Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Italian Getaway: Pizza 4 times in 2 days is ok right?

This last week marked another adventure to add to the growing list. Although, this one was a little different than our other travel experiences. Luke and I decided to get away while Mike was working all week. We decided to take an easy 1 1/2 hour flight to Italy to visit my Aunt and Uncle who are serving a mission in the Rome mission.
Although, the easy 1 1/2 hour flight to Italy was rather deceiving. In fact, it was quite an experience to get there. It started with a missed nap, a bus ride to the train station, a second bus ride to the airport, and me single handedly navigating my infant son, stroller, diaper bag, duffle bag and car seat through the various forms of transportation. But, we made it to the airport without any problem. The flight went very smoothly, and I was incredible pleased with the service. We were even offered a sandwich and swiss chocolate for our short flight. Once we made it to the Rome airport, my stroller was not outside the plane nicely waiting for me, but rather at baggage claim. That was quite exciting, ranging a tired toddler and waiting for my bags. Luckily, that didn't last long, and I was soon standing with my wonderful aunt and uncle! 
My wonderful Uncle Paul
My Sweet Aunt Geri

They are serving their mission about an hour from Naples, and drove all the way up to Rome to get me from the airport. They must really love me... or they really wanted to meet Luke. We drove about 3 1/2 hours, along some of the most beautiful terrain, the Amalfi Coast toward southern Italy.  

Luke quickly warmed up to my aunt and uncle and immediately started calling them Grandma and Grandpa. Luke knows the way to sneak right into someone's heart.

This area is known for its ceramic paintings

I kept trying to figure out how to take some of
these paintings home with me

Luke slept in a real bed for the first time. He actually did really
good... went to bed around 10 and woke up at 5:30 the first
day... but it progressively got better each day. 
The next day we had the opportunity to take a boat along the Amalfi Coast to the town of Amalfi. It was so beautiful. I feel like a broken record... every place I have been during these travels has been even more beautiful than the last, and these pictures just don't do it the justice it deserves! Here are some of my best efforts to capture the beauty.

Of course I had to take a picture of the beautiful gelato...
 Italians know how to do ice cream right!

We had the opportunity to tour this printing press. Amalfi was the home of 60+ printing presses and was responsible for making the paper that the Vatican used for important documents. Their paper was made out of cloth pulp and therefore lasts for centuries.
I had to put my feet in the
Mediterranean Sea

Luke didn't nap in his bed once, but
did manage to fall asleep everywhere else. 

This region is known for their lemons. We had some perfectly
refreshing lemonade slushies, with bits of lemon rind inside. SO GOOD!

Later that day we met with a bunch of friends and watched the Italy vs Uruguay World Cup game on a projector. It was such a fun experience being surrounded by die hard fans, sadly, the outcome was not quite what we were hoping for.
Luke opted to watch Frozen on the iPad instead

The next day we visited an outdoor market. I just can't get enough of these! This was especially fun because I found a treasure I had been searching for. Mike and I have a fun tradition of getting a classic book in the native language from each country we have visited. In hopes that one day we will be fluent in each language enough to read them in their native language... until then they are fun souvenirs. So far we have Don Quixote from Spain, The Little Prince and The Hunchback of Notre Dame from France, Grimm's Fairy Tales from Germany, Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare from England, and I was on the lookout for Dante's Inferno from Italy. I kept my eyes open while roaming the book stand at the market and came across a fun copy. When I showed the book to the merchant, he became so excited and began speaking in rapid Italian. I soon realized he was actually quoting one of the cantos. He then turned the pages and began quoting another section. He then grabbed another book and began flipping the pages and quoting some more. I was very impressed. I then shared some of my favorite memorized poems (yes I have favorite memorized poetry... I am a nerd and I am proud of it!). He then quoted Shakespeare's "To be or not to be" soliloquy. in English.. and he didn't speak English. It was very impressive. I now have a new goal... I will memorize famous works in their native languages!

This day was also filled with mouthwatering food! I had my first Napoli pizza and no other pizza can compare! Now my international traveling child has had crepes and crescents in France, fondue and chocolate in Switzerland, Pretzels in Germany, Paella in Spain and Pizza in Italy.

The next day was truly magical. We visited a place that I have often dreamed of visiting since I was little. I remember sitting in my 5th grade class and learning about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. When my aunt and uncle said they lived an hour away I knew I would have to satisfy my curious 5th grade self and make the visit. We ended up seeing the slightly less well known city of Herculaneum that was also destroyed by the eruption, and is actually much better preserved than Pompeii. They still have frescos on the walls and mosaics on the floors. The city was created in 600BC and destroyed by the volcano in 79AD... that is extremely old ladies and gentleman! It was an awe inspiring experience. I have visited ruins before, but never anything this old and this well preserved. 

Interestingly enough, when Pompeii was destroyed, it was actually the falling ash and burning rain that killed the people and buried the city. The weight of the ash caused the roofs to crumble and become destroyed. However, Herculaneum was destroyed by a 100 mph mudslide resulting from the volcano that buried the city from the ground up, preserving the 3 story buildings and even the works of art on the wall. 

The city of Herculaneum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

My favorite sandwich in the world! That is mozzarella di bufala, or Buffalo mozzarella, which is the creamiest mozzarella you will ever try. I think I ate my weight in this cheese. Sadly, it is very difficult to find anywhere else as it doesn't transport easily. 

