Monday, October 20, 2014

Europe 2014 - La Spezia and the Cinque Terre, Italy

This was such a wonderful part of our trip!
The beautiful Italian coast and water!
All of the landscape that we saw as we rode across the northern part of Italy was breathtaking, but this was perfect!
We stayed in a town called La Spezia.
We arrived by train and our hosts picked us up from the station.
Given the fact that they spoke about 5 words of English...and we spoke about 4 less than that of Italian, we did pretty good in communicating about our room and where we could find food and how we would get back to the train station in two days, etc.
Our room was at the top of a loooooong hill.
The market was at the bottom.
Once we bought some things for the night, I was able to cook pasta dinner in this cute little apartment.
It was extremely tiny and sweltering, but I'd go back!

They had an equally tiny balcony to hang out on.
It was small, but had great views.
We each spent our own time out on the patio.
I spent time reading and listening to a loud Italian family have a fight in a nearby apartment.
And apparently Hannah spent time watching a house burn down!

Our plan for this part of the trip was to spend the next day in an area called Cinque Terre.  It's a group of five villages on the coast of the Ligurian Sea.
We bought passes that allowed you to travel all over the area via train or trail.
We made the plan to take the train in the morning to the farthest village away which was called Monterosso.
We would start there and make our way back.
This particular village had the largest area for people who wanted to find a place to sit and hang out at the beach.
We got there in time to get what appeared to be the LAST two beach chairs!
Hot and sunny weather and chairs right by the water!
Hannah's toes!
Look at that coast line!
There's a beautiful vineyard carved into the side of the land!
View to the left...
and view to the right!

We just really hung out and relaxed here -watching the crowds gather and being thankful that we had made the choice to come early.
 photo by Hannah

After a while we decided to head toward the next village called Vernazza.
When we checked on the train, it said there was 40 minutes before the next train arrived.
So, I thought, "Hey, lets just walk the trail to the next town.  We'll probably get there faster than waiting for the train."
So, we left Monterosso...

...and took the hiking trail (in our flip flops!) to Vernazza.
It was a beautiful trail with gorgeous views.
We walked by tiny vineyards all over the place.
Beautiful plants living in the rocks.
photo by Hannah
And from several spots along the trail, we could see Vernazza.
But our little trail walk ended up taking us two hours (in our flip flops I said!!) up mostly trails that looked like this!
Just so you know, I'm not really complaining.
I realize that this was AMAZING!
At the moment...not so much...but I really could see the beauty while I was sweating and starving and slipping out of my FLIP FLOPS!!

So we finally did make it to Vernazza.
Afterwards Hannah told me that if I ever got a chance to enter the "Amazing Race"...take the train!
It's one of the more popular of the five villages and it was absolutely packed!
We were very hungry...hadn't eaten since the we looked for a place to eat.
I was out of Euros and no one took cards, so we found an ATM.
Not working.
The only ATM in the village.
Not working.

So after wandering around for a while, we took a train (yes...a train this time) back to Monterosso.
We found the ATM.
Not working.
What is going on??!!
I'm hungry!!

Apparently there was a storm coming in that was knocking out all the power to the ATM' all the villages.
Not sure how that happens, but we were feeling pretty discouraged.
Hannah had US dollars on her that we eventually took to a hotel where they exchanged them for Euros.
We head back into the center of Monterosso and found a pizza place we had seen before.
I'm telling you that food never tasted so good!
We got our own pizzas this time and I ate mine like it was my last meal!
Seriously though - that was the best pizza of all time!
Anchovies and all!!
Can't remember if I ate any of Hannah's pizza but I'm sure I wanted to!
After pizza it was time to head back to our room.
Hannah stopped for a gelato and we caught our train after a long and exhausting, but wonderful day.
We'd do it all over again just the same.

We caught a taxi the next morning to the train station in La Spezia from our little flat and started on our journey to France.
And they weren't lying about that storm.
As the rain came I thought how lucky we were to have had such a wonderful day on the Italian beaches.
Arrivederci Italy!

