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The excitement at learning Berlin's iconic abandoned amusement park was now open for weekend tours could only be dampened by the fact that the re-opening of these doors was to be a short-lived endeavor. With years of back taxes and millions owed to banks - not to mention an unanswered eBay listing for its sale - the city finally stepped in and bought the place, running tours through the finalization of the sale (end of April 2014). While the park's future is unclear, there is much speculation that like so much open land in Berlin, the city will get its money's worth and respond to the demand for more affordable housing. It seems like a crime to dismantle such an iconic piece of Berlin's history, the park's inception dating back to the GDR in 1969, but progress it seems is inevitable. Even those who were once up for hopping the fence and risking arrest for a little unofficial sightseeing will be out of luck. It appears this Berlin landmark is about to go as extinct as the fiberglass dinosaurs littering its grounds.
I consider myself to be a gelato connoisseur, at least in the sense that if I see a gelateria, I will go. It is my very favorite indulgence. I have enjoyed gelato all over Europe and in many cities around Italy, but this was far and away the best. It was so good, I very nearly cried, not to mention almost went back for seconds. From the traditional - like lemon and melon - to the more exotic - decadent, rich chocolates with flavorings like candied oranges or cinnamon and chilis - enjoying a cup of Il Massimo's gelato is like a little taste of heaven. And arrive prepared - I hear that peak seasons and times mean lines around the block. But not to worry - it's worth the wait!
This is the tour for people who don't like tours. A stunning and inexpensive way to see this beautiful part of German wine country, this self-guided 'tour' starts in the picturesque town of Rüdesheim am Rhein with a ride over the vineyards in an enclosed chair lift (wine and souvenir glasses to enjoy on the way up optional). Then a light hike through a forest with notable lookout spots and sights throughout takes you around to a chair lift back down the hill, then a boat ride across the river for a tour of castle Rheinstein perched on the hillside, and finally, you take a leisurely boat ride back to where you started (more wine and snacks available to order on the boat). An entire day of being outdoors and enjoying sweeping views of the Rheingau for under €20. In a word: Amazing!
Living, or even just traveling, for awhile in Germany can result in quickly tiring of traditional German cuisine and the same schnitzel offerings at every restaurant. The 'Schweinesteak Melba' at Restaurant Zum Anker in Assmannshausen blows all that out of the water. A refreshing change, this thin, grilled pork steak, baked with peaches and cheese on top, then smothered in creamy sauce and served with fries is one my favorite alternatives to the ubiquitous Wienerschnitzel and Jägerschnitzel. I wait all winter for the weather to turn nice enough to enjoy this delicious meal and some local Riesling on their patio situated just across from the Rhine River. The restaurant is also perfectly situated to stop at for lunch while on The Romantic Tour (starting the next town over in Rüdesheim am Rhein).
Let me just say up front: We are foodies, but are not the type to spend half our rent on a single meal when we could eat something just as delicious at a taco truck or back alley bakery. For some reason, this place just spoke to us when planning our trip to Prague, so we took the plunge for the most extravagant dinner we'd ever had - and ended up with the best meal of our lives. The food was beautiful, delicious and inventive, down to the multiple amuse-bouches that arrived between courses. The wine pairings were so perfect, it was hard to believe they were not specifically made for each other. The staff was the most attentive, thorough and kind I had ever experienced. All this, and not an ounce of pretentiousness. The open kitchen to watch the magic happen only added to its surprisingly laid-back, foodie vibe. If you are in Prague and looking for a life-changing meal, this is your place!
While vacationing on Oahu with my parents and husband, we decided on a whim to go ATVing—and had the best time of the whole trip! The entire park the ranch is on is incredible, with incredible scenery and ocean views. Being on the ATVs felt a bit adventuresome while offering quicker access to multiple spots on the ranch. So much fun!
Looking for something low-key and different to do on one of our last days on Oahu, we found the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens. While the 'hike' was really more of a walk, the impressive crater ridge and amazing assortment of some seriously crazy cacti made for great scenery and an enjoyable afternoon outdoors.
It doesn't get better than having a massage in a hut overlooking the North Shore, with the sound of the waves crashing beneath you and the sun warming your body. Spa Luana at Turtle Bay Resort offers this little piece of heaven, and I can't recommend it highly enough!
Sure, it's a bit touristy, but meandering around the beautiful grounds here - not to mention the pineapple soft serve! - make it worth the trip. The giant pineapple maze is pretty fun for kids, or kids at heart. Don't forget to pick up a box (or two) of the white chocolate pineapple crunch at the gift shop. It's heavenly!
I consider myself to be a bit of an ice cream connoisseur, never passing up an opportunity to try something new - even in the sleet or snow. The cones (yes, I went twice in one day) from our trip to Bainbridge Island were some of the most fresh, delicious, downright amazing flavors I had ever had. Not to be missed!
After biking around the island, we stopped here for lunch on account of its stunning views and promising menu. The cucumber cocktail I had while waiting for a table on the patio was phenomenal and the sweet potato fries at lunch were divine. Great food, delicious drinks and a spectacular view - you can't go wrong!
We booked our stay here after reading an article about the history of the club, the landmark building and its Polar Bar, but nothing prepared us for how impressed we were with our stay here. When we visited, Hilton had only recently acquired the property, so the signature warm DoubleTree cookies were a very pleasant surprise at check in (and by request on a few late nights...). Our room was warm, cozy and had probably the most comfortable hotel bed I've ever slept in. Drinks at the Polar Bar felt like being transported back to the times of the club, complete with an abundance of bourbon cocktails and a bar seemingly inset with blocks of ice. Really a unique and beautiful place to stay.
