Italy

posted in: Italy, Travel | 1

Realto Bridge

Italy – What a fantastic place.  Every region is unique, no two are the same.  I flew to Venice, took a train to Florence, then another train to Rome.  It was a dream come true vacation.  The food was amazing, the scenery was breathtaking and the people were wonderful.  Before the trip, I did get some ‘Learn to speak Italian’ tapes and I listened and repeated back over and over again, however, I still couldn’t speak or understand Italian when I got there.  To my surprise, that was no concern, almost everyone speaks English, so I was able to communicate without any problem.   There was nothing on the trip that didn’t live up to my expectations.  It was amazing!!!!

Venice

St Mark's

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Venice
The left picture is the Grand Canal.  It is so amazing to watch the city run on boats.  Of course, there are busses (Vaporetto) and taxi’s, but we also saw a ‘moving’ boat loaded with the contents of a home, and we saw supplies being delivered to all the stores.  There is nothing like it anywhere.   We used the Vaporetto to explore the city.   The middle picture is of St. Mark’s Basilica.  This is a beautiful church.  We were lucky enough to attend Sunday Mass here during our trip.  The right picture is of the streets of Venice.  You can wonder around for hours.  There are little shops and restaurants along the way that are quaint and the people are extremely friendly.  Walking through the streets of Venice was one of my favorite things to do.  If you get lost, just ask for help and you will always find someone to get you back to the Grand Canal.   Now, when you come to Venice, you must go to Harry’s Bar and have a Bellini.  It is a tradition to go to Harry’s Bar.  It is a little pricey, but you will enjoy the atmosphere. Here are some more pics of Venice.

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Realto Bridge

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The picture on the left is the Bridge of sighs.  This bridge connects the prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.  The reason it is called the Bridge of Sighs is because prisoners would sigh at their final view of Venice through the window before being taken to their cells.  
The middle picture is the Rialto Bridge.  You can get from one side to the other of the grand canal by walking across this bridge.  Inside, it is filled with small shops that sell jewelry, linens, Murano glass and lots of touristy items.  The picture on the right is a Gondola ride through the streets of Venice. 

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Florence
There is so much to be said about Florence.  It is so diverse, there is the Uffizi Gallery with an unbelievable amount of artwork.  Even if you don’t know anything about art, and I don’t know much, you will appreciate the paintings in this gallery.  The picture on the left, Il Duomo is the largest church in Florence.  You can climb to the top and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city.  The picture on the right is the Ponte Vecchio.  The Arno river runs underneath it.  This is where you would come to buy  gold jewelry.  The middle picture is an outdoor market where you can buy leather goods, silk scarves and wool throws.  I am sure that there were more things there, but that is what I bought.  Gorgeous leather handbags and luggage, it was amazing.  Now, lets talk about the food in Florence.  First of all,  Bistecca alla Florentina.  It is made from the Chianina breed of cattle which are prized for their tenderness and flavor.  We had the Bistecca in a restaurant called Trattoria Sostanza. This is one of the oldest restaurants in Florence, and it is fantastic.  The steak was done to perfection.  I can’t wait to go back there.  

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Both the above pictures are from Tuscany.  The day we went to Tuscany, we hired a driver to take us around to all the sites.  This worked out really well.  The driver was very friendly and nice.  We have recommended him to friends and family who have taken trips to Florence since we came back. He brought us to Chianti where we had a private tasting at Rocca delle Macie winery.  What a great experience. We then went to San Gimignano which is a Provence near Siena.  We bought some hand made ceramics here.  There were small shops with linens, silver and lots of ceramic bowls, dinnerware and anything else you could think of.  

 

Roman Ruins

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Rome is magnificent.  There is so much to see in this city, you must give yourself at least 3 days.  You could probably do it in 2, but you will be going from morning until night.  I was particularly amazed with the ruins in Rome.  Naturally, the Roman Forum is full of them.  You can buy books that show you what Rome looked like when it was all built up.  When you look over the forum now, with the pictures of what used to be there, you can definitely see where the buildings were.  The picture to the left is the Arch of Constantine.  This was build in the year 312 to celebrate Constantine’s victory over Maxentius.  It is still a beautiful sight.  The ruins in the middle picture were ones that we just happen when we were walking around the city.  There was some construction fences around and when we looked inside, it was these beautiful ruins that had been unearthed.  The picture on the right is the Roman Forum.  It is so impressive when you are there to know that there was once a full city there.  Amazing. 

