Archives for May 2014

When Is the Best Time to Go to Europe?

best time to go to Europe

When is the best time of year to go to Europe?

This is a question that comes up over and over and it is one of the biggest decisions that you’ll end up making about your trip to Europe.  Everything from the price of your flight to the length of lines you will wait in, the type of clothes you’ll pack and where you’ll eat lunch will be affected by the time of year you choose to go to Europe.

Why? Well, when demand is lower for hotel and hostel rooms, train tickets and flights, prices tend to drop. Unfortunately, when the demand is high, they go up. There is also the issue of the weather. When the weather is the slightest shade of nice, European cafes, parks and beaches spring to life, practically begging you to join in on the fun. When the weather is really cold or rainy, the action moves inside and sightseeing can be a bit of a chore.

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Eating At Il Timoniere: One of the Anthony Bourdain Rome Restaurants

anthony bourdain rome restaurants

Next to history and gorgeous scenery, eating is one of the things that make a trip to Europe so magical.

And nearly every corner of the continent has a culinary specialty that screams out to be eaten by the food-focused traveler.

Dreaming of a summer trip France? I’m pretty sure some cheese and wine have been floating through that equation. Going to Germany? You’ve probably already been bragging about all the pretzels and roast chicken you’ll have at a German beer festival. Swinging through Spain? Tapas are surely atop your list.

But nowhere, and I mean nowhere commands the attention of travelling foodies like Italy.

Every time I go to Italy, I am on the lookout for ‘off-the-eaten-path’ type spots, and thanks to Anthony Bourdain, I discovered Il Timoniere in Rome, and I can’t recommend the place enough.

I used to record No Reservations all the time and especially took notice of the Rome episode that aired since it was on mere weeks before I would be in the Eternal City. I found it entertaining, informative, and a little slow as usual but it wasn’t until the segment when he visited a Roman “mom and pop” restaurant that I looked up from my laptop and started paying attention.

I was so impressed with the segment on Il Timoniere that I immediately texted my friend who I was going to be traveling with and said “Dinner. Rome. Done Deal.”

 

A few weeks later, we were without a doubt the only tourists wandering the streets of the Garbatella neighborhood searching for Il Timoniere. Even though the directions we had written down seemed bulletproof, of course we got lost. Through the help of many friendly Romans though, we got back on course for our first course and headed straight down a hidden residential street.

It was a perfect September night, remarkably quiet and still. With all the high rise apartments that enveloped us with their windows open, the only sound in the air was that of televisions broadcasting the local soccer team, A.S. Roma, and the “ooohing and aaaahing” of the fans in their homes.

anthony bourdain rome restaurants

When we finally arrived at the restaurant after multiple wrong locations searched, it was like taking a step back in time. The name of the restaurant was sketched into a piece of wood out front and it appeared to be in the courtyard of a residential building.

We were seated and became only the second table being served. There wasn’t one word of English on the menu, and that was just what we were hoping for.

What followed was a mouth-watering procession of prosciutto-wrapped buffalo mozzarella, carbonara with zucchini flowers, Spaghetti Amatriciana, and Tiramisu. The dishes tasted as good as they had looked on television and then some.

The family dog that was scouring the floor for scraps and the peeling wallpaper complimented the “mom and pop” feel, but it was the warm, family-run atmosphere that made Il Timoniere the highlight of my time in Rome.

Go to Il Timoniere on your next trip to Rome, you will not regret it.

 

 

Where To Find The Best Mezcal in Oaxaca

When you think of liquors from Mexico, tequila is almost always the first one that springs to mind. You may love it, you may have had too much of it one night in College and hate it, but you still probably think of it first. Some may also think of creamy cool Kahlua, but nowadays there is another liquor vying for your attention from south of the border, and that liquor is Mezcal. Mezcal is an agave based liquor like tequila (and in fact tequila is a type of Mezcal, but that’s not important right now) and it’s been showing up on more and more trendy menus around the world lately and so when we arrived in Oaxaca, the de facto home of Mezcal, we just had to try it out at a few places around town. 

Here’s my pick for where to find the best Mezcal in Oaxaca.

best mezcal in oaxaca

La Casa De Mezcal – Flores Magón 209

This place is what you envision when you hear the word cantina. This is the kind of place to drink, drink some more, get rowdy, and maybe even get tossed out through the swinging doors. For this reason, we felt a bit intimidated standing outside, but once we went in, we felt very, very, welcome. The menu was extensive without being overwhelming and the place was a touch rough, but in a welcoming way. I asked the waiter what his favorite mezcal was, and he brought me one of those. He said it was “sauve”, which if you remember your 90’s pop music correctly, means “smooth”. It was indeed smooth and smoky and when followed up with a little orange, hit the spot. As with all mezcal, the move is to cooly sip it, not to do it as a shot.

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How To Save Money in Iceland

save money in iceland

Is Iceland expensive? Well, does an Icelandic horse pee on a glacier? Unfortunately, yes, yes it is expensive. The expense of Iceland is actually one reason it took Julia and I so long to get there, and it has been the subject of most questions I’ve received from readers since we visited. The more isolated places are, the more expensive they tend to be, and Iceland sure is Ice-so-lated (sorry, I had to). Fear not though, there are definitely some things you can do to save money in Iceland, and here are a few of them.

Go in Winter

I know it’s cold, and I know it’s wet, but winter in Iceland means low season in Iceland and therefore the time of year for the lowest hotel, tour, and flight prices. Plus, it also happens to be the high season for seeing the Northern Lights. To summarize, that means lower prices and livelier lights. That’s a perfect combination if you ask me. Plus, while some may think the lack of sunlight is daunting and depressing, I didn’t think it was that bad, and, in a way, it just adds to the mystique of the place in my opinion. I actually thought it was pretty cool how the sun didn’t come up until nearly 10 AM and then set at 3:30 PM in January. It was different, and that is why I came to Iceland in the first place.

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Oktoberfest Munich Advice: How To Do It Right

oktoberfest munich advice

Since I’m always talking about how much I love Oktoberfest (and casually mentioning that I’ve been there four times), I often get e-mails from readers asking me for Oktoberfest advice.

I figured it would be cool to respond to the most common questions that I get here in one post.

So, if you are getting ready to go for the very first time or had so many beers in previous visits that you don’t remember anything, these Oktoberfest tips are for you.

When is Oktoberfest? There are no set Oktoberfest dates. Like Mardi Gras and Easter, the dates for Oktoberfest change every year. In 2017, it’s from September 16th to October 3rd. Most years, it spans 16 days from the third Saturday in September through the first Sunday in October.

The main thing to remember is that Oktoberfest is mostly in September not October and it includes three weekends. Speaking of those weekends …

What are the best days to go to Oktoberfest? Not the weekends.

Going on a weekday is probably my number one bit of Oktoberfest advice. Seriously, avoid the weekends at all costs. Why? well, it is undeniable that if you go to Oktoberfest, you are going to have a fantastic time with thousands of your closest friends, but there’s no need to make it millions.

The weekends at Oktoberfest are a mega-mess of masses and I recommend just staying away.

Plus, it feels good to be drinking beer at noon on a Monday or Tuesday when all your friends back home are at work. Oh yeah, If German Reunification Day (October 3rd) falls on a weekday, avoid that one too.

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