The Down Side Of Travel

I have immense gratitude for the fact that I get to travel so much. Nomadic life is everything people say it is, exciting, rewarding, enriching. But let's be honest, sometimes it's a pain in the butt (if I said I meant that literally would that be too much information?). Members of the Lit Chick Club have already heard why my usually fun road trip across Europe was something less than fun this year. It was tough, to say the least.

Two days after arriving in Scotland I was struck down by an evil stomach bug. It kept me in its clutches up to the hour that we were leaving to travel to Italy and pick up our friends for a week long visit. With a 101-degree fever, we struck out for the three-hour drive to Newcastle. It was there we would catch the overnight ferry to Amsterdam so we could continue our drive. The universe was smiling upon me because instead of the usual two-hour wait for the ferry loading we were allowed to drive straight onto the ship which meant I got to head straight to our cabin.

We landed in Amsterdam after our overnight journey and instead of catching the sights for a few hours as we had planned (I would love to get back to the Anne Frank museum again, not to mention the Rijksmuseum) we headed straight for the road. There was no way I could manage sight-seeing. A quick stop in a little town in Germany for the night and then we picked up our friends in Milan. All in all, I didn't eat for more than ten days, but the Farmacia in our little town gave me antibiotics for a stomach infection, and I managed to recover in time to enjoy the last few days of our friends visit. Including a trip to Cinque Terre.

Now we are settled into a little house in Porec, Croatia for a week so that I can have some quiet time to focus on getting my final version of Uncharted to the editor by my due date of July 21st. I could use some crossed fingers on your part as I didn't get to work the entire time I was ill.

Here are some photos of our journey...

The mountains of Cinque Terre. One of my most favorite places on the planet.

Sailing on the ferry between Monterosso and Portovenere. The trip takes about an hour but you get an incredible view of each of the Cinque Terre villages. That is if the water's calm. Once we were stuck on this boat during a storm and they couldn't stop to pull into the villages because of the waves. I thought I might expire. It was only a shot of Fernet Branca at the first open bar we could find in Monterosso that put me back together again.

Sailing on a sunny day is heaven.

I'm not sure which Cinque Terre village this is - but they are all equally gorgeous.

Entering Portovenere. I love the Cinque Terre villages but Portovenere has my heart. If it wasn't for the hoardes of tourists I would move there in a minute. I love that you can see the edge of the mountains in the distance.

One of the challenges of Portovenere. No matter which direction you take you always seem to be going uphill.

The entrance to Byron's Grotto. This area is known as the Bay of the Poets because so many famous poets of the poets spent their winters there, including Lord Byron and Shelley.  Lord Byron swam from this spot, across the Bay of La Spezia to vitist his friend Shelley in San Terenzo.

If you climb to the top of the Church of St. Peter you are rewarded with this view of the bay of Portovenere.

Me and my buddy.

Making way home by disembarking in the village of Riomaggiore. Mark calls the sunbathers seals because they sit on those rocks all day. Not my idea of a beach day, but gorgeous nonetheless.

Final apperitivo before boarding the train back home. Our friends will leave the next day.

After dropping our friends in Milan for their flight back to the US we set off for our home exchange in Croatia. We needed to stop for one night before we could check in so we randomly chose Mantova, Italy. I love going to spots with Shakespeare references (I've actually performed in Romeo & Juliet twice, once as the nurse and once as Juliet). Mantua was a surprise gem of a place. This photo is from the interior of the stunning Teatro Bibiena. Built in 1769 it is most famous for hosting one of the earliest touring concerts of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who performed there in 1770 at the age of thirteen. It was incredible to stand on the stage knowing that Mozart had stood there 250 years earlier.

Since we only had a morning for exploring we decided to skip the monstrous Palazzo Ducal (which has over fifty rooms of precious artwork) and visit the frescoes of the Palazzo Te instead. Built in 1525 by Federico Gonzaga, one of the members of the ruling family, as a summer palace for secret visits with his mistress, he spent over ten years after its completion decorating the palace with frescoes, engaging some of the most famous artists of the time. The result is astounding. Photos don't do it justice but here is one of the frescoes from the Room of Phsyche.

The Room Of The Giants. This photo gives you some idea of the scale of the project. This room was about the destruction of the giants by the Gods and was quite overwhelming to stand inside. The artist blurred the distinction between the walls and the ceiling which made you feel as though you were right in the center of the action.

A ceiling frescoe.

18th century graffiti :-) I hope Bertoldi and Pollati stayed in love.

Now we are settled into a house just outside the ancient town of Porec on the Croatian coast. I don't expect to get much exploring done this week as I am head down, editing. But I'm sure I will have some fun photos of our dinner in town for next week.