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Honeymoon 018 \ Milano


Well over a year after our honeymoon, I’m finally wrapping this series up. I didn’t set out with the intention of taking so long to blog about our adventure, but that’s how it wound up going down. At this point, I’m mostly blogging this as a souvenir for myself. Some people scrapbook. I like to journal so these posts have served as an extension of that. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride – it’s been fun reminiscing with you.

On to our final day in Europe: Milan. Let me preface this by saying that I had absolutely no expectations for this stop. I didn’t think I wouldn’t enjoy Milan, but I also didn’t put a lot of thought into it when we booked – it was a city with an airport, the final destination before heading back to reality.

If it hadn’t been for our incredible host, I doubt we’d have had half the experience we did. Marina was amazing & I highly recommend you stay with her if you’re ever in Milan. I certainly know I will. As soon as we arrived, she made us feel incredibly welcome in her great flat, introducing us to Milan using an extra large map on the back of the door & giving us the most wonderful suggestions for how to spend our evening. The flat itself had drinks, coffee, & breakfast as well. Marina had even taken the time to assemble a guide to Milan, complete with hand-drawn maps. Honestly, she went above & beyond in every way. I could have stayed so much longer in her homey flat.


My night photography doesn’t quite do it justice – it was such a bright & airy space during the day.


We took her suggestion to wander the pedestrian street, Corso Como, towards Porta Garibaldi, which features a beautiful arch. She’d also recommended a little restaurant called Sciatt à Porter. Specializing in Italian street food, we grabbed a cone of their namesake specialty, Sciatt. If these deep fried cheese balls were any indication of the rest of their menu, we should have ordered a few more things!


One of the cool buildings near our flat


Corso Como


Porta Garibaldi



Clearly excited for fried cheese (I mean, I travelled to Prague for fried cheese in 2009.)


Fried cheese to go. Genius!


Sciatt! This makes me hungry. For cheese.

Instead, we continued over to Eataly – the giant upscale italian supermarket & eatery. We picked up some food to bring home & another snack from the road. N’s snack selection makes his cured meat obsession quite apparent – it’s not the easiest on-the-go snack, but it sure is delicious! Housed in an old theatre, Eataly even hosts performances sometimes. We happened to catch one while we were there. It definitely makes for an interesting shopping & dining experience.


Pasta at Eataly



Whoa back flexibility


Meat snack!


From there, we continued down the pedestrian street to the castle – Castello Sforzesco. They were planning this as the entrance for this year’s Expo & there were celebrations & preparation happening all over the city. The castle itself is huge & mostly brick, something you don’t often see.





I love a yellow tram







Our next stop was the beautiful Duomo. The square & church are just incredible. We arrived at dusk, snapped a few photos, & decided it had been awhile since our last drink. We found a spot near the Duomo, but if we are even in Milan again, I’d love to go to area around Porta Genova. Marina told us it has a great atmosphere in the evening & considering how much we loved the rest of her suggestions, I think it would be right up our alley.




Duomo Selfie!


Expensive wine in a very touristy area

We had chosen a restaurant near Marina’s flat for dinner. When we arrived, it was packed & we were a little worried we may not get in. Luckily, they took pity on us (it seemed to be mostly locals) & found us a table within 15 minutes. Osteria dei Vecchi Sapori was spectacular. We ordered Osso bucco, a specialty of Milan. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender & the flavours were incredible. I’d recommend it to anyone!


The only (terrible) photo I have of the UNREAL osso bucco. 🙁

We capped off the evening relaxing in our wonderful flat with a couple of beers. I hope to find myself back in Milan someday – we only barely scratched the surface. In fact, I hope to find myself in all our honeymoon spots again someday. Blogging each of them over the past year has further intensified my wanderlust. We’ve even begun talking about a trip to Northern Europe in 2017 (& I’ve already started drafting up some ideas!).


Goodbye, Milano!

Honeymoon 017 \ Cinque Terre Due


Our second day in Cinque Terre started much the same as the first – with a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, & cappuccinos. We then made our way down the 300 or so stairs to the train station to buy tickets to Milan for the following day as well as a Cinque Terre Card for the day. We’d decided to hike the blue trail to Vernazza & then take a boat to Monterrosso, both of which would require the card.

The hike to Vernazza was as stunning as the two we’d done the day before, although a little busier. We saw twice the number of people we’d seen not the red trails – likely because they are part of the suggested routes. The most striking thing for me was the range of ages & abilities. I was happy to see such a diverse group attempting the hike. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were too. & I mean, what’s not to love? Every time we looked back at Corniglia, I thought I had spotted my favourite view of the little village. Inevitably, we’d round another corner only to discover another that blew me away.


Trailhead to Vernazza











Trail markers along the way




Nearing Vernazza, we were rewarded with stunning views of the little village. We seemed to round a corner & suddenly find the village laid out in below. Looking down on Vernazza from the trail was one of my favourite vistas of the whole trip.

