Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Les + Ang: Celebrating Four Years Together

On Friday, November 16, Les and I celebrated four years of marriage. We began the day with Starbucks. Yes, I was extremely excited! Over the past year I've had wonderful Italian coffee but nothing is quite the same as a Starbucks Cafe Latte. It brought me a bit closer to home.

Les and I enjoying our coffees
Ok, so he was saying that he couldn't believe that I wanted our pictures in Starbucks, he thought I was nuts.

After we enjoyed our coffees we set off to explore Paris. Our first stop was the music store next to Starbucks. Les was in heaven looking at all the "toys". I have Starbucks, he has music stores. At least they were next door to each other!

Once Les finished building a massive wish list of musical equipment we headed toward the Seine River.

Famous prison where Marie Antoinette was held

We crossed the Seine to the Ile de la Cite and made our way to the Ile St. Louis. We found quite a few little shops and art galleries on the Ile St. Louis. I could have spent a fortune! Lucky for my pocketbook I brought a small suitcase and had to be careful with the number of souvenirs I purchased or I wouldn't be able to get them all home.

A painting in a gallery window that I really liked.

We grabbed a tasty lunch as a small brasserie on Ile St. Louis. I warmed up with a tastey bowl of French Onion Soup. After lunch we crossed back to the Ile de la Cite and made our way toward Notre Dame.

The park behind Notre Dame

We hung out in the park for a few minutes enjoying the view and the colors. We also had a bit of fun on the kids' playground equipment.

This is a big, tilted disk that spins

Looking at the sky while spinning on the disk
The colors were spectacular.

We finally had to leave the playground behind...there was a line of adults (more tourists) that thought our idea of pictures on the playground was great. We made our way around the side of the cathedral and toward the front.

Notre Dame and Fall Colors
This is one of my favorite pictures from this trip.

We explored the inside of the massive cathedral. I took a few pictures but flash wasn't allowed so most didn't turn out very well.

Once we finished touring Notre Dame we set out to see some of the sights listed in Rick Steves' Paris 2008 book on the Historic Paris Walk. I like Rick Steves' walks because they point out sights that I would otherwise walk past and never notice.

Robinier and Me
Robinier is Paris' oldest inhabitant - an Acacia tree. It was planted in 1602 and nicknamed Robinier for the man who planted it.

I don't think I've mentioned yet how cold it was in Paris. We were lucky if the thermometer reached 47F. That explains why we are bundled in all of our pictures. It was so cold! I loved it! I love sweaters, scarves, and drinking coffee and tea to warm up.

Our last stop of the after noon was Place Numero The' in Place Duphine. Les enjoyed a beer and I soaked in the warmth of a pot of tea. Pleasantly warm we headed back across the river towards our hotel. We had to get ready for our amazing dinner cruise on the Seine.

All dressed up and ready to go we went downstairs to ask the hotel receptionist to call us a cab. Unfortunately, because of the transit strike, the taxi companies were pretty much maxed out and as a result they decided to take their phones off the hook...Our receptionist tried for about 15 minutes to get through but didn't have any luck. Les & I were getting a bit anxious at this point - we had prepaid reservations and didn't want to miss them! We walked a couple of blocks and managed to flag a taxi after about 10 minutes.

We arrived near our dock with plenty of time to spare. As we got out of the taxi the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle! Perfect timing! We were mesmerized and pulled out the camera as quick as possible. Les turned the camera on and....battery empty...arghh...put in new batteries...ahhh, battery empty again! The whole pack of batteries was crap.

The camera in question was purchased for our anniversary evening. We didn't want to have to tote around my big ol' SLR so we bought a tiny, pocket-sized Nikon for the event. Of course, that would be when ALL of the batteries didn't work. We ran over to a souvenir shop at the Eiffel Tower and bought a new pack of batteries, and viola! it worked! Evening saved!

Batteries working, YIPEE!

We enjoyed the Eiffel Tower for a bit and then made our way towards our boat to check in.

