Reflections from Flores, Guatemala

Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for? Of course it was!


Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….


We arrived in Flores after 3 different flights from Costa Rica, and an 8 hour day.  We hopped our way through Central America, stopping first in San Salvador, where we spent one hour in the airport, but managed to have a glass of beer at the airport microbrewery.  Seriously, not something we expected to find!  Next was a quick hop to Guatemala City where we had a 4 hour layover, allowing us plenty of time to grab our bags, clear customs and check back into our next flight to Flores. 

3 Plane Hop to Flores

Flores is a small island town that is perched on Lake Petén Itzá, in the most Northern Guatemala Department (similar to States or Provinces), also called Petén.  Since we were arriving at night, we were a little concerned with getting to our hotel, which was across the the lake from Flores, a 3 minute ride by boat.  However, our worries were typically needless.  Our very friendly shuttle driver, drove us straight to the boat launch, phoned our hotel to send a boat, and we arrived in fine fashion.  

Guatemala Screenshot

As we entered the Island of Flores, by one single road connecting it to the mainland, we were immediately enamoured with the quaint and idyllic little island.  We could see Bar-B-Que’s happening on the sides of the roads, and plenty of life happening in the streets.  The teeny tiny little streets are just about the cutest little streets we have ever seen (although I think I say that about all the little streets that we see), some of them only big enough for motos and tiny little gas driven tuk tuks.  Small little alleyways, many suitable for walking only wove themselves away from the main roads, and off into the matrix of houses that are intertwined in behind.  As we passed each alley way and road, each of us craned out necks to look down as far as we could.  We were both wide eyed and lost in wonderland and were immediately in love with this place!

Flores Screenshot

Initially our two planned nights in Flores (actually, we learned, the area across the water, where our hotel was, is called San Miguel), turned into 3, and as we met more and more people in and around Flores, we found it really hard to leave at all. 


THE PLAN

Our ‘plan’, when we booked the trip to Guatemala, was to visit Flores for a couple days, then head out to El Remate for a couple more days to see Tikal.  After that we would be off to Belize by bus, heading north to Mexico up the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Our end goal was to get to Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan Peninsula, and where we visited for only 3 days in 2015, but fell in love with it.  Chris had spoken to a tattoo shop there that accepts guest artists, and we have some friends that are currently living there that are from Portland, who we keep telling that we are coming up there.  However, as it is with travelling, and this sort of life, things don’t always go as we plan. 


The morning after we arrived, we were ecstatic to look out of our hotel window to see an island across the way that was literally beaming with colour.  Even from our distance across the water, which is likely less than a kilometer, we could see that there were cute little buildings, seemingly stacked on top of each other.  The coloured roofs seemed to interconnect, making it seem like a giant patchwork quilt set out on the middle of the lake.  In the center of it all, and up on the hill in the middle of the island, stands a grande white church that looks down on the rest of the area.  Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to get our day started, so that we could get back over there to explore. 

A tiny little “lancha” took us across to the other side for just over a dollar for both of us, and we were dropped off in about 3 minutes. We immediately set out to explore what we could, weaving our way here and there up the tiny streets.  Many Guatemalans sat on their front stoops, and I’m sure ALL of them greeted us in some way as we passed.  Over the course of the day, we visited many little stores, coffee shops and bars and met some really interesting people.  We learned that there was in fact a tattoo shop in town, however we didn’t find it that day.  

By mid afternoon, we found ourselves back down by the water, and where we would be catching our boat back across to our hotel.  We had noticed a really neat looking coffee shop along that road that morning, it was covered in plants from top to bottom, and really caught our eye.  So, we decided to head in and have a beer before we headed back across the water.   It wasn’t just the plants, and the lure of feeling like we would be sitting amongst a jungle that brought us in here, though. It was the bright vibrant colours that everything was painted in, it was the funky bohemian decor, and it was just the good vibes and the feeling in general.  We felt very comfortable in that little place right away, and it felt like home to us. We took our boat back across the water after a fulfilling and great exploration day, and decided that maybe 2 nights wasn’t enough for this place.  

The next morning, we told the hotel that we wanted to stay another day, and we headed straight across the water for breakfast, back to San Telmo, the comfy little bohemian coffee shop/bar that we had fallen in love with.  Right away when we got there, we met William, or Docter Gato, as the locals know him as.  He started chatting with us immediately when we came in. Having grown up split between Canada and the US, he has now been in Guatemala for 25 years.  We don’t know how old he is, but I can imagine its between 60 and 70 somewhere.  Although, he is also one of those spirited, spry people, that could easily be 80 as well.  

He sat down to ask us what we do and all kinds of questions about our life.  In an instant I felt like I could tell this man anything, while simultaneously feeling like I couldn’t get enough of what HE had to say.  He immediately suggested that since we had no schedule, we should stay for longer in Flores since it is such a nice spot.  We agreed.   

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San Telmo Coffee Shop

Chris sourced out the tattoo guy through Facebook, and sent him a message asking if he was looking for any guest artists.  He replied right away that he was interested, and, of course, wanted to meet us.  We finished breakfast and then headed to his shop.  We found it with no problem and felt completely at ease and comfortable in his presence, right away.  He seemed excited at the prospect of having another artist in the shop, and we spoke with him a bit about needing a house to rent, if we were to stay longer . He immediately took us through the streets to look at a couple options.

We didn’t find anything that was suitable at that time, but later in the day after we had moved on to other things, Vladimir, the tattoo shop owner, messaged us that he knew of a place in San Miguel that was available and he wanted to show it to us at 9:00 the next morning. He would pick Chris up with his motorbike (actually he thought he was picking us both up at once, as they often do here, but I opted out of that one….) and take him to see the house.  If we didn’t like it, we decided that we would head back over the the Island of Flores, and would stay in a hotel there that was just as cheap, but a little more part of the action than across the water at San Miguel.  