Hungry for our hike, we were pretty excited for the pizza recommendation I’d stumbled upon. I didn’t have a name, but had read we couldn’t miss it. As you descend towards the port, you’ll more or less stumble right into it. If that doesn’t tip you off, the line certainly should! It’s popular little spot.



Excited to see Vernazza



Arriving in Vernazza


We snagged a table right before the rush & ordered two pizzas – pesto & sausage, predictably- & two beers. The pizza had a focaccia-like crust that was different from any other pizza we’d ordered in Italy. No complaints here – you probably could have put pesto on a cracker & I’d have been happy though, honestly.


Pizza line-up


Pint of Peroni


Can you blame me for my pesto obsession?


All of N’s loves in one photo?


I’m not sure if it was the time of day or the town itself, but we found it considerably busier than any of the others we visited. After lunch, we wandered around the port before grabbing a large beer to share & setting up on some towels by the water. It doesn’t get much better than soaking up the sun, playing in the ocean, & sharing a cold beer on a hot day. Once we’d had our fill, we bought a couple tickets for the boat ride to the final land.


Exploring town


Tunnel to the beach





Another gorgeous harbour




Beers & Sun




Waiting for the boat!

We’d opted for the boat to save ourselves some time. We’d read that Vernazza to Monterosso was the hardest of the four hikes, & although I’m sure we could have managed, we didn’t want to feel rushed catching the train back to Corniglia. I love being out the ocean so the boat wasn’t a hard sell.

Monterosso had more of a beach feel than any of the other towns. We wandered around town, stopping in on little shops along the way to check out local products & art. There was so much wonderful art, & the photography was especially impressive. We picked up a print to bring home & headed over to a beachside restaurant for a drink with a view.



Goodbye Vernazza


Monterosso from the boat


The street(s) of Monterosso



Beach bar hangs

We finished our drinks & hopped on the train back to Corniglia for appies & wine at the cutest enoteca. The little garden patio overlooking the bay was the ideal setting for our final sunset. Their cheeky signs (announcing their lack of wifi to encourage conversation), delicious wine & appies, & wonderful service were the perfect way to watch the day wind down.




Cheeky explanation for their lack of Wi-Fi




Can I eat this now?



Getting our daily fill of sardines. They are so much more delicious when they’re fresh!


Corniglia from our rooftop. If you look closely you can spot the little enoteca.


Sunset from our rooftop

After sunset, we climbed a little further up the hill for dinner. I couldn’t resist a final meal including that incredible pesto. Pesto twice in one day? Works for me! Heading into the village centre for a couple of beers afterwards, we discovered a cute little spot. All of the bars in Corniglia are on the smaller side, giving them an especially intimate feel. Each has it’s own special features, leaving me feeling like I could have easily spent a few more days exploring (& imbibing). I certainly didn’t want to go to bed, knowing we’d be leaving in the morning.


On the roof before dinner


One last sunset




& more local wine

We reluctantly packed up our airbnb rental in the morning & headed over to another little garden restaurant for a leisurely breakfast – trying to soak up the last of Cinque Terre before our train. The surprising highlight of breakfast turned out to be a freshly squeezed orange-lemon juice, or the most incredible juice in the world. I wish I’d learned about it sooner! I’d have ordered it daily.


Our breakfast beverage spread.


Cappuccinos in the garden. Why did I ever leave?


It doesn’t look like much, but this juice was everything, guys.


Final goodbyes

As we walked down the winding road to the train station, rolling suitcases in tow, we watched the men working in the vineyards. It must have been harvest. Most were gathering grapes into red bins & putting them in the back of their trucks. One man carried his down in a bucket on his back & put it in the back of his car. They politely said hello as we passed – I’m sure we looked completely ridiculous & out of place to them, trekking down the hill with all our luggage.  Every interaction during our stay in Cinque Terre had been warm & friendly, so it seemed fitting that it should end in the same way.




I want to remember every detail of Cinque Terre. I loved every minute we spent exploring those breathtaking five lands & if I could only suggest one place to visit in Italy, this would be it.

Honeymoon 016 \ Cinque Terre Uno


When I look back on our honeymoon, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favourite destination. Our trip was filled with incredible sights & wonderful memories. If I did make some kind of list though, Cinque Terre world certainly figure towards the top. This region combines everything I love most about travel : phenomenal food, breathtaking views, welcoming locals, & an array of activities to keep us from getting bored.

Cinque Terre literally means five lands. It consists of five villages along the rugged Italian coastline, in the region of Liguria: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, & Riomaggiore. I did a lot of research on the area before choosing the quietest (& perhaps least accessible) of the five towns, Corniglia, as our homebase. The laid-back, slower pace & central location appealed to me, but it’s not for the faint of heart. In order to reach the town’s centre, you’ll have to climb over 300 steps. Unlike the other four towns, Corniglia is also not accessible by boat. We found these traits added to the charm of the little village & allowed for much quieter evenings.


