The best laid plans of mice and Karyn

Ciao,

For those of you who know me this comment will not come as a surprise, for those of you who don’t know me it may not be all that surprising based on some of my posts.

I tend to be a planner.

I know, revolutionary, right?!

In fairness I am a lot more relaxed than I used to be. (I swear, it’ true) We are talking about a woman who used to have the children’s packing list, for any and all trips on an excel spreadsheet. The pantry was also on a spreadsheet. In fact, my whole house might have been on a spreadsheet…you will have to decide that on your own. I already know I am neurotic, I don’t need confirmation from outside sources.

However, in recent years I have moved away from the spreadsheets (believe what you will), now, I just make lists. Daily lists, weekly lists, lists for my lists, and (sometimes) even lists for my husband. But even more important than lists, spreadsheets, and plans is the fact that I get ideas. Ideas of how something is supposed to go, turnout, look, happen. Well, those ideas rarely pan out the way I have mentally set them up to pan out. (It is really why I write, I get to edit my ideas until the plan works out perfectly, life never does that)

Our fare un’escursione (hike) on Sunday was much like the best laid plans of mice and men. You might remember that we had planned to hike last weekend but Will ended up sick so we moved it to this weekend. The temperatures are in the 90’s and the humidity is trying to catch the temperature so it seemed like a great time to go to the mountains. According to several websites finding hiking locations should have been a breeze. The way that some of the websites made it sound you couldn’t go into the mountains without tripping over a trail or two dozen. The reality was that you couldn’t go into the mountains without tripping over several dozen Italians (like A LOT of Italians). After Scotland, where we would go a whole day without seeing anyone, this was not what I was hoping for. I believe that exercise (hiking, cycling, etc.) can be a shared experience but I choose who to share my experience with; dozens of Italians (or people in general) were not on the top of the sharing list.

The trip into the mountains should have taken an hour and a half tops, add an extra hour to that for holiday traffic, then add a wrong turn (No Google Maps is not always right) to the bottom of a gully and a decision to walk/hike the 2-ish miles to where the restaurant area was supposed to be.

There was no straightforward trail and we ended up traipsing through the woods (this part was actually no big deal and the most relaxing part of the whole “hike”). We ran into an Italian lady who was lost and spoke no real English, since I speak no real Italian we communicated in one word sentences. We got her to the road and then left her with a bottle of water and people to converse (ask directions) with in Italian. Good deed done for the day.

We were planning to eat at the restaurant (bad idea on my part) it was crowded and no tables were available. I hadn’t packed much food beyond a couple of Clif bars. No, I don’t know what I was thinking. Yes, I know I become hangry easily. Don’t worry, Will is still alive! And No, I won’t be making that mistake again.

Anyway, we decided to take a short trail that was on a sign post and set off into the Italian wilderness… haha after Scotland the wilderness was well tamed and marked by white stone pathways, that were ridiculously slick from condensation.

Oh, quick note here, not only was this area a restaurant but apparently people take their campers there. They also spread blankets all over the hillside and have siestas. It was not organized like German campgrounds, which are neat and orderly with planned activity areas, but there was no wilderness to the camping. Other than it was a free for all park wherever and set up stuff kind of wildness. I was overwhelmed by the unorganized chaos. (Maybe because I was hungry.)

Okay, back to the trail. If I admit that I was huffing and puffing it is just because we haven’t hiked since Scotland and I felt ill equipped (and too hangry) to be hiking. The trail scenery was actually pretty, (minus some excrement) and we came across this big cavern that had been fenced off. It went so deep we couldn’t see the bottom from the side we were standing on. The trail was also lushly green, heavy on the moss and all the rocks were slippery with condensation from the air. I know this since I slipped and fell on my butt.

What I did not expect (and quite frankly, was less than pleased about) was how many people felt the need to use the sides of the trail as their personal bathroom. Oh, don’t get me wrong, nature calls to me while I am out hiking too, and I also must answer its call. But I know how to bury my poop, a skill that does not seem readily available on the trails here about.

