T and B Do Belfast: The Food

So the food we ate on this trip wasn’t as exciting as say, Italy – and we didn’t eat a whole lot, all things considered … – but I did want to mention some of the stuff we did.

Wednesday, November 21:
Breakfast: egg and oj at the house, coffee and a pastry from either Caribou (B) or Lavazza (me).
Lunch: I’m pretty sure this was at Le Grand Comptoir in JFK Terminal 4. B had … a turkey and brie sandwich, I think? … and I had a lobster roll. Because of course.

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Not the best, not the worst.

Snack: random stuff at the Sky Club.
Dinner: Something on the airplane. I think it was chicken with risotto and green beans, but don’t quote me on that.

Thursday, November 22:
Breakfast: like two bites of my Noosa yoghurt that was in the breakfast snack box thingy we were given.
Lunch: yeah, kind of skipped this.
Dinner: food at the Belfast Christmas market.

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Nothing will ever be as good as Italy, but we try.

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Dutch pancakes with butter and cinnamon. Was meaning to go back and try other flavors, but it never happened.

Friday, November 23:
Breakfast: delicious hotel noms (eggs, bacon, croissants, oatmeal) at the Hilton Belfast and then cappuccinos at Caffe Nero.

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Also not as good as Italy, but fooooooam!

Lunch: Simply Fish and Chips (located in the same building as St. George’s Market).

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Fish was good. Chips … not as much.

Snack: random bites at the BU alumni pregame reception – cocktail weenies, (crappy) nachos, cheese, muffins.
Snack #2: loaded fries at the hotel bar just for calories.

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They did the job.

Saturday, November 24:
Breakfast: more hotel noms followed by crappy European Starbucks.
Lunch: random sandwiches from a cafe in the bottom of a bookstore.
Snack: same random bites at the BU alumni pregame reception.
Dinner: pizza and caprese salad from Pizza Punks Belfast.

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The large whiter blobs are too much mozzarella. Good otherwise though.

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Touch too much basil. Otherwise delicious.

Sunday, November 25:
Breakfast: same delicious bites at the hotel.
Snack: coffee (for B) and donuts/Timbits at Tim Horton’s.

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Because I have to keep up my streak of buying doughnuts while we’re overseas together.

Lunch: I actually don’t think was a thing.
Dinner: burgers and fries at the bar at the Crowne Plaza Dublin Airport.

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I had to dismantle this in order to eat it by taking off a patty. And, once again with the crappy fries.

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Plus we got some (mediocre) apple thing for dessert.

Monday, November 26:
Breakfast: eggs, bacon, and croissants at the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport.
Lunch: more breakfast foods from some stand in the Dublin airport once we realized we were stuck for another day.
Dinner: at Little Venice, an Italian place down the street from the hotel.

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Cheesy garlic bread for an appetizer.

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Tagliatelle Pollo Funghi which I had. Good except the chicken was a bit dry.

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B’s Ravioli Beef.

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B’s dessert – Chocolate Fudge Brownie.

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If there are Profiteroles on a menu, I will order them. These were definitely not the best I’ve had, however.

Tuesday, November 27:
Breakfast: same as the previous day at our hotel.
Snack: cappuccinos from Butler’s Chocolate Cafe in the Dublin airport.
Lunch and subsequent snacks: Pod life.

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“Lemongrass Ginger Prawns with fennel salad, roasted cashews, pomegranate seeds and wasabi mayonnaise” and “Little Gem Caesar Salad with shaved parmesan cheese, pretzel croutons and caesar dressing.” Neither were good; nor were they bad.

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“Grilled Beef Tenderloins topped with fresh herbs and demi-glace served with haricots verts and roasted cauliflower.” Beef? was fine. Green beans were better in the back of the plane on the way over and I choked down the cauliflower. Highly disappointing, tbh.

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Mmm, sundae. Not enough chocolate sauce though.

I grabbed a bag of chips out of the snack basket when it came around and we were also given chocolate chip cookies at one point.

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“Cuban Pork Sandwich pork loin, smoked ham, swiss cheese and dill pickles served on a baguette and offered with mixed green salad.” The sandwich was REALLY good … but unfortunately my salad was frozen so I couldn’t really eat it. Boo.

Beyond: very few snacks at the Sky Club because we were so stuffed from the flight over. I did buy a can of Pringles (as well as ate some peanuts) on our flight back to DEN … and I think we just grabbed Chick-fil-a on the way home, but I also don’t quite remember.

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T and B Do Belfast

Randomly, four years ago, Hockey East and the ECAC decided to get together and play a hockey tournament every Thanksgiving up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Apparently this is because Belfast and Boston are sister cities (that a whole bunch of BU alums attended because, well, BU runs the world) and BU alums are the head of the Belfast Giants hockey club and they decided to make this a thing at some meeting between the two cities. The tournament became the Friendship Four and BU was finally announced as part of it last year. So, for a full year, we’d been hoping to pull off this trip to Belfast to go because see hockey in (Northern) Ireland? Sign us up!

To make this happen, a lot of things had to fall into place. Finances (did it as on the cheap as possible), the time off (for B), the flights to look okay (because we weren’t going to buy tickets) … and thankfully, everything came together. Mostly. I’ll get there.

Wednesday, November 21:

Our first day was a travel day. We took the first flight out of DEN to JFK because it looked the best … and because not taking the first flight whenever possible breaks non-revving rules. As a result … it meant we got to sit in the Sky Club at JFK for a very, very long time. Which we did, after we got lunch.

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We changed spots like three times.

The flight to DUB looked good. No fancy business class pods, but we thought we were going to get a row to ourselves (two of a three row). Unfortunately, some guy joined us (we think he was a row off, but we couldn’t say anything). This made for a slightly more uncomfortable flight … especially when it came to sleeping (or trying to. Especially since the dude in the middle in front of us moved to the aisle in front of me and reclined his seat and moved around a lot making it HARD to sleep. That, and the turbulence from hell that almost made me vomit.).

