European Chronicles | Wedding Bells in Toulouse

We arrived in Toulouse after one hell of a long journey (a bus, a train, another train, a flight, an overnight stay in Paris, and another flight the next morning) a bit tired, but very excited to see the Audoynauds and the Kucks!

Mom even came bearing gifts…Cows on Parade figurines for the whole family.  Very appropriate coming from Wisconsinites, don’t you think?  😉

The wedding was the day after we arrived and it was absolutely gorgeous.  It was at a castle in the tiny town of Savenes, France.  It was the cutest town ever…only 200 people live there!  Antoine called it ‘deep country’.  We stayed with Mom, Dad, and Caitlin in a little converted farmhouse in Savenes and it was adorable.  They even brought fresh croissants and baguettes to our door every morning for breakfast!

Antoine and Julie had asked me to do a little wedding portrait session with them before the ceremony, so here are some of my favorites.  Aren’t they the most adorable couple ever??

And a couple from the ceremony…

Delilah enjoyed the wedding very much, even if she was a bit skeptical of Antoine at first.  Haha.

We soon discovered that French weddings usually go until the wee hours of the morning.  Really…dinner wasn’t until 9:45pm and dessert wasn’t served until almost 1am!  Despite being a morning person, I actually quite liked the European schedule of late nights and late mornings.  Delilah wasn’t so much a fan, but she usually stayed up until 11:30 or 12 most nights.  Unfortunately, that meant we missed dessert at the wedding, but we heard all about it and the partying the next day.  Antoine said he didn’t go to sleep until 7am!  Crazy man!

We then moved to Antoine’s grandparents house in Toulouse.  They generously offered to let us and the Audoynauds stay there, since they were going to be away on holidays.  It was the coolest house ever!  Caitlin and Brett said it looked like it jumped right out of a 1970’s James Bond movie.  Haha.  Unfortunately the weather was appalling for the majority of our stay there.  Very cold and rainy.  I mean, look at us on the day that the Audoynauds took us to Carcassonne…does this look like the middle of June to you??

Carcassonne was soooooo cool.  It’s a very well preserved walled city about an hour from Toulouse that was first settled in 100 BC (but most of the city was built in the 12th and 13th centuries).

The inside is filled with restaurants, shops, and even a torture museum (which we most definitely went to and are now traumatized by…haha).  We were all starving, so we headed straight to one of the restaurants for some local cuisine.

Brett took the plunge and ordered cassoulet, a very famous dish in the area.  It is a slow roasted stew/casserole that typically contains, pork sausages, pork, goose, duck, mutton, pork skin, and white haricot beans.  I was a bit skeptical, but I tried a bite and O.M.G. was it absolutely fantastic!!  Brett and I added it to our list of things we are planning to cook when we get home.  It doesn’t look like much, but that dish was fanfreakintastic!

After lunch we headed to Carcassonne’s beautiful church.  I’m constantly amazed at the amount of absolutely breathtaking churches here in Europe.  They are everywhere and each is more amazing than the next.  Especially when you consider that many of them took hundreds of years and thousands of hands to build.

All of a sudden, we noticed the sun was out for the first time all week!  Hurrah!

We ran out to get a group shot of all of us (minus poor Antoine who is behind the camera).

All in all, it was a fantastic day!  Caitlin even got to do some babywearing, which both she and Delilah (who was obsessed with Auntie Caitlin’s hair) very much enjoyed.

A few days later, we went on another day trip to Albi and Cordes sur Ciel, two small towns close to Toulouse.  Unfortunately, Brett and I were so busy chatting with everyone and having fun that we didn’t take very many pictures!  We stopped for a late lunch in Albi, where we all had very French meals of Croque Monsieur and Quiche Lorraine.  Yum!

A nap while window shopping.

Then we all headed (in two different cars) to Cordes sur Ciel, but one of those cars got lost and ended up just going straight home!  LOL.  Mine was the car that made it, but unfortunately Delilah was in the other car so we had to marathon through our visit so Delilah wouldn’t have to wait too long to eat.  Even though we weren’t there long, it was an absolute amazing city!  Perched up on top of a hill with the STEEPEST cobblestone streets I’ve ever seen.

The view while driving towards it.

Walking up to the top.  I seriously have no idea what these people do in the rain…or in winter!  Slippery cobblestones + steep hill + water or ice = disaster, in my opinion!

She may be 68 years old (hee hee) but she’s still pretty sprightly!

And at the top!  It might have been work to get up there, but the view was totally worth it.  The south of France is just gorgeous…no other way to describe it!

Our time in Toulouse just FLEW by.  We had such a good time visiting with the Audoynauds.  And I can’t believe our trip is almost coming to an end!  Just a few more days in Paris and then it’s back to Sydney.  So bittersweet!  Paris edition soon to come 🙂

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European Chronicles | Positano and the glorious balcony.

We finally made it to Positano!  We were absolutely dreading the trip to get there, since it involved a train from Rome to Naples, a train from Naples to Sorrento, a bus from Sorrento to Positano, and then 217 stairs (yes, that’s right…217 stairs) to get to our front door.

To be honest, the journey wasn’t TOO bad…the highlight for me (and funnily enough, the low point for heights fearing Brett) was the bus ride from Sorrento to Positano.  For the last 7 kilometers, we were literally careening on a teeny road on the side of a mountain that plunged straight down into the sea.  The views were AMAZING, but a bit scary at the same time.  Brett happened to sit on the wrong side of the bus (the one closest to the cliff) and spent most of the bus ride cursing me for choosing such a location.  Haha.

We soon arrived at our apartment and O.M.G., it was the definition of fabulousness.  It was tiny (but very cute!) inside, but had double doors in the living area and the bedroom to a massive 60 meters squared balcony with THIS view:

I mean, good Lord!  Made the ridiculous amount of steps totally worth it.  To say we were ecstatically delighted was the understatement of the year.  We spent the whole evening out on the balcony enjoying the views and our favorite meal.  You guessed it…

YUM!  Delilah even got to eat a little bit of the crust…she was definitely a fan.

