Monday, July 22, 2013

Amy's Birthday at Italy's Largest Lake, Lago Di Garda

Aegean Air brought us to our next locale...Italia!  We took the train from Milan to Desenzano Del Garda where we found our new home for the next 3 weeks in a small community inside Manerba called Montinelle.  We rented our beautiful apartment through and were extremely impressed.  Not only did the owners pick us up at the train station (Grazie Beppe), but the apartment in the historic center was very well appointed.  Pasta, a fruit basket, eggs, homemade jam and prosecco were welcoming us as we walked in to our new abode.  The apartment was so large that we sent a message out to all to come join us.  Luckily, our friend Kristin braved the trek on standby all the way from Hollywood for a very nice 4 day stay.

...our apartment

Our days were spent shoreside at the lake and visiting the many resort towns along the shores of Garda.    Some of our favorite towns were:  Lazise, Sirmione, Gargnano, Limone, Riva and Malchesine.  Our nights were spent preparing large spreads of appetizers (tirokafteri...our guilty pleasure cheese dip from Greece, olives which Dad would be jealous of and prosciutto...Amy no longer vegetarian) and italian speciality dinners.

...the town of Salo

The lake reminded us of our childhood and going on camping trips with our families.  Just replace the people from other states we encountered with a mixed bag of European tourists.  The families from around Europe congregated on the shores of this town to enjoy all the lake activities this idyllic travel destination had to offer.  I was amazed on how many German speakers there were everywhere on the lake.  Needless to say I was quite happy practicing both my German and Italian.

...on top of La Rocca in our town.  Great view of the south side of the lake

Amy's birthday came on a hot, sun drenched day.  Although no fireworks, Amy enjoyed her Fiat car as her present along with homemade pizza that night.  Amy stuck to her plan and continued her Spanish studies while at the lake.  The long days at the beach helped her not only to get a good lesson in from her fantastic tutor, but also work on her tan.  Yes, she actually does tan (Zuber... you cannot call her "white meat" any longer).  She fits in really nicely now in Italy.  I also have to give her credit for learning Spanish in Italy as it is proving to be pretty helpful.  She has picked up some Italian too and now orders and does her own shopping.  Sometimes she'll mispronounce things or put extra vowels in curious places, but the Italians don't care,...forget 'bout it...fa bene cosi!

top: town of  Gargnano, bottom:  town of Limone

..Riva Del Garda

While Kristin was here we visited the city of Verona.  Although Verona was very close to the lake we thought the the towns along the lake with the cliffs of the mountains forming backdrops to the expanse of the lake were a little more impressive.  While in Verona we visited Juliet's house,  took the obligatory photo in front of the Juliet balcony, saw the roman coliseum, strolled the beautiful streets...and sampled some fine italian gelato.

...Juliet's balcony in Verona
...Amy and Kristin in Limone
...homemade appetizers on our terrace...saying ciao to Kristin

The last week at the apartment we were treated to some nice Italian hospitality.  Beppe and his Wife Titti (apartment owners) invited us to their beautiful home close to the lake for a swim and dinner.  It was a Sunday and this warm, happy family came together to share in a delicious meal with salami sandwiches as appetizers, roasted veggies, grilled sausage and spareribs for dinner and plenty of wine and prosecco to make this Italian American boy happy.  For dessert we had homemade tiramisu, peach torte and a variety of after dinner liquors which included regional sweet wine and limoncello.

We enjoyed learning about the Italian lake life where the warm days are spent with families and friends and where multiple trips to the gelato stand and the outside eateries are welcomed and frequented by all.  

Amy's top 5:
1.  the smell of jasmine in the air
2.  happy dogs and their owners everywhere
3.  cold lake dips
4.  evening runs through the olive tree orchards
5.  turning 37 in Italy (spoiled girl...36 was also spent here)

top: view of lake in our town, bottom: the town of Limone
Mike's top 5:
1.  driving through the european streets in our Fiat
2.  spending time to prepare appetizers and dinner for Amy with a glass...maybe 2 of local wine
3.  teaching Amy Spanish
4.  learning more Italian
5.  sampling endless gelato flavors with Kristin and Amy

...the hills are also alive in Italy.  Town of first haircut during our year abroad.  A 50 minute experience.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mykonos, Greece...too hot to handle?

We left Santorini on a high speed ferry to the beautiful, sun drenched party island of Mykonos.  Although it was still quite hot, we were happy to see that Mykonos had a nice wind that remained with us for the whole time on the island.  We stayed at the Hotel Nazos just outside of the old town.  The lively hotel owner that picked us up in the hotel shuttle suggested that we not wait and unpack, but said our itinerary must be as follows:  get swimsuits on, go to paradise beach (party already going) and then come home, shower, make love and then go back out for the evening party.  I thought it curious that he threw in the shower bit in between the other exciting activities, but Amy and I did not want to disappoint.

Boarding the ferry to Mykonos
Actually, the combination of heat and travel exhaustion got the best of us so we adjusted the suggested itinerary and got something to eat downtown and then hit paradise beach the next day.  The downtown (old town) area is filled with small stores, high end shops and a bunch of bars and restaurants serving mostly Greek and Italian food.  One could easily get lost in the small, narrow cobble stoned streets.  There is a cute waterfront area and a row of windmills that beckoned a photo opportunity from the wandering tourists.

A short drive away from the old town was the quite opposite "young" area called Paradise Beach.  Oh,...where do I begin?  Let's just say this lively town is similar to any college town party and spring break locale times 2 set to pounding rhythms of the world's most famous DJs.  We spent two days here with mornings on the beach and part of the afternoon at the beachfront club joining in with the festivities.  Mind you... I did say only part of the afternoon.  The young guns did the all day beach thing plus the all night partying thing.
Gyro shop in Mykonos

We rented a scooter for 2 days and toured around the island a little.  We went to a clothing optional beach (guess who did the partaking and who didn't?) and visited Paradise Beach and Super Paradise Beach.  Don't be fooled by the name though.  Super Paradise Beach was much calmer than Paradise.

Waterfront in Mykonos.  We did a morning run here through the streets.  On the run we actually saw the Windstar ship we sailed on for our honeymoon almost 8 years ago.
Giant beans in tomato sauce, stuffed mushrooms and our favorite...spicy cheese dip (tirokafteri)
The streets of Mykonos-Old Town
The party just beginning at the Tropicana Beach Club, Paradise Beach
Our short time in Greece came to an end as we boarded our flight back to Athens and then off to Milan, Italy.

Greece, your warm people, tasty food and warm, wild beaches will always be remembered and we look forward to experiencing them again in our lifetime.