Exploring London

Wendy is a fellow expat living in Notting Hill and when I first moved here I emailed her about 53892058920352 questions and she was so helpful with every single one.  She really knew London and I trusted her recommendations.

It’s quite fitting that she has just started her own company called…….

London In A Day

It’s a private tour guide company that will show you London in 6 hours or less without getting lost, using  map or getting stressed.

Check out her blog as well as her company!

Pasta Machines

I know it’s hard to believe but there were pasta vending machines in Florence.

Lots of variety, cheap and fast.  I really wanted to try it but I was too grossed out.

Would you have tried it?

New Additions In Florence

So much has changed in Florence since I was there 6 years ago.  Here are a few:

This is te lobby of my old apt.  It never looked so nice!

My old school is now a beautiful hotel.  The school was so run down and rickety that we kept our jackets on in class because the heat did not work. They completely renovated the building and it’s gorgeous!!

Ben & Jerry’s across from the Duomo just seems weird.  The city is so old and historical I don’t think common day eateries like this work there but clearly I’m wrong.

They cleared the locks from years ago and started over.  This was completely full 6 years ago.

The Oil Shoppe is closed?!?!  Turns out its closed on the weekends so I missed out on eating for my sandwich shop in the world. 

H&M was a treat for us when we traveled but now it’s in Florence.

The Coca-Cola cans are tall and thin.

There are multiply tour companies now.  They don’t go into the center of the city but they hit major spots.

We walked by several sushi restaurants which were non existent 6 years ago.

The one company that is still missing from this is Starbucks. They are still not in Florence or anywhere in Italy for that matter.  STAY STRONG FLORENCE!!!

 

Florence, Italy: 6 Years Later – Day 3 in Pisa

In case you missed it:

Day 1

Day 2

We flew out of Pisa airport so we hopped on a train from Santa Maria Novella to Pisa for the day so we could explore the city.

Here’s a video of the view from the train going from Florence to Pisa.

It was raining in Pisa for the first 2 hours we were there so we headed to a restaurant to eat lunch and hoped the rain would stop by the time we were finished.

It stopped raining and we made sure to see all the important sights.

The Cathedral.

The Baptistry

We walked through a flea market as we were on our way back to the airport.

Then it was off to the airport to head back to London.

Florence, Italy: 6 Years Later

I have been putting off this post because there is so much to say I’m not sure how to say it all and not bore my readers. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that this weekend will have to be broken up into several posts.  Hope you enjoy them!

I studied abroad in Florence in 2005 (wow 6 years ago!) so I was very excited to go back to Florence since living there.  I wondered if I would remember the streets, if restaurants would still be there and how much the city had changed over the years.  The minute I stepped off our Ryanair flight (side note: baggage was a perfect carry-on size) it all came back to me (except the Italian unfortunately).

We started our weekend by getting lunch at Osteria dell’Agnolo which was a spot you could find us at all the time 6 years ago. I even ordered the same dish I always did, Ribolitta.

After lunch we wandered around the city. First we walked to the Duomo.

The Uffizi.

The Ponte Vecchio which was full of jewelry shops.

Along the Ponte Vecchio there are padlocks that symbolize the unbreakable bonds of true love. This tradition started many years ago and it actually didn’t have anything to do with love at first.  Men leaving for the service would put the lock there with a promise of coming home. There are so many and each have initials and dates on them.  To be honest, I wanted to put a lock on there but we didn’t know where to find one.  Cheesy or not, I wanted to do it. 

Wandered around a little more.

For dinner we went to one of the best restaurants in the world, Ristorante la Giostra. I didn’t take any photos of the meal but I’m still thinking about the delicious ravioli stuffed with pear and pecorino.  You can tell the pasta was fresh and it melted in your mouth.  For the second dish we shared sea bass cooked in tomatos.  I don’t think this is on the menu but the owner offered it to us after we couldn’t decide (or read b/c the menu is in complete Italian) what to get.  The tomatoes were roasted to perfection and blended with the sea bass perfectly.  Now I want to go back…  If you go to Florence and do not eat at La Giostra then you wasted a trip because you missed out on the best part….for real.

