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I’ve never done much sight seeing in Milan, even though I’ve been many times to visit friends. This time around I only had one evening in the city on my way back to Paris from Umbria. I decided to check out the main sights and work on my iPhone photography.
The main attraction in Milan is the Duomo. The Gothic cathedral took around 600 years to build which gives you some indication of how things work in Italy.
Right next to the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It’s an exclusive shopping arcade which leads to the Teatro Alla Scala opera house. I suppose it’s not that exclusive seeing as there’s a huge McDonald’s there.
My favourite part of Milan is the Castello Sforzesco. Sitting on the fountain in front of the castello with a gelato is one of the most popular things to do in Milan.
At the rear of the castle you can sit in the park and relax in the shade (also with a gelato!).
There’s lots more to see in the city as you wander around the old town.
I will be back in Milan in June. Any tips on other things to see?
Cadaques is one of the more popular towns on Spain’s Costa Brava and is most well known as the home town of artist Salvador Dali. It’s a sleepy town in the off season but comes alive in the summer months with visitors looking to enjoy the great food and pristine waters. It wasn’t warm enough to swim when I was there back in February but I did get to explore the cute cobblestone streets and relax on the waterfront.
There are a few little cafes dotted around the town but I particularly like the bakery down by the water which sells the famous taps cakes which are shaped like a champagne cork or I guess I should say a cava cork.
If you are based in Cadaques for a few days there are some great things to see in the area.
Salvador Dali’s House
I am fascinated by Salvador Dali’s paintings but his house at Port Lligat is even more surreal. It’s a fun place to wander and get a peek into the artist’s life.
Cap de Creus
Cap de Creus reminded me a lot of Western Australia’s wild southern coastline and I loved it for that. There are great hiking trails and secluded coves for swimming. At the top of the hill there is a little cafe where you can sit and enjoy the view.
Visit a Winery
There are many wineries near Cadaques where you can go wine tasting or enjoy some local food. I’m not a wine buff but I did take a bit of a liking to the local cava (sparkling wine) and stocked up on a few bottles before my return to Paris. Celler Martin Faixo were great hosts and treated us like part of the family when we lunched there.
Where to Stay
I stayed in a luxury villa in Port Lligat, Cadaques as a guest of Charming Villas Catalonia. While it might be out of the budget of most travellers, including myself, if you got a group of friends together it could work out to be an affordable and unforgettable stay.
Each May museums in more than 40 countries around Europe open their doors to the pubic for a free night of events. This year it’s happening on the 19th May and many museums and galleries around the continent will be open until midnight or sometimes even later. You can visit the permanent collections of the museums as well as participate in special events created for the festival.
The Night of Museums was created in France 8 years ago and many of the events are held in and around Paris. The sound and light display at the Palace of Versailles is expected to be one of the most popular destinations as is the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Rodin Museum. Search all the events by city or museum at the official website.
Thanks to I Heart Paris for reminding me the event is coming up.
Umbria is big on hilltop towns. Assisi is probably my favourite but I also loved Orvieto when I visited last year. Then I got to visit Gubbio in Northern Umbria and was once again taken aback by the stunning panoramas and medieval architecture.
My preference when visiting medieval towns is to wander through the old streets and squares, imaging who might have walked the narrow streets before me.
Most of the shops you see as you walk around Gubbio are small, family run businesses. At this little ceramic shop we got to see a pottery master in action, making a bowl, vase and jug in rapid succession. I got to have a go too but let’s just say I need to work a little on my technique. It wasn’t pretty.
Someone clearly knows what they are doing though as there were hundreds of beautiful ceramic items on display.
The next Umbrian town on the agenda was Citta di Castello. The highlight here was going truffle hunting at Agriturismo Ca Solare. Matteo and Sole took us out in the driving rain to uncover some white truffles for our lunch. Sole’s truffle smelling nose didn’t fail to deliver and we ended up having a wonderful truffle based meal.
Along with being famous for truffles, Citta di Castello is also known as the place of traditional, artisan businesses like Tela Umbria which produce rare hand woven linens. You can visit the their textile museum and factory to see how it’s done.
Another off the beaten path museum is an old printing house which has been in business for seven generations. Grifani Donati have hand printed works which are on display in museums and libraries around the world.
Where to Eat in Northern Umbria
Our dinner plans in Gubbio involved heading to a local agritourism farm for a meal. Villa Dama is not far from Gubbio but the long, winding, unpaved road we took was slow going, made even slower by a rather pesky crested porcupine that refused to let us pass. My suggestion is to visit during the day when driving would be a little less stressful or better yet stay at one of the villas and walk to dinner each evening. The drive was totally worth it in the end though with a lovingly prepared 7-course meal including multiple delicioius bruschetta and pasta dishes.
