One Day in Kings Landing – 10 Years After My First Visit to Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Dubrovnik is Croatian city on the very southern tip of Croatia, just north of Montenegro and across the Adriatic from Bari, Italy. Dubrovnik is split into two parts: New Town, the modern part of town with swanky hotels and restaurants, and Old Town, the beautiful walled part of the city that stars as Kings Landing in Game of Thrones starting in Season 2 (it was filmed in Mdina, Malta in Season 1). Both are worthy of your time.

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Welcome to Dubrovnik!

With crystal clear green water and warm temperatures from May – early October, Dubrovnik has been a popular European and Russian vacation destination for decades, until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when Dubrovnik sustained significant war damage. Rebuilt and open for business since the early 2000s, Dubrovnik is back as a major vacation player and home to two busy cruise ports. Rick Steves famously named Dubrovnik “The Pearl of the Adriatic.” As a result of its newfound popularity, tourists are flocking to the city in droves and the Old Town can get crazy busy, especially during the height of summer. If you haven’t yet been to Dubrovnik, you’ve definitely “missed the boat” on this exotic destination, but its still a city worthy of a few days, especially as part of a larger Croatian or Balkan itinerary.

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Old Town Dubrovnik.

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Kotor Bay Wine Tasting: Savina Winery, Herceg Novi, Montenegro.

Surprising to many, myself included, Montenegro makes good, yet relatively unknown, red, white, and rose wine from both foreign grapes (although grown in Montenegro) and a handful of indigenous grapes found only in Montenegro. The most popular indigenous grape is the Vranac grape, which is used in red wine and is easily found in local restaurants and wine shops throughout Montenegro. Vranac, and generally all the wines that we tasted in Montenegro, was quite good. Outside of Montenegro, however, they are difficult, if not impossible, to find. Even Dan, my wine snob, liked Montenegrin wine!

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Montenegrin grape vines.

Since we love wine and wine tasting, I was on the hunt for Montenegrin wineries throughout our entire trip to Montenegro. I was pleased to find a number of wineries offering visits to tourists, but Savina was the only working professional winery that I found (via Trip Advisor) close to Perast, where we stayed for the majority of our trip. As soon as I read the reviews, I promptly booked a tasting via email. It sounded lovely!

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Savina corks.

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Al-Sahaby Lane: A Fun Dinner In Luxor, Egypt.

Al-Sahaby Lane is a good, while touristy, Egyptian restaurant right in the middle of Luxor, very close to the Luxor tourist souk and within walking distance of the river cruise port and the Temple of Luxor. Al-Sahaby Lane is located on the roof of the Nefertiti Hotel (there are many steps and I did not see an elevator). Reservations are not required and the restaurant is most certainly casual.

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Entrance to Al Sah-aby Lane from the street.

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Highlights of Aswan: A Pleasant Surprise In Southern Egypt

Aswan, Egypt. Its a small city in Southern Egypt, home to the High Aswan Dam, an unfinished obelisk, the Philae Temple, and the Old Cataract Hotel (of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile fame). Its also a really gorgeous city set along the Nile River and the gateway to Abu Simbel. The locals were friendly and, notably (and somewhat surprisingly), it felt more progressive than the other cities that we visited in Egypt. For all of these reasons, I loved Aswan, and I would love to go back and spend more time.

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Pretty flowers everywhere in Aswan.

We visited Aswan at the end of a 5-night Nile River cruise earlier this year. I knew nothing – at all – about Aswan prior to visiting and would have certainly skipped Aswan absent our cruise itinerary. However, I am so glad we stopped, as it was the prettiest city that we visited in Egypt! I kept saying that it reminded me of a Greek island. And it really did!

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Airport Lounge Review: SkyTeam Lounge, London Heathrow, Terminal 4.

When passing through London Heathrow after an overnight flight from JFK, we spent a few hours in the SkyTeam Lounge in Terminal 4 before our connecting flight to Malta via Air Malta.  We had a number of options through Priority Pass in selecting our London lounge, including a couple in Terminal 3 (where we landed), and multiple options in Terminal 4 (from where our Malta flight departed) – a branch of the Art & Lounge, a Plaza Premium Lounge, and the SkyTeam Lounge. We opted for the SkyTeam Lounge in Terminal 4 based on other online reviews, and we were not disappointed. The SkyTeam Lounge was a GREAT Priority Pass lounge! Side note – Heathrow is almost always a mess, so I always recommend lounging in your departure terminal rather than the arrival terminal and, more importantly, leaving LOTS of time between connections, especially coming from the US and then connecting elsewhere in Europe.

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New Zealand Cider and views at the SkyTeam Lounge!

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A Foodie’s Tour Through Old School Valletta, Malta.

As you probably know, we LOVE a good food tour and take them rather frequently on vacation, especially in new cities. They are generally a fabulous way to try small samples of the local cuisine, while also giving a good bit of information about the area. Before this summer, we had never bene to Malta, much less its capital, Valletta, so we signed up for a food tour with Offbeat Malta Food Trails, one of the only (if not the only) food tour in Malta. Offbeat Malta Food Trails currently offers two tours, the one we took in Valletta and a tour of Mdina. We choose the Valletta tour because we were already visiting Mdina on our own. We booked our tour before arriving in Malta and our tour started in the heart of tourist Valletta on a hot Saturday morning.

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Beautiful Valletta.

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Malta’s Blue Lagoon: The Most Beautiful Turquoise Water And The Most Tourists.

The Blue Lagoon is a pristine lagoon with crystal clear turquoise waters on the tiny, car-free island of Comino, Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. The Blue Lagoon is truly stunning and one of the “must see” activities in Malta. I’m talking paradise pretty and waters as turquoise as those you see in travel magazines. Since its so pretty, its super, super, super popular with tourists and a crazy amount of people descend on the Blue Lagoon everyday. Despite its touristy nature, I loved the Blue Lagoon and was more than happy to spend a day there! Dan on the other hand, thought it was just too touristy. We’ve summarized our experience in this post and how to make the most of your day!

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The touristy, yet gorgeous, Blue Lagoon.

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Two Days On The Mediterranean Island Of Gozo.

Gozo is one of three Maltese islands in the Mediterranean Sea (the other two being Malta and Comino). Gozo is the middle island in terms of size and a world apart from its big sister Malta. On our trip to Malta earlier this year, Dan and I ferried over to the Maltese island of Gozo for a couple nights to experience old school Malta, and that is exactly what we got.

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Mgarr Harbor, Gozo.

If you told someone that you were traveling to Gozo on vacation, they may have no idea where or what Gozo is. That’s because Gozo receives a lot less tourism that Malta or Comino, despite being close neighbors. This is probably due to the fact that Gozo lacks an airport, so you must go through Malta to access Gozo.  In any case, we found Gozo to be very chill and laid back, gorgeous, a bit of a time capsule, and less expensive than Malta.  

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Quiet Gozo.

Many companies offer day tours to Gozo from Malta and some Blue Lagoon tours offer a couple-hour stop off in Gozo, but I would not recommend these. You will miss out on what makes Gozo special.

WHAT TO SEE ON GOZO, MALTA

Gozo’s most famous site, the Azure Window (of Game of Thrones fame, Dany and Drogo married there), sadly crashed into the sea during a storm in 2017.  You can still visit the site where it was located, Dwerja Beach, and that’s just what we did! Even without the Azure Window, Dwerja Beach is very pretty and an interesting place to walk around a photograph. Just across the street is a popular swimming hole with crystal clear water. There is a parking lot at Dwerja Beach, a handful of kiosks selling food and beverage, and a sit down restaurant on site. I would plan to spend 30 minutes at Dwerja Beach, longer if you want to swim or eat.