Still, fairly uneventful flight. No movies watched, partially because there was nothing that struck my fancy and partially because I did want to try to sleep some.

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But we got there, and that was all that mattered!

Thursday, November 22:

We landed in Dublin, cleared customs, and then bought tickets for a bus up to Belfast. I wandered around to maybe get a snack, but nothing caught my eye.

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Except this. This did. None of the donuts did, though. Unfortunately.

I ended up nodding off again on the two hour ride … waking up about a half-hour outside of Belfast and extremely nauseous. How I didn’t actually throw up on that ride I don’t know. I had bile come up two or three times. It was not pleasant. But, we made it, and that’s all that matters. We walked the mile or so to our hotel (Hilton Belfast), checked in … and died. Unintentionally, but a nap definitely happened.

Once we woke up, we decided we needed to go out and get some food. We had heard of a Christmas market at City Hall, so we headed over there.

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Belfast City Hall.

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Cool looking ride that I may have gone on had I not had the close puke call earlier …

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Dutch pancakes being made.

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Dutch pancakes. So good. A bit of a different Thanksgiving dinner, but it worked.

Friday, November 23:

We woke up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel, and then ventured out for the morning. Our destination was the Titanic Museum, as we wanted to get there as close to open as possible. We did stop for a cappuccino first, though.

On our walk, we stopped by the Big Fish (Salmon of Knowledge). I had heard about the Salmon of Knowledge thanks to a Maeve Binchy book I had read ages ago, so when I saw the statue on Google Maps, I knew I had to check it out.

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Kind of in love.

From there, it was a short walk across the bridge (in the rain) to the Titanic Museum.

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B successfully sent a message via Morse code!

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Sure, why not?

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On the deck of the ship. Kinda.

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Lunch the day of the sinking.

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The Nomadic (last White Star Line ship remaining) and I forget what’s in front it. But it’s where they used to dry dock ships. I think.

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Husband looked like the sculptures outside so I made him pose.

Afterward, we stopped by the SSE Arena to get tickets for the games (the whole reason we made the trip …) and then grabbed some lunch back near the hotel. I think we ended up napping for a tiny bit (oh, jet lag …) before heading back out to the arena. We skipped the first game (Yale and Union), though.

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Arena.

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The bar inside the entertainment complex next door, Rockies, still had a goalie stick out for Humboldt.

Our friend (and huge BU fan) Cindy, whom I’ve known since college, got us into a pregame alumni reception inside the arena, where we got to hang out and eat some snacks.

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And I continued my trend of mascot selfies. Thanks, Rhett!

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Hockey!

BU won their first game, which was awesome. The atmosphere in SSE Arena was actually pretty good. If they don’t sell all the tickets, they give some away to youth groups and the like so we had a giant group of rowdy middle school-aged kids in the front of our section. Holy crap those kids were insane. It was almost more fun watching them than the hockey.

We got out and walked back toward our hotel while waiting to hear about meeting up with other friends there. We grabbed a quick bite at the hotel bar (since we really didn’t eat dinner …) before walking to the Duke of York to say hi to friends. We didn’t stay out too terribly late, but it was fun hanging out in the very, very crowded pub.

Saturday, November 24:

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From breakfast at the hotel.

The one thing I really regret not doing on this trip was heading up to Giant’s Causeway. We didn’t want to rent a car, and all the day tours were full day affairs. Since we had the hockey game … we didn’t want to chance the timing. So instead, we stayed inside the city. Our first stop was to (*sigh*) Starbucks for some coffee … but mainly to get a Northern Ireland coffee mug. We then headed to St. George’s Market – a combination farmer’s market/food hall/Christmas market. We really probably should have gotten some veggies or something there, but oh well.

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From there, we walked to the Belfast peace wall. We had seen a lot of other friends go there earlier in the week and wanted to check it out.

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On the way, in West Belfast.

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Sobering yet completely awesome. Also of note: the UK was trying to figure out their Brexit deal and one of the main points of worry was open borders in Ireland since ain’t no one wants to go back to the Troubles.

We headed off back to the Christmas market so B could get some of the Bailey’s hot chocolate everyone had been raving about.

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We didn’t stay long beyond that, though – too many people and my social anxiety kicked in big time. So, instead of finding lunch there, we found a small cafe within a bookstore for a couple of sandwiches. After lunch, more touristy wandering.

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This awesome alley is right across from the Duke of York (you can see it behind me).

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Same street.

Before the game, we walked back over to the Titanic Museum to get an ornament (had been mulling it over and decided to buy it). Good thing, too, since the museum looks awesome at night.

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Also got a shot of the famous Harland and Wolff (shipbuilding) cranes.

Then it was off to the pregame reception once again.

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L to R: Me, Rhett, Cindy.

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We needed a picture of us!

Unfortunately, BU did not win the Belpot, as they fell to Union that night. Boooooo.

Sunday, November 25:

We didn’t have too early of a wake up Sunday morning, but we did get moving relatively early, since our main goal for the day was to get back down to Dublin.

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Dinosaurs looking out the window one last time.

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Walking to the bus stop.

I took Dramamine for the return trip – just in case – which was probably good. I did end up nodding off again though, which was nice. We got to the airport and then caught a shuttle bus to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express right near Dublin Airport. Since we were (hopefully) leaving the next day, we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, besides seriously repack (kind of half-assed it in Belfast). As a result, dinner was also simple at one of the restaurants at the Crowne Plaza next door.

Monday, November 26:

We woke up with enough time to get checked out and grab some breakfast at the hotel before going to the airport. We hit the airport, checked in … and learned we wouldn’t get boarding passes unless they thought we had a chance of making the flight. As a result, we had a few hours to kill before we needed to be back by the counter. Time to play the waiting game. As we checked in with a higher priority, we were able to go past security … but the odds of us getting on did not look to be in our favor.

