travel

AN ITALIAN WEDDING

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it was only in september when i was last in cortona visiting hannah and luca for the first time. fast forward 9 months and i’m back in cortona with my brother for their wedding…their WEDDING! this was cody’s first time in cortona (in italy actually) and i couldn’t wait to show him all the things that made me fall in love with this little town. i didn’t need to do much selling, cortona pretty much sells itself. between the wedding, sight seeing and pasta eating, i think he fell hard for it too.

cody and i flew into rome pretty early and couldn’t check in to our hotel until 2pm soooo we freshened up in the lobby bathroom (thank god for l’ocittane’s verbena refreshing towelettes) and began our first day in rome at 7:00 in the morning! (i think this is what they call making lemonade out of life’s lemons). first up? the spanish steps…cody was eager to run to the top and take in the view… i was eager to run from the sun and keep the awkward jumpsuit tan at bay (spoiler alert, i still got an awkward tan).IMG_0251

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after a full day in the city, we were ready to check in to our hotel room and get some rest. with a nice shower and a belly full of pasta (i promise to show all the food pictures), it only took me about 3 seconds to fall asleep. i think i might take this secret back with me to the states and use it as my bed time remedy…

one train ride later aannnddd we made it to cortona! we went out to explore the town before dinner and ran into some familiar faces in the piazza; the bridal party, some wedding guests and even the bride and groom! i love small towns.IMG_0343

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there was a market in the center of town over the weekend, so we spent our morning browsing all the vendors. with a lot of self convincing (and cody’s reply of “you don’t need that.” to my “but it’s itaaaalian!”) i managed to not buy a thing! it was hard….like really hard. after we walked through the market, we caught the train to florence to check out the uffizi museum and stop for lunch at my favorite sandwich spot. hannah took me to this place last time i visited and i couldn’t wait to take cody. he’s only heard me talk about it every day since we got into italy.

it’s wedding time!!! i’m so happy to have made the journey to witness these two share their love for each other. the ceremony was translated in english and italian and took place overlooking the beautiful province of arezzo. the day couldn’t be any more perfect. salute to the happy couple!

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FullSizeRender 28the day after the wedding, we went over to the house where hannah’s family was staying and hung out poolside with the newlyweds. it was the perfect way to spend our last day in cortona.IMG_0759IMG_0726

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cody and i left for rome the next morning. this time around, we took a pretty relaxed approach to the city. we spent the time we had left in italy as laid back as we possibly could… wake up. eat pasta. roam the streets (pun intended). eat gelato. roam some more. repeat. we walked through the villa borghese gardens, found a bench and sat there for a couple of hours. there was a light breeze that day, i think i could’ve listened to the trees sway back and forth forever.IMG_1387

 

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OJAI: A WEEKEND GETAWAY

OJAI 16last weekend we went up to ojai to get some good old fashion fresh air and vitamin D. only an hour and 15 mins north of los angeles, it made for the perfect weekend getaway. while out exploring the city, courtney and i discovered one of our new favorite shops, it took a lot of convincing from her to stop me from buying every damn thing in sight. as we continued to roam the streets, we were able to really grasp the feel for the community. everything about ojai is focused on its local community and i love it. on saturday we ate at the town’s pizza joint (papa lennon’s pizzeria) and shared a table with a family and their dog. their dog was going from table to table as if he were the owner of the restaurant, checking in on everyone, making sure we were all enjoying our food and having a good time and then he’d lay down wherever he felt comfortable. the next day at the farmer’s market we saw that same family as one of the vendors. i didn’t know them personally (although i felt like i knew their dog) but there was this weird familiarity as if they were my neighbors i’ve known for years “hiya dave, how’s the wife? is little jimmy doing okay?” but i guess that’s ojai- making you feel welcome and part of the community, even when you’re just visiting.

DSC01463such a beautiful day for a farmer’s market. music, food and friendly faces.

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we couldn’t wait to get back and try all of our new goodies. the quinoa bread with the balsamic vinegar olive tapenade went perfectly together. i found out that unlike the rest of the popcorn flavors which you can buy online, you can get the rosemary garlic flavor (my fav) at the farmer’s market. i would drive up to ojai for this popcorn over and over again.OJAI 20

our amazing digs for the weekend! my boss built this place from the ground up and now that it’s in it’s final stages, she offered us to stay there before she puts it up on air bnb – make sure to keep an eye out for this property this summer!DSC01826DSC01918DSC01628Bathroom

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DSC01751i don’t know what came over me but the minute i saw these chickens i ran outside and wanted to be close to them… i have about 500 pictures to show for it.OJAI

