Sevilla, Seville…Call it what you will!

We arrived in Sevilla by high speed train from Barcelona on Father’s Day. It was about 5 1/2 hours. You can easily fly too, of course, but after all of our flights (18 by this point in our trip), the train was a welcome change!

This city in southern Spain is incredibly gorgeous and like much of our trip, it also happened to be incredibly hot during the week in June that we visited. (The week before had been raining and about 55 degrees Fahrenheit and that actually sounded great…but oh well!)

Seville is the capital of Andalusia. It’s famous for Flamenco and amazing architecture- like the world’s largest gothic cathedral, the Seville Cathedral, which was totally awesome!

Did you know that Seville is a popular movie filming location?

This is the Alcazar – where some of Game of Thrones was filmed. (Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here too in the 1960’s).

The upper floors of the Alcazar are actually currently in use by the royal family and it’s one of the oldest palaces still in use in the world!

It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 as as we discovered during our travels around the world, if it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, it will have tour groups arriving around 9:30/10am. So go early.

Tip– buy your tickets ahead of time so you don’t need to wait in line, in the hot sun, for like an hour!

It’s really special here-don’t miss the Alcazar!

And Star Wars, Episode 2 (which I like to pretend is the trilogy that never existed!) was filmed at the incredible Plaza de España. The Plaza de España was built for the 1929 World’s Fair. It’s a really cool half- circle of buildings with a moat and bridges.

A great way to get a nice overview of the city is by horse drawn carriage. There are multiple places throughout the city where you can get one. They are all a fixed price and non-negotiable. Easy!

Even though we decided that we didn’t want to see a bullfighting event while in Seville, we really did want to tour the museum and the bullring. This is so unique to Spain that we felt it couldn’t be missed and we weren’t disappointed!

Another really cool “must do” thing in Seville is to go to a flamenco show. Flamenco is a Spanish dance that is passionate, intense and full of incredible dance steps and intricate hand movements AND amazing singing and guitar playing! One of us even cried-but I won’t name names!

If you don’t go see a professional flamenco show in Seville, you are really missing out! We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the venue but we loved the show so much! Wow!

By the time we got to Seville, Harry was majorly overdue for a haircut but he had been holding out because he really wanted to get his haircut by The Barber of Seville (you know, it’s an opera). And he got it cut here…and it looked good too!

Seville is probably one of the prettiest cities that we visited during our trip around the world. It seemed that there was a unique and beautiful building around every turn.

Seville was beautiful, clean, the people were friendly and the food was good. There was live music everywhere and dancing too. It’s a great city to walk around in or ride a bike. In fact, it’s pretty flat and there are bikes to rent everywhere… if only it hadn’t been so hot!

So, is it Sevilla or Seville? Either way, you should visit!

Laurie Eats Sometimes-Italy Edition

There is so much great food in Italy! I don’t even know where to begin…

The food is delicious, fresh, mouthwatering and even the take out pizza boxes are sexy! Wow!

I guess since I mentioned pizza, I’ll just start there. The pizza is so delicious in Rome and along the Amalfi Coast-I could have eaten it every day! I’ve been craving pizza since the last time we were in Italy years ago and it didn’t disappoint me.

I don’t know how I will survive with the crappy pizza joints in our neighborhood! Cooking it ourselves is the only option and it won’t be the same.

One especially delicious pizza place was Pizzaria Criscemunno in Salerno-so good that we ate there twice! And you get an amazing view of the duomo.

Then, of course, there is the pasta! Fresh and made daily, if you are lucky. Fresh ingredients and minimal toppings.

We loved our delicious meal at the third generation restaurant, Colline Emiliane, in Rome.

Tip-Don’t forget to use quality olive oil in your cooking! (Cheap olive oil just doesn’t taste good in anything).

Speaking of pasta, we had a fabulous ravioli at Trattoria da Armandino in Praiano. In fact, we also had amazing anchovies and prosciutto with melon there too. The food, setting and staff were incredible and made us feel like family!

