Month: July 2014

A Week in Amsterdam

Well, I’m writing this post from bed in Paris because I’m sick. This is my third day in bed, and I feel worse today than the past two days, so that’s fun. It’s my birthday tomorrow and we had these grand plans of going to a cheese shop and wine shop and picnicking in a park with a view of the Eiffel Tower. I’m remaining optimistic that I’ll miraculously be better by tomorrow morning, but we may have to postpone the birthday celebration. Over the past few months, I kept telling myself that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t gotten a cold or anything yet, after having bouts of poor sleep and being around so many people while traveling. I never said it out loud though, in case I jinxed it. When we arrived at our housesitting assignment in Paris on Friday, I noticed the daughter of our host seemed like she was getting over a cold. I made a comment to Jeremy about it, and we both brushed it off and agreed that I wouldn’t get sick. Well, I woke up feeling like crap on Monday, and have felt worse ever since. At least my body waited until we were settled in somewhere for a while, instead of wasting half a week in bed in a place we were just visiting for a short time.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be feeling better real soon, and Jeremy is taking good care of me.

I wanted to share some pictures from our week in Amsterdam, which was really fun. Neither of us had ever been before, and the only things I thought about the city before visiting were weed and canals. And it’s true, there are lots of both of those things, but it’s also a really charming, clean city that has beautiful architecture and a lot to explore.

Leaving Berlin.

Leaving Berlin. Only half-thumbs up since we loved Berlin so much and were sad to leave.

We took a train from Berlin to Amsterdam, which was supposed to take about six hours. Since it was a long ride and the price difference wasn’t much, we bought first-class tickets so we’d have more comfortable seats. Turns out that on these specific trains, the only first-class cabins are compartments with six people in each. I thought it would be weird to be in a little enclosed room with six people for six hours, but everyone else ended up leaving after a few hours, and Jeremy and I had the whole compartment to ourselves after that, which was really nice.

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Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. About two hours away from Amsterdam, the conductor announced that the train was going to stop and everyone needed to get off because two of the cabins of the train didn’t have air conditioning and it was hot. There weren’t really any other instructions after that as to how to actually get to our destination, but we all got off the train in some random town in the Netherlands, and everybody was confused. We found an American family to talk to and ask, but they were just as clueless as we were. A regional train pulled up and everybody started getting on, so we got on too. Well, just a heads up: if you travel by train to Amsterdam on a Friday afternoon, people will be partying (could have also had something to do with the Germans just winning the World Cup). People had huge coolers full of beer on the ground in the train and music with speakers, and there were lots of drunk people. One guy dropped a beer next to me and Jeremy, and luckily it just got on my clothes and didn’t soak through my suitcase or anything (I guess that’s lucky?). I felt like such a square because I’m sure I was frowning disapprovingly when everyone else was just trying to have a good time, but I was just over it and wanted to be in Amsterdam. We ended up getting off that train after a little while because some other people were (the blind following the blind), then we took another train that eventually got us to the Central Station in Amsterdam, and we took a tram from there. Our Airbnb host gave us wrong directions so we got lost wandering around for a while after that, but we finally made it. Phew. From there, it was much smoother sailing, and we spent the week exploring the city by foot (as usual).

Finally arrived in Amsterdam!

The Central Station in Amsterdam.

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Inside our Airbnb apartment.


I feel like we hadn't had a picnic in so long. We got a couple good ones in last week.

I feel like we hadn’t had a picnic in so long. We got a few good ones in last week.



We went to the Albert Cuypmarkt specifically for these stroopwafels.

Fresh, hot stroopwafel.

Fresh, hot stroopwafel – two thin waffles with a caramel-like syrup in the middle.

Albert Cuypmarkt.

Albert Cuypmarkt.


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Beer tasting at the Amsterdam brewery, De Prael.

Beer tasting at the Amsterdam brewery, De Prael.

Huge rounds of gouda cheese. My heaven.

Huge rounds of gouda cheese. My heaven.

More pretty canals.

More pretty canals.

A little dish filled with local specialties... except we didn't know what any of it was. But it was good!

A little dish filled with local specialties… except we didn’t know it was, really. But it was good! Tasted like potato salad, maybe tuna salad. And mayonnaise. And maybe meat? Who knows.

One of the more interesting foodstuffs I found, sheets of coconut to eat on toast! They were absolutely delicious.

One of the more interesting foodstuffs I found, sheets of coconut to eat on toast! They were absolutely delicious.

