{A Honeymoon in Italy} Gelato and Pesto, Here We Come

{Photos courtesy Hotel Artemide}

Our honeymoon has officially been booked and we couldn’t be more excited. We’ll be departing the day after our wedding to head to Rome, an eight and a half hour journey from Philadelphia. For the first leg of our trip, we’ll be staying at Hotel Artemide in Rome for two nights (the photo above is an example of the room we’ll be staying in). We’re total TripAdvisor stalkers, so the 4 1/2 star rating (out of 1,822 reviews) definitely made it a stand-out hotel with a convenient location.

For those of you who have been to Rome before, what lesser known sites should we scout out? I’ll admit, I’m looking forward to a tourist-y night walk to the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum (preferably while eating loads of gelato).

{Photos courtesy Grand Tour in Florence}

After we explore Rome for a couple of days, we’ll take the train an hour and a half to the Grand Tour in Florence, a five-star B&B I’ve been smitten with for years. The original structure was an 18th century garden theatre, which the owners brought back to light during its restoration and converted into nine suites. All of the doors open onto a courtyard garden with a fountain, which sounds all sorts of dreamy. I fully expect for there to be cartoon birds hanging our clean laundry on a clothesline when we wake up in the morning, that’s how good it sounds.

The Actor Suite, which we’re staying in (above), has a large bathroom with a private sauna…yes please. The shower has handmade majolicas (decorative earthenware tiles), that are so, so lovely. I love the old marble sink that is featured in the bedroom, along with the headboard that has some really pretty details.

{Photos courtesy Rificolona-Paper Lantern Festival}

Florence is a great central location for day trips, so we’ll be spending 4 nights in Florence, with excursions to Venice (Peggy Guggenheim Collection!) and Siena. I’m really excited about the Rificolona-Paper Lantern Festival, an evening parade through the Piazza Santissima Annunziata, with children carrying paper lanterns lit with candles, while the older kids try to set the lanterns ablaze with pea shooters. It’s all in good family fun since it is tied around tradition, plus there’s live music and carnival food, so it shouldn’t be too crazy. Supposedly most of the lanterns end up burning by the end of the night, so it should be interesting to see.

{Photos courtesy La Poesia}

After exhausting ourselves in and around Florence, we’ll be heading to Cinque Terre. I’ve been wanting to go to Cinque Terre forever, but then this happened last year, and it made my heart sink. Alas, the cliffside villages are rebuilding and need the tourists now more than ever, so we will be spending four nights in Monterosso Al Mare, one of two villages extensively damaged in last fall’s flood. Pete really wanted to stay near the beach, so that’s how we landed on Monterosso, however we’ll also be hiking and traveling to the other villages—Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

We’re staying at La Poesia, a charming B&B not far from the train station, with homemade breakfasts served on the outdoor terrace, complete with lemon trees and a breathtaking view of the beach.

{Photos courtesy here, here, and here}

I’m most excited about hiking around Cinque Terre, with a day trip to the port town of Portofino and loads of relaxing. Pete seems to think he can convince me to jump off of a 30-40 foot cliff into the Mediterranean Sea, but I have a feeling I’ll have to jump from the little kiddie spot that is only a few feet above the water.

Have you guys ever been to Italy? What spots should we be sure to add to our agenda (restaurants, museums, anything)?

Our New Year’s Eve Adventures

To celebrate Pete’s birthday and New Year’s Eve, we headed to The Nest Bed in the Poconos for our first ever B&B experience. I chose this location in particular because it’s modern and surrounded by nature (plus there’s an irresistible golden-doodle named Tulo). I can’t recommend it enough to those of you who are looking for a weekend getaway to the Poconos.

Photo credit: The Nest Bed

The steam shower with subway and honeycomb tiles was my favorite, and the stained glass accents around the entire house were gorgeous.

Here’s a small glimpse into the room we passed through whenever we headed upstairs to our room. This is also where Tulo greeted us by running up to us with a magazine in his mouth in the morning.

Seriously, how cute is that face?

I loved all of the attention to detail at The Nest Bed. From the adorable napkins accessorizing the ah-mazing homemade breakfast and dinner to the artwork hanging on the walls, the B&B felt like home and was filled with warmth from the lovely owners, Marko and Sally. They even had some retro pinball machines in the basement (I finally found something I could beat Peter at), along with a ping pong and pool table. I want them to adopt me, please (sorry mom and dad).

Say hello to Tulo for us if you visit. He will steal your heart instantly.

Pete and I spent our New Year’s Eve night dining at a local cafe (chocolate cake noms!) and taking goober-y photos of each other, followed by watching awful infomercials in bed and falling asleep to The Big Bang Theory.

