aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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Tag: Europe
acropolis in progress
mammoth construction zone

Acropolis Athens

Acropolis (and partial view of the scaffolding)

I mentioned a while back that Patrick and I weren't all that impressed with Greece.  A large part of that unenthusiasm related to Athens and the Acropolis.  If you'd asked me before I went to Greece what is the number-one-must-see attraction in the country, I would have said the Acropolis of Athens.  Right?  It's the one Greek monument that everyone knows.  It's the one attraction we were most excited to see.

 Acropolis views
 Acropolis  Views from the Acropolis

 Views from the Acropolis

You have to understand that Patrick and I love, love, love ruined architecture.  I can see the place as it once was, so many years ago, with the walls standing, the floors in bright mosaics and tiles. 

Amphitheatre outside the Acropolis

Amphitheatre outside the Acropolis

At Pompeii, we walked amongst the ancient common man, so much like us though long since dead.  At Ephesus, we marvelled at the splendors of the ancients.  And, in the tiny town of Ivailovgrad, Bulgaria, we were amazed by intricate floor tiles created centuries ago.  We love ruins, even when nature takes over, destroying the artistry of man.

Acropolis view
The reconstructed temple View of the Acropolis from the Acropolis museum
Walking up to the Acropolis

Acropolis restoration (note the reconstructed Temple of Athena Nike, with the integration of the original stones)

But, the Acropolis in Athens is no testament to ancient man's work.  Right now, it's very much a work in progress.  Cranes and scaffolding cover most of the buildings and tourists are prevented from entering the interior.  Several of the surrounding temples have been dismantled and are being reassembled.  

Acropolis restoration


Acropolis restoration and scaffolding and a restored temple

There are a lot of issues surrounding the restoration project, not least of which whether or not the Greek government has the funds to finish the work.  So far, the UN has paid for 50% of the restoration project (currently running around $90 million.) 

. . . keep reading standing at the acropolis after the jump


balsamic glazed cipollines

Balsamic glazed cipolline onions

Venice is still busy in November.  There are tourists everywhere in the bright and sunny days.  (Though, is there ever a time when the tourists leave Venice altogether?  Probably not.)  We like the November evenings better than the summer evenings.  There's less heat, humidity, and stench.  I pull my fleece jacket close around my shoulders and Patrick zips his up to his neck. 

We walk away from the Grand Canal, into small narrow alleyways, away, away, away from the noise.  We see a small door against a wall, light shining out as the door opens and closes, and men with half-filled wine glasses and burning cigarettes standing right before the entry, ushering us in with wafts of noxious smoke.  The decor is minimal, with a few wooden benches and tables crammed against the corner of a wall and men and women standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the long bar. 

Balsamic cipollines

We immediately see the attraction.  Cichetti are arrayed in platters and bowls across the bar.  There is a good variety at this one: peperoni grigliata --- grilled and peeled red bell peppers; baccala --- pureed salted dried cod; carciofi grigliata --- artichoke hearts, marinated and grillled; mozzarella e pomodoro --- fresh balls of mozzarella with sliced tomatoes; bruschetta with prosciutto; calamari; and more. 

Balsamic cipollines

Cipolline onions Cooking cipollines

And, there are the cipollines al aceto balsamico, or balsamic glazed cipolline onions.  The first bite surprises us.  Our mouths pucker from the vinegar and then relax as we taste the underlying sweetness of the reduced balsamic vinegar.  We try another bite.  This time we are prepared for the sensations of vinegar and sweet and we feel the texture.  Soft, billowing layers of onions melt against our tongue and we catch hints of rosemary and butter.  We go back to the counter and order them all.

And, we return the next night and order all the cipollines again.

balsamic cipollines

When we came back to the United States, I tried a whole host of balsamic glazed cipolline recipes including ones from Mario Batali, Deb from the Smitten Kitchen, and Bon Appetit magazine.  None of them had the puckering sweetness of the cipollines we tried in Venice and I realized that the problem is that every single one of these recipes relies on sugar to enhance the flavor of the balsamic vinegar.  I dropped the sugar and simplified the recipe.  The result has a less thick glaze than what you might get if you make Mario Batali's recipe but it is, I think, a purer and superior version of the dish.  It is a fundamentally Italian recipe --- very few ingredients of extremely high quality --- so that the cipollines take on the strong flavors of red wine and balsamic.  We serve it often in the winters, with rich casseroles and soups, as a small plate or side dish, sometimes for the holidays, to remind us of Venice's meandering canals.

Balsamic cippolines



. . . keep reading balsamic glazed cipollines after the jump
views of siena
cobblestone and brick


View of Siena rooftops

Like pretty much every other person on the planet, we love Tuscany.  Tuscany has everything going for it: architecture, scenery, food, wine, markets, and art.  If you want to rave about narrow streets and yellowing buildings, you can do that.  If you want to talk about churches that dazzle, you can do that.  If you want to eat some of the best meals of your life ---- truffle flecked pasta, prosciutto with melon, pizza singed on coal burned ovens, fluorescent green olive oil and ciabatta --- you can do that.  And, if you want to drink red wines that are earthy, smooth, fruity, or nutty, you can do that.  Tuscany is amazing.

