Toscana Bella

Day 3 of the Italy trip found us heading north from Rome into the beautiful region known as Tuscany. Our first stop was the medieval town of Lucca with its defensive wall originally built to keep out the neighboring feuding village of Pisa. 

Toscana Bella
Although entirely different from Rome, we loved this ancient city with its warren of narrow streets. The original village was founded by the Romans in 180 BC. The 4 kilometer wall that encircles the city center was built during the Renaissance era and remains intact. No longer used for protection, the top of the wall is now covered in grass and planted with trees. It is a popular place to walk and ride bicycles. 

Our group dispersed as soon as we passed through the massive gates, everyone free to wander about, shop, and find lunch. Elissa, Dayan and I veered off to the left, in search of a café. Dayan wanted to try an Italian pizza. We found a delightful ristorante that offered great choices for all three of us. 

Dayan’s assesment of Italian was that it was “interesting”. He declared it fresh tasting. And found it more difficult to eat than US pizzas. The crust was not crispy and he ended up folding the slices up to make less of a mess. 

Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
We were captivated by Lucca. Elissa and Dayan climbed one of the many towers within the city, the tallest one actually, with trees growing like wild hair on the flat roof. I remained below to take a pic. They had a great view of the town with its piazzas and cobblestone streets lined with three and four story buildings. Shops occupy much of the ground level spaces with living quarters above. 

In spite of the antiquity of Lucca, the little shops offer a wide assortment of goods for sale, including name brand clothing, electronic gaming systems and everything in between. We enjoyed our time in this town that offers a peek into the distant past, while providing everything its citizens need to continue living in a thriving community. 

Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
Toscana Bella
The highlight of our evening was visiting a Tuscan farm, with vineyards and groves of olive trees. Fattoria Il Poggio produces a dozen red and white wines and extra virgin olive oil. We toured a vineyard, inspected 50 year old olive trees that are considered young, and learned how olives are cold pressed to create the oil. 

We were then led to beautifully prepared tables set up outdoors in long rows beneath a protective roof, and served a five course dinner, made from fresh local ingredients, and accompanied by wine, olives and olive oil from the farm. We sat with our “family”, the 43 members of our tour group. 

Toscana Bella

Toscana Bella 

The night became magical. 

As the food was brought out, course by course, and the wine was consumed freely, shyness with each other disappeared and we chatted and laughed together, like family members reunited after scattering around the globe. Dayan tried his first glass of wine, a dry white, and wasn’t impressed. He decided wine takes getting used to. He sipped on a small amount. This young man doesn’t need alcohol to lose his inhibitions about talking to people. He is naturally good at that, and conversed easily with our table mates. 

However, some in the large group who have been extremely quiet or constrained opened up tonight and the meal was a merry event. And the food just kept coming. Our gracious tour director contacted the farm ahead of time and the chefs prepared the most extravagant five course plant based meal for me, offering gluten free bread and spaghetti and wonderfully flavorful veggies.While the others ended their meals with rich desserts and a sweet red wine, I had a delicious bowl of freshly chopped fruit. I was extremely grateful to Fattoria Il Poggio for the extra effort it took to make sure I dined healthily and well. 

Day 3 ended with a bus full of talkative people headed back to our hotel, discovering how we are different from one another, and what we all have in common. Our desire to tour this gorgeous country is what has brought us together, in time and space, and that shared interest is forging connections that feel familial. 

Tomorrow this newly forming family heads to Cinque Terre, five villages on the western coast most easily accessed by boat. It promises to be another glorious day in beautiful Tuscany…Toscana Bella. 

Toscana Bella

Toscana Bella

Conquer Your Own Space

Today, day 2 of our Italy trip, was full and so much fun. Although we arrived late last night, after travel delays and diversions, the only thing we missed on day 1 was a welcome dinner. We quickly got up to speed this morning, after a few hours of sleep, meeting our tour director and the rest of our tour group. At 7:30 am we were on the bus, headed to Vatican City.

