Tag Archives: Family

un viaje florentino

This past weekend was my first time visiting Italy (of many more to come)!  A few months ago my Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger sent me the itinerary for their two-week long Italian vacation (super jealous), hoping that I would be able to join them along part of it.  It just happened to work out that they would be in Florence for a week, including the weekend of May 25 – 27, so Dan and I booked a trip to meet up with them! We decided to fly through Bologna and then take the train to Florence, since, with all costs included, it still wound up being about half the price.  I took the bus to the airport from my office (20 minutes door to door!) and met Dan in the RyanAir visa check line around 1pm.  Of course, there were a million people that decided to rearrange their luggage once they got up to the counter, so it took us forever to get through to security. The security line was even crazier and Dan told me it was because 99% of people that go through security it is actually their first time doing so.  That’s actually not true, but I believed him, mostly because I’m gullible, but also because people really were taking forever!!

We got in the long RyanAir line and finally after passing the ticket scanner, we were informed that we were at the wrong gate.  We had nearly gotten on a plane to Santiago de Compostela, in the northwest corner of Spain!  Crisis averted, I anxiously ran to find the other gate and then waited in that line for another 30 minutes.

After a normal burning hot/freezing cold RyanAir flight we landed in Bologna and took a cab to the train station.  There were two trains to Florence leaving within the next fifteen minutes, so I was getting anxious in the ticket counter line.  There were only first class tickets available for the second of the two, and the next train was not for another hour!  We quickly paid, grabbed our tickets and ran (again) through the crowded station to our platform.  Tons of people standing there, but no train.  Taking the reactions of everyone else into count, I deciphered the Italian train status update and gathered that the train was 20 minutes late.  Once we got on it was smooth sailing for the rest of the weekend though, and we kicked it off with free wine and snacks in first class wooo!

Our hotel was only a ten minute walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, so we checked in rather quickly upon arrival, dropped our bags and headed over to the San Lorenzo Mercato, the infamous Florence leather market.  It was closing in an hour, but we weren’t sure when we’d make it back there (we walked at least three more times in the next 48 hours), so we wanted to check it out!  I wasn’t planning on making a purchase just yet, but I did decide to try on a jacket (or 5 or 6) just to get a feel for what I wanted and how much it would cost.  Twenty minutes later we headed back to the hotel with my new leather jacket in hand!  Usually it takes me forever to make decisions, but the fact that I loved it and that Dan and I tag-team bargained with the vendor until he dropped the “special price” over 50% is what sold me!

After phoning Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger’s hotel and showering, we met up with them right outside of our hotel to walk around the city before dinner.  We saw the Capelle Medicee, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, Ufitzi, Piazza della Signoria y Palazzo Vecchio.  The sun was just setting and everything looked so beautiful in the light!  We made our way over to Acqua al 2, a trendy restaurant that Jackie had recommended to me, since her boyfriend James studied in Florence during the fall, and they had gone there for his birthday.  We enjoyed six tastings of fresh pastas with all different vegetables & sauces, three different filet mignons (one with blueberry & one with balsamic) and three delicious fresh salads.  It was a perfect dinner for our first meal in Florence since we got to try all different things and it really was very affordably priced.  Thank you so much for the recommendation, Jack!!  We finished the night with gelato and made plans to meet up at the leather market around 9am.

 

We started both Saturday and Sunday morning in the hotel with the free breakfast of croissants and rolls with nutella & jam, juice and coffee (cappuccino for me, café con leche for Dan), which gave us the energy to power through the long days ahead!  We spent all day Saturday driving around Chianti and the Tuscan countryside, stopping for wine tastings, fresh tomato/mozzarella/basil paninis, drinks looking out over thehills and lots of photo opportunities in small hill towns all afternoon.  It was beautiful and relaxing and certainly made up for the anxious travel day Dan and I had had the day before!

