Monday, November 26, 2012

Europe 2012 highlights

Europe was amazing!  I’m very glad I went but it will be a long time until I go back.  We visited 3 countries over 13 days.  We spent 3 days in Rome, got a rental car and drove 6 hours north to  catch our 4 day cruise.  The cruise stopped in:
Barcelona, Spain 
Marseille, France and back to
Genova, Italy

Then we spent 2 days in Tuscany exploring the winding roads and hilltop castles.  What a beautiful countryside!

I’d go back to Spain before anything else. We didn't have enough time in Barcelona especially because it was the most welcoming beautiful city full of culture and love!  And if I did it again, I’d pay someone to plan it to the T.  The unknowns and trying to navigate the Italian roads and Autostrade was a nightmare!

Europeans smoke ALOT! I had a headache nearly every day from inhaling that nastiness secondhand.  And it was really challenging trying to communicate.  I wish my Spanish teacher would have drilled it into my head that I really should pay attention if I ever intend to travel.  And ordering food at times was a nightmare.   

That being said, I LOVE the culture and the architecture and the history.  I loved walking 50+ miles.  I devoured the food!  The cappuccino’s are to die for and the food is glorious! We fared pretty well and had an unforgettable experience!

My favorite city was Barcelona, but my favorite memory and experience was Siena. 

Siena is like nothing else we saw.  It literally took my breath away when we walked into the main piazza:Piazza Del Campo.

Siena was so cool!  it still had all of the original Gothic construction with the pointed arches compared to the rounded renaissance feel everywhere else in Italy. 

They also aren’t an industry city.  It’s simply a banker’s town.  Literally they strive on lending and borrowing and shops and trading.  They didn’t make or grow anything!

Also, the whole city is broken into 17 districts.  If you’re born into one, you die in it basically.  You’ll have a representative in coat of arms in your colors for births, baptisms, communion, marriage, and death!  Nuts huh?  

Oh, and the cathedral was so cool!  the colors of Siena are black and white and inside there are stripes everywhere!

And they have the Palio Horse races every year where the 10 of the 17 districts race.  It’s intense !

The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a horse race that is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16, in Siena, Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. A magnificent pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is not uncommon for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys. For several years, the Palio has been the focus of numerous protests by animal-rights organizations, including the Anti-Vivisection League. Concerns include primarily race incidents causing falls, which in some cases have led to horses’ deaths. Site...

You can watch a YouTube video of this year's race where only 4 of the 10 horses made it through to the finish!  There are not any rules to this race, you'll get to see the first lap on the sharpest corner where one horse barely doesn't make it and takes out 5 others.

I just loved Siena!  Browsing the streets and getting yummy fresh pizza or a coffee, or checking out the fine Italian retailers was so relaxing and energizing at the same time! We had AMAZING dinner at a local restaurant twice with Gnocchi I’ll never forget! Mmmm! It was called Osteria La Piana. The owner's & cooks looked just like Trevor.  Same facial features and shaved head.  It was unmistakable!

And not to mention it’s in the Tuscan Wine Valley so we spent 2 days touring vineyards and drinking wine!  LOVE!

I want to do a full blog post broken into the three main parts of our trip. Hopefully I'll get around to doing that in the near future.  I don't want to forget anything we experienced.  It was a wonderful trip and the first one my husband Trevor and I have taken 100% on our own without friends or family.
Now I'm looking forward to adjusting to the correct time zone and not waking up wide awake at 4:30 every morning.  I am also full swing into the holiday season with Christmas Music and holiday decorations about to ensue!

I'm very lucky to have had such an amazing opportunity to visit a world beyond my imagination!

And now it's time for:


If you're contemplating learning a language: do it!  I wish I had.  And Italian and Spanish are similar.  We were both surprised at how much we remembered from 2 years of highschool.  It wasn't enough though...

Why do we 'americanize' all of the worlds words?  Like Rome.  It's not Rome, it's Roma.  And Genoa, it's actually Genova.  Wine is Vino! And why aren't we on the metric system yet?

To Drink or Not to Drink!

Despite what I think, drinking is actually not worth it.  The challenge lies in convincing all of your friends/acquaintances to do things that don’t involve the go-to alcoholic consumption so you don’t want to blow your brains out as the only sober one.  If alcohol temporarily makes us feel better or more confident it’s only a fa├žade to the realities of our insecurities.  If we spent the time we devote to drinking to the gym, or healthy cooking classes, or hiking/biking/crafting, we in turn wouldn’t want, need, or desire the relaxing poison strumming through our veins.  In its place confidence and natural energy would be surging.

Easier said than done though. 

Wine is fine. 
It even rhymes
Let’s drink wine
All the time!

Every person that's had 'a night to remember' (or not remember) has made this comment:
"I'm never drinking again!" I wish I agreed with myself the first time I said this.  It's so much easier said than done.  I find myself constantly making excuses or exceptions to the rule. 

The longest I've gone without a sip of alcohol was just over 4 months early this year.  I was healthy and didn't waste days away with a hangover. I accomplished more tasks and felt more whole and complete.

Knowing this, I still don't know why I keep going back to the occasional drink with friends or on the expected weekends.

Alcohol is full of empty calories and encourages terrible eating choices. 

In a conversation with a friend today she said:
"The drinking blues are areal thing. I swear...except even though I just said I wouldn't drink, I almost want to recant and say only drink when it's worth it and only out of happiness not just to make something fun or because it's expected."  

Truthfully, I've had some hilarious encounters and unforgettable experiences that involve alcohol that I wouldn't trade for the life of me.  Laugh out loud, are you kidding me, stories! 

Hey, I've probably had enough of those right?

Maybe instead I should just live vicariously through TV shows and movies dipicting such behavior. Then I would avoid things like:
-Losing my phone in Europe
-Burning my MIL's carpet by snuggling with a straightener
-Getting a "no Service" bracelet at Oktoberfest
-Brawling with a security guard
-Juvenille Detention
-Broken glass lodged in my foot

Wine is the hardest part of this.  I love wine.  In fact, I'm in LOVE with wine! I could easily stop at a glass or two of wine if I had an exit strategy.  Meaning: I can't go all night on wine so I'd need to be under the legal limit or have my own transportation. And honestly our bodies aren't designed to stay up that late anyway! 

So in summary: I'm back to where I started.  To drink or not to drink: That is the question!

What are some of the things you enjoy sans alcohol?
What's yoru favorite non-alcholic drink?
What group activities are your favorite?