Venice, Italy

Venice. What can I say? I absolutely love this city. From the moment we arrived, it felt like magic!

We arrived in Venice on a Friday morning. We were catching a cruise to Greece and Croatia from there the next day. Since we were only staying one night, we wanted to get there as early as possible and take advantage of the day. We took the bus from the airport and it dropped us off about a six minute walk to our hotel. Venice is a city of only canals, so your transportation options are boats or your two feet 🙂 We made sure to pick a hotel close to where we’d be dropped off, as well as close to the port since we’d be leaving on a cruise.

I was in awe as soon as we stepped off of the bus. Everything was so beautiful! I had to stop on our way to the hotel to get this picture:The hotel itself was gorgeous! We stayed at the Papadopoli Hotel Veniezia by MGallery. It had just been renovated one month prior to us arriving and you could tell. It was fantastic. Check-in was seamless and our room was ready before check-in. We booked an Elegant Superior Room because we know the rooms in Europe are usually on the smaller side. This room was everything we could’ve asked for!

 After taking a quick nap, we hit the streets! We were only in Venice for a day and a half, so we wanted to see as much as we could. There are no cars in Venice, so you either have to walk or take a boat. We caught a water taxi over to the Rialto Bridge. We could’ve taken a gondola, but at 100+ euro we passed on that! We walked around that area, had some dinner and had quite an interesting walk back to the hotel.

The next day, we got up to take some pictures and head to the ship! As the ship was leaving Venice, you could see the entire city. It was beautiful! We really enjoyed Venice. I would return there in a heartbeat.

 

 

Capri, Italy

CapriCapri, Italy.

One of my favorites places that I’ve ever been to. Capri is an island off of the coast of Italy that can only be reached by boat or helicopter. W and I went three years ago as a part of what we called our European Adventure. It was one of the stops on a 7-day Mediterranean cruise out of Barcelona (more on that to come!).

Our ship docked in Naples, Italy. From there we took a hydrofoil over to Capri. A hydrofoil is basically a ferry, but it moves a lot faster. They left about every half hour or so, so we just waited for the next one that left. The ride was about an hour and unfortunately, our ferry had no air conditioning. It was awful! Between the heat and people around us getting sea sick, it was probably one of the worst rides of my life. When we saw land come into view, we could not be happier. As soon as we docked, we ran off of the boat! We made our way to the public bus stop so we could head to Anacapri. We had A LOT we wanted to see, so we were definitely on the move.

Being from NYC, we’re used to taking public transportation. However, the public buses here were on a different level. They looked almost like passenger vans, except a bit bigger and PACKED with people. People just hopped on and fit where they could. This would’ve been fine, except to get to Anacapri you have to go up very narrow and windy roads. We were sliding from one side of the bus to the other the entire ride! The plus side of this was that the views were phenomenal. I mean, if could see those views on my daily commute, I’d be a bit happier.

  Once we arrived in Anacapri, we stopped to get some food as we were already hungry from our travels and then made our way to the chairlift. The chairlift was the coolest (and scariest) thing we did in Capri. It’s literally a seat that has a bar across your lap. There’s no locking mechanism so you just have to sit back the entire ride. It takes you to the summit of Monte Solaro, where the views are breathtaking. The views during the chairlift were pretty great as well.

After coming down from the chairlift, we made our way back down to Capri where we walked around and enjoyed the town. It’s definitely a city that is more affluent, based on the types of shops we saw. All of the major Italian brands were represented of course (Gucci, Prada, etc.) Overall, we really enjoyed the island and would love to go back and stay one day!

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Hill at Stone Barns!

In celebration of Fall, Wes and I decided to visit a place we’ve been dying to visit. If you’ve ever seen “Chef’s Table” on Netflix, you’ll recognize this place! Blue Hill at Stone Barns! In the show, the owner/chef of the restaurant Blue Hill was featured for their innovative approach to food. The restaurant sources directly from the farm as well as help run the Stone Barns Center. Once I found out that this place was in Pocantico Hills, New York, I KNEW I had to visit! So on this random Friday in November, Wes and I decided  to go! We bought tickets for an all access tour, where’d we see the inner workings of the farm. As soon as we drove up to the farm, the views were incredible!

We checked into the tour and it began right on time. The first place we were were taken was: the restaurant! I eagerly hustled into the restaurant and was shocked by how small it was. (This would explain the three month wait list to eat there!) We walked through the kitchen, turned a corner and there. was. Dan. Barber. I squealed (quietly) in excitement as he was in his daily meeting with his other chefs. Our tour guide quickly hustled us out and I was already satisfied with this tour. As we walked out of the restaurant, we walked past the bakery to where they keep and grow herbs. It was amazing how even this shed was picturesque.

