Category Archives: Castles

You “Massa” Check Out This City (Massa, Italy)

Man, do I love the bad puns in my titles or what?  Probably about as much as I love posing rhetorical questions to my readers…hercules__bad_puns_by_masterof4elements-d75obi2

Roughly twelve days ago, I was as proud of myself as Arvind Mahankali when he successfully spelled knaidel to beat Pranav Sivakumar and secure the championship title during the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee (apparently, this particular Indian-American knows a thing or two about Jewish comfort food).  Why was I so pleased with myself, you ask?  Well, I thought that I had finally caught up with our stories on the blog.  And then a whirlwind of activity commenced in a flash as Jen’s sister arrived for a visit with her boyfriend.  We had such a nice time traveling and eating with them (really, is there anything else you would want to do in Italy?) that now I have a ton more to write about.  Additionally, we left them to their own devices while we embarked on a rewarding road-trip, which I cannot wait to tell you about.  So, now once again –  I am behind the times again faster than you can spell prosciutto.

An accurate portrayal of me as I struggle to keep up with the blog
An accurate portrayal of me as I struggle to keep up with the blog

When I was looking ahead toward the next 5-8 posts, I realized that I would be remiss not to step back and mention our visits to Pisa and then Massa in northern Tuscany.  When I last wrote, I detailed our trip to Lucca (HERE).  During the drive home we detoured to marvel at the Torre pendente di Pisa (Leaning Tower of Pisa) before getting back on the road.  We hadn’t traveled too much further when our perfectly timed Italian stomachs told us it was time for lunch (at first I thought our three stomachs growling in unison was a tractor-trailer honking furiously at me).  I was more in the mood for a leisurely lunch than a quick stop at an AutoGrill (picture a rest-stop along the NJ Turnpike with better food and espresso).  I turned to my trusty “TripAdvisor” cell phone app and searched for a restaurant near us.  I discovered Il Fatty (yeah… you guessed the translation; The Fatty) in the city we were approaching.  With a name like, “the fatty” – how could you go wrong?!  I took the exit toward Massa and headed into the center of town. Continue reading You “Massa” Check Out This City (Massa, Italy)

The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun

Sometimes living abroad is hard.  Like when you miss a good friend’s wedding in upstate New York – an event that turned out to be the social gathering of the year (according to Facebook pictures and word of mouth). Thankfully Dave and Jill completely understood when we declined to come.  Or when one of your best friends tells you that he’s planning on “popping the question” via email, because there’s really no easier way.  Those are the types of conversations that should be reserved for a late night in a neighborhood bar, complete with lots of back pats and free rounds for the groom-to-be.  Thankfully, Josh was great about keeping me in the loop, sending us pictures of his wonderful proposal to Abby in Charlestown earlier this year (and even calling us via FaceTime shortly afterward).  So, yeah – living abroad can be hard when you miss these special moments in your friends and families lives.  However… when we’re able to host our friends and family here, we are always grateful for the experience abroad.

Abby, Josh, Jill, Dave, Jen and Julia

For that reason, we were absolutely thrilled when we heard that Josh and Abby were going to come visit us.  We coordinated the timing of their trip so that they would be visiting during a beautiful time of year and the start of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.  As soon as they booked their airfare, I reserved our train tickets to Munich, which I’ll write about in the upcoming post. Continue reading The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun

Our Final Days at Sea

We recently had the most amazing vacation aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam  and I have had a wonderful time writing about it.  I have discovered even more about each destination as I’ve researched them further and I have had the pleasure of reliving it all over again as I post the pictures.  I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time aboard with us.  Sadly, I will close this chapter of our overseas adventure and move onto the next story in an upcoming post.  There is still plenty more to come in the blog pipeline…

“Dad, wrap this up already – you’re putting us all to sleep!”

If you joined us thus far, you’ll know we visited Venice, Olympia and Athens in our first post and then Istanbul and Lesbos in the second post.  The final leg of our cruise transports us to Kuşadası,  Santorini and Argostoli.  As always, we’ll include some of our shipboard life and hopefully you’ll be able to stick with me – I’ve got a ton of pictures in this final post. Continue reading Our Final Days at Sea

Two Greeks in Italy

I don’t know anyone in their thirties that really goes around saying, “I’m Greek” because he or she was in a fraternity or sorority – but it was certainly fun to be a part of Greek Life during college.  Jennifer and I were both “Greeks” while we attended Virginia Tech together and we each established lifelong friendships that have opened world’s of opportunities.