DESERT X

desert x 3after our failed attempt at camping in the desert this past weekend (who knew the desert got so hot? -that’s sarcasm) we decided to make some lemonade with our sour lemons so we stopped by the desert x exhibition on our way home to see mirage by doug aitken.desert 2

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A SEDONA CHRISTMAS

dsc_0841i’m finally getting around to posting some bits and pieces of our christmas in sedona. we had a packed house of 9 people and 5 dogs and i wouldn’t have it any other way! our first order of business-grocery shopping. every year my sister cooks christmas eve dinner, christmas day breakfast and christmas day dinner, not to mention the goodies and desserts in between! she’s far too humble to say that she is good at cooking but she is and i’ll shout it from the rooftops if i have to-her cooking is my favorite part about the holidays. dsc_0350courtney needed all hands on deck in the kitchen but because of my notoriously bad cooking skills, i sat this one out and got a head start on the wine. my aunt and uncle live near the local winery so we picked up a bottle… or four.

dsc_0773christmas morning we woke up to a winter wonderland which made for an extra special holiday.

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dsc_0693homemade muffins, cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip bread thanks to chef courtney! dsc_0071dsc_0069

THE PEOPLE. Hannah Efron

55490007hannah is one of my dearest friends so when i told her about this idea, i was so glad that she agreed to be a part of it. hannah and i first met through a mutual friend in high school but it wasn’t until after we graduated that we became close friends. hannah is an artist living with her fiancé in cortona, itlay. she graduated with a bfa in painting from biola university. when i went to see her work i fell in love, so much so that i bought one of her paintings. i found her life and artwork exciting and inspiring. i loved hearing her talk about it which is what led me to explore the idea of writing about it. i wanted to create a space to document honest portraits of people telling their stories; what they do, what inspires them, why they create. by starting this piece on the blog, i’ll be photographing and interviewing other creatives and posting under THE PEOPLE. whether you’re an artist, wood maker, cook, designer…whatever you may be, we want to hear your story. so without further ado, here is the first installment of THE PEOPLE. featuring the beautiful and talented hannah efron.

theblog: what has it been like adjusting to life in cortona?

hannah: “it has been tough but really beautiful. when i moved here last year i had a really hard time adjusting to everything. i missed my friends and family and the familiarity of my life in california…i still do, but i’ve adapted and i’m happy to call this place my home. i’m still here a year and a half later and i love it. i speak the language now and have integrated myself into the community. i have friends who i love dearly here and i have a boyfriend (now fiancé) who is the most interesting and loving person in the world. i’m convinced of it. bless his patient soul.”

“when i came back from the states after studying here i felt like california wasn’t the same to me as it had been before.”

theblog: what brought you to cortona and what made you want to stay?

hannah: “i studied art here about two years ago. it was a study abroad program with the university of georgia. it was the best. i fell in love with the culture and the language and the food, obviously. i also stumbled across a young chap who i fell in love with. when i came back to the states after studying here i felt like california wasn’t the same to me as it had been before. maybe because after you live on the other side of the world for a few months nothing feels the same. my life in california was lovely but it began to feel smaller and smaller in the sense that i knew the world was bigger. my relationship with my boyfriend continued long distance and one day i decided that i would move to itlay after i graduated and i did. and that was that.”

55490003theblog: everyone knows each other in that town, do you miss los angeles and how big it is?

hannah: “you know, it’s funny- when i first moved here i didn’t know anyone. i had a deep longing to build friendships and see familiar faces everyday. i wanted to be a part of the group of ladies that gossiped outside the grocery store every morning. i used to feel annoyed that everyone knew me only as the american. they would all speak to me in broken english and i would speak to them in broken italian, i guess we both wanted practice. over time it became a playful game and i feel like people were genuinely excited to see me so they could practice their english. in LA i always wanted to slide under the radar. i wanted to quickly grab my whiskey at the bar and sit down with people i knew and people i could have familiar conversation with. because cortona is such a small town, after a little over a year the people here feel familiar to me. i like that. all that to say i do enjoy leaving my house and saying hello to everyone i pass.”

55490001theblog: where is your favorite place to go in cortona-your happy place?

hannah:”this gelato place called snoopy’s. that’s where i feel most happy. all jokes aside…kind of… my favorite place to go is to the top of the town where you can look over the entire valley. i don’t know why i like it, i just do. it makes me feel good.”

theblog: when did painting start for you?

hannah: “i don’t recall a specific time when painting started for me. when i was a kid it was my favorite thing to do. i am and always have been introverted and it was something i could do by myself. i liked making stuff and i’ve always liked the feeling of pushing paint around.”

