Friday, November 27, 2015

Goodbye and Good Riddance Verizon

I have been with Verizon for a very long time. And, the prices got higher and higher. Eventually, they stopped offering a free phone with contract renewal. After that, there was nothing keeping me with Verizon (certainly not their BOGUS rewards program)...except my existing contract. Now, the contract is over for all of the lines on my account and I can say goodbye to Verizon once and for all!

I started using Google's Project Fi on November 1st.  Since I still had a contract with Verizon until the end of November - I had both phones running for the month. Because I was still in contract with Verizon, I could not transfer my phone number to Project Fi without getting slammed by Verizon's early termination fees. So, I decided to take Google up on getting a new number. No big deal for me, really. I was actually a nice opportunity to clean house. And, having both Verizon and Project Fi active at the same time gave me a bit of a safety net during my Project Fi trial (turned out I didn't need a safety net - Project Fi is better than Verizon).

Now the month is over and I can say without hesitation - Project Fi is AMAZING! The service is flawless. During my month trial, I traveled in both the US and the UK. Perfect service in both countries. Best of all, 10 gigs of data costs $10 per month with Project Fi both in the US and in 120 other countries! I used data in the UK as if I were in the US and there was no additional cost beyond that $10 per gig that I pay anyway. Yes, you understood correctly. International data for $10 per gig when you travel in any of their listed 120 countries!!! Hard to believe, but completely true!

Honestly, it only took me a few days using Project Fi to know the service was great. Several times, in areas with generally poor cell service, I had better cell reception than family members who were still on Verizon! After about 3 days of carrying both my Verizon phone and my Project Fi phone, I started leaving my Verizon phone at home. As a matter of fact, I think I have only turned on my Verizon phone 3 times this month.

I am now so confident with Project Fi that my whole family is moving over and I couldn't be happier. We are moving over to an reliable yet affordable service and getting rid of Verizon once and for all.

If you haven't heard about Project Fi, you should check it out soon. The service is excellent and the price is right! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

I didn't wimp out... Technically

I ended up eating at the hotel restaurant... Not quite what I hoped but at least I am not in my room with a bag of chips. Don't think this is not a cop out, however. The restaurant I wanted doesn't serve dinner. It is a pub that turns full bar at night. Turns out that in the evening they only serve snacks and beer. So, it wouldn't have served my purposes anyway.

Eating alone is still no fun. I am trying to people watch but in doing so I am reminded  that I am the only person eating by myself. And sitting next to a group of Asian tourists speaking in a language with which I am completely unfamiliar, eavesdropping is useless.

So, in the end this is the worst part of traveling alone. Usually try to get an apartment or hotel with in-room cooking facilities (like a microwave). Unfortunately, that is not always possible like with this trip. Well, such is life.

Once I am done eating I will return to my hermit ways - retreating to room looking forward to tomorrow when I go to see Measure by Measure at the Globe Theater with a coworker. 

On a positive note, when I get back to my room I will have plenty of time to tell you all about my adventures and share pictures from this trip. Despite the pains at dinner, I have had a wonderful time touring London!

Traveling on Business... Alone

If you have read my blog before you know that I am loving my travel to Europe for business. I am in London again and having a ball (for the most on)! I love London and will have much more to share soon... but before I share all the details and photos, I have a purpose for this post.

As much as I love to travel, traveling alone has some wins and some pains. When I visit a museum, I can spend as much time as I want near a favorite display and rush past those that I find boring and no one can complain. When I am touring I can get lost and discover new things and no one complains. I can be "late" to destinations that I choose and no one complains. I can see the sights I want to see and no one can complain. And, when I am "off the clock", I am a tourist again and can do whatever I please and I have no one to answer to. But....

I hate eating alone. I try to eat as many meals on the run as possible so I don't have to sit at a table by myself wondering how dumb I look. Now, it is dinner time and my stomach is making ungodly noises. I want dinner. But, here I sit in the hotel room thinking about how awkward it is to sit in a restaurant alone and wondering if I should just quite my stomach with a bag of chips from the grocery store.

Generally, I am a confident person so I should be able to walk into restaurant like I own the place. Just now, I tried and failed. When I saw other people sitting and eating - I kept walking as if it wasn't ever my intention to stop. I walked around the block and came right back to my hotel room to hide. Pitiful!

Then I thought, if I blog about it - tell the world that I plan to eat alone - I cannot possibly disappoint my readers. I will be forced to people watch and then write to tell you all about my experience eating alone in London... Right?