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Former site of the Azure Window.

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Swimming behind Dwerja Beach.

Quite close to Dwerja Beach is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu. Ta’Pinu, for short, is a gorgeous basilica overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And I mean GORGEOUS. Ta’Pinu is particularly well-known for a chapel that, as confirmed by the Catholic Church, has asked parishioners to say Hail Mary three times and then performed a miracle.  Many people make pilgrimages here, and the Pope has even visited Ta’Pinu. Entrance is free and you are not supposed to wear short shorts or tank tops, but this rule was not strictly enforced in the Summer heat.

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Interior of Ta’Pinu.

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View from Ta’Pinu.

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Danny at Ta’Pinu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite places in Gozo is Xlendi, a cute seaside town! Xlendi has great views, cool water front restaurants, and some walking trails. It also has a very small beach that is not exactly swimmable due to its size and boats; however if you take the path around Xlendi to the water, there are fabulous views and a few diving boards built into the coast! Swimming in this area seemed more sanitary than right in the port. There is parking around town. Xlendi would also make a nice town to stay in if you want to be in a town.

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Xlendi Bay.

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Swimming near Xlendi Bay.

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Xlendi at sunset.

Marsalforn is another cute little beach town with lots of restaurants and bars. The beach here is slightly larger and the water is gorgeous. Marsalforn would make another cute town to base your stay on Gozo.

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Marsalforn.

Just next to Marsalforn are the famous salt pans of Gozo. There is not much to do here except snap a picture and buy some salt from the older gentleman selling freshly made salt but its a cool place to see and quite close to Marsalforn. Tip if you’re planning on buying salt, which you should, bring a plastic ziplock bag to put it in. The bag our salt was sold in started to leak.

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Real salt from Marsalforn – just used it Tuesday!

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Salt pans.

If you are a history buff, you cannot miss a visit to the Ggantija Temples on Gozo. Similar to the Hypogeoum on Malta, the Ggantija Temples are ancient temples that were somewhat recently discovered and not much is known about their background. However, the temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and date back to around 3500 BC (older than Stonehenge!). There is an interesting museum that you visit before seeing the temples, which provides some interesting information and gives some suggestions as to what the temples may have been used for!

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Ggantija Temples

Just next to the Ggantija Temples is the Ta’Kola Windmill, which is an old windmill that you can visit and climb to the top. We did this, but only because our ticket to the Ggantija Temples included entrance to the windmill, as well. The windmill was interesting, but I probably would not go back. The most interest part was viewing it from the outside.

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Ta’Kola Windmill.

We also visited the Ta’Mena Estate, which is sort of a famous Agritourism farm and winery on Gozo. Ta’Mena hosts tours and tastings every Thursday (and I think Saturday), which you need to book in advance. The tour was quite long, but it did come with a substantial food and wine tasting after the tour. Ta’Mena also opens a shop after the tour selling all sorts of its organic products. The food tasting is enough for lunch.

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Welcome to Ta’Mena Estate.

Victoria is Gozo’s capital city, and its quite a lovely city. Victoria is home to quite winding streets, old school public squares, lots of churches, and a number of restaurants and shops. We spent an afternoon here and really enjoyed this picturesque town. If you are looking to shop, Victoria is definitely the spot. My favorite store was the adorable House of Gozo located right off Gozo’s main square.

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Adorable Gozo.

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So charming.

Victoria is also home to the Citadel, which was way cooler than I anticipated. The Citadel is the old walled-city and it looks straight out of Game of Thrones. It reminded me a lot of Dubrovnik, too. While its a steep climb uphill, the views from the Citadel are worth it. The Citadel is home to some shops and restaurants. Be sure to bring water in the summer.

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Top of the Citadel in Gozo.

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Inside the Citadel.

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Reminds me of Dubrovnik a decade ago.

WHERE WE STAYED ON GOZO

We stayed at the adorable Cescas Boutique Hotel, halfway between Xlendi and Victoria. Cescas is owned by the same people as Ta’Karolina Restaurant in Xlendi and like Ta’Karolina, the hotel is quite modern and swanky.  Cescas is located in a remodeled farmhouse and its really in the middle of nowhere – definitely a place to get away from it all. Cescas has a lovely pool and serves a nice breakfast each morning.

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Dining room views at Cesca’s.

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The pool at Cesca’s.

WHERE WE ATE

As mentioned in my previous post on my week in Malta, we ate pretty well on Gozo.  My favorite restaurants were Stanley’s Chippy Shop in Victoria and Ta’Karolina and The Boathouse in Xlendi. Here are a few pictures of some of my favorite foods.

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Dan and me at Ta’Karolina.

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Fried Gozitan cheese.

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English breakfast at Cesca’s.

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Nutella milkshake paired with Maltese red wine in Marsalforn.

Also, while not technically a restaurant, Lord Chambry Beer is a local craft beer brewed in Victoria. Its available all over Malta in general, even on the Gozo Ferry line(!), and each beer is named after something Malta-related. Definitely worth trying on Gozo!

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HOW WE ARRIVED

The only way to reach Gozo is via the Gozo Channel Line car ferry from Cirkewwa (Malta) to Mgarr (Gozo), which run every half-hour. The ferry was easy and only took 25 minutes. It cost €4.65 per person round trip (more for a car, clearly). You do not need to buy tickets in advance and you actually don’t even need a ticket on the way over from Malta; tickets are only checked on the return trip from Gozo. The ferries have a cafe serving food and drinks, as well as some small souvenirs. There are taxis meeting the ferry in both Cirkewwa and Mgarr.

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Ferry to Malta.

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Ferry to Gozo.

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Pulling into Mgarr Harbor.

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR VISITING GOZO

As of July 2019, there are no ride sharing apps working in Gozo. I.e. no Uber, Lyft, ECabs, or Bolt. There are buses that run around Gozo, they are not frequent. If you do not rent a car, a taxi is probably your best bet.

In the summer, its HOT on Gozo. Take a hat and carry water with you everywhere. And on that note, while water is easy enough to find (usually for 1 euro per bottle), places in Gozo did not seem to have great air conditioning. We had trouble cooling down.

Try to spend at least 1 night on Gozo, if not a few, to get a feel for the island.

Take cash out on Malta. There are ATMs on Gozo, but they have been known to go out island-wide.

SOME PICTURES OF GOZO

And, since Gozo was so gorgeous, I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures from Gozo!

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Walking to Xlendi.

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The famous fishing boats.

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Kinnie soda.

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In Xlendi.

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View of Victoria.

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Victoria.

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Outskirts of Victoria.

STEAL OUR TRIP

Cescas Boutique Hotel: Triq tal-Ghajn, Il-Munxar, Malta. A true boutique hotel in a renovated farmhouse in Gozo. Kind of in the middle-of-nowhere, you can technically walk to Xlendi and Victoria. Good breakfast included with booking. Wifi and AC included. Pool on premises.

Ta’Mena Estate: Rabat Road, Xaghra XRA 9010, Malta. A popular winery and farm, with tours offered twice a week (I believe on Thursday and Saturday).  Book in advance via email.

The Boathouse: XLN1010, Xatt Ix Xlendi, Il-Munxar, Malta. Right in downtown Xlendi, next to Ta’Karolina. Closed Wednesday. Open Thursday – Tuesday 12h – 15h30, 18h – 22h. Reservations recommended, especially for waterside dining.

Ta’Karolina: Triq L-Ghar ta Karolina, Munxar, Malta. Open 12h30 – 15h30, 18h30 – 22h30. Highly recommend booking a reservation online, especially to secure one of the romantic tables on the water like we had!

