Living (and writing about) the Law of Attraction!

Posts tagged ‘Italy’

Insights from Italy—A reflection

Ahhh…jet-lag! It’s 3:00 AM and I’m wide awake. My body’s assuring me that it’s time to get up; my brain is clicking into gear. Some small part of my mind wants to argue, but it’s not going to win.

As I was laying here in the dark, I remembered a picture Ron snapped as we passed through the Alps on our way from Milan to Genoa. With my face reflected in the train window and a picturesque little Italian village in the background, it serves a perfect image for my reflective thoughts on our trip.

I’m sure more insights will reveal themselves as the days and weeks pass, but some interesting thoughts surfaced this morning and I wanted to share them here. A few days ago Ron asked me if I felt this trip had been all I’d expected. I hesitated, not wanting to sound negative, because in so many ways the experience had been phenomenal, but I had to be honest—both with him and myself. I had some desires, some goals for the trip that just weren’t met. I wanted to write more. I’d imagined spending delicious hours in some sun-drenched piazza, on a hill overlooking the Tuscan country-side, or on our cruise-ship balcony writing to my heart’s content, letting the people, the beautiful scenery and the ancient sights inspire a flow of words like never before. Despite the hastily scribbled notes in my journal during the day and then trying to decipher my chicken scratch and transform it into coherent sentences before I uploaded it to my blogsite in the evening before I fell into bed exhausted, that didn’t happen.

As I wrote before, it was no one’s fault but my own. I made my choices. I set the pace. I held the leash. Other than a few attempts on my part to counteract that, nothing changed. I simply couldn’t justify indulging myself in that way. This was first and foremost our anniversary celebration and I truly wanted to spend the days with Ron and experience things together. That I did and, consequently, I hold no regrets on that account. It will be a time we look back on and treasure for many years to come.

There was a sense, too, of wanting to ‘find myself’ in some new and profound way. It’s become a cliché I suppose, especially with books/movies like Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat Pray Love and even, Letters to Juliet, where women (the fact that they were all writers hasn’t escaped me) go to Italy in search of that illusive something. So it begs the question, “What was I looking for?”

 

Is it possible that I was trying to find myself because that seemed like the appropriate thing to do on a trip that was, for us anyway, so out of the ordinary, so grand, so much a fulfillment of years of dreaming? If I went there trying to find myself, I think what I’ve discovered is that I wasn’t really lost!! There’s nothing available there that I don’t have access to here. In fact, I write much better here where I have my routine and my solitude. The experience has, however, broadened me, deepened me, and stretched me in ways that will undoubtedly add to the quality of my future writing.

Suddenly, I realize that it was all it was meant to be (all that I created it to be) and more. We were divinely guided (and we both understand even more that we are the ones ultimately doing the guiding!) We enjoyed ease and effortless flow as we let the trip unfold before us. So many times, we ended up in just the right place, bumped into just the right person or stayed in just the right location. The weather was a cooperative component—mostly sunshine, but not too hot. Train schedules serves our purposes—no long waits. A desire to leave several copies of my novels in Europe resulted in us connecting with fascinating people (a couple of them, authors). I’m thrilled to say that two copies of each of my books are in Italy, one copy of each is making it’s way back to the UK and a copy of each stayed with a delightful hotel receptionist we met in France. Over-all it was a syncronicity that we couldn’t have made happen had we not been trusting our greater Selves.

So as I reflect, I see that I ask too much of myself sometimes, I tend to overlook the plenitude of small gifts that constantly line my path. I can never be lost, never get disconnected from who I really am. And above all home is a wonderful place—one that I will be happy to come back to again and again, no matter where I wander. Thank-you, Italy, for allowing me to rediscover such basic truths!

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Insights from Italy—Day 21: Homeward bound!

Town along the northern coast of the Mediterranean

This has been an unforgettable trip. We’ve been in eight countries in three weeks: We started and ended in Canada, fell in love with Italy, saw bits of Croatia, Greece and Turkey on our cruise, ended our holiday with three days in Nice, France, included a day trip to Monaco and experienced a teeny bit of Germany (okay, so it was just the two hours we spent at the Frankfurt airport, but that still counts).

