If all roads lead to Rome, nowadays you could also say that all European cruises start from Rome. Well, maybe not all – but a good many of the cruise ships use this port of call as a starting point for their Mediterranean voyages. At least, this was the case on our cruise aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines ship, Silhouette. The Silhouette is one of five ships in their newest Solstice Class – a group of sleek, modern ships with a heavy emphasis on style and dining. The ship and the cruise did not disappoint. We had many ports of call and a lot of wonderful activities that I’d like to write about, so let’s start at the beginning… Continue reading All Roads Lead To Rome
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”… and that means so many things! It means snow flakes and Christmas lights. It means cold weather and hot chocolate. It means Santa Claus and stockings stuffed with goodies. When you live in Europe, it also means tremendous Christmas markets and delicious vin brulè (cooked wine, usually sold on the streets). Over the past couple weeks, we have been taking advantage of it all! Because Christmas is only four days away – I will spend the next four days posting about our Christmas fun. In order to do that, I have to bend my “unbreakable rule” and publish blog posts out of order. I’ll fast-forward to Christmas and then flash back to some exciting posts that I have in the pipeline.
Oh bej! Oh bej!
No, you don’t have to say “gesundheit”! I didn’t sneeze. That is the name of a festival held each year in Milan, spanning from December 7th through the following Sunday. How did it get that wonderful name, you ask? “Oh bej! Oh bej!” means, “oh so nice! Oh so nice!” in the Milanese dialect. It is by far, the most important Christmas festival held in Milan. December 7th is the day of the Patron Saint of Milano, Santo Ambrogio. The festival is said to date back all the way to 1510.
|Vendors line the streets during Oh Bej! Oh Bej!|
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
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
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).
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.
|Boarding the Nieuw Amsterdam|
There is a wonderful town along Lake Como, called Tremezzo. Most people have heard of Bellagio, which sits on the exact shore opposite Tremezzo, but the lesser known town is a true gem with far fewer tourists crowding the streets. Tremezzo is home to a couple of our favorite restaurants and gelaterie (ice cream parlors). It is also home to Villa Carlotta, a 17th century treasure that has been beautifully restored and maintained.
Jen and I have been wanting to visit Villa Carlotta since we moved to Como. The beauty of the villa and the gardens are well known in this area and attract thousands of visitors each year. We had planned on going in March when my aunt and uncle were visiting, but the villa is not open to the public until the 15th (just a few short days after they departed). Since the gardens are the main attraction, the preservation society wants to ensure all the flowers are in full bloom. Jen and I decided that since my mom is a big fan of gardens, we would visit while they were here (read about the first part of their trip HERE). Continue reading Villa Carlotta’s Beautiful Gardens
One of the true gems of the world…. Venezia (Venice). The name alone evokes powerful feelings for many people. Romantic gondola rides, historical architectural treasures, beautiful creations blown from Murano glass, unique hand-crafted masks and always… always a city constructed with streets of water. Amazingly, the entire city is listed as a World Heritage Site in order to preserve it’s unique beauty. According to my Wiki research, Luigi Barzini described it in the New York Times as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man”. I’d have to agree with Luigi!
|Panoramic view from the roof of our hotel|
|Venice from the water|
|The Grand Canal|
|More of the Grand Canal|
|Happy to be here|
Our good friends Nathan and Danielle joined us recently for a whirlwind visit filled with food, wine and lots of fun (read about it HERE). We punctuated their trip with a stopover in this romantic city. I was intrigued by the history of such a unique place and just did a little research. Venice consists of 117 islands, formed by 177 canals and connected by 409 bridges. I kept waiting for that “ah-ha” moment when I discovered the name of the genius city planner that decided to create a magical city on the water. But unlike Bugsy Siegel’s Las Vegas or Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid’s reinvention of Dubai – there was no one person that can be credited with the conceptualization of Venice. The truth is that refugees fleeing from invasion of the Lombards sought shelter in the marshland that is now Venice. And how do any cities really get built? A collection of people working together to establish trade and industry, creating habitation and then services to support the population. And so the city grew around the marsh and homes and churches and municipal buildings were constructed. This begs another question. How can you build a city on water? Continue reading Someone Turn The Hose Off… These Streets Are Flooded!
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.
|Julia taking in the sights|
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!
Strange… not only do they not say, “g’day mate” in Austria – they speak German! Oh well, what’re you gonna do?!
After we spent four wonderful days in the Dolomiti mountains (which you can read about HERE and HERE), we planned an impromptu trip to Austria. The Dolomites span across the northern end of the Italy, just south of Austria. A quick google search confirmed that we could arrive in Innsbruck in under three hours and the opportunity was too good to pass up. Once we explained our plan to visit Innsbruck to Claudia’s cousin, Angelo – he suggested we also stop by Salzburg. Well, what’s another couple hours drive and another day or two? After all, we didn’t think we’d be back in Austria anytime soon. Continue reading "G’day Mate" from Innsbruck, Austria