Red & Orange: Holy Bologna!

It was really difficult to find a rainbow in Bologna because as you can see from the photos, it’s a really red and orange city!  After all, it is the home of Bolognese.

Even though we spent less than 24 hours in this town, I could see the appeal of living in this Italian city surrounded by lush parks, hip eateries, and covered walkways.  It was altogether spectacular and I would recommend the city for anyone who loves food.

I really have nothing more to say about it, because again, I was only there for a few hours, but I could tell this city has lots of charm and much more to offer!

🌈 Steph

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Florence, Italy

 

My first impression of Florence, after just arriving from Venice, was one of chaos.  While Venice offered up relaxing side streets and long leisurely walks free from noise and car pollution, Florence seemed a bustling metropolis where one wrong step off of the narrow sidewalk could leave you in the hospital.  My feelings of malaise surrounding this big Tuscan City quickly faded when we discovered the hidden gardens on the “other side of the river” and the quaint town of Fiesole, just a short bus ride away from the town center.

As the Lonely Plant guide said, “One of the best things about Florence, is leaving it.”  So we headed to the village of Fiesole, which stands proudly on top of a hill, popping out of sweet smelling trees and buzzing insects.  Here are some photos from our perfectly strenuous hike to find the launching point of DaVinci’s first flying machine:

By the time we got back to Florence that afternoon, I was feeling much more positively about the whole city, and although we had planned to leave agin the next day and go to a different Tuscan town, we decided to see the sights in the city instead.  The gallery below shows some highlights from our sightseeing over the next four days.  All of the things I show here, are things I would recommend doing.

 

Click on the Gallery below and read the captions for some good times!

In addition to the above and the obligatory eating and drinking, I would highly recommend the Galileo Museum for anyone who does not like museums and has no interest in history.  It’s amazing.  Here is a map of what the world used to look like:

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Until next time,

🌈 Steph

Venice and the Veneto

As we approached Venice by plane, I could see the islands spread out in the blue lagoon.  There was a fog that was just dissipating and the plane looked as if it was going to land right in the water.  After collecting our bags, we had the choice of taking a the public water bus which chugs along at walking pace, or to take a private water taxi from the docks.  Hmmm….

Now lets take a pause here for a moment.  In my traditional method of travel, I would try to save every penny possible, opting for cramming myself onto the public bus, even if it meant standing up for an hour and 20 minutes.  But new me is all about the water taxi.  New me is about setting a budget for a trip and sticking to it, not just going on a trip and trying not to spend any money, that doesn’t even make sense.

So you’ll know by now we opted for the private taxi.  Woo Hoo!watertaxi

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Whizzing away from Marco Polo Airport

On our first full day in Venice, we went to a fabulous restaurant down an alley (see photo gallery) and it’s where I discovered Prosecco was invented in Venice.  We also visited the Peggy Gugenheim museum, which was a must-see and wandered for lots of hours.

Our second day in venice we ventured to the far off island of Burano, which is a rainbow island of world famous risotto and lace.

Venice is not one of those places you can just show up and eat good food.  Some research is required as Venice is so touristy it has been compared to Disneyland.  Now, this was not my experience, but we had flagged all of the good food and bar stops to avoid eating reheated rubbish.  Other Recommendations:

The oldest paper store in Italy:

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Have a tiny glass of wine and the local tapas called cicheti.

Drink an Aperol Spritz, it was invented here.

The theme of our trip was walk, drink, eat, repeat.  The only bad part about Venice was leaving.  When can I go back?

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🌈  Steph

24 Hours in Paris

 

16:30 GMT:  Get on Eurostar to Paris

20:00 CET:  Arrive in Paris Nord and travel to Marais

21:00 CET:  Dinner at Le Petit Fer au Cheval with old friends

00:00 CET:  Travel to Franklin Roosevelt and gather midnight picnic items

00:15 CET:  Sneak into office building and climb to the roof overlooking Eiffel Tower

01:00 CET:  See light show on Eiffel Tower (last one of the night)

01:30 CET:  travel to Ibis and go to sleep by 2am

08:00 CET:  Wake up!  Get dressed!

