Happy Holidays to All!

We will be back after the New Year. We wish Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all our readers. We will be back with more Italy and Europe soon. If you are headed to Italy or Europe for the holidays, let us know and HAVE FUN.

George & Jo Anne

 

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Green Ireland

The green isle is beautiful even in the rain. We went and had rain many days but the sun would always pop out for a while. We had to carry sweaters because at times it was cool and at other times of the day it was warm. We decided to stay in Dublin and use it as our base of operations. From Dublin you can get fast efficient trains anywhere on the Island. The island is divided into two countries: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of the UK).

Dublin is more than just pubs. Don’t get me wrong the pubs are great. The music in the pubs are great and you can almost see Keats writing in a corner with a glass of Guinness. You can eat in the pubs as well. Dublin has good public transportation consisting of buses and trams. They are easy to ride and efficient. Dublin also has a local railroad (DART) that goes from Dublin to many outlining cities around Dublin.

We stayed at a real castle, Clontarf Castle, that had a modern hotel attached to it. It was outside of Dublin but a nearby bus took us into Dublin and ran often. We took trains to Cliffs of Moore to see the mighty Atlantic. This is an unforgettable spot. Don’t use an umbrella or you might become a real Mary Poppins. The winds here are very strong.

Cliffs of Mohr

We also took a train to Cork where the Titanic made its last stop before its faithful journey over the Atlantic. It is also where the Lusitania was sunk. There is a square with a black angel (the angel of death) where all the dead bodies were stacked up. Not far from Cork is the Blarney Stone. This is very touristy but a most for all to see. The castle is old and the stairs are steep.

Ireland is green, friendly and a fun place to visit. Don’t forget to visit the Guinness factory in Dublin even if you don’t like beer.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Europe, Bars, Rain, Beer, inness, and, Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

White Truffles

Italy produces all the world’s white truffles and consumes most of them. Black truffles also grow in Italy and in France. People all over the world have tried to get the prized white truffle to grow without much success. It grows as a fungus (mushroom family) on the roots of certain Oak Trees. Know one knows why the Oak Trees in Alba area of the Piedmont region of Italy can grow such delicious truffles. They are not pretty to look at and their smell will turn off those that have never had them. The taste is divine. Italians shave them very thin over veal or grated on pasta and risotto. They can also be grated over eggs.

They are harvested in the fall and there are festivals in the north of Italy to celebrate. We have seen in our news the record-breaking white truffle that was just auctioned off. These little gems are like gold. They grow underground and are very hard to find. Humans can not smell them underground. In days of old, Italians would use pigs to find them. The one BIG problem was the pig! It seems pigs like truffles even more than we do. Can you picture a small Italian farmer fighting a ton sized pig for a truffle? Today they use trained dogs. They can find them just as well as pigs do but won’t eat them.

If you are so lucky to be in northern Italy in the fall, get some dish with truffles on it. Make sure they are white truffles and not black ones. We recently bought a truffle in Philadelphia that was overnighted from Italy. It cost $5,280 per pound. No we didn’t spend that much. They are so light that a medium size truffle cost us about $100. They last about a week. We had great food for one week. You can also buy white truffle oil and use it in cooking your dishes or sprinkle it over risotto or pasta dishes.

Enjoy!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Alba, Cooking, Eating Italian, Europe, Festivals, Italy, Risotto, Truffles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paris – The City of Lights

Why is Paris called the City of lights? There are actually two reasons:

  1. It was the hub of education and the “lights” refers to enlightenment. Paris is certainly a cultural and artistic hub of enlightenment.
  2. It is a city which is literally “lit-up” with lights everywhere. Paris is aglow!

Paris is Paris a must see on anyones bucket list. It is a romantic town that is home to so many proposals of marriage from people who live all over the globe. Why are we attracted to this city? Are we like moths attracted to the flame? I think Paris represents what all of us want in life. We want romance, good food, good wine, interesting sites, a city afire with lights and quaint small streets and shops to keep us busy a lifetime. Then there are the  museums. They are so plentiful, you can not hope to visit them all.

