Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Favorite Way to Spend the Holidays

Several years ago my husband and I decided to take a trip during the holidays to escape all of the weird family dynamics at the time. Well, as you can probably imagine, this turned out to be my favorite way to spend the holidays. We don't have any children, well, not counting our two wonderful Frenchies, Spartacus & Nero (both of which we had way before Martha got her two Frenchies)... but I digress... so leaving during the holidays works great, as long as my wonderful sister-in-law is available to watch our babes.

Our first and most memorable holiday excursion
was a trip to Italy! We started in Nerola, a city about 45 minutes outside of Rome. We stayed several nights, including Christmas, in a 10th century
castle, Castello Orsini Hotel. Other than one other couple we were the only guests at the hotel over Christmas eve and Christmas. It was incredible to say the least. Christmas day we spent eating amazing food, walking the small streets of Nerola watching the local Italian families celebrate and relaxing and soaking up the amazing sites, smells, and history. The day after Christmas we went into Rome to see all of the amazing sites and walked until we couldn't walk anymore. Getting back to the hotel proved to be more of a challenge than we would have liked since our cell phone couldn't dial the local number... or maybe that was user error. In any case, we managed back to our hotel and spent out last few days at the Hotel Nerola.

From Rome we traveled to Florence and spent several days walking, walking, visiting all of the incredible historical sites, visiting the market for amazing leather goods, visiting the Galleria dell'Accademia to see the statue of David and eating of course! We stopped at cafes throughout Italy to taste the tiramisu and never once was it the same.... in fact, they were always very different. One unforgettable experience in Florence was the night we arrived and checked into our hotel. We were quite hungry from our day of traveling so we walked to the bar. Neither my husband or me speaks much Italian and much of the hotel staff didn't speak much English so we did our best to ask for a glass of wine. We selected a bottle and our waiter began to pour and kept pouring, and pouring... my husband and I looked at each other out of the corner of our eyes wondering if/when he would stop pouring. The answer, when we each had half a bottle of wine in our glasses! WOW, now that is my kind of pour! And it didn't stop there... we proceeded to ask for some cheese and crackers (something nibbly) to keep us from getting drunk off of our half bottle of wine! Very cheerfully our waiter runs back to the kitchen and comes back out with a huge platter filled with cheeses and salamis and bread!!! It was enough for a meal alone, but alas, we had already made dinner reservations and didn't want to cancel them after the hotel staff had been so obliging. The bill for our bottle of wine and cheese platter was around $20 Euros!!!!!! What???? Amazing!

From Florence we moved on to Venice... I fell in love with Venice. So magical with its winding pathways through the canals, over bridges, through boutiques and apartments. Venice and Paris are two places I could go back to again and again. I suppose maybe it is that romantic in me.... We were in Venice through the New Year and had a memorable celebration walking the Venetian streets at night, dinner and a hotel overlooking the canal. While in Venice we visited the island of Murano where they have been and continue to create the most amazing glass work! The glass artisans wouldn't tell me where I could buy the venetian beads but we scoured the island and found a shop... I nearly wiped them out and spent a fortune in the meantime. I still remember the two bags full of beads and bringing them back to our hotel room where I emptied them out on the bed and looked at each one again and again, ogling them!

Since this trip we have also traveled to Spain to visit my family in the Basque Country, between San Sebastian and Bilbao, the town of Elgoibar. This too was an amazing and unforgettable holiday trip, but one I will save for another time. Travel is in my blood and there is nothing quite like traveling to a Foreign country to experience new foods, amazing history, new cultures and wonderful people. I wish we could spend every holiday season traveling, but until I win the Lotto the here and there will more than suffice. :)