Some things that are weird and it's weird that they are weird.
1. Eye contact with nod/smile/hello - almost feels intrusive.
2. Understanding background conversations/speaking only English.
3. Driving/not walking or taking transit everywhere. MN has pretty good transit for the US, but in comparison to Europe, it's about the development of a small town - seriously.
4. Having entire conversations without a 'como se dice' moment.
5. Not taking a siesta - even when I went to countries that didn't really do this, I still did. Was fabulous, even if I didn't nap, just to have some time early afternoon to rest/read, etc. plus a great way to avoid midday sun/heat.
6. Having so much space/cloths/stuff - you get used to living in small quarters/limited wardrobe pretty quick.
I am on the hunt for some house-sitting (anywhere warmer than MN) for winter. As long as their is internet access, I'll house-sit and consider pet-sitting for free. So if anyone knows people, connect me with them!
21 July 2015
Hard to believe I was gone for a month - really just seemed like a week, maybe two.
Some things I appreciate being back:
1. No smoking in most places (though I may be going through a bit of nicotine withdrawal) - it seemed like everyone smoked.
2. Ability to walk on a sidewalk or road without much worry of serious injury (mainly because of cobblestone, so many holes and much unevenness). I really don't understand how women wear giant heels there - it's a talent.
3. Going for a walk and having the sidewalk mostly to myself - it's pretty crowded in the cities, between the native population and all the tourists (and their fucking selfie sticks) getting around can be slow sometimes.
4. Wifi that is fast and reliable
20 July 2015
Packing my bag for the last time - can't believe it's been a month and no, I'm not ready to be done. I could see myself working from most of the cities I visited.
1. Met some really interesting people and hope to see one couple again or travel with them again!
2. Wine - I'm going to have to find some of this good stuff...also the young chianti from Tuscany (in giant glass and straw bottles) - delicious.
3. So much food and (thankfully) so much walking. I've been craving some big salads (I'm sure my garden is totally overflowing...).
4. Yes, you can live for a month with 3 dresses, a skirt and a shirt. Quick dry panties are perfect to wash in the sink-if only they made a bra in my size!
5. If you can't get a sleeper car, pick another night! Also first class (which is a few dollars more = ac)
6.Still not ready to leave and wanting to join the little party I was invited to at the bar on the corner (can hear them out the window)! - need sleep and early morning.
18 July 2015
No wonder I'm tired tonight - delicious meal duck with salad and lentils to start and veal (on the bone) with what was like risotto and squash. Wine pairings - so delicious. Decided to stop for limoncello on the way back too :). Besides that making me sleeping, I apparently walked almost 20 miles today (mostly up and down big hills).
Even though my trip is wrapping up, I'm just going to stay in tonight - not up for post dinner exploring.
Did see a number of demonstrations today (police presence far outnumbered the demonstrators). Unfortunately, I couldn't find someone that was English speaking that knew what was going on - the cops looked rather bored, so maybe it's a regular thing.
I've got a sleeper train to Koln Tomorrow night and then a French high speed train to Paris. Going to enjoy a great meal and walk the city a bit.
Tonight I'm enjoying a Czech sparkling wine and that my clothes have been washed and folded by the person that runs this hotel.
17 July 2015
Prague - after a very long train ride. Filling meal, long walk along the river and now some rest!
16 July 2015
Had a great burger at the food caravan a block away - it's semi-permanent in that they don't have to move every night and there are electric outlets that are put in by the city - originally the guy thought I wanted an explanation of the 220v...we got there eventually. In a much more popular ruin bar currently and just down the block from my hotel. I'll miss Budapest. Every city has its downside, instead of American frat kids - they deal with Australian...though the locals all seem to think they are Americans. Another downside is that I may have to check a bag...found too many things I wanted to bring back
15 July 2015
I'm really looking forward to the baths, massage, and pedicure tomorrow - I've been looking for a pedicure since Florence (but the weird fish tank thing wasn't something I wanted to experience)! The first pic is one of the gellert bathes I'll be spending the day at tomorrow. The second was a lovely painting in the museum that I want Amy to figure out who painted it. The third is my first cup of water with ice in it in many, many weeks. I miss ice, mainly because I miss iced tea - drinking a shot of espresso when it's hot out is not my choice of beverage. And finally, the pic of the half naked guy is the (blaring) beacon around the block denoting the health club across the street from my hotel - I'm very thankful for it because otherwise I'd be lost, again...
