Monday, August 14, 2017

Picture of the Day: July 31st to August 6th

July 31st: I spent most of the afternoon bumming around the airport after working a day shift. My hangar neighbors had their door open and were nice enough to let me check out the inside of their HondaJet. What a cool plane!   :) 

August 1st: Mark and I had originally planned to fly somewhere today, but our plans were cut a bit short when a Dominion Power truck showed up in our driveway to remove an old telephone pole. I wasn't about to complain - we've been trying to get them to do that for a couple years now - so we decided to go out for lunch and a wine tasting instead after they finished.

August 2nd: The weather cooperated, so we were finally able to fly to Tangier Island (TGI). It was a lot of fun; I'll have a full post about our trip soon.

August 3rd: Some of the bigger tomatoes in our garden are finally starting to ripen.

August 4th: I'm a little sad that I don't have any zucchini left right now to make more noodles, but it looks like I won't have to wait very long to get some more.

August 5th: Today's haul from the garden. The cucumbers are getting huge, and I finally convinced Mark it's time to start picking them.

August 6th: I was able to get a little time off work today and got to spend it doing something very cool: tagging along on a volunteer flight in this pretty plane! I'll have a full blog post about this soon; there's way too much from this day to fit into just one picture.   :)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Picture of the Day: July 24th to July 30th

July 24th: This was the sky when I left work a bit after 5:30am. Holy monkeys, was that a ridiculous mid. There was a tiny blob of weather in the airspace when I got there at 10pm the night before, and within 20 minutes the tiny blob turned into a GIANT blob that covered half my scope. I had airplanes deviating everywhere, we had to stop departures and split off extra sectors (thank goodness a few of the eve shift guys were still there), and it was just bananas. Good times. 

July 25th: I took a friend flying for a bit in the morning, then had the shop adjust my idle and mixture settings after we got back. One of these days we'll find the sweet spot... 

July 26th: Mark and I had originally planned to fly out to Tangier Island, but the ceilings were pretty low over the bay. We decided to take my convertible up to Shenandoah and go for a hike and a drive instead. 

July 27th: Just about time to pick the cucumbers! There are a few of them hiding under the leaves now.

July 28th: I've wanted a spiralizer for a while, so I finally ordered one and it may be my new favorite kitchen appliance. I used it to make zucchini noodles with a zucchini from our garden. Dump a little tomato sauce on them, microwave it for 30-60 seconds, and ta da! Instant tasty veggie meal.   :) 

July 29th: We FINALLY caught a break with the weather and had a nice day without all of the humidity we've had lately. I can't remember the last time I was able to walk the track at work! 

July 30th: Mark had the mid and I didn't, so I worked a ten hour day, then snuck over to the airport for a bit. I managed to catch a few of my buddies just as they came back from Oshkosh, which was fun, and I squeezed in a quick trip around the pattern, too.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

May 24th: Time to Go Home

I didn't sleep the greatest for our last night in Italy, but that didn't change when our alarm went off. As nice as it would have been to stay longer, it was time to head home.

We did sneak up to the roof again for one last peek at the view. The city looked so nice and peaceful in the early morning sun.

We took one last look at the Colosseum in the distance, grabbed some snacks from the breakfast area downstairs, finished packing, and checked out. We walked the short distance to the Termini train station, then took the train back to the airport, checked in, boarded the flight, and were on our way.

We got to taxi past these guys on our way to the runway. I've been an air traffic controller for over eight years and worked these planes countless times, but it took a trip to Italy to finally see Air Force One in person.

We didn't have to taxi very long before it was our turn for takeoff. I waved a sad goodbye to the coast as we climbed out. Goodbye, Italy...I'll definitely be back again!

The flight was scheduled to be between eight and nine hours long, so I passed most of the time watching a string of movies back to back. At one point I looked out the window and noticed that we were just coming up on Monaco and the French Riviera. It was fun to see it from the air since we had spent some time there a few years ago.

I did take a short break from watching movies to grab lunch. Really, for airplane food, it wasn't bad. I spent the rest of the flight eating snacks when they offered them and watching more movies (I watched four by the time we landed), and we wound up landing earlier than we expected, which was a nice surprise. Overall, Italy had been a great trip...I can't wait to go back again someday!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

May 23rd: Why Didn't We Find This Neighborhood Sooner?

We had one more full day in Italy, and since we had already seen all of the main things on our to do list, we weren't exactly sure what to do with our free time at first. No worries, though...Rome is full of things to do!

We started by going up to the rooftop terrace to check out the view right after we woke up.

It was pretty nice.  :)

We grabbed breakfast at the hotel, spent a bit of time repacking, then walked over to the Metro. A short ride later...

...we were at Piramide Cestia: the Pyramid of Cestius. It was built sometime around 12 BC as a tomb, and now sits near one of the metro stops.  

We wandered down one of the side roads near the pyramid. One section ran along a tall wall that stretched on for a while. We made a few twists and turns and wound up back in some more local, non-touristy neighborhoods, and eventually stopped for a delicious (and surprisingly cheap!) cappuccino at a cafe.

We wandered a bit more, then stopped to hang out in the Piazza di Santa Maria Liberatrice. Lots of locals were hanging out on the benches and low walls, some with kids, some with dogs, some by themselves. My personal favorite part of the park was the older guy in the loose fitting tank top (seen on the left side of the picture) who was doing some gardening in one of the flower beds.

After hanging out and people watching, we were starting to get hungry again. We went for a short walk through the neighborhood and wound up at...

