The Land of the Rising Sun – Tokyo Edition

Before leaving Korea, we made a short list of places that we would like to visit.  Although we won’t complete it in time, we marked a huge one of my dream list by traveling to Japan two weeks ago.  We can’t really travel like we used to – changing hotels and cities every day or two – because we have a baby in tow.  We have to respect some semblance of a routine for Stella or we will be in for a difficult day, so we made the decision to base ourselves in two places -Tokyo and Kyoto.  We flew in to Narita International Airport and one of Bobby’s friends, who is currently stationed in Japan and lives in Tokyo, picked us up.  We spent 2.5 days in the capital city.  Even though I expected Tokyo to be just another big city, I was pleasantly surprised.  We ended up really enjoying ourselves and preferred Tokyo over the Korean capital city of Seoul…. [Read More]

O Canada! Venturing to Victoria…..

View of the Empress Hotel

I have been pretty bad about blogging lately, but I’m trying to catch up.  A couple weeks ago, my mom, dad and I drove from Seattle, around the Puget Sound and back up the Olympic Peninsula to Port Angeles, where we caught the ferry to Victoria, Canada.  I know this is going to be strange, especially considering our extensive travel in Europe, but this was my first time visiting our northerly neighbors.  So far, I can say that Canada did not disappoint and Victoria is absolutely beautiful.  Some people say it’s a sleepy town, with its quaint tea houses and the small bay based on sailing and sea-plane tourism, but I found it charming.  Granted, I’m not sure I would want to actually live there, considering you are rather isolated.  The only way off the island are ferries to mainland Washington or Canada or a small airstrip at the north end of Vancouver Island…. [Read More]

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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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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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]

Sicily – Stepping Back in Time [Part 1]

The wildflowers made for a gorgeous landscape

I’ve been a bit slow about blogging lately, so here’s to catching up!  In mid-April, Bobby and I took a nine-day trip to Sicily and it was our second time visiting the island.  On our first trip, we visited some pretty amazing places – Taormina, Siracusa, and Agrigento (to name a view), which are located in the eastern half of Sicily.  This time, we wanted to make a western loop.  I guess you could say our “loop” got a little out of hand being that we ended up covering 3/4 of the island and driving over 500 miles.

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Lisbon – The City of Seven Hills

Beautiful tiled house

Bobby and I arrived in Lisbon a few days ago, ready to kick off a twelve day tour of Portugal and Spain with my parents.  None of us had ever visited the country before, so we didn’t really know what to expect.  After walking around the first night, we quickly learned why Lisbon is nicknamed “The City of Seven Hills.”  We thought it felt more like 700!  The uphill battles, combined with the fact that the sidewalks are all constructed of mini-mosaics, certainly took a toll on our feet.  I suppose this is why the trams are so popular.

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Visiting Lands Unknown – Romania & Serbia

And this is the drop-off on the other side

I think most people have an idea of what traveling to Italy, France, or Spain looks like.  There are thousands of guides on the internet, Rick Steeves books, and friends/family members/colleagues that will give you advice on what to see or do.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are countries like Romania and Serbia in which most people know little about.  This is not to say that they are less special or culturally-rich countries; the countries are just a little off the beaten path.  After spending Christmas in Budapest, we drove to Timisoara, Romania, where we visited (yet) another Christmas market and then headed on to Belgrade, Serbia, where we toured the town and met up with another Olmsted Scholar and his wife.

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Boldog Karácsonyt (from Budapest!)

Shoes on the Danube - Holocaust Memorial

Last year, we were invited by some Olmsted Scholars from the class of 2012 to celebrate Christmas in the High Tatras Mountains of Slovakia.  We had such a good time that we decided to continue the tradition and organize a Christmas trip for 2013.  This year, Bobby and I traveled to Budapest, Hungary to meet up with five other scholars and their families.  We spent four nights in the gorgeous capital city, taking in the Christmas market, seeing the Chain Bridge and Holocaust Memorial, visiting the famous Szechenyi thermal baths, hiking up Gellért Hill, and gathering for nightly meals with our Olmsted friends.  Although we are always slightly bummed we can’t spend the holidays with our families (….until next year!), it was really nice to share Christmas with a fantastic group of people from our military family.

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Christmas in Florence 2013

I liked the laterns from last year more, but this was also quite pretty.

The Christmas season in Florence kicks off every year with street decorations and a small German Christmas market near Santa Croce.  We visited the market both our first and second holiday seasons here in Florence, so we figured we should go 3 for 3.  Although the offerings don’t change much from year to year, it is still nice to have the first glühwein of the year, just steps from our house.  We will certainly miss this next year!  … [Read More]