Most people visit Europe in the spring or summer. Of course, these are great times of year to see such a magical and historical place. But may I suggest to you a unique alternative?
Come in December, when the weather is at it’s coldest and the people are their warmest. When the cobblestone streets are strung with lights and the ancient buildings are trimmed with garland. Imagine your most magical place for the holidays – a winter wonderland, if you will. You will be sure to find something that fits your image here in Europe. There are amazing markets and festivals across the continent. Some countries boast cities that are particularly renowned for their holiday cheer. Finland, Germany and Austria are at the top of the list. Denmark and Switzerland are there as well. And of course, our personal favorite place to be for Christmas is right here in Italy. Before you plan your next Christmas vacation, add Europe into the running.
“Boy, Clark – I think we should go to Europe next year”
Jen has been pushing me to work harder on my writing; she’s hopeful that one day I can earn a little discretionary income. I have little faith that it will yield any positive results – but on the off chance a publisher is reading this and wants to take a chance on an untrained, unknown, first-time blogger… contact my agent. My agent is Jen. She takes 100% commission.
Julia helps me write on the blog
Since I promised her I would do my best, I recently came across a helpful set of rules to improve my writing skills. I’ve seen this list floating across the internet a couple times and now seemed an appropriate time to re-post it. I’m sorry that I don’t know who to credit as the author – so thank you, you witty SOB, whoever you are.
HOW TO WRITE GOOD
1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid cliches like the plague. They’re old hat.
4. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
5. Be more or less specific.
6. Writers should never generalize.
Seven: Be consistent!
8. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
9. Who needs rhetorical questions?
10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
Thank you anonymous poster that created this list of unbreakable rules. I’ll be sure to follow them to the letter of the law!
Before I’ve even written the first word of this post, my OCD brain is trying to figure out if this post should be categorized under the “Food” or the “Travel” sections of the blog. I will be taking you along with us on our travel adventure to go eat some of Italy’s best food. It’s quite the dilemma…
A selection of salumi (cold cuts), formaggi (cheese) and the cinghiale (boar) that gave his life to the cause
You may have read about part of our visit with Aunt Deb and Uncle S where we ventured into the wine region of Piemonte during the first portion of their visit. Their two week sojourn in Italy included a mission to explore the best of what the country has to give. It was no coincidence then, that their adventure had been neatly divided into three of the country’s best offerings. Part I was Vino (wine). Party II was Cibo (food) – the subject of today’s post. Lastly, Part III was Storia (history). Since they experienced the rich history of Pompeii and Venezia on their own, I will let them tell you all about it at their next dinner party. I’ll simply report on the parts during which we were present… and luckily for us, we were present for a three day trip into Italy’s richest “food region”, Emilia-Romagna. Continue reading Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead→
Jennifer, Julia and I had a wonderful time when my Uncle S and Aunt Deborah came to visit us this past March. That’s why we were thrilled when they mentioned that they would like to come back to Italy again this fall. They wanted to do a bit of traveling and invited us to join them on their adventures, using our condo in Como as a “home base”. They had sketched a rough itinerary and just wanted a little help filling in the blanks – assistance I was happy to give. They knew that they wanted to spend some time with us here in Como, some time in Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna (two regions adjacent to our region of Lombardia) as well as a quick jaunt down to the historically significant city of Pompeii and another to Venezia.
S and Deborah standing near the divide of Lake Como
Jen and I share the responsibility of planning our trips – researching restaurants, activities and hotels. But they’re usually in three or four day stints and one location at a time. This time, I had to navigate through a two week itinerary, complete with activities, restaurants, hotel stays and all at new locations each day. Putting the puzzle pieces of their trip together was a challenge not for the faint of heart. Jen and I dug in, and by the time S and Deb landed in Milan, we had an itinerary that we were both proud of. I think all of us agreed that it came together quite nicely. Of course, the key ingredient was the company, mixed with a little food and wine! Continue reading Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes→
The title says it all. What commentary can I possibly add to a post who’s pictures tell the entire story?! Normally, I envision my readers hanging on to my every word and each carefully crafted pun (I said that I “envision” it… I know it doesn’t really happen) – but this time, I think I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Of course, I do have to give some sort of framework around the pictures (hey, it is my blog, after all).