We made our way back to the city later on, enjoyed a snack of a smooth fresh pecorino (which was amazing), prosciutto de Parma and wines we had tasted and bought that day before heading across the river for a late dinner.  Mark & Ginger ate at the restaurant earlier in the week per the recommendation of their concierge but had no idea how popular it would be on a Saturday night!  We waited a while, but between the free glass of prosecco, people/food watching and conversation it seemed to pass very quickly. We had watched heaping plates of shellfish coming out to almost every table, so we knew we had to order that to share.  We also ordered a buffalo mozzarella stracciatella, which was fresh, torn, smooth buffalo mozzarella served over crispy fresh vegetables, and the traditional panzanella (Italian bread salad with balsamic vinegar and typical veggies).  After about 20 minutes it seemed the heaping pile of mussels, shrimp and clams was not getting any smaller, but when we turned around the table next to us had ordered TWO of them!!  Not only that, but when they finished those, the waiter brought out four plates of linguini with clams, one for each of them again!  We left around midnight, hoping to make it over to a gelato place that four local tour guides/waiters/etc. had recommended, but the gate was literally closing as we turned the corner.  We meandered around the city for a little while, taking in the city at night, which was absolutely beautiful.

Sunday morning, Dan and I headed over to the Galleria dell’ Accademia bright and early to see the David.  We didn’t have a reservation, but we actually made it into the museum in 15 minutes.  The statue was so impressively huge and detailed, I couldn’t believe how all of the photos I had ever seen of it did not even do it justice.  Dan made me snap this picture, even though it wasn’t allowed!!  I was freaking out they would kick us out of the museum, but of course no one even noticed.  The Prisoners were also very interesting, unfinished works by Michelangelo which make the sculptures seem like they are stuck in the blocks of stone.

We met up with Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger at their hotel around 10:30, stopped in the Santa Maria Novella Farmacia, an ornate, beautiful pharmacy belonging to the church and then made our way across the Ponte Vecchio and up to the Piazza Michelangelo for the great view of the city.  We also stumbled upon a beautiful rose garden that I would highly recommend visiting!  It’s down the far left side of the Piazza, toward the Boboli Gardens.  I love stumbling upon things like that, and it was great to not have a set agenda because we could take the time to explore!!  While making our way over to see the Pitti Palace, we passed a church that was built in the year 1078 too!  We were getting so hungry passing pizzeria after pizzeria, but were determined to make it to Gusta Pizza, James’ favorite pizza place during his semester abroad.  It was definitely worth the wait, I got an arugula pizza and Dan got one with spicy salami.  As if that wasn’t filling enough, we had to stop at the gelateria from the night before.  A small cup of tiramisu gelato & pear ricotta gelato put me in a serious food coma, the perfect state in which to get on the train back to Bologna.

       

 

The weekend was a perfect balance between touristy site-seeing and relaxing, and I’m so happy we got to spend it with Uncle Mark & Aunt Ginger.  Thank you guys so much for everything, and enjoy the rest of your trip!!  Hope everyone else had a great weekend too.  Ciao, amores:)

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feliz cumpleaños, teddy!!

Here’s a little video we made to wish Dan’s dad a very happy 60th birthday, all the way from Spain!!  Hope you had a great time at Dusal’s last weekend and that you have a great day, Teddy!

 

I promise updates on my trip to Paris last weekend as soon as possible!  Ciao, amores:)

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madrid con mis padres


When we arrived back in Madrid after visiting Prague, my parents, brother, and I were all pretty tired of site-seeing.  We opted for a more relaxing two days with less early mornings and all day walking tours and more leisurely walks and quite afternoons.

Luckily, we had fabulous weather – sunny, light breeze, and mid-50s.  We started the morning with a typical Spanish breakfast of café and pan tostado con tomate at a great bakery my dad discovered on the corner of Vallehermoso and Donoso Cortes.  And we spent the afternoon at El Parque del Buen Retiro (remember how I was there every weekend in the warmer months?) and finally rented a row boat in the Estanque (man-made lake).  During the off-season it costs 4,55 euro for 45 minutes, a great deal especially since we got so lucky with the weather!    

Didn’t get any pictures of Mom rowing (we kicked her out after her a few minutes) or Alex (I was sitting behind him!)

