10 reasons (and more) to visit Maine

MaineOverviewWeb

(Photo by Carla Kucinski)

I’ve dreamed of going to Maine for years.

When my husband and I were first dating, we’d lay on the couch, fingers interlaced, fantasizing about the places we’d live together. Maine always came up. The fantasy goes like this. Andrew and I would live in a cottage (grey with a colorful door – maybe red or yellow) by the rocky Maine coast, and I would write books from my study overlooking the Atlantic, while Andrew would chop wood in the yard with our black Lab, Molly, at his side. There may be another dog or two in the picture. I would wear a lot of wool socks and oversize sweaters and mill about the house clutching warm cups of tea. And after a morning of writing, I’d make something like blueberry jam or a stockpot of hearty stew. Andrew would wear lots of flannel and thermal undershirts, jeans and rugged boots. He’d have a salt and pepper burly beard. When he wasn’t chopping wood, he’d read books in our library lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Molly would chase seagulls.

I’ve only known Maine through artwork and photographs, “Olive Kitteridge” and “Murder She Wrote.” The landscape has always drawn me in. The evergreens, the lighthouses, the choppy ocean slamming into the cliffs. It’s been a dream of mine to hike Acadia National Park and breathe in the smell of pine, stand on top of a mountain overlooking the Atlantic.

In May, I finally stopped fantasizing about Maine and made it a reality. It’s been a rough half of the year so far, and my husband and I needed a change of scenery, a place where we could hit the reset button on our lives and just be together. One night, I suggested Maine, and presented my research on flight times and cost. (I’m in PR; data is important when you’re delivering an idea.) Three weeks later, we were on a plane to New England.

Maine is one of the most – if not the most – memorable vacation we’ve taken together. I remember on our way home, sitting in the Bangor airport waiting to board our flight, and I scanned the large photo canvases hanging on the walls around us. Each one captured a beautiful Maine nature scene. I smiled recognizing some of the places we have visited. Jordan Pond. Bass Harbor Light House. Cadillac Mountain. “Look, we were there!” As we waited for our flight, we flipped through the endless stream of photos on our phones – us on our first hike at Acadia overlooking the ocean; us at sunrise at Cadillac Mountain awash in golden and pink light; us about to eat the best meal of our lives in Portland. A sadness came over me as we swiped through the photos. We hadn’t even boarded the plane yet and I was already missing Maine. I didn’t want to leave this beautiful state.

When friends ask us how our trip was, I always respond with one word: memorable. Here’s 12 reasons why — in the order in which they happened.

1. Family.

IMG_7569

So yeah, NH isn’t Maine, but that’s where my sister and her family live and I haven’t seen them in a year-and-a-half (shameful). So we made a slight detour and spent two nights hanging out with this adorable stripes and plaid crew. Our itinerary consisted of: Eating the best carnitas ever (prepared with love by my sis and bro-in-law); blowing bubbles in the front yard with the boys; a riveting game of bocce ball; homemade ice cream on a 95 degree day (Yep, that’s right 9-5.); choreography lesson and dance party in the living room with the boys; a late-night heart-to-heart with my big sis; Sunday morning pancake breakfast and a living-room cello concert from my oldest nephew. Oh yeah, and the best group selfie ever taken by my bro-in-law.

2. The Breakers Inn

Breakers_web

After leaving 95-degree NH the next day, we traveled two hours north to Scarborough, Maine, where it was overcast, windy and just barely 50 degrees. This was the Maine I was hoping to experience. It required layers and scarves for this NC girl. This was the view from our room at The Breakers Inn. I was in awe gazing out the window and seeing the landscape just as I had imagined it in this non-commercialized town.

I’ve been wanting to come to the Breakers Inn ever since I first heard about it 15 years ago from a couple I lived with in Connecticut while I was interning at The Hartford Courant; they had been going for 30 years. I couldn’t believe I was finally here and it was as beautiful and quaint as I thought it would be. The rooms are cozy, quiet and comfortable and offer spectacular views. And Rodney, one of the innkeepers, makes a homemade oatmeal in the morning that’s to die for. Their homemade blueberry, raspberry and strawberry jams are equally amazing. I can see us coming back here year after year. It’s a special place.

