Tag Archives: travel

travel bug: europe, part vi

Our second day started with a delicious breakfast in our room (apparently this is big in Italy – two of our three hotels offered it!), which we needed for our main activity: hiking the coastal trail from Vernazza to Montorosso. We had read that this was the toughest of the coastal trails connecting the Cinque Terre, but we were looking forward to a bit of a workout after all the gelato!

We walked down the winding main road in Manarola to the train station and took the train to Vernazza.

Once we arrived in Venrazza, we made our way into the main part of the town where the trail begins. We had read about the mudslides that devastated two of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza and Corniglia, and had heard that Corniglia was pretty much back to normal, but that Vernazza was still struggling to rebuild. We quickly noticed that the whole downtown was under construction and learned that the town was covered in 10-12 feet (FEET!) of mud. While it looked surprisingly good for what had happened, it was clear that they still had a ways to go before everything was back to normal. Still, you could tell why many once referred to Vernazza as the jewel of the Cinque Terre. It was very well laid out and has a beautiful coastline.

We made our way to the trailhead and started our trek.

It was stunningly beautiful right from the start. And hard. You certainly need sturdy shoes for this one! There’s not much more to say about it, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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It was an amazing hike – probably the second best of my life (the best one being the one when we got engaged!). I would recommend doing it in the direction we did – not from Monterosso to Vernazza because the stairs are in to/out of Monterosso and they are BRUTAL. I cant imagine going up them at the beginning of that hike. Much better to go down them at the end.

When we got to Monterosso, we decided we needed lunch and fast. So, we wandered along the beach and found a focacciaria for some quick and tasty grub.

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We sat and rested our feet for a bit then wandered back along the beach (stopping for gelato, of course!) to the train station. We decided to pop into Corniglia to see what it was like before heading back to our home base of Manarola.

We (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your take) didn’t know that to get from the train stop in Corniglia to the center of town one has to walk up nearly 400 steps. And this is after the many, many steps we already faced outside Monterosso (fortunately we went down those!).

But what a view from the top!

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We got to the top and meandered through the quaint town.

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There were lots of little shops and restaurants, we could see the town was definitely back in business after the landslides!

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When our legs couldn’t handle it anymore, we made our way back to Manarola to rest up for dinner. After napping and showering, we participated in La Torreta’s little happy hour and then headed towards Volastra, a little hill town above Manarola, for dinner at Cappun Magru. We planned to walk there, but didn’t really know where exactly we were headed… So, we just wandered (basically) until we found what we thought was Volastra.

It was not Volastra. More wandering…

Finally we found the town and the restaurant – and we had worked up quite a sweat in the process! Boy was it worth the effort – what an amazing experience we had at Cappun Magru. The restaurant is owned by a very friendly couple and housed in the husband’s family home. We learned all this from the wife, who was our hostess/server/welcoming committee. Not only was the atmosphere lovely, but the food was outstanding. Certainly worth the adventure getting there! Here is the view FROM OUR TABLE:

Up next: Cinque Terre, day 2.5!

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travel bug: europe, part ii

We left for Florence on Sunday afternoon, taking the fast train from Venice. Well, because the earthquake’s epicenter was between Venice and Florence, our train trip was not as speedy as we had hoped. This ended up being a bit of a blessing because we were able to sneak in a much needed long nap (jet lag is not fun when you have Italian cities to explore!).

We arrived in a rainy Florence and thanked our lucky stars that I happened to check the forecast before we packed and thus crammed raincoats and an umbrella into our bags. Phew. We wandered over to our hotel, Soggiorno Battistero, which was easy to find since it is right on the Piazza del Duomo (seriously, right.on.the.square!). The below picture was taken later on in our trip, but our window is in the top row of windows in the yellowish building (with green shutters) on the right hand side of the picture.

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Despite the rain, we decided to wander around to start to orient ourselves to the city. And we got drenched. So, naturally, we stopped in at a local cafe to grab a cappuccino and dry off. Then we headed back to the hotel to rest and change for dinner.