We woke up the next day and decided to explore Positano a little bit.  It’s quite a small place, but sooooo picturesque.  It reminded me very much of Monte Carlo, in that it was very very steep and houses seemed to be almost piled on top of each other all the way to the ocean.  In fact, we read that the nearby town of Amalfi used to be one of the major naval powers of southern Italy with over 70,000 residents, but then a huge earthquake in the 14th century caused most of the village (along with its residents) to literally slide into the ocean.  Gah!  That story didn’t exactly inspire confidence in Brett, no matter how gorgeous it was 😉

There is only one road in Positano and it is basically a circle, in which traffic can only go one direction.  We opted to go downhill (for obvious reasons) from our apartment toward the ocean and the main beach.

We discovered that Positano has two sides to it.  The side we are staying on is mostly locals, filled with great restaurants and local shops, but not really very touristy.  The other side is like daytrippers central, with TONS of touristy shops and not as much charm.  After seeing it all, we were very happy with our accommodation decision.  We did like looking at all of the clothes for sale though.  Positano has its own ‘Amalfi coast fashion’ where flowy styles all their own are sold all year round.  Mom would have LOVED it all, with the exception of the price tags.  We saw a few tops that were like 100 Euros (that’s like $130)…ouch!

My absolute favorite discovery on our walk was all the bougainvillea everywhere.  You could see it on every other building from our balcony.  They were just covered in absolutely radiant purple flowers.  They even managed to put it above you on the streets!

We made it down to the beach, but as per usual with European beaches, we weren’t too impressed.  It was nice, but it was no Bondi Beach and there were just SO MANY people.  We made a mental note to head to the other quieter beach on our side of town instead for a swim later on.  We did like sitting down and having a bit of people watching time though.  Particularly Delilah.

We came back to the apartment to find that we had a little visitor on our balcony…a kitty!  I knew from reading reviews of the apartment that there was a cat who frequented the balcony for a few pats every now and then, so I was excited to actually see him.  However, my excitement was nothing compared to Delilah’s!  This was her first encounter with a cat and I have never seen her so ecstatic.  She was literally jumping up and down and squealing with delight.  Here’s a little montage of the events:

I think we might have to get a cat for her now.  Haha.

The next day we woke up and decided we were going to do nothing for the entire day…for the first time on this entire trip!  We laid out here:

With this:

And this:

Talk about perfection!  Delilah joined us in nothing but her diaper (which, by the way are totally not as cute as her cloth diapers at home) and had a grand old time rolling around and playing with her toys in the shade.

Even our little kitty friend joined us for the afternoon.  It was practically a party, I tell you!  🙂

The next morning we woke up to find that our balcony friend had, in fact, jumped through an open window and was waiting for us in the living room.  LOL!

Good thing he was such a nice kitty.  He was happy to just have a nap while Delilah fawned over him.  Funny little thing.

For our last day in Positano, we decided that we just had to have a real swim in the Mediterranean.  Imagine our surprise when we discovered (after descending the 217 stairs to the main road) that the beach was another 500 stairs straight down!  It took us like twenty minutes just to descend all of the stairs to get there…I was terrified to think of what it was going to be like on the way back up!  Luckily, it was totally worth it.  The water was crystal clear, gorgeous, and very refreshing (without being too cold).  And of course, Delilah had to go for another swim.  Here she is getting ready to go for a dip:

Yay!  So excited!

Getting used to the water with Daddy.

And going all the way in with Mommy.  She loved it!  Was splashing and giggling away the whole time.

I had a long swim after she got out to dry off and it was glorious.  Even if the ‘pebble’ beach did just about kill my feet on the way in and out.  Definitely makes me appreciate all the gorgeous white sand Aussie beaches, I tell you!  We were very sad to have to leave Positano (and Italy) the next morning, but were very much looking forward to seeing everyone in Toulouse!

We have been in Toulouse for a few days now (I was so late with this post!!) and I can’t wait to show you all some of the wedding portraits I took of Antoine and Julie.  They were such a gorgeous couple!  Will update soon 🙂

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European Chronicles | When in Rome…

We arrived in Rome on the 2nd of June, and after somewhat of a rocky start (we ordered a driver to meet us at the train station and he didn’t show up and left us there for an hour and a half!) we finally made it to our gorgeous Trastevere apartment.  We caught a glimpse of the Colosseum on the drive there, which made us very excited to start exploring the city.

The next morning we woke up to gloomy skies and a forecast of rain for the first time in our entire trip.  We counted ourselves lucky that we’d had such glorious weather thus far, but nobody likes a rainy day.  We headed to the local bakery to pick up some lunch…it was such a cute place!  We got some Swiss cheese, parma ham, fresh warm bread, pesto, and some Italian cookies for dessert.  Delilah made friends with both of the young guys behind the counter, and was not happy with me in the least when I turned down their offer for free pizza and cookies for her.  LOL.

After that, we were off to the Colosseum!  It wasn’t raining yet, so we decided to walk.  We walked…and walked…and WALKED.  And suddenly, there it was in all its glory (disclaimer, these next two pics were taken on a different day when the weather was much more photo agreeable…haha).

Delilah obviously wasn’t as impressed as we were (and she ripped out her hair clip just before this, so don’t mind the shaggy hair).

We headed in to check it out and decided at the last minute to take a tour with a guide and a group of around 20 people.  Big mistake.  I think one of the reasons this trip has been going so smoothly is because we have been able to do everything at our own (read: Delilah’s) pace.  With a tour group, that’s just not possible.  She was fussy at first so I couldn’t really pay attention, then she was happy and squealing at the top of her lungs (which meant I had to back off from the group so she wouldn’t disrupt their tour), then she got hungry, etc.  We ended up ditching the group after fifteen minutes and doing the rest on our own, which was much better.

It POURED with rain while we were inside, so we had to wait for it to stop before we could go into the actual arena.  It was amazing to read all the stories about what used to happen there, as well as see all of the ‘costumes’ and articles (even animal bones and skulls!) that had been recovered from the site.  So strange to think about how unbelievably long all of these things had been there.

