Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years engrossed in my work spending much of that time at a frenized pace and wrapped up in the priorities set for my position – mostly by others. This blog started as a way for me to write about and enjoy again some of the things that I love doing, but have seriously neglected in my life. It’s rapidly becoming much more to me…


With my return to writing, I’ve found a voice again in my own life. I’ve given myself permission to pursue my own path, regardless of whether it is practical or realistic, and to shed the (real and perceived) expectations of others. I’ve lived this way before, but I took a detour away from this approach to cultivating my life. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m not sure that it matters either. Maybe clarity will come in time. What matters is the ability to keep this focus in the future.


As I mentioned previously, changes are afoot. Some are technical, but all will reflect this shift (or return) in my mentality and my commitment to living a life that gives pride of place to enjoying the things I’ve written about here.  The blog changes will also broaden the scope by following my ongoing process of living a cultivated life full of passion and meaning.


I’m expecting to roll out the redesigned, reimagined blog around Labor Day – fitting since it’s the fruit of much labor! – but the details are still somewhat in flux. Thank you for bearing with me through this transition. I hope you will enjoy the results.


Sincere thanks,


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Changes Coming

I’ve been a little quiet online lately… The beginning of last week was a little like a rollercoaster for my family so I unplugged.

I’m back on twitter, but won’t be back here because I’m making some changes to my blog – redesign, self hosting, and rebranding. A pretty complete change!

I look forward to it rolling out in the next few weeks and getting back on track with writing very soon!


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Pleasure is a sin, but sinning is a pleasure.

We know the least about those we love the most.

Given the right chance, women are capable of anything.

From the little love notes included in my Baci chocolates. You won’t see any candy in the pictures below because I ate them!

 Baci Perguina Wrappers


Chocolate and hazelnuts is one of my favorite combinations.  So I loved Baci chocolates from the first taste and Nutella, but that’s an entirely different (French) post!  I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that you can tour the Perugina factory, which is near Perguia, Umbria.  I discovered this tour while watching Giada’s Italian Holiday on the Food Network.  Here’s a review of the The Sweetest Tour in Italy post from the Slow Travel Italy website. 


More Wrappers


You can buy Baci chocolates online at Ditalia: The Essences for Your Italian Kitchen.  They’re also available in many gourment grocery stores, including World Market, and online at Amazon, but I couldn’t resist including Ditalia because it’s such a great site!  Check out all the great Italian things you can get from them!

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My first visit to Italy happened during my study abroad semester in college.  I flew from Copenhagen to Rome and arrived after dark.  I’ll never forget the beautiful taxi ride through the city and seeing the ruins lit up like pieces of art.  It was breathtaking. The next morning we took a train to Florence. I enjoyed the art of the Uffizi, seeing the David, and the experience of Florence, but I was excited to get back to Rome a couple days later to explore more and visit Vatican City.  We ate plenty of gelato along the way, and on my next trip I plan to tackle this list of gelaterias.  Last year, I was plotting a trip back to Rome, but instead ended up visiting the Amalfi Coast.  The stunning beauty of this part of Italy quickly found a place in my heart. 


Our Itinerary

We stayed at the Hotel Pasitea in Positano and used it as a launching pad to visit Capri, Amalfi, Ravello, Sorrento, and Pompeii. I would highly recommend Hotel Pasitea – the morning breakfast buffet was great, Tony at the front desk was funny and helpful, the hotel itself was very clean, and the view from our room was stunning.

Amalfi Coast 020

My Takeaways

  • On the way back up from the beach on our first day in Positano, we found ourselves on a private staircase which lead us up to the lobby of the Le Sirenuse, which is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen.  Imagine our surprise!
  • Tony recommended La Tagliata to us for dinner one night.  It’s way up in the hills of Positano with impressive views and the largest portions of family style food I’ve ever seen.  We happened to be there on the same night as a small wedding party and got to experience celebratory fireworks right outside the windows of the restaurant set against the backdrop of Positano!
  • When visiting Capri and embarking to the city center from the dock, take the bus or a taxi!  We learned this the hard way and mistakenly thought that a simple arrow reading “centro” would mean a short walk.  We were wrong and have taken to calling it the Capri Climb.  It seemed never ending, and we were exhausted after finally reaching the city center, but we saw some amazing homes and got some great shots.
  • A day trip to Amalfi and Ravello was well worth the nerve wracking bus ride along the winding cliffs.  In Amalfi, we toured the Paper Museum and discovered a wonderful chocolate shop called Cioccolato Andrea Pansa in the square across from the Cathedral.  Ravello was stunning and filled with the smell of flowers everywhere we walked. Our last stop was for drinks at the Hotel Caruso, which provided us the needed courage to brave the bus ride back to Positano.
  • Another unparalleled dining experience in Positano was at Lo Guarracino, which looks directly out on to the ocean from a somewhat hidden spot off the main stretch of beach. The food, the service, and the company were great.  Thanks, Mattia!
  • I loved bringing home limoncello and other goodies from a great little (non-touristy) shop in Sorrento called Fattoria Terranova.  I was so excited to find out they sold online and would ship to the US.  Then, I saw how much they charged for that shipping!  Oh well, I’ll just have to make do with domestic limoncello.