BreakersPortraitWeb Large Web view

If you need me, I’ll be here, staring out the window. (Photo by Carla Kucinski)

3. The Best Lobster Roll Evah!

This right here. One of the top three best things I’ve ever eaten. Hands down. And that root beer? Nothing else like it. It didn’t matter that it was extremely windy and cold nor that I could barely feel my fingers. I had my root beer and my juicy, meaty lobster making me happy. Bite into Maine is a little food truck that cranks out these lobster rolls at the Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park.

LobsterRollWeb

It was disappointing that the lighthouse was wrapped in scaffolding, but this lobster roll pretty much made up for it. (Photo by Carla Kucinski)

 

4. David’s 388

IMG_7591

This is us before we were about to eat the best meal of our lives. 

David’s 388 in South Portland was recommended to us by a trusted friend who knows good food. The earliest reservation we could get was 8 p.m., so we opted for what they described as the “chef’s table,” a bar that seats four people and overlooks the kitchen. For someone like me who loves food and even more so loves watching food be made, this was a dream come true. To start, I ordered a grilled romaine salad just because I saw one being made right in front of me that looked amazing. And it was. But when I saw the steamed pork bun leave the kitchen, I felt a small ping of regret. After the waitress told me how good they are, I expressed to her my inner torture of trying to decide between the salad and the pork bun. “Screw the romaine!” I said balling my fist in the air. The head chef overheard me and laughed. A few minutes later, he placed a small plate with a pork bun in front of us, and with a smile said, “On the house.” I looked up from my entree in disbelief, and then thanked him profusely. (I devoured it in seconds. There is no photo of the pork bun.) David’s 388 was the best seafood either of us has ever experienced. Everything was fresh and local and damn delicious.

Davids388Web

Pistachio crusted scallops. (Photo credit Carla Kucinski)

 

Davids388_hakeWeb

Hake (a traditional Maine white fish) with lobster, asparagus, corn and the creamiest mashed potatoes that melted in your mouth. 

5. Portland

Portlandweb

Portland has a little bit of grit to it, but mostly, it’s just darn cute. Lots of quaint little shops. Beautiful architecture. Loads of book stores and coffee shops. Cobblestone streets. (Photos by Carla Kucinski)

donuts2web

It used to be wherever I traveled, I would be on a quest for the best cupcake. I’ve since shifted my focus to donuts. 

This is The Holy Donut. These donuts are unlike any donut I’ve encountered. They’re made of potatoes. So that makes them healthy — or something. I wasn’t a huge fan of the vanilla. (It tasted like a doughy funnel cake.) But this chocolate dream below rocked my world. I guess they call it Holy Donut because eating them feels like a religious experience.

donutweb

Chocolate sea salt donut. Yeah, that’s right.

You may have begun to notice that so far my most memorable moments revolved around food. (This is a common theme in my life.) The food we ate in Maine was truly exceptional. And The Honey Paw was no exception. We actually stumbled upon this place, after putting our name on an hour-long waiting list at a seafood restaurant next door. After looking at the menu, we canceled our table next door and sidled up to the bar at Honey Paw, a fusion of American and Asian cuisines. I ordered this beauty: Korean fried chicken with kimchi and daikon (hold the American cheese) and a side of ramp chips. I moaned and groaned with every bite I took. (I can be annoying like that.) To top off the experience, a kind older couple, who are Honey Paw regulars, were seated next to us and shared their dessert with us. Some kind of blueberry cake with cream filling. Can I have some more please? I learned later that they were written up in the New York Times travel section the day we we dined there.

HoneyPawweb

One of the best sandwiches of my life. I’m in love. (Photos by Carla Kucinski)

cakeweb

People in Maine like to share their food with me.

6. Mr. Mo

Mr.MoWeb

Our first night in Bar Harbor, I met this sweet pup, Mr. Mo. He used to be a champion show dog in Chicago; now he lives in Maine with his owner, who is blind. They’ve been together for less than a year and they’ve already built a bond. Mr. Mo still needs to work on his seeing-eye-dog techniques, but he’s pretty much mastered hanging out at the local bar and receiving pets from dog lovers. He is the sweetest little thing. (Photo by Andrew Brown)

7. Ocean Path Trail – Acadia National Park

This was our introduction to Acadia National Park. Stunning views from every angle. Ocean Path is one of the most popular trails at Acadia. It hugs the coastline and meanders through forests and rocks and cliffs and towering evergreens. What struck me most was the beautiful emerald-green hue of the ocean. The entire trail was surreal for me. I wanted to come here for so long, and now I was actually here, and I was so overwhelmed by the beauty around us. I just kept thinking, “I can’t believe I’m here!”