Les and I, waiting to board our boat

Les & I at our table

Kir Royal - my favorite French drink

Me and Notre Dame

The dinner cruise was fabulous! I couldn't have asked for a better evening. It truly was a romantic dream come true. We paid a bit extra for the window seats and were rewarded with the best views in the house. I can't even begin to explain how amazing Paris looks at night, especially from the water with live music and delicious food and wine. The best part was my wonderful husband sitting across from me sharing the experience.

The Eiffel Tower after the cruise

Getting back to the hotel wasn't as easy as we had hoped. We ended up walking for about an hour (at 11:30P at night, in the freezing cold) before we finally caught a cab. Les had to run for about a 1/2 block when we saw one that wasn't occupied - my hero!

I will never forget our 4th Anniversary in Paris!

Now playing: Josh Groban - Hymne A L'Amour
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Our Way to Paris

Thursday, November 15 was a beautiful day in Sicily. We enjoyed the magnificent views of Mt. Etna as we boarded our plane and flew towards mainland Italy and our connection in Rome.

View of Mt. Etna from the runway before taking off

Mt. Etna from the air

After changing planes in Rome we boarded our flight to Paris. Most of the flight we were above the clouds but they parted for a bit and gave us a spectacular view of the snow-covered Alps.

Looking down on the Alps

We arrived in Paris mid-afternoon and once we collected our luggage we set off to find out the best way to get to our hotel. Our initial plan had been to take the RER train into the center of Paris but lucky us, we decided to vacation in Paris during a major transit strike. No RER trains were running.

After talking to a nice lady at the tourist information desk we found out that the best way to our hotel would be by taxi. 60euro and an hour and a half later we arrived at our hotel, the Hotel Des Victoires. We settled into our cozy (that means tiny) room and then headed out to explore the neighborhood and find dinner. We were staying in the Les Halles neighborhood and set off towards the Marais neighborhood.

Our first stop was a swanky bar for drinks before dinner. I ordered a Kir Royal (my favorite French drink, champagne and creme di cassis) and Les had a vodka martini. The prices were high, but hey, we were on vacation. When we paid we discovered that French Happy Hour (at least at this bar) means two-for-one drinks, so of course we had another round.

After two glasses of Kir Royal I was champagne giddy and in need of some food. We walked a bit farther and found a Brasserie. We ordered three course meals, complete with wine. We tried the Nouveau Bougoulais wine. It was so good! Way too easy to drink!

Me, enjoying my third course, Creme Brulee, one of my all-time favorite desserts

Full and happy we began the long walk back to our hotel. Much to our surprise on our way back we saw a Starbucks! Now I know to most this really isn't a big deal, but we hadn't seen a Starbucks in over a year and I love Starbucks. I can't believe how excited I was. (maybe it had something to do with all of the wine??)

Our first look at Starbucks in over a year

We decided that it was too late for coffee that night but to return in the morning for breakfast. A few wrong turns later we finally found our way back to our hotel, crawled into bed and slept like babies.

Now playing: Paris Combo - Ennemis Siamois
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Returning from Paradise...uh, I mean Paris

On November 15 Les & I flew to Paris to celebrate our fourth anniversary. Ten days later we are home. Glad to see Pumpkin, happy to sleep in our own bed, but wishing we were still on vacation. Over the next week or so I will share the highlights from our trip. I have around 1000 pictures to sort through on my camera and probably another 500 or so on Les' camera. Our trip was filled with romance, beauty, fun, and time spent with good friends. We couldn't have asked for a better trip!

Now playing: Matchbook Romance - I'll Be Home for Christmas
via FoxyTunes

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Gorgeous Afternoon on Mt. Etna

I've been bugging Les to take a drive with me up the mountain for a couple of weeks and today was the day. My goal was to get a few good pictures of the trees changing color for the fall and soak up the cold, fresh air.

