Post # 1
One of my favorite things to do on WB is to give recommendations for restaurants, etc. to Bees who are thinking about a honeymoon in cities I have been to and loved. I thought it might be nice to create a thread (if it turned out useful, perhaps it could even be pinned) where we could collect all our recs/suggestions. I’ll begin with a few recommendations–this is not a comprehensive list, but I wish to avoid writing not just a novel, but a trilogy (or worse)!
- Check out the Museo del Bargello–the building itself (which was the Palazzo del Podestà from the mid-13th c. to the 16th c., at which time it was converted to a prison) is interesting enough, but it houses a great sculpture collection–and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which features, among many other interesting items, a stunning wooden Mary Magdalene by Donatello and Michelangelo’s unfinished Pietà. Right now (Dec. ’13) they are working on the Museo del Duomo and I don’t know if accessibility is affected.
- Both the Mercato di San Lorenzo and the Mercato Nuovo (this is the one near the Palazzo Vecchio with the boar statue) are, in my opinion, hit or miss. You will see many of the same goods sold at both markets and you have to be very, very careful when evaluating leather–there are indeed some deals to be had, but, in my opinion, much of what is on offer is not amazing. Be ABSOLUTELY SURE that you buy “Made in Italy” goods and, especially if you happen to be on the petite side, watch some of these vendors. Many of them apparently think that playing on the stereotype of Italian men as oh-so-amorous is an effective sales tactic and they can get pushy.
- A delightful establishment that is quite near Mercato Centrale is Mario. Mario is a lunch-only place that doesn’t take reservations. In the high tourist season this means you need to be haunting the door by 11:45am. Mario’s clientele is a mixture of tourists and working Florentines on lunch break. The pace in the restaurant is much more hectic than your typical Italian dining experience; they are not being rude, they are just trying to accomodate all the people who want to get in for lunch. Mario features communal seating; the daily menu is written on a piece of paper that is taped to the counter by the cash register; you order one course at a time; and you pay up at the cash register when you are done.
- I follow the “bacaro lunch, large dinner” food strategy. Two bacari that are both good and accommodating to English speakers are All’Arco, which is near the Rialto Bridge, and Già Schiavi on the Fondamenta Nani in Dorsoduro–some cicchetti and a spritz will put you out between 5-8 EUR. One of the places I like for dinner is Antiche Carampane, which is an all-seafood restaurant in San Polo. The owners are the nicest people and you can experience many ingredients and preparations typical to the Lagoon here. The place is really hard to find–get good directions and give it a trial run. Reservations are essential. Expect between 50-100 EUR/person depending on the alcohol you order and how many courses you have. I also love Il Ridotto, which is in Castello and close to San Marco. It has more modern presentation and creativity compared with many other stalwarts of the Venetian dining scene (however, it is in no way to be compared with the most cutting-edge restaurants in the USA and Paris). Again, reservations essential, and prices are similar to Antiche Carampane.
- If you want to get a sense of the mystery of Venice, I recommend taking the 4.1 or 4.2 vaporetto to San Alvise. That will put you in a part of Cannaregio that gets comparatively little tourist traffic. This is a really great walk to do at night, and even though you’ll feel as though you’re absolutely lost, if you just keep on walking, you’ll eventually hit the Strada Nova, a main thoroughfare.
Post # 3
- Wedding: October 2013 - Vine Street Church
- Ghana is amazing and safe. Generally, people are very nice, and the public transportation system, while a little different than what people associate with public transit, is very well-developed.
- Make sure you keep your luggage claim tags! They require you to prove that your bags belong to you before you’re able to leave Kotoka.
- Life’s better away from Accra. I know there’s a lot to see along the coast, but it just wasn’t something that interested me — I’m not really a beach person anyway. I’ve heard great things about Cape Coast from other yevu, but I haven’t been there. It’s worth catching a trotro up to the Volta Region and visiting places like the Wli waterfall, the Kpando potters, the Cedi bead factory… even just going and staying at a hotel around Lake Volta is beautiful.
- It’s also worth going up to Larabanga and Mole National Park to see the elephants. The drive from Fulfoso to Larabanga is kind of a bumpy nightmare, but it’s so dark that the stars are fabulous at night. Just make sure to have lodging near Mole before you go because they book up very quickly.