Since it was Pete’s birthday, I decided we should do something he enjoys, even if the mere thought terrified me. That’s what birthdays are for after all, right? Anyway, I volunteered to go skiing with him at Shawnee Mountain, even though I don’t have a single athletic bone in my body. Pete had gone skiing a couple of times before so I was fully prepared to get owned, which is certainly what happened.

Here’s a video of Pete going down the bunny slope…which didn’t seem very “bunny”-ish to me at the time…but now looking back at the video, I suppose it’s a pretty skimpy hill.

Alright, so let me preface this next one by saying that the video below was my last attempt going down the hill. My first attempt was mere seconds after Pete slammed my ski boots on me. As a side note, for those of you who have never worn ski boots before, imagine clomp-clomp-clomping around like a deranged Frankenstein while the pro skiers gasp at how much you lack grace in your many layers. I wore 2 pairs of tights, two pairs of thigh high socks, jeans, a thermal, a t-shirt, a hoodie, a snowsuit, a giant puffy coat, waterproof gloves, and a helmet (oh, and underwear). It almost reached the 50s that day. Needless to say, I was a sweaty mess and my glasses kept fogging up while I was attempting to learn how to ski.

Anyway, Pete sent us right on our way to the weird treadmill thing that takes people up to the top of the hill if they want to avoid the ski lift (yes, please). That alone was terrifying. Having to shimmy out onto the hill made my heart drop. Pete made it look easy since he had done it before. He told me to follow behind him, so I tried and tumbled instantly. Meanwhile, Pete couldn’t stop himself, so he went all the way down to the bottom of the hill as I struggled to get back on my feet without sliding down. This went on for about 10 minutes until I unsnapped my boots and slowly walked down the hill like a defeated goober, with 3-year-olds whizzing past me and laughing at my blatant failure. I decided I was done trying until we had our group lesson an hour later.

During the lesson, I learned how to stop (or “make pizza,” as our instructor called it) and turn. Despite the class, I still managed to ski straight down the hill at a rapid speed (rather than zig-zagging) during my first post-lesson attempt down the bunny slope. I tried my best to dodge fallen snowboarders while screaming “PIZZA!” and other vulgarities not worth mentioning. Needless to say, I fell flat on my face.

Like I said, this video was my last attempt before we left and I managed to not fall (although you’ll see I came very close several times). Note the little child skiing past me effortlessly as I celebrate my victory. So sad. By the end of the day, my body hated me and I was incredibly sore, but at least I can say I tried something new and had fun doing it (despite the look of pure terror on my face).

What did you guys do to celebrate the New Year festivities?

Happenings: Baltimore, Maryland

Pete and I ventured to Baltimore, Maryland this weekend for a trip to the National Aquarium and American Visionary Art Museum. The aquarium had a special exhibit on jellies, which definitely made the trip well worth it. I stole a screenshot of this photo from the aquarium website because they made everyone smile for a photo as we entered. We look like major noodles, but I had to share.

This guy was gooood.

We visited the American Visionary Art Museum for the last day of the exhibit, “What Makes us Smile,” which was curated by Simpsons creator Matt Groening. The fabric paintings by Chris Roberts-Antieau were my favorite, along with the huge painting by James Franklin Snodgrass.

The American Visionary Art Museum doesn’t allow photography indoors, but I was able to snap a few gems outside, including this photo of Pete sarcastically grimacing (this was his reaction when I told him to “SMILEEE!”).

Good times. What were you all up to this weekend?

Back From Vacation: Part I!

Last week, Pete and I joined his family on a week-long vacation in Ocean City, NJ. The annual Schuster beach shenanigans are always a blast (this coming from my two years of experience, but still…), so this time, I decided to document parts of our trip.

My dad gave us a kite to fly at the beach, so Pete and I tested it out by frolicking around and probably definitely making fools of ourselves. It was Pete’s first time flying a kite and I think he mastered it like a pro.


Thanks to Pete’s generous parents, we stayed on the top floor of this beach house, which was a quick stroll from the beach.

We spent our evenings roaming the boardwalk, playing card games, watching tv and being lazy.

Pete and I played shuffleboard for the first time (although my dad tells me I played when I was a wee little thing).

There were many intense faces made during shuffleboard, which were repeated yet again during the annual game of Goofy Golf (sorry for the lack of photos). Picture putting a ball at a hippo eating a hoagie while “who let the dogs out?” blares in the background. It’s pretty darn good. Shocker: I got the low score.

Pete’s mom made her famous monkey bread, which is to. die. for. We also indulged in caramel corn, berries and loads of other delicious goodies that undoubtedly made me gain a few pounds (totally worth it).