Of course we had to visit the famous sign.

Of course we had to visit the famous sign.

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I’m in there… somewhere.


Another picnic.

Another picnic.


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I found organic peanut butter and it wasn't expensive! And it was gone shortly after...

I found organic peanut butter and it wasn’t expensive! And it was gone shortly after…



Amsterdam Noord

We took a day trip to the northern part of the city, Amsterdam Noord, which turned out to be a cool area with a lot less tourists. The ferry leaves from behind the central train station, and it’s free. We brought a picnic with us, and found a nice lawn outside that big white building in the picture below, which is a cinema museum called The Eye.

We took a five-minute free ferry to Amsterdam Noord and had another picnic.

We brought the middle beer from Berlin, and the Tripel Karmeliet is a beer I used to drink at a place in Athens, Georgia, when I was in the mood to buy an expensive beer. It was at the grocery store for so cheap!

We brought the middle beer from Berlin, and the Tripel Karmeliet is a beer I used to drink at a place in Athens, Georgia, when I was in the mood to buy an expensive beer. It was at the grocery store in Amsterdam for so cheap!

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I love these tiny cars. They drive in the bicycle lane!

I love these tiny cars. They drive in the bicycle lane!

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We found this place called Noorderlicht made out of huge see-through greenhouse/airport hangar-type building and stopped for a drink.

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It was right on the river and had a really nice view.

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Apartments made out of shipping containers.

Apartments made out of shipping containers.

A boat made into a hotel.

A boat made into a hotel – Botel.

Seen on our ferry ride back.

Seen on our ferry ride back.

A few observations:

– We made almost all of our meals at our apartment, and the grocery stores in Amsterdam were by far the nicest we’ve been to during our travels.

– They are very serious about their bicycles in the Netherlands. There are big bike parking lots, and if you step into the bike path without looking, prepared to almost get side-swiped. Tiny cars and motorcycles/scooters can also use the bike paths, so you’d better watch your step.

– It was really crazy to be walking around and see and smell people smoking pot out in public. There are about 200 coffeeshops (the name for the cafés that sell marijuana) in central Amsterdam alone, so you are guaranteed to walk by a few even if you’re just going a short ways. We went into a couple – just to see what they were like! – and the people working there were very nice to us, and there are menus with descriptions and you can just order whichever strain you’d like.

We really liked Amsterdam, and the next time we return to Holland, I’d love to explore other cities, and take a bike ride through the countryside (which we were hoping to do, but it didn’t happen).

What We Ate in Berlin


We spent way too much money eating out in Italy. But could you blame us? Italy is known for its food, and especially being in Bologna, it was very hard to resist. But I don’t regret it, even if my clothes were getting increasingly tighter… So, leaving Italy and returning to Germany, we knew we had to cut back on expenses, and cook more meals ourselves, or find cheap street food. We ended up doing a lot more of the latter, because the street food turned out to be delicious in Berlin.

Mauerpark Flea Market

On Sundays, there is a huge flea market in Mauerpark, which is in the northern district of Prenzlauer Berg. It is really popular with tourists, and even though it had been raining moments before we got there and there were huge puddles everywhere, it was still packed. We didn’t do any shopping, but we heard there was good street food, so we wanted to check it out. There were lots of food stands and outdoor bars, and it had a general music-festival vibe to it; I kind of felt like I was at SXSW in Austin, Texas. But it happens every Sunday in Berlin! We checked out as many food stands as we could before making our decision on what to eat.


A magician performing for people at the amphitheater in Mauerpark. There is usually karaoke held here, but it was cancelled due to the rain (I think).



We ended up going to this stand that had fresh pizzas come out of the oven every ten minutes. Whenever there was a fresh batch, a lined formed immediately.


We got a white pizza with potato on top. And of course a weissbier to wash it down.

We weren’t planning on getting dessert, but we couldn’t walk past this booth selling made-to-order waffles on a stick without getting one. And they were only 2 euro. We chose white chocolate to be poured on top of it. It was VERY tasty.


Das Gift

The night of the World Cup final game, we wanted to go to a bar and catch some of the action, but not be surrounded by hoards of people (something like 200,000 people were watching the match at Brandenburg Gate). We walked from our apartment to Kreuzberg and beyond to Neukölln and decided on Das Gift, a bar owned by Barry Burns (of post-rock band Mogwai) and his wife. The menu is primarily Scottish food, and we ordered a mini haggis plate, which was only 5 euro. We got the vegetarian version, which sounds weird since haggis is primarily meat-parts, but it was really good.


