Italy was the first country in Europe I traveled to 11 years ago as a single adult. Not surprising, I immediately fell in love with the landscape and culture. Two years later I went back, hoping to capture the same good vibes, and it didn’t happen. Disappointed, I took Italy off my list and only traveled to new places that I had yet to experience.
Until this summer.
Husband had never been to Italy, so we agreed to spend half of the trip in cities that I had visited and half of the trip in uncharted territory. The landscape and the culture were back, sucking me into lingering dinners in quiet piazzas and drinks anywhere there were stairs to sit on.
My paramount discovery was Rome. I’ve heard you either love Rome or you can’t wait to leave. But I was smitten. Romans live among the art and history that surrounds them. Statues constructed during the time of Julius Caesar are still standing in the elements, not covered in glass or roped off to the public. There is a sense that if a Colosseum built in 80 AD can survive earthquakes and war, you don’t have too much to worry about. Life is good.
One of my quirks is that I dream in the language I’m surrounded by. Within a day of arriving in Italy, my dreams were in Italian. And even though I’ve been home for several days, the Italian in my head still continues. This trait is typically annoying, but right now I hope the dreams stay in Italian for a bit longer so I can image I’m still in Rome.
The sunset in Iowa was quite lovely on Christmas Day as we drove on I-35.
In our digital age, I still have an odd love for good penmanship. It’s probably because I’ve been typing for so much of my life I can barely write a short note without getting a hand cramp.
When husband and I visited the Salvador Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain, I was taken by how much Salvadore Dali’s autograph on his paintings evolved over the years, from 1920 to the modern era (check out the Dali signatures). I especially liked his 1973 version on yellow, which is artistic in itself. It would seem Dali was always creating, even down to the simple task of autographing his masterpieces.
In Barcelona, most tourists pass through Plaza George Orwell on their way to Las Ramblas or to see the historic Barrio Gotic. Husband and I where doing the same when we stumbled into this tiny plaza – and stopped in our tracks. When your band consists of one vegan and one vegetarian traveling in a meat eating nation, you are quick to hone in on a vegetarian restaurant immediately, let alone an entire community. In Plaza Orwell we saw multiple vegetarian restaurants nearly side-by-side with “Vegan!” advertisements hanging from colorful doors. We had found culinary home in Spain.
Many salad and hummus plates into our visit, we decided to dive in feet first, and hit the vegan joint, Gopal, at one corner of the plaza. This is considered “fast” food in Spain with lots of burger options, fake bacon and sandwiches. If you are living on tomato pan and olives, Gopal is a nice break from veggie tapas that you can sink your teeth into.
A few doors down is Vegetalia, which became my favorite Plaza Orwell vegetarian restaurant. A believer in sustainable, organic food, Vegetalia offers saffron rice, Thai tofu, quinoa, tempeh, lentils, brown rice, millet and seitan. You can choose the tapas route or settle in with a well-proportioned entree. Vegetalia doesn’t care how much you order as long as you are satisfied.
There are other great bars in the square serving veggie friendly tapas, with square-seating so you can watch families play in this bohemian atmosphere, which is part of the experience. Instead of passing through – linger. Have food that fills you, heart and soul.
The Florence Cathedral, also known as Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and “the Duomo,” towers over the city streets. On this Throwback Thursday I was in Florence, Italy in 2007, and this was the sunset view from the rooftop of my B&B. Not bad, eh?
It’s another Throwback Thursday, and today we are in Piazza San Marco, Venice 2005.
Pop-up markets, especially around the holidays, are one of the unique and wonderful things that help make New York, New York. Union Square Holiday Market is big and bright and smells like pine cones and peanut brittle. Artisans sell their jewelry and handmade products, and vendors offers spices, herbs, oils and sweets. On the weekends the park is packed with locals and tourists alike.
I prefer a quieter pop-up market, and I was reminded of this on my recent trip to NYC. Bryant Park Winter Village isn’t as large as its competition, but there are still 125 booths with high class finery. Better yet, if you are looking to avoid the crush at Rockefeller Center, there is a skating rink, warming house and restaurant, all with a spectacular view of a huge, decked out Christmas tree.
Bryant Park Winter Village is located behind the New York Public Library, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018. Want to read more about New York? Visit a summary of all Travel Snapshot New York posts.