Tag Archives: traveling

in the capital of Canada

At the end of July, I headed to Ottawa for a work trip, my first time in the Canadian capital. The work part of the trip went smoothly and the after-hours part allowed for a peek at the city. A few things I enjoyed about Ottawa:

1. The Scone Witch. I ate breakfast twice at this small café tucked among the government buildings and skyscrapers of downtown Ottawa. Delicious, organic homemade scones served with a dollop of cream. They even had a Portland love sticker. Sold.
2. The weather. When I left Amsterdam, it was 17°C/62°F and rainy. Ottawa, on the other hand, was gloriously warm with a consistently blue sky.
3. The swimming pool in my hotel. Swimming laps under a glass ceiling is a perfect conclusion to a long day.
4. The Rideau Canal. I probably have a thing for canals, living in Amsterdam, but I loved the combination of a festival celebrating the Unesco heritage site, the sun, and the sound of water.

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Brugge and Lille

Last week, I went to Belgium for a five-day work trip with two colleagues. My days were spent curating a photo exhibition, holding a press conference, and delivering a speech at the exhibition opening. All things that I don’t usually do, but which I really enjoyed. In our free moments, my colleagues and I explored the seaside town of Knokke-Heist, where we were staying, and beyond.

One of the highlights was spending an evening in Brugge. I have been to Belgium numerous times and visited almost every major city, with the exception of Brugge. Our first stop was a waffle house and then a chocolate shop.

Not long after we headed into the side streets in search of a place with music for the evening. We ended up instead at Café De Republiek to sample a few Belgian beers as we talked about our favorite literature. After a further wander, we headed for a delicious dinner at Bistro Refter.

The day before the official exhibition opening, we had some extra time. I grabbed my speech to practice and we hopped in the car for a drive along the Belgian coastline, a late lunch in Dunkerque, and an evening in Lille. Just across the Belgian border, Lille is the fourth largest city in France.

We browsed through an open air book market, which had a fascinating collection of caricatures and advertisements from the ’60s.

After a further walk through the city and a sampling of macarons, we went to a simple, rustic restaurant for dinner. Throughout the week, we had great conversations over the dinner table, from hilarious accounts of awkward travel moments to serious questions about life and death. On our way back to Knokke-Heist, we told ghost stories as we drove across the darkened Belgian countryside.

Italy part III: the Amalfi Coast

After Rome, we drove to the beautiful, dramatic Amalfi Coast for the remainder of our honeymoon. It’s a bit touristy and requires taking a downright terrifying road to get there, but it’s difficult not to love any place with views like this.

We were lucky to have a room with a balcony overlooking the sea in the not-so-touristy town of Praiano. Situated between the towns of Amalfi and Positano, it was calm and quiet with a gelateria, a café, and a handful of restaurants.

We spent our days here hiking through the hills, wandering down to the beach, drinking copious amounts of limoncello, and eating, eating, eating. It’s an incredibly beautiful area, with lemon groves tucked into the hillsides.

Our second day in Praiano was a bit cloudy, but we spent most of the day outside and even wandered down to the seaside where Marcus put his feet in the water. It took about 30 minutes to climb down the thousand small steps to get there, but we were the only ones on the path. We smelled the flowers, watched millipedes crawl past, and touched the numerous lemons hanging from the trees.

After we hiked back up from the seaside, we treated ourselves to an espresso and limoncello at the local café.

On our third day, we went to the town of Amalfi and toured the Cathedral and an old paper mill. We meandered through the backstreets and found a café in a cave, but left soon afterwards to see what Positano had to offer.

Gelato, clear skies, and blue water in Positano. Just down the coast from Amalfi, but somehow the skies parted during the 30-minute drive. We walked through the town, enjoyed a delicious seafood lunch on a terrace overlooking the sea, soaked up the sun’s warmth, and walked to the waterside with gelato in hand. We left the next day, driving the rest of the coast towards Sorrento and through Naples, back to Rome for one last meal of cacio e pepe.

Italy part II: when in Rome

Rome is just fantastic. We arrived on the evening after the wedding, whipped past the ruins in a taxi en route to the hotel, and promptly called it a night. We woke fresh in the morning and headed to the first sight of the day: the Vatican. Standing in Piazza San Pietro is a beautiful experience, but the long lines deterred us from visiting the basilica or museum. Instead, we set out on a meandering walk to Trastevere, where we spent the rest of the morning.

The early afternoon was dedicated to the ruins: the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and numerous other sights that one simply stumbles upon when you round a corner.

After getting far enough away from the tourist spots, we turned down an alleyway and headed for the first restaurant that served cacio e pepe and carciofi (roasted artichokes). Cacio e pepe is basically fresh pasta with sheep’s cheese and pepper. Simple and delicious. Throw in some wine, bread, and sparkling water, and we had one amazing meal.

We returned to the hotel for an afternoon siesta, before setting out for the evening. First to the Pantheon and then to Piazza Navona. We headed into the side streets again for dinner, stopping first by a fantastic café for an aperitivo.

The night ended with a stroll by the Trevi Fountain, a magnificent sight day or night. For me, it was a great return to Rome and I was able to show Marcus most of the major sights in just one day. He loved the city and we could have happily spent more time there, but we had a date with the Amalfi Coast.

Italy part I: a return to Trastevere

The first highlight of our honeymoon to Italy has to be our stroll through the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere, where I lived and studied the summer of 2004. I couldn’t wait to show Marcus the streets I traversed, in the area I loved so much. We walked to Trastevere on a quiet Monday morning, enjoying the view of the city and then walking down into the neighborhood. There is something about the colorful buildings, the laundry hanging to dry, and the windowsills covered in flowers that just seems so Italian. We made our way to Piazza Santa Maria, where we had the obligatory cappuccino and glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The church was more beautiful than I remembered and a quite decent band filled the square with music.

a visit to Ghent

After a very peaceful Christmas, I went on a short trip to Ghent with my cousin Vanessa who was visiting for the holidays. Ghent is a small town in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, which I visited earlier in autumn while on a work trip. The city looked so quaint that I thought it would be the perfect post-Christmas destination. Vanessa and I ate waffles, drank a sufficient amount of Belgian beer, dined at a cozy restaurant, discovered a fantastic club with a live electronic band, climbed to the top of a small castle, and spent a lot of time just wandering and looking.

three buildings in Barcelona

Three scenes from my recent trip to Barcelona: a row of apartments, a museum, and an ancient church.