Yes, that’s an Aperol Spritz in the picture. I love that refreshing Prosecco drink and I don’t care if it’s not really “trendy” anymore. It’s delicious and tastes even more delicious in Italy! Saluti!

As I mentioned in my Salerno post, the food in Salerno was outstanding…and…the prices were really reasonable.

We had a delicious dinner at Pazza Marea. They described the entire menu to us and then you could fill your own wine pitcher downstairs, just choose red or white, which we loved!

And an equally delicious lunch at Botteghelle65. Here, you will be greeted enthusiastically then shown a case of mouthwatering entrees to choose from-and served up family style.

Both places are highly recommended and worth a visit! You won’t be disappointed!

Along the Amalfi Coast, you will find lots of fresh fish and seafood. So many delicious dishes to choose from.

And you will see lemons everywhere on the Amalfi Coast. These aren’t just ordinary lemons, they are specific to the Amalfi Coast. We loved how the pastas and risottos were flavored with lemon. We enjoyed lemon sorbet and limoncello-delicious! You can read more about the lemons here.

Limoncello Photo credit: appetite magazine

And I suppose you can’t talk about the food without mentioning how great Italian wines are! Brunello, Barolo and Chianti Classico are some of my favorite reds…a glass of proscecco is always a delicious way to start a meal and you can check out this link for some delicious whites.

If you aren’t a wine fan, how about an Italian beer?

No Italian food post would be complete without talking about gelato. We sampled lots of gelato in Italy and most were great-it’s pretty hard to mess up gelato.

La Romano, in Rome was particularly good! It’s been around since 1947. Here is a great guide to gelato in Rome.

La dolce vita indeed!

Next up…Sevilla, Spain

Rome! (If you want to)

Ah Rome! It was so great to be back and just as fantastic as we remembered!

The last time we were in Rome was 2012. It was fall, the Trevi Fountain was undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation and Rome was having a heat wave.

We loved visiting Rome-the people, the magnificent sights around every corner, the history and, of course, the food! This time did not disappoint! It was just as good as our first time!

So, we only had 2 nights in Rome this trip and we had a few things on our list.

Trevi Fountain, of course, Pantheon (as we missed going inside last time), and a refresher of the Spanish Steps, Trajan’s Column, Forum, Arch of Titus and the Colosseum.

For something new, we toured the Basilica di Saint Clemente. This was cool because it had churches underneath from 1AD, 2AD and 4 AD as well as a house from Roman times.

We stayed at the small and charming Hotel Golden, where we had stayed years ago. We were well taken care of and it was centrally located to everything that we wanted to see. Giuseppe took great care of us, along with the entire family and his mama made the most delicious pastries every morning for breakfast!

We loved Rome so much and wished we had more time here. Helena said she wants to live in Rome and I can’t blame her…in fact, maybe we will join her!

Piazza Navona was really pretty but then again, there is no shortage of awesome squares to hang out in while in Rome!

The food was so delicious-I’ll write a post with some highlights but I can’t even begin to describe how great the food is in Italy! You just have to go and try it for yourself!

One thing we did last time and wanted to do again, was get a drink at the famous Harry’s Bar. It was fun! And, when your husband’s name is Harry…

There is so much to see in Rome! I recommend 4-5 days, at least. I can’t wait to return!

Next up… Laurie Eats Sometimes-Italy Edition.

Salerno, Italy-3 nights in an underrated city

We originally decided to stay in Salerno so we could tour Paestum and then take the train back to Rome after our week up the Amalfi Coast.

We really didn’t know what to expect from Salerno. I was sad we were leaving Praiano and I was wondering if maybe I didn’t plan this part of the trip very well. But, I was wrong! We loved Salerno!

We hired a driver to take us on the hour and a half drive from Praiano to Salerno. It was a very scenic drive!

We arrived in Salerno and were warmly welcomed into our small B & B, Il Reticolo by Carmine and Giuseppe.

They gave us excellent recommendations for lunches and dinners as well as the top sights to visit while staying in Salerno.

We knew we wanted to take a day trip to Paestum as well and they helped us with that. (see my Paestum post). I highly recommend their perfectly located B & B!

