Monday, April 28, 2008

Yeah Pictures!

yeah pictures! the first is the town of Manarola that we stayed in Cinque Terra. #2 is me at the top of city no. 3 Corniglia. If you look in the background you will see our town of Manarola that we just hiked from...3 down 2 more to go. No. 3 & 4 are the Colosseum at night and Ben and I in it the next morning. The 5th is Ben peeling fava beans outside our villa in Siena. He was enjoying himself so much, he decided he must have been a peasant woman in a former life. Lastly, the view from our Tuscan villa...yeah!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rome to Siena

The 4 days in Rome flew by as quickly as the city We did the touristy things: went in the Colosseum, threw our penny into the Trevi fountain, gazed at the Sistine Chapel, all the while trying not to be tourists. Rome is covered with them, in big groups, wearing matching scarves and taking pictures of everything...everything. Ben and I got up early every day to beat the crowds and managed to really enjoy ourselves. That is until we would leave (enter tourist destination) and be bombarded with people trying to sell us purses, sunglasses, belts, watches, pens, light up colosseums, etc. They were incredible. When it would start to rain, they would call in the Delta Team to replace the sunglass stands with umbrellas...every 10 feet, 3 euros...sorry to say no one is getting a green prada bag or gucci sunglasses. Even if I wanted one, after 4 days of being pestered, I wouldnt have been able to live with myself. We left Rome early yesterday to head north to the Tuscany area and make our next camp in Siena. Yesterday was a good example of how traveling isnt always glamorous. Long story short our first train was late, which caused us to miss our 2nd one, which left us at the train station for 3.5 hours. We arrived in Siena, took the bus to town...which was so crowded, without our big packs, I am sure we would have lost each other. Crowded why? Festival day in Siena...aka holiday. Few buses running, so back to the train bus to our villa...nice, but out in the middle of nowhere. No more buses running to town (festival), no open grocery stores (festival)...etc. We dined on Cornflakes and peanut butter last night, but had a good laugh. Today we woke up fresh, with a beautiful sun outside and our ready to eat lunch...a big lunch. Hope everyone is well. Love and miss you!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cinque Terra

Over the past 6 days, Ben and I have enjoyed the five towns that make up Cinque Terra (literal translation in Italian: Five Town). They are everything the pictures show they are, beautiful, unique, set in picturesqe surroundings, and are a good example of how there are no more undiscovered cities sleeping quietly without postcard stands and tourists. I first heard about Cinque Terra 4 years ago from travelers over in Europe who described how they spent a week hiking between the cities which are connected by trails. I think that was about the time Rick Steves also found the place, and now it is no longer a secret. Of course, we make up the postcard stands and tourists (I realize that), but at the same time, I wasn't expecting the level of tourism that now inhabits the town...but I digress. We bought a 3-day hiking pass, and anyone who buys the 7 day one is crazy. The second day we were there, we decided to hike the whole trail. I asked Ben if he wanted to do it and his response? "Sure, we're young and in shape." Now the trail is about 5.5 miles long, but in some places it is rugged, hilly, with lots of stairs, etc., however the ocean side view makes the trip worthwhile. The next day, "Mr. In shape" and "Ms. Young" had a serious hitch in their giddy up and only hiked to one town that day... and contemplated taking the train back.
The biggest obstacle of the trails isn't the terrain, but rather our fellow travelers. At first, I thought it would be the Holy Hiking Poles. Somewhere in Germany, someone has made a fortune telling people they need hiking poles for the trails. They are named the HHP's because when fifty of them got off the train at once with their backpacks, tourguide holding a brightly covered umbrella and poles, the first words out of my mouth were "holy hiking poles." Yet, I'm not sure how much those poles actually get used...I only saw three sets on the trails. The true obstacle is the groups of Italian kids. They come in packs of at least 30, most likely on a field trip, and are never hiking on the trails, but sitting, waiting for their teacher(?) to catch-up. The problem is that they are oblivious to everything except their sunglasses, Nelly-sized belt buckles shining proudly and each other. No one else exists. Swear words were uttered when we would see them and we would brace ourselves, elbows out, to try and get through the packs.
Overall, we had a great time. The scenery was incredible, the gelato and limoncino exquisite, and we stayed in the cutest apartment surrounded by olive and lemon trees with the nicest owener, Senore Imere, who left us fresh lemons. Neither Ben nor I have ever had lemons like these ones. They smell the way you think lemons should smell, but have never actually experienced the aroma before. We dried some seeds to take back. We both acknowledge that there probably is a reason we haven't seen lemon trees in Oregon, but we'll try anyways.
Ciao! (pictures to come, I promise!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Au Revoir France, Ciao Italy

