Italy vacation planning

One day not long ago I was dreaming about taking a trip to Italy. I've never been to Europe and I've always wanted to go. Of course part of my day dreaming meant researching airfare prices. I just happened to find a super deal on airfare which made me realize that maybe my dream could be a reality. Pete and I discussed the benefit of going while Hailey is little (free for her to eat and sleep and fly and perfect size for carrying around all day). I was teasing about purchasing the tickets when Pete shocked me and said "do it!". So I did.

Now we are in the midst of trying to plan our accommodations. We hadn't started because we hadn't quite determined where in Italy we were going to visit. Last Thursday night we finally sat down with a whiteboard, calendar, and a map. We discussed and discussed and finally decided on a route and now we are working at making reservations. If it were just Pete and me traveling, I think we wouldn't be so careful about making reservations...but with having a baby brings responsibility and now we feel like we need to make reservations and know where we're going so we can maximize our time abroad. I was getting REALLY nervous about things when everywhere I checked was already booked full. We are trying to stick to a budget, but are finding that Venice is expensive...and it's high season in Rome when we'll be there so the prices are high and places are booked up. Thankfully google has some tools which have proved helpful. In my gmail account I've been labeling emails by location and availability. I'd never used labels before, but this has been a lifesaver! Also, Pete and I are sharing a google doc with a list of all the places we've found and contacted and then tracking responses. If any of you need a link list of decent places to stay in Italy - hit me up for our list! We've searched the web high and low...and also are using the Rick Steves' Italy 2009 book (purchased just yesterday in hopes of finding more options at a reasonable cost). We've had to type in web address after web address and also filter through the expensive places and have ended up with a list of moderately priced apartments, hotels and bed and breakfasts throughout Italy.

Here are is the route we came up with and the number of nights in each:
Varenna (Lake Como) - 2 nights
Venice - 4 nights (fly from Venice to Naples for about 22euros/each)
Naples - 4 nights
Rome - 3 nights
Civita di Bagnoregio - 1 night (we might try to do this in a day trip on the way to Cinque Terre, not sure yet)
Cinque Terre - 3 nights
Milan - 1 night

If you have been to Italy before and see any flaws in our itinerary, feel free to call them out. Also, if you have recommendations for reasonably priced places to stay - feel free to leave me a comment with the info! The more the better. ;)

One thing I'm loving about Italy so far is the 18th century decoration in the rooms. I lost the site I was on that had the most regal looking rooms (and reasonably priced!)

Seems gold damask wallpaper or rich red, blues or gold damask bedding make even the least expensive bed and breakfasts seem deluxe! I love it so much - it's inspiring me to want to wallpaper our bedroom. :)

Going to Italy hadn't really seemed like reality until this weekend as we worked full time at locating accommodations and sending reservation requests. Now I'm SOOOOOOO excited I can barely focus on much else. I'm even more encouraged as I woke up this morning with about 15 new emails - half of which being responses saying that they DO have a room available for our stay. Yay!!!

Now if only our passports arrive in time...

We're back!

We flew down to San Antonio for my awesome friend Amy's wedding. It was her 3rd wedding to the same man and there were no divorces in between. How does that happen you ask? Well, they had a small beach wedding in Florida (where her hubby Dustin is from) about a year and a half ago (June or July 07) but it wasn't 'legal'...something about paperwork. They planned to have a big wedding celebration with all their friends the following year. Soon after Dustin moved in they went to Vegas and went to a drive up window to become 'legally married' (paper work and all). So they planned for their big wedding celebration...and then found out in October that they were pregnant. That changed things a bit since Amy's due date was on the exact date they'd picked for their wedding celebration. So... the wedding was delayed to November 8th. And that's the story as I know it. :)

It was a beautiful wedding! At the end when the pastor said 'I now pronounce you man and wife' Amy turned to everyone and shouted "For the 3rd time!". It was pretty rad and if you know Amy, none of this should surprise you. She's a pretty awesome gal and I'm thankful to have her as a friend.