You know a bar is going to be good if they have Dolly on the menu.

Mini haggis plate, vegetarian style (

Mini haggis plate, vegetarian style (instead of meat, it was kidney beans, lentils, root vegetables, and cereals, packed into a man-made casing and cooked, according to Das Gift’s Tumblr. It was on top of a potato and turnip mash with a sauce made from whiskey.)

The plate was a little small for the two of us, so we ordered the Scottish cheese plate after, but I didn’t get a picture. After the game was over and Germany won, there was craziness in the streets with people yelling and all cars honking, but nothing out of hand. It was pretty fun.


Right after Germany won.

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Falafel has been so easy to come by in most of the big cities we’ve visited. The Turkish population is large in Berlin, and before even arriving we were looking forward to trying some of the popular places.

The first place we tried was called Maroush, and the rave reviews online were justified. Our falafel sandwiches were only 2.50 euro.



Another place we tried was called Tadim, and I got a falafel sandwich, while Jeremy got a lahmacun, a Turkish pizza with doner meat on it, rolled into a burrito.


My falafel sandwich from Tadim.


Jeremy’s lahmacun.

One night, we were in a long line to eat at Burgermeister in Kreuzberg. But after waiting 15 minutes or so and not getting much closer to the front of the line, we decided to walk around and find another falafel to eat (we might be addicted).

Burgermeister in Kreuzberg.

The very popular Burgermeister in Kreuzberg.

We had read so many “best cheap eats in Berlin”-type articles online that all mentioned the same places, so we wanted to venture out on our own and discover something different. We ended up finding the best falafel we had eaten in Berlin so far, and they were wrapped like burritos.



I don’t have a picture of the inside of the burritos, but just trust me, they were delicious. And we finished them off with some baclava, which was the best I’ve ever had.


Street Food Thursday

A couple friends from Georgia, Kyle and Antje, now live in Berlin, and we met up with them at something called Street Food Thursday, held at Markthalle Neun. The big space is filled to the brim with food stands that include all sorts of food types. We met soon after it opened so we could hopefully get seats at the communal tables, and it was already packed by the time we got there.


IMG_8036 It was SO hard to decide what to get, but I ended up with a ramen burger with kimchi on the side, and Jeremy got an empanada and a tofu sandwich with steamed buns.



The packed Markthalle Neun.





Our dessert, a freshly baked peanut butter cookie with homemade ice cream on top.

After dinner, we walked around Kreuzberg a bit and enjoyed catching up with Kyle and Antje, who we hadn’t seen in years.

Oberbaum Bridge at magic hour.

Oberbaum Bridge at magic hour.





Street Food Thursday was a big highlight of our week, and just another example of what makes Berlin such a great city.

Running in Berlin


Still excited about my new hat.

As huge as Berlin is, there is a lot of green space. And, like Bavaria, there are pedestrian and biking paths everywhere. Even though it would have been easy to run on streets since there are always sidewalks, and the blocks are huuuge, I wanted to stay near a park where I could run in car-free places. So we chose an Airbnb apartment near Treptower Park. All I had to do was run a block, cross a bridge, and miles of beautiful paths were at my disposal.


Nice view of the Molecule Man statue.


Seen on my run.

Seen on my run.

A club/bar that had techno music pumping 24 hours a day.

An outdoor club/bar that had techno music pumping 24 hours a day.

Hostel on a boat.

Hostel on a boat.

Once I was in the park, there were paths that ran along the Spree River, and also paths that ventured into the woods. I stayed on the dirt paths that went along the river for miles and miles.


I love these Weeping Willows.

We returned to rent a boat from this place later in the week.

We returned to rent a boat from this place later in the week.


Pedestrian paths for days.

Pedestrian paths for days.

Dirt path along the river.

Dirt path along the river.

The Spree River is massive.

The Spree River is massive.

I’ve been averaging three runs a week, and lots of walking on days I don’t run. I’ve been experimenting with listening to podcasts while running, and the first one I downloaded is called Motion Traxx. It’s actually just a techno-type mix that has a constant beat of 170 bpm. There are a lot of different ones you can download with different themes or bpm. I know I need to speed my cadence up, and so I made sure to keep on the beat the whole time while running. It made a big difference with my form, and I ended up running faster than usual, which is good since I need to start working on my endurance and speed again. I felt like I had so much energy, which was probably also thanks to the good night’s sleep I got the night before. I haven’t been sleeping great lately, and it makes such a big difference in energy levels.