Yeah, I was a little disgusted by it, okay maybe more than a little.

Needless to say I was not having the hiking day of my life and we decided to head back to the car sooner than later. It did start to rain on us a little as we headed back, making me glad that we cut our excursion short. Plus I was really, really, hungry (this is a problem I will take great pains to fix in the future, honestly, don’t know what I was thinking.)

We made it home much quicker than we made it up there. So with a quick pb&j then some emergency pizza to follow we kicked back and watched My Cousin Vinny. It is possible that I should have made it a movie marathon day instead of a try to find a hiking trail day but without the less than exciting adventure how can you really love the great ones?

Until next week

Ciao miei Amici

Scotland Part 3, seriously, I’m done this time.

Ciao Ancora!

I am hoping to finish up our trip today, I know it’s been a couple of long posts but I wanted to be able to tell you about our adventures and my feelings about them. But we have a new adventure coming up this weekend so I need to get us out of Scotland and back home to Italy before that happens.

I left us in Eyemouth, eating breakfast, and contemplating our route. In the spirit of full confession I will tell you that it was in Eyemouth we began thinking that maybe we weren’t going to make it the entire distance. We were both exhausted and really sore. I mean REALLY sore!

It is an interesting thing about taking on activities like long distance hiking or bike touring or any other more extreme form of outdoor activity. You really need a good length of time doing them to adjust your body. I had spent the two weeks before we left walking around with increasingly heavier weight in my pack. I did household chores with my pack on. I exercised, lifted weights, did cardio and still my body was not prepared. I believe you need to be gone for a week to 10 days (or longer) for an experience that is truly enjoyed. Not because having a vacation that long is great (though it is) but it takes 5 to 7 days of the constant same activity before your body doesn’t hate you every step of the way. Will and I were hiking with fully loaded packs just long enough for our bodies to detest us but not long enough to start to make them happy again. 3 full days of hiking just made our bodies rebel! If we could have taken Sunday off as an easy day, gotten a hotel and taken a shower or found another beach where we were isolated and could have just moved around without our bags and relaxed all day we would have been better off. However, when your vacation days are limited and you are hedged in on both sides by an airline timetable you make the best decisions you can for your happiness and health. (Plus our bodies are not as young as our brains think they are).

In Eyemouth we made the decision to call the Bed & Breakfast and see if they had a room for a night earlier.

They did not. So we decided to keep going.

Eyemouth (pronounced Heymooth) is a small harbor town, with a boardwalk area that has different places to get ice cream, an arcade, and several pubs. It is also host to a large golf course. Now since it is a harbor town and we had to descend to get into it… yep, that’s right, we had to climb back out of it. We ascended some stairs, (with pretty purple flowers, called alliums) went past the golf club house, between the 5th and 10th hole and then kept trudging up. After about an hour of walking up hill, by which time we still hadn’t finished passing all of the golf course we realized we weren’t talking to each other anymore. We weren’t fighting or anything, we were just too tired to talk. In fact the best we could do was try not to fall over, we were back on the cliff side and the higher we climbed the farther the drop. We were like drunk weeble-wobbles (you know, the weeble and they wobble but they won’t fall down) but we actually had to worry about falling down.

We finally made it to a pasture enclosure and had to go over a stile (stiles are another way to allow passage through a pasture, like a kissing gate, without harming the fence line. Each side has at least one step up, sometimes several steps, then you step over the top of the fence and steps back down). I almost didn’t make it over and when we got to the other side Will knew I was done. He called around Berwick Upon Tweed and found us a place to stay for the night. All we had to do was make it to Burnmouth and there would be a bus stop that would take us the rest of the way to the guest house. I kept going knowing a destination was in sight, or at least over the next couple of hills.

