Italy 2018 Trip Recap Video

#Italy #Vacation #VincentAdventure #Rome #Milan #Como #WereGoingOnAnAdventure #TravelBlog

After months of me forgetting (actually more like putting off) to post about our final stop in Rome, Steph took the time to create a full video recap of our all stops. Take a few minutes to check it out.

Italian Adventure 2018 from Stephanie Vincent on Vimeo.

 

Italy Stop # 3 – Venice “The Floating City”

After a quick stop back in Milan and a train ride over to Venice, we arrived in “The Floating City.”    The picture below is the first thing we saw as we stepped out of the train station, reminding us that this place is like nowhere else on Earth.  Now finding our airbnb rental was a bit of a headache.  After finally connecting with our host, we checked into the apartment, dropped our bags off and quickly went out to explore this truly unique city.

Because we were only going to be spending two nights here, we wanted to make sure to see and experience as much as possible.   Our first stop was one of the most famous landmarks in Venice, the Rialto Bridge.  This is the oldest bridge that connects San Marco and San Polo. And when we say old, we mean its been under some form of construction over and over again since the Twelfth Century!

 

One of the most interesting places to visit in Venice is Doge’s Palace. Much like many of the properties throughout Italy that are hundreds of years old, the ownership of the palace has had a mixed history, with it being currently owned by the local government. Think about how cool your county courthouse could look, that’s what the Doge’s Palace essentially used to function as before it became a museum. Placed in the Piazza San Marco, just off the water and very near San Marco Basilica, is a wonderful place to walk around even if you don’t go in. Just make sure to keep an eye on your wallet, as pickpockets are everywhere.

Just behind us is the Bridge of Sighs, a limestone bridge known for being attached to the Doge’s Palace and once used to transport prisoners to and from court proceedings.

 

We also visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, home to one of the most important collections of art in Europe. Ole’Peggy did two very important things in the last 80 years; she saw what Hitler was doing during his march through Europe and managed to either hide or transport her collection out of the reach of the Reich, and became the financial Patron to promising unknown artist named Jackson Pollock.

Another point of interest we wanted to check out was the Ponte dell’Accademia Bridge.  This is another bridge that spans across the Grand Canal this time connecting Dorsoduro and San Marco.  The original construction of this bridge was made of steel but has since been torn down and replaced several times, the latest in 1986 where the wooden elements were replaced with metal arches for better support.

While our time in Venice was short, we did manage to take a quick boat ride over to Murano, which is best known for glass making.  We spent a few hours walking the streets and popping in and out of various shops where artists will sell their pieces of work.  The extent to which they can create something out of glass is amazing to see.

 

If you are contemplating a trip to Italy, it is worth your time to take a few days out of your itinerary and visit Venice.  The alleys are great to walk around and explore, the architecture is amazing to see and did I mention, where else are you going to be able to take a gondola ride down the canal?

#Italy #Venice #SanMarco #Vincentadventure #Dogespalace #Murano #floatingcity #grandcanal #rialtobridge

 

Italy Stop #2 – Lake Como

#Italy #Como #VincentAdventure

After a few days in Milan, our next stop was Lake Como in northern Italy. Much like some people in Minnesota that live in the Twin Cities metro area have cabins, Como is a popular destination for many in Milan. Simply jump on a train for less than an hour and you are nearly to the center of the popular tourist destination.

Como is at the southern jumping off point for taking either a catamaran (fast boat) or a slow cruise up to some of the other nearby cities on the lake, including Tremezzo, Varenna and of course Bellagio. Two lane roads are also available around the lake, but my suggestion is drive as little as possible in all of Italy if you can; one because you are on vacation should relax, and two; driving in Italy can be scary for those unaccustomed to having your life in danger at all times.

One of the first things we did was visit Castle Vezio (Castello di Vezio), a more than thousand-year old former military installation, that is now home to “ghosts”. And by ghosts I mean plaster outlines that they create each season that become weather-beaten and enhance the view (as you can see below). The castle also has falconry classes and a full battlement tower you can climb to the top of to take AMAZING photos of the lake and see for miles around.

The only downside to visiting the castle is actually finding it. There are no direct roads, leaving only two options; a winding road that comes close but would still take more than an hour to get to following outside of the hill the castle sits on, or a single direct path that goes directly uphill. And when I say uphill, I mean nearly needing handrails uphill. All the info we saw said it would take a half-hour to reach, but they must have meant the way down, because it took us more than 40 minutes to walk, and we are both relatively healthy adults that like to hike. The walk was so steep and severe that my abs hurt the next day from walking bent over to keep my balance. The views were worth it though.