Little did we know, Vladimir was hoping that we would stay in a room at his house!  Him and his girlfriend had completely cleaned out one of the bedrooms, but left the mattress on the floor (a King Size Mattress none-the-less), complete with clean sheets.  He stated that we could stay there for as long as we wanted, as long as Chris was working in his shop, and didn’t want any money or compensation for it at all.  We were astounded at his offer and decided to spend a night to see how it went.  Unfortunately, between many lights not working, a shower that never stopped running (at least while the water was actually working), water constantly on the bathroom floor, and a living area that had no furniture to sit in, we decided that this place wasn’t quite as comfortable as we wanted to be, and we set out the next morning to continue our search for accommodation.  I booked a couple nights at a hotel in Flores, then booked 3 nights in El Remate, where we would explore Tikal from and we resigned ourselves to the fact that maybe Flores wasn’t the place for us to be after all.  After talking to countless people and trying our hardest to find a place to live there over our first 3 days, we figured that no doors opening, meant that other doors would open somewhere else.  At that point, our plan was to see Tikal, and then continue on to Mexico like we had decided before heading up to Guatemala.  Maybe that really IS the best plan, we thought. 

After our first night staying in Flores proper, Chris had decided that he wanted to tattoo Vladimir.  Throughout our stay there, Vladimir had told him how excited he was to have another tattoo artist around, and there were some things that he really wanted to get finished on him.  It turned out that what Vladimir wanted, was something that Chris would design himself, and be something that represented his art style.  Knowing that he had very little money, but realizing that we were leaving, he still wanted to gift Vlad with his art, in exchange for how kind he had been to us, so he did it for free.  At that point, it was our last day in Flores, and it needed to be done then, so Chris headed up to his shop, while I went back to our favourite cafe to do some work on my computer, visit with our new friends, and have some coffee. 

At some point through the day, I left go to our hotel for something, and when I returned to the coffee shop, my initial seat had been taken, so I sat down to chat with a Guatemalan lady that was sitting on her own.  We immediately got to chatting like we were long lost friends, and she started telling me where she lived, back across the lake in San Miguel, where we had initially been staying.  The way she described her house somehow seemed so familiar to me, and I immediately asked her if she had and Air BnB there.  “Si!” She announced.  I really don’t know how I knew this, but the morning that we had woken up at Vlad’s, and after searching out some other options of accommodation possibilities, I had found her house on Air BnB and it was very reasonably priced at $15/night.  I almost messaged her to see what she would charge us for a month, but quickly also realized that it was her house, and that we would be living with her if we wanted to stay there.  This wasn’t ideal for us……we really needed our own space, so I didn’t. 

But all of a sudden, here I was, sitting across a table from the exact person that owned this house.  As we discussed her house a bit, Doctor Gato sat down and I told him the story.  Suddenly these impossible words began spilling from his mouth “she is planning to move out of her house, you should live there.” 

WHAT???!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  Here I had been already, researching this possible place to stay, feeling like it would have been the perfect house for us, but just not wanting a roommate.  However, with her planning to move out, things were coming together perfectly!  My mind buzzed with excitement!

I quickly asked her how much it would be to rent it, and she told me the magic number.  We had been looking for something close to US$200 per month, and she wanted the equivalent of $225.  Could this be it?  Could this be the doors opening that we had been hoping for?  Of course it was! 

After explaining our situation and insisting that we were VERY interested, I asked her if she could wait there while I ran up the street to ask Chris about it.  Of course, I was quite sure that he would be ecstatic about it as well and I arrived breathless and barely being able to get a word out, as I expressed how excited I was about this place.  We agreed that it needed to be looked at, and made a plan with Heidi the very next morning to see it. 

Of course, the house is perfect!  It has 2 bedrooms (one which we can Air BnB if we desire), a beautiful deck, perched high up on the hill with a view of Flores from San Miguel.  It is smack dab in the middle of a teeny neighbourhood of homes, and our closest neighbour makes fresh tortillas every day,  4 for 1Q (about 15cents!).  The house is very modern, and we immediately fell in love with Heidi, she has spunk and a zest for life, and she knows all about Europe and Canada and many other places in the world.

We are so excited that things have worked out for us here.  We really didn’t feel like leaving, we just hadn’t given it enough time for the Universe to lay out the possibilities.  We are looking forward to being able to use this place as a launchpad to explore this area.  Plus, with all the friends that we have made already, we really already feel like we are part of a community, and we look forward to sinking in even more and enjoying this place for a while. It is in the staying in one place where we feel the most productive.  Where we can really sink into our artwork. Where we can make friends, meet people, and really learn about the culture and the people of this land. 

Not to mention that being here on the lake brings with it a certain peace that is hard to quantify.  It feels tranquil, welcoming and refreshing.  After spending so many months on the Ocean, we are very happy to be near fresh water. 

This is the life that we have chosen!  Not a day goes by where we aren’t ecstatic about the opportunities that cross our paths.  Every day is an adventure.  Every day offers a chance to take a different path if we so choose.  However, when you get to those places that bring you so much happiness, sometimes it’s nice to stay a while. 

Next up, we are off to El Remate, as planned, to explore Tikal!  We are over the moon with excitement about this chance to visit these sacred lands.  Stay tuned for a full story on that adventure! 


In other news!

In January I joined a network called Location Indie.  It has about 350 members that are either already location independent, or are working their way to being so.  It offers mentoring and advice on how to achieve a location independent lifestyle.  There are many valuable free workshops, lectures and a great forum where you can post any sort of question, and you will get many answers from other members.

If you are interested in checking it out, and signing up for their newsletter, please click here!

In June, I was honoured to be featured as the monthly member spotlight, and got interviewed on the network for all members to watch live.  The interview was also turned into a podcast!  I am very happy to share that link here (find episode 113). It tells of our journey to location independence, and gives you an inside look at how we did it, and how we are making it work now.  Give it a listen if you like, and sign up for their podcast.  It is very inspirational!

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Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: We are currently in Flores, Guatemala.  We have rented a house and expect to stay here for a minimum of 2 months.

Travelling Plans: No plans to go anywhere at this point!

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

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Some Observations of Costa Ricans…..

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here.


Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….


