Rome: Day 3

Travelogue of our trip to Italy. This covers our third day in Rome when we covered the ancient parts of Rome, visiting the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

Our third day in Rome was what we consider to be the best. It focused on Ancient Rome.

We started the day early with a visit to the Colosseum which was good because the Colosseum got really crowded later. It was amazing to imagine the Colosseum in its glory days.

By the time we got done there, Michelle was getting sleepy, so we decided to go to Capitoline Hill. We spent entirely too much time at the Capitoline Museums and had lunch at the Caffe Capitolino.

Romulus and Remus with a wolf
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius
In Capitoline Museum
In Capitoline Museum
In Capitoline Museum
In Capitoline Museum
View of Roman Forum
View of Roman Forum
 

Then we headed to the Roman Forum and wandered about the ruins. From there, we went up the Palatine Hill. This is where I sprained my ankle which I am still nursing. Strangely it didn’t hurt much, but it was quite swollen by night. Of course, I decided against curtailing my walking since that would have taken all the fun out of the vacation.

Back to the Colosseum, we decided to go to dinner at Ai Tre Scalini Restaurant nearby where no one spoke English but the food was good and cheap.

Most of the day’s photographs are on the map below under the fold.

Continue reading “Rome: Day 3”

ہفتہ بلاگستان: یوم بچپن

سنا ہے کہ اردو بلاگرز کی دنیا میں ہفتہ بلاگستان منایا جا رہا ہے۔ پہلی قسط بچپن کے بارے میں ہے۔ ہم ٹھہرے اردو لکھنے سے بھاگنے والے سو تصاویر پوسٹ کر کے جان چھڑا رہے ہیں۔

شگفتہ نے بلاگستان کا ہفتہ منانے کا آئیڈیا پیش کیا جو کسی طرح دو ہفتے پر پھیل گیا۔ تمام پروگرام کی تفصیل منظرنامہ پر ہے۔ میرا تو ارادہ تھا کہ اسے چپکے سے نکل جانے دوں کہ عرصہ ہوا آن ڈیمانڈ بلاگنگ نہیں کی اور نہ ہی اردو میں بلاگ پر کھ لکھا ہے مگر پھر بدتمیز نے ایم‌ایس‌این پر کان کھائے اور میں نے یہ پوسٹ لکھ ڈالی۔

میری یادداشت کافی خراب ہے اس لئے بچپن کا واقعہ تو نہیں سنا سکتا البتہ کچھ تصاویر جو حال ہی میں ابو نے سکین کر کے بھیجی ہیں وہ پوسٹ کر رہا ہوں۔

1 day old
Baby Zack
Baby Zack
Baby Zack
Zack and his mom
First step
3rd birthday
Riding
In qameez shalwar
In Nathiagali
Tricycle
At Jahangir Tomb
Zack and cousin
5th birthday
With siblings
Lahore zoo
With elephant
 

تمام تصاویر عمر کی ترتیب سے نہیں ہیں۔ کوشش کروں گا کہ انہیں درست ترتیب میں کر دوں۔

Rome: Day 2

Travelogue of our trip to Italy. This covers our second day in Rome when we visited the Vatican and wandered about Rome.

On the second day, we got up a little late due to jetlag and lack of sleep on the plane. After breakfast, we took the bus to Vatican City. When we got to Saint Peter’s Square, we saw a really long line get into Saint Peter’s Basilica.

There were a number of tourist guides there and we decided to become part of one group tour of the Vatican. Usually we don’t like being part of a group tour since we like to do things at our own pace. We do often get the audio guides at museums. However, here we saved some time waiting in line. Also, if we had gone to the Vatican Museums by ourselves, we might have spent the whole day in there while the guide spent almost three hours with us in the museums. Did I mention that our tour guide was American?

First, we walked around Vatican City to go to the Vatican museums. At the end of the museum tour, we went into the Sistine Chapel. There, the security people were trying to get the tourists not to take pictures or talk loudly. Also, one had to have shoulders and knees covered. Since photography was not allowed, I did not take any photos of the Sistine Chapel frescoes by Michelangelo. After that, we went into Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Here are some photographs in Vatican City. More photos are on the map in the end.

Water Fountain
At Vatican Museums
Ceiling Vatican Museums
Sculpture
Painting on ceiling
Statue
A room
Statue
Statue
Floor
Ceiling
In Vatican Museums
Painting
Above door
Map room
Ceiling art
Ceiling art
Above door
Map of Venice
More art
Outside Sistine Chapel
In the Vatican
St Peters basilica
St Peters
Statue in St Peters
In St Peters
St Peter's Basilica
 

Then we went back to Rome to see the Pantheon. There was of course some delicious gelato near the Pantheon that we ate.

Our next stop was Piazza Navona, a city square with some beautiful fountains and architecture.

On our way back, Michelle wanted to play with the pigeons around the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. After some running after and watching pigeons, we had dinner at Trattoria Monti which had some great game food for very reasonable prices.

More photographs are on the map below under the fold.

Continue reading “Rome: Day 2”

Rome: Day 1

Travelogue of our trip to Italy. This covers the flight and our first day in Rome.