Conquer Your Own Space
I didn’t know what to expect within the massive wall that surrounds the Vatican. A quiet, holy atmosphere? Religious artifacts? I was surprised by the museums, full of Roman statues, mosaics, tapestries and paintings. And by the number of people present. Crowds and throngs and masses of visitors milled about. Patricia, our Italian guest guide today, explained that 24,000 people a day visit the Vatican. Every day. 

She gave each of us a radio to wear around our necks and an earbud. That way we could hear what she was saying as she led us through the museums and cathedrals. Patricia also carried a multicolored flag so we could visually keep her in sight. She advised us to stay with her today at all times. Nevertheless, one member of our group had a tendency to wander off, and get lost, much to his wife’s chagrin. 

We toured the Sistine Chapel, with its paintings by Michelangelo. We were strictly prohibited from taking photos. The chapel is smaller than I imagined it to be. However, it was very moving to stand there quietly, and take it all in. I am familiar with those paintings on the chapel’s ceiling, but to stand beneath them carried such an emotional impact. 

Conquer Your Own SpaceWithin the Vatican museum. The architecture was stunning. 

Conquer Your Own Space            This is a tapestry! 

Conquer Your Own SpaceSt Peter’s Basilica, which is so huge and ornate that it boggles the mind. 

We had time for a quick lunch and then we were on to the colosseum. This was another familiar place that wowed me and carried an emotional charge. There was such strong, interesting energy there in that ancient place where entertainment was held…entertainment that often resulted in death. 

This monument is enormous as well. It gave me chills to see the labyrinth in the center of the colosseum, and the stone hallways that gladiators ran out of, uncertain of their fate. 

Conquer Your Own Space
Conquer Your Own Space
Conquer Your Own Space
After a two hour nap this afternoon, Elissa, Dayan and I headed back out into the city on foot, eager to explore during our free time. Dayan took the lead, guiding us to the Castel Sant’Angelo. Unfortunately it was closing as we arrived, however we enjoyed snapping a group selfie with the castel in the background. We strolled down cobblestone lanes, crossed over the Tiber River on ornate bridges, and found a delightful little street lined with charming ristorantes offering outdoor seating. 

I sampled roasted potatoes with rosemary and olive oil, and grilled peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Elissa and Dayan both tried a short spaghetti dish with a cheese, egg and bacon sauce. All was delicious! After a leisurely dinner we walked down the street to a little cafe. Dayan tried a gelato. Elissa and I picked out sorbets made from fresh fruits without dairy products and I believe without added sugar. 

Conquer Your Own SpaceCastel Sant’Angelo as dusk fell

Conquer Your Own SpaceThese massive statues are everywhere. 

Conquer Your Own SpaceRome night life

It was a magnificent day, getting acquainted with Rome. I learned much about the history of this beautiful city and her architecture and culture. And walking this evening gave us an accurate view of her friendly people and bustling commerce. 

One phrase from the day really resonated with me and replayed in my mind. At the Vatican, Patricia was telling us how crowded it would be inside the museums and cathedrals. She didn’t want us to get lost. “Conquer your own space,” she advised us, in her lilting Italian accent. 

What powerful words. Conquer your own space. Surrounded by people and massive statues and ancient ruins and a multitude of cars, busses and scooters, attain and hold your space. Stand your ground. Occupy your space. Be you, confidently. Don’t be pushed and pulled by the energies around you. 

I love that. We honored those words as we walked around the city, learning to say “No” with a shake of the hand to sellers of cheap merchandise and beggars. I watched Dayan conquer his space as he immersed himself in Rome, from the moment he awoke and hung out the third story window to greet the day, to leading us  expertly through lanes and piazzas this evening. 

Conquer Your Own Space
I observed Elissa conquer her own space as she stepped out of her comfort zone, unafraid of trying new foods and experiences. She used the word “magical” several times to describe the day she was having. 

It was a magical day. It was a day to conquer our own spaces and be fully who we are. We all three love the quote, “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” That is our mantra during our Italy trip. We are experiencing life, together. 

Tomorrow we are off to the medieval village of Lucca, in the Tuscany region. Our adventure continues. 

