lifetoast

Month: August, 2014

that summer haze

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Happy Sunday, you. Today’s a day for reflection. Tomorrow is the start of D3 and, even though I’m already in clinic (!) treating patients (!!!), there’s something about 8 AM classes every morning that screams the start of a new year. But before these past few months disappear into that summer haze, let’s just indulge in a little navel-gazing.

This past year has been wild.

I broke up with my boyfriend of eight years, took a board exam, jetted to Europe for two weeks, bodysurfed in the waters lapping Fire Island, and camped for the second time ever. And those are just the things that happened. The thoughts have been racing: how does dating even work now, what should you compromise on in a relationship, I need to travel more, I miss my friends back home, why are plane tickets so expensive, what makes people be so horrible to each other, how should I cover the tacky insulation pipes in my room, what are with these headaches I keep getting, I need to drink more water, budgeting this year is critical, school school school, I need more coffee. And sleep.

Despite all that’s happened, my mind often drifts back to that first: the breakup. I started this site because I wanted to share about my life here in dental school, in a new city, to experience with you all the new things I’ve tasted and drunk and done but I also made this for me and him. I didn’t really know what to write after the fact.

One thing I learned from a long distance relationship is the art of suppressing emotions. The ache of missing someone is very tangible. It burns your throat with wordless cries. It rocks you and leaves you hollow. So you push it aside and focus on something else, anything else. It can be your schoolwork, your friends, the minutiae of everyday life until you become a rock. You think you’re strong but it’s a deceptive shell.

I know now that you can’t just push your feelings aside. It doesn’t make you a better partner. It will wear you away. So I’m learning to feel it. Feel it all. There are times you may need to put your head down and plod forward (because life is tough, for real) but stoicism is the opposite of strength.

I’m opening myself to feel that pain as much as I am to feeling the joys. And I will continue to write and share.

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“If it’s painful, you can learn to hold your seat and move closer to that pain. Reverse the usual pattern, which is to split, to escape. Go against the grain and hold your seat…if it’s painful, you become willing not just to endure it but also to let it awaken your heart and soften you. You learn to embrace it.

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If an experience is delightful or pleasant, usually we want to grab it and make it last. We’re afraid that it will end. We’re not inclined to share it… Share the wealth. Be generous with your joy. Give away what you most want. Be generous with your insights and delights. Instead of fearing that they’re going to slip away and holding on to them, share them.”

                                                                        Start Where You Are, Pema Chodron

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Provence

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It took 30 minutes to get from the TGV airport to our lodging at La Charlotte, a quaint B&B nestled in the French countryside.

Lodging
La Charlotte
Contact: Martine, Gerard
127 chemin de la Crete, Hameau des Bonfillons, 13100, Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde
Email: hotelacharlotte@orange.fr

We paid 170 euros per night for a double, double sofa bed and a crib. The place was decently sized with a full kitchen and large garden. Breakfast was included and very large, including bread, cheese, yogurt, juice and coffee.

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Where We Went
Aix-en-Provence
Gordes in Luberon
Abbaye de Senanque in Luberon
Pope’s Palace in Avignon
Arles

Things We Did Not Get to Do/Eat
Hiking
Eat at Les Ecuries De L’aube (Domaine de l’Aube, Route Vauvenargues, 13100 – Saint Marc Jaumegarde) near our B&B- We almost ate here on our last night but unfortunately the restaurant was booked solid for a tour group. However, the place smelled heavenly and had the most adorable donkeys near the parking lot.

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In Aix-en-Provence

We shopped along the Cours Mirabeau and wandered around.
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Note: In France, some restaurants will offer a menu du jour or an alternative two-course option of “entrée + plat” or “plat + dessert” (starter and main course, or main course and dessert). At times, this can be a better option. Menus normally include bread and may include coffee or tea. Wine is usually not included. (If you do drink, drink rosé.)

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Tip: In order to prevent getting charged for bottled water, you should ask for une carafe d’eau, which is tap water.

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Gordes in Luberon

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Abbaye de Senanque in Luberon

In Avignon…

We shopped around and lunched at Le Forum (20 Place de l’horloge). Le Forum was an average restaurant but gave a great view of the main square in Avignon where we saw multiple groups perform short acts.

