Cusco!

Cusco was a beautiful city! Tucked in the mountains with fresh air and blue doors all around. Although our thighs definitely got a work out 🙂 We stayed at the top of a large hill and were definitely out of breath making the hike up while we adjusted to the altitude. Overall though, Cusco was a bit of a mixed bag for us since Dan and I both got pretty ill. We tried to make the best of it, but it’s never fun to be sick while traveling. Luckily our hotel was super comfortable! Cusco’s Hilton Garden Inn was nicer than most Hiltons and such a great price.

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We spent a lot of time just walking around and soaking things in. We did try alpaca, which was delicious and super lean, but avoided the guinea pigs roasted on a stick 😉 Cicciolina was certainly all it was hyped up to be- the menu in the bar area is tapas style, so we were able to try a bunch and loved it all. Marcela Batata was also killer! One day we toured around with a local and ate lunch in Sacred Valley at a woman’s home. The food was simple and delicious but  pretty sure that’s where I picked up the food poisoning… there were guinea pigs running around the dirt floor of the kitchen. Still considered it worth it to see just a tiny slice of life in the area. We also tried some homemade chicha from a road side chicheria, which is beer made out of corn. And of course, you’ve got to love the $10 massages and women holding baby “alpacas” hoping you’ll pay for a picture with them. They are actually lambs. Tricky! I also loved visiting Qorikancha- it was originally an Incan temple that the Spanish turned into a Catholic church.

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So glad we were able to spend several nights in this city. It really helped us adjust to the altitude as we prepared to hike to the Inca trail!

 

 

2 Years!

Man, already another year?! How can it be? This last year has been one for the books, for sure. Grateful for you and our marriage every. single. day. Now for an ode to Dan & the last year- sorry for everyone else who doesn’t find him as cute as I do 😉

 

Thanks for making me homemade pizza & bread & beer (should I just broaden it to culinary skills?). Thanks for taking selfies with me and only getting mildly irritated by snapchat. Thanks for building me things and helping me when I’m frustrated. Thanks for being so very smart. You’re the best and I love you!

Roma

ROME! Such a fantastic city. Love the history, love that it’s so walkable, love the food. Now the wine… not as good in Rome as it is in the rest of the country 😉 But you still can’t beat $10 table wine in Italy.

After our terribly long day of traveling from the Amalfi Coast, I was wiped out. Luckily, I got a burst of energy once we arrived at our VRBO rental. It was the best room we had the entire trip- maybe it was the A/C? No, definitely more than that. Lofty ceilings made of the original wood, from the 1600’s, smack in the middle of everything. The owner also left us a great map marked with his favorite spots. Charm was just oozing.
We started the night off with a walk around the neighborhood- we hit the Pantheon, the Torre Argentina (ruins where they think Caesar was killed- also a cat sanctuary), and the Piazza Navona, following up with pizza at Da Baffetto. 2 packed stories of deliciousness. They make the pizza right in the center of the restaurant- I can’t imagine how many they make in one night! Afterwards, we stopped for a drink and stood outside surrounded by Italian conversation. Languages are so beautiful.
It was pouring rain the morning we went to the Colosseum- I had wanted us to get there early to avoid the crowds. We definitely avoided the crowds, but I think it was mostly due to the rain. We donned our ponchos and had the place almost to ourselves 🙂 Luckily, the weather cleared up pretty quickly and we were able to leisurely enjoy the Roman Forum. I know I’ve said it a dozen times, but the history of this place!! Unreal.
Our second night in Italy was spent on a “Food Tour of Rome“. We went to several different neighborhoods, learning the history of Rome and tasting food at 7 different places. Meat, cheese, wine, pizza & pasta, cannoli, espresso, gelato (Cortona was the best gelato of the trip- so fresh). The company was great too! It was quite the the last hurrah. Our guide baffled me, since he grew up in Rome, but had a 100% American accent. Apparently he spent some time in Oregon post high school and worked extensively on losing the Italian accent when speaking English. It worked, but was amusing to hear him make the switch to speaking flawless Italian.
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Our last day was spent on foot, walking around the city. We started the day with a trip to the Vatican. We skipped the museum because I had gone a couple of years before, but we hadn’t actually gone into the Basilica. So glad we made it this trip because it  was overwhelmingly extravagant. We climbed (approximately one million steps) up to the top for a view of Rome, but my favorite part was seeing the dome of the church and the status on top, up close. The stairs are extremely narrow and fairly claustrophobic, so getting to the top was a breath of fresh air. Then, after we left, we got to see the POPE! We aren’t Catholic and don’t speak Italian, but it was still a cool experience. People really love him and I feel privileged that we were able to be there.
The rest of the day, we just roamed (sorry, I had to). We walked through small campos, past markets, and along the water. A perfect last afternoon and a summation of our entire trip. Oh and we rented segways in Villa Borghese- maybe Dan’s favorite part! Such an odd juxtaposition.
On our last night, I think 1/2 of our conversation consisted of lamentations on having to return home. As much as we missed Barley and our bed, feasting your way through one of the best food countries in the world without a single thought of calorie consumption is truly magical. We walked around the corner from our rental and dined at Trattoria Moderna, and had our last aperitivo, primi piatti, secondi piatti, and dessert. And man, was it a great last feast. And then a long flight home. LUCKILY, we got moved into an exit row, which made the trip infinitely better.
And that (finally) concludes our Italy re-cap! Only 5 months later 🙂  A once in a lifetime trip. I know some people don’t visit Italy because it’s too touristy- and I say, it’s that way because it almost can’t be beat. The diversity, the people, the landscapes, the food & wine. Just beyond. And always a new corner to discover. The Trevi Fountain was under renovation and we weren’t able to toss a coin, so hopefully that doesn’t keep us from returning one day 😉

