Singapore is…

… really humid. Like, shockingly hot and muggy. Singapore was never really on the list of places that I was dying to see. It was another Asian city, that I probably hadn’t heard enough about. Living in Sydney, Singapore comes up a lot in conversation, at least in the advertising industry. Many offices are based in Singapore of have a Southeast Asian counterpart nestled in the big island city. It ended up as a stop on our much anticipated trip to Thailand (happy birthday to me!) because our Singapore-based budget airline has a standard layover there, regardless of your destination. In the effort of saving as much money as possible, our layover was particularly long; 24 hours. I’m typically quite a laid back traveler in the sense that I like to take my time around a place, I like to rest up to make sure that I make the most of my days and I tend to really weigh up options about what highlights I want to see and which I can let fall by the wayside, until next time. Unfortunately, with only about 12 hours or less total to see a city, time isn’t a luxury. Just one of the reasons I was so lucky to have Jenn as my travel buddy. A very driven and spontaneous traveller, from the gate she was ticking off things that we could realistically squeeze in on our one night and one day in the city. After arriving in our fairly posh hotel (I was chuffed to find a personal greeting on the TV screen) we headed off for the first order of business; Chili Crab. It was quite late for dinner (around 9:30pm) but we did manage to snag a table at the well-known No Signboard Seafood Restaurant. When the crab arrived, nearly in 4 whole pieces swimming in a vat of creamy, spicy sauce, I think Jenn and I were both at a slight loss. We looked quizzically at the crab, unsure of how to approach it. In the end we just went all in, I think we may be the reason the restaurant will reconsider it’s use of white silky table cloths throughout the restaurant. The waiters kept coming back, offering more napkins, I think secretly they were just getting a good laugh out of these two messy, white girls. After dinner we attempted to hit up the highest bar…

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Best Italian Pizza Places in Sydney

I know that I complained a lot when I was living in Italy. I tried to keep it in, but I’ll indulge you with a little piece of shear honesty here, Italy is NOT perfect. Under the Tuscan Sun may be a true story but remember how frustrated she got in it, remember the faucets that didn’t work and the walls that crumbled down? It’s a lot of that. Plus, there’s the whole government and immigration system and not to mention the Italians that only speak to you in English regardless of which language you speak to them in and regardless of the fact that they don’t actually know English. Sure, I made plenty of mistakes and was ignorant. I’m human. But this post isn’t about life in Italy, that is just a preface to what I’m about to say. I freaking miss Italian pizza. I’ve written about it a few times, and I’m sure L is tired of hearing me talk about it. But seriously, I could use a bit of O’ Scugnizzo in my life. See, we were really spoiled because there was the best pizza place in all of Florence literally around the corner from our flat. I could eat there every single night, no problem. It’s been tough going living without my beloved Naplitano pizzamen (they even spoke Italian with me!) but I’ve had to make do here in Sydney. I’ve done my research fair and square and I’ve discovered some great and some mediocre. A real Italian Pizza: photo credit It’s the crust that has been getting me. It’s not that I can’t appreciate non-Italian pizza, see Hugo’s for example, lovely pizza, flavours and in no way do they seem to claim that they are authentic. And to be honest the pizza is good, for all different reasons. Hugo’s  As for flavor, Hugo’s gets my 100% approval. For authenticity, I won’t go there. It’s too good to compare it to something it’s not. Plus, to add to the lure, the Kings Cross (original) location is a popular spot to start an evening out. Photo Credit: tacit requiem The pizza won’t disappoint as long as you aren’t expected to be transported to Italy. Hugo’s has locations at 33 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross & Manly Wharf East Esplanade.  Mad Pizza My unplanned visit to Mad Pizza and my blasé French waiter were probably what intrigued me to…

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St. Paddy’s Day, Ireland and Italian Pizza

Between pints of Guinness over the weekend*, hints of words of a blog post floated through my head. When it all came together on paper, it just wasn’t enough. I came up with a couple good lines and then was left with no idea how to finish the story. The truth is that this time last year we were in Ireland, and it was amazing. I’ve told you all about the amazing Irish locals we met, the ones that now know our life story and are somewhere wandering the middle of Ireland remembering us just the same as we remember them**. We were in the homeland, celebrating the homeland’s holiday. Pure bliss. The story goes that we met on St. Paddy’s Day in an Irish Pub in the Newtown suburb of Sydney. He followed me around the bar all night while I actively attempted to ignore him and he spilled his life story in Italian-tainted English. I politely listened but really didn’t pay that close of attention. The details I remembered late the next day was only that he was in a band. That was three years ago.  This year we celebrated our 3 year anniversary by taking a seat in one of the most Italian places in all of Sydney. Every waiter in the place was so Italian that I actually didn’t have the choice to speak in English when Lorenzo’s true identity was revealed to our waiter (a whole two words in). So just to reiterate; we celebrated our 3 year anniversary as an Italian-American couple in the middle of Sydney on an Irish holiday in the most Italian restaurant in the city. This is my life. But it’s pretty good. Without further ado, I give you, [one year and] two days late: A recap of my Ireland photos. Enjoy!   Cliffs of Moher Ireland is the most photogenic country I’ve been to yet. Very little editing needed on these photos. Galway, Ireland along the ‘Prom’. The River Liffey. Perfect lunch in our favorite spot in Dublin; St. Stephen’s Green. It’s a secret. Happy St. Paddy’s Day, I hope you drank green beer!   Disclaimer: *That is a blatant lie. **They do not remember us, surely.

