King Joffrey might just be the most evil little man-boy on the planet, but he has got one thing right – he gets to live in a beautiful and unique city (King’s Landing) with a history no more interesting than the real-life city in which the show is filmed. If you’re a fan of the show Game of Thrones, you may know that most of the filming takes place in Dubrovnik, Croatia. This site was chosen after season one wrapped (they originally filmed in Malta) because of the city’s perfectly maintained medieval appearance. It is purely coincidental (and perfectly fitting) that the city of Dubrovnik happens to have a past that is as violent and completely peppered with dastardly deeds as King’s Landing itself.
I am not a dedicated student of history or geography, although I like to believe I have a little knowledge of the world. I recently exposed my own ignorance on the recent affairs of eastern Europe and I am embarrassed to admit the depths of it to you now. Let this paragraph serve as my confession booth when I tell you that just over a year ago, I had never heard of the country of Montenegro. Allow me to further confess that as recently as six months ago, I didn’t know that Yugoslavia was no longer a country, but rather a former Socialist Republic that had been divided into what stands today as seven independent countries (Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Slovenia) .
Of course, I knew that this entire Slavic area of the European continent was [very recently] rife with political tension and civil unrest. The result of which sparked years of bloody wars culminating in both great losses for many of the citizens and great victories for each independent nation. I knew this because when I was younger, my sister and father each had friends from the area. But eleven-year old Greg was more interested in tuning in to see how MacGyver was going to use a pocketknife to escape from a flooding submarine than he was to tuning into C-SPAN.
It’s been nearly a month and a half since my last meaningful post and I am once again faced with the monumental task of getting caught back up. I’m not sure how or why I allowed myself to get so far behind, but I do know that I have left myself a lot of work. The wine, cheese and salami will just have to wait (well, I suppose it can’t hurt to have a little wine while I write). I would like to apologize to my readers for this delay and I would like to acknowledge one loyal reader in particular; Helen actually reached out to me through our Contact Us page and basically said, “what the hell, Greg – where’ve you been?!” Helen and everyone – even though it can’t excuse the lack of content, we just got back from a two-week trip to the States where, in my capacity as Best Man, I roasted my good buddy Josh and toasted his beautiful bride, Abby (read about Josh and Abby’s trip to visit us here and here).
While we were home, I rediscovered some magical things – burritos, quality customer service and Netflix. We haven’t watched as much TV over the past year as we did over the past two weeks. I became obsessed with the Netflix original series, House of Cards – an amazing drama starring, Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, a cagey and politically ambitious congressman who is constantly scheming and conniving to reach the next rung of the political ladder. If Frank Underwood can work through all hours of the night and stay ten moves ahead of his opposition, surely I can bang out a few extra blog posts in the next couple weeks.
When you are young, the world is your oyster. You can do anything… be anything. Many kids have grand plans to become a cowboy or a princess or even travel through space and time. Most kid’s plans become a little bit more grounded in “this” world as they get a little older. But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be grand. I specifically remember sitting in my seventh grade Spanish class, penning a list of activities that I absolutely had to do in my lifetime. This list included activities such as climbing Mount Everest, sky diving and hang-gliding, running with the bulls in Pamplona and skiing the Swiss Alps. I think even then, I knew that I would be lucky to complete more than a handful of the activities. The one activity that persisted most in my mind was skiing the Swiss Alps. All throughout high school and college, my friends and I spoke of the day we would make this dream a reality. But after a decade and a half of dreaming, I started to believe that was all it would ever be. Sometimes the real world (jobs, kids, schedules, finances) just get in the way. Continue reading A Lifelong Dream, Realized At Last!→
You may have recently read that our Christmas spirit was put into gear when we attended a Milanese festival early in December. We continued our drive toward Santa’s big day by slipping into second gear and crossing the border into neighboring Switzerland. Our Christmas spirit grew as we set out to enjoy one of the things we love most about Europe in December – the Christmas markets.