Well, it's worth a shot. The place I want to eat has some of my favorite (perhaps I should spell it favourite since I am in London :)) dishes like Cottage Pie and Bubble and Squeak... I should go and enjoy a traditional English meal while I have the chance. Right?

Ok I am going to try again. Who knows, maybe I will meet some nice English people who will take pity on the poor lonely American tourist and talk to me. Chances are good, the English are very nice. Here we go... If I make it and succeed in this venture of eating alone - I will tell you all about the experience. I know you are just waiting on the edge of your seat for an update :).

Friday, May 8, 2015

Trip to Italy - Florence

Oh, Florence! What a wonderful place. The birth of the Renaissance. For anyone who loves art, Florence is the place to go. Florence was actually our first home in Italy and every second was lovely.

On the first day, we walked around aimlessly seeing the sites and stopped for dinner at an ok (but not great) tourist trap. Despite the fact that dinner was marginal, just walking around in Florence is a thrill. Every inch of Florence is art and the Piazzas are packed full of street performers and musicians. Because of the street musicians I will forever associate the song Time to Say Goodbye with my trip to Florence.

Our first full day in Florence was spend on a walking tour of the city. Though the tour wasn't great (see the post about the tours), it gave us some sense of direction. In the days that followed, we went to the Gallery of the Academy, the Uffizi Gallery, all of the cathedrals/churches, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, all of the Piazzas, and the Ponte Vecchio.

At the Gallery of the Academy we saw the David, Michelangelo's masterpiece, up close and personal. It is an amazing sculpture and absolutely massive. The David is truly a masterpiece (and yes, his hands are very big for his body but I will make no comment about the part of his body that is considered very small :)). We walked through the rest of the Gallery of the Academy too and I took some pictures, but it was mostly full of religious Renaissance paintings - which aren't really my thing.

The Uffizi museum, however, was wonderful! There were a ton of sculptures (sculpture is my thing) and I was able to see a couple of paintings that were very cool. First, I saw the Birth of Venus by Botticelli. It is a beautiful painting. I also got to see (up close and personal) two paintings by Leonardo DiVinci. Though I wasn't familiar with these works before this trip, it was a thrill to see his work in person.

On the second night in Florence, we had dinner at a wonderful restaurant - though I cannot remember the name of the place. It was lovely, the food was excellent, and the wait staff was wonderful in every way!

I think my favorite part was seeing the Dante related things. Of course, as a Dan Brown fan, I read Inferno and honestly that had a little to do with it. But, I am also an avid reader of the classics and have read the Divine Comedy as well. So, we went to Dante's home, saw his death mask in the Palazzo Vecchio, and visited Beatrice's church where the 'love lost' leave letters Beatrice asking for help. As heartbreaking side, my younger daughter left a letter behind asking Beatrice to tell our recently departed dog, Daisy, we love her and miss her.

The historic center of  Florence is relatively small and you can walk everywhere and that we did! There was so much to see from the massive Doumo at Florence's main cathedral to the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. Florence is wonderful! Beauty at every turn - lovely buildings, cobblestone streets... just wonderful.

Now for the pictures... Here are the pictures of Florence (there are a LOT of them)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Trip to Italy - Rome

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved Rome. Rome almost seemed like a dream. The ancient buildings, stone streets, the archaeological wonders at every turn - it was heaven. We stayed in an apartment on Via Del Governo Vecchio in the historic center of Rome, just around the corner from Piazza Navona. The street was lined with little mom-and-pop shops, street cafes, and outdoor wine bars. Pretty little Christmas tree-like lights, table candles, and big outdoor space heaters illuminated the cobblestone street and old buildings at night. The buzz of conversation and laughter was warm and friendly. It was charming in every way. I never wanted to leave.

But, leave we did as there were tons of sights to see in Rome. On our first full day we went on a tour of the Colosseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon and them spent the following day at the Vatican. Though very different both were amazing. The Colosseum was interesting, but the Forum was awe inspiring. I walked the same path as Julius Caesar and saw what is believed to be the spot where he was killed (et tu, Brute?). I was thrilled by every temple. It was truly awesome. 

The Vatican is stunning. We toured the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. While all of them had amazing sites and exquisite art - St. Peter's Basilica was by far the best - such opulence and artistic beauty. If I tried to describe the Vatican, you would think I was exaggerating. 