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In Arles…

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Here we faced the most rude behavior throughout our two week trip. It happened at La Caravelle (1 Place Constantin, 13200 Arles, France). As we were passing by La Caravelle, my family considered eating an early dinner in case nothing was open near our B&B when we returned. After perusing the menu, we asked the lady sitting outdoors when the restaurant would be opened. “7,” she stated. We look at our watched. 15 minutes to 7. We could wait, we thought, nodding our heads to ourselves. The man to her left looked up at us and said abruptly, “No. 8.” Baffled, we looked at each other and then my sister’s husband Mike quietly suggested we leave. After we left, he told us the man had been mocking us as we looked at the menu.

I understand that Parisians may not look fondly upon Americans. Perhaps it’s due to differences in culture, political opinions, etc. But it was deeply offensive to be shunned for no reason then that they didn’t like the looks of us.

We left Arles immediately and I shall say that there will always be a faint taint of bitterness in our mouths when we mention that city.

Restaurant Review

I wish I could provide you with the name of this restaurant! The place was tucked away in a hill and boasted a small bocce court. The restaurant also provided blankets to keep you warm in the chilly night.

It was a few minutes drive from our B&B and we ate here twice, mostly out of convenience. The pizza were thin, crisp wafers. Decent. Salad was good. For our second time, I had proscuitto wrapped melons. Yum. It was an above average meal but mostly what I loved about the place was the convenience and the friendliness of the staff.

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And here, my friends, is where my trip ended. I hope you found/find my recommendations and tips helpful!

Nice

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Lodging
Hotel Massenet
11 Rue Massenet
E-mail: hotelmassenet@wanadoo.fr

Hotel Massenet was our only typical hotel for the trip. For two double rooms, it was 140-160 euros a night. The rooms were clean and neat. Our concierge was a very proper lady in the most French outfits- so simple yet chic!-and gave us a few recommendations of places to eat. Nothing in particular stands out though we did get to try limoncello as a digestivo.

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Note: Be cautious when dining outdoors. After emerging from a tunnel off the Promenade des Anglais, we saw a cafe next to the Cours Saleya open air market. We decided to enjoy the weather and eat outside. During the meal, I saw something drift into my plate. I looked and it was ashes. Some man above us was smoking. One of us went to tell the waitress. She then looked upwards a tad perturbed, paused, and then continued on her business. A few minutes later a cigarette butt fell into my plate. Mind you, my six month old niece is sitting next to me. We were infuriated at this point and went to find the manager who said they would go talk to the upstairs resident. All we saw were the staff giving a few glances upwards but no one made an actual move to do anything. There were no real apologies, no compensated meal. Perhaps that’s too American of a thought?


Where We Went
Promenade des Anglais
Cours Saleya (open-air  market)
Old City
Promenade du Paillon
Galeries Lafayette (department store)

Note: Solde means “sale” in French. Sales are held twice a year around January and July.

Local Foods to Try
Pissaladière- a pie made with onions and anchovy sauce
Socca- a pancake made from chickpea flour
Salade nicoise- a tomato salad with green pepper, baked eggs, tuna or anchovies, and olives
Fruit confit- candied fruit

At Cours Saleya…

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Promenade du Paillon was a fantastic place to bring my niece. Children of all ages played on the gorgeous sculptured gym sets and on the soft turf grass. Some ran through the timed water misting from the ground.

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Travel
From Nice to Provence, we took the TGV and picked up our rental.

Nice Ville – Aix en provence TGV (734a-1012am, 1057a-157p, ~26E), pick up rental car at Aix-en-provence TGV

Cinque Terre

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Lodging
La Rosa dei Venti
via Gavino 19, Vernazza (La Spezia)
Email: info@larosadeiventi-vernazza.it

La Rosa dei Venti was spacious with two beds, a crib, and a fridge stocked with a beer, coke and some waters for us, free of charge. Best yet, the windows opened and a clothesline was available for our use! Perfect for light packers on a two week journey.

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“The Beach”

Vernazza does not have a real beach. It’s a beautiful place but if you want to go swim and tan, go to Monterosso.

When we asked a local directions to the beach, he pointed us to towards this cavern.

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Sketchy, but there was a beautiful, secluded area on the other side.
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Food
Batti Batti Friggitoria
via Visconti, 19018, Vernazza, Italy

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A yummy snack of fried seafood in a paper cone. I would tell them to not give you the imitation crab and more of that calamari!

