Italy, 2014

italy7

I feel like I’ve been hoarding my memories of Italy to myself for long enough. Where to start?

There was that first day in Milan, where we hung out at a quaint café next to our hotel until check-in time. We were definitely desiring a little sleep and hot showers, and this was the perfect little haven to relax and drink a cappuccino in until then. Later this afternoon we would come back to this same café for another delicious cappuccino, and the barista would, with curiosity and humor in his tone, ask me why I was ordering said drink. Apparently cappuccinos are not ordered in the afternoon in Italy–I remembered reading about this only after making the mistake. Despite his amusement, he sweetly made me my requested beverage. Looking back, I love that I had the chance to learn by being that silly American accidentally breaking a cultural norm in Italy.

italy5

(Venice, St. Mark’s Square)

There was the gondola ride in Venice. The gondolier sang and told us about the area, and the husband and I held hands whilst taking in the many incredible sights and sounds of Italy. It was like a storybook or a sappy romance film, so perfect was this ride around the gorgeous Venice.

veniceeee

italyvenice4

(Gondola Ride and our gondola dude)

There was huffing and puffing our way up 463 steps at Florence’s Duomo, only to have our breath taken away again once we got to the top. That view was more than worth every single step it took to get there. (And, honestly, even getting up there was kind of fun. Despite being seven months pregnant and feeling a little panicky climbing up such a narrow, never-ending space….It was an adventure. And I love me some adventures.)

florence7

(View from Florence’s Duomo)

There was the best pasta of my life in Milan and the most delicious pizza in Florence. There was strolling the streets of Venice in the evening, eating gelato and checking out the corner shops, as the pretty hanging lights twinkled above us. Everything in this city, it seemed to me, was made of magic.

italyflorencehubs

italyflorence

italydoors

(Florence’s famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and the bronze doors of The Baptistery of St. John )

There were the typical tourist sights, from Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica and the surrounding St. Mark’s Square to Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge to the Sforezco Castle of Milan, all captivating and seemingly too lovely to actually be real. I found that it was nearly impossible to turn anywhere in Italy without being astonished by the beauty of this country.

pastamilan

milan7

milan8(Best pasta ever, Duomo and creepy baby-man in Milan)

And then there were all of the moments in between. The moments that can’t be found on any top sightseeing lists that have turned out to be some of my most treasured. Early morning, sleepy-eyed hotel breakfasts of orange juice, croissants, salami and plenty of Nutella. Shopping at a narrow-aisled Italian grocery store; My husband happily purchasing cookies to eat as a late-night snack back at our hotel room. Every corner, shop, alleyway and café of Venice; Each one able to leave a hauntingly exquisite impression on my memory. Holding hands and sharing quick kisses and constant laughter as we excitedly explored our new surroundings. Laying in bed at night, cuddled up and chatting, exhausted in that mesmerized way that only foreign grounds can exhaust a person. The lively and delightful Italians; The hotel clerk who, upon our checking out and hearing my husband’s accent, started singing a song about a cowboy. Standing on our balcony in Venice, enjoying the view of the canal and the calm stillness of the night. Attempting to figure out the quaintly ancient hotel elevator in Florence. Being both amused and fascinated by the shops, talents and eccentricities of downtown Milan. Train rides to and from Milan, Venice and Florence; Whether reading a book, looking out the window while trying to capture to memory all of the stunning views, or falling asleep on my husband’s shoulder, these train rides completely enchanted me. There was just something magical about leaving one place, still entranced by the charm of the last city, and heading to another, with the childlike excitement of wondering what we’d find next.

venicelights

milan2

I could post a hundred more pictures, write a thousand more words, and still it would not be enough to explain how incredible our trip to Italy was. Nor could I properly explain how blessed I feel to have had the chance to explore this part of the world with someone I adore so completely. I’m sure more memories will come to me, more inspiration will hit, and more blogs will be written about all of the moments that made up one of the best weeks of my life. Words will never suffice, but still I will write them. I’m reminded even now of my husband noting, on our last evening in Italy, that we had unintentionally spent our first and last night eating at the same gelato shop. It seemed right that my trip should come to a close in the same way that it had started–with a full tummy and heart, next to the boy who never fails to remind me of just how beautiful this big ‘ole world can be.

New Mexico/Arizona 2013

arizona

My New Mexico/Arizona vacation was just as amazing and enchanting (Enchanting is one of my favorite words, and New Mexico is The Land Of Enchantment. How could I not be in love?!) as I hoped it would be. Here’s my trip favorites explained in pictures (and captions! And a video!):

Food. Oh guys, I ate so good. Banana pancakes, cheesy pesto pasta, whipped cream and chocolate covered waffles, jalapeno and pineapple pizza….I could go on. But I’m making myself hungry. So I’ll stop, I guess. :

foooood

Las Cruces, New Mexico is known for their wineries. I am known for loving my wine. A rather perfect combination, eh?

wineeWhite Sands, New Mexico. Stunning. And so fun to play in! I asked to borrow sand sleds from young children. They obliged and then their parents offered to take pictures. In other words, I’m five at heart and folks are great.

whitesands4whitesands3

Ruidoso, New Mexico. Beautiful and quaint shopping area, nestled in the mountains of one of my favorite states.

riodoso

“The Thing”– Roadside attraction, gas station and museum all in one. Pretty impressive. The oddity of it all made it one of my favorite parts of the trip. It’s not everyday that I walk through a mystery door at a gas station in the middle of nowhere…. To then find myself outside the back of said gas-station looking at exhibits and following giant, painted footsteps from building to building……All whilst wondering what the heck “The Thing” could be. (I’ll save the surprise just in case you’re ever road-tripping Arizona.)

thething

thething1thething3thing4thething2

The Rattlesnake Bridge of Tucson:

rattlesnakebridge

Downtown Tucson, Arizona. And their adorable coffee shop. And yummy mimosas. And their fun wall art. Heck, I loved everything about downtown Tucson.

yumcute

tucsondeviltucson

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Basically a humongous zoo, museum and playscape all in one. My kind of place, y’all.:

wildlifetucsonwildlifetucson2wildlifetucson3

Mission San Xavier Del Bac. Goosebump-inducingly gorgeous, historic church in Tucson.

prettychurch

Scenic and dazzling views from the ski-lift at Mount Lemmon, Arizona 

skilift

Making new friendly acquaintances. I just really love people. And I talk a lot. Katie told me she was half expecting me to walk out in arm-in-arm with a newly befriended person I met on my airplane ride to El Paso. She was half right. I did make a new buddy on the airplane, but she gave me her boarding ticket to look her up Facebook before making her way to the bathroom. In New Mexico, I made friends with a wine host whom we later had dinner with and two girlies at another wine tasting later that week. The owner of the store said that watching the four of us interact gave her goosebumps. I’ll definitely take that as a compliment!

newfriends

Beautiful views, everywhere we went. From Katie’s backyard all the way to our hotel room in Tucson, the mountainous scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

views

More pretty views:

viewnmview2

Just getting to spend so much time, so many big laughs, so much 90’s-music-karaoke-filled-driving-time and so many fabulous adventures with one of my very best friends.

katiekins

katie

To wrap things up, here’s a tiny video compilation of just a few of the good times had in New Mexico and Arizona. Caution: Do not watch if you do not want to see what “The Thing” is. Or if you have an understandable fear of white-girl dancing.

Needless to say, I had an absolutely marvelous time visiting Arizona for the first time and revisiting New Mexico with my Katiekins. (Or Katie, if we’re not doing nicknames here.) Life is pretty enchanting stuff, huh?