A Year After Paris

Warning: Content may be a tad mushy this time ;-).

Its been almost a year since I got back from my 30 day trip to Europe. Here I am, in the tired old PNW and each day brings a new memory of the adventures we went on, this same time, last year.

Today, one year ago we were in Paris. Our last day there, we had the privilege to see the very end of the Tour de France 2014. It was a stunning sight.

Side note: Its been so long since I’ve written about the trip that I don’t remember if we talked about the Unicorn. Long story short, that mask traveled with us through all of France and Italy. We tweeted #EuropeanUnicorn for the entire trip. People would rush up to us and ask for photos. It was awesome. By the time we got back I saw pictures of people doing the same thing everywhere we went. Maybe, just maybe, we started a trend.

Back to the preprogrammed re-cap of my Why I’m Addicted to Traveling story:

I started out life with the need for adventure. I’d leave my house, five or six years old, and just go. I’d walk and walk. Get lost in a forest. Go hang out with the lonely old lady a few blocks away. Hang out with my friend whose parents were nudists. The pictures on the walls there were enough to make me not want to leave. Nudity was not “normal” in my house.

My mom would freak out, mildly. Usually, a sip of wine and she’d be happy again. My dad would spank me. Only, I never really cared. Sh… I never told them my friend’s parents were nudists. Why spoil a good thing?

I grew up and the urge to travel got squished out of me, right along with my two children. By the time I was 31, and ever so conservative, I’d traveled to only a handful of US states, plus Mexico, Canada, and the South Caribbean. My yearning to travel was dead. I totally missed the point.

When I looked up at the Eiffel Tower one year ago, my legs pulsing from the trek down the stairs, it all came back to me: My desire to be wild and free. The why of it was less angsty this time, more awe filled. So that’s what I was missing?! The strange feeling that I was part of something so much bigger than myself – something so amazing and soul fulfilling.

Eiffel Tower Day

And I want more.

My heart and soul grew last year on that trip. New York is up next, where I hope to find an agent and / or editor for my writing. After that?

Who knows.

Life is amazing.

** Side Note: If you were keeping up on my journey and wondered when I was going to finish telling you all about it, and share more pics… I’ll fix up a summary post in the near future. Thanks for your patience!

Title Here – Otherwise Known As “Here’s My Brain On Holiday”

I am sure slacking on finishing up my blogs from our trip to Europe! Sorry about that. I’ll get back to it soon. I’ve been busy writing (see my about me) and editing and reading and you know, doing that life thing.

There are a million things to do right now, what with the holidays around the corner. No trips planned in the near future, but I’ll keep you updated when there is.

Anywho, I still have my notes from Pisa, Cavi, Cinque Terre and Rome, so I promise to get to it when I uncross my eyes. Oh dear, that might just be in January. But I’ll do it, I swear. We even went on a surprise trip to Missoula, Montana that I’ll share with you later as well.

Be good! Or nice. Or whatever it is that you need to be for that fat man in the red suit.

Tuscany

We took the train from Rome to Florence. Once again, props to Italy for their public transportation system. Anyhow, once there we walked what felt like three miles to pick up a Ford rental car. Yup, you read that right. A Ford. In Italy. Go figure. The good news is that it was the easiest car to spot when we parked, as it was taller than all the rest. The bad news: have you *tried* to park a bigger car in Europe? Yeah, so glad it wasn’t me doing the driving. Woot to The Husband.

From Florence we drove to Lamporecchio, a city in the Tuscany countryside. Up a zig zag mountain road that reminded me what fear really feels like. We stayed at a proper resort, complete with a pool, breakfast, a funny little concierge man whose enunciation of “Okay” will stick with me forever, in a large two room suite. If you use the words “two” and “suite” loosely.

The pool was a big deal for the tiny one. Who isn’t really tiny and I should probably just call her Little Bear instead. There, that’s better. She swam for hours every day. Here’s a view from the pool. Felt like you could see forever if the haze would lift. Which it did not during our visit. Incidentally? I was digging the European swimsuits the men wore by the end of this trip. If women’s choices are limited mostly to skimpy barely there things, why not the same for men too?20140810_104150

But most importantly there were pomegranates growing! I have a memory of hiding behind a pomegranate tree when I was growing up. Could have been in Eastern Washington or in Concord, California. It’s a foggy memory, that one. We’d pick them and tear them apart, eating until we looked like murder victims with reddish-brown stains all over our faces, hands and clothes. Fun to share what they look like growing with the kiddlings.

