Santorini, Greece

Next stop was by far our favorite, Santorini, Greece. A very Greek city way up on the cliffs. You have to either take the gondola up or ride a donkey. A cruise ship employee told me the donkey ride was awful, smelly and hot. But I decided I wanted to do it anyways. Personally, I found it to be quite fun once I got over the shock of nobody driving (they simply slap the donkeys and let them go, they know where to go and they take breaks whenever they feel like it. It can be a little bit of a problem if your donkey decides to ride close to the rock wall or another donkey, but mostly it’s fun).

Everything was painted white (chalky paint, try not to lean on anything) and the churches had those infamous blue domes dotting the city scape. Wandering through this town was too much fun, the little paths wind and twist and dead end, it’s like one big maze.

We took the bus to a little artisan village called Oia, it was like one big craft fair. Everything was locally made, very neat.

We ate the best Gyros I have ever had. Should have eaten two or three. They were so good! I had no idea but authentic Gyros have french fries in them, which seemed weird but it tasted good.


Corfu, Greece

Corfu is the second largest of the Greek islands. It is full of olive trees and is where much of the olive wood bowls and such from Greece are made. We browsed some of the olive wood bowls and found them to be very expensive, but when you think about it, olive trees are not very big so in order to get a piece of wood big enough to make a large bowl it takes just the right tree. Plus it is a VERY hard wood which is difficult to carve.

In Corfu there is an “old fortification” and a “new fortification”, Both a result of Venetians ruling the area. We explored the old fortification (the photo above) and climbed to the very top of it (not an easy task in July heat in Greece), but the view was beautiful.

From atop the fortification we saw a beach we wanted to get to. It took some figuring out, but we found it. We seemed to be the only tourists there. It was definitely a local hang out. The water was amaaaazing after our little hike.

After our first dip in the Ionian sea we wandered the narrow streets of Corfu. It definitely had a Greek feel to it.



We have been wanting to go on a cruise for awhile now and I found a deal that was too good to be true. MSC, an Italian cruise line gives you one free child for every paying adult. Plus, they are cheap to begin with, on top of which, they do a military discount. And because we booked last minute and they happened to have a balcony room available, they upgraded us for free. How could we say no?? We had heard bad things about MSC cruise lines, people say the customer service just isn’t as good as other cruise lines, but since we have nothing to compare it to and we’ve been living with Italian customer service now for over a year, we decided we could handle it.

We boarded the boat in Venice which is only a half hour away so it was super easy. Our first stop was in Ancona, Italy. The church of San Ciriaco was built in 1189 and may even be an update of a 7th century church. Inside there is a glass case with some saints’ mummified remains. It reminded me a lot of Ukraine, you could see the mummified hands and face. Pretty little church on top of the hill.

There was a beach which we walked aways to get to and were very excited about, but it ended up stinking, literally. You can see all the dark stuff in the water here just past where I am standing, it’s seaweed and it was so gross and smelly. I’m not sure how anyone was enjoying swimming in it.

The town of Ancona was cute and had some good shopping. We found a market that was selling European style suits for 50 euro, and Nick wanted one. But he had to try it on first (Italians are very small, he needed XL in everything, LOL). The lady at the stand was soooo nice. I don’t know if it’s because she appreciated my Italian skills or that she liked Jonah, but she was so sweet. She let Jonah sit in her chair behind the booth and when he started messing with her things she told me it was ok and that “it’s the big ones that are the problem, not the little ones”, which I thought was too cute.

Parco delle Cascate (waterfalls park)

We found a beautiful place to go hiking this weekend. Just an hour away from us is a waterfalls park that was really beautiful. There were lot’s of fun bugs and plants (including tons of cherry trees) and a few fun swings over the waterfalls. So nice to get outside! The weather report said rain but we went anyways and there wasn’t a single drop.


Memorial day camping

For memorial day we headed south to go camping, lay on the beach and explore the city that is it’s own country, San Marino. Sorry, no pictures of the beach. But San Marino was GORGEOUS! It’s a fortress on top of this huuuge hill. We parked at the bottom and took the gondola up. Very touristy, but neat nonetheless. Our friends Jenni and her two kiddos came with us for the weekend, it was nice for Jonah to have his girlfriend Keira to play with all weekend.

