Category Archives: Vacation

My first day in Paris!

I arrived in Paris at 9:30am this Sunday morning. I tried sleeping the entire flight but didn’t get any deep sleep. Fortunately customs were a breeze and my conference had a driver waiting for me outside of baggage claim. It took me less than 20 minutes to get off the place and into the car!

My hotel was super busy when I arrived and of course, the room was not ready. Fortunately I heard Americans talking about site monitoring in the lobby and I knew I had found my people. I met several directors and we walked to the arc du triomphe near our hotel. It was windy and rainy today so we walked back to the hotel quickly to see if the rooms were ready. My room was still not at noon, so I walked to the Repetto shoe store while also in search of lunch.

The Repetto store was gorgeous with their shoe displays, tutus, stained glass and merchandise. I did not see any sale signs and their ballet flats were even more expensive than online, however I’m glad I went to their boutique. I walked by the Vendome column and Laduree, but I wasn’t hungry enough for 5-10 euro macarons yet. It started pouring as I walked towards Jardin des Tuileries plus I was starving so I got an Uber back to the hotel.

The room still wasn’t ready so I went to a nearby market and got muffins, cheese and pistachios. I guess most places are closed on Sunday and the Pariseans don’t wake up early. Fortunately, my room was finally ready at 3pm, so I took a nap before Mr. F flew in.

The concierge recommended a close by French bistro called Les Oreilles et la Queue. I’m so glad we asked for this recommendation. Dinner was très magnifique!  We loved the steak frites and the lemon tart dessert was even more phenomenal!  We walked down the Avenue Franklin D. Roosevelt to get a better view of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night!  We’ll explore more tomorrow after a good night’s sleep before my conference starts at noon!

Lucca!

It’s hard to believe that we got home from Italy a week ago!

After several days in Cinque Terre, we took the train for a short stay in Tuscany before flying home. 14462915_805550922812_4149721723144403262_n We changed trains in La Spezia and Viareggio before arriving on the outside of the walled town of Lucca.

Fun fact: the walls around Lucca are 4km, or approximately 2.5 miles, and are now used as a promenade around the town. Seattlites may compare this to the 2.8 mile path around Green Lake.

Mr F and I loved spending a day and night in Lucca. Our accommodations, at the La Romea Bed and Breakfast14469476_805593362762_5528839897463212748_n were fun and spacious, and the host, Giulio, was super helpful. We enjoyed his restaurant recommendations immensely and thanks to him, had our some of our best meals in Italy. We had the Blue Room, which had frescos on the ceiling 14359166_805551446762_399185931823395807_n and a huge bathroom overlooking a church. Giulio told us there were 99 churches in Lucca!

Our first order of business in Lucca was to try the local food. Cecina is a garbanzo bean crepe 14359197_805551661332_752449757416269427_n and a Lucchesi specialty, plus the best place to try it (Pizzeria Da Felice) was a few doors down from our room! It was the perfect snack and healthy too!

We spent the afternoon in Lucca wandering inside the city walls, through Napoleon’s sister’s (the Princess of Lucca’s) palace grounds, 14368621_805592664162_1336268666550091615_n viewing neat statues, and the town amphitheater. My favorite place was the Basilica of San Frediano, with its beautiful golden mosaic. 14440633_805592828832_7423556768817275320_n

Later as we walked to dinner, we heard a Puccini concert from a nearby church!  14469453_805592584322_384505747300321730_n   (Side note: Puccini, the Italian composer of Madame Butterfly, and other opera standards, was born and raised in Lucca!)

Our best meal in Italy was in Lucca, at Ristorante Giglio. (Giglio means lily, which reminded us of our cat!) 14390671_805593452582_6328259852912207912_n We had a lovely table in the courtyard and had a phenomenal bottle of Chianti with our first course, 14358878_805593437612_2632651674644493852_n  of Polpo croccante, melanzane e dragoncello. 14448944_805593472542_5825665313623417660_n The plating was striking and the octopus was perfectly cooked! We also found out that eggplant puree and basil pairs excellently with octopus. 14222315_805593542402_5926433826901611910_n The restaurant had the best service and when I asked if we could move inside, since I was getting bug bites, they moved our actual table inside, because all the other tables were taken! 14448882_805593517452_917601373914837587_n The frescos and chandeliers inside were amazing, in addition to the mouthwatering primi course of 14449843_805593537412_4449029045634717651_n tortelli au ragu (stuffed pasta similar to ravioli) and the spectacular secondi course of Bistecca alla fiorentina. 14358832_805593632222_6017758406892763565_n  Steak florentine is a wood-fired porterhouse steak that they only serve rare, or mid rare. We typically like cotto or well done, but this was the Italian experience and it was delectable. We also found out that our last name of Fette, means slices in Italian!

