Milan, Italy

October 16 – 18, 2018

Hello again Italy! So like I had previously said, Caoliang had a week off before starting work days in Paris. We started off the week in Luzern but finished it in Italy. Why Italy? More like, why not? Really the idea came into mind because Caoliang really wanted to have Italian pizza again. Just for that?! No really, the pizza is amazing and Milan was only a few hours away by train from Zurich. Plus, we had never been to the north end of Italy yet, so here we are!

By the time we had arrived in Milan, it was about two in the afternoon. We got settled into our AirBnb and figured we should just walk around and see what’s near by. We also were in need of sim cards for our phone, so that held priority over everything.

The first day was kind of a bust. We spent lots of time trying to figure out the sim card (lack of information from sales person, etc.) and just walked back and forth from the shops to the phone store. We did have an amazing dinner that night though. A friend had recommended we try out Trattoria del Abel for their risotto. Milan is famous for their risotto and rice dishes because of where Milan is geographically located. Also, Caoliang loves risotto so even though the restaurant was a little out of the way, we had to go try it!

While traveling, we don’t really make reservations at restaurants, partly because we don’t know the exact time we would be eating, and also the language barrier. Luckily, we arrived right at 8 (when they opened) and got seated. The menu had many a la carte items but we decided to do it big and just order their tasting menu, one Land menu and one Sea. As the name suggests, one menu had items from the ocean and the other, items from the land. From our Land tasting menu we ordered Aritzese oyster mushrooms, the Aquila’s risotto, rabbit with black cabbage and tiramisu. From our Sea menu we ordered mussels soup with beans, Bordighera risotto, the sea bass and warm coconut cake.

The food was really good and really different from each other. I was so happy we decided to do a big dinner and really experience the different foods of this restaurant. The price for each menu was 28 euros. Really not bad!

Our second day in Milan was a bit more productive. Since we walked the famous shopping streets of Via Monte Napoleone and Via della Spiga the day before, we figured we could skip those. Also, we aren’t the kind of people that could be shopping on those streets!! A bit too fancy for us. Instead, we headed to Piazza del Duomo. Walking there, the city of Milan was pretty different from other Italian cities, such as Florence. It was very much so a metropolitan; big buildings and busy streets. Duomo di Milano was magnificent! Even though we didn’t go inside, the outside was really intricate and and beautiful. Piazza del Duomo, the square in front of the duomo, was also pretty interesting. There were pigeons everywhere! Filled with tourists and pigeons, the square was packed with people trying to take pictures or holding out their arms for pigeons to fly on them. Even though it made for great people watching, I was not going to be holding out any kernels for any pigeons!

Afterwards, we walked to an interesting place I had researched, Santuario Di S. Bernardino Alle Ossa. Here, there was a chapel that had skulls and human bones lining the walls. Creepy right!? But interesting so I wanted to check it out. According to turismo.milano.it

The walls are almost entirely covered with skulls and bones, arranged in niches and on cornices, pillars and doors. They are believed to be the remains of the deceased from the Brolo hospital, from the corpses taken from the defunct seventeenth-century cemeteries. The skulls enclosed in cases above the door are those of executed prisoners.

And creepy it was, but also very beautiful. It is almost surreal to think about being in a room with hundreds of people’s bones surrounding you. We sat in there for a minute, said a quick prayer, and we were on our way. While we were in there, we saw other tourists or interested locals coming and going, too.

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One of the big reasons Caoliang wanted to come back to Italy, as I might of mentioned before, was for their pizza!!! So, of course we couldn’t go another meal without it being pizza!! We found this little, colorful spot called Piz not too far. It was nearly closing time but luckily we made it and got seated right away (many places close midday). There were only a couple choices for pizzas on their menu. In our case, it worked out fine because instead of wasting time deciding on a pizza, or wondering which pizza was good, we got both pizzas! This place must get people who request this often because our waitress was already on it, offering us “half and half.” This consisted of half the classic Margherita and half the Bianca. When it arrived shortly after, the waitress instructed us to eat the Bianca first. I didn’t find that surprising since even with pasta, you eat the lighter sauced pasta before the darker sauced. The pizzas were amazing!!! A perfect blend of flavors in a cozy, unique space for an excellent price. We left that place full and satisfied!

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We then walked off our lunch by heading to Colonne di San Lorenzo. This place looked like it was taken out of some Roman empire. There were huge columns but in a city square. It looked very out of place to me, especially with boutique shops around it. When looking up what this place is, I was right to say it is Roman. This place is actually Roman ruins and now is known more for a hang out spot for local Milanese to get together and drink in the evenings. Us going in the day time could explain why it was so vacant!

The rest of the day in Milan was spent walking around to different sights. The day concluded with us seeing Sforzesco Castle, Sempione Park, Arco della Pace and even Milan’s Chinatown! I was happy I got to see another city in the great country of Italy. Even though Milan is probably not my favorite, it was definitely nice to see what the big fashion capital of Italy had to show us.

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Off to Venice next!! The city of canals here we come!

 

 

xx
t

Luzern, Switzerland

October 14, 2018

DAY TRIP! Ok so today Caoliang actually had off. They just finished their last show in Zurich the night before and we have a week off until Paris work day begins! We’re starting our holiday off with staying in Switzerland and visiting a nearby city, Luzern. While researching Luzern, one of the things that kept popping up with this “Golden Round Trip.” What is that? It’s a path that starts at Luzern and goes up to Mount Pilatus and back using different forms of transportation; boat, cogwheel and aerial cable way. The ticket to do this was a little pricy but being in Switzerland I was more interested to see the mountains than the city of Luzern. So the night before we purchased tour tickets to go on this “Golden Round Trip.” For each of us, the tour costed about 112 francs. If you’ve kept up with my travels, you see that we often do tours. In all honesty, yes it is a little annoying you have to stay with a group, but when you are on a time crunch and you rather just have someone else do the thinking and guiding, it is totally worth it!

So once we left Zurich, we arrived in Luzern’s main station shortly after. The tour didn’t start until noon which gave us some time to walk around the station and see sights that were nearby.

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One of the “to-see” items in Luzern was this wooden bridge, called the Kapellbrücke. It is the oldest wooden covered bridge in European and a popular sight in Switzerland. It was conveniently located near the central station so it was easy for us to go walk around and check out the different perspectives from there. The bridge was pretty nice, being covered in flowers and having paintings inside dating back to the 17th century.

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Soon it was noon and time for us to begin our tour! The first leg of the tour was a short bus ride to the start of the aerial cable way. The tour guide was more like a sheep herder. He would make sure everyone was together, give us our tickets, tell us what time to meet, and then let us go. The aerial cable ride was quiet long. When seeing the height and length, you can’t help but wonder, how did they build this thing!? From Kriens, the cable car took us up to Fräkmüntegg, about thirty minutes, where we boarded a different, larger, cable car up to the top of Mount Pilatus, an additional five minutes. It was truly amazing being on the side of this mountain.

Once we got to the top, our guide instructed us to be back at the meeting point in roughly an hour and a half. From the top, there were different walking/hiking paths you could partake or you could just sit at one of the many public seats and enjoy the view. This mountain is also famous for having Capricorns! Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get to see any.

Anyways, Caoliang and I decided to try to fit in as many routes as possible until we had to be at the meeting point. First, the Dragon Trail! In the Middle Ages, people believed that dragons actually lived on Mount Pilatus. The Dragon Trail is an easy walking trail that is etched into the side of the mountain. There are pockets in the trail where you can see out the side of the mountain. It was beautiful but so cold! The summit is 2,132 meters above sea level, just FYI.

