We're back in the US of A, and have been for awhile. But there's still quite a bit we haven't shared from our trip, particularly our last 3.5 weeks in Europe. So we're working on that now, slowly but surely, and in chronological order. Believe it or not, we also have some posts left from Asia. But we're keeping things as organized as possible - so feel free to browse, and/or use our tags to help you find what you need. Whether you're planning a trip of your own, daydreaming of distant lands, or living vicariously through us - relax, enjoy, and happy reading!!

PS If you're looking for the details of our road trip across the US, you'll find them on our Tumblr.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Duomo and the Duomo Museum (and this post begins and ends with food, including the best pasta in the world!)

Florence is known for its art, architecture, and food. And after we finished our laundry, we were ready to eat. Thanks to Elizabeth Minchilli's excellent Eat Florence iPad app, we were guided to Mariano, at Via Parione 19r. Word to the wise: This place is hard to find, but talk about some simple yet amazing sandwiches!

"Hard to find" is an understatement. It even hides under a fake sign!
We walked past it the first time. And maybe the second too.
Holly's on the left--just simple cheese. Mine on the right--parma ham.
In the center, the house red. Can't remember the varietal, but it
washed the sandwiches down juuust right. And the bread.
So fresh. So good. Mmm.

Thus fortified by lunch, we set out to find the Duomo, the main cathedral in Florence. If you want to learn more about it, I'd really suggest going to read up on it on Wikipedia, or any of the other many websites that can delve deep into the architecture and art of the Duomo. What I'll say is that it's definitely worth going to see, and you should pay to climb to the top. Even better, buy the combo ticket that lets you climb to the top AND go to the Duomo Museum (note that you can get into the Duomo for free, but just can't get to the top).

The Duomo. Yes, it is pink with green accents.

The interior of the dome. Depicting the Last Judgment.
 The view from the top of the Duomo is pretty spectacular, especially on a clear day. We took lots of photos (and helped some Chinese tourists take photos--this became somewhat of a specialty of mine during the trip), but here's one showing the Campanile, or bell tower, of the Duomo.
One of the many impressive views from the top of the Duomo,
with Florence at your feet!
 On the way down (and it is a ways down!), we ran into this:
I don't know which came first, this sign, or...
This. But I'm sure at this point the sign just encourages

After the Duomo, our next stop was the Duomo Museum (in Italian, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo). The Duomo has been around a while and has gone through several phases. The Duomo Museum is a repository of some of the art and architectural features of the Duomo that used to grace the cathedral itself but have since been replaced (and in some cases, they literally fell off). Of course, there are other pieces of art in the museum as well. One of the most captivating, at least to me, was the Pieta, by Michelangelo. In terms of emotional impact, it certainly rivalled the Laocoon in the Vatican.

The Florentine Pieta, showing Christ being taken off the cross.
There was plenty of other amazing art there, including pieces by some of the other Italian masters. But at the end of the day, we were done--one of the things we discovered on our trip is that both of us have only so much tolerance for museums and art. Between a museum trip and a trip into the outdoors, we're much more likely to go with the outdoors trip.

Our sightseeing took up the whole afternoon, so by the time we exited the Duomo Museum at closing time, it was conveniently time for dinner! Thanks to a recommendation from a friend in the travel business (hi Josh!), we found our way to La Divina Enoteca, in the mercato di San Lorenzo.

You can't see the wine, but it was just as delectable
as the spread on this platter.
Opening an enoteca is, in my mind, a great way to semi-retire. You get to open bottles of wine, drink with friends, serve some easy, light food, talk all day... what could be better? We enjoyed our time at LDE--there were just a few tables, but it was a quiet night and we were the only ones in there at that time. We sat down at one of the tables, ordered some wine and the antipasti platter pictured above, and just unwound, talking about what we'd seen, some of the things we wanted to do the next day, and generally just enjoyed each other's company, the food, and the wine. La dolce vita, as the Italians might say.

We eventually found our way back to our room, just in time for a nap (hey, touring is hard work, especially with several glasses of wine!). The antipasti platter was delicious, but around 9 or 10 pm, we were kind of peckish. We deliberated for a while, and decided to venture out to find a late dinner.

The River Arno at night.
We ended up at this place called Cammillo Trattoria. We didn't know it at the time, but it's a pretty popular restaurant on TripAdvisor. Unfortunately we lacked sufficient awareness to take photos of what we ordered, but I distinctly remember that it was the best pasta I've ever had in my life. Homemade pappardelle with green peas in a white cream sauce. That was it. It was refreshingly simple and astoundingly delicious. I'm starting to salivate just thinking about it.

That was March 8, 2013 in Florence. Next up? A food and wine tour of the Tuscan countryside. Stay tuned!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hello again! (Or, oh man, we're so behind!!!!)

It has been exactly one year since our last Tumblr post. When we last signed off, we had traveled round the world, roadtripped across the US, and ended up exactly where we started: the sunny city of Los Angeles. But a lot's happened in the year since then. We spent a great summer in LA, living in Elysian Park and then in Hollywood, a stone's throw from Griffith Park. Holly explored the greater LA area on her bike, which you can read about here. And at the end of the summer, we relocated to the sunnier city-state of Singapore. In Singapore, Keemin is still a lawyer with the firm, and Holly's started her own website and online coaching business.