The bus took us into the main train station of Berwick where we would catch the train back to Edinburgh Tuesday and we got a taxi to our guesthouse. Eastwatch guesthouse was right on the beach and our host, Patrick, was wonderfully kind and accommodating, he even did a load of laundry for us!! After showers and a little down time we walked back into Berwick and had birthday dinner at The Magna Tandoori, excellent food and it wasn’t re-hydrated (at least as far as I know). The next day we poked around Berwick upon Tweed, walking the fortified walls and having some coffee and pastries at Lowry’s at the Chandlery. After a walk out to the lighthouse we decided to have some real food at the Foxton’s Restaurant. Will was craving some fish and chips so that’s what he had. I don’t like fish, no, really, not really, not at all. So, I did not have fish and chips. But the beer was tasty!

After eating we headed to our new B&B, The Rob Roy Inn, to check in for our second night and took a nap.

I think we ended up in the Wookie room; we had weird fuzzy brown pillows and a fuzzy brown throw on our bed. I am not sure if there were any Wookies actually harmed in the making of the pillows, honestly, I just didn’t want to ask.

After a nap we went back to walk on the beach, it was a little foggy and it felt like we had the whole beach to ourselves. We walked and picked up sea glass for close to three hours, deciding to not go out for dinner (though I did have more re-hydrated food), we repacked our gear and relaxed for our last night in the UK. (A quick geography lesson, Berwick Upon Tweed is the first town on the England side of the Scotland/England border. Burnmouth being the last Scottish town when following the Coastal trail. Technically we spent the last two days of our trip in England.)

The next morning after a huge rack of toast, eggs, bacon and coffee we headed back to the train station and caught a train back to Edinburgh.

Now, Edinburgh is a town that deserves some decent exploration but we had our packs and half a day. So we walked up to the castle (FYI, we are really pathetic, there are several roads that will get you to the castle, Will and I, in our never ending wisdom, did not observe this fact until we had walked the steepest hill up to the castle and then looked around to realize we could have come up at least two other ways!) In front of the castle we were told that we couldn’t go in because our bags were too big and there was no place to store them because… you guessed it, our bags were too big. Knowing we couldn’t go into the castle or any museums we changed our plan of action.

Back to The Boozy Cow for another great burger!!!

On the way I picked up a Loch Ness stuffed animal for our grandson that Will promptly named Herbert. Don’t ask me, I have no idea why he would want to call the Loch Ness monster Herbert. Then to the burger joint. They decor is spray painted and heavy on rock band like atmosphere. The music is loud and from the eighties and nineties. The beer is tasty and the burgers are divine. It is super duper hard to get a good burger in Italy. We had a place we liked up in Heidelberg Germany called The Laughing Cow but so far no such luck in the Vicenza area.

Satiated with good food we called the trip a success, found a taxi stand and caught a cab back to the airport. (We did not see Jk Rowling’s house on the way back).

One last snafu with our travels when they delayed our initial flight three hours but the airline company recovered put us on another flight and got us back in Italy by 23:00 hours!

Exhausted, sore, and ready for our own beds we made our way back to our house. Now we are recovered and ready for another adventure 2 ½ days and counting until we head back towards Lake Garda, for a visit with some friends, the village of Affi and a Renaissance Fest!!

Until next week,

Ciao miei Amici

 

Scotland Part 2

Ciao di Nuovo,

This technically means “Hello of New”, the Italians don’t actually say this much but they might say “Ciao Ancora” which means “Hello Again”. I think I like them both so I will have to start using them more often. So, Ciao Ancora, here I am again to tell you the next stages of our adventure.

When I left you yesterday Will and I had just finished our lunch and had set out again towards St. Abbs. We were starting to get sore but our spirits were high. The fog was rolling in and then receding allowing us glimpses of spectacular cliffs and the North Sea crashing onto the rocks below. Honestly, I am pretty sure that the fog played into our favor, WIll is apprehensive of heights but the fog gave the illusion that the fall wasn’t that dangerous. Realistically we were a couple of poorly placed steps away from death by falling 500 feet (150 m) and being smashed onto the rocks by the added weight of our packs, unless, we were lucky enough to have a heart attack on the way down.