Long day in Budapest and I've only been here since 2! Decided to walk the mile from the train (and got horribly lost, no grid here!), saw some very poor areas of the city - pretty sure one of the older guys on one street prevented someone from trying to steal from me. Made it to the hotel, another modern shrine (I didn't really look at pics when I booked (did it all at a coffee shop in Florence and didn't have much time), but it's nice. I'm glad I walked here bc I would have only seen the well off areas of the city had I taken a taxi or bus. Ran into a wine tasting English language tour of the museum (which was great). Interesting to see how much more prominent virgin Mary is in both churches and art. Female statues on buildings and in squares have been much more prominent both here and in Vienna. Major lesson learned, buy bus ticket before you board...though I still haven't seen a place to buy them - got away with it, but was nervous.
14 July 2015
Vienna is an interesting city, breathtakingly beautiful churches, great metro and perfect for biking, and beautiful weather. Everyone speaks English - thankfully because I couldn't find a phrase book and my background in Spanish is no help here. It's actually surprising how helpful Spanish was, now that it's not. I could understand most signs, etc and it's only really noticeable now that I have no clue what any signs say.
After I walked around the main city center, I felt a bit like I did in Sienna...where are all the people? Not complaining, just curious. After Rome and Florence (even cinque terre and parts of Paris), i always felt a bit crowded. Vienna, even in the tourist areas, is very open. After walking all over, I took my now-daily (going to be painful going back to work) siesta and was ready for a late dinner and seeing the city at night. I got the weiner schnitzel-like chicken fried steak, but had to try it. Also had a great, very light, Austrian white wine.
After dinner I had planned to walk the city more, but the streets were getting very empty. The Austrians are not on Italian time - so headed back to my ultra modern hotel, where I'm going to take advantage of the fast-ish internet, hot shower and maybe even watch some English-speaking news...though I may just watch this fish tank channel (that turns on when you enter the room) all night!
Coffee and breakfast near the museum district tomorrow then afternoon train to Budapest. Haven't managed to get a train out of Budapest yet, but I'm sure I'll find something :)
Made it to Vienna!
13 July 2015
Laundry was a mess - good thing I checked on them. Dinner was fabulous - not sure why we don't have limoncello after every big meal. Ricotta gnocchi just like Maria makes, yum. Now camped out on the ground at Florence train station because my train in 85 min late, should have had after dinner coffee...
Heading to Vienna tonight - only train and a crappy seat (not a bed), but should be interesting. Florence is hot...dropped my laundry off at a place and I really hope I can find it again...
11 July 2015
Tuscany was wonderfully relaxing, could have definitely used a car! Thankfully got to tag along with some new friends and their kids! Great food and sites. Decided to mix it up and head to Eastern Europe for the rest of the trip. Tried to book an overnight train yesterday and at the station in Sienna today...neither worked. On a regional train to Florence now and will hop on whatever train will take me east - if all else fails, I'll spend the night in Lucca and try again tomorrow. Will post again when I know where I'm headed. :)
9 July 2015
May not ever leave...
8 July 2015
Spoleto is an interesting town, they have these underground escalators/elevators through most of the old town, but it also appears relatively empty. It's been a relaxing stop with some swimming, great roadside food, and very helpful bus drivers - ready for cooking class and winery tours around Siena!
7 July 2015
Spoleto Umbria organic farm :)
Best thing about Italian train stations (even the tiny ones), they serve beer, wine and have espresso machines. :)
Dropped the kids at the airport and on way to small farm outside of Spoleta, Umbria (hopefully). My train ticket just says via Orte, so that's the train I got on. Will have to change trains in Orte because that's the end of this line. Apparently they have a yoga person that stays all summer, so will get a lesson in (I could use it after Rome!). Going to do some biking in the area and work on a manuscript a bit. I haven't had any time to sit and write (just submitting manuscripts and trying to keep up a bit with work email).
Will have to post about time in Rome soon, needless to say it was packed and feel like I saw large chunks of the city. Take home lessons: 1. monti is a wonderful neighborhood to stay in - near all the tourist sites, but mostly Italians live here. 2. Little fountains with drinkable water are everywhere. 3. Tiger mosquito bites are a bitch 4. Transit in the city isn't very good &/or packed, even the locals don't know the frequency of a bus - taxis and uber are cheap (especially when you have a few people).
5 July 2015
The last two days in Rome was spent at the colosseum, forum, hill and more catacombs. None of the pictures taken on my camera seem to transfer to my phones photo albums...so here are some random ones. Interesting note on all the catacomb tours - it must be a widely held belief that Christians hid in the catacombs because every guide emphatically wanted to bust that myth. I think I learned that at some point as a child, but learned otherwise in some documentary a while ago. Makes me wonder where that got started... Considering it was roman law to bury outside the city, the majority of Romans (pre-Christianity) were buried outside also, so they'd know where they were.
Monday night Zeb grilled again, fabulous dinner and then braved the roman metro to get them to the airport. They should be landing in Chicago in a few hours! Zeb is ready to see Max and Mona! Though he'd love the place I'm at now, all the juice you can drink, peach and nectarine trees with ripe fruit to pick, & animals!