Soon the rain lifted, and we were in:

Seeing such an intricate structure and realizing how amazing it is that it could even have been built so long ago, much less withstand so much time was truly awe inspiring.

The weather was taking a turn for the worst, so we decided to head back to Trastevere for the night.  We picked up some fresh pasta (gorgonzola ravioli!) and headed back to the apartment for dinner, followed by a walk at dusk in the cobblestone streets.  Delilah was teething crabby (her two teeth finally cut through that night) and walks are the only thing that will make her happy sometimes.  She loves being out and about!  Here is the street our apartment is on after a fresh sprinkle of rain:

The next morning we awoke to glorious weather yet again, so we set out early for an absolute marathon touring day.

We started at the Pantheon, which we both LOVED.  Such an awesome building, especially considering that it was built over 2,000 years ago and is STILL the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.  I particularly liked how the opening in the center of the dome created this heavenly beam of light that moved around the room depending on the time of the day.

We couldn’t stop looking at the intricate details over every inch of the building.

Delilah was impressed too, which is apparent in this next pic.  LOL.

Afterward, we headed over to the Trevi fountain.  I didn’t see the fountain the last time I was in Rome, so I was excited to see it this time around.  I was disappointed that we couldn’t go at night (Mom recommended this, since it’s all lit up and gorgeous), but it doesn’t get dark until very late when a certain tiny person is ready for bed!  Even so, it was beautiful.

Next, it was off to the Spanish Steps for some top quality people watching time!

It was such a cool little spot to hang out and have a rest.  Delilah (with her two new little teeth!) was a happy little soul and smiled at everyone that walked past her.  I swear, she is just the friendliest little thing these days.

Since it was almost 2pm, we decided it was time for a lunch break.  So what did we choose to eat?  You guessed it…pizza!  LOL.  We have had pizza for like 75% of our meals in Italy so far.  It’s just a lot easier to eat while holding a Delilah baby, not to mention it’s absolutely delicious and we can’t get enough of it!  We went to a place that had good recommendations for woodfired pizza and it didn’t disappoint.

Delilah and Daddy waiting for their pizza:

And Delilah eating/playing with some crust.  This is also a perfect example of how she has most definitely inherited her great grandfather Paul’s ‘Casper the Ghost’ pale skin and strawberry tinted hair (although Grandpa’s was just plain red!).  I always wanted red hair, so I think she’s a lucky girl 🙂

After lunch we headed off to the ruins, with a few stops in between.  I just HAD to get this shot, since the moment we stepped off the train we realized something hilarious…Cows On Parade was in Rome!!  It made this Wisconsinite feel right at home 🙂  For those who don’t know what Cows On Parade are, just ask Pam…she has like 200 of them (much smaller than this, of course).  Haha.  They were everywhere in Rome!

We then found ourselves in front of the Vittoriano, which was built to honor Italy’s first king.  It had a little patch of grass in front of it that looked just perfect for a picture and a diaper change.  Haha.

And here’s Delilah smiling at strangers again.  She gets so excited when they smile back at her (which, of course, they all do).  Funny little thing.

We kept on trucking and decided to have a little rest on some pieces of ruins strewn about.  I love that about Rome.  They actually have 2,000 year old columns and chunks of buildings that they use for public sitting areas.  What other city can say the same??

We finally made it to the ruins, which I was so excited about.  There are SO MANY amazing sights in Rome, but the ruins are my absolute favorite.  It’s like stepping back in time…you can almost visualize what it looked like in its prime.  And you can see how truly amazing (I know I keep using that word, but how else do you describe it??) it was that such grand and gorgeous buildings could have even been built so long ago.

We asked Delilah what she thought of the ruins and this was her response…

Apparently she is undecided.  LOL.

It had been seven hours since we left the apartment and we spent almost the entire time walking, so needless to say, we were BEAT.  What an action packed day it had been!

The next morning we woke up and were soooooooo tired.  The Vatican was on the books for the day, so we decided to put it off till the early afternoon and have a restful morning just hanging out.  And boy was that a brilliant plan!  We arrived at the Vatican at around 2pm to literally ZERO lines.  We didn’t even wait 30 seconds to get our tickets.  And for a place that is renowned for it’s 2 to 3 hour wait times, that is saying something!

We first went to Saint Peters Basilica, which for us both was the highlight of the day.

To say that the interior was grandiose and ridiculously intricately detailed is the understatement of the year.  I asked Brett what he thought it would have cost to build such a building nowadays and he didn’t even think it was feasible anymore.  We could have stayed in there all day and not seen it all!

Even Delilah couldn’t stop staring.

We headed into the Vatican and found it almost overwhelming.  There is just SO MUCH packed into that place that you almost don’t even know where to look.   Every square inch is absolutely gorgeous!  We sort of marathon-ed through it until we reached the Sistine Chapel.  That Chapel is by far one of the most awesome places I’ve ever seen.  They won’t allow pictures in it for copyright reasons (and because people are too dumb to turn off their flash!), but we managed to sneak one when no one was looking.  We’re rebels like that 😉

We were sitting on the benches on the side admiring all of the beauty when I noticed Delilah reaching out to the lady next to us.  The lady thought it was so she could touch her hand, so she held her hand up for Delilah to grab…imagine both of our surprise when Delilah just batted her hand away and grabbed the bit of paper she was holding!  What a little thief!  LOL.  I immediately apologized and gave the paper back to the woman, which caused Delilah to start pinching a fit in the middle of the Sistine Chapel.  The very kind woman (who I think was Spanish) ended up giving her the paper to keep to prevent a total meltdown.  We are definitely going to have our hands full with this child if she’s already starting mini temper tantrums at 8 months old!

Here she is with her little Sistine Chapel gift.

After the Vatican, we headed over to Piazza Navona for our last Rome experience.  Mom recommended this Piazza because she thought I would enjoy all of the artists that come to paint and draw here.  She was absolutely right!  We loved it!  We wandered around eating gelato and checking out the artwork.  It was fantastic!

