December 31, 2014

Mapping My Month: January 2015

Is it just me, or did December fly by?  I'm still reeling from the whirlwind of the Christmas season and can hardly believe a new month - let alone a new year! - is now upon us.

Yes, we made a Santa.
As forecasted, our December travels consisted of multiple trips to the mall, grocery store, friends' holiday parties, and back to the mall.  Again and again!  With over twenty immediate family members between Danny's family and mine, there's usually a large spread of presents beneath our seven-foot tall tree.  Between shopping for so many people and transitioning to a new career in a new city, I declared a temporary hiatus from blogging for most of December, and I'm glad I did.  Although I still have so much more to write and share about our big international trip this past summer and numerous regional trips since then, I've felt no inspiration or compulsion to write.  Until the day comes when this blog is big enough to be a full-time job (in other words, probably never!), I have the luxury of cutting back on the quantity of posts until I actually feel like writing something worth reading.

Half of Danny's family
December did bring a first for the blog, though: our "All Roads Lead to Bavaria" Giveaway!  We announced our plans to return to Europe this spring and felt that rather than simply declaring where we were going, we would entertain guesses with the incentive of winning a scratch-off map of the world!  Our giveaway garnered 9 total guesses: 2 for Greece, and 1 each for Ireland, Sweden, Croatia, Belgium, Andorra, England, and Iceland.  We will announce the winner - and by association, our travel destination - tomorrow, so stay tuned!

January will bring a few regional excursions for our travel log.  As my job takes me to a "new" town, there will be more restaurants, vineyards, breweries, and historical attractions to visit and review.  My sister will be getting married at the end of the month, and a dear friend from Boston will be in town for the festivities!  Beyond that, I'm sure my new job will keep me so busy that the end of the month will once again leave me wondering where in the world all that time went!


What about you?  Any fun activities in store for January?

December 30, 2014

The Ghosts of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg is perhaps the most well-known and iconic of the American Civil War, immortalized in films such as Maxwell's Gettysburg and commemorated in hundreds of monuments dotted throughout the grounds of the national park.  No matter your opinion or stance on the politics or motivating ideology of the war itself, this battlefield will move you to a somber silence.  At the end of the three day battle in July 1863, between 46,000 to 51,000 men were dead, wounded, or missing, contributing towards making it the largest battle ever fought on American soil.  As General Robert E. Lee stated, "It is well that war is so terrible.  We should grow too fond of it."

We have visited Gettysburg three times in the last four years, feeling drawn back to the fields of Pickett's charge, the rocky slopes of Little Round Top, and the buildings preserved in honor of the men who fought and died there.  It feels wrong to call a certain battlefield a "favorite," but Gettysburg draws us back and quiets us in a manner no other American battlefield has thus far.

Below is a compilation of 10 photos from our three visits:
The Virginia Memorial (September 2010)
The long, hot route of Pickett's Charge (September 2010)

Lieutenant General James Longstreet, CSA (September 2010)

What haunted souls linger on Little Round Top?  We did not stage this photo to make Danny look like an amputee, but close observation of the photo shows little sign of his left leg.  Although the logical explanation is that his shorts must've been baggy enough to stretch out as his leg was held back, this picture still fascinates us with its supernatural possibilities.  (September 2010)

The Angle - "High Water Mark" of the Civil War (July 2013 for the 150th anniversary)
A romanticized depiction of war (July 2013)

Snow-covered battlefields looking from the Union line towards the Confederate line (November 2014)

(November 2014)

(November 2014)

General George Meade, USA (September 2010)


Have you visited Gettysburg National Military Park?  Don't forget you can track your visits to the U.S. National Parks with their Passport Program!

Linking up with Bonnie, Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for #TravelTuesday!

December 28, 2014

Wining & Dining in Rome

It almost goes without saying that you can't visit Italy without encountering at least one spectacular meal.  We enjoyed our favorite meal in Pompei at Hostaria Plinio, but Rome brought their A-game with great cuisine and superb service.  Sadly, as per typical DanTrina foodie-fest-coma-fashion, we neglected to think about taking pictures of our meals until, well, our plates were nearly clean and the point moot.

However, there were a few stand-out meals we wished to share, some with our own photos and some used with permission from similar bloggers' experiences at various Roman eateries:

(C) Expat Gourmand  Photo not from Babbo's.
Ristorante Babbos

After a delayed arrival in Rome (thanks to the mind-blowing punctuality of the Italian public transportation system, cough-cough), we were famished and desperate for food.  A recommendation from our hotel's concierge brought our empty stomachs to Ristorante Babbos, a few blocks northwest of Termini station.  A small fence separated the tables from the street in this restaurant's charming outdoor setting, and waiters in white coats and towels draped over their arms served us ice-cold water and tasty Italian wines.  We began our meal with bruschetta, which may actually have bested what we enjoyed in Pompei.  Danny silenced his hunger monsters with a large margherita pizza, and I satisfied mine with a plate of lasagna.  We had no complaints with the taste or the portions, but it didn't wow our taste buds as much as the bruschetta.  Overall it was a solidly enjoyable meal, but it did not prove to be our best in Rome.