The owners of our wonderful little hotel were so helpful in advance of our trip, answering my frequent emails quickly and helping us make the difficult decision of where to eat while in town. For dinner our first night, we went to Boccadama, which is right on the Piazza Santa Croce. It was a nice spot for our first night since it was right on the square and had lots of delicious (cheap!) wine. We sat, undisturbed, with our vino for quite a while which was lovely. The food was so so, which would have been disappointing if we had been wanting anything more than a comfy (dry!) place with good wine. After dinner, we meandered back to our hotel, stopping for gelato on the way, and crashed hard (after saying a little prayer for the rain to end before we woke up!).

Sadly, our prayers went unanswered and we awoke to raindrops on our window. Fortunately, we had a beautiful breakfast brought to us (in our room!) complete with my favorite coffee of the trip. After fueling up, we grabbed our rain jackets and umbrellas and took to the streets, undeterred by the rain. It slowed a bit while we were out and we got to really enjoy a quiet Florence, which we realized later was a rarity this time of year!

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We spent most of the morning wandering around, popping in and out of cafes when the rain would pick up. When our tummies started rumbling, we found our way to ‘ino, a little sandwich shop near the Ponte Vecchio (our plan was to wander around the Oltrarno – the other side of the Arno – after lunch). Ino was a gem! Delicious sandwiches on freshly baked bread were just what we needed for our afternoon of walking (and walking and walking). Don’t feel too bad for us, all the walking resulted in some pictures like this:

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Ok, this has become quite long… So, the rest of Florence (and more of these great views!) in part iii.

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travel bug: europe, part i

Brian and I had been talking about taking a big trip before we even talked about talking about starting a family (we hear traveling with babies is harder than traveling without them). We had been talking about this trip basically since we got married. Where would we go? What would we do?

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We decided on Italy because neither of us had ever been. And we decided to do as much as we could without spreading ourselves too thin. Oh, and I made him go to Paris. I know that’s not in Italy, but it’s my favorite city. Ever. And I wanted to show it to my favorite boy. Ever.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we went to Italy. To Venice, Florence, and Manarola, to be precise. And I want to tell you (and me, for posterity) all about it.

First: Venice.

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We arrived in Venice after a red-eye flight and a well-timed Ambien. We took the bus to the train station (after figuring out that it costs extra to do the bus+water bus combo ticket and learning that the ticket machine only likes Eurostar Mastercards… just FYI) and then took the water bus/vaporetto to our hotel’s stop (Ca d’Oro).

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After we checked in (loved our hotel/b&b Hotel Bernardi Semenzato), we wandered around until we met up with the sister of the work study student in my office for lunch (she’s studying in Venice – love the small-world-amazingness of that). We chatted with her and got the scoop on what to do while we were in town. After lunch, we wandered back over the Rialto bridge to the Doge’s Palace.

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We wandered through all the beautiful rooms and took in all the opulence of the palace. After meandering through the swarms of tourists in Piazza San Marco, we hopped back on the vaporetto and took a tour of the city on the grand canal (loved these trips on the vaporetto – like an impersonal, but equally fabulous gondola ride).

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Then we headed to dinner (after a quick nap, of course!) at Antiche Carampagne, which was delicious. I ordered a dish that was certainly on the top of my list for favorite meals in Italy, and I have no idea what it was (something about baby octopuses and tagiolini). We had prosecco and (of course) gelato. We wandered back to the hotel the long way, through Piazza San Marco, which was lovely, despite the men selling flying toys.

The next morning, after breakfast (and an earthquake), we decided to just wander semi-aimlessly through the city, enjoying getting lost and finding our way again.

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And we saw this little kid who was shooting passing gondolas with a water gun. Love, love, love.

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After a great lunch at a little pizza place, we headed to the station to catch the train to our next destination. It was a short, but great, visit to Venice.

Up next: Florence!

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Picture Post: A California Christmas

Since Brian and I got a fancy new camera, we’ve both been taking more pictures. Here are some that I took on our recent trip to California for Christmas. The first is a sunset taken from the beach in front of our house. Ah-mazing.

The house we stayed in is on the far right. It was so cute – an old, 1920s beach ranch once owned by Rudy Valentino.

This picture was taken right outside our house – isn’t the falling apart tire swing sort of neat?

And since we were in CA, we saw some surfers (on Christmas Day, of course).