Training across Italy

After a day of train travel across Italy, we arrived in our small, seaside village quite late. The Italian train system was exactly how I remembered from my limited experience – usually late & a little bit quirky. Getting off the train in a new place after dark that night, I wasn’t so sure of our decision. Our late arrival meant the shuttle up the hill was no longer running. We were forced to walk up, enormous rolling suitcases in tow (I almost always travel with a backpack, but we decided to try to be a bit classier since we were cruising. I missed my backpack once we were off the ship). We decided to take the dark, winding road, crossing our fingers that it was the right direction. Luckily, we bumped into another couple who assured us we were on the right track.

The main square was pretty quiet when we finally reached it. A few diners lingered over their meals, tourists enjoyed a stroll for ice cream, & locals gathered for a chat. I love how squares are the heartbeat of most European towns & cities.

The grocer on the corner was still open, so we took the opportunity to ask for directions to our rental. Instead of pointing us to the building, he picked up the phone & called Lidia, the lady we were renting from. That’s how small Corniglia is. She pulled up a few minutes later & walked us over to our apartment, pointing out some of the things we’d need to know in the coming days. She only gave us a quick overview before sending us off to dinner before the restaurants closed for the night.

We chose a place on the main square & ordered some wine, trenette al pesto, & grilled fish. It was all delicious, especially after such a long day of travel. I really couldn’t get enough of that pesto. Afterwards, we bought a bottle of wine & had a couple glasses on our rooftop terrace, overlooking the little village & coastline.


I still dream about this pesto


our cute, little room


view of the square from our terrace

After a few additional tips from Lidia in the morning, we grabbed a nice, big breakfast & set out for the day. The two easiest hikes were unfortunately closed due to landslides in the area. Instead, we planned to do the more difficult (but free) ones. We started with the trail to Manarola, along the red line. Climbing further & further up the steep path, the view quickly became impressive. Once we’d almost reached the peak, we split off onto another trail to start our traverse. This part of the path was probably my favourite; I gushed over the many olive trees, lemon trees, & terraced vineyards. It was suddenly clear where the incredible, fresh flavours of everything we ate came from (their backyard, literally). We were surrounded by vines (some of the steepest vineyards I’ve ever seen) everywhere we looked. It was truly an incredible sight.






Corniglia from the trail




Beautiful, beautiful Corniglia




Terraced vines



Narrow path & vines on either side

Our descent into Manarola included over 1000 stairs & panoramic views of the village. I probably exclaimed, “this is so beautiful!” over 200 times. We followed our stomachs to a little restaurant in the heart of the village, grabbing a spot on their terrace. I decided to go for the grilled octopus & was not disappointed. It was the most tender octopus I’ve ever tasted. Like most of the food in Italy, simple & delicious, I never knew it could taste thate amazing. N went with the lobster spaghetti, which he thoroughly enjoyed (can you really go wrong with lobster?).






Manarola from the trail




Working our way down




I only remembered a photo halfway through so this doesn’t look like much, but trust me: the bomb.


Manarola features an incredible harbour, full of people sunbathing, swimming, & cliff jumping. We decided to join them & each jumped off about a ten foot cliff. It was scary at first, but once we got over the fear, it was so much fun. The water was the perfect temperature & I could have easily swam for a couple hours. We wanted to see Riomaggiore too though so we had to get back on the trail.




I loved watching them lower boats into the water







The town isn’t really that far, but with Via dell’ Amore close, it took about an hour to do the harder hike. Instead of a 25 minute walk on a paved pathway, we headed straight up the mountain (& I mean STRAIGHT up). It was pretty much 25 min up, a little break at the top, then 25 min back down. Once we got into the village, we grabbed a cone of mixed fried fish including calamari, white fish, crayfish, & whole anchovies. I wasn’t sure how I’d find the whole fish, but they wound up being my favourite part. Everything was delicious & tender, but those little anchovies stole the show. We bought a large beer from a grocery store & headed down to the rocks, enjoying the sun, sea, & a cold drink. We also picked up some pesto & a nice bottle of local wine before taking the train back to Corniglia.


I love these colourful little villages




Seafood cone – just do it.


Bringing his boat up for storage


Wine makes waiting for trains go much quicker


Sadly closed (still, a year later)

We caught the end of the sunset on the panoramic terrace in Corniglia. There’s a little bar that sets up tables & chairs there. We ordered a few appies – some tartines with pesto & anchovies, & cheese with honey – grabbed a couple glasses of wine, & watched the sunset. It was delicious.




Simple & delicious

Quickly changing for dinner, we decided to try a cute little spot in the centre. When we’d walked past the previous night, it was packed, so we figured it was a good bet. It turned out Osteria a Cantina de Mananan was a winner. Although, we were the last diners, our server didn’t rush us &, instead, made us feel welcome in every way.