The funny thing is that, though we love Tuscany, it took us a long, long time to visit Siena, the second most important city.  I think we expected it to be another Florence, another city overrun with tourists, where we wouldn't be able to see the charm through the throngs.  But, we did. 

The charms of Siena were almost immediately apparent in dull brick red and cobblestone streets, through the meandering alleys, over and across hills and stairs, and under bridges.  The Duomo stunned in black and white. 

It took us time to come to this city but, once we came, we came again and again.

Siena Siena
Siena Duomo Siena walls
Siena Siena
Siena Duomo
Siena Duomo Siena Duomo

. . . keep reading views of siena after the jump


win 200 euros from go with oh! + go with oh to vienna

Vienna apartment with Go With Oh

Vienna Go With Oh apartment

Go With Oh Apartment in Vienna

It's been a while since we've done a giveaway on our blog which makes me sad because I love giving you guys free stuff from great companies.  So, when Go With Oh contacted me to let me know about their new contests, I jumped at the chance to score you guys a free stay at one of their apartments.  People, I love this company and you should, too.

I'll tell you more about why I think you should be using Go With Oh below but, if you're in a hurry, here's the scoop.  There are three ways that you can win money to stay at a Go With Oh apartment in any of their ten European locations:

All of these contests end on October 31, 2013, so there are a lot of ways to win money in the next week.

A quick look at our Go With Oh Vienna apartment

Last year, we stayed with them for three days in Venice and for three days in Vienna.  After a brief perusal through their website, I knew that we were going to love working with them.

You see, one of the strange things about traveling is that we never know exactly where we're going to live.  When you buy a house or rent an apartment, ordinarily, you tour the place, you look around for lots of options, and you think about whether this is the exact spot you want to live.  When we travel, on the other hand, we pick hotels or vacation homes based on often outdated pictures and web reviews.  Until we get there, we never know exactly what we're going to get. 

Sometimes, the new apartments work out really well.  But, then again, there are the other times . . . .  There were the two weeks in Prague where the bathroom continually filled with water.  And the month in Istanbul with the kitchen that looked like it hadn't been cleaned in years: my mom and I got down onto our hands and knees to clean it to make it moderately liveable.  There was the hostel in Lampang, Thailand, where I was afraid to sleep in the bed because of the thick stains all across the sheets and the flock of spiders living in the ceiling fan above the bed.

Go With Oh apartment

Go With Oh floorplan

So, what I loved about the Go With Oh site is that every single one of their properties has professional pictures and a to scale floorplan included, plus places for people to write in reviews.  A floorplan!  Professional pictures!  I didn't have to pore through murky underexposed photos to figure out whether the kitchen had a microwave and an oven or run Google Map searches to determine whether there was a park nearby.  At last, I had found a vacation rental site that actually provided all of the information I needed to make a completely informed decision about their apartment in one place.  Revolutionary!

And, in both Vienna and Venice, our apartments almost perfectly matched the website description.  (The only problem we had in Vienna was that the laundry machine did not work but there was a nearby laundromat with great facilities.)

Schonbrunn Palace Go With Oh apartment

Standing outside the apartment

We were very happy with our stays in both Vienna and Venice and I think you will be, too.  If you're still with me, here are the three ways that you can win a voucher to stay at one of the Oh properties:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

October 2013

mcdonalds menus round the world (volume 1)
from australia to zambia
October 2, 2013