Stanley’s Chippy Shop: San Gorg Basilica, Victoria, Malta. Super casual and no reservations. Bring cash.

Gozo Ferry Line: Official website with timetables.

Gozo Taxi Service: The taxi service that I used to organize a day tour to some of Gozo’s most famous sites. They were very responsive via email and the driver was good. Would use again.

A Glorious Week in Mediterranean Malta!

Malta is a small country of of three islands, Malta, Gozo, and Comino, in the Mediterranean Sea, between Sicily and Tunisia.  Part of the European Union, Malta is a popular European beach destination that is fairly easy to reach from mainland Europe. Dan and I spent a week in Malta in July, 2019, enjoying the sun, the crystal blue water, and the summer vibe! I definitely recommend Malta as a getaway from Europe or Northern Africa! For now, coming from the US, is a long ride, but that could change as Air Malta is allegedly looking to expand to the US East Coast… We shall see – fingers crossed!

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Summer in Gozo, Malta.

While currently a popular vacation destination, Malta has a long history, dating back to 5900 BC. Malta has been home to ancient indigenous populations, some of whose structures are still intact(!) and ruled by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British. We got a lot of British and Sicilian vibes, as well as a bit of Arabic. Malta also played a large role in World War II. I had no idea about Malta’s interesting and lengthy history, and it was definitely fun to learn about its history on our trip!

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Historic Valletta.

HIGHLIGHTS OF MALTA

If you’re planning to visit Malta, these are my personal highlights, but, rest assured, there is more than enough to keep one busy for more than a week! However, I thought a week was the perfect amount of time to explore Malta. Here are some of my favorite Maltese activities!

The Blue Lagoon on Comino island was probably the biggest highlight for me; the turquoise water in the Blue Lagoon was absolutely stunning and I had a great time swimming in the Blue Lagoon for a day, despite it being heavily touristy. I would note that Dan did not enjoy the Blue Lagoon as much as I did, mainly due to the crowds.

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Blue Lagoon. Comino, Malta.

Valletta, Malta’s capital city, is a gorgeous capital that feels like its stuck in a time capsule. Do not miss a morning walking around this gorgeous city. And I do mean morning in the summer, to avoid the heat!

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Valletta, Malta.

Mdina, Malta’s former capital, is an impressive walled city, and it was also Kings Landing for Season 1 of Game of Thrones!! I found Mdina to have a similar awe-inspiring feel to that of Dubrovnik (Kings Landing post Season 1), but without the hoards of tourists. Go in the morning or in the evening to avoid the heat.

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Mdina, Malta.

Malta is famous for its colorful doors and balconies for good reason. Valletta and Mdina are two of the best places to see and photograph Malta’s famous doors and balconies.

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Balconies in Valletta.

Gozo, the middle Maltese island size-wise, is a short ferry ride from Malta island. We spent two nights on Gozo and Gozo has a completely different, laid back feel than Malta. If you have more than a few days in Malta, I recommend venturing to Gozo for at least a day and night.

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Breakfast on Gozo.

OUR MALTESE ITINERARY

Our first full day in Malta was spent on a day trip to the Blue Lagoon with Hornblower Cruises, departing from Bugibba Jetty (we took a Bolt, Malta’s version of Uber, from St. Julian’s). Our day trip lasted from about 10:00 – 17:00 and it was totally amazing! The blue lagoon is awesome and while touristy, I think its totally worth fighting the crowds! We also took a 15 minute tour of some of the caves around Comino, which was organized by Hornblower. Highly recommend a tour of the Blue Lagoon to Malta visitors.

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Me in the Blue Lagoon. Not a bad way to spend a Monday.

Our second day started with a visit to a well-known Maltese winery, the Meridiana Wine Estate. The wine was okay, but the tour was interesting and it is located on land that was bombed during WWII. We sampled 4 glasses of wine for 12 euro per person.

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Meridiana Wine Estate.

After our wine tasting, we toured the Hypogeum, which is a UNSECO World Heritage Site. There are no pictures allowed inside the Hypogeum, but the Hypogeum is an ancient underground temple. Buy your tickets far in advance to tour the Hypogeum, only 80 people are allowed in per day. It was definitely an interesting site to visit, but I wouldn’t kill yourself to ensure a visit.

Our second day ended with a swim in the Intercontinental’s Sky Bar and dinner at the most delicious pizza restaurant – Restaurant Sotto! The pizza was amazing and deliciously Italian.

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Sky Bar at the Intercontinental. 

On our third day, we took the Gozo Channel Line ferry over to Gozo island for two nights. The ferry was super easy and only took about 25 minutes. It cost €4.65 per person round trip. Upon arrival in Gozo, we walked into its capital, Victoria, and had a tasty good meal at Stanley’s Chippy Shop (of TripAdvisor fame).

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Victoria, Gozo.

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Stanley’s Chippy Shop in Victoria, Gozo.

We ended the afternoon with a break at the hotel before walking into Xlendi for a romantic dinner on Xlendi bay at Restaurant Ta’Karolina!

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Dinner at Ta’Karolina.

Our second day on Gozo was spent driving around the island and seeing some of its beset sites. We saw Dwejra Bay (the former home of the Azure Window), the salt pans in Marsalforn, Our Lady of Ta’Pinu Basilica, and the Ggantija Temple.  All of these sites were really cool, and I felt like we saw a lot of Gozo!

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Our Lady of Ta’Pinu Basilica.

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Salt pans of Marsalforn.

After touring around the island, we did a wine tasting at Ta’Mena Estate, which was more of a farm than a winery.  Our day ended with another dinner in Xlendi, this time out The Boathouse.

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Ta’Mena Estate.

On Friday, we took the ferry back to Gozo and after checking into our new hotel, the Hilton St. Julian’s, we took a Bolt to Mdina for the afternoon, which was absolutely lovely!

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Gozo Ferry Line.

We ended Friday with a dinner at the Leglin wine bar in Valletta.

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One of the courses at Leglin Wine Bar.

On our final day in Malta, we took a food tour around Valletta, explored Valletta a bit on our own, and ended the evening with an Italian dinner in St. Julian’s.

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Valletta.

FAVORITE MALTESE EATING AND DRINKING HIGHLIGHTS

I’ll post about some of our favorite meals but in short, Malta is home to some interesting food that is not easy to find off the islands. That being said, I unfortunately kept comparing it to Italian food and, I just did not find it as good as Italian food… In any case, we still had some excellent meals and dishes. Here is a short list of some of my favorite Maltese finds!

The local Maltese soda, Kinnie, is every where in Malta; there are even vending machines and a diet version. Definitely worth trying when in Malta.

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Kinnie Soda!

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Kinnie vending machine on Gozo.

Fried foods, like British and American-style fried foods, are strangely popular and well-done (er, fried) in Malta. I guess its due to its close ties to Great Britain. We had quite good fried food (though it wasn’t the most exotic or healthy) all over Malta, including on Comino Island where the only food options are food kiosks geared strictly to tourists. Malta is also a good place to find a solid fish and chips.

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Fish and chips at Hugo Pub in St. Julian’s.

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Fried mozzarella sticks on Comino. Might as well be the USA.

Rabbit is the national dish of Malta, and many restaurants offer rabbit every night. I am not a rabbit lover, but Dan tried it a few times and enjoyed his dishes. If you’re adventurous or a fan or rabbit, Malta is definitely a good place to have the dish.

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Maltese rabbit dish at Ta’Karolina on Gozo.

Another must try in Malta is Italian food, since its so close to Italy! Italian food is readily available on Malta, and Italian coffees, cannolis, pasta, and pizza were everywhere. We had some AMAZING pizza at Restaurant Sotto in Valletta. Highly, highly recommended.