We went through security and customs as quickly as we could (you clear U.S. Customs in Dublin which is kind of cool … also thank you Global Entry you were worth every penny) and got to the gate to wait … and wait … and learn we were screwed. Dangit. We got escorted back out … got our passports stamped as we “re-entered” Ireland … and then sat for a bit figuring out our next move. We got some food for lunch at the airport, considered going into town … but decided “screw it,” rebooked the Holiday Inn Express, and went back over to the hotel.

We did, however, venture out for a very nice walk at the park across the street.

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It had been raining that morning … so this rainbow (it was a full arc, too) was nice to see.

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We’re mature.

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It was a beautiful way to spend some time. I think we both needed a bit of time with some fresh air in nature.

We hit up an Italian place about a block down for dinner and then back to bed … but not before I contacted my parents to have them please go over to our house and brine the turkey sitting in my fridge so we could cook it on Wednesday to have our very delayed Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 27:

Second verse, same as the first … except this time when we checked in, they let us go right through (plane was open enough). The security line was much shorter earlier in the morning which was nice. As we didn’t have a gate that early, we were told to just hang out in the departure lounge (or really just around all the Duty Free shops). B bought some whisky. I almost bought a gorgeous cashmere scarf … but couldn’t justify the money on something I’m not sure I’d use all that much. I did, however, find a pair of dachshund socks for his mom. We also got some coffee at a cafe. When the board told us to go through customs, we dutifully followed and then sat at our gate. Or what we thought was our gate (it changed).

In the gate area, we saw a few of the BU fans Cindy introduced us to that also worked for the same airline. I guess they tried the Sunday flight, didn’t get on … and didn’t even try for Monday. They got on too … and ended up sitting behind us.

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We’re going hoooooome!!

Going back was nice as we got #podlife (as I like to call it). My video screen was being stupid so I didn’t watch a movie, but I did read quite a bit.

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T Schmeg the emotional support dinosaur (kidlet babysitter) hung out like this the entire flight.

We got into JFK and then sat in the club for a while until our Denver flight … which we also happily made and I’m pretty sure I slept some on it, too.

It may have been 26 hours later than planned, but we made it home.

Not the longest or best (Northern) Ireland trip, but it was a lot of fun being able to see my hockey team in another country.

On Minnesota and Its Fair, Once Again

Like we so often do, we headed back to Minnesota for the State Fair last week. We drove up, both so we could bring our bikes to ride with a friend of B’s and so we could bring back some stuff of his from his parents (namely, his original Nintendo).

It was a weird trip; it wasn’t that good, really; I don’t know if it’s stale, or age, or a lot of stress (which I won’t be going into much here), or what, but I think we need a break. At least from the fair.

We left early morning on August 22nd and drove straight through. Stopped at Starbucks for breakfast, Golden Corral for lunch (easy way to get salad), and my Trails truck stop in Albert Lea for some ColdStone Creamery. Stopped at a rest area somewhere in Iowa, north of Des Moines, to get out and run a mile. Stopped at a bar to meet some friends of ours for a drink and nachos, friends we haven’t seen in years but will be seeing again soon out here in Colorado. Finished at the Marriott near the airport and Mall of America.

Thursday was mainly mall day. Walked over after breakfast to get coffee (at both Starbucks and Tim Horton’s … and sugar at Cinnabon) … and waited for the mall to officially open since we got there a bit early. Oops.

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Outside.

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Sign in the mall.

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Gelato spoon chandelier.

We didn’t get too many things – a candle and some Minnesota stuff for B, some new markers for me from the Crayola store – but it was okay. We ate food court stuff for lunch (me Panda Express, B Chick-Fil-A) and I also had a mid-afternoon cappuccino from the Nordstrom eBar.

Post-mall, we drove around B’s old neighborhood in Burnsville, as he hadn’t seen it/been over there in several years. I saw where he cut his hockey-playing teeth and we played on a playground.

Dinner was cobbled together from the hospitality suite in the Marriott.

Friday morning, we rode with Tim in the rain before heading to Cossetta’s in St. Paul for lunch and some time at the Science Museum of Minnesota (using that reciprocity).

The museum was a touch disappointing – at least for adults. Super hands-on for kids (and there were tons of kids there), but a little meh for us.

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Random fish sculpture.

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There was a really cool exhibit on mental health, explaining it in a way that all of us can understand.

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Resting in a giant red blood cell chair.

Post-museum, we headed back to the Minneapolis side of things to do date night at the mall. We fell back on an old standard, Benihana, and then went up to the fourth floor to play a whole bunch of games at GameWorks. Easy, simple, and fun.

Saturday we slept in a bit before heading up to B’s parents house for most of the day/afternoon. I had a few things I needed to do after that, so we did those errands and then rode bikes for a tiny bit. Post-bikes, our standard breakfast-for-dinner pre-race (Perkins edition) and then just laid low the rest of the night.

Sunday morning we ran the Milk Run 5K (which if you want to know how that went, head on over to the tri blog).

After the race, we headed back to the car to clean up a bit and then into the fair. I should mention we had a free post-race breakfast sandwich from Giggles Campfire Grill that was TERRIBLE. When we got back in the gates, we took a beeline towards the Agriculture Building to make sure we could try a brand new apple we heard about – the First Kiss.

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This apple is still a year or two from hitting stores, but it was pretty tasty. Of course, one of its parents was a Honeycrisp, which is basically the best apple out there, so it’s no wonder.

Our next stop was to French Meadow for some coffee and then on to the West End Market to try one of the new foods – Nordic Waffles.