AcadiaOcean3Web

(Photos by Carla Kucinski)

AcadiaOcean2Web

AcadiaOcean4Web

AcadiaOceanWeb

AcadiaSelfieWeb

8. Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain – Acadia National Park

Seeing the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain landed on my “dreams list” earlier this year when I was watching a segment on Acadia National Park on the CBS Sunday Morning show. The reporter mentioned how this is the first place the sun rises on the east coast in the U.S. My husband was reluctant to get up at 3:45 a.m. to make the 30-minute drive up the mountain and wait for this glorious once-in-a-lifetime moment to happen. I couldn’t imagine NOT doing it. So did the 200 or so other people who joined us on the top of the mountain that morning. The sun rises wicked early there. (That morning it rose at 4:50 a.m.) But wow, it was so worth it. The view was magnificent and truly unforgettable. The best part was the moment after everyone had hopped in the cars and driven back down the mountain and we were left alone with a peaceful stillness. Afterwards, we had a plateful of delicious wild blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup at Jordan’s Restaurant. It was a pretty perfect morning, and the day was just beginning. (Tip: It’s much colder and windier at the top of Cadillac. I had on multiple layers, but I wish I had brought a blanket or sleeping bag like some of the folks around us. A pair of gloves would have helped, too.)

CadillacWeb

(Photos by Carla Kucinski)

Cadillac2Web

Cadillac3Web

 

Cadillac4Web

What we look like after waking up at 3:45 a.m.

 

9. Jordan Pond – Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond wasn’t on our list of hiking trails at Acadia; we kind of just came upon it and decided to check it out because frankly we were lost. I wasn’t sure what to expect other than the ponds that I’m used to seeing — brown, murky and mosquito-infested. Apparently ponds look much different in Maine; they’re a little slice of heaven. I couldn’t believe how clear and blue the water is. (Tip: Be sure to follow the short walk to the Jordan Pond House, where there’s a full-service restaurant that bakes warm, fluffy popovers.)

JordanPond1

(Photo by Carla Kucinski)

JordanPond2

(Photo by Carla Kucinski)

JordanPond3

(Photo by Carla Kucinski)

JordanPond4

(Photo by Andrew Brown)

 

10. Facing my fear of heights

I realized I was deathly afraid of heights when I went on a ferris wheel for the first time at a carnival in the 5th grade. I screamed the entire time and couldn’t wait to be on solid ground again. I love hiking. But hiking often requires inclines and overlooks and all that scary stuff. Sometimes, in hiking, you’re forced to face your fears. Such was the case when a friendly female park ranger suggested we hike Emery Path at Sieur de Monts in Acadia. It’s a beautiful hike, great views and lots of granite steps, she told us. We were intrigued, so we gave it a whirl. I did not anticipate just how beautiful the views would be. Absolutely breathtaking. I also didn’t anticipate that I would hike so high up without hyperventilating, crying or passing out. That’s not to say that I didn’t have the occasional narrative in my head which went something like, “If I slip and fall here, I wouldn’t fall that far down.” But honestly, I was so overtaken by the views that I didn’t have time to be scared; I only had time to pause and take in the beauty.

EmoryPathWeb

Look it’s me! Way up high! (Photo by Andrew Brown)

EmoryPath1Web

Hundreds of granite steps comprise most of Emery Path. Once you reach what you think is the top, another sign points one mile onward to Dorr Mountain. We decided to turn right on Homans Path and head back down the mountain, which I’m glad we did. I’ve seen pictures of the rest of the trail, and it looks a little frightening. (Photo by Carla Kucinski)

EmoryPath2Web

Even though I’m afraid of heights, for most of this trail, I felt fairly contained by the steps and walls of the mountain. That gave me comfort. (Photo by Andrew Brown)

11. More food

Some final thoughts on food.

Food1Web

The Thirsty Whale became our favorite lunch spot in Bar Harbor. The food was great and the bar was dark and cozy. Do try the haddock sandwich. It was the perfect meal after hours of hiking.

Food3Web

I also recommend the fried clams at Thirsty Whale. Yowza. Best clams I ever had. I was happy that this plate of yumminess was my last meal in Bar Harbor.

Food4Web

I highly recommend the blueberry basil margarita at Side Street Cafe. Refreshing and served in a mason jar glass. Super cute.

