Orvieto, Rome, and France

8 Oct

Dear Friends,

We have returned home as of last night. I’ve been working on this post for about a week, and just finished today. Being home (granted, for just 24 hours) has presented it’s own set of lessons, and it will be interesting and important for me to spend significant time letting the lessons seep into me. But, more on that in a different post. For now… here is the next installment of our adventure!

We left our apartment in Florence after a final night of some adventures with the power in our apartment. It went out, and then came back on, but at about 11:30pm we were just about to head to bed when we noticed the fridge leaking. There had been a coat of ice along the back of the fridge (they kept it really cold in there!), and apparently when the power went back on, the fridge did not. So, we had a puddle on the floor, and had to decide if we should call the landlord or what. Sky came to the rescue and ended up scraping off all of the ice off the back so that even if the fridge continued to warm, it wouldn’t create a flood in our kitchen. It was a small glitch in an otherwise smooth transition out! On our last morning, I woke up a little early to go for a cappuccino myself. I wanted to soak up the sounds of the city without Eliana singing or Sky talking. 🙂 ImageImageI will almost certainly be looking for a cost-effective espresso maker and milk frother for my home. I just cannot imagine not having this yumminess every day. (Edited: Ah ha! Turns out my coffee maker at home has an espresso attachment and a frother attachment. Done.)

The walk home was bittersweet, as I knew it would be my last time passing by these places that have become home. ImagePiazza san Niccolo. Favorite coffee place on the corner where the guy is standing in a red shirt.

ImageI really love the sculptural detail on this building with the row of women kneeling.

ImageI read about the hidden doors in Florence before we left the US, and totally forgot about them the entire trip. On my way to coffee, I saw a man coming out of this secret door, and was reminded that I should have been looking for them all along! It was a nice surprise moment on my last morning.

ImageThe entrance to our apartment is on the right, just under the red sign with the white bar.

Our landlord, Francesca, got us set up with a cab, and we were off to the train station. Image

For the first time, the station was surprisingly mellow, and Eliana did a short dance performance, naturally. She got shy when people walked by, but that faded pretty fast and she just went on with her show.

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The trip to Orvieto was smooth, but when we arrived, there was not a taxi to be found. We knew we might have struck it rich when we called our B&B and they offered to come pick us up. We were right. Casa Selita was absolutely PERFECT and everyone going to Orvieto should stay there. Check it out at http://www.casaselita.com. The town of Orvieto is perched high on a hillside and the B&B is located just outside the city walls.

IMG_5387 Image ImageThis is Casa Selita, and you can see the town of Orvieto up on the hill behind it.

After some playtime and relaxing, we headed up the hill for dinner. The views were fabulous, and I said more than once, “This is exactly what I needed.” I had been dreaming of a small-town experience, and Orvieto did not disappoint.

ImageImageImageWe ate almost every meal in Italy at home, so to go out to dinner was a real treat, and Selita made a great restaurant recommendation. When in Orvieto, eat at La Mezza Luna, and order the spaghetti carbonara. I’d never had it before, but it was out of this world. Get there right when it opens at 7:30pm, or make a reservation. The prices are more than reasonable and all three of us loved it.Image ImageThe homemade four-cheese gnocchi was fantastic, too (and rich, holy moly was it rich!).Image We woke up the next morning and had a delicious breakfast with our hosts and other guests at Casa Selita, and then went back to the town for some exploring. ImageThe breakfast room, and our new friends Donna and Doug from Canada. Image ImageImage

This is Selita! The property has been in her family for generations, and she renovated the farmhouse in 2005 to open the B&B.

It was market day in Orvieto, so we found our way there, and stopped for cappuccino in the main square. ImageImageImage It is hard to explain the charm of Orvieto. The photos look like any other random Italian street, but the vibe there is different. Knowing it is a small town surrounded by other small towns gives it a little mystery. It has a long, pedestrian shopping street and the market was really big- full of local honey, a fish shop, a candy shop, fruit shops, butchers, clothing, table linens, purses and luggage…they had it all! ImageImage IMG_5340 IMG_5369The duomo in Orvieto really has a spectacular facade. IMG_5348We had a quick lunch outside in this little piazza. There was a woman playing the guitar, which entertained Ellie and Sky while I waited at the table.

