Saturday, March 1, 2014

Italy PDA - Part 3

PDA stands for President's Day Adventures, in this case. ;)

Click here to read Part 1!
Click here to read Part 2!

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Welcome back! If you're just joining us, please use the links above to read part one and two.

Sunday morning, we got up and walked to Cafe Della Poste (quite possibly our favorite Chiavari find) for the sweet nectar that is Italian cappuccino and amazing brioche! (Crema e Nutella - To. Die. For.) The place was super cute on the inside, on the corner of one of the many piazzas, and the barista was a sweet woman who knew all of the locals' orders without having to ask! We sat at a corner table, and enjoyed the culture.

After breakfast, we headed for our next tourist destination: Genoa! This as a city none of us had ever visited, so we had no previous experience getting around, but I think we did OK!

Genoa was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, so as Americans, seeing sites relevant to him was high on our list of things to do.

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The birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

The Porta Soprana is just around the corner from CC's birthplace (rumor has it that Chris's daddy was the gatekeeper), so we got some pics there, too. I think you can climb up into the towers for a few euro, but we opted out and moved onto some other monuments.

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Ancient gates of Genoa.

We saw the monument to Christopher Columbus on the Piazza Acquaverde. Right next to the main Genoa train station. (This detail is critical for a later part of the story.) Genoa Piazza Principe is one of the most beautiful train stations I've ever seen! And it was a convenient place to use the bathroom, which we needed at this point of our day!

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The Christopher Columbus Memorial.

Our last stop in Genoa was La Lanterna. Shane had done the research on this site and was excited to see it, so we made our way to the coast to view this iconic landmark.

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La Lanterna di Genoa

The tower itself was under construction, so we weren't able to go in, but the view of the city from this vantage point is pretty spectacular!

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And we got to watch an Italian truck driver make lunch on his truck. So that was a bonus!

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A fun look at everyday life!

From Genoa, we made our way to the luxury destination of Portofino!

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Portofino reminds me a lot of Cinque Terre, but I think because it's more well-known, and more easily accessible to the yachting crowd, it caters to a higher-budget set of tourists. It cost 8€ to park for an hour (compared to the free parking we used in Genoa), and the restaurants were all more expensive than we were willing to go for lunch.

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Beautiful Portofino!

But it really is gorgeous, and definitely worth the drive for the beautiful views and the drool-worthy cars and sail boats! In my mind Portofino is like a cross between Cinque Terre and Venice. The architecture is similar to Cinque Terre, and the restaurants and shops are a lot like Venice.

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Gorgeous rainbow for our drive back!

We didn't stay in Portofino very long. Mostly because we were hungry for lunch, and it started to rain. We grabbed lunch at a foolproof traveler's option, the local grocery store! This is especially awesome in Italy where you can get fresh pesto and bread, amazing cheese and deli meats, enough to satisfy several hungry tourists, for just a few euro!

Since we got back to Chiavari pretty early in the afternoon, we borrowed the hotel bikes again and rode around for a few hours. We crossed the bridge into the neighboring town of Lavagna, then came back and spent some daylight time down by the water in Chiavari

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Chiavari waterfront.

We "parked" our bikes on the beach and enjoyed the pleasant weather!

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The boys :)

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Shane 'n Nikki! Our awesome traveling buddies!

That evening we walked around to find a great place for our last dinner in Chiavari. We chatted with a sweet French couple on our walk and ended up at the same restaurant that they were heading to: Vecchio Borgo. The starter they brought us were kind of like hush puppies with shrimp or fish incorporated into the batter, which were fantastic. Austin, Nikki, and I thoroughly enjoyed the gnocchi al pesto for our main course, and Shane ate a ginormous platter of meat, which he said was delicious!

Thoroughly content with our weekend's adventures, we went back to the hotel, packed, and got a good night's sleep to prepare for the simple [ahem] trip home on Monday

Hope you're enjoying this little travel-log! Though it may seem like we had a pretty tame time, and we're now wrapping it up, the major curve-ball comes on Monday (both that Monday, February 18th, 2013, and this Monday, March 3rd, 2014), so be sure to check back in for the next installment!

Have a GREAT weekend!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Italy PDA - Part 2

PDA stands for President's Day Adventures, in this case. ;)

Click here to read Part 1!

Welcome back! If you're just joining us, please use the link above to read part one.

First thing Saturday morning (this was Saturday, February 16, 2013), we got up and struck out to find the perfect Italian breakfast: cappuccino and brioche! We found a cute little coffee shop a few steps from our hotel, ordered our coffee (that seems too crass and simple a description for the amazingness that is Italian cappuccino) and pastries and found a little table in the back of the narrow shop to do some people watching.

