Well I’m back from my sojourn abroad. So I thought I’d break it down here and give highlights of what I loved most about each trip. Visiting other cities and countries is always great because you can bring back with you a wealth of ideas of things that other communities do and may work here in our own. It helps you to sometimes get a new perspective on how things work (or don’t work) and bring those new ideas home. Plus I always love to hear about what people think works in other cities or “tips and tricks” for visiting, so I thought I’d share mine!
As I mentioned in a previous entry, Rose, David and I spent a couple days at the Knockeven House in Cobh. We headed out to Cork and Kinsale for a day as well to visit the farmer’s markets. On the way back to Dublin we stopped off in Shanagarry at the Ballymaloe House and Cooking School and had a bite to eat in the cafe. What I loved most about this trip to Ireland was their focus on all things made in Ireland. There was a great deal of emphasis on things grown and produced on the island and products that were organic. The resurgence of farmers markets has been a great boost for agri-tourism in the country.
There are so many reasons why I keep going to Italy every year. It’s beautiful landscapes, ancient architecture, delicious food, the list could go on and on. Aside from the food, there are always a few things that stick out for me about Italy. It can be a very chaotic country, bogged down by bureaucracy, drama at every corner….but I love it!
All over Rome or any large Italian city, you’ll find carts that sell fresh fruit, coconuts, iced water, panini, etc. They are located at all the major tourist attractions. So if you’re getting a bit thirsty from walking around under the hot Roman sun, just stop and grab a frozen bottle of water. It will melt quickly as you walk in the heat. Or grab a Peroni beer and get drunk on a tour cuz they sell those there too.
Parking in Italy is always a treat. Let’s just say it works in no way like our system. First of all, the Italians don’t park in an”organized” manner. Park it facing forward, backwards or sideways. If it fits, it’s parked. There are blue lines along the side of the road that mark if it’s okay to park. Yellow if it’s not okay. Sounds simple right? Well it would be if there were parking meters. Instead, once you’ve found a spot, you need to then start looking for the individual who is selling the tickets that allow you to park there.
Every day of the week, there’s a Mercado being held in towns all over Italy. In Ceccano (where I stayed) it’s every Wednesday. If you miss it, don’t worry! Amaseno has theirs on Sunday, Frosinone on Thursday and Alatri on Friday. What can you buy at a Mercado? The question should be what can’t you buy at a Mercado! Seeds to plant in your garden, fabric, shoes, bras, underwear, hair products, machine parts. It’s all there. Caravans filled with stuff set up in the town streets and all the locals come out to shop and chat.
So I mistakenly booked the wrong hotel. This is what happens when you put things off until the absolute last minute and then don’t read what’s on the screen in front of you. Rather than booking a room online from the comfort of my home in Windsor, I waited until 2 days before leaving Rome for Amsterdam. I was hoping to book the Sheraton Hotel in Schiphol airport so I wouldn’t be hassled about finding transportation to and from the airport. Instead I booked the NH Schiphol Airport Hotel. This turned out to be not such a bad thing. It was just a 5 minute shuttle ride which you can catch directly outside the airport and is free. The shuttle runs every 20 minutes during the day but after midnight you need to request to be picked up by using the”telefoon” located at the shuttle pickup point. I love the Dutch. Seriously.
I am in love with this airport. There’s just nothing negative I can think of to say about it. Everything is located in one building and it’s easily navigable. Clear signage points you in the right direction, there are fantastic shops, cafes, restaurants (both outside and inside the departure gates) and even a sushi bar! It’s always been a stress-free experience for me. H&M, Guess, Esprit, supermarkets to pick up last minute hunks of cheese or bags of Hopjes candies. If you’re a little early for your flight, you won’t be bored. The Rijksmuseum even has a gallery inside that you can browse for free.
The train station is located within the airport so getting to Amsterdam Centraal or anywhere else in Holland is never a problem. The shuttles to the hotel located around Schiphol are free but if you need a ride to the hotels in town there are shuttles all day for about 10 or 12 Euros that drop off you at the front door. It’s just a brilliant system. The last few times in Holland I’ve stayed at an NH Hotel. Last year off the Leidseplein and this year by the airport. The rooms always look super clean and they have a very streamlined, modern look to them.
Ticket to Den Haag (both ways) cost 13.50 Euros. The train station is located right inside Schiphol. It doesn’t get any easier than that. The train out to Den Haag is only about 35 minutes. Eric and Caroliine met me at Centraal Station and we took a stroll through town, Eric acting as personal tour guide (you were great!) We headed out to De Hardans Restaurant, where Eric and Caroline said they make a must have chocolate cake.
So that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The vacation is over and it’s back to work and reality!