There is this guy and his little puppy that are often sitting on the same log on the beach when we walk by with Omber in the morning, or afternoon. The puppy is the cutest little thing, but we can’t get near to it as it barks it’s head off and seemingly wants to tear us limb from limb. Usually we are walking down at the bottom of the beach, while they are sitting at the top of the beach. The man looks to be about the friendliest person you could ever lay eyes on, he has a huge Afro and a great smile. We always collectively laugh at the state of the puppy going crazy, and even from 50 yards away, you can see this mans massive smile light up, and he sends a friendly wave our way.

Today, I was at the top of the beach walking, and I could see from down the beach a ways that he and a friend were sitting in the usual spot. This time I decided to try and get closer to say hello. The sun is shining today, and it’s been a bit of a dismal week around here with cloudy and rainy days seeming to never end. We exchanged a few words about how nice it is to see the sun, we asked each other how we were doing, the puppy barked it’s little head off, and then I decided that I better get going.

I had a task to do, you see, I was walking the dog.

After we walked to our usual spot, and returned down the beach, we were further down by the surf, but he and his friend were up at the top still, just chilling. I kept walking and started to think about the fact that we had been passing this guy and his puppy for a month, and still didn’t know his name. I immediately started to feel bad for not asking his name, and finally getting to know him a bit. I realized that I too could have just sat on that log and chatted for a while. ‘Why didn’t I do that?’ I asked myself.

Oh right! I remembered.

I was on a mission, you see, I was walking the dog!

And in that moment, I caught myself, I suddenly, miraculously, realized that I too have all day to chat if I so desire. I too could just sit on a log and hang out for hours, if I really felt like it. Omber would be happy to just chill in one spot. There really was no rush. Besides, what could be better then practicing some Spanish and making new friends?

Hmmmmmmmmm…..

A few hundred yards further down the beach, Omber decided to run to the top of the beach to chase through the palm trees where I couldn’t see him. Of course, I walked up there to find him, and a man was doing some raking amongst the palms. As soon as he saw me, he immediately waved a friendly hello. “Hola”, I yelled.

This got me realizing how pleasant our exchanges are with the locals. Rarely do we walk by someone, whether on the beach, or on the road, where they don’t take the time to say “Buenas Dias, Hola, Pura Vida, (Good Day, Hello, Pure Life) or some combination of all three.” In fact, as we walked the road the other day to the bus stop, a man crossed the street and shook Chris’ hand, wanting to know who we were and whether or not we owned some piece of property in town. We chatted with him for a bit, then were on our way.

It also got me thinking that we have literally not seen one bad exchange between people here. There have been no children throwing tantrums, no people yelling at each other in hatred or malice, no aggression of any kind has been displayed, in fact.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…….

Chris had a tattoo job the other night just down the street from us. I popped over after a bit to see how it was going. It was the father that was getting tattooed, and his wife, 9 months pregnant with a second child, was busy in the kitchen. Their little girl was playing in the corner as quiet as could be, with her dolls and a handful of toys. They were not spread all over the room, they were in one spot, and she happily toodled away talking to them and playing by herself, with hardly a peep to anyone.

I asked her mom how old she is, and they told me ‘5 years old today’! You can imagine my immediate surprise as this certainly didn’t seem like your average 5 year old on their birthday, at least where I come from. There were no streamers and balloons hanging up, no huge party with a thousand other kids running amuck, no big deal was being made…….at all! I told her “Feliz Cumpleanos!” (Happy Birthday), and she turned and gave me a shy “Gracias”, then busily got back to playing. In the two hours we were there, she never once bothered her mother or father for anything, just happily, and QUIETLY played in the corner with her dolls.

When I had initially arrived to the house, I immediately walked over to see how the tattoo was going. The father said hello and asked me how my day was going, in English. Without really realizing what was going on, I just told him “Oh it was okay, I was lazy today.” Later I realized that I never even asked him how his day was………did he notice, did he think badly of me. What was my problem?

Hmmmmmmmmmmm……….

The other day, Chris and I caught the bus to Uvita. We hadn’t been there before, and needed some groceries, so we thought we would just go there and hopefully get some supplies after doing some exploring. While waiting for the bus, we sat on a bench in front of the Pulperia (Convenience Store), and had many exchanges with locals coming and going. Old or young, they all had time to say hello and ask us how we were doing.

As we rode the bus to Uvita, we sat in the front 2 seats to the right of the driver. As I watched people get off the bus, most people thanked the driver, one guy shook the drivers hand and exchanged a few words with him. The driver wasn’t in a rush to get going again, it was more important to talk to this man for a minute, then to worry about his schedule.

I watched as the driver eased his big bus through tiny communities, and yelled and waved out the window at familiar faces. Were these people he knew, or just people he saw on his route everyday? “Pura Vida!”  was yelled more than once, and the people on their porches or in their yards returned the exchange with huge smiles on their faces.

In one instance a man was standing on the side of the highway and waved the bus to stop. The driver pulled over and the man simply stood on the ground at the door and spent about 5 minutes asking the driver a bunch of questions about the schedule and where he went. Obviously gathering information for a future trip.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm………..

Our friends that moved here from Canada two years ago, told us of a time when they had first bought their property up in the mountains. For the first while, they obviously couldn’t speak much Spanish, but their neighbours would come over anyways, and just sit with them on their porch, sometime for two hours, with barely a word spoken. They just wanted to interact, to share the human experience. Words weren’t needed to be decent human beings, to show their new neighbours appreciation of their arrival onto their lands.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm……….

All of this has me realizing that these are the sorts of things that you may not notice if you are travelling to a place for a week or two. It’s only after being in a spot for a length of time, when how a society works, is repeated enough for you to you start to notice it, and you begin to realize what really makes it tick.  We have been here now for over 6 weeks, and although it didn’t take us this long to see that people are friendly, it has taken this long to really notice that it definitely is a way of life.

In Costa Rica, it truly is the land of Pura Vida. People have TIME for each other. It isn’t normal to just say hi quickly, and then be on your way. What’s normal is stopping, and actually talking. Looking people in the eye, and asking them how they are doing, asking them how their day was or is. Taking the time to connect with each other and respect and appreciate each other.