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The "around the corner" view from our hallway.

The great thing about Chiavari is that it's not touristy! Which is super-rare in these great little Italian towns on the coast. Very few people spoke English, so we had to get by in our very rough Italian, but everything was perfectly authentic - from the food, to the cute old men who came into the cafe for their morning paper and to shoot the breeze with the owner.

(Quick travel tip: in Italy, a good place to get a great cappuccino in the morning will often be called a "bar" on their sign, don't let this throw you off - they're not serving shots for breakfast, just really, really good coffee and pastries!)

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The daily market in the piazza in front of the Palazzo di Giustizia.

After breakfast, we explored Chiavari in the daylight, and were delighted with its Medieval cuteness (yes, that's a real thing)!

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Albergo Monte Rosa and Via Monsignor Luigi Marinetti.

When we had worked off our breakfast calories, we stopped at another little coffee shop for cappuccino number two (when in Italy . . . seriously). The second cafe, Bar San Marco was a bit bigger, and it was the kind that converts to outdoor seating in the summer, but since it was still pretty cold, they had the plastic walls zipped down; however, the view of the downtown was still pretty good.

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Piazza Nostra Signora dell'Orto e il monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II.

Thoroughly caffeinated, we decided to start our touring in earnest. We got the Prius out of the garage and made our way to Cinque Terre.

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Cinque Terre is actually the romantic name that refers to five little towns (from North to South: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) nestled into the cliffs on the western side of Italy. They used to be fairly unknown, but thanks to Rick Steves and other travel writers they have become thoroughly touristy. This doesn't detract from their charm too much; however, and they are always a worthwhile stop! Cinque Terre is one of our favorite little places to visit, and we've been blessed to visit there several times.

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The first glimpse of Vernazza.

We parked just outside of Vernazza and walked into town.

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Vernazza's water front.

We had intended to buy passes and hike portions of the Sentiero Azzurro (a great hiking trail that links the five cities and provides some incredible views of the Mediterranean), but the portion that linked Vernazza and Corniglia was closed for the season, so we had to take the train instead. Either way is pretty cost effective (I think the last time we were there, the trail pass was 5€ for adults, and each train ticket from town to town is a little more than 1€)

Cinque Terre is the birthplace of pesto, and one of the best ways to enjoy pesto is on top of pizza or focaccia from hole-in-the-wall joints like this.

(Quick travel tip: no matter where in the world you are, the best places to eat -- and the most cost effective -- are the ones where the guys in painted up cover-alls and work boots are grabbing their lunch!)

Our day's sightseeing ended with a quick stop in Pisa at sunset to get the obligatory Leaning Tower pictures.

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The crazy thing about Pisa is the most beautiful buildings are the ones you never see pictures of!

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Everyone who has been there has a picture of them "holding up the tower" (or "kicking over the tower" in this instance) . . .

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. . . but if you turn around 90 degrees, there is this huge, gorgeous Cathedral and Baptistry that you rarely ever see or hear about.

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When we got back to Chiavari, we borrowed the bicycles that the hotel keeps for their guests and pedaled our way down to the waterfront. We had dinner at Zia Piera - pizzas and dessert pizza (it's Italy!). Zia Piera is a swanky little place with a great vibe, and it's apparently very popular with the locals as well! A huge family birthday party was going on while we were there, and that made the whole atmosphere very festive.

I love personalized sugar packets!

Pedaling around the waterfront, picking up rocks on the beach, and taking funny "hashtag" pictures brought us to the end of another great day!

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We have another full day of sightseeing ahead of us ;), so come back tomorrow for the next installment!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Italy PDA - Part 1

PDA stands for President's Day Adventures, in this case. ;)

(Disclaimer: These stories will be coming to you in no particular order. I'm telling this one now because it happened just over a year ago, and my Timehop reminded me about it, so I decided to start here!)

So, I promised adventure stories, and this one's a doozie!!!

Last February, we were living in Lupburg, Germany. Austin was the Community Director for Club Beyond at USAG Hohenfels. We loved working with the military for many reasons, but one of the big perks was four-day weekends! President's Day fell right after Valentine's Day last year, so we decided to hop in the Prius (yes, we owned a Prius while we lived in Germany, too) with our good friends Shane and Nikki, and spend our four-day in romantic Italia!

A few days before the trip, we were at Shane and Nikki's apartment talking about fun things to do for the four day. They hadn't been to Italy before, and there were some fun things that they wanted to do that we had some experience with (Pisa, Cinque Terre, etc.), so we hopped on and found a cute little hotel in Chiavari. We had never stayed in Chiavari before, but the hotel was a great deal, and Chiavari is right in between Cinque Terre and Genoa - where none of us had ever been, but we all thought it would be fun to explore.