Batti Batti Focacceria
via Visconti 3, Vernazza, Italy

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Crisp on the outside and a soft, chewy center, this olive focaccia defied all others I have ever had. (We also tried the rice one at Batti Batti and don’t recommend it.)

Note: I wanted to try more focaccerias after eating at this place and entered Panifacio Focacceria but quickly left after seeing multiple flies with the bread.

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There isn’t much to do in Vernazza but one main attraction is the Doria Castle. This involves walking up lots of steps. If you have a baby, use a carrier. We did not. There is also an entrance fee of a few euros per person.
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The view is amazing though._20140709.Cinque Terre.31

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Restaurant Review
Ristorante Belforte
via Guidoni, 42- Vernazza- Cinque Terre (SP)

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Belforte offers the best dining with a view in Vernazza. The mussels were delicious, as were the black squid ink pasta and the pesto pasta, or trofie al pesto. If we had more time, we would have eaten here again and tried the un piatto particolare, a curry rice with prawns.

Hiking
We decided to do the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso. It had been stated to be the most difficult of the hikes between the cities but also the most gorgeous. We focused on the latter portion.

Leaving at 8 AM, we took about 1.5 hours to  make it to Monterosso. If you want to make the hike, you should leave earlier because the paths can get packed as the day gets later. It is also less hot earlier.

You do have to be careful. There are rails but not throughout the whole trail and the path was often so narrow that only one person could fit.

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We finally arrived in Monterosso!

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(Left) Gastronomia San Martino, Via San Martino 3, 19106, Monterosso al Mare, Italy
Gastronomia was good, simple food. Nothing too fancy.

(Right) Perhaps one of my favorite food items here was the anchovy sandwich. It was just thick toasted bread, butter and anchovies but it was so, so good. I forget the name of the restaurant where I picked it up BUT it is located down the street from Gastronomia San Martino. Say you are standing outside Gastronomia San Manrtino. Turn to face the main street. Take a left. It will be the restaurant on your right side. It will have outdoor seating and two indoor dining areas.

Gelato
Enoteca Internazionale
Via Roma 62 19016 Monterosso al mare

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Enoteca Internazionale is known for its collection of wines. One in particular that is famous to Cinque Terre is sciachetrà, a sweet wine. However, a small bottle of sciachetrà was pricy so our eyes lit up at being able to try it in gelato form. It was sweet and light and Amy was persuaded enough to purchase a bottle to bring home.

Restaurant Review
Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre
Via gavino 36, 19018, Vernazza, Italy

Il Pirata is run by two cheeky brothers who love to have lively banter with its patrons. It was located next to our lodgings and we went here twice for croissants and water and once for dinner. The croissants, plain and nutella, were delicious. Below are pictures from dinner.

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Panna cotta

The meal was good and filling. I would give it a three star. Nothing was bad, but nothing was spectacular.

Vernazza to Nice

The trip from Vernazza to Nice took 5 1/2 hours.  The trip went from Vernazza to Genova/Genoa to Ventimiglia/Vintimille to Nice.

Florence

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Lodging
Locanda Dei Poeti
Piazza Liberta 4
Via Guelfa, 74, 50129
Contact: Irene, Martina
Email: locandadeipoeti.firenze@gmail.com

For 110 euros a night, we got a double bed and an extra bed. No breakfast was included; however, a kitchen was available for your use. The room was large, modern and clean. The B&B was also conveniently located near the train station.

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_20140708.Firenze.6View from our room

Our Schedule
Duomo*
Accademia*
Ponte Vecchichio

* Tickets purchased beforehand

Note: Accademia and Duomo are closed on Monday. Like in Rome and Florence, buy attraction tickets ahead of time.

Things We Did Not See:
Uffizi Gallery- If you do decide to go, you should head there early in the morning because the gallery is huge.

Gelato
Gelateria Santa Trinita
Piazza Frescobaldi, 11, 12/R (Ponte S. Trinita)

Our favorite gelato of the trip! We had the cookies and sesame gelato and both were delicious.

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Drinks
La Milkeria

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Adorable décor, here we learned that latte is just steamed milk while café latte is our typical latte in America.

Shopping

Many of the small shops were underground like this. These seemed to be primarily shoe shops that displayed their wares outdoors but required you to go downstairs to try things on.
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Restaurant Review
Trattoria Pallottino
Via Isola delle Stinche, 1/r

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We came here for lunch and loved it. We had the cheese souffle (pictured) among other things.