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Once we got to the end of the Dragon Trail, we were linked to another viewpoint that gave us a stunning view of the mountain and surrounding areas. Even though the wind was blowing and chilly air creeping through my jacket, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the views. Again, Switzerland continues to be like a post card. There were perfect views in every direction you look.

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I think we spent a little over an hour exploring different trails and view points before we rushed to the cafeteria to get something to eat. Again, Switzerland is expensive so we actually ended up sharing an Ala carte plate (it was pretty big) that costed us 19 francs (about 19 usd). We quickly inhaled our food as the meeting time was close approaching.

Onto transportation number two, the steepest cogwheel in the world! Many people also do the Golden Round Trip the opposite way we did. We even ran into one of Caoliang’s coworkers who came up the cogwheel, instead of going down it, like we would. It sounds scary, “world’s steepest cogwheel” but from where I was sitting, it actually was a breeze. The trip down allowed us to see the mountain from a different perspective. The ride down was actually so slow, and I was so tired, I actually fell asleep!!

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Our last mode of transportation was going back to Luzern by boat. The boat ride was very smooth with no bumps or swaying. There was even a small cafe inside the boat if you fancied a glass of wine or snack. We kind of just hung out til getting back to the city. It was really spectacular to see the view from the top though. Now that I think of it, I rather enjoy mountains and getting to see what the view is like from the top. Let it be cable car, cogwheel or even hiking, I think mountains are beautiful pieces of Mother Nature’s art.

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Once we returned to the city, we had a bit of time till our train back to Zurich. With our extra time, we decided to go visit the huge lion monument that wasn’t too far away from the main station. The lion monument commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. The lion’s expression is sad as a huge stake is in its side. It is hard to tell from pictures, but this lion is actually pretty massive.

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After the lion, I still wanted to see if we could get a higher view of the city of Luzern. We then headed to Zytturm. We actually were headed towards something else, but with tie dwindling, we ended up at the Zytturm. It is a clock tower that dates back to 1535. Inside, you could see all the working mechanics of the large clock tower. It was pretty interesting how the public could go all the way up into this clock tower.

Times up! The city of Luzern and Mount Pilatus were gorgeous. This short day trip concluded my time in Switzerland, for now. I am definitely leaving with a good impression. With super clean streets and post-card like views, this country really lives up to it’s reputation. Until next time Switzerland!

 

 

xx
t.

Zurich, Switzerland

October 10 – 14, 2018

Yay! Back to Europe I go! It’s October and I finally get to see my husband and go back on tour with him. At this time, he is in Zurich, Switzerland. He has actually been there for some time but I just wasn’t able to join until now for visitor restriction reasons (it’s a lot to explain).

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Anyways, before I came my husband told me that Switzerland is beautiful but pretty expensive. Because of that fact, I was happy to only be there for a few days. It was just enough to see a bit of Switzerland but not long enough to end up spending heaps of money on food or going out.

Even though my time in Switzerland was short, I was able to see a bunch of friends on tour and even see the Swiss mountains.

One of the fun things I got to do was go to a pumpkin festival with a bunch of the other OAMs on tour. It really was like a girls day out! The pumpkin festival had everything pumpkin. There were huge pumpkin art displays, super big pumpkins, and a self-serve food area with delicious dishes (yes made from pumpkin)!

It was nice to be out in such beautiful weather with such nice landscaping. If you’ve been to Houston, you know that it is flat, flat, flat with not really anything to see. Switzerland is the complete opposite. Just staring out at the horizon you feel like it’s not even real. It was like looking at a post card.

Aside from the pumpkin festival, I also got to walk around the city of Zurich a bit. The city is very clean and even smells that way! The weather was also cool enough to wear a jacket. One of the things I liked the most about Zurich was the river that runs through downtown. It really makes for a beautiful picturesque view while wandering around.

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Zurich is my first stop in many the next few months. For you guys who are wondering, Caoliang is still on the European tour with Totem and they are set to be here for at least another year. After Switzerland we will be in Paris and then London. How long will I be gone? Well we are hoping until Spring next year, there has been some obstacles we have had to figure out, but fingers crossed everything will go smooth from here.

Well for now I leave you guys with my compilation video of my short time in Switzerland. CLICK HERE to enjoy!

Thanks for keeping up! See you in Paris!

 

 

xx
t

 

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

August 13, 2018

So the end of Summer was coming to a close. It had been over two months that I got to spend in Spain with Caoliang and it was time to go back to Texas. My flight was booked out of Barcelona and luckily we planned it where Caoliang would also have a couple days off before my departure. With this time off and departure flight from Barcelona, we saw it as a chance to see the city together, since I didn’t get the chance to when Caoliang was working there. So on August 13, we boarded a 9 am train from Alicante to Barcelona.

With not so many days there, we tried to fit in as much as we could in those two nights. Arriving at 2pm, we got ourselves to our hotel to put our things down. We stayed at the Principal B&B which was very cute and cozy! Being that it was a bed and breakfast, there were only 9 rooms in those whole place. I loved it that it was quiet and very comfortable. One of the things I loved the most was the big bed! (In Alicante, Caoliang and I were sleeping on two single sized beds that weren’t on the same level. Trying to have a cozy night’s sleep in Alicante was nearly impossible!) After resting a bit and freshening up, we headed out to see some of the city. Again, I was so thankful the sun didn’t go down until late in Spain!

Barcelona is known for its art and famous architecture. One of the famous people in Barcelona, is Antoni Gaudi. He is an architect from Catalonia and one of the best known practitioners of Catalan Modernism. Most of his pieces are in Barcelona. We first headed to Casa Vicens Gaudi, the first house he ever designed.

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“A UNESCO World Heritage side, this first home by the genius behind Modernisme is the embryo of a universal style. However, before it came experimentation, and that is why Casa Vicens is sundry and modern: In it, Catalan, Islamic, Japanese and English inspirations and techniques come together.

Stockbroker Manuel Vicens i Montaner hired a 31-year-old Gaudi to design his summer home. Like the excerpt mentioned, in this home, there were many different influences to Gaudi’s designs. To me, the house was so colorful and whimsical. It was almost like a house you would see in a fictional story book. I couldn’t believe this was something that was designed in the late 1800s! The current structure is actually half of the original house and half of an extension. The extension part is painted all white and represented more like a museum while Gaudi’s designed half is left in its original form. I could only imagine what it was like to live in such a fun looking house! The cost to get in was 8 euros a person and we stayed for about an hour.

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Afterwards, we walked over to Casa Mila. This is the last private residence Gaudi designed in the early 1900s. Going into all of these cool places is more expensive than you may think. So at Casa Mila we just enjoyed the architecture from the outside. It was really different than any building you would see on the streets of Barcelona, or anywhere! The edges were rounded and curved and there weren’t many hard edges.

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Another building we visited after that, was Casa Batllo. This one was also designed by Gaudi and his assistants in the early 1900s. This was has a few local nicknames like “dragon back” or “house of bones.” I really wanted to go into this one but with such a long queue and an entrance fee of 28 euros, we had to pass. But even from the outside, you could see how unique it was from its neighboring buildings.

Just walking around Barcelona was rather nice. It was so different from the two smaller, beach cities we were at all summer. Our walk then led us to Mercado de la Boqueria. Unfortunately, most of the market shops were closed but we at least got a snack of some fresh juice, for one euro, and a small basket of mixed sausage slices for three euro.

