Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cinque Terre - Vernazza

We finished up our week in the Tuscany/Umbria region, and started heading up to our final destination of Nice, France. Along the way we stopped at Vernazza, part of Cinque Terre, a World Heritage Site.

We followed our trusty car navigation system until we found this sign:

Europe 2010 Part 6 (1 of 1)

Now, neither Strada nor Chuisa were among the 3 Italian words we knew coming into this trip, but the meaning was pretty darn clear. Meanwhile, the gps was encouraging us to go straight through the road block, and letting us know we'd be at our destination in 1.3 miles.

We decided it couldn't be that bad of a hike, and besides, with the road closed, there wouldn't be traffic. So we parked the car, loaded our bags, and started hiking down the mountain to Vernazza. Not having a hotel room booked the first sunny Saturday in a month didn't discourage us, it only made us hike faster!

Europe 2010 Part 5 (1 of 2)
We were glad we made the hike

Europe 2010 Part 5 (2 of 2)
Fun colors

This morning we cheated a bit and caught a shuttle up to a parking lot along our path for 3 Euros. What a fun adventure!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Orvieto and a Wine Review

Today we went south to Orvieto, which is a medieval town perched high on cliff. It is known for it's impressive gothic Duomo (a Cathedral Church), but also has several ceramic shops, magnificant gelato, and some fine restaurants.

Europe 2010 Part 4 (4 of 5)
The Orvieto Duomo

Europe 2010 Part 4 (3 of 5)
Examples of the ceramics

Europe 2010 Part 4 (5 of 5)
Jennifer enjoying what we both have declared as the best gelato yet

We went to Zeppelin's for lunch and it was the best meal of the trip so far. We had a memorable salad, possibly the best appetizer ever, and 2 amazing pasta dishes. The food was so good that when we found out that they offer cooking classes, we decided to return tomorrow for our 3rd cooking class - so stay tuned.

Europe 2010 Part 4 (2 of 5)
Fresh pasta with wild boar meat sauce

We ordered the house red wine, which brings us to a wine review (as many people have requested):

Europe 2010 Part 4 (1 of 5)
We hope this wine is available at home

Our review is quite simple: Yummy & only 5.5 Euros. Buy all you can find.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Driving around Italy!

There is so many cool sites to take in while in Italy. We intentionally are not hitting all the big cities this trip. We will come back at some point, and make a schedule more geared toward that.

The skinny streets make for some great sites, and a little bit of uh oh as we drive a new car through. Of note the BMW 3 series is still a relatively big car by European standards. Those of us who love our large SUV's would get stuck with no ability to cruise around.
Europe 2010 Part 3 (1 of 5)

Europe 2010 Part 3 (4 of 5)

Big churches and castle-like structures are at the center of many towns. They all are slightly unique, but share the common big view ability to protect the town.
Europe 2010 Part 3 (3 of 5)

Poppies grow wild this time of year like weeds - the vivid red contrasts nicely with the lush green grass due to the unseasonable rainy weather.
Europe 2010 Part 3 (2 of 5)

This is what we had for lunch today, what did you have? Did we mention it was delicious!
Europe 2010 Part 3 (5 of 5)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Italy-Cooking School #1

We love food, love to cook and wanted to learn more about how to make great Italian food. So, we signed up for a class that indicated it would be taught in English. We made the assumption the class would also come with printed recipes. We had a blast, learned a lot, and our English speaking instructor mostly left us with our Italian speaking cooks. They were so welcoming and friendly, starting with our names. They quickly called Laurence, Lorenzo, and Jennifer well there is no translation.

We started with helping with the Tiramisu. But quickly learned they had a plan to keep us BUSY.

Europe 2010 Part 2 (1 of 10)
Tiramisu under construction

Europe 2010 Part 2 (2 of 10)
Final product - off to the fridge to "settle"

We moved onto the tortellini and, um, one of us, was never very good at art (Jennifer!!) so hers looked funny. We were amazed by how much the filling was "left overs" and how practical they are with the whole cooking process. Laurence Mom would feel quite at home, no recipes were used, just pour, roll and taste. Oh, when in doubt add some Parmesan!

Europe 2010 Part 2 (3 of 10)
After rolling out the fresh pasta, we added the leftover meat mixture

Europe 2010 Part 2 (4 of 10)
First batch of Tortellini

In the end we made appetizers (puff pastry with sage), tortellini (pork sausage, chicken, and other left overs), spinach & cheese ravioli (ours were considered huge, they kept calling them American Ravioli), chicken stuffed with sausage and herbs, potatoes au gratin, & tiramisu. All in all cooking is a universal language no translation is really required and yes Lorenzo is very good in the kitchen, just like the Italian cooks declared.