 

Trevi Fountain

Collesium

The Pantheon

The picture to the left is the Fountain of Trevi.  There is a time honored custom to throw coins in the fountain to guarantee return to this city.  In the middle, is the Colosseum.  This is one of the most famous attractions in the world.  I remember learning about this in school, my children learning about it and now my granddaughter wanted to see pictures of it.  It is breathtaking.  The colosseum was completed in year 80. It held 50,000 spectators.  Typically, there were contest between gladiators and animals.  Today, it shows the remains of depreciation, nature and various earthquakes as well as people.  What is so interesting when you are there, is the floor has been removed so you are able to see all the different rooms and tunnels below.  You can picture where the different opponents were kept.  The picture to the right is The Pantheon.  This is the best preserved Roman temple in the city.  It was build in 27 B.C in honor of the gods.  It was destroyed by fire, then rebuilt between 110 and 125 A.D.  The building is circular with niches around the walls for different gods.  The ceiling is built of squares all put together in a dome formation.  In the center, there is an opening where light comes in and moves around the interior.  

St Peters

Roman Guard

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Vatican City is an independent state whose sovereign head is the Pope.  The top left picture is St. Peter’s Basilica.  The second picture is one of the Vatican City guards.  And the third picture is the inside of the Basilica.  From top to bottom, side to side, there is the most impressive artwork and sculptures that I have ever seen.  When you enter the basilica, to the right is the Pieta by Michelangelo.  It is breathtaking.  There are all smaller chapels along both sides, then the main alter in front.  This is the most grandiose building with the marble floors, columns and walls.  Sculptures everywhere and St. Peter’s chair in the front.  You will spend at least an hour in the basilica itself. There is quite a bit more to see here with the Vatican Crypts, Vatican Library, Vatican Museums, an enormous array of artwork by the best artists in the world before getting to The Sistine Chapel.  

As far as the food goes in Rome, they love pasta here.  Pasta with vegetables and cream sauce.  We went to the original Alfredo’s of Rome to have authentic Fettuccine Alfredo.  There are pictures on the walls of actors, politicians and famous athletes that have come there to eat the pasta.  They make it right in front of you and it is delicious. Fettuccine pasta, grated cheese and butter.  That’s it. Other dishes you will find here is Bucatini alla Matriciana which is pasta in a tomato, wild boar an onion sauce.  Spaghetti alla Carbonara and saltimbocca are also popular in Rome. You can also get lots of dishes with artichokes and you will find zucchini flowers on the menu when in season.  There wasn’t one meal that we had that didn’t wow us.   If you are looking to go the Europe, I would definitely recommend Italy.  You won’t be disappointed.  

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Travel

posted in: Travel | 0

Hawaii Sunset

I love to travel.   Week long trips are just as wonderful as the weekend ones.  I’ll take either.  We have been to quite a few states in the US, and we also made it to Europe and to the Caribbean.  

Over the past 5 years or so, many of our getaways have revolved around riding a motorcycle.  My husband has a Harley and we travel with some friends on the bike.  If we are going a long distance, we trailer the motorcycles and ride when we reach our destination.  If we are going relatively close, we just ride the motorcycle the entire way.  It is quite a challenge getting all our belongings in the travel bag on the back of the bike.  I will show you pictures later about that.
Let me just say, that I am not a critic of any kind.  What you see about any of my vacations is purely my opinion.  I am not recommending any of the places that we went to, just telling you what my thoughts are in each journey we took.
I hope you enjoy seeing and hearing our travel experiences.

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Upstate New York and Canada

posted in: New York and Canada - 2015 | 0
Motorcycle Trip to Upstate New York and Canada
August 22
Tomorrow we set off for our annual motorcycle trip.  We live in Long Island, NY and we are setting course for upstate NY and Canada.  We will start off on Sunday morning (early 6 am) for Lake George.  We plan to stay there Sunday night, then continue on for the Thousand Islands on Monday.  We will probably stay ther Monday and Tuesday, then heat to Ottawa, Canada on Wednesday.  From there we will go to Montreal, Canada before we make our way back home.  We’ll stop in Saratoga, NY then make one more stop before we get back to Long Island.  We’re planning a full week of riding and sight seeing.  I’ll post pictures every day of the gorgeous scenery and, of course, the fabulous food.  
When I tell people who have never been on a motorcycle that we do this every year, the first question they ask me is “where do you put all your stuff?”  Packing is challenging, but we have travel space saver bags that you roll to get the air out so we can condense our clothes. 
Here you can see the saddlebag on the side (it’s covering the wheel) and the luggage on the back.
This is the space bag that we use.  I can get quite a few clothes in this.  When you squeeze out the air, it flattens way down.

