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.

Climbing Pinaocallo & Ice Cold Prosecco by the Rialto

Climbing Pinaocallo & Ice Cold Prosecco by the Rilato

I woke up Sunday morning with one thought in my head, “I hate Brock”. We woke around 5 am. We had a train to catch to Pordenone for 7 and wanted to give ourselves more than enough time to get to the station, especially after the debacle that was yesterday. I knew what awaited us once we reached Pordenone, a short drive to Pianacavallo, then a hike up the mountain, I wasn’t overly excited for the grueling physical activity that lay before us.

We stepped out our front door and were absolutely astonished. The city that is Venice, which is usually a buzz with tourists and vendors was silent. There was no one. The streets were empty. I had never seen Venice like this ever before. We walked up the Rialto and looked over a city that was still asleep, no boats going back and forth, no hordes of people, it was beautiful, and peaceful. That was the exact second I fell in love with Venice. I had always liked Venice but I hadn’t loved it. We took our time walking to the station enjoying the space and taking some truly rare photos of the empty streets.

Rebecca and I both napped on the train ensuring we were both awake for our big day. As we stepped off the train in Pordenone for a second day in a row we saw a familiar face. After embracing with Brock we headed to his car to start the day’s adventure. On the drive we caught up and all agreed it didn’t feel like 3 months since the last time we had all seen each other. The drive to Pianacavallo is a true driver’s drive. Up a mountain, with a tarmac trapped like a spaghetti noodle.

We got to the base of the mountain before it had gotten too hot and started our climb up. Truly one of the hardest things I have ever done. You begin climbing through a forest which is almost straight up, for about 45 minutes before you level off. It was tough to say the least. After that we climbed over rocks and lose marbles for about an hour and a half before we reached the summit. Once we reached the top it was all worth it as the view overlooks Largo di Barcis and beyond that you see more of the Alps. I had done a similar hike on my own in ’09 but only along the ski hill. I never reached this height or view. We sat for awhile taking a ton of photos and chatting before heading back down. Brock was a good enough sport to bring a Canada t-shirt up which I had given him 3 months prior to adorn in a few photos.

Going down was almost harder than going up because the rocks would give away and you would have to react quickly. It is mentally straining as you must anticipate your next two or three steps ensuring you don’t whip out and fall to an untimely death. All three of us had little falls all of which were manageable and not overly dangerous. In the end we made it back down in one piece, but not without our fair share of anxiety.

Once at the bottom we grabbed beers and relaxed, sitting and just enjoying each other’s company at a small bar next to the ski hill. The sun was out and we soaked up the beer and some fresh sandwiches.

Brock dropped us off at the station and we said our goodbyes, Brock was very torn up about seeing us off but we ensured him we would be back soon. While we waited for our train we walked around Pordenone grabbing some aqua. Our train ride was nice and I couldn’t help but think how much I loved Brock for taking us on such an amazing adventure this day.

Once back in Venice we picked up some takeout pizza and headed up to the apartment to change so we could go out and enjoy Venice at night. We picked up a bottle of prosecco while out and head down to the Rialto to drink it. We found a great spot on a dock used for the delivery boats but being as it was 10pm they were no longer in use. We sat on the edge of the dock watching the buses coming and going and the taxis going around all along as the gondolas navigated their way in the dark. We concluded our evening in front of San Apostoli, a 7th century Roman Catholic Church, one of the oldest churches in the city. We sat quietly in the moonlight enjoying one of our last gelatos.

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!