Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Newport Rhode Island

I was lucky enough recently to spend some time in Newport Rhode Island. Newport is known for being a New England summer resort town. It's located on an island in Narragansett Bay. It is a beautiful city, rich with history.


Newport was once the summer home of some of the nations wealthiest families and is the location of what they referred to as their summer cottages. The rest of us call them the Newport mansions.

We spent most of our time in the South Harbor walk area...

After a stroll around we stopped for lunch here...

It was such a gorgeous day we ate lunch outside.
I love fish and chips. It was a Friday night staple growing up
 We spotted this place and stopped in for cupcakes after lunch. How could we not?

Cupcake Charlie's was featured on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars

Fortified with that heavenly lunch and cupcakes we headed to Fort Adams State Park. Fort Adams is situated at the mouth of Newport Harbor. The park offers lovely views of both Newport Harbor and parts of Narragansett Bay.A great place for a picnic.

You can spend several days in Newport and never run out of things to do. From the breathtaking Ocean Drive (Ten Mile Drive), to the exhilarating Cliff Walk (not for the faint of heart) to the most opulent Summer Cottages ever, you will never be bored.

Even the Starbucks is in a quaint space

 A few things to note:

Bring lots of quarters as you will most likely end up parked at a meter. (They are strictly enforced) Although it may be tempting to park in an unauthorized area, don't do it. Nothing will ruin your lovely day faster than coming back and finding your car towed.

If you have the time try to take a narrated trolley car of the historic downtown or a tour of Ocean Drive (that way everyone can enjoy the views)

If boating is more your style you can take a scenic harbor cruise on a sail boat.

As always, wear comfortable shoes. You may end up doing a lot of walking and some of the surfaces may be cobbled or uneven. It can get cool near the water so if you're prone to getting chilled bring a light sweater.

Most of all have fun! Stroll down the side streets, enjoy the outdoor art and the ocean views.

As always, happy travels!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Key West, FL - Come Sail Away

I've never been much of a sailor. So it was with some trepidation that I found myself signed up for a sail on one of my trips to the Florida Keys. We were set to sail with the crew of the Adirondack out of the Key West Bight. I can fit what I know about boats on a matchbook cover, but, I do know that this boat had two masts and a bunch of sails. Watching the canvas sails snapping in the breeze made me think of the romance of crossing the seas on a big sailing ship. But only for a minute. Let's face it, the calm of the harbor is nothing, I'm sure, like the feat of an open ocean voyage.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the water appeared calm. Lucky me. Years ago, on another boat outing in Key West, I wasn't so lucky. That boat ride is what put me off of being on the water. But, with assurances from many people who know about these things, I was willing to give it another try. I'm so glad that I did. The sailing was so much fun.


We were a very small group so we had time to talk to the captain and crew and to get a good idea of what is involved in sailing one of these schooners. I really can't recommend it highly enough. The view of the island from the water is beautiful.

 Whether you sail with the Adirondack from Key West or another of these beautiful boats out of Newport, RI or New York, I'm sure you'll love it. If you're like me and have had less than enjoyable boating experiences, give this one a try. It was a great time, I'm glad I took the chance.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Milan, Italy - A Whirlwind Tour

How do you end up in Milan for fashion week? In our case, by accident. Our plan was to be in Munich Germany for a couple of weeks for Oktoberfest (that's a story for another time) but as time went by we decided to add a short side trip. We were going to be in Europe for a while, we figured we'd have some time and flights within Europe are generally inexpensive.

I started to look at places for us to visit for a couple of days and finally settled on Milan. I really wanted to visit Italy and Milan was about an hour flight from Munich and the airfare was very affordable.

Courtyard at the Enterprise Hotel - Milan, Italy
 Once we settled on Milan we needed to decide where to stay. I checked a lot of online resources and chose the Enterprise Hotel. The Enterprise Hotel is located outside of the city center but it is very convenient to public transportation. There's a tram stop right nearby the hotel. The tram will take you to the city center and to points of interest in the city. The hotel is about 45 minutes by taxi from the Malpensa airport or you can take a shuttle from the airport to the central station in Milan and take a bus or taxi from there. (That is the option we decided on.)

Statue of Leonardo da Vinci
  We were only in town for 48 hours so to see as much of the city as possible we took a bus tour. The tour was great and because it was a Hop On/Hop Off style tour we could get off of the bus at places we wanted to linger and get back on when it made it's next arrival at our location. If you only have a short time to spend at your destination look into a bus tour. It's a great way to see a lot of the city in a short time.

Of all of the things on the must do list for Milan, Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper is it for a lot of people. Sadly, we didn't see it while we there. I wasn't able to work the timing for a visit so we skipped it. (Heresy I know!) When we're in Milan again it'll be at the top of our list. We did get to visit the Duomo di Milano and see a lot of the city's history.

Duomo di Milano

In the morning we ate breakfast at the hotel. The Enterprise Hotel has a very extensive breakfast buffet and one of the better ones I've seen.  Italian cold cuts, all kinds of cheeses, wonderful pasties, fresh fruit. All well presented and very fresh. There are American breakfast options available on the buffet but I stayed away from those. I can get bacon and eggs at home.You might wonder how much gelato and how many paninis someone can eat in such a short time. Take my word on this, a lot. We ate sandwiches from street side cafes and food trucks. And the gelato was just sublime. Rich, creamy, so delicious.

Because it was fashion week when we were there big screens were set up all over the city to live stream the fashion shows from the catwalks.

Milan is a city of contrasts. Modern and ancient, side by side.

Before we knew it our time in Milan was at an end. I left reluctantly and with a promise to myself to return to Italy for a much longer stay.

A few tips:

Before we left for Italy I wrote the name of the hotel and the street name in Italian on several 3x5 cards. I carried these with me and when the cab driver we hired didn't speak English I just handed him a card. He knew exactly where we wanted to go, no problem.

Familiarize yourself with a few phrases in the local language. Please, thank you, do you speak English? These simple phrases can make a huge difference when interacting with the locals. I've found even that small effort in their native language makes a huge difference.

Have an idea of things you want to do before you arrive at your destination. You don't want to spend one minute of a short stay playing the what do YOU want to do game?

Pack a good pair of walking shoes. I know this one seems obvious. If you have to buy new shoes do it at least a month or more before you travel and WEAR the shoes as often as you can to make sure they're comfortable. Nothing like sore feet to ruin a sightseeing trip.

We also took a picture of the tram stop list at the stop near the hotel. It showed us the tram lines that we could use by number and the name of the stop we needed to look for to return to the hotel.

Most of all have fun. Engage with the locals, try the local foods, and just enjoy the time you have to the fullest.