Teenage Dali Dreams

In 1997, it was basically a requirement if you identified as an alternative or artsy teenager (we were lovingly or perhaps not-so-lovingly referred to as freaks in my school) to have a Dali poster adorning at least one wall in your bedroom. It was my personal mission to cover every square inch of my walls with either clippings from art magazines of Dali paintings or Trent Reznor’s face. How else would people know I was angsty and awesome?

Actually, everything I owned was covered in some taped together collage of teenage expression.

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I remember my introduction to Dali’s work. Fourteen years old, sat in a random field in the middle of a breezy summer night under the Tennessee stars. I’m sure my parents thought I was at a sleepover watching Jared Leto be moody in My-So-Called-Life.

I wasn’t.

Flashlight in hand, thumbing through a giant coffee table sized book of Dali paintings. Absorbed in the colours, it was just me and the sea of grass bending rhythmically against the wind. Dark Side of the Moon softly echoing from the speakers of Big John’s truck parked a few meters away. One of those ‘it’s so good to be alive’ moments.

I remember thinking that this Dali guy really gets it. He sees it all. He includes it all. All of the things that matter. What a genius.
One of those extremely rare instances as a teenager where you actually feel understood. And you understand.

Dreaming big at that point in my life included a fantasy involving living in California one day. I’d be an actress or an artist or something bright and bohemian. You are full of so much magic and pain and possibility at 14. I’d resigned myself to the very real possibility that I’d probably never see a Dali painting in person.

But that was ok. I’m from a small town and my expectations were always reasonable and carefully managed.

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I never ever in a million years dreamt that I’d regularly have the opportunity to see and experience the things I have done. Living in Europe. A stone’s throw from all of the great works.

It’s mind-blowing and I’m still not 100% sure how everything aligned and got me here and onto this path. And the fact that it’s still so limitless. There is still so much available to me I’ve yet to explore. Damn, it’s intense.

Every gallery, every beautiful old red brick building I pass…it’s not lost on me for a second.
I’m thankful even when it’s shit and rainy and I’m tired and the London air smells like trash and burning.
This place is horrible and fantastic and I’m goddamn lucky.
At least I’ve had the choice. I have had the opportunity and that’s everything.

Blah blah blah. Nostalgia. I’m waxing now. I’ll stop.

Right, so Dali. I was heading somewhere with this I promise.

I had the honour and privilege to visit the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain last year. I never got around to posting the photos because well, honestly it’s been a challenging year and I’ve been focusing on other things and not focusing etc.

Alas, I want to get these up because it was a breathtaking experience and it’s just time move on with more recent photography so here we are…

What an absolute dream to visit this place, truly. It was cathartic and heartbreaking and confusing and exhilarating to see all of these works in person. I hope you enjoy.

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Barcelona part two – Montjuïc Cactus Park

In Barcelona there is a magical little succulent garden packed with every spiny cactus imaginable. Pure bliss for someone as obsessed with photographing plants as I am…

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Version 2

The things that were eaten in Spain

Food in Spain is amazing in general but Barcelona was pretty next level…

The best burger I’ve had in my entire life at http://www.granjapetitbo.com/

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Another delicious burger at http://anaucogourmet.es/

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Root Vegetable crisps + honey & sesame seeds at http://www.negrocarbongrill.com/

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Tempura fried veggies, craft beer and rare steak at http://biercab.com/

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Dreamy pina coladas and guacamole at https://www.facebook.com/Pachucobcn/

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Followed by another on on the beach…

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Followed by mojitos…

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daiquiris…

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Then an exquisite dinner of tapas at http://www.betlem.es/

Steak tartare

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Octopus, artichoke & pea

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Crab ravioli

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Roasted Octopus

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Apparently all I eat is Octopus so I decided to order a whole one roasted in paprika in Figueres.
It was the best thing I ate on the whole trip (next to that legendary burger because it was EPIC)!!

It’s a shame I don’t have anything for scale. Let’s say bigger than a rabbit smaller than a cat. I ate the whole thing. Obvs.

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Sintra

If you holiday in Lisbon, a breath-taking day trip to Sintra is a must. Make the time…trust me.

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Quinta Regaleira

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Really spot-on octopus and potato salad in the outdoor cafe…

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Pena Palace

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Lisbon

The next few posts are going to be less wordy and more of a photo dump as I’m so far behind posting anything…x

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My culinary choices consisted mostly of octopus…naturally. ❤

A Cevicheria https://www.facebook.com/ACevicheriaChefKiko/

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BBQ octopus with pork rind

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Salmon & tiger milk ceviche with edamame and peanut

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Tuna ceviche with tapioca and tomato

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Whitefish ceviche with potato lime and seaweed

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Halibut with quinoa, mussel, prawn, seaweed, cockle, oyster foam & kombu

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Banana & peanut butter cake

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Lisbon Timeout Market had an unbelievable selection of eats to choose from…spent a good portion of the day here eating!

Cold Octopus salad

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Roasted octopus stew with potato crisps…

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Salad with goats cheese & honey ice cream

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Chocolate bomb

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Portuguese custard tart

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Seafood hotpot

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Piel Island

Not far from the coast of Barrow-In-Furness lies a curious little island with an rich and interesting history. Earliest records stretch back to the 12th century when King Stephen placed the island under the care of Savignac Monks and the Cistercian order. It was here that for centuries grain, wool, wine and other precious commodities were stored (and smuggled).

What remains of the castle and it’s surrounding fortifications today is mostly a mass of crumbling stone and a pub called ‘The Ship Inn’. This pub has taken care of those that pass through with lunch and a pint of local ale for centuries. Traditionally whomever runs the pub is crowned ‘King of Piel Island’ and the tradition continues to this day. Apparently there is a ceremony that involves you sitting in a 300 year old wooden throne and having beer poured all over you.

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My idea of heaven.

Last July when we visited Cumbria we took a tiny little boat across waters peppered with jellies to explore Piel island and a few pints.

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We made a friend on the ferry over. 😉

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And even more friends once we got there!

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I love a good sheepie cuddle. ❤

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Our tour guide Mr. Chicken was ace.

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Because I can’t seem to do more than one thing at I time, I nearly fell of the side off the island and tumbled into the sea when I was busy framing a shot and not watching my feet. Thankfully my darling father-in-law was there in time to pull me out of the brambles and into safety. You really can’t take me anywhere!

