Thursday, February 12, 2015

Imatra, Finland: Wintertime - January 2015

James and I have now made our new home in Imatra, Finland. We are both still working for International Paper. He is an environmental consultant traveling every day to and from our paper mill across the border in Svetogorsk, Russia. I am now working as a project manager for a global systems initiative and based out of our apartment in Imatra.

James traveled to and from Russia throughout 2014 before finding an apartment and beginning life as an ex-patriot in October. I made the move to Imatra in January. Besides being a little chilly, this part of the world is absolutely beautiful as seen by the photos here. These pictures were taken along the walking path near the Vuoksi River which can be seen right out our living room window.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Memphis, Tennessee: A Second Goodbye - January 2015

I said goodbye to Memphis for the second time in early 2015.

My first stint in Memphis was July 2002 through January 2005. Fresh out of college and now slapped in the face by the real world sadly planted in Germantown, Tennessee. I was working for International Paper and upon leaving, vowed never to return again.

In September 2011 I returned again. This time living downtown steps away from Beale Street and surrounded by good friends. The second time around was definitely better than the first but I'm excited for the new adventures that lie ahead.

I have a solid hunch that I will return again to the Bluff City. Third time's a charm.

San Juan, Puerto Rico: America's Best Kept Secret - December 2014

San Juan oozes with character. From the cobblestone streets lined with palm trees to the stone gates of Castillo San Cristobal. In the few days we spent in San Juan we enjoyed the beach life: swinging in hammocks, photographing the iguanas perched on rocks and scouting the numerous tropical fish flurrying under the spotlight in the waters below the hotel dock.

One day we spent walking the hills of Old San Juan. We visited the Spanish Forts of Castillo San Cristóbal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro peeping out from the look-out points and admiring the piles of enormous cannon balls. We saw a number of century-old churches and dined at Café Puerto Rico where we enjoyed fresh seafood and local rum cocktails.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Italy: Te Amo Amici e Vino - November 2014

"The best week of my entire life," was how James described our trip to Italy in the fall of 2014. While it was a fast-paced trip covering a lot of ground, it truly was an unforgettable experience. We began in Rome: James flying down from Finland and me over from the U.S. We spent the weekend there with friends running through the city and taking in the historic sites ... the Spanish Steps, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and others before closing the weekend on the Ponte Milvio at sunset with our engagement.

Rome served as our home base while we jutted off to Tunisia and Malta. After we strolled through the Vatican City, we rented a car and drove through the Italian countryside. We cruised through Spoleto and then landed in Rimini where James dipped in toes in the Adriatic Sea. We enjoyed a day excursion to the mountaintop city state of San Marino before we ventured through Bologna to Florence.

Florence is my favorite city in Italy. Small enough to feel cozy but large enough to fill your days exploring amazing places. I took James to the Piazzale Michelangelo for one of the most breath-taking views in Italy and then on to the Florence Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio and more. We climbed the 463 steps to the top of Florence's Duomo and enjoyed countless beautiful meals ... and many bottles of wine!

Tunis, Tunisia: Camels & Carthage - November 2014

Our life has been a whirlwind lately, and we had very little time to research Tunisia before we jumped aboard the plane. In a scramble, we each surfed travel sites trying to figure out what to do upon arrival. After a bit of reading, we both agreed that we had to be extremely cautious with this adventure. We read advice like, "downtown Tunis begins closing around 8:00 p.m. and is deserted by 9:00 p.m. There is no good reason to be on the streets. The only people who still are will be rummaging through garbage or leaving bars," and "anyone in any area where tourists frequent who approaches you uninvited is almost certain to be a confidence trickster. Tunisian people are far too polite to casually strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street. Those who do are just after your money." In summary, what I gathered, was trust no one, especially not English speakers.

That being said, upon arrival we hailed a taxi and were greeted by a swift-tongued, English-speaking native who almost immediately convinced James that he should guide us on a day tour of all the local attractions. We forked over our money and buckled up.

He took us to the beach so that James could wade in the sea and we posed with camels; we walked the cobblestone streets of Sidi Bou Said taking photos of the beautiful white architecture and towering blue doors; we visited the ancient Roman city of Carthage and saw Saint Louis Cathedral and Zitouna Mosque; dined at an authentic Tunisian restaurant enjoying a meal of eyeball-in fish and pasta; and ended the day with a quick run through the medina souq in Tunis city center.

Rome, Italy: Our Engagement - November 2014

On Sunday evening, November 23, 2014 James proposed to me on the Ponte Milvio in Rome, Italy. It was sunset and James chose the bridge farthest from the city because it was known for its romantic love locks. Inspired by a movie decades old, lovers come to the Ponte Milvio to hang a lock on the bridge adorned with the their names and throw the keys in the river below to symbolically represent their ever-lasting love.

A few years ago the Ponte Milvio was so covered in love locks that the local government elected to cut the locks fearing the bridge would collapse under the massive weight. Couples still hang the locks on the bridge though risking a Euro fine for the gesture. The movie and the Ponte Milvio have inspired similar bridges all over the world.

James and I learned of this tradition and had three locks made with our names engraved. On November 23, James hung our lock on a lamp post on the Ponte Milvio just after proposing on bended knee. We kissed the keys and tossed them over the railing.