We were sorry to leave Orvieto and Casa Selita, but later that afternoon we got back on the train and headed to Rome. We were pleasantly surprised by the random airport hotel I had found online. The people were friendly, the room was large, and there was a nice pool. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to use it, but Eliana looked wistfully out our window and wished we had time for a swim. IMG_5389 We got up very early for our flight the next morning to Marseilles, France, where we met our life-long friend Lawrence. Lawrence lived with my family when I was about seven years old. She came to teach French at my school, and we were her host family. She stayed for a few months, and at the end of her stay, her then-boyfriend Georges came to meet her and they traveled around California for a while before returning home. Lawrence and Georges married, had three children, and now live in Lambesc, a small village in Provence. We have stayed in touch all these years, and in 1998, I made my first trip to France to see Lawrence. Sky and I went in 2004, and this was my third trip there. Coincidentally, Lawrence, Georges, and their youngest daughter, Irina, had been in California just this summer and stayed with my parents, so we had a chance to see them and introduce them to Eliana. Ellie was very excited that we were going to “live in their house” for a few days! Lawrence insisted on coming to the airport to greet us and guide us back to her home even though we rented a car. She was absolutely right. There was a massive thunderstorm that morning, and I don’t think we ever would have made it to her house without the help. We could barely see anything, some roads were so flooded Sky wondered if we should drive on them, and we speak maybe 15 words in French (numbers 1-10, Bonjour, and a few others… this count does not include champagne, Camembert, and the like). Anyway, we arrived at the house safely, and it was as peaceful and beautiful as I remembered. We were treated to a lovely lunch and, of course, ended the meal with a cheese course. Yum. IMG_5397 The skies cleared, and we definitely wanted to take advantage of our short time in France, so Georges and Lawrence took us to Roussillon, a village about an hour away. Roussillon is unique because the earth there is a red clay. It is beautiful! Eliana and Georges forged quite a special bond during our time there, with Georges carrying Ellie on his shoulders and playing hide and go seek with her. It was super sweet to see. IMG_5405 IMG_5417 IMG_5402You can see Eliana here on Georges shoulders. He tried to hide behind us for the family photo but no luck. That’s ok, he’s family, too! IMG_5399 IMG_5430IMG_5438 IMG_5454 IMG_5437

The following morning, we had a family adventure and went to the coastal town of Cassis. I had never been there, and again I was reminded that I really like exploring new places. Sky had the opportunity to meet with a physicist who lives there, and so Eliana and I took the time to run around the town. The beautiful harbor there is a highlight.

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IMG_5497You can see the ruins above the town a little bit in this photo. It was spectacular!

Later that afternoon, Lawrence took us to pick fruit at the property of a friend of hers. We grabbed figs, mostly, along with some pears and apples.

IMG_5505 IMG_5514 IMG_5521 IMG_5542One of my favorite little villages in Provence is Lourmarin, and it is special to Lawrence, too. She told me she goes there every week to get an ice cream and wander the town. We took Eliana to a small park, and then explored for a while. It was as charming as I remembered it from my previous visits.

IMG_5563 IMG_5565IMG_5568It was the end of the day, and shops were closing up. One shop owner took to the street with his guitar, and we were treated to a beautiful dance performance by Eliana. She came up with the idea to take one shoulder of her shirt down, and the performance was sensitive and playful.

IMG_5569 IMG_5575Here is a view of the town as we drove away.

Tuesday, when Lawrence and Georges went to work, we headed to Aix-en-Provence, which we braved despite all three of us being grouchy for some reason. Yes, it is possible to be in a lousy mood in the south of France. (I learned this in Italy, too, where I woke up on the wrong side of the bed once or twice.)

We had grand plans to go to the Museum of Natural History but we never made it. We enjoyed finding our way into town, exploring the Aix cathedral, and browsing in shops.

IMG_5577 IMG_5579There was a live person playing the organ when we were in the church- very cool!

IMG_5589Ellie and I found this beautiful store that sold dance clothes, and we watched a REAL BALLERINA get fitted for her pointe shoes. There was a mini-barre in the store, and the woman practiced getting on pointe while testing her new shoes. We eavesdropped on their very elegant sounding conversation… ballerinas speaking French is just cool.

IMG_5595We had lunch on Cours Mirabeau, the beautiful main drag in town. It was market day, so the place was especially bustling!

IMG_5601 IMG_5604

Sky and Georges cooked a Thai feast for dinner, and Lawrence’s mother and her husband, Daniel, joined us. It was great to see them again. Dinner was a big hit!

IMG_5605Chef Sky and sous chef Georges in the lovely kitchen.

IMG_5609Beautiful Lawrence and her beautiful mother.

IMG_5619 IMG_5620Dinner was a coconut soup and a ginger/lemongrass/yumminess chicken saute with garden grown zucchini and other veggies.

IMG_5623There were baguettes on the table, too. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a baguette with Thai food before, but when in France… turns out that a little bread was great with the sauces!

The Thai meal was followed by a cheese course, and then homemade panecotta by Lawrence with fresh raspberries. It was amazing!

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On our final day in France, we headed to Les Baux with Lawrence and Georges, and saw the Cathedral of Images. It was absolutely spectacular, and a must-see-everyone-loves-it kind of thing.  The Cathedral is a quarry that has been transformed into a multi-media art exhibit. The caves are a little chilly, so a jacket came in handy! The rocks are smooth enough that a massive projection system can project images all over the quarry. It is so well done and so majestic- a true delight for visitors of all ages. The show began with a short presentation that was more modern, and then we saw the art show. With beautiful music playing, the quarry becomes a multi-dimensional gallery.


IMG_5641This is what the walls look like lit up, without art displayed.

IMG_5648 IMG_5651That’s Eliana and Sky, dancing, of course, in the middle of the show.

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Our experience at the Cathedral of Images was one of the highlights of our entire two month journey in Europe. It’s hard to explain, but everything about it just worked for us!