“painting has always meant discovery to me. it’s always been very natural. it’s my quiet place.”

theblog: what inspires you?

hannah: “people say i’m often distracted but i’m usually just overly intrigued by something around me, so yeah i guess that is distraction but average things inspire me. it’s a puzzle translating things i see and hear into abstractions and i like that. puzzles are fun”

theblog: are you inspired differently in italy than you are in california?

hannah: i am but i’m not. colors and shapes in my paintings have become more subtle but they always seem to be as they’re supposed to. i’ve always seen my paintings as recordings in my life. it’s pretty simple actually. if i see something i like, i paint it. different seasons in my life are very obvious to me when i look at my work.”

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THE WORLD: ITALY

55480021after my stop in stockholm, i was on my way to italy to see my dear friend hannah. i took a bus, plane and train to get to cortona and after a full day of traveling, it felt so good to see a familiar face and such a cute one at that! i met hannah’s boyfriend luca, their new pup milo (mee-lo) and i finally got to see the place that hannah’s been calling home for the past year and a half. after i arrived we met up with luca’s friends and went out for drinks and dinner. luca told me how they all grew up together, knowing each other’s families and playing on the same futbol team… he was explaining to me how where they’re from you’re born and raised there and you don’t really leave- his reasoning “why would you want to leave?” after my time there … even i didn’t want to leave!

in the mornings, hannah and i would walk down to the piazza with milo to get breakfast before she went to work. milo and i would wave goodbye as she left for the train, then make our way back home for some good old fashioned puppy cuddles. 55400003luca is an amazing cook and he really knows his stuff. i felt so spoiled having these two cook for me. coming from someone who is pretty terrible in the kitchen, eating delicious homemade meals was a highlight of my trip. for lunch they made homemade fish tacos… i still have dreams about it and hannah’s habanero peach jam!55480011

5548001655480019most of the time milo and i would keep each other company while we waited for our food to be ready. 55480012on sunday we went to luca’s parent’s house. his parents had a fig tree and we picked some right from the branch, they were so sweet! all the food here is so fresh, luca picked basil from the garden and made pesto from scratch for our pasta. like i said… he knows his stuff!55460018

we took a trip to florence so hannah could take me to eat the most delicious sandwich on the planet…i stand by my last statement.55450012florence55450004

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THE WORLD: STOCKHOLM

55390010earlier this month i went to visit a friend in italy. i booked my ticket through kayak which had an amazing deal…the catch was a 21 hour layover in sweden going to and from italy…fine by me! i’ve always wanted to go to stockholm so it was nice to get to spend some time there and explore the city, even if it was for a hot second. in my first 20 minutes in stockholm, i stumbled upon a record store. i went in and asked the guys who worked there if they could recommend a good swedish album that i could buy. they showed me a couple of options and then both agreed on det stora monstret. i was anxious to listen to it, i figured these guys would either take this seriously or just give the “american” the worst record they could think of. thanks to them, i now own an amazing record and one of my favorite souveneirs. 55390014walking around gamla stan i was going in and out of all the shops and cafes. i took this after i had loaded up on all the swedish chocolates i was going to bring back to the states. i love that this picture makes it look like a ghost town when in reality everyone’s actually inside the candy shop…that place was a zoo but it sure was magical. shortly after, i began to crash…my jet lag was REAL and my tylenol cold was wearing off. i desperately wanted a nap. i found this little garden behind a building and laid on a bench for a bit. i sat listening to the sounds of the city, watching people pass through, i think i could’ve laid there forever.55430004

55430014this cafe made fresh squeezed orange juice and the kids inside were mesmerized. it was really sweet seeing their excitement.553900175539001555390004

GREETABL

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i am in loooovveee with greetabl! i’ve got friends in lots of different places at the moment so this has become a great way for me to send them my love from LA. with greetabl, you can send a personalized note and a gift to all your friends in far away places. recently one of my best friends moved to idaho (not cool idaho…not cool) so i’m sending her a greetabl with a “I MISS YOU LIKE CRAZY” note and lots of confetti because who doesn’t like confetti?!

  1. build: pick a box and a gift.

2. personalize: add photos and a sweet message.

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3. happiness is on it’s way!

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BABYLONSTOREN, SOUTH AFRICA

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babylonstoren seems to be straight out of a movie. where the writer goes to cure their writer’s block, where the busy city girl goes to unplug or where the lost 20 year old goes to find their purpose in life. regardless of what character you are, babylonstoren welcomes you to the country getaway you’ve been looking for. you can see more about the farm and hotel here.

babylonstoren offers one-bedroom suites, one-bedroom cottages and two-bedroom cottages.

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guests can enjoy hand-picking their own crops or can dine in the hotel’s restaurant, babel.

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