Win an Italian Gift Basket by Sharing a Travel Story With Us

Our first contest on facebook a few weeks ago was so much fun so we decided to have another contest.  Since we love Italy and will be getting married there ourselves in October, we’re going to be giving away an Italian gift basket similar to the one shown above to the lucky winner.  To enter the contest, comment on this blog post by Friday June 29th at 7:30 pm Pacific Time with your favorite travel story.  We will choose a winner on Sunday July 1st.

Here’s one of our favorite spontaneous travel stories…Shawna and I decided to get married in Italy this past January.  Shawna did most of the initial research and found a great villa in eastern Tuscany that we could rent and have our family stay with us.  We booked the villa on the internet and started trying to figure out how people even get married abroad.  Without ever visiting the town we would be married in we had many questions that seemingly had no easy answers to them, such as where will we have our ceremony and reception, where will Shawna have her hair and makeup done, etc.  So, now it’s February and I planned a Valentine’s Day dinner surprise for Shawna at Cafe Sevilla.  They were supposed to have flamenco music that night (according to their website), yet when we showed up we were told there won’t be any live music.  Staying positive, we decided to have a drink at the bar to figure out if there was somewhere else we could go (we wanted to see live music).  While sitting at the bar enjoying a couple glasses of red wine, Shawna mentioned that the restaurant we envisioned having our reception in should be around the same size as Cafe Sevilla.  I said we should start looking at the cost of flights and think about visiting Italy to see the villa and have some questions answered.  I pulled out the iPhone, opened Trip Advisor and saw that round-trip flights from San Diego to Rome were half of what I’ve been seeing before (well under $1000).  So sitting there on my iPhone at the bar on Valentine’s Day I booked us flights leaving on March 6th.  It was an incredible trip and we came back with a very clear plan for the wedding.  In fact, we’re getting married in the Castle of Poppi.

Lucca è una città molto bella.  È la mia città preferita in Italia

Italians drink their coffee the right way – taking their time, not rushing out the door, sipping it slowly at the bar.  They don’t take it to go and their servings aren’t ginormous.

  1. krysta
    Jun 28th

    Ok, I’m totally participating in this because I love you two, I love Italians (and their food) and I heart travel oh so much. Here goes. I had just started grad school when I started dating my Italian Stallion. We had only been dating for a few months before he sent me a text asking if I thought I would get my papers written in time for the weekend. I told him I was going to try, but that I would still love to hang out. He sent me the flight confirmation for our tickets to NYC right after my response and I decided I should probably get those papers done. It was mid October and he knew how badly I was missing the fall weather and changing leaves. So he thought, “What better place than Central Park to experience fall the way she loves it.” He had the whole weekend planned. Incredible. We got married there about a year and half later. 🙂 Best spontaneous trip we’ve ever taken!

  2. Crystal
    Jun 28th

    Oh, I love to travel. What a fun contest!

    One of my coolest travel stories was taking a 1 month road trip, that turned into 4 months (travel addicts ;)). I intended to move to L.A. (the city), but stopped in LA (the state) for dinner along the way and stayed a week instead of a night! When I got to California, I realized, though I planned this huge move for over a year, that… I changed my mind! I realized that my heart was in LA (the state), so I promptly canceled 86 coffee dates I had set up, a birthday dinner and a place to live. I re-routed all of my shipped belongings to Louisiana, got my little butt (and all of my courage) back in the car, drove nearly 2000 miles and signed a lease! That was one year and 9 months ago, and I do not regret it!!

    The best part of travel is rolling with the unexpected. You never know how one small, simple choice to have a cup of coffee, stay for dinner, listen to someone’s story or take a short-cut a local told you will change the entire course of your life. My motto: ROLL WITH IT! :]

  3. Greg Hummel
    Jun 28th

    Our high school band toured in England during my sophomore year of high school. I was a French Horn player. Part of the itinerary was a joint concert onstage with a British Milithay band. We had a shared setlist that we would play together. What I didn’t know was that the Military band had some extra songs that we were expected to sit through. During dress rehearsal, I realized that one of the songs was a French Horn feature — “Send in the Clowns.” (sung by Sinatra). The British Military Band French Horn Players encouraged me to join in during the concert, even though I had only even played the song once. They said “how can you miss out on this!” It went extremely well and it’s a treasured memory, and I have the recording. Later in the trip, we were playing on the beach in a band shell in Brighton. The only horn players were myself, and the music director of our school system. A string broke on one of the valves on his horn, so I played an unintended solo, and as well as the last few songs of the concert by myself. I might have also had my first pint of beer on this trip 🙂

  4. Greg Hummel
    Jun 28th

    Sorry, I should say “Send in the Clowns” was in part made famous by Sintra, but was NOT sung by Sinatra during the concert I played.

  5. Shawna
    Jun 30th

    This story is another one from Greg but not for the kiddos.
    He sent this to me in an email thinking it was a funny story but not appropriate for our site. Adam and I laughed so hard we thought how could we not have this up?