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Pizza at Restaurant Sotto!

Along the fried cheese theme, I had multiple Gozotian cheese served fried as an appetizer on the island of Gozo. The cheese was soft and white and often served with a berry sauce. Big fan! This dish was easy to find all over Gozo – less so on Malta.

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Fried Gozotian cheese.

Any and everything fig. I love figs and, lucky for me, figs are very popular in Malta, especially so in desserts and liquors. On our first night, I had a great fig pie served with homemade ice cream at Restaurant Peperoncino on Malta. 

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Fig cake with homemade ice cream.

In addition to fig liquors, Malta makes a lot of liquors from everything from fig to prickly pear to carob to limoncello. We tried a few different types on our trip, often as a complimentary after dinner drink at restaurants. Since these were liquors, they were not too strong and could easily be drank without a mixer.

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Maltese limoncello.

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Carob liquor.

We also tried Pastizzi on Malta as part of our Valletta food tour. Pastizzi may be the most famous Maltese food and its ubiquitous in Malta. Pastizzi is basically a puff pastry filled with a variety of fillings, from peas to cheese to Nutella. I tried the cheese, but pastizzis are quite cheap so you can try them all.

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Pastizzi.

Finally, Malta’s local beer, Cisk! Cisk is everywhere on all of the islands, and they even have some fun summer shandy-type flavors. I had a few Cisks on this trip and for a mass produced beer, its quite good! 

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Cisk on draft.

WHERE WE STAYED

On Malta, we stayed in 2 hotels in St. Julian’s – the Intercontinental and the Hilton. We choose these hotels because of points and status that we have at the hotels. I preferred the Hilton to the Intercontinental, but they were both nice.

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View from the room at the Hilton Malta.

As mentioned, both hotels were in St. Julian’s, a very popular tourist area on Malta. If you stay in St. Julian’s, know that there is a party atmosphere (clubs, bars, hookah), lots of chains, and loads of tourists. Stay elsewhere if you are searching for a more local feel.

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Dan having a hookah in St. Julian’s.

On Gozo, we stayed at Cescas Boutique Hotel, between Xlendi and Victoria. While it was a bit out of the way, Cescas was gorgeous and a complete 180 from St. Julian’s. We did not have a car and were fine, but renting a car is helpful at Cescas on Gozo, as its at least a 15 minute (somewhat dicey on the side of the road) walk from the nearest restaurant (except the one onsite).

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View from Cescas with Victoria in the background (a 30 minute walk uphill).

PRACTICALITIES

  • The Maltese speak English and Maltese, and many speak other languages.
  • Malta uses the euro. Large stores, hotels, and most restaurants accept credit card, but smaller shops, kiosks, and some restaurants only accept cash. As such, its advisable to carry cash, especially when not on Malta island.
  • Malta generally uses the UK 3-prong electric outlet, although some hotels also have the European 2-prong outlets.
  • The well-known white Malta taxis are pricey. We used the app Bolt and it worked pretty well, very similar to Uber (which does NOT work in Malta). Ecabs is a similar app that was recommended, but we did not try it. If you use Bolt, be sure to check that you want to pay by credit card if you do not have cash – otherwise the app defaults to cash payment. Note – as of July 2019, neither Bolt nor Ecabs work on Gozo or Comino.
  • Malta is by far the busiest and most modern of the 3 Maltese islands. You can find whatever you need on Malta. Things are much harder to find on Gozo and Comino.
  • Bring a cover for your shoulders if visiting churches; the Maltese are quite religious (Catholic).
  • Sicily is only a 90-minute ride away via fast ferry, making the two Mediterranean destinations an easy pair.
  • The island of Comino is tiny; there is only 1 hotel and restaurant on the island, and the Blue Lagoon is the primary site to see there. Don’t plan on spending more than a day unless you are staying at the hotel on the island.

STEAL OUR TRIP

Intercontinental Malta: St. George’s Bay St. Julian’s STJ, 3310, Malta. Located right in the middle of St. Julian’s with two pools.  The Sky Beach Restaurant and Champagne Bar costs money to access if you are not staying in one of the Executive Level rooms. Good AC and awesome gym.

Hilton Malta: Vjal Portomaso St Julian’s PTM, 01, Malta. While in St. Julian’s, the Hilton Malta is located a bit away from the hustle and bustle of St. Julian’s, but still within walking distance to the bars/restaurants of St. Julians. I preferred the Hilton to the Intercontinental, but we also had lounge access in the Hilton (and not the Intercontinental (like we did in Singapore), and that may have swayed my opinion. Good AC and multiple pools on property.

Cescas Boutique Hotel: Triq tal-Ghajn, Il-Munxar, Malta. A true boutique hotel in a renovated farmhouse in Gozo. Kind of in the middle-of-nowhere, you can technically walk to Xlendi and Victoria. Good breakfast included with booking. Wifi and AC included. Pool on premises.

Hornblower Cruises: Dawret Il-Gzejjer, San Pawl il-Baħar SPB 1480, Malta. One of the more popular Blue Lagoon cruises in Malta. Book in advance online to secure your spot.

Peperoncino: 8 Triq Il- Bajja, San Ġiljan, Malta. Open daily 18h30 – 22h. Reservations recommended for the best tables!

Sotto Pizzeria: 32 South St, Valletta, Malta. Open Tuesday – Sunday 12:00 – 14:45, 19:00 – 23:00. Closed Monday. Reservations recommended, as this place is popular! Casual attire.

Hypogeum: Triq Ic Cimiterju Raħal Ġdid PLA, 1116, Malta. Open daily 9 – 5. Book your tickets via my link months in advance, or be prepared to pay $$ via a third party vendor. Only 80 people allowed in per day. The Hypogeum was quite interesting, but not a “must do” if you are short on time or cannot procure tickets.

Meridiana Wine Estate: ATD 4000, Malta. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Use the “Book A Tour” feature on the bottom of their website to inquire about a tour/tasting, which are usually held during the week between 10:00 and 15:00. Our tasting was 12 euro/person for 4 wines and some crackers. I recommend upgrading to their full tray of snacks, which costs a bit more but is enough for lunch.

Ta’Mena Estate: Rabat Road, Xaghra XRA 9010, Malta. A popular winery and farm, with tours offered twice a week (I believe on Thursday and Saturday).  Book in advance via email.

Leglin Wine Bar: Old school wine bar in downtown Valletta. Book in advance via Facebook Messenger.

The Boathouse: XLN1010, Xatt Ix Xlendi, Il-Munxar, Malta. Right in downtown Xlendi, next to Ta’Karolina. Closed Wednesday. Open Thursday – Tuesday 12h – 15h30, 18h – 22h. Reservations recommended, especially for waterside dining.

Ta’Karolina: Triq L-Ghar ta Karolina, Munxar, Malta. Open 12h30 – 15h30, 18h30 – 22h30. Highly recommend booking a reservation online, especially to secure one of the romantic tables on the water like we had!

Stanley’s Chippy Shop: San Gorg Basilica, Victoria, Malta. Super casual and no reservations. Bring cash.

Off Beat Malta Food Trails: Great food tour of Valletta – you try delicious food and walk though a good bit of the city. Book online in advance.

 

 

 

Mdina, Malta: One Of The Most Gorgeous Cities I Have Ever Visited.

Mdina, Malta is a walled, hilltop town on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean, which stood as the capital of Malta until the Medieval period. Mdina is commonly known as the “Silent City,” its a UNESCO site, and Mdina is a hugely popular tourist destination in Malta. More importantly, its also Kings Landing from the first season of Game of Thrones!!!!

