Saturday, May 30, 2009

More ruins.

By popular demand - aka Nicole - I bring you an entry on Pompeii.

I, like a turd, forgot to take photos on my phone of the other ruins we saw in Rome, but captured some at Pompeii. I am admittedly not a history buff. In fact the only class I failed in college was Western Civ (ok...maybe some others too in my "dark ages" era, don't tell my parents). This being said, a trip to Pompeii felt a little obligatory for me. BUT! Pompeii was super cool!

Walking through a complete city, ruined yet preserved, of seriously ancient times was so fascinating. When my child studies European / Roman history I will take them to these ruins! If money permits :)

Highlights included, but were not limited to:

- ancient roman style fast food restaurants
- massive roman baths
- mosaic "beware of dog" welcome mats
And my favorite (tee hee hee)
- brothel, with pictorial menu on the ceiling

If you get the chance, when in Rome do like the Pompeiians did....

PS : the pictures are as follows,

Pompeii ruins with ominous Vesuvius in the background

Bodies formed from pouring plaster into the space preserved around bones

all other photos on Vince's camera ... Sorry!

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Objects are NOT larger than they appear.

We just left the Amalfi coast, where we stayed in the small(ish) town of Sorrento as home base. Sorrento is known for it's lemons: lemon-aide, lemon pastries and... Limoncello!

The lemons are outrageously large here. In the picture above, those are lemons on the top shelf and normal sized apples below! While in Sorrento we drank limoncello, strolled through lemon groves and admired the beautiful Amalfi coast.

When life hands you lemons, make limoncello.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Time flies when you are having too much fun!

We are approaching mid the midpoint of our trip and we're almost to Sicily - right on schedule.

We've been so busy bustling around and with the shorter train rides that I haven't much updated you on our geographics. Since last mentioning location (on our way to Siena, I believe) lots has happened - and it happened in the following order :

We got on (and paid) for a train to Siena and ended up in Florence. Since we'd made it that far without fine, we jumped off the train and stayed. Unfortunately, our first impression of Florence was spoiled. We had no preparation for the city - I read up about Siena, not Florence - and followed the advice of some friendly German tourist to Pensione Canada. We found the place and it seemed clean enough and the right price, but after Vince had paid I remembered to ask, "in the morning can you hold our bags?". The woman firmly said no, and as she went to the back, vince ran out the door to find a hotel that would. Leaving me with the worst and meanest italian in the country. She came back out and told me that the money Vince gave was a binding contract and proceeded to drag MY BAGS into the assigned room. She left little room for disagreement and I found myself sucking back tears while waiting for vince to get back. He came back, proud smile across his face, with another cheaper room (breakfast included, willing to hold bags) waiting for us. Long story made a little shorter, vince was not pleased with our situation. He sat down at the front desk and proceeded to tell the woman what he thought. After twenty minutes of back and forth, the woman says, "I do not like this cinema". She nearly threw our money and did throw our passports back at us and we left. Word to the wise, (or those still reading this lengthy story) when staying in Florence, avoid Pensione Canada at all costs. May be clean, but hands down the worst service around.

Other than this wretched experience, Florence was ok. Boticelli paintings were outstanding, Ponte Vecchio beautiful and we ate our best meal yet: artichoke pasta and rack of lamb.

Next was Siena. Siena is much more our type of town. Much smaller than Florence, less hustling & more friendly faces. We stayed the first night in a basic place, but the bathroom smelled like a pee drenched alleyway. So we spent our second night at Albergo Bernini, which in my book is the best place we've stayed yet. Beyond friendly and helpful service and added bonus : usable kitchen and terrace with views. We did less sightseeing in Siena, more wine drinking terrace lounging. Happiness ensued.

Next we rented a car and sped (italian style - Vince is italian, you know) through small country towns into Montepulciano, a hilltop tuscan town that is known for it's Nobile wine. We stayed on a farm and had a perfectly relaxed time under the tuscan sun. One night we stayed and had dinner made by Mama accompanied by home made wine. The food was glorious - cheese and salami plate, picci pasta bolognese (all homemade, of course), and chicken (from the farm) flavored with fresh pig lard. Lastly for dessert, Vin Santo, also homemade, sweet wine.

After two days of blissful countryside we left for Rome. I'll save that entry for later.

Now, you are all caught up! Heavy sigh of relief, this blog entry is over!!
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Saturday, May 16, 2009


Ever since we purchased tickets to Europe for May, I have been fantasizing and romanticizing about the flowers I might see. And people- I've just had a poppy experience! Just as it was in my dreams, they were everywhere in the Tuscan region and their color was absolutely brilliant. It's no wonder they are so prominent in the local art.