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It was a super popular booth – about a 25 minute wait to even order and then about another 20 minutes to get the waffles. They have seven different varieties – we tried two: the Breakfast All Day and the Cinna-Sugar-Butter.

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The breakfast waffle? Totally worth the wait. The sweet one? Needed more butter, we think, for it was a bit disappointing.

From there, we walked over to the Dairy Building to get our free malt/sundae/whatever from the race, making some detours along the way.

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Newer fun house at the Mighty Midway.

I didn’t get a picture, but B got his malt (really more of a shake) and I got a chocolate sundae. Really, it tasted like Dairy Queen’s. But it was free, so meh.

Our next stop was the poultry barn, because chickens.

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And turkeys!

We actually got to pet a Silkie chicken, which was amazing.

The humidity was starting to kill us at that point, but we kept persevering. Or trying to.

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It is not a fair trip without cheese curds.

We headed over to the corn roast after that to split an ear of corn and both decided the humidity was too much, so we headed back over to the West End Market to pick up a Christmas decoration purchase we made after our waffles (a retro hockey skate with greenery). B couldn’t decide whether he wanted more food or not (I totally didn’t), so I sat down while he went and got a pickle dog.

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Pickle wrapped in cream cheese and pastrami. No, I did not try it. Blargh.

As it looked like rain was rolling in, we decided to head out for the day. We went back to the hotel to shower and then wandered over to the mall for dinner.

Monday morning, back on the road, and back to Denver.

T and B Do Italy: The Food

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the final of those posts.

So much food eaten in so many days … might be easier on all of us if I do this in a modified list form …

Tuesday, April 10:

Breakfast: egg and oj at the house, oatmeal at the DIA Delta Sky Club.
Lunch: Shake Shack at JFK, veggies in the Delta Sky Club there.
Dinner: Delta One pod life, baby.

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Appetizers. “Grilled apricots with whipped ricotta, truffle honey and crispy prosciutto;” “Baby iceberg wedge salad with chives and cherry tomatoes served with creamy dill dressing” Also had the opportunity for a tomato bisque (which B ate and liked), but I didn’t take it. Not usually the biggest fan of wedge salads, but this one wasn’t bad. The apricots (not something I would normally eat, but hey, adventure) were surprisingly good … but probably would have been better warm.

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Dinner. “Cacio e Pepe ravioli – parmesan fondue, asparagus tips and blistered tomatoes” Actually was interested in the salmon option, but got the ravioli. Which I think I’m ultimately okay with (plane fish? could be sketchy …) … mostly because it was delicious.

Dessert: continued pod life.

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Lemon Tart. B did not get one. I think one of the (good) flight attendants saved it for me due to something that happened before we even took off that I would prefer not getting into on here, but had me crying for a good hour or so. I am thankful for this, because it was AWESOME.

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Best part of international first/business class is the make-your-own-sundaes. Mmm.

Wednesday, April 11:

Breakfast: more pod life.

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“Potato and gruyere frittata with tomato hollandaise and asparagus” It was this or some homemade granola cereal with yogurt, which I didn’t want to take my chances with. I know I wouldn’t have been happy with that … but I wasn’t particularly happy with this, either. Blargh. The croissant was tasty though …

Dinner: Panino Gusto

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We kind of slept through lunch, so dinner was just a place we found out walking – a fancy Italian sandwich shop. Apparently it’s a chain around Milan, but it was really tasty. We also had our first of many trip cappuccinos there.

Thursday, April 12:

Breakfast: free at our hotel. Great spread, though – eggs, meats, cheeses, assorted pastries, yogurts, fruit, several fruit juices …
Snack: croissant and cappuccino at Marchesi in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuale II.

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Lunch: a massive slice of pizza we split from somewhere near the Navigili canals.
Dinner: savory crepe from some restaurant we found – cheese and ham and mushrooms and it was pretty terrible but it was food. Also fries from Amsterdam Chips because we needed something better for our taste buds.
Dessert: gelato from some cart near the Duomo.

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He got cherry, I got coffee (caffe). Like cappuccinos, gelato is so much better in Europe.

Friday, April 13:

Breakfast: hotel, once again.
Snack: cappuccino and croissant at Pan Brioche in Milano Centrale. Partially to waste time, partially because mmm, cappuccino.

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Lunch: Impronta Cafe, Venice, Dorsoduro district.

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This place was highly rated in “best places to eat in Venice” – B found it. Maybe if we had eaten something other than just sandwiches … B was meh on his. Mine was actually tasty after I peeled off all the olives. Ugh, olives.

Snack: gelato from some tiny shop near some church somewhere in Venice. Could not recreate where. But I got more caffe gelato and it was good.
Dinner: a prix fixe menu at Bacaro Jazz. Wanted to keep it a touch cheaper and their menu looked okay. Food … was there.

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Their version of a mussels au gratin. Not the greatest I will say. I forget what B did as his first course … lasagna, maybe?

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Main course of chicken milanese. This was good. I was happy with this.

Saturday, April 14:

Breakfast: well, our first “snack” was a pastry and a cappuccino at a small cafe near our hotel after some sunrise wanderings, but breakfast was actually just at our hotel. Less “Americanized” than in Milan, it was pastries, cold meats and cheeses, yogurt, and, thankfully for my protein-needing belly, hard-boiled eggs.
Snack: random stuff on our train ride, plus I saw donuts (donut cioccolato) in the train station. Had to buy one.

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Looks normal …

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… but oh wait, it’s not. It was … weird. Edible, but weird.

