Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Weekend in Ischia

So I haven't blogged in a while.  This is because 1) I haven't done anything too interesting since I got back from Budapest, 2) I haven't had a lot of free time and 3) I wrote an entire blog and it didn't save and I was so frustrated by the whole thing that I just couldn't go on.  It took a lot of self control to not throw my laptop across the room.

Anyways, Peter and I spent a week at Tasha and Jason's watching their dogs while they took an anniversary trip to London and Paris.  I took advantage of the free house and kitchen and I made soooo much food.  I was really on a roll.  The only thing is that I didn't really take any good pictures of the food.  I do that every time.  One night I made the Seitan Mushroom stroganoff in the Isa Does It book and then I made tacos.  I taco-seasoned Light Life veggie crumbles and I made guacmole, salsa and the vegan sour cream from the Oh She Glows cookbook and oh my gosh it was so amazing.  I made too much so I ate tacos for breakfast for the next three days.  THEN I made a stir fry with veggies and tofu and udon noodles and it was so good.  I used a wok(!). I need a wok, I can't believe I don't have one.  The pictures don't make anything look appetizing, but I promise you everything was great!

The vegan sour cream was so great.  Just 1 cup of cashews, 1/2 cup of water, two tablespoons of lemon juice, one tablespoon of ACV, one teaspoon of salt and blend.  So good and light and refreshing.  The first time I made it I used orange juice because I had no lemons and it was still pretty good!  At one point I was just using it as dip for tortilla chips.

Now for the best part of the post! This weekend Peter took me to Ischia, and island by Capri on the coast of Naples.  It was supposed to be a surprise but I'm a really good detective and I hate not knowing things so I found out.  Soooooooo romantic.

Saturday morning we took the ferry from Naples where it was RAINING!  It continued to rain off and on until we got to our hotel around 11:30.  We stayed at the Park Hotel and Terme Romantica in Sant'Angelo which is the southernmost part of the island.  Link here

It's a hotel with a spa and thermal pools.  I didn't utilize any of the spa facilities because the cheapest thing was a massage for 40 euro.  But our room was really cute.  It was set off from the other rooms.  I called it our "little square".  I'm pretty sure it was the only room standing by itself.  We were pretty tired when we got there so we took what was supposed to be a two hour nap, but when we woke up five hours later, it wasn't raining anymore and it was beautiful.
Prosecco waiting for us in our room!

Our room even had its own little gate
We made reservations for dinner at La Casereccia in Forio.  Their Tripadvisor page is here.  We had to take a bus from our hotel and then walk almost a mile, but we got there eventually.  I was freaking out because our reservations were for eight and we were about fifteen minutes late, but there were maybe two families there.  However, thirty minutes after we got there it was a packed house.

We started with appetizers... like most meals do.  We got bruschetta (obviously) for the first of probably five times this weekend.  The tomatoes were huge and ripe and the portions were pretty large.  Then we got an Antipasti plate which is basically just mixed appetizers.  There were grilled eggplants and zucchini, both of which an employee was grilling all night.  Various pickled vegetables, a fried zucchini flower stuffed with cheese (that was AMAZING...sorry) and potato croquette and more.
I'm a bruschetta snob now

Antipasti before

Antipasti after
On TripAdvisor, this restaurant is advertised as vegetarian.  It's definitely not vegetarian but it has a plethora of vegetarian options.  Not too many vegan options, but enough to fill up on.  I got gnocchi and Peter got this really amazing pasta in a white sauce.  Every dish was obviously homemade and fresh.  The owner of the restaurant, who was this cute little old man, made his way around the restaurant asking everyone if their food was okay.  Overall I would recommend La Casereccia.  It was adorbs and the food was amazing.  It was worth the .8 mile up-hill walk.

Also, their decor was really cute.  It was rustic/typical Italian, but they had real tomatoes and garlic hanging on the walls and around the tables, I may or may not have made a vampire joke.
They also had this super trendy sign
 After dinner we walked into the town of Forio, which was also where we took the boat into and looked at some shops.  I spent the entire weekend looking for a sun hat.  I never got one because I didn't find one that really spoke to me.  I am very picky about hats.

Then we took the bus back up to our hotel and passed out.  We spoke to our concierge about renting a scooter (eeeeeeeeeeeeep) for the next two days.  My family has a scooter, but it scares the crap out of me-- the way that they weave in and out of traffic and come out of nowhere.  Peter knows how to drive one though.  I was still scared.