I treated my family to kebabs for lunch, which they thoroughly enjoyed although they were expecting barbecue kebabs (as in on the stick), haha.  And after a nice siesta, we spent the night over in Opera, showing them the Teatro Real, Catedral Real & Palacio Real and having delicious tapas in the Plaza de Isabel II.  It’s really a cool area over there, and I hope to explore it more often now!

{Parents in front of the Royal Palace}

The next morning, my parents got up early to explore the Thyssen Museum while my brother and I slept in, but we met them afterwards at Zara.  After a little bit of shopping we headed over to Cien Montaditos  since it was 1 euro Wednesday with my roommate Bruna and Dan’s cousin, Michael, who had just arrived from New York.  Though their trip was short, I think we packed as much into it as we could, despite all of the time spent in airports.  I can’t wait for them to come back again!

 

Miss you already, guys!  xxx

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las navidades en praga

{Christmas markets & cathedral in Old Town Square}

One of the places at the top of my list to visit while living in Madrid this year was Prague.  So when my family and Dan’s parents began to entertain the idea of travelling a bit while they were in Europe visiting us for Christmas, I automatically jumped at the chance to persuade everyone that Prague was the best place to go for Christmas.  The good news is that I was right!

I started planning our trip to Prague over Christmas weekend back in November and was just about finished just before el Puente de Navidad when I posted about the itinerary I was working on.  We got to see nearly all of the greatest sites in the city in the three short days that we were there.

Friday night (December 23) we arrived around dinner time to a concert in the square outside of the apartment we were renting.  While everyone else changed and settled in, Dad, Dan, and I went to the grocery store with the hopes of buying all sorts of ingredients for Christmas Eve hors d’oeuvres and Christmas morning breakfast.  However, we realized very quickly that not knowing a word of Czech made it a little difficult to know what exactly we were buying.  Instead of our original plan, we opted for things we could actually tell what they were by looking at them: oranges, eggs, milk, cereal, tea, coffee, etc. and of course the ingredients for Mom’s legendary Christmas breakfast, Pear, Raspberry & Mascarpone Bruschetta (click for recipe… you MUST try it).

Sorry for the digression, but if you try that recipe you will understand that it was completely worth it!!  Dad had found a restaurant that looked good, was open later than most other restaurants in the city, and appeared to be right by where we were staying.  After wandering around the New Town for about 30 minutes with Czechs giving us directions like 50 meters that way, 100 meters that way, etc. we realized it was literally directly behind the apartment.  We toasted to Dan’s birthday, a wonderful Christmas, and that we were all celebrating together, but retired early since I had a long day planned for us.

Saturday morning, Christmas Eve, we woke up a little later than expected, but weren’t bothered since we were all on vacation and were really there to be relaxing after all!  There was a little upset over Dan realizing he had lost his coat between the airport and that moment and his watch also breaking, but we put it behind us and had a really fun-filled day.  (If you’ve been following my Twitter feed, you saw that it actually miraculously appeared in our apartment when we got back from being out all day!)

We headed into the Old Town Square where the largest and greatest Christmas markets are in the city.  There we bought gifts for the yankee swap we had planned for Christmas morning and tried all sorts of sausages, cheeses & hot wines.  When it began to rain we headed into a café for tea and cookies to warm ourselves up.  Afterwards we explored the Jewish quarter and caught a glimpse of the Charles Bridge on our way home.  We had dinner at a great old beer brewery which served 1 liter beers (Oktoberfest status) for the equivalent of 4 EURO!

 

Sunday, we enjoyed a relaxing morning of the already mentioned amazing breakfast along with pastries Dad bought at the only open bakery (Starbucks, haha!).  We also had a great time of doing the yankee swap, with gifts including marionettes, beer steins and giant Christmas ornaments.  Despite the rain, we decided to walk to the Prague Castle (not my idea).  It was about 30 minutes of uphill in the rain (read: miserable), but it was really cool to see the other area of the city and the entire fortress where the royals used to live.  We stopped to have some soup, beers and pretzels afterwards, which made Rina very happy since she had been dying to try these pretzels since we had seen them.  On the way back to the apartment we took a detour to the John Lennon Wall, which may be my favorite part of the entire city.  It’s just covered in beautiful Beatles and John Lennon quotes about peace and love.  It was a great way to end our touring for the day.

