All posts filed under: Travel

Cinque Terre

For years I have been hearing about the Cinque Terre, in large part from my parents, who have travelled there a couple times, luckily before they became quite popular (read: busy). As I mentioned in my post about Portovenere, we made the conscious decision not to stay in the 5 lands. However, we knew we would want to make a day trip, which is quite simple by boat. We opted for the unlimited daypass for the boats so that we could travel by sea between the towns, as I’d heard that the trains can get super crowded in high season. Reaching these beautiful towns by boat gives a whole different visual perspective on how each one is nestled into the countryside. In the early in the morning on our way over, the hilltops were shrouded in heavy mist and cloud. It was completely magical to see the tiny pastel-coloured settlements appear as we sailed towards them. We decided to go all the way to Monterosso for our first stop, and make our way back to a few other towns throughout the day. Wandering …

Isola Palmaria

After a couple days wandering around Portovenere, we decided to take a daytrip over to Isola Palmaria. It’s just a quick boat ride away, but we wanted to have the whole day to enjoy the island, so we got moving fairly quickly in the morning. We packed a picnic lunch with delicious goodies picked up in town the day before and headed to the docks. Palmaria Island is pretty tiny, and much of it untouched. There is a seaside trail that starts at the dock, and after a short walk we found ourselves on the beach, facing the colourful strip of Portovenere’s waterfront buildings just across the strait. We really were dying for a beach day, so that was pretty much the extent of our plan. We did a short hike to the northwestern tip of the island to break up the day. We walked up to a high lookout point facing the Church of San Pietro across the narrows, with stunning views sweeping to the east across the Gulf of Poets to Lerici, up past the bluffs to Cinque Terre, …

Portovenere

Portovenere. The one that really got Italy under my skin. For years, I have read about the Italian Riviera and dreamt about visiting this dreamy locale. In particular, the quaint pastel towns of the Cinque Terre have been super high on my travel list. When it came time to plan our travels in Italy, the Ligurian coast was a no-brainer. I set my sights on Portovenere for a few reasons. I loved the idea of the Cinque Terre, but since our travel was planned for June, right at the beginning of high season, it wasn’t just a matter of finding a suitable place to stay in our budget. I couldn’t help but think about recent accounts I’d read about these lovely five towns being practically overrun with tourists, so crowded that it verged on unpleasant. I was really after that authentic Italian experience, what I imagine the Cinque Terre feels like in off season, or maybe about 8 years ago! After doing a little research, I landed on Portovenere, sometimes touted as the “sixth terre”, just a little ways south-east …

Giardino del Museo Stibbert

During our first week in Florence, we spent a good deal of time wandering rather aimlessly through town, discovering little gems and places we didn’t even have on our radar. One of these spots was the Giardino del Museo Stibbert, just a short walk from our apartment north of the centre. The museum holds the private collection of Frederick Stibbert, and apparently the armour and ceramics are a pretty impressive lot. We didn’t go inside (it was near closing when we happened upon the gardens) but we were happy to look at the beautiful structure and imagine what it might have been like to grow up here. In his will, Stibbert left the home to the city of Florence, and the museum was opened to the public in 1909. We were really intrigued by the amazing family crests on the exterior wall of the museum. The details carved into the stone was incredible, we spent a lot of time looking at the different images and playing I Spy with the kids, who searched for various animals on the …

Buongiorno Firenze

Buongiorno, Firenze! We flew from Paris to Pisa on May 28, leaving behind dark moody skies, heavy rain, and impending floods in France and trading them in for the hot sun and blue skies of Tuscany. Boarding a bus from Pisa to Firenze, we set foot in Italy for the first time. We were all in awe of the beautiful scenery, gazing at typical Tuscan scenes of towering marble cliffs and verdant rolling hills lined with cyprus trees. We were all so excited for this leg of our journey. When we decided to spend our last month abroad in Italy, we knew we needed a home base. Derek would still be working a few days each week, and for him work isn’t exactly portable. Along with all our other luggage, we lugged two large computer monitors (in even larger travel cases) over to Europe. For our other travels around Europe it was easy, as the computers remained in our home in France and we could enjoy the benefits of travelling light with only carry-ons. However, this …

Harry Potter

A much-delayed second blog post of our visit to the Harry Potter Studios in London back in May! Again, please excuse the photos — dead camera battery, really low light and a lot of glass cases made it hard to get great pics on my phone. While we were in the train station area, we had the chance to get a up close with the Hogwarts Express steam engine, and the kids tried to push their carts through platform 9-3/4. There were some train compartments set up with a few select scenes from the movies, which were fun to walk through. There was also a small section devoted to the graphic design team for the films. The scope of their work was pretty amazing, as every single book cover, label, newspaper, magazine, flyer, sign, map, package, etc had to be created from scratch. That must have been a pretty dreamy job, if you ask me. Next, we had lunch in the backlot, complete with Butterbeer of course! The kids were divided on their opinions — Oliver adores anything sweet, …

Harry Potter

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry. But why on earth should that mean it is not real?” – Professor Dumbledore (JK Rowling, of course) I find this quote to be particularly poignant for me. I read the first Harry Potter book when I was 20 years old. I quickly devoured each book as it came out, and have reread each one numerous times. I don’t think a book or series ever made such an impact on me as this one did, I absolutely love it. I love the movies pretty well as much, each and every one. When the kiddos came along, I shared that Harry Potter love with both of them as well. So the quote — just because it’s in my head doesn’t mean it’s not real, right? Sometimes I still wish I’d gotten my letter on my 11th birthday. Turns out, I’m just a muggle. I was so excited to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford, just outside of London. It was definitely a huge highlight of the trip for …