World-renowned macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato and basil, not to mention the tomato soup topped with—you guessed it—more cheese at Beecher's should be on every foodies list of things to eat. True to our gluttonous ways when it comes to good food, we ordered one of each thing to share and went into a cheese-induced coma of pleasure while watching them make even more of this award-winning goodness inside the glass-walled cheese-making kitchen. While the "world's best" mac 'n' cheese might be one of Oprah's favorite things, I think the flagship grilled cheese sandwich might be one of mine.
This new little cafe in Pankow has all the makings of a favorite hangout: the cozy couches and benches, the mid-century accents, the pop of hot pink in the decor. But what really makes this place a standout is not only its offerings of really good coffee (too often a rarity in Germany) and really excellent baked goods - from the perfectly sweet and crunchy blueberry tart to the warm and flavorful quiches - but the warmth and genuine friendliness of the proprietors. The beautiful, tea party-worthy plates don't hurt either.
While this little gem is a bit outside of Dublin's bustling city center, it is well worth the drive. Winner of the 2009 Prix Villegiature Award 'Best Hotel Interior Design in Europe', this hotel marries old world castle and modern amenities in the most unique and beautiful way. The staff was stellar, the Fahrenheit Grill was good for an amazing meal (dessert is a must!) and the ambiance was one of a kind. Definitely one of my favorite places I have ever stayed!
This little cafe is fantastic for breakfast, a light lunch, or just a snack in a very Irish kind of way. The scones come with clotted cream and jam, the tea comes with milk, and everything is served on beautiful china. There are two locations, and while I believe the Cows Lane spot offers a bit more food, the Dame Street location sits directly across from the lovely City Hall building, which is a nice view while enjoying your tea and morning paper.
Coming from California, we often miss the plethora of amazing Mexican food that can be had just about anywhere at home. After a friend's recommendation, we found this authentic gem while visiting Berlin: Santa Maria on Oranienstrasse. Standouts are the tacos and chilaquiles. While the Micheladas (usually one of my favorites) left something to be desired, the margaritas were stellar.
We stumbled on this light-filled, modern spot on our way to another recommended place for lunch (which happened to be packed) and since I'd never had the pleasure of a Banh Mi, I was excited to try one. Not only was it fresh and delicious, but the salads and house-made tea and lemonade were as well. We enjoyed it so much, we stayed for coffee and a mini Crack Pie (made famous by Momofuku Milk Bar in Brooklyn, NY), which were equally enjoyable. A great place for a break from the traditional, heavier German fare.
An abandoned airport sounds like a strange setting for a park, but Tempelhof is much better in person. With long runways perfect for biking, skating, or running (and skiing in winter!), nature preserves for rare and endangered birds, and designated areas for barbecues and off-leash dogs, it practically offers more than a regular park. The airplanes that still hang out near the terminal building just make it that much cooler.
Burritos are a staple of the California diet, and we've missed them greatly since our move to Germany. Dolores in Berlin allowed us to satiate that need, and then some! The burrito options—and sizes!—are overwhelming, from choice of meat to all the fixings, our favorites being the chicken mole and the adobo beef (we went a few times on our visit...). The chips are thick and homemade, and the guacamole is seriously impressive. Not to mention the San Francisco maps all over the walls and tables that reminded us of our old home. I will be anxiously awaiting another trip here. Yum!
There is a reason the locals line up down the block at this place come lunchtime: the pomodoro panzerotti. It's a perfect little pocket filled with fresh, warm, gooey mozzarella and local tomatoes. I tried several other sweet and savory items here, but nothing held a candle to this little pocket of perfection. I ate several during our five-day stay in Milan and still daydream about making it back for more.
I stumbled upon a photo of this castle on Pinterest from a fellow expat and was stunned at how, well, stunning it was - and that it was only a few hours away from where we live! So on our latest road trip, we made it a stop and were not disappointed. From its vantage point at the very top of a ridge, this small castle seemingly carved right out of the rock it sits on overlooks everything in the impressive valley below. Definitely my new favorite castle (of which there are countless here in Germany)!
Like so many touristy places, we found the food in Cinque Terre restaurants to be so-so, with one exception: the focaccia - and pizza! - from La Cambusa in Manarola. After sitting down with our selections, several locals came in to pick up their lunch and we knew we had found a good spot. The sweet offerings are equally delicious!
This stretch of cliff-side trail running between Riomaggiore and Manarola was packed with tourists, even on the cold, rainy day we did it, but it is well worth it for the views. Not to be missed!
With gelato shops on every corner and only a couple of hours in Florence, I wanted to make sure wherever we stopped for dessert was well worth it. Online reviews led me to Gelateria dei Neri—and we were not disappointed. Not only was it delicious, but the flavor selections were amazing! Try the green apple or the fig and ricotta.
Needing a place to stay on our way through Italy for just a couple of nights, we thought this resort a bit outside of the bustling big city would be the perfect place to relax. We had so little time there, we were unable to take advantage of the activities they offered, but it wasn't even necessary. Reading a book, sitting by the pool or just exploring the grounds was simply spectacular because of the stunning scenery in every direction. Not to mention the kitchen - for breakfast, lunch and dinner - churned out some pretty delicious stuff.
With every city in Europe having a massive cathedral, it's easy to feel that once you've seen one, you've seen them all. Sitting in front of the rather plain facade of the Domkirche in Innsbruck, I was happy to soak up the sun outside rather than tour yet another cathedral. At the urging of my husband, I finally went inside - and boy, am I glad I did. Just goes to prove that you can't judge a book - or a cathedral - by its cover.
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