20140810_191206Lamporecchio is a chill place. We mostly just stayed at the hotel, swam, walked around this very hilly town with narrow streets, or drove into the bigger town to do laundry. That was where we found the lavanderia with washing machines that came pre-loaded with laundry detergent and fabric softener. One day we went to Pisa then onwards to the Mediterranean, which I’ll share with you on a different post. Here’s what our hotel looked like – the orange one in the upper left hand corner with the elevator structure shooting up through the roof in front.20140810_193631

We found this delicious soda:20140809_202632And these very delicious ketchup flavored sticks:20140811_175256Next up we saw actual olives on actual olive trees. Some of you are laughing at me right now. I know you are. California was my home for a good portion of the years I spent growing up, and there were olive trees *everywhere.* And yet, here I am, an adult and up until this trip I couldn’t tell you just what it looked like when a tree was fruited. Is that even a phrase? I like it, so I’ll keep it. So here you go:20140810_193229I’ll wrap up this blog post with a pic of alcohol we found in the dining room. So, remember that crazy story about Joey Buttafuaco? I don’t know why but my brain had decided that was a made up name. (He’s the one who had an affair with 16-year-old Amy Fischer who ended up shooting Joey’s wife in the face, if memory isn’t pulling that one up for you.) Anyhow, here’s your Buttafuaco alcohol.20140811_093315Now you too can say it’s a real name.

Next up is Pisa and the Mediterranean.

 

Rome

I so wanted to title that When in Rome. Aren’t you proud of my restraint?

I left off with the travel blog portion of these posts a little more than a month ago, leaving you dangling. Sorry about that. We had just been to Toulouse, France, at that point, and we were making our way to Rome, by way of Easy Jet. Side note here – the flight was wonderful. I was shocked a puddle jumper could be so nice, even if they did charge you to go to the bathroom. No, just kidding. They charged for water though.

The taxi from the airport to our odd apartment complex turned hotel near the Vatican, was, shall we say, interesting. The driver wasn’t even looking at the road as he drove, yet he managed to make it there in twenty minutes instead of the thirty-eight that map-quest said it would take. People were crossing themselves, my eyes were closed, and everyone was silent. I assume trembling in fear or simply afraid to divert the attention of the driver who clearly viewed himself as a race car driver. But we made it without even a single vomit incident or traffic ticket.

The guy who checked us in had a low whispery voice ala The Godfather. He was terrifying. And handsome. He he. Would I stay in this area of town again? No. But I’m glad we tried it at least.

It was night time, or right on the crux of it, so we took the opportunity to grab a few pics of the Vatican. There were tour busses of young teenagers being dropped off at 11 PM, loudly singing and dancing in front of this place that felt so sacred. It was a little weird, the way people were acting in a place I felt deserved reverence. I swear, they were up partying until 2 am. What? Why? Anyhow, most of the pics were something you’d see anywhere, but this one took my breath away. I know, easily pleased. The wall-like structure around the Vatican.

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But just because I can, here’s another Vatican pic.wpid-20140806_212954.jpg

First up the next day was the Roman Colosseum. I got that bigger than me Oh-My-God-I’m-the-luckiest-person-on-earth feeling when we were there. The grandeur of it all – you could still feel the people walking around peddling their wares, from so long ago. Chills I tell you.R

We like to walk the streets of new cities, seeing what the local street venders and such have to offer, hopping on trains and such. The train and bus system in Rome rocks, just like much of France. Bonus! So we did that a fair bit the next day. The oldest, Bunny Wabbit, got heat stroke and had to stay behind that day. Here’s a bit too much info for y’all: we home schooled for nine years. During that time we went through a gazillion young adult historical fiction novels. We’d read so much about the Roman Bathhouses and Rome in itself that this part of the trip felt like we were stepping inside the pages of one of those books. BW was heart broken to be feeling like doodoo and missing even a fraction of this trip.

Here too I had that larger-than-me feeling when we toured the building. That they converted a historical landmark into a church amazed us – just why? But Michael Angelo supposedly helped them with the remodel so I guess that makes it a little bit better. My favorite pics were panoramas but I’m uncertain how that would load for some of you so I’ll just show you my favorite normal pic.20140808_153101

There were some weird statues that I thought were worth sharing.20140808_15415020140808_154015

A lesson I learned was that blogging from an android requires more patience than I have. Also, the iPad’s blogging app is buggy. It posted a blog I had deleted, and deleted the blog I had actually wanted to post, which made me grumble more than just a little bit.