An ancient fast food

After a total of 4 meals consisting of pizza (2 dinners, 1 breakfast of leftovers and 1 lunch of leftovers), 4 Mozzarella di bufala panini's, and lots of italian cookies and sweets, we finally concluded our trip. My Aunt Geri taught me some basics on how to cook the Italian way. Both may aunt and uncle taught me to love the people. They are very different than the French. I have noticed the French are very polite and always willing to give up a seat, or help me with my stroller, although they tend to keep to themselves a little more. The Italians on the other hand are very embracing and ready to invite you to anything. I was kissed so many times, and Luke's head was rubbed by every passing stranger. We even had a nice man stop and hand Luke a fresh apricot from the bag he had just purchased. I absolutely loved my experience!

 My aunt and uncle drove us all the way back to Rome. They even stopped at the partially completed LDS Rome temple. It will be beautiful. I am thrilled to come back and see the completed version one day. 

We were so happy to see Daddy when we came home.
Here is Luke eating his pasta all by himself.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Enjoying these moments

As a planner, I have often had the predicament of being so eager about the next phase in life that I fail to fully appreciate the current chapter I’m in. Right now I can feel myself doing the same thing. We have 2 ½ weeks left on our European adventure and I can feel myself getting excited and ready to go home.  I’m thrilled to be in a place where I understand all the conversations around me. I’m already planning out the first meals and desserts I will have when I get back to the states (Southern BBQ, Mexican, cookies with milk and brownies).  I’m also thrilled to get back to my life, my friends, my family, my responsibilities at home and my sweet dog.
My sweet dog, Evey.

But this is ridiculous! I’m still in Europe, I’m still living this adventure and I need to make it count! Yes, it is uncomfortable living away from home; yes, it is annoying showering sitting down for 2 ½ months, and yes, it is interesting living with a mini fridge and no freezer… but that is what makes this trip so great! Adventures are not supposed to be cushy, they are not easy, but the memories are worth the discomfort and make the best stories.

Luke does a good job at enjoying the
discomforts. No dryer just means more forts.
Luke enjoys his down time
Mike and I will laugh about those hot days where I had to carry the stroller, grocery bags and the diaper bag up the 3 flights of stairs while nagging Luke to stop lagging behind and trying to open the neighbors doors. We will joke about that Barcelona trip that cost us a phone and a camera and where Luke threw up all over the back seat. We will laugh about being yelled at in French by bus drivers again and again for not realizing in France you must enter in the front door, but Switzerland you can enter in the back. I will look back at my strength to single handedly haul a busy toddler through museums, shops and historical sites while navigating stairs and incomprehensible conversations.

Luke is learning to read the French newspapers
This experience has been hard no doubt, but I have learned so much about myself. I have learned I can laugh when our hot water stops working and I have to take a sponge bath out of a bowl. I can maintain my sanity when my son learns to climb out of his pack and play and his bedtime routine expands from 10 minutes to 2 hours and now requires Mike or me to hold his door closed until he gives up and falls asleep. I can cope with loneliness when my husband is working all day long, all of my friends are thousands of miles away and those around me speak little English. I can be productive with my time at home by learning to read in French, studying a French history book, running, listening to books on tape, finding new local recipes and extensive reading. 

I am so grateful for this journey. I am excited to go home in a few weeks, but I am determined to appreciate every remaining moment I have here… even the difficult and frustrating moments.

My little family enjoying our adventure at the Bern LDS temple

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our Swiss Mountain Getaway

The view driving to our hotel
The beautiful town of Thun
This weekend marked our last big getaway for this trip. Mike, Luke, and I rented a car and drove 2 1/2 hours to the German part of Switzerland to soak up the unbelievable loveliness of this small country. We began our trip by driving through some little towns suitably located near two lakes and surrounded by the regal Swiss mountain ranges.

We passed through the town Thun and explored the castle that sits overlooking the charming situation.

We stopped in Oberhofen to admire another castle and the beautiful gardens that surround it. This castle was set on the crystal clear blue water and could not have been more beautiful. Everywhere I looked my jaw would drop at the incredible beauty. It was actually a little frustrating because my camera could not adequately capture the scenery as I saw it.

We then made our way to our hotel that happened to sit in the mountains above a town called Meiringen. Again the magnificence around us was indescribable and barely captured in these pictures.

View from Reichenbach 
On Sunday we had quite an adventure. Being the literature fans that we are, we decided to hike the notorious Reichenbach falls and discover for ourselves where Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty famously dove to their deaths in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem”. The literature tie was really just an excuse; the real excitement was actually having the opportunity to hike in the beautiful Swiss mountains. Again, I was blown away at the beauty we encountered. Having lived in places like Oregon, Utah, Tennessee and North Carolina, I am no foreigner to mountainous magnificence or the awe inspiring views of lushes green forests, but I believe that Switzerland is the most beautiful non-tropical place I’ve ever visited.

We loved our trip and I hope these pictures don’t disappoint. Just look at them and imagine that beauty and more everywhere you look.

All the buildings look like this

The town of Thun

The castle in Thun

I love finding castles in Europe
Luke learning to be a Knight

This is Oberhofen

We found another castle

Mike enjoying the Sherlock Museum

Can't forget the world cup is happening, every store
window reminds me

The little town of Meiringen

Our hike begins

Reichenbach falls