#707 - LAST DAY IN ITALY

GOODBYE!

GOODBYE!

Time to Return Home!

Time to Return Home!

  • Woke up at 6am.

  • Got all of our stuff together and called an UBER.

  • At the airport, we first made sure to get our 12.5% cash back from the shopping we did in Italy. Great perk.

  • Checked in our bags.

  • Purchased one last gift in the terminal for Rebekah’s mom.

  • Boarded our plane.

  • Long flight from Rome to New Jersey. Watched an Aretha Franklin documentary. Slept. Finished reading The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Only one more book to go in his Chronicles of Narnia series.

  • I also started working on an ebook entitled Religion vs. The Gospel that I’m excited about making available soon!

  • Arrived in New Jersey. Had to go through customs. Get baggage. Then, re-check baggage back in, and go back through security. Hectic.

  • Made our flight. Continued working on the ebook. Got a bit nauseous on the flight.

  • Finally landed in Houston at 7pm. What a trip it has been. Glad to be home.

#706 - ROME DAY 6

Another Shot of the Sistine

Another Shot of the Sistine

This is Art on a Huge Rug! Jesus Revealing Who He is After Walking the Road to Emmaus.

This is Art on a Huge Rug! Jesus Revealing Who He is After Walking the Road to Emmaus.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

  • These are all pictures from yesterday.

  • Today was our last full day in Rome, and after a hectic day yesterday I took it easy. Rebekah did a little bit more shopping. (She couldn’t resist!)

  • I did step out for lunch with Rebekah and we both had delicious bacon cheeseburgers at a restaurant down the street from our place.

  • Before dinner, we got some souvenirs and gifts for family and friends.

  • Ate one final Italian dinner. It was actually one of our best! Caprese salad. Lasagna. Pasta Carbonara. Margherita Pizza with sausage. All very delicious!

  • Came back home and packed. Praise God we got everything to fit!

  • Tomorrow we say goodbye!

#709 - ROME DAY 5

Snuck a Selfie in the Sistine!

Snuck a Selfie in the Sistine!

No Caption Needed!

No Caption Needed!

Altar of the Fatherland

Altar of the Fatherland

  • Today was our 15-Year Wedding Anniversary! And, it was one of the more exciting, full days of our trip!

  • Woke up early. Caught an UBER to the Vatican Museum for our 9:30a entry time.

  • Incredible experience. So much history. So much craftsmanship. So much stuff!

  • The crown jewel of the museum—the Sistine Chapel—was amazing. Absolutely breathtaking room to be in. There were no pictures allowed, but Rebekah is a rebel and took a few!

  • Found some gifts, at the Vatican Museum, for some very special people back home, that I can’t wait to give them.

  • We spent about 2 hours in the museum. After learning more about Michelangelo, I found out that he sculpted a statue of Jesus Christ that is also located in Rome. So, we decided to walk over to that church.

  • On the way, we stumbled across a burger/steak joint that looked pretty good. Stopped there for lunch. I had a ribeye. Rebekah had some sliders. Tasty.

  • Arrived at the church. It was closed. Bummer.

  • Decided to walk over to the Roman Forum and Colosseum.

  • On the way, we stumbled across a Thai Massage spot. We couldn’t resist. Doing our best to end our time in Italy right! We both got a 90-minute full body massage. 30 minutes specifically on the feet. GLORIOUS.

  • Feeling refreshed, we then walked over to The Forum and The Colosseum. INCREDIBLE. So much historical significance. Crazy to see these things in person. Larger than life.

  • Passed several other historical landmarks as well. Glad we came back to Rome. So much to see.

  • Headed home to rest up before our anniversary dinner.

  • Went to a place Anthony Bourdain recommended. Pepper pasta was out of this world! Rebekah and I both had this signature dish and it was definitely one of the top 3 dishes of the entire trip. Had a great dinner celebrating and reflecting upon our marriage. God is so faithful. We are so blessed.

  • Walked back home. Walked a total of 23,000 steps! Climbed 29 flights of stairs. For a total of 10.2 miles!

  • Such a memorable anniversary. Tomorrow is our final day in Rome, and the day before we fly back home to the States.

  • A bit saddened that my sabbatical is coming to an end, but more so anxious and excited to get back to work and get back to my church family! The best is ahead!

#708 - ROME DAY 4

Goodbye Naples!

Goodbye Naples!

Hello McDonald’s!

Hello McDonald’s!

Beautiful Streets of Rome at Sunset

Beautiful Streets of Rome at Sunset

  • Checkout out of our place in Naples at 11a.

