Electra Roof Garden – Dining with the Gods

IMG_4348

The Electra Roof Garden offers one of the most beautiful views in Athens. The restaurant is located on the fifth floor of the Electra Palace Athens hotel in Plaka, just northeast of the Acropolis. It’s also gives off a pretty fancy vibe, which is probably not surprising since it’s located in a 5-star hotel. That being said, we went in jeans and tennis shoes since that’s what we had and we didn’t have any issues. You could easily arrive dressier and be just fine, but I wouldn’t IMG_4341recommend going more casual than we did. Their website even says the restaurant is “smart casual”.

We did not have reservations, but arrived for a slightly early dinner and were shown immediately to an empty table. It was a bit chilly outside, so we had an indoor table but each table in the restaurant is arranged to have a beautiful view of the acropolis.

The IMG_4342restaurant had a Mediterranean menu with many classic Greek options, but prepared in different ways, to make it feel “fancier”. It was also obvious that the Electra Roof Garden cared about the plate presentation as well as the food taste. We started with an appetizer and salad to share. For an appetizer, we selected a chorizo and rice dish that we expected to be like paella. It arrived covered with little blobs of red and white that seemed like a fancy mayonnaise and ketchup drops. Anyways, I can’t describe it as anything other than weird.

The salad choices were all pretty fancy. We selected a mixed greens option that came with slices of pumpkin, a type of cheese, and small pieces of a salami. Overall, I remember thinking that the salad was fine, but I loved the traditional Greek salads that we ate the entire week we were in Athens, and so it was a bit too fancy for me. I IMG_4347honestly can’t remember the salad dressing, so it wasn’t memorable in either a good or bad way.

For our main courses, I selected the chicken breast while Brian ordered the filet mignon. My chicken came on a pile of purple olives which was the only side dish. It also had a sauce drizzled on the place which was intended to be fancy, but was mostly reminiscent of the rice dish we had early. The IMG_4346chicken was fine, but I remember thinking it was a bit disappointing and overpriced. Brian’s steak came with a side  of finely mashed sweet potatoes which he liked and a few mushrooms which he completely avoided because he’s not a fan of mushrooms. Again, there were some “decorative drops” of something on his plate. We opted to skip dessert for the evening, but asked our waiter to take our picture on the balcony and he happily agreed.

Overall, my impression of the Roof Garden was good, although the restaurant was a bit too fancy for our taste and as a result, we left feeling like we had overpaid a little bit. All of that being said, we had a lovely evening and would highly recommend the restaurant if you are celebrating a special occasion and like restaurants which offer a bit fancier fare.

 

Tuscany One Day Sightseeing – The Best Day Trip in Florence

IMG_4934The absolute best day trip that we took while in Europe for our 24-day honeymoon was a day trip to Tuscany from Florence. This excursion took the entire day, about 12 hours, but it was absolutely packed with fun stuff and we loved it. Plus our tour guide, Lavi, from Walkabout Tours, was absolutely wonderful. She provided the perfect mix of interesting information while we were riding on the bus, but also knew when to let people nap. And we were able to have a lot of free time in each stop rather than following a guide around when we wanted to be off exploring on our own.

Meeting Place: The tour lined up right out front of the Santa Maria Novella train station, an easy walk from any IMG_4864hotel in downtown Florence. Both of our tours met at the Santa Maria train station, so it’s a great idea to stay somewhere close like we did. We stayed at the C-Hotels in Florence which is about the closest you can get to the train station at 1-block away.

Stop 1 – Siena: We boarded the bus and had just about an hour drive to our first stop. While we drove, our tour guide told us lots of interesting things about the City of Florence IMG_4872and pointed out interesting things like the city walls that are still standing. She also told us all about the Palio de Siena, an annual horse race held by the City of Siena that is like no other horse race in the world. It was so interesting to hear about the different neighborhoods of the city and how each neighborhood is named after a different animal. We also learned that the horse race is held in the center of the city with huge crowds, which is hard to imagine when we stood in this space later during our trip.IMG_4884

After arriving just outside the center of the city of Siena, we had a short 10 minute walk to the city center. The streets are very narrow which is why the buses park a ways away and people need to walk. I should stress that this happened in each stop, so people who take this tour should wear walking shoes and while the walks aren’t too strenuous, it’s a great way to get your steps in for the day (our step counter was just under 23,000 for the day!).