We started our meal with some charcuterie, cheese, olives, & this surprisingly delicious quiche. I like quiche, but I never think that highly of it. This version was a total game changer. For our main course, we shared a huge bowl of spaghetti with shellfish. It had a slight spice & buttery sauce, with an incredible amount of fresh seafood. It was one of my favourite meals in Italy. I can’t recommend this spot enough. (After reading reviews, we lucked out in getting a table without a reservation. Look into booking ahead.)



We ended the day with another bottle of wine on our terrace. It was quickly becoming our favourite way to finish off the day.(How can you go wrong?)

I’ve been thinking about Cinque Terre since we left. I knew I loved France & that the cruise would be a great experience, but I wasn’t expecting to fall head over heels for Italy in the way that I did. I’ll recap our second, equally wonderful, day in Cinque Terre next time.


Honeymoon 015 \ Venice


Despite a very late night after Dubrovnik, we managed to get ourselves out of bed early enough on our final cruise day to watch the approach into Venice. It is definitely worth finding a spot on a forward deck for, if you find yourself onboard someday. The port requires all ships use tug boats & at some points it looked like we were going to run them over.




We met up with some family friends who had boarded early, studied the map for our walk into the city, & got directions to meet up for dinner later one before heading out to explore Venice. We wandered from the terminal to the Ponte Academia, where we shared a pizza & a drink. From there, we continued to San Marco, getting lost in the maze of bridges & dead ends a few times. The city is beautiful though & getting lost seems to be a right of passage there.


Making our way into Venice





Gondola Builder


Ponte Academia


drinks by the bridge


venice life


a man & his flying lion

Piazza San Marco is impressive. The people feeding pigeons grossed me out a bit, but to each his own, I suppose. I’m happy to take photos of it, but I’ll refrain from actually letting them land on me. We eventually made our way to the Rialto Bridge & grabbed another drink (after getting lost a few more times). I loved watching the gondolas & wandering the narrow streets. The boats speed along as if they could brake if need be. It’s incredible to watch.


Feeding the birds in the square




So narrow!



Busy Venice




View from the Rialto Bridge



At 8, we found our way to the very hidden restaurant to meet everyone. It only took us two stops to ask for directions & a couple wrong turns.

Dinner was exactly what you’d expect from an Italian meal – incredible hospitality, lots of laughter, simple, delicious food, & all the wine you could ask for. To start things off, the owner put together an amazing set of seafood platter for our table. We all shared clams, calamari, shrimp, & a few unknowns. It was all delicious! For our main course, N & I both chose risotto. By this point, I was quite full though & barely made a dent, which was a shame because it was perfectly creamy & full of seafood. I’m so glad we were able to join everyone in Venice – it was such a wonderful evening & a great way to cap off our cruise.


One of the many seafood platters




interior of one of the gorgeous hotels


Last shot of our home for the week, Ventura.

We took a boat back to the ship for our last night on the ship. It was a pretty quiet one since we had to be packed & out of our room pretty early the next day.

Honeymoon 014 \ Dubrovnik


We woke up to a bit of a gloomy morning in Dubrovnik. I had visited this lovely city a few years before with a girlfriend so I was excited to show N some of my favourite parts. We packed for every type of weather & hopped on the transfer to the old town. By the time we arrived, the sun was out & the day looked promising.

A little disappointed with the weather.

A little disappointed with the weather.

The old city was packed with people. During the week I was there in 2010, I don’t remember it ever being that busy. We must have avoided the area around Pile gate as soon as the ships came in though, since it’s notorious for being that way when the ships come in.

Happy with the weather in town

Happy with the weather in town

Busy Old Town

Busy Old Town

We immediately bought tickets for the fortified city wall and headed up. We only had about four hours in the city so we decided to hit it right away. We weren’t the only ones so things moved pretty slowly. At halfway, we decided to head into the city as the day had gotten quite hot.

We decided to leave my good camera on the ship in Dubrovnik. I already have photos of the city from 2010 so we opted to travel a little lighter & use our phones & my point & shoot.



Blue waters and colourful rooftops

Blue waters and colourful rooftops


I love the little glimpses of everyday life you catch from the wall.

I love the little glimpses of everyday life you catch from the wall.






In much need of a drink, we headed over to Café Buza. This little ramshackle bar is much talked about on the internet, mostly by people who love it. The sunsets are supposed to be amazing (although, I actually never experienced one since we had a fantastic view from our villa in 2010) & it certainly has its fair share of charm. A quick google search should point you in the right direction. If you get lost, follow the other tourists until you get to a hole in the wall (buza means hole, apparently) & you’re there.

I go to Cafe Buza for the cliff jumping, & that’s what I’d personally recommend. Don’t expect to find locals here. Or cheap beer. This place is definitely for tourists. I still think it’s fun, but if that’s not your jam, there are plenty of great places in the area that should fit the bill.

