French Alps – Una Settimana Bianca

One week of skiing with friends in Morzine France… What a blast.  Traveling with friends is always fun.  But going somewhere we were pampered with delicious food and stunning views is a memory of a lifeltime.

We were pretty luck to have fresh powder…

Our resort was ski-in ski-out and came with a gourmet chef and lots of adult beverages

The darling little town

Fun times were had by all

 

A day in Napoli Jan 15′

It was finally a sunny day so we decided to venture out for a morning stroll along the waterfront.  Exploring Naples never gets old.  There are so many sites and smells that we don’t get to experience back in the states.  To Piper this is all she knows, but Scott and I know this isn’t forever so we want to capture these special moments forever.

The views along the water include one of the three Castles in Naples, Mt. Vesuvius, Capri/Sorrento, and Vomero up the hill.

Along the way we stumbled upon the fresh catches of the day.

Then we wandered the streets and appreciated the “normal in Naples” the small streets, the laundry out drying, the amazing views, and one of the thousands of churches in Naples.  Piper loves churches, and she knows you have to be quite in them…

 

Christmas in Vienna 14′

I’m in love with Vienna Austria.  I don’t think there is a more perfect European city.  We spent 8 magical days exploring all this city has to offer, and it’s a lot!  From classical music on every street corner to gluhwein, Christmas Markets, amazing architecture, and a wealth of European history this city should not be missed.  I did not want to leave.  We loved this city!

 

How could one not love these amazing buildings…

 

And these Christmas Markets…

How can you not just love traveling Vienna with these cuties!

And our little apartment for the 8 days that we made home with a 25 Euro Christmas tree!  It’s a good think Santa was able to find us in Austria!

Bratislava Slovakia for a day 14′

The train system in Europe is pretty incredible.  We decided while in Austria to spend the day in the neighboring country of Slovakia.  It was such a cute and quaint country.  We did get swindled by the taxi driver… but that’s on us.  The sunset was the best one of the trip.

Paris 14′

What a perfect way to spend a long weekend with Mommy away… Paris!  Every girl dreams of going to Paris.  What’s better than Paris? Euro Disney!  Yup, Scott took Piper to Euro Disney while I was back in the states for the NAR Convention in New Orleans.  I missed them a ton, but I’m pretty sure they were having an excellent time without me.

 

Piper is 2!!!

We can hardly believe our baby is two.  Where does the time go?! Having a birthday on Halloween makes for a pretty exciting birthday.  Luckily this year it fell on a Friday.  So we had time for Halloween on Friday and a proper birthday party on Sunday with friends at the park.  We had a bouncy house since she fell in love with “bouncing” while staying with Ashli in Austin during Ross’s wedding week.  (video coming soon.)  Thanks to all of you who helped celebrate our sweet little girl.  What a joy she’s been these past two years!

Just so I don’t forget what she’s like these days… She’s very smart, knows her full name and when asked how to spell her name she sings “P-I-PER” to the tune of Bingo. She’s social and funny, loves to play dress up, and to dance and listen to music. She even plays it often and knows all the words to her nursery rhymes. She loves Bubble Guppies, Donald Duck and most especially Frozen. She makes us laugh constantly especially when she makes us play, “wiggle time!” We love every second with her and can’t wait to see what she makes of life. Love you Pipes! mommy and daddy.

Amsterdam 14′

Piper and I flew back from the states into Amsterdam, so Scott joined us for a long weekend. It was a great way to get over jet-lag. What a charming city. It was much larger than I expected, and I have to say the red light district wasn’t all that I imagined… I much prefer New Orleans to Amsterdam. But all in all it was a nice way to get back into the swing of things in Europe.

Piper loved the Van Gogh Museum where she tried her hand at painting, and the bubble expo they had outside. There were lots of parks to enjoy, and a really great canal boat tour that went by Anne Franks House. It was a great way to see a lot of the city. I enjoyed Amsterdam, but I’m not sure it’s going to make the – must visit again list….

Wedding Time!