09:00 CET:  Breakfast on the Champs Elysées

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Sign in front of Christian Dior

10:00 CET:  Slowly make way from Champs Elysees to Le Jardin des Plantes along the Seine

11:00 CET:  Explore garden and slowly make way to the Latin Quarter stopping at record                             shops and the Roman Coliseum along the way

13:00 CET: Lunch followed by a trip to the BonsBons shop

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Le BonBon au Palais

16:00 CET: Make way to Jardin du Luxembourg and share a bottle of Rose among friends

18:00 CET:  Wander through the park and catch some sun

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Boating Lake at Jardin du Luxembourg

19:30 CET:  get back to Gare du Nord to catch the 20:15 train back to London!

🌈 Steph

 

 

 

Cro “yay!” tia

I have had my sights set on spending eight glorious days on the tiny island of Vis for seven months, and it finally happened!  We have taken quite the hiatus from traveling over the last year, deciding only to go to places nearby on train and in the UK.  We were looking for a vacation that didn’t involve sightseeing or cities, plus one of us doesn’t like sitting on the beach (hint: it isn’t me) and so we went this island to have a different kind of experience.

The Food

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Of course I just assumed I was going to get food poisoning, since I got it 2 out of the last 4 times whilst traveling south of the English Channel.  So I decided to try and combat my fears and just ignore everything and eat anywhere.  Would Croatia’s hygiene standards outperform that of Greece and one particular restaurant (Bobbyland) in Malta?

The answer is yes!  From home-tinned fish to deep fried sardines to octopus cooked over five hours under a domed lid, we had some of the best eating experiences in Croatia that we’ve had traveling.  On the third night, we were picked up by van and taken to a Vineyard called Roki’s.  There they have courtyard dining in a beautiful setting.  We got there early and so the chef showed us how he had prepared out meal.  (This is not the greatest photo because the fire was so hot I could barely take a picture!)

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Another amazing food experience was the Fisherman’s Festival, which happened on the second to last night of our visit.  They were selling wine for the equivalent of £1 per glass and they were giving away FREE fried anchovy sandwiches!  Here a picture of the event getting set up.

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The Car

Renting a car for one day cost the equivalent of £40.  We were able to drive all around the island and hike from the road down to some pretty amazing beaches.  The one that really stood out for me was Stiniva, voted Europe’s best beach of the year.  Basically, it is a little cove surrounded by high limestone walls and it’s tiny beach is speckled with many tourists.  There are also many people swimming to the beach from their yachts.  However, by the time we got there, it was 5pm and the beach was in the shade.  People were leaving.  By 6:30 we were the last people there and we had the beach all to ourselves!

Another touristy spot that we had to hit was The Green Cave.  We were reluctant to go to this, given that the guidebook said it was crowded, but for £20 we got a ride out to the cave and we’re glad we did:

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The pictures don’t do it justice, but that’s me swimming and the water is bluish green.

Vis Town

The best thing about Vis is where we stayed.  We were at a airBNB for seven nights and it was comfortable.  Our host, Miro cooked us a very fresh and amazing dinner one night while we chatted about many things.  We had his homemade wine from his vineyard and for dessert, Ustipci.  Ustipci are fried dough balls that we just called “Balls of Vis” when we were there because we could not read, understand, or pronounce any Croatian.  But our hosts thought that was really funny.

The Kayak

I have never been so close to real exhaustion and dehydration as I was on the day we rented kayaks.  First of all, kayaks are kind of gross.  You sit in a pool of water all day and risk getting swamp butt.  The paddles are double sided and you get splashed in the face by others kayaking around you.  They’re so heavy you need two people to lift them.  You can flip apparently, but why would you want to?  I am still 100% on the side of canoes.  I want to stay relatively dry and I like sitting up and getting lots of power from my strokes…but that’s for another time.

Kayaking in Croatia was cool!  If you look at the map below and find Komiza, we kayaked south of there, around the tip and to where it says Bili Rat.