...Trapizzino. It was a tiny shop with one counter that served little triangle bread pockets with your choice of filling. I picked a meatball with tomato sauce and it was fantastic.

 After lunch, we wandered across the Tiber River and over to Trastevere, a quieter, more local neighborhood in Rome. We picked our way through the narrow streets and alleys, wandered in a couple stores...

...then came to an abrupt stop when I saw a window full of delicious cookies. Turns out they sold them by weight, and you could also get glasses of wine from little barrels on their counter. 3 Euro and a short, stumbled conversation in Italian later, I was sipping wine from a plastic cup and eating a giant meringue cookie.

This was the little seating area of the cookie/wine shop. I loved how real it felt.  :)

We walked through a number of other local neighborhoods and piazzas. It was really nice to spend some time in quieter neighborhoods after spending the past few days in crowded touristy spots (though those were nice, too). 

While cookies and wine are delicious, they aren't very filling, so we eventually wound up at Cajo and Gajo. We both got espressos, and Mark got pasta while I opted for panna cotta (which was amazing). We hung out for a little while, sipping our espressos, people watching, and wondering how every single thing we had eaten while we were wandering around had been so delicious.

A short walk away was the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. It was open, so we went inside to check it out.

It was stunning. There were intricate mosaics and paintings everywhere.



The wall on the outside of the basilica was really neat, too; there were fragments of old stone carvings on display. We poked around a little bit more, then started to make our way back across the river and toward the hotel.

It took a little while to walk back, but there was plenty to see along the way.


We made a quick detour to a nearby gelateria along the way. It was delicious.

Our view while we ate our gelato. There were little crates outside the shop, so we sat there and people watched for a little while. There are little drinking fountains like the one pictured all over Rome; it was really cool to be able to walk through the city and always be able to refill your water bottle for free if you wanted to. (There were even fountains kind of like these in Pompeii!)

We eventually made it back to the hotel, got cleaned up, and packed a little more before heading back to the Metro and taking a short ride to dinner. Mark had read that Gregory's Jazz Club also had a decent whisky selection, so we went there for dinner.

I stuck with wine and pizza myself, but Mark did get to try a couple drinks. 

After dinner, we walked by the Spanish Steps. This was at the top of the steps; it was really neat to see everything all lit up for night.

The sun had just set and it was just starting to get dark.

Of course, we weren't the only people with that idea, but it was still nice. We walked down the steps, through some busy neighborhoods full of shops and restaurants...

...and wound up going right past the Trevi Fountain (which was still surrounded by hundreds of people). We grabbed a couple more pictures, then eventually made our way back to the hotel and went to bed. I was sad that we would be leaving the next day, but at least we made good use of our last day in Italy!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

May 22nd, Part Two: St. Peter's and Lots of Cheese

We were only outside for a couple minutes before heading in to our last stop of the tour: St. Peter's Basilica.

To say it was impressive is an understatement. We spent a couple minutes with our guide while she pointed out a few features, then we handed in our headsets, thanked our guide, and our tour was officially over. That left us as much time as we wanted to explore on our own.

We wandered all around the different areas; the church was huge. (I learned a little bit later that St. Peter's is actually the biggest church in the world.) I especially liked the inside of the dome.


We eventually made our way outside. This guard was off to the side at one of the gates. Mark especially liked his uniform.  :)

Looking back toward St. Peter's. We wandered out through the courtyard...

...and took one last look back before saying goodbye to Vatican City and wandering back into Rome.

After so much snacky eating on the go for the past few days, I told Mark that the one thing I definitely wanted to do after the tour was sit down and have lunch somewhere. Luckily, it didn't take long to find a place where we could sit in the shade and stuff our faces.

I had an entire mushroom pizza to myself. It was delicious. (In hindsight, maybe I should have skipped the glass of wine...it made me want to curl up and take a nap!)

After lunch we wandered through a couple nearby shops, then eventually wound up grabbing some juice and hanging out in a small park near Castel Sant'Angelo. It was nice to hang out in the shade for a little while, and we spent the time watching a couple small kids chase pigeons.

We followed the Tiber River part of the way back toward the hotel.

There were a few groups of people rowing on one part of the river. We eventually cut back into some of the neighborhoods, found some gelato and a fancy whisky shop (where Mark bought himself a couple souvenirs), then took the Metro back to the hotel.

A nap and a shower later, I felt much more functional, so we set out to find dinner.
Mark did a little research online and found a nearby trattoria, so we decided to go check it out.

It was delicious. My appetizer was a big plate of cheese (which I shared with Mark). There were different jellies and spreads with it, and we wound up eating the entire thing.

I had bucatini all'Amatriciana, which is basically pasta with pancetta or prosciutto, tomatoes, onions, and cheese. It might be one of the best pasta dishes I've had. (We even found a recipe and made it ourselves after we got home.)

Mark teased me a bit when my last plate came...it was basically a plate of fried cheese. It was still delicious.   :)    We finished up our bottle of wine while talking to the ladies at the table next to us; they were from Chicago and had just arrived that morning, so we had fun giving them some tips on how to get around and what was worth visiting before eventually thanking our waiter and heading out for the night.

The restaurant wasn't too far from the Colosseum, so we walked down to check it out.

It was pretty cool to see it all lit up.   :)

We walked around for a couple minutes before making our way back to the hotel, where we grabbed a drink on the roof before heading to bed. It had been a long, but fun, day!