When we woke up the next day, we were going to go to the Mortella gardens, but it wasn't super high on my list of priorities and I'd rather just go to the beach.  I've been to Ischia several times before to go to the thermal spas.  I always go to Negombo.  It's a really nice place with thermal pools terraced up the side of the island and they have their own private beach.  I've heard really great things about Poseidon so I thought that this would be a good time to try it out.  They both have their pros and cons, the main con being price but I would say that visiting either Negombo or Poseidon is a must-do for anyone visiting Ischia.  Nothing really beats going back and forth between the extremely hot pool and the ice cold pool.  Apparently it's supposed to improve circulation.  

Oh and did I mention that we went to Poseidon on the scooter?  It was a little traumatic at first but I got used to it.  After we tried out all of the thermal pools (we had to wear swim caps) and finished up at the beach, we headed back to the hotel.  We decided to get dinner near Ischia porto so we could look at shops after.  My phone took us to the highest point of the island on the way.  What is technically a 3 mile journey ended up being 10 miles because of all of the twists in the road.  I didn't get any pictures because taking pictures on a scooter is not a good idea but I wish I did because the views were breathtaking.  Ischia is such a beautiful island.  The water is so blue and the skies were so clear.

We walked around for a bit and ended up eating at La Luna Rossa.  When we walked in, every employee said "Buona sera" to us and it was really sweet.  But after they took our orders everything went to hell.  The tables next to us, even the people that got there twenty minutes after we did got their food and we didn't even get bread! It was really frustrating.  Once I asked for bread I think the waiter realized that he dropped the ball and after that everything was great.  

My phone died so we had no GPS on the way back.  We were both sure that we knew the way but we didn't.  We eventually stopped and asked some Italians who gave us the best directions ever.  He just wrote down which signs to follow.  It was a completely different way from the way that we came but it was a lot easier and it was a huge relief getting back.  Side note: has anyone else noticed that all Italians have exactly the same handwriting?

Pretty sure this beach is Sant'Angelo

When we woke up the next day, we had to check out, so we had to do something that we could bring all of our stuff to.  I personally did not feel like I got enough sun so we decided to hit up the beach at Sant'Angelo.  We ended up using the beach that our hotel had a discounted rate at-- Michaels and for twelve euro we got two chairs, and umbrella and the use of a paddle boat.  I finally got my massage because I paid some Asian lady ten euro to massage me.  She poured so much oil on me that I'm pretty sure I'm still oily but it was a quality massage and I'm glad I didn't drop 50 euro at our hotel for one.  She even got my calves and my feet.  Ooooo boy.

Peter got viciously attacked by the paddle boat when we jumped in and I immediately got back into the boat because no matter how clear the water is.... something could be down there.  

this is my helmet
After a few hours in the sun, we had to head back to Naples (sad) so we rode the scooter down to the port in Forio.  Our hotel had arranged something with the scooter company where we were supposed to drop the scooter off at a bar called La Cambusa.  We had no other details.  We were like, "So we just walk into this bar and find someone to hand the keys for this scooter to?"  The answer was yes.  I literally just said, "Scooter?" and some guy said "Yes." and took the keys from me.  As far as I know, it was the right scooter man.

Getting on that boat back to Naples was kind of sad because I had so much fun in Ischia.  Just me and Peter and an island and absolutely no one and nothing to talk to or do or anything.  Living an hour away from an island paradise is something that I'm going to miss when I go back to the states.

Ciao ciao!
x - Katelyn

Monday, July 7, 2014

Budapest - part 3

Although I am thoroughly a dog person, I love cats.  Unfortunately, I am allergic to them in the worst way.  I also feel like they can sense that I am allergic to them and they go out of their way to make me miserable.  Cats are a little evil and I respect that.  I remember being kept awake at night by my friend's cat in middle school because he was stroking my face with his tail.  I didn't know what to do, so I just let him. 

Over the years my allergies have gotten progressively better, so I felt confident enough to visit the Cat Cafe in Budapest.  You can visit their website, HERE.  It's all in Hungarian by the way. It's right across the street from St. Stephen's Basilica.  You can sit with a cat on your lap and drink a cat-puccino.  I didn't get one but I heard that they were great. 
 They were all very sleepy. 

This one was my favorite.  He/she was HUGE.
Like my father, you might be asking yourself whether a cafe full of cats is sanitary.  They were really on the ball with keeping the cats away from the food.  There was a clear plastic section completely sealed off where the food was kept and prepared.  It's a great place for any cat lover to visit. 
There was even a kitten!
After the cat cafe, Peter, Jackie, Kevin and I strolled around and decided to look for a piercing place because we're super cool rebels.  Actually I just have a dermal where the top fell off and my skin grew over it so I wanted to get that taken care of, Jackie just wanted something pierced and Kevin wanted to get his ear pierced.  We ended up at 7th Ink near the Opera metro stop.  They don't have an official website but if you google search them everything will come up.  It was clean and the guy who did the piercings did an amazing job on my dermal. 