    Greg’s second travel story:

    My sister and I were in Prague and we happened to be staying in a hotel above a porn shop. And the porn shop proudly advertised fistings and sandwiches on the window. Well, as we were trying to fall asleep, we heard this British guy (after bar time) shout “Hey Joe, they’re making sandwiches in here!”

  6. Kara
    Jul 1st

    I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks traipsing around Peru with my boyfriend visiting his family and working on their newly aquired cacao plantation. The area where the plantation is is so remote it is nearly un “googleable”. It is absolutely gorgeous, hidden away in the lush Amazon rainforest. I will try to paint an adequate picture of one of the most memorable moments of the trip. It was our last night working on the plantation which is about two miles away from town and is connected by a dirt road that winds up down and around through the forest. We had finished a day of work, ate dinner, and needed to transport ourselves, our overnight bags, a racima of bananas and the family horse down to the house where we were staying. At the time, there was a storm brewing in the near distance with lightning lighting up the sky heading our way. The key fact about this event is that around nightfall is when the snakes come out so it is important to try to not be walking around in the dark. My boyfriend and I realized that we had no flashlights on us, it was 6 oclock and night was coming rapidly and we had a 40 minute walk ahead of us. The rational answer to our problem was to make the trip running. We strapped up everything on the horse, he took the reins and ran in front while I had a large stick and would run in back to keep the horse at a good pace. At one point we swtiched jobs and i ran in front, there is nothing like a horses pattering hoofs, the thought of stepping on a snake, and lightning coming at you that will make you run faster up hills. Every now and then we would take walking breaks, a banana fell of the horses back which I snatched up for energy and we would continue. I will never forget that experience and couldnt help but wish it was being filmed for Amazing race. .

  7. Kristen
    Jul 1st

    How fun–all talking about our favorite travel stories!! I think we should get together and do this in person too 🙂 So, thinking back to one of my favorite moments abroad would have to be on a trip with school in 2009 to Thailand. When I initially signed up for the program, there were two groups going, one early in the summer, and one later in July. Both trips were to spend the majority of the time in Bangkok and I had wanted to be in the first group. Well, of course there were surprises to be had even in the beginning stages of planning. The first group was full, and Bangkok was experiencing extreme political unrest at that time, meaning we would not be aloud to go there. The instructors/travel agents assured us that we would have a wonderful stay in Chiang Mai, which is further north and more rural. Part of the compensation for missing out on Bangkok was a one night stay at the Mandarin Oriental in Chiang Mai right at the end of the program to celebrate our learning and time together. It is safe to say that I quite possibly may never stay anywhere more luxurious in all of my life. The property was filled with beautiful temples, tropical plants & flowers and the bungalows were nestled in working rice patties. I could go on and on, it was magical, beautiful tiled outside showers, mosquito nets and all! The moment I will never forget was riding bikes (they rented bikes-we were on a tandem) with my good friend Ross that I had met on the trip and instantly bonded with, still keep in touch with, and wouldn’t have met at all if I had gotten on the first trip–funny how those things work out 🙂 We listened to music and rode around the property all day, stopping along the way to walk on covered pathways and explore the rice patties. I will never forget that day 🙂

  8. Heidi Wittmann
    Jul 1st

    OK, here’s my favorite travel story of late. When I was living in Denmark, my mentor held a small conference in an unpronounceable town in the Czech Republic (Jindricuv Hradec) he lovingly calls Homeopathy Summer School. While I was a student of his, I was charmed by his stories about getting lost on trains in Slovenia and finding incredible walled towns and spectacular hikes off the beaten path, so I though ‘what the hell? I’ll go have an adventure in Eastern Europe too.’
    So off I went, speaking 10 words of Czech, none of which would end up helping me get to my destination. My train ended up being rerouted by a series of mysterious buses and other trains, which I would never ever have navigated without the amazing kindness of not one but several strangers, none of whom spoke very much English (or German, for that matter), including a sweet young man and his bus driver friends who not only dropped me off at the right train station, but the young man even helped me buy my ticket for the next town. I was so moved by their kindness, literally going out of their way.
    Well, the rest of the trip turned out to be completely magical… The hotel was on a beautiful creek, the conference was amazing, we went for a hike in amazing woods, got lost, and took a train back (through some spectacular countryside) that I SWEAR was originally headed for Hogwart’s… (seriously, the chimes they play in the train station IS the Harry Potter theme music!)…
    My favorite other parts of that trip include touring a pink castle with moat and all and attending a pretty awesome bluegrass concert in the courtyard of a 15th century castle…
    Needless to say, that trip did not disappoint on the adventure front… 🙂

  9. Heidi Wittmann
    Jul 1st

    I forgot to add that my mentor is literally a shorter version of Dumbledor… no wonder the trip was ‘charmed.’

  10. Adam Baruh
    Jul 8th

    We put everyone’s names into a hat and the winner is……


    Thanks for your comments everyone.

    Kara, we’re glad you and Jose did not succumb to the snakes!