If you’re in Gubbio and don’t want to leave the city walls then you might prefer Restaurant Federico da Montefeltro. My favourite here was the fried cheese and truffle dish they made specially for me. I never expected fried cheese to be served up in a restaurant but I had it multiple times on this trip to Italy. I’m not complaining!
Where to Stay
We stayed at the stylish Park Hotel Cappuccini in Gubbio which has a wonderful spa and relaxation area where I so wish I could have spent more time. If hotels aren’t your thing you could try something completely different and choose a farm stay in Umbria. Next time I’m in northern Umbria I’m going to stay at Agriturismo Ca Solare to go truffle hunting, eat well and relax in the countryside!
I checked out of my hotel in Milan at 7am and by the time I got settled into the train to Bern I was ready to fall asleep again. But I’d taken the train through Switzerland before and I knew it’s a journey I wouldn’t want to miss.
I wasn’t disappointed. The scenery is some of the most spectacular I have ever seen in Europe. If you get the chance, take this train or just about any other in the region and you’ll see stunning snow capped mountains, beautiful lakes and pretty Italian and Swiss villages.
I’m not sure I have mastered taking photos from a moving train but here are some photos from my recent trip from Milan to Bern in Switzerland.
Ok so visiting Floriade isn’t really a matter of now or never but being a once in a decade event means you’ll be waiting quite some time until the next expo in 2022.
Before arriving at Floriade I wondered if it was going to be like the Keukenhof flower festival but as it turns out, it’s a completely different kind of event. While there are many beautiful flower displays, Floriade is focused on green living and sustainability; promoting new ideas and technology in the horticultural world.
One of the main trends was to focus on reducing, reusing and recycling within the home and this included some interesting design and decorating ideas.
Using espaliered trees was also popular and is a great way to save space if you only have a small garden.
If you time your visit right you can watch some cooking displays using fresh, local ingredients. Of course, I didn’t time it right but did get to see the beautiful looking fruit and vegetables on display. These white eggplants actually look like eggs!
My favourite part of Floriade was the international section where countries from around the world showcase their gardens, culture and way of life. Afghanistan in particular had a great display although it didn’t seem to have much to do with agriculture. Their building was a mix between a museum and a bazaar. Traditional costumes and jewellery were on display and they were doing a great trade in scarves and semi-precious stones. Some of the walls were lined with photos from Afghanistan.
There was also a bunch of Afghan currency lying around but I guess there wasn’t a problem having it out in the open as I imagine it’s virtually worthless. I regret not buying some.
Floriade is in a massive showground which takes quite some time to wander around. To get a quick overview of the grounds you can take a cable car ride from one end to the next which is well worth the €5 price tag.
Floriade wouldn’t be much of a horticultural show if they didn’t have some wonderful flower displays and not only can you see popular Dutch tulips and hyacinths there are also many unusual flowers on show like hippeastrums and orchids.
Food at Floriade
There are many places to stop and eat reasonably priced, healthy food, much of which is organic. For something unusual head to the international area to try some street food from around the world. I had one of my favourite Dutch treats called poffertjes which are like little pancakes covered in melted butter and liberal amounts of icing sugar.
Then there were these freshly peeled and cut potatoes which were deep fried and salted. I don’t know what they’re called but I’d definitely recommend them.
Visiting Floriade in 2012
Floriade is located near Venlo in the Netherlands very close to the German border (near Cologne) and not far from Belgium. If you happen to be in the region, it’s worth stopping by Floriade to spend the day discovering unique plants and design from around the world. It’s particularly worthwhile if you have young kids who can learn about nature and play with the many interactive displays.
Floriade is open until the 7th October 2012.
Where to Stay
The closest town to Floriade is Venlo but I’d recommend staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast in Arcen which is a very cute town 20 minutes from the showgrounds. If heading to Floriade by car make sure you get good directions on getting there as your GPS won’t be of any help, trust me.
Rome is somewhere I’ve always wanted to live. Great food, fascinating history, warm weather and hot Italian men… what’s not to love! A few years ago I had the opportunity to rent a penthouse apartment overlooking Piazza del Popolo for the same price I currently pay for my tiny studio apartment in Paris. I don’t know what I was thinking by not staying there, especially considering the number one benefit of living in Rome over Paris. The food!
That’s why I was so happy to finally experience Rome like a local. Staying in an apartment and taking part in a local food tour in Rome made me think how my life would be if I lived in the Eternal City. In short, it would be fantastic!
Our guide Eleonora showed us what was in season in the markets and how to pick the best produce. We started by tracking down the best artichokes which were on just about every menu in Rome at the time.
Then we looked for other seasonal produce which included Romanesco zucchini, wild asparagus and sweet smelling strawberries.
After that we picked up the most important ingredients of the day; black pepper, pecorino romano cheese and fresh hand made pasta before heading back to our apartment to cook.
