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Our week in an Italian villa seems like it happened  forever ago, and while I am behind on blogging and blog reading and have a TON of travel coming up (Sonoma, Baltimore, Hilton Head, New Orleans) I still want to get some of these planned Italy posts up. Looking at amazing food, wine, and scenery doesn’t really go out of style, does it?

Living the villa life meant that we had not one, but two kitchens to use for making meals, something I always love to do when traveling. On our first full day in Italy, we went to the market to stock up on essentials for the week, including mineral water, wine, chocolate and sunscreen. All you really need. . .

We also took advantage of the incredibly fresh and affordable produce, meat, and bakery sections, pulling together bread, apricots, figs, tomatoes, and various types of meat and cheese for a lunch feast. This is the best way in the world to eat, in my book.

lunch at the villa  

That day, meat and cheese and veggies and pool time and naps led to a wander to nearby Lake Trasimeno, which was absolutely beautiful. My only regret of the trip was that we didn’t get to take a boat out on the lake. We did get to the lake in time for Aperol hour, complete with free, deliciously salty potato chips. I love the simplicity of cocktail snacks in Europe!

Aprol Spritz Lake Trasimeno

Our plan that day was to have dinner with some family members, but when there wasn’t room for us, we instead found the most romantic, authentic, delicious, delightful restaurant in the town next to our villa.

Osteria La Pergola was so charming and the perfect spot for a long date night dinner. None of the patrons left the entire time we were there. 

osteria la pergola

A team of two women were handling the cooking, serving, wine pouring, everything! We did our best with Italian words here and there, and there was a lot of pointing and laughing (in a good way) as we communicated across language barriers, all in the name of amazing food.

ravioli

Local bubbly, “Ca de Sass” Colli del Trasimeno, was celebratory and the perfect pairing for my pesto and cheese ravioli and then the molten chocolate cake that we just had to have.

sparkling wine Italy

Say yes to the cake and the espresso and bubbly. . . that’s my motto!

We eventually grudgingly pulled ourselves up to pay and leave, and our gracious hosts gave free limoncello and warm handshakes. It was one of those special evenings that usually only happens by accident.

limoncello

Our walk out of dinner and into the town square was pure magic.

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The next day was a travel day, and after homemade pastries at the villa, we headed to Avignonesi for wine tasting. You can read all about it here.

After that we had plans to meet a group in the stunning city of Montepulciano, which could be a post all in itself. This one, will focus just on the lunch we had, where our group of 16 took over a small cafe in the piazza. Wrangling that many people was chaotic, and I didn’t even get the name.

I did however settle in with a cold local beer. The heat in Italy made their lighter beer selections perfect especially in the afternoon when you just wanted something truly refreshing.

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The menus were huge and offered all sorts of pizzas, sandwiches, and other items, but we decided to go with various plates of cold food to share. Mountains of bruschetta, marinated vegetables, beans, olives, and more kicked off our meal.

dining in Montpulciano

bruschetta

And then we dove in once again to the local meats and cheeses. This was one of the best lunches ever. If you get to Montepulciano, this cafe was on the right, just in from the piazza, with a more formal sister restaurant across the narrow street.

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This just covers a few of our meals in Italy, and as time allows, I would love to share more. In the meantime I will be dreaming of Tuscan sun, wineries overlooking sunflower fields, and endless plates of Italian treats.

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Tags: Food, Italy, Travel, travel blog, Tuscany, wine

It went by in less than a blink of the eye. On our way to Italy last month, we spent just two days in Ireland. . . just as we started to settle in it was time to head to the airport again!

Aer Lingus

Ireland

While we were grateful for even a little bit of time in Ireland, we knew time was ticking and planned on cramming in as much as possible without entirely exhausting ourselves. Spoiler: It mostly involved eating and drinking!

Irish breakfast  

An Irish breakfast at home after the post-flight nap is a must. Buckets of tea and lashing rain make it all the better.   

Irish summer can be beautiful, but for the most part, it can be pretty miserable, especially in the West. We got the miserable bits.

Tribeton Galway When it rained we sought shelter in favorite watering holes like Tribeton, which has a veritable bible of gin and some of the best cocktails I have ever had. It’s also just a really cool space with very friendly and creative staff.

cocktails in Galway

Bite Club Galway

Galway’s dining scene is booming, and I always try to visit a new or new-to-me spot. This time it was the delightfully playful Biteclub, which had a whimsical cocktail menu with options like little slushies, along with an extensive food menu.

cocktails in Galway

I tend to crave vegetables while traveling, and this giant plate of veggies and falafel totally hit the spot.

dining in Galway

Gin is still all-the-rage in Galway, so I made sure to have plenty of beautiful gin cocktails and even visited their newest bar, Tigh Nora, which is dedicated to gin. The number of gin options made in Ireland is growing, and it was fun to try a different one with each cocktail.

gin cocktails

Tigh Nora Galway 

Of course we also made time for old favorites, classic Irish pubs like Taafe’s, with views of street performers, stellar people watching, and pints.

Taafes

And let’s face it, no trip to the pub is complete without some garlic cheese chips after! No trip to Ireland is complete for me without a visit to Supermacs.   