Conquer Your Own Space

Red Nose Day 2017

When Elissa, Dayan and I decided to pack our red noses, in honor of Red Nose Day this year, we thought we would be taking selfies of the experience in Rome. After storms yesterday diverted our plane and then greatly delayed our arrival in Charlotte, our travel itinerary changed. We missed our international flight from Charlotte to Rome. Thousands of other fliers missed their connecting flights as well. 

It was not a happy place last night at the Charlotte Airport as weary travelers struggled to find flights out. 

Through an incredible series of miraculous events, which I will write about when I am not so exhausted, we were placed on the “sold out” last flight out of Charlotte, bound for London. They even delayed the plane until we were onboard. Numb with fatigue but grateful, we arrived in London late this morning. This evening we will catch a connecting flight from London to Rome, arriving at last! 

Red Nose Day 2017
And London happens to be the perfect place to take a Red Nose Day selfie, and wear our wrist bands. We popped on the noses just long enough to take a pic. It is really the donation made to purchase the red noses that is important. 

Because Red Nose Day isn’t just about sporting a clown nose. Begun in England in 1988, Red Nose Day raises funds to help impoverished children around the world. The US joined the yearly event in 2015. Billions of dollars have been raised to date, to keep kids safe, healthy and educated. 

Celebrities and the entertainment industry have supported Red Nose Day for years, using their influence to bring in donations. We certainly aren’t famous, me, my daughter and grandson…however, we believe in this cause, and improving the lives of children globally. 

In a couple of hours we will board a plane for Italy. The tour officially starts in the morning. I am grateful we have made it this far, and we will arrive only a bit behind schedule. I am grateful to wear a red nose once a year too, to donate funds and raise awareness about a worthy cause. 

My next blog post will be from Rome…minus the bright red nose!

Red Nose Day 2017

Italy Bound

I’m posting quickly while I have an opportunity to do so! The journey began today, to Italy, a journey that actually began more than five years ago. Today, we are experiencing the reality of the vision we cast years ago.

Italy Bound
For the next 11 days, I will be posting from Italy. For these posts I’ve joined together the two phrases I’ve built my  inspirational year around, phrases borrowed from an Alan Rickman quote. “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.”  Life is a little more robust right now and we are savoring it!

We have been diverted to Chattanooga, TN, due to severe weather in Charlotte, where our connecting flight awaits. With tornado warnings there, we are content to wait it out in Tennessee! 

I trust we will get to Rome exactly on time, according to Divine scheduling. We are excited. We are having fun. It is all part of the journey. 

We are Italy bound. 

Italy Bound

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On

As children, we use playing as a way to learn. So we pretend to drive, practice parenting skills with baby dolls, stand before imaginary classrooms as the teacher. I have often used playing as a trial run for an upcoming event. When I worked in my uncle’s firework stand as a young teen, I first set up a mock store to role play waiting on customers and making change.

Tonight, I played. Exactly one month from today, my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan and I will be aboard a plane, heading to Italy. I practiced packing for the 11 day trip.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
My daughter, grandson and I all agreed…we want to travel light. When I visited Scotland in 2014, I made a mistake. I took a huge suitcase for that 10 day trip. I immediately regretted it. The monstrous piece of luggage was cumbersome, difficult to navigate with through crowded airports and train stations, and impossible to lug up flights of stairs. I hurt my back dragging the thing behind me. I vowed to travel with a carry on next time.

It is the “next time”, as I prepare to take my grandson to his dream destination for his graduation gift.

But could I really get 11 days of clothing plus toiletries and a couple of extra items in a suitcase that measures 22x14x9? I decided to find out.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
First problem…my old carry on is 1/2″ too big! The airline we are flying on specifies carry ons cannot exceed 22″, including the wheels and handles. Mine is slightly too tall with the handle included. I’ll be purchasing a new carry on. This is why I play ahead of time! For tonight’s experiment, I used the suitcase I have to practice packing.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
All of these clothes….

