Livigno, Italy

Ahhh, nothing better than alpine wind blowing through your braided pigtails as you whizz down snow-covered mountains with a board strapped to your feet.

Especially so, considering we almost didn’t make it on this trip. I’ll explain.

We had plans to fly on Saturday around noon. The last few trips we’ve cut it pretty close at the airport for various reasons – delayed trains, delayed baggage check-in etc.. This time, we were going to be smart. We booked ourselves a hotel at the airport Friday night and planned to have a “leisurely morning before the flight”. Boy, were we wrong.

Friday night, in the hustle and bustle of getting all the snowboard luggage off the train, Shane left his backpack in the upper storage compartment. What was in the backpack? Oh, let’s see. Only everything important: his work computer, the GoPro, a Nikon camera, his snowboarding goggles, his keys, his new hat, and the kicker – his passport.

Now, I must say. We’ve learned a few lessons from this experience.

  • NEVER put all your expensive stuff in one bag. I mean, rookie mistake. We have traveled enough to know better.
  • Take a picture of your passport NOW. Don’t make a paper copy. I mean, do that too if you want,  but find a way to store it on-the-line. If your paper copy happens to be with your lost passport and you can’t find the number then you’ll run into this scenario – like us.
  • Save ALL your receipts for any purchases over, say $50, in a dedicated place. You’ll need them if you submit claims for insurance, and when you go to look for a computer purchase that happened in 2010 the odds are you don’t have the email anymore and the store where you purchased it won’t have records beyond 2012 *cough-Best Buy-cough*.

As soon as we realized the backpack was missing, Shane filed a report with NS, the train company. They told us that we had a chance because the train we were on terminated for the night in Den Haag, which was only two stops away. On the other hand, the train terminated in Den Haag, only two stops away, so when we realized the backpack was gone the conductor had already taken the train to the yard for the night.

Ok Ok, so we lost the stuff. Expensive, yes, but replaceable. And Shane is a compulsive backer-upper so all his thesis data was locked up at work – also ok. Next problem: the passport. Generally speaking, you can’t fly to another country without a passport. Lucky for us, we found out that the airline KLM would allow Shane to fly with only his Dutch drivers’ license as ID. So, I kept the original flight and Shane rebooked with KLM to Milan.

Fun fact. Milan has TWO airports. Our original flights went to LIN. The rebooked flight went to MXP.

Ok ok ok – soooo no problem. We rented a car to drive to the mountain. New plan – I’ll pick up the car, drive to Shane (who arrived after me), pick him up and we will be on our way.

That’s a big fat NOPE!

I booked the car but listed Shane as the primary driver because he usually is. Turns out, for reasons that are still beyond me, when one makes a car reservation you can’t change the primary driver to someone else without canceling the booking and starting over (despite having all the booking information and the same credit card). Since we definitely didn’t want to do that – we still needed the car – Shane had to land and come to me.

So, 4 hours and an expensive cab ride later, my knight in shining armor arrived and picked up the car with no problems whatsoever (insert eye roll – to the car people, not Shane).

BUT HOT DAMN WE WERE FINALLY ON THE WAY!!

And no, this picture is not from our journey there. By the time we arrived in Livigno, it was ~10:30pm (instead of ~6pm as intended) after a dark and winding way into the mountains where, despite Shane’s excellent driving, I did very little talking and pressed my invisible-passenger-side-break a lot.

But it was all worth it. SO worth it!

I think I’ll stop talking now and let the pictures speak for themselves. Since we lost the GoPro, no real action shots this trip, but we did agree – it was kind of nice to be disconnected in that way. As fun as it is to have the GoPro, you’re always thinking about if you’re getting good videos for pictures or for the compilation video. This time, we just snowboarded, drank, and snowboarded again. And we were very lucky with the weather, only one white-out day (which we used to play in the *beginner* funpark – I made 4 JUMPS IN A ROW!) and the rest was snow overnight, sunshine during the day.

Ok, now I’ll really stop talking.

I swear we were having a good time. (lol)

One really nice thing about Livigno, if you could get to it then it was open for business. As in, the off-piste (off-trail) options were just about equal to the piste options. This was my first time trying off-piste, and now I get it. It’s like snowboarding on a cloud!

Despite, as Shane likes to put it, “his best efforts” we came. We snowboarded. We conquered.

Now we have to wait another year to do it all again… sigh.

And don’t worry. Shane figured out a way to report the lost passport without the number and goes next week to apply for a new one. Turns out, it requires exactly the right combination of information (current address, permanent address, phone number etc.) to allow the online system to find you. Quite a challenge if you’ve moved a lot.

Oh, and FYI, don’t try calling – they will only direct you to the website. Good work, America.

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Venice, Italy

Ahh, beautiful Venice!

Last weekend we whisked off to meet some friends at the beginning of their summer holiday, and (if I do say so myself) we kicked it off pretty well! The company, the scenery, the weather, the wine… it was all fantastic.

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Here are a few reflections from our weekend in Italy.

The streets of Venice are really beautiful… and you WILL get lost. 

