Monday, November 25

Fall 2019 Day 35 FINAL DAY

We left Sicily and made it to Paris. That was an adventure!  Sicily is amazing, but, organization is not a strong suit. Our flight back from Catania to Paris was insane!  There was absolutely
No rhyme or reason as to where people were standing waiting for their gates. Everyone was in line at each gate but no gates were announced so where do you stand?  Once that disaster was solved, we got on the plane about an hour late. Then we had to wait like an hour because one guy couldn’t board because he left his passport in his checked bag, so they went digging through the bags on the plane to find his bag so he could get his Passport and board. That took about an hour. We were all so happy to see him when he got onboard!  As he was getting settled a guy walks up to the stewardess and tell her that he left his Lithium battery in his bag that he checked. Well, he pilot isn’t going to take off knowing that is the case, because, god forbid something happens, he would get blamed for not doing anything about that. So, the plane was delayed another half hour while they just got his bag and brought it on board. They weren’t about to look through it at that point. Finally, we left and had a lovely flight from there to Paris. We got off the plane and went to our hotel that is in the airport. It’s a nice hotel!  It’s always nice to end your trip in a kinda fancy hotel!  We have club access and a gorgeous room and we don’t have to go to the airport tomorrow because we are already here!  It always makes me reflect on how lucky we are to be able to experience the world like Emily
And I do. Everybody needs a little adventure in their life. Seeing other cultures makes us better citizens of the world. Seeing how similar we all are and how we all want for the same things is a reminder that there is a bigger picture than the laser focus we have right now in America. That’s really refreshing because it feels smothering at times. No matter what you believe or who you support, the constant drone of arguing and fighting isn’t good for anyone. It really is all about living a good life. Being with the people you love, eating well, drinking great wine, eating great cheese and being happy. The other stuff just makes us lose focus on those things. In Europe, they work less hours than us, although that’s starting to change, they seem to always have the things they need and the ability to eat good meals and enjoy their families. We hyper-focus on ourselves and can’t see the bigger picture. We only have one life!  Enjoy it!  Even if you love your job, like we do, working all the time isn’t the way anyone would choose to live their life. Travel!!  Emily and I started our little tour company as a way to show people how easy it is to have the trip of a lifetime. We offer trips that are customizable for way cheaper than you’d ever imagine. And they don’t feel like it!  We stay in nice apartments, in great areas and in great cities!  As you’ve seen, we eat WELL!  We have wine with every meal, good wine!  We see all the amazing sights and so many that you’ve never imagined. We have friends everywhere we go that we have built relationships over the years. They help make the experiences we can offer extra special and still keep the prices reasonable. Don’t wait until it’s too late to truly enjoy our trips. They definitely make you exert yourself. We do a ton of walking, you have to in Europe, especially with all the food we eat. We use public transportation as often as possible, but even so, it’s a ton of walking, 8-10 miles a day most days. But you will go to bed happy and wake up excited to see what’s next!  Unlike most tours, we don’t RUN RUN RUN!  We wake up later, most days, we rest in the afternoons and we try and adjust to the needs of who we are with as best as possible. But we also feel that it’s important that we give you the best tour possible as well!  I hope that any of you who are curious about traveling abroad or travel vicariously through us will think about coming with us some day!  I promise, it’ll change your life!  As our trip comes to an end, I want to thank you all again for caring enough to pay attention to my little blog!  It really has been an amazing journey. I tried to post a video of a best of slideshow but there’s so much it wouldn’t let me! LOL It was 5 weeks ago today we landed in Paris and took the train to Lyon to start it all. It didn’t go amazingly smooth, but that’s travel. It’s not how you start, or how you finish, but all the memories you create in between and this has been as good as it gets!  From Lyon to Beaune to Paris to Avignon back to Paris to Rome to Catania to Syracuse to Agrigento back to Catania and back to Paris what a journey!  Come on in to the store so we can talk all about it!  I always say, a trip never really ends as long as you keep talking about it. That’s really the main reason I write this blog, so all of you can talk to me about the journey but more importantly, so we can relive it any time we want!  I have years of blogs on here now that I can easily access and live those days over and over again. On those long cold snowy days in the winter it sure is nice to be able to do that!  Thanks for taking the trip with us, all who were actually here and all who were here in spirit and through this blog. It means the world to us. Our customers, families and friends mean so much to us and that is truly what inspires us!  Thanks again and we love you all just so very much!!!

