So, the car ride out of Lucerne was pretty much full-on Annie trying to coerce Justin into stopping in Milan..
“Honey, I’ve never been to Milan.. Love, we’re driving right through.. I love Italy what if we never come back?!”
He’d break about 45 minutes outside of the city and thought he could prove his wife wrong in that there wasn’t anything to see. Ha. While not as lovely as Florence, Milan was still able to add to her love affair with Italia. So we park the car in the first lot that we find in the (what we assumed was) center of town and begin our trek around the city to see the sights in pit-stop number two on our way to Verona. We spot a tower and figure, ‘hey, that must be something important.’ Ends up that we’re walking next to the beautiful Sempione Park on our way up to the 15th century Sforza Castle, one of the largest citadels in Europe. Psh. J and his ‘nothing to see’. A of course made friends with the first musical street performer we come across..
Wandering through the castle’s renaissance courtyard, we find one of the entrances with a long boulevard on the opposite side. The trek continues down the street and leads us to the Piazza del Duomo, where Annie with all of her inner strength fights the urge to say, ‘see, told ya.’ But she doesn’t need to, he knows, he knows. It was a good pit-stop, the square is dominated by the Milan Cathedral, the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the most important example of Gothic architecture in the country. This guy that takes six centuries to build is just as grand on the inside, but unfortunately the cathedral ushers don’t let A in since she’s in shorts.. Women in shorts are forbidden, men in shorts are fine.. What year is this?
After J makes a quick run through the inside our eyes turn to the left of the cathedral where we find a giant glass covered walkway – the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II is the worlds oldest shopping mall – but we were hard pressed to notice the shops while looking up at the ceiling the entire way through.
The little trolley car at the stop on the other side reminded us of our days back on McKinney Avenue in Dallas. We smile, and think, ‘yeah, we’d much rather look at them in Milan’ while we make our way back to our chariot. Next stop, Verona. Annie promises her husband no more pit-stops on the way.
Via our friend Doris we’ve found out about this awesome map of Brussels made by Use-It. It’s a free little guidebook of sorts made up by young locals to point out some of their favorite spots in the city, keeping you in the cool, not too touristy parts. We’ve been whipping out our Brussels one every once in a while to get some ideas on new places to try out or areas to stroll through, so we were excited to find out that they’re a Europe-wide sort of thing. In Belgium they’ve got all the big cities – Antwerp, Bruges, Gent and Leuven – but also a name we hadn’t seen come up all too often: Mechelen. So one slow Sunday we figured we’d give it a go and visit this place that finds itself about halfway between Brussels and Antwerp.
Now that we’ve built up this map you’re probably assuming that we’re checking off all the hot Mechelen spots. Well, no. Who knows what happened (ok, it was because Doris hand delivered the Brussels one and the tourist office doesn’t find itself in our living room) but we ended up in the town mapless. Comme d’habitude. Our first stop was St. Rombold’s Cathedral, mainly because we could spot the tower from where we parked and figured it’d be in the center of town.. And if that tower looks a little unfinished to you, it’s because it is. They stopped when the town ran out of money way back in the 16th century and it’s stayed a flat-top ever since. Inside we found a corner full of gossiping statues, presumably talking about whoever went broke.
Cleanest. Belgian. Town. Stuff was almost shiny, and the city had flowers almost anywhere they could fit them. It did have a little emptiness to it though – the place felt like it was made for way, way more people. But it was a Sunday, sunny, and holiday season so it’s not too far fetched to think that the residents had vacated their pristine little town for the beaches. The extra space gave Annie some time to practice her cartwheels. Or maybe all the locals are at the spots we should have known about if we had our Use-It map..
Bonjourno Italia, you’ve got it goin’ on! To celebrate our one year anniversary that we’ve been going on and on about, we booked a trip to Tuscany. And this little corner of the world completely stole our hearts (and stomachs). The beautiful narrow streets that open up to gorgeous pops of color. Europe is filled with grand, historic cathedrals and palaces with ornate details and gold trimmings, so much that we’ve become a little numb to it. But, Florence brought it with the Wow Factor. The green and white marble that you just can’t stop looking at. The details even had details. We split our time meandering through the streets and patio-ing – which, I had to describe to my mom as ‘sitting on a patio drinking’ and we’re very good at it, to which we received a shocked, ‘Anne!’ Don’t worry, there was enough ravioli and gelato to soak it up. Mamma Mia!
^ This adorable group of Italian men. Y’all. The cool cat in all black – yes, that’s a black leather hat to go with his black leather jacket and shades – rides up on his fancy two-wheels and throws down that kickstand. His friends all stand around admiring and you know we were thankful to have the best patio spot in that piazza.
Aside from our much needed dose of sun after the Belgian winter, we couldn’t get enough of the pasta, wine and gelato. Delicious. I can’t tell you how fun it was to break out some of the dresses that had been locked up for months. I was maybe a little overeager with the flip-flops..Ouch. It was painful for J to watch, mostly. So many hills. So much walking. But we wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Best vacation of our lives.
On the last night, we sat on a dinner terrace talking about before we were married and how fun the engagement was like his conversation with the first person he told he bought the ring. Oh, and we tried grappa for the first time.. That last photo up there was after the grappa. I know my writing has been
a little way sappy-centric lately, but I had to get it out. I’ll try to keep the sappy to a yearly thing/minimum and get us back on regularly scheduled programming..try. So with that said, the rest of our trip which included an amazing wine tour through Tuscany and a ginormous garden will be making an appearance in the coming days. Arrivederci!
Do you ever get to 2pm on Saturday and you’re just like, ‘we gotta get outta here’? It happens to us a lot..we’ve just gotta explore, stat. Especially with this crazy Belgian climate. We wake up in the morning, look at the map and do a very scientific-like calculation of driving time x amount of sun x temperature. Similar to The Day Tripping Bowl of Destiny, but less fancy. That’s how we ended up in Tournai last Saturday. Well, we showed up and were still lacking a bit on the sun, and it was still a little on the chilly side so our walking was limited to the area to just around the cathedral. That was fine because we still got to cross something off of our UNESCO list, but the rest of this little town we’re going to need to save for a sunnier, warmer day..but, really. these photos are some of my faves, so I wanted you to have a peek..