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As of today, I am making a commitment to myself to really start to notice when I rush myself, when I push myself to “get going” because I think I have something important to do. When I start to think that ‘getting the dog walked’ is more important than stopping to meet somebody and learn about them, I will stop myself. I will stop this habit of being on a mission, of being in a hurry. As of today, I will stop to connect with people better. I will take the time to learn their names, I will spend the time learning about them, and finding out who they are and what they do. I will make TIME for them, because, this is truly the way it is here. This is what people do here. This is literally how their society functions, and I really can’t think of anything more beautiful than that!

Pura Vida to you all! I hope this inspires you to take a moment to reflect on what you spend your time doing.  And is it meaningful, after all?

NOTE:  Of course, this is our experience of Costa Ricans outside of heavily trafficked tourist zones.  In places where we have noticed that many tourists go, the Pura Vida mentality certainly does not extend as far as it does in these smaller more remote areas.  But it is in these places, where you truly get a sense for how people actually live.  

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Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

Current Location: We are housesitting until December 30th at Playa Matapalo, between Quepos and Dominical.  If you are travelling in the area, please get in touch!  We would love to connect with you.

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

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To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

Wandering in Varna, Bulgaria – Guest Post

A few days ago I found a request from a fellow blogger on one of the traveller Facebook pages that I follow. She was looking for people to contribute to her blog and write guest posts on one of their favourite travelling spots.

In 2015, my partner and I did a six week trip to Bulgaria, Greece and Italy. Although, we didn’t spend nearly long enough in Bulgaria, it was actually our favourite country to visit out of the three. I’m not sure if it was the laid back pace, the beauty of it, the friendly people, or the fact that it wasn’t on the Euro yet (which made it much more affordable against our Canadian dollar), but we absolutely fell in love with it, and long to go back someday.  Next time it will be in the summer months!

When I saw Emily’s request for posts on a favourite travelling spot, I couldn’t help but recall our experience in Varna.

Feel free to check out my guest post on her blog here.  Thanks for this opportunity Emily!

Also, if you would like to read more about our trip to Bulgaria, the first post is here.

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Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.

Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

To see my blog post menu, click here.

To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

 

 

Traditional Living in Costa Rica – Part 1

Over the course of 9 months in 2017, my partner and I sold all of our possessions, including 2 vehicles, and a house full of stuff. In order to sell the house for its maximum value, we also completed 3 months of renovations that had been lingering for over 3 years. We wrapped up 2 businesses and left a town and tight knit community that we both cherished. We did all of this in order to seek out a life of freedom, away from the hustle and bustle of the 9-5 life, but most importantly, we did it so that we could travel. This is our story…….

We are on day 4 of our trip, and I can honestly say already that if we had to return home for some unknown reason, that I would be content with our experience. Today was everything that I had hoped to achieve on our travels, and more!

We are currently in Monteverde, a mountaintop community, located in Costa Rica’s northern highlands. “Green Mountain”, the translation of Monteverde, couldn’t be more accurate. Every direction you look, there are plants of seemingly endless descriptions and green mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. We know this for sure, as the Air BnB that we booked is perfectly perched on the side of one such mountain, and the vista below is absolutely breathtaking. We can see all the way west to the Nicoya Peninsula, and in the right light the “Golfo de Nicoya” (Gulf of Nicoya) in front of the peninsula, dances and sparkles in the sunlight.

Read on to hear about our experiences so far…….

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After spending 2 nights in Alajuela, the neighbouring city to Costa Rica’s capital city, San Jose, and feeling that we had recovered sufficiently from our dreaded red eye flight from Calgary, through Toronto, we decided to head into the interior of Costa Rica, instead of hitting the beach. We will be house sitting right on the beach for 2 months at the end of October, so we will have lots of beach time to come. The mountains were calling us.

In 2004, my last visit to Costa Rica, I had visited a small mountain town called Monteverde. I had very fond memories of this place, but such as it was back then, our main motivation was to get to the beach, so we only spent a night or two. I longed to come back to explore more of this area, and to try and get a better feel for life in the highlands.

I did a search for Monteverde on my Air BnB app, to see what would come up. There were many options in many price ranges, but as I scrolled the list, one caught my eye. “Paradise House Monteverde #2 – Farmstay”.  The description definitely called to my yearning to learn more about the Costa Rican life.  Check it out below:

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Turns out that as it is the low season, and the internet had been washed out with the latest Hurricane, we got a discount and only paid $68 for 3 nights!

I quickly read it out to Chris and he said “Yes! Book it!”

Our plan was set! Here was our chance to learn about a traditional Costa Rican way of life. My goal with travelling is always to connect with locals, to see how others are living, to learn their way of life, and to share it with others. This sounded like a perfect fit! I booked 3 nights, knowing that would give us 2 full days to enjoy ourselves in a lovely, peaceful location.

3 nights = $68 CAD

With the help of our host in Alajuela, we booked a bus trip up into the mountains. Costing just $15 US (including a $5 booking fee for booking online), the bus would leave Alajuela at 3:00 and arrive at 7:00pm. In the tropics, every day of the year, it is dark by 6:00, so I knew that it would be dark when we arrived at our location. I messaged this to Orlando, our farm host, and he assured me that since they were located well out of Monteverde proper, he would arrange a transport to pick us up at the Bus stop.

The bus ride was a typical one, driving quickly down paved highways, weaving along the coastline of the Gulf of Nicoya, until all of a sudden we took a sharp, right hairpin turn onto a gravel road. After 2 hours on the road, we were finally headed into the mountains. Immediately there was a sign that said Monteverde 35km. I commented to Chris that surely it can’t take 2 more hours to go 35 kilometres. However, I was sorely wrong!

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Note:  It took us almost 4 hours to reach Monteverde.  Mind you, we were on a large bus, a private vehicle is likely quicker.

