Pisa

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Sometimes the best travel experiences are the ones that take you by surprise.  Pisa was a convenient stopover for us, and, expecting to just pay a cursory visit to the Tower and try to get as much sleep as possible, we hadn’t done much research or bothered to muster up any excitement.  Dropping our bags at the hotel, we immediately ventured out for food, espresso, and a glimpse at Pisa’s most famous landmark.  Often being more of the food and culture type of tourist than the famous landmark kind of tourist, we joked about the tower and pretended we were excited to see it, and eventually those jokes morphed into genuine, almost giddy excitement which suddenly burst out of both of us when we finally turned a corner and it came into view.   We had excellent fun taking photos of the Mister posing with the tower, marveling at how it really looks like it ought to topple over, and watched hundreds of other tourists do the same, before making our way over to the maze of souvenir stalls and energetically combing through them to find the perfect kitschy bottle openers to give as gifts.


Most of our trip we’d worked hard to research good food and eat like the locals did, but in Pisa we’d lost steam and, in search of sustenance, walked down one of the quaint old streets that were lined with the sort of over-priced restaurants that are geared towards foreigners.  We’d managed to avoid those sorts of places during most of our travels, but now that we were seeking one out, we were turned away again and again as it turned out they were all booked up for the night.  Frustrated and starving, we wandered further and further into the residential neighborhoods and eventually happened upon a little restaurant on a quiet street corner that had a table open on its tiny patio.  We’d had so many amazing meals in Italy, but this one stands apart in my memory like no other.  There was so many moments when I closed my eyes and relished the way the osso buco melted in my mouth, the creaminess of the polenta, and the utter perfection of the risotto, flavors and textures that are all still so clear in my memory.  We remarked to our server that it was without a doubt the best meal we’d had in Italy, and she’d smiled and said, “Of course, this is food for Italians.”


Later, stuffed, exhausted, and happy we meandered along the Arno river, basking in the golden glow of the setting sun and blissful in the unexpected loveliness that was Pisa.

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Rome

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Every year, around our anniversary, I find myself daydreaming about the three dreamy, sun-filled weeks we spent in Italy for our honeymoon, and this year I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite photos from those days.


Four years ago, in early May, we spent seven days in Rome.  The city was warm and breezy, and we found a darling little apartment in Trastevere using AirBnB.  Charming and full of narrow, cobble-stoned streets, Trastevere was the perfect home-base for our stay, full of wonderful little restaurants and an easy walk into the city center.  Every morning we’d make an espresso in our tiny apartment and then head out to take in the historic sites, admire all the Roman window gardens, and settle into one of the dozens of piazzas to people-watch for hours.  A friend had recommended the fantastic terroir guide, Food Wine Rome, and though we hardly spoke any Italian, we quickly figured out how to order a full Italian meal much to the delight of the owners the tiny, local gems that we’d have never found without the book.  At the insistence of other friends who’d lived in Rome, we picnicked on an island in the Tiber and just as we were about to eat more gelato than is probably sensible for just two people, we hopped a train to spend the next week in Tuscany.

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Rome, Italy. May 2011

Islas Ballestas

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One of the more beautiful places we visited were the Islas Ballestas outside of Paracas on the southern coast of Peru.  We cruised around in a little boat, seeing geoglyphs carved in the mountain side before heading further out to where the rocky islands rose out of the sea.  There were penguins, pelicans, sea lions, and seals on the rocks, and a dozen species of birds swirling around in the air.  Afterwards, we drove around the desert, where the sand was so full of iron that, when the sand met the sea, it was all turned a dark and rusty red, though sadly my camera battery died just before we got there.  We spent an hour collecting sea glass and spotted a huge flock of flamingos in the distance, and today we have a little jar with all of that Peruvian sea glass and one pink feather, a gift carried over on a breeze from that distant flamingo flock.

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California love notes

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This is the last of my love letters to California, at least until late September when we’re scheduled to be back for another couple of weeks.  I already miss her rocky coastline and golden fields.  I want to buy avocados 9 for $1. I want to take long drives with the windows down and have the air switch back and forth from smelling like the salty sea to eucalyptus every few blocks.  I want to stuff myself silly with tacos, and then I want to burn a little in the sun, only to have the landscape taken over by rolling fog few minutes later.  I want to drink a bottle of local wine very slowly and sleep in late, all curled up against my Mister.  We have a bunch of other adventures lined up for this summer, but right now my heart belongs to the west coast.

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Wanderings: A step back in time

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What is your favorite thing about old cities?  For me, it’s usually the houses and shops.  I love the old brickwork and wooden shutters, boot-scrapers and weird door knockers, and colorfully painted doors.

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Philly had a wealth of gorgeous old homes and buildings to swoon over.  As we walked around town, I couldn’t help but pause every few feet to admire an old building, and wonder how long it’s it been there, what did it look like on the inside, how many people have lived or worked there over the years, and what were their lives like.

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Elfreth's Alley is the oldest residential street in the country

Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest residential street in the country

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Hats trimmed free of charge!

Hats trimmed free of charge!

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