Saturday, April 30, 2016

Florence + Cortona

Hi friends.

This is my last (belated) post about our trip to Europe. To be honest, it makes me sad for this to be the last post, because in some way that means it's behind me. Obviously in reality it has been behind me for a while, but not in the blog world! I've enjoyed going through the pictures and reliving the fun.

After our stay in Germany, we flew to Italy. We had a layover in Zurich, Switzerland, which was super fun. It was a 12 hour layover, so we made the most of every minute. We took a shuttle to our hotel and then walked to a Chinese restaurant called Peking. Calm down everybody, it was not at all like the Peking in Monroe/West Monroe. On our walk back to the hotel, it started to snow, so of course we stayed outside for a while to play. When we woke up the next morning, everything was covered in a blanket of beautiful snow! I was so happy to get to be in Switzerland in the SNOW! If you hadn't noticed, winter and snow are kind of my thing. I also love Fall. But snow..it's just so magical. Anywho, we headed back to the airport that morning and then caught a flight to Florence. I assumed that would be an easy task, but with the snow and wind it turned out to be a bit of an issue. They delayed the flight a bit, but eventually we boarded the plane. We were informed that the wind was very strong and there was ice on the plane. They would need to de-ice the plane and then wait until the most opportune moment to take off. We ended up sitting there for about 3 hours before we could take off. Now this may seem like a frustrating inconvenience, but remember, we are in Switzerland! The land of chocolate! The flight attendants brought us Swiss milk chocolates frequently and checked to make sure we were comfortable. Jesse and I played some Skip Bo and devoured our chocolates. When the time came, the pilot announced that we needed to be seated immediately to prepare for take off. He was not joking. We took off. Immediately. We had to catch the wind at just the right moment, so off we went.

                     

We landed in Florence later that morning and headed to catch a bus to town. Our plan was to take a train from Florence to Cortona. We made it to the train station. Encountered many rude Italians. Bah humbug indeed. I just chalked it up to the post-holiday blues and assumed they would be nicer to tourists in the New Year! :) Not naive, cautiously optimistic--thank you very much. So we got on the train to Cortona and discussed the events of the day. We got to a town outside of Cortona and then took a bus the rest of the way there. We walked up a steep cobblestone alley to get to our hotel, Hotel Italia. The staff there were so friendly and helpful. We put our luggage in our room and then walked to the town center to explore. That night we enjoyed a wonderful meal at La Loggetta. I forgot to mention that we had gelato as an appetizer. We also had gelato for dessert, in addition to the dessert that was provided with our meal. When in...Cortona. The next day we walked to the Cortona Cathedral and the Medicean fortress, which is at the highest point in Cortona and was constructed in 1556. We took a different route to walk back to town and I'm so glad we did. We walked through a residential area and it was beautiful. All the Tuscan charm in one little town.








We caught the end of a gospel concert. I believe the group was from Atlanta, Georgia.

I love Italy and their carousels. 

Jesse's first gelato! Cappuccino.  

Where we had dinner that night. 

                          





 



Cortona Cathedral and the Medicean Fortress. 

    

 
On our walk back to town. Isn't this exactly what you envision when you think of a small Tuscan town?

That afternoon we said goodbye to a town that we would later refer to as our town. It stole our hearts. My husband has asked about a thousand times if I would like to go back to Cortona, today. Yes, please. We took the bus, then train to Florence and headed to our hotel. I honestly don't remember the name of the hotel. It wasn't as remarkable as our Cortona stay, but I don't have any complaints. We saw the Duomo, ate gelato, did a little shopping, and took in all the sights and smells. The next day was a day. A whole day. We started it by waiting in line for 4 hours at the Uffizi, an art museum that I missed on my first trip to Italy in 2011. I'm not huge on museums when I am limited on time, but I really wanted to experience the Uffizi.

I'm not sure this video will work, but we saw a guy making gelato and i had to get a quick video to document it. 
On the left, the entrance to what is said to be the oldest pharmacy in Europe. 



 
We ate all the bruschetta and gelato that Italy had to offer. All of it.



One of my favorite solo pictures of all time. Carousel, cotton candy and balloons?!












 


 
That waffle with Nutella gelato honestly deserves its own blog post. It was so delicious. And so gone. After I devoured it in .2 seconds, the waiter walked up to me and said "done already?".. YES. Yes I am.