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Best Brekky Spot in Sydney: my research so far

Sydney, AUS It all started one wintery Sunday in Florence. We had an invitation to one of the well-known expat restaurants in town to enjoy their famous Sunday brunch. It was a company thing actually, our little travel agency had been running the brunch for years and to be honest, the promotion wasn’t go too well that particular semester and as it was being put on by our boss, what better way to get the word out than invite all of the favorite tour guides along. As I watched the beautifully bulbous glass filled with red tomato-y goodness arriving to my table and tasted the first sip of the deliciously spicy Bloody Mary, I was hooked. Of course, I won’t even speak of the hashbrowns. Some secrets are meant to be kept. Our Sunday meetings at that little restaurant became a tradition and brunch became an obsession. I may or may not have even waited in a three-hour line to try the famous eggs benedict and french toast platter at Mama’s on Washington Square in San Fran. So what does that mean for Sydney? I welcome a new challenge willingly. It started with a couple of morning stops at the local cafe which sits on our street corner but from there, recommendation after recommendation means that I have been able to try some of the best places in Sydney. My work is far from over here but I wanted to share with you some of my favorites. Cafe Ish: This was a recommendation from the lovely Heather as one of her favorite breakfast stops in the city and it did not disappoint. Christine and I chose this as our meeting spot on one of her sporadic weekend ventures to Sydney and we vowed to both try something delicious, no matter the price! After a bit of debate I opted for the fabulous crab omelette, a recommendation from Heather, which included tempura crab and avocado. As someone who is typically not a fan of omelets, it was fabulous. The cuisine at Cafe Ish is classified as Australian/Japanese fusion and that is exactly what it is. This little Surry Hills spot reminded me what I love so much about the creativity of Australian chefs. The coffee was phenomenal as well! Cafe Ish is located at 82 Campbell St., Surry Hills. Cafe Giulia: This was a random hint from a former Chippo resident.…

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2012: New Year’s in Sydney, Australia

2012 NYE in Sydney, Australia

Sydney, AUS This was the year I had been waiting for, after celebrating a less-than-exciting welcome into 2011 in Florence, Italy, I was going to have an amazing time in Sydney. We found out that Lorenzo’s parents were coming for a visit around the New Year back in November but they had originally planned to be traveling at the time so Lorenzo and I were hard at work deciding what we’d do. As the time passed, we had less and less of an idea of where we’d ring in the new year. Originally, I had thougth it best that we just arrive bright and early around to Circular Quay and wait it out. Then the factor of bad weather, or weather too good to be true came, into play and we thought maybe we should have a back-up plan. Eventually, my friend Joey mentioned that her office building, which sits just over Luna Park was open for the evening to employees and friends of employee with an open bar, a balcony and a BBQ. Lorenzo and I thought we’d found our heaven. Then, Lorenzo’s parents decided they’d stay in Sydney for NYE and we were back to square one.  As we trudged through Darling Harbour in mid-afternoon, I was getting angry and acting a little bit like a spoiled kid. You see, Lorenzo can have a very chilled out way of looking at things, often meaning that the planning is left to me and when I am confronted with too many ideas, nothing gets done. At 3 o’clock on the day, we still weren’t sure where we’d end up and I was not about to miss out on seeing the most famous fireworks in the world.  We quickly made our way to Pirrama Park at the water’s edge in Pyrmont, all the way I was dead set that we wouldn’t even have a view of the Harbour Bridge and we’d be forced to run back to Circular Quay or hop on a ferry, any ferry, to the north shore. However, we arrived to a park pleasantly scattered with families and food stalls and a perfect view of the back side of the Coat Hanger. I was forced to hold back a smile and eat my words as Lorenzo said I told you so. That will teach me to act like a spoiled little kid. We walked up to Harris Street…

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Ringing in Four Years of Travel — New Year’s Eve Abroad