For those of you that have been there for more than a stop over, you know its magical draw. For those that have never been there … GO GO!! It is a must. Many large American cities have direct flights to Paris. There are two airports Orly and Charles de Gaulle. Flights from America usually land at Charles de Gaulle. From the airport you can take a bus or taxi or the train (subway in Paris). The taxi and bus options can get stuck in rush hour traffic taking time. The train starts at the airport and stops at many Metro stops in Paris including at Notre Dame.

Enjoy your stay in Paris!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Europe, Flights, France, French Foods, General Travel, Paris, Romance, Trains, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinque Terre Italy

OK you want a glamorous fun vacation in Italy. Where do you go? The Italian Riviera of course! Cingue Terre or five lands is a remote area of northern Italy that has 5 wonderful towns. It is located in the Italian Riviera. The seaside resorts here are magnificent. There are very few roads into this area. Some lead to a parking lot a half mile from the town. Those that exist are very small and damaged from rains in 2011.

The five towns are:

  1. Monterosso al Mare
  2. Vernazza
  3. Corniglia
  4. Manargola
  5. Riomaggiore

Lonely Planet lists many things to do there. The towns are linked by a foot path and you can walk from one to the other. This is a vacation of activity, getting back to beauty and romance. Stay at a bed and breakfast and move from one town to the next. Pack lightly so you don’t have to carry everything with you. There is a train station in each of the five towns. You can move from town to town by train as well.

The famous Portofino is only an hour away from Cinque Terre. It is a definite visit while you are in this area of Italy. This might just be one of the most romantic spots in Italy. Book early as in the summer it is impossible to find a bed anywhere in Cinque Terre.

George & Jo Anne

 

 

Categories: Beaches, Cinque Terre, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Mountain Towns, Romance, Small Towns, Trains | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Go to Italy?

We were pondering this question and determining if we might go for Christmas (this year or next). There are many reasons we go to Italy and they are all positive. in fact we have no negative reasons for not going.

Reasons to go to Italy:

  1. The country is beautiful. The beaches are among the best in the world and the mountains are spectacular.
  2. The food is fantastic. Italian food in Italy is nothing like Italian food here in the US. It is so much better. Fresh ingredients cooked to perfection. Forget Fettuccine Alfredo and chicken or shrimp parmesan. They don’t exist in Italy except in tourist places (and you don’t want to eat there). The bread is to die for! Don’t forget gelato, chocolate or the famous Italian white truffles.
  3. The wine is top-notch. Italy produces some of the best wines in the world. Everyone in Italy drinks wine and understands it. From the greats like Chianti to Barolo and Brunello. Even the local wines are fantastic. Try them!
  4. The people are friendly. Italians love Americans and are very friendly. You find great people from small cities to the largest cities.
  5. There is little crime in Italy. You do find pick pockets in the larger cities but violent crime is almost nonexistent. We felt safe walking small streets in Rome at midnight.
  6. Tradition exists here. Everyone was brought up on Italian tradition and pass it on to their children.
  7. Art exists everywhere. We describe Italy as an open air museum. The art and architecture are everywhere you look. Yes the museums are still important to see but Italy is a huge museum.
  8. The language is beautiful to hear. It is like hearing a song when they speak.
  9. Italy is about relaxing, family, friends, food and wine. Enjoy it!
  10. Italy is romance. Get reacquainted with the one you love and be romantic.

Take your pen out right now and add Italy to your bucket list. Don’t just add it, VAI (GO)! When you go don’t be an American or think like one. This is not America. Be an Italian and enjoy your vacation like no other you have taken. The long trip home on the airplane will find you with a smile and many good memories.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Beaches, Bread, Europe, Gelato, Italian language, Italy, Museums, Small Towns, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tired of Airfare Scams?

We get really tired of the airfare scams going on in the airfare business today. Basically all the discount sites offer the same airfares as the airlines except at last-minute when seats are unsold. The discount sites offer good deals in packaging hotels in with an airfare. We get emails about airfares from Philadelphia to Rome all the time. The normal fare is between $1200 and $1350 roundtrip per person. The emails state airfares as low as $750. If you click and go to the site there are never any $750 airfares. There may be $950 which is still good, right? Wrong! These airfares have long layover stops in some city. Some layovers are as long as 11 hours. After a 7 to 8 hour trip, do you really want to sit in an airport for 11 hours and then fly another 2 to 3? To us it isn’t worth the savings. We can go non stop to Rome from Philadelphia in 8 to 8.5 hours. Then we are in Italy ready to rent a car or take public transportation.