Within minutes, make that seconds, I could see that YES, this definitely could take 2 hours! The road was windy, narrow, steep and seeming impossibly small to accommodate the bus that we were riding on. As we were seated in the front two seats to the right of the driver, my favourite spot to “see it all” we got a full spectacle of what was to transpire. Corner after corner, sharp curve after sharp curve, we wound our way up the tight mountain road. With the recent rains of Hurricane Nate , having wreaked havoc with many mountain roads, we witnessed a few places where part of the road was washed away down the mountain. In these instances, the bus would slowly but surely, squeeze itself down the inside lane, hugging as close as it would dare to the inside ditch, without falling into it. We also watched the Humidity indicator that was located at the front of the bus go from 50% to 90% as we approached the clouds and entered an area aptly known as the Cloud Forest. We watched numerous small frogs leap across the road, scurrying out of the way of the large bus wheels, some we knew made it, others we weren’t so sure. Never the less, we cheered them on as we saw them.

Many times we would come across another vehicle going down the road, each time both of us would squeeze as tight as we could to the opposite shoulders of the road, literally inching past each other. However, in one instance, we came head to head with a driver of a commercial utility truck. It was now dark and drizzling rain and there was clearly no way for both vehicles to pass each other on the current stretch of road.

After both vehicles flashed their lights at each other a couple times, the driver of the truck finally realized that if anyone was to back up, it was him. He jumped out of his truck to survey the situation around him, and to come up with a solution, a way to pull over so that we could pass each other. After realizing that the other driver needed assistance in backing up (so that he didn’t drive off the road and over the cliff side) our driver jumped out to direct him. The amusement in the bus was hilarious as the locals chitter chatted back and forth laughing and carrying on about the situation. I couldn’t help but think about if the same situation would have happened in Canada; Number one, there would not be a public bus driving on a road such as this in Canada (unless of course it was guaranteed to be the only vehicle driving back and forth), and Number 2, if a bus load of people were held up in this way, there would be more than one very unhappy person. However, the mood was jovial, and everyone was just happy to have the entertainment.

Finally, as our driver helped the other driver back up down the windy road, and into a slightly wider section, another man, that we had picked up at a rest stop, and who had been chatting with the driver at the front of the bus ever since, jumped into the drivers seat and started driving the bus down to meet him. Chris and I burst out laughing, as we had no idea who this guy was, but trusted that he knew what he was doing either way. What little choice did we have after all? Thankfully, he safely drove us the couple hundred meters forward to pick up our other driver, but not before passing the transfer truck and another vehicle behind it on the cliff side of the road, with mere inches to spare between us (and I’m sure mere inches to spare with the side of the road, and in turn, the cliff as well.)

I mentioned to Chris more than once that I was thankful that it was dark because although we knew that we were driving up the side of the mountain, we were unable to see just how perilous and treacherous that it was if we were to simply slide down into the abyss below.

As we started to approach a more populated area, made obvious by the lights that now lit the road ahead of us, many locals would signal to the driver to be let off in various areas. Again, NOT something you would necessarily see in Canada.

Despite all of this, we arrived in Monteverde at about 6:50pm. We departed the bus and stacked our luggage against the wall. Other travellers scampered around grabbing taxis or staring into their iPhones to figure out their next move. Nobody approached us about a ride, so I poked my head around the corner and locked eyes with a man standing next to a van. He gave me a look of approval so I walked over to him to show him the address of where we were going. Before I had a chance to do that, and much to my surprise, he showed me a picture on his phone of Chris and I! I realized that it was our Air BnB profile photo, and that our host must have sent it to him so that he knew who to pick up. “Perfecto!” I announced and patted him on the shoulder. I ran off to grab Chris and our luggage, and we were whisked away into the darkness, along another bumpy and washed out gravel road.

Unfortunately, I never did get our drivers name, but he quickly realized that I spoke a bit of Spanish, and we were able to carry out a simple conversation. He explained to me that the reason the roads were so bad was because of the extensive rains that the hurricane had deposited on the area. There were many more washed out areas along the next section of road that we travelled, and even a couple of crews working late into the night to repair them.

After about 15 minutes, we pulled into a tiny gap in a fence, and his headlights illuminated our home for the next few days. It was absolutely pitch black, but we could tell by the lights in the distance and below us, that we were perched on a hillside of sorts. He helped us with our luggage, found the key and opened the door, and then wished us well. I asked about when we would meet our host, Orlando, and he said something about “Manana”. Good enough, we would see him tomorrow.

We quickly unpacked our food and got busy with making some dinner. The house was simple, with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a small kitchen where we could make our meals over the course of our stay. We took turns running in and out of the front doors, both ecstatic with our location, and wanting desperately for it to be the next day, so that we could see the fantastic view that we knew was spread out before us.

But alas, we knew that we would have to wait. In the meantime, we ate our dinner, sat on our front porch, and stared off into the vast unknown. Tomorrow would bring the light and a whole new adventure!

** Thanks for reading! This is part of a larger group of blog posts about us letting go of all of our possessions to go traveling. If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.**

To see more photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our page.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, click here.

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To email me directly, please do so at jillamatt@me.com.

 

I dream a dream…..

I dream a dream where every day is new and exciting.  Where the ordinary things in life, cease to exist.  Where time stretches on into infinity.  Where the sun kisses my skin, and the warm wind blows through my hair.

I dream a dream of visiting far off destinations, of meeting new people, of discovering the world. I feel like I was born a traveler, and there is so much to see out there in the world.  It boggles my mind…….  I want to see it all……..  I want to do it all.

This is my dream…….

It all seems so far off, but this dreams’ realities CAN come true.

And I have figured out how!

For about 6 months to a year now, I have really started to ask myself “Is there more to life than this?”  I would even go so far as to ask my partner what his thoughts were on the matter.  After a long and exhausting day at work I would look him squarely in the eyes and say “Do you ever think that there is more out there in life than running on the hamster wheel, working 9-5 and feeling like we are never getting ahead?”  He would shrug his shoulders and say things like “Well that is what we are working towards aren’t we?”

Yes, we worked!  And worked, and worked and worked……and then worked some more! 