Lunch: a sandwich we bought at the same place we bought the donut that we split once getting into our hotel room in Florence. Also some gelato, because, duh. Went to a place called Perche Non (literally, why not). Had good reviews, upped it to two flavors – cioccolato along with my caffe. The chocolate was SO RICH OMG and it overpowered the coffee to the point that the coffee was almost flavorless. Don’t know if I would actually recommend them.
Dinner: the first of three eventual trips to Gusta Pizza (Gustapizza? might be one word …)

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Pizza margherita. I wish I could be eating this right now …

Sunday, April 15:

Breakfast: hotel. Not as wide of a variety as in Milan, but probably ultimately overall tastier. Scrambled eggs, strange bacon, pancakes (that I didn’t try), various pastries, meats and cheeses, yogurts …

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… and cappuccinos that I got designs in every morning. So tasty.

We also got a cappuccino while out wandering at the Corona Cafe, but I don’t want to consider a cup of coffee a “snack,” so I’ll just mention it here.

Lunch: random paninis we picked up at some cafe wandering around that we ate outside the Duomo.
Dinner/Dessert: a full three (well, four with dessert) course meal at La Sosta de’Golosi, a restaurant right down the street from the Duomo area. Super nice staff and really delicious food.

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Course one, that we split – prosciutto-wrapped melon. So tasty.

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Course two – mushroom papparadelle. I was quite happy with this, while B was happy with his … spaghetti bolognese I think …

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Course three – chicken parm for me, beef entrecote for B, and fries to split. I’m not sure how authentically Italian chicken parm is necessarily … but it was some of the best I’ve ever had.

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Course four – dessert. I got gelato affogatto (essentially ice cream and espresso) while B got some cake that the mom of one of our servers made and brought in. It was good but way too sweet; I’m glad we each got what we did.

Monday, April 16:

Breakfast: hotel noms.
Lunch: sandwiches at some tiny cafe right near the Leaning Tower in Pisa.

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The chicken, on the left, was really good. The ham and cheese, on the right, got a bit much.

“Snack”: quotations because it was cappuccino at Corona Cafe again.
Dinner: Il Bottegone, in the Duomo square. Mondays mean a lot of stuff closed in Florence, but if you want to eat, you can always count on the touristy areas. Even if it means you’ll pay a bit more.

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My turn for the beef entrecote. Pretty good. I do regret not trying actual Florentine bistecca, but, cost. We also split more prosciutto melon which was predictably delicious.

Dessert: gelato at Ristorante d’Orologio.

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This caffe gelato may have been quite tasty, but it was also SO EXPENSIVE. Our two gelato cones were damn near 14 euro, which is INSANE. Not worth it. AT ALL.

Tuesday, April 17:

Breakfast: hotel, as per usual.
Lunch: sandwich pizza from some cafe. No, really, that’s the best way I can describe it:

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While it looks weird (and was quite greasy), it was actually really good.

“Snack”: apparently we’re on an afternoon cappuccino kick, and this day’s infusion was provided by Caffe Mario near S. Croce church.
Dinner: more delicious Gusta pizza.

Wednesday, April 18:

Breakfast: hotel, because of course.
Lunch: at Il Borghetto, on the other side of the river. Cross the Ponte Vecchio and head up toward the Palazzo Pitti and you’ll find it.

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A touch dry, but otherwise not bad.

Snack: one final scoop of caffe gelato from Festival de Gelato. Maybe not as good as Ristorante d’Orologio, but definitely a lot f’ing cheaper.
Dinner: one final visit to Gusta. I miss you, delicious pizza.

Thursday, April 19:

Breakfast: one final hotel breakfast.

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Pictured: cheese danish thingies I ate at least two of every morning, B’s duck cappuccino, my name cappuccino. Not pictured: the pile of eggs I ate every morning.

Lunch: random sandwiches we bought from some place in the Florence train station that we ate on our train back to Milan.
Dinner: so there wasn’t much by our Holiday Inn Express, but the Crowne Plaza down the road had a restaurant, La Brughiera, so we ate there.

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Gnocchi that we split for a first course. This was to die for.

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Oh hey, more entrecote! With really terrible roasted potatoes.

Friday, April 20:

Breakfast: a hard-boiled egg that I grabbed from our hotel in the five minute window we had between breakfast opening and our hotel van as well as cappuccinos, mediocre sandwiches, and pastries from InAmore cafe across from our gate in MXP almost four hours later.

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We may have had two cappuccinos each … knowing that we’d miss them terribly when we got home. Which is 100% accurate.

Lunch: some chicken and risotto something or other we got back in coach on the airplane. That wasn’t actually all that bad, really.
Snack(s): Magnum bar on the flight, some turkey and cheese croissant thingy on the flight, a metric crapton of cucumber in the Delta Sky Club in JFK … Pringles on the flight home …

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Back of the bus plane snacks. Not quite as pretty as up front … but tbh I would have rather had this for breakfast as opposed to that frittata on the way out …

Dinner: Chick-fil-a of shame on the way home. Too tired to do/think of anything else, and only picked it up because we knew we needed to eat SOMETHING.

T and B Do Italy: April 18-20

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the fourth of those posts.

Wednesday, April 18:

We made our last full day in Florence a fairly busy one. We slept in a tiny bit (comparatively speaking), but woke up with plenty of time to grab breakfast and stand in line for about an hour waiting to get into the actual Duomo cathedral. A line was going to be stood in regardless (I read on some other blog somewhere that standing in line is one of the great Italian traditions (for tourists?)), and we figured an hour before opening wouldn’t be too bad. We were right.

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Santa Reparata crypt underneath. Once again, built on top of another church.

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Looking up in the Cupola.

That taken care of, we headed across the Arno to officially hit the Palazzo Pitti as well as the Boboli Gardens.

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In the Palazzo Pitti. If this room isn’t rented out for weddings, the Palazzo Pitti is screwing themselves out of a lot of money.

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Renaissance bathroom.

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The ceilings, man, the ceilings.

The Palazzo, in its essentials, was basically an ostentatious old house. From an aesthetic standpoint, I think I prefer Versailles from my vague memories of it … although that might not quite be the fairest comparison.