Kite festival

At the beginning of May we had some friends invite us to accompany them to a kite festival on the beach. It was really fun to see all the different kites. A lot of them were HUGE, or could do really cool tricks. We pretty much just sat on the beach and watched the kites. The big ones did go up high in the air but it was harder to get a good picture of them once they were up, so that’s why you see them on the ground here. Except the big puffer fish, he stayed on the ground. He was the biggest, and Jonah was deathly afraid of him. I think he thought he might roll over him since he kept kind of rolling around.

Right at the end they had a “candy drop” where they dropped little parachutes with candy for the kids from a kite that was used in WWII to take photographs of enemy lines (kind of a cool history behind a kite I think). It was fun to run with all the kiddies and try to get the candy falling from the sky.

Gaudi and other cool touristyness

Gaudi is this crazy architect that built all kinds of cool stuff in Barcelona. The last years of his life he committed to builing the Sagrada Famiglia. They started it in 1882 and it’s still not done! See all the cranes? It is definitely an interesting church and kind of a breath of fresh air after the hundreds of churches we have seen that all seem the same.

 He was inspired by nature, you can see the trees when you look up at the supporting columns of the church.  Check out the modern art stained glass, very refreshing and bright.

 Among Gaudi’s other works was what was supposed to be a gated neighborhood. But it was too far from the center of the city and so it became a park. People say he was ahead of his time because nowadays the rich people want to be further out, but back then they didn’t. It makes a neat park though with all of his artwork. Including the world’s longest bench, the gingerbread looking houses at the entrance and the symbolic lizard that welcomes you.

 In Gaudi’s park, it resembles the tunnel of a wave.

 Barcelona is where Columbus brought back the Native Americans (There is a Columbus monument in Barcelona on the port due to the fact that Spain funded his journey, it is ironic because his discovery sort of killed their trade for awhile). In one of the churches is supposedly the Baptismal font where they baptized the native americans (see above).

Creepy statue

Lions around the Columbus monument

Crazy Gaudi buidling

The magic Fountain, it dances to the music and changes color.

I did steal the camera a few times and get some photos of Nick, but apparently I’m not a good photographer cuz Nick didn’t like any of them. I swear he was there though!

La Boqueria

Barcelona has an amazing open air market open everyday except Sunday year round. Because they are a port town they get fruits and veggies from all over the world. There is a huge fish and meat section. We enjoyed the fruit drinks and all kinds of tropical fruit. We walked through the market almost every day just to enjoy the atmosphere.

The rain in Spain…

This last week we had to opportunity to go to Spain. We had a few hitches here and there but I learned a lot from them…such as be sure to check the dates of your flights before pushing the “purchase” button. Or, never say you want a receipt at a foreign ATM because sometimes it will ask you to provide the paper for your receipt before it will spit out your money, and apparently it doesn’t want just any piece of paper so the paper I put in it jammed up the whole machine (which was good because it ensured no one else got my money). And always ask the price of those little pizzas at the bakery instead of assuming that they are 2 euro each because they could be 8.50 euro each.

But there were some good things too. Like the amazing newly remodeled apartment that I found right on the beach for $80/night. And the fact that the woman who owns the apartment gave me the kiss-kiss greeting (That was my very first one in a year of living in Europe! I was super excited!) The weather was great. We had plenty of time to see everything and spend time on the beach. Overall, Barcelona was not my favorite place that I have been in Europe but it was worth a trip.


On the last day of March we went out to the lake to enjoy the almost 80 degree weather. March in Italy is my favorite so far. Everything is blooming and beautiful (not so fun if you have allergies, Italy is one of the worst places for allergies). Sirmione is a medieval town that sits on a peninsula that goes out into the lake 4 km. At the entrance of the town is a castle, which blocked off the whole peninsula to anyone trying to enter. We explored the castle, ate gelato and played on the lake shore. Definitely my favorite lake town so far.