  • Boarded the metro for the Naples Central Station where we boarded a train for Rome.

  • Arrived in Rome at about 2:30p.

  • Checked into our place. First non Air BnB. Used a service called Sonder. Pretty clutch.

  • Headed out for some…you guessed it…shopping!

  • But first…Went to McDonald’s for a snack. The FiRST McDonald’s in Rome. HISTORIC. Rebekah and I both had the extra large McChicken. So rare. So good! Bahaha!

  • While we were shopping, I may have picked up a black pair of dress shoes made in Italy— brand name rhymes with…Dewey Crouton! They. Are. FLY. (Unnecessary disclaimer that is going to make it seem like I feel more guilty for buying these shoes than I actually do: the current pair of black dress shoes that I own (Gordon Rush), I’ve had since 2003!)

  • Definitely felt nervous walking all the way back to our place with the very obvious “Imperial Saffron” colored shopping bag. Didn’t get jumped. To God be the glory.

  • Went to a restaurant a few doors down from our place for dinner. I had Spaghetti. Rebekah had a seafood pasta.

  • Watched the Tony Robbins documentary on Netflix before going to sleep. That guy is something else!

#707 - NAPLES DAY 3

The Other Classic Pizza of Naples — Marinara

The Other Classic Pizza of Naples — Marinara

Napolitan Street Art

Napolitan Street Art

A Real Deal Castle! — Castel Nuovo

A Real Deal Castle! — Castel Nuovo

  • Started our day by eating at another very popular pizza spot in Naples—L’Antica Pizzeria.

  • Opened at 11:30a. We got there at 11:40. Place was packed. We missed the first seating, but were number one in line. Before we sat down there were 30+ others that were given numbers.

  • Once again, the pizza was otherworldly! Rebekah got the Margherita. I got the Marinara. They only serve those two pizzas! The dough is unlike anything else! So good. We left so stuffed.

  • Walked lunch off by doing some window shopping around Naples. Also walked down to the water. Put in some major steps!

  • Came home. Rested.

  • Hit up the taco spot again for a late dinner. Nachos were off the hook. Bek had a sausage taco. I had a philly cheesesteak!

#706 - NAPLES DAY 2

Galleria Umberto

Galleria Umberto

Caprese Salad at its Best!

Caprese Salad at its Best!

Naples—The Birthplace of the Margherita Pizza!

Naples—The Birthplace of the Margherita Pizza!

  • Took another day to relax at our Air BnB.

  • Slept in. Snacked. Continued working on pre-order bonuses for Only God. I was super excited to receive a few choices for my book cover design from my publisher! Pretty sold on one of them. I love it. So excited!

  • Left for a late dinner. The streets of Naples were busy!

  • Pizzeria Brandi—been serving Margherita pizzas for 200 years! 200 years! The pizza was out. of. this. world. Unlike anything in the States. WOW.

  • Gelato for dessert of course!

#704 - CAPRI

Capri from the Harbor

Capri from the Harbor

The Capri Faraglioni!

The Capri Faraglioni!

View from Piazza Umberto

View from Piazza Umberto

  • Today was one of our busiest yet!

  • Woke up at 6:30a. Made sure all of our bags were packed.

  • Picked up by our shuttle at 7:30a to be taken to dock.

  • Boat for Capri left at 8:30a. Arrived in Capri at about 9:15a.

  • Took a fairly long walk up to the main Piazza in Capri. Enjoyed epic views.

  • Took a train back down.

  • Rented two chairs and an umbrella at the beach. Rebekah dipped her feet in. I swam. It was WONDERFUL!

  • I finished reading C.S. Lewis Voyage of the Dawn Treader while, on the beach, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea! Are you kidding me!

  • Ate lunch. I had a salami pizza. Rebekah had a prosciutto sandwich. Good food.

  • Boarded our boat at 2. Boat took us on a tour around Capri. Amazing how blue the water was out there!

  • Headed back to Sorrento. Arrived back at Sorrento at 3:30.

  • Got our stuff. Took a taxi to the train station.

  • Boarded the train for Napes at 4:30. Arrived in Naples after 6.

  • Settled into our Air BnB.

  • Went out to dinner. I had Rigatoni and sausage. Rebekah had risotto. Once again, great food. Rebekah and I couldn’t help but talk about how blessed we are to be able to take a vacation like this. God is so gracious and generous to us!

  • Went back to our place. Watched the new Dave Chappelle special on Netflix. IRREVERENTLY HILARIOUS!

