Tag Archives: tourist

Grazie!

7 Mar

As I sit here on the eve of my 30th birthday, I’ve decided it’s finally time to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a whole year- give a very public thank you to my mom and stepdad for making last year’s birthday present happen.

What sort of birthday present warrants its own blog post thank you, you ask? Oh, only a trip to ITALY. Yup, my mom and I went to Italy last September and it was awesome.

We kept a journal of sorts each day we were there, but I don’t have it here with me to copy from. So, without the written refresher to jog my memory, here are the biggest things I remember from Italy, in no particular order:

Venice. We flew into Venice and only got to stay there for 2 days, but it was amazing. I loved the alley ways with all their twists and turns and how you were never quite sure you were going the right way. We got lost the second we got there, but soon realized that getting lost wasn’t a huge deal. You’d eventually get where you were trying to go. I loved the canals and the ornate bridges and the huge, open squares you’d stumble upon. I even loved the dead ends.

I thought the shops along the Rialto were charming, even though they pretty much all sold the same items. The first night we were there, I spotted a glass balloon that I became enamored with, but I decided not to buy it, figuring I could find the shop again if I changed my mind. Well, I did change my mind and we couldn’t find the shop again. We spent more than an hour walking from shop to shop, comparing prices and colors of the different balloons until I finally found what I was looking for.

Even though I knew I was going to stand out as a tourist, I wanted to try my best to not look like one; therefore, I did not bring a single pair of sneakers with me. Yes, I knew we would be walking a lot…but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it! I packed my most comfortable flats and loafers and bought arch supports and gel inserts to use as necessary. Then, my feet got swollen on the plane and every pair of shoes I had with me no longer fit. I ended up stealing my mom’s shoes quite often. I tried to buy a cute pair of loafers in Venice that were a half size too big so my swollen feet would have room…and those ended up giving me blisters. I went through a whole box of the #1 brand (or so the packaging told me) of European band-aids. Finally, in Florence, I caved. We happened to pass a Crocs store. We went in. I found a pair of canvas Crocs sneakers that look like Keds. They fit. They were deliciously comfortable. I bought them. Yes, I am ashamed. I bought Crocs. In ITALY. But I wore them every day for the rest of the trip and they were awesome. I’ve since made them my “commuter shoes” because they don’t look half bad with a skirt and pair of tights.

Pigeons. There were pigeons all over the place. I took pictures of them everywhere we went because I thought it was funny and it irritated my mom. I used to do the same thing whenever I was on vacation and would see ducks (wait, I still do) and my mom would always say “Bethany, we have ducks at home!” I’m a brat like that sometimes.

On our first night in Venice, my mom and I sat outside on the Grand Canal and shared a bottle of wine (or was it two? I can’t remember…) and just watched people walk past. Towards the end of the evening, a teenager set up a stool and began playing the accordion. How cool is that? He was really, good, too. I gave him some coins as we headed back to our hotel for the evening. All the lights reflecting in the dark canals were beautiful.

Pistachio gelato. The wine. The food in general. None of that needs an explanation.

One morning in Florence, I spotted a tiny lizard on the floor of our hotel room. I won’t tell you what ultimately happened to him, but watching my mom try to trap him under a glass and scoop him up with paper was pretty hysterical. I stood on my bed cringing the whole time, convinced he could jump that far and land on me. I’m a wimp.

The architecture, the art, the sculptures, the ruins in Rome, and especially the lion head doorknockers. I will have a doorknocker someday…

Since we stayed in touristy areas, we generally had no trouble communicating with Italians or finding our way around, but by the end of the trip I was getting frustrated with not understanding certain customs or the language. On our second to last night there I almost asked if we could go to Subway for dinner because all of the signs in their window were in English and I wanted to see if the Subway in Italy smelled like all the Subways in America. I remember, very distinctly, saying “I want to go somewhere where they speak American” out loud on the sidewalk. I was cranky and tired at that point, but I’m not proud of it, for many reasons.

We did a day tour of the Amalfi Coast and it was the most beautiful place I have ever been. The colorful houses, the sea, and the twisty/bendy,scream inducing roads with no shoulder- just cliffs and drops to the water- will always stick in my mind.

