Wishbonedreams Turns Two!

WordPress kindly reminded me that my blog turned two last month. Last year I was so excited and so aware when my blog turned one, that I did a whole reflective post and stats on my first year which you can read here.

This year, I was thinking it would be fun to reflect on my very first blog post, which you can find here Four Girls, a Road Trip & Camping. Two years ago myself and three girlfriends (the same three I was in Italy with), decided to road trip up to Oregon and go camping. And not some like comfy camping – I mean don’t get me wrong we had bathrooms and showers – but we also did good old tent camping. It was a lot of fun, but in reflecting on the post I realize how much my blog has changed. I’m still trying to figure out what the niche is – is this blog a travel blog? Not really. I travel, and occasionally share it on the blog, but that’s not it’s main focus. Is my blog about beauty products and outfits? At times I focus on those things, but not all the time. Is my blog about women empowerment and inspiration? Sometimes! The point here is that I still haven’t determined what this blog is supposed to be like, but people seem to enjoy it so I just write about whatever it is I’m feeling.

When I think back on the time I wrote my first blog, I had just changed jobs and was no longer doing executive communications. I was worried that my need to write wouldn’t be satisfied after removing that part of my daily work, so the blog was something to fill that void. It has definitely done it’s job! So much has changed since then! I am no longer working in that position, or at that company for that matter. I have traveled so much more since then – Italy, Mexico, all over the U.S. – and my relationships during that time have evolved, or gone away all together – both good things if you ask me 🙂 But what I’ve realized the most and appreciate the most is everyone who reads this little blog, and though I don’t always know how people are feeling about it, occasionally I’ll see someone I haven’t seen in a while and they’ll tell me how much they love reading my blog, and that is the reason I keep doing it! I enjoy it, it’s a way for me to express my feelings or share my experiences, but ultimately I love hearing that people enjoy it. For me, that’s the point.

I’m keeping this one short and sweet because really this is to say THANKS to the people who take the time read my little blog when it posts. Life gets hard sometimes and doing this makes me happy, and so I hope that reading it makes you all happy and relieves a little bit of the madness that life provides.

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How to Pack for a Work Trip Like a Pro

When I took my new job I knew that there would be some travel involved. What I didn’t realize was just how much travel. Since the end of March I have traveled to Austin, Orlando, Chicago, New Orleans and San Diego – five different cities and four different states (I live in California), all within a four week period. That’s a lot right? As you can imagine, I had to figure out the best way to pack for these trips, because not only am I out on the exhibit floor but there are always activities during the evening at these things as well. With that said, I had to take to my list-making skills and really plan out what I was going to wear and when.

I gave up on the idea of only taking a carry-on. It’s not worth the stress of trying to put a week’s worth of clothes into a tiny bag, so eliminating that right off the bat was very helpful. I realize that many people only ever want to take a carry-on and by all means I feel that way a lot of the time, but for work it just made more sense to take a bigger bag. Anyway, I figured I would list here the process I use for packing. I realize other people probably have a more efficient way of doing this, but this really keeps me organized.

  1. I scroll through my Pinterest account for outfit inspiration. I used to do this the night before work every day (before I was working from home), and would frequently find cute outfits that I could put together just from looking at some of my style boards on Pinterest.
  2. I make a list of the outfit that I’ve been inspired by.
  3. Then I make a packing list that will include all of the pieces that I am planning to pull, in addition to things like underwear and pajamas.
  4. Pull the pieces from my closet and try them on. This is important…there have been times where I have packed something that I was certain would look great on, only to find out at the hotel that I was very, very wrong. So, now I always try it on first before I pack it.
  5. Take a photo of it once it’s on. Sometimes once I’ve tried it on and packed it, I get to the hotel and think, ‘what the heck did I pack this to go with?’ So, to avoid that, I will take a photo of the outfit I tried on so that I can reference it once I’m in the hotel.
  6. Shoes! Be strategic with shoes. Try to pack a shoe that will go with more than one of your outfits.
  7. Jackets – I try my best to wear the one jacket I’ll want on my trip, one the airplane – that way it takes up less room in my bag.
  8. Throw some dryer sheets in with your clothes! It will keep them smelling fresh. Isn’t that the oddest thing? I pack clean clothes, pull them out after half a day of travel and boom, they don’t smell clean!
  9. I always, always unpack completely once I’m in the hotel room. I used to not do this…I would literally live out of my suitcase and not unpack anything, but now that I’m traveling more for work it’s essential to unpack especially for those pieces that will get wrinkled during travel in your suitcase.
  10. Roll you clothes. I’m sure most people already do this, as I’ve been doing it myself for sometime – especially when I packed 10 days work of clothes for an Italy trip into an international sized carry-on.

