Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ciao! and travel adventures

Amazingly, I was able to travel to Italy last week. I had several "is this really happening? Pinch me please" moments during the trip. Three months ago I would have never imagined I would physically be able to do the trip, I wouldn't have fathomed traveling thousands of miles away from the safety net of my home, my doctors, and American medicine had provided over the past four months. I'm so glad the Lord brought this opportunity into my path and then allowed me to go...and to have fun! :)

My most favorite memory from the trip was waking up early to catch a train to another town in Cinque Terre, a string of five towns on the eastern coast of Italy, on Thanksgiving morning. The town was quiet except for a few folks headed out to work. We stopped for coffee and croissants (I munched on a protein bar - so glad I brought those!), watched the locals sip coffee at the counter standing up, watching the news that was on in the corner television, laughing, greeting each other, glancing over at the four tourists seated at a small table, and then heading out for a days work. As we walked along the coast, I told my friends that it was too bad the trails that linked the towns together were closed, because I had seen an amazing picture of a man carved in stone, holding up a house, that was along the trails and I had really wanted to see that in person. As we walked down onto the beach, I yelled...because there, at the end of the beach, was the stone man holding up his house. Unexpected blessing.

The stone man in Monterosso, Cinque Terre

Up close of the stone man

Dawn over the Mediterranean

We spent the next hour or so walking along the beach, I learned how to skip rocks on the water, the Mediterranean  no less!, and I collected broken pieces of terra cotta tiles that were strewn on the beach to someday glue onto canvas and display in my house. It was a beautiful morning.

Our trip took us from Milan to Florence to Cinque Terre to Venice and then back to Milan. Traveling from town to town was easy with our Eurail passes and I was very thankful that the guys had Italy apps on their phones with maps of the cities so we were able to find all the museums, bridges, and churches we wanted to explore (and find our way back to where we were sleeping that night!). We got to see the David, works painted by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Donatello (actually, I don't think I saw Donatello's but it was in a church that we went in, I just never saw it :) ), amazing architecture, streets teeming with history in their cobblestones, got lost in Venice, and I probably quoted my favorite traveling buddy, Rick Steves, about a bagillion times, and all in all, made the most out of our seven days there.

The Duomo in Milan

The Duomo in Florence

Painted ceiling of the Florence Duomo

My friends and I headed out to explore Florence (we walked for about 13 hours on this day :) )

Bridge view in Florence

Galileo's tomb (if you haven't read "Galileo's Daughter," you should)

My favorite of the Cinque Terre towns, Manarola

In Vernazza - Cinque Terre

After an afternoon train to Venice, we celebrated Thanksgiving with a traditional...Italian meal :)

Oh the streets of Venice - we got lost so many times!

Part of St. Mark's Square in Venice

Venice near sunset

So there's a story to the above picture. I almost ended up in the Mediterranean trying to take it. I was walking towards the edge of the canal to get the shot and looking in my viewfinder of my camera as I did so...I KNOW I would not have walked into the water, I was aware of where the edge was, however, I was not aware of the puddle of water, on marble, right under both of my feet and when I hit it, BOTH feet shot out from under me...I heard a bunch of gasps behind me, somehow landed on my feet with a bit of a stumble, took my shot, turned around and saw a group of old Italian men grinning and shaking their heads at me. I assured them I wasn't planning on taking a swim and rejoined my friends, who had missed the whole thing and were wondering why I was cracking up. :)

Gelato :) I ate a lot of this. A lot. 

Yes, I will admit that I wish my stomach would have behaved a bit better, and I wish I would have been able to eat the food there (alas, gluten!), and I wish Italy sold Mountain Dew Code Red :), but I was blessed with friends who were patient and didn't make me feel bad when I asked to sit down to rest, or made multiple pit stops, or had them looking for a restaurant that had risotto or vegetable soup (the two meals that were definitely gluten free and that my stomach was tolerating). But all those wishes made for some good prayer time with the Lord as I had to work on my attitude. No, I didn't feel like I wanted to, but He still sustained me and allowed me to laugh and to drink delicious Italian coffee and to see amazing sights...and to add a bucketful of good memories to my life. I think I ended up appreciating the trip more than I would have if I had been feeling 100% and for that, I am thankful.