Category Archives: Travel
So our spring break starts soon and we have a fabulous trip planned out. We love to visit Europe and have been to many cities… but some of you may or may not know…my favorite destination is Italy. Well, I love to go to Ireland as well… I am always ready to go to either of those countries… So, when it came time to plan this vacation, of course, I suggested Italy… but my husband and daughter did not agree (surprise, surprise)… we threw around a few destinations and decided on Germany. We have been for a few days here and there but have never done the entire vacation in Germany. So, Germany it was… we started doing research and decided on flying into Munich and flying out of Berlin. We opted to take trains to travel from the South to the North of the country. We are big on public transportation and actually love traveling in trains, especially in Europe… plus one gets to really pay attention to all the surroundings, sitting in a train or bus.
Usually my criteria for choosing a destination is first and foremost… food… it has to be yummy food. I guess that is why Germany never came up. I have been there before and the breads are delicious and so are the pretzels but after a while one gets a bit tired of the sausage, etc. But I think the big cities should be filled with all kinds of cuisines including German, of course, so I think I am looking forward to all of that. Actually my very good German friend thought it was about time we gave Germany a chance- she mentioned how the Italian food is really good in the south of the country.
To me the food is extremely important … I like to explore the city/country of choice by going through the grocery stores, finding local eateries and enjoying the local people….I am hoping to do the same in Germany.
So, join me next week as I explore Germany- Munich, one night in Salzburg, Nuremberg and then Berlin! It should be great fun… look out for my posts from location!!
Sigh… Day 3 was already upon us as we woke up early to catch our 9 something, hour and change, train to Como. I enjoyed a cheese, mushroom and bacon omelette for breakfast and washed it down with cappuccino and an espresso. Shortly after breakfast we found ourselves on the train and in Como. We got off and immediately saw the beautiful lake. Our concierge recommended we take a train to Como and then a ferry to Bellagio and another one to Varenna and then take a train back to Milan.
We walked around the town of Como that is filled with little boutiques and restaurants. It was beautiful and quaint. We spent an hour just enjoying the amazing town. We already had our ferry tickets to Bellagio so we walked over to the dock and go on. About half an hour later, we were docked in the beautiful town of Bellagio. The stores and restaurants were perched up and so we climbed and found a little restaurant for lunch- Ristoro Forma & Gusto, we were hungry and ordered a mushroom pizza and a pasta. It was decent, not amazing- but decent in Italy is pretty good and wine was yummy! We walked around Bellagio some more- it is gorgeous and overrun with tourists- I can’t imagine how it is in the summer. In fact I will be there next summer and wanted to decide where to stay… either in Como or Bellagio. I am currently leaning towards Como or Varenna.
Speaking of Varenna, it was absolutely gorgeous… small, quaint and filled with brightly colored buildings, which looked amazing against the water… We sat down at a cafe overlooking the water and enjoyed a snack and a glass of Prosecco! It was very relaxing and we felt very grateful, sitting there, being able to appreciate this beautiful, amazing view. I think, maybe we will stay in Varenna next year….
We sat there for a while and eventually made our way to the train station to catch the train to Milan. An hour later we were in a cab headed to some more shops… as the stores close quite early there- 7:30. We rushed over to look at some shoes and clothes and then made our way back to the main piazza … as we got closer, we could hear some singing and cheering. As we got closer, we realized there was a concert going on- a MTV concert- and Ellie Goulding was performing! We stood there for a while, enjoying all her popular songs. We then decided to drop our stuff off in the room and come back to enjoy the rest of the concert. While in the room, we looked up the concert and read Duran Duran was supposed to perform. We got excited, as we loved Duran Duran in the late 80’s but were not sure if we had already missed them! We walked back to the piazza and decided to sit at a very touristy cafe as it had a direct view of the concert. We looked at the menu and gasped at the high prices- but thought it was worth it as we had good seats. We ordered food, not expecting much but actually the food was pretty good! I enjoyed a tortellini cooked in butter and sage! As we enjoyed our meal, Duran Duran came on- what?? We couldn’t believe our luck as they sang quite a few of our favorite songs! It was a lovely evening and a great way to end the fabulous trip!
We headed back and hung out in the lobby discussing how we had to wake up early the next day to catch an early flight. I woke up at 5:30 the next morning, got dressed and found out our flight was delayed 6 hours… OMG, what??? So, we decided to go back to sleep! In a nutshell, we got 6 more hours in Milan- we were thrilled! We ate breakfast, went shopping, got on the train and made our way to the airport!
The entire trip was a whirlwind- we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Italy is my favorite destination for many reasons- I love the people, the food, the wine and especially the ability to appreciate, La Dolce Vita, the sweet life. Every time I am there, it reminds me to slow down and enjoy today! I love it and I love going there… best of all, I love going home! Until next time…
Woke up refreshed the next morning at 8 AM and got dressed to go down for breakfast. Over some eggs, rolls, cheese and coffee, we discussed the agenda of the day. We had heard of 10 Corso Como– which is the most fashionable store in Milan. We took a cab there and walked around this beautiful store filled with high fashion and amazing designs…
After drooling over very expensive clothes and shoes, we decided to find an outlet so we could really shop! We bought a few things and decide to walk towards the Brera design district. It was a very quaint, cobblestoned area with loads of boutiques and cafes. We window shopped and finally sat down for a snack and wine break. We were quite tired of walking all day, so we decided to just sit in the outdoor cafe and people watch- People in Italy in general are very well dressed, but specifically in Milan, they are extremely fashionable!
