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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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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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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