Pumpkin Overload

Just about a year ago, Carrie and I traveled to Germany for a pumpkin festival. Carrie loves pumpkin. I love pumpkin beer. The flight to Stuttgart is only an hour.. So we decided to go.

The festival is actually in Ludwigsburg which is about a 25 minute train ride from Stuttgart. The Pumpkin Festival claims to be the largest pumpkin festival in the world, so we had pretty high hopes.

We set out for our journey to Ludwigsburg, with a Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand..you know.. to get ready for the day ahead.

We got to the location of the festival– a palace.

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The amount of pumpkins at this festival was insane. All the colors were so gorgeous.

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The theme of the festival was circus.

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There were some interesting looking pumpkin figures.

Some cute pumpkins..

There were some pretty pumpkins too..

There were giant pumpkins!

There were pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and colors.

Sadly there was no pumpkin beer.. only pumpkin prosecco.

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I think the most important part of our time there was that we learned that the pumpkins we think of as “halloween pumpkins” are actually called.. “halloween gross”.

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So needless to say.. if you’re one of my European living friends and want to be a #basicbitch during the fall.. its worth checking out.

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Florence Faves

Florence is probably my favorite city I have ever been to. Which is pretty funny considering when I went there 10 years ago I wasn’t fan. Despite it being super touristy, it is a place I will continue to go back to over and over again. My friends always are asking me what places I go to, so I thought it was time I just wrote a post on it!

 

I always hit up the same spots. I’m a creature of habit, what can I say.

Usually I start at this cafe. Great price for a cappuccino and a wonderful view of the Duomo and a prime people watching spot.

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Checking out the Duomo is well worth it-plus its free. The church is impressive and the dome is the largest in the world.  You can also climb up to the dome for a view, but you have to pay for this. Keep reading for a view that is free and (in my opinion) more impressive.

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Of course, a viewing of The David is necessary if it is your first time in Florence. I’ve actually seen it three times and its just as impressive every time. I have bought tickets before I went but also just walked up and purchased tickets right there on the street.

One of my favorite things to do in Florence is to simply wander the streets. I like to pop into stores and look for street art. One of my favorites is Clet. He turns street signs into art.

They are everywhere in Florence because he lives there. In fact, he has a studio in Florence as well. You can visit, buy prints, stickers or postcards.

Every time I go to Florence I must go to All’Antico Vinaio.  This is a panini place that has been at the top of trip advisor for years. There is always a line when I have gone, but it is very worth it. It also moves pretty quickly.

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It is the place on the far left with the red writing. What a line!

It is such a steal. You pay 5 euro and get a massive panini on fresh focaccia, overflowing with deliciousness. You can choose what you want on it.

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They strongly encourage that you do not mix meats or cheese. My signature panini- prosciutto, mozzarella, eggplant, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes and basil.  Every person that I have taken here has absolutely loved it.

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My Mom will kill me for this.

They also sell wine by the glass. Basically if you go to Florence and don’t go here, I don’t want to talk to you. You’re an idiot.

ANYWAY- another must do is Piazza Michelangelo. It is quite a hike up but when you get to the top you will NOT regret it. You can also make a stop here at this adorable water color shop.

FullSizeRender 10The view is truly incredible. I have been there at different times of the day and I stand in awe every time. I been there early on a run when nobody was there, middle of the day when it was packed, sunset when everyone brings a bottle of wine and sits on the steps and at night to take a look at Florence all lit up. Gorgeous.

Now.. back to the food. Another place I love is Le Volpi e l’Uva. This is a great little wine bar just after the Ponte Vecchio, on the same side as Piazza Michelangelo. They have a large selection of wines with very helpful staff. They also have delicious crostini. Try the one with asiago cheese, speck and honey. YUM!

Another favorite place is Gusta Pizza. This is another place that is usually pretty full, but the line moves fast. They only serve a couple pizzas. They keep it pretty simple.

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You can sit and watch them make it while you wait. One of my favorite pizza places in Italy, hands down.

IF I have room I hit up Vivoli for gelato. When I was in college we watched a documentary on gelato and it was mainly filmed here. So in 2007 when I went to Florence for the first time I had to go. Turns out it was right around the corner from my friend Bear’s apartment while she was studying there!

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It is a bit off the beaten path, but that means less tourists and lower prices. The gelato is to die for.

Some other places worth mentioning:
Buca dell’Orafo
– great place for dinner, but a reservation is necessary.
Il Rifullo – another great wine bar.
Luca Della Robbia – shop with awesome handmade ceramics
San Lorenzo Market – large market worth wandering around

 

Annnnnnnd now I’m itching for a Florence trip..

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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.

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!