Scenes from Sicily

While I was down South, we took some day trips to Sicily. I mean, its a short ferry ride away and you pay a whopping 2.50!

Our first day trip we stopped first in Taormina. Taormina is a pretty cute town, but very touristy. We went to the theatre, which is actually an ancient Greek theatre, built around the third century BC.

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Yep, that is a volcano back there.
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Theater of Taormina with Mt. Etna in the back

When in Sicily.. you MUST eat a cannoli. It’s basically a law. That cannoli was easily the best cannoli I’ve ever had.

After Taormina we headed up Etna. Etna is an active volcano, so it was a bit weird actually being on it. It is the largest active volcano in Italy, and the second in the European-North African region.

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After jumping on a volcano we headed to Catania. I wasn’t overly impressed by Catania. I only took one photo there.. I was convinced this was the nicest building in the city. The rest of the buildings were covered in graffiti. Which I’m used to living in Milan, but this put any other city I’ve been in to shame.

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Another day my friend Mark and I ventured over to Sicily for the day we stopped in Cefalù.

We didn’t know much about this town but when we arrived we saw this huge crag called Rocca and we decided to climb up it. Turns out flip flops aren’t great for climbing, but I made it work. It was hot but well worth the climb for this view.

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After our hike we walked through the town. Turns out the town is pretty cute, despite all the tourists. We definitely could have spent more time here but we were on a schedule.

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I really wanted to jump in this water..

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But we had to leave for our next stop- Palermo. Palermo is one of the bigger cities in Sicily. Much like Catania, we weren’t overly impressed.

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We had delicious lunch at this adorable little shop. The owner was so kind, even helped Mark with his Italian!

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Much like Catania, Palermo is covered in griffiti, but we were pleased to see a bit more street art, like this guy.

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It was nice to see some of Sicily, but I know I still have a lot more to explore.

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Reliving Reggio, 10 Years Later

Ten years ago I studied abroad for a month in Reggio Calabria, Italy. After five years of living in Italy I decided it was time to amp up my Italian language game (yeah, I don’t know why it took me this long either).  So I decided to head back to the university I studied at tanti anni fa (many years ago).

Part of me was thinking that this was going to be a huge mistake. That month when I was 20 was SO much fun. I have such fond memories of the little town of Reggio. I was also a different person entirely, so I was hopeful.

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Basically everyday I went to class from 9-12:30 with a little break in there and two other days I had class till 2:45.

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After that I usually went to the beach or back home to chill. Reggio is essentially the tip of the boot of Italy. The beach looks out onto Sicily. Basically, I could be studying in worse places.

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Some days after class I would hop on a train and head to Scilla, a beautiful beach only 25 minutes away. Round trip costs only 4.80 euro.

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Although I live in Italy I don’t often indulge in gelato but when its near 100 degrees and summer.. I most definitely do. There were a couple more gelato spots since I was there ten years ago, so naturally I had to do some taste testing of the local spots, including granita. Heavenly.

Although I can’t say that my Italian dramatically improved, I did get a pretty nice tan.

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And that’s good enough for me.

Paradise in Portugal

I have lived in Italy now for five years. From the beginning Portugal was one of the top places I wanted to go. For some reason it took me this long to finally get there.

And it was well worth the wait. My god.

I’ve come to realize that most of the time when I have an image in my head of a place (usually thanks to the internet and instagram stalking..) it doesn’t *quite* live up to what I had mustered up in my brain.

Portugal wasn’t like that. All the pictures I had seen were completely justified. The water was so incredibly blue/green, I couldn’t stop commenting on it. The beaches nestled in the cliffs were stunning.

I’m just going to leave some pictures here for you to enjoy/swoon over.

 

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This was our first night and the first glimpse of the water..not too shabby.
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We had some iffy weather but who cares because THAT WATER!
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Carrie and I decided to walk to a beach..it was about an hour walk..at some points it was questionable if we were actually taking the correct path..
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Luckily the walk lead us here..

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Cape St. Vincent- Most South-Western point in Europe!

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Can’t beat these reading views..

 

Portugal, I will definitely be back.

sLOVEnia

At the beginning of October we had a 4 day weekend. My three friends Ali, Todd, Heath and I decided to road trip to Slovenia. None of us had ever been there before, yet, its so close to us.

Our main reason for going was for a delicious dinner at Hisa Franko. More on that here.

However, we quickly learned that Slovenia is GORGEOUS!

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Pictures do not even come close to doing the Soča river justice.

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I seriously couldn’t get over the color of this water.

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In fact, I’m not sure I ever will.

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We drove to the capital city, Ljubljana, and had views like this most of the way.

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After a long, windy drive.. we arrived in Ljubljana.

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The sLOVEnia crew loving the sunny weather

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We enjoyed a beer (or two) along the river while soaking up the sun before exploring some more.

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Shout out to Todd for this shot!

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Tood on Dragon Bridge

I cannot wait to explore more of this gorgeous country!

Hisa Frank-OHHHH!

Three of my friends and I were in a bar one night when they asked if I wanted to go to Slovenia for an upcoming trip. I’d been wanting to go to this neighboring country for a while. Before they could even get out the rest of the sentence I just said, “YES! YES! I’M IN!”

They stopped and said.. well, there’s a catch. Turns out the reason they wanted to go was to go to a restaurant they saw on the series on netflix, Chef’s Table- Hiša Franko.

Now, most who know me I’m not exactly what you would call an adventurous eater.. not in the slightest. So my friends warned me and told me to check out the episode and the menu.