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Mdina or Kings Landing?

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A Day Trip To The Abu Simbel Temples – Worth The Time And Effort.

Prior to planning our trip to Egypt, I hardly knew anything about Abu Simbel. Yes, I had heard of it and I *kind of* knew what it looked like, but nothing more. At all. But, as soon as I dug into Abu Simbel, a visit was absolutely non-negotiable. Planning this “must do” activity turned out to be more work than anticipated, as its a flight from Cairo or Luxor or 6-hour round trip drive from Aswan! In any case, we worked it out and it was one of both Dan and my favorite activities in Egypt, rivaling even the pyramids!

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Shara sunrise en route to Abu Simbel.

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Eating Our Way Through Downtown Cairo!

Dan and I were very interested in trying Egyptian food, so in planning our trip to Cairo, we booked a food tour shortly after we booked our flights! For any foodies planning a trip to Cairo, this is a GREAT idea (especially if you are not Egyptian and/or don’t speak Arabic) because it allows you to try really local food from vendors who may not speak English and see the heart of old Cairo (which can be quite overwhelming!). Its also a good idea if you are taking a Nile River cruise, because the food on those cruises is usually not Egyptian!

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Fruit market in Downtown Cairo.

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My Best Meal in Malta: Sotto Pizzeria in Valletta!

Being so close to Italy, Italy heavily influences Malta’s cuisine. Pasta, cannoli, and pizza are everywhere in Malta, and we ate a lot of it. However, I kept thinking that it was just not as good as Italian food; a second best so to speak. However, when we dined at Sotto Pizzeria, I was completely blown away and had, by far, the best meal of the entire trip!

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Malta on a map.

Sotto Pizzeria is located in Malta’s capital, Valletta, in a nondescript basement with only a small sign announcing the restaurant.

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Dan Dan at Sotto Pizzeria in Valletta, Malta.

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Wareontheglobe’s 2019 Guide To Visiting The Great Pyramids In Egypt.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Dan and I checked off a big bucket list item earlier this year – visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!! It was truly a 10-year in the making trip (due to safety concerns), and we loved every minute of our holiday! So much, in fact, that we are planning to go back in a couple years when the Great Egyptian Museum finally opens! While everything was fantastic, I was shocked at how difficult it is to find information about visiting the Pyramids, and Egypt generally, online; it was really tough! I put together this guide to help future travelers cut down on the planning stress! Note, this information is as of 2019. Definitely check for updates and more recent information in the future, as Egypt’s tourism industry is only moving forward!

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The pyramids!!

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Airport Lounge Review: No. 1 Lounge, London Heathrow.

En route back from Malta, Dan and had a little over three hours to kill in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 before flying back to New York via Virgin Atlantic. Since we flew economy class, we had two options for airport lounges via Priority Pass – the Aspire Lounge and the No. 1 Lounge. Since we had visited the Aspire Lounge (albeit in Terminal 5) previously, we decided to check out the No. 1 Lounge this time, as it was new and it gets pretty good reviews.

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Welcome to the No. 1 Lounge!

The No. 1 Lounge is part of a chain of lounges in the UK. The public can buy access to the lounge for 40 Pounds, and the No. 1 Lounge also accepts Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas, and acts as a lounge for certain carriers. As such, it can definitely fill up and lock out Priority Pass members. To avoid this, the No. 1 Lounge offers an option for Priority Pass members to purchase guaranteed access for 5 Pounds/person. We did purchase this option, but it ended up being unnecessary.

The No. 1 Lounge is located post-security on the second floor of Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport, just next to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and very close to other airline lounges. It was easy enough to find, just follow signs for airport lounges and don’t get distracted in crazy Terminal 3! There is an elevator and stairs to access the lounge. Entrance was quick and easy with our Priority Pass, and there were no restrictions for entry at 11 AM on a Sunday morning in June.

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Pricing scheme.

Upon arrival, you are given a menu with hot meal choices for the day, a bit of general information on the lounge, and the wifi password. 

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Daily menu/literal meal ticket.

Upon entry, the No. 1 Lounge is quite large with decent airport views (the exact same as the Virgin Clubhouse, only 1 floor higher). Just past checkin is a pretty large bar with bar stool seating. Just past the bar is a small buffet and coffee area with table seating.

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Cool runway views.

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The lounge. I failed to get great pictures…

Moving around the corner from the buffet area, there is a lot of seating, both nice sofa like chairs, tables, and seating overlooking the runway.  While there was a lot of seating, it was pretty crowded.  In addition to this area, there are a few private rooms that can apparently be rented out for private groups (or possibly airlines).  We ended up in one of these rooms at a large table just in front or a large TV playing BBC. These small side rooms also had small fridges with soda and water. 

FOOD

Since we had limited time in the lounge, we decided to order hot food as soon as we sat down. Dan took our two menus to the bar, where all orders are placed, and placed our orders. The way the hot food works is that your menu is a ticket for one meal. We just missed breakfast, so I ordered the truffle mac and cheese and Dan ordered the bacon sandwich. Our food came out about 15 minutes later and both were quite delicious!! My only complaint is that the dishes were a little small… But we ended up lucking out and our neighbor gave us his menu (he was not eating) and we ordered a third fish wrap, which was served with potato chips and was SO good!! We were definitely plenty full at this point!

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Bacon sandwich with brown sauce. Available all day.

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Truffle mac and cheese. Available after 11 AM.

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Fish finger wrap with potato chips. Available all day.

Aside from order from the menu, which is a really fun option in an airport lounge, we also visited the little buffet area. We visited just as the lunch portion was going out. When we visited, the buffet consisted of a hot soup, a beet salad, a small lettuce salad with some vegetables, fresh fruit (whole apples, oranges, etc.), and some nuts and dried fruit. The nearby coffee bar doubled as a dessert bar and offered cookies and a couple different types of tea cakes. The desserts were really good and the buffet food was high quality, but I was looking for something a little more unhealthy on my last day of vacation….

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The buffet.

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Beet salad and fresh tomatoes.

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Fresh fruit and salad toppings.

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Sweets from the sweets table.

THE DRINKS

While the hot food is understandably limited at the No. 1 Lounge, the drinks (well most) are free flowing (unlike the Aspire lounge). At the No. 1 Lounge, all alcohol beverages come from the main bar, and there are a lot of options. Seriously, Prosecco, numerous types of red and white wines, draft and bottled beer, and cider. There is also Champagne available for purchase. Between Dan and me, we tried the Prosecco, cider, and the Spanish Rioja red wine. I do not recall the brand of wine, but the Spanish Rioja was an excellent wine for a Priority Pass airline lounge.

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Complimentary Prosecco.

In addition to alcohol drinks, the No. 1 Lounge offers complimentary bottles of flat and sparkling wine, a variety of sodas, juice, and a large coffee machine making all of the standard espresso beverages. These drinks are all unlimited and are self-serve via several small fridges spread out throughout the lounge.

OTHER AMENITIES

The No. 1 Lounge has in lounge lavatories, which were clean and large enough to change and freshen up. The No. 1 Lounge also offers showers for 15 Pounds, nap pods for 20 Pounds, and apparently spa services! We did not use these features, nor did I see anyone else using them, but they apparently exist…

All in all, the No. 1 Lounge was a good lounge, and I think that I liked it better than the Aspire Lounge, but only slightly.