To top off a wonderful, last official dinner in Italy, we had the Panna cotta al sesamo, caramello salato, mela verde, avena e lapsang souchong. 14449028_805593657172_1507902341629036708_n The sesame flavored panna cotta with caramel, green apple, oats, and tea syrup was easily the best panna cotta I’ve ever had, but also the most complex flavored dessert that I’ve ever appreciated.

It was amazing being in a smaller city where the service and presentation are at a very high level of excellence. All of our dishes were beautiful as well as delicious, very reasonably priced, plus the sommelier was incredibly helpful and helped us find the best wine of our trip! We enjoyed the Chianti with dinner and tried a bottle of Brunello Risvera for the next day!brunello We’d love to return to Tuscany and spend more time in small towns, like Lucca. I highly recommend this town to anyone who’d like to visit Italy.

Top 10 Cinque Terre Tips

1. Visit each of the 5 towns and note the differences! My recommended order is Monterusso, Vernazza, Riomaggore, Manarola then Corneglia, going from busiest to most relaxed towns. The train and water taxi are priced similarly, so I recommend both options.

Riomaggiore from the water taxi

Riomaggiore from the water taxi

2. Move base camps, staying a few nights in each town, in addition to day tripping to Portoverne, by water taxi. We adored our Aria di Mare room with a patio in Manarola. 14390675_804617398602_7290652896719854642_n I highly recommend staying here. 14364723_804614519372_425347319447043177_n

3. All the vino bianco (house white wine) is shockingly good, but consider  14448808_805287730252_6734439248593193465_n    splurging on the single vineyard Cinque Terre white wines, to try the difference. img_7183 While in Vernazza, try the Vineria Santa Marta. They have 3 Cinque Terre wines in their tasting and the brushchetta is wonderful too!

4. Try the fresh anchovies, since it’s a regional specialty, however, it’s unlikely to win you over canned anchovies, if you’re not a fish person.

5. At most restaurants, pasta is the supreme choice and secondi (entrees) are not given as much priority or presentation. You must try the spaghetti al pesto 14370356_805020231322_3483084539749973574_n and if you’re adventurous, try the spaghetti nero (squid ink black pasta with seafood!) img_6934  We thought the best presentation was at Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola.

(Side note: it would be very difficult to be gluten free and eat well in Cinque Terre, unless you exclusively ate seafood and only had coffee for breakfast.14333730_805277545662_769157491905239618_n I rarely saw fruit and yogurt as an option for breakfast. Eggs are not an Italian thing.) 14364803_805277500752_5380460152359192664_n

6. Always try restaurants off the beaten path and with more Italians than tourists eating inside. We had a great experience at Osteria Baracco, near Cinque Terre in Portoverne, and were super happy we ordered in Italian! 14354896_805287680352_4137932634649450375_n

7. Try stuffed mussels and all the fresh seafood that you can! 14441082_805288848012_2342129749336324368_n

8. Swim in the Ligurian Sea especially in Monterusso and Manarola! Bonus points for swimming in all 5 towns! We swam in 4 of the 5 since Corneglia isn’t directly on the water but one could swim near the train station.

9. Hike between at least two towns. We hiked between Manarola, Volestra and Corneglia and it was a vigorous hike for us, with our 35-40 lb backpacks. 14292251_805018390012_6046303426147600117_n Via Della Amore between the towns was closed but I hear this is a less strenuous hike and shorter too!

10. If you’re busy and you want lunch on the go, the Ligurian region is the birth place of focaccia. It’s thinner and more varied than anything I’ve had in the US! We frequently grabbed a focaccia with different toppings, or piece of pizza mid-day, or for a snack! 14390937_804614788832_5608074694926474075_n

 

 

Portoverne Highlights!