Amsterdam, Netherlands--New Years Eve

Sydney, AUS In the past few years, I haven’t spent a single New Year’s at home. Since 2008 I have been always been somewhere else to welcome in all of the possibilities of a new year. I’ve never been one to look forward to a new year as a way of burying the past; never thought ahead in hopes that the coming year would hold more promise, because well in the end life is life. I do enjoy seeing how celebrations take place in different parts of the world and more importantly I see the closing of a year as a way to look back and be grateful for all the things that you’ve experienced. As cheesy as that sounds, trust me, I’m not immune to feeling sorry for myself, as you’ll come to find in my next few posts, but when all is said and done and you say goodbye to yet another year of your life, you have to realize how good you’ve got it. Here are the places that I’ve said hello|goodbye in the past: 2008: Whistler, British Columbia (Canada). I still remember some of the hilarious conversations that accompanied us on this long drive up to our first ever New Year’s Eve celebration in the legendary cabin of our good friend J.J. He was the new “sooo-not-my-boyfriend” boyfriend of our sorority sister Katie and he and his frat brothers were planning a big snowboarding and legal drinking debacle in Whistler to ring in 2008. Naturally, a party isn’t a party without the girls, so we all tagged along. Those days were our glory days, having, of course, partied the night before we were on our way to more partying and after the short three hour ride to the border we were had a car stocked full of oversized and underpriced duty-free booze. The shots commenced as Katie desperately attempted to decode J.J.’s simple-minded directions. Think, go over a bridge and after that bridge turn right, you’ll come to a roundabout and turn left… sounds like it could be straight forward but honestly, is there only one bridge between Vancouver and Whistler? Possibly not. By the time we finally arrived, it was well-into party hours and a quick changeover from sweats to party tops and we were out to the village, walking down Blackcomb to get to the bars. This was possibly one of the best New…

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Santa Wears a Speedo; Christmas in Oz

This year Christmas was a bit unorthodox for me, not only did I work nearly ten hours non-stop, but after finishing I boarded the Sydney ferry to Manly Beach to celebrate Aussie-style with a couple of other orphan Sydneysiders. Back home, my family Christmases have wavered over the years between eventful and quiet. The last of which was a full party at my Aunt and Uncle’s house (where I was living at the time) complete with cousins and friends. It was food filled, wine filled and tons of fun. Then last year I was introduced to a whole new way to celebrate Christmas. The Italian way. A way that included eating traditional Italian Christmas meals like tongue and hoof. Even though I was lost in a sea of language mishaps and unfamiliar words, I was still there in a warm house, sitting around a Christmas tree with a family that had grown to be mine over the previous year, and I felt like home. Although I missed the laughing antics of my own family, I didn’t feel homesick. This year things were a bit different. I know that anyone who has even visited Sydney in the last month might stone me for saying it but the rainy days these past few weeks have actually been my saving grace. The kind of thing that could transport me straight home to Washington State where I spent every Christmas prior. Sitting behind the coffee bar in the hotel where I work, looking out over angry water of the Sydney Harbour as it reflects the grey clouds, was… comfortable. The warmth of a freshly made latte in my hands at a time of year when my most often reoccurring thought is a classic, red holiday cup from Starbucks. It just defines Christmas for me. Just as it did last year as I traipsed around the frozen cobblestones of Prague’s old city, feigning that I knew the history and winding streets of the city as not to alarm my unsuspecting students and in the meantime forgetting that I was aware from home. But this year, it was supposed to be summer, this year it would all change. Then, out of nowhere, just in time for Santa to ride off into it’s raging orange light, the sun came out and it beat down on the city in honor of the day. And I reveled in it.…

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Finding Balance with Sydney Scenic SUP

1 - Sydney Scenic SUP - Stand Up Paddleboard Tours on Sydney Harbour

All summer my family and friends raved about stand-up paddle boarding.  We have to try it. Let’s go this day or that day… When I went I saw so many jelly fish… blah, blah.  Things to that nature plagued my summer. And in the midst of all of that, not once did I get my hands on a board. It just wasn’t happening. I dismissed it, thinking that it probably wasn’t really worth my time anyway when what I really wanted was to be a real, hardcore surfer chick. I had better save my energy for bigger horizons. One day, while I was nonchalantly surfing the Twitter feeds for Sydney, a photo popped up with a picture of a guy looking out toward the Opera House as the sun was rising. The tweet came from @SydneyScenicSUP and I retweeted the photo with some comment or other. A connection was made. I didn’t think much of it at the time but when I randomly tweeted about a what to do on a day off and Jack responded offering a sunrise paddle boarding tour, I knew that this sport could no longer be ignored. That particular tour didn’t work out, as I ended up picking up my seventh work day that week. But I knew that Jack’s tour was something that I would have to put on my list of immediate things to try in Sydney. Finally, one morning a few weeks later I saw that I had a couple of free days, and it all fell right in the middle of my boyfriend’s Uni break! That meant that I could drag my non-sporty, non-water friendly Italian into doing something I wanted to do, since I knew he had no other plans. Being that I generally have to be on the bus for work at approximately 4:50am, getting up at 6am to catch the ferry across the Harbor to Mosman was no big deal. Lorenzo on the other hand was NOT happy. We fueled up on coffee and were off, two of five total people taking a leisurely Saturday morning ferry across the water. The walk over the hill from the Mosman ferry landing to Camp Curlew Road was actually quite refreshing. Even walking among the looming glass encased mansions hanging over the cliff, there was a bit of humidity in the air and the sound of nature all around. A feel…