The past 6 days Ben and I have been hopping from French city to French city, making our way south. We spent 2 days in Lyon, drooling over restaurant menus, two days in Avignon, drooling over the meal an old friend of the Heathman made us (Levi anyone?), and two days being spoiled by friends from Longview in Villefranche. We even got a home cooked meal. Basically the moral of the past 6 days is we ate well...very well. Plus, we had lots of fun seeing the cities. Each one was very unique. Lyon with its restaurants galore, Avignon with its history meshed with kids on dirtbikes riding the city, dressed better than Hollywood stars, and than Villefranche, the cutest most quaint town right on the coast. Ben and I hiked all around, finally enjoying some sunny weather. Now we are finally in Italy...Cinque Terra to be exact. We are staying 1km above Manarola, which truthfully feels like 15km, b-c it is straight uphill. Our apartment is wonderful: big, eco-friendly with a sweet kitchen and patio. We have no complaints. Our travel roots are now planted for 6 days where we will enjoy the paths, towns and lemoncello...or limocino in Italia. Ciao!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Last of Paris

Today is our last day in Paris. We went to Versaille earlier. Louis XIV lived a good life. However, the Sun King could get a little advice from Walt Disney on how to effectively get people in and out of his kingdom. Rick Steeves advice of the day: go before 10:30 a.m. or don't bother. We're both excited to get on to our next adventure, but sad to leave this beautiful city. After buying 2-4 crepes a day, Ben decided to cut out the middle man and we have been living off his homemade ones the past few days..we think the crepe man whispered traitor today when we walked past his stand. By the time we get back to the States, everyone, even Ricky Bobby, will be saying they love his thin little pancakes, especially with Nutella...dang they're good.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Paris Part Deux

Paris is a happening place right now. Yesterday was the Paris marathon and Ben and I did a Louvre marathon in their honor (Ben's favorite?: Venus de Milo...Mine?: Winged Victory). We then toasted them by eating crepes (LCJ-nice call with the Nutella) and took a big nap. Today we went for a morning run and realized every police officer in Paris was at the Eiffel Tower. Obviously, by only getting to the internet once every few days and not having English speaking television), we are a little behind the times and didn't realize the Olympic torch was traveling through Paris today. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief...Ben and I decided not to participate in the Tibetan protests and are safe...ready to eat more crepes...basically we're eating our way through Europe..yumm. Tomorrow is our last day in Paris and we're going to take a morning trip to Versailles and then be very Parisian and sit at a cafe the rest of the afternoon...well maybe not, but it's a nice thought. We'll then head south to Lyon, Avignon and Nice before making our way to Cinque Terre on the 15th. Au Revoir!

Thursday, April 3, 2008


A lot has happened since we last posted. First, we decided to get out of Germany a day early, however Germany decided it didn't want us to leave too easily. After a communication breakdown with our German hosts (we tried to politely say we were leaving early, they thought we were questioning the good will gesture got us back in their good graces) we headed to the train station. Six trains and two buses later, we finally made it a whole 5 km out of Germany. Ben and I had a few good laughs at the two American dummies who only speak English, and were sitting on the trains while everyone was getting off, b/c we didn't understand the announcement that the train was broken, or they were doing bridge work. Once we were on the buses, we also didn't know where we were going and again laughed at ourselves...two American dummies...smiling and nodding. We made it to Stausborg...not quite what we were expecting. After arriving at a hotel our guide book said was cheery and comfortable, we took the last room available. The lovely front desk girl asked if we wanted to see it...6 trains, 2 buses, 70 pounds of backpacks, and a recommendation from our guidebook?, we'll take it. I think this girl won a ham, or a bottle of booze, or something for finally booking htis room, because anyone who would have seen it beforehand, would not have taken it. Let's just say...bad...and i have pictures to prove it.
Early Wednesday morning we rolled up our sleeping bags, that's right we slept in our bags on top of the bed (tyee motel anyone?) and left for Paris...Ah Paris. We are staying in this cute Parisan apartment 5 minutes from the Eiffel Tower. Today we walked along the Siene river up to Notre Dame, which still stuns me with its beauty, and then back through the Louvre, and the Champ de Elysses. Ben is like a kid in a candy store with all the fromaggeries and shops that state on the window "foie grais." Plus our neighborhood is like what Paris looks like in my dreams: open street markets, cute apartments, cafes...we're pretty happy right now. Au revoir.