Making Spaghetti with Crushed Black Pepper and Pecorino
This is one of the easiest pasta dishes you could ever make and also one of the most delicious.
Crushed Black Pepper
Grated Pecorino Cheese
Cook the spaghetti until it’s al dente.
Drain the pasta but reserve the salted cooking water. Mix the pecorino and black pepper in a bowl.
Add a couple of ladles of the pasta water and mix until the sauce reaches a creamy consistency.
Mix in the pasta and it’s ready to eat!
I lived like a Roman courtesy of HouseTrip who arranged for us to stay in an apartment literally a stone’s throw from the Colosseum. They have many apartments in Rome available for short stays but I don’t think you’ll find one with a better view than this:
Special thanks to Eleonora who prepared a four course meal for 10 of us virtually on her own. She has a great food blog called Aglio Olio e Peperoncino where she writes about Italian food and way of life.
As part of the Travel Bloggers Unite travel conference in Umbria, I was lucky enough to take part in an iPhone photo workshop with Kirsten Alana (kirstenalana on Instagram). She’s been specialising in iPhoneography for a while now and it was great to get a few tips from her as I love iPhoneography!
Instagram and Camera+ are my two most used iPhone apps and all photos here were taken with my iPhone 4S and edited with Camera+. You can follow me on Instagram at destinationeu.
Our photo walk took place in the beautiful hilltop town of Assisi in Umbria and here are some of my favourite photos from that day.
May is the best time to be in Paris which is why I’m very happy to be back home after spending most of April on the road. I’m also happy to announce I won’t be going anywhere this month! It’s time to catch up on work and prepare for my summer travels.
April was a great month with a fantastic road trip to the Netherlands for the Keukenhof flower festival followed by a brief stop in Cologne for a little shopping and R&R.
Then I got the train down to Italy where I stayed in an amazing apartment in Rome courtesy of House Trip. I’ll be writing more about the trip later this month but this is the view from the master bedroom. Not bad eh?
After a couple of days in the Eternal City we headed to the TBU travel conference in Assisi, Umbria. It was great catching up with my travel blogger friends and meeting so many people who love travelling and blogging as much as I do. If you have a blog and write about travel then I can’t recommend this conference highly enough. You’ll learn heaps and the networking opportunities are unbeatable. The next TBU conference is in September and early bird tickets are available now.
As part of the TBU conference, Umbria Tourism and Umbria on the Blog organised 2 day blog trips so we could explore the region. I went to the medieval towns of Gubbio and Citta di Castello so look out for upcoming posts about that.
Seeing I will be in Paris all month long, I’m free to meet up with anyone living in Paris or just passing through. Let me know if you want to meet up.
Welcome to the first edition of the Carnival of Europe. I hope you enjoy these travel posts from around Europe from fellow travel bloggers.
Capri has been on my bucket list for years and Katrina’s post 3 ½ Things to do on Capri posted at TourAbsurd just reinforces my desire to visit the island. Katrina says, "If you only have an afternoon to visit the lovely isle of Capri, here are the three (and a half!) things you should do!"
A great post if you’re travelling with kids, Jennifer Miner presents LEGOLAND Windsor in England posted at The Vacation Gals, saying, "The new Legoland resort in England is a fun vacation spot for families with younger children."
Berlin local Adam writes An ode to the Berlin Späti posted at Travels of Adam, saying, "A little bit of poetry to recognize one of my favorite landmarks in Berlin—a chain of convenience stores!" Good to know that public drinking is acceptable in Berlin!
Also from Michael is an insider tip for getting off the beaten path in Paris with The Beat Hotel is a hotel in Paris only a Beatnik could love posted at Paris Movie Walks.
That concludes this edition. Thanks to everyone for contributing. Submit your European travel posts to the next edition of the Carnival of Europe by following the guidelines here.
Teatro di Marcello is one of the most beautiful ancient buildings in Rome. Built for Julius Caesar but completed after his death it has since been redesigned and reconstructed to take on its current form. The non-uniform facade (which you thankfully can’t see in this photo) is thanks to Mussolini who decided to have a bit of a go at restoring the building.
Walking past the theatre towards the Portico di Ottavia you’ll stumble into the Jewish Ghetto, an area established by the Pope in the 16th century which stripped the Jews of all rights and freedoms.
The Jewish Ghetto was enclosed by a wall and the 1,000 poverty stricken inhabitants were locked in each night. Nowadays, the exclusive residential area is known for it’s art galleries, boutique stores and great restaurants. Funny how quickly things can change.
The Jewish quarter is also home to Rome’s main synagogue which can only be visited on a guided tour (unless you’re there for a service). There is also a quirky turtle fountain.
From the Jewish Ghetto you can cross the Ponte Fabricio to stroll around the pretty Tiber Island and enjoy a gelato.