Tag Archives: travel

Girls’ Getaway – Manchester, VT

It isn’t always easy to find a couple of consecutive days that work for four busy and opinionated individuals. Sometimes, though, we need some recharging of the fun batteries and nothing works better than two days spent in an unfamiliar place with longtime friends. With that in mind, last week we headed to Manchester, a place I haven’t visited in probably close to 15 years, for a mini vaca.

When you’re dealing with four left handed women, organizing a getaway can be a challenge. Everyone has preferences and ideas about where to stay and what to do, but after close to 40 years of friendship, we have mastered group travel. I took charge of our accommodations and we did really well with Hotels.com landing a two night stay at the fairly new Hampton Inn for a total of $340. Divided by four, it was a real bargain at $70 each, including breakfast.

Speaking of bargains, the shops in Manchester were full of them! We did some fun and productive shopping at the outlets and each walked away with a few new items purchased at deeply discounted prices. Personally, I replaced my worn out Kate Spade wallet with a beautiful new aubergine clutch/wallet, picked up a navy blue down vest with a hood that I’m obsessed with at the Bass outlet and scored an adorable black and white print skirt from J.Crew. I also filled in a couple of gaps in my kitchen utensil collection with a new masher, sink sponge holder and some grips for opening jars, something with which I increasingly struggle. Not very exciting, admittedly, but I’m a practical girl at times and I really like buying everyday items when I’m away from home. Somehow it makes the daily seem a bit more exciting, you know?

For eating, we went with recommendations from folks who visit Manchester with more frequency than ourselves. Our first night we opted for a late afternoon drink or two which turned into an early dinner at Gringo Jack’s. Their chips had been described to me as “crack” and I’d have to agree that it was difficult to stop shoving them into my mouth eating them. My shrimp tacos were good and my margaritas were great and we left there completely satisfied.

img_4696For a light lunch we stopped in at Mystic, a wine bar cafe that was absolutely lovely. I went with the soup of the day, a flavorful broth with lamb meatballs and middle eastern spices, and it was perfect. Friday night, on a friend’s recommendation, we dined at Bistro Henry a cozy spot a couple of miles out of town. The menu presented a dilemma because we wanted pretty much everything! Ultimately we chose to share 3 appetizers, 2 salads (one large, one small) and two entrees, a decision that satiated all of us without leaving anyone too stuffed for an after dinner drink at a different spot. Particularly strong were the foie gras and the classic preparation of Steak au Poivre. A note about Bistro Henry – the wine list was filled with reasonably priced and thoughtfully selected options. We were driving  (and only two of us are winos) so we passed, but definitely consider a bottle with your meal if you go. Thanks, Dora!

After dinner we went to Mulligan’s, the only place in town that was purported to have any nightlife. Well…I suppose if you consider a bar that is open after 8:00 p.m. to be the definition of “nightlife” you might have been impressed, but we really weren’t. And that lack of evening entertainment is, to me, the only real drawback to a couple of nights in Manchester. It’s not as if we’re hardcore, late night women, but it would have been fun to go out to hear some live music or to get silly and dance and we couldn’t find an option for either of those activities. Would I hesitate to go back? No, probably not. It’s a pleasant enough drive, and a cute spot for shopping and dining, but if you’re looking for a place to cut loose and hear music, this is not the right village for you. Go to Manchester for a wholesome and reasonably priced good time.

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, friends, Recommendations, road trips, Spring, vacation, Vermont

Steps

In Italy, there are more steps than you can imagine. They’re everywhere. I remember my first trip to Italy, when I visited Liguria. I was so impressed with the beauty of the women – strong-looking women, with great legs from all of the walking they did, seemingly from terrace to terrace, probably with a glass of Pigato in hand. If there weren’t steps, there were hills and sidewalks to walk. The pace was comfortable, never rushed, and somehow life felt like something to be savored. It spoke to me.

I saw and felt a similar vibe when I visited Rome. There were steps everywhere and my legs got a workout carrying me all day as I explored the city. Again, there were steps too plentiful to count, and sturdy and attractive women. The pace was ideal and I found it easy to breathe there.

I thought about how steps in Italy actually took you somewhere. Your feet carried you from place to place and you felt, I imagine, strong from it. It wasn’t important, though, to measure or count those steps. I mean, what would a number measure? How many times you moved your feet? Who cares about that anyway? Do people really positively evaluate their lives on the basis of the number of steps they take in a single day? That’s just weird.