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
…need to fit in here. Everything I’ve read suggested rolling clothes, rather than folding. Let’s see if it wotks.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
I layered PJ top and bottoms together and rolled them up.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On

I’m only taking one extra pair of shoes. Those went on the bottom, against the side. Heavier or bulkier clothes such as jackets, a cardigan and capris formed the bottom layer.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
I used underwear and socks to fill in the gaps on the bottom layer. They all found a place to tuck into.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
I worked on the tops next. Short sleeved shirts rolled up quite small. I rolled as tightly as I could, starting at the bottom of each shirt.

Packing for 11 Days in a Carry On
All of my tops formed the second layer. There was plenty of room left for toiletries, a journal and a map. And I hadn’t even used the many pockets or the mesh section. I can easily stash a hair straightener, phone charger, and electrical adapters in my suitcase’s pockets.

In my carry on I was able to pack one pair of shoes, one pair of PJs, a pair of capris, a lightweight jacket, a long cardigan sweater, 11 tops, and 11 days worth of underwear and socks. Of course, I’ll be wearing clothes too…jeans, a top, walking shoes and perhaps a long sleeved jacket in case the plane is chilly.

I am thrilled with my play time! I discovered I need to purchase a slightly smaller carry on. And that it is possible to pack for an extended trip in a carry on.

One month, and what I pretended doing tonight will be reality. Four months and one week from today, I’ll do this again as I travel to Ireland, Scotland and England with my mom, sisters and niece.

Can you tell I am scratching an itch, having been bitten by the travel bug? I am so excited to see new places!

This is the carry on I will be ordering!

I am an Amazon Affiliate and may earn a commission on purchases, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for considering making a purchase of this product, or any other items, through my Amazon link! 

Read a Road Map Day

Today, April 5, is Read a Road Map Day. The perfect way to celebrate would have been to set off on an adventure, maps in hand, to enjoy an impromptu road trip. I couldn’t do that today. However, I did the next best thing. I recently purchased four MapEasy Guidemaps at Barnes & Noble. This evening I lounged on my bed and unfolded those colorful maps, and in my mind at least, I traveled!

Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day harkens back to the days before smartphones wirh built in GPS. As a realtor, I am grateful for the time saving convenience of GPS. It makes my life easier…and safer.

However, there is something adventurous, romantic even, about navigating by a map that lies unfolded on the front seat of a car. I love maps. Although not as necessary today, they are still symbolic of travel.

Read a Road Map Day
I am charmed by these MapEasy Guidemaps. They are tear resistant and waterproof. And the bright colors have an artistic appeal. I was delighted to discover the bookstore carried precisely the maps I needed for my upcoming trips this year.

Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day
The maps are double sided. Italy has the familiar boot shaped country on one side, with the major cities and roadways marked. And on the flip side are maps of three of Italy’s favorite destinations: Rome, Venice and Florence. Those cities are on our itinerary.

Also included are boxes with important info, such as what the currency is…the euro…and how to travel across the country. The Personal Favorites box lists not-to-miss sights.

Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day
Read a Road Map Day
Since the trip to Italy, with my daughter and grandson, is about six weeks away, I spent most of my “celebration” time studying that map. However, the other three maps are excellent as well. Ireland features Dublin on the flip side, which is going to be our home base in that country.

The Scotland map has Edinburgh on the other side, which is the main city my mom, sisters, niece and I will be launching out from during our visit to that bonnie country.

And the last map is just of London. That is the only city we will be visiting in England. These maps are perfect for my upcoming trips, providing exactly what I need to familiarize myself with the countries and/or primary cities.

I intend to take my maps along on my travels. And when I return home, the colorful maps,  marked with the places we visited, will be framed as artistic keepsakes of my journeys.

Read a Road Map Day
I enjoyed celebrating Read a Road Map Day. Studying the maps ramped up my excitement about fulfilling a growing desire of mine…traveling and exploring new places. This is only the beginning of world wide adventures, I hope.

In fact, I am so thrilled about the trips this year, that as I prepared photos for tonight’s blog, I felt compelled to play with the wording of my premise for this year. For this post I couldn’t decide between the categories, “life a little more tender” or “art a little more robust”.