  • Slept real good.

#703 - SORRENTO DAY 3

A View from the Piazza Tasso

A View from the Piazza Tasso

Happy Birthday Rebekah!

Happy Birthday Rebekah!

  • Today was Rebekah’s birthday. She turned 29 of course!

  • Went on a walk down to the harbor. Looked into taking a day trip to either Capri or the Amalfi Coast, but decided to do it tomorrow.

  • Ate gelato. Went on a “train” ride that gave us a brief tour of Sorrento.

  • We had lunch on the main plaza in Sorrento. Enjoyed people watching. I had a bacon and ham omelette. She had fried calamari and fries.

  • Rebekah stayed downtown and shopped a bit.

  • I went home and took a nap.

  • Bought our tickets for tomorrow’s day trip to Capri.

  • Went to a Japanese spot for dinner. She had Yaki Soba. I had Yaki Udon. We also had a pretty good sushi roll and gyoza.

  • Great day. So thankful for my beautiful wife!

#702 - SORRENTO DAY 2

The Tyrrhenian Sea

The Tyrrhenian Sea

The Streets of Sorrento

The Streets of Sorrento

Harbor Views

Harbor Views

  • Slept in.

  • Wandered around the streets of Sorrento.

  • Ate a delicious lunch on the harbor. I had Sorrentine Gnocchi. Rebekah had a seafood pasta she enjoyed.

  • Went back to our place. Rested and chilled.

  • Wandered around the streets of Sorrento looking for dinner. Got a bit frustrated with each other. (Don’t think for a moment Rebekah and I have not our fair share of frustrations with each other on this trip!)

  • We, once again, had pizza and pasta fatigue so we settled on a Hof Brau. i had a steak. Rebekah had chicken wings and fries. Decent.

#701 - SORRENTO DAY 1

Goodbye Rome!

Goodbye Rome!

Hello Amalfi Coast!

Hello Amalfi Coast!

  • Checked out of our place in Rome at 11a.

  • Took a train to a more central train station in Rome where we waited until 3p to board a bus to Sorrento.

  • Enjoyed lunch at the train station. A salami sandwich and rigatoni with bacon!

  • During our wait at the train station I worked on the cover page and free bonuses page of my website for Only God. I’m loving how it’s coming together. I heard from the publisher today that pre-orders will be available in January and the book will officially be published in February of 2020! I can’t wait.

  • Boarded a very nice bus for Sorrento. It was a great ride. Slept. Read. Enjoyed the scenery.

  • Arrived in Sorrento shortly after 7pm.

  • Walked to our place. Settled in.

  • Had a couple of phone calls about preaching engagements I have immediately after we return from our trip. Though I only have a couple of weeks left on my sabbatical, I am very excited about going back to work. I feel refreshed, and can’t wait to get back and preach God’s Word again!

  • Had pizza for dinner. Good, but not as good as it was in Rome.

#700 - ROME DAY 3

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

  • These are pictures from yesterday’s walk around Rome.

  • No new pictures from today. Instead, I want to tell you about an adventure I took back to Florence!

  • Yesterday, when we were shopping, Rebekah was saddened to discover that a designer bag that she had seen in Florence was not available in Rome nor was it available in Naples (a city we’re going to visit later on our trip.)

  • So, she called Florence to see if they had any remaining. They said they did. She put it on hold.

  • With that in mind, in an effort to be the best husband I could be, today, I boarded a train, all by myself, from Rome to Florence to pick up this bag for my wife.

  • I left at 7am in the morning and didn’t return till after 3p. (Florence is 170 miles from Rome)

  • Keep in mind, Rebekah’s birthday is coming up in a couple of days and we are also going to be celebrating our 15-Year Wedding Anniversary on September 4. This is her gift.

  • While in Florence, I picked up another surprise gift for her as well.

  • Then, I went back to the steak place I went for my birthday and treated myself to a filet. (This trip wasn't completely altruistic. Ha!)

  • I then boarded the train back for Rome.

  • I came back home pretty exhausted, but Rebekah loved and was surprised by the additional gift I bought for her.. It was all worth it.

  • We went out to dinner at the same place we had lunch the day prior. More pizza. More pasta.

  • Slept like a baby.

#699 - ROME DAY 2

The Dome Atop St. Peter’s Basilica

The Dome Atop St. Peter’s Basilica

View of Inside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

View of Inside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

View of Outside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

View of Outside of St. Peter’s Basilica from Atop of The Dome

Pope St. Francis Live!

Pope St. Francis Live!

