Justin's 2022 sabbatical trip
  • Day44

    And The Trip Ends

    August 6 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Well, we are home. The flight from Rome to Calgary was smooth and event free which is always nice when you are talking about flying. We didn't want to take any chances with the flight so we left pretty early to get to the airport. As is our custom and general theme of this trip, even after taking a bus to a train to get to the airport, traveling to our terminal, going through all the security and passport stuff, and getting to our gate, we sat down over 3 hours early. But hey... we were not going to miss our plane home.

    The Rome Airport has pianos like the other stations did but they were rockin' some black baby grand pianos. Caden couldn't resist although I was told I couldn't record the performance he gave to some restaurant patrons who rewarded him with a good clap when he was done.

    After our wait was over, we boarded the plane and began our 10.5 hour long flight to home.

    After many movies and games we arrived without incident. We were lucky on the flight that we had some clear skies. I managed to snag some photos of icebergs and Greenland , which isn't actually green I found out 😉.

    My lovely sister was there to meet us at the airport and drove us back to her place to spend the night. We got to have a lovely supper with her family and my mom. Then the kids stared fading and falling asleep all over their house so we called it a night early and headed off to bed.

    All of us woke up around 2am but most of us managed to go back to sleep until around 6 where we all ended up getting up and ready to go. My sister got up to send us off on the van ride back to Regina. We stopped and got some breakfast and a Starbucks for Jenny and hit the road.

    We ended up pulling up to the house around 3:30 to our good friend Todd mowing our yard which was a very unexpected and pleasant surprise. A big thanks to their daughter Jayelle who looked after our place while we were gone. The place looked great and it was good to see more friends when we got home. Now it is unpacking, laundry, thinking about what to eat, and settle in for the night. Well, most of us anyway. The kids were so excited to see their friends and take them the gifts they bought that they walked over to their house. Hey... it's the Mooney way now.

    Jen is jet lagging hard so hopefully she will get to bed early and have a great sleep in her own bed.

    So this is my last post on this trip. Thanks for reading along with us. It was fun to record some of our stories and share some of the funny moments. It will be great for us to look back on and remember the fun.

    Until the next trip. Chow....
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    thanks for the wonderful experience!!

  • Day42

    The Last Day

    August 4 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 28 °C

    For this day we had nothing planned. This was more of a buffer day. If there was something we just couldn't get to our if we just needed to rest, this was the day.

    We didn't have a lot left on our to do list. We decided to go out for breakfast for a change. We didn't do that really at all. We would either eat cereal and fruit in, or sometimes we would had pastries and eat in the go. Today we sat down for a right proper breakfast at a place called Gingers. Pancakes and omelets, it was heavenly.

    Afterwards, we decided to head to the Borghese Gallery and Gardens. It was a long walk... so... we decided to walk it. On the way we stopped by the Pantheon again. Every time we have gone by, both this trip and Jen and my trip years ago, we have not been able to go in. But this time it was open. So finally we got to enter and look around. What a cool, very ancient building.

    Then, as we continued on our way, we came across another church called Basilica Dei SS Ambrogio e Carlo. Fairly nondescript on the outside but amazing on the inside.

    Then we were off again to the Gardens with a quick stop at the Piazza Del Popolo, the place Jen and I walked through every day on our last trip and the start of the old downtown area.

    The gardens started just up the hill so we made the trek up, took some pictures and headed into the park. We were wanting to get tickets for their museum but the website wasn't working so we decided just to take our chances and head over there and try and buy tickets at the door. I the end they were sold out for the day so I guess that is something that has to go on a future list.

    Then, after walking around a bit more, we started to head home. It was 36 degrees again today and we were all fading fast. We did manage to get some shopping done on the way though.

    We made it home and just relaxed for much of the afternoon. We planned how we were going to get to the airport the next day, packed up our stuff, did a little napping, and just tried to stay cool. After a bit, we didn't want to end our vacation inside so we rallied ourselves and headed out for one last good supper. We kept it local and just found a place nearby. The food was good. The gelato afterwards was even better, and at the end of the night we all felt satisfied with the ending and the trip as a whole. We did a lot, saw a lot, and it will take some time to process but we all agree we are ready to come home.

    Tomorrow will be a long day but by the end we should be sleeping the night in Calgary, and then on the road back to Regina.

    So good night and we will be seeing some of you tomorrow.
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  • Day41

    The Vatican and Castel Sant'Angelo

    August 3 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    Today was our second tour in Rome, the Vatican. We had booked it for noon so we could sleep in a bit and still have time to walk there. This time I did turn my watch on to GPS track the day.