In Siena, most of the group chose to follow the tour guide and tour a church museum right next to the Duomo di Siena. My husband and I elected to skip this tour and DSCN1940started our free time early. After visiting the beautiful church with it’s gorgeous tower of striped black and white marble, we wandered the streets of Siena. After the entire group enjoyed some free time, our group met back up underneath the clock tower in the main piazza (where the horse race is held) and headed out for our next stop.

Stop 2 – Tuscany Vineyard: Our next drive was probably about an hour and 15 minutes, although the scenery was so beautiful, you honestly don’t really notice. After winding our way through the Tuscan countrywide, we found ourselves at an organic vineyard where we were given a tour of the farm and served a homemade traditional Tuscan lunch with a wine tasting of 4 different wines.IMG_4888

For lunch we were served locally cured meats and cheeses, a garden salad, homemade pasta, and got to try biscotti and dessert wine. The dinner was really nice. And after enjoying our meal, our awesome tour guide took some great pictures of us on the balcony with the city of San Gimignano and the Tuscan countryside in the background.

Stop 3 – San Gimignano: The drive from the vineyard to San GImignano couldn’t have taken much more than 20 or so minutes.  During the drive our tour guide, Lavi, made lots of helpful suggestions about ways to spend your time in “San-G”.IMG_4917

The actual city made a huge impression on me that I wasn’t expecting because San-G just wasn’t on my radar. I was mesmerized by the view of it sitting on it’s hilltop with all the towers and the wall surrounding it. And really and truly feels like you are walking back in time just as soon as you enter through the main gate.No matter what you decide to do in San-G, I highly recommend walking down the main street until you come to the public square. I really and truly felt like I was back in the middle ages.

We used our hour of free time in San Gimignano to wander around, we went to the city park (Rocca di Montestaffoli) which just past the main square and then you follow the street to the left. After taking some pictures we got gelato from Gelateria Dondoli, an award winning gelato restaurant which had a long line. After buying our snack, we wandered in and out of souvenir shops on our way back out of the city where we had to meet our bus.

IMG_4927Stop 4 – Pisa: After leaving San-G, we had about an hour and a half drive to Pisa which our tour guide let us use for napping. It was nice and quiet on the bus and she very kindly woke everyone up just before we arrived in Pisa.

Again in Pisa, we had to park the bus and walk a bit of a ways to get to the actual site of Pisa. If you want to climb to the top of the Tower of Pisa, you have to book those tickets when you book the tour. If you book through Viator like we did, it’s an option that you can add to the touIMG_4947r. I highly recommend it. It’s very noticeable that the tower is leaning as you climb it. We didn’t really have any issues, but I can see how people with vertigo/balance problems might have trouble with it.

Pisa! It really leans! I actually thought the entire space was beautiful. There was just something about the white buildings against the green grass and the blue sky. It was beautiful.

After spending our free time at Pisa, we met up with the tour group to walk back to the bus. Another memorable thing about Pisa was the pickpockets. Our guide, Lavi, was wonderful at pointing them out and telling the people in our tour IMG_4936exactly what to look for. No one ended up getting pick-pocketed thanks to Lavi’s care.

Return Home: After Pisa we had a short 1-hour drive back to the City of Florence, arriving right at about 12 hours after we started.

All in all we had a wonderful day and would highly recommend this trip to anyone interested!