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My two other runs felt pretty good too, and I just really enjoyed running in the park.

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I was hoping to join a sight running tour in Berlin, and I found one that runs part of the Berlin Marathon route. I contacted Mike’s SightRunning and was hoping to be able to squeeze into another group’s tour, since it was pretty expensive to take a private one just by myself. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but I saw so many great reviews of Mike and he was very nice and responsive in our emails, I would recommend contacting him if you’re ever in Berlin and want to take a guided running tour!

Hello (again) Germany!

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Goodbye, Bologna!

After we spent a couple weeks in Germany in June, visiting Munich and housesitting in a small Bavarian village, we basically fell in love with Germany. I’ve always liked it, but have never spent that much time there. When we were deciding what to do with our two weeks between Bologna and our five-week housesitting assignment that starts today (!!) in Paris, our initial thought was to stay in Italy. But after being in Italy a month, we decided to head to a city we both have been to in the past, but not spent enough time in: Berlin! We figured we could spend a week in Berlin, and then spend a week in a city conveniently between Berlin and Paris: Amsterdam. We found reasonable plane tickets from Bologna to Berlin, and booked them.

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There were even meat and cheese stands in the Bologna airport.

There were even meat and cheese stands in the Bologna airport.

We had seven hours to spare at the airport and then our plane ended up being pretty late, so it was a long day.


The Supermoon over Gemany.

The Supermoon over Gemany.

We arrived in Berlin at around 10:30pm, had to figure out how to get from the airport to the location our Airbnb host was at to pick up the keys, get back on the metro and find our way to our apartment in the Friechrichshain neighborhood, and made it at about midnight. Long day.

Our Airbnb apartment in Berlin.

Our Airbnb apartment in Berlin.

We spent the next week exploring, and if there is anything we were unprepared for, it was how HUGE Berlin is. I’ve seen online that it’s five, eight, or nine times the size of Paris. When we’d look at a map and decide to walk somewhere (our preferred mode of transportation) and thinking it would be a 45-minute walk, it would end up way longer. But it’s never a bad thing to get more walking in, and we took the (very efficient) metro when necessary.

Exploring the Wedding neighborhood.

Exploring the Wedding neighborhood.

Our neighborhood, Friechrichshain.

Our neighborhood, Friechrichshain.

We spent a lot of time exploring Kreuzberg, the neighborhood next to ours. Even after two full days walking for hours around the area, we still hadn’t seen it all. Kreuzberg is a really cool place, with lots of bars, shops, restaurants, and street art. I guess if I had to compare it to anything, it would be the Mission District in San Francisco.



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There are photobooths all around the city.

There are photobooths all around the city.

Within walking distance of our apartment was the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that is now an open-air art gallery.


Probably the most recognized piece of the East Side Gallery.

I used to be super into Pink Floyd, so naturally this one was my favorite piece.

I used to be super into Pink Floyd, so naturally this one was my favorite piece.

Stopping to rest along the River Spree.

Stopping to rest along the Spree River.


The really neat Oberbaum Bridge is behind me in the distance.

More art from the East Side Gallery.

More art from the East Side Gallery.


Another highlight from our week was renting a rowboat in Treptower Park, which was really close to our apartment. It was only 8 euro, and we don’t usually spend money on things like that, but it sounded so fun, and it was. We brought some German beer and mini bottles of prosecco, and leisurely rowed around the Spree River.

Europe has such good mini bottles of prosecco.

Europe has such good mini bottles of prosecco.


Kind of blurry, but I loved these teepees you could rent, floating on the water.

Kind of blurry, but I loved these teepees you could rent, floating on the water.

You could also take rides in this little plane.

You could also take rides in this little plane.

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We found an awesome market in Kreuzberg the Sunday after we arrived. All the stands had artisans selling their homemade jewelry or art or anything else, and Jeremy got me a new necklace since the only other one I packed broke.



A few more random pictures:

Memorial of the Murdered Jews

Memorial of the Murdered Jews, in central Berlin

Golden hour with the Molecule Man statue behind me.

Golden hour with the Molecule Man statue behind me.

More street art.

More street art.

A pretty river crossing in Kreuzberg.

A pretty river crossing in Kreuzberg.

Doing laundry in our neighborhood (and using free Wifi).

The bar at the laundromat in our neighborhood (and using free Wifi while we waited).