After a long lull in my international travel adventures, Italy welcomed me back with open arms, and I will be forever grateful.  My experience is that Italy lives up to all the hype!  This post is my answer to my friend Jenn who asked me recently about visiting Italy.  Having just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and probably still has visions gelato dancing in her head.  Overall this not a shocking sentiment, I realize, but it’s true nonetheless!  

  • Jenn –  below are some pictures from my college archive too! Not sure why Mel and Ashley are wearing the same sweater, but just noticed it!
  • There’s no shortage of information about Italy online, but here are a few of the resources I’ve enjoyed recently on the web and on Twitter – @CiaoLaura, @ItalyTravelista, and My Bella Vita.
  • Elizabeth Gilbert came to Dallas recently to speak as a part of a program at the Dallas Museum of Art.  I was lucky enough to join a packed house to hear her speak.  Not only is she a great writer, but she’s a great speaker and has the timing of a stand up comedian.  It was great to find that she was very down to earth and to hear that even though she has had such success and achieved such insight, on a daily basis she said she doesn’t feel like she has it all together!  To learn more check out her profile and speech on creativity on TED.  Love that website!

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002Lately I’ve had a real yearning for a trip to the mountains, which is a stark contrast to my actual surroundings. It’s about this time of the year when the mercury begins to hit triple digits, that many Dallasites day dream of cool breezes and overnight temperatures below 80 degrees. I don’t claim to be unique in this respect!  Since getting away for a mountain retreat isn’t in the cards for me over the next couple of months, I’ll be basking in the Texas heat from patios across Dallas, preferably with a cool drink in hand.


One of the best things to come from this early Texas heat is blackberry season. For years my parents have grown fat, juicy, seedless blackberries in our standard sized, suburban backyards, and we’re all seriously addicted!  My parents have even been known to bring blackberries on board flights in their carry on when visiting my sister or I across the country. These Texas blackberries are infinitely better than anything you can buy at Whole Foods and truly perfect straight off the vine and still warm from the sun. We typically have quite a crop (except for a few years after the move to a new house and one well-intended, but unfortunate over-pruning incident), but only once or twice have they ever made their way into a cobbler, crumble, or cake. The vehicle of choice for blackberry consumption is simple: vanilla ice cream.  Another nice way to keep cool! Part of this year’s crop is shown above.


So with blackberry season rapidly coming to an end, my post today is about the blackberry inspired mountain retreat I’d love to take. Blackberry Farm, is located in the Great Smoky Mountains near Knoxville, Tennessee, and according to their website, Blackberry Farm “offers 63 guest accommodations, including Estate Rooms, Cottage Suites, Hill Cottages and houses, all beautifully appointed and furnished with fine antiques. Personal service and attention to detail are the defining elements of Blackberry Farm’s award-winning reputation.” Rooms starting at $995.  According to my parents, who had been talking about this trip for years, the 4,200 acre estate is pure heaven for foodies and naturalists alike, and the service was above and beyond anything they could have expected.  Browse the beautiful website to read about all the wonderful events they have planned and to learn about the family and the story behind this unique place.


Since my budget is slightly less robust than my parents’, my actual itinerary would look a little different, but a girl can dream (!), and I’ve officially added a stay at Blackberry Farm to my travel “bucket list”…  Additional, budget-friendly Great Smoky Mountain information still to come!




UPDATE (on 7/15/09):

My actual itinerary would probably include a stay at the equally scenic Butterfly Gap Retreat. Near Knoxville, but actually located “6 miles from downtown Maryville (scroll down for directions), this gorgeous property offers luxury, privacy, and convenience in a scenic hideaway that will have you counting the days until your next visit.  From the distinctive architecture and supreme comfort of the secluded guesthouses to the spacious and stunning event spaces, the accommodations of Butterfly Gap guarantee a unique and unforgettable experience.” Rooms starting at $195. I think it looks like an amazing spot for a mountain retreat away from the demands of daily life!  I’d definitely also want to try out the Foothills Milling Company – see a review here.

Post inspired by 6 National Parks article in the July 2009 issue of Travel + Leisure. http://www.travelandleisure.com/

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Wanderlust – noun, a strong, innate desire to rove or travel about.



It’s official… I’ve come down with a bad case of wanderlust… I realized recently that it’s been over a year since my last trip out of the country. The picture above is from that trip last year to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. 


I’ve been to plenty of fun cities stateside since then (Chicago, San Francisco, NYC, and Atlanta), and I have plans to travel domestically over the next couple of months.  But, it is just not the same as seeing a completely new place and experiencing a different culture. I’m always ready to pick up and see a new place. At any moment.


So until I can embark on my next trip, Armchair Travel will have to suffice!  Here are some of the fun travel-related things I’ve found recently:

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My travels have centered mainly in Europe and the United States – i.e. parts of the world where these tips are NOT particularly important – but somehow I feel like a tougher traveler already after reading them.  I agree wholeheartedly with Kristof ‘s statement that much can and should be learned via travel (and outside of the classroom)! 

Check out his article called Cum Laude in Evading Bandits, where he outlines some very practical travel tips that most newcomers would probably have to learn the hard way!  It also provides some interesting insight  into what the life of a foreign correspondent must be like…

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