Yellowstone

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On Friday we went to Yellowstone, a two-hour drive from where my parents live. As a family we visited Yellowstone every summer growing up, and I’ve got many happy memories in and around this place. My Grandma and Grandpa Carson used to own a cabin in Island Park, about 30 minutes outside of Yellowstone, and we stayed there for family vacations. I remember reading books on the porch in the sunshine, going on morning or evening runs in crisp air and smelling pine everywhere, seeing a baby bear in a nearby tree, going to nearby lakes to canoe or take a pedal boat and laugh because the wind was so strong we couldn’t get anywhere, hiking on the Continental Divide, and taking sunset walks outside the cabin, where we would see moose roaming around. Sometimes the moose would come right up to the cabin and we would watch them out the windows. These trips planted a deep love of nature in me.

This time, our visit to Yellowstone was a day trip. We left around 6 am and arrived home around 1 am the next morning. My favorite thing to do in Yellowstone is take a short hike to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, photos above, where the falls are breathtaking.

I didn’t take many photos this trip, but I did get some nice shots of the Grand Prismatic Spring, which I can’t stop thinking about. Here are a few more photos of our day.

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My sisters and I always have so much fun being silly together. I love these two so much!

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After our day in the park, we went to the PlayMill Theater and laughed through a delightfully performed “Singing in the Rain.” We’ve seen a lot of great musicals and plays at the West Yellowstone Playmill, but “Singing in the Rain” now ranks among my favorites because the cast was so good. I thought the actors playing Cosmo, Kathy, and Don sang and danced even better than those in the movie. I’ve happily had “Make ‘em Laugh,” “Good Morning,” and “Singing in the Rain” stuck in my head since, and I can’t get Cosmo’s hilarious expressions and stunts out of my mind either. Also, until this performance, a musical had never given me the urge to take a tap dance class, but I’ve got an itch now…

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Orange

One of the reasons I love Yellowstone so much (apart from my opinion that it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth) is that the colors and textures constantly change. The paint pots, geysers, and springs look different every visit, depending on the weather, the lighting, and the time of year you visit, and also due to the simple fact that nature is in constant motion.

These beauties bellow are photos of the Grand Prismatic Spring during a family trip to Yellowstone last week. The vivid oranges stood out to me and looked different from every angle. The more we walked, the more the colors changed, and I had a hard time pulling myself away from this place even though there was a storm rolling in.

Then again, sometimes the minutes right before the storm are the most magical. The moment felt sort of eerie but in the best way.  And the orange! I’ve never seen such orange.

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P.S. Fun fact: The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the U.S. and the third largest in the world. 🙂

Table Rock

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Hello from Idaho, or affectionately, “Idahome”—the place I called home from age 12 to 18. I’m visiting my parents who live here and my sisters who are in town from Salt Lake and Los Angeles.

I’m taking a break from posting about our Europe trip to show you these beautiful photos from Table Mountain, which I’ve been wanting to hike again for years (it’s been around 10 years since I last hiked it). I convinced my sister and her boyfriend to come along, and even though it’s a tough hike, they agreed it’s worth it!

Bluebells, Indian Paintbrush, Sunflowers, and other wildflowers line the trail called “Huckleberry.” Once you reach the ridge you see fields of wildflowers in each direction; then you cross a field of rocks and climb Table Mountain or rather, as we called it growing up, “Table Rock,” which provides an unbeatable view of the Tetons. It’s heaven on Earth and one of my favorite places. Living on the east coast, I sure miss these mountains. ❤

Florence

We had 1.5 jam-packed days in Florence and soaked up every moment! We enjoyed Renaissance masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery, which houses Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation,” and we visited the Galleria dell’Accademia, where we saw Michelangelo’s “David.” We also enjoyed visiting the incredible Duomo with its famous dome designed by Brunelleschi. And we met up with my lovely friend, Sasha, who took us to her favorite gelatería in the city. I think it was by far the best gelato we had in Italy. We walked to the beautiful Ponte Vecchio bridge as the sun set, and Sasha pointed out various historical highlights as we walked. Spending time with Sasha was a treat! Florence is a dream and we could have spent much more time here.

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Tuscan Countryside

 

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Ah, dreamy Tuscany! During most of our trip in Italy we used trains to get around, but we wanted a car to explore the Tuscan countryside, so in Florence we picked up a rental and spent a few days driving around and exploring towns. We stayed in an agriturismo, which was fun. Some favorite moments in Tuscany:

-visiting an ancient fortress.