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That’s part of the fun though (until you’ve been walking for an hour and still haven’t reached your destination). Long story short, get ready to get lost despite signs like ‘per (to) Rialto’ and ‘per San Marco’ guiding you to various parts of the city. We heard it’s easy to walk in circles, and it’s true, so if you’re on a time schedule I would suggest aiming to be there 15 min. before you’re supposed to.

Additionally, don’t seek out the Rialto bridge because

You will cross the Rialto 15,000x in your attempt to navigate the city.

And if you’re very lucky you’ll get to drag your 25kg (50lbs) suitcase up and over on multiple occasions.

but no worries, because when your lost and out of breath…

There is never a bad time for wine and gelato! 

All day. Every day.

Get a little turned around trying to find your AirBNB at midnight? Gelato will fix that.

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28°C (83°F), you’re out of water and you’re only halfway through your walking tour?

Wine is the answer!

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And yes, Venice is crowded, but

If you wander off the beaten path (aka: point number one – get lost) you can find yourself all alone.  

For instance, we wandered to Campo Santa Margherita where it was clear that there were fewer tourists and more students/actual residents. Here, we found a cocktail bar and GUESS WHAT! The bartender’s girlfriend (6 degrees of separation, I know) was from Wilmington, NC and he was flying to Charlotte (my hometown) next week to visit her! What a small world.

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and speaking of finding cool places.

Walking tours are the way to go. 

While the tour we chose this time wasn’t too rich in the history of Venice (in fact, we didn’t really learn anything) we were taken to some places in the city we would have never found on our own. Such as this really cool art shop in the Jewish Ghetto where we ended up purchasing two paintings.

One was titled ‘Cats of the Ghetto’. I mean come on – I had to have it.

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We also walked through a square which was once Muslim, as evidenced (I don’t remember why) by limestone carvings on the wall. Interestingly enough, all of them had their noses broken off. We saw this in Egypt too, for example with the Sphinx, where the pieces of the noses were broken off for luck. Here, one guy had his broken nose replaced with a brass one. Now, it’s good luck to touch the nose.

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We also saw one of two remaining bridges in the entire city without railings (parapet), got a secluded view from a monastery, saw some interesting art, and ended with a spectacular view from above.

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Also, the internet did not lie to me.

If possible, buy your tickets to the major sights online and visit after 2pm.

We pre-purchased our tickets online for Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s Basilica) and for Doge’s Palace. For both, we went around 4pm and walked straight in.

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The Bridge of Sighs

And no, we didn’t go up the bell tower in St. Mark’s Square. We did, however, take the water bus across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore and climb (lol ok not climb – elevator-ed) up it’s bell tower for a fantastic view over the main island, and the surrounding ones. Again, thank you internet for that suggestion!

View from the San Giorgio bell tower back towards the main island.
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And finally,

No, we didn’t ride a gondola. 

A gondola ride station with San Giorgio in the background.

To be perfectly honest, we talked about it and voted against it.

1) It’s expensive. €80 for 30 min (for up to 6 people). For us – €20 per person. Which we would have gladly shelled out if it hadn’t been for my next point.

2) Everyone looked BORED. Seriously. Maybe it was the heat? Or the fact that all the gondolas seem to take the same route, so you end up in a traffic jam. Who knows.

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Perhaps if we had ventured to a more quiet street we could have found a ‘road less traveled’ gondola route, but for us, it just wasn’t worth it.

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So, in a nutshell, that was our trip! We really enjoyed Venice, and even more so that we got to explore it with friends! We miss you guys already! 🙂

Shane should be making a video of our trip. Until then,

Tot ziens!

Whitney

Rome, Italy !

(Ever noticed that all of our post titles end with an exclamation mark? Seems we are easily excited!)

So, as Whitney alluded to in the previous post, we also visited Rome during Sufrinko Fest 2015. I guess I should first apologize for posting this by, what is now, over a week since they left. Sorry for the delay! I know some of you have been anxiously waiting to see the pictures (aka, mom’s & dad’s). What can I say, she is much better at blogging than I am. Anyways, without further ado, I give you ROME!

Now before diving too deeply into the glory that is Rome, allow me to deviate for a moment to share a few lessons we learned during our short visit. I mention these only because they were key fixtures in our Roman experience and could potentially serve useful to anyone else planning a similar trip.

Lesson #1 – Rome is hot. 

And by hot, I mean HOT. Now before I get too many “duh’s” and “way to go genius” remarks, allow me to elaborate. We were fully aware that we were traveling (in the middle of summer no less) to a climate that is famously hot – it is right on the Mediterranean Sea after all.  We also knew that there would be large numbers of tourists and this would most likely mean a lot of waiting in line in said heat. For this we were prepared: sunscreen, light and comfy clothes, sunglasses, etc.  However, what we failed to account for was the fact that we would walk an average of 13 miles a day in the 100+ degree (40+ Celsius) heat. Seriously, the Sufrinkos came complete with FitBits and tracked our daily mileage.  Add to this the fact that Whitney and I live in a very mild location (I wore pants, long sleeves, and a jacket for my bike commute today) and it made for a rough experience.  Nonetheless, we toughed it out, dehydration, sunburn, and all. You will see the effects of this in the majority of pictures – tired, sweaty, hot, etc.