* more happy sighs *

Next stop : Roma.

Ciao for now,
Elyse & Vince

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Under the Tuscan sun.

This is the view from our agritourismo room in Montepulciano. We are staying on an olive grove / vineyard. Giacomo, the son, tends to the farm and Mama makes the grub.

Siamo felici.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A fine glass of chianti is in order!

Don't feel like writing - enjoying self too much in Tuscany. See pictures of Florence and Siena to understand :)
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Italian Riviera

For the past three days we enjoyed la dolce vita of the Ligurian Sea towns. We made Santa Margherita Ligure our home base and traveled both north and south.

S. Margherita L. is a magically quaint town with details painted onto each building. It has a small harbor and a large church. The streets are paved with sea pebbles (laid out into patterns) and every small dog is well behaved. Kona would love it here! (although likely would not sit quite as quietly as the other dogs during sunday morning brunch in the center of town).

We started each day with a cappuccino and fresh buttery foccacia bread (a specialty in this region). But not to worry Rachel, we walked our tushies off! I honestly don't know if my tootsies will make it all 30 days. But I suppose if this is the most of my worries...

One day we hiked through Cinque Terre; a stretch of coast with five picturesque towns. The hike was rigorous and whine inducing but sooooo worth it! Every peak after a 500 step series gave way to perfect coastal views. We trained back to our favorite town, Vernazza, and ate pasta vongule and penne al pesto at the top of the local castle. Apparently the terrain is perfect for growing basil and pesto is another regional specialty.

The next day we walked from S. Margherita L. to Portofino. More amazing views of green lush hills meeting the blue blue sea.

All in all, italian riviera : 2 BIG thumbs up!!

We are currently training our way into Siena with a quick tourist stop in Pisa. We are looking forward to art and wine in Tuscany!

Elyse & Vince
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Friday, May 8, 2009

We've arrived!

Boungiorno Italia!
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I fell into a farmers market shopper's heaven.

All my farmers market people - you ain't seen nothing until you've shopped in the south of France. We accidentally stumbled across Aix en Provence's (what I assume is their daily) open air market early this morning. So we pulled up front row seats (at a sidewalk cafe), ordered a café crème and croissants and watched the market unfold.

There were strawberries, asparagus, cheese, spices, beets, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, lavender soaps, radishes, fish, peaches, honey, etc etc.

We bought the following :
French strawberries that smelled of perfection
Fluffy - yet crisp - green butter lettuce
A deep red (almost maroon) pepper
Salty Greek marinated olives
A bright red tomato
And, the piece de resistance...


It was all so yummy. The strawberries melted in your mouth and the red pepper was juicier than most pears I've eaten. But the garlic was just heavenly.

* happy sighs *
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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Eiffel tower - check.

After an exceptionally long flight, Vince and I arrived in Paris at 10 am local time. We made it, with ease, to our Rick Steve's recommended hotel. It was perfectly parisian! And just out the front door seemed almost fake; a disneyland version of Paris. White shutters and lavender filled window boxes. Old, young and in between lingering over salade printemps and glasses of vin in sidewalk cafes.

All we could think to do was order two baguettes and this made us very happy.

After this we went for a long sauntering walk along the seine river towards the eiffel tower at sunset. Très romantique! Followed by an amazing dinner (eggplant ravioli and spring salad with warmed goat cheese and bread, of course), a glass of côtes du rhone wine and another walk, this time down the Champs Èlyseè.

Paris, in my opinion, is a very unique city and I appreciate all of it's feminine details.

Lastly, this morning we had a cafe crème and a pain au chocolat. Oh, and another baguette...

We are currently sitting on the train heading south to Marseille. The french countryside is quite beautiful: rolling green hills, patches of bright yellow mustard blooms, an occasional cow and dabbled with country homes.

We are thinking of staying in Aix en Provence. But then maybe we'll just go straight through to Portofino. Suggestions?

Ciao for now.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2.5 hrs later...

We've been sitting on this plane on the runway in a thunderstorm for nearly 3 hrs. While you've been charming Charlotte - I'm ready for paris.
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Monday, May 4, 2009

Humble beginnings

756 pm - el segundo, Los Angeles.

Mom & Dad Homel lovingly bid adieu and now we are sitting in our cramped motel room. While waiting for greater (european) adventures to come, we overdose on vitamin c.

Additionally, Vince has just realized that we are leaving for a whole month and is practicing his mantra, "keep cool".

The next blog will surely be more interesting.

E & V
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