Pro tip: If you book through www.Viator.com early enough, you can generally get a discount on the tour! 🙂

 

 

La Gloria – Mexican Street Food in San Antonio

20170812_201146My husband grew up in San Antonio, but now we live pretty far away so he has his favorite restaurants that we always have to go to when he gets to come back home for a visit. One place that I had been hoping to get to try our last couple of trips was La Gloria, because I had only heard good things about it, including from Brian. He’s been there a few times, but I never had and it was on my list. So this time we managed a visit!IMG957394

La Gloria describes itself as a Mexican street food restaurant which makes it unique from other Mexican restaurants. La Gloria is    IMG957395located in the Pearl Brewery neighborhood, an urban redevelopment of an old brewing factory, and as a result the restaurant has a very trendy, but Mexican vibe. (Note, there is also a smaller version of La Gloria in the San Antonio airport). The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating which lets you enjoy the San Antonio weather or to escape from the heat, whichever you need to do. It was a very warm day so we opted for an inside table and had a very short 10 minute wait at 6:30pm on a Friday night in August. While we waited for a table, the restaurant has quite a bit of seating in an outdoor patio area decorated with some unique large sculptures.

After being shown to our table, I had two immediate reactions. First, although we sat indoors, the restaurant was still quite warm due to the constant traffic back and forth between the indoor area and the outdoor seating. We tolerated the heat, but it was a bit uncomfortable. Second, the menu at La Gloria is a bit difficult to understand. I’m a huge fan of Mexican food and have a pretty good grasp on the Spanish language, but a good portion of the menu was very confusing to me. I suppose this is because Mexican Street food 20170812_201213is quite a bit different from regular Mexican food? Anyways, I asked the waitress for assistance and still felt quite confused, so I will attempt to clarify what I now know based on my experience. (If anyone from La Gloria reads this review, I would like to recommend creating a menu with pictures!). I also wish they would have spelled out the fountain soda choices on menu, because I might have tried one if I had known what the options were.

I was still confused at the time, but ultimately settled on a Mexican pizza with shredded chicken. Brian ordered a lava bowl with steak chili (later learned this is called the Arrachera en Adobo) which is his favorite thing from the restaurant, and my mother-in-law selected a panucho with pork (not pictured). At this point and time, I think the only difference between the panucho and a tostada is the very bottom layer. My understanding is that a tostada has a essentially a flat hard taco shell on the bottom layer. A panucho has a refried tortilla stuffed with black beans inside. Both are served with the same types of toppings and look the same from above. The only difference between a mexican pizza and a tostada is the size and the price. Mine arrived big enough to share. If I could go back in time, I would’ve just ordered a tostada so that less went to waste.

Overall, I thought that the food was pretty good, but not necessarily great. I probably wouldn’t order the Mexican pizza again, but would want to try different options. I thought the tortilla for the bottom layer was really hard. On the other hand, my husband loved his dish and he orders the same thing every time. Most, I’m still frustrated with the way the menu is presented. If the menu was easier to read (with pictures or descriptions), I might have tried a couple of different smaller plates to share. However, at the time, I just felt so lost, I picked one thing that ended up being way too much food and felt like I overpaid. I also thought it was a bit odd that my husband had to pay for extra tortillas when he took half of his chili home in a to-go box. If you are ever in the San Antonio area, I do recommend trying La Gloria. If you’re in doubt, you could always be more insistent than I am about asking for help. I liked the restaurant, and saw quite a few dishes on other tables that looked delicious and would love to try. I’m just going to have to persevere through the menu until I find my favorite dish!

Ristorante La Grotta Guelfa – My Favorite in Florence

1502130140974Sometimes the best restaurants that you find are ones you stumble across yourself. And that’s what happened when we found La Grotta Guelfa. However, now that I’m back from our trip, I can see that lots of other travelers agree as La Grotta Guelfa is rated as a 4-star restaurant on Google.

We found the restaurant after spending a busy day walking around Florence. We were hungry and ready to find a nice restaurant where we could sit down and rest our legs and we also didn’t want to have to go out of our way to find a place. So after crossing the IMG_5055 IMG_5058  Ponte Vecchio, walking a few blocks, and turning left towards our hotel, La Grotta Guelfa was one of the first restaurants we found. We were a bit early for the evening rush so we had our pick of tables and sat right in front of the restaurant in the outdoor seating area. If the weather is colder, the inside of the building is also really lovely.

The first thing I noticed about the restaurant is how nice the waiting staff is. They let us choose our table and seemed so easy going and easy to laugh. Brian and I started our dinner with a caprese salad to share which was excellent! We had tons of caprese salads on our trip through Italy and we both agree that La Grotta Guelfa had just the right tomato to cheese ratio! Also, we learned that different types of balsamic vinegar or too much balsamic can make a big difference in the taste of your salad!

