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travel: countdowns and big ideas

i’m a person that loves my countdowns.
i generally know exactly how many days until i have to do anything that i care about.
and right now, i have 3 travel countdowns.
and this is exciting to me.

turks & caicos: 53 days
italy: 72 days
honolulu: 124 days

ya, i accidentally booked us a trip to hawaii in november.
well, to be fair, i had $300 in free travel as a reward for selling a crapload of hawaii last month… and there was a travel agent promo code for discounted flights… soooo… it was basically so cheap i couldn’t say no.
so we’re headed back to paradise for a quick 7 night stay at the end of november.

that will probably be our last vacation until vegas in may for our 5th wedding anniversary.
which will be a full week of all out awesome. vegas style.

but it also means that i’m now set dreaming about other 2013 trips…
currently i have 3 viable options that i’m courting.

option a: scandinavian countries.
my husband’s background is finnish, so he’s dying to see the motherland of saunas and pickled fish.  and i really want to see iceland and denmark and sweden… so we’ll probably take 2 weeks or so and hop around to some of those fun countries.
option b:  heading back to the caribbean and do the island hopping down there.
option c: eastern europe.  prague, germany and maybe even russia.

but these are plans that my husband can’t yet process because first we have to go on this italian trip and pay for said italian trip.  which is fair.
so, one step at a time.
(which is clearly a challenging mindset for me)

but back to the tasks at hand.
we booked italy so long ago that it felt like september would never come.
but its starting to get real.  and close.
our final payments on the tour are due mid-august.  and then we’re paid up in full and just need to save spending money.

the next step will be reading through all the information and deciding what we’re going to do in our spare time in each city.
as i’ve said before, i really want to go in with a plan to make sure that we don’t miss anything important, since in all reality, this is a one in a lifetime trip.
not to say i definitely would never return to italy, but there’s a million other places i want to see on this planet, so its unlikely we would return in the near future.  so i have to plan to git’r’done on this trip.

i feel like i’m trying to process so much information that its overwhelming me and i’m putting it off a bit.
so maybe my pet project for this week will be breaking it into bite-sized pieces.
one city at a time.

but rome in particular is daunting.  i have 3 books dedicated to just rome.  and they are not small books.
the options of what to see are endless.  its a massive city that we could probably spend the length of our vacation just there and still have sights unseen.
and trying to decide what to see in 4 days… ya.  tough and overwhelming.
what some people list as “must-see”, others will say “don’t bother”…
and one person’s “highlight” is anothers “tourist trap”
so its stressing me out a bit.

what i have confirmed is that we have a 48 hour hop on/hop off bus pass.  which will serve as transportation around most of the big city sights.
and we have a food tour booked for our second day.

after much deliberation, i decided to book us with  Eating Italy Food Tours.
my choice was based largely on the consistently excellent reviews on trip advisor. out of 283 reviews, it received 271 excellent and 12 very good and not a single rating below that.  which is pretty much unheard of.
and also the fact that it is a walking based tour focused on local food and small businesses.

there’s certainly no shortage of foodie options in rome, but this one really caught my eye.
so, i contacted them and they offered me a little agent discount, so i committed.
and now i’m quite excited about it.
we visit multiple places and get food at each one. and the tour is 12 people max.

The Best Foods in Rome– In your hometown you know exactly where to go to find the best food around. In a city as big as Rome, uncovering those hidden culinary gems can be a challenge, if you don’t have some local insight. Our guided Real Taste of Rome Food Tour takes you to seven local favorites in one of Rome’s most delicious and historic neighborhoods, away from crowds. Ten mouth-watering food tastings, enough for a very hearty lunch, are savored on every tour. The secrets to preparing each dish are revealed and you get to meet the colorful local people who have been perfecting these recipes for generations. Food tasting stops include a historic outdoor market, an authentic Roman pastry shop, Rome’s most famous gourmet market, one of the best trattorias in the city, an award winning pizza shop, and a gelateria that has been making gelato from scratch for 98 years. All food tastings are included in the ticket price.

Genuine Historic & Cultural Experience– We like to say this is “more than a food tour” because we will not just fill your bellies but we’ll also give you plenty of food for thought. Between tastings, you experience what “real life in Rome” is like as you stroll through this non-touristy, traditional Roman neighborhood. Our knowledgeable and entertaining guides will dazzle you with fascinating stories that take you deep into Rome’s rich culture and often untold history. We visit remarkable sites from throughout Roman history- from the time of Julius Caesar, to the period under Mussolini, up to modern day including the birthplace of Rome’s most notorious Mafia gang. Some of the treasured locations visited include ancient architectural wonders, beautiful piazzas, awe-inspiring pyramids, and a hidden urban oasis.

Delicious food specialties are served on the Real Taste of Rome Food Tour (subject to change):

  • Barberini – This legendary pastry shop making edible works of art since 1945.
  • Volpetti – Rome’s #1 gourmet food shop for over 40 years.They have over 150 kinds of Italian cheeses!
  • Famous Testaccio Fresh Food Market Over 70 family-owned fresh food market stands. We use these wonderfully fresh ingredients to build our own bruschetta and make a mozzarella di buffala Caprese salad
  • Dess’Art – Costanza makes the very best cannoli in Rome, but don’t just take our word for it.
  • Flavio al Velavevodetto – In all of Rome voted top 10 Roman restaurants. You will not find a better Roman dining experience in the city.
  • 00100 Pizza – Stefano is the Picasso of Rome’s famous fried rice croquet called Suppli’. We will taste his lastest masterpiece- “The Genovese”
  • Da Bucatino – Considered a local Roman institution. When you serve some of the best Roman pasta dishes in the city for over nine decades, we feel safe calling them an institution.
  • Giolitti da 1914 – For nearly a century this famous gelateria has been making some of Rome’s best gelato the old-fashioned way

so, needless to say, this is hugely exciting to me.
obviously as a food lover, the cuisine was a very big part of our choice to vacation in italy.
but i had been a little discouraged by tales of less than stellar eating options in many of the major italian cities.
so this tour will at least start us on a high note, and they also send you away with a guide of their recommended restaurants in rome including the top 10 pizza places.
which will also give us a little guidance for our next few days there.

and honestly… i can’t wait for this:

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