We spent our afternoon soaking up vitamin D, drinking beers, & jumping into the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. It doesn’t get much better than that!






Buza Bar!


Working on my tan lines



Cliff Jumpers




Once we’d had our fill of cliff jumping, we headed back inside the walls for some lunch. We grabbed a spot on a patio in a square for some seafood & quid ink risotto. Delicious! We rounded out our day wandering the narrow streets & harbour, grabbing some ice cream along the way.



Square & Market




If you can manage to stand on this, you’re apparently trustworthy.


It’s surprisingly difficult.





The afternoon seemed to fly by & before long, it was time to head back to the ship. We grabbed a couple beers and found on spot on deck 17 for the great British Sailaway. It looked like a storm was brewing on the horizon, but we managed to skirt the storm. We sang, danced, & pretended we were British, as we sailed along the beautiful Croatian coastline. The Adriatic is just stunning. Croatia’s islands are definitely on my list of places I would like to visit some day.


Preparing to say goodbye to beautiful Croatia.



I could stay a while longer…


Flags for sailaway!


Getting ready to bust out some dance moves.


I think you can guess the song based on this dance….


Yay Britain!



Storm in the distance


Gorgeous Islands





We continued the party that night at Havana nightclub, dancing until they turned the lights on & kicked us out.

Honeymoon 13 \ Sea Day Two


On our second Sea Day, we woke up to another gorgeous day. We had a tour of the bridge scheduled in the morning, but we grabbed a couple reasonably located chairs beforehand. I swear people must get up at the crack of dawn to reserve chairs!

The bridge tour was incredible, & pretty intimate. There were only 6 of us so we got to ask as many questions as we could think of, & take some photos. You get such a different perspective from up there. I still can’t get over how large Ventura is.


Bridge Tour: steering wheel isn’t quite what you’d imagine…


VIew of Ventura from the bridge – she’s huge!


Ready to drive?


Blurry bell ringing


All the different flags

We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the main pool. This was definitely my favourite place to be since it’s where everything happens (& I thought the pool was the best). We even spent some time on the deck overlooking the pool drinking pimms. How British!


Always makes this face for the first photo. Attractive.


Clearly the best way to enjoy your Pimms


That evening was another formal evening so we got dressed up again. We were having dinner at East, one of the restaurants with a surcharge, with our family friend, Kathy. We met at her office & got a quick tour of the galley. As with everything else onboard, the space is so clean & organized. The kitchen pumps out 1300 meals in 40 minutes. Crazy!


Formal Dress



Looking classy in his wedding suit

Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has created a beautiful menu at East. N & I shared their taster appies – the Chiang Mai ribs were by far my favourite & overshadowed my memory of the others (a good reason to take food photos? haha).

For our main course, we both opted for Atul’s Signature plate, which included Khmer king prawns, Thai green chicken curry, & lamb korma. Kathy suggested an Indian wine to go with our meal. I had no idea what to expect from an Indian wine. Truthfully, I had no idea India produced wine so I was pleasantly surprised with a great-tasting find. I finished things off with a impressive desert. They brought what looked like a simple chocolate ball, but as they poured warm chocolate over, it melted to reveal…well, more chocolate. Quite the impressive presentation! All in all, a beautiful meal with great company. & while the food in the dining room is also fantastic (especially on formal nights), I have no regrets about branching out. We were impressed with both restaurants with surcharges that we tried so I’d recommend checking at least one of them out (or at least the wine list at the Glass House – it’s the best on the ship!).

We wrapped up dinner just in time for that evenings’ show – Reel2Reel – followed by drinks at the Metropolis bar at the back of the ship. The classiest bar on the ship, they show different skylines every night, & you’ll mostly find people sipping cocktails & enjoying the live music.


Obligatory Atrium Photo



Atrium dance




Metropolis Bar Selfie


End of the night elevator selfie

After another great day onboard, we packed it in pretty early in preparation for our next day in port. On to Dubrovnik!

Honeymoon 12 \ Naples

If you don’t travel mostly for the sake of experiencing another culture’s take on food, then this is probably going to sound pretty bizarre to you. When we decided to go on a cruise as part of our honeymoon, there were two options: one that included Naples, & one that did not. While this grungy port town with a bit of a reputation certainly isn’t on everyone’s list of places to visit, it placed high on ours. You may be scratching your head on that one, like many of our fellow passengers, so let me explain: Naples is the birthplace of pizza.

The breathtaking Amalfi coast, a short train ride away, tempted us for less than five seconds as we watched the rest of Ventura’s passengers offload. We had an important mission to complete: eat at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. We’d gotten general directions for this famous pizzeria, but stopped at the tourist office for a map & some more specific instruction. They weren’t sure on the exact address, but we set off in the general direction with our trusty map. At this point, we’d spent most of our time either in tourist centres or cities I knew very well, so despite knowing Naples was a little rough around the edges, it was still a bit of a shock to find ourselves in a much grimier neighbourhood than we were used to.