STEAL OUR LOUNGE

No. 1 Lounge Heathrow: Post-security in London Heathrow Terminal 3.  Follow signs for Lounge F access. Directly above the Virgin Clubhouse. Open daily 4:30 – 22:30. From 34 Pounds in advance, 40 Pounds at the door. Priority Pass, Dragon Pass, Diners Club, and Wexas members have complimentary access. Showers are 10 Pounds extra for patrons with complimentary access.  Pass members can also guaranty entrance for 5 Pounds per person online in advance.

My Review Of Our Nile River Cruise On The M/S Nile Dolphin With Emo Tours Egypt.

As part of our Egypt itinerary in April 2019, Dan and I took a Nile River cruise with Emo Tours Egypt. While we are not cruisers at all (having only cruised once previously), we choose a Nile River cruise because it seemed like the easiest and quickest way to get between Luxor and Aswan, while seeing the sites in between. We very, very much enjoyed our cruise and cruising the Nile is SO GORGEOUS. But, there were certainly some things that surprised us about the cruise, probably because there is not a lot of information online about these cruises except “rah rah, you have to do it!” So, here is my complete review and guide of our cruise down the Nile River!

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View from the ship – the Nile Dolphin.

PROS: Easy way to get from Luxor to Aswan while seeing some sites in between, cruising down the Nile is amazing, generally safe and comfortable, Emo Tours Egypt tour guide was fantastic!

CONS: The food, limited activities on the ship, limited interaction with Egyptian culture.

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10 Years Later, We Finally Made It To Egypt And It Was Worth The Wait!!!

Ah, Egypt! Dan and I spent 10 days in Egypt in April 2019, and we had the best time! By way of background, we have been wanting to go to Egypt for a long time, since 2008 to be exact, and we almost went in 2010, but opted for Turkey instead. Big mistake. The Egyptian Revolution happened in early 2011, and we have viewed Egypt as a bit too unsafe for Western tourists (or at least us) since. Last year, though, we started reading travel and news articles indicating that Egypt was once again safe. Soooo, we decided to go for it and booked tickets!

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Egyptair Express – our intra-Egypt transportation.

Spoiler alert, we had a FABULOUS time and already want to go back (but will wait until the new museum opens in Giza!). The ancient Egyptian monuments are more amazing than imaginable, and we really enjoyed the culture, food, and hospitality! If you have been thinking of booking a trip to Egypt, now is a great time to go and here is information for your booking based on our time there! 

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Sphinx – check!

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A Week In Egypt In Photographs.

If you follow me or Dan on Instagram, you know that we FINALLY made it to Egypt earlier this year, visiting Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, via a Nile River cruise between Luxor and Cairo. I will be posting about our trip and my tips and tricks shortly but, for now, here are some of my favorite pictures of this beautiful country (which you should ALL visit!)!

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Hilton Resort & Spa Luxor, that’s the view from our room and the Nile River in the background.

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Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

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Avenue of the Sphinx. Luxor, Egypt.

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L’Angolo Divino: A Delicious Wine Bar Near Touristy Camp de’ Fiori!

Dan and my friend, Hugh, is in the wine industry, so when we were in Rome, he sent us over a few dinner/wine bar recommendations to try while we were in town! Usually I am a little picky about people’s restaurant or wine recommendations, but this guy knows his stuff and introduced us to Portuguese wine, which led to our wedding in Portugal! Enter L’Angolo Divino, a wine bar near Campo de’ Fiori, which was definitely our hang out spot when we studied in Rome…. We called and made a reservation same day (and probably did not need a reservation). 

Despite it being late December in Rome, we walked to dinner (it was mid 50s F!) and were promptly seated at a cute table next to a window overlooking the street. The restaurant is quite small and when we visited, all of the patrons seemed to be tourists. This was a bit unsettling, but it turned out great.

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A happy Dan Dan at dinner!

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Exploring the Executive Lounge At the Double Tree by Hilton Montreal (Complexe Desjardins)

Over Memorial Day, Dan and I drove to Montreal (from NYC, 6.5 hours) to spend a glorious weekend eating and drinking far too much. Montreal is the perfect place for that. On this trip, we stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton in the Complexe Desjardins, which was very recently converted from a Hyatt to a Double Tree in December.  Fun fact – we stayed at that Hyatt back in 2012! This time around, we were very excited to check out the new Executive Lounge a/k/a Club Lounge at the Double Tree, having really enjoyed the one at the Double Tree by Hilton in Santiago!

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Entrance to the “Club Lounge” a/k/a Executive Lounge in Hilton speak.

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Dinner at Roma Sparita, Rome, Italy: One Of Bourdain’s Favorite Spots!

Roma Sparita is an absolutely delicious, well-known, yet casual, restaurant in the Trastevere neighborhood of Rome that frequently tops “best place to eat in Rome” lists. It doesn’t hurt that Anthony Bourdain LOVED this restaurant, so much that he would never disclose its name (although it was pretty easy to uncover). And, as some of you may know, Dan and I lived in Trastevere for a summer in law school and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Bourdain! Obviously, when we were in Rome over the New Year, I just had to have a meal at Roma Sparita and made a dinner reservation our first night.

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Rome over the New Year holiday!

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The Best Meal In Rome At Roscioli, Roma!

One of the best, if not the best (a close tie with Roma Sparita), meals that I had on my 35th birthday trip to Rome was at Restaurant Roscioli. Restaurant Roscioli is quite well known in Rome, as both a delicious restaurant and a popular tourist haunt. Despite its touristy popularity, we booked a table for dinner on our trip, and it was so, SO good!

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Roscioli!

If you are planning a trip to Rome, Roscioli will likely pop up on a lot of “best restaurant” lists and if you are just walking around looking for a place to eat, Roscioli’s charming atmosphere will certainly draw you in – think meats hanging from the ceiling, Italian products stocking the walls, and lots and lots of people. We made a reservation in advance before we left home (recommended) for the wine cellar. Yes, you pick where you sit, and there are four options: (1) the counter bar; (2) the restaurant hall; (3) the wine cellar; and (4) a table in front of the deli counter. Avoid the wine cellar if you can’t do steep stairs and the counter bar if you do not want to sit on a stool. Otherwise, the “options” are all in the same building and use the same menu and kitchen. We opted for the wine cellar because, well, we love wine! I would also note that each reservation is strictly timed and you are only allotted two hours for dinner, which I hate and is very un-Italian. Since we had a late dinner, we were the last sitting for our table and were able to stay as long as we wanted.

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Happy Dan Dan!

On arrival, we were promptly shown to our table, which was down a steep set of stairs in, not surprisingly, the wine cellar. The tables were TIGHT, but that’s somewhat normal in Italy and we were sitting among some amazing and delicious bottles of wine. We kept spotting bottles that we would like to try. It was kind of a problem. The waitress gave us the menu and the huge wine list, and we set out to choose a bottle of wine! We also ordered a couple gin and tonics to start, and these were absolutely delicious. They were also served in the cutest glasses, and there are multiple fancy gins to choose from on their Gin and Tonic list!

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Delicious G&T in the cutest glass.

After reviewing the wine list in great detail, we decided to ask for a recommendation on a Sagrintino. We ended up decanting a 2011 Montefalco Sagrantino at Dan’s choice. The wine was ridiculously good!

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2011 Montefalco Sagrantino!

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In the decanter!

On the food front, Roscioli has a really good menu, from pasta to meat, to fish, the list goes on. We ended up ordering two entrees (aka starters in Europe). First, fresh burrata! Burrata is a fresh, soft cheese, reminiscent of fresh mozzarella but better in my opinion! I was going to order this regardless but, super lucky for us, it was still white truffle season in Italy and there was a special white truffle menu, and the burrata was on it!! So, of course, I opted for the white truffle burrata! For those unfamiliar, white truffles are the most expensive of the truffle family, and they are incredibly, incredibly delicious. They are also only available for a short time period between about November and January. White truffles are priced by weight and the waiter will shave it fresh onto your dish. We went to a white truffle festival in San Miniato in 2016, and black truffles have just never been the same. We were also pretty familiar about how white truffles worked. 

