We’ve done went and started a glamping giveaway!

glamping giveawayYou won’t believe it, but I’m going to Walt Disney World and I’m glamping it! Here’s the scoop…(and the link to enter the Disney Giveaway is below!)

It’s called glamping, a word for a new kind of travel, defined as glamorous camping. When you’re glamping, there’s no tent to pitch, no sleeping bag to unroll, no fire to build. (Thanks, glamping.com, I couldn’t have said it better myself.)

When several of my favorite and fabulous blogging friends invited me to join them on this glamping adventure, there was no way that I was saying no! In October, we will hitch our wagon to Chip & Dale’s at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground for a fun-filled week at the Walt Disney World Resort and we want you to join in the fun ~ with some prizes and by following along with us!

DISNEY GIVEAWAY CONTENTS

  • $40 Disney Gift Card (who doesn’t want that?!)
  • 2 Mickey Mouse Ear hats (you know, ears are required)
  • A Vera Bradley Mickey Mouse phone case (always in style!)
  • “Disney By the Numbers” – autographed by the author (a little magic goes a long way!)

HOW TO ENTER THE DISNEY PRIZE PACK GIVEAWAY

Its simple, y’all ~

Enter through the Rafflecopter by clicking this link: Glamping Retreat Disney Gift Giveaway!

Now, you all have to promise to follow along in October when we are at Disney’s Fort Wilderness ~ #GlampingBloggerRetreat17 ~ You never know, you just might see some glamping shenanigans (ok, let’s be real, shenanigans are a sure thing!) And . . . there might be more prizes for folks who follow along! It will be an adventure for sure!

AND JUST WHO ARE THESE FABULOUS BLOGGERS?

It’s an awesome group, so be sure to stop by their sites for a visit…

An Open Suitcase

Journeys with Jenn

Lola Lambchops

Sherry Boswell

Post 50 RX

Dawns Dorky Diary

My No Guilt Life

Sweet Crazy Life

Fans of Mickey Mouse’s House

My Small World

Let me know if you have any glamping pointers for all of us first timers!

The not-so fine print:

One prize pack will be awarded to one winner. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States age 18 and over. All entries will be verified. The giveaway will run March 4, 2017  to March 17, 2017. Winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to claim prize. If prize is not claimed within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.

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In my mind’s eye…

Y’all, I get grief from all sorts of people about having my phone with me almost everywhere I go. (Let’s be honest, I do have my limits so not EVERYWHERE, but we will leave it at that!) I love my iPhone. I’ll admit it. I have a sacred attachment to it. And it’s not for the reasons that you may think.  Yes, I like a regular social media fix and it is both a blessing and a curse to be able to check my email any time from anywhere, but that’s not why my iPhone is my trusted companion. I love my iPhone because it has the ability to be my mind’s eye.

Notice something online that I want to remember? Grab a screen shot. See something in a magazine I want to make note of? Snap a photo. That delicious meal that was plated so perfectly? Capture it before I devour it. I’ve read somewhere that iPhones are ruining our ability to remember on our own. That makes me giggle. I don’t need to blame a phone for that, I can take care of that just fine on my own thank you very much.

img_1946It’s more than all of that – and more than the 12,000 pictures I currently have on my phone (yep, you read that right) – though it has everything to do with memories.

Last summer while working to plant trees on a mountainside in Guatemala with AIR Guatemala, the wind began to blow and I was overwhelmed by the sound.  It was as if the trees erupted in magnificent applause. At the last second, I pulled out my phone and immediately hit “video record” without even knowing or caring what video was being captured – I simply yearned to remember the sound.

A child blowing out the candles on her birthday cake just yesterday has become a moment none of us will forget and, not only will we not forget, we can share that moment with others.img_0984

Or when I was out for a run and passed a honeysuckle bush and immediately thought of sitting on the back porch of my grandma’s house.  I knew that I needed to take a picture to keep that treasured memory alive.  I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

img_3954I know, I know. Feel free to roll your eyes. Feel free to remind me that sometimes the memory of something is enough. And I know all too well that a photo or video can’t truly capture the beauty of every moment. But there are times, times when my mind’s eye draws a blank and I remember that I have a back up.

So, if you see me pulling out my phone at times that seem odd or if you wonder what I’m attempting to photograph, just know that there is a moment that I desire to remember and that you just might be a part of it.

 

 

 

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The best ever Italian adventure…Italian trains & the people who ride them

Italy: Day Two
Italian trains & the people who ride them

as of 9:47 a.m.

A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!

A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!

After a harrowing thought-we-would-miss-the-train kind of morning, we are on the train headed to our next Italian locale.

