Iberian Road Trip – Segovia and Valencia

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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Lisbon – The City of Seven Hills

Beautiful tiled house

Bobby and I arrived in Lisbon a few days ago, ready to kick off a twelve day tour of Portugal and Spain with my parents.  None of us had ever visited the country before, so we didn’t really know what to expect.  After walking around the first night, we quickly learned why Lisbon is nicknamed “The City of Seven Hills.”  We thought it felt more like 700!  The uphill battles, combined with the fact that the sidewalks are all constructed of mini-mosaics, certainly took a toll on our feet.  I suppose this is why the trams are so popular.

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Florentine Birthday

Group shot

Yesterday marked the beginning of my last year of my twenties.  Yikes!  Luckily, I had some pretty great people to celebrate with.  Our friend Eva, who happened to be in town from Belgium, and our Italian friends Tatiana and Francesco joined Bobby and me for dinner at Piazza del Vino here in Firenze.  It was our first time at this (really!) lovely restaurant and we had a great time gorging ourselves on extremely large portion sizes of Italian food and good wine.  This was just the finale of my birthday, however.  Earlier in the day, Bobby treated me to peanut M&Ms (my absolute favorite) for breakfast, I drank my yearly Coca-cola, and we watched the first Formula 1 race of the year.  Bobby also gifted me two new cookbooks, tickets to the Romeo and Juliet musical, and a Kopykake (a projector to create some pretty awesome desserts that I’ve been lusting after), which should come in the mail any day now.  All in all, it was a pretty amazing day, which makes it a little easier to come to grips with the fact that I’m only a year away from being 30.  Double yikes!

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Happy New Year from Florence!

Crazy wonderful sunset

Even though Bobby and I have visited Piazzale Michelangelo probably ten times since moving to Italy, the view never ceases to amaze us.  Perched on a hill looking over the valley of Florence, the piazza is a place for lovers, musicians, the young and old, and both tourists and Florentines alike to gather throughout the year.  On the first day of 2014, we wanted to take our friends Caroline and Ryan to see this breathtaking place.  The weather was absolutely perfect and we were rewarded with a pretty spectacular sunset. … [Read More]

Skiing Cervinia and Courmayeur

Gorgeous white day

Last week, I decided that enough was enough and we needed to break in our skis.  This was on Wednesday, and by Friday, we were off to Val d’Aosta, the Italian Alps region that borders both France and Switzerland.  We found a beautiful little house perched midway up a mountain near the town of Nus to stay the weekend and we were greeted with fresh white powder for the entire trip.  Having never skied in Italy before (I know, that’s a foul in itself!), we wanted to see as much as possible.  On Saturday, we decided to ski Courmayeur Resort, which is famous for Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco in Italian) and then on Sunday, we skied Cervinia, which is famous for the Matterhorn (it shares the mountainside with Zermatt, Switzerland).  Unfortunately, because it snowed both days, we didn’t actually get to see either landmark.  Well, we couldn’t miss the base of Mont Blanc (it is ginormous!); the top, however, disappeared into the clouds!

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Nuts, Crackers, Salami, and Wine

Sugar Plum fairy!

‘Tis the season, right?  Last week, Bobby and I attended “Lo Schiaccianoci” (The Nutcracker), the famous Christmas ballet.  The ballet was performed by The Ballet of Moscow, La Classique at the Teatro Verdi in Florence.

**(For those of you that know the story, you can skip my synopsis and head on to the photos :)!)

Adapted from E.T.A Hoffmann’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” the ballet first premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  (I really had no idea it was that old!)  As many of you know, the story centers around a family at Christmastime.  Shortly after putting up the Christmas tree and handing out presents to the children, a local councilman/magician named Herr Drosselmeyer enters the scene.  Drosselmeyer gives the children life-like dolls that dance as well as a wooden nutcracker.  All of the children ignore the nutcracker (I mean, what child would favor a piece of wood over a dancing doll?!) except for Clara.  Clara goes to check on her nutcracker after everyone has gone to sleep and Drosselmeyer is perched on the family clock.  At the stroke of midnight, mice begin to fill the room and the Christmas tree begins to grow in size. The Nutcracker also grows to life-size. A battle between an army of Gingerbread man soldiers and the mice ensues, led by the Mouse King. The mice begin to eat the gingerbread soldiers.  (Yikes!) The Nutcracker is wounded, but Clara comes to the rescue and they are able to defeat the great Mouse King.  Shortly after the defeat, the nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince.  Together, Clara and the Prince travel to the Land of Sweets, which is ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy.  The Prince recounts how Clara “saved” him from the Mouse King and in honor of the heroine, the fairy throws a large party with chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, tea from China, and candy canes from Russia (all of which dance for the couple).  Clara and the Prince are crowed Queen and King of Sweets.  However, the people of the land of the sweets begin to disappear one by one, until the Nutcracker Prince himself disappears, and Clara is found sleeping in the parlor. The Nutcracker Doll is under the Christmas tree. Clara awakes and finds her crown sitting beside her, but she wonders if it was all a dream. Clara falls back to sleep, believing that if it was indeed simply a dream, she wants to keep dreaming.

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