You don’t want to start a vacation of a lifetime with a horrible travel itinerary. If the savings are important to you, then stay at the city your plane lays over in for a few days. This way you’re not stuck in the airport and you can begin your vacation. Some airlines may up the price if you get off in the layover city. Check first.

European air trips are long for most Americans that have never flown over the pond. There are ways to make the flight go by fast:

  1. Sleep if you can. Even if you can get a few hours it will help.
  2. Watch movies. Most of these planes have monitors in the back of the seat in front of you. You can select movies free from a large list of titles.
  3. Play games. These plane entertainment systems have games as well as movies.
  4. Read a book. This is the perfect time to catch up on your reading.
  5. Write your own book or those letters you have always wanted to write.
  6. You can catch up on email or Facebook time. Most airlines offer internet WiFi on their planes for a small price.

Before you know it breakfast is being served and then you are landing at your destination. Enjoy your travels.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Europe | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Christmas in Italy

Italy has a wonderful celebration for the Christmas season. Many towns light up streets in elaborate lights. There are Christmas markets to buy things and religious ceremonies at local churches. Non are better than midnight mass at the Vatican. If you are going to Italy during Christmas season click here to see a list of towns and what they have to offer. Page 2 of the above site has Christmas markets by city.

In the north of Italy you may get a white Christmas to celebrate. These cities are cold and may have snow on the ground but the stores, bars and restaurants are warm and inviting. Stroll the streets and take in the lights and decorations. Stop in a bar for a hot coffee or chocolate. Warm up and then continue your light tour.

In the south of Italy things are warmer but the Christmas spirit is strong. Naples has wonderful mangers. You may not see snow but it can rain in this season so be prepared. Stopping at a bar for a refreshment is mandatory here. Don’t forget Naples is home of the pizza. Enjoy the thin crust pizza here.

Shopping all over Italy is wonderful. The stores are crowded but it is the season to be in crowded and shop. Enjoy your trip. Buon Natale!

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Christmas, Christmas Lights, Europe, Italy, Naples, The holidays in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Temperatures in Italy

The temperatures in Italy range from north to south drastically. In the north with the alps, you have a snowy cold winter and warm summer. In the south you have a mild Mediterranean winter and warm to hot summer. The rain y season in the south is during the winter.

Temperatures range from mid 40’s to mid 50 in Winter (Milan) but can drop colder. In the summer they range from high 70’s to mid 80’s. While in the south (Rome) they are mid 50’s to mid 60’s in the winter to upper 70’s tp mid 80’s in the summer. Rome in August can be much hotter. As you go south of Rome the temperatures are milder in the winter and warmer in the summer. Costal areas never get too hot as they are cooled by sea brezes.

George & Jo Anne

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Euros and Europe

Tis the season to travel to Europe! The dollar is down compared to the Euro which is great for us. Not long ago we were paying $1.40 to buy a Euro. Today it’s $1.24. That is about 13% better! Imagine a 13% discount on your travel expenses. This time of year is crowded with Americans and airfares can be up. You still can find a good fare if you shop. Many Americans like to travel over Thanksgiving week or the week after because they get 2 extra days. If you go Thanksgiving week you only take off 3 days and get 9 days of vacation. If you go the week after you take 5 days of vacation and get 11 days of vacation.

Christmas is also a great time in Europe. You can feel the holiday spirit in the lights and stores around Europe. In northern Europe you have an excellent chance of a white Christmas. Join the Europeans in a bar, pub or restaurant. Warm yourself by the fire and enjoy your food and drink slowly. Look around you and observe the European way of life.

Europe is romantic! Go and rekindle your relationship. Don’t travel to 21 cities in 21 days. Don’t hop country to country. Pick your favorite spot and enjoy a relaxing time with the person you love. Hold hands and stroll the streets slowly. This will make memories you will never forget.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Air Fares, Bars, Euro, Europe, Exchange Rates, Money, Romance, snow, The holidays in Europe | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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