For our first stop we pulled in to a gated driveway (looked a bit like a service road) and started walking.
The start of our path

Moss growing on the lava

Les kicking leaves

Wild Fennel, I think

At the end of the path we found an old building, maybe a barn, maybe someone's home. There was a small shrine nearby.

The house or barn

The Shrine

I was enamored with this tree, so beautiful with the blue sky in the background

As we walked back up the path I noticed a few details that I missed on the way in. The hillsides below were terraced for farming, but overgrown.

What remains of the terraces

As we were walking Les picked up an acorn cap and used it to make a shrill whistle. He was surprised I didn't know how and was glad to show me.

Les blowing on his acorn whistle

The acorn cap whistle

We arrived back at the car and continued our drive up the mountain as far as the road would take us. Here are a few shots of the craters near the summit.

Les contemplating a volcanic crater

The wind was extremely strong and cold so we decided to find a bar for a warm drink.

Les near the bar overlooking the valley

Les is getting really good at taking pictures of us!

The best chamomile tea ever!

A shot of the sunset as we were getting in the car to head back down the mountain

Another sunset shot

I'm so glad we were able to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of Sicilia today. We are blessed to live in such an amazing place.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mt. Etna

Yesterday as we were on our way out the door to run errands I decided to grab my camera. It seems like I always see an amazing photo opportunity when I leave my camera at home. On our way home from running errands the clouds cleared a bit and we were able to catch a glimpse of the top of Mt. Etna dusted in Snow.

Mt. Etna's peak with the last few rays of sun hitting the west side of the mountain.

Mt. Etna with lemon and olive trees in the foreground.

Now playing: Sarah McLachlan - River
via FoxyTunes

The Rebirth of a PowerBook G4

Since our arrival in Sicily my camera has been hard at work capturing memories as we make them. As a result the remaining space on my computer's hard drive quickly filled up. I never thought I'd use up 60 GB. My last laptop (a PowerBook G3 purchased in 1999) had only 4 GB of hard drive space and I never ran out. I've learned that today's toys (i.e. 6.3MP camera, iTunes, etc.) take up a lot of real estate inside a computer.

I was finally down to my last few MB of space so we decided to upgrade my hard drive (a much cheaper option that buying a new laptop). I now have a hard drive with 160GB of space! Here are a few pictures of my hubbie hard at work giving new life to my three year old computer.

Now playing: Frédéric Chopin - Piano Sonata No. 1: Larghetto
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Looking back on our first year in Sicily...

I decided that in order to better appreciate the opportunities I've had over the past year to put together a recap of some of the places we've visited. As I compiled the pictures I was reminded that I live a charmed life. We are so lucky to live in Sicily!

Nicosia, November 2006

Sperlinga, November 2006

Catania, November 2006

Ficuzza, November 2006

Corleone, November 2006

Mt. Etna from Giardini Naxos, November 2006

Taormina, November 2006

Monreale, December 2006

Palermo, December 2006

Caltagirone, December 2006

Mineo, December 2006

Agrigento, January 2007

Siracusa, February 2007

Ortygia, February 2007

Carnivale in Acireale, February 2007

Rome, March 2007

Siracusa, March 2007

Ortygia, March 2007

Palermo, March 2007

Taormina, March 2007

Catania, March 2007

Agrigento, March 2007

Licata, March 2007

Piazza Amerina, March 2007

Mt. Etna, April 2007

Niscemi Artichoke Festival, April 2007

Noto Infiorata (Flower Festival), May 2007

Cefalu, May 2007

Ragusa, July 2007

Ponte Dirillo Memorial, July 2007

Mt. Etna Erupts, September 2007

Sunrise over the Ionian Sea, September 2007

Gambino Winery, Linguaglossa, September 2007

Mt. Etna - Monti Sartorius, September 2007

Mt. Etna, October 2007

Cefalu, October 2007

Segesta, October 2007

Trapani, October 2007

Rome, October 2007

Florence, October 2007

San Gimignano, October 2007

Tuscany, October 2007

Siena, October 2007