I’m sooo ready to go home now, though—to sleep in my own bed, to turn on the TV and watch a english channel, to surf the internet without watching the clock or pulling my hair out because it’s so slow, to enjoy a leisurely  chai lattè at Starbucks, to wear clothes that aren’t wrinkled, to read a sign and know exactly what it’s telling me to do (or not to do), to drive in traffic that isn’t absolutely crazy…the list goes on. Just seeing Calgary on the departures board at the Frankfurt airport this afternoon warmed my heart. But I also have a treasury of wonderful memories and over a thousand digital photos (good ones – we already deleted the duds and duplicates as we went along).

A pretty waterfall in Nafplion, Greece

I have yet to process my thoughts about the trip as a whole. I’d wanted to wrap up this travel blog by sharing some profound wisdom that I gained along the way, but I think that will have to wait until my tired brain has a chance to recharge. Accomplishing that on this ten-hour plane ride seems unlikely, but a night’s sleep in my own bed tonight should do the trick. I’m on my way home!

Ron relaxing on the deck

Dining on the cruise

Insights from Italy―Day 18: Changing trains in Milano

view from the train

It’s a train day. Starting at 8:30 this morning, we were to catch the first of five trains to take us to Nice. The taxi driver, rather than taking us to the local station, pulled on to the autostrada (freeway) heading for Verona. Not sure if that was miscommunication or if he just wanted a bigger fare. Oh well. We paid more, but saved one transfer.

The trip to Milan took 90 minutes on a Eurostar (one of their faster trains) and now we’re waiting aboard another train in Milano Centralè that will take us to Ventimiglia (a town that borders France)

It’s one of those trains you see in movies with the passageway down one side and compartments with sliding doors that seat six. Our compartment is full, but Ron and I each have window seats.

Understanding the language would, again, have been helpful. I just used the toilet and apparently, they’re not to be used while stopped in the station. Whatever you deposit goes right through to the tracks below…enough said!

We’re moving now. The passing scenery south of Milan is mostly farmland—nothing to get too excited about. But as we move closer to the coast, we come into mountains. An area called Isola del Cantone is particularly beautiful. We’re snapping pictures like crazy. Not sure how they’ll turn out when we’re going this fast.

Mountains north of Genoa

One of many pink houses in Genoa

We enter a tunnel that may just be headed to the center of the earth. It seems to have no end! When we finally emerge, we are in Genoa, a city at the base of the mountains, perched overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Genoa is very pink—the color of day-old cotton candy. (I’ve noticed that some cities take on a general hue determined by how many houses and other buildings are stuccoed in that color. The lake town we were in yesterday was predominantly yellow)

From here, the train more or less follows the coastline all the way to France. The terrain is still very mountainous, so we are in and out of tunnels. The sporadic, but breathtaking views have us reaching for our cameras, but as soon as we’re ready to snap the picture, we’re in a tunnel again. Forget pictures. Let’s just enjoy what we can see.

The French Riviera

At last, we have an uninterrupted view of blue water, endless beach, palm trees, marinas…ahh the French Riviera. I would have liked a glimpse of Monaco, but we passed right underneath the city/country and all we saw was the inside of a very fancy-looking train station through glass doors as we scurried to catch the train to Nice already waiting on the next track.

Stunning sunset in Nice

Finally our train day is over. We arrive in Nice and decide to walk the short distance to our hotel. After checking in we head for the beach where the setting sun is painting the sky in rippling waves of red. Ahh…tres magnifique!

Insights from Italy—Day 16: Verona, the city of love

 

Juliet's balcony

 

Verona, the city of love. Well, I’m in love. Yes, of course with my husband of twenty-five years, but I’m also in love with another one of Italy’s famous cities. We arrived by taxi to Verona’s centro dela città (pronounced cheetah) or city center where the first stop on our mapped out walking tour was Juliet’s home. Verona does a lovely tribute to Shakespeare’s most romantic characters. Fiction, or not, tourists flock to see the tiny courtyard, the lovely stone balcony and the statue of Juliet. According to my guidebook, people do send or leave letters addressed simply to Juliet, Verona, Italy. We didn’t see them, but volunteers collect the letters and send replies (just like the movie).