I wisely, did not mention these possibilities to Will while we were hiking. Regardless of the threat to our left Will decided that this was the time to tell me he loved tacos more than me. Yep, we are on a coastal path 500 feet (150 m) above a saltwater, rocky demise and my adventure partner tells me he would trade my life for a crunchy corn shell filled with seasoned ground meat, shredded cheese, lettuce, and taco sauce. I turned to look at him and he just laughed at me, so here we are several miles from St. Abbs and I have been usurped by a taco. Like that’s not heartbreaking, I mean tacos are good and all and I suppose if you eat them from a questionable venue then they will keep you warm at night but can you really have a scintillating conversation with a taco? And when you finish eating it’s gone forever, but my sarcastic wit and snappy humor (along with temper tantrums from lack of coffee) lasts a lifetime. I contemplated throwing him off a cliff for roughly two miles. Then as we approached the St. Abbs lighthouse he told me he had reconsidered the situation and if he had to choose between me and a taco he would let the taco plummet to its crunchy death. I was somewhat mollified.

Taco’s aside, you know what’s worse then trudging uphill when your legs are sore?

Stairs! Stairs are the worst.

We climbed them to get up to the promontory of St. Abbs lighthouse. The St. Abbs lighthouse is one of 200 along the Scottish wild coastline to help provide safe passage for ships in the area. It has provided light to the coastline since 1862 and its precarious position on a rocky ledge jutting over the seas reminds us of the dangers to be had traversing the coastline of the North Seas.

I couldn’t resist looking over the edge to see the drop and angular rocks below. Will waited for me on the path and I tell you truthfully that would have been the place I would have tossed his taco!

However, not having any tacos and loving my husband enough to not torture him with the death of a taco we walked on.

We both felt excited about the fact that St. Abbs was “within our sights”. Now, according to Google Maps St. Abbs is a quick 40 min walk… Google Maps does not follow the Coastal Path, in fact, Google Maps is just mean! A couple of hours later after many uphills, more stairs, downhills, and a walk through the St. Abbs Nature Reserve (which was beautiful and full of humanity as several people took advantage of the nice weather to walk through the Nature Reserve) we arrived above St. Abbs. It had been a beautiful day with stunning scenery but both of us were glad to make it to a town. More stairs, and yes down is as hard as up when your legs are jello, but we made it from the cliffs down all the stairs and began to look for a cafe to get some coffee and food.

When you walk into an unknown village or town there is a strange expectation that a cafe is just going to appear but often when your transportation is your own feet food establishments are not as apparent. They tend to cater to other forms of transportation. Another thing to consider is that many restaurants in Europe keep their hours “differently” than American hours. In America we are used to being able to get anything we want 24/7 in Europe they have restaurants close between lunch and dinner, or maybe they don’t serve dinner and are only open until 2 or 3. Maybe they don’t open until 11 in the morning. No matter what it is you have to be very aware of opening and closing times. When you are on the trail opening, closing and proximity must all join together to form a perfect union.

Most everything was closed or not near (4 miles is a long way to go for food when you are on foot and would have to walk those 4 miles back to get back on your route) but we found the EbbsCarr cafe. We walked up and the server told us we have stopped serving food because we close in less than an hour. I think she could see the abject defeated desperation on our faces because the next words out of her mouth were, if you chose quickly I will fill your food order. It was like being given a magnificent present. We ordered soup, rolls, coffee, and sweet bars.

A quick aside about the weather. It had rained lightly the previous evening and yes we had rolling fog but all in all the weather for our stay in Scotland was wonderful! Mostly sunny and very little rain. Many people expressed how lucky we were with the weather. The downside was that Scotland is significantly cooler than were we live in Italy. If we weren’t hiking I was cold. Hence, the soup and coffee was divine!