After returning to the house, Sky and I worked on some packing while Eliana sat outside and listened to her books on the ipod.



We are so very blessed to have Lawrence and Georges, as well as their three kids, as part of our family. Moments of real connection over wine and cheese, in cars, in airports, while preparing meals, walking in small towns, and while playing hide and seek with Eliana.  Our gratitude for their hospitality and for their friendship is indescribable.

IMG_5660 IMG_5661IMG_5608Special thanks to Irina, who braved several days of a very clingy four-year-old. Eliana worshipped Irina!

After leaving France, we headed to Goteberg, Sweden overnight, and then spent a few days in Copenhagen before coming home. That blog post will be next!

Some links:

This man got a divorce and then wrote these amazing twenty tips for having a great marriage (from viralnova.com).

“Sometimes she will need to fly from your branches to go and find what feeds her soul, and if you give her that space she will come back with new songs to sing…”

Sky and I work hard at giving each other space while remaining connected. I think some people in our lives think we spend a little too much time apart, and sometimes I worry about that, too. But, the truth is that we are better for each other when we support the other in spreading their wings. To do this with ease and grace is not always simple, but we try and succeed most of the time. It was really special to both of us to have so much time together on our trip without the distractions of daily life at home. We learned that we really do like each other. 🙂

I loved this post about friendship (From adesignsovast).

“I have long maintained that who our closest friends are says a lot about who we are.  And on that dimension, I’m off the charts lucky.”

This piece is about college friends, specifically, and I have some really important, special friendships from that time in my life. I also have friends from high school and elementary school and friendships that are newer. I have friends who have seen me through too many heartbreaks to count, who I’ve lived with in small apartments and rented houses, and who got ready for the prom with me. I also have friends who I only see for a walk once in a while, or who I never see at all but when they are needed, they are there. There are people who have sat with me through really dark days, never judging me, sometimes empathizing so deeply that my pain was their pain. There are many who have shared my most joyous moments. I cannot express the depth of my appreciation for all of them. For all of you. My friendships have always been extremely important to me, and I want to continue to prioritize them even as life is so full and busy (which, by the way, I am hoping to change a little. We’ll see.)

This mother wrote a wishlist of the things she is hoping for her child. (From boston.com)

“I hope I raise a child who will stick up for a kid who’s being bullied on the playground. I also hope I raise a child who, if he’s the one being bullied, fights back. Hard. Oh, and if he’s the bully? I hope he realizes that his mother, who once wore brown plastic glasses and read the phonebook on the school bus, will cause him more pain than a bully ever could.”

I thought this list was really touching and a great reminder of some important lessons and values we can impart to our children… or at least, we can try!

I’ll be back soon with the recap of the last few days of our trip. Until then, as always, I send my gratitude for your support and well wishes.






12 Responses to “Orvieto, Rome, and France”

  1. Leslie Isaacs October 8, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    I quickly read through this blog before bed and was completely enchanted. The pictures are spectacular and I can’t wait to go through them all with you. Hope your trip was everything you wanted…Sky and Ellie….always wonderful.

  2. Steve Isaacs October 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    Great writing again, and the photos. Bien.

  3. Lawrence October 9, 2013 at 4:22 am #

    Wonderful blog Dana 😃 thank you
    Souvenirs souvenirs… We miss you ! Come back 😪
    Love Lawrence And co

    • Dana October 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

      love love love!

  4. Lindsey Mead (@lemead) October 9, 2013 at 5:02 am #

    I am honored that you linked to my piece and especially glad that you did because now I’ve found your blog. How marvelous. Your trip looks absolutely magical! xo

    • Dana October 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

      Hi Lindsey! Thanks for writing such a great piece. I’m glad you found my blog. I so appreciate connecting with other writers.
      Best wishes to you!

  5. Katy October 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Hi Dana,
    I have really been enjoying the travel blog! I know Sky from emPower Posi Music Festival weekends in Orlando each January, and signed up for your blog based on his suggestion. Now I feel like I also know you and Eliana. I’m so happy that you had a wonderful adventure and shared the details (one of these years, I’m going to visit Italy…).
    I also admire your willingness to express what matters to you and areas of personal growth – that willingness to be open and vulnerable is what creates my feeling of connection to you. Blessings and Joy!

    • Dana October 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Thank you Katy! That is so kind! I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. Thanks for reading.

  6. Marina October 9, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    You are home and you will always have your Grand Adventures within the fabric of your family. You will see the fruits of your travel in Eliana’s world view, artistic endeavors and adventurous spirit. You are so brave for taking this opportunity and running with it. (Sky too!). You are the best friend, mother, wife, and international travel photographer (!) on the planet. I love you!

    • Dana October 10, 2013 at 8:33 am #

      Marina, this is so nice, I have cried twice reading it! Thank you for reading and for all of your support, and for being one of those friends who has been there through it all, and I mean ALL! I love you.

  7. Helen Barer November 6, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Wonderful descriptions of wonderful memories. And good pictures too! Thanks for letting us share your adventures. love, Aunt Helen

    • Dana November 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      Thank you Aunt Helen!

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