travel: home sweet home


ah yes… home sweet home.  for now.
in 3 sleeps i’m headed back to europe for prague, vienna & budapest for my whirlwind 6 nights with contiki.
but for now, i’m basking in italy memories, and relaxation in the form of pumpkin beer.

my italy pictures number about 1600 and i have to buy a new external hard drive to get htem off my camera, since my computer doesn’t have enough memory left… so what i’m saying is that you won’ be getting full italy posts for a few weeks because i want to wait for pictures.

in the meantime, i can tell you that my trip was absolutely wonderful.
the “favourite city” is hotly contested right now, but i have to give mad props to sicily for totally blowing our minds with awesome.  it was absolutely stunning there.  and it makes me kind of sad that so many people don’t quite make it there when they explore italy.  its one place that we immediately said we’d like to go back to.

anyways, gotta race off to work now (i’m scared of my inbox right now, not gonna lie) but here’s a couple pictures from my iphone that kind of start to do a little justice to the magic that is sicily.

here i am in the ruins in selinunte.  so amazing.


and enjoying a limone granita in savoca (where the godfather was filmed)



travel: the final countdown to italy

after what feels like YEARS of waiting… my italy trip is finally almost here…
only 9 more sleeps until we depart.
no other trips in between my departure…
it feels real now.  very real.
our travel documents have arrived…
we’ve bought all those little things one should have… travel pillows, new luggage tags, universal adapters… you know.


i’m trying to concentrate all my happy feelings on this trip and working on my body healing itself so that i’m ready to rock.

i’m not gonna lie… i’m in a lot of pain these last few days.
my fall in the turks was worse than i first thought and i’ve been in & out of the hospital 3 times in the last 5 days.  all the docs say i should be fine to fly as long as i take the next little while to really rest up and keep my leg elevated.  so basically i’ve been spending some quality time with my couch.

it’s cool because its given me a chance to really pour over my travel books.


which has been good… but due to pain killers and such, i’m not really retaining much.
let’s just say that despite 3 reads, i still can’t speak any italian.
which is why i bought the pocket sized book, lol.

i honestly couldn’t be happier that we’re going on a guided tour.  the weight off my shoulders is massive.
especially with this injury, not having to schlep my bags around myself and worry about getting myself to & from train stations is absolutely priceless.
and i know it sounds silly, but i spend my days planning other people’s trips for them… i’m kinda burned out on it when it comes to my own trip.  to let someone else take the reigns and do all the nit picky details for me is a blessing.
all we have to do is show up, and go along for the ride.
and thats exactly what i want out of my vacation.
plus, since italy is all new to me, i won’t proclaim to know all the ins and outs.  trafalgar are experts, so i’m just gonna let them do what they do.

i’ve been watching loads of shows lately on italy…
anthony bourdain has been schooling me on the food… waterfront cities of the world has shown me the secrets of venice… and last night i watched a show on daily life in ancient rome.
and i’ve been soaking up as much as possible.  again, as much as is possible with a head full of painkillers, lol.

i have a bit of a mental list of things to see and places to eat based on shows, books and personal recommendations… but overall, the plan is to just go with the flow.
the only real “must do” for food so far is “restaurant X” that anthony bourdain waxed poetic about in an episode of No Reservations.
i simply must eat that pasta dish that he showed – Tagliolini Cacio e Pepe.

it has to go in my mouth.  like… pretty much the day we arrive in rome.
thankfully, the internet has reviled his “secret” to be Ristorante Roma Sparita and so, this will be accomplished.

to be honest i’d really like to work my way through this list… 10 best restaurants in rome but sadly my time is limited in rome to 4 days.
i do promise you this… there will be many food pictures on my return.  if i don’t take at least one picture of everything i put in my mouth, i will have failed myself.

as well, it seems that my hotels should have wireless, so i’ll do my best to post some blogs from on the ground… but i’m not bringing a laptop, just my ipad, so they may lack photos until i return back in mid-october.
i’ll do my best.

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:

travel: italian adventure

well, it is with GREAT excitement that i can say that my italy trip is officially booked and confirmed and paid up in full.

so what does this mean?
well for one, we’re now BROKE, lol. but it’s all good… so worth it.
but most importantly as of september 26th, we are off for almost 3 weeks to explore italy.

our tour is called “the best of italy & sicily” and it starts and finishes in rome… and goes a little something like this:


we arrive into rome 2 days before it starts and depart when it ends… i am ridiculously pumped about this.
this will trump hawaii as my longest trip ever – and also will be the furthest away from home that i’ve ever traveled.
and while i’m on it… it’ll also be the most expensive trip i’ve ever taken.

we really debated between the itinerary above that includes sicily and one that includes more of the north.
but my assistant manager has traveled extensively in italy and said this one would be better because if we return to this area of the world, we’ll probably do france, germany, switzerland ect and its easy to dip down into the north of italy when you’re in the neighbourhood so to speak.
in any event, we agreed.
and we were both pretty keen on the idea of including sicily on this trip.

i also absolutely love the idea of taking the “overnight cruise”.  it includes dinner and should be pretty beautiful… i love being on the water.  i hope the weather is good.

we’re going to eat and wine our faces off… i’m especially excited about this in particular: Dinner with wine at a Sicilian agriturismo winery.
ummm… okay!

the one thing thats really blowing my mind is the absolute value of this tour.
yes, its a lot of money upfront, but now we’re done.  every breakfast and 4 dinners with wine are included.  so we have to budget for lunch & a dozen dinners.
but our accommodations, transportation, sightseeing and everything else is done and dusted.
we’ll have this trip paid off before we depart on it.  and thats exciting. especially for my husband, who is much more of a money watcher than me.

also, having someone else take care of our luggage and checkins to hotels ect is really going to free up our days to SEE more.  we won’t be mucking around dragging bags to and fro train stations.  and that was important to me.  while this is a longer trip for us, it’s not a “long trip” to europe by any means.  so we have to maximize our time on the ground.

i bought this book at costco to help:


it’s really interesting and they break down a lot of cities with “if you only have one day – do this” kind of mentality and include walking maps.
which is perfect, because in most cities, our coach will arrive, they do a spin around the city to orient you and then you do one major sight or activity and then you’re free for the afternoons.

i also like that we get a local guide in Rome, Florence, Assisi, Pompeii, Palermo and Agrigento.
very cool to be shown a city by a local… and i’m looking forward to seeing what they call their “hidden treasures” which is something unique to each guide that they show you that you won’t find in the lonely planet book.

anyways.  clearly i am very excited.
i’m currently making my “to do still” list which includes: getting transfers to/from the airport in rome, booking our 2 nights hotel for before the tour starts, extending our insurance coverage to cover the length and cost of our trip and getting a book on learning italian.  yey!

188 days seems a lifetime away…