But, dear reader, we totally left you in the lurch. We jumped from laundry in Florence to a roadtrip in the US, and left out everything in the middle! We have yet to chronicle:

  • Our visit to the Duomo;
  • Our tour of the Tuscan countryside (hint: lots of wine and food!);
  • Exploring the maze of Venetian streets;
  • A concert in Vienna;
  • Touring Prague castle;
  • Our adventures in Berlin;
  • Spring in Stockholm;
  • Copin' in Copenhagen (sorry, couldn't resist!); and 
  • Adventures in London.
There's a lot to cover, but in case we don't cover it all despite our best intentions (bearing in mind that our best intentions have only now materialized into a single blog post), here are the Cliff Notes:
  1. Europe has lots of old cathedrals and castles.
  2. A good concert hall can make all the difference to classical music.
  3. Food is cheaper, and more to our liking, in southern Europe.
  4. The Nordic countries are expensive!
  5. Museums are in some ways analogous to souvenir cabinets, just bigger and better curated.
  6. Don't drive in London. And if you're trying to drive out of London, make sure you get a map of more than just the city center.
  7. If we ever saw an ethnically mixed group of tourists out and about, they were almost always Americans.
  8. Everyone who can, should travel. Even if it's just to a different town, or across the state line or halfway round the world, travel with an open mind expands your understanding of the world and gives you a greater appreciation of life.
So stay tuned. We can't promise that we'll finish blogging about our Europe travels any day soon, but we will at least try to finish!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Some Like It Hot...(March 8, Cont'd)

If you do some casual math (or just read on, and I'll do it for you), you'll realize that by this time we were just about 10 days into our European adventure.  If you memorized our packing philosophy (or refresh your memory here), you'll realize that we were fast running out of clean clothes.  Doreen, the proprietress of Hotel Scoti, had helped us get oriented when we'd arrived the previous evening and pointed out the location of a local laundromat.  

So after taking our dirty clothes to breakfast (thankfully, they didn't eat much), we walked around the corner to the laundromat.  What the laundromat had in proximity, it lacked in economy.  We quickly realized that doing laundry in Florence wasn't going to be cheap, but when you're carrying your clothes on your back for weeks, you're willing to pay a premium to wash what you have, rather than carry more.  

First, we had to puzzle out the token-granting machine.  After a few minutes and some refused, re-flattened, and re-fed bills, we paid 10 euros (~12 USD) to wash three loads of laundry.  Eeek.  Then, we scraped together our coins to see if we had enough to purchase little packets of laundry detergent and still get change from the vending machine, which only dispensed a very limited amount of change.  I thought we had it worked out, until Kee-Min (who was working the dispenser) and I (who was loading a washing machine) had this exchange:

Kee-Min: "I have one packet of laundry detergent, but it won't give us change."

Me: "Right.  It won't dispense that much change.  So just get two bags."
Kee-Min: "Really? Two bags???"
Me: "Yeah, we have three loads of laundry."

I turn around a moment later, and Kee-Min is holding one packet of laundry detergent and, literally, two plastic bags.  Apparently, plastic bags were also available for sale from the vending machine.  Who knew?  In Holly-speak, "bag" meant "little plastic packet of laundry detergent".  Kee-Min, ever the dutiful spouse, followed my instruction just a little too well and purchased 2 plastic bags.  

But what the heck. We were on vacation, and we had two extra bags.  We laughed.  And laughed.  And when an older American couple joined us at the laundromat a few minutes later, we helped them navigate the token and detergent vending machines, then offered them a few extra bags...

We actually enjoyed chatting with this couple, who were traveling through Italy and Spain with a tour group of senior citizens.  We shared some stories, and were once again reminded how fortunate we were to be able to take this trip while we are young, energetic, and able to walk/climb/hike/life our luggage with relative ease.  So - for you readers who are pre-retirement age, infected with wanderlust, and with the financial resources and freedom to take an extended trip: DO IT.  Your life is now, and you have nothing to lose.  

*steps off soapbox*

But our laundry escapades weren't quite over yet.  For those of you who don't know us well, at home, we wash one load of laundry a day, and hang dry *all* of our clothing.  We just don't use the dryer.  But here, our room was too small and our volume of clothing too large for hang-drying to be reasonable.  So we sorted out our heat-sensitive technical gear out, and I went back to our room to redecorate.  Then, we threw the rest of our clothes in an enormous dryer, turned the heat up to "HIGH", and inserted a bazillion euros to make it go.

Now, there was a spell during my childhood when our family used a laundromat regularly; and we used to swear that the dryers were rigged so that they took ~4 cycles to actually dry our clothing.  Apparently, this Florence laundromat missed that memo, because dang, that dryer was hot enough to burn or melt at least 4 pieces of clothing.  For goodness' sake, I had to throw away a cap because the dryer melted the adjustable plastic part. Lesson learned.  In Florence, some like it hot (in the dryer).

But overall, the endeavor was a success: We had clean laundry, and what's a pair of shorts or baseball cap here & there...  

And heck, you all should hang out more often with us.  We can make a morning of laundry an adventure, and I can even milk a blog post out of it...  But, if you didn't really think this was blog-worthy, never fear.  In the afternoon, we headed for the Duomo.  <-- If you're feeling over-achieving, you can read about it on Wikipedia here. Otherwise, come back soon!