Monday, May 16, 2011

Italian Road Trip: First Day in Vernazza

We woke up to the sound of church bells. It was gorgeous and sunny and a little bit cool. Our entire trip was like this - we seriously could not have hoped for better weather. It was perfect for eating outside, lounging on the beach with a bottle of Chianti, and even for a dip in the Mediterranean.

Little did we know that this street would become packed by 1 PM. Vernazza is definitely a tourist town, but early morning and post 5 or 6 PM it cleared out beautifully to become a sleepy little quiet beach town.

A pre-breakfast walk to the dock...

The water was so clear that while I was swimming I saw a number of fish swimming around me, even some flounder looking ones (but smaller than flounder, not sure what type they were). There were also sea urchins on the rocks...

[Breakfast Italian style...]

There is a huge design theme of stripes in design elements in Italy and I loved it!

The vineyards, and the city as a whole as a matter of fact, have been built into the cliffs...

[More vineyards.]

[View from my wine glass.]

Campari and orange, pesto pasta, and espresso.
Lots of espresso.
Chianti in the sand.
Splish splash.
Hop on the train to Pisa with anchovie and pesto foccacia.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Italian Road Trip

The arrival of spring has made me straight up exhausted. All this biking and walking and gardening and hosting of guests and traveling has been a-mazing, but I'm running myself into the ground a bit (sidenote: I feel like my 2009-grad-school-sleep-deprived-overworked-self should slap my current self for that above comment, but I really am exhausted...oh how things have changed since then!). I took over 900 pictures over the course of our trip, and it has taken me awhile to sort through them all to pick some of the best ones to share with you guys. However, today's off and on rains are attempting to give me a break from my bike, (thank you Mother nature!), so I'm more than ready to begin sharing some of the best pictures from our awesome trip to Italy.

On two and half whopping hours of sleep (why does that always happen?) we hopped in our rental car for what was to be an all day drive through France, Suisse, the Mont Blanc tunnel and into Italy.

[Tiny Italian espresso but chock full o' punch!]

There was a ton of traffic going into the tunnel, but an hour and half and 46€ later [Thrift alert: yeah that's one expensive tunnel! Of importance to note? You can buy a two way ticket through Mont Blanc that is about 28€ cheaper than buying each way, you just have to ask for it. End thrift alert], we were in Italy. And boy was espresso needed.

[My first Italian espresso.]

The driver wasn't letting any of it go to waste...

Our sweet American sized, German crafted rental...which would later prove to be the scariest ride of my life on tiny Italian sized cliff roadways...

We drove through the Aosta valley and along the coast through Genoa, probably through a good 100 tunnels (and each with their own name). Our plan was to spend the first night in Cinque Terre in the village of Vernazza, and then high-tail it over to Pisa the next afternoon. Cinque Terre as a whole is a UNESCO protected site, which means, among other things, that cars are not allowed in any of the five villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola or Riomaggiore). Luckily the train goes from Vernazza to La Spezia Centrale and on to Pisa, because after getting lost on several back country roads and finally finding our way onto the steepest cliff side roads without guardrails I've ever seen in Europe, we weren't moving that car unless we had to. But all of panicky feelings on the drive and holding my breathe around blind turns was worth it once we got into Vernazza...

[Vernazza's beach at night...]

[Stripes everywhere!]

Had I not been so ridiculously tired I probably would not have been able to sleep that night in anticipation of seeing Vernazza in the daylight. The family we rented our room from was very nice, and despite us arriving about 2 hours later than we had said we would, we were shown to our room and immediately asked if we had eaten yet. We dropped our bags and followed our host back down five flights of the steepest stairs I've ever traversed (are we noticing a theme here?) to the family's restaurant right around the corner, and had the first of what was the freshest seafood I've ever had in my life. Our bellies full of Cinque Terre wine, risotto and seafood we headed to bed (read: passed out).

Next up: More of our Italian road trip!

A la prochain friends...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mystery punch + drag queens = Paques!

Wow! It's been awhile since I've posted! Not gonna lie, it was nice to have a little break from the interwebs while we went off to Italy for a week, and then while hosting my belle-mama and beau-papa (mother-in-law and father-in-law)! However, in between those two events was a little holiday called Easter, and I think I can safely say that the french know how to party when it comes to Paques!

We had gotten back from our road trip to Italy at 1 am that morning, after taking about a 45 minute detour to avoid paying 35€ to drive through Suisse for a total of 5 minutes to get to our house in France. I of course then went into crazy plant tending mode upon our return, (as we had been gone a week), and still had to shower after going straight from a long dip in the mediterranean to the car, so I didn't see any zzzzzz's until 4 am. We were exhausted when we got up, and threw around the idea of staying in our jammers on the couch all day to recover from our trip, but luckily we had our buddies the H's to get us moving and out the door.

So you see the "officer" on the left? The pitcher is full of mystery punch. And the "nuns"? Giving out mystery punch to all the onlookers...

We were at the beginning of the parade, and EVERY float pretty much handed out their own brand of mystery was a bit hard to keep up...

[Puttin' the kids to work...]

[He works hard for the money...]

This float broke down about a third of a mile from the start of the parade. And yes, there were obviously WWII cracks made once they began pushing the tank downhill...

[Hi neighbor!]

My favorite float was by far the hunting and fishing float. Not only because our neighbor was on it, but because what they gave out was a deifnite accompaniment for all of the mystery punch that we had consumed...

[Oh yeahhh...]

...mystery fondue.

[Pic via Jim H.]

Another reason we loved this float? Our favorite fermier was driving the his wife's clothes...

[Pic via Jim H.]

[Pic via Jim H.]

[Pic via Jim H.]

I apparently made a funny.

Yep, that is a REAL french cop.

[Pic via Jim H.]
No drag queens were (surprisingly) injured/tasered/billy clubbed in the making of this picture.

After the party comes the after-party...

[A la Toy Story 3.]

[Pic via Jim H.]

Hands off my Kool-Aid girlfriend.

[Cerdon at the ready.]

I'd never been to an Easter parade before this one, but I'm already counting down until next year's celebration. I just wonder what the drag queen will wear...

PS - Special thanks to Jim H. for letting me use a few of his pictures, as well as to the H's for dragging our lazy derriere's out of the house for the party.

Sidenote: 1 new follower + 3 blog posts = 5 seeds, for a total of 10 new seeds planted. Woohoo!

A la prochain friends...