Christmas trees like this are in cities all over Europe – this is in the main piazza of Lugano, Switzerland
It just so happens that one of our favorite things about living in Italy is access to wonderful markets year round. In the spring and summer, we can stroll the markets to buy fresh vegetables and aged cheese. In the fall, we can purchase delicious homemade jams and carefully crafted grappa. However, the winter markets are undoubtedly our favorite. The backdrop is perfect – streets framed with Christmas lights. Good cheer around every turn. Wonderful food and beautiful artisanal goods at each stand. Beyond that, it is perfectly acceptable to walk around drinking the specialty drink of the season, vin brulé. This cooked wine is seasoned with sugar and spices – designed to warm your hands and belly as well as comfort your soul. No market visit on a cold December day would be complete without a cup (or two). Continue reading The Christmas Markets of Switzerland→
The title says it all. What commentary can I possibly add to a post who’s pictures tell the entire story?! Normally, I envision my readers hanging on to my every word and each carefully crafted pun (I said that I “envision” it… I know it doesn’t really happen) – but this time, I think I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Of course, I do have to give some sort of framework around the pictures (hey, it is my blog, after all).
Crowds fill the streets during Oktoberfest 2013
You may have just read about Josh and Abby’s visit where we ate too much, indulged too much and just did… too much! You know, the norm. We were lucky enough to also have Dave and Jill drop in for part of their trip and join us again in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. We were excited to get to the party – but before we could drink our first liter of beer in Munich, we needed to get there. There is no better way to travel through Europe than the train – and when you have an overnight-train option, it’s a win. You get your “hotel room” for the night included in the cost of transportation. But travelers be forewarned – the Ritz… It. Is. Not! Continue reading Oktoberfest… What More Can I Say?!→
Sometimes living abroad is hard. Like when you miss a good friend’s wedding in upstate New York – an event that turned out to be the social gathering of the year (according to Facebook pictures and word of mouth). Thankfully Dave and Jill completely understood when we declined to come. Or when one of your best friends tells you that he’s planning on “popping the question” via email, because there’s really no easier way. Those are the types of conversations that should be reserved for a late night in a neighborhood bar, complete with lots of back pats and free rounds for the groom-to-be. Thankfully, Josh was great about keeping me in the loop, sending us pictures of his wonderful proposal to Abby in Charlestown earlier this year (and even calling us via FaceTime shortly afterward). So, yeah – living abroad can be hard when you miss these special moments in your friends and families lives. However… when we’re able to host our friends and family here, we are always grateful for the experience abroad.
Abby, Josh, Jill, Dave, Jen and Julia
For that reason, we were absolutely thrilled when we heard that Josh and Abby were going to come visit us. We coordinated the timing of their trip so that they would be visiting during a beautiful time of year and the start of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. As soon as they booked their airfare, I reserved our train tickets to Munich, which I’ll write about in the upcoming post. Continue reading The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun→
We recently had the most amazing vacation aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam and I have had a wonderful time writing about it. I have discovered even more about each destination as I’ve researched them further and I have had the pleasure of reliving it all over again as I post the pictures. I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time aboard with us. Sadly, I will close this chapter of our overseas adventure and move onto the next story in an upcoming post. There is still plenty more to come in the blog pipeline…
“Dad, wrap this up already – you’re putting us all to sleep!”
If you joined us thus far, you’ll know we visited Venice, Olympia and Athens in our first post and then Istanbul and Lesbos in the second post. The final leg of our cruise transports us to Kuşadası, Santorini and Argostoli. As always, we’ll include some of our shipboard life and hopefully you’ll be able to stick with me – I’ve got a ton of pictures in this final post. Continue reading Our Final Days at Sea→
In my most recent blog post, we embarked on a cruise throughout the Mediterranean. I’d love for you to continue the adventure with us as we head to Istanbul, Turkey and the beautiful Greek island of, Lesbos. I’ll finalize our voyage in an upcoming post that will include the final ports of call and some more stories about our shipboard life.
“Oh, tell me… tell me all about it!”
When I last left you, we had visited Venice, Olympia and Athens. By this point in the cruise, we really hit our stride and had fully immersed ourselves in everything Holland America’sNieuw Amsterdam had to offer. We were overeating delicious food (and then trying to work some of it off in their state-of-the-art gym), spending time in the casino (maybe too much time… literally every casino worker knew me by name), taking in shows and making friends all over the ship. We found a couple of other families with small children, but for the most part – we were in the minority (not fitting into your typical “cruise-goer” demographic). I’ll tell you what… if you ever want affirmation about your kids cuteness – go on a cruise with thousands of grandparents missing their grandkids. They were all so happy to pay us compliments about Julia that it made us excited to take her anywhere on board. Continue reading Come Here, You Turkey!→