Next Adventure: Europe (Again)

This might come as two announcements in one but: we’re getting married in Europe!

Yup, this June/July, we’re heading back to Europe for a four week jaunt filled with family, friends, fun and, most importantly, sunshine and relaxation.

With some favourites and some new locations, here’s what’s in store for us this summer.

Some place, Somewhere

In Tel Aviv, Israel - Not where we'll be going....
Enjoying a hot and sunny boardwalk.

To be honest, we don’t know where we’re going to start the trip (!) and we’re looking for suggestions.

We have 3-4 days before we arrive in the next place and really want to spend those days unwinding and organizing ourselves for the upcoming weeks instead of exploring a new or exotic location. We’re thinking somewhere with a hot spring/thermal spa/lake/etc. and wifi is a must. Because of the limited time, it can’t be too difficult to get there, or take too long to get to Czech afterwards.

Any advice???

Tabor, Czech

Tabor New Year's Day 2007 - Donald Judge [cropped]
Tabor New Year’s Day 2007 – Donald Judge [cropped]
Before we get to our wedding, we get to be guests at some friends’ wedding in Czech! Tabor is a 15th century medieval town full of monuments, towers, castles, and museums to see. We’ll only be here a couple of nights but we’ll definitely take a walk along with the city wall – a point of pride – and take in the historic park, home to central Europe’s oldest artificial lake.

Florence, Italy

Piazza della Repubblica, Florence
Piazza della Repubblica, Florence

This place tugs at my heartstrings every time. With the setting and my history here, is it any wonder it’s the location for our wedding? We have a beautiful villa just outside of Florence and you better believe we’ll be revisiting the city! Climbing up the Duomo, the steps up to San Miniato al Monte, the strolls through the streets…LOVE.

Florence will be flanked by a day in Rome, and a week visiting family in the north – San Zenone, Cornuda, and Venice – before leaving Italy.

Menorca, Spain

Macarelleta - Morfheos [cropped]
Macarelleta – Morfheos [cropped]
Do you even know how excited I am for this? Besides the fact that I was born to live near white beaches and turquoise waters I’m pretty sure, the island of Menorca also looks glorious for a honeymoon. And kayaking! It looks stunning for kayaking! I can barely wait :)

What do you think of our choices? Any place we should check out in Tabor? Or Menorca? Or, any suggestions on where we should start our trip? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

the first month: a little bit of honesty [various, italy]

Today marks the end of my first month living in Italy.

A month ago, I left with the expectation of traveling for a year, the hope of continuing for five and the dream of doing this forever.

Within a week I wanted it to be over, wanted the lessons to be learnt so I could be back in the comfort of something familiar.

Except of course I never want it to be over

So far Italy’s been marvellous.

mailbox in veniceMouth watering pastas and pizzas with ingredients that roll on and off the tongue – fiori di latte, erba cipollina, pomodori, aglio, pepe nero…

Architecture and monuments that actually take my breath away – the grandiose duomo in Florence, the barricaded old town of Lucca, the surreal leaning tower in Pisa, the luxurious Venice, the quaint riviera…

And the little moments that make me feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be – walking around at night delighting in cioccolato-stracciatella gelato, jogging through Tuscan olive groves while “buon giorno”-ing everyone I pass, enjoying real homemade Italian meals cooked for me in little Italian towns… absolutely marvellous.

But it’s also been hard.

I’m not quite where I want to be just yet. I’ve made some progress (like living with some Italian guy in a little Tuscan town), and I suppose a month out of forever isn’t even that long, but being the magical thinker and type A personality that I am, well, trying not to fail at my own expectations for myself – that’s the hardest.

But today marks the beginning of my second month living in Italy. AND, as a totally amazing sidebar, I feel like my big picture is coming together and that’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever known: I always knew what I wanted, but now I can see it happening and know who I want it to happen with.

I can handle a bit of discomfort for enlightenment like this.  Off I go.

Getting lost at Carnevale

It was the Italian equivalent of Friday the 13th when we set off on our road trip to Venice.

My cousin and I, armed with little red pepperoncino key chains which resemble horns and are the only thing that can keep one “safe,” were spared, but our accompanying party had no such luck and so despite our best efforts we were soon running late, getting lost and going in circles before we found ourselves in front of our hotel in the town of Malcontenta (“discontent”). Tired, but not at all disenchanted, we eventually made our way into the city for a night of wandering around aimlessly – the thing to do in Venice.

The Carnevale, originally started over 1000 years ago as a way to celebrate and feast before Lent (“carnevale” stemming from the words ‘meat’ (carne) and ‘to remove’ (levare)) was intense: the crowds milling throughout the calles with their cacophony of languages carried us like helpless fish from campo to campo (‘square’) and we couldn’t help but get lost in the winding, narrow passages that make up this surreal city.

But that is exactly what any good guidebook will tell you Venice is all about: literally ‘getting lost’. The sinuous and often cramped alleyways were constructed as such on purpose by the Veneti who built the city on the islands in the lagoon after fleeing the mainland from the invading Lombards back in the 5th century (Fodor’s Italy 2012, p.189). The disorienting vias therefore, devoid of vehicle access, were devised as a defence mechanism against the invaders, eventually allowing Venice to evolve into one of the most beautiful pedestrian cities in the world.

Walking then, was a must to really experience the Carnevale. Pushing through throngs of people in hippie costumes, carnival masks and capes that mashed at every turn and every street was exhausting and exciting. Being spit out into a campo, finally able to take a breath, was an endless thrill: this was where the magic happened, with regular shops slipping into celebration mode and discotheque music being blasted out of even the most demure coffee shops, allowing the usually solemn squares to be transformed into dance floors, with kiosks, music stages, and even ice rinks being erected for the occasion. The whole city was adorned with hanging lights so even the narrowest, most hidden pathways were welcoming to meander through, inviting the spine-tingling opportunity to lock eyes with a masked stranger before they passed anonymously by and disappeared forever.

Yes, everyone should visit Venice at least once, but like anything in Italy, this should be done “con calma.” Our pepperoncinos served us well but stories circulated of misunderstandings, lost reservations, and overcrowded lineups. This is the norm. Venice has no “off-season” but the crowds are part of the wonder, part of the chaos. And Carnevale, with its masks and its mystique, only adds allure to this majestic city that can make everyone feel like royalty, but always gives them the option of getting lost.