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Colosseum

We’ve been planning our trip to Italy for a couple of months or so now and will be visiting Rome and Florence in the fall, with day trips to Naples/Pompei (from Rome) and Siena/San Gimignano/Chianti/Monteriggioni (from Florence).

We’ll be in Italy for 11 days, which is the sweet spot for Chris and I – we start getting antsy for home at around the ten-day mark – don’t ask me why.

Below is our itinerary and as most Europe flights from North America, we’ll be taking an overnight flight which has us landing in Rome midday local time. I’m unable to sleep on a plane but try to stay awake until night-time (local time) to adjust to local time as quickly as possible.

We’ve booked our hotels, as well as the tours linked below. We’ll be buying the Roma Pass (unlimited public transportation and free entry to 2 museums) and the Firenze card (free entry to museums).

  • Day 1: Arrive in Rome: Walk/Explore, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps.
  • Day 2:
    • AM: Vatican tour (skip the line)  for Vatican museums, St. Peter’s and Sistine Chapel
    • PM: Castel Sant’Angelo
    • 5:30pm: Roman Food Tour – progressive tour that stops in various spots in Rome for food and wine tastings.
  • Day 3: Day trip to Naples and Pompei – tour
  • Day 4:
    • AM: Ancient Rome and Colosseum tour (skip the line/beat the crowds)
    • PM: Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini (with all the “old” stuff planned, this looked like a cool option for something different – it combines ruins with virtual recreation to show what a roman villa would have looked like, as well as a basilica and WW2 bunker).
  • Day 5:
    • Rome to Florence by train
    • AM: Accademia museum
    • PM: Santa Maria Novella church and museum
  • Day 6:
    • AM: Duomo, Baptistery, Campanile (Bell Tower)
    • PM: Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens (probably have lunch in the gardens)
  • Day 7: Day trip to Siena, San Gimignano, Chianti (lunch at Tuscan winery), Monteriggioni midieval fortress
  • Day 8:
    • AM: UIffizi Gallery
    • PM: Palazzo Vecchio, Mercato del Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio, Santa Trinita, Loggia del Lanzi, Santa Croce
  • Day 9: Free time in Florence for shopping, exploring, and visiting anything we ran out of time (or energy) to visit previously.
  • Day 10: Free time in Florence
  • Day 11: Depart

So excited to see the art and ruins, eat amazing food, drink fabulous wine and get lost in the side streets of Roma and Firenze. Ciao!! 🙂

 

 

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I’ve updated my Life List and now that we’ve decided what our trip will be for 2017 (Italia, here we come!), that helped identify which Life List items I’ll be crossing off the list this year – see below:

  • Travel to Italy
  • See the Sistine Chapel (Rome, Italy)
  • See the Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
  • Tour Tuscany (planning on San Gimignano, Siena)
  • Train ride in Europe (we’re planning on taking a train between Rome and Florence)
  • Have gelato in Italy
  • Enjoy pasta and wine in Italy
  • Eat pizza in Naples (planning a day trip from Rome to Pompeii, Naples, Mt Vesuvius)

And the non-travel related items to tackle in 2017 are:

  • Grow a fruit tree
  • Picnic in a vineyard
  • Have a proper English tea
  • Make a craft for every season/holiday for 1 year
  • Cook a whole fish
  • Have a home emergency kit
  • Learn 5 homestead skills (in progress – will continue)
  • Read 30 books
  • Cook 30 new recipes
  • Watch 50 movies

Not too shabby 🙂 I better get moving!

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A couple of months ago, I had submitted our entry for the Christmas Town Lottery and received our date/time for our visit to Christmas Town at the Mountsberg Conservation Area. Every year, Mountsberg puts on a Santa’s Village type Christmas Town with related activities and it’s awesome. And today was the day! Which was perfect since the forecast was calling for snow and there had been some flurries in the past coupe of days in the area.

Chris and I met up with his sister (also my bestie) and her family and we headed to the park. We arrived and checked into the Visitor’s Centre, where they confirmed the names of the kids attending. We still had a little under an hour before our wagon ride to Christmas Town so we explored the play barn, animal farm (in the new barn), a visit with a local owl Octavius and the Elf Academy where the kids (both big and small) enjoyed some fun activities. The owl was a beautiful bird:

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When it was time for our wagon ride, our guide Christine gathered the troops from the Elf Academy and led us to the wagon ride where we got to sing Jingle Bells on our way to Santa.

