Browsing Tag:


    Florence, Italy

    Spring Break Day 6 & 7: Florence
    We said goodbye to Venice in the morning, hopped on a train, and pulled into Florence around noon.

    We were supposed to stay at an AirBnB spot, but unfortunately the owner overbooked. The man was kind and found us a difference place to stay and covered the cost difference. He even met us at the train station and walked us to the other B&B. We stayed at Belfiore40. It was okay… not nearly as clean and private as the AirBnB place looked, but it worked fine for a night. The owner was nice and it included a basic continental breakfast.

    After we dropped our bags, per the AirBnB guy’s recommendation, we headed to Mercato Centrale. The man was a food writer. He told us he’d recently rated Sud Pizzeria as the best pizza in Florence. Who were we to argue with that? Mercato Centrale is an incredible place. The main floor is a huge farmers market and there are the most amazing artisan restaurants upstairs.

    We hung around Mercato Centrale and its free wi-fi for a while, then walked to Galleria dell’Accademia. Our friends recommended that we pre-purchased our tickets online, which we did. You should, too. The line was super long. Overall, we thought the Academia was a bit dull, aside from the David statue. But seeing the David is one of those once in a lifetime sort of things, so, when in Florence! We also saw the Duomo Baptistry and the Ponte Vecchio bridge (built in 996!).

    The next day we visited the Duomo. The church is massive! The outside is ornate and just stunning. We were super bummed the dome was under renovations, but we were able to visit the cathedral. (We decided against walking up the tower. At least, my feet did.) Florence is a beautiful city. We spent the rest of the day walking around, taking in a panorama view of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo lookout point, and then more time in Mercato Centrale.

    If I could change one thing about our time in Florence, we would have bypassed the less than impressive restaurant our first night and spent more time in Mercato Centrale. We went back for a progressive final meal. Per a recommendation from another friend, we got a panino bollito sandwich with salsa verde from Nerbone in the lower level. Oh so good. After that, we went upstairs and got a meat and cheese plate, fresh pasta, and tiramisu. Mmm. Florence, I will forever remember you for your food.

    Enjoy the photos!


    Venice water


    Mercato Centrale


    Sud pizza


    Sud pizza makers


    David with pizza


    David statue


    David statue


    Florence street




    Duomo cathedral frescos


    Duomo Cathedral


    Duomo tower


    Duomo baptistry ceiling




    Nerbone sandwhich


    Cheese and meat plate


    David with tiramisu


    Florence view


    View of Florence


    Florence sidewalk art


    Leah in Florence


    Next up – our final stop: Rome!



    Paris: Musée du Louvre

    Spring Break Day Two: Paris Part One
    We woke up to a wet and rainy Parisian morning. Fortunately I had packed an umbrella and our AirBnB host had left us another. We had chocolate croissants and coffee at a cafe, then headed straight to the Louvre.


    Paris building


    Paris red chairs


    Our friend gave us a Louvre tip and we felt like we were cheating. Most people want to enter the Louvre through the pyramid. Even with all the rain, the line was long and winding. However, there is a back entrance. There was no line at all and we walked right up to the counter to purchase tickets. (Go outside the courtyard and find the lion statues to get to the other entrance.) We walked through the Denon wing and exited the museum through the pyramid.

    The Louvre is amazing! Everywhere you look… left, right, up, down, there is something to see.


    David outside the Louvre


    Louvre: Pyramid


    Head statue


    Arcimbolodo painting


    It was crazy around the Mona Lisa (structured, personal-space-honoring European crazy). It was exciting to see her in person. I would have loved to have been able to sit down and hang out with her for a while.


    Louvre: Leah with the Mona Lisa


    Louvre: Mona Lisa


    Louvre: Elaborate ceiling


    Louvre: Leah with Winged Vicotry in background


    Louvre: Winged Victory


    Louvre: Venus


    We brought a small container of Benedict Family Maple on our trip and got a little silly with a marketing idea. You’re welcome to join our #wheredoyoumaple movement. (Check out the Benedict Family Maple Instagram, too!) Our caption for the photo below: She may have a heart of stone, but she can’t resist the all natural taste of Benedict Family Maple syrup.


    Louvre: Statue with Benedict Family Maple


    David inside the Louvre pyramid


    Inside the Louvre pyramid


    After the Louvre, we visited the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Photos from that soon!



    Adventures in Ankara

    On a recent Saturday, a couple of friends and I visited the Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi (Anatolian Civilizations Museum). The museum is located inside of the castle in Ulus.

