Top 12 of 2012

Two years ago I wrote a blog, sharing the Top 10 events of 2010 in our chopped up lives. Since writing that blog, my family moved out of America, made two moves in and out of two foreign countries, {Italy and Portugal} and by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2012-we’ll have visited 16 countries during our time overseas. In the last two years we’ve chopped our way through: Egypt, Malta, Italy, Austria, Germany, Andorra, Monaco, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, England, Ireland and Vatican City. I’m sure the list will continue to grow as we have a year and 1/2 left to live on this European continent.

I haven’t been behind this screen knocking out any travel adventures, posting pictures or writing out my chopped thoughts on how I view and live life lately. I am behind on blogging. I have our time in Budapest, Belgium and Paris to share with you after the clock strikes 12 and ushers in 2013.

 Today as I prepare to say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013 with open arms I’ve decided that my Top 12 in 2012 will be about my favorite and most stirring moments while living and traveling abroad. Since these last few years have been full of surprises, {good and bad} my Top 12 Travel destinations will reflect some of my favorite and stirring moments.

Let’s start with number 12, the lady we lived inside of for 17 months.

She changed our American way of thinking and living. She made us look at how we operate day to day. She made us think about consumption and excess. That is part of her charm. Downsizing from grande lattes from Starbucks to small versions of a café/espresso in a bar, {yes a bar is where your coffee is served} was interesting and something I grew quite fond of while living in Italy. Letting the dryer sleep and line drying our clothing, transported this modern girl into a life that is literally “back to the future”.Welcome to Italy!

12. Italy-the entire country made its mark on my life.

{Venice, Italy is the above photo.}
Italy has a smorgasbord of exploring inside of her borders. I can honestly say we left her feeling completely full. We explored her from the top of the boot to the tip. She is a big and bold girl with more than a handful of options to see. The cuisine is simple, fresh and delicious. The vino, ahhhh the vino!!!!
I hope we can go back one day to visit. I certainly miss our Italian family. They made us feel so welcome and taught us so much.

Favorite sites: Living on the Ciccarelli’s farm in Pozzuoli, Matera, the Adriatic Coast, Venice, Alberobello, Cinque Terra, Bari, the island of Ischia, Salerno, Sorrento, Florence, Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Montepulciano, Volterra, Roccaraso, Lecce, Bellagio, Pisa, Rome, Naples {yes Naples}. I was only going to list one but there are too many places to choose from. The entire country is one big site that is filled with so much life and color and would take a lifetime to see it all.

{Above photo Riomaggiore, Italy that is located within the Cinque Terre.}
Stirring site: Leaving Italy behind in the rear view mirror.

{Above photo is from a back road in the Tuscan Region in the month of August.}
11. Egypt

Oh my goodness, Egypt….. Just spending a day out along the canals that run to the Pyramids of Giza and back to the Nile River certainly stirred my soul. Especially, when my son yelled out,

 “Look at the dead horses along the river!”
Favorite site: Laundry being hung out on the dirt by a donkey. Living overseas I’ve adopted this way of doing laundry but I found it humorous it was drying over dirt and sand.
When the wind picks up it re-soils the clothes, right?
What is the point in doing laundry? I do understand why it is done this way. Mustafa our tour guide told us that there is no middle class here. You have the rich and you have the poor.

Stirring site: Kids playing in dirt that is loaded with glass, trash and disease. Basically the poverty. I allowed those sites to make me feel guilty of the life that my family has worked hard for and live in today. I came back to the hotel crying. Feeling bad about my birthright. Being an American comes with a myriad of privileges. These kids did not choose to be born or choose to live like this. It was heart breaking.

Surprising Moment: The gentleman who had voted in the election the morning we met him in the Cartouche Shop. His pinky finger had been dipped in purple ink to vote on the election ballot. He was so excited to show us he was able to vote. Egypt had been under the same president for over 50 years.
The trip to Egypt was humbling.

10. Malta

We came to Malta to see the island where Apostle Paul was shipwrecked and bitten by a poisonous snake. We also came to view the oldest megalithic structures, The Mnajdra Temples.