Rome certainly flew by the fastest for us, but we are very much looking forward to our stay in Positano on the Amalfi Coast, since that’s where we went ALL OUT on our apartment (perched on a cliff with a panoramic view of the ocean…woohoo!).  We plan to do a whole lot of relaxing, something that we haven’t done hardly at all in the past few weeks.  See you all in a few days!

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European Chronicles | Firenze!

Well we set off for Florence on the 29th of May, with a quick stop at Pisa along the way to check out the leaning tower.  On the way we realized that, as Florence was our fourth city, that meant our trip was almost half over!  How sad!

After a burning hot train ride (what is WITH Trenitalia and their inability to properly ventilate their trains??), we arrived in Pisa to discover that all the rumors were true: there is literally NOTHING there except for the tower.  And even that is on the complete opposite side of town from the train station.  So, like the idiots we are, we decided to walk it (after we’d checked our bags into a baggage storage place at the station).  And it was a loooooooong (and incredibly boring) walk.  But all of a sudden, we came into a clearing and there it was!  And what a strange old building it is.  A lot smaller than I thought…and actually more ‘leany’ than I thought too.  It was beautiful!

We really wanted to have a rest on all that beautiful grass, but they wouldn’t let anyone on it!  So we had to settle for some marble steps instead 🙂

If we thought our first train was bad, the second was even worse!  It must have been over a hundred degrees in that car.  We were sweating like beasts!  If it weren’t such a convenient way to get from city to city, I would swear off Italian trains for life.  Haha.  Delilah didn’t seem to mind though.  As long as she had her coke zero bottle (her absolute favorite toy…good thing I spent all that money on new toys for this trip), she was happy as a little clam.  We even gave her her own seat, now that she’s a big sitting girl.

We finally arrived in Florence and had to walk and walk and WALK to get to our apartment.  All on (very very beautiful, but also very impractical for walking) cobblestones. Since we’d already done so much walking in Pisa, we were about ready to die once we reached the main piazzas near our apartment.  But then, lo and behold, we saw the most glorious sight in the entire universe.

TRA LA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We didn’t even know this was happening while we were in Florence, so to see it when we were bedraggled and roasting to death was like a beacon of hope that gave us the strength to carry on and make it to Via Della Mosca, otherwise known as our street in Florence.  LOL.  The apartment was SO CUTE and had a really pretty view of the river.  We loved it!  It was a bit late in the day for us to do anything that night, so we decided to save our exploring for the next morning.

We headed off for the gelato first (I mean, priorities, people!!) and it was GOOD.   It was set up so you could buy tasting tickets, and then just go around getting little dishes of a bunch of different flavors.  Here we are just after getting our tickets.  I love Delilah’s face in this one…she’s totally excited, even though she has absolutely no idea what is going on.  Haha.

Brett’s absolute favorite was lime, although he also enjoyed limoncello.

And my favorites were dark chocolate and coconut…sooooooo yummy!

We then headed over to the famous Duomo and it’s beautiful piazza.  It was unbelievable!  Such an intricate building…and so huge!  It’s like a giant gorgeous fortress amidst all these teeny little buildings in Florence.  And I swear I have done nothing to the sky in these…it was like a painting!  That’s what happens when you go out later in the day…the light is perfect!

And here’s some with us, which we took earlier in the day when the light wasn’t as purty.

We then headed to the Basilica di Santa Croce, where so many legends have been buried that it is known as the Temple of the Italian Glories.  Micelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo, Gentile, Rossini, and Marconi are all buried within its walls.  We went in to have a look, but unfortunately Delilah thinks it’s just HILARIOUS to squeal and yell at the top of her lungs in quiet places, so needless to say the two of us didn’t get to stay long.  LOL.  But Brett stayed in for a few minutes longer to get some pictures for us.  It’s such a gorgeous church!

The inside…

And walking outside in the gardens.

By this point, we were pretty hungry, so we decided to try out a sandwich place that gets tons of raves in Lonely Planet.  Imagine our surprise, when we showed up and it was literally just a window on the street with an enormous line stringing a few meters down the sidewalk!

They served little sandwiches absolutely PACKED with delicious ingredients.  Seriously, best sandwiches we’d ever had.  My favorites were soft goats cheese with sundried tomato, and roasted pork with truffle cream.  YUM AND A HALF!

As we strolled home that evening, we couldn’t get over how many people there were on the streets.  Central Florence is a pedestrian’s paradise.  The only cars allowed are residents (and even those are only allowed at certain times) so the city is just filled with people out having a stroll on the cobblestone streets in the evening sunlight.  Most of them eating ice cream of some other delicious treat.  There was such a neat vibe and ambience in the air…I really liked that about Florence!  Here was a shot from our walk back to the apartment.

The next morning we woke up and decided to take a trip out to Tuscany.  We chose Siena as the place in Tuscany that we most wanted to visit.  And due to my research, we found that taking a bus there was actually much shorter (and much easier) than the train.  So on the bus we went!  It was actually quite nice…we got to enjoy the rolling Tuscan hills and beautiful vineyards all the way to Siena.  And Delilah slept the whole way, so that’s always good!

We had to take this shot right after arriving, not because I am looking uber hot with my stupid facial expression and pants falling off my butt, but because of all the motorbikes in the background.  They are EVERYWHERE here.  Everywhere you go, they are just lined up like dominoes down the street.  It’s hilarious.

We loved Siena…it was gorgeous!  The huge main square (Piazza del Campo) is very famous for its annual village bareback horse race (the Palio di Siena) that takes place around the perimeter of the square.  We had just recently watched a special on the horse race on TV, so we were excited to be able to see it in person!

Here we are in the square.

Brett relaxing after a tasty gelato.

And the Torre del Mangia, which was built in the 1300’s.  It was gorgeous!

Delilah liked it too 🙂

We even found an Italian baby shoe store, which (luckily for Brett) was closed for the day.  Good thing too…they had the prices in the window and some of them were like 80 Euros!  Good Lord!