That’s my list! I hope you find it helpful. I do have some new ideas though that I’m going to try out for one of my next trips for sure. For example, I keep seeing things about packing cubes. It’s supposed to keep things compact and organized – definitely something I’m going to look into purchasing. I also read that packing your socks and undergarments in a small reusable cloth bag helps with organization as well. Given that we use reusable bags for everything I’m definitely looking forward to trying that. Especially because I’m notorious for throwing all of my dirty clothes in the dry cleaning bag and separating them from my leftover clean clothes when I travel home. And another thing…I have yet to find a suitcase that I just love, so that is definitely on my list for future purchase, so if anyone has recommendations let me know!

Until next time folks!

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My Favorite Things About Spring

I decided I wanted to write a post about my favorite things about Spring because I feel like as I’ve gotten older I’ve despised Spring for a couple of different reasons.

  1. Allergies – I never had this problem growing up, unlike my brother Chris who suffered horribly growing up. But as an adult, holy crap it’s awful. It seems the only thing that works for me is Flonase, and even that I can only do every other day because it gives me nose bleeds. I mean, it’s a beautiful time of year but it wreaks havoc on my allergies.
  2. The weather is unpredictable – rain one day, 75 degrees another, 45 degree mornings and then 70 degrees mid-day. I know, I know, dress in layers…but come on!

So, those are a couple of things I don’t like about Spring, BUT there are many more great things than bad so I thought I’d round them up.

  1. Though the weather is crazy and unpredictable, when we do have those 75 degree days, and almost warm evenings it’s a hint of summer nights to come and it always gives me a nostalgic feeling of summer evenings when I was a teenager.
  2. Some of my favorite holidays are during the Spring and Summer. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my birthday, mom’s birthday, countless friends have birthdays during these months as well – it’s just a time to celebrate others.
  3. Travel! I seem to travel more during these Spring and early Summer months. It’s a good time to get out of town and hangout by a pool.
  4. Mani and pedi colors move into those bright happy colors (at least for me), not so much of the purple, black and reds, but bright and light pinks, and pedicures are more frequent 🙂
  5. Concerts! I’m a huge music lover and it’s the time that music festivals, and summer tours are beginning to launch. This year, just like last, I will kick-off summer with the BottleRock Music Festival in Napa over memorial weekend.
  6. That’s the other thing! 3-day weekends! We go from having a ton of time off during the holidays to just trudging through the workdays and weeks. The warmer months introduce 3-day weekends a plenty.
  7. Your skin warms up and if you’re like me, so does your hair! I’m pretty fair complexion, and as I get older and freak out about being in the sun, I am gradually whiter and whiter every winter (hahah) but the natural warmth your skin color takes on during the warmer months is always nice, and naturally my highlights grow a little brighter too.
  8. It’s lighter out longer! Does anyone else agree that it should always be light out until 7pm? I mean, it just lightens everyone’s mood! Though, don’t get me wrong, I feel like it takes me 3 months to get used to losing an hour, but it’s worth it!
  9. There are baby animals everywhere! Little baby birds, baby squirrels – it’s the cutest and how can you not appreciate Spring for that one thing alone?
  10. Everything is green! If you get enough rain – which we hadn’t in many years – but have in the last couple, then you have a tiny bit of time to enjoy rolling green hills before they quickly turn brown during the summer months. It’s not long, but it’s enjoyable while it’s here.
  11. No more being sick! I mean, a spring or summer cold is still common, but bye bye flu season and all that other nasty stuff that is floating around during the winter months.
  12. Windows can stay open all day and night! I have to admit, I’m one of those people who will leave my windows open even just a crack until I can barely stand the cold any longer, so when you can leave them open all day and night for that spring/summer fresh air it’s amazing!
  13. Outside activities…and I don’t mean running, biking etc. outside, I mean one of my favorite outdoor activities which is wine tasting. I live very close to wine country that I think only locals know about (Livermore Valley), and it is one of my favorite things to do. Granted, I will go wine tasting whether it’s storming rain or not, but it’s so nice to pack a lunch and sit on the grass in the sunshine, drink your wine and visit with friends and family. Day drinking anyone?
  14. BASEBALL! I’m a huge Oakland Athletics fan (you read that right, I live in the Bay Area and I am NOT a Giants fan, it’s all about how you’re raised right?) Anyway, Spring indicates that baseball is back and whether you’re heading to Spring training in Florida or Arizona (which I’ve done many times), it means opening day is around the corner, and there is nothing more relaxing to me then sitting in the ballpark on a mild evening or a warm spring day and watching some good old baseball, drinking a beer and eating a hot dog.
  15. It’s wedding and baby season! I have to admit, this is the first year in a long time that I don’t have a wedding to attend this spring, but there’s plenty of babies being born! I guess that’s how it works, right? Weddings galore in your twenties, and then booth the babies start like 5-10 years later. Either way, it’s a reason to see friends and again, celebrate!

