For those who personally know me, the next sentence won’t come as a surprise, but for everyone else… I am fortunate to have been born and raised (for the first 7 years or so) just outside of Florence. My dad has been living here for several years now, and since it has been 4 years since I’ve been back to Italy, why not #1 spend some time with my dad, #2 use our home in Italy as a base to explore other European countries and #3 make the eventual trip to Thailand not such a painful one from a flight perspective:)
I know, I know, I sound totally spoiled. But I can’t help where I was born, I can only recognize how fortunate I am in many ways and most importantly to be thankful for what I am able to do and to have such an international family!!
Now that that is cleared up, I am currently still in Italy writing furiously to catch up on this blog from the years past travels so that I can write about more recent adventures and ones that are still to come:) I arrived here in Italy at the end of August (2014- I know, I’m reallyalmost caught up with blogging about my travels to present day!!!) at the Florence airport and was greeted by my dad at the airport with one of his famous “daddy” pick-ups, as we call it in my family. That is simply where he insists on parking the car so he can go into the airport and greet the new arrival from the gate, instead of waiting outside in the car for the new arrival to walk out of the airport:)
We had a lovely dinner at a pizzeria near where my dad grew up and has been going for over 40 years!! Let me just say, for the record that, in my opinion, there is no better pizza IN THE WORLD than the pizza in Italy, and more specifically the pizza in Tuscany!!! The thin crust is to die for!! Now the further South you go in Italy, the thicker the crust gets… Just a warning for those going South wondering why I’ve described the pizzas as being thin-crusted:) Oh and the ham too… I’ve never tasted better ham either (on my pizza of course!!) than in Italy!! Ok, I better stop talking about food for now… I’m making myself hungry!!
We headed to the house (about 40 Km outside of Florence) after dinner and turned in for the night. The next few months were spent catching up, hanging out, hiking in the National Park that we back onto, exploring several surrounding cities, reconnecting with Florence, a trip to the Island of Elba, going to Salzburg, Austria for a few days together (then I left to explore more of Europe on my own), entertaining some friends from Scotland, blogging (for me:)) and now we are getting ready to head out on a cruise that the family organized for my dad’s 75th birthday present!!
It’s been a busy few months for sure!! Not to mention that while I’ve been here I’ve been making sure that my dad has stayed busy making me homemade lasagna, limoncello, meat sauce, arista, crostate di more, pasta with the favorite sauce (can’t tell you the recipe it’s a family secret:)) focaccia, pasta fagioli, and on and on!! It’s a miracle I’m not obese!! Lol!! Actually, it’s not a miracle… I workout vigorously everyday to counter the calories I indulge in while here:)
Oh… I should mention I’ve cheated a teeny bit on the pictures… All are current except for the Florence pictures… They are ones from winter 2010… But in coming posts of Florence I will have pictures from this trip, I promise!! Just wanted to give you a little teaser to start;)
Quick post here about the YES! campaign… For those who don’t know, this past September, 18th 2014 Scotland had a vote on whether they would declare independence from England. All while I was there during the month of August, the campaign on both sides was going on. YES! stickers, posters, banners, flags, etc, etc were everywhere! Much less “No Thanks” paraphernalia were seen, but as we now know, the “No Thanks” vote won. While my friends in Edinburgh were for the “No Thanks” vote, Anna and just about every Glaswegian I met while there were for the YES! vote. So while I was there, of course I had to help campaign:)
Literally this just meant sticking YES! stickers on a variety of places, and especially over any “No” stickers that were found, lol!! Though personally I don’t have and didn’t have an opinion on which way the vote went (since it’s not my country nor business to have an opinion) it was fun to support my friend’s opinion while there.
I will say it was interesting that the silent majority were the ones to win… There was very little “No” campaigning going on, while the YES! campaigns were literally everywhere and in every town/city I had gone to! Interesting indeed…
So, every year in August Scotland has a HUGE celebration known as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It is basically a festival that now stretches just about the entire month of August and it brings together the worlds best talents of musicians and performers from over 46 countries!! One of the performing acts of course is the Royal Edinburgh Military. They play the bagpipes and march in unison and at the very end of the show there is a lone bagpiper who stands at the top of the castle wall. His performance is followed by the shooting of a cannon and then fireworks. Guests from all over the world come to see this celebration, which has been going on since 1950 or so, and plan at least a year in advance in order to get tickets for the event at all!!