The next day we woke up to find a very VERY cranky baby.  After some investigation, we found the culprit…or more accurately, the culpritS.  Two little baby teeth coming in!!

Sheesh.  Lilan and Peter dropped us off at the airport two weeks ago with a teeny little baby.  Now she’s sitting, saying ‘mama’ (although we don’t know if she’s referring to me yet…lol) and has two teeth (they just cut through this morning, thank goodness!).  At this rate, Delilah will be a teenager by the time they pick us up from the airport in three weeks!

Anyway, she was not at all a happy camper (and we were pretty tired too) so we took the morning and early afternoon off to hang out in the apartment.  We headed out for a late lunch at around 2pm at a little restaurant in our neighborhood that had tasty pasta.  It was delicious!  We almost didn’t have dessert, but then changed our minds at the last second…and I am SO FREAKIN GLAD that we did.  Because the dessert menu had the most gloriously hilarious English translations that I have ever seen.  By far my absolute favorite thing I have EVER read on a menu was this:

I mean, how could we not order that???  LOLOL!!

We took crankypants out for a little walk in the early evening to check out the gorgeous (and very very old) bridge near our apartment.  On the way, we took a few snaps of the streets, just because they are so pretty.

I love that everywhere in this city (and all of Italy so far) still has things to tie up your horse along the street.  I thought this was a particularly beautiful one.

We made it to the bridge!

The top of the bridge used to be filled with butchers…one after the next.  But they kept getting in trouble for throwing their meat scraps into the river, so the city forced them out and filled it with jewelers instead.  And O.M.G. was the jewelery the most hideously gaudy stuff that I have ever seen.  It was awesome.  Check out how it is practically radiating gold onto these window shoppers’ faces.

Awesomeness.

And us on the bridge.  Even when she’s teething, she busts out the smiles for the camera!  Just like her mom 😉

I also found the most amazing little globe that I just had to have.  I’ve always wanted a globe, but I either found them too ‘schoolroom’ or too gaudy for my tastes.  And then I stumbled across the perfect one here!  It cost a small fortune, so Brett won’t let me take it out of the box for a pic (it’s all wrapped up).  Guess I’ll have to save that one for when we get home!  🙂

I had Delilah up on my back for our walk home and soon realized that she had passed out from teething exhaustion.  Poor little bug!

It was only when I got home, that I realized I’d been walking around with two little hands sticking out of my shoulders.  LOL!!

Aww, what a cutie face 🙂

We arrived in Rome yesterday afternoon (to a not great weather report, so I think our glorious weather streak is officially over…boo, hiss) and we can’t wait to explore.  See you all in a few days!

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European Chronicles | Vernazza = BEST. PLACE. EVER. (so far, anyway)

Well after a tram and four (yes FOUR) trains that were so hot that we literally felt like we were riding in the bowels of hell, we finally arrived in Vernazza.  And O. M. G. is it the most amazing place I have ever seen.  Teeny tiny, no cars whatsoever (you can only get there via train or boat), cute little shops and trattorias on every corner, fishing boats strewn about the teeny harbor and beach, and of course the ever gorgeous colorful Italian architecture.  I mean, look at it!  (And yes, I did take this picture, after a very VERY steep hike, which I will delve into a bit further below).

For those who aren’t familiar with Vernazza (I had never heard of it before I started researching Italy for this trip), it is part of the Cinque Terre, a group of five villages along the coast in northern Italy.  Each of the villages is connected by walking trails along the coast, which were originally the only way to get to and from each of the villages.  Nowadays, they are absolutely gorgeous (and very popular) hiking trails.  Each of the villages has its own charm, but I was particularly drawn to Vernazza when researching…and the second we laid eyes on it, we were completely in love.

We raced into our apartment to unpack and shower, and then off we trotted to check out the village.  We took the camera of course to take advantage of that beautiful sunset light.  Our apartment was right in the main square, so as soon as we stepped out, this is what we saw.  How could we not love this place????

The Cinque Terre is particularly famous for their pesto (pesto was invented here!) so we decided to try their famous pesto pizza for dinner that night.  GOOD LORD, IT WAS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO FREAKIN GOOD!  I mean, we are talking literally the best pizza I have ever had in my entire life.  By far and long.  It was so good that we couldn’t resist having it for dinner the next night as well.  LOL!  Here are Daddy and Delilah waiting for their pizza, as well as a view of the main street in Vernazza.

The next morning, we got up bright and early and headed out to explore some more.  We decided to go up to the castle at the top of the harbour and check it out.  It was built in the 13th century and was so gothic and sort of creepy looking!  But it did have one amazing view at the top (even if Brett and his everlasting fear of heights wasn’t so much a fan).

I didn’t mind the heights so much, but it was the steps to GET there that about killed me.  They went on FOREVER.  This was yet another moment that I thanked my lucky stars we didn’t bother with a stroller.  There is no way we would have been able to do anything in this town (or most of Europe, for that matter) if we didn’t have the wraps.  Especially when everywhere you try to go looks like this:

Here we are climbing up to the castle:

And at the top!

Then we found the little tower that served as protection for the Cinque Terre from attacks from the sea.  We decided to climb it, even though the stairs looked like this:

Hesitantly climbing to the top:

But the view was so worth it!

Even if Brett was much MUCH happier once we were down at the bottom again.  Haha.

And just because he’s a handsome devil 🙂

I had to snap this picture on our way back down because if Paris was filled with dogs, Cinque Terre was absolutely overrun with cats!  There were cats everywhere!  Delilah really liked them…whenever she saw another cat, she just stared and stared.  She must have thought they were the funniest looking pomeranians!  Haha.  Here is a typical front door in Vernazza (with two furry friends, of course).

The only sucky part about Vernazza is that it is literally overrun with daytrippers in the middle of the day.  So we decided to take the opportunity to hole up in our apartment for a rest.  We went to the local deli and bought fresh bread, pecorino cheese, parma prosciutto, Italian olive mix, and fresh homemade pesto for a little Italian picnic lunch inside.  Now that is what I’m talking about.  YUM!