After profuse thanks to the ladies at EbbsCarr Cafe we set off again crossing the beaches at Coldingham Bay and then climbing back out of the St. Abbs area. It was now after 5, we were tired and thinking that we needed a to find a camp spot. But there was no camping near Coldingham Bay so up and down into the next bay. It didn’t have a great place for camping and so we forced ourselves on. The next bay we came to was called Linkim Shore. There was not much sand but there was a shelf of grasslands before ferns took over. It was here that we camped. In my mind it was more beguiling than our first camp spot. The rocky shores made it an unlikely place for most tourists but the raw beauty appealed to me. I broke down and collected two shells to carry with me. I had been adamant about not adding extra weight but sometimes you give in. We set up camp and enjoyed the evening, finally crawling into our sleeping bags.

Did I mention that our legs were sore? Yeah, well it was during the night that I realized I couldn’t lift my left leg without help (you know pulling up on my pants to lift my leg up and set it where I wanted it, my legs were toast). I was also cold, much colder than I had been the night before. With my thermals on and all the blankets covering me I finally dozed, then high tide came in. We weren’t that far away from the high waterline to start with but far enough that we weren’t worried about getting wet… we hadn’t counted on the sound of hightide against our rocky shore. It sounded like the water was going to crash over us at any second.

We talked about it the next morning and strangely neither one of us had looked outside of the tent during the night not wanting to confront the idea that the water was closer than we had expected. A look at the beach area in the morning showed that hightide hadn’t come anywhere near us. It was just noisy.

We relaxed as we rehydrated breakfast and then packed camp, moving much slower than the previous day. Our legs protested and I needed Will’s help to get my pack on, I was definitely exhausted.

We climbed our way out of the Linkim Shore bay and started towards Eyemouth. It wasn’t all that far and we came around the corner to encounter a circus that had been set up and active during the weekend (it was Sunday so it would probably be running again later on). With the fog it looked like every haunted Stephen King book I had ever tried to imagine. I wouldn’t have been surprised if something was silently watching our progress as we skirted the carnival and headed back onto the path. Another hour or so brought us around to a walkout section towards the Eyemouth Fort. Not much there but a couple of cannons but we did our obligatory walk around and then continued on into town.

All the gods be praised we found a bakery/dinner that was serving breakfast!! We sat down to eggs, bacon, and toast with coffee.

And here I am leaving you again, I am always leaving you on a full belly so that is good. Apparently, I have more to say about this trip than I thought so I guess we will have at least a Part 3.

Just picture us relaxing with a cup of coffee in a small fishing harbor town and I will get back to you soon!

Until then,

Ciao miei Amici

We’re Alive!!

Ciao Amici!

I just wanted to let everyone know we survived. We landed back in Italy at 23:00 on Tuesday evening. The trip was a tiring and wonderful experience which I look forward to sharing with everyone. However, despite my best intentions between the exhaustion and a dentist appointment today I will not be blogging until next week. 

What??? A whole week without me rambling, how will you ever survive? Hey if I can manage to not push Will off a cliff when he declared he loves tacos more than me then we will all survive another couple of days without my jibber jabber! (He actually said he would save the taco if we were both on a cliff edge. In fairness, he recanted this remark after another two miles)

Until next week,

Ciao Amici.

Lake Garda and Castles

Ciao Amici,

I have to start this week by giving a shout out to my husband, Will, he is awesome. For all the usual reasons, of course, but today for the fact that he never smothers my spark for adventure. I say things to him like, “Hey I was perusing Pinterest and saw this castle up on Lake Garda…

 

He usually responds with, “Okay, let’s go!”

He is the Adventure Partner extraordinaire!

He frequently forgets to ask me important questions, like how far away or what are we going to do there, or any other multitude of questions that could arise when one’s spouse decides she wants to make impromptu trips every weekend or so. Now, admittedly, not all of my “great” ideas pan out, like the time I wanted to go to Parma and the temperature was less that freezing. (FYI, we had lunch, went to the Museo Lombardi [Marie Louise and Napoleon] and came home; we spent more time in the car then in Parma). However, sometimes I choose a jewel of a day and it is decided while we are there that it shall be one of our favorites.