We had so much fun walking around the scenic and charming historic district and the strolling along the seafront promenade.

We really enjoyed the view from the Castello di Arechi.

From the castle, we hiked down, about 15-20 mins to the Minerva Gardens.

We had great food in Salerno too! Super quality and much lower prices than Rome and Praiano! Oh-the delicious pizza! You can read about that in my upcoming Italy Food post.

It was easy to spend three nights in Salerno and I would return in a heartbeat!

Next up… Rome (if you want to) and Laurie Eats Sometimes -Italy Edition

Day trip to Paestum from Salerno, Italy

Do you love an ancient civilizations? Are you a history buff? Do you like to imagine what is was like living thousands of years ago? Are you fascinated by architecture? Do you have a desire to be an archeologist?

No?… well, me either but you will certainly enjoy a scenic, wonderful and educational day trip to Paestum!

Getting to Paestum was very easy from Salerno! We just bought tickets at the train station (about 3 euros each) hopped on a train, arrived 30 minutes later at the Paestum Station. From there, it’s a charming and easy 10-15 minute walk down a dirt road to the temples. For 9 euros, you get entrance to the archeological Park and the Museum. What a deal!

Tip-Don’t forget to validate your ticket before you get on the train! Also-get your return ticket at the Salerno station for the trip back. The Paestum station is not manned and has just one ticket machine.

Paestum holds three of the world’s most well preserved Greek Temples. They are magnificent! And the museum is very good too with frescoes and artifacts.

I can’t believe how amazing these temples are and how few people were touring them!

After visiting other sights in Rome, Greece, and Temples of Cambodia, this was such a wonderful treat! We could really take our time, sit in the shade and explore without being jostled around by huge tour groups.

I even got to practice my photography skills a bit with a few artsy shots!

There were several places to eat and to stay within Paestum. It looks like a worthwhile place to consider staying for relaxing poolside while touring the sights!…who knew? Well, there’s always next time!

You can read more about Paestum here if you are interested but I highly recommend incorporating this into your visit to southern Italy.

Next up…three nights in Salerno, Italy

Amalfi Coast-a Recovery week in Praiano

By the time we arrived at our villa in Praiano, we were exhausted. We were headed towards our seventh country in about 2 months.

We had left Dubai on a 2am flight, changed planes in Zurich, arrived in Rome, took 2 trains to get to Naples and then a 1 1/2 hour drive to Praiano. We were all jet lagged and at least 2 of us were coming down with colds.

Luckily, when we originally planned this trip, we knew we would be tired by this point in our big adventure, so we planned to spend an entire week sunning ourselves and resting at our villa.

It’s essential to build in time to regroup and recover during long periods of travel!

However, I was really hoping to take a day trip to the famous Blue Grotto and explore Capri but the idea of committing to an entire day excursion didn’t appeal to the whole family and, since I had a cold, it didn’t seem so great to me either.

So, we spent our days lounging in the sun, watching the boats come and go, walking up the steep steps to the grocery store, picking lemons, playing cards and chess and having either a lunch or dinner out. It was really relaxing and amazing and our view couldn’t be better!

We thought Praiano was a good choice and we were happy with the location of our villa which was above Marina di Praia.

We ate at 3 places close to our villa but our favorite was Trattoria da Armandino. Delicious food-lemon risotto, anchovies and ravioli were some favorites! And-we felt like part of the family!

We also really enjoyed Il Pirata. Great food, killer view, great service!

One day, we walked to a pizza place. It took us about 30 minutes there and mostly uphill but we were rewarded with awesome views and delicious pizza!

Our big activity of the week was taking a water taxi to Positano. It was super easy and fun!

The water was a bit rough the day we went out so it was even more exciting!

There was definitely more action in Positano than Praiano so if you want more shopping, nightlife and people, you should stay there or perhaps Amalfi. We liked being in Praiano though!

Of course, we sampled the local wine, which is very good and enjoyed an Aperol Spritz or two. Somehow they just taste better in Italy!


Next up…heading down the Amalfi Coast to Salerno. And a day trip to Paestum.

