Heaven? – A Trip to Santorini

Detroit is a funny place.  It has a terrible reputation for its economic situation.  On top of that it is always at the top of the wrong lists, such as crime and murder rates across America.  Growing up in the Detroit area you turn a blind eye to these problems and enjoy amazing Greek food.  Im not sure what the initial catalyst was, but there is a huge Greek population in Detroit.  So much so that Detroit has a “Greek Town”, which is a neighborhood in downtown Detroit where you are surrounded by Greek restaurants, bakeries, and now Greek Town Casino.  As a family we would regularly venture to downtown Detroit (with our windows and doors locked) to satisfy our Greek food addiction.  It was a great experience going into these restaurants.  Giant flaming saganaki cheese plates warmed your face as a nearby waiter would yell a loud  “OPAAA!!”  The ceilings in these restaurants Continue reading “Heaven? – A Trip to Santorini”

Super Fast AVE Train to Madrid Spain

I found a new love in traveling…. Trains.  Let me count the ways:

  1. Easy on and off compared to Airports – No rubber gloves 🙂
  2. Relaxed enviornment on the train compared to planes – Especially if you pay a little extra for a quiet car 😉
  3. Smooth ride with the ability to enjoy the countryside of the country that you are traveling in.
  4. Speed – This AVE train from Seville to Madrid made it in less than 2.5 hours, where driving would take over 5 hours!!!
  5. City Center to City Center traveling.  Eliminating airport transfers makes a huge difference in the amount of time to be enjoyed in your destination.

Continue reading “Super Fast AVE Train to Madrid Spain”

An Introduction to Tapas in Seville Spain

Growing up I remember my dad having a joke that he was whispering to my grandparents.  He was whispering so that my brothers and I couldn’t hear what the joke was about.  My dad (we call him Pop.. might be a mid western thing ) didn’t realize that I have super hero hearing and heard most of the joke.  At the time I was around 8, so I didn’t really get the whole joke, but it was about bulls, matadors, and meatballs.  A man repeated a restaurant Continue reading “An Introduction to Tapas in Seville Spain”

Lech Austria – Shhhpegetti and Skiing

Your probably wondering about the title and  if Nick has been drinking and writing again.  Although I am a little delirious after the Easter feast we just had,  I misspelled Spaghetti because this was how our Austrian friends pronounced it.  This still cracks us up today whenever anyone says spaghetti…  we don’t get out much.  Anyways now that that is all sorted out, onto the trip.

This past winter season we promised ourselves that we would test our skiing skills on the Alps.  The birthplace for skiing.   Trying to pick Continue reading “Lech Austria – Shhhpegetti and Skiing”

Cassis France – Southern France Surprise

Cassis isn’t a typical town that comes to mind when folks talk about Southern France.   When you have Nice, St. Tropez, and Cannes as neighbors its probably tough to get some attention.  We actually liked Cassis better than all those towns.  We found out about it from one of my San Diego friends that is married to a French girl.  Also it turns out that Rick Steve’s talks a bit about it as well in one of his France tour guides.  We really enjoyed how the town didn’t have any type of touristy vibe to it, but had a lot to offer.  One of the days we Continue reading “Cassis France – Southern France Surprise”

Provence France – Wine Paradise

We headed to Provence after a few days in Nice and Monaco.  Again this is a very late post in that this trip was back in the Spring of 2012.  In an attempt to catch up on a lot of posts Im going to have to be light on the writing.  More details in the captions of pictures :).  So all I can say is that Provence was like Sonoma/Napa on steroids.  There just seemed to be so much more depth to the wine experience here in comparison.  There are a lot of different factors that played a role in this including the scenery, food quality, interactions with wineries, and just overall vibe.  Not to mention the wine is pretty outstanding as well! Continue reading “Provence France – Wine Paradise”

Crazy Cheap Flights

Ive been searching for some ski trips lately and came across some crazy flight deals that I had to share.  Take a look at the picture below.  Its a flight from Milan to Budapest for $3 .  Roundtrip!!!.  This not being my first rodeo.. Im sure that there are some weird rules like a charge of $10 per pound including your own body weight or something..ha.  The name Wizz Air doesn’t really give me that warm and fuzzy feeling of an airline I would like to hug the Alps with, but at $3 Im tempted just for the principle.   Has anyone flown Wizz Air?  By the way Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine out here because it includes a lot of European airlines that Kayak doesn’t.

 

Monaco

When I think of Monaco I picture James Bond.  007 just sitting at the casino ordering a shaken martini, with his Aston Martin waiting outside.  Im happy to report that its pretty much true…. if you use your imagination a bit.  The casino and the cars are definitely there.  You just have to replace a few of the Hawaiian shirt casino visitors with some GQ clad players.

Speaking of high class, Jess and I arrived in Monaco via bus. 🙂 .  But I have to say that it was probably one of the best bus rides I will ever have.  Its a 2 euro ride from the center of Nice to Monaco.  Along the way you hug the cliff side with the beautiful turquoise coastal waters calling below.  You pass luxury homes owned by the stars and the beaches that they frolic on.  Since we are on the subject of movie stars, Jess and I felt like them when we arrived in Monaco.  As we started our ascent to the palace, the big Rick Steve’s group that intercepted us in Nice hollered and waved us in.  It ended up that they were on Monaco as well today!  I think they were all pretty sick of each other because when they saw us it was like they saw Brad and Angelina.  New blood!!  They surrounded us with a barrage of questions and comments again.  And as we managed to escape their grasp they seemed like sad puppies watching us walk away.  Not to worry though… we all bumped into each other again at the palace where it came in handy for some pictures that included both Jess and I for a change.

