Thursday, July 31, 2008

Istanbul take 2: the tourıst approach

days 4 and 5

Now I started to get serıous about seeıng the sıghts ın my last few days. The bıg 3 are the Blue Mosque. Haghıa Sophıa. and Topkapı Palace (by the way - İ can't fıgure out how to do commas. The keyboard optıons seem to be only ın Turkısh or Japanese).

Topkapı PalaceThe maın entrance.

Home to the the sultan- the palace was orıgınally buılt ın 1453. The grounds are large wıth 3 courtyards. Many storıes occured behınd the walls.

The Harem - where the Sultan's concubınes and female slaves were confıned.

They had to stay here theır whole lıves. They were foreıgners that were hıghly educated but kept ın the confınes of the wall. I defınıtely would have gone crazy! The prınces were also locked up here untıl ıt was tıme to rule. Hmmm. How does one rule a country and command world polıtıcs when growıng up ın thıs shelter?

The tıles throughout the palace - partıcularly ın the Harem - were beautıful.

Haıghıa Sofya
Orıgınally a Chrıstıan church buılt ın 527 AD - ıt was converted to an Islamıc mosque ın 1453 ın the conquest of Constantınople.
Of the Byzantıne style - thıs buıldıng was the fırst ıncredıble domed structure wıth no support pıllars ın the mıddle. It collapsed a few tımes - and ıs always ın constant repaır as seen by the constructıon here. But ıt ıs stıll ımpressıve!

Some of the ıntrıcate gold detaılıng of the Haghıa Sofya.
Now I dıd all the tourısty stuff over a span of 5 days when I probably could have done ıt ın 2-3 days. Thıs meant tıme for relaxatıon and ınternet!
The park that I chılled ın - remınded me a bıt of Central Park but wıth creepy stray cats and men.

Turkısh bath. I checked out one of the best baths. It was ınterestıng. The tımıng actually works out as the part of the cıty that my hostel ıs ın has no water. Apparently ıt ıs not a terrıbly uncommon experıence. Theır reason when I asked. 'It's Turkey.' That ıt ıs!

OK - enough of the tourısty stuff. Of course I have to show at least one pıcture of food ın Istanbul. It ıs pretty delıcous.
Baklavas - Turıkısh sweets
I have had more meat than usual. Yummy kebaps. meatballs. doner kebop sandwıches. Today İ got fresh fıgs and peaches from the market. So juıcy! The ıce cream has an ınterestıng gummy texture. You can't exactly lıck ıt. It's more lıke half bıtıng ıt. And the sweets are flaky dough drenched ın honey and sprınkled wıth pıstachıos. I am not the hugest fan of the Turkısh delıghts - a chewy gummy thıng. I have trıed food from nıce restuarants. local eaterıes. fast stands. the market. All and all. pretty yummy!!!

Well - that's Istanbul for you. I love ıt here. Not exactly sure ıf ıt's the east meets west or the novelty of the mosques or the gırls that I met here or the amount of tıme I have to relax or the easy ınternet access. I can defınıtely say ıt ıs NOT due to the - uh - specıal attentıon from the locals!

Now off to the much antıcıpated but unknown stans! You may not hear from me untıl I return to the states!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Top quotes from random guys for your entertaınment.

"Can I hassle you?" -random guy.
"Uh, no." - Jen.
"Why not?" - guy.
"Because..." Well, then we just walk away.

"Shoe shine?" - little boy on the Asian side of Istanbul. But I am wearing flip-flops and Jen is wearing sandals. There is NOTHING to shine!

"Unchain my heart" - sung by random running guy.

"from mococco?" - random tout. Eh? Ohh, he meant are you from Morocco. Stıll makes no sense.

"Grrrrr." - animal grunting noises from an OLD man in a car. Really?!?

"I am here." - guy at the market. Um - Yes. And we are here.

"Japon! Japon!" - random guy. Apparently I am now beıng called by a country name.

"Phone call to Korea?" - salesman. OK - now who would I call ın Korea?

"Hello." followed by a rıngıng of a bell. So now I am beıng summoned lıke a dog.

"I want the lıttle one." - random guy. I was walkıng wıth my two frıends. Fortunately I was not the lıttle one though Jen saıd I could have hım. thanks!

"Do you feel safe? You can stay ın a room ın my house." - random guy. Yes - that wıll make me feel much safer.

"Yes. Mıss." - very common greetıng. Sınce when ıs that an approprıate greetıng?