If you've ever seen my dermal, the little top that screws on had fallen off and my skin had grown over it, so it was essentially inside my skin.  He had to open me up, take out the implant and then put a new one in by making the smallest hole possible.  I had prepared myself for extreme pain and I was breathing heavily and sweating but by the time it was over, I had experienced little to none discomfort.  I don't know the guy's name, but he had giant spikes under his lips, so if you go, ask for that guy!
Sorry about the awkward close up but the one on the right is new!
Jackie ended up getting her nose pierced.  I'd never seen anyone get pierced so that was an experience.  It looked painful!  Kevin's earring went well too and then Peter decided to get his done too! We are all so cool. 

I think Peter was secretly scared
After that we spent the evening it the Szechenyi thermal baths!  I've been to the thermal baths in Ischia a few times so I kind of knew what to expect but it was amazing! The buildings that they are housed in are beautiful but there are also outside pools.  You can get more info about the baths from their website HERE.

I loved going between the hot and cold baths.  I really shouldn't have been in the water with my new piercing but I risked it and I haven't seen any adverse effects. 
I didn't get any pics during the actual baths because I didn't want to have my phone out, but I got all of these afterwards.  The inside baths close at 7 and the outside baths close at nine.  Afterwards my aches and pains from walking around were reduced, which I'm pretty sure is the whole point.   

There were a bunch of old men in Speedos playing chess in the water.  It was adorbs.  It was a really great experience and I'm very thankful that the Therriault/Swisshelm family took me there!!

ciao ciao - Katelyn

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Budapest - part 2

On Wednesday I did something I never thought I'd do... I drove a Segway. It's really easy to make fun of people on Segways saying that they look dorky or lame. "Why don't you just walk or ride a bike?" You say. Well let me tell you why... Because Segways are awesome. Segways are the two wheeled magical unicorn transportation of the future. A Segway is checking its balance 100 times a minute. A Segway zooms by pedestrians on the sidewalk. A Segway effortlessly goes uphill while the losers walking and riding bikes are huffing and puffing. Ever since riding on a Segway I think to myself or say out loud at least once an hour, "Man, I wish I had a Segway." In short, Segways are far superior to any other mode of transportation. Moving on.

I took a bunch of pictures. Excuse the quality because, remember... They were taken from a Segway.

 Not only are Segways awesome, but I also look really great riding them.
So does Peter, obviously.  

These pics were taken before and during my trip over the bridge to the other side.  The weather was perfect, I got a bit of a sunburn but it wasn't too bad.  Zooming by people on a Segway is the ultimate level of satisfaction.

Our tour guide said a few interesting things about Budapest.  The thing that stands out the most in my mind was how everything is similar to Disneyland, how it looks old but it's actually just pretending to look old.  Things were destroyed in wars and floods and they rebuilt everything within the last 100 years.  The Gothic-looking church pictured above was built for the World Fair like the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris. After he said that, every time I looked at a building I had to question its authenticity.  Regardless, Budapest is a beautiful city.  It is clean, the Hungarians are kind and helpful and all around it is just an amazing place.

Our Segway guide took us off-roading through Margaret Island where we were going through grass and over rocks and stuff.  He said he even takes it up to the mountains! Segways can handle all terrain. Segways are all terrain vehicles.
Wow Kevin is so cool

The largest parliament building in continental Europe
One thing about Hungary that just perplexes me is the language.  When I see it written, I would think that it sounds something like Turkish, but it has a sound all its own.  I have tremendous respect for anyone that speaks both English and Hungarian.  Or Hungarian and any other language for that matter.  I don't even want to think about verb conjugation in Hungarian.  Ooooooo boy. 
I passed a vegan place while on a beer bike (a tale for the next post) called Nice Rice and it wasn't featured on Happy Cow, which I thought interesting, so I'm going to look into that.  I got a veggie burger at a bistro in Budapest thinking that it was going to be grains and vegetables... nope.  What I was served was basically a burger made out of cheese and I'm pretty sure egg.  I just think it's kind of cruelly funny.  I still ate it though because it was delicious.  I put onion rings, this tomato dip that it was served with and some sun dried tomatoes on top of the burger along with a lot of ketchup.  Hungarians do not share the love of ketchup with Americans.  You always have to ask for ketchup and when you do, you get a tiny amount.  I'm not complaining though because I was able to fully appreciate the flavor of my food without the ketchup, but it really just comes down to the fact that I love ketchup.  Sorry that I'm not sorry. 

I have two more blog posts coming about Budapest and Eger.  We just did SO MUCH that I wouldn't be able to fit it all in one post! So there's more to come!

ciao ciao - Katelyn

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