What are some of your favorite things about Spring? I’d love to read them!

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The Closet Challenge: Weekend Roundup-Weeks 11 & 12

Hi all! Again – a little behind here. Things have been crazy busy – both in work and in my personal life. I  had a lot of traveling both for work and pleasure last month which is shared on my Instagram – so if you aren’t already following Wishbonedreams definitely check it out. There you can see my daily outfits posts, as well as any travel I’ve been up to.

My brother got married on Saturday, September 30. I was in the wedding so as you can imagine that was quite a busy time as well. Below are the outfits from the last couple of weeks as well as some of my travels 🙂

Top photos are from my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding at Cerruti Cellars in Oakland, CA, Sqauw Valley Oktoberfest, the Madonna Inn and a selfie during a work roadshow in San Luis Obispo. Busy Busy!

Don’t mind the complete chaos of a mess in the background. On my major to-do list this week, now that I have a free weekend for the first time in 5 or 6 weeks! For the closet clutter part of this, I came across a couple of tops recently that I wore once, maybe twice at the most, probably a handful of years ago. Tried them on and immediately remembered why I never wear them. So, I caught myself hanging it back on the hanger and in the closet and thought to myself, what the heck am I doing? So, I took it off of the hanger, grabbed a bag and tossed it in the bag. I now have what I like to think of as an “active” donation bag. So, as I come across things that I don’t like to wear, don’t fit, or simply isn’t my style anymore, I can just toss it in the bag. So far, there are two blouses and two pairs of pants in the bag!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a quieter October full of pumpkins spiced everything and hopefully cooler weather!

Happy decluttering!

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Why Are Some People Meant to Cross Your Path?

Why are some people meantto cross your path-Why do some people cross our paths? Especially the ones who are here for a fleeting moment and then really, you’ll probably never see them again? I realize that for some of our relationships we know EXACTLY why that person was part of our lives – especially romantic relationships, friendships etc., but I continually have people enter my life for a very, very short amount of time. I find that these encounters seem to leave the biggest impact.

I’ve always thought that it’s meant to teach me something, right? I must have needed this person to enter my life at that very moment, right? It’s hard to know right away; if ever at all. I have experienced this more than a few times. It’s usually when my guard is down, I’m either on vacation or out and about doing something – distracted and not thinking about normal life stuff. These people enter my life, create a connection that I can’t say I have with anyone else, and as quickly as they enter, they’re gone. Sure, there’s FB and IG to stay connected (which helps with the sudden sadness you feel once you say goodbye to that person), but it often takes time to recover from the interaction and connection you felt.

I love meeting good people. People who have amazing personalities, they’re smart, respectful, funny, and just have a genuinely kind heart. I get too caught up in the rat race that is my commute everyday (and where I happen to be writing these very words), to a city I’ve come to try to avoid if I’m not working, to a  job that I enjoy but I’m unsure whether it’s my absolute calling, and then BOOM someone walks in and kind of flips a switch. You see things a little differently, from a different perspective and you realize maybe this isn’t what it’s all supposed to be about?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I usually meet these amazing people when I’m on vacation. I have less worry, I’m in a better head space, and I’m more open to receive the good and let people in. I’m more open to be myself, smile more (a big one for me as I have a tendency to look VERY serious a lot of the time), and I’m just generally open for someone to engage with me. It’s become the thing I love the most about traveling. These people I meet are meant to touch my life at that particular moment (for whatever reason that may be), and me for them.

