Unfortunately we barely took any photos in Nice. In Rome, we brought our camera everywhere, every single time we left the apartment. We took so many pictures. We walked miles upon miles upon miles snapping photos of every pretty/interesting/weird/mundane thing we saw. By the time we got to Nice we were sick of that stupid camera. Sadly, this means we have to rely on good old fashioned brain space to store the memories of our time there. Great.
So, the things I want to remember about Nice for as long as I live are the bustling Marché aux Fleurs Cours Saleya where we bought figs, cheese, bread, and olives, which satisfied every French outdoor market fantasy I’ve ever had; my first bite of crispy socca, the chickpea flour crepe Nice is known for; the moment we realized I lost our house key among the millions of stones at the beach; the foie gras we ate on our first night in town — the best I’ve ever had; swimming in the warm sea; wandering the narrow cobblestone streets of the old town for hours; freaking out from claustrophobia every time we took the tiny, rickety elevator down to the ground floor of our apartment.
Nice is such a stunning town, with so much character, charm, and downright prettiness! I’d love to go back with a bit more energy, an empty memory card, and a lot of French language practice. Oui!
We only made it to two out of the five towns in Cinque Terre, largely due to the fact that many of the hiking trails had been wiped out during a torrential rain which caused a series of mudslides back in 2011. But two out of five ain’t bad.
We spent three days climbing the Labyrinth of staircases and cobblestone walkways that make up the “streets” of the towns. We spent a lot of time just sitting, watching the wild waves crashing against the ragged cliffside. We tasted some really delicious wines at a restaurant perched on the side of one of those cliffs. And despite being two out of the many tourists (mostly backpackers) doing just the same, the authentic charm of the towns won us over. The bright colors of the houses and buildings, the friendly townspeople, the sea smells, and the lack of cars (!) boosted our travel-weary souls.
One of the best things about Venice is that it begins the moment you get off the train. Step out of the station, look straight ahead, and there are the famous canals with water taxis and gondolas, bridges, and buildings. Everything you imagine Venice to be, there it is. We only had 18 hours to spend there, 8 of which was for sleeping, so we didn’t think we’d have much time to explore.
As it turns out, you really don’t need that much time to experience Venice! In the short time we were there, we walked miles and miles, in circles, over bridges, down narrow alleys. We island hopped, boat hopped, water taxi hopped. We had coffee, macaroons, gelato, cocktails, wine, and an amazing meal, all in just a few hours. My advice: go to Osteria ai do Farai and let Dino, the owner, do the ordering for you — I think that man is capable of reading minds. We had one of the absolute best meals of our entire trip under his care. And, if you let him, he’ll sit with you and smoke endless cigarettes while telling you all about his BFF Jake Gyllenhaal. What a guy, that Dino.
Some days we just stumbled around Rome. Some days we wandered the streets without a clear destination. Once we happened upon the Pantheon. We weren’t even looking for it. We turned a corner and there it was. Just an ancient building, built almost 2,000 years ago. An iconic landmark. A world famous structure still used today as a Catholic church. And we stumbled upon it like you would any old cafe or shop. The Pantheon.
Man, Rome blew our minds.
Neither of us had been to Rome before, and it was my first time in Italy (Mark had been there before, but as a tiny bambino political refugee fleeing the Soviet Union with his family), so we were on a mission to soak up all things Italian. Among our favorites: The faded pinks, yellows, and greens of the buildings. The coffee, the pizza, the pasta, the gelato (damn, the gelato). The friendly people, the heated/passionate discussions we overheard (yet, didn’t understand), the men in slim-fitting suits and leather shoes. The narrow, cobblestone streets. The overgrown plants. The piazzas full of people enjoying the waning sunlight, their cold beers, their friends and family. The pace of life. The slow meals. The way they linger over a single glass of wine. The wine! The architecture, the history. We loved it all.
*As you can see, Rome is ridiculously photogenic. I apologize for the massive photo dump here, but just know that I whittled this down from about 500 pictures.
Click for more photos.
On one of our last days in Lithuania we stopped by a place called the Merkine Pyramid in the forests of the Dzukija National Park. It’s considered a holy structure and brings thousands of people each year from all faiths who seek its (supposed) healing and spiritual powers. According to the creator of the structure, God spoke the location, dimensions, and materials needed to construct the pyramid (which is covered by an impressive and beautiful glass geodesic dome) to him so that people could benefit from the concentration of the subtle energies of the Earth that the pyramid is said to intensify.
Now I’m not a believer in much, but I do accept that the Earth is a living, breathing thing, so therefore gives off energy. I’m open to the possibility that the Earth’s energy is more concentrated in some locations, and I can *kind of* get behind the idea that those energies can be intensified in some way. So this, regardless of any religious aspect of the intention, was really interesting to me. I recommend it to anyone with an open mind, or perhaps a good suspension of disbelief.
So, what you do is this: Visit the three crosses at the entrance of the property. Here you are meant to set your intentions for your visit and release all negative thoughts and emotions. From there you walk to the grassy knoll to the right or left of the dome. According to the literature posted, some people feel the most intense energy here. (I’m not embarrassed to admit that I am one of these people.) You then enter the dome. It’s this warm, bright space with light refracting from every triangular panel of glass creating prisms everywhere. You sit on one of the wooden chairs and are encouraged to sing, chant, hum, play an instrument, meditate, paint; whatever your practice is. (I chose to sit silently, which is my default “practice.”) You then can enter the circle of the pyramid, where you pray, meditate, ask, give gratitude — whatever you’ve come to do, from/to whoever/whatever you believe in.
You can then visit the smaller structure next to the dome where there’s a water source pumped from a big tank inside the dome. We called it “dome water” and drank it dutifully from the provided plastic bottles. Two days later while in Rome we both came down with light flu-like symptoms and cursed the dome water. I’m not sure if there was a connection — it’s more likely that our hectic travel schedule was finally catching up to us, but just maybe it was from that dome water. Who knows. I’d drink it again, however. That much I do know.
All in all, I thought this place was pretty magical.