Rina and I had made a reservation for Christmas dinner at COMO Restaurant about a month ago before even realizing that it was directly across the square from where we were staying!  We had a leisurely, delicious meal; the perfect way to end our short but sweet holidays together.  I even got a pink martini (nom) and tiramisu, my absolute favorite!

All in all, the weekend was jam-packed with site-seeing, but we still managed to fit in some quality relaxation time of Christmas movies, cheese and crackers and afternoon naps whenever possible.  It always makes me a little sad to be visiting such amazing cities that I know our families would love, so it was amazing to be exploring a new city with them, especially during Christmas time.  Thank you guys so much for everything, and I hope you had just as much fun as I did!

Feliz navidad (de nuevo y un pocito tarde!), amores:)

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feliz cumpleaños, dan!

Dan’s birthday is so close to Christmas (it’s December 23!) that it usually gets celebrated the week before or nearly forgotten in all of the holiday travel mayhem.  Last year we made the most of it by staying in to have a great homemade dinner, cake, and presents in Boston, and I hope he had just as much fun celebrating this year with our families and friends!

{Mom in front of the carousel and christmas markets; Plaza Mayor}

We took my favorite walking tour of Madrid, starting at the Templo de Debod & Parque del Oeste, seeing the Christmas lights in Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol, & Plaza Mayor, and having a snack of jamón and queso at Mercado de San Miguel with our families before having dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world, Casa Botín.  The atmosphere was great inside and the food was excellent, as well, though I think there may be too much hype over the place.  Of course, we enjoyed ourselves, but I would have to say I’ve had better meals in Madrid, and though I’m glad I went once, I don’t plan on going back.

That wonderful time with our family was followed by homemade chocolate cake with white chocolate frosting (by me!)  and presents at our friend Kenny’s apartment.  It was great to hang out with everyone for the night before we all went our separate ways for Christmas.  Dan and I had flights early the next morning to Prague, so we decided against going to the club in efforts to call it an early night.  Another post coming soon about spending the Christmas holidays in Prague, which I started on just four hours of sleep… so much for going to bed early!

¡Feliz cumpleaños, amor!  Espero que te hayas disfrutado:)

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¡feliz navidad!

   

{2010: NYC; 2011: Madrid}

Seeing the Christmas lights, tree, and windows in New York City must be one of my favorite things in the world; it just always gets me in the Christmas spirit (as if I wasn’t already!)  But this year it has been a little harder to get into it, since I’m not at home or anything!  Instead of leaving it at that, a year without infinite Christmas joy, Dan and I treated ourselves to a night of Spanish Christmas lights and a few out of the ordinary treats at Mercado de San Miguel (think oysters, a bottle of good wine, and a fabulous dessert coffee) for our official one year anniversary last week.  I’m happy to say I am certainly in the Christmas spirit after that night, and absolutely CANNOT WAIT to see our families this week!!

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volver a la magia de sevilla

{View from La Giralda on a foggy morning in Sevilla}

With it being the second to last week of classes I’ve been super busy with group projects, classes, everything, and this is the first time I’ve really had a chance to sit down and write something of meaning for you, my apologies!

As many of you know, Jackie, Gabby, Lauren, Dan, and I took a road trip last Thursday, complete with pit stops, near death experiences and mix CDs, to Sevilla.  Now… I will explain.

      

In May and June 2010, we had the opportunity to stay with host families in Sevilla as part of our program through a Dialogue of Civilizations through Northeastern.  I had an immediate connection with my wonderful padres españoles and have since then, kept in contact with them.  After working very hard in Italy for twenty years, Rosa and Carlo now host students from around the world in their home.  They have such a simple, carefree life, and have to been two of the most genuine, lovely people I have ever met in my entire life.  Dan also has kept in contact with his host mother, Lola, and her sons Alberto (1o) and Pepe (8), who are so adorable.   (Besos a todos vosotros!!)  We had wanted to go back to visit them all in Sevilla the second we left, and took the opportunity of this long weekend to do so.