When it came down to it … we might have been just happiest buying tickets solely for the Gardens as opposed to the package deal we did purchase.

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Gardens.

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Looking down at the Palazzo Pitti.

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Killer view of the Duomo from the Gardens.

I would have adored to spend a lot more time in the Gardens, exploring every pathway … but poor B was getting a bit hangry (and I’m not sure if they allowed re-entry), so we left and grabbed lunch at a cafe down the street.

Lunch eaten, it was back to the hotel to catch up on internet stuff and attempt to pack up. Due to buying the wine and other liquids, we knew we’d have to check a bag, and we figured mine would be the best as it was somewhat hard-sided. When it comes down to it, I am a packing wizard, so I was able to successfully cram everything in (pilot B was fairly astounded at my skills). However, we still thought another bag might be nice … so I decided to be a total tourist and purchase a 30 euro leather tote from a street vendor so I could have a second carry-on and maybe not completely stuff my suitcase to its gills.

B also wanted some chocolate as a souvenir, so we found a local Italian chocolate shop for that. We also decided to get some more gelato … but it was fairly meh. We capped off the night with our third dinner visit for pizza, which we once again ate on our balcony. Which I regret in no way whatsoever.

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Since I didn’t photograph it earlier, I wanted a picture of the church we had mass in on Sunday … which I took off our balcony.

Thursday, April 19:

We woke up early to get one more run in as well as some photos with everything quiet.

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Cathedral.

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Fake David near the Palazzo Vecchio.

We went back to the hotel and showered and went down to breakfast … where I was surprised with a cappuccino with my name on it.

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B got a duck. They said his name was too long … which is kind of a lie as he has seven letters, same as I. However, the B probably takes up more space than a T …

I felt so special.

Breakfast consumed, we walked back toward the Duomo for our cupola visit.

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Shot of the baptistery, campanile, cathedral and cupola.

It was a bit tricky to climb all the way up to the lantern part of the cupola, but the views made it worthwhile. It was a wonderful way to cap off our final morning in Florence.

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B taking photos.

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Yours truly.

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Looking down.

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Florence, you’ve been amazing.

We headed back to the hotel to check in for our flight, gather up our stuff, and check out. We walked back to the train station to buy tickets back to Milan and then over to the airport … as well as some snacks and lunch for the train.

Both trains were uneventful.

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Milano Centrale. I regretted not getting a photo here the first time around.

We had a tiny adventure getting to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express Milan-Malpensa – but we made it work fine in the end. We walked over to a different hotel for dinner, but in general, it was a very low-key night as we had to be up super early the next morning.

Friday, April 20:

We took the earliest shuttle from our hotel over to the airport just to ensure we could be at the airport at least three hours ahead of time. Our options were get there 3:30 or 2:45 ahead of our flight; we went with the former … and good thing, too.

I checked in my bag okay and got the security check for my passport (or so I thought … there were issues with this) and B probably should have stayed with me, but due to some miscommunication (silly language barriers) … got in a different line. I got through my stuff way quicker, met him in line … where they ended up making him check his bag, too. That dealt with, we had to walk a bit to get through security … and then walk even more to get through passport control. This took up almost two of the three hours, so it is damn good we got there early.

Starving (breakfast at the hotel had been open five minutes before we had to catch our shuttle), we got our final Italian cappuccinos and some mediocre food at the cafe by our gate. We also used up most of our last euros buying some snacks and liquid for the flight home.

No upgrade coming back, but we sat together, so all was well. I ended up watching three movies on the flight (since, well, no nook to read):
– “Murder on the Orient Express” – B started it and I was watching over his shoulder so I finally just turned it on. Good, and I’m going to need to read the book now.
– “Battle of the Sexes” – no clue how much liberty was taken with this (knowing Hollywood, probably a lot), but I enjoyed it.
– “Spotlight” – SO GOOD. I vaguely remember the Boston church/sex scandal breaking while I was in college (… terrible journalism major, that’s me), but the lawyer on the case was a BU grad and featured in our alumni magazine, so I figured I should watch it, and I am so glad I did.

We landed in JFK, cleared customs … and then spent quite a bit of time in the Delta Sky Club before catching our flight home to Denver (which I mostly slept through).

Such an amazing trip, and I am so thankful we took it!

T and B Do Italy: April 16-17

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the third of those posts.

Monday, April 16:

B wanted to see Pisa, so Monday was the day we planned to rent a car and head to Pisa. We left the hotel a bit early after breakfast so we could see the famous pig fountain (Il Porcellino) without masses of people around.

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B putting a coin in its mouth and rubbing the nose for good luck.

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Me pretending to be Inspector Pazzi from “Hannibal,” fake washing non-existent blood off my hands. Because I’m a nerd.

We found the rental car place okay … but realized too late that B needed his passport, so we had to do a round trip to the hotel and back. Oops. Extra walking!

That all sorted, we got our car (an Alfa Romeo with standard transmission, so ain’t no way was I driving), managed to get down the parking ramp and out of town successfully following Google maps.

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He’s only slightly terrified.

Made it to Pisa okay, found the last spot in some lot … and walked on over. B bought us tickets (you can go up the tower now; you couldn’t when I last saw it 20 years ago) while I spent .80 euro to pee … and it was some of the best .80 euro I’ve ever spent.

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Baptistery, cathedral, and tower (meant to be the campanile or bell tower for the cathedral).

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Dinosaurs and tower.

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Loved the detailing of the baptistery, though we didn’t go inside.

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Basic.

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Kidlets trying to do their part.

(much you think I was too mature to do this … I have shots. but on my phone. and I’m not sharing them here. sorry not sorry.)

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Looking up.

