Tour de (Southern) France

Someone lost their shoes

I haven’t blogged much lately because Bobby and I have been spending most of our last few months of our Olmsted journey here in Firenze.  We officially have just 4 weeks left.  Yikes! Last week, however, we took our last “international trip,” a five-day trek through southern France.  Initially, I wasn’t very excited about traveling again (I’ll admit, I’m a little traveled out), but looking back, I’m thoroughly glad we decided to go through with it.  We had previously driven through southern France three times without ever stopping to take in the sites, so it was nice to finally get to see the area.  We started out in Nimes, visited the Pont du Gard (a dream of mine ever since architecture school), and then stayed a few days in Aix-en-Provence.  We then traveled along the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) back to Italy, which I’ll blog about in the next segment, so stay tuned!

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The British Invasion (….in Malta)

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I can’t believe we’ve made it to Malta.  Finishing up this trip means that we only have one small jaunt left before we move back to the States.  It’s really starting to sink in.  Malta is a small island a hop, skip, and a jump away from Italy, sitting just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea.  As the title of this blog suggests, it is crawling with Brits, which I don’t mind because it means I’m not the whitest person by the pool.  :)  In all seriousness, though, the people of Malta are the best English speakers I have heard outside of an English-speaking country.  (They speak Italian pretty well too!) I guess it’s probably because they didn’t gain independence from the UK until 1964 and as one of the hotel’s waitresses put it, it’s mandatory to learn the language in school.  (I might add that it’s mandatory to learn a lot of things in school, but Malta must really take the English-learnin’ seriously.)… [Read More]

Greece Sailing Trip 2014

The dinner setting.  How cool is the canopy structure?

We returned to Greece to sail the Dodecanese Islands for the second time.  This summer, however, we took off from the port of Kos (instead of Rodos), and traveled north to the islands of Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos, and Lipsi.  We took the “road” a little less traveled this year and ended up with a very different experience – it was a little more relaxed, more rustic, and definitely more windy with rougher seas.  Our captain was also younger and drank a little (lot!) less, which made us all feel a little safer aboard. :)    Overall, Greece never disappoints, and I am happy to say my skin is no longer translucent, but instead a speckled light tan color.

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Le Infiorate di Spello

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For almost three years now (since we moved to Italy), I have had Le Infiorate di Spello on my “must-do” travel list and this year we finally made it!  Le Infiorate is a manifestation/festival that takes place every year on the ninth Sunday after Easter, celebrating the Corpus Domini feast.  Although there are similar demonstrations in other cities, the festival in the small Umbrian town of Spello is considered the most impressive.  Over 1,000 artists, most of them locals, begin work Saturday and work through the night creating elaborate flower carpet scenes/mosaics along the streets of Spello.  Visitors come from all over Italy to see the workers create their masterpieces on Saturday and see the finished products on Sunday morning.  On Sunday, at about 11am, the church procession takes place on the flower carpets, virtually destroying the work that was created just hours before.  It’s truly a temporary art installation!

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Umbrian Race Weekend – Corsa delle Carrette

The line-up for the one-man race

Bobby and I planned a weekend trip in Umbria around the Infiorate Festival (stay tuned for the next post!), but we ended up stumbling into another great festival of sorts.  La Corsa delle Carrette, a type of soap-box race for grown-ups, took place in both Narni and Spoleto last weekend.  On Saturday, the qualifying races were held, with men from all the different neighborhoods coming out to compete.  Those who qualified went on to compete in the finals on Sunday.  Because both are hilltop towns, it’s no surprise that the cities were perfect locations for the downhill races.  There were one-man and two-man competitions, just like bobsled.  In the two-man race, the second man (the guy in the back) pushed the small car and jumped in, where as the one-man competition started with just the help of gravity.  Narni’s competition has a 40-year history, while Spoleto’s version goes back a half-century.  Of course the cars have changed over the nears.  In Narni, the cars look like model Formula 1 cars and they are required to be buckled in.  (Apparently last year, two people ended up in the hospital after a nasty crash.) In Spoleto, we saw a lot more teenagers and twenty-somethings competing and the cars seemed to be a little more aerodynamic, kind of like the those in bobsled.  Hundreds of people flooded the city in each town to watch the racers zoom by on the straw-barrier lined streets.  You could follow the race anywhere in the city because a play-by-play was announced via loud speaker.  All-in-all, it was a very professional racing environment in Narni and Spoleto, even though the winners only gain local fame.

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Southern Italy Road Trip

Hotel beach in Castellabate

Today marks our three month mark from leaving Italy.  I cannot believe it!  Last week, Bobby and I took our final road trip to southern Italy, where we visited Bobby’s sister Eva and caught some rays on the beach.  Okay, to be honest, it was several beaches.  :)  Even though the southern regions of Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, and Campania aren’t the most visited in Italy, they are certainly among our favorites.  The people are open, generous, and (generally) love getting to know us, a welcome change to some of the colder responses we’ve received in the north.

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Montenegro & Bosnia

View from the Old Bridge

Once again, I’m behind with my blogging, so I’m going to try and play catch-up.  After our coastal trip in Croatia, we continued south through Montenegro and then back north through Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Neither Bobby or I had never visited these countries before and we were pleasantly surprised.  Both were lush with vegetation and somewhat uninhabited, which can be a nice change from some of the more heavily populated regions in Europe.  We found the people to be extremely friendly (except for one rather awkward border incident), so overall, I would say it was an amazing trip.

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The Croatian Coast

And we even found someone to take a photo of us

After Bobby took over duties for the last few blogs, I figured I should get back to my normal blogging routine (although he is a better writer than me)!  Last week, we took a ten day trip down the coast of Croatia, through Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then back to Italy.  It ended up being quite a bit of driving, but well worth it.  It’s no wonder that Croatia has been on Nat Geo’s list of places to visit the last couple of years.  We started out in Zadar (after a short pit-stop in the Italian city of Aquileia), traveled through Split and Trogir, and then ended our Adriatic coast trip in Dubrovnik.

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Spanish Grand Prix

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Although this trip into Spain was dedicated to the Grand Prix of Spain, that didn’t stop us from seeing other sites in the area.  Our first stop was the tiny country of Andorra.  Leaving Florence, I mindlessly drove north towards Bologna instead of hugging the Ligurian coast.  Like Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, when I realized the error of my ways, I declared “we’ve come too far” and pressed on.  The mistake proved costly and tagged on an hour and a half of driving to an already long first leg.  By the time we pulled into the mountain town, I was destroyed (hence the lack of photos).

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Sicily – Stepping Back in Time [Part 2]

Scala dei Turchi

Carrie is currently working some other web tasks so I decided to pinch hit for her again.  Now that you’ve officially been warned, let’s talk about Sicily!

Our western loop continued with a trip to the Scala dei Turchi (the Turk’s staircase), a stark white rock formation that juts into the Mediterranean.  On our last trip to the Valley of the Temples, we passed really closed but didn’t quite make it there.  This time we vowed to see the calcium and clay formation that’s been a popular sunbathing spot since the Greeks populated the island.  Unfortunately for us, the wind was ripping and a storm was on the horizon so we didn’t get to layout.  We did however admire it from afar and above…. [Read More]