Have you heard of Ronda? I hadn't when I started researching for my fall trip to Spain. Turns out Ronda's a stunning Pueblo Blanco, or white town, conveniently situated between Sevilla and Granada. If you're travelling in Andalucia, Ronda is a great resting place between the two larger cities. It's a nice day trip and an even better overnight stop (especially if you're the outdoorsy type who likes to hike.) Spend the night and you'll have the chance to explore at your leisure and devote more time to the town's many sites and restaurants. If you're like me, you'll spend most of your stay meandering from viewpoint to viewpoint, gawking at the incredible mountain views.
Ronda is carved in half by the massive canyon of the Guadalevín River, necessitating the construction of successive bridges. The Puente Nuevo, or New Bridge, is the one you'll see photographed in all of the guide books (and the last photo of this post.) Across the New Bridge is a charming old town full of twists and turns, cobbled streets, and whitewashed walls. During my explorations I came across a tiny, tucked away bakery on the old side of bridge staffed by an adorable and super sweet young lady. I don't know the name or the address, but it was quite near the Casa Don Bosco. I gratefully accepted samples of manchego and candied fig before I fumbling along with my broken Spanish, asking about this sweet and that, eventually ending up with a piece of deeply caramelized almond brittle. It provided just enough protein, and a bit of a sugar rush, to keep me going until I found the perfect restaurant for a late lunch.
What's the most decadent breakfast you can imagine? Along with the English fry up and French chocolate filled croissants, the Spanish tradition of churros and chocolate must be right there at the top of the list. It's not just for tourists, I saw many a local happily dunking away. The trick is to have your churros in the morning, like a true Spaniard. If you aren't into sweets for breakfast, the somewhat more virtuous option is a tostada, aka, toast. Just take one crusty roll, add a drizzle of olive oil, a smear of crushed tomato, perhaps a slice of ham, and you've got breakfast. Over the course of my stay in Andalucia, I indulged in both breakfasts several times.
I'm just back from a week and a half in Spain. I spent my time in Andalucia. A week in Sevilla, a day in Ronda, three more in Granada, closing with an evening in Madrid. It's a beautiful region. Here are a few shots from Sevilla, where the streets are lined with orange trees, the kids are adorable, and, best of all, you can afford to eat and stay with ease. Hover over the photos to read the caption.
You can't miss the Doge's Palace. No really, it's inescapable, you can't see any of Venice's main sights without walking or sailing past the palace. The elegant peach and white patterned brick walls and carved windows lead you from the lagoon right into St. Mark's Square. The Doge's Palace, aka the Palazzo Ducale or the Duke's Palace, is one of Venice's top attractions. It's easy to see why. Every inch of the palace is designed leave visitors in awe. And it's here you'll find one of Venice's most iconic landmarks, Santa di Spirito, the Bridge of Sighs.
I really lucked out weather-wise during my trip to Venice. Most of my days were full of sunshine and sea breezes.But there were some misty mornings, one gray afternoon, and a rainy evening in the mix. Venice in the rain is a different kind of magical. The precipitation slicks up the alleys and courtyards, bringing out hundreds of years of grit and grime. The city feels older and the tourists thin out. And the locals emerge, reeling in their laundry and shopping with their umbrellas. So, if you're stuck in the rain on Venice don't despair. Visit as many churches as you can stand, breaking for a gelato at every stop. That's why every gelateria has an awning after all.
A day trip to Burano was one of the very first activities I planned for my trip to Venice. I do a lot of my travel brainstorming by browsing photos on flickr. I'll read about a place in a guidebook or on tripadvisor then head over to flickr to look at shots by real people, searching tags and groups until I have a feeling about the location. All it took to convince me to visit Burano was one flickr search and the resulting barrage of colorful shots had me practically booking my ticket on the spot.
Every other year or so I end up back at FarmBloomington. The food is pretty spendy, making it more of a special occasion spot. And since it's not my favorite big budget restaurant (Uptown and Samira usually come first and second) I don't make it there very often. It's usually the fries that bring me back. The addictively garlick-y, slightly spicy, perfectly crunchy, "famous" french fries.
The occasion was Katy's birthday, the objective was those fancy fries and some even fancier drinks. Well, mission accomplished. To drink I ordered a Jack Rose, made with applejack and housemade grenadine. It was strong. Perhaps a little too strong for an alcohol wimp like me to enjoy. Also on the table was an Aviation for Katy (Plymouth Gin, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, Lemon Juice, Creme de Violette) and I have no clue what Jessica ordered, I think she liked it?
When in Venice you're sure to end up in St. Mark's Square at least once. Glittering with gold and bronze, the square is simultaneously deeply impressive and completely overwhelming. Beyond the huge crowds, you have to weigh the cost of long lines (St. Mark's Basilica) or high prices (Doge's Palace and any of the fancy cafes.) But if you have the time and the means, a nice way to spend a few hours in Venice is a drink at Cafe Florian followed by a visit to the Basilica.
One of the oldest cafes in all of Europe, Florian was once frequented by the likes of Casanova and Lord Byron. Its easy to see why. The gilded cafe is over the top romantic. But you pay out the nose for the atmosphere. When the weather's amenable a string quartet plays in the courtyard, and it's not free. Not only is a cover charge added to your bill if you sit outside, but indoor diners are charged too. Those big, beautiful windows let in the light and the music from the square after all.
I've said it before, but give me a foreign country and a food market and I'm a happy girl. Venice's Rialto Market is smaller in scope and size than Borough Market and La Boqueria, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm. For one thing, it's open air, so natural light and fresh air are much easier to come by. The fish market housed under tall columns while the fresh market is shaded by tents, and the view of the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge is unbeatable!
Rialto is clearly geared towards Venetians shopping for groceries. There are no prepared food stalls (though Pronto Pesce and plenty of restaurants are just around the corner,) just lots and lots of fish, fruit, and vegetables. It's located right off the Grand Canal in an easy to find (for Venice) location. Take vaporetto #2 down the Grand Canal and disembark at the Rialto stop, cross the big white bridge and follow the masses. Take some time to browse the market, there are so many opportunities for great photographs. If you're feeling peckish there are plenty of options around the market for a snack. Pick up some fresh fruit from one of the stalls or venture out of the market to one of the bakeries around the corner.