One of the biggest pre-trip debates we have in our house is whether or not to get the currency of the country we are traveling to prior to departing. I always say yes, especially when you are talking euros. Our local bank has plenty. It’s not like they are Bhutanese Ngultrum (just go ahead and click the link). Someone please tell me when I will start listening to my own advice? I  knew I should have gotten euros because my daughter was out of them (thinking I would bring more!) and we needed them.

I’m not exaggerating when I say not even the pan handlers in the train station will take US dollars. Not kidding. If you want to feel completely awkward, ask someone to exchange a USD. They won’t and they won’t even pretend to not laugh at you when you ask.  And now, none of our credit cards will work in the metro kiosks even though they worked like a charm yesterday. At this point, I don’t know if the cards work at all. But that question will have to wait for another day. Why worry about that now?
So, we ran back to the hotel and asked the front desk lady for the nearest ATM. She said it was a 5 minute walk to the bank. Well, that chick needs to be a professional speed walker because we had to run to an ATM at a bank that was over a 1/2 mile from the hotel. It wasn’t 5 minutes. And, thank goodness I turned my head at the exact moment we passed it and saw it because it was completely unmarked.

You can't miss this. Just pray you have euros when you get there.

You can’t miss this. Just pray you have euros when you get there.

Seriously we would have never seen it. Can someone tell me why every pharmacy in Europe can be spotted a mile away due to the huge, neon, green, flashing cross signs while banks are hidden away like some 1920’s speakeasy?

We resorted to using my daughter’s debit card, which I’m certain will deplete her college funds with the fees the bank is going to charge for that transaction. Fortunately the bank was across the street from a metro station even though the stupid kiosk there wouldn’t take a 20€! Seriously, how do people function around here? Luckily the newspaper stands sell tickets, but only take cash (of the coveted Euro variety, of course). I’m starting to think that the proprietors of those little shops jack with the kiosks to make them not work. I’m considering calling Anderson Cooper to do an exposé on it.

After navigating the metro during rush hour, we got to the Milan Central train station and the kiosk there would not print our train tickets to our next destination. There is a theme at work here.

Milan Central Station. My on the run photo skills at work.

Milan Central Station. My on-the-run photo skills at work.

Thank God (and I’m not saying that lightly) that the Trentalia employees took pity on us and moved us to the front of the long line (much to the dismay of others) and printed our tickets and our tickets for tomorrow. We ran up the escalator and to the platform where our train was waiting, but the train would only open from one side and we, as the day would have it, were on the wrong one. If that train were to pull away before we got on it, I would have thrown myself in front of it.

Once on board, a kind man helped us find the right seats on the train, thankfully just moments before my daughter had a nervous breakdown and just before I began cursing Italy with a string of explicatives that even Scarface would have been impressed by. All with 30 pound packs on our backs.

And now we are sitting in a train car with a couple who are freakishly rubbing each other’s feet. Take that nonsense and your bizarre tattoos (truly, you know, the kind you might get if you lost a bet?) to the next cabin, people. But do leave your flip flops that have a beer bottle opener on the bottom of them – with which he did just open a beer at 9:46 IN THE MORNING. And I just threw up in my mouth a little thinking that the bottom of those nasty flip flops just touched his hands and the top of that beer. Never mind, take those foul things with you, too. And, lady, you do realize that you can silence the sound your cell phone makes when taking a picture of your hubby opening that beer as if it is the first time he has ever done so, don’t you? It would let you be ever so discreet so that we, and the lovely Italian ladies seated next to you, don’t look at you with discontent and perhaps a little horror.

Tortona, Italy. Really a picture of nothing. This is what one does on Italian trains when you want to avoid looking at fellow passengers.

Tortona, Italy. Really a picture of nothing. This is what one does on Italian trains when you want to avoid looking at fellow passengers.

Let’s be honest, the Italian ladies are about to toss their proverbial biscotti into their fabulous Gucci handbags over this whole exchange. But, I digress.

So after an episode of our version of the Amazing Race, we are on our way to Cinque Terre. No signs of jet lag for me yet. Oh wait, unless that is the reason this morning went so far off the rails. I’ll have to contemplate that. The weather is lovely. Wish you were here. 😉

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The best ever Italian adventure…

There is no doubt, that you have been sitting there just waiting for this moment – the day that I finally share the best ever Italian adventure. Now, it has taken some time for me to get it together. Actually, I wrote every word in real time. Riding on trains. Waiting in lines. Contemplating in cathedrals. Noshing in restuarants. Collapsing in bed. But honestly, I needed a little down time between me and this adventure. Well, that and the fact that I totally lacked the band width to post on the move. Oh, and forgetting my blog password didn’t help, if I’m being really honest.

But now, without further ado, or excuses, I offer you Day One of the best ever Italian adventure, as it happened!

Italy Day One

The first lunch and the Last Supper

As of 10:30 pm

Nothing like a view of the Swiss Alps from above!

Nothing like a bird’s eye view of the Swiss Alps!