We still work and work and work.  We are both self employed.  He is a Landscaper and I am a House Painter.  Together we make a good team.  We both have experience doing each others’ jobs, so helping each other when needed works well for us, and we rarely need to hire subcontractors.  We are also both artists.  Chris is a tattoo artist, and I muck about with many different art forms (visit www.jillianamatt.com if you want to see a bit.) Neither of us have ever made a living at our art, but it has been something that we have both wanted to do at some point.

Sometime last fall I realized that despite the fact that we were working and working and working as hard as we could, we were falling behind financially.  We were eating out frequently because we were too tired to cook, we were going away on weekends because we just needed a change of scenery.  We were exhausted from a busy summer of gardening and transforming our yard from a rectangular patch of grass to a stunning park like setting.  We also grew food!  Lots of it!  We didn’t buy produce or fruit for months last year, but we were still sinking into a pile of debt.

I also started to get completely overwhelmed with our stuff!  In fact, we had a shed built (that we couldn’t afford) with the intention of moving “stuff” from the basement to the shed, so that we could gain some breathing room down there.  Our ultimate plan was to open the basement up so that we could create the perfect artist studio, so that we could finally start working seriously on our passions.  (My passion, in fact, is not art after all……but there will be lots more about that to come.)

Now, I should also note here that with Chris being such a great tattoo artist, he decided to take over a tattoo shop in September that was about to close down.  He hadn’t worked in a shop in a while, and he felt it time to get back at it, and to build his portfolio once again.  (www.facebook.com/inkcaptattoos) While he was getting some business, it surely wasn’t paying for itself (we all know these things take time), so we were forced to try and pay for that, as well as all of our other bills that we already had.  We have payments on 2 vehicles, 2 car insurance policies, house insurance, mortgage, workers compensation, cell phones, utilities, business insurance, etc. etc. etc……. you name it, we have it.

But tattooing is Chris’ passion, so although we knew that it wasn’t currently sustaining itself, we held faith that the clients would come.  Unfortunately with the winter being a quiet season in the tattoo business (coupled with living in a smallish, and remote town), things were grim.  He was only in there 2 days of the week, while landscaping the rest, but being away from landscaping for those 2 days, while taking on more debt, was not a happy scenario.

At some point, I realized that I had been down this path before.  My now ended (for 5 years now) marriage was a string of bad financial choices and too much stuff.  We were also constantly drowning in stuff and to top it off,  we moved 5 times in 6 years!  Not a happy scenario!  (Oh did I say that already?!)  I knew that I was headed in the same direction (although this time I wasn’t moving anywhere), and I knew that things needed to change.

After Christmas, when I got back home, I decided for once and for all that it was time to seriously sit down and take a look at what bills were coming out of our account, and how much it all was.  I’ve never been a budget-er, but I have excellent credit.  I always find a way to make just minimum payments, but even that was starting to become really hard.  2 credit cards had approached their limits, and there was no sign that this was going to be corrected anytime soon.  After doing my calculations, I knew that something major had to change.  We were in way over our heads, and there was no end in sight.

Coincidentally (or more appropriately “synchronistic-ly”), an interesting documentary had just come out called Minimalism. I’m sure you have heard of it, it is getting rave reviews right now.  I watched Minimalism on January 11th.  That evening as I sat and watched it, while working on my artwork, it was like a lightening bolt erupted out of the sky and blasted me right in the back of the head.

I thought “This is it!  Can it really be this easy?”

I left my art bench and went into the living room to talk to Chris.  I said “Can I talk to you for a minute?”  He said “Sure.”  I could tell that he was nervous about this conversation.  After all, we have been dealing with a huge amount of stress around money, and conversations weren’t always the best as we really started to realize the situation we were in.

I said “How do you feel about selling everything and going traveling?”  He took a deep breath and said “Well, I wouldn’t mind, but what about my tattoo shop?”  And in one sentence I said “Sweetie, the whole world is your tattoo shop.”img_0637

Within 10 minutes, he was completely on board and even super excited!  On January 11th, our lives changed, our perspectives changed, our focus changed!  On January 11th, the world became our Oyster again!

Since the decision we have been excited to face each day.  We are driven and focused, and we know that there is finally an ultimate payoff for all the hard work we have been doing.  Everything we are now working for, is worth it and has meaning.  Clarity is falling down all around us like bright comets descending from the heavens, helping to guide our way.

We don’t know ALL the details yet, but we have a general idea of how this will play out.  First off, we are headed to Central America/Southern Mexico.  Chris really wants to learn Spanish, and I could certainly use more practice.  We don’t want to flit about from place to place, but would rather rent an apartment or small house ($275 a month furnished in some places!), for 3-6 months and REALLY experience a place.  Experience the people, the food, the culture.

Chris will bring his tattoo gear with us, and be a roaming tattoo artist, while I attempt to create a living at writing.  Which, by the way, I have wanted to do for quite some time, but never felt like I had the time (surprise, surprise!).

The plan is ambitious. We have A LOT of stuff!

It will take us a few months, maybe a year, to get everything sold, and get our ducks in a row.  But we are focused!  Focused on creating a life that we LOVE!  Focused on finding HAPPINESS and CONTENTMENT!  Focused on cultivating our passions (mine is traveling in case you didn’t figure that out yet). Focused on living a meaningful, exciting and, even, EXHILARATING life!

I knew when I turned 40 in October that life was “just beginning”, but I could never have predicted how true that was!  Look out world!  Here we come!

** Follow our letting go process (already there has been tears!) through this blog by signing up with your email address.  I will update frequently and let you all know how it is going!**

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Italy in a wink ;)

As the fireworks exploded over the Piazza in Reggio Emilia, our group of friends exchanged hugs to officially bring in 2016. I hugged Jasmine, we gave each other an extra squeeze,  and she said “I’m glad you are here.”

It had been about 5 years since I last saw her in the town we both lived in. One year before that, she had moved to Italy to chase an Italian man that she had fallen in love with in Canada. She was an English teacher there, and students arrived from all over the world to experience the Canadian culture and learn our language. One of them caught her eye, and her heart, and very quickly, she was off, chasing him across the globe. 

I had been telling her for AT LEAST 4 of those years that I wanted to come and see her, and experience her new found life. I was incredibly proud of her for taking such a leap, and chasing her dreams. I marvelled at her courage, and her belief that across the world, she could carve out a better life for herself.  

