Verona, Italy

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(La Traviata- Arena di Verona)

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(Juliet’s Balcony)

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(Juliet statue and the original letter wall.)

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(The first of many Aperol spritz and my vintage B&B keys.)

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(An attempt to catch the energy of Verona.)

What can I say about Verona? Home to Romeo and Juliet and famous for its opera; it’s also the first place I tried an Aperol Spritz! As is the theme with most of my trip (as you probably have noticed), I was only there for a short time. Less than a day actually from start to finish; I used it as a stopover between Switzerland and Florence. Mostly though I just wanted to see Juliet’s house and opted for a bed and breakfast next door (literally). After missing my bus stop (note: transportation drivers are not always helpful) and walking back quite a bit and purchasing a map, I finally found the B&B only to have no answer with the doorbell. I ended up having to call and since she had expected me about 2 hours prior, she had gone out. Luckily she wasn’t too far and within 30 minutes I was checked it, changed and ready to see Verona. The B&B itself was quaint but lovely, very feminine due to its owner but I enjoyed that aspect. The massive shutters opened to the bustling street below and added character to the rather modern space. The owner was the quintessential Italian woman, animated and exquisite. She was beyond welcoming and accommodating (I had my breakfast at 6am). My favourite part though, was how she said “Prego” as every other word. She’s the one who informed me an opera was to be preformed that very evening and I must attend to get the full Verona experience. I only really knew about Juliet’s house and because I knew my stay was brief, I didn’t look up what else to do or see. Thinking an Italian opera sounded wonderful, I made a metal note to check out tickets and headed next door to Juliet’s house. The courtyard part is free but it is quite small and pictures are difficult with people in every nook and cranny. The house is a bit larger and costs to go in which lessens the crowds a great deal. After looking around at the sparse space, I made my way to the electronic computer area to write my letter to Juliet (no paper letters anymore). Next was a quick stop on the famous balcony and I was desperately wishing I wasn’t alone at that moment so is have picture evidence of it. That was it, short but sweet and exactly what I had come to see. With an evening to kill now, I wandered around the cobblestone streets; just taking it all in. Verona is just a buzz with energy from tourists and locals alike. I found the arena and bought my ticket to the opera, “La Traviata”. By this point, exhaustion is starting to set in and I find a little restaurant to rest, eat and sit and to watch the passersby. After dinner, I make my way back to dress for the opera; suddenly I’m grateful to have brought a dress but missing my heels. Again with too much time on my hands before the start, I venture to a nearby piazza for a drink. Sitting in Verona, waiting for the opera, I realize I am in a sea of orange beverages. Being curious I order one and that, my friends, is the life changing moment of my first Aperol spritz! For those of you who have not had one it is Aperol, which is a bitter orange liqueur, and sparkling wine and it is delicious! As if I could follow that (ha-ha), I went to the opera. I sat beside a lovely German couple on a second honeymoon type vacation, which I quickly became friends with. They hand out candles and it’s so magical in the open air arena with the sun setting and the hundreds of candles all aglow. I couldn’t believe I had almost missed it. The opera itself was an experience and although I couldn’t understand the words it was wonderful. It was also familiar and after a déjà vu moment, I text my friend to Google its movie origin. Turns out I was sitting at the very same opera as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!! At the last intermission I took a quick photo with my new friends and we said our goodbyes. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and knowing I was heading into a long day with Florence and Rome, I left before the end. The streets had calmed down significantly but it was still very lively as I walked home. I didn’t want to go to bed but I knew I had to and so with great sadness I ended my only day in Verona. The next morning I ate and took another pause at the gate to Juliet’s for a photo op and I was off to my next city. I would definitely return as there is a lot more to Verona then those two sites but I feel more then content with what I experienced. It’s a very romantic and family oriented city and maybe because I was a touch homesick, I felt a bit lonely here. I’d like to bring a companion if I ever get the chance again; if only to have someone to take my picture of Juliet’s balcony!