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Lazy Days in Dubai

For all the glitz and glamour that surrounds modern day Dubai, it’s easy to forget that this modernistic city was once a small coastal village, where the vibrant fishing trade once fuelled the local economy. How times have changed.   Creative Commons credit: milos milosevic The high rise skyscrapers, myriad shopping malls and seven-star hotels, which now dominates the city’s skyline, was the brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed- a leader who seemingly doesn’t understand the word ‘no’ and whose continuous eccentric construction projects are attracting millions of international tourists to the city each year. Dubai’s recent popularity stems from its unique ability to show off: investing millions into projects, others would only dream of giving the green light. Airline carriers from around the world are certainly doing their bit to help tourism flourish in the emirate. Many of the world’s top airlines are now opening up routes to the city, which has stirred competition in the market and lowered flight ticket prices. As a result, more and more travel operators, like DialAFlight, are now offering cheap flights to Dubai. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the city a few times now and witnessed firsthand, the city’s extraordinary tourism boom. Of course, one can’t help but get caught up in the razzle-dazzle, but for those whose holiday itinerary does involve some form of relaxation- even laziness- Dubai certainly has plenty to offer. The beaches in Dubai are among the world’s finest- at least the best I’ve seen anyway. Most of the ‘posher’ hotel-owned beaches run adjacent to Jumeria Road. Privately owned, these beaches do charge a small fee for admittance but its well worth paying if you are planning to stay at the whole day. From here you can bask in +30 degree sunshine whilst letting the gentle sea breeze cool you off. Complete relaxation assured. One of the most popular beaches is the Marina Beach Resort. Not only is it arguably the prettiest in the city- offering stunning views of Buji Al Arab- but it’s also well equipped with showers, toilets and shelter to keep beach-goers happy. Creative Commons credit: Sarah_Ackerman However, lying on a beach all day isn’t to everyone’s tastes. So for those who may bore of the golden sands a little too quickly, Jumeria Beach park does offer other ‘relaxing’ alternatives: snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, jet skiing, kite surfing… to name but a few. Of course some may…

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Sydney and Craft Beer; they do co-exist!

Sydney Craft Beer Week. What a gem. Thank god for Twitter otherwise I would have been left alone perishing in thoughts that craft beer simply didn’t exist in Australia. Sure, the commercial beer of Oz is great (and we are not talking Fosters here) but it’s not Craft Beer the way I know it. Another instance of me wasting time by browsing the #Sydney hashtag on Twitter meant that I discovered that not only does craft beer exist in Sydney, there was a whole week devoted to it coming up in October! I began my research and browsed events. Knowing I would have Saturdays off from work I booked in a Comedy and Craft Beer show as a surprise gift to Lorenzo. He loves stand-up and we both love good beer. So that seemed like a perfect way to spend our Saturday night. A few weeks later I wanted to be sure I booked in at least one other event, so I continued browsing events and discovered that the same day, October 29th, there was an event at Hart’s Pub called Brunch with the Brewer’s. I was sold. Beer and Brunch? This must be some kind of heaven. Lorenzo and I arrived at Hart’s Pub nearly a half hour early in anticipation of our beer filled brunch. And when we arrived we were greeted by one of the coolest little pubs I’ve seen in Sydney to date. For its small size, Hart’s offers a huge variety of craft beers, tasting paddles and, according to FourSquare, great food as well! We waited patiently as we watched one of the final games of the World Series (and American sports! Seriously, this pub is a winner). When it was time for the brunch we headed upstairs and took a seat. Let the food and beer flow! Each table was given full bottles and glasses of beer to taste along with and in between courses. Most tastings consist of just a couple of sips of each brew, so we were given a real treat. Naturally, I enjoyed the first beer that was set in front of me. The “Welcome Beer” was a Pale Ale from the Rocks Brewing Company. Little did I know the vast array of flavors that were about to hit me. First course was char-grilled sourdough bread and spicy chorizo sausages. I like sausage. Chorizo is even better. But beer that perfectly…

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