We were so lucky to be able to fly back to Texas to be apart of Ross and Kaley’s beautiful wedding!  It was such a blast spending time in our old city and heading out to the Texas wine country.  It was even more fun catching up with friends and spending quality time with my family.  Kaley was a beautiful bride!  And Piper was a hoot being a flower girl in the wedding!  We made such fond memories of the weekend wedding.  One we won’t ever forget!  Best of Wishes to the new Mr. and Mrs. Williams. We love you both.

 

Croatia 14′

Croatia – the land of 1000 islands is simply stunning. Our photos don’t do it justice. It’s the one country so far that we know we’ll visit again before we head home in a few years. The cities are unlike any in Europe that we’ve seen. It’s almost as if they take the best of everything… The medieval walls of Rothenberg , the Cascading hillside towns of the Amalfi, the islands of Greece… the food was great, there were a modest amount of tourist for end of August, and the people were lovely. Needless to say, we loved it here!

Oh and yes, one of the highlights was our drive from Split to Dubrovnik- it was a late night with winding roads along the coastline. Poor Piper was car sick and we were all ready to get to Dubrovnik. Two hours into the drive we approach a boarder crossing… into Bosnia! What a hoot. So we not only visited Croatia, but we did manage to stop and buy some wine in Bosnia.

Belgium for our Anniversary!

When we decided to go somewhere for our anniversary we had no idea how amazing this city would turn out to be. We loved Brugges! Not only is it story book charming, but the Belgium chocolates, beer, and waffles made the trip memorable. We can’t wait to go back!

Car Trouble

It’s bad when you put unleaded in a diesel car.  Mind you, here in Italy they pump your gas for you… but we’re guilty for not catching it I suppose.  It’s even worse when it’s at 11pm Saturday night.  Thankfully we had made it to the edge of our section of the city right after we exited the highway.  Bad news was we couldn’t find parking, so we illegally parked.  It was only a 20 minute walk to our house.  But we were pretty worried about what to do next?

My Italian is pretty spotty at best – I’ve got my basic conversations down – but what do I know about cars – much less how to translate that to Italian?  So we decided to ask our Italian neighbors, friends, and parking garage attendants for advice.  We had several recommendations, but they were the normal, I know of a garage, but you’ll have to call on Monday.   Then we spoke to Sergio and Anna, our favorite Baristas…

Sergio picked up the phone right then and there and called his favorite mechanic.  He said his “dear friends from Texas need your help.”  Of course his first question back to Sergio was, “Do they have a Pistola?” Within a minute we were handing our car key over to Sergio with written directions on where to find our car using the tag for identification.

We never even spoke to or met the mechanic.  Our car was fixed in a day and cost way less than we anticipated!  Better service than we would have gotten in the States for sure.  The best part, which Sergio left out until we got our car back from him was that the mechanic was on vacation a few hours away.  He drove up to fix our can and return back to his family the same day.  (VERY unItalian of him)

All in all, what could have been a nightmare was easy.  All thanks to our dear friends Sergio and Anna!

Lesson Learned:  Be nice to your baristas and they’ll take care of you!

The 4th of July – Italian Style in Sardina

So the Italians don’t celebrate the 4th?!  Go figure.  But they sure know how to celebrate summer.  They all hit the beach!  The one thing I’ve loved the most about where we live is the easy access to beautiful Mediterranean towns and islands.  But the one that I miss most are the beautiful sand beaches we have in the states.

But I’ve finally found paradise that mixes the best of both worlds.  The charm and beauty of the Italian coast with the luxury of white sand beaches… only an hour flight away.  Benvenuti a Sardinia!  If you look in the travel books you won’t find mention of this hidden gem.  I’m glad – it’s absolutely paradise.

A big island – takes about 5 hours to drive end to end.  It’s a good thing there are airports on either end. You can take a car ferry as well from Rome.  But we took the air – a much quicker option.

Bottom line- Piper is a water lover like her dad.  She can’t get enough of it.  She even runs in with her clothes/shoes on.  She loves to jump in and simply isn’t afraid.  Which  is scary since she can’s swim yet.

We spent most of our time pool side with umbrella drinks and a gorgeous view of the beach.  We did mix it up and hit the beach 2 different afternoons.  The water was warm, and with the white sand bottom it was crystal clear.  Love!  Not to mention our resort, Paradise Resort, was pretty nice.  The landscaping and architecture were beautiful, and the 3 pools with access to the beach was top notch.

