Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ralph and the Smart Car. Filling the smart car in Italy was roughly as expensive as filling our minivan in the U.S. for roughly the same miles. I see why people drive smaller in Europe. Posted by Hello

Ralph at the Colliseum in Rome Posted by Hello

Michele in front of Saint Peter's in Rome Posted by Hello

Roma and Fiumicino

We stayed in Rome three nights at the Bed and Breakfast, I Tetti Di Roma. My review on is here. We couldn't get a good rate on a regular hotel, the convent hotels didn't seem to be returning faxes so we picked this bed and breakfast which is one of two rooms carved out of an 8th floor apartement. It qualifies as a find because the price was very low for Rome from what we could find and the room was comfortable. The location was convenient to the metro and felt safe and residential with a couple of places to eat, a grocery store, and most important Gelati.

We spent our limited time in Rome at the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, Roman Forum, the Parthenon. Of course we went by the Spanish steps and the Trevi fountain. Since we used those metro stops, we saw both multiple times. I wasn't dissappointed in the restored Sistine chapel. I hadn't seen it since the colors were brought out.

We went back to the airport at the end of our stay in Rome to pick up the car we rented from Sixti car rental. We got a Smart car on an internet rate that was better than any other rate we could find in Italy. We loved that Smart car! Small is a virtue on the narrow Italian roads, especially the roads winding through Umbrian hill towns! Sixti's 5 Euro a day rate is a bit deceptive because it is limited mileage and things you normally need like an extra driver and even cleaning the car are extra. But check them out here because its still a good deal even though it really costs more than they are touting.

At the end of our trip, we stayed in Fiumicino one night. We stayed at the Euro House Fiumicino (my review here) . Staying in the town of Fiumicino is a convenient alternative to going all the way into Rome when you are just making a connection to somewhere else. We were coming in from Sicily and leaving for the states the next day, so it didn't make sense to go into the city. There is an airport Hilton conveniently connected to the airport, but it was much more expensive than options in Fiumicino.

Holiday Gift Exchange--For family members

This post if for family members to document our gift exchange. We do a rotation of buying for different families so we have a chance to buy for all our siblings on a three year rotation but we don't have to buy gifts for 4 different families every year.

The gift exchange for 2004 is:

Family buys for family
--------- ----------------
Richard Carolyn
Carolyn Ray
Ray Ralph
Ralph Richard

Family gift maximum is $100.00

Planning ahead: 2005 will be:

Family buys for family
--------- ----------------
Richard Ralph
Carolyn Richard
Ray Carolyn
Ralph Ray

2006 will be:

Family buys for family
--------- ----------------
Richard Ray
Carolyn Ralph
Ray Richard
Ralph Carolyn

For 2007 it will be the same as 2004 above and we will repeat in
same order.

Layover in Zurich, dayroom at the airport

Because we used frequent flier miles to get to Rome, we ended up with a 9 hours layover during the day in Zurich. The price of saving money!

It is easy to get to the city of Zurich from the airport. A train gets you to the city center in about 40 minutes. You can devise a walking tour that includes the old town, a couple of churches, bridges over the river, and the Stadt museum that would take a few hours and see the city and have lunch.

This proved a bit too much for us. We took the train downtown and did walk around a bit but we were too exhausted to enjoy it. We had been flying for over 14 hours (including changing planes in Dallas) and we didn't sleep on the way out. So we headed back to the airport and looked for a place to sleep. We came across the "dayrooms".

A dayroom is like a little hostel room right in the airport. For about $60.00 we got a room with twin beds for about 4 hours of sleep. A great 4 hours of sleep! The dayrooms seem to be popular with parents with babys to get a rest, but the noise didn't penetrate too much into our room and we were tired enought it didn't matter.

After our sleep we were off to Rome to arrive by the evening.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

New Name---Planet Ralph

After I started this blog, I found that Stochastic Thoughts was taken by another blog already. So, the new name is Planet Ralph. The reason I picked this new name? It wasn't taken (at least from my Google search). Also, this blog is all about my world. It's my world and welcome to it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Italy (Rome, Amalfi Coast, Sicily) hotels Under $100.00

We recently went to Italy for two weeks. I did quite a bit of planning, so I'll share as much as I can here in case it can save anybody else much effort. This posting shows the hotel research we did looking for hotels around $100 per night. Most of the hotels are in Rome, a few are on the Amalfi coast. I'll follow up with reviews of the places we actually stayed.

Useful web sites--

Useful books:

Lonely Planet Italy 2004
Frommers Italy 2004
Fodors Italy 2004 (didn't find as much insight, good places as Frommers or Lonely Planet)


I tetti Di Roma—78 Euro per night. Bed and breakfast in someone's apartment. Only two rooms with one shared bath, got nice review on Good location, great views from the rooms (8th floor). We stayed here.

Hotel Panda
—98 Euros per night. Good recommendation of Frommers. Good location. Book by telephone or fax. Good but not effusive reviews on

SAN GIUSEPPE DELLA MONTAGNA –76 Euro per night. Good recommendation on, a couple of positive reviews on Fodor' Nuns are friendly but do not speak English and only a little Spanish. Good location just outside the vatican. Phone: 06/39723807
Fax: 06/39721048

Fraterna Domus—Another convent hotel. Good review from, a couple of positive comments. 1 of the sisters speaks English according to one review. Good location. Phone: 06/68802727 Fax: 06/6832691. Under 76 Euro per night.