In Italy, everyone walks and navigates steps all around the country. The steps are what connect places to one another, city to city, town to town, village to village. Steps are how you get somewhere.

In America, people don’t walk regularly but they do talk about how many steps they have taken on a particular day. They wear devices to collect data about how far and fast they walked during a specific time period. People set goals and are encouraged and held accountable by their devices. It’s all about achieving a number, regardless of how you do it. A step is a step whether your eyes are open or closed. It doesn’t matter what you see along the way, the importance comes from a number.

I’m sincerely sorry if I sound judgmental. It isn’t my intent. We all take our motivation where we find it and I respect that truly. I was just so struck in the difference between the connotations of a simple word like “steps” in two different cultures. Maybe it’s time to stop counting and start going.

 

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Filed under Europe, favorites, Italy, musings, Observations, travel, Uncategorized

21

This summer when I travel to Europe, it will be, I think, the 21st time I’ve crossed the Atlantic, which boggles my brain. What’s most remarkable, though, isn’t that I’ve been lucky enough to travel so often, it’s the fact that the next trip I will be taking will be with my now 21 year-old son. Oh! And it’s pretty much exactly 21 years since the very first time I took him to Europe.

I was running tonight and thinking about all of the places I’ve seen and all of the things I’ve learned since I began to travel, since I became a parent. For instance, I’ve learned there’s no better way to explore a new place than tying on sneakers and hitting the streets. Being strong and healthy are things I don’t take for granted and life has taught me that muscles, including the heart, need to be used.

The very first time in a new place, for me, is a consistent combination of exciting, overwhelming and mildly annoying. Parenthood can probably be described in a similar fashion. Getting oriented, making connections and finding the means to achieve a sense of competence takes some time. Again, particularly if we’re feeling optimistic, we could probably describe parenthood similarly.

When I went to London in 1988 with my brand new passport, my baggage was the heaviest among all of my friends. The excessive size of my luggage embarrassed me and caused me consider the discomfort of being responsible for a big, heavy bag. I don’t travel like that anymore. I no longer am willing to be responsible for carrying anything that is extraneous.

On our first trip together, Liam was about 5 months old. I remember organizing the transportation to the airport – a shuttle bus that made one stop in Kingston before heading to JFK, and climbing on board with my baby, luggage and breast pump without a moment’s hesitation. We landed in Dublin, got into a rental car and immediately drove west across the country to meet a friend who had decided to join us on our adventure and would be arriving the next day in Shannon. I had no reluctance or fear. It’s a big world and I was (and remain) convinced that my job as a parent was to introduce my children to as much of it as possible.

This summer Liam and I plan to visit 4 cities in 3 countries. It will be his 8th trip to Europe, something I’m kind of proud of considering my own travel abroad experiences didn’t begin until I was older than he is now. I know there will be moments when I feel stressed by the challenges involved with navigating an unknown city or transit system, but Liam has developed a great sense of direction and understanding of maps and he will be a big help. We’ll stretch our legs, figure out how to get to where we want to be, carry with us only what we need and do our best to learn by witnessing how other people live. I’m already getting excited.

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Filed under Boys, Europe, family, musings, Observations, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

I ate (and drank) everything

(Let’s call this a throwback Thursday post. I started it last week on my final evening in Rome.)

It’s 8:00 in Rome and I’m starting to get hungry. The rain is pouring down, which makes my hope to go Enzo 29 again a bit soggy. I think I may need to stay closer to home on a night when the weather makes the prospect of waiting for a table at the perpetually busy Enzo more than a little discouraging. I’m out of wine so going out is my only option.

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But, first, what have I already enjoyed? The cream filled cornetto I had a few days back was pretty spectacular. Actually, all the pastry I’ve sampled have been perfecto. Not too sweet or overly large, but simply created from butter and spectacular dipped into a cappuccino.

I’ve had pasta – a lot. There was with delicate clams in Napoli, and Amatriciana, carbonara and cacio e pepe all from the same wonderful trattoria in Trastevere. Delicate duck filled ravioli and hearty rabbit ragu with paparadelle. Tender prosciutto and bresaola and the best friggin porchetta ever. Cheeses – fresh ricotta, something smoked from the provolone family and a burratta that almost made me cry. I enjoyed pizza margherita in Napoli, but it was trumped by the panini presented to me wrapped in paper and unlike any sandwich I’ve ever had before. There was also pizza in Rome at a special spot recommended by a local (to Albany) pizza aficionado called Bonci. The crust was like eating air.