I was certainly NOT surprised to find that she had INDEED found the life of her dreams, but I was a bit surprised that she DEFINITELY is an old Italian soul at heart. I couldn’t imagine seeing her more happy, content, and at peace with her surroundings, as I experienced during our visit. 

For many reasons, the original relationship that brought here there, was no longer. But she had found new love, and this I can see, is love that will last. She is now in very high demand as an English teacher, commanding a very reasonable wage in a country where the economy is definitely not what it once was. She has declared Reggio Emilia “her town”, and every where we went, she would hug and kiss and wave at familiar faces. One of her ex students we met declared her “the best English teacher in the city!”  Her Italian is so flawless that friends she has had for years, are still just realizing that she is Canadian and her native language is English. Yes!  I would say that she has found her groove alright!  

We arrived in Milan, still reeling from our experiences in Greece, but feeling better after our 2 complimentary (small) bottles of wine on the plane. We are sure that the old Italian lady sitting next to us, was a little disgusted with our drinking at 9:00 in the morning, but we were certainly beyond caring about that.  (I’m also realizing that by now, many of my readers are starting to see a trend in our behaviour. Yes, we do like to drink!)

  We caught the train from the Milan airport that would take us to the Milano Centrale train station, where we would then catch the train to Reggio Emilia, a city of 170 000 people, close to the more major center of Bologna.  

Happy to touch down in Italy!
  
Milano Centrale Train Station.
  
Waiting for our platform to be announced.
 As we rode the train to Reggio (as the locals refer to it as), we were very aware of what time it was as we had noticed that nobody was announcing what station we are arriving at, during the previous stops.  Therefore , we devised that it would have been very easy to miss our station, as we had no idea where we were or what we were looking at.  A couple minutes past our scheduled arrival time, the train came to a stop.  It was just a concrete platform a ways away from the station but we got off anyways, hopeful that it was the right place.    
Milan to Reggio.
 

 
Sure enough, once we entered the station, we saw the familiar name on a sign and felt immediate relief. Jasmine (but I prefer to call her Jasi) was there to pick us up a few minutes later, and we were off to explore Northern Italy!

As it was December 30, Jasi and her partner Raffaele, or affectionately referred to as Raffa, were finished with work for the next few days, so we were able to do some exploring together. Her brother and his girlfriend were also coincidently visiting her at the same time, and the 6 of us rented a mini van together, to be able to have the freedom to drive around and see the sights. This would also ensure saving money on individual train tickets, and make our schedule more flexible. 

New Years Eve we explored around Reggio, taking in sights and learning various tid bits about the city. For example, the Italian Flag was designed and made in Reggio, and the ever so popular, world renown cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano, or better known as Parmesan, was invented there, both of which bring great pride to its residents, fondly referred to as Reggiani.   

Upside down Christmas bicycle lights, and of course, PIZZA!
  
Beautiful archways abound!
  
One of the many amazing buildings in one Piazza.
 The Italian architecture and beauty of the streets was something that we had been eager to see, and we were not disappointed. Within the city Center, where Jasi’s apartment was, there is very limited car usage, making it a mostly pedestrian friendly zone. In fact, in most Italian communities, you need to go through an extensive proof of residency to be able to actually get a permit to bring your car into the Center of the city. Of course, with many things in Italy, there is a fee attached, which likely deters lots of people who, thankfully, do not bring their vehicles into the ZTL (zona traffico limitado), and park them in one of the many parking lots dotting the City Center outskirts instead.  Because of this, it was nice to wander around without worrying about tons of cars flying everywhere.

We meandered from Piazza (central gathering squares) to Piazza and marvelled at the sights as we went.  

These grande promenades link storefronts and bustling coffee shops.
  
Very pedestrian friendly.
  
Plenty of huge, beautiful doors!
 We had decided to experience New Years from one of the near by Piazzas, and then to mostly celebrate back at their apartment. We loved the local feel if it all.  Families, the young and the old, counted down and then danced waltzes to the local 5 piece orchestra that played while fireworks lit up the sky and many bottles of champagne were uncorked and consumed. It was a wonderful cultural experience. We took it a little bit easy as the following day Raffa’s family was to host us for a traditional Italian meal at their home.  

A fitting display for the birthplace of the Italian flag.
  
Countdown!
  
Happy Revelers!
   
The orchestra.
 We arrived at the family home around 12:30, and were immediately welcomed with open arms. It was 2016, and everyone was in a festive mood. Although, we didn’t speak the language, Raffa’s relatives knew a bit of English, and Jasi translated for us when needed.  (I’m bummed that I didn’t get any photos to remember is event.)

We had an incredible meal that lasted over 3 hours, several courses, and many bottles of wine. I knew that Italy in general had a bit of a thing for food, but I never really realized that it’s (Italy’s) actual THING IS FOOD!

Every Italian community has a specialized food item that comes specifically from their region. Certain types of sausage or cheese, and many times a whole dish, belongs solely to the community that invented it. We also learned that specific sauces go with specific types of pastas, and heaven forbid if you mix them up!

It just so happens that other than being Reggios best English teacher, Jasi is also, likely, Reggio’s most informed officianado on Italian food. She travels around Italy as much as possible and experiences each local dish as she does it. In fact when we were in Milan, we both had the Risotto Milanese, Milan’s specific risotto made with its own unique sauce. While we were there, I had pestered her to write an Italian food blog on her experiences, and I still hope she does it. (Hint hint if you are reading this!!)

Our meal at Raffa’s parents’ house was very special indeed. Being that I don’t eat wheat, his mom and sister, went out of their way to make me gluten free dishes, and also bought me some gluten free, freshly made baguettes, which are surprisingly available in a couple different bakeries around the city. Such a treat!  There was so much happiness and joy, and even with language limitations, there was plenty of laughter as we exchanged stories and jokes all round. And Uncle Sergio, who with broken English told us many things, proved to us that he is QUITE the character. 