Ways to fend off the men (learned by trial and error)
1. trip and grunt when they whistle at you. Or appear to be "special" in some way.
2. rattle off lots of sentences in another language (Raffaela is fluent in french. I just started speaking some Danish and told them I was from Denmark)
3. keep repeating "no. no. no. no."
4. Look down and walk faster.
5. Walk ınto the Four seasons hotel whıch ıs rıght by all the youth hostels.
a fusion of east and west

The blue mosque

A view of the modern part of the city in the background.

When planning my 2 months, Istanbul was not in the itinerary, but it seemed to be the most logical place to access a flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan (which is not the easiest place to get to), so I figured why not.

After my LONG and treacherous efforts, I finally arrive!

First of all, I LOVE it here! At the last minute I sectioned 6 days in this city to just relax about midpoint through traveling and I figured it would have easier, cheaper internet access if anything (which is true!). Upon arrival, I take the metro and tram to the hostel. I immediately get a ton of calls and whistles, let's just say a lot of attention, from the men. Lovely. Suddenly, I am rethinking the 6 days here being a solo female.

I run around the first few hours trying to establish the hostel situation. "Full" was the common answer everywhere. It's really uncertain and a lottery game but in the end it all works out. 6 nights, 3 different hostels.

Raffaela, Jen, Me and Janet on top of the roof of our hostel after breakfast. My partners in battling the city the first few days.

What really allowed me to appreciate this city was that I met 3 other fabulous girls in our ghetto hostel. Instead of being annoyed and bothered by all the snide remarks, we could laugh them off together and also be more secure as a group. Thank you sooooo much Jen, Janet and Rafaella!!!

Day 1: Bascillica Cistern, a dip into the asian side, a walk down the modern street and shopping, and night glimpse.
Jen and I hit Istanbul together.

Bascillica Cistern
Amazing underground aquaducts. Very cool in temp, and a little creepy too.

We grabbed some freshly grilled fish sandwiches at Eminyou pier for 4 Lira ($3.25). So yummy.
Then we headed to Uskudar so that we can ride on a ferry and get a glimpse at Asian side. We seemed to get a lot of harrassment over there too. Nothing too different here so we hung out for about 30 min and headed back to the European side.

Shopping! OK, so things were too expensive in Italy. There was nothing in Greece, Croatia and Montenegro. At last Istanbul - cheaper and some interesting things. So I end up spending quite a bit getting clothes and a pair of fabulous shoes!
The man who made my shoes.
Jen told me about it and saw him make the shoes. I loved them, so now we are shoe twins.

Ittacadesi in Beyoglu. The modern shopping pedestrian street.
Every city has one. We decided to weave through some local neighborhoods and climb a crazy hill to reach it. The good thing about having a companion is that you can go a little (but just a little) bit off the main path. But this crowded street had mainstream international stores.

Blue Mosque at night. We dip out a little into night in paired safety to grab dinner and snap some photos nearby.

Day 2: Markets gallore! And a fabulous dinner and sunset views.
Raffaela, Janet and I take on Istanbul.

Spice market. There were amazing spices, even Turkish viagra (not shown).

The grand bazzar.
It wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be. And we managed to not get pickpocketed and Raffaela even got a glass mouse for free. Interesting. I actually only spent 24 Lira - about $20.

Always keeping safe! Walking around the park.

Me and th asian side of Istanbul in the background at sunset.

Day 3: A walk through the local town and the Blue Mosque and relaxation.
I walk with Janet and Rafaella about 30 minutes to the metro. We go through a lot of the local districts and the metro is a bit in the red light district. I wouldn't do it on my own but with 3 of us we are fine.Interior of the blue mosque. It has blue tile everywhere giving it its name. Prayer calls are loudly broadcasted from here and can be heard at a great distance.

Now I am without my Istanbul girls :( But I still have things to see in the next few days and will be with Jane soon!
A night in Skopje, Macedonia.
oh the pains of traveling.

Arriving in Macedonia for the night.

OK, I'll give you guys a little taste for some of the not so fun things of traveling. (Read if you are interested in some random daily stuff, or just skip ahead for more pictures :) I won't be offended.) While I am not complaining, it's not always a picnic in the park. OK, so transition from place to place is always the hardest. Figuring out how to get there and where to go once you are there tends to be the most stressful.