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Anyone that has been to Barcelona has been to La Rambla. La Rambla is a very busy street filled with shops, tourists, and pick-pocketers! Again, I think I have said this before, when a place is known for thievery, I don’t like to stay in it very long. With my eyes turned on even more than usual, we check out La Rambla just for the sake of seeing what it looks and feels like. Not very unique, to me, just a place with a bunch of shops and trees covering the street. Good to see, but definitely not sticking around.

Once we walked south on La Rambla, it put us in the Gothic Quarter. Here was a ramen shop Caoliang really wanted to revisit. When we first got there it was still closed so it gave us a chance to walk around the neighborhood. I definitely liked the Gothic Quarter just because of the small streets and more unique shops.

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It is kind of funny we don’t eat Spanish food for every meal when in Spain, but I guess we just miss other foods, mostly Japanese, so much! The ramen was good and the shop was really cute. Half day in Barcelona, check! With full tummies and tired feet, we headed back to the B&B to get some rest for our full day the next morning.

 

August 14, 2018

With this being our only full day, we had to be a little selective about what we saw. I originally wanted to go to the Park Guell. After reading so many reviews and things about having to purchase a ticket for the “main” interests of the park, we figured it might be better to spend our time elsewhere being that we didn’t have a ticket and the ones available weren’t at convenient times for us. So instead, we started our day by visiting the infamous Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia is a large, unfinished Roman Catholic church designed by Gaudi.

This structure is iconic to Barcelona, drawing in thousands of visitors every season. For this very reason, the day we arrived, the tickets were sold out. Darnit. Oh well. We walked around the church from the outside trying to take all of its greatness in. I thought it was so whimsical, like Gaudi’s first house, with its curved edges and even colorful peaks!

With all this sightseeing and being in Spain, we had to make a stop for paella lunch! A friend had recommended a spot near the church that turned out to be pretty good even though near a very touristy attraction. After a delicious lunch, we then headed to the Arco de Triunfo. The walk over was pretty scenic. Caoliang even felt familiar in some spots. Our time at the arche was, unique to say the least.

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So remember how I said theivery is a big this in Barcelona? Well the park in front of the arche has many tourists and locals. But because this is such a huge tourist attraction, many thieves take the chance to get you when you are distracted by taking a photo. While we were hanging out here, we too took some photos. Once we decided to leave, a man in regular clothes approached us, flashed his police badge and told us (in very broken English) that he is a cop and that he saw someone try to get into our bag! What?! At first I was hesitant to believe this man was a real cop. What if this was a set up in itself! After thirty minutes, we got everything sorted out. The man was a cop undercover and him and his partner were catching thieves in the area. Luckily, nothing was stolen but the officer told us that in Spain, even the attempt to steal is still a crime. So after some papers were signed, we were on our way. Yikes! That was unexpected! Thank goodness we still had all our belongings.

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The afternoon took a little detour with that incident but luckily, nothing was taken and we were still in good spirits. We then took a stroll through El Born neighborhood and found ourselves enjoying a nice cup of coffee at Nomad. I’m sure you could guess by now that Caoliang and I enjoy our coffee. We aren’t coffee snobs by any means, but a good cup of joe is definitely needed now and then.

The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. We liked the neighborhood El Born so much we spent most of our afternoon there. We walked around to different boutiques, enjoying the small alley ways and beautiful architecture of this neighborhood. Our wanderings also took us into the Cathedral of Barcelona. Anytime I am in a European church, I am amazed at how big they are and how old they are! Could you imagine when these were being built?!

Barcelona is also a coastal city with a city beach that is often crowded with locals and tourists. We headed down there just to check it out but no swimming for us. Something else I really loved about Barcelona was all the cool street art! There were awesome stickers, paintings, and graffiti scattered through out the neighborhoods. Too cool.

 

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I really enjoyed the time we got to have in such a unique city. All the special things about Barcelona, like its architecture and deep history, really makes me understand why so many people fall in love with this city. The next day was primarily for traveling. Caoliang and I went separate ways as I headed to the airport and him to the train station.

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One more city to add to our list!! I’m so thankful that we got the chance to spend this time together. Now only a couple more days and then off to Canada!

 

 

xx.
t

 

Alicante, Spain

July 16, 2018 – August 13, 2018

As I write this post, Caoliang and I are currently on a five hour train to Barcelona. With the long train ride, I have plenty of time to reflect on my time in Alicante. This city was the first city that I was pretty much on tour for the whole time. Usually, i would only be visiting for a week or two but in Alicante, it was a whole month. Being here for such an extended amount of time really allowed me to see what its like to be an OAM (Official Accompanied Member) on tour.

Alicante has been a really nice city to spend the summer. The city is not to big, has places to shop, museums, old stuff and easy beach access. I really did enjoy my time in this city not only because the city was very manageable but also because Caoliang and I could spend so much time together and be a “normal couple.”

To give you an idea of how my days were here, they usually went a little something like this… waking up around noon, going to the fresh market for groceries, having lunch or coffee with Caoliang before he heads off to work about 4 pm. What’s after? Well Caoliang is gone for work six days a week from about 4 pm to 1:30 am. That is a long time right? So usually I would either make sure the apartment is clean, cook something for myself, watch movies, write, hang out at cafes, or train. In this post I wanted to share some of my favorite spots of Alicante, or spots I often found myself going to.

 

MERCADO CENTRAL

Like I had mentioned before, we often would go here right after waking up to get fresh groceries. We were lucky enough that our apartment was only a minute walk away. I had never lived so close to a market or had the chance to utilize a market before. When we first went there just to check it out, I thought, man this is way too awesome and convenient to go, we must take advantage! That we did! Everyday we would have fresh fruit and vegetables. It was great! The market consisted of two floors: upstairs was primarily meats and downstairs was seafood and fruits. There were also a few cafes inside where you could immediately sit down to have a bite. With the market, I had to become familiar with asking for things in Spanish. It was a really new and interesting experience for me, one that I could totally get used to!

 

OLD QUARTER

This part of Alicante was really charming and one of my favorites. It was only a short walk away from our apartment and contained many bars, cafes, restaurants, squares and important churches. My favorite part about the old quarter is just the look of the buildings and the fact that many of the roads are not for cars. Walking around these parts made you really feel like you were in a different time period. Located in the old quarter was also my favorite coffee spot, Madness Coffee, along with some other great cafes and restaurants.

 

MADNESS COFFEE

This charming little place had the nicest baristas and the best coffee. Caoliang and I often look for coffee spots when we travel. Along with us, many people on tour also enjoy a good cup of coffee. So hearing it through the Totem grapevine, we had to go check it out. This cafe has plenty of seating, two floors of space and even a little cinema room underneath the stairwell. We usually ordered a flat white (2 euros). Every drink or food had great presentation and the whole place was so cohesive and well designed from the plates the cups would be places on, to the recycled coffee machine turned bathroom sink, to the baristas’ custom aprons, this place was awesome! With their delicious coffee, chill ambiance and spacious seating, I often found myself spending time in here every chance I got.

 

PLAYA DE SAN JUAN

San Juan Beach was definitely my favorite beach of this city. It wasn’t walkable but still easy to get to by tram (20 minutes, 1.45 euro). The beach was really big and because of that, it didn’t seem so crowded like Alicante Beach. I luckily got to enjoy this beach a few times, even spending my 30th birthday here! The water is clear and sand is soft. Also because we had everything we needed for an enjoyable beach day, blankets, sun umbrella, etc., we barely had to spend money while we were there! But of course if you needed, there are sun loungers and umbrellas for rent as well.