  • Today was a whirlwind!

  • We walked from our place to the inside of Vatican City.

  • Went into St. Peter’s Basilica and on a whim decided to pay 20 Euros extra to go to the top of the Dome.

  • Then we climbed 24 flights of stairs to get there! It was intense. Great pics though!

  • When we exited it was 10 minutes till noon and people were gathered all around St. Peter’s Square, looking in the same direction. When I asked a security guard what was going on he said that the Pope was about to address the crowd! We had no idea.

  • Then, at 12 on the dot the Pope Francis appeared in the window (pictured above), the crowd cheered, and he proceeded to give a 10-minute talk (in Italian) as thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square looked on. It was surreal! What a moment for Rebekah and I to enjoy together!

  • We then ate lunch at a great restaurant just outside Vatican City. I had another Diavola pizza and lasagna. Rebekah had fried shrimp and calamari. Once again, we experienced the unique, fresh, tasty crust of Roman pizza!

  • After lunch is started pouring rain. We waited it out and then proceeded to walk all around Rome to hit up many of the historic sites — Piazza Venezia, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and we even accidentally came across the Quirinal Palace ( the President of Italy’s residence). Seeing all these historic sites was also pretty surreal.

  • Then, we went shopping. Again. Rebekah and I love shopping!

  • We concluded our day with some decent sushi at a Japanese restaurant.

  • We took Uber home again. Clutch. Again.

  • Great day in Rome. I love the unplanned nature of how we explore each city.

#698 - ROME DAY 1

Goodbye Florence!

Goodbye Florence!

St Peter’s Basilica from Outside the Walls of the Vatican

St Peter’s Basilica from Outside the Walls of the Vatican

  • Got in one more run in Florence before departing. 5 miles at a 9:49/mi pace. Felt real good.

  • Brought back croissants for breakfast.

  • Showered. Packed. Made the 1-mile walk with all of our luggage to the train station. No joke. Luggage is getting heavier!

  • Ate McDonald’s for lunch! C’mon somebody!

  • Took a 2-hour train ride to Rome.

  • Place we’re staying was only a 5-minute walk from train station and on the second floor. Clutch.

  • Watched YouTube videos to decide where to eat.

  • Went for a walk around the exterior of the Vatican City to eat at a popular Roman Pizza Joint. Pizza was tasty. Best part was the crust. It was so good!

  • Took our first UBER ride back home. Super clutch.

  • Made a ton more progress on my e-books. (If you’re wondering if this feels like work for me, the answer is absolutely not. Using my creativity in this way is life-giving!)

  • Rested well.

#696 - FLORENCE DAY 3

Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery

“Cheeks”

“Cheeks”

The Rune at Dusk

The Rune at Dusk

  • After a full day indoors, I woke up and knew I had to get a run in. Definitely was feeling sluggish as I ran 3 miles. Steak was weighing me down!

  • Brought back ham and cheese croissants for breakfast.

  • For lunch Rebekah and I had the most hyped up sandwiches in all of Florence at ALL’ANTICO VINAIO. They were absolutely DELICIOUS. Unlike any sandwich I’ve ever had! I had their ham version; Rebekah had their salami.

  • Then, we boarded a bus for THE MALL—a designer outlet mall 45 minutes outside of Florence.

  • Let’s just say Rebekah left the experience a happy camper!

  • Ate dinner back in Florence at the Central Market Food Court. I had fresh Chinese pork dumplings and noodle soup. Rebekah had a bacon cheeseburger.

  • After nearly 20,000 steps walked for the day, we came back home exhausted.

  • Went to bed early. Great day.

#695 - FLORENCE DAY 2

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Piazza della Repubblica

Piazza della Repubblica

Piazza Santa Croce

Piazza Santa Croce

  • These are pictures from yesterday. No new pictures today.

  • Today, we didn’t step foot outside of our Air BnB!

  • Woke up early. Made a spreadsheet of the value of my Air Jordan collection. 31 pairs valued at about $12,000. Contemplating selling a bunch of pairs. Ate instant ramen for lunch. Netflixed. Napped. Ate leftover steak for dinner. Netflixed. Napped. Blogged. Slept. My kind of day!

  • First day where we didn’t spend a dime! Second day where I haven’t eaten pasta or pizza. Today was a good day!

#694 - FLORENCE DAY 1

The Rune River at Dawn

The Rune River at Dawn

Duomo di Firenze

Duomo di Firenze

A 56oz Florentine T-Bone Steak!

A 56oz Florentine T-Bone Steak!