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Here is the luggage all ready to go with 3 large space bags in it.  There is also another bag that sits on top of this one with more space.
So, after I explain about the luggage, the next question is “What do you do if it rains?”.  Well, we have rain suits.  We only ride in the rain if we have no other option. Otherwise, we just stop, have a cup of coffee and wait until the rain stops.  With this kind of a trip, there is no place that we have to be at any given time.  We have an idea of where we want to go, but if it doesn’t work out, we change our plans over breakfast and set the GPS for another destination.  It’s great, no stress, no pressure. 
This is a picture of my 1st helmet.  I always buy a black helmet so I can paint it myself.  For this one, I used stencils and painted the flowers all around and on top.
This is the side.  This is a really unique design.  I always get compliments when I wear this one.
This is my 2nd helmet.  I did all the painting freehand on this one.  I really love it.  The other one has the flowers in an exact pattern and they are perfect.  This one has the same spirit of riding the bike.  It’s spontaneous, creative and fun.  However, both of them wreak havoc on my hair.  Helmet hair, there’s nothing worse. 
August 23
The ride to Lake George was beautiful.  We took the Taconic Parkway until Albany, then we switched to more scenic routes the rest of the time.  On a motorcycle, you are aware of your surroundings so much more than when you travel by car.  There are no distractions.  Upstate NY is much different than downstate NY.  As you’re riding, the scenery changes from mountains to farms to cows then streams within a few miles.  it’s amazing.  As you make your way to each small town, you find antique shops, beautiful churches and very friendly people.  The difference between towns up here is that some don’t have a town at all, it’s just a name change and others have an actual town.  We’ve found out the hard way not to put off getting gas until the next town because there may not be a station for miles.  There is a Quality in in Lake George that we found really nice. &nbnbsp;There is an outdoor pool with a hot tub. Yay!!!  We wanted to eat on the lake for dinner and found a great place  The Boathouse.  Our first night out on Lake George, with great friends and a good meal.  Here are some pics.

 

 

August 24
We arrived at the Thousand Islands today.  This landscape through the Adirondacks was a little different than the drive to Lake George.  This was mostly tree lined roads, dense woods with enormous pine trees.  It was also much more rural.  There are dense woods for miles at a time, so when you finally do reach a town, make sure to stop and fuel up.  As we got closer, we started to see lakes and fields and fields of corn.  This is my first time here and I was amazed at the beauty of this part of New York State.  We stopped for the night in a town called Alexandria Bay.  The view from my room is amazing and this hotel is beautiful.  The name is the Riveredge Resort.  Today we will explore this area and head across the border to Canada.  The Thousand Islands borders the US on one side and Canada on the other.  Her is a little fact about the Thousand Islands.  There are actually more than 1800 islands. An island is any plot of land (any size) that contains at least one tree and stays above water 365 days per year.  So, as you can imagine, some of the islands are very small.  I will see for myself today and take lots of pictures.  These pictures are from the balcony of my room.  Gorgeous.

 

 

August 25
Today we continued along the coast of New York in the Thousand Islands. What a beautiful ride along the St. Lawrence River.  You wold be amazed at all the islands.  I will attach a map so you can get an idea of what it looks like.  Some of the islands have a tree and nothing more, others do have homes that people live in every day.  There are two that have castles on them.  The Boldt Castle and the Singer Castle.  The Boldt Castle has an interesting story that goes with it.  George C. Boldt, a millionaire fell in love with a woman by the name of Louise.  He was so in love with her that he wanted to build her a castle on Heart Island.  Unfortunately, she died while the castle was being built and he never returned to finish it.  The Thousand Island Bridge Authority took it over in 1977 and finished the construction.  They opened it up to tours after that.  When you cross the border, don’t forget your passport.  Once we crossed over into Canada, we headed for Ottawa and stayed on the outskirts of the city.