Price range: $$
Appetizers: 5-6 euros
Pasta dishes: 9-10 euros
Pizza: 8-10 euros
Beer: 3-4 euros (per glass or half liter)
Wine: 4-5 euros
Service: 5 out of 5
Bang for your Buck Value: 4 out of 5
Location: Via Volturno 13, in the same block as the Piazza delle Finanze

The Steak House
TripAdvisor Site

Don't let the name of this restaurant turn you off as being inauthentic - we ate at this restaurant twice during our five night stay in Rome, and other than street vendors and Hostaria Plinio in Pompei, it's the only place we enjoyed enough to revisit while in Italy.  In spite of the generic, almost American-sounding name, the cuisine at this establishment was intrinsically Italian and mouth-wateringly good.  Between both our visits, we enjoyed spaghetti, lasagna, alfredo, bruschetta, pizza, and copious glasses of wine.  The lasagna was the best:  generous inclusions of beef, the perfect ratio of cheese, and pasta at the perfect point of tenderness.  Danny's serving of spaghetti with shrimp was also praise-worthy, and the olive-oil coated, garlic tomatoes were the perfect side dish.  The service was prompt, attentive, and not over-bearing.  Most of the waitstaff appeared to speak English, or at least know enough to interact with guests.  However, we noticed that nearly half of the patrons were Italians enjoying a meal there, too.  While not a four star restaurant, the Steak House proved itself a purveyor of affordably-priced, delicious Italian food.  If staying in the Termini/Esquilino area, we would highly recommend a meal or two here!

Price range: $$
Appetizers: 5-6 euros
Pasta dishes: 8-10 euros
Pizza: 8-10 euros
Beer: 3-4 euros (per glass or half liter)
Wine: 4-5 euros
Service: 5 out of 5
Bang for your Buck Value: 5 out of 5
Location: Via Montebello 77

Osteria Allegro Pachino Ristorante
TripAdvisor Site

The ill-fated order of saltimbucca
We stumbled upon this restaurant in a side alley off the Trevi Fountain.  The place was obviously geared towards tourists - our menus were entirely in English, although TripAdvisor pictures seem to indicate that they offer bilingual menus which would've proved helpful for my particular experience here.  As our menus were entirely in English and my knowledge of culinary descriptions is limited, I ordered a "traditional Roman veal cutlet."  Oh, if only the menu had included Italian, then it would've stated the dish as being saltimbucca - a name I recognize and food I highly dislike!  When the food arrived and I discovered my error, it was too late in the night for us to order another dish.  I filled up on bread and a few bites of Danny's delicious spaghetti with octopus and mussels dish (picture at top of blog post) before we departed.  I'm sure the saltimbucca was good, but even the best saltimbucca dish in the world is not going to sway my opinion.  Service was adequate, although the food seemed to take longer to appear than at other establishments.  The food was slightly overpriced, but not as badly as you'd expect from a restaurant merely 92 meters from the Trevi Fountain.

Price range: $$
Appetizers: 6-7 euros
Pasta dishes: 9-11 euros
Meat dishes: 12-18 euros
Pizza: 8-10 euros
Beer: 3-4 euros (per glass or half liter)
Wine: 4-5 euros
Service: 3.5 out of 5
Bang for your Buck Value: 3.5 out of 5
Location: Via dei Crociferi 12/14, less than 100 meters west of the Trevi Fountain

Tre Scalini Cafe

Of course no trip to Italy is complete without enjoying some gelato.  Embarrassingly enough, we only had it twice during our entire eight and a half days in Italy!  However, we couldn't have chosen a better gelato cafe in all of Rome than Tre Scalini- as fellow travel blogger Michelle from Malaysian Meanders would agree!  Our method of "choosing" Tre Scalini was simply that we were in need of a restroom and they happened to have one.  Hardly romantic, but certainly serendipitous in a city with notoriously few public bathrooms.  Tre Scalini's cases offered dozens of gelato flavors from which to choose and additional desserts, such as tartufo, to tempt you, too.  I settled upon three scoops of tiramisu, cream, and chocolate in a dish, while Danny enjoyed a similarly chocolate-y combination on a cone, coming to around 4 euros a person.  In a word, the gelato was divine.  If for no other reason, take your wandering feet to the Piazza Navona and enjoy a cone of this ambrosia while marveling over Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers.  It will be a highlight of your trip!

