In the 15 years that my husband and I have been traveling together, since our month-long European backpacking adventure after our college graduation, Spain had always remained the elusive destination that we both kept high on our wish lists. I don’t know why it took us so long to get there. I suppose it’s because, like many travelers do, we try to keep an element of practicality to our travel choices: The flights to this place are cheap! The dollar is strong in that place! We can stay with friends here! I guess Spain was just never that easy for us to get to. Until we moved to London. Suddenly, Spain was only a couple hours away by plane and flights could be had for real cheap on small, budget airlines. So, this year, we both chose to celebrate our birthdays in Spain. My husband had always dreamed of visiting the Basque country, an autonomous community that comprises several major cities and which, with its own culture and language, truly feels like a country separate from the rest of Spain. For me, Barcelona was the dream; specifically, anything and everything Gaudí-related. I’ll cover the former in this blog post (part 1) and the latter in the next (part 2).
The Istrian peninsula is an ideal region for a road trip. Here, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy come together to share a small piece of land in the Adriatic Sea and Gulf of Trieste. A road trip was our plan, until colds kept us in our Airbnb bed and an asthma attack landed us in an Italian hospital. That said, we still managed to get out a bit and explore. Here are a few highlights from our recent weekend in Istria.
Back in August, we took a very short weekend break to Dublin with my husband’s mother, who was visiting us in London. Among the highlights of our trip were a cozy neighbourhood restaurant with a hipster vibe; a second charming local restaurant, where everything was homemade and I wanted to sample every menu item; and tour guides that seemed to have a genuine passion for the sights they were showing and an unquenchable desire to share that appreciation and knowledge.
Antibes is located on the French Riviera between Cannes and Nice and is the perfect chill getaway when you’re ready for a break from the glitz, glam, crowds and tourists of those other two beach towns. We had the super lucky once-in-a-lifetime experience of flying to Cannes in a tiny private plane, with a pilot we actually knew personally! We were visiting the town during the Cannes Lions 2016 media awards and I was instantly overwhelmed by the scene: huge crowds, loud parties, VIP lounges, dressing to impress, etc. Given I’m not at all a party girl, I wasn’t exactly feeling the vibe. So, I was relieved when, a couple days later, we moved on to Antibes, where we were able to just relax and enjoy the warm beaches, beautiful views and excellent meals.
I was hesitant about traveling to Israel. The security situation there is, at best, complex. But my husband had an invitation to a work event in Tel Aviv and our current policy is to go with the flow, travel-wise. So, we scrapped whatever trip idea we’d originally had for May and set off for a weekend in Jerusalem, followed by a few days in Tel Aviv. It turned out to be one of my favorite travels ever.
Standing in the religious sites of Jerusalem is immensely humbling. Though you generally have to walk through the sometimes chaotic labyrinthine alleyways of the Old City to get to them, a visit to the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or al-Ḥaram al-Šarīf (Temple Mount), takes you to another place and time and begs an extended moment of quiet contemplation. In Tel Aviv, everywhere I went I was greeted by a chill vibe, which, as a local taught me, can be summed up in one word: sababa. Sababa can be used in place of OK, great, alright, cool, but also captures a laid-back feeling. In Israel, I also enjoyed the food more than I have probably anywhere else. I mean, look, while it’s one of my favorite things in the world to discover cuisines that are completely unlike anything I normally eat (I’m looking at you, Prague and the West Fjords of Iceland), I like what I like and Israel had everything I like. Fresh food, ALL THE VEGETABLES, and chickpeas and falafel out the wazoo.
One of the many pros of travel is getting to escape the routine of daily life. For a limited time, we get to put aside the calendar and anything goes. But when you get back home reality sets in—and that may mean coming face to face with the repercussions of all the fun you had while away (unless, I guess, you went to Vegas?). If you’re like me, half the fun of travel is all the great things you get to eat and drink, and learning about a new town or culture while doing so.
There is no way I’m going to visit a place I’ve never been before, and maybe will never go again, and not take full advantage of all it has to offer. Of course I’m tucking into tiny open-faced sandwiches in Copenhagen and diving into baskets of torta fritta in Parma. Absolutely, I’m saying ‘yes’ to cream in Vienna and sampling whiskey in Edinburgh. And where there is a celebrity chef or award-winning restaurant, I will find a way to get in on that. I seriously cannot wait to get on line at 7am to finally, one day, experience Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas and I’m not going to skip out on that chance whenever I do get to that city. That said, it’s just as important to me to come home feeling as healthy and energetic as when I left. It sucks a bit of the fun out of travel when you return home feeling sluggish and out of shape. Even before I moved to London, I had always done a great deal of travel. Over the years, I’ve worked out how to have my cake and eat it too without regretting it and throwing my health off-course in the process.
