Buongiorno Milano!

For all our Italy enthusiasm over the years, it feels weird to admit we’d never been to Milan before November 2022.

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We did a long weekend there, departing Regensburg after work on a Friday for Zurich. Staying in Zurich on the way to Milan made it convenient to reconnect with our pals P. and H. We stayed at a B&B Hotel near the Zurich airport, because it’s not far from their neighborhood. I’m not sure I’d stay at that B&B place again (or any franchise, it’s a hotel chain). It felt like it was mid-level between Easy Hotel and Motel One. It would do a in a pinch, but probably not my first choice going forward. After a lovely lunch and chat with our pals the next day, we pressed on towards Milan, arriving after dark in the rain.

Sarah used booking.com to get us a room at Porta Tosa from Saturday night to Tuesday morning. Our host Stefano kindly human-shielded a public parking spot across the street for me on our way in, and we only had to pay for parking on Monday. That was convenient; it worked great with EasyPark. Stefano had the paper logo pre-printed for us to show the meter-checker-person we’d paid that way.

Cibo

We didn’t have any major points on the itinerary besides the Duomo. Porta Tosa is basically a straight line east from the city center on a bus line and a tram line, so we used that a lot. Stefano provided a very useful map with some recommendations for food and activities in the immediate area, and there were good overlaps between his recommendations and Sarah’s own research. We ate at

…besides some fast-food pizza (OMG with cacio e pepe supplì) al taglio and occasional coffee and pastries while out walking around. It was all wonderful, and not at all as fancy as I’d feared. Cooperativa La Liberazione had kind of a hipster socialist gourmet vibe. There we learned the word stinco – much more delicous than it sounds.


black bean soup with croutons and eggplant parmigiana

stinco, a braised Haxe, accompanied by polenta

Locanda del Menarost squeezed us in without a reservation on Monday night, told us we’d have to eat and give up our table in 45 minutes, but then relented and let us stay when someone else cancelled their reservation. That was wonderful food too – particularly the desserts.


apple cake in the background; a pear braised in red wine in the foreground

We arrived at al Bacco for lunch just as they were opening, and the hostess greeted every single party (except us) with a hug and a smooch initially, and then later chef emerged from the kitchen all smiles and hugs and smooches too. Clearly we’d stumbled upon a local regulars’ joint. It was cool to observe.

Duomo

Il Duomo

This was the main attraction, mostly by default. We didn’t come to Milan seeking it out. It was thing the thing that’s there year-round. We opted for the expensive visit package, including the elevator ride to the roof, and the views were worth it. Even under cloudy skies.



You can see the entire set of photos from this trip here.

Oops, forgot we went to Alsace

Blame it on Covid-Stir-Craziness, maybe. But back in…uh, March 2022 we drove across Germany to scope out some wines (some famous, some recommendations) and landscapes and stuff. It was a short trip — just a four day weekend — but we covered a fair amount of ground: from Regensburg to Zurich (just a pitstop to visit a pal), from there to Colmar (our home base), and back to Regensburg with a stop in Heidelberg (another pal to visit). Continue reading Oops, forgot we went to Alsace

Part 2 of the LONG AWAITED TRAVEL

Perhaps you saw our exuberance on the first of this two-parter.

After finishing up Mittagessen in…um…Essen1, we got back in the car and drove for like seven hours across most of the country to Berlin. We’ve visited Berlin many times, but we always try to do a mix of new and old stuff. Here are the bullet points:

And, then on our way home to Regensburg, A BONUS VISIT with three Leipziger pals!

  1. More delicious Indian food (and OMG, they were not kidding about the spiciness levels on that Paneer Jalfrezi) at https://www.safran-leipzig.de.

  2. Scored some post-dinner drinks at a Späti to enjoy on a stroll and in a park (by the way, duck into the university library there in Leipzig — what a cool place!).

  3. Even snagged a couple night shots on our way back to the hotel.

After that, it was a completely uneventful drive back home. Just what you want!

  1. Forgive me. []
  2. It is embarrassing how long it took us to get the pun on the name. []
  3. Note to future me: don’t get more than a “medium” anything. []

OMG TRAVEL AGAIN FINALLY

It felt really good. So good, that I can’t cover it all in one post. Part II will follow.

Wiesbaden

It was just a stop-over point for us because we departed Friday after work and didn’t want to undertake a big ol’ drive after a full week of anticipation. Plus, our long-term pal and host Matt K. wouldn’t even be there until Saturday afternoon. So we got to Wiesbaden after work (traffic was not as bad as I’d feared) and expected to crash out at the hotel.

But it’s much a cooler town than I’d thought. And it has a Five Guys. Note to self: don’t get a large ANYTHING.

Brussels

  • We arrived on late Saturday morning, and met Matt G. at Place du Chatelain in the Ixelles neighborhood. He gave us a lovely impromptu tour and we got a delicious lunch on the street at Pizza Mamma Roma.

  • That afternoon we got back in the car, headed out to the Zaventem airport, picked up our ol’ pal Matt K. and the merriment continued.

  • He showed us his favorite parts of the city on foot, including a stop for a snack at the legendary Maison Dandoy for some Liège Waffles and espresso that blew our minds.