Day Trip to Abu Dhabi-Sheikh Zayed Mosque

We took a day trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi to tour the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We hired a driver through the hotel and it took us about 1 1/2 hours to get to the Mosque.

Since we were in Dubai during Ramadan, this meant we would be touring the Mosque during Ramadan.

The Mosque was closed to tourists on Fridays and had limited hours during Ramadan. Also, since Muslims fast during daylight hours, the cafe was closed.

However, we were glad that tourists and non-Muslims were allowed into this amazingly grand space!

We were prepared and respectful of the very strict dress code.

You can look at their website for details but in a nutshell, if you are a woman, you must be covered from the top of your head to your feet-including hair, wrists and ankles. (Abayas are provided).

Men, of course, were seen in shorts and t-shirts, which hardly seems fair on a sweltering hot 110 degree day but who am I to judge?

Speaking of judging, a group of men will decide, upon entry, if a woman is dressed appropriately. Men and women will also use separate entrances.

If this is not to your liking, suck it up or don’t visit the Mosque.

Oh-and you will remove your shoes but the cool tile will feel good.

Tip-take your shoes off in the shade and not in the hot sun like a fool!

The Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi, which is the capital city of the UAE. It has beautiful reflective pools, 82 domes, the worlds largest hand knotted carpet and if can hold about 40,000 people. Impressive huh?!

…and did I mention the 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers?

The entire place is peaceful and beautiful and well worth a visit!

We also drive by Emirates Palace, a super swanky Hotel, as well as the gate to the presidential palace for the president of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa.

We were in the neighborhood so why not!

Next up…the Amalfi Coast

Dubai-Desert Safari without Dune Bashing

This post is easy to write because it’s basically a glowing recommendation for Platinum Heritage Desert Safari Tours.

We wanted a desert safari experience without the environmentally damaging and potentially whiplash inducing dune bashing.

After extensive research, I decided on this tour and we were not disappointed-in fact, we were thrilled!

This was the Dubai experience that I had dreamed about.

Riding through the desert in vintage Land Rovers around the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve was an experience of a lifetime!

On our way to our “Bedouin style camp”, we saw Arabian Oryx, gazelles and thankfully a dead horned viper and we marveled at the beauty of the desert.

And did I mention how much fun we had?! Our guide, Hosam was awesome and he made our experience even more special.

Once we arrived at the camp, we had an awesome falconry demonstration, listened to an interesting talk about Ramadan (were in Dubai during Ramadan), had henna tattoos, saw a traditional men’s dance with gun replicas, (called a Yowla), rode camels (they are very tall!) laid down and looked up at the full moon and bright stars and enjoyed a delicious meal-called an Iftar.

An Iftar is the meal that you eat during Ramadan. It is the meal that breaks the fast that Muslims have been doing all day. The meal usually begins with eating a date and then turns into full, multi course meal. Mmm!

The entire afternoon and evening were truly amazing. I feel so lucky that we were able to have this experience and it was really special that our trip coincided with Ramadan. Great learning opportunity!

If you have any opportunity to do this, you should not hesitate. It was the highlight of our trip to Dubai. Very magical!

Next up…Abu Dhabi-a day trip to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Laurie Eats Sometimes-Vietnam edition

The food in Vietnam is pretty amazing! It’s fresh and delicious and the cool thing is that it can be found and prepared almost anywhere!

I’m a fan of Vietnamese food so I knew I would like eating during our Vietnam travels. I guess the only downside was that it was so hot and humid, we weren’t that hungry for much of the trip. But, fear not, we forced ourselves to eat…for research😀

Before we went to Vietnam, I would have said my favorite dish was Bún Chà -a dish of grilled pork and noodles.

And, I did really enjoy this but my new favorites (which I’ve had before) are Bành Xèo and Bàhn Mì.

The bread for the Bahn Mi was especially delicious in northern Vietnam. It’s just everywhere-on the street and in every restaurant. Bread, pate, egg, herbs…Unbelievably good.

The Banh xeo was so addictive-I was craving it during our trip. It’s a delicious thin pancake filled with shrimp, a little pork, egg, bean sprouts, wrapped in rice paper, lettuce and dipped in a sauce. Mmm!