September 2013

prague in black and white
timeless grandeur
September 12, 2013

August 2013

santorini doors
colors in rectangles
August 28, 2013

on not really picking that perfect greek island
beach hopping
August 21, 2013

July 2013

bulgaria: the low-down
a wrap up
July 23, 2013

June 2013

touring southern bulgaria
highlights by photography
June 20, 2013

where communism was better
on tobacco and cars
June 12, 2013

May 2013

schonbrunn castle in pictures
May 31, 2013

the harry potter studio tour
from diagon alley to hogwarts
May 7, 2013

April 2013

beginning in bulgaria
in ivailovgrad
April 18, 2013

January 2013

chewy and abby do europe
January 21, 2013

October 2012

chewy and abby in austrian sunflowers
October 29, 2012

three years!
October 16, 2012

September 2012

go with oh to venice
living like a local
September 13, 2012

turkey: the low-down
a wrap up
September 7, 2012

ruined turkey
ephesus, pamukkale, and aphrodisias
September 1, 2012

August 2012

being on the aegean
in turgutreis
August 24, 2012

scenes from cappadocia
mars on earth
August 14, 2012

July 2012

how to make baklava
at karakoy gulluoglu
July 24, 2012

hot air ballooning in cappadocia
July 13, 2012

traveling in catalonia
diversity in one region
July 12, 2012

vegetarian food in turkey
yummy veggies
July 10, 2012

the wild dogs of turkey
cute and friendly
July 6, 2012

grilled meats of turkey
in istanbul
July 4, 2012

June 2012

something beautiful
in cappadocia
June 29, 2012

adventuring in barcelona
from the sea to the road
June 22, 2012

catalan cuisine
fresh and inventive
June 20, 2012

the flag of turkey
patriotism in pictures
June 15, 2012

beyond sultanahmet
istanbul's diverse neighborhoods
June 13, 2012

the colors of the spice bazaar
in istanbul
June 8, 2012

lamps at the grand bazaar
in istanbul
June 1, 2012

May 2012

delicious istanbul cooking class
May 31, 2012

intersecting cultures at hagia sophia
with context istanbul
May 29, 2012

istanbul's tulips
flower frenzy
May 24, 2012

why take guided tours
as an independent traveler
May 22, 2012

portrait of pisa
leaning and straight
May 4, 2012

what travel bloggers eat
at tbu umbria
May 1, 2012

April 2012

the abbey of san galgano
beauty in ruins
April 27, 2012

san gimignano towers
views of vineyards
April 20, 2012

truffle tutorial
in tuscany
April 19, 2012

wake up to the olive trees
in radicondoli
April 17, 2012

budapest: the low-down
a wrap up
April 13, 2012

understanding hungarian wine
tokaji and more
April 12, 2012

opulent opera house
in budapest
April 10, 2012

budapest great market hall in b&w
gray shaded market
April 6, 2012

eat budapest
goulash, paprika, and more
April 5, 2012

let me fall in love
with budapest
April 3, 2012

March 2012

croatia: the low-down
a wrap up
March 30, 2012

tuscany with color
at motovun
March 29, 2012

the undefeated dolac market
in zagreb
March 27, 2012

plitvice national park in the winter
March 23, 2012

ummm croatian food?
between two cultures
March 22, 2012

where everyone speaks your language
in zagreb
March 20, 2012

hundred shades of gray
in county clare
March 16, 2012

off-season istria
chilly beauty
March 15, 2012

sledding in switzerland
winter fun
March 13, 2012

spain: the low-down
a wrap up
March 6, 2012

mercat de la boqueria
at the market
March 2, 2012

gaudi's personal cathedral
stunning sagrada familia
March 1, 2012

February 2012

cook and taste cooking class
paella and tortilla espanol
February 28, 2012

brilliant fonta magica
in barcelona
February 24, 2012

casa batllo
gaudi's genius
February 23, 2012

the unvarnished truth on travel with pets
February 21, 2012

scenes from parc guell
in barcelona
February 17, 2012

eat espana
February 16, 2012

changing perceptions in madrid
between ages 19 to 32
February 13, 2012

england: the low-down
a wrap up
February 10, 2012

emerald peak district
green, green, green
February 9, 2012

a week of good eats in london
from high tea to iraqi
February 7, 2012

museum hopping with context london
on history and future
February 1, 2012

January 2012

london at night
motion in light
January 27, 2012

yuki's kitchen sushi class
January 24, 2012

chewy at the leaning tower of pisa
January 6, 2012

December 2011

the magic of stonehenge
prehistoric secrets
December 6, 2011

the famous cornish gardens
trewithen, eden project, and heligan
December 2, 2011

November 2011

on the moors
dartmoor and bodmin moor
November 25, 2011

painswick rococo gardens
in the cotswolds
November 18, 2011

not a rose by any other name
stratford upon avon
November 17, 2011

essential cotswolds
a little bit of perfect
November 15, 2011

beautiful bath
in photos
November 11, 2011

an ode to cream tea
in devon & cornwall
November 8, 2011

weekly photo: light on bark
November 4, 2011

rainbow cotswolds
colors in the country
November 2, 2011

October 2011

changing lifestyles
in the cotswolds
October 21, 2011

dining on the queen mary 2
good eats
October 7, 2011

September 2011

the taste of two years
September 30, 2011

a history of luxury
on the queen mary 2
September 15, 2011

weekly photo: a dog in bilbao
September 9, 2011

July 2011

easycanvasprints giveaway + we're off (again)
July 27, 2011

March 2011

sprightly irish love
in the connemara
March 16, 2011

March 2010

breaking hearts
March 18, 2010

August 2009

carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichokes)
August 18, 2009

July 2009

walking in sunshine
July 16, 2009

the vino, the vino
July 6, 2009

June 2009

happy stomachs
June 28, 2009

white whole wheat pasta with porcinis
June 23, 2009

moving forward
June 21, 2009

the duomo
June 6, 2009

June 3, 2009

when the sun goes down
June 1, 2009