Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Around the World in 80 Bajillion Pictures: Part Two, France and Italy

When I disembarked the Epic in Barcelona, I immediately hoped a train to Paris in an attempt to relive as much of Midnight in Paris as possible.  As it rained (as Paris is wont to do),

I battled the crowds at the Louvre, wandered by some famous windmills in Montmartre on my way up to Sacre Coeur...

...and revisited my favorite museum in Paris, the Rodin.  I've already posted on some of my Paris musings (the locks, the buskers, Rodin & inspiration), so I'm gonna breeze through Paris a bit, though I will include this picture as proof that blue sky does, in fact, exist in Paris.

In Cannes, the rain cleared away and I had a super release week. Hard to complain when this is your view:

They were getting set up for the Cannes Film Festival - tents and red carpets everywhere (and I could have sworn I had pictures of this, but apparently, I fail).  I loved Cannes.  After the crowds of Paris, it was ideal.  Yes, when the cruise ships are in during the day it can feel a bit overrun - especially on Le Croisette, the boardwalk that runs along the shore - but at night, the ships pull away and it becomes this sweet, sleepy little French town with the most gorgeous views.  I could walk there for days.  And I did.  In one of my many wanders, I found the French equivalent to Kailua beach and watched the kite surfers (though they were more of the racing than the acrobatic variety I see in the islands)

And, of course, what trip to the riviera would be complete without Monaco?

They were getting set up for the Grand Prix - building guardrails on the roads and erecting bleachers all over town. 

I took a tour of the castle - in English, no less!  I couldn't help giggling about this, because when I was there as a kid, we missed the last English tour and had to hitch onto a French one with my poor mother trying to simultaneously translate everything for us.  After Monte Carlo, I met up with a friend for a last lovely afternoon in Cannes, and then it was on to glorious Cinque Terra!

I hiked Cinque Terra until I could hike no more (both because I had destroyed my shoes and because there was a rather large, scary, spiked fence thingy blocking the path and saying we could walk no further.  An impulse stop, it turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.  I stayed at a small town just north of Cinque Terra called Deiva Marina.  I fell asleep each night listening to the ocean outside my window - which is always the hallmark of a good day.  The proprietors of my B&B didn't speak English and my Italian is even worse than my French, but we got along famously in spite of the language barrier.  When I left, one of the owners - a lovely guy who reminded me of my grandpa, said (I'm pretty sure, it was all in Italian) that he wanted to make a gift to me of this giant bottle of olive oil.  I had no idea what to do with it, but I thanked him profusely and tucked it into my backpack, telling him (I think) that I hoped to return. 

(For more Cinque Terra pics, check out the Lock On post.)  After the splendor of those five towns, I hopped a train to Florence, which has its own brand of splendor.

I remembered Firenze as one of my favorite cities in Europe, but this trip it felt smaller, more crowded with tourists.  I was ready to be disenchanted with Florence - until I went inside the Pitti Palace.  I spent the day there, just absorbing it all. And looking up.  Everyone goes on and on about the Sistine Chapel, (and I'm not trying to take anything away from the Sistine Chapel by saying this) but no one ever looks up at the amazing frescoes on the ceilings of the palaces and museums we're walking through all over Europe.  Unless you're told to look up by your guide.  It's like looking at the Mona Lisa and missing the Chegal in the same room.  Because no one told you to look.  It's easy, I think, when you're on these Big Dream Vacations to get fixated on the Bucket List Sights and miss the ones that aren't highlighted in your Lonely Planet Guide Book.  Yes, Notre Dame is gorgeous, but look to the left.  Look to the right.  Look at the marvelous French-ness of all the architecture around you.  The balconies!  The grey curved roofs!  Just turn your camera a bit to the left.

I noticed the same thing again in Pitti.  The ceilings were epic, but no one looked up!  One was this magnificent almost Dali-esq fresco that seemed to be melting down the walls.  There were these incredible columns painted on the arched ceiling to give it a forced perspective of even more height.  It was a masterpiece... but no one looked up.  How crazy is that?  (No pics of that as cameras are verbotten inside the Palace, but here's a snap of the exterior as taken from the gorgeous Boboli Gardens.)

And speaking of looking up... Observe! The (very blue) chandelier in my hotel room in Rome.

Beautiful Roma!  I arrived in Rome to meet up with my aunt for the next portion of our trip.  Sadly, her flight was delayed and her bags were delayed even more, but we'd both been to Rome before and we managed to see quite a few of the sights before boarding my second boat.

Cocktails in the Piazza Navonna!

Coins in the Trevi Fountain...

And then we were on our way... Up next, Egypt!

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