Saturday, November 20, 2010

Santorini, Greece

This was my favorite port by far. Amazing weather, amazing scenery, amazing wind, amazing EVERYTHING. I loved this place. Once again, we took the advice of our friend who had been here previously and did something different. He suggested a hike that goes from the tender-port of Thira to the end of the island and the town of La. A one way trip of 7 miles along the edge of an island formed by a volcanic eruption. 

The hike was a little difficult to find, but once we found our first guide dog things got a little bit easier. You start off winding your way through a city all the while being greeted by dogs and a few of them come with you, always leading the way. Finally, you end up right outside the city on an open path covered in lava rocks following a dog. A cute, clean, sweet as can be dog. And then, after about 4 miles, he trades places with another dog who takes you the rest of the way. 

I love dogs. almost all dogs. Ok, all big dogs. I don't do yappy small dogs. period. But the dogs on this island were incredible. They knew the paths like the... back of their paw.. If we went the wrong way *cough* John's fault*cough*, this dog came back and found us and made sure we were behind him. If we stopped for a drink or to tie our shoes, he stopped and waited for us to catch up. He would have came home with us only I didn't think he would take to apartment life very much. 

The views from this hike along the ridge will take your breath away. The wind will too. We slid down a lava rock hill, hiked back up the other side, saw more Greek Orthodox churches than we ever will again, and loved every minute. ("It is an honor to be baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church." Name that movie line! Hint- Someone in the movie loves windex) La was a fantastic little town full of little white buildings and little blue domed churches and big tall windmills. Just thinking about it makes me wish I was back there. 

Finding the trail in Thira.. Around 8 in the morning

We hiked to the white that you see waaay over on the left. 
It only looks like we are closer.. still about 2 hours away.

 Our 2nd sweet doggie guide. I didn't get a picture of the 1st.

Changing of the guard. 2nd guide going to the left, new guide going to the right. 

 Maybe he could become an inside dog.. Who thinks I should go back for him??


More of La

This sweet girl is a blog all by herself. Next week!

The end! Sorry, this would have been up yesterday but the photo upload-er wasn't working.
Wish you all a wonderful weekend! 

And, Happy Birthday Roxanne!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ephesus, Turkey

Evidently it is now winter in Nice. The winters here are pretty mild but it rains alllll the time. Today is our 4th day of rain this week. That's 4 out of 5. The good news is that the mountains are going to have plenty of snow after this! 

In honor of our rainy day today, I thought I would share the next port from our cruise- Kusadasi,also known as the ancient city of Ephesus. It was also the rainiest port. We had arranged for a private tour guide and, once again, we were the first people off the boat. In the pouring rain. All four of us were soaked by the time we reached the tour van. Ugh. My excitement was beginning to dwindle. Fortunately the day was still fantastic. We saw the purported house of the Virgin Mary, the ruins of the ancient city(in the time of Saint Paul), the basilica where the remains of Saint John the gospel writer were entombed, and had an amazing traditional Turkish lunch. 

Like I said in the previous post- research what you want to see and plan accordingly. Don't just go where the cruise offers. 

The history that we saw in each of these places was beyond words. When you see homes from the first century, a library that held 150,000 scrolls (SCROLLS! not books, scrolls. wow.), and an amphitheater where Paul spoke to the Ephesians, it can kind of blow your mind. 

After our historic sites, we went to lunch at Turkish farm. It is a pet project of a wealthy man who loves to keep local traditions alive. If he hears of something that is a local tradition or local food- anything- it will be researched and then introduced on the farm. They hire locals, teach them the processes to make whatever the new idea is and in that way, preserve the history of the region. An very good use of wealth don't you think? And, they are pretty good cooks too. I think I have heard my mom, dad, and John all say at some point since we came home that they would love to have a lunch like that again. 

 Inside the city. This area was reserved for the senators and aristocrats.

Nike. Just do it. Can you find the symbol??
Front of the library. At that time, it was the 3rd largest library in the world. 
The amphitheater where Paul spoke to the Ephesians. 
 This was at the farm. They make their own silk thread for rugs. 
 Rugs like this. Amazing! And they let us walk all over them!
It's Thursday! Have a wonderful day! And, if you would want to see more pictures, here are the links again. I'm off to bake. I think I'll make some muffins.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes. These are really as amazing as they sound. I found a recipe for these on one of my favorite food blogs,  Serious Eats. While their articles are pretty good, "Photograzing" is my favorite section. I have found a lot of really awesome recipes through this part of the website and I'll be sharing a few more of them with you later on. 

I know I have already posted once today, but I am soooo far behind on the blog and it's raining today so there's really not so much to do. (I have a feeling that in about 4 months the craziness of my life is going to hit me like a brick...) So, last night I made a batch of these and sent them with John to work. And, they have met with French Approval. 

There is a reason that I send things I make with John to work. The French make the best test subjects! They are very picky about their desserts, they have no problem telling you the absolute truth about what you made, and if they like it- they reeeaallllyy like it. 