Of course, there is always the reliable and cheap bowl of pho. It’s a great breakfast food and it was especially common and good in northern Vietnam.

We had a variation with fried fish and it was incredible! This one was at Quan An Ngon, a restaurant that we went to during our Hanoi Kids Tour.

I love how the food is pretty simple-just lots of fresh herbs and greens. We took a cooking class through the Four Seasons Resort Hoi An, which, by the way, was one of the best places we’ve ever stayed!

We toured their garden, then took a van to town to shop at the old market. Then, we came back to the resort and whipped up four delicious dishes in their very impressive kitchen.

And the mangoes…mmm! We could not get enough! And now that we’ve been traveling through SE Asia, we are able to taste the difference between lots of different mangoes from different parts of Vietnam and Asia. Our favorites were the mangoes that we had in Cambodia followed by a specific variety that came from a northern province of Vietnam.

Here is a link to different mango varieties-just in case you are interested.

Speaking of Mango…

We had dinner one night at Mango Mango in Hoi An. It’s Vietnamese fusion with Latin twist. They had live music downstairs, an open kitchen upstairs and a friendly staff. (Also had lots of cool fans and a very clean bathroom!) The Spring rolls were incredible!

Of course, you can’t have food without having drinks…

Egg coffee is a Hanoi specialty. It’s strong Vietnamese coffee with whisked egg yolk on top. It was created in the 1940’s when milk was scarce in Vietnam.

Frosé-where have you been all my life? Had my first one at The Bamboo Bar at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi. (Yes, I know this isn’t a traditional Vietnamese drink but it was so good that it’s worth mentioning!)

I had coconut juice several times but this huge and ice cold coconut in Hoi An was my favorite. I had them cut it up when I was done so I could eat it! I was extremely hot and sweaty in this picture and the coconut was really cold so I’m happy here!

There is no shortage of delicious food in Vietnam. You will love it!

2 nights in Ho Chi Minh City

One night in Bangkok…no, no…it was 2 nights in Ho Chi Minh City! (We actually had 5 hours in Bangkok but the song has stayed with me for days!)

I liked Ho Chi Minh City a lot more than I thought I would. Yes, it was hot and very humid and yes, it’s a huge city (about 12 million people if you count surrounding areas) with tons of motorbikes everywhere but….

…it’s pretty clean, it’s modern and it surprisingly has a lot of green space to enjoy. We wished we had another couple of days to explore!

(By the way, that colorful striped flag is the Buddhist flag.)

In our short time in HCMC, we managed to see a few of the major attractions.

First up Ho Chi Minh Square. This is a must see on any visitor’s list. It’s located in District 1, which is the city center. It’s a nice walk because it’s located on the pedestrian street-Nguyen Hue Boulevard. (Which is lively at night with lights and fountains).

We continued our walk and headed towards the Saigon Opera House. It’s a beautiful French style building that was built in 1897.

The next stop was the Saigon Central Post Office. I’ve never been excited about going to the post office before but this one was pretty awesome!

Not only can you send a postcard but you get to see the beautiful yellow French building designed by Alfred Foulhoux and completed in 1891.

It has marble floors and a huge center arch. We really liked the antique wooden phone booths too. Pretty special.

After the post office, we went to Saigon Notre Dame Basilica. The official name is Cathedral Basilica of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception but that’s quite a mouthful!

It was built by French colonists in the late 1880s and all the materials were imported from France.

Note-it’s currently undergoing a large scale renovation until late 2019

The last part of our walking tour was Independence Palace or Reunification Palace. It is a significant stop because it was here, in 1975, that a tank from the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the gates and ended the Vietnam War.

This is also when the name changed from Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City. Both names are used frequently today.

If we had more time we definitely would have gone to the War Remnants Museum. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. Another popular attraction, about 1 1/2 hours outside of town, are the Cu Chi Tunnels. Well, there’s always next time!

Next up…Dubai. And, coming soon-Laurie Eats Sometimes, Vietnam Edition.