Price range: $
Gelato: 2-6 euros (depending on how many scoops)
Bang for your Buck Value: 5 out of 5
Location:  Directly in front of the Four Rivers fountain in the Piazza Navona on the western side


What were some of the food highlights from your trip to Rome?

Linking up with Adelina from Pack Me To for the one year anniversary of #SundayTraveler!

December 22, 2014

December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Roman Skyline (2014)

While modern skylines have their appeal, I must admit that I prefer Rome's to skyscrapers any day.  A visit to the Castel Sant'Angelo is worth it even if solely to capture this stunning skyline - arguably the best view of it anywhere in the city!

To read more about our visit to Rome and Campania, check out my thoughts on experiencing culture shock in Italy or read about my "admiration" for the efficiency of their public transportation system.  Or if you want to see how I got egg on my face - or rather, pizza on the floor - in Pompeii, there's a little of that, too.

Have you seen Rome's skyline?

And don't forget to participate in the "All Roads Lead to Bavaria" Giveaway!  You could win a scratch-off map of the world to show off all your travels!  The contest closes on Christmas Eve, and the winner will be announced in the new year.

December 15, 2014

On a Personal Note

Good morning, everyone!

As we approach the holiday season, it will be somewhat quiet on the blog.  Christmas parties, short work-weeks, and last-minute shopping have succeeded in turning my life into a chaotic blur.  On top of that, I am in the process of leaving my current job as a payroll accountant in Richmond, Va., and transitioning to a new position in Charlottesville, Va., as a project assistant for an engineering firm.  I've been at my current job for nearly four years and love this place.  However, I've been commuting one hour (one way!), and the long drive has taken its toll.  My new job will be half the drive and open a whole new world of possibilities career-wise.

As I wrap up my old job and start the new, I feel like I'm in the throes of a painful divorce - and don't have the heart (or time) to post as much.  I've been blessed to have such great relationships in my work family and will miss being part of the team.  But I'm also excited to see what the new job and new year will bring!

I hope that by the first of the year I will be back to my regular 3-4 posts a week.  I will still be promoting and monitoring participants in my Giveaway, which will officially close on Christmas eve.  If you haven't thrown in your guess yet, be sure to do so!

P.S.  The picture is from our Labor Day weekend trip to the Outer Banks.  Can you tell I'm wishing for some summer weather to return?!

December 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Old Town Square, Prague (2012)

Ah, Prague - the city straight out of a fairy tale!  Every street of the old town is begging to be photographed, beautiful churches beckon from every corner, and the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Square is a wonder!  This photo was taken from the top of the Astronomical Clock tower and shows the Jan Hus statue (bottom left corner) and the Our Lady of Tyn church on the right hand-side.  

Have you discovered Prague yet?

P.S.  If you haven't already joined my "All Roads Lead to Bavaria" Giveaway, be sure to do so before Christmas Eve!  You could win a world scratch-off map to show off your travels! 

December 09, 2014

"All Roads Lead to Bavaria" Giveaway

As mentioned previously, we have purchased airfare for a return trip to Europe this spring!  Excitement doesn't even begin to describe it.  The second half of our trip will be spent in Germany (because for us, all roads lead to Bavaria!), but the first half will be spent in ...

You didn't think I'd give our destination away that easily, did you?

In honor of our fifth return to Europe in as many years, instead of just announcing our new destination, I want you to guess it!  And to give you a little bit of an incentive, I've compiled a give-away gift for one lucky winner!

A Luckies of London Scratch Map of the World! (Approx. $25 value)

Let's face it, as travelers we love to show off all the places we've been, whether in list form, our travel photos on the wall, or souvenir magnets on the fridge.  What's cooler than a map on which you can scratch off all the places you've visited for your own unique picture of the world?!  I'm hoping to throw in a few packs of German chocolate as well if the shipping costs are conducive.

So here's the deal: I'll provide three small clues to our new destination below, and you leave your best guess for our destination in the comment section.  A winner will be randomly drawn from the correct guesses, and if my hints are terrible and no correct guesses are made, a winner will be drawn from all participants!  To increase your chances of winning, follow our Instagram and Twitter accounts and leave your usernames in the comment.  I'll follow you back - it's a win-win situation for you!  The contest will close on Christmas Eve, and I will announce a winner on January 1st!*

Here are your clues...
1:  This country is on our bucket list.
2:  This country is located in Europe.
3:  The amount of international tourists visiting this country per year outnumbers the country's entire population.

These clues are vague, but a quick search through my blog should afford you at least two decent guesses.  Besides, I'm looking forward to seeing all the guesses - right or wrong!

