Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our 1st Valentine's Mr. and Mrs. :)

My husband amazes me more and more with each passing moment we have in our lives. Especially when it comes to holidays and special occasions. He never lets me down, and always outdoes himself. Always.
So, when Valentine's Day rolled around for this year (also to be our 1st Valentine's Day as husband and wife) nothing less was to be expected.
I guess it all actually began at the beginning of the week as he spent any waking moment away from me (and sometimes in bed as I lay beside him fast asleep he would take care of business on the internet) sneaking around, planning our Valentine's Day weekend together.
All of his hard work definitely paid off.

Before the evening got started, and me, clueless to all his sneakyness!!

On Friday of Valentine's Day weekend, there was a wine tasting here at the Villa (yeah, you can imagine how exciting that was for those that don't actually drink wine....we had a lot of fun drinking our water and eating all the cheeses and breads and meats and desserts instead ;) hehe!!) and the whole group was required to meet down in the dining area at 7 PM. A lady (who has a specific title because she does wine tasting classes as a career; I don't remember it) had come to do an hour lesson on 4 different kinds of wine and the specific foods that you drink them with. I will say that for her, it was more of truly knowing what to drink soley for the purpose of making the food taste better, whereas to a lot of the students, it was free alcohol.

Anywho, so we sit through the lady's presentation -drinking our water and eating our goodies throughout- when she finishes up and we get to have some time to just sit around and relax.
Well, out of NOWHERE, Derrick says to me, "Lindsey, can you come with me for a second?" I hop up and think nothing of it, and proceed to follow him to where I am thinking is just into the kitchen area. Instead, he goes up ALL 3 flights of stairs in the Villa, and when we get to the 3rd floor, I am definitely thinking, "OK. Something's up...this is fishy." Mainly because Derrick kind of stutters all of the place, not really talking about anything!! After about 2 minutes passes, he tells me that we can go back downstairs now, he just needed to talk. Sneaky, sneaky boys.

Coming down the last flight of stairs, as I round the corner from the coffee area into the dining area, I see some GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS flowers sitting at the very end of the table at my seat, and my husband looking at me grinning from ear to ear. That boy. He had asked Derrick to preoccupy me for only a few minutes (and I later found out that he told him to just take me into the kitchen area, that we didn't have to go ALL the way upstairs, ha!!) and already having all of my presents on hand, he had sat them at my seat while I was being "distracted."


I think he also decided to give them to me on Friday night (the night before Valentine's) so that he could show off in front of all of his classmates. ;) He DEFINITELY had something to be proud of!!!
**My Valentine's Day surprise, I later found out, was supposed to be given to me before the wine tasting began, but alas, I was late (the last one) to come down. HA!! No surprise there!! ;)**

Not only did I have a vase of peach and white GERBER DAISES (only my most FAVORITE flower of all time), but there was also a candy dish of chocolates, a wrapped gift of 2 chocolate pastries for us to share in the morning before we left and used our 2 train tickets (also part of my gift that included a sweet message on the outer train envelope and a detailed, printed picture of where we were going inside the envelope) to go to........................................

These areas are beaches on the Italian Riveria and are only about a 40 minute train ride from Genoa. A lot of Hollywood celebrities go to Portofino to vacation throughout the year as well.

There were a couple of "stipulations" to my Valentine's Day getaway weekend:
1) Our train would NOT be leaving at the crack of dawn, 6 AM (like all OTHER trips we had taken this semster), it would be leaving at 10 AM.
2)There was to be NO architecture on this trip (like all OTHER trips we had taken this semester), just relaxing and beach time.

Needless to say, I was okay with these. ;)

So we slept in on Valentine's Day, got up and packed very lightly, then headed for the train station. We had a quick, very nice ride, and when we arrived to St. Margherita, I could not believe my eyes. This was my view the minute I was out of the station:

So yeah, my husband is THE man.

We took some time to just take it all in, and although our walk from the train station to the FABULOUS hotel that my amazing husband made reservations at was only about 5 minutes, we spent about 30 minutes with our packs still on just walking along the beach, staring at what can only be described as one of the most beautiful paintings God has ever created.
We finally crossed the street from the beach to the front desk of our hotel -yes, we were practically ON the beach- and got our room key. I'm convinced that
Jonathan was trying to recreate our honeymoon because our room was just as amazing as the one in the Dominican, possibly even better. We had a corner suite room, so we had 3 separate views of the beach and the city of St. Margherita. It was gorgeous.

Our hotel, from the water.

Yeah. I'm going to brag on Jonny. A LOT. Because, well, he deserves it.

So, we got settled, and took some time to kind of get an idea of what we wanted to do. My precious husband said that we could do whatever we wanted to. Which, although we go on TONS of amazing travels here with the Clemson program, we're pretty much always adhering to some type of pre-planned itenirary. So being able to just go with the flow was very nice.
Having arrived early Saturday morning, we were going to be staying 2 nights and leaving around lunchtime on Monday. So I was told that we could spend one day in St. Margherita, and another day in Portofino. I could choose either day for either one, because Portofino was just a 15 minute bus ride from St. Margherita.
So I chose to do St. Margherita on the day we arrived and Portofino on Sunday.
We took some advice from our good friend Rick Steves (we call on him a good bit from time to time) and scoped out what restaurant we wanted to have lunch at. We did some walking around the marina, then we had lunch at Trattoria Baicin. It was probably my favorite meal I have had in Europe yet!! We ordered shrimp scampi for our 2nd plate, but it was definitely not shirmp was BETTER!!