We headed out again in the late afternoon when it was cooler and everything was bathed in beautimous light.  We decided to hike up the trail to Monterosso (the next village) to get some good shots of Vernazza from above.  Brett and I aren’t really the hiking types (were much more into sitting on fluffy pillows and being served chocolates on a silver platter…haha) but we’ll do anything for a good photo opportunity!

It started off innocently enough.

But it wasn’t long before we realized that it was literally STRAIGHT up for about 14,000 steps and 17,000 steeply inclined walkways.  If the phrase ‘women don’t sweat, they glow’ is true, then I was positively iridescent by the time we were halfway up.  Especially with 20 pounds of dead weight strapped to my back.  Haha.  This picture sums up my opinion of hiking when we were about 2/3 of the way there:

But as soon as we came around the bend and saw the breathtaking view below us, we both agreed that it was totally worth it.

Unfortunately, Brett’s heights fear struck again, so we pretty much spent just enough time to take a bunch of pictures and marvel at the beauty before we hightailed it back down to safety.  Very glad we decided to go for it though.  It was gorgeous!!  With all this climbing and walking and bag dragging, it’s no wonder Brett and I are losing weight over here.  Our clothes are starting to fall off of us already.  If I had known that a trip to Europe would be the key to losing this cursed baby weight, I would have done it ages ago!  Haha.

The next day, we just bummed around the apartment in the morning (we were exhausted from all of our climbing the day before!) and then headed out for a boat trip in the afternoon.  We decided not to go to all five of the villages (we wanted to spend a few hours at one of them instead) so we chose Riomaggiore.  It is the biggest of the five (a whopping 1800 people live there!) and seemed interesting.

Delilah LOVED the boat trip.  She was asleep when we left, but woke up when we stopped at Manarola and was all smiles from then on out.  I went to snap a picture of her and Brett on the boat and gasped in horror as I realized that we’d left the memory card for the big camera back in the apartment and I hadn’t packed my spare.  Doh!  So all we had was the little point and shoot for our daytrip.  We won’t be making that mistake again!  Here it is anyway 🙂

Riomaggiore was very beautiful, but we were spoiled by Vernazza and didn’t like Riomaggiore as much as our little ‘home’ in the Cinque Terre.  It was also ridiculously steep to climb!  Just walking up to the main piazza was like scaling a mountain.  LOL.  We did some shopping and wandered around a bit before stopping for a gelato and heading back to Vernazza.  Here’s what you see when getting off the boat at Riomaggiore:

And Delilah and Mommy on Riomaggiore’s main street:

We arrived back in Vernazza (and located the elusive memory card!) we thought that since it was quite warm and our last night in the Cinque Terre, it might be fun to have Delilah take her first ever ‘swim’ in the ocean.  She loves water and loves her baths, but we weren’t quite sure what she would think of the coldish Mediterranean seawater.  It was hilarious.  Here’s a little play by play of the action:

I love looking at the water!

Wait, what?  You are putting me IN the water??

Um, I’m not so sure how I feel about this.

Actually, I think I kind of like it.

No wait, I LOVE IT!

Swimming was SO MUCH FUN!  Let’s do it again!

Haha.  What a cutie.

Well we are off to Florence this morning with a stop in Pisa for lunch and some leaning tower spotting along the way.  See you all in a few days!

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European Chronicles | Salut, Nice et Monaco!

Well we arrived in Nice on the 22nd and it is beeeeeeeeautiful!  We decided to take the high speed train instead of fly so that we could see the country, and I must say that I found the train to be so enjoyable!  It was smooth, very fast, extremely comfortable, and just all around lovely.

Delilah, as always, was a perfect angel on the trip.  I think the other passengers in our car were a bit worried when we got on with a baby, but she didn’t make a peep the whole time, except for a few giggles and happy squeals every now and then.  We left from Gare de Lyon station in Paris and it was amazing to see…trains coming and going, travelers from all over the world, and even a fair amount of traveling pets!  That’s the other thing that we found so funny about France…the amount of dogs everywhere!  Paris is just filled with people walking their dogs on every corner.  We had a little bulldog in our car on the train and he was hilarious.

Here we are at Gare de Lyon station (don’t mind Delilah’s shaggy hair…it’s getting out of hand lately!)

Thrilled to be on the train at last (with her new toy)!

Chilling with Daddy.

And napping with mommy.

As soon as we arrived in Nice, we could immediately see how much of a different feel it has than Paris.  It’s MUCH more Mediterranean, much more casual, and has more of a sleaze factor than Paris did.  That’s not to say we don’t love it though!  We had to walk for aaaaaaaaages to get to our apartment, which was a royal pain in the butt with all of our bags.  We have since discovered that there is a tram that would have taken us less than five minutes to get here, but sadly we didn’t know that at the time!

Our apartment is in the absolute perfect location.  Right in the buzz of the busiest pedestrian street in Nice, but very quiet once you get upstairs.  Unfortunately for Brett, we were again on the third floor…needless to say his arms are going to be uber buff by the end of this trip!  Haha.  There is a lift, but it is literally the smallest lift I have ever seen in my life.  I don’t even think both Brett and I could fit in it.  And we certainly wouldn’t fit with our bags!  The apartment is gorgeous though, and the caretaker is a really lovely American woman, who I discovered is from Minneapolis and a fellow Lawrence graduate!  What a small world.

Here’s the apartment.  It also has a full kitchen, separate bedroom, and big bathroom.  It’s like five times the size of our Paris place!

And the teeny lift.  I love Delilah’s face in this one, by the way.  She’s like ‘dude, this thing does not look safe.’  Haha.

Our first day, we just decided to bum around Nice and explore a little bit.  We first had breakfast at a French restaurant (I had the most delicious omelette!) and Delilah even got her own seat.

Then we went straight out to the famous pedestrian street along the water, the Promenade des Anglais.  I couldn’t get over how long it was!  It went for miles along the coast.  It reminded me very much of the boardwalk in Atlantic City.  Lots of rollerbladers, joggers, Sunday strollers, and people just sitting quietly taking in the view.  We strolled along while Delilah had her morning nap.  It was lovely!