RUN 5.JPG
  • Today was my 37th birthday. Getting old!

  • Woke up early and did a 5 mile run before 8am! Felt super good.

  • Walked into the downtown area for breakfast. I had eggs, bacon, and two pancakes with strawberries. Rebekah had avocado toast. It was delicious!

  • Went shopping. Rebekah is getting closer to choosing her designer bag! I’m still contemplating buying some designer Italian dress shoes. No purchases yet!

  • Believe it or not, had poke for lunch! It was good!

  • Came back home. Rested.

  • Went to an incredible steak restaurant for my birthday dinner. Rebekah and I had our first glass of wine while in Italy. Red. it was smooth! Ordered a massive t-bone cooked Florentine style (medium rare!). INCREDIBLE. Whole restaurant sang me happy birthday! Waiter brought out tiramisu on the house. Delicious. Such a great experience!

  • So blessed to enjoy another birthday. So blessed to enjoy it in such a beautiful country in such a beautiful way. I am BLESSED. God is worthy to be praised!

#693 - CINQUE TERRE DAY 3

The Manarola “Money Shot”

The Manarola “Money Shot”

“Colors”

“Colors”

Goodbye!

Goodbye!

RUN 3.JPG
  • Got a short, early morning run in before our departure. Run was great, scenery was better!

  • Boarded the first of our 3 trains for Florence!

  • Arrived at our place in Florence at about 1. 3 Floors up. Luggage. No elevators. No joke!

  • Ate a late lunch. I had Fettuccine Alfredo and a Magherita Pizza. Rebekah had Eggplant Parmesan. (It was great, but after eating this meal I vowed to NOT eat pasta or pizza tomorrow!)

  • Had a call with my publisher about the cover design for Only God! Can’t believe my book is actually going to be a reality!

  • I didn’t eat dinner. Rebekah ate some Nissin Korean noodles we found at a little Asian market!

  • Went to sleep early.

#692 - CINQUE TERRE DAY 2

Monarola

Monarola

Vernazza

Vernazza

Campiglia

Campiglia

Monterroso

Monterroso

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

  • Started early with the goal to visit all five of the seaside villages in Cinque Terre.

  • Hopped on the train and went first to Vernazza. This village was Cinque Terre’s most highly recommended, but I didn’t quite understand why. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful, but each of the other villages had their own unique charm as well!

  • We then boarded the train again for the most northern village—Monterosso. This is the village most known for its beach and it was packed! On a whim, we decided to rent a paddle boat. It was a great idea! It got us away from the crowds and out on the sea. i went for a swim and it was refreshing!

  • Had lunch. Pizza and pasta of course!

  • Then, we boarded the train for Riomaggiore. We spent the least amount of time in this village. Had to hike a bit to get the picture taken above.

  • The final village we visited was Campiglia. This is the only village in Cinque Terre not on the water. We unexpectedly had to climb about 30 flights of stairs to get there!

  • Though we didn’t end up hiking any of the trails, 18,000 steps and 8 miles later we did accomplish our goal of visiting all the villages!

  • We came home, showered, and went out for dinner. I had lasagna. Rebekah had anchovies and a seafood spaghetti.

  • Tomorrow morning, we head out for Tuscany. God is good!

QUICK SUMMARY THOUGHTS ON CINQUE TERRE

  • Food - Great. I think I’d like the food a lot more if I enjoyed seafood!

  • Scenery - Incredible. How are the buildings staying up on the side of the mountains?!

  • Vibe - Beachy. It’s all about enjoying the water here!

  • Locals - No comment. Didn’t deal with enough of them to know.

  • Overall - Glad. Glad we decide to come here. Glad we decided to visit all five villages. Glad we only decided to stay here two nights!

#691 - CINQUE TERRE DAY 1

Goodbye to Our Place in Venice

Goodbye to Our Place in Venice

Hello to Our First View of the Mediterranean from Cinque Terre!

Hello to Our First View of the Mediterranean from Cinque Terre!

From the Streets of Manarola

From the Streets of Manarola

  • Woke up early to catch the first of three trains to Cinque Terre.

  • Made a stop at the Moleskin store at the train station in Venice. Fun fact: I love Moleskin products!

  • After roughly 6 hours on trains we arrived in Manarola.

  • Settled into our place. Went to dinner. I had pesto pasta. (It was good. Very rich in flavor.) Rebekah had fish.

  • Took in some beautiful views at sunset.

  • Did our best to get to bed as early as we could (sleep schedule is still a bit off) for the full day ahead!