Anyhow, here we are, back at home, with back to school night looming in the headlights. I cannot believe it’s that time of year again. How did that happen exactly? I think we have all recovered from our 30-day adventure, but I’m feeling a bit sad about not being in Europe right now.

Next up, a resort town in Tuscany; Montalbano. I’ll try and get that one up before too long.

General European Observations

We are home! Here is a list of general observations from our 30 day adventure in France and Italy.

Travel advice from Rick Steves *should be listened to.* Seriously. When he tells you to bring a wash cloth? Bring a damn wash cloth. Hell, with four bodies, I should have brought twelve!

Bring lots of laundry detergent (that you aren’t allergic to.) Consider one load every four days. Don’t listen to anyone else. This man knows his stuff. Rashes from European detergent are not pleasant. One of the laundromats we went to in Italy (lavanderia) had built-in laundry detergent and fabric softener. This was lovely, but not the norm. Oh and use a damn laundromat instead of hang drying your stuff. Mildew is not the best cologne. Hang drying only worked when the weather hit about 90, with the humidity below 40, and no rain in the forecast.

Rick Steves (you’re getting the hint, right? LISTEN TO HIM) says to bring similarly colored clothing. Do this. Because of the above. Washed a pair of red shorts with white socks and undies. We like pink, right? Thank goodness the answer is yes.

Bring toilet paper when your friend tells you to. She too knows her shit. He he. Literally. Oh not a good thing to forget this one. Not at all. MP could probably write a travel book that would rival Rick Steves I bet.

For four bodies, one entire bar of soap and one entire tube of toothpaste is enough for 30 days. Also important because *I am freaking allergic to even these simple items.* Grr. While we didn’t have a problem finding soap that worked, the toothpaste was a fail. Grr.

Wine is CHEAP in France, mildly affordable in Italy. But at the Venice airport? $1.80 for a glass of wine, $3 for a liter. Seriously. Score!

Build in no less than a 3 hours layover between flights. Especially when you have to clear customs AND recheck bags. Again, FAIL.

For pictures you only need ONE real camera and a cell phone (with either an international plan or a sim card from each country you travel to for your jail broken phone.) Any more cameras and you just have dead weight with you. Even with four people. Y’all can share.

I LOVE Paris! Both of our accommodations were lovely there. Air BNB is da bomb, as is our travel agent friend.

You know those giant zip lock bags that  you use to put your clothes in than squish the air out to make packing easier? Use them. Bring extra. Life savers I tell you. Another Rick Steves bit of advice I did not follow: bring extra normal zip lock bags as well. In all sizes. You will need them, I promise. Maybe even a full size garbage bag. It will have a multitude of uses. See the rain section below.

Bring more than one pair of shoes. Even if you are a cranky teen who doesn’t believe you will need that second pair. You will need them. I promise you.

That light weight rain jacket Rick Steves mentions? Yup. Don’t leave it at home. That umbrella your cousin mentioned? Don’t smirk. You need it. One for each two people. Rain or shine, you will find a use for it. In a pinch your back pack can be wrapped in that extra garbage bag to keep your stuff dry as well.

Here’s one from my thirteen year old: make a list of what you brought and consult with it each time you pack and unpack. It will keep you from leaving things behind. Like your language book. Yeah, yours. Sorry sweetie, I’ll buy you a new one :-(.

A good pocket knife is irreplaceable. I’ve never been a gal to carry one. Until now. Oh the many uses and life saving tools it has.

Checking bags is for the birds. However I’m not good at packing lightly (okay not true – but the fam isn’t good at it) and shopping lightly (this is true.)

Veggies are a rarity in Italy. I ordered fried veggies at a hole-in-the-wall in Venice and got what The Husband would call croquet: veggies wrapped with mashed potatoes, battered and then fried. Delish, served with polenta. But other than a version of salad, that was it for veggies. I am now in veggie withdrawals.

Lastly: We had a very successful trip! We made it 30 days without a cold or food poisoning. The only adventure of this sort we endured was heat exhaustion (a kiddling) and minor injuries (all mine, I win.) Oh yeah, and just exhaustion in itself. Which is where we are right now. Speaking of that… Off I go to fill my wine glass. Heh. Had to correct that from whine ;-).