Monday, July 11, 2011

Our trip is sadly coming to an end

Well, we are sad to say that we are leaving tomorrow. Although we miss the little buddy (Alex), we really have had a great time and don't want the time to end. There are so many other things we would have loved to see yet, but we are just thankful we got to see what we did.

Today we went to Ostia Beach. It's about 30 minutes away and we could get there by taking the subway. We went to a private beach (most of them are private which means you have to pay to get on the beach). The fee included a lounge chair for each of us and a table and a beach umbrella. Having those things included made us feel a bit more willing to pay to access the beach since obviously Brad didn't let me pack the beach chairs and umbrella. Even sitting in the shade most of the time we got sunburned. It was very hot today in the mid 90's and you could not walk on the sand barefeet without burning your feet. The water in the Mediterranean sea was so warm. Even though it was salt water, it felt great! We had done so much walking and sightseeing during the last week we decided that a relaxing day on the beach sounded good. And, we found out that a lot of the tourist attractions are closed on Monday's anyhow.

We will be getting our last gelato tonight. We will miss that treat when we get home. There is a little shop just up the road from our hotel and we have been there every night to get our nighttime snack. Mmm Mmm. Last night I thought I would try something different and I am not sure what happened (probably had something to do with the language barrier) but I got 1/2 of caramel (which I wanted) and 1/2 lemon (which I didn't order or even point at). The lemon was sooooo tart! And, mixing it with the caramel was not a good combination. Oh well, that's what happens sometimes when we don't speak Italian and they don't speak English. Tonight I might just stick with mint chocolate chip.

Thanks for reading our blog. We look forward to getting home and sleeping in our own bed again. But, we would also be ready to leave next week if we had the opportunity. We love to travel and are already discussing where we are going on the next trip. It probably won't be for a few years, but planning it is 1/2 the fun.

Brad was just checking his work e-mail and saw there were some huge storms that went through the area and took out some trees. We will go and check the local news websites now.

Kathy (and Brad and Beth)

Condo's on the beach

Mediterranean sea from our beach chairs

Sunday, July 10, 2011

città di molti passi - city of many steps

Well we are in Rome and it is very warm here.  It’s in the low 90’s but feels like high 90’s.  We have been going to see everything we can see, before we collapse on our bed for a rest and then we are back at it the next day.

The first day we had a tour of the Vatican.  We had to be there by 7:15am to get in at 7:30am.  The line started to form about 7:00am.  We had reservations with a tour group that got us in as some of the first without waiting in line. Our leader told us we were going to skip everything and go right to the Sistine Chapel, she said you will want to stop and take pictures but we will come back to take them afterwards.  She was right as soon as we started to walk through the first few rooms, I wanted to take pictures.  But we kept going to the Chapel.  We walked into the Sistine Chapel and there were only about 20 people in the chapel.  After the rest of our tour we had to travel through the chapel again and there had to be 200-300 people in there and we could hardly move through the crowd.  They do not allow pictures in the Sistine Chapel so we have none to show you.  Go check it out online, there are some good stories to read about.

After we rested for about 3 hours back at our hotel, we set out again.   First we saw The Capuchini Crypt.  Which is a church run by monks, built in 1645.  They have 6 rooms full of bones which are monks that lived there.

We then went and found the Spanish Steps.  Wow, was there a lot of people there.  Spent some time there and rested for a little bit. Then we went to find the Fontana di Trevi. We had to walk down some small roads, the classic Rome roads.  But after asking some people we found it.  I thought there were a lot of people at the Spanish Steps...there was more at the Fountain.  Same thing, we took pictures and rested then found a pizzeria for supper. Then we went back to our hotel to collapse on the beds.

The second day we had a tour of the Colosseum and Roman forum area.  Very cool, once again we had reservations so we could skip the lines which were about two to three hours just to get in.  We also got to go under the coliseum and see where the animals and gladiator’s moved around before they went out “on stage”.  Then we went to top and got a good look down, very cool, absolutely unbelievable.

As I am writing this we just felt a very small earth quake.  J
So here are some pictures we have taken.

The Vatican with the dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the back ground.

St Peter’s Square looking back at St Peter’s Basilica.

Michelangelo’s  Pieta - Statue of Jesus and Mary.

Kathy and Beth walking down the Spanish Steps

The Fountain di Trevi

The Roman Coliseum  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saying goodbye to Cluj already

Well, it's hard to believe, but our time in Cluj has already come to an end. We knew we wouldn't have much time here (well Beth has been here since June 12), but Brad and I just got here on July 5. We would like to stay longer, but that is how things work out, so we are just glad we were able to come.

It has been a great experience. We had a list of things we wanted to see in Cluj and I think we were successful in seeing everything on our list. Every day we walked between 15,000-20,000 steps, so we are usually pretty tired at night, but we aren't complaining as the weather has been great and the things we have seen have been so awesome.

Yesterday we had a tour guide from Italy. I think his name is GianLuco (sorry if I got that wrong). He speaks good English (which is always helpful to us) and of course he speaks Italian and Romanian too. He is friends with the family that Beth stayed with so they were kind enough to arrange for him to be our driver and tour guide to take us to the Turda Salt Mine. Too hard to explain and pictures probably won't do it justice, but it is just absolutely amazing! Here is a link if you want to check it out:

Then from the Turda Salt Mine we went to the Turda Gorges. We did some walking around and a bit of climbing and the view from where we climbed to was unbelievable. We read that you can do rock climbing there, Beth said she wants to come back and do that sometime. We took a lot of pictures and again don't know if they will give the true picture of what it looked like, but at least we will have the memories.

