Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pic of the Day - Gozo, Malta

We signed up for a boat tour on the island of Malta during our honeymoon, which included stops for snorkeling off the coast of Gozo (one of the other islands of the nation of Malta), a stop at the Blue Lagoon, and some lunch onboard. We really enjoyed the tour, even though we ditched the boat and took an amazing speedboat ride back to the Sliema Harbor (more on that later). Here's one of the shots from that day, from my iPhone.

Date Taken: October 17, 2014
Location: Somewhere off the coast of Gozo, Malta

With highs in the 40's Fahrenheit this week, you could say I've got Malta on my mind.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Doorknobs and Doorways of Mdina, Malta

We spent an afternoon wandering the streets of the Silent City (Mdina, Malta) between our day of sightseeing and our evening dinner, just getting lost in the winding, narrow medieval streets.

Here are some of my favorite shots of the beautiful, mostly religion-themed and marine-themed door décor in the beautiful hilltop medieval city of Mdina.

A Night in Rome - Wandering Trastevere

My husband and I went to Rome back in September 2010 and tried to eat at a particular restaurant in the neighborhood of Trastevere (Le Mani in Pasta) after I'd done some research online and figured out that some of the best pasta places in the city were concentrated in that 'hood. We'd already eaten at one of the best pizza places (Dar Poeta - amazing... but also super cramped and loud - see my post about it here) in the neighborhood, and fell in love with the awkwardly narrow, cobbled streets, piazzas filled with locals drinking beer and wine, dining al fresco, countless scooters whizzing by thisclose to where we were walking. It was magical. It feels exactly the way you would expect Rome to feel.

We had arrived at said restaurant and the harried waiter asked us how many, and assured us that we'd have a table in 20 minutes. Twenty minutes later, it was another 20 minutes. This continued for about an hour (we were patient!) until another waiter dropped an entire tray of food on his way to a table, and we finally realized: We are not going to sit anytime soon. Luckily, another couple had just been walking by and suggested that we check out the restaurant around the corner. We set off in search of our consolation dinner immediately, stomachs rumbling and hanger building with each step.

After navigating a small maze of streets we found ourselves in Piazza dei Mercanti, standing in front of Osteria Da Meo Patacca.

Pollo alla Romana

Penne all'arrabiatta

Panna cotta with chocolate sauce. Simple and delicious.
After an amusing, enjoyable, and admittedly super touristy dinner of bruschetta, pollo alla Romana, penne all'arrabiatta agnolotti a la casareccia, and panna cotta with an Italian group of musicians going table to table, playing all of the traditional hits (Volare, That's Amore.... you get the picture), a man dressed as the Pope appearing at the balcony to "bless" the diners and crack jokes, and some VERY cheap table wine (10 Euros for a liter, 7 Euros for a half liter... you know, we like a good deal. It would have been wrong and fiscally irresponsible to order only a half liter), we walked back into the maze of medieval streets.

Bellies full, we strolled lazily around the back streets, dodging groups of student-age young adult revelers, arms slung around each other, off to drink beers at Bir & Fud or Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà, tourists looking lost, and local families on their way home from dinner.

Trastevere may be one of my favorite places in the world. It's certainly my favorite place in Rome. So, when you find yourself at Castelo San Angelo, cross the Ponte San Angelo and let yourself get lost.

P.S. We did eventually get to eat at Le Mani in Pasta - 4 years later, on the first night of our honeymoon and our triumphant return to Rome. Post coming soon :)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Night of Pizza and Gelato in Trastevere, Rome

The Trastevere neighborhood of Rome is jam-packed with cool cafes and restaurants, as well as locals and tourists roaming the street in search of food, drink and reverie.

Back in 2010, I had my first encounter with this Roman neighborhood, as my boyfriend (at the time - now husband) and I had done some research on the best pizza places in Rome. Now, I know what you're thinking. Rome isn't known for pizza; that's Naples. And yes, I know that. But it was his first trip to Italy and I had a hankering for some crispy dough piled with tomato sauce and cheese. So, I did my research and found Dar Poeta. We took our chances and headed over to this popular spot located at Vicolo del Bologna, 45. There are two locations now, apparently, according to Dar Poeta's website.

After waiting a bit for a table (surprisingly not THAT long, given how famous this place is), we were practically wedged in to the corner of the place next to a French couple. And by wedged I mean they had to get up, move their table, and basically play Tetris (yeah, I went there) in order to have us sit down.