After our rest we started walking again, this time towards our hotel. We stopped at the Scala, which is the famous Milan theater right next to the Duomo. We then returned to our hotel and made a reservations at Ristorante Al Mercante, a restaurant we had read about serving typical Milanese cuisine. The area is known for rich dishes like ossobuco and risotto cooked with saffron.
We reached the place and were seated immediately. Our waitress was extremely friendly and accommodating. I was confused between ordering the ossobuco with the risotto or the spaghetti with clams. She was willing to give me a half a portion of each to make me happy but then after thinking about it, I decided to go with the specialty of the area- and it was the right decision as it was delicious! The wine was yummy and so were the zucchini flowers we started with. They had panna cotta and tiramisu, so we had both… housemate and delicious!
As we walked home after an amazing meal, we decided to go to the Lake Como area for the day as it was just an hour away! So, stay tuned!
Milan, here I come!! Yes, that’s right, I am going to my favorite country, Italy! I can’t get enough of the beautiful and delicious destination and so a good friend of mine and I are off to the city of fashion for a long weekend! I can’t wait to get off the plane and have a yummy cup of cappuccino at the airport and start the delicious few days.
As I was browsing the web about 6 or 7 months ago, I came across an ad on the side of the page that quoted a really good price to fly to Milan- my eyes got bigger and I immediately started searching… turns out, the fares were as low as $650 from Newark to Milan on United– what??? I decided, I have to go, even if it is on my own… one doesn’t get a direct flight for such a low price everyday- and that to my favorite destination! We have not been to Milan before… as it has never been a destination I was very interested in… it is a city that is filled with fashion… which is great but it never came up as a family vacation. So, when this opportunity presented itself, I felt it would be perfect to go with friends and enjoy what the city has to offer…
So, I got in touch with a friend and she and I, after researching for dates/prices for over an hour, came up with 3 nights in Milan for $650!! Yay! For me, the anticipation of a trip is almost sweeter than the actual trip… well, almost. I have been thinking and planning about this getaway for a while now and am excited now that it is upon us!
Many people ask me how I am able to travel so much- well, luckily my family and I love to travel. We try to use mileage for most of our tickets and we do loads of research to make sure we are getting the most bang for our buck! So, for this trip, we really saved on the airfare… the next step was to look for a good hotel. Our priority when choosing a hotel is location, location, location! We tend to take public transportation to get around, and it is very important to stay in a hotel that is preferably around city center and close to a train or bus station- we are willing to spend a premium for the right location as one should to be able to come out of one’s hotel and walk or take public transportation to anywhere…. For this trip, as usual I checked my ‘go to’ site, tripadvisor to see all the hotels in Milan and their ratings. I saw that Hotel Spadari, a small boutique hotel, right in the middle of the city and overlooking the duomo, was rated number one. It included breakfast- which is a must, and wifi, which is a must as well! So, it was easy and I booked it! It was close to a metro station and walking distance to most things!
As we got closer to the trip, I started to think about how to get to the hotel from the airport.. I started to do some research and check for cab and Uber fares and found out that a taxi to our hotel was 90 euros and over and an Uber a whopping 122 euros- what??? I was not willing to spend that kind of money, especially since I am going to Milan for shopping and I would rather use that money to buy some shoes!!! I decided to check out the Milan airport website to see what my options were. Turns out, there is an express train from the airport to the city center! I then checked the map and it turns out the hotel from there is a 15 minute walk, a few subway stops or a 5 minute cab away! I checked the site for the schedule and price- 12 euros to get to city center- perfect! I also emailed the hotel for their suggested method and they recommended the express train as well!
Now, obviously if you think you will be shattered and tired once you get off the plane, by all means, take a cab or a car to your hotel- but it is really a lot of fun to take public transportation and figure out how to get to your destination…. plus it is a great way to get acclimated and used to the time difference. I find walking out in fresh air and soak in some sunlight helps me to power through the first day without napping… by the evening, after dinner, I am ready to get a good night sleep!
So, now that I am armed with all the information I need, I am ready to go!!! Stay tuned to my 3 nights in Milan!
After spending 3 busy and hectic nights in London we took a train from Kings Cross Station to Edinburgh. My daughter was excited about this station because of Harry Potter. We got there a bit early and she walked around the store and bought a few things. After getting situated on the train, I started thinking of what I was going to eat for lunch… as I love eating on the train, especially in Europe! I love the soft sandwiches on white bread with just the right amount of filling. So, I shared an egg salad sandwich and a cheddar cheese sandwhich and also got a tiny bottle of Rose and a bag of salt and vinegar chips…. yummy!!!