Without an exact address or the ability to google the location, we quickly realized we had no idea where to go. The only thing we knew was that we shouldn’t go past the train station. I quickly initiated to my usual backup plan when lost in a foreign country: find a hotel & ask for directions. The friendly maitre d’ showed us the exact location (just around the corner) on our map & we were back on our way. We’d heard that it was important to get there before noon, so we’d headed straight there from the ship, arriving just after 11.

If we hadn’t known about Pizzeria da Michele, we likely would have walked passed this unassuming little spot. It looks like any other local pizzeria in Italy. You won’t find a huge staff here either. In addition to a few servers & the cashier, there were two men running the actual pizza-making operation – one in charge of dough & assembly, another manning the brick oven. They respect Grandfather Michele’s memory to this day, serving the two classic types of Neapolitan pizza: Margherita or Bianca.

Since we were quite early, we snagged a table in the main room with a view of the whole process. I couldn’t have hand-picked a better vantage point. Their small menu makes ordering a snap. We each chose our own regular-sized Margherita pizzas, as well as a couple beers & a large bottled water. As we waited for our meal, we took in our surroundings. The walls are dotted with photos of celebrities & signs explaining the origins of this style of pie. The staff walked around, joking with regulars or shouting jokingly at each other in Italian (the Italian gesturing was on point!). We could only guess what they were saying,  but we thoroughly enjoyed letting our imaginations run wild. The older gentleman rolling out dough was particularly animated. He was by far our favourite! (Rumour has it, he’s one of Michele’s four sons.)

Our pizzas arrived quickly, hot from the oven. The smell was out of this world & neither of us could wait to dive in. I’m sure you can guess how this experience was (I mean, I just wrote a four paragraph introduction). It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best pizza I have ever eaten.

In true Italian fashion, the simplicity of the fresh ingredients blend to create the perfect balance of flavours. Buffalo mozzarella, san marzano tomatoes, the freshest basil, & a perfect dough: it’s an unreal combination. You couldn’t wipe the happy grin off my face. While I love prosciutto or creative toppings on my pizza just as much as anyone else, this pizza is on another level. It doesn’t need those extra toppings to shine. Trust me on this one. Go to Naples. Eat the pizza at da Michele. Thank me (& all of those who have come before me) later.

-Break for drool-worthy pizza photos (& a snap with my new buddy!)-
Our great server
Starting to get busy as we head out

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele could easily attach a hefty price tag to their fare, but I think our bill came in under twenty euros. A true steal, especially given the incredible quality. I wish I could have taken some back to the ship for later, but I’m not sure it would have held up that well in my purse all afternoon.

Honestly, we had no idea what else to see in Naples afterwards. We had a map & a lot of free time though, so we set out. (This blog is called Au fil de mes balades for good reason. I love exploring a new city without any real destination!) We started in the old quarter, with its crumbling infrastructure & graffiti everywhere. We were still getting used to seeing these incredible historic sights in such disrepair in comparison to other cities we’d visited. It was an entirely different experience from the rest of our trip & I was glad to see it. We took a break in a café at the base of the funicular, grabbing a cappuccino & catching up on Instagram, before heading up to the castle at the top. We decided to tour the castle (I know, I’m shocked too. There wasn’t any food inside either), & got caught in a rain storm during our visit. We waited it out with the other tourists in every alcove we could find until we got bored & decided to just brave the elements.

Makeshift Umbrella

Instead of taking the funicular back down, we opted to walk. This resulted in many wrong turns & us getting completely lost. In the process, we stumbled upon many beautiful hidden corners & got a peak into everyday life on the hill. It reminded me of Croix Rousse in Lyon in that respect. We ran into more than our fair share of dead ends, & there were definitely times when we felt like we’d never find out way back to the port, but we also saw a side of Naples we would have completely missed if we had simply taken the funicular back down. Vacations allow for many luxuries, namely time, so we were in no rush to find our way. Instead, we took advantage & reveled in the unusual opportunity of not having to worry that you’re a little bit lost.

Storm rolling in
It began to thunder & lightning as we were almost back at the ship. We’d been watching the storm roll in, but we still managed to get completely soaked as we tried to make it back. Neither of us were prepared for rain so we threw on our bathing suits & jumped in the onboard hot tub to warm up. Once the chill wore off, we got cozy in our slippers & robes to watch the sailways from our balcony. We were first rewarded with a beautiful rainbow over the city followed by a gorgeous sunset. Naples was certainly a memorable day!

Honeymoon 11 \ Sea Day One

Our first sea day, we really took advantage of the resort-feel of the ship. We spent a slow morning on our balcony enjoying coffee & breakfast, as had already become a routine for us. There was nothing but water for miles in every direction so even though we were technically surrounded by a few thousand people, it felt pretty secluded.

