April 25, 2012

family vacation: france and italy

i am always the one in the family who initially resists taking a vacation.  as much as i really, really like the idea of traveling the world to discover and enjoy new experiences, i get stuck internally about spending a significant amount of money on ourselves knowing others are in need..  but after the trip is planned, i fully look forward to it as a great bounty which i intend to absorb with absolute presence and gratitude.  this trip was quite an extraordinary journey..
Nice by the promenade
we stayed in 2 areas --  Nice, France, and Vernazza, Italy -- and took day trips by train to enjoy other sites in the area.  it was the first time our family went somewhere solely for the purpose of sharing a holiday together (rather than a trip to the U.S. to visit family).
dyami and domani resting while taking a walk
spices: like humanity's beautiful diversity
despite chilly, and sometimes rainy, weather conditions, we joyfully layered our spring clothes the best we could and set out each day with eagerness to take in the sites, smells, tastes and delights of Italy and France.

we appreciated the first time walking through the farmer's market in Nice, purchasing bread, cheese, freshly made pesto and olives for sandwiches that we ate in one of the parks.  it was a perfect market, full of flowers, food, spices and homemade delicacies.  the markets of the world are like botanical gardens..you never want to leave and can always discover something new and beautiful there which has been nurtured by hand with a lot of care and love..
strawberries at the outdoor market in Nice

we found ourselves effortlessly meandering throughout 'Old Nice', strolling up and down narrow lanes full of shops and eateries.  this is where we ate the best gelato of the trip (our first scoop purchased before 10am one day!) at a shop called Fenocchio..this is the most amazing gelateria we have ever seen through our travels, with flavors as exotic as 'lavande' and as far out as 'popcorn'.  we experimented with more reliable flavors like 'chocolate with candied ginger' and 'nutella'.. :)
one morning in Nice we walked from the bed and breakfast to the promenade by the sea, all through 'Old Nice' and up the mountainside to the park area and waterfall at the top.  this is where we captured the fullest beauty of the Mediterranean Sea.  the different depths and shades of blue against the backdrop of coral-colored tiled roofs of the city made us continually gaze out over the railing throughout our ascent and descent of the mountainside.  one morning we set out, on foot, to walk to the next village, Ville Franche.  i love walking!  after living in ghana where the air is usually thick with humidity and heat, i cherished the fresh, cool air along the coast at this time of year.  most of the time we were able to see the sea and enjoy the time talking with each other.  after 2 hours, our feet were sore and our tummies were hungry!  when we saw the 'patisserie' (pastry shop) we were thankful we had arrived. :)
after 4 days of being in France, we took a 6 hour train ride to Cinque Terre and stayed in the small fishing village called Vernazza.  the train took us to the main town just before Vernazza.  when we inquired when the next train to Vernazza was coming, the woman behind the counter asked, 'Are you sure you are staying in Vernazza?  no one lives there anymore.  there was a mudslide and it was evacuated..'  we had a moment of shock, wondering if we were going to be without a place to stay!  the clerk let us use her phone to call the host of the bed and breakfast.  the host explained that her business was open and that Vernazza was undergoing redevelopment.  we arrived to witness the destruction that had devastated the town.  many construction efforts were being made on a daily basis during our stay.  when we walked down the stairs of the train station and enters the one road on which the town is based, we stopped and gazed silently at a huge billboard of photos that was created to display the catastrophic damage caused by the mudslide.

our stay in Vernazza, 6 months after its mudslide, filled our hearts with tenderness for the people there.  our first evening's dinner was up on the mountain by the castle.  we asked the owner about what happened when the flood came.  speaking mostly italiano, he kept explaining the calamity: no electricity, no water, very cold, everything lost.. as he emotionally recounted being woken in the middle of the night and how everybody was wet, cold, hungry, and with nothing left in their homes (his home was lower down the mountain), we felt their pain and difficulties.

Vernazza: view from balcony of bed and breakfast
 it was a moment in our children's lives they will remember forever.  after dinner, while playing the card game 'Hearts' on our bed, we discussed the wisdom of these tragedies of life.  the children began to realize that these great difficulties can bring people together and strengthen their character.. we pondered the inscrutable wisdom of God and discussed how blessings result from suffering..
we were told that 3 Americans living in Vernazza at that time created a foundation called Save Vernazza as a way of creating a fund to help rebuild the village.. at first our children felt they were missing out on the beauty that used to be in Vernazza.  they left feeling full of compassion and wanting to return one day to see how it will be rebuilt..

our stay in Italia was the best part of the trip!  we love the culture, the language, the land, the food..  our favorite activity was renting bicycles and riding together around the town of Lucca which is surrounded by a wall.  we visited Lucca 2 times, riding bikes both times.  the kids felt so free and content.  they have never been able to just ride a bicycle along a seemingly, never-ending road.  what a treat this was for all of us..

when we were in Santa Margarita we stopped at a park and played 'hide and seek' -- all 5 of us!  it was so much fun hiding and sometimes chasing our kids to tag them before they got to the beginning spot.  in another part of that park, which was by the beautiful coastline, the boys played soccer while Ayana and i rested and chatted.  from there we road a bus down a peninsula to Portofino and absorbed more of the stunning beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and mountainside scenery.

hangin out while boys play soccer

where we played hide-n-seek
view from bus to Portofino
an unexpected delight on our excursions in Italy was Pisa.. it was part of our itinerary so that we could see the Leaning Tower.  we didn't know it would be a gem of a small city, reminding Dash and i of Florence!  we stopped and enjoyed gelato at a cafe bar and chocolate shop (all 3 delicacies in one place!).  the Tower was amazing to see.  we had read the history of it taking such a long and difficult time to be built and thought it was incredible how old it was (almost 1000 years old)..

..the moments that passed throughout those 9 days is hard to capture.  the essence of traveling together as a family is sharing an experience together, no matter what comes to pass.  this trip was abundant with joy, gratitude, and beauty.  we constantly reminded each other of life's bounties and favors from God, aware that we have a tremendous duty to return to our life with energy to serve Him through serving humanity -- i.e., concentrating all the thoughts in our heart on love and peace; refraining from backbiting and gossip; having the utmost integrity, respect and purity in our conduct, our dress, our innermost intentions and interactions with others; choosing always to be truthful and trustworthiness..

time away from home, enjoying the benefits of this life are usually the source of rest and rejuvenation..in our family, this time also serves as the 'pause that refreshes' our spirits, providing us a moment to reflect and invigorate our spiritual capacity 'to dedicate the precious days of our lives to the betterment of the world..' (Baha'u'llah)

the only main street in Vernazza..all the businesses were destroyed this past Oct. in the mudslide

an electric car being refueled in a parking spot

at a tiny restaurant on the top of the mountain in Vernazza
eating gelato at Fenocchio's
waiting for a train at one of the stations

a 'nonna' who we kept seeing at the train station; she lived next to the b&b! she came out to greet us on our last night
holding Domani's arm in Monterosso

walking off one of the narrow lanes in Cinque Terre



desserts we did NOT eat but thought were beautiful
walking through Ville Franche
playing soccer in Santa Margarita

snow-capped Alps in the distance while riding in the train
walking through Nice

one of my favorite photos; i love the italian architecture of homes

just looking :)
luscious fresh food at the market in Nice

overlooking Nice
i'm always taking a moment to stretch

1 comment:

  1. pamela dear. thank you so much for sharing your trip and your family with us all. you stir up such wonderful feelings within me. lori