Don’t worry – I ate my veggies, too, in the form of artichokes (both deep-fried and Roman style), sautéed chicory and other contorno. Oh! I also had zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies which were divinely addictive.

I drank the most simple of wines. Falanghina in Naples and the house bianco and rosso in the trattorias where I took my meals. Of course, I sipped prosecco and limoncello to bookend a dinner or two and I tasted amaro and found it to my liking as well. The highlight of my wine consumption came in a single glass of absolutely divine Amarone on my last night in Rome, the night I initially began to write this post just a week ago. My belly, and more importantly my soul, remains full. Te amo, bella Italy.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, travel, vacation

Thoughts inspired by dinner at Enzo29

img_4217-1Americans are always the loudest. They want everyone to hear them but they don’t know how to listen. I want to softly tell the table of 6-Got-SUNY-semester-abroad written all over them, (unfortunately not in invisible ink), that I adore their enthusiasm and excitement but couldn’t they enjoy themselves just as much if they spoke in more quiet voices?

Waiting for a seat in a restaurant that I saved my cacio e pepe cherry for. Sorry if that sounds vulgar. It wasn’t my intent.

The crew here is outstanding. The door guy, smoothly and with a discreet disdain that even Paul McCullough could learn from, was impressive. The servers all served smiles.

This restaurant is at the end of a street named Salumi… Come on.

If I knew how to say it I’d say “I’m so sorry I don’t speak Italian because it is such a beautiful language.,” to every Italian I was lucky enough to encounter.

I just said “no bread.” I had the bread last night and it was delicious. I didn’t need it again, though.

It’s ok cool to be recognized with smiles when you frequent the same trattoria two nights in a row.

There’s a man wearing a lavender, I assume cashmere, turtleneck seated directly in front of me. He isn’t even trying to be ironic.

img_4221-1Holy shit. This cacio e pepe is the best pasta I’ve ever had. Ever. Period. The sautéed chicory on the side is a spicy green vegetable nirvana. Contrasted, yet companionable, to the pasta it all creates something which can only be described as sublime.

img_4222-1This meal is one of those that can be described as “final meal request” material.

I ate my full leaving enough on my plate(s) to prompt a couple of queries to confirm that I had found everything molto bene. Si! I just wanted to save room for dolce.

The tiramisu was worthy of service in this very, very fine trattoria. Bene. Molte bene!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, Random, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, vacation

#solotravel

I’m cozy in my Rome AirBandB with a glass (or 2) of wine and vague plan of taking a hot shower and heading out for dinner. I think I’m going back to the same place I enjoyed last night because I must have the cacao e pepe there. It wasn’t possible to fit it in my belly last night, but, tonight there’s room after a day of walking without a stop for lunch. I mean, if you don’t count gelato as a legitimate meal, that is.

It’s been a wonderful few days – actually I can’t believe I’ve already been in Italy for 5 days. It doesn’t seem possible. My pace has been mostly leisurely, but the days have passed quickly and I’m hyper focused on how many more meals I get to indulge in before I head home. Not enough.

When you travel by yourself, hours may pass with the only conversation you have is with yourself. Getting “lost” means nothing because there’s no place you really need to be. Taking a left instead of a right is ok. Eventually you’ll find your way to where it is you want to be. Yesterday, in Pompeii, I stood in the same spot for more than 10 minutes waiting for the clouds to offer me a peek at Vesuvius. I felt no haste, only gratitude for the luxury of time of my own.

Coming to Italy solo was a big leap. Of course, traveling to what feels like the most romantic city in the world would be lovely with a partner, but to not come alone would be a disservice to myself. Not experiencing this beautiful country, or the world at large, would be regrettable in a way that I’m not willing to know. Time to go shower. It’s almost my dinner time.

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Filed under beauty, Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Italy, Observations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

In Napoli…

The men flirt relentlessly.
One walks a little slower
Hips swing a little wider
Wet cobblestones are as slick as frozen sidewalks
The food is simply delicious
Scooters, motorcycles and cars compete for the road                                            Spaghetti with clams is everything it should be
Somehow the rain at night seemed the most romantic weather ever

I felt at home.

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Filed under beauty, Europe, Italy, musings, Observations, travel, vacation