Favorite Moment: Watching my son swim in the sea, picking up a crab not realizing it was alive and being silly with it. It was funny and we are glad he didn’t get pinched too bad.

Stirring Moment: Anchors that came off a Roman vessel that had Apostle Paul on board thousands of years ago. A little bit of the past that is still alive and keeps my faith grounded where it is today and will be until I meet him face to face in heaven. My faith in Jesus Christ.

9. Geneva, Switzerland

We didn’t spend much time here but the time we did have in this country was so much fun! It was a stopping point for 24 hours before heading onto our week of Spring Break in France. We enjoyed Fondue, the fountain on Lake Geneva called, Jet d’Eau and a stroll through the Parc des Bastions. Geneva was laid back and beautiful even while it was raining.
Favorite Moment: Watching a couple play checkers in the Parc des Bastions.

Stirring Moment: The Swans and their nest along Lake Geneva. The mother and father were out of their nest, next to one another while their eggs were alone in the nest.
 It was freezing outside! I was a bit confused.
8. England

I love London!! There is so much to see and do in this country. From Stonehenge to enjoying a pint in a pub the activities in England are endless. We really enjoyed the Changing of the Guard. Remember if you plan on seeing this while on holiday in England get to Buckingham Palace an hour or so early to make sure you get a good spot. A stroll through St. James Park and Hyde Park is quite lovely after being smashed by tourists at the Palace.
Favorite Moment: Watching a couple get engaged on the London Eye.

Stirring Moment: My son dancing on the Southbank as a street performer. If you’ve been to London you know what I’m talking about with street performers. If you haven’t, get prepared to give some of the Queen’s money away. He put his hat down and started doing cartwheels and dancing to a tune going on in his head. People stopped, watched, smiled and laughed as they made videos of him, living life! Nobody gave him any money. It made him sad and he cried. But he was dancing like nobody was watching!

7. Budapest, Hungary

Where do you go as an American stationed in Portugal for Thanksgiving holiday? You head off to Budapest, Hungary where you can feed your senses, taste buds and skin with Thanks!!! When the country you currently live in, {Portugal} doesn’t celebrate the peace between the Pilgrims and the Indians why not go on over to Hungary. Our bellies were ready for food and Budapest didn’t leave us starving.
I loved this country. History galore!!! Budapest is known for its thermal baths. A morning or early evening soaking in the warm water helped the body from hoofing it on foot all day.
In 2013 I will have blogs of our time spent here.
Favorite Moment: My son in the Hamsterball at Budapest Aquaworld. He had such a great time. His fingers were prunes!

Stirring Moment: The Shoes on the Danube Promenade.

6. Ireland

I would do a repeat visit to Ireland in a heartbeat. I truly love Ireland. The lush countryside, the castles, the Cliffs of Moher. The land of the Ginger population!!!
Favorite Moment: When the flight attendant on Ryanair told Mayer and I, “Welcome Home!” It felt nice to hear those words. We guess she thought Mayer and I belonged there. We are a part of that 4% who belong to the red family. The colorful homes along the waterfront in Galway was another favorite. They brought such beauty to our eyes that day.

Stirring Moment: The National Famine Memorial located at the base of Mt. Croagh.

5. Innsbruck, Austria

Austria is so clean. I hope we make a trip to Vienna before heading out of this continent. Austria seems to be friendly and future forward. Future in a way that maybe we should take extra steps and evaluate the way we live on planet earth. We made the drive from Pozzuoli, Italy to Munich, Germany and stopped off in Innsbruck, Austria. LOVED this town!
Favorite Moment: Sitting in the middle of the square, eating Snitzel, drinking a pint and watching all the tourists striking a pose.

Stirring Moment: How many people travel by bicycle here. If more of us Americans adopted this form of transportation, all day, every evening, eating fast food would be okay…right???
Maybe I will challenge myself in the future to this kind of lifestyle. I admire the ones who go by bike, foot and public transportation. I don’t get to operate this way in life except when exploring other countries, so it stirs me!