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie, the most notable crossing path between East and West Berlin divided by the Berlin Wall (the McDonald’s looks a little out of place).

Soviet War Memorial in the park near our apartment.

Soviet War Memorial in the park near our apartment.

Northern Germany is so different than Bavaria, it feels like a different country altogether. Berlin is such a great city, and I could see us spending a lot more time there sometime in the future.

Next up: running in Berlin!

Day Tripping: Venice, Italy




During our week in Bologna, Jeremy and I wanted to take a day trip. Bologna is super central, and pretty much all trains going through the region stop there. Florence is only about an hour away, the coast is a couple hours, Venice is two hours, Parma is only thirty minutes (if I recall correctly), and more. I was hoping we’d make it to Florence and Parma, but we were having such a good time in Bologna, we only made it to Venice. We took a train around 10am and arrived around noon.


We were starving, so the first thing we did was look for a place to have lunch. We wanted something with a nice view, but away from the tourist areas (which are known to be more expensive). We walked a bit but got to a point where we needed to eat immediately, and stopped at a place right on a canal. The view was exactly what I was hoping, the Aperol Spritzes were refreshing, and the food was just okay. But it was a quiet area and it suited us just fine.


After lunch, we started walking. We didn’t have a map, as per usual, so we just wandered around, sometimes hitting the huge tourists spots, sometimes walking down tiny alleyways with no one else in sight. Man, those tourist areas were packed. Venice in the summer is obviously going to be very crowded, but we didn’t really anticipate just how crowded it would be. And it was real hot. But Venice is a beautiful city, and it was fun to get lost. We asked a gondolier how much a ride would be, and it was 80 euro for 45 minutes, so unfortunately it wasn’t in our budget. I took a ride in a gondola the last time I was in Venice as a teenager with my grandma, and I remember it was really enjoyable.













After we had our fill for the afternoon, we hopped back on the train and arrived back in Bologna in the evening. A successful day trip, indeed!

Running in Bologna

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Running in Bologna was pretty fun. I had one of those “runventure”-type runs where I got kind of lost but just kept going to see where I’d end up. I ran up into the hills of Bologna, looking for a park I had read about that had a nice view of the city below. I think I successfully found it, but not before getting a bit turned around in a different park nearby, as you can see here:Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 10.01.40 AM

It ended up being about five and a half miles, half of which was spent climbing hills. But at least I found those nice views!


Villa Spada, the first park I found.

I think this was Parco S. Pellegrino, it wasn't so much a park as just a big expanse of green. There was no one else around though, and it was very peaceful.

I think this was Parco S. Pellegrino, it wasn’t so much a park as just a big expanse of green. There was no one else around though, and it was very peaceful.

With a great view.

With a great view.

BIG NEWS: I found a hat that fits my head! It's been a looong search, but I finally found one at the North Face store in Bologna, and it was on sale. It doesn't have velcro in the back, which is important since that got caught in my hair every time I tried one on.

BIG NEWS: I found a hat that fits my head! It’s been a looong search, but I finally found one at the North Face store in Bologna, and it was on sale. It doesn’t have velcro in the back, which is important since my hair would get caught in it every time I tried one on. It has been a game changer so far. 


Oops, didn’t mean to run out of Bologna.

My other runs were spent closer to our apartment in the historical center, mostly in Giardini Margherita. The first time it was so, so hot and it was hard to repeat the loop around the park too many times, which was almost exactly one mile. Another time it started raining as soon as I left the apartment, but I kept going, hoping it wouldn’t be too bad. Well, it started POURING and continued pretty much the entire time I ran (and of course stopped right after I finished). It was really fun, actually, even though people waiting at bus stops underneath a covering looked at me like I was crazy. Once I was actually in the park, I took cover under some trees because the rain was so strong, but I saw a couple other people running through it, so I started up again. I hadn’t run in the rain in probably 8 years and it was when I lived in Georgia. Living in Santa Barbara, I never had to deal with any type of weather, really, but it turned out to be a really fun change, and I kind of felt like a little kid. It would have been nice to have a hat, since I couldn’t see where I was going half of the time (my North Face hat discovery didn’t happen until a couple days later).

Appropriate street art during a downpour.

Appropriate street art during a downpour.



I’m still running 3-4 miles during the week, but trying to get in some longer runs on the weekend so I can build my endurance back up. I’m still hoping to run a half marathon in early September, and I think I almost have one picked out!