So, Macedonia was not in the itinerary. I had planned to take a series of buses and trains to get from Kotor to Istanbul. It didn't LOOK that far on the map. And I looked up some forums and it seemed possible. However, I couldn't easily figure it out. Bus and train schedules and routes were uncertain, and being a single female traveler, I was uncertain of the safety status in certain places and didn't have a trusted guidebook for them. And train and bus stations is where we are targeted. The day to travel was approaching and I spent a lot of my precious Dubrovnik time and money on internet ($7/hr!) exploring options. So, after much searching online and asking around, I decided to fork out an absurd amount of money for a crappy flight from Dubrovnik to Istanbul (thinking in the back of my mind, my mom would want me to pay much more for my safety).

First this involves returning to Dubrovnik and spending an extra night and day there which at first is annoying, but I get an awesome clean room to myself and take a real shower and feel clean for the first time. a treat! The room is in a different part of town so I see a different angle that I would've otherwised missed. I just chill and read, having my travel plans set and nothing to see, so it was a well spent day. The boarding house owner was a really nice old guy, a little too nice though (like the old lady in Montenegro- what is it with me and attracting ppl. I get more hugs, pats on the face and kisses. Ugh. I think it's a single female asian traveling in Eastern Europe thing...). This guy is infactuated with Asians. He says Americans no good. Chinese good. I try to explain that I am American, not Chinese, but give up after awhile. He ends up offering me a panoramic view which i decline. He allows me to use internet, which I am dying for, in his "office" which is just an extra room in his house. In the end, he forces his wife to give me a home cooked meal. Paprika with beef, which was amazing!!! Though awkward, it was another time to get a great inside view into a Croatian home and culture.

OK, now transit time. The first flight goes from Dubrovnik to Zadar, the capital of Croatia. Then I connect to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. I arrive at 10:30 pm, and have an overnight self-imposed layover until 11:30 am. But then it dawns on me, what if Skopje is not open 24 hours? It's the capital, but the capital airport in Croatia only had 4 gates... So I land, attempt to go out, but only see the outside. I did read that you can't get to town easily - the airport is in the middle of nowhere. Great. so I run back in and just sit in the arrival place for a few hours. Midnight rolls around and the guards notice I am still there. They ask if I am waiting for someone? I say I'm waiting for a flight the next morning. They are a little confused. But then one guard is really nice and leads me outside, past the lines of waiting Macedonians and to the departure terminal, which is legit and has ppl and flights leaving early in the morning Whew! I happily camp out there for another 11 hours, sleeping a few hours on the bench closely guarding my backpack.

13 hours later, after one of the more stressful/crazier nights of traveling, I'm on my way to Istanbul.

Monday, July 28, 2008

MONTENEGRO - the world's newest nation

The view of Kotor from the fortress up in the mountains

I decided that I wanted to visit Kotor, Montenegro. It is nestled in Europe's deepest fjord. An old walled town with brooding mountains towering over it, Kotor is picturesque. And besides, it's not everyday that you get to visit the world's newest nation.

Day 1 in Kotor
I said goodbye to Joy and Otto, and set off on my own once again. I took a 3 hour bus ride from Dubrovnik, leaving Croatia and entering Montenegro, then switched to a local bus for another 1.5 hour ride into town. Here, I met 3 really nice Danes from Copenhagen on holiday. Seeing that we both shared a common interest in Copenhagen and got along well, the Danes took me in and we ended up room hunting together. After being showed a sketch place by an old man tout at the bus station, we walked 5 min to town and scoured for tourist agents. Luckily an agent found us a room ... in this lady's apt. She spoke no English. It was literally a local experience We walked through her dining room, kitchen to see our small room which she quickly tossed clothes away into the corner and magically created 4 sleeping places For 10 Euro a night, it will do.

Meandering around the town.

It was great to just walk around town Even though it was really tiny, we got endlessly lost and went in circles. But the first thing we did was throw on our swimsuits and head to the water to cool off. We found the docks where all the local kids were jumping off and joined them . In the backdrop was a once glamorous now war-strickened building. While Dubrovnik has masked it's history, it is still evident here in Montenegro.A war-torn building.

Outside of the old-town, things definitely looked like they suffered Even within the walls, you can see some of the remaining destruction from the former Yugoslavia nation.

The three crazy Danes.

We climbed up on the top of the fortress for spectacular views, and they whipped out their sandwich making assembly. Nicolas, Phil and sorry, I forgot the name of the third. We had a lot of fun together the first day, exploring, playing cards (which I am awful at) and checking out the night scene of the town.