  • Sunday, we visited the Horta Museum. If you like Jugendstil design, this will be your joint. As opposed to the Mucha Museum in Prague, the Horta Museum is a less of a gallery and more of a snapshot in time from the turn of the (previous) century of an idealized socialist paradise domicile.

  • We walked around a bit more and then circled back to La Chatelaine Du Liban for a lovely dinner.

  • Monday morning, we dropped Matt K. off at work on our way to meet Pam M. at her home for coffee. She baked us a delicious surprise zucchini cake! The airliners passing overhead reminded me very much of the first ten years of my life near Selfridge ANG.

It was so cool to catch up with Matt K. again before geography makes that impractical again, and meet Matt G. and Pam M. in person after only having interacted with them online before.

Essen

After departing from Pam’s, we hit the road for Essen to meet up with Aileen and Justin for…Essen.1 It was almost directly on our way, and we have had a lot of fun with them online, so why not see if they are just as cool in person?2 That was a nice way to break up the seven-hour drive to Berlin. If you ever get a hankering for a BIG SLABBA TOAST, I vouch for Miamamia.

  1. I bet they’ve never heard that joke before. []
  2. Spoiler: they are! []

Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 3: Schwarzwald

After a four-hour drive down Germany’s western border with France and a hop through the Schwarzwald towards Bonndorf…im Schwarzwald, we arrived at the final Ferienwohnung destination for this trip. The arrival was not without its complications, however; TWO of the little towns off through which we were supposed to drive on the last leg of the drive were closed to through traffic, causing us to scramble and miss our predicted arrival time by an hour. Fortunately, we kept the landlady in the loop and she was accommodating. Ha. Continue reading Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 3: Schwarzwald

Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 2: Rheingau

We were originally going to head from Freinsheim across the South of France towards its Atlantic coast, but…Covid-19 happened.

Most of our winey traveller activities in Germany have been along the Weinstraße but there are lots more spots to visit for a tipple. Like the whole Rheingau. So, with a lot of the travel demand reduced in general and all regions of Germany back to school (whether in classroom settings or otherwise), the selection of Ferienwohnungen on short notice when all the relevant regions of France hit the Risikogebiet list was surprisingly rich. We picked out a Ferienwohnung in a former nuns’ home directly on the banks of the Rhine in Lorchhausen. Continue reading Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 2: Rheingau

Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 1: Freinsheim, Bad Dürkheim, and Wiesbaden

The annual Kulinarische Weinwanderung in Freinsheim didn’t happen this year (but you can relive its glory through our write-ups here, here, here, here, and here if you like).

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Corona squashed the big event in the town, but that didn’t completely shut down everything, so we went anyways. Couple reasons for that: Continue reading Fall 2020 Vacation — Part 1: Freinsheim, Bad Dürkheim, and Wiesbaden

Parte 4: San Valentino alla Muta

This is the final installment of our road trip around Northern Italy in September 2019. You can catch up on

The last part of our trip was a big change of scenery on the way back to Regensburg. Rather than going back the way we came through the mountains, we jagged west at Bozen/Bolzano towards Meran/Merano instead of east towards Brixen/Bressanone. The drive up through Bozen to the Brenner Pass is usually good for some oohs and ahhs, but the little towns along the route from Merano to San Valentino were adorable. It also took a lot longer than it looks on the map, because those are little country hillside roads getting you to Graun im Vinschgau, because those villages come with a speed limit of 50 km/h (≈30 mph) most of the way.

See what I mean?

Continue reading Parte 4: San Valentino alla Muta

Parte 2: Ravenna

This is the next installment of our road trip around Northern Italy in September 2019. You can catch up on

It was only a few hours’ drive from the outskirts of Venice to the former capital of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna.

We’d been to the town before, but last time, it was dark, and cold, and difficult to navigate with our rental car. This time we arrived with plenty of daylight, parked the car once, and did all the exploration on foot. The weather was generally agreeable this time, too — though some fierce winds and a brief rain spell motivated us to spend a little more time under the awning at a restaurant eating piadine for lunch.

Some brief notes:

  • We stayed on the edge of the Altstadt in a cool (despite the dorky name) little boutique BnB called "M Club DeLuxe"
  • We bought the combo pass for the Basilica San Vitale, the mausoleum, Basilica Sant’Apollinare Nuovo — apparently they don’t offer just the mausoleum and Basilica San Vitale pass anymore, but it was worth it to us.
  • Watch out for tourists; there were more than we expected for the off season (second week of September)
  • Sarah reserved us a table for a very nice dinner in Ravenna at Al Cairoli: great quality, atmosphere (a table outside on a quiet pedestrian street), and reasonable prices.
Continue reading Parte 2: Ravenna

Parte 0: Italian Road Trip September 2019

It’s not every year that we get TWO trips to Italy. Last time our focus was Tuscany. This time was a mix of new and old destinations in Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, showing Sarah’s mom some stuff we knew, and some we didn’t. Clearly this is going to have to be split into several different posts. We took way too many pictures to cover it all in one post. Stay tuned for individual segments to follow.

The Route

Continue reading Parte 0: Italian Road Trip September 2019