While we lived in Germany, we took several short (and some not-so-short) road trips, and the Prius always did a great job. Austin is a maintenance nut. He always makes sure to do oil changes right on schedule, the tires are never out of tread, and he rotates them as often as is suggested by the manufacturers. We had separate snow tires for Bavarian winters. He always does a fantastic job of keeping track of and staying on top of those things. So road trips are never nerve-wracking, just tons of fun!

On Friday, we took off from home in the morning to begin the eight hour drive from the Hohenfels area to Chiavari. We took the eastern route, through Austria instead of Switzerland, which meant stopping just before the Austrian border to pay for a vignette. (A vignette is a sticker that you put on your windshield. You pay a flat fee for it depending on how many days you will be using the roads instead of having to pay tolls for every section of road.)

The trip south went very smoothly. There was a little bit of snow on the side of the road in the higher elevations, but the roads were all clear, and we didn't hit any ridiculous "staus" (German for traffic jams).

We made it to Chiavari early in the evening and checked into our charming little hotel. Albergo Monterosa is a charming little place on a narrow, oh-so-Italian street. They have a great little underground parking garage, and our rooms were upstairs next door to one another. Not super fancy, but comfortable and clean.

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A stroll down our little Italian via

We unpacked a little bit and got settled, then set out to do a little bit of exploring in the quaint little town of Chiavari. Dinner at the quaint Trattoria E' Taggejne Di Mohamed Samir was a great end to the first day of our epic trip!

More to come! Hope you're having a great week!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Catching up . . .

So, the obvious thing to say when you haven't posted to your blog for over a year is
"so much has happened!"

And it's really true!

The last time I posted we were living in a rented apartment Germany, working with Club Beyond, just the two of us, loving Jesus and Europe and life and each other.

The last thirteen months have been stuffed with CHANGE and full of NEW! (Although the loving Jesus and life and each other part is still the same ;D)

I've been going through my journals recently, and realizing that I have not been good at chronicling our adventures here - and they have been plentiful! God is good, and we have had a ton of fun in the six-ish years that we have been married! We're in the middle of another unexpected transition (details at some point . . . maybe), and we're so thankful that although we don't know what the future holds, we know Who holds the future! (Thank you, Jesus!)

Anyway . . . all that to say this:

I'm going to be writing up a bunch of our adventures and posting them here.
Because that's how we do.
So, stay tuned!


P.S. ~ One of our favorite additions to the life of adventure is the sweet little mutt in between us in that pic in the sidebar, she's pretty cute and has brought a lot of joy to our home :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


My mom wrote the following for a Christmas Tea at a church in Colorado Springs, but I thought it was appropriate as a first thought for the New Year. Thanks, Mom!

