Saturday, February 26, 2011

Firenze Finale

Here are just a few more pictures from our weekend in Florence.

We mentioned how big things were--David was big, the Duomo was big, even the doors were big.  Check out Lucy in front of some of the doors at Palazzo Pitti.

And, here's Lucy collecting rocks...she has a way of doing that no matter where we go--remember Williamsburg?

We liked the apartment we stayed in.  How did they know that red was my favorite color?

Or that the girls would feel like royalty with this canopy around their bed?

But, I must say that the "living room was kind of weird--basically a hallway with some random furniture, including this odd chair in a corner.

We managed to avoid the carousel on the first day, but the second day, we ended up eating lunch at an establishment right on the same square.  We knew it was going to be a required visit for the kids.  We were glad that the restaurant handed each child a "free" ticket for a ride--however, after paying the tab of our lunch, we're pretty sure we were owed those free tickets!  :)

Here was an interesting obelisk in the Boboli Gardens.  It was supported underneath by four turtles (which you can't really see in our picture, but, trust me, they were there).

There were two more obelisks like this in front of Santa Maria Novella.  We tried to determine if there was some sort of significance to the writer mentioned that perhaps they were Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello and Raphael.  (That will only be funny to some of you)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Firenze Continued, cont'd

We also had reservations for a child-friendly tour of Palazzo Vecchio.

This is something Ted wisely researched and signed us up for in advance. Prior to the guided tour, we roamed around the Palace (literally, Old Palace, as it was named after the Medici's left it to live in Palazzo Pitti), admiring the frescoes on the walls and the gold ceilings.

We also saw a traveling exhibit called For the Love of God, which is a diamond encrusted skull...whoa.

The tour was perfect for the kids. The guide explained many things in the various rooms, but the highlight was in the Hall of Maps.

In this room, were maps lining all the walls and a large globe in the center. The Medici family prided themselves on having all this knowledge at their fingertips. But even more fascinating to the kids (and adults) was the secret shelves and passages behind the maps. We had been in the room several minutes before he opened one of the walls to the oohs and ahhs of all of us. And then he opened one which is a door, and we got to pass through it (like ghosts, Cory said). The passageway led us to a corridor lined with child-sized costumes typical of the Medici family's clothes, which the children then took turns trying on.

Oh, and who doesn't love seeing the toilets of yesteryear!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Firenze, continued

Also a must see in Florence is the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge).  This bridge, once the home to the city's butchers (where they could just throw things off the side into the Arno River), was the only bridge not destroyed by the Germans after their occupation of the city during WWII.  It's said that it was deemed too beautiful to destroy. 

We found some gelato and nutella covered waffles before walking across the bridge, which is now lined with jewelry stores. 

We were headed towards the Boboli Gardens, a beautiful area behind the Medici's second palace, Palazzo Pitti, with stunning views into the city. 

After exploring there for a bit, we headed back towards the Duomo, and began handing our money over to an "artist" for caricatures of Cory and Lucy.  The older girls were holding out for a different kind of souvenir...which ended up being t-shirts, not their first choice, but a good second option. 

A bus ride back to Settignano and an outstanding dinner at a little place called Caffe Desiderio, which was quite possibly the best food we've eaten since arriving in country. 

We returned to the city on Sunday for some more exploring.  This day brought us to San Lorenzo Basillica and the Chapel of the Princes, which is the burial site for many of the Medici family.  We also wallked by Santa Maria Novella, yet another stunning cathedral in the city. 
Okay, so I'm having troubles uploading any additional photos, so perhaps I'll save the rest of Sunday for next time.

Until then...

Monday, February 21, 2011


Government holiday--three day weekend.  That means it's time for us to explore.  After some searching on the internet we decided to make reservations to spend the weekend in an apartment at an old Benedictine Monastery in Settignano.  It was set in the hills above Florence and had a beautiful view into the city. 

Some research in advance helped us plan what we wanted to see and where we wanted to go.  First stop, David.  He's really, really big.  Much bigger than the pictures suggest.  And he's marketed to the hilt--embarrassingly in many ways.  In the background (right behind Cory's head) is Fake David, which is a replica standing in front of Palazzo Vecchio, the place he orginally stood before being moved out of the elements where he was taking a beating.

We also went to a small museum which advertised large wooden models of some of Da Vinci's ideas and drawings.  Many of them were hands-on for the kids, which was a lot of fun.  Cory was especially impressed by the weapons!  A tank, a machine gun, a cannon...he loved them all! 
early cannon

early tank design
Once in Florence you cannot miss the Duomo.  You can't miss it because it's ENORMOUS!  Bigger than David.  We saw the dome, an engineering feat at the time of its construction, from the Da Vinci museum, so we knew we were walking the right way.
It was a stunning church. 

The Medici family wanted it to be the largest cathedral--and from the view from our hotel in Settignano at sunset, you can see it towering above the rest of the city.
I've only gotten us through lunch on the first day!  And there is so much more to share...stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Riley's had a wonderful time rehearsing and performing with the cast of Disney's Cinderella. The production is coming to a close. Opening night was last Thursday, and her last performance will be Friday afternoon.

Riley and one of her friends and fellow mice...

Riley all ready for the show...

Riley on stage...