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Right before our arrival, we passed the “Temporary North Pole”. 🙂

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In the town were Santa’s Workshop where you could hear the elves working on toys. (When you can’t hear anything it means they’re likely working on stuffed animals :)).

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The reindeer flight academy…

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And Parcel Pickup where the elves drop off the toys for the naughty and nice lists.

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There were nice touches everywhere to add to the festive ambiance:

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We were greeted by Mrs. Claus and invited into Santa’s cabin:

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Our niece and nephew got to tell Santa what they would like for Christmas and received candy canes from Santa and an ornament from Mrs. Claus.

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We got to sample Mrs. Claus’ cookies and hot chocolate too. The kids got to decorate their cookie. 🙂

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We took some pics with the town props too…

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Then headed over for a closer look at the Reindeer Flight Academy – which was equipped with flight simulator and all!

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It was a great day and the occasional flurry just added to the magic of the holidays. 🙂

Well done Mountsberg!!

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This morning we headed out to enjoy the fall colours and went for a hike at Rattlesnake Point. The drive there was nice and the trees were yellow, orange and red all along the way. We arrived there at 10am which was a bit later than our usual and were surprised to find a lineup of cars coming out of the park entrance. It only took a few minutes to get in.

We took the Bruce Trail path that runs alongside the yellow park trail (Buffalo Craig Trail) to avoid the crowds. It was really beautiful and it smelled like fall (as my husband romantically calls it, the smell of dead leaves…  Hmph).

It’s my favourite time of the year and love getting out and seeing all the amazing colors.

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There are a few steep climbs to have fun with…

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Cool bird – think it was a turkey vulture.

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Deeper in the park there was still a lot of green but the trail was a soft carpet of fallen leaves.

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My fave tree on the trail… 🙂

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What a beauty… 🙂

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Day 11:

We headed down toward Sydney and went to Glace Bay to visit the Miners Museum which was very highly-recommended and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

We ate some lunch at the Miner’s Village Restaurant then popped over to the museum. We checked out the exhibits which were very informative and interesting. The piece de resistance was the Mine Tour. After donning hard hats and capes to protect from the low ceilings and dampness, our guide (a former miner) provided an introduction and history about his experience during his long career in the mines. Abbie was incredibly engaging and the stories he shared really made things come to life. Then, off we went into the mine!

For a bit of the way down, we were able to stand up but once we got into the mine itself the ceilings were 5′ high and 4′ at times. We were grateful for the hard hats! We crouched along the way and it was hard to imagine working an entire shift like that, let alone day in day out.

We learned about the different jobs that the boys, men and animals handled in the mine and learned about the labour disputes that were common at the time. It was very disheartening to hear about the control and the practices the companies participated in. This tour was one of the highlights of the trip.

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Food List Items: Fish Burger

Day 12:

Today we headed south to the Fortress of Louisburg which is a reconstruction of the fortified town and fortress of Louisburg. I’m a big history buff  and enjoy pioneer and heritage villages but this one took the cake! All the staff are in period costumes and in character throughout the entire village. And the village is huge. We arrived at 9:45 and left at 3:30! There is so much to see and do, one can easily spend the whole day there exploring all the buildings, chatting with the staff, participating in the activities offered, at whatever pace you like.

After taking the shuttle from the visitor centre to the fortress, our first stop within the walls was the bakery where they explained how much bread they prepared for the soldiers rations and they even had buns and loaves for sale (half whole wheat/half rye for the lower class, half white/half whole wheat for the upper class). We must be lower class since we bought a whole wheat/rye one and snacked on it as we toured. 🙂

There’s a short history on each building in the booklet they provide upon entry and what it’s purpose was back in the day. In buildings that provided a service (e.g. inn, bakery, etc.) there were staff on site to provide information and tell stories. For the buildings that were citizens’ homes, they often included an exhibit such as household goods, the history of building/materials, the history of the excavation, etc. Excellent use of the different spaces and everything we experienced or visited was fantastic.

My favourite part was eating at the inn/hotel where the menu was simple (soups, bread, cheese, ale, wine and a couple of heartier meat dishes, other beverages and some dessert options). All served on metal plates and cups, only with a spoon and the largest napkin I ever saw (it was used to cover yourself with to protect your clothes). Seating was family style on long tables and we met some great people at lunch. I loved it.