I should mention that we stayed in this bed and breakfast right on the riverwalk... It was a really neat building...but the windows were not double pane and the street sweepers and trains seemed to roll by 2 times every hour both nights. It was NOT the ideal sleeping condition if you are a light sleeper. It was one of the least expensive places in the area...it was very clean and well done. I think it was priced lower due to the street noise/window issue. That will teach me...

After spending some time doing the riverwalk, the alamo and the wedding, Pete and I drove off in our cool rental car (toyota corolla) to Galveston to hop on a Carnival cruise ship.
Galveston is still a wreck. Piles of stuff everywhere. Not much other than gas stations open (it was sad to see a Starbucks all boarded up and out of commission - ok, ok...it was sad to see whole houses knocked over too).

Don't worry, this was just a mandatory drill we got to be a part of once we boarded the ship. We were packed in like sardines...learning about what we should do in an emergency.

Yes, we took a picture of the towel animals just about every night...

I'm not kidding...

This is what you do on a 'Fun Day at Sea' day.

Rope swing into waterfalls in Jamaica. The water looks so brown because they had a big rain....usually it's very clear. I guess there was a hurricane nearby or something. Late in the season for it, but that's the excuse anyway.

This is the only part I got to go in since they were very cautious with me since they could all see that I was prego. The water was like a massage on my back. I was worried about keeping my suit on the whole time I was sitting there so it was relaxing and stressful all at the same time...

I like this picture. I took it while on our pontoon boat river tour. We saw crocodiles...I had no idea they had them in Jamaica, but they do!

Pete and I enjoyed our fair share of ice cream and frozen yogurt cones available 24/7 on the ship!

This picture was taken as we were heading away from our ship in Grand Caymen. Beautiful water on this side of the island....then we went on our sting ray and reef snorkeling tour on the other side and it wasn't nearly as pretty due to all the heavy rain they had recently.

Pete made fun of the way the mask pushed my lip down. This mask was horrible and I couldn't see much through it...finally I tried Pete's and it was a whole new world under the water! BEAUTIFUL fish and coral! The water was very green out there... I'm hoping our underwater camera pics turn out ok.

These guys dove into the water and brought up these konk shells...proceeded to gut them and then let everyone taste some of the organizim that lives in the shell (what are they called? I have no idea....konk shell creatures?). It was pretty nasty to watch them cut them up. I didn't try it since it was raw...but Pete did. He said it was pretty good.

Cozumel Mexico...and 2 cruise ships unloading at the same time. We had talked with our table mates about hanging out together in Cozumel since we both didn't have any plans. Well, we forgot to set a time and place to meet up so we could actually hang out. Pete and I got off the boat and waited for a bit...but then felt a bit overwhelmed by how many people were coming through...so we went shopping for a bit in the stores that were right at the port. We finally decided to take a taxi to a beach and hope they went to the beach they had mentioned to us the night before. We got in the taxi and were just about to pull away when our table mates shouted at us and Pete spotted them in the crowd. Pete told the driver to hold on...and Rowdy and Cassie (our table mates) told us they'd just rented a jeep and to come with them. Woohoo! Saved in the nick of time! We drove around and found a nice beach, hung out, snorkeled, swam, ate and laid out...and then got in the jeep to tour around the island. It was beautiful! This was our favorite day of the cruise because we got to just go at our own pace and see the beautiful beaches and feel the wind in our hair. :)

This is the beach we hung out at for several hours. It was so very nice!

We wouldn't mind going back to Cozumel...
I got a sweet comb over by sitting in the back left of the jeep. :)

Um, no...I'm not leaking - my suit was still wet!

Told you...we like the towel animals.

We didn't take any pictures on our last day on the ship. It was really windy and the boat was rocking like crazy. I stayed in the room most of the day. Pete went out to get pizza and check out the crazy waves (we didn't have a window in our room since we were traveling the budget route).

We got off the ship and headed to Amy and Dustin's place to hang out and stay the night. This is their son Christian. He's a very sweet little guy. :)

Pete and I spent our last day in San Antonio by visiting the riverwalk and taking fun pics in this red tunnel. :)

All in all, I highly recommend taking a cruise when you're in your 2nd trimester. It was relaxing and exiting and just the right amount of adventure.

Now back to reality and paying bills....