This is Alan Rickman’s quote that is foundational to my year, “If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.” I’ve read that he loved the thrill of traveling. I switched the words around to create a new category, Life a Little More Robust. It seemed fitting for a post about travel. I think Alan would approve.

Read a Road Map Day
If you love maps like I do, you can get your MapEasy Guidemaps below:

I am an Amazon Affiliate and may earn a commission on purchases, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for considering making a purchase of these products, or any other items, through my Amazon link! 

Italy 2017

Today’s musings and activities were inspired by a text from my daughter this morning:

Italy 2017
In less than two months, my daughter Elissa, grandson Dayan and I will be flying out of a NW Arkansas airport, with Rome, Italy as our destination. This trip has been in the dream stage for five years. Very soon now, it will become a reality. 

Italy 2017
This trip is for my grandson, who will graduate from high school AND turn 18 years old a few days before we fly out. When he was 13 he expressed a desire to travel, and chose Italy as the country he most wanted to see. This young man has always had a world mindset. He thinks big, and dreams even bigger. He loves geography and can name every country in the world and talk knowledgeably about them. Travel and world cultures are embedded in his DNA, I think. 

It has been my great pleasure to share this dream with him, dubbed Italy 2017, and gift him with this trip. I am delighted that my daughter,  Dayan’s mom, is going as well. She has dreamed and planned with us. We will be three generations, sharing a grand adventure, before Dayan leaves for college this fall. 

Italy 2017Dayan and I made Italy dream boards in 2012. Never underestimate the power of casting a vision. 

Italy 2017                  Dayan’s new passport photo. 

Elissa’s text this morning, and her question about luggage, inspired me to look over our travel itinerary, read through saved Pinterest pins, and look up info about our upcoming trip. I have been saving posts and ideas for five years. How exciting to be moving into the implementation stage. 

Italy 2017

Italy 2017
On Pinterest I read about packing a carry on like a pro. When I traveled to Scotland in 2014, I hauled around a huge suitcase filled with too many clothes. I seriously could have packed one of my grandchildren in that monstrous piece of luggage and still had room for clothes! I won’t make that mistake again. I have a carry on that I intend to use, along with an oversized bag that will double as a purse. 

Italy 2017
I learned that tightly rolling clothing takes up far less room than folding them. I will be practicing this technique. Another idea was to pack the rolled clothes in mesh bags, that keep like items together. The bags then go into the suitcase. 

Thinking of packing led me to wonder what the weather will be like in Italy, late May and early June. That is important, as the weather determines what clothes to take. My research revealed that temps are moderate in late spring, ranging from lows in the 50s to highs in the upper 70s. Some long sleeved shirts and a light jacket seem like wise items to include. 

Italy 2017
Italy 2017
I read helpful info about doing well on long flights, such as drinking water every hour while in the air and getting enough light if you are flying west, using ear plugs and a sleep mask to get some rest, and only taking a short nap during the day, after arrival. We want to acclimate quickly so we don’t miss a moment of fun. 

Italy 2017
Finally, I spent time reading again through our itinerary. We have eleven days, once we arrive, to explore this beautiful country. We are traveling with a tour group, arranged by the amazing Ken Mayer, with GalaxSea Cruises & Tours in Neosho. I am immensely grateful for his help and his suggestions. 

Our journey will begin in Rome and continue through Cinque Terre, Pisa, Siena, Florence, Verona, Venice, Ravenna, Assisi and Orvieto before returning again to Rome. We will have many opportunities to visit historical sites, meander through museums and shops, and sample local cuisines. 

Italy 2017
The one saved Pinterest pin that I did not read today was 45 Reasons Why You Must Visit Italy. I only need one reason…because my grandson wants to visit Italy. This is Dayan’s trip. His mother and I are his happy traveling companions, sharing in his joy. 

Italy 2017…it is here. The dream is becoming reality. What memories we will bring home. 

Italy 2017

Journey 342: Casting a Vision

I did a fun exercise in The Artist’s Way that explored possibilities. The assignment was to collect images that represent items in lists that I made. This is absolutely perfect for me, this time of year. As 2015 is winding down, I’m taking time in December to reflect on my past journey, enjoy the Christmas season and think about 2016 and its theme and symbol. I make a Vision Board every January. The images I am collecting now will be incorporated into my new  2016 Vision Board. 