We celebrated my near death experience with a pint!

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A few little jellies…

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That’s it! Piel Island done! x

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Six – The Atomium

There was one final place on our list to visit before our stay in Belgium came to an end!

I give you, The Atomium in Brussels.

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Constructed for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels, this futuristic architectural wonder is equal parts science fiction and brilliant design. Crafted of steel and standing at 102 meters high, this amazing structure is a replica of the unit cell of an iron crystal atom – magnified 165 billion times.

And you can go inside of it!

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Inside the beast…

Elevator shaft…S looks up intently.

View from the top sphere…

2001: A Space Odyssey on a loop…

Each giant steel sphere is connected to the next by tunnels containing either metal staircases or escalators lit with rainbow light panels that flicker and pulse as you descend.

A little video…

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Read more about the Atomium here: http://www.atomium.be/

Farewell Belgium! You were very good to us – thanks and see you again one day! xx

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels…Part Cinq!!—-Brussels <3

On our last day in Belgium we wandered around Brussels a bit aimlessly. A happy and relaxed last-day-on-holiday sort of aimlessness. Eyeing the shop windows for choccy, stopping in for Moule Frites, exploring some back streets and churches. Blissful wandering.

Camera in hand as always. Enjoy. x

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So many treats…

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …Part Trois – Lightopia & the Design Museum Gent

There were lots of rainy days when we were in Belgium (which is perfectly fine if your top priority is drinking beer 24/7)!

In an effort to not be completely sloshed for the duration of our holiday, we visited the Design Museum Gent to see the temporary exhibition, Lightopia.

Lightopia is a playful and mesmerising exploration of light. From the humble but extraordinary beginnings of electricity, through the evolution to ultra modern and cutting edge lighting fixtures, we wandered around for hours absorbing the artistry and immersive experiences that the exhibition offered.

The design museum itself was really beautiful, but the contemporary light fixtures woven throughout the 18th century drawing rooms takes you on this amazing journey from the past into the future. Walking away and further contemplating my experience over a large pint of delicious Belgian beer, this part of the exhibition was what really stayed with me.

Photos presented below without comment – Enjoy!

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Next up… Onward to Bruges!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part DEUX – Waffles!

Who’s in the mood for some motherflippin waffles?!

The answer is: ALL Y’ALL.

Because you just can’t say no to waffles.

(Unless you are punishing yourself, coeliac or obnoxious)…then fine.
More waffs for moi!

I did some investigative “wafflesearch” (snort…high-fiving myself) before we left for Belgium!
Although I usually cringe at the thought of doing the same exact touristy things that everyone else does on holiday, there are certain rights of passage when you visit a place for the first time.

No one goes to Florence and says
“Keep me away from all this perfect gnocchi and gorgeous gelato”.

No one “mehs” at a sexy hunk of crusty baguette freshly slathered with salted butter in Paris.

The point I’m making is that no one was going to keep me from my waffle experience. It’s Belgium, we are doing the waffle thing. It’s sorted.

So there’s this place called “MAX” http://www.etablissementmax.be/en/ in Ghent.
It’s this incredible little art nouveau cafe that specialises in waffles and apple fritters – even claims to have invented them in 1839! Here’s a little video about it:

After an afternoon spent schlepping around looking at beautiful churches, swans swimming in canals, drinking beer and other magical things – we plopped ourselves down in the wicker chairs and planned our* waffle attack.

(*I should note that S only ordered a beer. I am a lone waffle warrior.)

Isn’t it a beautiful building?

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The inside is just as gorgeous. Who doesn’t love art nouveau??

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So what did I order? Well…obviously I ordered a waffle.

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A big, fluffy, light-as-air, splendid and amazing waffle. Crispy. Slightly Sweet. Yum.

And a fancy coffee… REAL fancy.

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And then I thought…well if they really invented the apple fritter, I should probably order one…you know…since i’m here…

So I did! Eeeeee!

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Then I made this face because GLUTONY.

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S just sat and sipped his Chimay in a state of loving, and non-judgemental supervision as I tucked into my mountain of treats.

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I did my best, but living a mostly carb free existence and eating (and drinking) carbs non-stop for 2 days was catching up to me by this point.
Since I was receiving no help from my (I don’t have a sweet-tooth) better half, I really only made a slight dent in my sugar feast. He always says I’m really talented at eating all the desserts and I appreciate the support.

I’m thrilled to report that everything was absolutely spot-on perfection!

When in Ghent, go to MAX!
Order the waffle.
Die of happy!

Next up – LIGHTOPIA!!!!

Belgique! Discovering Ghent, Bruges, & Brussels …part one

Ahhhhhh Belgium! So many reasons to visit this beautiful country.

Picturesque cottages. Quirky Cobblestone streets. Beer. (REALLY AMAZING BEER) Art. Chocolate. (REALLY AMAZING CHOCOLATE) Swans. Misty canals. Moules Frites. Medieval churches. Waterzooi. More beer. More beer. More beer.

And rain. If you like and/or can tolerate rain, then yes. Visit.

I read a travel blog before my recent trip to Belgium where the author said the one thing she was able to determine by her visit to Belgium, was that it is always raining.
I would like to add to that statement by offering up my observation that if it is not raining, it has either just stopped raining or is about to start raining again.

BUT we went in February – which is really us begging to be rained upon. I promise I’m not complaining!

As you may know if you’ve followed my blog or are actually my real life friend, a year and half ago S and I bought a nice big house in a gorgeous leafy area of London. It is lovely and we are much happier and have loads more spaces than in the flat in Stockwell, TRUST.
But the “semi-constant” home improvements to said dwelling have definitely limited our ability to travel as often as we would like. We would travel every weekend if we could. But wouldn’t everyone?

Eventually the daily grinding commute and bustle of such a enormous and unforgiving city, creates a time bomb situation where you must get the hell out of Dodge. This happened last year around this time when we went to Slovenia. Like clockwork, by January of this year I was again up to my neck with boiling hatred for London.

So, it was time to GIT!

And this is where being in London has its advantages. One 25 minute train journey to St. Pancras Station, hop aboard The Eurostar, put in your heaphones, sip on your latte and in a few short hours you can be wining and dining in a myriad of amazing European cities. It’s the bees pyjamas.