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SPARTAN STUDIO ALICANTE

I had found this pole studio through Lai in Malaga. I was so happy she connected me to Laura who owned Spartan Studio with her husband Adrian. Training is one of the things that puts some sort of routine in my week while being on tour. It also helps me to maintain my strength when being away from my usual training in Houston. Spartan studio was surprisingly big! Being mainly a pole studio, they had at least seven poles. Along with that, they had three aerial rigging points and a section of the studio that had a pretty high ceiling. Perfecto! I was also happy that to use their facility it would only cost me 50 euros for the month. Laura and Adrian were also super nice people and even though we didn’t fluently speak the same language, their smile and kindness really helped me feel comfortable in a new place.

 

SANTA BARBARA CASTLE

This castle was huge and very close to where we lived so it was something I got to see everyday. On Caoliang’s first day off, we went to go visit the castle during the evening time. Good thing the place is open until 10 pm because we knew with how hot the days were, there was no way we were going while the sun was out. The castle was free, and once on the right walking path, only took about 15 minutes to get to on foot. The view of the city from the top was also really spectacular and seeing the glowing lights at night was really nice. Even though we just went once, I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Alicante to check it out.

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There you have it! Some of my favorite spots of Alicante. Again, I feel so lucky and blessed to be able to see such a nice city and to experience the summer on tour with my husband. Since I know I probably won’t be seeing this city again, the last few days I was in Alicante I really looked at things with different eyes. Truly, truly blessed.

We are currently on our way to Barcelona, like I mentioned earlier, to spend Caoliang’s two days off together before I fly back to Houston. I didn’t get to visit Caoliang while he was touring in Barcelona so I’m pretty keen to see what this highly recommended city will be like.

 

xx.
t

Amalfi Coast, Italy

July 11, 2018

We arrived in Amalfi from Napoli this morning by private car. The other options to get to Amalfi seemed too complicated so we decided to spend the little extra money and take our Napoli AirBnB hostess’ suggestion of going by private car for 120 euro. Luckily we did because the place in Amalfi was a bit hard to find! Our new Amalfi AirBnB host met us by a small moped car park, easily missed. Then he walked us down to our apartment, which can’t be seen from the road! When we got to see the view from our place it just made the small inconvenience forgotten. The view was great! The water was so blue, you could see boats passing by, and to the left a really great view of the coast. Even though this place was small, the luxury of being next to the ocean was so awesome.

Starting from a few days before arriving, I started to feel a little sick. I think the constant walking, being outside and not having the best diet (Italian carbs all day) really started to take a toll on my body. So when we first got there, I took a power nap (repeat of Naples haha) hoping to gain some energy.

Afterwards, we walked about 8 minutes down the road to a nearby cafe that had an AMAZING view! Oh I just think anywhere we go there’s so much for the eyes to see! The food there was fine but the view was really spectacular.

Our host had told us about a beach that could be accessed by steps off the road. After lunch, we found the entrance and headed down. I believe the beach was called Lido Degli? I could be wrong but there is a restaurant on that beach with the name. Anyways, the steps down wasn’t so bad but up would be! That’s why instead, after some time on the beach, we took a water taxi to Amalfi’s main port. But the time on this little beach was nice. The beaches here don’t have sand. It is all pebbled. The water was so blue and clear it was tempting not to go in. But being that it was our first day, and starting the day off rather late, we wanted to focus on just seeing what is around first.

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The water taxi put us at Amalfi’s city center about 5:30 pm. On the ride there, is was nice to see the coast from a different angle. While in the “city” (hardly a city more like a village), we saw many tourists and shops. It took only a few minutes to walk from the port to the top of the busy area. So small!

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The village was charming though, but filled with tourists just like us. Once we finished looking at some shops, bought a magnet and some towels, we found a place to sit down for dinner.

So far what I’ve seen of Amalfi it looks rather nice. I’m excited to have a lazy beach day where all I do is sunbathe and swim in the ocean. Tomorrow we are going to Positano, a neighboring town by boat. I feel it is similar to here but I guess we will have to see then!

 

July 12, 2018

The ferry to Positano was at 10:30am. This morning, we caught a city bus to get to Amalfi’s center. Once we boarded the ferry, it was as short twenty minute boat ride to Positano.

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Coming into Positano, you could see more houses, hotels, and places build along the coast than in Amalfi. I think when people imagine the Amalfi Coast, they imagine Positano. Like I had said before, I was really looking forward to being a beach bum. Yes there was a beach right near the port but I didn’t want to be where everyone else was. It was just too crowded and not peaceful.

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In my night’s research, I saw that Positano, like Amalfi, also has smaller side beaches. On the map, it had showed Arienzo beach also had a ‘free beach’ section. To get there we would have to walk. I was feeling lazy and saw that the Arienzo Beach Club also had its own water taxi to get from the main port to the beach. Hey we’re on vacation. Why not! We then took a water taxi to Arienzo Beach Club.

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Here, if you take their water taxis you must spend money at their establishment. So when we got there, two chairs and an umbrella was 15 euros a person. A little steep but we weren’t going to be moving elsewhere so let’s spend a little money. Next to Arienzo there was the free beach that could be reached by steps from the road above, like I had mentioned before. We saw people come down from there but had no idea how long it actually took to get there from the port.

After getting settled in some chairs, the waiter asked us if we wanted to make a reservation for lunch. Wow we even had to book a time slot!? We supposed 1 pm would work and enjoyed where we were till then.

For lunch, we had a bar seat that looked out onto the beach. Let me tell you, a person could get used to this view! The water was so blue and it was just so nice to look out into the sea when having a seafood lunch!

We pretty much spent the day sunbathing and swimming in the water. The water’s temperature was brisk. It took some courage to dip your body fully in, but once you did, it felt really great with the sun.

We headed back to Positano’s main port to check out the sights there at about 5 pm. After closing out and packing up, our total bill was about 77 euros (chairs, umbrella, and lunch). Arienzo was nice because they had an available free shower, bathroom for guest as well as food and drinks. It was a bit pricey but a nice time on the beach. Plus it wasn’t so crowded like it was on the main beach.

Positano had more little walkways and alleyways. It was definitely bigger than Amalfi. We had about two hours till our ferry so we tried to find the best view to take pictures of the coast line. There were many art galleries and small boutiques that filled the little streets. Maybe next time we go to the Amalfi coast we should stay in Positano!

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Our ferry was at 7:45 pm so we quickly headed back. Trying to take pictures in the town at this time of day was difficult though. The sun was so strong and nearly every photo we had squinty eyes! I’m hoping we at least got something memorable!

The ride back was an easy twenty minutes. We then had dinner in Amalfi at Taverna Degli Apostoli. I’m super happy we found this place. It was very delicious! We had seafood with fumili noodles and the gnocci that was stuffed with cheese (the lighting was so dark it was hard to get food photos. Sorry!). The waitress and waiter were also very nice and the ambiance just perfect for dinner. We really wished we had more time this evening but we were trying to catch the 10 pm bus back to our place so had to rush a bit.

Having a relax day in Positano, amazing views of the coast and one of the best meals of the trip thus far were a great way to start off our time in Amalfi.

 

July 13, 2018

So being that we are vacation, and the beginning half was “go-go-go,” we were a little guilty of sleeping in. This morning we woke up pretty late and decided to have a day spent nearby. After getting ready, we took a bus to Amalfi port to catch the water taxi to Santa Croce. We had originally seen Santa Croce from the lunch spot on our first day in Amalfi. Just looking at it from above was gorgeous so we had to check it out.