As soon as she woke up, we took her down to the pebble beach.  I use the term ‘pebble’ loosely, because these were the biggest freakin ‘pebbles’ I’ve ever seen!  Living in Sydney has made us a couple of beach snobs though…so while I thought the beach was really cool and worth seeing, I couldn’t imagine trying to lay out in the sun there (or go swimming!).  It was all but impossible just trying to walk around.  Yet it was literally PACKED with sun bakers and swimmers for the entire stretch of the promenade, even though it was only 21 degrees (70 degrees farenheit).  I put my feet in the water and it was like ice, so I think we will just admire it for the next few days, rather than jump straight in 😉

Delilah, however, was fascinated with the pebbles.  She loved it!

That evening, we ventured into Nice old town to go and get some Socca for dinner.  Socca is a famous Nice dish made from chickpea flour, olive oil, and pepper.  We heard about it, but had absolutely no clue what it was until after we came home and looked it up.  LOL.  They make it in these ginormous (like three feet wide) round copper pans and then hack it up into pieces and serve it on a plate.  It was FANFREAKINTASTIC!  So much so, that we looked up the recipe and are going to go on a hunt for chickpea flour when we get back to Sydney so that we can make it ourselves.

You can see it here on the right, along with the other yummies we ordered without having any idea what they were (sorry, this pic isn’t the greatest):

Heading out to old town (Brett’s first wrapping time with Delilah!  A  little crooked, but not too bad 😉 )

And old town prettiness:

The next day we decided to make the 20 minute trek over to Monaco to check out Monte Carlo and its famous casino.  Unfortunately, we went on a (unbeknownst to us) public holiday, so other than the casino area, it was a total ghost town!  You could tell it was Monaco even from the train station though.  While most European train stations are sort of rickety, old, and filled with bird poop, Monaco’s looked like it was made out of money.  Haha.  Check it out:

We accidentally took the wrong exit from the train station and we ended up at the very tippy top of the city.  Brett (and his fear of heights) was not at all a fan.  I found it completely fascinating!  It was almost like there were levels of the city that were built on top of one another.  You could look straight down and see streets and walkways almost directly below you.  There were even lifts that were just sitting out in the street that would take you to the next level down.  So bizarre.  The casino was about halfway down to the water, so we just walked down a ton of ramps and elevators until we finally found it.

Walking towards the casino in the front gardens:

Then there it was!  And my goodness, was it amazing.

Dad would have been in his element out front…there were cars out there that were worth more than my existence.  I particularly liked a red Ferrari that was parked right by the front door.  There were obviously some very high rollers in that place!

Unfortunately, even though Delilah was obviously in no state for gambling, they wouldn’t let us inside the casino with her.  I peeked in the door though and it was the most ornate, rich looking interior I have ever seen!  If only I had some spare cash and the ability to gamble without looking like an idiot.  LOL.

Instead we decided to cruise around the fabulous casino gardens behind the building.  The view was absolutely to die for.  Gorgeous plants and statues everywhere and a massive promenade that looked out over the turquoise sea.  No wonder people like to come here for some good gambling…at least if you lose the shirt off your back, you get to enjoy a good view!  🙂

Daddy and Delilah, taking it all in:

I think she likes Monaco  😉

And then, the most amazing thing happened…Delilah decided to make her grand ‘sitting all by herself’ debut!  Up until the day before, she was teetering all over the place…then all of a sudden she just decided to sit there for ten minutes by herself.  She was so proud!  Leave it to my child to choose such a swanky venue for her first time sitting…she’s got style, that girl!  Haha.

For our last day in Nice, we decided to just take it easy and absorb the ambience.  We had a relaxing morning just hanging around the apartment and then headed out just after lunch (we had baguettes and pesto in the apartment…YUM!).  We were so glad we went out for a walk today…the water was GORGEOUS!  It was exceptionally windy, but the blues in that water were literally breathtaking.  Despite the wind, the promenade was busy as always.

Delilah had her afternoon nap on our walk again (she is loving that these days).

And then we walked up to the lookout point at one of the ends of the promenade.  It was gorgeous, but WINDY!  Delilah likes the wind though.  She laughs every time it blows in her face.  Silly baby 😉

We ended the afternoon with a gelato and a stroll through old town (we hadn’t seen it all yet).  I found a fabulous dress for the Delilah baby, but it’s going to be a surprise for her eight month pictures in a few weeks.  Stay tuned!  🙂

We are off to Vernazza, Italy tomorrow morning and are ridiculously excited!  Although not so much excited about the trip, as it will be four trains to get there.  I don’t think our Vernazza apartment has internet, so I’ll have to wait until we arrive in Florence on the 29th to do a blog post.  See you all then!

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European Chronicles | Bonjour, Paris!

You heard it right, folks.  Brett and I are undertaking the impossible…five whole WEEKS in France and Italy with a 7 month old baby.  Crazy, you say?  Yeppers, that’s us!  I decided to start up a travel blog for the trip, so that I could include more pictures than my usual ‘Erin travel chronicles’ emails.  One post for each of our stops:  Paris, France;  Nice, France;  Vernazza, Italy;  Florence, Italy;  Rome, Italy;  Positano, Italy;  Toulouse, France (for a rockin wedding!!); and back to Paris, France.  Well, here we go!

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We made it to Paris!  Two flights, temporarily lost baggage, and THIRTY hours of travel with a 7 month old baby and we all lived to tell the tale.

Not only did we survive, but we all managed to stay happy!  Delilah was an absolute ANGEL on the flight.  I kid you not, she only cried for a total of five minutes the entire time.  It was shockingly pleasant traveling with her.  She has recently discovered that smiling at strangers is really fun, so instead of being upset, she spent the flights smiling and giggling at passengers and crew members as they walked past.  It was the cutest thing ever.  She was like the rock star baby of the flight.  Even the baggage people were amazed at her happiness, particularly when we had to wait for an hour and a half for them to locate our bags upon our arrival in Paris (typical).