We felt so lucky and thankful to have had a real Italian experience such as this!  I have said it before, but it bears saying again. Travelling is such a wonderful way to bring people from different cultures together. It makes the world a smaller place when we take the time to talk with people from different backgrounds, and to experience their traditions and customs. It makes you realize that we really are just one, one unique being that walks the planet, however, all in different ways. It’s a beautiful thing!

We pretty much rolled out of Raffa’s families house, and all fell into heavy afternoon naps. We really only woke up for a small snack, and then hit the hay again to prepare for two full days of sight seeing. 

Day one we were off early to Florence.  We drove through rain and wet weather to get there, and unfortunately through plenty of fog, which meant that we didn’t get to see the famous rolling hills and fields of Tuscany, the province that contains Florence. Jasi told us that there really isn’t much to see in the winter anyways, and like most places we have been on this trip, we were told to come back in the summer. 

Back in Canada, friends had informed us that Florence was really worth seeing, and they were not mistaken!  In fact, Forbes has declared it one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1982.  

  

Florence’s Duomo (church).
   
Is it just me or is this guy being rude;)?
   
Carved marble pillars and cast bronze doors.
  
Wonder how many times this knocker has been knocked??
  
Dante’s House
   
Known for its culture, renaissance art and architecture and its numerous monuments, it is home to approximately 382 000 people within the city limits. It attracts millions of tourists every year, and in fact, I could have sworn there were millions of people there that day!  I’m sure half of Italy, and many other tourists, had decided that the Saturday after New Year’s Day, was the perfect day to visit this lovely city. We jostled around and bumped around with hoards of eager tourists ecstatic to see the fabulous sights it offered. 

Despite the foul, wet weather, we managed to see many famous Florence sights, do a little shopping, and of course, had a wonderful Italian lunch. Our restaurant even had gluten free pizza and pasta!  I felt completely spoiled all round.  

  

No visit to Florence is complete without walking on the famous Ponte Vecchio.
  
Massive statues everywhere!
 I must admit that being allergic to wheat, had me quite concerned that there wouldn’t be much for me to eat in this famously wheat filled country. However, Jasi had informed me prior to coming, that there were plenty of gluten free offerings, and she was certainly correct. One just DOES NOT starve in Italy! This, I’m sure would certainly be the biggest crime against humanity in a place that worships food at every level. (However, as with every country in the world, I’m sure they do have their problems with those less fortunate, and I’m sure many may actually be starving, so please don’t take this too literally, or think that I take it lightly.) 

Veggies are everywhere!
  
Yum! GF PIZZA!!
  
Beautiful displays.
 At around 4:00 pm, we declared ourselves wet and sight see’d out (if that’s even a thing), and headed back to Reggio. We were all eager to get back by 7:00 for happy hour at one of Raffa and Jasi’s local watering spots Mexicana, where they offered half price drinks for happy hour. Their signature drink is the “Hurricane”, featuring 5 different types of rum and a bit of juice for flavour. They are definitely delicious, and they definitely make you feel like you have been hit by a hurricane after a couple! 

Hurricanes from below!
 It was a great day, but we knew there was more to come!  The next day we were off to Milan, and then Bergamo, where we would be flying back to Bulgaria from, the day after that. 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in Milan. Of course I knew that it was the home of much fashion, high end clothing, run ways, and shopping. I think I actually envisioned the city to be one, modern, giant shopping plaza, with the likes of Gucci, Armani, Louis Vuitton and Prada emblazoned on the sides of buildings.  Although these shops did exist, I was delightfully surprised to find that the historic city Center, also has a huge history (duh), and features many spectacular sights itself. 

The Duomo, a term for an Italian church, was absolutely mind blowing. In fact, while writing this, I was not surprised to find that when I typed Duomo into Wikipedia, to provide the link above, that the feature picture is in fact Milan’s Doumo. I certainly cannot imagine a more fabulous Cathedral than that building. 

    The entire structure is made out of marble, and bronze. The detail of which the carvings are done, are absolutely mind blowing, and I felt obligated to take a bazillion pictures to try and prove my point. Thank god for digital is all I can say!!  Be thankful that you only get to see a few here, and believe me it is painstakingly difficult trying to pick just a few! 

The portion of the bronze door that everybody touches. The tarnish had been rubbed right off revealing the beautiful bronze below.
  
All bronze under the tarnish! MASSIVE! And check out the carved marble around the door!
  
All marble. So many faces!
 We also wandered around looking at other cool sights, including the Castello Sforzesco (Castle Sforza), that was built in the 15th century. We ate roasted chestnuts, and drank mulled wine from the street vendors, and floated along, lazily taking it all in. We had another wonderful Italian meal, and as stated before, Jasi and I ate Milan’s signature dish, Risotto Milanese. Delicious! 

A bit of an optical illusion with the archways leading elsewhere
  
Entering the castle.
  
 
I’m thinking that is where the royalty sat, looking down on the commoners.
 
 
One shopping plaza we passed through. Notice the brand names and the Swarovski tree! it was covered with hundreds of crystals!
  
Balconies of Milan.
  
Lunchtime with wonderful people and amazing artwork!
 
Unfortunately, we knew our time was short, and we needed to head off to Bergamo, so that Jasi and Raffa (her brother and his girlfriend had opted out on the trip to Milan) could get back to Reggio in time for another meal with his parents. We parted ways with much sorrow, but all so thankful for the absolutely wonderful few days that we had spent together. As Jasi told me, the Italians love to fuss over their guests, and never rest until they are sure they are completely happy and satisfied. I can attest once again to Jasi being an old Italian soul, because we both left feeling very satisfyingly fussed over!  

Our Italian experience had gone by as quick as a wink!  But we have both gotten a taste for more. Like most places we have been on this trip (except for the one certain island that I’m sure you can guess) we look forward to returning.  Next time will be longer!  I can imagine that Italy has so many more secrets to reveal. Thank you soooooooo much Jasi and Raffa for such a wonderful introduction to your exquisite country. WE WILL BE BACK!!

Next up, we are heading back to Bulgaria for our ski holiday in Bansko!  Skiing in the Balkans, another great start to the New Year. 

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