The downside, and the thing I don’t like about it is how empty it makes me feel when I have to say goodbye. It can actually be very sad. It’s like having this happy ray of sunshine that made you feel so warm and happy covered by a rain cloud. You’re left with this feeling of desperation to capture it again, but a few days go by and you’re back to your normal days, friends, lives and you slowly forget what that felt like.  The only thing I can say about this is to try your hardest to remember how good that feeling “feels,” and when you aren’t feeling so great think back on how amazing that was. It helps, it really does.

I often grapple with the reality that it’s clear that person wasn’t supposed to be a large part of my life, but they somehow left the biggest impression on me. I used to think I was the only one who got emotionally attached to someone’s genuine spirit upon first meeting them – and this goes for both men and women. I’ve had amazing connections with people who I have maybe met once or twice in my life. It’s like they’re a part of me – it’s a strange feeling. Most recently, someone made me realize it doesn’t just happen to me. It was reciprocated this time, so it felt differently – and maybe it’s been reciprocated in the past and I just didn’t know it – regardless, it impacted me.

I’ve read things about soulmates and how someone can have more than one in their lifetime. I used to think that was a bunch of garbage, but the more I travel and meet people from different places and different walks of life, I realize that those people who touch me and impact me so significantly are probably part of those many soulmates we all have out there just waiting to make that connection with us. And soulmates are in the form of both men and women. I think often times we think of a “soulmate” as the person we are meant to be with romantically. I personally don’t think that is the case. I feel like I’m sounding too “gypsy soul” right now, but it keeps happening to me. People need to feel connected to feel loved and alive, and we don’t always get that in our day-to-day, so when you experience a new place, somewhere beautiful, and you experience it with someone who starts out as a total stranger only to connect and have a great conversation, it’s hard to not think that person was sent to you for a reason. I like to think these people are sent to me in order to help me remember that I still have the ability to connect on that level, and that I can still feel loved and alive.

I’ve had long lasting friendships from almost everywhere I have traveled: Hawaii, Mexico, Las Vegas, Arizona…you name it. With most of the folks I’ve met on vacation I’ve been able to stay connected, and even visit some of them! The connections with these people are very real, and they’re very different than some of the connections I have with my closest family and friends, and for that I’m grateful. I am also thankful that I have the opportunity to travel, to be open enough to meet these wonderful people, and to be aware enough of the impact it has on me as a person, my life, and my world.

I’m sure some of these wonderful people I have met are reading this blog entry right now, so I thank you for enriching my life and making it just a tad bit more enjoyable!

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The Blog Turns One!

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It’s been a year since I started my blog! It flew by so fast so I thought it would be fun to share some blogging highlights from the past year. WordPress has some fantastic built in metrics and numbers to track. One of my favorites is the map that highlights all of the countries where people have read your blog!

Blog stats map

My blog has been viewed in 25 different countries! I think that is probably the coolest part about this experience is the ability to touch people as far away as Bahrain!

Some other highlights are listed below:

Top 5 most viewed blog entries

  1. Italy Adventures: Rome Edition
  2. 10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me
  3. Italy Adventures: Florence Edition
  4. Italy Adventures: Venice & Pisa Edition
  5. Italy Adventures: Tuscany Edition

I have to say, the travel blog entries having the most visits doesn’t surprise me. When I first started exploring the idea of having a blog I kept reading that there is so much pressure to decide what your niche is. It actually stressed me out so much that I almost didn’t launch the blog, however the more I read the more I found that some bloggers start out with a particular topic or niche in mind, and end up evolving and changing. So, I decided I would just write about the fun things going on in my life and see where it goes from there. What I found is that my travel blog entries received the most feedback and the most views. Now, if only I could figure out how to travel more often so I can share my stories with all of you?!

