Every year, since I can remember, my family has assembled together at Meemaw’s house to celebrate Christmas Eve. The evening is always filled with an abundance of booze, foods, gifts, and of course love. There is a certain comfort and warmth about spending the evening with my whole family at Meemaw’s house. Yes, every year, even if it is 70 degrees outside, we have a wood burning fire, but that is not exactly the warmth to which I am referring. It is warmth that can only be felt when we are all in the same place. As time goes on it has becomes harder and harder to get everyone together. So for or me the holidays are always an exciting time of year. We all get together, catch up on our lives, and are reminded once again of the love that bonds our family, and also the reason that we tend to only gather once a year.
I moved to France in October knowing I would not make in back for the holidays, but it didn’t make things easier as the end of December crept up on me. This was the first Christmas spent away from home, away from family. So instead of moping alone in the house with the cats and a bottle of vino, I decided to be proactive and get out of town for the week.
Living on the coast of southern France makes traveling quite simple. The train runs all along the coast passing through Toulon and Marseille to the west and Antibes, Nice, Monaco, and then into Italy through the east. I decided to head east venturing into a country I have never been, Italia. After all spending Christmas in the land of pizza, coffee, and wine wasn’t such a bad plan. Due to my lack of ahead of time planning I chose a city nearby, San Remo. It is only about a two-hour train ride from Cannes, and was recommended to me by local friends.
view from my hotel, San Remo Italy
To a lot of people that live in France Italy is known for cheap shopping, freshly made pasta, and excellent quality coffee. San Remo is a popular destination for French natives because of the ideal location. The city it not large but certainly big enough for a two day adventure. Notable characteristics of San Remo include the immense Casio built in 1905, its production of extra virgin olive oil, and the San Remo Music Festival. The beautiful city is also known as the “city of flowers”, but considering I visited during the winter I didn’t see many of those blooming.
San Remo Casino
My only plans for San Remo included:
drink lots of coffee and wine
visit the famous open air market
wander around the city hopefully stumbling upon something memorable
As a got off the train my first impression went something like this, “wow Italy is mesmerizing.” It felt as if everything was moving so fast but so slow and graceful at the same time. It had the hustle and bustle of a French city yet everything was so calm and smooth. I guess it is one of those you need to be there to understand what I am saying kind of things.
The forecast wasn’t so hopeful the weather was quite dreary with rain on and off all day…but I didn’t let that stop my exploring. So I grabbed my rain gear and set off.
First stop a busy little coffee shop for some breakfast. I sat down barely able to contain my excitement as I ordered my first Italian cappuccino. I also decided to order a croissant to soak up all the caffeine I was about to ingest.
my first ever Italian cappuccino
Finally minutes later there in front of me sat a beautifully crafted Italian cappuccino, something I could even say I had been waiting my whole life for (okay maybe not my whole life but certainly for sometime now). The cappuccino was everything I imagined. The first sip was perfection. Not too hot not too cold, just strong enough to taste the espresso but not too bitter, and topped with just the right amount of a lovely cloud like layer of foam. What did I feel in that moment? Pure happiness. The more I drank I noticed below the layer of foam there was a little heart on the inside of the mug. It was adorable and made the cappuccino that much more enjoyable. I thought, ah it really is the little things in life.
made with love
After that wonderful start to my morning I set off in direction of the popular open-air market, which goes up every Tuesday and Saturday. When I finally stumbled upon the market I was overwhelmed by all the different goods. It kind of reminded me of flea markets in the States, but bigger and better when it comes to quality and variety. You can literally buy everything at this market, from food, to shoes, to toys, and even underwear. The market got hectic at times with all kinds of people shouting Italian phrases in different directions. I didn’t really have anything in mind to buy, but I ended up leaving with a few things: including two hats, two necklaces, and some fresh fruit.
an elephant necklace I bought
After the market I kept walking and ended up at the sea. I glanced at the waves trying to figure out what it is about Italy that had me so excited. I wasn’t sure what sets Italy apart from the rest of the places I have visited. Well that was until I had pizza for dinner…
I actually had pizza for lunch and dinner that day. For those of you who know me that may come as a shocker, considering I hardly ever eat pizza. I know a lot of people are kind of obsessed with it, but honestly I think the only few times I have actually craved pizza was on a day I was really hungover. Other than that, if I have a choice on what I want to eat pizza and pasta are usually last. Let me just say, if you have a bucket list add eat pizza in Italy to it!
San Remo coast
The rest of the day I wandered around the city with no real plan. It is one of my favorite parts of traveling and I always say you get to know a city best after you when lost in it, literally. Since walking by the water helps me clear my head I headed back south for the beach. It was an overcast day and the beaches in San Remo didn’t seem as beautiful as the ones in southern France, but it was still so calming to hear the waves crashing against the shore. I had stopped for a few minutes to take in the amazing view when the next thing I knew I was giggling out loud. I quit reminiscing about my past and worrying about my future and just allowed myself to soak in my surroundings. I completely immersed myself in the present. I realized I am doing exactly what I want to do, travel and write. I am getting to do the two things I love most in this world.
I am one lucky girl, but I have been spending too much time lately feeling nostalgic thinking what I should have done and what I could do next. So one of my New Year’s resolutions in to live more in the moment, yes cliché I know, but it is the truth.
I left magical Italy a little early due to hurricane like weather the next day, and headed to a few hours north in France for some skiing with the family. I got to ski two days on fresh powder in the French Alps and it was incredible. I had never seen that much snow in my life. The first night there was a crazy snowstorm and we ended up getting over a meter of snow. Coming back from dinner that first night I was walking along the what I thought was the snow path when suddenly I was waist deep in snow (this is not an exaggeration)! I yelped out in shock and it took us almost five minutes to get me out because we were laughing so hard. At least now I can say my uggs have officially met the snow. Here are some pictures from my ski adventures in Isola 2000, the ski resort where we stayed.
Day 1 snowstorm
so much snow I could barely see
Day 2 was beautiful
All in all my first Christmas spent away from home was lovely. I returned to Cannes feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready to take on 2014. But still I think next year I will try to make it home for the holidays 🙂