This morning we walked through the Old City and also through one of the markets in Cluj. We had a Romanian pretzel called Covrigi, it was very good. That is one thing that is so neat about a city like this that we don't have at home. You just walk down the sidewalk and everything you would ever need is going to be in one of the stores you pass. Fresh meat, cold drinks, ice cream, pretzels, sandwiches, fresh bread and baked goods. Mmm Mmm. So much fun just to walk around and try different things.

Right now we are all packed and ready for the next journey of our trip. Our flight leaves Cluj at 7:40 pm and then we fly to Rome. We will then take a train from the airport and then a short walk (Brad's words) to our hotel which he tells us is near center the Rome. We will be there until Tuesday and then we fly back home.

That's all for now, sorry if my post got too long. Thanks for reading and thanks for praying for continued good health and safety.

Kathy (Brad and Beth too)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tired, but having a great time

Kathy here...thought I would try and update this blog. We are having a great time. Still adjusting to the time change (they are 7 hours ahead of us). We fall asleep pretty fast at night, but then wake up around 3 or 4 AM and then have a hard time going back to sleep. Brad and I were both awake and just laying in our beds for awhile between 3 & 5 AM before we finally fell back asleep for another couple of hours. We think we are doing fine, then all of a sudden I am sitting here trying to do some school work this afternoon (yes, I am taking my last two classes) and my eyes are so heavy I can't keep them open. All of us did lay down and slept for about 2 hours this afternoon, which felt good at the time, but now it is 10:45 PM and we should be sleeping, but we are wide awake. Well, Brad and I are awake, Beth is sleeping. Kind of crazy that body clock that we have.

We have been doing a lot of walking. I have been wearing my pedometer and yesterday we walked almost 24,000 steps. Today we only walked just over 15,000 steps. Guess that nap this afternoon didn't count for many steps. And we were driven around more today which also means no steps. Oh well, 15,000 steps is a lot more than I get at home most days.

We went to the Botanical Gardens and the Ethnographic Musem. Here are some links to check them out:

Very interesting places to visit. So much history here, it's just fascinating. We had a friend of the family named Cristina take us to these places. We could talk with her also as she speaks really good English. Many of the buildings were locked at the Ethnographic Museum, but she discussed with the workers there that we came all the way from America and so then they walked around with us and opened all of the buildings so we could see inside. And then when the workers were explaining the history of the buildings, she would interpret what they were saying for us. Then, we met up with a gentleman that worked there who told us he had not spoken English in 25 years (since High School) but yet he remembered enough words to explain to us how old the homes were and what type of people lived there and he showed us all the different stone and wooden tools and told us what they were used for. I am just amazed at their kindness to us "foreigners" as they call us. Really, everyone has been great!

Brad is going to post some pictures here too from our adventures today. Thanks for all of your prayers for our health and safety. We really appreciate it. We feel so blessed that we could come here and are really enjoying our time (even if our feet and bodies are tired).

Kathy Bouwkamp

Kathy and Beth interviewing each other in the TV studio run by the family friend
Family at the Botanical garden
Entrance into the Ethnographic park
The Romanian and the Foreigner wearing a Sheeps "coat"
We ended the day with Andi and Linda at a local restaurant
We ate outside as the grapes hung overhead

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Long time no see

Thanks for your patience as it has been a while since I last updated. I spent a few days home with Linda to help her get around and grab things for her especially when things were upstairs :) She is doing a lot better now so that is an answer to prayers. I also had my senior pictures taken over the weekend. We went to an old castle that used to belong to a count. The pictures turned out great! I couldn't be more pleased. Sunday we traveled up to the mountains where we enjoyed a small walk and lunch. The views were incredible!! I wish there were mountains closer to my home. At midnight on Monday my parents landed in Cluj!! I was so excited to see them!! I'm pretty sure that I didn't stop smiling the entire ride to the airport. Today I was able to take them around town for a little while. It was really fun to show my dad where to go because usually he is always bringing us around. Although, I'm sure it probably won't last long because he is a really good navigator. I was able to show them a few of the churches and bring them to the top of a hill to see all of Cluj. We enjoyed lunch at a restaurant that served American-style food and it was very delicious. At night we went over to Andi and Linda's house where I introduced my parents to the neighbors and took them for a walk through the village. Over all it was a very good day. I am thankful that my parents are able to spend time with me here and I am very glad to have them here. Thanks again for all the prayers. They have definitely been felt.

Andi and Linda's house.  Very nice area away from the city and very quiet.
Andi and Linda's neighbors (Don and his Mother, Father was in the house)
Dad and David feeding the chickens.
Dad and David again, waiting for the cows to come home.
The cows come home at 7:20pm (I know you were going to ask)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Here are some pictures that Beth has sent us.  They are of things she has seen along the way of her time in Romania.

Gypsy house

Gypsy house

Sheep on side of hill

Bear skeleton in cave

View from fortress

The fortress

Roman ruins

Stadium in Roman ruins
Column (laying on the ground)

An old vault


Courtyard in castle (I don't know who that is with the cape)


Dinner table

Long hallway with holes for archers

Old Fireplace
Old Well that is 28 meters (about 100 feet) deep.
Legend has it that it was dug by hand by prisoners

Pit where prisoners were thrown to bears

Other side of castle

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Please forgive me but I won't be updating for a little while because I am staying home to help Linda. The weather looks rainy all week so I doubt there will be anything worth writing about going on. :)