Food2Web

The lobster mac and cheese at Side Street Cafe is also a winner. This is a half order. I can’t imagine what a full order looks like. It was pretty spectacular. After, we walked to Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium, where I had the best ice cream in my life – traditional chocolate and vanilla with peanut butter.  

12. Bass Harbor Head Light

We spent our last few hours in Bar Harbor driving to the southern part of Mount Desert Island — beautiful drive with a mixture of wilderness and views of the ocean. As we drove around the island with no particular destination in mind, we saw signs for Bass Harbor Head Light and decided to check it out. A trip to Maine is not complete until you’ve seen a lighthouse, and this one was pretty amazing. It’s nestled into the side of a cliff right on the ocean. A set of wooden steps descend among the pine trees to huge rocks that you can climb to get a more picturesque view of the lighthouse. It was truly beautiful.

Lighthouse

(Photo by Carla Kucinski)

Lighthouse3

(Photo by Carla Kucinski)

Lighthouse2

(Photo by Andrew Brown)

Lighthouse4

(Photo by Andrew Brown)

Advertisements

American Girls in Paris

IMG_8805

Oscar Wilde once said that “When good Americans die, they go to Paris” and while I’m certainly not ready to test his premise, I certainly hope that it’s true.

My wife and I spent a week in Paris in late September and we may never get over it.

We’ve been home several weeks now and when someone asks how our trip was, we both still crumble like a flaky croissant and swoon.

People almost always ask the same question, “What was your favorite part?” My wife has the best reply – “All of it.”

I know we’re hardly unique. People have been falling in love with Paris for centuries for all of the same reasons we did – the art, the history, the architecture, the food, the wine, the baguettes…Okay, you get the picture.

We followed The Gospel According to Rick Steves for our trip as did every other tourist in Paris. I was sitting on the Metro one morning beside a beautiful Asian woman who was pouring over our exact Rick Steves’ Paris guidebook – only hers was in Mandarin.

The Book of Rick

The Book of Rick

On the platform waiting for the train to Versailles, a Midwestern woman traveling with her husband and two grown sons struck up a conversation with us and announced with great fervor, “We’re following Rick Steves.” We felt compelled to bow in reverence and say, “And also with you.”

Throughout the week we overheard folks prefacing comments with, “Well, Rick Steves says…” Make no doubt, when Rick Steves speaks, tourists listen.

Funny how an average looking Joe in a camp shirt and Mom jeans became the Travel Messiah for the free world.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer after following his recommendations saved us from standing in line in so many places.

One thing is for sure – you won’t see any Mom jeans in Paris – even on moms. Parisians are an intimidating lot when it comes to fashion. My dear friend Jeff and his partner Michael were in Paris a week before us and had prepared us to feel not worthy. Jeff posted from Paris on Facebook, “I feel like I just climbed out of a Salvation Army donation box.”

Granted, the French have an advantage over us because they are all beautiful. No, I’m not kidding. There are no ugly Parisians or they must keep them in a remote arrondissement far away from high traffic areas.

So you start with beautiful and then add a minimum of two artfully draped scarves and you have your “average” looking Parisian. I really do think part of their secret is in the scarves. They are all Houdinis when it comes to tying one. Even the children! I swear French children learn to tie a scarf before they tie their shoes. And everyone looks so natural in them – not pretentious like us. (Granted, that didn’t stop me from wearing mine to try to assimilate.)

Oh, and while we’re talking about children – Parisian children all look like they just skipped out of either Madeline or Le Petit Prince. They are well-behaved and charming and we adored hearing them speak in their tiny French voices.

We want one.

We want one.

We really didn’t do any shopping because we were on an Amazing Race pace to see everything that Rick Steves told us to see but we joked about nabbing a French child as a souvenir.

If I had to pick one favorite thing about Paris I think it would have to be the iconic cafes. I loved sitting outside at lunch every day with a glass or deux of rosé just Parisian watching. I learned a lot, especially about French women.

First, the term “gluten-free” does not exist in the French language. You never overhear people saying things like “Can I get that dressing on the side” or “No, thank you, we don’t care for any bread.” In short, Paris is where low-carb diets go to die.

The cafe life

The café life

I could devote an entire post to French baguettes. They are, in a word, perfect – light and airy with a thin crust. And they are an accessory in Paris. You see people throughout the day carrying them under their arms. It was especially fun to see young mothers with small children buying baguettes in the evening for that night’s dinner.