The one blog entry, that is a close contender to the number one most viewed (and comes as a huge surprise to me), is the “10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me.” When I wrote that I was in a bit of a writing rut and thought that it could be fun to share, and maybe some people might be interested, but I had no idea it would receive so many views! The beauty of having these insights is the positive reinforcement of what I’m sharing with everyone. If you like it, then I’ll continue to share it!

Total number of views

My blog has been viewed a total number of 425 times! This kind of blows my mind. While I realize that some professional bloggers out there have millions of views, and this may seem like chump change, it actually warms my heart. I really thought maybe 50 people would read my blog, so I’m grateful for those who have taken the time to read it, and humbled by it as well.

This entry is a bit short and sweet, but what I really want to say is thank you to everyone who reads my stuff! Writing is a passion of mine – always has been – so to have the opportunity to write for people (and that you all actually READ it) is a dream come true for me. So, THANK YOU!

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Italy Adventures: Rome Edition

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Disclaimer – Rome was one of my favorite cities we visited while in Italy. Everyone has asked me which city was my favorite and it was a close tie between Rome and Venice. However, we did spend more time in Rome than we did in Venice so maybe Rome has the advantage…

From Florence we hopped on an early morning train headed for Rome. We had a fantastic, modern apartment located smack in the middle of the city. Rome is extremely walkable in general, but where we were staying was absolutely perfect. We hopped in an Uber from the train station and I was instantly struck by the opposites of things visually. Here we were in a bustling city full of people rushing to get to work and school, and cars zooming by and yet on every corner was a ruin – and oh there’s the Colosseum…just there in all it’s glory! It hit my senses in such an interesting way. I was intrigued by the beauty of it, and the oddness of feeling like you were driving through a museum placed inside a modern day city.

Once we checked into the apartment we all got a little more settled and set out to walk a bit and find somewhere to eat before our Vatican Museum reservation at 1pm. Another tidbit from Stephanie that we were grateful for – ALWAYS make a reservation for the Vatican Museum – you can do it online and it’s super easy. The line is atrocious to get in without tickets. Stephanie went back to the apartment to relax as she had already been through the Vatican Museum, so Diana, Stephanie and myself made our way to the museum, bought the guided audio tour and set out.

I was extremely excited about the Vatican Museum – and honestly I thought that was going to be the place where I would have my art history “aha” moment – but as I mentioned in previous blogs it was in Florence seeing the David for the first time – so I was definitely curious to see how this would differ. The Vatican Museums are the museums of the Vatican City and are located within the city’s boundaries. They display works from the immense collection built up by the Popes throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important master pieces of Renaissance art in the world – and of course the Sistine Chapel. The museums contain roughly 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display (and the way my feet felt at the end of the day – I think we saw all 20,000!) There are 54 galleries in total and is one of the largest museums in the world.

You start the tour of the museum with the Gregorian Egyptian Museum which was founded on the initiative of Pope Gregory XVI in 1839. I don’t know what I was expecting right off the bat, but I guess not Egyptian art and artifacts. Nonetheless it definitely channeled memories from being in 5th and 6th grade when I think my teacher was obsessed with Egyptian art, history and all that goes along with it. I distinctly remember doing a TON of work related to Egyptians and Egyptian life so this was cool to walk into and for me, unexpected.

The collection is particularly interesting because of it’s relationship with the territory – rich in material from Roman Egypt and from Egyptian-influenced Rome. That was a light bulb moment for me – and something new I had just learned. Many of the monuments were brought to Rome at the behest of the emperor in order to embellish buildings, shrines and villas. There were also a number of Egyptian works of Roman production, which offered evidence of an important moment in history of pharaonic culture. The other rooms included epigraphic artifacts, funerary customs of Ancient Egypt and so on. I highly recommend poking through the Vatican Museum’s website – it was just redone this year and is a lot of fun to look through: http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en.html.

Kelly and I spent 4 1/2 hours in the Vatican Museum! I don’t think that I have ever spent that much time in one museum – close, but not quite!

To see more photos from our trip, follow my Instagram: Wishbonedreams

That night we went to a cute little pizza place that our Airbnb host had recommended – by the way, I ordered a fried pizza. Yes, a fried pizza! It was like instead of baking a calzone, they fried it. It was divine! All of our feet were killing us so instead of going out that night we bought a yummy bottle of wine (3 euros – can’t go wrong with that!) and stayed in.