  
Here are the categories from the assignment and the images I selected that I’ll print out and use next month. The idea is to fill in the lists quickly without overthinking. 

List five desires:

1. Live part of the year in Edinburgh, Scotland 

 

2. Travel

   
3. Express creativity in art, writing, gardening and decorating 

 

4. Be a full time writer

 
5. Take a cooking class

 

If I was 20 and had money…five things I would do:

1. Travel the world

 
2. Invest to create sustaining wealth

 

3. Buy land

 
4. Build my ideal home

 

5. Invest in others

 
When I am 65 and have money…five things I will do:

1. Explore the world 

 

2. Buy a cottage in Edinburgh, Scotland

   
3. Create Rivendell of the Ozarks

 

4. Invest in my family

  

5. Invest in others

   

This was a valuable exercise for me. I noticed, for example, that travel made all three lists. As my children have grown up and now have lives of their own, travel has become increasingly attractive to me. Expressing my creativity, in a multitude of ways, made the list. Investing in my family and others is important. 

Scotland is dear to me and I feel the tug to “return home” to Edinburgh. I’d love to have a house or flat there where I could stay a month at a time, several times a year. And the land, creating Rivendell and investing in others is all connected. To offer a protected place where people can rest, reconnect with their hearts and leave feeling refreshed has long been a dream of mine. See the video at the end of the blog post for a movie I made several years ago about seeing my dream birthed into reality. 

I’m excited to use these images as the basis for my 2016 Vision Board. I love connecting with my desires, seeing them as possibilities, and then releasing them as intentions into the universe, and into the hands of God. I can let go of the outcomes and watch as the Divine sets all of time and space into motion to meet me in my longings, in the way that is best for me. I’m so grateful for the year I’ve had. Bring on 2016!

 

Check out my Rivendell Movie!  
  
  
  

Journey 289: Travel Money Jar

Monday, while I was on my way to Wichita to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert speak, she serendipitously posted an intriguing article on her Facebook page. Her post was inspired by this meme:

 

Liz did her own research and discovered the $600-$750 a month was high. But she did find that Americans spend an average of $7.50 a day eating out, mostly on lunch. By packing a lunch or eating at home every day, at an average of $2 a day, one can save $5.50 a day. That’s $160 a month and $2,007.50 a year…more than enough to buy an international plane ticket to anywhere. 
  
Liz pointed out that dropping $4 every day into a travel fund, rather than spending it on a Starbucks coffee, would result in $1,460 in a year, enough to buy a ticket as well. Giving up one luxury item a day could launch a travel fund. 

I was captivated. The number one reason people don’t travel is because they don’t feel like they have the money to do so. That’s been my main reason as well. The truth is, I’m choosing to spend my money on other things. I’m not talking about the necessities. I’m talking about discretionary income. I have a busy schedule that doesn’t always conform to a 9-5 workday. I eat lunch and dinner at odd times. I most often grab takeout or fast food on the way home. At least once a day I pick up a large unsweetened ice tea. 

  
By choosing to eat at home, cook more, drag out the crockpot so dinner cooks while I’m out, I can put money saved toward something I’d love to do more of…travel. I can also brew tea at home and carry it with me in a travel mug. Or better yet, drink water. It’s about shifting my awareness and choice. I’m allowing convenience and immediate desire to eat up extra cash, rather than putting it toward a larger desire. 

  
Tonight I created a Travel Money Jar and seeded it with two $5 bills and a handful of change. It was a full day. I ate two meals. I threw the money I would have spent on meal number three into the jar. Over the weekend I’ll make a grocery run and stock up on supplies so that I can eat at home most of the time. I’ll still enjoy a meal out occasionally but it will be more of a treat rather than a daily occurrence. 

  
Rather than think I can’t afford to travel, I choose to makes changes that free up the funds to do just that. Travel. See the world. Explore. Italy, England, Ireland, New Zealand and my beloved Scotland, here I come.