Taking the Voyage with ABBA

I just returned from my first trip to Europe in several years. My primary destination was Italy, but given how easy it is to “hop” around Europe fairly cheaply once you’re across the Atlantic, I decided that while I was in “the neighborhood”, I simply had to go to London to see ABBA’s innovative concert/show/spectacle, and so I planned a two night stop-over in London for that purpose.

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A Beautiful Reunion with an Old Friend: Italy

Thanks to the gigantic monkey wrench that COVID threw into all of our lives, I haven’t traveled abroad since the summer of 2019. To some, this may not seem like such a big deal, but for me, who was once described by Diletta, my former Italian teacher, as someone who “goes to Europe the way some people go to the grocery store,” this hiatus from international travel was a huge change in my life. Ambiguous and ever-changing COVID restrictions that varied from country to country, uncertainty about the economy and my own finances, and the threat of a larger war developing in Europe all made me wonder whether I would ever get back to Europe, and especially to my beloved Italy again.

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Making All the Right Choices: Antica Trattoria al Sole, Italy

On my most recent trip to Italy I experienced a big disappointment when a friend of mine from Vicenza and I were supposed to get together and the plans fell through. Actually, it would have been a sad meeting because he owns a pizzeria and gelateria but is being forced to close his business for the foreseeable future due to skyrocketing energy costs. I’d been invited to come by for his final night in business and looked forward to seeing him again, as well as sampling his fine organic pizza and gelato one more time. But on the appointed night, I drove to his shop in Vicenza only to find it closed and dark. I sent a few text messages that went unanswered and was stymied by what might have happened. Confused and sad that I‘d apparently missed him, I then had to attend to the immediate situation: I was very hungry and it was after 8PM on a Sunday night, so I knew I might not have many options for dinner. Relying on good old Google, I searched, “best restaurants near Vicenza” and up came the name Antica Trattoria al Sole, which roughly translates into: Ancient or Old Restaurant in the Sun. It was located a few kilometers outside Vicenza in the small village of Castegnero, so off I went into the unknown.

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Climbing New Hampshire’s Middle Sugarloaf Peak

Autumn. It’s that time of year again when New England achieves its highest level of “New Englandness.” The days begin to shorten, the air has a slight, but noticeable chill in the early mornings, the leaves start turning to a palette of all of my favorite shades of red, orange and yellow, and the smell of cider donuts and “pumpkin spice everything” assails the nostrils. I’ve always loved fall, and in my humble, native New Englander opinion, there is no better place to be in late September and early October.

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The 10 Best Places for Pancakes in the USA: Updated Fall 2022

Pancakes. Hotcakes. Griddle Cakes. Flapjacks.

No matter what they’re called, they happen to be one of my favorite ways to start the morning, and when I travel around the country, I make it a point to seek out the very best local places to find these breakfast staples. I personally don’t like a lot of extra stuff on or in my pancakes:  whipped cream, chocolate chips, strawberry sauce, ice cream, hot fudge – in my opinion they are just ways to mask a boring pancake. A really top-notch pancake should be able to stand on its own, maybe with some simple blueberries in the batter, and always with a little help from butter and real maple syrup.

I am updating this post for the first time in two years. Things change: even the most fabulous restaurants may go out of business; some places that used to be good seem to fade in quality; and in my continued travels, I discover new places that I feel obligated to include in my list. So… here are my latest rankings as of October, 2022.

To find the best pancakes in the country, read on!

A Tour of Venezia: “La Serenissima”

My first visit to Venice was in 1999 and that was the start of my love affair with what has become my favorite city in the world. I’ve returned to “La Serenissima” (the most serene one – a nickname often bestowed on Venezia), many times since then and I’ve probably taken a few hundred photos as I’ve wandered the city. Yet, with every new visit I add a few dozen more because Venice has to be one of the most photogenic places on the planet. The light, the shadows, and the reflections on the water change a thousand times a day and look different with each season. Join me for a tour of La Serenissima and hopefully you’ll see why I love her so much. (Be sure to click on a photo to see captions!)

Andiamo!

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

One of my favorite songs has always been Bon Jovi’s Who Says You Can’t Go Home. I can relate to the lyrics, which talk about coming full circle in life: from wanting to break away from your hometown to explore the world, but ultimately realizing that home is where you really want or need to be. As so often happens with music, this song has taken on new significance for me over the last few months.

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