Brian and Emily Freund

Saturday, November 23

Fall 2019 Day 34

Last real day!  It’s a sad thing yet a happy thing. It’s been an incredible time and an amazing experience!  We have seen things we couldn’t have imagined. We spent two weeks taking people around France again. We learned more about wine than we have ever learned before!  We drank a lot of wine!  We ate some of the best meals of our lives!  We have seen sights that we had no idea would have the impact and impression on us that they did!  It’s been amazing. Now we get to go home, get our store ready to reopen, spend time with our family and love on our puppy to make up for lost time!!!  That really is the hardest part!  He sacrifices more than anyone with our schedule and then we get to go away without him. He’s the best little guy and he deserves better. We have a lot of making up to do!  We spent our last day sleeping, I’m still not feeling great!  Exploring this beautiful city of Catania!  It gets a bad rap and there are some seedy parts, but where we are is beautiful!  It’s constantly bustling with beautiful people. I’d love to come back to Catania. I look forward to returning to Sicily. A place I knew so little about and really didn’t know what to expect now will be forever a part of my stories of favorite places!  It’s amazing!  Great weather, great food, great wine, tons of history, very proud, kind, generous people, terrible drivers but amazing culture! LOL  Tomorrow we hop on a plane back to Paris and stay at the airport. Monday we come home and see Bubba!  We will be enjoying Thanksgiving with our families before reopening next Saturday! We have lots to bring home, we have to check a bag we are bringing so much home!  That’s a first for us!!  Again, thanks so much for taking this journey with us! We are so proud to know so many people care!  If you are so inspired, talk to us about coming on our spring Italy tour, we have some openings!  Also, we would gladly take a small group on a private tour that we can customize together. We plan everything for you and do all the work, you just come along and enjoy an amazing time!  We have gotten pretty good at it and have really expanded our repertoire of places we feel comfortable taking people!  Most of all, more than anything, I’d like to thank my beautiful, amazing wife, Emily!  She really is the person who allows me to fly and do these things!  Sometimes she is just along for the ride and sometimes she’s the pilot, but always, she’s my purpose in all that I do!  Seeing her happy is the greatest thing in the world and that’s my life’s goal!  She works too hard and we don’t “date” enough, and we live in a crappy apartment and may be there forever for all we know, but, we sure are lucky to have found each other and share these journeys together. I love you Emily!!  Signing off!!

Friday, November 22

Fall 2019 Day 33

Back to Catania, to a city we didn’t even recognized!  Our friends left for Rome and then home, while we stayed in Catania, where our Sicilian adventure began. We took the bus from the airport where we dropped off our rental car and it let us off right in front of our B&B. It’s not an Airbnb this time, just a B&B and it’s lovely. It’s on one of the nicest streets in Catania and we can’t even recognize this as the city we were at before. When we were here before, we spent our time by the Greek Theater. And while that was amazing, it’s not in as nice of a part of town. So our impression of Catania before was, beautiful ruins, gritty, not so pretty city. But, staying where we are now, by the Villa Bellini and Bellini Park is like a whole new world!!  Catania is lovely!  It has life and beautiful shops and lovely people and is a place I’d gladly come back to!  I don’t know if I would have said that before. On our way into town we had a perfect view of Mt Etna today and we even have a pretty good view of it from our balcony!  There is something so amazing about looking out your window and seeing a huge volcano that is still very much active and has smoke coming out of the top still!!!  I’m pretty sure we would be fine! LOL. I’m still fighting a cold so when we got into our place we napped. It was an early morning so it was necessary. We woke up, showered and explored this cool city. We are our first Arancini, a Sicilian specialty. A friend rice ball with cheese and tomato sauce in it. It was amazing. I can’t believe it took us this long to have one!  But, I have a feeling we will have more tomorrow. 😜 Then we went and walked around Bellini Park. Bellini is a famous Italian Opera Composer who is from Catania. It was a gorgeous park, we will have a lot more picture of it tomorrow in the light when it can really be appreciated!  Then we went to a restaurant that I found online. When I’m researching, I look for strange things sometimes and sometimes it really pays off!  For some reason, I looked up real Naples style pizza in Sicily. That’s where pizza came from and it’s virtually impossible to find the real deal outside of Naples. Well, in this article, I read about this place in Catania that has what this writes said was the best outside of Naples. I remembered that search today and looked it up. It happened to be right around the corner from our place. So, we went there!  They had burgers and fries and all sorts of yummy stuff. We tried a few things but then we got the pizza.  I can honestly say it was one of the very best pizzas I’ve ever had!  It was so good, we almost forgot to take a picture until there was only one piece left. So sorry for the lame picture of it. But, believe us, it was amazing!!!!  Then we got some gelato and a cannoli from the place that’s supposed to be the best in town!  It was!!!!  Another great day!!  Tomorrow Is our last day in Italy and really our last day of the trip because Sunday we head to Paris in the afternoon and we booked a hotel at the airport since it’s not worth going anywhere for less than half a day. So tomorrow is our last day of enjoyment and no travel 😔. We are ready to come home though. But we will make sure we enjoy the heck out of tomorrow!!!  Hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did and we will have a final flurry of fun for you tomorrow!!  Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, November 21

