We ate and drank our way through Paris (as recommended to us by our travel advisor Anthony Bourdain) and we wouldn't have had it any other way. It took a few days to embrace Paris and it's gritty beauty, but towards the end of our stay we found it's character in moments like strolling along the Seine, lounging in the manicured parks and walking through the streets with no real direction. We satiated our cravings for delicious buttery snails, french bread all day every day and fromage in all different shapes, sizes and smells. Our trip ended at the most perfect bar in the company of some friends from college.
The Netherlands is a special place. We stayed in an eco-friendly tiny home in Amsterdam-Noord, in a beautiful wooded neighborhood. We spent most of our days biking through Amsterdam, navigating our way to different shops, restaurants, bars and sites all through the city. We took breaks, sat along the canals and wandered through the Red Light District and Jordaan. A free 2 minute ferry for bikers and motorists would take us to and from the city center. On one of the days during our stay, we road our bikes through the Netherlands countryside. It was a 20 mile bike ride on a path that winded through expansive farmland, tiny canal villages and ended in Volendam - a lovely seaside town. Some of our favorite memories from the trip: bitterballen from Mata Hari, Sara falling off her bike on the train tracks, the coffee shops (Jesse), Heineken, pouty prostitutes, boat houses and beef nachos from Harlem Soul Food. Amsterdam has been the most exciting, inviting and surprisingly family-friendly city on our trip so far.
We spent the last five days in Barcelona and it was so nice to settle into a city for a bit. We stayed in the El Borne district in a tiny little apartment with a balcony on Agullers street. It was the perfect location, with restaurants, cafes and bars on every corner. We found ridiculous food in our neighborhood at restaurant called El Xampanyet. This tiny little spot was a 4 minute walk from our apartment, and was so good we went our last two nights in a row. In order to get a table you have to show up right before they open. People crowd in front of the steel garage door until it slides open at 7pm, and everyone rushes in to grab a spot. They serve large bottles of homemade cava, and seriously amazing tapas. We shared canned mussels, anchovies in vinegar, salmon salad on bread, pan con tomate, baby clams and calamari. So glad we found this spot. We were also able to experience some of the Festes de la Merce, which is the annual festival that bids summer goodbye. We watched the Castellars (human towers) and the Correfoc. The Correfoc was unreal - it's a late night parade where people dress as devils, light giant sparklers and spray fire at themselves and the crowds (us) on the sides. Barcelona is a magical, energetic and endlessly artistic place.
We spent a day traveling from Florence via train along the coast and landed in Marseille at night. We stayed in a 5th floor studio apartment near the Old Port and had one day to explore. We walked to the port and luckily stumbled upon the daily fish market. It was the best - fishermen backed their boats right up along the dock and sold their catch out of the backs of their boats. We then stopped for lunch at the most charming and funky restaurant in an urban garden space called La Passarelle and shared a giant lamb shoulder roast. It was a good in-between spot with kind people and perfect weather.
We made it to Tuscany after a surprise layover in Florence (because we didn't reserve a rental car and there weren't any left.) It ended up being a happy accident, because Florence is super charming and turned out to be one of our favorite spots so far. It's very artsy and walkable and we hope to return for a longer visit. We finally got our hands on a car and traveled an hour south to the Mensanello Farm in Tuscany. We made a quick stop in San Gimignano (giant touristy castle town) on the way to the farm. Mensanello was as beautiful and quaint as you would imagine a Tuscan Farm to be. And, like a true farm, within minutes of arriving two hunters were petting a dying rabbit in it's final moments of life. We met Neri, the owner of the farm - a friendly young guy who was raised on the property and returned to manage it after receiving his PhD. He spoke english well, and showed us around the farm, let us taste their homemade prosciutto (which they make from their own pigs they let roam free in a wooded section of their 700 acre property), let us sample wine and taste his soon-to-be released batch of home-brewed beer. We spent most of the time drinking wine by the pool, and eating cured meats, melon, bread and pasta. It's been rich and far too gluttonous!
We have been wining, beaching and hiking for the past five days in the old coastal town of Nerano, Italy. The town felt like we slipped back in time - wifi was only in select villas, there was barely any phone service, not a single atm/bank and everyone in the town worked as shop owners, fishermen, or in some sort of tourist-based profession. We bought tomatoes and mozzarella from Olga down the street, and picked basil from the planter box on our porch. A huge rocky mountain bordered the town, making it feel completely separated from the rest of Italy. Nerano was only accessible by one long and windy road.
We stayed in a house called "la casa sul sentiero di Ieranto" meaning "the house on the path of Ieranto". It was a tiny, dorm room sized stucco loft apartment that sat on the top of a hill in front of an old church and looked out over the entire town and ocean below. We slept in twin beds foot to foot. Our porch was located on the trailhead to a hiking path along cliffs on the coast. The first couple of days we were so excited by the views and the abundance of olive, lemon, fig and pomegranate trees that we felt no pain in our legs from the treacherous walks. A few days in we were finagling rides up the hill from the locals. The path in front of our place led hikers to Baia di Ieranto which was the most beautiful hidden beach on the mountain side with a platform to jump, coves to kayak and snorkel through and views of Capri. Every morning we sat and watched the sunrise from our porch. At dusk we watched all the hikers walk up the path, back to their scooters and cars. We were lucky to have our place and shower so close to the start of the path.
A 2hr bus ride or a 40 min water taxi brought us to Positano. Positano had a classic Italian villa feel but with swank restaurants, hotels and boutiques sprinkled in. The food was insanely delicious but everything was much more expensive and bustling with more energy (and Americans) than Nerano. We loved having experiences of both towns because we could escape to the energy of Positano and then we were able to return to our cozy quiet casa. Nerano was a true town of the past. Roosters would crow every morning, the church bells rang every half hour, and dogs and cats roamed the streets. It was an amazing experience and we will definitely be going back, hopefully via boat next time. Wink wink wink. Such a great time and now we are heading to Tuscany. Wine and vineyards on the horizon.
P.S. Santa Margherita costs only 9 Euro in Italy ($25 in the states)!
After two long days of travel we made it to Rome! We got in late on Saturday night and it took us a good hour to unlock our way through 3 different 1000-year-old doors to get into our apartment, but all is well and today was our first day of site-seeing. We are staying in Pigneto, which is a neighborhood just a tram-ride outside of the city center. It's pretty sketchy and full of junkies but home to some special restaurants, like Necci (delicious salmon sandwiches).
After breakfast, we spent the day wandering with no real plan. We visited the Colosseum, the Pantheon, a bunch of random cobbled streets and the Trevi Fountain - which is closed for restoration (cool). We ended our night with melon, prosciutto, veal and tiramisu and of course more wine. Good times.
Friends, family and Pootie! We (Jesse and Sara) have created this blog so you can follow along with us during our travels through Europe for a month. The past few days have been spent in New Smyrna Beach, where we have been preparing for our trip, eating lobster and steak, playing with the pups and collecting small bottles of alcohol for our flights. Next stop, ROME!