“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”― Gustave Flaubert
This influential French novelist who wrote the great Madame Bovary has a point. The more I see the world, I feel infinitely more humbled. Just walking through the Sunday walking market in Chiang Mai, it is as easy to get lost in the hundreds of people as it is to order a fresh coconut. Way too easy.
And the more I hear ignorant comments regarding foreigners (and more so nearing the presidential election in the USA) the more you look at the person saying them and think, really? Do you honestly believe what is coming out of your mouth? The more I see, the more I realize just how similar human beings really are, except some of us have won the birth lottery. In the end it doesn’t matter where you are. We all need to eat, sleep, poo, have a roof over our head, work and love. We all hate our lives sometimes, think we deserve better and we all cry. Human beings are so damn complicated but we do it to ourselves, if I’ve learned anything from all of this hopping around the world, it’s that compassion and patience wins over everything else. At the same time, I envy my beagle Ginger’s attitude to life – eat, sleep and beg for cuddles.
Rant aside, as we enter a new year and many bloggers compiled their ‘best of’ from the year before posts, I thought why not showcase some favorite moments from the year before on instagram. I’m shit at resolutions so I wasn’t about to mention any of those, besides I only have one goal in 2016 — and that’s to actually learn French. Instagram as a platform has slowly become one of my micro-blogging tools to share daily events and help support the blog at the same time. I have slowly learned to love the ‘square’ (and then they go ahead and change it), now we have timelapse, boomerang, layout and an entirely new range of tools to help tell our visual stories.
2015 was a big year for us and here’s our ‘instaroundup.’
What is often the most depressing month, is typically one of my favorites. Nico and I have started a tradition of traveling abroad during the New Year’s Eve holidays (mainly because it’s easier for work) and in 2015, we chose Istanbul. This city captured my heart and tantalized our taste buds, despite the steep hills and freezing rain. It was one hell of a way to kick off the year in a place both of us had never been and one that we instantly both loved.
As if coming home wasn’t cool enough we soon jetted to Paris for a long weekend to celebrate one of Nico’s friends birthdays. Thanks to low cost airlines, it is much easier than you might think to hop countries for a few days and we had a wonderful, sun-drenched time in the most visited city in the world. Crepes were eaten, we took a spin on a vintage sidecar and had the most decadent lunch at one of the coolest spots in town, oh yeah – I also discovered Flytographer!
This month, we stuck closer to home. Embarking on long winter walks with our beagle Ginger and trying new restaurants. This time of year is always a favorite, since the influx of tourism hasn’t quite hit yet and it feels like we have the city more to ourselves, well that and crippling humidity and rain.
I will never forget March as this was month when Nico and I got engaged! Yes he popped down on one knee on the steps of the Duomo and offered to make a honest woman out of me, which in turn inspired a series of posts under the hashtag #MyTuscanWedding to share my experience planning a wedding in Italy. In fact, I am now working on the subsequent articles now that everything is over. As the weather got better, so did our passion to travel, this time heading down south to the Eternal city of Rome for a weekend discovering old haunts and new places with our friends Linda and Steve from the Beehive, with a bevy of other travel bloggers.
This month was quite an adventure-filled one, starting with truffle-hunting in nearby San Miniato with Massimo, who I still remember today as one of the best truffle experiences I’ve had in Tuscany.
This was followed by a visit to the nearby Valdarno area of Tuscany, with a short trip to Hotel La Palagina and visits to Sting’s Villa (seriously amazing), an organic cheese farm and a cashmere farm run by an ecletic American. It was quite nice to discover all of the options that are close by for us in Florence. No excuses now when we complain about having nothing to do (impossible here).
Next up, Nico and I for a weekend trip to the Orentano area, near Bagni di Pisa/San Giuliano Terme with a few fellow instagrammers, known for the famous thermal springs and some damn good steak!
As if that wasn’t enough, we headed for a special instagram tour with Italian Eye and bloggers/instagrammers from the US, UK and Italy, including my friend Alexandra, blogger of ArtTrav. It was a whirlwind of fun, discovering places like one of the best farm-table restaurants in the region ‘Il canto del Maggio’ and the Ferragamo wine estate, Il Borro.
April showers bring May flowers and this has never felt more true, especially in the Italian region of Le Marche. Along with several other bloggers, we discovered the Montefeltro area, including the city of Urbino which houses one of the coolest museums I had the pleasure of visiting in 2015.
One of the most unique activities I did this month was get to see our beloved Duomo cathedral from a very unique perspective. Before the museum opening later that year, we took an in-depth tour in the baptistery, Duomo terraces and workshop. While most know that they can visit the Cupola or Giotto’s bell tower, there is much more to this attraction than meets the eye.