My wife had done all the homework for our trip and trust me, the Invasion of Normandy was not as detailed as her itinerary. My task was making some dinner reservations. Which reminds me, how did people travel before the internet? I perused TripAdvisor and used thefork, the European version of OpenTable, and made some fairly educated selections which all worked out deliciously well.

Say cheese.

Say cheese.

I made most of our reservations for 7 or 7:30 knowing that we would be hungry and tired after a frenetic day of sightseeing. Who knew that a 7:00 PM reservation in Paris is the equivalent of the Early Bird Special? We were amazed to see folks coming into a restaurant after 9 – even on week nights. Damn the French – we had chic envy.

The art. Sacre bleu! Where do I begin? You could spend a year in the Louvre alone but we took St. Rick’s advice and made a bee line for our “priority” items first. For me, that was Venus de Milo.

venus

Venus is out of this world.

Growing up, my beloved Aunt Phyllis had a small replica of this statue in her living room and I thought it was the most exotic thing I had ever seen. My uncle was an Air Force officer and he and my aunt lived abroad for several years and collected some beautiful mementos.

I would be mesmerized by my aunt’s tales of travels all over Europe. She knew I loved her Venus statue and as she began to downsize in her later years, she gave it to me. I treasure it and to see the real thing in person at the Louvre took my breath away and I felt as if Aunt Phyl had her arm on my shoulder.

My wife’s moment came at the Musee d’Orsay when she saw Monet’s Field of Poppies. I saw her tear up and asked what that was about. She told me that her high school English teacher (not her favorite) had a poster of the painting in his classroom and that she would zone out and escape into the beautiful fields during class. To see the original exceeded even her high school imagination.

IMG_4799

It’s not your English teacher’s Monet.

And perhaps that’s the true elixir of travel, particularly to lands foreign to us. Travel makes our world view so much larger. As Saint Augustine noted, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

I’m only a few pages in on my book but I can’t even pretend to be blasé about Paris. And I think the author Paula McLain perfectly articulated my magnifique obsession in The Paris Wife when she wrote, “Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.”

I can live with that.

C’est si bon!

Happy, happy, joie, joie!

Happy, happy, joie, joie!

FullSizeRender (019)

We’ll always have Paris or maybe it’s really Paris will always have us.

It’s coming on Christmas

IMG_3103

I love this time of year.

In my house, everything seems to slow down in December, creating a calm, a stillness, less urgency. There is more lounging on the couch, snug under chenille blankets that feel like rabbit fur. There are holiday movie marathons, while wearing polka dot flannel pajama bottoms and fuzzy slippers. There is sea salt caramel hot cocoa and glasses of heavy red wine. And there are meals that take longer to cook, warm our insides and bring us comfort. Tarragon tomato soup, stuffed cabbage rolls, crusty garlic bread.

IMG_3123December is like a long pause. A deep breath before another year begins and we start all over again. So I try to savor this month as much as I can and take advantage of this “pause.” I will read more, write more, reflect more. I will listen to Joni Mitchell’s “River” about 100 times – and cry 100 times – because it’s the saddest, most heartbreaking Christmas song on this planet, but also the most beautiful. I will not make many commitments or attend too many social engagements. This pause is sacred to me. For now, I just want quiet.

And I want Christmas decorations. Lots of them. Christmas in our new home feels warm and cozy – more so than other places we’ve lived. I wonder why that is? Our new home has inspired me to buy some holiday decor, which is not something I usually do. I’m all about buying ornaments and strands of twinkle lights, but I never was one for buying holiday decor outside of tree trimming. But this year, Christmas feels different. I’m happy and I want the space that I live in to reflect that, so I bought some mini Christmas trees and these adorable little birdies, in other words, simple things that make me happy. Every night, when I turn on all of our Christmas lights and light the candles on our mantle, our house feels . . . magical.

See what I mean? Magical, isn't it?

See what I mean? Magical, isn’t it?

IMG_3107  IMG_3106

These two birdies were longing for a third little tree. So I gave in.

These two birdies were longing for a third little tree. So I gave in.