From there we walked down a few more streets and checked out a piazza and a local market. I was fascinated by the unique products the artisans had. Most were sitting behind a table, working on their craft, like the old man creating mosaics.

 

Italian craftsman

 

He had small precut pieces of marble―different sizes, shapes and colors. I watched as he looked through his pile of marble to find just the right pieces and put them together to create a pattern. A woman was selling babies―yes babies. Not the Cabbage patch knockoffs that were all the rage a few years ago, although the construction and materials might be similar. These looked so lifelike that if you put one in a stroller and walked down the street you would have plenty of oohs and awes over what a cute baby you have! Seriously! She was holding one in her arms and I had to look twice to see if it was real or one of her creations.

As the crowds grew, we decided to deviate from our plan and find what looked (on our map) to be a path along the Adige River.

 

Adige River in Verona

 

We’re glad we did, because we spent the next few hours strolling along one of the prettiest (and cleanest) rivers we’ve seen yet in our travels. Along the way, we climbed to Castel Saint Pietro (more steps!) for an incredible view of the city, sat in an almost deserted park overlooking the river, and sauntered through Castelvecchio, a medieval-looking monstrosity that was built as a home and fortress by Verona’s powerful Scaligeri family in the fourteenth century.

As we headed toward the train station, we passed through Piazza Brà (pronounced just like the support garment, but in Italian it means open space) It was packed with people and cordoned off so we couldn’t get in to view the Roman amphitheater. Spectators were cheering and as we got closer, we were amused to see five-year-olds riding bikes (some with training wheels) around the ancient stadium. There appeared to be as many as a hundred bikes and watching the little munchkins, it was obvious they were in it to win.

We’ve learned much since we’ve been away. First of all, don’t try to pack too much into a day or a week or three weeks! Standing to consume coffee and snacks costs much less than sitting. Paying for the use of toilets doesn’t mean they will be clean. Regional trains are cheap―really cheap. If you buy your ticket from the biglietto (ticket stand in the train station) as opposed to the vending machines, you save a lot. Italians are friendly and even if they don’t speak much English they will help you find your way with gestures or ask someone they know whose English is better. And finally (I just discovered this tonight) bidets are great for soaking your feet after a long day of walking:-)

Insights from Italy—Day 15: Back on terra firma

Venice at first light

This morning we pulled into Venice just as the sun was rising. It was hard to resist getting just a few more pictures of the beautiful city as we cruised by the houses and palaces, cathedrals and squares.

Venice has a magical feel to it, something that touches me deep within. Seeing this unique city has been my desire for some time and our original goal as we looked forward to celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary. It’s hard to put into words why it touches me so deeply. Maybe I have connections to it from another lifetime. Maybe I’ll write a book with Venice as the setting. Who knows?

For me, Venice has been one of the highlights of our trip. I’ll remember our time here with fondness and highly recommend it to anyone.

Having just crossed the long bridge to the mainland on our way to Verona, I can officially say we’re back on solid ground, but as I look across the expanse of water, I can still see Venice, its towers illuminated by the morning sun and I bid this jewel of a city farewell with a promise to return.

Insights from Italy (and beyond)—Day 14: Another day at Sea

Today is our last day of the cruise. We dock in Venice tomorrow morning. It’s been a great week. We’ve  seen and done so much; its seems longer and yet the week has flown by.

 

Celebrating 25 years

 

Last night we celebrated our anniversary (again) by going to one of the specialty restaurants on the ship. La Cuisine, an Italian restaurant was charming and the food was delicious. After eating Italian food, I now love pasta. I’ll have to learn to make it the way they do!

Ron is a romantic at heart.  At dinner, he bought me a red rose and then during dessert, he took out a piece of paper on which he’d written out the wedding vows from my second book, A Song of the Heart. We read them to each other and then made a toast. Funny, it felt more significant and meaningful than our vows 25 years ago (can’t even remember what we said back then)

After dinner we enjoyed an hilarious vaudeville act at the theatre. We closed off the evening once again by relaxing in the hot tub.

