Monday, April 23, 2012

Capodimonte Park in Naples

After two weeks of everyday rain, Saturday proved to be a spectacular weather day with bright sun and highs in the 60's. We decided to take advantage of the day and headed to Capodimonte. Capodimonte literally means "head of the mountain" and is a big area that includes a park, a royal palace, a national museum, an astronomical observatory, and a porcelain factory. Since it was so nice outside, we decided to take Maya and spend a few hours in the park instead of inside the museum and palace.
The Royal Palace.

Capodimonte Park sprawls across a high plateau overlooking Naples and the bay. Other lookout points from the park include Mt. Vesuvius ominously looking over the city, and the coast of Sorrento far across the Bay of Naples.

Mt. Vesuvius
Naples and the bay.
Stepping into the park provided us with a sense of relief from the busy streets outside. Things seem a little bit calmer once you step inside with kids playing soccer, couples picnicking on blankets, joggers and bikers exercising without fear of getting hit by cars, and dogs playing fetch. We always wondered where all of the greenery in Naples is and it seems that it's all in this park! The magnitude of the park isn't truly realized until you pass through the "Porta di Mezzo" (Middle Doorway), which is a high gate leading to the main park grounds. Here, there are different paths one can take; some leading to statues gazing down at the people and some leading to various trails and deeper forests. We walked around for a couple of hours, getting lost in different directions and losing ourselves to the calmness of the park.

We see ourselves coming to Capodimonte Park often either to run, bike, or simply stroll. It is definitely one of the many gems of Naples.

Sabato siamo andati al Parco di Capodimonte. Non pioveva e c'era il sole fuori. C'era molta gente che stava correndo, camminando, giocando, e stava bene con il bel tempo. Abbiamo portato Maya con noi e lei era felice perche' e stat una bella passeggiata e le sono piaciuti gli odori. Le piste erano belle e abbiamo visto il Vesuvio, Napoli centro, e la costa di Sorrento. Le erbe verdi e gli alti erano molto belli da vedere. La prossimo volta vogliamo vedere il museo e il palazzo.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Belgium: Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, & Antwerp

A few weeks ago we found ourselves with a sudden open weekend where Jon wasn't on call. We knew we wanted to go out of the country since we wouldn't be leaving Italy until June, and looking at our list of places to visit we found reasonable rates for flights and hotels in Brussels.

There were five main things we were very excited about: mussels, beer, waffles, chocolate, and fries. What better way to experience a different culture than to dive right into the food? Jon was in heaven with all of the strong Belgium beers at his disposal, and I was extremely happy that every meal consisted of a big pot of mussels. Waffle stands were around every corner, and we decided that although there were a number of ways a Belgium waffle can be spruced up (chocolate, nutella, whipped cream, strawberries, bananas, kiwi, or all of the above combined) we thoroughly enjoyed just the plain version which had some caramelized sugar on it, providing a welcomed light crunchiness.

We spent Friday walking around the main area of Brussels. We went to the Grand Place, a beautiful central market square where you'll find most people admiring the extraordinary buildings or sitting on one of the many terraces drinking a beer or enjoying a waffle. We also saw "Manneken Pis" which is a famous, small bronze fountain sculpture of a naked little boy from 1618 urinating into a fountain.

On Saturday we took the train to Bruges, a very popular destination that looks and feels like it's suspended in the medieval time period. Horse drawn carriages, whitewashed cottages, and smooth canals speckle the city, as well as small restaurants and shops to lure tourists in. We climbed the 366 steps of the belfry, which is a medieval bell tower in the historical center and had gorgeous views of Bruges. We also walked through the begijnhof, which are small cottages established in the 13th century as homes for a Catholic order of single and windowed women. Now they are homes to Benedictine nuns.

Climbing the belfry.

At the top!


From Bruges we took the train to Ghent and enjoyed the old time buildings. We also climbed the belfry in Ghent and once again were able to see beautiful views of the city and of the cathedral. We stopped at the Waffle Factory where the first waffles were made and enjoyed a couple of our own.

We returned to Brussels for dinner and later went to a bar, where we heard people singing along to typical American party songs. Something seemed to happen after midnight where people started to dance on the tables (including a guy wearing bunny ears and a pink inner tube). Naturally, Jon and I had to join in and dance to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" since we were the only ones still on the ground. Good times.
At the bar... on the table...
Antwerp was on our agenda for Sunday. The weather wasn't too cooperative, but we spent the time walking around, checking out the cathedral, the water, and the old buildings in the historic center. We had to catch our plane so a quick fry stop later (where I was yelled at by the mean Dutch fry lady for spilling ketchup on the counter) and a train ride, and we were back in Brussels.

More of the station.

A pretty cool train station!

While we enjoyed our time in Belgium, I think it's the first time in our travels where we feel like we saw what we needed to see and don't have a strong urge to return. Despite this, Brussels provided us with fun experiences, delicious food, and an insight to another culture that we appreciated and will always remember!

And now for our Italian:

Il weekend scorso siamo andati in Belgio. Abbiamo volato per andare a Bruxelles e siamo stati per due notti e tre giorni. Ci e' piaciuto il cibo! Pero', Jon ha scritto del cibo quindi scrivero' delle altre cose. Sabato, siamo andati a Bruges e a Gand. Ho pensato che queste citta' avevano piu' charm di Bruxelles. Loro erano molto belle con cottages, fiumi, carri tirati da cavalli, e strade di ciottoli. Quella notte siamo andati un bar e tutta la gente erano a ballare sulle tavole! Un ragazzo era vestito con ciambella per il mare rosa! Naturalmente anche abbiamo ballato sulla tavola, ma solo perche' abbiamo bevuto molte birre e non ci conoseva nessuno! Il prossimo giorno siamo andati a Antwerp e abbiamo camminato intorno la citta'. Non siamo rimasti a lungo perche' abbiamo dovuto prendere il nostro volo. Siamo andati a Bruxelles e abbiamo mangiato il pranzo. Anche abbiamo comprato cioccolato da portare a casa. Insomma, ci siamo divertiti e ci sono piaciuti i posti che abbiamo visitato. 

Il weekend scorso, siamo andati in Belgio. Abbiamo volato e dormito a Bruxelles e siamo andati a Bruges, Gand, e Antwerp con il treno. In tutte le citta', abbiamo mangiato cinque cose- cozze, cioccolato, patate fritte, 'waffles' e birra - tutte le cose per cui il Belgio e' famoso. Abbiamo mangiato le cozze ogni pranzo e cena, due 'waffles' a giorno, birre invece di acqua, e cioccolato e patate fritte per un spuntino. Loro erano le migliori che abbiamo mai mangiato. Le cozze e le patate erano deliziose. La cioccolata e le 'waffles' erano dolci e lisci. Le birre erano forti e gustose. Noi eravamo troppi pieni tutto il tempo.