DAY 2 in Kotor
Now I planned this day on being a "me" day to just relax, read, journal and catch up on internet. It didn't go as planned. It was anything but only "me" and there are only 5 public computers for the whole town.

SO, here goes the second day, one of the most interesting ones in my travels. I bid farewell to theI Danes who are headed off to the mountains, and I go on a room hunt again . It proves difficult being a single person. After an hour of searching, the travel agent meets her friend on the street who knows of an old lady who has a room for females only. So, this guy takes me to the old lady's house. She is super friendly, and knows no english of course, but the room is clean, available and only 12 Euros so I take it. Turns out that she is probably just lonely, her daughter is traveling for her job, and there appears to be no husband. She is a little overly-friendly, bordering TOO friendly. She offers me tea and fruit and gives me a bug hug and kiss every time I come and leave.

Then this "nice" Montenegrin guy who hooked me up with the room asks me out for a drink. Um, no thank you, I don't drink. He is persistent and after we keep running into each other in the small town, I agree. We sit down and have Fanta. It's awkard. He tries boldly to hit on me, unsuccessfully of course. Eastern Europeans are pretty straight forward. Luckily, two Swedes he befriended see him and join us. Whew. The Swedes, Erica and Jonas, are really sweet. Erica and I hit it off when I find out she is a dancer training in Stockholm. So I spend the day with the Swedes, and off and on with the Montenegrin. It was interesting to get his perspective as he was the last generation to swear allegiance to Tito.The view from the beach where I sat with Erica and Jonas and relaxed and chatted about everything from dance to culture to media to Montenegro, Stockholm and New York.

Just one of the many wonderful views in town.

I had a great time in Montenegro! I met wonderful people and it was interesting to see this little town of Kotor and how it is dealing with the present and the past. I felt like I got a glimpse into the lives here thanks to the "intimate" rooming situations and the native Kotor guy. And it was also very relaxing to just be embedded within the protective mountains and calmed by the water views. What a crazy time!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Croatia - continuing down the coast to DUBROVNIK. the 'pearl or the adriatic'
Now we heard many great things about this small old town hugging the southern most tip of Croatia. So we had to check it out. After an hour ferry ride and scenic bus ride winding down the coast with amazing views, we arrived.
The view of the main street from top the city walls. The floor of the old town was white marble and the sun sparkled off of it like I've never seen before. The walk around the top of the walls was spectacular. This old town definitely lived up to it's hype.
View of the cliff from the city wall at sunset.
Another view from the city walls of the roof tops.
The town was actually raided by Yugolslavia in1991 and has a pretty harsh history. A lot of the buildins originating in the 1300s have been wonderfully restored since then and the town has regained tourism and recovered from it's horrible past.
The fortress walls and Joy. They were used to keep the enemies out. They would lock themselves inside the city center and get water through pipes from the mountain.
Joy and me in one of the swimming holes outside the city walls. Half of the fun was wandering around the streets trying to find where they were. it was nice deep swimming and the main reason was of course to cool off.
And of course Joy and I had many ice creams in addition to swims to cool off. Although, the ice cream of Croatia was no where neat up to par of the excellence of the Italian gelato.
And that concludes Croatia! It was a wonderful time with Joy and Otto and I am sooo thankful to have been able to travel with them, especially since we don't get to see each other often seeing that they live in the Stockholm and me in New york city. It's tough being so far from Joy, a dear friend, but that's one of the beauties of being world adventurers - we can meet up in random places across the world and always have an excuse to travel to meet! I miss you, Joy!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Island hopping, again. It's a tough life.

After Italy, Joy, Otto and I met up on the east coast of Italy to cross the adriatic sea to Croatia. We took a 13 hour ferry ride and treated ourselves to a private cabin. As Joy stated, we are old. We were impressed with the tiny room with sink and no window, though it was difficult ot find in the labrynith of the ship.

The view from the ferry in the morning - sailing into the Croatian island of Hvar.

We were awoken harsly at 6 am when we docked in Croatia by passport control. Our first note that we had left friendly Italy and entered Eastern European territory.

The harbor on Hvar.

Now this island we heard was nice. What we did not know was that is was mega-yaht docking. It's the place for Europeans to see and be seen, and also heavly visited by Swedes. Who knew?! But it has the most sun of all the Croatian island, perhaps a little too much. But we couldn't complain.

Joy and I walking around a smaller island, Spikanska. We hopped to two smaller islands each day to explore.