Nutella Choc. Chip Cookies
Adapted from justjenn
2 1/4 cup AP Flour *If you are using American All Purpose Flour- cut back to 2 cups.
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Brown Sugar  minus one Tbls
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/4 cup Nutella ( I add a bit more than this.. i.e. a "heaping" 1/4 cup)
1 Cup Chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, the sugar and the brown sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla until combined.
3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the flour to the butter/sugar mixture until combined. Dough will look almost too thick.
4. Then mix in the chocolate chips and the Nutella. The original recipe says to just swirl it through. I like it to be a little more "mixed". Dough looks a little funny at this point but I promise it bakes perfect. 
5. Drop by the spoonful onto the baking sheets and bake for about 8-10 minutes. After taking them out of the oven, cool for a minute, and move them to cooling racks.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Our first port of call on the cruise was Dubrovnik, Croatia. One of the secrets to a good cruise, in my opinion, is to do your own thing. Use the boat as your ride and your place to stay but don't do their excursions. We only took one excursion from the boat and really wasn't that great. Research where you are going, find out what you are interested in seeing, book a private guide (often the same price as a huge group tour on the ship), or just have a basic plan and figure out the details once you land! Doing this makes it feel much more like an exploration than being part of a herd of cattle. 

The four of us really lucked out because a friend had taken a cruise similar to ours the year before with many of the same port cities. He told us what he had done, recommended some things to see and what not to see. The city walls were the "must-see" in Dubrovnik so after we disembarked and converted some money, we were off to the Old City. (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) I must say, the city inside the walls is not so interesting from the ground but once on the walls the stucco, tile roofs, steeples, and turrets all stand out. It's amazing the difference it makes to be in a different vantage point.

The walls of Dubrovnik are anywhere from 4 to 6 yards thick and completely surround the city.  They were, of course, built to protect this seaside town from invaders starting in about the 7th century (They have had major additions, reconstructions, etc since this time.) and were never breached. The highest wall is about 82 feet and the walls are around a mile and a half long. It is always so amazing to me to walk in places with this much history. Being an American, we really don't have anything that old to see. "Old" in the US is 300 years and in Europe I am constantly surrounded by things that are over 500 years old. As the French would say, "C'est incroyable!" 

Coming into the port at Dubrovnik. The old city is over the hill on the left.

 Don't you love this bridge? 
Oh, when we arrived a rally car race was going on the road to the left side of this shot. I thought Dad was going to stay on the boat to watch it for a while.. 

The port of the old city. It was very very windy the day we were there and right after I took this picture we went around a corner. I thought we would end up in the sea because the wind was blowing so hard. 

First shots of from the wall. The water was amazing blue. 

Loved this lady. I took a lot of pictures of her..

Beautiful day.

Next port of call- Kusadasi, Turkey!

Monday, November 15, 2010


Ok! I have so much to tell and no idea where to start! I have been cooking up a storm and I still have to tell you about our cruise! Today- cruise. Tomorrow.... We'll see how I feel. 

After our lovely experience on the train in France and Italy, we had a wonderful couple of days in Venice. The weather was nice, it wasn't crowded, and it didn't stink. I found a simple hotel for us on the island, Hotel Dalla Mora. Cheap, really clean, in a great location, and breakfast included! (If you are going on a romantic vacation...I would probably splurge for something nicer. If you are going for functionality... this place is awesome.)

John and I had been to Venice last year but it was Mom and Dad's first trip. I think they liked it. How can you not love Venice? Unless you need a restroom. 1.50euro for a "public toilette" and I saw exactly 2. Actually searched for one for about an hour. Ugh. ( I think I have said that this is my biggest problem in Europe. I will continue to say it until we leave. European Union- I hope you are listening! More toilets! And while you're at it, make them free!) Anyways! The four of us wandered around the city, shopped for some souvenirs, walked in many churches, visited St. Mark's, and got lost a couple of times. All of the things that have to happen when you visit there. The next morning we checked out of our hotel, hopped onto the "People Mover" and checked into our ship. 

First, let me say that this was one of the best trips we've been on. It was a relatively small ship, around 2300 guests, and the staff were fantastic. No, we didn't have a movie theater or a shopping center or a few after dinner shows to choose from but it was just so easy. The food was fantastic (but not over-indulgent), every thing was planned in advance for the ports, and we didn't have to drive ourselves anywhere. What could be better? I wouldn't want to go on a Caribbean cruise because everyone goes on them but a small ship that is going to unusual locales- oh yeh. Our ship took us to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kusadasi, Turkey; Santorini, Greece; and Corfu, also in Greece.

Now, individual posts on each port of call! Otherwise, this could be a really extra long post.

The view from the patio at our hotel.

This didn't turn out like I wanted it to.. but I still like the idea. 

Two days after our 3rd Anniversary. Our best anniversary trip so far. Wonder what we'll do next year??
Better yet... I wonder where we will be living next year. ha!

Italian pastry shop. I love the people in this one. So much going on. 

The Splendor of the Seas!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The National Sport of France

Some might say that the national sport of France is football. (Soccer to my American friends.) Some might say that it is drinking wine or eating cheese. My response to all three of these options is-  HA. I know their sport of choice and is a good old fashioned strike complete with signs, face paint, yelling, and parades. 