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The notorious fried pizza

We had an early start the next morning as Kelly and I were going to visit the Colosseum and then we were planning to meet up with Stephanie and Diana for a walking tour of Rome. I think I’ve mentioned before that the “free” walking tours are free – but you are expected to tip your tour guide. We decided on a tour that included the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Temple of Adrian, Pantheon and Piazza Navona. I’m so glad we did this tour because it really saves you a lot of time, especially if you’re trying to navigate and not get lost. We had a fantastic tour guide who’s knowledge was out of this world. It made me feel like I was in one of my art history classes, and made me a little jealous that I’m not living a less stressful life guiding tours in beautiful Rome 🙂

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From left: Diana, Kelly, Nikki (me!), and Stephanie! AKA best travel buds ever!

We walked around quite a bit more, found a delicious restaurant with fantastic pasta and pizza (Stephanie had a potato pizza and it was amazing!) Potato pizza? Seemed like a weird concept to me, but it was fantastic! We then decided to try a bakery right next door called ZUM Roma. This was quite literally the cutest little shop I’ve ever been in, AND had the best tiramisu I have EVER had. You get a choice of the traditional recipe or a host of their other flavors (you name it, they’ve got it), and then you can sit down in the trendy designed café. ZUM Roma is named after the main ingredients, zucchero (sugar), uovo (egg), and mascarpone. We timed it just right and were able to see one of the professionals at work in their open kitchen.

ZUM Roma Tiramisu – amazing!

After we had full bellies we headed back toward the Colosseum where Kelly and I wanted to walk through the Roman Forum (since it was part of our Colosseum ticket as well), and Diana and Stephanie were going to break off and check out the Colosseum on their own.

Colosseum Fun!

Roman Forum

We continued with more souvenir shopping and went back to the apartment to get ready for dinner. We decided since it was our last night in Rome that we would go to a nice dinner. The restaurant we chose was in a really cute part of  Rome – and the funny thing is that everywhere we went for dinner we were like, “Wow, this place is empty.” We had to keep reminding ourselves that Italians eat dinner much later than we do. So by the time we were done eating, the places was PACKED. Anyway, we had some very handsome waiters so we asked them where we should go to grab a couple of drinks. They were very sweet in thinking that we would want an American bar. So, unbeknownst to us we walked into an American bar in Rome!! It was quite funny, but we were also the oldest folks in the crowd (it clearly catered to American exchange students). So, with that we bar hopped some more and then headed back to the apartment as we were headed out to catch the first train back to Florence early the next morning.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Rome was definitely one of my favorite cities. It’s just plain beautiful to see, and everything is walking distance! Stay tuned for the next edition which will cover our Tuscany adventures!

Ciao!

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Italy Adventures: Venice and Pisa Edition

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I’m so excited that my last post about our adventures in Florence was so well received! It was my most viewed post to-date so I thank you all for reading it!

As promised, I have the next edition of our Italy adventures. I decided to put Venice and Pisa together because these were two locations we spent the least amount of time visiting – though believe me Venice I thought was breathtaking.

We got up very early to catch a train to Venice. Our plan was to get there as early as possible and then catch the last train home that evening. Venice is everything you see in movies. The grand canal runs through the little city, there’s gondolas, and sweet couples holding hands, and people trying to sell you selfie sticks (but that’s neither here nor there). Anyway, it was also one of our warmer days given that the average temperature was in the high 40’s throughout a majority of our trip until that point. So, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were really excited to be in Venice!

Stephanie is a fantastic “tour guide” so to speak. She had already been everywhere we were going on this trip so we got to benefit from what she had learned on previous visits. So, we followed her as we wound through all the little alleyways that make up Venice. Stephanie is basically the trip adviser queen and always found us the absolute best places to eat. She had found us a highly recommended little walk-up pasta window. It was amazing! You literally choose your pasta, sauce, and additional toppings (ummm cheese and more cheese please!). Then you wait for them to call your number and you get this to-go container (similar to what you would put Chinese takeout in) filled with pasta! Oh, it was amazing. Venice was also the fist place I finally tried gelato (because it finally wasn’t FREEZING outside) – and it was everything everyone had told me it would be. Quite divine!

