Monday, May 7, 2012

Italy is beautiful

Italy is beautiful. It's beautiful despite a screaming toddler, despite a long drive into the wee hours of morning light, despite eating trail mix and fritos for dinner while sitting on the bathroom floor sipping bad wine imported from California, despite sun poisoning and the unimpressionable support of flip flops, and despite the hubby working late into the night nearly every day. Yes, Italy is unforgettably beautiful, and this is one trip that I highly doubt will escape my memory.

Our trip to the Veneto region of Italy was not exactly the Italian getaway that most would imagine. We have been remarkably lucky with our travels since we've lived in Europe. Having little r as a travel companion can vary the experience a tad, to say it doesn't would be an outright lie that even I don't think I could muster. That said, traveling with a toddler has rarely taken much from our experiences on these worldly travels. It can't always be wine and roses, right? Now that WOULD be incredibly unfair.

This trip was a lot of WHINE, of the crying and screaming variety (from both toddler AND from mom), and fair amount of WINE (bad wine, not the wonderful wine from the Veneto region), and a couple of roses. One rose we most definitely received was the weather. We really could not have asked for a nicer week of weather, and I was so thankful because if we had instead gotten the onslaught of rain that was forecasted, I think my sanity would have been left in Vicenza.

When Big R asked if I wanted to tag along on this business trip, I hesitated. Who does that, right? Who hesitates when their husband says, "Hey sweetie, you wanna be my travel companion and spend a week with me in northern Italy?" Well, I did. My hesitation was not from fear or want, it was instead founded in my knowledge that little r hadn't exactly been a piece of pie lately. Between his two year molars wreaking havoc and his sleep-deprived manic state, I knew that traveling with him was going to be nothing shy of a huge challenge. I also knew that this week would be just me and little r. As much as Big R would rather be with us, the trip was for work, and he would be spending most of his waking hours in a court room. I know what court is like for him here at home, and I knew it wouldn't be any different just because we were in Italy.

I decided to go anyhow. It didn't exactly take a lot of arm-twisting, but I didn't lose my apprehension and instead prepared myself for the adventure that lie ahead. I could be completely wrong and traveling with an overtired and teething toddler could just work out GREAT. Yeah, not so much. BUT it's better to see beautiful Italy with a screaming toddler than not at all.

The only reason Big R came back to Germany from Italy at all last week was for a scheduled court appearance - one that should have been over and done with by early afternoon so that we could hit the road to Italy. It's a driveable distance easy, but it's still a 7-hour trek through the Alps, so early afternoon would still get us to Vicenza relatively late. As our luck would have it, Big R's court day ran long and we didn't pull out of Bamberg until after 7 p.m. The autobahn saved us some precious time. Time we very quickly lost again trying to find a gas station that would both take our ration card (so we could avoid paying European gas prices - those prices aren't peanuts, let me tell you!) and one that was still open.

My German might be painful, but I'm confident enough now that I started calling gas stations. I found one that was somewhat on our way and still open. What I forgot to account for is that I am by far the world's WORST navigator. Big R and I travel exceptionally well together as long as one of us isn't driving. I had us all over the place. Once we finally found that happy gas station, I took over the wheel and told Big R to sleep. Little r hardly made a peep on the entire drive, and at this point, I wanted Big R to get some rest as well. We pulled into our hotel parking lot around 2 a.m., where we snuggled down and passed out.

The next day started early. Big R had a long day in court ahead of him, and little r and I were preparing for our adventures exploring Vicenza. We said our adieus and little r and I found our way out of the Army post and onto the bus into downtown. I really had no clue where I was going or what I was going to do with little r. A good friend of mine here was stationed in Vicenza for several years and she was full of recommendations, and I had hoped I would remember them all.

It wasn't too difficult to navigate the Old Town area of Vicenza. Honestly, I spent most of my day following crowds. Safety in numbers, right? I finally acquired a map when I found a tourist office open, and that helped things immensely.
The architecture in Vicenza is really impressive, and I especially loved the balconies and all of the flowers.

Little r liked the Italian toy stores, the gelato, and helping me pick out shoes at the market.

After walking around for many hours carrying little r with a whim of hope that he might nap, I finally gave up and we sat down on a couture couch at this plush little fancy cafe. Wine bottles lined the walls and the barrista looked like she would have been more comfortable providing me a cocktail at the early hour instead of an espresso. We were there alone and I enjoyed the break.

I found my way to the train station, more so that I could be sure to find it the following day for our Verona adventure, but I was happy to also see that there was a large park in front of the station so I could let little r run the bugs out of his shorts. What I didn't anticipate was that he would run so hard he would do a facial right into the gravel trail traversing the park. Ouch! Poor little dude. He recovered, but he showed off a nice scar for the rest of the trip. Ah, little boys...

Our bus was right where I had hoped to find it, so we made our way back to Caserme Ederle (Army post). Unfortunately, Big R wasn't able to break for dinner, so we ventured out to find something yummy and Italian. I was stubbornly refusing to eat my first dinner in Vicenza, Italy, on the post at Burger King or something worse. I probably should have stayed put. Instead I got us lost for awhile. Little r provided a fabulous screaming soundtrack for all my wrong turns and panicked navigating. We landed at a cafe that sold more liquor than food, but we ordered a sandwich and a cookie. Both were shared, and then we made our way back to post. Despite the screams, I stopped off at the Shoppette to pick up a bottle of wine. Only in the Army could you walk into a store in Italy and find nothing but California wine - bad California wine at that (sorry, I have nothing against California at all, but Gallo? Come on, people)... I located a Veneto wine, and once I was back in the hotel room I noticed it had the surgeon general's warning label. This bottle of wine probably flew from Italy, to the U.S. and back again just so I could buy it for under $6. For some reason I found the whole situation ironic.

Little r went to sleep without a fight. No doubt it was because he was as exhausted as I was. His no napping deal definitely made him a fun child to hang out with all day. He was spirited to say the least. My feet were swollen and covered in a sun poisoning rash. The rash I brought with me from Germany after spending too many days in the sun there, so I can't blame that one on Italy. It was just one of those things I probably could have done without. Ah well.

I soaked my feet with Noxema, poured myself a coffee cup of wine (the plastic cup I initially used had a crack in it and the table drank more wine than I did), grabbed my bag of trail mix and my kindle, and cozied up on the bathroom floor until Big R came home.

And that is how I started my week in Italy. More fun adventure stories to follow :)

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