Fall 2019 Day 32

Winding down!  Today we started with an olive producer that has won gold medals all over the world for the quality of their olive oil. It’s very unique and delicious!  We will be carrying bottles back with us from Sicily all the way to Charlevoix so we can share a part of our journey with all of our customers!  We are really excited because it’s really great stuff and he is a wonderful man!!!  His groves and estate are gorgeous and we had a lot of fun!  After that we went and explored the town of Agrigento. It’s a beautiful southern Sicilian town that overlooks the Valley of the Temples. It even has tons of Greek ruins buried underneath it that you can see in various spots. Unfortunately, because it’s offseason, we couldn’t get in to any of the places that have access to the ruins to see more, but oh well!  We saw the biggest and the best!  We walked around town, it’s a town like so many others in Europe and the world for that matter. Everyone wants to live in the big cities where they see an easier path at a future so these smaller towns are having trouble surviving. There were tons of property for sale all over town and a lot of it looks a bit run down, like it hasn’t been occupied for a while. Have you seen the towns in Italy offering 1 euro properties?  I can see that happening more and more. It’s a shame because it’s still possible to carve out a slice out of these towns to make a living and a difference and keep these ancient communities alive. We went to a place just like I’m saying. A bakery that is run by a father and his two younger sons. They work hard and have a gorgeous little shop. They make amazing stuff, sell gelato and even pipe and dip you cannolis to order. That was amazing!!!!  We left and went back to our villa and enjoyed our last night in Southern Sicily.  Our friends are leaving us today and we are very sad. We have had so much fun!  It’s been amazing. They have been amazing guides on our Sicilian adventure, and amazing playmates!  It’s been full of hysterical stories and memorable times that Emily and I will cherish. We don’t get to spend a lot of time with friends, mostly because we are so darn busy and most people have a hard time being friends on our terms. Which is, we don’t see you most of the year and then once it gets cold and nobody wants to leave their house, HERE WE ARE! LOL. Having Michael, Melissa and their adorable daughter Carmela with us has been so great for us. It really has filled a void that we don’t realize is there most of the time until you have these experiences and then you remember, oh yeah, friends!!  We kinda like those!  LOL We make a lot of sacrifices!  We don’t see our families enough, we don’t see our friends hardly at all, we are lucky we have each other, but it’s nice to have more. Especially because we work so hard. I know it seems very glamorous to be in Europe for 5 weeks and believe me, it’s amazing!  But Emily and I work hard all year!  We stay open through the winters and try as best as we can to give our community something that they will appreciate and that they need. We are always there, we work our business, we have high expectations and we try to only hire people who can meet those expectations, because our business is our life!  We are trying to take others on our experiences as a way to make the off season shorter for us and for everyone who has to deal with it. We are very lucky!  But, being able to have friends to share it with is an extra special thing to us!  So, basically, thanks Michael and Melissa for giving us an experience we will never forget!  It was really special!  We are going to spend the next two days back in Catania with no car and limited access to public transportation, so really, we won’t have much the next 2 days but we are looking forward to the wind down of things. Like I said, yes, we work hard, but we love it!  When you love your job it’s almost like not working at all!!  We can’t wait to get back and see everyone and hope you are all ready for the new things we are gonna be trying and playing with when we get back!  Thanks for reading one of the last blogs of the trip. I think there will be 3 maybe 4 more entries but it makes me sad because I really love doing it!  Anyway, keep reading and enjoying and we love you all!!