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!


Click here to read part 3!

To see a list of ALL of our travel stories, in chronological order, click here!

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!


Click here to read part 2!

To see a list of ALL of our travel stories, in chronological order, click here!

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, 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 :)