We went swimming a lot to cool off from the heat, but as you can see, the beaches are rocky! We had many ferocious encounters with the ocean. First, Joy got stung by a jellyfish in Italy, then Otto got cut by barnacles. And in Croatia, I got jabbed by a sea urchin! Ouch for all of us, but Ottos was by far the worst. Oh for the rocky beaches!

Otto and Joy getting ready to eat the delicous meal that they cooked. We had a nice apt with kitchen and balcony overlooking the ocean so we cooked a few nights.

View from the fortress

Here I am on top of the fortress of Hvar. You can see the little perfectly shaped islands in the background. Those are the islands that we went hopping through. Old town is on the left. It was fun to just meander. But also notice the boats. Despite the gliterrazi we will enjoyed our stay!

at last I return!

I spent one week in Italy in 2000 and vowed to return, either when I had more money or with my parents. Well, seeing that I don't have much more money now, I got mom to come with me :) Originally I was going to go to Italy because Anna's parents in Pisa have been waiting for me for over a year. And of course I can't turn down an invitation to Italy. But since Mom was joining, I had to show her more of this country that I love.

So here we go!

first stop - I meed my mom in Rome. It is surreal and wonderful to find her at the airport and start this two week adventure together. Because it is her first time in Italy, we must see Rome. Of course, I don't mind revisiting this wonderful city.

We take 3 days to hit up all the sites, some which I missed the first time and others that I gladly visited again. We stayed in the lovely section of Trastevere, which is similar to the east village of NYC in the sense that it is the more artsy, neighborhood-y location that is a little off the beaten path with fun alleys and restaurants. We walked, took the tram, bus and metro to get to all our sites.

Mom and me inside the Colloseum.
On my last trip, I didn't get to see the Forum or the Colloseum in the daytime, nor go inside it. I still can't imagine the spectacles that occured here.

The Colloseum. It's still pretty impressive.

Trevi Fountain. Rumor is that if you throw a coin over your shoulder - for the first one you will return to Rome and for the second your wish will come true. I didn't throw the coin over my shoulder the first time here but I still returned.

La Boca Verita - the mouth of truth. (which I missed the first time)

The roman forum.
It's amazing how the ruins are intermixed with the modern city. One of my most prom

The Vatican: a must in Rome
Studying in the Vatican: it's hard work plotting our next location!
I was the tour guide for us in Rome, and all of Italy, with the help of Lonely Planet and a few other guide books of course.
Admiring the artwork in the Vatican.


Next stop - meeting Anna' parents, Angela and Piero, in Pisa. Anna is my dear friend and colleague in New York and we have known each other for 6 years, working literally 2 feet within each other for the whole time! What would I do without her? So of course I had to visit her parents in Pisa while in Europe.
Oops! Did I do that?

So here is the obligatory stop at the leaning tower of Pisa, in the Piazza of Miracles. It really is that impressive. We walked by it several times. It took us quite a few attempts to get this shot just right. What other pose would you expect of me other than my signature Matrix kick?

But, really, the main reason for Italy - visiting Anna's parents. The hospitality they showed us was ammmmmazing!!!!!!! We are soooo incredibly thankful for everything they did for us - housing us, cooking for us, driving us everywhere and the wonderful conversations and love they showed us. This was by far the highlight of the trip for me - just hanging out with the Ipatas in their daily life. I love traveling, but what I love more is really getting to know the culture and it's people.
Me, Piero and Angela eating gelato.

Everyone knows how much I LOVE gelato. I talk about it all the time and my fondest memory of Italy is eating gelato for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, Anna told her mom that it is very important to feed me lots of ice cream She went above and beyond. First stop after being picked up at the train station was gelateria. And each night after we had tubs of gelato from various gelaterias acroos Pisa. AMAZING!Anna's mom at a gelateria. It is difficult choosing flavors! Luckily we had many opportunities to try many different flavors.

A close up of the gelato. Every night, Anna's mom got us two containers of gelato (one creamy and one fruity). I got a pretty good Pisa gelato sampling during my stay.

The home cooked meals were such a treat. Here are some things we had....
pope's pasta: linguini with ham, butter, lemon and parmegianno regiano
breaded fish atop eggplant
buffalo mozzerella (the best!!!)
tomatoes from the south with basil and olive oil
baked fish atop potatos and vegetables
eggplant/fish/ricotta layered (a new invention that day)
baked spinach and ricotta
prosciutto and melon (lots!)

