A few days ago, Jon and I hit our “three years in London” anniversary. I love it here, and one of the things I love is how easy it is to travel. So more for my own memory keeping than for anyone’s entertainment, here are our travel highlights over the past twelve months:
August 2007: Jon and I completed our “summer of the UK” series (during what must have been one of the coldest, wettest summers in UK history) with a trip to Bath so I could be a Jane Austen geek, and we also took a picture-perfect trip to south Wales. If you haven’t visited the Brecon Beacons or the Gower, you should get going on that.
September 2007: We were off to San Francisco and Napa Valley for a weekend for our friend Maura’s wedding. I ate twice my body weight in tacos and loved my meal at Redd, a place that I’m sure is too overshadowed by its neighbor in Yountville, the French Laundry.
October 2007: Florence, Siena and the Chianti region beckoned, and with our friends Kate and Ray, we toodled around brunello and chianti country and ate a sub-par Michelin-starred meal at Il Canto. I admit, I was disappointed with Florence dining this time around. Must be some combo of my getting outrageously picky and my not having done good pre-trip reconnaissance.
November 2007: Jon and I took advantage of the new St. Pancras Eurostar station and headed to Brussels. The city’s cafe culture and chocolates were hugely appealing, as was our simple, delish meal at Les Brassins.
January 2008: Unlike everyone else in the world, we missed the memo saying Athens is cold in January and went there anyway. I loved our trip to Athens: few tourists meant more souvlaki, sesame-covered nuts, and taverna food for me. If there were any sour notes, it’d have to be the opaque menu pricing at Varoulko.
February 2008: We actually stayed in London the entire month. Obviously because the weather is so wonderful here in February.
March 2008: Easter came early and we hightailed it over to Paris. I could travel far and wide for the rest of my days, and I’ll still never tire of Paris. I have routines now: bakeries and chocolate shops to hit; Vietnamese food cravings to fill. We had delish food across the board, from the neo-bistro Cinq Mars to the traditional bistro, Le Comptoir. And we tried out something new – an “underground” restaurant, the Hidden Kitchen.
April 2008: We stayed in London again, mostly to prepare ourselves for May Madness . . . .
May 2008: Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russia’s a big country, so there’s a lot to love and hate about it. Jon and I were so lucky to have our friends Helen and Nick guide us in Moscow (Jon was particularly glad not to go to the Sanduny Baths alone), and we ate a few good meals in Russia. Fascinating, but ultimately not worth the money, were Cafe Pushkin and Molokhovets Dream. For anyone earning pounds sterling and living in London, Moscow wasn’t unaffordable, but the value-for-money ratio was pretty bad.
A week after returning from Russia, we spent a spa-filled long weekend in Budapest with our friends Russell and Johanna. Having OD’d on blini and smoked fish in Russia, I was wary of eating in Budapest, but I shouldn’t have been worried. Budapest was the perfect quick getaway before we dragged ourselves onto another flight three days later for our tenth college reunion. How American are we, right?
June 2008: A quick weekend in Venice that exceeded my expectations, food-wise. Sure, it’s a tourist magnet, but you can still find good places to eat. Lunching in Corte Sconta‘s back garden was dreamy; and eating buttery pastas and fritto misto until my cholesterol levels can’t take it anymore is my idea of a great vacation. (The only huge downside of our Venice trip is EasyJet’s losing our luggage. If anyone has advice on how to get EasyJet to move its ass and reimburse us, I’m all ears. Given all the paperwork we’ve filled out already, you’d think that two months later, this issue would be closed by now!)
July 2008: Jon’s relatives in Israel showed us the true meaning of hospitality for ten days. Despite being non-religious, I was moved by the beauty and holiness of Jerusalem, and perhaps most important for this blog, the hummus and falafel in Israel were enough to convince me that I could be a vegetarian. If you ever thought all hummuses are equal, think again. (The prestigious Best Hummus I Had Award goes to the version served at Hummus Said in Akko, and my fave falafel was at Falafel Musa in Netanya, mostly because of their innovative addition of a hard-boiled egg).
And here we are in August 2008. It’s a bank holiday weekend (aka random long weekend), and Jon and I are off to Vienna. Wiener schnitzel and sachertorte recs warmly welomed, and here’s to generous European vacation time!