Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Classy Portofino

This vacation was fraught with planning struggles, from what the vacation would actually be to Nathan having work conflicts up until the day before we were due to leave. We actually couldn't book our hotels until two days prior to departure, and even then, it was done with crossed fingers. Having finally figured out that we would be driving our own car to Provence with a stop along the Italian Riviera, we had planned to go to Cinque Terre, a beautiful, region consisting of five (cinque) villages along the coast. However, Cinque Terre experienced devastating landslides last year, and one of the main attractions, a coastal hike that links the five villages, is not yet fully opened.
Portofino Harbor
We decided, for now, to hot-foot it up to Provence with just a quick, easy, one night stop. As you may remember from the photos we uploaded while on vacation, we ended up in beautiful, Santa Margherita Ligure. I'd hoped for Portofino, mainly because it makes all the glossy mags as THE place to be. Leaving Santa Margherita Ligure on our first full day of vacay, we headed north on the two lane, coastal road to at least see Portofino. I cannot even imagine how horrific that road must be in the summer since as it turns out, there is one way in, one way out. But with almost no cars on the road on a beautiful, Thursday morning, we were able to enjoy the bright, green-blue water and colorful buildings along the way. Landing in Portofino and parking in the lone car garage, much to our surprise, we found Portofino to be incredibly SMALL! In fact, there seemed to be more space given over to the parking garage and parking lots (lots for people with mysterious, "I belong here" stickers rather than for people such as us) than for actual shops and restaurants. Now admittedly, the one block pedestrian zone is quite adorable, and the harbor even more so. Adorable and tiny. There is a lovely walk that circles the harbor, and lining that walk, my favorite thing about Portofino:

Never let it be said that Portofino is not a classy town, because if neon pink meerkats topping a columns aren't classy, then I don't know what is.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Travel Pause

As you've gathered, we've spent the last few weeks getting in our travel before the time for car trips only begins (next week!). We have one last (and short) trip up our sleeves, but for all intents and purposes, we'll spend the rest of the summer at home or taking weekend trips to nearby beaches...or the mountains to escape the heat which roared in and has knocked me and Crazy Dog for a loop. No longer is he Crazy Dog, but rather, Lazy Dog. Here in Italy, there is no such thing as central heat and A/C. Most Americans manage to negotiate into their leases some electric, wall units. These are much quieter and more efficient (in cooling, not in money!) than what you may be imagining...those horrid, window units that seem to be so popular in America. The units we have provide both heat and A/C and are mounted up near the ceiling.  A tube goes through the wall to the outside of the house, where it either drips the condensation onto the terrace or is piped into exterior drainage pipes. These work fairly well, so Scully and I spend as much of our day as possible in our living room, where I keep one unit running. Scully has taken to lying directly underneath the air flow for maximum cooling. He gets his summer haircut this week. We'll take pictures because I've never seen a more ridiculous looking dog than a shorn Scully dog.

Now that our travels are over, I'm excited to go through our photos and share some highlights from the recent trips. We spent two weeks driving through Provence and Switzerland, and it was a most relaxing vacation. I'd lobbied hard for either a cruise (turns out cruise lines don't like pregnant women to be aboard) or a "sit on the beach at a resort" vacation. I lost, thankfully, because we ended up with a very relaxing, meandering vacation. As Nathan pointed out to friends recently, living in Naples and having near constant access to Roman ruins, beautiful cathedrals, artwork, and so on, has the result of lessening our desire when traveling to "see the sights." Naturally, Provence is quite proud of their Roman ruins, and these are talked up in the guidebooks as must sees. Since we can stand on our Roof Terrace and see a Roman castle, we have no qualms about skipping the nearest "must see" Roman ruin or "don't miss" cathedral when we travel. Instead, we can focus on the actual towns and villages, the lifestyle, and just enjoying the area through walking and driving and visiting the various, outdoor markets rather than hurrying from one sight to the next.

Very shortly after our return from the big vacation, I headed off to Istanbul with a friend. We had four full days in that beautiful city, so I'll be posting about that trip as well. Today, I begin the organizing, labeling, and editing of the hundreds of photos we've taken over the last month of travels. Eek! And in typing this, I just realized that I still have a few photos from Barcelona to finish up on, as well as share them here. Just to slow the photo process down even more, I'm using new photo editing software. While I have fallen far short of my goal in digital photo organization, I have managed to keep photos well organized on the computer. The real goal, though, is to create photo books for each large vacation, as well as yearly photo books. I love photo albums. I look back through photo albums. I put them on easels for display. Before the advent of digital photography, I was religious about placing all my glossy photos into albums and labeling each photo, with the unhappy result of now having thick, space waster albums that would cover shelves and shelves if I actually ever had the space for them. I am now pretty religious about labeling photos from vacations, mainly due to the fact that we went on a wonderful trip to Germany in 2006, took loads of great photos, loaded them onto the computer, and that was the end. I now look back at the file and have no memory of where a photo was taken. Thus, I'm big on photo organization.

Before we moved to Italy, I was fed up with the overwhelming amount of photos still in boxes, despite my obsession with getting them into albums. I was determined to not move overseas with such a large, looming project on my shoulder, and thankfully, I happened onto GoPhoto, who scanned in hundreds of my photos and put them on DVDs for me. There are several companies who do this type of service, and I know people who purchase high quality scanners and scan their own photos. For me, the time involved in doing it myself was far too significant vs GoPhoto's prices. They gave me personal attention, emailed me throughout the entire process, even called me after shipping the photos and DVDs back to me to make sure I was happy. In under two weeks (I think it was closer to a one week turn around), I had in my hands DVDs of our old wedding photos, bunches of those fabulous black and white, old family photos that seem to fill shoeboxes in most people's homes, and tons of other miscellaneous photos that had piled up. So, so happy! (As an FYI, I am not receiving any benefits for mentioning GoPhoto; in fact, unless they have an awesome PR team who monitors the web for any mention of their name, they won't even know about this plug. I'm just sharing my personal experience.). I have an OCD dream of one long shelf, holding beautiful, thin-spined photo books with all our pictures. And a nightmare of losing all our photos - for me, they are quite literally, the most valuable thing I own...perhaps because my memory is just so darn bad! So, on to reliving vacation through the photo organization and then sharing our trips with you...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

All In a Day

In one day, we sailed the Bosphorus Strait to the Black Sea, ate lunch in Asia, and had dinner overlooking the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul is wonderful.