Supermacs

In spite of the cold, gray, windy, and often rainy weather, we still also spent plenty of time outside, taking in the beauty of all of the lush gardens, buoyed by the rain and truly stunning.

roses in Ireland  

Rain or shine, there’s a wild beauty to the beaches in the West of Ireland, and even while shivering, I somehow managed to fit in an ice cream cone.

Spiddal

 Galway

Two days or two weeks, it never seems like there’s enough time when we land in Ireland, but I will always take whatever we can get, and always miss it terribly when we leave.

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Tags: cocktails, Food, Galway, Ireland, Travel

Summer 2017 has been a whirlwind of travel and work. . . it has really flown by! In addition to our trip to Italy (more on that soon) I have also started blogging for Sonesta Hotels, a company I have been fortunate to work with in several capacities over the years.  As part of that, I will be visiting many of their US hotels and sharing my experience on the hotel, the destination, food, and other fun topics so that travelers can get a sense of why to visit.

Check out my first blog posts:

Patio Dining and Live Music at Royal Sonesta Boston

Bottling Custom Wine Gifts for Sonesta ES Suites in Massachusetts

A Poolside Event at Sonesta Philadelphia

It had been ages and ages since I visited Philadelphia, and I was so pleasantly surprised by everything.

I arrived to Philadelphia by Amtrak to the beautiful 30th Street Station. I love grand train stations, and this one was just lovely. I had big plans for the day but otherwise wouldn’t have minded spending some time in the station, marveling at its high ceilings and beautiful detail.

Philadelphia 30th Street Station

I hopped in a taxi from the station, and in less than 10 minutes, I was at the Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square. The hotel is is  stunner, recently re-imagined, and offering a stylish red, gray, and black color scheme with plenty of artsy touches throughout. This is an art hotel in a city that is devoted to the arts, so it is a great spot to rest your head while still being immersed in that art scene.

Philadelphia hotels

Throughout the hotel you can find original art that changes on a regular basis and gives this city hotel a gallery vibe.

Sonesta Philly

They even have their own Warhol Room, a meeting space complete with original artwork by Andy Warhol. The hotel’s proximity to just about everything, including the train station and airport make it perfect for meetings.

Warhol Campbell's Soup

One of the big things I noticed was that, despite being in the heart of Philadelphia, the hotel was so quiet! It had a really calm, cool feel to it, and my comfy room was really an oasis after a busy, hot day of walking around town.

Sonesta Philadelphia 

Philadelphia hotels

Like its Boston and Gwinnett counterparts, Sonesta Philadelphia brings the art theme right down to the food and beverage, featuring its own ArtBar in the hotel.

ArtBar Philly

 

art cocktails Cocktails are liquid art named after famous works-of-art. I had the “Whistler’s Mother” which was a perfect, refreshing choice for a summer day.

gin cocktail

One of the reasons I chose the dates I did was so that I could visit the pool on the 8th floor rooftop of the Sonesta Philly, and just in time for their Insta-meet, which brought together Instagrammers from all over the city for beautiful views, cocktails, and a signature Sonesta #FoodisArt spread. I ate so much!

Sonesta Philly pool

shrimp cocktail

As part of my travels to Sonesta’s hotels, getting to know the destination is also a top priority. Rittenhouse Square is simply beautiful and bustling with people, stunning architecture, and food. . . so much food! I need to go back just to eat my way around the area.

Tria Taproom has everything, including cocktails, on draft. . .

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Wandering around Rittenhouse made me hungry, and it was really hard to decide where to eat.

For lunch on my visit to Philly I chose The Dandelion, a completely charming little pub with fantastic food. I ate every bite of a summery tomato salad with green goddess dressing and topped it all off with a banoffee trifle, because who could pass that up?

shrimp salad

 

   banoffee trifle

Full and happy, I set off to see the city, including some of the adorable sculptures in Rittenhouse Square.Rittenhouse Square

 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is within walking distance to the Sonesta, and it is a must-visit. First, I ran up the Rocky steps (and almost died, holy hot and humid day) and then found refuge in the massive, cool museum where I spent hours taking in masterpieces.

Rocky stairs

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Wild exhibit by Michael Nichols goes through September 17, and it took my breath away. Photos of animals, many in the Serengeti, made me miss Africa and want to travel back again. Nichols captured the beauty, the ferocity, the vulnerability of the animals in such amazing ways that I definitely teared up a bit.

Wild by Michael Nichols

    Wild photography exhibit

The museum also features art from many of the greats, including Monet.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I was delighted to see part of one of the rooms devoted to works of Degas. Ballet was one of my first loves, and I was over-the-moon to see these pieces.

degas

The entrance fee to the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes entry to the Rodin Gallery, a short walk away, so I headed there next.

Rodin Gallery

Rodin Gallery         

Sculpture is just mesmerizing, and I sat there wondering just how these pieces were created to be so life-like and fluid. Truly amazing.

I was only in Philadelphia for 24 hours, but I was able to see and do so much, thanks to the location of my hotel. There’s still so much of the city that I want to see, and I would gladly make Sonesta Philadelphia my Philly home again.

 

My stay at the Sonesta was complimentary. All opinions are my own.

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Tags: art, Food, hotels, Philadelphia, Philly, Restaurants, Travel, travel blog, travel blogging

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