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Thousand Islands Mailboxes

Thousand Islands Lighthouse

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Canada Border

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August 26 & 27
Today we’ll stay all day in Ottawa.  Some riding, but mostly sightseeing.  We all could use a day off the bike.  We are staying in Downtown Ottawa at the Westin Hotel and it is beautiful.  there are three things that everyone should eat in Ottawa, a Beaver Tail, Poutine and Obama Cookies.  I had the Beaver Tail today and it was great.  It is a piece of freshly made dough (they make it when you order) in the shape of a rectangle with your choice of toppings on it.  I had half chocolate and bananas and the other half apple pie.  Delish!!!!  To wash it down, we stopped at Planet Coffee which is a must do int he city and had a Cafe Latte.  Also great.  The Poutine is french fries with cheese curds and gravy.  I have heard that it’s really good, we will see tonight.  We went to the Byward Market which is a big outdoor market with booths with fruits, vegetables, jewelry, clothing and food.  I love walking around to see what everyone is selling.  Some of the jewelry is really beautiful and creative and you can find lots of hand made things.  At the recommendation of the hotel staff, we had lunch at The Black Tomato.  This is a must do in Ottawa.  The food was unique and really good.  The staff was very attentive and the outdoor courtyard was great.  Here are some pics of the food.

Carrot and Orange Soup

 

 

Carrot and Orange soup garnished with flowers.  This soup was room temperature and delicious.

Prosciutto Glengarry

 

 

Prosciutto Glengarry Celtic Blue Cheese Rolls.  All I can say is WOW.  The curst is flakey and light. The blue cheese was mild and the prosciutto was perfect.

Brie with Shallots and Garlic

 

 

Baked Brie with roasted garlic and caramelized shallots in a honey sauce. Every component of this dish was great on it’s own, but when you put it together it was amazing.

Poution

 

 

Poutine.  We finally had the Poutine. It was very good.  This one was with french fries, cheese curds and gravy.  As I travel around Canada, I see that the cheese varies from place to place, but the curds are the original.

 

 

 

 

Parlament

 

 

This is  a picture of Parlament.  At night, there is a light show on the building.  It gives the history of Canada.  It is definitely worth watching.  

 

August 27 & 28
Today we drove to Montreal.  It didn’t take long to get there from Ottawa, so we had plenty of time in the city.  We started at the Visitor Information Center. It’s a great place to start wherever you are visiting.  At the counter, we were greeted by a very friendly clerk who booked our hotel room and gave us maps of the city so we could get around. We decided to take a tour around Montreal so we wouldn’t miss anything.  The architecture and art work is amazing in this city.  Old stone buildings with beautiful columns and unbelievable detail on the buildings.  There are murals on many buildings throughout the city that are fabulous.  These sculptures are outside of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. 

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Sculpture

 

There is an entire underground network in Montreal.  When it gets to hot or cold outside, everyone heads to the underground.  There are 20 miles of walkway.  Int he underground network, you will find 2,000 restaurants and shops, hotels, museums, theater and university.  
About the food…..when you look up ‘what to eat in Montreal’ you will find Montreal Meat Sandwich and a Montreal Bagel.  I went to the mont famous place for the sandwich, Schwartz’s.  This reminded me of Katz Deli or Carnegie Deli in New York with the long line of people waiting to get in.  

Schwarts

Schwars line

 

The Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich reminds you of a Pastrami sandwich, but the meat is different.  It is brisket, not cured like pastrami.  They smoke this meat with spices, but it doesn’t have the strong flavor that pastrami has.  It is really good and you should definitely have one if you come to Montreal. 

Montreal Meat

As far as bagels go, when I asked in the hotel where to get these bagels, they told me they are the best bagels in the world.  Being from New York, I had my doubts.  We have the best bagels in the world.  Anyone who comes to NY goes home with a dozen bagels.  Montreal bagels are a little different.  They are boiled in honey-sweetened water, then baked in a wood fire oven.  They are larger, sweeter and more dense than a NY bagel.  The other difference is there a toppings on both sides.  The bagel pictured is the each side of the same bagel.  Just looking at it, you can see that it cooks differently than a NY bagel.  These were really good bagels.  Put this on you ‘Must Do’ list if you go to Montreal. 

Montreal Bagel Store

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Bagel

 

Here are some pictures of the gorgeous architecture throughout the city.

 

 

The city of Montreal is divided by Canadians and French Canadians.  There is one block that runs down the middle of the city that separates both of them.  You can clearly see who is who with the flags that are flying outside homes and businesses.  Red and white for Canadians and Blue and white for French Canadians.  The French Canadians speak french and the others speak english.  We went on both sides and didn’t have any problem with the language. Everyone seemed to speak both languages.  The only thing that I will recommend is to familiarize yourself with french street signs before you get there. 

 

 

There are quite a few apartments in Montreal.  Although it is hard to see, this is a picture of a large garden that the residents of this building lease the plot to grow vegetables.  