Monaco was just a day trip, but we got everything in.  All the sites were accounted for and we had a great lunch at the Jacques Cousteau Aquarium.  The aquarium was definitely the highlight for us.  It was one of the best if not the best aquarium we have ever been to.  This includes all the aquariums back in the States like the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  This aquarium had a feeling of an extra touch of class.  We were both surprised by the size and quantity of aquariums.  The restaurant on top of the aquarium is a solid choice for lunch too.  Luckily we got up there early and and beat the crowds because it got really jammed by 1pm.  There were people fighting over our table… especially because we had an umbrella outside.  The sun was really beating down.  It made me think, that if its this hot in early spring it would probably be a frying pan in the summer.

Below is a video I put together with one of my favorite French bands ( Phoenix) followed by a tribute to 007.

 

Nice France

This is sad, but this trip was actually back in early June.  I have been lacking in the writing category… big time.   Luckily its partly a happy problem of traveling, but its also that I have run into a lack of focus for the blog.  I have been thinking too much about the direction of the blog.

Anyways enough about all of that.   I figured a good way to get back in the swing of things is to post one of our favorite trips.  We did a 4 part trip to southern France (Côte d’Azur), which included Nice, Monaco, Provence, and Cassis.  We found some great flights through Blue Express, which is a low cost airline that has a lot of flights out of Italy.  From Catania you can fly roundtrip to Nice for around €200, but word to the wise be sure to have plenty of time if  you have to switch planes in Rome.

Nice was the change up from Italy that we needed.  No offense against Italy/Sicily, but after being on the island for 5 months or so… we were in need of an anti pizza diet.   Right off the bat we found that, with a whole new world filled with Bouillabaisse and pomme fritte.  Its funny though because the influence of Italy is very strong in Nice and we ran into a lot occasions where our knowledge of Italian food and culture came in handy.  In fact in 1942–1943 the city was occupied and administered by Italy during World War II.

We had a great time exploring the city and getting all the sights in.  The boardwalk along the Med was amazing ” Promenade des Anglais” with many great looking lidos filled with beautiful people.  One night during our exploring we were interrupted by a large group of tourists that lumbered there way to our lookout point and decided to setup camp right on top of us.  Jess and I looked at each other thinking … “here we go again with Europeans misunderstanding space”, but it ended up being a big group of Americans that were on a Rick Steves tour of Southern France.  They apologized for interrupting our moment overlooking Nice and offered us to join in.  As soon as we saw the wine and cheese getting pulled out we were like “Why not?”. 🙂  It was a great time as they told us all that they have learned during their travels and they were amazed by our story of living abroad.  Eventually we had to part ways with with our new travel friends and head out for some dinner.

Walking along the boardwalk we found a little place that had some American menu items that we were definitely ready for.  Its sad to be in Southern France and order these items, but you have to understand where we are coming from here…. Desperate for a pub cheeseburger!! 🙂  We reasoned that we can eat this American food because at lunch we covered the Southern France stuff with our Salad Niçoise and Moules Frites (mussels with fries).  The sandwiches were great… that review probably would be different if we weren’t flying from Sicily.

One restaurant was recommended to us by the owner of the place that we rented.  He said that it was a local place that has great food and reasonable prices…. sounds right up our alley!  We went over there one night for dinner and found out that we weren’t the only ones that knew of this place.  We ended up only making reservations for lunch 2 days away!!!  The smell in the place gave away that we were in for a great meal.  Since this blog is supposed to focus on the food I will skip all the unnecessary exploring that we did around Nice and fast forward to this meal at Bistrot D’Antoine.  The bistro is an unassuming place on a side street in the old town section of Nice.  You would walk right by it and pass it off as another bistro with the typical awning outside, but the food is anything but typical.  We let the waiter and an old French man (who lived in St. Louis for a while) that we sat near,  guide us on particular items to order and we were on our way.

We started with a calamari dish that was very unique.  It was served on a bed of cannellini beans and topped with dressed arugula.  The calamari in the middle was the most tender calamari that I have ever had.  The flavors were fresh and complemented each other in a curious way.  “Why hasn’t anyone else thought of serving calamari like this ?” ran through my head.   Jess’s entree was the Caesar salad and it was just as meticulous as the calamari.  You could tell that thought went into every choice and placement of the ingredients on her plate.  Jess still talk about this caesar salad…. I didn’t get a sample because it was carefully guarded..ha.   Also I was preoccupied with my entree, which was braised beef cheeks in a pot with polenta on the side… Unbelievable! Tender is an understatement with regards to the cheeks.  Dipping a chunk of cheek in the polenta was delicious.  I am going to have to make more polenta at home!  Maybe I’ll even try making the cheeks.  I know the Sicilian butchers would have this available.   We finished up the meal with a great panna cotta with berries.  I was worn out.  The meal was exactly what we needed to change things up from the past few months.  It goes without saying that the wine throughout the meal was perfect as well.  We tried a couple different options from Provence during the meal.  This leads us to the next segments of our Southern France trip,  Monaco and then Provence.

Below is a video that I put together for Nice.  I wanted to change it up from the pictures.  Let me know if you like it.  We recently caught up on Mad Men, which explains the soundtrack. 😉  Also I added a few still shots from our favorite meal of the trip.

 

Calamari Dish with Cannellini beans

Beef Cheeks with polenta