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Bili Rat is amazing.  It was by far the best beach that I’ve been to.  It had rocks for climbing, a cave to swim to, and beautiful water.  I have no pictures from there because I was having so much fun.  Notice how there are no roads?  That allowed for us to be pretty much alone, except for a kayak guide and his 30 charges who pulled into the beach shortly after us.  You might think it was annoying, but it wasn’t.  He was very concerned about us paddling against the wind and current on the way back, to the point where he left us his outrageously long phone number to call him just in case we needed to paddle to the other town and get picked up.

I’m here to tell you that we did paddle back against the wind.  At times it was totally manageable.  We sang sea shanties and were able to paddle back at a nice pace.  Then we ran out of water.  Then it got really hot.  Then there were lots of waves.  We could see the town in view, but it was so far.  It was like paddling on a treadmill.  It also felt really urgent because of the gathering of storm clouds coming over the mountain.  At one point I started laughing hysterically for no reason.  I think I was on the brink of dehydration.

When we returned to town and told people what we had done, no one could believe it!  People were abhorred and concerned we were going to lose weight while on holiday.  I mean it was hard, but it wasn’t that bad.  Is no one on this island in shape enough to do anything?  I mean, we also rented bikes one day and everyone told us it was “not possible” to ride outside of the harbor area because it was too steep.  I’m not even kidding that Andrew biked over the mountain in like ten minutes.

Rainbow Roundup

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Drink RED wine from the region.  There are several vineyards on Vis and they’re all very different.  Get in the car and taste them out!

 

citroenRent an ORANGE car.  No one cares what kind of damage you do to these cars.  I can testify to this as Andrew rammed ours into a cement wall leaving two huge marks, which none even cared about or noticed for that matter.  They’re beat up, but they will get you from place to place.

ustipciTry the Balls of Vis!  YELLOWish fried dough balls + plus powdered sugar +Nutella=midnight snack under the stars.

Check out the GREEN Cave.  Charter a little boat or if you are a masochist, hire a kayak.  You can go swimming in the cave.  But quick!  Take pictures before too many boats come in!

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Spend time skinny dipping in the BLUE waters of the FKKs.  Croatia has so many nude beaches, you might as well drop trow and jump in!

Drive to the top of the hill and watch the PURPLE sunset.

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🌈  Steph

 

 

Paris, Encore

 

It was the first time we have been to Paris since the attacks back in November, and I must say it was quiet.  I couldn’t believe how short all of the lines were and how few people were in almost every place we went.  It was the first time I saw people who actually live in Paris.  I noticed people going to work and going out to eat on Valentine’s Day, and I don’t think they were tourists.  It was nice.  We saw some of the most amazing sites we didn’t even know existed, like the Petit Palais and the Palais de Tokyo.  They’re both free! I didn’t think anything in Paris was free!  I went back to the Pompidou (not free) for the first time since 2006 and I had a completely different experience and learned a ton.  Do you know this artist, Wifredo Lam?  Amazing.

One of the most fascinating things I discovered is that the Pantheon, which is a building in Paris that houses the tombs of Voltaire, Rousseau, Curie, etc, is not in fact in Ancient Greece.  However, in the sixth grade, for our ancient Greece project, whereby we had to build a famous structure from Ancient Greece, I chose the Pantheon.  I remember very clearly making the dome out of styrofoam and spray painting it gold, and then watching as the paint started to eat away at the foam.  The memory is very clear.  It’s not that astounding that a sixth grader could make that type of mistake.  You know Pantheon/Parthenon, so similar.  But it is astounding that no one told me I had made this mistake.  Unless of course, no one had ever heard of the Pantheon in the first place.  Or they thought that Parthenon and Pantheon were interchangeable words.  There is, by the way, a Pantheon in Rome.  Which would have been a more understandable mistake, but no, that’s not the one I built.  I’ve been to that one too.   Sadly, I definitely built the one in Paris. But it’s cool though.  You should go.