So based on our previous experience in Positano, we knew that taking the Santa Croce water taxi we were essentially saying we would spend money at their establishment. At this beach, it was much smaller and there were only two restaurants there. When we first arrived, we sat down and had lunch straight away. For lunch, we chose a salad (trying to get more vegetables in the diet), a plate of mussels and seafood risotto. The food was not bad and the service nice enough.

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After lunch, we purchased two sun-beds and one umbrella (20 euros) for some time on the beach. Once we digested, we took a dip in the water and checked out this little beach a bit. To the right of the restaurant there was this other beach section that seemed abandoned. There looked to be scraps from an old bar that used to be in that space. Now, all that was left was scrap wood and an empty beach lot.

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It was sort of interesting because it felt like a small private beach. From here, we could see many people swimming in the neighboring beaches and some even jumping off rock bridges and cliffs. Since we weren’t that confident in our swimming skills, we stayed close to the shore.

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Santa Croce beach was nice in that it was smaller and less people. Unfortunately, not too long after lunch, a swim and some photos, the sun disappeared from this beach. The restaurant owner told us the sun usually goes about 4:30 pm. Well, that’s what we get for starting the day so late! Already by 4, many people started leaving this beach in search of more sun. After closing our bill, a total of 44 euros, we too were some of those people.

We took the restaurant’s water taxi back to the port. It wasn’t too late in the day, so we figured we make a stop for gelato.

About this time, I had checked my phone and got some really sad news. My grandma had passed away. My mom had told me she went peacefully and to pray for her. My grandma was nearly 100 and everyone knew that she would go Home soon, but death always is accompanied by sadness. Suddenly a heavy feeling came over me and all I could do was try not to cry. But of course that was a failed attempt as I am the biggest baby ever. Writing this now weeks after it happened, I’m much better. I feel sad but also happy she can rest easy now and be with my grandfather and with God. My grandmother was a great woman who lived a long life. I will always have these happy memories of her in my childhood and even months before her passing. I’m glad she got to meet Caoliang and we were able to share the memories we do have. I love you Ba Noi and will see you again.

Not wanting to have the rest of our holiday spent in sadness, after having a good cry and calling my mother, I tried to put my head in a better space. That night we decided to check out one of the restaurants that we could walk to.

The place was called Al Pesce d’Oro and had surprisingly good food. We had a veggie pizza and a seafood pasta that was cooked in a bag. Sorry I can’t remember the proper name but it was apparently a local item. After finishing our meal, we walked back to the apartment, enjoying the sounds of the sea as we went.

 

July 14, 2018

On our last day we decided to stay near by. Caoliang was thinking about checking out Capri but being that it was our last day, we wanted to have an easier pace than an early wake up call and no time to really relax.

We decided to go to the beach that was walkable from the apartment. Once we got there, we picked a couple sun-beds that were in front of Lido Degli Artisti Restaurant. When we got there about noon, there were already so many sun-beds filled. Luckily we got a couple for 25 euros total.

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The afternoon was basically spent in the sun. It was so nice to take a dip into the cool ocean, especially after sitting under the hot Italian sun for so long! At this beach there were also some large rocks that we just had to check out. Thank goodness we had water shoes! I have no idea how people walked barefoot on these rocks! The rocks didn’t offer much amazing scenery and after being out there for at least thirty minutes, I knew we had to go back for water and lunch!

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Being that we were in front of this establishment, we decided to have a quick lunch here. For lunch we got a large beer, water, a caprese panini and octopus starter salad. The total was 21 euros for everything. The food was good and filling. Since we didn’t order from the regular menu, we sat by the bar to eat and had a nice view.

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After lunch we continued to swim until the shade covered the beach. Like before, we took the water taxi back around 5:30. Since it was our last day, we walked around getting  some last minute souvenirs. We didn’t want to go through the struggle of figuring out what to eat so decided to go to Taverna Degli Apostoli, again. It was so good so why not!!!

This time we got a lemon pesto spaghetti and the same seafood pasta. But today we chose a caprese salad which had baby tomatoes on it and this huge ball of mozzarella cheese. Best caprese salad ever! Since it was our last night, we had a glass of red wine each. We also ordered a side of local veggies, peppers. So, so good. Dinner turned out to be 92 euros. A bit much but hey it was our last night in Amalfi!

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Once dinner was done, we still had some time before our bus at 10 pm so we just walked around the port. Great and simple day. Tomorrow we go back to Naples and then fly to Madrid in the evening.

Honeymoon, you were awesome.

 

xx
t.

 

Naples, Italy

July 9, 2018

The last few days in the north side of Italy had been so lovely. We were on the second half of our honeymoon trip and still had Naples and the Amalfi Coast to enjoy. Travelling within Italy, we decided it would be best to get to each city by train. So from Florence, we took the train down south to the city of Naples, or Napoli as the Italians call it.

When we arrived, it was about noon. The streets were full of people and honking cars. Immediately, we could feel the change in city! Florence was so charming and small but Naples was bustling, loud and dirty. The walk to our lodging was only 16 minutes but with the amount of people and cars everywhere, it seemed like so much longer.

We had been really lucky so far with AirBnBs this whole trip so far. Thankfully, Naples was no different. The hostess met us and introduced us to her apartment. She also had to add that the stone around the entrance door was real rock from the volcano Vesuvius. After we got the chance to put our stuff down, we had a slow start to getting into Naples. To be honest, I was so tired. For over a week we were going and going and going, so much that I was starting to feel sick and in need of so much sleep. I didn’t mind that we didn’t dive into Naples. It was kind of nice to just take it easy for a little bit.

After a nap and getting ready, we finally leave the apartment about 3 pm. The first place we went to was Ill Cuoppa on Via Vicaria Vecchia. I had read that cuoppas, a paper cone filled with different fried items, are a popular street snack in Naples, so with many places closed midday, we decided this quick snack would be a good option. We got two different cones, one with different vegetable items and a fried rice bowl and another one that had seafood, anchovies, little octopus too. They were pretty good in my opinion. The place fries it as you order so they were very hot and much larger than we expected! Luckily, my husband has a good appetite! The total for our snack was 12 euros.

Afterwards, we walked down Via Vicaria Vecchia which had many little shops and also a very narrow street way. The feel of Naples is so different from other Italian cities we have seen before. Here there is a lot of cars and mopeds, honking and pedestrians. The streets here are so busy but most of the cross walks don’t have lights to tell you when to walk, you just walk and hope cars stop! It is a little bit scary but I try to just follow someone else into the street. I’m not brave enough to go alone!

On our walk, we passed by a few churches and Naple landmarks like Obelisco – Guglia di San Domenico and Gesù Nuovo Square. From there, we took a left onto Via Toledo and found many shops. In my research before, I had seen that this street held much of Naples shopping. We spent some time just looking around and window shopping.

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Later we headed to the water’s edge and really enjoyed the sight. From the port, you could clearly see Mount Vesuvius. I didn’t expect to see it but it was nice to have it in the background and know it had such an important role in Italian history. Did you know that Mount Vesuvius is the most dangerous volcano? Yup! It is so because of the high population of people that live near it. Let’s hope it stays in a deep sleep.

We didn’t do much on this first day, partly because I was feeling tired and didn’t do much research as I usually would before coming to a place (shocking but looks like a new trend of mine). One thing I found out though was Naples is the birthplace of the Margherita pizza! So with that, we had to at least have it here right?!

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We first attempted to go to Gino E Toto Sorbillo for dinner but the crowd waiting outside was huge! The thought of waiting for probably at least an hour didn’t sound so appealing so we walked ten minutes to L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele which had an equally huge wait outside!!! I’m thinking these places are just hyped up. Not wanting to wait and it being late, we decided to go to a nearby pizzeria instead, Pizzeria D’Angeli. The wait was nonexistent and the food was not bad. I know some foodies might be dying that we didn’t go to the famous pizza places, but hey we still have one more night!!