    

We then continued the tour by visiting the various places on the farm. We were able to see where the animals were kept (chicken coops, turkeys (!)) as well as where the food was grown. One of the most interesting parts of the tour was the greenhouse. It was HUGE! It was amazing to see!  img_9206           img_9208

The greenhouse isn’t the only place where food is grown. We were walking by trees and bushes and picking fruit/vegetables right off of them!

 

After the tour, we were able to grab some food from the cafe’ and grain bar. Everything was very good! (as expected!) Because we wanted to try everything, we looked like we were eating for 5 (ha!). One of the best things we had was their butternut squash soup. It was probably the best we’ve ever had. After lunch, we decided to walk around the grounds a bit more. It is really a beautiful (and big!) farm.

                 

If you live in the five boroughs or are visiting NYC, we highly recommend Stone Barns!

 

Carnival Sensation: 4 Day Bahamas Cruise

This past December, me, Wes, his mom and brothers went on a holiday cruise on the Carnival Sensation. It left out of Port Canaveral in Orlando December 26th and sailed to Nassau and the Grand Bahamas. Now going in, I was afraid. We had just come off of the Oasis of the Seas (see here) which is a HUGE ship and was worried that we would be too jaded to enjoy yourselves. Not to mention, there were close to ZERO reviews about this ship on Cruise Critic. Having planned this trip, nervous was an understatement. BUT we ended up having a great time! I’m going to post this in parts, starting with the ship itself, then the ports. I didn’t take a lot of “ship” pictures, so I will be borrowing them from Maritime Matters, which is an older post about Carnival Inspiration but looks EXACTLY the same as Sensation. Check it out!

 

 

Embarking:

This was the SIMPLEST embarkation I’ve ever gone through. I’m not sure if it’s because we arrived around 12 or if the just run a smooth operation but from car to ship was about 30 minutes. This included dropping off luggage, going through security and a few bathroom stops. First good sign!

Rooms:

We were told our rooms were ready at check-in, so we went straight there. Walking onto the ship, holiday decor was still up which I was extremely excited about. We made our way through the atrium to our rooms. It was me and Wes, his mom and his three brothers. We had three ocean view rooms on the upper deck. (Carnival uses names instead of numbers, which is weird, but this would be the 6th deck). The rooms were a decent size. Windows were picture windows and not port holes which were nice. The rooms were a good enough size for two. (And these guys are not small). Second good sign!

(Picture borrowed from http://maritimematters.com/2012/01/carnival-inspiration-decked-part-two-promenade-to-main-deck-cabins/)

Food:

The food on Sensation was pretty good. For lunch, we usually ate on the top deck (Lido deck). They had some pretty good choices, with the BEST chicken fingers and fries. They also had a stir fry station, burger station and other hot prepared foods. There was also ice cream and lots of desserts. (Needless to say, I ate wayyyy too much on this trip)

For breakfast, we ate in the main dining room, which a lot of people don’t know about! If you want a more “formal” breakfast experience, more appetizing entrees, the main dining room is the way to go. Everything is a la carte, so it’s super fresh. they also have a buffet if you wanted a quicker option.We also ate dinner in the main dining room as well. This was very entertaining as the waiters performed every night we were in there! The best moment was when the waiters led a round of “gangnam style” with various props.

Overall, I was happy with the quality of food on the ship. There were even some very good healthy options to choose from, which was great for Wes and his brother are super healthy no matter where we are. The rest of us ate ridiculously and didn’t regret it one bit.

(For more info on food and the ship itself, check out this review on CruiseCritic. It’s fantastic: ProfCruise’s Sensation Review

Entertainment:

I thought for the size of the ship, the entertainment was decent. The deck parties were fun because the entertainment crew was really energetic. We went to the comedy show, but it was nothing to write home about. The Love and Marriage show was good. On every cruise we’re on, we make sure to hit that show. We went to the nightclub just about every night, which was fun. Definitely made for some interesting people watching. If this was a seven day cruise, I would have been more disappointed with the entertainment offerings. But because it was such a short cruise, it served its purpose.

Kid’s Club:

For those with kiddies, the kid’s club also known as Circle “C” was great. My little brother is 13 and he had a BLAST at the kids club. At some point, we started seeing him strictly at meal times because he was too busy having fun.

Ports:

The ports on this ship were both in the Bahamas: Freeport and Nassau. I’ll get into more detail about them in another post, but they were both great places. Wes and I had been to both places before and it was still a good time. Debarkation at both places was simple and quick and it was the same getting off the ship.

Overall, this is a great cruise if you want a quick getaway or something more affordable. If I lived in Florida, I would book it again. Yes, the ship is older and smaller but if you keep that in perspective, you will enjoy yourself. If you go on Sensation expecting big ship thrills, you will most certainly be disappointed.  I will be posting about the ports next. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!