    The tour was good. The guide shared a lot of information and it was very informative so that was cool. We saw a lot of statues, did the Rafael rooms, and ended with the Sistine Chapel. Then we stopped for a late lunch and went to stand in line for St. Peter's Basilica. The line went really quick, it was really just a matter of going through security again. I kept beeping going through the detector, removing more and more items. I was worried I was going be be asked to go through in my underwear but luckily the guy just got tired and let me through.

    The Basilica is amazing and the kids were pretty taken aback. Dylan was geeking out a bit that he was feet away from the burial place of an apostle.

    We looked at all we could see and just spent some time in there until eventually it was time to go.

    We had to stop at a souvenir shop that we had passed on the way in earlier that morning so Liam could get a shirt, but then we were off to Castel Sant'Angelo. This was a building I always wanted to see but somehow missed when Jenny and I were here last time. So it was on my bucket list. We saw the fortress, walked the Ponte Sant'Angelo and then we made our way back home. Again, it was hot and our feet were hurting so we made a stop at a mini market, got some food and pop and headed up to our place where we have been ever since. We talked about going out again but we decided to just turn in early and try to get an early start tomorrow, before the relentless heat saps our strength. Our last say in Rome and the last day of our Epic Adventure. What do you do for your last day? We are open to suggestions. 😉
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    Wonder who cleans and dusts that place! 🤔


    uh.... it's a church. God does.


    🙄 kind of like the magic fairy that cleans our house?


    I don't believe in faries. And God has better things to do. It is a lovely Angel that cleans our house...😉

  • Day40

    Surviving Rome Heat

    August 2 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Today was all about the Coliseum, the Forum, and surviving the heat.

    We had our tour for the Coliseum starting at 10 this morning because we anticipated it would be hot in Italy and we figured to get done our tour before the hottest part of the day hit us. What we didn't expect back then was the whole day would be blazing hot. Before our tour even started it was flirting with 30 degree weather. In Mooney fashion, we decided to walk to the Coliseum from our apartment. About a 2.2 km walk. We got to see the Mouth of Truth and the Circus Maximus on our way so that was a bonus. Then we got to the Coliseum, found our tour guide person, took some pictures of the Coliseum and waited for the tour to start.

    I won't bore you with the details. We walked through the first and second levels, got a great history lesson and the headed over to the Forum where we started up on Palatine Hill and finished in the ruins of the Imperial Forum. So much great information. But.... sooooo hot. Not a lot of relief from the heat. Luckily Rome has water filling stations all through the city so we could always refill our water bottles when we ran out. But by the end we had some kids who weren't feeling well from the heat. So we took some breaks, got everyone nice and cool with water and we made our way back to our apartment to wait out the hottest part of the day.

    After a few hours, when the sun was starting to go down a bit, we set out to explore Trastevere. For the next couple of hours we walked around, went up a hill for some great city views, and then we made our way back home stopping at a great restaurant for supper where Caden decided to try Octopus for supper. That went better than I thought. Then it was back home with a quick stop to enjoy some live music before we went up to our apartment to settle in for the night.

    All in all it was a good day but we all feel the heat and the length of the trip and the mild longing for home starting to creep in is wearing on us a bit. It kind of takes the shine off of what we are experiencing. Not too much... but just a little.

    Ok. Off to bed and tomorrow we go to the Vatican. Thanks for tagging along.
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    more doors!


    The heat must be wearing you down for sure. Mooney's keep on trucking. Enjoy your last few days. Hope the plane will be nice and cold. [Judy Mooney]

  • Day39

    It's Off to Rome We Go

    August 1 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 26 °C

    Today was the day we go to Rome. The final leg of our journey. The last stretch.

    To be honest, the day wasn't looking so good. We got up, finished packing, went to the train station, ate some breakfast, caught our train and headed to Rome. Pretty standard. We were worried our train was going to be late because another train coming out of Rome hit a "large animal " and it was causing major delays. But our train was coming from the Milan direction and so it was only a few minutes behind schedule.

    We had made arrangements with the apartment people that we would be at the place between 1:30 and 2 to check in. We were supposed to arrive in Rome at 12:30 so I thought I had factored in enough buffer time to account for any delays. In the end, we arrived just after 1 and with the time it took to figure out transport, then take the transport, and the walk the 10 minutes to our place, we got there just before 2.

    The apartment is huge. It is located in the Trastevere neighborhood which is a cool little neighborhood but not super accessible via public transport. And once again it was hot. After we got checked in and unpacked, everyone was already tired. We still had to run out to a grocery store to get some supplies so Jen, Caden and I made the trek in the heat to get the necessities.