 

That was day 1.  On to day 2…

55cm x 40cm x 20cm (22in x 16in x 8in)

Those dimensions represent the strict carryon baggage allowance rules for Ryanair. I don’t remember these rules 5 years ago when I flew them but I know they are strict about them now so I had a little anxiety finding a bag and making sure it wasn’t bigger than the allotted size. We are only going away for 3 days so I luckily didn’t have to pack too much.

STEP 1: Find a bag.

Step 2: Layout everything that needs to be packed.

CLICK PHOTO TO READ CAPTIONS

Step 3. Pray it fits in the bag. (Sorry no photo)

Step 4: Smile because said bag is packed with room to spare!

Fingers crossed I don’t get stopped when I get to the airport!

Guess where we are going……

 

Ryanair Could Be Compared To IKEA

While reading about cabin baggage allowance I came upon this image and it reminded me of IKEA.

CLICK TO MAKE BIGGER

Did they really have to illustrate what the bag should look like and the weight of each?

 

Did I mention…

that I got a free upgrade on my flight back to London?!

I was greeted with a glass of champagne, had crab cakes for dinner and a fruit and cheese platter for dessert.  I put the seat down so it was a bed, fluffed my real pillow, wrapped myself in the warm duvet and the next thing I knew I had landed in London.  It was glorious. 

The State of Pennsylvania

I found some photos on my phone from our trip to the states.  For the past 3 years we have gone to the Winter Classic for New Years. First year was in Chicago then Boston and this past one was in Pittsburgh.  Not as exciting as the other two places but we still had so much fun.  We go with a group of people so there is never a dull moment.  The best part of going to Pitt for it was that we decided to drive and we had to drive through PENN STATE!!! I loved showing Jon around and made me a little teary eyed pointing out each spot that had an amazing memory attached.

The Tour:

As you drive on Park Ave you see Beaver Stadium and it’s just beautiful (not really…we are in the middle of nowhere but the stadium makes everyone happy)!

Closer view of the stadium:

Shulze Hall: Sororities in PA can’t have houses so we lived on the sorority floor Freshman-Junior year.

McLanahan’s was our go-to place for breakfast, sandwiches, food, drinks, PSU clothing, etc.

The Waffle Shop!!!!! It’s really called the Original Waffle Shop but no one calls it there.  It’s like IHOP but BETTER!

We ate at The Waffle Shop for brunch. So delicious.

G-Man: aka Gingerbread Man – our Tuesday night spot and THE place to be and drink Hurricanes

Sidenote: There used to be a movie theater next to it….not a Chipotle!

CedarLofts #2 – Where I lived Senior year.  Our guy friends had 3 apartments in the “building” and we had 3 also so it was just craziness for 10 months straight.

After our pitstop at Penn State we headed out to Pittsburgh.  We ate at Primanti Bros and then enjoyed the Winter Classic.

Have you been to Primanti Brothers before?  I don’t even know how to explain it.  THe line was out of door (literally) and the menu is on the wall.  The sandwiches all have cole slaw (vinegar based, no mayo), tomatos and french fries.  If you asked them to hold the slaw they will probably spit in your food.  They don’t take change very well there. I ordered the cheese combo (swiss, american & provolone).

Look at it!!

We explored Pittsburgh and then headed to the game.

The next morning we woke up early to hit the road and after 5.5 hours we made it to back home to enjoy the last couple of days we had until our flights back to London.

Home Sweet Home.

A & J’s Big Adventure – Part 4/Plan B

Plan B was to book a flight to NY from Paris and spend a couple of days there as well.  The next flight out was on Wednesday so we had 2 days in Paris!

Paris doesn’t need words….only photos.

On Wednesday morning we successfully flew from Paris to New York and enjoyed our time with family and friends.  I don’t have any photos from the rest of our trip because my camera battery was dead and the charger was obviously left in London. 

We are back in London and ready to take on the new year!

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