Also taken on our Christmas Day drive:

{in case you can’t tell, that is a fish, not a bone}

{i know it’s a little whitewashed, but I kinda like it}

While we were in CA, we went to see the Getty Villa, which was stunning. Brian took this amazing picture, which will likely find itself on our walls.

Our house, from the beach, a little more close up:

Another beautiful sunset…

My cute parents:

Pretty great trip – I can’t believe it’s already behind me. At least I have these pictures – what a difference a good camera makes!!

Did you go anywhere fun for the holidays?

 

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Travel Bug: Wine Country

Brian and I traveled to California’s wine country for a friend’s wedding and decided that we definitely did not spend nearly enough time there.

Unfortunately, we only had a quick weekend there, but fortunately we had a friend who knew her way around (thanks, Merin!) and introduced us to some great vineyards.

First, we went to the Seghesio Family vineyard, which is famous for their Zinfandels…and their gorgeous labels (I’m a total sucker for labels, and totally pick wines based on them, which I know is not what you’re supposed to do).

Both Brian and I loved everything we tried there, and Brian really isn’t a wine fan (yet!).

Then our group went to Francis Ford Coppola‘s winery for lunch (and a tasting, of course!).  Lunch was amazing – they set us up with a great spot right in the middle of the restaurant, Rustic.

Rustic has all of the Coppola family’s favorite dishes and we tried several – the pizzas were amazing!  They also had a great wine selection, of course.

After lunch, we took a couple of pictures outside so we could take advantage of the amazing view.  Here’s one of the guys, who were stuck corralling twelve girls who spent all morning sampling wines…

Aren’t they good sports?  Even putting up with us forcing them to take a picture…

Then, on to the wine tasting, which was wonderful!  We got to sample several of their more famous wines and ogle Mr. Coppola’s Oscars…

There was also a vintage car just outside the tasting room, which we were, of course, impressed (and confused?) by.

The wedding took place at the beautiful Paradise Ridge Winery, which has stunning views from its outdoor patio.

Stunning, right? It was a beautiful day for a wedding and we had an amazing time. We just wish had more time to spend with our friends and more time to take in all that wine country has to offer.  Guess that just means we’ll have to plan another trip out there sometime.  What should we be sure to do on our next trip?

{all images, except the last three, are by a friend of mine – her camera made me want a “legit” camera SO BAD}

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Travel Bug: Chicago

I am traveling to Chicago for work soon and am hoping to be able to squeeze in some me time while I’m there.  My schedule is already pretty packed with work-related meetings, but here are some fun things I’d like to try, if time permits:

1. Architectural Boat Tour – this has been recommended to me several times, though I’ve never had enough time to actually do it.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I might on this trip.  Bonus: my hotel is right near the launching point.

2. Restaurants – there are so many amazing restaurants in Chicago, I don’t even know where to start!  These are some I’m planning to visit for some of my work appointments, but would love recommendations of others I should try if I find myself alone at mealtime.

  • Macello – listed in Chicago Mag’s Best Pizza issue… sign me up!
  • Twin Anchors – One of the oldest restaurants in Chicago (opened in 1881) and an old Frank Sinatra haunt.  Sounds pretty neato to me!
  • theWit – This is actually my hotel for my stay (thank you, again, hotels.com) and apparently has a pretty swank bar on the roof.  A fun beverage enjoyed while taking in the Chicago skyline? Yes, please.

3. The new Modern Art wing at the Art Institute – I’ve been to the Art Institute before and it’s definitely worthwhile.  A friend told me that the new wing just opened last year and is “pretty incredible, and I don’t even like Modern Art!”

I’ve been to Millennium Park before and it’s very fun to walk around, so I will probably do that again.

And, if I’m being honest, I know I’ll end up somewhere on the Magnificent Mile at some point… It’s hard to resist!

I’ve been keeping up with Tara‘s recommendations for Chicago, which could be fun if I feel like just wandering around and discovering a neighborhood.

Who knows if I’ll have time for any of this, but it’s fun to think about!

What would you do if you had a few days in the Windy City?

Located in an historic Old Town building that dates back to 1881, Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern® is one of the oldest restaurants in the city of Chicago.

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