Eventually we decided to get moving for the day. Changing into bathing suits, we went in search of some lounge chairs near one of the numerous pools. Little did we know, these chairs are highly coveted. Any chair within view of a pool had been claimed early that morning. Rookie mistake. Luckily we arrived to the main pool just in time to watch the crew do the ice bucket challenge. We’d figure out our sun tanning situation later.

Our cabin
Main Pool
Ice Bucket Challenge
Husband vs Wife

The different ships in the P&O line were all raising money for their respective charities & decided to use the Ice Bucket Challenge to help raise funds. Department after department went up for their turn to be doused in icy water. Having just done the challenge ourselves the day after our wedding, we enjoyed it a little more as spectators. Judging from their reactions, I think their water may have been a bit colder than ours though.

Since we couldn’t find prime lounge chairs around the pool, we decided to grab a table near one of the bars. It seemed like a good time for some Pims anyway & it was quickly turning into the perfect pool day. Neither of us had much Pims before – turns out it goes down pretty easy, so we decided to switch to beer after our pitcher quickly disappeared.

The main pool had a pretty good set up, with a very shallow outer section before dropping off significantly. It was perfect for cooling off with a drink in the summer heat so we took full advantage of the opportunity to relax, sun tan, & keep cool. It was the first day of true relaxation since our wedding so we were understandably excited.

Drinks by the pool
Poolside beers
When we’d had our fill of the pool, we headed back to our balcony for a glass of wine before our massage. We don’t generally splurge unless it’s on food, drinks, & travel so I’d included a massage as a gift option on our honeyfund account. Thanks to a few generous friends, we were able to take advantage of the onboard spa & book a couples’ hot stone massage. I’ve had a few sports massages, but this was my first experience with a relaxing massage. I really enjoyed it (& in true Alanna fashion, I fell asleep at the end. I think I may have even started snoring. Signs of a truly relaxing day?).
Balcony Wine Time
Post Massage Sunset

That evening was the formal dinner & Captain’s Reception so we quickly got dressed in our best & headed over to the atrium. There were a few drinks followed by a speech & introductions of the senior staff by the captain. N had worn his suit from our wedding & I wore a sparkly little black dress. Leaving our cabin, we thought we were quite dressed up, but N was one of the few men not wearing a tux. Some of the ladies were even in ball gowns! At dinner, we sat with a group of six Scottish ladies. They were hilarious & completely enamoured with N (especially as he was the only male at the table!). They were probably my favourite seating assignment of the whole cruise!

Captain’s Reception
End of the night Formal wear

Honeymoon 10 \ Florence

The first morning on the ship, we woke up to a knock on our door. We’d pre-ordered room service the night before to make our early morning transfer a little more relaxed. While the meal was nothing to write home about, the luxury of enjoying breakfast in a comfy robe & slippers on your personal balcony certainly was. It became our favourite way to start the day!

Our transfer left Livorno for Florence at 8:45am. We opted for a self-guided day in the city so on the bus we received a map & some additional details on navigating the city including where to eat & what to do. It was the perfect choice for us – we got a few tips for our day, ample time to nap, & the freedom to wander at our own pace.

Florence is really compact. It doesn’t take much more than 10 minutes to walk between sights so it makes for a pretty easy day. We saw most of the sights – Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria (filled with many important statues including a replica of the David), the Galleria dell’Accademia, & the Duomo – within an hour. There were throngs of people everywhere we turned. I still can’t get over how busy it was.

People everywhere!
Ponte Vecchio
Lock everywhere
On the Ponte Vecchio

Since we were a bit limited on time, we hadn’t planned on visiting any museums. I overdid the museums on my first trip to Europe (as did N) so now I prefer to wander – eating, drinking, people watching, & maybe exploring a church, here & there. We’d expected our wandering to take a bit longer so when it didn’t we decided it was worth waiting in line to climb the Duomo’s cupola. The line was quite long so it took us over an hour to even get to the start. We were rewarded with incredible architecture from the minute we stepped inside & breathtaking panoramas from the top.

Florence’s Duomo is quite impressive
The climb is slow & crowded
Maxi dresses & narrow staircases don’t really mix

By the time we left Cathedral Square, we were ravenous from both the intense climb & the later hour. We picked a little restaurant with a terrace for a late lunch. Once again, the pasta was incredible – carbonera for me this time, followed by a shared calabrese pizza. Likely more food than two people needed, but we figured we deserved the reward. & it was our honeymoon – a phrase we repeated many times throughout our trip. You only get married once, right?!

After lunch, we wandered around looking for some wine to take back to the ship. We’d heard we might not be able to bring any back onboard, so we chose a cheap bottle just in case. This isn’t exactly a feat in Europe, but we found it especially easy in Italy. It turned out to be a non-issue for us so we enjoyed a couple of drinks on our balcony as the ship left port. This became another staple in our cruise. I’m so glad we we gifted the upgrade to a cabin with a balcony. It really made our first cruise experience  incredible.