Lesson #2 – Selfie sticks are single-handedly leading to the decay of society as we know it.

A bit of an exaggeration you say? Perhaps. But these things are terrible. Now as above, allow me to explain quickly: I completely understand why these things were invented (genius idea by the way) and why they are so popular. To reinforce this, I give you exhibit A below:

I will be the first to admit that this picture would be much better without my arm extending out.  In fact, since Whitney and I often travel alone and want to get nice pictures, we even debated buying one.  That, however, was before we went to Rome. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere you turn, all you see is these stupid sticks. People are literally walking down the street, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are in Rome, staring only through their phones at the end of a meter long pole (as if walking with your head glued to your phone wasn’t dangerous enough already).  Want to get a nice picture of a cool Roman memorial? Too bad, there are 13 phones hovering above everyone’s head directly in the way. To make matters worse, there are hundreds of guys throughout the city selling these stupid things for a few bucks.  The few moments of selfie stick peace one gets walking away from a famous site is quickly interrupted by a cheap knock-off shoved in your face only to be removed once you have successfully made it out of arms reach.  These things are awful. For those of you that own and use them (to each their own), prepare to be disgusted: you will be seeing a lot of my outstretched arm.

Quiz: How many guys do you see selling selfie sticks? Answer: 5

Ok, enough messing around.  Onto the fun stuff, Rome! For the remainder of the post, I’ll be light on the text and heavy on the pictures.  We took hundreds of pictures and can’t possibly share them all. However, there are lots of good ones.  I’ll do my best to give details of what things are.


Day 1

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

Whereas we were originally scheduled to have a full first day, a flight delay resulted in us getting to Rome later than expected. Nonetheless, we made the most of it. Conveniently enough, the apartment we rented was only a 3-4 minute walk from the Pantheon. So, to the Pantheon we went, with a quick stop for some gelato of course.

Following the Pantheon, some aimless city wandering found us in the Piazza Navona – a common stop on our walk to and from ‘home’, as well as an excellent place to by local art (we all came home with some). I’ve included some pictures from a later night visit for full effect.

Additional wanderings lead us all over the city (again we walked 13+ miles every day), with us ending the day having drinks next to the Tiber River.  Not too shabby for day 1.


Day 2

“When in Rome…”

Whereas day 1 consisted mostly of wandering around and exploring the city with no real destination in mind, day 2 kicked off with goals in mind. Stop #1 of the day, the Colosseum!

I could easily spend the entire post talking about the Colosseum alone (we certainly have enough pictures to fill a whole post) but I’ll keep it short.  Colosseum = amazing.

Stop #2 for the day, the Roman Forum.

As a quick note, the Forum is massive.  It would take a full day (and maybe more) to really go through it all. Being that we went following the Colosseum, we did not have the luxury of spending too much time there. As is the common theme to our Rome adventure, it was brutally hot. We saw as much as would could of the Forum.

Following a quick lunch, we were able to visit two more major Rome landmarks: Trevi Fountain & the Spanish Steps. Sadly, Trevi Fountain was under construction so there wasn’t much to see.

Now as great as day 2 had been thus far, the most exciting part of the day was Alicia’s birthday! How often do people get to celebrate their 30th birthday in Rome? Well, I guess if you really think about it, a lot. I assume everyone who lives in Rome turns 30 at some point…..but that’s not the point here. We were able to celebrate Alicia’s 30th birthday in Rome! Drinks at a swanky rooftop terrace overlooking the city followed by dinner at a real (non-tourist) Italian restaurant.


Day 3

“…do as the Romans do”

Day 3 started with only one real goal in mind: go see the Vatican. Lucky for us, tour guide Whitney (I say that not as a joke – she is really good at trip planning) had done some research and figured out that we needed to buy tickets ahead of time for the Vatican Museum. The result, we walked straight in without having to wait in line at all.

The Vatican Museum was both amazing and overwhelming. Aside from the heat (thousands of people packed into narrow halls without air conditioning when its 100+ outside), the sheer volume of art/statues/tapestries/murals is just too much to take in. Over three hours of such detailed work and it all starts to blend together.  It’s a shame to say, but it’s really hard to appreciate what you are actually seeing. Nonetheless, we were all able to pull it together for the Sistine Chapel (no pictures were allowed in the Sistine Chapel so you’ll just have to take my word that we saw it).

Despite the fact that there is lots more to see of Vatican City, we called it quits after the museum. Turns out there was a very large worship service going on outside which meant thousands of people in addition to the normal tourist crowd.  Too many people = time to leave.

The rest of the day consisted of getting some final tastes of Rome (wine, gelato, prosciutto, gnocchi) and staying out of the sun as much as possible.  Great thing about Rome, great food/drinks are on every street corner.

And so that brings to a close our Roman adventure.  The following morning (what would have been day 4), saw us leaving bright and early to fly back to Amsterdam.  For that story, I refer you back to Whitney’s previous post.

Thanks again to the Sufrinkos for coming to visit! To everyone else saying they “should” or “would like to” visit, do it.  We have lots more of Europe to see and would love company while doing it!

Until next time,

Shane