I’m off to meet my Daughter who has been living the high life in Europe for two months via her amazing college scholarship program. I figure that getting to meet her in Italy to travel for 9 days is my reward for all the morning sickness I had while pregnant with her. I’m doling this thing out, of course.  My plan to hopefully meet her in Spain next spring will be the reward for the stretch marks. The next trip will be for going into labor and the next for delivery and so on. Seems completely reasonable since that is how this whole scholarship possibility got started in the first place. I figure I’ll have traveled the world with her before we even get to weaning her from nursing. But seriously, she is one smart, hard working cookie and I’m lucky to get to join in on her adventures.

A balancing act of magnanimous proportions.

A balancing act of magnanimous proportions.

By the time I arrive in Milan, I’m too excited to be tired. I mean, I did just see the Swiss Alps up close and personal like from my plane window! We head out the door and begin to explore after a little lunch at a restaurant that I’m pretty sure was serving Stouffer’s meals from a microwave, but who cares? I’m looking at the Duomo!

And the Duomo. I’m only a little concerned that they allow people to walk on the roof. It is already supporting the weight of enough stone that some village somewhere is missing all of its mountains and now I’m up here? So I tell myself, “Just look. Don’t think.” Of course, that philosophy has led to all sorts of ill conceived events in the past, but I’m going for it.

And then, one of the things I came to Italy for (besides my child, duh) –

Santa Maria Delle Grazie ~ the unassuming home of the Last Supper

Santa Maria Delle Grazie ~ the unassuming home of the Last Supper

The Last Supper. It was fabulous. Bigger than I expected. More beautiful than I expected. And more moving than I expected. My daughter says that she is certain that I’ve never been more excited about seeing something in my whole life. And she just may be right. Perhaps the most iconic piece of art in all of Christianity and I’m. Standing. In. Front. Of. It.

Unequivocally thrilling. So glad I drug myself out of bed months ago at 3:45 in the morning to get tickets. And p.s. Am I the only one who, before researching it, thought it was hanging in a gilded frame behind a flocked rope in a museum somewhere rather than painted on a huge wall in a simple church? Come on, be honest.

Then we wandered; turning down whichever street looked promising. There were plenty from which to choose.  Fountains. Gelato. Parks. People. Gelato. It was perfection.
Getting fabulously lost in Milan.

Getting fabulously lost in Milan.

Now, I have a rule on vacation. It is better to sit down to eat before you get hungry. “Hangry” is a common emotion in our house and it is never pretty. Ever. So we set about finding a restaurant before the bewitching hour. After a non-stellar lunch, we were hoping for something better. Our first option sounded great and close by and they were giving 30% discount if you booked ahead on The Fork app (which is my favorite European travel app that I discovered last year in Paris) according to TripAdvisor. What could be better?

As we approached we heard the clanging of plates and the sound of friendly chatter. But when we arrived, they were closed (30% off of nothing is still a discount I presume). The dinner time banter was actually emanating from the second floor of an apartment building across the street. As I looked up smiled at them, the residents didn’t seem at all interested in feeding us. So, another swing around the block.

The reservation that wasn't. But theFork app is still my favorite European travel app!

The reservation that wasn’t.
But theFork app is still my favorite European travel app!

We found ourselves in that no man’s land between happy hour, which was going strong around us but a recipe for disaster for the potential jet lag facing me later, and the civilized dinner time of most Europeans. After resigning ourselves to a place called “OK pizza” (was there not a voice of reason in the naming process?), I gave Trip Advisor another look and came across an establishment that we had earlier discarded because it was listed as $$$, though it got rave reviews for delightful service and good food.  Delightful service can make up for mediocre food in my opinion.   And at that point I didn’t care what it cost. I was about to have two women on my hands with hangry issues, but yet who simply couldn’t bring themselves to eat at “OK pizza.” Even hunger has limits. The ethical conflict of it all.
But our dilemma was worth it once we sat down on a beautiful patio overflowing with Italian charm…and amazing food.
I had Eggplant parmesan which was as beautiful as it was tasty.  The server drizzled it with olive oil and fresh parm, “Because it is delicious!” he said and I didn’t argue. There were copious amounts of bread with olive oil that was to die for. For real, was there someone in the back pressing olives off a tree? The service was warm and energetic by the two young men who seemed to actually enjoy us being there. The tables filled up with Italians. Families and friends and even a dog (which really, Italian dogs get around and I would like to be one when I grow up). It was a sign of a good find.
At the end of our meal, a little jar of chocolates was placed on our table like it was our birthday. A business card for the restaurant was tucked into our dinner check and I asked for another as we left, which brought all sorts of excitement from the kitchen, but somehow I lost both of them along the way! I’ll keep searching and let you know.
We happily made our way back to the hotel and collapsed into bed with visions of gelato dancing in our heads. So, until tomorrow, arrivederci!