Pete’s aunt and cousin (and her adorable baby) came to visit and I went a little crazy with taking photos of the cute little lass. I don’t often find myself in the company of kids, so I like to take advantage of photographing them whenever I can. It’s always a fresh of breath air to photograph children because they don’t shy away from being themselves or get self conscious when the shutter clicks.

She thought I was interested in stealing her Goldfish crackers…which I might have been…

Nothing beats baby smiles!

She was showing her Grandma where her eyes and nose are located…she’s smart like that!

So. Cute.

Going to the beach also means lots of trivia and reading, which included Bossypants by Tina Fey, who might just be my favorite person ever. Pete caught me Google stalking her after reading the book in a day, which I realize is stalkertastic.

The boardwalk is always fabulous for people-watching, photo booth posing and Skee Ball playing.

We had more than our fair share of fish tacos, smoothies and ice cream. The smoothies at Bryn and Dane’s (a local restaurant based out of Horsham) were the best thing I had on the boardwalk without a doubt.

Pete and I couldn’t resist some Medieval Fantasy Mini Golf, which was definitely worth it just for the black light, airbrushed holes indoors.


Yes, that’s Pete yielding a golf club sword amidst glow in the dark wizards and dragons. There was talk of larping and playing D&D, but hopefully we’ll save that for another year. Or never…

It was pretty challenging trying to take photos in the dark, but I’m glad I was able to get a few shots of the fabulous fantasy world that exists only on the Ocean City boardwalk.

I had to remind myself that I am unemployed and should save my money for more grown-up purchases when I stumbled upon this seashell owl.

We topped off our romantic evening stroll on the boardwalk off with some Elvis crooning while the sun set behind us. Pretty darn priceless if you ask me. Stay tuned for part II of our beach adventures tomorrow, where I’ll share our exciting reunion with a much-missed Betty White.

Our New Year Staycation

This New Year, Pete and I went to the Glasbern Inn, our favorite local B&B. It was a birthday-anniversary-happy 2011 celebration all in one. Mostly, we just watched hours of The Wire and The Twilight Zone by the fireplace and relaxed in the Jacuzzi. Oh, and we ate way too much chocolate cake with candy cane gelato. Deeelicious. We also went on a little photo adventure with Betty White and explored the grounds (pretending to toss Betty White into the air and fake punching her is somehow entertaining to us). How did you celebrate New Year’s Eve this year?

Italy Vacation Planning Begins…

Pete and I plan to travel to Italy in September 2011, so I’ve started the initial planning process for a 10-12 day trip. I’m sure we will change our minds a million times, but for now this is a really basic itinerary:

Fly into Venice’s Marco Polo Airport and take the ATVO Venice Express bus for a half hour from the airport in Venice to the Piazzale Roma (around €3). Spend 1 day and 1 night in Venice. Some must-see spots: St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace—walk over the famous Bridge of Sighs. Visit the Rialto Bridge at night and take a cruise along the Grand Canal on the vaporetto #1 water bus. Visit the Guggenheim Museum if there’s time. Take the train from Venice (switch in Milan) to Cinque Terre. Visit Trenitalia for help with train schedules.

Spend 3 days and 2 nights in Cinque Terre in Manarola. Hike the trail that links the five towns in the morning. Hike, enjoy the sights and take photographs like it’s nobody’s business. Head south to La Spezia (the largest city just south of Riomaggiore) and catch a train for Florence. The train (around €12-21 per ticket) is 2.5-3 hours (switch trains in Pisa).

Spend 4 days and 3 nights in Florence. Mission #1: stuff our faces with gelato. Visit the Uffizi and have a Caravaggiogasm. Visit Siena for a day trip by taking the SITA bus (€7-ish one way) for 1.5 hours (depart across from the main train station and go to Siena’s bus stop at Piazza Garibaldi). Take the bus for a day trip to San Gimignano for a dose of Tuscany lifestyle. Depart from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella Station and head to Rome’s Termini Station (about a 2 hour trip and roughly €56 per person).

Stay in Rome for 2 days and 1 night. Visit the Colosseum at night, the Sistine chapel and the Trevi Fountain. Eat. A lot. Leave from the Rome Leonardo da Vinci airport.

Once we finalize the basic itinerary of the cities we want to hit, we can start figuring out the B&B’s or hotels that best fit our budget, as well as restaurants and other spots we won’t want to miss. We aren’t as interested in visiting cathedrals as we are exploring the towns and soaking in the architecture and arts. Any advice from seasoned travelers? This will be my first out-of-country experience (sorry Canadians, I’m not counting Niagara Falls), so I have a lot of research to do. Oh, and I should probably get a passport.