In true King fashion, we found a festival.  The biggest in Sardinia – a horse race!  It was fantastic – dusty and crowded, and loud.  The Italians were shooting blanks into the air for no apparent reason other than they love to make loud noises.  Piper was a trooper.  An overall success – it made our trip.

I’m positive we’ll be back to Sardinia many times before we ship off.  Love that island.  It’s the first place in Italy I could see myself living forever… maybe on one of these yachts?

Father’s Day in Rome

Why not?!  Our friends Wendi and David were in Italy for 3 weeks with Wendi’s family and ended their vacation in Rome.  Being so close we hopped on the one hour fast train on Friday after work and were checked into our appartment, changed and ready to eat with Wendi’s family at 8:30.  The Italians have the ease of travel down to a science, thankfully!

It was great catching up with them and being in a city where everyone speaks English – it was truly like being on vacation.  Everything was relaxing – great friends, food and vino… oh and the sites too.  Scott and I have both visited Rome several times – but it’s such a huge city and there is so much to see and do.  Even if it is just sitting in a Piazza drinking and taking in the sites (and yes tourist watching is just as entertaining as it sounds), we loved every minute of it.

 

Piper was a trooper as always- she’s a natural traveler – sleeps well in strange places (she should since she “lived”  in 5 houses before she was a year old),  and loves running around the different sites. It’s good thing as there is so much to see in Rome… we could do this city a dozen more times and not see it all.

First Brave Friends Visit Bella Napoli

Nobu and Shay were brave enough to see how Italians really live.  Most people don’t live in the touristy parts of Italy- which is what I thought living in Italy would be like- btw it’s totally different.  Most Italians don’t speak English, the use their hands to talk, and they generally have raised voices to discuss pretty much anything, like what they ate for breakfast.  It’s a unique culture, full of passion and Naples is a perfect city to experience what it’s like to really live in Italy.

We loved hosting them in our place for a few days… While it was an Italian holiday- so it wasn’t true to everyday life, I think they got a taste of it.  We were busy while they were here: Napoli, Capri, Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius .  I was sad to say goodbye to them in Ravello on the Amalfi, but I’m confident they were ready to get back to the touristy Italy. 

 

It was fun having them in town!  Hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

G’ma and G’pa King visit

Two weeks with G’ma and G’pa was simply not enough time.  Piper LOVED having them here and hasn’t stopped talking about “KING” as she so fondly refers to them. 

 

Their trip was a perfect blend of travel and relaxation.  After a few days of getting adjusted to the time change we hit the ground running with a multi-city tour of the Amalfi starting with Ravello.  We arrived on the town’s Saint’s Day – a really cool tradition here in Italy – Every city has a Saint and inturn a holiday to celebrate that particular Saint.  We enjoyed sitting in the piazza listening to a small marching band play during the afternoon. 

 

We spent several days enjoying the sites around Ravello before heading to Possitano for a day trip on our way to Sorrento. 

 

From Sorrento we took a ferry to Capri where Mary, Will and Scott enjoyed the Blu Gratto while Piper and I found the most lovely (and expensive) restaurant on the coast where Piper crashed out and drank, I mean… ate lunch.  It was a perfect day!

In Sorrento we enjoyed the usual sites and shopping.  We also had a bit of a scare with Ali – as she travels with us everywhere we go – being 14 yrs old it’s getting harder on her I’m sure.  We had an emergency visit to the vet as she developed an ulcer on her eye- pretty unsightly – not to mention she can’t see with it – but I’m happy to report she’s on the mend!

After the Amalfi we spent several days back in Napoli – enjoying  the markets, the old town, the views and the general sites around the city.

We took day trips to Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii – both are pretty stunning.

Two weeks wasn’t long enough – we had hoped to do the East coast and some of Southern Italy.  Next time!  Piper sure misses her “Kings.” 

Buona Pasqua

Living in a country that celebrates religion as a holiday is an amazing experience.  It makes me pause to think that we in the US truly separate State and Religion.  While it’s hard to recognize, it’s evident when you live in a country that doesn’t. 

