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!

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.

 

 

We’ve Got Wheels…and a few driving tips

I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a car since I was 16.  Not kidding.  It’s been almost 6 weeks without a vehicle.  Yes, we’ve rented cars to get around, but there is nothing like owning your own car, the sense of freedom it brings with it especially when you’re living on a military base.

The only issue was finding a car here in Naples, as I don’t really know how to drive a standard.  Poor Piper is probably suffering a slight case of whiplash from my frequent stalling in our rental cars.  So getting a car – one that I can drive (yes I’ll have one of the token automatics in Italy) is so freaking exciting.  For the record, Scott has no issues driving a standard, and in fact loves to drive them. I think in his former life he was a race car driver.

Now the question is what did we decide to get?!  Naples is known for it’s chaos.  Along with it’s chaos comes frequent break-ins and traffic accidents…. which they call Naples kisses – just a little bump here and there…  I think it’s more of a status symbol to drive with your windows knocked out and have dents and scratches all over. They also drive incredibly small cars here – think smart cars and mopeds.

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So finding a car that would fit in, but is safe for a family was kind of hard to do.  I always swore I’d never drive a mini-van.  No offense to mini-van lovers, it’s just not my thing.  The good news for me is mini-vans are too big for Naples, but I did settle for the next best thing… a station wagon.  Yup!  I really think I’ve lost my marbles, but moving to a foreign country where nothing is what you are used to can do that to you.

So here is my car – although it’s not Italian, it’s a real European brand… drum roll please for my…. Audi.

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And here is Scott’s a Fiat, which we hear stands for Fix It Again Tony.  Hopefully that’s not the case with our Bravo.

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Yes, our cars look alike….they all do.  Small.

Now for the driving here in Naples…  It just doesn’t make sense.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  They say there are only two rules to the road here.

1) Flow like water… if you see an empty space, fill it.  And they do just that- if there is a hole it will be filled with 5 mopeds and 2 cars with in seconds.  People literally drive while touching the bumper of the people in front of them.

2) You’re only responsible for what’s in front of you… don’t worry about your sides or your rear.

And park where ever you want.

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Like the middle of a traffic circle – and hop out in front of traffic without even looking.  Because rule #3….Ok so there are more than 2 rules…

3) Don’t make eye contact with anyone when you are driving or walking out into traffic.  If you do then that means you are yielding to them.  If you act like you don’t see them, then you have the right of way…

Oh and stop signs are just decorations on the side of the road – I’ve yet to see anyone stop, and I’ve been told the best way to get rear-ended is to stop.  It’s barely a yield sign….

Wish us luck on the road!  I think we might need it….

First Impressions: Just Look Past the Trash

So before we got here, any time I told someone familiar with Italy where we were moving they’d say,  “I hope you like chaos and trash.”  And I suppose they were right, but like any city it’s pretty amazing if you can look past the trash.

It’s perfectly located on the Mediterranean with views of Mt Vesuvius from almost anywhere you go.  I think the landscape is the prettiest of any place I’ve lived…

Naples

The people here are incredibly nice.  Most speak English or Spanish.  It’s been really easy to get around – yet I’ve not ventured off base by myself, so we’ll see how that goes once I have wheels.

The lifestyle seems pretty cool.  Everyone shops at the open air markets for fresh fruits and veggies.

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You’ll even find fresh fish, olives, meat markets and bread shops.

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The daily shots of espresso or cappuccinos sure beat the Starbucks routine and the food is incredible.  We can eat a 5 course meal with house wine for 15 euro a person.

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The buildings leave a lot to be desired.  They all look the same – concrete square 3+ story apartment type buildings… and they are everywhere… as far as the eye can see.  They are built right on top of each other.  Naples is a very densely populated city.

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They have trash issues, so people just burn their trash at all hours of the day.  The air usually smells of smoke, something I noticed the first few weeks here.  Sad thing is I’m used to it now.  When my eyes burn I realize it’s the smoke, but that’s really the only thing that triggers the smell now.

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Unemployment rates are high here, so it’s considered to be a poor city.  The petty theft crime rates are high – so we try to be vigilant about pick-pockets and taking everything out of our car.

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Funny thing about parking here – when you park for free on the city street- no matter the time of day – you will be approached by an Italian holding out his had – you give him a Euro to watch your car.  Rumor has it if you don’t, your car will be broken into.  So we keep Euros on hand!  It’s an easy insurance policy. (I hear american snack foods like oreos and diorites work wonders too.)

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All in all I’d say we are adventurous people, and this city is full of just that.  And if we care to hop in the car we can be any number of amazing sites with in 30mins to an hour.  I’m sure the differences will get to us sometimes, but the excitement of really experiencing a new culture should far out weigh the inconveniences.  At least that’s what we are telling ourselves :)

 

Here’s to our little Italian adventure!

Last Stop NYC

Since we didn’t have a place to call “home” any longer in DC, we decided to spend our last weekend in the states in NYC.  What a fantastic city!

We had a blast.  It’s too bad we didn’t make more trips up there while we were on the East Coast, but we’ll be back often I’m sure.

We stayed in the perfect location – Midtown – thank you Shanny.  Since we had our nanny join us we got a suite at the Hilton.  Thanks to Scott’s frequent traveling in his last job he earned a fantastic room with views of Central Park on one end and the Empire State Building on the other end.

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Besides pretty awesome views the place itself was huge! I mean, who needs a dinning room in their hotel room?! Needless to say, we loved it!

 

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We had the best tour guides around – Laurane and Mike, thank you!

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We saw way more than we expected in a matter of days.  From Grand Central Station, Broadway, World Trade Center Memorial, The Brooklyn Bridge, Chelsea Market, Meat Packing District, West Village – amazing city!

 

My favorites: Wicked, Central Park and dinner at One if by Land, Two if By Sea, and FAO.

Overall it was a magical weekend.  Great way to spend our 6th wedding anniversary (ok it was a week late, but we were moving out of our house on our real anniversary) and a wonderful introduction to the craziness that comes with living in a big city.  The NYC cabbies have nothing on the Naples chaos… can you imagine!?!