Restaurant Review
Fiaschetteria Cambi
Via S. Onofrio, 1/1R, Firenze

For dinner a Florentine steak was a must. We also tried lamprodetto, a typical Florentine dish made from the fourth and final stomach of a cow. As an Asian person, the texture was not particularly unusual. The meal was very rich and it was an interesting experience but not my favorite meal.

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Florentine steak

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(Left) Fried rabbit (Right) Lamprodetto

Florence to Pisa to Cinque Terre

We went from Firenze SMN to Pisa Centrale using the Trenitalia regional train, purchasing the ticket the day of because the tickets were not posted earlier.

In Pisa, we left our luggage at the luggage office, or deposito bagagli. We followed signs for Exit Piazza Stazione/ Platform 1. To hold onto our bags, it was 4 euros per bag. The luggage office was open from 6 AM-9 PM.

If you want to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you must book tickets in advance to avoid the line.

After going to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, we purchased tickets from Pisa Centrale to La Spezia Centrale. Then we changed to an intercity train to go to Vernazza, one of the five cities in Cinque Terre.

Venice

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Taking a Trenitalia train, we made the trip from Rome to Venice. The train had outlets! And Wifi was available for a mere euro but was hard to get on. For our party of three and a half, we had reserved two rows facing each other with a nice table in the center.

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Note: Only get help finding your train from your ticketing office. If someone comes up to you to offer you help, do not take it unless you are willing to tip them. They will hover otherwise. Additionally, I am not sure how legal it is for them to do so.

Also, don’t worry if you arrive early and your train platform is not up. Usually it doesn’t go up until 15-20 minutes before departure.

After almost four hours, we were in Venezia!
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We took a water taxi, or vaporetto, to our hotel. Our stop was Vaporetti 2 (San Zaccharia).

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Lodging:
Bed & Venice Casa per Ferie La Pieta
Castello, 3701- Calle della Pieta- 30122 Venezia- Italy
Contact: Elisa
E-mail: info@bedandvenice.it

The location was excellent and only a few minutes walk from St. Mark’s Square. Also, the place had a rooftop floor that gave you an amazing view of the water. For 135 euros per night, we got a room with three cots and a crib. The bathroom was shared but very large and had a bathtub. Something to note, breakfast was included but not very good.. It consisted of a basket of bread and crackers, a beverage (cappuccino for me!), and musty granola and milk.

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Our Schedule

St. Mark’s Basilica (Stroller friendly)
Rialto Bridge
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Things We Did Not Get to Do/See:
Bridge of Sighs
Doge’s Palace
Gondola Ride

Tip:
A gondola ride is pretty pricy at 80 euros for 40 minutes before 7 PM. Instead you can opt for a ride on Vaporetto #1. Not as individualized but still nice nonetheless.

_20140706.Venice.30   Inside St. Mark’s Basilica

Note: Purchasing a ticket gets you entry into St. Mark’s; however, there is a cost of a few euros per person for entry into various smaller exhibits. This occurred throughout many of the churches we visited.

In Venice, mainly we wandered.

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Note: Venice is not a stroller friendly city with all its small bridges. We managed with three adults to alternate picking the stroller up over the bridges. However, you may want to consider using a carrier to avoid doing that.

Gelato

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Suprisingly, the American Bar next to St. Mark’s had good gelato. We had pistachio and straticella.

Food
Alfred’s Fine Pasta

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Tip: Avoid places with tourist menus! I can’t generalize and say that all places with tourist menus are not good; however, the one place we tried that seemed aimed at tourists was horrendous. There was a cover charge per person, the clams we ordered were not cleaned well and tasted gritty, the pasta was over salted and the service was terrible.

Water Fountains

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The water was icy cold and refreshing but we saw much less water fountains in Venice. In Florence onwards, we didn’t see any at all.

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And there is the Battle of the Bands in which different orchestras play around the square.
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We stayed in Venice for a day and a half. In the early afternoon, we took an Italo coach for two hours to Florence, or Firenzia.

Rome

First, here’s our two week trip schedule:
Rome – Venice – Florence – Pisa – Cinque Terre – Nice – Provence

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So we have arrived in Roma! Our family took Aerlingus, transferring at Dublin. Upon arrival at the tarmac, we walked to a shuttle that brought us to the airport.