Lauren and Jen in front of Lake Garda

One of Jen’s sorority sisters, Lauren recently came to visit – and they instantly fell into their old college routine.  We welcomed Lauren at the train station; she was arriving from Switzerland having visited another friend living abroad.  We went to downtown Como and had a nice dinner, before enjoying a few drinks in the piazza while a live band entertained us. Continue reading Two Greeks in Italy

Make My Order Of Haggis a Double, Please

Jen and I recently went to Scotland with her family (HERE) and had a fabulous time exploring the Scottish Highlands.  We saw Aberdeen and quite a bit of the Scottish countryside.  Next on the agenda was a trip to the country’s capital, Edinburgh.  The original plan was to make it a day-trip, but we felt that there was too much to see and do in just one day (not to mention a two hour drive each way), so we planned an overnight stay.

Country road in Ballater
These dry stone walls have been used as field boundaries for well over a thousand years in Scotland
We set out early in the morning from our cottage in the charming town of Ballater, and headed south (still on the wrong side of the road) toward Edinburgh.  I was simply amazed to see how the landscape could change so quickly from one part of the country to the another (the colors went from a lush, fertile green to a more rustic, almost coarse landscape – beautiful in it’s own right).   Continue reading Make My Order Of Haggis a Double, Please

Scotland – Where Real Men Wear Skirts

No, I didn’t wear one myself, but only because we were already half-way through our trip before I came across a store that sold them.  Real men also eat haggis (sheep’s heart, liver and lungs encased in it’s own stomach) – I did do that!  Of course, so did my two-year old daughter… and she probably had more than all of us combined.

A scenic shot of the River Dee in the Scottish Highlands

Since living abroad, we’ve been able to get in touch with most of Jen’s roots.  Her father is Italian (hence us living in Italy) and we’ve gone to many of the places where he has or had family.  Since he grew up in Africa, we still have that left to do.  Jen’s mother grew up in Ohio, and having crossed that off the list multiple times – it was time to go a bit further.  Diane’s lineage is a mixture of Irish (we went to Dublin in March, HERE) and Scottish.  Now, it was finally time to go to Scotland!  And since Jen’s parents and sister were here visiting us, we would all embark on this adventure together. Continue reading Scotland – Where Real Men Wear Skirts


Since I’ll never be a movie producer, I finally have another outlet to satisfy my life-long dream to wrap something up with the simple phrase…

I think this is a fitting title to end our trip in France, which you can read about HERE, HERE and HERE.

Our little family recently journeyed into France for a visit with some wonderful friends, Michel and Shirley (read his blog HERE).  We spent a few days with them in their home in Sablet, France.  They were wonderful tour guides, packing in many activities that they knew we would enjoy.  After a day spent touring some of the most beautiful villages in France, we had a serious thirst to quench.  So the next day, we took advantage of our prime location in the Côté du Rhône region of France (arguably one of the most well-known wine producing regions in the world) and drank our way throughout the area.

Cool street art just outside of Sablet

Continue reading Fin

How Do You Say, "The End" in German?

Two posts about the Dolomites and now four posts about Austria… will the posts about this road trip ever end?!  I promise, I’ll wrap it up here… I think I’m spending as much time writing as I did enjoying the trip!

An unfortunate haze covers a beautiful city

You may have gathered (HERE) that we instantly fell in love with Salzburg and extended our trip by an extra day/night to see more.  We started day one with a visit to a castle, Hohenwerfen Fortress and so I thought starting our second day with a visit to it’s sister castle, Festung Hohensalzburg would be appropriate. Continue reading How Do You Say, "The End" in German?

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of… Julia

Apparently I’m the only person in the world to forget that, “The Sound of Music” took place in Salzburg, Austria.  I base this observation on the countless number of tour operators and tourists we observed visiting and posing at key movie locations.  However, thanks to a quick iTunes movie download in the hotel, we were quickly singing our doe-ray-me’s along with the rest of the cheese balls.

Not only was this classic movie set and shot here, but a fairly famous musician was also born and raised in the city.  Perhaps you’ve heard of him… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.   Salzburg is an amazing city filled with a rich history and jaw-dropping beauty.  We left northern Italy for Austria on a whim two days prior.  We continued riding that whim and drove further into Austria to see Salzburg on the suggestion of family.  Since our expectations of the city were nonexistent, they were easy to surpass – but I would think this city could have easily leapt the most lofty of them all.
Julia taking in the sights

A Castle? OK… I’ll Take Two!

I did it!  I saw my first castle.  It was wonderful – so tender and caring.  And it lasted all morning!  A first I’ll never forget!
Hohenwerfen Fortress

When we drove into Austria, the hardest part after visiting Innsbruck (read about it HERE) was choosing which castle to visit.  We had already planned on visiting Salzburg next, so I carefully chose among the four major castles near the city.  I settled on Hohenwerfen Fortress about 40 km southeast of Salzburg.  The plan was simple – leave Innsbruck early and drive straight to the castle.  We would spend an hour or so at Hohenwerfen Fortress and then head to our hotel in Salzburg.  My plan was solid – but I underestimated how much fun we’d have at the castle, and we ended up staying nearly four hours. Continue reading A Castle? OK… I’ll Take Two!