We started the weekend off by making it a three day weekend (thank you Scott for using one of your vacation days) in Sorrento.  Our Italian neighbors mentioned the festivities that take place there – it’s a week long celebration.  We made it for the Thursday evening march.  At 8pm and 2am there was processional through the streets.  It was somber – everyone dressed in black, chanting while carrying torches and crosses.  There were thousands involved in the march – signifying finding Christ on dead on the cross and the sadness that his followers and mother felt.  

It was an experience I won’t forget. 

The weather was beautiful that weekend.  We enjoyed the sites, especially a small fishing village we had not seen before where we spend most of the afternoon  Friday. 

 

Saturday morning we returned to Napoli and enjoyed a rainy day at home. 

Easter Sunday we visited the only English speaking church near our home for service, and then spent a beautiful afternoon at a friends house with her family and one other family.

It was a perfect afternoon, the traditional Easter meal made us feel at home and Piper loved her first real Easter egg hunt with all the kids!  It was fun afternoon.

 

 

Bella Capri

The weather has been beautiful this week – around 70 each day!  We decided to get away for the weekend and take the fast boat to Capri.  Such an easy commute for us – take the funiculari down to the port and hop on the 40 min. hydrofoil.  In less than an hour and half we were in Bella Capri!

It was great being here in the off season.  While most of the stores and hotels on the island were closed in preparation for the high season – which kicks off Easter weekend – it was still a treat.  The island itself is pretty large, difficult to get around all the way by car – in fact they limit cars to only the residents.  You have to either take a taxi or a boat to tour around the island.  We opted to stay in Capri and walk most everywhere we went. 

 

We enjoyed the little Piazza – as usual – with cappuccini and panini  - and walking around the beautiful island.  The highlight was us taking the stroller on a trek that isn’t intended for strollers- a ton of stairs and off the beaten path rocks later we made it in a few hours – with great memories and pics to prove we made it!

It’s easy to imagine what this island will be like in high season – and understand why it’s a top destination for people from around the world.  It’s simply beautiful here.  I know we’ll be back often!

Carnival Anyone?!

Carnival in Italia? Yes please!  With Piper in tow?  Why not?!  Italians LOVE babies and children.  They pretty much do everything with them, including celebrate carnival.  We decided to make a long weekend out of it.  And spent our Valentines Day in Rome.  We hopped the fast train up to Rome on Friday night and stayed at a lovely hotel Copa Africa, near the Coliseum.  They recommended a lovely place for dinner – Gios “Joes” they had the best eggplant stack I’ve had since being here – which btw I never ate eggplant in the state.  They really know how to make a variety of dishes with it here and I just love it!  After eating entirely too much food we took a stroll at night to see the coliseum lite up.  Beautiful. 

Saturday we spend the day seeing the sites that were walking distance from the coloseium to the Trevi fountain.  We only had a until 4 in Rome until our train left for Via Reggio, the city hosting carnival. 

Via Reggio is a cute little beach community north of Rome in Tuscany.  They had a real beach with white sand here – it was a bit cold and very windy so while our hotel overlooked the beach we didn’t venture out there.  Sunday morning we took the train to Pisa to see what every tourist dreams of seeing in Italy… the leaning tower… And guess what?  It really leans. 

It was a nice way to pass a few hours of our time, but really not a must see on my list for future travelers – it’s kind of out of the way – so unless you’re in a town nearby  I’d say skip it.

After our morning trip we headed back to Via Reggio to meet some friends the Barris and their kids to partake in carnival.  I wasn’t sure what to expect- but it was legit with HUGE floats( and lots of them,) loud music, food, and street vendors galore. 

 

 

Piper loved it!  Confetti, friends and bright colors really entertained her.  It was fun!  All in all it was a fantastic Valentines Day weekend.  I’m really liking this place called Italy! 

 

Sicily and a Saint

Sicily is huge!  Who knew?  Maybe those who aced geography or world history. I always thought of it as a smallish island.  Not true.  We only had 4 days to explore so we chose the East side of the island.  Sicily is known for it’s beautiful beaches, but since it is the dead of winter we were advised to stay in the largest city on that side – Catania, and travel from there.  Great advice.