This was how we felt about the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine and specifically about Lake Garda. It was a beautiful day, warm, maybe a little too warm; but the drive was spectacular and the lake itself was breathtaking.

I had no idea what we were getting into, I just knew I wanted to go and when we dropped down into the valley that holds Lake Garda I knew I had been correct. The lake has sailing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, paragliding, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, the list goes on. The perimeter of the lake has many towns to visit, shop, sightsee, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, mountain climbing, and on. Basically, if you like the outdoors, whether you are a sedentary person or not Lake Garda has you covered. As soon as it gets warm Italians, like Americans, feel this crazy need to take off as many clothes as possible and bake themselves crispy and the lake has these jutting rock, cement, and gravelly sand piers that one to five people take over, they set up camp and begin the baking process stopping only when they are lobster red. (I have always thought this idle afternoon purposeless and boring not to mention harmful to my skin and health; to each their own). But I digress…

We parked and walked down the hill (plenty of hills, prepare to get your calves in shape) to Malcesine. They were having some sort of local market but we were mesmerized by the water and went towards it. We quickly found out that not all streets lead to an accessible waters edge. We could get to water but…it was also a ferry stop so we really couldn’t get to the water, also remember this area is not ‘sandy’ so we ended up on the ferry pier with rocks and buildings on either side. Not quite what we were looking for.

Heading back up the hill we spotted a bench and decided to stop for lunch. Now, we have made a joint decision to start packing a lunch with us when we go out for a couple of reasons, first eating out all the time is expensive, so if we pack a lunch it leaves more money for gelato, beer, and wine. Secondly, in direct opposition to the second half of my first statement you can’t lose any weight or even stay the same weight eating good italian food all the time* (No, I have no idea how Italians stay so skinny). As I am trying to lower my weight to a healthy hiking level I can’t eat cheese pasta and pizza everytime we go out, thirdly if I want to keep having adventures, drinking beer and eating gelato I need to be a little frugal. (I know these statements don’t all seem to go together but they really do, I swear!)

After sandwiches and apples we decided it was time to visit the castle. Scaliger Castle was everything I had been missing in castles since we moved to Italy. Ramparts, walkways, winding stairs, hidden areas and a big tower to climb. Though there is no date for its exact origin the year 1131 carved into a fourth floor vault lets historians know the first years of restoration. Making it clear that it has stood for close to, if not far over, a thousand years. The area itself has many geographically defensible and profitable characteristics and the area has likely been used since prehistoric times. So, the castle, or a settlement of stronghold nature has likely been there for a long, long time.

From the walls sweeping views of the lake, town, and mountains are visible and there is no where to look that isn’t beautiful.

                      

We walked through the castle and visited the natural history museum giving a visitor information on local flora and fauna. From here we decided to find the path we saw from the ramparts which curved its way along the lakes edge.

We headed back down the hill with accurate remarks about having to trudge back up the hill on our way back, but the walk was worth it.

It was during this walk that we decided that this might be one of our new favorites and made tentative plans to come back and hike, bike, paddle board, maybe even kitesurf, who knows. Most likely none of this until after the Scotland trip, which will be upon us in a scant 29 days, Yikes! (so not physically ready for this!!)

We walked back up the hill in search of gelato but decided to stop for a refreshing drink first and I found a new love. A local craft beer by Manerba Brewery, refreshing, light, a perfect summer beer!

After relaxing with our drinks we did eventually find gelato. I second guessed myself and instead of going back to a place I had sussed out earlier I bowed to pressure of a line and went to a place that had a steady stream of customer. Though it was tasty it was as fake as fake gealto can be. Artificial flavors and colors with bright green pistachio and jolly rancher flavored watermelon. Oh well, live and learn, always go with the first gelato instincts. After the gelato we headed back up the hill to our car, (lots of hills in Italy) a perfectly wonderful day by the lake and plans to return. What a gem of a find!!

Until next week,

Ciao Miei Amici

* I tell everyone who is going to visit they should lose 5-10 pounds prior to coming, they will definitely be putting it back on.