CNN’s 50 Beautiful Places to Visit in Korea

While doing some research on places to visit while we’re in Korea, I came across an ex-pat’s blog that proved to be very helpful.  She listed the sources she used to find travel ideas, one of which being CNN’s 50 Beautiful Places to Visit in Korea.  I’m always intrigued by lists, as they generally provide a clear cut “check-list” of things to see and do and it’s easy to keep track of what you have seen and what you haven’t.  I must admit that my Korean geography is pretty sketchy, so I had to look up most of the locations to see how far they are from Kunsan AFB. Of course, I learned a lot along the way, which is always nice.  I found three places on the list that are within a two-hour radius, a “must” if Bobby doesn’t want to take leave / ask permission to be gone.  So, we started there.  The three places seemed to be pretty close to each other, so we set off early in hopes to see all of them on one Sunday afternoon…. [Read More]

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

This was my favorite grouping of colors.

Two years ago, Bobby and I traveled to The Netherlands specifically to see the famed tulip festival.  Unfortunately, we were a little trigger happy and showed up a bit too early to see any blooms.  Today, we made up for our disappointment by visiting the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival near Mount Vernon, Washington, about an hour and 20 minutes north of Seattle.  While I am sad that Bobby couldn’t join me, both of my parents are in town and we thoroughly enjoyed the tulips together…. [Read More]

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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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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Viareggio Carnevale 2014

Confetti

This is our third year heading to Viareggio’s Carnevale celebration and each time, the floats and costumes never cease to amaze us.  The parade of Carnevale 2014 presented 15 floats, with some reaching heights as tall as 20 meters (over 65 feet)!  Over 1,000 people in 25 different artisan firms worked an entire year to create these giant floats made from paper mâché and their work definitely paid off.  At 15 Euro per ticket, the Viareggio Carnevale was able to bring in roughly 3 million dollars over the course of 5 different parade days.

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Cavalcata dei Magi – Epiphany in Florence

It was a very festive day

The Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th.  Epiphany marks the 12th day of Christmas when the three wise men (or magi) arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus and it is traditionally one of the most important holidays in Italy.  In Florence, the day is celebrated with the “Cavalcata dei Magi,” literally meaning the “Ride of the Three Kings.”  The parade starts in Palazzo Pitti, just south of the Arno River, and finishes in Piazza del Duomo, where the three wise men – riding in on horses – deliver their gifts to Jesus in the manger.  The parade is also accompanied by Florentines in medieval costumes, flag throwers, and a band.  This year, it is estimated over 700 people participated in the Cavalcata dei Magi to celebrate Epiphany.

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Naples, the Second Time Around

Cloister of Santa Chiara

I have to admit, the first time Bobby and I visited Naples, we did not fall in love with the city.  We thought it was dirty (well, it is) and the people were aggressive (read: mafia).  Although these prejudices still exist, we decided to give the city a second chance and travel there last weekend.  We chose Ferrari’s high-speed train called “Italo” from Firenze SMN station to Napoli Centrale.  The trip, on the world’s fastest train, took a little under two and a half hours.  Not bad!  We met Bobby’s sister Eva and her husband Geremia, who is a sort of Napoli-guru, on Saturday morning.  Geremia lived in Napoli for years and travels there often for work, so he was a fantastic tour guide, showing us the best museums, churches, and restaurants the town has to offer.

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Calcio Storico, MMA style

Gloomy skies over the arena

Each year, four neighborhoods battle it out in a single-elimination tournament of calcio storico (historical soccer).  The Rossi (red) team represents Santa Maria Novella, the Verdi (green) team hails from the quartiere of San Giovanni, the Azzuri (blue) team comes from Santa Croce, and the Bianchi (white) team sports the colors of Santo Spirito.  Bobby and I missed the matches last year because we were out of town and missed all but the championship game this year as well.  The final game is generally played on June 24th, the holiday of San Giovanni (Firenze’s patron saint).  Luckily, we arrived back in Firenze on the 22nd and were pretty excited to see the game.  We waited outside the gates for over an hour before we were let into the “stadium,” which is really just dirt laid in Piazza Santa Croce surrounded by metal stands.  Not more than fifteen minutes after we were let in, the skies darkened and the clouds opened up.  There was a torrential downpour.  The calcio storico game starts with a large procession; there are medieval costumes, drummers, flag throwers, horses, etc.  The parade of people took over two hours.  Did I mention it was pouring rain?  We were absolutely soaked, but we really wanted to wait it out to see the game.  Needless to say, the spectators were getting pretty rowdy because everyone just wanted to get the show on the road.  There were definitely lots of curse words/chants directed at the directors pleading to forgo all the pomp and circumstance and just let us watch the championship.  The players finally came on the field and five minutes later, the announcer came on the loud speaker and said they were canceling the game due to inclement weather.  WHAT?  They couldn’t have told us this before the two hour parade?  So this brings me to today.  The game was rescheduled for today and of course, we had complete opposite weather.  It was sunny with 85+ degree temperatures.  Add the heat to the drunken crazy Florentines, we had the perfect recipe for a very “special” (second) experience.  As Bobby stated after the game: “una volta basta e avanza.”… [Read More]

Olmsted Ladies Trip 2013 – Mallorca

Welcome to Soller!

Every year, the Olmsted ladies (wives and female scholars) from Europe and Africa travel to a different destination for a little girls-only fun.  Last year, the girls joined up in Edinburgh for some relaxation and site-seeing.  While absolutely beautiful, it was a wee (okay a little more than “wee”) bit cold.  Remembering all too well our frozen hands and toes, we opted for a warmer destination this year.  My friend and fellow Olmsted wife, Jen Hensarling, planned our trip this year.  After a few rounds of voting, seven Olmsted wives and one scholar decided on Mallorca.  The island is the largest of the Balearic archipelago and is practically a German colony in the summer, with most of the flights coming from either Spain or Germany.  In fact, my flight went from Florence to Frankfurt and then to Mallorca.  It is also a common vacation destination for the Irish and Polish, and I can’t say I blame them!… [Read More]

Carnevale 2013

Beautiful princess

This is the second year we’ve traveled to Viareggio, on Tuscany’s Mediterranean coast, for Carnevale.  The city is celebrating its 140th year for the parade this year, and it expects more than one million spectators to visit in its two week duration.  Viareggio’s Carnevale is known for the satirical papier-mâché floats, highlighting political figures from Europe and America.  Each float can take up to a year to design and build!

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