Posts Tagged ‘Sarah_Lavender_Smith’

Eat, Run, Love

Friday, April 30th, 2010

A view from the Cinque Terre coastal trail, with the town of Vernazza coming into view.

Last night I read Goethe and ate divine pesto, and this morning I ran across a mountain and climbed back into bed with Morgan.

It’s all about life, Italy and the pursuit of happiness.

(Bear with me while I explain what Goethe has to do with it …)

I didn’t expect to pick up 18th-century German Romanticism more than twenty years after my last college lit class. I’ve been eating up delectable novels and memoirs like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and told myself I should ingest some historical fiction or classics (similar to how I reach for bran flakes and skim milk to balance out the pasta and wine).

Then, around the same day, we serendipitously stumbled upon Goethe. His name was everywhere. We were in the town of Malcesine on Lake Garda, a giant drop of blue in Northern Italy hanging like a bead off the skirt of the Alps, and were spending five nights there for no better reason than because three months earlier, in New Zealand or somewhere, Morgan had looked at Italy on Google Earth, saw the splotch of blue and the steep topography around it, and said, “I wanna go there!”

Kyle on a snowy ridge in the Alps above Lake Garda during a hike he took with Morgan.

As we drove the freeway up from Verona and the steep mountain pass down through Turbole, we started noticing inns and restaurants named after the German literary great.

Once we settled into our lodge, Morgan logged on to research why Goethe was such a big deal in this neck of the woods. “You gotta read this,” I soon heard him say. (more…)

A Typical Atypical Travel Day

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I’ve written a lot about our days spent exploring destinations, but less about the transition days — those days that in some ways are the most interesting because we find ourselves scrambling and improvising like a team on The Amazing Race.

Getting to Venice from Rome was one of those days, at times completely nutty but oddly fitting with our new sense of normal.

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Snapshots of Venezia and Treviso

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

We spent three nights in Venice and four in Treviso, an enchanting town about a half-hour outside of Venice that leads to gorgeous countryside. This region looks like an exaggerated version of the Napa Valley, with green hills, yellow mustard and centuries-old farmhouses. The town is famous for being the headquarters of the Benetton clothing retailer, and the surrounding valleys and mountains are famous for Prosecco wine and Asiago cheese.

Whereas Venice’s charm began to wear off after two days — due to inflated prices, hordes of tourists, and the sense that most everything there is preserved for show rather than for real — I would gladly spend many more weeks here in the Treviso area. (more…)

The Costa Brava Retreat

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

At times during this journey, we find ourselves in a gem of a small town that seems disconnected from the rest of the world and even from the current time period. Last week was one of those weeks. The four of us, plus our friend Cheryl, checked out of our Barcelona apartment and traveled several decades back to a cove in the Mediterranean called Begur.

A slice of Costa Brava countryside near Begur.

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Drinking Up Barcelona

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

In the Plaza Real near our apartment, next to one of Gaudi's lampposts.

My elementary-level Spanish, packed away for four months since we left Argentina, re-emerged when we landed in Barcelona and I asked the cab driver, “Puede usted llevarnos a esta direccion?” (Can you take us to this address?) I caught enough in his rapid reply to understand that he could take us close, but then we’d have to walk part of the way because our street is so narrow that it’s closed to cars. Once again we found ourselves grateful to be traveling light enough to carry everything on our backs, with just one heavy rolling suitcase that functions as a mobile office.

About 15 minutes later the cab pulled over to the curb along Las Ramblas — the pedestrian boulevard bordering the Gothic Quarter (in Catalan, Barri Gòtic), famous for street vendors and sidewalk performers — and the driver gestured past Plaza Real (or Plaça Reial). As we walked to find our new home for the next ten days, we paused to gaze at the vibrant 19th-century public square that would serve as our extended front porch. The square is formed by apartment buildings with arcades on the ground floor that house a string of open-air cafes, where multitudes stroll by or sit and drink red wine at midday while musicians perform, artists sketch and philatelists swap stamps. I hear snippets of every Romantic language and know just enough Castilian Spanish and French to decipher the hybrid that is Catalan, which the signs are written in. At least a dozen palm trees fill the plaza and surround an elaborate black fountain flanked by Gaudí’s outlandish lampposts — my first glimpse at Gaudí’s intoxicating, Seussical style. Balconies above are fronted by intricate wrought-iron railings and greenery, and wooden shutters frame the windows. We’re living here?! I thought, and I couldn’t stop exclaiming to Morgan, “I love it, I love it!” (more…)

A Little Bite of Hong Kong

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I have lots to share about our week in Hong Kong, but family and friends seem most curious to know about what we ate there. Here, then, is a little taste of our dining (mis)adventures in Hong Kong, with more to come about our visit in the next post. (more…)

Changes Ahead

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

So long, Australia! This shot overlooks Canberra and Lake Burley Griffin.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about “how to plan a year-long family itinerary” as though I were some kind of expert on the topic. But far from being experts, Morgan and I are learning as we go — with mixed success. As soon as I published that post, we made the big, difficult decision to tear apart and rebuild the last leg of our itinerary.