Day 2: Philly Beer Scene Tours Colorado Breweries

After our first day in Denver for the Great American Beer Festival, the Philly Beer Scene posse ate an artery-clogging breakfast and set off to embark on a tour of some of the top local breweries in Colorado.

First up was Odell Brewing, where we took a tour and learned all about the Fort Collins-based brew house. The tour guide gave us an up close and personal view into their craft brew culture and brewing methods.

Our group grabbed a few flights of beer and went on our way to the next stop, New Belgium Brewing, which was by far my favorite. I was not only incredibly impressed by the decor of the brewery, but also by the fact that New Belgium honors nature at every turn of their business by being alternatively empowered and sustainable. Although we weren’t able to reserve a tour, I still really enjoyed roaming around while my friends took advantage of the free drink tokens.

Next up was lunch at Oskar Blues, where the service was awful, but the gorgeous Colorado backdrop around us made up for our absentminded waitress. She did, however, give us free stickers and pint glasses, so she wasn’t all that bad I suppose.

Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Company was next on our list, where we schmoozed with the locals, raised a few pints and went on our way.

The drive to the next stop was a beautiful one, as the sun was setting dramatically over the mountains. Our crew was traveling in two vans, so our geeky group pulled over to snap a few photos before we went on our way to Boulder Beer. Sleepiness began to set in, so we were soon off to Avery, the last stop of our brewery tour and one of my favorites.

All in all, it was a fun journey and a great way to learn more about beer—which (let’s be honest)—is not something I know all that much about considering I’m a total waterholic.

Day 1: Philly Beer Scene takes off for the GABF

Earlier this month I had the pleasure in going on my first airplane trip to Denver, Colorado with the Philly Beer Scene posse for the annual Great American Beer Festival. My previous travel expeditions have taken me as far as Canada. I had never been on a proper plane ride, so I was thrilled to have such an amazing opportunity with a group of friends from the magazine. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m still pining for all sorts of useless junk from the SkyMall catalog, including a life-size sculpture of a Yeti (take that as a Christmas gift hint, Pete). Flying over the Midwest and seeing nothing but countryside for hours was breathtaking.

After we dropped off our luggage at the hotel, we headed to the Cheeky Monk Belgian Beer Cafe, where there was no shortage of beer celebrities from the East Coast in attendance–including Sam Calagione (founder of Dogfish Head) and Bill Covaleski (founder of Victory). After indulging in some chocolate fondue for dinner (don’t judge me), I headed down to the Convention Center with the crew. Four of us had media passes and were able to roam around the convention center a half  hour before the public came pouring in. We also lucked out with access to the Farm to Table Pavilion, which was my favorite part of the GABF experience (I am a sucker for cheese).

The Culinary School of the Rockies teamed up with local Colorado farmers, guest chefs and small and independent brewers in an intimate setting for the Farm to Table event. Media attendees were invited to sample craft beer paired with local food, in addition to a few special release beers that were only available at the pavilion. Chefs and brewers were incredibly informative and discussed with us why the specific ingredients were chosen to enhance the beers.

I am pretty sure I can safely say I was the only person at the beer festival who has never been drunk before. To explain, I never drank a sip of alcohol until this past year and even now, I only ever drink to sample beers and learn more about them. Working with Philly Beer Scene has made me appreciate the history and growth of the craft beer culture and realize that there is so much more to beer than I once thought. I’ll admit, I’ve become a bit of a beer snob and find it frustrating when I see someone drinking a Corona or Miller Lite when there are so many other options out there, especially with so many fine breweries right in our own backyard.

The food at the Farm to Table pavilion,  and at Denver in general, was ridiculously delicious as well as innovative with endless eco-friendly dishes offered. Some of the festival’s sustainability initiatives included a slot in the garbage bin for compostable materials, which I can’t say is something I’ve seen at any Philadelphia beer festivals, but I may be wrong.

It was great having the chance to meet some of the faces behind the beer I’ve enjoyed over the past year, including local beer starlet Sebbie Buhler, who has been the face of the award-winning Rogue Chocolate Stout since 2000.

Some of the interesting characters roaming the festival (apart from our crazy posse) were clad in pope and viking costumes with pretzel necklaces, and of course, the always classy gals who were just barely covered in lederhosen.

I was especially grateful to be able to watch the sun set from the back patio with Pete and escape the “OHHHHH!” screams reverberating throughout the convention center whenever a sampler glass was dropped. More to come soon about our second day in Colorado spent taking in the sights and touring local breweries.