Tuesday, October 22, 2013

We're back!

We're back! We had the most incredible time jet-setting around Europe.  OK, so maybe we weren't jet setting, but we were definitely seeing as much as we could until we just couldn't see anymore. It was awesome, and such an incredible way to celebrate our first year of marriage. 

Just a quick overview of where we went and what we did... and I'm SURE there will be more posts to come with more details...

Day 1: Arrive in Rome - we went to our hotel - a sweet European hotel called Diana very central to many things and walking distance from the main metro and train station. We settled in and took a walk around the city. We enjoyed our first authentically Italian pizza pie (yum!) and mistakenly ordered two instead of one to share.

Day 2: Our longest and most packed day of travel. We got an early start and got a day pass for the metro. We saw the Trevi Fountain, made a wish, and headed to the Vatican Museum where we saw the Sistine Chapel (breathtaking) and a hall full of pope-mobiles through the years. Heading back to the hotel we stopped and saw the Spanish Steps and ate at a delish little cafe where were discovered the tasty simplicity of tortellini in broth. After a quick siesta at the hotel we headed to the Coliseum and toured the ruins, and then enjoyed our first Italian Gelato (NOM!)

Day 3: Storming outside... we walked around the city in between raindrops and realized we'd been taking the long way around town (it's hard to follow maps when streets aren't marked with names...) and found that the Trevi Fountain was not far from our hotel at all. We got picked up and headed toward Civitavecchia, the port we left out of for our cruise!

Day 4: Picture it Sicily! E and I took a cooking class at an old estate-now-turned-Inn with a real Baroness. I made veal (!) kabobs and E made some Italian version of fried polenta. It was all very tasty and a day full of good food, new found friends, and lots (too much?) of wine!

Day 5: Malta. Who knew how amazingly beautiful this country was? I never even knew where it was, and I am so glad I do now, because I know E is itching to go back.  We enjoyed a small fishing town with crafts for sale (we bought a beautiful handmade tablecloth) and visited a Winery and a glassblowing factory. Malta is also known for it's filigree work, and we got to see some artists in action. It was a fun and scenic day - we took some of our favorite pictures here. 

Day 6: At sea - we spent the day lounging around the ship, by the pool, and playing bar games (I won!). We also treated ourselves to a relaxing hot stone massage that we both really needed. It was relaxing and fun - topped off with a formal night full of champagne!

Day 7: Florence.  A computer glitch kept us from seeing Pisa and it's famous tower, and we were pretty bummed about that (all the more reason to visit again!), but we made the most of our day and it was beautiful! we drove through the Tuscan country side and it's really just as beautiful as you see it in the movies. Castles on the hillsides like it's no big deal. And Florence itself is like taking a step (or a few hundred) back in time, like you could run in to DaVinci on the street and it would be totally normal. Everywhere you turn you want to take a picture. My dad always wanted to invent the camera that is inside your eye so you could blink and take a snap shot.  That's what you need for this town, to see the beauty and capture it, even the camera doesn't pick up what you're really seeing. We walked around, visited the Uffuzi Museum, saw Botecelli's Venus and many of DaVinci's early works. We walked around Santa Croce Square and bought leather jackets, and ate Tuscan sausage on pizza dripping with olive oil. It was the whole shebang. If you want a city that is everything quintessentially Italy, it's Florence. I want to come back here and stay for days, and I still wouldn't see everything. 

Day 8: Genoa/Cinque Terre. Two of my cousins have been to Italy, and both mentioned the beauty of this place called Cinque Terre- the five lands. We were lucky enough to get a spot on this excursion to know what they were talking about. This place can be summed up in the picture above... it's the one with all the houses on the cliff side by the water. It's just beautiful. We didn't hike between the towns, but we saw 3/5 by train, one of the other towns is up the cliff and the other we were supposed to visit by boat, but we had to skip it due to inclement weather. It was an amazing day though. Not the kind of place with a lot to do, but just the kind of place to walk around and sit and eat and enjoy coffee and do a little shopping. A little beach side town you sort of have to hike to, but in the end you're so glad you did because there's really no other way to see it all. We loved Cinque Terre and can't wait to see it again some day. 

Day 9: Montecarlo. We opted to cancel our excursion for Montecarlo in order to save our sanity and not be completely exhausted by the time we got to Barcelona. We were so pooped that a half day excursion to Nice didn't seem exciting enough for us to want to get back into another bus at 7:30 in the morning. And honestly, I am so glad we skipped that. Instead we slept in and enjoyed a champagne breakfast my mom and step-dad sent to us for our anniversary. We sat out on the balcony and enjoyed the view and the beautiful weather. When we were ready we walked around the harbor a bit, but didn't guilt ourselves, or rush around to go see the sites. We were totally cool with seeing the harbor. The boat left at 2pm for Barcelona and we scheduled another massage. Only this time it was much colder, and windier in the cabana and it wasn't as relaxing... but definitely an experience.

Day 10: Barcelona.  We made it off the ship and to the hotel, the Ayre Rosellon (which was a great hotel - in case you're planning on visiting Barcelona anytime soon!). We spent the afternoon walking around the area. Our hotel was a block away from Gaudi's Sagrada Familia cathedral, so we went exploring around the outside, amazed at the architecture, the way it looks and how surreal it all is. We stopped had lunch at the hotel (by the time we were hungry for lunch everywhere around town was closed for siesta) and rested up before taking another walk later on. We stopped for dinner at a place called Babilonia and had some authentic (?) paella and wine. It was delicious. Then we visited Yogurtlandia for some dessert and met an Armenian girl in Spain, who was shocked that we too were Armenian, and knew where Glendale was. 

Day 11: Barcelona. Our 1st Wedding Anniversary! Hard to believe a year has passed. All week long we were saying "what were we doing a year ago today?" Today we slept in and enjoyed a morning of opening cards and reminiscing about the past year, and the past 8 years that we've been together. We got dressed and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, and then set off on another adventure. We souvenir shopped and killed time until our tour at the Sagrada Familia.  As amazing and surreal and curious as the outside of the church is, when you walk inside, you're absolutely speechless. It's gorgeous, and the lighting is heavenly. .Gaudi was a genius in many ways and so knew what he was doing. Every turn, every pillar, every window is a work of art. We spent a few hours just looking and being silent and peaceful. We also got to climb up the towers on the nativity side of the church, seeing a view from the top, and then climbing down the smallest and most narrow staircase ever. It was perfect. We took sandwiches back to our room and ate and rested before heading up to the rooftop bar for some tapas and champagne to celebrate the day, our marriage, and the end of an amazing trip. We watched the sunset and then went for another walk - first back to Yogurtlandia only to find our Armenian friend wasn't working that night, and then to the only Starbucks we'd seen in days for a (large) cup of coffee and a donut. We are starting a new tradition of eating a donut on our anniversary every year. 

Day 12: Heading home. We spent way too long in line at the Barcelona airport that we missed out on all the shopping there. A stressful start to the morning, we were excited to land in Switzerland for a short layover and some airport duty-free shopping.  Then in was on board for a 12 hour flight back in time. We left Zurich at 1:15pm and arrived home at 4:00 pm.  How does that happen? Longest day ever. And we couldn't even sleep on the plane.  

As amazing and fun as a huge trip like this is. It's always good to be home. Walking in the doors, I was so happy we cleaned the house before we left. We kept waking up that first night wondering what hotel we were at.... it takes some time to adjust. Now, a week later, I think my clock is finally set back to normal and I'm trying to remember every detail of this trip. We'll definitely go back. Probably not any time soon, but we will. But for now, it's good to be home.