There was a situation with a small Italian woman. I hopped out of line like all the other people in groups who had been waiting in the 40 degree weather for 4 hours. I grabbed some pizza and cappuccinos and headed back to Jesse. When I got back in line, this belligerent, Italian woman said many things that I'm sure were very complimentary. In addition to her speech, she tried to prove her point (the point was that she was in line in front of us, I was cutting in line, and she refused to let me back in line) by standing close enough to Jesse that she was touching him. And possibly doing a little dance. Not sure if this was due to the cold or the obvious break down she was having, but either way Jesse was not about it. A few moments later it was our turn to go through the entrance. This woman shoved me and did everything within her power to keep me from getting into the museum. Luckily, the guard recognized me and told the small Italian woman to get over herself. I actually made that last part up, but I assume he said something like that because he let me through without any issues. That story is much funnier now than it was when it actually happened. That day I thought I was going to be spending some time in a cold Italian jail cell.

 We saw all the greats: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli..It was very nice. Then we headed to see David. We made it just before they closed thankfully. We enjoyed a nice dinner with all the pasta, bruschetta, chianti and gelato. At the restaurant that night, the chef would come out from the kitchen and sing opera when grabbing garlic and onions to take to the back. It was quite entertaining. And perfectly Italian. We also walked up the tower at the Duomo and saw the best view of Florence. That was a very steep and tight climb. The view was incredible, but I'm not sure I would do it again. I learned that I am claustrophobic that day. We walked around for a while after that, soaking everything in on our last evening.

Terrible picture, but this is Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence.


Uffizi!

                           
                                              The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.



View from the top of the Duomo.


David

A delicious last meal in Florence.


The next morning, we headed back to the airport. We got to Frankfurt that afternoon. We were staying at a Hilton hotel that was in the airport, so we headed to our room to drop off our luggage. It was New Year's Eve and we were both exhausted (and a little grumpy), but really wanted to enjoy our last night in Europe. We headed to a restaurant in the airport but we realized the buffet would be 40 euros per person. Since we were traveling on a budget, we obviously skipped on buffet. After wondering around for a bit, we decided on a microwave dinner of bratwurst and sauerkraut. Yep, a microwave dinner to ring in the new year. We keep it classy, people. We also found a tiny bottle of champagne, some cookies and gummy bears. At the time I wasn't entirely thrilled that we were spending the evening that way, but it was actually kind of perfect.

On our flight back to Germany.




Outside of our hotel, that was inside the airport. 

Bless this highly nutritious microwavable bratwurst and sauerkraut and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.

Headed to catch our flight the next morning. Bittersweet. 

The next morning we started the journey home. It was a mostly uneventful string of flights, except for the last flight which was from Dallas to Monroe (of course). Insert eye roll here. If you're reading this you've probably heard the story of this terrible flight, because I had some serious PTSD. The gist of it is that the pilot decided it was a smart idea to fly through a bad storm. The flight was delayed for an hour or so, but he eventually decided the weather was calm enough to travel. The flight ended with the pilot saying, "the important thing is that we made it safely." WHAT? Yes, yes that is an important thing...

Anyway, we were greeted by my parents and then headed home. I had to work the next morning at 8:30. Ha. Yes, really. But I can't complain about that, because I am fortunate to have a job that allowed to take two weeks to travel and have these experiences.

The whole trip was incredible. We had many once in a lifetime experiences and I think about it often. Getting to see Europe with Jesse was my favorite part of the trip. I know that sounds so cheesy, but it really was great seeing him enjoy it all. I'm thankful we were able to take this trip in the early years of our marriage.

If you are thinking about traveling, I encourage you to do it. I've talked to so many people who assume we are rolling in the dough or have some sort of extreme privilege to do this. While I do feel incredibly privileged and blessed to get to travel, we worked hard to save our money and plan for this trip. We sacrificed a lot and opted out of many things that year so that we would be able to save for this trip. Decide where you want to go, do your research and make it happen. It may take years for you to save before you can take the trip you want, but in my opinion that makes it that much more rewarding.

If you made it through this lengthly post, bless your heart. Sorry I was so long-winded, but I really wanted to write out everything as I remembered it.

Ciao!

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