    It was so hot I started to wonder.... is that it for today? What a waste.

    We stayed in the apartment for awhile and when the sun had started to go down, we decided to head into the heart of the city. Jen planned a route and we just stared walking. And can I say this turned out to be the most fun we have had. We would walk and then pop out at some super famous landmark. Then walk some more and poof, there is another one. We stopped at McDonald's to get drinks and use the bathroom and then more walking. The heat was fine when you are in the shade of all the buildings. In the end we saw the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain the Spanish steps, Piazza Navona, and lots more. Really good street musicians, saw cool street artists, had great Gelato, and it was wonderful just to take in the energy of the city at night.

    So in the end it was one of our best days. And just for fun, I turned on the GPS of my watch to see our path. I wish I would have done it more. It was cool to see.

    So now it's off to bed with our coliseum tour tomorrow. Chow for now.
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  • Day38

    And So Ends Florence

    July 31 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    Boy that went by quickly. 2 full days in Florence and off for our final leg in Rome starting tomorrow.

    We only had a single thing booked... the Academia to see Michaelangelo's David. It wasn't until 11 and the Academia was literally around the corner so we let everyone have a good sleep in this morning. Then it was off to the museum.

    There is more than just the David in that museum. They have tonnes of panels on wood art that predates the Renaissance. Caden made up a game to see how many "Madonna with Child" labeled paintings were in there. He came up with 39. I tried counting the number of "The Annunciation" paintings there were but gave up when I hit 20. (The Annunciation is when the angel appeared to Mary to tell her she will give birth to Christ. It always has the angel on the left kneeling down and Mary on the right usually looking shocked. It seems like every painter and their dog have a version. Maybe it is like a final exam at art school. You can't call yourself an artist until you have painted the Annunciation.)

    Anywho... all that felt like we were just delaying the main event. So we all entered the corridor together to gaze upon the beauty that is David.

    David takes your breath away. So beautifully done. And huge. We spent a good amount of time just admiring him from every angle (😉) and finally we moved on to the rest of the museum. They had a section dedicated to instruments and music, and of course more Madonna with Child and then we were done and back into the city.

    We made out way over to the Piazzale De Michaelangelo. It is an elevated area that has amazing views of the city. If you have ever seen a picture of Florence that shows the Duomo far away, it was taken from there. We hung around the piazza for awhile, took some pictures and then wandered over to a couple of churches that were up on the hill. More pictures and then we were heading back down the hill to the city once more.

    We stopped for lunch at a burger joint just for something different, and then the heat was just too much so we headed back to our apartment for a rest.

    We rested a little, packed a little and then decided just to head back out for our final evening in Florence. We wandered around, got some candy, got some chocolate from Venchi, went and touched the Boar's nose to ensure we will be back, ate some Gelato, had some drinks, and walked around the Duomo until finally we were ready to call it a night and head back to our place. This one is tough to say goodbye to. Jen and I have already talked about coming back again one day. Hey... we rubbed the boar so it is only a matter of time right???

    Tomorrow we are off for our final city of Rome. Tickets are booked and bags are packed. So we will take our time in the morning and be as relaxed as we can as we head to Rome. Because once we are there, it will seem pretty busy until we head home on Friday. So preserving energy is the name of the game until tomorrow afternoon. Whew. What a trip so far. Wish us luck.
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  • Day37

    Doing Florence Day 1

    July 30 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Today was our first full day in Florence. We had 2 things booked for today. The first was the Uffizi Gallery. I have said this before but artists amaze me. It was cool to see how into the art most of the kids were. But the different levels of interests causes logistical issues. Some would linger in a room while others would be 2 rooms ahead. Jen and I ended up spending much of our time just trying to keep our group together and know where everyone was. In the end the kids saw some amazing art and we spent around 3 hours in there. Everyone had their favorites and it sparked s lot of good conversation afterward.

    Next we wandered Florence for a bit, found a great place to eat some pasta in the shade of the Duomo, and then we headed back to our place to refresh a bit and refill our water bottles because the next thing was the hike to the top of the Duomo.

    Now... some of us are faster than others and it didn't take long before our groups got separated. When you go up the Dome, there is a ledge just under the ceiling where you come out into the cathedral, make your way around the wall and then you re-enter the passageways up to the top. We ended up getting paused on this ledge for quite awhile. Maybe they were trying to get previous groups down so they paused us so we wouldn't run into them, I am not sure. But with our separate groups, 3 of our kids got to head on up to the roof unsupervised while Jenny, Evan and I remained stalled on the ledge. That didn't cause us any stress at all 😉.