Before our trip to Italy, I decided to buy a new camera bag. I don’t like shoulder bags and backpacks are a hassle since every time you want to take a picture you have to take the backpack off, get the camera out and do the reverse after taking the shot. Therefore, I decided that a sling pack would be best. After looking at a few, I liked the Lowepro SlingShot 100AW. During our trip, I carried it on my back most of the time, but could easily slide it to the front to get the camera out or when it was too crowded and I was afraid of pickpockets. It was very comfortable on the back and reasonably comfortable on the front for short periods of time.

Lowepro SlingShot 100 AW

Usually when we need to travel by air, we park our car at the MARTA North Springs station and take the train to Hartsfield Jackson airport. Our flight to Rome was at 4:45pm. There was a time when I would always grab the window seat but now Michelle does that.

While domestic flights don’t have any food, some international flights have too much food. We had dinner. Then a few hours later, the flight attendants almost woke everyone up for some snacks and finally breakfast on Italian time.

We landed in Rome more than 9 hours later at 8:15am local time. Immigration was a breeze. I think the officer didn’t say one word, just stamped our passports. We collected our bags and got to the train station to take the Leonardo Express to Termini, the main train station in the city.

From Termini, we walked the 15 minutes to our hotel. Their check-in time was at 1:00pm, several hours away. So we left our bags there and decided to wander around the city.

We took the metro to Spagna and went to the Spanish Steps. We walked up the steps to the church, Trinità dei Monti and then on to Trevi Fountain which was surrounded by a couple of million tourists. Michelle tossed a few coins into the fountain and we got some gelato nearby at il Gelato di San Crispino.

By this time, Michelle had fallen asleep in her stroller, so we decided to see Galleria Doria Pamphilj, owned by a princely family. It was not fun to carry Michelle in the stroller up and down the steps, but the gallery had lots of nice paintings. I was a nice guy and didn’t take any photographs as they didn’t allow any.

Then we went to the 17th century Jesuit church, Sant’Ignazio. I must confess that I love churches. The architecture, the paintings and sculptures, everything fascinates me about these historic churches. That’s why a lot of the photographs in the map below are of this church.

With Michelle sleeping, we walked all the way back to the hotel. On the way we saw Piazza Venezia and the Vittorio Emanuele II monument there. Vittorio Emanuele was the first king when Italy was unified in the 19th century.

Michelle woke up near the end because it was hot. Fortunately, Rome has a lot of public drinking water fountains and most of them were marked on my GPS maps.

We checked in at the hotel and washed up. After some rest, we decided to go out for dinner. Of course, we forgot that nobody eats dinner at 6:30pm in Italy. So we ended up wandering around Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. When we went to Trattoria Monti, they were all booked up for the night. We made reservations for dinner the next night and decided to live it up at Agata e Romeo. The food was great and it cost more than €200 for two people (without drinks).

Photographs shown on a map of Rome follow.

Continue reading “Rome: Day 1”

Christmas Photos

Some photographs from Christmas lights and events around Georgia.

In keeping with the title of the blog, here are some photographs from last Christmas.

Let’s start with Atlanta: Midtown (Atlantic Station) and Buckhead (Pink Pig train at Lenox).

Atlantic Station train
Atlantic Station Christmas tree
Lenox Pink Pig ride
 

And some photos from the Lake Lanier Islands Magical Nights of Lights.

Nativity play
 

The day we went to Stone Mountain, the weather wasn’t very nice. Their laser light show could not be seen because of fog.

Stone Mountain 1
Stone Mountain 2
 

The Christmas lights at Callaway Gardens.

 

iPhone 3G

I bought an iPhone 3G a few months ago and have been in love with it.

When the original iPhone came out in 2007, I really wanted one but I decided to wait for a while because I had my Treo 650 and had a cell service contract with AT&T as well.

I am glad I waited because I got the iPhone 3G last year and fell in love with it. It really is a revolutionary phone. Even Michelle loves it and found the touchscreen interface very intuitive. She loves to watch YouTube videos, take pictures (she has even figured out how to take screenshots), play games (Touch Hockey is her favorite), draw (Doodle Kids is the app she uses), and look at Google Maps.

There are a couple of things I do miss:

  • Lack of copy and paste is the most annoying and I hope Apple adds it as soon as possible.
  • Push notification support for applications and Gmail.

I have setup the iPhone to use my wireless network at home and also the AT&T wifi network at Starbucks and McDonald’s, etc. However, 3G data speeds are also very good.

iPhone wifi speediPhone 3G speediPhone EDGE speed

Download (kbps) Upload (kbps) Latency (ms)
Wifi 1863 242 86
3G 1201 249 169
EDGE 96 36 887

In accessories, I bought a Jawbone 2 bluetooth headset which reduces noise quite a lot better than any headset I have seen.

Since I use the iPhone a lot, I have to charge it every night regularly. The iPhone battery cannot be changed by the consumer, so once the battery’s gone through enough cycles, I’ll have to get Apple to install a new battery.