This spring our road will lead us to Bavaria, but where are we going first?  Leave your guess in a comment below and be sure to follow our social media accounts!

Facebook   ~   Twitter   ~   Instagram   ~   Pinterest   ~   Bloglovin'

*If your comment doesn't provide a link to where you can be contacted but you still wish to participate in the giveaway, either check back here on January 1st to find out if you won or send your contact info to!

Linking up with Bonnie Rose, Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for #TravelTuesday!

Linking up with A Brit and a Southerner  every Friday for the #WeekendWanderlustCheck out the other great travel bloggers in the link-up!

December 06, 2014

Strasbourg, Up Close & Personal

For more on Strasbourg, see here!

Half-timbered houses

Gothic carvings

The saints on the Notre Dame of Strasbourg

Rose Window of the Cathedral

Fascinating "bone" structure in the Cathedral

Not so "up close" but my favorite shot of the half-timbered houses!

What's your favorite part about Strasbourg?


Linking up with other travel bloggers for the #SundayTraveler!

December 05, 2014

Visiting Strasbourg Cathedral

What's 142 meters high, built from thousands of tonnes of sandstone, and boasted the tallest spire in the world for 227 years (1647-1874)?  If you guessed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, France, you'd be correct!

Constructed between 1015 and 1439 in the late-Gothic style, the Strasbourg Cathedral towers prominently above its picturesque town and is also visible from the Vosgues mountains over 60 kilometers away.  To say that I felt dwarfed by this massive church would be a vast understatement.

Even at ground level, the Cathedral features all the more prominently since it is surrounded by many buildings with the quintessential half-timbered look, which contrasts nicely against the church's stone facade.  The intricate carving conveys the viewers' eyes up to its spire, a literal response to their figurative reminder to cast your thoughts upward to God.

Inside the Cathedral is a marvelous astronomical clock, one of the largest in the world (18 meters tall) and a mathematical wonder of its time.  Having viewed the Prague astronomical clock in 2012, it was neat to do a mental comparison of the two. 

Unfortunately, we did not have time to climb the spire as per our tradition (we had a World Cup party to attend that evening!), but would encourage you to do so if you can.  I'm sure the views are stunning, even on an overcast day!

Have you visited Strasbourg Cathedral?


Linking up with A Southern Gypsy for #WeekendWanderlust!

December 04, 2014

Throwback Thursday: San Antonio River Walk (2011)

On our visit to San Antonio in 2011, we had a chance to wander along the River Walk for a few hours.  It was a cool respite from the Texas heat and one of the highlights of our weekend visit.  I highly recommend stopping by a waterfront restaurant or cafe for a meal or a drink!

Have you been to San Antonio's River Walk?

December 02, 2014

3 Must-Do's in Strasbourg

"I've never even heard of Strasbourg."

This is the most common response when mentioning this French city in a conversation with another American.  Located in the Alsace region, which borders Germany along the Rhine river, Strasbourg is just big enough to be a tourist attraction while small enough to keep the bulk of camera-wielding hordes at bay.  Whether for someone with a dubious impression of the French (based largely on stereotypes and not on firsthand experience) or for someone with a keen love for all things Teutonic, Strasbourg provides the perfect combination of both cultures: German charm and the French joie de vivre, or joy of life.

So what's so special about this city you've never heard of?  Well, here are three things you can do in Strasbourg to discover its beauties and learn its history:

1.  Explore the Notre Dame Cathedral (Strasbourg Cathedral)
Completed in 1439 in the late-Gothic style, the Strasbourg Cathedral remained the highest building in the world for nearly 230 years, finally acceding to St Nikolai Kirche in Hamburg in 1874, but still remains the tenth tallest church.  Marvel over the flying buttresses, the astronomical clock in the interior, and climb the spire for stunning views of the city.

2.  Wander the Grand Île & Munch on Flammkuchen
The historic center of Strasbourg, known as the Grand Île (Grand Island), was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.  Its medieval lanes and half-timbered houses hearken to the town's Germanic roots.  Stop by a shop for some flammkuchen, a thin-crusted pizza topped with crème fraîche, onions, and lardons - an Alsatian specialty! - and crisscross your way over Strasbourg's many bridges for picturesque photo opportunities.

3.  Take the Water Tour
Speaking of bridges (and water!), take a boat tour of Strasbourg.  Audio commentary is available in 12 different languages for adults, and a special guide for children is available in four languages.  You'll get a waterfront view of Strasbourg's iconic buildings, including the Cathedral, palace, and glimpses of the European Parliament.  It's a great way to orient yourself to the layout of the town and map out what attractions you'd like to visit.

Have you heard of Strasbourg?  Visited yet?


Linking up with Bonnie & other travel bloggers for #TravelTuesday!