Part 3: Florence

Top 5 Florence Impressions:
  1. Bruschetta, bruschetta, bruschetta: I have never dreamed of tasting such mind-blowingly delicious bruschetta like I did in Florence. I’ve always enjoyed bruschetta, but there’s a HUGE difference between Canada’s version and the kind they make in Italy. It must be the olive oil they use, but Italian bruschetta will give any main course a run for its money.
  2. Like the sun: no matter where you are in Florence, if you stop for a moment to appreciate the panorama, the warmest shades of orange and yellow will be etched permanently in your mind. Orange must be Florence’s signature color – every terracotta tile roof top and every building’s yellow stained exterior is reminiscent of the colors found in a beautiful sunset.
  3. Gelatolicious: it’s no secret that gelato is Italy’s confectionary claim to fame. I ate delicious gelato in Florence – coconut is my favorite. But did you also know they have these amazing fresh fruit popsicle shops? Such a simple concept, but when you can choose between every fruit flavor imaginable, the experience becomes rather exciting! I recommend Kiwi and Raspberry.
  4. Venus & David:  these two would make a great couple.   Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Michelangelo's David are so magnificent, they're worth their respective galleries' hour long wait  to see them.  Let's just say David is manly and Venus is, well, a Renaissance goddess.  David's hands are abnormally huge and his muscles are perfectly sculpted.  And Botticelli's Venus is painted with the most soothing shades of peach, blue and green...the painting really does live up to its hype.
  5. New city, old city: when I first stepped foot in Florence, I immediately felt I wasn’t very far from the city life that I am accustomed to. Florence has all the best things a bustling city has to offer; yet, it is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and is home to some of the world’s most important cultural and historical landmarks. I just love that while you’re getting on with your busy life, a quick glimpse of the Duomo or Giotto's Tower will make you feel humble.

  • Caffè Bigallo (for the bruschetta, penne arrabbiata, and mushroom risotto)
  • Scuola del Cuoio (for the authentic Italian leather-making experience)
  • Il pizzaiuolo (for a traditional pizzeria style restaurant)
  • GROM (for Florence's best gelato)

J xx


Part 2: Venice

When I returned home from my vacation, friends and family wanted to hear about my trip, and when asked in particular what I thought of Venice, I replied simply, “I don’t know.” Crazy, right? You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve heard tons of people boast how beautiful and romantic it is. And it is, just that. But this realization didn’t come to me right away. First impressions are a series of greater than, less than, equal to calculations of your past experiences. But Venice was so different than anywhere I had been before that I was completely dumbfounded. I had nothing to compare it to. So, yes, Venice is beautiful - but in its very own, unique way.

Top 5 Venice Impressions:
  1. Maze-like: Venice’s tight pedestrian streets with conjoined housing, shops and restaurant buildings meant that finding your way from San Polo to San Marco would not be easy. No matter the direction I veered, I could rarely catch a break. The alleyways were puzzling, like something out of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. But this only made the visit that much more fun as it was anyone’s guess what was just around the corner.
  2. Perfect pastels: everywhere I looked my eyes were met with the most beautiful array of pastels. Every building boasted a unique blend of sun bleached colors. The lush flowers in pots hanging from every other window added vibrancy to the spectrum of colors.
  3. Homage to history: I knew Venice was one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but I was still surprised to learn just how touristy it is. Tourism is at the heart of the Venetian economy, so my visit was more a history lesson than anything else. I can't tell you much about how the Venetians currently live, but only how they once lived. I got the sense that you don’t so much ‘live’ in Venice, as you do visit to pay homage to the ghosts of a past republic.
  4. Time is of the essence: you may have heard that Venice is sinking. Well, I certainly entertained this idea as I toured San Marco by Gondola. Passing the old houses on narrow water brought me close enough to see the effects of rising waters. In many houses the ground floor is uninhabitable; windows are boarded up and doors permanently padlocked. Fascinating really, when you consider it wasn’t always this way…
  5. Grand Canal indeed: so rare, beautiful and majestic. Venice was built entirely on water, and the banks of the canals are lined with exquisite palaces, churches and houses. I was left with a feeling of immense gratitude that the city has survived long enough for me to visit since it was built in the 10th century.

J xx


Part 1: London

For 2 weeks I vacated my life and traveled to England and Italy. I explored central London and took an extended weekend getaway to Venice and Florence. I saw all the big sites and checked them off my list.  Truth is, I love being a tourist. To be able to say simply “I’ve been there” means a lot to me. You see, I’m a wildly nostalgic person. Sure, I can ‘live in the moment’, but moments are fleeting. Your only keepsake is what you remember. So, you can be sure I'll gaze a little too long at the sites and take too many pictures. Because in the end, what's left?

Top 5 (+1) London Impressions:
  1. Easy getting around: It really is! Public transportation is so well mapped out and the city is well marked, so there is little question how to get from point A to B. And don’t let London’s web-like tube system scare you. Just follow the arrows, and you’re golden!
  2. Quaint quarters: for all the grandeur of London’s historic sites, most pubs, restaurants and shops have low ceilings and small doors. I was overwhelmed with feelings of quaintness and comfort. I’ve concluded that London is a very cozy city.
  3. Country chic: nobody does country chic quite like the Brits! The patterns, the textures, the colors, the antiques! I’ve learned that no kitchen is complete without a tea cosie from Jan Constantine or Fortnum & Mason.
  4. Pie & mash: I’m not a pie person. That is, until I dined at Battersea Pie in Covent Garden. The butternut squash & goat cheese pie with mash and gravy was life altering!
  5. Hot men: London is home to a ton of handsome lads. I was surprised just how many hot men I spotted on every street corner. No matter their style, they all had something going for them. My London guide book did not prepare me for this.
  6. Magazine freebies: Summer is the best time to buy fashion magazines in London because most mags come with a FREE beauty product! So, I stocked up on reading materials for my flight home and snagged a Jemma Kidd lipgloss, Leighton Denny nail polish, and Benefit High Beam complexion enhancer. Sweet!
  • Liberty (for the Tudor revival store exterior)
  • Whistles (for the womenswear collection)
  • Fortnum & Mason (for the kitchen and confectionary floors)
  • Alice's (for the antiques and charming decor)
J xx

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