So we chose Belgium for OPERATION: DECOMPRESS VIA ALL OF THE BEER.

We love Airbnb! It has always served us well. Both places we stayed in Belgium were probably the luckiest we’ve gotten with Airbnb accommodation thus far. The old Monastery conversion we stayed at in Ghent was absolutely stunning!

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Skip the fees and book directly through them here: http://bbmariereine.be/recensies.html

And the historic town centre itself is incredible.

Sint-Michielskerk glowing at night…

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Graffiti tunnel…

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We had a beautiful dinner at De Graslei http://www.restaurantdegraslei.be/en where I ordered the very traditional Flanders dish “Waterzooi”

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It was SO YUMMY.

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As was my dinner date. ❤

All the walking around in the freezing rain made us VERY thirsty. So we spent a lovely evening sampling (pouring beers directly into our faces) a few of the 250 beers on offer at Pub ‘de Dulle Griet’ http://www.dedullegriet.be/en/

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If you want to drink the gigantic “Max” beer, you must hand over one of your shoes. It goes in the basket, the bell is rung, your shoe is lifted high to the ceiling and here comes your beer!

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And then you drink the rest of the beers…

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ALL THE BEER! Up next…The Design Museum Exhibit Lightopia and WAFFLES!

Paris, FINALLY! Part Two. AND Three.

Annnnd we’re back! I decided to cram the rest of the photos into one last post so this is your warning that it’s a LONG one!

So picking up from where we left off with part one of our Paris trip, after a sweet little breakfast at Maison Lacombe we made our way toward Notre Dame and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

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Centre Georges Pompidou!!! Amazing!!!

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The walk to Notre Dame…

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Lunch at Aux Arts Etc Cafe’ Galerie

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The experience and food in this quaint little cafe was beyond wonderful and the staff/owner was very welcoming and lovely!

Off to the Pantheon…

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The Eiffel Tower!

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Collectively sharing our feelings about Selfie sticks…

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The sweetest older lady and dog duo there ever was…

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We were completely destroyed from all the walking and had a simple charcuterie and cheese feast for dinner…

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Nommmmmmmmm.

The next morning we took a boat cruise on the Seine from The Eiffel Tower…

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Then a quick little pit stop in Bistro De Montemartre…

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http://en.bistromontmartre.com/

Followed by a walk through the beautiful and somber Montmartre Cemetery…

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Our journey to Sacré-Coeur began with more walking around Montmartre…

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SACRE-COEUR!!!

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Our last dinner was at a tiny neighbourhood restaurant in Ternes called Le Petit Acacia.

We were incredibly lucky to yet again, have a stellar meal.

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The parents look pretty darn happy and relaxed! 😉

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The FOOD!

Roasted Bone Marrow

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Suckling Pig

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Confit Duck

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Creme Brulee

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On our last day in Paris we toured the Musee D’Orsay (simply wondrous and astounding!) then we dined at another fantastic restaurant Le Recrutement Cafe for one final Parisan feast.

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They still look happy! Success!

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Lovingly threatening my darling with my Escargot tongs…

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Which was short lived because then there was escargot! YUM.

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Beef stew

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Salad with duck gizzards and foie gras

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Cheesecake (my mother says this was the best she’s had)

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Cheeky Cheese Plate

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Apple Tart with salted butter ice cream

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And creme brulee #2 for moi.

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One final look before heading to Gare Du Norde…

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So that’s it. Sadly!

Thank you for taking the time to scroll through all the photographs!

And goodbye beautiful Paris, thank you for not disappointing! See you again soon! x

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Paris, FINALLY! Part One

I was supposed to go to Paris about a year and a half ago with my friend Nikki and her mother and sister-in-law, but I royally screwed that up by misplacing my passport on my flight home from Nashville and missed the trip altogether.
I WAS GUTTED. So very very sad.

Since then, I’ve been to cities in Slovenia, Austria, Croatia and Italy…but Paris remained an elusive destination forever taunting me for being irresponsible with my travel documents.

I’m thrilled to report that Paris is officially conquered!

My folks flew over for 10 days (they are still here actually!) and we took the Eurostar over for a little Parisian city break!

We rented a beautiful flat in Ternes for 3 nights and had the dreamiest time exploring Paris!
This might be the fastest gimmeyummy photo-taking to blog posting turnaround ever. Split up into two posts – Enjoy!

Our lovely apartment!

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A beautiful first meal near the flat at L’ANNEX.

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I enjoyed a few well deserved glasses of crisp grassy Sancerre…

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Followed by the most gorgeous Escargot…

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Rare Rib of beef…

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And SWEETS!

Apple Tart…

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Panna Cotta with Raspberry…

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http://annexdumarche.wix.com/lannexe

Then a night walk to the Arc du Triomphe…

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…and many many stairs to the top!

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We awoke the next day to gorgeous electric blue skies and had a beautiful little breakfast at Maison Lacombe.

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I had read that people travel all over for their croissants and I completely understand why as I was unable to get a photograph after shovelling the croissant into my face in record speed.

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I shall leave you with these and pick up at Notre Dame and all the rest tomorrow! Stay tuned! xx

My Brother Arrives!

Hooray for visitors! My big brother recently flew from Nashville to London to visit me (first time travelling outside of the US mind you). This consisted of us basically dragging him around to anything and everything historically notable we could cram into his short stay! We made sure to keep him calm in the face of public transport by plying him with lots of craft beer! Please forgive the combination of bad iphone photos and proper photographs! 😉

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The boys ready for the 49ers game!

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Climbing at Trafalgar Square…

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Imperial War Museum!

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British Museum!

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Boat taxi home on the Thames…

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The obligatory phone booth shot!

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The Emirates Air Line!

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Deep thoughts on the Thames with Dan…

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Off to the Tower of London!

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A little afternoon stroll…

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I already miss ya bro! Come back soon! xx
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Four Countries In Four Days – Part 3

It was brought to my attention that I completely forgot to mention the epic meat feast Uros treated us to in Ljubljana at CAD http://www.gostilna-cad.si/gb/index.html This was the day we walked around in the rain and watched the Rugby in the pub!

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This was my first experience with Serbian/Bosnian cuisine and it reminded me of Thanksgiving because the food was so delicious and plentiful but my stomach started waving the white flag of defeat shortly after we started!

So there you go! Homage has been paid Uros! All was not forgotten!