Our day trip Portoverne may have been one of our most favorite parts of our vacation. We took the water taxi from Vernazza at 10am (because apparently that’s the earliest option….)

Excited to get on the ferry!

Excited to get on the ferry!

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Vernazza before 10am...turns out nothing opens until 8am, not even coffee shops

Vernazza before 10am…turns out nothing opens until 8am, not even coffee shops

stopping in Manarola and Riomaggore before arriving in Portoverne before 11am.

The rugged landscape, along the Cinque Terre coastline, looked windswept with the old volcanic flows of basalt dotted with cactus. However as we got closer to Portoverne there were more interesting fortifications!

The Castle in Portoverne

The Castle in Portoverne

We sat on the bow and had the best view of each harbor including the prominent castle above Portoverne.

In Portoverne, we proritized walking the castle grounds

Above Castello Doria

Above Castello Doria

before going on a quick three island ferry at noon to see more of the surrounding area of Portoverne. We loved the red lighthouse high on Palmeria,

Lighthouse on Palmeria

Lighthouse on Palmeria

and the World War II bunkers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After the boat trip, we wanted to find a non-touristy place for lunch in Portoverne and we totally lucked out by ducking into a restaurant, called Osteria Baracco, off of the beaten path.

We were a little intimidated since it seemed like no one spoke English so we ordered vino bianco, insalata greca and the first pizza on the menu!

We guessed that muscoli was mussels but otherwise had no idea what we ordered!

We guessed that muscoli was mussels but otherwise had no idea what we ordered!

Mussels and eggplant make for an amazing combination on pizza!

Mussels and eggplant make for an amazing combination on pizza!

We had an amazing pizza and ingredients that we’d never thought to combine together!

After lunch, we noticed young people swimming near the castle and thought why not?

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Swimming below Castle Doria in Portoverne

It was a wonderful temperature and way to see the castle from a different perspective. There was a protected cove that we swam in so we had no issues with currents!

We took the water taxi back to Cinque Terre, stopping in Riomaggore for an hour. We saw a bride posing for pictures around town and we went swimming!

Riomaggore (pronounced rio-major-ey)

Riomaggore (pronounced rio-major-ey)

 

Swimming in Riomaggore

Swimming in Riomaggore 

Once we got back to Vernazza we were tired but tried to get a table at Ristorante Belaforte on a friend’s recommendation but there was a huge line and they weren’t taking reservations. Again, we lucked out because we walked up to the other end of town, and had a unobstructed view of the sunset for dinner.

Above Vernazza

Above Vernazza

The service was bad but we had fun anyway! The stuffed mussels and sparkling rose were perfect with the sunset!

The phenomenonal view from Bar la Torre

The phenomenal view from Bar la Torre

Mussels stuffed with ricotta and garlic!

Mussels stuffed with ricotta and garlic!

After sunset from Bar la Torre

After sunset from Bar la Torre

There were no lights on the path back to town, so we carefully picked our way down the rocky steps using the light on my camera (which was very dim) but we fortunately made it down without any twisted ankles or any other issues.

I can’t wait to tell you all about Monterusso and Lucca next!

 

 

Cats on the hot roof!

Every day in our new house is like a new discovery. In the last few days, we’ve let the cats on the roof, with supervision, and they’re so cautious and cute. 14362683_803822311962_4693677409695760545_o Tuesday, Lyra barely came up to the roof, while I was practicing yoga. Today, she was more adventurous! image Lulu also started realizing that this is one huge sunspot to lie in. image

Lily Thomas loves exploring new places. image She likes to check the perimeter 14372347_804199555962_4168767508608791681_o and scare me, by walking on the outside of the railing.

Hopefully, our kitties don’t miss us too much while we’re gone. My parents will check on them and my dad is making an awesome cat door into the garage closet to keep their food and litter contained, and away from the rest of the house!

While it’s still sunny like summer, and in the low 70s, it feels crisp, and more fall-like in Seattle. Our swim in the Sound today was brisk, but fortunately the wind wasn’t up. It may have been the last swim on the year, since we’re leaving for Italy tomorrow and when we return, the weather is likely to be colder and rainy.

