful day by the beautiful blue lake.

Even the drive to Lake Tahoe was beautiful. On either side of the freeway we were surrounded by pine trees and snow. Yes, there's still snow in them thar hills this time of year, even though this year spring is turning out to be surprisingly warm. We ended up at Commons Beach, which is basically a park attached to a strip of beach. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it, especially since there are facilities there. I cannot overemphasize the need for easily accessible clean, honest-to-goodness-toilet-flushing facilities. Unlike when we go to the ocean where we have to haul our backside for what seems like a half a mile over hot, sandy beach at Stinson Beach; or we have to haul our backside back up the cliff to the parking lot at Bodega Bay. In either case, the "facilities" - and I use the term loosely - are little more than glorified outhouses. Oh sure, at least there's a place to park your butt, but there is no flushing involved.

Anyway, Lake Tahoe is not the ocean, but it's quickly becoming a family favorite. My youngest son is a total water bug, and after about 15 minutes of complaining he settled right in. (Fortunately, we packed extra clothes for him just in case.) My oldest son likes to wander off and look for rocks. He enjoys the chance to go off and explore, which is fine with me. With one kid happily playing in the water and the other kid happily exploring, it made for one relaxing day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yellow is the New Lavender

I am loving my new lavender...yellow lavender that is. I picked this up at a local nursery last year when we were redoing our front yard. I looooooooove purple lavender, but when I saw this I just knew I had to have it. It's called "Lemon Leigh".

I am not a green thumb gardener, so I need plants that are easy to care for. For the most part, lavender fits the bill. My only problem with most lavenders is that they look horrible when they are not in bloom. Not so with Lemon Leigh.  Before the flowers bloom, it kind of looks like rosemary especially from a distance. It held its rosemary-like color and shape throughout the winter and it's starting to bloom now. I hope the color lasts through the summer. So, if you like lavender and want something a little different, look for beautiful, yellow, Lemon Leigh lavender.

Monday, April 2, 2012

When in Rome... as the Romans do, but you'll still look like a tourist. 

Inside the Colosseum
So, I'm a week late in writing this post and I actually did mean to write it sooner. I've been busy this week with several things and I just didn't make the time to write this post. However, in answer to your question, "How was your trip?" (Since we brought our 12yo along I considered this to be a trip not a vacation. There is a difference.)

The answer is we had a great time. So did alot of other tourists. A couple of things threw a monkey wrench into our trip, but nothing too serious. First, we missed our connecting flight in Munich from DC because the plane was delayed for an hour and a half in DC. Something stupid, obviously. Luckily, we were able to catch the next flight to Rome from Munich, but we were almost two hours late from our original arrival time.

We had a chance to have a quick visit with some friends who live outside of Rome. Our friend played host and tour guide and took us to a small village (?) called Artena. I'm going to be lazy and let you follow the link to Wikipedia. I felt like I had been transported back to the Middle Ages.

Grocery shopping
On Monday afternoon, we said good-bye to our friends and headed into Rome. We stayed at the Auditorium di Mecenate, which was like a hotel on the third floor of an apartment building. Of course, I totally forgot that the 3rd floor in Europe would be considered the 4th floor by Americans because what Americans call the 1st floor is called  the Ground floor in Europe. There was a small, 100 year-old "lift", or "elevator" as we say in the States. One thing I realized was that when someone spoke English, it was usually the UK flavor. Anyway, we got settled in and after dinner in a restaurant, we quickly realized that restaurant dining for three was going to be expensive. We found a little market called SuperElite and bought our food there.

Tiber River
The second monkey wrench was that I discovered that a formal tour is not good for a 12yo with Asperger's and ADHD. Sure, you can say, "No s#!t, Sherlock", but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Lesson learned. I loved touring the inside of the Colosseum and our tour guide was very good. But, a structured tour was awful for my 12yo. The following day, I had scheduled to take a tour of the catacombs and crypts - I cancelled it. I know, I know, but I wanted to enjoy myself not grit my teeth and bear it. Instead, we decided to hit all of the tourist sites that we could: we took the Metro to the Spanish Steps, followed by a long walk to Trevi Fountain, near which we stopped for gelato at San Crispino's; afterwards, we walked to the Pantheon, then somehow made our way to the Tiber River where we walked across a couple of bridges. Finally, we walked back to our hotel. Seriously, keeping my 12yo moving was the key to happiness.

View from Cupola of St. Peter's
Our final day in Rome, was actually spent in the Vatican. We toured the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica. If you ever go there, my advice is: look down at the floor and look up at the ceiling; some of the best artwork can be found there. The Sistine Chapel was smaller than I thought it would be, but it was still beautiful. Breathtaking, in fact. St. Peter's Basilica was huge. (Anyone who complains about today's megachurches has never visited St. Peter's.) The amount of art in that church is overwhelming. It was very cool to see the Pieta in person. By far, the most thrilling thing about our visit to the Vatican was climbing up to the the cupola of St. Peter's Basilica. It was like climbing up a lighthouse. This part of our tour was totally spontaneous. On our way into the church, I saw a sign advertising tours of the cupola for 7 euros. Keeping this in the back of my mind, as we left the basilica, I mentioned this to my husband. Long story short, we decided "What the heck" and spent the money. Boy, were we glad we did. The view from the top of St. Peter's is astounding! Yes, even my 12yo made the climb.

I took way too many pictures and I wish I could share them all, but don't worry: I won't bore you with them. It was difficult picking out some of the highlights as there was so much to see. Here are just a few more:

Trevi Fountain
The Spanish Steps

Guarding the alleyway across from San Crispino's gelato

Spiral Stairs of the Vatican Museum
I guess Romans don't Diet

A picture of perfection


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