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).

On April’s Boston Trip

Ooooh boy did I get behind in writing this damn blog.

I did have a good reason for a while; mainly, I crashed my bike (link takes you to the triathlon blog I share with my hubby and includes the gory photos). This put me out of commission the week before we went to Boston and then … well, the boring parts of life get in the way and not happens in terms of fun exploration.

Ha. That was cheesy, I know. I’m sorry.

In any case, back in mid-April, we went to Boston to watch our friend Kris run the marathon. For me, it was also a homecoming of sorts, as that’s where I went to school and spent four years of my life. I also got the chance to show Brandon my version of Boston, much like he showed me his Grand Forks in April 2011.

The city was both the same and different, much as I expected it to be. 95% of the food I remembered was outstanding with very little of it disappointing. It’s really funny to see how much campus has changed and how much of it hasn’t. Of course, things changed drastically over the four years I was there; colleges and universities are constantly evolving. Brandon thought it hysterical how the both the evening and morning staff at one of my local college haunts, T. Anthony’s, still remembered me even though I hadn’t been back on campus in five years. Granted, I spent enough money in the place for them to remember me, but y’know.

Going back was also nice in that it reminded me that, as much as I love Boston and I loved my time there, I really have no desire to move back. I am a Colorado girl, born and bred, and there isn’t anything that’s going to change that. The lack of humidity out here doesn’t hurt, either, though.

Watching the marathon was a whole new experience from when I was in college. I truly didn’t get into the Marathon Monday experience until my senior year (and the year after when I came back for it), what with all the drinking and partying in South Campus (marathon comes right through south). The only running I did back then was when the hockey team forced me to for dryland or I had some crazy urge to go knock out a mile or two.

Now, I’m a part of that community. I’m nowhere near fast enough to Boston-qual, but I’m a triathlete. I run regularly and have completed two half-marathons. I now know what work it takes to get into a marathon like that, the dedication in either training to be fast enough or raising the amount of money you need to for charity to earn one of those spots. It’s something that I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do. The Ironman World Championships in Kona are similar, and yet I feel like that’s more in reach than Boston is. Of course, that’s part of the Boston mystique.

But this trip wasn’t about running (we had hoped to run a 5K, but me literally breaking my face the week before nipped that thought in the bud). It was about cheering Kris (and Mark, in the BAA 5K) on. It was about seeing old friends. It was about food. It was about reconnecting with a place I had fallen in love with in September 2001 and sharing that love (and food) with my husband.

I’m going to share the rest of my experience through pictures, but I’ll mention the foooood first.

Friday night: nothing. Got in too late to enjoy anything
Saturday: Breakfast: Some little place in Allston with my best friend from college, Brian. I honestly forget the name of it. Lunch: Boston Chowda Co., in the Prudential Center. Dinner: T. Anthony’s. Still the best chicken parm on the planet. Followed by frozen yogurt at Angora Cafe, which is not replicated ANYWHERE out here and it makes us both very sad.
Sunday: Breakfast: Hotel. Mmm, free crappy breakfast sammich. Lunch: Brown Sugar Cafe and that Thai fried rice I’ve been trying to replicate. Followed by ice cream at J.P. Licks with Brian and his fiancee, Phelan. Preceded by cannolis from Mike’s Pastry. Dinner: Fire and Ice. The one truly disappointing meal. Fire and Ice has gone way downhill the past few years.
Monday: Breakfast: Dunkin’ Donuts/T. Anthony’s. The latter was definitely better. Lunch: T’s Pub on campus after our Agganis Arena tour. Dinner: Legal Harborside. Not as good as one of the regular Legal Sea Foods’ restaurants (in my opinion), but it’s one of their more concept-type restaurants.
Tuesday: Breakfast: Free hotel food. Lunch: UBurger. A new burger joint that’s popped up on campus and around the city, and came highly recommended by Brian. Also had poodle fries with cheese from Spike’s Hot Dogs, which are some of the best cheese fries out there. Dinner: Sunset Grill and Tap. Mark wanted a place with lots of beer and this fit the bill. It also served as a great trip culmination, with Brian and Phelan as well as my old roommate (and bridesmaid) Courtney joining Brandon, Kris, Mark and myself. Followed by more Angora. Mmm.

Now, photos:

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Boston Public Garden.

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Swan boats in action.

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Paramount Theater in the theatre district.

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Granary Burying Ground.

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One of the many food cases in Quincy Market.

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Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry.

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Runners in the Boston Common waiting for the buses to take them to Hopkinton, Mass., to start the marathon.

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Paradise Rock Lounge, a Boston fixture (located handily on the BU campus).

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The best part of Agganis Arena, hands down. BU/Hockey East people know why.

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Kris with a mile to go, running through Kenmore Square.

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Brown Sugar Cafe. Favorite Thai place ever.

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Playing with a lobster at Union Oyster House.

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The “Make Way for Ducklings” statue (with dinosaurs).

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Swan boats.

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More swan boats.