What I Learned This Summer In Europe

What I Learned This Summer In Europe

I’ve been home about a month now and beyond it of course being nice to catch up with friends and family, I do rather miss the streets of Paris, the tastes of Florence, and the sights of Venice. In reflecting back on the trip while going through photos I am reminded of the friends I made and the old ones I got the opportunity to see again. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It was more than just a vacation it was a master class in French and Italian culture. I want to share some of the few lessons I learned while away:

1: Paris is Real.
In all the hustle and bustle of sightseeing, tourists, and attractions you forget that Paris is a city like any other. People are born there, they live there, and they die there. They fall in love there, they get married there and they start families there. Paris isn’t a make believe place that only exists in our dreams. It’s a living breathing place. It evolves and changes over time. It is worth spending more than a couple days there. To properly experience Paris you can’t rush it you need the time to take it all in, wander around the city streets and experience all things Parisian.

2: Apartments Are the Way to Go.
If you want a real authentic experience I’d highly recommend renting apartments. Not only does it allow you a home base to unwind and relax after a long day it allows you the luxury and freedom to do your own cooking which helps cut down on costs. We also found that the apartments were much cheaper than hotels and in some cases the same price or cheaper than hostels. We stayed 30 nights in Florence for 600 euros. That was $25/night for a 2 bedroom, with a large living area, full kitchen and a balcony. By staying a 20 minute walk outside the centre it allowed us to live as if we were Italians. We used http://www.airbnb.com, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique experience.

3: Blogging is Hard!!
Blogging is MUCH harder than it appears. It is very time consuming but the final product is absolutely worth it. I started this travel blog as a way to keep people informed about what we were up to, journal our experiences, and to force myself to write. I’ve learned so much and the blog has been a great success. I plan on maintaining this blog going forward focusing on a variety of things so be sure to check back often.

4: Travel with Someone You Love.
Traveling is tough. It’s delays, transfers, waiting, and the unexpected, but it’s because of the unexpected that you want to travel with someone you love. When Rebecca and I boarded that plane I honestly didn’t know what to expect. That thought made it very scary and very attractive all at the same time. The things we did, saw, and experienced are things I will never forget. There is no one else in the world I would have wanted to share them with. When I look back on this trip in 20 years I won’t remember just the things we saw I will remember the person I was with when I was there.

That’s it for now. I hope everyone has a great thanksgiving and is able to spend time with their loved ones. Remember, life is short, we only live once and some people don’t even do that.

PS — Click on the mosaic to check out 500 of my favourite photos from the trip up close.

Lunch in Cimpello with Family

Lunch in Cimpello with Family

Saturday morning we headed north from Venice to Cimpello to have lunch with my family. We walked from our apartment to the station stopping a few times to take photos and to grab a few little gifts for the family. We gave ourselves a little less than an hour to reach the station which was just enough time as the walk was a little further than we had anticipated.

Our train took us an hour and we ensured we had a valid ticket this time around. When we arrived in Pordenone we were greeted by my mom’s cousin Marisa and her daughter Roberta. We talked for a bit before walking to the car and heading to Cimpello to my great aunt’s house where we were to have lunch.

Upon arriving at Zia’s house such a familiar sight was before me. Zio Sergio was barbequing in the driveway while his brother in law Zio Levio sat and watched while smoking a cigarette. We were still waiting on Marisa’s husband Franco so I asked Zio Levio to give Rebecca a tour around his farm and show her all the fresh fruit trees, an experience I was fortunate enough to have myself the first time I visited the farm 6 years ago. There is something I love about watching my uncle walk around his property pointing out the fruit, then using his large hands to pull a piece down and either saying “bono” as in “good you can eat” or “no bono” meaning “not good” and tossing it to the ground. I find something very romantic about his farm and the way he lives. After an extensive tour of the farm, he showed Rebecca where he stores the wine before bottling, where he stores his car and his old tractor before taking us inside and showing her his wine cellar where he let us drink his wine right from the large vat.

As the tour was coming to an end I saw a familiar face walking along the path towards my uncle’s house, Franco. With a large smile on his face he walked up and we embraced.

As we headed inside for lunch I was excited to have a home cooked meal. The lunch was massive. It started with a spaghetti dish, followed by melanzane, and stuffed peppers. Next was the meat course. There were ribs, steak, chicken, and sausage. I was in heaven. The table was adorned with red wine, persecco, polenta, bread, salad, fresh tomatoes, and all around great company.

We all sat out in the sun after lunch talking and enjoying the classic Italian countryside before we said our good byes and headed back to Venice. Reflecting back on our short time with them I still love that Italy more than anything.

Back in Venice we were beyond full making the walk back to the apartment difficult. We opted not to eat that evening and went to bed early as we were due to be up at 5am the next day…something I was not excited to endure.