White mountain

DSC00771We recently journeyed to a sleepy little ski town known to few outside of France.  While this time of year often leaves us desperately searching for warmth on a tropical island, instead we decided to embrace winter and all it has to offer.

A bus (following a 3.5 hour train ride) was our only option.  It is in lieu of the former train line that carried people to the little mountain towns.  It is a harrowing hour and 45 minute ride that steadily climbs up cliff sides and winds around mountain passes.  As you drive higher and higher, the snow gradually piles up while the temperature reader on the bus marquee gradually counts down from 6 degrees celsius.  When you finally reach the summit, you are met with sweeping views of this volcanic region which includes craters and rocky crags.  By the time we pulled into the town, the bus said it was one degree celsius outside and it was bright and sunny.

Despite the beauty with which we were surrounded, we worried we had a made a mistake.  We didn’t really understand what was going on in this town and we went into three or four restaurants only to be turned away for some unknown reason.  Not, “would you like to wait for a table?” but instead, “No we’re full.”  But everything (or nothing) happens for a reason and we ended up at a charming little pizzeria where we were seated next to the only other English speaking couple in town.  “How did you know about this place?!” asked a cool, ski-bum-esque couple from Nottingham.  When we explained we were only here because Andrew is playing at the Jazz Festival, they seemed a bit relieved.  They went on to explain that they have come  to this area for the past three years because it is cheap and largely unknown.  “The first time we came here, I saw a guy skiing down the mountain in all denim with a cigarette in his ear.” Yes, typical France.

We basically went cross country skiing, hiking, and walking to three beautiful waterfalls, all pictured in the following photos.  The blistering cold, the shimmery frost, and the sometimes powdery snow left us worshipping the White Witch.  Bring on the Winter!

 

 

 

 

Rainbow roundup: 2015

 

2015 has had a a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns.  Here’s where I travelled, in order, from January to December and how I rated the trips on a scale of 1-10.

Bruges, Belgium: semi disastrous, overly touristy, freezing cold, mediocre food = 2/10, not recommended

Orlando, FL: bad conference, terrifyingly un-eco-friendly, was uplifted by seeing an old friend and the sunshine = 4/10, not recommended

Tring, England (Champneys Health Spa with 70% off Vitality Health Insurance):  English country estate, super discount, healthy food, massages, sauna, brokedown trains, expensive taxi, lukewarm hot tub = 6/10, recommended only if you can get the discount

Edinburgh, Scotland:  Seeing old friends, eating great food, hidden gin bar, camp songs, gardens, Goldsworthy, and great art = 9/10, highly recommended

Bornholm, Denmark:  Good friends, food halls, island life, biking for transport, sea, white sand, new moon rituals, cabin with fireplace, hiking, ancient forest = 10/10, must see!

Seven Sisters, Rye and driving East Sussex: nice hike, beautiful views, warm weather, friendly people = 9/10, must see for second-time visitors to England and/or for nature enthusiasts

Jackson, Wyoming:  I wouldn’t recommend flying to Jackson from London for three nights, but I would recommend this trip, which is one of the most beautiful places in America.  Also, I got to see my best friend get married = 10/10

Aldeburgh, England: birdwatching, cosy cottage, long walks, friendly people = 10/10, Suffolk is the place to go to get out of London! We loved it so much we went twice = 10/10

Staycation, Muswell Hill, London:  For those of you who don’t know, we moved!  Finally, after dealing with a flat that had a dysfunctional toilet, a nosey landlord, loud upstairs neighbors, and a neighborhood with literally nothing to do, we have moved to the sweet, fairytale land of Muswell Hill.  Situated on tip of a high hill, near Alexandra Palace, Muswell Hill is a little refuge out of London.  We love it so much that we cancelled our Thanksgiving to Paris just so we could revel in the glory that is our new flat and ‘hood.  Finally, after 2.5 years, we feel like we have come home!

What’s next for 2016?

Mont Dore, France in February. Will there be snow?!

Scottish Highlands in March.  Will there be rain?!