What if I told you there is a place where, from the moment you arrive, everyone welcomes you with a warm smile and open arms? Where the air is filled with the perfume of bougainvillea, charming countryside farmhouses hide around every bend and long dirt roads lead to phenomenal restaurants in which, when you walk through the doors, you are greeted like family.
Parma is not a big city filled with iconic tourist attractions drawing visitors from all over the world. It is a small town. The streets are filled with the real people who live there, just going about their days. But for a dietitian and foodie like me, what Parma does offer might be even more exciting than world renowned churches, museums and works of art. Parma is the home of such wonders of the culinary world as Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma and, the stuff of dreams, torta fritta (we’ll get there).
Many of our travels in the past year, since moving to London, have sprung up organically. We just go with the flow and take whatever trips present themselves, like adding a long weekend to one of my husband’s business trips (Budapest, Munich) or taking advantage of a major Ryanair sale (Parma). It’s an easy way to save a ton of cash while seeing as much of the world as possible. Last month, as Easter was approaching, we found ourselves with no holiday plans and no good trip ideas, and facing some hefty airfare hikes.
In the week before Easter, my husband had to be in Chamonix, a ski resort in the French Alps, for work. (No, it is not lost on me how ridiculous that sounds. We have been very blessed.) He was flying through Geneva, a city neither of us had ever visited, in a country neither of us had ever traveled. Decision made. Several people had warned us that Geneva was expensive and boring, with “not much to do there,” but we found Geneva to be a great base for touring nearby towns, especially the beautiful villages surrounding Lac Léman (Lake Geneva). We visited Chamonix, with glorious views that make the trip worthwhile even for non-skiers, and Gruyères, the home of one of my favorite cheeses. From Geneva you could also get to the Cailler chocolate factory in Broc, Switzerland but we didn’t make it there.
You can spend an entire week in Paris and still not have seen it all.
So, what happens if you have only 8 hours?
When my sister and niece came to visit us in London, we got to find out!
One of the things that makes travel truly great is having someone to share it with. Even a solo trip is enriched by the cool people you meet along the way, especially when strangers become new friends. 99% of the time I travel with my husband, my partner in everything. Our first trip together came right after our graduation from college. We spent a month traveling around Europe, with hiking packs, hostels, the whole bit. We visited 7 cities in total, beginning in London and ending in Rome, with Paris, Bordeaux, Nice, Cinque Terre and Venice sandwiched in between. It was a dream and it created in us a constant need for travel that can never be satisfied. We have so many memories from that time that we recount often. Recently, we got to share some of that magic with someone very close to us.
This year my eldest niece turned 13 and as her birthday present, my sister brought her to visit us in London; the first European trip for both of them! At home, each time a niece or nephew celebrated a birthday, we’d take them on a “birthday date” as their present. A birthday date is a whole day of adventures around the city catered to the birthday kid’s interests, like when we took our history-obsessed (then) 12-year old niece to check out the Merchant’s House Museum in the East Village (home of a “wealthy merchant-class family” from 1835 to 1933). In keeping with this tradition, we decided to give our niece a European birthday date to remember. We wanted to share with her a hint of the experiences we’ve been having here and give her a taste of the travel bug. What 13-year old girl wouldn’t love to celebrate her birthday in Paris?!
In January, I hopped a short flight to meet up with my guy in Munich, where he had been working. Unfortunately, a fun weekend in Germany turned into a mostly working weekend for us both but…you gotta eat! We enjoyed some great food and drink in München and I have some favorites I want to share with you all.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve always got the basics covered: No matter where I travel or how brief the trip, I’m always on the hunt for a delicious latte, a great glass of wine and a taste of local cuisine. So, here are my tips for all that, and a little bit more, in Munich.
Foodie Dietitian from NYC living in London, eating her way around the world & writing about it. Come with me as I explore traditional & modern cuisines and global food cultures, search for the best latte, and all the while try to make sensible meal choices! Recommendations are all unsolicited and unpaid. 100% my favorites!
PLUS: Avoid Travel Wt Gain!
NEXT: Barcelona,ES Nov '16
Istria, HR, SI, IT Oct '16
Dublin, IE Aug '16
Basque Country, ES Jul '16
Antibes, FR Jun '16
Tel Aviv, IL May '16
Parma, IT Apr '16
Geneva, CH Mar '16
Paris, FR Feb '16
Munich, DE Jan '16
Vienna, AT Dec '15
Marrakech, MA Nov '15
Edinburgh, SCT Oct '15
NYC + Nashville, US Sep '15
Copenhagen, DK Aug '15
Prague, CZ Jul '15
Budapest, HU Jun '15
The information offered in this blog does not replace the advice you may receive from your physician. Please consult with your doctor if you have any questions about your specific medical condition, or if you need medical assistance. Product and brand promotions are unsolicited and unpaid.