The applications I use the most are the following:

iPhone Apps 1iPhone Apps 2iPhone Apps 3iPhone Apps 4iPhone Apps 5iPhone Apps 6iPhone Apps 7iPhone Apps 8

I recently switched my ZackVision email accounts from being hosted by my webhost to Gmail using Google Apps. It should not change anything for those sending me emails, but I like the Gmail interface and their spam filter is also much better than the one I was using at my webhost. One problem with the email switch was transferring the tens of thousands of emails I had in my different mailboxes. Google has an Email Uploader for the purpose but it was not transferring a significant number of my emails. So I just had to set up IMAP accounts in Mozilla Thunderbird for my old and new (gmail) accounts and move the emails folder by folder. This took some time.

In addition to email, Google Apps also provides me with my own calendar and documents. So I uploaded all my Outlook contacts to Gmail and decided to switch completely away from Outlook. Instead of syncing my contacts and calendar between Outlook and iPhone via iTunes, now I am using “Google Mobile Sync”http://www.google.com/mobile/apple/sync.html to sync over the air between my iPhone and my Google calendars and contacts at my own domain. So the only real thing I need the iTunes sync for is podcast subscriptions.

And now I am salivating over the Kindle 2.

Khudkushistan

While late, here’s the account of our trip to Pakistan in October last year.

Khudkushistan, Land of Suicide Bombings, formerly known as Pakistan, Land of the Pure, is where our parents live. Thus we have to visit once in a while despite these statistics from September 2008.

Suicide attacks have killed almost 1,200 Pakistanis since July last year, most of them civilians, according to military statistics released Monday that highlight the ferocity of the militant threat facing the country.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting between Pakistani troops and insurgents on the Afghan border has sent some 20,000 Pakistanis fleeing into Afghanistan, the United Nations reported.

Figures released at a military briefing in Islamabad showed 88 suicide attacks have taken place across Pakistan since the Red Mosque siege, killing 1,188 people.

Of that figure, 847 were civilians, while the rest were troops and police. More than 3,000 were listed as injured.

So we bought tickets in mid-August for a trip in October. A week later, more than 70 people were killed in twin suicide bombings in Wah Cantt, the city where my in-laws live and thus was one of our destinations.

And just two weeks before our visit, there was a suicide bombing in our other destination, Islamabad, when Marriott Hotel was destroyed and more than 40 people killed.

So we were a bit apprehensive about our visit. I mentioned this to a few people who live in Pakistan. They seemed nonchalant and argued that they lived there and the risk was in any case minimal. I agreed that the risk was low but while they lived there, I did not and thus I was worried about visiting a war zone.

On October 3, we flew to Islamabad via Kuwait. At the Atlanta airport, it was difficult to get the ticket agent to understand that Kuwait was a city and a country and was not Iraq. She kept saying Iraq and I got so angry that Amber had to intervene. Our flight was uneventful except that Kuwait Airways food sucked and no one cares about No Smoking signs at Kuwait Airport. Also, Michelle grabbed my usual window seat and had a lot of fun watching the plane take off, fly and land.

When we reached Islamabad, we realized that my bag was lost. So we had to wait until all baggage had arrived at baggage claim and then file a missing baggage complaint. So the first order of business was to buy a toothbrush and some clothes for me. Fortunately, we got the bag the next day.

While we were in Islamabad, there was a suicide bombing at the Islamabad Police HQ, which just goes to show how appropriate the name I have coined, Khudkushistan, is.

There was a lot of road construction going on in Islamabad and Wah area. Some roads have also been widened since the last time we were there. Also, this was the first time I drove on the limited-access toll highway. After I saw the condition of the GT Road, I decided to use the M-1 motorway(Pakistan) to drive between Islamabad and Wah Cantt. Interestingly, most of the vehicles on the motorway drove nowhere near the 120km/hr (75mph) speed limit and I had a lot of fun.

One new thing on the roads of Islamabad and Wah Cantt were the blockades by the police. There are usually two or three fences or other barriers right after each other so that the vehicles have to slow down completely and zig zag through them. Some of these blockades were quite dangerous with sharp metal pointing towards you probably to dissuade anyone from running through the blockade.

We also noticed that signs of any military related buildings that used to there were nowhere to be seen now. For example, the Pakistan Military Academy near Abbottabad has no signs on the main road pointing to its location. Similarly, the Naval Sailing Club at Rawal Lake in Islamabad is difficult to find without any signs.

Unlike our last visit, I didn’t have huge allergy issues and stayed mostly healthy during our trip. Michelle had a lot of fun with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins.

Here are some random photographs from our trip.

Ayub Market, Islamabad
Ayub Market, Islamabad
Karachi Company, Islamabad
View of Islamabad
From Pir Sohawa
From Daman e Koh
A mosque
Faisal Mosque
Sunset at Rawal Lake
Gun in Wah Cantt
Weapon worship in Wah Cantt
GT Road, Taxila
Vase shops, Taxila
Intersection closed, Islamabad
 

On our way back, it took me a long time to go through immigration in New York City and we barely made the flight to Atlanta. Thus we waited at baggage claim at the Atlanta airport for a long time without any bags. All our bags were delivered to our home the next day.