    Eventually we all made it up and for the first little while we had the top almost to ourselves. It was cool. We took some pictures with the kids, walked around and saw all the sides, and "most" of us just enjoy being up there. Then it started to really get busy. There came a steady stream of people coming up to the roof and it became more and more congested and it took quite awhile for us to be able to go down. Again we got split into 2 groups and we slowly made our way back down to street level where we all met up again.

    After that we had nothing else planned. We ended up going into the Baptistry as our ticket covered entry into that and it wasn't that busy, and it was something that Jen and I didn't do last time we were here because it was closed. So that was neat.

    Then we headed back to our place for some showers and a bit of a siesta before we headed out once more for our supper reservation. Florence is famous for their Florentine steaks and I didn't have one last time we were here because Jenny doesn't enjoy rare meat. But this time I was not going to miss out. We had the meat eaters to take on the steak.

    The meal was amazing, and the steak was huge. I thought I may have overestimated the eating potential of my boys but they exceeded my expectations and we managed to finish the steak off. 2.4 kg of meat on a 4" thick t-bone steak.... mmmmmmm....

    Some of the kids even had enough room for dessert so we tried some creme brule and a lava cake. And then it was time to waddle back to our place for bed.

    A great way to end our day in Florence.

    Only one more full day here and then off to Rome. It is hard not to think about the trip coming to its end. The feelings of both sadness of this once in a lifetime trip that we have planned for years finally being done, and the feelings of looking forward to getting home. But we are all trying to stay in the now and just enjoy what we are doing. Tomorrow we see Michaelangelo's David. Then.... who knows where the day will take us.

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  • Day36

    On To Florence

    July 29 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 28 °C

    Today is the day that we traveled to Florence. Jen and I were lucky enough to come to Italy for our 20th wedding anniversary so we knew that this time we would largely be doing the same things we did back then. That is fine because it gives us the opportunity to share what we loved about this city with our kids.

    To get here we needed to take a train from La Spezia to Pisa and then switch trains in Pisa to go to Florence. We had 8 minutes to change trains... but our train left La Spezia 10 minutes late so we were shot right off the bat to make our train. But the cool thing about train travel in Italy and a lot of Europe is that tickets are flexible. We checked when we arrived in Pisa to make sure but they just confirmed that our tickets are good for any train going to Florence in the next 4 hours. And there are lots of trains. So we just waited for the next train and we were on our way.

    Florence was just how we remembered it.... only much hotter. We were able to get into our apartment early so that was great. We got in, fought over beds, cranked up the air conditioning and then headed out to see the city.

    We had nothing scheduled for the day but we thought, if we could get a few things out of the way early it will make our other days less busy. So the first thing we did was to go see Santa Croce. It is the church down in Michaelangelo's neighborhood and there are tonnes of famous people buried there. Plus the church is really cool. There are carvings from Donatello in there, the graves of Michaelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and many more, and amazing stain glass windows. We wandered around for awhile until we had seen all we could see and then it was out to the courtyard. Again, it was really hot so we got some water and sat together to figure out what we should do. Liam was feeling pretty tired because of our big Cinque Terre day so he didn't feel like doing much. We decided to walk over to the Ponte Vecchio, see the bridge, get some food, and then head back to the apartment for a little siesta.

    The kids started a game of magic while we relaxed. Then we decided to head out for... what else... Gelato. We did some wandering first around the Duomo, then got our gelato, and sat on the steps, people watched and ate our gelato. What a great way to end our first day in Florence.

    Tomorrow we are off to do the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo. We will see what else we can fit in. Now... off to bed in a cool room. Ahhhhh.
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  • Day35

    Our Epic Day in the Cinque Terre

    July 28 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Today was one of the days we have been really looking forward to. The Cinque Terre. 5 little villages built into the hills of the Italian Riviera of the Mediterranean. What is there not to love?

    We bought a Cinque Terre Train Card that gives us unlimited travel from La Spezia through all the towns as well as access to the trekking paths (the walk between the towns that we didn't do)

    We started out taking the train to the farthest village, Monterosso. Every village was so different. This one was more spread out so there was very little vertical climbing unless you wanted to get into where the houses were. We walked up and down the marina and then we got into the Mediterranean for a good long swim. It was awesome. It was already 25 C outside by 9 am so we knew it was going to be a hot one and we wanted to start off the day in the water before it got too busy.

    After our swim and a little shopping, we were back in the train to head to the neighbor village of Vernazza. This village was quite a bit smaller that lead down to this circular marina. Very picturesque. It was here we took a little detour up into the trekking trail to get some good shots of the city from up on high. After a little for exploring and relaxing we headed to the next town of Corniglia.