Catania reminded me of Napoli – big, dirty, chaotic, beautiful.  Our exploring was focused on the neighboring small towns.  Taormina is where we started by exploring a 3rd Century B.C.Greek Amphitheater overlooking the stunning waters below. It is a very well preserved theater… some say better than those in Greece, I guess we’ll have to go see for ourselves!  One of my favorite parts of Taormina was it had the best cannoli – a Sicilian treat at it’s finest!  Yummy.
The next day we spent in Syracuse and the island Ortigia.  Syracuse has another Greek Amphitheater from 5th Century B.C. and a Roman Theater built 21 B.C. right next to each other – it was pretty amazing walking the ruins.
We spent the afternoon exploring a darling little island – Ortigia. Loved it there.  I would have stayed here if I’d had known about it.  It’s quant, clean and charming.  The streets were wide, the Piazzas full of life.  It was a fun way to spend the day!
Our last day was the most adventurous.  In true King fashion, we found a festival! Here in Italy, most if not all of their festivals are related to religion. Every town has a Saint and every year on the Saint’s Birthday they throw a huge party.  According to google – we lucked out and timed our trip with the largest Saint’s day party in Sicily. This small town called…..
It was a hoot.  We spend the day chasing the Saint – being carried by people – around the town paying respects to every church in town.  There were fireworks and music along the way.  It was fun, but noisy. As I’ve said before and will say many times again, the Italians LOVE their fireworks no matter if it’s day or night!
All in all Sicily was a success. I want to return here in the summer months and do more of the beach towns on the other side of the island!
Till’ Next Time Sicily!

2013 in Review

Happy New Year! Well almost anyways. From the sound of the fireworks that have been going off all day you would think it’s already midnight. These Italians LOVE LOVE LOVE their fireworks – day or night…. Not sure how they can see them during the day- I have yet to figure that out – but they don’t seem to mind.

I can’t believe 2014 is already here. What a whirlwind 2013 was, but totally worth it. From the baby stage to practically running – Piper has grown a ton. Mom and Dad too – our life experiences have been amazing this year. Learning to be parents, loving and laughing our way through the stresses that comes with that new territory and add a cross atlantic move to the list.

It’s true what people say about moving to a foreign country- it’s hard leaving loved ones, friends and the comforts of home. But the adventures we’re having – living out of suit cases for 3 months, exploring our way around a new country where we don’t speak the language, and making new friends (even Italian friends – it’s a hoot trying to communicate!) have all been worth it.

Looking back at 2013 and choosing the “best of” was hard to do, but here’s my stab at it:

Piper walking for the first time in the foot hills of Tuscany

Last weeks in the US seeing family, friends and a quick trip to NYC

Finding out we were moving to Italy – Scott’s creative poem tops my list!

Touring our new country – the Amalfi Coast twice, the Zoo Safari(parking lot),  Alberabello, Materra, weekend trips to the small towns around Naples, and exploring our new neighborhood Vomero.

Piper’s first words – from ” Da Da”, “no, no, no” to “ciao!” everyday a new word or a new accomplishment like spinning in circles until she’s too dizzy to stand, or just hearing her laugh until she gets the hiccups – the precious moments I’m able to spend with her are amazing.

Celebrating Piper’s 1st Birthday Virtually with our family was a joy and I must add that Skype is something I’m most thankful for in 2013. It’s been clutch in keeping us connected to our family. Piper opens the computer and waves – thinking someone should be on the other end. Amazing that she will probably never know what it’s like to talk on a phone – or really what a computer was initially designed to do. But she has the iPad figured out!

Spending time in Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco with old friends – made us realize that our “location” doesn’t make a difference and that you guys will always be there!

The opportunity to grow in my relationship with Scott, Being overseas has brought us closer together since he’s all I have to lean on here – I love that he’s my partner in adventure and life and how supportive he is of me in all I do.

I suppose there are so many other things that could top my list – but Piper, Scott, family and friends take the cake!

Now for out next adventure…. 2014! Let the fireworks begin… or continue… from our side of the world to yours Buon Anno!!!