Day 51 A Birthday Italian Style *Not really my birthday today, just catching up*

Today is my 46th birthday…and what a great day!  Today started with breakfast in bed made by Russ and Reid…yummy eggs, potatoes, and mimosas!  The other fantastic surprise was the card that Reid made me (if you know Reid, you understand that writing is his kryptonite (or however you spell it) I mean to say that he hates to do it is an understatement!) and inside the card was the sweetest written letter from him!  It was the best present a mom could ever get! Well, I did get another present… I am obsessed with red Vespas (and no I did not get a Vespa) but it is my dream to own one some day.  I have visions of riding around on my Vespa…like I have no cares in the world.  Okay, I said visions… not the reality of helmet hair, freaking out about falling off, or having rain pour down on me…think more Roman Holiday.  So of course everywhere we were in Italy I would point them out…and btw they are EVERYWHERE in Italy.  So , no I did not get a red Vespa for my birthday…I got something even better…and red Vespa key chain.  It comes in this cool little retro box, and looks like the front of a Vespa…trust me it is super cool!!

Well the plan for the day was to go to the beautiful Tuscan town of Sienna, well thanks to breakfast in bed and a few rounds of mimosas, we got a bit of a late start…so we decided to go to a town a bit closer to us…so it was Cortona instead!  Yes, the Cortona of “Under the Tuscan Sun” fame…one and the same!  Since I am a total freak for that movie, to say I was excited was an understatement.  Our drive to Cortona was super interesting, to me it is so fun to see the little towns and places that are on the road to the “destination”.  Thanks to the fact that it is November…the day was foggy and a bit dreary.  When we got to Cortona, we had to park at the base of the hill, in a parking lot.  Okay here is the best part (note the sarcasm) you take an escalator…yep you heard me…an escalator up into the town.  Or, if you are like me and you just ate a birthday breakfast, you take the stairs next to the escalator that your husband and son are on!  I have to say that I was a bit worried that we were climbing our way into a tourist trap…escalator and all.  How wrong I was!  Cortona is a quaint, small, and even a bit rustic little hill town! And when we got to the top, in Garibaldi Square…the view below looked like heaven!  We were up above the clouds…the sun was shining…you could see some houses on hills…but below that a billowy blanket of white….breathtaking!

Small and narrow cobble stone streets that open into small squares, just picturesque and lovely.  Yes, in a few shop windows I did see Diane Lane’s face, but all in all they kept the touristy stuff to a minimum!  They had a few beautiful and rustic churches, they even had a church that St. Francis had been to … it was called San Francesco and dates back to the 13th century.  Apparently it was built by St. Francis’ best bud and they had some artifacts from St. Francis on display .  But the best part was yet to come! We wanted to go to the Santa Margherita church on the top of the hill…and so off we went!  We did use our Rick Steve’s guidebook to help us wind our way around town, and up the somewhat rustic and rain worn path.  And when we got to the basilica, it was all worth it!  The church was really a special place…now if you know me, you know I am not much for organized religion,etc… but this place was something special.  Of course while you are walking around, you are not allowed to speak out of respect for worshipers, so when we got out of the church, Russ, Reid, and I all started talking about how we all had such an overwhelming feeling of peace and love…it was a very moment I will never forget!  And then there was the view from the hilltop…again a feeling of being in heaven…beautiful and peaceful!

After our hike back down, it was time to eat!  And yes, in true Alton style, it was about 2:00…nothing is open and no one will feed you!  Aggh!  So we somehow found our way into a wine shop!  It looked like it was in a wine cave…stone walls…rustic furniture…Italian perfection! I LOVE wine, so what a great way to spend the day wine tasting in a cute little shop!  I know very little about wine, just know I like to drink it!  Expensive, cheap…well not too cheap…red or white I do not discriminate!  The shop we went to was for a small family winery in Montepulciano called Romeo…how Italian is that?  The lady was this fantastic Italian women who had us sitting in chairs sipping wine before we knew what hit us!  Since we were all a bit hungry, and nothing was open, this was a perfect way to spend the afternoon!  We tasted red wines, white wines, organic honey, dessert wines, grappa, and of course (my favorite thing in the whole wide world…limoncello!!!  Of course we had a fantastic time, and did not leave empty handed!

After our wine tasting on the way out of Cortona, we stumbled upon “The Artist Cafe” it was a cute little cafe.  It was funky, decorated super cute…and let’s face it…it was OPEN!  So in we went!  It actually ended up being a great spot for some yummy pasta and a great coffee after!

I have to admit I was really missing my family!  My sisters were together visiting my aunt who lives in a cool little town called Patagonia in Arizona.  We have had so many fun times there together…even went on a sister trip in the past (all three of us)…so I knew what I would be missing!  I thought that I had a fantastic birthday…until I got a little message from my sister!  It was a silly video they made with some of my aunt’s treasured (and I when I say treasured…you must think knitting, dolls, and toilet paper covers).  It was the funniest video I have ever watched!  We all laughed so hard that we cried!  I was so touched..not just that they thought of me…but that they went out of their way to make this crazy video for me!  It will always stay with..it touched my heart!  I also got some great birthday wishes on FB and email from my wonderful family and friends. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear… and actually birthday card from my dad and his wife to top it all off!  I realized the best gift of all is the one I already have…my family and friends too! Thank you all for a birthday I will never forget!

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