Look at how BIG!!!

Ohhhh yummmmmy!! So good. OK, moving along. :)

After lunch we walked some more around St. Margherita and had some YUMMY gelato at another Rick Steves recommendation. This particular gelateria was known for its "penguini," which is basically just ice cream dipped in chocolate. It was delicious!! We walked some more to settle the ice cream before heading back to the room to take an afternoon catnap. St. Margherita is actually a great town because it's very small and quaint. Everyone is so friendly and there are lots of little shops and boutiques to walk through, so all of the walking around was relaxing. That night we had a delicious dinner at our hotel's restaurant. It was very nice and our waitress was actually the owner, and was British. We had a lot of fun talking with her and spent about 3 hours on our Valentine's Dinner. It was perfect. :)

Me and my "penguini!!"

The next day, we DEFINITELY slept in and took our time getting ready for the day. We headed out around 11 AM and strolled behind our hotel in the flea market. It was AWESOME!! There were so many antiques and had it not been so hard to bring them back to the states with us, we probably would have gotten a few things for a special sister of ours that LOVES antiques ( would have DIED!!). I did get a matching earring and bracelet set from my hunny for Valentine's Day. So pretty. 
Anywho, after browsing in the market, we then took the 15 minute bus ride to Portofino. I had always thought that Portofino was huge because it is the most popular town on the Italian Riveria. This was not the case at all. It was even smaller than St. Margherita!! It was crazy!! And being that it was Sunday and off-season, a good bit of restaurants were closed. We were actually told by the administrative assistant of the program here in Genoa, to not eat in Portofino if we could help it. You see, Portofino is a LOT of old and new money. It's rich people and they're not afraid to show it. Everyone there is actually very snooty and the restaurants are OUTRAGEOUSLY priced. Well, as it should turn out, we didn't listen very well.
The restaurants all overlooked the water and sat about 10 feet from it, outside. The weather couldn't have been more perfect all weekend, but on this particular day, it was truly amazing. The sun was shining, and I guess we couldn't pass up sitting and just taking it all in for the afternoon. So we chose one that looked eclectic, and it was extremely busy. No big deal. Well. I think they tend to be a bit "rude" (as far as service goes) when Americans come, because our entire process was 3 hours long!! It wasn't until an hour in the lunch before we were given a menu and asked what we wanted to order. But we didn't care one bit. We almost didn't even notice because the view was so amazing we just sat and talked and enjoyed the opportunity to finally spend some alone time together. The waitress wasn't rude, she just took forever to process everything. The meal was delicious, but defintiely not worth what we paid. Rick Steves and our administrator were right. Portofino is VERY expensive. But we had a GREAT time. Our 3 hour lunch in Portofino was my favorite experience in Europe so far. :)


After lunch, we headed back to St. Margherita and took another amazing afternoon catnap. A bit later, we headed back out and did some window shopping. Jonathan did manage to finally find some Italian shoes. He's been looking since we've come to Italy, and the ones he found were actually the cheapest we've seen yet. Ah...we love St. Margherita!! 

We had dinner that night at a local, family owned restaurant (Rick Steves recommended), and they were SO nice!!! The food was great and our waiter/owner treated us like we had been best friends forever. It was awesome. 

One last morning to sleep in and relax away from architecture, and we were up showering and packing Monday morning to head back to Genoa. We hit the train about 11:30 AM and got back just in time for lunch. We did manage to both touch the Mediterranean for the first time together. :)

The Mediterranean.

We had an amazing time and it was so good to get away. I know that sounds crazy considering our given situation, but don't forget: we live with 18 other people in one villa and are rarely in a room alone. The alone time was perfect and we were reminded to always be thankful for the little things that God has so graciously given us.

I have been blessed to be able to call Jonathan my husband and I'm convinced NO 1st Valentine's Day as husband and wife has been more thoughtfully planned and taken into consideration. Ever. St. Margherita will forever hold a special place in our hearts!!! :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Special Day

February 12th. Today is a great day.
There are 2 very special reasons why.

The first is that it is the wedding anniversary of 2 of the most incredible people on the face of the planet, my daddy and mama. They have been married 32 years today. That's a very long time, but you wouldn't be able to tell it by looking at them. They look amazing for their age. 

They have not only been a blessing as parents to my sister and me, but an incredible example to me and my husband of what a real marriage should look like. One that is grounded in the Lord, and built upon faith and love. We constantly go to them for advice, and always look to them as examples of how to conduct our own home. 

They have done more than enough for us and we could never repay them. 

The 2nd reason that today is a great day is because it is the birthday of my grandma Faye who passed away 7 months and 2 weeks ago yesterday. I still have a really hard time even talking about this without crying, so I just wanted to say Happy Birthday and I think about her at least once a day. At least.  
But, today is an extra special birthday for her. Because on this birthday, she's rejoicing in Heaven with our King. 

Happy Anniversary and Happy Birthday!!!!!! :) :) 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We're Back!!

We arrived back from our 1st 10 day trip Sunday evening, February 8th around 11 PM. Since then, I have been recovering!!! It was the most amazing trip I have been on thus far, and can't wait to tell you all about it and share some photos.

(I only took about 1500 total, HA!!) 

I just wanted to let you know that we made it back safely because at the moment, I don't have the time (or honestly the energy) to post about our travels. 

But, I will be in touch sooner than later. Until then ciao!!!! :)