The rebuilding part has been rather stressful and time consuming, with thousands of dollars and our last month of travel at stake. We ate up much of our limited WiFi access during the last few weeks researching where to go, how to get there, how much it’ll cost and where to stay. As is often the case with travel planning, these issues are maddeningly interrelated.

So here’s the scoop: (more…)

The Phillip Island Penguin Charade

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

A couple of penguins on parade at Phillip Island (photo courtesy of wikimedia).

A couple of penguins on parade at Phillip Island (photo courtesy of wikimedia).

I told my family we should drive to the bottom of Australia and spend several days on Phillip Island mainly because of its star attraction: the Penguin Parade. I had this idea that we would stroll along a beach at sunset and watch waves of hundreds of penguins waddle up to burrow with their babies in the sand in quite possibly the most adorable display of loyalty and domesticity.

Predictably, Colly and Kyle said, “That’s sooooooooo cute!”

So we drove 90 minutes south of Melbourne, crossed a causeway and discovered an island about 16 miles long and 6 miles wide. It’s covered with grassy pastures, gum tree stands, a lot of roads used for racing, and a couple of villages with shops and restaurants overlooking the beach. The island has been a tourist getaway for over a century, and for at least half that time it’s been famous for grand prix car and motorcycle races. (Since we arrived only days before the Superbike World Championship, we saw and heard many men wearing padded leather pants who gunned their bullet bikes after every intersection.)

We got our first lesson on the penguins as soon as we checked into a cabin near the town of Cowes. (more…)

Finding the Best and Worst in Daylesford

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Daylesford is a charming little community about an hour and a half north of Melbourne. Set around a lake and ringed by forests, it’s an oasis in the countryside where miles of grassland and gum trees all start to look the same and the country roads seem to go on forever. The town sprung up in the 1860s after gold and timber prospectors flocked to the area, and then it had a second act as a “spa town” when visitors discovered the many mineral springs around it and the neighboring community of Hepburn Springs. Ornately detailed 19th-century storefronts house stylish cafes and day spas. Think of a cross between a Colorado mining town and Calistoga, and you get Daylesford.

Now Daylesford is making a concerted effort to broaden its economic base by marketing itself as “an outdoor adventure destination” for mountain bikers, campers and trekkers — which is what lured our family to spend four nights there.  We took part in a trail run/mountain bike/triathlon “dirt fest” in Wombat State Forest, on the edge of town, and you can read the details and see pics from it on my running blog. (more…)

Sydney Wet and Wild

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Kyle and Colly steppin' out to see Sydney's production of the musical Wicked.

Kyle and Colly steppin' out to see Sydney's production of the musical Wicked.

When we got to Sydney, our friend Cheryl said she had heard that “Australia is the LA and New Zealand is the SF,” and she wanted to know if it’s true. My answer, based on seeing only Sydney so far, is yes — to a point. Sydney, with its string of famous beaches, has a surf culture that mirrors Santa Monica and a sense of style that channels Hollywood. Whereas Kiwi fashion looks earthy and understated, lots of people here dress as though they’re going clubbing — circa 1985. Morgan, who arrived here before me, emailed me on his first day in Sydney: “Make sure to bring high heels, tube tops and tight clothes since it seems to be what lots of other women are wearing. Sort of reminds me of the Aussie girlfriend in Spinal Tap.

But the LA-SF analogy falls apart when I realize that many of Sydney’s loveliest parts evoke San Francisco. In Sydney’s central business and shopping district, grandly refurbished and ornately detailed Victorian and Edwardian buildings stand next to sleek modern high-rises. Along the bustling waterfront, shops, exhibits, restaurants and, of course, boats are everywhere, as though San Francisco’s stretched-out Embarcadero had been compressed into a few distinct harbor areas.

Sydney also feels like San Francisco because of its large Asian population. But the demographic diversity doesn’t stretch much beyond Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian and Indian. We can buy egg rolls, sushi and curry on every block, but burrito places are few and far between. I can count on one hand the number of black people I’ve seen so far, and the only Latin American I’ve noticed is the wizened old street musician with the rainbow serape who seems to play the pan flute in every major city we visit. And the only Aboriginal I’ve seen yet is on a postcard.

As for the weather, it doesn’t match either city. You could call it “hog” — humid fog. It’s been overcast and rainy most of the time, but sticky hot, and then the sun broke out and it was scorching!

In spite of less-than-perfect weather and a high price tag on everything, we have grown very fond of this city. It’s urban yet easy to get around, flashy yet laid back. Of all the big cities we’ve visited, this is one of the most kid friendly. We’re staying in a high-rise apartment building in the central business district, next to Darling Harbour, where there’s a sprawling playground and easy ferry access. Catching ferries the way you catch cabs or subways in other cities is one of Sydney’s charms.

Here are highlights and recommendations for anyone visiting Sydney: (more…)