We stayed in this little AirBnb flat, and it was just so wonderful. The owner, Maria, was so welcoming and generous. She left us a bottle of wine and some of her homemade honey, she even opened up her own dining room so that we could use the fireplace on chilly evenings.
It was so homely and just wonderful to have somewhere more personal to come home to every day, much better than a hotel. And it allowed us to cooked for ourselves most nights because I couldn't wait to get my hands on all the fresh ingredients that Tuscany has to offer.
Also, that view! Have you ever seen anything like it?
We stayed with Adam's sister and her family for a couple of nights in Buti and it was the perfect start to our country vacation. Their cottage was so remote in the Tuscan countryside, and so high up on a hilltop somewhere that they regretted not hiring a truck to get them up and down the dirt track.
When we arrived late at night I whipped out my camera and couldn't help but photograph everything. It was so beautiful and dreamy in the dusk and the fog. We sat around drinking wine and chatting until late, but woke up early ready to explore. Adam and I grabbed our coffees and went for a wander through the olive trees and to check out the view.
There's something about Tuscany that simply demands a feeling of relaxation and indulgence. Everything is so beautiful, there's so much food to be eaten and wine to be drunk. It's just impossible not to feel content.
More Italian adventures to come soon...
That's how I spent my birthday yesterday. With that view, watching the sun go down, having a cup of tea with my new fiancé (holy crumbs! that's going to take some getting used to).
At this very moment I am sitting by a fire, in the middle of Tuscany, in a little cottage, in a tiny town called Benabbio which sits at the end of a very steep and winding road. The wind is rushing around the hills, the rain is falling hard, Adam is in the next room planning tomorrow's adventure, and I don't think I have ever been so comfortable or so happy.
We have only a day left in Italy but already it feels like we have been here for weeks - we have done so much. And I have so much to catch up on! Prepare yourselves for London posts, engagement posts, party posts, birthday posts, travel posts, and much much more over the coming weeks.
We also went to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar which was much smaller and a bit more manageable, but much more touristy - so much so it almost wasn't worth it. I think if I go back to Istanbul, I would visit the Grand Bazaar again but give the Spice Bazaar a miss.
A day spent shopping really takes it out of you, even if you take the occasional break to fuel up on baklava, so we spent a relaxing evening watching the sun set over dinner on the Galata Bridge.
Remember when I went to Kenya? I mean, the first time I went to Kenya for work and then did some travelling afterwards - oh, say, about six months ago? Well here's a little something more about that trip:
If you don't remember it, then you can do a little catch up here, here and here if you feel like it.
But on another note, looking back through those posts from half a year ago and seeing "0 comments" over and over again, it makes me so happy to know that now I have some blogging friends - and it really makes my day to read what you have to say, and carry on little email conversations with you all. So thanks a bunch guys, for always commenting and always being so amazing :)
I know I've already said this loads, but Nicaragua is a country that I think I could learn to love pretty quickly. I really hope I get to go back.
These last few photos were taken in a place that seemed completely hidden from the rest of the city. We traveled down a dirt road as far as our van would take us on one punctured tire, and then we hopped in the back of a pickup truck to take us the rest of the way to a little farm house. Well, house is a little much, it was one room for twelve people.
The family who lived there were as poor as poor could be, without being destitute. And what stood out for me was that I couldn't hear any sound, no traffic, no electronics - not a phone or a light switch for miles. But I could hear non-stop laughter from the kids and the neighbours who had come to greet the visitors.
Theirs is incredibly hard life, not withstanding the active volcano and the vampire bats - but their laughter was contagious. Even now, it still makes me smile just a little.
The whole time I was in Nicaragua it seemed like I would be there forever. And then suddenly the day arrived where I had to pack my suitcase and I found I really didn't want to.
When I finally made it home I slept for almost two days only to wake up with a horrible cold. And now that I'm in bed and feeling sorry for myself, I can't quite believe that I was ever away. But I keep dreaming about it: the lovely hot weather, the kind people, the busy days spent outdoors, the thunderstorms, the unpredictability and variety of my schedule. Sometimes I think I'm really not meant for office work, but then who is?
All of these photos were taken at a farm where people had gathered to talk about their animals. Because my work doesn't often require me to talk, more observe, it leaves me free to hover in the background pretending to be invisible, snapping and filming away with my cameras and hanging out with others whose input also is not often required: like the kids and the animals.
I also gave some impromptu photography lessons - the top two pictures were taken by that little boy holding the camera - pretty good, don't you think?
This dog was trying to mummy these piglets so much, she kept on attempting to herd them and groom them and keep them away from other animals and people. You can see from her face that she looks so worried about them, I think she thought she was their mum - or she just wanted to eat them, one or the other...
I've gone a little overboard with animal cuddling and photographs on this trip (I promise next week I will blog about other things) - I'm afraid I may have fleas (joking! I hope). So far I have managed to cuddle with a kitten, a foal, a couple of pit bulls, about a million horses, a baby cow, and a swarm of children. The children were a surprise because usually kids avoid me, I think they can sense my fear, but today they were following me around asking for hugs. It was actually kind of nice, until they started asking me for money or one of my cameras, cheeky buggers.
This man was hilarious. His son in law invited us to visit his home to have a look at how they keep their animals, and I of course made sure I got some quick snaps of the kids because they're just so cute - they love posing for you and then running over to see their own photo.
This old man saw me photographing them and wanted me to photograph him with his youngest grandchildren - I mean I think that's what he wanted, my Spanish is pretty rubbish. Anyway he walked off and came back with a baby and posed - I took the picture, he liked it, and then he walked off... and came back with another baby! Trust me when I say this man had a lot of grandchildren that needed to be photographed.
But the house was such a lovely family set-up. They had a plot of land with one or two houses on it, and about twelve people all living there together. Babies everywhere, puppies, pigs hanging out with the dogs and chickens stealing everyones food. I don't know how many generations were under one roof, but I like the idea of a big family living and laughing together every day. They seemed such a jolly bunch.