travel

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Fiery FIRENZE!

We’ve arrived in the land of pizza, pasta and vino! We couldn’t be happier to be starting our vacation in the beautiful city of Florence (Firenze). I’ve been to Rome and Venice but a first time traveler to Florence and the first steps out of the cab were ones I will never forget. There is so much life and so much to be said for how unapologetic the Italian culture is. I can’t get enough of the body language heavy culture and lack of personal bubbles most locals have. They are who they are and if you don’t like it too bad for you!

We stayed right in the Piazza Della Repubblica at an unbelievable hotel in a historic building. It was in the classic Renaissance style with windows that opened out the street. From there you could hear scooters and honking, mobs of people walking by, teenagers sitting having a smoke or making out. It may be loud to some but it just felt so full of life! And after living in a purell world of small talk on the cruise ship for 4 months we were ready to experience being around people of all ages especially at night (it’s the little things!)

We decided day one to just EAT our way through Italy, since there really is no other way.
Bring on the anti pastas, and bring us another bottle of wine. I’ve fallen in love with caprese salad and prosciutto with cantaloupe. Mmmmm don’t get me started on the carbohydrate heavy meals…there isn’t enough space in the blog.

So over our three full days in Firenze with Rick Steve’s “Florence and Tuscany” guide book and me as the appointed tour guide, we had a lovely balance of wandering, sight seeing and lingering meals. We saw all the biggies- Uffizi Gallery with the greatest collection anywhere of Italian paintings, the Academia with Michelangelo’s 17 foot tall “David”, wandered to Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace with it’s beautiful gardens. Sunday ended up being the best day to go to the Pitti palace and Academia because both were free! Woo HOO! Maybe the first Sunday of the month has something to do with it.

We enjoyed two of the best meals with views at Golden View Open Bar in Oltrarno and Sesio on top of the Westin on Piazza Ognissanti. The first on the other side of the Arno river in Oltrarno was absolutely perfect for our first lunch spot in the city. We got to drink wine and look out to Ponte Vecchio and could not have been more spell bound by the terra cotta heaven all around. The second was at sunset with the PERFECT lighting and view of the major city sights.

On our last day in the city we adventured about an hour and a half away to the magical land of Cinque Terre as my birthday treat! The five small towns isolated in the Italian Rivera are pedestrian only zones so we took a boat ride from one to the next. Stopped to have local white Cinque Terre wine from the area, gawk at the colorful beauty around us and toast to the best year of my life. It couldn’t have started out any better!

I am mesmerized by how bright Florence shines. Our travels continue through Tuscany to Capri and finally back up to Rome. Bring on La Dolce Vita!!

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?Channel Islands?

Honesty, the pictures tell more about this lovely island than I can. We were tendered in this port (not to be confused with TINDER the popular dating/sexytime app…I always say the wrong thing) meaning the ship is too large to dock on land therefore creating too much of a current at this harbor. So we have to take the lifeboats to and from the ship to the main land…and it’s a pain in the ass when you’re crew and on time restrictions. The entire UK itinerary consists of tender ports and that’s sort of inconvenient but it is what it is!

Not knowing what to expect, we hopped off and had a gorgeous day. I didn’t learn much about St. Peter’s Port (a second glance at the map, I realized that’s what it was called!) The ship’s information source said it was the Channel Islands, which I learned is multiple islands and this specific one was called Guernsey. It’s been apart of the British Isles from the 18th century, other than that all I know is that wealthy people used to be able to hide money here like Switzerland and Grand Caymen Islands. That’s just a fun fact from the 50+ year old Dave, that plays saxophone in the orchestra. Overall, we enjoyed the warm weather and wandering through the foreign cobblestone town.

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DOVER AND OVER AND OVER

We’ve arrived in the UK for a new itinerary! The first stop is Dover, England! Not the most beautiful city in all the land but my British friends told me they try to keep Dover sort of ugly to keep the French out because it’s only 23 miles away from France…typical French and British rivalry. The most striking sights are the famous White Cliffs of Dover and the Dover Castle, both of which you could see from the ship. (see the blue photo Basti took from our window! so cool!) Friends from the party band that were on the ship when we got are originally from Dover, so now on vacation, they showed a big group of us around. We wandered through the small town and the first order of business was getting fish and chips, DUH! We walked up to a simple, order behind the counter, take away (see how cultured I’m becoming…I don’t say the American “take out” anymore) place and were very satisfied. We then walked through streets with British flags and red doors found our way to one of their big vans, it’s honestly a small bus. They call it Phil’s creeper van, but since he is a sweetheart, I really don’t think it suites him. We piled in (with plenty of seatbelts mom!) and drove up a steep hill to Dover Castle.

Perched grandly on top of the White Cliffs of Dover, this beautiful medieval castle has stood guard for almost a thousand years. It’s protected England from invaders from Roman through modern times and has undeniable majesty. We moseyed through wartime tunnels from the 1790s when the threat of Napoleon was looming and the secret passageways were without a doubt haunted with gruesome war memories. Adventuring to the top of Henry II’s Great Tower, made for an awesome view. The walls were up to 20 feet thick, supposedly Henry II slept on the top floor, surrounded by his best protection to stay safe. Phil, our driver/tour guiding friend, mentioned how in tact Dover Castle really was. He said most castles in England, much like the Wall of China, were invaded by commoners for materials to build their houses, but this one was in great shape. We couldn’t start our trip in the UK without a pub visit, so we stopped for a beer and celebrated being with good friends.