Prochain ArrĂȘt:  Lyon, France

Friday, October 10, 2014

Europe 2014 - Venice, Italy

***Blog Reader Alert!***
I need to add a disclaimer to this blog post.
I am completely incapable of controlling the amount of photos that will be posted about our time in Venice.
Proceed with caution...and a few minutes of extra time on your hands!

The next morning we left Germany and traveled towards Italy.
We stopped in Innsbruck, Austria for a train change.
Not much time there so we just hung out in the station until it was time to leave and used some free wi-fi in McDonald's.
I think that in my post about London, I said "I promise" that we never ate there again.
Well...I guess I lied because I had forgotten we got fries and a drink in an Austrian McDonald's.
Yep...they sell beer there!

Our room for the next two nights was in a town called Padua outside of Venice.

So we stopped in Padua for the night and after being greeted by Roberto, our airbnb host, we walked down the street to get some food for the evening.
At the grocery store we couldn't resist this beautiful watermelon!
It was as good as it looks!!
We also stopped and bought a pizza to take home.
There was a huge selection to choose from...
(Really really not sure how the Tom and Jerry and Titty?? theme fit the place)
I wish I had gotten a clearer picture of the menu because some of the pizzas had horse meat as a topping.
Sounded too weird to me at the time, but in retrospect, I wish I had tried it!
We ended up with this beautiful creation and it was also just as good as it looks.
Pizza in Italy has no rival!

The next morning we were up early and off on a quick train ride to Venice.
Of all the places that we visited, this was probably the one that made me stand there with my mouth hanging open.
When we walked outside the train station and saw the Grand Canal, I just couldn't believe I was really there!
It was a bright and hot day with a mass of humanity.
But it was Venice and it was beautiful and old and colorful and...Venice!
You absolutely need these street signs that are on buildings and the ground.
"Get lost in Venice"
Okay...we will...and we did!
We were careful during our whole trip to not spend too much money on food.
It's nice to try a little of each country's "popular" cuisine, but for the most part, we had a nice meal here and there...and then bought sandwiches and fruit at little mini marts.

But gelato...
Oh gelato!
You were a necessity anytime we could have you!

I had to take this picture for my little choc-o-holic back home named Jenelle!
It was obviously a fresh batch and if I could have virtually bought her a scoop I would have!
 We had lemon!

After our gelato, we continued to make our way to two attractions we wanted to be certain to see...
The Rialto Bridge and the Piazza San Marco.
Tourist traps?
Something you have to do?

Hannah was excellent at navigating us around the city.
It literally looks the same at nearly every turn.
The same...and still beautiful!
But we finally found the Rialto Bridge!

Prior to arriving at the bridge, we were around a lot of people, but it was relatively easy to move about. was seriously close contact!
Every narrow street had a mass of humans in addition to a whole lot of crap for sale!
The closer we got to the Piazza San Marco, the more people there were!
Go figure!
Everyone wanted to see the same famous landmarks! was worth it anyway.
 photo by Hannah
Oh!  Nice to see you "scaffolding!"
 photo by Hannah
 photo by Hannah
photo by Hannah
After walking around the Piazza, we walked to the water and saw all the gondola's.
Just beautiful!
This picture was one of my favorite that Hannah took.
I love the composition with the long landscape and the big sky!
photo by Hannah

After we had seen enough, we head back towards the direction we came.
This is where Hannah's navigational skills and a map came in handy!
Everything looked the same to me!

We saw this amazing display of seafood at one restaurant we passed.
There are always people outside trying to get you to come in and eat.
This guy was no exception.
He was super friendly and even let us try something called sea asparagus - which is AWESOME!
I would have loved to have eaten there, but it would have been most of our trip budget just judging by the menu and the look of the place.
Bye fish!
So as we made our way back towards the train station, we remember an area where we wanted to eat that was near the Rialto Bridge.
Hot, tired, thirsty and hungry would describe our situation pretty well.
No one had to work too hard to persuade us to sit down at a table for lunch.
(I didn't eat that whole thing myself...but I probably could have!)
A pizza lunch with my girl next to the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy.
Can I do it again please?

And then once again it was time to move on!

Next Stop:  La Spezia and Cinque Terre, Italy