Four hours later we were in cool, cloudy Edinburgh. I have been here before and really enjoyed the beautiful city with a mix of old and new. We made our way to the hotel and immediately ventured out to look around. The good thing is that Edinburgh is city where one can walk mostly all the sights. We walked on the royal mile, which is the main street running through the city leading to the castle. The city is hilly with lots of steps everywhere…we walked around and came across an outdoor food festival serving all sorts of cuisines. We ended up having the most delicious, freshly made arepas! There was an ice cream shop there as well. Scotland has the most delicious ice cream. I ordered a blackberry frozen yogurt. It was creamy, not too sweet and had the most intense blackberry flavor… wow, a few days later I am still thinking about it! After a lot more walking we ended up at a local pub and had some snacks as we were not super hungry. I ordered my favorite dessert, sticky toffee pudding, which is a sponge cake made with dates and while it is hot, it is drizzled with a toffee sauce and then served with either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream- oh, my God.. it is the most delicious thing ever!
As I was eating this delight, I remembered all the trips I have made to England, Ireland and Scotland and how many times I have enjoyed this yummy dessert… and how I was going to order it everyday while I am here! I did some research and found out a pub called Whiski served the best sticky toffee pudding… the problem was that we were 10 to 12 people at any given time and it was very hard to get into the eatery. We tried 3 times- finally got in the last day and enjoyed the yummiest sticky pudding… I also ate a yummy deconstructed steak and ale pie…… it was really good. Before dinner I did go back to that food market and indulged in another blackberry yogurt as I had been thinking about the delicious frozen delight for a few days now and I had to have it one more time especially as it was my last day…
We also made a day trip to a seaside town called New Berwick, about half an hour from Edinburgh… it was beautiful to walk around by the ocean. We decided to hike up to the top of a hill to get amazing views of the town. As we reached the top, the skies opened up and it poured sheet of rain including some heavy hail. We didn’t have any shelter and so got soaked and hurried down. It was quite an adventure and views were breathtaking.
All in all, Edinburgh is a beautiful city, quite small, so a few days are enough but one could make lots of day trips to the highlands, etc.
The vacation has come to an end and it is always great to go home and get back into a routine. Exercise and healthy eating, here I come!!
So, I have been to London many times and enjoy it but somehow it was never a place I wanted to return again and again like Rome or other cities. But this time was different. Ten of us made our way to the city and got on the Gatwick express and then a couple of tube stops later we were at our hotel. I had forgotten how crowded a big city like London can be….plus we were a big crowd ourselves and it was very hard to maneuver… but inspite of that, it was a lot of fun…
We stayed near the London eye and walked around everywhere we could. It was quite a sight to see, 10 people moving around, trying to keep up with each other while trying to find bathrooms and snacks…
We ate fish and chips, burgers, pies, soft ice cream, scones and lots of other local fare.
A friend told me about a food festival happening at the south bank close to where we were staying. We made our way there on the last day and decided to eat dinner as we were now 14 people! We met more family on the way who were visiting from India- it is amazing how small the world has become… Anyway, we all bought different foods, beer and wine and enjoyed the evening filled with noise and crowd
I ate at a Spanish truck that was serving yummiest pork belly dish and scallops that I sipped with a delicious glass of Prosecco. I then bought a Vietnamese duck and pork burger served with rosemary fries….. they were out of this world. We finished off with delicious organic frozen yogurts!
All in all it was a great trip- a bit hectic and my daughter didn’t get to see a lot of things since we were in a large group… so I told her, no worries… we need to return real soon!
Off to Edinburgh!
So we just finished our last day in Porto. It has been an amazing trip because of the fabulous destination and of course the company makes a difference. Also, the place we stayed was absolutely fabulous, called Flattered Apartments (http://flatteredapartments.com/en/porto/presentation/) which are located in Foz which is about 15 minutes by bus from the city center. It was a great location for us as our aparments overlooked the ocean and the beach was across the street which was very convenient. The apartments were great inside, nicely furnished, with great service and yummy breakfast every morning.
My morning began like any other with the yummy breakfast. We got ready and walked to the light house across the street from us and enjoyed the very choppy ocean with huge waves! We walked some more and found a cafe overlooking the water and had a yummy sandwich of a seafood salad. We lingered on for a while as we were sipping a delicious rose. After a while we walked over to the bus and headed to the city center for some more Port tasting. We went to a couple of places and had some delicious 20 year old port with some delicious truffles.
We spent a few hours there and then headed back to pack and hang out for a bit before heading to dinner. We chose a restaurant that came recommeded by the apartment owners. It was called A Capoeira (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g189180-d1627154-Reviews-A_Capoeira-Porto_Porto_District_Northern_Portugal.html), it was a local, small, charming little place with the most gracious hosts. I had a delicious plate of grilled fish with vegetables and fries. The fish was done to perfection and the sangria was delicious. It was our last meal in Porto and it was fantastic!
It’s time to move on tomorrow and we are off to London and then Edinburgh. I will miss this beautiful city. Our hosts were surprised that we were visiting from the US since he hardly sees anyone from there… turns out usually the Europeans visit but not any one from the US… which is a shame.. it is an amazing place and I will definitely be back. For now I will sign off and take a break till I get back from this amazing trip….