Europe 2010 Part 2 (5 of 10)
Jenn wrapping up the chicken stuffed with parsley, sausage & salt/pepper

Europe 2010 Part 2 (6 of 10)
The chicken was cooked on the stove for an hour, first sauted in olive oil, then covered with some water added

Europe 2010 Part 2 (7 of 10)
We used bread dough and rolled it out like pasta through the pasta machine for the puff pastry

Europe 2010 Part 2 (8 of 10)
We put a 2nd layer on top and cut them out

Europe 2010 Part 2 (9 of 10)
After a quick fry in olive oil, they puff up. Add sea salt and eat warm!

Europe 2010 Part 2 (10 of 10)
Jennifer showing off her work

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Alps

We were blessed in a break from the rain as we drove south from Munich on the autobahn towards the Alps. Our host programmed a warning to chime when we hit 120MPH, as he suggested we didn't exceed that speed until after the car had completed the break-in process. We only heard the chime twice on the picturesque drive through Bavaria. There is nothing quite like driving that fast, and being passed by another car as though you are standing still...

The clouds started to stack up in the mountains, and as we cross the Alps we even had light snow in the air. We had planned to stay in Austria and get some hiking in, but the weather and joy of driving pushed us further on to Northern Italy. It turns out that mid May is the time that the resort towns in Northern Italy take off - so town after town had no lodging. After a few more hours of driving than planned we found an unadvertised hotel above a restaurant outside of Cortina (host of the 1956 Winter Olympics). We woke up early the next morning and continued our drive toward Venice.

Europe 2010 Part 1 (10 of 13)
It is easy to see why this church was built at this location


We really enjoyed Munich. Neither of us had been to Germany before, and we found the people very friendly & welcoming, and the sights of Bavaria are very beautiful. Partially due to the unseasonal rain in Europe no doubt, but everything was very green.

We went to a farmer's market, and were impressed with 10 straight stalls with nothing but meat products. The Germans LOVE their meat! Almost as much as their beer....

Europe 2010 Part 1 (2 of 13)
Laurence enjoying his first German Beer

Munich is home of BMW, and has quite the complex built out with a museum, factory, & the BMW Welt (World) which is part delivery center for European & North American customers, conference center, and all around shrine for the brand. They have most of the current motorcycle & car models on display at the Welt.

Europe 2010 Part 1 (3 of 13)
Imagine this in your rear view mirror!

On delivery day we set the alarm and showed up at our 7:30am appointed time (via the train, which wasn't as bad with our luggage as we thought it might be). As we were checking in, we collectively found out that our scheduled drop-off date in Nice is a national holiday in France. After much discussion, we ended up having to reschedule our flight for a day later so the French could enjoy yet another holiday - happy we could help!

Around 9:30, we were led down the stairs to the car, as it rotated like a really expensive Rotisserie Chicken. After posing for a photo or 2, being walked through the features, getting the ipod connection setup, and our host adjusting the bass on the stereo ("MJ needs more bass"), took a victory lap around the delivery center with the stereo blasting, and drove out the German engineered garage doors onto the streets of Munich.

Europe 2010 Part 1 (4 of 13)
Time to pose

Europe 2010 Part 1 (5 of 13)
What other time do you get to see 0.0 miles on an odometer? They truck the cars across the street so they don't have to register them.

After a drive around the block... we parked so we could check out the Museum and spend our vouchers at the restaurant and gift shop (hint, we are still cheap) before heading to the Alps.

Europe 2010 Part 1 (6 of 13)
Models through the years

Europe 2010 Part 1 (7 of 13)
The design process for the cars still starts with molding clay at full size. After a design is chose from many competing options, the information is measured & scanned and design work moves to computers

Europe 2010 Part 1 (8 of 13)
1968 BMW 2002 - Laurence's dad & Jenn's grandparents had that model for many years

Europe 2010 Part 1 (9 of 13)

On our way to Europe

Well, due to a busy (but busy good) schedule and limited free wifi (as we are cheap), here is a delayed version of our trip to Europe. The itinerary is as follows:

-Fly to Munich, spend 2 nights
-Pick up Laurence's new car at the BMW Delivery Center
-Drive on the autobahn on the way to Austria, drive through the Alps into Northern Italy
-Work our way to a B&B outside of Venice, stay a few nights and attend cooking school
-Drive down to Tuscany for a week at a rented villa
-Work our way up to Nice, France, spend a few nights, drop off the car and fly home

Being faithful UW Huskies for life, we enjoyed the decked out Alaska Air plane at SeaTac while we waited for our flight...

Europe 2010 Part 1 (1 of 13)

Travel IQ Challenge

brought to you by TravelPod, the Web's Original Travel Blog ( part of the TripAdvisor Media Network )