Friday, June 14, 2013

Goodbye is not forever...

I keep telling myself that goodbye is not forever... but lately, "goodbye" feels so very final.

In addition to saying goodbye to my Uncle Tom and his family (they stopped in Como for two nights this week - I'll write more about their stay soon!), our tutor Dilva had us over for dinner last night. We had a wonderful evening and probably stayed later than we should have - it was just really tough to go... I've never before had to look someone in the eyes and part ways, not knowing if we'll ever get to see each other again. Dilva, especially, was more than just a teacher and resource for us during our time in Italy. She was also a very good friend - so kind and forgiving of our terrible efforts to learn Italian. We really connected with her and her wonderful family. We are so hopeful that we'll be able to see them again soon. Here's the email she wrote us today - such a sweet note which, of course, brought more tears!
Dear Amanda and Cole, I am not very good at writing Thank-You-Notes and saying Good-Bye or letting my feelings  out. I wonder why you Americans are so good at this kind of stuff – it must be a subject that you are taught in school, I suppose. Yet I feel like writing this short message to thank you for everything and for being our guests last night. We all enjoyed your company very much. I regret not spending more time with you while you were here… anyway, this is no time for regrets. 
As a reluctant, part-time teacher, I was very lucky to meet two kind, good-hearted students from Kansas who didn’t care too much about learning Italian, but still endured my grammar lessons with a broad smile and a grin. I really enjoyed your company. I will never forget you,  or your lovely daughter Eva (oh, she’s so funny J)
Buon viaggio! Dilva & Rest of Family

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Our Final Italian Getaway - Sardegna

Last weekend we were able to squeeze in one final trip before our impending departure (June 15!). We took an easyJet flight from Milan to Alghero, Sardegna. This was our second time flying easyJet, and we actually had a really good experience... We had read that it can be kind of a headache, but it was... easy!! The flight was direct, only about an hour long, and Eva was an angel both there and back. We were able to get her to snooze on my lap, so it was pretty stress-free.

Once in Alghero, we rented a car and drove to our hotel in Stintino, a teeny tiny town located on a beautiful peninsula on Sardegna. (NW corner of the island.) Having a rental car throughout our stay wound up being the best decision ever - the temperature wasn't exactly tropical-wear-your-bikini-weather. It was cool and windy. Which was honestly, a bummer... Someday, we want to go back. When it's warm. When we can actually put our swimsuits on. Yep. It was that chilly. :(

We checked the forecast before we left, and knew we weren't going to have warm and sunny days. But deep down we were hoping Mother Nature would surprise us with hot, hot sunshine. She did not...

We were really excited about choosing Stintino for our stay because our tutor and several of Cole's co-workers commented about how beautiful of a location it is. I'm sure they also thought we were crazy for going in May (the off-season), but they all gave it glowing reviews. They were right. Stintino was a sleepy little town, very quiet - almost oddly quiet. But our hotel was just a short drive from several beaches, and a short walk from views like this one...

Sigh. Makes me want to go back just looking at it... So the day we arrived, we walked around a little bit to some small beaches very close to the hotel...

On day two, Sunday, we headed back into Alghero at the recommendation of our hotel staff... to see the city center, which has a lot of Spanish influence, since it was originally ruled by Spain. It was really neat to see the differences between Alghero and other Italian towns we've visited.... There was much more stucco, simple clean-line architecture, less extravagant churches, etc. While there, we also planned to take a boat ride to see Neptune's Grotto, marine caves. We were sold ferry tickets and then told, once on the boat, that the caves were closed to visitors on Sundays... felt like a total scam. A staff member at our hotel had called to inquire for us, and we asked questions at the ticket sales booth - never did they mention the fact that the grotto was closed Sundays. Blah. Other passengers left the boat angry before departure, but we decided to go for the boat ride anyway. So, the ride was scenic, but we didn't get to see the caves - I guess we'll never know what we missed.

Instead of visiting the caves, we stopped off for about 20 minutes at a small, crowded beach. The single bar there was cleaning up... We got a little sun before heading back into Alghero and then making the drive to Stintino.

Before reaching Stintino, we stopped at Le Saline Beach - it just may be our favorite beach ever. It's made up of tiny white and gray rocks... so gorgeous and peaceful. The sound of all the tiny pebbles being pushed around by the waves on shore was completely soothing... We had the beach entirely to ourselves. Eva loved playing in the rocks and we didn't have to wipe sand out of every nook and cranny when she was done! Hooray! :)

The next day was our 7th anniversary! Cole surprised me with a beautiful ring - handmade at a little jewelry shop near our apartment in Como. I am one spoiled girl. It was such a sweet surprise! No photos to share - since it's being sized right now.

In our first seven years, we have been amazingly blessed, in so many ways. We're looking forward to celebrating many more anniversaries - but we know that this one was special, since we won't get to travel like this each year! :)

We spent the morning at another nearby beach, La Pelosa, "The Hairy Beach" - not sure why it's called that. :) This is probably the most popular beach for tourists - with soft sand, a gorgeous view and sparkling blue water. Even with the cooler weather, we had a fun time hanging out and letting Eva play in the sand and water. Eventually we had to stop and get her into dry, warm clothes, but she could have played all day. She wore herself out!

 That afternoon, we drove about an hour to a nearby town, Castelsardo. The center of the town is perched on top of a cliff, and has a castle with incredible views of the sea and colorful town, along with small shops and restaurants. The view overlooking town reminded us of Cinque Terre...

Flying out of Sardegna was a really neat experience, too. Eva was asleep on my lap, so I couldn't snap any photos. The sky was cloudy until we got over Stintino. There the clouds broke and we were able to clearly see the entire peninsula, including the beaches we had visited. Somehow, it felt like a fitting end to our Italian travels - bittersweet in many ways!

Starting to Say Goodbye

Our hostess! :) 
If we learned anything from leaving Kansas, it's that saying goodbye is a painful process. We leave Italy June 15th, and the next two weeks are full of goodbyes that must be said... it's tough. Unfortunately, for me it's also emotional! I have found that there is just no easy way to do it...

We had a fantastic BBQ with some of Cole's coworkers recently. It was such a beautiful afternoon - full of delicious food and warm, sunny weather. The guys even threw around a rugby - Cole tried to teach them how to throw a spiral! The food was fantastic! We had grilled ribs, meat skewers, peppers and zucchini... There was a rice salad, lots of wine and delicious desserts, too. It felt like we ate all. day. long. :)

Marika kept saying that we would be eating Brontosaurus ribs. :) They were almost that big! Yum!!

These photos weren't staged at all. ;)

We have been incredibly blessed by these wonderful people and all they have done to make us feel welcome. We hope that someday we'll get to cross paths again. In the meantime, we'll take advantage of email, facebook and (for Cole at work) instant messaging to stay in touch as best we can...