-stopping at a cheese shop in Pienza and meeting the owner and her son. She was wonderful to talk with (we mostly spoke Spanish with a few Italian words thrown in there, and she only spoke Italian, so we used lots of gestures and it was fun because she really made an effort to communicate). She offered us cheese samples with bread and olive oil, which made a nice lunch since the restaurant we had planned to eat at was closed. (Note: although I eat a mostly vegan diet, I do eat cheese when traveling in Europe.)

-stumbling upon a luxury car show. I’m not a car fan, but Waldir likes nice cars, and I liked seeing Waldir enjoy that. 🙂

-doing yoga at the agriturismo, overlooking the countryside as the sun set. ❤

-I also liked the cats at the agriturismo. 😉

-eating at a michelin restaurant.

 

Venice

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We don’t have a lot of pics from Venice since I was in excruciating pain during our visit there. I have a herniated disc in my neck and sometimes it slips a little and my muscles go into protective mode, seizing up for a few days and then finally relaxing little by little (that’s how the doctor explained it to me). When this happens, I’m in so much pain that I really can’t think straight, and every movement is difficult. I can’t move my neck up or down, or to the right or left. Sitting and walking are hard. Thankfully this has only happened twice. And thankfully on this trip, my neck was doing great in general, but I most have slept on it wrong and the disc must have slipped a bit, because the day of our trip to Venice, I woke up in trouble. Getting from Tuscany to Venice by car (a 4-hour drive), leaving the car and then taking the train into the city, and then navigating the city to find our airbnb was a nightmare, especially for Waldir who had to carry our luggage in a no-car city. (We both packed light, but still! Not easy.) There was a mix-up finding the airbnb and we ended up going to the wrong address, which was on the other side of the city. I won’t bore you with the details but I’ll simply say: it was a mess.

When in this state of pain, I can’t function much. Waldir was very patient and helpful, bringing me medicine and food while I spent most of our time in Venice in bed. I needed anti-inflammatories, which we couldn’t get at first because the pharmacies were closed by the time we arrived–and then closed the next day because it was a Sunday. Waldir went to church and then spent hours searching the city, looking for anti-inflammatories for me. (Tip: make sure to bring tylenol/ibuprofen in case of emergency! I had a few but not enough. Lesson learned.) So yes, in Venice Waldir spent a lot of time helping me and I spent a lot of time lying down. (We watched the documentary “Inside Job,” which is great, by the way.) On Monday, Waldir was able to get the medicine and thankfully it helped my muscles calm down. Finally I could walk around and we took a vaporetto (waterbus) ride to enjoy the canals. The next day, we went to the rooftop of the famous Fondaco dei Tedeschi luxury department store, where you can get an unbeatable (and free) view of Venice. I recommend this!

Venice Tips: 

-Pack lightly (it’s a carless city!). The streets are hard to roll luggage on (due to uneven roads).

-If on a budget, take a vaporetto around the canals (local form of transportation) rather than pay for a private boat ride. Crowded, but you might meet some new friends (we did, and they had great tips!).

-Visit the Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store and take the escalators/elevators to the rooftop to get a free, fabulous view of the city.

-For food, we basically lived off Dal Moro’s fresh, inexpensive, take-away pasta. We also liked Frulala, where we bought fresh juice and smoothies a few times (not cheap, but we needed some vitamins!).

-I really wanted to do a free walking tour–didn’t get to go b/c of my neck, but you should go and tell me how it is 😉

Kayaking also looked fun!

 

Milan

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We took a high-speed train from Venice to Milan for a quick day trip. We got there in the morning and flew to Paris in the evening. (I’m blogging about our trip backwards–hopefully it’s not confusing!)

When planning the trip, I hadn’t originally planned to stop in Milan, but Waldir wanted to go, so we worked it into the plan and I’m glad we did because we enjoyed it very much. (Thanks, Waldircito!)

First, we headed to the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. I wasn’t sure what to expect since many people are frustrated that most of original is gone and it’s so heavily restored. But we are glad we went! It’s beautiful–restoration and all–and for us it felt very special. (Heads up if you plan to go: you must reserve tickets a few months in advance. Sadly even with a reservation, you’ll only have a 15 minute time slot to see the painting. I could have looked at it for a long time!)

We stopped for lunch and then went to the famous duomo, a remarkable cathedral dedicated to Mary. The beautiful golden statue of Mary inside is a copy of the statue on top of the cathedral, and it captivated us. After visiting inside, we climbed up to the roof, where we enjoyed both staggering architecture and a great view of the city (if you visit the cathedral, I recommend going up on the roof!! Worth it!).

After visiting the duomo, we traveled out to the San Siro Stadium, home of AC Milan and Inter Milan. We had fun taking a tour of the stadium and visiting its little museum. Fun fact: As a teen living in Mexico, Waldir played semi pro soccer. He says he’s “old” now, but even though he’s not in his prime soccer shape, he’s still got some skills. 😉