The sea has been rough. Last night we left the balcony door open and listened to the waves splashing. The boat rocked me to sleep. I love that feeling.

The  cruise has been wonderful. the food is delicious and plentiful! The service is great. Other than super slow internet service that we had to pay 40 cents a minute for, we can chalk this up to a fun, successful and memorable week.

 

Chocolate Pharaoh

 

The chocolate buffet I missed turned out to be a zoo (Ron’s words) but he brought me a plate of delicious bites and has some pictures of the incredible sculptures.

 

Leaning tower of chocolate

 

Oh, yes, there was one other mix-up on our cruise. It was quite funny. When we first checked in, they told us we were registered with a tour group. We told them we weren’t, but the girl at the desk seemed to believe the computer rather than us and informed us that ‘our’ group was meeting for a welcome party on the second day of the cruise. We decided to check it out – more out of curiosity than anything else. It was a formal event, so we dressed up, but still felt out of place when we saw the other couples who were there. As we arrived, we were immediately served drinks and appetizers. We heard a couple near us speaking to one another in French and didn’t think too much of it until we realized that everyone was speaking french and not a word of English could be heard. No one seemed to pay any attention to us, but we didn’t want to have to try and explain why we were there so we left as inconspicuously as we could and barely suppressed our laughter as we exited the lounge. We’d enjoyed the drinks and the appetizers were really good, but we never did find out  how we got put in with a French tour group.

Insights from Italy―Day 7: Exploring Venice

Ron at the Basilica, St. Mark's Sq.

I’m sitting on an ancient-looking Victorian settee on the second floor common area of our hotel. The sun has tried in vain to shine all day, but for a few sparse moments here and there, it has been unsuccessful. The damp weather doesn’t discourage most of the tourists and we certainly haven’t been put off by it. Venice in any weather is a treasure chest and an umbrella only obscures the view of the magnificent buildings, the high balconies still bursting with colorful blossoms, and the decorative array of wrought iron hugging nearly every window. Even the humblest of dwellings is fit for the artist’s brush; the pealing plaster, exposed brick and colorful shutters are picturesque. Then there are the statues, carvings, columns, balustrades (those heavy railings made of wood or stone), not to mention the marble façades of the churches, towers and palaces—so much to see looking up!

St. Mark's Square

Rialto Bridge

Did I mention I love this place? Standing in front of the Basilica in St. Marks Square this morning, we marveled at how many varieties of marble are in the columns—some veined, some speckled, some cloudy—from green/gold to purple/grey to golden brown.

This piazza is what I had envisioned when I dreamt of coming to Venice. I’d seen pictures, I guess, of the popular tourist destination. When we began to make plans to come here, I realized that by imagining myself here, part of me had gone ahead and arriving in person was like meeting myself, finding myself, reconnecting with that part of me that isn’t limited by ‘what is’ but rather lives by ‘what if.’

Grand Canal

I enjoyed the square while Ron ascended the tower to get some pictures. I was happy just to sit, watching the people, smiling at the pigeons (hundreds of them descending on anyone with a handful of crumbs),

Pigeons landing on me

wondering at the plethora of seemingly mindless tour groups held together by remote earpieces listening to a guide tell them where to look and when to walk. I decided that’s not how I want to see the world. Despite the wealth of intriguing facts imparted by the knowledgeable guide, I’d just as soon piece the story together myself by what I’ve read or overheard, letting my imagination fill in the blanks—and be free to gaze at what ever my eyes are drawn to. I see the curious, bold pigeons in the squares, the rat that scurries down the street in front of us at night, the Italian woman discarding her wash-water down the narrow walkway outside her front door. I like the story I hear from the white-haired painter in Realto Market. As he proudly shows us his work, he tells us he just turned 64 yesterday and he’s been painting all his life. He shows us a faded newspaper clipping—a picture of himself taken 30 years earlier when he’d received an award for his work. We bought one of his paintings.

Front door?

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