After a few train trips and a couple of wrong turns walking with our baggage, we FINALLY arrived at our Paris apartment.  And boy was it cute!  It’s the smallest of our apartments on this trip, but very French and very nice.  Unfortunately for us (actually, mostly just Brett) we were informed upon arrival that it was actually located on the third floor of the apartment building and there was only one way to get to it:

Needless to say, Brett wasn’t too thrilled.  Haha.

We arrived at 10am, and after a quick shower, we jumped right out into the action of the Marais district.  We LOVE this neighborhood.  Tons to do and see, lots of amazing restaurants, really neat buzz, and a lot of interesting locals.  I immediately found this hilariously awesome shop around the corner that sold all these quirky random things and decided that I just NEEDED to have a cake cutter/server that looked like a little red dog.  Because everyone needs a cake cutter/server that looks like a little red dog.  Duh.  His name is Filou and I will love him forever 🙂

Oh, by the way, that pretty rainbowy thing in the picture is one of my woven baby wraps.  Not only are we the insane people that bring a baby on a five week tour of France and Italy, but we are the REALLY insane people that are doing it without even bringing a stroller.  Blasphemy, you say?  Not at all!  🙂  We don’t really use a stroller at home (I’m obsessed with wraps and use them whenever we are out and for an hour or two around the house every day while I clean) so I figured we wouldn’t need one here either.  Best decision EVER.  I seriously can’t imagine trying to maneuver a stroller around these teeny tiny narrow cobblestone streets.  It would be a nightmare.  And we don’t have to even think about Delilah’s nap schedule at all.  As soon as she’s tired, I just tuck her little head in the wrap and she’s asleep in five seconds.  They are full of awesomeness on every level.

Anywho, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.  The rest of our first day, we decided to wander over to Notre Dame.  I forgot how amazingly beautiful this church is.  The intricate designs over such a massive building are seriously astounding.  No wonder it took 182 years to build!  I particularly like that all the little gargoyles look different than the next.  There must be a thousand of them and they are all unique!  We are looking a little tired here, but I guess after forty hours with little to no sleep, that’s to be expected 😉

Delilah is looking exhausted here…

Still looking tired…

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, she’s out.  LOL.  And she wasn’t the only one.  Shortly after this, we headed back to the apartment and crashed at about 7pm.  So weird to go to sleep when it was so light out, considering that it’s winter in Sydney right now and dark by 5pm.  Yay for summer!

We were awoken the next morning ridiculously bright and early (like 3:30am bright and early) by a very awake little baby who wasn’t quite used to the time difference yet.  And oh my goodness, was she happy.  Happiest baby EVER.  This baby is going to be a travel bug, just like her mama.  I don’t think she stopped smiling the entire day.  She is just ecstatically delighted to be in Paris, I think!  😉

We headed out to the Champs Elysees and walked and walked until we reached the amazing Arc de Triomphe.  The weather was absolutely FANTASTIC and the perfect day for lots of walking.  Delilah must have found the Champs Elysees boring, because she slept through the entire thing.  We’ll give her a few years before she discovers shopping…I think it may have more of a draw for her then 😉  Apparently the Arc de Triomphe is much more exciting because she woke right up as soon as we reached it.

Here we are standing at the end of the Champs Elysees…

And here’s the beautiful Arc de Triomphe!

We couldn’t get over how huge it was once standing underneath it.  It’s only 50 meters high, but it looks about five times that size.  Brett kept babbling about how he could kick a football further than the height of the monument.  LOL.  All of the details underneath are astonishingly beautiful.  Delilah was particularly amazed.  She kept looking around and laughing.

(Oh, and PS…that adorable sun hat that I spent forever trying to find lasted about five seconds before she ripped it off and threw it on the ground.  I probably should have found one with a tie under the chin, huh?  You live, you learn, I guess!)

It was just such a gorgeous day that we decided to walk all the way to the Eiffel Tower.  On the way, we were serenaded by Delilah’s babbling and squealing, which made even the most serious Parisian smile as they passed us by.

We also came across this gorgeous little park with grass and little white flowers, so I decided to seize the moment and take Delilah’s 7 month pictures.  Here are my two fav’s:

(In case anyone is in desperate need of seeing them all, they are on my photography blog: http://www.erinelizabethphotographyblog.com).

We continued on our way toward the tower…and then suddenly, there it was!  And it was just as beautiful as I’d remembered.

We decided to have a little mini picnic of candied peanuts and 7up in the park underneath the tower.  There were all sorts of adorable French schoolkids running around yelling things in adorable French accents.  I told Delilah I wouldn’t mind if she had an accent like that when she starts talking, but I think she’s going to insist on sounding like an Aussie.  Here are a few little picnic snapshots:

Accidentally cut Brett’s face off in this one, but the two glamour queens are looking fab, so that’s all that matters, right?  😉

By this point, we’d been out for about five hours, so we decided to head back to the apartment for the night.  Delilah was quite obviously down for the count as soon as we hit the metro station.

Today we were hit a bit harder with jet lag exhaustion, so we decided to keep things a bit more low key.  We hung around the apartment for the morning, snacking on amazingly delicious croissants with berry jam.  Yummo!  We finally headed out around lunchtime to a very highly regarded falafel place (I’m obsessed with falafel!) and found that they were so huge that we needed to come back to the apartment to eat them without making a giant mess.  Haha.

Then it was off to the Louvre!  We got all the way there, wandered around the famous glass pyramid, marveled over the building, and then decided we didn’t really want to go inside all that much.  LOL!  So instead we walked all around the buildings and made our way to Concorde.  Here we are at the glass pyramid:

Having a Daddy cuddle before we head off for our walk:

And taking a rest stop on one of the beautiful stone benches in the park:

All in all, a very good day!

We still have a few things we’d like to do in Paris, but we saved them for the very end of our trip, when we’ll be with Mom, Dad, and Caitlin.  Can’t wait to see them!

We head to Nice tomorrow morning, so stay tuned for the Nice edition in a few days  🙂

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