I’ve always been amazed by my father’s dad, even though I have very few memories spending time with him. My “Poppy” was a career photographer for National Geographic. He was born before the turn of the century (February 24, 1898… have you ever known anyone from the 1800’s?!) in a rural town in Delaware that even today only boasts a few hundred residents. He raised his family in Washington DC and got to travel the world for his work (long before traveling the world was something you actually did). These are all things that I find particularly fascinating and I have discovered we even have a few parallels in our lives. Except, he was a rather short man and I’m basically what you call basketball height (5’9″ is about the tallest you’ll see on the court, right?).
A scene along Lago di Maggiore
Of all those attributes, his long-standing career with National Geographic is probably the most interesting to me (and one I’m happy to brag about). On a whim one day (several years ago), my sister-in-law, Jessica googled his name and was surprised at the results. Over 400 of his images appeared on websites like art.com and others (I’m still researching how I can lay claim to the royalties… lawyers feel free to message me). Jessica conspired with Jen and they surprised me with an huge print of one of his 1950’s Washington DC images (I was living downtown at the time). Since Jen’s parents, Dominic and Diane had just purchased their condo in the Lake Como, Jessica and Diane also purchased one of his more famous 1950’s lake images in order to surprise me twice, as well as Jen. When the gifts were presented, my dad, beaming with pride ran out of the room for a moment and came back with the two original copies of National Geographic magazines that contained those exact images. I kept one magazine with my image at my home in Washington DC, and we took the other magazine to Dominic and Diane’s condo in Italy to be with the print that now hangs above our bed.
My grandfather’s photo that appeared in the August 1950 issue of National Geographic
Jen and I recently went to Scotland with her family (HERE) and had a fabulous time exploring the Scottish Highlands. We saw Aberdeen and quite a bit of the Scottish countryside. Next on the agenda was a trip to the country’s capital, Edinburgh. The original plan was to make it a day-trip, but we felt that there was too much to see and do in just one day (not to mention a two hour drive each way), so we planned an overnight stay.
Country road in Ballater
These dry stone walls have been used as field boundaries for well over a thousand years in Scotland
We set out early in the morning from our cottage in the charming town of Ballater, and headed south (still on the wrong side of the road) toward Edinburgh. I was simply amazed to see how the landscape could change so quickly from one part of the country to the another (the colors went from a lush, fertile green to a more rustic, almost coarse landscape – beautiful in it’s own right). Continue reading Make My Order Of Haggis a Double, Please→
No, I didn’t wear one myself, but only because we were already half-way through our trip before I came across a store that sold them. Real men also eat haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs encased in it’s own stomach) – I did do that! Of course, so did my two-year old daughter… and she probably had more than all of us combined.
A scenic shot of the River Dee in the Scottish Highlands
Since living abroad, we’ve been able to get in touch with most of Jen’s roots. Her father is Italian (hence us living in Italy) and we’ve gone to many of the places where he has or had family. Since he grew up in Africa, we still have that left to do. Jen’s mother grew up in Ohio, and having crossed that off the list multiple times – it was time to go a bit further. Diane’s lineage is a mixture of Irish (we went to Dublin in March, HERE) and Scottish. Now, it was finally time to go to Scotland! And since Jen’s parents and sister were here visiting us, we would all embark on this adventure together. Continue reading Scotland – Where Real Men Wear Skirts→
Recently, Jen’s family came to visit (HERE) and since we’re not the type of family that does well sitting still, we planned a couple trips within their trip. One of these week-long sojourns was an impromptu visit to Civitella in the Abruzzo region- Jen’s nonna’s (grandma’s) hometown. The official name of this gem of a village is actually, Civitella Messer Raimondowhich is home to less than 900 residents. Jennifer and Jessica grew up going to visit their nonna and family friends in Civatella during many of their summers abroad. Since I had never been to see such an important part of my wife’s family history – I was excited to go.
Civitella Messer Raimondo – the place where it all started!
It’s been a long time since I completed a blog post. So long, that for some reason – I’m a bit nervous (strange, my friends will tell you that I love to talk about myself). So I’ve been procrastinating. I have organized my DVD drawer. I carefully tended to the plants (I’ve discovered I love gardening…in small doses). And the past few days, I have been playing Mr. Mom while Jen is in California for work. I have done just about everything to avoid writing on the blog for the past month… and the only thing I’ve come to realize is that I now have a mountain of work ahead of me.
A mountain in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, not completely unlike my mountain of work
It’s not that I’ve just been procrastinating. We’ve been busy. I mean, very busy. Albeit, busy doing more of the same (traveling, eating, drinking, etc.) – but still always experiencing something new. So, please grant me the excuse of allowing the experience to get in the way of the blog – just this one time! In the coming days and weeks, you will hear of our wonderful trip to visit our good friends in France; the visit from Jen’s family and the upcoming visit with my parents. I’ll toss in a few food posts and hopefully a feature on where we’ve been living (which has been in the pipeline since I started this blog). So let’s get this party started… no more delays. And so, it begins with a trip to France… Continue reading What’s the French Riviera Without a Gold Yacht?→
I have no proof that when my sister, Michelle came to visit with her husband and daughter (David and Elsa) that he was the tallest man in all of Italy… but I’d say there’s a good shot! When I picked them up at the airport, I simply looked for the tallest/shortest couple combo possible (he’s a hair over 6’8″ and she’s a modest 5’2″). I spotted them instantly and helped them get some caffeine before taking them home for our big Italian lunch.