We were in line to get in when I got notified my purse was too big … so I had to run out of line to get it tossed in a locker, freaking out the while since it was right on our entrance time and they had a ton of signs saying YOU MUST NOT MISS YOUR TIME … but thankfully I was still okay. Phew. BUT. If you’re going to go up the tower … and you think your bag might be too big … just check it well before your time. Lockers are free. It’s nice.

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Cathedral view from the top.

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Stairs we popped out of.

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Looking up from the bottom.

We took a lunch break and then popped into the Duomo. I only took one picture inside – the stunning ceiling.

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Gorgeous.

(felt a bit weird taking photos in the cathedral after we had gone to mass the previous day … while most of these churches are sure, open to the public … they’re also still very much in use for services as well.)

We then mostly successfully navigated our way back to Florence (ended up on the toll road for a minute … oops) and returned the rental car.

The hotel was our next stop to quickly check up on some internet stuff and then we popped out for a mid-afternoon pick me up of cappuccino … after which we saw a random parade walk through.

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All in medieval (I think? Renaissance, maybe?) dress. I took a video of the majority of it on my phone, and the whole thing passed us by in just about two minutes.

Since we’re run nerds, we returned to the hotel to try to find the Boston Marathon on TV. We weren’t successful (boo), but we Twitter-stalked the race while playing cards, super happy for Des Linden becoming the first American woman to win in 33 years. Yay Des!

We were hoping for dinner to be pizza again … but a lot of things in Florence are closed on Mondays. I figured that we’d have luck finding an open restaurant near the Duomo since it’s the big tourist area and we did.

Our walk back to the hotel included a giant, delicious, yet ridiculously expensive cone of gelato (seriously overpriced).

Tuesday, April 17:

After breakfast, we wandered over to the Duomo to get tickets for everything. We could … but the earliest available cupola reservation was for Thursday, so we did the earliest we could get, figuring we could do it in the morning before leaving town.

We also skipped the actual cathedral that day (crazy lines), but hit up the baptistery, the campanile, and the Duomo museum.

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Inside the baptistery. I like how they covered the construction with images of what was behind it. Nicer effect.

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View from the top of the campanile.

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Campanile.

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Donatello turned Mary Magdalene into nightmare fuel.

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Michelangelo’s La Pieta.

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Shot of the cupola from the top of the Duomo museum.

Our next stop was the Mercato Centrale … and we apparently also walked through the San Lorenzo leather markets on our way there and back.

The Mercato Centrale is awesome. Bottom level is kind of like an indoor farmer’s market, with tons of stalls selling all sorts of food and goodies while the top floor is food vendors. We didn’t end up eating lunch there, but we did pick up two bottles of wine, some olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for us (which, as I found out later on my credit card statement, cost us like $10) as well as a jar of jelly for B’s parents.

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Food stall.

We didn’t want to be carrying all of that around everywhere, so we headed back to the hotel, picking up some sandwiches along the way.

After eating, we headed over the river to do the Boboli Gardens … but then decided to do the whole combo pack with them, the Palazzo Pitti, and the Uffizi Gallery. However, if you’re going to do so … you have to do the Uffizi first. So we headed back over the river to the Uffizi Gallery to buy our ticket there … and then saw a whole bunch of art, some of it famous.

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Botticelli’s Primavera.

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Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

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Stunning ceiling in the Niobe room.

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Leonardo Da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi.

Post-Uffizi, we grabbed a cappuccino near S. Croce church.

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Both of us were dying just a touch, so we went back to the hotel to do our standard afternoon break.

We headed back out to dinner to Gusta Pizza where we dealt with super obnoxious Americans in line waiting to get in (holy. crap.) and sat next to some nice ones while we ate.

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Picture taken before we had company at our table.

Post-dinner, we hung out on the Ponte Santa Trinita, ostensibly waiting for the sunset (mediocre again), but it was just super nice to chill in the gorgeous evening and people watch.

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Husband. Probably with a Japanese engagement photo shoot going on behind him, since we saw a plethora of those while in Florence.

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Yours truly.

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Looking at our hotel, the Hotel Berchielli.

T and B Do Italy: April 13-15

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the second of those posts.

Friday, April 13:

I weirdly woke up this morning with a rash on my forearms that ended up spreading elsewhere on my body. I hoped it was just heat rash (though how *that* would have developed, I have no clue) and that it would go away in a few days.

(thankfully, it did.)

We ate breakfast at the hotel before checking out and wandering to take the metro to Milano Centrale so we could catch a train to Venice. We got to the station way earlier than we needed which meant cappuccino time (and we split a croissant).

The train trip itself was fairly uneventful. As I was without a book (boooo), I mostly just watched the scenery roll by … and it was pretty gorgeous. Got a glimpse of a lake near Verona and kind of wished I was on that side of the train so I could have gotten a picture.

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B on the train. We bought first class tickets for all our train trips – it had been recommended to us and it was totally the way to go.

We got into Venice and I was on Google maps trying to figure out where to go when we got accosted by a dude with a porter “helping” with our bags to a water taxi … when I totally actually wanted the water bus.

The ride was nice …

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Gondola as seen from the water taxi.

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Hanging out in the back.

… but it wasn’t 90 fucking euros nice. (20 for the porter who carried our bags 50 yards and 70 for the taxi. I didn’t tip the driver even though I probably should have. He can bitch to the asshole who directed us to him.) It was our one mistake on the trip and I am still kicking myself over it as you can tell. ARGH.

Once again, we were basically able to check into our hotel right away … which seemed really weird for both of us. We figured it was because we weren’t traveling during peak tourist season, but who knows, really.

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Tiny room. The cube shower was what I think of when I think of European showers – just enough room to clean yourself.

We changed clothes and then headed right back out to find food and wander around. I had major issues with Google maps and their directions finding lunch and combine that frustration along with hangry-ness and it was the first (and only!) time on the trip that we got really close to snapping at each other.