My parents had a really lovely experience with the strikes in France while they visited. You may have heard that the french government recently changed the retirement age from 60 to 62. Those 2 years really infuriated a lot of people here sooooo.. they went on strike. For about 3 weeks. And it started right when we needed to hop on a train to Italy. 

About a month before, John and I had gone to Italy and bought the tickets from Ventimiglia (the first stop in Italy) to Venice. All we needed was a way to get from Nice to Ventimiglia that did not include a train. At about 7pm the night before we left, when we found out the strike was continuing the next morning, John started the search for a way to get there. After about 2 hours of searching, trying to decide if we wanted to leave that night instead of the next morning, deciding if it would be easier just to take a cab the 45 minute drive into Italy; my sweet husband found a way to get there. 

We woke up at 4:45am the next morning, got ready, and zipped up our suitcases to catch a bus at 5:30am to the center of Nice. Where we caught another bus at 6:15am to Menton. Where we caught a cab into Ventimiglia and actually made it to our train at 8:45. I even had time to walk to a bakery and get some breakfast. 

We finally made it to Venice that afternoon. Longest day of my life. Until the next week when we came home. 

Oh France. Please find a new national sport.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Things You Have to See in Nice!

John and I have a "master list" of all the places we take people who come to visit. Usually, due to time, we have to pick and choose where go. Luckily, when my parents came to visit, we had plenty of time to see just about everything. So, while I'm telling you about their visit, I'm also going to share the master list! ( You know, in case you want to visit and I'm not here to show you around.)

First things first- Nice Flower Market 

This market is right in the old town of Nice and in the summer is covered in tourists. (Word of advice- never visit the south of France in July or August.) We went on a beautiful Saturday morning when it was busy and bustling- full of locals buying their flowers and veggies for the weekend. 

This is my Dad- trying a sundried tomato. I don't think he was very impressed... and (below) some yummy fresh figs. (Which I had never seen before I moved to France. Fig Newton was my knowledge of a fig.. )

Second on the list! The Chateau. Formerly a citadel, chateau, church... It overlooks Nice and offers the best views of the city and the port of Nice. 

3rd- Fenocchio. The World's Best Ice Cream. Ever. Bar-None. End of Story. If you visit Nice for no other reason- come for the ice cream. It is family owned by Italians and they make all of their own ice creams in flavors ranging from mint chocolate to amaretto to tomato basil. And I have never tasted a bad flavor. 

One of the 4 cases of flavors. 
Just look at these happy faces! They prove my point. 

4th- The Russian Church. It was built by the last Czar of Russia and he never saw it completed. The Russian Aristocracy liked to come to Nice for the winter so they needed a church to worship in while they visited. It is beautiful, inside and out, and houses some of the most amazing icons I have ever seen.

5th spot on our list! The Archeological Museum and the Matisse Museum.
John and I really enjoy both spots and always, always take people to the archeological site. While there are "Roman Ruins" everywhere here, the site is well preserved with 2 different roman baths (below) and a 5th century church. 

Antibes. It is pretty tourist-y.. and can be really English but we still love this town. Antibes is a small, seaside, resort town that Pablo Picasso lived in for a period and used as his muse. Cute and vibrant, it is really the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon wandering around. Which we tried to do.. but the 8 foot waves and crazy wind wouldn't let us. 

Number 7 and last on our list for today- Luceram (or any of the surrounding perched villages.) Luceram is our favorite of the perched villages because it still feels live. Many of the villages you visit feel very... dead.. There are no restaurants, boulangeries, or stores of any kind. Luceram has stores, a library, 2 or  restaurants and even a couple of schools. If you feel like driving a little bit farther over the mountain- go to Piera Cava. This small resort town is not very well known and has the best lookout point we've found. The view will take your breath away. 


Piera Cava. And, if you decide to stop here, you might get to see a cute French goat!

Hope you are all having a wonderful week! 
And, if you would like to see a few more pictures from the recent trip, here are the links! Don't worry.. I'll fill you in on everything else we did! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Today is my Monday. Yesterday was a holiday in France so John was off for a long weekend. Don't get excited. We didn't do anything fun this weekend. It rained. And rained. And rained. I don't think I have ever seen it rain like this here. John, Sadie and I were all completely stir crazy and it's France so OF COURSE nothing was open. My biggest pet peeve about this country, besides the lack of public restrooms, is the fact that nothing is open on the weekends!

Anyways. Since we didn't have anything to do, I cooked.

Saturday: I made bread pudding and a chickpea curry. ( not sharing that recipe..I will be finding a new one! But the bread pudding... oh man. It. Is. Gooooood.) 
Sunday: Nothing too special.. some homemade biscuits. 
Monday: I was really running out of things to do.. So, I made Chocolate Chip Nutella Cookies, Corn chowder, and Cheddar and Chive quick bread muffins.(Recipe for both later!) 
Today: No rain!
Tomorrow: More about our trip! All pictures are edited so get ready!