A shout out to Señor Aventura who just stepped out of the front door of our Italian AirBNB humming The Hills Are Alive from "The Sound of Music" as he pointed his bicycle toward Switzerland.
It's an incredibly lucky thing in life to share your biggest dreams with someone you love. I've wanted to move to Europe since long before I met my husband... and it never would have occurred to me that plenty of people don't want to get out and see the world beyond the United States.
"Why would I want to go see other countries when there is still so much of my own country I haven't seen?" asked a swimmer I knew in college, as a group of us talked about spending our junior year studying abroad.
I'm sure that boy was not alone in his sentiments. The United States is a vast, beautiful country with such excitement to enjoy. There are truly so many inspiring views and warm-hearted people to meet there... and such welcome diversity.
Still, it's a blessing beyond measure that I fell in love with and married a man whose sense of adventure and thirst to make new discoveries in other parts of the world matches my own.
Today we awoke in Maccagno, Italy.
Actually, we awoke into the middle of a postcard! The vistas are ridiculously breathtaking here... so much so that it feels a little unreal. As we walked up the steep hill to our AirBNB cottage last night, Soccer Dude and I passed below the garden of a house above us. Its owner, a woman in her perhaps mid-seventies, was sitting out in the garden enjoying her magnificent view.
"Buona Sera," we called to her.
"Buona Sera!" she smiled at us.
I realized that for her, this gorgeous paradise is her everyday life. She wakes to this view, she sleeps to this view. She lingers in her garden to this view. How must it change a life to be surrounded by such constant breathtaking beauty? Is she sated by its loveliness, to the point that she feels no need to travel? Or, does she take this all for granted and dream of someday seeing a desert!
Barcelona is one of the best cities in the world, and one of my absolute top favorites. That said, it's still a big city... very densely populated.
Since arriving in Spain, Señor Aventura has been eager to hit the road and find some more rugged, natural beauty.
Now that we finally have our AdventurMóvil, Chico Suave, we are free to roam!
The Gracia Festa was a lot of fun at first... but after three days, bands playing until 3am outside our window got a little old because everyone was tired and cranky from lack of sleep. We still saw some very interesting things though... for example you would not see this (ever) at home:
Obviously, this was super cool. However, it was also super crowded, humid and hot. Our children were languishing for a cool breeze and some beach time. We understood why everyone in Europe travels in August. We were anxious to join them!
So as soon as we'd signed our lease for an apartment that will open up for us in September, we knew it was the perfect time to travel.
My sweet cousin just celebrated her honeymoon in Italy and posted the most amazing photos on Facebook from Lago di Lugano. I showed them to Señor Aventura, who took one look at the verdant mountains and crystal clear waters and proclaimed without hesitation, "Let's go there!" Switzerland turned out to be a bit pricey, so we chose to stay on the Italian side. Maccagno is a tiny village only 26 minutes from the Swiss border, and we found an inexpensive AirBNB home there with world-class views.
Señor Aventura and I seriously considered living in Italy for our year abroad. We share a passion for Italy... the people, food and sheer beauty of the place (and the warmth Italians feel and demonstrate for Americans) make it such an attractive destination!
In the end though, we chose Spain so that our children (and I) would become fluent in Spanish. I think this was a good decision... the four of us are definitely becoming more proficient and conversant in Spanish by the day. Our children have begun trying to initiate conversations in Spanish... muy valiente!
Two days ago, Soccer Dude ordered his meal in Spanish (speaking to the waitress without prompting) for the first time! His dad and I cheered for him.
So, it was a good choice. Still... Italy would have been a heavenly place to live.
Luckily Italy is less than 10 hours by car from Barcelona... a bit like driving from San Diego to San Francisco... and Lago Maggiore was attainable in a little less than 11 hours.
On Wednesday we drove from Barcelona to Avignon (4.5 hrs), stopping for lunch at a cafe we love in Girona. Yesterday, we got an early start from Avignon and drove through the rest of France (6.5 hrs), trying not to make too many stops.
The drive from Spain to Italy is exceptionally beautiful. The south of France is visually magnificent, and it was so much fun to see it by car (up close, at our own pace) rather than by train or plane. There were also many toll roads and tunnels along the way, so we will calculate the cost of tolls into all future road trips we plan. Señor Aventura estimates that we spent 80 - 100 euro in tolls and tunnels in total.
Here are some photos taken along our drive, out the passenger window... as you can see, summertime weather shifts swiftly from sun to pouring rain to full sun again!
One highlight of our drive was listening to Soccer Dude explain ancient Greek mythology in his own unique way (using voices for different characters) to Little Angel for over an hour.
"...so that's how Hercules had help in one of his tasks, and seriously bro, I think it's a pretty weird story!" (Soccer Dude says, "Seriously bro?" a lot these days. He calls all of us "bro"... it's a loving part of his nine year old shtick.)
At 7pm we arrived in Maccagno, a little town on the coast of Lago Maggiore.
The tanned, mid-50s woman who waited to show us around our 16th century house, "MariaLorna," spoke no English and my Italian is proving to be quite rusty. Still, we understood most of what she told us as she cheerfully bustled around showing us the stove, the laundry, the garden, the views, and the family of wild pigs living below in the garden of our neighbor.
"They are wild," she told us, "But they are not going to hurt you or your children unless you try to touch them. There is a mother and five babies. The mother protects her babies, you understand?" (Yes. I understand.) "Downstairs there lives a woman veterinarian. She feeds the little pigs bread. Then they return to their home in the forest. Do not go near them and they will not bother you."
We explained to the children that they must not touch the pigs.
"But they are SO CUTE Mommy!!!" exclaimed Little Angel. "I can't believe we have PIGS!" Her seven year old face lit up with pure joy.
After observing the baby pigs, we hiked down the steep hill to the lake where Señor Aventura and the boys took a dip at dusk. The sun had almost fully set but there was still just enough light to make swimming fun after a long day in the car.
Such a lovely, perfect way to unwind after seven hours of road travel.
On the walk home, Señor Aventura stopped by a pizzeria where he ordered "una pepperoni pizza" while the kids and I hiked on. LOL! He brought home a pizza full of spicy peppers. Lessons in Italian have now commenced. :)
We slept very well last night.
And now, off to a new adventure! As Señor Aventura discovers the mountain trails of Lago Maggiore and Switzerland on his bicycle this morning, the children and I will explore the quiet beauty and treasures of this tiny lakeside village.