Showing posts with label Rick Steves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rick Steves. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Found! The best pizza in Napoli. . .

Napoli, (aka Naples on this side of ‘The Pond’) is the birthplace of pizza.

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For that reason, we told ourselves prior to last fall’s cruise, that we would eat pizza there during our few hours in this ‘love-it or hate-it’ Italian town on Italy’s western coast.  (The photo above of Mt. Vesuvius was taken during our Celebrity Silhouette’s early morning approach to the harbor.)

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We’d braved the morning’s rain and set out, umbrellas unfurled, to explore the dizzying, congested streets, and by noon had worked up a pizza-sized appetite. We were far off the main road on one of our direction-less wanders off-the-beaten-tourist-path, when we happened upon this place:

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It was one of a trillion or so similar Pizzaria’s that line the sidewalks of this ages-old city.  What made this place stand out for us, was the crush of customers inside. Tiny tables within elbow’s reach of each other were filled. We were tucked into one of the last remaining in a snug corner of Ristorante e Pizzeria da Attilio* .

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While most dishes were prepared in an industrial looking kitchen in the back, the pizzas were prepared by a culinary artist (as I prefer to think of him) just  inside the front door.

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And since every artist needs an admirer or two, I headed to his gallery to watch him prepare our pizza.

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Dough was stretched, toppings in place and he turned the creation over to his assistant whose job it was to cook our pizza in his incredibly hot oven. And within minutes. . .

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. . . Mama Mia!  Our pizza was served; the best pizza we have ever eaten, perhaps the ‘best in Napoli’! Or was it?

 That afternoon, back at the ship and resting up from that pizza, we headed to the pool and hot tub.

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That’s where we struck up a conversation with a couple who told us they had just eaten ‘the best pizza in Napoli’ for lunch and described a place no where near where we had eaten.  They said they knew they had eaten ‘the best pizza in Napoli” because that is what travel guru Rick Steves had said of the pizzeria located on one of his guidebook’s ‘on-the-beaten-tourist-path walks’. . .

Hmmm. . .I wonder who did eat 'the best' pizza in Napoli that day?

Are you one who ‘goes by the guidebook’?  If so, what guidebooks do you use? Or do you allow yourself the opportunity to make discoveries on your own?

SilhouettePt12012 039That’s it for this week’s Travel Photo Thursday – head over to Budget Travelers Sandbox for more photos today and stop by here this weekend when we will have more tales and tips for you.

*If you get to Napoli, try Da Attilio Pizzeria, Via Pignasecca, 17,  - we think you’ll like it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Holiday Homework, Road Reads, and other Novel stuff

Nothing like a good book to get you in the mood for travel.

We turned to our local (just up the road 30 miles or so) travel guru Rick Steves’ for the homework part of our trip to Spain  Over the years we've come to appreciate his practical tips for getting around and saving money, not to mention hand-drawn, easy-to-understand maps. We've been reading his large book on Spain, but will only be taking one of his Snapshot Series books --  Madrid and Toledo -- with us. This series provides a compact, light-weight book specific to certain cities.

(I know you are thinking, why don't they use Kindle, or Nook or some phone with apps? Well, we pack light and between our cell phone, camera and Netbook, we have all the wires, chargers and batteries we want to carry - so give us a good ol' paperback in which we can jot notes and flag pages with the flick of a wrist and we are quite happy.)

Pre-trip reading:
I’ve learned much about the Spanish Civil War and the military coup of Francisco Franco in 1936, by re-reading the novel, The Return by English author Victoria Hislop. Caught up in the story she tells of Concha and Pablo Ramirez and their children, I’ve also learned much about flamenco dancing and its importance in the Spanish culture. Even if you don't travel to Spain, this would be a great summer read for beach or armchair.

A real life story by Frances Mayes, A Year In  the World, The Journey of a Passionate Traveler has almost had me tasting the tapas she ate and certainly smelling the orange blossoms as she has explored towns and cities in Spain and Portugal.  In her usual style she has also sparked my interest in not only the poetry of Spanish son, Federico Garcia Lorca, but in his life as well.  She’s also prompted me to research the Spanish concept of duende, in both flamenco dance and life itself. But, more on that later.