Crowds fill the streets during Oktoberfest 2013
You may have just read about Josh and Abby’s visit where we ate too much, indulged too much and just did… too much! You know, the norm. We were lucky enough to also have Dave and Jill drop in for part of their trip and join us again in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest. We were excited to get to the party – but before we could drink our first liter of beer in Munich, we needed to get there. There is no better way to travel through Europe than the train – and when you have an overnight-train option, it’s a win. You get your “hotel room” for the night included in the cost of transportation. But travelers be forewarned – the Ritz… It. Is. Not! Continue reading Oktoberfest… What More Can I Say?!→
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→
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→
In my most recent blog post, we embarked on a cruise throughout the Mediterranean. I’d love for you to continue the adventure with us as we head to Istanbul, Turkey and the beautiful Greek island of, Lesbos. I’ll finalize our voyage in an upcoming post that will include the final ports of call and some more stories about our shipboard life.
“Oh, tell me… tell me all about it!”
When I last left you, we had visited Venice, Olympia and Athens. By this point in the cruise, we really hit our stride and had fully immersed ourselves in everything Holland America’sNieuw Amsterdam had to offer. We were overeating delicious food (and then trying to work some of it off in their state-of-the-art gym), spending time in the casino (maybe too much time… literally every casino worker knew me by name), taking in shows and making friends all over the ship. We found a couple of other families with small children, but for the most part – we were in the minority (not fitting into your typical “cruise-goer” demographic). I’ll tell you what… if you ever want affirmation about your kids cuteness – go on a cruise with thousands of grandparents missing their grandkids. They were all so happy to pay us compliments about Julia that it made us excited to take her anywhere on board. Continue reading Come Here, You Turkey!→
Admit it… you sang the title in your head, complete with the voice raising on the “and-a I”…
I love to cruise. Jen loves to cruise. And now… Julia absolutely loves to cruise. We have very few experiences aboard cruise ships, but each time we’ve been on one of these massive floating hotels (or mini-floating city’s… I couldn’t choose between adjectives – you pick your favorite), we feel like royalty. We know that we will chose this method of vacation many more times in our lives. Cruising requires little planning and you are always rewarded with the very best customer service, the opportunity to see many more cities than you normally could in a given time period, endless activities aboard the ship, wonderful food, the benefit of unpacking only once and perhaps best of all – a very affordable vacation (you can get very good deals if you hawk the last-minute deal sites).
Our ship – Holland America’s MS Nieuw Amsterdam
The first time that Jen and I took a cruise was on our honeymoon. We spent three weeks sailing around South America (from Buenos Aires, Argentina all the way around Cape Horn and on to Santiago, Chile). I chose Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for our first cruise, primarily because the itinerary was perfect and I found it to be reasonably priced. I wasn’t nearly the internet-nerd I am today and so I did little research beyond that. We had a wonderful vacation, ate way too much food, enjoyed some lovely scenery (I have thousands of pictures to prove it) and had an absolute blast. However, I had no idea how amazing cruising could really be until we recently boarded Holland America’s, MS Nieuw Amsterdam (pronounced, n-e-w); one of the newer ships in their fleet.
When our friends, Nathan and Danielle had come to visit this past spring – Danielle pointed at a unique outdoor-oven-with-a-chimney-thingy in a neighbors yard and asked what it was. I replied with all the confidence in the world that it was an Italian-style BBQ, but in reality I wasn’t positive. I had seen the smoke billowing through the chimney and I had seen many of these things in other neighbors yards – but I had never inquired about it. I asked my “go-to guy for all things Italian”… Jen’s uncle, Franco. He confirmed that it was in fact a BBQ and a fairly typical one in Italy. So, my educated guess was right. Whew!
Classic Italian style outdoor grill
I noticed shortly thereafter that the typical gas Weber grills we’re accustomed to using in the States are non-existent here. In fact, it’s possible you may see a round charcoal grill – but more often than not, it’s one of these large, permanent fixtures that people use to grill. Continue reading Step Aside… It’s Time to Grill!→