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July 10, 2018

This day we started off a little later than expected (at 11:30am) but we had a pretty successful day anyways. The night before I spent some time researching some things to do before bed. One of those things was a tour of the underground waterways of Napoli. That sounds nerdy but it got so many good reviews and sounded really interesting to check out. So we went by the place about 11:40 am and was told to come back at noon when the tour started.

For the short time we had to wait, we walked Via dei Tribunali to look for a small snack before entering the tour (which would take an hour and a half). We came across Antica Pizza Fritta da Esterina Sorbillo dal 1935 which had some pretty appetizing pictures of fried pizza in the window. We ordered one, paid 3.50 euro for it and waited only a couple minutes before it was given to us.

This thing was huge! Good thing we only ordered one! The length across was at least 15 inches. The filling was a mix of cheese and some meat, but very different from a calzone. What I liked most about it was the fried crust. It was piping hot when we got it so we had to be really careful not to burn our mouths. I was pretty happy with our snack. It was about time to go back so we cleaned up our things and went back to Napoli Sotterranea for the underground tour.

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Napoli Sotterranea is an underground tour that focuses on the waterways underneath the city. Of course they span much longer than the area we explored but in the tour, they would show us more than just the waterways. We would also be able to learn about how they were made, what they were originally used for, what they were used for during WWII, as well as some other parts of Napoli’s history like their Roman Theatre and its remains.

The tour group wasn’t so big, thankfully. Our tour guide Alex was from Napoli and very quirky, knowledgeable and funny. The first hour of the tour was spent all underground, 40 meters deep to be exact! To give you a more informational background on the tunnels, here is an excerpt from the tour’s website:

The first artifacts of underground excavations date back to about 5,000 years ago, almost at the end of the prehistoric era. Later, in the III century BC, the Greeks opened the first underground quarries to obtain the blocks of tuff needed to build the walls and temples of their Neapolis and dug in numerous rooms to create a series of funerary hypogea. The impressive development of the underground network began in Roman times: the Romans in fact in the Augustan period endowed the city with road tunnels and above all a complex aqueduct network, fed by underground ducts coming from the Serino springs, 70 km away from the center of Naples. Other branches of the Augustan age aqueduct arrived as far as Miseno, to feed the Piscina mirabilis, which was the water reserve of the Roman fleet. Wide that little that allowed the passage of a man, the aqueduct burrows branched out in all directions, with the aim of feeding fountains and houses located in different areas of the upper city. At times, on the walls, there are still traces of the hydraulic plaster, used by the engineers of antiquity to waterproof the tunnels. At the beginning of the 16th century the old aqueduct and the many pluvial cisterns could no longer satisfy the city’s need for water which had spread like wildfire and so the wealthy Neapolitan nobleman Cesare Carmignano built a new aqueduct. It was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that it stopped digging underground for water supply and abandoned a network of tunnels and cisterns of over 2,000,000 m², spread throughout the city.

The undergrounds were then used during the Second World War as air-raid shelters to protect themselves from the disastrous bombings that hit the city. The cavities were lit and arranged to accommodate dozens of people who hurried to the sound of the siren down the stairs that went down. Remains of furniture, graffiti and various objects in an excellent state of preservation still testify to the great fear of the bombing and the numerous periods of the day lived in the shelters, revealing a cross section of important life and at the same time tragic city history.

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Some interesting facts I remember, the tunnels walls were this porous rock. When the waterways were stopped being used, it was because there was an outbreak of cholera and it infected the water since the water walls cavities were this porous rock. So they had to stop using them. Also, the aqueducts were kept cleaned by a cleaner. They would climb down these narrow holes, there were foot holes chiseled in the rocks side so they could use them to climb down and up from, and use like a net to clean the cisterns. Also during WWll, the space was used as an air raid shelter, an area with “stalls” were made for showers and bathroom areas. We also got to see toys that children had left behind during the time of the war.

When we were learning about WWII, Alex had told us Napoli was the first city in Italy to be liberated. The interesting part was that it was liberated by the citizens of Napoli! But because southern Italy was rather poor during that time, it took a very long time to rebuild the city so many people had to live on the streets to wait until their homes could be rebuilt.

One of the coolest parts of the tour was being able to walk in these super narrow waterways. The waterway was very tall but only as wide as my shoulders. We held onto an electric candle to light our way. You had to walk as if you were on a cat walk, one foot directly in front of the other just to get through the tunnel. Alex told us the waterway had to be designed this way so that water would always be moving. Really cool! Also Alex showed us some plants that were being grown as an experiment down there by a university. The humidity is always 100% so the plans didn’t even need to be watered! Also the temperature is always about 17 degrees celsius which is very perfect for the plants needs.

After exploring underground, Alex took us to a place nearby that had ruins from the Roman Theatre. The archaeological site actually had apartment buildings built all above it. Archaeologist didn’t discover it till hundreds of years later. Alex also told us that they couldn’t even continue any further digging and discover everything that could possibly exist because of the apartments above it. So there actually could be even more of the Roman Theatre that exists! We got to see the “backstage” area where the actors or musicians would prepare. The area discovered was actually found in a private home. Pretty interesting stuff if you ask me!

I was really happy with the tour and our guide, Alex. I think it was really interesting to see a different side of the city many people typically wouldn’t see.

After the tour, it was about 1:30pm. The night before we tried to go to the famous pizza place, Sorbillo but the wait was too long. We decided that today, our last day in Napoli, would have to be the day we try this pizza! So we took a short walk to the place and put our name on the list. It took a solid 50 minutes to be seated. When we did, we ordered the Margherita Extra and also their anchovy pizza.

The pizza definitely had to be eaten with a fork and nice. Super cheesy with a really wet filling. I think if you are expecting the traditional pizza you can hold and eat with your hands, you might be a little disappointed. The taste though was really good. I really liked that I had heaps of mozzarella on my pizza (my favorite cheese)! Caoliang said his anchovy pizza was really good too. Was it worth the 50 minute wait? Eh I would say if you only had a day or first time in Napoli, yes you should wait and yes, we weren’t disappointed when we got our food. Checked that off the list!

Afterwards, we headed to the San Carlo Theatre for our guided tour. The theatre opened in the 1700s and was still active now. It was a piece of Neapolitan history I felt like would be cool to see. Unfortunately, when we reached the theatre, the man at the ticket book said the tour was cancelled!! So we just shrugged that off and went to get some coffee.

So according to my research, coffee is a big thing in Napoli. We decided to check out Gran Caffe Gambrinus. This cafe has a lot of history and has been around since the 1800s. If you would like to know more, click the link HERE. We ordered the Caffe Nocciola, a coffee and nutcream, as well as the Caffe’ del Nonno, a cold creamy coffee. Both were so sweet but so delicious! It was perfect since we just had lunch. The look of the place was very fancy and so were the workers in their attire. I felt they were a little snobby but we had our experience and coffees so I was happy with that.

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After our plans didn’t work out withe theatre tour, we had more free time in the day. We decided to walk around Via Toledo and look at some shops.

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That evening for dinner we went to Tandem for pasta and ragu. I had read ragu was a big thing in Napoli too. The ragu here was good but honestly, it was not spectacular. I think Caoliang definitely could’ve had that delicious pizza for dinner too!