David, Elsa and Michelle – he’s crouching down to make it in the frame
Julia’s younger cousin, Elsa was her newest obsession and she had been excited all week leading up to their visit. She would wake up every day and scroll to some of the video’s or pictures we had on our iPad and scream “ELSA!” When the real thing walked (or rather, crawled) through the door – she was like a kid on Christmas. She couldn’t stop hugging and kissing her. Although, she had an awkward way of pulling her in by the neck – so much so that we dubbed Julia the, “Scranton Strangler” (you “Office” fans will get the reference).
The girls all reunited – Julia just wanted to kiss Elsa all the time
“Is my cousin trying to strangle me?!”
Michelle and David have a high-paced, action-packed lifestyle in Chicago and they were looking forward to a couple weeks of unplugging from their demanding jobs that they both do so well. We were happy to accommodate and show them a slow-paced trip filled with lots of good food and wine. We spent a couple days in the area, taking it easy. We visited the local park with the girls, we walked around downtown Como, we drove through many of the smaller lake towns. I showed David my favorite 5k loop and we went running together nearly every morning. Michelle cracked up one day after her privacy was invaded by our little Julia, somewhere in the beginning stages of potty training. She barged in and saw Michelle on the “potty” and declared to her, “Michelle… potty… YAHHH!” Continue reading The Tallest Man in Italy→
On May 4, 2013 a tornado touched down in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. A path of chaos was carved throughout the area best known for a city that inspired a processed meat in the US nowhere near an authentic representation of it’s namesake – Bologna.
One day prior, a different type of tornado touched down in the Lombardia region just north of Emilia-Romagna. Our friends, Nathan and Danielle landed in Milan and a whirlwind of food, fun, wine was about to begin – our own path of chaos would be carved throughout northern Italy.
Our very good friends, Nathan and Danielle
I picked them up at the airport while Jen stayed home to prepare a proper welcome – an Italian pranzo (lunch) done right. We greeted them with an aperitivo (an alcoholic beverage used to stimulate the appetite) and then began stuffing them with salami, prosciutto, lardo (cured meat – basically just pork fat thinly sliced), cheese and olives. Then it was on to the pasta course, with a simple red sauce before our secondo, veal Milanese. Next of course were the salads and then dessert – fresh fruit and pastries we bought that morning. Plenty of wine flowed throughout the meal and we finished with grappa. The only problem… our large lunch had an effect opposite of our intention to keep them awake and perky in order to stave off jet-lag. They were both crying out for a nap, but we were merciless with our plans. We whisked them to downtown Como, where we walked off lunch and eventually made our way to a bar for happy hour outdoors under the sun. Continue reading Tornado Touches Down in Italy→
Well, we didn’t run into Edward Cullen, Bella Swan or that creepy little girl that can induce pain in people’s mind (I suppose the world’s largest and most powerful coven of vampires was in hiding) during our visit to Volterra in Tuscany.
Now this is Tuscany!
For the Tibetan monk that has been living in isolation in Bhutan… and my sister, the only two people in the world that haven’t a clue who Edward or Bella are – I am making a playful reference to the Twilight Series. Buddhist monk and Michelle, listen up – the premise of the fictional story is simple. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy happens to be a blood-sucking vampire. Girl also falls in love with another boy. Boy happens to be a shape-shifting werewolf. Love triangle ensues. They all get in trouble when the Volturi (fictional Vampire royalty from the non-fictional town of Volterra, Italy) get involved. Giant battle rages. Extend story over five books. Produce six movies and collect hundreds of millions of non-fictional dollars. You know – your classic love story. Continue reading Edward and Bella – We’re Here!→
Facebook is great for a lot of things. First of all, it’s a wonderful time killer. It is a spectacular medium for sharing funny videos about cats. The site is also great for shameless self-promotion of your unimportant blog (ahem). Facebook keeps me and Jen apprised of popular youtube videos and trending pop-culture stories we would have otherwise missed living in another country. But perhaps best of all – it helps reconnect people after many, many years.
Apparently I’m the only person in the world to forget that, “The Sound of Music” took place in Salzburg, Austria. I base this observation on the countless number of tour operators and tourists we observed visiting and posing at key movie locations. However, thanks to a quick iTunes movie download in the hotel, we were quickly singing our doe-ray-me’s along with the rest of the cheese balls.
Not only was this classic movie set and shot here, but a fairly famous musician was also born and raised in the city. Perhaps you’ve heard of him… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg is an amazing city filled with a rich history and jaw-dropping beauty. We left northern Italy for Austria on a whim two days prior. We continued riding that whim and drove further into Austria to see Salzburg on the suggestion of family. Since our expectations of the city were nonexistent, they were easy to surpass – but I would think this city could have easily leapt the most lofty of them all.