Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bouyant Bruxelles

With the EUPS program, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Brussels for a second time. Unlike our first time in the capital city, the sun shined brilliantly. The weather that we encountered was absolutely fabulous (apparently some of the best springtime weather the city had experienced in years) and gave Brussels the glow of a golden wheat beer.

This extraordinary weather allowed me to drink in many new sights the city had to offer and reflect on this melting pot. Brussels is a French speaking island in a Flemish sea; a meeting point for so many different cultures through out Europe. In turn this has created a city with a rich and complex texture, that I believe is overlooked by many.

It is as elegant city while still also being an eclectic mix of groups, truly the capital of Europe in many ways. Sadly one can sometimes miss that in a haze of rain, beer and waffles. But in feverish sunshine or the glow of a Spring night, Brussels burns brightly in technicolor and allows you to experience the city known as Bruxelles (French) or Brussel (Dutch) in all of its glory.

Don't pass up such a luminous city. You will regret it!

Tanti Baci,

I though I should share about this little fellow, Manneken Pis which translates to "Little Man Pee." Although the fountain may seem crude to some, the story behind Manneken Pis is deeply rooted in the city's folklore and seen to represent the spirit of Brussels. According to one legend, the statue was created to honor a little boy who, while hiding in a tree, drove away invading troops by peeing on them. Another says the little boy saved the city during a siege by peeing on a burning fuse that would have set Brussels blaze. Whatever the legend, Manneken Pis is certainly a landmark with close connections to the culture of the city and should not be forgotten (especially since sometimes the fountain has beer flowing instead of water!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Paris of the Danube

There are very few cities that can be described as having a grown up type magic. Many places can be described as having that fairytale-esque type aura that makes you feel as if Walt Disney's genius is lurking around the next corner. However, very few can cast the spell of adult magic and can whisk people away in a more mature fashion. Many say Paris has this ability or so I have been told by the movies. I wouldn't know because I have never been to the city of lights. But I can tell you for certain that Budapest does indeed have its own brand of enchantment. The city literally glows in a bedazzling light.

My heart kind of skips a beat when I think of Budapest. One of the three imperial cities of the Hapsburg empire, Budapest is truly a crown jewel.

The city's sense of grandeur is spellbinding without being oppressive or unapproachable. It is impossible not to be drawn to such gleaming monuments that make Budapest the "Pearl of the Danube."

Whether its strolling across one of the four stately bridges that link Buda and Pest together, gazing dreamily at the Danube from the Fisherman's Bastion or sharing a bottle of Hungarian wine with someone special on Margaret's Island you will be bewitched. The city is truly a marvel that sadly many miss out on.

Don't wait, go to Budapest and fall in love like I did. You'll find that many other cities pale in comparison to it's magic and I dare sat you might start referring to Paris as "The Budapest of the Seine."

Tanti Baci,

PS: If ever in Budapest I HIGHLY recommend the restaurant Poszonyi and while there try the jokai bableves soup. It is a little local hole-in-the-wall, but the food was incredible.

And on another foodie note, Budapest has an extremely famous coffee culture. I highly recommend exploring these scrumptious coffee options! If not only for the taste then for the designs that are so lovely it makes it almost a crime to consume them!

Monday, August 15, 2011

City on a Hill

No family vacation is complete without an excursion- it is the best way to escape the big city and see what an area is all about. Following that mantra Katie, Bobby and I (along with baby P!) meandered into the Italian countryside. What did we come across on our early morning train ride from Rome? An imposing hillside town called Orvieto.

Standing dramatically above the countryside, Orvieto has been an ideal strategic location for the area's inhabitants. For thousands of years the Etruscans, the Romans and the Papacy all took advantage city's fortified location. This militaristic past as a stronghold has made the city an archaeological gem rich with history. Nowadays, Orvieto is a charming little town which is home to some of the best wine in the Umbria region.

We all found Orvieto to be a much welcomes retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Italian capital. Despite the high elevation and mighty winds, we found ourselves getting extremely comfortable in this slow city*.

We allowed ourselves to wander aimless through the cobblestone streets, feast on mounds of delish pasta and laugh together until we gave ourselves stomach aches. Isn't that what la dolce vita is about eh?

A lovely getaway. A perfect day on a city on a hill.

Tanti Baci,


PS: Orvietois actually a "slow city." It is apart of a movement known as Cittaslow that looks to protect the diversity, uniqueness and quality of life in small cities.