Oh before I forget! We also went to Sfogliatella Mary fora popular Napoli sweets, sfogliatella frolla and sfogliatella riccia. The pastries were very sweet and had a hint of orange. So anyways back to dinner. We had a pretty filling dinner of meatballs, ragu and ricotta pasta, grilled eggplant and a salad.

What a day in Napoli! I felt that we got to learn a lot this day and also had an easy paced day. Lately, everyday has been go, go go, so it was nice to have a late start to the day but still get to do everything we intended to do.

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Tomorrow we are headed to the Amalfi coast for some down time by the water. Can’t wait!

xx
t.

Cinque Terre, Italy

July 8, 2018

On our first day in Florence, we were kindly greeted by our AirBnB host (as mentioned before). We had seen a small tour ad for Cinque Terre on one of the maps she was showing us of Florence. Hm, Cinque Terre? Caoliang had heard of the place and our hostess spoke really highly of it. Should we go there? With about three and a half days total in Florence, why not plan another day trip! Our hostess had said it is actually not that far and very manageable for a day trip.

So with the beautiful pictures we searched and our hostess’ advice, we looked into a day tour to go to Cinque Terre. Of course with tours you don’t really get a lot of your own time to fully enjoy the place, but with only a day to spare, we figured the most efficient way to see all of Cinque Terre was within a tour group.

After a little bit of research, we found Getyourguide.com that had a full day tour to Cinque Terre from Florence. Perfect! The tour would be about twelve hours and cost 90 euros a person. The tour was titled: Seaside Beauty and included seeing 4/5 of the villages that made up Cinque Terre. It also included some time to swim! We were sold!

This morning we woke up super early to make sure we were at the meeting point on time. When we arrived, we saw the tour group was rather large. In our group there had to of been at least 50 people! After all the guest were accounted for, we took a double decker bus two hours to Cinque Terre. Summer time is crazy for tourists and honestly I kind of hate being part of that big annoying group moving through a city but when time is short, it just made sense.

The first little village we arrived at was Manarola. It is a tiny little village with an amazing view. The houses lined the coast creating a very colorful backdrop with the ocean right next to it. The thirty minutes given here, we spent mostly taking photos. It was hard to venture off any further in fear we would get left behind from the tour group! We saw people were also swimming and sunbathing on the rocks. The water looked so enticing! But with little time there we had to keep moving.

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Next was Vernazza, also a small village with similar coastal homes and view. Many swimmers and sunbathers here too. I really wanted to get in the water but we only had about 40 minutes here. You would think 40 minutes would be plenty, but once you get situated and in water, 40 minutes could already be nearly gone!  But i knew swimming was coming soon so i just stayed patient. The villages were rather similar, very small with old colorful houses. Looking around made me wonder who lives here and for how long have they lived here. 

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After Vernazza, the whole group headed to Monterosso Al Mare by train. This is the largest village out of the Cinque Terre. We were allocated nearly three hours here to have lunch, shop, sight see or swim. Basically whatever you wanted as long as you were at the meeting point at said time. It was so crowded right where the station let out so we walked down the coast a bit to see if more space was available. We ate lunch at this small cafe with some outside tables. The food was fine but nothing special. They had a clean bathroom though with a toilet seat (in Italy, toilet seats are rare)! Then we walked to the beach and found a small spot to set up. We got to spend about twenty minutes in the water. The water was clear and cold but felt nice to be able to swim. Again, we didn’t have much time so soon had to grab our things and meet the group. Monterosso is beautiful though and it was nice to see such a different view then we’ve been seeing. After this we took a short boat ride to Riomaggiore.

In Riomaggiore, people were swimming too but it wasn’t like a beach set up. It was more like slabs of concrete and rocks that went straight into the ocean. There were a group of boys jumping off tall rocks here. They are brave. It made me nervous just watching them. We walked around the village just a bit to grab a coffee and use the bathroom then had to go meet the group again.

Lastly we ended up in La Spezia. This was just a meeting point to get to our bus to go back to Florence so we really didn’t see much here. Our tour guide said there wasn’t much to see anyways. I guess we will just have to believe him!

The tour was decently organized for the size group and wanting to fit so many things into one day.  The tour guides really just helped us get to one place to another but didn’t offer too much information about the actual villages or history of the place. That was ok though. It was nice to see the different views. Originally we didn’t even plan to go see Cinque Terre. But with so many beautiful pictures and a day tour that was 90 euros a person to see 4 out of 5 of the villages, we felt like we had to. We think it was a good deal even if the day felt rushed.

It’s hard to manage such a large group and do so much in a few hours so I think we got our money’s worth and had a nice day of it too. No complaints here but I can’t say that for other people in the group!! We heard a few complaints from other people on the tour group. Honestly though, if you’re paying 90 euro a person to see as much as we saw today, AND knowing you’re in a group of nearly 50 people, you can’t expect everything to go perfect to your liking. I think for the things we saw and for the price we paid, this was a pretty good tour.

Cinque Terre is a really beautiful place of Italy. I definitely would recommend setting aside more time for these villages so you can really enjoy the scenery and have enough time to soak up the sun and swim in the sea. I’m pretty pleased we got to fit it into our honeymoon though when we didn’t expect to be able to see it.

 

xx
t.

Florence, Italy

July 5, 2018

We arrived in the afternoon from Rome by train. Unfortunately for us, we were short one euro for the bus so had to walk to our AirBnB, which was a 25 minutes walk with luggage. It was hot but luckily it wasn’t further. Our hostess was really nice and came to meet us. The apartment was small but had all the essentials and was located really centrally to all the shopping. After resting and letting our sweat dry, we wandered around the city.

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This was the first time I DID NOT plan a very clear schedule for the day. Shocking, I know! My little sister had lived in Florence for six months before, and told us that Florence is pretty small so because she said that, I felt like it would be fine to roam around. This first day, we saw many shopping places, squares, statues, churches and a couple markets. The thing about not researching was I didn’t know what anything was!

The feeling of Florence was already very different to Rome. Even though there were tourists, it wasn’t crazy like in Rome. Florence also felt smaller, because it is. We still saw some iconic Florence sights like Brunelleschi’s Dome and the Piazza della Signoria.

After walking around the city center (and having a quick lunch), we headed to the hilltop for the evening hours. The walk wasn’t so bad because we followed our host’s advice of checking out the rose garden before going up all the steps.

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Since we were in the garden, it kind of put us almost halfway up the steps to the top. Once we got to the top the view was really nice. You can clearly see the whole city including the famous Duomo (which actually means “house of God” not “dome” like people think).

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We spent some time up there taking in the sights and taking photos. Up there was also some cycling event going on. It was like a massive group cycle session. It was pretty cool to see.

Afterwards we went to eat at Enoteca Fuori Porta. We got there a little before dinner rush so there weren’t many people, but most all the terrace was reserved. Thankfully, the host was pretty nice to let us sit at a table with a later reservation (as long as we left by (9:30pm). The weather is so nice when the sun goes down so having a patio seat was good. We had so much carbs in our trip in the few days we were in Italy, I wasn’t sure to have more pasta. But I guess it would be silly not to! We chose pate on toast, a ravioli dish and a stuffed rabbit dish to switch it up a bit.

Since I mentioned dinner, I have to stress how much carbs we have been eating! Too much! I can see how easy it is to gain weight visiting Italy. Every meal we eat consists of 99% carbs! Pizza, pasta, sandwiches…ugh too much! I need a stalk of broccoli or something!