We made sure to make our way to St. Mark’s Basilica. St. Mark’s Basilica is the Cathedral Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city’s cathedral since 1802, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. For it’s opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and it’s status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the the 11th century on the building has been known by the nickname, “Church of Gold.”

The outside of St. Mark’s Basilica and the square itself is very impressive, but walking inside the cathedral was a whole other thing. It was remarkable and inspiring. It almost seemed as if it was a being – a living thing. I don’t know how else to explain the energy that is connected to that place (especially given that I was not brought up with much of a religious background). Either way, if you appreciate history, whether art or religion you would be moved by the beauty inside of that cathedral.

Once we wrapped things up at St. Mark’s Square (and ensured that poor Stephanie was not going to be attacked by a pigeon), we set off to look for a gondola! The gondola ride was on everyone’s to-do list – I mean how could you take your first trip to Venice and not take a ride on a gondola?

I have to say it was pretty cool – only once we were in the wide open of the grand canal did Diana inform us that she was a little freaked out about being in open water like that…luckily we weren’t out there for very long! We rode through all the little lagoons surrounded by hotels, restaurants and what I’m guessing were people’s apartments. It was a really cool experience and quite impressive that there was one person commandeering the entire boat with an oar!

After our gondola ride we decided to walk around and do some shopping. Up until that point I hadn’t bought any souvenirs for anyone and I definitely had a bit of a list. So, we did some shopping, bought some great little things for my nieces and my mom and decided to stop and grab a couple of drinks before we needed to head back to the train station. Well, one drink turned into like 4 and pretty soon we were taking pictures with the bar owner and running as fast as we could to just barely catch our train!

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Venice had definitely been a successful day trip, though I think I would have liked to have stayed the night, grab dinner and some more drinks and just overall spend a little bit more time in there. It seemed like such a different little city once it was dark and everything was lit up.

We took another quick day trip to Pisa. Stephanie had mentioned that there was really only a couple of things to see in Pisa (leaning tower of course), and that we only needed a couple of hours. It was judgment calls like that I was grateful for because I would have never known that and very well could have wasted an entire day there when I could have been exploring something else. Anyway, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is quite a site! You don’t see it at first when you get off the train, and it’s just a short walk from the train station. But then, all of a sudden there it is! Standing so strangely crooked! It almost seems like it’s fake!

The learning tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower which is known worldwide for it’s unintended tilt. It is situated behind Pisa’s cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city’s cathedral square. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

We did the VERY typical thing and posed as if we were holding the leaning tower up ourselves – and I almost had a heart attack when Kelly decided to STAND on the post to get an even better photo. I was slightly afraid she was going fall on the grass that specifically had a sign letting us know to stay OFF of the grass. Nonetheless it was a lot of fun and site to see that’s for sure!

We wrapped up in Pisa, and as per usual were running to the train station in order to not miss our ride back to Florence.

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Italy Adventures – in ROMA!

Ciao!

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Italy Adventures – Florence Edition

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January was a very quiet month for me when it came to blogging, and that was in part because I was in Italy for a good part of the month! I made sure to take notes to share with all of you, and I have SO much that I decided to break each blog post into the cities we visited – so as the title indicates, this is the Florence edition!

Where do I start?! This trip had been a dream of mine since I sat down in my community college art class at the age of 18 and realized I was actually in an art history class. From that moment my life changed. I found an appreciation for art in a way I didn’t know existed. I come from a family of very creative and artistic people, so to sit in a classroom and look at slides of pieces of artwork and learn that way was foreign to me. But I embraced it, and I LOVED it.

This Italy trip had been planned for well over 6 months and the thing that initiated the adventure was our world traveler friend who had embarked on her own adventure by moving to Florence to go to pastry school (I still tell her she’s the bravest person I know for taking such a leap into a new country and a new skill). So, like any true friends we HAD to plan a visit to see her. Also, you may remember this particular group of friends as being featured in my very first blog post which outlined our adventures in camping in Oregon.

Kelly and myself (Diana was on a different flight), departed San Francisco for Italy on January 15th for what has been now my longest flight ever (10.5 hours!). Luckily, we were taking off around 4 pm and would hopefully sleep most of it. We landed at Heathrow Airport in London 10.5 hours later a little groggy and hungry. We had a 3 hour layover which was perfect for Kelly and I to walk a bit and get ourselves together. We then boarded a smaller shorter flight to Bologna, Italy, then a short bus ride and a train ride later we found ourselves in Florence! Seeing Stephanie and Diana’s smiling faces was amazing! They were waiting for us at the train station in Florence, and away our trip began!