Another full month of travel was upon us and no better way to start off the fun than in Puglia, more specifically the fabulous Salento region. I was a guest of Espressino Travel for ITALY Magazine and had a blast eating and drinking my way through this incredibly diverse place. These people know how to show journalists a good time and I got a completely different perspective from when I visited Puglia the first time.
Milan is a city that I definitely need to spend more time in, and we had the chance for a quick day trip before heading outside the country. The city was on its best behavior and we reveled in discovering new spots, and staying in a hotel that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a modern Great Gatsby.
This month, Nico and I headed back to one of our favorite place on earth, Helsinki, Finland for the Midsummer festival. It was an experience I will never forget as we really got to spend time with seasoned locals and see a tradition that dates back decades. Getting to know the locals included throwing back salty shots of black licorice and stepping on toes during the traditional dances (woops).
My birthday falls on July 13th and we decided to spend out summer holiday down south in the Calabria and Basilicata Regions of Italy. One of the stand out stars of the trip was the wonderful reformed city of Matera, the kind of place that you imagine might only exist in dreams. Calabria was a gem of its own, full of beautifully pristine beaches and hearty food, we also hopped over to the Aeolion islands to visit these secluded, beautiful spots off the coast of Sicily.
The month where Italians flee for summer vacation and we stay behind to work in relative peace until September arrives. Of course we had a few fun weekends, including a girl’s trip to Monte Argentario with my fellow bloggers Coral of Curious Appetite, Emiko Davies and Nardia of Lost in Florence. We drank too much wine and overdosed on fresh anchovies and just acted like silly gals posing on vintage scooters. Jovial times were had.
Later that month, Nico and I headed to France, this time for a wedding between two of his closest friends with whom he studied with in Canada. It was in Aix-en-provence, an area I had been dying to visit. We got a small apartment in the tiny town of Cucuron nearby, stuffed ourselves with pain au chocolat and spent a few blissful days discovering this beautiful region.
Summer came and went and now it is time for locals to once again fill the town centers and we all complain in unison. We spent a really nice weekend discovering a fractional ownership property Borgo di Vagli along the Tuscan/Umbria border. This area is such an incredibly diverse one, with lake Trasimeno and Cortona nearby.
Nico and I returned to Monte Argentatio to visit our friend Emiko and discover a bit more of Maremma’s secret spot for the well-heeled. We discovered a really interesting organic farm and how to eat fresh fish on the cheap.
Always a favorite month of mine, I helped host two important instagram photowalks, one being the world-wide instameet which in Florence ended up being quite an exciting event. Led by Ilaria Vangi of Tuscany Buzz, a few of us broke into teams representing the four districts of the city (according to Calcio Storico) and snapped away at what Florence had to offer. From Renaissance finds to contemporary exhibits, we all had a wonderful time and it was a lot of fun meeting the local and international community.
As we itch close to the wedding, things got a whole lot busier but first we had to celebrate Nico’s 30th birthday. I decided to stay close to home and head to nearby Verona, home of three Shakespeare plays and the most fabulous apartment known to man. Ginger got an invite too.
We did it, we got married in a magical ceremony at Villa Montalto in Florence and I spent a week with my closest family and friends, it was something I will never forget nor would want too. Needless to say it was a blissful, yet very busy time and I wish I could relive the day over and over again.
We left December 2nd to Thailand for our honeymoon, spanning Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Yao Noi. It was the perfect blend of city life (in 100% humidity), jungle fever and island hopping. It was pretty amazing starting this journey together as husband and wife. I saw places I never imagined actually existed in real life, and beaches far prettier than Leonardo DiCaprio’s film the Beach (filmed on Phi Phi’s Island Maya Bay). I am currently working on the first posts of post-wedding and our honeymoon tips for couples along similar paths.
After Thailand, we headed to Texas on a flight that was way too long but completely worth it, especially with breakfact tacos at the end of that tunnel. It was Nico’s first Texan Christmas and as you can see below, he got into the spirit quite well. Needless to say, he won’t ever be the same again. Poor guy…
This last photo was from Chiang Mai during our Flytographer photoshoot, besides the fact that I love everything about it. It’s a reminder that life isn’t just about what I’m doing, and where I’m going, instead we are officially a team and I am very excited about whatever 2016 may bring. Hopefully more trips, offensive tea shirts and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese.
That’s all folks! But let’s not end the fun here. Let me know what you’ve been up to in 2015? Have you been to any of the above places or have questions about them? I want to hear it all!