Friday, November 22, 2013

Stop 5: One Night in Milan

Milan was our last stop.

The rumours are true.  Driving in Milan was completely lawless (and I say this having lived and ridden a motorbike in Cambodia.)  We caught the tail end of rush hour and carefully made our way to our apartment, conveniently located just 3 blocks from the Duomo.

Prada and Louis Vuitton at the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele. Sadly, the shops were closed.
Jeff had one final adventure on the way home.  I upgraded his ticket to first class using points, and among other things, he got picked up on the runway by a private driver in a Mercedes, and he got to hang out in a special lounge with bellota ham and a Jacuzzi.    

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Stop 4: Zurich

I visited Zurich 15 years ago.  At the time, I was working in France and one of my best friends was working in Switzerland.  We went to one of the universities, crashed a reception and made off with free food and drinks.

Years later, my friend is now doing a masters' at that same university, so I took the train from Ticino to visit him.  (Also, apparently the receptions are a weekly thing and free to all comers, so we weren't quite as dastardly as we thought we were being at the time.)

Apart from visiting the university and wandering around the Altstadt (German for "old town"), mostly we just ate.  For dinner the first evening, we went to the Zeughauskeller.  Zeughaus means "arsenal house", so the walls were decorated with crossbows, machine guns and other weapons.  
The quintessential Swiss German meal: beer, sausage, potatoes and sauerkraut
Unfortunately, the rain and gloomy weather followed me to Ticino, so the next day we took refuge in Babu's Bakery and Coffeehouse.    
Berry tart. I'm getting better at taking photos before devouring.
And we made a trip to the first Sprungli store, opened in 1859.  North Americans are probably more familiar with Lindt, which actually used to be part of Sprungli and then split off in 1892.  I bought a little box of marzipan fruits, and we also picked out some luxemburgerli to share.  They are like macarons, except smaller and cuter.  I liked the caramel fleur de sel ones.  I also just discovered that you can order them online, which might be dangerous.  
Well. I'm kind of getting better at taking photos before devouring.  There were four luxemburgerli in here.
Proof that we actually walked around a bit and didn't just eat luxemburgerli all day.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stop 3: Ticino, Switzerland

A few years ago, Jeff and I met a Swiss couple while climbing in Kalymnos.  They were from Ticino, and we heard so many good things from them that we had to check it out. The photos from the last post were taken in Bellinzona, the capital city of Ticino. It is famous for its three castles which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

We rented an apartment in Ascona, on Lake Maggiore.  It was the perfect base for exploring.

Lovely views from our apartment
Pretty cobblestoned streets
Really, we were there for the climbing.  Unfortunately, the weather had different plans for us.
There are supposedly some boulders right behind us.  Yeah, we couldn't see them either.
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan
Hoping for sun
Eventually, our patience paid off and we did manage two days of roped climbing.      
Finally enjoying the sun at El Cat
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan  
And then we had another four days of bouldering in Chironico, Cresciano and Ascona.  Most of the boulders are tucked away in the forest, surrounded by chestnut trees.  Bouldering has never really been my favourite style of climbing, mainly because of the potential for falling and hitting the ground.  But I found that I really loved the bouldering in Ticino, particularly in Chironico.

The famous (to climbers) Dreamtime boulder in Cresciano
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan

Crazy Dave taking advantage of a calf hook in Cresciano

Another great day in Chironico
Photo credit: Dave Sobocan

When we weren't climbing, we were eating.
Pumpkin soup at Ristorante Cittadella in Locarno
Poached pear and gelato at Ristorante Cittadella
Tasty pizza at Restaurant Da Gina in Ascona

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stop 3: can you guess?

Just for a change, here's are some outfit photos from Stop 3.  Anyone been here before or want to guess where these photos were taken?

Outfit details:
Shirt: Propaganda
Tank: Propaganda
Jeans: American Eagle
Boots: Steve Madden
Scarf: from Nepal

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stop 2: New York City

From Portland, I headed over to New York City.  This was my second trip to the Big Apple, and although I think there is something to be said for seeing the sights, I also think it's fun to just hang out and pretend you're independently wealthy.

My friend Lester flew over from Australia to meet me, and we rented a beautiful apartment on the Upper West Side complete with grand piano.  We rapidly fell into a lazy routine of getting up late, maybe doing something touristy like going to the High Line or the Natural History Museum, and then having a nice lunch.  Followed by some more wandering around, napping at the apartment and then heading out for dinner and debauchery.  (By debauchery, I mean a classical music concert at the Lincoln Center).

View from the High Line. Sorry, this is the only photo worth posting from this part of the trip. 
I liked every meal that I ate in NYC, but the highlight was probably the grilled fish and cracked rice at Le Baobab, a Senegalese restaurant in Harlem. Lester's aunt also made some crazy delicious bindi and aloo gobi.

By far the most unexpected thing that happened was that I started playing piano again. Piano was a huge part of my life from about age 3 until age 21. And then, over the last 10 years, I've barely touched  the piano despite having an upright taking up space in my house. Maybe it was the grand piano in the apartment, but I realized I've missed playing.