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The white truffle menu!

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Ready for the white truffle!

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Burrata sans white truffles.

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Burrata with white truffles!!

In addition to the burrata, we ordered something that was similar to a hotdog slider, basically a very tasty local sausage on a small bun with a pickle and a delicious sauce. These came two to an order and were quite delicious. No truffles on these bad boys.

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Going to call these “mini hotdogs.”

For my main dish, I initially planned to order to Cacio e Pepe, but I wanted a dish from the white truffle menu, which narrowed it a bit. In the end, I ordered homemade tortellini from Bologna, which were stuffed with pork, and topped with more white truffles! Like the burrata, the white truffle was freshly shaved onto my pasta! This meal, again, was AMAZING!

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Pre-white truffle.

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White truffles and the scale.

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The final dish!

Dan opted for my original Cacio e Pepe order, so at least I got to try that! As expected, his Cacio e Pepe was beautiful and tasted amazing. It was also a huge dish! I will absolutely order this next time (assuming its not white truffle season).

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Dan’s Cacio e Pepe.

Even though we had enjoyed so much food at this point, we could not pass up dessert since the food was so tasty! We ended up ordered a fruit plate with chocolate sauce for dessert, accompanied with these famous dessert cookies. We also did a glass of dessert wine – a 2014 Muffato della Sala.  The fruit was excellent and a great way to finish off our meal.  However, I would probably not order it again, as it looks like every table receives a similar, smaller dessert for free.

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Fruit + chocolate + wine biscuits.

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Dessert wine!

All in, this meal was 1000%!!! I cannot go back to Rome without eating here, and I even joined their wine club! For those planning to visit, make a reservation in advance and review the menu (online) before you arrive to maximize your two hour dinner. There are a lot of options on the menu and it can be a little confusing. But don’t worry, the waitstaff is super nice and used to tourists. They will gladly assist if needed! In terms of price, this was our most expensive dinner in Rome, but that was due to my white truffles (about $50 US extra between the two courses – it was my birthday!) and an expensive bottle of wine.  I would classify Roscioli as upscale but not breaking the bank.

STEAL OUR DINNER

Roscioli: Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22, 00186 Roma RM, Italy. Closed Sunday. Open Monday – Sunday, 12h30 – 16h, 19h – 00h. Reservations almost mandatory and can be made here. There are several options of “where to sit” in Roscioli. All areas serve the same menu prepared by the same kitchen.

Roma Sparita: Piazza di Santa Cecilia, 24, 00153 Roma RM, Italy.  12h30 – 14h30, 19h30 – 12h. Closed for 2 weeks every August. Recommended to reserve in advance here. or by calling +39 06 580 0757.

If you want to learn more about white truffles, and you should, read about my visit to the San Miniato white truffle festival here, here, and here!

Visiting Rome, Italy Between Christmas & New Year’s Day: What to Do, Where to Eat, and the Weather!

Dan and I made our triumphant return to Rome Italy between Christmas and New Year’s to celebrate my 35th birthday!! We originally visited Rome in 2008 as a law school summer study abroad and LOVED it but, unfortunately, had not been back – despite having been to Italy many times over the last decade… Since my birthday is in late December – the 26th to be precise – we visited Rome between Christmas and New Years. I was a bit concerned about the timing, the weather, what to do, etc., but we ended up having the perfect trip and now I really want to go back!

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Dan and I at Circus Maximus. December 2018.

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Dan and I in Campo di Fiore 11 years ago. July 2008.

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A Second Dinner At Le Grand Colbert, Paris – 15 Years Later!

Le Grand Colbert is an old-school Parisian haunt near the Louvre (and even closer to the Bourse (aka stock exchange)). Its also right around the corner from Ellsworth, an adorable restaurant that I recommend!  Being old-school, Le Grand Colbert has been around for years – since 1900 (current owners since 1992) – and its everything that you would imagine in such a bistrot – gorgeous interior, fancy waiters dressed in full suits, and classic French fare. The building also has tons of history, originally dating to 1637. Be sure to check out the details in the small details, including the mosaic floor!

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Le Grand Colbert.

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Gorgeous interior!

Doesn’t le Grand Colbert seem like the perfect spot? Well, its also, and somewhat unfortunately, quite popular with the tourist crowds due to the fact that it was featured in the hit American move, Something’s Gotta Give (GREAT movie though!). So while its a classic, you will not likely be enjoying a meal at Le Grand Colbert with Parisians, but with other tourists. Even then, however, Le Grand Colbert is a pretty fabulous meal in Paris, especially for those on a first time (or once in a life time visit)!

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Le group at le Grand Colbert.

As you can probably guess, I dined at Le Grand Colbert on my Ladies Trip to Paris earlier this year, but my mother and I visited Le Grand Colbert way back in 2004 when I studied abroad in Paris! We loved it then and it was just as good this time around. One of the best things about Le Grand Colbert is its classic, and lengthy, Parisian/South Burgundy menu. You want something classically French, its probably on this menu. Le Grand Colbert also boasts a great wine list! Every table at Le Grand Colbert starts with olives, potato chips (my favorite!), and crusty French bread. We paired this with a 2014 Bordeaux from Haut-Médoc from that excellent wine list.

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Olives & crisps.

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2014 Bordeaux!

I started my meal with a bowl of French Onion Soup because well, I was in Paris. This one was particularly good and super cheesy! Highly recommended. My only complaint is that it was too much food for me, ha!

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Real French Onion Soup.

I then ordered a classic Parisian dish and one of my favorites, steak au poivre. This is basically a deliciously rare steak in a pepper corn sauce. My steak was served with a slice of tomato with Parmesean crust, really good haricot vert (green beans), and pommes frites! Super Parisian, and super delicious! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of other peoples food, but other popular choices were the very fresh scallops, and the huge pot of moules-frites (mussels and fries)!

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Steak au poivre.

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Real scallops.

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Pommes-frites and sauce for the steak (or the fries).

For dessert, because, Paris, I ordered a classic crème brûlée. It was served flaming, and it was absolutely delicious! 

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When in Paris?

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Flaming crème brûlée!

STEAL OUR DINNER

Le Grand Colbert: 2 Rue Vivienne, 75002 Paris, France. Open daily 12h – 00h. Reservations recommended and can easily be made online. Not cheap, but not as expensive as you would think. Below are some pictures of the large menu (but not all of it) for price point comparison. While touristy, I do recommend this restaurant and would absolutely eat here again. Le Grand Colbert is also good about reserving tables for large groups without issue, a plus for groups or families!

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Seafood.

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More food.

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More of la carte.

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Desserts!

Dinner And A Visit To The Eiffel Tower 2019!

Ah, the Eiffel Tower. The definitive bucket list site in Paris. Completed in 1889 for the World’s Fair in Paris, its still the tallest structure in Paris and very popular with visitors, who can ascend to the very top on most days (the top is occasionally closed for wind). I’ve visited the Eiffel Tower many times of the years, and visiting it has changed significantly in the last 20 years. Gone are the days of picnicing in the Champs de Mars and gone are the days of buying a ticket on the spot. Now, due to increased security measures, tourists should plan their visit in advance to save precious Paris vacation time and ensure their ticket to the top! Here is my guide on visiting and dining on the Eiffel Tower (skip to the bottom for information on dining on the Eiffel Tower only) in 2019!