The homes often had gardens in their yards with actual produce and herbs growing. some had farm animals (geese, goats, chickens, sheep, etc). On the military side of things, there was the barracks, the bastion, the governor’s apartments and the ramparts. All very interesting.

We decided not to take the guided tour and preferred to roam around at our own pace. We did however sign up for the rum tasting, which was in the Inn and led by the most hilarious “servant” ever. She played her part perfectly and explained how the rum business came to be and how the different classes in the town partook of the rum. We enjoyed two samples – one straight and one mixed with punch. All in the setting of an inn back in the day. It was awesome.

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Fantastic way to spend our last day in the Maritimes!

Food list Items: Crab Cakes

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Day 8:

We took the ferry from PEI to Caribou, NS to begin the next leg of our trip and the one I was most excited about: Cape Breton! After the ferry ride we stopped for lunch in Antigonish then continued on to Baddeck. We stayed at the Silver Dart Lodge and it was amazing, from the view to the food at the restaurant on site (McCurdy’s) – great spot to kick off our Cabot Trail adventure. We took a stroll in the town and walked along the water near the lodge prior to dinner – it’s very scenic, peaceful and relaxing.

View from our room:

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Trail near the lake:

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Reading on our deck the following morning, after breakfast and before we headed out:

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Food List Items: Seafood Fettucine (including Digby scallops, mussels, shrimp), Cape Breton desserts (apple crisp, bread pudding, oatcakes).

Day 9:

We headed onto the Cabot Trail and made several stops for photo ops at the lookouts along the way. We stopped for lunch (Main Street Restaurant & Bakery – You Gotta Eat Here), then at the visitor’s centre in Ingonish to pick up our park passes (Cape Breton Highlands National Park) and got ready for a day of hiking. The first trail was a very short (but steep!) one – the Freshwater Lake Lookout. steps almost all the way up but the view was so worth it.

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Next, we stopped at Ingonish Beach where the trailhead of the next trail was and we took pics of the beach while we were there – very pretty!

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The second trail was the Freshwater Lake trail and it was about 1.7km and flat.

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We didn’t see much wildlife here and certainly no coyotes.

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The next stop was the MIddle Head Trail. This was a trail aloong a peninsula and the views were amazing. It was about 4km all in all.

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We came across this guy – not sure what it is but it was quite large:

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Doesnt this look like a mermaid sitting down, hidden behind some leaves:

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This little guy was munching away right by the boardwalked section of the trail and wasn’t scared of us at all. Cutie:

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Another “don’t be an idiot” sign:

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We stopped for dinner then drove up to Cape North where we stayed at a B&B for the night. It was so quiet in the night up in the middle of nowhere. 🙂 It was great!

Day 10:

We had a great breakfast and met some fine folks at our B&B. We were off to an early start since our target today was the Skyline Trail, 9.2 km of trail and the chance of seeing a moose. (We didn’t see any but the trail had amazing views!). There are two options for the trail – you could take the “right” for a more rugged (and longer) trail experience, of the “left” for a gravel path (and shorter) experience to the boardwalk/steps at the end of the trail. We opted to start with the right and come back on the easy one.

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It was windy up there!! We had to remove our hats or the wind would have done it for us. 🙂 We grabbed a bench and stopped for a snack and water enjoying the view, then headed back.

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That would have been us at the top of the ridge – this is the view from below:

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Stops at Lookouts on our way to Cheticamp:

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After lunch in Cheticamp, we headed down to Inverness to stop at the Beach boardwalk which was gorgeous – on one side there was the beach and on the other, a golf course. Wow!

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Then off to Margaree Valley to the next stop at the Normaway Inn. The property is absolutely beautiful – it felt like we were at summer camp. 🙂 We had dinner reservations on site and enjoyed that and relaxed for most of the evening.

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I also loved the tech-free room – no TV, no phone, they had wi-fi and this radio (functional with a hidden cassette player in the lid).

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There was a claw foot tub in the bathroom. 🙂

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I don’t know which was funnier – knowing that the lid opened up and most “kids” wouldn’t have known that, or that we knew how to work the cassette (which most “kids” definitely wouldn’t know how to do… Hahaha 🙂

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The next morning, we took a walk around the grounds and this cat escorted us all the way and back. 🙂 Cue the animal whisperer (Chris).

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Off to Sydney for our last leg of the trip!

 

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