OK, I am getting hungry just thinking about all the yummy-ness. These were by far the best meals I had in Italy - those home-cooked by Angela in the Ipata house.

My home in Pisa. I will return one day! If I didn't have plans to meet up with friends in Croatia, I probably would've stayed here much longer, lingering in the wonderful garden, eating home cooked meals and gelato and just chilling.

Meal times were my favorite - just chatting. And we got to meet Elena, Anna's niece, and Franceso, and the little ones at the beach. It was great to finally meet all these people I've heard so much about in the past years and to understands Anna's family and home better.
Angela and Angela: Anna's mom told us a lot of the history of Pisa. Here we are next to the Aquaducto Medici that used to bring water from the mountains into the center of Pisa.

Thank you so much Angela and Piero for EVERYTHING! You both definitely made our trip wonderful and memorable. We are sooo grateful!!!
Italy: part 2
Mini-trips from Pisa:
Pisa is centrally located, so from the Ipata house, M
om and I could take day or overnight trips to nearby places such as Florence, the Cinque Terre and the countryside.


Our first trip was two days and one night in Florence which is only an hour away by train.

I really like Florence. It has a smaller city feel to it and is almost entirely walkable. It's a little more quaint and manageable than Rome. There is no way I could say I like one city over the other, but if I had to choose one to live in for a little while, it'd be Rome for it's hustle and bustle and liveliness, but for a more permanent stay, I would have no qualms dwelling in more peaceful and cozy Florence.

Pointe Vecchio Bridge.

The famous Duomo. I will always remember the amazing colors and its uniqueness.The Campanille Tower. Hmm, I think this is the one that UC Berkeley's Campanille is based off of!

In the Galleria de Academia. I missed it the last time around, so this was the highest priority on this trip. The moment we arrived in the city, I dragged Mom across town to the museum. The only thing you really go for is the David. And it really is that impressive!

We also did some shopping at the famous outdoor leather markets and the regular stores. I just loved hanging out in the different squares and stopping among the many restaurants, cafes and gelaterias. Overall, a well spent 2 days in Florence.

At last I made it to the cinque terres! I have been wanting to go since 2000 (along with many other places in Italy - I have been waiting a LONG time for my return to Italy as you can tell).
It was worth the wait! The moment our train bursted out of the tunnel next to the cliff among the pristine water with the sun glistening on the sparkling blue ocean, I knew the cinque terres would not disappoint.

The five towns lie along the coast. You can walk between all 5 of them in about 6 hours. Each one has only one main street which you can walk in about 5 minutes. They are picture perfect with the little houses, cliffside and ocean view. You can dip in the water off the cliff near the towns. Here they are in order:
1. Riomaggiore: nice and small.
2. Manorola: where we stayed, and it ended up being our favorite town. Nice and quiet and peaceful.
3. Corgnilia: perched up on the cliff. The only one we did not visit.
4. Vernazza, which is probably the most talked about. It was nice, but more crowded and not our favorite. This was also the only place where we had really bad gelato :(
Mom hanging out on our balcony in the town of Manorola.

We were at the base of the main and only street. This town was not overpacked with tourist and fun to meander into the vineyards and view the sunset.

Joy and I reunite in Manarola.

Now, my good friend Joy, who lives in Stockholm, and who I visited there for Thanksgiving in 2006, and I planned to meet up in the Cinque Terres. (I do seem to love meeting friends in random places around the world!) Within the first few hours, Joy and I were running back and forth between our places leaving messages with our kind, but confused Italian B&B owners looking for each other (we just kept repeating "Mi amici!" "My friend!") We managed to get the messages passed and found each other on this street. This was our first of 3 encounters across Italy.

Me enjoying the grapes in the vineyards winding up the cliffs.The beautiful, HUGE lemons! The fruits and vegetables are just so fresh here.

The town of Manarola and the ocean behind.

Monterosso. It's most north of the 5 towns and had a boardwalk. It was definitely the most touristy of them all, but it was also the only sand beach (which unfortunately had some jellyfish)

Mom and me on the boat that went between the towns. We only walked the cliff walk for about 30 minutes and opted for the gorgeous boat views and quick trains the other times.

I would love to come back and spend more time here. One night and two days was not enough! I definitely want to do some hiking on the cliffs and the hills. Yet, another reason to come back to Italy, yet again. But I guess at this rate, it will be 8 more years? There is just too much to see!