The best (or worst) part is that the songs are going through all our heads...we wake up singing songs from Cinderella. The four kids alone could probably put the show on for us at home...Lucy would probably be Cinderella. She's got the curtsy down!

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

St Valentine's Day Massacre, v.2011

Oh, it was a happy day in the Gatlin house--we received the little slip of paper in our mailbox indicating there was a package to pick up. Unfortunately, we checked our mail after the window was closed on Saturday, so we would have to wait. Monday, Ted dutifully went to the post office to retrieve our would be a great Valentine's Day surprise for us all.

And that's when he calls me. "Did you pick it up?" I ask. "Why, yes," he responds. He then proceeds to tell me that the package is leaking barbecue's already gotten on his uniform (it stinks that Mondays are blues days, so he's not in his camo to hide the mess).

*sigh* Alas, this is what he opened when he got home with it...

You might say that it didn't quite make it in one piece. I don't remember the very hungry caterpillar ever eating bbq in the story, but he ought to have. Perhaps, though, this is why the ladybug is so grouchy! I'm just hoping my folks figure out a better way to package my MR Pigs BBQ sauce.

On a brighter note, three of my sweet children spent sometime outside and created this beautiful Valentine for me...

We set it on the window ledge of the kitchen window so that I can see it.
AND! I got new rubbermaid food containers! I'm very weird that way. I'm always asking for things like this, and Ted feels like such a heel if he actually buys it as a gift, but I was honestly sad that none came in my stocking at Christmas, so I reiterated to him (and my girls, because they look out for me) that I really wanted some. So I got some. Yay me.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Now I am pretty

Lucy is big on dresses these days. She wears one nearly everyday. In fact, last week she even told Riley that she (Riley) wasn't pretty because she wasn't wearing a dress.

Today, Lucy wore pants and a shirt, for the first time in many days. I guess it finally got to her, though, because after returning from lunch out and a few errands, she came home and changed. When she emerged from her bedroom I heard her declare, "Now I'm pretty."

We then went to the library in this outfit (minus the angel's wings), which was clearly better than any ol' pair of pants and shirt.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Afternoon

For all of you with mounds of snow and multiple snow days, here's how we spent our Sunday afternoon...

It was a beautiful day, so we took the kids to one of the parks on base. We rode scooters, played on the equipment and demonstrated gymnastics tricks

We even managed a synchronized handstand.

Riley joked that perhaps it would be a good picture for Awkward Family Photos, and it truly would have been if I had joined them in the demonstration wearing my skirt...

Although we're loving the mild weather and days at the park, we're secretly hoping for some rain and colder temperatures so that the slopes are snowy for some skiing over the upcoming holiday weekend.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Our first base sponsored bus trip to sight see was to Verona. We left before the sun was up and arrived in the city in just a few hours. We started with a friendly guided driving tour around the outskirts of the city center.

Then we left the bus and went on foot with the guide (note the fur lined hood - current trendy Italian clothing) for an up close view of the downtown sights.

The city had four major periods in history...this picture shows some of the preserved remains of the ancient city walls (behind the tour guide). The red brick was one period and then the white marble was added later in a more artistic period. Below you can see some of the ancient brick roads and structures that have been exposed and preserved.

Next up Juliet's balcony. Romeo and Juliet is a fictional story, but historians believe it is based loosely on a similar set of families from Verona in that period. The historians have traced those stories to some key buildings and they have become tourist havens.

We don't know if Juliet actually peered out over this balcony, but that's what the locals like to tell you.

Plenty of tourists stop by and a souvenir shop next door would embroider your name on various aprons, bags, or clothes. They made one for Mary to entice the rest of the group to buy from them.

The tour ended in the city center near the Arena. A large Coliseum structure, said to be the 3rd largest remaining coliseum in Italy.

The kids enjoyed walking up the steps of the arena. Of course you can always find some guy trying to make a's a Centurion out walking around and posing for pics with all the people like us.

Kristi told the kids to pretend they were watching gladiators battle it out. See how easy it is to relive history.

I can't imagine the steps would be comfortable for a show lasting hours? They still use the arena for summer plays and concerts.

We were given some free time before the return bus trip. We toured a couple of the Cathedrals in the city.

The size, beauty, and history of these churches was absolutely breathtaking (for the adults) but the kids had seen enough after about 10 minutes.

These pics just don't do justice to the detail involved in these altars and paintings.

One of the churches was named for Saint Anastasia so we had to go see that one.

Our church walk took us through some small Italian streets. A Classic Italian image for me.

For lunch we happened on this restaurant that had a kids play land indoors. It was truly a blessing. The kids got a break from sightseeing and could play happily. K had some wine and I had some beer.

It was a fun distraction from the walking in the city. One of the decorations was a Dr Pepper kids bike. We knew God was watching out for us when we sat next to this.

The last stop of the day was an olive farm and olive oil mill. The family that owns the farm gave a tour and then hosted us for a lesson in olive oil tasting.

Lucy enjoyed the bread and oils. Kristi and I enjoyed the wine as well as the oil and bread. It was fun to see the details in the Extra Virgin Olive Oil process. We are certainly becoming fans of local olives and the EVOO culture.

It was a wonderful trip. We look forward to many more like it.

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