Note: We were unsure of where to pick up Zooey’s baby stroller and assumed it would be at the airport. However, the stroller was actually placed beside the plane on the tarmac. Remember to ask the flight attendant where your stroller will be upon your arrival if you happen to have one!

Lodging
Heart of Rome
Piazza Pio XI, 78, 00165
E-mail: heartofromehotel@gmail.com

We stayed here and highly recommend it! Cost was 100 euros a night for a double bed, an extra cot and a crib. Breakfast is provided and Michele the concierge made us the best cappuccinos in the morning to go along with breakfast.

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Michele was also excellent at providing recommendations for places to eat as well as offer advice on transportation. He was warm and affable and always very attentive to our needs. We had opted for the smaller of the two available rooms but on the first night, the larger room was available and he offered it to us with no upcharge. How nice!

Note: Our lodging was closer to the Vatican. Other lodging options are near the train, which we read to be sketchier, and Piazza Navona, which is a nice area but more expensive.  We took a bus to where we wanted to go every day, purchasing a ticket, or biglietto, from the local café (called a bar in Italy). You can also purchase tickets at news stands and tobacco shops.

Our Schedule
Day 1:
Memorial for the Unknown Soldier
Trevi Fountain
Spanish Steps
Pantheon (but we got there too late to go in)

Day 2:
Colosseum*
Roman Forum*
Palatine Hill*
Mouth of Truth, or Bocca della Verita

Day 3:
Piazza Navona
Campo dei Fiori
St. Peter’s Square
Vatican/Sistine Chapel* (Not stroller friendly)

Day 4:
Galleria Borghese*
Gardens of Villa Borghese
Piazza del Popolo
Pantheon (free)

* Tickets purchased beforehand

Amy’s Tips:
The Colosseum has an underground tour that is not available online. You must call to get the tickets. We did not call until we arrived in Rome and the tickets were already booked by then.

The entry ticket for the Colosseum also includes the Roman Forum and Palatine. We went in one day to all three.

The Borghese Gallery and the Vatican can get booked up weeks in advance so buy these tickets first, especially the Borghese Gallery. For the Borghese, you will pay a fee to buy it ahead of time so you can skip the line.

The guided tour of the Vatican includes the Sistine Chapel. We did this tour at 8PM when it was less packed, less hot and cheaper.

To get to the Vatican, we started in St. Peter’s Square where the bus had dropped us off. However, the entry for tour was on the other side of the Vatican. Allot time to get there, say 20-30  minutes.

Things We Didn’t Get to Do/Eat:
St. Peter’s Basilica (We didn’t get to but you should go on Day 3.)- Free
San Crispino- Gelato, of course

Suggestions: Our family did not do any guided tours; however, I would recommend a walking tour. Rome didn’t have many plaques denoting what certain buildings were or any information related to them so things could be a bit confusing at times

Water Fountains

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Tip: Buy a water bottle and keep it. There are water fountains through Rome that are potable. Water bottles can get pricy and the water fountains were usually all very cool.

Gelato

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Gelaterias in Piazza Navona

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Restaurant Review
Grano
Piazza Rondanini 53

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Dinner on the first night was at Grano, a restaurant recommended by our concierge. The food was good but what we found most enticing at Grano was the olive oil. The oil was light and smoky and lingered in our minds throughout the trip. I would purchase a bottle of it.

Restaurant Review
Fish Market Trastevere
Via Di Pietralata 149, 00158

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Our favorite restaurant of Rome, Fishmarket was adorable. We were hesitant as we looked at the completely Italian menu but knew that the cluster of people was indication of something good to come.

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With the help of fellow Americans at a table next to us and a waiter that knew some English, we decided to try some specials. Mom meandered to the fish counter and chose some scallops and a fish to try.

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We aren’t big on alcohol with meals but Mom was eyeing a table being laden with large glasses of beer. I opted for a white wine.

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_20140703.Roma1.108_thumb3Scallops

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Tip: Prior to eating at a restaurant there are a few things to note. Restaurants will charge you for bread and water. Bread is usually charged per person per basket. Water is charged per half-liter or liter. Another thing to be wary of is the cover charge, or coperto. Some restaurants will have a cover charge per person. There will usually be a notice of a coperto at the bottom of the menu. Also, do not tip. It is not rude to not tip and you should not be expected to tip.

Festival on the Tiber River
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