On the road reads. . .okay, so on the seas, reads:
HAL 2009 cruise photos 028I'll be seeing views similar to this photo -- taken on our repositioning cruise two years ago -- when I open Mark Twain’s Innocence Abroad the perfect re-read for the cruise. Then I want to find a copy of Bill Bryson’s Icons of England. . .you can never have too much to read.

We’ve got a lot of sea days reading time though and I am looking for your suggestions.  Any recommendations? Books set in Spain, England or France? Cruise stories? (I read Christopher Columbus's diaries on our last cruise and it was fascinating)

Note: Although I’ve added these books to the Amazon carousel on the lower right hand corner of the blog. I've also added a link in this post for those who get this by email and may want to look more closely at a book: simply click that link - it will take you to that book's page on Amazon. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Are we travel Gonzos or Geezers?

Gonzos or Geezers
The question has been nagging since a recent e-chat with a self-described '20-something' vagabond/blogger who shares our passion for travel and also writes a (very popular) blog, Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.  His blogging goals are much like mine: inspire others to travel, to stretch their comfort zones, and of course, offer tips for doing it as cheaply as possible. I call him the "Rick Steves of the 21st Century".

The circumstances of Matt and I e-chatting are irrelevant. But the questions he asked have left me pondering a bigger question: are we Gonzo (gutsy, no-fear,  long-term explorers) or Geezer (somewhat cautious old folks on the move) travelers. . .and I've decided we are poster children for a new genre:  Gonzo Geezers!

Matt had asked me:
"How often do you travel? All the time?"
"How long are your trips?"
"Would you consider yourself 'backpackers?"
"Where do you travel to?"
"Are you retired?"

I suspect my answers left the decades-younger-than-me traveler rolling his eyes and pronouncing us geezers.

But I am comforted the memory of a chat last fall with a fellow traveler (of my age) who asked of our after-cruise-plans. I replied, "We've got two weeks and plan to explore Greece but we don't know where we will go.  We've might just catch the first ferry to leave after we get off the ship and go where it takes us."

"Oh my!," she exclaimed, "You are so brave!  We've gotten too old to do that. . . but I am not sure we would have done that even when we could have."

A five-week trip began with city bus
to SeaTac - we took carry-ons
j.smith photo, (c) 2010 
And as for that backpack: We come across many our age who are traveling just as much - if not more than us - and frankly, we don't see many of them lugging those body-sized packs. . .well, maybe small carry-on size, if for no other reason than to carry those meds. Nuts, the pills alone required for even  healthy middle age, could fill a small backpack. Ever tried to pack one of those fish oil tablet bottles? It's the size of a Coho salmon. And sadly. . .wearing a suit or cocktail dress on cruise ship formal nights that you've just pulled out of the REI all-weather pack, does cause heads to turn.
25-euros a night -
Southern Coast of Crete
j.smith photo (c) 2010

We hike and log many, many miles  on our trips. What we don't want to hike is a hallway in the middle of the night to get to a bathroom. We seek cheap accommodations, but our standards are high. The room must be clean, the bed free of bedbugs and  EN SUITE bathroom is a must.  (Someday those Gonzo 20-somethings will understand that magic word, en suite.)

Re-tired? No, we've re-treaded into a new life style.

So how about you?
Have you re-tired or re-treaded into new adventures?
Are you a Gonzo Geezer?
If you're an armchair traveler, where would you go if you could?
They are questions worth pondering.

(And Matt, tuck a copy of this post away. Read it again when you are sucking air to blow out the candles on your 50th birthday.  My answers will make more sense to you then.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vegas: ACE and Deuce - A Lucky Pair

I've heard from a couple of you, that you will be heading to Vegas in the next few weeks, so before setting out for Arizona, I need to tell you about doing this town "Rick Steves' style". Steves, a Pacific Northwest travel guru, advises Europe-bound travelers  to use the public bus. 

And that's what we did in Vegas. The  bus system runs two buses along The Strip, appropriately named for this gambling haven, The ACE and The Deuce.   ACE is a sleek new addition to the transportation system, having come on line only a year or so ago.  The Deuce, a double-decked vehicle, has long been a popular way for visitors to get from The Strip to Fremont Street (both are known for casinos, entertainment and dining). 

In addition to running 24/7 and having bus stops every quarter mile or so, they also run to snazzy looking transit centers where you can connect to any of the 51 routes in the town - meaning you don't need to stay in just the casino or shopping areas; you can head out and explore the neighborhoods as well.

