Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Italy, Slovenia, Croatia

Since I needed to make a March trip to Leuven, Belgium and Verona, Italy for work, Chris decided to join me with Fiona in Italy after which point we would vacation in Slovenia and Croatia. The work portion of the trip to Leuven for me went well, although I was too busy to tour the old town. I stayed at a converted beguinage, a housing complex for unmarried woman, that dates back to the 13th century. I wish I had taken more pictures because the grounds were immaculately landscaped.

The only picture I took of the grounds in Leuven

After Belgium, I joined Chris and Fiona in Venice for the weekend since I didn't need to be in Verona until early the next week. Chris courageously flew internationally with Fiona by himself but at least had an overnight flight, allowing Fiona to sleep part of the way. Chris and I visited Venice on our honeymoon almost ten years ago, and while the city in March with a toddler didn't hold quite the allure of a romantic trip in August, we still very much enjoyed strolling the city without agenda. We boarded public water transportation to and from the airport and stayed at a hotel near San Marco. Fiona adjusted the easiest of all three of us to the time change. 

View from Rialto Bridge
 Smaller canal
San Marco


We rented a Fiat 500 in Venice and drove about an hour-and-a-half to Verona where we stayed at a hotel in the center of the old town. Beautiful bridges, churches and marble streets in the pedestrian areas cover Verona, and the city is known as the setting of Romeo and Juliet. The story is, of course, fiction; however, Shakespeare supposedly loosely based it on fact (not the suicide, just children of rival families falling in love). Verona also boasts a large, Roman arena. While I worked, Chris and Fiona toured the city via hop on/hop off bus tour, and before we left for our next stop, all three of us had a chance to walk around and also drive to a nearby winery.


After Verona we drove about three hours to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Chris and I both agree that the drive to and two days we spent in the city were our favorite of the trip. Ljubljana was ruled by the Hapsburgs for centuries and bears the imprint in its architecture. In addition, people were incredibly friendly, including the staff at our apartment style hotel (a huge plus in that we could make Fiona a few simple meals such as eggs or oatmeal). We tagged on a free walking tour one morning and also rode the funicular to the castle overlook. Chris was extremely impressed by the quality of wine in Slovenia, more so than in Verona or Croatia. Being pregnant, I couldn't indulge, but we brought a couple bottles back to enjoy later.


From Slovenia, we drove to Croatia. Croatia joined the EU in July 2013, and we were surprised to pass through customs at the border. We stayed two nights in Rovinj, a picturesque town on the Adriatic Sea. It's still low season in Rovinj, and we keenly felt its sleepiness in its shuttered stores, quiet streets and fettered boats. To pass the time, we slowed our pace. We snapped lots of pictures. We walked a lot with Fiona, who can only take so much time in the stroller. We crouched by the water with Fiona and let her throw rocks in the water for long periods. She loves the water so much that she has no sense of its danger. For example in Venice, she would have sauntered right off the piers if we hadn't stopped her. The second day, we drove a half hour south to the more functional town of Pula to see another Roman arena. We were partly inspired to visit Croatia by an Anthony Bourdain show that highlighted the wine, truffles and seafood in the country. Our experiences didn't exactly match the hype, but I would guess high season would usher in a different viewpoint when the towns and restaurants spring to life.

Day trip to Pula

The below picture feels like a summary of Pula: old ruins inked by graffiti.

Back in Rovinj

We booked an early flight from Venice Monday morning so drove from Croatia to Venice Sunday to return the car. We broke up the drive by stopping for lunch in Trieste, Italy, and managed to hit our only rainstorm of the trip. We ducked into a little restaurant and enjoyed our final pasta meal of the trip.

The flight back through Paris was a bit of a beast. A nine hour daytime flight with a 20 month old is not the most pleasant experience, but we made it. I'm so thankful we could do this trip and spend time together as a family. I've traveled pregnant and traveled with Fiona but never both at the same time (internationally). I couldn't cover ground quickly, and Chris literally did all the heavy lifting throughout the trip without a single complaint. However, Fiona traveled even better than I expected. We bought a couple new toys for her, including a new nesting doll (she's obsessed with one we bought her in Europe last year). She learned a few new words on the trip: "airplane," "boat" and "ciao" are a few I can think of now. And we are home now with expectations of more good things to come: spring, new job for Chris and a new baby in June.


Blogger Sarah Johnson said...

I love your pictures, and am so glad that you had some family time together in such a lovely place! I would love to go to Italy some day! My parents were there over Valentine's Day a year ago en route to visit Corinne and my brother in Qatar. Kudos to Chris for making the flight alone with Fiona! :)

8:27 AM  

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