So let’s wrap up this colossally amazing trip with more photos of things we saw, ate and drank! 😉

The last full day/night in Ljubljana we met up with Uros and Jani and drove to Lake Bled, easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

The boys!

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The castle!

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The church in the middle of Lake Bled!

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Uros!

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Jani!

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Me trying to express how hungry I was with very lady-like hand gestures…

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They took the hint and we went immediately for Slovenian Pizza and beer!

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Which, was UNBELIEVABLE.

Afterwards we took a stroll down to the bottom of the hill to get a good view of the castle…

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Then we piled into the car for a scenic drive…

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And did some frolicking in the snow…

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The men were quite triumphant after navigating the deep snow banks…

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Which kicked off an obligatory snowball fight!

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Then we drove into Austria! Because why not?

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We got there just in time for a sunset stroll in Klagenfurt…

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We stopped for a coffee and ice cream and cake! MMMMMmmmmmm.

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More Dragons!

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SCHMUCK JEWELLERS. AMAZING. At least they are upfront about it right??

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The boys steering the ship to nowhere…

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Thank you Jani for the beautiful tiny dusk tour of Klagenfurt! xx

The next morning Uros took us out for a scrumptious breakfast in a gorgeous little French cafe in Ljubljana.

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Then we packed our bags and headed to Italy for one last stroll around the coast in Trieste.

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And that’s it! Four countries! Four days! All of the funtimes!

Thank you to Uros and Jani for being such incredible hosts and tour guides for us. We were absolutely desperate for a few days out of London and you gave us the most relaxing and gorgeous holiday. We are forever grateful and you are always welcome to stay with us at Westcombe Manor! We miss “Lah jub jub” already!!! xx

Four Countries in Four Days – Part TWO!

Where did we leave off? Breakfast in England. Quick afternoon flight to Italy. Seaside dinner in Piran. Cheeky drinks in Croatia. This clearly is a great way to start a holiday.
As our eventful first night was nearing a close, I suppose we were well within our rights to pass out when we got to Uros’ flat in Ljubljana, but noooooo. HOLIDAY!!

We freshened up and high-tailed it to Zlata Ladjica – The Golden Ship, to drink more beers and meet more friends.

This is where I fell in love with Bevog Tak:

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One of the most beautiful beers I’ve ever had. And the artwork is amazing as well.

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I’m not sure how easy is is to get your hands on Bevog, but if you see it in your local specialty beer shop, snatch it up. It’s excellent.

http://www.bevog.at/#beers

Here is a very blurry and VERY MERRY snap of us after a few drinks:

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On the way home I noticed a little vigil in support of Ukraine…heavy times…

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On that note, we grabbed some street food and made our way back the flat for a well-deserved sleep.

I was lucky enough to wake up to beautiful Slovenian donuts filled with peach jam and super thick dark coffee.

Yum. Thank you to Uros’ brother Niko!!!

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We ventured out in the rain to roam around the city…

Dragons!

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Translation: Tits

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The sculptures around Ljubljana are like something out of a Tool video. Which obviously makes me love it all the more.

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Nightmarish pope related Church doors!

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Yes, that is a turd sculpture. Bronze turds with faces. Spectacular.

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We met up with Ajda and her wee little pup Laika (like the dog the Soviets sent to space!)

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We stopped at an adorable coffee shop for a spell…

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I realised that I was so enamoured with her Boston Terrier that I never got a photo of Adja for the blog! EEEE!!!
So I’ve snatched one from her facebook!

This is Ajda, she’s great!

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The sun came out eventually…

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Dragon in the sun!!!

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We spent the rest of the day in an Irish pub watching Six Nations and took an early night to prepare for the next day’s events.

Next up…Lake Bled, the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and an evening stroll in Austria. xx

Four Countries in Four Days – Part ONE!

It was officially time for a Holiday. My stress meter was reaching high voltage levels. My usual (and very British) way of passively despising those around me was not doing the trick anymore. My ever growing habit of glaring with seething rage at fellow commuters as they noisily shovelled smelly snack products into their mouths INCHES FROM MY FACE had turned into a call for action. I realised that all of London was at risk if I did not get the hell out of Dodge ASAP.

It was time for a Holiday.

So we booked it in. And off we went. To the land of beer and Dragons! SLOVENIA! FTW!

Our good friend (and the best host we’ve ever had) Uros, drove an hour from Ljubljana and picked us up from the airport in Trieste, Italy because he is awesome and generous. We then drove into Piran for a little evening stroll through the tiny medieval town followed by one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

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Dinner was unbelievable.

Aside from the beautiful bearded men…

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We dined by the sea…

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Cuttlefish salad…

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Squid ink Risotto of my dreams…

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Spaghetti with Clams…

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Jesus Christ. So delicious. It’s painful to look at these photo now.

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Prosciutto & Cheese Stuffed Squid.

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After a few Slovenian beers and finishing the delicious seafood feast, we decided to drive into Croatia to up the country count. We stopped at a very out of the way pub full of local fisherman in Umag and had a cheeky beer. We were sat outside despite the wintry evening temperatures and every 5 minutes the electricity went out and all you could see was a vast black sky full of stars. It was really neat.

This is the only proof of me being in Croatia!

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First day, so far sooooooooooo good! More from this trip to come soon! x

(Staying) Home for the Holidays.

After the crazy/busy/wonderful/stressful
year we’ve had, all we wanted for Christmas was to kick our feet up and RELAX.

We didn’t go anywhere this year.
No Spain, no Cumbria, no Nashville.
Nope, not in 2013.
We’ve had a proper staycation.

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We bought a Christmas tree and hung up stockings and all that jazz.

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I’m not religious at all but I love Christmas decorations and the traditional bits associated with it.

Combine that with having this big old house that hasn’t been painted or decorated yet…I probably went a little crazy decking the halls.

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I only have 3 days left of my vacation and I’m pretty sad about it.
I’ve gotten used to eating meals with my husband (gasp!) and getting to accompany him on dog walks (what?!).

We’ve spent a lot of time watching films in and out of the cinema as well as working our way through The Wire (which is downright unbelievably good television).

S even made us a gorgeous Christmas dinner! Amazing!

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And because these are too fantastic not to share-here are a couple of brilliant shots from the company Holiday party.
Can you guess the theme?