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Pryor and me visiting the Eiffel Tower in February 2019!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And here we are visiting in 2010 with Dan Dan!

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Restaurant Review: Ellsworth, Paris!

Ellsworth is an adorable little restaurant near the Louvre! With a little American flair and lots of Parisian flair, Ellsworth is  fun stop not too far from a very touristy part of Paris. I have been to Ellsworth twice for lunch; once in the summer with Dan and once in the winter on my Paris Ladies Trip. I enjoyed both of my meals and will definitely return again!

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Ellsworth!

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Exploring The Heart Of Montmartre With Secret Paris Food Tours

Earlier this year with my mother, Dan’s mother, sister, and aunt, and our friend Pryor (frequently on this blog) and her mother went to Paris over Valentine’s Day.  On this lovely Girls’ Trip, we took a food tour through Montmartre on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon – I’m talking sunny and 60 degrees! It was pretty great and a fun walk to explore a usually too touristy part of Paris!

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Montmartre. You can still see a windmill in the background!

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Restaurant Review: Georges, Centre Pompidou, Paris

Le Centre Pompidou (or the Pompidou Center in English) is Paris’ modern art museum. Located in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, the museum itself is a stunning work of modern architecture and worth a walk-by, even if you are not a modern art lover. Earlier this year when I visited Paris on a Girls’ Trip, I lunched at le Centre Pompidou’s upscale restaurant, Georges, located on the roof of the museum, with stunning views of Paris. Georges ended up being everyone’s favorite meal of the trip, and eating there was a blast. Highly recommended for visitors searching for a delicious, somewhat upscale meal in an Instagrammable setting.

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Le Centre Pompidou.

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The Perfect Long Weekend In Paris: My Itinerary!

Earlier this year, actually over Valentine’s Day weekend (ha!), I took a ladies trip to Paris with my mother, Dan’s mother, sister, and aunt, our friend, Pryor, and her mother! It was a little reminiscent of our 2016 trip to Italy, but without Dan Dan (SAD!) Since some of the group had never been to Paris and others had not been for years, I took the lead in planning. So, for your reading, and hopefully planning, pleasure, here is our itinerary, which I think is perfect for first time visitors to Paris!

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Paris on Valentine’s Day!

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A Delicious Exploration of Testaccio, Rome: A Culinary Tour With Eating Italy!

As some of you may know, Dan and I spent a fabulous summer in Rome wayyyy back in 2008 (so long ago!). We lived in the very residential part of the Trastevere neighborhood that summer, not too far from the adjacent Testaccio neighborhood. In fact, I have vivid memories of being in Testaccio (and Trastevere!) and thinking that Rome was not at all a touristy city. How wrong was I? Despite Rome being super touristy, certain areas, including parts of Trastevere and Testaccio, remain local and largely devoid of tourists. When we went back over the New Year this past year, I definitely wanted to explore more of these areas.

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Me and Dan our first night in Rome, June 2008! I still drank white wine… #basic

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Restaurant Review: Paradilla La Pulperia, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Like its big sister, Buenos Aires, just across the Río del Plata, Montevideo is a meat lovers paradise. Beef is king, and often served grilled in a casual setting. Meat-eaters cannot leave Montevideo without enjoyed a grilled meat extravaganza at a paradilla. Like in Buenos Aires, You can find paradillas all over Uruguay, and touristy ones in the Mercado Del Puerto. We choose to go a bit off the tourist beaten path and visited Paradilla La Pulperia in the Punta Carretas neighborhood of Montevideo.

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A paradilla.

Paradilla La Pulperia, or La Pulperia for short, is an institution in Montevideo that is only open Tuesday – Saturday, 19h – 00h. The actual restaurant is not much more than a glorified bar surrounding the most amazing grill. You will find both locals and tourists at La Pulperia, and you should arrive right at 19h (when it opens) or prepare to wait a while for a table.

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The restaurant – La Pulperia.

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Restaurant Review: La Brigada, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A “parrilla” is a casual restaurant serving all types of meat, are extremely popular in Argentina and other South American countries (hello, Uruguay!). Buenos Aires is home to several famous parrillas, and you really shouldn’t visit Buenos Aires without a proper meal at one. When Dan and I first visited Buenos Aires, we dined at a famous parrilla called La Brigada, and decided that this was the spot for our only dinner in Buenos Aires this trip!

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La Brigada!

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How To Take The Ferry From Buenos Aires To Uruguay.

If you are traveling between Buenos Aires and Uruguay, even for a day trip, chances are that you will at least look at taking the ferry across the Río de la Plata. Dan & I have done it a few times, and its much easier than one would think. Its also much quicker than flying between countries considering the time getting to the airport, security, etc.  

THE BASICS

Buenos Aires (BA), Argentina is quite close to Uruguay, only separated by the Río de la Plata. As such, a common and convenient way to get between BA and Uruguay is to take the ferry, generally referred to as the “BuqueBus,” between the two countries.

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Busy BA…

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To sleepy Western Uruguay…

In fact, ferries depart several times a day between BA and Colonia, Uruguay and BA and Montevideo, Uruguay and back. The journey to Colonia takes a little over an hour, while the journey to Montevideo takes around 3 hours.

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24 Hours In Buenos Aires, Argentina!!

Dan and I found ourselves in Buenos Aries, Argentina for 24 hours in November en route to our wine-cation in Uruguay and Chile! Pro tip – its easier to get to Western Uruguay (Carmelo and Colonia) by flying into Buenos Aires and taking the ferry across the Río de la Plata than flying into Montevideo and driving (who knew?!). Since we had been to Buenos Aires on a previous visit and were short on time, we got right to down hitting our  very favorite spots!

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Hello, BA!!

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Valparaiso, Chile: Colorful, Historic, And An Easy Day Trip From Santiago.

When visiting Santiago, Chile last November, Dan and I took a day trip to Valparaiso, Chile’s uber colorful port city with a dicy reputation.  We had originally planned to stay a night or two in Valparaiso, but the timing did not work out and I was satisfied with our day trip. In fact, since it was so easy to visit as a day trip from Santiago, I would recommend most visitors with limited time to visit Valparaiso via a day trip from Santiago.

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The flowers in Valparaiso are gorgeous.

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The street art is also on point.

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The New & Awesome Executive Lounge at the Double Tree by Hilton Santiago – Vitacura

Dan and I love a good lounge, whether its in an airport or a hotel, we love free food and drinks. We also really enjoy staying for free on hotel points. When we booked our trip to Chile last year, we immediately looked at all hotels where we could redeem points for our stay. The Double Tree by Hilton Santiago – Vitacura was a candidate and we ended up booking four nights here based on the point redemption and the hotel’s location. It didn’t hurt that Dan has Diamond Status at Hilton either.

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Entrance to the Double Tree by Hilton Santiago – Vitacura.

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Hitting the Highlights of Santiago, Chile!

Santiago is the capital of Chile, the long, skinny country on the Western side of South America. Chile is bordered to the right by the Andes mountains, to the left by the Pacific Ocean, to the North by the desert, and to the South by glaciers. Due to its isolated location, Chile is indeed unique and extremely proud of its country and local products. Side note – to protect this status, Chile is also very particular about what one can bring into the country (wine is allowed).

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Wine map of Chile. The most appropriate kind of map.

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Touring the Colchagua Valley Wine Route in Chile.

Dan and my wine-cation last Thanksgiving unexpectedly took us to Santiago, Chile after visiting Uruguay (mainly because of flight schedules to/from the US). Since we were in Chile, we absolutely had to engage in some Chilean wine touring, especially since we do not drink much Chilean wine. In fact, we really did not know much about Chilean wine at all.