Hotel Carmel—100 Euro, good review on, 1 good review on 10 rooms, most with bathrooms. Only Kosher Hotel in Rome. Reservation service but they charge 30 Euro fee.

Phone: 06/5809921
Fax: 06/5818853

Hotel Positano—90 Euro (no breakfast) confirmed from e-mail. They are awaiting credit card info. Reviewed on and BUG Europe. Mixed reviews, most referred to hostel aspect of it rather than Hotel. Good location near main train station.

Casa di Santa Brigida—Frommers liked it, couldn't get anything from their web site. Sent Fax 17 August. They never responded

Colors Hotel—No pricing information on their web site. Booking by fax only. Prices not on web site Faxed them for information on August 17th. Found them on They never responded to Fax.

Hotel Cristoforo Columbo—121 Dollars per night, through About 15-20 minute commute to tourist areas of Rome. Nice reviews from hotel review site.Hotel Contilia—Well liked by Frommer, 138 Euro's per night cheapest rate from Decent reviews online

Holiday Inn Express Rome East Via VIA GIORGIO PERLASCA 50—96 Euros per night. Mediocre location, about 5 kilometers from everything. No reviews. Reservation cannot be modified or canceled once made at the 96 Euro rate.

Hotel Arenula—120 Euro per night. Frommers likes it, Nice reviews on trip advisor but we are waiting for info to come in from apartments etc.

Hotel des artistes—157 Dollars per night direct from web site Good location (near train station), mixed but mostly postitive reviews on Rates on travel sites more than rate direct from hotel.

National Rooms Hotel—164 Dollars per night. Good location, only one review and it was mediocre.

Hotel Executive—116 Euros per night. OK location, mostly bad reviews from people dissappointed it wasn't a four star hotel when it claimed to be (actually a 2 star hotel).

Principessa Tea Hotel—130 Euros per night. Good location, but mostly bad reviews.

The Secret Garden/Hotel Lawrence—63-125 Euro. no reviews. Web site shows really nice hotel. Since they seemed to be linked to Il Castello which is getting bad reviews for ethical behavior and are changing their name, I am wary.

Il Castello—60-120 Euro reviews say Il Castelo did not hold reserved, confirmed rooms and sent customers to another hotel that was hard to find. Nightmare experience. Some reviews—basic accomodations. Link to another similar basic hotel.

Michelangelo Palace Hotel—120 Euros per night. Mostly bad reviews on site (nothing on

Various Hostels at—Not many with private baths, but fairly easy to find private room for 100 dollars per night.

Villa San Pio—$244 per night Good reviews on and Fodors. Too much money.

Hotel Pavia—Min95 Euros-Max 190 Euros per night. Fromers liked it. Mixed reviews on —Road near hotel smells of Urine.

Hotel La Residencia—Highly rated by Frommer, but blacked out for late September dates.

Hotel Pineta Palace—125 Dollars per night, but bad reivews and not near public transportation (15 Euro cab ride to city center).

Hotel Galeno——147 Dollars per night. But small rooms, negative reviews for tourists, not walking distance to sites or close to metro

Pisana Palace— Dollars per nigh. But, mixed reviews, not close to things.


Hotel Desiree—Excellent recommendation in lonely planet. Fawning reviews on Faxed on 18 August. Awaiting reply. Received reply August 18, available, faxed credit card number. This is where we stayed.

Hotel Elios—Good recommendation in Lonely Planet Italy guide. 1 good review on No fax number or e-mail. Call 081 878 18 12. Just signed up for long distance dial around service (everdial) so that I can call.

La Fenice—Positano. Bad reviews lately. Good reviews in the past.

Villa Rosa--Positano. We decided to stay in Sorrento, so this became a moot point.


Hotel Villa Catrina – Sent e-mail form in directly to hotel, 98 Euro per night. Can also be booked from web sites. They have availability per 18 August e-mail. Awaiting credit card info. Sent card info August 18th. This is where we stayed.

Hotel Condor –, 80 Euro per night

Why the blog, why the name?

It's clear that Blogs are becoming an important marketing tool and perhaps an important part of an externalization trend. By externalization I mean the way companies are beginning to publish their internal data and conversations to form a much tighter relationships with customers. I want to be conversant with the practices of blogging so I can use it in marketing and what better way to start than to have my own blog.

Despite having some "professional" goals, this blog will be decidedly personal. Personal just to make it fun for me. If it is fun for you, I hope you enjoy it.

The name "Stochastic Thoughts" means, of course, Random thoughts. I have always thought random processes were pretty cool and was surprised that "Random" become a high tech put down for awhile. I think that "Random" is coming more into fashion along with non-linear while "Determistic" and "Linear" thinking are getting more of a bad rap these days. In any case, the blog will be quite random because my overall agenda for the blog is simply learning and sharing what comes into my mind.