 

July 6, 2018

This day we signed up for a cooking tour. Like I had mentioned, I didn’t plan much for Florence (surprisingly) so we kind of planned things a couple days ahead of doing them. Since we would have a good chunk of time in Florence, Caoliang thought it might be cool to do a cooking tour since we’ve never done such thing. So on this day, we met up with the tour group at 8:45 am. The group was pretty large consisting of at least twenty people (most American or Canadian). The tour was a really fun experience! It was hosted by this company called Walkabout Florence.

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It might be too much to tell in detail but basically we started the tour with a walk through the Central Market. Here, our guide Isaac, an American chef who has lived and cooked in Italy for at least ten years, told us about the vendors, foods to buy or cook with, and bought the items we would use to cook our meal for the day.

Then we took a bus 15 minutes outside the city to a venue with a lovely view of the Tuscan hills. We then met Isaac’s cooking partner, this spunky older Italian woman, Carmela. Carmela and Isaac showed us how to make bruchetta, pesto sauce, ragu sauce, how to prepare an Italian pork roast and tiramisu.

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We also had an endless amount of red wine and got to eat as we learned.

Isaac also had a little pasta making lesson. He showed us how to make pasta from scratch and also the different types of pasta you could make after you have the dough ready. Then after that we each got to make our own pasta!

A fun fact I learned was in Italian pasta, they typically use the thinner pastas for lighter sauces and thicker pastas for the darker sauces. Also they usually use red onion and red wines for things with red meat and white onion and white wine for lighter meats. When someone asked Isaac why, he said it was primarily for an appearance factor. Oh, another fun things I learned, it is pronounced “bru-sketta” not “bru-shetta” and to say thank you it is “grazi-eh” not “gratsi”!

After the cooking lessons and a few glasses of wine, the whole group sat down to enjoy our homemade lunch! It was really nice to sit with such an amazing view. First, we were served our pesto pasta as our “first course.” The pesto sauce was so good! Also the homemade pasta was just perfect! After the first dish, we had our ragu with the thicker cut pasta. Also very delicious. You think two pasta dishes would fill you up right? Well, we still had the pork with roasted potatoes! By this point I was so stuffed but we still had our tiramisu!! Lunch was one of the best meals we have had in Italy thus far. Not to mention the killer view!

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After filling our bellies, we had time to take some photos with the beautiful background and chefs Isaac and Carmela. Once we wrapped up the tour, it was about 4 in the afternoon. The rest of the day we walked around the city more until we called it a day around 8pm. So pooped! But so far, so good.

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July 7, 2018

-After returning from PISA-

Once we got back to Florence, we rushed over to the Duomo to go see inside the cathedral before closing time. Unfortunately, when we arrived at 4 pm, the line to get in wrapped all around the cathedral!! There was no way we would make it if we got in line. Also, we tried to buy tickets to the duomo earlier in our Florence stay and they had said tickets were sold out till Tuesday! Looks like we just have to come back to Florence to see this dome and cathedral!

The rest of the day we spent roaming around the city more. We finished off the day at Il Latini restaurant. Our AirBnB host had this place written on her list of food places as a good place for Italian steak. I had no idea Italy was known for their steak! The place didn’t open till 7:30 pm and we arrived at about 8 pm. The place was already pretty crowded! Luckily, we got seated and noticed there were many tourists around us. It’s possible this place was written about in a tour guide since it seemed so popular amongst foreigners.

Skimming through the menu, I saw the Florentine Steak was 50 euros per 100 grams. Since Caoliang and I aren’t too picky with our food, we decided to try other things instead. We ordered a plate of salami to start, a penne with meat sauce, sirloin steak with a side of grilled vegetables and tiramisu to finish it off. We noticed everyone around us (the foreigners) ordered the Florentine steak though. The Florentine steak is prepared rare and for many people, it was too much to eat. We constantly heard foreigners around us ask them to cook the meat longer. I felt it was a little silly to order a steak that was meant to be cooked rare and then just go mess it up and ask them to cook it more. –sigh– Our sirloin was rare and it was bloody but not so much that you felt disgusting eating it (I typically eat steak medium rare).

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Anyways, dinner was satisfying, especially because we only had one real meal this day! (Oh yeah, our previous meal in the day was more like a brunch and it was a famous boiled beef stomach sandwich from Da Nerbone.) With full tummies and a bit more lifted spirits, we headed home and called it a day!

 

July 8, 2018

-after the Cinque Terre-

When we got back, we were pretty pooped from a full day tour in Cinque Terre. After resting and washing up, we went out to L’Osteria Di Giovanni for an unexpectedly fancy dinner. Since the night before we didn’t eat the “real” Florentine steak, Caoliang really wanted to have it on our last night.

At Giovanni, we had to wait a little bit for a table but it was easy to see why. The place was pretty packed and busy. The whole evening was really nice with lots of good food, but at a pretty slow pace. After the bread, caprese salad, truffle sauce pasta, and 100 gram Italian steak AND a few glasses of wine, we were stuffed!! Definitely a good way to end our time in Tuscany! Onto the next city! Napoli here we come!

Oh before I sign off.. I wanted to mention the awesome street art we’ve seen in Florence. I think it’s much more than your usual street grafitti. We especially like this little white character and his red hearts. When ever we walk around the city and find it, we try to snap a picture. Florence has a lot of charm and these random pieces of street art definitely add to it!

xx
t.

Pisa, Italy

July 7, 2018

By this point, we had been in Florence for two nights and had already seen most of the city. So on Saturday morning, we decided to take a day trip to Pisa. Originally, we had booking train tickets that would put us in Pisa for at least six hours. After hearing that there isn’t much there, we decided to change our train time to come back earlier in hopes to be able to see the basilica of Florence before it was scheduled to close at 4:30pm. So we boarded a train about 10:30 am to Pisa. The whole train ride was only an hour. It is probably possible to get there even earlier if you go by car since the train had a few stops.

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When we arrived we had a clear point of being there, to see the tower! I had done some research prior but it wasn’t much. We exited the station and walked through the square with the statue of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II (old king). It was a pretty small statue and easy to look past. After that, we took Corso Italia Street to get to the tower. This street was full of shopping and small food places. Also lots of tourists! After about twenty minutes or so, we reached the tower! It was pretty cool to see in person I’d have to say but man, the sun was just baking our faces. We quickly found some shade to try and cool off.

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So I’m not sure if I have mentioned it earlier, but going on a trip where it is just two people is really hard in trying to get a photo together! And yes, we have asked other people to take it but they always come out so terrible! So while trying to get a photo of us in front of the tower was a little tricky. We had a small tripod and did our best anyways.

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Afterwards we paid 5 euros each for a ticket to see the baptistry and inside the cathedral. The entrance to the cathedral is usually free but it is only free at certain time slots. Since we were on a time crunch, we figured just to pay the 5 euros and see it right then. (Also random, but, the toilets at the tower cost .80 to use!) The whole space that the tower and cathedral are on is called the Piazza dei Miracoli. This space consists of the Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistry, the Campanile, and the Camposanto Monumentale. Each place had a different entrance fee, or 18 euros to see everything. Again with our time crunch, we figured two out of four isn’t bad.

The Pisa Cathedral was very nice (inside and out) but after seeing THE church in Vatican City the other day, it’s hard to be amazed by any other church. Nonetheless, still great to see and walk around. The Baptistry was also interesting to see. I had never seen such a large structure dedicated to a baptismal fount. It was very large but didn’t have much in it. It made me wonder if they still use it for baptisms.

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Soon 1:45 pm rolled around and with a train at 2:30 pm, we had to start walking back to the station. There are a few other things to see in Pisa but really, it is just the tower. So it was cool to see such an iconic figure of Italy, even if it was for a couple hours.

Back to Florence!

 

xx
t.