Bologna, the Red City

After leaving Rome, Jeremy and I took a train ride to Bologna. We picked Bologna because of its central location, and from everything we read online, the food was supposed to be incredible. It did not disappoint. It’s not a huge tourist destination, which we enjoyed, especially after coming from super-crowded Rome. We have been staying a week in most destinations, because many apartments on Airbnb have weekly prices that are much better than the nightly rates. It also gives us enough time to really explore a city, and have some downtime if needed.


Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, which is home to some pretty delicious foodstuffs (Parma Ham, aka prosciutto, and Parmesan cheese from Parma, Bolognese sauce from Bologna, etc.) and great wine. Bologna is also known for its porticos which line the streets, so you’ll always be shaded from sun or rain wandering around.


One of Bologna’s nicknames is the “Red City,” and you can immediately tell why when entering the town center.


All the buildings are a shade of red.



The internet wasn’t lying about the abundance of delicious food in Bologna. I was beside myself as we were walking down the small streets of the historic center. There were meat, cheese, produce and seafood markets on every corner or more, and we bought some Parmesan cheese from a store and devoured it when we got back to our apartment.




We wanted to get some authentic Bolognese sauce (it’s called ragu there), and didn’t want to spend a bunch on it. We found a place called Osteria dell’Orsa, which had daily pasta specials for 6 euros, and we ended up eating there twice. The first was for lunch, and I got the most delicious pasta I’ve ever eaten.


I love pesto SO MUCH and this was the best I’ve ever had.

The second time was for dinner, and Jeremy got the Bolognese sauce, and I had to get a pesto pasta again.


We also got a drink at this really cool bar.

We also got a drink at this really cool bar.

...and drank pistachio cappuccinos. Good lord they were tasty.

…and drank pistachio cappuccinos at a coffee shop. Good lord they were tasty.

Speaking of food, the first night we arrived in Bologna was July 4, and we celebrated by making a meat and cheese platter while watching House of Cards… in bed (no dining table in this apartment).


Outdoor Movies in Piazza Maggiore 

There was a huge movie screen set up in the main piazza in town, and the city would show a different movie every night for two months. The second night we were there, they played the Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night, and Richard Lester, the director, was there to introduce it. We didn’t even know he was going to be there, and it was really cool. There were thousands of people there to watch, with people dancing along to the music.


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Earlier in the day, before the crowds came.


They were playing Annie Hall a few nights later, and we were determined to go (it’s one of our favorite movies). It started pouring about ten minutes before the movie was supposed to start, so it was moved to a movie house across town. We ran across the piazza and jumped in a cab, and luckily made it to the theater before it began. The movie was actually cut in really weird places, sometimes cutting out whole conversations, but I guess it still made sense in the Italian subtitles.


Climbing the Asinelli Tower

There are two towers in Bologna, both leaning slightly (the Asinelli Tower is actually taller than the tower in Pisa, and is the tallest in Italy). The towers were built in the 12th century, and it’s about 500 steps to get to the top of Asinelli. Once again, my fear of heights reared its head and I was convinced the tower would fall over while we were at the top (because that makes a lot of sense), but we still managed to admire the view for a bit.

The leaning towers of Bologna.

The leaning towers of Bologna – we climbed the one on the right.

The very narrow entrance to the tower.

The very narrow entrance to the tower.


Starting the climb – you buy your tickets from the man down there.


View from the top.






We really liked Bologna, and it was a great place to spend a week. It was also pretty close to Venice, which we visited one day. I am still dreaming about all the food in Italy in general, it was all such a treat.

Snapshots from Rome

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In addition to seeking out the best aperitivo in our neighborhood, our week in Rome included a couple days of walking… a lot. We trekked to the Colosseum from our Airbnb in the Pigneto neighborhood, which only took 45 minutes to an hour (when we are in cities and things are less than an hour away, we usually opt to walk there), and we figured we’d explore the center on foot the rest of the day. A friend from Athens (Georgia) recommended a pizza place in the Trastevere neighborhood, so we headed for that. Sometimes when I look at a map and I think something is fairly close… it’s not. It ended up taking us about an hour more than we thought to get to Dar Poeta for lunch, but it was worth it.



IMG_7201Trastevere was really charming and had some narrow alleyways with brightly colored buildings, which I love.



While heading in the direction of our apartment, I accidentally took us on a really long way back, and it took hours and hours to return. I have been wearing my Vans when we go on these 7-hour walking days, and they offer no support. I worry that it’s going to start affecting my feet (or knees), and am considering getting some Nikes or something to walk in, if I can fit them in my suitcase (unlikely). Or I could just wear the Mizunos I run in, but I feel like I should save those just for running. Is that dumb?