Last night, a college friend of mine, took this awesome picture of Secret Beach, (our wedding beach, where we swim). I wish I had taken it, but I was biking back from happy hour in Ballard! 14352179_804055300052_8520016624036439993_o (Photo by Kirsten Rue)

Good bye for now, Seattle and ciao, Italia!

Two more favorite restaurants in Lahaina

Beware, this post may make you hungry!

Shark Pit and Honu Seafood and Pizza are my favorite restaurants in Lahaina.

A week ago Saturday, the snorkeling visibility was low and the surf was high, so after a morning of body surfing, we had an awesome lunch at Shark Pit. The love of this restaurant started when we were last on Maui, two years ago, and happened to sit next to a guy at the counter of Star Noodle. Over pork belly and eggs, he told us he had a food truck called the Shark Pit and that it was parked in Ka’anapali. We enjoyed it so much, that we ate there three more times, on our last trip. They now have a restaurant, off of Front Street, next to the Jamba Juice and still have all their amazing classic dishes.

12491803_764930955552_8120590070102945847_o To start off, one of my favorite dishes is the corn on the cob with dried seaweed, sesame seeds and sriracha. 10400538_764932547362_7771561891353458979_n The purple taro buns add a special Hawaiian flair to an excellently executed bacon, blue cheese burger, with rice topped with Portuguese sausage and dried seaweed. 1919138_764932946562_8536418218920647752_n The funked up fish tacos are a great balance of sweet and savory and so delicious. We always split the tacos and get a burger each, so we don’t have to share anything!

We spent that afternoon reading by the beach before going to Honu Seafood and Pizza. It was close to sunset and we enjoyed image  ahi poke with avocado whip, image ahi sausage pizza, while watching the sun dip below Lana’i. image1237591_764970705892_4088057351078942804_n To top off an amazing meal, we decided to try the waitress’ favorite dessert, image peanut butter mousse and the turtle cheesecake. image It was all so amazing that we ate everything and waddled back to Lahaina Shores. Bonus: Honu Seafood and Pizza is a mile and a half from Lahaina Shores and it’s a lovely walk all along Front Street.

 

Our favorite snorkel spots on Maui!

1917408_764823211472_243581526805971777_n Our ultimate favorite snorkel spot on Maui is the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. It’s basically the end of the road after the gorgeous Wailea and Makena resorts.  644615_764822956982_4876008482502033955_n I was introduced to it by my biology and zoology teachers in high school on a school trip. My favorite launch point has a shallow entry that drops quickly to a sandy bottom and lots of coral. There’s now a parking lot a few minutes away between this spot and Dumps. 1526144_764820192522_8761385384739977754_n The first day we went snorkeling at Ahihi, we saw another honu and got more close ups. 1919026_764823041812_68554064804544243_n 12241241_764823071752_2370804821082451152_n (1)

For lunch, image we love going to Monkeypod in Wailea. 1557447_764869329052_2330843914151341_n We even went twice this trip. 8150_764869354002_4118961113282639745_n The Ahi taco appetizer is one of our favorite dishes. Apparently all the fish is caught the same day as they serve it! image The grass fed Maui beef is pretty tasty too!

In the afternoon of New Year’s Day, we also went to our other favorite snorkel spot, Dumps, and discovered Secret Beach about half a mile from Ahihi. 1147_764869972762_6056896200371495646_n10262013_764870371962_8676707995925868673_n

Secret Beach was mostly locals and very chill. 1003240_764870307092_4576518023680703189_n We enjoyed swimming and reading on the beach until dinner time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA (We even saw a cute puppy frolicking in the waves!)

For dinner, we went to Migrant 1468506_764870731242_8916739448073059693_n (the sister restaurant of Star Noodle) 1474400_764870756192_4284804510083073795_n 10505523_764870761182_4657720729282235146_n and had the best meal of our entire trip. 580335_764870801102_8774663777356825558_n 735216_764870841022_6114500262386176924_n (1) We loved the extra hot garlic noodles, french onion noodles, and Ahi Avo. 10348605_764870796112_3367016298840102825_n The short ribs were great too.10881_764870836032_4119824822090114265_n The sunsets from the Migrant are pretty spectacular too! image Next time we visit Maui, I’d like to get a condo in Wailea or Makena for a few days, just so we’re closer to our favorite snorkeling, Monkeypod and the Migrant.