And, of course, our wine tour in Tuscany with our charismatic tour guide, Pierre.

This list really could go on and on and on. It was an amazing and unforgettable trip. Thank you, Cal, for helping with the funds and thank you, thank you, thank you, Mom, for taking me with you on the vacation of a lifetime. Oh, and also for planning it. I kind of just showed up for the ride…and what a ride it was 🙂

Side note: I have, of course, said thank you for this gift in person…I’ve just always wanted to write about it, too. Don’t think I was given a trip to Italy last year without saying thank you until now!

Song of the Day: Dominick the Donkey (Only my mom will understand that. And I’m still sad we didn’t see any Italian donkeys.)

I Want to Live in a Beach Town

11 Feb

One summer in high school, Alia and I decided it would be a great idea to try and make Essex, Vermont as much of a beach town as we could. Let me explain what we mean by ‘beach town.’ The factors of such a town are simple: you are always wearing a bathsuit, some form of sandals or flip flops, hair wet or tangled from being in some body of water, and you are tanned beyond reason. I know what you’re thinking: “When I think of a beach, Vermont doesn’t exactly come to mind.” And that is very true which is why it was a challenge for us to create our own personal beach town.

In the summers in Essex we often frequented Indian Brook Reservoir, or the Res as us locals called it. It was your typical man made reservoir with areas to swim, hike, canoe, and picnic. It was the best place to go in our hometown to tan and hang out without driving all the way to Lake Champlain and it’s luscious “beaches” (notice the quotation marks). Alia and I made this our beach. We vowed to wear nothing but bikinis and shorts paired with some flimsy pair of shoes and wander the town dressed this way. Well, as you can imagine, this was not successful in being that Vermont is not a beach town in any form and people don’t really let you into stores without a shirt. We counted the time we stopped by 1820 Coffee House (RIP) and entered wearing our swim suits but with towels wrapped around us. Needless to say, we got some odd looks but we stood proud and handled ourselves as any half naked high school girls can in a public situation. That sentence is amazing, by the way, and could be taken in so many gross directions.

While it may not have been a great success, we loved that summer of not wearing real clothes and leaving the reservoir checking our new freckles and tan lines in the side view mirrors. It was a sense of being free. No sneakers or bras restricting anything. Summer is always a release but living life this way, like you are always on a beach, was a pure escape.

I went to Hawaii last week. Let me tell you, those residents have life down. I stayed on the North Shore, in Haleiwa, and it is the very definition of a beach town. It was like being a dream. It was everything Alia and I wanted to accomplish but it wasn’t acceptable in our environment. Everything was acceptable and in fact encouraged here! No one wore pants! No one wore ‘real’ clothes! NO ONE WORE SHOES!

I have to start with the most amazing fact about this Hawaiian town. No one wore shoes. At all. Any where. I mean, ANY WHERE! I walked down the bike path from my hotel to the grocery store and every passerby was barefoot. BAREFOOT! On rocks, sharp sticks, bugs, spiny plants, etc. Just strolling along as if their feet were hobbit feet. I mean, at this point, I think they have to be hobbit feet the things these people were walking on with confidence and determination as I gingerly treading with my thin flip flops. And then, I got to the grocery store.

You know that sign in every store “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” ? Yeah, that doesn’t apply in Hawaii. People were barefoot in the grocery store. Shirtless, in bikinis, swim trunks, wet suits, etc. My friend Ryan and I decided we had to try it. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The floor was cool and smooth. The feeling was exquisite. It became very clear to me in those few moments walking up the aisles with the feeling of liberty in between my toes that humans are not supposed to have shoes. We are supposed to have hobbit feet. We are supposed to experience surfaces with our feet just like our hands. I giggled like a small child as an employee came by with a large broom and smiled at us, saying “Yeah, everyone does this and takes pictures. It’s funny.” Well, it’s only funny to you because you have MASTERED LIFE, you Hawaiian local! It’s a dream come true to us!

