Portugal’s West Coast – Porto and Aveiro

After mentioning to some friends we were traveling to Portugal, we were told multiple times that we must visit the city of Porto.  I quickly did some research and found that it was a riverfront city full of colorful buildings, a pretty famous bridge, and home to port wine.  There’s not much that could go wrong with this scenario, so off we went.  We continued our road trip north, stopping first at Aveiro (which I will explain at the bottom of the post because it’s just not as exciting!) and then Porto, Portugal’s second largest city.

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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]

Our 2nd Italian Anniversary

First night on the water

I know I’m a little late, but September 6th marked our 2nd Italian anniversary.  This means we have passed well over the halfway point of Bobby’s Olmsted experience.  Wow!  I’d like to highlight some of our favorite travel spots we were fortunate enough to see this year (see our first year favorites here). First though, we’d like to reiterate to the Olmsted Foundation how incredibly grateful we are for this amazing opportunity.  We never thought we’d get travel like this as a couple, nor have the chance to learn a second language while experiencing the culture first-hand.  We can’t express our gratitude enough – thank you, thank you, thank you!… [Read More]

Memorial Day Weekend – Wining in Chianti and Dining in Pisa

Beautiful

After a pretty horrible weather day last Saturday (down pouring rain, lightning, etc.), we pushed back our Chianti trip until Memorial Day.  Two weeks ago, we went to an event called “WineTown” here in Florence and tasted several Chianti Classico, Ruffino, and Super Tuscan wines.  From that, we built a list of wines that we’d like to buy, so what better way than to visit the wineries themselves?  We are incredibly lucky to live in Florence, as the drive to the Chianti region is only thirty minutes and the views are stunning on the way.  We visited the Marchesi Antinori’s new cantina, which is an architectural masterpiece, and the Vicchiomaggio castle, both of which create amazing wines.  The day before, on Sunday, we also traveled to Pisa, where we had a wonderful dinner celebrating Eva (Bobby’s sister) and her fiance Geremia’s engagement.  Geremia’s parents live in Pisa and we were treated to a real Tuscan feast.

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Lyon and the Champagne Region

Cool (but touristy) street full of restaurants and bars

Our two week tour of France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and western Germany began in Lyon, France.  First off, we want to give a big “thank you” to Paul Rogers (OSC ’11) for letting us stay at his wonderful apartment in Lyon, while he is off interning in Paris for the semester!  It was a wonderful place to see the city from.  Lyon is France’s third largest city and due to its cultural and architectural landmarks, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The city is also known as a culinary capital, boasting some of the best Michelin-starred chefs in the world.  Additionally, there is a great film museum (which we got to see!) in Lyon because the two men, Auguste and Louis Lumière, who created the “cinematographe,” or motion picture camera, spent most of their life in the city.

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Under the Tuscan …… Rain?

Another lovely church under an even angrier sky

After reading several travel blogs, websites, and trip-guides on “bests” to see in Tuscany, we decided to chip off the final two sites: Cortona and Montepulciano.  Cortona is the lesser-known of the two, but is famous in America as the setting of the film “Under the Tuscan Sun.”  Unfortunately for us, there was no sun to speak of on our Sunday trip.  Despite the rain, we couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the landscape.  Yes, I said mesmerized.  It is that gorgeous; the photos simply don’t do it justice. Cortona is one of the few Italian cities I have down as “must-sees” for a second time.  (The next time, we’ll be visiting in the summer!)  Montepulciano is pretty well-known for its wine.  Vino Nobile, Rosso di Montepuciano, and even a type of grappa is made there.  We spent the rest of the rainy day at an enoteca, where the nice employee spent a couple hours explaining all about wine from the region. … [Read More]

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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Natale in Alto Adige

Twilight

When we woke up Saturday morning, it was a chilly, but pretty dry morning in Firenze.  We jumped in the car rather early and headed north, in hopes of seeking out a(nother) Christmas market.  However, only 15 minutes north of Florence, the weather completely transformed.  There were at least 6 inches of snow on the ground and cars like us (i.e. without snow tires or chains) were driving cautiously.  It made for a slow travel day, but the scenery was absolutely gorgeous!  The Tuscan hillsides were covered in powder and it got me dreaming of ski trips in the future.  Our first stop of the day was in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Mantova, a beautiful city surrounded by lakes.  Next, we made our way to Trento, a town in the Alto Adige region famous for its Christmas market and skiing (we WILL be returning later this season to enjoy the white stuff!)… [Read More]

Ljubljana & Maribor

Lovely.

Let’s just say that spelling isn’t exactly a forte of mine.  Spelling in another language is doubly difficult.  Because Slovenian words aren’t exactly logical for a native English speaker, I felt like I was double and triple checking myself all day trying to enter a simple city into the GPS.  L-j-u-b-l-j-a-n-a.  Finally!  It is the capital and largest city in Slovenia and is the home of another Olmsted Scholar, Scott Johnson, and his wife Carolynn (who graciously allowed us to stay at their house even though they were away on vacation!)  Before making to Ljubljana though, we made a quick pit-stop in Maribor, Slovenia’s 2nd largest city.  … [Read More]