Growing up, I loved when my mother would bring up from our basement giant cardboard boxes filled with Christmas decor. In one day, our entire house would be transformed into a winter wonderland. My mother had red and pine green candles that she only displayed at Christmas and a beautiful white and gold painted ceramic Santa. She put candles in every window and hung on the side of the house a gigantic wreath with white lights, gold ornaments and fake white snow that clung to the branches. And on one Saturday, she’d bake all of her Christmas cookies, filling the house with the scent of buttery cookie dough, toasted walnuts and cloves. Between cartoon breaks, I’d walk into the kitchen to sample her latest batch of cookies, and she’d load them on a paper plate for me to take back to the living room. My mom did Christmas right. I guess that’s where I get it from.

When I became an adult, the holidays brought up mixed feelings for me. I have a tendency to get a little melancholy, especially when I see others spending the holidays with their families. It’s the worst feeling in the world when your family texts you a group photo on Christmas Eve and you’re the only one not there or when your heart aches from just seeing your little nephews in their striped footie pajamas, opening their presents on Christmas day.

087Since I moved to North Carolina nine years ago, going “home” hasn’t been an easy option. It’s too far to drive, too expensive to fly and getting enough time off from work has always been a headache. The last time I flew home for Christmas was four years ago during the middle of my divorce. My luggage was lost (and later recovered), my flights were delayed, and, oh yeah, there was that blizzard that cancelled my return flight and left me stranded in New Hampshire for five days. The upside? I got to spend my sister’s birthday with her and bake her a chocolate cake. The downside? The morning after I finally arrived home, I was shivering in bed with a 102 fever. After that trip, I instituted a five-year rotation plan.

182

My sister, nephew, and chocolate cake.

This year, however, the five-year plan has been trumped by a longing to be with family. I just can’t spend another Christmas on FaceTime. It will be the first time in four years that our whole family will be together. I cannot wait. No more FaceTime, no more photos texted across the miles, no more lost luggage and flight delays (we’re driving!). Just family – and my sister’s famous chocolate molten lava cakes. What more could I ask for?

061

Christmas-Eve Eve shenanigans, 2010. My brother-in-law loves this photo, even though a quarter of his face is cut off.

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

Excursion Diversions

final meme

 

blogathy

blog – uh- thee

noun

1. absence of blogging or procrastinating from posting on a blog

2. lame excuse for not blogging

Yep, that’s me. I’m suffering from blogathy and the only cure is to post posthaste.

I can now confess to having a deeper appreciation of those who blog on a regular basis – like more than once in a blue moon. It’s harder than it looks.

Seriously.

I’ve posted several things in my head over the last couple of weeks but even though you read my blog, you can’t read my mind. At least, I hope you can’t, and if you can, Jodie Foster was simply making a cameo appearance.

roman holidayTruthfully, I’m having a hard time focusing on anything of late but my upcoming trip to Italy with my wife. We got married in May and we’re calling this our honeymoon because sometimes it’s fun to talk like straight people.

I traveled to Italy four years ago with three other (fabulous) women. I was still raw around the edges after a tumultuous breakup and the journey was a healing balm for me in ways that I could have never imagined.

One day on our trip we were hiking through a tiny Tuscan village when our beautiful guide, Francesca, stopped to speak with an older woman tending her garden. The two women embraced and kissed on each cheek and spoke animatedly to one another for several minutes.

When Francesca returned to our group, I said, “How nice, you ran into someone you know.” She looked at me sweetly with a confused expression and said, “No, I just met her.”

That’s Italy.

Italians savor la dolce vita in all aspects of life – food, nature, people – and you can’t help but fall under this spell when you’re there. The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova eloquently captured this feeling when she wrote, “Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of you life.”

This is the first “big” trip my wife and I have taken together and I’m hoping we’re a good travel match. She’s never been to Italy and has read her Rick Steves’ guidebook from cover to cover. Rick-Steves-Italy-2014-P9781612386591

I’ve tried not to be annoyed at night when we’re in bed reading and she feels compelled to share some unknown factoid about Venice with me. Besides, who knew only three to four gondolier licenses are issued annually? Exactly.

I’m usually an obsessive planner with a vacation but this time I agreed to a tour and I’m blissfully letting someone else be the boss for a couple of weeks. I barely even know our itinerary and that is exhilarating to me.

I just know that some lovely stranger is going to schlep my over packed bag from hotel to hotel for me. What’s not to like?

Now I’m shamelessly hoping that my prologue-travelogue has made you forget about my sorry blogathy as visions from pizza to Pisa dance through your head.

I promise to be a better blogger upon my return.

Ciao, ya’ll!

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.