For dinner, Brian decided to try another IMG_5061IMG_5060Florentine steak. Luckily at this restaurant they were single portions, unlike the restaurant we ate at two nights prior. He was a bit worried because they didn’t ask how he liked his steak cooked, but was pleasantly surprised when it arrived Medium Rare, just the way he would have ordered it! For a side, Brian asked for asparagus and ended up with the biggest stalks we had ever seen!

I ordered the Pasta Arrabiata for the first time in Italy and I absolutely loved it. I love foods that are spicy with a bit of a kick, so the Arrabiata with it’s blend of tomatoes, garlic, and dried red chili peppers is perfect for me. I’ve tried a few times since then to find a recipe or another restaurant, but none of them have been as good as my dish from La Grotta Guelfa.

While we dined, we were entertained by the pigeons that wandered around the restaurant stealing bread crumbs. We also talked to the waiter and learned that the building is one of the oldest buildings in Florence and that it used to be a residence.

If you’re in Florence and looking for a nice place to relax and eat a good meal, we highly recommend La Grotta Guelfa. It’s a place where the food and atmosphere fits well if you are looking for a fancy date night or a casual dinner. To read their menu and plan your visit, you can visit their website here: http://www.grottaguelfa.it/

New Guide for Venice

1500863204745_1500863255523

I just posted our newest travel guide for the City of Venice, Italy and I think it’s my best one yet!!! Read all the way down to find out about our travel secret, breakfast cannolis! 🙂

Venice Guide Here

Hoping to post more stuff about Venice in the next couple of weeks including restaurant guides and a guide to visiting the 3 sister islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. 🙂

Delicious Lunch with a Beautiful View – Mudjin Bar & Grill

1486386488878

The Mudjin Bar & Grill is an excellent lunch option if you find yourself on Middle Caicos. It also might be your only option, when we visited everything else was closed, but don’t let that worry you. The lunch was a wonderful surprise, plus they have a nice working bathroom which is something we didn’t find anywhere else on the island!

We stumbled across this place after spending the morning on the lower part of Middle Caicos. At that point we were ready for a break and hungry for some lunch. We literally saw a sign along the road for the Mudjin Bar & Grill that prompted us to stop. They hadn’t quite opened the restaurant when we got there (just before 11am), but that was fine because we spent a few minutes exploring. While parked at the Mudjin Bar & Grill you have the perfect opportunity to explore the beach, the caves, and see the Dragon Cay. It’s a beautiful view and the beach looks really nice, it was just way too chilly for swimming when we were there over Thanksgiving.

DSCN0611 DSCN0652DSCN0603Turks & Caicos is known for their conch, so of course they had that on the menu. Brian and I both opted for the Mudjin Jerk Burger and we had an order of chicken wings as an appetizer. The hamburgers were excellent. This is the first time I ever had jerk seasoning on anything other than chicken, but it worked really well on the hamburgers. The burgers also came with a side of mango and tomato relish that Brian loved on his hamburger. They also have a full bar where you can get pina coladas and anything else you can think of. The meal was a little bit pricey, but if you’ve been in Turks & Caicos then you’re probably used to it and it’s not any more expensive than anywhere else on the islands. And best of all along with your lunch there’s a beautiful view of the Dragon Cay.

(Sorry I didn’t get any pictures of our meal, obviously I was distracted by the scenery!)

Finally!

1480285627491Okay, I thought I was going to get all of these posts done, but nope, ran off to Niagara Falls and then Hershey Park instead. Guess that’s the problem when you like to travel as much as I do, no time to write. Anyways, will be home for the next few weeks (I think) and so here’s our Las Vegas Guide all ready for reading:

Las Vegas Guide!!!

I’m Back!

Hi! I’m finally back after a very busy couple of months (24 day honeymoon, CFA exam, house construction!) and am preparing to post a bunch of new content over the Summer!

Coming soon:

  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Paris, France
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Las Vegas
  • St. Thomas
  • Niagara Falls/Toronto