4 July 2015
Our fabulous tasting tour - absolutely delicious! I never would have considered doing this, but Patricia liked the idea and they were giving it to us for free! This is a great way to get introduced to the city! Elaine was wonderful and knowledgeable about more than just food - she gave great suggestions of places to avoid and those to go. All the food was delicious and now I have a list of great spots to eat in Rome :)
3 July 2015
Unfortunately no shots of the catacombs (not allowed) - definitely worth getting a real guide. I recommend Josh from the roman guy - he's a professor of history at the local college and just does this during school breaks - he was fabulous. It would be really nice to see some non Christian catacombs - or tours not focused on the Christian history - though fascinating, I wanted to hear more about Ancient Rome. Also would be fun to do more underground tours because Ancient Rome is really about 20-30 meters below today's street level. We went to one church that had been excavated. The church at ground level was 8-10th century, there was a BC church below it and below that was the courtyard church of an old pagan sect - fascinating!
More random shots from walking on Friday. The wall is what's left of part of the Roman wall - cute little park next to it, largely populated by homeless.
Friday in Rome was the Vatican private tour, all those pics are on my camera. Unfortunately, our tour guide appeared to have been on some type of narcotic and was pretty terrible (she tore her meniscus, but decided to work anyway). The tour company felt terrible and met with me, gave me a refund and another free tour. We already had a catacombs tour booked with them for Saturday (Josh was the guide and he was fabulous). Next batch of pics are more random churches I went into on Friday.
Rome day 1 - walked around the area we stayed in (Monti). Great neighborhood and I think I spent most of the day looking for another pair of shoes (one without a back heel strap) and going into every open church I came across (which was a lot). We cooked out (and by we, I mean Zeb) on the lovely patio (pics on FB).
2 July 2015
Sunset and dinner - Zeb grilled and I made pasta and salad. Yum.
Rome day 1 was spent shopping, a few sights, and many churches (all beautiful). I had to find a new pair of shoes for my sore foot...lots and lots of walking. Cannot express how beautiful this place is! Florence was hot, sweaty and all foreigners. Here, like where We were in Paris and cinque terre is mostly locals - love! Plus, I was even miserably hot in Florence - felt 10-15 cooler even at noon. Absolutely beautiful outside now!
Our place in Rome!
1 July 2015
30 June 2015
Totally overwhelmed in Florence.
28 June 2015
Cinque terre hike - lots and lots of stairs.
27 June 2015
Last day in Paris, lots of pics...on my camera, haven't found an adapter yet...
Eiffel Tower, hotel de invaledes, etc. pics to come, eventually.
I loved the neighborhood we stayed in Paris - I felt like I was the only tourist for miles.
26 June 2015
The louvre and pantheon area - most pics are on my camera, which I still can't find an adaptor to in any store.
I knew there was a subway entrance, so we took that. But for those that don't already have tickets. You can buy them at the place for passes - tiny little shop and no line. Then you have to go back outside and through the special line for those with tix - just to the left of the big line. Managed to see all/most of the lower, main and 1st level.
Observation: Buses are way more complicated than the subway and the drivers can be very short, though if you attempt a bit of French they soften up. I think the weird schedule has to to with shift changes.
Tomorrow the market, tower and misc. heading to gare de Lyon tomorrow for overnight train to Milan and then cinque terra.
I'll admit I wasn't very excited about Paris, but the people are great and the quarter I'm in is almost quieter than home.
25 June 2015
Spent the day on a tour of dday beaches. One of the more interesting things, at least to me, was that the beaches have all been cleared and a full of families and kids having fun. I'm not sure why I imagined they would have kept all the battlements in place, but it as a beautiful area that should be enjoyed and I think most people would agree there are enough somber sites - bringing happiness to those in the area is a good thing.
I could absolutely live in Bayeux! Majority of the town was not carpet bombed, so mostly intact even today.
There are cemeteries dedicated to most/all countries who participated, even Germany. I asked about the German cemetery because I'd heard it wasn't really kept up and was rather sad. Our guide said it is kept but it is in no way ornate and rather sad.
Found out that I didn't bring the correct cord for my camera, so will post what I have from my phone now and add more later!
24 June 2015
Eiffel Tower lit up.
Evening exploring took us to Notre-dame. Found the best bakery and saw the tourist area - glad to not be staying around there.
As an interesting side note, I've been asked by 3 or 4 people for directions (in French) - either a weird joke or I just have a friendly face.
I'm not sure I love this app, but not sure it's worth the effort to find something else. Heading to bed soon, dday tour tomorrow.
Walked around a lot this morning, a couple pics from that. Got to the apartment (some pics from the window) and took an epic nap - now heading out to see the city more :)
23 June 2015
We are off! Zeb and Patricia's flight may be delayed due to weather in DC, I'm about to leave Chicago.