Page 3 of tfsnews Travel Blog Posts

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Greater London August 5th 2015

Geo: 51.5002, -0.126236After waking up today, Jake checked the internet to learn that there was a tube strike. (Not a tube steak, this means that the underground subway workers unions' were shutting down service from tonight at 6:30pm for a 24 hour period in protest of expanded 24-hour services.) During the 24 hour period involved, we planned on using the tube both for today's London adventure as well as transport tomorrow morning to our rental car. Uh oh. After a cooked British breakfast (beans on toast plus sausages, British bacon, and fried ripe tomatoes), we checked in with reception and they didn't seem to think it would be a problem for us to book a taxi early tomorrow morning. Hopefully it shows up at 8am.We departed the Travelodge around 10am bound for Westminster and ended up ... read more

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Greater London August 4th 2015

Geo: 51.5002, -0.126236We checked in at O'Hare and were pleased to find out we had all been flagged for PreScreening through TSA. For whatever reason, this meant laptops and liquids could stay in our bags, and we could keep our shoes on. After a breeze through security we grabbed a bite to eat at Chili's (tacos and buffalo wings) and headed to our gate only to find that, due to mechanical checks, our flight would be delayed a little more than an hour. Safety first! Our leap across the pond was uneventful, and a few (named Rich) actually got in a little sleep thanks to benadryl and/or red wine. Arrival at Heathrow was about an hour later than we expected, but after trekking through the maze and customs check, we were pleased to find our bags ... read more

Europe » United Kingdom » England » Greater London August 4th 2015

Geo: 51.5002, -0.126236... read more

Europe » Italy » Tuscany » Florence August 13th 2013

Geo: 43.7687, 11.2569This morning, we woke up to cold showers. Apparently there was some problem with the water heater. As of tonight, it hasn't been fixed. So, same story tomorrow. Quick showers.We got up early to get in line for the climb to the top of Brunelleschi's Duomo, a 470+ step trip to the top of Florence's most well known cathedral. At the beginning, the stairs were "normal" stairs, but as we got higher, they turned narrower, spiral, and weaved in and out of some very cramped spaces. From the ring at the bottom of the dome all the way to the top, it was often two-way traffic, which meant hiding in crevices and standing up against the wall like a pancake to let people pass. At one point Jake looked like the hunchback of the ... read more
This is the 470+ step high dome we climbed.
This was the view our climb afforded us.

Europe » Italy » Tuscany August 12th 2013

Geo: 43.3551, 11.0296Thanks to Rich and Jake running to the train station last night, we were able to have breakfast, get up, and go straight to our train bound for Lucca with tickets in hand. We had it planned out perfectly: train to Lucca, bus to Pisa, return train from Pisa to Florence. The plan executed masterfully and we found ourselves at the foot of Lucca's still-intact medieval wall at 10:29 a.m. before the weather turned very hot.The Luccans built the most recent incarnation of their wall about 500 years ago. It was designed to be thick enough to handle cannon blast. They devoted 1/4 of the town's profits for many years to fund construction of the wall. It was a good investment as no outside attacker ever tried to breach it. The town came to ... read more
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Turisticos... "Make your Pisa Face!"

Europe » Italy » Tuscany » Florence August 11th 2013

Geo: 43.7687, 11.2569Today it was 33.We went on 3 tours.The first one was 3 hours.The second two were 3 hours.We ate 3 meals.We walked 33 miles.A 12 oz can of Coke in Europe 33 cL.Threes aside, we dodged a tour group with our planned breakfast time only to find the place wiped out of coffee, dishes, etc. thanks to a Rick Steves' organized tour. We prefer to be disorganized. Within a few minutes, though, we had the place to ourselves and breakfast items were refreshed.We had a walking tour called "Original Florence" that began at 9:15 and ended at 12:30. Our favorite highlights of the three hour tour were:1. Rich: I enjoyed the side streets which gave us a peak of what Florence looked like during the Medieval years. Some of the buildings had supports that ... read more
Secret Medici Passage
Outdoor Replica David (ca. 1870s)

Europe » Italy » Tuscany » Florence August 10th 2013

Geo: 43.7687, 11.2569This morning we checked out of Hotel Florida in Milan and headed to Milano Centrale F.S. to wait a bit and then board our FrecciaRossa train to Florence. It was a nice train and got up to speeds of 300 km/hour. The Alps and cornfields swept past our windows as we made it to Florence in record time of about 1.5 hours. We walked from the Florence train station to our hotel in about 10 minutes. Hotel Accademia is unique in that it seems to be woven together from several different buildings and has random stairs up and down along the hallways. Now we are sitting on an outside patio and listening to live music from nearby San Lorenzo plaza. More on that later.After a short rest we explored the inner area of Florence ... read more
Ponte Vecchio Bridge
Beatles Cover Band next to Medici Chapels

Europe » Italy » Lombardy » Milan August 9th 2013

Geo: 45.4637, 9.18813We left our hotel for another ride on the efficient Metro system (from Centrale F.S. train station to Duomo we've got it down). The morning was much cooler and less humid as we waited for our Autostradale bus and walking tour. We found ourselves in an international group, including people for Kuwait, Dubai, Austria, Florida, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Germany, and us. Everyone was able to make sense of the tour in English. The tour started with an orientation to the Duomo area (Duomo is the third or fourth largest cathedral in Christendom depending on who you listen to). We would come come back to this site later for a more detailed exploration. We then walked into the Galleria, dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II, the king who successfully unified Italy in 1861. The Galleria was ... read more
La Scala (Milan Opera House)
We <3 Flying Buttresses!

Europe » Italy » Lombardy » Varenna August 8th 2013

Geo: 46.01, 9.28369Today we took a "day trip" into the foot of the Italian/Swiss alps. Our train ride was just an hour long, but transported us into a different world. The temperature was a moderate 70 degrees. From the train station, we walked down a curvy road and onto a promenade walk along Lake Como that led us to the center of the town of Varenna (population 800). We were greeted with a light rain that became a heavier rain, but that subsided by the time we finished a lunch of pasta, sandwiches, and salad. The rain was actually refreshing as it was the first we've seen on the trip. Today was also, by far, the coolest day of our trip as we have endured many 90 degree plus days.The most amazing part of our day ... read more
Varenna from the Ferry

Europe » Italy » Lombardy » Milan August 8th 2013

Geo: 45.4637, 9.18813We woke up early to finish packing and get "Happy Venice Apartment" back to its original state. Breakfast today consisted of less messy hard boiled eggs (Jeannette's idea), rolls, and fruit. At 10am we were on our way to the San Marco vaporetto stop. As we left the apartment, we smiled at the familiar smear of poop on the sidewalk. The first time we came across it, we were reminded of a saying used on the London Tube, “Mind the Gap!” So, each time we came home to our apartment, it was, “Mind the Crap!” We patted ourselves on the back for leaving Venice behind as successful minders of the crap.A ride down the Grand Canal later, we found ourselves parked at a table in F.S. Ferrovia (train station) waiting for our express intercity ... read more

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