Since none of the girls know how to drive a manual car, Dan volunteered to drive all the way there and back.  We took a little bit longer route there through Andalucia (the southern community of Spain), but had the chance to stop in Córdoba to split the drive up a little bit.  It was such a great small city!  As soon as we started walking around I realized how much I had really missed Andalucia.  It’s such a different culture than the fast-paced lifestyle of Madrid.  The most noticeable differences to me are the great flavorful food and the Arabic, modern Spanish, Jewish, and traditional Spanish Catholic cultures that are present in nearly every city.  After a fabulous meal and a visit to the Córdoba Cathedral, which still has all of the elements of the Mosque that it used to be, we got back on the road through the beautiful Spanish countryside.

  

      

Overall, our weekend in Sevilla was uneventful, which was exactly the type of relaxation I needed before these last two weeks of classes.  We ate wonderful homemade meals while staying in Rosa and Carlo’s home, hung out and had fantastic conversations with them as could have been predicted, siesta-ed, had lunch with Lola and the boys, visited with my family friend, Carolyn, took in a few sights, including my favorite La Giralda, and laughed the entire time!

Trujillo, ghost town

The ride home was a little more eventful, however.  Gabby did a fantastic job of describing the “issues” we ran into on our way home, so I will let her explain…

It took us a little while to get out of the city, and once we were on the highway, we realized that we were in desperate need of gas. There were a few moments of pure terror because there was no sign of any gas station, but as we drove over a hill we could see a gas station on the horizon. I have never been happier to see a gas station.

We got a few snacks and then had to move the car up so that the people behind us could fill up. They thought we about to drive away and steal a tank of gas. Issue #1.

Issue #2: While Dan was waiting inside to pay for the gas, the guy from the car behind us came next to the car (the driver door was open) and asked us if we could move the car up. If you remember, none of us girls can drive stick. We told him we couldn’t drive and he told us to just take off the emergency brake. Colette did it, and the guy literally started to push the car forward with all of us in it, totally confused. Dan was watching us from inside, just as confused. Needless to say getting a tank full of gas was a bit of a process.

The girls skimmed through the Discover Spain book some more to see if there was a place we could stop on the way home for lunch, and we decided to try this quaint little town called Trujillo. There was a nice paragraph about it saying that it was a nice, small, medieval looking town so we figured, why not?

Why is more like it. It’s Sunday. Everything in Spain shuts down on Sunday. It was 4:15. Prime siesta time when everything really shuts down in Spain, and we had no idea where we were going.

We started to drive around and find the city center and we probably saw a total of 3 people walking the streets. We were a little sketched out – it was like the scene from a horror movie. You know, the movie where the group of kids gets lost and stops in the next town to ask for help but then gets killed one by one. Awesome.

I might be exaggerating a wee-bit, but there were numerous jokes flying around in the genre. We finally find a restaurant that wasn’t closed so we pretty much had no choice but to eat there. Jackie was first one to walk in immediately she was welcomed by a man that was screaming in Spanish like he was so happy to see her again. Her response, “Is the kitchen open?”

After the guy yells a little more, 100% confused, we all sit down and start deciding what we want to eat. Our waiter informs us that they have hamburgers, but not the kind you would find at Mickey D’s. Thanks. Another guy (different from the one who was thrilled to see Jackie again) came over to our table and asked if one of our friends lost their purse, their phone, pretty much all the essentials. The confusion worsened because we had never even heard of this town 30 minutes beforehand, and we knew there was no way in h*** that we had been in this restaurant/bar the night before. We told him we were just driving through from Sevilla to Madrid, and he felt the need to ask us if we were sure three times. Si, señor, WE HAVE NEVER BEEN HERE BEFORE! ¡Dios!

After a few bocadillos, we got back on the road and made it back to Madrid without causing anymore problems.

I don’t think I can explain how great it was to get out of Madrid, to a city I know and love for the weekend.  It was the exact same feeling as going home to Connecticut when I’m in Boston, and I will definitely be keeping that in mind.  Thank you so much, Rosa and Carlo, for having all of us at your home.  We can’t wait to see you both again!

Y un buen finde a vosotros, amores:)

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