Needless to say, despite my description above of what the Royal Military Tattoo is, I never actually was able to see the performance while there, lol!! Alas, the event has been described to me by K&E, and I was able to read a little bit of the history while standing in line waiting (and hoping) that some tickets became available on “the day of” performances. In addition, during one week of the celebration the event was filmed and it is broadcast on TV worldwide so that all can enjoy it. I did catch a snippet of the show when I Was in Glasgow weeks later, but didn’t really see the whole thing.
To be honest, and to my embarrassment, I kinda had a teeny little panic meltdown about seeing the show. Instead of sticking to my usual attitude of “if it’s meant to be it will happen”, after going early and standing in line to get tickets (sometimes people would simply turn their tickets back in for resale due to unforeseen reasons that no longer permitted them to attend) and failing to get tickets yet again, I had a freak out . But thanks to the sound and calming wisdom of E, I was talked off the ledge and what began then was what I’d like to consider the theme of traveling Scotland from then on… “I must leave something to come back for”. And trust me when I say, there is a TON of stuff to go back to Scotland for (and I’m not just saying that because of the numerous yummy men with their sexy accents living there;)) !! A month was simply not enough , but rather is was barely enough to just scratch the surface!!
Just a little bit of interesting history on the word “Tattoo”… Basically, the origins of the word Tattoo go back to the 17th century when British troops were fighting in the Low Countries. At the end of the day the duty officer would go around making sure each post was manned before the sounding of the Last Post. A few drummers would accompany him for this task and if the soldiers were missing from their post, the ritual beating of the drum would ensue basically signaling to the soldiers (who were in town at the local pubs) that it was time to return to their posts or quarters. The Dutch innkeepers would then turn off the liquor taps and say “Time’s up!” or in their language: DOE TEN TAP-TOE, basically meaning no more booze for you! The drummers would continue to drum until all the soldiers made their way back to their posts for the sounding of the Last Post. Eventually Tap-Toe (last call!) evolved into the word Tattoo!
The Fringe Festival
The Fringe Festival… well honestly I’m not sure of the orgins of this festival, but what I do know is it coincides with the Tattoo for about the entire month of August as well! So really, tourists are able to experience two separate festivals in only one month if visiting in August!!
The Fringe Festival is basically a huge collection of artists, musicians, actors, performers, magicians, singers, dancers, etc, etc from all over the world who come and perform all along the Royal Mile for several of the “old town” blocks!! The street is filled from morning till night with tons of performers just every which way you look! It’s quite an amazing experience and honestly could keep one busy all day every day of the festival just checking out each of the performances! People filled the streets handing out cards announcing or rather advertising various shows and where the venue was to take place. Some of the shows were free (aka the ones I attended- but remember “free” is a term for “expected to tip performer at the end!!”) and others were anything from 5-12 pounds a piece.
I ended up attending one solo play about how making good decisions was actually bad for you… sounded interesting but sadly I found it rather dull. The other venue I attended was for the Man of Steal… This was quite a great performance!! Very informative to boot! Basically it’s put on by a professional pick-pocket who works for the police and does these shows to educate the public on how to protect themselves from thieves. I can’t say much more about it than that as we were all sworn to secrecy about the details of the show, so I will stick by that and leave the description at that:)
By far, however the BEST performance I saw on the streets of the Royal Mile during the Fringe was Joel Grainger… I was just coming out of a building after having bought a ticket for a tour of the Real Mary King’s Close and I had about a half hour to kill. I walked on the street and was lured by the sound of a voilin. I love voilin music to begin with, so I walked toward the sound and on a stage erected on the side of the street was Joel Grainger. He was the only musician present, but due to his technique of “live-looping” he was able to play every note of a song LIVE! He played “somebody that I used to know” by Gotye and Pachebel’s Canon in D in all their glory!! I’m not going to be able to describe his technique of live-looping to do him justice, so you are just going to have to check him out for yourself… I know he’s on YouTube, and though I don’t Facebook, I know he is. If any of you are fans of the violin, you MUST check him out!! Google “Joel Grainer Fringe” and you will see one of his performances there from this past festival:)
Though I really wasn’t expecting the Fringe to be going on in addition to the Tattoo, it was quite a welcome surprise! I could spend days on end just going up and down the Mile watching for new acts or collecting thousands of info cards on the various performers. Quite impressive!! Not to mention the tons of kiosks that were set up everywhere in town featuring everything from handmade jewelery to paintings to cashmere items, etc, etc! I highly recommend for all those planning to go to Edinburgh, though it will be a more expensive time of year, make your trip in August!!! And for goodness sake- learn from me and get your Tattoo tickets in advance! Or don’t and just figure it’s something to come back for:)
Sadly, my pictures for this section really lack in what they should have been… I was just too engrossed in watching my surroundings and being present for them to take pictures I guess…Sorry!!