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We’ve been dog sitting a little muppet of a dog over the holidays as well so there are THREE pups in our pack currently. Lots of walks and lots of fun at Greenwich park.

Meet Cooper. The Fraggle.

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I took my camera along on one of our walks the other day to capture some more of the magic that is my new neighbourhood.
I seriously cannot believe I get to live in such a beautiful place.

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That view NEVER gets old.

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We made a few furry friends along the way.

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Simon and the pups at the top of One Tree Hill. Simply breathtaking.

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I know I’m very lucky. I love my life and especially the people and creatures that are part of it.

Wherever you are in the world I hope you are feeling the same way and enjoying all the beautiful things that make the world so magical. If it’s not going so well for you, take a deep breath and know that you are loved and that the New Year is just around the corner.
Draw a line under the bad stuff and get ready for a year of joy! xx

A Change of Scenery.

Howdy!

I am overjoyed to inform you that I am officially on Christmas Holiday as of today (yes I said holiday, not vacation).
I’ve finally assimilated! I have 11 days to do whatever I want and I’m going to try to spend as much of it as possible in yoga leggings eating clementines and watching films with my main squeeze and my cuddly pups.

A lot has transpired in the last few months since I’ve disappeared from my blog. We’ve sold our flat in Stockwell and bought an old Edwardian house in Greenwich/Blackheath.

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It’s basically the house I’ve dreamt about living in since I was 5 years old and started watching fluffy period films.

It’s also a reasonably big house so the dogs are pretty much in heaven and spend much of their day running up and down stairs and out the cat flap into the back garden so they can bark at EVERYTHING THAT MOVES. 😉

My work life has been hectic but spectacularly fun and rewarding. The business has been growing exponentially which has presented me with the opportunity to really hone my skills and stay challenged on a daily basis.
I also get to work with the raddest group of women and honestly love my fucking job.

I have also fallen madly in love with living in the UK and I feel much more at home here than I did last year around this time.
I know it’s hard to believe that I would have ever not been in love with London, but coming from Tennessee, London life got pretty exhausting pretty darn fast.

Living in a city the size of London can be intense regardless of where you are from. I am from Nashville, and I belly laugh at the thought of how I used to fume with rage sitting in traffic with my Starbucks latte listening to Fresh Air on NPR.

I had no idea. At least I didn’t have to share space with anyone!

In Nashville, you drive from point A to point B and you can sing loudly and badly in your car.
You can cry. Scream. No one is watching you.
This is your time. You and Terry Gross. You and your iced mocha.
Traffic or no traffic, you get to travel to work in privacy.

I remember those days fondly, but I think now I actually prefer not having to drive everywhere.
Not having to stop for gas or put air in my tires. I definitely don’t miss my monthly freak out because smoke is pouring out from under the hood of my poor car.

Nope. Now I just get on the train and am transported to my destination.

That being said, there are just so many people in London.
From the moment I leave my house in the morning and make my way to the train station I’m surrounded by them. People on public transport typically have complete disregard of anyone else around them.

There are also plenty of polite people that get out of their seats to let an elderly man sit but they are outweighed by the assholes, trust me.

It is also REALLY difficult to stay positive and think happy thoughts when it’s 8:00am and I’m standing with a 50 lb backpack squished against the wall of the train underneath the armpit of a guy reading a newspaper than keeps flapping into my face every time the train starts to sway a bit.

FLAP. FLAP. FLAP.

I actually slapped a paper out of a man’s hands once in protest and he seemed quite horrified, but I think I was secretly celebrated as a hero to everyone else that witnessed my tube rage.

Then there are the people towering over you with their disgusting bacon buttie morning breath, or even better those heart-warming individuals that want to share their breakfast experience with everyone on the tube. There they are-chomping away on their smelly baguettes from Upper Crust as I watch bits of sweet corn topple from their mouths and onto the puddles of their coffee already being sloshed all over my backpack.

LE SIGH.

All the while everyone exiting and entering the carriage is stepping on my toes as my face gets pushed deeper and deeper into the glass of the train door. At no point when I thought of my life at 30 did it include getting punched in the boob so often.

Sometimes I get lucky and I get a seat! Then you get to be wedged between two assholes blasting horrible top 40 shit on crappy headphones. But at least you are sitting!

You basically have to learn the public transportation game if you are going to be a successful commuter and not lose it on someone.

You’ve got to learn the ebb and flow of the trains/buses/tubes you take.

What carriages are usually less busy?

What part of the platform should I stand at so that the door opens to align with the exit tunnel at the station in order to saving me exactly 24 seconds of fighting through the herd of commuters to the escalators?

Don’t be lazy and be an escalator-stander. Save yourself another 45 seconds by walking up the left side.
Burn off some calories. Get out some aggression. Hold onto the hand rail.

Do be aware though that should you fall, they will step over your lifeless body. This will of course also be recorded on someone’s iPhone and posted to Youtube within the hour for you to revisit!

Commuting via public transport can be one of the single most stressful and infuriating experiences if you don’t do it right.
My journey every day consists of two trains, two buses, and two tube journeys to get me to work and back home.
Sometimes I just have to look at the floor in front of me when I’m walking because it is mentally taxing to look at any more faces. But I’ve gotten a good set of headphones and I never leave the house without at least 4 TV shows downloaded onto my iPhone ready to be watched. I check emails, troll facebook, read a good book. The key is to stay busy!

My commute to and from work has been made much more enjoyable now that I can just huddle in the corner of the train and watch Top Chef. I still get stepped on and bumped into, but at least I’m distracted by Tom Colicchio’s beautiful shiny head and it makes it all okay somehow.

Anyway, back to our recent move! We moved for a number of reasons. We were really annoyed with the neighbourhood we were living in. Aside from the fantastic people at the dog park, the rest of our neighbours were horrible and I dreaded my walk to the tube every day. There was a lot of litter everywhere, people were really anti-social, and it just wasn’t a pleasant experience.

We also needed a bigger space. We needed a place with a garden for the dogs. They have limitless energy and the 1st floor flat just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

We are now just a short walk to Greenwich Park which I have chronicled before when Becca visited…https://nashvillegirlinlondon.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/beccas-visit/

This is my happy place these days. This is where I go to unwind and decompress from the urban overload of my Monday-Friday routine. Here is a snapshot of how we spend our weekend in our new neighbourhood!