Montreal Vegetable Garden

 

For our last night in the city, we decided to take a cab down to the Little Italy section.  It is just like Little Italy in most cities.  We had dinner in a great restaurant called Hostaria.  The food and staff were fantastic.  This was not your typical spaghetti and meatballs Italian, each dish was spectacular.  Take a look. Sorry about some of the half eaten desserts, no one could wait for the picture. 

 

 

 

August 29 & 30
Starting our way back do to Long Island.  We planned to stop in Saratoga, NY, but because American Pharaoh was running at the racetrack, we changed our route.  We went through Vermont, Massachusetts then to the Bridgeport ferry in Connecticut.  We stopped overnight in Northampton, Mass.  We had stayed there on a foliage viewing trip and found a Quality Inn that was comfortable and close to the town.  A short cab ride will get you to town with all the restaurants and bars.  We arrived back home in the afternoon of the 30th.  What a great trip.   I can’t wait to start planning the next one.  

 

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New Orleans

posted in: New Orleans | 0

New Orleans

New Orleans is such fun.  I have been there twice. Neither time was during a festival, and there are plenty of them in New Orleans that attract thousands of people.  While I was there this time, there were 9 conventions, 7 bachelorette parties and to many bachelor parties to count.  One of the best tours that we took was the Swamp Tour.  This is a fan boat that takes you through the swamps to see alligators, turtles, different birds and vegetation.  The guide was friendly and made the tour really enjoyable.  

 

 

We also took the City tour which gave you an overview of all the different parts of the city.  We saw the cemeteries, Garden District, as far as we could go in the 9th ward and the french quarter.  The day we did this, it was raining off and on all day, so it was a good day to sit in a bus for a few hours and see everything.  

New Orleans Cemetary

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New Orleans Oldest Bar

On our first trip, we took a tour of the Mansions.  It was nice, but not something that I would do again.  

New Orleans Mansion

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We took the trolly, which was recommended by everyone, but found that the red line works really well, but the green line is slow and unreliable.  As far as restaurants go, we went to some really good ones.   Jacques-Imo’s Cafe is one of the hottest restaurants in New Orleans for anyone looking for “real Nawlin’ food. We also went to Mr. B’s Bistro, a New Orleans restaurant famous for its Creole cuisine with a focus on fresh regional products, is located in the heart of the French Quarter.  We also went to Emeril’s Delmonico in the Garden District.  They were all fabulous, but there are plenty of other restaurants that have great food.  Don’t miss the dueling piano’s at Pat O’Briens and all the other live music down Bourbon Street.  We went from the pianos to blues, jazz, rock, 80’s and all the music was amazing.  There is gambling at Harrahs casino, VooDoo and Ghost Tours, horse and carriage rides and lots of drinking.   I am so glad we went there, it was a great time.

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New Orleans Church

New Orleans Cafe du Monde

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Tennessee

posted in: Tennessee | 0
Tennessee
Our trip to Tennessee was on the motorcycle.  We are lucky enough to have some really good friends who also enjoy taking these motorcycle adventures, so every year we venture out to a different location.  While we are making great memories, there is never a shortage of fun.  Since we live in New York, for this trip, we trailered the motorcycles.  We couldn’t wait to be cruising the great Smokey Mountains and of course, ‘The Tail of the Dragon’.   For any non-motorcycle people, this is an extremely windy road.  To be exact, there are 318 curves in 11 miles of roadway.   Now, on paper, that doesn’t sound like much, but in reality, it was exhausting.  Going, stopping, turning, breaking, leaning and I was just sitting on the back.  What a ride!!!  
The scenery is beautiful, but the weather can be severe.  I say this from experience because, one day we got caught in a rain storm that turned into a hail storm with an added bit of lightning.  Not exactly what you want to be riding a motorcycle in. We came across an overpass with at least 50 bikes under it just waiting for the weather to pass.  
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The Biltmore Mansion is in Ashville, North Carolina.  As you would expect, it is beautiful inside and out. This is still owned by the Vanderbuilt family.  Each room inside the mansion is decorated exactly how it was originally.  When you walk outside, there are gorgeous flower gardens.  If you are in the area, it is worth stopping by. 

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This is a grist mill that we just happen to come upon on one of our rides.  When we are planning  a bike trip, we get a map of the scenic rides in the area so we can manage our mileage around the different rides that we want to do.  This is so important when you are traveling by motorcycle.  There have been several times that we didn’t take the mileage into consideration and ended up riding for much longer than we wanted to.   I can tell you from experience, you’ll be hurting in the morning.  

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