- I’ve heard great things about Bolgatonga, but I never made it up there because I was so busy at work in Hohoe.
- You have to go to the market on market days. The colors are spectacular and there are a lot of interesting foods and other items. Don’t believe the first price they tell you for things, however — you have to bargain.
- Be careful when it comes to fufu. Cassava can be really dangerous if it’s not cooked correctly. If you get fufu, get plantain fufu. Kelewele is pretty much the best food ever, especially with red-red. The corn is different and so much tastier — you’ll see a lot of people selling it right off of the grill on the side of the road. Fanice is also THE BEST — tastiest ice cream ever. Despite what a lot of guide books tell you, you don’t have to take any water filters or anything — they sell bags of water that have been treated. They taste pretty funky though, so I took along a bottle and some Crystal Light, heh.
- Get some of the optional vaccinations before you go. Yellow fever is required, but I also got the vaccinations for typhoid and rabies in addition to all of my boosters. Don’t forget to take your anti-malarials as prescribed — I’ve had malaria and it suuuuccckkkkeeeedddd.
- If you’re washing your clothes, dry them in your room. Botflies will land and lay eggs on drying clothing, and you don’t want those larvae in you. If you HAVE to hang clothes outside, iron them before wearing.
- People are very laid back when it comes to time. VERY laid back. Everything runs on ‘Ghana time’, so don’t be surprised if things are running a couple of hours behind, especially in rural areas.
If anyone has any questions about Ghana, I’d be more than happy to answer them. Not a crazy popular tourist destination, I know, but someone might be interested in visiting one day.
Post # 4
- Wedding: November 2012 - Oak Tree Manor
@MarriedToMyWork: Where did you stay in Florence? We’re booking a trip to Italy in May and would love a hotel recommendation!
Post # 5
@Mrs. Wallaby: I usually stay in an apartment, but I’ve had some luck at Hotel Rosso 23, which has the added benefit of being located very, very close to the train station (the hotel itself is in Piazza Santa Maria Novella, which, not surprisingly, is close to Stazione Santa Maria Novella).
Observations on Travels in Tuscany and the Veneto
- Italians don’t always believe that the customer is right, because sometimes the customer is quite wrong. This can be quite shocking to travelers from the USA. (This explains the phenomenon of the 1-star Trip Advisor review from a person who was angry that, say, a superlative Ligurian seafood restaurant wouldn’t serve him/her Sicilian lasagna.) A quality Italian cheesemonger or winemaker or restauranteur takes great pride in his/her work and respects the tradition and ingredients and is desperate to show them off. That is what motivates his/her recommendations or suggestions, not a desire to “fleece” you! (Again, this is assuming that you’ve picked a quality place!) If you are really at a loss, never be afraid to ask, “Cosa ci consiglia, signora/e?” which means, “What do you recommend?”
- I know you can’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but you will be treated better the more put-together you look. Seriously, for city sightseeing, leave the baseball caps, shorts, college/sports team T-shirts, hiking backpacks, convertible pants, all-weather microfiber gear, Nikes, and large camera bags in the hotel!
- The notion of the right time or occasion carries great meaning. Sometimes it is appropriate to do a certain thing–like take a walk or eat a meal–at a more rapid pace, and sometimes it is more appropriate to do the thing at a slower pace. Try to follow the moves of those around you to keep up with the right notion of time.
- In my experience (I’m uncomfortable turning this into a broad generalization), people in Tuscany are quicker to give you that “you’re part of the family” sort of feeling, while folks in Venice tend to be a bit more reserved (though unfailingly kind and polite). I would imagine that some of that has to do with the Venetian attitude toward tourism, especially cruise ship tourism.
Post # 6
- Wedding: November 2012 - Oak Tree Manor
@MarriedToMyWork: Do you use AirBnb to book apartments in Italy? We’ve thought of that too, haven’t ever used AirBnb though. (The last time I went to Italy I stayed in hostels, I think my DH wants something a little nicer than that but we aren’t willing to pay an arm and a leg!)
Post # 7
@Mrs. Wallaby: I have used AirBNB before–the folks I have arranged accommodation with via that site have been very nice and their properties have been as advertised. I also felt the rates were very reasonable (a last-minute booking in Siena for the Palio that didn’t bankrupt me, for example).