Pro tip: If you buy an international data plan and use the Google … ignore their directions. Streets change willy-nilly and trying to find street signs will just cause undue anxiety. Instead, follow the little blue dot line on the map and navigate that way. While it might seem like you’re using up ALL OF THE DATA … trust me, you aren’t. My plan gave me a gig of data and I didn’t even come close to using up half of it over this trip. Of course, I also threw it into airplane mode and used WiFi when it was available to be safe.

We eventually stumbled upon the lunch place B found on the interwebs as one of the best places to eat at … it wasn’t bad. We discovered the Ponte di Rialto during that adventure and found it crawling with tourists.

Post-lunch, we grabbed some gelato and then it was off to St. Mark’s Square.

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Down a canal.

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St. Mark’s Square.

We chose not to worry about going in.

Our next stop was all for me – the Libreria Acqua Alta. I had seen photos and I had to get some of my own. It was amazing.

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The book steps that are all over Pinterest. Bad lighting to get photos of a person on them, though, so sad day for that.

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This fire exit sign cracked me up.

From there, we kind of got turned around and ended up in a part of town we didn’t necessarily want to be in … but since Venice is so tiny, no harm no foul. We next found our way to the San Zaccaro church and its flooded crypt.

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Difficulties of being in a city that’s essentially sinking.

From there, we found our way to a gluten-free shop our friends Norm and Emily who went to Italy this past November visited. Norm asked us to pick up something as a favor for Emily’s birthday which is coming up soon, so we did that.

Then off to the hotel to chill out for a bit before venturing back out to dinner. I had read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset, so I snuck out of dinner to do so … didn’t get any good sunset shots, but I did get an evening Venice shot off the bridge.

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Saturday, April 14:

So you know how I mentioned above that I read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset? Well, I actually meant sunset AND sunrise. I’m not completely sure as to *why* that’s a recommendation, as the lighting wasn’t amazing at either … but sunrise was a fantastic time to hit up the bridge because it was EMPTY.

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Could not have gotten this shot during the day. Or at night. Or any other time.

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Okay, so the lighting wasn’t *completely* terrible at sunrise …

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Yours truly.

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Absolutely no way I could have gotten this during the day or the night prior.

Completely worth waking up for.

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Mossy steps leading into the Grand Canal. Rialto is behind me, for reference.

Our next stop was the Ponte di Chiodo – the bridge with no parapet. It is one of two bridges in Venice left that doesn’t have a handrail and, I’m not going to lie, it was a little weird walking down it.

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Completely glad we went looking for it, though.

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Street view from the bridge.

Last main thing I wanted to see in Venice seen, we popped back to the hotel to grab a few euros for a cappuccino at a cafe we saw open and then BACK to the hotel to shower, pack up, and eat breakfast.

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View from our window, looking down.

We then took the water bus we were SUPPOSED TO TAKE IN THE FIRST PLACE back to the train station.

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Seen on the ride.

Then, at the train station, it was time to sit around and wait for our train to Florence.

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I saw donuts. I totally bought one, too.

We took a different train company up to Florence – Italo as opposed to the TrenItalia Frecciarossa. Wasn’t necessarily better or worse – just different.

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We did sit next to each other though as opposed to being across from each other.

Florence, thankfully, was completely easier to navigate than Venice … although that could also be due to the map trick from above. In any case, made it to the hotel just fine … and once again, checked in right away.

Room was super nice – we got a balcony!

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Just chilling in the sunshine.

Our location was wonderful – on the banks of the Arno, just one bridge down from the Ponte Vecchio. We got settled in, I figured out how much data I had been using (I was worried after the Venice navigational nightmares), set up alerts (which is how I know I barely used any on this trip since I got no alerts) … and ended up napping. Oops.

Woke up around 3:30p and decided to wander around. We got gelato at some place B found on the interwebs as supposedly amazing (eh).

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And clearly upgraded to two flavors.

In our simple wandering, we found our way to the Plaza dell’Accademia as well as the Duomo, so it’s nice that everything is easily navigable that way as well. We went back to the hotel where B proceeded to nap and I killed the last of my nook battery. Dinner was takeaway pizza from the BEST PIZZA PLACE EVER (no, seriously, it may have surpassed T’s for me), Gusta Pizza.

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He’s so happy.

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Om nom nom.

This was one of the best moments of the trip – eating delicious, authentic pizza (owners are from Naples) on our own private balcony in Florence.

I tried to catch the sunset after dinner, but it was too hazy to be really good.

Sunday, April 15:

I woke up at 3:30a … probably due to my nap the day previous. Oops. It ended up being okay, however, as we went running pre-dawn up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to try to catch the sunrise and get views of the city.

We didn’t get a sunrise, but we did get amazing views.

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B hanging out.

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Us.

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See? Amazing views.

We also ended up chatting with some Italian locals (well, kind of – he was from Turin originally) who we’re pretty sure were still up from the night before. Heh.

Ran back to the hotel, grabbing some more euros out of an ATM along the way.

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And a shot of the Ponte Vecchio, clearly.

We ate breakfast at the hotel when we got back, showered, and wandered around, stumbling upon the Florence Half-Marathon along the way.

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We had seen signs for it in our hotel’s elevators … and I didn’t think until later to look up if they had other distances. I am not in half shape by any means, but I totally could have done the non-competitive 8K. Plus it was cheap. Dangit.

One thing B really wanted to do was to go to (Catholic) mass while we were in Italy, so we found a church with an English speaking service and went (totally my first time going to mass in like two years). We also got roped into doing the readings which was a touch awkward.

Wandered around a bit more after church and grabbed some paninis for lunch which we ate near the Duomo.

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All in all, though, it was a pretty lazy day. I was almost successful in not napping that afternoon (almost). We did find a great place for dinner and did the full three (four?) course thing and pretty much rolled out of the restaurant (more on that when I do the food blog).