But, the pizza?
Boyfriend's pizza. Classic.
Mine...with eggplant on top. I'm obsessed with eggplant.
It was wood-fired, crispy thin crust perfection. Amazing.

We obviously needed to load up on carbs, lest we lose an ounce during our days of vigorous sightseeing and eating and drinking... so we headed over to CREMI Gelateria Artigianale on Vicolo del Cinque - still in Trastevere.

And now, I will actually post a photo in which I appear. It's a rarity... but, the gelato was just too good not to show. And I'm too lazy to crop it.

I'm always partial to pistaccio, tiramisu and mascarpone flavored gelato, but I always have room for dark chocolate, hazelnut and stracciatella. What about you?

As the Romans might say, Cin Cin! 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pic of the Day - Long Island City, New York

Today's pic of the day is from across the street from where we live, in Gantry State Park, which runs along the edge of Long Island City, in Queens, New York. You can stroll along the "boardwalk" here and take in some of the best views of Manhattan.

Date Taken: September 8, 2014
Location: Gantry State Park, Long Island City, New York

If you turn around from where this photo was taken, you can get a shot of the famous Pepsi-Cola sign that is one of the best-known landmarks for Long Island City. Once the site of the Pepsi cannery, the area has been developed as a higher-end mixed use residential neighborhood. The Pepsi sign was restored and reinstalled after the cannery closed and the residential/commercial construction was commenced.

I love New York!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pic of the Day - Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

I'm on a roll, folks.  Two days in a row counts as a roll, right? I think so.

Today's pic of the day is from our New Year's Eve jaunt to the Emerald Isle (that's Ireland... in case you're living under a rock), during a stroll around the south side of the Liffey.

Date Taken: January 4, 2015
Location: Trinity College Campus, Dublin, Ireland

I've been to Trinity College maybe 6 times or so out of the dozen or so times I've visited Dublin, and it never gets old. I can never help but be envious of the students who actually attend school there. Lucky. But, I guess the Irish are known for luck?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pic of the Day - St. Julian's Bay, Malta

I have a ton of photos from so many trips, I thought I'd start posting one every day or so. Today, for my very *first* Pic of the Day... I present (drumroll please).... St. Julian's Bay, Malta.

Date Taken: October 16, 2014
Location: St. Julian's Bay, Malta


This particular photo was taken from an open-top bus tour we took on our first full day on the island of Malta. The weather was amazing, as you can see. Across the water, in the photo, you'll see a ton of restaurants with open-air dining and a promenade of sorts, where you can enjoy the temperate climate and Mediterranean breezes. We went to one of these restaurants, Spinola Terrace, which I am aiming to post about soon!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Honeymoon in Malta - A Day at the Beach in Mellieha

One of the reasons my husband and I chose Malta as one of the stops for our Honeymoon in mid to late October is that we wanted to mix up some beach time and relaxation with taking in the sights, and enjoying the food and wine that these destinations have to offer. Malta definitely did not disappoint in any of these aspects. For our beach time, we ended up in Mellieha Bay for a relaxing day of fun in the sun.

While many beaches in Malta are rocky, there are some sandy beaches. As you can see, this was one of the rarer, sandy beaches to visit. Since it was October 19, it was toward the end of beach season, so it was not as crowded as one would expect.  

As with most European beaches, you can either be Brazilian about it and lie about in the sand on top of your sarong (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that, I just personally have an aversion to sand in parts of my body that should not have sand in them), or you can pay a little bit of money and rent loungers and umbrellas. Again, Malta wins here with the fee for rental of 2 loungers and one umbrella (and a little table) for just about 15-20 Euros. I don't remember exactly how much it was, perhaps 16? But it was very reasonable, and they set everything up for us. 

 There are a few places where you can do watersports, too.

We enjoyed VERY reasonably priced refreshments, including the Maltese beer - Cisk  (pronounced "Chisk"), which, admittedly, is not so delicious. It's like the Budweiser of Malta. But, it was cheap and cold, and just what we needed. They were about 2-3 Euros each - a steal, by U.S. standards!

The food on offer at one of the many beachside grills was mainly local specialties and some Americanized fast food. Fried chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, onion rings, french fries... and then tuna ftiras, hobz-bizejt (tuna and tomatoes), tuna and olives... tuna on pretty much everything.  Neither one of us a huge lover of tuna, we opted for a chicken sandwich and some onion rings. Again, super cheap, and again, they hit the spot.