June 22-23, 2013

Monterosso, Italy

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It was my second time in Cinque-Terre but the first time I got to stay overnight. It’s really no wonder it’s such a popular tourist destination, from the hiking, to the scenery, to the idealistic little villages; it’s colourful in both its energy and ambiance. I stayed in Monterosso, which is the last of the five villages that makes up Cinque-Terre. Monterosso is the epitome of a beach town and I felt like I was almost camping in my little single room at the hostel (which I loved). I had such an amazing time here that one post would never be able to fully express that. The other day I found a little blip I had written in my phone while there. I was sitting at a sea front bar, drinking an Aperol Spritz and looking out at the lights of the neighbouring villages. I thought for this post, I’d share that note and some photos from that moment.

June 29, 2013
I’m sitting here at a seaside bar in Cinque-Terre, Monterosso to be exact. Glittering in the distance is Varnezza! Sparse twinkling lights, shimmering up the cliff side, but at dusk they almost look as though someone has put Christmas lights on the hills. Monterosso is buzzing with locals and tourists alike. It is high season and the feeling of summer in is the air. The feeling of long nights and even longer days; of sand and salt mixed into every inch of your body and no desire for it to be any other way. A boat sails into the harbour, a momentary distraction but gone as quickly as spotted. Boating is second nature to those here. The sea is a part of life; of everyone and everything, as it is with most coastal towns. It is with blurry eyes I try to stay awake, I’m exhausted from the day but I do not want it to end. At the sea is where I feel most at peace. And although another vision of the sea awaits me, I have enjoyed my time here so… Maybe that is all Cinque-Terre is ever meant to be for me; a fleeting moment of utter happiness, destined to be repeated but not revelled in for long. How else could you truly understand the immenseness of being complete? Even if only for a day.

June 28-30, 2013

Monte Carlo Casino

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This was a great day! I had been out the night before at High Club in Nice and watched the sunrise on the beach, getting home just past 7:30am. I had planned on going to Monaco the following day and somehow the next morning I headed out, slightly hung-over and all. One of the bus stops will let you off just in front of the world famous Monte Carlo Casino and that’s where I started. I had seen the outside before during that trip in 2010, but had yet to be inside. It’s an intensely extravagant place and walking up you see car after car of Rolls- Royce, Bentley and other fancy sports cars. The Hotel de Paris next door is frequented by the very rich and hosts many parties and events. I saw a party there once on the terrace and the dresses these woman wore made me beyond envious! I tend to be nervous when I feel out of place or uncertain if I am allowed in somewhere, I had seen tourists going in and knew it was probably okay and I desperately wanted to see inside Monte Carlo; so I gathered my courage and walked right up those steps and went inside. I didn’t go to gamble, I just wanted to see it. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed inside, but I can tell you it’s gorgeous. The details in the carpet, ceiling (a stunning shade of blue, I can’t even describe) and decorations are exquisite. The bathroom even has a self cleaning toilet that rotates the seat and dries it after each use. Sections were closed off for a function of some sort and so I really only saw a small bit but I was happy nonetheless. I decided to get a drink at the bar and opted for a Aperol Spritz (my favourite) made with champagne at a staggering 19 Euros. It was probably the best one I’ve ever had! I made friends with the bartender and learned he was Italian (probably why his Spritz was so good) and that he travelled in each day from Ventimiglia, Italy. Coming to Nice from Cinque-Terre, Italy, I had passed through Ventimiglia so I knew of it and was surprised he travelled in each day (about an hour and a half). In total I was inside only an hour or less, but I felt really special and enjoyed myself a great deal. I just watched the people mingle about and gamble at the tables; drinking my Spritz. I’ll tell you about the rest of Monaco in another post but to this day, I will say, I have yet to see a place as glamourous as the area around Monte Carlo and the neighbouring Hotel de Paris.

July 27, 2013