by Teri Faulkner
This year I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations. And Christmas brings lots of expectations. One of our favorite traditions is cranberry ice and I expect to eat it at every family gathering. I expect to listen to lots of Christmas music. I expect we’ll watch a dozen or more Christmas movies. I think my favorites are “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Elf,” and how many of you have seen the one with Marie Osmond, “The Gift of Love?” There are so many Christmas movies out there. There are a lot of expectations that come with Christmas. We’re programmed to believe “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and it can be, but a lot of times it isn’t. And it isn’t just on Christmas that we have expectations, we have expectations EVERY DAY!!! What kind of expectations do you have? Did you expect your life to turn out like it has? I’m pretty sure if we went around the room today, we would each have a story from our lives where something didn’t go quite as expected. From something little to something big. Here’s a silly one for me . . . I remember when I was pregnant with Katy and I asked Dan one day, “Do I look pregnant?” And he paused and stared at me and I know what he was thinking. "What is she expecting me to say….does she want to hear 'yes, you look great' or 'no, not at all?'" I wanted him to know what I was feeling and he better respond in the “right” way. Yes, I wanted to look pregnant but I was barely showing so when he said no… I was so disappointed. I wanted to look pregnant. You can’t help but have expectations but when things don’t turn out quite like you had hoped or had planned . . . those expectations turn into disappointments. Most of our disappointments come from unfulfilled expectations . . . a lot of those include some kind of pain — either physical or emotional. We have expectations of circumstances, like how Christmas should happen, how our lives should play out, and we have expectations of people. How they should treat us or respond to what we’re feeling. When I think about Christmas and the story of Mary and Joseph and how she was expecting a child. The long awaited Messiah!!!! Mary had to have a lot of expectations! If you had been told you were going to have the Son of God, would you expect to have your baby in a barn? Or would you expect to be so misunderstood by people around you? And Joseph, do you think he expected to marry someone who was already pregnant? So many events of Christ’s birth and life were unexpected. God did not and often does not act in the way we expect Him to. In the book, “One Thousand Gifts” Ann Voskamp talks about learning to be thankful, and as we learn to give thanks we begin to see all that God has blessed us with and it gives us a different perspective on life…how to live a fuller life because of being thankful. That’s kind of the book in a nutshell.
Ann writes about her brother-in-law who buried two sons in less than 18 months. Both had been born with the same genetic disease. One lived to be a year and ½ the other only 5 months. And she tells him in the hospital when the second son is dying, “If it was up to me, I’d write this story differently.” Isn’t there a part of your story that you wish you could write differently? Later he comes by their farm and I this is his response . . .
"Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop. And when you are farming . . . you are faced with it every day. You control so little. Really. It's God who decides it all. Not us." He slips his big Dutch hands into frayed pockets, smiles easily. "It's all good." . . . I catch his eyes and I know I have to ask. Tentatively, eyes fixed on his, I venture back into that place I rarely go. "How do you know that, John? Deep down, how do you know that it really is all good? That God is good? That you can say yes - to whatever He gives?" I know the story of the man I am asking, and he knows mine. His eyes linger. I knowhe's remembering the story too. New Year's Day. He asks us to come. Only if we want. I don't want to think why, but we know. "Already?" I search my husband's face. "Today?" He takes my hand and doesn't let go. Not when we slide into the truck, not when we drive the back roads, not when we climb the empty stairwell to the hospital room lit only by a dim lamp. John meets us at the door. He nods. His eyes smile brave. The singular tear that slips down his cheek carves something out of me. "Tiff just onoticed Dietrich had started breathing a bit heavier this afternoon. And yeah, when we brought him in, they said his lung had collapsed. It will just be a matter of hours. Like it was at the end for Austin." His firstborn, Austin, had died of the same genetic disease only eighteen months prior. He was about to bury his second son in less than two years. . . . "You know . . . " John's voice breaks into my memory and his gaze lingers, then turns again toward the waving wheat field. "Well, even with our boys . . . I don't know why that all happened." He shrugs again. "But do I have to? . . . Who knows? I don't mention it often, but sometimes I think of that story in the Old Testament. can't remember what book, but you know - when God gave King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life? Because he prayed for it? But if Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been born. And what does the Bible say about Manasseh? Something to the effect that Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations around Israel. Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born. I am not saying anything, either way, about anything. . . . Just that maybe . . . maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds."
How do we live in a world of blessings and sorrows? Where expectations aren’t met? How can we have the hope and contentment that John had, because really expectations are hopes, what we hope for, what we want to give meaning to this life. We need to place our hope in what doesn’t disappoint. Is that really possible? It’s the reason Jesus came as a baby that Christmas morning. God came as a man to give us that hope. The hope that there is someone who knows my story, who knows the beginning from the end. He knows the beginning from the end because He had no beginning and He has no end. God is over all this from eternity past to . . . infinity and beyond!!! His understanding is so far above ours. A lot has happened in our little human section of time. From a pure, holy, no evil existence to creation and sin entering the world, which is the source of all our pain. Did God expect us to not sin? Did it take Him by surprise . . . no. But because of that sin we were separated from God . . . but He knew Christmas was coming!!!! That’s why we sing “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME!!!!” If someone doesn’t meet your expectations . . . how do you respond? With love and grace, or with anger and disappointment? I am so glad that God did not respond to my sin in the way I would expect Him too. Here’s how He has responded to us:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” I John 3:1
His plan was Christ coming to this earth . . . to be born a man . . . and to die for our sins. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And we get to choose if we want that gift.
Why do we have to go through this life of pain and suffering to get to that life? That I don’t know . . . It wouldn’t be a life of faith if I did know. But I am pretty sure this life is going to count for something. There is reason for the pain and not just in all the lessons we learn from experiencing a hard thing.
Here’s the thing though, it’s in this life that you get to choose where you will spend that part of your life.
The Bible teaches that we choose in this life where we will spend that part of our life. When we choose God’s gift of eternal life…this life starts to take on a different feel. If this was all there was, it would be quite disappointing. When I can keep that perspective of eternity in my focus, to look forward to eternity of a new life because of my faith in Jesus Christ it makes those unmet expectations seem a little smaller. Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” So if you haven’t made that choice yet, I hope you will today.
Jesus won’t disappoint you!

I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season, and I pray that you will have a fabulous 2013! His, P.S. - Isn't my mom awesome?!?!?