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View of London at dusk from One Tree Hill.

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Pups in flight…

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Queen Elizabeth’s Oak.

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Here is a little snippet from http://www.thegreenwichphantom.co.uk/2007/12/queen-elizabeths-oak/ explaining why this tree is so special:

“Why Queen Elizabeth’s Oak? Because popular tradition reckons that Henry VIII sported with Anne Boleyn under its branches (well, ok, ‘danced’) and the fruit of his loins, the future QEI “oft partook of refreshments” in its shade. It’s not, by the way, the tree under which she was sitting eating an apple when she discovered she had been made Queen.”

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My husband has taught me this year that the key to living happily in London is about finding the right balance. 2014 will find me striving for this. I think by next year I’ll be an old pro at this city life thing, you wait and see. xx

Dusk in Looe and a cemetary stroll…

No matter where you are in the UK, you are never that far from a beach.
Living in London, surrounded by concrete and sky scrapers every day, I forget this.

Growing up in a land-locked state, the closest beach was a 7 hour drive.
I was 12 years old before I ever saw the ocean and it was a truly magical experience.
It’s still magical. Every single time. Even if it’s a freezing cold England beach and there is zero chance of actually getting a tan or taking a swim!

During our weekend getaway to Cornwall, we spent a few hours in the lovely little seaside town of Looe.

We just missed the sunset…

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On our drive back, my husband spotted a spooky looking graveyard poking out from behind some dark trees and loudly announced “creepy graveyard”, promptly pulled a U-turn, and drove down a narrow forest path to a errie looking church. It was almost nightfall.

I looked over at him and smiled. “You so totally get me. I love you”

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Goodbye dusky cemetary!!!

Next up…The worst zoo I’ve ever been to, the most spectacular landscape in England, and parking lot ponies…

Turning 30 & The Eden Project Part I…

My 30th birthday gift was a beautiful surprise road-trip to Cornwall.

S booked for us the most adorable little cottage…

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With Alpacas in the front yard…SQUEEEEEE!

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Oh to be able to sleep in as long as you want and wake up to warm sunshine streaming through your window with only the soft bleating of goats in the distance. HEAVEN!

We spent an entire day trying to absorb all of the exquisite botanical treasures at The Eden Project http://www.edenproject.com/visit-us/whats-here

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Lots of photos of flowers and teeny tiny plants await you…Enjoy!

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Hooray for my 30s!!!!!!!

Next up: Even more Eden Project treasures…

One last Spain post for my foodies…

I just wanted to share some of the food I DEVOURED in Spain for those of you who live to eat…

I promise I’ll be quick!

A simple lunch…

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Followed by a decadent dinner…

Tomato and goat cheese salad

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Beef carpaccio with sheep’s-milk cheese

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Tuna carpaccio with pink peppercorn and dill

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Filet mignon with foie

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Vanilla bean panna cotta with black currants…

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Me pre-FACESTUFF

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Me in action!

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Grilled calamari for another yummy lunch…

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A little scampi party…

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Tasty tapas…

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That is all! I hope you salivated at least a little!

Next up: LONG overdue Nashville Trip posts!!!

My Spanish Animal Friends…

I made a few friends in Spain…the furry four legged variety.

And of course, because I am me, I took their photos…

Farm cats…

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Scaredy cats…

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“Jimmy”!!!

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Look at his big fat grumpy head! xxxooo

This dog that looks like yoda…

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My niece-kitties “Six” and “Seven”…

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Snuggle time!

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Super schnozzle close-up…

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And last but not least, my Father-In-Law’s adorable beagle mix “Benny”

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If this goofball doesn’t bring immediate joy into your heart then something is clearly broken inside of your soul.

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Benny shows off his serious dog model good looks…

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Benny loves his uncle!

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Hooray for Spanish furballs! Til we meet again!

Next up…Christmas in Spain xx

At the Olive Farm…

Alcalá la Real is full of olive farms. My Sister-in-Law Veronica, has just inherited her family’s olive farm and is running it with her sister. It has been passed down over many generations and is a spectacularly beautiful place to get to explore. As far as the eye can see, just rows and rows of beautiful twisty olive trees disappearing over the hills…

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I wandered around the farm and tried to capture as much of the magic as I could…

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It is very easy to get lost in an olive grove, just FYI for next time you go exploring on an olive farm…

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I stumbled across faerie ring after faerie ring and had thoughts of my younger days with Melissa and Audrey flood back to me like it was yesterday…

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And all of these beautiful olives…

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Much to my utter GLEE we were able to bring back 5 liters of Veronica’s deliciously rich and wonderful olive oil. I am very happy to report that we have been eating olive oil on everything and the day we run out I might have to fly back to get more!

Next up…The animals of Spain xx

Road Trip to Granada…

We woke up bright and early one morning and hit the road to Granada…

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The Alhambra!!!

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I really don’t have words for how grand and beautiful the Alhambra is…simply stunning.

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Next up…Christmas in Spain xx

A December Stroll Around Alcalá la Real

Yippee! I have more Spain photos for your viewing pleasure!

There was so much to photograph yet I left feeling like I should have taken more.

Shall we begin?

Our first day in Alcalá la Real we simply could not sit still and took a nice brisk hike up the hillside…

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Quite the view!

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The clouds rolled in to create a nice moody light…

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My gorgeous Sister-in-Law Veronica standing underneath her street sign…

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The Magi…

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My darling Brother-in-Law Andy, experiencing his first deep thoughts of the day…

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Next up…Our road trip to Granada xx

Sunrise Hike in Alcalá la Real, Spain

I’m currently enjoying a fabulously relaxing holiday in Spain with my gorgeous husband and beautiful Sister and Brother-in-law.

Every day has been full of treats, big sleeps, and lots of photography!

I decided I wanted to wake up before the sunrise on December 21st and hike up the hillside to watch the sun break through the fog and hopefully bring with it a new age and happier days for the world.

My husband helped me navigate through the dark and find the best boulders to stand on the get these glorious shots.

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The sky went through so many colors and the clouds created an amazing collection of patterns all within the span of 20 minutes or so…

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All the tiny things come to life in the early morning light…

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La Mota sits high above Alcalá…

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The fog lingers…

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Then the blue sky pushes through…

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We feel lucky to be alive and refreshed to be in such a special part of the world together!

