The French Riviera

Now that we are back in the States, I’m finally getting to our last Olmsted blog.  Luckily, we went out in grand fashion which eased the pain of leaving, finally visiting the Provence region and the French Riviera.  When researching the area to find the best places to see, Bobby came across a whole list of awesome places – Baux de Provence, Arles, Cannes, Nice, Eze and of course, Monaco.

The first stop, Baux de Provence, is home to a unique museum called Carrières de Lumières.  The Carrières was an active white limestone quarry around the turn of the 20th century.  It was built for the large-scale stone production need in the Saint-Rémy area and a nearby chateau.  In 1935, the quarry closed.  However, the Carrières was given new life in the 1960s when Jean Cocteau decided to film “The Testament of Orpheus”.   The transformation continued in the 1970s, when Joseph Svoboda, a famous scenographer, decided the large, smooth rock walls would be the perfect backdrop for sound and light shows.  The museum now shows famous artwork from around the world, combining the visual part of the show with custom complementary music…. [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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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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Iberian Road Trip – Segovia and Valencia

The Alcázar from below

We made some ground through Spain on our last few days.  We traveled to Segovia, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, which has a towering Roman aqueduct.  After a quick stop in Madrid to drop off the rental car, we took the train to our last stop, Valencia, home to Santiago Calatrava’s City of Art and Sciences complex.  Oh, and there was some paella in the mix, some really good paella.

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Iberian Road Trip – Salamanca and Ávila

Roman bridge, Salamanca

Back in 2002, while Bobby was studying at the USAFA, he was selected for a summer immersion language program (also through the Olmsted Foundation, the same foundation that has given us these three wonderful years in Europe).  It was his first visit to Europe and he quickly fell in love.  In fact, when we started the Olmsted Scholar application process a few years ago, Salamanca was on the top of his list for places to live.  Although we are extremely happy with the way things worked out here in Firenze, it is easy for me to see why he has always loved the Spanish culture and in particular, the city of Salamanca.  After a four hour drive in very wet and windy conditions, we arrived in the popular university town.

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Our 1st Italian Anniversary!

Hillsides of Todi

September 6th marks our first anniversary of living in Italy and I cannot believe that we’ve already been here a year.  In order to reflect on our experiences, I decided to take a look back on our favorite places we’ve visited and highlight some of the benefits (and some of the oddities) of Italian life.  We are incredibly thankful for this wonderful opportunity provided by the Olmsted Foundation and we are excited for what the 2nd year of this journey will bring!

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Southern Exposure – Sicily [Part 2]

Upclose of the salt art

The second part of our Sicilian journey brought even more archeological sites: a couple Roman amphitheaters, another Greek theater, and the best preserved Greek temple in the world.** We had the pleasure of traveling along the eastern coast from Taormina to Siracusa, across the southern border to see Noto and Agrigento, and then finally north to see Monreale, a suburb of Palermo.  Sicily was an interesting place.  The island’s overwhelming beauty is combined with some not-so-great everyday occurrences.  We saw several blatant tax-evasion schemes, a couple “mafiosi” throwing their weight around, and a few very clever driving techniques.  Bobby and I agree that south of Rome, Italy is a completely different country and this was certainly capitalized, underlined, and placed in bold in Sicily…. [Read More]

Southern Exposure – Puglia Region

Trulli huts

Our southern Italy tour kicked off by visiting a region that we’d never seen: Puglia.  The Puglia region makes up the heel of Italy’s boot and many tourists (mostly Europeans) flock to the vast stretches of the region’s coastline in the summertime to enjoy their beach vacations.  The geography is definitely different in Puglia than most of Italy; there are very few mountains (only found in the northern part of Puglia) or even hills.  Most of the area is comprised of vast stretches of plains and a few plateaus.  Obviously we didn’t have time to see everything there is to see, but we chose a few cities to kick-off our southern route: Alberobello, Lecce, and Leuca.

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Aida!

Ribbon dancers

Saturday evening, Bobby and I took a short road trip up to Verona to see Aida, one of the shows in the Verona Summer Opera Series.  Thankfully, a few months ago, Trysta and Joe Wall (OSC ’12, Freiburg, Germany) reminded us of this wonderful series and we met them in Verona for the spectacle.  The opera takes place in Arena di Verona, a Roman amphitheater built in AD 30.  At that time, it was able to hold almost 30,000 spectators and now, due to safety reasons, the opera limits the crowd to 15,000.  It is an absolutely beautiful venue and the acoustics are absolutely amazing; the entire opera series is performed without microphones or amplification.  In our earlier trip to Verona in April, we were able to see the arena, but it truly takes on a new life with the opera series.  … [Read More]

Basque-ing [and other French travels]

Rosaries

While in Biarritz, Bobby I and I decided to take a couple day trips to neighboring towns near the French Basque region.  Lourdes, the first of the two cities, sits at the base of the Pyrenees mountains an hour and a half south of Biarritz.  It is known as a pilgrimage site for the Catholic faith.  Over a span of time (beginning in 1858), “Our Lady of Lourdes”, better known to us as the Virgin Mary, appeared to a young girl 18 times.  Now, some 5 million visitors flock to the town each year to see the grotto where the apparitions took place and drink its holy water, which is said to have natural healing powers.

The second of the two cities, Bordeaux, is well-known for its vineyards.  According to some sources, Bordeaux earns 14.5 billion euros each year with its wine sells/exports alone.  The city is also a large university town, which boasts a young vibrant culture with many bars, shops, and restaurants.

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