Thursday, September 18, 2014

A weekend in Paradise {Lake Como with the Lederman's}

I can't remember why we chose to go to Lake Como with Brian's parents, but I am so, so happy we did.  The towns and lake were just as picturesque as you imagine.  On top of the beautiful scenery, we feasted on incredible Italian food and drank Italian wine, it was paradise. 

Don't believe me?  Well, this was the view from the apartment we stayed in:

And this was our daily walk down the hill to the town:
The Lederman's heading down to the town square
amazing villa along the way
and beautiful views all the way down
And this is what we did when we got to town:
Enjoying the weather and views
looking at the lake from Menaggio
Feasting on delicious food
enjoying a Spritz with good company
strolling along the waterfront
and stopping to take photos
Menaggio at dusk
And then we went back to our apartment and did it all over again the next day:

If you're jealous, you're not alone.  I'm jealous of myself just looking at the photos.

In reality, we actually did do a bit more.  Let's start at the beginning. We stayed in a town called Menaggio and loved it.  It was quaint and not overly crowded and had a great vibe.  Our first full day we took a ferry across the lake to a town called Varrena, then another ferry over to Bellagio.  

We were all anxious to see Bellagio and thought we would spend the majority of the afternoon there, but turns out, we spent the least amount of time there.  It was kind of a bust, overly touristy, which completely ruined the charm.  We honestly couldn't even find a place we wanted to stop for lunch, so we took another ferry back across the lake to Tremezzo and found a nice restaurant on the water.  After Tremezzo, back on the ferry to go down south a bit further where we ended our adventure with gelato and homemade popsicles. 
Waiting for the ferry in the morning
B and his mom
The lake from the ferry, looking back at Menaggio
View from the ferry
First stop, Varrena.  This one kind of looks fake, but it's not,
I don't know how to use photoshop!
view from Varrena
we toured the botanical gardens and mansion of the Villa Monastero
This is the one photo I have of Bellagio
Italian gelato truck - this is not where we got gelato, but I thought it was pretty cute
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo looked fab
Last stop in Lenno
Post gelato smiles
back home in Menaggio - it never got old
Our second full day we rented a boat.  It started as a few hour rental and turned into a half day rental.  We really should have just kept the boat for the full day because it was incredible cruising around the lake, looking for celebrity houses, swimming and picnicking.
Captain Richard
Recognize this mansion?  James Bond once recovered here...Villa Balbianello
Bond fan
Richard Brandson's house
Swimming in front of Versace's house
We also spotted George Clooney's house, but we didn't see any of the owners
Enjoying our picnic
From the boat - it was hard to just choose one last one
Day 3 was a bit of an adventure.  We drove to Switzerland to spend the day at Lake Lugano.  It was just as beautiful, but much more expensive.  We decided to drive up to the top of Mt. Bre for a drink and the view.  It was a super windy, steep and narrow road up.  Not going to lie, I was a bit scared of our captain's driving (sorry Richard), but once we were all safe at the top, it was well worth it.
That's Mt. Bre in the background
cruising the streets of Lugano
View lakeside
View from Mt Bre
Not a bad place to stop for a while
Can you believe this is our only photo with the 4 of us from the trip?
Not typical of me
and one more, it was so pretty
We made 1 stop for a photo on the way back down the mountain
It's like we are pasted on a postcard
I loved Lake Como and Lake Lugano.  It was a great trip, and as I write this, I wonder why I ever left.  Kidding, well, sort of.  I really want to go back and explore some of the smaller lakes in the region, and see the area during all seasons.  In winter, it's close to skiing, which would be amazing.  Until then Italy, I will keep dreaming of your beauty, food and wine.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ireland Road Trip {Dingle with the Lederman's}

Just about a year ago, Brian's parents came to visit us in Ireland.  They came earlier in the year but only stayed one night in Ireland before we all flew over to Prague for the weekend.  This time, they wanted to see a bit of Ireland before we all spent a weekend in Lake Como.

One Irish town that everyone talks about is Dingle, and I had my heart set on going before we left and this was the perfect opportunity.  Dingle is in the far southeast corner of Ireland, and is known for the it's beautiful Dingle Slea Head drive, seafood (it's a fishing village) and Fungie the Dolphin, who lives in the bay. We didn't spot Fungie on our trip but we did drive the Dingle Slea Head loop and ate some pretty good seafood - along with everything else you do in Ireland - drank Guinness at the Pub, had fish and chips and saw castles, cows and sheep, or as we called them "happy cows" and "happy sheep" since they live on large green fields and eat grass.  The weather wasn't fantastic, but also not horrible and although it was a lot of time on the road, we had a great weekend and it was definitely worth the drive.
Beautiful countryside 
Dingle is popular and small, and we couldn't find a place to stay in town, so we stayed about 10 minutes down the road in an even smaller town called Annascaul.   It was tiny, but there was a famous Antarctic Explorer, Tom Crean, who was from Annascaul and he owned the main attraction, the local watering hole, The South Pole Inn.  In town, there was a statue of Tom and that is how I know he is famous.

Tom's pub
Pub humor
I feel like in every popular small Irish town there is somewhere you "have" to eat.  In Kinsale, it's "Fishy Fishy" and in Dingle it's "Out of the Blue".  On our first night, we decided to give it a try.  They serve fresh caught seafood and change their menu daily based on what they have.  I don't remember what we ate but I remember it was good and we felt it lived up to it's reputation.  After dinner, we had dessert at Murphy's Ice Cream, the local creamery, obviously.
Out Of the Blue famous seafood restaurant 
Guinness sign
downtown Dingle
Our second morning, the sun broke a little, and I took full advantage of it to get a few good photos of the scenery.  We started morning trying to find a nearby castle we saw on the map.  It looked like it was in between where we were staying and Dingle, so we went for a drive to look for it.
Break in the weather
photo shoot time
And here is the castle we found - tiny and in ruins.  
Sometimes these are the best ones.  This one was okay but the area around it was beautiful.
 beautiful view across from the castle - do you see the cows?
After we found the castle, it was on to the Dingle Slea Head drive.  I'm not sure anyone else wanted to do this, but I really, really wanted to.  Some people say it's more beautiful than the famous Ring of Kerry!  I'd say whatever one you get the best weather at would be the most beautiful. 

Dingle Slea Head drive
always sheep in Ireland
The view
another one
cold but pretty
The weather was trying to be nice - my jacket was unzipped, that's a good sign

When we left Dingle, we drove a different way home so we could stop at a few more castles.   First stop was a small town that we went to for lunch (I can't remember the name...).  We spotted a sign leading to a castle, so we went to check it out.  The castle was in ruins, but the stables across the way had been restored into a mansion.  It was pretty cool.

The castle
The restored stables
Next stop was Cahir Castle, which is one of the biggest castles in Ireland and built in the 13th century. 

Door in the castle
Last stop was the Rock of Cashel.  Brian and I had been there before on our trip to Cork but it was pretty impressive and we were driving right by, so we wanted to show his parents.
Another door shot
The Lederman's
Last door shot
From the back side
I can't remember what town I took this photo in, but I'm pretty sure you can't go 135 miles anywhere in Ireland and not hit a pub.
Do you believe it?
I'm so happy that we decided to drive across the country to see Dingle.  It was a fun weekend and another thing checked off my Ireland bucket list.  Brian's parents left for Italy, I left on a work trip in Norway, Brian probably went to London, and we all met back up the following weekend in Lake Como - I still dream about this trip, it was stunning.