To see the rest of our trip, in order:

Cinque Terre

With Florence as our base, we took a day trip out to Cinque Terre, or “The Five Lands”. It’s 5 small, hillside, villages along the coast, in the middle of what is now a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site. We chose to use a tour company (Walkabout Florence) for the convenience of transportation- it’s about 2 hours from Florence. After planning every piece of our trip, it was nice to just have a tour guide and not worry about what train/bus to catch! We also really enjoyed hearing about the areas we drove through on the way out- past the mountains where Carrera marble comes from (the peaks looked like snow!) and through the region where they grow a lot of plants for the nurseries. I’d really been looking forward to this piece of the trip because neither of us had been and I’ve heard so many friends RAVE about it. So my expectations were incredibly high. Maybe just a little too high- while it was absolutely beautiful, the trail was packed and I just couldn’t get as into it as I thought I should be. I kept wanting to get off the path and just go swim in the blue waters with the Italians. Guess that’s the negative of going with a tour group, ha! Regardless, it was still an awesome day, our group had fun people, and the views were so picturesque! Plus, it was nice to get a good hike in considering the massive amounts of pasta and wine we’d been consuming. We did end up getting to jump into the crystal clear, cool, water in the middle of trek and that was my favorite part of the day. Talk about refreshing after being a sweaty mess.
The charter bus dropped us off in Manarola, the 2nd town and smallest village. From there we worked our way through towns 3-5 and ended back at town 1. We took a train to Corniglia where we ate lunch at Ristorante Cecio with stunning patio views and fresh seafood and pasta. It’s the only town that doesn’t directly touch the water. From there, we hiked 3.5 km in the hot sun to Vernazza where we swam. Dan jumped off the little cliff and I was impressed 🙂 Afterwards, we took another train to Monterosso, the largest town, where we had the best puff pastry stuffed with cheese. I also got to ogle the umbrellas I’d seen in all of Gray Malin’s Cinque Terre photos. Finally, we took a boat to Riomaggiore, which allowed us to see all the towns we had just visited from the water.

SO glad we got to visit, but I do think I would have fallen more in love had we actually stayed in one of the towns and gotten the full experience. Which is the case with most places in the world 🙂

Happy Anniversary, My Love

We had pretty limited wi-fi (and I didn’t feel like doing anything but Italian things while away) so I didn’t get to post anything on our anniversary. So here it is, a week late 🙂

Reliving the day that started it all! One whole year that has completely FLOWN by. And honestly, every day has gotten better. I can’t even imagine being paired with someone who so perfectly fills in my imperfections, who makes me laughs in ways that help me forget any worries, and encourages me so completely. Here’s to many more days of travel and happiness and house projects and cooking and unconditional love. Life with you endlessly fun.

Thank you again to everyone who shared our wedding day with us- what a joy to be surrounded in celebration by everyone we love.Your support of our life together means so much.


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Ciao!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

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Dan and I leave for Italy TONIGHT! It will be his first visit and it’s going to be awesome seeing everything with him by my side. Plus we’ll be celebrating our one year anniversary! I’m a little in shock that it’s here and also crazy excited to just be there already, relaxing and enjoying an extended vacation. We start the remodel almost as soon as we get home, so preparing for that and a 2 week trip has been a little stressful. Okay, a lot stressful. But definitely the good kind of stress, thinking of all the fun things coming up. And also my own fault… ☺ Dan knows we are going to Italy, and I think he knows which cities, but that’s about it. HA. Lots of surprises in store for him! I, on the other hand, have a big spreadsheet with a tab for each city with ideas on what to do. Type A at its’ best. Or worst if you hate plans? I promise to still be spontaneous and not let a spreadsheet dictate the entire trip. And we are way open to suggestions if you have any! SO if you’re curious, here’s the itinerary:

Houston>>Istanbul>>Venice>>Florence>>Cinque Terre>>Arezzo>>Amalfi Coast>>Rome>>Houston

I think Dan is most looking forward to Venice, and it’s a toss-up for me between just hanging in the middle of nowhere in Tuscany, and swimming in the Blue Grotto in Capri. 

Unfortunately, Dan twisted his ankle this week while playing basketball. It’s bruised all the way around and so, so swollen. It’s such terrible timing but he’s been trying to just keep it propped up with ice on it as much as possible. Fingers crossed it’ll be healed enough by the time we get there, but we may renting a Vespa in every city if not. Thus getting to live out my Lizzie McGuire dreams

And if you’re wondering about Barley, he’ll be staying with his grandparents out in Georgetown, enjoying time away from the city ☺ Big thanks to them for watching our favorite pup. I only cried a tiny bit after leaving him. Dan says to think of it as doggie summer camp.

Ciao for now!

**photos from the best Box family vaca in 2013**