The best way to enjoy a class of wine

That evening, we met our family friend for a glass of wine at the Glass House, one of the onboard restaurant. She gave us some tips for making the most of our week onboard & we made a plan to do dinner at another of the ships restaurants later that week called East. It was really great to catch up with her & get tips from such an expert.

That night we decided to forgo the formal dining room & try the Glass House instead. There is a small charge for menu items there, but it’s nominal & the food is great. I’d definitely recommend checking out some of the options outside the main dining room if you’re ever cruising.

Quality photography c/o my iPhone 4s

We had a sea day the next day so we decided to end our night at the ship’s club, Havana. There, we proceeded to repeatedly clear the dance floor with our country music requests. Sounds like us.

Honeymoon 009 \ Portofino & Cruising

We woke up the next morning to a wonderful breakfast prepared by our Genoese host before heading off to meet our family friend at the cruise ship terminal. She got us all checked in & even took our bags so we could head out for the day unencumbered.

We’d gotten a recommendation to take the train to Santa Margherita & then hop on the boat or bus to Portofino – a small, but well-known Italian fishing village. We bought our tickets from one of the machines in the Genoa Piazza Principe Station for under 10 euros. The only confusing part was finding the right destination. Look for S. Margherita Ligure & a travel time of about 45 minutes. The trains seem to run often that time of year, so we didn’t need to book in advance.

Santa Margherita

The weather was perfect when we arrived in Santa Margherita so we opted to take the ferry over the bus. It would also give us the opportunity to enjoy the coastline we’d heard so much about. As a boat lover, I can’t imagine a more perfect introduction to the beauty of Liguria.

If you’re looking for the cheaper option, the bus is a better choice. Seeing as only we only paid 10 euros round-trip each for the boat, it wasn’t a huge splurge either. We had perfect weather too – all blue skies & calm waters. If you’re planning on using the ferry service, this is their handy website. Or you can do like we did & just show up in Santa Margherita & buy a ticket for the next boat. We weren’t travelling at peak time, but we had no trouble.

As our boat pulled into the narrow harbour in Portofino, the reasons for its popularity became obvious. Crystal clear water, colourful homes, & a slower pace make this little village a breathtaking & relaxing stop. We spent the day wandered the surrounding hilly paths, checking out the castle, church, & lighthouse before sitting down to lunch in the busy harbour.

We hadn’t done any research about where to eat so we picked a spot a bit further from the water & hoped for the best. Luckily, Trattoria Tripoli was a pleasant surprise. We went for a local beer (recommended by our waiter) followed by a clam spaghetti for N & the regional pesto & potato pasta for me. I’d read about the pesto in the region & jumped at the first opportunity to try it. I have no regrets.

Italians have this incredible ability to take the simplest ingredients & turn them into something unforgettable. Its origins are in this region, so while I expected it to be great, I didn’t expect it to blow me away. I’ve made pesto many times, but I have never tasted a pesto with such depth of flavour. I truly didn’t think pesto could taste like that. The simple fact that I don’t love pasta when I’m at home, but ate it daily in Italy certainly speaks to the quality of the food in this country & the level of care that goes into its preparation.

I could write a novel on how much I enjoyed everything we put in our mouths in every city we visited in Italy, but just take my word for it & go. Eat! I promise it’s worth it.

I’m drooling over this pesto

After lunch we wandered a little more, hiking a steep road to take it some more of the incredible views, before catching a boat back to Santa Margherita. Trains come through the area pretty often that time of year so, once again, we easily caught one back to Genoa.

Our ship: Ventura!
It was our first time on a cruise so we were pretty in awe of everything from the moment we boarded. We found out which cabin we were in & arrived to our find out luggage had been delivered & we’d been gifted a bottle of prosecco from our family friend. It was such a lovely surprise!

My parents had also upgraded us to a cabin with a balcony as a wedding gift. They insisted that we would want it & after our week onboard, I couldn’t agree more. I’d highly recommend the splurge to anyone. We used ours every day.

As our ship prepared to leave, we popped the prosecco & got comfortable in our chairs. We sat outside watching the shore fade into the distance, sipping on prosecco, & enjoying the perfect evening.

Our first meal was in the main dining room. Each meal included three courses & we took advantage of cheese for dessert every night, ordering Branston Pickle to go with it, of course. Every since my mom introduced us to Branston Pickle with Stilton Blue Cheese, we’ve been kind of obsessed. (& when you’re on a British Cruise, why not take advantage!)

Branston Pickle & Cheese

The rest of the evening was spent exploring the ship. It was huge! You can do pretty much anything from relaxing with a drink to golfing or playing a game of basketball. It’s amazing! I think we only really figured out where everything was halfway through our week onboard.

It was nice to get a feel for the ship, but we made sure to get to bed pretty early. We had scheduled an early transfer to Florence so we wanted to get a good night’s rest.

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