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Once we came back to Como for the night, we also took the Funicular up the side of the hill to gain a full view of Como at night. What the hell is Funicular you may ask? It is essentially a train car, built on almost a vertical plane. This train car takes you up and down the steep hillside to wonderful views. While our photos don’t quite do it justice, it is well worth a google search to see those whose have.

My favorite part of the trip came when we visited Villa Del Balbianello on the coast of Lake Como. This former monastery, Catholic church vacation home and government-owned meeting place, was most recently owned by the heir of a grocery store chain fortune, Count Guido Monzino. He was an Italian adventurer who bought the property and restored it to its former glory in the 1970s. When he died in 1988 he gifted it to a state-run trust along with an endowment to keep up its maintenance. It is now a museum and often used location for well-known films such as Star Wars, Casino Royale and many others.

There were many other parts of the visit to mention as well, like visiting Bellagio and walking through their shops and sampling gelato (which we will eventually get its own blog post), but the thing people always ask us about is did we see any celebs. And this time we did!

The people who are always associated with Lake Como are George and Amal Clooney, as they own a vacation home on the water. We must have somehow gotten lucky while we waited for a boat, as look who was coincidentally catching a ride on a giant tour bus. Maybe his Bently had a flat?

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Italy Stop #1 – Milan

#Italy #Milan #VincentAdventure

After traveling from the MN airport to O’Hare and hanging out for a few hours, then a few more in Stockholm, we got to Milan around 1 pm local time. Knowing we would have 15 plus hours of travel behind us (and my general crabbiness), we booked a car service to take us from the airport instead of trying to figure out the local trains or buses for the hour transit between the airport and our hotel.

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With the exception of losing my favorite pair of sunglasses (RIP-free-black framed-promo-swag gift glasses), our first bit of travel went without a hitch and we stayed for a few nights at The Yard Hotel in Milan. The Yard is a boutique type of hotel with limited rooms, but a fun atmosphere. They greeted us with a few drinks and we tried our best to look cool after the long trip, but eventually had to go to the room and relax for a while before continuing our adventure.

Italy Travel Tip #1: Don’t order a cappuccino after noon. While delicious and a great pick-up after travel, the wait staff will at minimum roll their eyes, and at maximum outright refuse to serve it. We actually talked to another couple from the U.S. and can confirm they were refused and offered another option. 

Like most major European cities, Milan has an enormous history to it with many stories to tell. Knowing we only had 36 hours to explore, we planned ahead and visited a few key locations based off of Steph’s terrific ability to plan ahead.

Our most well-known stop was the Duomo De Milano, or the Milan Cathedral for us Yanks. This church was under construction for NEARLY 600 years, starting in the 1300’s and finally considered finished in the 1960’s. It is the third largest church in the entire world, and largest in Italy as St. Peter’s Basilica is technically in Vatican City (spoiler: we went there too).

Make sure to check out some of these photos, most specifically the ones of St. Bartholomew and the replica of the Madonna in Bronze. The Madonna is a bronze replica identical to one on the churches spire. It is said that if you gaze upon her you should feel relieved and take that feeling with you the rest of your days.

For those of you not familiar with St. Bartholomew, he was one of Jesus’ apostles who was later flayed (read: skinned alive) and beheaded for spreading Christianity. The wrapping you see on him in this photo, in paintings and on this statue is not, in fact, a robe but his removed skin. You see, he was kinda a bad-ass.

Our second main stop was the Sforza Castle, near the very center of Milan. Built and rebuilt, (and is the theme in Italy) built furthermore on during the 14th and 15th centuries, it is now a civic museum. While much of the museum was fun to see, its most important piece is that of Michelangelo’s final and only recognized unfinished sculpture. It is said he worked on it for the final 10 years of his life until he died in 1564.

The Rondanini Pietà, is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus done in marble. Having not seen a marble statue unfinished, it was amazing to see all the initial carvings done with a chisel and the uneven marks still throughout the piece. Seeing the difference from the rough texture of the rock to the well buffed and shine of what was complete was an experience. Also, because it was late in the day we didn’t have to wait in line or be blocked by other onlookers, so we could really experience the piece that much more.

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And finally, my favorite piece of art from the whole trip. Nothing speaks to my soul like L.O.V.E.  . You should click the link to learn more, but set directly in the financial district, the subject matter likely does not escape you.

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More posts to come, thanks for reading!

#MNStateFair 2018 Mini Adventure

As per annual tradition, we had to get a quick visit in to the Minnesota State Fair just a week before we go on a full-fledged vacation. As per usual, we had to pause the pre-vacation diet to enjoy the full fledged event that the fair provides.

Unlike last year, I won’t rank or grade all the food, instead I’ll make snarky comments and openly judge what I did or didn’t like about the day. Soooo, just like any other day. 