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I hope you are having a wonderful holiday wherever you are. xx

Parental Invasion!

While we are on the subject of people visiting me in London….

My Parents came to see me!!!!!!!

In April, they decided to be brave and close their dental practice (for the first time in like ONE BILLION YEARS) to come visit me in London!

They only had 9 days and that included a trip up North to Cumbria to visit the In-Laws (as well as my most favorite Animal Park) so we really had to cram a lot in…
By now, I’m pretty much the official “First trip to London must-see tour guide”…

Of course, we had to go to Westminster…

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As well as Westminster Abbey…

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Mom attempts to soak in more than a thousand years of history…

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Tralfagar was next…

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It was pouring down rain off and on, but we soldiered through!

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A stormy stroll along the Thames…

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We stopped in Stratford-upon-Avon (the birthplace of William Shakespeare) on the way up North to experience some of the festivities taking place in honor of his birthday.

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Strolling around the Lake District…

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AND FINALLY, SAFARI PARK HAPPY PLACE!!!

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Sleepytime bear…

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MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE GIRAFFE…

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GIRAFFE KIIIIIISSSSSSEEESSSSSS….

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Look at this guy’s FINGERS!!!

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MAKING FRIENDS LIKE I DO.

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I don’t really like these guys very much…

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They are very very large and agressive…

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But THIS dude right here is THE BEST!

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THE END XXOO

Becca’s visit!

Leaving Nashville a year ago was a mixed bag.
I was super sad to leave my friends and family, but extremely excited to marry my sweetheart and stoked to be starting a new life in London.

I worried that no one would ever come visit me.

I mean, I did move 4,000 miles away and across the Atlantic Ocean.
Tickets are expensive and taking time off work is tough(especially for Americans).

But lo and behold, this has not stopped people from continuing to make the journey.

Which, makes me feel REALLY LOVED.

I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that I happen live in one of the coolest city’s in the world, but I like to think that it’s only a tiny part of why people have made the trip.

Becca is one of my GIRLS!
We worked together for years and she is probably the most reliable and trustworthy person I know.
She also threw my bachelorette brunch and has generally just always been an incredibly great friend to me.

When I found out she was going to come visit me I literally jumped up and down in my bedroom screaming “BECCA’S GONNA COME SEEEEEE MEEEEEEE!!!!!” at the top of my lungs while my dog looked at me with distinct disapproval of my volume level.

We had a REALLY good time and saw ALL OF THE THINGS.

We were out and about every single day walking (and shopping) our butts off.

I have photographic evidence of all the funtimes.
Most of the photos are of Becca because she’s just really super pretty.

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A day exploring Greenwich…

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The Prime Meridian Line-where time begins!

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Becca is also a MAJOR Harry Potter fan.
She took a bus one of the days she was visiting and went on a 3 hour superfan tour the Studio where they filmed all of the HP movies.

All by herself. Awwwww..

Bearing this in mind, it was simply imperative that she visit the Millenium Bridge as it is apparently featured in a scene of one of the films where some scary smoke monster thing flies over it or destroys it or something?

Clearly I haven’t seen the films.

She was a little excited.

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Simply adorable.

Here we are slurping down a few beautiful craft cocktails at Bar Social…

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And then snarfing down some gorgeously sinful pizza in Shoreditch…

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And beer…

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And the prettiest little butter lettuce & avocado salad…

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Did I mention that Sir Noodles fell in love with Becca during her stay?

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(she’s totally channeling some ultra hot Uma Thurman in this shot)

Exploring Salisbury + Salisbury Cathedral with the hubbs and the Noodz.

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Sunday Roast…

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Let’s all just take a moment of silence for how breathtaking my friend is.

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Unfortunately she couldn’t stay forever and had to go home. SADFACE.

Til next time!

xxoo

A Very Cold Venetian Holiday…

Ahhhhhh Venice!

The last stop on our honeymoon tour of beautiful and unseasonably wintry Italy.

When we planned our trip, we did zero research on what events would be going on in the various cities we were visiting.

We just had 14 days to burn and decided on February at random.

Much to our delight and complete surprise, Carnival was in FULL SWING when we arrived in Venice.

Costumes, music, FOUNTAINS OF RED WINE, and confetti, confetti, confetti!!

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We stayed at the Hilton because we got a super good deal for it being such a high-end hotel-http://www.molinostuckyhilton.it/index.php

Although building is beautiful and the view was amazing…(view from our room…that’s Venice across the way)

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…we would never stay there again, for the following reasons:

It was simply too damn big, too far from the mainland, food drinks etc. were SO OVERPRICED, Wifi was like 25 euros (barf), and it was freezing so the gorgeous pool was closed.

We felt like we were missing out being so far away from the center of Venice.

We got up and ready and out the door everyday and then had to wait for a water taxi and then another 25 minutes to get into Venice.

By this time, we were HANGRY and GRUMPYFACED.

We did Florence and Rome via Airbnb https://www.airbnb.co.uk/

And has such great experiences with this that we will never ever book hotels again.

We learned our lesson in Venice!

So onto the fun part! PHOTOS!

I took a massive amount of photos.

Get a cup of tea, sit back, and relax because I’m going to post them all in one go.

Venetian shop windows…!!!

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My most favorite book…

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Rialto Bridge at night…

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A night of glorious Italian opera (birthday gift from the super sweet hubs)

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Day in Murano…

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The Venice Cemetery…
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Ponte dei Sospiri (The Bridge of Sighs)

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Confetti covering everything…

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Pups!

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St. Mark’s Basilica

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It was cold, but it was still dreamy. Ciao Venice xx

MAJESTIC FLORENCE PART III

I present you with the last of my Florence photos!
Wondrously Amazing Florence…

Boboli Gardens

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Ponte Vecchio

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Medici Riccardi

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Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross)

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GOODBYE SWEET FLORENCE! xxoo

MAJESTIC FLORENCE PART II

Annnnnnnd we’re back!
See how quickly I did that?
I’m really trying to be better!

I have more spectacular photos of Florence!!! Hoooraaayyyy!

I do not, however, know the names of every statue and painting (or most really) as I am a shutterbug and am usually too busy to write them down.

I could look them up I suppose, but so could you! 😉

AND GO!

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The battle of who looks more Roman…

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My gorgeous husband deep in thought…

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I love animals. Even LEGO Animals. ESPECIALLY LEGO animals!