St. Peter’s Basilica… where is everybody?


Anyway, on another day, I stuffed my running gear in my tote bag and Jeremy and I took a tram to get to a park I read about, Villa Borghese. I wanted to run on the paths there since there were no cars allowed, and I hadn’t run in Pigneto yet. We tried to find a good area for me to run in Pigneto, but surrounding the neighborhood were lots of small streets with tons of speeding drivers, and no sidewalks. One day we walked for almost a mile in one direction (me with my running gear on), and felt so uncomfortable and unsafe that we turned around and went home. I thought I would have better luck at Villa Borghese, so we tried it, figuring I could run after we’d walked around to see some of the stuff we hadn’t seen yet. We decided to see that stuff first, then return to the park, I would run, then we would take the tram home. It was all very involved. Well, the walked ended up taking us 4-5 hours, and I was beat by the time we returned to the park. I didn’t run, and we headed back on the tram. So, I didn’t run at all during my week in Rome, but I got miles and miles of walking in. Oh well. Here are some more pictures from our walking expeditions.


Piazza Navona.



Piazza Navona.

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I was really excited to see the Trevi Fountain, but alas, it was being worked on. Jeremy and I still tossed coins over our shoulders and into the work site, narrowly missing a construction worker. But it means we will return one day! And hopefully the fountain will be completed by then.


Capitoline Hill.



A park filled with feral cats and ruins.

A park filled with feral cats and ruins.


National Modern Art Gallery.

Our Romans workspace.

Our Roman workspace.


The zoo in Villa Borghese.


Piazza del Popolo.


I was really blown away with the size of the Pantheon.


Spanish Steps.


More ruins.

Overall, I don’t feel like Jeremy and I got the most out of our week in Rome (I didn’t even take any pictures with my real camera!). Honestly, it was a little overwhelming. I like to think of myself as pretty public-transportation-savvy, but Rome’s system baffled me. The bus numbers don’t line up with the ones listed online, it’s not clear where buses stop, the trams and buses don’t have any information inside of them and nowhere does it alert you to which stop they are at, etc. One afternoon, we planned on going back to the Colosseum so I could get some pictures with my real camera, and didn’t feel like walking. It took us 45 minutes to find a tobacco shop to buy the tram tickets and figure out where the tram stopped, we finally got on one and after 20 minutes, all the Italians in the tram started crowding next to the driver and yelling at him. We didn’t know what was going on, and suddenly everyone jumped off the tram and it continued on, with us still on it. It turned around and went right back the way it came, back to Pigneto. We were hot and flustered, so we decided to just get off and go back to our neighborhood (and get some aperitivo). This actually happened again on our way to the train station to catch our train to Bologna, but we were a little more prepared for it. We had all our luggage with us, and when everyone jumped off the tram, so did we. We piled into a bus that was replacing the tram service, then everyone got off that one too. We jumped off also, then crammed into a different bus, then sat there while the bus waited in traffic for a long time, just hoping it was going to the train station. Thankfully it did, but it was stressful.

I don’t mean to sound like I didn’t like Rome; I definitely did. I just think next time we should stay closer to the center and try to see the things we didn’t get to this time around. It’s a huge city, after all!

One more picture: everywhere in Italy you have to use a plastic glove if you want to get produce. I really loved this actually. So hygienic!

One more picture: everywhere in Italy you have to use a plastic glove if you want to get produce. I really loved this actually. So hygienic!

Rome, we will meet again one day!

Aperitivo Crawling in Rome

At the end of our week in Sarzana, it was time for Jeremy and I to continue our travels, while my parents headed back to Paris and London and eventually back home. Jeremy and I decided to visit Rome, since neither of us had ever been. We chose to spend the night in Pisa, to break up the train journey. For some reason we were exhausted by the time we got to Pisa, so we just walked around town and to the tower, then made it an early night to get some rest.


Sandwiches from a place called L’Ostellino in Pisa.


It's really leaning! I also tried to get some pictures of people "holding" it up. It was pretty funny to watch.

It’s really leaning! I tried to get some good pictures of people “holding” it up. It was pretty funny to watch.


This lady really got into it.

This lady really got into it.