The next morning I woke up and looked at the menu. You choose from either a five course meal or a nine course meal. The entire table must order the same course.

I looked at the menu and saw the words ‘goat kid’, ‘sweetbreads’ and ‘rabbit liver.’ I was immediately terrified.

I then watched the Chefs Table episode and had a change of heart.  So we booked our reservation and a month later there we were..

 

 

 

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Luckily the menu had changed in the time that we had booked to when we had arrived.

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We sat down and were given ‘cheese lollipops’ and the most beautifully shaped geometric bread.

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This was our ‘welcome gift.’

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Mussel with a cucumber gel

Another ‘welcome gift’

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Caviar with an anchovy foam

First course.

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Marble trout, bay leaf and chestnuts

Second course

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Scallop, white radish, emulsion of pumpkin oil & tangerines

For the third course, the chef, Ana, came over and presented it to us. This was the course I was most worried about.

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Deer heart tartar
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It was incredible!

 

Fourth course

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Mackarel with tomato, cinnamon and caramelized onion, garnished with gold foil

Fifth course

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Lovage ravioli with mushrooms and cave cheese

Sixth course

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Sea bream, grey mullet, clams, purslane and cucumber foam

Seventh course

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Spiced duck with kumquat, beetroot, squash puree with a plum vinegar sauce

Eighth course- dessert!

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Wild raspberries, goat cheese, burr noisette

Ninth course

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Although sadly its blurry.. walnut meringue, pear with forest honey and pollen ice cream

‘Parting gift’

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Delicious mix of cookies!

We then asked for the cheese tasting… one for each of us. This was a mistake.

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This was all mine! Needless to say I didn’t finish it..

Keep in mind that all this food was paired with wine. With every two courses we got a glass of wine. However, we learned that if you finish your glass, they give you more. We consumed a lot of wine- all delicious.

I never thought I’d leave this meal loving what I ate. I first looked at it like “okay, just get through it.” That was not the case at all.

My favorite was the duck. The ravioli came in close second with the deer heart tartar in third.

It was a truly incredible experience with excellent company! If you have the opportunity to go to Hisa Franko, I highly recommend it!

Best of South East Asia: #1 – Luang Prabang, Laos

My last and final post wrapping up my summer travels is about Luang Prabang, Laos. Immediately upon arrival we noticed how kind and friendly all of the locals were. We quickly fell in love with this sleepy little town..

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One afternoon Carrie and I were shopping and met a man named Michael. He was in the shop giving the workers English lessons.

Michael invited us to his house for his advanced English lesson that night. We knew this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. We made arrangements and before we knew it we were on the back of two of his students bikes’ headed to his house.

 

 

On our way to Michael’s house I chatted with the student driving me, Her. I was immediately impressed with his English. Once I complimented him, he told me that Michael had helped him get a scholarship to a United World College School in the Netherlands. He was just home for the summer and visiting Michael and the rest of his friends.

We arrive at Michael’s house – which turns out also to be where a lot of the students live. Michael not only teaches these kids English, he houses and feeds them.

We sat down at the front of their classroom facing a class full of boys from the ages of 15-25. They had smiles on their faces and were eager to get to know us. We talked to them about where we are from, where we live and what we like about Laos. The boys asked us questions we were happy to answer. We had an opportunity to also ask them questions.

I asked, “Why are you here? Why do you want to learn English?” Michael then called on some boys and we heard about the ways that English is improving their lives. Most of them are working towards becoming fluent English speakers so they can get better jobs to help provide for their families.

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These boys are a true inspiration.

They work so hard every day to better the lives of themselves and their families.

Carrie and I left and knew that we had to do something to help.

We have so much in our lives.  We have more than we need. We are so fortunate to be able to travel and see the way in which others live.

I’m asking YOU to help. Help Michael, his program and these boys as they work towards bettering their lives. Any amount you can give would be appreciated.

Check out the Go Fund Me page Carrie has set up for more information and to donate. Michael also created a video to get a true feel of how these boys live and benefit from his program.

 

Best of South East Asia: #2 – Elephant Nature Park

When we were planning our South East Asian adventure we knew that we wanted to spend some time with elephants. After a couple conversations we decided to do the right thing and choose a spot that treats the elephants with the respect they deserve.

We found the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. ENP is a rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants that you can volunteer and visit. We decided on the ‘care for elephants’ single day visit.

Carrie and I were unbelievably excited. We arrived and immediately got to feed the elephants.

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This was a bit terrifying but pretty amazing. After that we took a little walk with the elephants through the forest.

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The elephants are absolutely massive.

Pure joy.

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We stopped for a snack break. We fed the elephants cucumbers, watermelon and sugar cane.

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This elephant let you feed it directly into its mouth.  The elephants tongue touched my hand. It was weird and incredible.

After we ate lunch it was time for us to get in the river and bathe the elephants.

Now, let me tell you.. immediately before we got into the river the elephants got in.. and took a nice poo.

I was barefoot. I wasn’t thrilled to walk into this crap colored river with a squishy bottom after seeing that. Obviously I did it because.. hello, I’m not an idiot.

 

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Yes, Carrie and I make some wonderful faces.

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We’re standing on poo. 

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I never thought I’d be so happy to walk in a crap river, touch an elephants tongue and get farted in the face by an elephant. It was a pretty incredible day. A day that will truly go down as one of the best days ever. Thank you, Elephant Nature Park.

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And yes.. we went home and scrubbed our feet and bodies for way too long.