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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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]

Boldog Karácsonyt (from Budapest!)

Shoes on the Danube - Holocaust Memorial

Last year, we were invited by some Olmsted Scholars from the class of 2012 to celebrate Christmas in the High Tatras Mountains of Slovakia.  We had such a good time that we decided to continue the tradition and organize a Christmas trip for 2013.  This year, Bobby and I traveled to Budapest, Hungary to meet up with five other scholars and their families.  We spent four nights in the gorgeous capital city, taking in the Christmas market, seeing the Chain Bridge and Holocaust Memorial, visiting the famous Szechenyi thermal baths, hiking up Gellért Hill, and gathering for nightly meals with our Olmsted friends.  Although we are always slightly bummed we can’t spend the holidays with our families (….until next year!), it was really nice to share Christmas with a fantastic group of people from our military family.

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Trentino – Alto Adige Christmas Markets

Christmas market under clear skies

Sometimes I find it hard to “get in the Christmas spirit” here in Italy.  Christmas isn’t overly commercialized like it is in the States, which is a good thing, but without the constant television ads, Christmas music in all the shops and on the radio, and pressure to buy everyone and their neighbor a gift, sometimes it’s hard to get in the spirit.  I know, it’s strange.  Also, in Firenze, the weather is really mild – in the 50s everyday so far this December – so when I remind myself that Christmas is only nine days away, I have a hard time comprehending the situation.  To prepare our warm-natured bodies for our upcoming holiday trip to Budapest, and to prepare ourselves mentally for Christmas, we decided to travel to Northern Italy last weekend to the Trentio-Alto Adige region for some Christmas market fun.  … [Read More]

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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Olmsted Ladies Trip 2013 – Mallorca

Welcome to Soller!

Every year, the Olmsted ladies (wives and female scholars) from Europe and Africa travel to a different destination for a little girls-only fun.  Last year, the girls joined up in Edinburgh for some relaxation and site-seeing.  While absolutely beautiful, it was a wee (okay a little more than “wee”) bit cold.  Remembering all too well our frozen hands and toes, we opted for a warmer destination this year.  My friend and fellow Olmsted wife, Jen Hensarling, planned our trip this year.  After a few rounds of voting, seven Olmsted wives and one scholar decided on Mallorca.  The island is the largest of the Balearic archipelago and is practically a German colony in the summer, with most of the flights coming from either Spain or Germany.  In fact, my flight went from Florence to Frankfurt and then to Mallorca.  It is also a common vacation destination for the Irish and Polish, and I can’t say I blame them!… [Read More]