Pigneto Neighborhood in Rome

One of my favorite things about staying in Airbnbs is that you get to temporarily live in a neighborhood you may not have even visited otherwise. A lot of the places that we stay don’t even have hotels nearby, and we get to feel what it would be like to live in that city, away from the main tourist attractions. In big cities, staying in the center is also just too expensive, for the most part. This was especially true in Rome; the affordable options were pretty limited, and since neither of us had ever been, it was hard to know what the best  location would be. We also only rent places with wifi so we can work remotely, and I wanted an apartment with an air conditioner… I have enough sleeping problems as it is, and being hot at night pretty much guarantees very little sleep for me. I saw the Airbnb Neighborhood Guide for Pigneto, and found a reasonably priced apartment with A/C in walking distance of the pedestrian strip that looked interesting. It turned out to be a great decision, and we spent most of our time in Pigneto, trying different restaurants and bars and visiting the farmers market that happens every day. It reminded us of the Alberta Arts District in Portland, if anyone’s ever been. All of the bars on the main street would show the World Cup matches also, and people would crowd in the street to watch.


It looks like I’m doing a weird sorority-girl-arm thing, but I swear I’m not.

As travelers that try not to spend too much money on going out to eat and instead cook at our accommodations (which we failed at in Italy), we had done our research on good aperitivo places since it was supposed to be pretty cheap. Aperitivo is similar to happy hour, although it happens later than in America (around 7pm), since people in Italy eat dinner at like 10pm. Some bars/restaurants will offer a buffet that you can visit with the price of a drink, or you can order off an aperitivo menu, which is always priced really well. Some just bring food to your table after you order a drink. This was basically a dream come true for us. It was a light dinner that we could eat early, and not drain our wallets. And all the food was crazy delicious. It’s actually hard for me to post these pictures because it makes me want them again so badly. Here are some of our favorites:

Our first aperitivo experience. Welcome to Rome, indeed.

Our first aperitivo experience. Welcome to Rome, indeed.


Bar Necci, a popular place in Pigneto.


This is from a place called Cargo, which we went to three times, I think.


Cargo on a different night.


A little bit of everything.

The only aperitivo we went to that had a buffet.

The only aperitivo we went to that had a buffet. We were the first to arrive, and it was past 7pm. 


I hope everyone is sufficiently hungry now!

Touring the Marble Quarries of Carrara, Italy


Driving on the interstate toward La Spezia in Italy, the mountains look like they are covered in snow. But it’s actually marble.


Mountains made of marble in Carrara.

While doing research on Italy before our trip, I kept seeing things about the marble quarries in Carrara, but didn’t know if we’d be in the area. After deciding to stay a week in Sarzana, Carrara was only about a 20-minute drive, so the person that helped us book our accommodations set us up with a tour of the quarries in a 4×4. Our guide was an extremely knowledgeable German lady named Heiki.

Our tour guide, Heiki.

Our tour guide, Heiki.

There are marble quarries all around the world (the biggest is in Vermont, apparently), but the white marble found in Carrara has been used since Ancient Roman times (Michelangelo got his marble for David here!). All around Carrara, the buildings are made of white marble and there are sculptures everywhere you turn. If you’ve seen the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, the beginning car chase sequence was shot here as well (Heiki actually drove some of the crew up the mountain for filming).

The dirt roads up the mountains are narrow, winding and bumpy, and looking out the window from the Jeep, the drop off into the ravines below was insane (I’m still dealing with my fear of heights). Holding on to the bars inside the 4×4, we all felt a little like Indiana Jones. It was pretty fun and terrifying at the same time. I was scared at some points, but I kept telling myself that huge trucks take these roads every day and have been for hundreds of years, and Heiki is a professional. It was her fourth time up the mountain that day! At some points the huge trucks had to go backwards down the mountain because they couldn’t turn around. It was crazy.

We were really high up.

We were really high up. You can see all the roads the trucks take that wind around the mountain.

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Kind of looks like Machu Picchu, doesn’t it?

A replica of how the marble quarrying works.

A replica of how the marble quarrying works. It’s clear now, yes?

Our group admiring the view.

Our group admiring the view.


The trucks in action.

The tractors in action.




Our trusty 4×4.

The quarry where Michelangelo got his marble for David.

The quarry where Michelangelo got his marble for David. He came and picked it out himself.


We drove through tunnels to get to the caves inside the mountain. Another Indiana Jones moment.

We drove through tunnels to get to the caves inside the mountain. Another Indiana Jones moment.


The caves were massive.

It was a really neat experience, and unlike anything I’ve ever done. If you are in the vicinity of a marble quarry, I highly recommend taking a tour!