Spain By The Parador

Parador de Almagro

In a quiet corner of La Mancha, we arrive to our accommodations for the night, a 16th century convent. Our rental car dips beneath an archway and instantly grumbles. The stones below the tires are old and bumpy, producing a sound only medieval stones can. We park in the courtyard, next to a bubbling fountain. Some other guests are arriving at the same time of the gray hair variety. The couple takes one look at my husband and I in wonder. “What are these young people doing staying in such grand digs?,” they seem to say. Tonight we aren't staying in a crumbling guesthouse, hostel or budget Continue Reading

Abruzzo, Italy Wishes You Were Here

The Drive to Sulmona copy

You can spot L’Aquila not with the help of road signs or even a compass, but rather by following the construction cranes. After following the crane compass rose to L’Aquila, I arrive on the streets of the regional capital of Abruzzo. Etched across crumbling buildings is a simple saying, “L’Aquila rinasce.” Meaning, “L’Aquila reborn,” the phrase describes the efforts to rebuild what was once a community of elegant squares and historic palazzi after a highly destructive 6.3 magnitude earthquake in 2009. L’Aquila’s centro storico still very much remains a construction site five years later. I Continue Reading

Where Italian Life Goes, The Sweet Habit of Confetti Follows

Confetti 2

Behind large and ominous doors, they are clamoring over candy. A small wooden desk separates the brassy crowd from ladies in matching blue uniforms, judges trying to keep a little order in the court of candy. Arms flail in the air as if they are betting on horses or partaking in an auction. They are all vying for the sweetness of attention to try confetti, a sugarcoated candy so deeply rooted in Italian history, it practically should get a UNESCO stamp of approval. I head a little bit deeper into the building to see what all of the fuss is about amongst the demanding Italians. Little desks Continue Reading

The Death Defying Ride To Meet a Saint in Gubbio

Gubbio from above

He points to a red dot in the cement, suggesting I stand at its center. A few feet away from my red dot is another where my husband stands. “Do you want to get on first or last?” he asks. Without hesitation and not wanting to be the one left behind at the bottom of the mountain, I scurry to my spot and wait for what looks like a birdcage to come around the corner and pick me up. As quickly as the moving metal basket arrives, I hop on, against all better judgment. We are off, dangling several feet in the air in an instant. It seems most appropriate that in order to meet a saint, you have to Continue Reading

Heraklion, Crete Wishes You Were Here

The Church of Saint Titus

Crete’s most famous writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, best known for his novel Zorba the Greek, wrote in his work Report to Greco, “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.” I arrived to Heraklion as most travelers do, by ferry. What I read about Crete’s capital prior to setting foot on its docks was nothing truly praiseworthy. Most port cities are plagued with the ugliest of realities. The grease and grime of shipping infiltrates every inch of these cities’ characters. As I peered out of my hotel window, I saw the reality of Heraklion. A concrete jumbled mess of Continue Reading

Ruined Ruins: The Trouble with Knossos

Knossos Bull Fresco

“Handmade, you see?” He knocks a vase with an innocent dolphin on the side against the counter top. “See, it will not break!” The gray haired man behind the market stall of mass produced pottery has a hard sell on his hands. He continues to slam his own product against hard surfaces to show me how well made his pots and vases are, ones that are no doubt produced in factories and not in some local potter’s kiln. A theme I would later discover at the archaeological site Knossos, I understand his imagination is far different than mine. He is selling me a lie, but I can imagine it to be something Continue Reading

The Ideon Cave on Crete Wishes You Were Here

Ideon Cave

Some words are never lost in translation. As we arrived to the small town of Zaros on the Greek island of Crete, I quickly learned “coffee” is one of those words. Down the narrowest of alleys and past plenty of Cretan men’s stares, we parked in front of our hotel for the night. The night before was spent sleeplessly worrying about the bed bug sighting. We departed Rethymno faster than we arrived and headed for the hills of Crete to hole up in essentially the next closest thing to grandma’s house. Walking through the threshold, we were greeted by Katerina and her Greek. She chatted and chatted Continue Reading