    I took the opportunity to renew my Müzekart. By the way, if you are living in Turkey and have a residence permit or Turkish ID, the Müzekart is the way to go. I purchased one for 50 Turkish Lira (about $20 USD) and it grants me access to over 300 historical sites in Turkey. Given that the Anatolian Civilizations Museum costs 15 TL (General Admission) and the Hagia Sophia costs 30 TL, the Müzekart is quite the deal if you plan on traveling during your time in Turkey. If you don’t have a residence permit or Turkish ID, there is now a Museum Pass Müzekart available for Istanbul. There is a three day pass (72 TL) and a five day pass  (115 TL). Both of these passes are good for many different sites and attractions around Istanbul.

    All of the artifacts at the Anatolian Civilizations Museum were rather interesting. This painting of a deer was from the village of Çatalhöyük, not too far from Ankara. This is thought to be one of the first agricultural villages known, dating back to around 6,000 B.C. I really liked this piece because of the deer. I like to think that one of my fellow country boys painted it thousands of years ago.


    Painting of animal on rock


    One of the displays I found most interesting was the terracotta tablet exhibit. While the display itself was not very big, I was intrigued to see all of the detail that was put into these tablets. This specific tablet is a property donation deed. Sometimes when I think of early civilizations, I think of them as unsophisticated grunting human beings. However, all evidence points to the contrary. Although they didn’t have all the tech gadgets we do today, it seems like they had sophisticated and set ways of doing things. Based on the detail in the tablet below, it appears lawyers were just as meticulous about the wording of legal documents thousands of years ago as they are now.

    One tablet that stuck out to me was a letter on terracotta from Naptera (wife of Ramses II, Egypt 13th Century). She wrote to Puduhepa (wife of Hattusili III, King of the Hittites) about relations and politics between the two nations. Super cool!


    Donation deed


    Sun discs were used by the Hittites for celebratory and religious ceremonies. I have become accustomed to seeing these Hittite symbols around Ankara. This particular design with the deer, is one of my favorites.


    Hittite stand


    Hittite artifacts


    This is a statue of King Mutallu, a king that was reliant on Sargon II (King of Assyria). It’s hard to believe how well some of these relics are preserved, this one dating back several hundred years B.C. I particularly like the ceiling in this section of the museum. Cylindrical and made of brick, it reminds me of certain parts of the Grand Bazaar.


    Kral Mutallu statue


    Maybe it’s a little weird, but I found it super interesting that the Phyrgian King Midas’ (8th Century B.C.) skull is kept in the museum. His tomb has been found in Gordion, Turkey and this skull has been used to do a facial recreation of Midas.




    After we finished at the museum, we walked down to the Pazar to get some lunch. Turkish street food has become one of my favorite cuisines. I love to eat a fish sandwich fresh off of an open grill or a delicious döner dürüm straight off of the rotisserie.

    One of the street foods I’ve been wanting to try is kokoreç. Kokoreç is lamb intestines cooked on a rotisserie. After the intestines are cooked, they chop a delicious array of spices into the meat, before putting it on bread. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I think the fact that the delicacy is lamb intestines put some unfair presumptions of kokoreç in my mind. Mixed with all of the spices, it kind of tastes like a delicious sausage sandwich.

    Click the arrow below to play a video of the kokoreç  stand:



    Kokoreç stand




    After I payed for my kokoreç, the cashier gave me this small orange ticket. Since Ulus is busy during lunch time, I had to (as I tell Leah) “shoulder up” to get my order in with the chop masters. After kokoreç, we walked by a fish sandwich stand and I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had to get an alabalık ekmek (trout sandwich) as well.


    Kokoreç token


    Belly full of lamb intestines and trout sandwich, I headed to Anıtkabir (Leah visited Anıtkabir without me in 2013). Anıtkabir  is a memorial and mausoleum for Turkey’s founding father Ataturk. It definitely does not lack grandiose and honors Ataturk well.

    Anıtkabir  was built in a way that it can be seen from almost anywhere in Ankara. Consequently, it offers some awesome views of the surrounding city.




    The mausoleum reminded me of the Lincoln memorial.


    David at Anitkabir


    Anitkabir Mausoleum


    One of the things to do at the mausoleum is watch the changing of the guards ceremony. There are guards that stand watch over the mausoleum throughout the day and they periodically change. We got there just as the relieved guards were marching off the grounds, so we did not get to see the actual change.


    Anitkabir Soldier


    It was definitely a day of adventures in Ankara. I hope to explore more of this beautiful city in the months to come. And I have every intention of stopping by Ulus again for a delicious kokoreç sandwich.