While walking to Stephanie’s apartment, and looking around I thought to myself “holy smokes, I’m in Italy – a place I have ALWAYS wanted to visit. I can’t believe I’m here!” It was everything I expected, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways, little compact cars flying by, coffee shops and little restaurants up and down the streets and on every corner. It was every picturesque thought I had given Italy. We grabbed a late dinner and then walked to a little pub near Stephanie’s apartment. And wouldn’t you know, snow began falling! It wasn’t much, and I would call it snow flurries more than actually snowing, but it was sweet and quite special!

The next day, we got up and headed to the Galleria dell’Accademia to check out some art and see Michelangelo’s David. I knew that I would have a “moment” at some point while looking at the art work we were going to see. I think I’ve mentioned in previous postings, that if I hadn’t majored in communications I definitely would have been an art history major. So, I anticipated that this trip would make some of my art history dreams come true, but I hadn’t really anticipated how seeing some of these pieces were going to make me feel.

When we walked into the museum it took me right back to the days of learning about the Renaissance era. Kelly and I wandered our way through the museum, taking our time (Stephanie and Diana were meandered together), and I was just taking in all the beauty, telling myself to enjoy it, be as present in the moment as possible, and appreciate every last second of it – because while it may sound corny, this really was the trip of a lifetime.

As we moved through the museum we entered Michelangelo’s section where there were a number of his incomplete sculptures. I was trying to determine where I wanted to start, so I looked to my left, and then over to my right. I had Kelly by my side, when I looked to the right and saw Michelangelo’s David. All I could say, breathlessly was, “There it is.” It was quite literally the only thing I could get out of my mouth, and not cry. I wanted to cry? So, this was going to be my “moment.” It hadn’t even occurred to me that seeing the statue of David would have such an impact on me. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It by and far exceeds all expectations, and it is the most amazing depiction of the human body. To see something in person that you have seen recreated in so many ways, studied and written papers on, taken exams on and to have it right in front of you…there are no words, well other than “There it is.”

It was one of those moments where something you never thought you’d see in your lifetime happens, and it’s halting. It stops you in your tracks, and nothing seems to be around you. I felt like I was having that moment by myself with no one else around me (which was definitely not the case, as there were easily 50-75 people sharing the same experience as me). But, that piece of artwork, that piece of history and piece of time was right there standing in front of me. It truly was priceless.

Here’s a little history on Michelangelo’s David. The David stands 17 feet tall made of marble. The statue represents the biblical hero David, a favored subject in the art of Florence. It was originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roof line of the east end of the Florence Cathedral, instead the statue was placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo dell Signoria, which is the seat of civic government in Florence (a replica of the David stands there today!)

Because the nature of the hero is represented by this statue, it soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Republic of Florence, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici family. Michelangelo was asked to complete an unfinished project which had begun 40 years earlier by Agostino di Duccio. Michelangelo responded by completing his most famous work in 1504. The masterwork definitively established his prominence as a sculptor of extraordinary technical skill and strength of symbolic imagination.

Everyone has asked me what my favorite part of the trip was, and that by and far was it. The rest of our days were spent climbing the Duomo and walking more around Florence, through the leather markets, and eating gelato, drinking wine and eating some more (we were averaging 20,000 steps a day!) We took a walking tour in Florence that concentrated on the Medici family – while he had already seen many of the buildings our tour guide pointed out, it was still interesting to hear some context around it. For those who don’t know, the Medici family was an Italian banking family, political dynasty and later a royal house that first began to gather prominence in the Republic of Florence during the first half of the 15th century. Their wealth and influence initially derived from the textile trade. Like other signore (or lord) families, they dominated their city’s government, they were able to bring Florence under their family’s powers, and they created an environment where art and humanism could flourish. They, along with other families of Italy fostered and inspired the birth of the Italian Renaissance.

We spent a couple of more days in Florence where we generally did a lot of the same thing – walked around, took a lot of photos, and mastered being a tourist with our wonderful guide Stephanie!

Stay tuned for the next edition – Venice!

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