Category Archive: Europe

The Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome is Worth a Stop

The imposing cylindrical Castel Sant’Angelo, situated along the Tiber River in Rome, was built between 123 and 129 AD.  It was first known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, serving as the resting grounds for the ashes of the Roman emperor.  Ashes of Hadrian’s family, as well as subsequent emperors, joined him there. The tomb was ransacked during one of Rome’s less civilized periods, and the Castel Sant’Angelo was later used as a fortress (Popes hid out here), castle (connected to St. Peter’s Basilica by a covered corridor), and prison (executions were held in the interior square). Today it is the location of the National Museum’s collections of weapons, ceramics, furnishings, and Renaissance paintings, and is still a formidable presence on the Rome’s skyline. It’s worth stopping by to look at the architecture and history of the building, and the great […]

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The Roman Coliseum: Birthplace of Civilization

Of all the wonderful things that I saw in Rome, and there were lots of impressive sights, the Coliseum was the highlight.  It was my first glimpse of the city as I came up from the train station.  I stood for a minute clearing my head and getting my bearings, and then I looked up.  There was the Coliseum directly in front of me.  I stood there, across the street from history, and it simply took my breath away. The Coliseum in Rome is the largest remaining monument of Imperial Rome, and is the top landmark in a city that’s full of landmarks. Built between AD 72-80, the Coliseum was originally called the Flavian Amphitheater and was the center of the city of Rome.  It was the first and the largest (it covers about six acres) permanent amphitheater built in […]

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Make Mine Bordeaux

Bordeaux is city in the southwest part of France and boasts a million residents and probably just as many great bottles of wine.  Bordeaux is one of the world’s major wine producers, dating back to the 8th century, and although the historic part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I think of the vines. I thought that Bordeaux wines were always red, but it turns out that’s not the case.  Most of the wine produced there is red, (ranging from every day table wine to some pretty prestigious bottles), but there are also white, rosé and sparkling wines produced. I don’t order Bordeaux when I’m out for dinner, probably because I don’t speak French, and it can be a little intimidating to order a bottle of something that you can’t pronounce correctly.  That was true when I […]

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Isola Madre, the Largest of the Borromeo Islands

Lake Maggiore, with its low key atmosphere, has an extensive network of ferry service around and across the lake.  In fact, ferries have landing stages in nearly every town along the lake, making it quite easy to get most places by boat.  In addition to the traditional (and slower) ferry, there is also hydrofoil service.  Not only is it a faster boat, but it has more direct service, rather than stopping at all the smaller towns.  The boats generally operate between 7 am – 8 pm, with a reduced schedule in the winter.  Fares can be found on a chart, and have a scale based on where you want to go.  Hydrofoils have a small surcharge. Our first full day at the Lake, we struck out fairly early for the Borromeo Islands.  The Borromeo’s are three islands located in the […]

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Julia Child’s Paris

During the holiday season it seems like I watch lots of movies.  Whether it’s catching up on television, renting videos, or indulging in pay-per-view, it’s an enjoyable way to spend some lazy winter days.  Assuming you like the movie, of course. I like a variety of movies, but the ones at the top of my list are those that give me a sense of time and place.  Movies that make me want to be where the movie is, and sometimes even when the movie takes place. Earlier this week I watched Julie & Julia, a great movie, and one that made me long for a return trip to Paris soon. Julie & Julia was written and directed by Nora Ephron, and stars Meryl Streep as the famous chef Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell, a young, and somewhat […]

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Paris Museum Pass Helps Save on Admission Fees

Since I’m a big museum buff, I knew that I’d be spending a lot of time visiting museums while I was in Paris.  As part of my pre-departure research, I prepared a pretty long list of museums that I’d like to visit, and while I knew that I would only be able to see a fraction of those on the list, I quickly realized that admission fees were going to add up right quick. Further research turned up the Paris Museum Pass, a multi-day, multi-admission pass, that would save both time and money. Since time was at a premium while I was there, the saving time part grabbed my attention.  Museums in Paris are notorious for long lines, and the ability to bypass the line for immediate admission meant the potential for a big time saver.  With only five days, […]

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25 Things I Love About Italy

Italy has become an annual event for me.  I fell in love the very first moment that I came up from the metro station and saw the Coliseum in front of me.  Since then, no matter when in the country I am, or what I may be looking at, I still have that sense of wonderment. In no particular order, here are some of the things that I’ve come to love about Italy, and why I’m looking forward to a return trip next year. Sunflowers Gelato – at least twice a day Lake Maggiore Isola Madre Isola Bella (and yes, I know it’s gaudy and over-the-top) Latte de Luna (with wild mushroom soup that’s to-die-for) Brunello wine Giuseppe and La Montalla Florence (so much beautiful art) Trevi Fountain in Rome (I threw in 3 coins, just to ensure my return) […]

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What to do When you Can't Find a Hotel in Paris

When I headed off to Paris a couple months ago, it was a bit of a last minute trip.  I had been wanting to make the trip for quite some time, but had to make some changes to the actual travel dates at the last minute.  You can make things work at the last minute, so if you find yourself in this position, don’t abandon your plans, just dig in and make it work. When I set my travel dates, I set them around my schedule, and didn’t pay attention to what was going on in Paris.  It turned out that the Rugby World Cup was being held during the time I planned to be there.  The downside of that was that all the moderately priced hotels were booked up.  In fact, I couldn’t find hotel availability at all, even […]

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