4. Munich, Germany

From cuckoo clocks to bread museums, Germany’s culture is thick and really organized. It’s crazy to think that this country, {who is 2nd behind the Irish in consuming beer}, has one of the most freeing highway systems on earth. The autobahn!!! We got our motor running as we hit the asphalt and headed up north to Munich. While in Munich get your carboload on and enjoy some gummy bears, {they were invented in this country} alongside a mug of beer and a pretzel.
Favorite Moment: Driving on the autobahn at any speed you want!!! We got passed by a few grandparents!!

Stirring Moment: A vegan company making a statement about meat. They put a man in this closed see through contraption. He was laying on a red substance that looked similar to blood. They got a lot of attention!

3. Portugal

We made the move from Italy to Portugal the summer of 2012! The last thing I wanted to do was make another move when we had orders to be in Italy for 3 years. I mean 9 moves in 7 1/2 years takes a toll on a person. But what a blessing!!!! I mourned leaving Italy but Portugal has made it very easy to get over the break up with the Italian culture. Portugal has some of the BEST beaches in the world. The history runs deep and the people are kind and calm. The geographic landscapes are simply breathtaking! I will enjoy the rest of my time here, maybe even complete that book I’ve been working on…;)

Favorite Moments: I really enjoyed our time in Aqueda, Portugal. The Saturday Farmer’s Market is filled with all sorts of goodies. We noshed on a chocolate filled churro. I am also a huge fan of the town of Sintra. I also love the area in which we live today. I walk the coastline every morning and enjoy my alone time praying and listening to God as he calms my soul. Too many things about Portugal to love.

Stirring Moment: When a bat flew in through our kitchen window one evening after cleaning up supper. My husband grabbed the broom and when he landed on the kitchen cabinets, I yelled, “Wait let me get the camera!” My husband snapped a photo of the little night creature who stirred us up!

2. Monaco

While we were moving from Italy to Portugal we stopped off for an evening and enjoyed this fancy-flashy country that is filled with excess. She is dazzling and was a sight to see.
Favorite Moment: Watching cars zoom by where the Monaco Grand Prix takes place.

Stirring Moment: Watching this man all alone on his huge Mega Yacht watching a futbol match. It made me kind of sad for him. You can have all the money in the world but it doesn’t buy love or true friendships.

1. France

{Above photo is from the town of Gordes in the Provence Region in France.}
I have to say that my favorite country so far has been France. We have made our way into this suave-sophisticated country three times now. Skiing in the French Alps, driving along the French Riviera, roaming through lavender fields in the Provence area, walking the beaches of Normandy and watching the sky change from day to night, behind the Eiffel Tower, are moments that will hopefully be forever en-grained in my head..

France and Italy are filled with so much history and are countries that have a beautiful balance of adventure and relaxation. Before we leave Europe I think we will be coming back to France, at least one more time.
Favorite Moment: I have a few but my all-time favorite has been watching my son and husband ski for the first time in Morzine, France.

Stirring Moment: The couples who were getting married in the most romantic city on earth. We came across a few but the two below were my favorite. It made me think about the passion a newly married couple share and how that passion changes, grows and develops into a new kind of love as we age. I hope that new couple is still dipping that way when they are 80. That will be the time to truly celebrate!!! All the stuff a marriage goes through and how a couple overcomes trials and adversity is true romance in my eyes. How sweet would it be to see an old couple doing this same thing???

Europe completely fascinates our family!!!! We feel so blessed that we’ve been given the opportunity to live on this continent. In 2013 we will have upcoming trips to Holland, Scotland, the Baltic region, Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic, Gibraltar, Croatia, Morocco, Spain and ???? If we have a 3 day we will travel. 12 months make up a year and 12 explorations I leave behind here today.
Happy New Year!
Cheers to 2013!!! May God bring favorite and stirring moments into your life. I look forward to the surprises he has in store while living life chopped in 2013!!!!
{Picture albums of explorations and monthly drawings of products from each country can be found on Facebook under gibsonchop.com}

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