On our last day in Rome, we just walked around taking it all in and dying a little inside that it was the last day. During that walk we climbed the Spanish Steps and popped over by the American Embassy just because I wanted to see American territory in the heart of Rome. And, on the last nigh in Rome we had one last dinner at a street cafe by our apartment. With one too many glasses of wine in me, we walked over for a last look at Piazza Navona with all the street vendors selling art, playing live music, and performing all sorts of wonders. Knowing that I had to leave that wonderful city the next day, this strange watery substance leaked out of my eye. No, I certainly wasn't a blithering baby but having to leave Rome actually caused physical pain. 

Don't let the short length of this post deceive you - Rome was amazing. If anything, I was left speechless by Rome. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Trip to Italy - Naples

While in Italy we spent part of a day in Naples. I cannot say I was impressed by the city itself. There were a couple of things of interest, but otherwise the city was just any city. So, here I will only focus on the things I thought were interesting.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we spent the day with a tour guide and he took us to lunch at a wonderful restaurant in Naples. I didn't take any pictures of the food because I was too busy eating it :). It was GREAT! Then, all the food in Italy is amazing (my scale agrees that I really liked the food in Italy). 

After lunch we walked over to the Archaeology Museum which houses all of the things that were too precious to leave out in the elements in Pompeii. So, if you ever go to Pompeii be sure to go to the museum also. It was wonderful. But, before I get to the museum, let's talk about interesting facts about Naples. 

Naples is a port city that over the centuries was ruled by many different people. Accordingly, the language in Naples is a little different from Italian. It is a merge of several languages (though I cannot remember them all). Naples is also the home of pizza. I have to be honest, though... I have had equally good pizza in NYC. And, despite people telling me it is sooooo different - its not! It is basically the same pizza we have here. The major differences are in the crust. The crust is bland and very thin. The idea is that the toppings really make the pizza and the crust is just a vehicle to get it into your mouth. So, they see no need to make the pizza crust anything special. 

Another fun fact (well, experts aren't completely sure actually - but it is suggested and now believed by many to be true)... Dracula (Vlad the Impaler)  is buried in Naples and I got to see where! Here's a picture of the location:

Next on the agenda was the Archaeology Museum. WOW! AMAZING! In addition to all of the things from Pompeii this museum has so much history, I was absolutely in awe. This museum is not to be missed. I will share all my pictures, but be warned I am a BIG fan of sculpture (anything made of rock really - any type of rock will do - I just love rocks. Sometime I will have to explain why - but that will have to be a separate post. For now, just know I love sculpture) so there are a lot of pics of those that I saw. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Trip to Italy - Pompeii

Having a strong interest in ancient history, I cheated the system in high school - choosing to take Latin as my foreign language. I basically got a second history class each day under the guise of a foreign language :). Though I cannot speak to any living people today - I never regretted the decision to take Latin for a dozen reasons.

For Latin 1 in freshman year of high school, we studied using the Cambridge Latin 1 course. You learn the language by following a story of the lives of a family living in Pompeii around 79 AD. The last pages of the book detail the eruption of Mt.Vesuvius, the destruction of Pompeii, and the death of most of the family members with whom we spent an entire school year (side note for those that are too sad to read on... As I recall one of the family members, the son, escaped with the help of a slave, the chef named Grumio). 

I was absolutely amazed to find that though the story was fictitious, the family were once real, living people. The father (pater in Latin), Lucius Caecilius Iucundus was a wealthy banker. He was married to Matella (the mother - mater in Latin), and they had a son (filius in Latin) whose name was Quintus. Though it is believed that Lucius died several years before the eruption, the house still stands in Pompeii... And I got to see it!!!

While every second in Pompeii was amazing, this was the best part for me. Silly as it sounds, this family was an important part of my life and I am glad I was able to visit their home (even if they did die nearly 2,000 years ago). Here are some pictures of their house. Unfortunately, it was not open so I had to take pics from outside a gate, but I was there nonetheless. (read on below the pics for more about Pompeii)

Pompeii is amazing! I always knew that I would love to see the ruins, but this exceeded every expectation. Standing in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, looking up at that massive volcano, then looking down at the horror it caused - the ruined remnants of an ancient society, the casts of human bodies just trapped in time - it was surreal. But then, there are reminders of just how real it was - subtle indications that this was once a bustling city full of real people who lived just like me.  The pictures that follow may not seem amazing on the surface, but these are the things that remind you that this is very real. 

A water pipe (yes they had public water back then)

A walk up fast food restaurant. Hot food, like stew, was served to patrons at the counter

The cross walk

This is the street. Take note of the groove in the center of the pic. It is a tire tread warn into the stone from years of chariots riding over this spot.
 Needless to say, I have a ton of pictures in addition to these. You can see them all my Pompeii pics here (there are a LOT of them).


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