The water was warm enough to swim in and beautifully clear.

How many other beaches have views of beautiful monuments in the background? I mean, come on.

Getting there: We took the public bus from St. Julian's, where we were staying, to the beach. It's supposedly VERY crowded in the summer high season, and it definitely was standing room only for much of the way, but where we got on, we found seats and were able to sit for the crazy ride through half of the island to Mellieha. It was almost worth it just to see parts of the island that we wouldn't have seen normally. The bus is very cheap (like 1.50 euros for a full day) and it was nearly door-to-door service from our hotel, the Hilton Malta at St. Julians (there will be a separate hotel review later...).

The public bus stops just at the top of the beach, as the roadside is right THERE. No crazy, tumultuous walk down cliffs, rocks and other obstacles to get your toes in the sand here.

And, as with any European trip, I had to get my hands on some European Pringles. They have some pretty crazy flavors... or flavoUrs... but, we kept it tame with some Cheese & Onion this time. Of course, I had my R+F sunscreen in tow to save my half-pale mutt skin from the Mediterranean rays.

I definitely recommend making Malta a stop on your European honeymoon if you find yourself going towards mid or late October and want to try to sneak in some beach days... and definitely make it to Mellieha if you do!

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gettin' High on the West Side (or, that That Time I Finally Went On the High Line in NYC)

Spring has been teasing New York City lately, and it's kind of messed up.

Sixty degrees one day, and the young female office workers ditch the tights and wear short dresses that are a little too short, a little too early. Calm down, it's March.

The fact that the next day's high is in the forties (or lower) snaps us all back to reality, and we realize that spring just ain't here quite yet. Don't worry, there will be plenty of time this spring and summer to strut your inappropriately-short-and-tight office attire around the city streets, twenty-something social media interns and fashion stylist interns. It's just not that time yet.

However, we got a taste of spring today after we exited our boozy brunch at Fonda in Chelsea this early afternoon.  (Delicious brunch! - Will post a review next time.) 

The elusive sun beat down on our hibiscus margarita-stained lips as my husband, our friend and I walked up 9th avenue and decided to stroll over down to the High Line and enjoy the brief respite from the sh*ttiest winter in recent memory.

One thing you'll learn about most New Yorkers is that we avoid touristy things like the plague. Case in point: I hadn't visited the Statue of Liberty until I was 26 years old and I went with a tourist I befriended during their visit to NY. So, it's not surprising that I had never visited the High Line prior to today since its opening in 2009.

We entered at 23rd street and walked downtown toward the Meatpacking District and the Gansevoort Street exit.  

Remember that time the sun was out? It was just a few minutes ago...

You can sit in these stadium-style seats and gawk at the traffic below you on Tenth Avenue. If that's your thing.

I have to admit, it was pretty awesome. Oh, yeah... and it's free.

I'll be visiting again when the weather is nicer (as in, sunny and warm for more than a few hours at a time), and taking more photos then.

I love the architecture in the Meatpacking District.

After, we strolled around the Meatpacking District, wandered into AllSaints and coveted ALL THE THINGS, balking at the prices and decided we couldn't afford ANY OF THE THINGS in good conscience, and took the Subway back home to LIC.
I want all the things.

It was a fabulous afternoon.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Winter's Day in Central Park - Central Park Ice Festival

On January 18 last year, hubby and I went walking through Central Park to check out the Ice Festival near the Bethesda Fountain with its famous statue, Angel of the Waters.

Okamoto Studio's artists were on hand, giving live demonstrations, carving beautiful creatures and objects out of ice blocks using various tools like chain saws, picks, chisels and blowtorches.

If you find yourself in NYC during the winter, check the Central Park Conservatory website to see when this event will be on. In 2015, it was held in mid-February, so it seems to be held at different times of the winter.  The best part? It's free!

Inside the Bethesda Terrace, you'll normally find opera singers taking advantage of the ahhh-mazing acoustics of the structure. It's a great opportunity to take in some world-class singing without buying a ticket to the Met(ropolitan Opera)! That day was no exception.

And, only in New York, we ran into this dog, dressed head to tail in Yankees swag.

After the festival, we wandered down the mall, taking in the sights of the men and women with giant bubble hoops, blowing bubbles to the delight of children. Just for a second, we fought the urge to run into the giant bubbles ourselves, popping them and getting covered in soapy, iridescent remnants of our childhood.