Greece Sailing Trip 2014

We returned to Greece to sail the Dodecanese Islands for the second time.  This summer, however, we took off from the port of Kos (instead of Rodos), and traveled north to the islands of Kalymnos, Leros, Patmos, and Lipsi.  We took the “road” a little less traveled this year and ended up with a very different experience – it was a little more relaxed, more rustic, and definitely more windy with rougher seas.  Our captain was also younger and drank a little (lot!) less, which made us all feel a little safer aboard. :)    Overall, Greece never disappoints, and I am happy to say my skin is no longer translucent, but instead a speckled light tan color.

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Iberian Road Trip – Segovia and Valencia

The Alcázar from below

We made some ground through Spain on our last few days.  We traveled to Segovia, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, which has a towering Roman aqueduct.  After a quick stop in Madrid to drop off the rental car, we took the train to our last stop, Valencia, home to Santiago Calatrava’s City of Art and Sciences complex.  Oh, and there was some paella in the mix, some really good paella.

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Iberian Road Trip – Guimarães, Pontevedra and Santiago de Compostela

Beautiful sunset from our hotel

Our Iberian road trip continued north, first stopping in Guimarães, Portugal before heading into Spain, where we visited both Pontevedra and Santiago de Compostela.  With spring comes rain and it seems we couldn’t escape it on this trip.  Luckily, we did have a few sun breaks, so we tried to make the best of it.

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Portugal’s West Coast – Sintra and Obidos

View of the Obidos Castle from the walls

Leaving Lisbon, we picked up a rental car and set off for our two-week road trip.  We started our trip by traveling up Portugal’s west coast, but we didn’t make it very far before stopping in Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage site just thirty minutes from Portugal’s capital city.  We spent the day at the Castle of the Moors and the Pena National Palace.  Afterwards, we continued north, stopping for the night in the beautiful walled city of Óbidos.

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The Fine Line Between Austria and Germany

Up close and personal

I’m pretty sure that Austrians and Germans would disagree with me on this one, but it’s a very fine line between their countries and their cultures, especially on the border.  Driving from one city to another on our week-long trip, we often (seamlessly) passed from Germany to Austria and back.  We don’t speak German, so of course, Austrian German sounded like German German.  The food is really similar, if not the same.  The Bavarian architecture runs rampant throughout the entire area and you can even ski from one country to the other without knowing it.  Anyway, you get the point; to us, these regions are really similar.  Oh, and did I mention it’s one of the prettiest, most spectacular areas we’ve been to?  (You can also take a look our previous trips to this area here and here.)  There are lush green valleys (when it’s not snowing), towering mountains, and lakes dotting the landscape.

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Naples, the Second Time Around

Cloister of Santa Chiara

I have to admit, the first time Bobby and I visited Naples, we did not fall in love with the city.  We thought it was dirty (well, it is) and the people were aggressive (read: mafia).  Although these prejudices still exist, we decided to give the city a second chance and travel there last weekend.  We chose Ferrari’s high-speed train called “Italo” from Firenze SMN station to Napoli Centrale.  The trip, on the world’s fastest train, took a little under two and a half hours.  Not bad!  We met Bobby’s sister Eva and her husband Geremia, who is a sort of Napoli-guru, on Saturday morning.  Geremia lived in Napoli for years and travels there often for work, so he was a fantastic tour guide, showing us the best museums, churches, and restaurants the town has to offer.

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Piemonte Food and Wine Tour [Part 2]

I can see it....

We continued our Piemonte food and wine tour by stopping in the famous wine town of Barolo, tasting some wines at the architecturally-stunning Ceretto winery, seeing a very unique twist on an Italian church, and visiting the 14th-century castle in Serralunga d’Alba.  What we sacrificed in food in our final two days in the Langhe region, we made up for in wine!  … [Read More]

Piemonte Food and Wine Tour [Part 1]

The fields surrounding Grinzane Cavour

It’s crazy to admit, but this is the first trip we’ve taken to the Piemonte region to enjoy all of its culinary delights.  This region, in northwestern Italy, is known for its wines – Barbaresco, Barolo, Dolcetto d’Alba, Barbera d’Alba, and Asti – as well as its food – tartufo (truffle), grissini (breadsticks), tajarin (a type of flat noodle, similar to tagliatelle but smaller width), agnolotti (a type of pasta similar to ravioli), farinata (chickpea “pankcake,” which was adopted from Genoa), baci di dama (“lady kisses” or small cookies filled with chocolate), and zabaglione (similar to an eggnog type custard).  We tried our best to make the rounds in the region, trying every type of food or wine we could get our hands on.  Having already visited Asti in a previous trip, we stuck to the Langhe valley of the Piemonte region, which is the famous truffle and nebbiolo grape zone.  … [Read More]

The Baltic Rim: Estonia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral on Toompea Hill

Before heading to Estonia, Bobby read an interesting article about how the country stepped outside of the USSR’s shadow to become an internet titan.  One commentator wrote “for other countries, the internet is just another service, like tap water, or clean streets,” adding that ” for young Estonians, the internet is a manifestation of something more than a service – it’s a symbol of democracy and freedom.”  There is free WiFi everywhere in the capital city of Tallinn – in cafes, in bars, and even in the streets.  It’s been stated that one could walk for 100 miles from the city to its outskirts and never lose internet connectivity.  We definitely can’t say that in the United States.  Even Skype, which is now owned by Microsoft, was born in Estonia.  We were certainly impressed with the tiny country.

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The Baltic Rim: Lithuania

Pope John Paul II visited in 1993

Entering the Baltics, Bobby and I didn’t really know what to expect.  Unfortunately, as soon as we entered the country it started raining, making for a very dreary Lithuania travel day. We reached the city of Kaunas after a long day of driving, so we were happy to have a warm, dry bed to sleep in.  The next morning, we woke up to sounds of someone talking (screaming!) over a loudspeaker outside our window.  Little did we know, it was a city celebration of fitness, with group exercise classes and road races (5k and 10k) through the streets of Old Town Kaunas.  Bobby and I took a stroll through the city and took in the road races at a street side cafe.  We capped our Lithuania trip off by traveling to Siauliai and the famed “Hill of Crosses.”… [Read More]