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I felt odd most places wearing clothing. Everyone was in some form of post-beach state whether it was a bathing suit or surfing gear. Bars and restaurants were filled with children wrapped up in towels and tanned babes in bikini tops with skin that was not real. Seriously. They all had these beautiful even tans and stunningly smooth skin, I wanted to touch everybody. Actually, they probably would have let me they were so damn nice. In a tank top and shorts, I was over dressed, clearly.

It was obvious the typical routine of any one without a 9-5 was to get up and go to the beach. In the mornings, I would see people walking dogs, surfing, taking photographs, doing yoga, or just sitting with a cup of coffee or a book. It was the way they greeted the day. No phones, no computers, no television. The ocean waves and the course sand was their wake up call.

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Hitchhiking was something that was not looked down on or out of the ordinary. There’s only one road on the North Shore so if you were going in the same direction, it was likely someone would pick you up and drop you off where you were going. It was fascinating. Not only that, but everyone knows each other. It’s a very small area of the entire state so it makes sense, but seriously EVERYONE knows each other. It’s better than any small town I’ve ever been to. So many smiles and ‘how are yous?’ that were completely sincere. People let you pet their dogs!! I pet so many dogs on the beach and no owner panicked or yelled at me or scolded the dog for running up to me. People just hand you their babies. Ryan and I went to see the competition at Pipe (it’s a surfing term, I’m an expert now) and there was this adorable chubby little baby that kept smiling at us. I kept smiling cooing back and the mom just walked over to me and practically handed me her child and just started talking to me. It was awesome.

I’ve never seen happier people in one place except for in Disney World but that doesn’t count because cast members are paid to be happy and well, you’re in the happiest place on Earth technically though now that I have been to Hawaii, it is no surprise Disney built a hotel there because I think, scientifically speaking, it IS the happiest place on Earth. From the workers in the grocery store to the tour guide at Kualoa Ranch, everyone is on Cloud 9 all the time. Ryan and I went to a bar one night in Haleiwa and we walked in and just starting joking with the hostess about happy hour. Ryan made a few cute remarks about keeping happiness prisoner by only have happy hour at the bar and less than 10 minutes later, the bartender gave us free shots. Why? I guess because we were personable and funny like everyone else in Haleiwa and seemed to be enjoying life as they were. We also paid a dollar at a roadside shrimp shack to have this adorable local sing us a tune to pursue his dream of being on X Factor or a show of the like. Not only did we befriend Nathan, the singer who was fucking incredibly talented, but also his coworker, Rebecca who told us where she was from (California) and her and I lamented about our parents moving out of our home towns and how odd it is to lose your childhood stomping grounds.

Speaking of Kualoa Ranch, aka JURASSIC PARK, our tour guide was not only informative but also hysterical. He made a joke that I think suits a lot of Hawaiian nature. He made a quip about how the bulls on the ranch never call in sick to work because their job is basically having sex all day with the cows and they live in Jurassic Park and just lay outside and eat grass and have sex. I feel like Hawaii locals are kind of the same. They lay outside, hike around a bit or surf some waves, eat incredible food, and probably have a lot of sex. They are some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. Natives, people from the mainland, even the tourists, every single human had the most amazing legs and ass I have ever seen. I’m sure it’s the surfing, hiking, and walking on that difficult sand but seriously. It just isn’t fair. 

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I have far too many memories from my brief stay in Hawaii but the thing I took away from the short experience was not to take life too seriously. And that beach towns are fucking awesome. Seriously. I have never felt so stress free and still. Life should be lived in a bathing suit, smelling of the sun and earth, with a body featuring amazing calves and a sculpted butt, hobbit feet that can walk on any surface and enter grocery stores without a second look, people who offer their babies and puppies for love from adoring strangers, mountains that surely can’t be real they are so larger than life, service that is with a real smile and genuine interest in your day and life path, old friends on every corner and new ones just waiting around the bend or at the local bar, and a view that always looks like a postcard.

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It won’t be surprising if I move there tomorrow.

Also, small bonus, the Turtle Bay Resort, where Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed, has blue stop signs because it is more soothing to people. GUYS! Seriously. Hawaii gets it.

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Photo credit on several of these shots to Ryan Grassmeyer as well as epic adventure buddy credit