And they offer tourists like us, multi hour and multi day passes.We purchased the $7 for 24-hour pass (it is only $3.50 for those 60 and older with proof of age) and then we set off to the far reaches of The Strip. 

We explored Town Square, a shopping center on the southern end of the Strip and could have shopped at the two huge outlet store centers that anchor either end of the route; Premium Outlet Stores to the north or Outlet Stores to the south. We  looped around the city's Convention Center and through its new Arts District as this express bus whizzed us to the Fremont Street Experience.

The bus system here is a definite win for travelers.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

See Seattle on the Cheap - Ride Metro

Rick Steves, the 'Europe-on-the-cheap' travel guru, wrote so convincingly in his Paris guidebook that we were persuaded several years ago to tour the City of Light by public bus. His guidebook promise of cheap and simple rang true. I've been sold on sightseeing by public transport ever since.

Using that same cheap and easy approach I did an article a while back for the Seattle Times that featured local tourist destinations that can easily -- and more importantly, cheaply -- be reached by using our King County Metro bus system.

The underground bus stations in Seattle are so attractive that each is worth a stop just to see the artwork that has been built into the station design. These bright, well-lit, spacious stations are nothing like the dark, narrow tunnels that we've sometimes found ourselves in that lead us to the depths under London or Paris. Click the "Bus Tunnel" link for details of the artwork.

The Westlake Center station in the heart of Seattle is less than six blocks of Pike Place Public Market. Pioneer Square is the stop nearest one of the city's popular tourist destinations - where the city got its start and the International District stop puts a rider at the entry gate to what was once called our Chinatown.

To read about my destinations and tips for using the bus. . .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Paris Postscript: Rue Cler

We were introduced to Paris a few years ago while staying in the 7th Arrondissement's (district's ) Rue Cler because Rick Steves', the Edmonds-based travel guru, recommended it in his guidebook. Rick didn't steer us wrong. Settled in to one of the hotel's he recommended, we were charmed by the area's street markets selling everything from fruit to flowers on the pedestrian-friendly two-block stretch of street. Cafes, bars and bakeries line the street, providing a backdrop to street merchants. It snowed often during our week-long stay and temperatures seldom got above freezing that March, but the merchants bundled up and sold their wares.

This trip we stayed in the 17th Arrondissement, a new favorite part of town; our hotel a block from the Arc d' Triomphe, but we couldn't resist a Sunday morning stroll through the Rue Cler. Paris street markets are open until 1:30 on Sunday then close until Tuesday morning, so the place was packed with shoppers. And despite the joke that it has become Rick Steves' Rue Cler, packed with tourists, we visitors were few and far between.

In addition to the vendors the organ grinder kept the atmosphere lively much to the delight of children drawn to his music. Just a bit further down the block this kid stole the show.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Easy Jet ~ Easy Coffee

Several of you expressed some concern over our flying Easy Jet to Crete. . .was it safe? What kind of aircraft, had we flown it before? Answers: yes, we have flown it before and would do it again in an instant. Speaking of instant, that is my lead in to Starbucks. . .

Easy Jet with its cheapy flights to detinations throughout Europe was proudly announcing Starbucks was being served on board. It was: in instant packets. You could choose medium bodied and receive a tube of Columbian instant or strong and get the Italian instant and a cup of hot water. The cost 3E per cup. Starbucks hot chocolate - another powdered packet was 3E per cup and Tazo tea 2.50E.

We tried to buy instant packets at the Starbuck's in Chania, but the clerk said it hadn't yet arrived. . .he had only been shown packets by folks stopping by hoping to replenish their stock as we had been (we bought ours at Houghton in Kirkland).

As for Easy Jet, our aircraft was an Airbus - modern and comfortable.

On a final Easy Jet note, those of you who followed the packing know that we opted for the Rick Steves' travel plan: take carryon liquids, lighten the load, bring the bag with you no need to check it. . .it worked well on British Air but Easy Jet has a one bag limit carry-on and that bag could be a purse. . .so 16 pounds (about $25) each carryon bag later, our suitcases were checked. . .and I carried on the tiny liquids in a plastic bag in my purse; Joel carried the Netbook. The good news though is I get to buy all sorts of olive oil beauty items from hair masques to foot creams and for a fraction of the price I would pay back home!


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