    By now the heat is starting to affect us. This village is unique as it doesn't have a marina and the town is at the top of a hill. You have 2 options, wait for a little bus to take you up...or... do it the Mooney way and take the stairs. So, we took the Mooney way. After the stairs we were hot and tired. The path takes you to a little square that doesn't have much and you have to take some side path to get to the centro or city centre. All the other towns so far just took you there easily so it took us a little bit of time to find the secret entrance.

    Once we found it, our next action was to find food. We stopped at a cute little pizzeria that specializes in pizza and sandwiches on foccaci bread. It was delicious and just what we needed. We kept walking through the town to their scenic terrace at the edge of the town with views of the Mediterranean and the neighboring town. Then it was back through the town and to take the stairs back down (it is the Mooney way) and back in the train. This time, we skipped the next town and got down to the first town of Riomaggiore.

    In this town, you get off the train and walk through a long tunnel to get the town. This town had a marina and the town extended far up the hill. We walked really far up, stopped for some Gelato, and got some great pictures. Then we walked back down and headed to the rocky Marina. Some of the kids wanted to get wet again and a couple wanted to work on their tans. I saw some kids cliff jumping nearby and thought my kids would like to do it. The tanners were not that keen as they didn't want to get wet. So I convinced the swimmers to come check it out with me. Once the tanners saw the swimmers go... then they decided to come to. I think they were nervous but if they all went together and the sacrificial first jumper survived, then maybe they would do it to. So we worked our way up to the top of the Rock, watched some little kids jumping off and I convinced all of them to do it to. So all my kids went cliff jumping in the Cinque Terre. That will be a cool memory for them.

    Afterwards, we made our way back to the town center, got some more Gelato (didn't I already say how hot it was... it was definitely a 2 Gelato day) and then we were off to the last village, Manarola.

    We kept this one till last because the hope was it was larger then a lot of the other one so we would spend some time there and then have a nice supper. But man..... was it hot. We started at the marina. It was packed with swimmers and sun bathers and there as a cliff side path that would take you to some scenic views of the town and the sea. So we hiked up there, got some great pictures and then made our way back to the city centre. Nobody was interested in swimming again so we walked up the hill into the city. We ended up not finding a suitable place to eat and by now we were all pretty tired and sweaty. So we intended to head back to our place in La Spezia, clean up, change clothes, and head back to the Cinque Terre for supper. In reality, we got all cleaned up and decided to stay in. We cooked some pasta, drank some coke, and spent the rest of the evening cleaning up the place and preparing for our trip to Florence.

    The Cinque Terre was everything we hoped it would be and the kids had fun. I am glad we came. Next is 3 days in Florence so there is still lots to look forward to. And in a week from now we will be heading home. So with that I will sign off. Thanks for being on this journey with us.
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  • Day34

    On to La Spezia and the Cinque Terre

    July 27 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 28 °C

    Tonight, as I write this, I am sitting on my balcony, drinking coke and watching all the people in the piazza socializing the Italian way. Jen is crunching a sugar dough cookie in my ear, as we both watch kids kick a soccer ball and the edge of the modern looking fountain filling with people who are just sitting and enjoying the night.

    This was our third straight day of travel and we are really enjoying the slowness of the moment. We are settled in to La Spezia for 2 nights so we don't feel any pressure to do more.

    This morning started off slow with everyone sleeping in. Our train didn't leave until noon so we took advantage of the respite to catch up on some rest and just approach the day with no sense of urgency. After all... this is Italy....

    We once again got to the train station early enough to get some breakfast and prepare for the journey to La Spezia. The train was only 3 hours but by now the traveling was getting monotonous. We arrived without incident, except for the Italians and their weird mask rules. Nobody wore masks on the train, until we were just coming in to La Spezia. Then a guy came through the cabin and had every put on masks. We kept them on until the train stopped, we got off, and then everyone took their masks off. Very weird. And it wasn't that we took them off and we weren't supposed to. Hardly anyone in the whole station was wearing a mask. I guess they wanted to be extra careful for when people exit the train. I am not sure.

    Jen knocked it out of the park again with our accommodations. It is perfect for our needs and right near the action. After we got settled we went for a walk down by the Mediterranean. We wandered a bit, ate some Gelato, got groceries, and headed back to our place to cook our own food and just relax. Tomorrow we are wanting to have a really early start to see as much of the Cinque Terre as we can. It will be a long hot day but we are sooooo looking forward to it.

    So, with that I will bid you good night.
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    You sound as fresh as day 1. Dont know how you all keep going in the heat. More gelato please..