We’re thinking of a little trip to Italy or perhaps Malta again for the summer, but then again, we’re being pulled back to Denmark.  Any ideas?!  So many places to go!

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Our only Copenhagen

From the moment we stepped off the train, I was enchanted with the cosiness of Copenhagen.  Well, it’s not just cosiness, it’s Hygge.  How can a train station be Hygge?

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I am also impressed with Andrew’s ability to find a bus route to where we need to go.  To do this in Danish is three times as difficult.  When I was traveling in college, I was good at that too.  But now I just think, “why can’t we take a cab?”

The flat we rented in Copenhagen was inspirational.  Its minimalist Danish style provided the perfect setting for our homemade Christmas dinner and cosy nights in.  The flat has influenced us to create a style of decor that makes us feel cosy but also minimal.  Our new flat in London now reflects mid-century Danish design.  To get us started, we bought these before we left Denmark:

 

Almost everything in Copenhagen was closed.  However, it was so amazing there, we hardly complained.  We ate great food, went on freezing walks, and also went to Tivoli Gardens, where Andrew rode his first rollercoaster…ever!  We had such an amazing time.  I highly recommend Tivoli Gardens, mainly because it looks like this:

We also visited Louisiana, the most amazing museum I have seen.  it is situated on a bluff overlooking the water.  You can see across to Sweden.  We then went to the castle on which Hamlet was based.

Because many things were closed, we went back to Copenhagen in the summer on our way to Bornholm.  You might think we decided to fly this time, but we didn’t.  We took the train again, this time with a our pals Anne and Scott.  We spent our time in the Torvehalle and at Illums Bollighaus.  In the Torvehalle we ate this:

 

At Illums bollighaus we bought these:

 

This brief return to Copenhagen over the summer showed us once again that Denmark is the best place to visit.  IN summary, follow this simple itinerary and you will have the time of your life:

  1.  Visit the Torvehalle every day for lunch
  2. Go to Louisiana to view world class art and walk around the grounds
  3. Go to Tivoli Gardens on a clear night
  4. Shop at Illum Bollighaus, or just go inside to view Danish Design
  5. Do a little research with a trusted travel guide or website to decide which of Copenhagen’s cosiest and best cafes and restaurants you’d like to try

Some more gems from Copenhagen:

After Copenhagen we took the train to the town of Odense, spent a night there, and then to Denmark’s most picturesque town of Ribe.  The the train all the way back to London!  A very amazing trip, where we had two weeks to travel at our leisure.  Can’t wait to go back!

 

 

 

 

Oh, duh. Cologne!

Living abroad away from friends and family for the past two years has been depressing at Christmastime.  We thought it would be fun and exciting, but really, it was lonely.  Our first Christmas here we thought it would be very romantic.  We had ideas of waking up on Christmas morning, renting Barclays Bikes and riding the streets of London on the one day a year when there is no traffic.  We even went to a church service at St. Martin’s in the Field in an attempt to participate in the festivities.  We posted pictures of our fun times, which was deceiving, because we just wanted to be with our friends and family playing music, having Christmas Eve snacks and drinks, and the traditional Christmas night mini-party at our house.   As we celebrated our first London Christmas by making a traditional dinner,  we vowed not to stay in London the following year.  However, when year 2 rolled around, it didn’t make sense once again to buy expensive tickets home.  So instead, we embarked on a two-week long train journey for less than half the price of flying home.  Our first stop was Cologne, Germany.

We expected just to find a nice place to eat dinner and then to sleep for the night, but what we found was a spectacular display of the world’s best Christmas Markets!  Each one was magical.  Even though there were thousands of people around, it felt like we had made a special discovery.  The joy and friendliness at all of the markets was inspiring.  We went to three different markets, each with a different theme.  One was bright and bustling with lights (upper right), one was cosy and green (bottom left), and one was nautical with white sails and was located on the river (not pictured.  I think there were at least five more that we didn’t go to.

The moral of the story is: If you can’t be at home, be at a German Christmas Market.