Campari Apéritifs & Rolling Cigarettes

Campari Apéritifs & Rolling Cigarettes

Monday was a nice relaxing day. We spent the morning in the park once again dunking our feet in and playing with the water. We grabbed lunch at a small restaurant around the corner. Although the pizza was good and the price was reasonable we are at the point where we are over pizza and typical Italian food. We relaxed for awhile in the park before heading back to the apartment to freshen up and head back out to meet up with my friend Alessandro. Alex was a friend I made a few years back when I spent a month with my family in Cimpello. He was working at the little pizza shop because his girlfriend was going to school in a neighbouring city. We met up at Piazza Romana after he was done work. Our meeting location was not far from our apartment, just a short tram ride south. He was late and was very apologetic when he arrived but it didn’t matter. It was just nice to see him again. The 3 of us headed to a small bar he knew that did “Happy Hour” at this time, which means you buy your drink for 7 euro and you have a buffet worth of food you can eat. And as Alex said, you can either eat a little now and go for dinner later or you can pig out and not eat later. The buffet was rather astonishing, an assortment of cheese, meat, octopus salad, pizza, dumplings, fruit, veggies, and bread. We sat and talked for 3 drinks, the first a Sprtiz than we switched to something more local, called a Negroni. It is a cocktail made of one part gin, one part vermouth rosso, and one part bitter Campari. Alex says it’s what you drink when you don’t have any money but want to be drunk quickly. It was terrible tasting. Bitter Campari is NOT as enjoyable as Aperol.

We sat and talked and we shared what has changed since we last saw each other and he attempted to teach me how to roll a cigarette. We have noticed that rolling cigarettes is as common as regular packs here which is quite different from home. Something I’ve never learned but as Alex explained, it is much cheaper to roll and most people end up smoking less because of the effort involved in rolling each cigarette. He attempted to teach me, but my sausage fingers made it next to impossible to roll a cigarette worth smoking.

Two Days At Casa De Brockman

Two Days At Casa De Brockman

The last two days Rebecca and I have spent in Tiezzo which is a small hamlet just outside of Pordenone, approximately an hour from Venice. Pordenone is famous for being the town to which Frederic Henry, the main character in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is supposed to get three ambulances.

Wednesday Rebecca and I woke up late and enjoyed a relaxed pace, a welcome change. Around noon-ish we decided to get the bikes out and go for a ride. I was pretty familiar with where we were so I became Rebecca’s Sherpa. We biked to Cimpello first to visit with my Great Aunt and Uncle. As soon as we rode up to Zio Levio’s house I knew the second I saw his garage closed that he was home, and sure enough there he was sitting in his TV room watching some Italian biking race. He was surprised to see me to say the least, he was just making coffee so Rebecca and I joined him. He added Grappa to my coffee, it was like drinking jet fuel, I could see the inside of my eye balls by the time I was done. We sat and talked for about 30 minutes before we headed over to Zia Lucian’s house, which is about 30 meters away down a path. Her husband Zio Sergio was out working in the garden, again, also somewhat surprised, we chatted outside and he explained that because of all the rain they had been having they needed to move some of the dirt away from the pants. We went and visited with him and my Zia for an hour or so, we enjoyed some cookies and my Zia poured us a short glass of some orange liqueur. A large part of the conversation was dominated with where Jeff and Jessica’s house was, we were finally able to explain it was in Tiezzo before the pharmacy. After saying our good byes, Rebecca and I continued on our bike ride to Fiume Veneto.

The bike ride from Fiume Veneto is a very scenic ride, with the mountains in the background and fresh green things everywhere. In this little village, there is a beautiful river that runs right through the middle of it. We biked along it for awhile before heading back towards Cimpello. On the way to Cimpello there is this auto garage that seems to only specialize in older Italian cards, his lot was full of old Lancias, and Alfa Romeo’s and Fiats. These cars came from a time when design came first, a beautiful display of art over reliability…and electronics. When we got into Cimpello we stopped in to see a friend at his shop, and than headed over to the bar to grab a Spritz and enjoy the beautiful day.

We took an alternate road back to Jeff’s house, allowing us to see more of Tiezzo. We threw the baseball around for awhile while waiting for Jeff to return with his family, fresh off the plane from the States as they were away for 3 weeks visiting family. Jeff, Rebecca and I went for dinner while Jess, Eva, and Gabe hung back to unpack. When I say Gabe hung back to unpack I mean he stayed back and jumped up and down in his bouncy chair, he is, after all, 7 months old. We brought Pizza back for Jess and Eva and we all sat around their big dinner table and talked till the late hours of the night.

Today Rebecca and I spent the whole day playing with Eva, we played catch, had a dance party, went rollerblading, went to the park, went biking, played restaurant, played monster, played Operations, watched part of The Muppets, ate breakfast and lunch, and finally made hair bands…Rebecca and Eva made hair bands I in no way did.

I did step out for an hour and a bit to get a hair cut in Cimpello. I really wish life had English subtitles you could turn on and off. I was struggling with the hair dresser and in the end after I thought I had communicated what I thought was “Clean up the sides and please take some off the top” she took almost all off the side and most off the top. I have an army hair cut currently, not what I was hoping for but in 3 weeks it should look fine.

After Jeff got home we went out for a run around the vineyards. It was beautifully scenic and we took that time to talk about why this part of Italy is so amazing, you’re aa hour to the beach, hour to the mountains, and its just amazing all around you. After we got back to the house we took Eva and Rebecca to this restaurant called “Decanter” in Azzano Decimo where Jeff, Rebecca and I each order Melanzane and Eva ordered gnocchi with a “Bambi” sauce(deer sauce).

After dinner we got some fresh gelato and sat in the town square watching the water fountain and the ever nearing thunder and lighting storm.

Rebecca and I really enjoyed our stay with the Brockman’s, Jeff’s whole family is beautiful. Jeff is like no one I have ever met before in my life. He is an incredible husband, an amazing father and a really great friend.

Well that brings us up to tonight, we have an early train tomorrow, one of four we have to take to get to Nice, but we should be there around 4 and are hoping to bus down to Monaco for a little night life then Saturday and Sunday it is GRAND PRIX TIME!!

Beyond excited. Voooooom!