First of all, we took a vacation day from work to not deal with to much of a crowd, but what also helped thin the crowd was the unavoidable rain we had to endure off and on throughout the day. Not only that, but then it hailed right before we caught the bus from the University of Minnesota park and ride.

Side note: shout out to those people using metro transit when possible. It’s a great alternative and for the fair, it’s a free option in many cases. 

First food up: Fried Pickles

We get these every year for a reason, that reason being that they taste good. The reason we get it first is two-fold; its right by the entrance and I typically haven’t eaten all day before we get there, so I’m super hangry. 

Second food: Papa Pup

For the uninitiated, it’s a giant corn dog on a stick. I was hungry so didn’t really get a picture. If you REALLLLY want to see it, check out last year’s awkward photos

Third up: We enjoyed a beer from the new state fair venue ‘The Hanger’.

The new beer we tried was Cake’d Up Celebration Beer locally brewed by Mankato Brewery. Even Steph enjoyed the flavor, and if you’re into unique flavors, check out this link to see some of the others available this year at the fair.

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Fourth/Fifth/Sixth Foods: Pork Egg Rolls, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, and Fries with ketchup

Does this count as surf and turf?

Seventh/Eight: Grilled Banana Marshmallow Cream and Chocolate Sandwich (Steph’s perennial favorite) with a S’mores Latte

We get the sandwich every year (along with a sugar buzz), but this year we also enjoyed a hot latte. It was a great pairing and Moe Joe’s is a great little place to make a stop. 

We also found some fun items to bring home; a custom etched metal sign for the basement (if it ever gets finished) and some MPR Raccoon socks. 

(If you don’t know the story about the Raccoon, its well worth the time to find out.)

That’s it for this year, but I’d love to hear from others on what foods they enjoyed this or any other year. Have fun out there! 

Time to get weird in the City of Roses – Portland – July 2018

I’ve been so invested in researching and planning our upcoming trip to Italy, that I realized we never blogged about our getaway to Portland.   One of us had some vacation days to use up before losing them, so we decided to take a quick trip to somewhere new.  We narrowed it down to a few destinations to consider and then picked Portland based on finding the best deal.  Being that Portland is known for great food, breweries and beautiful scenery it definitely checked off a few boxes and we were excited to add another new place to our list of adventures.

Here are the highlights:

Donuts Wars!  We had our own taste test challenge by trying both Blue Star Donuts and Voodoo Donuts.  First up, Blue Star.  This place is great!  There flavors are more creative They were also quite filling since they use a brioche base.  All in all, these were some tasty donuts.

Next stop was Voodoo Donuts.  If you’ve never been here before, be prepared for crazy long lines.   Depending on the time of day, you could easily spend over an hour before even getting to experience the delicious pastry treats. We finally made it there at 10:30PM and still waited 30 minutes.   Now these donuts are creative, colorful, fun and delicious. Nothing too unique when it comes to flavors, but overall a good quality donuts.  Our verdict for this challenge was that we preferred Voodoo due to having more variety to choose from.

Other highlights were a trip to Multnomah Falls, Latourell Falls and Forest Park’s iconic Stone House.  Growing up, and still today, one of my favorite movies is The Goonies, so for me, one of the other highlights was taking a trip out to the coast to see the Haystacks.  “Hey you Guuyys!”

I do want to mention one of the more unique places we went.  McMenamin’s is a restored elementary school that was vacant for years before being converted into a hotel with a movie theater and multiple bars and a restaurant.   If you’re ever in Portland, it’s worth stopping in and just walking through the halls.  All of the classrooms have been converted into hotel rooms, and old school memorabilia and murals still hang on the walls.

Finally there were lots of stops to check out some signs and murals. Overall the trip was fun and we ate lot of great food (Salt and Straw ice cream, Pine State Biscuits, & Breakside Brewery). Until next time…Stay Weird.

 

Where have you been? Where are you going?

We haven’t been on an adventure in 6 months? Six. Damn. Months.

Sorry its been so long, but with being an adult, sometimes life gets in the way. We are about to change that though with this being our 15th year (FIFTEEN!) together we decided to go big another year in a row and visit Italy for 2 weeks in the fall.

And while I don’t have much to share as I am currently pouring over Steph’s vacation activities spreadsheet (jokes about that later),  I am asking for your help.

Yes you.

Have you ever been to Italy? Have you ever looked at Italy on a map, or just looked at the interweb and thought; “I should do some research on the Vatican”? If so, what did you like? Was it the wine, the woman, the canals, the lakes or the European swimming trunks that look damn fine on me? (Mental image provided)

What I am getting at is that we want your advice and ideas. Send them our way and help us out just like we would if you were to visit any of the places we’ve been lucky enough to travel to.venice-2504165_960_720

And if you’ve forgotten where we’ve been to, check out some of our other posts or Vimeo page for our video recaps.