So I haven’t blogged in 11 months, and I have some friends who’ve actually forgotten I had a blog at all. I realize that simply won’t do. So in an attempt to stop this website from dying, I’ve got a nice hearty catch-up blog for anyone who wants to know what I’ve been up to.
First.. I have some explaining to do. To recap my last blog I started 2017 a little nervous about what the future held. The tides were changing and I was planning to move back home to Barbados. The silence was in part because I was trying to focus on how this big step was going to pan out, and also because… I didn’t really have anything interesting to talk about.
I left England in July knowing I wanted to move in with my fiancé and fulfill my dream to go to Italy ….in the space of a single summer I somehow accomplished both.
Once I had settled in Barbados, I had a “now or never” chat with Lalit and we booked a three week get away to Italy via Canada. I hadn’t been on Canadian soil for 5 years and I only told immediate family about my travel plans. Once I posted I was in Toronto I was overwhelmed by how many old friends reached out, and even though it was a very short stop over, I got to see every single one (and quite a few bajans too!). It was like no time had passed at all, and I promise not to make it so long before my next visit.
Italy was a dream come true to me in every way. We intended to travel the country via rail with only hand luggage – this was going to be the longest trip I had ever taken with the least baggage.
Our vacation started with a short stop over in Milan, where we spent an afternoon eating escargot and gelato in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – a shopping complex known for its high fashion retailers (though we dared not go in any) and we finished by posing on the top of the Duomo Cathedral at sunset, while we took in the breath-taking view of the city.
Our second journey was to Bellagio, a town on Lake Como. Already exhausted from travelling, I took a nap on the train only to be woken up to the view of the picturesque peaks around the lake. Our quaint little hotel opened onto a garden shaded by a grape vine, which meant an amazing smell every time we went to and from our place. The panoramic view of the mountains was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’m quite used to my vacations circulating around big cities and this one made me appreciate a truly scenic, relaxed environment. The valleys are un-touched for the most part, aside from the little towns at the bottom. I’ve told myself I’m going to try to have more vacations in places like this instead.
Our first full day we rented a speed boat, which we took for a spin to the three major towns and some swanky getaway houses, including Richard Branson’s and George Clooney’s. This must be one of the only places you can do this without a boat licence…. and now I understand the appeal of having one. It was a real taste of the high life, and being on a lake the water was almost completely still aside from the waves created by the other boats. My only regret was not booking it for another hour.
We finished off the night with our first wine-tasting experience. While I’m often seen with a rosé in hand I realized in this moment I really knew nothing about wine. Considering our lack of sophistication, I was grateful it was a semi-private experience. I guess we’ll have to do it a few more times to practice.
On day two we went to Villa Carlotta, which was built at the end of XVII century. It got it’s name after being given as a wedding present to the daughter of the Princess Marianne of Nassau – Carlotta… I’ll be sure to include it on my registry. It provided so much more than just a striking view of the lake – from being a museum of roman mythology and aristocracy, to having elaborate gardens, and even a small gully on the property, it was a full-day experience.
We spent the evening in the neighbouring town of Varenna, where we soaked in our view of Como before our departure. Lalit and I would later agree that this was our favourite place during the whole trip.
Doubling back to our trip to Toronto, I was most excited to see my cousin David and his wife Teva. It was pure coincidence when they told me they were going to be in Venice the same time as Lalit and I. I had grown very close to them during my time at U of T, and their presence is so refreshing. Sharing a bit of our time in Italy with them was going to make our vacation that much more special. David had done quite a bit of research on Venice and was quite the tour guide. He took us up the Campanile of St Mark’s church and he taught me that Bellinis originated in Venice. Teva taught us about olive trees, four leaf clovers, and her work on a virtual reality experience at the Venice Film Festival. Together we went to the Islands around Venice including Murano, the glass-blowing island, Burano, the lace island with the most vibrant buildings, and Torcello, the home of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, built in the 600’s and Cipriani’s, one of the best restaurants in Venice.
One thing everyone agreed on was that it was super easy to get lost in this city. I for one felt that all of the alleyways looked the same, and for anyone interested in travelling there you should know in advance that City Mapper and Google Maps aren’t particularly helpful in this city. I did enjoy getting lost a few times as it felt like an adventure through a huge maze. The fun came to a grinding halt when it was past 9pm and we were wondering through dimly lit alleys. During that time I
couldn’t help but notice the cracks going up the walls, the lack of people on the streets and the fact our phones were running out of battery. Lalit didn’t see the same resemblance to a horror movie. In spite of this, by the end of our time in Venice I had painted my own Venician mask, been on a Venician Gondola and even seen a couple Vencian blinds. A well-rounded experience I think!
I was most excited to go to Rome, which is why we left it to the last leg of the trip. There’s no denying it was the busiest place we went to, but it also had the best food! It was here that Lalit and I really got to brush up on our history – from Romulus and Remus to Emperors Nero and Vespasian all the way to the Twelve Apostles. We took almost every tour we could squeeze in.
Our first stop was the Vatican. Being raised Catholic I couldn’t miss this attraction and it
definitely didn’t disappoint. Anyone who has ever been would tell you to get a tour to skip the crazy line and highlight the key attractions. There were so many statues and art pieces it was pretty easy to get completely overwhelmed and I was grateful to have someone summarize it for me. My favourite part was all the little stories behind Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel. Not only was he very talented at capturing the human form but he was very clever in portraying his interpretation of the biblical figures – from inserting his self portraits in different paintings to depicting his critics as demons.Being connected to St. Peter’s Basilica and looking out to St. Peter’s Square…I never made the connection that St. Peter was actually buried there. The holy tomb is decorated with only mosaics, since paintings have a shorter life span.
At the end of the tour, we hit up another gelato and made our way to Trevi Fountain. This was probably my favourite part of Rome. 1: it’s free! 2: photos don’t do it any justice… it’s truly huge and marvelously crafted. I liked it so much I went again the following morning before the crowds arrived just to appreciate it some more.
We stayed in a hotel right next to the Colosseum, which meant we got to walk by it every day. When we took the tour we learned all about the brutal lifestyles of the gladiators and the audiences that came to see them, the most surprising fact was that it was later turned into a church. This was in an attempt to keep the ancient structure standing in spite of its gruesome history. There is still a crucifix in the middle of the arena to this day. After we finished the tour we went on an excursion through Palatine Hill and decided that was enough history for one day, so we went to the beach.
12 train-rides and 26 flavours of gelato later – Lalit and I said goodbye to this diverse country. There’s still so much more of it to see and we hope to go again some day.
We passed through Montreal before heading home via Toronto. I hate to admit this, but I’ve seen very little of Canada for someone who lived there for four years. This was my first time seeing any of the French region, and since my name is Brigitte almost everyone at the airport addressed me in French until they saw my confused expression. That being said we really enjoyed the city, after a famous bagel we ventured up to Mount Royale to take in the panoramic view before chowing down on a poutine and calling it a wrap! It was then back to Toronto to squeeze in some more time with our friends before hopping on the plane back home.
So I survived 3 weeks living off of only hand luggage! On landing in Barbados Lalit and I picked up the keys from our landlord and moved straight into our new home together. A perfect ending to our amazing summer. After being apart for 9 years you couldn’t blame us for being eager, and three months later we’ve settled into our new jobs and are getting back into a routine…. which is another reason this blog took so long
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of it without getting bored of this stale news please have a look at the video below of our adventure in Italy. I look forward to returning to the blogosphere.