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Frozen river…

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There are even MORE photos to come! Stay tuned…

MAJESTIC FLORENCE PART I

Well, it happened again! I was momentarily swallowed up by life and subsequently abandoned my blog.
Sorry for the delay, but as I’ll be working part-time and from home this month during the London Olympics, I shall have much more time to catch up on catching YOU up!

So where were we?

ITALIA!

Specifically Florence.

Florence is beyond amazing. It is simply breathtakingly mesmerizing.
I had heard that it was the best, and it truly is THE BEST.
I did not want to leave. AT ALL.
The food. The churches. The art. The gelato.
The AIR. THE WAY THAT EVERYTHING HAS A GOLDEN GLOW TO IT!!
The ease at which one can simply float about, slowly absorbing the day.
No hustle, no bustle…worlds away from the insanity that is London.

And, we were lucky enough to rent the most spectacular apartment right in the middle of everything in what used to be a convent dating back to the 16th century. Fresco ceilings and all. Antique furniture. Orange trees in our private garden.

A week was not long enough…but we did our very best to drink it all in…

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Santa Maria Novella

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Il Duomo di Firenze

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Baptistery of St.John

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There are ALOT more photos to come…sit tight and dream of your visit!!! xx

Rome in February

As my luck would have it, gobs of snow fell in Rome for the first time in over two decades exactly when WE decide to go for our Honeymoon.

OF COURSE.

We made the best of it, but I’m not going to lie…it was pretty miserable most days.

Large sloppy snowflakes smacking you directly in your face then melting into deep icy slush puddles …subsequently filling my leaky boots…freezing my feet…making me extremely displeased and dare I say BITCHY.

It probably wouldn’t have been so bad, but seeing as how my traveling has been somewhat limited up until this last year, I was bound and determined to tackle Rome headfirst and see as much as possible.

I think that the more we travel, the more relaxed I will be about trying to do EVERYTHING.

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The endless hours of walking around without proper snow gear was DISMAL.
Not to mention that many of the museums and such were closed due to the gloomy weather.

IF I HAD ROME TO DO AGAIN, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN MUCH MORE RELAXING!

Alas, we trudged ahead, counting our blessings, and I tried to get as many good shots as possible.

Some days were better than others. The last day in particular was incredibly warm and clear.

All in all, Rome was incredibly beautiful and very special.

Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (The Typewriter)

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Roman Forum

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The Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano

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Trevi Fountain

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Pantheon (Closed due to snow)

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Bridge to Vatican City

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Vatican/St. Peter’s

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Colosseum (taken with crappy iPhone camera)

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Six Nations Rugby at Stadio Olympico

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Piazza Navona

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There were so many churches…I can’t remember all the names unfortunately…

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Florence is up next…stay tuned!!!

The things we ate in Italy…

After much purposeful procrastination I shall begin sharing my plentiful Italy photographs, starting with FOOD!

(FYI, some of these are cheeky iPhone shots and obviously not as great as my Olympus ones)

The Italy party started in the Airport lounge. As it should!
Red wine and mimosas!

ITALIA!

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Let’s talk about the food! It was all about the food.
Eating the food. And then eating more of said food.
Rinse, Repeat. You dig?

Our first meal in Rome…

Tomato Bruschetta…

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Caco e Pepe…

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Great little spot near our flat…mostly cold items, salads and such.

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Rocket with white bean, cherry tomato, mozzarella, and tuna.
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One of my MANY glasses of white wine…

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Caprese salad…

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Gelato and I became best friends! OBVIOUSLY.

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Wine and cicchetti…

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Mountains of sweets…

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And a chocolate festival for Valentine’s Day!

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Homemade Caprese…

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Spoils from the market…

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Let there be PASTA!

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And grilled vegetables…

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At all times you must have your eating face on!

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Ristorante La Spada in Florence…

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Chicken Liver Pate…

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Mushroom Ravioli…

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Happiest little carb loading face you ever did see!

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VALENTINE’S DAY FEAST!
Antica Trattoria “da Tito” dal 1913…AKA BEST STEAK EVER CONSUMED. EVER.

Swordfish, pomegranate, and grapefruit Carpaccio…

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Raw Artichoke and Parmesan Salad…

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The biggest Florentine Steak ever. Served Rare.

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Chocolate cake of happiness…

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WE DIED that night. We were reborn. I found god. God is a steak in Florence.

Did I mention that I used to be mostly vegetarian?

Look at this gorgeous charcuterie platter!

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I even ate TRIPE Gnocchi…that is COW STOMACH.

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More Wine!

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Stuffed Squid, potatoes, and pesto.

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Grilled vegetables and fried seafood yummies…FRITO MISTO!

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Fluffy Ravioli with magic thyme butter.

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Another outstanding charcuterie!

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On our last night in Florence we ordered another breath taking Florentine steak.

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We died again. Seriously. DIED. DEAD.

In Venice, the seafood is outstanding and plentiful.
You pick it, they cook it…

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Birthday Dinner…

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Frito Misto…

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And Bellinis!

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We found ourselves thoroughly exhausted in Murano, so we ate more Frito Misto!!

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I think I ate squid, octopus, or cuttlefish at least twice per day in Venice…mmmmmmm.

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I managed to crow bar in as many veggies as I could…

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I leave you with our most strenuous feast.
(MY most epic act of sheer Miss. Piggy style gluttony really…)

The night of 5 desserts.

We dined at Piccalo Arancio (The Little Orange)

We ate everything in sight.

I grabbed Gelato ON THE WAY TO THE RESTAURANT like a fat girl.

This counts as Dessert #1.

Then ordered a charcuterie platter, fried artichokes and stuffed zucchini blossoms.

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Followed by Orange Ravioli…

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Swordfish in a Neapolitan sauce…

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Dessert #2 Creme Caramel…

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Dessert #3 Tiramisu…

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I am a fat happy piggy.

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OH NO ALL MY SWEETS ARE GONE!

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MOOAARR!!!!!!!!

Dessert #4 Panna Cotta with berries…

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I’m starting to feel light headed at this point…

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So I ordered Dessert #5 Espresso and cookies thus completing my sinful evening of mostly sugar.

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No one can ever say that I’m not a dessert person.

Stay tuned for MANY more Italy postings! xxoo