La Bella Vita in Rome

IMG_5368Italy has a way of pulling us back over and over again.  When we saw cheap tickets to Rome for New Year’s, we didn’t even hesitate.

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This happened in spite of the fact that many people I know do not care for Rome, for one reason or another.  I’m glad I went anyway because my husband and I had a great time admiring the grandiose architecture, eating delicious food, and strolling the narrow cobblestone alleys that were still decorated for Christmas.

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We stayed in a lovely guesthouse right in the center of the city from which were able to walk to every major site on our itinerary.  We didn’t book the trip far enough in advance to get tickets to the Colosseum or the Vatican, but to be honest, I don’t think it would have been pleasant cramming our way through the crowds.  Instead, we chose to enjoy those landmarks from a distance.

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One of the highlights for us was stopping at a cafe after walking through the old city and sipping on glasses of Prosecco while we listened to a Reggae band busking with a very hip older gentleman as their backup dancer.

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Another highlight was climbing up the Spanish Steps just in time to watch the sun set over the Roman skyline.  The weather was seriously gorgeous.

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My favorite travel companion.

I am so glad we got to experience one last taste of a European Christmas (and of Italy!).  This time next year, we will be spending our winter holiday in the States for the first time in five years!

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2018

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January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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December

As 2018 comes to an end, it feels good to look back on all of the beautiful things I have experienced this year.  2018 has been difficult, but transformative.  Big changes lie ahead!

 

Chernobyl

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Haunting, fascinating, and a testament to the very worst of mankind.  Where to even begin with Chernobyl…

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“Long live Communism – savior of humankind.”

I saw Chernobyl as another iteration of a dark monomyth – as Icarus and Prometheus and Pandora’s box.  We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes.  I want to believe that we can be better, but that’s pretty difficult to do while surrounded by the wreckage of what used to be innocent lives, needlessly sacrificed for the latest political agenda.  Just read the news.  It often seems like we haven’t learned a thing.

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I hope very much that I am wrong.

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Kyiv

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Gold-domed churches, pastel colors, a thriving art scene, autumn leaves, and any kind of food you can imagine – these are only a few things to love about Kyiv.

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It has been pretty warm in Turkey, so we were ready for a little cold weather.  The pastel buildings and bright-colored leaves were a welcome sight – we even got some snow!  Fall and winter in one trip.

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To be honest, we didn’t plan much (aside from our Chernobyl trip, which I’ll save for another day).   We were content to walk around the city and play things by ear.  We are in the process of interviewing for jobs for our next big move and I am also taking Master’s courses this year, so we needed the flexibility.

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The architecture was unlike anything we had seen before – particularly the churches.  We spent a whole day walking around the cathedrals.

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1900 – great coffee!

My favorite day, however, was the day we spent doing nothing but walking around the city in search of the best food, coffee, and bars!  We started at about 9 a.m. and didn’t get back to our hotel (very full) until midnight.

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A personal fave was Nikolay’s pies!  These homemade pies were the perfect comfort food on a cold day and they had both sweet and savory pies.  A must-try if you are in the area.

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We also sampled several chocolates (and grabbed a few for the road) at Lviv’s handmade chocolates.  The coffee and sea salt dark chocolate bar is to die for.

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We also found a cool gastro pub called Dogs and Tails where they serve fancy hot dogs, fries, onion rings, and any cocktail you can imagine.  Pictured here is the Kiev with pickled cabbage, avocado, and a sweet and tangy sauce.  The homemade ketchup was bomb.

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We rounded out the night at a cool witch-themed bar which might have been the coolest bar I’ve ever seen.  The drink you get is determined by the cards you draw.  Our cards represented the element of fire, meaning big changes are ahead for us..

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As if the cool architecture and great food scene aren’t enough, quirky Kyiv is also extremely budget-friendly.  Seriously, it’s crazy cheap, yet it rivals almost any other European city I have visited.  If you haven’t been, it’s time to add it to the list.

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A Little Taste of the Cotswolds in Castle Combe

20180823_160248You can never go wrong with narrow streets, quaint houses, cafes, and great pubs.  Castle Combe – a veritable Shire –  did not disappoint.

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Logistically, it is not the easiest place to get to, but we managed.  If I were to visit again, I would probably rent a car.  Still, there are bus connections most days of the week – you just really have to watch out for the times because they are infrequent.

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If you are looking for excitement, you won’t find it here – but that’s okay.  It is enough just to be, to wander the cobbled side roads and wooded paths, enjoy the mossy green surroundings, and perhaps stop for a great pub meal or two and a cream tea.

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Bath

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Of all the places we visited on our trip to England, I think Bath was my favorite.  The stunning architecture and scenery took my breath away from the moment we stepped off the train.

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We started off with a lovely afternoon tea at the Jane Austen House.  I felt like a fanciful Mrs. Darcy as I not-so-elegantly stuffed scones with clotted cream into my face (yum!)

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After our spot of tea, my sister and I went to the Thermae Bath Spa to soak in the thermal waters that initially drew the Romans into the area when the city was founded.  Talk about a perfect day!

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We watched the sun fade along the water, walked by the abbey, and did a little souvenir shopping before catching the train back to our place in Bristol.

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Bristol, U.K.

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After exploring London for a few days, my husband, sister, and I decided to base ourselves out of Bristol so that we could explore more of the English countryside.  While it’s a great base to see places such as Bath or Stonehenge, Bristol in and of itself is a very cool city worth a visit.

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I am a huge fan of street art and Bristol has it in spades.  Home to the famous street artist and political activist, Banksy, the street art scene there has exploded in recent years.

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In addition to a cool street art scene, there is a big demand in Bristol for people to shop local; as such, there is no shortage of unique shops and restaurants to discover.

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Words to live by!