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2016 A Year of Living Extravagantly

Grindelwald Switzerland

This photo we took in Grindelwald, Switzerland, last year has nothing at all to do with our plans for the coming year

With 2015 drawing to a close our plans for the New Year are finally coming into something approaching focus. Some parts of our itinerary we’ve already committed to, like spending the winter in Mexico, the spring in New York, and the summer and fall in Europe, starting with Portugal.

After our May flight to Lisbon our plans are still a bit unsettled but at least are starting to coalesce around an itinerary we can get excited about. Our current thoughts are that we’ll spend about a month each in Portugal and Northern Spain before leaving the Schengen visa area for two months to chase leprechauns and rainbows in Ireland. We figure we’ll need about a month to tour the Emerald Isle. More importantly we’ll want a month to just kick back and relax with a pint or two hundred of Guinness in Dublin.

That last bit is part of a new strategy we’re experimenting with that we affectionately call “slowing the fuck down!”

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Dazzling Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik, Croatia

“If we tip over, no one is going to be able to save you but you.” Brian’s blunt but empowering words, torn from his mouth by the wind buffeting our kayak-for-two, renewed my focus on the panic-inducing task at hand: trying not to drown, while also admiring the view. Seated in the front of the kayak, I stared head-on at the ominous black waves, feverishly wielding my paddle to properly position the kayak, while Brian wielded the camera.

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Croatia for First Time (U.S.) Travelers

Rovinj Croatia

Croatia surprised us in so many ways. We knew to expect good things because virtually everyone who’s ever visited has had only good things to say. But that still didn’t prepare us for what may very well be the most beautiful country we’ve ever visited.

We spent a total of four weeks in Croatia, traveling from the southern tip of Dubrovnik to the northern reaches of Istria. We ferried to a few of its more than one thousand islands and traveled overland from its western shores to as far east as its capital city Zagreb.

Along the way we discovered some of the most remarkable and well preserved medieval old towns we’ve seen anywhere. And not just one or two, but scores of them. Croatia has coastal walled cities and inland walled cities and island walled cities, too. Every one is set against a scenic backdrop of dramatically rippling mountains that tumble into a sea so beautifully blue you’d swear it’s been Photoshopped.

Woman swimming in the Adriatic

 

But none of that is what surprised us most about Croatia.

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A Long-awaited Rome Restaurant

Trattoria Der Pallaro

Fourteen years.

As we walked through Rome, searching for the Trattoria Der Pallaro, anticipation began to build. After exiting the Campo de Fiori, a modest piazza by Rome standards whose hallmarks are a daytime market and a statue of an excommunicated Dominican monk burnt at the stake centuries ago in that very spot, we took a wrong turn. The often warren-like streets can be challenging even with a GPS for guidance.

But if we had to search every side street in the area and spend hours doing it, we weren’t giving up the quest. This wasn’t just any restaurant we sought. This was a restaurant I had waited to return to for fourteen years. After all this time, I vividly recalled arriving at the trattoria, a haven on a chilly, rainy March night. We sat in a cozy, wood-paneled dining room with friends, one of whom had come across the listing for Trattoria Der Pallaro in a Frommer’s guidebook as the “Best Value” eats option in Rome (it’s still their pick). The wine began to flow and, with barely a word exchanged between diners and servers, platters of food began arriving at the table. 

“Buona sera. Come in, sit down.”

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Beating the Crowds in Rome

Saint Peter's Dome and the Tiber River

It had been fourteen long years since we last visited Rome. And when we finally got back, our first thought was that we couldn’t believe we had waited so long to return.

With thousand year old imperial ruins flanking majestic Renaissance-era palaces standing alongside grand Baroque squares it is obvious that Rome wasn’t built in a day. No, Rome was painstakingly constructed over the millennia, layer upon layer, out of sheer awesomeness.

Even for slightly jaded full-time travelers who’ve probably grown a bit too accustomed to awe inspiring sights, Rome awed us.

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